Saturday Open Thread

Sep 28th, 2013 | Posted by

I’m in Vancouver, British Columbia this weekend for a personal trip, and regular posts will resume on Monday. So feel free to use this as an open thread to discuss anything HSR related.

I took the Amtrak Cascades up here, which was a great way to get to Vancouver. Unfortunately, aside from SkyTrain, BC’s passenger rail infrastructure leaves much to be desired. It takes over an hour to make the short trip from the border to Pacific Central Station, largely due to slow orders through older sections of track. I believe that the twice-daily Cascades trips from Seattle to Vancouver are the only passenger trains that use those particular tracks in the Lower Mainland, though some of the final miles of track are used by VIA’s intercity trains headed westward. Traveling by train was still worth it, as the 5-minute wait to clear customs at Pacific Central Station was much faster than it would take to get through the border station when entering by car or bus at the Peace Arch.

As part of the development of a North American high speed rail network, it would be great to see the US and Canadian federal governments collaborate on the upgrading of major cross-border routes to serve high speed trains, such as Seattle-Vancouver, Twin Cities-Winnipeg, Detroit-Windsor, NYC-Buffalo-Toronto, and NYC-Montreal. But that will probably require different parties to have a majority in the House of Representatives and the House of Commons.

  1. morris brown
    Sep 28th, 2013 at 09:26
  2. morris brown
    Sep 28th, 2013 at 09:36

    LA Times: 52% want bullet train stopped, poll finds

    California voters are showing signs of buyer’s remorse over the $68-billion bullet train project, poll finds

    A majority of voters want the California bullet train project stopped and consider it a waste of money, even as state political leaders have struggled to bolster public support and make key compromises to satisfy critics, a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found.


    Eric M Reply:

    Who cares, it’s a poll, not election results.

    synonymouse Reply:

    That 70% want it placed back on the ballot is significant, tho. The courts do read the newspaper.

    A huge amount of money spent on voter brainwashing would certainly change the figures, but then with blood in the water the right could be motivated to come up with some serious cash to match PB, Tutor and the unions.

    Musk has been very helpful in a subtle and different sort of way pissing on PB’s stupid scheme. He as been receiving positive feedback from outsiders running simulations on his vactube tech. It is poetic justice that crooked PB is getting “Buck Rogered” by Musk, just as PB-antecedent Bechtel used the same futuristic bullshit to peddle BART in 1962.

    Eric M Reply:

    1500 people were surveyed. A tiny fraction of the voting public.

    Joey Reply:

    If it was actually a random sample that doesn’t matter.

    Joey Reply:

    Not that I support recalling HSR but that’s just the way statistics works – a small sample will represent the whole population very well if there is no bias in choosing that sample.

    Jerry Reply:

    How knowledgeable of transportation issues was the sample??

    joe Reply:

    But that’s not “statistics”. There has to be thought i.e. bias in choosing the sample for the poll or it’s Mish-mash. Polls vary greatly and it’s not due to different math. That’s the unambiguous part.

    Eric M used a key term “voting public”.

    Another question is WTF is the poll and who’s paying?

    We have no ballot initiative so it’s not to forecast an election result. LATimes is hostile to HSR by accounting for articles so why would the notoriously conservative Tribune Company poll a favorable result?

    Joe Reply:

    Oh my.
    This is just a poll but it clearly indicates a sizable majority believe in HSR system benefits and it’s increased in popularity over the last poll.

    The results include some good news for the project. A 61% majority said the bullet train would help reduce traffic on highways and at airports, and 65% said it would create jobs. And by one measure, public opposition appeared more pointed last year. At that time, 59% of poll respondents said they would vote against high-speed rail if it were on the ballot, though they were not asked whether the project should be stopped.

    Eric M Reply:

    As stated to synonymouse, 1500 people were surveyed. A tiny fraction of the voting public.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yeah, I think the general negativity toward CAHSR as currently iterated is greater than reported in this survey.

    VBobier Reply:

    Making mountain out of an actual molehill, raise the millions to put HSR on the ballot why don’t ya? Put up or shut up and get out of the way or we’re coming right through you…

    VBobier Reply:

    Besides Syno, you and whose army is going to stop HSR in CA???

    synonymouse Reply:

    Well, who knows yet what may obtain. I was certainly surprised any California judge would man up to contrary the patronage machine.

    But then a 70% majority(maybe more)wanting a re-vote could work to insulate a judge against retaliation from Brown or Pelosi.

    So there is the extreme longshot that the Judge could rule the current scheme is out of compliance with Prop 1A to the degree you either have to change the plan or get new approval. If the Legislature does not have the authority to gut Prop 1A what other recourse would they have other than back to the ballot?

    PB is certainly going to have to answer for 30 miles of tunnel on the DogLeg, more than for a much shorter, faster, and cheaper to operate base tunnel route. Where does it say in Prop 1A you have to throw money away?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Why are the Cheerleaders so afraid of a re-vote when PB, Tutor and the unions will pour millions into a propaganda campaign?

    But they will have a helluva time pimping $5+ billion extra for detouring to Palmdale and making CAHSR unprofitable in the process.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It’s too early for a re-vote. We have to waste a few billion on nowhereville construction to force people into voting to continue in order to avoid wasting what has already been spent. Anybody know what were the actual questions in the poll?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The poll questions are in the LA Times article linked to in the head of this thread.,5976597,474774.story

    synonymouse Reply:

    Good point, Paul

    But it would seem the international railway suppliers are not real excited about “nowhereville construction” and, perhaps more importantly, the addled mindset behind such questionable schemes. At least in Brasil:

    “Then for the third time, Brazil had to postpone an auction of rights to build a 420-km (260-mile) high-speed train line linking Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Only one consortium showed up to bid for the 38-billion-real megaproject.”

