Measure J Gets 65% Support and Doesn’t Pass

Nov 8th, 2012 | Posted by

The news wasn’t all good for passenger rail on Election Day. Los Angeles County’s Measure J, which would have extended the sales tax for transportation that was approved in 2008 by another 30 years, got 64.72% of the vote – and therefore “lost” according to the idiotic rule requiring a 2/3 vote to raise taxes in California. Measure J would have allowed acceleration of a variety of rail projects in LA, and while Measure J’s failure doesn’t mean those projects are dead, it does mean it’ll take a little while longer to build out electric rail.

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The “defeat” of Measure J is being hailed as a victory by the anti-transit Bus Riders Union:

“I think this clearly for us was about trying to show from the community that we were not going to give a vote of confidence to (the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) and obviously MTA could not pass the [two-thirds] threshold,” said Sunyoung Yang of the Bus Riders Union, a group that strongly opposed Measure J.

“We’re very happy about it,” Yang said. “We had pretty much a grass-roots guerrilla campaign where we had to compete to get into the media and on the radio waves. … We had to generate a lot of events and media, as well as phone banking.”

The BRU’s opposition to Measure J wasn’t surprising. They are a highly ideological group, founded and backed by an obscure sectarian group in LA, the Labor Community Strategy Center. Led by Eric Mann, the LCSC burst onto the scene in the early 1990s with organizing against the closure of an auto plant in Van Nuys, and then did some good work going after oil refineries in the South Bay. In 1996, they hit upon a winning strategy by forming the Bus Riders Union, on the strange argument that investing in rail lines was something benefiting the rich at the expense of the low income people who relied on bus transit. The BRU won a consent decree in federal court against Metro’s rail planning, one reason why Metro is only now able to start the big buildout of the rail network LA once had and desperately needs again.

The irony is that if you’ve ever actually been on Metro Rail in LA, you’ll see that most of its riders are just as diverse in terms of racial, social, and class backgrounds as you find on a bus. Metro Rail lines help provide reliable, affordable, speedy transit options for a whole range of Southern Californians. Those factors matter a lot to the working class folks that the BRU claims as their base. At the end of a long day working in the service industry, people just want to get home quickly to their families without spending a lot of money or getting stuck in traffic. Rail provides that opportunity.

As gas prices continue to rise, so too does Metro’s operating costs for the bus fleet. That’s not an argument against buses, but it IS an argument for more rail. Rail’s operating costs aren’t subject to gas price spikes, especially as LA’s electric power generally comes from non-fossil fuel sources whose costs are stable. By providing more rail on the most heavily used travel corridors, Metro can move a lot more people for less money in the coming years than buses can.

That’s not an argument that rail should be favored over buses. LA needs both. And they need people who will advocate for raising the revenue to fund a robust mass transit system, with rail lines moving people quickly along the main corridors and connecting the stations to other neighborhoods with reliable, frequent bus service.

But that doesn’t fit with the BRU/LCSC ideology that rail is for the rich and therefore must be opposed, and so they continue to try and convince low income voters and communities of color that Metro’s rail building plans come at their expense. It’s a strategy that doesn’t do any favors for mass transit or the people that depend on it.

Of course, it wouldn’t matter what the BRU thought if California didn’t have that obnoxious and destructive 2/3 rule. Prop 30 was able to pass with 54% of the vote because it amended the state constitution. With the tax revolt over as a political force, maybe California can begin to rip out the legal and constitutional remnants of that destructive movement. 64% is a big win and Measure J ought to be law.

  1. Angeleno
    Nov 9th, 2012 at 06:09

    Our first effort to accelerate our build out–America Fast Forward née 30/10–was a partial success that even House Republicans passed. Our second effort–Measure J– barely failed to win a super majority. With rail ridership mushrooming in LA as more non-accelerated projects open, can anyone doubt we will make a third effort and probably win? The bigger question is when? That leaves with a win-when situation.

    Peter Reply:

    Look at SMART. That failed by a similar margin as Measure J in 2006, and passed in 2008!

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    Yeah, I wouldn’t call it a win if you got 65% and it didn’t pass, you got lucky the bar was set high to start with.


    VBobier Reply:

    Don’t give up, organize and fight back…

  2. BMF from San Diego
    Nov 9th, 2012 at 07:42

    Vote is not final yet. Over 2.1 million votes cast on Measure J. Yet, 700,000 provisional votes yet to be counted. It’s very close.

    VBobier Reply:

    Crosses fingers… Hopes that J wins.

    VBobier Reply:

    Here’s a link to the LOS ANGELES COUNTY METRO – J Voting Results

    synonymouse Reply:

    Fallen Angels:

    You really want to double down on the size of this “wretched hive of scum and villainy”?

    BMF from San Diego Reply:

    This link provides an analysis of what needs to happen with the remaining 800,000 votes to be tabulated.

  3. Roger Christensen
    Nov 9th, 2012 at 07:57

    With a 2/3 Democratic California legislature majority, is it possible to have the threshold changed to 55% a la school bonds?

    VBobier Reply:

    It’s possible, there just has to be the will to do this…

    Nathanael Reply:

    I’d have to check the current state of the CA constitution. Is the threshold legislative or constitutional? Then I’d have to check the rules on amending the constitution by state legislative action in CA.

    Actually, anyone interested in CA politics should be boning up on this stuff, since there are suddenly new opportunities.

