Virgin America Leaves SJC – But Wants to Operate HSR

Mar 16th, 2014 | Posted by

In what is seen as something of a blow to Mineta San José airport, Virgin America announced last week it would be leaving SJC even though they had just launched flights to LAX less than a year ago:

“Despite our steadily improving performance at SJC, demand in the market hasn’t met expectations and we’ve made the decision to focus on more lucrative long-haul flying opportunities,” a Virgin America spokeswoman told the Business Journal in an email. “We thank the San Jose airport leadership, the business community and travelers for supporting us — and hope that many South Bay travelers will continue to choose us to stay connected and comfortable for their longer flights from from our home base at SFO.”…

Officials had hoped success with the single SJC-to-LAX route would prompt Virgin America to add the real prize: Longer flights to East Coast and Midwest cities like Chicago, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. — a major goal for city and business leaders.

This should not come as any surprise. We’ve known for years now that airlines see the most profits in medium and long haul routes, not in the short haul shuttle routes like SF to LA. In 2010 JetBlue’s CEO made the point explicitly:

Q: Do you see nationwide high-speed rail as a threat or complement to the airline industry?

A: It’s a complement. I don’t think we need hundreds of departures every day from the Bay Area to Los Angeles.

That CEO expanded on his point when discussing NYC to Boston:

It was an event filled with charts and maps that drove home how overwhelmed and outdated current air traffic control technology is. One solution Maruster said was obvious is taking airline passengers off some routes, like New York to Boston. “It seems like there’s a mode that might work better for us in that regard. When we see things like high-speed rail going into South Florida, we say OK, that makes sense. But I think this region, with almost 25 million people in the Tri-State area, makes a lot more sense for those kind of things.” Maruster says he’d like to see New York City and federal transportation officials put out a 20 or 30-year vision that addresses how airplanes, trains and other modes of transportation can be put together. He hasn’t seen one yet.

Airlines make some profit on their SF-LA routes. But as fuel costs rise, those profits have shrunk. Given the immense cost of expanding airports, gate space is at a premium. Airlines would much rather use those gates for the more profitable medium and long haul flights than for more shuttle flights within California.

So what about the short haul routes? Do companies like Virgin and Southwest plan to just abandon those? Far from it. In fact, they would like to operate high speed rail on those routes, replacing air travel, according to Ben Tripousis of the California High Speed Rail Authority:

Tripousis said the rail authority is also in very preliminary talks with airlines about operating the statewide $68 billion rail system — that is, if major funding and planning questions can be resolved to get the system built over the next 15-plus years….

“It’s very cursory. We’re starting to talk about what’s possible. What’s true for Virgin — they’ve done it in other parts of the world — could be true for somebody like Southwest. We’re hamstrung in terms of the number of airline gates we can have or expand to.”

So the shape of transportation in California’s future is clear. The airlines would like to redirect existing gates to medium and long haul flights and replace the short haul flights with high speed rail. I’m not sure I like the idea of a private operator, but it’s also not the end of the world.

More importantly, it shows that to the private sector, HSR is a big deal and very important to their future plans. Of course, it’s also beyond their ability to fund the capital costs, which is where government comes in.

So when people like Neel Kashkari go around California calling HSR the “crazy train,” he’s really just showing how deeply out of touch he has become with what the travel industry wants and expects in the years to come. HSR really is a crucial part of California’s future. Even the airlines agree.

  1. EJ
    Mar 16th, 2014 at 23:34

    Well, we did a pretty thorough job of running off SNCF, so maybe an airline could do the job? Though I don’t see anywhere in the article where Virgin is actually interested, it seems more like they’re saying that since Virgin can successfully run a train service in the UK, other airlines could do it here.

    Wouldn’t mind having Virgin run CAHSR though, their service in the UK has been top-notch every time I’ve used it.

    Derek Reply:

    I also had a little trouble finding where Virgin says they’re interested in operating HSR service, but here it is:

    One solution [Virgin CEO] Maruster said was obvious is taking airline passengers off some routes, like New York to Boston. “It seems like there’s a mode that might work better for us in that regard. When we see things like high-speed rail going into South Florida, we say OK, that makes sense. But I think this region, with almost 25 million people in the Tri-State area, makes a lot more sense for those kind of things.”

