Amtrak to Seek FRA Approval for Standard HSR Trainsets

Jan 6th, 2013 | Posted by

In a move driven by the desire for new equipment on the Acela, but with implications for high speed rail in California, Amtrak is going to ask the Federal Railroad Administration to allow it to purchase and use standard HSR trainsets rather than the artificially heavy ones that current FRA crash regulations require:

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.

U.S. crashworthiness standards force Amtrak to use trains that have locomotives on both ends and are slower and heavier than bullet trains used in Europe and Asia, Boardman said in an interview. Those standards reflect that U.S. passenger trains often share tracks with freight railroads rather than operating on their own lines.

Existing standards apply to trains traveling as much as 150 miles per hour (241 kilometers per hour). Writing new rules that relax railcar structural-strength requirements for faster trains “would allow for less use of fuel, quicker acceleration, a different performance profile,” Boardman, 64, said. “What we’re really looking for is a performance specification here.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the issue, this is a longstanding point of contention between passenger rail advocates and the FRA. Current FRA rules require American passenger trains to be heavier and slower than their European counterparts because unlike those European trains, many American passenger trains share tracks with freight trains. Those freight trains are themselves heavier than most passenger trains, so the FRA has required passenger trains to be heavier in case of a crash. In other words, the FRA’s solution to passenger/freight conflicts is to armor up a passenger train like a tank.

This rule forced Amtrak to custom order the designs for the Acela trainsets, rather than buy something off the shelf that was already a proven success. That added to the Acela’s costs and the new trainsets were not as reliable as their overseas counterparts. The FRA allowed Amtrak Cascades to buy and operate off the shelf Talgo trains, but requires a non-powered control unit car be added to the end of each train that has a concrete weight in order to help meet the FRA requirements.

While the FRA has defended this rule as a safety measure, most observers argue that the only way for passenger and freight trains to safely share tracks is by using positive train control. After all, Metrolink trains met the FRA rules and yet the Chatsworth disaster still occurred. Positive train control could have prevented that crash, which occurred when a Metrolink train ran a red signal. But the FRA weight requirements didn’t prevent the loss of 25 lives.

The Acela waiver has precedent – in 2010 Caltrain finally won its own FRA waiver to allow it to operate off-the-shelf trainsets as part of its electrification program. Caltrain is installing a positive train control system known as CBOSS, one reason why the FRA was willing to grant the waiver.

Given the plan to operate California high speed rail in phases, with a mixture of dedicated and shared track, a waiver will be needed for trainsets there too. If Amtrak is successful, it makes it more likely that the California HSR project will also be able to get the waiver it will need for its initial operational phases. Let’s hope the FRA makes the right decision and grants the waiver.

  1. Clem
    Jan 6th, 2013 at 12:04

    The whole notion of buying quicker trains for the NEC is ridiculous– the existing Acela Express trains have plenty of oomph (16 kW/tonne) to do anything they need to do. “Lighter” and “faster” isn’t the key to anything on the NEC, and dropping in a higher-performance train will not lead to material trip time improvements. They need to speed up the slow bits first, which isn’t something you do by blowing money on trains.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Clem, if you read the details, it makes a little more sense. Amtrak has looked at acquiring some 40 new Acela passenger cars, 2 for each of 20 trainsets. Amtrak found they could not do that cost-effectively.
    (Amtrak’s Inspector-General red-flagged the proposed sole-source contract for 40 cars as too expensive)

    So instead of trying to buy more custom, one-off, FRA-compatible Bronto-trains, they’re looking to buy essentially off-the-shelf European trainsets. The COTS trainsets would be phased in, with Acela trainsets being 18 to 20 years old at replacement. Me, I’d guess Amtrak might start running longer consists with coaches from ‘retired” trainsets, but who knows…..

    Clem Reply:

    How much less off-the-shelf is an Acela Express passenger car by Bombardier, compared to the Zefiro vaporware by Bombardier as depicted in various press releases and renderings?

    Why is the Acela Express “too slow” with 6 passenger cars when its traction and auxiliary power systems were sized for 8 passenger cars? Was the plan to make it slower by adding two more cars, or is its perceived lack of performance a new discovery?

    None of this makes any coherent sense.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I believe it is anticlimbers and other structural stiffening elements and their extra weight which is controversial. Traditional American railroading tends to boilerplate.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Clem, how much of the tooling and design documents do you think Bombardier actually has, and can resuscitate?

    And who’s talking about having Amtrak be lauch customer for a Zefiro? Trenitalia’s ETR1000s (Zefiro 300) start service this year, and China’s CHR380D are a Zefiro 380, as far as I know. Are you talking about the Innotrans mockup?

    And if you want to talk about press releases, see the Bloomberg piece from Dec 14, where other manufactoruers are keen to bid on an Acela replacement. Velaros and AGVs are _definitely_ not vaporware.

    Oh, and here’s a summary of the Amtrak I-G’s report: The full report (presumably with actual numbers) is confidential. But if Bombardier was trying to shaft Amtrak for Acela cars, it doesn’t seem likely that Bombardier is going to get a non-competitive contract, does it?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Clem, *any* train which weighs less becomes cheaper to operate, and accelerate faster. I realize you’ve gone all contrarian due to the Caltrain follies, but the fact is that Amtrak is doing the right thing. These FRA “built like a tank” rules have to go, and as soon as they’re gone we’re going to get trains which are a lot cheaper to operate and maintain — and which can accelerate faster to catch up if they’re behind schedule.

    If Amtrak can buy trains with standard Euro specifications for weight and stiffness (as well as track gauge, which is already standard) then there are suddenly quite a lot of companies willing to bid — the other “Uniquely American” things (loading gauge, platform height) are things which vary all over Europe so the companies are equipped to make those modifications.

    The FRA weight rules are a serious problem as weight impacts all parts of the design and no company is really ready with an off-the-shelf “super-heavyweight” design, since that’s stupid. If these “lead weight” requirements are gotten rid of, the estimate is that the quoted prices will be at least 10% cheaper.

    Joey Reply:

    I will agree that faster trainsets are probably not needed for now, but lighter trainsets could bring some improvement. The Acela speeds up and slows down a lot, so the additional acceleration (most foreign sets are 20 kw/t or more) could translate to reasonable time savings. Also maintenance. The current Acela sets are a nightmare in that regard.

    Alan F Reply:

    The lighter HSR trainsets should also have better rides. The Acela can a have rather rough and bumpy ride, usually attributed to the heavy weight and truck design. The Amfleets, in comparison, are generally a smoother ride.

    The NEC has a huge number of speed changes, especially in CT. A lighter trainset with faster acceleration coming out of slow segments could trim some time off of the NYC to Boston segment.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Actually, a heavier car rides better than a lighter car. However, the design of the truck (mainly the secondary suspension) has a major effect. In fact, the original TGVs had helical coil secondary suspensions to begin with, but that led to such bad vibrations that TGV became the acronym for Train ä Grandes Vibrations. Replacing them with air suspensions dramatically improved the comfort. The same is with the German ICE-1 trains; when I travelled more on business to Germany, I gave up my seat reservation in an ICE-1 when it had an ICE-2 (with air suspension) car in the consist.

    However, I am not aware of any tilting train truck with air secondary suspension.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The problem is that the FRA weight rules require *extremely heavy* cars, heavier than the “heavyweight” era of 19th century passenger cars. (The eras when judging by weight are “wood”, “heavyweight”, “lightweight”, and “modern” starting in the 1970s). Nobody in their right mind would deliberately make cars as heavy as the FRA requires, so nobody designs suspensions to accomodate them. Which means you end up with suspensions which can’t handle the heavyweight cars.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, but.

    1. The Acela is limited to 7″ cant deficiency, because it’s too heavy for more. An off-the-shelf Pendolino can do 11″-12″ (at least when Metro-North is not in charge), and this has material benefits.

    2. Alternatively, a train with 23 kW/t rather than 16 would be substantially faster. Not as fast as a weaker train with high cant deficiency, but the Shore Line has a lot of individual slow restrictions within longer speed zones (ditto Elizabeth), and being able to accelerate out of them faster is useful.

    3. The Acela’s initial acceleration is for shit. EMUs are going to save substantial time just with their ability to accelerate out of stations faster.

    4. Lighter trains are going to be able to take the old legacy bridges at higher speed, which does speed up the slowest bits. On the margin, if they have better sealing characteristics they could also go through the narrow Hudson and East River tunnels faster than 60 mph (the North River Tunnels may not have capacity though).