    Oh, but how dumb of me. Only one consortium for CAHSR, PB-Tutor-Bombardier, would make Jerry’s day.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Besides spending more billions on continuing nowhereville construction does not indeed “avoid wasting what has already been spent.”

    You are just doubling down on a losing hand.

    Nathanael Reply:

    See downthread for the poll questions, Paul: it was a push poll (with some actual lies) designed to get answers opposed to HSR. Results are surprisingly positive for HSR considering the text of the poll.

    joe Reply:

    “The margin of error in the poll was 2.9 percentage points.”

    Oppose = 52% +/- 2.9%

    Are the results within the margin of error for the poll?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    From the comments:

    The taxpayers bail out the banks 85 billion per month. The total cost of the HSR is less than one month of bailouts to the largest Wall Street and City of London Banksters. We found out this week that the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States, a privately owned bank, now receiving public taxpayer funding, happened to misplace 9 trillion dollars since 2008 (conveniently not reported in the pro-Wall Street rag, the LAT). This “shortfall” has to be made up somewhere.
    It was found this week, that Jamie Dimon’s JP MOrgan/Chase Bank defrauded over 11 billion of TARP funds, 1/6th of the total cost of the HSR. This, too, was convienently not reported in the pro-Wall Street biased LAT.

    While the Wall Street fraud machine is the recipient of trillions in taxpayer bailouts, the people demand a more austere government. If we stopped bailing out Wall Street and teh City of London crooks, maybe we would have funding for projects such as the HSR!

    I wonder how many Americans want the bailout for the too big too fails stopped. The HSR serves a purpose. The bankster bailouts do not. And, yet what is the top story in the LAT–

    My own comment–We will need this sooner or later. We can’t go on with cars and planes like we have.

    The liars are taking their toll; nobody mentions that the $68 billion is in “year of expenditure” dollars, with what some here have argued is an excessively conservative inflation estimate. No one mentions what the alternatives might be if we don’t change our lifestyle from what we’ve been doing since Eisenhower’s time.

    Others don’t like what they call a “dogleg” to serve certain parts of California, claiming that decision was more political than technical. That may be true, and they even have an excellent case, but I would argue that this railroad will still be enough of an improvement that it will run with plenty of passengers, it should make money, and the doubters will be among the most enthusiastic riders when the day comes. The big thing is to get this railroad moving.

    I seem to recall there was a proposal to build a new railroad back in the late 1970s; the arguments for it then are the same ones we hear now, only stronger. It’s taken us over 30 years to get over that last setback. Do we want to wait another 30 years to start again? Can we afford to wait another 30 years to start again?

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ D.P.

    There is woefully inadequate ridership demand for this derivatived project. It is a hopeless dumbdown and ridiculously expensive. 30 miles of tunnel on a detour? It just cries subsidy ad nauseum.

    Musk does have a point. The public was promised at least middling Buck Rogers – what they’re getting is a retrograde 19th century route highly biased towards an eastern connection at Mojave. Utter nonsense and incompetence.

    Base tunnel.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    OOO I see someone has changed the algorithm for word salad.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    How would the ridership go down? The mandated maximum time is, what, 2:40? That is supposed to be the same, straight line or “dogleg.” This doesn’t necessarily mean the dogleg is good, just that it would have no effect on ridership. On the other hand, the dogleg does go to where some more people are, and that could boost ridership.

    Biggest downsides: longer route means more to build and maintain (and pay for), and more challenging operation. Neither is a minor consideration, as demonstrated by you and especially Clem. Against this, could the line have been built at all, politically, without serving the valley?

    Musk’s hyperloop doesn’t impress me at all. Although Musk fans point out that the technology, such as air cushions and linear motors and the like are all proven, they are not proven in this combination at these speeds. When you go that fast, even well below that fast, really small details can loom unexpectedly large. What happens when–not if–one of those pods kisses the wall of the tube at that speed? I don’t imagine it being some terrible crash as some would suggest, but you might find the scuffing and scraping rather surprising, possibly enough to at least take the pod out of service. Means you have to pay some attention to materials that can stand some abuse like that. Even worse, depending on how the linear motors are configured, what happens if your pod is slightly out of alignment, enough to hit some part of the motor that might project into the tube? Alternately, do you have a motor that is essentially part of the tupe wall, and how do you make sure the pod, which apparently doesn’t have much to prevent twist or rotation at least to a small degree, will properly line up with the motor? What happens if the pod and motor aren’t in perfect alignment? And again, what would be the consequences, in terms of strains and things, from not hitting the motor on the nose? Then there’s that really low vacuum in the tube. How much is it going to cost to take that down and maintain it? I’m not talking about just the air pumps, but the seals and joints, and this system will have a lot of them.

    Worst part of it is the surprising lack of capacity. This will cost a good deal more than Musk thinks it will, yet even with the rapid, short headways of the pods, this system will not handle the number of people per hour, terminal to terminal, that the train can, and that’s even at the lower speeds the train will run at. In addition, the pods are rather small (it’s like you would be in a windowless car for half an hour or so), in which you couldn’t read or work or anything–or even get to a restroom, should some real call to nature occur.

    Although Musk certainly did a really good amount of homework on this, I can’t help but think he went a bit too far. Those sketches and proposals of his may look pretty, but they are no substitute for the detailed engineering and testing that will have to be done, not to mention the cost of said engineering and testing. And like I said, those details can be and are important.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “Although Musk certainly did a really good amount of homework on this, I can’t help but think he went a bit too far”-in terms of pushing the envelope. In other words, he needs to do more homework to actually check out the technology and make sure it will actually work, especially at the speeds involved.

    Oh, if only we had an edit function. . .

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, actually the dogleg is 13 minutes slower. Any service capable of doing LA-Palmdale-SF in 2:40 (which is almost impossible given ROW constraints on the Peninsula) is capable of doing LA-Tejon-SF in 2:27.

