The Reason Foundation Can’t Count

Jun 26th, 2013 | Posted by

One of the common tricks used by anti-rail forces is to assume that the initial ridership of a rail line is the best it can ever do. As we know, in fact, there’s usually about a five year curve when it comes to new high speed rail lines, where it’s only after five years do you get a picture of what the actual ridership will be. For Los Angeles passenger rail, the curve is closer to two years.

The Reason Foundation, however, prefers to use the totally flawed metric of extrapolating from initial ridership. Last year they claimed that the Expo Line’s first week ridership meant that the unfinished, brand-new line would be a failure, carrying just 13,000 passengers a month for the next 170 years.

As James Sinclair pointed out at the time, that was a ridiculous way to measure ridership. This past weekend he looked at the latest numbers and discovered once again that the Reason Foundation can’t count:

As expected … those numbers were meaningless. Only two months after launch, another 5,000 riders were boarding every day. Last week, Metro released their ridership statistics for May 2013: 26,663.

That’s twice as high as launch month … and just short of projections for the year 2020. In other words, as expected by everyone except for Reason, ridership on a new transit line DOES increase from the opening numbers. Based on other lines in LA, these increases happen for about 2 years before the line reaches its expected ridership. For Expo, that means ridership will normalize just in time for the extension to open, and bring in two more years of steady increases.

The Expo Line is almost 7 years ahead of its projections, and it’s not even finished all the way to Santa Monica. If you build it, Californians will ride.

We have seen the Reason Foundation and other similar outlets launch an attack on the estimated ridership of California’s high speed rail line. Once that system opens they will look at the first week’s ridership, no matter what it is, and claim that will be the ridership for all time and that such initial statistics prove the project is a horrible, wasteful, unnecessary boondoggle. And we will know again that they are full of it.

  1. missiondweller
    Jun 26th, 2013 at 22:35

    It also ignores one of the biggest advantages of rail, whether its local light rail or regional rail, that development follows rail. The same commitment of capital that often makes it difficult to get built is the same reason development & new business choose to locate along new lines: that its permanent.

    missiondweller Reply:

    My point being that ridership INCREASES with development.

    EJ Reply:

    Well then developers should pay for rail. Like they did back in the 1920s. Now, maybe you believe that taxpayers should subsidize transit to further enrich developers. I’m not a born mark, so I disagree.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Don’t go there.

    As it stands now, thanks to Prop 13 we already as taxpayers subsidize developers using road improvements substantially more than we should.

    Given this state off affairs, if you have to choose which to subsidize, rail or road….rail is far superior because it encourages density, which no other state transportation and fiscal policies do and because it serves lower income populations very effectively.

    It’s completely understandable that affluent areas shouldn’t profit over transit expansion more than humble ones, but the comparison you make is hardly apples to apples.

    Density provides lots of social good and it helps keep costs down for taxpayers. So paying for it does make sense….

    Derek Reply:

    Developers would be more willing to pay for rail if we’d stop subsidizing the roads and if we’d stop forcing developers to overbuild parking lots.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    If it is so permanent, how, pray tell, is it that the Red Car and Pacific Electric lines no longer exist? Furthermore, many bus routes are essentially permanent themselves.

    What matters is frequency.

    VBobier Reply:

    Big Oil conned Vets coming back from WWII to want buses and automobiles, both buses and cars made Oil companies rich and powerful, too powerful…

    Paul Druce Reply:

    They didn’t con them at all, there was already a pre-existing trend towards automobile and bus adoption.

    VBobier Reply:

    Since there is no underline here, I have to use bold to highlight instead.

    General Motors streetcar conspiracy

    Between 1936 and 1950, National City Lines and Pacific City Lines—with investment from GM, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California, Phillips Petroleum, Mack Trucks, and the Federal Engineering Corporation—bought over 100 electric surface-traction systems in 45 cities including Baltimore, Newark, Los Angeles, New York City, Oakland and San Diego and converted them into bus operation. Several of the companies involved were convicted in 1949 of conspiracy to monopolize interstate commerce but were acquitted of conspiring to monopolize the ownership of these companies.

    In Los Angeles, during the 1940s, car and tire companies teamed up against the Pacific Electric Railway system and bought them out of business. Where the freeway runs in Los Angeles is where the Red Car used to be.”

    How Big Oil Uses the Republican Party

    The Republican ranking member, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, orchestrated the double cross. Vitter is an unabashed mouthpiece for the petroleum industry and record breaking receptacle for petrodollars having received $1.2 million in oil company largesse during his public service career. With cash gushers of oily money cascading down their open gullets, the Republican leadership’s mercenary devotion to Big Oil shouldn’t shock us. However, the boldness of the party’s most recent assault on the public interest might cause us to ponder how GOP’s honchos’ knee jerk slavishness to petroleum interest has infected its rank and file.

    The perversity of the modern conservative mind is displayed in two studies published last week. Those studies illustrate the extent to which the right wing has become the ideological sock puppet of Big Oil and the GOP’s army of right wing Christian fundamentalists oil industry foot soldiers. A peer reviewed National Academy of Sciences report shows that the label “energy efficient” on a product actually makes it less likely that self-identified conservatives will purchase that product. Why? Because morally twisted right wing orthodoxy has taken the “conserve” out of conservatism. Craven hatred of all things environmental has made the labels “clean,” “green” or “efficient” pariah among GOP acolytes. Conversely, dirty energy is patriotic and even “blessed.”

    Big Oil’s Orwellian skill at employing the rhetoric of patriotism and emblazoning its enterprises with stars and stripes, has stitched the notion that conservation is synonymous with “anti-American” into the fabric of GOP talking points. In 2006, President George W. Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer answered a press query about whether President Bush believed in fuel efficiency standards for automobiles saying, “That’s a big ‘No.'” The President believes that it’s an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one. And we have a bounty of resources in this country… Conservation alone is not the answer.”

    After a decade of this brand of oily claptrap from the industry’s political toadies and its talking heads on Fox News and hate radio, many conservative Americans now embrace the farcical presumption that buying and burning gas is a patriotic act. In 2008, as the oil industry raked in record profits by raking Americans with record prices at the pump, the party of the petro plutocrats proudly adopted Big Oil’s rallying cry as its mantra “Drill, Baby, Drill.”

    synonymouse Reply:

    “See, your murderers come with smiles, they come as your friends…”

    Henry Hill in “Goodfellas”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It also ignores one of the biggest advantages of rail, whether its local light rail or regional rail, that development follows rail.

    This was discussed on Human Transit a few times, starting in 2009 or 2010. It turned out that in cities with a) very little rail, but b) a clearly-labeled, semi-permanent network of frequent buses, developers do say things like “the building is near the frequent network”; Minneapolis is one such example. In Providence, landlords try to sell you on being near “the trolley,” which is a bus painted to look like a trolley that doesn’t even come that frequently. In Portland, there was upzoning coming at the same time as the streetcar, which itself gets very little ridership since it comes infrequently for its short length.

  2. Emmanuel
    Jun 26th, 2013 at 23:22

    Funny how the Reason Foundation can’t count. But, wait weren’t they the only ones who predicted the cost of HSR to be $65 billion to $80 billion? Go figure. I’m not agreeing with most of what Reason says at all. But, I think there should always be place for skeptics.

    Eric Reply:

    There should always be a place for honest skeptics.

    VBobier Reply:

    Freeways are more expensive to build from scratch, since they use more of everything. Get used to it.

