High Speed Rail’s Not Dead Yet

Nov 26th, 2013 | Posted by

As I read the reaction today to the recent ruling on California high speed rail, one thing kept coming to mind:

It’s quite fitting if you think about it. Someone insists something is dead. That thing isn’t actually dead. But rather than accept that reality, someone decides to kill the thing so that it fits their pre-existing belief.

That’s the situation we face now with California high speed rail. The current HSR project can continue forward exactly as planned, same route and everything, but it will likely need to find more non-federal funding. The HSR project’s critics want to see it as being dead either because they oppose HSR or because they don’t like this particular routing. Since the current HSR project remains very much alive, however, they’re going to have to work to kill it.

In comments on this blog as well as articles elsewhere, project critics are already calling for substantial changes. Some want an express train from SF to LA, bypassing all other cities along the way. Others want to revisit the now-ancient Altamont versus Pacheco debate. Still others want to revisit the Tejon versus Tehachapi debate. Peninsula NIMBYs in particular want that because they feel they’re closer than ever to their long-held goal of pushing bullet trains out of Menlo Park, Atherton, and Palo Alto. And of course there are those who just want HSR dead no matter what, whether because they oppose it outright or because they’d rather use the money to upgrade existing passenger trains.

It’s entirely possible that those settled questions could be reopened. But doing so will do nothing to address the issues Judge Kenny raised in yesterday’s rulings, because those issues have nothing whatsoever to do with the pet issues of the common HSR critics.

To understand that, we need to take a few steps back to see the whole picture.

The United States is facing a prolonged economic, environmental, and energy crisis. The crash of 2008 and the subsequent weak economy, with massive inequality and stagnant growth, took place because we had spent 30 years trying to ignore those crises.

Solving those crises requires our nation to begin building sustainable infrastructure powered by renewable electricity wherever possible as a substitute for anything powered by fossil fuels. Doing so is necessary if we are to avoid economic catastrophe as well as the devastation that a warming climate will cause.

In 2008 and 2009 it looked like we were going to step up as a country and address those crises. We got a little ways down that path. In California, some NIMBYs on the Peninsula and then in Kings County began pushing back and trying to throw up obstacles to stop the project.

But the biggest obstacle came in November 2010 when the Tea Party seized control of the US House of Representatives and promptly decided to halt all funding for any effort to address those crises. They’ve gone further, of course, working to defund the cornerstones of American civilization, from food stamps to national parks to airport operations.

The people in charge of the California HSR project in 2008 and 2009 made a reasonable decision at the time to plan on the availability of federal funds. The Democratic House and Senate were talking about $50 billion for high speed rail as part of a new transportation bill, and at least $1.5 billion a year as part of general appropriations. Both would have easily covered the expected federal contribution to California HSR over the course of 20 to 30 years.

Those funds are never going to be approved as long as Tea Party Republicans control the House. And it’s important to understand why. Those politicians aren’t upset at the specific details of this HSR project. They wouldn’t suddenly offer money if Altamont were chosen over Pacheco, or if the Central Valley cities were bypassed. No, they are deeply ideologically opposed to funding passenger rail, whether it’s high speed or not. Hell, some Tea Party members of Congress are talking about eliminating federal funding for transportation entirely.

So even if California were to suddenly decide to reopen the thorny yet settled questions of basic route alignment, it won’t do a thing to solve the underlying problem: how to backfill for the lost federal contribution. Of course, Democrats could retake the House in November 2014 and put an end to this uncertainty, but we should be prepared for the Tea Party to be in power until 2023 (when the post-2010 gerrymander is finally undone).

California will have to go its own way in developing HSR funding. I’ll talk more tomorrow about what that might look like. While some HSR critics may see that as an opportunity to revisit the core route questions, there’s plenty of reason to believe that’s unlikely.

First, the political considerations that have prevented a change in course so far will, if anything, only get stronger over time. If California has to fund it alone, Silicon Valley is going to become more important, and they are adamant that San José have a stop on the mainline. They, along with others in the Bay Area, also want to use HSR funds to electrify the entire Caltrain line, not just the line from SF to Redwood City. So that still makes an Altamont alignment unlikely.

Similarly, the San Joaquin Valley and the Antelope Valley are not going to go quietly. Those two regions have become the key swing regions in California politics. It is voters there who will determine whether Democrats have a 2/3 majority or not. That creates ongoing pressure in Sacramento to ensure that Fresno, Bakersfield, and Palmdale keep their stops.

Second, maximizing ridership will become even more important if federal funding can’t be relied upon in the future. That would make it extremely unlikely that bypassing the millions of people living along the Highway 99 corridor is going to be possible. Any private partner is going to be counting on those people as paying customers, and the State of California will be equally as interested in that. Palmdale has a weaker case here, but even then it will be an uphill battle to convince those who control the purse strings to abandon half a million residents.

Third, the NIMBY issues aren’t going away simply by moving the tracks. Residents along the Altamont corridor might well react negatively and demand that their legislators oppose a new route that puts bullet trains in their backyard. And as we saw in Kings County, it didn’t matter which side of Hanford the tracks went, farmers protested anyway.

Fourth, even if another government is willing to help pay for it, whether it’s Japan or China or France in the form of SNCF, they will insist on a state match, meaning the first three points remain operative.

It’s worth mentioning SNCF briefly, since this has come up in the comments. In 2012 it emerged that SNCF supposedly promised to fund California HSR but only if they followed an Altamont alignment and bypassed the San Joaquin Valley cities. It quickly emerged that this “offer” was not quite what it seemed and was riddled with fatal flaws, from a demand for an illegal revenue guarantee to the fact that Prop 1A specifically mentioned that the San Joaquin Valley cities had to be served, both rendering this supposed SNCF plan a clear violation of Prop 1A (which is apparently OK to violate if it suits one’s own route preference).

What Judge Kenny has said, after all, is that Prop 1A is the law and it has to be followed to the letter. I still disagree with his interpretation, but without a new vote of the people there won’t be a new alignment. And if and when there is a new vote of the people to authorize more funding, the political process that produces that measure is still subject to the four points I listed above, making it unlikely there will be any route changes.

It’s entirely normal for people who didn’t like this or that aspect of the current California HSR project to see Judge Kenny’s rulings as an opportunity to bash the project over the head and throw it on the wheelbarrow. But going back to the drawing board doesn’t solve the funding questions and doesn’t ameliorate the NIMBY opposition (it just means different NIMBYs will become opposed).

No, the only realistic and sensible path forward is to stick with the current HSR plan and figure out how to fund it. After all, it is a good plan. The Authority hasn’t failed through any fault of its own. If Congress had delivered funding Judge Kenny would likely not have made this ruling. The California HSR project’s ridership projections remain sound, its route choice is reasonable, and after all, it’s far along in the environmental review process. Scrapping it and starting over could mean another decade of planning before we get to this point again.

I’m not convinced we have that much time to waste. Our economic, energy, and environmental crises are continuing to get worse, as much as we try to ignore them. We need solutions to the actual challenges the HSR project now faces. Tomorrow, we’ll talk more about what those look like.

  1. Donk
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 21:21

    Robert sounds like Tariq Aziz

  2. Drunk Engineer
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 21:27

    The Dead Parrot Sketch is the more appropriate analogy.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I had a feeling someone was going to go there.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    The Holy Grail Black Knight sketch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKhEw7nD9C4

  3. John Nachtigall
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 21:27

    To argue that the authority is mangling this project well undercuts all the other arguments you make. How can they be managing the project well when they continue to propose a plan that makes no attempt to follow the law that authorizes the project.

    Funding for IOS…EIR for full IOS ….time requirements….no subsidy….it just keeps going

    All aspects of their plan fail to meet the law. That is not good project management. And hoping that the Feds will give them a ton of money is not management either. That is just passive crap. You could just as easily say it was not their fault that a bag of money did not fall from the sky because they prayed for it and ate their vegetables.

    The objective of any project manager is to successfully complete the project within the constraints imposed, In this case the law and a federal government that will not offer more money, Until they accept this reality they will continue to fail

  4. Tony D.
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 22:02

    I use to agree with you Robert… (damn I miss that feeling I had back in November 2008)

  5. Donk
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 22:04

    I agree with a point that Andy Chow made in the last thread: Once Arnold, Kopp, and Diridon got their hands on this project, there was no salvaging it. It wouldn’t have mattered if they had Steve Jobs come in and run the authority at that point – there were no creative ways to get them out of the mess that was created.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    As opposed to David Crane and Curt Pringle?

    The turning point that brought us here was the incompatible offices issue Elizabeth Alexis pounded on with Board members like Pringle and Richard Katz. Once the Board became junior grade appointees, it became way harder to craft a compromise that both North and South could accept that did not violate Prop 1a.

    With the current plan stuck in development hell in the Central Valley, now nothing stands in the way of a political Ragnarok in the Bay Area that wipes out some players and consolidates power into fewer hands. Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Excuse me, I meant to say this political Ragnarok would happen in both LA and the Bay Area. Can you tell the change I really want is the ability to edit your comments?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That didn’t matter. Pringle was on his way out once Jerry Brown became governor anyway. Most of the changes critics demand violate Prop 1A, and to revise Prop 1A you have to go through the political process I described in this post, which makes a different path highly unlikely.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    On the contrary, one of the time limits specified in 1A, LA-SF in 2:40, seems impossible if the plans from Bakersfield to LA go as planned. Nothing in 1A requires service to Palmdale.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Palmdale’s lawsuit claimed precisely the contrary, which the CHSRA should have defended against just as it should have backed up Van Ark.

    Anybody with an ear to the ground sense any trepidation coming from Palmdale? After all Van Ark only recommended a study, not a decided return to Tejon. So the current quiet study is at least at the same level of provocation of the Palmdale cabal. Are they threatening to sue again? I sure hope so. Bring it on!

    Ted Judah Reply:

    You don’t have to agree: a weaker Board that wasn’t able to represent the real players led to the use of Prop 1a money for bookend projects where there was no matching federal funds and thus the usable segment violated Prop 1a.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    I don’t think the path is such a big issue as to how the project is phased. Prop 1A essentially requires a long term external funding commitment that is impossible with a democratic government in this political environment. Basically according to 1A if you can’t prove you can build the entire thing then you cannot build a segment either, even though you need it to demonstrate viability and build interests.

    The last time a large rail system got built was BART in the late 1960s/1970s, more than 40 years ago. After that time, no other urban rail system in California were able to be built as once as a large scale as BART. LA, San Diego, Sacramento, and San Jose systems had to be planned and built in various phases over a long time span. Under Prop 1A, Kopp-era HSRA has promised and is required to deliver a much larger scale of BART. Even Dan Richard knows better, which has resulted in the 2011 business plan.

    The best way to get out of this log jam is to have some kind of legislative/ballot box solution to reflect that the Kopp approach doesn’t work and too allow a realistic project approach.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Just a heads up, Andy:

    The California State Legislature allowed BART to levy a half-cent sales tax in the three counties in 1969. That was used to float bonds which paid off the remaining construction debt.

    In 1976, Rod Diridon lobbied to have the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority levy the same tax. But it was San Diego’s MTS that pioneered the idea of using existing rail rights of way abandoned (I mean, um, sold) by the Southern Pacific for light rail. VTA and Sacramento Regional Transit followed the San Diego model and slowly but surely extended the reach of their systems out from the city core.

