Would You Like A Free Lunch?

Mar 20th, 2013 | Posted by

Hey you. Yeah, you reading this blog post. Would you like a free lunch? Any kind of food, from any location, your choice.

OK, now what if I told you that you could have any kind of food from any location, but you’d have to pay $20 for it. Would you be less likely to take up the offer? Of course you would.

Today’s PPIC poll takes a very similar approach to judging two major infrastructure projects in California – a proposed water bond and high speed rail. In news that will surely surprise everybody, respondents say they’re more likely to support both projects if the cost were lower:

Voters passed a $10 billion bond in 2008 for the planning and construction of high-speed rail. Today, when read a description of the project and its $68 billion cost estimate, 43 percent of likely voters favor it and 54 percent are opposed. [Note: the poll shows that among all adults, 48% support and 50% oppose HSR at that cost estimate.] Last March, when the estimated cost was $100 billion, responses were similar (43% favor, 53% oppose). When those who are opposed are asked how they would feel if the cost were lower, overall support rises to 55 percent. Most (59%) say high-speed rail is important to the state’s quality of life and economic vitality (32% very important, 27% somewhat important).

Already reporters are taking these numbers as a sign that Californians don’t support the high speed rail project. But I think that’s an inaccurate conclusion to draw. Among all adults, support for HSR is split at the cost estimate of $68 billion. Of course support will rise if people are offered the same product at a lower cost. I’d be stunned if support dropped at a lower price point.

But the key finding here is that 59% of voters – a clear majority – see HSR as either very important or somewhat important to California’s quality of life and economic vitality. That means 6 out of 10 Californians understand support the concept of HSR and believe it is worth carrying forward. It make sense that some of them would rather the cost be cheaper – again, we’d all prefer the free lunch – but what matters most is that they understand its overall value. If voters believe a project is valuable, they’re more likely to support it regardless of cost, and cost concerns can be overcome by pointing to its benefits.

That’s exactly what happened in 2008. HSR opponents flooded the media with concerns about project costs and said that during a time of budget crisis California couldn’t afford it. 52% of voters said they still supported the HSR project anyway, voting to approve Prop 1A and the $10 billion in bond money to help build it.

That doesn’t mean that voters will support HSR regardless of price tag. But it does suggest that price alone isn’t what determines voter support. This is something that most retailers already know. Price makes a difference, yes. But if you’re on the showroom floor and you really like that car or that TV or that couch, you’re willing to pay a little extra to take it home right then and there, even if ideally you’d pay less.

Some reporters, like John Myers, believe the polling results show an “uphill battle” for HSR. I think that’s incorrect. It shows that HSR can proceed ahead just fine as long as the state takes steps to keep the costs under control. Proper construction management should be able to ensure that the project is delivered on time and on budget, without change orders or pressure for hasty construction to suit political demands.

Nothing in the PPIC poll suggests that legislators will pay any sort of political price for supporting HSR funding and construction. After all, HSR supporters did very well at the November 2012 election. And nothing in the poll suggests that HSR would die if someone somehow got the millions of dollars they needed to get an anti-HSR measure on the ballot and run a campaign to support its passage. It says that Californians, like their governor, are not conservative, they’re cheap.

The PPIC poll does have other interesting insights as it relates to transportation. 61% of all adults believe that a simple majority of the legislature should be able to put a tax on the ballot. 52% of all adults believe that voters should be able to pass local transportation taxes with a 55% yes vote.

So while I’d love for the HSR numbers to be higher, I am not worried one bit about the results here. In fact, the 59% number showing HSR as a good idea for the state is a big boost to the project and suggests it has a lot of support among California residents. And the favorable numbers for reforms to the rules regarding approval of transportation taxes suggest that the debacles we saw last fall in Alameda and Los Angeles counties, where transit measures just barely missed the 66.67% mark, might not be repeated again.

  1. BMF from San Diego
    Mar 20th, 2013 at 22:10

    This blog post is not so important that it merits pushing down the previous one. Bad call to post this right now. The other should have remained at the top, or, a second complimentary one to it posted. In my opinion.

    joe Reply:

    THis comment is somewhat marginal – I give it a 3 out of 10.

    July 2012 a PPI poll clearly showed Prop 30 was going to lose because of HSR.

    There are good reasons to believe Prop. 30 will fail. First, voters simply do not trust Sacramento to spend their money wisely. According to a July poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 69 percent of “likely voters” disapprove of the job the Legislature is doing, less than half approve of the governor’s performance, and 66 percent of likely voters said they think the state is going in the wrong direction. So, while the majority of votes approve giving more money to education, they don’t trust Sacramento to get the money to the classroom.

    The decline in trust has been exacerbated by the governor’s enthusiastic support for high-speed rail and Sacramento’s failure to deliver significant reform of the state’s public employee pension system.

    A July Field Poll reported that “a fifth of likely voters who support Brown’s proposal to raise taxes say they would be less likely to support it if the Legislature appropriates money for high-speed rail.” Only 52 percent to 55 percent of likely voters support Prop. 30. If just a small percentage defects, Prop. 30 will fail.

    Dems consolidate power and win a super majority, CA passes Prop 30 and Gov Brown’s popular.

    PPI has done some shitty polling.

    BrianR Reply:

    maybe or maybe not but just go to the prior post then.

  2. John Burrows
    Mar 20th, 2013 at 22:28

    Quoting from the San Jose Mercury News from Jan. 16 (2 days before the deadline for the submittal of sealed bids for the first 29 miles of train track).

    “The rail authority has budgeted $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion for the project’s initial leg between Madera and Fresno. But the actual prices submitted by firms will prove whether that estimate is accurate–and could set a precedent for whether the $69 billion estimate is off the mark, as skeptics claim”.

    Let us hope that the authority’s estimate is on the mark, because if it is not I fear that support for the project will erode—It has been over 2 months and we will know soon enough.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Go Tutor. Bid low; lose a bunch. Please.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The house never loses.

    joe Reply:

    Bids for road related construction in the bay area are less than estimated due to the recession’s reduced demand for materials and excess construction capacity.

    Chronic underbidding on construction projects in CA are due to the State’s emphasis on cost as a selection criteria – firms game the system.

    So there’s scant evidence to suggest the bids wil be high, more likely they’ll be low-balling work and there will be pressure to select a lowest cost proposal that will have “unforeseen” cost over-runs.

  3. Paul Dyson
    Mar 20th, 2013 at 23:07

    The initiative process has many flaws. Voting to borrow money without taxing to pay for it is morally suspect. It should be easier to pass a tax than a bond, not vice versa.

    VBobier Reply:

    Not until the threshold is at 51-55%, instead of the current 66.67%, which is too high and which is holding CA’s economy hostage.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Why should it not be 50% plus one, like for constitutional amendments? Are the rights of the poor rich people so important they must get more protection from the majority than anyone else?

    VBobier Reply:

    That could be too easy.

  4. StevieB
    Mar 21st, 2013 at 01:17

    The PPIC poll shows a significant increase in those who consider California High Speed Rail important. The poll asked, “Thinking ahead, how important is the high-speed rail system for the future quality of life and economic vitality of California?” The positive response shows an 8% increase from a year ago. Majorities of adults (36% very, 31% somewhat) and likely voters (32% very, 27% somewhat) say the highspeed rail system is important for the future quality of life and economic vitality of California. Six in 10 adults held this view in March 2012 (33% very, 26% somewhat).

  5. Paul Druce
    Mar 21st, 2013 at 04:28

    Obligatory response: TANSTAAFL!

    Mattie F. Reply:

    And of course one drives the other. There’s no such thing as a free lunch because nearly everyone wants one – demand would approach infinity at that price, and outstrip any possible supply.

  6. trentbridge
    Mar 21st, 2013 at 09:05

    ““The rail authority has budgeted $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion for the project’s initial leg between Madera and Fresno. But the actual prices submitted by firms will prove whether that estimate is accurate–and could set a precedent for whether the $69 billion estimate is off the mark, as skeptics claim”.”

    I’m going on record as saying that I think the actual winning bid will come in towards the bottom end of the range. Labor costs are not going thru’ the roof – raw material prices are not going thru’ the roof and the engineering/planning in building a railroad track is not that cutting edge. (They’re not building a brand new aircraft out of composite materials using lithium ion batteries for example..)

    I invite the many skeptics to post their estimates of the bids. We won’t have to wait twenty years to see who is right and who is misguided.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    When are the bids to be unsealed?

  7. Tony D.
    Mar 21st, 2013 at 09:25

    I often wonder what would happen if relatively young, progressive folk like myself ACTUALLY ANSWERED THE DAMN PHONE when we get these 1-800 calls (I.e. screen and ignore)? Do they call cell phones? (Again, unknown caller and ignore). My point: your probably not getting a true feel of ALL California voters with these polls, but whatever..

  8. Keith Saggers
    Mar 21st, 2013 at 09:43

    Parsons Corp. are part of a joint venture bidding for the first section of CHSR. Also involved as
    Caltrain Eng. Consultant, Bart to SFO (stiltaleg)? and DTX.

    Parsons Brinkerhoff (PB) work as consultants? for CHSR.