    5. Lighter trains are less maintenance-intensive than the Acelas. This means lower operating costs, and on the margin also less schedule recovery requirement.

    Max Wyss Reply:


    1. Pendolini (tilting EMUs based on the FIAT/SIG tilting technology) are currently not faster than 230 km/h or so. The question is whether that is sufficiently future-proof. We might look at the numbers of AGV / Velaro / Zefiro -type trains.

    2. The installed power is primarily determined by the maximum speed. The more important aspect is the tractive force (relative to the total train weight) the train can produce at lower speeds (mayb up to 160 km/h). I remember ICE-3 trips where were rolling at 160, and then it was almost like getting a kick in the butt when it speeded up. A high tractive force can be achieved with distributed drives. The same also applies for regenerative braking.

    3. (see 2) … the Acela are obese, indeed.

    4. (no “however”)

    5. The maintenance cost of the vehicle is pretty much independent of its weight. This cost is more influenced by the design of the unit, and how easy maintenance is made (such as using modules which can be quickly exchanged etc.). Of course track wear will be lower, which may reduce the maintenance cost for the infrastructure manager.

    Joey Reply:

    1) The Italian/Swiss New Pendolinos have a top speed of 250 km/h. While this doesn’t offer any top speed increase over the current Acelas, you get a lot more time savings by speeding up the slow sections of the NEC rather than making the fast sections even faster. If at some point in the future you do want 300 km/h trains then the pendolinos would likely still be useful elsewhere.

    2) In this case we’re talking about trains which have comparable amounts of installed power, but different weights. Obviously it’s not the only factor that’s going to affect acceleration, but lighter trains are going to accelerate faster.

    5) Somewhat true. There are factors (wear on wheels/rails, wear on suspension, etc) which are weight dependent. And overall FRA-compliant trains are more expensive to maintain than their lightweight counterparts (granted, there may be other reasons for this). But even ignoring weight, the Acelas are very high maintenance, even compared to Pendolinos which are considered high maintenance in their world.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Yeah, you are correct, the 610 are rated at 250 km/h, and I think they do run at that speed in the Lötschberg base tunnel.

    I was actually a bit ambiguous in my comment; the specific power (kw/t) is determined by the maximum speed (and then limited by what can be “brought to the rails” and “drawn from the wire”; the latter is about 800 or so A, and the former depends on the number of driven axles and thir load; with 17t axle load, you can get about 6t tractive force per driven axle).

    Don’t talk about the 470 Pendolini… their availability is less than 25% (the Last Adventure in Switzerland: do I make it from Milano to Zürich in a 470 without having to change trains). No wonder, the SBB will phase them out within the next two years.

    As I stated before, maintenance cost is not a question of weight; it is a question of design.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The current Acelas have a top speed of 265, and even that’s overclocking. They currently do 240.

    Basically, my point is there are two directions one can go in with rolling stock. One is AGV/Shinkansen/Zefiro, i.e. high-power, high-speed, and low-to-medium cant deficiency. The other is Pendolino, which has the same top speed as the Acela and about the same power, but very high cant deficiency. The more the tracks are upgraded, the better the first option looks; if, for example, the Elizabeth and Metuchen S-curves are fixed, then tilting trains have relatively little benefit in Jersey, whereas very high-speed trains can cruise at 300 km/h through most of Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania.

    Clem Reply:

    Pendolini have higher axle loading than Acela Express passenger cars. Perhaps replacing the 93 tonne anvils on each end would improve the cant deficiency limitation? TGV power cars are just 68 tonnes.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That would make the initial acceleration even worse than it already is.

    And do the Pendolini really have higher axle load than the Acela passenger cars’ 15.5-16 t? I know the omni-voltage Pendolini power cars (but not the trailers) are 16.5, but presumably a version for 11 kV 25 Hz as opposed to 15 kV 16.7 Hz would be a bit lighter (just like the version that’s just 3 kV DC or 25 kV 60 Hz is much lighter!).

    Max Wyss Reply:

    The maximum axle load for tilting trains in Europe is 17t (which is also the maximum axle load for high speed trains). In order to keep the axle load at these levels, components have to be distributed between cars in the Pendolini (one car with the transformer, one car with the power electronics, one car with the brake resistors (for DC), etc.). Actually, the same set up is with the Swiss ICN trains, which are single-voltage; you could pretty much use the ICN as a model for a NEC tilting train.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I know the maximum is 17 t, but do the Pendolini even reach it? The old ones, which are DC-only, have an axle load of 14.5 t. The new omni-voltage ones are 16.5 t, but that’s just on the power cars – the average load per axle, even with passengers, is 15 t.

    Amtrak should at least check with Alstom what the extra cost is of getting a Pendolino with a transformer that’s heavy enough for 25 Hz but not 16.7 Hz, and how much weight that saves.

    Alan F Reply:

    Getting information from the vendors is what the RFI process is about. The 25 and 60 Hz power source requirement should be well known to all the potential vendors.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    FWIW, the 610 are not (yet) approved on the Gotthard for full tilting speed, because the restaurant car is apparently a little bit too heavy. That’s why they are used on the Simplon route (Milano – Brig – Genève / – Bern – Basel). As far as i know, they are looking what can be done, but considering that the Gotthard base tunnel will open soon, there probably won’t be any further measures taken (and Zürich is stuck with the 470 (or better, its replacements).

    The 610 is a three-system train (3000 V DC, 25 kV/50 Hz, 15 kV/16.7 Hz). Therefore, it has already a multifrequency transformer. The weight reduction is probably not thaaat much for a 25/60 Hz transformer, considering the heavier wiring needed for the higher currents in the 11 kV wirings (if full power is required).

    On the other hand, ABB has developed a lightweight transformer, but I doubt that it will be ready for HSR applications by the time Amtrak places the orders.

    Jonathan Reply:


    Joey Reply:

    The Acela’s power cars weight in at 23.1t/axel. That’s considerably more than any car of a Pendolino.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Re: 5 – if they’re going to be ordering lighter trains, they’re going to be ordering more trains that are closer to off-the-shelf (I should hope!!), which should be easier to maintain, no?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Another point: lighter trains do less damage to the track, which reduces maintenance costs for the track….

    Michael Noda Reply:

    As Alon pointed out, it makes a lot more sense when you’re buying new trains anyway. Amtrak in the Northeast has expanding capacity (measured in seats/train) as its top strategic goal, because they know they can sell the seats they have at an operating profit. The car shortage is most acute on the Acelas, which are only 4xBC+1x1stC+1xCafe per train, and ticket prices are bid up to the stratosphere. But the “conventional” trains are also growing; the tech specs on the ACS-64 indicate a wish to grow Northeast Regional consists to 10-12 cars, from today’s 7-9. That will also be reliant on new coaches to supplement and replace the Amfleet Is, but it’s another indicator of where Amtrak’s head is at.

    One more factor I haven’t seen mentioned: Just because the Acela’s power comes from electricity, and renewable-and-nuclear-heavy electricity at that, doesn’t mean it’s free. Reducing the weight of any future Acela IIs will have direct benefits to Amtrak’s bottom line.

    Wdobner Reply:

    The Acela as envisioned wasn’t going to have a power to mass ratio of 16 kw/kg. Keeping the Acelas as the premier Northeast Corridor express service would have required Amtrak to go through with the purchase of two additional internal business cars as was previously mentioned. Assuming these new cars were the same as the existing business class cars then that’d drop the power to mass ratio to 13kw/kg. Admittedly two cars do improve the Acela’s power/seat and mass/seat ratios, which is always where the Acela was weakest in comparison to the TGVs, but it’d still fall far short of actual HSTs.

    Clem Reply:

    Nobody at Amtrak previously identified this as a problem, since they went to the considerable trouble of going through an entire bid process. If it wasn’t a problem in 2011 (RFP) and 2012 (bid opened in Feb, rejected in Oct), why is the Acela Express’s “performance profile” now considered insufficient by Amtrak? It was evidently sufficient as late as 2012.

    Jonathan Reply:


    I bet you a a sandwich that this is not really a “speed” issue, anymore than redoing the ancient PRR non-constant-tension catenary was in actual fact a “speed” issue (it was more an issue of the wires sagging in summer). Remember that?

    “Speed” is how replacing-Acela-to-get-longer-trainsets-at-less-than-criminal-pricing is being portrayed to the unthinking/innumerate public…..
    (Which may or may not include Robert.)