    (emphasis added)

    Eric Reply:

    Or he could just see short routes as an unprofitable burden, in which case it would be better for him if anybody else (except a competing airline) could take care of short-distance travel for him.

    wdobner Reply:

    You mean SNCF did a good job eliminating themselves from serious contention at this stage when they proposed cost plus construction and operating contracts and penalty payments if they weren’t selected as the primary system operator upon the completion of Phase 1. A great deal for the French, not so much for the California taxpayer.

    But of course, it doesn’t fit with the usual PBQD boogeymen around here, so the rent-seeking SNCF is played up as the victim, despite asking for an order of magnitude or two more than PB, Tutor-Perini, or any of the firms the regular commenters here claim are fleecing the state.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    despite asking for an order of magnitude or two more than PB, Tutor-Perini,

    I don’t quite think you understand the term “order of magnitude”

    wdobner Reply:

    Something like $100 million paid to PB, Tutor is in at around a billion for the first segment in the Central Valley. An operating contract with SNCF, particularly a cost plus contract where the bidder has almost no incentive to contain costs, could easily run more than $10 billion. By the time the project were completely built out the state could have been on the hook for as much as $100 billion between the construction and operating costs.

    I’m not sure where the confusion arises, but I’m not sure how SNCF comes off the victim here. They were unambiguously asking California to write them a blank check for tens of billions of dollars.

  2. Jerry
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 00:23

    It’s a crazy quilt mess. Bring back the Civil Aeronautics Board. (CAB)

  3. John Nachtigall
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 04:15

    Southwest is the most profitable airline in existence at the moment. Perhaps the most profitable ever. And they run exclusively short haul flight with no hubs

    That said I think it would be a major bonus if they could get an established company like Southwest to run HSR

    EJ Reply:

    Their hubs are Phoenix, Vegas, and Chicago Midway.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    And they get people across the country often, including many 4+ hour flights

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Nathanael Reply:

    Southwest doesn’t do much short-haul at all.

    What they *do* do is a lot of (pretty long-haul) direct flights; they try not to force people to change planes. Given the way airplanes work, this is *very smart*.

  4. Eric
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 08:37

    Makes sense. Luftansa already does this, they operate and reserve train tickets just like their planes.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Actually, many years ago (must be 30 or so), Lufthansa leased special trainsets and ran them between Frankfurt and Köln.

    Nowadays, they buy a certain number of seats in regular ICEs between Frankfurt and Stuttgart, and Frankfurt and Köln, and they sell them on as “flight” seats, with their own number.

    Also, there are TGVs between Lyon St.Exupéry and paris, which also appear as flights in the airline reservation system; Lyon airport and Lyon airport TGV have different airport codes.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Untied and Amtrak codeshare. United won’t let you book Stamford to EWR but they will let you book Stamford and other trains stations to places you can fly to of from Newark.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Sorta like United’s “flight” from ABE, Lehigh Valley, is a bus…..

  5. Reality Check
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 08:44

    Robert’s headline suggests Virgin wants to operate CAHSR … but unless I missed it, Robert’s post never even hints at anyone connected with Virgin saying that. Did they or didn’t they?

  6. jimsf
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 09:01

    An airline that chose to operate or at least code share with hsr, would have an advantage over the other airlines in that it would be able to gather passengers directly at their point of origin/deliver them to their destination.

    Instead of people from up and down the valley, high desert, inland empire etc, having to drive or shuttle to their nearest large airport, they could book a virgin “flight” directly from their hometown

    Merced(yosemite station” to Ft Lauderdale on Virgin. Same for those arriving in california with a thru ticket / transfer to hsr to take them much closer to their destination.

    Eric Reply:

    Except that CAHSR won’t serve LAX.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Few people spend much time in the airport, they are destined for someplace else.

    Nathanael Reply:

    And Eurostar doesn’t serve Heathrow (London) or Charles De Gaulle (Paris) or Charleroi (Brussels).

    It doesn’t seem to matter at all.

    Several of the airlines dropped out of the Paris-London and Brussels-London markets and just hand people train tickets instead. Despite the required transfers on local trains to get from airport to train station. The same would happen with CAHSR.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You’ll practically be able to spit from SFO to the HSR station. There aren’t a lot of popular destinations you can’t get to from SFO that you can get to from LAX.

    Joe Reply:

    And I bet Richard Mylnark will be demonstrating exactly how to spit at the HSR station when it’s built.

