State Senate Unveils Cap-and-Trade Funding Plan

Jun 8th, 2014 | Posted by

Last week the California State Senate joined Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to announce their proposal to use the more than $1 billion in annual cap-and-trade revenues. It’s a great plan that would finally deliver serious, stable revenues to transit and high speed rail in California.

Here’s the detailed plan:

• 25% for transit operations
• 20% for affordable housing centered in transit-oriented developments
• 15% for “low carbon transportation” – reducing CO2 emissions from autos and trucks
• 15% for high speed rail
• 13% for energy efficiency and renewables
• 7% for urban parks, urban forests, and wetland restoration
• 5% for other intercity rail

Cap-and-trade permit auctions raised about $1.3 billion in 2013. At that amount, HSR would get $195 million a year. Senator Darrell Steinberg’s office now projects the permit auctions will soon raise more – between $3 billion and $5 billion a year. At that rate, HSR’s share would be between $450 million and $750 million a year. That is probably enough to use as the backing for a revenue bond, or a federal RRIF loan, to bring in enough money to build the Initial Operating Segment from Merced to Los Angeles.

One issue is whether HSR is subject to the competitive ranking process. It would be extremely stupid to do that, given that HSR is a major piece of infrastructure whose funding cannot be uncertain from year to year. Stable and reliable funding is required if the state is to borrow against those revenues, as Governor Jerry Brown’s office has pointed out.

As Streetsblog LA points out, the Assembly version does require HSR to compete annually, which seems to be a non-starter. It does not specifically allocate revenue to HSR or intercity rail, whereas the Senate plan does. Notably, the Senate plan offers less than half the funding to HSR that Governor Brown’s plan did, as the chart below put together by Streetsblog LA shows:

The Senate’s plan is getting better reviews among transit advocates than is the Assembly plan. I would not be surprised if the Governor’s office felt the same way – and Governor Brown is not shy about vetoing the budget if he doesn’t like it, as he’s done so in the recent past.

The Assembly and Senate will spend the next week reconciling their budget plans, including the use of cap-and-trade funds. The state constitution requires the budget to be adopted by June 15, which is just over a week away. So this issue will be resolved quickly.

And if cap-and-trade funds are allocated to HSR, that in turn will go a very long way toward resolving Judge Michael Kenny’s ruling blocking further sale of Prop 1A bonds, as it answers the questions about where future funding comes from.

  1. Tony D.
    Jun 8th, 2014 at 20:08
    #1

    So does this increase the liklihood of Caltrain getting the funding needed for electrification/modernization?

    Observer Reply:

    I would say yes. I say go for the FRA loan. I hope this proposal has a positive outcome.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Thanks. Also agree about going after FRA loan. My God! Could this thing actually be built?…

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Increases, absolutely.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The money for transit is going to L.A. CalTrain might get a couple bucks for electrification, BART might get some dimes for Berrysea, but on the whole this cash is headed south.

    Joey Reply:

    If history is any indicator then BART will get the couple bucks money and CalTrain will get dimes…

    Tony D. Reply:

    I was referring to the Prop 1A funds already earmarked for Caltrain modernization (currently being held up by Judge Kenny); not necessarily more funding via cap and trade. But that would be nice… ;)

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The two are not related. The lawsuit is what has impounded using Prop 1a funds for CalTrain and I think ultimately will require a new funding source. Since I don’t think that happens, BART is then able to come in and strike a deal with CHSRA to Ring the Bay.

    Alan Reply:

    The only thing holding up the bonds as far as the Caltrain portion is concerned is the validation matter, where the judge didn’t think that the CHSRA put enough evidence on the record. If the ruling holds on appeal, then the Authority just corrects it as it did the EIR’s–hold another hearing, put the evidence in the record, and vote again. That would at least get the Caltrain funding released.

  2. JCC
    Jun 8th, 2014 at 20:25
    #2

    The Senate plan is much better than that put forth by the Assembly. The percentage given to Low Carbon Transportation is too high. The HSR is low carbon yet receives less. Not that I am against affordable housing near transportation, but I would think that there are people who would be very upset about this as a spending priority.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I also like the Senate plan best. The Governor’s plan is OK too.

