High Speed Rail and the Great Dithering

Apr 22nd, 2014 | Posted by

It’s Earth Day 2014, but few in the climate activism movement feel much like celebrating. After a hopeful few years in the late ’00s, progress on reducing CO2 emissions has ground nearly to a halt everywhere in North America outside of California. And even within California that progress has slowed. The climate crisis continues to get worse and the impacts, from rising sea levels to massive agricultural dislocation, seem now to be inevitable rather than avoidable.

SPUR’s Gabriel Metcalf has coined a term for this period of inaction, taken from the great California writer Kim Stanley Robinson: the Great Dithering. Here’s how Metcalf describes it:

As seen from Robinson’s science fiction–imagined future, this is the period of human history, following modernism and postmodernism, in which humanity failed to act rapidly or decisively enough to avert catastrophic climate change.

In the quarter-century since NASA scientist James Hansen alerted the public to the threat posed by human-caused global warming, emissions have only increased. It’s not that we have done nothing to address the problem; it’s that what we have done is so minimal that it is dwarfed by everything we’ve done to make the problem worse. I think it is fair to say that much of the general public, at least in the United States, has no idea just how far-reaching the changes are going to be if we continue down this path.

Metcalf argues that California, and the Bay Area in particular, are well-placed to lead the way forward:

We’re in an era when there’s real mistrust of government and of big interventions of all kinds. We’ve scaled back our ambitions to tactical, temporary, small-scale approaches to change. But climate adaptation requires us to act at the level of the big systems.

We in the Bay Area have the opportunity to lead the way. We are highly educated. We have a culture that is open to change. We have a natural setting that inspires environmental values. We are not debating whether climate change is real. We have one of the strongest economies in the world, meaning we can generate the resources to take action. The Bay Area is probably one of the best-positioned places in the world to create a working model of how an urbanized coastal region can cope with climate change.

We need to be ambitious enough to try to retrofit our region to live within a carbon budget that is sustainable for the planet. In other words, we should be striving to make the Bay Area carbon neutral. It is possible to generate the vast majority of the region’s energy and transportation needs with renewable energy: wind, water and solar. It will take time, policy change and significant resources, but it is a goal worth aiming for.

Even those efforts will, and in some cases already have, be opposed by those who are invested in maintaining the status quo. So it is worth taking a moment to understand the causes of this Great Dithering and what it means for our future, including but not limited to high speed rail.

The Great Dithering is the product of 4 related factors: austerity, financialization, allegiance to a 20th century urban ideology, and a general desire to protect existing privilege. Solve all of these four problems and we can get to a place where meaningful action to address climate change, including building high speed rail, is possible.

Austerity: Since 2009 governments around the world have been pursuing an extremely damaging policy of balancing budgets and cutting public expenditures, rather than allowing for unbalanced budgets and increases in public spending that will be required to address a major crisis like global warming. Austerity has led to several canceled HSR projects, including one connecting Portugal to Spain. It has delayed others, and in places like Britain, led transit advocates to fight each other over the perception that there’s not enough money to build everything. When governments prioritize spending less over solving problems, those problems tend to get worse. Until we abandon an austerity mentality, we have virtually no chance to address global warming.

Another challenge of austerity is that it makes it more challenging to build those projects that do make it through the anti-spending filter. California HSR is a classic example. Many of the challenges it faces with NIMBYs could be solved with more money. Build a trench or a tunnel through parts of the Peninsula, or spend more money to buy out Kings County farmers – stuff their mouths of full of gold, as Britain did with doctors when starting the National Health Service.

Financialization: This is related to austerity. It’s the idea that everything in government has to pay for itself, following a financial model. Rather than seeing public services as things government funds no matter what their efficiency or cost or revenues, this approach insists that public spending be seen as an “investment” that generates a return, or at least doesn’t cost extra dollars. This mindset includes a demand that big projects have a favorable cost-benefit analysis, almost always narrowly defined to ignore the big picture. Pretty much anything that takes significant amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere, or reduces CO2 emissions, has benefits exceeding their costs. But in a financialized era, those benefits are ignored for a simple question of whether a project covers its construction and its operating costs. Which is a stupid thing to insist upon when facing a serious threat to our society.

20th century mindset: This is the mentality that the urban form of the 1950s is the pinnacle of human civilization. The ability to drive everywhere, live in low-density neighborhoods, buy everything at the supermarket, jet off to exotic locales, is all seen as one of the greatest innovations in history and an American birthright – at least by those old enough to grow up when this model worked. It doesn’t work any more and hasn’t for nearly ten years. But many people, especially members of the Baby Boom generation, are vehemently opposed to any change to this model. They will fight and scream and rage at any proposal for new density, for improving transit, for making it safer to walk or bike, if doing so impedes the 20th century urban model – and those changes almost always do so.

Because transportation is such a major source of CO2 emissions, the refusal to move away from the 20th century urban model makes it extremely difficult to achieve the kind of CO2 reductions that are needed. Any effort to reduce CO2 emissions from urban transportation gets attacked as a “war on cars” – as if it’s somehow bad to wage a war on something (climate change) that will have a greater impact on our civilization than did the Second World War. Global warming is a product of that 20th century urban model, and until we move beyond that model, we are locking ourselves in to significant increases in global temperatures.

Protect existing privilege: Many of the NIMBYs who oppose projects that reduce CO2 come from a place of privilege. They own homes, hold good jobs, are often white and usually, though not always, are male. Peninsula NIMBYs are typically wealthy, especially those living in Atherton. They are some of the best examples of people fighting to protect existing privilege at the expense of the future of our society. Their names will go down in the history books as the handmaidens of catastrophe.

But they aren’t alone. To their number must be added those with spectacular wealth who oppose reducing CO2 emissions because doing so will cost money. A lot of money. Chris Hayes just published a fantastic new article comparing the fight to stop climate change to abolitionism:

The last time in American history that some powerful set of interests relinquished its claim on $10 trillion of wealth was in 1865—and then only after four years and more than 600,000 lives lost in the bloodiest, most horrific war we’ve ever fought.

It is almost always foolish to compare a modern political issue to slavery, because there’s nothing in American history that is slavery’s proper analogue. So before anyone misunderstands my point, let me be clear and state the obvious: there is absolutely no conceivable moral comparison between the enslavement of Africans and African-Americans and the burning of carbon to power our devices. Humans are humans; molecules are molecules. The comparison I’m making is a comparison between the political economy of slavery and the political economy of fossil fuel.

The political economy of fossil fuel has led the Republican Party, backed by oil money, to become extremely hostile to any effort to reduce CO2 emissions. It’s one major reason why they refuse to spend money on passenger rail. The Koch brothers are also waging war on solar power. Australia has seen fossil fuel magnates become political activists and, in some cases, founders of new political parties designed to maximize the burning of as much CO2 as possible. Canada’s government has been in the hands of the Alberta oil industry since 2006. The Western States Petroleum Association is one of the most influential lobbying groups in Sacramento and has successfully watered down efforts to slow or stop fracking in the Golden State.

Some activists blame right-wing funding of conservative climate deniers for the Great Dithering. But I don’t see a lack of belief in climate change as the problem. That is just a rationalization for one of the four deeper factors described above.

Until we jettison the idea that government should spend less money, stop insisting that public projects be cost effective or at least generate sufficient revenues to cover costs, abandon the failed 20th century urban model, and refuse to protect existing privilege, we will continue to dither as the the globe gets hotter and the effects grow more dire.

  1. synonymouse
    Apr 22nd, 2014 at 19:04

    Best to burn up the petroleum as soon as possible.

    Political stupidity and corruption cannot be overcome. It is forever, like the Mafia in Sicily and the Camorra in Campania.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    Anthony Stegman

    San Jose, CA 7 days ago

    More and more I’m beginning to feel the same as Paul Kingsnorth. The industrial machine marches on, devouring everything in its path, despite the fervent efforts of those who try to slow it down. Here in California where I live once pristine deserts have been industrialized with huge solar arrays, the governor plans to ruin vast amounts of near pristine land in order to built a high speed rail system, and the farmers are intent on driving to extinction the last remaining wild fish so that they may continue to profit from the sale of almonds, pistachios, and walnuts. It’s very difficult to remain optimistic.

    Joe Reply:

    “ruin vast amounts if pristine land in order to build a high speed rail system.”

    It’s a train track

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    most of it’s not pristine either.

  2. joe
    Apr 22nd, 2014 at 19:37

    El nino 2014-15 is going to be a large one and that means wet and hot planet. We’ll be setting records if it continues to develop as forecast. That’s some serious lobbying by the Planet.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The La Nina of a few years ago was supposed to be dry and turned out to be reasonably wet. We’ll see. Other factors not so much around for previous ninos are in play, such as the atmospheric crud from Asia.

    And places like Sin City could see less run under the El Nino model. Who knows – who cares/ Padding PB’s bottom line and Brown-Pelosi’s campaign coffer is all that counts.

    Willie Brown would deal with El Nino and Global Warming and all such stuff by continuing to peddle influence to the highest bidder.

    synonymouse Reply:

    less rain not run

  3. JB in pa
    Apr 22nd, 2014 at 19:41

    If the world were 100% carbon neutral tomorrow, it may take hundreds of years to affect the climate, if any. It is a fundamental misunderstanding to think we can hope to stop what may be happening. Even zero emissions growth world wide would be a huge challenge. I refer to what is likely to happen not wishful theory. Tailpipe is only part of human impact. We have thousands on miles of monoculture and pavement that affect microclimates. Aircraft contrails can block sunlight and have more effect than the carbon burned. Climate is a chaotic system. Actual global warming can actually lead to a ice age. Look at past climate changes. During the change period climate can become unstable and swing hot or cold. We have a lot to Learn about climate.

    ‘When the 50s model worked’
    The 50s model only appeared to work. Today we pay the price for contaminated soil and depleted resources of land, water, fishing grounds, forests…

    ‘Entitled to drive and fly’
    Monday morning kids have to get to school and parents to work. What choice but to drive?

    Reduce emissions because it is the right thing to do but don’t think it will stop climate change. If you don’t understand this fundamental fact you might make wrong choices.