    Joey Reply:

    Very few people on this site are supportive of freeway expansion. How many times do we have to go through this?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No. Reason made up numbers and decided costs would be $80 billion. They’ve never gone up that high; they were $65 billion in real dollars in 2010.

    VBobier Reply:

    And the $65 Billion is still just an estimate, that some exploit for political gain.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Estimates are usually sticky downward. The only way to avoid that cost is to remove extra features that were added because of Bay Area agency turf battles, and also to make changes based on the new understanding of the cost of Soledad Canyon tunneling.

  3. trentbridge
    Jun 27th, 2013 at 06:56

    The richest people who finance “think tanks” like the Reason Foundation have one basic creed:

    “Government is evil because it takes money from the wealthy to redistribute it to the ninety percent poorer than them in all forms of public spending.”

    The wealthy believe that everything they have they earned. They are entitled to keep all of it.

    The same arguments are made about everything from High Speed Rail to Obamacare. (Even here by the renegade posters) – the result of (whatever Government spending) will be worse than now and only result in a bloated bureaucratic empire of grossly-overpaid lazy Government workers (probably in unions.)

    The Reason Foundation think like George Orwell’s pigs:

    “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

    ― George Orwell, Animal Farm

    Oink! Oink!

    Derek Reply:

    Luckily, the Reason Foundation has Robert Poole: “In almost all cases, HOT or Toll lanes provide a greater degree of fiscal, consumer welfare, and environmental benefits than any other expressway investments.”

    Every dollar collected from tolls is a dollar that doesn’t need to be collected from regressive sales taxes to pay for the roads. A person who is truly concerned about the poor must necessarily be in favor of tolls.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    The toll sections of I-10 on the east side of L.A. seem rather empty whenever I see them. How does that help anyone?

    Derek Reply:

    Tolling began only a few months ago. One of the common tricks used by anti-toll forces is to assume that the initial ridership of a toll lane is the best it can ever do.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    We could have used the space to double track Metrolink, make it more competitive. I’m not playing tricks nor necessarily anti-toll. Just recounting an observation. It has also created another bureaucracy within Metro, I suppose that might lift a few more out of poverty…

    Ted Judah Reply:

    That would have required actual construction costs.

    What Metro was forced to do by the Federal Highway Administration was lose existing funding or install high-occupancy toll lane equipment because of language inserted by the Bush Administration. Metro resisted for several years, but eventually gave it.

    PB, just to remind people, still thinks these lanes (in part) are going to be obliterated when they build the Inland Empire extension of CAHSR in 2040…

    The reason for Metro’s resistance is that in California, land values are always cheaper (in non-minority neighborhoods) that are the farthest away from the urban core (and job centers). If you tax car travel directly by tolls, you discourage those homeowners that might be willing to trade the long commute for more purchasing power from moving to Greater Palmdale.

    If the cost of commuting by car gets too high, then growth in the exurbs declines and the whole economy suffers.

    Joey Reply:

    Is there really a direct association between exurban growth and economic prosperity? I’m skeptical. Why would this be true of exurbs and not urban infill?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    In California, the answer is yes, yes, and yes.

    The rest of the country, the answer is yes, but not to as great a degree.

    Basically, most cities and other local governance bodies make a killing on new development because of the fees associated with putting in new subdivisions. Most of these transaction costs were empowered in California by the Mello-Roos Act in 1982 which was a direct response to Prop 13 bankrupting local governments.

    However, what usually gets left out is that in 1957, the Legislature transferred to cities a share of the sales tax. The county even in areas outside of a city’s boundary doesn’t get the same privilege. As a result, there is no check on cities essentially zoning themselves into splendor with one exception: access to transportation.

    The county and the State meanwhile, are left to figure out how to provide services other than the city police or fire department, which in some places are more like private security than real cops.

    In fact, as a general rule, cities provide all the lucrative, enterprise style services while the county and State get stuck with the services that are money-losers. Why do you think LA has its own utility company and airport but lets the county run the hospital and the museums?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I’ll see if I can find the costs for the striping, signs, some repaving and the software etc. It wasn’t cheap but obviously not the order of magnitude of a second track. Nothing is free.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    $210 million grant for express lanes to Metro. I could lay a few miles with that, signals too…

    Derek Reply:

    Tolls reduce the need for sales taxes, and lowering sales taxes improves the economy.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “Luckily”? Poole’s name is on Cox’s pack of lies attacking Florida HSR; he has misused analogies from packet- and circuit-switched networks to argue in favor of the superiority of cars; and he proposes double-decking urban freeways, writing about how to convince cities more roads are good for them.

    Make a decision: are you for tolling roads because you’re for reducing the subsidy to drivers, or because you’re for more revenue streams for private companies that can build more roads?

  4. 202_cyclist
    Jun 27th, 2013 at 07:09

    The House Transportation & Infrastrucutre Committee hearing is holding a hearing now on a national rail policy. The hearing is broadcast on the Committee’s website.

    VBobier Reply:

    Mica sure didn’t like the STB ruling in CA’s favor He wants to change the STB’s rulings from a section at a time to the whole project, Mica hates HSR and Amtrak, He wants Amtrak privatized, even though no rail passenger service is privatized anywhere, plus by testimony there, the reason for no private investment is uncertainty and lack of enough government funding, the House is also forbidding any new funds go towards HSR for 2014, yet there was testimony there saying highways and airports are both maxed out and that highways got about $45 Billion and yet Passenger rail has been neglected for decades and so that HSR is needed and has the ability to haul more people than either interstates and/or airports, yet people like Mica are against HSR, the word is Repubs don’t like HSR cause a Black President that they don’t view as legitimate likes HSR, then Repubs need to be against HSR, among other things. CA may need to go it alone to build HSR, then lets see Repubs stop HSR in CA…

    VBobier Reply:

    Also the private sector it was said in testimony before the committee is risk averse at funding anything with either limited or no government funding.

    libertyrailroad Reply:

    “even though no rail passenger service is privatized anywhere”
    This is factually incorrect. European rail service functions on a commercial basis, Frieght railroads are privately owned and profitable, Great Southern rail operates profitable passenger service with one subsidized route (the overland), British passenger rail would be profitable if it wasn’t for vertical disintegration, and the JR system is private and overall profitable with unprofitable rural routes.
    Amtrak is already privatized
    “The Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 (RPSA) created petitioner National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), a private corporation, to provide intercity and commuter rail passenger service.” “Amtrak is a private corporation, not a federal agency and therefore does not have an Open Government Team.” “The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, also known as Amtrak, is not a government agency or establishment.” “(2) shall be operated and managed as a for-profit corporation; and
    (3) is not a department, agency, or instrumentality of the United States Government, and shall not be subject to title 31.”

    Joey Reply:

    Private railways are operated all over Japan.

  5. 202_cyclist
    Jun 27th, 2013 at 07:13

    Regarding the Expo line ridership, with ridership five years ahead of the forecasts, will the additional revenue from these passengers help with the 30/10 Plan and can this be bonded to leverage greater funding for other LA Country rail and other transit investments?

    It’s also interesting to note that although May 2013 Expo line ridership is up compared with 2012, ridership was down in May 2013 vs. May 2012 on the Gold and Green lines. Is there any explanation for this?

    trentbridge Reply:

    My wife and I rode the Gold Line – bought “TAP” cards at LAUS and rode to Pasadena on a crowded non-rush hour train. When we exited the station – we were the only people on the entire train – and I mean the only people – who tapped out. There were/are no barriers and the vast hordes that ride the Gold Line apparently saw no reason to pay. I believe Metro is in the process of “locking down” the network of stations in the coming months so I’d expect to see a jump in “ridership”.