    The Assembly plan seems pretty bad (too vague, for one thing; also looks too easy to divert into carbon-spewing stuff like fossil-fuel autos and asphalt roads, and too subject to yearly fights).

  3. Donk
    Jun 8th, 2014 at 23:11
    #3

    The senate plan sounds pretty reasonable and balanced to me. These are all logical things to spend Cap & Trade funds on. Jerry’s plan has a bit too much on HSR relative to transit and intercity rail.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    What the transit advocates like about the Senate plan is it dedicates a set amount to transit, whereas the Governor’s plan includes it among a list of other possibilities. My guess is the final plan will resemble the Senate’s, with some modifications.

  4. James McDonald
    Jun 8th, 2014 at 23:12
    #4

    Is there an exact date that can be announced when the Superior Court Judge will make his decision whether to unblock or continue blocking the bonds after reviewing the new plan?

  5. Donk
    Jun 8th, 2014 at 23:14
    #5

    I still don’t understand where this money is coming from. Is it basically a new tax on refineries and polluting industries? So does that mean that the cost of our gas and other products are going to go up? If so that’s ok with me – we should be paying the real cost of our activities.

    StevieB Reply:

    The money comes from auction and sale of California Greenhouse Gas Allowances to facilities to allow them to go over their Direct Allocations. The allowances are sold by facilities that have an excess. This is a simplification of the complex rules you can find at the following link.

    http://www.c2es.org/us-states-regions/action/california/cap-trade-regulation

    Observer Reply:

    Yes it is complex. Yes, we should finally begin paying for the real cost of our activities – it is about time. Just look above at how the funds will be allocated, the benefits are real; at least it is a start. Go for the FRA loan while it is possible, begin building, then when appropriate figure out how to fund the remainder. When people begin to see real progress, people will begin to better understand HSR and for that matter the other projects that Cap & Trade will fund, and support will grow even further; this is what critics really fear.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Pretty much, yes, it is a tax on nasty polluting industries. The deal is that companies which want to pollute extra have to buy these permits.

    If the fund has a shortage of funding, it’s good news. :-)

  6. morris brown
    Jun 9th, 2014 at 08:33
    #6

    Time for Legislature to Say No to Further High Speed Rail Funding

    http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2014/06/time-legislature-say-high-speed-rail-funding/

    Zorro Reply:

    That’s nothing beyond far right crap. Democrats will fund HSR, don’t like it? Leave, go to Texas or maybe join the KOCH’s in Oklahoma.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Anyone have a pacifier for Morris?…

    John Burrows Reply:

    “DERAIL”, the grassroots organization that Morris founded to try and stop high speed rail, reminds me a little of another grassroots organization that was designed to prevent the 49ers from moving to Santa Clara—The organization was called “Santa Clara Plays Fair” and not much has been heard from it lately, but in January 2012 it was making a last ditch effort to stop the Niner’s move to Santa Clara.

    From the SF 49ers news, Jan 25, 2012—-“A grass roots group sought to have the council rescind its decision to make the team a loan to help finance a $1billion, 68,500 seat stadium for the 49ers, or put the measure before voters.”

    “Stadium supporters argued that Santa Clara residents already voted when they approved Measure J, But critics said that the deal had changed significantly since then when the city estimated spending $79 million on the stadium. “I feel this will bankrupt the city”, said Valerie Pierce, a referendum supporter. “What we voted for in 2010 has changed to $850 million. That’s a big change.” But stadium backers described the stadium as a sound deal that would bring jobs and economic growth along with the football team”.

    I hope—My predictions don’t always pan out—That two and a half years from now construction on the high speed rail project will be well under way, and I regret, that unlike the 49ers stadium, construction on the Initial Operating Segment will still be a number of years from completion.

  7. J. Wong
    Jun 9th, 2014 at 09:55
    #7

    SF Chronicle’s Matier & Ross: Bump at pump in January to help speed bullet train project

    Donk Reply:

    Ok, so that’s one concrete example of the costs being passed along to consumers: an additional 12 cents/gallon for gas in CA starting on 1/1/15 for cap & trade. Same thing should happen on the federal level.