    Confused in California
    Any comments?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “The house never loses.”

    synonymouse Reply:

    PB=BART=MTC=CHSRA=party machine=Tejon Ranch Co.

    pretty soon PB=Amtrak-NEC

    “The business of America is business” Very little substantive difference between Calvin Coolidge and Moonbeam.

    VBobier Reply:

    Pure garbage Syno, it should be hauled off as such…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Of course Richard is right – the octupus never loses.

    In the case of PB bidding on something it also designed the mechanism is pretty straightforward; in the instance of Tutor bidding low and carelessly and then plenty payola to the usual suspects t ensure getting the contract and losing bundle on paper how they are then made whole is not clear to me. But then I have never been on the inside.

    One would think that self-respecting liberals would be at least a little concerned at the blatant contractor “royalism” in play. I mean the CHSRA just reeks of monopoly and antitrust, which used to rankle the “left” before it went all machine and earmark.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Have you forgotten Milo Mindbender of M&M Enterprises in Catch 22?

    “Milo Minderbinder is the mess officer at the U.S. Army Air Corps base who becomes obsessed with expanding mess operations and trading goods for the profits of the syndicate (in which he and everyone else “has a share”). Milo is a satire of the modern businessman, and beyond that is the living representation of capitalism, as he has no allegiance to any country, person or principle unless it pays him.”

    There’s no difference between giant corps and large governments – as Milo told his critics – you “have a share”.

    elchu Reply:

    Pasadena-based Parsons Corporation (http://www.parsons.com/) are a different company from New York-based Parsons Brinkerhoff (http://www.pbworld.com/). Does that help?

  9. Mattie F.
    Mar 21st, 2013 at 10:18

    If we could get a funding source to complete construction faster, what would be the cheapest in YOE dollars to complete the entire system?

    Back in the Saddle Reply:

    Mattie–Your comments are very appropriate. It is well known that the larger the construction project the better(lower) bid per unit of construction is offered. Economies of scale at work. Its too bad that the construction isn’t extended to Bakersfield or even Palmdale with a dedicated source of revenue.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    I also meant to refer to the effect of inflation on construction budgets: When construction costs are reported in year-of-expendiature dollar, the same project 40 years later doubles in cost. Since the current schedule is for the LA-SD route to be built in 2030-2040 (IIRC), the YOE price tag makes it look prohibitively expensive, when it would, in terms of psychological effect (even if we assume not in real dollars) be less expensive if it were built 2013-2023.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Economies of scale at work

    Cartels also like large contracts. In just the right quantities. Preferably in quantities developed with “industry input”.

    Not too small (oh no!) and not too big. Juuuuuuuuust right.

    One for me and one for you. One for me and one for you.

  10. Reedman
    Mar 21st, 2013 at 11:12

    California school districts have figured out how to game the system, and don’t be surprised if HSR follows their lead.

    California has no restrictions on “capital appreciation bonds”. These are bonds which, after they are issued, the government entity doesn’t start paying them back for perhaps decades. [that benchmark of good fiscal management, Michigan, made these bonds illegal in 1994, deeming them too toxic for taxpayers].

    In 2011, the school district in Poway, CA issued $105 million in capital appreciation bonds. It won’t make a payment for 20 years. By 2055, the school district/taxpayers will have paid $982 million to retire the bonds.

  11. Keith Saggers
    Mar 21st, 2013 at 15:08

    hello, I am still not getting any closer to the nature of the supposed shady deal between PB and CHSRA, does anybody have any facts rather than opinions

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Everything is just fine. American’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals have determined that America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals are America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals. Sounds good to me. Do you want the terrorists to win? Do you hate freedom?

    Now sign this blank check, citizen! You do want to feel much closer to the nature, don’t you?

    nick Reply:

    that doesnt sound like fact to me it just sounds like a bit of a rant.

    i guess as far as you ans syn are concerned this conspiracy exists because you both say so !

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Look around you. America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals’ professional work output. You’re soaking in it. Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy.

    synonymouse Reply:

    When the same entity plans, constructs, and operates a project, haven’t we finally achieved the true “Turnkey”.

    The one ability this hypothetical entity lacks to run an inherently “lossy” operation is the right to tax. By co-opting, swallowing a governmental agency, authority, district the deal is sealed, up and running, subvented.

    Now that’s real privatization when a corp can tax the citizenry. Next step is to have the power to punish those who task you. Say when a BART(in loco the “entity”)can slap on the dread “86”. Or lay down lead with impunity.

    The corporate “entity” then does not just have citizenship; it is a royal. Seems to me both Reason Foundation capitalists and PB cheerleaders preach this future.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Have you ever considered switching to decaf?

    Mattie F. Reply:

    These comments are long on sarcasm, short on fact. It’s basically turned into an echo chamber for Mlynarik and Synonymouse to bounce increasingly desperate zingers off one another hoping to derail whatever constructive conversation they can. While the former once seemed to bring some interesting ideas, I can’t recall the last time either of them contributed anything of substance to this site.

    I seriously think this site needs to re-think its comment policy towards silencing hobby-horsers, topic-derailers, and sarcasm slingers.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “hobby-horsers, topic-derailers, and sarcasm slingers” – I guess once MTC darling Quentin Kopp now fits into this category, altho he does seem to have always displayed an inflexibility, my way or the highway, in developing plans. He seems to be obsessed with the Peninsula altho there are other and worse flaws in the rest of the PB-CHSRA scheme.

    In my case I did vote for Prop 1A and initially thought 99 and Pacheco were the better choices. After ruminating a lot about the route I changed my mind. I wish Kopp and other newcomer establishment turncoats would spend more time hashing out the details of the proposal they once approved. They should at least be able to get to the level of understanding of someone in the lay public like Richard Tolmach.

    I know stupidity and corruption are always in play in high-profile, big-money projects which hsr epitomizes. But the CHSRA has to be the champion. In Oakland they are bitching because a couple of city council members got involved in contracts and bids:


    This is trivial in relation to Jerry and Jeffrey’s intervention in favor of PB’s monopoly of the entire hsr megaproject. Free the Bell 5. Mistrial.

    I guess if one is not a PB mouthpiece one becomes part of the problem. The bitter truth is that Jerry Brown is a closet republican. He is a developer shill and growth-monger, every bit as rabid as any member of the Club for Growth. He funnels money and favors to the teachers’ union and other friends strictly for political expediency. He and Meg Whitman are about as different as good guys and villains in professional wrestling.

    The deeper truth is that that the establishment worthies who are running things are, at the very best, no smarter, competent or ethical than any poster on this site.

    Craig Ferguson, in his newest performance show on Netlix(darker and raunchier than usual, I must admit)goes into a riff about LA gargantuan inanity and superficiality(aura massages!)and concludes it is a miracle we all have survived this long.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ralph Parsons of Pasadena is not PB

    Mattie F. Reply:

    I never knew that. Thank you for adding that important bit of information.

  12. joe
    Mar 21st, 2013 at 20:13

    I think the California’s Rail Plan just did some good for Amtrak and I possibly pissed of Hizz Honor Mayor Rahm “GE” Emanuel’s insistence that 110 is good enough.

    Connect the dots.

    GE Transportation HQ Announces Move To Chicago
    After more than 100 years in Erie, Penn., General Electric Transportation headquarters is on the move to Chicago.
    Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday the company will relocate 50 employees from Erie, and hire 150 at its new Chicago base by 2014. The specific relocation date was not announced.

    September 19, 2012
    GE Engines to Lose Steam If High-Speed Rail Judged Too Slow
    Without naming GE, Caterpillar’s Progress Rail Services unit, in a May 8 letter to U.S. Congress members, said a 110-mph standard would exclusively benefit one company. Executives from Siemens and Tognum AG (TGM), both German rail-equipment manufacturers, also signed the letter.

    Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, is urging the speed be kept at 110 mph, saying that decision would immediately create jobs, the intent of the stimulus package. The slower locomotives would cost less and are available now, he said.

    “The high-speed rail program should put people to work sooner, rather than later, and states like Illinois shouldn’t have to spend billions of dollars to undo track upgrades they have already made,” Emanuel said in an e-mailed statement.

    March 21, 2013
    Locomotives capable of exceeding the 110-mph speed limit on the passenger rail corridor between Chicago and St. Louis will be bought for Illinois and four other states under a process the Illinois Department of Transportation will lead, officials said Thursday.
    The Federal Railroad Administration selected IDOT to manage the multistate procurement of at least 35 next-generation locomotives for high-speed rail corridors in Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri and Washington state, Gov. Pat Quinn said.

    The locomotives will be capable of cruising at up to 125 mph, based on a request from California, and they will comply with the most stringent federal EPA emission standards, officials said.

    America’s finest transportation professions *are* in CA. The state’s rail plan, insistence on HSR and fast 125 MPH service kept GE’s 110 MPH locomotives parked.

    VBobier Reply:

    I’m glad GE is parked, now GE will have to get off of it’s fat corporate tax free ass and make locomotives capable of at least 125 MPH, if they can’t others will have them for Breakfast.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    35 locomotives isn’t going to make or break GE. It isn’t going to make or break EMD either. They have a 125 MPH passenger locomotive in their portfolio. EMD, the company that has been in Illinois for decades.