    That’s my read on it, anyway.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Clem, you don’t seriously think that Amtrak will be fine with the overweight, FRA-mandated trains forever? We’ve all been fighting for FRA reform for years now! What are you up to?

    No, it’s obviously NOT a top speed issue. An acceleration issue, a cost-of-electricity issue, a car maintenance issue, a track maintenance issue, a cost-of-purchase issue, yes, it is all of those. Agree?

  2. Back in the Saddle
    Jan 6th, 2013 at 14:06

    The FAA has allowed aircraft manufacturers to use lighter weight composite materials in both light aircraft and larger commercial jet aircraft to save on fuel and increase useful payload. So why in light of forthcoming PTC won’t the FRA be more amenable to allowing Amtrak and others to use lighter weight materials to save on costs and potentially increase trainset payload? Their recalcitrance will for most part keep passenger rail service from utilizing important and cost saving efficiencies.

    joe Reply:

    Or conduct crash test standards and then conduct (actual or simulation) tests on train-sets with the help from the NTSB rather than weighing the trains.

  3. Jerry
    Jan 6th, 2013 at 15:05

    Robert said, “The FRA allowed AMTRAK Cascades to buy and operate off the shelf Talgo trains,”.
    He should have added that over the same route from Portland to Seattle the Cascades is one hour faster than the old Coast Starlight train set.
    PS. The Cascades also has a much more comfortable ride.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Yep, the Cascades is a great trip. Hope it gets electrified OR a dedicated HSR alignment gets built along the corridor.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Current plans from Portland to Seattle are to triple-track most of it, with one track dedicated to passenger traffic at 90 or 110 mph speeds (with the ‘freight tracks’ being used to pass trains), and provide a double-track passenger-exclusive route from Nisqually to Tacoma to Reservation Junction.

    Some of this is funded, much of it is not.

    The studies suggested that the Great Northern had found the best route already and that a greenfield route would be a lot more expensive for little benefit, since the travel time could be brought down to 2 1/2 hours without it.

    Electrification is not in the current plans; I still support it. It was judged to not be cost-effective based on diesel and electricity prices 20 years ago, but of course the prices keep pointing towards electrification.

  4. Peter
    Jan 6th, 2013 at 15:50

    Does anyone know whether the new FRA-compliant Talgo 8s built for Oregon and Wisconsin are heavier than the Talgo 7s running currently? And what exactly is the purpose of the cab car for these trains? It looks like they have some sort of a generator on board? Are they used for HEP?

    aw Reply:

    I’m not sure about your first question, but with regards to the second, Cascades trains are operated push-pull, so the main reason for the cab cars is for a control position in push mode. On the current trains I believe there is a separate power car for HEP which is positioned just behind the locomotive. I have a brochure on the Series 8 trainsets that describes the cab cars as “cab and auxiliary power cars with the specs saying they provide 600 KVA of HEP. The illustrations in the brochure don’t look anything like the cab cars that were produced for the Oregon trainsets, but maybe the FRA wanted a longer nose on them (for CEM?).

    Peter Reply:

    I assumed that the cab cars were for control, I guess my question was worded poorly. And those are some seriously ugly cab cars. But I guess the cab cars are still a lot better than hauling tons of dead-weight locomotive cab cars around.

    Wdobner Reply:

    In addition to control and HEP functions the cab cars also hold the tanks for the centralized water system Talgo uses instead of the individual tanks in each restroom equipped car. The water is fed through a trainline to the other units of the trainset through a plumbing system.

    The evolution of the Talgo cab car was covered in the Jan ’13 Trains article. The initial design with a single center window was presented by Talgo, but Amtrak required a cab which allowed two crew members to sit side-by-side, with the person on the fireman’s side having a mirror image of the engineer’s view. This lead to the adoption of the school bus-like, “ugly” cab car they’ve constructed today. If you look at the PTJ article above you can see that there are two collision posts in the middle of the cab between the engineer and fireman positions. I strongly suspect the structure of the car hasn’t changed significantly, but they modified the placement of the glass and stuff to accommodate Amtrak’s demand for side-by-side seating.

    I hate to give credit to something Vergara did, but I suspect when we see these things out on the line eventually I’ll end up missing the fins the current Series VI cars. It’ll take some getting used to seeing the abrupt transition between the locomotive and baggage/bike car.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There was also a requirement for a *flat* windshield for some reason or other. Without that requirement, you could have had the same nose (crash energy management), the same cab space, the same view, and a big curved windshield covering the whole thing. I’m not sure what the reason for the flat windshield was, but it caused the “truck” look.

    BrianR Reply:

    I wouldn’t call them ugly, they are just “different looking”. I actually kind of like their brutal aesthetic and I got to say they do look a lot nicer viewed from the side profile. Once again it’s all about how you look at it and “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” ect. So what if they have a bit of a “school bus” look to them! As long as form follows function we should be able to appreciate new forms of beauty.

    I think they look a hell of a lot better than the F59’s at the other end (on the Cascades). The F59’s are about as ugly as you can get. At least with the new train sets there is no need for those Cabbage units hauling around their lumps of concrete. How much more archaic can you get!

    If only Talgo would of produced a powered version of that so called “ugly” cab car then the F59’s could be replaced altogether and it would be a truly beautiful train set with matching cabs at either end.

    Peter Reply:

    Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, the cab cars just remind me of Praying Mantises. And yes, the F59’s are a helluva lot uglier than the cab cars.

    Andy M Reply:

    In Spain there are powered Talgo locomotives. The pato (duck-billed) locomotives were/are built in collaboration with Bombardier and are permanently attached to their trains. Some can even change gauge. Those are electric, but a diesel unit was also built at an earlier stage, the Series 355, but these never went into production. There is now also an electro-diesel version, basically an electric unit with a generator so it can move away from the electrified lines. These will be used on services such as Madrid – Cartagena, which start off as a high-speed line but later transition to a slow speed unelectrified track for the final portion.

    All this is applicable to CAHSR as well, if a phased approach to electrification etc is to be adopted.

    Joey Reply:

    The cab cars are probably required for FRA-compliance. At least they’re an improvement over the deadweight converted locomotives they currently use.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    AFAIR, the deadweight converted locomotives were originally added to satisfy the FRA ~ the Talgo VI passenger cars were allowed as internal cars, but the trainset had to meet end-car end-strength and compression collision requirements.

    For Oregon’s new Talgo 8’s, the passenger cars do not require as much strengthening to qualify for the interior car end-strength and compression collision standard if they are never an end car (anti-climb is probably easier with shared trucks), and the nose on the cabset gives a substantial collision crumple zone.

    Wdobner Reply:

    They’re actually Talgo Series VI cars on the Amtrak Cascades. An old RailPAC piece by URPA’s Dr. Adrien Herzog gives the weight of a Series VI car as being 18 tons. The January 2013 article in Trains magazine (“The Train That Kicked the Hornets Nest” pg. 40) states that the weight of a Series VIII coach is 19 tons with the cab car weighing 57 tons. The weight of a Series VI trainset was given as 216 tons in the same sources as above, while Oregon’s 13 car Series VIII should weigh about 285 tons and the 14 car Wisconsin set should weigh 304 tons, both with the cab car. Unfortunately I don’t know what the weight of an Amtrak F40-derived Cabbage is, but I’ve heard they have been ballasted to nearly their weight before conversion to control cabs. That would make them at least 100 tons and that means the current sets (without engines) will be between 12 and 30 tons lighter while carrying more passengers.

  5. Useless
    Jan 7th, 2013 at 08:20

    The FRA compromise would be TGV-style loco-pulled high speed train sets, with stronger locomotives and UIC-compliant passenger coaches. There are still enough choices, like the TGV, KTX-II, and AVE to have a competition.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Let’s leave the compromise-before-all-else approach to Obama, shall we?

    Joey Reply:

    The FRA hasn’t complained about that aspect of the CHSRA’s plans so far (while they have complained about others). And they seem perfectly willing to allow UIC EMUs on the CalTrain corridor (not unconditionally of course). Of course, what they allow on the NEC might be completely different.

    Also, when you say AVE, please specify that you mean the S102. Spain operates a variety of trainsets, some of which are EMUs, under the AVE label.

    Useless Reply:

    @ Joey

    Caltrain waiver requires that the passenger trains and cargo trains operate at different time slots; ie the cargo trains will run when the passenger trains are not running from midnight to 6 AM or something like that.

