Accuracy Matters for HSR’s Future

Sep 11th, 2013 | Posted by

In today’s LA Times a USC public policy professor, Lisa Schweitzer, offers three suggestions for “getting California’s bullet train back on track”. It’s a worthwhile discussion to have, but her three points are flawed in that they do not accurately state the situation facing HSR – and therefore make it difficult to embrace these solutions as anything useful.

Don’t underestimate how betrayed many California voters feel over the project’s revised cost estimates.

When Proposition 1A appeared on the 2008 ballot, the 500-plus-mile rail line’s estimated cost was $32 billion. Shortly after voters approved it, the projected cost jumped $10 billion and then skyrocketed another $58 billion. Brown balked at the $100-billion bill, and the project got downscaled to $68 billion.

All that shilly-shallying eroded voter trust. Concessions to lower costs alienated early supporters by backing away from the high-speed design toward a blended system, which involves sharing track with existing services like Caltrain. Give voters the opportunity to approve a new proposal that fixes the flaws — the wonky cost estimates and unrealistic financial plan, to name two — of the original proposition instead of acting like there’s still a mandate to build the system. There isn’t.

Nonsense. Of course there is still a mandate to build the system. Californians did not throw out their legislators in November 2012 for approving the release of bond funds in July 2012, and the Legislature did so after the cost estimates increased. In no race last fall did HSR lead to the defeat of any legislator, despite efforts by Republicans to make it a campaign issue.

More to the point, this “suggestion” suffers from a biased frame that distorts what actually happened. Why did the cost estimates change? Isn’t that important to understanding how to deal with these challenges? The cost estimates rose first because the Authority was told by the federal government to change their accounting to “year of expenditure” dollars, meaning they had to price in possible inflation. Then, as communities up and down the route demanded expensive alignments, the cost soared. As detailed engineering was done, true costs became revealed as well.

And yes, the Blended Plan was adopted to help reduce costs. And it has alienated some initial supporters, though many of us are still on board. So is she suggesting that the Blended Plan be scrapped despite its lower cost? Which is it?

Stop acting like bullet trains shouldn’t have to comply with pesky environmental laws.

Brown’s attempts to exempt the project from environmental review convey, intended or not, state-level indifference to the communities in the construction zones. The federal review process in the National Environmental Quality Act is no picnic. It requires the state to consider community effects in the rail project’s assessment, not just the physical environmental impact.

People dealing with construction day after day and those forced to relocate face life-altering changes. They deserve to have the state obey both the spirit and the letter of laws designed to protect individuals from state coercion. Lawmakers passed environmental review regimes precisely because state agencies rushed through building urban freeways from the 1940s to the 1970s, mostly affecting poor, black neighborhoods. Those actions contributed to riots in Los Angeles and decades of impoverishment in these communities. We can do better than that, and we should.

Brown and Morales should embrace the environmental review process as an opportunity to work with the affected communities. The project has always included provisions for local employment. These and other benefits for the locals should be highlighted. The project should help make things better — right now, not 20 years from now — in the places where the bulldozers are headed.

To my knowledge neither the governor nor the CHSRA CEO have argued that HSR should be exempted from environmental review, so this is a deeply misleading and unfair charge. Governor Brown has argued for streamlining the reviews – but that any such streamlining should be done in a way that preserves actual environmental review.

The concern is that wealthy and privileged people are using CEQA to undermine a project that will deliver desperately needed jobs – right now, not 20 years from now – to these communities despite the fact that HSR will improve the environment by reducing carbon emissions and reducing air pollution. Schweitzer completely ignores both climate change and asthma caused by automobile emissions here, a bizarre way of looking at environmental quality concerns. If environmental justice is the concern, and it ought to be, then surely air pollution and carbon emissions should be central to the discussion.

Stop pretending that the federal government and the private sector are going to pay the bills and instead come up with a realistic, long-term, self-funded financial strategy.

Perhaps the federal government will send more than the $3 billion it has offered, but there is no reason to believe that a deeply polarized Washington is in the mood to add to it. Private-sector investment has supported high-speed rail projects around the world, but usually long after governments have covered the construction costs. A few systems operate well enough to pay back their capital costs — as in Japan — but private investors usually withhold investment until the system is built in major travel markets. So don’t expect anyone to pony up money until service in San Francisco and Los Angeles is set to begin.

The sooner politicians and rail officials accept this reality, the sooner voters can decide on the options, whether it means an additional tax referendum or taking money from other state agencies. One nice idea is to use the proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions for carbon emissions, though available revenue is limited so far.

This suggestion is the least objectionable of the three, yet it still contains flaws. There is in fact every reason to believe that Congress is in the mood to add more HSR funding. The problem is that the House is in its third year of control by a radical group of extremists who oppose most government spending and are willing to watch our civilization collapse in order to suit their Tea Party agenda. We should not pretend that Tea Party control of the House is a permanent situation. It may well be reversed in 2014. And if so, Democrats are very likely to add more HSR funding. How much? Probably not the sum we would like. But to write off Congress is to misread the national political situation.

That being said, with each passing year that the Tea Party extremists control the House, the more important it becomes to develop an alternative funding plan. It is possible for California to fund HSR itself – and the revenue sources used to do so could be augmented to help fund other transportation needs. It may not be an ideal solution, but California needs to begin developing fallback options so that it does not get dragged under by the Tea Party, whose strength comes entirely from outside the state.

  1. morris brown
    Sep 11th, 2013 at 21:14
    #1

    Robert Robert You simply live in a different world:

    You write:

    There is in fact every reason to believe that Congress is in the mood to add more HSR funding.

    In reality there is NO REASON to believe further funding will be coming from the Feds. It is not only the House but the Senate also does not care to pour more funds in the California HSR boondoggle. Why should they? They initially provided funding at around $4 billion with the understanding that they might be asked for a total of $12 to 15 billion. Now the CHSRA wants $50 billion more. It is not going to happen, ever.

    Furthermore, other projects have now pushed way ahead of any further funding from the Feds. The NE corridor is pushing hard, and they aren’t getting anywhere either.

    BTW Robert, go back to your posts in 2008 when some of us were yelling that the project would cost way way more than $32 billion and you said our claims were nonsense.

    Mike Reply:

    If you read Robert’s sentence as quoted by Morris along with the next one

    The problem is that the House is in its third year of control by a radical group of extremists who oppose most government spending and are willing to watch our civilization collapse in order to suit their Tea Party agenda.

    it appears that the “Congress” that Robert believes is in the mood to add more HSR funding is a Congress that has different members than the current body. Kind of odd logic. Vying in illogic with Schweitzer’s blasting Brown for (supposedly) wanting to get HSR out from under CEQA, and then claiming that NEPA (which the project would remain under) is “no picnic” … implying that getting out from under CEQA isn’t really any threat to environment or community engagement, because NEPA remains. Unremarked upon is that the REAL thing that projects opponents get with CEQA but not with NEPA: private right of action.