    SantaTeresaHills Reply:

    Reading about the Tap card, it looks like you only tap it before you board. If you were paying per ride and you tapped before and after the ride, you probably paid twice.

    sgv railrider Reply:

    Tap card is used before boarding the train. No need to tap when exiting. I take the goldline from Pasadena to downtown and from my observation, everyone taps prior to boarding. Only a small percentage may be cheating the system. Not sure about the other metro lines.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Only a small percentage were measured to be cheating the system before the criminal shysters who profit from smart cards and fare gates got in on the action.

    Cheaters and evaders after hundreds of millions of public-private wealth transfer (and billions of current and future gated station added costs): a small percentage.

    Crony capitalism and influence purchasing at its finest.

    VBobier Reply:

    And without legal proof Richard, like emails or recorded conversations and/or phone records, you have nothing outside of a baseless and empty allegation.

    Joey Reply:

    If they spend millions of dollars fixing a problem that doesn’t exist, we should a be worried. Deciding whether it’s incompetence or corruption or a combination of the two is another matter.

    VBobier Reply:

    The population of CA is growing, it is not imaginary and it will not go away. Interstates have $45 billion spent on them, there at the limit as are Federally funded airports, testimony has been given in Committee in the US Congress in the House Transportation Committee that Passenger rail can carry a larger load than more Freeways and/or Airports and that the population of the US is going to increase by 150 million, the US is at just above 300 million people now, that is not an imaginary problem and saying it is, is delusional. But believe what you will and go ahead believe the rantings of a stinky piece of Limburger… The committee has a youtube video here.

    Joey Reply:

    I fail to see what this has to do with the question of forking out millions on faregates to “fix” the very small problem of fair evasion. That was what we were talking about, right?

    JJJJ Reply:

    Why on earth would you tap to exit a flat fare system…?

    EJ Reply:

    It’s slightly adorable that your reaction to seeing absolutely no one else tap their card is not “hmm, maybe I don’t have to tap out” but “gee, everyone is cheating but me!”

    bixnix Reply:

    My guess is that the recent gate-latching on the subway is affecting ridership throughout the Metro rail system – the freeloaders are kept off.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    A “guess”: always a fine basis for forking over hundreds of millions of public dollars to fare gate and smart card and defense contracting shysters at Cubic, Inc.

    Because you never know: somebody, somewhere, sometime, might be getting away with a a $2 ride.

    bixnix Reply:

    I agree with you that someone was getting away with a $2 ride.

    “In 30 tests at Metro stations conducted earlier this year, sales at ticket vending machines spiked by nearly 30%, with 6,919 additional passengers paying to board trains, compared to the normal volume of paying passengers at each location.

    Trains were less crowded because 14% fewer riders got onboard.”

    There’s also the other benefit – freeing up the Sheriff’s patrols for law enforcement and leaving fare checking to machines.

    From my own experience riding the rails in LA, this is a good thing – some of the riding experience is getting out of hand as there is little expectation of seeing cops except when they check tickets at the stations; they seem to rarely be on the trains. Are the gates needed? Yes. Is the contract a ripoff? I don’t know, I haven’t checked on the bidding. If you have, and believe it ought to be cheaper, it’s certainly a good thing that you’re watching our pocketbooks.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    A 14% drop in ridership is a good thing?

    EJ Reply:

    If it’s a drop in vagrants and crazies who don’t pay the fare and are just there to harass everyone else, yeah it’s a good thing.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    If 14% of ridership is vagrants and crazies, there is a serious problem with the transit system.

    bixnix Reply:

    The 14% drop was during the testing. As the freeloaders get used to being required to pay for the ride, it’ll go back up. And as EJ says, some of those who still won’t ride are people who don’t follow the rules. But, to clarify my previous post, the ridership drop isn’t good – the good part is that deputies can patrol and enforce rather than check tickets. [credit – the quote is from Yaroslavsky’s website]

    bixnix Reply:

    The first (small) benefit being the revenue gain, not the ridership drop.

    StevieB Reply:

    The sheriff deputies still check fares but instead of looking at your ticket they use a card reader to check your TAP card.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In Vancouver, the 5% fare evasion was cited as a reason why the city needed faregates NOW NOW NOW, complete with an unbelievably high estimate for the extra revenue they’d raise.

    Guess who is providing the smartcards to go along with the faregates?

  6. Reedman
    Jun 27th, 2013 at 08:48

    OK. Need to pick a recent transit project that has been completed long enough to stabilize it’s usage. How did the ridership projections for BART-to-SFO pan out?

    202_cyclist Reply:


    Rail project after rail project has exceeded ridership forecasts, including Phoenix and Norfolk.

    Light-rail ridership exceeds expectation

    Ridership on Norfolk’s light rail is exceeding expectations

    Derek Reply:

    It’s scary when ridership exceeds expectation, because it means nobody really knew what the ridership was going to be.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The ridership models are generally conservative and generally ridership is a little bit higher, on the order of 10-25%. But then once in a while a line comes that grossly underperforms, like BART to SFO. It means that people do know what the ridership is going to be, but there’s a small risk of a massive shortfall.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “It’s scary when ridership exceeds expectation, because it means nobody really knew what the ridership was going to be.”

    When it comes to CAHSR no need to be afraid. Ridership will most certainly not exceed expectations.

    When it is time to excuse hardly any business on the orphan segment or even on the DogLeg rest assured PB has already prepared its cover story or “apologia pro circumito nostro”.

    Eric Reply:

    I think it’s pretty simple. If you or I look at the map and think “this is retarded, why would they route it that way”, it will underperform. If the route looks logical, it will overperform. Data points: BART/SFO, Austin commuter rail, Expo line, San Jose light rail, I’m sure you can think of others.

    Peter Reply:


    Ted Judah Reply:

    Before you ride the BART to SFO horse to death, do realize that annual ridership on BART peaked in 2000 (when ridership estimates for the extension were being developed already) at a level which after the crash didn’t recover until 2006.

    But when you hold ridership estimates equal for the 11,000 souls who started to ride because of the extension, pre ridership does not recover until 2012.

    And what do you know, current statistics indicate that around 17,000 riders exit per day at the airport as of January 2013…

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Everything you wrote — everything — is false.

    Please, just stop typing. The stupid is too painful.

    Source: MTC, BART-SFO AA/DEIS/DEIR Patronage Forecasts, May 1991
    MTC, BART-SFO DEIR/DSEIS Patronage Forecasts, October 1993
    Parsons Brinkerhoff, July 1995

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I don’t understand. You are obviously good at math.

    Why don’t you run the numbers yourself?

    Given that BART ridership (at least if you can believe what the agency publishes which I know you don’t) peaks at 97 million riders in 2000, after the extension opens in 2003 (which you might not also believe but I’m pretty sure is true), how long does the no-build scenario need to recover its previous highs? Even if ridership on the extension is zero, we are still talking about a six year lag.

    In addition, that link assumes the 1993 baseline is a ridership level that was never reached. And the 17,000 number is for seventeen years out.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The dates are evidence of the fact that when the MTC made the ridership projections, the tech bubble hadn’t even started, let alone burst.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Alon, you are also good at math.

    When did BART ridership on the non-extended system reach its previous 2000 peaks?

