What’s Next for High Speed Rail: The Politics

Jul 7th, 2012 | Posted by

As we all shake off our hangovers from celebrating yesterday’s dramatic State Senate vote to fund the high speed rail project, it’s time to take stock of where the project stands and where we go from here. Today I’m going to look at the project’s political fortunes, which of course determine everything else about the project’s actual operational details. Tomorrow we’ll look more at those details and see exactly what comes next in terms of actually building the high speed rail system.

Yesterday’s victory was an important political win for the high speed rail project, especially after nearly two years of a relentless and increasingly effective assault on the project from high speed rail opponents. But like the November 2008 victory at the ballot box, this win is just another step in a long process to get the project built. We learned after November 2008 that we HSR supporters cannot rest and simply assume that the project will go forward as planned. Opponents still have numerous opportunities to derail this, and will surely continue to try and destroy the still-strong public and political support for this project.

Remember what happened to HSR in Texas and Florida. In both states, HSR projects were killed by Republican governors as they approached the construction phase. In Florida, it happened twice, first with Jeb Bush in 2004 and again with Rick Scott in 2011. That risk is somewhat smaller in California today, but it is very much still there.

Let’s take a look at HSR’s political fortunes in more detail.

State Legislature – I think it’s safe to say that the moment of maximum danger has passed, but we’re not out of the woods yet. The biggest enemies of high speed rail in the Senate, Alan Lowenthal and Joe Simitian, will be termed out of the Senate this fall. Lowenthal is likely headed to Congress – more on that in a moment – and Simitian is going to join the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Mark DeSaulnier has one more term left in the Senate.

As yesterday’s vote revealed, however, the Senate should still be a source of worry. Leland Yee voted yes, but he still has concerns about the plan. As his Chief of Staff Adam Keigwin tweeted yesterday, “Senator Yee thinks it is a flawed plan and #CAHSR authority has a ways to go, but the benefits still out weigh the problems.” Other State Senators likely share these unspecified “concerns” and since the Authority’s funding is still dependent on the Legislature, those issues will continue to matter. However, most of the voter-approved bond money is now released, which reduces somewhat but by no means entirely the Legislature’s ability to monkey with the project.

Darrell Steinberg’s role in leading the HSR project to victory yesterday was essential, and he deserves a ton of credit for getting this done. Some on Twitter have compared him to Lyndon Johnson, the famed “Master of the Senate” in the way he rounded up enough votes. Steinberg is termed out in 2014, and it’s unclear who will take his place. My guess right now would be Mark Leno, but Leno himself will be termed out in 2016. Note that Prop 28, which allows for Senators to serve 12 years (three terms), does not apply to current legislators.

The Assembly was strongly supportive of HSR, and should continue to be as long as John A. Pérez is speaker. New State Senators are usually drawn from the ranks of the Assembly, so this should bode well for future votes in the Senate.

But there is a caveat here. This year’s elections are the first under the “top two” system adopted in 2010 with the passage of Prop 14. Over the last decade, the California Democratic caucus in Sacramento had become steadily more progressive. Prop 14 was an attempt to stop that and move the Democratic Party to the right. The most likely effect is that legislative elections will be fought between progressives and corporate-backed candidates, with conservative Republicans on the fringes (but potentially wielding the balance of power). What does that mean for the future composition of the legislature? Who knows. The November 2012 elections will help shed some light on this.

Combined with redistricting, the Legislature is facing significant upheaval this fall. That has already led to some surprising outcomes, with Senator Fran Pavley voting against HSR yesterday. Reports are that she voted no because of a tough race in her new, more Republican district in Ventura County. That’s not a good sign for the future, although the number of Senators facing such a situation is still pretty low and other Senators in swing seats voted yes.

It will help that Alan Lowenthal won’t be in the Senate to coordinate anti-HSR activity. And it helps that with the bulk of the bond funds being released, the Legislature’s future ability to screw with the project is limited. But political support for the project has to be shored up and expanded in Sacramento to prevent another close-run edge-of-the-seat moment like we saw yesterday.

Governor – Steinberg’s role on the Senate floor was crucial, but without Jerry Brown this vote almost certainly would have gone the other way. Meg Whitman would have defunded the project. Jerry Brown has been fighting to bring HSR to California for 30 years and was determined to get it done this time. His strong leadership is the biggest asset in California for the project, and that will continue as the project begins construction. Who knows who the Republicans will run for governor in 2014, but unless they have another massively popular movie star in the wings, I suspect Brown would be favored to win a fourth term. That bodes well for future HSR construction.

Congress – Had Democrats retained control of the House in 2010, the last 18 months would have looked very different for the HSR project. A Democratic Congress and the Obama Administration would surely have passed a transportation bill that included some sort of long-term high speed rail funding. Instead Republicans, led by a big Tea Party caucus, won the House in 2010 and promptly defunded HSR to the extent they could. That totally changed the discussion of HSR in California, as the expected substantial federal contribution suddenly evaporated. Of course, the Republicans could wind up holding the House for just two years, but the media now treats Republican control of the House as the natural condition of government and assumed that no HSR funding in 2011 and 2012 meant no more HSR funding from the feds ever. Instead of California HSR being flush with funding, money suddenly became tight, creating a big opening for anti-HSR forces to attack the project.

Yesterday’s victory doesn’t change that situation one bit, sadly. In fact, San Diego County Congressman Darrell Issa wasted no time pledging to investigate California HSR later this summer in an attempt to undermine the project. Freshman Republican Congressman Jeff Denham, representing the northern San Joaquin Valley, has been busy trying to find ways to take back the $3.3 billion in federal stimulus already awarded to California. If Republicans retain control of the House this fall, they’ll simply continue trying to defund the project, and will absolutely block any further federal funding.

If Democrats take back the House – and polls suggest it’s possible – then presumably long-term HSR funding will be on the agenda for 2013. Nancy Pelosi, the once and future Speaker, is a very strong supporter of California HSR and lobbied hard this past week to ensure the State Senate would pass the funding bill. House Democrats have been extremely supportive of federal HSR funding.

Similarly, US Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have been instrumental in helping the project move along. The rest of the Democratic caucus in the US Senate seems supportive, although Democrats will need to address the filibuster to stop Republicans there from blocking it and other stimulus efforts.

White House – Even with the passage of Prop 1A in November 2008, California HSR would have gone nowhere if Barack Obama had lost the presidential election to anti-rail John McCain. President Obama has been a strong supporter of HSR, putting $8 billion for it in the February 2009 stimulus bill and fighting hard to ensure the money is spent on HSR as intended. Along with Ray LaHood, the outstanding Transportation Secretary, the White House worked hard to protect California HSR funding. When the State Senate looked like they might reject the HSR funding proposal, LaHood and executive branch officials began lobbying State Senators to pass the bill, standing firm on their threat to take back all the $3.3 billion in stimulus if the State Senate tried to move it out of the Central Valley. If Democrats retake the House, we can expect the White House to continue pushing for long-term HSR funding.

But if President Obama loses the November election to Mitt Romney, we are screwed, at least until 2017. Romney is no fan of rail either, at least in his current incarnation as the Tea Party’s best friend. No future HSR funding would be likely from a Romney budget.

Public Opinion – The attacks on the project from opponents, especially since the beginning of 2011, have done damage to public support for the project, as recent polls have shown. The Republican takeover of the House is the key reason for this, as it allowed opponents to argue that HSR was an unfunded boondoggle. With long-term federal funds, that argument could never have taken hold. There’s a lot of work to be done to flip public opinion back to a majority.

Yesterday’s events in the State Senate did a lot to help that happen. It served as a rallying point for supporters and got a LOT of attention from Californians, especially on Twitter and Facebook as well as in the media. Supporters were able to make their arguments in favor of jobs, better transportation, energy independence, and doing something about global warming.

Going forward, advocates will need to work hard to mobilize people who share those values. As the monthly jobs reports continue to show stagnation, the jobs aspect of HSR becomes very important. So too does reminding voters of high gas prices and how HSR will solve that.

Much of the opposition to and criticism of HSR is rooted in austerity politics – the idea that in a recession, government should do less and not more. I don’t actually think most Californians share that view, but challenging it on a broad basis is important. We’ve seen austerity fail dramatically in Europe, and we saw how President Obama’s stimulus worked, small as it was. The battle over HSR is partly a battle over austerity versus stimulus. Stimulus has to win.

Additionally, doing what we can do further build the capacity of and provide resources for pro-HSR organizations such as Californians For High Speed Rail has to be a top priority.

Media – It will be interesting to see how the LA Times’ Ralph Vartabedian deals with HSR’s victory in the legislature. I’m sure he will continue to attack the project, and we’ll have to continue to push back on that. Overall, the last 18 months shows the need to work hard on showing reporters the need to report evenly and fairly on the project. Most reporters come to this beat with their ingrained bias against government spending and their belief, widespread in the profession, that government is to be treated skeptically and critics of government are to be treated heroically. Advocates ought to spend more time working on reporters to ensure that their stories do not simply posit government versus critics, but that advocates are given space and ink as well.

Lawsuits – Finally, we cannot ignore the courts. Opponents of the project are already flocking to the courts to try and block the project using any number of reasons as justification. That will slow down the project and add to its costs. Navigating that minefield will be crucial as we move forward.

Tags:
  1. Tony d.
    Jul 7th, 2012 at 19:43
    #1

    Robert (or anyone),
    Any word on possible foreign or private investment? Possible federal loans ala XpressWest? Hopefully there are other funding solutions that don’t involve relying on Congress.

    VBobier Reply:

    There was an offer several months back for private funding for the Maintenance Facility, there was a proposal a while back from Japan for paying for half I think, but so far those are it, as largely their waiting for Government to fund more of HSR in CA to lower the risk, Taiwans HSR was built privately, It went bankrupt, was bailed out by the Taiwanese Government and is now making a profit, now that HSR there is government owned that is.

    VBobier Reply:

    That’s most likely half of the HSR line from LA to SF, as it was a bit vague on details I think.

    Emma Reply:

    I would love to see the state-owned railways in other countries invest. I think private investment will flow in once we put people to work and they see that we are truly serious about it unlike Florida and whatnot.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Sigh. I think it would be nice if the state-owned railways of other countries invested, but it would also be *sad*. Because it would prove once and for all that the US is functionally a colony of foreign powers, who provide us with our infrastructure and valuable government projects. Albeit an odd colony, one with a bloated military.

  2. John Nachtigall
    Jul 7th, 2012 at 20:53
    #2

    A well written article, but you failed to give the conclusion

    For CAHSR to be built, all the cards have to fall in place.

    I opponents only have to “win” once. GOP control of the house…no fed money. GOP wins the presidency…no fed money. Lawsuit wins (or at least long delays) and that stops it. Honestly the dems are not taking back the House in this election cycle with the economy so poor and the GOP base fired up about health care.

    Plus there are a couple you did not mention. With doubts so high if they go over budget the senators will turn on them too quick. If this costs Brown the tax increase they will turn on them also.

    There is no doubt supporters won a hard fought victory here. But they used up 1/2 the bond for this little section and opponents only have to win once to win the war.

    VBobier Reply:

    Dems historically turn out in good numbers during a Presidential election and November 2012 is just that, and the Democratic base and independents are fired up, Repugs have made lots of enemies…

    BruceMcF Reply:

    GOP control of the house is not an automatic “no federal money for HSR”. You are assuming GOP control of the House and tea party caucus dominance of the GOP, in 2012, 2014 and 2016. That’s a far cry short of “all the cards have to fall into place”. The California delegation can fight that fight over multiple Congresses.

    The Democrats are not likely to be taking back the House this election cycle, but with the economy this poor, there are going to be a number of vulnerable freshmen GOP Congressmen going down. This is a bad time to be running as a freshman incumbent Congressman/woman, and most of those are Republicans.

    VBobier Reply:

    I’m not so sure of that, Boehner seems to think Mitt might not be all that electable(Huffington Post)… So We’ll see who gets elected as Mittens isn’t really all that well liked cause He’s a Mormon and not an Evangelical type, My Grandpa was more Evangelical than Mitt could ever hope to be, He made My Dad memorize the Bible & do calisthenics before breakfast & before school, as a result of the extra calisthenics Dad could climb a rope hand over hand with ease, others needed to use their feet too, like inch worms.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    You’re not sure of what? Regarding Republican control of the House of Representatives?

    VBobier Reply:

    I’m not so convinced of a Repugnican victory, too many peoples toes have been stepped on for that to happen if ya ask Me, that’s My opinion.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Of a Republican victory in which arena? The White House, the House of Representative, or the Senate? At the present state of play, the short odds are to the Hedge Fund wing of the Democratic party retaining control of the White House, the Republicans retaining control of the House of Representatives with a substantially reduced majority and a quite different balance of power, and control of the Senate is just about a toin coss.

    As far as being sure about any of those ~ obviously one cannot be sure about anything in November when looking forward from July. If fivethirtyeight lists Obama as a 2:1 odds favorite, that means that it is very, very far from being a sure thing, and well within reach of the challenger given, say, a perceived debate victory or a bad October jobs report.

    Given the number of races, the state of the fight for a majority in the House is more something that emerges organically after Labor Day.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Nobody seems to have been able to make any House predictions; I think the redistricting broke everyone’s models.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Also while everyone has been polling the Presidential ballot, lots of House races that may be tight have only been lightly polled or not polled at all, so the alternative to applying current data into a statistical model is not yet available for lots of races.

    They have been polling Senate races, which is why we know that as of now its a coin toss.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I think you are underestimating how politically toxic HSR has become. In one of the top 5 most liberal states in the nation it almost could not pass the state legislature. It is not just the GOP that dislikes HSR. It eats money like a stripper and all the benefits are a generation down the line. In the meantime they will be advocating pumping billions into an infrastructure that the voters have no interaction with while issues voters care about on both sides (taxes for GOP, Schools and Welfare for Dem) are suffering. Voters know when you widen a highway it will reduce my commute…most people have no idea what HSR will do for them. Politicians these days don’t have that kind of vision.

    It was actually an unlikely confluence of events that got HSR this far. A very pro-HSR house leader (Pelosi) and President along with a referendum that passed right before the effects of the meltdown were realized. If all the money had be authorized at that time, I would say it had a good chance of being built, but they money was not authorized.

    And assuming the feds do get alligned (House, Senate, and Pres all on board) the CAHSR authority has to take this first bit of money and come in on time and on budget to even stay in the game. Unfortunately, the authority has shown no ability to manage anything so I find it highly unlikely that they are going to impress everyone with how fast and efficient they build this.

    Per the timeline with first construction is supposed to finish up the beginning of 2016. Per the business plan the IOS will cost 31 billion so subtract out the 9 billion they just spent and you have 22 billion that needs authorization. There is about 4.5 billion left of the bond so that that leaves a gap of 17-18 billion. Lets say the feds kick in 10 billion (unlikely, but what the heck) you are still short 8 billion. And you need to get all this money by 2015 in 3 years. And if you do succeed you will have spend 31+ billion to get better commuter rail and a nice HSR that runs between short of Bakersfield and short of Merced that is operational in 2020. The bond will be fully used up and you are 40+ odd billion short of a system that has real benefits (not that I think it will even get this far)

    There is just no money for this system. Benefit or not, the money and political will is not there. They approved this round to keep the fed money and help the commuter rails and they were barely able to do that.

    RubberToe Reply:

    John,
    I have seen it mentioned several times that the Cap and Trade generated money collected in the state could be used to fund the state portion of bullet train costs going forward. You didn’t mention that possibility. Per the link below, this works out to about $1B per year.

    http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/03/31/2783229/selling-pollution-credits-could.html

    RT

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    HSR won’t get the whole 1billion. There is a long list of projects that want that money. There is also the question of if HSR will qualify. As written in this blog earlier it is not a slam dunk. And even if they did get that 3 billion you are still way short.

    fake irishman Reply:

    Something to keep in mind with Cap and trade too is that it will be there for the long term, so you can leverage that money for very low interest loans from the FRA. So if HSR can get $300 million from Cap and Trade every year over 20 years, that might be enough to grab a $5 billion loan — which combined with a state bond match will get a lot of the way toward closing the Bakersfield-LA gap (and perhaps cut project costs by moving construction forward).

    VBobier Reply:

    Sounds like a plan fake, sounds like a plan.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The long term target for the California delegation is to get HSR funds in a multi-year transport bill in 2015 or 2017, and to get the infrastructure bank established so that a multi-year project can be funded out of multiple years of the transport bill. If there is sufficient 20:80 state:federal matching funds available, then California is looking for on the order of $20b total, which would be $16b federal, $4b state. On a 40:60 match, its $12b Federal, $8b state. If an infrastructure capital contributions is established for the Cap & Trade fund in terms of $/ton, 10% Cap & Trade funding toward the HSR project seems likely to be justifiable, which would leave $2b-$6b to come from Prop1a or other sources.

    That would work out as a segment by segment, since its the 3rd construction segment that would allow the HSR service to start that would justify the Cap & Trade funding, and at a 20%-30% state match the Prop1a bonds are sufficient for the 2nd construction segment, Merced to Palmdale.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Of course, if HSR is getting $300 million annually from cap and trade, it’s fairly obvious that cap and trade funds have nothing to do with meaningful reductions in CO2. Even with CAHSRA’s rather fanciful claims, it qualifies for only about $50 million at ~$17/ton (current futures contracts).

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But we know that CO2 emissions reductions available at $17ton can’t meet the targets in question. Whether or not the futures market has sufficient information to be able to price five years ahead, there’s not an incentive to price five years forward into the current contract price.

    John Burrows Reply:

    I thought that it was the Initial Construction Segment, not the Initial Operating Segment that would from just short of Merced to just short of Bakersfield. I also thought that the the Initial Operating Segment would consist of electrified high speed trains running from Merced to the San Fernando Valley. Admittedly I have not read the 2012 revised business plan.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The baseline plan for the Initial Operating Segment is indeed from Merced to somewhere in the San Fernando Valley.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I looked it up in the plan before I wrote the post. The map who’s it short of Merced. Did I not read that right? In the executive summary the map clearly shows it short of Merced and it is labele as the IOS not the ICS.

    datacruncher Reply:

    If I am looking at the same map as you, it is labeled as “IOS-First Construction”. So the first construction segment, not the first operating segment.

    VBobier Reply:

    I think the IOS is composed of either 2 or 3 ICS segments.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The map ~ here is a jpeg ~ doesn’t show the full IOS as a separate colored unit, it shows the ICS, and the “early investment” Bakersfield to Palmdale.

    datacruncher & VBobier are correct, the IOS is not the Initial Construction Segment, its the first three construction segments, and so “IOS-First Construction” is the first construction on the IOS corridor, not the full IOS corridor.

    The reason the IOS is not shown as a distinct colored section on the map could well be that the southern terminus is not nailed down, only the northern terminus ~ there has not been an Alignment Alternative selection of the southern terminus of the 3rd Construction Segment in the baseline plan for the IOS is Sylmar, Burbank Airport, or somewhere else.

    VBobier Reply:

    Figures, I found this pic here, It’s from RailPAC.org, looks good.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    thanks for the correction, I was confused by that map

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The “benefits are a generation down the line” is (1) exaggerated for California and (2) entirely false for all the other projects presently underway in Washington, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina and the Northeast Corridor. In all of those projects, the benefits will start to be experienced over the next four years.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Approx 20 years per generation….I think it is a generation from now before we will be able to ride a HSR from SF to LA and more then that for other cities. And that assumes they can stay on schedule

    joe Reply:

    It maybe they finish HSR sooner. It is probable the project gets accelerated once oil prices climb.

    VBobier Reply:

    To do that we’ll need to Give Congress a Change of Heart in November 2012 and put in enough Democrats that will allow HSR in CA to get what is needed to fully fund HSR quicker, otherwise We have enough for now, We’ll get it done a section at a time. Right now parts of Congress could use a Transplant, as their Heartless.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Also we will get benefits well before the project is ‘finished’ allowing a single seat HSR ride from SF to LA. In 5-7 years we will have significant time savings on the very already popular San Joaquins, linked to more routes throughout NorCal including an extended ACE line.