    Mike Reply:

    Let me restate that, because both NEPA and CEQA allow a private right of action —- The REAL thing that project opponents get with CEQA but not with NEPA: virtually unlimited access to the courts, with no limitation on standing and no enforced end point.

  2. joe
    Sep 11th, 2013 at 22:10
    #2

    In reality there is NO REASON to believe further funding will be coming from the Feds.

    Yes that reality.

    38 million reasons. We are approaching a ratio where 1 out of 8 people in the US is a Californian.

    Just wait until the anti-HSR movement throws Jerry Brown out of office.

  3. Alon Levy
    Sep 12th, 2013 at 02:04
    #3

    I can’t believe nobody’s calling Schweitzer on the whopper that is “Shortly after voters approved it, the projected cost jumped $10 billion.” The cost was switched from 2008 dollars to YOE dollars; that’s not where the cost overrun was.

    agb5 Reply:

    The estimated cost in 2004 was $33B to $37B, which adjusted for inflation is $41B to $46B in 2013$ assuming you believe the government official CPI.
    Cumulative inflation from 2004 to 2013 has been 24%.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I”ll quote myself:

    The cost estimate was clearly outdated, even when it was made.

    In September 2008, after the legislature had finalized the ballot measure, the Authority board meeting minutes reported that the Authority’s executive director stated, “the Financial Plan needed to be updated since documents reflected cost estimates from as far back as 2004. Also, there have been alignment changes to the draft documents which need to be updated as well.”

    These updates, revealing costs of the promised system to be $98 billion, were not made before the vote, were not included in the 2009 Business Plan and only came to light in the 2011 Business Plan.

    —–
    I will also note that looking back at discussions in 2008 prior to the vote, the fact that the $33 billion did not include anything for inflation was somehow excluded from all discussion and was used as an apples to apples comparison with bond measure of $9 billion – with the clear insinuation that is was enough to cover almost a 1/3 of the infrastructure cost ($33 included cost for train sets).

    joe Reply:

    I propose HSR operate like the Don Jones Industrial average and post a dynamic, running estimate of the project costs.

    It all costs money.

    Prop1a limits the amount of money HSR can spend on stuff like cost estimates and planning so if CARRD was interested, it could lobbying for more $$$ to address these shortcomings.

    Also, bonus – Californians want the system improved and stuff like blended HSR and electrified Caltrain with HSR funding so it changes.

    Your frep Hill could have demanded a updated HSR budget in his nifty law the locked HSR money to local Caltrain improvements. Ask him why he didn’t?

    Walter Reply:

    CARRD? Lobby to find constructive solutions the project’s shortcomings?

    File that one under pigs flying, two and two being five, and low temperatures in the Hell region.

  4. BMF of San Diego
    Sep 12th, 2013 at 07:54
    #4

    NEQA…. Never heard of that. Perhaps she meant NEPA. The “P” in NEPA stands for “Policy”. NEPA is federal. And, it has no teeth. NEPA is largely about disclosing impacts. Does not require any specific response to any issues that surface.

    The “Q” really comes from CEQA. The California version does have teeth.

    Concerning voters being unhappy…. I don’t believe so. There have been some changes to expectations; however, all within the range of what could be expected. Politicking has obviously played its part.

    Admittedly, I am a bit in satisfied with a blended approach – it is not what I voted for. Perhaps there is this comparison to highways…. It’s like voting for a new freeway from LA to SF and instead, we will get a parkway.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Rest assured that the approaching 30 miles of DogLeg tunnel are not “parkway” spending.

  5. Bill
    Sep 12th, 2013 at 08:51
    #5

    Shilly-Shallying? Is that even a saying? This project looks less and less likely to happen with every blog post. Wasn’t construction supposed to start, like, three years ago, then two, then this summer? How can a few NIMBY’s and farmers manage to hold up such a massive project that was already voted on? Maybe at this point scrap the project and build on a smaller scale. Santa Barbara to San Diego? Desert to downtown LA? Electrifying and speeding up shorter commuter lines? Seems like construction would most likely start with a project that costs $10 billion at this point.

    StevieB Reply:

    Your main complaint seems to be that construction has not started yet the alternatives you propose would take tens of years to start construction if they ever reach that step. The alternatives you propose are also unlikely to gather the statewide support necessary for California state funding. This is the equivalent to do nothing when California needs fast, less polluting transportation alternatives to improve the economy and livability of the state.

    Tony D. Reply:

    As someone who still supports statewide HSR in theory, I wouldn’t mind a reboot. I support a lot of what Bill states above as well. Probably to late, but I still feel the bookends should get priority, not the Central Valley. You would get guaranteed high ridership from the get go (Caltrain, ACE, Metrolink) and could connect north/south via the CV as funding became available.

    At this point I’ve become completely sour about this whole ordeal, and (living in SJ) I’m just hoping we can get electrified/modernized Caltrain out of all this…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Good luck to all of us on that. If CAHSR craps out BART will go for the ring.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How many decades does restarting delay the project?

    The Northeast Corridor has been “rebooted” at least three times. Every time they promise us 4 hours between Boston and Washington DC, or something close, I think the last round was 5 hours, they can’t find the money. Then a whole new cycle of planning and reviews start. We’ve been waiting patiently since Lyndon Johnson signed the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965.
    The major constraint on more service is the bottleneck under the Hudson. That was plotted and planned and planned and plotted over 20 years or so and a solution was decided on. It should have been completed in 2017. But it was canceled. So Amtrak is planning something completely different. It might be completed in 2025. I suspect more like 2030.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The media do not seem to be much worried about “tunnels to nowhere”. Or any criticisms of CAHSR of any substance. The hsr editorials are at the high school journalism level.

    So long as PB-CHSRA remains impervious to any modification of their scheme the reboot is the only recourse. These are the idiots who fired their own expert because they could not handle the truth.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Those mind rays are very effective on them aren’t they?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Adi: The NEC, depending on where you draw the boundaries, has 14 or more senators to help it “find” money. It already consumes 95% of Amtrak’s capital appropriation. Given those data, how would you expect an intrastate California project to be funded by the federal government? If 14 senators cannot succeed, what chance do our (superannuated) two have?
    The Boxer rail legacy will be PTC, not HSR. The former will be noteworthy for increasing inefficiency and cost for passenger and freight for almost zero improvement in safety. Can’t wait for the big switching on……

    Joe Reply:

    They belong to the same political party as the predominate California delegation.

    National political parties cooperate, both get funded.

    Thank you for playing. there is a consolation prize in back of the room.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Why didn’t they cooperate in 2009 to include more HSR funding in the stimulus bill?

    joe Reply:

    Why didn’t they pull back the Fed HSR funding from CA and move it to the NE?

    Why aren’t you trying harder?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Don’t be an asshole. The Senate is Democratic, and so is the President. Changing the allocation of funding is hard in this environment.

    However, none of this changes the fact that the 2009-10 Congress gave CAHSR $3 billion rather than $15 billion.

    joe Reply:

    Sorry, the 3B Fed contribution was amazingly positive and kick started the project.

