HSR Doesn’t Need Friends Like These

Feb 12th, 2014 | Posted by

I was really pleased to see the headline of a new op-ed in the Los Angeles Times titled Don’t give up on the bullet train, California. I hoped it would be a rousing defense of the concept of high speed rail, of reducing CO2 emissions and fossil fuel consumption, of moving forward on 21st century infrastructure rather than clinging with a death grip to a 20th century model.

Unfortunately, Tom Zoellner’s op-ed is a collection of contradicting, self-defeating claims that are unworkable and won’t do anything to actually help the HSR project. Part of the problem is that Zoellner falls into the trap of blaming the California High Speed Rail Authority for problems that are entirely outside its control:

The reality has proved more problematic. The California High-Speed Rail Authority stumbled first by promising a smooth construction schedule and a $32-billion price tag. The ensuing lawsuits and engineering revisions have fouled up the timeline and bumped up the price to the current reckoning of $67.6 billion (and it’ll probably be more expensive than that). The rail authority’s latest business plan assumes ever more riders and ever less revenue but still suggests the project will ultimately be self-sustaining.

The lawsuits, along with many of the engineering revisions, are the product of critics and opponents who demanded changes or they would sue. In some cases they got the changes they wanted and sued anyway. HSR’s friends need to start by not blaming the victim.

But Zoellner’s suggestions are even more problematic:

Too many stops. There are a raft of complaints about the planned California route, but the Central Valley, now the nation’s busiest short-haul air corridor, is the right place for high-speed rail technology. However, most passengers will want the fastest end-to-end trip possible. France’s TGV embarrassed itself with the Haute-Picard station, built to encourage development in a rural area. The “beetroot” station remains in the middle of the sticks. The builders of Spain’s AVE blemished their network with a stop at a de-populated town called Yebes.

The desire to appease local politicians may be overwhelming, but California’s current 11-stop road from Los Angeles to San Francisco map routed through Fresno is too jerky and slow. The so-called Grapevine route, roughly paralleling Interstate 5 and without as many constituencies to appease, should be resurrected.

This is ridiculous. Serving millions of potential riders in the Central Valley isn’t appeasement, it’s smart service. The point of a train isn’t just to connect point A to point B, but to link up points C, D and E if it’s reasonable to do so. Bypassing the Highway 99 corridor cities would be a huge mistake, especially since the time difference between the two is not actually very significant.

Further, Zoellner betrays his bias against the Central Valley by dismissing it as “the middle of the sticks.” Fresno and Bakersfield are not “the sticks” and cannot be compared to Haute-Picard or Yebes. Fresno has about the same population as Zaragoza, a major city on the Madrid-Barcelona HSR route, and is much bigger than Córdoba, a key stop on the Madrid-Sevilla HSR route. It’s even bigger than Lyon, the first destination on the TGV system from Paris when it opened in 1981. So the idea that the Central Valley is some pointless, empty place is just absurd.

Stop pretending it will pay for itself. The hard truth is that high-speed rail almost never makes money. Only two lines of the 99 now operating in the world, Tokyo-Osaka and Paris-Lyon, make any money. And they too required considerable subsidies at the beginning.

In any event, the cost-benefit analysis has to include more than the immediate bottom line: fewer cars on the road, fewer jets in the skies, less pollution in the air.

You mean the same Lyon that is smaller than Fresno?

Zoellner is fudging the numbers here, including construction costs as well as operating costs when figuring profit. HSR rarely pays back the construction cost, except over a very long timeline. But that’s true of any major infrastructure of any kind. The key is that virtually every HSR route does indeed pay for its operations, which is all that Prop 1A requires.

Personally I would love nothing more than to stop talking about whether rail will pay for itself. It shouldn’t have to and insisting that it does is causing significant damage to the effort to build a better passenger rail system in this country. But the fact is that HSR covers its operating costs and will comply with the Prop 1A requirements easily.

Bad compromises. Rightfully wary of the affluent and lawsuit-happy residents of the peninsula south of San Francisco, state officials proposed in 2012 to run the bullet train there on existing tracks owned by Union Pacific. This eliminates the need to condemn land and build expensive new tracks, but it also creates hassles with Union Pacific, forces a drastic reduction in speed (which violates the legal mandate to create a 160-minute ride) and heightens the chances of a collision with an automobile at a grade crossing. The “blended” portions of France’s high-speed train are the most frustrating sections for riders and dispatchers. Speed and safety shouldn’t be compromised, even if it costs more.