    It’s a lot harder to kick cargo trains off the Northeast Corridor.

    Peter Reply:

    Wasn’t the FRA originally willing to waive its dinosaur weight and structural requirements for Acela, but Amtrak was taking too long to install ACSES?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    No. In fact, FRA blind-sided Amtrak and Bombardier by requiring zero-passenger deadweight locomotives at both ends of the train after design and procurement was in process.

    America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals: death is too kind a fate.

    Useless Reply:

    This is why the FRA would likely require locomotives with 600 ton(3 times UIC) static load strength at the both ends as a compromise. And Amtrak can still go off the shelf with this requirement.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    In the post, Amtrak flags that they are looking for a performance standard rather than a build specification standard, but they’ll surely be looking for a performance standard that can be met with off the shelf equipment.

    Nathanael Reply:

    It turns out to be quite easy to meet pretty much any performance standards with “crash energy management” (crumple zones) — which are, fundamentlaly, cheap.

    The current FRA regs simply don’t allow that without special waivers — they require lots of deadwieght, which *actually performs worse*.

    If we see FRA regulation reform, it will really help passenger rail in the US.

  6. StevieB
    Jan 7th, 2013 at 10:05

    Rep. Alan Lowenthal says he is now a California HSR advocate in congress.

    Now that he’s in Congress, the fight is rail or no rail, not one plan or another. Lowenthal said that makes him a booster and he’s ready to take on Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Jeff Denham as they try to prevent federal dollars coming to the project. “I’m all in. I’m all in. … What am I going to do? Leave it out there? No. I’m going to be a champion.”

    Actions speed louder than words and it will be interesting to see Lowenthal’s actions in Congress. Lowenthal was passed over for a spot on Transportation and Infrastructure committees, which he desired, but says it not because he angered Pelosi with his high-speed rail vote in the California legislature.

    synonymouse Reply:

    earmarks forever.

    VBobier Reply:

    Oh yeah, I’m so enthused by him, what’s his name? Lowenbrau? Never heard of Him…

    joe Reply:

    Nancy Pelosi schooled Alan Lowenthal.

    He didn’t anger her. It’s not personal.

    Alan exercised bad judgement at the State level and doesn’t deserve a position on a prestigious Congressional committee given his past behavior at the State level showed him to be a poor legislature. He was very difficult to accommodate and nearly killed the CAHSR project.

    VBobier Reply:

    I’d rather trust a Neanderthal, than Alan Lowenthal…

  7. Derek
    Jan 7th, 2013 at 11:14

    Here’s a nice strawman argument: We can pay off bullet train — in a few hundred years, by the Bakersfield Californian.

    Let’s apply some math to the high-speed rail proposal. Assume 5,000 riders per day would use this new phenomenon, and the average ticket price is $100. That’s $500,000 a day in fare revenue or $182,500,000 per year… With that kind of hypothesized ridership, and an estimated cost to build of $100 billion…

    The guy’s just making up numbers and then using them to conclude that HSR is a bad deal. The biggest enemy of California High Speed Rail is lies and misinformation. The CHSRA ought to sue for libel.

    joe Reply:

    It’s a Letter to Editor.

    Trains have to operate at 100% cost recovery, highways don’t figure into his rant.

    He wrote about Bakersfield to Sacramento which is ~275 miles.
    The HSR ticket price he made-up is $100.
    The Fed’s estimated cost for operating a POV is $0.565/mile (Jan 2013 which uses the lower average US price per gallon). His trip costs $155 each way.

    How many years until Gregg recovers his expenses?

    Jerry Reply:

    Thank you Joe.

  8. synonymouse
    Jan 7th, 2013 at 12:00

    The CHSRA itself is a source of lies and misinformation. Look at how it has twisted reality to pander to the Tejon Ranch Co.

    This guy’s calculations are based on UP’s and Amtrak’s current unions. If Pelosi’s house unions – TWU or Amalgamated – get their hands on the CHSRA platform jobs the losses will be even greater. Look at BART and Muni bloated payroll.

    In order to justify the very large subsidies required to keep trains operating over the Tehachapis they will need to increase the commute population along the route. BART SOP, but that plan also runs counter to the very strong current economic trend towards the jobs centers returning to the coastal areas. Many commentators and studies have noted this strong drift.

    If the anticipated commute traffic does not materialize the operating deficit will run very high and there will be great pressure to privatize, particularly since the CHSRA promised private investor involvement. Still think PB might want Tehachapi because they think the class ones could use it or part of it as a backup plan. The scuttlebutt is that the BNSF is now using the Loop more than the UP and that they are the prime movers behind the double-tracking. Maybe the Santa Fe would be willing to invest the money in an even better route.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Syn: BNSF/ATSF has been using Tehachapi more than UP/SP for 20 years or more, lately by a ratio of 2:1. They want the capacity just as they wanted the tunnels raised. It’s their main east west route from Nor Cal whereas it is a north south route for UP. North South traffic is in relative decline as imports replace domestic manufacture. Don’t you know this stuff? As someone who pontificates about the HS Tehachapi route as being a plot to provide a route for freight you seem to lack a basic understanding of how the class ones operate. I guess if you knew you wouldn’t keep writing the same bollix.
    The backup plan for UP is the Coast, the backup plan for BNSF is trackage rights over Donner Pass and Feather River. Got it?

    synonymouse Reply:

    No, I live far away from Tehachapi; and it has been more than 10 years since I have been over there. I always thought the BNSF was an afterthought on Tehachapi. Also in the scuttlebutt on the Altamont site was that the traffic was overall down quite a bit. Maybe Amtrak can talk their way into operating a train each way a day between Bako and LA. We’ll see how many riders there are. Kinda think the figures would be pretty embarrassing for PB-CHSRA.

    So if the class ones don’t want it, can’t use it, who’s going to buy it? Branson, Amtrak? You really think the State can afford to retain ownership and turn it into a big BART. If it is guvmint owned and operated lock, stock and barrel you will be stuck with TWU or Amalgamated. Pelosi & gang will insist on her house unions at $200k/yr. per head. 13 undocumented no-shows. Maybe you can set up a BART-style use district and level a parcel tax on the towns and areas along the tracks.

    If you envision the CHSRA a Golden State version of the SNCF you will require something like Francois Hollande’s 75% tax to subvent it. .

    synonymouse Reply:

    try levy for level. I knew that was not quite the right word.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Why do you take it as God-given gospel that CA-owned track “MUST” be sold?
    Is the CalTrain PJPB queueing up to sell their right-of-way? Is MetroLink? Or the NEC? Note that the NEC is riddled with low-speed sections, and “detours” along tne CT coast. But that doesnt’ stop Acela from breaking even on operations.

    Do you have “if it’s rail, and in the USA, God intended it to be for Class-1 drag freight, and anything else is a loser” tattooed on your brain? And if so, why? Note that your circular “It’s PB, therefore it’s a BART” is not an answer.

    Michael Reply:

    (Regarding San Joaquins continuing over the Tehachapi) Why would you want a train much slower than a bus to LA? Just to ride on the train? Then you are promoting operating trains as an amusement, not transportation.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yes, TehaVegaSkyRail is primarily amusement, marginally transportation. Akin to the LV Monorail.

    Yes, it will be privatized in a vain attempt to keep costs under, primarily payroll.

    Yes, it is a stone loser, like Amtrak only more expensive. If auctioned off, it will end up cannibalized. If it remains a State albatross, you will need Hollande’s 75% tax or the equivalent to keep it running, albeit with much deferred maintenance.

  9. Eric
    Jan 7th, 2013 at 13:53

    The metrolink disaster was pretty deadly in part because the passenger train was operating in “push” mode with the locomotive in the back, and the engineer operating from a cab-equipped passenger car. Passenger cars don’t have the same safety features that the locomotives do (such as anti-climbers). Had the locomotive been in front, the fatalities may well have been far fewer.

    Something else to note is that the Acela passenger cars are not a fixed consist (they are not articulated like european trainsets) and so are still subject to “accordian” crash behavior, and are more subject to overturning than articulated trains.

    Joey Reply:

    Or the locomotive would have jackknifed into the passenger cars. It’s better to avoid crashes altogether.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Eric: If you’re talking about Chatsworth you are incorrect. The impact was loco to loco. The passenger e loco was driven back inside the first car and accounted for most of the casualties.

    thatbruce Reply:

    He might be talking about the earlier Glendale crash (2005) where the southbound cab car (train in push mode) hit an SUV, pushed it down the tracks, eventually climbed over the SUV and derailed, jack-knifing the rest of the train, hitting the stationery freight and rear of the northbound Metrolink, resulting in the rear car of that train derailing and overturning.