    And Musk didn’t do any homework on thermal expansion, or on how much it actually costs to build viaducts in 2013, or on safety margins, or on passenger comfort limits. (Have you seen the proposed lateral acceleration levels? The perceived lateral acceleration by passengers, after full canting, would be about 5 m/s^2; on conventional rail the limit is 1.5 minus an extra margin to account for soft suspension).

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Thanks for the corrections, particularly in regard to Musk.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I may have missed it, Alon, but out of curiosity, what’s your take on some of the other points?

    Some specific examples:

    The dogleg is a lot of extra miles and may add a 13 minute penalty, as noted. Would those 13 minutes be a deal-breaker for through passengers, as Syn and Richard M. believe? Would this potential loss of through patronage be made up by the patronage of the intermediate towns?

    And politically, could this railroad have been built at all without the support of those other towns, even if it were some 30 miles shorter and could make the shorter time you say is possible?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s not a deal-breaker – it has a marginal effect on ridership both for LA-SF (since it’s only 13 minutes) and for Palmdale (which is a very small market, so its elimination has a small effect). In the ridership and revenue analysis the dogleg works out to a revenue loss of about $100 million a year, out of several billions.

    “Those other towns” in question is just Antelope Valley. That’s why I distinguish between using Tejon, which I support, and using I-5, which I think is insane. Fresno and Bakersfield are much bigger, have more independent economic existence (which contributes to spread-out intercity travel rather than peaky commuter travel), and require minimal loss of LA-SF speed if one is willing to compromise on the Bakersfield station location.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Thanks again.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How much of the construction costs and maintenance gets spread around with the passengers going to and from Las Vegas if the route is via Palmdale? How much of it it shared with them via Tejon? Which route is more useful in 2050 when there are capacity restraints through Los Angeles and passengers can be routed around LA by building across Cajon? How much extra ridership does that bring them because San Diegans get to every place not Los Angeles faster and vice versa?

    synonymouse Reply:

    A real base tunnel would do better than 13 minutes. And it might take a 20+ mile one to get past the Ranch’s embargo. Jerry is that impotent and passive when it comes to the Mountain Village. You should be able to get minimal curvature and 1% gradient so perhaps sustained 150mph throughout. No one has yet definitively killed my idea for daylighting the slip galleries at the San Andreas and Garlock faults. You could have 6 tbm’s going at the same time.

    PB is assuming a continual boom-bubble providing the traffic for DogLegRail. I suggest profound economic downtown and almost certainly never-ending wars in the Middle East just as likely. Split the difference and you have treading water, slow-motion stagflation. The State will have to auction off the DogLeg. Who wants to purchase it?

    synonymouse Reply:

    actually 12 tbm’s for two separate parallel bores.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Clem’s proposal in fact assumes HSR can do ~150 mph both uphill and downhill on sustained grades of 3%.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m sure real base tunnel will cure acne. make your coffee less bitter and whiten whites better than bleach can too.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Alon

    I did not pick up on that. I was under the impression you had to limit the top speed because of the “runaway train” syndrome on a gradient that steep. You know, a Murphy’s Law total braking systems failure.

    Alon Levy Reply:


    Yes, you have to limit speed on a downgrade. Hence, 150 mph rather than 220.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Trackage in California maintained to the level of perfection required for 220mph?

    By the 13 undocumented no-show gang? Government union guys? Maybe a private operation. This is not Switzerland nor Japan. Locked and loaded to go on strike or drop a dime. BART’s maintenance crews have been refusing to work ot. $100k is not enough for them.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Those undocumented no-shows maintain track in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for 150 mph, with much higher axle load limits. (And the native-born citizen no-shows who strike every other day in France maintain track to 200 mph.) Relative to the cost of everything else in HSR operations, track maintenance is small change.

    jonathan Reply:

    To Synon, it doesn’t matter whether it’s small-change or not. Unions are Evil; they help pay for the Nancy-Pelosi mindray machines.

    Synon, do you have any *facts* behind the “13 undocumented no-shows” yet?

    Judge Moonbox Reply:

    I know the advantage of a real base tunnel. I had been under the impression that it was out of the question since you’d be drilling through the San Andreas Fault Zone. Even if the engineering challenge wasn’t that big a problem, the marketing would be a serious challenge.

    Do you have statistics on the seismic risk involved? (And also for the Tehachapi Fault Zone?) Also, what are the estimated costs of tunneling alone for the two alternatives?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Real base tunnels are usually much better than unreal base tunnels.
    I’m Synomouse has all the numbers easily available since he claims quite often that it’s cheaper.

    Joey Reply:

    Judge Moonbox: I don’t know why synonymouse is so obsessed with base tunneling. There exists a Tejon alignment which has a maximum tunnel length of 6.3 miles and crosses the faults at-grade.

    If you look at Clem’s presentation, you will see that his alignment has 27 miles of tunnel with the longest being 6.3 (as mentioned). The Tehachapi alignment has 37.3 miles of tunnel with the longest being 7 miles. A lot of this was added after Soledad Canyon was deemed impossible in favor of SR-14. The Tehachapi alignment actually crosses faults below grade now, which is problematic.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I am plumping the base tunnel idea because my intuition is the Ranch is too powerful, especially when it comes to elderly politicians who have lost their mojo and their acumen.

    If the happiest place on earth is indeed involved you are going to have to tunnel under them. Curiously I had a fascinating conversation this very evening over pizza with a bright young man who used to work for the Kingdom in Fla. Apparently their tricks and tactics are brilliant, manifold, and nothing short of ruthless to the point they have practically carved out their own State in that part of Florida.