    BMF from San Diego Reply:

    I now understand that the 2/3rds majority in the California Legislatire enables better than just adjusting the threshold. In fact, the State could honor the will of the 65% and adopt the measure from Sacramento on behalf of LA.

    First, we will have to see what the final vote is.

  4. Roger Christensen
    Nov 9th, 2012 at 08:28

    After the 1965 Watts Riots, the McCone Commission noted that the recently dismantled Red Car service was a major cause of frustration and anger in Watts as it left them with very poor transportation options. Kenneth Hahn for years made the promise to the African American community that if rail ever came back to LA the first line would serve Watts and Compton. That came true with the Blue Line in 1990.
    South LA will soon be served by four rail lines. Blue, Green, Expo, Crenshaw.
    The Bus Rider Union race baiting is idiocy and insulting to the civil rights movement.

  5. blankslate
    Nov 9th, 2012 at 09:41

    “…and therefore “lost” according to the idiotic rule requiring a 2/3 vote to raise taxes in California.”

    Is that a state law or a county law? Because Prop 30 passed with 54%, so I’m confused…

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    From what I understand, Prop 30 changed the state constitution, requiring only a 50%+1 vote. Measure J was a tax, requiring 66.6%. That is a very hard threshold to reach in a vote, but it has been done before. I am not sure, but I think it relates to prop 13 of years past…


    Nathanael Reply:

    Prop 13 of 1978 created some absurd supermajority rules for raising taxes. (Some more were created later.)

    These supermajority rules were ruled to be a valid “amendment” to the CA state Constitution by the California courts — I personally believe that that was an incorrect ruling, and that creating supermajority rules is a full-scale *revision* which cannot be passed by initiative, but the California courts didn’t agree.

    I’m not entirely sure what has to be done to dismantle the supermajority rules.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Regarding revisions. 2/3 of both houses of the state legislature can pass a *revision* to the state constitution, and it then must get 50% + 1 approval by the voters. That procedure can be used to change *anything*.

    So the incoming legislature could do a wholesale cleanup of the mess which is the CA state constitution, if they wanted to.

    Emma Reply:

    They could reform the whole constitution if there was the political will finally cleaning up this mess.

  6. JJJ
    Nov 9th, 2012 at 10:42

    Id love to see the 2/3 thing altered. Even 60% would be more logical and probably get some support on the right as 60% is still a clear mandate.

  7. Hawthorne Wingo
    Nov 9th, 2012 at 12:20

    A lot of people in the Pasadena area saw this as a great way to show their displeasure with Metro for pushing the 710 tunnel in so disingenuous a way. I suspect this might have cost them the remaining votes they needed to hit that 2/3s approval number.

    slackfarmer Reply:

    Metro also left the next Goldline extension off their project list, costing many votes in the eastern portion of the San Gabriel Valley.

  8. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 9th, 2012 at 12:40

    In other post election news and commentary:

    Why the Republicans lost (and this fellow sees things very much as I see them):

    Cal Thomas compares Obama to Hitler (and does he look like a sourpuss in his photo):

    Occupy Wall Street looks like they are up to something both subversive and constructive (just hope they don’t become too well known, you can imagine how quickly the financial people will want to make sure their debt doesn’t get sold to this bunch):

    More sore losers from the Republican side–blast, don’t these clowns recognize that “going Galt” was from an allegorical novel, and may not work too well in reality?:

    More sore losers–some Ohio pols want to really rig the elections again, in a manner that reminds me of Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court in the 1930s (one of his few blunders):

    Man, what is wrong with the Republican party? I can’t recall any election in which there was so much bitterness during, and certainly not as much afterwards, as in this one. I don’t even recall this level of disgust to G. W. Bush, even after the alleged “stolen” election in 2000, nor his reelection in 2004. Are the Republicans and some business owners really that unhinged?

    Alan F Reply:

    ” I don’t even recall this level of disgust to G. W. Bush, even after the alleged “stolen” election in 2000, nor his reelection in 2004. Are the Republicans and some business owners really that unhinged?”

    Yes, many of them are.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    A thought just occurred to me: If those disgruntled businessmen decide to “go Galt,” it just might provide an opportunity for some competitor to steal their business! Ho, ho, ho, ho!! Wouldn’t that be ironic? Of course, if they are that self-righteous, they will blame Obama instead themselves for not minding their own business. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    More brain cell tickling going on–I know an accountant here, who was a “Democrat for Nixon” in 1968, working in the local and state Republican campaign that year. Became a Republican in 1970, and has been one ever since. As a successful business owner of his own accounting practice all that time, with CPA certification, I doubt anyone would consider him stupid, nor likely real liberal either, but he has become so disgusted with his party, he is thinking about leaving it and becoming an independent. He told me this before the election, perhaps a month or two ago.

    I have to say, between the spike in gun and ammo sales, and the venomous talk on Internet pages, I am a bit worried about the reaction. I just hope people just sit tight waiting for something to happen, and that nothing happens, after which people will just breath a sigh of relief. For us, that would simply mean we build a new railroad and it starts to run, and everyone sees it’s just a train.

    In reality, I don’t know that we’ll have the time for that. It could be the Republicans or somebody will stir things up even more. Then, we could get lucky, and at least the worst of them will start to look like crackpots and kooks, and become laughingstocks instead.

    Let’s just hope things work out decently.

    joe Reply:

    We had a dot com and housing bubble pop, now a conservative reality-bubble just popped.

    Stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In no defined sequence,

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Then, we could get lucky, and at least the worst of them will start to look like crackpots and kooks, and become laughingstocks instead. ”

    I think this is already starting to happen, thank goodness.