    Eric Reply:

    Sorry you’re right…I must have gotten the wrecks mixed up when I heard Metrolink…

    Max Wyss Reply:

    The only articulated European high speed trains are the TGV family from Alstom and the Talogs. All other European high speed (and tiltiing) trains have individual cars (which may, however, only be uncoupled in a workshop).

  10. joe
    Jan 7th, 2013 at 15:04

    Previously, the FTA relied heavily on “travel time savings” to judge the merits of a project. The new formula will focus instead on the number of passengers expected to be served. Economic benefits like the impact on development will also be considered.

    Basically the old formula encouraged park-n-ride projects with long spaces between few stops in order to keep the speed high. Those aren’t the kinds of projects urbanist transit nerds like very much, as they aren’t complementary with walkable development.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Excellent news for projects providing improved service to neighborhoods that already have above average transit use.

    And yes, NOT COINCIDENTALLY, potentially excellent news for property development infill in areas like that which happen to gain funding … those types of areas seem to have been a relative bright spot for property developers after the outer suburban development overbuild leading into the housing bubble collapse in late 2007.

  11. Alan F
    Jan 7th, 2013 at 15:45

    It should be noted that the President of Amtrak, Joe Boardman, was head of the FRA from 2005 to 2008. So he should have a pretty good understanding of the regulatory issues from both sides, who are the key players at the FRA and hoops that have to be jumped through.

  12. joe
    Jan 7th, 2013 at 22:02

    Key source of Bay Area traffic headaches revealed by top researchers

    A groundbreaking study by UC Berkeley and MIT researchers has pinpointed a small group of drivers making Bay Area freeways miserable for the rest of us, though the reason may surprise you.

    By targeting those drivers to reduce the number of vehicles on Bay Area roads by just 1 percent, drivers would see the time they spend fuming in traffic drop by 14 percent — nearly 8 minutes saved per hour, the study concludes.

    The good news is that you can speed up noticeably when just a few cars leave the roadway, one of the main reasons officials have tried chipping away at the edges by encouraging people to take transit, carpool, telecommute or avoid rush hour. The new study found that effort will be about three times more effective if you can get certain drivers from the corners of the Bay Area off the road during peak travel times.

    Take the southeast San Jose region along the Highway 101 corridor, where residents spend more time in traffic than just about anywhere in the Bay Area, including people living in denser districts around downtown. That’s because downtown San Jose residents drive off in several directions, spreading out the traffic flow, while residents on the south side are all driving north together to jobs in the heart of Silicon Valley, jamming the freeway.

    If a driver from southeast San Jose can avoid rush hour, he would not only commute faster but also contribute toward speeding up commutes for his neighbors driving north on 101 and Interstate 280 and people from different neighborhoods going to the same destinations. …

    Tim Hyde, who joins the slog from his Morgan Hill home up Highway 101 to his structural engineering job in San Jose’s Willow Glen district, wasn’t surprised by the report’s findings. He sometimes leaves extra early or rides his motorcycle to avoid being part of the traffic problem.

    The map at the link clearly shows the area past San Jose Downtown needs better transportation options. Small decreases in traffic have disproportionally positive effects. These areas that are dark in South San Jose are all near the Caltrain ROW.

    It should help reduce this congestion if Caltrain expanded service from 3 trains day and improved a few stations in South San Jose. This improve will make Caltrain more reliable as a commuter line and have a disproportionally positive impact on congestion. The study shows these drivers are SV bound commuters of the road.

    Expanding 101 in South County Santa Clara from 2 to 4 lanes did not help – neglecting the south county and S/SE San Jose has made matters worse for every one.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “More roads and more trains for me!”

    Welfare queen.

    joe Reply:

    That’s the second time I’ve see your mysognoistic, rasict epithath. No thank you, not interested in your trolling.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Do you believe that the people on the left who keep using the term “corporate welfare” are being racist?

    Clem Reply:

    I’ve argued before that all Caltrain service should be extended to Tamien and Capitol, possibly even Blossom Hill, due to their large concentrations of residential population. “Downtown” SJ is an artificial terminus with relatively little ridership (probably the smallest ridership per capita of any city on the Caltrain line!) and no basis in any demographic data set I’ve looked at.

    Anywhere south of that is a waste, as the map in the linked article clearly confirms.

    Peter Reply:

    It is also very difficult to get to Diridon from South San Jose without driving. And once you’ve driven to Tamien or Diridon, it’s not very hard to just continue driving.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Caltrain serves Tamien, Capital and Blossom Hill. I think Caltrain would expand the service if there was demand.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Clem, as you know, the basic problem with Caltrain expansion south of San Jose is that the obstructionist Union Pacific still owns that track.

    The CHSRA plan is basically to build in the adjacent 101 right-of-way (101 is plenty wide and can be moved over or shrunk). This may also be the only hope for expanded Caltrain south of San Jose, unless someone tries the “buy out Union Pacific” option.

    Derek Reply:

    Expanding Caltrain service to get that 1% of drivers off the road who create 14% of the traffic congestion will only make room for other drivers to take their place, and then you’re right back where you started from a congestion standpoint. You will have increased transportation throughput, which is good, but it isn’t congestion relief.

    To achieve permanent congestion relief, you basically have to get everyone to bid for their timeslots. That means express lanes.

    joe Reply:

    Then let’s shut down the North service too since it doesn’t do permanent congestion relief either. They just expanded 101 to 5 lanes Palo Alto to Mountain View.

    Since they don’t curtail North service, I think adding more service to the south is constant.

    jimsf Reply:

    speaking of service at the north end. How bout all those techies who work down in silicon valley but move to sf cuz its fun and trendy, driving up rents and forcing the working class out of the city. im sure amanda and richard would agree that they should be living in mountain view and not commuting from 45 niles away…especially when they can afford to live in mountain view near their jobs.

    right richard and amanda?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Wrong. The primary peak direction for Caltrain is still northbound in the AM and southbound in the PM. The people who live in SF and work in Silicon Valley are riding reverse-peak, filling trains that would have otherwise run empty or parked at 4th and King.

    jimsf Reply:

    wrong alon. not talking about caltrain. they are driving from sf. in fact one of the biggest complaints from up and comers in sf who can afford the hones… is that the train takes too long and that the city is not providing enough parking spaces per unit of housing. they complain about having to spend 550k for a condo that doesnt include a parking space.

    so its ok for then to comute 45 minutes to work cuz they are in an elite class but its not ok for a bus driver to commute to a good job in sf from an affordable home in pittsburg.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You will never see me (or any other anti-car activist) defend people who think they’re entitled to government-mandated free parking. If they can shell out 550k for a condo, they can shell out 40k for a space at a parking garage. Or they can whine and think that driving is a right and transit is for lesser people.

    jimsf Reply:

    well thats the reality of it. i suggest you focus on canadas problems and stop telling californians how to live. or move to california and start paying rent, taxes, and voting. then what you think will matter.

    synonymouse Reply:

    By that same principle Harry Reid should be instructed to butt out of California affairs and quit trying to sabotage our hsr for the benefit of Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.

    Unless he wants to take in our welfare cases along with their welfare checks.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I have no voting rights anywhere, actually.

    As for focusing on Canada’s problems, meh. Native American activists in the US are holding protests and vigils in support of Idle No More, the local Native American protest movement that’s trying to get the federal government to stop polluting reservation land with tar sand mining byproducts.

    Mind you, that’s solidarity, and that’s fine. (Same solidarity I display with San Franciscans, New Yorkers, etc., by supporting good transit lines in their cities, same way I support good transit in Vancouver.) What’s not fine is how the US thinks everyone else’s natural resources belong to it. Canada might actually get away with banning mining in parts of Alberta. When third-world countries try to do the same, the US either invades or lets oil companies hire private security to do the same. The less you know about what they do in Nigeria to get oil, the better. Even Israel, supposedly a country that holds the US by the balls, was under American pressure not to raise its oil extraction tax, which it indeed didn’t.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Speaking of places which don’t have oil extraction taxes, it’s obscene that California doesn’t.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In the US, the oil is on private land. In Israel, it’s territorial waters that belong to the government.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    You want decent rail service, don’t contribute to exurban sprawl and move closer.

    jimsf Reply:

    you didnt answer the question. Should we be subsiding roads and transit so that tech workers in silicon valley can “live where they want” 45 miles away in sf? or should they be forced to live insilicon valley?

    blankslate Reply:

    No one should be forced to live anywhere. Transportation dollars should be spent on projects with the greatest benefit/cost ratio, and people should pay an appropriate cost for the transportation they consume and accept that the transportation project of their dreams might not be built if the benefits don’t justify the cost.

    jimsf Reply:

    well yes thats exactly how its always worked and continues to work, the our state’s extensive network of highways. whatever gets demanded by the most people is what gets built.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Not so much demanded by the “most people”, but by the “right” people.

