Dan Richard’s Evolution on High Speed Rail

Dec 2nd, 2012 | Posted by

Last Thursday night, California High Speed Rail Authority board chairman Dan Richard made a very interesting comment while on a panel discussion about HSR:

Before taking the helm of California’s High-Speed Rail Authority, Dan Richard told Gov. Jerry Brown that the plan was “really screwed up and going to end up biting you in the ankles.”

Richard didn’t like the idea of sending it up the Peninsula to San Francisco as opposed to traversing Altamont Pass. He also was in league with those who thought laying the rail along a stretch of the Central Valley was a bad beginning to the ambitious $69 billion project.

But that was then. Thursday, Richard told about 60 people gathered at San Jose State for a high-speed rail forum that he no longer has “the luxury of being a guy throwing stones.”…

Richard said he changed his mind about the path the train should take because the route must have a terminus in San Francisco, and swinging across from the Altamont would take longer, require a costly bridge crossing and trigger legal challenges.

As far as the Central Valley start, he said the existing stretch of rails from Stockton to Bakersfield sees a million riders a year, which would bolster paying passengers as the system builds up to high-speed rail.

He also emphasized that it’s not just about transportation, but also changing cities along the route and revitalizing them by bringing in more density.

Richard’s journey is that of someone who came to HSR without very much information, who took a close look at both the project and its context, and understood that the existing plan is sensible and valuable given California’s needs.

Legally the project has to terminate in downtown San Francisco, and that makes sense given that it is the main destination in the Bay Area. So the problem with Altamont was that to get to SF, you would have to either go out of your way to hit San José or give up the huge ridership pool that resides there, or build a new bridge across the San Francisco Bay. That would raise a great deal of quite legitimate environmental concerns, as opposed to the parochial and self-interested concerns raised by the Peninsula NIMBYs.

Starting in the Central Valley is also something that may seem strange to people who haven’t really thought about passenger rail in California very much. Sure, construction costs are cheaper there so it makes sense to start there, but for many coastal Californians, the Central Valley is simply less important in their minds – an attitude this blog, founded by someone whose life in California was spent on the coasts, has consistently opposed.

More importantly, we know what happens if you focus initially on upgrading rail in the coastal metro areas – you never finish the middle sections. California lacks fast, reliable rail service between the Bay Area and Southern California precisely because the money has so far gone to invest in those regions and not to connecting them. We already tried the “build on the ends first” strategy and all it’s gotten us is an unclosed gap through the Tehachapis and a glacial pace in starting up the Coast Daylight service.

Finally, Richard came to understand that this isn’t about simply moving passengers from Point A to Point B. Like all other transportation systems, it’s about economic growth and bringing the state closer together economically for the decades to come.

Even Elizabeth Alexis, who was also on the panel, understood this, albeit as a point of criticism:

She said the train will more likely turn areas surrounding Fresno into a “suburb of San Jose,” gobbling up agricultural land in favor of development when there’s an hourlong commute to work.

She’s right in the big picture, that Fresno would become linked to San José, but she’s wrong to assume it means agricultural land would get “gobbled up.” A high speed rail station in the middle of Fresno would attract growth closer to it, rather than further away. Fresno is willing to add density in that area, so there’s no need for people to live on the edge of town. And with ever-rising gas prices, there’s little financial incentive to do so.

Still, it’s good to see that Dan Richard has made the evolution and become a strong defender of the project. And I think that path makes him all the stronger of a leader. He knows how most Californians, who haven’t had the time or inclination to look closely at these issues, view the project. That means he knows how to speak to them and how the Authority can orient itself to address those common concerns.

Some concerns, of course, will never go away. The event made it quite clear that many on the Peninsula are dug in for the long haul when it comes to opposing improvements to the rail corridor there. Adina Levin’s comment was interesting:

Adina Levin, member of a Peninsula-based Caltrain advocacy group, said “lingering distrust” remains toward the rail program.

“There’s a lot more acceptance of the (new) system,” she said. “But people still feel really nervous about how the High-Speed Rail Authority acted several years ago.”

She’s no Peninsula NIMBY. But her comment does indicate that the battles will go on. I would read what she sees as “lingering distrust” another way. In 2009, when Peninsula residents began taking a close look at this project they’d ignored until voters approved it, they were shocked and angry to learn that it would mean changes to the configuration of the Peninsula Rail Corridor. Those changes are good ones – grade separations and more tracks are beneficial to them and to their communities as well as to rail passengers – but some on the Peninsula reacted very negatively, not wanting to see any change at all.

But they also knew that if they spoke out as NIMBYs, nobody would pay attention to them. So they instead tried to undermine the credibility of the Authority, accusing them of violating trust. But they never did any such thing. The problem was that the NIMBYs expected the Authority to behave the same way their local governments did – to immediately cave to their demands. But the Authority did no such thing, and proceeded ahead with the mandate given to them by the Legislature and by the voters. That infuriated the NIMBYs, who claimed it was some sort of violation of trust. They’ve never quite gotten over their sense of entitlement, or their constant string of political and legal defeats.

