More Smoke Than Fire in HSR Bid Controversy

Apr 20th, 2013 | Posted by

The anti-HSR folks are all riled up about the process used to evaluate the bids for the Central Valley segment. Ralph Vartabedian and Elizabeth Alexis have teamed up to generate this controversy, as seen in this LA Times article:

State high-speed rail officials acknowledged Thursday that they changed their rules for selecting a builder for the bullet train’s first phase in the Central Valley, a shift that subsequently made it possible for a consortium led by Sylmar-based Tutor Perini to be ranked as the top candidate despite receiving the lowest technical rating….

The agency changed the evaluation process in July, according to an agency spokesman. The official did not provide details of the internal process used to alter the criteria. But he said the state potentially would save hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the decision to change the evaluation criteria.

But Elizabeth Goldstein Alexis of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, a group critical of the bullet train project, disagreed and argued that the change in evaluation criteria has invalidated the bidding process.

“This is not a non-substantive change,” she said. “I don’t see any indication that the board approved this.”

The implication being made in the article is that the bidding review process produced a flawed result, and the changes made might render the whole process invalid and require starting over.

But those are allegations without evidence. The fact is that we in the public do not have enough information about these bids to make any conclusions about whether the California High Speed Rail Authority’s rankings are the right ones.

The technical score issue is a good example. We know that the Tutor Perini bid received the lowest technical score and Ferrovial-Acciona had the highest. But we don’t know what those scores mean. How were they calculated? What were the factors that led to Ferrovial-Acciona getting a better score than Tutor Perini? Without that knowledge we can’t make any assessment of the quality of these bids.

Tutor Perini got a lower score, but that doesn’t mean their bid has serious technical flaws. It’s entirely possible that they got the equivalent of an A- whereas Ferrovial-Acciona got the equivalent of an A+. All anyone outside the CHSRA can do is speculate, and as we learned this week out east, speculation isn’t always useful or accurate.

As to the changing bid review criteria, there’s no secret there. The CHSRA has been under constant pressure for the last four years from the media and from many politicians to reduce its costs. There is no small irony in HSR critics suddenly arguing that the CHSRA should have taken a more expensive bid. Had they ranked Ferrovial-Acciona as the top scoring bid, we would have had an article from Ralph Vartabedian criticizing them for giving a low score to a bid that would save $500 million.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, at least not yet. None of us knows enough about any of these five bids to make an informed comment on which one was the best. We don’t know whether the Tutor Perini bid has serious technical flaws or whether it is just fine and the other bids are simply overengineered. Until we are able to see details we can’t make informed assessments.

I will say that I personally believe that we should be prioritizing technical quality over cost in assessing bids. But again, until we see details of the scoring process and the bids, we’re not in any position to do more than wildly speculate. It’s no surprise that HSR opponents have chosen to do exactly that.

  1. Emma
    Apr 20th, 2013 at 11:23

    I’m not nearly as tech-savvy when it comes to HSR as some of the amazing commenters (is that even a word?) here. But, wouldn’t it make sense to spend a little bit more for something that ends up lasting longer and is easier to repair? At the same time, if all contractors get to build exactly the same thing, then I would say we should go whoever can build it at the lowest cost and on schedule. If they use bamboo or high tech shouldn’t be a matter.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Agreed, and without details about the bids, we can’t really make those judgements. I’m with you on it being better to spend more money for a better product.

    joe Reply:

    We don’t know bids but we know a bit about reviews and rating bids.

    A generic review of a grant (like NSF) or bid for work involves COST but that score includes a review of the explanation for cost savings. Fantastical claims for low cost work will not result in a high score if they are unsubstantiated.

    I’ve been reviewing for 20+ years and never seen a process where a high score (LOW COST) is based on dollar amount provided at face value. My guess is the winning team has deep experience with the State and knows how to provide details to backup their estimates, and possibly knows enough about working in CA that they budgeted less contingency.

    I don’t like the winning team. Still, we should be skeptical their superior COST score was simply based on the dollar amount (Cheapest).

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I posted below the details – everything is online about formulas.

    Tutor got 68% on the technical, Dragados got 87%.
    The cost scores were purely on price bids (ratios of high to lowest)

    Details about what makes up technical are here: details about scoring on pdf page 58 (document page 51)

    The change from two step to one step was made in addendum 4 (August 22) and the deadline was extended from September to November.

    YesONHSR Reply:

    When did you get your PHD in Urban-Intercity rail/transit planning?? I tired of YOU speaking for the rest us here in the Bay Area that voted for HSR..And dont give me that “concern” issue you speak of..outside of the Caltrain ROW..SO if we pay top dollar to the highest score and they state a 4 track elevated ROW thru PaloAlto is the best outcome for cost effective highest value for our state ..You and CARDD will agree…right??? Or are you going to have another silly media/march/event again?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    When did any HSRA board member get their Ph.D. in that?

    CaliforniaDefender Reply:

    I’m here in the Bay Area, and unfortunately I fell for Prop 1A’s inaccurate estimates and voted for it. Now I regret it. Why do all you proponents stubbornly stick to your support despite all the mounting evidence that this project’s costs are escalating out of control, that it’s ridership numbers are substantially inflated (irrespective of the GAO’s uncritical findings), that it will be far more destructive than CHSRA admits, that its route was gerrymandered to appease CV politicians and developers, etc. I for one am glad to have Elizabeth’s reporting and the substantial efforts by community activits who are right to oppose this project.

    jimsf Reply:

    When you voted for it, the current route was already clear so why did you vote for it if you didn’t want it to serve the central valley?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Unfortunately one has to proceed thru the San Joaquin Valley to forge a rail connection between SF and LA. Think of Fresno as fly-over country.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    no you don’t. they could burrow through the mountains.

    YESONHSR Reply:

    And how close to the Caltrain ROW do you live?? …NO a group of NIMBYS acting like HSR planners are not worthy of the newsmedia attention they have sought out and have been given..By todays always looking for a drama story media. And the number one goal is not to build HSR.. NO its to stop it..for our PA/Menlo Nimbys ..And stopping it in the Central Valley is of couse the way…

  2. Joey
    Apr 20th, 2013 at 11:42

    The fact is that we in the public do not have enough information about these bids to make any conclusions about whether the California High Speed Rail Authority’s rankings are the right ones.

    So then it’s a transparency issue?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Well, they may not be able to legally release bid details right now.

    Joey Reply:

    It would be nice if they would actually tell us if that was the case.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I posted this a couple days ago, but it bears repeating:

    Tutor Perini didn’t win the bid outright by virtue of having the highest score. Instead, the Authority is required to try to reach an agreement with them first, and then the second-highest scorer after that. In other words, Dragados could still end up with the bid if it is not to the Authority’s liking.

    Given that Dan Richard was burned by them in the BART to SFO saga, and their reputation with the Metro Red Line, I think it’s still a highly fluid situation. But remember, Tutor’s consortium is the only one with all-American membership, and if they can actually do it for cheaper, the Governor will want that.

  3. Paul Druce
    Apr 20th, 2013 at 11:44

    Was wondering how long it would take Robert to spin this.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I’d have had this up yesterday but the margaritas were delicious.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    jimsf Reply:

    I’ll have to agree with Neil..

    Neil Shea Reply:
    March 31st, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Hey Richard, you have enough material to launch your own blog. Let me suggest some more stories:

    No one listens to me
    America effs up all its transportation projects
    Highways aren’t so bad compared to suboptimal transit
    I’m so much smarter than everyone else
    America’s Finest Transportation Professionals still fail to genuflect to me
    I would go back to where I came from but they don’t want me there either

    We’ll be sure to contribute lots of comments for you to keep the discussion lively

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Here are several more to add to the list:

    Nobody shops at a “dead mall” (Tanforan).
    Nobody should shop at suburban malls.
    Nobody should live in suburban sprawl.
    Caltrain should not stop at “underused” stations, Broadway, Hayward Park, Atherton, etc.
    People should ride the bus.
    Shift workers don’t exist anymore.
    Caltrain shouldn’t provide early morning service or early afternoon service.
    Caltrain should provide service that is useful only to dot-com types.
    I lash out vile ad hominem attacks against Caltrain staff, I become friendly with them and help with development of the initial 2004 Baby Bullet schedules, and then I go back to lashing out vile ad hominem attacks against them.
    I am the only one that knows how transit should be designed and operated.

    BrianR Reply:

    you can also add these to Richard’s list:

    Nobody rides Caltrain between San Jose and Palo Alto.
    Caltrain should terminate all service south of Palo Alto.

    Joey Reply:


    joe Reply:

    This blog. I think it was MtV, not Paly.:

    “Nobody rides Caltrain between San Jose and Mountain View.”

    But he can deny it and then I’ll bother to dig it up the exact comment.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Richard’s proposed Caltrain schedule does go to San Jose. The only drastic change he proposed is that trains run local south of RWC. This is on the grounds that until the Baby Bullet came and picked winner and loser stations, there wasn’t a big difference in ridership between the busier stations (PA, Mountain View, etc.) and the medium-ridership stations (San Antonio, California Avenue).