    It is a tiny in crowd and their hand-picked agents in the agencies, authorities, boards, districts, etc. who make these decisions. According to who benefits and sometimes simply according to whim.

    synonymouse Reply:

    whim and fad

    joe Reply:

    What’s an “appropriate cost” ?

    SV collectively competes globally for rare, world class talent. These battles for talent and the critical mass of people working here determine if the SV will prosper against global competition.

    Being hard asses about homes and libertarian nonsense on transportation all works against Valley.
    Genentech, Stanford and etc all rely on Caltrain and transit to get people to work affordably. Google and Facebook spend corporate money to bus people into work to accommodate the high cost of living.

    Google has a bus pick-up at Noe Vally in SF and one in Bernel near the Caltrain ROW. Why the hell is Caltrain stopping there and in the area more frequently some crime against economics?

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    People shouldn’t live so far away from their places of employment. You wanted a small town lifestyle, you’re going to have to pay for it.

    jimsf Reply:

    Do you know anything? Most people don’t just choose long commutes on a whim. They have to work where they can get a job and live where they can afford a home and in california that is rarely the same place. People also own homes and lose jobs and have to commute to where they can get one and they can’t just dump their investment and uproot their families.

    Its not as simple as that.

    With more investment in infrastructure, roads, railroads, hsr, transit, it will make it easier for people to be mobile, to live where they can afford to live, and still be able to access jobs in places they cant afford to live.

    If you have a decent job making 30-50k you can buy a home for 150-175k. They bay area median is 499k LA metro is 279k and inland empire is 175k. So of course where are people going to live…

    and rents follow the same pattern.

    So instead of badmouthing people who are trying to get by best they can, you might come up with a solution to make housing more affordable or raise wages.

    The cali median household income is 61k –

    61k qualifies you for a home in Hanford.

    Derek Reply:

    If people can’t afford to live where the jobs are, then the jobs will have to pay more for workers. Higher wages is a good thing, right?

    jimsf Reply:

    of course and i await with glee and anticipation for said higher wages as Im sure do all the waiters, bartenders, janitors, garbagemen, cable guys, hotels clerks,grocery checkers, cops,teachers, barristas, doormen, towtruck drivers, and tanning solan operators. I’m sure the check will be in the mail at any moment now.

    Derek Reply:

    Either you don’t understand supply and demand, or you don’t believe in the free market. Are you a commie?

    jimsf Reply:

    Yes i understand it perfectly. youre the commie who thinks we should just apy everyone more to solve the problem

    ‘i understand that the affordable housing is not close to where people work. Nor do people always have the ability to up and move around on a whim.

    Are you suggesting all the service folks live in cardboard boxes near their jobs in sf and silicon valley or are you suggesting they live where they can afford to live and have a long commute or are you suggesting that we not have any service industry in sf and silicon valley and if the people who do liive and work there want a cocktail they can make it themselves and if they want a celan highrise they take out their own trash and scub the public toilets?

    which is it?

    Derek Reply:

    Some will move away. Some will pick a job closer to home to reduce the cost of their commutes. Some will go back to school and get better paying jobs. All of these will decrease the supply of labor in areas with expensive commutes, raising the cost of that labor which means paying the remaining workers more. The ones who stay will then be able to afford their commutes and their living quarters closer to work.

    jimsf Reply:

    sounds nice on paper but take a look around cali and see how well thats worked out

    Jonathan Reply:

    Derek, you *do* realize that your argument about the marginal effect of reducing the pool of low-wage workers, *directly* contradicts your bald assertions about the marginal effect of reducing congestion?

    You can’t have it both ways.
    You could, however, try some more sophisticated arguments.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The free market is a joke. No free market has ever existed. Highly regulated markets have existed. Sometimes. And sometimes they actually follow the rules of supply and demand. Often they don’t.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There is no substitute for competent administrators.

    Markets are a tool to reduce the need for administrators. If you can manage to create a functioning market which does what you (the people) want it to, then you need fewer competent administrators, which is good, because competent administrators are really hard to find.

    But there is still no substitute for competent administrators. Often you won’t be able to create a suitable market, and even if you do, things will go wrong and the administrators will have to step in and correct them. (Look up New York State’s “deregulated” electricity market, which is actually far more heavily regulated with far more administrators required, than it was before “deregulation”.)

    blankslate Reply:

    Except when the jobs don’t pay more, and one still has to live somewhere in the meantime. What then?

    Derek Reply:

    You move to Arizona or Austin like everyone else.

    jimsf Reply:

    well if youre advocating moving 10 or 15 million folks out out of cali to az and tx hey ill support that in a heartbeat. That will be the best thing we can do to lessen the burden on our natural beauty and resources

    John Burrows Reply:

    The median home asking price in Santa Clara County is now $599,000, up over 16% from a year ago. There is no way of accurately predicting what will happen to home prices in Santa Clara County 10 or 20 years from now, but if the Bay Area economy stays hot the affordability index around here is really going to get shot to hell.

    If the median home asking price in Santa Clara County were to go up an average of 3% per year it would be over $800,000 by 2023. The median home asking price in Fresno, now about $230,000 will increase to $300,000 in 2023 with the same 3% increase.

    The appeal of “living where they can afford to live, and still be able to access jobs in places where they can’t afford to live” is likely to increase over time—But the idea of living in Fresno or Hanford or Merced and commuting to well paying jobs in parts of the Bay Area will, for all but a few die-hard commuters, have to wait for another 16 years at least.

    jimsf Reply:

    again- good jobs over here, affordable homes over there. Im sure that when palo alto mountain view and meno park start selling homes for 250k, a lot of those south co commuters would gladly move closer to work

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Do you believe its the right of every American to own a home? Do you think its possible to enjoy a high standard of living in the more populated parts of Santa Clara County (i.e. not Gilroy, Morgan Hill, etc) and not live in a house? I’m pretty sure lots and lots of people live in San Jose, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, etc and live happy, productive lives, and don’t own 4 bedroom ranch houses with spatial lawns for their kids to play in. You and joe have successfully redefined the essential need of housing as “need a suburban style home to live in.”

    Its pure naivety and selfishness to assume that exurban living and massive commutes aren’t going to have any tradeoffs or consequences. Congra

    jimsf Reply:

    Yes it is the right of every american to buy a home within their price range if thats what they want.
    Yes it is possible to have a high standard of living without owning a home providedyou can afford the rent in a decent place near your job, which in sf and silicon valley isn’t possible for people making less than 50k with a family. You can have a low quality of life though. But people like you think its fine for “those people” to just deal with a low quality of life so you can feel good about dictating who should live where and how.

    and no onesaid anything about 4 bedroom homes with sprwing lawns. In places like the bay area evena modest 2 bed one bath 900sf 1940s home on a 60×100 standard lot it out of reach for theaverage californian.

    so get off your high horse missy elliott. you wanna live in studio in the tenderloin for 1400 a month, roaches included you go right ahead.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I want to buy a subway train all for myself.

    jimsf Reply:

    what does that have to do with the fact that people can’t afford to live where they work or have the luxury of moving everytime they have a change in employment.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Nothing. What does home ownership have to do with it? You can rent the same place for many years, even decades.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Jim may well be advocating the “squatters’ rights” or “tenancy” principle which was a part of English common law for a long time, under which even renters or apartment dwellers gain vested rights and can’t be kicked out. There’s a lot of social benefits to this system, though landlords HATE it.

    joe Reply:

    Hilariously the Morgan Hill market does not fit this ranch sprawl stereotype.

    2-story postage stamp lots dominate the region and there is multi-story town home infill along the ROW.

    Expanding 101 from 2 to 4 lanes to South County was no problem for people.

    Ask for a restoration of Caltrain service given the ridership across the board for rail is increasing everywhere and all the cranks come out to complain.