    You claim below 15B is bad. Who are you to suggest that’s the right number?

    The US Senate could have done .
    They could have taken all those billions back.

    See the full range of options is quite wide and includes pulling back every penny. Not Gonna happen and no way the NE US turns against the West.

    Joe Reply:

    The $3 billion provided by the federal government is so large The critics claim California cannot spend the money in time for the deadline in 2017.

    If the dollar amount was 15 billion the other monies would’ve going to other states. Not California but other states. California got a bulk of the money that was offered.

    why not give California more money and extend the deadline to 2020 or 2025!?

    The money was to stimulate the economy in a deep recession. So it makes no sense to expect California to have gotten more money over a longer period of time in the 2009 stimulus bill.

    The state is funded. State is working on the project. Political critics claim that there’s going to be no future money forever. Anyone who believes that is a fool.

    Each congress can spend money the way chooses. Future congresses can pull back Prierles allocated money. Our government works year-to-year.

    The state can choose to go it alone. The state can choose to go it alone and wait for the federal government to provide funds in the future. The Democratic Party is cooperating on high-speed rail. The east is not attacking the west.

    The money provided is enough to keep the project busy until 2017. We’ll see what happens in 2014, or 2016, or 2018….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “NE US turns against the West” is your invention, based to be fair on Republican NEC-first bait-and-switch arguments (no worries, they won’t invest in the NEC). I’m asking why you’re so sure the feds will give California more money for an IOS.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Revenue bills originate in the House. There’s nothing the Senate, much less the President can do to to force the House to do anything.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Revenue bills require everyone’s consent. (Well, unless there’s a two-thirds majority in both houses, which given that nearly half of Americans keep voting for Republicans is unlikely.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Even non revenue bills require everyone’s consent. Which is why those paragons of government efficiency have passed bills repealing Obamacare 40 times. They ain’t gonna be around forever. They are busy offending small constituencies one by one by one. They ain’t gonna be around forever.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    And yet The Bully is actually defeating Biden in the 2016 polls and loses to Clinton by an uncomfortably small margin. Seriously, there are 47 or 48 percent of US voters who genuinely like those people.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Who? His Girthyness? He won’t be able to win primaries. He doesn’t run away like a frightened schoolgirl when he’s around gay people. He’s evasive when someone asks him about evolution. ( Someone is going to ask rude questions about his church’s official position, which is that evolution is a reasonable explanation of the observed world ) And he doesn’t puke when in the presence of President Obama. He actually touched him without collapsing into a quivering heap. He’s not going to be able to get through the primaries.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    He vetoed gay marriage. And the GOP primary voters aren’t insane enough to vote for Rand Paul, same way they weren’t quite insane enough to vote for Gingrich or Santorum. Eventually, after the crazies and mavericks have had their fun, the establishment takes over.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    He vetoed gay marriage

    How is that going to go over in Iowa and New Hampshire, where it’s legal? Or in New Jersey where the majority of the voters think he should have approved it. Then again the primary voters who did vote for the likes of Santorum are deeply offended.

    Eventually, after the crazies and mavericks have had their fun, the establishment takes over.

    Yes that strategy worked out so well, starting with Dede Scozzafava and working it’s way through Richard Luger… how many seats did they manage to lose in the Senate, in 2008, that should have been “safe”?

    In 2004 they ran on a platform mostly of being afraid of Osama and gay marriage. By 2016 Osama will be a faded memory and it’s likely that gay marriage will be legal for more than half the population. In 2008 they ran mostly against Romneycare masquerading as Obamacare. He’s got the majority in the polls in New Jersey right now but not by much. That doesn’t bode well.

    The Democrats are really good at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They might do it again in New Jersey. Get back to us in late October. After Senator Booker is sworn in.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’d go over amazingly well among the Republican primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, most likely.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Libertarian fringe is going to ask why the state is getting involved with religious matters, that if the state is going to marry people at all it should be willing to open it almost any adult. The Tea Party fringe is going to be aghast that he supports civil unions. But then the Tea Party fringe is aghast at a lot of things not old-straight-rich-white-guy. They are going to view his support of that obviously terrorist Muslim on the bench in New jersey along with his support of civil unions, and gasp. The people in the middle will have been living with it for years by 2016 and will wonder why anyone is even bringing it.
    The sky hasn’t fallen, plagues of locusts haven’t descended and no one has tried to marry a goat. All things that were predicted fairly regularly. About same sex marriage and Obamacare.

    … they are going to deeply regret calling it Obamacare. Though I suspect that nickname will fade away by 2016.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Like the touchy feelly liberal Santorum. Though I hear that Santorum is more the frothy type.

    Jonathan Reply:

    “spreadable”.

    Jonathan Reply:

    he major constraint on more service is the bottleneck under the Hudson. That was plotted and planned and planned and plotted over 20 years or so and a solution was decided on. It should have been completed in 2017. But it was canceled. So Amtrak is planning something completely different. It might be completed in 2025. I suspect more like 2030.

    …. and all to give Chris Christie a more solid platform for which to run for President.
    Did he really think he could divert the money to roads?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I don’t think he did but lying about something like that doesn’t stop Republicans from doing it.

    agb5 Reply:

    Such a scheme would never get beyond the bookends.
    Extending rails through the mountainous terrain South of San Jose and North of LA requires expensive tunnels and the plan would be instantly killed by the media as the tunnels to nowhere.
    Diesel locomotives could not use the steep unventilated tunnels, there would be no electrified rail line in the CV to connect with and electrifying the existing freight line is not an option.

    Joey Reply:

    The Central Valley-LA/Central Valley-Bay Area markets are larger than the intra Central Valley market as far as intercity passenger rail is concerned.

    Jerry Reply:

    @agb5
    Hybrid? Diesel AND Electric?

    Martin Reply:

    I think the problem when you get past obvious issues like funding (or lack thereof) is that the CAHSR system seems to have two competing models and instead of picking between them right now it’s trying to do both.
    The first model is a full-farebox recovery system. The focus is on long haul rail service between LA, SJ and SF. Covering costs is going to require high ticket prices and thus the system needs to compete effectively with air travel for high margin passengers (business). Basically the people who are flying on refundable tickets between LA and SF/SJ/OAK right now. I have no idea how competitive a 2:40 train trip will be against a 1:10 flight but I don’t think there is a lot of margin to add 10 min here or there by picking a slower route. The route would be I5/Tejon with a hard look at Altamont with an optional spur for SJ.
    The second model calls for the rail system to be more than a competitor to Southwest airlines. The rail system would link disparate parts of the state. Connecting the smaller communities in the central valley to the more populated coastal regions accomplishes a political objective. Part of this effort is integrating the train into the downtown areas in a way that respects each community. The train would also accomplish environmental objectives, displace some cars, foster transit oriented development and “environmental justice”. As the route is slower that 2:40 perhaps significantly so to accommodate going through the downtown areas of CV towns and detours like the Antelope valley you’re not going to get as many high margin air passengers to switch. The tickets will cost less and the train will be subsidized. I want to make clear that I don’t have a problem with this. If a transit system accomplishes an external good then I don’t see why society shouldn’t pay for that good.
    It seems like CA has promised to do the first model while designing the second all with far too little money and no stable revenue source.

