UCLA Study Misleads On Costs of HSR

Mar 30th, 2014 | Posted by

A recent study from the UCLA Lewis Center argued high speed rail is less cost effective at reducing CO2 emissions than investing in local transportation projects such as buses, light rail, and bike/pedestrian infrastructure.

There are a lot of flaws with this report, starting with the idea that we should pit different CO2 reduction methods against each other. Today saw the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issue its latest report detailing the damage that climate change is already causing our planet. We need ALL forms of CO2 reduction and we need them now.

But as Shane Phillips points out there’s another problem with the Lewis Center study: it ignored drivers switching to HSR:

There are a few problems here. The first is a bit abstract — it’s actually the use of this metric in the first place. It completely ignores those that switch from driving to high-speed rail, because this is switching from a less expensive mode to a more expensive one. From the perspective of this paper, those diversions don’t exist, or at best they’re implicitly judged as mistakes. But people generally act pretty rationally, and someone that decides to trade in a car trip for a train trip is probably doing so for completely valid reasons. Maybe they don’t want to deal with traffic, or they put a premium on their time, or they want to work during their trip. If the benefits of taking the train outweighed the costs, they’d either find another way to get there or they wouldn’t make the trip at all. Reducing all decisions to the immediate monetary cost isn’t very instructive, and the reality of millions of people choosing to use the Acela high-speed rail service in the Northeast, rather than driving, highlights that….

pitting different forms of clean, efficient transit against one another isn’t productive, especially when those transit types serve entirely different purposes. I feel that this recent UCLA report understated the benefits of HSR while overselling the benefits of rail, bus, and bike infrastructure. In truth, they’re both outstanding investments and perfect complements, and we should be striving to find ways to build more of each.

As Phillips argues, the Lewis Center doesn’t think anyone would shift from driving to the bullet train, so those GHG reductions don’t need to be counted. That is an utterly absurd assumption to make. We have evidence to suggest that in fact drivers will likely make up a sizable portion of HSR riders. When Spain’s first HSR route opened in 1992 connecting Madrid to Sevilla, a large number of train riders switched from their cars:

and

It makes sense. A trip from the Bay Area to central LA will take between 5 and 6 hours, depending on traffic and driver speed. That trip time will be cut in half by taking HSR. The train ticket might cost more than it currently costs in gas (but not for long, especially as gas prices rise in the years to come), but for many people time is money and saving several hours is a price worth paying.

And when people make that switch, they are making significant reductions in CO2 emissions. There is no other method to get those drivers on Interstate 5 in the Central Valley out of their cars in a way that reduces their carbon footprint other than high speed rail. It’s a fact that the Lewis Center ought to have included in their study.

  1. Paul Druce
    Mar 30th, 2014 at 21:00
    #1

    Scroll down the page just a tad and what do we find?

    Shane,

    We do consider those shifting from driving to high speed rail.
    We assume an automobile diversion rate of 80.7%, which we back out from the CAHSRA’s figures. This means that the bulk of the ridership comes from avoided automobile trips: 27,481,366 for full build phase 1 in 2040 and 30,364,039 in 2060.

    We use the Authority’s own estimate of avoided VMT for these trips, which we backed out as 149.76 avoided auto miles per HSR trip from the Authority’s claim that 4,115,684,637 automobile miles would be avoided due to HSR and dividing that by the 27,481,366 trips. I was a bit surprised by this number (I thought it would be higher), but it passed a sanity check if many of the HSR trips are regional rather than end-to-end. If the CAHSRA has a better figure to use, I’ll plug it into the model.

    As you might see, 149.76*0.555 = $83.1168, meaning only pennies of savings per HSR user (we use the $83 average ticket cost from the business plan). This is why we did the sensitivity analysis to the distance of the auto trip that HSR displaced, because it is a source of uncertainty.

    The CAHSRA used $0.24 per mile, and we mention the result using that per-mile cost in our paper.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Nice work Paul.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    My response:

    Juan,

    The calculation you explain seems suspect to me, because you’re plugging in an $81 ticket cost for a trip that’s only 150 miles long. This is 40-60% higher than the average revenue per unit of distance on the Shinkansen. It is about two and half times as high as intercity rail fare in France, Spain, and Germany; I do not have separate HSR and legacy intercity rail fare data, but in those countries a large majority of intercity travel is HSR. Follow links in paragraph 2 of this post of mine.

    It’s unlikely California HSR will charge such a high ticket price. Indeed, the business plan still clings to an LA-SF estimate of about 100-odd dollars, for the full 400+ mile trip!

    More likely, the $81 average ticket includes all trips, including trips diverted from air. The trips diverted from highways are disproportionately shorter ones, such as LA-Fresno; the longer trips today, such as LA-SF, have significant air travel, so the average HSR trip could be much longer than the average HSR trip diverted from cars. There may also be a first class vs. coach issue: my guess is that first-class rail riders are disproportionately longer-distance business travelers whose alternative is flying rather than driving, and since average fares (at least the ones I have access to) include both travel classes, this again pushes down the fare for rail riders diverted from highways.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Indeed, the business plan still clings to an LA-SF estimate of about 100-odd dollars, for the full 400+ mile trip!

    Picking two dates in May the lowest fare from Boston to Washington DC is 76 on a Regional that gets to DC in the dead of night. The highest fare is 420 for first class on an Acela that leaves reasonable hours. There are quite a few seats available on Regionals that leave at decent hours for 101. A three hour trip between LA and SF will have half as much labor in it as Boston and DC.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The plan sets the max at $86

    from

    http://www.hsr.ca.gov/docs/about/business_plans/BPlan_2014drft__Ridership_Revenue.pdf

    section 3.1

    ————

    HSR fares for all 2014 Business Plan scenarios were identical to those in the 2012
    Business Plan, based on the following formula, with an $86 maximum in 2013
    dollars (see Table 3.1):
    · $31.13 + $0.1924 per mile (in 2013 dollars) for interregional fares;
    · $23.10 + $0.1604 per mile (in 2013 dollars) for intraregional fares for SCAG
    region; and
    · $14.97 + $0.1283 per mile (in 2013 dollars) for intraregional fares for MTC and
    SANDAG regions.
    ——————–

    Alon Levy Reply:

    …why are the intraregional fares per mile lower in the most congested areas?

    But never mind. Using the highest rate, the 150-mile diverted auto trip is $60, not $81, which bumps up the cost saving of switching to HSR by a factor of 10.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Make ing them slightly less irrelevant

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t understand your comment. What’s the antecedent of “them”?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Them = the savings. You said the savings are 10x better and my response was that they ( the savings) are still irrelevant

    I should have been more clear, my point is that the car diversions are so small it just doesn’t add up to much money

  2. John Nachtigall
    Mar 30th, 2014 at 21:28
    #2

    It makes perfect sense that auto diversion will be small. If you have a family of 4 it would be much less expensive to drive rather than take the train. I believe a while back none other than Alon stated he choose a car over the Acela when he was in DC because he was with a group.

    Really it is only singletons and business trips that make economic sense. The authority itself doesn’t estimate more than 1.2% by vehicle miles

    Paul Druce Reply:

    To be fair, per mile, fares on the Acela are about three times what the Authority wants to charge as I recall.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The authority has to break even…no subsidies. Running a train in CA is no cheaper than DC

    Andrew L-A Reply:

    Is CAHSR expected to cover the costs of the Pacific Metroliner service too?

    EJ Reply:

    There’s no such thing as the “Pacific Metroliner.” Do you mean the Pacific Surfliner? The answer’s no, of course not. Just as it’s not expected to cover the costs of the San Joaquin or the Capitol Corridor.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    As Lee Corso would say, “not so fast my friends”–

    The current Governor intends to shift the cost associated with the Surfliner and Capitol Corridor/San Joaquin’s to local transit districts. It’s conceivably if CAHSR becomes very profitable some of those revenues could be redistributed to the local transit districts to subsidize feeder service. But that presumes again there is ridership to support such a program.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    this is after those revenues are used to build phase 2 right? Because that is codified in Prop1a.