    Howard Reply:

    We need to start adapting to the climate change that is already happening and that will happen no matter what we do! We have already passed the point of no return for dramatic global warming and global emissions are still rising every year! We need to figure out how to adapt to rising sea levels, desertification, less snow, and shifting climate zones or our civilization will collapse! Adaptation will require both massive infrastructure investments and large cultural/political/legal changes. Massive seawalls/levees and/or relocation of entire cities to higher ground will be needed to adapt to sea level rise. Long new aqueducts and/or reallocation of water from farms to people in growing cities will be needed to adapt to desertification. Reduced snow pack will require many new dams and/or other off stream water storage. Adaptation to shifting climate zones will require clear cutting entire forests and replanting them with different tree species or watch them die and burn in forest fires bigger than any we have ever seen. The endangered species act may no long be useful as species will no longer be able to live in there historic ranges due to climate zone shift, precipitation changes and sea level rise. We can no longer be focused on just climate change mitigation, by reducing emissions, but we now need to start focusing on climate adaptation too!

    JB in pa Reply:

    Or put another way, if at all possible figure out how to leverage what is already happening to help humans, animals, plants, and the environment adapt. It may take such drastic measures as you describe. Ironically, what you describe is what humans have beed doing for thousands of years.

    joe Reply:

    For example the collapse of the Bronze age. Humans dealt with that 300 year drought in the Eastern Mediterranean with a massive collapse. If it were global it would be been funner.


  4. JB in pa
    Apr 22nd, 2014 at 20:02

    6000 years ago what is now Tel Dan was made of large round stones that were laying around from long before. Large round stones are formed by rolling in big rivers. Today there is not a big river on the Lebanon Israel border. This climate change we are experiencing may be 10000 years in the making. Reducing 10% emissions at the end will not be enough to change the change. The Earth will proceed with or without humans.

  5. Eric
    Apr 22nd, 2014 at 21:06

    You call it “dithering” when it’s not even clear if climate change will help or hurt humanity?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    People like you are why human civilization is certainly doomed.

    It was a nice planet, and I was privileged to see the best of it.

    I won’t be and wouldn’t want to be alive in 50 years, and it’s going to get very much uglier and very much worse very rapidly as the century advances and the biosphere upon which all your “economy” is based falls.

    Eric Reply:

    Sorry to offend your religious beliefs. Where I come from, we make policy decisions based on evidence, not apocalypticism.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Cheerleaders are pumping out “apocalypticism” as well.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    Nothing has been more of a fantasy than the ecologists’ dream that they could overcome human nature and human greed–and the hunger for MORE and MORE goods demanded by the teeming and rapidly-multiplying populations of China and India, just two of many “emerging nations” — in a vain effort to “reform” the global economy and “save the earth.”

    Young people who’ve lived pampered lives and attended elite schools which have been teaching them environmentalism since their pre-school days can be forgiven for not quite appreciating the base motives that drive the desperate masses of humanity. These young idealists are learning the hard way, and will be for the rest of their lives, just how non-idealistic the vast majority of the human race really is. When an impoverished individual is forced to choose between doing what he/she has to in order to survive – and sacrificing their welfare to save the planet – does it come as any surprise that the planet doesn’t stand a chance?

    Eric Reply:

    I’m not sure what you mean by “the planet”. The physical planet will remain here no matter what we do. So will a large variety of plant, animal, and other species (though fewer than before). If you refer to the people on that planet – sea level rise and other climate change effects will hurt people a little bit (on average), while joining the modern economy will help them MUCH more. Overall, it’s very cruel to people in the third world to try to retard their economic growth in the name of CO2 reduction.

    EJ Reply:

    The physical planet will remain here no matter what we do. So will a large variety of plant, animal, and other species (though fewer than before).

    Anytime global climate change comes up online, someone always pops in to type something like this. It’s always been genuinely baffling to me. Who do you think you’re arguing with? What do you imagine you’re bringing to the discussion? Do you honestly believe that anyone thinks climate change will blow the planet to pieces like Alderaan in Star Wars?

    joe Reply:

    And his nonsense that we’re not losing major species biodiversity to extinction. “So will a large variety of plant, animal, and other species ” is patently false.

    The rate of change is too fast for most species to adapt or migrate. The relic islands of biodiveristy a vulnerable to extinction.

    For example California is called the golden state for all the invasive weeds that choked out the native plants:
    It surprises many people to learn that the grasslands that color California’s golden hills are not native to the state. Ecologists know they represent one of the most dramatic and extensive plant invasions in recorded history. They estimate that, over the last 150 years, more than 9 million hectares (~22,240,000 acres), perhaps one-quarter of the state, has been converted from grasslands in which native perennials were important to those dominated by exotic annual grasses. Today native grasses cover less than 1 percent of their original range.
    Read more: http://nrs.ucop.edu/media/transect/Transect-lead-25.2.htm#ixzz2zrolfUyu

    Eric Reply:

    I think we are both correct. Many species will disappear, and many will remain.

    Eric Reply:

    If you don’t like the first two lines, ignore them and think about the rest of what I wrote.

    synonymouse Reply:

    When you think the world should be one great Manhattan, who needs species?

    Eric Reply:

    Manhattan is about 550 times as densely populated as the world as a whole.

    For the world to be one great Manhattan, human population would need to reach several trillion people.

    Given that world population is expected to peak around 9 billion and then fall, I don’t see much of a danger.

    synonymouse Reply:

    That’s all? I would have thought a larger differential given Antarctica, the Sahara, etc.

    Business interests “expect” population to grow infinitely. Don’t worry Jerry & Barry are on the case. Some nice big high-rise TOD right next to Half Dome’s aerial hsr station.

    I “expect” Jesus to be walking the Earth again more imminent and inexorable than world population stopping magically at 9 billion.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Anytime global climate change comes up online, someone always pops in to type something like this.

    The concerns of your puny galactic cluster are but a trifle.

    It shows he’s a hard-nosed, data-driven, macroeconomic inclined Big Picture Guy, unafraid to buck the prevailing socialist dogmas, to thumb his nose a political correctness; and fearless enough and to take on the unpopular side of an argument, even if the whole world is against him.

  6. adirondacker12800
    Apr 22nd, 2014 at 22:09

    progress on reducing CO2 emissions has ground nearly to a halt everywhere in North America outside of California.

    No it hasn’t.


    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    But many people, especially members of the Baby Boom generation, are vehemently opposed to any change to this model.

    Barack Obama is a baby boomer. So is Al Gore.

  7. Donk
    Apr 22nd, 2014 at 23:27

    I don’t agree with this post. The whole problem of the Great Dithering is much simpler and boils down to two basic points:

    1. People no longer see pollution as a threat to their daily lives in the short term. Back when emissions were worse and smog was a visible public health problem, such as in LA in the 1980s, people saw the effects of pollution and wanted to do something about it. Since then pollution has gotten pushed to the Inland Empire and really is only a major inconvenience if you live right next to a freeway or a developing country. In other words – Out of sight, out of mind.

    2. Gas prices have gone down and we now have new sources of energy from fracking. So nobody, not even Obama, cares anymore about investing in green energy.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    It is even simpler than that: the economy is too weak to take on the added costs, so the carbon tax/cap and trade crowd have nowhere to sell their “solutions”. China isn’t just building HSR; it is also building the Three Gorges Dam and nuclear power plants to limit it’s exposure to oil. It’s a much better solution (along with conservation), but if you notice the US wants none of it. They want to sell their crack to the developing world and they don’t much care what happens to the planet.

    Donk Reply:

    This is just like how most of the developed countries stopped clearing their forests and mining and now just let other countries like Indonesia ruin their countries instead. I was in Borneo a few years ago and it was pretty sickening – the rivers were all polluted from mining and the forests were all being burned down for palm oil plantations. What is ridiculous is that the forests weren’t even used for lumber – they were just burned down so that they could plant palm oil farms faster.

    blankslate Reply:

    2. Gas prices have gone down and we now have new sources of energy from fracking. So nobody, not even Obama, cares anymore about investing in green energy.

    Huh? Gas prices at Rotten Robbie/Arco (cheapest available in my area) have been rising for a few months and are at about $4.15 – pretty close to the ~$4.50 high in the 2008 spike. Many people I know have their heads stuck in 2004 and still think of anything above $2.00 as “too high.” People do care about gas prices. Whether investments in “green energy” would have any effect on gas prices is another question…

  8. bixnix
    Apr 23rd, 2014 at 01:48

    In addition to the usual effects of climate change, the level of CO2 in our atmosphere is growing, and will eventually turn our atmosphere poisonous. The Mauna Loa data shows no slowdown in the growth of CO2 concentration.

  9. JB in PA
    Apr 23rd, 2014 at 07:16

    Time Magazine article asks ‘can we keep up with changes?’


  10. morris brown
    Apr 23rd, 2014 at 07:59

    Anyone who really believes the Authority’s cost estimates should do themselves a favor and read:

    What You Should Know About Megaprojects and Why: An Overview


    The current $68 billion estimate is such nonsense it doesn’t begin to deserve all the press coverage that seem to swallow this figure.

    joe Reply:

    You made a mistake. It’s 32B not 68B. Initial cost is 32B which is in Prop1a and the newest Tos lawsuit.
    You take 32B Billion and plug it into the Flyvbjerg calculator to inflate a project’s cost.

    HSR is not a classic mega project. HSR is a set of projects, many are conventional like track bed and over passes or electrifying Caltrain track. These are not mega projects simple because a long series of conventional work is managed under one Authority.

    Some are moderate sized like the bridge in Fresno, and station like a trenched Kings Co station.

    Others are big an unknown a tunnel across Pacheco pass or between LA and Bakersfield.

    CBOSS is complex and will go over budget/schedule. Tunneling could will go over since it involves unknown substrate and building in urban areas due to lawsuits and mitigation efforts.

    joe Reply:

    Overrun is a problem in private as well as public sector projects, and things are not improving; overruns have stayed high and constant for the 70-year period for which comparable data exist. Geogaphy doesn’t seem to matter either; all countries and continents for which data are available suffer from overruns.