    But that’s precisely the issue you seem to be sidestepping here. How would you phase the project to not have it be seen to be largely a benefit to one county/region/city? Say what you want about BART, but the entire region owns it…not just SF. You can’t say that about the other mass transit systems in the State.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    BART was conceived primarily as a way to bring workers to and from Downtown SF. It is no different than all the other systems except that San Francisco is quite isolated. Oakland was in a good position because of its proximity to San Francisco and a historic transportation hub to the rest of the mainland.

    A way to phase high speed rail is to develop a slower dedicated (high speed rail ready) corridor and then upgrade the speed and frequency. The San Joaquin train is already running and can benefit from faster and more frequent service. It already goes to the Bay Area so the key link would be to the south toward LA.

    In the past 13 years, Caltrain didn’t extend its system for an single mile yet ridership was doubled mostly because of the improvements to speed up train service. Incremental improvement is pretty much the direction for the 2011 business plan, especially considering that voters don’t want to pay a lot up front and want to see some results early. Kopp believes in a big bang approach which clearly doesn’t work. So unless Kopp is able to sell his big bang approach to the communities, he’s not a high speed rail supporter if all he does is to become a concerned troll. Kopp had his chance and he fucked up HSR.

    Your story about BART is pretty similar to the new Bay Bridge east span. It was sold as a much cheaper project but the cost just got out of control. The state had raise tolls without voter approval to help fund it. Now it is complete and people like the new bridge just like they like BART. High speed rail may as well be the same case that eventually when it is completed people will fall in love with it, but unless we can start small we may never have enough momentum to go big.

    Alan Kandel Reply:

    High-speed rail cannot and should not be built incrementally – that is, using existing rights-of-way, offering given speeds and then having those speeds incrementally increased over time. Freight railroads, I suspect, do not want passenger trains operating on their lines with the rare exception of a Florida East Coast as it relates to the All Aboard Florida approach. That will forever be a 110-mph operation until such time that a dedicated set of passenger tracks is built – if ever built – in which case speeds could be upped considerably.

    High-speed rail, in order to be competitive, has to be pitched on the basis of being just that, true high-speed. Some systems utilize shared right-of-way, but certainly not for the length of the entire run.

    That’s my take

    Andy Chow Reply:

    You need to built HSR ROW that can be used by regular trains (operate at higher speed) until there are long enough tracks to have a system. It is like a freeway that can be incrementally upgraded from a two lane highway to four lane expressways and becoming a freeway with grade separations and on/off ramps. But even with only a segment of freeway built, vehicles can use it and benefit from it in the mean time.

    Most people in California has no experience with high speed rail. Yes, it ought to be competitive with airlines in the long run. But regardless of speed it will be new transportation mode and its usefulness will be evaluated independently. So if the choice is to tell people to wait 20 years to have an airline competitive HSR or wait 5 years to have faster than highway/bus train service (but with eventual goal of airline competitive HSR), I prefer the latter since you create an constituency right-a-way and would have less concerns about impacts of HSR which can impact further construction.

    Ted Judah Reply:


    Would you believe two years ago I proposed re-routing the San Joaquins to end in San Jose so that the State could build up ridership in anticipation of CAHSR between Silicon Valley and the Central Valley. I have my reasons as to why that hasn’t happened yet, but it is an “incremental improvement” that could be done.

    In defense of the “Big Bang Theory”, extending the San Joaquin to Burbank or Palmdale is not feasible and that is why a high speed rail option was pursued. Simply put, even if the State bought the Tehachapi Loop for its own needs exclusively, it would be way faster to send people on buses over the Tejon Pass that continue on trains south of Bakersfield. But if because of the grades involved, you have to do tunnels to expedite the trains on a faster route. The tunnels effectively require electric locomotives, which put you right back to square one. So even if you do incremental changes everywhere else, between Bakersfield and LA, you will need a major upgrade all at once.

    Back in the 1930s, there was talk of Southern California seceding because the Ridge Road that scaled the Tejon Pass was so difficult for cars. Ultimately the technological design of the interstates solved that problem but it’s why HSR is fait accompli too. No other technology will fit the bill, except maybe, the Hyperloop (as if….)

    Andy Chow Reply:

    The problem with the San Joaquin going to San Jose is the lack of efficient track connections between the lines in Central Valley and the Altamont Pass.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    My point is that a different approach to the project wouldn’t have solved these basic challenges. California is going to have to find a way to fund this without the feds, and the factors I described above still matter. I know that this is an opportunity for critics to say “I told you so! You should have done it my way!” but even if we had done it their way the outcome would likely have been the same.

    Travis D Reply:

    Everyone keeps talking about the project is screwed up or a mess. But I just don’t see it.

    Where is the mess?

    What is the screw up?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Multibillion dollar detours that decrease revenue, increase costs, and make the train take longer for starters.

    jimsf Reply:

    There aren’t detours. The project I voted for per prop1a was a system that showed a line connecting san francisco to san jose angeles (tow of the states largetst cities- via fresno and bakersfield in the valley where the majorityof futuregrowth will take place to the high desert la county …another high growth projected area to dowtown la. with a phase 2 that will connect sacramento the inland empire and san diego to the system.

    the end result being a staewide high speed rail network that connects all the mian regions together and puts the majority of californians within a couple hours of the majority ofother californians, with a single system and the greatest number of possible city pairs.

    that was what the voters passed. many of thovoters being from those areas served by that plan. which is why prop 1a passed.

    theres no need for a high speed rail system that serves the bay la travelers while skipping all the other city pairs because we already have planes thaty do that very well.

    the benefit of hsr is thatitcan get people to and from the intermediate points from other intermediate points and from the end points,

  6. adirondacker12800
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 22:26

    Hell, some Tea Party members of Congress are talking about eliminating federal funding for transportation entirely.

    But of course. Then when the Northeast and the Midwest find money on their own and build their own systems, whether ‘faster than driving” speed or full fat high speed they can all drool at it and proposed the National Interstate and National Defense Railways Act and get the people in the Midwest and Northeast to pay for their railroads in addition to their roads.

  7. Clem
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 22:30

    So even if California were to suddenly decide to reopen the thorny yet settled questions of basic route alignment, it won’t do a thing to solve the underlying problem: how to backfill for the lost federal contribution.

    This couldn’t be further from the truth. Absent a large federal contribution, you have no choice but to backfill by getting a large private contribution–as distasteful as this might be to the far-lefties among us. Re-opening the thorny questions of basic route alignment is absolutely unavoidable to obtain an eleven-figure amount of private funding. There is simply no other realistic option.

    The longer it takes them to realize this, the longer we won’t have HSR in California.

    joe Reply:

    ” Absent a large federal contribution, you have no choice but to backfill by getting a large private contribution–as distasteful as this might be to the far-lefties among”

    No foreign nation, corporation or individual will invest billions in a state backed project that is under attack by a major political party so destructive that they shut down the government and threaten to do so once again.

    Reopening the alignment — that’s going win over Kevin McCarthy.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    You and I fundamentally disagree here. A large private contribution will also require some level of state funding. And that triggers the political calculus I described above. Also, a large private contribution requires maximizing ridership, which means you can’t bypass the San Joaquin Valley cities. I do think that more private funding might make a Tejon alignment a bit more likely, though I do not yet see that option would provide enough cost savings to justify the political and ridership costs of bypassing Palmdale.

    Jon Reply:

    Regardless of private involvement, I think a switch to an I-5 routing between Bakersfield and LA is increasingly likely. Even before this ruling the signs were there in the monthly consultant reports.

    CAHSR need a plan for an IOS that has a realistic finding plan, is environmentally cleared, and complies with the Prop 1A requirements to serve the cities specified in the times specified and operate without a subsidy. This was always the case but has now been specifically called out in this most recent ruling.

    Cutting out Palmdale would substantially reduce capital costs, by roughly $5bn. Now that the funds for the entire IOS need to be identified before proceeding, a $5bn reduction in costs would make it easier to find enough money to cover the IOS.

    CAHSR determined that the increased ridership revenue from serving Palmdale is roughly equal to the increased operating costs from serving Palmdale, so cutting out Palmdale does not make the IOS less likely to operate at a subsidy.

    If provision was made for a future spur to Palmdale across the high desert, it could be argued that this alignment would comply with Prop 1A. At full build-out you’d technically still have a line going from Bakersfield to LA via Palmdale, and you’d still meet the time requirements.

    Politically, Palmdale would not like being on a branch off the mainline, but they would probably go with the compromise in order to get the project moving again. Better to be on a branch line than have no project at all.

    Environmental clearance would still be a major hurdle, but that will be the case regardless of routing.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The $5b in savings for Tejon depends on a LOT of things going right with the tunneling. It also depends on how big the hit to ridership and revenue is over time. But even if Tejon were chosen, it doesn’t solve the basic funding problems.

    Joey Reply:

    1) It’s looking now like the tunneling risk is higher with the San Gabriel crossing – lots of tunnels, long tunnels, faults crossed below grade, etc etc.

    2) Savings add up if you’re willing to let them happen. Switch the mountain crossing, eliminate the viaduct in San Jose and the tunnel in Millbrae, keep express trains out of CV downtowns, possibly see how much could be saved with SETEC and the Dumbarton crossing with geological knowledge from the recent water tunnels…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    All budgets depend on things going right with the tunneling; Tejon isn’t riskier than the Tehachapis are at this stage.

    As for the funding, the $5 billion savings matters a lot. The Republicans won’t spend a cent on it, but the state government and a future Democratic Congress might, but in both cases there’s a sharp limit coming from Democrats with other priorities than HSR. Tejon means an IOS requires about $6 billion in additional funding. Tehachapi means it requires about $11 billion. I think it’s very likely that the amount of funding a near-future Democratic Congress finds for HSR is in the middle, which means Tejon is the only option that gives California an IOS.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You are going to have to assuage Sta Clarita, but if they are seriously prepared to authorize up to 40 miles of tunnel on the DogLeg they allows for some extra tunneling on the Tejon route.

    Besides these capital improvements would occur on the direct north-south axis and shorten travel times. The benefit is not just cosmetic.

    Last time Palmdale reacted vociferously almost immediately. Are they aware of this study? I also assume that these “workshops” meant some outreach to the Tejon Mountain Village?

    synonymouse Reply:

    that allows

    synonymouse Reply:

    I don’t mean to harp, but this issue is important. If it is interpreted that Prop 1a mandates the DogLeg, Prop 1a has to go, IMHO.

    Clem Reply:

    It’s pretty unambiguous:

    2704.04(b)(3) the
    Legislature may appropriate funds described in paragraph (1) in the
    annual Budget Act, to be expended for any of the following high-speed
    train corridors:
    (A) Sacramento to Stockton to Fresno.
    (B) San Francisco Transbay Terminal to San Jose to Fresno.
    (C) Oakland to San Jose.
    (D) Fresno to Bakersfield to Palmdale to Los Angeles Union
    (E) Los Angeles Union Station to Riverside to San Diego.
    (F) Los Angeles Union Station to Anaheim to Irvine.
    (G) Merced to Stockton to Oakland and San Francisco via the
    Altamont Corridor.

    I see what they did there.