And so they will continue fighting:

Alexis acknowledged that “at this point it’s very hard” to fight the rail plan, but added that even if the funds are found and the entire project comes to fruition, she would wait before calling it a victory for the state.

“Is that success?” she asked. “Success is a railroad that turns out to be a good investment for California rail. Too often, success is did you get to the ribbon-cutting, not did we build the right project, just did we get the damn thing built?”

The key is that to Alexis, “the right project” is “one that doesn’t change her neighborhood.” By that metric she’ll be consistently disappointed. But by the metrics that matter most to the people California – quality of service, speed, reliability – the project as envisioned will be a success not just for the state as a whole, but for Palo Alto too.

  1. Clem
    Dec 2nd, 2012 at 20:17

    Richard said he changed his mind about the path the train should take because the route must have a terminus in San Francisco, and swinging across from the Altamont would take longer

    That’s hilarious. Here’s an inconvenient truth: the CHSRA’s own trip time simulations showed that SF – LA via Altamont would be a couple of minutes faster than Pacheco. Maybe the Altamont route got longer when we weren’t looking, certainly longer than Pinocchio’s nose.

    joe Reply:

    …and the easy-peasy Bay crossing ?

    swing hanger Reply:

    Wasn’t it a new Dumbarton rail bridge? Bypasses all the mid-peninsula nimbys and all the trenching/tunneling headaches. SJ residents can connect to HSR by BART to an east bay transfer station or by Caltrain to Redwood City/North Silicon Valley Station.

    Joey Reply:

    I would argue that branching to San Jose is still justified, even with BART in place. BART provides a decent connecting service for everyone who lives along it but for everyone who doesn’t it’s an additional transfer or more likely just additional driving to get to the station. And BART takes up the prime ROW, but even so, the takings required for HSR would be minimal, mostly parking lots, warehouses, and office parks.

    joe Reply:

    The HSR Enthusiasts proposed Dumbarton Bridge right?

    BTW, how does Dumbarton Bridge bypass the Peninsula? It crosses at Menlo Park right? That’s the southern most city of lovely San Mateo County. It bypasses CARRD residences in Palo Alto and impacts lower income areas of Menlo Park.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Just because some cities are assholes doesn’t mean you purposely need to route HSR through them.

    Joey Reply:

    Recently drilled water tunnels yield detailed knowledge of the geology below the bay, greatly reducing the cost of tunneling.

    Travis Reply:

    “Greatly reducing” =! “Affordable.”

    Joey Reply:

    When comparing Altamont and Pacheco, people tend to focus on individual elements rather than the total cost. The Program EIR pegged the difference between Pacheco and Altamont+tunnel at near $1b IIRC, and that was before the water tunnels. And yeah, the cost probably would have increased by now, but the same goes for Pacheco.

    Joey Reply:

    The program alignment was pretty unoptimized too. It followed the UP route taking sharp curves through Fremont and Pleasanton. If you use the Arch21 alignment the entire route is suitable for perhaps 200 km/h. With SETEC it’s even faster, though I don’t know the exact time savings for either route.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Of course, if you do that it’s also a lot more expensive.

    Mike Reply:

    It seems to me that any “real HSR” construction from Merced towards the Bay Area is SO FAR off in the future that, for all intents and purposes, we can consider that alignment question to be totally open. Maybe we get Pacheco. Maybe we get Altamont. Maybe we get neither.

    The Authority’s planning for Pacheco certainly creates a bias in that direction, but over the next 15 or 20 years that could easily change before a single shovel of dirt is turned on Pacheco.

  2. joe
    Dec 2nd, 2012 at 20:25

    CARRD never tells the same story to the same crowd.

    Today HSR puts Fresno 1 hour from the Bay Area Jobs which will create sprawl and gobble up farmland.

    Not a peep about this horrible problem when speaking in Fresno Last Oct. 2011.

    Fresno State Students were instead told it will cost them all 2K each but no mention of the jobs and opportuity created by HSR. Just temporary Jobs and loss of Jobs due to construction.

    Check out the summary here

    In Oct 2011

    Elizabeth Alexis, economist and co-founder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CARRD), explained the good news and the bad news about the Central Valley being first segment built for the project. Some temporary jobs will come but the Central Valley will have to absorb all of the impacts. “There are hot spots from air quality that will come from all the steel and concrete that will be required for this project. You will have the loss of the businesses along with the right of way. You will have the loss of farm land in the hope that somehow we’re going to come up with the other 97% of the money to finish it. You might actually be able to take a train in the next decade or the decade after that.” She questions aloud, “ If you’re not sure you’re going to finish the project shouldn’t it be someplace that can get some lasting benefits from it?”

    VBobier Reply:

    Sounds like what Romney did, tell one group what they wanted to hear and another group something else, CARRD=Nimbys… As far as I’m concerned…

    Joey Reply:

    I don’t agree with everything they do/say but they have done some valuable work as far as transparency is concerned.