    Joey Reply:

    Actual BART ridership data. You appear to have overestimated SFO’s ridership by a factor of almost 3. The only BART stations which actually have at least 17,000 exits per day are in downtown SF.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    The situation is expected to get worse before it gets better. BART’s daily ridership is projected to go from the current level of 400,000 to half a million in five years. The system potentially could serve three quarters of a million people a day. CBS

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Actual BART data by station:

    Looking at January 2013, BART labeled specific totals by line, you will see that “SFIA” is list separately. What’s interesting about that is that lowers the ridership count for the lines that the airport bound trains use during the respective day of the week.

    17,000 is too large to account for all the exits though, associated with all stations south of Daly City, so I wonder what this number represents if it’s not “airport associated traffic”.

    Joey Reply:

    The SFO station gets about 7000 entries and 7000 exits per day. Exactly what other sort of “airport associated traffic” is there?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Don’t know. Look at the table on the right from the main table. It appears to break traffic down by line…

    Joey Reply:

    I see the table, and it’s numbers appear to align well with the summed entry/exit counts of the SFO extension, excluding Colma. What exactly are you trying to argue?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Argue is the wrong word.

    I was hoping to have a more nuanced discussion of ridership given how much volatility there has been in BART ridership since the extension opened. I don’t mind being wrong about how many daily users SFO might have.

    It is just annoying when shibboleths get repeated ad nauseam when the answers are usually more complicated than what the “Quelle horror” crowd here like to proclaim.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “Argue” is indeed the wrong word.

    You were “making stuff up”. Perhaps you count that as “nuanced discussion”.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    You are a funny guy Richard.

    So I made up the fact that BART ridership peaked in 2000, recovered on paper in 2007, but when you account for the new riders coming from the extension, may not have recovered until a year or so ago?

    I know you think everything a government paid consultant puts to paper is utter sophistry, but for the people who hang around here (like reporters who consider this a place to find “research” or “leads”) who don’t know any better, you have a small problem on your hands.

    Namely, if most public transit projects are breaking ridership projections early, not late but BART to SFO was a huge turkey, what is the secondary explanation behind the vast conspiracy that exists in Quentin Kopp’s secret annex at MTC headquarters?

    I posited that unlike many transit system, BART had much higher fluctuation in ridership during the early 2000s than most systems did during the last recession. Hence, it was easier to be off the mark. Go ahead, discredit my opinion and tell me I’m an idjiot, and all that.

    Tell me it’s because third rail projects are inherently more expensive than light rail ones so they make up higher ridership projects to defend them. Tell me it’s because the seats are dirty.

    Just don’t tell me for as smart a guy as you are that you really use simplistic conclusions to guide your opinions. That even if PB drew their model up on a napkin that you could put a lot of time and effort into it. Go ahead, tell me I’m an idjiot, it’s okay.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ted, what you seem to have established is that the SFO extension increased total system ridership. This is not in controversy. The question is only by how much.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Alon, the data is on BART’s website.

    You could obviously slice and dice it apart in about 20 minutes. But here it is anyway, total system exits per fiscal year:

    FY90 70,549,547
    FY91 71,900,906
    FY92 72,987,888
    FY93 73,939,485
    FY94 73,175,021
    FY95 72,045,140
    FY96 72,446,572
    FY97 75,871,750 Construction Starts on SFO Extension
    FY98 75,667,999
    FY99 81,364,678
    FY00 91,092,291
    FY01 97,280,846
    FY02 90,796,756
    FY03 87,380,764 SFO Extension Opens
    FY04 91,042,192
    FY05 92,756,099
    FY06 96,852,220
    FY07 101,704,381 First Year BART exceeds 2000 peak exit total
    FY08 107,487,604
    FY09 106,874,420
    FY10 101,003,814
    FY11 103,713,503
    FY12 110,776,960

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ted, this doesn’t actually establish that SFO ridership is what the projections from 1993 said it would be.

    Unless what you’re saying is that the ridership measured by total entries or exits is lower, but actually the total contribution to system ridership is actually in line with expectations. For example, maybe the projections thought there would be a lot of ridership coming from people using the extension instead of taking a bus to Daly City and what actually happened is that they kept using Daly City, but all the projected new riders materialized. Is that what you’re saying? If so, what were the projections for traffic diversion from Daly City to the SFO extension?

    Ted Judah Reply:


    We know that the SFO extension under-performed from ridership calculations. And I don’t actually disagree with Richard that skulduggery was involved. But given how much the exit total fluctuates, it’s hard to suggest that a linear forecast would work attached to any base. It was going to be wrong, the only thing up for debate is how they could have mitigated the effect.

    The *other* issue is that the marketplace for air travel in California completely changed between 1995 and 2003, with Southwest gaining market share at United’s (the primary tenant in the 1990s at SFO) expense. Southwest doesn’t like to the high landing fees associated with new terminals, so they shifted what they could to Oakland and San Jose.

    SF responded in kind by building a fabulous international terminal which helped bring more passengers back. But the rub there is that you are much less likely to come straight from work if you are flying on an overseas haul than a 1-2 hour taxi ride to Seattle or LA or Denver to check out what your venture capital firm just greenlighted. That’s the nuance that is being missed.

    The better question for you is what was Vancouver’s ridership projection for its Canada line extension to their airport that just opened, and how is that holding up? Like BART, SkyTrain is grade separated.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There was a specific projection for airport riders that was quite low, and was met. The ridership as of 2011 was 7,000 (link). Projection for the airport was 1.66-2.24 million a year (see PDF-p. 71 here), so per weekday it matches. Overall ridership is 136,000 per weekday, by a different dataset from the one quoted above; the projection for non-airport ridership was 100,820 in 2010 and 116,870 in 2021 (see PDF-p. 130 of the second link).

    Alan F Reply:

    The weekday average of 6K exits for SFO is not that different from the DC Metro 2011 weekday average (2011 stats) of 6.7K boardings for Reagan National Airport on the Blue/Yellow line. Boarding and exit averages will be about the same, so it is a fair comparison. Reagan National Airport is not among the busiest in the system. It will primarily be used by people flying in/out of the airport or people who work at the airport. (Busiest DC Metro station is Union Station (Amtrak/MARC/VRE) with 33.7K weekday average boardings in 2011.)

    An airport Metro rapid transit station is economically important and links the airport to the transit system, but I expect in most cities, that airport stations are not among the busier stations in the system unless there is also a major (non-aviation) jobs center that shares the airport station stop. When the DC Metro Silver Line is extended to Dulles Airport, it will be an active station, but won’t be among the busiest station among the new stations added with the 23 mile Silver Line extension.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    An airport Metro rapid transit station is economically important

    Only to the people who build it.

    On the whole these lines grossly under-perform.

    They’re undertaken nearly entirely because it is judged politically simple to get idiot middle- and upper-class people to vote funding for a train they might imagine themselves taking to an airport two or three times a year, while the same idiots will not support a bus line that carries ten times as many people at a quarter the subsidy every single day of the year.

    Reality is that super-important Captains of Finance manage to make their economically important ways from airports to office parks (or even CBDs) with or without dedicated airport metro connections. If you want an “economic case” for a train line, start by looking at bus lines that carry many tens of thousands or riders a day, not at single-purpose trophy lines which will never see a tenth of that.

    As for comparing SFO BART ridership to WMATA: good job moving the goalposts! The issue is not whether one US under-performing airport metro line under-performs comparably to another one in the US: it’s whether PBQD and other promoters/beneficiaries of the BART project lied deliberately, systematically, knowingly and egregiously about the ridership, costs and benefits of a project that would so greatly enrich them.