    Wells Reply:

    Electrifying the Altamont corridor to Stockton or even from there to Sacramento would be value-added investment. Impacts could be reduced by stipulating 135mph speed limits as is now proposed on the Peninsula. Take BART to Fremont, hop the HSR there, Stockton or Sacramento in quick time. From LA to the Bay Area, similarly slow speeds produce a 5-hour trip time and offer Bakersfield & Fresno more tourism though one could ask, why visit ghost towns?

    Joey Reply:

    The tracks in the Altamont corridor are suitable for nowhere near 135 mph. Try 40 mph for most of the mountainous terrain. Much of it is owned by UP who (a) won’t allow many more passenger trains (b) won’t allow passenger trains and (c) probably won’t allow electrification.

    Clem Reply:

    New tracks

    By the way, both UPRR and BNSF are participating vigorously in the CPUC rule making process that will eventually regulate 25kV electrification in California. As is every major utility and their brother.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They’re thinking catenary might be in their future?

    Jonathan Reply:

    Based on past history, they/re more likely to be mandating electrification for loading-gauges which will never, ever interfere with what they do now, or what they think they might do in future.

    Why CPUC could’nt just adopt a European standard — German? Russian? — or even the East-Coast 25kV standard … well, that’d be *sensible*.

    Clem Reply:

    Actually, PB has made such a mess of the proposed regulation that I’m glad UP and others are turning this into a real multilateral rulemaking effort.

    jonathan Reply:

    Got an in-depth summary ? Coming soon??

    Joey Reply:

    Well yes, but if you’re building new tracks why limit them to 135 mph?

    Jonathan Reply:

    Shilly-Shallying? Is that even a saying?

    it certainly is in Commonwealth English!

  6. morris brown
    Sep 12th, 2013 at 17:51
    #6

    Here are 2 excerpts from the Board meeting of Sept 10, 2013.

    1. Richard and Tom Fellenz comment on Judge Kenny’s ruling.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZlwZjUIS_A

    About 2 minutes

    2. Here Richard comments mostly on how the Authority is conforming to
    Prop 1A

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ti_Cau-rt3Q

    about 6 minutes.

    Rather than get most readers here accosting me for my reflections on these, I’ll just say nothing.

  7. Paul Dyson
    Sep 12th, 2013 at 18:11
    #7

    “And yes, the Blended Plan was adopted to help reduce costs” quoth Robert.
    No, the blended plan was introduced to pretend that a system could still be built for a lot less money. But pretense it is. Either the bookends have to be rebuilt but as separate projects to dump the cost onto other budgets, or the system will remain effectively incomplete, dumping passengers e.g. at Burbank and who knows where in the north onto some semblance of local transit. If southern California voters had been told that construction would start in the Central Valley and that service (incomplete) would be two decades away, and then might not reach Union Station, what would have been the outcome?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s more expensive to build around a busier railroad. It’s been the trend for the last few millenia, with some exceptions, that building things sooner rather than later, is cheaper.

    wdobner Reply:

    I’m not sure why you attribute that particular sort of maliciousness to the CHSRA when there are other options. They could very well be planning to build the line to Burbank, then wait to late in the project to demand the FRA both approve a waiver to allow operation from there to LAUS and negotiate with UP for the ability to use the ROW. Using costs that would have been sunk to that point (presumably to construct the HSL from Merced to Burbank) to gain leverage over the regulatorily captured FRA is perhaps a bit unethical, but it could result in some saving compared to forcing the CHSRA to announce their LAUS access plans at this stage and forcing them to ram their own ROW between Burank and LAUS.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Los Angeles County owns the existing RoW between Burbank and LAUS, with UP having trackage rights. The issue will be the NIMBYs and the River nuts who don’t want HSR through their new parks or reducing their property values. It will then require a high cost tunnel under Dodger Stadium on a straight alignment into LAUS. No blending there.
    As an interim they could electrify one or two tracks Burbank to LAUS but that doesn’t seem to be the plan. They’d rather shoehorn a “temporary” terminus into the narrow strip in Burbank between a currently being widened I-5 and the existing RoW. Terminus, plus layover tracks, plus?? All this being discussed under the radar screen as far as I can tell. Dear readers, let me know if you can find any detailed docs on this. The folks in Burbank would like to know what is in store.
    Of course you could start at LAUS and build north, less disruptive and entirely more logical in my view. But we have to keep up the pretense that the IOS and blended system will attract fare-paying passengers. SWA and Megabus are waiting to prove them wrong.

    Joey Reply:

    UP has obtained an agreement which mandates at least one non-electrified, non HSR track between Palmdale and LA.

    Clem Reply:

    Do you have a link?

    Joey Reply:

    Here. See Section 2L, page 7.

    Clem Reply:

    Thanks. It’s worse than you said: at most zero electrified tracks between Palmdale and LAUS, unless CHSRA builds their own.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Totally screwed wouldn’t you say? Slow diesel Palmdale to LA forever! No termination date to the MoU. No one at LACMTA signed it even though it affects their property. CHSRA and Division of Rail gave the store to UP. The old SP Octopus boys have found true successors.

    Clem Reply:

    It’s an MoU, thus not legally enforcable… so when somebody down south wakes up (where are you guys?) there might be a chance to build something functional.

    Joey Reply:

    Yes, but there’s really only one track north of Burbank anyway.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They can widen it to two. Isn’t the ROW wide enough for much more than that anyway?

    Joey Reply:

    Yes. Most of it is wide enough for 3 or 4 tracks if necessary, at least north of Burbank.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    And a large oil pipeline in the RoW.

  8. Joe
    Sep 12th, 2013 at 18:37
    #8

    The peer review panel suggested the blended plan. The purpose was to create the capability to reach SF before doing a full build to SF. It was also seen as a compromise between a full build and nothing. Oh, and this compromise was intended to be temporary until the ridership warranted a full build.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    “until ridership warranted a full build”. I’m sure the ridership will really build with a Metrolink connection from Palmdale, Sylmar or even Burbank. Because people just can’t wait to ride HSR they”ll put up with any inconvenience at either end.

    joe Reply:

    Improving the existing ROW between SF and SJ in preparation of HSR upsets you how?

    Clem Reply:

    That does seem rather like a double standard. The point of the blend is to remove the inconvenience of a transfer. I don’t quite understand why it would be a big deal to electrify from Sylmar or Burbank to Union Station.

    Joey Reply:

    Because of that pesky agreement with UP.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Clem: Nor do I, but there is no plan to do so. But then I don’t know why we can’t start at LAUS and build north. Back to my position which is that the “blend” is fake HSR which will not bring in the fare paying passenger.