  8. Emmanuel
    Jun 9th, 2014 at 10:32
    #8

    I don’t see the point of affordable housing being funded by the state. They either only benefit private landlords or end up turning into projects. Split that part up and divert it to public transit so that you can reach ANY place in the city no matter where you live. That would make a lot more sense than wasting 20% of good money.

    Donk Reply:

    Well, once the Republicans get wind of this, they are going to have a conniption. Why don’t they also throw in some funds for Planned Parenthood, just to piss off the Republicans even more.

  9. StevieB
    Jun 9th, 2014 at 15:41
    #9

    Rep. Jeff Denham, chair of the rail subcommittee, will offer an amendment blocking any funds from going to California’s high-speed rail project as the House is set to begin considering the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill today.

    StevieB Reply:

    The White House listed Rep. Denham’s amendment in its reasons for opposing the bill.

    The Administration strongly objects to prohibiting the Surface Transportation Board from taking any action to approve subsequent phases of the California High Speed Rail project between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Administration believes passenger rail can play an important role in addressing transportation needs and opposes any attempts to limit state and local choices to enhance passenger rail.

    Zorro Reply:

    What a shame and the Repubs/baggers don’t have the votes for an override.

    Zorro Reply:

    If the bill gets to Obama’s desk, that is, too bad, the bill won’t go anywhere in the bills currently malformed and twisted shape.

    StevieB Reply:

    House votes to halt support for California high speed rail.

    The House of Representatives voted Tuesday night on a provision to kill federal funding for California high speed rail. Just like last year, the GOP-led House will likely get overruled by the Democrat-ruled Senate and the White House. The amendment — just as last year — is from Republican Congressman Jeff Denham, chairman of the House Transportation Committee’s Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Committee.

    Republicans know the amendment will not be signed into law.

    Last year, a similar House amendment restricting funding for California’s bullet train was stripped away when the House and Senate bills were merged. (Central Valley Republican David) Valadao acknowledges the new Denham amendment is likely to meet a similar fate. But he says at least negotiations with the Senate will temporarily slow down the project.

    Zorro Reply:

    Central Valley Republican David Valadao is up for reelection in a district that President Obama won, it would be nice if both Denham(CA-10) and Valadao(CA-21) were both to lose to Democrats, as both districts elected the President. From what I’ve read Democrats control 202 House seats and need only 16 more seats for a Majority, who knows? Maybe something good will happen in November 2014.

    joe Reply:

    Denham has been pushing for immigration reform. That would probably have him face a strident opponent in the GOP primary and risk losing but no longer. Since we have a open primary system with top two advancing, he is protected from an GOP primary attack for his efforts.

    Alan Reply:

    Probably a good thing for him. Reports out of Virginia this evening, where they do have party primaries, indicate that Eric Cantor has lost by double-digits to an even more extreme teabagger.

    Alan Reply:

    Evidently I was misinformed about Virginia’s primaries. KCBS was interviewing their Washington pundit, Mark Sandelow this morning. He indicated that Virginia has an open primary, and suggested that there was an active movement among VA Democrats to get out the vote, to unseat Cantor. From what he said, there were 10,000 more voters in Cantor’s district yesterday than there were for the primary 2 years ago, and Cantor lost by 7,500 votes.

    What this shows is that Denham could still be hurt by his stance on immigration reform. If a Democratic “get out the vote” campaign worked in Virginia (and the jury is still out there), it could possibly work against Denham. We can only hope.

  10. StevieB
    Jun 9th, 2014 at 15:56
    #10

    Los Ángeles Mayor Eric Garcetti endorses Steinberg, De Leon plan that would fund housing and transit like high-speed rail.

    StevieB Reply:

    The LA Times reporter SOUMYA KARLAMANGLA was made a neutral report unlike Ralph Vartabedian who reported on High Speed Rail lawsuits.

    Alan Reply:

    Maybe I’m mellowing a bit, but the article seemed a bit less biased than some of Vartabedian’s previous work. One point that’s made crystal-clear: Laurel and Hardy are making a pretty good living on the HSR Gravy Train, and they have no intention of ending their ride…

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ralph’s article was factual and to the point, in my opinion. A first for him perhaps?