    Jonathan Reply:

    Mountain view, not Palo Alto. Richard M has noted that mountain View has a busy station (though not as busy as Palo Alto).
    And I don’t think Richard M. has advocated completely abandoining all caltrain service sout of Mountain View, either.

  4. Resident
    Apr 20th, 2013 at 11:50

    No, the implication is not that it produced flawed results – the implication is that it produced rigged results and lacks transparency and integrity – business as usual

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s an accusation without any evidence at all. It’s a lot clearer that the rules were changed to suit the enormous political and media pressure to reduce costs.

    VBobier Reply:

    Suspicious people will always claim something is fishy without any evidence, especially those who may not want HSR or whatever. They are just sore losers who can’t get their way, but then good people won’t let them either.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They are usually suspicious because they can empathize with whatever they are projecting onto the people they are suspicious of.

    CaliforniaDefender Reply:

    This is a public project that will cost us all BILLIONS. Sore losers? No, we demand transparency and honesty because this is our money, our natural resources, our communities, our homes, our businesses that are being squandered and demolished! There is way too much evidence of wrongdoing not to be suspicious, or at least highly skeptical. It’s up the CHSRA to prove to the public that this bidding process was above board. It’s not up to us to prove to them (especially without information about something done in the dark and behing closed doors), that it’s not. Show a little respect for those with whom you disagree (and who happen to be justifiably suspicious).

    synonymouse Reply:

    “That’s an accusation without any evidence at all. It’s a lot clearer that the rules were changed to suit the enormous political and media pressure to reduce costs.”

    Are you prepared to document that PB or Tutor-Saliba have not donated to the Democratic Party hierarchy?

    Campaign contributions are legal bribes and those politicians are obliged in the real world(that is if they wish to continue to receive said bribes)to take care of contributors.

    So the contract was fixed for Tutor. And who cares. A crappy project merits a crappy contractor..

    This evening I had a conversation with one of the extended family who happens to be a union pile driver and the question came up how come the new almost $1bil RoPo casino(aka Graton Casino)even tho it is very large indeed is not sitting on any piles. My suggestion was not only were they planning to “float” it(it is in a very wet area)but they probably planned to demo it after a few years and build something bigger and better. Why commit to expensive piles?

    Same for DogLegRail – get an inferior contractor to build an temporary project that will have to redone later anyway, because it is failing instead of too successful like the casino.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Keep in mind, you would be basically acknowledging Robert’s point by saying this.

    Since the ROW is the simplest and easiest to construct, you would want to spend as little as possible on it until you know just how heavily utlitized that corridor could be.

    Or if you prefer, it’s the “Billion Dollar Test Track Theory”. Not so crazy an approach when you consider how hamstrung BART is inside Oakland because of it’s reliance on tunnels and viaducts there.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Test-tracking did zero good for Bechtel as they still retained the moronic Indian broad gauge, unique operating voltage, A-B cars, proprietary wheel design, etc. The only change for the better as time proceeded was Berkeley prevailing on its downtown subway. Up against Bechtel naturally all the way.

    This thing is totally Boonies BART.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    That’s not what I mean:

    People tend to focus on the capacity constraints in BART associated with the transbay tube. But what is less well understood is what it would take to expand capacity in Oakland through various choke points. (MacArthur to 12th Street for example).

    The beauty of using the least sophisticated solution for Merced to Bakersfield is that it allows the State to expand capacity in the future with minimal sunk costs associated with tunnels/viaducts etc. Of course, the other problem (elected officials constantly trying to expand the system into their neck of the woods and using the funding that could do such upgrades) still exists, but it’s at least it’s a problem you want to have.

    jimsf Reply:

    That’s just what I’m talking about. You have no proof whatsoever that anything illegal or unseemly was done. And what does “business as usual” mean other than being a catch phrase used by people who have nothing factual to say. What business as usual? What does that even mean?

    Have Nancy’s mind rays gotten to you too?

    synonymouse Reply:

    “You have no proof whatsoever that anything illegal or unseemly was done”

    It took them years to catch Jerome Cahuzac.

    Corruption and graft are business as usual for machine politicians and the higher up they are the more resources are at their disposal to conceal it and get away with it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They don’t have to conceal it they have Pelosi mind rays to make invisible to everyone.

  5. joe
    Apr 20th, 2013 at 11:59

    IMHO, the risk of a lawsuit over the partial review/ two step process was too high.

    Little precedent for rejecting proposals/bids based on a partial score (technical) and that rejection is relative to other bids, not a standard of competence. The chances they’d be litigated would be very high.

    NSF example: Unfunded grants fall into three categories, Funded, Fundable if funds were available and Not fundable.

    CAHSRA was going to reject a fundable technical bid based on its relative rank. They can reject due to a proposal failing to meet an absolute standard of competence. That is not what their process was doing.

    CAHSAR wold have rejected the proposal that scored highest when fully evaluated: All categories were evaluated to their criteria and weighing. The technical score was sufficient

    That’s going to get your decision challenged.

    I’ve seen this attempted with academic grants and the lawyers insisted a partial score cannot invalidate a proposal. All participants were allowed to bid in the second round.

    The two step can discourage (“Hey this initial idea sucked but go ahead and write a more detailed proposal.”)

    CAHSRA was going to reject based on a partial, relative score , technical. Not failing to meet technical requirements but acceptable technical just ranked lower relative to other bidders.

    In this case, with hindsight, the highest scoring proposal under the scoring system CAHSRA created, would have been rejected.

  6. jimsf
    Apr 20th, 2013 at 12:00

    A nation of whiners. The negativity towards this project from so called supporters is worse than the negativity from detractors. Its very sad that so many people assume doom and gloom right out of the gate. The fact is you have no way of knowing the contractor will fail yet that is the assumption made by the sourpuss brigade that has developed on this blog. This kind of rampant negativity has permeated every aspect of our society. The assumption of failure even before dirt turns. Nobody can do anything right in anyone’s eyes so we shouldn’t do anything at all. Whine about cost our of one side of our mouths, and whine about savings out of the other. EVeryone has a personal ax to grind because every one thinks that their way would be better. If only the power of all the armchair quarterbacking could be harnessed we could shut down diablo canyon!
    The problem is not incompetence in the system. The problem is the negative pavlovian public response to anything and everything.

    The high speed rail system will be built and it will be an economic asset and good investment when all is said and done. And most important, it will serve millions of californian’s mobility needs every year, in spite of all the pissing and moaning about all the people here who are much smarter and technically savvy than the designers and engineers and politicians in charge, but who for some reason, weren’t chosen to produce the project.

    The bottom line is to produce the project. No one here can do it. The people who are doing it, can. So suck it up.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Right on

    Tony D Reply:

    Agree! You know where folks like Elizabeth can go…

    John Burrows Reply:


    VBobier Reply:

    Totally agreed Jim!

    nslander Reply:

    Have some pity Jim – selling impotency aint easy.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    I want to see HSR as much as anybody, but the planned system has become too political. One of the results of the politics leads to unnecessary high costs. Cost containment seems to be a foreign concept to some of the HSR cheerleaders. Robert and some on here want to build HSR at any cost.

    We don’t need a grandiose signature Grand Central Station in San Jose and the associated miles of aerial viaducts that come with it. We don’t need a two mile tunnel through the Millbrae BART disaster. We don’t need huge overbuilt aerial structures along the Caltrain corridor.

    HSR is not rocket science, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, this is NOT BART. Economical and functional HSR systems exist elsewhere in the world, what’s the holdup here?

    Can we build anything here without woefully extended construction time and huge cost overruns? Look at the Bay Bridge, how many years has it been since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake? How much is the replacement bridge costing?

    Brian Reply:

    @ Jeff So if the current plan is “too political” (never mind that is how democracies work, politics) how should at ideal plan be built? What would it look like, specifically?
    Also, how would you get the funding upfront (politics again) to build it faster?

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Yes we need some politics, but not to the extent we are seeing with the CHSRA. There should be room at the SJ Cahill Street Station for HSR. What justification is there for an aerial HSR stop and miles of associated viaducts?

    The ideal plan would be to look at Japan, Germany, France, etc. to see how it can be built and what it might look like. How many HSR lines will be built elsewhere in the world while we are waiting here in California?

    Caltrain electrification in 2019, six++ years to electrify 50 miles of double track?

    Electrification has been talked about for over 20 years, actually since the turn of the century, Southern Pacific planned to electrify the line, but the 1906 earthquake changed that.

    HSR completed in 2029, sixteen years from now?

    Does it really have to take that long?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Au contraire, mon vieux

    This is indeed Boonies BART.

    jimsf Reply:

    sonoma county is far more the boonies than than fresno.

    Michael Reply:

    How do you define boonies? I don’t think a place with weekday express bus service into downtown SF and regular trunk bus service into the City as the boonies. Yes, there are places in Sonoma County that are out in the boonies, but the urban areas don’t seem it to me. Less boonie when SMART starts in 2-3 years.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is not the blinking boonies when you have to deal with blankety-blank ABAG and the BAAPCD.

    SMART will have to be rethought after a few months of disappointment. But the insiders who demand subsidized freight will sandbag any re-do. SMART will have to try to take money from weaker transit operations to keep running. Could be Marin will have had enough of it and insist on upgrading to real rail transit all the way to Marin City and dump the NWP or repeal the tax levy.