    I also think it is cute that not only do you think it will break even it will turn a profit. A profit that wont go to the private money that is supposed to pay for 1/3 the costs.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    You are getting confused about the nature of profit versus revenue. It’s entirely possible parking and PFC charges could be split off the top with local jurisdictions while fares and cargo revenue, electricity sales, etc. are plowed back into the system.

    Moreover, the hardest way to profit in transportation is using fares alone. It is the add on stuff that makes the difference. Plus, if capital costs are subsidized you can spread around the fare revenue too.

    Donk Reply:

    You guys are missing the great point that Andrew made. Acela, by itself, turns a profit, but Amtrak has to subsidize the slow Metroliner service on the same route. There is no such legacy service that HSR will have to subsidize and deal with.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    There is no Metroliner service, that was replaced with by Acela. Furthermore, the Northeast Regionals make a profit above the rails.

    EJ Reply:

    Acela is a premium business and first class service. That’s how it’s marketed and that’s how it’s priced. Presumably there will be economy/standard class on CAHSR as well – ie the equivalent of “coach” on the NE regionals.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Prices vary depending on the time of day and day of the week. The low end of Acela fares are about the same as the mid range Regional fares.

    Alan Reply:

    No, Acela does not make a profit, because it does not earn enough to cover the cost of its infrastructure. A privately-owned business which doesn’t earn enough to cover maintenance and renewal of its fixed assets will soon cease to operate, or at least will operate under court protection… Boardman’s claims that Acela is “profitable” is all smoke-and-mirrors–an effort to get taxpayers nationwide to cover the infrastructure costs of the current NEC, so he can take that alleged “profit” and sink it into his HSR dream.

    Same with the Northeast Regionals. If they’re not earning enough so that the operating surplus covers fixed plant, they’re not “profitable” either.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    They do cover the maintenance cost of using the NEC infrastructure, that’s accounted for in the fully allocated expenses.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Good luck to anyone trying to make sense of Amtrak’s accounting system and cost allocations. He who pays the accountant decides which business line wins, and which loses. If Boardman thinks Acela is so great then spin off the NEC into an independent operation and let the chips fall where they may.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Good luck to anyone trying to make sense of Amtrak’s accounting system and cost allocations.

    Luckily we do know that MOW allocations are included in the expenses. Also they earn sufficient revenue as to account for it even assuming that it isn’t

    He who pays the accountant decides which business line wins, and which loses.

    Eh, that’s in the realm of conspiracy balderdash. Amtrak’s single largest expense category is labor and labor is heavily concentrated in the long distance train division.

    If Boardman thinks Acela is so great then spin off the NEC into an independent operation and let the chips fall where they may.

    Solution in search of a problem.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Labor is heavily concentrated in maintaining NEC RoW, signals etc. Plus at corporate office. If you have any experience of corporate accounting, especially tax accounting, you will know that it’s certainly not “conspiracy balderdash” to assert that cost allocations are often “politically” driven.
    Boardman says he has a problem with the L/D trains and that the NEC subsidizes them. That is a problem. Removing NEC from Amtrak or some other form of separation is a solution to that problem. Owning the NEC and operating a percentage of the trains thereon is sufficiently different from l/d and contract to justify a transfer

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    What is it about train nostalgia that makes grown men lose their minds?

    It’s not “accounting conspiracies” that make land cruise trains lose money hand over fist, it’s “reality”: … the same reality that operates in every other part of the world as well.

    But if only we believe hard enough, the City of New Orleans will be back to its 1972 “glory”. Just believe!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Amtrak’s single largest expense category is labor

    It doesn’t work quite this neatly but make the trains go twice as fast the labor component of each fare gets cut in half. Or the same amount of labor serves twice as many fares. Half as much depreciation on the train set too.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Labor is heavily concentrated in maintaining NEC RoW, signals etc. Plus at corporate office.

    Just under 50% of all labor costs for Amtrak belong to the long distance trains. Maintenance, quite frankly, is cheap. There’s about 1,855 track-miles in the NEC, including Philadelphia-Harrisburg. At $200,000 per, which is on the rather high end but I believe close to what Amtrak appears to pay, MOW should cost, including materiel, $371 million per year.

    If you have any experience of corporate accounting, especially tax accounting, you will know that it’s certainly not “conspiracy balderdash” to assert that cost allocations are often “politically” driven.

    Not to the extent which RailPAC and others have asserted with their claims that the NEC is a money drain and the LD trains profitable but for misallocations. That is truly conspiracy balderdash levels.

    Boardman says he has a problem with the L/D trains and that the NEC subsidizes them. That is a problem. Removing NEC from Amtrak or some other form of separation is a solution to that problem. Owning the NEC and operating a percentage of the trains thereon is sufficiently different from l/d and contract to justify a transfer

    Would you mind restating me in another fashion? I’m not entirely seeing where the problem lies.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    That should read “restating that for me”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Most people are traveling alone. Money isn’t the only consideration. For some people 6,7, 8 hours in the car with the kids isn’t worth the train fare. For some people 6,7, 8 hours in the car isn’t worth it for the two of us. Which is why we take the train to DC.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    And according to the authorities own estimates, that’s 1 out of 100 trips? Are you saying the authorities estimates are wrong? I thought they had been scrubbed by world class professionals?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    most people are traveling alone. which part of that did you find difficult to understand?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I find it very difficult without any offer of proof. I quoted the HSR authorities own estimate of 1.2% reduction in vehicle miles at full buildout. And you quoted…??

  3. morris brown
    Mar 30th, 2014 at 23:13
    #3

    The UCLA article hardly misleads anyone.

    I reference the background report just prepared for the State Senate Housing and Transportation committee.

    see: http://stran.senate.ca.gov/sites/stran.senate.ca.gov/files/BackgroundPaper3-27-14_Final_amended.pdf

    Look at Table 1. for the figures prepared there. There you see LA to SF trip times are 3.9 hr. to 4.6 hours., hardly the 3 hour figure Roberts wants you to believe. So trip saving times over driving are at the best minimal. Furthermore, as pointed out able, driving with 2 or more in a car, makes taking the train a relatively very expensive choice.

    The CHSRA usage of $0.24 / mile cost for tickets will put them into extremely serious deficit on operations. Running the train will cost in the area of $0.40 to $0.50 / mile, and as was discussed at that meeting, the operational costs CHSRA has put forward, need serious re-evaluation.

    Trying to justify the HSR project on the basis of effective CO2 reduction just doesn’t work.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I do not know a single HSR system that costs 40-50 cents per mile to run. What you’re effectively saying is that California HSR should cost twice as much just to run as the European HSR operators charge, covering not just operating costs but also track charges. It doesn’t pass a smell test.

    As for the figures you quote for LA-SF trip times, reread what the table says: “cost and time values are averages based on three randomly chosen origin and destination locations within the specified service areas.” In other words, the trip times include access and egress time, for locations that they refuse to tell us but that somehow have an easier time accessing the airport than the train station, judging by the much lower air travel time given. Somehow, this translates to two hours of access and egress time, which almost requires you to contrive an origin and a destination that are unusually far from the train stations but close to the airports.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Alon,

    California HSR should cost twice as much just to …

    Why single out “just to run” as outlandishly expensive here?
    “Design” costs are already many times the going rate.
    “Construction” is up there in “doesn’t pass a smell test” by your same reckoning.

    Why should costs stop being out of control when it comes to operation, when lack of any cost control has been the most significant feature of the project for the last fifteen years?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Because the “just to run” part is what Morris is saying.

    Meanwhile, the construction does actually pass the smell test. So far, the costs of the Central Valley construction are in the “higher than I’d like” area and not in the “WTF?” area. Belgian lines cost about the same. The main construction cost problem isn’t construction cost per unit of at-grade, elevated, or tunneled track, but rather gratuitous tunnels and viaducts (i.e. Pacheco, iconic bridge, Tehachapis, Bakersfield).

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Alon,

    Nice theory.

    Now look at on-the-ground reality of any other feather-bedded politically juiced welfare operation (aka “transit system”) in California and compare maintenance and operating costs to the same foreign places to which you’re comparing HSR costs.