    That order of raw political power overwhelms logic and cost-benefit ratios. So imho it’s back to the Quantm drawing board. Only this time allow 37.3 miles of tunnel to pass beneath Barry Zoeller’s feet.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Dziękuję Nie rozumiem. Mówię po angielsku. Powtórz to. In English this time?

    Joey Reply:

    It is suspicious that the CHSRA went so far out of the way to avoid touching the property with no questions asked, but given that the value of the property is so trivial in the context of HSR, and the fact that so little of it would be affected, I’m skeptical that there’s no solution.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Myślę, że oznacza to, że Disney jest zaangażowany w Tejón.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “the value of the property is so trivial in the context of HSR, and the fact that so little of it would be affected”

    Quite so, but the value and upshot of your observations is pointedly and continuously lost upon those in authority. And you have to know PB has been keeping a running tally on the utter failure of value engineering to take root on the DogLeg. The amount of tunneling and the costs should be eye-opening but Jerry remains comatose.

    Why? For one spending on stuff(WillieBridge for instance)is so bloated the public is punchy and Jerry thinks he could quote $20bil Bako-Palmdale and the public would swallow it whole. Secondly somebody with enormous political clout opposes Tejon. I doubt either Palmdale or Sta. Clarita is that intractable. My gut says the Ranch is much more than it seems and when they say it is non-negotiable they have Brown & Co. paralyzed.

    To get this thing reset you need shock and awe. Musk grasped that and started the process. Now is the time to demand PB run a real base tunnel thru the Quantm software incorporating both the 37 miles comparative figure and incorporating in stated detail the Ranch’s demands of nolo tangere.

    synonymouse Reply:

    In other word the CHSRA needs to outreach to the Tejon Ranch and inquire politely but officially how much tunneling would be required at Tejon to secure the Ranch’s endorsement.

    If I remember correctly the Ranch would have to surrender some property via eminent domain with the DogLeg. Tejon could be utterly invisible and painless.

    Eric Reply:

    Interesting that while SCNF supported I-5, you (Alon) think it’s inferior to Fresno, but “insane”.

    Eric Reply:

    … think it’s NOT ONLY inferior to Fresno, but “insane”.

    swing hanger Reply:

    You have to remember that SNCF made sure the study supported their model of high speed rail service, which, while successful, is not the only model.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    My understanding is that SNCF supported a west-of-99 alignment but then because of obstacles put in the path by PB requirements, it was forced to choose between I-5 and existing ROW.

    Michael Reply:

    Place people in a windowless tube, two abreast. No way to get up for the 35 minute run, LA-SF. Subject them to roller-coaster’ish G forces.

    I am not qualified to discuss the physics of the tube, but they need to see if actual humans can withstand the ride. Motion sickness. Need to use the restroom. Whatever the temperature inside might be. Once that’s answered, they can go on to the life safety questions. It’s always the passengers that F* over the engineers’ best designs.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Musk’s real contribution to the hsr debate is in the route identification and the correct observation that the PB-CHSRA scheme has been radically downgraded to regional commute rail.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes, it’s awful the way the trains between Paris and London stop in Lille.
    Or the ones between Tokyo and Osaka stop in Yokohama, Nagoya and Kyoto.
    Or the ones between New York and Washington DC stop in Philadelphia and Baltimore.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Philly is hardly Mojave.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow. It will shock you to know I am not worried.

    Travis D Reply:

    Yay Morris. You’ve proved that 52% of the public are stupid. Way to go.

    If you find a poll showing 52% of voters want all men named Calvin publicly executed will you be calling for that too?

  3. agb5
    Sep 28th, 2013 at 12:15

    White House officially declines a petition to “Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016”, estimated to cost $850,000,000,000,000,000, despite the fact that it would spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more.

  4. agb5
    Sep 28th, 2013 at 13:01
  5. Joey
    Sep 28th, 2013 at 13:07

    O/T it’s a cold day in hell – CalTrain is actually considering level boarding. Still no sign of compatibility with HSR though.

    joe Reply:

    Caltrain plans for boarding south of SJ:

    SJ to Gilroy TBD


    I think Caltrain is planning (or by negligence) to eventually cede or lose non-electric South County service to CC. They’ve been very non-responsive to Monterey Co and South Co residents. Now there’s a plan for competing and complementary service. Santa Clara VTA is spending 18M to help out.

    In 2018 the CC will run ~ 3 trains from Salinas to Gilroy, Morgan Hill and on to San Jose. Later the expectation is to expand to 6 trains – determined by demand. The plan is to run both three Caltrain and three CC to San Jose – probably leave Caltrain local with stops at San Martin and Capital and Blossom Hill.

    The newspaper reports that after $135M investments are made, Gilroy/Morgan Hill to San Jose service on the same UP track would be ~30 minutes quicker than today’s 51 minute trip with five stops. I think that’s too large a time savings and is either a misquote or error. If this service had a 30 or more realistically 20 minute time advantage over today’s service, they’d eat Caltrain’s lunch.

    Joey Reply:

    Probably for the best anyway. Trying to satisfy the needs of Gilroy-SJ and SJ-SF with the same service is inherently problematic.

    joe Reply:

    For Caltrain – probable it would be problematic. The service is less interested in the region while CC see this region an extension of their core service and a way to access and service Monterey Co. along a commute and Highway corridor (one they are expanding)

    Caltrain could have added Monterey Co to it’s client list and that might help them raise money for track improvements, increase service quality and ridership. It just wasn’t in their core plan.

    Joey Reply:

    Regardless of who operates it, service south of SJ should be separate.

    Domayv Reply:

    So caltrain will truncate to tamien and let Capitol Corridor take over services south. How about if there is a separate Amtrak commuter service from San Jose to Salinas.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Service on the SJ-Gilroy line is likely to be better operated if it’s in the hands of an operator (Capitol Corridor) who already has to deal with UP dispatchers. This is all stupidity due to the fact that the US never nationalized the railroad tracks the way the UK did — but here we are, and we’re stuck with it for now.