  3. Joey
    Dec 2nd, 2012 at 20:43

    Starting in the Central Valley is also something that may seem strange to people who haven’t really thought about passenger rail in California very much.

    It also seems strange to people who have thought about passenger rail in California very much.

    VBobier Reply:

    People want instant gratification, their the ones who wanted to build on the ends first, to them the CV cities don’t exist and so aren’t worth serving… I’d love to live in Fresno, but that’s not where My relatives live and I’m hoping that one day in 2016 that I can live in Adelanto, as that’s closer than where I am at now…

    Joey Reply:

    What cities get served has nothing to do with where construction is started. My main problem with starting in the CV is that it’s useless until you build another segment. Not that anything can be done about it now.

    joe Reply:

    Useless? Exactly not given the ARRA requirement mandated the ARRA projects have stand alone utility

    Wikipedia sez: The USA’s Defense Highway System started in MO but KS also claims to have the initial construction.

    Joey Reply:

    The “independent utility” requirement was satisfied by a paltry number of Amtrak runs per day.

    joe Reply:

    Is that the 6th most traveled route in the US?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Just shows how pathetic most Amtrak routes are.

    VBobier Reply:

    That 6th most traveled route in the US would be bigger if there was a rail link into LA, instead of a Bus link, Buses are a major turn-off to Me…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s why so many of us here think LA-Bako should be and should have been the first priority.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    but it wasn’t and when it is done Bakersfield-Fresno will be ready.

    DavidM Reply:

    Richard thinks so as well, or at least he said he did at Board meetings.

    Nathanael Reply:

    But LA-Bakersfield wasn’t shovel-ready, because the environmental impact statement process was several years behind that in the (much simpler) Central Valley segment.

    Had the HSR money from the Feds come 4 years later than it did, I expect LA-Bakersfield WOULD have been first.

    joe Reply:

    Pathetic? At least we graduated from the initial construction being USELESS to PATHETIC.

    HSR technicals show complete disregard for project risk – the funding timeline, cost overruns, logistical with new contractors and unforeseen obstacles TBD when tunneling starts.

    Projects fail for these “mundane” reasons so why risk it? Fantasy football “owners” take fewer risks.

    Joey Reply:

    I know right? Because no one has ever build HSR through mountains before, especially not Spain, Italy, South Korea, or Japan. The massive engineering accomplishment of building our not-so-long tunnels is going to be talked about for decades.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Don’t know which technicals you’re talking about. I conscientiously mention about Florida HSR and XpressWest that Reason’s fantasies of extreme cost overruns come from comparisons with projects that among other dissimilarities are tunnel-heavy. That said, the need for more viaducts is also a source of cost overruns, and that’s affecting the CV.

    The biggest reason to support a LA-Bako first approach isn’t that it’s less cost overrun-prone than Bako-Merced. It’s that despite the costs, it’s so much more useful that it’s more cost-effective. Would you rather build the Subway to the Sea, or a light rail line in the median of an Interstate in unincorporated territory?

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Much as I respect Alon, there’s a reason Merced to Bakersfield comes before “Bako-LA”:

    Despite what might get written on the walls at bathrooms in Lancaster, no commercial service is going to bridge the Bakersfield/LA gap before HSR. Metrolink isn’t because there’s no ridership potential, and the San Joaquins won’t because the Palmdale to Sylmar stretch isn’t really an improvement over the Starlight and would take away capacity from the Surfliner. That’s not something Metro wants, because unlike the San Joaquins (which are prized in the Northern California Unified Service), the Surfliner could be folded into Metro’s operations.

    Plus, you need a relatively easier section to build before Bako-LA to work out some of the kinks involved with your technology choices. Doing it second is about right…this way there is still Prop 1A money left, but isn’t so outdated by the time the later phases open that you are stuck with an antiquated bottleneck.

    Joey Reply:

    What technological choices? Did I just imagine all those HSR lines that have been built recently with no “technological choices”?

    Joey Reply:

    To clarify, what I mean is that HSR construction is very standardized and well understood, and we are (justly) not deviating from those standards much if at all. The only thing I can think of which might be unique are the specifics of loading gauge, which is trivial from a construction perspective.

    joe Reply:

    @Joey – Tunnelling is well understood – part of what is well understood is that it is high risk activity. Finishing on time and budget is difficult to predict. Doing this risky construction on too small budget (not enough money) is a show stopper. Add the with tight time-line and intense scrutiny for cost overruns and it is irresponsible.

    @Alon – Throw me a bone. How is LA-Bako less cost over run prone. They have to tunnel. They cross 5 fault lines on the initial segment out of Bakersfield. What’s the solution for tunnelling cost over runs due to unforeseen issues in the substrate as they tunnel? And you need to do this section within the time constraint and with the new, complex team with complex reporting requirements (ARRA).

    Ted Judah Reply:

    If Alon had been in charge of BART, we would have built the tube first and then expanded outward….

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    If Alon had built BART, we would have started with the tube and worked our way outwards….

    Joey Reply:

    It’s different when all the funding is in place at the beginning.