    CHSR really is a free-for-all. There’s simply no way that’s going to stop when construction is “over”. (And you can be sure that will never happen anyway.) The whole edifice is so totally geared towards throwing cash at insiders that there’s simply no way that track maintenance or station staffing or train crewing or vehicle maintenance is going to be done in anything like a first world fashion. I mean, just look at the concrete they plan to pour and where: gross inefficiency is baked into the system from top to bottom. Not just in Palmdale, but in every surrogate-airport station.

    Delicious, delicious, delicious pork, for everybody (except the public suckers), forever.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Are the operating costs in California actually higher? In New York, the MTA operating costs are about 20% higher per rider than in Paris, as far as I can glean from not necessarily comparable sources; at least in New York, the major cost difference is in construction and not in operations.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I’d be interested to know how they handle depreciation and cost of capital.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Neither figure includes depreciation or interest, as far as I could tell.

    morris brown Reply:

    @ Alon Levy

    Well since your statement above that operating costs doesn’t pass your “smell test”, you should get a much better nose.

    You should indeed educate your self by reading:

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxoc3JjYWxpZmZyfGd4OjE4ZDE3OTJlZmJjZTM0ODk

    The CHSRA Knows Their Proposed High-Speed Train Will Forever Need An Operating Subsidy

    OVERVIEW
    CHSRA insists loudly that the High Speed Rail service will be run at a profit from an operating point of view (not counting capital construction expenses); therefore HSR will not require operating subsidies. They reach this conclusion because they dramatically understate operating costs, which our analysis shows will be much higher.
    The CHSRA Business Plans have correctly set their ticket pricing to be competitive with air travel and gasoline prices in California. As these competitive prices are lower than similar prices overseas, the CHSRA is forced to operate at a lower revenue per passenger mile rate (about 20 cents), compared to their international counterparts (at about 44 cents). Therefore, if the CHSRA operating costs do approach international rates of 40 to 50 cents per passenger mile, as opposed to the Authority’s “projected” rate of 10 cents, future Legislatures and future Administrations will have to provide annual subsidies in the range of billions of dollars. This will not be legal under Section 2704.08 (c) (2) (J) and Section 2704.08 (d) (2) (D) of AB 3034 and it will force the Legislature every year to make cuts to other programs to accommodate operating subsidies to High Speed Rail.

    (read the whole paper… this is just an overview)

    joe Reply:

    Dude. These guys? http://www.cc-hsr.org/index3.html

    I’ll bet Analysis is determined by author proximity to the Caltrain ROW. Cheaper property in Atherton is near the tracks.

    A William H. Warren is on Waverley in Palo Alto and less than 0.4 miles from the ROW .
    A William C. Grindley of 1401 Laurel St, Menlo Park, CA 94025 is 0.1 miles form the ROW.
    An Alain C. Enthoven owns property at 1 Mccormick Lane Atherton, CA which is less than 0.1 miles from the ROW.

    William H. Warren – Officer, US Navy. Forty years of Silicon Valley finance, sales and consulting experience and management, including CEO of several start-ups, Director/Officer at IBM, ROLM, Centigram, and Memorex (BA Political Science, Stanford; MBA, Stanford)

    William C. Grindley – World Bank; Associate Division Director, SRI International; Founder and CEO, Pacific Strategies, ret. (B Architecture, Clemson; Master of City Planning, MIT)

    Alain C. Enthoven – Marriner S. Eccles Professor of Public and Private Management (emeritus), GSB Stanford; President, Litton Medical Products; Economist, Rand Corporation; President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service; Fellow American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Founder, Jackson Hole Group (BA Economics, Stanford; Rhodes Scholar–Oxford; PhD Economics, MIT)

    Alan H. Bushell – McKinsey & Co.; CEO/COO/CFO of several technology companies; ret. (BA Stellenbosch University, Chartered Accountant SA; MBA Harvard)

    Michael G. Brownrigg – Founder, Managing Partner, Total Impact Advisors; Managing Partner, ChinaVest; US State Department, Foreign Service; US Trade Representative’s Office; Board, Foundation for A College Education; (BA, Economics Williams College)

    Alan Reply:

    Bottom line: “Statistics lie, and liars use statistics…”

    Bottom bottom line: I don’t give a rat’s a** about some clown’s BBQ in Atherton. No one put a gun to their heads and forced them to purchase property so close to the railroad.

    joe Reply:

    http://www.cc-hsr.org at one time complained about their backyard BBQs getting interrupted by HSR. So I got curious and see author’s fully vested in property near the ROW.

    An Alan H. Bushell of 137 Stone Pine Ln Menlo Park, CA 94025 practically lives on the ROW near El Camino.
    https://goo.gl/maps/uUZ6C

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Not only will HSR disrupt their backyard BBQs, HSR will clear cut every tree within ¼ mile of the tracks. HSR will disrupt every home/business within ¼ mile of the tracks and completely destroy everything within 1,000 feet of the tracks. HSR will scare cows into no longer producing milk. HSR will disrupt all classes at Burlingame and San Mateo High Schools. HSR will tower 100 feet over our communities on 100 foot wide concrete freeway-like overpasses. So goes today’s lesson in the exclusive CCHSR and Boondoggle class on fear mongering and misinformation

    Alan Reply:

    You forgot to mention the toxic sludge that HSR will create in the Bay…

    Paul Druce Reply:

    The paper is simply completely wrong about international operating costs in that range.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I just read the paper. I have also seen sources for intercity rail operators’ revenue numbers in a number of countries, and the claim that “the CHSRA is forced to operate at a lower revenue per passenger mile rate (about 20 cents), compared to their international counterparts (at about 44 cents)” is completely false. The mainland JRs have publicly available figures for HSR revenue and traffic, and per passenger-mile they earn 33-39 yen; the European intercity operators do not break down HSR vs. legacy rail revenue anywhere I’ve seen, but a large majority of their passenger-miles are HSR, so there’s only a limited possible gap between HSR and intercity revenues, which are about 17-20 euro cents per passenger-mile. But this covers not just operating costs, which are a lot lower than people think, but also track access charges.

    None of these numbers is a secret. Those are either private companies that need to report traffic to their investors, or national rail operators that need to report traffic to the public (and also potential investors, since at least DB is clearly being run in a way that prepares it for privatization). Go to the link to my post in my reply to Paul’s first comment on this post, and follow links from there.

    jonathan Reply:

    March 31st, 2014 at 1:39 am

    I do not know a single HSR system that costs 40-50 cents per mile to run. What you’re effectively saying is that California HSR should cost twice as much just to run as the European HSR operators charge, covering not just operating costs but also track charges. It doesn’t pass a smell test.

    … and the French government is running SNCF and RFF in such a way as to maximize revenue when under competition from other operators (e.g., DB), by settng their access charges such as to shift most of the profit from SNCF to RFF.

    jonathan Reply:

    oops. The quote should have been:

    None of these numbers is a secret. Those are either private companies that need to report traffic to their investors, or national rail operators that need to report traffic to the public (and also potential investors, since at least DB is clearly being run in a way that prepares it for privatization

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yep. The access charges are vastly in excess of maintenance costs, and on the busier lines they’re also far in excess of depreciation on construction costs. That’s a quarter to a third of the cost of HSR operations, and is something that California isn’t going to need to worry about because of how it’s defining operating versus capital costs.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Operating costs will indeed be quite high given the totally politicized nature of the project. As always BART is the closest template. Out of control payroll and utterly incompetent management.

    When Pelosi’s Amalgamated organizes this thing the compensation packages will be so bloated and work rules so lax the requisite subsidy will require a bevy of permanent taxes.

    This is why a private operator was envisioned but this is not feasible with government ownership. A private concessionaire will not last long up against the unions and the patronage machine. And to make matters worse any profitability is out of the question with the gratuitously detoured route alignment. So any contract operator would have to be paid out of the general fund. As soon as a union brother got fired for no-shows, for instance, the unions would go out on a wildcat and the party bosses would step in to set up a quasi-BART management. Prescription for fiscal disaster and eventual liquidation. But who will buy the DogLeg?

    Remember the BART to SFO 8 hour bid with 6 hours of break and 2 hours of work?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The public sector is only going to operate the services than lose money. If CAHSR breaks even, an airline or other private firm will run it. Labor costs play a part to be sure, but what is left out of the conversation is that there are too many firms competing for the same businesses.