    VBobier Reply:

    And that will be like free advertising, word of mouth. The more who ride the better for HSR when it does get online, Oh and Amtrak CA has Wi-Fi from what I’ve heard, can’t get that on a Freeway.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    You didn’t say a generation “until a single seat ride from LA-Union Station to SF-TBT in the baseline plan”, you said a generation before any benefits. But the Bay to Basin clearly provides quite substantial benefit, and the IOS provides benefits, and both of those in the baseline plan are well before 20 years have passed.

    nick Reply:

    you dont think it has more to do with the fact that republicans always oppose whatever democrats propose even if the policy appears to be a republican one ! romneycare is a good example of this. as state governor he was for it and to his credit got it implemented. when obama and the democrats came out with a very similar bill he suddenly became opposed to a policy he implemented ! hsr is similar as obama has nailed his colours to the mast with it. therefore in the current climate even if oil trebled overnight and the cost of hsr halved republicans would oppose it. i seriously hope that they do not get elected this november.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ John Nachtigall

    You are wasting your time trying to make any sense out of the CHSRA project or to try to prepare a list of priorities and requisite funding. The entire miasma is political – utterly removed from any reality quotidian or technical. It is all about the spending and the pandering. Every friend has to be greased – Villa, Antonovich, Sweringen, the Chandlers, Reed. The various unions and on and on.

    It literally is no longer that important if it works at all or well – look at BART in general or the Central Suxway. There is no accountability other than to the Party favored. The firing of Van Ark should tell you all you need to know about how insulated and fixated is this regime.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    It’s “politically toxic” in a silly and ephemeral way, amongst the usual foaming-at-everything crowd, mostly because they perceive HSR to be a “librul thing” (a viewpoint helpfully coaxed along by oil/aircraft-supported lobbying outfits like the Reason Foundation).

    But they’ll move on to screaming incoherently about something else pretty soon. As long as they can scream, they’ll be happy; the subject hardly matters.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    so if it is not toxic…explain why the most enviromental liberal in the entire Senate voted against it?

    Darrell Clarke Reply:

    Given that the federal match is appropriated for the first segment and we won’t be ready to begin the next segment (crossing the Tehachapis) for a few years means Republican opposition in Congress to funding doesn’t matter that much in the near-term.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    And in the longer term, it’s likely that oil prices will continue to climb, which will make the case stronger on economic and I would say civil defense grounds. In addition to that, considering that much of the opposition is, (ahem) “older,” it’s likely some of it will evaporate from that cause, with more as time goes on.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Prices are going to go up…but because of laws like AB 32, not because of actual shortages

    http://www.examiner.com/article/studies-show-disastrous-impacts-of-ab-32-implementation-california

    It is actually a good strategy to drive up prices if you want to push usage to the train…but since the train will not be up and running until 2030 and since most travel is for commuting where there is no alternative to the car I would say that it was a bad strategy

    StevieB Reply:

    The price of oil will continue to rise because the wells are increasingly expensive to drill. Oil wells a mile under the Gulf of Mexico or above the arctic circle in Alaska are very expensive. Oil will continue to provide the majority of the worlds energy for several generations but the price of delivery will inexorably rise.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Also the average size of fields has been dropping for decades, which increases the cost of discovery as an overhead cost … and over the long term the price of oil has to recoup the price of discovering fields in order for production levels to be maintained. The rate of discovery has been dropping, and while scraping the bottom of the barrel methods like water injection, steam injection and hydrofracturing have increased recovery rates, the production boost relative to discovery rates from moving to each of those (more expensive) methods is a one off ~ they can delay the drop of production tracking the drop in discoveries, but as more and more fields are already using those methods, the relationship of rate of production tracking rate of discovery will once more take hold.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Two words….oil sands

    They contain more oil then has ever been extracted so far in the world….they are here in the US and Canada. They currently can be extracted profitably at about $4.50 to $5 per gallon at the moment but that is down from abou $10 from 2 decades ago. So if technology does not advance any more you are not going to see prices rise above $4.50 because of supply. Just like fracking changed the game with natural gas then oil sands will change the game with oil. They may tax it up to $8 but it won’t be because of supply.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Three words “end of civilization”.

    Humans aren’t going to do so well without that whole planetary biosphere life support system that they’ve gotten so used to over the last four or so million years.

    joe Reply:

    NASA’s James Hansen:

    Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.

    Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/nasas-james-hansen-slams-obamas-failure-to-lead-on-climate-20120510#ixzz204CyTKx7

    Some places could be inhabitable – too hot and humid.

    http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/100504HuberLimits.html

    “The wet-bulb limit is basically the point at which one would overheat even if they were naked in the shade, soaking wet and standing in front of a large fan,” Sherwood said. “Although we are very unlikely to reach such temperatures this century, they could happen in the next.”

    Finally, while these forecasts assume business as usual consumption, they are conservative – if increasing temperatures release trapped methane or accelerate soil decomposition, the process accelerates and worsens.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So you agree there is plenty of oil then?

    joe Reply:

    Oh Yes – at a much higher cost per BTU and with greater energy expenditure to obtain that useable BTU. Plenty of 10 Gallon gasoline.

    We can continue to burn/convert coal and process oil from tar sands. The climate feedback will collapse the economy and make large areas of the world uninhabitable.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Nothing that’s of any concern to Alberta, fortunately. It’s far inland, and it would actually benefit from warming. Plus it has plenty of mining jobs for all the climate refugees who could plausibly reach it.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Not just oil jobs, but also farming jobs, as the arable belt widens substantially northward. The Us farmers displaced by desertification of the southern Great Plains could try to use their farm experience to get jobs in the new northern fields.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Thought that collapse of much of the biosphere would in the end have a substantial impact on Alberta as well. Just because we draw lines on a map and color different states and territories in different colors doesn’t mean that the biosphere respects our imaginary borderlines.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Well put Richard, you are not exaggerating. And thank you for understanding why some of us are willing to tolerate some excess costs. (Those savings from waiting for the perfect plan will do our grandchildren a lot of good.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Human extinction is actually a fairly likely possibility, particularly if ocean acidification gets bad enough to break the entire oceanic food chain. And if CO2 levels get high enough to allow sulfur-metabolizing bacteria to the ocean’s surface, we are almost certainly doomed.

    Nathanael Reply:

    (That last scenario is one we definitely still can avoid.)

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Besides Richard’s comment (Amazing! For once he isn’t claiming we should kill everybody at PB!), I would add that besides the environmental concerns, oil is a global commodity, sold in international markets by international companies at international prices. All we will get out of the tar sands (and the related Keystone pipeline) is that we will burn out of that tar sand oil faster than otherwise. Even the proponents of Keystone acknowledge that the Midwestern US will face HIGHER gas prices than they do now, because the oil from Canada has a more difficult outlet to the export market without it, and it essentially must be sold at a slightly lower semi-local price. With Keystone, the Midwest will be stuck paying for gasoline at international prices, like everybody else.

    It’s a bit old now, and I’ve had this up before, but it explains, with more humor than I could manage, how the international character of the oil market means we are in a bidding war against China and India and everyone else for our own oil, even if our own oil never leaves the country.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0–Q9_KmAY

    Tell me this isn’t a security issue, in view of the economic price shocks we get. . .

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So you admit we are not running out of oil? We are just running out of cheap oil. As for the environmental argument….that is completely separate from running out of oil.

    The number 1 source of CO2 pollution in the US is coal fired power plants to make electricity. Which is ironic considering that is what the tree huggers want to replace gas with. You can have gas cars and no warming if you are willing to replace electricity production with nuclear. But they don’t really want no warming…they want to punish people with no cars and no electricity. That is why it never advances. You could eliminate the number 1 source in less than 10 years if they were willing to compromise on nuclear

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Running out of cheap oil is essentially the same as running out if you can’t afford it.

    Renewables and nuclear do have their roles, while I foresee coal as shrinking, and largely for the reasons you give–market forces combined with environmental stuff–and of those two, I think the market is the more powerful. And I live in West Virginia, which is a big coal state.

    Even at that, I think we need to get off coal, at least here, for the same reasons I’ve mentioned for oil. There is only so much of it that is available at a low or affordable cost, and it is just plain running out. We now have more retired miners in West Virginia than working ones. There are more ghost towns and abandoned mines than working ones. The best, cheap coal is gone–although we do still have a decent supply of some of the best coal around–13,000 or more BTU per pound, low sulfur, low ash, some of that stuff almost explodes in a boiler.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You could also eliminate all coal use in the US if US energy consumption went down to British, French, or German levels.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Do we have to have thier crappy economies also?

    And when do we evacuate Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, and Texas. Because without air conditioning (one of the most energy intensive activities) they will be much less inhabitable. We have to remove at least the old because they will literally bake their houses.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Electricity can be produced by hydropower (including Niagara Falls, dams, run-of-river, and wave power), wind power, and of course the best, solar power.

    Solar power is sufficient to supply the entire world’s energy needs (this is easy to Google). It’s just a matter of spending the money on that. The $500 million a year the US burns on the military would do the trick.

    We don’t need to waste money on nuclear, which is very, very expensive, more expensive than solar once you include decommissioning costs.

    There is a nighttime storage problem with solar, but we have pumped-storage hydro, and we have batteries, and nighttime is the lowest usage period anyway. And I happen to know battery tech’s going to get about 100 times better very soon.

    And John?… if we don’t stop global warming, we WILL have to evacuate Florida, Arizona, Louisiana, and Texas, because they will literally become too hot to live in.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    All glory to the thorium fuel cycle! And to natural circulation normal reactors.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    when do we evacuate Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, and Texas

    Within the next 150 years, without question.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=%22a+great+aridness%22

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “An adaptability limit to climate change due to heat stress”
    http://www.pnas.org/content/107/21/9552.full
    http://www.pnas.org/content/107/21/9552/F1.large.jpg

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    First a little info

    http://nuclearfissionary.com/2010/04/02/comparing-energy-costs-of-nuclear-coal-gas-wind-and-solar/

    Hydro does work…no doubt about it. Of course the same people who want to “protect” the environment lobby against building dams. Apparently they don’t want “clean” electricity…they want no electricity.

    Wind is too variable to be anything but a rounding error. To be a source of electricity you have to consistent above all else.

    Solar has great potential, but then again it has had that potential for 30+ years and never paid it off. It is very expensive and in the end has not lived up to the promise. And despite what that guy with the stock tip sold you battery power is not getting 100 times better any time soon. And you don’t run the grid off batteries anyway, you would use pumped storage hydro which is great for boosts 9like when everyone in the UK turns on the tea kettle at the same time), but you can’t run off it for 10 hours a day. You would have to fill a bunch of dams like Hoover every night to get that to work.

    If you want to end pollution now, not in 10-30 years, but now, the only choice is hydro and nuclear. You can dislike it, but those are your choices…wait for wind and solar which may never arrive or solve it with nuclear and hydro now. So you choice, Now or Whenever!!

    And one more thing, the US military budget is about $665 billion (not million) dollars. If you use that budget for solar panels you can’t use it for the military. So while I am sure no one is going to invade the US any time soon and we could get away with a much smaller budget if we are just going to protect America, you are going to have to give up global security. So when Iran invades Israel we will be able to do nothing. And when China reclaims Taiwan…too bad so sad. North Korea coming across the border to South Korea, nice knowing you.

    America does not spend that money because we want to, America spends that money because someone has to provide global security and that is us. Like it or not, that is the job we have and if we did not do it there would be plenty of bad people who would start plenty of bad wars.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You could instead do the math.

    But wanking off thinking about thorium, asteroid mining and infinite human ingenuity is so much more pleasurable.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The batteries? It’s not a guy with a hot stock tip. It’s researchers I personally know, and it’s been vetted by quantum physicists. There are questions about the price, and problems with getting the right sort of factory.

    These are not chemical batteries.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “So while I am sure no one is going to invade the US any time soon and we could get away with a much smaller budget if we are just going to protect America, you are going to have to give up global security.

    “So when Iran invades Israel we will be able to do nothing.?”
    It won’t. I study global geopolitics for fun. Iran hasn’t invaded anyone in approximately 200 years and it’s not gonna. Israel might invade Iran, and then it would be nice to have some global police to shut down the Israeli invasion, but do you really think the US would actually do the job?

    “And when China reclaims Taiwan…too bad so sad.”
    They’re not going to reclaim it by invasion. Not their style. If they do, oh well — we allowed worse to happen in Zaire and the neighboring countries, and CAUSED worse to happen in Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

    “North Korea coming across the border to South Korea, nice knowing you.”
    They won’t. They’re entirely financially dependent on China and China isn’t interested in invasions, they’re going for economic supremacy.

    See, the entire bloated US military budget is devoted to dealing with threats which *don’t exist* while not dealing with threats which do exist. That’s the main reason why I always want to target it for cuts.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Those threats don’t exist because no one wants to push the US military. You screw with us and you tend to lose your country.

    Iran-Iraq war was less than 30 years ago
    The people of Taiwan I am sure really appreciate your support
    No one controls North Korea, if they did then China would not have let them build and test the bomb

    They are non-threats because of the military, not in spite of it. But I will never be able to convince you and thankfully we are not going to cut the military to find out you are wrong. But have fun and keep insisting the US military are the bad guys…while you enjoy Pax Americana

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Wind is too variable to be anything but a rounding error. To be a source of electricity you have to consistent above all else.

    This is sloganeering rather than reasoned argument. The energy at one single wind turbine is quite variable, but the energy available across a wind farm is less variable, the energy available across a collection of wind farms across a single wind resource is less variable, and the energy available across a collection of independent wind resources less variable still. And at 20% average wind share in total US energy production, almost all variability in wind energy production is predictable a day or more in advance, ample time to schedule alternate sources of energy supply in low energy production periods.. Add to that the tendency of Wind and Solar to be negatively correlated, and the volatility of a portfolio of the two in combination is lower than the volatility of either independently.

    With a bit of investment in additional transmission capacity, the current US electricity system could accept a 20% share of average wind power, without new storage capacity, and without roll-out of smart-grid technologies and development of supply responsive energy consumption systems. Which makes the “rounding error” claim bullshit.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    So when Iran invades Israel we will be able to do nothing. And when China reclaims Taiwan…too bad so sad. North Korea coming across the border to South Korea, nice knowing you.

    Just curious: Did you pick a set of combatants where we literally would have to do nothing at all for our allies to win on purpose or was it for unintentional hilarity?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Do we have to have thier crappy economies also?

    One out of three has had faster GDP per capita growth than the US in the last 30 years (taking the present to be 2010 because that’s as far as my data goes). Two out of three have in the last 10 years.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    @Paul

    You really think Taiwan takes China in a straight up fight?
    I think South Korea would take the North out, but only after they have shelled Seoul into a crater since it is already withing artillery range.
    Israel-Iran is a tossup. One on One I say Israel takes them, but if all the Arab countries team up and the US does not support them i think they eventually get worn down and taken. They just don’t have enough people to handle a constant onslaught.

    I picked them because they were the most likely to happen first, but not the worst examples. If the US “withdrew” from peacekeeper duties eventually Russia would try to reclaim lost glory, that would be the worst. You think Putnin wants to remain a bit player? He has delusions of grandour.

    @Alon

    Economies are not a sprint, they are a marathon and growth is a nice metric but when you are already a big number like the US it is harder to grow faster. There is a reason the dollar is the world currency. Germany has an outside shot at being a decent player (maybe one day they will pass Japan) but none of those 3 are going to become king. Britian had a nice run, but they are not accending again and France….well France is not willing to give up the welfare state to really make the economy hum. They just takes millionaire 70%, there goes all the wealth in that country.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    You really think Taiwan takes China in a straight up fight?

    Yup. Key problem is the invasion; the only suitable landing beaches are on the eastern side and they basically go straight into the mountains. It would be a less than fun moment for the Chinese forces. Of course, if China chose to blockade them into submission, that’s a different story, but US can’t do terribly much then either except try to smack China into relenting: Our MCM measures are pretty failtastic, mine warfare isn’t considered sufficiently sexy.

    I think South Korea would take the North out, but only after they have shelled Seoul into a crater since it is already withing artillery range.

    Yeah, Seoul is pretty screwed no matter what.

    Israel-Iran is a tossup. One on One I say Israel takes them, but if all the Arab countries team up and the US does not support them i think they eventually get worn down and taken. They just don’t have enough people to handle a constant onslaught.

    They’ve tried it before and didn’t do terribly well. On the other hand, the IDF has gotten increasingly more incompetent (as their recent invasion of Lebanon showed) and possibly only has tech advantage against the surrounding nations. However, I must point out that Iran is not an Arab country (which is really to their military benefit; lot fewer of the cultural issues that hamstring Arab militaries) and would very much not be liked to be participating in a major war against Israel.

    Personally, if 1973 got repeated, I’d probably just grab some popcorn; Israel really needs to be taken down a notch. I see absolutely no reason for us to be maintaining our alliance with them and I’d prefer trying to restore good relations with Iran and our traditional alliance with them in that region (also, Tomcats>Eagles any day).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Economies are not a sprint, they are a marathon and growth is a nice metric but when you are already a big number like the US it is harder to grow faster.

    Since the end of WW2, Europe has grown faster than the US, too. I want to say the 1990s and early 2000s were weird in that the US outgrew much of Western Europe, but right now with the austerity plans Britain is out of the game and eventually so will France and Germany.

    But still, the Euro is an international reserve currency, and if France and Germany and Britain are not superpowers, it’s because they do not have 300 million people’s worth of a first-world country each. Combined they are close to that, but because they’re not actually one country they pull in different directions. Tax rates on the rich have nothing to do with this.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Alon

    I was going to let this thread die, we have all had our say, but I could not get over one of your comments.

    The Euro is an international reserve currency

    Seriously!!! I know you have not been living in a hole, you seem quite well read and intelligent despite the fact we are usually on different sides of the argument. But to call the Euro a reserve currency with what is going on is just ridiculous.

    There is a real question if the Euro will even exist in 2 years and you consider it a strong currency? Spain could bring down the whole union alone, throq Italy in the mix and there is serious doubt if anyone could save them. Get real. The Euro zone grew by borrowing money for the government to spend and now no one will lend any more to it (except Germany and France). The only people who think the Euro is a reserve currency is Europe. China holds dollars as does anyone else who cares outside of Europe.

    John Burrows Reply:

    Lets take this a little further—The oil sands of the Orinoco Belt in Venezuela contain over a trillion barrels of oil of which the USGS has estimated over 500 billion barrels to be recoverable.

    And if we switch the conversation to oil shale—The estimates go as high as 5 trillion barrels with 1 trillion recoverable. Roughly half of this is in the USA.

    Adding this up we have 1.5 trillion barrels of potentially recoverable, unconventional oil reserves close to a 50 year supply based on world oil consumption of around 30 billion barrels per year.

    And this doesn’t even include Canada.

    My personal opinion—“Peak Oil” is a plateau over 100 years wide. As we cross this plateau we will have to make choices such as whether we drill miles beneath the Arctic Ocean or do we start digging up Colorado and Wyoming. But the oil is there—enough for a long time—if we want it badly enough.

    Tony d. Reply:

    We’re doomed. And I thought wearing oxygen masks on a daily basis in the 22nd century was a thing of science fiction…

    BruceMcF Reply:

    “Peak Oil” is petroleum. It is, after all, based on the yield rates of oil fields over time and the observed historical petroleum discovery rates. “Peak Coal”, for example, wouldn’t show the same bell-curve, because you typically produce coal from the face of a seem, and so the yield curve of an individual mine is not dominated by an growing yield phase and a declining yield phase. Saying that we have some other energy sources that with energy intensive processing can yield an input for an oil refinery to replace petroleum production as it declines does not thereby eliminate the decline in the petroleum production.

