Ray LaHood Talks HSR With the SacBee

Jun 1st, 2014 | Posted by

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Sacramento recently, and talked to the Sacramento Bee editorial board about high speed rail. Why was he in Sacramento? I’ll let him explain

What brings you to town?

I am meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown and High Speed Rail chief executive Jeff Morales. I want to thank the governor for his commitment and give him some advice about where some funding might be in the Department of Transportation. I want to talk to him about some private investors who have come to me. …

When I was in Washington, I helped provide funding to the tune of $4 billion. This is the one place in America that would have true high-speed rail. It is the one place in America where there is a real commitment. …

This is one of the best projects in the country right now. It is because of Gov. Brown. I know these court decisions have been a little bit of a setback. But hopefully they’ll get a good ruling in the end.

Basically, LaHood is a strong backer of California HSR and wants to see it succeed. Now that he’s free to do more advocacy on behalf of the project, he’s working to bring money to the California project, both public and private. Good on him. Name a train after him!

As an editorial board, we’re supportive of high-speed rail. We’re also skeptical that we’re ever going to see track laid.

That was the same skepticism that occurred in American 60 years ago when President Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act. … Because of the vision of Eisenhower, the commitment of Congress, the commitment of governors, we have the best interstate system in the world. Hopefully 50 years from now, a good part of the country will be connected by a lot of rail.

How do you maintain interest when the first leg will be built from Merced to Fresno?

I remember when I was in high school in Peoria, Ill., and they laid slabs of concrete. It was a part of the interstate highway system. You can’t build a rail system from San Francisco to San Diego all at one time. You have to start somewhere. Why the Central Valley? Because it is a good place to begin to build, to test the speed.

LaHood has all the right answers here. “You have to start somewhere.” The notion that building on the ends would have been any better was always rather naive, and relied on people forgetting the vehement NIMBYism not just on the Peninsula but that was bubbling up in places like Buena Park and Anaheim.

Beverly Hills, as unsympathetic a group of NIMBYs if ever there were any, have thrown everything they have at the Purple Line subway extension. NIMBYs on the Peninsula or in SoCal likely have used the same tactics that Kings County has used – get Republicans to block new HSR funding and then use that as a reason to block the Prop 1A bonds in court – to block HSR construction at the ends. Keep in mind that CC-HSR, a group of Peninsula NIMBYs, have been instrumental in the Kings County lawsuits against HSR.

So LaHood is right that starting in the Central Valley was and remains a good idea.

Why did Obama become enamored of high-speed rail?

He was influenced by Vice President Joe Biden who rode Amtrak from Delaware every day to Washington. I think (the president) was influenced by growing up in Chicago, where there is mass transit to get just about anywhere. He also recognized that no other administration had ever made this kind of commitment.

The vision Obama has for high-speed rail can be played out here in California. Obviously, Amtrak is never going to get 200-mile-an-hour trains. It is an old system. In Illinois, we have trains going 110 miles an hour that were once going 79 miles an hour. But in California, it’s going to be the best because it is brand new. And it goes 200 miles an hour.

Joe Biden definitely gets a train named after him. Hell, maybe the whole system. (Yeah, yeah, Jerry Brown might have an even stronger claim to being the Father of California HSR, but this is Joe Biden! He’s a BFD!)

The interview goes on to note that LaHood doesn’t know much about the hyperloop (he’s not missing much) and that he remains a Republican, even as he denounces the current House GOP caucus for refusing to embrace good ideas.

I always liked the guy and this interview is a reminder that he was one of the best Transportation Secretaries we’ve ever had.

  1. Reality Check
    Jun 2nd, 2014 at 01:44
    #1

    Younger and wealthier, Caltrain riders opt out of traffic

    Caltrain ridership is booming, its riders are younger and wealthier, and they’re ditching their cars in favor of using bicycles and their feet […] “These people — even though they have a really good income — a lot of them don’t have cars,” said Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said. “That’s a choice and a trend nationally that we’re seeing in terms of ridership.”

    […]

    Converts: More than a third of Caltrain riders have been riding the system for less than one year.

    […]

    Younger: The age of the average Caltrain rider is falling. It was 37.2 in 2010, but 36.7 in 2013.

    […]

    Wealth: Caltrain riders are a pretty well-heeled bunch. Average income is now $117,000, up from $104,000 in 2010.

    […]

    Average weekday ridership on the so-called Gilroy extension is up 9.7 percent. However, the average weekday ridership of 463 is still way below the peak 2001 ridership of 1,524 — before improvements to Highway 101 made commuting less horrifying.