    For example, an airline has more of a future if it can diversify than if it can’t. A company that only sees itself doing one thing is scared off by HSR, but the company that sees it’s service types as mode within a common niche (an energy company, not an oil company) has a brighter future.

    EJ Reply:

    As always BART is the closest template

    True, because of course BART is the only passenger railroad in California.

    synonymouse Reply:

    PB-CHSRA=Brown-Pelosi patronage machine. BART=Brown-Pelosi patronage machine. PB-CHSRA=BART.

    EJ Reply:

    Jerry and Nancy will be long retired before it comes time to negotiate any deals to operate CAHSR

    EJ Reply:

    You’re just obsessed with BART because everyone in the Bay Area who likes to complain about transit is obsessed with BART. In the rest of the state it’s not even a blip.

    EJ Reply:

    Also, what railroad in the developed world doesn’t use union labor?

    EJ Reply:

    When, exactly, has TWU gone on strike to protest one dismissal?

    synonymouse Reply:

    TWU 250A has thrown many a demonstration over grievances. Until recently 250A had a sweetheart deal with the City guaranteeing 2nd highest compensation in the US in return for no strike pledge.

    PB-CHSRA would likely be represented by Amalgamated once they had thrown out any legacy BLE-UTU because Amalgamated with its exquisite partnership with the party bosses could guarantee government operation and the consequent juicy compensation package and lax work rules. You know – 13 undocumented no-shows and 8 weeks of annual leave. Prison guard union stuff.

    EJ Reply:

    You stated that one dismissal would create a wildcat strike. Of course they’ve demonstrated over grievances. Just like any other union.

    I assume this is another of your wild exaggerations, like MUNI mechanics making 400K per year.

    synonymouse Reply:

    When you are sitting on top of the boat on top of the world, why rock it? Muni and BART gravy train.

    When it comes time to get rid of the private operator that’s when you go on strike and make up the provocations. Of course the unions will oppose any franchising out from the get-go.

    Nancy and Jerry have their proteges and toadies lined up from here to San Ysidro. Pretty much last hurrah time for those two.

    EJ Reply:

    Nancy and Jerry have their proteges and toadies lined up from here to San Ysidro.

    Who, exactly, are these proteges and toadies? Name some specific names, and explain how exactly they are going to force whoever operates CAHSR to do a deal with ATU, a union that’s got nothing to do with Amtrak California, Metrolink, Coaster, and Caltrain – ie most of California’s current rail workers. You moan on and on ad nauseum about this vast PB/Pelosi/Brown conspiracy, but you never explain how they hell it’s supposed to work.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Kamala Harris and a host of eunuchs.

    EJ Reply:

    So basically you’re admitting that your whole conspiracy theory is nothing more than a bunch of dimwitted name-calling?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    He thinks people who designed BART, who have been dead for 20 years have a hand in HSR.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ adirondacker

    The baton of stupidity gets passed on from one generation of hacks to the next.

    Do you think it was the “people who designed BART, who have been dead for 20 years” who came up with the Embarcadero Freeway on rails for PAMPA, or gratuitously trashing almond fields, or gallivanting 50 miles off course looking for the Lost Dutchman in the Tehachapis? The braindead Brutalist zeitgeist lives on in every new generation of PB’ers.

    EJ Reply:

    I mean, I’m not a huge fan transit unions, but first of all, every single railroad in the developed world uses union labor and somehow they manage to struggle on.

    Second, if ATU is so all powerful in California, why haven’t they taken over Caltrain? Amtrak California? Metrolink? Coaster?

    Does ATU even represent any workers on long-distance railroads? You’re obsessed with this frankly deranged idea that among the powers that be in California BART is the model for operating any kind of transportation agency, when in fact it’s kind of an outlier.

    EJ Reply:

    Oh hey, look:

    http://www.railserve.com/Railroad_Labor_Unions/

    no “Amalgamated” or ATU anywhere on there!

    jonathan Reply:

    March 31st, 2014 at 1:39 am

    I do not know a single HSR system that costs 40-50 cents per mile to run. What you’re effectively saying is that California HSR should cost twice as much just to run as the European HSR operators charge, covering not just operating costs but also track charges. It doesn’t pass a smell test.

    Alon, how does it smell to a nose which has acclimated itself to the high capital costs for rail construction in California? Or the per-km rates that Acela charges?

    aw Reply:

    Isn’t Acela a bit of a special case? It has limited capacity due to the commuter RR’s scheduling and Amtrak tries to squeeze maximum revenue out of it to offset operating losses elsewhere.

    By contrast CAHSR will only be crowded at the endpoints, and not so much by Caltrain and Metrolink as Acela is by NJT, LIRR and M-N at its midpoint.

    aw Reply:

    CAHSR will be crowded with respect to track capacity I meant to say.

    Eric Reply:

    How exactly are HSR passengers from all over the LA and Bay Area regions going to get to the HSR station, if not by commuter rail? Or are there plans to build giant parking garages next to the stations?

    It seems to me you may have to choose between 1) unsustainably low HSR ridership, and 2) gridlock on the Caltrain/Metrolink tracks, as with NJT/MN/LIRR nowadays.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Several answers:

    1. Commuter rail. It won’t cause a gridlock, because it won’t have the same peak as local ridership – if you’re trying to get to San Francisco, then you’re probably not riding the peak Metrolink that gets to LAUS at 8:30 in the morning. If anything, low off-peak frequency is a worse problem than peak crowding. Note how you’re lumping New Jersey Transit and the LIRR with Metro-North, which doesn’t even feed Penn Station.

    2. Driving to an outlying station. There will be a fair amount of ridership from the Peninsula to LAUS using RWC, from the Valley to Transbay using Burbank and Sylmar, etc.

    3. Local transit. Transbay Terminal is sort of close to BART. LAUS is on the subway.

    4. Taxis.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …shorter… the same way they get to the airport now. They’ll use those same skills to get to train station.

    joe Reply:

    [2.] Is going to be significant. SFO Airport users would choose from the Bay Area HSR stops at SFT, SFO, RWC SJC and GLY.

    [4.] Taxis.

    [5.] Friends.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Out of curiosity, do people in Gilroy ever fly to LA? I’d imagine it’s faster to drive over Pacheco Pass to I-5 than to drive up 101 to SFO or SJC.

    joe Reply:

    It’s a long, hard drive to LA IMHO. Certainly the flying threshold is different for us than it is for our Santa Rosa.

    The hassle and exhaustion of driving favors the airplane for shorter trips where you plan to visit/help a family member or visit friends with an activity. That’s what i see within our social circle and for us.

    Families we know with kids will favor driving in the mini-van with ipad/dvd and stay longer to make the drive worth it or they don’t go.

    Ironically, relatively younger & single in our circle who you think would fly tend to power drive between SF and LA and substitute time and mileage for the cash savings.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Joe, you’ve just destroyed months or years of your arguments on this blog. “relatively younger and single” drive to So Cal? You think they will buy train tickets? Of course by the time this thing is built they certainly won’t be young, and likely not single.

    joe Reply:

    Paul;

    The question was about GLY trips to LA. With a GLY station, we’ll definitely kill off the SJC/SFO airline traffic and cut way down on driving. BTW 40’s “relatively younger and single” to someone born during the Eisenhower administration.

    In the family/circle of friends I’ve inherited via marriage, those single types drive here from their LA residences. Cutting out LAX and SJC, hassles, they’ll switch to HSR with a cheaper, all stop ticket. You can bet they’ll drink and stretch out on the train.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “Commuter rail” is pretty much an irrelevancy anywhere west of Chicago, with the exception of BART.

    How exactly are HSR passengers from all over the LA and Bay Area regions going to get to the HSR station, if not by commuter rail?

    The same way they get to CBDs (and airports, for that matter) today, which pretty much has nothing at all to do with “commuter rail”. People tend to have other priorities than to wait an hour or two for a dinosaur olde tyme clang-clang ding-ding rail-road that goes glacially from nowhere to nowhere.

    Have you even ever visited the USA that you would be making such a suggestion?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Well… Caltrain is a bit different, in that pretty much any HSR on the Peninsula has to be blended with a timed overtake, so might as well let people transfer with a relatively small penalty.