    As far as “non-conventional oil”, at what EROI? Its not just the high energy content of liquid fuels based on petroleum that fueled the oil-fired industrial economy of the 20th century, it was also the high energy rate of return on investment of conventional oil.

    And at what Co2 emissions cost? Conventional oil has less CO2 emissions cost than coal, but
    switching from something with 20x to 100x energy return on investment and on the order of half the CO2 emissions of coal to something with 3x to 5x energy return on investment and greater CO2 emissions of coal would be quite insane when the US could effectively eliminate its oil imports by electrifying its transport system, and by phasing out coal production in favor of sustainable harvest of renewable energy sources reduce the CO2 impact of its transport system rather than massively increase it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I thought the main reason to push oil prices up (much further up than current de minimis legislation in nearly all first-world countries does) was to avoid creating a massive refugee crisis in countries you haven’t heard of.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    International crude oil prices are going to climb over the net five years, and the only question is whether there is stagnation and sluggish growth worldwide causing them to climb more slowly, or rapid growth in some parts of the world causing them to climb more rapidly.

    If AB32 causes the margin of gasoline prices over petroleum prices to rise in California, then gasoline prices will climb even more rapidly in California.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    If you push the refiners out you will limit the supply of gas which will push prices up

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The US is presently a net exporter of processed petroleum products, so its not as if the national refinery capacity is overstretched to meet national gas, diesel and aviation kerosene demands.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    West Coast refining capacity and oil supply is completely separate from the rest of the country. That said, I doubt any of the refineries are going to relocate to Oregon or Washington, much less Alaska or Hawaii, which means CA will remain in the primary refiner for the West Coast.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    John, I don’t like to say this, but are you as dumb as you just made yourself out to be?

    We had oil prices go through the roof several years ago; this AB32 you’re talking about only passed in 2010, and from what I gather, has not been fully implemented yet. So, explain to me, how AB32 got oil prices and gasoline prices to the high point they had in 2008. Explain to me why every president since Nixon, and perhaps even Eisenhower, has been worried about the Middle East and its problems and their effect on oil prices. Explain to me how we have been stumbling and fumbling with oil dependency for 39 years now, since the first oil embargo by OPEC in 1973, because nobody has been willing to say, “Our auto-dominated lifestyle has become a security threat and needs to be changed, otherwise we will be involved in persistent resource wars, some with blood, and others as bidding wars with money.”

    I’ve been following this business since before 1973, and I can tell you, I am VERY disappointed in the “leadership” (?!) we have had since then, from both parties. Everyone has been cowardly on calling us on this, everyone has been afraid to rock the boat, in the meantime the ship is sinking and nobody is calling to at least have the lifeboats swung out yet, or at least have everyone report to the lifeboats.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Such a sweet talker. I would have to say I am not dumb about this. I actually attended the Colorado School of Mines who has been teaching people to exact oil and ore for ove 130 years so I hate to tell you this but I know more about this than the average person (even though I don’t work in oil and ore myself).

    Oil prices fluctuate for a variety of reasons. It is a complex ecology of supply, demand, traders, refining, etc. Your example from 2008 proves the point. The supply of crude oil didn’t expand since 2008 but prices rose and then fell…what caused that? Refiners cutting back which limits supply of gas (not oil) and traders taking advantage of that shortage. You think only tree huggers want high gas prices? There are plenty of people who are happy to make money off it and they have no political agenda beyond making money.

    We are not gng to run out of oil. See my post on oil sands above. We will eventually run out of $75 per barrel oil, but even that is a ways away though probably in my lifetime. Of course technology may save us again and allow oil sands to be extracted profitably in which case we can look forward to 200-300 more years of an oil dominated energy sector (yeah!).

    On a different note, I would point out that since WWII the US auto culture has kept the world out of major conflicts despite what you see as a security concern.

    Darrell Clarke Reply:

    World oil production has been flat since 2005. US oil production rose the last three years, after years of decline, and US imports are down, while world demand, especially from China and India, has risen. But with US production less than 8% of the world neither US production nor AB32 can have any substantive effect on world prices.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Also, the growth in US production is frequently wildly exaggerated by switching from petroleum to “liquid fuels”, which includes Natural Gas Liquids, with only about 30% useful for refining gasoline, diesel and aviation kerosene, and ethanol, which is primarily an energy transfer medium rather than an energy source.

    The NGL are a big part of the why the Natural Gas hydrofracturing boom continues despite the low prices of natural gas ~ the most profitable plays are the “wet” fracking fields, with substantial NGL production, rather than the “dry” fracking fields, that are almost entirely methane production.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The hydrofracturing “boom” is also largely a scam. The wildcatters buy up land, drill wells as cheaply and sloppily as possible, frack them aggressively (and sloppily), declare large production in the first year

    —and then SELL THEM to the major oil companies at inflated prices, before the major oil companies figure out that the production will drop very fast and run out entirely within five years.

    They’re trying to wreck the Finger Lakes region of NY with this stuff. Even if hydrofracking could be done safely, the wildcatters *will not* do it safely because they’re not actually in the oil and gas business — they’re in the business of land flipping and defrauding other oil and gas investors. And that sort of company always cuts corners to make an extra buck — by the time the costs of pollution and earthquakes show up, the wildcatter has sold its interest and moved on to the next “mark”.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    At least in Ithaca they managed to ban it, if I’m not mistaken.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Interestingly, most of your comments actually agree with mine, although from a different perspective.

    Yep, oil (and gasoline) prices fluctuate due to all the things you describe; the problem is becoming, if not already here, the lack of $75/barrel oil. This is essentially the “Peak Oil” argument. You’re right, we never will completely run out, but at the same time, particularly if the rest of the world decides to live the way we do, we won’t have enough to go around at the prices we’ve grown accustomed to. That’s the real threat.

    I am a bit curious about the auto culture keeping us out of major conflicts. Granted, we haven’t had a real slugfest since WW II, but a lot of tension and continuing problems, a good portion of which may be attributed to the importance of that black goo in Saudi Arabia and the immediate neighborhood. Might it be better to not have to rely on that bunch and their influence in the world?

    As I have put it, Osama Bin Ladin would have just been a crazy man in the desert otherwise. . .and then there all the other advantages of rail travel, such as better comfort and safety. . .

    Actually, if we quit subsidizing roads (cash flow cost recovery is barely 50% overall, and that’s only on numbered state and Federal routes), the rail business would really boom; wouldn’t need subsidies then, even for passenger service, and freight service would be a gold mine.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    See…no need to call me dumb. The only difference is I think supply and demand will take care of the problem…you are looks for a more active solution.

    Although I disagree we “subsidize” roads. Taxes pay for maintenaince, so everyone pays, it is not a subsidy, it is just not paid for directly by users.

    And the terrorism has nothing to do with oil, they hate us because we are winning the war of civizations and it pisses them off that an upstart is beating them out even though they had a 2000+ year head start. The US is the closest thing to a world leader and our philosophy (liberty, freedom, consumption, etc) is spreading and it pisses them of. At its base it is just jealousy, not the quest for resources.

    And my point stands, Pax Americana is still going strong, fewer people died in Afganistan and Iraq combined then in training exercise accidents in WWII.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I do apologize for the “dumb” part, but you must understand, I’ve run into too many dummies to count, many of whom made the same initial points you had but with bum information. Some of it bordered on the “miracle carburetor” nonsense I’m certain you’ve heard about. That included some talk about “abiotic oil” (not yet proven, although I understand it would explain some things like helium in oil fields); most notably it involved personal insults, such as claiming I wanted to take away people’s cars and wanted to bring back the horse and buggy, and being called a Communist and a liberal (which is strange, as if you ask those here about me, who have been reading my comments for some time, you may find I’m the most old-fashioned person here).

    My own background is in accounting, with a bit of engineering (I confess to having a problem with a subject called calculus). I’m an unemployment auditor in West Virginia; I verify payroll, and make sure it’s reported properly.

    I have a great respect for most business owners. As a low-level government official, I can tell people if they owe money they have to pay it; they have to get people to walk in the door voluntarily. I know that’s not easy. I used to work for a furniture store as a bookkeeper, but part of my training included working in the other departments, such as the warehouse, the front desk, and the sales floor. I remember my commission from the day on the sales floor–36 cents.

    I’m no salesman, that seems to be sure. No voice of “authority,” no voice of “persuasion,” heck, I can’t even get my wife to listen to me (although I understand that is a near-universal condition!)

    The road subsidy question has been going on for a long time. I argue that it is subsidized, in the sense that much of the subsidy is invisible. I’m not the only one to make the point, either; the rail industry thought so back in the 1950s:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElyERLwsV0c

    Terrorism is about a “clash of civilizations,” as you’ve put it; the oil connection is that oil wealth helped pay for bin Laden’s abilities and power. Like I said, he would be just a crazy man in the desert if not for some of the oil wealth that could be funneled to him, although I understand much of that dried up after September of 2001. Still, why pay to make enemies stronger?

    Keep in mind I don’t consider Saudi Arabia itself an enemy, but neither do I consider it a friend. Rather, I look at it through a prism suggested by George W. Bush. Bush said, in regard to others in the world, something along the lines of “You are for us or you are against us.” I would modify that to say Saudi Arabia is for Saudi Arabia (and that applies to everybody else, really). I would like us to be “friends” with everybody (yes, you’re going to think I’m silly for saying that, but bear with me), but that means also being independent. Put it this way–it’s said that a friend is someone you can depend on–but I would add, a friend is also someone on whom you do not overdepend. I think we have too many people who depend overly on us for things like foreign aid–and in turn, we depend too much on some people who are not always the most reputable around. I think you would agree that’s not a good situation.

    A more active solution? Yes, that’s true, and you’d want one too, if you’d watched the delays and misinformation and had been called names and everything for 40 years!

    Anyway, take care, and if you have the heat I’m getting here, keep cool . .

    fake irishman Reply:

    The process that you have just described in paragraph 2 a subsidy. Everyone pays taxes to help a select group (drivers). It’s just like general Medicare taxes subsidize health insurance for senior citizens. Subsidies are not inherently evil, but they do affect markets. So public policy is an inherent part of developing and managing markets — “supply and demand” don’t just take care of themselves, even in a fairly free-market economy.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    More people die in the US, at work, in automobile accidents than were killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Mon one is calling for us to invade General Electric because Chrysler makes cars.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    fake irishman

    While I agree subsidies are not evil, the roads are not a a subsidy. There is not a person in the US that does not use the roads or use something that used the roads.

    Even if you don’t own a car everything you consume (food, clothes, shelter) was delivered or used the road system. That is how the material was delivered to make your dwelling (whatever it may be). But wait, you say, I live in a very urban area (NYC) I walk everywhere and the building I live in was made before cars. You still “use” the roads with the food you eat and the stuff you consume. In fact the more urban your setting, the more reliant on roads you are because in order to increase the density that high you have to ship in all resources (except air) and ship out waste.

    One of my most favorite activities is to point out to the people who only eat things grown within 50 miles of themselves that coffee, sugar, and most likely a lot of the fresh vegetables they love are not native to North America. They always want to save the planet….but not if they have to give up caffeine.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There is not a person in the US that does not use the roads or use something that used the roads.

    There’s not a person in the US that doesn’t benefit from the NYC Subway.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    John, the resources required to ship food halfway across the world are tiny. Freight transportation by rail and ship is very energy-efficient.

    http://pedestrianobservations.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/quick-note-on-food-transportation/

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Alon

    I agree, they are tiny. hence the reason I can buy lettuce all year around. We live in a wonderful age. It is always that “last mile” that is the rub. it all uses the roads at some point at the beginning and the end of its journey

    adirondacker

    I could not agree more, we live in a great interconnected age.

    Nathanael Reply:

    D.P. Lubic, the helium in oil fields is from beta decay of radioactive substances (just like pretty much all helium on earth). The abiotic oil stuff is genuinely crackpot.

    Nathanael Reply:

    John, there is a compelling argument that local roads are necessary and valuable.

    There is no similar argument for expressways, which *ARE* heavily subsidized — mostly by the users of local roads.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    An appreciable share of out petroleum consumption is long distance truck freight, and the last mile is no argument for `subsidizing the driving of the trucks for thousands of miles.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    in which case we can look forward to 200-300 more years of an oil dominated energy sector (yeah!).

    Some of us don’t want to live in a parking lot by the side of the highway.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So how do you plan to build and get to your cabin in the woods. Are you hiking in the material? Oil lets you live anywhere in this country, be a little more respectful of how it has made the world a better place. It has downsides no doubt, but it has allowed for great and remarkable advancement.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    In case you didn’t notice, in 2008 we had a worldwide financial catastrophe and economic slowdown. Given the lag between petroleum loading at the exporting port and petroleum delivery at the importing port, the sudden reduction in demand led to an undershoot in price, amplified by speculative positions shifting from betting on price increases to betting on a price reduction. Only an idiot assumes that full or immediate production costs determine the long or short term price of oil, but the full production cost of oil clearly sets a floor under the long term price of oil. Add on top of the production cost an additional 10% or more speculative premium in place when it can confidently be assumed that the price of oil will be rising over the coming decade, and the question that people are betting on is whether the next price spike is sooner or later.

    And, indeed, for new production technologies to “save us again”, they first have to save us the first time. They haven’t led to growth in production in line with growth in demand through the last decade, and simply assuming that they will accomplish in the future what they have not yet shown an ability to accomplish to date because it would be convenient if they would do so is pure techno-Cornucopia. All they’ve shown an ability to do to date is to stretch out the expected plateau at the top of the peak oil production curve. The touted global growth in production is due to semantic shell games.

    As far as tar-sands, yes, rather than switch from petroleum dependent technology we can cock the climate crisis trigger and shoot ourselves in the head with it, but that is not exactly a sane policy to adopt.

    William Reply:

    @John Nachtigall

    I agree with you that there probably will be crude oil to extract for the next 100~200 years, but they will become increasing expensive to extract, so $200 per barrel is still not out of question.

    Since oil will invariably be more expensive, isn’t it wise to invest on technology and mode of transportation that use the least amount of oil sooner rather than later?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    It is absolutly wise to invest. You can’t expect the country to go cold turkey, it will probably take 50+ years to wean everyone off.

    If I were king I would modernize the electrical tranmission grid and nationalize it (because just like the roads it is a common resource). Replace coal and natgas with nuclear and hydro in the short term and solar and wind if they can meet the same cost/BTU in the future. Electric cars will not in my lifetime have the same range and usage of gas so instead of getting rid of cars I would go after the other bigger sources of pollution.

    You then build commuter rail in dense areas to pick up the daily trips where most of the pollution happens. Instead of hating cars you accomodate them (big free parking). The point is to get as many trips as possible, not to punish people who have cars. City to city I would still use air, it is just better and less expensive than HSR but in really dense areas (like the Northeast) I might give it a trial just to see if it could catch on.

    And I would be dating a supermodel or two….I mean if you are going to dream of being King it can’t just be about transportation policy. :-)

    RubberToe Reply:

    John,
    The new Tesla Model S sedan is all electric, goes 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, and has a 265 mile range. Tesla started deliveries on 06-22-12, a couple weeks ago. So, unless you are posting posthumously you might have to revisit that part of your post:
    http://www.teslamotors.com/models

    The rest of the current post I can’t argue with, as much as I would like to…

    RT

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Try running that 100k car in the winter on a hill and then tell me if you get 265 miles. It is a toy…not a tool

    Nathanael Reply:

    Obviously, if you’re going straight up you won’t get 265 miles, but thanks to regenerative braking, if you’re going up and down hills, you pretty much get the advertised range. In practice, people get better than the advertised range on Tesla’s previous car.

    The Tesla model S will have sufficient range for practically all *local* transportation.

    But it is a fact that 300 miles is not sufficient range to do intercity trips, given that charging from empty to full takes at least 3 hours, and usually 9 (if you don’t have a giant specialized fast-charging station). So it is *no substitute* for intercity rail.

    City to city — air sucks big time ever since the security crapola got out of hand. Back when you walked off the street onto the tarmac, air was efficient; now, air is not efficient even for distances as long as NY – Chicago, and is only really viable for trips such as NY-LA. Which means, passenger rail needs to come back.

    Of course if you were king perhaps you would abolish all the airport security crap? :-)

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “Instead of hating cars you accomodate them (big free parking). The point is to get as many trips as possible, not to punish people who have cars. City to city I would still use air, it is just better and less expensive than HSR but in really dense areas (like the Northeast) I might give it a trial just to see if it could catch on.”

    John, you’re smart, but this is where you can sound dumb. I don’t think too many of us here really “hate” cars, I certainly don’t want to punish anybody about cars, but let’s admit it, we’ve had too much of a good thing, and that’s what’s made things go bad.

    This isn’t to say cars are going to go away–they’re not, at least not short of some really horrible disaster that would include not only fuel disruptions but parts and general manufacturing disruptions, too–but we do need alternatives. Airplanes aren’t going to be flying electrically anytime soon, and as you’ve pointed out, even the finest electrics aren’t quite up to what the current gas cars can do.

    And even if we “cured” a lot of the shortcomings of cars (such as oil dependency), they still have shortcomings because they are–cars. Drive to a city of any size, say in the 50,000 population range or so, or something big like a San Francisco or a Washington, DC, and you have parking problems and traffic problems, the latter in some of the damnedest places you can imagine. I’ve experienced that in a horse pasture miles from anywhere; the people on this site describing some freeway drives sound like they’ve run into something similar. You say you would tackle this with transit and park and ride around larger cities, and that’s not necessarily bad, but I can personally tell you, that since you are not the “king,” you’ll get the same squawks from nay-sayers and NIMBYs that are coming about HSR.

    There are also a lot of trips where there is no air service available, but the driving range is uncomfortable, over two hours or so. I get leg cramps on trips of that length or longer, and I have to take such trips on my job; some are over twice that length. On top of that, I’m old enough that I’ve been having trouble with night vision (I don’t recover from glare as well as I used to), and then there are deer. Have you ever hit a deer? You would be surprised what such a hit does to your car, and they are not the biggest things you can run into, such as a cow or a bear!

    The ironic thing is, it once was possible to travel by rail to many of the places I have to go, but we rigged the game with that high subsidy level for cars and put rail and other alternative transit out of business.

    That’s why I argued that one of the things we should do is to end car subsidies. It’s not about hating cars or punishing people–it’s about leveling the playing field.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Requiring a car to go 265 miles between fill-ups / recharges is part of the “one size fits all” inefficiencies of the US transport system. The goal is not another inefficient in some slightly different mix of ways one size fit all system, but an integrated system in which all of the parts perform their main tasks well.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    One of the things that gets talked about here is that there is a generational shift going on, that people under 60 or so aren’t as interested in cars as those over 60. It’s puzzled a lot of people, but I think it makes sense; the real problem is that it makes life difficult for people in the car field, such as those who build cars and those who insure them.

    A big question keeps coming up–why? Why are younger people not interested in cars? Why did a car designer say at a transportation conference, “We have to hook the young to cars again?”

    Some people have attributed this to laziness on the part of the young, they don’t want to work or something. Others have stated, and there is some research to back this up, that the younger crowd is more comfortable with portable electronic communications, and feel they don’t need a car to hang out with friends. Some have said the job situation for young people is the problem–hard to buy a car if you can’t afford it because you don’t have a job. I think that’s a factor, but I think it’s more an accelerant than a cause; this trend has been observed for at least 10 years or more, and I’ve been seeing the pattern for more like 20, long predating the current recession. Some would say the young people have been “indoctrinated” with environmentalism, and certainly younger people are aware of the environment in ways that others may not share. Others have said modern cars are boring, they don’t have power, they are ugly, but those same people reveal their ages when they say they remember how hot it was to have a convertible with fins. Others would say

    Truth is, most modern cars drive very well; handling, braking and reliability are so much better than they used to be, and even some pedestrian cars are actually faster than some of the rockets of the 1960s.