    Goddam I wish it were more boonie. Sucka Rosa wants to be San Jose.

    CaliforniaDefender Reply:

    I was for the rail project before I was against it. My exposure to the CHSRA documents (propoganda) over the past few years has taught be to be highly skeptical of any promises that agency makes. Your pie-in-the-skie simplistic argument doesn’t work when you consider how this project will waste billions of dollars on a system that will destroy and interfere with a lot of infrastructure and communities and will not be optimal for the state. Why was the I-5 corridor dismissed without ever being seriously considered? (And don’t tell me it was about ridership and connecting CV cities, because it could accomplish both with spur lines, and function much better and cheaper for the rest of the state.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It wouldn’t function much better with spur lines and would have cost more.

    synonymouse Reply:

    cost less and much faster.

    Boonies BART is all about commute ops. And in the auto-crazy Valley. Why is Fresno #1 in the US in auto thefts?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No it wouldn’t.

    Wdobner Reply:

    Kinda like Bud light was “less filling” and “great tasting”, right? Except it was neither. Why would you subject passengers heading to Fresno (or worse, riding a local between SF and LA) to a 100 mile round trip detour to shave a matter of seconds off the trip time between SF and LA? At that point you may as well call it the SF/SJ to LA high speed rail system and be done with it.

    Following the logic exhibited by the pro-Altamont crowd and the claims of special interests influencing the use of Pacheco, then the pro-I-5 crowd’s advocacy for another route which goes right through Los Banos must mean the pro-I-5 have a vested, corrupt reason to prefer a route which still passes through Los Banos.

  7. Max Wyss
    Apr 20th, 2013 at 13:09

    We can also say that this is the way the bidding game works. If you have an “inferior” product, you have to lower your price. Now, it depends on how transparent the procedure is towards the bidders; it may very well be that the bidders can kind of guesstimate how their ranking will be, and make their bids accordingly.

    So, if your product is technically “inferior”, you can kind of estimate how much you may charge at most to outbid the technically “superior” bidders.

    This happens all the time, and I have personally suffered several times from that. I was part of the “superior” technology, but the prices were too high, and then the client went for the cheaper product… and it took them several years to get it up to the level my product was already before the bidding… I occasionally have a chat with the then client, and he still complains about that decision (which was outsie of the control of my client … government office, but the ministry ran the procurement).

    Now, if you are creating the RFPs, you have to be very careful with the wording and the weighting that you get what you want… the bidders are usually smarter than you, because they have more experience with bidding…

    joe Reply:

    ” If you have an “inferior” product, you have to lower your price.

    So, if your product is technically “inferior”, you can kind of estimate how much you may charge at most to outbid the technically “superior” bidders.”

    The technical score was for the proposal, not an evaluation of their work product. T

    Proposals are rated on the text – a good low cost bid will have a LOW cost AND a GOOD explanation WHY the cost will be low. A LOW bid without explanation is not good.

    This 22/30 technical score doesn’t mean they’ll use materials rated 22/30 while the other bid will use materials rated 30/30.

    The winning bid isn’t just cheap – it has to show WHY and HOW the costs were computed. A good score means low cost AND good explanation.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The technical score included a lot of things, including the proposals for the two major bridge structures in Fresno.

    joe Reply:

    Yes technical score does include a lot of things doesn’t it.

    The highest scoring proposal won. There was a close second.
    It was close. The other proposal was very close in overall score.

    Lowest cost isn’t “cheapest” or most “inferior”. The technical score was acceptable.

    I’m a bit annoyed at the winning team but given the constant drum beat of cost criticism, what would one expect?

    Imagine if the more expensive bid won. That would have been a wind storm of criticism and accusations of rigging and gold plated etc..

    Here we go and apparently the project will be working really, really hard to keep costs low.

    joe Reply:

    8.2.1 Compliant Proposal

    The Proposal shall document the Proposer’s technical approach to Project delivery, capability to deliver the Project, and proposed Project delivery price and pricing assumptions in light of the evaluation criteria.

    i) technical approach to delivery
    ii) capability to deliver
    iii) price
    iv) pricing assumptions

    The winning bid had better price and pricing assumptions. Is that exactly what critics have demanded?

    jimsf Reply:

    The Milau Viaduct is a major bridge structure. Fresno is a couple of overpasses. The bulk of this part of the project is just earth moving.

    datacruncher Reply:

    This section crosses the San Joaquin River which sits below bluffs in the Fresno area. Maybe someone else knows the bluff heights but I’m guessing 40 or 50 feet above the river. Most 99 (or 41) travelers don’t notice because Caltrans trenched the bluffs to drop the freeway down into the floodplain almost to the waterway to build shorter bridges. Getting approval to drop into the floodplain habitat would probably be more difficult today.

    A level bluff to bluff river crossing is probably 1/2 mile or so in length.

    CAHSRA is then combining the San Joaquin River bridge structure with a crossing from the east side to the west side of the UPRR in north Fresno near Herndon Avenue. So the river crossing will be at bluff height or higher to also allow for the UPRR crossing.

    Total crossing of the river and UPRR combined requires about 2 miles of structure.

    But even if it was just a 1/2 mile river crossing it would be more than just earth moving.

    jimsf Reply:

    Its still a basic overpass.

    jimsf Reply:

    these things are a dime a dozen. Hell if they build it during the summe there’s barely even any water down there.

    datacruncher Reply:

    I hear what you are saying. This may not be Millau, but it is more than a basic overpass structure.

    Your pictured river bridge is only about 900 feet long and is actually located down in the river floodplains rising maybe 40 or 50 ft above the high water flow. (and minor detail but that is the BNSF crossing about 2 miles east of HSR’s bridge) The BNSF line drops about 50 feet or more from the bluff top to the river valley to make for a shorter river bridge.

    But that is not the same as HSR’s river crossing plan.

    The RFP calls for tracks much higher above the river, running bluff to bluff level while also gaining a few additional feet in elevation to be able to also cross the UPRR south of the river.

    The river’s water surface is at about 230 ft above sea level at the HSR crossing point, HSR’s tracks will cross it at about 330 ft above sea level to stay at/above bluff level from north to south without a dip.

    So quickly from some RFP docs for the SJ River structure specs (I think I have these #s correct):
    *HSR will build a 2.3 mile long elevated structure.
    *The SJ bridge’s longest span between columns is planned for 320 feet to reduce impacts to the river (previous bridges for rail and freeways were allowed narrower spans).
    *HSR’s SJ River structure’s tallest columns will rise about 90 to 100 feet above the river.

    Also, don’t forget the Feds are now in the middle of the San Joaquin River restoration. Water flows will be increased over the next few years and wildlife habitat is being restored. Makes for a different permit and planning world then when Caltrans and the railroads first crossed that river a long time ago.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The Millau bridge is also, of course, for automobiles. It will be interesting to see how effective the contractor will be in building such a long bridge, of course.

  8. Peninsula NIMBY
    Apr 20th, 2013 at 13:30

    I’m not surprised Tutor-Perini won the contract when their principal ower is Richard Blum, the husband of Diane Feinstein.

    Peninsula NIMBY Reply:

    Another, less biased link.

    StevieB Reply:

    Other sources say Richard Blum sold almost all his shares of Tutor in 2005. Rumor is because of his wife being a senator but he has not confirmed this rumor.

    In 2003, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a contract to a company named Perini (now Tutor Perini) to provide goods and services to the U.S. Central Command in Afghanistan. The contract was eventually worth $500 million.
    At the time, Mr. Blum was the principal shareholder of Perini, co-owning 75% of its voting shares. Because Mr. Blum’s wife is Senator Dianne Feinstein, making profits off the wars in the Middle East gave rise to charges of a conflict of interest. Apparently, at least partly as a result of these accusations, Mr. Blum divested ownership of Perini in 2005.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “There is no life outside the Family”. I am not sure if Tony Soprano said that or somebody earlier. Maybe a Scorsese line or from Mario Puzo.

  9. JJJJ
    Apr 20th, 2013 at 16:40

    You can never satisfy those against the project.

    Lowest bidder? OMG TOO LOW
    Best technical? OMG WHY NOT THE LOW BID.

    Hypothetical lowest bid and best technical? OMG THE BOOKS ARE COOKED.

    jimsf Reply:

    LOL that’s the truth

    Joey Reply:

    I can’t speak for everyone here, but my main concern is with Tudor’s reputation of cost overruns.

    John Burrows Reply:

    One way to kill a project—Can’t decide between the “lowest bidder” and the “best technical”—Get some lawsuits going—Freeze project in its tracks—The months go by and turn into years—Project dies.

    It is almost as if the bid process was too successful in that we ended up with two bids well under the project estimate. I don’t see how we can foretell with any certainty whether the Tutor bid or the Dragados bid will end up being the one we should have chosen, but let’s do whatever it takes to not mess this up.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No. Those of us who are raising a stink have, for years, worshiped Manuel Melis Maynar and his writeup for how to get good low-cost projects. One of the things he said Madrid did during his tenure was to evaluate proposals based mainly on technical criteria and not just on cost. We didn’t make this up from scratch; it’s a set of criteria we’ve been haranguing people about for years.