So wait. Zoellner blamed the CHSRA for causing lawsuits, then slams it for avoiding a nuclear war with the deep-pocketed Peninsula NIMBYs? I don’t like the blended plan either but as a phase, a step toward the ultimate goal of a four-track system on the Peninsula, I’m fine with it. That’s realism. In any case, Zoellner is victim-blaming again here. If he slammed the selfish NIMBYs who demanded the blended plan I’d be cheering him on.

Not enough Mussolini. This is an unattractive lesson: Big trains like this get built with an autocratic touch. Japan’s Shinkansen train went online in 1964 after enormous domestic resistance only because of the bluster and persistence of an all-but-forgotten bureaucrat named Shinji Sogo, nicknamed Old Man Thunder by his underlings.

I don’t think Zoellner realizes that we do live in a democracy. I can’t stand the NIMBYs either, but they do have a right to use the legislative and legal processes. I think that ability should be streamlined and limited, but I don’t think we need to have some sort of autocratic approach to make HSR work.

HSR in Spain and France was built by democracies (including Socialist parties). California HSR can be built democratically as well, but only if its political leaders decide to do something positive about California’s future rather than sacrifice it for short-term gains. One would imagine that a historic drought would, for example, focus their attention on CO2 reductions. We shall see what happens.

  1. Jerry
    Feb 13th, 2014 at 00:40

    The LA Weekly quotes Tom Zoellner regarding CAHSR: “I don’t want to be a head-in-the-clouds romanticist, but it’s important for our future as a state.” “It’s not going to usher in an era of total fuel efficiency, it won’t make money, it’s going to be hard to build, and it will only have a partial impact on traffic going from L.A. to the Bay Area. But it can work, and it can be an inspiration of where we need to go as a society. This is our Gemini Project.”

    “I take a train to work every day, 47 minutes,” he says, traveling from downtown L.A. to Orange, home of Chapman University. “It’s cheap and it saves me from the freeway.”

  2. Eric
    Feb 13th, 2014 at 02:35


    Sounds like the Japanese version of Robert Moses, with HSR taking the place of freeways.

  3. Alon Levy
    Feb 13th, 2014 at 02:40

    Metro Lyon has 2.1 million people, Metro Fresno 1.1. French cities have very tight boundaries (France has 30,000 communes, the same number of incorporated cities in the US but with only one fifth the population).

    Also, the technical term for “only two HSR lines make any money” is “a lie.” As Zoellner would’ve known if instead of reading Wendell Cox he’d looked at JR E/W/C, DB, or SNCF profit and loss statements, all of which are available online for the benefit of people who want to tell the truth once in a while.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Even with the ridiculous “Have already payed back their capital costs” metric that that is based off of, haven’t some of the Chinese lines already done so?

    Novacek Reply:

    More importantly, Lyon has an urbanized population of 1,551,228 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyon While Fresno has an urbanized population of 654628 http://www2.census.gov/geo/ua/ua_list_all.xls

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    People out in the unurbanized areas will be allowed to drive to the station, park the car and take the train.

    Novacek Reply:

    allowed, yes. will, maybe not. Once someone is in their vehicle and driving, it’s that much harder to convince them to get out of it into transit. Especially if staying in their car means they have it on the other end.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and what’s difference between getting in their car 20 blocks and an entrance ramp closer to LA or SF in the urbanized portion of Fresno and getting in their car just outside of the urbanized area? Or someone getting in their car where the urbanized area peters out and someone who lives next door, in the next census tract which isn’t urbanized?

    joe Reply:

    They plan to have rental car facilities at stations for those needing a car on the other end.

    Cities like Salinas/Monterey CA already have a MST Amtrak Bus that stops in Gilroy on route to San Jose Amtrak. Maybe a friend drops them off – or they take a shuttle bus or airport shuttle service that would obviously make a HSR stop.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If the non-urbanized area counts, then Rhône-Alpes has 6 million people.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They count, just because you live someplace where everybody owns a car and drives everywhere it doesn’t make traffic to the big city any better or the parking easier to find/cheaper.

  4. ericmarseille
    Feb 13th, 2014 at 03:28

    Always that same, stale argument : High Speed Rail lines don’t pay for themselves!

