2013: The Year Ahead in High Speed Rail

Jan 1st, 2013 | Posted by

With many of the political battles that consumed 2012 now behind us, 2013 is shaping up to be a great year for high speed rail in California – headlined by the likelihood that construction will begin sometime this year.

West Sacramento setback levee construction

Here are some of the things that we’ll be watching closely here in 2013:

Central Valley HSR construction begins sometime this year. Last we heard, bids for the initial construction segment of the California HSR project from Merced to Fresno are due on January 18. Jeffrey Morales, CEO of the California High Speed Rail Authority, expects to award a contract by June. This fall, property acquisition and initial construction work will begin, assuming there are no successful legal challenges. The heavy construction will probably not begin until 2014, but we should still be seeing visible work sometime in 2013.

Caltrain electrification continues to move forward. The Caltrain modernization project is funded and working its way through the environmental review process, including the usual vehement opposition from Peninsula NIMBYs who hate the idea of improved passenger rail service. CBOSS installation is slated to begin this spring, and whether you love it or hate it, it’s an important step forward in building infrastructure that will eventually be used by high speed trains serving San Francisco.

Will XpressWest get its federal loan? There could be two high speed rail projects underway in California in 2013. The Las Vegas to Victorville (and eventually, to LA) high speed rail project that renamed itself XpressWest in 2012 has an approved EIS and could start construction this year – but it depends on whether they get the federal loan they’ve been seeking. They applied for that loan nearly two years ago and have been working with the federal government on it, but we still don’t know whether it has been granted. I’ve always assumed that the Obama Administration was waiting for the election and the “fiscal cliff” deal to pass before taking action on it, but with that latter ball being (apparently) kicked down the road another two months, the XpressWest loan application may be stalled too.

Will high speed rail continue to prevail in court? So far the CHSRA has won all of the legal battles that opponents have waged against the project so far, with only small technical EIR changes having been ordered. The Authority won another legal victory in 2012, this time over an alliance of Farm Bureaus. The full trial in that case is scheduled for April 19, but Judge Tim Frawley already indicated he is likely to side with the state. A very different suit looms from Peninsula NIMBYs, who claim that the construction phasing plan violates Proposition 1A. If the state prevails in that hearing, it would seem there is no remaining legal obstacle to construction commencing in 2013.

CEQA reform is coming. Last August, a sudden proposal to change the California Environmental Quality Act emerged near the end of the legislative session. Many Democrats balked at this proposal, especially the way in which it was introduced, and the proposal was temporarily withdrawn. But it hasn’t gone away, and it is clear that CEQA reform is going to be a major issue in 2013. I will have much more to say about this later this week.

Transportation funding reform is on the table. Los Angeles County’s Measure J transportation funding package received 66.11% yes votes – and still “failed” because it had to get 2/3, or 66.7%. That is a totally ridiculous situation and a serious impediment to building better transit, including that which can connect to HSR stations. So it’s good news that the incoming Democratic supermajority is proposing to reduce the requirement for passing a transit revenue proposal to 55%. I’d prefer it be 50%+1, but 55% is something I can live with. The state still faces a systematic transit funding shortfall, and although Senator Ted Lieu quickly stepped back from his vehicle license fee proposal, the problem won’t go away. It’s good to know that the legislature is aware of it, and looking at possible solutions.

Can Congress do any damage? As a totally broken institution and with the House in the hands of extremist Republicans bent on obstruction, we can’t really expect any new federal funding for high speed rail. And despite the best efforts of Kevin McCarthy and Jeff Denham, it seems unlikely that Congress will take away any HSR money they’ve already given California. So it looks like two more years of stalemate, which at this point I’ll take. Can’t go on like this for too much longer, but then again, it’s not just HSR suffering from Republican extremism – it’s everything else in society too.

  1. Frank Olken
    Jan 1st, 2013 at 18:12

    We need an increase in the California (and national) gas taxes to provide more revenue for all forms of transportation.

    BeWise Reply:

    The problem with raising the gas tax is that as automobiles become more fuel efficient (or even become electric, let it be in the form of hybrids, or out-right electric cars), revenue from such a tax hike will have less and less of an effect. In my opinion, the best way to raise additional revenue from those who drive is to continue to implement such projects as express lanes/congestion pricing on the state’s busiest freeway systems, similar to those on the I-110 and I-10 in LA.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Well, yeah. The gas tax is not a good long-term revenue source.

    Since electric cars will still remain expensive for some time, and since the people in control of the Federal Government are intent on impoverishing the population, I expect the total number of drivers to keep dropping. A good revenue source is to stop spending money on expressways.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s the point. A gas tax is not just about revenue. It’s about causing a change in behavior, toward less driving and toward switching the remaining driving to more fuel-efficient cars. If fuel consumption drops in half because of a gas tax, it’s not a revenue crisis, because the costs of air pollution and climate change will also drop in half, and to the extent the drop comes from less driving the accident costs will also drop.

    TomW Reply:

    If we hiked the gas tax so much that everyone switched to electric cars, then environmentally that would a Good Thing. (Of course, you’d still have the economic issues from congestion, but at least the impacts are local rather than global.)

    Derek Reply:

    Electric cars are only better for the environment where the electricity mostly comes from renewables. That includes the west coast and some of New England, but not many states inbetween.

    joe Reply:

    So in my town it’s natural gas vs gasoline. Which is worse?

    Derek Reply:

    If those are your choices, a Prius is better.

    joe Reply:

    Not bad choice but it depends.

    The U.C.S. report, which takes into account the full cycle of energy production, often called a well-to-wheels analysis, demonstrates that in areas where the electric utility relies on natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric or renewable sources to power its generators, the potential for electric cars and plug-in hybrids to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is great. But where generators are powered by burning a high percentage of coal, electric cars may not be even as good as the latest gasoline models — and far short of the thriftiest hybrids.

    In CA the electric auto has the carbon foot print of a 79 MPG which beats the Prius.

    VBobier Reply:

    In My case, Gasoline is all that I can afford and if some had their way I’d be lucky if I could even do repairs, financing a replacement car is almost impossible on what I get now and transit out here is not doable for Me, cause transit imposes a few hoops and is not friendly to the disabled when it comes to bus stops, a 4 bag limit for shopping per trip and cash(coins only) only for a ride, no monthly passes or anything like that, but then it’s part time dial a ride, if they close for the night, You are stuck.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Probably the electric is marginally better. It’s only a big difference if your electricity comes from coal, in which case electrics are bad for emissions (still better for local pollution and noise), or from hydro or renewables, in which case anything electric is close to zero-emission.

    jimsf Reply:

    and will people going to magically “switch” to electric cars? Is the state going to hand them out? Id love one…well when they come out with one that isnt butt ugly… but who has 25k laying around to just “switch”

    The bst thing about them isnt the reduction in smog but the reduction in noise

    jimsf Reply:

    this one is nice…so if the state is going to hand them out great… only prob is the 79 mile range… not even enough to get me part way to my bf’s housenever mind trips to tahoe, palm spr clear lake sac, sf etc not very useful.

    in a state like cali these cars need at least a 250 mile range to approach being practical plus a way to pull over at a charging station and get a full charge in under 10 minutes.

    Derek Reply:

    If the majority of your driving is more than 79 miles, then you should move closer to work.

    joe Reply:

    Why? I commute 90-100 per day.

    Alon Levy Reply:


    Derek Reply:

    If you can charge at work, an electric range of 79 miles is more than enough for a one-way commute of 45-50 miles.

    joe Reply:

    @Alon: Kids Alon. When you have kids you lose flexibility and No I am not going move to Plao Alto postage stamp apt (if I could) for the few years a kid is young and in elementary school.