    The winning proposal was the lowest bidder and the worst technical, and was very close on the overall score to a slightly higher bid with a much better technical score. The contractor has a history of cost overruns, and while this may have figured into the technical score, Tutor’s average cost overrun in past Californian projects is much higher than the Tutor-Dragados cost difference (40% vs. 12% if memory serves).

  10. Elizabeth
    Apr 20th, 2013 at 18:06


    Tutor got 68% on the technical, Dragados got 87%.

    Details about what makes up technical are here: details about scoring on pdf page 58 (document page 51)

    The change from two step to one step was made in addendum 4 (August 22) and the deadline was extended from September to November.

    jimsf Reply:

    Who cares as long as someone builds it.

    Joey Reply:

    If you don’t actually care about the issues why bother commenting?

    jimsf Reply:

    What issues? I’m here to get info on whats coming up, when does construction start, what kind of trains will they use, who will be the operater, which segments are next, etc etc. I’m not here for the constant complaining and conspiracy theories about things that no one here can do anything about.

    I don’t care who builds it as long as it gets built.

    Joey Reply:

    I don’t particularly care who builds it either, as long as they do a good job and stay within budget. Tudor tends to have issues with the ladder.

    StevieB Reply:

    If Tudor goes over budget that will hurt their profits. It will be a loss for capitalists.

    joe Reply:

    What is the issue Joey?

    Cost cost cost has been one the key complaints in the State.

    The winning bid had the best score for price & pricing assumptions. It was technically selectable. No identified deficiencies.

    The winning bid had the highest overall score of all bids. It came in almost 50% below the 1.8 estimate.

    VBobier Reply:

    Some people will complain about not going with the highest score possible & then complain that they didn’t go with the lowest price or that the cost of HSR is too much like a bunch of spoiled sniveling brats.

    These people can’t be satisfied, not until HSR is dead, their a bunch of old dead enders who think oil will go on forever, that it’s limitless, like trees were thought to be at one time…

    CaliforniaDefender Reply:

    Simplistic thinking appears to be a common characteristic of the HSR proponents. Have you ever stopped to consider that there could be better ways to get people out of their cars than an intercity high-speed rail line? For example, we could: (1) spending billions more on local and regional transit, (2) promote more telecommuting, (3) fund SB 375 regional planning to promote more smart growth. People are complaining about this changed bidding process because it stinks of croniesm and back-door deal-making. We have a right to complain, CHSRA is a state agency that is there to serve all of the public in an honest, transparent, and deliberative fashion.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Syn, you forgot the parts about Nancy Pelosi mind rays and black helicopters.

    jimsf Reply:

    you are under the mistaken impression the the reason for building HSR is to “get people out of their cars” while that may be a portion of a side benefit, that is not why california is building HSR. None of what you propose does anything to help tie the state’s people and economic regions together and none of what you propose does anything to reduce travel inter-regionally, which is the actually purpose of high speed rail. HSR is not for getting from sf to la, we have planes that do that already, however it does give people a more convenient and comfortable alternative to flying which many people will choose. Nor is HSR designed for commuting, although due to its multi purpose design, can be be used by some to commute- another side benefit. And while its main purpose is not to get people out of cars, its main purpose IS to give people a faster alternative to move about the state. And that is what it will do. It will tie economic regions together, and give californians more travel options and THAT is why californians voted for it– because californian’s love having more travel options to more places.

    Joey Reply:

    I’m not complaining about the scoring system (simply because I don’t know enough about it). My concern is with Tudor’s history low bids and then cost overruns, which doesn’t seem to have been factored in.

    joe Reply:

    But you admit you don’t know.

    The summary description in the document gives four areas: technical approach, price, pricing assumptions and capability to deliver.

    Some are critical that the full board wasn’t consulted – not that it would have changed any outcome. It is criticism rooted in the interpretation of how CAHSRA runs their meetings and process. Like

    Elizabeth Reply:

    There were two components.

    Price – a single line item number which was ratio of low bid to bidder’s price.

    Technical – a score out of 100 with a breakdown of

    Ability to Meet Schedules
    15 points
    Project Approach
    25 points
    Anticipated Problems/Proposed Solutions
    10 points
    Conceptual Engineering
    20 points
    Quality/Self Certification
    20 points
    Safety and Security
    10 points

    The price score was then weighted 70% and the technical score weighted 30%

    No – we don’tknow the breakdown in each technical weight category – it would be nice to see it.

    joe Reply:

    Why? I see no purpose. Certainly proprietary, corporate data isn’t going to be shared.

    If I wanted to point a finger at any organization that’s done the most damage to the “quality” of HSR I’d point at CARRD and other opponents for the constant complaining about project cost, rider-ship and that HSR is too expensive.

    Why hasn’t any cost critic mentioned the good news that the bid is almost 50% of what was estimated?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Every time someone talks about proprietary algorithms I think a communist revolution may be a good thing.

    joe Reply:

    Maybe, but proprietary doesn’t mean patented. I may find a simple statistic is very useful for predicting cost and I can use that statistic in my proposal. That costing approach is proprietary.

    The data in the proposal, what they proposed and how is owned by the company. I doubt CS owns the data and can share it – they have to protect the integrity and security of that data.

    Review scores and comments may reveal proprietary information. Where in the proposals were the competitors strong or weak.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The data in the proposals actually belongs to California – that is why we paid each entrant $2 million.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s a bit more helpful but we still don’t know the details of how each bid fared on each of those subsections.

  11. D. P. Lubic
    Apr 20th, 2013 at 19:17

    Off topic, but of interest from the past and the present:

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Still wildly off topic, but too funny not to share, and something the geeky types here will appreciate:

    Of course, there has to be a rail connection or two:

    Have fun, and be sure to check out the “rollover” captions that come up when you run the cursor over the images.

    YesONHSR Reply:

    Semi-off topic…The Kochs want to buy the LA Times and Chicago Tribune…These oil Billionares have no shame when it comes to propaganda reach do they?? like Cato/Reason is not enough…there will be alot more Ralph Vartabedian types at the LAtimes if these creeps own it..think Reason propagnda style in one of the largest city newspapers

    synonymouse Reply:

    I trust they are not paying much as newspapers are pretty much done for.

    Same applies to broadcast tv who are going to lose their sweet spot frequencies due to their greed.

  12. Travis
    Apr 21st, 2013 at 08:09

    How do we know that Tutor-Perini’s deficits on the technical score were evenly distributed along the different categories? Maybe they aced the safety category and lacked a high conceptual mark?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    We don’t know that, and it’s an excellent point you make.

  13. Reedman
    Apr 21st, 2013 at 10:13

    What bid system did BART-to-SFO use?
    Would it have been a “better” piece of transit with a different contractor?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    What bid system did BART-to-SFO use?


    jimsf Reply:

    graft is what get things done in a capitalist society. what is the problem?

    synonymouse Reply:

    On the contrary entrenched graft soon slows society down to a crawl. For instance the invaluable and irreplaceable heritage sites of of Pompeii and Herculaneum have fallen into serious decay since the maintenance funds have been diverted and sponged up by the Camorra. And sadly all of southern Italy is now awash in “rifiuti”. They are dumping toxic waste on the farm fields.

    Or consider Mexico, homeland of the mordida and a fabulous hsr system.

    But in the instance of Boonies BART I agree graft is in order and may the sleaziest, greasiest contractor cheat, skimp, and undercut that piece of mierda.

    And for your Sunday amusement:

    Sorry, SD, sprinter ain’t no lrv; it is a doodlebug.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Only in a corrupt capitalist one. In low-corruption capitalist states like Switzerland they manage to build things just fine.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    One part of the NYC government is building an enormous project that is on time and on budget. Water Tunnel 3. Another isn’t, take your pick the Second Avenue Subway or East Side Access.

    jimsf Reply:

    transbay terminal is on time and on budget.

    Joey Reply:

    On time, on budget, or functional. Choose two, if you’re lucky. You can’t tell you’ve looked at the station throat and platform access and the number of trains they need to put through there and actually think it will work.

    jimsf Reply:

    I have no doubt it will work and I will be taking trains there.

    Joey Reply:

    Sure you will. So will I, but we will both be hindered by the delays that result from station throat conflicts, platform crowding because of inadequate vertical circulation, and additional delays coming from platform crowding. We will also have fewer trains to choose from because this mess forces half of them to terminate at Mission Bay.

    jimsf Reply:

    i won’t notice. and sometimes I might be going to mission bay anyway just like lots of other people.

    Joey Reply:

    So you won’t notice if every train you take is 10 minutes late? But okay, maybe you don’t care – it’s an intercity trip, so your schedule isn’t too constrained. But what do you say to all the people commuting on CalTrain who will also be delayed. Especially since their choice of trains that will actually go to transbay is half of what it could be with a well designed terminal.