    Needless to say on this blog that Tokyo-Osaka and Paris-Lyon not only are heavily profitable (SNCF eggheads are turning their heads upside down in order to find a way to stuff more trains on Paris-Lyon, even believe a doubling of the line is inevitable eventually), but have reimbursed all their funding costs. Try to do that with a highway or an air route and call me back.

    That said, and although I’m sure that HSR will be a tremendous success for California, I think that promising the SF-LA full trip for $55, if it is actually part of the proposition, is over-optimistic. CAHSR should promise the equivalent, or just under, of the air fare on the same route.
    The joy and much more relaxed and comfortable HSR experience should do the rest.

  5. joe
    Feb 13th, 2014 at 05:49

    Kool Kids are for HSR but not too much or they’ll be called choo-choo fan boys. Keep with the herd, don’t stick out or fall behind least a lion eat you.

    It’s just a train system using technology first deployed din the 1960s and we’re catching up to the rest of the world – how can this be so difficult to get?

  6. BMF of San Diego
    Feb 13th, 2014 at 07:25

    The cost increase from $32 billion to whatever it is today is additionally the result of 1) inflation, and 2) initial optimistic assumptions concerning the project definition.

  7. Ted Judah
    Feb 13th, 2014 at 07:30

    Not sure Robert was wise to hammer Zoellner quite so hard. Instead, the main theme in the op-Ed is the frustration with the political process. Rebutting Zoellner less aggressively could get more traction.

    As an example, “too many stops” ignores the fact that the system is designed to be accessible to something like 85% of California’s population. The State has a fiduciary duty to maintain access even if it incurs cost. Other programs don’t have this bias: are there too many UC campuses? Are there too many public hospitals?

    In addition, the most economical design is always one that utilizes a trunk design over spurs. Southern Californians, meanwhile, lose sight of that because the freeways done there are not designed that way and yet are still congested. It also doesn’t help that Zoellners’ ride to work (Metrolink) mimics the freeways and does not employ a trunk design.

    joe Reply:

    “Rebutting Zoellner less aggressively could get more traction. ”

    Less aggressively means letting him slide and allowing “truths” to be printed that are not true.

    When You write an op-ed. Own it.

    jonathan Reply:

    … unless of course it’s Joe saying “truths” which are not true….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t care about traction, I care about how Zoellner is saying untruths in his editorials: HSR requires subsidies, the cost has gone up from $32 billion to $67 billion, Grapevine is the same as I-5, Fresno is a beet field station. The amount of ignorance it takes to conflate Haute-Picardie with the proposals for downtown stations for Bakersfield and Fresno is astounding; people who aren’t familiar with the issue shouldn’t be writing editorials about HSR.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I’m not sure which is better truth:

    1) COnsultants and state officials actively misled people about the real cost to pass a bond measure

    2) Costs have gone up

    joe Reply:

    3) Bad compromises….. Speed and safety shouldn’t be compromised, even if it costs more.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Whose speed? Moving things out to I-5 makes it faster for people who want to go between LA and SF, it makes it slower for people in Bakersfield and Fresno. A lot slower for people in Fresno. Or people who want to go to Fresno. Or Bakersfield.

    joe Reply:

    That sectioning the article (above) refers to the Peninsula. Speed along the Caltrain ROW – built HSR track and build appropriate grade separations, not blended. Maybe Morris can litigate that because the idea HSR stoops when the stop blended is nuts.

    Caltrain ridership will want the track improved and faster Caltrain service too.

    Since Menlo Park’s Mayor now wants to put up eye sore electric billboards along the 101 and Dumbarton Bridge – how can Menlo Park object to visually aesthetics of the HSR ROW?

    jonathan Reply:

    Maybe Morris can litigate that because the idea HSR stoops when the stop blended is nuts.

    What Earth are you trying to say?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    No the better truth is:

    4) The public voted for it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Well, 1 is a subset of 2…

    What I’m complaining about specifically is the comparison of real to nominal costs.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I think there is a job waiting for at CalTrans.

  8. BMF of San Diego
    Feb 13th, 2014 at 07:34

    I take the train every day from the San Gabriel Valley to Downtown Los Angeles. It also saves me time and money. Moreover, I have additional free time to manage my life via my smart phone and guilty pleasures; such as contributing on blog sites like this one.