    Jon Reply:

    Does “Fresno to Bakersfield to Palmdale to Los Angeles Union Station” mean that it would be legal to build lines from Bakersfield, Palmdale and Los Angeles Union Station which meet in a wye near Lebec? Technically you could run a train from Bakersfield to Palmdale to Los Angeles Union Station by reversing it at Palmdale.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Note that in line G, they say “to” even though the proposed alternatives do not go from Merced to Oakland or SF via Stockton; there’s a wye.

    Moreover, again because line D mentions a segment that’s currently broken down in half (Fresno-Bako and Bako-LA), it’s also permissible to build the system without any wye, dropping Palmdale from the system, in the same way that it’s permissible to just not build the Altamont overlay.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    I think it’d be better to just scrap (by whatever means necessary) 1A by this point. Its a pretty horribly worded measure.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It may be unambiguous but there are implicit assumptions in that section and possible contradictions with other requirements.

    They mention the destinations and their order but not route in between. For instance Sacramento to Stockton to Fresno could go via the I-5 corridor missing Modesto. Fresno to Palmdale to LAUS could take off from Mojave to Las Vegas and then come back to Palmdale?

    It just cannot take more than 2:40. But what if the DogLeg cannot do 2:40 in any case or if the cost is so high it blows out the cost limits promised to the voters?

    I could see a compromise interpretation that says you can do both because you have to do both to satisfy all the provisos of Prop 1a. By both I mean you have to put some trains in Palmdale and you have to route thru Tejon and I-5 to meet the 2:40 guarantee.

    In other words you can do more than what’s included in Prop 1a in order to meet all the provisos so long as a judge does not rule it is too expensive.

    They should have let Palmdale suit continue – it might have led to Prop 1a being thrown out for being unworkable. I cannot think of a better or more legal term. Unconstitutionally vague?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Clem, do you think I-5 and Tejon thence to Palmdale thence to LAUS could conceivably meet the 2:40 either via Pacheco or Altamont?

    slackfarmer Reply:

    Why not an IOS of Sac-Bako? Relatively flat, should be doable.

    1a doesn’t require the line go through Palmdale, just that it’s funds can’t be used on the LA-Bako segment without going through Palmdale. So send all the 1a money on the non-controversial part (Sac-Bako), then the rest of the route can go wherever you want (assuming you can find the money for it, of course).

    Clem Reply:

    Building to Sacramento first kills the Pacheco option, since it then becomes far easier and cheaper to build from Tracy into the Bay Area (SETEC route) than from Chowchilla via Gilroy.

    Brian Reply:

    Except that we live in a democracy Clem, and nobody politically supports the SETEC route. Small detail that Robert points out and you ignore.

    Of course Robert deals it what can be done and the complainers deal in what some engineer-king should impose, whether elected officials like it or not.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Sac to Bako is useable but would require a sizable subsidy. In order to break even you need the deep pockets of the megalopolises.

    Picture BART without San Francisco.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    In case you were living under a rock, the CHSRA route doesn’t have political support either.

    synonymouse Reply:

    One accomplishment of the post-Van Ark 99 corridor crowd has been to flush out opinion in the Valley. My guess is that for every developer mayor of Fresno, etc. there are at least two locals who agree with the “hsr supporter – eat shit and die” poster.

    I-5 is a decent, cheaper route with much less opposition. I recognize the engineers can identify a superior route to the east or west of the freeway, but yesterday it came to me why I intrinsically favor the median: it, I believe, minimizes the environmental impact. The noise, etc. is confined to the immediate freeway corridor. But of course I will subscribe to whatever the engineers find to be the most efficient.

    joe Reply:

    In case you were living under a rock, the CHSRA route doesn’t have political support either.

    The CA Legislature voted to release Prop1a funds for the CAHSR route in the business plan. Proving once again that Drunk Engineer is a very serious person.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I suggest the key to saving CAHSR is getting LA County on board with a superior and viable route. This entails bringing around both Palmdale and Sta. Clarita. Money, whole lotsa money.

    But that is where the crux lies. Paul is totally correct – the impasse in in the south, not the north. The Transbay Terminal is a disaster created by the locals and Caltrain will be its major user in any event. Actually the Blend on the Peninsula is less of a detraction than downtown SF. And Kopp always favored terminating at 4th and Townsend.

    But the bookends are relative afterthoughts – the mountain crossing is the paramount issue and Jerry needs to figure out a way to sell the move to Tejon.


    Jon Reply:

    If CAHSR are going to save this project, they need to answer two questions:

    1) Which is the cheapest IOS that will break even operationally?
    2) How do we close the gap between the funds we have and the funds required to build the IOS?

    I’m thinking Livermore – Bakersfield might be their best IOS choice at this point, with an intermodal BART/ACE/HSR station in east Livermore. I’m guessing that would cost around $20bn.

    Politically they would sell the Altamont crossing as part of the ACE upgrade program, and HSR would share use of the crossing with ACE until such time as Pacheco could be built out in full. Of course, after the IOS was operational they would next concentrate on heading south to LA, so the actual Pacheco vs. Altamont decision would be pushed far into the future.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Tell us all about the part where the legislature allocates $30+ billion additional funding required by Prop 1A.

    Joe Reply:

    Serious rebuttal.

    The legislature either knowingly short changed the authority because Altamont!!! And the States time machine allowed them perfect foreknowledge of Judge Kenny’s nov 25th ruling.

    Or the legislature approved the request by the HSR authority.

    I choose the later – the legislature approved prop1a for the alignment proposed cause they support the alignment.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    it does not matter if they did it on purpose or not. Any new plan has to identify all funds for an IOS which is 30+ billion. unless they appeal that is the standard that has been set

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    A large private contribution requires maximizing revenue, not ridership. It always requires minimizing costs. That may or may not mean that you serve the Valley cities directly, but it’s a category error to conflate ridership with revenue.

    VBobier Reply:

    Actually since Riders are what generates Revenue, ridership is therefore important and job 1, otherwise how are you going to generate revenue, wish it into existence?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Riders may be paying $10 promotional fares. Dollars are what matter.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not only are you wrong, but you’re making a mistake that created a bubble in 1840s’ Britain that’s about ten times larger relative to GDP than the 1990s’ tech bubble. (Railroads in 1830s’ Britain overshot ridership projections by a large margin, but most of the ridership was short-distance, so revenue was the same as predicted; but rail promoters seized on the ridership surplus in convincing investors to fund the Railway Mania.) Intercity rail isn’t a local subway train. A short-distance commuter generates much less revenue than an LA-SF rider, and may if anything require more operating funds on the margins because the commuter rides at the peak, requiring more rolling stock and higher track capacity on shared segments.

    wdobner Reply:

    A trip not made is revenue you’ve turned away. It’s all fine and well to go for the end-to-end trips, but so long as those trips are not unduly inconvenienced you’re going to want to provide enroute points with convenient trips so as to capture the revenue from those trips as well. And if we eventually end up building something it’s going to have to subsist on those local trips for a good long while before the end-to-end travel market comes into play, so it’s abjectly foolish to prioritize express travel time over all else.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    When it costs -5 billion dollars to prioritize express travel time, the economics is different from when it’s more expensive.

    wdobner Reply:

    That figure is highly suspect. One cannot claim PB is being disingenuous without acknowledging the unavoidable fact that the numbers they arrive at just happen to support the narrative they’ve been pushing for the past few years.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Which part is suspect – the claim of less tunneling and bridging, or the unit costs?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The “ridership costs of bypassing Palmdale” are approximately a rounding error.
    At the other end of the line, the ridership “costs” of not having SJ a through station “on the mainline” (whatever that whiny blather is supposed to mean) are negative.

    Capital and consultancy cost maximization has always been PB’s (and hence CHSRA’s) overriding goal. Ridership, like public utility, are fictions invented from whole cloth if and when a need arises.

    Cost blowouts? Ongoing operational disaster? Somebody else’s problems! Mission accomplished!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There already is state funding, to the tune of $6 billion on hand and another $6 billion requiring a 1:1 match from another source.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Large corporation? You mean a large international corporation interested mostly in selling trainsets not building excellent infrastructure.

    As luck would have it, the Administration blocked this idea with Desert Xpress openly, and may have also done so back in 2010 when Schwarzenegger went to China. It’s a nonstarter politically and it has nothing to do with Prop 1a.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not necessarily. The international HSR operators either still build things (the JRs) or used to until recently and are tightly linked with people who do (SNCF).

    Ted Judah Reply:

    SNCF, for the purposes of high speed rail, acted no differently than Vivendi does in developing countries with water systems.

    They wanted a constant source of revenue from a developing country (in this case the US) and they proposed a one-sided deal that also included technological lock-out clauses (buying only their equipment) because they are trying to beat the US at their own game exporting aircraft and cars to the very same countries SNCF wants to sell its products to.

    These foreign companies’s HSR proposals are economic rent-seeking at their finest and nothing more. The US is right to be critical of them and not accept them carte blanche when the market for our big ticket exports (planes and autos) is in decline.

    wdobner Reply:

    Prop 1A is holy writ. Except when it isn’t!

    Like when it gets in the way of shilling for SNCF’s rent-seeking.

    wdobner Reply:

    Where is this fantasy private investment coming from? Those around here who apparently want to destroy the project to “save” from the evil PBQD cabal claim federal funding is going to prove elusive. If federal funding is elusive then getting the requisite amount of private financing is going to be a snipe hunt. Even with Tejon (and all the geotechnical questions that’ll raise for investors), Altamont (and the renewed NIMBY offensive there), and an I-5 alignment (which, remember, does not save a dime) where has anyone with any real money offered private financing that would be allowed under Prop 1A?

  8. joe
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 22:58

    “No, the only realistic and sensible path forward is to stick with the current HSR plan and figure out how to fund it. After all, it is a good plan. “

    Yep. One option is to keep federal ARRA money without using Prop1a money. No Prop1a means this gets real easy. There is IOS, no 30 Billion check in hand, no time-table lawsuit and no full EIR and etc. It gets really simple. The project’s treated like any other construction project – that means they can go ahead now.

    The state can continue to work environmental clearances for the full section as uniquely required by Prop1a.

    CA can keep to the plan and design and continue to litigate and comply so that when conditions for Prop1a bonds are met, the State can go ahead with cost sharing.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    But then you have only $3 billion, not $6 billion.

    joe Reply:

    3 B is enough for the time being.

    We can still plan for a dedicated state funding source and there are Congressional elections 2014 and 2016.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Elections where the GOP is going to hold the house and possibly get the Senate due to Obamacare

    Tony D. Reply:

    Uhh, no! We’ll have a few more GOP manufactured debt ceiling crisis’ before November 2014. The current “Obamacare” troubles will be WAY behind us by then…

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    What’s this…news today that the administration pushed back the small business requirement 1 year after saying it would be ready at the end of the month. Such operational excellence.

    What’s really sad is that with actual competence they could have made Obamacare work. Totally self inflicted. But the GOP will take the win, no pride in allowing the other side to shoot themselves.