    Eric Reply:

    That would mean leaving his mom’s basement. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Eh, I’m pretty sure there are a lot of places in east Asia where you would preferentially fly out of LAX, not SFO, due to choice of airlines if nothing else. People taking trips *that* long aren’t going to blink at the Flyaway Bus transfer, though.

  7. Reedman
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 09:13

    Virgin and Southwest are profit-maximizing businesses. They will not have anything to do with CAHSR unless they can see and measure a value to their shareholders in it.

    jimsf Reply:

    putting their brand in the backyards of another 20 million or so californians might seem like an opportunity.

  8. J. Wong
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 09:56

    So San Jose doesn’t generate enough traffic to support a flight to LAX. It really does seem like HSR could skip San Jose without much impact.

    San Jose is the most populous city in northern California, but it seems like there is “no there there”.

    J. Wong Reply:

    (And yes, I know other airlines do operate SJC-LAX flights besides Virgin.)

    Joe Reply:

    My SJC Fights are to BUR.

    My SJC to LAX are puddle jumper connections to the east coast and for those I’ll always check sfo for a midday departure direct.

    Airline Consolidation has hurt mid sized airports like SJC.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The bigger story is that Southwest, the California flag carrier, is not getting much business in short haul travel in airports like Ontario, Oakland, and San Jose. SF and LAX which have a wealthier clientele are rebounding and San Diego is also doing well.

    The future of SWA’s business is on the East Coast and perhaps Mexico. California, not so much.

    joe Reply:

    The future is in longer distance routes which I suspect include flights into and out of CA.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Yes, but if look at the smaller regional airports like Burbank and San Jose, they do a very small percentage of their business east of the Mississippi. Those flights are linked to SFO and LAX to ensure connections with international passengers and other long range flights.

    Joe Reply:

    I can choose from 19 distinct departures from SJC to MDW on 3/31.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Total number of passengers per day, from the Consumer Airfare Report Table 1A, 2011 Q4:

    SJC-MDW: 137.29
    SJC-ORD: 219.13
    OAK-MDW: 340.31
    OAK-ORD: 21.95
    SFO-MDW: 357.71
    SFO-ORD: 1362.38

    So SFO is 70% of the total.

    Our of curiosity, here are the numbers for passengers to another big East Coast city:

    SJC-EWR: 39.02
    SJC-JFK: 215.65
    SJC-LGA: 25.54
    OAK-EWR: 43.26
    OAK-JFK: 215.98
    OAK-LGA: 19.02
    SFO-EWR: 866.44
    SFO-JFK: 1085.14
    SFO-LGA: 69.46

    Here, SFO is 78% of the total.

    joe Reply:

    So? There are still 19 distinct choices out of SJC to MDW.

    MDW is still the SW hub, It’s a busy and successful airport that I choose to use over ORD. It’s a model of what SJC can become was SFO continues to congest and delay.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If I remember correctly the only way to get from LaGuardia to California is to change planes. Wikipedia says: “A perimeter rule prohibits nonstop flights to or from points beyond 1,500 statute miles (2,400 km). Exceptions to the perimeter rule are flights on Saturdays and flights to Denver. Most transcontinental and international flights use JFK or Newark.” That’s gonna kill demand.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, actually, it’s not a model. When there are 19 daily flights in each direction, carrying 137 O&D passengers among them, almost all passengers are connecting. Midway can get away with that because of its relatively central location. San Jose can’t. HSR will empty the secondary airports in California, and even decongest LAX and SFO enough that airlines can shift flights back.

    What San Jose should become is a closed airport, same as Stapleton. Run a Millbrae-SFO BART shuttle without ridiculous 10-minute layovers demanded by the unions, run more frequent Caltrains with timed connections, and make SFO the Peninsula airport.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    no it’s not a model. More people live in New York City itself than live in the SF-SJ combined statistical area. More people live in New Jersey than in the SF-SJ CSA. Not by much but they are larger. Or New York City and New Jersey are together are twice as large. That doesn’t include the suburbs in New York State, Connecticut or Pennsylvania.
    Put the BART SFO-Millbrae shuttle out of it’s misery and convert it to people mover. Most people will find that more useful than getting on BART only to change to the people mover once they are on-airport.

    joe Reply:

    Suggesting CA close SJC is trolling.

    Will SJC ever be a hub airport – hmmmm….Yes. Been there. already. 1988. So geography isn’t the problem.