    Apparently the article tells us CAHSRA isn’t to blame!

    Overruns are private & public, US and foreign. There’s a constant bias for 70 years.

    So many scapegoats are being absolved with your citation Morris.

    And we started the project with a 32B estimate and it’d 68 now so that’s telling me our current estimate is approaching some heuristically determined norm.

  11. trentbridge
    Apr 23rd, 2014 at 08:32

    I like to blame the GOP but it’s called “global warming” for a reason…

    My basic understanding is that the atmosphere doesn’t concern itself with national borders – so the continuing efforts of Europeans and Americans to reduce the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere isn’t yielding the expected benefits when China (among others) is growing it’s economy at 7-8% and paying scant attention to this issue.

    Wikipedia (2010 emissions)

    China 27.44% of world total
    USA 17.33% of world total
    EU 13.33% of world total

    It’s hard to reduce CO2 levels if China has its foot on the gas pedal when Europe and USA have their feet on the brakes!

    joe Reply:

    China’s not a person.

    China refers to 1.351 Billion people and we are 314M. One of us is producing over 2.5 of what is produced per person in China.

    It’s hard to put on the brakes when we’re generating 2.5 of what a person in China generates.

    If only China invested in some transportation infrastructure besides the automobile – like HSR.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    China is growing economically because N America and Europe have transferred their heavy industries and manufacturing there. We haven’t reduced our CO2 footprint, we’ve moved it to Asia and pretended that we have made an improvement here. Arguably if we had kept e.g. more steel production here it would have been done in a cleaner, less polluting way. But as usual the profit motive sought the cheapest producer. Needless to say China’s high speed rail lines have done nothing to improve their air quality.

    joe Reply:

    “Needless to say China’s high speed rail lines have done nothing to improve their air quality.”
    Scary comment from a self-appointed rail advocate.

    Here’s a different perspective from a person’s who’s been there.

    CA’s per capita energy use since CA began to address energy use is flat. It’s a real accomplishment – many accomplishments including the ones you mention when you disparage HSR vs the new efficient low emitting cars we will be driving.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    No figures quoted for aq improvement
    Just a lot more people spending disposable income on travel
    Might be worse without it but that’s not the point if you believe Robert

    joe Reply:

    We could follow China’s example with HSR and cut our long term emissions and have modern, safe and convenient transportation as we see in the article.

    That HSR spending doesn’t – it does not – come at the expense of regional rail.
    I’d argue the opposite which is the more CA invests in rail today, the more CA will invest in rail tomorrow.

    The high end HSR service – is the public’s motivation to improve the regional rail and local rail.

    I know you disagree but I’ve seen money fights in science domains cut overall spending while cooperation between disciplines increase investments. The consensus a community forms around a vision draws money. Fighting over parts scares money away.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The tinfoil hat buzzes with news California might yet land Tesla’s GigaFactory in exchange for some elaborate tax loopholes.

    joe Reply:

    Wow. I’m convinced they’ll put in NV. Any link ?

    In addition, a 3,000-acre former Air Force base outside Reno is next to a rail line that runs directly to the not-too-distant Tesla plant in Fremont, California.

    Nevada also comes with ample space for solar and wind power installation close to the potential plant site.

    Finally, according to AutoBlogGreen, Nevada is the location of the only brine pool lithium production in the United States.

    Read more: http://www.benzinga.com/news/14/04/4441140/heres-the-state-many-are-betting-will-get-teslas-gigafactory#ixzz2zlDk00R2

    The Toyota/GM NUMMI plant in Fremont produced highly reliable cars. It bought by Tesla at fire sale price from GM with equipment. CA gave Tesla a tax break and the skilled labor was still available. It’s the only auto factory in CA.

    datacruncher Reply:

    SacBee reporter on Sunday said California was talking with Tesla again.

    Interesting when also considering Musk said they may start the Gigafactory process with two states then cut one state based on who is moving faster toward opening.

    And recent reports have Tesla talking with Imperial officials about getting lithium from the Salton Sea.

    California being what it is I would not get excited about the Gigafactory being in the state. But interesting rumors popping up in the last two weeks.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “elaborate tax loopholes” paid for by Jerry’s sales taxes?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    1. China emits more or capita than the US


    2. If you are arguing that HSR leads to decreased emissions then I would not point to China. See point 1 and the growth in the last 1.5 decades

    joe Reply:

    1. No they do not. You can read your link.

    2. Get 1 right and we correct #2.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    You are quite right. China will emit more per capita than the US in less than 10 years. The emmisions have more than doubled in the last decade. In the same period the US has declined 8%

    The point remains that HSR has not prevented China from becoming the worlds #1 polluter

    joe Reply:

    “The point remains that HSR has not prevented China from becoming the worlds #1 polluter”

    Ignoring population, and per capita energy use means that’s not a point – it’s banter.

    synonymouse Reply:

    International auto manufacturers are falling over themselves to build cars in China.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    They will overtake the US pr capita in less than 10 years, And I would argue that total pollution is very important since they have the worlds largest population and are experiencing explosive growth in pollution.

    Since the earth reacts to total pollution and does not care about per capita I would argue total pollution is actually more important.

    Now how about responding to my point, that HSR has not prevented China from being the biggest growing polluter

    synonymouse Reply:

    China can afford to operate HSR currently because it does not have an Amalgamated or TWU, BLE or UTU. Low wages enable services the US could not afford without high welfare state taxes and not just on the rich but the lumpen.

    joe Reply:

    It’s not the communism, it’s the authoritarianism.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is a huge labor supply at menial wage.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    On the contrary! The low wages mean that the riders can’t afford to pay high ticket fares as much. The operating costs are also scaled down, to some extent, but rolling stock costs the same as in the first world, and the infrastructure also costs the same as in the first world, so there are lower operating profits to pay for identical construction costs.

    synonymouse Reply:

    China is paying for the construction costs with its enormous foreign exchange(free money).

    Low wages and relatively docile workforce make the operating costs acceptable. Just as with American street railways in the early days at low wages. As the platform employees organized and demanded more compensation the companies moved to one-man and eventually to buses with no fixed plant costs. If and/or when China’s labor is more militant and more expensive they will have to do their own form of Beeching Report(ditto for the U.S.)

    That’s why HART is giving Amalgamated the cold shoulder. Payroll control.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Leun a sylli yw ow skath bargesi

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Presumably he can follow you into a revolving door and exit in front.

    Eric Reply:

    Chinese families average about 1.6 kids. That’s sub replacement, very far from explosive growth. In a few decades their population will probably start to decrease.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The only reason for such a low population growth rate in China is strictly imposed controls by the government. Remove those and it will burgeon.

    And they would if they felt the Han majority threatened, say, by jihadists in the western provinces.

    Eric Reply:

    So why is population growth even lower in nearby areas with different governments?

    Here are the countries/territories with lowest fertility in the world. The lowest 5 are in East Asia. The lowest 4 are ethnically Chinese.

    220 Korea, South 1.25
    221 Hong Kong (PRC) 1.17
    222 Republic of China (Taiwan) 1.11
    223 Macau (PRC) 0.93
    224 Singapore 0.80

    Mainland China at 1.6 is above these, not below.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Explosive growth in economy and pollution. If you double consumption from $2 per person per day to $4 (number made up) with that many people you get tremendous increases

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Depends on what they spend the extra money on and how the goods they buy with it were produced.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    This canard? China has four times as many people as the US. In terms of policy, it is currently starting to shift away from coal, because of its ill effect on Chinese people’s health; it invests in urban transit far more than the US did; its four largest cities auction license plates to reduce motorization, hurting the domestic auto industry in the process as high-end consumers prefer more expensive first-world imports (link 1, link 2).

    Gag Halfrunt Reply:

    Note that the articles talk about local and foreign brands rather than imported cars. Most foreign brand cars in China are made by joint ventures with Chinese manufacturers.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Many if not most foreign brand cars in the US are made in the US. Many of the US brand cars are made in Canada or Mexico.

  12. Reedman
    Apr 23rd, 2014 at 09:44

    BART is not dithering. There is construction going on full-tilt. The target is for the Oakland Airport Connector to operate this fall/2014, Warm Springs operating by the end of 2015, Milpitas/Berryessa-San Jose operating by 2016, and eBART scheduled to operate in 2017. Don’t use CAHSR as being representative of public transportation in California or the USA.

    synonymouse Reply:

    With BART it is not dithering but dicking.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    I take BART every day from Fremont, and the fact that its going to take that long to open a line through undeveloped suburbia is a fucking joke. Another year and a half and people can go to the middle of nowhere in Milpitas! That’s progress for ya!

    jonathan Reply:

    Like orders of magnitude, competence matters.

  13. joe
    Apr 23rd, 2014 at 14:49

    HSR is prideful and easy-peasy if you’re Texas.

    “If we can get this line built, it’s not only going to be a source of pride for our communities and state, it’s going to be transformational to the United States,” Schieffer said hours after Mayor Mike Rawlings called it a “game changer.”

    One thing the project has in its favor: topography. Because all possible routes are flat, the trains can hit top speeds quickly, and construction will be easier than similar projects, federal transportation officials say.

    HSR construction the California’s flat Central Valley is criticized as cost overrun prone, hard, embarrassing and tyrannic.

    Eric Reply:

    And it’s getting built in the Central Valley. Contracts were awarded for one stretch, and we just read that the EIR was released for the other stretch. The only problem is that the Central Valley segment will be useless until mountain crossings are built, which won’t happen for much longer.

    Joe Reply:

    Calling the CV section useless is hyperbole.

    It’s California and essential track for all trips between North and South. It’s the easiest part which is good for a new project. Those wanting to do the hard stuff first don’t know what they are talking about.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “Calling the CV section useless is hyperbole.”

    Who is going to subsidize it?
    Who is going to purchase it?

    joe Reply:

    Every rider between the Bay Area and LA Mega City will help.