    VBobier Reply:

    I didn’t think about EMD, nice, GE may regret this.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That’s funny, considering how GE has been such a pioneer in locomotives since, well, way back.

    I also thought the Genesis types were intended for higher speed operation; for some reason I also seem to recall the unit was also designed to be be built as a straight electric version. The closest we actually got were some dual power units built for Northeast commuter operations:



    The proposed F125 series from EMD:




    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Some interesting discussion on the F125:



    Possible predecessor design?



    BrianR Reply:

    Well at least the F125 looks a hell of a lot better than the F59. It looks like this time they actually hired some industrial designers rather than passing it off to some amateurs. It looks to me kind of like a cross between a P40 and a F59. I am not sure how much I like the “reptilian” nose or the awkwardly shaped planar cab windows (again like the F59 not flush with the body) but I guess it could of been worse.

    Regarding what might be the predecessor design, I feel kind of luke warm about it. I miss the hard line crisp edges that even lend the P40 some elegance. I do have to admit I am kind of “tickled” by the retro-aspect of the design; reintroducing ‘A’ and ‘B’ units like an indirect homage to the old F-units from the 40’s and 50’s.

    Maybe that ‘A’ and ‘B’ unit concept will be reintroduced with the F125. I always thought it would cool to see a ‘B’ unit version of a P40. I know that aesthetics have taken a back seat in American rail vehicle design for many years now but that nose to tail “elephant train” configuration at the front of Amtrak’s long distance trains has always looked awkward.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Metrolink is purchasing 20 F125s FYI.

    Peter Reply:

    The reduced emissions alone from running Tier 4 diesels is probably attractive to Metrolink, given LA’s smog problem. Not that 20 vehicles will make any actual difference, order of magnitude problem and whatnot.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Somewhat more important is the mechanical unreliability of their current locomotives of late, though these are also significantly more fuel efficient (somewhat offset by the fact that the simulations involved ten cars whereas Metrolink currently only runs a maximum of 6).

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “Fuel efficient” and “127t passenger locomotive” are mutually incompatible.

    But we’re grading on the US Transportation Professional scale, here. Obesity and stupidity and non-performance are not just expected, but required. So … great job, EMD. Packing 3.5MW into a 127t body is a helluva job! World Class! Forward into the 19th century!

  13. VBobier
    Mar 22nd, 2013 at 07:09

    Here’s an idea on electrification of Caltrain and MetroLink… I don’t know if anyone has put up this link or not, but here goes…

    Oil to fund electrification and reduced journey times

  14. VBobier
    Mar 22nd, 2013 at 07:18

    Oh and here is a country willing to spend some real cash on Passenger Rail

    Rail at heart of US$68bn investment programme( in Thailand)

    THAILAND: Construction of four standard-gauge dedicated passenger lines and the doubling of 3,000 route-km(1,864.11 miles) of metre-gauge lines is at the heart of a US$67.6bn infrastructure investment bill approved by cabinet ministers in Bangkok on March 20.
    The government envisages that the programme could lead to a three-fold increase in train movements over State Railway of Thailand’s conventional network, as part of a strategy to switch freight movements from road to rail, and support the creation of up to 500 000 jobs. Return on investment is expected over 50 years and the spending profile is designed to prevent national debt exceeding 50% of GDP, according to Finance Minister Kittirat Na-Ranong.

    It may not be HSR, but it does show rail lines cost money to put in and are an investment in ones country’s future.

    StevieB Reply:

    High-speed railway in Thailand gets green light

    Bangkok, March 20, 2013

    THAILAND’S cabinet yesterday okayed the construction of a high-speed train network to connect the entire country, which will also see links to Malaysia and Laos.

    The seven-year scheme will see the kingdom invest US$68 billion into developing the network, which will consist of four lines and 200 high-speed trains capable of running up to 250km/hour

    StevieB Reply:

    Comes to about 155mph which is faster than US trains.

  15. jimsf
    Mar 22nd, 2013 at 09:39

    under a blended approach, if metrolink started by electrifying the antelope and orange county lines, you could have a single seat electric ride from merced all the way to oceanside.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Or you could just slap the Authority in the face repeatedly with a fish until they stop being a sack of idiots and agree to electrify the last 10-20 miles into LAUS. Also, absent several billion dollars for tunnels in San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente, electrification on the OC Line is only feasible down to Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo at present.

    Peter Reply:

    Or we could stop freaking out about a “plan” that is practically certain to be changed before construction is even completed through Bakersfield, much less reaches the LA Basin.

    jimsf Reply:

    or they could go as far as anaheim. bringing blended hsr to anaheim sooner rather than later.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The question is what utility a six hour-one seat ride would have. The problem isn’t electric trains between Bakersfield and Sylmar, it’s spindly-ass tracks. And from Sylmar to Anaheim it’s about capacity, not train speed. The reason why the San Joaquins don’t descend to Los Angeles right now is that it’s cheaper to bus passengers down there. (Union Pacific also wants to charge way too much to use the Tehachapi Loop, but it has to act like that otherwise BNSF would be able to figure out it’s finances way too easily, I think.)

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ted J: Agree. The present 3 tracking Redondo Jc to Fullerton is acknowledged to be inadequate and should have been quad.

    Nathanael Reply:

    This is why the CAHSR plans have five tracks there.

    Having looked at the diagrams, it actually seems pretty straightfoward.

    The more troublesome section, from a design POV, is from LA Union Station to Burbank, and the issue there is also capacity. Once the capacity problem is dealt with, it shouldn’t be too troublesome to electrify it.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    Is there anything on the horizon in the way of electrification that would argue for delaying electrification until most of the California system is built? It seems like an actual working electric high speed train in California is a ways off, and with Caltrain electrification, the future system is being tied to current technology. I am particularly wondering if DC might be back in favor by then.

    Jonathan Reply:

    No. Not a chance. Not even a ghost of a chance. First, because DC transmission from the substatiion (which would be rectifying from grid AC) to overhead contact wire, to the train, loses far more energy in transmission than AC.

    And second, because DC overhead rail electrification is relatively low-voltage (3kV or 1.5kV, versus the current defacto world-standard, 25kV AC at mains frequency). Running at about 1/10th the voltage means that to send as much power as AC overhead electrification, a DC system has to send bout 10x as much current, to get the same power level (Volts x Amps = Watts, or power). And you just can’t squeeze that much current through the contact area of a pantograph: it heats up, arcs, melts. and quite probably rips down miles of overhead contact wire.

    That’s why even HSR trainsets which can run on overhead DC, run more slowly (at lower power) than they don on 25kV AC. (Or when using the 15kV, 16.6Hz AC, the legacy German/Austrian/Swiss/Norwegian/Swedish standard). One example is ICE-3 (Velaro) trainsets in Belgium, where the trainsets were licensed for 160km/hr operatoin on 3kV DC, versus 320 km/hr when running under high-voltage AC.

    Peter Reply:

    Maybe we should just wait until vactrains become standard. Or we could implement the current world standard in technology.

    VBobier Reply:

    We’ll both be long gone by then, so give it up and be realistic…

    Nathanael Reply:

    There are some weird new technologies on the horizon for energy storage and transmission, but they all involve high-precision connections and are therefore designed for fixed installations. I don’t think any of them have an application to transfer energy to a moving vehicle at high speed, a process with inevitable “slop” in the energy signal. So AC pantographs will presumably stay.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Volts x amps = watts. No new technology is going to change that.

    StevieB Reply:

    The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority presentation on CHSRA Blended Service in L.A. County highlights the Southern California Regional Interconnector Project for pass through tracks at Union Station and CP Brighton to CP Roxford Double Track in the San Fernando Valley.

  16. Keith Saggers
    Mar 22nd, 2013 at 10:50

    Madera to Fresno

    Now, with the latest bid deadline set, CHSRA expects to award a contract in June 2013.
    Progressive Railroading

    I think we got confused where they said they would not open the amount bid for two months untill they had determined the bids matched predetermined criteria

  17. Peter
    Mar 22nd, 2013 at 13:56

    OT, but hello, Authority files preemptive lawsuit “against” anyone interested in the validity of the issuance of the bonds. See https://services.saccourt.ca.gov/publicdms/search.aspx/, select 2013 as the year, and enter “00140689” as the case number.

    Peter Reply:

    This action is meant to be consolidated with the Kings County lawsuit.

  18. D. P. Lubic
    Mar 22nd, 2013 at 16:39

    Off topic but of interest: “special needs,” “retarded,” “dinosaur,” “19th century,” “unionized,” “slow,” “socialist” Amtrak beats air in market share–in some places other than the NEC:


    More complete slide show, which is interesting in that the “dinosauric,” “bureaucratic,” “useless,” “19th century” Federal Railroad Administration is taking note of the generational shift (next to last slide)–and the last slide looks like a nostalgia piece for the auto age:


    Keeping an eye on the competition, in this case, fuel cell electric buses. Looking at the diagram of the typical equipment layout for something like this, with its temperature control system, roof-mounted fuel tanks, multiple energy storage units, and whatever else, makes me wonder why these people bother. An electric trolley, or even an electric trolley bus, is so much simpler, robust, nice and mature, no unpleasant surprises (or at least there shouldn’t be):


    Finally, the current NARP newsletter (Headline story–Amtrak and State of Pennsylvania come to an agreement on how to keep the Pennsylvanian running), and an opinion piece on the value of long distance trains:



    Jonathan Reply:

    Fuel-cell buses? Instead of trolley-buses? Because trolley-buses don’t partake of the “go anywhere, anytime” mindset of the Automobile Age, that’s why. I’m sure some people object to aesthetics of trolley wires; other see them as a tourist attraction.

    synonymouse Reply:

    A lot more to it.