    American Airlines Selects San Jose Airport for Hub
    October 05, 1988|ROBERT E. DALLOS | Times Staff Writer
    The new hub will allow American to facilitate the connection of its mainly East-West route system with its newly acquired routes up and down the West Coast. Until the carrier acquired AirCal last year, most of its flights were from New York, Chicago and Dallas/Ft. Worth to the West Coast. But the new West Coast network stretches from the Canadian border to the Mexican border.

    The Feds have allowed a massive consolidation and subsequently reduce competition in the air travel.
    AA’s gone into bankruptcy so the consolidation which is hurting every midsized airport doesn’t mean SJC isn’t going to eventually grow.

    No new runways at SFO, no new airport to replace SFO. At low visibility aka fog, SFO reduces to one runway.

    Solution – people mover.

    Ted Judah Reply:


    Okay how about this?

    Most air traffic between secondary airports in California was for in state travel using Southwest. However if you look at data going back 20 years the amount of traffic is actually in long term decline. The reason for this is pretty obvious: middle class suburbs in CA have less wealth than they did before because there isn’t as much government spending here, especially in defense.

    While the Bay Area is still able to thrive, it does so using robber-baron type distribution and is the reason why things appear vastly different on both sides of the Lawrence Expressway. But the moral for consumer oriented business is the same. You make the same amount of revenue serving ten rich guys as 100 middle class ones. But you need fewer stores, less employees and insurance, so it is only natural that firms would gravitate this way.

    Tony D. Reply:

    SFO has wealthier clientele than SJC? Not only false, but SJC tends to have more expensive flights than SFO due to the limited number. As an SJ resident who frequently flies to Hawaii and Vegas out of SJC, it’s more convenient due to proximity to home; BUT! I could most likely find cheaper flights out of SFO. This could change in the future with fully modernized Caltrain from SJ to SFO. (disclaimer: don’t like our downtown airport due to its flight path over downtown and occupation of 2,000 acres of prime real estate in central SJ)

    Ted Judah Reply:

    You are not wealthy by Bay Area standards, then.

    joe Reply:

    My colleague who see family in India is not wealthier than I, he just has a family in India so he uses SFO.

    Long distance travel is long distance, not wealthier. Wealthy travel is buying your own plane, airport and hanger. Ask Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Your right Ted! I’ll never have my own private jet parked at the new “Google Airport” at SJC (which broke ground earlier this month) ;)

    joe Reply:
    The U.S. government has picked a Google subsidiary to run and renovate a federal airfield that is frequently used for the personal flights of the Internet company’s billionaire executives.

    Tony D. Reply:

    So Google will have a Moffett airport AND new corporate Terminal at SJC; must be nice!

    Michael Reply:

    And the Gettys park their jet at the private terminal at SFO. So? None of us will ever fly the Google Folks planes or the Gettys’ planes. The discussion is what are the choices to us poor working slobs in the Bay Area.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Speaking of private jet traffic, LA has at least one airport devoted *entirely* to private airplane traffic. It gets public funding, too!

    Nice airport. I wouldn’t mind flying in or out of there.

    The situation with charter/corporate/private air traffic is really not relevant to which airports will survive as commercial airports though.

    joe Reply:

    Hub-spoke model is efficient and airlines are offering fewer choices and cheap and crappy service so there is a natural tendency to centralize traffic around a hub. airport and treat people like packages.

    Spoke-hub distribution paradigm

    For a network of n’ nodes, only n – 1 routes are necessary to connect all nodes; that is, the upper bound is n – 1, and the complexity is O(n). … For example, in a system with 10 destinations, the spoke-hub system requires only 9 routes to connect all destinations, while a true point-to-point system would require 45 routes.

    The small number of routes generally leads to more efficient use of transportation resources. For example, aircraft are more likely to fly at full capacity, and can often fly routes more than once a day.

    Complicated operations, such as package sorting and accounting, can be carried out at the hub, rather
    than at every node. [customer service and plane maintenance]

    Spokes are simple, and new ones can be created easily.

    SFO is the hub airport for the bay area. It will remain so for international flights.