    @Derek Charging access away from home is not reliable. IMHO that’s a problem with charging electric vehicles. So you’re tarde favoring the Prius is pretty good for longer distance users.
    You’d be surprised that Stanford isn’t leading with charging stations.

    Tesla is the only model that can go a distance and it’s with the larger battery bringing the cost to 70k-80k.

    Leaf range is a gimmick – the vehicle’s range is calculated at 40 MPH running without lights, A/C or heater or radio.

    Volt gets 32 MPG with gas and electric range is about 35 Miles.

    Prius Range is 15 miles and then 44 MPG overall.

    Corolla is 32 MPH overall and 18K

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re acting like there haven’t been generations of kids, of all social classes, growing up in walkable cities. Not in the US, but there’s a wide world outside that particular gated community.

    jimsf Reply:

    lots of people dont like living in cities. they like small towns they like living in the mountains or at the beach and they even like living in the suburbs. who are you to tell them where they have to live. you dont even live in this country alon.
    TOD and HSR are great for those who like that lifestyle Im all for having the option but you cant force people to live there.

    Joey Reply:

    lots of people dont like living in cities. they like small towns they like living in the mountains or at the beach and they even like living in the suburbs.

    So now you’re phrasing it as a choice, but people shouldn’t be forced to pay for the impact of where they *choose* to live?

    jimsf Reply:

    people impact the environment no matter where they live. Should the 800k people in sf be made to pay for their destruction of pristine coastal hilltops and natural habitat?

    How about the massive amounts of sewage and garbage angelinos dump into the pacific and export to the desert?

    I remember traveling throughout the us back in the late 60s as a child. this country is pristine today compared to then. the lakes and rivers were dead and full of brown sludge. the skies over the steel belt was a color youve never seen. forest were dead from acid rain. and americans used to litter as a regular habit tossing garbage out the car window was just what they did.

    its not us who needs to pay for swimming lessons for bangladeshis

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    One of the things I find strange is this attitude that we have to have cars and suburbs, or trains, transit, and anthill apartment buildings. Seems we have had and still have other options, including towns with railroad connections, and trolley suburbs–the latter often quite walkable. I grew up in one, although the trolleys were gone by 1938; what we did have were the “old look” GM buses that replaced them.

    This is a tourist attraction in Fort Collins, Co., but it apparently is also used by people for local trips as well. It’s notable for being a true historic Fort Collins car, running on the same route it did in regular service, passing the same houses it did back then, too. Looks like a nice place:


    Other “dual service” transit lines (doubling as both transit service and tourist attraction)

    Tampa, Fla. (which to my eyes looks most like something you would see in California, complete with palm trees):


    Kenosha, Wisc., running mostly in a redeveloped area, with waterfront:



    A classic example is of course the system in New Orleans, La., a true heritage operation. This footage predates the Katrina hurricane, but supposedly it still looks much the same, being an area that wasn’t damaged as much by the flooding. The system is also larger now than it was then.:


    Have fun.

    jimsf Reply:

    we need more of those streetcar lines in our small towns I found out that in SLO there use to be a mini train to avila beach! how cool would that be

    joe Reply:

    Gilroy is a walkable city. I walk to the farmers market and Caltrain when I can use it. Walk downton, to the store and library and city demonstration garden.

    Some guys confuse large city human habitat space with a foot print. SF flooded a sierra valley for drinking water and their farmers market has vendors driving in from Timbuktu.

    Our water is locally recharged by slowing surface water and our markets carry local produce.

    My commute from SF was the same as it is in Gilroy – just the opposite direction.

    Add a kid and lame service in south county and I have to drive while my kid is small and needs my attention. I choose to live in a place where I can walk to a creek and have my kid throw stones in the water. Access to redwoods, coastal parks and hikes.

    Clem Reply:

    You work in PA, right?

    joe Reply:

    PA and MtV.

    Joey Reply:

    Should the 800k people in sf be made to pay for their destruction of pristine coastal hilltops and natural habitat?

    How about the massive amounts of sewage and garbage angelinos dump into the pacific and export to the desert?

    Short answer: yes

    Nathanael Reply:

    [blockquote]people impact the environment no matter where they live. Should the 800k people in sf be made to pay for their destruction of pristine coastal hilltops and natural habitat?

    How about the massive amounts of sewage and garbage angelinos dump into the pacific and
    export to the desert?[/blockquote]
    Short answer: yes.

    I also support “streetcar suburbs”. I’m sorry that VTA light rail doesn’t cut it (really badly badly designed), because it ought to be able to take joe from his suburb to Mountain View and Palo Alto, but isn’t able to.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The Fort Collins historic trolley — I’ve ridden that, last time I was in Ft. Collins. It apparently gets local business shuttling people between the downtown (restaurant district) and the park. (So people can park in one place and go to the attractions of both.) Apparently a lot of it is ice cream business — people with their kids at the park ride downtown, buy ice cream, and bring it back to the park.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Joe, the reason South County commuter rail doesn’t work is that for the benefit of Gilroy sprawl, the county widened 101. If instead 101 were heavily tolled, or otherwise driving were heavily taxed, Caltrain ridership would start going up, justifying better service.

    Jim, footprint per capita is lower in SF than elsewhere in California. 800,000 people anywhere export trash, etc. In SF it’s just concentrated, unlike in the CV or the Peninsula or Antelope Valley. And none of this is relevant to climate change, which is what affects people in developing countries, and on which the US has made negative progress since the 1960s. So yes, it is you who needs to pay.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “We need more of those streetcar lines in our small towns. I found out that in SLO there use to be a mini train to avila beach! How cool would that be?”–Jim SF

    Not quite the miniature train you had there, but I bet you would love the two-foot roads that ran in Maine, hauling all kinds of things, including thousands and thousands of board feet of pulpwood.

    A rebuilding example, the WW&F from just this past Christmas:


    Other stuff:





    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Blast it, that photo link didn’t work too good. Let’s try again:


    Jon Reply:

    @joe- if you can’t find an affordable place to live big enough for two people and a kid within say 10 miles of Palo Alto or Mountain View, I would suggest that you’re not looking very hard.

    joe Reply:

    Alon@ south county transportation is neglected. The 3 trains are too few to reliably commute. Miss that train with a delayed shuttle bus and you are fucked.

    If they added trains, ridership would increase as it is now. It’s the same argument against cutting service in the peninsula, cuts lose ridership.

    South County gets one way service. N in the AM and S in the PM. If the service were two way, double the number of trains, the low cost of living in South County, access to office parks and educated workforce would increase reliance on Caltrain and add ridership.

    BTW development within the established city boundaries of Gilroy is not sprawl. Adding anew HS is not sprawl. The city invested heavily into infill (the Cannery Development) and building up the downtown to 3 stories.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s not that service cuts led to lower ridership: it’s the opposite. The line competes with a road that’s too fast and high-capacity. There’s a finite amount of money for transit subsidies, and it should go to places where it can promote the most ridership.

    And “low cost of living” is code for “the Peninsula NIMBYs refuse to add housing on the Peninsula in order to preserve their property values.”

    joe Reply:

    There’s a lot to Santa Clara south and east of the San Jose station. It’s not earned neglect.
    It’s bias, not economics.

    Peninsula NIMBYs are incompetent.
    2006 Palo Alto pop was 56K, 2011 it was 65K.
    2006 Menlo Park pop was 29K, 2011 it was 32.5K.
    2006 MtV pop was 69K, 2011 75K.

    That’s all pop growth rates exceeding CA overall.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I choose to live in a place where I can walk to a creek and have my kid throw stones in the water. Access to redwoods, coastal parks and hikes.


    south county transportation is neglected.

    “I am a welfare queen.”

    joe Reply:

    No interested.

    joe Reply:

    @jon- I’m all ears. Where are the deals?