    Management does not want to deal with the overhead – you need substations and and at least one other whole union. Trolley buses tend to be slower because of the switches, especially if there are a lot of them(like SF). They have a lot of power, last much longer, and wear out inferior grade drive trains(again Sf). Which means you can get a lot of jerking even with modern stepless controls.

    Trolley coaches are a major success, imho, but they require engaged, proactive support. You gotta replace bent poles, gotta replace carbon shoes, gotta keep that overhead taut. It’s worth it.

    I’ll never forget the time, early afternoon about 1970, I am on a $14 trolley coach on Mission St. on my way to work at Rincon Annes. It was a really good driver; he was hitting every light right, and the ride in one of the GE Marmon-Herrington coaches was really smooth. Soothing old Muni green interior.and upholstered seats, broken in from 20 years of use. A middle-aged lady remarks to me as she is getting ready to debark at the East Bay Terminal: “this bus really rides nice – I wish I could take it all the way to Oakland.” I was so surprised at her excellent taste in buses.

    synonymouse Reply:


    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, the trolleywires here in Vancouver have made the city so undesirable housing is Detroit cheap.

    Trolleybuses can actually go off the wire briefly and use batteries.

    jimsf Reply:

    In Sdf the wires are part of the city’s fabric. In 40 years I never heard a negative comment about them from anyone. I think it would be weird if they weren’t there.

    jimsf Reply:

    (sf not sdf)

    synonymouse Reply:

    Ca. 1966 the establishment ran a really nasty campaign against trolley coaches in the City as part of a bond issue to replace the streetcars with one underground line out Market to State College. Fortunately it failed and out of it came the subway-surface concept(or should I say reborn since there was streetcar subway bond issue in 1937 which was opposed by the Market Street Ry).

    As part of the anti-trolley bus campaign they ran pictures of the massive feeders coming out of the Turk and Fillmore substation(rotary converters)with the old insulation crumbling. I thought the place was really cool but then I like old trains. Of course the City eventually installed modern substations and undergrounded the feeders.

    But sadly the diesel to trolley coach conversion movement has stalled. Willie Brown, when he was running the Legislature, had nailed down the funds to convert the #71 but Muni lost its mojo somewhere along the way. Geary is the obvious one, and the inertia thereabouts is appalling. Worthless Gavin had 8 years to get something going on Geary leading up to the 2012 centenary and just dropped the ball. Villa is way better than him, even with the Palmdale nonsense.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Syn, I spoke to the Mayor of Palmdale the other day. He wants to make you an honorary freeman of the city. No one had heard of the place until you started writing about it everyday. Now they are as famous as Burbank…

    synonymouse Reply:

    And now Jimmy Fallon is trying to put “beautiful downtown Burbank” back on the map as well.

    Peter Reply:

    I’m curious, do you look up these minute details about SF’s transportation history, or do you really know all of this off the top of your head? If the latter, you seriously need to write a book on it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The chapter on selecting the right foil for the hat will become an Internet sensation.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s just standard aluminum foil, no?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s Reynold’s and then there’s store brand. Then the stuff in the dollar stores. Or the stuff that comes in squares that’s usually only found in fast food restaurants. Or the 12 inch wide versus 18 inch wide. No stick versus uncoated. Aluminum coated Mylar. The effectiveness of foil wallpaper for when you are at home. Emergency substitutes. Colanders seem to be popular. ( which I don’t understand because colanders are full of holes ). Then there are construction details….

    jimsf Reply:

    If you use anything less than reynolds heavy duty, you’ll get weak, distorted, signals, especially in bad weather.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I thought the point was to block the signals. That explains the pictures of the ones with horns or Yagis on the top.

    jimsf Reply:

    perhaps… the technology has changed so much lately.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Charlie Smallwood, the author of several books on the Market Street Ry., was the encyclopedia of knowledge about everything traction in California. I just got a smattering of info talking with him. He had been a witness to the whole damn empire crushed, line by line.

    He was the one who reconfirmed my suspicions about SP and BART. But in those days there was absolutely nothing you could do about it. A it was, we were very lucky to save the trolley coaches at all. This is one time when the electricians union was instrumental in a good cause. I am sure they had a lot to do with the original conversion from streetcar to trolley bus instead of to diesel on a lot of lines. That and cheap power from Hetch-Hetchy.

    Peter Reply:

    Did Charlie Smallwood ever document this alleged SP-BART conspiracy?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Everything was sotto voce, at the nod level. Charlie was in the transit industry, had lots of friends on the inside, and Bechtel was not to mess with. All of the railfans were aware of SP’s notorious aversion to having anything to do with passenger service by that time. Broad gauge was so stupid and so contrary to history it was obvious that BART had been compromised and SP was protecting its interests and property from government intrusion. Hell the UP takes that stance in many ways to this day.

    Plus there was a lot of excitement and anticipation about a new rail network under construction after the pathetic loss of the Key System. AC Transit was doing a pretty good job and carrying a lot of passengers but clearly they needed dedicated lanes, especially friday evening rush hour, and should have demanded a much better deal for transit in 1958. But the highway lobby was in its glory.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    ….because of course we would be far better off using streetcars averaging 14mph to get between downtown Los Angeles and Newport Beach…

    Synonymouse doesn’t like to admit it, but the only reason MUNI still exists in it’s current form is because of BART. It’s understandable that he’s bitter about his role in the Iraq War of California Transportation history, the BART-SFO extension.

    He’s the Vietnam vet who is still in shock and how the most beloved American institution could have corrupted and perverted so. He’s a Baby Boomer, so it comes naturally to think that you could really trust institutions more than the people involved. He and JimSF are guilty of nothing but honesty (and having lots of free time to post here).

    Still, the alternative Syn clings to is downright crazy. Can you imagine if Northern California commuter rail had to share capacity with all the port traffic in either SF or Oakland? I can, because I grew up in Southern California, where they tried that approach and are dying because of it.

    Because of Metrolink’s suffocating control of the local rail lines, most of the port traffic shifted to trucks while sent pollution into the stratosphere. Even if you don’t care about the environmental impacts, pollution increases put federal transportation dollars at risk, so Steve Soboroff cooked up the idea to have a grade separated freight railway run from the Port to downtown. Because it was funded by user fees, it seemed like a win-win. Unfortunately because the biggest user is Wal-Mart (who has a visceral distaste for union labor and anything that raises costs), the Corridor was a bust. Now they are using local tax dollars to “extend” it from downtown LA to Colton. You wanna talk about a DogLeg design…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Sharing capacity is why the Port of New York and New Jersey is just withering away to nothing….

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Sorry Ted, your analysis of the So Cal Port/Rail situation is all wrong. The immediate connections to the Ports (SP/SFe/UP) harbor lines never became part of Metrolink. They were choked by a bazillion grade crossings and the Alameda Corridor has been the best thing that could have happened. It is by no means a bust. When I was at SP in the 90s it took about 8 hours from West Colton to Dolores yard. The truck traffic between the Port and Inland Empire Distribution Centers (Walmart, Target et al) continues because of lack of terminal capacity especially at the Port end which means that a shuttle between the two is just not on the cards. It’s also a lot cheaper by truck of course for that distance. What could happen is that you put the DCs at the Chinese ports and make up store orders to ship direct from there.
    Alameda Corridor east is a dogleg but it uses existing alignments and services domestic as well as port traffic so is the logical route. We’re only talking about an extra 10 miles or so.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I am trying really hard to recognize myself in this posting but to no avail. I was a “war baby”.

    My version of a BART identical route wise to the extant BART would certainly be standard gauge with more structurally sound trainsets that did not crinkle in the middle from their own weight and were strong enough to support pantographs for OC operation in the outlying areas. All trains would have doors(no A-B types)and 750vdc propulsion, not 1000vdc. Cars would be painted, no blue-meanie gray.

    But if I really had my druthers, I would have done exactly what the SP feared, which is grab their property by eminent domain and link their Eastbay trunk lines to the Peninsula line via the Transbay tube. All OC 25kv. In the Eastbay I would have upgraded extensively the Key System to subway-surface status, feeding into my version of the Paris RER.

    And if they every do build another bay crossing(aka bridge) please at the very least dedicated bus lanes

    Ted Judah Reply:


    What the hell are you trying to say? Of course the ROW between the port of LA and downtown was never used by Metrolink. But the majority of the freight traffic needs what SCRRA owns or controls heading outside county lines. Improving port capacity won’t do anything if it is not cheaper to move things to Bentonville, Arkansas via rail. I would support seizing (I mean, publicly funding) by SCRRA all the ROW south and west of the Colton Crossing. The last thing we need is BNSF and UP fighting over the waterfront.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Syn- You do realize that your comments are rarely couched in such technical terms. Doing so more often might actually help your case, because I understand where you are coming from now much better.