    […]

    Here’s the full passenger count report, and here’s the Caltrain customer survey.

    Caltrain Trying To Keep Up With New Riders

    Caltrain’s ridership is up 14-percent over last year, and the transit agency is trying to keep up with a new kind of rider that doesn’t fit their typical profile.

    “I would say more of a cosmopolitan rider,” Caltrain Spokesperson Christine Dunn said.

    A recent survey revealed that the average Caltrain rider in 2014 is most likely young, white, college educated, and well paid – earning $117-thousand a year.

    “They want to be able to live and work near transit. They want to make transit a part of their lives. This is a changing shift in the way Americans live,” Dunn said.

    The percentage of Caltrain riders bringing bikes on the trains has shot up 20-percent over the last year.

    STUDY: CALTRAIN RIDERSHIP REACHES ALL-TIME HIGH

    joe Reply:

    - 2001: 1,524 (highest)
    : 598 (last year of 4 round trips

    In 2005, Caltrain cut service down to 3 trains which makes commuting more risky and less convenient.

    Gilroy Population in 2012: 50,660 (99% urban, 1% rural). Population change since 2000: +22.2%
    Morgan Hill Population in 2012: 39,420 (100% urban, 0% rural). Population change since 2000: +17.5%

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Looks like construction should have been started in the north with Caltrain. The best LaHood can come up with to justify initial construction in the center is “it’s a good place to build, to test the speed”. Very sad, especially when many areas of the State are in dire need of useful transportation.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    And btw, check out which revolving door LaHood used to get into the Governor’s office.

    Joe Reply:

    Revolving!?
    Look up the word.

    He retired from Gov after 14 years in congress and work in the Administration.

    You guys are full of crap to accuse LaHood of revolving. He retired from public service.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Is he retired, or is he working for the private sector now?

    Joe Reply:

    Revolving ?!

    He Retired from public service.

    He isn’t revolving to and from the public sector.

    Why exaggerate?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If he’s working for the private sector, he’s revolving – it’s a conflict of interest when a high public official can go work for the companies he was supposed to regulate. If he’s not doing that, he’s retired.

    morris brown Reply:

    Former DOT chief joins infrastructure investment firm…

    See: http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/206604-former-dot-chief-joins-infrastructure-investment-firm

    Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is joining an investment firm known as Meridiam that focuses on partnering with government officials to build large infrastructure projects, the company announced on Tuesday.

    joe Reply:

    If he’s working for the private sector, he’s revolving – it’s a conflict of interest when a high public official can go work for the companies he was supposed to regulate.

    You are spinning – a pure propaganda spinning. Where does he now work? He is “A senior policy adviser at the international law firm DLA Piper”

    The Dept Of Transportation does not regulates International Law Firms.

    You have a cartoon standard.

    Mac Reply:

    Joe is in denial, Morris and Alon…and he won’t change his mind.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    “I’ve come to thank the Governor….” and by the way these folks that just hired me will make a big fat fee facilitating a lop sided taxpayer takes the hit if it goes pear shaped PPP that I’d like you to support… Actually revolving doors are above his technical competency level but using his former post as leverage to open conventionally hinged doors seems to be within his scope.

    Joe Reply:

    You guys throw around the term “conflict of interest” like Lysol throws around the term germs in their television ads.

    Use Wikipedia or the Google engine and try to concoct a plausible conflict of interest for LaHood.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So Tom Kean being termed out as Governor of New Jersey and deciding to take that very nice offer from Drew University was revolving door?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Universities are not for-profit companies. Nonprofits, universities, and NGOs are a different flavor from the private sector.

    (Of course, Jersey has a much bigger problem right now than a revolving door. Can he resign to run for president and lose, please?)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Lobbying is lobbying. Instead of taking a high paying job where he would lobby for profits he took a less well paid job where he could lobby for stuff other than profits.

    Joe Reply:

    A conflict of interest is a personal conflict of interest. Whether the past employer was a for-profit or a non-for profit is irrelevant. Conflict of interest is a conflict between a personal interest and a professional duty. It is a violation of criminal law for the individual working in the public sector.

    If you worked for a university and moved into a government job and gave advice or we’re responsible for grants be awarded to the university you would go to jail for criminal law violations.

    If you are a government employee and set up a program and then go to a university that is not for profit and help that University win awards you can also go to jail.