    I do not believe HSR will save us entirely; however, it will contribute to a more self-sufficient or self sustaining State and Country, and lessen the dollars sent to foreign countries and their fanatic people to pay for petrol and that would rather see good Americans dead and our way of life changed substantially.

  9. Paul Dyson
    Feb 13th, 2014 at 09:20

    Surprised Robert you didn’t pick up on the error regarding UP ownership of the peninsula tracks. An indication that the author of the piece really doesn’t know the subject too well, and casting doubt on anything else in the piece. I’m sure Zoellner means well, but any OpEd piece that kicks off with references to Casey Jones ceases to be a serious discussion of a multi billion transportation project.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Totally harmless article coming from a typical Californian of a liberal persuasion. The Cheerleaders should not be upset at all. But why are they? Simply because the average voter, even if their details are not well vetted, can see thru the flaws of DogLegRail straightaway. Brown, Richards, PB and Barry Zoeller have a big problem here that won’t go away.

    No one’s gonna invest their own money at real risk in this TehaVegaSkyRail POS. AmBART is a money pit. Jerry’s Maginot Line and he is too impaired to even perceive it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    My point in a nutshell is that the Cheerleaders are more committed to The Palmdale Crusade than they are to HSR.

  10. Keith Saggers
    Feb 13th, 2014 at 12:42

    Rail opponents are suing to prevent the rail authority from using money from Prop. 1A. Rulings in two court cases are being appealed by the state, and a hearing is set for Feb. 14 in Sacramento County Superior Court in the rail agency’s bid to avoid a trial in Kings County’s lawsuit on whether the “blended” system can live up to financial and operational performance promises made in Prop. 1A

    Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/02/07/3756311/stable-costs-predicted-in-new.html##storylink=cpy

  11. John Burrows
    Feb 13th, 2014 at 13:38

    From the San Jose Mercury News last Sunday—“High cost of homes send many to exurbs”

    With Silicon Valley booming, home prices as far away as Los Banos and Patterson in the San Joaquin Valley are skyrocketing; The median home price in San Jose in the 4th quarter last year was $645,000—The median home price in Los Banos was $185,000 after going up 38% in one year—The median home price in Patterson was $229,000 (up 45%) . An increasing number of people working in Silicon Valley are moving out to these exurbs, but the commute is a nightmare: 1hr-18min from Los Banos to San Jose and 1hr-22 min from Patterson to San Jose.

    The median home price in Fresno in the 4th quarter last year was about $190,000, and in Merced $170,000. Travel time to San Jose by bullet train would be under 1 hour. For a person living near the high speed rail station in either city, commuting by train would become a doable option.

    If San Francisco is point A on the map, then this becomes an example of how a high speed rail connection will benefit point D (San Jose), point F (Merced), and point G (Fresno). And this is the main reason why I support CAHSR, my belief that it will not only link San Francisco with Los Angeles, but will also tie together these intermediate points by making things such as working in Silicon Valley and living in Fresno or in Merced possible.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Sprawl = bad.
    Except when it’s selling PB choo choo.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “Green, green,
    It’s green they say,
    On the far side of the hill.
    Green, green,
    I’m going away to where
    The grass is greener still.”

    StevieB Reply:

    “My hat is old. My teeth are gold. I have a bird I like to hold. My shoe is off. My foot is cold. My shoe is off. My foot is cold. I have a bird I like to hold. My hat is old. My teeth are gold. And now my story is all told.”

    John Burrows Reply:

    I cannot see—I cannot pee—I cannot chew—I cannot screw—My memory shrinks—My hearing stinks—No sense of smell—I look like hell—My body is drooping—Trouble pooping—The golden years have come at last—The golden years can kiss my ___

    And if anyone wants to know, this pretty much describes the aging process.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    Gives us all something to really look forward to!

    John Burrows Reply:

    I don’t see how living near a HSR station contributes to sprawl—Wouldn’t the opposite be true?

    joe Reply:

    Yes. In fact it’s been shown that areas near HSR stations have increased GDP. Communities near a station have increased access to work areas. That access also stabilizes communities.

    Derek Reply:

    Do the areas in those studies have overbuilt parking lots at the stations as the CHSRA is planning?

    joe Reply:

    It’s the HSR economic study done in Germany and that study is also mentioned in the HSR report under economic benefits. I’d be interested in what you find.