    Jon Reply:

    I would suggest the problem is one of differing expectations rather than lack of deals. I would probably be happy adding a third small person to my small SF apartment – I have a friend who shares a similarly sized apartment with a partner & small child and manages just fine – but I guess that you would probably not be. The trade-off for the reduction in living space is that I’m a short walk to a subway station, and a 10 minute bike ride to work. Those things are more important to me than having a big apartment. You clearly value living space, and put up with a 90-100 mile commute everyday in order to have more of it.

    Nothing wrong with that, but two things to bear in mind. Firstly, the cost of driving in the US is far below the environmental and societal damage it inflicts; driving should be more expensive than it is, and when gas hits $10/gallon the number of people willing to put up with a 90-100 mile commute will drop off dramatically. Secondly, the viability of transit is proportionality to the density of population and jobs in the area that it serves – it’s often said that it’s proportional to the square of pop/jobs density – so there is no reason to throw money away providing too much transit service to low-density Gilroy, as illustrated by Clem’s classic chart.

    jimsf Reply:

    sometimes its not even about living space. my job is in slo county where the median home price is close to 400k.
    i shop for homes constantly its an obsession – there is no home or condo in my range without crossing the county line into santa barbara county into santa maria. that would be a 50 minute commute each way should i want to secure a home formy old age

    when sf starts selling homes for 150k ill move back and take muni. gladly.

    joe Reply:

    @Jon – I get what you’re doing and did that myself then you start to hit 40+ and make plans. You think about kids and retiring.

    Think about the school and daycare you would use in your SF neighborhood. A good private school will coast about a toyota corolla a year or more. You also have to save 500+ for college per kid. And you need to feed that 401k or 403b fund.

    In the dot-com boom I saw retired people who had rented with SF rent control protection after 20+ years get throw out. Owning a home is important. Moving at an older age is very hard.

    Even without kids, you want to retire and have stable housing price.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    Translation: “As middle and upper class people people get older, they get better at manipulating the political process to reward themselves and at disenfranchising the less worthy. I’ve got mine, now give me more.”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re not too good for city public schools. I went to public schools in Tel Aviv and they were better than the private school I went to in Singapore for a year and a half. You’re not too good for Social Security and your own savings. Have you ever thought that maybe the reason American public services suck so much is that everyone from the lower middle class up thinks they’re too good for them and try to escape? Then as a result only poor people use those services, and then they either become definitionally bad, e.g. public transit that not enough people ride, or degrade because important people don’t fight for them, e.g. Social Security.

    (More on this at my place, hopefully this weekend.)

    Jon Reply:

    @joe- my partner is a teacher for SFUSD and I absolutely intend to send my kids there, if/when that happens. Both my partner and I went to public schools (my partner in car-theft-and-meth-capital Fresno) and came out just fine. Again, you are assuming I share your values and therefore will make the same choices as you.

    I would love to buy a home at some point in the future, but why not in SF? As with renting you’ll get less square footage for your dollars, but that only matters to you if that matters to you. You may have noticed that in the recent housing collapse, it was housing prices in urban areas that remained stable, and housing prices in the exurbs that went through the floor. And when I do retire and get to old to drive I’ll be glad to be within walking/transit distance of everything I need.

    As I said, I know people my own age who are raising kids in the city. It’s not that hard. In fact I think the burden of constantly having to drive kids to school/soccer practice/friend’s houses/wherever would quickly drive me crazy if I lived somewhere where most destinations were not within walking/transit difference. I also think city living is much better for kids to develop independence and a strong social circle. The two biggest killers of teens are car crashes and suicide, both (IMHO) negative consequences of suburban isolation.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    So basically we’re being asked to subsidize, out of scarce transit funds, the lifestyles of upper middle class exurbanites. Because it’s your god given right to live in a comfy small town and expect your government to pick up your 50 mile commute tab. Real classy.I view your actions as being uber selfish.

    VBobier Reply:

    @ Joe, Wow, I’ll stick with My 1999 Ford Escort zx2 Sport Hot Coupe, it gets 30mpg with Me in it, with someone that’s lighter and yes at 55mph, the car should get 33mpg…

    joe Reply:

    Lot’s of stereotypes there. Living along Caltrain isn’t suburban isolation. Small city cores are not car centric or isolated.

    A family commits to the local public schools when they enroll. Until then it’s an intention. The nearest walkable grade school to my old SF home has an improving 489 API score (not acceptable) another a bit further is a respectable 758 API. The homes are unaffordable. Maybe the local school near you is okay.

    Our public school scores 863 and my 2012 house payment is less than my 1996 rent and equal to it with tax and insurance.

    You’ll retire on a fixed income. You can be evicted from a SF rental. Many elderly were evicted in the dot com boom and unable to find housing. Retiring in a walkable place assumes you can pay the rent as it tracks market rates. That’s hard.

    In 1996 my SF Noé 2-flat sold for 430K, in 2008 it sold for 1.5M. Zillow values now at 1.3M. What’s the financial plan to retire and stay in a desirable neighborhood? It’s fantastically walkable but not affordable as a rental.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    None of those issues with city living is a God-given fact, and if the federal government starts cracking down on driving, some will start fixing themselves. Namely:

    1. School quality is a function of who goes to current public schools. Americans who can avoid city public schools usually do, so the public schools are populated with those who have to be there. If people can’t afford to move away and go back, the population of the public schools will change.

    2. Persistent increases in rent come from zoning restrictions. A positive right-to-build law would take care of enough of that to make cities affordable. This requires winning a fight with greedy, selfish homeowners who think they’re entitled to fourfold increases in asset values over 12 years without paying capital gains or property taxes.

    3. The correct plan for retirement is to save about 25-30% of your income. Assume Social Security won’t be there when you retire; in the US it’s one Republican control of all branches of government from elimination, and in other first-world countries the national pension equivalents are also under attack. Put that 25-30% in a savings account, or buy bonds. Do not speculate on real estate, including real estate you plan to live in; risky investments like that are for money you can afford to lose.

    4. The more people live in a city, the less isolated it is. Suburbs paper this over by having cars and very fast highways for them, so the total access is comparable to access in a city without a car. Otherwise, it gets grim for anyone with even the slightest of eclecticism.

    Jon Reply:

    Living along Caltrain isn’t suburban isolation. Small city cores are not car centric or isolated.

    This is the same Gilroy I’ve been to, right? 50,000 people in 16 square miles, and three trains a day? You said yourself that Caltrain from Gilroy is unusable, and I’m sure you are correct.

    We’re talking past each other. Always happens in these sorts of debates. It’s hard to talk about the relationship between density, land use and transit because it’s always perceived as a criticism of someone’s way of life. The point is, you don’t ‘need’ to live where you do, the ‘need’ is based on what you consider to be important to you, and that varies by person.

    blankslate Reply:

    What if you don’t drive at all to go to work, but regularly take weekend trips that exceed 79 miles rt? I drove from Oakland to Half Moon Bay to Moss Beach and then back again yesterday, for a total of about 100 miles. We take family trips to Sacramento (90 miles oneway, so I wouldn’t be able to even make it there to mooch off my father-in-law’s electricity for the ride home).

    And no, Zipcar and car rental are not convenient options in our location (about 1.5 mile walk minimum to either one). Plus, going where you want when you want is the entire point of owning a car. If I’m going to pay all the costs, including buying, maintaining, and parking an electric car, I want the benefits of car ownership. I was a non-car owner for ten years and going through the hassle of renting once a month or so was an acceptable fact of existence, but dealing with all the hassles of ownership PLUS the hassles of rental/carshare just doesn’t sound worth it.

    jimsf Reply:

    rthe majoity of my driving is not to work. i have a 10 minute commute 4 days a week. that accounts for 240 miles per month of the 1800 miles i drive per months on average and the remaining 1500+ miles per month are trips in the 120=220 mile each way range. I live on the central coast now. I have freinds family and other reasons to travel to lake county sonoma county sac county yuba county reno nv visalia ca long beach fresno palm springs and OC not county all the nice places to visit from tahoe to monyery bay to yosemite.

    you need a car in cali that can make those trips…


    jimsf Reply:

    (pardon the typos= tryin to type on a netbook while layin in bed)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They’re going to decide to buy smaller or more fuel-efficient cars if gas prices rise. This is what Americans did in the 1973 oil crisis.