    Hint: both the costs (at “alternatives” “analysis” time) and ridership (at environmental “analysis” time) both were off by factors of two. Cui bono?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    They’re undertaken nearly entirely because it is judged politically simple to get idiot middle- and upper-class people to vote funding for a train they might imagine themselves taking to an airport two or three times a year, while the same idiots will not support a bus line that carries ten times as many people at a quarter the subsidy every single day of the year.

    Oh now it makes sense. You haven’t figured out that white people in the US prefer, no, demand transportation choices that reaffirm socioeconomic stratification. You really think that the majority of the US middle class is ever going to caught dead on the collectivo ? Now I get it.

    White Americans abhor the idea of standing on a corner and waiting for a bus. That is too 19th century for them. For all they know, someone could dump trash on them from a window above. If there’s a station which is clearly defined and a service targeted to them, be it by rail or express bus, then that’s just great. Airplanes, that are giant cocoons? Also just ducky.

    I mean, hell, have you ever wondered why the Subway in New York is so popular? I’ll give you a hint…you wait for it out of the elements and everyone has to at least be rich enough to afford a ticket.

    So here’s the rub: if you want really high ridership it has to be rail. One because rail can handle higher capacity than a bus per vehicle but also because rail is the choice for people over than Mitt Romney’s 47%….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In New York white people also ride the buses. Go ride the crosstown buses between the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side sometime.

    But you’re right that there’s a rail bias. Depending on who you ask, it’s between 33% and 50% independently of improvements in speed and frequency; rail is that much more comfortable than even the most modern bus. Counting the fact that rapid transit (or even dedicated-ROW light rail) is faster than a bus, you could double ridership or even more. This is a good reason to support railstituting the busier bus lines, the ones with the capacity problems. By all means, the Bay Area should railstitute the Geary bus, Vancouver should railstitute the Broadway buses, Los Angeles should railstitute Wilshire and then Whittier and Vermont, etc. But it doesn’t justify building lines with low potential ridership.

    What Richard’s saying is that there isn’t that much ridership in giving people in the top half of the income distribution more convenient airport access. And airport ridership levels in North America bear this out. Airport train ridership at Heathrow is also fairly low by local standards, and airport train ridership at Charles de Gaulle is very low.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Again, that is not surprising for two reasons:

    1) Airport rail lines in the US are not expresses, so with the exception of places like Reagan in DC or Phoenix Sky Harbor, it’s a long haul to get into town.

    2) Britain and France’s internal rail market from its national hubs has collapsed. If you fly on EasyJet or similar planes you don’t go to Heathrow or De Gaulle. And if you are flying overseas, you aren’t coming from the CBD district usually because you are coming from home.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Re 1, most people aren’t willing to pay extra for express service. See PDF-p. 28 of this thesis. The only city studied in which the express travel mode has more ridership than the local is Paris, where the express travel mode is the RER, a standard commuter rail-rapid transit hybrid, and the alternative is a bus rather than a slower rapid transit service. The smallest ratio of local to express transit ridership is in Tokyo, 35% vs. 25%.

    Eric Reply:

    What Richard’s saying is that there isn’t that much ridership in giving people in the top half of the income distribution more convenient airport access.

    1. It’s a little sad that you have to be around to translate Richard’s rants into material that can be used in a debate.

    2. Value is not measured only in ridership. A city without an airport rail connection is looked upon as undeveloped. Dragging suitcases on a long local bus ride is not acceptable to most travelers, so the alternatives are taxis (very expensive) or car rental (often very inconvenient). A rail connection therefore can encourage additional visitors to a city, each of whom ends up spending orders of magnitude more than the cost of their rail ticket. Therefore, an airport extension can be indirectly profitable even if the ridership is low.

    (Of course, the low ridership can be taken into account – for example, the Dulles train might be better built as a branch, where half the trains end at Dulles and half in the exurbs, if that is cheaper to build, since air travelers are not sensitive to waiting another 10 minutes for a train. This is a better solution there than a people mover, since it avoids a transfer with luggage, and because the exurbs themselves don’t deserve many trains. At SFO, in contrast, the Caltrain connection is important and the people mover is needed anyway.)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Value is ridership, or possibly revenue. But airport travelers aren’t generally willing to pay extra for express rail connections. Except for Tokyo (where the distance is so large there’s a large express time saving), in every city with a dedicated airport express studied in the above link, at least twice as many people take the local transit modes as take the express.

    Business travelers love to hate on airport connections. An American air travel pundit, who writes the Seat 1A column, complained that Narita is inconveniently far from Tokyo. That doesn’t make Tokyo a second-rate city. In general, business travelers seem to prefer fast taxis to trains, so they try to fly into LaGuardia rather than JFK.

    Nor does the lack of a dedicated airport express option make Paris second-rate; Paris is actually building a tram line to Orly that stops short of the airport, since the bus line it’s railstituting has a lot of short-turning trips and most ridership is not airport-bound. People visit Paris, London, New York, and all the other cities where transit is a minority of the airports’ transportation share.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Value is not measured only in ridership …

    It always comes down to trains being ineffable, not to mention unquantifiable.

    Choo choo by whatever means necessary, no matter what the cost. Because. Just because.

    Eric Reply:

    “trains being ineffable”

    No, it comes down to return on investment – a much less “effable” goal than your count of butts in seats. If a $50 million airport extension causes more tourists to come, and the government earns more than $50 million extra in taxes as a result (over the life of the extension), you should do the extension even if you personally hate trains and haven’t ridden one your whole life. Given that the tourist industry for a mid-sized US city is measured in billions of dollars per year, and a single hotel room can cost as much as a hundred train tickets, this is easy to imagine. For a quantitative analysis, a comparison of the ridership between airport rail lines and the bus lines they replaced would be a good place to start.

    Eric Reply:

    Alon: you are right that people consistently prefer the slower airport train (which is still pretty fast) to the expensive nonstop train, but that raises the question of why any train was built in those cities, if buses are sufficient. Business travelers are more like 5% of the population; the “upper 50%” you mentioned previously mainly consists of tourists and those visiting family members, a much larger number, which when multiplied by their average spending equates to a great deal of money. As for Orly, it already has a rail connection to downtown; why would they build a second line?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    People visit Paris, London, New York, and all the other cities where transit is a minority of the airports’ transportation share.

    Is there an airport where transit is the majority share?

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Ridership projections……

    Spending money on rail projects…..

    Bay Area political engineering…..

    As Richard points out…..

    Problem is, here in the Bay Area, we spend big bucks on the most cost ineffective projects the politicians dream up, BART to SFO/Millbrae, BART to San Jose, central subway, VTA light rail, BART to everywhere!!! It’s all about make-work projects that benefit engineers, consultants, and contractors.

    Meanwhile the more cost effective projects sit on the table, being studied to death, such as Caltrain electrification, ACE upgrades/improvements, ACE/Caltrain service in the east bay, etc.

    Electrification of Caltrain has been talked about (under public stewardship) since 1980, and Southern Pacific had planned on electrifying the line in the early 1900’s but the 1906 earthquake put a damper on that idea.

    Many unscrupulous politicians used political engineering to circumvent Caltrain at every opportunity, BART was the *only* answer to our transportation woes… They would often claim that Caltrain carries nobody, will never amount to much, and will never carry more the current (early 1980’s) ridership of 15,000 to 16,000. Well Caltrain now carries nearly 50,000 per day, I guess that is nothing?