    If enough sane Republicans become independents out of disgust, we will have escaped the worst of our political problems and we can work to try to organize a more functioning system of political parties :-)

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Looks like the conservative bubble hasn’t quite popped yet:

    Petraeus has resigned–but so far, Clinton has not, or at least I have not been able to find other confirmation on this–and believe me, with Clinton’s high profile, this would be a major,, screaming headline news story. Now, that doesn’t mean I think Clinton should be in her job, and I frankly wish someone else were in that post, but so far, she is still there. And as far as her eventual resignation goes, she has been talking about wanting to get out at the end of the first term since at least March of 2011.

    Wonder how long that bubble can stretch when such easily verifiable false stuff is in it? I hate to say it, but so far it looks like it still has plenty of stretch.

    joe Reply:

    One bubble “popped”. They sold a bill of goods to donors, collect hundreds of millions and failed to produce results. Those who paid are quite aware of where we are now.

    The grifters, wannabes and cling-ons will continue to produce crap. Maybe a different flavor or packaging – Clinton-derangement syndrom is so 90’s.

    VBobier Reply:

    Some have even fired a few employees, but not all as their business would go down the drain, still it’s wrongful termination at the very least… Just cause President Obama won the election, they’re afraid and so they strike out at people who most likely had every right to vote, if that is they even voted at all.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    Yeah, the election where Al Gore got the popular vote…


  9. Donk
    Nov 9th, 2012 at 23:24

    I voted for Measure J, but it had some serious problems. What it should have done is accelerate the projects that are underfunded and that would actually benefit the region, like the 405 line and a Norwalk Metrolink connector.

    What was much more important than Measure J was the fact that Obama won re-election and that democrats kept the Senate. Now if Obama brings on Villaraigosa as transportation secretary, there is no doubt that a priority will be America Fast-Forward. This would be what would get these projects built the fastest.

    I am not sure that Measure J will even make it on the ballot again in two years. Without Villaraigosa’s leadership and with Antonovich in charge and with braindead Mark Ridley-Thomas and the activists in the black community against this (selfishly since they already got theirs), I don’t see thing getting the support again.

  10. Reedman
    Nov 10th, 2012 at 09:48

    AC Transit in Oakland has routinely argued that having the MTC handling Bay Area transportation funding discriminates against bus transit agencies (Like AC Transit and SamTrans) because of MTC’s “heavy” funding of BART and CalTrain (which provide “suburban” commute transit to white collar San Jose and San Francisco.)

    synonymouse Reply:

    There is a similar conflict brewing at SMART, which will attempt to grab bus subsidy monies to keep its operations going in the face of high expenses and very few riders. I suspect they will try to score funds from the GG Bridge but they will run up against the bus unions. I could see SMART taken over by GGT.

    The real purpose of SMART is to provide the freight operator, NWP-NCRA, with a brand new track and continued MOW courtesy of the taxpayers. The very connected Doug Bosco apparently wants to mine river gravel and ship it out via the NWP.

    Same general modus operandi at the Tehachapi DeTour with a brand new 21st century freight route being created for the class ones by PB-CHSRA.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Synonymouse, yet one more time: an HSR route through Tehachapi will NOT be suitable for US drag rail freight. The grades will be too steep, and any viaducts will not be engineered for 33-ton axle loads.
    Get a clue!

    synonymouse Reply:

    PB-CHSRA is committed to a freight route because it will be a freight route. Ultimately and designedly.

    Once again from the top:

    If you foam for diesel freight, then by all means Tehachapi is your mecca; if you desire hsr and upgraded passenger rail in general then hop on board the Tejon Train.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Which part of 17-tonne axle load (HSR trainset) vs. 33-ton axle load (US drag frieght) do you not understand? Which part of 3%-4% grade (HSR trainset) vs. 1% grade (US heavy frieght) , do you not understand? Are you seriously saying that CHSRA is going to design a Tehacpai crossing that’s 1/3 to 1/4th the gradient which HSR trainsets can manager, solely because *you* (foamer) say it’s going be of use to Class 1 freight railroads?

    Synon: “Tehachapi going to be a freight route”.
    Sane person: “Why? That would require a shallower grade (meaning 3x-4x times longer elevations/viaducts/whatever, and building for 33-tonne axle loads rather than 17-tonne axle loads”?
    Synon: “But PB-CHSRA will build it for freight”.
    San person: “Why?”:
    Synon: Because it’s going to be a freight route.

    Are you simply insisting that an HSR route through Tehachapi must be a freight route, because the _existing_ freight route through Tehachapi is a freight route??

    Derek Reply:

    Limit the axle load of the freight trains to 17 tons, and then it will be easier to get up those steep grades. That solves two problems at once.

    Eric M Reply:

    Most of the mainline engines used by the freight operators that meet emissions standards almost double the weight limit alone. Not going to happen.

    Eric M Reply:

    Suppose to be locomotives, not engines

    synonymouse Reply:

    You are looking a probably a couple of decades down the road, by which time the class ones may very ell have decided to go to overhead wire rather than screw around with Tier infinity diesels, genset , etc.

    $20bil thrown away at Tehachapi would constitute an embarrassment that could not just be glossed over. There are different scenarios better and wiser minds could take. One would be to simply procrastinate until Brown, PG&E Richard, Villa and Antonovich are no longer in the picture.