    Tony D. Reply:

    And Dems will take the “win” with more GOP manufactured crisis’ (debt ceiling, budget) in the coming year. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Like they did in the Romney landslide no doubt.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The generic ballot polls are back to tied after be D +6 during the shutdown crisis.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The actual ballots in 2012 were Dems +4 if I remember correctly. Republican primary voters just love the unelectable. They keep going for the unelectable and they aren’t going to be able to hold the House. And there are few signs that they will be modifying their behavior.
    ..Dede Scozzafava should have been Representative for Life. Richard Lugar should have been Senator for Life. They are letting their idealogical purity get in the way of actually having power. They are busy circling the wagons. Around the drain before they go down it. 21st Century Whigs.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The GOP held the house in 2012. What’s your point?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That Dede should have been Congresswoman for life and they pissed away that opportunity because she doesn’t find gay people icky and thinks that the government shouldn’t tell women what to do with their bodies. That they keep going with the people who are increasingly unpopular and that doesn’t win elections.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Electability is a bigger issue in the Senate and Presidential primaries than the House, thanks to the partisan redistricting by the GOP.

    Basically, how it works is that the GOP Congress draws a safe district. If there’s nothing further up the ticket that would affect how they vote, the GOP House member can be as extreme as the district can bear. If there is a Senate or Presidential race at stake, however, the GOP House member has to veer to the center to avoid being disposed in the general election.

    However, given how many House districts for the GOP come from red states, it’s pretty likely that the GOP holds the House for the rest of the decade…absent some real force d’majure event. However, demographic trends are going to push Democrats more to the left and make the White House and Senate more difficult for the GOP to recover than might appear.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Different electorate.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Dede should have survived redistricting in 2012. But she wasn’t around to run for Congress so Bill Owens got a majority. In places that hadn’t stopped voting Republican since they stopped voting Whig.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t mean the redistricting. I mean the fact that midterm electorates are more Republican than presidential electorates.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Mid term elections tend to be older. That may not equate to Republican in the future as they permanently offend a small constituency here and a small constituency there and those people get older.
    Dede shoulda won the special election in 2009 in a landslide and the 2010 general in a landslide but instead the Republicans were to busy trying to out Tea Party one another. They are increasingly nominating unelectable candidates as the electable ones wander off to spend more time with their families. I don’t see that getting any better any time soon. They lost the progressive conservatives when the Rockefeller/country club set began to wander off and are busy losing the Chamber of Commerce set. All that’s going to be left is the frothing conspiracy theorists. Who can sit around and scream at each other how true their Conservatism is while the rest of us get on with life. They’ve had four and half years to tack to the center but they keep moving right. They are going the way of the Whigs.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Older, wealthier, whiter. Somehow, with that frothing conspiracy theorist set they have nearly half the voters in presidential years.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They try to lock the tin foil hat set in the attic every four years and it’s getting harder and harder to do each time. Rock ribbed Republican New Hampshire is about to go blue. California, the birthplace of Reaganism isn’t turning out state wide Republicans anymore. Virginia and North Carolina are swing states. Richard the lifetime Senator Lugar is spending more time with his family. They want to be the party of reactionaries they are going to be a minority party. Or go the way of the Whigs. They’ve had almost five years to tack to the center and all they can manage to do is get more reactionary. Or obstructionist. That’s not a winning strategy.
    The wild eyed idealists and the hard core leftists get a short hearing among the Democrats and they then go out and hover around the center. Which worked when the Republicans hovered around the center, for Republicans. It’s getting increasingly difficult for people who don’t have a year’s supply of tin foil in their survivalist cache to vote Republican.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Keep underestimating the GOP, it only makes it easier for us.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m not underestimating them. They are joyfully taking the path to oblivion.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The ICS requires $6 billion. Yes, you can delay the project further, but that will only increase costs, and put benefits farther in the future while the sunken costs are already today.

    joe Reply:

    Not costs to the CA taxpayer. 50% of the cost is Federal which is why the State is motivated to find funds rather than lose billions and restart. We also start the project — imperfection is the price we have to pay in a democracy.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. To someone who thinks the Central Valley should be labeled “hic sunt dracones” stopping in Fresno is awful. There might be dragons on the platforms. To someone in Fresno it’s great that the station will be downtown.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Weren’t you agreeing a couple months ago (or years?) that starting work faster is a good way of saving money and avoiding future cost inflation?

  9. synonymouse
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 23:04

    “That creates ongoing pressure in Sacramento to ensure that Fresno, Bakersfield, and Palmdale keep their stops.”

    On spurs from Tejon and I-5.

    The people need to have their voices heard. Back to the ballot. PB and Tutor can spend some of their ill-gotten gains on pro propaganda.

    Eric Reply:

    One of the major advantages of HSR over flight is that intermediate destinations can be served at a cost of several minutes/stop rather than an hour/stop. If you put every intermediate destination on a spur, you remove this advantage. Palmdale should be on a spur because of the longer route and more expensive construction and more commute-centric ridership. But those considerations don’t apply to Fresno and Bakersfield.

  10. Jos Callinet
    Nov 26th, 2013 at 23:24

    Robert, thank you for your very thoughtful observations here, and the Monty Python skit here wonderfully illustrates your point.

    I just wish I could be more optimistic about the future course of our country. When you take into consideration the Tea Party, and one very sad story (on a far smaller financial and territorial scale, of course!) of what’s happened in Cincinnati with the cancellation of an already funded and under-construction streetcar project, it’s enough to make any non-brain-dead person pause and wonder: exactly where ARE we headed as a society?

    AFAIAC, ALL BETS ARE OFF in this terribly dumbed-down, short-attention-span, celebrity-obsessed, and shallow-minded society we have become!

    synonymouse Reply:

    Cincinnati is an anomaly. Ohio is a really bitter, unhappy place with much hostility and distrust amongst the various groups. Overall it has seen better days with an uncertain future. Plus a lot of the local pols stay in office for like decades. Mayor for 20+ years. Creates suspicions about government and waste.

  11. Chad Brick
    Nov 27th, 2013 at 03:30

    I am embarrassed to be an American today, not that it is an usual feeling. I’ve used HSR a number of times while abroad, in places with population densities no higher than California train would serve, and it is fantastic. I’ll be using it again next Friday, and like always, it will be faster than any other option over that distance (door to door), and will drop me off with to-the-minute punctuality with 99.9% certainty.

    America has shrunk. We can’t even do little things now, let alone moderately large things like HSR lines. I think it has come to the point that America would be better off splitting into three and letting the Tea Party have its third of the country. They would completely ruin it, especially once the wells ran dry and the topsoil and water was gone, but at least the other two thirds of us could finally join the modern world.

    Eric Reply:

    “They would completely ruin it, ”

    Good luck convincing them of that. They’ll use Texas and California as examples and argue that their model is more successful.

    Andy M Reply:

    And good for them. Let them secede following whatever false logic they chose. As long as they stop sabotaging the progress of those who still want to live in the 21st Century.

  12. Amanda in the South Bay
    Nov 27th, 2013 at 05:35

    Wow, Robert still has to attack proponents of HSR who think that the route should be designed differently. Even after everything, he’s stilll Baghdad Robert.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    Robert understands the arguments, and thinks that nonetheless, on balance, the chosen route is best. Disagree, point out faults, but don’t stoop to insults.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    They can propose a different alignment all they want to. I’m not necessarily opposed to it. The point I’m making is that the project’s current challenges do not stem from its route design, and a different route design would do nothing to address those challenges.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    The proposed different route designs are the Holy Grail of engineering: They are faster, better, and cheaper. That addresses all the major challenges, including raising private funds.

    Travis D Reply:

    Why not attack them? They are wrong!

    Or at least not as obviously right as they think they are.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I guess someone got her new water bill….

    wdobner Reply:

    Maybe that’s because the self-professed proponents are some of the most outspoken groups claiming the project needs to be cancelled because it doesn’t fit with their particular vision of what a high speed rail system should be? Constructive criticism is apparently completely dead, so they’ve thrown their lot in with anti-government zealots and rejoice in throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “Build Tejon instead” is exactly constructive criticism.

  13. morris brown
    Nov 27th, 2013 at 07:51

    Rep Jeff Denham in light of Judge Kenny’s rulings has requested the Federal GAO look into the Grant agreements from the FRA to the CHSRA.

    Rep Denham’s press release can be viewed at:


    The Letter to the GAO can be viewed at:



    joe Reply:

    Oh No. Not Jeff!

    Remember when he brought the GAO in last time?

    GAO found the Authority’s ridership and revenue forecasts to be reasonable; however, additional updates are necessary to refine the ridership and revenue model for the 2014 business plan. GAO also found the travel-demand-modeling process used to generate these forecasts followed generally accepted travel- demand-modeling practices.

    Or when he insisted the SBT has oversight and jurisdiction over CA HSR ? That may have federalized the project and nullified the CEQA oversight.

    The STB’s decision concluding it has jurisdiction over the entire high-speed train system fundamentally affects the regulatory environment for the project going forward,” the state said in the brief submitted to the Third District Court of Appeals, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

    Alan Reply:

    Denham is like the fraternity pledges in the movie, “Animal House”. The pledges, after taking a whack in the butt from a paddle wielded by a senior frat rat, are required to shout, “THANK YOU SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER?”

    Same thing with Denham. He’s been slapped down once by the GAO, and again by the STB, and yet he still bends over for another whack.

    This whack, like the others, is inevitable. CHSRA has done nothing to violate the grant agreements, is not in imminent danger of doing so, and FRA has the authority to modify the grant terms to meet changing needs as the plan progresses.

    joe Reply:

    He’s been slapped down once by the GAO, and again by the STB, and yet he still bends over for another whack.

    Yep. In both previous instances, it’s worked against him and probably this time too. He’s persistent but not a sharp knife.

    What the GAO report might do is backfire this way: It will emphasize the Federal HSR money is conditioned on both state matching funds and promised project. It is NOT free money for The Paul Dyson’s of the world to spend as they wish.

    2014 might see Jeff explaining why 1) the billions in Federal funds have to go back to DC per the GAO report, 2) why he previosuly wanted to send CA’s federal and state money to the NEC (yes he said that) 3) why he participated in the government shutdown.

    WASHINGTON — A California congressman thinks billions of dollars in federal funds should be spent on high-speed rail — just not in his state.

    Rep. Jeff Denham, the chairman of the railroads subcommittee in the House of Representatives and, like many fellow House Republicans, a critic of California’s high-speed rail project, says the money should go instead to Amtrak’s busy but aging Northeast Corridor, which serves the nation’s most densely populated region.

    “Given that there are over 11.4 million Amtrak riders and over 200 million commuters that use the Northeast Corridor every year, it would be an investment in an area where we have proven ridership,” Denham said at a Friday hearing at the site of the future Moynihan Station in New York, which is intended to replace the cramped Penn Station across the street.

    Denham, of Turlock, and other members of Congress, joined by Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman, rode a train Thursday from Washington to New York and saw for themselves many of the century-old bridges and tunnels that limit the number of trains the line can accommodate, as well as the speeds they can travel.


    ome of that infrastructure is showing its age, and Denham pointed to specific examples:
    A pair of tunnels under Baltimore that were built in the 1870s have become a major bottleneck.

    Even Amtrak’s flagship Acela train creeps through at 30 mph. It would cost about $1.5 billion to replace the tunnels.

    Bridges over the Susquehanna River in Maryland and the Hackensack River in New Jersey, both built in the early 1900s, are two places where the generally three- and four-track corridor narrows to two.