    However, sending freight through the Transbay Tube is Jules Verne fantasy. There’s plenty of port capacity in Oakland, and quite frankly, plenty of available workers there to handle it. SF needs to concentrate on being the region’s financial, administrative, and cultural hub.

    It is true, however, that had the Key System survived, it would have been a net bonus to the East Bay and mitigated the degree of decline they have experienced. But the truth is, replacing the five busiest bus routes for AC Transit with rail is always an option.

    The real problem is in the South Bay, the North Bay, and in the rest of the state where everyone is counting on mixed grade light rail to be the end-all-and-be-all. It’s like arming each fire department in California with squirt-guns.

    synonymouse Reply:

    When I say seizing SP property by eminent domain I really mean it. New dedicated double track and widen the ROW if necessary. Peninsula property was a lot cheaper in those days. No freight in the Transbay Tube – we see it is already close to saturation and no hazmat please – they shut it down when there is a report of haze.

    I have no problem with 4 tracks for Caltrain – as that was always envisioned – and love the idea of 25kv ac catenary. What I don’t like is hollow core aerials and noisy f*****g BART, ala Daly City to SFO. No problem with some ramps, limited viaducts where it is no problem for the residents and definitely auto underpasses. Common sense stuff which seems to be impossible for PB to conceive.

    Pretty much everything that is wrong with the CHSRA seems to revolve around PB. If they had any stones they would have backed up Van Ark, who was trying to rationalize and rescue this thing. I wonder if anybody with a grasp of the project like Van Ark has ever tried to talk sense to Team Tehachapi and explicate in detail the great downside for California of grinding out over the DogLeg. **** blinking Nevada. LA would be better off with Tejon, and the Ranch would not be hurt in the slightest. PB is bloody lazy.

    synonymouse Reply:

    What it all comes down to is Caltrain solo on the SP ROW. Ditch hsr on Caltrain and relocate it to Altamont-Dumbarton.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Pretty much everything that is wrong with the CHSRA seems to revolve around PB.

    The correct form of that statement is:

    Pretty much everything that is wrong with [insert California state agency name] seems to revolve around [insert name of consulting firm here].

    And if only Elizabeth Alexis et al. understood this. The Board is not the consultant. The agency or department itself is not the consultant. Attacking one as the other is a waste of time. Focus on the work products that the consultants produce, not personalities. It’s really your only chance.

    Moreover, the real cause of dysfunction with CHSRA is Arnold Schwarzenegger. He forced that department to fly with minimal staff during the budget crisis instead of acknowledging that he would need about 200 public servants to make it work. Brown, you notice, not only has put on the board people who have served on the board of other public agencies, but also let the CHSRA hire more people. Notice, the criticism factor is ratcheting down.

    The fact is, California has no excuse for not having the talent level to do things in-house every time. But that’s a long term issue to resolve, and there’s other issues tied to it. So hit PB hard, and hit ’em on what you know. And be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ted J: SCRRA does not control the BNSF Transcon or the UP Alhambra route. I think you need a new map. The only pax on the Alhambra is the Sunset. The Transcon hosts a lot of pax to Fullerton and some to Riverside but is still dispatched by BNSF and they control the slots. The only pax on Cajon is still 3/4, the SW Chief. There isn’t much international traffic going up I-5 but UP has guaranteed slots on SCRRA Valley sub or they can go via Cajon and the cutoff “without let or hindrance”. As far as the waterfront is concerned, Pacific Harbor Line, as successor to the old Harbor Belt Line which was jointly owned, is a neutral switch carrier. UP has ICTF, BNSF hopes to get SCIG if they can get past the local “activists”. I have no idea where you are getting your info but you are way off base.

    joe Reply:

    And if only Elizabeth Alexis et al. understood this. The Board is not the consultant. The agency or department itself is not the consultant. Attacking one as the other is a waste of time. Focus on the work products that the consultants produce, not personalities. It’s really your only chance.

    Right on.

    CARRD did work hard to extract information from CAHSRA and release it. That’s where they did the most good, gained the most credibility as an organization, and were most effective impacting the Authority’s behavior.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Improving port capacity won’t do anything if it is not cheaper to move things to Bentonville, Arkansas via rail.

    Almost none of it goes to Arkansas. They order up 200 container loads of cheap shit and it get sent from the docks in Ghangzhou right to the distribution center closest to the stores.

    What could happen is that you put the DCs at the Chinese ports and make up store orders to ship direct from there.

    That’s not the way just-in-time works. You need distribution centers near the stores. Or a distribution center in Memphis or Louisville so that you can put it on a plane at midnight.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What it all comes down to is Caltrain solo on the SP ROW. Ditch hsr on Caltrain and relocate it to Altamont-Dumbarton.

    Southern Pacific was engulfed by Union Pacific in 1996. Southern Pacific sold the ROW to the counties well before that.

    Ted Judah Reply:


    I think what I am trying to say is too difficult without the aid of a map.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Adirondacker: actually, near the Port of NY and New Jersey, the port traffic is mostly on a set of lines without passenger traffic, and the passenger lines have relatively low freight traffic. There are some crucial overlap sections (the Aldene Connection created one really problematic one).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …yes.. started to happen 100 years ago. Aldene isn’t a problem for freight, it flies over the NEC on it’s own grade separated ROW. Passenger trains on the other hand, that problem is fixable with a second track and sometime when there’s a second tunnel to Manhattan with a flyover or two. If at sometime far far far in the future they need more than two tracks between the old PRR main and the old CNJ main there are solutions to that too. There a lovely 6 track wide ROW busily growing trees between Elizabeth and Roselle Park. Pity that the Union County GIS maps seemed to have disappeared.

    Jonathan Reply:

    I was fortunate enough to grow up in Wellington, New Zealand; which had a Victorian cable-car and trolley-buses. Still has trolley-buses, though the cable-car was replaced with a modern, tastless, Swiss machine some 40-odd years ago. I also rode a trolley-bus in Dunedin, NZ, though they ended some 41 years ago. Now I live close to SF…..

    I don’t understand Synon’s apparent distinction between “trolley bus” and “trolley coach”.

    Jonathan Reply:


    Trolley buses slower than diesels? ROTFLMAO. Yes, they have to slow so the electromagnets in the trolley-pole heads can activate the switches the way the bus-driver wants. But excluding that… trolleys have *much* better power-to-weight than diesels. Trolley-buses along the Wellington waterfront used to speed; the diesels couldn’t keep up. And don’t even ask about climbing up the big hills (British settlers called them “mountains”). You should know already: it’s much the same as electric loco vs. diesel.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I did not mean to introduce an artificial distinction between trolley bus and/or coach. Stylistics.

    There are some significant variables here. One is OB taut wire vs. O&K sagged wire. The poles will have a tendency to dewire on an OB system when they hit the span wire. Watch the spark pattern as a #30 goes thru the Stockton tunnel. And then there is the maintenance issue, a real question in a place like SF. Strange things can happen – I once saw a trolley shoe get arc-welded to a span wire at the Eastbay Terminal.

    And then there are the locations where you have to go thru the crossing with the power on. I am thinking of the J heading north into Dolores Park crossing the 33 trolley coach line on 18th. Lotsa sparks. I am not sure if there are any trolley coach line crossings where you cannot coast thru with the power off.

    synonymouse Reply:

    excuse please, headed south

    jimsf Reply:

    crossing the street behind a trolley bus as it goes through an intersection while wondering if the falling sparks are going to set your hair on fire is one of the things that makes living in the city so much fun!

  19. Paul Dyson
    Mar 22nd, 2013 at 18:52

    On the March 18 bond issuing blog I asked whence cometh the money to pay the interest on the bonds about to be issued. The report said “truck weight fees”. A reliable source told me today that those fees currently go into the PTA fund from which cometh the money for the state rail corridors. Syphoning off the funds to pay the bonds will apparently reduce the money available for the three corridors just at a time when PRIIA 209 nails them for an extra $30M. Anyone confirm or deny? Anyone think this is a good thing?

    joe Reply:

    I think identifying and earmarking a funding pot for legislation is bad idea and also know the nice stuff we have in CA was deficit spending without earmarking funding sources.

    Syphoning is a strange word. Maybe you have an agenda. I do. Any spending on stuff I don’t like is syphoning money away from the stuff I like and want. Your plans for rail will syphon money away form my plans.

    Also, debt is bad but when I buy that bond, it’s an investment in my future financial health. Strange. Is this all due to perspective? I think so.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It’s funny how you never answer a question. Sell bonds and people want their interest paid. It would seem to me to be a good idea to know where the money will come from to pay that interest (the principle too for that matter) before the bonds are sold. Perhaps that was already decided, but not well publicized.
    Back to my post, first, I am trying to verify this information. Best to know the facts before one sounds off. If true it does confirm fears of RailPAC and many others that HSR would soak up all the “rail” funds and leave the existing programs on a starvation diet at best. But let’s wait and see if any of the savants on this blog know what is really going on.

    joe Reply:

    If true it does confirm fears of RailPAC and many others that HSR would soak up all the “rail” funds and leave the existing programs on a starvation diet at best. But let’s wait and see if any of the savants on this blog know what is really going on.