    I suggest the best tack for us Tejon foamers to take is to keep bugging PB about what they would do if their mountain crossing is a fiscal failure. Repeatedly forcing them to take what amounts to a blood oath that nothing can possibly go wrong could jar them enough to look again at a contingency plan.

    Eric M Reply:

    What are you talking about synonymouse? A couple of decades down the road? Give me a break. Freight is not going to get any lighter on mainlines. As for Tejon foamer, that is all you because you cannot seem to grasp the benefit of going through Palmdale to link up with Nevada. You seem to not grasp “regional rail” and talk to just hear yourself talk.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Please explain oh wise one what types of freight will be handled, and which markets will be served. This is intriguing.

    Jonathan Reply:

    I believe Synon has said before, that _he_ beleives any HSR route through the Tehachapis will be sold off for freight use, to relieve traffic on the Tehachapi Loop. Issues like axle-loading and ruling grade — and tunnels not traversable by diesels — are dismissed with waves of the hand.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Plans to double track the existing route are under way. Just what business they would handle over a “lightweight” route is a mystery, except for empty cars of course.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The CHSRA Tehachapi Detour will be a financial failure and the State will soon grow weary of the very high subsidies required for running half empty trains and opt to privatize. Eventually the route will be liquidated and end up(whole or parts thereof) in the hands of the class ones. They will adapt it to their use. The existing Tehachapi Loop alignment is a bottleneck, but of course the UP will take free guvmint money to add passing tracks. Just as they will take whatever is of utility of the CHSRA folly for pennies on the dollar.

    The only reason the CHSRA is stuck with Tehachapi is that Villa and Antonovich consider it na necessary evil to score a free BART LA to Palmdale and Reid, Adelson, Wynn et al believe it will aid the cause of Deserted Xprss. These Sin City mafiosi are just interested in some outside money being dropped in Nevada – they don’t even care if the damn thing works or runs. (See LV Monorail).

    But the class ones can just sit back and bide their time. They know the DeTour is a stone money pit and they will be able to pick over its bones.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Paul: see what I mean? An HSR route is standard gauge, ergo the Class 1s will use it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    When the plans actually gel we will see just how far they deviate from FRA-AAR parameters. Since apparently Amtrak is the likely operator I would suggest not very far. Does the term “Acela” ring any bells?

    Does anyone have the nerve to ask PG&E Richard just who would buy the DeTour if it hemorrhaged red ink and the State was forced to sell it at auction?

    Hint: failure is not an option. yeah,sure.

    Joey Reply:

    The FRA and the freight RRs have already have their chance to weigh in. And they have. As a result of which we get like 100′ between adjacent freight and passenger tracks, no shared tracks in the San Fernando Valley, among other things.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The urban sections will remain as heavily taxpayer subsidized proto-BART’s but the Tehachapi DeTour itself is hopelessly tainted as a secondary freight route and will end up spun off.

    The Tehachapi cabal does not care whether the DeTour survives as they are only interested in their regional BART clones. And as far as the Las Vegas bozos are concerned, they do not even want functional transit, ergo the Marginal Monorail.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Fact: 2012 review is carrying forward a new alternate design for the Tehachapi subsection, called “New T3”
    Parapharasing a synopsis from

    the “New T3” alignment has 0.9 miles of tunnels and 3.4 miles of elevated structures.
    There is a 20-mlie section with an average grade of 2.85%, and a,sustained grade of 3.3% over 8 miles.

    Diesels hauling drag freight up 3.3% grades? BNSF already gave that up at Raton Pass.
    And the tunnels just _arent designed_ for diesel; Go look at the shenanigans needed to use diesels in the Otira Tunnel in New Zealand, on a in 33 grade. And the consists there are tiny by US standards.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Sounds like value engineering adds up to slowdown. And all this downside and still more spendy than Tejon.

    The operative term is cannibalize. Just go one way, keep the wire, patch in here and there to the old route. Maybe we can get an informed and imaginative amateur of railroad route engineering to patch together the optimal scenario of the UP iteration of RoundaboutRail for our amusement and edification when the final Tehachapi drawings emerge.

    There is more opportunity here than you think, Mr. Gittes.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Facts run off you like water off a duck’s back.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Okay, Here’s an old reference which _says_ that CHSRA’s route is expected to have a 3% ruling gradient:

    and a Parsons-Brinkeroff document from 2011 which says HSR trainslets may slow down to half their maximum speed on a 3.% gradient: (page 40)

    Now, let’s go the the planet Synon’s World. The Tehachapi route will have viaducts _built for an axxle load of 17 tonnes_. Not usable by a Class 1. The ruling grade will be 3% (possibly 3.t%. Not usable by a Class 1 freight). So, Synon backs off to:

    he operative term is cannibalize. Just go one way, keep the wire, patch in here and there to the old route.

    Now suppose that on Planet Synon, UP does that. What do they get? A few passing loops.
    That’s all. Which UP could do on their own, on their own ROW, if they wished, or saw any value in it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    BNSF may simply buy it so as to not have to pay UP for trackage rights over the Loop.

    Remember they will be getting for a mere fraction of the construction cost. I figure the DeTour will go thru several resales before going for scrap value. The State will try mightily to keep it going but it will have to liquidate. Hell the NEC might even go on the block if Sandys keep coming.

    The BNSF could run a few Amtrak trains for the foamers over its reconstituted DeTour.

    Jonathan Reply:

    No, BNSF could not run Amtrak trains. abig chunk of the route is viaduct, and it won’t take the weight of US FRA-compliant locomotives. Period. And see again about tunnels and diesels.