    And I don’t doubt that people want to go to Mission Bay. Just not nearly as many as want to go to Transbay. Certainly not enough to justify terminating half of all trains there.

    swing hanger Reply:

    As Joey says. A ten minute delay by Amtrak standards is basically on time with all the schedule padding going on, but on a system with shared HSR and commuter trains, that ten minutes causes a domino effect of delays, so even if most riders on your LD train don’t mind, it does grate those on the commutes that are trying to get to their office on time.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Truer than you know. Most Amtrak intercity corridor trains are not considered late until 10 minutes after scheduled arrival into terminal and depending on length of trip, it can be even longer.

    jimsf Reply:

    And I don’t doubt that people want to go to Mission Bay. Just not nearly as many as want to go to Transbay. Certainly not enough to justify terminating half of all trains there

    Well I’m not so sure about that. YOu may look at it today and think that, but you have to understanding how the future sf growth is going to shape up.

    let look ahead to when we have full hsr build out…

    hsr pax arriving from the south with bay area destinations…. those headed to the inner eastbay will transfer to bart at san jose for the destinations in the fremont, hayward, fruitvale, oakland desinations. ( or to capitol corridor depending on the exact destination.)
    Peninsula bound pax will off board at rwc/sfo or what have you.
    those actually destined for sf will of board at either tbt or 4th based on where exactly in the city they want to go, and what type of connections and conveniences are avail at the two stations.
    If someone is driving to pick them up, 4th st is the easier location.
    if they are headed to the mission, mission bay porero hill, noe valley, castro, 4th will also be a better choice, because muni will have a direct line on the 16th street corridor avoiding downtown, as well as the t thrid line.
    keep in mind that the bulk of new housing, and new population growth in SF will be on the t third line.
    A lot of business people will be headed to the FiDi, so they will use tbt, but also keep in mind the the FiDI has been moving gradually south for the past three decades.

    Tourists… are a toss up, you would expect the bulk of tourist to use tbt as its close to the wharf and union square. But it really depends on their hotel location.

    In some ways off boarding at 4th will just be more convenient because its a less congested area

    As for every train being ten minutes late. That is unlikely. You are making silly assumptions. we are a long way off from creating actual operation skeds for hsr and caltrain. We don’t even know who will be operating caltrain and hsr when the time comes.

    Joey Reply:

    we are a long way off from creating actual operation skeds for hsr and caltrain.

    Wrong. Flat out wrong. Notional schedules have already been posted for both HSR and CalTrain. Granted, they’re likely to change, but the infrastructure is being designed around these timetables, and their basic structure will be both difficult and expensive to change after the fact.

    What we see in these timetables is that half of all trains will terminate at Mission Bay. This is true not just for HSR, but also for CalTrain. This is despite the fact that there are more jobs within half a mile of transbay than within half a mile of every other CalTrain station combined, including the existing terminal. New development is unlikely to do much to this differential, especially given the planned redevelopment of the transbay area. So justify to me again how half of all CalTrain commuters (the vast majority of CalTrain’s ridership) will be fine with being marooned 1.5 miles from their destination?

    10 minutes is a bit of an exaggeration. But what’s clear now is that there will be a definite tradeoff between the number of trains we can send to transbay and the number of trains we can run on time. The frustrating thing is that this tradeoff does not have to exist. With an improved station throat, somewhat better platforms, and modern operating practices, we could easily fit 4+ HSR and 6-8 CalTrain trains per hour into Transbay. Why are we not doing this?

    Adina Reply:

    Transbay staff has said that with the blended system, there will no longer be a schedule requirement to terminate half of Caltrain service at the Mission Bay stop and all trains can go to Transbay (perhaps with the exception of special ballpark serving trains.

    joe Reply:

    Swiss do go over budget and schedule.

    Other contractors are responsible for many other aspects of the project. The estimated final cost of the project was CHF9.4bn (US$9.0bn) for the Gotthard and 2.24bn for the related 15.4km (9.6 mile) Ceneri tunnel project further south on the route. These amounts exceed the original estimates, with the Swiss parliament approving reserves for uncertainties that included geological conditions, engineering issues and technological developments, the latter relevant due to the long project timescale.

    Joey Reply:

    What they get out of it is efficient and useful though.

    joe Reply:

    Oh yes, and of course not perfect and not on budget.

    Prejudices work both ways, we can’t and they can. There finished product, efficient and useful ours inefficient and wasteful.

    Joey Reply:

    Things function differently there for a number of reasons. Infrastructure improvements are structured around well-designed service plans and prioritizing investments to where they are most needed. That’s simply not the case here – see BART extensions (particularly SFO which has far less ridership than predicted and the wye which is an operational nightmare), things like RailRunner which provide almost no transportation benefits, or several other commuter agencies which are trying to extend service into low density suburbs when core service is lacking.

    joe Reply:

    Apparently practice makes perfect.

    Switzerland has a very high density of railway network, with an average of 122 km of track for every 1000 km2 (average of 46 km in Europe).[1] In 2008, each Swiss citizen ran on average 2,422 km by rail, which makes them the highest rail users.[

    So we better start building more rail here and get the density up.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “Approving reserves” = “the project needed to use some of the contingency funding”

    In the US it’s different: the contingency is part of the budget and the project is not considered to be over budget until it’s eaten the entire contingency. Europe doesn’t do that: budgets are quoted without contingency, and projects are not taken if the benefit:cost ratio is less than 1.2-1.3, because of the risk that they’ll need the contingency reserves.

    joe Reply:

    Stop making excuses. They were over budget. So what? It happens. Maybe some guy can write a book about it. Oh some one did and it used European examples and projects were over budget.

  14. Ben
    Apr 21st, 2013 at 10:24

    Phase II of the Silver Line metro extension to Dulles airport and Loudoun County also came in under bid.

    People have been saying this all along. We still have a surplus of labor and construction materials are still relatively cheap because the economy isn’t at full capacity, these projects are coming in under the estimated bids. People have been advocating, and I agree, that cheap labor, cheap materials, and cheap capital costs make this an excellent time to invest in our infrastructure.

    I guess it is a lot more fun to see conspiracies lurking in every shadow, however.

    VBobier Reply:

    Conspiracy types like syno in CA need to see a psychiatrist, Government in CA is good.

    StevieB Reply:

    Conspiracy types would see psychiatrists as part of the conspiracy and hence to be avoided.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    well to the conspiracy types you saying they need to see a psychiatrist is part of the conspiracy…

  15. joe
    Apr 21st, 2013 at 14:23

    Developments less than a mile of the San Jose Rail Station: two residential complexes and the extension of the Guadalupe River Trail for commuter biking & walking.

    Pizarro: The Next Big Thing(s) coming to downtown San Jose

    The next phase of high-rise development in downtown San Jose is looming as KT Properties — the company that built the Axis condo building downtown — prepares to break ground on One South Market, a 23-story residential building.

    Mark Tersini, senior vice president of KT Properties, told the audience at a forum sponsored by urban advocates SPUR San Jose that the project should break ground in the next couple of months. And another project on the horizon, Simeon Properties’ 347-unit Centerra building, is in early planning stages to be built just north of the San Pedro Square Market.

    Together, these projects may push downtown toward that long sought-after tipping point, where there are enough people living and working downtown to make it more enticing for retail and other private development. As someone who heads downtown for dining and entertainment on a regular basis, I say the more the merrier.

    Sleek new trail opens through heart of San Jose, connecting downtown to San Francisco Bay for bikes and hikers.

    “The ability for people to have all sorts of options for travel in this area — including biking and walking — has a lot of value,” Zsutty said. “Not only are we taking bicyclists off busy roadways, but when people commute by bike, that also takes cars off the roadways.”

    Open to walkers, bicyclists, skateboarders and people using other forms of nonmotorized transportation, the new trail connects to an existing section of paved trail that runs another 2.6 miles upstream along the river from Interstate 880 through downtown San Jose, near HP Pavilion and the Children’s Discovery Museum, to Interstate 280.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Central San Jose – “downtown” and its nearby areas – has some of the greatest potential of anywhere in the state of California. Glad to see stuff like this getting built.

    joe Reply:

    It’s infil near the existing station.

    Near the San Jose BART Station additional growth.

    SAN JOSE — The first concrete steps to create a transit village next to a future BART station in the city’s Berryessa district have come with the purchase by KB Home of a largely unused portion of a well-known flea market in San Jose.

    KB Home on Feb. 11 bought 10 acres on the north side of the 120-acre San Jose Flea Market operation, which is on Berryessa Road near King Road.

    Eventually, the 120-acre site is expected to have 2,800 to 3,000 residences.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Oakland has at least 20 times the potential.

    jimsf Reply:

    oakland has also has seven bart stations.

    Joey Reply:

    All the more reason to encourage development in Oakland.

    jimsf Reply:

    go ahead. but you can develop san jose too.

    Joey Reply:

    The trouble is that the entire south bay is much more structured around car travel. And it’s going to take a lot more than one BART line to fix that.

    jimsf Reply:

    It is today, but doesn’t have to be tomorrow. In fact, they want input from you. Instead of people complaining about san jose, here is your chance to change it…

    joe Reply:

    The entire point of the Bike Path extension and new downtown development is to CHANGE the car culture in San Jose. Same for the San Jose BART transit development.

    These downtown projects are less than a mile from the Rail station. 0.8 miles or less.

    Texas is considering HSR and the investors want to put stations in the undeveloped parts of Huston and Dallas so they can develop the land.