    Point to a study showing how the neglect along the Caltrain ROW has contributed disproportionally to congestion and caused spending ten of millions on 101 and still people complain.

    Run 4 more trains a day each way – every ~30 minutes from 5:30 to 8:30 in the AM. Improve the stations @ Capitol and Blossom Hill, and add a station in S San Jose.

    Joey Reply:

    Slight technical point – down there it’s not the CalTrain ROW. With the exception of a little bit of property around Gilroy station owned by VTA, it’s all owned by UP.

    Nathanael Reply:

    This is unfortunately not a slight technical point; it means that running more trains down there requires negotiatiing with the infamously anti-passenger UP management.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    And let Monterey County TA pick up most of the cost of running two of those trains each way from Diridon to Salinas. It’s part of their longer range plans and it makes sense for them.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    The VTA also needs to run light rail directly to Diridon from Santa Teresa.

    joe Reply:

    VTA currently connects to the Tamien/Caltrain Stop.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Which is mostly useless because of limited Tamien service.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I can think of a lot of reorganization which would help VTA light rail.

    All the southside branches should run directly to Diridion.
    One of them (Winchester) should run through to Great America.

    The Alum Rock branch should run directly to Mountain View.

    This would make some sort of sense as a map, unlike the current situation.

  13. Amanda in the South Bay
    Jan 8th, 2013 at 08:10

    Its pure naivety and selfishness to assume that exurban living and massive commutes aren’t going to have any tradeoffs or consequences. Congratulations on convincing yourself that your exurban lifestyle is absolutely consequence free.

    Jon Reply:


    Measure B1 would have provided Livermore $5,000 per person to extend BART out there, but they voted against the tax in huge numbers. We want gold-plated transit, but don’t ask us to pay for it!

    Why does BART persist in planning extensions to places that don’t want to pay for it? I’m sure the folks in Oakland/Berkeley/Emeryville/Albany who voted 75%+ in favor would love to have new BART lines and infill stations.

    joe Reply:

    South County to Gilroy is not exurban. Certainly compared to Tracy or Vacaville, it’s far closer. Livermore BART is more distant geographically than SF but it’s perfectly fine to build to livermore.

    Older residents talk about using the train to get to SF for the day. The transit neglect in the region is more recent.

    I understand Caltrain could have bought the ROW to Gilroy but didn’t. That’s neglect. It’s simply bad policy that caused this current problem in the south county and the study is showing the impact.

    No reason why the Caltrain service should have neglected south of Tamien.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “More roads and more trains for me!”

    Welfare queen.

    jimsf Reply:

    “everyone who who doesn’t move to another country and live the intellectually superior lifestyle that i live is a welfare queen”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Kind of cute to see Joe complain that using the term “welfare queen” about middle-class white men is racist while you start bashing immigrants.

    jimsf Reply:

    well heres the thing alon. you see, where bart goes is none of your business. neither is ca hsr. you dont livehere vote here or pay taxes here so your opinion is irrelevant.

    Joey Reply:

    You act like your opinions are shared by everyone who does live here.

    joe Reply:

    I’m not compaining. It is an offensive epitath and I have no interest in engaging him.

    VBobier Reply:

    Alon Levy: “welfare queen” is a made up term, made up by President Ronald Reagan, there has never been such a person as it was/is a racist idea, at least 70% of people who get some sort of Benefits are “White”, I get SSI which is Supplemental Security Income cause I’m disabled & unable to work, simple tasks for most are very hard for Me to do, Oh and I’m the descendant of immigrants, those who don’t like immigrants are themselves largely ignorant of their own family ancestry, My ancestors came here in 1850 on My Dads side, plus I can lay claim to being related to a Union Army Major General, My Mothers side came here earlier than that, I know less about My Mothers side of course.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I know the origins are incredibly racist, but non-racist liberals (and people much farther left than liberals) use the term regarding things other than low-income benefits: corporate welfare, defense contractor welfare, wingnut welfare. The aim is to show that a lot of the people who complain about SSI or Medicaid or food stamps receive tons of government aid themselves, or think very highly of sectors that do, like the Pentagon.

    Jon Reply:

    The problem is that not Richard M is being racist – he’s not. The problem is that his comments are so deliberately provocative that they immediate remove the possibility of the exchange producing any illumination, rather than just heat. Hence, he is trolling.

    VBobier Reply:

    Ok. One thing I do know is that those who complain about SSI benefits do not know what their talking about, they don’t have any experience at all, I on the other hand do, the benefits sure are not lavish as I’ve heard from some sources, $710 a month is not lavish or extravagant in the least, SSI should be doubled to $1420 a month for those that need the money, scrimping to get something is not easy, people who get SSI most likely either are Seniors getting Social Security by itself(meaning they have No Pension or 401K) or Social Security Disability Insurance, neither of which do I get, heck cause I live in CA I don’t get Food Stamps and I don’t get Rental Assistance as that is capped and closed, to get Rental Assistance someone has to die or win the lottery big time, plus have money to move and just moving 50-60 miles would cost Me $610.00. If one lives in CA and gets SSI one gets $866.40 a month for 2013(part of the $866.40 comes from CA and part is the $710.00 from SSI, the SSA just runs SSI), I do live on it, barely, but then I’m fairly frugal and I know how to budget, if My 14yr old car needed replacement I’d be allowed to get a loan, but I don’t have the income to do so with or have enough saved for a down payment as the limit for liquid assets is $2000 total, this includes My monthly benefit of $866.40, so the limit on savings for 2013 is $1,133.60(unchanged since 1989), nor can I buy a burial plot, headstone and pay for burial as the limit on Burial expenses is $1,500.00 which hasn’t changed since 1972, so I can’t even die.

    Nathanael Reply:

    SSI is awful. I know multiple people on SSI. The worst part about it is that you’re not allowed to have savings, which means you are ALWAYS on the brink and can NEVER get ahead under any circumstances even if you win the lottery.

    Jon Reply:

    Quit trolling

    joe Reply:

    Another racist misogynistic epitaph from the HSR troll.

    Jon Reply:

    South County to Gilroy is not exurban

    An exurb is a town with limited economic activity of it’s own that exists as a commuter town for the central city. The difference between a suburb and an exurb is that unlike a suburb an exurb has green space between itself and the central city, although this distinction is increasingly trivial. Gilroy and Livermore both fit this description.

    Gilroy is 80 miles from SF. Livermore is 45. I don’t think Livermore needs commuter rail service to SF either, but they have a better case for it than Gilroy. A Gilroy to SF trip would be more intercity rail than commuter rail, and that function will be filled by HSR.

    You could argue that Gilroy deserves to have better rail transit to the closer job centers Silicon Valley and San Jose, but transit is only effective when there is a high density of jobs at the destination or residences at the origin, preferably both. Unlike downtown SF, Silicon Valley and San Jose does not have a high density of employment as the jobs are located in suburban office parks rather concentrated in a high-rise downtown area near rail stations. And Gilroy does not have a high density of residences, regardless of what you may think. (Neither does Livermore, but a BART station in Livermore would get reasonable ridership as a park-and-ride to high jobs density SF, although probably not enough to justify the cost.)

    Clem’s recommendations for South County Caltrain service are spot on. Service to Blossom Hill is justified, service beyond there is not viable for a commuter agency like Caltrain.

    joe Reply:


    Gilroy is not a exburb. It’s part of the Caltrain line and historically connected to San Jose sinc steam locomotive.

    Arguing that SF is the hots for transit and the rest of the valley isn’t doen’t make much sense.

    People get bused from SF to work at google every day. SF south bound trains have mucho personas. Why are these SF residents not working in your city and walking/MUNI to work like you?

    Obviously there’s a world to explore South of you. Folks commute distances from SF to SV that are longer than my Gilroy commute.

    Jon Reply:

    Gilroy is not a exburb. It’s part of the Caltrain line and historically connected to San Jose sinc steam locomotive.

    None of that is inconsistent with being an exurb. Read what I wrote.

    Why are these SF residents not working in your city and walking/MUNI to work like you?

    Again, read what I wrote. Transit is only effective when there is a high density of jobs at the destination or residences at the origin, preferably both. There are high densities of residences around 4th & King and 22nd St stations (first and second highest out of all Caltrain stations) and medium density of employment around the Silicon Valley Caltrain stations (lower than 4th & King or 22nd St but higher than anywhere else.) So you get a reasonable ridership on the southbound trains.