    If the Capitol Corridor can actually get extended from Gilroy further, to connect with the long-suggested light-rail to Monterrey itself, that would be even better. Capitol Corridor seems to be the only service which UP is friendly with, so this might be a possibility.

    Michael Reply:

    Riders south of Diridon will be better served by Capitol Corridor trains. They will (hopefully) have a cross-platform transfer at Diridon to Caltrain and a straight connection to VTA rail and shuttles at Great America. They’ll also have a cafe car and a better ride than the Caltrain gallery cars. Most SJ-Gilroy riders are off by Mountain View anyway, so they’re probably headed to areas as accessible from Great America station. Assume that the service will also be seven days a week.

    Reedman Reply:

    A reminder that starting next year, the 49ers will be playing football in Santa Clara. Great America station is a short walk away from the new stadium, as is VTA Light Rail. BART is not going to be running to Warm Springs by 2014, much less to Berryessa (which would provide a link to Light Rail in Milpitas). Haven’t heard anything about any special train service planned for the games.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Great America Amtrak station is horribly situated with regards to VTA light rail, and it’s even money as to the VTA running trains on that line at more than 30 minute intervals (the normal schedule)

    Clem Reply:

    This is a great opportunity for Caltrain.

    jonathan Reply:

    Clem: Nope. read the slides: “Dedicated tenant platforms”. (not only ACE and CC, but implictly HSR too).

    Joey Reply:

    Separating the less-reliable services to their own platforms isn’t a bad idea. The issue of CalTrain-HSR compatibility still remains to be solved, of course.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Caltrain is proposing level boarding at 25 inch height?

    Insane. 18″ (Amtrak western) or 48″ (Amtrak eastern & Denver commuter), fine. 550 mm (European standard) or 750 mm (Dutch standard) or 1100 mm (UK standard) or 1250 mm (Japanese standard), fine.

    25 inch? Nobody uses 25 inch platforms (==635 mm). Nobody. They’re designing their platform height around the *interior height* of the *existing railcars* which *have steps*. Seriously? WTF? Nobody builds 25 inch platforms. Why is Caltrain trying to create incompatiblity? It’s like BART all over again!

    Elizabeth Reply:

    This is presentation done by Caltrain consultants last year on topic of level boarding at APTA meeting

    Nathanael Reply:

    FWIW, the AREMA “standard” of four-foot clearance on either side of the train is bullshit invented by freight railroads for the purpose of trying to prevent passenger service. It has no value and should be ignored.

    Nathanael Reply:

    And it didn’t exist back when the Class Is ran passenger service. They invented it later. It really is for the purpose of preventing passenger service.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Of note: the idea of wider passenger cars (where there are clearances) is tolerable; that has its own value and the width of cars is less standard than you’d think.

    They give some nice examples of 23″ height systems installed in a number of places… which require special permission from the freight operator in any case, so they don’t really help with the AREMA nonsense….

    …and then they propose not a 23″ system but a 25″ system. Seriously, guys, seriously?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    ~635mm is a fine height.

    The slightly lower UIC standard (one of two!) 550mm platform isn’t far away from that, and it’s much much easier to make floors and entries a little higher (and to make car bodies a little taller) than it is to lower or shorten them.

    Any existing European low-platform level-boarding design can be rejiggered up from 550mm to 635mm with absolutely no effort at all. (And perhaps interestingly, it isn’t an impossible stretch to go from the other standard 760mm height down towards 635mm.)

    The western two-third (three quarters?) of North America is blessed with very generous freight rail loading gauges, which have carried through to the passenger lines. Being able to make floors slightly higher and being able to make car bodies significantly taller and somewhat wider makes design and manufacturing easier, not harder.

    The UIC 550mm standard isn’t what anybody would choose starting from a blank slate (no more than 1435mm would be the standard rail gauge if there weren’t centuries of legacy): in fact it has taken decades of clever engineering advances to get to the point of having a wide choice of level-boarding equipment with that floor height. A bit higher allows more design wiggle room and adds nothing to cost, as rail equipment is simply not rolled of Model T-like assembly lines by the tens of thousands of identical units in a fashion you seem to imagine it might be.

    Of all the many things to get torqued about, this isn’t one.

    Nathanael Reply:

    As usual, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Please look up “standardization” and why it’s valuable. Certainly 1435 mm is not an ideal track gauge, but the point is that it is STANDARD GAUGE. Picking something nobody else is using IS the BART mistake.

    You really don’t understand jack about railroading, do you?

    Nathanael Reply:

    “A bit higher allows more design wiggle room and adds nothing to cost,…”

    Wow. Complete fantasyland idiocy from Richard M. Total lack of understanding of anything practical.

    Please add up the cost of dual boarding height platforms *all over California* and possibly the *nation*, to account for the *incompatible* platform heights which Caltrain proposes to create.

    The chosen platform height doesn’t have to be the best standard. What it needs to be is *standard*. Reinventing the freaking wheel is the wrong way to go about it.

    Joey Reply:

    If CalTrain and HSR both adopt the same platform height it’s fine. Railcar manufacturers routinely adjust the exact dimensions and floor heights of the cars they produce, and it doesn’t really drive up cost much. Plus, we’re really a full generation of equipment from needing any actual high speed trains.

  6. Alon Levy
    Sep 28th, 2013 at 15:49

    Glad you had a good time with customs and immigration. A friend who visited last weekend took quite a while longer, almost an hour. I don’t know what the waits by car on I-5 are, but on Bolt it took perhaps 10 minutes to process everyone, the stupid part being that we had to take our luggage out of the bus, walk across the customs hall (where nobody checked any of it), and then throw it back into the bus.