    Replacing the spans would cost nearly $2 billion.
    “I believe the $6 billion that was given to the California High-Speed Rail Authority could be better spent on such upgrades, as these projects are both clearly identified, and necessary beyond dispute,” Denham said.

    He’s a bonehead for getting asking GAO to highlight the State HSR contracts.

    This is going to bring hop his inexplicable June 2013 lobbying for the Baltimore.

    StevieB Reply:

    Denham is using the James Bopp approach. He challenged the government hundreds of times, usually losing, and eventually came away with the Citizens United decision that changed the course of American Politics.

    joe Reply:

    Denham’s up for election, so he’s facing consequences.

    The GAO report he requested will highlight the contract work in the central valley. That’s Billions in work. Unless we suspect of some criminal action, it’s going to backfire — again.

    If the project’s delayed and money lost, Denham will be congratulated for getting his way and sending money back east.

    The record is clear — Jeff Denham wanted to kill HSR and send the money to East. He paraded around shooting off his mouth expecting EastCoast Dems to turn on the CA project and back him.

    Any political opponent in this swing district can smack him along the head with his record.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    And the racket continues. Denham defunds HSR. Then his allies take the CHSRA to court saying “you don’t have federal money so your plan is invalid under Prop 1A!” Then Denham goes back and says “see, they can’t build, we have to take away the federal money they already have.”

    It’s like pushing someone off a cliff and then prosecuting them for attempted suicide.

    joe Reply:

    That racket includes a government shutdown. PPP polling shows when district voters are told he participated in the shutdown, Jeff loses to a generic democratic challenger.

    As part of his new conversion to pragmatism, Jeff will soon demand HSR money go to the ACE rail expansion and Amtrak improvements.

    He’s also the first GOP cosponsor of the immigration reform bill.


    On Monday, Denham, R-Turlock, got a lot of love from immigration rights activists for being the first Republican to sponsor the House Democrats’ immigration bill that includes a pathway. (He broke the news Sunday on the Univision show “Al Punto.”)

    So what about Denham? Apparently, he doesn’t get kicked off the target list simply because he says he supports a Democratic bill. Just spoke with Cristobal Alex, the group’s president, who told me that indeed, Denham is not off the hook yet.

    While the roster of targeted Republicans may change, Denham “is still on the list,” Alex said.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    It’s like pushing someone off a cliff and then prosecuting them for attempted suicide.

    It’s also very like somebody voluntarily walking around in front of a firing squad with a huge self-made target affixed to his back and a flashing sign reading “Shoot Me!”.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The GOP has consistently said no to HSR transport funding. Just because the authority just assumed it would get it anyway is in no way the GOPs fault. The GOP have been consistent the whole time. They always said no money. Why did CAHSR assume they could get the money

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The establishment wing of the GOP has zero problems with HSR; there problem is that the Highway Trust Fund is out of cash and no one wants to propose raising the gas tax to make it solvent again.

    The solution, which I think is scary but also exciting is taking the Trust Fund and converting it to a block grant that States could use across different modes. That would allow flexibility and it would also create a wedge of sorts between public sector and private sector unions, which is a KEY COMPONENT of the Chris Christie-led GOP comeback strategy….

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Block grants are just a way for people who sit around and complain about how much money the gubbermint is spending to get more money from the government.

  14. mara
    Nov 27th, 2013 at 10:38

    Robert, no comments so far on your headline, “High Speed Rail’s Not Dead Yet”

    Looks to me like you also see the writing on the wall, but aren’t ready to admit it ‘yet.’

    Tony D. Reply:

    Key word “yet”…

  15. Rob Dawg
    Nov 27th, 2013 at 12:11

    Robert, just how do 48 Republicans in Tea Party caucus “take over” a body of 435?

    Paul Druce Reply:


    VBobier Reply:

    By having corporate power and money backing up primary threats to an election…

    TomA Reply:

    I don’t know – but just look at the shutdown – there were votes all along (Republicans + Dems) to pass a clean CR – but those 48 guys and their political fellow travelers managed to shut down the government for over two weeks, and bring us (once again) to the brink of defaulting.

  16. Nadia
    Nov 27th, 2013 at 13:24

    Here’s Dan Richard and Quentin Kopp on KQED today:


    CaliforniaDefender Reply:

    Dan Richards was disingenuous in this interview, just as he has been in past statements and just as CHSRA’s spokespeople have been in the past. The 2012 Revised Business Plan did nothing to address the two identified flaws in the 2011 funding plan (it’s not even relevant to the statutorily required first funding plan). It didn’t identify the all of the funds required for IOS-south ($30B+) and it didn’t address the multiple “environmental clearances” that are required to be in place prior to the certification of the funding plan (most of which remain outstanding).

    Also, Chair Richards knows that the 130-mile ICS is not a “usable segment,” the 300-mile IOS-south is. Funding needs to be in place for the whole thing. If he wants to claim the ICS is the usable segment (and that all the necessary funding is in place), then let’s see what the ridership for the ICS (Merced to Bakersfield) will be.

    Judge Kopp was wrong on a few points, but he is right about one statement: “be honest.”

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    While ICS south may be deemed by some to be a “usable segment” it can hardly claim to be commercially viable. Merced to Burbank with conventional rail connections at each end? Who’s kidding here. And how can Richard be claiming a one seat ride? If that is for the complete system then he’s not being very candid about the fact that it is at least 20 years away, a long time after the 1A voters were given to expect.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You mean Merced to Bakersfield? Because Merced-Burbank is fairly useful, and costs peanuts (=a few km of catenary and early retirement for some intransigents at Metrolink) to turn into Merced-LAUS.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    But Alon there are no plans to do what you say. Dark deeds at Metro, no one wants HSR at LAUS until it’s rebuilt. Merced-Burbank is only “fairly useful” in the way that the San Joaquins plus bus connections are fairly useful. it’s still going to be better to take Megabus from San Fran to Los Angeles. BTW, if you mention “intransigents at Metrolink” you are clearly out of the picture as to who calls the shots.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Apologies, I meant intransigents at Metro.

    But even Merced-Burbank works for a nontrivial number of people, if not nearly as many as Merced-LAUD. Burbank isn’t Palmdale, and LA has an unusually low level of destination centralization (which is a big question mark for HSR, and a big boon for the Wilshire subway plan – the hotels and such cluster all over the Westside, unlike in places like Philadelphia and Boston, which have as much job sprawl as LA but managed to avoid travel destination sprawl).

    joe Reply:

    ” LA has an unusually low level of destination centralization (which is a big question mark for HSR,”

    That’s changing.

    Six parking lots in downtown Los Angeles recently sold for $82 million. But the buyers aren’t interested in the parking business: They want to build 1,500 rental apartments on the properties.

    The deal is the latest evidence that Los Angeles’s downtown revival, which began a little more than a decade ago, is picking up momentum as a number of residential developers rush to build rental housing. Some real-estate executive were initially skeptical that people would trade in their cars and suburban bungalows to live downtown, but demand for such housing has turned out to be stronger than many expected.

    A dearth of apartments is fueling one of the city’s largest building booms in years. There are about 14,000 apartment units in downtown Los Angeles. About 5,100 units are under construction, and more than 3,400 units were built between 2008 and 2013, according to Polaris Pacific, a real-estate sales, marketing and research firm. More than 3,000 additional rental units have been approved, with another 7,000 proposed. Meanwhile, there are only 17 condo units for sale and 68 under construction.

    “A lot of smart people are saying, ‘Now is the time for downtown L.A., for multifamily rental,’ ” said Mr. Mack, who is part of a New York real-estate family.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re right that downtown LA is reviving. Still, the construction seems to be residential, which favors walkability and reverse-peak transit trips, but doesn’t concentrate destinations much.

    (Mind you, I think it’s a second-order issue, or at worst a 1.5th-order one, but it might lead SF-LA to slightly underperform comparable city pairs with more destination centralization near the train station.)

    Ted Judah Reply:

    joe actually has it backwards:

    In the formerly industrial, heavily blighted parts of downtown LA young urban professionals without kids are moving in to be closer to their jobs (usually they are lawyers or others that have very demanding hours).

    But unlike New York City, which had a declining black population open up historically-preserved neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Harlem, the corresponding neighborhoods in LA (Westlake, South Central, Boyle Heights, Echo Park) are crammed full of Latin American refugees who can’t afford to live in the less dense suburbs. Downtown is a drop in the bucket, and as Along points out…not a big destination for tourists either.

    SF to LA might underperform compared to Washington DC and NYC as city pairs but it’s not as if there are many HSR pairs in the world that have quite the same amount of population as SF/LA.

    Joe Reply:

    More people want to live without cars. Downtown LA is becoming one such place.

    I’m not sure why wealthier residents and those without kids are less likely HSR users. Seems the opposite is true from personal experience.

    Easier to gentrify areas with dinks and sinks. Schools take time to improve but it’s a matter if time.
    HSR is not a tourist ride so the station use will depend on local population and transit connections.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    It’s easy to record large growth if you start from zero.

    After the Bunker Hill redevelopment project in the 1970s, the only people spending the night in downtown did LA so in hotels or on Skid Row. There are lots of adjacent neighborhoods to downtown (mainly west of the 110 freeway or north of the 101) which still have plenty of housing that could be redeveloped and gentrified, but there’s nowhere for this population to go.

    StevieB Reply:

    Downtown Los Angeles has added 25,000 residents since the 2000 census. The main cause is the city eased the parking requirement for properties redeveloped into housing. A half dozen groceries have opened in the area as a certain sign of residential activity. Downtown Los Angeles is one of the fastest growing areas of the state.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Yes Steve, but San Francisco added twice as many new residents since 2000 as LA (50,000 to 25,000). See comment above about how impressive growth looks if you start from zero.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Stevie, my point is that to further improve HSR’s attractiveness over that of air and cars, Downtown LA needs to add hotels and tourist destinations rather than housing. (This doesn’t mean adding housing is bad, just that it’s neutral from the perspective of HSR.)

    Joey Reply:

    Judging by the LAUS Master Plan documents, they don’t particularly care about HSR there after the renovation either.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Quite true
    This blog’s obsession with the north end and the mountains
    has led to everyone overlooking the complete loss of interest in the south
    The pols down here expect it to fail as if they had written the Prop with the idea that it would be litigated into oblivion. They are mostly attorneys

    Ted Judah Reply:

    If that’s really true, it wouldn’t be the only big project that local leaders are apathetic about. Apparently the water bond is stalled because support has been less than solid from the Southern California water districts/cities.

    Clem Reply:

    The LA basin portions of HSR are an extremely ripe subject for blogging. You sound like you know a lot more about the subject than anybody around here… go for it!

    swing hanger Reply:

    Indeed, it seems odd that there isn’t a dedicated blog (afaik) to seriously examining “heavy rail” passenger rail transport policy in the LA area, something along the line of clem’s blog. It is only the second largest metro area in the whole nation…

    Ted Judah Reply:

    This interview confirms all my thinking about this Paul.

    The fact is…Merced to Fresno is a usable segment and there’s no problem with it or any of the ICS receiving Prop 1a funds. The issue is using Prop 1a money for local transit above and beyond the 950 million allowed by the ballot measure. Kopp is right about this, it’s not like the High Speed Rail bond funds are the first voter protected pot of money in California history.