    And if Alon had built BART, construction phasing would be the least of the things he would’ve changed.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    We can discuss my retro-fantasy for BART another time, but it’s not the best analogy here, for multiple reasons:

    1. BART built multiple segments simultaneously. Although the Transbay Tube was neither the first segment constructed nor the first opened, it both broke ground and opened early, opening for service just 2 years after the initial system. This is similar to the phasing of the Tohoku Shinkansen, which took 3 years after opening to get into Tokyo proper and another 6 to get to Tokyo Station. We are not talking right now about how to phase HSR construction in the presence of money for everything; we are talking about which segments to spend scarce money on, and if BART had faced the same decision, the right choice would’ve been to make Embarcadero-Oakland City Center the priority segment and try to make the tunnel usable by Muni streetcars if there was no money for rapid transit expansions.

    2. BART needed to test new technology, both for unnecessary reasons (broad gauge, brand-new systems) and justifiable ones (earthquake proofing). The countries that the US should be copying techniques from were not very good models in the 1960s: Japan had a poor rail safety record, and the other preexisting metro systems in earthquake-prone areas were in basket case countries like Greece and Spain. But tellingly, the Tokaido Shinkansen, which was in the same situation, opened in one go.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The first Interstate segments connected to preexisting high-quality US Highways. The MO segment connected at the Illinois end to Route 66, already four lanes throughout, and at the Kansas end to the Kansas Turnpike.

    This is exactly equivalent to how France phased the LGV Sud-Est – first the outer two-thirds, running through to Paris on preexisting electrified track, then the remaining third with the first 30 km out of Paris done on legacy track, and finally a further cutoff (as part of the Interconnexion Est) reducing the length of Paris-area legacy segment to 8 km.

    In contrast, California has no such thing between LA and Bakersfield. The LA-Bako connection is a bus. Even the LA-Palmdale connection is unusable as a modern railroad, even independently of the FRA.

    joe Reply:

    I did not know LA Bako is connected by a bus. OMG!!!!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    For a train, the connection you need is a one-seat ride, or at worst a timed cross-platform transfer at the origin end. A bus transfer? Forget about it.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Yeah, a bus for the final leg of your journey i.e. local HSR train station to bus stop 50m from your home-OK, but what amounts to an intercity bus service (such as El Segundo to Bako, which I’m planning to take later this month) is not something to aspire to.

  4. Paul Dyson
    Dec 2nd, 2012 at 22:49

    @ Robert, you write that California lacks fast reliable rail service…. You could have ended the statement there. I don’t understand your (or Richard’s) reasoning about starting in the CV. Firstly, we do not have good rail systems at either of the bookends. To my recollection over the past thirty years there has never been anything but petty cash invested in our regional rail systems. At about 50,000 passengers a day here in the south the impact of rail on our traffic problems is close to zero. “We’ve tried the build on the ends strategy”. Are you kidding? We haven’t tried any such thing, apart from a a few extra sections of double track. LOSSAN trains are slower than 20 years ago.
    The CHSRA solution? Spend all the money we have in the middle of the proposed HSR system and pretend that somehow the outer ends can be stitched together to provide a through service that people will pay money to ride. The blended system? Reality, rebuild Caltrain to HSR compatibility and pretend they are two projects to play the funding game and confuse the locals. Southern California? Who knows what they will cobble together. At present they are following the tactic, if in doubt, mumble. Interim terminus at Sylmar or Burbank, use the existing Metrolink route from Palmdale? Who in their right mind will by tickets for that ride? It would be faster to keep the buses running from Bakersfield.
    The ONLY way to do this project is Los Angeles to Bakersfield first. Otherwise it will fail.

    swing hanger Reply:

    re. your last sentence, it has been discussed before that a good strategy is to build the most difficult section HSR segment first (typically mountainous)- that’s how it has been done in Japan with shinkansen lines- both with the original Tokaido Shinkansen (Shin Tanna Tunnel) and the recent Kyushu Shinkansen (Shin Yatsushiro to Kagoshima). LA to Bako HSR is of course a mountainous segment, as well as useful for a large number of travelers off the bat, as it eliminates the bus thruway and makes for an all-rail route between LAUPT and the Bay Area.

    joe Reply:

    I’ve run projects – maybe you guys too. The CAHSRA HAS to assemble a diverse team that include minority and small business, local contractors, HSR skill and skill with large CA construction experience.

    How do you guys propose they reduce risks due to miscommunication and incompatible processes etc common seen at the onset of large projects and yet meet the tight construction deadline?

    I was thinking your answer(s) could be put into a book and published.

    If you start in the hardest part first then you run a higher risk of NOT finishing with the allocated funds, unforeseen geological problems, project delays that would only encourage critics and lose support, and I’m not positive this hardest part first is all feasible with the reality of the deadlines.

    I AM encouraged to see Paul explain that the Project will fail for not following his sage advice and doing the hardest part first.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re talking like California is the first place in the world that’s building HSR.

    joe Reply:

    No – I’m speaking with experience on how difficult it is to spool up a team mix of small and foreign experience while hiring local labor and meeting all CA regulations.