    And why the %!&%$ would BNSF buy a Tehachapi HSR line “to avoid paying UP trackage rights’ when they can’t run any FRA-compliant trains over any of the viaducts or through the tunnels? Your idea isn’t even internally consistent.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Where are the people who make 100,000,000 trips a year on the NEC supposed to go? To replace the capacity Amtrak alone provides you’d have to build another lane on I-95 from Washington DC to Boston. That would cost a bit.
    NJTransit was ready to spend 10 billion dollars to build new tunnels and a new station in Manhattan. After studying 137 different options that was the cheapest option.

    Peter Reply:

    @ Jonathan

    synonymouse has Romneysia. He will simply say whatever fits the point he wants to make at any given time, even if it contradicts his earlier points. This is not new.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Perhaps Branson will purchase the NEC. They are not going to scrap it. I should have been more explicit. Just a move to private ownership, like Conrail.

    Those famous elevateds will have to withstand at least another Kern Co. 1952 quake. If thez do not, PB will be in deep shit after promising Tehachapi was perfectly safe whereas Tejon was disastrous. Expect boiler plate, especially since PB has a fixation with concrete.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Hell the NEC might even go on the block if Sandys keep coming.

    Just a move to private ownership, like Conrail.

    Conrail wasn’t privately owned.

    Want to change what you meant to say again?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The class ones will be able to pick up what’s left of Tehachapi DeTour for a pittance, creating the option to make modifications as required. They don’t need no blinking Tutor-Saliba; they don’t need no blinking minority contractors. They know how to pour concrete and can beef up the blinking elevateds inhouse if they have to.

    Besides they might just keep the wire and since it is totally grade separated go driverless. If only to really put a good scare in the unions.

    Vegas is passe. Everybody is putting in their own casino and you can find Vegas vice anywhere.

    For those who prefer world class hsr take the Tejon Train.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    For about the gazillionth time people go to Las Vegas for more than the gambling. And there are two million people living in Las Vegas and it’s suburbs. Some of them will get the urge to go visit Grandma in Bakersfield. Or get some nookie in Los Angeles.

  11. Derek
    Nov 10th, 2012 at 10:34

    How to have High Speed Rail in California Sooner, Faster and Cheaper, by Noel T. Braymer, Rail Passenger Association of California & Nevada

    The answer is with Tilt Trains that can use upgraded existing tracks or right of ways[sic]…This brings up the issue of electrification…The problem is electrification is expensive to build and no rail lines are electrified now in California.

    Peter Reply:

    That’s lovely, but the article completely ignores a number of points.

    First, there is no point to running tilting trains on the mostly straight Central Valley, as curves would not be the main cause of speed restrictions, interference with freight operations would.

    Second, for the existing mountainous/curvy sections, even tilting trains would not make a significant difference in terms of speed, as they would still have to dramatically reduce their speeds through those sections. For example, Talgos have their tilting mechanisms deactivated below a certain speed, IIRC (I think it was 50 mph?), so there would be no time savings from using them even on curvy sections.

    Derek Reply:

    The CV will have a few turns, so I hope they’re planning to build tilts into the grades now instead of later.

    Peter Reply:

    What do you mean by “planning to build tilts into the grades now instean of later”?

    Derek Reply:

    Never mind. The author advocated using tilting trains for higher speeds on existing tracks. The CV segment will have new tracks, so I assume they’ll build them with tilt on the curves.

    Joey Reply:

    That’s called superelevation or cant, and yes, they will have it everywhere (except in station throats where you have switches and platforms to deal with). Though even with maximum superelevation (7″ I think), the curves on the high speed sections will be much wider than the curves on parallel freight routes anyway.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    FWIW, tilting does indeed considerably reduce the travel time, even around curves which are limited to something like 75 km/h for normal operation, the tilting train can go through it at 85 km/h (that’s 15% faster), which also means that the braking and reacesserating time gets shorter.

    It is also possible that the time gains are just enough to save one train set for a given operating pattern; an example used to be Zürich — Stuttgart, where a tilting train could be reversed in Stuttgart within 12 minutes or so (that’s a lot of time), but now, with conventional train sets, this is no longer possible, and an additional set has to be used.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Note also that the Talgo trains that are suitable for this country are a lot lighter so can accelerate faster, an advantage even on tangent track. Noel’s point is that there will be a long interim phase while construction is under way and we need creative ways to exploit the routes that we have. We should look at all of these options, keeping in mind that train sets for interim service can be deployed to other routes once HSR is complete.

    Peter Reply:

    Unfortunately, that’s never going to happen, as CA is obsessed with bi-levels for some reason. Is it cheaper to operate them, perhaps, instead of a longer single-level train with the same capacity?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Longer train would require double spotting (which adds time) or platform lengthening at quite a number of stations (which may not necessarily be doable at some of them).

    Joey Reply:

    Unfortunately even with lighter, tilting passenger cars they insist on using a very heavy locomotive and a dead weight at the other end of the train.

    Peter Reply:

    Talgo 8’s are FRA-compliant, they don’t need a dead weight at the far end of the train.

    Joey Reply:

    In the past they have taken perfectly good FRA-compliant cab cars, removing the cabs, and tacking on an ex-locomitive “non-powered control unit” / baggage car.

    Peter Reply:

    Here’s one of Talgo’s new end cars from one of Wisconsin’s new and immediately-to-be-mothballed trains.