    Jonathan Reply:


    Nathanael Reply:

    “They” are going to do different things depending on situation.
    (1) Low income bracket.

    Will move near work and get rid of car (in favor of bike, probably) if possible.

    Will buy cheap used cars if not possible (these people are in big big trouble as the gas prices will keep hitting them)

    This is unfortunately the fastest growing group of Americans thanks to our terrible impoverishing economic policies.

    (2) Lower-middle income bracket

    Will buy smaller and more fuel-efficient cars.

    (3) Upper-middle income bracket

    Will move closer to work and use trains and walking if possible.
    Will also buy smaller and more fuel-efficient cars, or perhaps Nissan Leaf type electrics.

    (4) High income bracket
    Will buy Teslas.

    jimsf Reply:

    Jim, footprint per capita is lower in SF than elsewhere in California. 800,000 people anywhere export trash, etc. In SF it’s just concentrated, unlike in the CV or the Peninsula or Antelope Valley. And none of this is relevant to climate change, which is what affects people in developing countries, and on which the US has made negative progress since the 1960s. So yes, it is you who needs to pay

    you dont live in the us and you cant dictate our policies and im not payin shit.

    yesterday i went joy riding all over the county just out of boredom.

    while i support investment in transit, i also support investment in highway improvements. while i support cities using planning to create livable cities, i also support people living where and how they want. your arenot going to dictate how americans can or cant live. younjust arent

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You don’t live in Bangladesh (or India, or Vietnam, or any of scores of other low-income climate change-sensitive countries) but you feel like you’re entitled to drown or boil the people there.

    jimsf Reply:

    youre a drama queen and its not my fault those people breed like rabbits. they shouldnt have put that many people in mud huts that close to the ocean. go tell china and india what to do. lord knows they need some direction.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I agree. People need to stop hitting my fist with their noses.

    Joey Reply:

    Oh, and you think you can’t afford to live somewhere better?

    jimsf Reply:

    guess what. 20 years from now california will look exactly like it does today. the majoity of people will still be driving the same type of cars, cities will still be building suburban housing tracts and shopping centers. californians w2ill still be commuting 40 minutes in traffic to work on the 405 and over the bay bridge. they will still pile the kids into the family tank to traverse the state to pismo and yosemite and disney.

    yes there will be new types of developments in housing and there will be more transit and hsr added. but outside the cicrles of “urban trendies” and self agrandized intellectual elite. no one will even notice. or care and the single family detached home will remain in demand.

    the central valley will become another inland empire and the inland empire will look just like la county.

    you can bet on it

    Nathanael Reply:

    No, it won’t. You’re making the error of ignoring little things like global warming, peak oil,… and the unrelated changes in our economic system which are impoverishing the masses.

    California will look extremely different in 20 years. I can’t even imagine what it will look like, but your vision is certain to be wrong.

    You sound like the people of 1955 who thought everything would be just the same in 1975. Or the people of 1910 who thought everything would be just the same in 1930. Or the people of 1930 who thought everything would be just the same in 1950. It’s an attractive mistake to make, but *things change*, and there’s a lot of evidence that settlement patterns are going to be one of the things which changes in the next 20 years.

    Unsustainable things stop happening. It’s part of the definition of “unsustainable”.

    Nathanael Reply:

    In the list of little things you’re ignoring, I forgot to mention the dwindling water supply for California.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Dwindlin’ water supply?

    There’s plenty of water, but it’s not near the major coastal metropolises. The shortage is wholly contained within the reservoirs that slake the arid region’s thirst.

    Joey Reply:

    We may not see huge change but it’s likely that California will look a little bit different in 20 years. Exurbs have already started to implode (true, this is mainly due to the housing crisis but there are very fundamental reasons why this affected exurbs more than urban areas and inner ring suburbs). Studies show that young people are learning to drive later than their parents or not at all, and it’s highly likely that as they begin to settle down and have children, walkability and convenience of amenities will become more important issues than having 3000 sq ft and a water-guzzling lawn. This is of course in addition to the issues which Nathaniel mentioned such as gas prices which in the long run are only going to go in one direction.

    Of course, this type of change happens slowly. Will we see a rush of people moving to downtown areas in the next couple of decades? Probably not. But it’s at least as certain that people will not continue to live farther and farther from where they work. The age of suburbanization is coming to a close…

    jimsf Reply:

    they will still be buiding these in 2032. yes theywill.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Climate apartheid now, climate apartheid tomorrow, climate apartheid to the far horizon!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Maybe that’s what we’ll be building, maybe not. Joey may be on to something, and I think there’s another factor, and that’s the limits on speed for cars. How fast you can travel in commuter service is what sets the limit on how far out a suburb can be from the jobs that support it.

    We’ve long hit the limit of how fast an automobile can travel, and that limit is the skill of the driver. Either we start training and licensing drivers to a much higher standard than we do, or we go with self-driving cars. The self-driving cars, and the improved-licensed drivers as well, will still have to interact with the current inadequately licensed drivers for years to come, so we are still having to deal with that limit. And let’s face it, some commutes are too long as it is now. Who wants to spend half as much as their working day on driving? We have a fellow posting here who says he has a 90-mile commute. That likely means his 8-hour day is really a 12 hour day.

    How much time does he have for his family and home life?

    Who needs that?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s not just speed; it’s also capacity. Cars are a low-capacity medium, and that constrains how much concentration of activity there can be in one place. With a car, you can go anywhere, but if more than five other people want to go there too, you’re screwed. With a train, you can go anywhere at least five other people want to go to. Cars and cities are incompatible, unless those cities are not recognizable as such to anyone who isn’t in a car.

    Joey Reply:

    jimsf: did you read nothing I wrote? Of course we’re still seeing housing developments, but the overall pace is slowing. There’s not as much demand for them as there was 10 years ago and there never will be again.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There’ve been quite a few of these far-out suburban developments in the last 20 years which have simply failed to sell most of their tract homes. As this trend continues, eventually we are going to see very few of those.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    There’s not enough gasoline or water to turn the Inland Empire into another Los Angeles. The only reason the southern San Joaquin Valley has seen sprawl at a fast clip is that plowing under agricultural land for houses is a net savings in water demand. However it’s also the southern Valley that produces the most lucrative cash crops precisely because they pay for water at below cost.

    Keep in mind too the freeways were largely a way to pave over the highly corporatized, highly unionized one-party rule of Southern Pacific. This “version” of California is really the third iteration of what will soon be four different epochs…

    synonymouse Reply:

    “There’s not enough gasoline or water to turn the Inland Empire into another Los Angeles.”

    That manner of thinking certainly has not penetrated the mindset of Villa, Antonovich, and Barry Zoeller. And that fact is all important, as these worthies are totally calling the shots.

    And the Harry and Jerry Show is utterly convinced that Sin City can expand exponentially.

  2. Richard Mlynarik
    Jan 1st, 2013 at 18:18

    CBOSS installation is slated to begin this spring, and whether you love it or hate it, it’s an important step forward in building infrastructure that will eventually be used by high speed trains serving San Francisco.

    Serious question: is is possible that there is anybody in the world who is stupid enough to believe this?

    Not “corrupt” enough, not “on the take enough”, not “on the gravy train enough”, not “brain-death-level ignorant enough”, not “paid-up shill enough”, not “contract overhead skimming motivated enough”, but “stupid enough”?