    This is why your rail advocacy sucks.

    Paul Dyson’s rail trolling.

    jimsf Reply:

    The state plans to increase all forms of rail service. conventional and hsr. Funding for those things wil be based on what voters want. They have said they want hsr. They have shown they want regional rail by their patronage. Time after time counties and regions have voted in favor of more transportation funding. I wouldn’t worry about it.

    There’s already too much turf war as it is without adding to it.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    But jimsf, I am worried about it. It was a reliable source that told me this. Right now the PRIIA upcharge, for want of a better term, is not in the budget. The same source described the State Rail Plan as “an unfunded wish list”. Items such as the Coachella Valley service and the Coast Daylight have been in previous iterations of the plan, some for over a decade, so don’t think that the State Rail Plan means a lot. I don’t see much point in HSR with no connections or with the 19th century links that we currently have.
    Trolling joe? Really? When you grow up you’ll find out that it requires eternal vigilance to ensure that what little we have remains intact, let alone fighting for a larger pie.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “eternal vigilance to ensure that what little we have remains intact”


    And in order to ensure that it is essential to make you build as relevant as possible, really indispensable, like the BART Transbay Tube.

    When the media mob and the “experts” turn against you that is all you will have to fall back on. All that saved the only remaining electric rail in California after 1963 was the Twin Peaks Tunnel(and the happy fact it was deemed too narrow for buses).

    So don’t go building out fatuous alignments that are already obsolete and b-grade before a shovel is even turned. And throw away the future.

    joe Reply:

    Trolling joe? Really? When you grow up you’ll find out that it requires eternal vigilance to ensure that what little we have remains intact, let alone fighting for a larger pie.

    Thank god we have you to pit people against each other.

    JimSF is right

    The state plans to increase all forms of rail service. conventional and hsr. Funding for those things will be based on what voters want.

    Rail is not a zero sum game so stop pitting HSR against conventional rail.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Well BART vs. Caltrain is indeed a fight to the death.

    jimsf Reply:

    Krystal and Alexis in the fountain.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Let me elaborate because Paul’s generally dismissive of PRIIA as it relates to dictating HSR policy:

    This plan would pull money out of state support of Amtrak California and then redirect those funds to the service charge on the Prop 1A money, if Paul is correct. What Paul is not identifying correctly is that the intention is to have local JPAs pay more for the costs associated with their respective service line.

    The snag is that while the Capitol Corridor had a successful (and BART administered) JPA, the Surfliner and San Joaquins didn’t. So they passed a law to put the San Joaquins and the Surfliner into a JPA. In the case of the former, the agreement is already weighted toward BART/ACE and Alameda County. But in the case of the Surfliners, it was more diffuse so there’s more chaos as to who is going to call the shots.

    Paul is correct in saying that it’s always possible that the local entities could under-fund Amtrak California and make it academic what happens in the HSR spine region. But both LACMTA and MTC/BART have big incentive not to do that, because they want to expand their service out into zee hinterlands and HSR is a big reason to do that.

    For example, if the San Joaquins turns into ACE and stubs at Merced, that helps BART a lot in its growth plans (and ridership and etc.) and has only upside for the HSR system until the connection to San Jose is complete.

    I also think the approach taken by the State is correct: subsidize the routes that are never able to make money, but serve a valuable purpose like the Coast Daylight. (Another great idea would be trains to Yosemite, Napa). Plus it makes a hell of a lot more sense economically to put in rail service (even the legacy kind) instead of just doing highway expansions.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ted J: You are only partly right. The to be or newly created JPAs either do not have money of their own or have no intention of spending it on regional rail corridors. If you read the agreement and minutes of the LOSSAN meetings for example it is stipulated that the state will retain the present level of funding and that the counties (JPA members) will not have to find any funds. This is the reason the LOSSAN JPA has not yet been formed, because NCTD refuses to sign until they get even more iron clad guarantees that they will not have to spend any of their own money. I have been to the last 6 LOSSAN Board meetings and I do know what is going on.
    Counties will take care of counties first. (This is why SCRRA/Metrolink is a dysfunctional disaster. Each county does its own thing.) This is why we are really concerned about the Thruway bus links to counties that are not JPA members. And when CA is presented with the PRIIA invoice the counties will look the other way and assume Sacramento will foot the bill.
    All the JPA formation has done in the San Joaquin Valley is to raise expectations of increased rail service by pretending that the Capitol Corridor became a success because the JPA was formed, which if you look at the timeline is simply not correct. Even the BNSF rep stood up at the SJV meeting and said don’t get your hopes up.
    For what my opinion is worth, the mistake was to devolve transportation decisions to County level and give the counties the money. Hence 12 lane I-5 in OC, 6 lane in L.A. You need regional or state level authorities to make a statewide network.

    Ted Judah Reply:


    Do you live in a cave? Your comment makes you sound blithely unaware of something called “realignment”.

    The California Constitution is predicated on a modicum of local control. The best you can hope for (and I say that in a non-snarky way) is that the State empowers entities like LOSSAN and the MTC to manage regional concerns appropriately. I think it’s possible, and would have happened already if the Legislature had broken up LA County once it became so much more populous than anywhere else. It could still happen, there is still a chance for our future.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ted J: I have no doubt the LA County Supervisors and their minions read and take to heart large chunks of the California Constitution before going about their deliberations. The State may empower these entities to do all sorts of things but that does not give any guarantee that the member agencies will look beyond their own jurisdictional boundaries in making their decisions. That’s why most if not all these JPAs are failures to a greater or lesser degree. I crawl out of my cave from time to time to attend meetings of these boards and see the reality.

    jimsf Reply:

    you are both correct in several points. Bottom line is the result, (funding aside) is going to be a political clusterfuck.

    The Bay area and socal, will raise money for transit, but convincing counties in the valley to raise their own money will be more difficult. counties in socal, will raise money but what they won’t do is cooperate with each other.

    Neverthless, pitting convention service against hsr is bad for both.

    The correct solution is to have one strong state rail agency putting in a comprehensive plan, and then doing whatever is necessary to get it properly funded. That means increasing revenues for transportation in general, and then being more even handed when dividing those funds between road, rail, and transit.

    As it stands, someone somewhere needs to be slapped for not having done this already.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Chairman tried that during the Cultural Revolution and it didn’t work out very well. Or was it during the Great Leap Foward.

    Ted Judah Reply:


    The reason that the Capitol Corridor JPA has succeeded so much is that Sacramento civic leaders invested in it. They rallied around the service, and they released they had more to lose by the service withering away.

    It’s the same situation for LOSSAN. San Diego has to fight for it and want it because the stakes aren’t as high for LA and Orange County. Personally, I think the Surfliner should be appended to LA – SD and replace the rest with the Daylight.

  20. Ted Judah
    Mar 22nd, 2013 at 20:53

    OT: BART, Caltrain Announce Radical New Revenue Stream to Permanent Eliminate Budget Deficits.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Wrong link I think.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    It’s a joke.

    BrianR Reply:

    thanks Ted for your little joke. The last time I was on the 42nd Street Shuttle the add campaign was “I am a Mormon”. It was pretty freaky! Every add space in every car plastered with Mormon propaganda staring back at you. Brief as the shuttle trip was I was so glad to get off that train!

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Just think if the State of Hawaii advertised a different island on each of the BART lines….

  21. D. P. Lubic
    Mar 23rd, 2013 at 12:39

    Off topic, but too cool not to share–a commercial from Russia for the rail system there, which celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2012:


  22. Derek
    Mar 23rd, 2013 at 16:38

    New Development Not Top Priority for Union Station Area Plan
    Thursday, March 21, 2013, by Eve Bachrach, Curbed Los Angeles

    The report lists a loooong list of challenges facing planners, from Union Station’s distance from many of Downtown’s attractions and its poor connections to the surrounding site, to the mishmash of incremental changes the station has seen through the years.

    BrianR Reply:

    I was last at Union Station this past November, passing through to connect with the Metro and Expo Line. I was impressed by how much nicer the services and concessions have become. The historic main hall was the same as it’s always been but I remember back in the 90’s the ticketing area towards the rear concourse as being pretty shabby.

  23. jimsf
    Mar 23rd, 2013 at 21:24

    a little closer to central coast service.

    capitol corridor to salinas in 2017

    John Burrows Reply:

    “Caltrain service to Salinas by 2006”—From the Monterey County Weekly (10/10/2002).

    If the Capitol Corridors do make it to Salinas by 2017 that would be great—And if we can get a train to Monterey not too long after, so much the better. But please, no more delays. This service would be perfect for me as I live very close to Diridon Station—and I am not too much concerned about who runs the service.

    At age 74, I become more and more impatient as these projects repeatedly get strung out time after time, and it becomes more and more difficult to rationalize that I will be around to see them happen.