  12. Derek
    Nov 10th, 2012 at 11:14

    Airline exec: ‘Seatbelts don’t matter’

    Seatbelts on planes are pointless, and passengers should be able to buy standing-room-only tickets, according to Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Irish discount airline Ryanair.

    “If there ever was a crash on an aircraft, God forbid, a seatbelt won’t save you.” O’Leary told The Telegraph. “Seatbelts don’t matter.”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They do matter when it’s turbulent.

    joe Reply:

    Really! Seat belts are obviously a safety feature.

    There’s even efforts to improve mapping turbulence to alert pilots and reduce in cabin accidents.
    “An American Airlines Boeing 757-200, registration N185AN performing flight AA-980 from Recife,PE (Brazil) to Miami,FL (USA) with 136 passengers and 9 crew, was enroute along Brazil’s Northeast coast about 2 hours into the flight (around 17:30Z) when the aircraft encountered severe turbulence causing injuries to a number of flight attendants. The flight crew continued the flight to Miami where the aircraft landed safely about 6 hours later with ambulances awaiting the aircraft.

    The airline reported 3 flight attendants received injuries of “some degree” and were taken to local hospitals.”

    Derek Reply:

    Maybe someday airliners will be equipped with active turbulence canceling technology, similar to optical image stabilization in camera lenses or turret stabilization in the M1 tank.

    Clem Reply:

    They already are… all modern airliners have active load alleviation control systems. Check out the crazy aileron action.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That is certainly fascinating; I wonder how many man-hours of engineering and computer programming went into all that.

    A modern Boeing 747-400 is no slouch in airfoil control technology, either. What’s most interesting is that there are points in the video below where you can see through the wing structure.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I wonder if the pilots appreciate all this technology to help them out–and I would also bet some still get a thrill with an older aircraft with more “feel,” even if more primitive.

    Peter Reply:

    A lot of pilots don’t like the way some of the modern flight control systems act, especially one’s like Airbus’s system, that offer no feedback. The Boeing 777, in comparison, was, while a complete fly-by-wire system, designed to offer pilots the same feedback as they would have in an aircraft with a conventional flight control system.

    Clem Reply:

    That video shows the old way of doing things, in a mid-1980s areo design without fly-by-wire. Every motion of the control surfaces is a direct response to the pilot’s inputs, literally transmitted to the hydraulic actuators through cables and pulleys. The 747-400 is about a quarter-century behind modern.

    joe Reply:

    Adding mass to seats is counter productive to shedding weight for efficiency so I believe they’ll continue to rely on seat belts.

    BTW Derek’s suggestion reminded me of this I read a while ago.

    The problem facing Ares 1 wasn’t a booster malfunction or a computer glitch. It was simple cause-and-effect physics. During the final stages of a launch, as the solid booster rocket burns down it makes the entire vehicle oscillate rapidly.
    Houston, we have a major effing problem.

    Plans were drawn up to reduce the vibrations. Spring and counter-firing motors. Hundreds of millions of dollars to implement. Added years of development and implementation. A nearly insurmountable setback.

    And then the people in the Vibration Lab had a really, really good idea: By simply strobing the display in time with the vibration, they could kill this problem altogether. They bought a handful of circuits that only cost a few bucks, hooked them up to the screen, and set it to strobe at 12Hz. And it worked!

    Well, almost.

    The readability was vastly improved, but it wasn’t perfect. The chair was vibrating at 12Hz and the screen was strobing at 12Hz, but they weren’t perfectly in sync. The text was more visible, sure, but it looked like it was swimming around. NASA could do better. So they grabbed a few accelerometers and attached them to the chair. With the vibration and the strobing now perfectly in sync, the display became crystal clear. And the final cost was a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what they’d anticipated. Victory.

    Derek Reply:

    I guess that explains why they don’t let people with epilepsy become astronauts.

    Peter Reply:

    Gyroscopically stabilizing an aircraft isn’t going to keep it from bouncing heavily in turbulence, or keep the pax or flight attendants from hitting the ceiling hard.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Don’t forget the flight where part of the fuselage came off (due to not being glued on properly) and one of the flight attendants was sucked out to her death by the pressure differential. People wearing seatbelts weren’t sucked out, and the other flight attendants were grabbed by nearby passengers. Geez, that was a while ago… when was that?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Someone else here will have to verify that, but as I recall, it was a Boeing aircraft that had suffered undiagnosed metal fatigue. Fortunately, Boeing’s quite robust airframe construction allowed the pilots to land the aircraft with no further loss of life, despite a lot of handling problems from the altered aerodynamics. This was in considerable contrast to the two explosive decompression incidents that were the horror of DeHaviland’s beautiful but initially flawed Comets that resulted in the loss of two aircraft and all people on both flights.

    Peter Reply:

    O’Leary’s a jerk who proposes shit like this once a year or so to garner attention. A few years ago he proposed installing wooden benches to save on cost, and last year he proposed weird standing seats.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Didn’t he also propose pay toilets on planes? Next they will be charging for barf bags.

    Peter Reply:

    I think he did. There was also an incident, I think it was with Ryanair, where the gate agent tried to convince the flight crew to let her seat someone in one of the toilets.

    If they charged for barf bags, I’d simply barf on their carpet. That’s more expensive for them to clean up than just handing out free barf bags. Market forces in action. Take that O’Leary.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    Ha, you haven’t flown on Ryanair; there’re no carpets! They’ll just hose down the floor after any barfing.

    Peter Reply:

    Into the boarding card/magazine holder, then. ;)

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I’m more into binders.