    Here, Critics complain about HSR and mock downtown San Jose. It’s the ten largest city in the US, home of high paying tech jobs and prime for infill.

    Joey Reply:

    Silicon Valley’s car dependence isn’t going to change until it accepts the idea of taking away traffic lanes, particularly on those expressways, to put in dedicated transit and bicycle infrastructure. Right now I don’t see that happening.

    Eric Reply:

    If a bunch of towers are constructed and the population doubles, there will be enough congestion on the freeways, even without taking away lanes, that the car dependence will be endangered.

    By the way, bicycle lanes in the middle of a freeway are a dumb idea. Even transit next to a freeway is a bad idea if more pedestrian-friendly ROWs are available.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    San Jose is a secondary city; the equivalent in Texas would be to spend a substantial amount of money and effort on building a station in downtown Fort Worth and routing all Dallas trains through there.

    This is independent of the question of where the primary city’s train station should be. Building one at the beltway instead of downtown to save money is a stupid idea and the cities of the world have been trying to fix it since the 1850s and the construction of the London Underground. There’s always a costs vs. benefits calculation for this, in any city, but the primary city of a metro area of 6-7 million needs a downtown station much more than that of a metro area of 1 million. This is why you see Clem say that it’s important to serve Transbay rather than take the easy way out and terminate at 4th and King (just a kilometer outside downtown), while promoting peripheral stations for Fresno and Bakersfield on noise grounds.

    The issue with doubling the population of Silicon Valley is that none of the current locals has any interest in it, any more than the OPEC producers have an interest in doubling oil production.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s like building a station in Trenton or New Haven.

    …. or Providence…

    James in PA Reply:

    It’s like building a station in Trenton or New Haven.

    …. or Providence…

    Again, not, not, not. Not even close. Now Tacoma is much more comparable to San Jose. Even then there are significant differences.

    joe Reply:

    San Jose is a primary city.

    The Dallas Fort Worth comparisons is from a guy who hasn’t lived here to substantiate that bias nor apparently comprehends that SF and SJ have distinct airports and are not functioning as “twin” cities.

    SF and SJ will have distinct HSR stops and down-towns and two stops between them in RWC/PA and SFO.
    SJ will be a bit closer to CV/LA on this system which I think will help SJ compete for corporate offices.

    Population here has increased without local approval for decades. The population will continue increase due to the economy, the opportunity, climate and tolerant culture. pPople are addicted to growth here.

    New CA State law now mandates cities add housing to accompany development and job expansion.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If Fort Worth interests manage to rig the Texas system so that the line heading from the south will serve Fort Worth first and Dallas second rather than the reverse, Fort Worth could also talk about how it could compete for corporate offices, etc.

    I know San Jose boosters think they’re more than Fort Worth, or Providence, or Baltimore, or Newark, or West Palm Beach, or Takoma. That doesn’t mean they’re right. The only rational response to boosters is to make fun of them.

    Population has increased glacially throughout the Bay Area in the last 20 years. Small projects here and there, but nothing like what Downtown Vancouver has seen (its population has octupled since the 1970s) or Antelope Valley or the Houston suburbs. San Jose itself is a bit less hysterical about development than southern San Mateo County, but it’s a lot closer in mentality to San Mateo County than to Houston or Vancouver.

    A while ago, for trolling’s sake, I asked if it was a good idea to build San Jose an actual downtown station, on the correct side of 87, using new viaducts or tunnels starting in Tamien and ending around College Park. I don’t think anyone thought it was a good idea, including myself. Too much cost for a place that’s not that important in the grand scheme of things. Same as with fantasies of a downtown station in Providence, which the Providence transit bloggers indulge in but recognize are pure fantasy.

    Joey Reply:

    The best way to solve the wrong side of 87 problem would be to remove 87 entirely and build a new station on the land. But that’s never going to happen.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The only rational response to boosters is to make fun of them.

    Trenton isn’t jonesing for a PATH station or even a BSL station. Must not be as important since San Jose will be getting a BART station. TF Green isn’t in Providence and isn’t international.

    joe Reply:

    “correct side of 87”

    87 was a surface street with congested stop lights fairly recently. AJ After Joe, it was turned into a freeway so I find this Wrong side of 87 criticism amusingly silly.

    jimsf Reply:

    But since San Jose is at a unique “ground zero’ of sorts, the city’s potential can be seen as another benefit to those who are moving here. Most people come to San Jose for the valuable jobs it offers, but what if the city was branded as a place to come where the citizen can participate in designing the future? This was the idea behind starting thinkbiggersanjose two years ago. San Jose stands as a relatively undefined suburban mass, but what if it could be marketed as the next great creative project? What if the creative culture that San Jose has harvested in the last decade could go beyond being a culture, and become the defining aspect of the city? What if instead of creating a new technology or social network, San Jose became a breeding ground for new building and urban planning?
    This need for new approaches in building and urban planning ideas is bred out of necessity, the necessity to work within the parameters of the airport flight path. So how can different approaches be made in developing in a height restrictive area? How can developers build better buildings that are functional by maximizing square footage, but not simply being a square box? How might the creative artisans that may have “outside the box” ideas be better included in the design process? One simple answer would be to hold design contests for undeveloped pieces of land. This would allow local artist a chance to show their takes on areas within their city, that could then be included in future developments. Another is through the work of non-profit organizations like SPUR and 1stAct. These groups that have the ability to influence city planners and developers to listen to arguments for better urban design. It is through groups that allow collaboration of different vocations, that challenges to traditional approaches in urban and building design are created.
    “Ground zero” for San Jose is now. The talk of urban growth is gaining momentum and may be at an all time high, the creative culture is needed now more than ever, make your voice heard, it counts!

    Andrew Lambdin-Abraham Reply:

    So they’re looking for building designs that maximize square footage without being square? Flatiron Buildings for everyone!

    jimsf Reply:

    well these would solve the problem of wasted parking lot space…

    Howard Reply:

    Move San Jose Airport to Coyote Valley. Then no height limits in downtown San Jose and you could redeveop the old airport site as a new dense transit oriented neighborhood. The new San Jose Airport could have two runways for more flights and allow night flights. It also would have its own Caltrain Station with future Capitol Cooridor service and maybe a high speed rail stop if the peninsula does not want one.

    Tony D Reply:

    Like the idea Howard, but Morgan Hill and Santa Teresa/SSJ would never allow it. Better to make SJC more transit accessible from BART/Caltrain/light-rail (I.e. people mover system) and allow true skyscrapers along N. First Street.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Close down that airport. Most of its traffic is to SoCal and would be diverted to HSR anyway.

    jimsf Reply:

    Here’s the airport plan. doesn’t look like they are going to close it down.

    Joey Reply:

    Of course they’re not. That doesn’t mean that closing it down would be a bad idea.

    jimsf Reply:

    its a waste of time to bring it up since its not going to happen. seems like just a another excuse to complain about something.

    Joey Reply:

    We complain about the incompetence of transportation planners, you complain about all the people who have moved into SF in the last 20 years. Everyone complains about something.

    joe Reply:

    I fail to see why keeping San Jose airport open is transportation incompetence.

    Incompetence, fail on the most basic level, is not knowing there already IS an airport in South County Santa Clara.

    I complain about people who live in Timbuktu deciding what is primary, secondary and competence.

    Why shut down San Jose airport?
    One is principle: San Jose is not a “Primary” City. That reason is an indication someone plays to much SimCity.
    Another is so San Jose can build a “sky scraper” in downtown. They are economically inefficient given the space wasted on elevators. It’s an Earthquake zone and the city is build on soils that will liquify.

    Joey Reply:

    I’m not commenting on whether San Jose is a primary or secondary city, but SJC is most definitely a secondary airport, and much of the market it currently serves will be served by HSR. It is also a hindrance to the densification of one of the most transit accessible (relative term) parts of SV, particularly once BART and HSR come around.

    joe Reply:

    I fly SJC and swear they have many flights to other destinations. I access Chicago, Texas destinations and even DC metro area via SJC.

    HSR will open SJC to the CV and expand it’s customer base and connectivity. Fresno to Chicago via HSR and airport.

    Joey Reply:

    The lack of a connection between Diridon and the airport might be a problem for that. But for now it’s also a problem between SFO and Millbrae. Hopefully that will be fixed by extending the people mover though.

    jimsf Reply:

    joey it actually doesn’t hinder san jose’s growth or densification, it prevents excessively tall buildings, but you don’t need excessively tall buildings to densify san san jose. there is room for hundreds of 24 story or less buildings all over. enough capacity for decades.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Flights to hub airports are a symptom of being a secondary airport.

    Michael Reply:

    Get on Google Earth and turn on the 3d buildings and look at Munich. Not many buildings about 5-6 stories. Really successful city, tons of people in the pedestrianized downtown. A couple of taller buildings outside of downtown. San Jose can have density without whining about the airport restrictions.

    Joey Reply:

    Point taken, jimsf and Michael. The height restrictions imposed by the airport aren’t that big of an issue.

    blankslate Reply:

    Highrises are not necessary for density, walkability, transit ridership, or anything else except the phallic fantasies of civic boosters. Central Paris achieves 15-20 times the density of downtown San Jose without a single building higher than 7 stories.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Actually, in California, the mid-rise brick buildings of Paris and Munich aren’t earthquake-resistant. The new skyscrapers do it better relative to how much it costs to build them.