    Jonathan Reply:

    Instlalation of trackside fibre optics _is_ necessary for electrification.

    Laying optical fibre, good.
    Licensing and deploying ITCS: a needlesslly expensive and hard-to-defend option
    CBOSS custom modifications to ITCS: istupid. Drives up the cost, and the risk.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Instlalation of trackside fibre optics _is_ necessary for electrification.

    One wonders how all those various electrification projects prior to the invention of fiber-optics managed to work…

    Nathanael Reply:

    Laying of lots of very expensive and easy-to-steal copper wire.

    Derek Reply:

    But can fiber optics carry enough electricity to power a train?

    TomW Reply:

    The overhead wires carry the power…

    Jonathan Reply:

    Is that an attempt at humor? Fibre-optic cables are glass (or plastic) with a protective sheath. They don’t conduct electricity.

    The Caltrain board’s Board’s “Engineering Standards, Edition 2” (September 30, 2011) are online at //www.caltrain.com/about/doingbusiness/engineering/engineeringstandards.html, Chapter 5, “Signals”, says that Caltrain still has some DC track circuits left over from 2003. Those won’t work with AC electrification and need to be replaced. Fibre optics was the standard technology used with AC electrification at least 20 years ago. Do you want CalTrain to do something _else_ unique and expensive?

    joe Reply:

    Gee Richard…

    Robert Cruickshank has a lede on the DailyKos site (Aka Great Orange Satan)

    Robert’s diary on Calitics (thanks to Timothy Lange)

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    It appears that the extremists control of the House of Reps. has just been broken or a least there is division to be exploited

    Jonathan Reply:

    Meanwhile, over at Clem’s Caltrain-HSR Compatibility blog, Clem notes that CBOSS is already behind schedule and over budget.

    Caltrain Rider Reply:

    Richard Mlynarik wrote:

    CBOSS installation is slated to begin this spring, and whether you love it or hate it, it’s an important step forward in building infrastructure that will eventually be used by high speed trains serving San Francisco.

    Serious question: is is possible that there is anybody in the world who is stupid enough to believe this?
    Not “corrupt” enough, not “on the take enough”, not “on the gravy train enough”, not “brain-death-level ignorant enough”, not “paid-up shill enough”, not “contract overhead skimming motivated enough”, but “stupid enough”?

    OK you guys, if you think CBOSS/Caltrain is so bad, corrupt, stupid, etc. Then why don’t you report it to the GAO, State Auditor, County Auditor, Grand Jury, whatever appropriate watchdog, that Caltrain is wasting/missusing taxpayer dollars?

    Griping about it here wont do any good. If CBOSS is a waste then the people that can do something about it need to be notified.

    joe Reply:


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  3. Joey
    Jan 1st, 2013 at 18:30

    Robert, how exactly is CBOSS an important step toward anything when a well tested solution exists at a fraction of the price?

    Jonathan Reply:

    @Joey: I expect Robert won’t answer. Was your question rhetorical, or are you expecting Robert to defend that statement?

    Joey Reply:

    Many of the other arguments, e.g. Pacheco vs Altamont, have legitimate arguments on both sides. I have yet to hear any valid reason why CBOSS is a good thing.

    Jonathan Reply:

    A new signalling system is a good thing. Trackside fibre-optics replacing DC circuits is a good thing.
    Some form of Automatic Train Protection (ATP) which meets the US regulatory requirements for PTC is a good thing.

    Yet politicians and CalTrain managment are pushing (successfully, so far) the line that CBOSS is the only and best way to do so. That’s a flat lie. Even the MetroLink system, which is also provided by Parsons Transportation Group, is a lot cheaper per mile or per control-cab, than CBOSS.

    William Reply:

    Since we now know CBOSS is ITCS based, I suspect the answer is much simpler: it is currently the only FRA approved PTC system.

    Joey Reply:

    The CHSRA has selected ETCS as the only possibility for the rest of the system. So no, I don’t think it’s that.

    Peter Reply:

    ACSES II and ASES are chopped liver, I guess?

    William Reply:

    I stand corrected.

    However, my comment stemmed from no new PTC installation has picked ACSES II or ASES.

    I found some old tit-bit that ITCS is compatible with I-ETMS, at least on the version Amtrak is installing:

    Jonathan Reply:

    @Peter: officially, yes. You can check the relevant Technical Memorandum for details.

    By the criteria provided by CHSRA’s consultants for choosing a signalling system, ACSES II might as well be chopped liver. ACSES II has zero demonstrated deployments with high-speed rail (No, Acela does not count!), and is not available from multiple independent vendors.

    Why would anyone planning a greenfield deployment choose to install brand-new 1930s PRR pulse-coded signals with a radio overlay? That’s … rotary-dial-phone era technology.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Because it works.”

    ETCS/ETMS is designed specifically to avoid signals over the rails simply because most of the preexisting European systems used signals over the rails and ETCS/ETMS had to be compatible with them. I’m a bit surprised there isn’t a variant of ETCS/ETMS which uses over-the-rail signals, because they’re better and cheaper.

    PRR pulse codes are over-the-rail signals. That’s their advantage.

    Joey Reply:

    What’s the advantage of over-the-rail signals, other than a little bit less infrastructure?

    Nathanael Reply:

    It guarantees that movement authority doesn’t get “misbroadcast” to the train on the neighboring track, which is a difficult-to-mitigate risk with movement authority through over-the-air radio.

    You already need track circuits for track-clear detection and broken-rail detection, and you’re already using the tracks for return of current. So you already need to control the electromagnetic environment on the track. Putting movement authority over the tracks is a low-complication approach; installing thousands of balises is a high-complication approach, relatively speaking.

    Jonathan Reply:

    t guarantees that movement authority doesn’t get “misbroadcast” to the train on the neighboring track, which is a difficult-to-mitigate risk with movement authority through over-the-air radio.

    Utter nonsense!! Where has this ever happened with, for example, ETCS Level 2?
    (oh, perhaps you were special-pleading for systems designed for low-traffic-density, largely single-tracked, freight railroads? But…. who would choose a system like _that_ for a dual-track, signalled-for-bidirectoinal-running, commuter track?

    “thousands” of balises? Nathaniel, how on Earth do you get a thousand balises per direction on the Caltrain corridor??? call it 50 miles, that’s 20 balises per mile. You don’t have the faintest clue what you’re talking about.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Hm. I suppose a couple of thousand is the right order of magnitude for the entire HSR line….

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Nathanael’s idea of how GSM-R works:

    * Hey, every train! GO GO GO!

    * Hey, every turnout! SWITCH!

    That’s why they call radio a broadcast medium after all, right?

    Clem Reply:

    ERTMS still uses track circuits for track clear detection. The radio link is only for movement authorities.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “Track circuits” are another US railroading “cultural”/regulatory/trade-restraint/ossification/NIH/… holdover.

    Axle counters are cheaper and reliable for block occupancy detection.

    So: look forward to lots and lots and lots more track circuits. It’s THE AMURRRRRRRRICAN WAY.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Richard Mlynarik:

    Axle counters are … reliable for block occupancy detection.

    Thanks, I needed an early morning laugh.

    What’s that Lassy? Adrienne’s train set has reset and lost all of its axle counts and now she doesn’t know where any of her trains are? Use the track circuits like everyone else in the known world to find them.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    track circuits like everyone else in the known world
    Hi Bruce.

    You’re simply ignorant.

    That’s OK. That means you’re fully qualified for a signal design job at Caltrain. PTG, PBQD or anywhere else … in the small small small “world” of America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Richard Mlynarik:

    Yup. I’m so ignorant that I haven’t read any of the literature available concerning the preventable accidents caused by axle counters being the only method of detecting block occupancy.. Glad you caught that for me.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Bruce, thanks for sharing.