    The shuttle buses are a highly specialized form of transit that go straight to the campus of the company in question. Very useful for employees of that company, but useless for everyone else. For that reason they require a heavy subsidy, which is paid for by the company in question. Nothing wrong with that, but don’t confuse the economics of private shuttles with the economics of public Caltrain service.

    Gilroy Caltrain station is below average in terms of population density, close to bottom in terms of employment density, and is too far away from the high density employment center of SF to provide a commute which most people would put up with. (HSR will change this, of course.) A reasonable commute time to medium employment density Silicon Valley is achievable, but at neither end of the commute is the high density of jobs or residences required to run a cost-effective commute service.

    The low density of Gilroy means that it is not cost effective for Caltrain to provide frequent service to the town. You can complain all you like, but it doesn’t change the economics of the situation. If I lived in Gilroy I would just be happy that unlike most towns of 50,000 people it’s going to get a HSR station.

    Jon Reply:

    By the way, the fact that so many people commute south from SF to Silicon Valley rather negates your ‘everyone has to live in the suburbs’ argument, doesn’t it?

    joe Reply:

    Probably a misunderstanding.

    I commuted on busy caltrain from SF to SV for 5-6 years. Same distance as now but in SF I was not as close to Caltrain.

    I can’t afford to own in SF and save for kids education, retirement and etc. I bet you cannot either but that’s your choice.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Gilroy’s current population is 50,000. In 1970, it was 12,000. In 1980, it was 25,000.

    Now, not every place in North America with that amount of recent residential growth is an exurb. For example, Downtown Vancouver’s residential population has increased eightfold since the 70s. But this is just gentrifying inner-urban neighborhoods, or downtowns that are seeing more residential development as opposed to just commercial. Outer-urban neighborhoods and old suburbs don’t have that amount of growth. If they do, it’s usually a formerly independent urban area that’s not becoming an exurb of a larger city.

  14. Amanda in the South Bay
    Jan 8th, 2013 at 13:38

    Extending BART to Livermore was a mistake too IMHO.

    jimsf Reply:

    but sending hsr there via altamony isnt?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Livermore is smack-dab on the primary intrastate route between Norcal and Socal. Just as Palmdale isn’t.

    jimsf Reply:

    its also in the bay area and in the bart district and deserves a bart station

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So does the Richmond District.

    jimsf Reply:

    san francisco has had 8 bart stations for 35 years and every san franciscan is less ehan 4 miles from the nearest one east coco has been paying taxes for bit and has one station at baypoint. Theres another 250k people east of baypoint and pleasonton. theres 59k in the richmond district

    Jon Reply:

    It’s not about ‘deserves’, it’s about ‘viable’. How many people live within a mile of (say) Geary & Presidio? And how many people live within a mile of the planned Livermore station at Isabel & I-580?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Please no effing BART on Geary. Standard gauge oc. That territory belongs to TWU 250A.

    Joey Reply:

    Actually, it might not be such a terrible idea. Branching in downtown SF could alleviate some of the transbay capacity problems (or at the very least increase reliability). Richard M once told me that the greatest capacity constraint is actually a 4% grade near Balboa Park. If so, splitting off some trains to Geary would definitely help capacity.

    joe Reply:

    I bet they have parking lot planned for BART/Livermore. Possibly people will drive to the Livermore stop and ride in form there. Park and ride they call it.

    Quite common on the DC Metro line like the orange line’s outlying stations. Calculations with residential density don’t capture that behavior.

    Jon Reply:

    Yes, they do, and I’m sure 99% of their ridership will be of the park-and-ride variety. But park-and-ride stations are not the most efficient way to increase ridership per dollar spent. Take a look at the ten BART stations with the highest ridership- what do they all have in common? (Answer- no parking lot.)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The most successful parts of the DC Metro are precisely the ones that didn’t do park-and-rides, but instead went along densifiable corridors: Bethesda, the Arlington portions of the Orange and Blue Lines, Alexandria.

    And moreover, Toronto, which prefers bus connections to park-and-rides, has even higher transit usage and even higher mode share (though DC is slowly closing the gap).

    Nathanael Reply:

    There is nothing inherently wrong with park-and-rides — they have their place — but they’re *much better for intersicy trips than for commuter trips*. Which is something which has been done all wrong in most systems, because the lots aren’t secure or long-term enough for intercity trips. The park-and-ride location at Ramsey Route 17 on NJT would be a fine location for several-day storage of cars from people visiting New York City, for example

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Metropark, Route 128, and New Carrollton were all opened by private railroads as intercity park-and-rides. The super-express Metroliners that did New York-Washington in 2:40 in the 1970s stopped only at NY, New Carrollton, and DC. It didn’t help; the CBD location was and still is far more useful to most riders. Route 128 is the least busy of the four Boston-Providence area NEC stops, and New Carrollton is less than half as busy as Route 128.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    To the pedestrian, 4 miles is over an hour of walking.

    blankslate Reply:

    Making BART go to more destinations within SF would be far more useful to people in the exurbs than building a BART line to the city limits of the exurb itself.

    Drive 10 miles–>take BART–>get off the train and walk less than 1/2 mile to your destination

    is a more viable option than:

    Drive 5 miles–>take BART–>take slow as snails, crowded, dirty MUNI bus or walk 4 miles to your destination

    Nathanael Reply:

    Jimsf: if your argument is that every city in the taxing district should have stations, then the problem is that the BART taxing district is too large. King County Metro in the Seattle area has a similar problem, as does Sound Transit — if you extend the taxing district out into the middle of nowhere, you start getting people agitating to extend the train service into the middle of nowhere.

    I know the historical reasons why this was done (suburbs were rich, cities were poor) but that was a historical anomaly; it’s currently reversing itself; and it’s not necessary any more.

    blankslate Reply:

    They have a BART station, it’s in Dublin.

  15. joe
    Jan 8th, 2013 at 16:05

    Caltrain Boardings by County
    Feb 2012
    San Francisco 3,490 20.8%
    San Mateo 5,861 35.0%
    Santa Clara 7,392 44.1%
    Santa Clara AM peak boardings include the Gilroy extension stations [339].

    The UCB/MIT Transit study showed disproportionate negative impact by drivers in South along 101.

    I picked AM boardings since there are no PM boardings in South County so AM allows apples to apple comparison. The data do NOT indicate there is any issue – 339 rider across 3 trains.

    My POINT is the use of ridership data to evaluate a cost/benefit for service expansion misses the traffic study’s most interesting finding. Small changes in some areas can have large impacts on traffic for many drivers. Getting drivers from these areas off the roads will improve traffic flow. High bang for the buck.

    Clem’s analysis has nothing to do with highway congestion impacts and relief. The fact this area impacts traffic dis-proportionally isn’t represented in his data or “model”. It appears to be a coincidence. That approach doesn’t capture what UCB and MIT did with their models and mobile data fusion.

    Jon Reply:

    My POINT is the use of ridership data to evaluate a cost/benefit for service expansion misses the traffic study’s most interesting finding.

    Neither Clem nor I used any ridership data in our arguments. We are both talking about residential and employment density near Caltrain station. Those factors are are fixed, excepting long-term changes caused by rezoning. Ridership primarily is a function of residential/employment density and service levels; by looking at residential/employment density rather than ridership you can see where has potential ridership that would justify increased service. Gilroy is not one of those places.

    Getting drivers from these areas off the roads will improve traffic flow. High bang for the buck.

    Since when was I talking about reducing congestion? I was talking operating a cost-effective commute service, which means maximizing ridership and revenue. Caltrain doesn’t gain any revenue by reducing car congestion, it does so by getting riders on trains.

    joe Reply:

    “Since when was I talking about reducing congestion? I was talking operating a cost-effective commute service, which means maximizing ridership and revenue.”

    So what? The Study points to other uses and benefits of service. You can ignore it but that’s your desires for how you want others to value transit and given you sit in SF – whats it to you?

    The study illustrates the effectiveness of getting a few cars off the road at critical times. Caltrain is a known solution. So they are spending tens of millions re-building the 101 interchanges like Tully Road right now but the UCB study is saying they need to get cars off the road, a few, and the impact will be huge.

    Extend/improve Caltrain service during peak congestion and get cars off the road. It’s 100% acceptable North of San Jose. South San Jose and beyond, it’s apparently criminal.

    Jon Reply:

    That’s fine, so long as we agree that your reason for improving Caltrain service to Gilroy is to reduce congestion on your driving commute. If your objective is to increase Caltrain ridership, there are other places where those extra trains will add more riders per dollar spent.

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