    StevieB Reply:

    Streetsblog LA says, “Times Salivating at the Thought of More CAHSR Lawsuits” about Vartabedian’s article.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I am pretty surprised that Kevin DeLeon has mind-melded with Garcetti so well. I am also pretty shocked how fast the Senate has gone back to being the legislative body that does the counties and cities’ bidding.

    I don’t think transit or roads is how this funding should be spent. It’s going to decline over time and the need for transit is growing, not decreasing.

    StevieB Reply:

    The funding from auctions should increase as the Direct Allocation is programmed to decrease. The program is for a fixed time period but it is better to put the money to good use than to not use it because funding will someday end.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    You don’t handcuff a program with growing demand to a collapsing revenue source. Sound Transit has a better idea in adding a levy to the vehicle license fee for specific counties and regions.

  11. Alon Levy
    Jun 9th, 2014 at 16:04
    #11

    Since the affordable housing bit is basically a nicer way of saying TOD, 80% of the money is going to transportation, 13% is going to the electricity sector, and 7% is going to things that aren’t CO2 but either are good for the environment for other reasons (wetlands) or have the optics of environmentalism (parks). To be honest, given the importance of the electricity sector, it would have been better to flip the ratio: 80% for electricity, 20% for transportation.

    But there’s a deeper trust angle here. California did not pass a law that says “here’s how we’ll fund public transit.” It passed a law with the stated purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and is using it as a slush fund to fund things that are only partially related.

    If the state wanted to be focused on greenhouse gas emissions, it would not have any discretion on how to use the funds. There would be a grant process, run by experts and not by politicians, in which the sole criterion for funding is marginal GHG reduction per marginal dollar. The discretion would be solely on technical questions such as how to weight methane versus CO2, how much weight to give to longer-term GHG reduction, and how to evaluate project risk (of higher cost or lower GHG impact than projected).

    Conversely, if the state were up front about using the money for other purposes, it could say the proceeds go to general revenue, or even to specific departments, with the open acknowledgement that they may be used for general priorities independently of GHG reduction. The analogy would be an air pollution tax, earmarked toward health spending, that was used for Medicaid or for hospital construction and not just for treating diseases caused by air pollution. If the state said that openly while debating cap-and-trade, it would not be a problem: governments have the right to tax the population, including for specific spending priorities, as long as it is done democratically and transparently.

    Instead, the state said that cap-and-trade money would go toward GHG reduction, but is now spending the money based on general transportation priorities. It in other words lied to people in order to get a tax increase to go to a transportation slush fund.

    The slush fund is the important part here. If California distributed the money through a grant process, and then raised general taxes to spend them on the proposed transportation package, I would be all for it. If it didn’t raise taxes, but changed its budget to divert money to the package, then depending on what it cut (hopefully prisons), I would crow about the projects that could be built for this money and exhort transit supporters to support this. The point here is that the package is general state spending, and should compete for money with other state priorities. If other people successfully make the case that it’s more important to hold university tuition down, or hold taxes down, or spend more money on health care, or what not, then public transit spending must make its case that it’s a better use of the resources available within California. And if the state wants to protect long-term transit spending, then let it make the case for such protection on its own merit, openly, rather than hide it in a cap-and-trade bill. Who knows, maybe voters will be enamored of the idea of long-term protection but decide that it shouldn’t apply to transit but to other state priorities, such as education, or low taxes.

    tl;dr: I don’t like being lied to. And I sympathize with other people who are lied to, such as California voters who were promised GHG reduction and are instead getting better transit.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    dr: +10000000000000000000000000000

    joe Reply:

    Of course!!! Just let the experts decide – and fund with grants with the sole criterium C reduction!!

    That’s exactly **me**!!!

    Ph.D. in Carbon emissions field? Check.
    Carbon cycling scientist published and cited ? Check.
    CA resident? Check.
    Grant reviewer in C science & emissions? Check
    Grant recipient in C science & emissions? Check
    Experience organizing large interdisciplinary research projects? Check

    Just sign me up now.