    ORD is the hub for Chicago but SW has used MDW as the SW hub due to constraints at ORD. ORD can grow runway and has had capacity improving changes. SFO is not. They are not adding a new runway or filling in the bay. The HSR line near SJC gives it an advantage over OAK. OAK has the new BART extension.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Except that HSR is sort of serving SFO but not serving SJC at all…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    SJC is a secondary airport. It’s gonna have the flights to Denver and Chicago. If you want to fly to London or Hong Kong you’ll have to go to SFO. If you look at smaller airports in the Midwest and Northeast they have flights to hub airports where almost everybody changes planes or to Orlando and maybe other Florida destinations. It’s the places they can scare up whole plane loads of people. It’s gonna have the same kind of air service that other cities it size has

    .. excluding the anomalies of Las Vegas and Orlando which are roughly the same size.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Everyone hates the transfers at the hubs. Southwest did very well by avoiding those as much as possible. Even Southwest is pruning its direct service to minor airports, however.

    Honestly, passenger rail doesn’t usually compete very well with *direct* air travel — particularly when there are well-located downtown airports.

    But passenger rail can compete quite well with *hub and spoke* air travel where people have to change planes in some random location — and especially where the destination or origin airports are far away from the city itself.

    Air travel is hampered in popularity by change of planes and it’s hampered in popularity by out of town airports. However, both of these things have become more and more common. Not exactly a good omen for air travel.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The SJC-Palmdale express will surely do better.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Knew someone would make the strawman argument that Virgin leaving SJC means HSR could “skip” San Jose/SV and it’s 2 million residents. The SJ-LA route was/is over saturated you moron! It’s really that simple.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    In fact, travel from SJC airport has declined overall. It has fewer passengers now than it did back in 1998.

    Joe Reply:

    No one goes there any more.
    It’s too crowded.

    Joey Reply:

    That doesn’t apply if passenger counts are actually declining.

    joe Reply:

    If people don’t want to come to the airport, how are you going to stop them?

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    You can observe a lot by watching.

    Joe Reply:

    90% of the HSR project is political. The other half is financial.

    Joey Reply:

    Curve radii and cant deficiency? Definitely a question of politics, not physics.

    joe Reply:

    The opposition could make trouble for HSR if they win.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Actually… cant deficiency in the US is very low due to a lot of institutional inertia. You need a waiver for 4″ cant deficiency and traditionally could only do 5″ if the line was either HSR by the 110 mph standard or connected to an HSR line (the magical HSR waiver), although the FRA is changing that rule to “you can run at 6″ after extensive testing at Pueblo.”

    Joey Reply:

    Yeah, I was thinking about FRA rules as I wrote that comment, but I figured it would still suffice for my point.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    if San Jose wants to be a success, they need jetways like every other major airport in the world, direct flights east with no connections, etc. If they continue be a regional option to SFO then they need to come to terms with not being a world class airport.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Gawd it’s gettin’ old. Jetways are a new fangled thing. If you wanted to fly from New York to California your choices were JFK to LAX or JFK to SFO.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Or EWR! For domestic service, all three main New York airports are co-equal, sadly. It’s not like SF, where SFO dominates flights beyond HSR range, or LA, where LAX dominates same.

    Eric Reply:

    Why sadly?

    Joe Reply:

    NYC shows what will happen in the Bay Area.

    SFO is not expanding. Additional capacity is heading to OAK and SJC.

    Joey Reply:

    Much less so once (if?) HSR is in operation. With short-haul trips moved to HSR, there’s less airport capacity demand and hence need for secondary airports which have room to expand.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Eh. Historically, New York was pretty much always a multi-airport city. LaGuardia was pissed that the only primary airport was Newark, so he first tried attracting airliners to Bennett, and when that failed he built what is now LGA, and then New York became a two-airport city. Then when LGA proved too small they built JFK, so New York became a three-airport city. Not the same as LA, SF, or Chicago.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Because LGA and EWR are horrible airports with horrible connectivity by public transportation. JFK at least has Terminal 4, which is awesome for departures (and hellish for international arrivals), and Terminal 5, which is nice.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I haven’t been to JFK since they closed the TWA terminal, which all our flights ran through back then.

    I have to say, the TWA terminal was god-awful for all flights. LGA and EWR were preferable. Of course, back then JFK had no public transportation connectivity either.