    Although the intercity rail options here blow goats, the local options are quite good. Ride to Metrotown, which was a low-rise residential suburb 30 years ago, if you want to see what proper TOD can achieve. (Or Joyce, or Edmonds, or New West, or Surrey Central, etc.)

    joe Reply:

    Any idea if the line will be longer Oct 1 come a shutdown?

    The customs agents are Fed employees and while the US wouldn’t close a border, they can under staff it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s inbound customs and immigration on the Canadian side, staffed by Canadians.

    As for customs on the US side (generally the more difficult direction), I don’t know. One of the previous times the GOP threatened a shutdown, I think in the summer of 2011, the relevant government agency said it funds itself out of visa application fees and would remain open as usual. I don’t know if that’s just visas or also border control, though.

    Judge Moonbox Reply:

    A check on my Amtrak schedule (probably out of date, but indicative of the service) says that the Northbound train to Vancouver takes 1 hour and 48 minutes after leaving Bellingham WA. Southbound takes 2:05. I think that a lot of the difference is because the Canadian government inspects passports, etc, at the Pacific Central Station. While there is space for a preclearance inspection station like at major Canadian airports, the US Customs and Immigration Services doesn’t use it.

    I understand that there are clearance issues–in some places between Seattle and Vancouver, there isn’t room for double tracking; but if they can improve what they have, the Cascades should attract a lot more passengers. Maybe even they could run the Pacific Starlight to BC.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The aforementioned friend said that Amtrak had advised arriving at Pacific Central an hour before the train leaves, to leave time for customs and immigration. I’ve read that the trains just leave from a fenced off platform and there is preclearance nowadays. Perhaps the time difference is a matter of schedule padding in case immigration processing takes too long?

    Judge Moonbox Reply:

    Well, it was 18 years ago that I was in Vancouver. There was a Talgo train (Amtrak hadn’t decided to name the service the Cascade yet), but it was booked solid when I called for a reservation. Patronage levels were still a matter of conjecture. I recall reading, I can’t remember where, that US customs didn’t want to send agents to Pacific Central Station when there were so few passengers leaving for the States. I was under the impression that they would need more than 2 trains to consider setting up there.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    My understanding is that border control extorted Amtrak into paying it to stay at Pacific Central after hours for the second daily train.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Yes, they arrive and depart at a fenced platform. The Canada Border Security Agency has a customs clearance area just inside the station, and it moves pretty quickly. I’m taking the Bolt Bus back south, since the Cascades were sold out, so I’m not sure how long the actual preclearance process will take for US customs headed south at the station.

    Judge Moonbox Reply:

    I remember my bus ride back from Vancouver. The bus driver said that there was always one passenger who got a thorough going-over at the border, and that an experienced driver can tell who it’s going to be. When the last passenger finally cleared, we saw that he had pants that were worn out at the seat.

  7. Alon Levy
    Sep 28th, 2013 at 16:08

    Also, Twin Cities-Winnipeg is my canonical example of a route where HSR could capture 100% of the market and still be a bad investment. Perhaps if Winnipeg were five times bigger it would be worth discussing.

    But the others can be promising. Seattle-Vancouver could get reasonable ridership, although the topography is gnarly and I don’t see any way it can be done without a fair amount of tunneling. New York-Toronto could be very successful, piggybacking on New York-Buffalo to provide 850 km of revenue per passenger with 160 km of new construction. New York-Montreal is overrated – different languages, an annoying choice between involving Vermont in the project and tunneling through the Adirondacks – but could potentially succeed, on a multi-decade horizon. Chicago-Toronto is basically a piggyback project on the US side because Detroit, and on the Canadian side is a marginal project that becomes viable when you include both domestic Toronto-Windsor traffic and international traffic to Detroit and Chicago.

    Marc Reply:

    I took the Shinkansen from Osaka to Hakata (Fukuoka) mid-day a few weeks ago. Not exactly a major route (like Osaka to Tokyo), but the train was packed with both people traveling on business and families on vacation, and they run every 15 minutes or so through the day. What struck me is that a major portion (close to half) of the route required tunneling. What are we doing wrong?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Japan has unusually low HSR tunneling costs. Not sure about the Sanyo Shinkansen (at any rate, that’s ancient history by now), but the Shin-Aomori extension of the Tohoku Shinkansen was $55 million per km and half in tunnel.

    The explanation is that the Tokaido Shinkansen tunnels have very small diameter by HSR standards because they were built for 210 km/h operation and the older ones were built during WW2 for 150 km/h operation. A double-track tunnel on the Shinkansen has slightly larger diameter than each single-track tunnel in a twin bore on European HSR lines. To avoid tunnel boom and reduce air resistance in narrow tunnels, the Shinkansen trains have very long noses and much better pressurization than European HSR trains; this allows Japan to persist in building narrow tunnels now that the target speed is 300-360 km/h, reducing construction costs.

    California is planning on using European tunnel specs rather than Japanese ones. I believe this is probably the right decision, because to build narrower tunnels would lock California to Japanese rolling stock, and the lack of competition would raise procurement costs. In Japan it’s not a problem because the JRs own the rolling stock designs, so they’re vendor-locked to themselves; this would only be a problem if they lacked local expertise to build trains and needed European input, but they in fact have decades of experience as well as a huge internal market.

    (By the way, one part of the US where I believe Japanese tunnel diameters are a good idea is the Pennsylvania Appalachians. This is for two reasons. First, the NEC needs the higher performance of Shinkansen anyway, even at the cost of more expensive rolling stock, which reduces the disadvantage of forcing the mountain tunnels to only host Shinkansen. And second, the tunnels are perhaps a quarter of the total Harrisburg-Pittsburgh route length, whereas California HSR is, if memory serves, 10% in tunnel; when the tunnels are longer, the cost advantage of reducing tunnel construction costs grows.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Perhaps if Winnipeg were five times bigger it would be worth discussing.