    Courses supplies to the US. I don’t know what Canada’s laws are

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Joe, you’re hanging a lot on an unenforced law. And Adirondacker, the “less well paid” is the entire point of this! A government official who revolves to the private sector can cash in. One who revolves to a university is much worse-paid; he gets a lot of prestige instead, but if he was a governor or a federal cabinet member he already has the prestige.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Well ya can’t buy the prestige of being the president of a well respected university. He also found the time to sit on the boards of a few corporations which keeps the dough rolling in.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Kean#Corporate_boards

    Money isn’t everything, some people don’t find additional money enticing.
    He doesn’t need to do any of it, yet he does.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Corporate boards… that’s indeed a problem.

    Anyway, money isn’t everything, but it’s a pretty sweet deal.

    Bill Reply:

    Good call.

    Alan Reply:

    LaHood was answering a news interviewer’s question, not dictating an entry for the World Book Encyclopedia. The brevity of the answer doesn’t diminish its validity, which has been discussed here many times.

    Besides, have you forgotten about the “bookend” funding? Where Caltrain gets HSR money for electrification, while work in other places goes on simultaneously?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    The bookend funding came in spite of the CHSRA, not because of.

    Mac Reply:

    Very sad, Paul

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Which part?

    Mac Reply:

    I was agreeing with your comment, ” The best LaHood can come up with to justify initial construction in the center is “it’s a good place to build, to test the speed”. Very sad, especially when many areas of the State are in dire need of useful transportation”.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Got it. Yes, useful transportation is a good thing. If we hadn’t had the recent announcements about the LAUS run through I was beginning to think that the whole concept of useful transportation had been overlooked in favor of construction for construction’s sake.

    StevieB Reply:

    Is the High Speed Rail EIR anywhere near complete for the San Francisco to Gilroy segment? Could construction be completed within the time restrictions placed on the Federal funds? Need for improved transportation in a corridor does not mean that it is possible. Gilroy to San José will probably be the last section constructed between northern and southern California.

    Zorro Reply:

    Shouldn’t that be San Jose to Fresno segment? It’s probably behind the Bakersfield to Palmdale segment, somewhere. There isn’t even a Draft EIR for either one yet, though a report that I found Here for Bakersfield_Palmdale, comes close, it’s still not an EIR yet and it’s from 2012, but until someone releases something newer, that is what’s available I think. If I’m wrong, I’m ok with that too.

    Zorro Reply:

    That should be San Jose to Merced segment. Still I’d like to know too, but PR has never been a priority, since it usually led to attacks against the CHSRA. I still think they’re working on the Bakersfield to Palmdale segment as mentioned Here(California High-Speed Rail) on the wiki.

    Bakersfield to Palmdale

    ‘The 85 miles (137 km) from Bakersfield to Palmdale, crossing the Tehachapi Pass’

    Joe Reply:

    Paul

    CAHSRA proposed construction in the peninsula but ran into wealthy NIMBYs with lawyers and scared politicians. That’s why CARRD exists.

    The outreach back then was awful and since browns taken over the State far better.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Brown is a scared politician when it comes down to the Ranch.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    He lived in Oakland, few things scare him.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I thought Oakland BART aerials were being touted as nothing short of Taj Mahal splendorous and gentrified the place to Scarsdale standards.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    But if construction started in the north, we wouldn’t have the fait accompli that is the IOS

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Starting in the North would have meant a long war with the Peninsula NIMBYs, which the state decided to not fight at this time. Can you blame them? Paul Dyson’s strategy only works when there’s no NIMBY opposition.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s why the state started in the CV, where construction could be completed by 2014.

    Mac Reply:

    In part, because they thought the CV would not/could not push back the way the penninsula did.
    They were wrong. Everyone knows starting in the CV is wrong…has always been wrong. Let’s at least admit that.

    Joe Reply:

    Well the peninsula has greenlit high-speed rail. It’s a done deal and their politicians endorsed it. They got involved and influenced the design to blended and full build later.

    Also the lawsuits to stop high-speed rail using environmental laws have ended. The EIR was approved.
    The impacts are now mitigated. All opponents have now is an appeal which was just heard early May.

    So if the peninsula is your role model then you guys are in a lot of trouble.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    More than likely, IOS North was shelved because of the need for political support from Los Angeles. Unfortunately, a Gilroy to Fresno ICS mixed with some upgrades on CalTrain would have been a huge gamechanger.

    But don’t forget Prop 1a also is part of the problem: the IOS designation has to either start or end in Fresno. Policymakers still won’t admit how much better off the Bay Area is economically and how desperate the rest of the state is for investment from our Silicon Valley overlords.