    In terms of connectivity, EWR (Newark), with Amtrak connections, is actually the logical choice if you’re starting your trip anywhere in New Jersey. (There’s probably a reason Newark was the primary airport before the NY vs. NJ politics reared its head under Mayor LaGuardia.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Newark was the primary airport because it was built on worthless swamp land. It had that lovely Holland Tunnel and Pulaski Skyway for your limo or cab to whisk you into Manhattan.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    When LGA was built, New Jersey was a lot less important than it is today, because there was less suburbanization. In 1940, New Jersey had 4 million people and New York had 7.5 million. Today, Jersey has 9 million people and New York 8.5 million. No, as Adirondacker notes, it was the easy automobile access. The location for LGA was chosen on similar grounds: easy access by the Queens Midtown Tunnel, unlike Floyd Bennett, which was farther away by car. At the time, the idea that airport riders would take the subway, for example a Utica Avenue extension, was laughable.

    Eric Reply:

    Yeah, airport connections have not been a big thing until recently. If I’m not forgetting anything, the first North American city with an airport rail connection was Cleveland in 1968, then DC in 1983 and Chicago in 1984, then St Louis in 1994.

    Eric Reply:

    I forgot Philadelphia’s commuter rail starting 1985.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Atlanta’s MARTA airport connection is great. No BART-like airport station surcharge, and you can ride anywhere on the system for just a flat $2.50. I just used it again last week and it gets you to any downtown station in well under 30 min. The airport station was built in 1980 but didn’t open until 1988 when the system was finally extended to it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    A grad school classmate from Cobb County says that MARTA’s only good at getting you from the park-and-ride to the airport, in fact.

    Reality Check Reply:

    MARTA’s good for a lot more, as I can attest … as there are plenty of hotels, large office buildings and businesses/restaurants within easy walking distance from the numerous downtown stations (and at Buckhead) — none of which have parking much, if any, parking and are served by MARTA bus routes. My company’s office is about 2 minutes walking time from the Midtown station. But yeah, Atlanta is not anything like transit-oriented or nearly as walkable/ped-friendly as, say, SF or NYC … and MARTA coverage is spotty outside of downtown with big BART-like park-n-ride lots. I was surprised to see the roads the Peachtree Center station just north of Five-Points (the heart and cross of MARTA’s rail system in downtown) torn up for installation of a brand-spanking new downtown streetcar loop.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    each airport in metro New York has a catchment area with the population of the SF-Oakland metro….

    Neil Shea Reply:

    You haven’t been there in quite a while, eh John? The charming old Terminal C where you could walk the tarmac to the stairs was demolished years ago. Now you have to go to Burbank or Long Beach to enjoy the jet-set age.

    Reedman Reply:

    SJC will become a more successful airport when it has BART connectivity like SFO and OAK.

    Donk Reply:

    I thought BART was going to the Caltrain Station. Are they actually going to connect BART to the airport?

    Neil Shea Reply:

    BART is planned to end at Santa Clara Caltrain station, on the back side of the airport (and the front side of Santa Clara Univ). An airport people mover is proposed to run under the runway to the terminals and then on to the light rail on N. 1st St. This will replace the existing free #10 airport bus. The people mover will cost $700m and is listed as one of the top 10 transportation projects in Plan Bay Area.

    Joe Reply:

    WADC’s IAD replaced their ” thunderbirds are go” people mover trucks with an underground rail system.

    Eric Reply:

    Definitely one of the 10 biggest wastes of money…

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Extending light rail would be easier-its already very close running along North 1st.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    And have all riders detour under the runways, or what are you proposing?

    Reality Check Reply:

    I think Amanda is proposing looping LRT off N 1st and past the airport terminals. I can’t see how you got an implied under-runway detour out of her comment.

    Reality Check Reply:

    But then this wouldn’t do much for Caltrain or BART riders arriving at Santa Clara station … unless they all dog-legged it up to Diridon to transfer to LRT to SJC — a detour possibly nuttier than the vaporware Millbrae “quick, easy and free cross-platform transfer to SFO” Caltrain riders were promised by Kopp, Nevin and Haugh which today involves buying another $4.25 BART ticket, riding BART past SFO to San Bruno, getting off and back-riding another BART train into the International terminal and then transferring yet again (with at least a couple level changes and other assorted walks and chicanes) to the SFO APM to reach, say, their domestic Virgin or American flight in terminal 2. All of which replaced a free timed single shuttle ride linking Caltrain arrivals with the curb in front of each terminal.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    The one benefit I see of looping light rail off of 1st is that it doesn’t have to go under any runways, and can go right up to the terminals.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    The proposed people mover under the runway brings Caltrain, ACE, Capitol Corridor and future BART passengers and airport employees to the terminal. Once you are doing that you can continue the short distance to LRT on 1st street and not delay/inconvenience the non-airport passengers.