    BART to SFO/Millbrae is a prime example. The bureaucrats swore up and down that BART to Millbrae will carry 70,000 per day (in addition to 18,000 at Colma), that the BART extension will ‘turn a profit’ and ‘make money for Samtrans.’ They claimed very few riders will switch from Daly City to Colma, and very few will switch from Colma to the Millbrae extension.

    Well, the bureaucratic politically engineered ridership numbers and profits never materialized; in fact the extension nearly bankrupted Samtrans. The bureaucrats found every excuse in the book to defend the poor performance of the BART extension: ‘Oh we opened it at the worst possible time, in a recession,’ ‘Oh we revised the initial ridership projections,’ they even blamed improved Caltrain (Baby Bullet) service for hurting BART ridership… Remember Caltrain won’t amount to much….

    In order to make the BART extension look better than it actually was, they included the ridership at Colma station which opened 7 years prior to the Millbrae extension.

    Here is another sordid, relatively unknown detail regarding the BART to Millbrae extension—voodoo accounting, to make revenue on the line look better than it really is. This goes back to an agreement between Samtrans and BART regarding BART extensions past Daly City.

    All revenue for trips that begin or end in San Mateo stations (Colma-Millbrae) is credited to the extension and the operating cost of the extension applies only to service south of Daly City. So for instance, a person that gets on BART in San Bruno and travels to Freemont pays a fare of $6.45. That entire $6.45 goes into the BART in San Mateo County pot. The operating cost for that trip is calculated only for the segment of BART south of Daly City, NOT for the entire trip from San Bruno to Freemont. So this way the line produces so-called ‘good revenue.’ The rest of the BART system is subsidizing the non-San Mateo county portion of the trip at a higher rate than BART trips that do not begin or end in San Mateo County.

    This would be like Caltrain collecting all revenue for trips beginning or ending in San Francisco (SF to Bayshore), but Caltrain paying only the cost of operating the five miles between SF and Bayshore.

    Think of it as putting 20 gallons of gas in your car but you pay for only 5 gallons; the rest is paid by someone else.

    Many of us were critical of BART extensions, in the 1980’s and early 90’s. We warned them that the ridership projections are way overestimated, that it will not turn a profit, and that it may bankrupt Samtrans. The politicians insisted that the critics don’t know what they are talking about and dismissed anything we critics would say. Well history has proved that the critics were right and the bureaucrats were wrong.

    Sadly, VTA is headed down the same path with BART to San Jose/Santa Clara. We as critics hope that bringing these (BART/SFO) issues to light, just maybe BART to Silicon Valley can be stopped before it’s too late.

    BART’s main focus should be on operating, maintaining, and improving the existing core system, and yes that includes SFO/Millbrae, rather than costly, underperforming, empire building, extensions. Extensions benefit engineers, consultants, and contractors and not BART or BART riders. Extensions add additional riders to an already overcrowded system, wear and tear on the aging equipment, etc. If we could build an alternative to BART that would relieve the pressure off of BART then we all benefit.

    BART is struggling as Keith Saggers references the SF Gate/Chronicle article. Perhaps if BART wasn’t so fixated on expanding its empire, maybe BART would NOT be struggling to handle the current ridership demand.

    Unfortunately people voted for BART extensions because they have nothing to compare to, other than shitty Caltrain service and bus service. The average person sees BART as going fast and running every few minutes. Caltrain on the other hand, they see as slow and infrequent, (i.e. once per hour, during the day, nights and weekends). This has nothing to do with conventional rail such as Caltrain. It has everything to do with the Bay Area transit industrial complex, as some call it, the lack of funding to run Caltrain properly and perhaps some unwillingness by Caltrain itself. The lion’s share of money and marketing goes to BART and maybe they throw a few leftover table scraps to Caltrain and other transit. Aside from BART, other transit is methodically underfunded… My god, we can’t let anything outperform BART… It would be sacrilege…

    What if we committed $1.5 billion to Caltrain instead of BART/SFO?

    Perhaps we would have an electrified, high capacity, Caltrain system running just as frequently (or more frequently) as BART and faster BART.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    An airport transit station is important insofar as people use it. So in cities where the airport station has a lot of ridership relative to the rest of system, like Zurich, it’s important. In North America, it’s less important. The station’s finances are better than those of an average non-airport station of the same traffic because a) airport traffic is much less peaky, and b) airport travelers are less likely to have monthly passes, but it’s not enough to make a station with 6,700 boardings nearly as important as one with 33,000.

    In Vancouver, airport service is actually harmful to the system. I use it a lot, but most people don’t. The problem is that the Canada Line splits in two, to Richmond Centre and the airport, and the Richmond branch is much busier. The airport still hogs half the frequency, cutting Richmond frequency to uncomfortable levels (7 minutes daytime, 12 minutes evenings and weekends, 20 minutes night). The PPP contract doesn’t give the private operator any incentive to send 2 trains to Richmond per airport train, but even if it did, it would lead to awkward service gaps.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    But how much was ridership off the mark?

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Alon Levy:

    In Vancouver, airport service is actually harmful to the system. I use it a lot, but most people don’t. The problem is that the Canada Line splits in two, to Richmond Centre and the airport, and the Richmond branch is much busier.

    Another solution to the unequal frequency problem (not limited to airports) is for the system operator to alternate connecting shuttle services and through services from the transfer point to the end of each branch. With SkyTrain being an automated driverless system, there isn’t a significant cost to this.

    The better airport stations (in terms of their effect on the transit network) are either intermediate stops along the line (Newark, Frankfurt, Sydney), or are the terminus of an otherwise well-used line (O’Hare, Heathrow Underground). In both cases, services to the airport are the same as services to other points along the line.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    For being in the transit business, SFO does public transit pretty bad. The Airport is perfectly laid out for people arriving or departing by car. Otherwise, the BART station is underneath a parking lot, probably the last place BART passengers want to go. To go anywhere else, they need to get to the Airtrain. The Airtrain is 4 stories in the air. And once they get to the right terminal, it’s a long, winding, confusing way back down. Clear signage is not one of SFO’s strengths. In my ideal world, Airtrain would be a cross-platform transfer from BART, and the BART spur to Millbrae would be a free shuttle service, probably with different equipment. I think the BART airport service would be more successful if transit within the airport area had been more carefully thought through.

    Joey Reply:

    I think that forcing a transfer to get to the terminals is problematic to begin with. Assuming that BART to SFO should have been built at all, it should have been built as a through station directly under or slightly east of the international terminal, with moving walkways to the other three terminals. It wouldn’t have required longer walks than the current setup (especially with moving walkways for a large part of the journey, and it would have fixed the operational problem that the wye creates.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Peter Baldo: category error.
    Airtrain and BART weren’t transportation.
    They were spending projects.
    Don’t judge them by utility or public convenience; judge them by billions of dollars laundered and tons of concrete and steel delivered.

    Same house, same call for PBQD’s wholly-owned subsidiary CHSRA.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Peter Baldo:

    Otherwise, the BART station is underneath a parking lot, probably the last place BART passengers want to go.

    Above the SFO BART station is an Airtrain station. The BART platform is on the same level as the International Terminal, with the intended result that tourists walk directly off their BART train and into the airport.

    In my ideal world, Airtrain would be a cross-platform transfer from BART, and the BART spur to Millbrae would be a free shuttle service, probably with different equipment.

    Mine has BART banished from SFO and Airtrain running on the BART aerials to San Bruno and Millbrae.

    Ted K. Reply:

    Supporting info to Baldo‘s comment about SFO and transit.