    Myself, I’m lobbying against fully building parking (like 6,600 spaces) and my city seems to think (in the envisioning report) that parking will be dispersed and built as needed – not built all at once.

    Also Gilroy wants the station at the current transit station/Caltrain which means it already has local and interregional bus service. VTA express and local buses terminate/originate there. MST and San Benito and Shuttles already service the station.

    Hypothetical AM commuter service will start at Gilroy and make all stops north in the AM.

    Derek Reply:

    “As needed” to a city usually means a surplus of parking when the price is zero, not the economically optimal amount of parking.

    joe Reply:

    Well look at the documents and see what you can read and infer from their plans – or just speculate. maybe you can write an economically optimal pricing model for HSR.

    Derek Reply:

    That’s easy. Do surveys to determine how many people would park at the station given a range of prices. Plot the annual revenue per parking space on the Y-axis, where the X-axis is the number of people who would park there at that price.

    Then determine the amortized cost of providing parking spaces, with the cost per space on the Y-axis and the number of parking spaces on the X-axis.

    Where those two graphs intersect is the economically optimal number of parking spaces.

    Michael Reply:

    They have to consider the buildout/biggest impact in the environmental documents. The huge parking is based on full buildout. A lot can happen between now and 20XX to change how people get to HSR stations.

    Joey Reply:

    Fresno and Merced still have a lot of outward expanding they can do. If you live immediately adjacent to the station then it’s fine, but there is a lot of undeveloped area which is within a relatively short driving distance of the stations.

    Then again, if the operator is interested in breaking even, then they will probably outprice commuters on the shorter trips.

    joe Reply:

    Fresno can spread but not if that growth is driven by residents seeking access to HSR in downtown. They are going to a central location in an already built up area which in my mind doesn’t foster sprawl.
    It encourages infill.

    Joey Reply:

    My concern is that Fresno can expand to the southwest while still keeping new housing within a short drive of the station. I doubt there’s going to be a parking shortage in downtown Fresno any time soon.

    Joe Reply:

    A drive is measured in time, not distance, and time to park at the destination. Just ask any commuter.

    When the HSR becomes operation, Fresno will be very different. The Gilroy city plans show large multistory development in our city. Fresno has similar plans so parking availability isn’t a given.

    If the HSR station attracts residents, HSR users for example, access to the station will matter. Show that sprawling developments will have ready access to HSR. There are many counter examples of people wanting to live close to stations and transportation. Maybe you want to buy a home and drive into a city center for rail commuting. Most people don’t.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    When parking is short it becomes expensive. Building a humongous parking garage at the station the walk from the car eventually becomes as time consuming as taking the bus. And longer than taking a taxi that costs less than the parking.

    jimsf Reply:

    Cities like fresno, you will continue to have the existing way of life, and you will continue to see the typical growth, that won’t change, but what will change is that you add some urban core lifestyle in additional to conventional living. That will make the city more interesting overall. Urbanistas who are prices out of the uber hip markets in the bay and la, can opt for a cheaper urban knock off lifestyle in the medium sized cities such as fresno. This is what happened in sacramento. Back in the 70s to mid 80s, sacramento was much like fresno. ( with less crime though)
    Then, a small exodus began from sf, because sac was so cheap, ( a lot of gay and lesbian couples moved up here then to buy the “charming homes” in midtown, which at the time, was not considered “desirable” the change was gradual, but the spark was there. Today. housing in midtown is untouchable. Fresno will be a little more challenging being 3 hours from sf instead of 90 minutes like sac, but, with hsr, and the 152 corridor, fresno will become joined at the “hip” with silicon valley. One thing that really stands out…. in sac, you do not have the blight of billboards and signs that fresno has. IT has not occured to fresno that this visual clutter is an issue.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It won’t change because the zoning calls for single family houses on half acre minimum lots. If all you offer to people is single family houses on half acre lots they’ll buy those instead of living in a cardboard box under the highway overpass.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I doubt that this is why Los Banos prices are going up. Does the market really believe that HSR will even be built at this stage, let alone built with a station in Los Banos? Most likely it’s just more car-oriented sprawl. Drive until you qualify, even if it takes you to Los Banos.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Ask someone in Monroe County PA what they were told by the real estate agent about trains and the easy commute…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What were they told about trains?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That they were coming soon. They’ve been saying that for 25 years. I’m sure in 2009 they were telling people that, according to the newspaper, it would be completed in 2014. And neglecting to say that that was contingent on finding half a billion dollars.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Serious question: why is this different from SAS? With SAS my understanding is that nobody bought thinking it would be just around the corner, except during periods when it was actually under construction, i.e. the 1970s and now. The NJT equivalent of SAS in the 1970s is “soon there will be ARC and your Bergen County suburb will have a one-seat ride to Penn Station,” since that was actually under construction.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    What is “PB Chew-Chew” – a brand of tobacco?