    One sneaky ass plan might be to take the ARRA funds and use them outside the IOS for Gilroy to Fresno and then use the cap and trade money to draw down Prop 1a.

    joe Reply:

    Closing the gap between Bakersfield and LA is compelling from a state perspective. SV is the current job center but SoCal is large and making better strides with transit.

    I’d try to work on both ends at once (planning for either). If one section gets cute about holding up the project for more concessions, I’d move work to the other section. That’s what happened in the Peninsula and we started in the CV while working the peninsula politics to get HSR approved.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The bookend approach is utterly unworkable. SF and LA are rivals, not partners.

    If you start at either end (or both) the system will never link up. Building in the Central Valley was designed to pit both the Bay Area and SoCal against each other so that both would want to reach Fresno first.

    The problem with this strategy is that it’s frozen in 2008. Los Angeles, always more interested in sprawl and cheap land than SF, is struggling economically and preoccupied with building more transit. Fresno is not much of a lure when the entire Inland Empire is slowly being abandoned.

    SF on the other hand, wants high speed rail to help assert itself over LA (just like old times), but doesn’t really need Fresno (or HSR) to become California’s premier city yet again.

    jonathan Reply:

    Ted,

    Where do you see benefit in laying HSR tracks from Merced to Gilory? Enough benefit to borrow *all* the money to build those tracks? What do you think is going to run on them? To and from where? Do you think Gilroy-to-Fresno can sustain non-subsidised HSR service??

    joe Reply:

    “Do you think Gilroy-to-Fresno can sustain non-subsidized HSR service??”

    Gilroy is connected by choo-choo track to SJC & SF.

    Also CCJPA can easily extend Capital Corridor south to Gilroy and Monterey CO /Salinas to bring that entire central coast and 4 M tourists a year to the HSR station in GIL-Roy as planned and riders can transfer onto CCPJA to reach East Bay, Oakland and Sacramento.

    jonathan Reply:

    The entire paragrpah:

    Where do you see benefit in laying HSR tracks from Merced to Gilory? Enough benefit to borrow *all* the money to build those tracks? What do you think is going to run on them? To and from where? Do you think Gilroy-to-Fresno can sustain non-subsidised HSR service??

    So, Joe. No HSR. No serious ridershpi projections. Who’s going to make multiple transfers, to take moultiple trains that run at what you acknolwedge are choo-choo speeds?

    I suppose we can’t expect any more from someone so innumerate that they seriously think CA will sink huge resources (fighting UPRR in the STB), and waste the best part of a billion dollars, all to electtify the UPRR line from Gilroy to Tamien, *all for ~450 boardings per day*.

    Yes, Virginia. Joe’s own personal commute should be a tip priority for rain transport in California.
    Joe and the other ~450 boardings per day.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Merced to Gilroy? Try Gilroy to Fresno. Electrify CalTrain and run a starter line from SF and SFO to the America’s Raisin Capital. You would pick up many of the people who have to fly from Fresno to SFO for connections and lots of people who drive.

    You really think Merced to Sylmar will do better?

    joe Reply:

    jimsf also thought a N-IOS from SFT to Fresno/Bakersfield would also produce revenue.

    Gilroy is the Monterey/Central Cost stop:

    Number of visitors annually to Monterey County according to State of California and D.K. Shifflet & Associates (2013 figures):
    8.39 million person-trips total
    7.08 million leisure
    1.31 million business
    Number of visitors to the El Estero visitors center- 122,049
    Most visited attraction: Monterey Bay Aquarium – 1,883,671 (2013)
    Tourism in Monterey County is a 2.3 billion dollar industry (2013 Dean Runyan Associates).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    According to Fresno’s Airport’s website there are five flights a day. 4 of them are on 30 passenger turboprops and one is on a 70 passenger regional jet. 210 seats a day. How many 500 passenger trains have to run to serve that market?

    Michael Reply:

    Maybe the HSR market in Fresno will be attractive to the people who drive now… It certainly would be to me, as I find the current Amtrak service from SF to Fresyes to be more attractive than driving, and that’s about a 1/2 day trip on the train. Add a rental car option at the station, which lacks now anywhere that I know of in downtown Fresyes, and it will beat driving by a mile.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Remember too, there is no one seat ride from Fresno to San Jose or San Francisco. You have to connect in Oakland. I argued on this blog years ago to have some San Joaquin trains end in San Jose instead to prime the pump for HSR service. Although we are going to get the Northern California Unified Service. I suspect that is more about realigning funding for Amtrak California than adding service to destination that will never be viable for HSR: Monterey, Yosemite, Napa, etc.

    joe Reply:

    Suggesting the travel market between the Bay Area and Fresno is approximately ~210 people day is high-level wankery.