    Then add to it a very tight timeline and have them work with geological surprises that that are indeterminable until the tunneling starts.

    Do the hard work with an experienced team (let them work on easier sections first) and when there isn’t a tight time schedule with ARRA funds at risk.

    Joey Reply:

    That’s like saying “I want to build a skyscraper but I’ve never done it before so I better build a ‘practice’ skyscraper first.”

    joe Reply:

    It’s like saying let’s build the first section in the flat central valley and then work on the harder mountainous sections with fat lines and tunneling later.

    VBobier Reply:

    Even the 1st trans-continental railroad didn’t start in the mountains… They started in the flat lands and the CV is a good enough place to start. I hope the Governor can do what Arnold was incapable of, selling HSR in CA as an investment.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Kinda hard to start building in the middle when there is no way to get to the middle. Today there are many ways to bring people and the materials they will be using to the work site. Last mile or so is going to be on a truck. They didn’t have those kind of options in 1869.

    joe Reply:

    Federal Highway Defense System started in Missouri – some claim Kansas.

    Why not Start the Highway Construction the Rocky Mountains or Sierras and connect the country at critical choke points? Wolverines!!!

    If critics ignore the ARRA requirements and schedule, the cost and risk of mountain construction and logistical problems with the contractors – then Paul Dyson might have a point.

    Joey Reply:

    Most of us are realistic enough to believe that it can’t be changed at this point – only that it should have been done differently from the beginning, and that more care needs to be taken in the future.

    Joey Reply:

    Fault lines, not fat lines, and you continue to act as if there haven’t been thousands of miles of HSR route built through all sorts of terrain over the past several decades. It’s a very well understood construction process.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is not just the hardest part; it is the missing link. And because you are acquiring a one of a kind alignment with great intrinsic value you are getting at the same time a huge one-up on the auto competition. That’s why the Tejon Ranch Co. does not want to give it up easy – they know it is a must-have. With it the CHSRA is able to at least break even. Really important.

    Joey Reply:

    It is one of the harder parts but it’s nothing revolutionary or even unique by today’s engineering standards. And that’s regardless of Tejon vs Tehachapi.

    Jim Reply:

    If the ONLY way is to build LA-Bakersfield first, then the project shouldn’t have been started and the federal money refused.

    The last estimate from the Business Plan for LA-Bakersfield was on the order of $20B via Palmdale. No Tejon advocate claims that it would save more than $5B. CHSRA doesn’t have $15-20B in its hands. It has $6B that it can spend. Spending $6B on LA-Bakersfield would result in some holes being bored into some mountains. Nothing else.

    The Central Valley segments had the virtue of being affordable with the funds that the CHSRA actually had and of providing some residual utility even if no further funds ever become available.

    The fundamental problem is that California HSR was sold by low balling the cost. If Phase 1 really could have been built for $30B, then the Prop 1A money would have been adequate and could have funded LA-Bakersfield. But it couldn’t and so the Prop 1A money isn’t. CHSRA has to deal with the consequences of its initial misstatements, even though those that made them are long gone.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Compare the value of the entire Tejon Ranch to the $20bil for the DeTour.

    And then compare the purchase price of the Tejon Ranch to the wealth of PAMPA residents reasonably in proximity of Caltrain. The upshot is Brown-Richard need to fear PAMPA NIMBY’s way more than the Chandlers. Moonbeam will only be a memory when PAMPA remains pretty much the same as it is now.

    The Roundabout is a fiscal disaster. It will have to be government owned and operated, at a substantial and perennial subsidy. The whole scheme is population growth-mongering. In order to make any public service case for the subsidies you will need to get the trains half-full and that requires a massive increase in the high desert population. And very cheap fares. The operating deficit will still be substantial but it is very hard to make any public service-welfare case if the trainsets are practically empty at Tehachapi.

    VBobier Reply:

    Sounds like You think Government is bad Frank…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The PB business plan, the one that sandbagged Tejon, claimed $15.5 billion. A non-sandbagged estimate would’ve been about $11-12 billion.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Which means, the political will at the ready, the funds for the Tejon crossing could have been scabbed together. The ARRA issue could have been dealt with – it’s all politix

    The upside here, which only a few have perceived, is that, as far as we have progressed, a solution exists at Tejon which is better than fair to adequate, probably good to maybe very good. It could have been nothing whatsoever transcendental, which looks to be exactly the case at Tehachapi.

    All this and without breaching a fault in tunnel, evidently.

    Monies saved furthermore using I-5 could be redirected to Santa Clarita. OPB on the Altamont site while back went for broke and suggested a base tunnel south into LA proper. But I have to believe there is an interim, cheaper solution that would placate the city fathers at Santa Clarita.

    joe Reply:

    Jim’s right.

    The Law doesn’t allow “scabbed” together funding – or other excuses.

    you build with what was awarded – period.