    Map :

    The above map shows only three bus routes to the airport – 292 (regular service, S.F. to San Mateo/Hillsdale Caltrain), KX (express service, S.F. to Palo Alto Caltrain), and 397 (owl service, S.F. to Palo Alto Caltrain). Service frequencies are basically hourly except for the 292 which runs half-hourly during the day (0400-1800 approx. initial departures).

    Timetables (index page) –

    The nasty thing about the buses was that they stop at mostly hidden, ground-level locations. It was easier to go BART – AirTrain (get off at West Field Road, near the airport’s post office) – Samtrans than it was to go BART – walk – Samtrans. I gave up on visiting the airport several years ago because it was too slow (Samtrans) and too expensive (BART). And hiking into the airport should only be done by commandos, masochists, and those with a death wish (southern route).

    P.S. An obvious missing piece in the Samtrans network is a local shuttle running along San Bruno Avenue from Skycrest Shopping Ctr.* in the highlands, past the Bayhill Shopping Ctr.* (next to I-280), through the San Mateo Ave. intersection (walking distance to BART/Caltrain), on to United Maintenance, and then around to the terminals. If a non-local is wondering about the holes in the Samtrans network the simple explanation is that the system has four goals. They are : [1] commuter coverage along the Bayshore and ECR; [2] school bus substitute; [3] feeder service to the rail network; and [4] feeder service to the major malls and community nodes (e.g. #141 + San Bruno Senior Ctr.; #38/#292 + Safe Harbor Shelter). When I was commuting from San Bruno to San Carlos (1990’s) it was easier to take Caltrain than it was to take Samtrans to get to work.

    * NB – These two shopping centers are strip malls wrapped around a modest parking lot. The anchor tenant at both places was a small to medium supermarket (e.g. Molly Stones at Bayhill). This is not in the same league as the malls called Serramonte, Tanforan, Hillsdale, or Stanford.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They thought about running shuttles, but wanted to go for the one-seat ride. And the way they built it they can’t easily change it to a shuttle, because both the Richmond terminus and the airport one were built single-track. There’s enough capacity for a train every 7 minutes, but not for one every 3.5 minutes. The Richmond tracks are elevated over a major street, so reconstruction is expensive and disruptive.

    Reedman Reply:

    Since BART-SFO has now been thoroughly analyzed …

    Do the ridership projections for BART-OAK make sense?
    Do the ridership projections for BART-OAK justify the expense of the connector?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    No. And no.

    The only question remaining is why MTC executive-director-for-life Steve “$5 billion Bay Bridge overrun” Heminger, the primary go-to boy for ramming through the OAC, is yet to be indicted.

    John Bacon Reply:

    A TCRP report on rail connections to airports says 24% of Washington National Airport passengers go too or from the land side of that airport on either one of two subway lines for a short ride, around 2 to 4 miles, to downtown Washington or convenient access to most of inside-the-beltway Washington as part of an extensive rapid transit network.
    The same report also outlines the conditions that might explain the 73% rail mode share to Oslo, Norway’s main airport. Their airport is 30 miles to Downtown Oslo but the train makes the trip in 19 minutes. Apparently the city wouldn’t consent to the construction of a more distant new international airport unless the public transport running time between the city to the new airport required a travel period equal to the exiting case for the older closer-to-town airport. Clearly a railway shuttle was the only practical option in order to sustain the 95 mph stop to stop average run speed needed to meet the 30 miles in 19 minutes performance requirement for the new airport connection.
    The strongly positive public response to the high speed illustrated by the foregoing mode-share-connection to an airport are examples that support a CHSR Authority sponsored 2008 revenue and ridership estimate after full build-out in 2030. Their projection says there will be considerably more annual passengers and revenue between the San Joaquin Valley and the San Francisco Bay area, 5.6 million and $402 million, compared to a Los Angeles Basin to a San Joaquin Valley connection: 4.3 million riders generating $296 million.
    How could this be with LA plus Orange Countys’ total population at least twice as large as the SF Bay area plus the LA Basin’s well established extensive entertainment venues? One answer could be the CHSR SF Peninsula route’s potential one-seat-ride access to two major international airports, SFO and San Jose Airport, especially if the designers of a rebuilt Caltrain/CHSR right-of-way have the imagination to establish a CHSR/Caltrain/BART transfer subway station a short elevator ride below the main San Jose Airport terminal. The conversion of the Millbrae to SFO direct link to the Stephenson (1.35 m) gauge, and a dual gauge track where the present Millbrae BART Line and the airport shuttle route use common tracks, would enable CHSR trains containing a significant proportion of their riders headed for SFO to split at Millbrae in order to provide a one-seat-CHSR-ride to SFO.
    The optimal service quality between the San Joaquin and the SF Peninsula could be truly run-time-competitive with auto travel. For example a 120 mile rail distance between Fresno and Gilroy mostly at 220 mph would take 37 minutes; a long enough period to encompass a slowdown to 120 mph for safety while traversing a 6% 3 mile long down-grade off Pacheco Pass, plus the initial acceleration delay, and a 1% schedule pad. (The performance of modern computer controlled pulse-width-modulated traction systems with their high control feedback loop gains can be made largely impervious to power source voltage changes, passenger load, minor grades, or age of components. The CHSR Authority considers a 1% schedule pad an adequate run-time margin for long express segment runs. Their judgment appears correct to anyone familiar with modern electronic control system theory and practice. (A readily observable example: The consistent acceleration performance for BART trains while leaving stations. Their acceleration performance can be accurately measured by observing the minimum period required for 10-car trains to completely exit their stations after their initial start.) A passenger carrying railway with most of its right-of-way constructed over a century ago with numerous sharp curves and single-track tunnels in Switzerland but now double tracked, along the few places where not horrendously expensive, while scheduling far more trains than the present layout can comfortably accommodate heavy schedule padding, up to 10%, would be essential for maintaining a reliable service. Such main passenger route conditions do not prevail in California.
    Fifteen minutes after leaving Downtown San Jose a Central Valley origin CHSR train should take 27 minutes to SFO while making three intervening stops including a train split at Millbrae. A reliable one hour 20 minute running time between Fresno and SFO would be twice as quick as the fastest practical, driving time; 2 hours 40 minutes. Depending on CHSR San Joaquin Valley route design Bakersfield to SFO runs will take 30 to 45 minutes longer than from Fresno.
    CHSR access to the principle Los Angeles Basin airport, LAX, is far more difficult. LAX is 12 miles, as the crow flies, from CHSR’s LA Union Station. You can travel mostly by rail from Union Station to LAX. Just take the Red, transfer to the Blue, then the Green rail line. A ten minute bus ride from the Aviation Green Line Station will finally deliver the CHSR rider to LAX. Seventy to 80 minutes for $1.50 should do it. Driving from Bakersfield to LAX will average slightly under 2 hours except for rush-hour periods when adding another hour to driving time is realistic.
    It appears that building a low cost Bakersfield to Fresno CHSR track parallel to present rail right-of-ways connected north of Fresno to a 220 mph capable line, starting with a mostly single track, without tunneling over the Pacheco Pass to South San Jose connected to an electrified Caltrain to San Francisco could be paid- for with the initial $8 billion in CHSR related construction money now available. This San Francisco to Bakersfield electrified rail infrastructure could be the basis for a Bakersfield to San Francisco 7/14 hourly airport connector service including a Caltrain 9 stop SF to SJ express.