    The issue is that Schwarzenegger alienated the local transit empires (and really everyone in state government, but that’s another story) to the point where they wanted a workable compromise and that’s what they did voting to expend the bonds.

    The only problem is, again, that there’s other money to match Prop 1a with in these other segments so there’s no way to use it right now.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    there’s NO other money to match Prop 1a

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Merced to Fresno may be “usable” in the sense that you can run trains on it, but not electric trains of course since that isn’t in the budget. Oops, wasn’t that required? And you won’t make any money running trains there and it will cost quite a bit to divert the San Joaquins that way with no real benefit. Other than that I imagine it’s very usable. I imagine that if you had asked a reasonably informed voter in 2008 what would be meant as a usable segment she or he would say that it is a railroad that provides a useful service to a large number of people without requiring an operating subsidy.
    As for “local transit”, well we know a lot went to BART, surprise… Blame Arnie for pissing off So Cal over the ARRA funds.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    what they voted defined usable as having two stations. It’s too bad the things they imagined didn’t match the definitions they were voting on.

    joe Reply:

    “Merced to Fresno may be “usable” in the sense that you can run trains on it, but not electric trains of course since that isn’t in the budget. Oops, wasn’t that required?”

    Electric trains are NOT required for the ARRA funding. In fact this stand alone capacity is why the state got the ARRA funding.

    You can mock quite easily but never ever offer compliant alternatives. Never.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Electric trains are what I voted for
    I would not have taken the ARRA money so no need to comply
    Experience has shown we weren’t ready to spend the ARRA money which would have
    been better spent on shovel ready projects where people actually ride trains

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You read too much into “usable”. there’s going to be electric trains someday. Between then and now there might be some unelectric trains.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    The type of traction is actually a side issue
    Will there be any backsides on the seats?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    you were the one who brought it up. You read far too much into things. You must be disappointed.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The judge ruled you wrong. It’s your right to disagree, but the judge ruled your line of logic wrong, and till they appeal he gets the last comment on it

    joe Reply:

    “I would not have taken the ARRA money so no need to comply”

    Then you have no money. No need to pretend you’d something else.

    The ARRA HSR funds CA received were HSR funds. Better spent on shovel ready stuff that doesn’t qualify for the funds, wouldn’t have gotten the size of award either given the amount was driven by the project’s scope and ambition.

    Unencumbered by reality.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    So, as I told LaHood in 2010, better not to take the money than end up pissing it away as we have done thus far, and no prospect yet of accomplishing anything useful.
    The problem with Cruickshank, others on this blog is that they are obsessed with building HSR, whereas they should be obsessed with solving transportation problems. Explain the problem you solve by building a new railroad between Merced and Fresno. How many people’s daily lives do you improve compared to say SF to SJ or Irvine to Sylmar? Even if all we did was to grade separate these routes in preparation for upgrade to HSR we would save lives, relieve congestion, cut polution. What do your wonderful ICS and IOS do for mankind?

    synonymouse Reply:

    You need to prioritize, which is why giving CAHSR money to the bookends was such an easy sell. And don’t think you are going to undo it. That’s where the California congressional delegation comes in.

    Now for the Transbay Terminal Tunnel I dunno. Kopp, Brown, Heminger totally effed up that one ca. 1991 when there were a helluva lot fewer highrise foundations in the way.

    joe Reply:

    “The problem with Cruickshank, others on this blog is that they are obsessed with building HSR, whereas they should be obsessed with solving transportation problems. ”

    We are very concerned about state transportation problems.

    It’s a HSR blog, That might explain the pro-HSR posts.

    I am also quite familiar with individuals who tear down community projects and expect to cash in on the remnants for their own topic of interest.

    It is a common problem in the sciences when a community has a few critics that bash other research expecting it will help their area of interest.

    That tactic just ruins the entire funding line – like what i see in rail. Over time these individuals are pushed out and more cooperative people help build the funding up again.

    Like what you do – bash and complain about other projects as you shrink the pie and grab for the shrinking slices. It might explain your track record.

    Jon Reply:

    Wow, Kopp sure knows how to make his opponents look good by comparison.

  17. trentbridge
    Nov 27th, 2013 at 14:12

    Dan Richard should buy $10 million in Bitcoins. It has appreciated 7600% this year alone. Having lived thru’ the Pokemon craze I can recognize a bubble when I see one – Bitcoin and thirty-plus other cryptocurrencies based on mining on computers are the ultimate bubble – “digital trading cards” given value by being “traded” and being “limited editions”. And the good news is that it’s only just started. The market cap of bitcoins is approaching $12 billion as the market price of a single Bitcoin reaches $1000.00. It can only go higher! Remember the supply is limited.

    Just remember to bail out at the top and get a real currency in return!

  18. trentbridge
    Nov 27th, 2013 at 14:18


    and the top eighteen cryptocurrencies went up in value today! Doesn’t the UC system have a few hundred souped-up computers that could be mining them thar (digital) coins for the future needs of California HSR?

    Eric M Reply:

    Go go go!!!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The UC system has more important things to spend Bitcoins on, like building the president a bigger mansion reducing tuition or hiring more TAs so that undergrad math classes have homework again.

  19. synonymouse
    Nov 27th, 2013 at 14:44

    There’s one major development here which honestly I did not think would occur. The Judge has found that the CHSRA cannot ignore all the provisos of Prop 1A. I believed that PB’s jedi mind tricks would work on him but they didn’t. He may have punted on overturning existing contracts, but that would have greatly increased the likelihood of an appeal. So far it appears that Brown will not appeal.

    So PB-CHSRA is granted some common sense slack in putting together an hsr system, but they don’t enjoy carte blanche, which is of course what they wanted and what they assumed. This of course prompts the question of just what other stipulations in Prop 1a will the court consider important enough to require compliance from the get-go. I am thinking 2:40.

    I cannot imagine Kopp & co. have not included expert testimony to the effect that the travel time specified cannot be met, either due to the blends at the bookends or the DogLeg detour. Which once again brings up a speculation. One would presume that the Brown regime has its soothsayers, crystal balls, and more likely someone expert at profiling the Judge. Just perhaps they anticipated trouble, more than me certainly, and that’s what occasioned the evident re-examination of the “Bear Trap alignment”

    If they have to fund the whole thing the lower the cost the easier that it is to put together. Now that they have hard and very high estimates for the DogLeg they have a judicial reason and a fiscal reason to take on Antonovich and Zoeller.

    Here’s a wild hair idea: maybe if Disney is the real antagonist at Tejon they will fund the campaign to put Prop 1a back on the ballot, figuring it will be out of their hair for good.

    morris brown Reply:

    @synonymouse who writes:

    I cannot imagine Kopp & co. have not included expert testimony to the effect that the travel time specified cannot be met, either due to the blends at the bookends or the DogLeg detour. Which once again brings up a speculation. One would presume that the Brown regime has its soothsayers, crystal balls, and more likely someone expert at profiling the Judge. Just perhaps they anticipated trouble, more than me certainly, and that’s what occasioned the evident re-examination of the “Bear Trap alignment”

    You should take time to read the Tos et al depositions (all posted on the Court’s website)

    In particular the deposition of expert Paul Jones, which fully addresses the travel times. This has been discussed here before; Clem commented favorably on his deposition. This will all be part of the second trial / hearing, the Code 526a (Declaratory Relief) which should start in March of 2014.

    Judge Kopp has submitted a declaration also, but he should not be characterized in terms you use of “Kopp & Company”

    synonymouse Reply:

    I readily confess I have never been a fan of Kopp due to his bias in favor of BART and against Caltrain. I also confess to a probably unhealthy level of loathing for the BART Empire and its co-prosperity sphere.

    My worry has to do with PB, which thru its association with Bechtel-BART enjoys an enormous clout in the Bay Area. Remember how Bechtel was able to bullshit officialdom with broad gauge. Somehow it elicits respect which in no way it deserves and I fear the Judge will buy into PB’s assertions, promises and guarantees over any other expert testimony.

  20. joe
    Nov 27th, 2013 at 17:44


    Metro’s Silver Line is coming to Tysons, but don’t look for lots of new commuter parking

    Now that the Silver Line is about to open, many potential riders have one simple question: Where do we park?

    The answer: You probably don’t.

    Parking garages – and the large surface parking lots that have long dominated the Tysons landscape and suburban Metro stations elsewhere – don’t fit with the new vision of an area seeking to swap its congested, car-centric image for that of an urban, pedestrian-friendly enclave.

    “The reason places like Bethesda are popular is because you can drive and park,” said John Lucas, who lives about a mile from Tysons. “Now we have to get in the car and drive past two or three stations to get to where we can park. It’s going to be impossible. There are not alternate forms of transportation that are reliable.”

    Maybe John Lucas is unable to walk that one mile to the station. Sidewalks are not guaranteed in DC suburbs but for the love of god, I am puzzled that a one mile walk is not an alternative to driving.

    We’re 1 KM from the Gilroy Station and it’s piece of cake. If not then a block from the 19 VTA bus and short ride to the Transit/Caltrain Station.

    John Lucas might see his property value go up if there is a sidewalk.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sidewalks are for weird people. I bet you that Lucas also drives to work even though it’d a 20-minute walk given adequate sidewalks and crosswalks.

    joe Reply:


    His comment is so out there that I may have misunderstood that he’s not one mile from the station but one mile from the town,

    In that case, I’d expect a Bus would service this station and he’d do just fine getting to a bus and using it. There are many commuter buses in the DC area. Maybe not where he lives since some towns think buses attract the wrong kind of people and are not so common by intention.

    joe Reply:


    Tysons proper is small. 1 mile distance from Tysons is pretty close to it’s metro stop.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yep. With some sidewalks, narrower streets, and a combination of setback abolition and taller buildings to raise the height-to-street-width ratio, it could easily look like an urban neighborhood, just like Arlington.

    Somehow I don’t feel the Lucases of the world are going to view this as a positive development. Oh well. They can always move to Dallas or something and froth about Agenda 21 and how upzoning is tyranny.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They froth about Agenda 21 out in the woods. The mean old gubbermint isn’t going to let them put their septic field near their well kinda thing.

  21. synonymouse
    Nov 27th, 2013 at 23:31

    Dan Walters chimes in:


    “It’s time for a backspace-delete. Brown should acknowledge that the project as now planned is doomed and either kill it or go back to the voters with a revision that includes realistic routes and costs and lays out how it will be financed.”

    Walters always disappoints in that his research invariably remains at the I need some filler copy editorial level. To wit, what “realistic routes” or is he stuck at the Blend? The crisis/impasse is in Socal, not up here.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “Backspace delete”? Delete to the back and to the front? The mind boggles at what the metaphor meant.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Asking Doomsday Dan for details would be like expecting Fox News to say something negative about a Republican.

    Alan Reply:

    On the other hand, the SacBee’s official position on HSR is something quite different:


    The only HSR reporting that I’ve seen this week that gets it right…

    Jon Reply:

    This article seems to say that CAHSR only need to identify funds for the ICS, not the IOS.