    +10000000000000000000000000000

    Really. It’s a terrible idea and terrible criterium but simple.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I wouldn’t hire anyone who confuses bike races with standards for evaluation. Time for remedial Greek.

    joe Reply:

    Oh, Carbon Cycle. http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/degree/carbon.jsp

    Here’s the AB32 text which despite Alon’s insistence to the contrary, mandates multiple factors be considered. No one lied.

    The Law clearly does NOT prioritize C reductions as the sole criterion. The Law is quite clear that there are many other considerations. Also CA is on target for meeting AB32 goals by 2020. Also post 2020 additional reductions are expected.

    It is the intent of the Legislature that the State Air Resources Board design emissions reduction measures to meet the state wide emissions limits for greenhouse gases established pursuant to this division in a manner that minimizes costs and maximizes benefits for California’s economy, improves and modernizes California’s energy infrastructure and maintains electric system reliability, maximizes additional environmental and economic co-benefits for California, and complements the state’s efforts to improve air quality.

    The bill would require the state board to adopt a statewide greenhouse gasemissions limit equivalent to the state wide greenhouse gas emissions levels in 1990 to be achieved by 2020, as specified.

    More importantly, investing in the development of innovative and pioneering technologies will assist California in achieving the 2020 state wide limit on emissions of greenhouse gases established by this division and will provide an opportunity for the state to take a global economic and technological leadership role in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

    It is the intent of the Legislature that the state wide greenhouse gas emissions limit continue in existence and be used to maintain and continue reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases beyond 2020.

    http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/05-06/bill/asm/ab_0001-0050/ab_32_bill_20060927_chaptered.pdf

    http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/05-06/bill/asm/ab_0001-0050/ab_32_bill_20060927_chaptered.pdf

    Neville Snark Reply:

    ‘Criterium’ is Latin for the ‘criterion’ in Greek. It used to be used in English more frequently.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    oops … for ‘criterion’ in Greek.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Well said, this just seems like a grabbag of underfunded programs which are “green washable”.

    morris brown Reply:

    @Alon Levy who wrote:

    tl;dr: I don’t like being lied to. And I sympathize with other people who are lied to, such as California voters who were promised GHG reduction and are instead getting better transit.

    As a fierce opponent of the HSR project, I don’t like being lied to as well. The project as it has progressed, is a complete fraud on the Voters of California, who passed Prop 1A in 2008 as a ballot measure.

    Voters were told the project would cost $33 billion, not $68 billion as now projected (for a slimmed down, using non-dedicated tracks on the “bookends”) project. Supposed to be completed by 2020, now projected to still be being built in the 2030’s. Promised that project would be built “WITHOUT RAISING TAXES”. (just a few of the promises not kept).

    joe Reply:

    No one lied.

    Alon insists AB32 be implemented solely on C reduction which is in direct contradiction to the Law’s intent and language.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    First, GHG, not C.

    Second, the law’s goals do not say anything about transportation. They talk about general economic benefits (i.e. general budget) and about specifics with electricity generation (the part that’s getting the shaft in the divvying up of the proceeds), air pollution (in context, roughly proportional to CO2 emissions anyway), and energy infrastructure.

    joe Reply:

    No one has lied. Your formula to only using GHG reduction per dollar is not compliant with the Law.

    The law encourages solutions that promote new technology and would help CA’s economy and solutions that help improve air quality which is more than CO2 or GHG and includes particulate pollution.

    The overriding benefit is GHG reductions that transform CA’s economy to benefit from lowering emissions and foster economic growth designing and developing low emission technologies for the US and world market.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s all very nice, but it has nothing to do with transportation. It’s not mentioned in the bill. On the contrary, if developing low-emissions technology as industrial policy is the goal, then why build transit infrastructure (which is mostly imported technology and civil infrastructure) rather than put the majority of the money into creating an internal market for PV cells (which are domestic technology)? Not that it’s explicitly listed either, but if it is, then build what can become exportable technology, i.e. not transit.

    And if you reread what I said about air pollution, I did not say it’s just GHG; I said that nowadays, the air pollution generated by burning fossil fuels is roughly proportional to the CO2 generated by burning fossil fuels. In particular, it would not change the correct division of the funds, except to focus a bit more on freight transportation because of trucks and railroads, which as you may note is getting a very small share of the funding.