    Now I’m trying to think how it can be screwed up. Perhaps make the walk and separate ticketing from the Caltrain to the HSR platforms at RWC/Millbrae longer than the time the trains stay at the station? This way they could time the trains to specifically miss each other! Consider the endless possibilities of how to screw with the passengers!

    jimsf Reply:

    they should retrofit the southbound sfo wye so that (some of ) the new caltrain emus can divert directly into the terminal the way bart does from the north.

    Joey Reply:

    jimsf: I highly doubt that the current BART trackways could support CalTrain, both in terms of weight (BART cars are very light even by modern standards) and vertical clearance. If you really wanted direct airport access, the way to do it (and the way BART should have been done to begin with) would be an underground through station under or adjacent to the international terminal. Of course, this would be incredibly expensive compared to say, extending the people mover to Millbrae.

    EJ Reply:

    What is the actual objection to extending the people mover to Millbrae? It just seems incredibly obvious that this is what should have been done in the first place, once the decision was made to build the Millbrae station and not just terminate all San Bruno trains at SFO, especially since you’ve got to get on the people mover anyway unless you’re going to the international terminal.

    I’m aware of the political history, but I’m wondering if anyone has ever put forth an actual (i.e. engineering) reason why it’s a bad idea.

    Eric Reply:

    Airports (and most CBDs) in the US have giant parking lots and/or garages to absorb incoming traffic. Will the outlying HSR stations?

    Local transit doesn’t really serve a high proportion of the LA area well.

    These are things I observed in my several decades living in the US and several years in CA. (I think the autist wanted to know about that)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What aw said. The Acela is special, because,

    1. Very low capacity (300 seats per train, 1 tph given Amtrak’s current turnaround times) means that Amtrak can jack up fares and still fill seats.
    2. Marketing: the Acela is branded separately from the Regional, as a form of price discrimination.
    3. The NEC needs to subsidize Amtrak’s losses elsewhere. In parts of Europe this goes on as well, with HSR subsidizing legacy lines, but HSR is something like three quarters of SNCF’s passenger-km whereas the NEC is 30% of Amtrak’s passenger-km.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    That table overestimates the cost of Amtrak by 100%, it’s not exactly a trustworthy document.

  4. Andy M
    Mar 31st, 2014 at 02:00
    #4

    It would be interesting to see those Madrid – Seville statistics broken down into end to end journeys versus shorter journeys from or to intermediate stops. I would expect that trups doing the line end to end will more likely be in competition with the plane whereas shorter trips will be competing with the car. There is a certain demographic that does long trips by car and these are (a) people who do so for economic reasons, ie, booking a large family plus luggage plus pets on a plane or a train is an expensive proposition, and (b) there are people who enjoy driving and will drive even if it means costs and discomfort and takes a long time. Neither of these demographics are the prime target of HSR.

  5. Emmanuel
    Mar 31st, 2014 at 02:16
    #5

    My Statistics professor once said you should never trust people who use 3D pie charts.

    Now that we got that out of the way:
    “A trip from the Bay Area to central LA will take between 5 and 6 hours, depending on traffic and driver speed. That trip time will be cut in half by taking HSR.”

    This isn’t true either. If you have a specific point A in San Francisco and specific Point B, a car can take you directly there. Using public transit you have to count in that you will need to transfer to another form of transportation before you reach the station or your final destination. Just taking the bus from the station into, say, the suburbs would take you another hour. Unless you live right next to the station, your travel time will never be 2 and a half hours.

    Let’s break it down realistically
    1. Arrive to the station 15 minutes earlier
    2. Travel SF-LA 2 hours and 40 minutes
    3. Hop on a train or bus in LA that takes you where you want to go another 30 mins – 1 hour

    In the optimal case that would mean a travelling time of roughly 3 hours and 30 minutes (no food breaks, perfect transfer from rail to bus, no delays), the worst case which is more likely, would be roughly 5 hours.

    Andy M Reply:

    I assume there would be some sort of catering offered on the train. Most HSR services in the world have either a dining / bistro car or an at eat-seat food service of some description. If you prefer you could also bring your own food. So in contast to driving, you can actually combine those food breaks with travelling rather than having to stop the car for the duration.

    jonathan Reply:

    Is the travel-time after arriving at the HSR destination any worse than for air travel arriving at the airport?

    Donk Reply:

    He is talking about cars.

    joe Reply:

    Good luck parking in SF. It’s easy to get there but not so easy to park that car.

    I might take a cab from SFT to a SF destination not well service by MUNI – cabs are allowed.

    Driving SF-LA depends on how often do you stop for food and drink and gas…or do you power drive which is not that healthy to do.

    Donk Reply:

    Also there is the joy of driving up the 5 and playing the game where all the cars speed up in the right lane until they get to a truck and then cut off all of the cars in the left lane, creating a slow-down about 10 cars deep and almost causing an chain reaction accident each time. If those assholes would just not keep trying to use the right lane as a passing lane, the entire freeway would move faster.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Sounds like the people being “cut off” in the left lane didn’t belong in the left lane. Or isn’t being passed on the right a sign that you’re not going fast enough for the lane you’re in?

    The last time I was driving Germany’s Autobahns, I noticed faster drivers will both not pass on the right and ride the ass of anyone slower than them hard with liberal use of flashing high beams and left-turn blinkers. They evidently don’t allow — or frown on — passing slower traffic on the right. And by the same token, considerate drivers stay out of the left lane unless they are actually constantly passing slower traffic. And even then, no matter how fast you think you’re going — even at, say, 100 mph — you still always need to keep an eye on your mirrors for faster drivers because they’re out there, and they will catch up to you when you least expect it and will show you they are annoyed if you don’t move over before they have to slow down and signal for you to get out of their way.

    Clem Reply:

    Passing on the right is illegal in Europe (heh, well, except England and Ireland).

    Donk Reply:

    Obviously you haven’t driven on the 5 in the central valley before in traffic. If you drive in the left lane you are stuck traveling in a caravan of cars that collectively brakes every time a car (stuck behind a truck) cuts in from the right lane.

    There are fewer cars in the right lane, so many people use it as an opportunity to pass the logjam of cars in the left lane. This is a never-ending cycle that ensures that the left lane travels slower than the right lane.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It doesn’t help to have 55mph trucks being overtaken by 56mph trucks, that then can’t quite make it when the wind changes!

    Donk Reply:

    The whole experience could be put to some sort of soundtrack – either something like a really artistic and majestic dance of cars and trucks set to classical music or a blundering buffoonery set to the Mr. Bean or Curb Your Enthusiasm music.

    joe Reply:

    You can put it to music. Just together a few “mix tapes” for the next time you drive I-5.

    Philip Glass Koyaanisqatsi http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uAiHSlUUIc

    Space Pop Music http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OntXTE8Kyq0

    bixnix Reply:

    Donk speaks the truth. It is exactly like that on the 5. There are two lanes in many places, and there are just too many cars and semis for “pass in the left” to work efficiently, so the fast cars pass on the right as well as the left. It is nutty, and a bit dangerous.

    jimsf Reply:

    i-5 needs to be widened to at least 3 lanes all the way due to the amount of truck traffic. Better yet would be dedicated truck lanes.

    blankslate Reply:

    I would support that if it was completely paid for by truck taxes/tolls.

    jimsf Reply:

    that would be a good idea. The entire section from Redding to Grapevine should be tolled for cars and trucks and that money used to upgrade to higher speed truckways ( separated) and high performance auto way. Pay a premium for a premium, driving experience.

  6. Larry Scheib
    Mar 31st, 2014 at 09:05
    #6

    I’m kind of surprised that the issue of more than 2hr 40min trip time is becoming an issue this late in the game. It was obvious the trip times would go up when the blended approach was approved. However, I also assumed that the blended approach was only a temporary strategy to get an A to B system up and running with eventual infra-structure upgrades down the road. LaHood made it clear that HSR is not an immediate enterprise but a gradual decades endeavor that needs to be implemented piece by piece. I’m thinking the CHSR is in much better shape than the NEC in this regard.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Larry S: LaHood may have said whatever he liked, the voters in CA were told that a system would be delivered, and a complete system at that, not this “blended” fiction. First planned appearance at LAUS is 2028/29. That’s not what the voters were led to believe. Will you be taking a Metrolink to Palmdale to ride a High Speed train to Merced, and a bus to San Fran?

    joe Reply:

    IN 2010 LaHood also said this:

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard someone say they didn’t want $2.25 billion after working on high-speed rail for 10 years…Your argument is ridiculous. The reason that we gave that money to California is because you’ve done a good job. If you think it’s being mismanaged, come forward and tell us about it. We don’t find that to be the case.