    Jim Reply:

    $11-12B or $15-20B, doesn’t matter if all you have is $6B.

    synonymouse Reply:

    That close you can borrow the rest – the Tejon punch-thru is viable, ratified by the SNCF. You have collateral to secure the loan.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Any route is viable on a map.

    thatbruce Reply:

    For example, here’s one I pulled out of my rear end just now which avoids the you-will-likely-lose-any-expensive-infrastructure-you-put-atop-or-through-this-when-the-big-one-comes 3-way fault intersection that is Tejon Pass, doesn’t attempt to cram a HSR line up Soledad Canyon, avoids that highly-rated freight access canyon also beginning with a ‘T’, and doesn’t put too much of a dent in that perfect straight line connecting LA and SF:

    Santa Clarita/Bouquet Junction, Bouquet Canyon, Elizabeth Lake, Twin Lakes and down the canyon south of Stallion Springs, onto the Central Valley Floor and any way you like north from there. You could even split the local route off the main route to have it go into Bakersfield and rejoin the express on the other side of town. Palmdale/Lancaster get served by the Vegas connection. Violá. Looks wonderful on a map, and bears no relation to the actual topography. Much like most of the suggestions I’ve seen that go via Tejon.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Quantm software does analyze and evaluate the “actual topography”. It is egos and wallets, not topography that constitute the mountain crossing problem.

    You do not have to be on top of it to get walloped – the Cypress was a long ways from Loma Prieta.

    In Japan you do not even need a “big one” to collapse a tunnel.

    swing hanger Reply:

    If you are referring to the recent road tunnel accident, that is a road tunnel, and the collapse was of the concrete ducting required for ventilation of long road tunnels. The surrounding tunnel is intact. A moot issue with railway tunnels for HSR, as the trains are electric.

    Wdobner Reply:

    This assertion is based on what documentation?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    IF the President, Secy of Transportation, Governor and both houses of CA are gung ho about CAHSR then they can organize a renegotiation/fudge/delay of ARRA if they really wanted to. I think they are all so ignorant of transportation that they really think that the valley initial segment has some transportation value for the valley, which obviously it does not.

    joe Reply:

    Oh get real.

    ARRA is a law. You negotiate with Congress to modify the law. Violating the law can be criminal with it involves procurement – conspiring to violate the law is a crime.

    We need adult rail advocates – not Dungeon Masters who think peole get together am make up rules.

    You refuse to acknowledge even rudimentary constants like laws and how they are made and modified.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah Paul, so do You, those that You mentioned can’t change the ARRA, as their not the US Congress(aka the: Legislative Branch), since the ARRA is Federal Law, Repubs would just want a repeal, Democrats won’t go along with that, so that won’t happen.

  5. Nathanael
    Dec 3rd, 2012 at 02:02

    Blech. I’ve just discovered a reason why HSR should be on 30-foot-high stilts for its entire length:


    Derek Reply:

    It would be convenient to have that 200 year storm now, before construction begins.

    VBobier Reply:

    Still watch Syno show up and decry the “Stilts”, the “Stilts”.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Just as it would be convenient to have Kern Co. 1952 redux at Tehachapi.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Figure out how much extra it’d cost to put everything on stilts. Then, instead of spending it on stilts, spend it on actually reducing carbon emissions. Problem solved.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah it would be overkill to have it everywhere, I can see in some places where it might be needed, while other areas it wouldn’t be needed, like allowing roads under the tracks, especially around farm roads and water delivery to crops and of course eliminating grade crossings and I’ve waited for trains to go past and no one likes to wait all that much.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Alon: Good idea, if you do it TEN YEARS AGO.

    It’s a bit late now; we’re gonna get the megafloods even if we reduce carbon emissions massively, right now.

    We still have to reduce carbon emissions massively, right now, because there are MORE disasters which will come if we don’t. But this looks like a “baked-in” disaster.

  6. synonymouse
    Dec 3rd, 2012 at 11:36

    Muni defaults to path of least political resistance as usual:


    Mediocre station location and stuck again in the mud of alluvial Columbus Avenue. I guess they crapped out on the idea of a bond issue to mine straight ahead on Stockton to the Wharf.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    great idea-thank you Muni

    synonymouse Reply:

    Stubbed-out at the mouth of a natural stream bed – great idea?

    The straight out Stockton wharf extension is vastly preferable, with a station at Washington Square(connection to #41 and #45) and tie-in to the Embarcadero streetcar line, surfacing north of Bay Street.

    J. Wong Reply:

    The Pagoda Theater _is_ Washington Square (right across Columbus from the square).

    synonymouse Reply:

    I’m thinking right at Union, up the escalator onto the Union bus. On Columbus you have complicated trackage, on the outside lanes, with the Mason cable and funky curve and hill from Columbus onto Northpoint. Trolley buses are better suited. Streetcars on Bay and Lombard? Ho! Ho! Ho! You really are too far north for a tunnel to the central Marina. It’s screwed.

    The heavy Bredas are not going to be around forever – a little T service in the morning and evening out toward Ft. Mason is not inconceivable.