    Quentin Kopp is 84 and I wonder if his opposition to high speed rail could be due in part to an old man’s impatience for a project with a completion date no closer now than it was in 1996 when he helped to create it.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Just how much is it going to cost to put track down in Monterey. Does UP still own the row where the walking trail is?

    joe Reply:

    No cost. Track is there and it supports Amtrak service to LA with a stop at San Jose and then Salinas. By chance (or not) UP is repairing the track South of San Jose to Gilroy.

    The State’s mid-term rail plan (draft) adds a second track from where it current stops, about South San Jose, to San Martin, CA (5 miles N of Gilroy).

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Since when did UP become a charity and give free use of their right of way?

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    There is no rail extant in the city of Monterey. I did plenty of running on the paved over trail whilst in the Army though.

    jimsf Reply:

    I see row here, much of it with existing track – although some of it is covered with sand – I do not see row that connects to salinas…

    Peter Reply:

    TAMC’s Light Rail connection to Salinas will be via a transfer in Castroville. The first phase won’t even get you that far (only to Monterey to Marina, I believe). If you’re going all the way from Monterey to Salinas, it will likely be faster to take an express bus.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The 2017 date is a dead giveaway that this is contingent on implementing the “Northern California Unified Service”. At that point the Capitols, ACE, and San Joaquins merge into something much more curious.

    Peter Reply:

    Does this mean we can finally dump Caltrain’s high-cost-low-value Gilroy service?

    joe Reply:

    I am curious about the implied cost/benefit thinking behind your comment and how it carries over to Amtrak’s hypothetically successful service.

    If true…

    The report suggests the [commuter] program would cost about $5 million per year to operate and would collect about $4 million in ticket revenue, with the remaining $1 million to be covered by a subsidy, perhaps through intercity rail funds.

    80% cost recovery with fares.

    How? Eliminate single seat commuter service within Santa Clara Co to the Silicon Valley-SF and replace it with single seat commuter service to East Bay, Oakland et al..

    Extend the service area to Castroville / Watsonville and Salinas.

    The Plan speaks to the neglect Caltrain’s shown the Southern parts of San Jose onward into Monterey Co.

    It will be interesting how Santa Clara Co. decides to participate given the subsidy Santa Clara Co pays currently to Caltrain.

    My guess is an eleventh hour argument over funds. Maybe electrification ends Caltrain South of San Jose. Riders transfer. HSR takes away Caltrain capacity and BART circles the Bay.

    Peter Reply:

    Ummm, your last sentence is the least likely to occur, alone due to the fact that Caltrain owns the Peninsula ROW. There will pretty much never be more than four HSR trains per hour per direction on the Peninsula. While that may reduce Caltrain capacity somewhat, it won’t be enough to compromise its operations.

    Clem Reply:

    “Caltrain” is nothing more than a loose association of three counties. If the three counties someday want peninsula BART, “Caltrain” doesn’t own diddly squat.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Hats off to Clem for highlighting this thing is still very much in the air.

    The blends, both north and south, are clearly part of a greater political face-saving strategy that goes beyond just buying out political opposition in PAMPA, etc. At the moment the CHSRA consists of three “theaters”, north and south blends and the Orphan ARRA.

    If the ARRA bombs with public opinion – and the outcome is not that predictable, at least the politicos can say they experimented with a model testtrack in good faith and spent at least part of the monies on sure things.

    Methinks the “ARRA” should have been Bako to Fresno in the event PB et al do regain their senses, as Clem as suggested, and return to the mountain crossing at Tejon. Then you would at least have a pretty damn strong standalone LA-Bako-Fresno starter that would come pretty close to breaking even with a private concessionaire riding herd hard on payroll.

    Peter Reply:

    “If the three counties someday want peninsula BART”

    Sure, when pigs fly.

    Clem Reply:

    While San Mateo County still has that sour taste from financing the last BART extension, both SF and SC could develop a strong hankering, especially if the SF developers and PAMPA NIMBYs are played right. You’ll be amazed at the winged pigs that can fly around here.

    Peter Reply:

    Lol, you really think Santa Clara County is going to be all hot for BART as they struggle to find the BILLIONS needed for their tunnel under downtown SJ?

    Clem Reply:

    Laugh all you want. The billions will be found between the same couch cushions where they found the money for the last three extensions. All hot for BART is an excellent description of Santa Clara County.

    Jon Reply:

    You can see ring the bay happening in pieces. For example, a few years down the line, HSR wants to add two platforms at Millbrae at outrageous cost. BART steps in and says hey, why don’t we spend a tenth of that money on extending BART to Burlingame? That way HSR can use the Caltrain platforms, Caltrain can express theough Millbrae, and BART passengers can transfer to Caltrain at Burlingame.

    Then, Caltrain wants to build a four track overtake section for HSR. BART steps in and says hey, why don’t we just extend BART from Santa Clara to Mountain View? If we’re gonna build any new tracks they should be for BART, right?

    And so on, until the only logical thing left to do is tunnel under PAMPA and complete the ring.

    Peter Reply:

    “You can see ring the bay happening in pieces.”

    Maybe you can, I still think it’s a ridiculous idea.

    And Clem, how do you see the completed extension of BART to Diridon or Santa Clara being funded? Another tax measure? They barely managed to pass the last one, and it was nothing close to enough for what they claimed it was going to fund.

    Clem Reply:

    They’d pass it the same way they passed the last one, with bait-and-switch tactics. Few people remember today that Measure A (2000) had a big chunk of change carved out for Caltrain electrification, which was subsequently reduced to $0.00 just like everything else except BART. Easy-peasy. Let Guardino do the talking, and it shall be done.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Santa Clara County wants to expand transit because it wants to increase population density. Don’t laugh, there could be over 4 million in the South Bay before long.

    jimsf Reply:

    Santa Clara Co is correct to want to finally be tied into the bart system. Its a missing link, that would connect the three major bay area cities together,

    joe Reply:

    San Francisco and Santa Clara CO. already support BART.

    BART’s probably more than welcome from San Jose BART to MountainView which contunes to gorw and meet state requirements for housing.

    Maybe Palo Alto, the Northern most part of Santa Clara would fight BART.

    So it’s really parts of San Mateo Co that is the problem.

    They can fund Caltrain because the State will withhold funds and environmentalists will block additional development if the County doesn’t reduce automobile traffic and meet air quality and housing goals.

    NIMBY Menlo Park was forced to approve ~1975 housing units (1,000 by May 2013) or lawsuits would have blocked Facebook’s expansion. They settled. 20 years of refusing to add housing and violating new state laws would have cost MP regional transportation funds and halted all Facebook Campus development. Palo Alto’s trying to get the law changed because they too want job growth but expect other cities to add the housing for them.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The blend would have to go to trigger Ring the Bay.

    I don’t believe there is such as an independent judiciary so I have no problem in conceiving BART-MTC prevailing upon Jerry to prevail on the judge to throw out the blend. That torpedoes Hill, Simitian & Co. and finally convinces PAMPA that a BART subway is the only favorable they can count on.

    Adios hsr on the peninsula. All change at Diridon InterGalactic to BART.

    synonymouse Reply:

    favorable scenario.

    joe Reply:

    Caltrain doesn’t own the Santa Clara VTA subsidy either.

    If they cut Santa Clara’s Zone 5 and Zone 6, they’ll lose subsidy. http://www.caltrain.com/stations.html

    Also these two zones show that the ridership pays more. Gilroy is 6, San Jose is Zone 4 – a two zone ticket. Our City VTA Rep tells me the per person revenue is much higher.

    If Amtrak steps in with two trains, that’s one less than Caltrain now. Proposed Six trains is twice as many so I bet they would ask VTA to pitch in and redirect Caltrain support and that is when Caltrain will wake up.

    For years Monterey Co. has wanted rail service to the Bay Area. They planned to connect to Caltrain but Mgmt seemed to care little about the plans or today’s commuters that park and ride at Gilroy.

    Clem Reply:

    366 daily boardings for 3 trains, each seating 600, gives a load factor of 20%… that sure is something to be proud of, and screams to me “add more trains”

    joe Reply:

    Ridership was higher when they ran more trains.

    Pretty simple argument – in fact the same one used to argue against cutting service where you like it.

    We can’t use Caltrain all the time so we, along with many others, supplement with VTA service 121 and 168.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ridership was higher when 101 was narrower.

    joe Reply:

    True. They added two new lanes to 101 – free.

    However 101 is now backing up again even further south now (thanks to the 4 lanes) and in San Jose traffic is worsening.

    There is continued growth and it’s subsidized by highway building included the much needed improvements to 101 in Monterey Co. down to Salinas.

    I’ve been here 12 years now. It’s only getting more built up with high-end homes, second high school, and urban in fill thank god. Coincidentally high density growth is near the ROW and Caltrain stations.

    Peter Reply:

    Was load factor any higher, though?

    joe Reply:

    We’re below a service threshold.

    That argument works for service in your neck of thew woods but down here we’re rubes.

    Cut service (cost) to increase fare recovery and You’ll lose more ridership so cut more service to reduce ciosts until we get 1 train an hour. Then the data will clearly indicate we should close the entire system.

    We rubes pay more – two zones just to get to the beginning of the real service in San Jose.