    More is here http://www.cahsrblog.com/2010/02/barbara-boxer-and-ray-lahood-talk-hsr-and-transit-in-la/

    And we all know the GAO investigated CAHSR IN 2012. The GAO focused specifically on management practices. Nothing.

    synonymouse Reply:

    insider whitewash. Free Leland Yee and RICO Jerry Brown & Tejon Ranch Co.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Joe: Thank you for remembering that, and keep it in mind over the next few years when this crashes and burns. Is there any precedent for a new passenger rail system beginning service in one of its smallest markets and expecting to be successful? That seems to have been the condition for the fed funds. We were told by CHSRA that projects were shovel ready, that’s why the funds were to be spent in the SJV. As others have pointed out here, we will learn in the long run that acceptance of this $2.25 billion will cost us more than turning them down, since we’ll have a stranded asset instead of something that delivers useful transportation.
    LaHood’s subsequent comments about a decades long process are a clear admission that minimal additional fed funds will be forthcoming.
    We need to build the hard part, L.A. to Bakersfield, first. If we don’t have the money and the willingness to take risks to do that then we shouldn’t start at all.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Your analysis is spot on. Unfortunately those in charge of the project are not budging and apparently are far from any kind of “admission” or reset. And if the appeals court rules for Jerry they will likely remain fixated on stay the course.

    What is needed is a political reversal of such magnitude as to constitute the classic wakeup call. Something like what is transpiring in France. A defeat of a water-grab measure might do it.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Bakersfield to LA by itself has two major beneficiaries: Union Pacific and BNSF. I agree that “the hard part has to be done first” but that is really Gilroy to Palmdale en toto. Any area outside the major metro areas will struggle to get federal funding. Why do you think we can’t get an increase in the federal gas tax to make the Highway Trust Fund solvent?

    The oldest section should be the easiest to fix given that there will need to be upgrades and discoveries in the engineering process. Then the most capital intensive, then the link to urban areas. But if we follow Paul’s advice the big winners are the Class I’s who to use all this spare capacity before there is viable passenger service.

    If you want a real “let’s shake things up approach”, try IOS North instead. Pacheco does not overlap with any existing Amtrak routes and the access to cheap land in the Central Valley would transform things overnight.

    Eric Reply:

    How exactly are the Class I’s going to run their diesel locomotives through long tunnels and up 3% grades?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s all a plot by Jay Gould and Cornelius Vanderbilt to strangle the yeomanry of the Central Valley.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ted: That’s a bizarre statement. How precisely do UP and BNSF benefit from a High Speed non double stack cleared passenger route through the mountains? And why do you mention Palmdale? Palmdale has an 1876 engineered route to Los Angeles that is obsolete and should not even be considered as part of this project, even if “interim”.
    Now I am not necessarily against IOS north. Bakersfield to San Jose and San Francisco makes far more sense than Merced to Palmdale.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Ted: That’s a bizarre statement.

    Goes without saying.
    Why waste your breath?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The whole purpose of Merced to Palmdale is to lock in Mojave and not Lebec. I see the thinking but it does not seem so sound to me. The mountain crossing via Tehachapi is exorbitant and thru a sparsely populated area. It really does not provide a rock solid guarantee that the line from Palmdale to LAUS will be built, if the hsr project falls on hard times and into political disfavor.

    Palmdale interests would do better on securing straightway, direct commute upgrades than to insist on and count on Mojave.

    Donk Reply:

    Synonymouse you must be the only person on Earth who talks about Lebec.

    I just looked at the Wikipedia page for Lebec. Two interesting facts:
    (1) Population as of 2010 is 1468
    (2) The founder of Lebec, Peter Lebecque, was killed by a grizzly bear in 1837

    synonymouse Reply:

    Lebec, despite its diminutive population, is a great site of power, as it is the ghq of the Tejon Ranch Co., which manifestly owns Jerry Brown.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tejon_Ranch

    Wonder what they have got on ol’ Moonbeam.

    jonathan Reply:

    The oldest section should be the easiest to fix given that there will need to be upgrades and discoveries in the engineering process. Then the most capital intensive, then the link to urban areas. But if we follow Paul’s advice the big winners are the Class I’s who to use all this spare capacity before there is viable passenger service.

    No, Ted. Just *no*. Run *one* shitty US freight train, with shittily-maintianed wheels and ~33 tonne axle loads, over HSR track; and it’s no longer HSR track. Or did you mean “excess capacity” created by moving current FRA-compliant passenger trains onto the HSR track?

    EJ Reply:

    No passenger trains currently run over tehachapi, except on very rare occasions when the coast line is blocked and they send the coast starlight over there, so that can’t be it.

    EJ Reply:

    Besides, as others have pointed out, with 3%+ grades and long tunnels which don’t clear double-stack container trains, the class 1s ain’t gonna be running freight on this line regardless.

    Clem Reply:

    The tunnels will have ample clearance, if you remove the electrification

    jonathan Reply:

    Still that teeny issue with grades. And you’re never going to get passengers on a train which turns through a tunnel, with a steep grade, which has freight trains hauled by convoys of diesels. The diesels will start over heating.

    Clem, I really really recommend you take a trip on the Tranz Glacier through the Otira tunnel.
    Standing outside, on one of the observation platforms. You might survive, then again you might not.

    EJ Reply:

    Now, what I don’t know is the feasibility of running conventional diesel powered passenger trains over the HSR mountain crossing. I doubt the grades would be a huge issue, modern diesel passenger trains have a pretty high power to weight ratio (not an expert, I could be wrong). Ventilation in those long tunnels though; I haven’t seen any analysis of it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The MBTA’s push-pull sets have an initial acceleration of 0.22 m/s^2 (see PDF-p. 10 here), which is insufficient to overcome a 3% grade. As a result, the North-South Rail Link in Boston, which involves 3% grades in the tunnels, requires electrification. A DMU is capable of overcoming these grades, but the Colorado Railcar sets that supposedly are the future of commuter rail can only run at about 45 km/h up those grades.

    The only kind of trains a competent rail authority will ever put on grades like this, outside extraordinary circumstances, are electric.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The spare capacity I am referring to is in the Central Valley, not Techachapi. Previous Board items already revealed they were studying a dual freight-HSR tunnel through Techachapi. Paul works for the mining industry, btw, and they have similar needs to build capacity between the Central and the Port of Oakland and the rest of the country.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Do you have a reference to the claim that “previous Board items already revealed they were studying a dual freight-HSR tunnel through Techachapi”? I’d like to know if the Board really is that stupid.

    EJ Reply:

    Do you have a reference to the claim that “previous Board items already revealed they were studying a dual freight-HSR tunnel through Techachapi”?

    It’s been proposed a few times by groups like TRAC – I’m not aware that the Board has ever actually studied it. I doubt even they would seriously consider anything that crazy.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Clem, I think found it as a discussion item last year or even the year before that. Not much to it otherwise.

    jonathan Reply:

    […] but the Colorado Railcar sets that supposedly are the future of commuter rail […]

    Colorado Railcar closed its doors almost 5 years ago. The successor which bought the IP, US Railcar, has no manufacturing facilities, and cancelled its agreement with American Railcar Industries (which does have facilities) after a regional plain in Ohio was cancelled.

    Is this very very heavy irony??

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Yes. I meant if Amtrak is shifted to the new HSR track that frees up BNSF and UP’s capacity to run more oil trains.

    Joe Reply:

    There are two kinds of people in the world: those who accomplish things and those who sit on the sidelines complaining.

    You said there was waste yet I know of no GAO filing you offered back up the comments you need to LaHood.

    Let me address one of your delusions.

    Failure in the current project doesn’t validate your alternative ideas. Your ideas have to be measured on their merit.