    But your Pagoda stub might as well be forever. It is consistent nonetheless with the rest of the botch-job.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s all a vast plot to build the underground antenna Nancy Pelosi will need to send out her mind rays to all of North America.

    Jon Reply:

    I’m pretty sure that neither Fisherman’s Wharf merchants nor Muni operations want to see Breda LRV mixing with historic streetcars on the F-line tracks.

    The best extension route for the Central Subway is still the SPUR suggestion, but there are a few issues with it. One is that you’ll never be able get support for a permanent tunnel portal at Washington Square; you’ll need to surface further up Columbus, perhaps just north of Chestnut or just south of Bay. Also Bay St might make a better route than North Point as it’s wide enough for the LRVs to have dedicated lanes. And finally, in order to properly replace the 30-Stockton the surface extension should continue south on Van Ness to Lombard, and then west on Lombard to the Presidio, with LRVs in dedicated lanes in the center of both roads.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    So how fast are these muni trains? And they are discussed here because? Yawn…………….

    swing hanger Reply:

    This time it’s the suxway, another day, another thread it will be the Chandlers, or flange squeal on BART…

    Jon Reply:

    Because there is nothing happening with the HSR project worth talking about? Beats another zombie Altamont vs Pacheco debate anyway.

  7. datacruncher
    Dec 3rd, 2012 at 11:51

    Brown Seeks Sovereign Wealth to Back High-Speed Rail Line
    “California is courting sovereign- wealth funds, pensions and endowments for more than $50 billion to build Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed bullet train to link the state’s largest cities, the most expensive public-works project in U.S. history.”

    synonymouse Reply:

    Maybe they can score some of that endless German “tranche” to Greece. hehe

    Real sovereigns can forgive debt but pension funds will want to be made whole by the taxpayers. Plus ca change…….

  8. Jo
    Dec 3rd, 2012 at 13:17

    Concerning MS. Alexis’ statement that Fresno will become a suburb of San Jose and that farm land will be gobbled up if HSR is built: she obviously does not have a clue about Fresno. Yes, Fresno’s planning and urban sprawl mentality have been awful in the past. But Fresno’s new general plan does direct growth inward – as in infill; and HSR was a consideration in this. Fresno does not and never will aspire to become a suburb of San Jose. Somebody should tell Ms. Alexis that the world does not revolve around San Jose/PaloAlto.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But apparently Bako has entertained fantasies that it will become a suburb of LaLa with the much faster Tejon connection. They are afraid it will succeed – how can the project even hope to break even with that kind of attitude?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Bakersfield is already a suburb of LA. People were commuting already in the ’80s, and the numbers have increased over the last 30 years (though going down now thanks to gas prices and all).

    Joey Reply:

    There’s a simple solution – just out price commuters.

    synonymouse Reply:

    No can do – the CHSRA, in its current iteration – is precisely a collection of commute rail operations.

    Tell “just out price commuters” to Antonovich and he’ll show you the door faster than Roelof.

    Joey Reply:

    Fortunately it isn’t the CHSRA who will be setting ticket prices.

    joe Reply:

    Brilliant idea. Fantastic – Let’s make the golden gate toll $100.00 and protect Marin.

    Joey Reply:

    From what? The Golden Gate bridge is used primarily for commuting and is already at capacity during rush hour. On that front at least, there’s no demand for higher tolls, even if there were significant concerns about curbing sprawl in Marin, which there aren’t.

    VBobier Reply:

    Just what the Golden Gate doesn’t need, More an more traffic…

  9. Paul Dyson
    Dec 3rd, 2012 at 17:42

    This may be old news to many but I’m just home from the USHSRA conference in LA and listening to Mr. Richard. In answer to my question on signalling systems, no, HSR system is not the same as Caltrain’s, but Caltrain “can accommodate three different systems”. So we haven’t begun construction and already we taxpayers are paying for two different sets of signalling which may be interoperable but still represent DUPLICATION and a WASTE OF PUBLIC MONEY.
    My second question was about Sylmar to Palmdale, which I described as the railroad equivalent to the Angeles Crest Highway, i.e. slow and circuitous. The CHSRA blended plan? Well, passengers will be fed up with the slow journey time (at least 90 minutes LA Palmdale) and will call their elected officials to get funding for a new line. This is called a “Business Plan”!
    More likely there will be no calls because, having seen the schedule, passengers simply will not buy tickets in any commercial number for such a service. Indeed if the state stops operating the Thruway buses from Bakersfield likely some entrepreneur will run them since the door to door journey time will be much shorter.
    My initial thought: after building south to Bakersfield, start building north from LAUS and bridge the gap from the south, or build from LAUS and Bako together. At least we’ll have a commercially useful service to Palmdale (even Las Vegas?) rather than a stranded asset from Bako to Palmdale and still the 1870 route from Palmdale to LAUS. What thinkest thou, or wiser brethren?
    Is this not another example of CHSRA brinkmanship? Build something expensive and stupid and hope to force the feds to cough up the dollars to make something useful?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Dan Richard presided over BART, when it replaced the Caltrain shuttle with the slow and circuitous “Y” to SFO. Lots of passengers have been fed up with the slow journey time. Amazingly that has not resulted in getting elected officials to fix the problem.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “Build something expensive and stupid…” I think you’ve got something there.