    The old HSR trip calculator put Fresno at ~60 minutes from Palo Alto’s now defunct station. Easily a 60 minute trip to San Jose.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I wasn’t the one who suggested that there are significant amounts of people flying between FAT and SFO. There aren’t and if all of them decided to take the train instead you fill up half a train. The people who decide the fares are too high and drive instead might be more interesting but that wasn’t the topic was it? The people in greater Fresno will find all sorts of interesting reasons to go to the Bay Area and vice versa, that doesn’t involve airplanes.

    Alan Reply:

    There were, and still are, sound reasons for beginning in the CV. Some people just won’t admit it.

    jonathan Reply:

    Alan,

    What sound reasons, please? Other than (a) it was Jim Costa’s district and he pushed to have money spent there; and (b0 it’s largely flat, more-or-less straight, and thus about the cheapest segment to build.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    You’re quite wrong Robert, because there is or will be NIMBY opposition on each and every segment. The IOS was started in the middle because someone told someone it was “shovel ready” Remember that? A lot of shovels are still being leaned on 6 years later.

    Jon Reply:

    So the Gilroy extension went from 1,524 daily riders in 2001 to 598 daily riders in 2005, without any change in the level of service; and you’re saying that the elimination of one round trip implemented after 2005 is responsible for the low ridership on the extension. Don’t you think that perhaps you might have cause and effect the wrong way round?

    Sorry, but while SF – SJ is standing room only, there is no justification in moving resources to SJ – Gilroy. Caltrain should abandon service south of Blossom Hill, and Capitol Corridor should pick up Morgan Hill and Gilroy.

    Joe Reply:

    Ridership tanked when Caltrans Doubled the free highway lanes from 2 each way to 4 lanes each way with new overbuild exit’s to nowhere such as Baily Ave for FREE.

    Currently there just isn’t enough service for people to use Caltrain reliably.

    For example, once there were four but now only two trains service the top stop Palo Alto. It’s higher risk to depend on two trains to get to from work.

    Ridership will go up one service quality increases.
    The areas grown 20% from the 2001 peak.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    That’s our Joe for you-advocating for exurban sprawl and 20th century styles of home ownership. Where do I get my USA foam finger?

    Joe Reply:

    How hilarious that expanding 101 from 4 to 8 Lane Freeway from San Jose down to south county doesn’t do s**t for sprawl.

    There is nothing wrong with expanding service on a train line that has been in existence since 1863 and carrying passengers from Gilroy to San Francisco since its inception.

    I’m talking about a train line that existed back in 1863 with service from SF to Gilroy. My crappy city flag has a steam powered choo-choo train.

    Why is it more sensible to live in Fremont work in San Francisco?

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Because Fremont isnt a bum fuck small town with a garlic festival?

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Amanda, I lived in Fremont before, and it’s a glass house if you’re throwing rocks. Many on this blog think the entire South Bay is exurbs, go figure. But transportation options are always welcome and $Billions in free roads do distort the market. I’d like to see Dumbarton Rail with a Union City BART transfer station, and an Irvington BART infill station. And it’s OK if the 100k+ folks in South Santa Clara county folks have a few trains during commute hours.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    So you’re saying there’s no qualitative difference between Mountain View (where I recently moved from) and Gilroy?

    joe Reply:

    No. Just in housing price.

    Mountain View stuck in past when it comes to housing policy
    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/place/article/Mountain-View-stuck-in-past-when-it-comes-to-5519893.php

    We’re in the same county with same taxes and serviced by the same train – you’re not better than Gilroy because MTView.

    My son’s circle of friends have 4 google employees (2 @ soccer and 2 @ school). The run a bus down here you know.

    joe Reply:

    You live in Fremont, Alameda County which pays $0.0 into Caltrain and $0.0 into Santa Clara VTA.

    Your City is the accretion (merger) of five smaller towns into a single sprawling city without a downtown. It’s the poster child of car centric California.

    My small town has been serviced by rail since the 1860’s and has an HSR envisioning plan for transit centric development.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Again joe, you make some sensible points. The expansion of the 101 undercut the market for passenger rail, and will continue to do so until further population growth soaks up capacity. The usual Caltrans response to a lot of cars on a highway, put down more concrete, rather than figure out how best to move the people. Question is, what do you do to win them back to rail, or is it even worth trying? Capitol Corridor has the same problem east of Sac. There the problem is compounded by County sponsored and subsidized commuter buses competing against state subsidized passenger rail. Your taxpayer dollars working again…

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    My small hometown in Oregon had passenger rail in the early 20th century. By your standard then, because of the historic nature of that rail, there should be daily passenger rail now between Astoria and Portland?

    joe Reply:

    Paul;

    Rail has a disproportionately positive benefit when it services congested corridors. Example from LA and second article on the highly congested 101 corridor along the South County Caltrain.