    You should stay home. Read Latin and watch Archie Bunker Episodes.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I like “Reaper” and “Revenge”.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Joe, Eric wrote “useless until the mountain crossings are built”. That’s clear enough for you to understand, surely? So we who want to see something useful built first don’t know what we are talking about? Well, I do believe we know what is useful, building a segment of line that provides useful transportation from the first day, as opposed to building what will lie dormant or will only support existing Amtrak service. The test? Would you build a new line from Fresno to Bakersfield to support business between Fresno and Bakersfield?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Amtrak service is useful.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Branson and Musk salivating to build between Bako and Mojave – swinging loads, baby.

    joe Reply:

    Central valley is part of California and building track between Fresno and Bakersfield is not “useless”. It is part of the S-IOS to LA.

    Doing the hardest construction first sounds like a way to do spring cleaning or eating a plate of food your Aunt made.

    For building things starting on the easier things is best. You build up capabilities and experience and take time to plan out the hardest work. Based on what is learned from the easy stuff – the CV – they can do a better job in the mountain areas.

    Crossing the mountain is valuable and very risky work. Recall you don’t have the funds or plans in place to build that Initial Construction Segment to close the gap so your plan would have not been funded in 2009 nor complete in 2017.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “Crossing the mountain is valuable and very risky work.”

    That’s for certain if you have PB in charge. Start out by selecting the third rate route and sanctifying it.

    jimsf Reply:

    Paul, it is pointless to argue about it. The deciscions have already been made as has the progress, towards complete the high speed mainline between merced and bakersfield.
    It has been stated that the following priorty will be the mountain crossing.

    synonymouse Reply:

    We will continue to argue about subsidies. It makes more sense to subvent air and bus service than to blow a fortune on fixed guideway to Mojave, so little used by such a piddling few patrons.

    It will be interesting to see if the states will be willing to pony up the many millions needed to keep Raton going over the years. The DogLeg is analogous.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes a once every other day train hauled by a diesel locomotive is just like frequent electric service at four times the speed.

    synonymouse Reply:

    More like two times the speed but much more expensive to maintain the track. There would only be a few trains a days over the DogLeg with so little patronage. No train whatsoever currently.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Just because you never leave home doesn’t mean other people don’t travel. It’s going to be many trains an hour.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Do you really visualize AmBART or at least BART frequencies where there is not one run today?

    Who is going to bankroll operating empty trains?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The buses that connect Southern California riders to the San Joaquin’s between Bakersfield and LA aren’t empty now.

    And once the Feds stop paying for Essential Air Service to places like Fresno, ridership will boom. It’s true if the service on the HSR ROW is slower than a bus, it will hurt demand.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Those buses are going via Lebec(Ranch GHQ)not via Mojave.

    datacruncher Reply:

    There is no Essential Air Service subsidy (or any airline subsidies) at Fresno or Bakersfield. EAS payments are made for airline service at Merced and Visalia in the Valley, but not the others.

    Essential Air Service supports only minimal flight service at an airport. An easy way to guess if an airport is EAS is simply if it has only one airline operating only small prop aircraft and flying roughly 1 to 3 flights per day. More airlines, jet service, or more than a minimal number of flights likely means no air service subsidies at an airport.

    In California, the EAS subsidized airports are currently Crescent City, El Centro, Merced, and Visalia. Visalia was not subsidized until about 2005/2006 after several years of reduced air passengers in the post-9/11 travel slowdown.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    But Jim, I like to argue. I have some spare gasoline, I pour it onto this blog and light a match; it’s my min relaxation. Nothing here will change the world, or any small part of it.

  14. joe
    Apr 23rd, 2014 at 16:30

    Palo Alto

    Palo Alto raises fresh concerns about Caltrain electrification
    City asks transit agency to limit tree trimming, reconsider location of proposed parallel station

    Topping the list is the parallel station (one of six that would be installed along the Caltrain corridor) that Caltrain plans to build at one of two possible locations in Palo Alto: either on Greenmeadow Way or just south of Page Mill Road. The power-boosting equipment would be housed inside a compound roughly 40 feet wide by 80 feet wide, according to the draft Environmental Impact Report….
    Mayor Nancy Shepherd was particularly blunt in her assessment of the Greenmeadow option.

    The city’s letter to Caltrain notes that Greenmeadow is a historic neighborhood and calls the introduction of the new equipment “a great concern” from an aesthetic standpoint.

    “It is so obnoxious for that neighborhood,” she said.

    Elizabeth Alexis, speaking on behalf of the Greenmeadow Community Association, noted that the parallel station will be directly visible from the neighborhood’s park and community center.

    “It really is bizarre that they would choose to put it there,” Alexis said.

    If it ain’t one thing it’s another. It’s like they’re picking on Alexis.

    Either Page Mill or San Antonio would be more suitable for the 40×80 building. Both have more industrial like feel to them.

    Alan Reply:

    What matters is locating them where they will do the job they’re supposed to do. There are always ways to mitigate the appearance.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    For the location in question, I’m looking at the photosimulation from the EIR. It depicts a gigantic signal gantry (the appearance of which cannot be mitigated). And exactly what job is that supposed to do that can’t be handled better with in-cab or lineside signaling?

    Alan Reply:

    You might want to follow the thread…we were talking about electrification facilities, not a signal gantry…

  15. Jos Callinet
    Apr 23rd, 2014 at 16:46

    After reading an article in the New York Times Magazine dated April 18, 2014 entitled “It’s The End of The World as We Know It – And He Feels Fine,” I think that building High Speed Rail in California or anywhere else, for that matter, is pointless and will have little or no impact on the global environment, now or in the future. The problems facing the Earth are the size of an elephant, and highspeed rail, as a remedy to those problems, is a mosquito by comparison. What do you focus your energies on – the mosquito or the elephant?

    (Here is the link to the article : http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/magazine/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-he-feels-fine.html )

    The article discusses noted British environmental activist Paul Kingsnorth, who, after many years of devotedly determined environmental activism, has concluded that humankind’s efforts to stem and reverse global warming and widespread species extinction are far too little and have come far too late; essentially, they’re ineffective and worthless. According to Kingsnorth, the Earth’s headlong rush toward environmental collapse has already passed the point of no return. The damage to our planet’s environment is snowballing and unstoppable.

    Robert Cruickshank’s article here is most poignant and relevant – he has eloquently described four factors which have been preventing and are continuing to prevent the US – and the rest of the world for that matter – from taking timely action.

    Robert Cruickshank and Paul Kingsnorth should get together and have a meeting of the minds. They should extensively discuss everything related to our efforts to bring high speed rail to California in an effort to protect and save the environment. Perhaps California Governor Brown as well should sit in on this discussion.

    IF we’ve already passed the point of no return in our efforts to save the Earth from runaway environmental and biological collapse, what should we do instead?

    Begs the question of why we Californians should spend one more minute of our precious time and money fretting over high speed rail and other large environmentally-focused public expenditures, if these projects when all said and done aren’t going to make a hill-of-coffee-beans’ difference to the outcome?

    If Paul Kingsnorth is correct in his assumption, we must figure out what to do next. Kingsnorth offers us some ideas in his descriptions of personal actions he is taking, as given in the article.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    you very much remind me of the Malthus argument on passing the “point of no return” on population. Also the arguments on how we are going to run out of oil, minerals, land (space), etc. I am sure one could dig up past articles on how it is too late to change all of those things.

    It continues to amaze me the lack of faith and understanding in technology and innovation to solve problems. Time and time again humanity reaches the “point of no return” only to continue on without extinction.

    We were smart enough to create the problem, we are smart enough to solve it.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    John, please carefully and thoroughly read the linked article about Paul Kingsnorth from beginning to end – and then give more thought to what you’ve said here.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    No, I’m good with what I said, I don’t like quitters

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    John, I understand how you feel about quitters. But consider that this man, Kingsworth, devoted many years to environmental activism. If he has quit, he has not done so cavalierly, casually, or mindlessly.

    After reading this article, if it is at all an accurate accounting of the man and his actions, I feel confident in agreeing that he applied his intelligence to the situation and came to the conclusion – after many years of hard work no less – that it is, in fact, too late for environmental activists to effectively do anything to stop global climate change. From what I can see, Paul Kingsworth has walked the walk and “earned the right” to speak out as he has.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    He has the right to do whatever he likes regardless of how much or little he has “worked” on the issue.

    There is always a good reason to quit. Every problem is “un solved” right up to the point where it is not.

    Infection was an unsolvable problem for hundreds of years before the invention of penicillin. The “logical” mind would say that after centuries of trying, there was no solution…then of course, there was.

    If Norman had given up, how many would be dead?


    If Kingsworth wants to quit then so be it, but a quitter is a quitter. Many have spent their whole lives fighting a problem only to die and have their work continue with the next generation. He doesn’t impress me

    joe Reply:

    Ignorance can be helpful – you don’t let dogma get in the way of creative thinking. Borlang’s methods are in full swing. what’s next?

    We can understand why western and global population has not yet crashed – we are using fossil fuel to push the boundaries and expand food production. We can calculate the amount of oil or BTU used to produce a human edible calorie.

    Now we have maps of the world and Dr. John Foley has done the hard work of looking at farm-able land and how it’s spread to encompass most of what we can farm. Another way we pushed the limit of population capacity.

    Gains are explainable and the explanations for them show limits are being reached.

    What next? Maybe some one will invent a superfood. I think not. We’ll eat lower in the food chain and that will help for a while.

    What is very worrying are C3 vs C4 pathway plants. C3 are like corn which are efficient until it gets warm and photosynthesis breaks down. C4 have an advantage of evolving in high temp climates, We’ll shift to C4 foods. So expect a change in diet. Black eyed peas grow in warm climates and maybe we’ll engineer a digestible sorghum.

    jonathan Reply:

    Ignorance can be helpful – you don’t let dogma get in the way of creative thinking.

    Well, *that* explains a lot!!

    Eric Reply:

    There’s actually a great deal of land in the eastern US that was once farmed but no longer is because it’s not profitable.

    jonathan Reply:

    There’s a lot of land in California which used to be farmed, when the owners could get dirt-cheap irrigation water. See Cadillac Desert (I’m thinking of the KTEH-produced 4-part documentary, based on the revised book of the same name).