  9. trentbridge
    Sep 12th, 2013 at 20:16
    #9

    “Give voters the opportunity to approve a new proposal that fixes the flaws”

    Well, Lisa – there’s the obvious route of pushing a statewide proposition that “reboots HSR” and all you have to do is gather signatures of Californian voters..

    “The current initiative signature requirements according to the California Constitution, Article II, Section 8 (b); Section 9035 are as follows:

    Initiative Statute: 504,760″

    So nothing is stopping you – if the people hate HSR so much – just find half a million like-minded registered voters and put it on the ballot. By the way, it was tried and come up short because between you and me – it aint the kind of issue that people exiting Wamart or Target will stand still for thirty seconds to listen to the pitch unlike the death penalty, taxes, or marijuana.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They have made it much more difficult to put a measure on the ballot, unless you are a deep pockets lobby.

    Notice there hasn’t even been another weed legalization prop. Initiatives are only able to qualify if they have corps or unions behind them.

  10. Ted Judah
    Sep 12th, 2013 at 21:52
    #10

    Professor Schweitzer joined the faculty at Price after I had already graduated. However, if you wonder why she’s a HSR skeptic, take a look at this *great* post of hers: http://lisaschweitzer.com/2012/06/07/white-people-wont-ride-the-bus-if-true-is-racism-not-a-rationale-for-light-rail-just-saying/

    Some of this may be code for the belief that light rail is always better service than buses, and you won’t get choice riders without better service. I’m a lifelong transit commuter, and I could care less about what is under the vehicle. I want service that comes every 5 minutes, no vomit on the seats, reasonable reliability of arrival time, and amenities at stops. All those things can be accomplished with light rail or buses, if there is a sufficient investment in the buses. Oh, no no no, rail people tell me. Rail is better because it has dedicated ROW. Oh, baloney. As we prove over and over in LA, if your rail is interacting with traffic signals, it’s going to be slow. And there is more than one way to get your own ROW: sure, building LRT is one way. Or having the political guts to just take away two lanes of car traffic for dedicated bus service is another way. Gulling people into giving you billions for the former so you can avoid have to annoy people with the latter is good politics, but it doesn’t make for inherently better transit.Some of this may be code for the belief that light rail is always better service than buses, and you won’t get choice riders without better service. I’m a lifelong transit commuter, and I could care less about what is under the vehicle. I want service that comes every 5 minutes, no vomit on the seats, reasonable reliability of arrival time, and amenities at stops. All those things can be accomplished with light rail or buses, if there is a sufficient investment in the buses. Oh, no no no, rail people tell me. Rail is better because it has dedicated ROW. Oh, baloney. As we prove over and over in LA, if your rail is interacting with traffic signals, it’s going to be slow. And there is more than one way to get your own ROW: sure, building LRT is one way. Or having the political guts to just take away two lanes of car traffic for dedicated bus service is another way. Gulling people into giving you billions for the former so you can avoid have to annoy people with the latter is good politics, but it doesn’t make for inherently better transit.

    joe Reply:

    We just need politicians with the guts to tell a majority of voters to fuck off and just do it!! Democracy sux.

    Have some guts and do unpopular things is a trope for elite thinkers. Be it bombing Syria, austerity, cutting food stamps or whatever crappy idea. Now it’s convert roads to BRT !! Just do it!!!

    Be an adult and tell voters to fuck off.

    Now what if a University President told the faculty to fuck off and implemented wildly unpopular things like double the teaching load? I’m sure someone’s feeling would be deeply hurt.

    joe Reply:

    A gem “Or having the political guts to just take away two lanes of car traffic for dedicated bus service is another way. “

    Or having the political guts to build a Light rail system which works.

    Ait takes guts to tell life long transit riders to fuck off and stop whining about converting roads to dedicated bus lanes BRT — ain’t gonna happen.

    http://la.streetsblog.org/2013/09/12/and-now-the-reason-foundation-is-completely-wrong-about-expo/

    Wonder what it is about the Expo Line that makes conservative muckrakers lose their collective minds?

    Last year, the Reason Foundation, an oil industry funded think tank that pretends to espouse Libertarian principles, declared the Expo Line a failure after sending two people to ride Phase I of the light rail line on its opening week and complaining that it wasn’t meeting its ridership projections for 2020. The line averaged 11,000 weekday boardings. Expo’s 2020 projections was 27,000.

    Yesterday, Metro announced that the Expo Line averaged 27,280 boardings every weekday, meeting its 2020 ridership projections a mere seven years ahead of schedule.

    Joey Reply:

    Traffic lanes can be taken to build light rail just as easily as BRT.

    joe Reply:

    Easier. Look at SF.

    Joey Reply:

    Third Street used to be three lanes in each direction, and is now two. Where do you think those other two lanes went?

    Joey Reply:

    Also, the Geary BRT project is going to take two lanes if it gets funding, although Geary could probably generate enough ridership for a full subway.

    StevieB Reply:

    Sound Transit’s East Link plans include converting the center reversible high-occupancy vehicle and bus lanes of Interstate 90 into dedicated to light rail. The Washington Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit to block Sound Transit from using I-90 lanes. Politically the conversion of automobile lanes is never easy but it is possible.

  11. Reedman
    Sep 13th, 2013 at 09:43
    #11

    A reminder:
    On October 1, Amtrak ends it’s subsidies for intrastate short haul service.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323864604579069290200409018.html

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    makes me wonder when they are going to eliminate the Essential Air Services subsidies…. or all the money rural roads suck up.

  12. Derek
    Sep 13th, 2013 at 11:41
    #12

    Bill Would Create California Quake Warning System
    Associated Press, 2013-09-13

    Seismologists and public safety officials have been calling for such a system, which would use an array of sensors to detect the start of a quake, its strength and provide useful seconds of warning.

    This would save CAHSR some money on earthquake safety. With the system in place, CAHSR just needs to tie into it and apply the brakes automatically when an earthquake is detected.

  13. John Nachtigall
    Sep 13th, 2013 at 12:52
    #13

    Amtrak doing what Amtrak does best, spend money without return

    http://news.google.com/news/url?sr=1&sa=t&ct2=us%2F0_0_s_0_0_t&usg=AFQjCNFrr4XaA4FD7nYk36VFobKcivJsTg&did=f4ca185bf722fa57&sig2=pVTLxk0p0IakbGgFNfQAhQ&cid=52778257923081&ei=eGwzUoGaIebSwQG2Hw&rt=STORY&vm=STANDARD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424127887323864604579069290200409018.html

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    ATK uses the Indi train to move cars in and out of its shop at Beech Grove. They’d probably run the train a couple of times a week anyway as empty coaches, but don’t tell the Hoosiers.
    Careful reading of PRIIA 2008 indicates that it does not in fact require ATK to transfer costs to the states, simply to apply a common and agreed methodology to their charges. Many of the states would love to contract out the operation to other parties but opposition from the Class Ones, Amtrak’s unique trackage rights agreement, and other factors will probably prevent this. The Common carrier RoW owners prefer the devil they know, Amtrak, and also want Amtrak to continue paying into Railroad Retirement. Amtrak’s marked up costs means they do quite well out of the state contracts. Monopoly provider and all that. It’s the NEC that’s the millstone.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If Amtrak stops subsidizing the train how is that “spending money”?
    … and 30 or so thousand people who use the train each year get something out of the money spent.