    Joe Reply:

    No no one lied. Your proposed solution is not compliant with the California Law.
    We are on track to meet 2020 targets.

    CA will build transit infrastructure because it is necessary and it help us meet reduction goals after 2020. We need transit. Again, ignoring economic well being if California is a luxury you choose. It’s ready sitting in Vancouver.

    Do something useful and stop excess BC logging or Alberta’s tar sands mining. We’ll take care if CA and meet out targets. Now you do something useful where you live.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I protested with Idle No More, asshole.

    joe Reply:

    tl;dr: I don’t like being lied to. And I sympathize with other people who are lied to, such as California voters who were promised GHG reduction and are instead getting better transit.

    CA is on track to meet the 2020 emission goal. The transit improvements are within the law and intend to allow the state’s economy to grow while achieving the 2020 targets.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Don’t change the subject all of a sudden. You asked me about Canadian issues. I replied. What have you done to fight California’s emissions? And don’t tell me “you support the state plan.” That’s easy. Every sycophant can support a plan proposed by the state. I’m talking about more than that. You oppose urban upzoning, you think decommissioning fossil fuel plants early is bad, I’m guessing you’ve never protested a pipeline, you react allergically to plans to tax driving.

    Alan Reply:

    Morris, the fact that you do not, or will not understand the difference between year-of-estimate and year-of-expenditure does not mean that anyone else lied. It means that you refuse to accept reality. Neither is it a lie to have to restate the costs when the federal government dicates a change in the manner of project accounting. Admit it–you wouldn’t accept HSR if it burst out of the ground for free, because it interferes with your alleged right as a PAMPA NIMBY to dictate how the rest of the state shall live.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Alon — the electricity sector is about to go 100% green on its own. Solar is cheaper than grid.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2014/03/25/grid-parity-why-electric-utilities-should-struggle-to-sleep-at-night/

    So the electricity sector doesn’t need any subsidies for conversion at this point. Time to focus on transportation, the second largest generator of CO2.

    Nathanael Reply:

    FWIW, I’ve been holding off on buying solar panels in NY because the grid was cheaper, but grid prices just went up — I will have to do it now since it’ll pay for itself. This is NY. You have more sun *and* more expensive grid power in California.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It was unusually cold last winter. We don’t have the transmission facilities for all the natural gas we were trying to use. And when it’s cold the chilly back bedroom’s space heater runs more. Which makes electricity rates go up because the electric company is competing for gas to run the generators. It’s not cold out anymore.

    The DoE/EIA says electricity costs 20.87 cents per kilowatt hour in New York, that includes the rates people pay to ConEd and LIPA. My bill is lower than that because I’m a National Greed customer. The DoE/EIA says electricity is 15.94 in California.

    http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_5_6_a

    … solar thermal is cheaper and more efficient. More bang for your buck.

    joe Reply:

    Well, our summer peak rate from PG&E is 0.40+ KWH (2PM-9PM).

    Off peak is 0.10 KWH (11 PM to 7 AM).

    Paul Druce Reply:

    PG&E just really screws you lot.

    Joe Reply:

    That’s the summer peak rate.

    It explains why homes are adding solar to roof tops.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The prices are still high and it’s summer now.

    Nathanael Reply:

    …to clarify here, I’m now paying about 12 cents per kwh here in NYSEG territory, lower than you.

    But levelized cost of solar here is about 11 cents per kwh. Solar is even more of a no-brainer for the rest of the state.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Aargh, I didn’t remember that right.

    12 cents production plus 5 cents transmission on the grid, versus roughly 15 cents for panels.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Aargh, I still didn’t remember it right. 12 to 15 cents for panels depending on situation. 12 cents production plus 5 cents transmission on the grid.

    Eric Reply:

    Electric cars are also making significant progress…

    joe Reply:

    … helped by State rebates, access to State carpool lanes and public charging stations.

    Eric Reply:

    Solar panels are also helped by large benefits.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What you’re missing is that the cost of fossil fuels is based on demand more than on extraction costs. In particular, cheaper solar power leading to mass solar power installation would drag down the cost of fossil fuels, absent other regulations or taxes that prevent fossil fuels from competing.