    Heck, there’s a lot of land in California which was farmed *last year*, but which isn’t being farmed now, because it’s “not profitable” — meaning it’d cost too much to buy an ship water from out-of-state.

    Eric Reply:

    Yes, and also there’s no such thing as a shortage of water, only a shortage of energy. Various Middle Eastern countries already desalinate their water, and if energy were cheaper, California could too.

    Which is why solar and nuclear R&D is important regardless of global climate change.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Which is why solar and nuclear R&D is important regardless of global climate change.

    The only nuclear priority there can be at this point is decommissioning the plants and entombing the waste while we still have the expertise, manpower, resources and free energy to do so.

    As for solar, it would be a wonderful miracle if microelectronic fabrication survived, because it’s going to be really hard to reboot technology with all of the readily extractable fossil fuels long gone. Fingers crossed!

    Eric Reply:

    Seriously Richard, why build HSR if we’re all going to be dead or living in caves in a few years?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Seriously Richard, why build HSR if …

    Everybody needs a hobby.

    As to why build it regardless of anything, ask our resident crazed cheerleaders: they’re the ones who think that out of control budgets, botched routing and abysmal return on investment are going to save the planet. Because, choo choo. I guess if you’re perfectly happy to be off by a binary order or magnitude or two on budget and ridership, it’s not going to matter to you if you’re off by four orders of magnitude on carbon emissions, is it?

    Joe Reply:

    Another strawman. it’s the high-speed rail blog, not the climate blog not emissions blog.

    High-speed rail isn’t proposed as a singular solution to emissions.

    There isn’t one solution in the literature that’s contingent upon independent changes. There’s a set of combined activities and actions of which mass transit is one part.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “High-speed rail isn’t proposed as a singular solution to emissions.”

    The Cheerleaders are the ones claiming building an exorbitant line to Palmdale for real estate developers is going to save the planet.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I agree, it is really easy to explain technological gains AFTER they have been made. read this and look at the time that it took to develop the first practical antibiotic.


    specifically the 1928 entry. So if Flemming had quit because the problem was “too hard” or “not solvable” where would we be? he gave it 12 years.

    I dont know what technological advance will bail us out of the mess with global warming or population growth. No one does. I do know that every big problem in the past has been systematically solved.

    When I was growing up it was the ozone hole and (hilariously) global cooling.


    So call it blind faith, but I am betting on mankind, not doomsday.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You really should read the stuff you link to before you link to it.
    From the article you linked to:

    The ice age fallacy

    A common argument used to dispute the significance of human caused climate change, which has been called the Ice Age Fallacy, is to allege that scientists showed concerns about global cooling which did not materialise, therefore there is no need to heed current scientific concerns about climate change.[50] In a 1998 article promoting the Oregon Petition, Fred Singer argued that expert concerns about global warming should be dismissed on the basis that what he called “the same hysterical fears” had supposedly been expressed earlier about global cooling.[51]

    Illustrating this argument, for several years an image has been circulated of a Time magazine cover dated 1977, showing a penguin above a cover story title “How to Survive the Coming Ice Age”. In March 2013 The Mail on Sunday published an article by David Rose showing this cover image to support his claim that there was as much concern in the 1970s about a “looming ‘ice age'” as there was now about global warming.[52][53] Questions were raised, and in July 2013 Bryan Walsh, a senior editor at Time, confirmed that the image is a hoax modified from a 2007 cover story image for “The Global Warming Survival Guide”.[50]

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    You read the hilariously part of my post right? In fact did you read my post at all?

    Global cooling was a brief fad. I was not using it to try and prove global warming is a hoax, I used it as an example of something mankind “survived”. It was all the rage when I was growing up. As the Wikipedia article states (in the 2nd sentence) the media made a big deal of it to get circulation without the science.

    Global warming will take more work, but we shall overcome.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes I read it. Yes most of your posts are hilarious.

    Joe Reply:

    ” Global cooling was a brief fad. I was not using it to try and prove global warming is a hoax, I used it as an example of something mankind “survived”.

    We survived bell bottoms, disco and baggy pants too.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Vive Disco. BeeGees forever.

    synonymouse Reply:

    We survived Simon Cowell and never-ending Whitney Houston imitations.

    EJ Reply:

    If only there were technologies right now that could reduce greenhouse emissions, like, say, electrified trains for intercity travel to replace fuel-guzzling airplanes and cars.

    nslander Reply:

    What a pretentious load. Sounds like another climate-change denier who leaped straight to acceptance/impotence -anything to absolve oneself from demanding responsibility.

    What energies are YOU dedicating towards mitigating the inevitable increase in our state’s roads and airport capacity? Unless you have been beating the drum for reduced carbon emissions for the last 30 years, there’s no reason to tolerate your appeals for futility now.

    And good grief, I actually agree with John Natchigall.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    nslander, Paul Kingsnorth is NOT a climate-change denier! PLEASE READ THE ACCOMPANYING ARTICLE carefully before jumping to conclusions.

    Kingsnorth is just the opposite – he’s fully aware of climate change and is grieving over the realization that it has gotten out of hand. He and others like him are trying to come to terms with this reality and determine what to do next.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    He is not a denier, he is a quitter. Different problem

    synonymouse Reply:

    Well, if Jerry shortly achieves judicial carte blanche to build the Dogleg I’ll be a quitter too. Richards’ successors will be squandering billions for decades on a Queretaro-redux. PB will consult on the liquidation and scrapping. They can cut down and sell the wire to China but no resale market for Acela Jr’s.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Navis volitans mihi anguillis plena est

  16. Lewellan
    Apr 23rd, 2014 at 17:16

    Look, guys, I’m just gonna leave this indirectly-related post, if you don’t mind.
    Save it or add what you wish, but don’t avoid the issues. Here goes…

    A Leaf battery pack is 25kwh.
    A Tesla ‘S’ pack is 60kwh or 80kwh.
    A Pruis/Ford hybrid is 5kwh.
    Conclusion considerations:
    1 Tesla ‘S’,or, 16 hybrid-driving friends ?
    1 Tesla ‘coupe’,or, 12 hybrid driving friends ?
    1 Leaf sub-compact,or, 5 hybrid driving friends ?
    1 Leaf-type sub-compact,or, 3 Car-2-Go Minis ?

    4 All-Electric Class cars.
    36 Hybrid-electric class cars.

    Which has more potential? Anywayz….Wow, you guys just don’t get it.
    You’re not working on that perspective, so…
    Like I said: Seriously consider Talgo hybrid trainsets for California. You’ll lose the argument too late. Basicly, change the IOS, anything but Fresno-to-Madera then Bakersfield. Why do LA and Peninsula rail advocates support their ‘slower fix’ that doesn’t do 200mph, but Fresno can’t fix its existing rail corridors? I’d support SD-to-LA as “better” but not as much “needed” as other segments.

    Sacramento-to-Stockton ELECTRIFIED or
    Fremont-to-Stockton for Phase ONE.

    These IOS routes are better than Fresno-Madera, though that old route too will be fixed one day.
    Do tell your children and grandchildren that this high speed rail thing here will happen one day.
    Adios then, amigos4hsr. Bark worse than my bite.

    Lewellan Reply:

    Bark worse than bite.
    (I meant)

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    Llewellan, I am finding it difficult to make sense out of anything you’ve said here. You’re mixing Apples (Hybrid cars), Oranges (Tesla all-electric cars), Bananas (different kinds of train-sets and routings for the CAHSR system).

    Dizzying and senseless.

    Lewellan Reply:

    I’m thinking you’re dizzy before reading. Nothing radical about these concepts, SiliconValley Jos.

    Lewellan Reply:

    Why not address hybrid locomotive advantages all-electric can’t offer?
    Advantages lost with the Madera-to-Fresno/Bakersfield IOS as is.

    Sorry if basic physics is too obtuse for you.
    Anyway, California isn’t building the HSR it should,
    because 200mph reckless speed was written into Law.
    And we all know the Law is never wrong. Waita minute…

    joe Reply:

    by e. e. cummings.

  17. trentbridge
    Apr 23rd, 2014 at 17:35

    GE to buy Alstrom?


    This is a major development – re: domestic sourcing of passenger rail equipment.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The EU will have a fit! GE meanwhile, will be sure to sell American buyers last year’s model at double the price…

    trentbridge Reply:

    You get a discount on last year’s model and you don’t have to deal with as many teething problems that come from next year’s model. We’d have new AMTRAK passenger cars and locomotives in production for IL and CA if we’d taken last year’s model..

  18. Jos Callinet
    Apr 23rd, 2014 at 17:44

    GE is in TALKS to buy France’s ALSTOM (not “Alstrom”!). So, it’s anything but a done deal.

    Could prove interesting IF the deal is made and everyone involved signs off on it, but as of now, this is just TALK.

    We must not count our chickens until all the eggs are hatched.

    trentbridge Reply:

    It’s close enough to being done that the leaks are coming from “people with knowledge of the matter” (Bloomberg) and that means more than stock trader rumors..and I’d bet the folks at Siemens (USA) and CAF (USA) are praying it ain’t true, too!

    synonymouse Reply:

    I won’t do GE a bit of good in California unless they come up with payola to outdo Bombardier.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It won’t

    Observer Reply:

    I would say – do not fret. This rumored merger is still a big if. But, if it were so, many times one merger will lead to more mergers; or if not full blown mergers – partnerships or alliances. Caterpillar(EMD) could form some kind of alliance too. Other american manufacturers could too.

    Reedman Reply:

    GE is only interested in the energy/power part of Alstoms business. In round numbers, if Alstoms market cap is $10 billion, and GE takes the biggest piece, it might be worthwhile for CAHSR to buy the entire remaining train business for $4 billion.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They can buy the Tejon Ranch for a lot less than that.

    Reality Check Reply:

    The plot thickens: Siemens wants to give Alstom its train biz in exchange for Alstom’s power biz:
    Siemens tosses grenade into GE-Alstom deal

    synonymouse Reply:

    Perhaps Siemens has tired of the politics of getting steady orders for trains internationally and Alstom will be more adept at marketing outside of Europe. I wonder if light rail manufacturing transfer would be part of this.