    jimsf Reply:

    Yes I blame high speed rail, which doesn’t exist in california, for housing prices, commute times and and single family home sprawl that has been taking place in california for 100 years.

    Sprawl and hsr have nothing to do with each other because, um, there is no hsr and in its absence, people continue to demand single family homes with yards, they continue to buy homes in their price range based on income level, and they continue to put up with whatever hellish commute they have to put up with in order to get those homes for a price they can afford.

    And developers continue to build those homes in those places, because there is a demand for them. Just today another community in roseville announced new construction starting in the mid 400s. You should see what is going on in Folsom and El Dorado hills. The homes keep getting bigger and there are more and more of them. It must be the fault of high speed rail.

    As long as people want room for their families, good schools and safe neighborhoods, that is what will get built and that is what will sell.

    All high speed rail is going to do is create a fast convenient option for travel between regions for the “way too many people who will be living in california” not everyone is going to use it, but with 50 million people all trying to go somewhere, enough of them will use it.

    Meanwhile, people will continue to balance their lifestyle preferences with what they can afford and do the best they can.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    New construction in Roseville has to do with their 1980s grade economic development strategy. They are in Placer County, which has far fewer controls on growth than Sacramento County. Placer also has no light rail. Although pressure is building in Sac county to build beltway freeways that would cause development to mushroom, many people are transplants from the Bay Area or LA and don’t like that idea.

    jimsf Reply:

    yes the there is a need for those beltway freeway here as those that were planned in the 60s and 70s and halted, have resulted in total gridlock at rush hour in residential areas. The area shown here which is mostly miles of residential and large surface streets, comes to a grinding halt everyday due to a lack of any connections between – i80 and us50. There are two solutions coming however, on the north side the placer parkway project will connect fast growing lincoln roseville area to the 70/99 corridor to the west to provide an option to i80. then next big growth area is the southeast, the area between us50 and 99, where the capitolsoutheast connector is planned from the placerville/el dorado hills area, to elk grove. The most critical missing link however, with no solution, is the sunrise blvd corridor between 80 and 50. There is no way to get from the 50 corridor to anyplace north or east on the 80 corridor without spending a half hour driving through residential areas.

    jimsf Reply:

    Once completed you get this where you can see the missing link

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    the problem is that backed up highways discourage people from using them and once you build enough highway to clear up the backups the people who stayed home decide to go out. The new highway is just as backed up.

    jimsf Reply:

    Back up highways don’t really discourage anyone, people still use them, they are just much crankier while doing so or they come up with tricks, timing, side streets and skilled circus style maneuvers to adapt. If people have to go somewhere, they have to go.

    I was going to work this afternoon. But Ive been discouraged by the traffic. So I called in “discouraged” ( pay code 04)

    I was going to get my cholesterol checked today but Id rather have a stroke than sit in traffic.

    Id love to meet you for lunch at chez la de da, but I’d too discouraged by heavy traffic to enjoy my pinot gris.

    Get up on a hill above la at dusk rush hour, when you can see all the freeways laid out, doesn’t look like anyone is discouraged. They are fully equipped and ready for the challenge.

    Joe Reply:

    People use side streets. I’ve seen that in the Palo Alto, mountain view, and Sunnyvale area. What I thought were overbuilt streets can approach grid lock in the mornings. They finally began metering the on ramps in 2007.

    People use side streets and alternative routes.

    Caltrans expanded HW 101 in NIMBYland with a new car pool and merge lane while the nice ladies and gentlemen of PAMPA sat quietly as it occurred without even demanding an EIR. The expansion is supposed to reduce metering backups and get cars off their side streets. See, it’s not always about fiscal responsibility or air quality.