    Eric Reply:

    You could then tax fossil fuels to reduce their consumption, without destroying the economy in the process as would be the case now.

    Fossil fuel demand will be much more elastic when there is a cheap solar alternative.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The problem with a tax on carbon is that it does not create a Bitcoin-esque shadow currency subject to all sorts of arbitrage and volatility. In other words, it does not make Goldman Sachs money. Over time, cap and trade causes polluters to reduce production because nothing is really worth the marginal cost of exceeding the target.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Lets not forget the platoons of bureaucrats to administer it.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Investment in mining and drilling depends on steady and strong demand, especially now that there are no more “gushers” to be found.

    Low fossil fuel prices mean that the prices drop below the cost of production, at which point it’s unprofitable to mine & drill, and that’s the end of it.

    Just like the Deutsche Bank report predicted.

    We can accelerate this by making it illegal to operate extremely dirty fossil-fuel-burning operations — and we have. The mercury regulations alone have been wiping out most of the coal burning plants in the country.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    that and natural gas is really really cheap if you build the pipeline.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If regulations on mining start having teeth, fossil fuel prices aren’t going to stay low. A lot of the US electricity generation emission reduction is not a good baseline to work from: it comes from replacing coal with natural gas, which is a one-time reduction that is still going to leave the US emitting more GHG per capita than nearly anywhere else in the developed world emits today. According to PDF-p. 10 here, coal is not much more than a quarter of US GHG emissions. Natural gas is nearly even with coal, and fracking is not getting any harder, thanks to luminaries of environmental justice like Christy Clark. Oil is responsible for more US emissions than either natural gas or coal; what happens with its price in the long term depends on factors like whether environmental justice protesters can successfully harass tar sands mining companies.

    joe Reply:

    The President’s plan that he can enact with executive power, will cut GHG emissions from power plants to 30% of 2005 levels. That reduction includes natural gas.

    Cheap oil is going away. Oil prices have to remain high and stable for the tar sands to be economical to extract.

    Meanwhile the cost per KW of solar continues to drop and will be cheaper than coal before 2020.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Power plants are a waste of effort.
    For real impact, the Presidential Executive Order ought to have mandated HSR from Gilroy to Palo Alto and from Gilroy to Burbank.

    Joe Reply:

    How thoughtful.
    A RWC station would also suffice. I’ll offer to transfer at San Jose on to Caltrain if necessary.

    Any idea when Caltrans will start work on the express lane from 129/101 junction south of Gilroy to redwood city?

    See you at the garlic festival.

    Xoxo -joe

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Obama’s plan is to cut nationwide emissions by 13.5% from 2005 level by 2020; they’re already down 11% from 2005. This is basically climate denialism. Somewhat tellingly, the US is committed to the same 17% reduction as Canada (link), even though Harper has openly denied climate change and muzzled university scientists from talking to the public about climate change.

    What you’re saying about tar sands was true ten years ago. Today, extraction costs are only a few dollars per barrel. What we hope will happen to the solar industry if there are more subsidies already happened to tar sands: the growth in the market stimulated the development of technologies that made extraction cheaper and easier. Ten years ago, peak oil people could plausibly talk about low EROEIs and high extraction costs as significant barriers. Today, they can’t. The weak link in all of this is the cost of transporting oil from Alberta to consumers, but here there is no economic or geologic risk, only the political risk that protesters will make it impossible to build pipelines or ship oil by rail.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Um, AFAICT, the exploration-of-new-field extraction costs for tar sands are still extremely high.

    Are you perhaps comparing *new exploration* tar sands with *exploiting a field which they’ve already set up*, with lots of on-site equipment?

    The really important point is preventing the exploration from happening. In order to financially support exploration, the oil companies require *consistently high* fossil fuel prices. If the prices intermittently drop due to demand reduction (shifting to solar, etc.), *even if they go up again later*, it *prevents exploration*.

    This is the particular scenario set out in the Deutsche Bank report and I believe it’s happening.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Also, fracking for gas is basically unprofitable at the moment; the fracking operators make their money on land-flipping. (Fracking for oil — “liquids” — is still profitable, hence the Bakken.)