    Here’s a summary by Paul Krugman http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs_v5/krugman/krugman_post.png

    Here’s the paper.
    https://www.nber.org/papers/w18757

    Subways, Strikes, and Slowdowns: The Impacts of Public Transit on Traffic Congestion
    Public transit accounts for only 1% of U.S. passenger miles traveled but nevertheless attracts strong public support. Using a simple choice model, we predict that transit riders are likely to be individuals who commute along routes with the most severe roadway delays. These individuals’ choices thus have very high marginal impacts on congestion. We test this prediction with data from a sudden strike in 2003 by Los Angeles transit workers. Estimating a regression discontinuity design, we find that average highway delay increases 47% when transit service ceases. This effect is consistent with our model’s predictions and many times larger than earlier estimates, which have generally concluded that public transit provides minimal congestion relief. We find that the net benefits of transit systems appear to be much larger than previously believed.

    Here’s the GPS evidence that South San Jose HW 101 along the Caltrain Corridor would benefit by removing a few cars during the commute.
    Conversely ending service would dump 400-500 more cars on the highway and exacerbate traffic.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/traffic/ci_22328900/key-source-bay-area-traffic-headaches-revealed-by

    The study’s authors anonymously tracked more than 350,000 Bay Area drivers using their cellphone and GPS signals — the first time that’s been done — to gather some of the most detailed data yet on what causes our traffic jams.

    The good news is that you can speed up noticeably when just a few cars leave the roadway, one of the main reasons officials have tried chipping away at the edges by encouraging people to take transit, carpool, telecommute or avoid rush hour. The new study found that effort will be about three times more effective if you can get certain drivers from the corners of the Bay Area off the road during peak travel times.

    Tim Hyde, who joins the slog from his Morgan Hill home up Highway 101 to his structural engineering job in San Jose’s Willow Glen district, wasn’t surprised by the report’s findings. He sometimes leaves extra early or rides his motorcycle to avoid being part of the traffic problem.

    Take the southeast San Jose region along the Highway 101 corridor, where residents spend more time in traffic than just about anywhere in the Bay Area, including people living in denser districts around downtown. That’s because downtown San Jose residents drive off in several directions, spreading out the traffic flow, while residents on the south side are all driving north together to jobs in the heart of Silicon Valley, jamming the freeway.

    If a driver from southeast San Jose can avoid rush hour, he would not only commute faster but also contribute toward speeding up commutes for his neighbors driving north on 101 and Interstate 280 and people from different neighborhoods going to the same destinations.

    Jon Reply:

    We agree that the ridership on the Gilroy extension tanked because 101 was widened. That was the cause, not the loss of one round trip per day. So why would adding back that one round trip cause the ridership to explode? You might recover to the 600 riders a day in 2005, or a little higher, but that’s not enough to make the extension cost effective.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Extending the Capital Corridor to Salinas, with a few trains per day and connections to the Monterey Peninsula will be useful in multiple ways. But given the pricing pressure of million dollar homes close to the Bay I think it’s not unreasonable for south Santa Clara county to have usable commute rail service (like eBart and ACE).

    joe Reply:

    Jon;

    Cost effective metric includes reduced traffic on 101. Unique study shows removing a few cars has immense impact on travel time in areas serviced by Caltrain S of Tamien.
    http://www.mercurynews.com/traffic/ci_22328900/key-source-bay-area-traffic-headaches-revealed-by
    Take the southeast San Jose region along the Highway 101 corridor, where residents spend more time in traffic than just about anywhere in the Bay Area, including people living in denser districts around downtown. That’s because downtown San Jose residents drive off in several directions, spreading out the traffic flow, while residents on the south side are all driving north together to jobs in the heart of Silicon Valley, jamming the freeway.

    Adding trains to a critical threshold (4-6) induces use. I’m just asking to at least go back to 2000 levels (4) and have more stops for those that run. Also population growth Morgan hill/Gilroy is 20% since that time.

    Jon Reply:

    San Jose to Gilroy is roughly 30 miles, which works out to 180 train-miles per day for three round trips. That’s equivalent to an extra two SF – SJ round trips. There’s space in the timetable to add them towards the end of rush hour, one in each direction between 8am and 9am, and one in each direction between 6pm and 7pm.