    Sadly, this expansion also also allows more cars to exit onto the side streets. It’s just going to increase traffic.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    For the past century we’ve been building highways to relieve congestion and all that happens is with free flowing traffic more people decide to go out and do things, like move to the suburbs, and that clogs up the highway again. Looking at traffic above LA doesn’t show you how many people decided to take the subway. Or Metrolink. Or the bus. Or go to the restaurant five blocks from home instead of the one ten miles away.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Did you move again?

    If you would ever like to meet up in Sac some time let me know. I actually think the urban plan is amazingly sane in the 916.

  12. datacruncher
    Feb 13th, 2014 at 15:29

    Interesting article discussing several things going on with HSR in Kings County. The author, John Lindt, appears to freelance for several different Central Valley newspapers so this article will likely appear in one of those newspapers in the next few days.

    A few excerpts but much more in the article:

    So is just about everyone in this farm county against the controversial project? Not so says tomato farmer Brad Johns who lives northeast of Hanford. Last week “the survey team was invited to come in, met with me and other farmers covering five miles of proposed track on the eastern alignment” says Johns. “Both myself and my neighbors were satisfied with how we were treated.”

    “We are meeting this week with the City of Hanford to go over issues” says Gomez who met with both administrative staff and the vice mayor February 5th. Gomez says the cost of paying for the infrastructure to build a station just east of town was on the agenda.

    Addressing one of the largest businesses in the way of the planned alignment, Baker Commodities rendering plant east of Hwy 43, Gomez says “since we can’t avoid the plant we plan to mitigate by relocating part of the production facility away from the trains’ path and insuring that “they don’t lose one day of production because of the project.”

    Unlike past forays into Kings County the assembled HSR staff team has a local flair for a change.

    “We are looking to improve our relations in Kings County” admits Gomez who grew up in Parlier in nearby Fresno County and attended Fresno State graduating with an engineers degree.“We meet every month with Farm Bureau committees from Madera and Merced counties” says Gomez who is well aware that the mitigation work being planned along the route often flows from litigation with the same parties.

    Helping Gomez in Kings County is former farm bureau chief in Tulare County Cheryl Lehn who grew up in Kings County and former Kings County chair of the Board of Supervisors Tony Oliveira, an economist and now consultant.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Thru a rendering plant – parfum de PB.

    Zorro Reply:

    Then there is this and some interesting tidbits too:

    If Kings County bullet train opponents have stalled spending on the project with two rulings by that Sacramento Superior Court judge recently – an appeal to a higher court is now underway with a decision likely by the end of this month on whether the Authority can use Prop 1A state bond funds to build the project. Gomez has a different way to look at it suggesting “we are mandated to use those funds.”

    Meanwhile the Authority continues to work on a final EIR for the 110 mile Fresno to Bakersfield leg east of Hanford with final approval by the HSR board coming as soon as April and federal concurrence by summer.

    When will the first 29 mile segment north of Fresno break ground? ”People don’t often see a lot things that are happening because this is a design/build project in the design stage. But right of way is being bought and utilities are being relocated” adds Gomez.

    If opponents complain the state‘s largest infrastructure project has been long delayed they don’t often admit it is their actions that often cause the delay. But in truth they would rather see the project dead in its tracks.

    But Gomez says “people need to know – this project is moving forward and we are here to assist in minimizing impacts in any way we can.”

    Keith Saggers Reply:


    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    A half billion extra for Caltrans freeway projects due entirely to outstanding PB route alignment choice.

    World Class!

    synonymouse Reply:

    PB will be the ones to “consult” on the scrapping a few decades down the road when the State cannot bear the subsidies any more and no buyers.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    synonymouse: Perhaps it’s time to set aside all these pricey plans for CA’s HSR and instead let MEGABUS do the job.

    It is so much cheaper all around; no money needed for infrastructure (MEGABUS uses existing highways), and already Megabus is luring thousands of would-be motorists out of their cars by Megabus’s extraordinarily low fares ($1.00 roundtrip Los Angeles-San Francisco) if you book online far enough in advance; $64.00 round-trip if booking Feb. 28 returning March 7).

    MegaBus is already giving us fewer cars on the road, thereby contributing to less pollution of the atmosphere. Drivers save on gas and tolls, wear-and-tear on their cars, and someone else besides them does the driving.

    What more than that could we ask for? What is needed is for MegaBus to expand their service to cover more parts of the state, and a few dedicated terminals for it built at major end-points.