    Brown-Richards and Bombardier would have to cope with a larger and more formidable Alstom and by extension the much-spurned SNCF.

  19. Jos Callinet
    Apr 23rd, 2014 at 18:36

    Although I’ve come to the conclusion that rail (high-speed or otherwise) probably isn’t going to make much if any contribution to alleviating global climate degradation, it’s still worth building for OTHER reasons (reducing traffic congestion, offering more travel options to a wider public, and other equally worthwhile benefits. ANYTHING we can do to make the world a better place to live in is worth striving (and paying) for. I just don’t happen to think that HSR should be argued for on the basis of its ability to stem or slow global climate degradation. It plays too small a role.

    Overpopulation and greedy, reckless and thoughtless use of the world’s finite resources are far more to blame for the environmental predicament we’re in. We mustn’t forget that, taken as a whole, people worldwide are as severely addicted to petroleum as heroin addicts are, to their substance abuse.

  20. Jos Callinet
    Apr 23rd, 2014 at 19:41

    I should have said, instead of “……..addicted to petroleum,” addicted to FOSSIL FUELS – every form of stored solar energy the Earth has on or stored beneath its surface that Homo Sapiens has figured out how to extract and consume: coal, oil, gas, wood, peat bogs, cattle manure, etc.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    Even animal flatulence is contributing to global warming!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, beef is highly destructive to the environment, and a high carbon tax would raise its price in the US (where it’s cheap by first-world standards) several times. This isn’t just the methane, but also the CO2 involved in fertilizing all the farmland required to feed the cow until it is ready to be slaughtered.

    In contrast, transportation of food requires little energy. Remember that next time someone talks about locally-grown food, especially locally-grown red meat and dairy.

    Joe Reply:

    Upper Midwest USA less than 25% of crop produced goes directly into human diet. Foley et al 2011.
    South Asia it’s 90%.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Because they buy their meat in North America?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Do you have any single functioning neuron other than the ones that compel you to type?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Do you work at being an asshole or does it come naturally?


    joe Reply:

    There’s potential to produce about a factor of 4 more human digestible calories in the Upper Midwest.

    Those seeking vindication for viewpoints that “we” can easily fix the climate need only switch to a vegan diet and make that future real.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Eh. There are a bunch of reasons to limit red meat consumption – personal health, public health (hog farms spread epidemics), pressure on global food prices, energy usage, methane emissions.

    Not all animal-sourced foods are the same. Beef is the worst. Other ruminants are worse than pork. Chicken is massively better than red meat, based on emissions per calorie or on protein per unit of land area required for feed. Eggs are like chicken, and dairy is somewhat better than red meat but worse than everything else. Fish are also quite efficient – I’m not sure how they compare to chicken.

    (For the record, I am going to guess that my diet averages 5-7% red meat by calories, which is mostly beef.)

    joe Reply:

    Diet matters. All global solutions include changes to our diet. Those who think it’s solvable can act on t heir convictions. Vegans for HSR.

    You ask about fish – some are better than a 50% conversion rate of feed to meat.
    In the United States, catfish, which require less than 2 kilograms of feed per kilogram of live weight, are the leading aqua cultural product. U.S. catfish production of 270,000 tons (600 million pounds) is concentrated in four states: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas. Mississippi, with some 45,000 hectares (174 square miles) of catfish ponds and easily 60 percent of U.S. output, is the catfish capital of the world.47

  21. Emmanuel
    Apr 24th, 2014 at 12:54

    I know this may have been addressed here years ago, but it seems obvious to me that we must outsource some part of HSR construction to get the cost to anything that Californian taxpayers would like. Why can we get exemptions on environmental standards but not on who we contract with?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Jerry’s unions, for one.

    Zorro Reply:

    Then I gather you are for slave labor type wages then Mr Mouse?

    I mean what’s wrong with good paying jobs? To Me, nothing at all.

    EJ Reply:

    Is the mouse actually for anything? I think he likes trolley cars. Other than that he’s just here to tell us how much everything sucks.

    Zorro Reply:

    Yeah, but still I think I cornered Mr Mouse on this, 8 ball corner pocket.

    synonymouse Reply:

    200k/yr. and 8 weeks of annual to start, undocumented no-shows, and essentially not fire-able is more than the State can afford. The chauffeur is making a lot more than the passengers.

    Now if you want to seize Bill Gates’ non-taxable “non-profit” charities that are in reality being directed to gain gravitas, whitewash, goodwill and just general political slushfund go right ahead. Take control of these “charities” away from the donors and give the management of the monies to the state.

    Now if you want to slap on caps to CEO pay, please go right ahead.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    A légpárnás hajóm tele van angolnákkal

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They are outsourcing it. Those construction workers are NOT state employees. If it wasn’t outsourced they wouldn’t need contracts.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    They still have to comply with prevailing wage laws and other restrictions which makes them almost as expensive.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I suspect Emmanuel is intimating “offshoreing” as much as outsourcing. But the unions allied to Brown would never countenance 21st century coolies.

    Emmanuel Reply:

    Well, like synonymouse said, I was thinking more of offshore outsourcing. After all we built the railway system with Chinese guest workers back then. Why can’t we do that again? Doesn’t have to be Chinese, could be people from India, or Africa.

    EJ Reply:

    Sounds like a plan. Just like Qatar building its stadiums. And, hey, if a few hundred of them die, no big!

    Or we could pay Americans a decent wage and have decent working conditions. W/E.

    EJ Reply:

    Not that I’m in favor of work rules that, for example, in NYC, apparently require 2.5 times the number of workers for the exact same TBM than when it’s operated in Switzerland. But I’d like to think we’ve moved beyond the idea that we’ll just import a bunch of low-paid third-worlders and treat them as disposable. If the unions insist on unreasonable concessions, well stand up to ’em. That’s one of the things they pay management the big bucks to do. Somehow in socialist hotbeds like Germany, France, Spain, etc. they manage to deal with unions, pay workers decently, and still have lower construction costs than we do.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t know what Qatar’s construction costs are, but Dubai’s are actually not low. Dubai saves money by building its metro mostly above-ground, but for above-ground construction it’s not at all cheap; it’s about comparable to Vancouver’s costs.

    I have some very long rants about the mythology of the efficient tyranny, which Gets Things Done but destroys anything in its path for it, like workers’ lives or local neighborhoods. The Cliff Notes version is that the USSR was run in a comically incompetent and bureaucratic way, and Stalin was largely at fault for it; China today runs the gamut, but other than having large amounts of growth to funnel to capital projects like HSR it’s not all that efficient; and globalized autocracies like Singapore and Dubai waste absurd amounts of money on extravaganza. An autocrat who Gets Things Done and steamrolls the opposition can also waste money and steamroll the opposition.

  22. Alon Levy
    Apr 24th, 2014 at 13:23

    Robert, CO2 emissions actually went down in the recession. Poorer people can afford fewer things, including fewer things that damage the environment. A good example of this in action is the emissions of post-Soviet countries, which crashed in the 1990s because of both the economic crisis and the dismantling of polluting state-owned industries.

    You can have a stimulus that’s green, for example deficit-funded subsidies for public transit, renewable energy, and building retrofits for energy efficiency; and stimulus that’s anti-green, for example more roads and more fossil fuel infrastructure. And the same is true of austerity: it can be green, for example taxes on pollution, or anti-green, for example cuts to transit or energy efficiency programs. This is the same as with the left-right spectrum – you can have leftist austerity, such as Hollande’s tax hikes on the rich, and right-wing stimulus, such as Reagan’s tax cuts and defense buildup, in addition to the more currently familiar leftist stimulus and right-wing austerity.

  23. Jos Callinet
    Apr 24th, 2014 at 16:38

    How long do any of you here think it will be before Governor Brown is forced to concede that his hoped-for high-speed rail system isn’t going to get the green light and the funding it needs – for all the reasons Robert Cruickshank has so well outlined above – and cancel it?

    My own guess – within no more than a year from now at the most.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    I will add that he will likely cancel it before another state-wide referendum is called.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Brown won’t fold: he is trying to fix a whole host of issues that date to his first stint as Governor. In sum, he doesn’t want local governments to control statewide transportation policy and HSR is key to that goal.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It will be hard to put that toothpaste back in the tube. The counties love their spending power and will fight tooth and nail to retain.

    joe Reply:

    What Brown’s done in the past is to assign local responsibility with some fraction of the tax dollars collected from the County.

    BTW, The independent review of Caltrans backs the State taking more control.

    Two crucial policy changes, unusual if not unique for state DOTs, have reduced Caltrans’ power and capacity to act. One is the evolution of “self-help” counties, which allows local government to fund and often dictate the shaping of transportation systems, including the state highway system. The other is the state’s practice of sub-allocating state funding by formula to the local level, again empowering stakeholders vis-à-vis Caltrans and reducing funds available at the state level.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Exactly Joe. Which is how we get 12 lanes on I-5 in OC and 6 in L.A. Cause you know, the locals know what’s best. On the rail front it gives us NCTD and the hijacking of the Surfliner to make all the Coaster stops. JPAs, doomed to fail.

    joe Reply:

    The National Academies also convened a panel and studied the DOT. They published a report (looking for it today at NAP – I posted it a few months ago). That panel draws the same conclusions at the Fed level: Car centric focus and local control pushes DOT to managing highways as local commuter systems, not interstate transpiration systems.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Car centric. As I testified at the Assembly hearing on Caltrans “modernization”, we have an organization that, confronted with auto congestion, says “let’s build more lanes”, not “How do we move these people?”.

    joe Reply:

    1996 Metering lights are prioposed on 101 on ramps at Palo Alto. The purpose is to assure traffic on 101 flows smoothly. This exactly the kind of traffic flow what was engineered on 85, a newer highway in the region and it does meter onramp traffic.

    1998 they are installed and ready to be turned on.

    Caltrans does not turn on the metering because Palo Alto complains 101 bound traffic would congest at the on ramps waiting to enter. This is only traffic originating in Palo Alto. The other concern is the metering would encourage more side street traffic. Yes it would.