    And the reason I think SJC should be closed after HSR opens isn’t that SJ is a secondary city, but that about half of its passenger traffic is to cities connected by CAHSR/DX.

    joe Reply:

    And the reason I think SJC should be closed after HSR opens isn’t that SJ is a secondary city, but that about half of its passenger traffic is to cities connected by CAHSR/DX.</blockquote

    Yet HSR Californians think HSR will free up airport capacity like at SJC and allow for growth and additional flights to the bay area with existing airport infrastructure.

    Locals all know SFO runways are too close and thus as visibility decreases one is closed. SFO chronically backs up and flights get delayed with fog. Fog – that bay area thingy we see so frequently. So no we are not closing SJC and crippling bay area capacity. We'll grow air traffic with SJC capacity.

    I had a friend working at DOVE BAR factory in Chicago suggest they use a machine to hand dip the ice cream bars. You should meet him.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Oakland has had those BART stations for over 40 years; where’s the development? (Sound of crickets chirping)

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    A Chinese investment group said Wednesday it will finance the majority of a $1.5 billion mixed-use development project in Oakland, an unusually large investment by a Chinese company in California, especially in real estate.

    The Brooklyn Basin project just south of Jack London Square is to include the construction of 3,100 housing units, 200,000 square feet of retail and commercial space and 30 acres of parks and open space.

    Read more here:
    Read more here:

    Tony D. Reply:

    Actually, the initial investment is $28 million. $1.5 billion is the finished product in 2025. What does this have to do with BART anyway? And do you really want me to list the billions $ in new residential, commercial, and retail going on here in SJ/SV? Didn’t think so..

    joe Reply:

    It’s win-win. The entire Bay Area is developing and infilling which means HSR is the right thing to do. BART should reach the HSR station in San Jose.

    The dude who wrote Oakland has 20 times more potential than San Jose lives in San Fransisco.

    Joey Reply:

    Oakland has an excess of transit capacity. San Jose has a deficiency. If you want transit oriented development, it’s more efficient to do it in areas that already have transit.

    joe Reply:

    Well now all you have to do is write blog comments to move the high tech firms and jobs from San Jose to to Oakland.

    Joey Reply:

    Ignoring Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, etc?

    joe Reply:

    You can include them too. Move Oakland for the same reason firms should leave San Jose. Transit deficiency. They even have to bus their people into work from places like BERNEL in south county and SF up north you know.

    Marc Reply:

    Fruitvale station: already TOD.
    12th and 19th Street stations: 5000+ new housing units built within short walk of one or other.
    MacArthur station: TOD under construction on and adjacent to BART surface lot.
    West Oakland station: TOD in design stage.
    Lake Merritt station: TOD in proposal stage.
    Coliseum station: TOD proposed as part of (unlikely to succeed) Raiders stadium deal.
    Rockridge: further significant TOD is unlikely to get past the NIMBYs.

    jimsf Reply:

    excuse me… eight bart stations.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:


    Jon Reply:

    Eight. Ashby is over the border in Berkeley.

    Technically there will be nine in a couple of years time when the OAC opens.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    OAK airport has had a BART station for decades. The fact that they are replacing bus with slower and more expensive cable car is irrelevant as far as extent of the BART network.

    jimsf Reply:

    and oakland does not have the high end economy of silicon valley. Oakland is also already much denser than san jose, so the potential in san jose is much greater.

    You also aren’t going to run into as much opposition in san jose as you are in oakland.

    John Burrows Reply:

    This surprised me—

    Oakland has a population of about 395,000 and an area of 78 sq. mi.—Density of 5,100 per sq. mi.
    San Jose has a population of about 967,000 and an area of 178 sq. mi.—Density of 5,400 per sq. mi.
    Detroit has a population of about 706,000 and an area of 143 sq. mi.—Density of 4,900 per sq.mi.

    Of the 10 largest US cities, San Jose ranks #5 in number of persons per sq. mi.—Ahead of Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Phoenix, and San Diego.

    Joey Reply:

    AFAIK both the cities of Oakland and San Jose contain a large amount of undeveloped or sparsely developed land. This might be affecting things, though I don’t know which way.

    joe Reply:

    11 sq miles of San Jose is this:

    Coyote Valley (see also Coyote, California) is a large expanse of farmland, orchards and homes, approximately 7,200 acres (2,914 ha) in size, located in a narrowing of the Santa Clara Valley, in the southernmost part of San Jose, California. …. this valley, which is considered by many to be the last remaining “untouched” open area within San Jose, an open space buffer between the urban City of San Jose and the northward expanding City of Morgan Hill, and a critical wildlife corridor for safe passage of large mammals from the Diablo Range to the Santa Cruz Mountains

    Joey Reply:

    I agree 100% that open space should be preserved. I’m just saying that it shouldn’t be included in density calculations.

    Andrew Reply:

    @J Burrows: That density data is meaningless b/c it includes SF Bay. Land density: Oak 7004/mi2, SJ 5432/mi2 (wikipedia).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    just google “oakland census” or “some county census” or “some city census” and the Quick Facts page from the Census Bureau will be the first choice most of the time. Census Bureau says it’s 7004 – which is probably where Wikipedia got it from.
    And if Oakland had gobbled up it’s suburbs like San Jose had it would have more population. And may have been denser. Berkeley’s density is 10,752…..

    Andrew Reply:

    Density of suburbs neighboring Oakland (all higher than San Jose’s): Berk 10,752 (thanks); Albany 10,368; S Lorenzo 8,487; Emeryv 8,089; Alameda 6,956; El Cerr 6,385; S Leandro 6,366; Pmont 6,357.

    John Burrows Reply:

    I probably shouldn’t submit comments after midnight. But I am still surprised that San Jose, which I have always equated with sprawl, does have a higher land density than many large US cities.

    Reedman Reply:

    snark on:
    You can’t compare San Jose’s density with Berkeley and Oakland. The environmentalists and land use planners from Oak/Berk have their house in the hills, and don’t want the competition from San Jose, so they arranged to make it illegal to build in the San Jose hills they way that Oak/Berk allows.

    jimsf Reply:

    the homes and lots in the eastbay hills were created long before environmentalism took hold. Most of the upper eastbay is post war. Even after the oakland hills fire where nearly 4000 homes, condos and apartments were burned to their foundations, the rebuild was allowed because those buildings and lots were permitted and owned. In the southbay where the bulk of the growth didn’t start until the 80s, people were more aware of land use and had the opportunity to start from scratch.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It has more density if you fudge the numbers.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Oakland is the city of the future and always will be

    jimsf Reply:

    not until they get a handle on crime and poverty.

    Joey Reply:

    Maybe it wouldn’t be such a problem if San Francisco could accept the idea that it should be a city for more than just rich people and upzone a few areas so that new housing could be built and prices would drop a little.

    jimsf Reply:

    -The Eastern Neighborhoods Plan will create between 7,500 and 10,000 new housing units – with 2,800 affordable units

    -The development plan for Treasure Island calls for 8,000 housing units, which is composed of 6,316 market-rate units and 1,684 below-market-rate ones. The plans also include retail and office space, hotels and new park space

    -A mix of parcels surrounding the transbay terminal will be transformed into a mixed-use, transit oriented neighborhood consisting office, hotel and retail space, and nearly 3,400 new housing units, of which nearly 1,200 will be affordable

    Thats up to 20,000 new units of housing for just three development areas.

    jimsf Reply:

    crime and poverty in oakland has nothing to do with san francisco.

    jimsf Reply:

    -More than 4,220 units of housing began construction in San Francisco in 2012.

    -from the Castro Street Station to Powell Street Station, and you will pass more than 20 construction sites. These include small projects like the 24-unit condo building at 376 Castro all the way up to the 273-unit Avalon Bay project at 55 Ninth Street. The multiphase Trinity Project, stretching between Mission and Market on 10th Street, will eventually have 1,900 units

    -Twenty-two tower cranes dot the city. By year’s end, there will be 26. Many of these cranes are for public projects rather than private development, yet these numbers are staggering by any historic standards. Local union halls’ out-of-work lists are empty, and some unions are even calling in workers from other parts of the country

    -An additional 32,120 new residential units have been approved by the Planning Department, and applications for another 6,940 units have been filed for review.

    Joey Reply:

    It’s a start…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    San Francisco has on the order of 300,000 units. 4,000 per year is pretty much nothing. Wake me up when the number of apartment buildings (apartments!) is on a par with what they build in inner Houston (Houston, land of single-family residential deed restrictions!).

    Andrew Lambdin-Abraham Reply:

    How does that compare to predicted population increase in the same timeframe?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Oakland is the California of the future.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Oakland is, the most important city to the future of California, but it is not THE future. Just because the Governor used to be the Mayor of Oakland doesn’t mean Jerry seeks to turn the State into Oak-town Lite….

    Tony D. Reply:

    Oakland has 20 times more potential for what? Crime and decay?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Gentrification with a small number of new housing units built for greenwashing purposes Sustainable development and TOD.