    Your plan required everyone changing the rules to accommodate Paul. That is not realistic and it didn’t happen and it isn’t going to happen. You want to California to play a game hardball with the federal stimulus money. That’s exactly what Florida and Wisconsin did and they both lost. You think it would’ve been different for California and that’s delusional.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Joe, CHSRA formed in 1996. 2014 and nothing built yet. Lots of lines on maps that are then shot down, with new lines drawn by the same people, who of course submit yet another invoice. Tell us how much they have spent so far Joe! No waste there? Consultants conducting public outreach meetings in San Diego for example. When will we see HSR in San Diego? Useful use of funds don’t you think? Small potatoes except 4 people at $X per hour soon adds up.
    At least Joe you are beginning to realize that the current project is likely to fail, as it deserves to do. As for my ideas, that’s all they are, but I am waiting to have them shown to be off course. Can you imagine the Brits and the French building up to the waters of the Channel and then wondering if and how they can engineer and fund the Channel Tunnel? That’s what we’re doing by deferring the question of the mountain crossings.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Concerned citizens everywhere advocating for responsible design insist that there be years and years of outreach. Then, like you, whine they are spending too much on outreach.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Why have outreach 20 years ahead of construction? No logic to that is there?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Not that they would do something as rational as reserve space but http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennium_Tower_(San_Francisco)

    Joe Reply:

    We are doing something. Pretending that design build contracts under execution don’t exist. Acquiring land is not part of construction.

    If they only picked the hard stuff first then we’d be constructing something without design because the cajones.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    1802 Albert Mathieu put forward a cross-Channel tunnel proposal.
    1875 The Channel Tunnel Company Ltd began preliminary trials
    1975 UK–France government backed scheme that started in 1974 was cancelled
    1986 The Treaty of Canterbury was signed allowing the project to proceed
    1994 The tunnel was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II and President Mitterrand
    wikipedia
    The mountain crossings have not been deferred, EIR’s are being prepared

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Hasn’t the Chunnel underperformed financially and almost went bankrupt without a bailout? Are you sure you want to use that example?

    jonathan Reply:

    Lots of small investors lost their shirts.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    As I have quoted here before from the Economist newspaper: “The Channel Tunnel will be seen as a gift from its investors to future generations” or words to that effect. The history of Margaret Thatchers handbag swinging pressure on the banks to finance the Chunnel and the subsequent losses are the key reason why private investment for CHSR is not readily forthcoming. “Once bitten, twice shy” my Mother would have said. “We won’t be fooled again” also comes to mind. You have to know this stuff to understand why we are where we are today with this scheme. There is no money to be made as an equity or at risk investor. Private money may come but only after the taxpayer has born the entire risk.

    Judge Moonbox Reply:

    The Channel Tunnel faced two problems when the financial crisis hit. First, while Thatcher relented on having an all rail tunnel (She originally thought it would be a highway tunnel before she learned how expensive it would be to ventilate it), she would not approve the high speed rail link into London. That had to wait for Tony Blair’s nod, and that meant the CTRL didn’t switch to St. Pancras Station until 2008.

    Second, the Eurostar (which was owned by the company that operated the Channel Tunnel) wasn’t air-competitive before the CTRL opened; and as low cost carriers like RyanAir and EasyJet became common, they took most of the Eurostar’s traffic.

    joe Reply:

    Third, it’s crosses a national boundary with all the squabbles and disjointed priorities rather than connecting lands of a strong central government.
    .

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Except that now there is a HSR to London and it’s still struggling. The whole theory on HSR is that people will ride instead of airplanes in that certain distance sweet spot.

    joe Reply:

    HSR is a theory.

    China’s high-speed trains attract frustrated fliers
    By Steven Jiang, CNN
    updated 2:11 AM EDT, Fri April 12, 2013

    Airline Growth Drops in China as Travelers Flock to High-Speed Rail
    Jasmine Wang, Bloomberg
    The rapid and extensive development of high-speed rail in China is unmatched by other large countries making the competition a concentrated concern for now. It could happen in the U.S., Europe, and South America in the future.

    China’s airlines likely to turn to international markets as high-speed rail networks roll out

    Airline revenue crashing due to high-speed rail competition in China

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I thought we were talking about the Chunnel. That is in the UK and France Joe, China is a different geographic region

    But if you want to play in China, HSR does not make money it is subsidized by the state otherwise they could not afford such a capital intensive buildout in such a short time

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Beijing-Shanghai trunk is profitable.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    And the rest of it? It’s like saying Amtrak is profitable because Acela is profitable.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-26556929
    Eurotunnel made 100million euros profit last year, but my point was how long it took to build, so hang in there supporters of high speed rail!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t know CRH’s finances in general. But bear in mind, we’re talking a first-world cost structure in a country where the population can still only afford middle-income fares. Construction costs are basically independent of income. Rolling stock is a manufactured good, so if anything it’s more expensive relative to PPP. Electricity is a global market, so it’s also about the same cost everywhere, modulo the fact that China uses cheaper and dirtier coal power. Labor costs are lower, but CRH may still have a lot of redundant labor that it will have to get rid of as wages go up, the way JNR did in the 1980s.

    Tellingly, Beijing-Shanghai isn’t just the busiest corridor, but also the richest and most able to afford first-world fares.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Your 100 million profit was after they declared bankruptcy got rid of the capital costs and received bailouts. Not exactly the clean win you purport it to be

    joe Reply:

    Your 100 million profit was after they declared bankruptcy got rid of the capital costs and received bailouts.

    SO it’s run like most any other american business.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Paris-Lyon. They built the easy stuff in the middle first.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Category error ADI. SNCF built the hard stuff, or should I say rebuilt, from 1945 onwards. When it came time for HSR they already had a modern, electrified RR on the approaches to both Paris and Lyon. CA does not have that advantage, apart from rights of way. If you seriously think that Metrolink represents anything better than lines on a map then you’d better come out here and I’ll give you the tour.
    This blog and its participants never seem to want to discuss the very real problems of access to LAUS and all the conflicting interests. I repeat my assertion that without LAUS to Bakersfield there is no project, so we’d better find the cajones to get that done first.

    Joe Reply:

    Do the hard stuff first is a great slogan. So is having big cajones.

    The slogan certainly don’t come from project management.

    Doing the hard stuff first when you’re spooling up a capability for the first time in the United States is wishing for failure.

    They’re going to be incompatibilities with the construction teams.
    Companies have different information systems will have different design tools and practices. All these things have to get worked out on the hard stuff first.

    CV is a simplier, less risky place to start which is why they choose it.

    And the hard stuff is the highest risk which puts the entire project at risk with early failures likely to happen at the beginning.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Joe:
    There’s enough “easy” mileage from Bakersfield to the foothills and from LAUS up the Valley for contractors and engineers to get their act together. CV is infinitely more risky place to start because there is no commercial justification for it, and that has as much weight as the engineering component. LA to Bako fills the gap in the state passenger rail network, which can be improved incrementally both north and south as funds permit. The IOS as planned will be a commercial failure.

    Joe Reply:

    You misuse the word risk. CV is low risk construction. Higher chance work will come on time and in budget.

    Given the timeline is between now and 2017 you don’t have the luxury of getting things straightened out in the central valley approach to the mountains if you really are intending to finish this within time which is federal money spent by 2017.

    And of course you’d be tied up in court right now because you don’t have enough funding to build the complete initial operating segment

    We would be in the same boat now only with much more ambitious and hard project to try to make up time and schedule on. This is a disaster if we were to do what you wanted

    We would be rushing into a disaster trying to do the hard stuff first.

    Joe Reply:

    Currently the project is going to stage all the materials and equipment and then start building the central valley segment in parallel

    This gives them a chance of catching up on schedule because tney can work in parallel along is Central Valley segment

    Once the design is finished they can start building in multiple places.

    far more complicated to design if they were trying to cross over into the mountains. Greater chance surprises and reworking the design while critics complain that the project is late, behind schedule and going over budget.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You have got be cracked. Nowhere to nowhere is a political disaster. AFAIK there has been no commitment or even any interest to buy orphan trackage by the class ones.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Paul

    Keep on pounding the obvious into their heads.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    “Hard pounding gentlemen. Let’s see who pounds the longest…”

    Ted Judah Reply:

    So Paul really wants an Amtrak California service that runs through the Central Valley that can be upgraded? Really?