    I’m willing to bet that if the three round trips to Gilroy were cancelled, and two round trips were added to SF – SJ instead, the SF – SJ trains would carry much more than 450 passengers between them. Each of those added passengers would remove a car from US-101 in a section that’s more congested than SJ – Gilroy. That’s a more cost-effective use of resources that operating the Gilroy extension.

    joe Reply:

    Santa Clara Co starts in Gilroy and ends at Palo Alto.

    It might be very efficient if Gilroy and South and East San Jose residents subsidized an helped SF and San Mateo County residents commute but it’s not going to happen because Santa Clara is responsible for reducing traffic on all its roads for all the taxpayers.

    Cut the trains and VTA will have to spend the money elsewhere since you are simply taking away service and pretending no one who matters is impacted.

    The highly congested HW 101 which predominately carries traffic predominately north is part of San Clara and the advanced GPS study I linked to on congestion shows immense bang for the buck in reducing cars from the South 101 corridor. You are taking service away from that highly congested corridor when trains stop at San Jose. Look at the article.

    joe Reply:

    And here’s a list of past and future work on HW 101 From SF Co to Santa Clara Morgan Hill/Gilroy.
    1.2 B spent since early 90s on 101. I bolded work for areas south of the electrification – places that CA will spend $$ to expand 101 and bring more drivers N but not public transit.
    http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_25859018/1-2-billion-and-20-years-later-highway

    HIGHWAY 101 REPAIRS, PAST AND FUTURE
    Since the early 1990s, nearly $1.2 billion has been spent to improve Highway 101 from Morgan Hill to San Francisco. what’s been done

    •Widened to as many as 10 lanes

    Carpool lanes extended from Morgan Hill to Redwood City

    Additional lane added from San Jose @85 to Morgan Hill

    Interchanges rebuilt at Highway 85 in South San Jose and Mountain View, Capitol Expressway, Tully Road, Highway 87 and Marsh Road

    Metering lights installed down to Gilroy.

    WHAT’S NEXT

    •Adding auxiliary lanes from Highway 85 in Mountain View to Palo Alto this summer

    •Ramp metering from 92 to San Francisco County line later this year
    Down the road

    Rebuilding 25-101 interchange

    Adding express lanes from Highway 129 south of Gilroy to Whipple Avenue in Redwood City

    •Adding second exit lane from southbound 101 to south 87

    •Studying the conversion of the fast lane into an express/carpool lane from Redwood City to Interstate 380

    •Operational changes at Highway 92

    Building multiple new interchanges

    Adding more metering lights from Highway 25 to Old Oakland Road

    •Adding auxiliary lanes from Oyster Point to San Francisco County line

    Joe Reply:

    And by the way Santa Clara County contributes to Caltrain. Remove south county service in Santa Clara County will re-program that money to VTA for service the taxpayers in south county. Santa Clara is not paying for San Mateo and San Francisco riders.

    Jon Reply:

    The three counties fund Caltrain proportional to the ridership at the stations in their counties. The Gilroy extension contributes 463 daily riders to the 22,158 total in Santa Clara county, or 2% of the total. Caltrain will save far more money by abandoning the extension than they will lose in funding from VTA.

    Joe Reply:

    Don’t you think this argument has been made time and time again and rejected each time it’s been made?

    Jon Reply:

    It’s politically unpalatable to VTA. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

    Joe Reply:

    Ignoring democratic representation, putting 450 more cars on 101 would have a disastrous effect on county traffic congestion on an already impacted highway. Also Santa Clara is allowing transit oriented growth in south county along the Caltrain ROW.

  2. Emmanuel
    Jun 2nd, 2014 at 09:42
    #2

    Interesting point about Caltrain is the very simple fact that college students would more than love to use a more convenient and less stressful form of public transportation to and from their schools. Probably the only guaranteed demographic that has a practical use for the train other than sightseeing. Having taken the Pacific Surfliner and others in SoCal, I’ve noticed that the most frequent riders are college students since some of the Amtrak stops are close to universities like UCSD. How CHSRA continues to ignore the fact that each of those universities has 20-30,000 potential riders and how it would be of a huge mutual benefit to society to keep such things into consideration is beyond me.