    (Here you can read many letters of high praise MegaBus’s comfy service , complete with wifi, has earned from its loyal customer base: http://www.yelp.com/biz/megabus-chicago .)

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is so stupid because CAHSR makes real sense and could work.

    I do not grok what Palmdale and the Tejon Ranch have on the Cheerleaders and Jerry Brown. Palmdale belongs to the Metrolink aegis and the Tejonies are just being paranoid and playing hard to get.

    Tejon is a no-brainer as with Altamont; I-5 vs. 99 is more tentative and controversial but why rake the farmers over the coals?

    Even Amtrak too likes the bus and cannot bring itself to try one train over Tehachapi.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Tehachapi Loop.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Just you implying “Greater Sac” is supposedly bigger (and thus more important) than San Jose/Silicon Valley reinforces how much of an idiot you are. Thank you..

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    California Travel Spending by County, 2011 (millions of dollars)

    Los Angeles: 22024
    San Diego: 12545
    San Francisco: 11287
    Orange: 9076
    Riverside: 6302
    San Bernadino: 4215
    Santa Clara: 4401
    Alameda: 3180
    Sacramento: 2995
    San Mateo: 2857
    Monterey: 2148

    Sacramento County is about 68% of Santa Clara County.
    Santa Clara is 40% the market of SF
    San Francisco is about half the market of LA.

    San Diego (not even on the CHSRA radar) is comparable to SF.
    Alameda+Contra Costa Counties (erased from the PBQD=CHSRA purview with maximum prejudice) are equal to Santa Clara County.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Then San Jose belongs to Caltrain. All the Palmdale has to do is annex all of the itty bitty towns around it like San Jose did and in 20 years it can be the state’s third largest city.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I think the Greater Sac conurbation is bigger than San Jose.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Greater Sac (1.9 million) is just a hair bigger than Sant Clara County’s 1.8 million.

    jimsf Reply:

    The 99 is being upgraded anyway and those interchanges need to be rebuilt.

    JB in PA Reply:

    To see what 99 looked like 80 years ago, the north end of 99 is still like it was.


    jimsf Reply:

    yes went over that road many times growing up as lassen park and tehama county was our summer stomping ground. I think its still mostly two lane north of yuba city although some improvements have been made to both 99 and 70 in the chico oroville area.

    Chico, a kind of sleeper town you never hear much about it, but it is growing fast and very desirable, home prices up there are much higher than one would expect.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Yes Richard. Ditto here in Burbank and east Valley. Caltrans currently adding car pool lanes and realigning some curves in I-5. Apparently CHSRA and Caltrans did not discuss, much rework to be done for rail construction. Burbank Blvd over I-5 will go into its 5th rebuild.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals, delivering exactly as planned.

    Clem Reply:

    Why do it right when you can do it five times? The invisible hand at work

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    But doesn’t doing it right, on the Peninsula, involve hanging catenary and then coming back in 5 years and tearing it all down so they can put in a two track grade separation and then coming back in 10 years and tearing that down for a four track one?

    synonymouse Reply:

    More like 50 years.

    Remember catenary would have been hung more than 20 years ago if if had not been for the likes of Quentin Kopp, Willie Brown and Steve Heminger, along with the rest of the usual suspects.

    jonathan Reply:

    Adirondacker, you forgot replacing all the brand-new signal gantries.
    And ripping up all the concrete where CalTrain has fixed ridiculously slow curves, in, er, stone.

  13. Keith Saggers
    Feb 14th, 2014 at 16:45

    areall these projects corrupt, or just this one?

    synonymouse Reply:

    PB’s most blatant corruption in “just this one”, ie. CAHSR, is suppressing the truth. They have so much juice in California, so linked to the reigning political estabishment, they could have gotten away with admitting Tejon is superior in every respect but we don’t give a shit because our job is to provide taxpayer-subsidized commute service to Palmdale real estate developers.

    Everybody would have just moved on – another day in Kumbaya. They did not even have to fire Van Ark. They do whatever they want – as with Tutor – and get away with it year after year. But the gross coverrup is what rankles the most and why the mountain crossing controversy won’t go away. They lied like a dog and insulted everyone’s intelligence.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They did the same thing with BART to SFO and it is still a pisser.

    Totally OT, but for those who have been to Maine where did they come up with the apparent local phrase “wicked pissa”?

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