    There’s a huge difference between the two requirements. Which one is it?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    IOS. They need to identify the funds and complete the EIR for the whole IOS if they want to use the bonds

    Alan Reply:

    That’s what Judge Kenny said. What the law says is something quite different, which is why CHSRA has grounds for appeal, if they so choose.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Really? What do you think the law says, because the need to identify all funding and EIRs being done is an almost direct quote. Even the authority did not argue that is what it said, they argued they were not spending the bond money yet (which is why they get to keep building rather than a complete stop)

    So please, educate us all, what does it really say?

    Alan Reply:

    The law does *not* say that all funding must be in hand for the IOS, because the concept of an “Initial Operating Section” does not appear in the law. The judge conflated “IOS” with “usable segment”. While in the previous funding plan, the Authority defined the usable segment for that plan as the IOS, nothing prevents them from rewriting the funding plan to define the “usable segment” as something closer to the statutory definition–two or more stations. That appears to be what they’re doing now, as suggested by the SacBee editorial.

    Beyond that, we discussed the issue at great length when the court issued its preliminary Tos ruling. I made my position quite clear then, and I’m not going to repeat myself. This blog has a search function–use it. If you’re unwilling to do so, that’s your problem, not mine.

    joe Reply:

    (f) “Corridor” means a portion of the high-speed train system as described in Section 2704.04.

    (g) “Usable segment” means a portion of a corridor that includes at least two stations.

    (2) The plan shall include, identify, or certify to all of the following:
    (A) The corridor, or usable segment thereof, in which the authority is proposing to invest bond proceeds.

    CAHSRA needs to show funding for construction from, IMHO, the Fresno to Kings Co/Hanford Valisa station. Since Bakersfield wants CAHSR to delay the alignment, this focus on that “useable segment” between the two stations should not be a problem.

    This means Kings Co. might be the home of the first shovel ceremony. Knowing Jerry Brown, he’d do it there.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    You both edit out the best part. The part that says a usable segment shall include at a minimum electrical systems, shall be revenue neutral, shall be HSR. I would repost it but I have posted it before, you can use the search function to look it up.

    You can call it an IOS, an ICS, or a segment. The requirements are the same. That’s why they need 30 billion not 5. Stop leaving out the good parts

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    its says a usable section has two stations. Usable sections don’t need to run electric trains. In theory they don’t even need a signal system. They could just let one train at a time on the tracks.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I am feeling in the holiday mood, so I will post the quotes from the law that prove the 3 of you wrong.

    1st…you have to have all the money and the EIR. It was the (D) and (K) to the (A) that joe posted above. Like I said…cherry picking

    (2) The plan shall include, identify, or certify to all of the

    (D) The sources of all funds to be invested in the corridor, or
    usable segment thereof, and the anticipated time of receipt of those
    funds based on expected commitments, authorizations, agreements,
    allocations, or other means.

    (K) The authority has completed all necessary project level
    environmental clearances necessary to proceed to construction.

    2nd The Segment has to support HSR with NO subsidy

    construction of the corridor or usable segment thereof can be
    completed as proposed in the plan submitted pursuant to paragraph
    (1), (B) if so completed, the corridor or usable segment thereof
    would be suitable and ready for high-speed train operation, (C) upon
    completion, one or more passenger service providers can begin using
    the tracks or stations for passenger train service, (D) the planned
    passenger train service to be provided by the authority, or pursuant
    to its authority, will not require operating subsidy, and

    Finally, any section has to include certain thing Notice how it includes power systems

    (e) “High-speed train system” means a system with high-speed trains and
    includes, but is not limited to, the following components: right-of-way, track,
    power system, rolling stock, stations, and associated facilities.
    (f) “Corridor” means a portion of the high-speed train system as described
    in Section 2704.04.
    (g) “Usable segment” means a portion of a corridor that includes at least
    two stations

    So in conclusion, you are wrong. Of course me thinking you are wrong doesn’t have any impact whatsoever…but the judge thinking you are wrong…well that is the situation you are in now.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So you are back to arguing that it has to erupt instantaneously from the bosom of the earth as trainloads of revenue generating passengers glide in from the sky?

    Alan Reply:

    “You can call it an IOS, an ICS, or a segment. The requirements are the same.”

    No, they aren’t. That’s because neither IOS nor ICS are defined in the law. IOS and ICS are creations of the CHSRA. Judge Kenny went beyond his authority in stating that funds needed to be in hand for the entire IOS. That’s why there are courts of appeal, and if necessary, the state has the right to appeal.

    So please explain to us why the Legislature would have defined “usable segment” as “at least two stations” if what they really meant was “300 miles”.

    joe Reply:

    the corridor or usable segment thereof
    would be suitable and ready for high-speed train operation, (C) upon
    completion, one or more passenger service providers can begin using
    the tracks or stations for passenger train service, (D) the planned
    passenger train service to be provided by the authority, or pursuant
    to its authority, will not require operating subsidy, and…

    The prop may, worse case, require the authority build useable segment infrastructure, track and electrify. That is TBD.

    The State is not required to run service. CAN begin is not MUST or SHALL begin. PLANNED is not OPERATIONAL. They need not run service — they can, if they choose to run service, have a plan in place to qualify for the funds. They don’t have to run it and they need not ever try to run service.

    John Nachtigall Reply:


    The state defined the segment calling it the IOS. In the plan the segment and the IOS are the same because it does not matter what you call them the requirements are the same

    (B) if so completed, the corridor or usable segment thereof
    would be suitable and ready for high-speed train operation,

    The legislature did not define segment, the law did. And you are fixated on the 2 station requirement, but there are other requirements also. It is ADDITIVE. So call it a segment…call it an IOS…it needs to be ready for HSR operations which means infrastructure ect. and they need the money for the whole segment which THEY DONT HAVE. They dont even have all the money for the 29 miles.


    You have an interesting argument, but the law cuts you off at the pass again.

    (D) the planned passenger train service to be provided by the authority, or pursuant
    to its authority, will not require operating subsidy, and

    so if I buy your argument and they dont have to run the train, how are they going to meet this requirement? The planned service must break even. No plan will break even on a 29 mile segment of track.

    And finally adirondaker12800

    For the umpteeth thousand time, the law does not require it to spring from the earth, it requires them to have the funding plan for real sources, not just their imagination. For example, if they had a gas tax of $0.10 per gallon and it was expected to raise 100 billion of the next 10 years that would be a real plan even though the whole $100 billion was not in hand. As opposed to the current plan which is pray that the GOP is kicked out of the House and the resulting Dems give them money. That is not a plan.

    However, if you still dont buy that then yes, the law (not me) requires the train to spring from the earth.

    TomA Reply:

    Can well all agree that any proposal that starts out with – “take it back to the voters” really means – kill HSR completely.

  22. datacruncher
    Nov 28th, 2013 at 11:41

    Ralph Vartabedian at the LATimes seems to have noticed the railroads and oil companies are looking at importing more California oil needs by rail. His story talks about a plan for nearly daily trains to a Santa Maria refinery via either Southern Calif or the Bay Area. It also highlights the two proposals for rail oil terminals in Bakersfield receiving one or two trains per day each.

    I wonder when Jeff Denham’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials will hold oversight hearings about railroads transporting oil thru California cities.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Sinking money into refineries in California? They really aren’t even into Sri Racha hot peppers let alone petroleum distillates.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Well it’s unlikely that anyone will build a new refinery so enhancing the capacity of existing refineries is the only solution since our unleaded gasoline is a different formula from the rest of the US. Getting our hands on Bakken crude would bring Californian gas prices more in line with the rest of the US.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Any plans to have people lie down on the rail tracks or something? Or is it considered environmentally progressive to import more fuel for Californians to turn into smog as long as it’s done by rail?

  23. jimsf
    Nov 28th, 2013 at 14:46

    I would vote against any rerouting. Since i dont live in the bay area or los angeles I wouldnot vote for tax money to help those people only.

    joe Reply:

    Nor I.

    Skipping most CA cities and their residents is exactly how they want to save time and money. You tax everyone and build something for the few. Those skipped cities are icky places anyway. Just ask any of the Peninsula or SF commentators that post here. Even San Jose sucks.

    Really, they are not going to redo the alignment. It wouldn’t gain the project one legislative vote and by the time they did propose a new route, the serious rail thinkers and advocates would find a reason to demand it change once again. They say it’s a sign of intelligence don’t you know.

    Joey Reply:

    Rerouting doesn’t involve skipping all (or even most) of the intermediate cities. Palmdale has to go, yes, but the cost of serving Fresno and Bakersfield in an intelligent way is not high and they are both large enough to bring in significant intercity ridership. The trick, in general, is to minimize the extent of the urban running which requires lots of grade separations, property takes, and noise mitigation.

    In fact, for what I’m proposing, the bulk of the alignment between Fresno and Bakersfield doesn’t have to change. Hanford still gets a peripheral station. Bakersfield gets a greenfield station off to the west, which is less ideal than a downtown station (all other things being equal), but the time penalty, monetary cost, and impact to residents of routing express trains via downtown is very large. Bakersfield is much more of an origin than a destination anyway, which means that most people traveling to and from the station will likely be doing so by car.

    A unique opportunity exists in Fresno. There’s a freight spur immediately north of downtown and the BNSF alignment immediately south of downtown. This allows a relatively short station loop to be connected to an express mainline west of Fresno. The station loop is only used by stopping trains, meaning that the super wide curves and deafening noise levels suddenly disappear.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Fresno is going to have much less intercity traffic from a station 50 miles from downtown than a station downtown would have. Same thing with Bakersfield but to a lesser extent.

    Joey Reply:

    I specifically mentioned a downtown station to Fresno.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    From a logistics/engineering perspective, these suggestions are very reasonable. They will not survive, however, in California’s political environment.

    Fresno and Bakersfield want downtown stations to drive development and gentrification. Just like an airport, there’s no sales tax or property tax to be gained from a beet-field station.

    Bypasses, however, are a worthy investment after the system is completed, but not before that. That’s because there will need to be sufficient ridership to have trains exclude stations from along the route. In the beginning, expect the train to stop everywhere it can.

    joe Reply:

    I think you got it.

    Dropping Palmdale doesn’t help much – Kings Co is still against the project. Fresno and Bakersfield will oppose the changed alignment. NIMBYs in PAMPA will still fight. You add a lawsuit from Palmdale for dropping the station and face more opposition from the new alignment whereas Palmdale supported the route.

    Joey Reply:

    The individual lawsuits are never going to be a major threat. The difficulty at this point is actually getting it built, which is fundamentally a question of money.

    Brian Reply:

    Palmdale, if isolated by itself, is not politically significant. A Palmdale strongly supported by Los Angeles County. A county larger than many states, is an significant political force.

    As long as the Tejonist count blog commenters instead of the % of the CA legislature’s Democratic caucus from LA County they will always be confused by why Palmdale is considered important.

    When Van Ark re studied the Grapevine, not one city, not one elected official, not one environmental or rail advocacy group supported it. None. In a democracy ideas that no one supports die.

    Joey Reply:

    The political climate is most certainly difficult. On the one side we have politicians who want Palmdale included. On the other side we have the fact that Palmdale’s inclusion may prevent HSR from being built entirely as a result of cost. But I think that now more than ever difficult decisions have to be made. Eroding away political support isn’t good, but LA county, comprised of mostly not Palmdale, will probably still support the project even if the route is changed, even if they don’t support the route change itself.