  14. Jos Callinet
    Sep 14th, 2013 at 08:36
    #14

    Round and round and round we go with this HSR discussion! It is becoming clearer with every passing day that nothing but hot air is ever going to result from the passage of the California High Speed Rail Act.

    Our country has passed the point where it’s possible to carry out big plans. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the last president of the U.S. who was able to think big and inspire the nation to go along with and fund his Interstate Highway System. Think also NASA and the successful drive to land a man on the Moon in 1969! Those days are long gone.

    Now we’re using up what little useful remaining lifespan there is in our now more-than-half-century-old Interstate Highway System – and Congress is unwilling to allocate money to return it to a state of good repair, not to mention update its older out-of-date sections.

    If we’re unwilling to provide for and maintain what infrastructure we already have – how can we think of doing anything new? How can anyone seriously think that HSR is ever going to see the light of day? Reality is intervening and declaring that it will not.

    Our country is no longer willing to think and act big – no longer willing to plan and carry out major infrastructure projects such as the CAHSR – no longer willing to provide the funding to pay for them. This nationwide inability to plan and act is why we commentators on this blog are very likely going to be endlessly debating the merits and demerits of HSR for years to come – all while nothing concrete gets built.

    What an exercise in futility this is!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, yeah, we all long for the good old days when the government could just lie that a neighborhood is a slum, evict all residents, demolish it, and build a freeway in its stead.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    You’re not paying attention to my central point in my comment, which is that, taken as a whole entity, we citizens of these United States of America are no longer interested in, or willing to pay for, major infrastructure improvements as generations before us were willing to.

    This is the primary reason why I believe nothing whatsoever but a continuation of our production of hot air – and nothing more than hot air – will ensue from these discussions on this blog.

    joe Reply:

    we citizens of these United States of America are no longer interested in, or willing to pay for, major infrastructure improvements as generations before us were willing to.

    Maybe. How do you explain the popular vote for HSR? Opponents are in court, not the ballot box, fighting HSR?

    As an ecologist, our community pushed to preserve landscapes. I think that’s why we have a system that is structured to oppose all development. That’s where the project is under attack, CEQA and legal attacks against the popular vote (and interpretations over what approval meant).

    Resident Reply:

    If you’ll notice the limitations set forth in Prop 1A, the popular vote should be interpreted as: “Go ahead and build it if you can- we don’t believe for a second you can meet these requirements”

    joe Reply:

    Make up whatever you want.

    Opponents are betting on the courts, not ballot box.
    Not enough signatures to even get this Prop to a re-vote on the ballot.
    Major Proponent Jerry Brown was re-elected.
    NIMBY Central’s State Senator introduces Bill to lock HSR to the Peninsula and assure it’s a done deal there.

    Resident Reply:

    dont need the ballot box – we already went there and voted in Prop 1A. So far all we’ve had is a bunch of crooked politicians ignoring it. Once enforced by the courts, Prop 1A is all we need to stop HSR.

  15. synonymouse
    Sep 14th, 2013 at 11:48
    #15

    It is not the same country. Pretty soon you will go to the local grocery and find your basic hamburger at $10/lb.

    Look at the WillieBridge and BART militants wanting a 21% raise and counting on the politicians they own to secure it for them.

    As soon as the initial thrill wore off the Apollo program was jettisoned by Nixon. Same thing will happen with Mars exploration once it is established there is no life there.

    Quantum computing could jumpstart a boom but the megacorps will soon apply realtime behavior prediction capability to game everything, especially the stock market. No more big casino as the chance factor will be neutered.

    How to get energized about a walled-off geezer obsessing about shoving an illogical and unsustainable “legacy” down everyone’s throat?

    synonymouse Reply:

    And CrapCast is about to encrypt “limited basic” on Oct.1, the same junk tv you can get for free unencrypted OTA in San Francisco. But if you live anywhere else no reception. And cable and broadcast wants to sue Aereo out of existence for supplying you with an antenna that works.

    Pull broadcast tv’s free frequencies or make them encrypt OTA. Shake up the greedy bastards.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But not to be entirely downside, I have to admit I am beginning to like the new Pope.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And finally, link courtesy of Mook on the Altamont site, a grim reminder of fiscal reality:

    http://articles.philly.com/2013-09-13/news/42044363_1_chestnut-hill-west-septa-media-elwyn

    This is reminiscent of the fifties bad time. You guys are too young to remember that period of rail dismemberment. And the kind of subsidy headache the DogLeg will invariably encounter down the road

    Philly needs to review its labor contracts.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–charge the motorist what he costs to drive his car. That will fix everything, really, including making railroading profitable again. No way you can make money with your competition being subsidized at 50% or better.

    The cost of driving will have to go up; we’ve not raised gas taxes in over 20 years, and the road system is falling apart. Even if you are anti-railroad, there is no alternative to increasing the price of driving to reflect the increasing cost of repair.

    jonathan Reply:

    Including charging heavy trucks their true cost?? ?

    Derek Reply:

    Today, over-the-road heavy trucks pay approximately $14,000 per year in combined fuel and other highway taxes. This amount does not come close to paying for the damage to roads and bridges caused by trucks, let alone the capital cost of the highway system or for new or expanded road and bridge construction.

    Jerry Reply:

    Amen.

    Jerry Reply:

    Amen reference was to CrapCast comment. The SF KRON channel 4 / NBC controversy in the 90s resulted in no NBC for Bay Area. Even OTA TV sets in SF couldn’t pull in the closest NBC station/tower out of Monterey CA.
    Soon it will be all Pay TV, to free up OTA bandwidth for other devices.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No one forced you to move where reception of terrestrial television is iffy. There are alternatives to cable. That’s what those itty bitty satellite dishes are doing for your neighbors.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    synonymouse – you’re so right – our country is suffering from a bad case of “walled-off geezeritis”!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Sounds like they have something like that in New York, too.

    http://secondavenuesagas.com/2013/09/13/making-buses-sexier-to-millennials-or-anyone/

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yep: old people trying to market shit to young people while spending all of the money on airport connectors, real estate scams, and WTC architecture. Somehow, nobody talks about making airport buses sexier – it’s only high-ridership city buses that need marketing.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    our country is suffering from a bad case of “walled-off geezeritis”!

    Memo from Planet Earth: The United States of America could euthanize every resident over the age of 25 and it would still be the land of extreme right wing whackjobs.

    Dear old Mr Synonymouse, who was right about Tejon, unlike pretty much everybody else, is the least of your problems in building HSR or anything else in this country.

    Eric Reply:

    You’re not one to talk about whackjobs.