    Instead, it seems more and more that we are designing something that is only meant to attract tourists. Okay. You want to travel from LA-SF. Then what? You really think anyone is doing that commute for work purposes? The number of people doing so would be minuscule compared to the number of students who NEED and WANT to commute between school and, most likely, their parent’s home. Right now, college students without cars might as well live on an island when it comes to transportation in California. There is a high demand for connectivity. Many many come from unconnected areas such as Bakersfield to study at the universities by the coast. Not to mention there is a high demand to relief colleges from building bigger and bigger parking lots.

    How an agency like CHSRA is not even taken this into consideration of any track design is beyond me. It’s like they are intentionally avoiding those areas. The whole one stone kills two birds philosophy seems to be beyond their reasoning.

    EJ Reply:

    Wait, have you ever been on a LA-SF flight during the week? You think all those people are tourists?

    Joe Reply:

    You have no idea who is using Caltrain.

    Stanford provides free Caltrain passes to employees. Ridership are workers whose employers support Caltrain usage to attract and retain employees. It is worker dominated. Palo Alto was turned down when they try to have local, downtown employers obtain Caltrain passes.

    Stanford students try to live on campus and subsidized housing so they have something affordable to offset the $43000 year tuition.

  3. synonymouse
    Jun 2nd, 2014 at 11:29
    #3

    “to test the speed”?

    Maybe they want to try out some different gauges. And how about BART’s patented aluminum sandwich wheel?

    EJ Reply:

    You’d love it if CAHSR were built to Broad Gauge. It would be something more for you to moan about. I mean, you already do even though there’s not a remote chance that it would happen.

    synonymouse Reply:

    That’s choice. The Detour is the 2014 version of broad gauge. Gratuitously idiosyncratic. Flies in the face of standard procedure and practice. But that’s our PB.

    Zorro Reply:

    You would be delusional if you think you can get your way Synonymouse, HSR will never be going thru Tejon or down the 5 fwy, ever. That’s a fact jack.

    synonymouse Reply:

    VBobier de retour?

  4. Lewellan
    Jun 2nd, 2014 at 12:50
    #4

    To make a noise soon enough I’ll weigh in. Just read the last sentense at least.
    Engineering north and south of Oregon is questionable to many Oregonians.
    ——
    Possibly nobody here gets as many ‘crazy’ stares as me.
    Some of you know this about me, the loudest/rudist alarmist:

    The SEATTLE BERTHA/DRILL/Fill SEA-FENCE BORE TUNNEL ATROCITY
    AND MERCERWEST projects must STOP. BERTHA MUST NOT PROCEED.

    I’ve earned my crazy stripes trying to clue your Seathler friends in.
    You’ll thank me later. Mr McGinn sir, would you mind offering your services as,
    apparently, we now feel most recommend a Governors Office stay, if you wish.
    We’ll try to behave for those 4 years, we promise, but don’t trust us.
    —–
    Infrastructure, ya can’t fake it anymore.
    Don’t go live somewhere else and fake it there.
    —–
    MercerEast is fine, not incidentally as expected. Do NOT add MercerWest.
    Extend Battery Street Tunnel North with current construction.
    Lower Belltown 2-stoplight arrangement worth another look.
    A complete dive under Elliott/Western with minimal ramps isn’t bad.
    Road descends beneath much larger park settings either way to the
    BOX Cut-Cover Tunnel/SOLID SEAWALL (because you might need it?)

    Least DARK concrete underpass sidewalks with traffic.
    Seawall Habitat options BETTER for salmonids/migration.
    Other streetcar alignments are not yet reviewed by,
    of, and for we the people. Whatever…
    you’ll thank me later…

    Neil Shea Reply:

    I bet no one knows what on earth you are talking about

  5. Lewellan
    Jun 2nd, 2014 at 13:01
    #5

    “Because it is a good place to begin to build, to test the speed,” Ray Lahood said but is wrong.
    Speed tests include slow curves. 1st Phase tests mostly at speed that could lead to jumping the track.
    Top speed now is 165mph. Why not go hybrid? Why not electrify Altamont/Sacramento?
    Sorry. Ray Lahood management is wasteful. Must be listening to Warren Buffet’s boys.

    Zorro Reply:

    I’d rather listen to Ray LaHood, than to KOCH trash.

  6. nslander
    Jun 2nd, 2014 at 15:23
    #6

    Any info as to the purported private investors? How about unfounded speculation?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Take a lot at Morris’s post, or go to http://www.Meridiam.com

  7. Larry Scheib
    Jun 3rd, 2014 at 06:42
    #7

    Along with the other reasons mentioned above, it seems to me that if the CHRS stands to acquire private funds it would be at the bookends and not the CV a la Xpress West line. Put the backbone in first and then spread the tentacles with private money.

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