    Clem Reply:

    You shouldn’t take my considered opinion that South County Caltrain service should be shut down as a personal insult. I do believe the terminus for all service should be Blossom Hill, not Diridon or Tamien–neither of these are at the edge of anything to justify terminating any trains there. Blossom Hill is the demographic terminus. From there on southwards, drive or take the bus.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Tamien makes sense since its the last station till you reach UPs tracks.

    Clem Reply:

    No, Tamien makes no sense when you consider that UPRR was once willing to sell the corridor down to Gilroy.

    joe Reply:

    Clem. I respect your effort. I don’t see it as a personal.

    It is a bit of a Tautology. Areas and stations that have long term, bidirectional service can be compared. For more conterfactual analysis, you need a different model. Given housing cost and road congestion along 101, expansion of service will induce trips and development. We are below a threshold with three trains. Even are forced to drive despite our heavily corporate subsidized rail tickets.

    Clem Reply:

    Whoa, hold the presses, it’s 272 daily boardings, not 366. I mistakenly lumped in Capitol and Blossom Hill, which do actually deserve a lot more Caltrain service. South of there, 272 boardings = 15% load factor. According to some people, fewer boardings are the clearest demonstration of the need for more service, so their case is only further buttressed!

    joe Reply:

    Yes the smaller number of boardings at capitol and blossom hill clearly prove they deserve more service.

    Clem Reply:

    There are more people and jobs within a couple of miles of Capitol or Blossom Hill than within a couple of miles of all the stations south of there, combined. That is why they deserve more service, as opposed to Morgan Hill or Gilroy.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I thought Amtrak Capitol Corridor is classified as intercity? Seems to be some terminological inexactitude creeping in here.

    Clem Reply:

    Only in the U.S. do we have endless circular debates about rail terminology and classifications, such as light vs. heavy, commuter vs. intercity, and other silly distinctions that Asians and Europeans don’t seem to worry about all that much.

  24. Michael
    Mar 23rd, 2013 at 21:48

    I am very happy that this has logically become an extension of the Capitols, rather than Caltrain. Beyond wonkish concerns, the long trip will be much more comfortable on the Capitols (with cafe service) rather than Caltrain’s crap gallery cars.

    joe Reply:

    Yes. It’s commuter too and the rail plan had a mid-term goal to double track UP all the way to San Martin CA, just N of Gilroy.

    The rail service is designed to provide an alternative to commuting on congested Highway 101, offer better access to jobs, improve air quality and promote livable communities and economic growth locally.

    For years there has been a desire to connect to Caltrain in Gilroy. Instead of nurturing it, they seem to want to focus on San Jose to SF. So does BART. Who will win that?

    I think Caltrain will still run three diesels AM /PM between Gilroy and San Jose after electrification (in th eplan now) BUT I bet they lose it if not quit service.

    South County has been neglected by Caltrain (usually the offer to give service up with a budget shortfall) which I think is very stupid strategy given what they consider a core (San Jose to SF) is also wanted by BART.

    This alternative service by Amtrak to San Jose and on North illustrates why neglecting the area opened the way for a competitor commuter service south. I expect a probable transfer of some of the santa clara co subsidy Caltrain relies on for operation to this alternative service.

    Clem Reply:

    Caltrain’s operations south of Tamien are a politically contrived money sink. Neither job density nor population density in South County justify any commuter rail service.

    Clem Reply:

    Correction: south of Blossom Hill.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Express service with MCI coaches would be a decent alternative south of San Jose provided auto congestion is not an impediment. This is similar to using modern buses north of the general area of Healdsburg instead of and as a feeder to SMART rail.

    These buses are quite comfortable, limber, and much improved over the Greyhounds of old. GGT uses them extensively with no problem even in San Francisco conditions. I anticipate they will be very popular bringing people out of the City to the new casino in RoPo. They will apparently have to get an ok from Sonoma Co. Transit to veer off the trunk route the four blocks or so to the west to the casino. I am hoping this could result in 24/7 service on the 80-101 routes.

    joe Reply:

    The whole rail line is a money sink. And it is intended to take cars off the road – recent analysis shows one of the most bang for buck is to get bars off 101 S.

    We happen to have two dedicated zones for our crappy 3 train service so we do pay more per person for our subsidized section.

    Transportation is NOT like a fast food franchise. Gov’ts run service for communities and to encourage growth and development along planned corridors. Figuring out where to put Burger King or StarBucks isn’t the same as running rail service for public use.

    But do think about this:
    Amtrak proposes 80% fare recovery running twice as many (6) commuter trains. They put an Extension to demographically less affluent cities like Castroville, Watsonville and yes, Salinas.

    This Amtrak service doesn’t take people to the 170K annual salary jobs in SV or SF. Service goes to EastBay, Oakland and Sac. One must transfer for the SV Caltrain at San Jose.

    I think it’s clear that South Santa Clara / Monetery Co. has been neglected.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Coast Daylight service for us old people tired of waiting is supposed to start in April 2015

    Significant population and employment growth is projected for counties along the corridor. Over the next
    30 years, population in the San Francisco-Los Angeles corridor is expected to increase by 32.4 percent to
    5.0 million residents. Los Angeles County will have the largest population increase (3.3 million) followed
    by Santa Clara County (633,500), Ventura County (309,600), San Francisco County (228,100), and San
    Mateo County (171,600). The corridor is projected to experience major employment growth with 1.9
    million new jobs generated by 2040. As with population, Los Angeles County will have the largest
    increase in the number of new jobs (1.1 million) followed by Santa Clara County (245,500), San Francisco
    County (198,700), Ventura County (162,000), and San Mateo County (101,600).

    Clem Reply:

    “We” the 366 people that ride Caltrain from south county? What sort of constituency do you think you are?

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    “We” despite the naysayers, are going to have trains criss-crossing the state of California, taking people to work, visiting friends and family, going on vacation, high speed and ordinary speed, helping to keep the air clean, and improving the quality of life in our great state of California.

    Clem Reply:

    Hey, leave some greenwash for me, will you?

    joe Reply:

    We are Santa Clara County.

    Caltrain charges by zone. “we” pay two zones just to reach San Jose Diridon. Our county pays into Caltrain as part of this service that is subsidized end to end yet we get just three trains and the privilege to pay more to support service.

    Amtrak wants to expand to Salinas and add trains. proposal to double them.
    Maybe the models need to changed.

    Peter Reply:

    Yeah, that’s because it’s 30 miles from Gilroy to Diridon. It’s only 21 miles to the first station two fare zones north from Diridon. You’re lucky there aren’t more fare zones. You’re theoretically getting Caltrain service on the cheap.

    joe Reply:

    We’re getting cheap service too. Three trains.

    Peter Reply:

    If ridership increased, like it has on ACE, maybe it would be worth running more trains. Until then, sorry. *shrug*

    joe Reply:

    ACE and Caltrain South County are one-way service. So Apples and Oranges comparing them to bi-directional rail service ridership.

    A double track for UP to San Martin is in the plan already. Legislation has been proposed for double tracking and improving ACE.

    Now, apparently Montery Co is getting service along the “lucky” UP corridor.

    jimsf Reply:

    one thing that should happen, but never happens between agencies, is that amtrak’s coastal services, should be timed to connect with caltrain. Currently buses run north up the 101 and at san jose, some connect with capitols up the eastbay, and then the buses run up to sf and over to oakland. With better integration, all buses could terminate at diridon with timed rail connections up the east bay and the peninsula, leaving only the short rail gap between san luis and san jose. That would require cooperation instead of turf protection.

    joe Reply:

    I agree – coordination is important. Incentives have to be figured out.

    The VTA 168 expresses between SanJose Diridon to Gilroy on S 101. It allows Caltrain riders to continue to S County given there are only 3 trains in the PM that go the distance.

    The VTA 168 driver has the latitude to exercise judgement and meet with riders but some will leave on time and not sync with S bound trains.

  25. D. P. Lubic
    Mar 24th, 2013 at 14:14

    Off topic, but certain to be appreciated anyway, at least by some–more electric railroad footage from the Milwaukee Road’s line, including passenger trains that went away around 1959 or so:


    Milwaukee electric switchers and the electric operations of Butte, Anaconda & Pacific:


    Variety of things in this one, including Northern Pacific steam and Great Northern electric operation:


    The North Coast Limited:


    YouTube channel for these and other clips.


    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    More nostalgia–SP 4-8-8-2 on Donner Pass, with lots of other scenes, including the station at Sacramento:


    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I should wait for April Fools’ for this one, but I probably wouldn’t be able to find it then–anyway, I’ve made jokes that if the Peninsula people who have been against HSR direct to San Francisco are really, really concerned about keeping a nice, 1950s atmosphere for their towns and for Caltrain, that they ought to make a heritage railroad out of the line, one that happens to carry commuters, and I even tossed out the idea that this commuter road should return to steam. Meant that to be a joke, son, but maybe it’s not such a joke after all:


  26. D. P. Lubic
    Mar 24th, 2013 at 23:04

    This is a brief but interesting read–a bit about adopting and adapting HSR to the US rail culture, originally linked from the current edition of “Destination:Freedom:”


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