    Tony D Reply:

    Actually AL, you should see the master plan for N. First Street in SJ; TOD/mixed-use to the max! Add in Diridon and the many light rail stations, including Caltrain and future BART, slated for TOD and, well…SJ WINS!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Same comment can be made about SJ, only there the impetus isn’t displacement of poor people, but building infrastructure that’s cost-ineffective.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Unless you put in the streetcars back in, Santa Clara County is more likely to reach four million souls than Alameda. BART provides excellent commuter access, but Oakland doesn’t have the job centers around BART .

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The probability that Santa Clara County will reach 4 million is 10 times higher than the probability that Alameda County will do the same. It is also 10 times lower.

    jimsf Reply:

    This breaks down the projected growth and the locations within the county where the growth will take place. The greatest amount of growth by far will happen in the central area – where, surprise, there will be 4 bart new bart stations.

    jimsf Reply:

    Planners release new roadmap for Bay Area growth

    By Aaron Kinney
    Posted: 03/09/2012 06:20:51 PM PST
    Updated: 03/09/2012 10:30:42 PM PST

    Regional planners released a new road map Friday for the Bay Area’s long-term housing production, providing the clearest picture yet of where the growing population will live.
    The document forecasts that Santa Clara County will support the greatest share of job and population growth among the nine Bay Area counties over the next three decades, followed by Alameda County. Estimates of that growth are sure to spark discussion in the areas where it is concentrated, from Dublin and Concord in the East Bay to Los Altos and Morgan Hill in the South Bay.

    The document is the product of Plan Bay Area, a state-mandated initiative spearheaded by the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to encourage transit-oriented, infill development and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Communities that agree to take on portions of that development become eligible for some of $250 million in federal transportation money.

    The new report, dubbed the draft-preferred scenario, anticipates that the Bay Area’s population will grow from about 7.2 million to 9.3 million by 2040. The region will add about 1.1 million jobs over that period for a total of 4.5 million, according to the report.
    Critics have argued that Plan Bay Area’s estimates are inflated. Ken Kirkey, planning director for the Association of Bay Area Governments, responded this week by saying the numbers would be revised to the point of being conservative.

    But Greg Schmid, an economist and demographics researcher who sits on the Palo Alto City Council, said Friday that the forecasts remain flawed.
    “The most basic problem is that the state is mandating communities to commit to aggressive housing growth rates now that are based on very speculative long-term assumptions,” said Schmid, whose city last month decided not to make El Camino Real and University Avenue eligible for the grants.

    The draft will undergo review this year in preparation for a final report in 2013. To view the draft, including job and housing estimates for individual cities, go to
    Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357.

    Housing Growth
    Plan Bay Area forecasts which communities will take on the most growth through 2040. Below are the five cities that will add the greatest percentage of housing units in each of four counties.
    City 2010 2040 increase

    Alameda County
    Dublin 15,780 36,560 132
    Emeryville 6,650 12,430 87
    Newark 13,410 18,870 41
    Livermore 30,340 41,820 38
    Hayward 48,300 62,080 29

    Contra Costa County
    Oakley 11,480 18,140 58
    Hercules 8,550 13,360 56
    Concord 47,130 66,860 42
    Pittsburg 21,130 29,450 39
    San Pablo 9,570 11,690 22

    San Mateo County
    Brisbane 1,930 7,030 264
    Colma 590 840 42
    Burlingame13,030 16,940 30
    Millbrae 8,370 10,690 28
    Redwood City 29,170 37,290 28

    Santa Clara County
    Los Altos 11,200 16,820 50
    Milpitas 19,810 29,590 49
    Morgan Hill12,860 17,750 38
    San Jose 314,040 430,910 37
    Sunnyvale55,790 74,430 33

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah. Still not 4 million people in Santa Clara County, sorry.

    Reedman Reply:

    San Jose/Silicon Valley is moving forward with rail transit. BART-to-Berryessa is under construction. The BART-Milpitas station will connect with Light Rail, which runs directly to the new 49ers stadium (also under construction).

    joe Reply:

    …and they are infilling at the BART station.

    Santa Clara (city) is considering a large development near the Stadium and the light rail.

    “This is exactly what we expected would happen after we built the stadium,” Mayor Jamie Matthews said Monday, noting 49ers fans, Great America theme-parkgoers and others “need to have some other reason to come there.”

    But backers face several hurdles, starting with figuring out how much of the site can actually be built on since it’s laid out over a former landfill.”

    Jon Reply:

    That’s not at the BART station, it’s at the Great America ACE/Amtrak station. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if BART to Silicon Valley phase 3 is a short extension along the UP ROW from Santa Clara station to Great America, possibly with an intermediate stop at Montague (for Oracle).

    John Burrows Reply:

    All of those out of town walkers, skateboarders and bicyclists will soon their choice 4 new hotels within a half mile or less of the Guadalupe river trail.

    1. A 162 rm Hampton inn at Santa Clara St. & Highway 87.
    2. A 175 rm Aloft Hotel at Highway 237 & Great Amer4ica Parkway.
    3. A 321 rm Marriott at N. First & Sky Port Dr.
    4. A Marriott Courtyard (undetermined number of rooms at N. First & Highway 237.

    Last year Santa Clara County had a 21% yearly increase in Hotel room revenue, the biggest increase within the entire California market.

  16. trentbridge
    Apr 21st, 2013 at 16:25

    “a shift that subsequently made it possible”. This is not correct. If the “shift” in scoring system was made before the bids were submitted then the result was only subsequently announced i.e. occuring later in time. It does not “change” the result because the bids were submitted subsequent to the scoring system being changed.

    For example, the electoral college votes for each state i.e. “the scoring system” was changed by the 2010 census and were used in the 2012 Presidential election – even though the candidates were already campaigning! I don’t see that the 2010 Census was “a shift that subsequently made it possible” for Obama to be re-elected President.

    VBobier Reply:

    Very good points there Trent.

  17. Walter
    Apr 21st, 2013 at 23:31

    I’m happy about the LA Times article. I mean, yeah, it’s the same scandal-of-the-week drivel from Vartabedian, but at least we’ve all decided to be grown-ups in referring to that horrible, disingenuous club of shrieking NIMBYs on the Peninsula. Vartabedian calls them “Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, a group critical of the bullet train project.”

    It’s hilarious that these folks think nobody is noticing as they effortlessly slide from decrying the project’s high cost into moaning about the cheapest bid winning. They’ve officially lost the “neutral, just concerned” podium they clutched onto for so long, even from their biggest ally in state media. Sad day for CARRD, but I’m happy to see the small-but-loud sect on Peninsula have their true colors flown whether they choose to or not.

  18. joe
    Apr 22nd, 2013 at 09:37

    Why aren’t younger Americans driving anymore?

    Ever since the recession hit in late 2007, Americans have been driving less and less. Was that because of the horrible economy? To some extent, perhaps. But it’s striking that Americans are still cutting back on driving even though the economy is growing again.”

    The other big part of the story is that young Americans are driving much, much less. Between 2001 and 2009,
    the average yearly number of miles driven by 16- to 34-year-olds dropped a staggering 23 percent.

    The Frontier Group has the most comprehensive look yet of why younger Americans are driving less. Public transportation use is up 40 percent per capita in this age group since 2001. Bicycling is up 24 percent overall in that time period. And this is true even for young Americans who are financially well off. Here are five big hypotheses:

    trentbridge Reply:

    Compared to twenty years ago, the average household has three brand new utility bills that previous generations didn’t – cell phones, cable television, and internet access. I think my monthly expense for all three is north of $200. Given that salaries and wages for the 16-34 age group are probably not keeping up with inflation in rents, food, and entertainment – they have far less money to spend on gasoline. The corollary of paying for cell phones, internet access, and cable entertainment is that your life is much more efficient – you shop online, watch movies at home, and contact your friends and make plans before leaving home.
    I must have spent many hours when younger just driving around – trying to find friends and entertainment or bricks and mortar shopping. There’s no need for that any more.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I of course think there are a number of factors working together to reduce driving demand, and they include internet substitution (I’ll admit to having been a little skeptical of that one, but I’ve talked to people and it’s a bigger factor than I thought it would be), along with the usual suspects such as gasoline and insurance costs. But one thing that is rarely (if ever) mentioned is that driving just isn’t fun anymore.

    I’ve seen this myself. It used to be my wife and I would enjoy a “Sunday drive” (not always on a Sunday). The ride could be relaxing, driving with the windows down on a pleasant evening, enjoying the country roads in my area. But since then, all sorts of new houses and developments sprang up, and the beautiful orchards and farms are gone. To add insult to injury, those new developments lack the feel of the older towns and parts of towns. Traffic is an annoyance, too, not only for the volume that’s there now, but for the poor driving I see. Seems there are but two types of drivers–rude, arrogant hot-shots who try to scare you off the road with tailgating in a big, honking SUV, or old geezers who are nearly blind and deaf and drive about as slow as a horse and buggy, or so it seems.

    It ain’t the days of “American Graffiti” and “Hot Rod Girl” anymore. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Nor of “Two Lane Blacktop” (a favorite of my hot-rodding, muscle-car brother).

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