    Probably not. It’s flat, the land is cheap… but one of the reasons it’s cheap is because there’s a whole lot of nothing between Minneapolis and Winnipeg. Google says the road mileage is 450 miles/730 kilometers – roughly the same distance between NY and Boston or LA and SF.

    5 times bigger would be, to keep the following math simple, 3,650,000 in metro Winnipeg. One trip per year per person would be 10,000 a day. Throw in 5 more for the people who want to go to the enormous metro regions of Grand Forks and Fargo. While you are toying with population numbers consider that the total population of Minnesota and Manitoba could fit in New York City with the Bronx leftover. Or the total population of Manitoba would fit in Manhattan.

    It’s something to consider after the network connecting Minneapolis to San Antonio, Miami and Quebec City is completed.

    Eric Reply:

    Minneapolis to San Antonio (though Chicago, KC, Dallas) is a good idea, though very few people would take the entire route.

    blankslate Reply:

    New York to Boston is about 200 miles

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Boston-DC, In nice round numbers it’s 450 miles on the railroad and Manhattan is almost exactly in the middle.

    Domayv Reply:

    Here’s one way for a faster connection (from 142 to 74 miles) from Vancouver to Mount Vernon.,-122.717285&spn=1.921448,5.333862

  8. trentbridge
    Sep 28th, 2013 at 17:26

    I’m going to sound like an old vinyl LP but here’s what I believe – you elect people to office to lead and govern responsibly – using their own mental capacity. That should mean – making decisions that are for the best of the State/Nation regardless of the immediate political fallout. When you argue that private polling on every issue should dictate how a politician should vote then you have policy made by the rabble.

    Every advance in social justice – every move towards a fairer society – minimum wage, social security, seat-belt laws, anti-smoking laws, outlawing racial discrimination in housing, hiring, and education, allowing women and then eighteen year-olds to vote – all began as minority positions. To believe that everything should be embraced by the majority before it’s implemented is to condemn the citizens of the State or Nation to a “status quo” embraced by the same rabble-rousers who benefit from the preservation of their own self-interests.

    I don’t care if an uninformed majority – wants Obamacare repealed, or HSR stopped, or capital punishment continued – or the Government to stop borrowing and start paying down the national debt – they’re wrong. History will show that the United States needs healthcare reform, high speed rail, abolition of the death penalty and a Government that spends more than it takes in in revenues when the nation has such high unemployment.

    Ever wonder what the tenth dentist recommends when nine out of ten recommend one brand?

  9. J Tucker
    Sep 28th, 2013 at 19:05

    If I recall, there is a backup move and some hand throw switches to maneuver just outside the terminal in Vancouver, BC. An upgrade would surely be needed to handle more than 2 trains a day.

  10. joe
    Sep 28th, 2013 at 20:09

    Friday, Judge Kenny heard arguments over the validity of on Prop1A

    SACRAMENTO – California voters approved Proposition 1A, a $9.9 billion bond measure for high-speed rail, almost five years ago. On Friday, a cadre of attorneys argued over whether or not the state can now sell those bonds.

    On Friday, Kenny’s questions of attorneys suggested that he may be inclined to consider the bond validation case along rather narrow lines and distinguish between the validity of the bonds and the eventual use of the money.
    Stuart Flashman, who represents Tos, Fukuda and Kings County in their lawsuit, blasted the bond committee for its “slovenly” process to determine whether issuing bonds was “necessary or desirable” – a decision that he said should have been made based on some kind of evidence.
    Zook said that despite the misgivings of Flashman, Ross and other opponents’ attorneys, both the authority and the finance committee met their obligations under the law for the bonds to be validated.

    Read more here:

    Slovenly : synonyms: scruffy, untidy, messy, unkempt, ill-groomed, slatternly, disheveled, bedraggled, tousled, rumpled, frowzy;

    Wow. That’s really reaching.

  11. morris brown
    Sep 28th, 2013 at 21:32

    Bond Validation Hearing

    There here interested can listen to audio of the hearing held 9/27.2013. The first
    part of the hearing is now posted to YouTube in two parts.

    S. Zook opening (8 minutes) she represents the Authority (from AGs office)

    Flashman/Zook / Kenny

    About 50 minutes

  12. StevieB
    Sep 28th, 2013 at 22:54

    How a poll is worded matters to the result. The USC Dornsife/LA Times polls are worded to emphasize the difficulties CA High Speed Rail has had.

    USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times: September 18-24, 2013
    © 2013 Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, All Rights Reserved. September, 2013

    Q.37 Now for something a little different. As you may know, in 2008, California voters approved a ballot proposition to borrow 9 billion dollars to build a high-speed rail line connecting Southern
    California and the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2008, construction of the high-speed rail line
    has been delayed several times and has run into problems with funding and environmental
    clearances. Construction is now slated to begin in 2014. Meanwhile, whether the project should
    proceed is the subject of a court dispute.

    From what you know, do you believe this project should be allowed to go ahead, or do you believe it should be stopped?

    Total White Latino
    Go ahead STRONGLY………………………………………….. 32 29 34
    Go ahead NOT SO STRONGLY……………………………… 11 10 12
    Stopped NOT SO STRONGLY……………………………….. 10 10 11
    Stopped STRONGLY ………………………………………….. 42 46 35
    (Don’t know) ………………………………………………………5 5 7
    (Refused) ………………………………………………………… 0 0 0
    Total Go Ahead…………………………………………………..43 39 46
    Total Stop………………………………………………………….52 55 47

    StevieB Reply:

    Poll data set

    joe Reply:

    Hyperloop or HSR?

    According to its developers, a trip from Southern California to the San Francisco Bay Area using Hyperloop would take 30 minutes and would cost 20 dollars one way.