    JJJ Reply:

    They dont have that either, safety info is glued on the seat in front of you, no pouches.

    Peter Reply:

    Yeah, I’ve looked up pictures of their interior. Needless to say, that is the one European low-cost airline I will never fly on (not just because of their interior, though). I’ve flown EasyJet, and they weren’t very bad, reminded me a lot of Southwest.

  13. Peggy Drouet
    Nov 10th, 2012 at 12:33

    Metro antagonized too many people, not just bus riders, with their plans to run a tunnel through the 100-year-old San Rafael neighborhood in Pasadena and also now to run a tunnel from the 10 freeway into Pasadena that they or anyone else should not be be surprised that support for the way Metro does business evaporated. When the same company is awarded the tunnel technical study and then the environmental report and who is also involved in the public private partnerhship in building the tunnel, is it any wonder that we have lost our faith in Metro? Drop the tunnel, forget about widening and extending freeways, and concentrate on true public transportation, including reinstating important bus routes, then it will be easy to pass a Measure J.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Remember, in Seattle, they tried a “roads and transit” ballot — it failed. Then they tried a “just transit” measure — it passed. This is a lesson for other cities, one which LA has not taken to heart yet. It should.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Agree with you and Peggy. Take the money that would have gone to the idiotic 710 extension and plow it into bus improvements to defuse the BRU arguments while they’re at it.

  14. trentbridge
    Nov 10th, 2012 at 18:51

    I bet if we put Nate Silver in charge of estimating the ridership on the CAHSR – we’d get a number that would be within one or two percent of the actual total. Seriously, if you asked a number of independent groups (universities etc.) to estimate the ridership, you are mathematically more likely to get a closer approximation to the truth than relying on a single consultant. The most likely cause of error in such estimates result from the initial assumptions made. By aggregating several estimates, based on different assumptions, you are likely to get a better result. As Rasmussen and Gallup built into their voting models, an assumption of a higher expected Republican turnout than Democratic in the 2012 election polling, they ended up giving Romney false hope i.e. that he would win the popular vote. Nate Silver aggregated a wide range of polls that did not make the same assumption.

    VBobier Reply:

    That’s a great idea, I’m for it, of course that depends if He wants to do that, if Nates available and who would pay for this?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Base future performance on past accomplishment? Discount estimates from parties with a record of inaccuracy? Who’d want to do that? THIS IS AMERICA. Home of the World’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals. Don’t ask questions. “Math You Do As A Republican To Make Yourself Feel Better” is exactly the sort of arithmetic we like from our rent-seeking engineering consultancies.

    After all, the CHSRA’s puppeteer consultant PBQD has a long and perfectly consistent record of fraud in ridership and cost “estimation”. Numbers are always fabricated to maximize corporate profit: the same people justifying the project are those who get paid to “design” and build it, and are very conspicuously not those on the hook for massive cost over-runs and pathetic project use and benefit. (That would be “you, the sucker public.”)

    The last PBQD/Bechtel-led PB-“estimated” megaproject in Northern California blew out its analysis-level “budget” by a factor of two and carried less than 15% of “predicted” riders.

    * Systematically and knowingly fraudulent PB “prediction”: 31000 average weekday exits on PB/Bechtel-profiting BART extension statiojns in 2010

    * Reality: 8467 (14.5% of “prediction”)

    * Reality after nearly ten full years of post-opening population and economic growth : 11723 (37.8% of “prediction”)

    Look for similar outcomes with the PB-led “Central Subway” in San Francisco and the PB-led BART extension to the San José Flea Market. They’re both over 200% of their exterminate-all-alternetives “analysis” “budgets” already, so there’s perfect consistency with the historical record there already, even without the miserable, fraction-of-“projection” ridership that is historically inevitable.

    But that’s just history. That’s just reality. Those are just facts. Who gives a shit about them?



    joe Reply:

    GoIt. You’ve convinced me to now oppose any BART expansion to LA.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    First Stockton, then the world!

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    BART expansion to LA.

    My dearest and astutest Joe,

    That is exactly what the the PB boys are selling.

    Their own globally-unique technical standards.

    Their own globally-unique systems.

    Their own globally-unique rolling stock.

    Over-built “sterile” (landside/airside) fortress stations with faregates from defense contractor Cubic and acres of parking.

    Their own very very very very very special friends guaranteed to win “competitive” construction and supply contracts, always.

    Gerrymandered route.

    100% cost blowout.

    Sub-50% ridership results. Ridership projections fabricated to order.

    Feet and inches.

    Superficial ragged layer of greenwash.

    Extra capital expenditure on concrete always more important that operations.

    Stratospheric capital costs combined with crazy operating costs and low ridership, in a huge win-win-win core-competency outside-the-box paradigm-busting orgy of synergy.

    The only things different are the track gauge and the positioning of the electric supply feed, but those are simply irrelevant trivialities in the scale of the undertaking.

    So yes, you are getting state-wide BART. From precisely the same people who bought you BART, and absolutely never, under any circumstance, anything from the anti-Americans who know what they’re doing and don’t built BART.

    America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals, doing what they do best.

    joe Reply:

    For the sake of argument, if HSR becomes BART then it will service the State. You’ll be so sad but we’ll be better off than now and far better than waiting for your HSR Unicorn to appear.

    My core concern is HSR designing Parking centric stations (driven by the ridership model’s simplifying-dependency on cars).

    Most of your worries apply to every US construction project – I don’t approve but I refuse to let reality stop the project and keep us car centric.