    As I said, you’re in fine company with your astute and meticulously researched analysis.

    That of America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals.

    Really, apply for a job. You’re a shoe-in. There’s hundreds of billions of unaccountable money being sprayed around, and somebody has to stand in the way of the firehose of cash. Take one for the team.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    ETCS Level 2 (and 3) works without lineside signals.

    ETCS Level 1 Limited Supervision uses lineside signals, but ETCS protocols and balises instead of the “legacy” systems; this system is now gradually introduced by the SBB to replace Signum and ZUB.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Likewise, Jr East’s Digital ATC uses track circuits and cab signaling- proven and reliable, as used on high density commuter lines in Tokyo as well as on some high speed lines in its DS-ATC form.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    One thing is that above about 160 km/h cab signals become a necessity because it is no longer possible that a signal aspect can be recognized reliably, particularly under bad weather conditions. Therefore, all high speed operations will need some cab signalling system. This may be connected directly to wayside signals, or it may be connected to fixed points (such as the KVM 420 of SNCF), or it may be a linear system such as the German LZB, or it may be communication-based with some fixed points to (re-)establish the location of the train, as in ETCS Level 2.

    The crucial point is to reliably locate the train, and to control its integrity. When that is established, it is possible to more or less run trains at braking time intervals.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Max, I understood that ETCS Level 3 is still a research problem?
    “[R]un trains at braking time intervals” is moving-block, and the moving-block aspect of ETCS Level 3 runs afoul of train-integrity issues. Or so I understood, e.g., from Joern Pachl’s book.

    Has that changed?

    Clem Reply:

    KVM 420… That’s funny! You clearly know your stuff.

    Moving block in high speed railways is a (non-existent) solution looking for a problem. I second Jonathan’s suggestion that you purchase Pachl’s textbook, which contains a very nice explanation of the subject.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    @Jonathan: I think there are some ETCS Level 3 trials, but they come along as “remote branch line” trials, where all the vehicles used are DMUs (or EMUs), where the train integrity is either inherent, or under control. On the other hand, I fully agree that the train integrity issue is not solved at the moment.

    @Clem: Moving block solutions are mainly for lines where the capacity limits are reached. There are some workarounds (“short blocks”) which means that the normally needed braking distance is broken up into several sections. In some subway applications, this block length can be as short as 200 m.

    Jonathan Reply:

    I was the one who equated braking-time headway with moving-block. We can quibble about fixed blocks shorter than actual braking distance.. . don’t the newest (last) TVM 430 installations have a ~1500m block, and about a 9k braking distance for ~350 km/hr running? With such short blocks, true moving-block bys very little — about half a block, on average. And if the blocks are already short, well….

    I’m guessing “KVM 420” is a confusion of TVM 430 and KVB? In US English, “420” is a code-word for, er, something completely different — which might cause just suck mixups!

    Nathanael Reply:

    I think there is no such thing as moving block. From what I can tell, the most successful “moving block” system, Seltrac, consists of a very large number of very small fixed blocks, so that each train occupies dozens of fixed blocks at any given time.

    This is extremely straightforward and is not qualitatively different from a fixed-block system.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s so straightforward there’s about a single digit number of mainline tracks in Europe with moving-block signaling (central parts of RER A, central parts of Berlin S-Bahn, sadly the WCML, and maybe something else I forgot).

    Max Wyss Reply:

    @Jonathan: öörps… You are completely correct, and I probably had too much KVB (Kouglhopf Vin Blanc) getting me confused; I am actually talking of TVM 430.

    @rest of the world: Sorry about that mixup

    I glanced through some reports about TVM 430, and the block length on level track is indeed 1500 m, and there were/are discussions about shortening it to 600 m. And that definitely would be almost moving block. In fact, if I understood correctly the time needed for the system to interpret and react on the TVM messages, the train has almost reached the next block if running at full speed (yes, it is exaggerated).

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Alon, the UK Railtrack mega-fiasco West Coast Route Modernization was supposedly to be moving block signalled (ETCS L3 vapourware). That went pear-shaped very early, and was officially abandoned circa 1999 (unofficially even earlier.) The WCML is still the UK mish-mash of AWS/TPWS as far as I know. (With bonus mish-mash “TASS” using fixed Eurobalises.)

    Here’s a nice non-technical summary (two parts):

    (But ignore all that! It’s clear nothing can possibly go wrong with CBOSS. After all it’s only 250 million US taxpayer dollars to invent a unique life safety critical system undertaken by people with unmitigated life-long records of professional failure. All deliverables. On time. On budget. America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals!)

    The larger point of this “discussion” is that mainline moving-block signalling is a solution in search of a problem. Generally shorter and/or strategic located stretches of shorter (> 1.6^-35 m !) fixed blocks solve the problem completely for all practical purposes.

  4. JJJ
    Jan 2nd, 2013 at 01:48

    While Ive been providing ridership updated on my blog every few months, looks like the Fresno Bee finally noticed the San Joaquin.


    Of course, the author threw in the “doesnt make a profit” line, so expect 95% of the newspaper comments to be about that.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Do they ever say “doesn’t make a profit” about roads?

    JJJ Reply:

    Of course not, although to be fair, it’s rare to see news reports on peak vehicle hour milestones being hit.

    Nathanael Reply:

    We actually used to see those (“most driving ever!!!” headlines). I remember them from the 1980s. But now that total driving is declining, obviously we can’t see those any more.

  5. jimsf
    Jan 2nd, 2013 at 07:54

    Amtrak Seeks Safety Changes to Allow U.S. Bullet Trains

    StevieB Reply:

    Yes, Amtrak is getting around to requesting lighter Acela trains.

    Amtrak will recommend new U.S. rail- safety regulations to allow it to replace its Acela trains in the Northeast U.S. with lighter, faster equipment, Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman said.

  6. jimsf
    Jan 2nd, 2013 at 08:04

    Valley agencies confident in making bid for Amtrak lines

    MODESTO — The Central Valley is on the cusp of forming a regional rail authority with a goal of taking control from the state over Amtrak commuter trains.
    Five transportation agencies, including those in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties, signed on in December. That’s one shy of the required six to officially form a joint powers authority; a single positive vote among four in January and February would seal the deal.
    So sure are leaders of a sixth partner joining that the future authority has scheduled a March 22 public kickoff meeting in Merced.
    Local control could “result in improved service and increases in ridership and revenue,” Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh wrote in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown. Marsh predicted more jobs and better air quality with improved train service.
    Modesto, Denair and Merced depots carry people to Sacramento, the Bay Area and Bakersfield with connections to buses and other trains far beyond.
    Amtrak’s San Joaquin Corridor has thrived under the California Department of Transportation’s rail administration, growing from eight trains per day in 1998 to 12 last year, when annual ridership pushed past 1 million. The line is Amtrak’s fifth busiest in the United States.
    An encouraging model
    Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor line from Sacramento to Oakland skyrocketed 400 percent in the same time frame, from eight daily trains to 32. That’s because a nimble consortium of Sacramento-area rail leaders wrested control from the state and became more responsive to travelers’ needs, say valley officials who hope to do the same.
    “We’re trying to improve commuter service,” said Vito Chiesa, a Stanislaus County supervisor recently chosen to represent this area on the soon-to-form San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority. The idea is to boost seats, trains and efficiency, he said.
    A rail plan for the next 20 years shows that state Caltrans leaders, focused on highways, expect to add only three trains on the San Joaquin line. Local leaders say they could easily exceed such a short-sighted goal, maybe tripling the current number.
    “Local control is supposed to translate to cost savings,” said Charlie Goeken, Waterford’s mayor and chairman of the Stanislaus Council of Governments. “We’ll be able to set rates and times that will meet our customers’ needs, and we’ll be more profitable.”
    The authority would have to prove that the change won’t cost local taxpayers, according to legislation carried by former Assemblywoman and now state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani that was signed by Brown in September. He signed a law enabling a similar transfer of control for California’s third intercity Amtrak system, the Pacific Surfliner, which goes from San Luis Obispo to San Diego via Los Angeles.
    The state’s $90 million annual support of the San Joaquin Corridor would continue.
    Stanislaus’ alternate to Chiesa is Modesto Councilman Joe Muratore. Representing Merced County is Supervisor John Pedrozo, and Lodi Councilman Bob Johnson will cover San Joaquin County.
    Transportation agencies in Sacramento and Contra Costa counties have joined, while others in Alameda, Fresno, Tulare and Madera counties have yet to vote.
    Those in Kings and Kern counties — where opposition to high-speed rail runs high — may not go along, but their participation is not required.
    Link to high-speed rail
    The Amtrak push is not directly related to high-speed rail, although that system would lean on regional commuter rail to feed bullet trains.
    “Having a better, more robust rail system is a good thing” for both systems, said Dan Leavitt of the San Joaquin Rail Commission. That agency serves as temporary staff for the valley effort, until the partners select a managing agency to assume control from Caltrans.
    The state would retain responsibility for coordinating with other transportation modes. “They’re not being pushed out; it’s being made into a more successful partnership,” Leavitt said.