    The big problem is that driving just isn’t fun anymore. It’s no fun to cruise on a boulevard, run a trip on the interstate, or even take a ride on a secondary route when you have to constantly be on high alert–not normal alertness, but high alertness–for incompetents, drunks, aggressive bullies, the senile, and the medicated, and the distracted. I know, I remember when this wasn’t so. I remember pleasant country drives, I remember, even in towns, having a bit of fun timing the lights at just the right speed to get all greens (could be pretty good at it, too). I enjoyed manual transmissions, both in a Volkswagen I once had, and in the trucks I drove for a local TV cable company when I was working my way through college. Today, because of the traffic and the poor quality of most drivers, I don’t even enjoy a Sunday drive.

    Do you?

    Compared with that nonsense, trains are nice–even if I must express a disclaimer to having always been a rail enthusiast, even to the point of really liking trips behind noisy and smoky coal-burning steam locomotives, in passenger cars that had air conditioning via open windows!

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Simplest answer is that cars are expensive. $3.63 right now per gallon, about $1200 a year in insurance, plus the cost of the car itself, including repairs, against maybe ~$250 a month for commuter rail pass (with free transit transfers) on a reasonable distance.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    D.P. Lubic

    I think a lot of the enviromental lobby wants to get rid of cars, but that is neither here nor there.

    If you want people to use rail (and I know you do) you have to accomodate their current habits while you try and change them. I will give you an example. I live in Santa Rosa, CA. We are putting in a SMART train extension that runs from here to the Golden Gate Bridge. The station is about 3-4 miles from my house. They are very proud to advertise they are putting in NO parking because they want people to not dirve to the train station.

    So now I want to pop down to Sauselito for the day. I can drive (1+ hour) or I could take the train. I would prefer to take the train, but since I am unwilling to walk to and from the station and they won’t accomodate me parking there I will not take the train and drive instead.

    So by insisting on no parking they are losing me as a customer, they did not take that trip off the road, and they are hurting adoption of trains. I am advocating a different approach. Instead of trying to take cars off the road, think of it as taking trips off the road. Cars just sitting don’t pollute.

    So make it easy (not hard) to accomodate people. Think like Disneyland or a Casino. People like to go to these places because they make is easy. If you make it easy for people to use trains they will do it more (not less). So I say make parking because it makes it easier. Consider it a “gateway drug” If they try it and it becomes convinient and they start using the car less and less them you get what you want without any fight over social engineering.

    One more story about easy. My last job before this one was in Reading PA. I had a job interview in Boston which is about 6-8 hours drive (through NYC…ick). I did not want to fly. It was about the same time door to door as driving (because the airport is in Philly and security and etc.). So I went online to look for a train ticket. Now when you want to book an airline reservation you plug in the start and stop city and it gives you a bunch of options and you pick one and you are done. I had never made a train reservation before but this is what i was expecting.

    So I go online and realize that is not how it works. First you have to find the nearest station, but there is no search for the nearest station you have to pull up a map and find it by tracking the route. Then you have to know how to read a train schedule. In the internet age the train schedule is only slightly less useful then a horsewhip and buggy and as user friendly as a rattlesnake. It was necessary when you needed to put all information on 1 page…but that is not the case any more. Then I realized that when I got to Boston I would have to switch to the Boston Metro to make the rest of the trip. But I could not do that from the ariving station, i had to transfer from the north station from the south station. Then catch the commuter up to the suburb that I was interviewing at. Then walk .75 miles to the hotel and another .5 miles in the morning to interview.

    I gave up and drove it. Until trains get their act together they are not going to get ridership. Make it easy and they will come.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Good grief. Your complaint about reading train schedules is absurd; I’ve never seen a better presentation of data in my life than a train schedule. Second, Amtrak DOES have an “insert starting station, insert destination station” option on its website. (Maybe it didn’t when you tried, but it does now.)

    And when you go for airline tickets, *you have to find out the closest airport to you* — it’s just as much trouble aas finding the closest train station.

    So, uh, drive to Philadelphia, take NE Regional to Boston, take Boston T to destination. How hard is that, seriously? It’s more work than that to map out a driving route from Reading to Boston!

    Those are NOT valid complaints.

    The combination of non-cooperating agencies, however (SEPTA? Amtrak? Boston MBTA?) is definitely a problem on trains. I’ve seen the same problem with airplanes. The traditional answer, which works — British Rail or Deutsche Bahn or something similar, a single nationalized agency.

    Regarding parking, there definitely should be some parking spaces at every station; the objections by mass transit activists have generally been to gigantic, very expensive parking garages, especially where there’s already lots of bus service, taxis, stuff walkable within 1/4 mile, etc.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Yes Amtrak does have a point to point calculator…but the regionals on both ends don’t.

    When I enter city pairs on Expedia (or any other site) it picks the closest airport for me or lets me pick from the closest 3. On the Amtrack site it is just an alphabetical list. So now you have to look up each city in relation to your location. It is a pain…and per my post, the harder you make it the less people will do it.

    And the “efficiency” of train schedules is useless when you don’t know how to read one. Newsflash, I have a Master of Engineering, I am not stupid, but no one ever taught me how to read a train schedule. Does that mean I can’t learn…no…but why make it hard.

    And it is a damn site more complicated than what you defined. You have to time the arrival of the regional (Septa) into philly, then the regional out of Boston. You then have to figure out all the timing inreverse for the return trip. All while examining train schedules that I have never used in my life. You have to by 3 tickets off 3 websites and do all the timing yourself.

    Now compare to a plane ticket. I put in a city pair. It tells me the closest airport. I can book any airline coming and going. It figures out the timing for me and I buy all the tickets at 1 time both ways.

    So do you really think it is not a valid complaint? This is basic social engineering…you make it hard and people will not do it. I really wanted to take the train. 16 hours of driving (both ways) for a 1 day trip was a huge pain…and I ended up doing it twice in 3 weeks. I was motivated, smart, and had a flexible schedule and plenty of money to spend. It was so intimidating I gave up. That is just the truth.

    Airlines are not nationalized, hell, they don’t even cooperate with each other (only with travel agents and websites) but they get it done. Trains don’t even pretend to help you book. Until it is as easy as a plane trip you are losing potential customers. Airline schedules used to look exactly like trains, but they don’t now…why do you think that is? The traveling public today expects that level of service.

    I am not trying to push train service (you are). So feel free to make fun of people and call them stupid. When they don’t use the trains just throw up your hands and blame the traveling public, not the railroads that are still stuck in the 18th century.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How hard is that, seriously? It’s more work than that to map out a driving route from Reading to Boston!

    Very hard for someone who is determined to drive everywhere.

    I’m sure the first problem he encountered is that Reading, the namesake of the Reading Railroad doesn’t have train service anymore. Or flying out of ABE instead of PHL. Or using the United “flight” from ABE to EWR. But then he also decided that driving through New York City to get to Boston was the way to go instead of asking someone how to avoid that. There are much pleasanter alternatives.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    ABE…farther than PHL….I thought you wanted less driving not more?
    I don’t ride on buses (your flight from ABE to EWR)
    And there are more pleasant routes to Boston, but they are much longer and an 8 hour drive is long enough for me thanks…

    But that is fine…make fun of me…insult everyone who can’t figure out trains. See how far that gets you in increasing train ridership

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Google says Reading is 39 miles from Allentown, 59 from Philadelphia. I never said anything about less driving. You don’t ride on buses. Too plebian? Or too removed from the cup holders in your car?
    The alternate routes are faster than driving through New York City.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I forgot to add the point of the article was that it was going to push refiners out of the state and therefore make gas less scarce. Basically they are saying CA residents will pay more for gas then everyone else

    Michael Reply:

    And what is the cost of shipping gasoline/… into California from a place with a port or a lot of pipelines, amortizing new refineries, vs modernizing a refinery?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    so the polution does not count if it is in Nevada? How are you going to stop the “bad” CO2 at the border?

    VBobier Reply:

    Actually the world could care less about AB32, it’s only in CA, not worldwide like oil prices are.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It doesn’t really matter how much hsr is built since the entire purpose is to funnel public money to freinds of the machine. PB has already won the war.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    “The cynic is the man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic’s eyes to improve his vision.”

    – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Tehachapi Stilt-A-RAil will cost a fortune; turn out to be worth very little in utility; and then require a constant feed of more funds to retain even that very little worth.

    VBobier Reply:

    Tell Ya what Cyno, when they start going to lay rail in the Tehachapis, You can protest then, until I’d think there’s an Indian tribe who might disagree with Ya on Tejon.

    nick Reply:

    so i guess hsr is a worldwide conspiracy.

    synonymouse Reply:

    This is not hsr; this is BART.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    If your population does not already own cars, is willing to walk a mile to get to a station and lives with public transportation system that everyone uses then HSR works great for your population. The US does not have kind of population. Watch people cruise for a close parking spot at the mall to save themselves 200 yards extra walk and then tell me you can expect people to walk to and from train and bus stations. New York City is the only place in the US where that is all true. Do you really expect the average US citizen and their kids to walk to the SF train station, ride to LA, then take public transit to their destination. Kids won’t even ride in a car without a DVD player these days….you are delusional

    RubberToe Reply:

    John,
    This sounds a lot like the “things have always been the way they are, and they will never change” argument. I spoke previously about short term thinking, and this fits that perfectly. You wake up one morning, and things are pretty much like they were last week, you expect them to be about the same a week from now. Over time, things change and peoples behavior changes rather slowly, so it looks like things are the same with a short term perspective, but take a look how people were living 10 years ago and 20 years ago.

    Using your example, about people cruising around the mall for a closer parking space. Yes people do that, because gas is relatively inexpensive for a lot of people, and they have the ability to do it. When the equation starts changing (slowly) over time, gas will be more expensive and fewer people will be driving and those still driving will pay more attention to what they are driving and how they are driving it. What happened to all those Ford Excursions? Remember how fashionable it was a few years back to be driving the largest vehicle around and getting 6 MPG? By your logic, the roads should be filled with these, since they offer the most comfort and safety while circling the mall parking lot. The higher oil prices took care of those, and they will take care of a lot of other manifestations of the “happy motoring” here in America. Already, total vehicle miles driven is falling over time, even more quickly as a function of population:
    http://streetswiki.wikispaces.com/Vehicle+Miles+Traveled

    The bottom line is peoples and society’s behaviors can change over time, and things are going to change whether you would like them to or not. I’m not a fortune teller, but I can assure that oil prices are going nowhere but up. You haven’t responded to any of the other commenters points about climate change, specifically the Hansen reference. Your only comment after reading that was that “So you agree there is plenty of oil then?”. Please provide your perspective on whether burning up the entire tar sands over the next 200-300 years could possibly have any effect on climate. Or was that not covered in the school of Mines?

    Personally, I am a lifetime member of the Sierra Club, and consider myself very pro-environment. I also happen to believe that we should be building nuclear power plants as fast as we can, so that we can phase out all the coal and natgas plants, over time. So labeling all environmentalists as anti-nuclear is easy to do, but not always the case. A couple hundred nuclear plants for base load power, coupled with a massive deployment of wind and solar to handle the peaking aspect would do us very nicely going forward for a couple hundred years. The several thousand cubic meters of highly radioactive spent fuel will do much less harm than the 100-200ppm increase in the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will do.

    Once more, in case you aren’t paying close attention, Will the burning up of the tar sands over 200 years have any affect at all on the global environment?

    RT

    RubberToe Reply:

    Another link for VMT, including distribution by age. The younger generation isn’t as infatuated with cars as the older folks:
    http://mobikefed.org/2012/03/megatrend-us-motor-vehicle-miles-driven-has-been-flat-decade-bicycling-and-walking-strong-up

    http://t4america.org/blog/2012/04/05/young-people-leading-the-downward-trend-in-driving-report-finds/

    I can’t seem to find my favorite one that shows the VMT as a function of population. That is the really dramatic one.

    RT

    Nathanael Reply:

    I concluded a while back that with rare exceptions our people and institutions are simply incapable of handling nuclear safely (see Fukushima, TMI, Chernobyl, etc.), and the consequences of sloppiness in fission reactions is just too damned large, which is why I’m opposed to an expansion of nuclear power.

    Luckily, solar can supply the entire world’s energy needs. I need to get back to working on understanding the math behind my friends’ new solar panel design (both more efficient than anything on the market, and *should be* cheaper per watt since it can be done on existing equipment…)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    US citizen and their kids to walk to the SF train station, ride to LA, then take public transit to their destination. Kids won’t even ride in a car without a DVD player these days….you are delusional

    The people who live in New York City are US Citizens. Most of them anyway. Most of them live quite contented lives without owning a car.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    HSR is better for a car-dependent population than airports are, because the ultra-low stopping penalty for trains relative to planes allows an HSR service to have multiple stops in the same metropolitan
    area, including stations in high-transit-availability neighborhoods and stations in almost entirely car-dependent outer suburban areas where the expressway system is the primary recruiter.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Do you really expect the average US citizen and their kids to walk to the SF train station, ride to LA, then take public transit to their destination..”
    Of course. Look at the stats on the behavior of the younger generation, which RubberToe linked for you.

    “Kids won’t even ride in a car without a DVD player these days…”
    Way easier to watch DVDs on the train, you know. Less problems with motion sickness. You never have to actually drive, someone else does. In fact, the prevalence of electronic devices has been cited as a possible *reason* why younger people think driving sucks.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah they have their iPads and such, such devices are just about useless in an automobile…

  3. Derek
    Jul 7th, 2012 at 22:13
    #3

    Now is the time to also work on ensuring that high speed rail succeeds once it’s built. We should oppose projects that compete with HSR for users, such as those freeway widening and airport expansion projects that were made unnecessary by HSR. We should support improving transit that will function as feeder lines into the HSR system. And we should support increasing gas taxes and tolls until the roads pay for themselves, because this will further increase demand for transit and high speed rail.

    joe Reply:

    IMHO scrutinize the long term parking requirements. If they insist on building long term park and ride stations then your vision is fucked.

    Derek Reply:

    Every parking space ought to allow long term parking. It would raise the value of each parking space, giving the landowners, that’s us, a better return on our investment.

    joe Reply:

    Zoning.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Short-term parking spaces have many very specific purposes; if you don’t have ‘em, there’s no way to do kiss-and-ride, disabled access, taxi dropoff and pickup, truck loading and unloading, etc.

    Short-term parking is *far* more valuable than long-term parking, actually — there’s a *reason* popular businesses have short-term parking spots, which is that they’re more valuable than long-term parking.

    It’s only after you’ve met the short-term parking demand that you should even consider long-term parking. However, the short-term parking demand can usually be met with a very small number of parking spaces (10-20) so there’s usually room for long-term parking too.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    And long term parking does not have to be immediately adjacent to a station. If it did, most long term parking capacity at most large airports would be non-functional, as they rely on shuttle buses or people movers to get people to the terminal. So one can have a higher priced long term parking within walking distance to the station, and a collection of lower priced long term parking lots along a shuttle bus route to the station. If the target is “up to 6,000 spaces”, then the outlying lots in that system certainly do not have to be available when the station first opens, since first year patronage will in any event by roughly half as much as 5th year patronage. And five years is ample time to establish alternative bus and/or rail service to that station from primary patronage source areas, so it is quite possible to design out the need to ever have a substantial number of those parking places.

    Donk Reply:

    Exactly. Spend highway money on parking structures and underpasses. Or spend private and local money on stations and public money on tracks. The only station that really can justify significant expenditures from the state is LAUS. The rest all have highly inflated projections. We shouldn’t spend a dime of the federal or state money on parking structures until all of the track, caternery, and station construction is complete, and until the first trains are running.

    BrianR Reply:

    I may be misinterpreting joe’s original comment but I assumed it was to question the need for massive parking structures at HSR stations to begin with. If not; I’d like to ask that question. To me at least it seems inconsistent with the ultimate goal of transit which is to get people out of their cars in the first place. Not every HSR station should be a massive park & ride. That’s one area the CAHSRA could of made a few simple concessions to Palo Alto when they were questioning the desirability of an HSR station.

    jimsf Reply:

    The only station that won’t need ample parking is transbay terminal.

    Even now In merced I watch people have a meltdown if they can’t find a parking space. If you want them to ride, they have to have a secure place to park their babies. To expect folks in the valley and other suburban areas to wait at a bus stop in 104 degree heat is insanity. They aren’t going to do it.

    Derek Reply:

    Even now In merced I watch people have a meltdown if they can’t find a parking space.

    That’s easy to fix, even without adding parking spaces. Last summer it was nearly impossible to find open parking spaces on a stretch of Drumm street near the Embarcadero. Now, after the city raised the price of parking from $3.50 to $4.50, spots are available more often.

    joe Reply:

    I get your point but you are seeing things here.

    “The program, which uses new technology and the law of supply and demand, raises the price of parking on the city’s most crowded blocks and lowers it on its emptiest blocks. ”

    preliminary data suggests that the change may be having a positive effect in some areas.”

    The article uses Science jargon for “we have no empirical data proving our hypothesis / point. ”

    The program, IMHO, is modestly shifting parking.
    I lived in Noe Valley and knew reliable spots to park my SUV overnight or for the day — places were under-utilized. This program. IMHO, shifts *attention* to those less used places.
    There is no data it reduced the number cars. Same holds for New York – no data yet.

    Charging $1-$2 more for parking per hour – peanuts.

    I don’t object to charging more and support full cost recovery for parking – parking uses valuable land. I *want* HSR to charge full cost recovery for parking structures; both construction and maintenance.

    Derek Reply:

    There is no data it reduced the number cars.

    Actually, it may increase the number of cars because it increases turnover. This is not a bad thing.

    But Jimsf’s concern is about finding a parking space, and if spots are available more often, it fulfills the goal, even without adding parking. This is how to reduce the number of parking spaces to be built and still have ample parking.

    flowmotion Reply:

    > I *want* HSR to charge full cost recovery for parking structures

    Think airports, not commuter rail stations. Parking will be a profitable business, as well as rental car facilities, shuttle services, etc.

    (And congrats to Robert & everyone else on the legislative victory!)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Land is cheap near the aiport. No so cheap near the train station.

    joe Reply:

    I get it, the volume of users and the kinds of trips are more similar to airport travelers than commuters. IMHO, Airport transportation infrastructure in CA sucks. Let’s not copy that model.

    http://www.burbankca.gov/index.aspx?page=921
    I would like to see HSR become transportation centers, not just HSR stations.

    My bias is HSR users will be less likely to own a car and/or want to use a car and drop at the airport. In general, data indicate young men are postponing driver lisc. and car ownership.

    HSR should not subsidize cars by offering inexpensive parking and crowd out other land uses near the station – a upscale BART park and ride would be horrible.

    flowmotion Reply:

    The car issue is actually somewhat secondary, the data shows that younger people strongly prefer to live in an ‘urban’ environment. However, one of the side-effects of building the Merced-Palmdale IOS first will be that HSR is serving a population that’s a good deal more fuel-friendly than the ideal train-rider. To JimSF’s point, Merced might not be quite ready to be socially engineered.

    In any case, we have many years before a parking problem will materialize to see how things shake out.

    joe Reply:

    I live in the urban environment of Gilroy – urban isn’t large cities.
    Small towns have an urban core. Merced has one.

    Putting a large parking lot around a HSR station is social engineering. Not focusing public transportation around regional public transportation is also social engineering – these are car centric and its based on 20th century cheap oil.

    Derek Reply:

    Putting a large parking lot around a HSR station is social engineering.

    Correct. It would be better to build a parking lot just big enough so its revenue equals its costs (including the opportunity costs). Any bigger is just wasting money.

    flowmotion Reply:

    > Putting a large parking lot around a HSR station is social engineering.

    Certainly, we want to socially engineer a situation where HSR becomes a successful endeavor. That will likely require some parking lots.