    Joey Reply:

    A recent agreement with UP guarantees that there will be a dedicated FRA track from Palmdale to LA, with no catenary strung above it. Probably just as well … the route through Soledad Canyon is completely unusable and most of the San Fernando Valley has sufficient room for additional tracks.

    So yeah. Basically we’re not looking at any service until we reach LAUS.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Guess again.

    There will be service from Merced to Palmdale, which is what the urban transit systems want. What the BARTs and MTAs of the world fear the most is a fast diesel train that competes head-to-head with ACE/Capitol Corridor/Metrolink for the commuter rail passengers. The reason for this is that said transit systems have to use the legacy commuter rail to leverage further expansion of the heavy rail systems they are building.

    It’s not unlike what happened in Santa Clara County decades ago. They were experiencing sprawl on an L.A. like magnitude but didn’t have the federal or state delegation to get that much highway money. So they built “expressways” which are not totally grade separated but for the most part are. According to my father, the average speed on them was 32 mph…on the beautiful Southern California freeway system…35.

    Joey Reply:

    So … service to Palmdale with barely-existant and slow Metrolink connection?

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Let me give you an example of what I am talking about:

    Someone thinks it’s a good idea to have the Red Line continue northward to a station in Sylmar. This is convenient, given that complications have opened the door to a new station in that vicinity. Sylmar already has a Metrolink connection that takes roughly 75 minutes to reach Palmdale. But if you made an express train that took no intervening stops, you could shave off maybe 20 minutes. Then you have a 75 minute trip on HSR to Merced, followed by a nonstop train run by ACE on UP’s ROW that in another 75 minutes drops you in Livermore at a new BART station.

    Now this isn’t a short journey because you then have another hour to go at both ends on BART or Metro. But that’s exactly the point: you get more riders travelling longer distances and you get more support for extensions for BART and Metro. Eventually, over time HSR expands but after the point in which it is no longer a threat to the powers that be.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    It’s amazing to me that for as long this blog has been around, people don’t grasp the political masterstroke of starting in the Central Valley.

    Usually the argument breaks down like this. Someone points out the transcontinental railroad didn’t start in the middle, but at the end and worked its way to meet up. Little do said people realize it was only because of Lincoln’s efforts to build the first railway bridge over the Mississippi a decade earlier that you had the eastern terminus in Nebraska to begin with.

    Then someone points out the federal highway projects starting in Missouri or Kansas. But unlike 1960s America, and 2010s Washington, all political power in California is concentrated in urban areas because the Supreme Court requires state legislatures (potentially unconstitutionally) represent “one man, one vote”.

    So what you have in this lonely stretch of track between Merced and Bakersfield is genius. If you let the Feds (who still have balance in their plebiscite) build a new, shiny train set in the Valley just close enough for the Bay Area and L.A. to touch it, then elected officials will find the money to connect the dots.

    BART to SFO is a similar story. Once the City invested enough into the new international terminal, the BART board turned into Jerry Maguire and told staff to show them the money.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It’s genius Tom, but no one will buy any tickets to ride it…

    joe Reply:

    Tom’s nailed one of the many advantages of the CV start.

    CA uses the ARRA & Prop1A funds to create a core/spine of a true HSR system in the CV. Connecting N and S to the CV is in both coastal and CV interests – the money will be found.

    Paul’s answer is why this state system has taken so long – CV is full of millions no-bodies.

    There’s going to be a HSR line to connect to – not so Meh.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Personally I think the ‘one man one vote’ rulings are accurate interpretations of the Constitution but they sure were radical at the time.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The same Constitution that counted some people as 3/5ths of person? The framers had a very different view of things compared to today’s.

  10. Loren Petrich
    Dec 3rd, 2012 at 19:16

    The idea of Fresno as a suburb of San Jose reminds me of Philadelphia To Become Suburb of New York City: Hilarious Poster From 1839 | Geekadelphia

    Jo Reply:

    Fresno being a suburb of San Jose and Bakersfield being a suburb of Los Angeles is ridicules. If Fresno is a suburb of San Francisco, and Bakersfield is a suburb of Los Angeles; then San Jose is only a suburb of San Francisco, and San Diego is only a suburb of Los Angeles. All ridicules thoughts; this only reflects the typical ignorance about the San Joaquin Valley. Bakersfield and Fresno are cities in their own rights with their own aspirations; something that HSR will only enhance and improve upon.

    Nathanael Reply:

    And I know people who commute from Philadelphia to New York.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Lots of them in Bucks County too. Unfortunately I didn’t save the link to the article with references. If I did the arithmetic correctly 52% of the people using Trenton and Hamilton New Jersey train stations are Pennsylvanians going to Manhattan.

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