    Michael Reply:

    Consider “HSR to San Jose”, “BART to San Jose”, and “SJC Peoplemover” in order of which you or anyone would like to see built first, second and third. SJC Peoplemover comes around 2040.

    Reality Check Reply:

    I found this June 2013 PDF backgrounder on the SJ Mineta Airport People Mover on the VTA website that says the only have $4m in identified funding. Also looks like they stupidly wasted time evaluating some sort of fantasy PRT BS before PRT is “not ready for public application of this scale” and that the under-runway direct route was too costly … so they’re looking at looping around either the north or south end of the runway. At least Mountain View council recently woke up and shit-canned blowing any city money on AirTran-style maglev PRT linking the North Bayshore (Shoreline/Google) area with downtown/Caltrain.

    Joe Reply:

    MTV should gave VTA light rail run along 101 Moffett field and service to shoreline and cut on San Antonio road to Caltrain San Antonio station and then head to MTV Caltrain.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Regarding jetways: they were the big thing for a long time. I remember when “walk to the plane” made a big comeback in the 1990s as airlines started using much smaller airplanes for most of their routes. Since then, of course, those routes have simply been deleted in many cases.

  9. synonymouse
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 10:42

    Anybody ask Branson what he thinks of the Palmdale-Mojave detour? I think Elon Musk has already supplied the answer.

    Besides Branson or any other prospective private operator does not stand a chance against Amalgamated no matter how much payola they slip to Pelosi. The union cadres provide the machine muscle and vote getters that are irreplaceable. The unions will never allow a private operator on a rail line outright owned by the government. They will lobby against it from the get-go.

    Make no mistake, PB-CHSRA is contractor and union welfare from its heart.

    JB in PA Reply:

    Based on how Sir Richard maintains his public image, I think he is light years away from thinking about small politics of ‘fly-over’ cities and Bay Area bandits. Virgin run HSR will need a dining car and club car with mood lighting and playing Virgin Records music.

  10. jimsf
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 10:50

    An airline such as virgin out of SFO would add 23 more california cities to their network by operating hsr.

  11. synonymouse
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 10:52

    An airline can “leave” a market because there is little infrastructure, plant or capital investment. No so with surface fixed guideway.

    Leaving such a rich market as San Jose to Palmdale via Mojave means the scrapper. Has anybody asked the class ones if they would have any interest in purchasing this Detour?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    yes, they suppressed their giggle and said no.

    EJ Reply:

    You do know that Virgin is one of the largest “franchise” rail operators in the UK, right? On rail infrastructure that was originally laid out in the 19th century?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Not really. Airlines made significant capital investments before deregulation, and now surviving carriers inherited those developments. This is the main reason consolidation is happening in air travel Nd why soon they will get into passenger rail to expand the amount real estate involved.

  12. Keith Saggers
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 13:06

    “I’m not sure I like the idea of a private operator, but it’s also not the end of the world.”

    Robert, you have made similar comments in the past, who do you see operating CHSR?

  13. morris brown
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 16:18

    California’s High-Speed Rail – Bait ‘n’ Switch Tale

    Wendell Cox in this short video tell it like it is with some real facts.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Seriously, don’t quote Wendell Cox, who (along with Randall O’Toole and Joel Kotkin) are fanatical anti-rail hacks, who lie through their teeth repeatedly.

    All three seem to use “How to Lie With Statistics” as a manual.

    It discredits you to quote him. If you want to seem at all legitimate, stay away from anything produced by those three dishonest hacks. They have very long records of dishonest anti-rail hackery.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Are there unreal facts?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Interesting concept. Maybe “facts” about the universe of Star Trek would qualify as unreal facts?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    well when you live in a world where there are real facts like the laws of gravity and plain old facts like the Holy Laffer Curve one has to differentiate between the two.

    morris brown Reply:

    @adirondacker 12800:

    who writes:

    “Are there unreal facts? —I would just call them lies and certainly not what Cox and Joe Vranich have produced. In spite of what a guy like Nathanael writes, just read or listen and learn who tells the truth.