    I think we are in full agreement that giganto garages shouldn’t be built just due to some PB bar-napkin calculation. However, HSR isn’t even trying to solve the general ills of our transportation and development models, so using the garages as a proxy-issue misses the mark IMO.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    However, it is not necessarily to pursue a one-size-fits-all model. Different stations will have substantially different shares of park and ride recruitment, and a flexible approach to planning to have parking available but making it available as demand for the parking warrants allows local communities to pro-actively avoid having to build parking by providing for more appealing alternative recruiters.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    It may be oversimplified, but the requirement for parking space can be guesstimated rather easily: Number of passengers leaving and coming by car, overlayed with the distribution curve of their absence… this is pretty much similar to airports. However, in certain places, with only a few departures, you may need rather few spaces.

    Such guesstimates get stations like Avignon TGV to have some 2000 parking spaces (with about 40 departures per day), which is pretty much sufficient. Comparing that to numbers appearing for California makes me believe that there are other motivations up as well. I am aware of only one TGV station which has somewhat close to 5000 parking spaces. And besides a light rail connection to the city center, that station has an airport attached (I am talking of Lyon St.Exupéry…)

    Travis D Reply:

    Uh, if you restrict parking you kind of lock out people who live more than a few hours drive from the station. The nearest station to me at full build out will still be a 50 mile drive. If there is no parking at that station how am I going to use the network to get down to LA?

    joe Reply:

    Not restrict or lock out, but make the station a transit center. Putting long-term parking on site isolates the stations. Prioritize land use for convenient mass transit, shuttles, drop-off pick-up.
    Even car centric airports use off-site long-term parking.
    http://www.flysfo.com/web/page/parking/options/long-term/
    It’s $18/day. San Jose charges $15 and does not use a structure.

    What do the recommended 6,000 spaces for Gilroy (city pop of ~50k) look like? About 2.3 times the fifth and mission parking structure in SF.
    http://www.fifthandmission.com/about.htm
    8 Floors of Parking
    965,600 Sq. Ft.
    2585 Parking Spaces

    The cities will have to pay for the parking. I suggest building some fraction of projected parking and add space if/as demand grows and actively encourage and design the station as a transit center.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Fifth & Mission Garage may not be pretty, but takes up less than 1/2 of an urban block.

    Meanwhile, a quick google survey of Gilroy Train Station shows it is surrounded by blocks and blocks of empty lots, strip malls, warehouses, and so on.

    Either you have exaggerated this issue in your head, or you are a proto-NIMBY staking out the pure-lefty ideological position in order to oppose the project when it falls short of your ideals.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    @flowmotion
    Hmm, sounds like 1/2 of an urban block too much. They could use it for retail (etc) instead.

    flowmotion Reply:

    @joe – Sorry, I shouldn’t have phrased that in personal terms.

    joe Reply:

    Gilroy’s current train station is very walkable and it doubles as a bus station for the VTA service.
    It’s under utilized. Most business is N of the station. We live close enough to walk there in 15 minutes.

    The 6,000 parking spaces are a city concern. That’s the current requirement. I believe that’s our responsibility to prove that space.

    The area around the station is projected for multi-use development and the vision “plan” shows some hypothetical landuse changes. Parking is part of the plan but so is off site parking. The goal is t build up the downtown area and displace existing businesses.

    Since the tallest buildings are 3 stories, a 8 story parking structure is out of the question in the present time.

    I’m not a NIMBY but I am a resident of the City. The project will fall short of ideals but I’ll push for them. What I suggest is to trade parking capacity with alternative transportation modes and postpone full build of 6,000 parking spaces until there is demand.

    Derek Reply:

    Uh, if you restrict parking you kind of lock out people who live more than a few hours drive from the station.

    False. The situation you describe (a shortage) only occurs when parking is priced below market equilibrium.

    joe Reply:

    True – locking people out by price.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Precisely. If you price parking at a market equilibrium, you do not lock out people, you price out people.

    The same capacity is the same capacity, if the capacity is less than the level of demand that would exist for free parking, then the difference is how you ration the same capacity.

    However, if mode share of cars declines over the next twenty years, then its quite possible that political pressure will lead to connecting transport that in turn is more attractive to many potential drivers than driving. That is the advantage of a flexible system that provides the parking expected for the expected original ridership and is capable of expanding parking in line with expected ramp up in ridership. Then if the demand for parking does not increase as modeled, there is no need to add that extra parking, and a substantial resource waste is avoided.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Who’s talking about “restricting” parking? Parking can ably be provided by private parties, at market rates. There’s no reason for CAHSR to be in the parking-lot business though.

    joe Reply:

    That’s a good point.

    I think Cities have a somewhat negotiable parking requirement for the HSR station.

    I suppose Cities can out source the construction of that requirement with some guarantee provided the parking will be built but in my town where land is somewhat affordable, the city council thinks most existing businesses near the station will move and make way for higher profit, multi-story construction.

    BrianR Reply:

    I agree. Considering that BART is already the largest operator of parking west of the Mississippi I wouldn’t want to see the CAHSRA rival or surpass that; possibly becoming the largest operator of parking in the nation. It may inevitable though.

    However to be fair; if the parking at every commercial airport in northern and southern california was operated by a single agency that would equal a hell of a lot of parking spaces.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Brian,

    This is actually a bigger paradox than you imagine:

    Many airports makes 50% of their revenue on parking, yet for BART it’s a tiny fraction. Parking is probably going to be the most lucrative at the stops which are not the biggest destinations, but serve the largest catchment areas: Gilroy, Merced, Hanford, Anaheim, and possibly Burbank.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    And San Jose, which will serve a large car-oriented catchment population, and which is primarily an origin station ~ as far as destinations its rather a connection station for the actual destinations further north in Silicon Valley.

    Palmdale would be a bigger catchment in Phase 1 than when there is a station in the San Bernandino / Riverside urbanized area in Phase 2, so it might want to think about the convertibility of some of the parking that they may provide.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You’ll get on the airport style shuttle bus that’s cheaper than the parking fee and get dropped off right at the station’s entrance instead of desolate parking space three quarters of a mile away.

    Nathanael Reply:

    LA Union Station will not need significant onsite parking for arriving passengers. There will be so many forms of connecting public transportation that providing onsite parking at outlying Metro and Metrolink stops would probably make more sense; the people who live closer to LAUS than to the outlying stops are the ones who won’t need to drive to LAUS.

    LAUS probably should have parking for rental car places; making it easier for people to get a rental car on arrival would sure help.

  4. Donk
    Jul 8th, 2012 at 00:28
    #4

    So do you think when it is all said and done, who will be seen as the father of CAHSR? I bet Arnold will get all the credit even though he was opposed to the project for the first 4 years and almost destroyed the project thru mismanagement.

    BrianR Reply:

    Governor Brown will undoubtedly be seen as the “father of CAHSR” or perhaps “our messiah” since it seems so prophetic the way he is now working to implement a project he originally proposed 30 years ago in his previous term as governor. Arnold seems like a minor figure in comparison but let me say I appreciated his support for HSR none the less.

    While Arnold was governor I know we grew used to him but in retrospect he seems like a really crazy person to have had as governor. I think his apparent craziness was diluted by the fact Dubya was president. Support for HSR and infrastructure investments seemed like one of Arnold’s few sane ideas. Very un-Republican of him actually by today’s standards.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Between Arnold and Reagan, is there a pattern that actors may not make the best of leaders?

    nick Reply:

    they werent even good actors !

  5. D. P. Lubic
    Jul 8th, 2012 at 06:14
    #5

    In other news, NARP’s “Hotline” news has a bit on the election, and a segment on the abuse of environmental protection law:

    http://www.narprail.org/news/hotline/2034-hotline-766-july-6-2012

  6. jimsf
    Jul 8th, 2012 at 07:20
    #6

    What I find in talking to people, including railroad people, is that there is a complete lack of understanding about what high speed rail is, how it works, and what the plan is for gradual implementation. The amount of misinformation and misunderstanding over all is astounding. I don’t even know where to begin.

    The media leads the way in a complete failure to understand and explain it.

    a simple presentation of how the segments will be constructed and connected to upgraded bookends to form a complete system, that can then be continually upgraded as needed, is needed.

    but this is the kind of stuff that, if you can’t explain it in a sound bite, people’s eyes glaze over, especially when the explanation goes against their preconceived notion.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    What I find in talking to people, including railroad people, is that there is a complete lack of understanding about what high speed rail is, how it works, and what the plan is for gradual implementation.

    Yes, and that’s not counting anybody who doesn’t work for PB=CHSRA, Caltrain, Metrolink or Caltrans.

    America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals!

    Nathanael Reply:

    The failure of the media to understand and explain *anything* is the major problem with the United States today. The only solution I can think of is “be the media”, which is what Robert and other bloggers are trying to do.

  7. jimsf
    Jul 8th, 2012 at 08:04
    #7

    The blended plan, while less ambitious, makes more sense than the original plan in the sense that it puts true high speed track where we can now, and upgrades existing lines in the areas where 125mph operation was anticipated to begin with.

    granted it will take a level of coordination between agencies that is unheard of in california,

    The most glaring problem is with caltrain. Now that they are getting electrification and the plan is blended operations, Someone has got to step in and put their foot down when it comes to platform heights, level boarding and train control. Any schmuck off the street can see that the lack of coordination and streamlining there is a joke.

    jimsf Reply:

    part of the deal in funding caltrain’s electrification with these funds is that they should be forced to adopt the train control that hsr will use, and be forced to use compatible level boarding. to waste money on separate or incompatible systems and equip is criminal.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Agree 100% JimSF. This is to a large degree the result of local control and JPA governance. Every agency wants to chose it’s own Lionel set. We even have Bombardier commuter cars with different electrical systems (Metrolink and Coaster). You have to work really hard to screw those things up but they succeeded.
    This I think is one area where advocates can have some influence, in spite of the historical track record. We must insist on system compatibility and value for money from all aspects of the project. We need to educate ourselves regarding costs of similar projects and equipment and hold agencies to account. Whatever the political outcomes, dollars will be very hard to come by, so we have to stretch them as far as they can go.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Every agency wants to chose it’s own Lionel set.

    Odd. Here in the Northeast anything can go anywhere anything as long as the electricity is there. Which is why, in Newark for instance, an Acela can be coming in while a diesel Raritan Valley line train is coming in. Followed closely by a NJTransit Trenton Express.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    One would like to think that these various items of rolling stock have some commonality of systems and parts, even if from different builders and with different purposes. At least you have the same track gauge! Can they couple to each other to assist in the event of failure?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Except for oddballs like Acela any North America car or locomotive can couple to another North American car or locomotive, at least in theory. No they don’t share systems and parts.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Well, at least as long as the electrical systems are compatible. M8s can’t use 25 Hz catenary, for instance.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Not really true in the Northeast. But in the case of the Northeast, it was due to different private companies each choosing a different standard:

    Metro-North “underrunning third rail” from the New York Central
    LIRR “overrunning third rail”
    Penn Station southward on the NEC — 25Hz catenary from the Pennsylvania Railroad
    Boston to just east of New York — 60 Hz catenary from Amtrak/US government during the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project

    But at least the track gauge is standard, the loading gauge is standard, there’s a boarding height standard for rolling stock, the couplers are standard. I think the electrical couplers for HEP are also standard.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Agree 200%. We can all agree on this. So how do we campaign to get Caltrain to use “HSR electrification, HSR platform heights, and HSR signalling”? Where to start?

    jonathan Reply:

    Get Mike Scanlon fired; he’s taking home three different paychecks and he plainly isn’t paying attention to Caltrain. Get the political patrons to replace their appointees with people who ask questions, instead of rubber-stamp “yes” votes on whatever the staff provides.

    Tell the new Board members and CEO that the HSR dollars are contingent on following HSR standards, and _hold them to it_. But to hold them to that, you’ll have to get the new board and new CEO to hire people with actual , rlelevant, _engineering_ experience. Caltrain “modernization” — electrification and signalling — is an engineering project. But who does Caltrain have on staff with the engineering background to make informed decisonson, say, CBOSS? Or platform heights — huge capital costs vs.a comparatively small sunk investment in second-hand, saleable, Bombarider coach sets, and end-of-life gallery cars?

    Clem Reply:

    I’ll be the first to agree with you, but there are some strong and deeply embedded financial disincentives to do what’s right. The people calling the shots and setting the agenda here (let’s call them “overhead queens”) get a fixed cut of all the engineering, the systems integration, and the construction activity. Making things incompatible leads to more tracks, more platforms, bigger stations, more complicated integration, more complex requirements management, and more convoluted verification. All of those things mean nothing but profit. That’s the moral hazard of the American Way of gutting governments, setting up weak JPAs, and outsourcing everything to private sector “consultants” who strangely seem to come up with the most expensive answer.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “overhead queens” – damn straight. Keep up the creativity.

    Alan Reply:

    Considering the fact that for now (until saner heads prevail) Caltrain and HSR will have to share the same pair of tracks, there’s no reasonable way that the two can use incompatible systems or floor heights. Even if we were able to build out the full 4-track alignment, the way it should be done, using two systems would be unwise. The problem is going to be getting Caltrain to let go of CBOSS, after they’ve already committed to it.

    Clem Reply:

    There absolutely are ways to share tracks with incompatible systems, and they are being vigorously pursued. Where have you been? The first way is to ensure that platforms can never be shared between HSR and Caltrain, which makes it possible for each to choose their own separate interface specification. The second way is to demand that every high-speed train in the entire California state-wide fleet, which by the way will dwarf the Caltrain fleet, is equipped with CBO$$.

    Alan Reply:

    I assume that was sarcasm…

    Clem Reply:

    Sadly, I am perfectly serious. Please visit my blog for a long and detailed account.

    Required reading on platform height
    Required reading on CBOSS

    Clem Reply:

    (and apologies to Robert for the blog spam)

    Alan Reply:

    I was being a bit sarcastic myself. I’ve read your blog before, but a refresher is always helpful. The idea of using different platform heights and different signal systems is still (IMHO) insane, if for no other reason than the additional costs involved will give the teabaggers and NIMBY’s more ammunition–legitimate this time–to try to interfere with both projects.

    It seems as though the immediate problem is political, not engineering. It may have been all well and good for Caltrain to go its own way as long as HSR funding was still uncertain, but now that both projects are a go, there has to be a way to find a common ground.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    It certainly does seem likely to be political, but quite possibly inter-agency politics.

    From my experience in the Newcastle NSW CBD rail corridor fight, gates open when a stopping train is approaching an intervening platform is something that the motorist defense brigade take quite seriously. So a key question is who extracted the agreement from Caltrain that the system would allow for that, and what did Caltrain get out of the agreement.

    AFAIU that functionality is not a standard functionality within the ERTMS (sp?) system. However, its not a functionality that has to be there for the HSR trains, provided that it is not an issue at San Jose (won’t be), Redwood, Millbrea (won’t be) , or SF-TBT (won’t be).

    And adding a function to ERTMS is a regulatory headache of high order, and a regulatory headache with a lot of participants with no special stake in a US Express HSR system functioning well.

    But trains have to pass between ERTMS corridors and corridors under other signal systems, so there has to be a protocol for handing over to and from a different system.

    So it might be possible to have a limited overlay system, in which in response to a positive signal from the train that they are under overlay control approaching a stop at one of those platforms, the gates may remain open until the second signal is received from the overlay system to close them.

    Then at some specific distance in advance of the stopping system, a stopping Caltrain service transfers to the overlay system.

    If that were feasible, then Caltrain could get their gates not closing early agreement met, with whichever stakeholder it was made with, and HSR would not need the signaling support for that ~ if it happens to stop at such a Caltrain station (assuming platform height problems solved), the damn gates would just go down early, since without the limited local overlay in place in the train, it could not provide the positive transfer of control signal to the gate.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    So a key question is who extracted the agreement from Caltrain that the system would allow for that, and what did Caltrain get out of the agreement.

    On come on.

    Caltrain’s consultants (and former in-house revolving-door “signalling expert” washed-up failure) come up with these “requirements” all by themselves in order to justify a pre-determined outcome, namely that a 50 mile long shuttle line with a total of 20 trains and no junctions has super special snowflake needs than can only be justified by throwing $200 million public dollars at their own very very very very very very special friends.

    It’s rent-seeking, purely, simply, exclusively, and without question.

    “Oh please Brer Fox, whatever you do, please don’t throw me into the briar patch!”

    Don’t make me develop CBOSS!
    Don’t make me use separate platforms!
    Don’t make me have faregates!
    Don’t make me blast at 220mph through city centres!
    Don’t make me take a huge costly detour to Palmdale!
    Don’t make me share ROW with UPRR!
    Don’t make me build a three level station in San Jose!
    Don’t make me write all my own globally unique track, signalling, electrification, control, and vehicle standards!

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Do you happen to know Metrolink is handling that same issue (I know at Santa Ana station, don’t know about others)?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Paul, no, I don’t.

    Not that there is “an issue” here at all.

    As far as I know, ETMS (the US freight RR thing Metrolink is adopting) doesn’t communicate train “intentions” (talk about borrowing trouble!) to grade crossing controllers.

    To speculate without any information at all, I’d imagine that the Santa Ana Boulevard grade crossing uses, and will continue to use, the exact same bog-standard “constant warning time predictor” controllers so widely used all over the US that derive train distance and speed from wheel-shunted rail-transmitted audio frequency signals circuits and activate the ding-ding-bells at a speed-determined distance from the crossing.

    It’s more than possible that the “issue” (of crossing gates coming down ahead of stopping trains, thus interrupting road traffic unnecessarily for 30 seconds to a minute, the horror) could be addressed at the handful of locations affected by improvements to the software of the controllers themselves. Hell, pay somebody $10 million per crossing to code it and you’d come out a hundred million dollars ahead.

    Note also that Caltrain’s contractor’s multi hundred million dollar rent-seeking “issue” is “present” at precisely six locations: northbound North, Burlingame; southbound Howard, Burlingame; southbound First, San Mateo; northbound Broadway, Redwood City; northbound Oak Grove, Menlo Park; and northbound Castro, Mountain View. You do the cost/benefit arithmetic.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And how much do the lawsuits cost when the train that is supposedly stopping at the station goes sliding through the station and into the automobile traffic that is gleefully crossing the tracks becuaae the gates aren’t down?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    $200 million max. Of course, since you would design it for fail-safe operations, the gates go down and only go back up with a stopped train at the platform.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That isn’t what Caltrain is specifying. They want the gates to stay up since the train approaching is going to be stopping at the station.
    And it’s 200 million minimum insurance that railroads have to carry. People can sue for more if they want… Gasoline tanker is in the crossing as the train plows through it rupturing the tanker and seting fire to a few blocks of Palo Alto….

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If the gates stay up, then that is a stop signal at the gate. The station platform in advance of the gate *has* to be within the stopping envelope of the Caltrain service, otherwise the PTC would apply a penalty brake to the Caltrain train.

    So have the Caltrain service signal its intent to stop to the gate by sending a signal overlayed on top of the approaching train detector circuit. The gate stays up until the Caltrain service arrives at the platform, then automatically starts descending. The Caltrain of course is not released to leave the platform until it has a green signal

    If its six locations, then six gate circuits need to have a signal overlay xceiver on their oncoming train detection equipment. And the Caltrain trains need to have a signal overlay xceiver and an “intend to stop” button.

    Sometimes Caltrain services would fail to signal and the gates would go down at the time they would normally do for trains going that speed when detected. But on paper, they always signal, and the gates always stay open that extra few seconds.

    And the HSR doesn’t need to do anything. Its not stopping, its detected coming through at speed, the gates do down.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m sure that works very very well in Microsoft Train Simulator. Less so in the real world with real trains on slippery tracks.

    .. the train is surfing along eagerly anticipating stopping at the next station where there is a crossing right at the platforms. It’s been raining lightly after a long drought, making the tracks very very slippery. The gates stay up because the train is telling the system it’s going to stop
    but it doesn’t because one of the cars brakes decide to fail. It gently slides through the crossing, even though the PTC system has initiated an emergency stop. Just as the gasoline tanker was crossing. Flaming debris spread over two or three blocks. Find a signal designer, a competent one anyway, who is going to let the gates stay up even though a nearby train is in motion.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Then the ETMS would have kicked in the penalty brake earlier than that, wouldn’t it? or were you under the impression that tracks do not get slippery and brakes do not fail in other places around the world where its already in use?