    2007 they are finally turned on. It’s not working because the metering is set too fast to assure traffic does not backup. Still 9 years later and not regulating traffic on 101.

    2013 work begins to expand 101 and add a new lane in Plao Alto to improve “safety”. No EIR either. 8 lanes becomes 1 merge lane and 1 added car pool lane. That’s 12 lanes. Meanwhile the cities are complaining about impacts to crossings on the ROW.

    Exactly what’s wrong with Caltrans. There’s no way Palo Alto should have be allowed to dump their cars onto and congest 101. And we all paid for a new lane to make sure it wouldn’t be inconvenient.

    Here’s the links to newspaper stories. Joe Simitian’s worried.

    Joe Simitian, another member of the council, said he was concerned that Caltrans would not be responsive to traffic problems caused by the metering lights.
    Metering lights have become controversial in some areas, including the 18-month-old Highway 85 extension in San Jose and other South Bay cities, where residents complained of traffic backups.
    Along Highway 101 from De la Cruz Boulevard in Santa Clara to the Oregon Expressway in Palo Alto, metering lights have been installed and are ready to be turned on, said Jeff Weiss, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation. Another project will put the lights on on-ramps between Woodside Road in Redwood City and Highway 92 in San Mateo late next year.

    Light are turned on.

    Auxiliary lanes start 2007 and finish in 2014.

    1996 to 2014. That’s 18 years to meter Palo Alto traffic correctly. WTF.

    joe Reply:

    All I can find page 131-132. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=18264&page=131

    synonymouse Reply:

    A state-wide referendum is needed to deal with Prop 1a. Either drop its provisos or comply with them.

    Zorro Reply:

    All is needed is money for the Petition Gatherers, in the millions of dollars last I read, then you’d have your state-wide referendum for Prop 1a on the ballot Mr Mouse. Fat chance of that w/o any money.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I am suggesting that either the judiciary or the politicians will in time require taking Prop 1a back to the voters.

    Where is VBobier?

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that this entire HSR thing is coming apart at the seams, and it may not last long enough for there to be any need for another statewide voter Prop 1a referendum.

    Cruickshank’s essay on ‘High Speed Rail and the Great Dithering,’ the origin of this particular discussion thread, pretty much backs up my reasoning.

    I sense that even Robert Cruickshank himself, staunch believer in and supporter of this project as he is, is beginning to see however reluctantly, that its chances of survival are lessening with each passing day. I sense his growing awareness of CAHSR’s rapidly-dimming prospects in between the lines of his essay.

    For a long time – more than two years – I’ve felt that the CAHSR project never stood a chance at becoming reality: the controversy surrounding its routing; the legal challenges fired at it from any and all directions; the deep-seated opposition of Republicans in Congress to funding ANY passenger rail; recent court rulings upholding challenges, etcetera. The die against high speed rail in California was cast a long time ago .

    The only currently-planned United States passenger rail project that appears to have any chance of being fully built out and put in operation is the Orlando-Miami passenger train in Florida, which is being paid for primarily by the private sector, with the help of no Federal money whatsoever – and even THAT project is in great danger of being stymied by NIMBY opposition.

    If the Republicans and their petroleum backers have their way, next on the chopping block is Amtrak – at least its long-distance routes. Via Rail Canada is likewise in danger of being laid to rest by ITS petro-biased owner in Ottawa.

    North America may well become the notable exception to the worldwide expansion of passenger rail.

    Zorro Reply:

    Total BS, coming from a faction that is desperate to stop HSR, well it ain’t gonna stop, HSR will be built.

    nslander Reply:

    But you gotta admit, that BS is weapons-grade.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    Zorro, you are in serious denial of the seriousness of the situation facing the CAHSR Authority – read carefully what Robert has to say at the beginning of this thread – it’s the dithering around that is killing this thing, and that is no BS.

    Like you, I very much want to see the CAHSR project built – but after more than two years of stalemate, and with time fast running out on the Federal Dollars (they must be fully spent by 2017 – it’s getting VERY late to spend them all within the remaining time – so it’s increasingly likely they will have to be forfeited – UNLESS the feds have a change of heart – which I hope they do!), the loss of the federal dollars alone is going to be a major blow to this project, and make it all the harder to raise desperately needed funds from other sources. We’re already near the half-way mark of 2014, and STILL no work has been started.

    We’ve got to face cold, hard reality here: This project is up to its neck in financial and legal difficulties which don’t appear likely to be resolved any time soon.

    Zorro Reply:

    I still don’t know who that is.

  24. Jerry
    Apr 25th, 2014 at 08:30

    In travel/transportation news Wall Street announced that UAL passenger revenue did not meet expenses and missed the “experts” revenue target for the quarter. Even with an 81% load factor.
    The Friendly Skies are also getting 15% lighter in the economy class seating with new thinner and slimmer seats. So much for the Passenger Comfort Index.
    All rail beats flying in all comfort factors and at a lower price with less carbon emissions and no dithering.

  25. synonymouse
    Apr 25th, 2014 at 11:07

    Score another for BART:


    jonathan Reply:

    Wow. Just wow. $484 million (so far). For 3.2 miles. That’s $150m / mile. For a slow-speed people mover. Wow.

    Did that project start before MTC started applying cost-benefit analyses? No wonder they refused to apply them to “already committed” ;projects.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    For an elevated people mover that’s really not a lot. For a line that runs in a freeway median it’s higher than I’d like, but still not really outrageous given all the viaducts.

    The issue here is that people movers cost the same per unit of length as elevated metros but carry far fewer people. $484 million for 5 km is okay construction, but $484 million for 2,400 daily passengers is horrific decision making.

    To make a completely ex recto comparison, the total daily ridership on the buses on or parallel to Geary is about 100,000, so it’s reasonable to assume (ex recto of course) 200,000 on a Geary subway. At the same per-rider cost as the OAC this would be $40 billion, which even at Manhattan rates would be enough to get from the CBD to Outer Richmond. (At normal-world rates, make it $2 billion.)

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Now you know where HSR to Los Banos, BART to the SJ Flea Market, and the Bay Bridge East Span come from.

    Same exact agency, same exact inexplicably unindicted executive director, same exact cast of characters.

    To answer Jonathan, MTC never has and never will apply any cost-benefit analysis to any project. The executive staff will simply directly funnel tens of billions of public dollars directly into the pockets of contractors they favour. Always has worked that way, works exactly that way today, and there is no indication it will ever work any other way.

    But hey, the “airport connector” runs on rails, so … CHOO CHOO! Exterminate all rational thought! Peak oil! Koch Brothers! Great Dithering! TOD! Millenials!

    joe Reply:

    …and it was way over budget because they always are way over budget. So how many times over budget did this one go?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    $130 million promised as part of Alameda County November 2000 sales tax. Even lower earlier. Even higher than $484 million when it is completed — and plenty of hidden costs, as usual with these criminals fraudsters.

    Everybody on the MTC and BART executive staff, together with the contractors whom they serve and so very handsomely and consistently enrich, ought to be serving long, long, long jail sentences.

    Same people who brought you Pacheco HSR!


    joe Reply:

    The estimate at the time of Analysis, prior to initiating the project.

    AGT: Using the 2002 FEIR/FEIS capital costs of $204 million, the incremental cost per passenger is $37.97 with a $3 fare, and $53.74 with planning fare of $6. The current project has changed considerably since the FEIR/FEIS, with a current project cost of $459 million (4).

    484-459 = 25 M over budget. 5%.


    The operating cost per ride is the highest of all options, which leads to a subsidy per ride of $10.76 at a $3 fare and $9.85 with a $6 fare.

    I think that’s about what they plan to change now (with the exception of $2 for airport employees).

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Awesome. So on time and on budget after all. Just like CHSR and the Bay Bridge!

    joe Reply:

    Certainly they didn’t start the 490 M project at 130M (or 185-190 adjusted for inflation since 130 as in 2000) .

    You can’t have it both ways. You can complain about costs when they propose work and final costs but the project was begun at a 450M estimate.

    They started the project using the higher, 450M, cost estimate.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Certainly they didn’t start the 490 M project at 130M …

    Yes they did.

    That’s how every project is started.

    CHSRA — same cast of limitlessly corrupt sleazebags — and its cost “estimates” and ridership “estimates” is exactly the same.

    Sell one thing, then “oh it’s too late to change anything now”, and rewrite history by the day. How nice that PB and friends have people like you to defend going 4x over budget and never delivering, because, see, they weren’t really over budget and they really never promised anything and they never said they’d ever deliver on any date, so it’s all good, dude, take another hit, this is good stuff.

    BART Oakland Airport Connector, HSR to Los Banos, BART to Millbrae, BART to SJ Flea Market, HSR to Palmdale, Dumbarton non-rail, Bay Bridge East Span … bait and switch.

    Contractor-lead scams start when all alternatives are killed off, not when the last major contract is awarded. After that, the sky is the limit on rewriting anything and everything.

    Revisionist idiot.

    There is a lot of competition for the very most stupid commenter on cahsrblog, but as perhaps the only not-on-the-take defender of the Oakland Airport Connector in the country, you take the cake. (MTC old boy “William” ought to feel free to pipe in here and join you.)

    joe Reply:

    Again, you’re trying to imply they began construction and ran way over.

    There’s a substantial difference between starting to build a project at 130M in 2000 dollars and starting it at 450M in 2010 dollars. It’s not revisionism.

    Correcting or clarifying your exaggerations isn’t siding with Big Corporate America or MTC which I don’t trust and wastes money on buildings and etc. I’m not defending the extension’s economics.

    I am certainly surprised to see OMG commentary for a project that’s completing pretty close to what was projected.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I said no such thing.

    You and the contractor scum and agency criminals you unquestioningly support — are the one moving the goalposts.