  7. Ben Bethel
    Jun 27th, 2013 at 10:40

    Sometime we should focus on the fact that California is around 40 million people, more than 125% of all of the population of Canada… and will most likely hit 100 million people in just 65 years…. I guess that’s quite possible, even without building a single additional home, if more people lived in each home right? The US population will hit 1 billion around 2095, but I bet that will happen by 2065 as other issues pop up in the rest of the planet. So, we really should be planning now on this incredible population growth…

    synonymouse Reply:

    I guess do yoga so you can bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I thought the point of HSR was to help prevent those other issues from popping up in the rest of the planet.

    Eric Reply:

    The world population is at about billion now, it’s expected to peak at around 9 billion. If the CA and US populations increase dramatically as you say, it will be due to immigration. Which would be a good thing all around.

    We won’t have more people living in each home (that would be a symptom of massively lowered standards of living, and if that happens why would anyone move to CA). Hopefully we can have more people on each plot of land, if zoning is relaxed so we can build up. If that doesn’t happen, real estate prices will rise until nobody wants or is able to move to CA, and the rest of the country will grow instead.77777777

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    In the San Fernando Valley at least we already have many more per home and replacement of single family homes with apartments along the arterials. We have massively lowered standards of living with the departure of aerospace and General Motors replaced by retail and fast food. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer….

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Why, yes…

    nevermind the fact that aerospace jobs especially paid high enough (non-union) wages that the burgeoning Republican base of suburban California could actually be corralled into thinking that interstate highways feeding into large tracts of McMansions was somehow… sustainable.

    The only reason that the Bay area evolved differently is that there was huge body of water that reinforced traditional job centers and urban planning in spite of the typical sprawl-gasm. BART was a pretty easy sell for Bay crossers when the only other option is a bridge.

    L.A. had no advantage when stopping white flight. It tried, but failed, and failed, and failed again. The only people that can rein it in are the State Legislature, and during the days when you needed a 2/3 majority to pass the budget, the Republican caucus was not interested in marginalizing themselves further by concentrating more power in the urban core.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The San Fernando Valley is undergoing, or recently underwent, white middle-class flight.

    Do you know if they subdivide houses or apartments in neighborhoods with stable socioeconomic status, like the Westside?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Of course.

    When Wendy Greuel was on the City Council and representing the San Fernando Valley, she tried to pass an ordinance that would limit amount of a parcel that could be utilized for living space to stop people who were smashing WWII era bungalows to put McMansions on them with no upgrades.

    The Westside, the San Gabriel Valley, Orange County…you name it…the only way you can get a project to pencil in Southern California that replaces existing housing stock is to make it much more valuable per sf than whatever was there before.

    Doesn’t matter what you do to it, subdivide, convert to apartments, demolish and rebuild, the hit on the property tax is so high for new properties that it defies normal economic expectation. And it wouldn’t work except for the vast amount of capital from Asia propping up the market.

    Emmanuel Reply:

    Can we? Do we have enough water to support an even bigger population? I think California will hit 50 million at the most. Anything more than that will require that we find another source of freshwater, not to mention pend billion on expanding the water system.

    StevieB Reply:

    In California 80% of water is devoted to agriculture. Alfalfa, which is a low value crop, uses a quarter of agricultural water. China is buying our cheap alfalfa for their expanding dairies. California in effecting is shipping its water supply to China in the form of alfalfa.

  8. thatbruce
    Jun 27th, 2013 at 15:37

    It would be asking too much for Reason to publish a follow-up article on the Expo Line ridership’s growth patterns.

    JJJJ Reply:

    Maybe they will. But is anyone checking their website? I surely am not.

  9. morris brown
    Jun 27th, 2013 at 18:08

    House Appropriations Committee Passes Valadao Proposal
    Jun 27, 2013

    Restricts Federal Funding of California High Speed Rail

    WASHINGTON – On Thursday, the House Committee on Appropriations dealt a blow to California High Speed Rail with the passage of legislative proposals authored by U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21) within the FY2014 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill.
    Base bill language proposed by Congressman Valadao, was previously adopted by the Subcommittee and today by the Full Committee. This language prevents additional federal funds from being spent on construction of proposed California High Speed Rail projects in 2014.
    Additionally, during today’s Committee Markup, Congressman Valadao introduced an amendment requiring all actions by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to address California High Speed Rail may only occur if the Surface Transportation Board has permitted the project in its entirety.
    Congressman Valadao stated, “Not only does this legislation control future waste of taxpayer dollars by preventing the use of federal funds for this impractical project, it also ensures that the Surface Transportation Board can no longer use questionable piecemeal approaches to circumvent regulatory protocol to permit rail projects.” Congressman Valadao continued, “It is important that impacts of this project are considered in their entirety and that due diligence reflects the entire project being pursued.”
    Congressman Valadao’s efforts join with those of other Valley Delegation Members including Congressmen Devin Nunes (CA-22) and Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) to oppose this wasteful use of taxpayer dollars.
    “California’s high-speed rail is an extravagant, unnecessary project that will cost tens of billions more than estimated,” said Congressman Nunes. “It’s good that the San Joaquin Valley has a representative on the Appropriations Committee who can stand up for taxpayers against this kind of reckless waste of their money.”
    Congressman Kevin McCarthy stated, “From its inception to STB’s most recent flawed decision to permit initial construction, California high speed rail exemplifies the politics-over-taxpayers mantra of this Administration. I commend Congressman Valadao for his leadership in getting commonsense policies adopted by the House Appropriations Committee today. His amendment would prevent STB from continuing to issue incomplete patchwork permits on various segments of California high speed rail. Today’s action helps to protect hardworking taxpayers from this Administration greenlighting high-speed rail and future projects which continue to suffer from questionable finances, ever-shifting business plans, and lagging public support.”
    The Valadao Amendment to the FY2014 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill passed by voice vote in full Committee markup. The entire bill passed through committee by a voice vote.
    Congressman David G. Valadao represents the 21st Congressional District, which includes Kings County and portions of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties.

    StevieB Reply:

    A pernicious bill passed through a House committee but no one is excited about the possibility that the bill will pass in the Senate and then be signed by the President. This is another of thousands of bills that will never become law designed to elicit votes for intransigent politicians from an obdurate minority.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “intransigent politicians from an obdurate minority.” – fits Antonovich nicely as well.

    VBobier Reply:

    Sounds about right StevieB, Repubs don’t like the fact that the STB played fair w/CA on HSR, but then they’d object no matter how much money was being spent or if the entire project were funded all at once, whether by Federal money or by all CA state money or by some combo thereof, Repubs just hate money going to a Blue states HSR program cause a President that Repubs/baggers hate and view as illegitimate, likes and supports HSR…

  10. John Burrows
    Jun 29th, 2013 at 15:25

    Speaking of 5 year curves on new high speed rail lines—Let’s take a look (Courtesy of Wikipedia) at the 215 mile Taipei-Kaohsiung high speed rail line on Taiwan which went into operation early in 2007.

    Initial ridership was projected at about 140,000 passengers per day.
    The first few months of operation in early 2007 daily ridership was under 40,000.
    By Sept. 2007 daily ridership was 50,000.
    By 2012 daily ridership was over 120,000.

    Because of high speed rail, commercial passenger flights between the 2 cities ended in 2012.
    Road traffic on a parallel expressway dropped by 10%, and buses had 25% fewer passengers.

    The Reason Foundation has pointed out that when the private company building the project got into financial trouble, the Taiwanese Government had to take control of its board and had to guarantee over $9 billion in company debt. But over the last 2 years at least, revenue has exceeded operating costs and I would guess that after a bumpy start high speed rail is going to be a real plus for Taiwan—Not something The Reason Foundation will have much to say about.

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