    So SF and LA are going to pay for improvements they don’t use? They are going for the tax that upgrades Fresno – Bakersfield to 220mph track? I suspect the opposite is true. Competing economic regions don’t have much incentive to join hands on incremental upgrades. Thus I would take a long look at IOS North.

    But even if I am wrong about all this– how many people will ride Bakersfield to LA? Five, six, seven people a day? Sure, the connecting traffic is a draw, but those passengers aren’t headed to Silicon Valley or afford an HSR price ticket. But I guess that is commercial viability!

    synonymouse Reply:

    Much better passenger market Bako to LA via Tejon than Mojave to Palmdale. And there will be a stop in Mojave, maybe even in Tehachapi. Jerry wants boonies AmBART.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m sorry it was true Scotsman enough for you.

    jimsf Reply:

    You are correct. I certainly understood that blending was a step towards eventual full build out. Of course it is. That is how things are done. Theyll get it started, then continue to do upgrades as ridership and demand warrants.

    jonathan Reply:

    I certainly understood that blending was a step towards eventual full build out.

    Then your understanding was incorrect Again. CHSRA claims that the “blended” plan is in full conformance with Prop 1A. It *is* the “full build out” plan.

    joe Reply:

    No blended is not the full build out plan.

    jimsf was pretty clear. Tey’ll upgrade the ROW as ridership and demand warrant. Pretty simple concept.
    Adding more track and dedicated track.

    EJ Reply:

    Except that they’ve now legally locked in two tracks permanently on the peninsula unless all the peninsula communities agree to additional tracks.

    jonathan Reply:

    It was obvious the trip times would go up when the blended approach was approved. However, I also assumed that the blended approach was only a temporary strategy to get an A to B system up and running with eventual infra-structure upgrades down the road.

    Then — officially, and according to the CHSRA Party Line, you assumed wrong.
    They _have_ to insist that the “blended” plan is the final plan. If they don’t, they’ll be challenged in court, that they’re pissing away Prop 1A HSR dollars on suburban/exurban commuter rail. And they’ll lose. Money is the gating factor in HSR construction.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The blend was always the default. Essentially the same as the 1991 plan killed by BART-MTC but with the difference the CHSRA would exercise the political clout to keep BART at “bay” this time and would provide the monies to make electrification and the TBT Tunnel so.

    A four track Embarcadero Freeway on rails thru PAMPA was PB’s idea, naturlich. What PB needed in this instance, and in so many others was, in my father’s words, “a good horse whipping”.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Blend: “to combine or mix so that the constituent parts are indistinguishable from one another”
    Hardly applies to HSR and Metrolink. More like oil and water really…

    synonymouse Reply:

    I should have capitalized the “Blend” unique to the Peninsula.

  7. Alan Kandel
    Mar 31st, 2014 at 09:34
    #7

    This from International Union of Railways’ “High Speed Rail and Sustainability” Nov. 2011 report:

    “On four routes analysed in detail HSR was the most energy efficient transport mode with the lowest carbon footprint, e.g. between Valence and Marseille in France (250 km) with only 2.75 kg CO2 per passenger car (Car: 31.8 kg CO2) or in Taiwan between Taipei-Kaohsiung (345 km) with only 18.2 kg CO2 per passenger (Plane: 56.6 kg CO2). Studies into the Madrid to Seville AVE line have revealed that without the AVE an additional 48,000 tonnes of CO2 would be produced on this route every year. Rail held 48% of the market share during these first 50 days, compared to 39% for air transport and 13% for road. The modal shift to rail translates to savings of 30,000 CO2 tonnes per year.”

    The above information is quite telling indeed!

    Alan Kandel Reply:

    Correction: “2.75 kg CO2 per passenger,” not “2.75 kg CO2 per passenger car.”

    Eric Reply:

    Why are Taiwan’s HSR emissions six times higher than France’s? That’s hard to believe.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    France gets most of it’s electricity from non carbon emitting sources?

    therealist Reply:

    new-cue-law…..

    Eric Reply:

    Oh. Good point :)

    EJ Reply:

    75% of France’s electricity production is nuclear.

  8. Reality Check
    Mar 31st, 2014 at 15:43
    #8

    Cars are from Mars, Transit/Bikes/Peds are from Venus

    Great item. Explains a lot of what gets called anti-rail/transit NIMBYism and stuff like the anti-downtown BART fear-mongering in Livermore led by people like ex-BART director and park-n’-ride champion Robert S. Allen.

    I was led to it by by a Streetsblog SF posting with a good alternate title: Walkable or Easily Drivable? Communities Can’t be Both

  9. Neil Shea
    Mar 31st, 2014 at 18:29
    #9

    O/T Reference to Fitch report on risk of not investing in transit (h/t Noel Braymer)
    http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/03/27/fitch-ratings-failure-to-invest-in-transit-could-hurt-the-whole-economy/

  10. Robert S. Allen
    Apr 1st, 2014 at 01:43
    #10

    BART proves that a region can thrive as both Walkable (in its city cores) and Drivable (elsewhere). We won our point in BART to Livermore.

    Californians voted in 2008 for “Safe, Reliable” HSR. That means NO GRADE CROSSINGS! “Blended Rail” (HSR on Caltrain tracks) is vulnerable to accidents, sabotage, and train delays. Bourbonnais proves the point, and 9/11 makes it even more clear. HSR should truncate at San Jose, with cross-platform transfers there to Caltrain and Capitol Corridor. No more HSR money should be squandered on Caltrain mods and electrification.

    The next phase should be grade separated along the UP/Amtrak East Bay Mulford route to Sacramento, with a transfer station at the BART overhead in Oakland. BART trains about every four minutes from that station would reach all four downtown San Francisco stations in six to ten minutes. Better, safer, more reliable, and far less costly.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, you won. You defeated the poor sods who have to fund that boondoggle, and the people of the Richmond District who have to make do with BRT because BART doesn’t even piss in their direction. Heckuva job, BART. Enjoy slipping from first in transit ridership on the West Coast to third in just a few years.

    therealist Reply:

    SODS = TAXPAYERS !

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    All of the trains involved in the events of Sept. 11 operate on grade separated ROW.

    Eric Reply:

    And colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

  11. morris brown
    Apr 1st, 2014 at 11:37
    #11

    A collection of 4 papers under the heading of

    Inappropriate Use of Cap and Trade

    has just been released. They can be obtained at:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/215761608/Inappropriate-Use-of-Cap-and-Trade

    Only about 95 pages, so a bit of light reading for you all.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I stopped reading at the Cox citation. Here’s a direct quote from Wendell Cox: “driving a Prius emits less CO2 than taking New York City Transit.” It’s a lie. If you squint your eyes and compare the right kind of apple to the right kind of orange, it’s a lie by a factor of about 1.5. If you compare apples to apples, it’s closer to a factor of 3. Between this and Cox’s fraudulent claims about costs in Florida and the I-15 corridor, any paper that quotes him as an authority should be tossed into the same trash bin as papers that claim that HSR operating costs are $0.44 per passenger-mile.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Does “NYC Transit” inclide the buses on crosstown streets that move slower than walking? Does it account for NY’s relatively low CO2 emitting electricity?… Lots of hydro and nuclear in NY and much of the fossil fuel generated electricity comes from natural gas.

  12. joe
    Apr 1st, 2014 at 19:25
    #12

    Koch Heads against transit

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/04/01/3421088/koch-brothers-tennessee/

    “It’s pretty tough to fight that kind of money — AFP gets funds from the Koch brothers, and they’re billionaires,” Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) spokesperson Holly McCall was quoted as saying. “We continue to work our local campaign, and we’re probably going to make some tweaks to the design — we’re interested in compromise, because if we don’t, our entire future transit plan is going to be dictated by people who live out of state.”

    The MTA said on its website that the Amp would help offset an influx of new residents — nearly 1 million by 2035 — by offering an alternative way for residents to commute, which would in turn cut down on drive times. The agency also argued that implementing the project would allow Nashville to remain competitive with other major cities benefitting from new public transportation investments.

  13. David M
    Apr 9th, 2014 at 17:05
    #13
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