    It is, in any event, no argument for using CBOSS instead, since it would be subject to exactly the same scenario. It is, indeed, rather, a point in favor of using an ETMS system as the PTC rather than CBOSS. That is part of the point of using a standard system, because its more likely that CBOSS will have overly optimistic stopping envelopes for the equipment than ETMS where there will be reference implementations already in use elsewhere around the world rather than a one-off, only of its kind system.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Which places in the world do the gates stay up, at the crossing where the train will be stopping,. even though the train is still in motion? There’s lot of places in the world where the gates go down, tha train stops, the gates go up, the train signals that it’s ready to move, the gates go down and the train gets permission to move.

    jonathan Reply:

    ETMS where there will be reference implementations already in use elsewhere around the world rather than a one-off, only of its kind system.

    ETMS, the Wabtec system, in use elsewhere arround the world? Huh??

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If the HSR train can never go on the Caltrain tracks and the Caltrain trains can never go on the HSR why do they need compatible signals?

    Clem Reply:

    Who said they can never go on each other’s tracks?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You did. If the Caltrain trains use 8 inch platforms and the HSR trains use 48 inch platforms that 40 inch step down from the HSR to the Caltrain platform won’t be very popular. Or the 40 inch step up from the Caltrain platform to the HSR train. YMMV when the Caltrain train is using the HSR platform. If the trains can’t use each other platforms there’s not much use in them sharing tracks.

    jonathan Reply:

    No, no no! Separate platform for HSR and Caltrain on the same tracks, at physically separate (but perhaps adjacent or coincident) stations. (gee, does that mean lots more concrete? What a coincidence! )

    BP’s signature station design has fare-gates; Caltrain does not have fare-gates. If you read the quotes from when Rod Diridon was a CSHRA board member, there’s a very clear “us” and “them’ attitude.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Of course, fare gates are silly for a service like that.

    A standard European “low platform” of 22in would work best in the West for the transition for the ultra-low level tram height “+1in” platforms to regular train level boarding platforms. That makes the height difference of 14in which is a 12ft run of a 10:1 straight ramp.

    jonathan Reply:

    sorry, “PB”, not “BP”. BruceMcF: if you think fare-gates are silly for CAHSR, tell the CSHRA.
    If don’t, but you think fare-gates are silly for Caltrain, then you’re firmly in the camp of “separate stations”.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The HSR train is going to go on Caltrain tracks. If there’s a segment with only two tracks, one normally northbound, one normally southbound, you’re going to have HSR and Caltrain trains on the same tracks. So if they have distinctive signal systems, either the HSR has to support its own as well as Caltrain’s signaling or else the corridor has to support both signal systems in an integrated way.

    Or else the distinctiveness is an overlay for Caltrain that HSR can ignore ~ if there is something distinctive, that could well be a best case.

    jonathan Reply:

    I hope any sensible person would agree that if Prop 1A HSR money (_not_ “connectivity money) is spent on new Calrain signalling, then that signalling should be “plug-and-paly” compatible with HSR signallng. Caltrain management does not. Unless they believe the canard that CBOSS is compatible with HSR ATP. It isn’t, but the only viable choice for HSR in-cab signalling, ETCS, already comes with “hooks” for “legacy” pre-standard systems.

    The idea of building a _new_ “legacy” system, used nowhere except on Caltrain, shouldn’t even pass the sniff-test.

    As for Caltraiin’s “imnediate problem [being] political”: check the public record. When was the last time there was even a _single_ “No” vote at a Calrain Board meeting/ And how does one become a voting member of PJPB, the Caltrain board? It’s a sinecure position awarded by political patronage: by County Boards of Supervisors, by City/County transportatino authorities; and one directly by the Mayor of San Francisco.
    There isn’t even a way to directly vote them out, even for inanity like CBOSS or constructing new grade-separations to legacy “8in above top of rail” platforms, with no thought whatsoever given to raising those platforms to HSR height. LIke at San Bruno. Or not straightening the San Bruno curve.

    as for “HSR” tracks: the “blended” plan means there ARE no dedicated HSR tracks. That would mean quad-tracing the Peninsula — or 6-tracking, at the very least, at HSR stops, to satisf the legally-required “pass at full line speed” language. But the “blended” plan is dual-tracking, with limited quad-tracking for overtakes.
    So the “blended” plan REQUIRES HSR to share trackage with Caltrain.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Unless they believe the canard that CBOSS is compatible with HSR ATP.

    In what ways is it incompatible with HSR ATP, whatever HSR ATP is.

    Clem Reply:

    That’s the problem–the HSR people are at least a decade away from starting to spec their train control system, and ERTMS is still evolving to keep up with the latest wireless tech. They have no incentive to pick an implementation before 2015.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It has to be operational by 2015. Maybe someone at the FRA, which has a bit of experience with the travails of developing new signal systems, could slap Caltrain around a bit – tell them they have been sitting on the pot too long and if they don’t pick something off-the-shelf-ish they aren’t going to meet the deadline.

    Clem Reply:

    Is ITCS not off-the-shelfish enough?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I dunno, has anyone pulled anything off a shelf yet? Doesn’t Caltrain’s signal system have to lower the gates, even thought the train is still moving, as it stops at the station which is at the gates?
    ( something no responsible signal designer would do )

    thatbruce Reply:

    @adirondacker12800:

    The hypothetical responsible signal designer would look at the line, the placement of the grade crossings relative to the stations, the assorted government regulations, and put in a little circuit that says ‘if the train is here, then these relays need to be activated there to protect the train from colliding with cars if it overruns the station just before there‘. Its not exactly rocket science.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Anything involving safety critical systems is rocket science.

    That’s precisely the problem.

    That’s why anybody with even a single functioning neuron doesn’t borrow trouble by multiplying the number of problems.

    That’s why corrupt rent-seeking pork-swillers are all about doing their own special unique designs, here, as elsewhere.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Tell ya what thatbruce, do we send the widows and orphans to live with you when the train that is supposed to be stopping goes through the station and into Dad’s car?

    thatbruce Reply:

    @adirondacker12800:

    What… are you talking about?

    You have a grade crossing positioned immediately after the station. You are required to close that crossing with flashing lights, boom gates etc, before the train gets to the station in order to ‘protect the train from colliding with cars if it overruns the station‘. There’s all kinds of existing examples of this consisting of little circuits tied into your preferred flavor of signaling technology that does this sort of thing already, and they all operate on the assumption that the train will not be able to stop at the station.

    jonathan Reply:

    Nope, ITCS is not off-the-shelf, because CBOSS is not ITCS. It’s extra stuff above and beyond ITCS.

    BP has written engineering documents for CSHRA which discuss signalling. ETCS Level 2 is the only choice which currenlty meets their requirements. ERTMS’s radio “evolution” is going down two paths: One is “:ERTMS Regional”, designed for low-traffic-volume, geographically spread-out lines (think Scandinavia). At a high level, ERTMS-Regional looks rather like the US Class 1 freight railroad “standarde” (Wabtec proprietary) for Positive Train Control.

    The second direction iin which ERTMS radio is evolving, is upgrading the core radio technology for “normal” (non-Reginonal ERTMS) from GSM-R (a circuit-switched technology from the 1980s) to GPRS, a packet-radio technology from the 1990s. (It may help to think “dialup line to AOL” versus “Internet connectivity”. Or it may not.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    Best choice is ERTMS/ETCS. Second-best are ITCS or ACSES. Third-best is the freight companies’ vaporware system, which they are going to be *forced* to deploy by 2015, and if it’s not ready, they’ll be paying fines or deploying, you know, ITCS,ACSES, or ETCS.

    Designing a NEW signal system is whacked.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So what is DS-ATC, then – 1.5th-best?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Well, actually I’d make it 2.1th best. ETCS has the advantage of *worldwide* implementation — it’s practically becoming the standard for the entire world — while ITCS and ACSES have the advantage of being compatible with something in use on this continent (you know, in case the east and west side lines ever link up). DS-ATC has neither, but is a lot better than vaporware….

    jonathan Reply:

    Design documents for CHSRA — cue Richard’s comment on rent-seeking contractors who write design specs to maximise total-systems cost! — specify a signalling system which has a successful operational record in high-speed rail. _Actual_ high-speed rail, not some specious US DoT definition. An independent requirement is for standardized systems available from multiple vendors.

    The same report continues to state the ETCS Level 2 is the only system which meets those criteria. If that document still represents current CHSRA thinking, ACESES and ITCS are not even in the running,

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What’s the difference between ACSES and ERTMS?

    jonathan Reply:

    ACSES is a radio overlay to 1930s PRR pulse signalling. The 1930s PRR pulse-signalling delivers line speeds and signalling informatoin; the radio overlay delivers temporary speed restrictinos. ACSES-equipped trains can operate in pulse-signal-only territory.

    ACSES deployed only in the US-NEC. It has no operational history at 350 km/hr. Deploying brand-new PRR pulse signalling would be a pretty crazy thing to do. Unless you’re an NEC foamer, I suppose

    ETCSis a European-designed standard with interoperable equipment from a wide rainge of vendors. ITts the world standard for greenfield deployments, from New Zealand to Norway. ERMTS is more-orless ETCS plus GSM-R, radio communication using first-generation-GSM technology.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ACSES equipped trains can operate in “dark” territory too. I’m sure ERTMS trains can also. Signal systems fail.
    ACSES in an overlay system. Like ERTMS is an overlay of the various incompatible signal systems in Europe? Or do the ERTMS trains come to shuddering a halt when the ERTMS runs out and the branch line they are operating over only has one of the mutually incompatible signal systems installed?
    What’s the difference between communicating with the train via ACSES radio and communicating with the train via GSM-R?
    How long past the installation of ACSES as the PTC on all NEC trains will the railroads be maintaining pulse coded cab signals? When does everything on the NEC have ACSES as it’s PTC? How many vendors do they have to select from?
    Does the super duper wonder train equipped with GSM-R need GSM-R or did the vendors make in modular like ACSES so that if they want to use a different technology to sling packets around they can? Can you use GSM-R in North America or will the installed base of users in North America drown out your GSM-R signals?
    What’s the difference between a GSM-R handset and the FRA compliant handsets the railroads are testing? Or the difference between a GSM-R handset and whatever they use on ERTMS Regional? Or the digital narrowband radios the railroads here in North America are deploying?
    How many trains have ERTMS installed and how many trains will have whatever the Class Is are calling their PTC this week, will be installed. How many vendors will the North Americans have to choose from? How many cab cars and locomotives does Metro North have? How many does NJTransit have? The LIRR? How many does the biggest ERTMS deployment have? How many vendors will the North Americans have to choose from? The biggest ERTMS deployment, it’s compatible with Nowhereistan’s newest order for 12 DMUs? Or does the biggest deployment use version 2.1.2.3.4 which is incompatible with version 2.1.2.3.5 that the Nowhereistnians are using?

    jonathan Reply:

    What are you blathering about? “Dark” territory is illegal in civilized countries, and has been for a hundred years.

    ETCS Level 2 is an “overlay” in the sense that its in-cab signalling systems make lineside signals obsolete; it is thus an overlay over existing signalling. But new HSR construction in Europe is using _only_ ETCS.

    What’s the difference between a GSM-R handset and the FRA compliant handsets the railroads are testing?

    I have no clue what the FRA handsets do, but GSM-R will be less compatible with them than AT&T cellphones are compatible with Verizon CDMA cellphone service (or AT&T service and Verizon handsets). Wikipedia is a reaosnable point to start learning about ETCS and ERTMS.

    I see no relevance whatsoever in how much rolling-stock SEPTA or LIRR have, to California high-speed rail. Do you have a point to make?

    How many does the biggest ERTMS deployment have?

    Wrong question. You should instead ask yourself:: “how many locomotives, *TOTAL*, *world-wide*, , have ETCS”? Because they’re _all_ interoperable. That’s the _point_.

    (We could have a more nuanced conversation about ETCS Level-2 equipped trainsets on ETCS Level1 track; and why ETCS Level 1 trainsets won’t work with ETCS Level 2 track, due to radio interlocking.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes every little branch line and forlorn siding everywhere has full CTC and signal systems never ever fail.
    It would be illegal and useless to use a GSM-R handset and tower in North America. The frequencies allocated for GSM-R in Europe are allocated for other uses in North America. I have to tell all my neighbors who use the AT&T cell tower here in town that they are just imagining making those cell phone calls on their Verizon phones.

    How many locomotives worldwide use ERTMS verision 2.1.x and it’s many variants. How many use 2.2.x and it’s many variants. How many of those 2.1 variants are interoperable with 2.2 varianta how many 2.2. variants are interoperable with other 2.2 variants. How many of them interoperate with 2.3 versions. Any ACSES equiped train can use ACSES anywhere it’s deployed. Which is most of the mainline railroad passenger traffic in North America. It is interoperable with the PTC systme the freight carriers are going to be using. Whatever acronym they are calling by this week. It will be interoprable all across North America allowing UP and BNSF to send their locomotives onto CSX and NS tracks at anytime they want to. It’s going to be the cheap option for the Class IIs who decide to install or upgrade signal systems. How many freight locomotives are there in North America? How many of them will have it installed?

    jonathan Reply:

    GSM-R spectrum is allocated in North America? To whom do you think this is news?
    Gee whiz, and to think that “World phones” can use different spectrums in different countries.
    Yes, Adirondacker, do the GSM phones used with AT&T *do* use different frequencies than GSM phones in Europe. Reworking GSM-R to use different spectrum is in (duh) the RF stage. Not a major reworki.
    What, exactly, is your point?

    The “incompatbilities” are vastly overblown. There were real issues five years ago when NS was commissioning HSL-Zuid, and cutting over from decrepit legacy signalling equipment. ETCS Version 3 was standardizd in *2007*. That is five years ago. In the meantime, the vendor’s software has caught up. You’re like someone saying Windows 7 is no good because Windows Vista had compatibility issues.

    And the fact that ACSES is based on obsolescent technology, from a single vendor, is a *good* thing? The mind mobggles. What background do you have which qualifies you to make informed decisions about safety-critical computer networks?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What qualifications do you have to make decisions about safety critical systems. You seem to think that North American cell phones can’t cross over networks.
    Speaking of being stuck in 2007 ACSES has multiple vendors and has for quite sometime though I dunno when the second vendor came crawling out from the woodwork.

    jonathan Reply:

    II said safety-critical c*omputer networks*. In that area I *do* have academic, original research, and professional credentials. What are yours? I did ask first.

    As for sneering at ETCS (versus ACSES) because Level 2 version 2.3 was defined in 2007 — why don’t you share with us when ACSES II was defined? Its features were well-known enough to be discussed in 2008. Do you even *know*?

    As for cellphones and RF spectrum:… please let me know which part I explained so poorly that you responded with an ad-hominem.

  8. Jo
    Jul 8th, 2012 at 09:56
    #8

    The Italo high speed train in Italy was privately funded. Does anybody have more detail on that? Would that work in California?

    Clem Reply:

    Italo is a private operator that had nothing to do with building rail infrastructure. All they do is buy operating slots. That might work in California sometime in the 2030s after everything is built. Until then it’s irrelevant.

    egk Reply:

    Not entirely irrelevant. NTV (the ‘Italo’ corporation) invested Euro 1 billion [in trains and other non-track infrastructure - ticketing areas, waiting areas, etc. at stations.].

    So at minimum what Italo may show is that even in a competitive market (Italo directly competes with Trenitalia for customers and only expects to win a 25% market share in the near term), the profits to be made from HSR – at least in Europe – are worth that kind of investment.

    Italo is the model of what we should be expecting the rail operator in CA to be like, in the near term.

    William Reply:

    I am not too fond of European style of HSR operation: separate operators from ROW ownership. This, in my view, would eventually led to Airline style ticketing practices to maximize profit, i.e. yield management, which takes away the same-price-anytime fare table that railways have advantages over airlines.

    Clem Reply:

    How else will HSR make money than by managing yield? Is there any HSR system in the world that is not yield-managed?

    William Reply:

    What I don’t like is the airline style yield-management, i.e. price for the same ticket can be very different depend on when one buy it. Of course a fare table should be set with certain ratio of seat filled in mind, but the price should be the same no matter when one buys the ticket.

    Japan & Taiwan, for example, follows fare tables with some discounts, and their HSR lines are single operator within a given section.

    Derek Reply:

    Why is a set fare table an advantage over variable pricing? It benefits late buyers but it hurts the early birds (the late buyers subsidize the early birds). So the net benefit appears to be zero.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It makes the fare more predictable. It also means tickets are interchangeable, without Amtrak-style “We’ll change your ticket for $50 extra” customer-hatred.

    On top of that, when your train frequency is at show-up-and-go levels, there’s a huge benefit to letting people get to the station and book a ticket on the next train; it saves them a train headway’s worth of waiting time.

    Derek Reply:

    You can have predictable fares, or you can have low early-bird fares. Which is more important?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    @Derek
    The consistent pricing of the Japanese Shinkansen gives the system a very different feel than the roller-coaster “BUY NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!1!” pricing of typical airlines. It makes travelling vastly less stressful, and more spontaneous.

    These are good things, I think. As long as the standard price is “low enough” I vastly prefer it to airline pricing, as the latter is one of the factors (though there are many others) that make travelling by air a misery.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Derek, low early-bird fares have to mean high walk-up fares. Think about it.

    Michael Reply:

    Besides commuter railways, where is this same-price-anytime fare? Not Amtrak, Eurostar, DB or OBB. I don’t much experience with others.

    William Reply:

    Amtrak California routes follows fare tables, but prices are adjusted every year with set fare-return ratio target.

    Michael Reply:

    No William. Prices on the Capitol and San Joaquin vary with time of day. That is NOT same-price-anytime. I’ll show ticket stubs if you don’t understand.

    William Reply:

    The Amtrak reservation system still shows $39 for all trains Monday….

    William Reply:

    Between San Jose and Sacramento

    calwatch Reply:

    Capitol Corridor publishes their fares in a table: http://www.capitolcorridor.org/included/docs/fares_and_tickets/all_fares.pdf
    The Surfliner also operates off a set fare table, but with higher fares for Friday-Sunday trains. In practice that is not observed as all tickets are unreserved, meaning any valid ticket can be used on the train at any time.
    The San Joaquin is a reserved train and nominally you have to change your ticket if you want to ride a different train than what you bought.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    That’s not true, Friday-Sunday tickets are the same price as all other tickets currently. They are, however, looking at increasing the price of Friday-Sunday tickets.

    blankslate Reply:

    All Capitol Corridor tickets are valid for one year from the date of purchase on any train. If you miss your train just get on the next one (or the next day, or next week) with the same ticket.

    This is a HUGE advantage of rail over air. Planning the exact date and hour of travel and spending countless hours checking various fare comparison websites and monitoring seemingly random fluctuateions in price is one of the massive headaches of flying. With the train I just decide when I want to go an hour or two beforehand, and then if something comes up I can always catch the next train… If headways get down to 15 minutes it would be just as spontaneous as driving. I sure hope this level of convenience carries over into the high speed system.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Everywhere in Japan, for one. Korea almost does the same: there’s a commuter-style fare table for the KTX, but the prices on weekends are slightly higher than on weekdays.

    Derek Reply:

    Amtrak’s Acela Express from BOS to WAS tomorrow (Monday) costs $271 in the morning, then $217, then $241, then $190, then $163 in the afternoon.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t want to defend Amtrak’s yield management, but it’s easier to understand than on the airlines. There’s a basic fare, which you can’t look up in a table but can figure out pretty easily yourself. On the Regional, it’s currently $59 New York-Providence. If you book at least 2 weeks in advance, there’s an extra fare below it, currently $43. There are also 2 or 3 higher fares – starting from $84, then $100-something – based on how full the train is.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    What Amtrak does is buckets. When seats sell out in one bucket, seats in the next bucket get sold. It does mean some weirdness in that cancellations can result in cheap late tickets.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Bluntly, the amount of trouble Amtrak gets for yield management is less than the political value of the money Amtrak gets for it.