    “Feet and inches” – get over it. Really – get over it.

    You constantly imply corruption, “Their own very very very very very special friends guaranteed to win “competitive” construction and supply contracts, always.”
    You did file a complaint with GAO and with Issa’s oversight committee. It would be fail of epic proportions to let his unique opportunity to pass.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Richard, you have outdone yourself this time. Spot on.

    BART’s success depends on the Transbay Tube. And the lack of a Southern Crossing. And elimination of competing bus service. And benefits from San Francisco’s occasional attempts to not cater to automobiles to the worshipful extent than, for example, LA does.

    RoundaboutRail does not have the punch-thru feature of the Transbay Tube, nor does it enjoy a monopoly. Nor do San Jose or Fresno come across as the magnet attraction that is San Francisco.

    The only parts of BART that RoundaboutRail resembles are the it loneliest, most remote, most rider challenged outposts.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    All those people in the thriving metropolis of Grapevine California are just can’t wait for HSR to go over the Tejon so they can get a station. Both of them.

    VBobier Reply:

    I that should be 3, not 2, that would be Richard Mlynarik, Morris and Synomeices…

    synonymouse Reply:

    You don’t want any podunk stations on a true hsr mountain crossing. That’s what MCI coaches excel at.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    wait a minute I thought the whole reason you want it to go over the Tejon pass is because there is nobody going the other way. Except for the half million people in greater Palmadale and the 2 million in Las Vegas.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Palmdale is a desert exurban favela of the future you do not want to make any bigger. Improved Metrorail is adequate.

    Those who have the discretionary funds to blow in Vegas can afford to fly. Those with limited funds – especially on entitlements – need to be highly encouraged to spend their gambling money within California. We need to provide the LV gambling experience close by.

    The guvmint proceeds from California gambling taxes, fees, etc. need to be directed to California welfare spending. California has a huge homeless and indigent population. I get approached by panhandlers all the time – instead of going to Sin City that gambling money should be used to help the panhandlers.

    Apparently downtown LA is populated with thousands of guys living in doorways – Moonbeam should spend his legacy on them instead of his edifice complex.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    “Palmdale is a desert exurban favela of the future”

    I rarely ever agree with synonymouse but this is a pretty apt description.

    Of course, even a favela deserves rail.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    We need to provide the LV gambling experience close by.

    You need two million people to provide that. People don’t go to Las Vegas to pull the handles on slot machines. They go to Las Vegas for the Vegas experience which is lot more than gambling. Just like they go to Branson or Disney World. Or Disney World North which is in Times Square. Plop a whole bunch of theaters down in Chico and no one is going to come. Of a casino in Corcoran.

    this is a pretty apt description

    Greenwich Village started out as farmland and was developed into upper middle class housing. Turned into a slum and then the beatniks and Jane Jacobs “discovered” it. It’s now the one of the priciest neighborhoods on the planet. Who knows what Palmdale will look like in 50 years.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Of course, even a favela deserves rail.

    Favelas and rail are pretty much incompatible. The favela thrives on an informal economy. Rail needs the exact opposite: parceled property that can be redeveloped near the stations, top-down urban planning, etc.

    Joey Reply:

    I’m pretty sure you missed most of what Richard was getting at.

  15. Reedman
    Nov 11th, 2012 at 13:09

    Miami’s Metrorail ridership is about one-fourth of the original estimates. The farebox covers only about one-third of the operating expenses. The federal government covered about 80% of the cost of building the system — Ronald Reagan, as president, commented about Metrorail that it would have been cheaper to give all the users a free limousine ride.

    Eric M Reply:

    What’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?

    Fake Irishman Reply:

    And Minneapolis’, Houston’s and Phoenix’s first light rail lines far exceeded their ridership estimates. The Overhead Wire blog has pretty thoroughly documented these issues.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Ahh, but are those lines faster or slower than a bus? ;)

    Nathanael Reply:

    They’re faster. I’m sure the rail-haters will find some reason why that’s bad — oh, right! Because the stops are spaced more widely, so people have to walk further to the bus stop.

    ANY excuse to oppose rail, it’s ANY excuse with some people.

    Jonathan Reply:

    I was making a dig at San Jose light rail…

  16. Peter
    Nov 12th, 2012 at 06:55

    OT, but now that the election is over, when should we expect the FRA to issue its decision on the XpressWest loan? Maybe in a week or so?

    Alan F Reply:

    Good question. I thought several months ago that the FRA might just go ahead and issue the decision, but there has been little news recently. We are now entering a period of heated negotiations on taxes, the fiscal “cliff”, debt ceiling, the budget, so if the grant of the loan is waiting on final approval from LaHood (who I think would have to sign off on it), the Administration may decide to wait until after a tax and budget agreement is reached.

    Nathanael Reply:

    If there is sanity on the Democratic side in DC (and I have my doubts), we will see very little happen until January 1st when the Republican sociopaths stop having any negotiating leverage. Once the Bush tax cuts are actually off the books, we may be able to get something done.

    synonymouse Reply:

    re: Deserted Xprss funding

    New York says it needs $30billion to rebuild.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    My guess would be December.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The tin foil hat says that Measure J’s apparent defeat is going to delay such an announcement since Metro probably was counting on those dollars to furnish it’s part of the ROW through Los Angeles County as the High Desert Corridor.

  17. Joey
    Nov 12th, 2012 at 11:28

    O/T: SBB is looking to begin licensing its timetable planning software.

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