    Read more here: http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2013/01/01/2734005/valley-agencies-confident-in-making.html#storylink=cpy

    joe Reply:

    A rail plan for the next 20 years shows that state Caltrans leaders, focused on highways, expect to add only three trains on the San Joaquin line. Local leaders say they could easily exceed such a short-sighted goal, maybe tripling the current number.

    Jon Reply:

    Why do they insist on calling the San Joaquins ‘commuter rail’? In my experience the ridership on these trains is more intercity than commuter, e.g. people visiting their families in other parts of the state. I doubt many people make same-day return trips.

    jimsf Reply:

    youd be surprised. and lots of monthly passes

    Nathanael Reply:

    The job market is appalling in a lot of the Central Valley, so you do get people making very long commutes.

    I’m not fond of the term “commuter rail” in general, though.

    jimsf Reply:

    commueter is wrong for sure its regional. althuogh itsmore en vogue now to call it “california corridor services”

  7. Alan F
    Jan 2nd, 2013 at 15:56

    I’m wondering what is going on with the Xpress West RRIF loan application. If Xpress West has raised the necessary private capital component and has met the conditions of the loan, time for the FRA to grant or deny the application. If the Obama administration was waiting to reach a “fiscal cliff” settlement, well, they got what they got. There is the debt ceiling and sequestration battle to come in the next 2 months, but at this point, the House Republicans are going to attack anything the Administration does. Might as well make a statement for HSR by granting the RRIF loan application to get a private HSR project started. Then fast track the processing of the expected RRIF loan application from the FEC All Aboard Florida Miami to Orlando project.

    Andy M Reply:

    My understanding is that this isn’t a case of getting a rubber stamp and the cash if “conditions” are fulfilled. If it was that easy, everybody would be going for that money by now. I think they are more trying to esatblish what those “conditions” are before they can try and fulfill them. I think there is also a discretionary element, so they have to sell the project as well as fulfilling conditions.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I think the FRA is also adding up how much lending capacity it would have left if it made the XpressWest loan.

    There are some other urgent needs which cost a lot less; how many of them would be impossible while the XpressWest loan is outstanding? The revolving loan fund has a maximum limit.

  8. jimsf
    Jan 2nd, 2013 at 18:19

    tbt update

    Joey Reply:

    Visual presentation of design changes.

  9. D. P. Lubic
    Jan 2nd, 2013 at 19:56

    An example of how far behind we are–a new railway museum in Kyoto, Japan that will include, among other things, a 500-series Shinkansen:


    swing hanger Reply:

    They’re nearing the end of their 20 year service life, already the remaining and shortened sets are used exclusively on all-stops, mainly unreserved seating Kodama services on the Sanyo Line.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Which is sort of a shame; they’re they coolest looking shinkansen…

    [At this rate, it looks like I’m probably never going to get to ride on one (it seems like I’ve encountered every other type of shinkansen at some point or another, but not a 500-series)… TT ]

    swing hanger Reply:

    Coolest looking from the outside, but passengers didn’t like the airliner-like interiors with the claustrophobic inwardly curving walls.

  10. Andy M
    Jan 3rd, 2013 at 07:15

    You had me at that picture. For a moment I thought construction had in indeed begun and I had somehow missed the news.

    If only …

    DavidM Reply:

    Mouse over the picture to see what it actually is.

  11. StevieB
    Jan 4th, 2013 at 11:30

    Lancaster makes the case for removing traffic lanes in business districts to slow traffic and promote economic development. The redesign of Lancaster Boulevard helped transform downtown Lancaster into a thriving residential and commercial district through investments in new streetscape design, public facilities, affordable homes, and local businesses.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Removing lanes tends to shunt traffic onto parallel smaller neighborhood streets. I have witnessed this process in my town. Nice idea; just doesn’t work.

    One-way streets that are designed to ram thru as many cars as possible and to cope with double-parked trucks hurt neighborhoods. I am thinking of San Francisco in particular. One-way streets were the bane of the cable cars and streetcars. DPW was a major player in the halving of the cable car network in 1954-56. Traffic engineers traditional view of transit as well as pedestrians ranged from dismissive to genocidal.

    I suggest making life easier and safer for pedestrians should take precedence if you want to upgrade the ambiance. Re-program “forever” traffic lights that make walking unpleasant and flashing lights in crosswalks, pedestrian overpasses in really bad spots.

    As for the one-way street raceways(Bush, Pine, Franklin, Gough, for instance) that really downgrade the urban “aura”, shall we say, maybe in certain instances it is time to nuke. For example an auto tunnel under 19th Avenue or under Pacific Heights ala the Broadway Tunnel.

    StevieB Reply:

    One way streets are designed to increase traffic speed and are the opposite of what was built in Lancaster. Lancaster shows The Case for Walkability as an Economic Development Tool. Congestion on streets is often a sign of commerce. Traffic engineers typically design to increase traffic flow and ignore commercial viability. This leads to dying and dead commercial districts. Lancaster took the opposite approach with its redesigned district emphasizing walkability and decreasing traffic flow.

    Justly proud of their work, the architects recount some of what’s happened in the area since the project was completed:

    49 new businesses along the boulevard and an almost doubling of revenue generated compared to just before the work began.

    An almost 10 percent rise in downtown property values.

    800 new permanent jobs, 1,100 temporary construction jobs, and an estimated $273 million in economic output

    800 new and rehabbed homes.

    Dramatically increased roadway safety, with traffic collisions cut in half and collisions with personal injury cut by 85 percent.

    synonymouse Reply:

    San Francisco downtown interests – read high rise crowd – wanted and still do want as many cars rammed into the City as engineeringly possible. They are troglodytes who love one-way streets and never cottoned to “transit-first”. They dispute your theory, because they are “big city”, where demand is so great it cannot be discouraged. Grow, grow, grow. Up, up, up. Bigger, bigger, bigger. More, more, more.

    Residual point, tho, is in most instances, impeding traffic by reducing lanes does not get rid of the autos, just redirects them. Like onto neighborhood streets. Better they remain on arterials.

    More pedestrians are getting run over and killed all the time. Major reason: driving while arrogant. I am hot stuff; I own the world; get out of my way.

    In my town in times past the merchants wanted to accommodate autos by widening the streets, on the theory they wanted to get everybody to go thru the place. They never wanted to build a bypass to divert the country genty and RV crowd around the town on their way to the coast. Now it is screwed bumper to bumper, like Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

    Joey Reply:

    San Francisco downtown interests – read high rise crowd – wanted and still do want as many cars rammed into the City as engineeringly possible.