    Of course everything is “on budget” when you retroactively redefinte “the budget” to be “the total of the awarded contracts [minus a pile of shit we kept off the books]”.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 130 dollars in 2000 would be 178.39 in 2014.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The fact that OAC went over way budget is basically irrelevant. Even at ZERO dollars, the OAC has negative cost benefit, as it is much more expensive to operate compared to the bus service it replaces — while generating almost no new transit ridership.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Joe, did you become a Shadow Stats nut overnight? $130 million in 2000 is a lot less than $450 million in 2010. Yes, even if you inflate base on the the construction cost index and not the CPI. Do privately-built buildings today cost 3.5 times as much to construct today as they did in 2000?

    joe Reply:

    The inflation calc puts 130 at 187 or so in today’s money.

    They didn’t go forward with the 130 M project.

    They were approved in 2010 to build a system costing 450M – closer in actual costs 500 M when you factor in the costs they listed and round.

    Richard’s explained why it’s bad and why they did it that way as usual but the fact is the project was estimated at 450M when they began construction.

    There was a public decision to build a 450M system.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It was estimated at $130 million when the voters were asked to fund it. Cost overruns that happen before construction (“oops, we realized there’s more CV sprawl than we thought and we need more viaducts”) are still cost overruns.

    joe Reply:

    The voters were not asked to fund the project – they were asked to tax themselves for transit projects back in 2000.

    Ten years later, elected officials make a decision to fund the project with an estimate cost of 450 M.

    It’s not a problem with how managers and engineers costed the project prior to beginning construction. If you claim they are not doing good project management then you’d be hard pressed to show the evidence in this case.

    joe Reply:

    I – said no such thing.

    You — and the contractor scum and agency criminals you unquestioningly support — are the one moving the goalposts.

    Of course everything is “on budget” when you retroactively redefine “the budget” to be “the total of the awarded contracts [minus a pile of shit we kept off the books]“.

    You did below.

    They did not start a project at 130 M and run up costs to 490 M.

    The goal seems to be go bad as far as possible and make the project look like it started with that figure. The decision to start the BART extension happened years later.

    Approving and starting at 450M isn’t the same as starting and changing an estimate from 130M to 450M after the project was approved.

    $130 million promised as part of Alameda County November 2000 sales tax. Even lower earlier. Even higher than $484 million when it is completed — and plenty of hidden costs, as usual with these criminals fraudsters.

    Just include the 450M estimate when they approved the project.

    Jonathan Reply:

    It’s still a totally fucking awful use of public money, given the expected ridership.

    And if the ridership estimates are as overblown as BART-to-SFO, then… Ack. Let’s not go there, I just ate lunch.

    synonymouse Reply:

    gadgetbahns forever

    Jonathan Reply:

    Actually, I’ve been fond of Wuppertal Schweibebahn since I saw a black and white news-reel-ish short, probably back in the 60s.

    An elevated people-mover from BART to Oakland Airport is a *DUMB* use of money. Just *DUMB*. Half a billion, for what? 2k /day ridership (projected)? 2.5k/ day? And I bet they’re going to force passengers to take the 2x-3x fare hike, by dis-continuting the existing shuttle bus.

    Compare that to the utility for even Caltrain’s lame plans for electrification. That should give the BART cheerleaders (like Ted Judah) some sense of why BART is *never* going to circle the Bay, unless the existing BART counties pay for *all* of it. Including a new ROW. *Never*. Not after BART-to-SFO. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”.

    JB in pa Reply:

    Ultimate gadgetbahn.


    The space station does for science what PB and MTC do for ridership.

    Hubble is exactly the opposite, giving huge return by regularly rewriting what we know about astronomy.

    Jerry Reply:

    And I would bet that BART/MTC never considered the Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit system as a cheaper better viable alternative. The Morgantown PRT began in 1975 and has a daily ridership of 17,000 over an 8.7 mile system. 60% of its costs are recovered in a 50 cent fare. And it runs in snow.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Before the Altamont vs. Pacheco arguments here heated up, PRT generated the longest flamewar I’d seen on transit blogs, clocking in at 300 comments on The Transport Politic.

    No, thanks.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    self driving cars solves the problems PRT might be able to solve.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    The OAC won’t run in a freeway median, IIRC.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sorry, for some reason I read “mostly elevated line that travels in the median on Hegenberger Road” (link) to mean freeway median.


    synonymouse Reply:

    Muni could probably save into the 7 digits on deadhead time with trolley coaches and on route storage at Presidio Yard.

    And as development proceeds closer to Dogpatch their lovely diesel bus facility will be on ever more valuable land. But they would rather try to selloff Presidio the way Muni has been selling off its real estate since 1946.

    Muni is so f****d and the rest aren’t far behind.

  26. joe
    Apr 25th, 2014 at 19:40

    wall Street J covers HSR. Opposition Attorney Michael Brady misspeaks.


    Opponents of the project argue the cap-and-trade dollars wouldn’t provide anywhere near the amount of money the project will require. “It sounds nice, but this is their only alternative,” said Michael Brady, an attorney representing plaintiffs challenging the train in court. “They have been cut off by the federal government…they have raised no money from private investors, and no local government has even put up a dime.”

    Gilroy’s spent City and Santa Clara VTA funds to study and provide community outreach for station locations and alignments.

    A CAHSRA grant for a more detailed study is coming next.

    Clem Reply:

    Orders of magnitude do matter. Gilroy chipped in what, $100k ? That’s a bit over a millionth of the cost of Phase 1.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s more than a dime. People in Gilroy pay state and federal taxes like the people in Los Angeles and San Francisco do.

    joe Reply:

    Not to a Lawyer.

    There’s a lot of local support for HSR and Brady’s a turd for imply otherwise.
    Our city is 50K People compared to 38M in Cali. The out of town station will cost Gilroy tens of millions in extending city services. The in town is also going to cost us in infrastructure investments and changes to the downtown.

    jonathan Reply:

    “Orders of magnitude do matter. ”

    … Not to joe, they don’t.

  27. joe
    Apr 25th, 2014 at 20:56

    14th Senate race: Water, fracking, high-speed rail key issues


    His water history aside, the eight-month senator has authored and introduced four bills aimed at putting the brakes on high-speed rail:

    * SB 901 would temporarily halt the sale of bonds to fund the bullet train — and ask voters to decide in November whether they’d like to make that permanent;

    * SB 902 would require the California High-Speed Rail Authority to pay owners fair market value for property it buys for the bullet train, or pay off their property loans — whichever amount is greater;

    * SB 903 is aimed at preserving property tax payments on land bought for the bullet train. It would require the CHSRA pay counties 1 percent yearly of the purchase price of land it buys for the train. That percentage would increase by 2 percent per year to account for inflation; and

    * SB 904 would require CHSRA surveyors to get permission from landowners before coming on their land to survey it.

    All four bills were defeated Tuesday afternoon by the state Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee.

    Vidak questioned the government’s mandate to spend more money on the train, saying it has already breached the public trust by failing to attract private investment, or maintain its promised 200-mph speed.

    “You’re talking about billions of dollars for a train when we should be investing it in our courts, our educational system,” said the senator. “There are so many places where could it could be used.”

    His opponent sees things differently.

    Chavez said voters approved the train so lawmakers must build it — and building it is how he would create jobs.

    “I’m supportive of the jobs it will bring, but at the end of the day you can do 10 press conferences — it’s a state and federal mandate with which we have to comply,” said Chavez, who favors moving the train out of Kings County, laying tracks along existing transportation corridors like Highway 99 and giving tax breaks to businesses forced to move out of its way.

    Jos Callinet Reply:

    What Federal Mandate, Chavez? State mandate? Yes, because the voters approved Prop. 1a. But a Federal mandate to build this? I don’t think so. Just ask the Republicans in Congress; they’ll clear up any misconceptions about there being a Federal mandate to build this.

    Many people are in great denial over just how serious is the situation that is hanging over the CAHSR Authority – anyone who carefully reads what Robert has said at the beginning of this thread will realize it’s the DITHERING AROUND that is killing this thing.

    Like a number of other regulars on this blog, I very much want to see the CAHSR project built – but after more than two years of stalemate, and with time fast running out on the Federal Dollars (they must be fully spent by 2017 – it has now gotten to the point that it will be nearly impossible to spend all the federal dollars within the remaining time – so it’s become increasingly likely they will end up being forfeited.

    UNLESS the feds have a change of heart over the spending deadline, which I don’t realistically expect they will have), the loss of these key dollars alone is going to strike a major blow to this project and make it all that much harder to raise desperately-needed funds from other sources.

    We’re already nearly half-way through 2014, and STILL no work has been started.

    We must face the cold, hard fact that this project is up to its neck in financial and legal difficulties, none of which appear likely to be resolved any time soon.

  28. synonymouse
    Apr 25th, 2014 at 21:04

    SMART doodlebug Cummins prime mover:


    Underslung. I guess if it derailed the engine and drive train[aka “self-contained power module”] could get dragged thru the dirt and whatever else in the way.

    EJ Reply:

    You literally spend all day looking for things to whine and complain about, don’t you? Oh, no, here’s a totally hypothetical issue you came up with about DMUs in Canada! (BTW most modern DMUs have the engine below the floor).

    synonymouse Reply:

    Doodlebugs for Caltrain.

    EJ Reply:

    Drinking already?

    synonymouse Reply:

    And ebart.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And I would guess with underslung pretty much any maintenance or inspection would require a pit.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Gosh, is this the 1920s or 1930s or 1940s or 1950s? No, it’s not. Technology moves on.
    Synon, do you think the Intercity-125 HST a “Doodlebug”, too?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yeah, I consider non-loco-hauled diesel passenger equipment a general mistake.

    I remember riding dmu’s between Glasgow and Edinburgh in September of 1970 and thinking these Scots really are cheap: this line deserves wire and no blinking 3rd rail.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Or if you cannot afford wire forget speed.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Which part of “Inter-city 125” are you having difficulty comprehending?
    The HST is 40 years old (39 if you’re picky).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It makes sense where demand is met with short trains with low frequency service.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Run a smallish diesel loco and a few cars.

    HST a waste of money IMHO.

    How did they ever build rural interurbans in much poorer 1900?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Running a locomotive and few cars costs more than a few DMUs. Which is why DMUs are popular for lines where demand is met with a few cars. And why running more than a few cars is usually done with a locomotive.

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