  16. Travis D
    Sep 15th, 2013 at 00:04
    #16

    I don’t know if anyone has noticed but they put the Tutor Perini bid up on the authority website.

    I’ve been reading through it. Interesting stuff. I thought their idea to eliminate the Jensen Trench was actually pretty nifty.

    VBobier Reply:

    I found an HSR map on Google Maps, so are they going to raise the bridge higher at Jensen or what? I don’t know if this map is accurate or not of course, I just Google searched for ‘Jensen Trench HSR’ and that’s one of the results I got.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    That’s a useful piece of work. (Last update 11 Aug 2011.)
    The creator is Tim Sheehan, who writes for the Fresno Bee.
    I see he has also number of other interesting Google maps, some of HSR relevance.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    I think there should be a tutorial on Tutor!

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    Or, we should sign up to have Perini be our Tutor!

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Step 1. “Bid”.
    Step 2. Change orders!
    Step 3. Profit!
    (Also: Step 4. Sue!)

  17. synonymouse
    Sep 15th, 2013 at 20:36
    #17

    BTW the new issue of Trains(Oct.)has a nice panoramic shot of the UP operation in Soledad Canyon. You are not joking there are curves. Definitely in the true spirit of the 19th century like the Loop.

    @ D.P. From same Trains the word the 4014 will be converted to oil and apparently “they” think it can travel back East. Picture a 4-8-8-4 in W.Va. Of course, there were many articulateds in the Appalachians but a bigboy would be something to see away from the wide open spaces of its sweet home Wyoming.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Interesting indeed, and there is a remote–remote–chance of another articulated engine coming online in a few years, a proper coal-burner, and a historically significant locomotive as well:

    http://www.rypn.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=35565

    I also saw the issue and its article on Conrail’s electrification proposals. Interesting to note that the numbers looked good, but the money people got nervous–CR wasn’t quite out of the woods yet–and they didn’t see that the railroad was about to jump out of its hole. So much for capitalism!

    I tell you, the banker crowd can read balance sheets and financial statements, but I don’t think they look beyond them to the real world of real resources, including things like labor productivity as measured in things like man-hours per ton of freight moved. Measuring everything in money–including failure to account for hidden government subsidies, such as the cost of the road system not being paid by trucking firms–can hide a multitude of sins.

    Joey Reply:

    Yeah – I’m not quite sure why so many people thing HSR will be able to share tracks from Palmdale…

    Clem Reply:

    Yeah, but “close the gap” is going to be the next mantra to get more money, so it doesn’t matter. I can’t agree more with you, that is one gnarly piece of railroad.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Well I have been trying to point it out for a long time. People look at the Metrolink map and think it represents some kind of modern transportation system! Using it as part of a HS service, especially Palmdale to LAUS, should only be proposed on April 1.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Take a bow, Paul, you have indeed been highlighting the Soledad and ancillary area issues for months at east now. One of the primary pluses of Tejon is not just that it is much shorter but that the extra mileage added to go east to Tehachapi is almost as bad as the mountain crossing proper.

    Van Ark was so correct in recommending a thorough study of a route pretty close to due north out of the LA Basin. Shame on Jerry Brown. I heard today Rolling Stone is running a shameless piece of propaganda cult-worshipping the Moonbeam, but I have not seen it yet.

    synonymouse Reply:

    at least

  18. Reality Check
    Sep 15th, 2013 at 21:58
    #18

    CA HSRA, Amtrak team up for electric train bids

    California and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor hope to leverage economy of scale by teaming up to seek bids from manufacturers to build dozens of new sets of high-speed trains.

    The California High-Speed Rail Authority and Amtrak have been in talks since January to team up on their purchase of electric trains that will be capable of carrying passengers at more than 200 mph. Last week in Sacramento, the California agency formally authorized CEO Jeff Morales to sign an agreement with Amtrak to ask for bids.

    [...]

    [HSRA chief program manager] Frank Vacca said he anticipates issuing the joint request for proposals from train manufacturers sometime this fall, with bids due in February. Once a winning bidder is chosen, the first orders could be placed by next summer, Vacca told the board.

    Vacca said the state’s initial request would include about 20 trains needed for the Merced-Los Angeles operating segment. Amtrak leaders said earlier this year that they want 12 trains to increase their Acela Express service, plus 20 more to replace existing Acela equipment in the 2020s.

    The state rail agency’s 2012 business plan anticipated spending about $871 million for train sets on the Merced-San Fernando Valley segment. For 20 trains, that works out to about $43.5 million apiece. Earlier this year, the authority said it’s looking for train sets capable of carrying 450 to 500 passengers on each 656-foot-long train.

    [...]

    Combining California’s and Amtrak’s orders, Vacca added, will help make it worthwhile for manufacturers who must comply with federal “Buy America” requirements for high-speed rail equipment. “It will require a technology transfer to the U.S., and it will take a period of time for the successful manufacturer to do that technology transfer.”

    Vacca estimated that it would likely take about 18 months for the winning bidder to design and prepare to build the train sets. Prototype trains could be delivered by December 2018, followed by a year of testing.

    Joey Reply:

    The NEC doesn’t even have concrete plans for new lines yet. What are they doing looking at 320 km/h capable trains?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Got to drag California down to Amtrak level.

    America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals, on the job.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Acela goes Hollywood.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Relax, don’t do it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Because there are nice flat straight sections between New York and Washington DC that are good enough for 135MPH service now and should be good for 320MPH service with relatively cheap upgrades?
    Where is there a need for new lines? The only places that I can think of that don’t have rail service and should are metro Alltentown, metro Scranton and metro Binghamton. Calling them “NEC” is a bit of a stretch.

    Joey Reply:

    By “new lines” I mean significant cutoffs of the existing route. Perhaps I should have clarified.

    And what part of NY-DC can be realigned easily without building largely new alignments? Where has Amtrak released even preliminary engineering documents for implementing such changes? Go ahead and measure some curve radii. Depending on how lenient the FRA is willing to be with cant deficiency, 320 km/h service requires somewhere between 4 and 4.5km curve radii. Even the very-good-by-legacy-standards Wilmington-Baltimore segment isn’t capable of anything near that without major cutoffs. Maybe the NEC will eventually need 300+ km/h trains, but not for a generation or two of equipment. High acceleration and cant deficiency (active tilting) are more relevant things to focus on now.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The nice straight flat section they are upgrading for 160 MPH service as you read this. There are more of them in Pennsylvania and Maryland. More or less the places where they can do 135 now.

    The Pennsylvania Railroad and the Budd Company were planning on the next generation of Metroliners to be capable of 160. So we needed 160 back in the 60s.