    As evident by the freeway removal we have seen in the last 25 years, the abandonment of the southern crossing idea as well as any other new freeways through the city, and the slow but progressing ban on private vehicles from lower Market.

    Jon Reply:

    …but Lancaster didn’t one-way Lancaster Blvd, they removed lanes and added a median. So what do the one-way streets in SF have to do with it?

    The solution to the hideous one-way streets in SF is to two-way them. End of story. No need to waste money on auto tunnels.

    Joey Reply:

    Removing lanes tends to shunt traffic onto parallel smaller neighborhood streets. I have witnessed this process in my town. Nice idea; just doesn’t work.

    It works when there is little enough traffic that lanes are unnecessary. In that case road diets are a decent thing. If there’s more traffic then of course there will be issues with it. Though in some cases additional traffic on parallel streets might be an acceptable price to pay for lower speeds.

    pedestrian overpasses in really bad spots

    Pedestrian overpasses are one of those things that seem like a good idea at first glance but in reality don’t do great things for pedestrians. If they’re designed well they may be a bit safer, of course, but long staircases and especially ramps add a lot of access time, even compared to waiting for a light. There’s also a perceived barrier associated with level changes. And of course, even with ramps they make life quite difficult for disabled people. As Richard M always says, try to keep pedestrians at-grade if at all possible.

  12. synonymouse
    Jan 4th, 2013 at 13:51

    19th Avenue is hopeless; an auto tunnel is probably the best solution, tho expensive.

    At this juncture changeing out the one-way streets is highly unlikely. Double and triple parked trucks. Politically protected.

    Here’s an historical challenge. Devise a plan that could have saved the O’Farrell, Jones, and Hyde Sts. cable car line in 1954. There was a better economic argument for it than the California Cable, supported by the Swigs, but which was truncated at Van Ness Ave. and is not terribly functional. The Washington & Jackson Sts. line was also lost.

    The O’Farrell line ran both on its namesake street and Pine Street(for two fatal blocks) which DPW wanted one-way. And for sure DPW did not want either the California cable line or the Washington and Jackston Sts. line to cross its prized one-way couple of Franklin and Gough. You know the cable cars had to stop in the middle of the intersections at those streets.

    Just thinking this dilemma out will give you an idea of the street level geopoltics and agency power plays then and indeed now. If you proposed rebuilding the O’Farrell line or indeed extending the California line to Fillmore, there would be another traffic engineer and auto club firestorm. Curiously the planning for the California extension was accomodated when they laid out the #1 California trolley bus to move over to Sacramento and Clay at Steiner St.

    Joey Reply:

    I wouldn’t be so quick to try and resurrect the Sunset Freeway. 19th Avenue has a lot of traffic, but a lot of it is local, and could be diverted with intelligent use of grade-separated transit. This of course means a full subway, but that’s still cheaper than an auto tunnel (think overall excavation volume).

    As for the cable cars, I’m not sure they have all that much transportation value in this day and age. The big problem is that they’re slow and low capacity. Of course, it’s difficult to tell since MUNI outprices everyone but tourists anyway. But still, cable cars have trouble even meeting the standards of parallel bus routes for actual transit. Rail is nice, but I think the solution for the lower California corridor is BRT on parallel routes, not expansion of the outdated cable car service.

    synonymouse Reply:

    A great part of the traffic on 19th Avenue is not local – i.e. from the GG Bridge to San Mateo Co, especially the airport. What a devastated street – dig it out and put the autos in a hole in the ground.

    You missed the era when you could pretty easily jump on the Powell cable in front of Woolworths for 15 cents. Since no one was interested in the O’Farrell line challenge I’ll throw out my own scheme. Abandon the Cal cable and replace it with a trolley coach all the way. I would have kept the Powell Mason,the Washington and Jackson, and a slightly re-routed O’Farrell line. Basically one-way on Pine and one-way on Bush. And brass it out on O’Farrell. I say that because Charlie Smallwood told me the Macy’s NY execs when they took over in and around 1952 did not like the cable cars on O’Farrell at all. Maybe they would have come around in time but if not you could come in on Eddy instead of O’Farrell. You could take your pick of two lines at the same terminal at Powell and Market. The O’Farrell line and the accompanying tourist trade would have had a gentrifying effect on the route thru the Tenderloin over the years.

    And “try[ing] to keep pedestrians at grade” could put some unlucky ones of them under ground.

    Joey Reply:

    Yes, I know that a lot of the traffic on 19th avenue is regional or long distance. The point is to divert enough of the traffic that congestion is no longer an issue. I do feel sorry for the residents, but you wouldn’t be able to build an underground expressway without knocking down the buildings on at least one side of the street anyway, and that’s if you don’t care about maintaining traffic flow during construction. Contrast to a subway which is easier to build without much surface disruption and has a much smaller lateral footprint. If designed well, it could divert enough local trips to make 19th avenue at least reasonable. There are ways to divert regional trips as well, though they’re nowhere near as simple. If you build regional rail in Marin/Sonoma counties and somehow build a bay crossing, you can connect to CalTrain and capture some of the Marin-Peninsula market. But like I said, a lot harder and a lot more political issues wrapped up in it (but let’s not get into that).

    Perhaps haven’t heard of the #1 bus, which runs 1-2 blocks north of California street? Of course, it’s pretty slow through Chinatown but there are ways to fix that.

    And this whole “pedestrians and streets don’t mix” mindset is part of the reason why we have so many pedestrian hostile environments. Grade separation isn’t the only way to increase pedestrian safety. Reducing vehicular speeds can yield significant safety increases, as can reducing the number of cars (by diverting trips with transit or other means).

    synonymouse Reply:

    I used to ride the #55 on Sacramento when passengers had to alight from the bus so the Mack could make it to the top of the hill. And those were the 2600 class with an extra low gear. Paradoxically I heard(Charlie Smallwood, my usual source in the mid-sixties)the #55 had the best farebox ratio of any Muni line at the time.

    Attempts at controlling autos and auto traffic just aren’t working that well. If you look at what’s selling you see it’s humongous trucks and suv’s. I understand GM is making most of its profits once again from the likes of Cadillac Escalades. Barack is such a bullshitter, boasting about the rescue of Detroit and politicking with the greens about the Keystone Pipeline etc. Detroit needs the cheap gasoline to keep from going in the red once again.

    What strikes me as most telling is the incredibly poor quality of decision-making at a time when unprecedented monies are available to lavish on transit. So much of it wasted on second-rate politicized schemes. I’ll use the cable car consolidation of 1954-56 as an example. There was no regional, state, or federal money available at all. All Jack Woods could afford was a curve here and there. They abandoned the outer end of the Cal cable(ostensibly)because they could not afford to rebuild the slot(the Cal Cable Co. had used a side grip with an offset slot). Charlie told the schedulers used to be given “pencil extenders”

    Now they have the dough to blow numerous billions on such stupidities as the DeTour or tunneling under 4 levels of BART-Muni instead of proceeding thru the mezzanine level one block away.

    The cause of regional rail in the Northbay is set back decades because a coterie of local insiders insists on nostalgic freight. Railfans in Marin indulge in sugar-plum fantasies of streetcars on local streets when GGT is putting out local bus service to bid to try to save money. When you note that the SMART trunk is the only route that justifies wire the foamers soil their pants.

    And the to hear that the cable cars are “outdated”. Right out of the mouths of Roger Lapham or Elmer Robinson. But coming back to life in 2012 they would be appalled at the waste. They could have rebuilt the entire Muni-Market St. Ry. system of rail lines for a mere fraction and bought new PCC’s for a mere fraction of what Moonbeam intends to blow.

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