    If the political winds shifted to say “We don’t care about Amtrak’s financial performance but we want it to be easy to use”, Amtrak would probably switch back to fixed-price tickets.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Beg to differ: DB essentially has one fixed price for a given connection. There may be service-dependent surcharges (such as for the ICE). Then, there are quite a few promotions which have usage limitations, but besides the reservation (which is an independent piece of the fare), even the most restriced promos are valid on more than one train.

    Then you have the whole Swiss network (although one may say that the Swiss network is essentially operated like a commuter system).

    ÖBB (I guess that’s what you have in mind) is comparable to the DB.

    Yield management may have advantages wit low-density operation, but as soon as the frequency increases (let’s say hourly or more frequent, yield management is counter-productive, because it takes the flexibility and ease of use out of rail travel. Keep in mind that yield management was brought to the (European) railways by more or less successful airline managers who may understand airline operation, but have no clue about rail network operation.

  9. Larry
    Jul 8th, 2012 at 11:48
    #9

    State needs to start working on funds for the next segment (Bakersfield to Palmdale). This would at least give a complete line from Sacremento to LA. Granted it wouldn’t be HSR yet but it would be usable and money generating.

  10. trentbridge
    Jul 8th, 2012 at 11:49
    #10

    As per Amtrak – it’s easy for opponents to oppose a huge engineering project when it’s in it’s planning stage – but – when the contracts have been awarded – dirt is being moved, concrete is being poured, and thousands of people are making their livelihood from the project then it’s far, far harder to stop. Almost every Republican runs for office on “Defund Amtrak” but Amtrak has stations in 48 states, employs people in 48 states, and moves 30,000,000 passengers around this nation – so reality sinks in – you get in more political hot water – stopping the trains and throwing the people out of work than quietly funding Amtrak for another year.

    My advice to CAHSR – get moving!

    Clem Reply:

    Access to the Region’s Core?

    Alan F Reply:

    Yep. On the other hand, if the first tunnel had been dug out halfway under the Hudson, would have been much more difficult for Gov. Christie to kill ARC. A project can still be canceled after first groundbreaking or the real start of construction, but it has to be far enough along that the costs of canceling it start to approach what it costs to finish the project.

    In the long run, it was for the best that ARC was canceled. Once the ARC project managers dropped the connecting tunnels to the existing NY Penn Station, it was a seriously flawed project which should have been sent back to the drawing board.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and would have opened in 2017. When’s the alternative going to open. How many years after I’m deas is that going to be?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Well you can use bungee cords and parachutes as an interim..

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They did start digging out the tunnels – not as far as halfway around the Hudson, though, and at any rate the tunnels were the cheapest part of the project.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yep, the more track is laid the better I’d feel and once Amtrak is running, that I’d think would bring in money for pushing south towards Palmdale. Yeah right, defund Amtrak, Amtrak is the friend & ally of CA and the CHSRA, I believe that both will help the other.

    Henry Porter Reply:

    30 million trips a year…. Think of it this way. The average American will ride an Amtrak train (1-way) once very ten years.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    And yet Kay Bailey Hutchinson defends Amtrak for its hilariously useless long-distance trains through Texas.

  11. Spokker
    Jul 8th, 2012 at 11:54
    #11

    Some Sunday fun for everyone. Find out which candidate you side with most.

    http://www.isidewith.com

    My results: http://www.isidewith.com/results/11014248

    94% sided with Gary Johnson and Ron Paul, unsurprisingly.

    55% for Romney and 27% for Obama.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Puts me down as 74% Obama, which is hilariously wrong. 65% Kent Mesplay, 64% Jill Stein, neither of whom I’ve heard of before (turns out they’re Green Party). Though if it weren’t for social issues, I’d probably be more leftish. Really would like to found a conservative party that jettisons all the lolbertarian and Austrian nonsense from the GOP.

    Spokker Reply:

    “Really would like to found a conservative party that jettisons all the lolbertarian and Austrian nonsense from the GOP.”

    Haha what? What Republican party are you looking at? Neocons hate libertarian crap.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    And Tea Party is libertarian crap.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Libetarians have a much more cohesive philosophy.

    Spokker Reply:

    Tea Party is not libertarian.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Unfortunately, if you take the GOP, jettison the lolbertarian and Austrian nonsense, and retain the jingoistic “we must spend more money on the military than the rest of the world combined” militarism and really extreme “bedroom police” approach to social issues, you basically get the Nazi Party.

    I suspect there’s more you’d like to jettison from the GOP than just the libertarian and Austrian nonsense. Personally, I rather admire Eisenhower…

    Nathanael Reply:

    And that’s despite the Interstate system probably not having been a good idea.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    I’ll admit I’d like to drawdown the military some (and I’ve wanted to abolish the USAF back into the USAAF for some time, though that may largely be due to being a CVA-58 fanboy). I’ve always thought that someone from the 1930s would be absolutely astonished, and not in a good way, at our military deployments. Plus, with quite a large amount of the military, there wouldn’t be a net drawdown in capability from switching to a surge capability from a constant deployment one (the basis of our current 11 carrier fleet).

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I came out 64% Obama (healthcare and immigration issues–sounds about right to me, the abortion-stem cell thing would be the big differences, and I didn’t even decide on all the immigration questions because I don’t think I know enough to give legitimate answers), 62% Jill Stein, 53% Kent Mesplay (healthcare and environmental issues), 51% Mitt Romney (that was a surprise, on science), 34% Ron Paul (foreign policy), and 15% with the public at large (healthcare). I’m really out of step with my fellow West Virginians, only agreeing with 8% (no major issues).

    nick Reply:

    i give romney 90% for policy flip flops and some credit for inventing obama care !

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I filled about half of this, and then stopped at the question, “Should children of illegal immigrants be granted citizenship?” It’s classic center-shifting. US-born children of illegal immigrants, like everyone else born in the US except to foreign diplomats, are American citizens. I know there are kooks in Arizona who think otherwise, but the current debate is about whether to give people who are not already citizens a path to citizenship (and not a temporary amnesty).

    Ditto the abortion question. I filled the rest just to see this, but they rated Ron Paul as pro-choice:

    Should abortion be outlawed in the United States?

    Ron Paul: No, I don’t agree with it but it’s not my right or the government’s to ban abortion

    Your similar answer: No

    This is just wrong. Paul opposes Roe vs. Wade. On the relevant question to present-day federal US politics – should states be able to ban abortion? – Paul’s on the other side.

    For the record, I scored as 90% pro-Obama, even higher than minor-party candidates like Jill Stein, which mildly surprised me. Romney was 2%.

    Jon Reply:

    Interesting. I got 85% and 83% for the two Greens, 70% for Obama, 33% for Ron Paul (heh!) and 2% for Romney. Not that it matters, what with me being a furriner and not allowed to vote.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Ha! Those results peg you as a lefty liberal, a socialist, a Communist, a statist, and who knows what all else. . .ho, ho, ho, ho!

    No wonder you probably want those socialist trains. . .ho, ho, ho, ho!

    Jon Reply:

    Eh, I’ve been called worse things.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Meh, it’s still a pretty fun quiz, and I liked the “choose another option,” which seemed to deal reasonably well with issues where nuance is important (in many cases, one of the extra options seemed to more or less reflect what I think).

    Of course quizzes like this are usually fun, even when written by loons … then, of course, half the fun is guessing who they are based on how they twisted the questions…

    I just interpreted the “children of …” question as meaning children who aren’t born in the U.S., which seems like the obvious “problematic issue” (kid comes to U.S. with parents at age 2, grows up in U.S., then gets deported to someplace they have no connection with).

    Paul Druce Reply:

    That’s how I was thinking of it as well, in the DREAM Act context.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Generally, if they’re deported, it’s because they were brought to the US illegally themselves. The people covered by the DREAM Act are not to my knowledge ever called “children of illegal immigrants,” but rather, “people who were brought to the US as children.” On the right people just call them illegal immigrants.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes, if you are brought here anytime after your birth you are an immigrant, legal or otherwise.

    Spokker Reply:

    “It’s classic center-shifting. US-born children of illegal immigrants, like everyone else born in the US except to foreign diplomats, are American citizens.”

    So no debate because you said so?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    More like “No debate because SCOTUS said so.”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No debate because there’s currently no debate except at the fringe, while the question itself gives the appearance that a debate exists and is realistic.

    Spokker Reply:

    Wait until they get a load of my great grandfather (patriline) ;)

    From the 1940 census:

    “Household Gender Age Birthplace
    head *** (great-grandfather) M 49 Mexico
    wife *** F 39 California
    son **** M 17 California
    daughter **** F 16 California
    daughter **** F 12 California
    son **** (grandfather) M 7 California
    son **** M 1 California”

    And they let this guy in! I think…

    Anyway, what people are understandably worried about are people who come here illegally and then have 5 kids and the economic impact that causes. If there are benefits to this happening, it should be happening legally through the proper process. I think if we had immigration reform and enforcement, the fringe wouldn’t be hitting the 14th amendment so hard.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The fringe does what the fringe always does. At least they don’t go around protesting with “Death to the Mexicans” T-shirts.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Amusingly, Roe v. Wade codifies the traditional Catholic view on abortion: abortion is acceptable until “ensoulment”, which was thought to take place around the end of the second trimester. (And some thought ensoulment did not always happen, thinking specifically of horribly deformed, non-viable fetuses.)

    Recent Popes have done their best to obscure this history, ever since a 19th century Pope freaked out upon seeing an ultrasound. Yeah, *that*’s what Catholic opposition to abortion is based on. Really. A 19th century Pope seeing an ultrasound.

    Sigh.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Dude, seriously, you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Abortion was not acceptable until ensoulment, though there were lesser penalties prior to quickening due to deficient knowledge of embryology. Opposition to abortion dates back to the very inception of the Church, in the first century, as writings such as the Didache and the Letter of Barnabas clearly show.

    Furthermore, it is utterly impossible for a 19th century pope to have viewed an ultrasound since medical ultrasonography did not exist until the 1940s and obstetric ultrasonography dates only to the 1960s. The principle of ensoulment at physical conception dates back to the 16th century and is a rejection of Aristotle’s ideas of successive fundamental principles, or souls, during development.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Correction: it wasn’t an ultrasound; it was an X-ray. And it wasn’t a 19th century Pope; it was a TWENTIETH century pope.

    “The principle of ensoulment at physical conception dates back to the 16th century”… as a minority opinion!
    Whoop dee doo.

    It is true that there was always a minority position opposed to abortions for any reason.

    The further fact is that deficient knowledge of embryology is the reason for the CURRENT Catholic position on abortion. A Pope reacted to reading X-rays but subsequent Popes never bothered to follow up on the succeeding 100 years of embryology research showing that there’s a long time after conception when the fertilized egg, blastocyst, etc., has less intelligence and capability for reacting than a flatworm.

    Nathanael Reply:

    But then it is *traditional* for the Catholic hierarchy, when they *actively change the Church’s official position and overturn long-standing traditions*, to claim that actually they are following ancient traditions.

    It’s the “done thing”. It follows in the ancient tradition of attributing brand-new works to older authors.

    Nathanael Reply:

    This is why I tend to treat historical arguments from Catholic sources with very little respect. The tendency to lie about their own past is so endemic that they can never be taken seriously.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Heh. No surprise: 90% Kent Mesplay and Jill Stein (with more “areas in common” with Jill Stein), 87% Obama, 55% Ron Paul, basically nothing for anyone else.

    Probably got this result because my answers were the “global warming trumps everything” answers.

    Also because I actually filled in several “Choose your own stance” options on a bunch of the things where I have vaguely “right-wing” views because none of the standard options were suitable. (For instance, I think we need to have *different* gun control than we currently have, both adding new regulations to require that people with gun permits have actually been trained in the proper handling of guns, *and* removing existing restrictions which create nothing but red tape for hunters and shooters. Wasn’t an option.)

  12. Emma
    Jul 8th, 2012 at 14:37
    #12

    Do you think we could get the same majority in the State Senate to finally get SB 810 (California single payer health-care legislation) passed? Vermont is already on its way to single payer health care and two other states as well (one of them Montana. Of all states in the union, MONTANA). Oh well, I just can’t see why they are able to release those bonds but fail to get single payer health care passed that would cut the cost of health care in half for the government and people.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Releasing already-approved bonds faces less inertia than changing the health care system, I think.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    It got passed twice, but vetoed both times by Schwarzenegger. Maybe Brown will take it up next year or something.

  13. Henry Porter
    Jul 8th, 2012 at 17:26
    #13

    “As we all shake off our hangovers from celebrating…”? Well, maybe not ALL of us.

    I made a significant bet the the CA Legislature couldn’t possibly be so stupid as to approve this dumb project. Little did I know!

    I shan’t overestimate it again….

  14. morris brown
    Jul 8th, 2012 at 20:20
    #14

    LA Times:

    High-speed rail officials rebuffed proposal from French railway

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-rail-advice-20120709,0,973921,full.story

    The French railway recommended that the state build the rail line along the Interstate 5 corridor and partner with it or another foreign firm to hold down costs.

    Why build a system we might be able to afford when the politicans, land developers and unions insist it be built the way they want? Not only Fresno, but San Jose guilty up here, and running to the east down south, rather than directly from LA to San Diego.

    The most poorly planned and managed HSR project every proposed. Why listen to a group that has some experience?

    Jack Reply:

    Nice self-fulfilling prophecy their; yeah build it along the I-5 where there are hardly any people; and when the ridership comes in below par you’ll scream how you knew it all along…

    It’s over you have lost; First beer on the first train is on me! :-)

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yeah Fresno deep pockets – car theft capital of the entire USA

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Given that Fresno seems to be essentially a large parking lot, what else are thieves gonna steal there?!

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    Which is why my car will stay at home when I visit Fresno!

    Jim M

    joe Reply:

    HSR site sez Fresno will be about ~1 hour from Palo Alto/Menlo Park.

    You understand what Morris is pissed about?

    The wealthy NIMBYs don’t just dislike the ROW improvements – it’s the access. The HW 99 crowd is going to ruin their towns. They fear HSR will have the projected ridership, they fear the average Californian getting access to PAMPA.

    synonymouse Reply:

    That is about the stupidest comment I have ever seen on this site. PAMPA has all kinds of transportation. There are students from all over the world at Stanford. People of all backgrounds are not afraid to go to PA, but that it is not what I hear about downtown Fresno. Even Jay Leno was joking about using hsr to Fresno to haul meth.

    Who is going to want to touch this pile of mierda now? They can all see how Van Ark and the SNCF were received and treated.

    Maybe you can get Breda to do it, with some help from the Camorra.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    You constantly invoke blight’s grip in relationship to BART…yet you think Joe is out of line explaining that the last thing Palo Alto wants is to have a one-hour portal to Fresno?

    joe Reply:

    People of all backgrounds (nationality, race, gender, color or culture) that can afford Stanford tuition and gain admission to attend are welcome in PAMPA. That’s ~58,000/year.
    http://www.stanford.edu/dept/finaid/undergrad/budget/index.html

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Stanford always has been very good about meeting demonstrated need.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Palo Alto and its residents could care less about a one-hour portal to Fresno. All the riotous living PA requires is readily available in East Palo Alto.

    Talking about nutters.

    joe Reply:

    “People of all backgrounds are not afraid to go to PA, but that it is not what I hear about downtown Fresno.”

    The bigotry and prejudice that make downtown Fresno scary is exactly why some PAMPA residents fear a HSR systems that connects their public spaces to scary downtown Fresno residents.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Will scary people use HSR? what’s the definition of “scary” anyway? (Social class, ethnicity, etc…)

    Joe Reply:

    YMMV.

    Spokker Reply:

    Good old syn was vindicated today.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-rail-advice-20120709,0,4539140.story

    synonymouse Reply:

    Thanx, Spokker

    What this article underscores is that the private mode does not at all fly with the CHSRA. Everything will be done inhouse by PB, with the rolling stock contract going to something like Bombardier, who will only contract to build the trains. Everything else will be managed by PB, prevailing wage contractors and a cadre of bureaucrats. Big question is will it be TWU, Amalgamated, BLE, UTU? Union for sure. No union: no Jerry, no Nancy.

    PB would love to do major reinvention of the wheel ala BART broad-gauge but compatibility with Amtrak prevents that. They will have to be content with fiascos like CBOSS and platform heights. One area where eccentritech could play out is trucks and electrical equipment. They could come up with a supplier with zero experience like a new iteration of Garrett and maybe crank out a proprietary truck design. Hey, how about aluminum core wheels and flat profile tires?

    Tehachapi Stilt-A-Rail is not even TEE nor Amtrak. It is BART. Or maybe AmBART or BARTtrak.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “If you went up the I-5, you’d get a lot of votes from the cows in Coalinga,”

    The system is specifically designed to serve the Central Valley cities, not to bypass them. It would not have passed the state legislature if it were designed to bypass it; I think the “I-5″ supporters somehow don’t see this particular obvious fact.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, if you start with a population density map of the state of California, you can see the corridor up the Central Valley, you can see the argument between the Pacheco and Altamont alignment, you can see the argument between the Inland Empire route to SD and the coastal route … but an I-5 alignment option is not visible if the idea is to run the corridor to connect people to other people.

    Mac Reply:

    The idea has always been to get LA to SF (another alternative than flying LAX to SFO or to San Jose) People in the bookends have been very vocal about thinking that stops in the Central Valley are a waste of time. Perhaps that is why the CV would prefer to just have the current Amtrak connect to the LA basin…..and have the HSR follow along highway 5…where most of the current LA basin and further south folks travel to get to the Bay Area.
    Makes sense to those in the CV and to farmers…who don’t want the HSR due to the ridiculous plan that just passed and how it will tear up their land and cities. The only city in the southern San Joaquin that wants it is Fresno…and it is 150 ish miles north of the southern tip of the valley. It is more understandable why they want to have a faster link to the Bay Area due to their proximity… not so for those farther south.

    Nathanael Reply:

    People who are afraid of the “wrong sort” arriving by train are usually completely irrational, and neglect to pay attention to how the “wrong sort” already get to their communities. We’ve watched *this* particular scenario play out over and over.

    Spokker Reply:

    I don’t blast people for worrying about the wrong sort. Nobody wants the wrong sort no matter what they are. They just aren’t coming by train. The wrong sort also drives!

    Nathanael Reply:

    Basically what I was saying.

    synonymouse Reply:

    This is incredibly damning and it is indeed significant that it was held back for Jerry’s triumphal March on Palmdale.

    They are hanging the blame on Van Ark for turning down the SNCF. Shame on them – Van Ark knew he would have a helluva time just selling Tejon(vastly more important than the freeway median of I-5 -$5bil more important, as Richard has highlighted)

    Now do you clowns see why they fired Van Ark? PB insists no busy-body foreigners butting in on the gravy train.

    Once again from the top:

    Moonbeam is a corrupt moron and Richard(from the people who blew up San Bruno) is his stooge

    **** PB
    **** Villa
    **** Tejon Ranch Co.

    I want my money back! The French have a word for it: degueulasse

    Travis D Reply:

    Screams the person who constantly crows about non existent “stilt-a-rail.”

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Hmm, at least he makes it clear he’s a nutter… It’s those who worm their way in, and sow discord, with “modest proposals” that make me nervous…

    synonymouse Reply:

    My take on this is that the “nutters” will soon amount to a two-thirds majority.

    In the case of sophisticated science projects, like particle colliders, or national security secrets, like the Manhattan Project, you can argue that the power elite should overrule opposition from the masses. But hsr is not rocket science; it is just a train. The machine’s juggernaut on the CHSRA scheme is undemocratic and with decades to unravel, dismay, and fritter away billions, the unhappiness is bound to fester.