    VBobier Reply:

    Since Palmdale is specified in Prop1a, the Judge(Kenny) would say that Palmdale has to be served no matter what, if you don’t like that I guess you could start a petition drive, but since that costs a great deal of money, you’re sunk Joey.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Altamont is also specified in 1A. Get over yourself.

    Joey Reply:

    Palmdale can be served once Las Vegas is added to the system. There’s nothing that says it has to be served immediately.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Nah, Las Vegas is never going to get HSR. It’s not in California so it doesn’t matter. Anyway everyone will be abandoning it for the bingo halls on steroids closer to home.

    VBobier Reply:

    No dropping Palmdale doesn’t help much, as to Kings county, it should be bypassed to the east, the lawsuit would I expect be moot.

  24. Emmanuel
    Nov 28th, 2013 at 18:00

    With the rise of the electric car in California we definitely have a solution to reduce carbon emissions. The only problem is the traffic. But, there may be solution to reduce traffic that could make HSR redundant. I’m not against HSR. But, the more this gets delayed the more people lose trust in this project. Construction was supposed to begin in 2012. Prop 1A was advertised as shovel-ready, having finished all of the environmental reports already and all it needed was the funding. That’s how most Californians remembered the project.

    Seriously the most important thing is not even facts or any of that rational nonsense. The most important part about CHSR is that you put the shovel in the ground and start construction. That’s the moment when NIMBYs and private investors will realize that we are serious about this. As long as we still debate on something on paper, it will be as vulnerable as back in October 2008. HSR needs to prove itself and needless to say the Authority and other ridiculous things like the Transbay Terminal or the ARTIC nonstation have only hurt the system so far.

  25. joe
    Nov 28th, 2013 at 18:17

    Decent article on HSR funding.


    While financial support for high-speed rail remains in limbo, political support from the state’s top Democrats remains strong.

    Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, called talk of the project’s demise “wild, hasty speculation,” and state Senate and Assembly leaders remain committed to the project.

    “Any project of this magnitude is a magnet for legal hurdles,” said Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker John Perez. “The speaker believes the project should and will continue to move forward.”

    Nick Crowenwett, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, said his boss still strongly supports the bullet train because it will spur high-wage job creation, economic development and enhance the environment.

    “California high-speed rail still has a long way to go,” Crowenwatt said. “And this is one chapter in that story.”

    But in an interview this week with Bloomberg News, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a longtime supporter of the bullet train, said the state is “losing public opinion” about the viability of the project. He said state officials “need to make a strong case now” that the project is good for California’s future.

  26. morris brown
    Nov 28th, 2013 at 18:51


    High-speed rail: Judge’s decision also endangers $3.3 billion in federal funds

    My suggestion is you read the whole article rather than just what Joe has printed above. Note Sen. Simitian’s comments and real meat of the article, which is the possibility that Federal Funding may well now disappear as well.

    StevieB Reply:

    There is the possibility that California will invest a portion of the budget surplus in High Speed Rail to provide matching for federal funds until such a time as the rail bonds become available.

    joe Reply:

    But, But But if the State did apply surplus funds to match federal funds (no super majority needed) then none of Prop1a restrictions would apply to the current construction. They would build in Kins county and Tos would have a Pyrrhic victory.

    The article does mentioned CA owes the Feds nearly 400 Million in matching funds to date and would have to pay that back or cost match. that means spend that money on the project to match the federal funds.

    VBobier Reply:

    Hopefully Darrell Steinberg can authorize some of that surplus, $8.6-$9.6 Billion would be nice and yeah then the Prop1a bonds can wait… but I’d rather send the HSR tracks closer to Visalia, about like what I crudely drew Here, no building in Kings County and the lawsuit could be possibly dismissed.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Voters were told all the new tax money (the tax responsible for the surplus) would be used on education. are we breaking that promise also? Shocked Face :-0

    joe Reply:

    Yes, I just listed the support which is from state officials. How biased of me.

    A unelected, Stanford professor is very concerned and he balances out the pro-HSR bias from the governor, assembly speaker and senate president.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Please do not ever refer to experts as “unelected.” It’s not their job to be elected; it’s their job to give their informed opinion to the elected officials. If what you say sounds like something a populist creationist might say of biologists, don’t say it.

    joe Reply:

    Unelected. As in unaccountable. Not a public servant and not paid or held accountable for personal conflicts of interest or promised to act in the public’s behalf.

    Maybe you like the Hoover Institute and scholars like Ms Rice or Mr. Rumsfeld. who are also at the Stanford campus and paid to give informed opinion to the public.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, exactly like every climate scientist and every evolutionary biologist.

    And no, hackhouses like the Hoover Institute are not the same as actual academia and you know it.

    joe Reply:

    it’s their job to give their informed opinion to the elected officials

    I think you agree with me.

    I happen to have been part of that credentialed academic community. No the job is not to give informed opinion. It is do conduct science, community service and teach.

    There is a strong scientific consensus after years of study and facts gathering. The science supports climate warming. The SCIENCE, not the OPINIONs of scientists.

    The OPINIONS of the science community vary greatly. You’d be surprised. OPINIONS (as you mentioned above) are personal and not vetted or subject to review or reproducible.

    The HOOVER Institute provides informed OPINION.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    For policy questions, yes, the opinions of scientists totally matter (as they do in court: an expert witness is allowed to give opinions). For climate change it matters for questions like how much risk is acceptable in setting emissions reductions targets, which of several methods of emissions reduction (carbon tax, cap-and-trade, regulation) is optimal, etc. And for HSR, people who have studied infrastructure projects and their history totally should talk publicly about any lessons that can be learned regarding currently planned projects.

    And the Hoover Institute provides uninformed opinion. That’s what all hackhouses are for.

    joe Reply:

    “For climate change it matters for questions like how much risk is acceptable in setting emissions reductions targets, which of several methods of emissions reduction (carbon tax, cap-and-trade, regulation) is optimal, etc. ”

    Alon, I happen to have co-authored a well cited earth science model that was used for climate analysis. It wasn’t my opinion, it was a validated model that was used to make decisions. I can have an opinion and it varies from my co-author as to what policies are best. The opinion I hold is not reproducible and not a scientific finding.

    So, when an “expert” opines about HSR it’s just an opinion and with the pathological need for balance in all news stories, it may not be an equally well formed opinion.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Unless you’re seriously expecting the Congressional monkey squad to understand the paper on its own, some interpretation is required.

    There’s nothing wrong with experts giving public opinions on things they are informed about. The only part of the New York Times worth reading consists of one guy doing that, based on his choice of economic models, etc.

    joe Reply:

    Any individual can testify to Congress on a topic if requested, I believe Alexis of CARRD has done so for HSR. She’s not claimed to be an expert and need be one to testify. Democracy is like that.

    The Executive Summary in a Federal commissioned study is intended for the public and policy makers (Congressional staffers and executives including the OMB). These reports and studies summarize research facts and findings and are not a personal opinion. The Federal Agency tasked usually summarizes work – Government scientists are under oath and have strict, criminal, conflict of interest laws. Professors do not. If outside advice is sought, the NRC usually leads advisory efforts. There the confidentially and conflict of interest apply to members.

    Newspaper interviews and consulting are pure business. All bets are off.

  27. joe
    Nov 28th, 2013 at 19:44

    Hillarious. Atherton opposes high speed rail. So it’s appropriate that a new, upscale jet airline service from a local airport would rattle their bucolic neighborhood.

    The town of Atherton will hold a community meeting Dec. 9 to discuss the noise associated with a new airline service operating out of San Carlos Airport.

    Surf Air is a small, upscale airline that in June started flying single-engine, six-seat “executive aircraft” between San Carlos and Southern California. It runs six flights in and six flights out of San Carlos, starting at 7:55 a.m. and ending with an 8:45 p.m. departure. On Dec. 9, it intends to raise the number of flights to 10 each way.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Jet airline? More like turboprops. . .


    joe Reply:

    Thanks for the correction. Upscale Turbo Prop service from approximately the Redwood City HSR stop to BUR airport HSR Stop.

    Upscale Atherton residents bothered by upscale air-service from local airport. Soon to be 10 flights a day and probably more as traffic worsens and wealthy residents seek alternative ways to travel.

  28. morris brown
    Nov 29th, 2013 at 11:55

    An excellent rebuttal to the ridiculous Sac Bee Editorial:

    Posted here before was the Editorial from the Sac Bee, which essentially was a “re-mouthing” of the CHSRA statements, and a completely ridiculous understanding of Judge Kenny’s rulings:

    See: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/27/5949729/editorial-high-speed-rail-proceeds.html

    Chris Reed has now posted a really excellent rebuttal of the Sac Bee Editorial (I might add, I have not seen another other editorial dismiss Kenny’s rulings in this manner — only the CHSRA continues to say all is well — don’t worry)

    Link to Chris Reed’s article:

    NEW: Grim LAT: Bullet train $25B short. Dim Sac Bee: What $25B? All soon to be well!


  29. Joe
    Nov 29th, 2013 at 12:02

    Re-mouthing the CAHSRA ?
    Then I suppose Reed is re-foaming your opinion.

    The project isn’t short funds for the construction segment. That’s why the State is optimistic a path forward can be found.

    You know the press commentary billions are are risk, inducing Caltrain electrification, due to the judge’s ruling on what prop1a requires doesn’t sound as awesome as you hope.

  30. Jos Callinet
    Nov 29th, 2013 at 13:03

    A very large toilet awaits the CAHSRA – SOMEONE is about to push the flush handle – it will be interesting to see who actually gets to send California’s high speed rail project swirling down the drain, never again to be seen or heard from.

    It’s only a matter of time, folks!! As much as I hate to say it, the game is over.

  31. Jos Callinet
    Nov 29th, 2013 at 13:26

    I’m talking about THE CURRENT CAHSRA plan that, I believe, is going to be given the Royal Flush. It’s fatally flawed, in too many respects. Judge Kenny has highlighted these flaws such that we can no longer avert our gaze from them.

    Perhaps another better plan can be crafted, and Robert Cruickshank’s idea and recommendation that California alone be the sole entity that pays for it be how this new plan is carried out.

    Lewellan Reply:

    An electrified Peninsula is a 1st Rate investment. Continue electrification on various ACE Altamont route options to Stockton Junction AND Sacramento. Create a 3rd HSR line! Do not plan for 200mph.
    Do not plan Fresno/Madera 200mph electrification nor build unproductive viaducts as these are a 2nd Rate investments. Drop plans for the Madera-Gilroy-SanJose 200mph nonsense.

    Consider a Bakersfield-LasVegas corridor to serve the Bay Area near as well as LA.
    How would a Bakersfield Junction to Las Vegas pencil out on a map? Is this another good argument favoring Tejon instead of Tehachapi? Tejon crests at a lower elevation, has fewer miles of tunnel and viaduct, is 34 miles less in length thus faster, has less impact, less cost yet considered ancient history by the high and mighty. Ask Clem about this route to LV.

    LA County grade-separation and track upgrades investments seem fine.
    Consider Talgo XXI Hybrid (diesel with pantagraph) locomotives & trainsets.
    (MADE IN USA circa 1950’s). Tops out at 135mph – fast enough for SF-SJ-Sacramento corridor.
    Stockton to LA, cruises cleanly through rural area.
    Least electrification through tunnels, urban strips and stations.

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