    Then, of course you might also want to observe what the courts have had to say about all of this.

    joe Reply:

    The courts rejected every attempt to stop HSR & rejected every attempt to invalidate the contracts.

    Critics pretend they won when they failed to achieve the top objective – halting HSR.

    Of course you too might also want to observe what the courts have had to say about this…..rather than picking cherries.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The courts did stop them from using the bond funds. You left that out

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It hasn’t worked it’s way up the appellate courts yet.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Well you can’t really say “rejected every attempt” then can you?

    joe Reply:

    rejected every attempt to stop the project.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    not being able to spend the bond money stops the project. its indirect, but the result is the same.

    joe Reply:

    Rejected all requests to halt the project – rejected all requests to cancel contacts.
    Work on HSR continues – all contracts are in place new work is being bid. Not one piece of work was halted.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    CHSRA officials will need to continue fostering relationships with stakeholders as they encounter road bumps along the project development and construction path. The latest: In late November, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny denied a request by CHSRA to issue a blanket validation for the sale of more than $8 billion in Proposition 1A bonds, which were approved by California voters in 2008. In a separate but related ruling, Kenny also mandated CHSRA to re-write its 2011 funding plan before spending any state bond money on the high-speed system construction.

    However, the rulings do not prevent the state from selling the bonds, nor did the judge order CHSRA to rescind the approval of contracts for the first construction segment.

    “We are reviewing both decisions to chart our next steps, but it’s important to stress that the court again declined the opposition’s request to stop the high-speed rail project from moving forward,” said CHSRA Board Chairman Dan Richard…

    Progressive Railroading

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    That was the original story, and then they turned around and appealed. In the appeal they state irreparable harm is being done to the project and they need an expedited appeal.

    Pick one or the other. Project is fine or there is urgent need for appeal because of irreparable harm.

    joe Reply:

    CA isn’t the patsy state.

    When Jeff Denham hold’s Congressional hearings proclaiming the court ruling puts the project’s in deep trouble, and demands it be canceled.. CA will use his own words against him. That’s called kick ass.

    Anything you say and will be used against you. Quite prosecutorial isn’t it?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Every lawsuit that comes along you trumpet that it’s the death knell for the project and it hasn’t stopped.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Cox’s estimate of the project’s cost overrun came from extrapolating cost growth coming from inflation adjustments. The alternative explanation to “Cox lies” is “Cox is innumerate.”

  14. morris brown
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 16:47

    The response from Tos et. al. to the Authority’s appeal to the 3rd district court seeking to have Judge Kenny’s rulings overturned can be viewed at:

    Joe Reply:

    In honor of St. Patrick’s Day I propose a drinking game. Every time you read the word “denies” take a shot if anyone can make it through the document, they are a better Irishmen that I.

  15. morris brown
    Mar 17th, 2014 at 18:33

    Fresno Bee:

    Kings County calls high-speed rail appeal ‘arrogant,’ seeks invalidation of state budget vote

    By Tim Sheehan

    The Fresno Bee March 17, 2014

    Read more here:

    joe Reply:

    An attorney for Kings County not only says a state appeals court should reject what he calls the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s “arrogant request” to overturn lower court rulings against the rail agency — he wants justices to go a step further by invalidating the Legislature’s 2012 vote to spend nearly $6 billion on bullet-train construction in the San Joaquin Valley.

    CA’s appealing a court ruling by following procedure is not arrogant.

    Asking the Judge invalidate the Legislature’s vote after losing that very argument in the same Court case WHILE ALSO calling the State’s appeal of the ruling arrogant is how the Laurel & Hardy legal team keep fumbling the case.

    joe Reply:

    During the speech, which lasted just over 15 minutes, Brown also defended his controversial plans for a costly high-speed train network and massive water tunnels that would move billions of gallons from the northern half of the state to the south. The governor said the projects would create jobs and benefit Californians for generations.

    And, on occasion, an amped-up Brown appeared to be channeling a late-night comedian.

    “There’s a lot of old people who shouldn’t be driving. They should be sitting in a nice train car, working on their iPad, having a martini,’’ Brown quipped.,0,7454982.story#ixzz2wI4kgpYP

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Way to sell it to the young millennial crowd

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    old person

    I agree about the train and the martini, but what’s an iPad?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What’s this about old people and work?

  16. Keith Saggers
    Mar 18th, 2014 at 09:27
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