    Nathanael Reply:

    If you are correct in your surmise that the CHSRA will somehow unravel and fail to build track, then yes, that will create unhappiness.

    If they actually get the tracks built and run trains on them, NOBODY WILL CARE about the graft. Remember, Tammany Hall was *popular* until the Tweed Courthouse had so much graft that it *didn’t get finished*. As long as the graft doesn’t prevent construction, *people will tolerate it*.

    Donk Reply:

    It is very odd that this story came out a couple days after the vote was approved.

    But, like the 99 routing or not, that was the plan from the start. The point was always to connect CA together.

    William Reply:

    The French way of doing HSR by doing a straight shot between two major cities has merit, so does Japanese way of doing HSR by also connecting mid-size cities along the way.

    CAHSR follows more of Japanese model: SF-LA is well served by airlines, while transportation between the CV cities and the coast is either long and dangerous by car, or expensive and infrequent by airliners.

    Just to let you know French way of doing HSR is not the only right way.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    California is pretty much estopped into using the Japanese model. Even if we wanted to use the French model, it wouldn’t work. California is long and narrow like Japan, and it has the same population distribution with heavy crowding along the coasts and relatively few people inland….

    Useless Reply:

    @ Tom McNamara

    According to LA Times article, Japanese quit when the CAHSR authority announced track sharing(Shinkansen train sets cannot share tracks).

    So in a way the California is actually the closest to the Korean model.

    Xerxes Reply:

    Quit? What exactly did they say they quit? I randomly happened to stumble upon a Japanese
    consortium’s website on Google. Looks like JR East, Kawasaki, Hitachi, etc are still interested.

    http://www.jchighspeedrail.com/

    quashlo Reply:

    I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he got JR Central and JR East confused, as there was some news recently about JR Central dropping interest in the project… But then again, JR Central was never that interested in the California project.

    Anyways, the trainset looks to be Kawasaki efSET.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Why can’t Shinkansen train sets share tracks?

    In Japan, they typically can’t because most of the legacy tracks are the wrong gauge.

    But that isn’t an issue in California AFAIK.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The French way, a straight shot between Paris and a city smaller than Bakersfield or Fresno, is actually the route 99 route. I don’t think SNCF actually looked at California urban demographics before proposing I-5.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I don’t think SNCF actually looked at California

    You appear to be confusing a successful professional organization with global experience with CHSRA’s controlling rent-seeking know-nothing pork-swillers at PBQD.

    It’s California HSR which is ignoring the entire rest of the world, not the rest of the world that forgets to check Wikipedia.

    Nathanael Reply:

    But remember, this wasn’t a SNCF proposal where they were actually being paid lots of money to work on it; this was an off-the-cuff idea. I really do think they never looked up the population demographics of California, because the I-5 proposal *makes no sense*.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    OK. So SNCF didn’t check Wikipedia after all. Got me!

    synonymouse Reply:

    The State already owns the I-5 ROW and there is ample land around it to allow “re-channeling”.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    SNCF, 2009:

    SNCF endorses the alignment proposed by the CHSRA project linking San Francisco Transbay Terminal to downtown Anaheim, passing through Los Angeles Union Station, Palmdale, Bakersfield, Fresno, Gilroy, and San Jose Diridon.

    datacruncher Reply:

    I believe this is the full SNCF proposal from 2009 you are quoting that proposed following the Bakersfield-Fresno-Gilroy route instead of I-5:
    http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/sncf/California.pdf

    Spokker Reply:

    Oh, should have gotten here last night!

    Useless Reply:

    SNCF’s proposal along the I-5 is not viable because it would bypass Fresno and Bakersfield, and the residents in the Central Valley are denied an HSR service if the SNCF had its way, defeating the purpose of the CAHSR’s mission.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Nonsense, a very leisurely wye could be constructed at the base of Tejon with a very fast connection to Bako-Fresno. LA to Bako and Fresno faster and SF south via the wye east still pretty damn fast. And way cheaper and less controversial.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    No need for a wye. No need to run direct trains; just a connecting shuttle from the “downtown” out to the sprawl-determined peripheral connecting HS station site. (Honestly a bus would work, but throw away a little unnecessary money to save five billion dollars or more.)

    http://maps.google.com/maps?daddr=11200+Rosedale+Highway,+Bakersfield,+CA&saddr=Highway+43+and+Highway+58,+Bakersfield,+CA&t=h

    synonymouse Reply:

    You’ve got something there, Richard, deserving a better study than it has received.

    Applying a creative engineering cost-out to the I-5 route is simply a must-have if you wish to make an informed decision. Anything less is not professional and ill-serving the voters.

    I am hoping Richard and Clem, and others much better informed than me, will find ways to access the SNCF paperwork and pull out the applicable nuts and bolts and figures.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I-5 is so far west that urban sprawl hasn’t actually managed to fill in the entire space between it and SR99. (Sure, they’re close in Bakersfield, but, uh, FRESNO?) Do you really want to encourage urban sprawl to do that? You would HAVE to have a branch to Fresno. And then this ain’t such a fast idea.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Yes.

    Have you ever been to Bakersfield? What exactly are you seeking to preserve by running trains through it at 220mph?

    Anyway, there will be no urban sprawl because I drew a line on a map[citation provided] for a connecting choo choo to run on all the way to downtown Bako.

    Choo choo track = no sprawl. TOD! QED.

    Mac Reply:

    Yes Richard….
    Bakersfield would have loved to see an option that included a station on HWY 5 with connecting light rail etc down Rosedale Hwy to the downtown area. But HSRA doesn’t care. They say Bakersfield chose the downtown area (10 years ago) and now they don’t want to deviate. Unfortunately the HSRA lied to the local government…didn’t tell them about the 40-60 ft elevated tracks, destruction of community assests etc…. that would be necessary to gain access to the downtown area. When locals realized how devasting this was (draft EIR #1)…they were told that it was too late. The “hybrid” plan that will be in the soon to be released revised draft EIR moves the same alignment a few hundred feet….hardly much of an alternative, given the number of station locations that are possible. Other locations could put it near the downtown area, but would not destroy as many businesses, homes etc. AND a station close to 5 does make sense. Bakersfield Metro Plan already has planned development out to HWY 5.

    datacruncher Reply:

    I’ve said before, if Bakersfield residents are upset they need to be upset with local leaders. Many of the current area leaders were in office years ago and they knew about many things you have brought up here in recent days.

    From Kern COG’s own station study in 2003:
    “An elevated station concept is proposed for the BNSF Truxtun Station site” (note: page 5-2 talks about a stacked BNSF/HSR/Centennial Freeway concept that would have risen 75 feet)
    And
    “Depending on the alignment selected for HSR only the Wasco, Corcoran, Hanford and Madera San Joaquin stations would be not be served by HSR. These market areas by themselves might not support continuation of San Joaquin rail service.”
    http://www.kerncog.org/docs/hsr/HSR_Terminal_200307.pdf

    The Bakersfield newspaper in 2009 ran this article with the included image showing elevated HSR tracks, in the backgound HSR is passing above 99 which itself is elevated over the BNSF tracks (probably 40 feet for HSR):
    http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/local/x746310165/Bullet-train-development-gaining-speed

    Among the area leaders in office at that time were Bakersfield’s current mayor (also was mayor back then) and the City Manager (held that office in 2003 also).

    It seems like Bakersfield/Kern local government is doing a little history revision by saying they were lied to. Personally it seems to me that it is local government lying to the public to protect itself since it appears area leaders knew about many of the concerns you’ve mentioned.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    It gets better.

    Much better.

    David Schonbrunn reports:

    Your otherwise excellent story “High-speed rail officials rebuffed proposal from French railway” was far too kind to California High-Speed Rail Authority officials. At the time of its proposal, SNCF had the investment backing to actually build the LA-SF line, in a deal that sheltered the State from the risk of subsidizing an unprofitable project.

    The Authority’s 2012 Business Plan covered up this offer, instead insisting that no private capital would be willing to invest until the first high-speed line showed a profit. The $6 billion Central Valley project approved last week by the Legislature thus exposes the State to unlimited operating losses. Worse yet, before that line can be completed, it will need an additional $27 billion from the federal government — quite unlikely in today’s political climate.

    I’d sure like to understand the thinking behind the rejection of the French offer.

    It’s unfortunate the story didn’t run earlier. It would have informed the Legislature’s debate.

    Any conspiracy theory you can think up about PBQD=CHSRA corruption? Not half as bad as the truth.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    That, I think, would represent one of the largest thefts in California history if true. Are the documents in question available online or anything by chance?

    Joe Reply:

    Fascinating that this scandle is uncovered by critics just after the approved vote.

    Imagine if by chance this free train by Frech experts was reported on during the decision process, it might have been scrutinized.

    If only the czar of HSR had not issued a gag order and sent the PB gestapo preventing this timely release of information. If only someone in Lowenthal’s office spoke French and listened to this offer and let the Senate know there was a free train!

    I belive this is 100% true and trust Richard implicitly.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You’ll have to ask the editors and owners and writers of the LA Times about their publication scheduling. Please, do follow up and report back.

    At least we don’t have the “scandle” of a Real American speaking cheese-eating-surrender-monkey-ese.

    joe Reply:

    It was PB – they ordered the story squashed. Please add a note to your GAO files.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Not Nancy Pelosi mind rays?

    Nathanael Reply:

    I literally don’t believe Mr. Schonbrunn. Citation?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Specifically, claims to have investment banking finance fully lined up often turn out not to actually be true, and claims that investment banking deals “protect the state” are almost never true. Investment banks are remarkably good at playing tricks and running scams. I’d have to see signed contracts and read them to actually believe that SNCF had the money lined up — and that it wasn’t a deal to dump the line into the hands of some investment bank after it was built, if it was profitable.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I literally don’t believe Mr. Schonbrunn. Citation?

    That’s special for you.

    joe Reply:

    “David Schonbrunn is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.”

    TRANSDEF Opposed Proposition 1A, the California High-Speed Rail Bond Measure

    The TRANSDEF Board adopted a position of opposition to the Proposition: TRANSDEF strongly supports High-Speed Rail, but feels the current California High-Speed Rail Authority Board and its staff cannot be trusted. Therefore, TRANSDEF opposes Proposition 1A.

    The President of TRANSDEF, David Schonbrunn, debated Quentin Kopp, the Chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, on October 22, 2008 on KALW-FM. A podcast is available here. (A broadband connection is needed to download this 27 Mb mp3 file.)

    Mr. Schonbrunn:

    I’d sure like to understand the thinking behind the rejection of the French offer.

    It’s unfortunate the story didn’t run earlier. It would have informed the Legislature’s debate.

    Richard:

    Any conspiracy theory you can think up about PBQD=CHSRA corruption? Not half as bad as the truth.

    The LA times is part of the PB conspiracy. PBQD=LATIMES

    Mac Reply:

    Why are we just hearing about this NOW? What are the sources….documentation etc?

  15. D. P. Lubic
    Jul 8th, 2012 at 22:09
    #15

    Just for reference, the current edition of “Destination:Freedom,” the National Corridors Initiative newsletter; several California comments and stories are there today:

    http://www.nationalcorridors.org/df3/df07092012.shtml

  16. Donk
    Jul 8th, 2012 at 23:08
    #16

    This is a hilarious article – As if Simitian ever was a high speed rail supporter. He is just a snake who conned Jerry Brown out an extra $600M. Bay Area politicians sure pulled a fast one on everyone – $400M for Transbay, $600M for electrification, then more money for BART and the Central Subway.

    Simitian flips stance on high-speed rail

    http://www.mercurynews.com/california-high-speed-rail/ci_21033651/joe-simitian-steady-hand-high-speed-rail-debate

    William Reply:

    In the Santa Clara County Supervisor primary, I am proud that I didn’t vote for Simitian. Sadly he was still the the top vote getter…

    Tony d. Reply:

    Simitian’s getting the best of both worlds: he got exactly what he wanted on the peninsula (blended plan, no 4-track and electrification of Caltrain) AND his symbolic “no” vote pleased his wealthy NIMBY donors in PAMPA. Disgusting yet brilliant at the same time!

    joe Reply:

    Really? Tony d. I think the opposite.

    Simitian let the camel’s nose in under the tent with his “blended plan”. He gave HSR conditional approval for the ROW in a high publicity, public setting and got served exactly what he proposed.

    The 4-track is still in the EIR and the Peer review recommended this blended approach with full build when demand requires the expansion.

    All owners near the ROW have The Sword of Damocles hanging over their property.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You just have to love Simitian – he managed to snag a little scratch out of Villa’s hand.

    Simitian for Governor! After the recall.

  17. Michael Willis
    Jul 9th, 2012 at 03:40
    #17

    California has always been the trend setter for the TV & Movie Business, the ‘Computer Sciences & Engineering, Futuristic things in general…like the ‘Transcontinental Railroad’.
    A ‘California plan for railway transport’ is the best way to go, with guidance from those with the proven HSR know-how from Asia and Europe, starting from scratch would be time consuming and costly.
    Since California is not an island—now is the time to think ahead to connect the ‘Rails for the Rest of the West’. GO East Young Man!

  18. egk
    Jul 9th, 2012 at 06:18
    #18

    With the blended staged approach Ca is moving towards the (West) German model – which is appropriate, since the multipolar layout of Ca is much more similar to the old FRG than to unipolar (all rails lead to Paris) layout of France. (Of course even the Germans don’t run express high speed trains THROUGH he cities, but that is another issue).

    Nathanael Reply:

    Stuttgart 21. The Germans pretty much do run high speed trains right through the cities; though I guess you are correct that they don’t run *express* high speed trains (i.e. ones skipping major cities) right through the cities. They don’t have very many expresses, though, and they don’t have express bypass tracks in most cities.

    I suppose the lesson from this would be to assume that most trains will in fact stop at all the intermediate cities.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    In US DoT lingo, “Express HSR” are those trains that can reach over 125mph somewhere on their corridor. They don’t stop being Express HSR if they drop down to 125mph, 110mph or 90mph somewhere along the way.

    Joe Reply:

    I looked at the Cologne to Frankfurter line, modern and fast. It follows the autobahn3 which does not run through many towns but by them. That is just a wikipedia/google earth peek. This contrasts to our running highways into cities.

    egk Reply:

    Yes, let’s look at Stuttgart 21 – or better yet, the actual HSR part of that, which is an extension of the HSR lines from Stuttgart to Ulm – right now trains goes through the cities of Esslingen, Plochingen, Geislignen, Göppingen. The new tracks will run greenfield directly between Ulm and Stuttgart. Similarly to how the Frankfurt-Cologne tracks and the Hannover-Berlin tracks run, avoiding the cities in between (which are also served…but separately)

    (And yes, I doubt there will be many express (traditional sense) trains in the CAHSR future. The five or ten minutes of saving for not stoping hardly make the complex scheduling worth it, especially when you discover the benefits of transfers…)

  19. Paul Druce
    Jul 9th, 2012 at 08:51
    #19

    Amtrak’s put out the revised version of their NEC HSR plans. It’s now up to 150.5 billion dollars.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    California shows that cost is no object, rationality no goal, and planning an anathema. Pull up to the trough!

    Joe Reply:

    I think it shows a lack of perspective. The billion dollar a day wars, million dollar a year soldier in afganistan and building schools and infrastructure in the middle East are irrelevant. Our utterly corrupt banking system never made a dent on the psyche of corporations.

    It took PB=CAHSR to show that cost is no object.

    This expensive built in the US for civil use has to stop now and we all wait until Richard’s delicate sensibilites are addressed.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Are we sure it’s a cost escalation rather than translating $117 billion in 2010 dollars to YOE dollars?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    It’s in constant 2011 dollars.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    A mere $117 billion was such a bargain!

    Alan F Reply:

    The $150 billion also includes all the planned upgrades and projects for the current NEC, the Gateway project from Newark to NY Penn Station, upgrades to the Keystone East & New Haven – Springfield corridors. So it is the total NEC package pricetag through 2040, not just the HSR part.

    The hefty part of the price tag is the NextGen HSR Phase 1 – New York to DC at $51.4 billion and NextGen HSR Phase 2 – New York to Boston at $58 billion. The plans for the DC to NYC HSR corridor include new tunnels under Baltimore and Philly with new deep cavern downtown HSR stations. Ok, those along with the tunnel and 6 track HSR station under DC Union Station will be expensive.

    It is the $58 billion for NYC to Boston that I’m wondering about. I guess that would include the possible new tunnel from the east side of NY Penn Station to the Bronx which would be rather expensive. The HSR route from New Rochelle to Danbury CT to Hartford to Providence RI would be above ground and I think mostly follow Metro-North ROW and highways. Expensive, yes, but $58 billion? On the other hand. the legal and PR fees for dealing with the opposition in CT might run into the hundreds of millions.

    The 2012 Vision plan is available on the Amtrak website on their Reports & Documents page.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I wonder, for comparison purposes, how much it would cost to build “high tower” lines soaring, say, 100 stories over the downtowns of Baltimore and Philly. ;-) I wonder because I’m getting worried about the potential flooding issues with all these tunnel plans below sea level. I have no idea what the upcoming rise in sea levels is going to do to deep tunnel structures, but it cannot be good; it’s terrible for shallow tunnel structures.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Hans Brinker will fix it.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    [citation needed], just for our reference-obsessed but reality-estranged friend.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If the shallow tunnels are under water how deep is the water in the streets of downtown?

  20. thatbruce
    Jul 9th, 2012 at 13:40
    #20

    @Robert Cruickshank:

    The latest from Vartabedian. The focus is on the CHSRA previously turning down the SNCF, along with their (this’ll make you happy synonmouse) proposal to run up I-5, which is a slight fudging of their proposal to connect only LA and SF, instead of including the required CV cities.

    The only mention in the article of last week’s 21-16 vote to approve the funds is:

    Last week, the state Senate approved — by a single vote — $8 billion to get construction underway.

    I’m guessing that his preferred wording of three repeats of ‘single’ got edited down.

  21. Reedman
    Jul 9th, 2012 at 16:10
    #21

    What happens when Cap and Trade kicks in just before the November election, California gasoline prices go up by an artificially induced $0.50 per gallon due to the extra taxes, and people figure out that cars are being forced to subsidize HSR for all eternity? Will Jerry Brown change his mind about being “Mr. HSR Tax and Spend” when his own tax hike proposition is threatened with being shot-down on the ballot?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Gasoline emits ~20 pounds per gallon. Carbon allowances are trading for about $17-18 on futures markets right now (and there is a hard ceiling of $40 per ton). Assuming no free allotments to refineries, which is wrong, we can expect a worst case scenario of 18 cents, which is within normal fluctuation.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Might make a minor difference to behavior on the margin, but yeah, that’s not going cause a revolt.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Externality taxes are the exact opposite of being forced to subsidize something else.

  22. RubberToe
    Jul 9th, 2012 at 17:51
    #22

    Nathanael said: “The batteries? It’s not a guy with a hot stock tip. It’s researchers I personally know, and it’s been vetted by quantum physicists. There are questions about the price, and problems with getting the right sort of factory. These are not chemical batteries.”

    What exactly are you talking about here? Are you talking about Ultra capacitors (Eestor)? Certainly not the Andrea Rossi device, whats it called, Energy Catalyzer?

    RT

    Paul Druce Reply:

    I suspect he’s referring to lithium-air batteries, which do have orders of magnitude increase in energy density per unit mass (though I’ve yet to see how it translates to volume).

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    http://www.cahsrblog.com/2012/06/chsra-chair-dan-richard-provides-video-update-on-project/#comment-154640

    “Very fine indeed. Both obvious and uncomputable. I’m quivering — quivering!! — with trade secret anticipation.”

    RubberToe Reply:

    LOL, thats funny. I would still like to find out what he thinks he is referring to.

Comments are closed.