    The fastest trip from Southern California to the San Francisco Bay Area will take two hours and forty minutes and will cost one hundred and twenty three dollars one way.

    Poll shows Californians prefer Hyperloop over HSR.

    StevieB Reply:

    The poll also shows when given the choice between train, flying or driving from the southland to bay area the largest response to the following question was exceedingly train.

    Let me give you some more information. The fastest trip from Southern California to the San Francisco Bay Area will take two hours and forty minutes and will cost one hundred and twenty three dollars one way. If you were making this trip, which mode of transportation would you rather use — would you rather take the high-speed train, drive or fly?

    39% would take the high-speed train, 32% would fly, while only just over a quarter at 26% would rather drive.

    joe Reply:

    Indeed, the train option is popular.

    The opposition’s gimmick is to attack reality and favor a nonexistent, unspecific hypothetical HSR system.

    When the opposition is proposing HSR done right, you’re winning.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I prefer the transporter machines they use on Star Trek. But since I have a connection to reality, however tenuous, I prefer conventional HSR.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:


    Nathanael Reply:

    I would prefer the TARDIS, but again, I have a connection to reality, so I prefer HSR.

    Alon Levy has a comprehensive demolition of the “Hyperloop” nonsense on technical grounds over on his blog. Elon didn’t think it through and doesn’t understand civil engineering.

    Travis D Reply:

    Wow, talk about a loaded question. No wonder the poll showed what it did. How anyone could advertise that result as honest polling data is beyond me. Very shady.

    You might as well have a poll about abortion where you label OB/GYN’s as “mass baby murderer psycho doctors”.

  13. Derek
    Sep 29th, 2013 at 07:26

    The Squandered Potential of Train Station Parking Lots
    By Brad Aaron, 2013-09-25

    Providing ample amounts of parking around transit stations only makes sense if nobody wants to live near transit. But that’s just not the case. True, parking can help transit agencies attract riders, but not without substantial opportunity costs. In other words, dedicating vast amounts of land for parking near transit stations instead of housing and commercial space is literally paving over tremendous economic development potential.

    It’s unfortunate CAHSR is taking the “squander” approach.

    joe Reply:

    Maybe. It’s a major concern of mine.

    Gilroy’s plan for the downtown station shows a commitment to walkable development near the station, not parking. The plans (part of the envisioning project) replace one story malls with multi-story buildings including a hotel. Gilroy distributes smaller, multiple use parking around the city with larger long term parking lots located south of the city center distant enough to require buses to HSR.

    CAHSRA Contractors made a simplifying assumption for station location effects. People will drive. It helps with the modeling but if that model assumption is mistakenly used to drive design, then we’re in car parking hell.

    Now the CAHSRA can push the city to add parking for the estimated 6,600 cars they modeled when computing ridership. My guess is more people will be dropped off or use bus/taxi/shuttle by the time this station is built.

  14. D. P. Lubic
    Sep 29th, 2013 at 14:40

    Taking advantage of this being an open thread lets me post this.

    It’s both a tribute to railroads and railroad enthusiasts–but alas, it’s really a commercial for a video game.

    Oh well, at least it looks and sounds good. . .

  15. Brian_FL
    Sep 29th, 2013 at 17:40

    Very nice montage of trains from all over. Too bad the AAR can’t do something similar to promote railroads.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    Meant that in reply to D.P. Lubic. Darn this… Lol

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Oh, for an edit function. . .

    Too bad American roads in general don’t seem to be too good about promoting themselves. Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern seem to be a pair of exceptions, but the rest don’t seem to even know about TV ads, much less be willing to go further with things like a steam program (an exaggeration, I know, but that’s the impression, still).

    swing hanger Reply:

    Well, given that American freight RR’s probably won’t get much benefit from TV advertising (isn’t 50% or more of their total traffic coal or other bulk freight?- black diamonds or soybeans don’t watch TV), I doubt you’ll see anything from them, except the sundry ad on PBS or Sunday morning news program. Likely once All Aboard Florida gets setup, you’ll see TV advertisements from them, since they are looking to haul H. Sapiens from point A to B at a profit.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    One of the neat things about that ad is how “romantic” it is, and at the same time acknowledges that most people don’t pay attention to trains at all. Somehow that seems something that could be worked into something like your idea of an AAR ad series.

    Alternately, I wonder if one could do something with an ad about a “found generation.” This would be a play on various “lost” generations. In this case, the generation that is “found” is the railroad generation, one that know its destiny–or at least its destination–through a railroad timetable. Either David P. Morgan or Al Kalmbach of Trains magazine had a photo and essay on just that theme many years ago; combine that with the “unknown world” or “invisible world” theme of the video game ad and you could have a killer promotion for Amtrak or another passenger carrier.

    The only problem with such a campaign, if it were successful, is that it would be awfully hard to top it later!

  16. Andrew
    Sep 29th, 2013 at 18:09

    Winnipeg is too small and remote to connect by HSR, but the Vancouver-Eugene corridor would probably succeed, and Toronto would be an important component of sub-networks based in NY and Chicago:,-95.976562&spn=39.199537,79.013672

  17. Nathanael
    Sep 29th, 2013 at 20:52

    ” But that will probably require different parties to have a majority in the House of Representatives and the House of Commons.”

    And perhaps the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, in the case of the Vancouver train. (Luckily British Columbians — the contest there is between the Liberals and the NDP, with a Green MP. Both parties are “liberal” by US standards, but the Liberals are corrupt, as the BC Rail case showed.)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The BC Liberals aren’t the same as the federal Liberals. They’re a right-wing party, whose policy is to cut taxes, not spend any money on public transportation, and permit fracking in Native American reservations’ rivers. The people who vote for them usually don’t vote for the federal Liberals; they vote for Harper.

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