    Joey Reply:

    160 yes, but that’s a far cry from 200. New Pendolinos can do 160 and traverse the tightest curves pretty quickly. 200mph isn’t justifiable until you have very long sections of it.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    “Because there are nice flat straight sections between New York and Washington DC that are good enough for 135MPH service now and should be good for 320MPH service with relatively cheap upgrades.” should read 320km/h.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    New Brunswick-Trenton high-speed upgrade

    In August 2011, Congress obligated $450 million to a six-year project to add capacity on one of the busiest segments on the NEC in New Jersey. The project is designed to upgrade electrical power, signal systems and catenary wires on a 24 miles (39 km) section between New Brunswick and Trenton to improve reliability, increase speeds up to 160 mph (260 km/h), and support more frequent high-speed service. Wikipedia (D.O.T. not Congress)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Because there are nice flat straight sections between New York and Washington DC that are good enough for 135MPH service now and should be good for 320MPH service with relatively cheap upgrades?

    Yes, but they’re interrupted by a few curves, e.g. Morrisville and Metuchen, to say nothing of Elizabeth. These are relatively easy to straighten, but Amtrak is not simultaneously straightening these – remember, on speed profile maps of the Vision, the 100 mph slowdown in Metuchen is still there. On more-or-less existing track, yes, full-speed trains could shorten travel time. On literally existing track, the difference is very small because once every few dozen kilometers you need to slow down.

    The other issue, which again Amtrak ignores in the short turn, is raising speed on the slowest segments. New York-New Rochelle should take 11 minutes, with a top speed of 200 km/h. It takes 25. This is on a line owned by Amtrak, without any other traffic except at the two ends. Fixing Shell Interlocking is an urgent priority in terms of speed as well as Metro-North capacity, but it’s not on the horizon.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    they just fixed Shell. They wanted to put in flyovers but they couldn’t find the money. I’m sure Rep. Mica, the stalwart defender of the NEC, was fighting hard to get more..

    Alon Levy Reply:

    How fast can trains go through Shell right now? The track maps I’ve seen have 30 mph (or did that get up to 45?).

    “Fix” for the purposes of this discussion means at least 90, which is what can be done with flyovers, high cant, the same cant deficiency the Acela does today when it tilts, and limited to no takings. With somewhat more takings, make it 135. Perhaps if they’d asked for money for Shell rather than for Harold or for 160 mph top speed (total time saving: 100 seconds minus acceleration time) they’d have gotten it?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Top speed makes the pols giggly, no matter how irrelevant to overall performance or money wasting.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I don’t have employee timetables. The scuttlebutt, if you search for “shell interlocking” on railroad.net, is that it went from 15 for diverging moves to 45. Meh when it comes to how much time it takes a train to move through the interlocking. Not so meh when the train then has to slow down much less to go through the interlocking.

    I’m not in the mood to go rummaging around in the documents. The headliner in the 450 million they are spending between New York and Trenton is the speed upgrade between New Brunswick and Trenton. The bonus underneath that is the won’t be speed restrictions on hot days. 80 MPH all the way between NY and DC when it hits the high 90s. A lot of it is being sunk into changing all the switches west of the platforms in Manhattan from 15 MPH to 30 MPH. They’ll be able to squeeze in an extra train or two or make the trains longer or both. I also not in the mood to go count switches on the R.E.G. diagrams that are no longer online. Or the out of date ones that are online. There’s a lot of them. I suspect that 30 is the best that they can do without moving columns. So that will be in place when they straighten out Metchuen. Or tear down a few blocks in the Frankford neighborhood in Philadelphia. Or half of downtown Elizabeth.

  19. D. P. Lubic
    Sep 15th, 2013 at 22:00
    #19

    Some items of interest from “Destination: Freedom” (National Corridors Initiative newsletter):

    The TIGER Grant Success Story And The Need For Tax Reform

    Uncle Sam: Sugar Daddy?

    Thirty Years After the Railroad Left Town

    Auf Dem Holzweg! Is The American Railroad Industry About To Take Yet Another Wrong Turn?

    (This last one is about railroad interest in natural gas locomotives vs. a proper look at electrification. Another indictment of the faults of capitalism, or perhaps more properly, the limits of bankerism.)

    Read more here:

    http://www.nationalcorridors.org/df3/df09162013.shtml

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Off topic, but interesting for the insights into generational shifts.

    http://bonddad.blogspot.com/2013/09/a-thought-for-sunday-millenials-and.html

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/12/the-rise-of-the-new-new-left.html

  20. morris brown
    Sep 16th, 2013 at 08:23
    #20

    Robert wrote:

    Nonsense. Of course there is still a mandate to build the system. Californians did not throw out their legislators in November 2012 for approving the release of bond funds in July 2012, and the Legislature did so after the cost estimates increased. In no race last fall did HSR lead to the defeat of any legislator, despite efforts by Republicans to make it a campaign issue.

    I have been waiting for someone to pounce on this part of Robert’s statment.

    He is indeed correct, since he limited his statement to defeat of candidates in the Nov 2012 election.

    However to be fair, why didn’t he write about the very surprising victory of Andy Vidak (R) in this summer’s State Senate 16district over Letica Perez (D), in a very heavily Democrat majority district.

    Vidak made opposition to High Speed Rail a central theme in his campaign.

    See:

    http://www.newsmax.com/Politics/Vidak-California-GOP-lessons/2013/08/07/id/519136

    datacruncher Reply:

    Vidak won by only 3,084 votes out of 81,364 cast (29% voter turnout).
    http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/special-elections/2013-sd16/general-official-canvass.pdf

    He overwhelmingly carried his home area of Kings County (received 75% of Kings County votes), but he lost in both Fresno (Perez by 56%-44%) and Kern Counties (Perez 60%-Vidak 40%).

    Apparently “opposition to High Speed rail a central theme in his campaign” did not mean enough to carry Fresno and Kern Counties.

  21. Joe
    Sep 16th, 2013 at 10:17
    #21

    Senator Jerry Hill’s bill assured HSR would run along the Caltrain right of way.

    Jerry Hill represents Morris Brown and PAMPA NIMBYs.

    morris brown Reply:

    Senator Jerry Hill with his views, certainly does not represent Morris Brown… I resent your statement violently

    Joe Reply:

    He is your representative. He represents the majority view of people along the peninsula. They support high-speed rail. Thank you Jerry Hill.

    I think your views are clearly a minority opinion. Very similar to the minority party opposition in the central valley.

    Opponents fight high-speed rail in the court room not at the polls.

  22. morris brown
    Sep 16th, 2013 at 14:32
    #22

    For those following the Legal Case (#34-2011-00113919 Sacramento Superior Court), of
    Tos. Et Al vs. the CHSRA, three documents were filed by the plaintiffs with the court today.

    You can view these documents on Scribd.com

    Links:

    Opening brief…
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/168693812/Plaintiffs-Opening-B

    [Proposed remedies]

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/168695713/Proposed-Order-o

    Request of supplemental Judicial Notice.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/168697232/Supplemental-Req

    StevieB Reply:

    September 16, 2013 is the last day for plaintiffs to file opening brief. We can expect no action until defendants opposition brief is due October 11, 2013. The hearing is scheduled for November 8, 2013 which should be just after the EIR for Bakersfield to Palmdale is to be presented to the Authority for approval.

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