    If gas prices go up enough to make fracking for gas profitable, then burning gas for electricity becomes more expensive than putting up solar panels.

    Game over for gas frackers.

    The danger here is the fracking-for-land-flipping, and all we have to do is delay the land flippers until the oilmen they’re flipping the land *to* figure out that fracking’s a scam. This takes a lot longer than you’d think, unfortunately, ’cause most oilmen are dummies. :-(

    Nathanael Reply:

    I have to point this out again: in Colorado, a solar power plant proposal won an open-bid competition *against* new fossil fuel plants, a competition judged purely on a money basis, by a notoriously anti-solar utility company.

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/xcel-energy-buys-utility-scale-solar-for-less-than-natural-gas

    This is a big deal. It’s going to continue to happen.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Exploration doesn’t mean for tar sands what it means for conventional oil. The oil is there; they know where it is. The question is entirely one of extraction costs. Consistently high oil prices are still required, but only in the area of $40-50/bbl (last seen briefly at the peak of the financial crisis at the end of 2008), and there are new technologies under development that push this minimum down. There are cheaper replacements for SAGD under development. On-site equipment also benefits from economies of scale: the first mine in Athabasca was a lot harder to provision than the fiftieth.

    Thomas Friedman was right when he wrote that, while new technologies are reducing the cost of green technology as environmentalists hoped, others are reducing the cost of dirty technology.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    insulating my house would be a one time reduction. Replacing the oil burner with a ground sourced heat pump would be a one time reduction. Slapping solar panels on the roof is one time reduction. Converting a coal fired generating station to natural gas right now and reduces them until the plant is decommissioned. It gives us time to put solar panels and very expensive batteries in everybody’s house so we can use carbon free electricity. Not that my electricity is especially carbonlicious.
    ,

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, but these one-time reductions stack better. Insulating your house is a one-time reduction, which stacks with making your electricity greener. Making your electricity slightly greener does not stack with making your electricity even greener – if you replace coal with fracking, and then replace fracking with solar, you’ve achieved the same reductions as if you replaced coal with solar in the first place.

  12. Derek
    Jun 9th, 2014 at 20:31
    #12

    Why Japan’s high-speed trains are so good
    E.H., The Economist, 2014-06-09

    Trains are symbolic of modernity in Japan.

    Unlike in the U.S.A. where trains are a symbol of antiquity.

    The ability to build large developments alongside the high-speed railways is a boon to the Japanese bullet line…

    This makes a lot of sense to me. HSR raises real estate values around the stations, so this makes it easy to make a profit on the land surrounding the stations. Then build up that land densely to create demand for HSR and make it more profitable.

    Sadly, all the CHSRA seems to be interested in is building parking lots around the stations.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Perhaps if the Senate bill passes, the bundle of money for “affordable housing near transit stations” will help change the mind of the CHSRA about that.

    After all, parking lots will have to be paid for out of rail money, but housing will have funding from the cap-and-trade bill…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The article mentions that the TGV is heavily subsidized; that is incorrect. It also gets Japanese TOD completely wrong: it follows commuter railroads rather than Shinkansen – JR Central has not entered the real estate market, and JR East’s real estate developments are mostly not around Tokyo Station but around commuter stations like Shinjuku. The appropriate comparison is not Shinkansen vs. HS1, but the Tokyu network vs. Metro-land, or Shinjuku and Ikebukuro vs. railroad station hotels at London termini.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    The JR Central Towers at Nagoya Station are some of the tallest buildings in Japan!

    Robert S. Allen Reply:

    Parking or housing? A given area (structure or surface) can hold many more parked automobiles than dwelling units. Transit patrons can drive many times further than they can walk from home to a station. The number of dwelling units varies roughly as the square of the distance from home to station. Parking trumps housing as TOD (Transit-Oriented Development).

    Derek Reply:

    Why can’t transit patrons take a bus or a train or a bicycle or a taxi or carpool many times farther than they can walk from home to a station?

    ComradeFrana Reply:

    And that is why the most successful transit systems in the world both in terms of ridership and ridership density have thousands of parking spaces at every station. Oh wait, no they don’t.

    (sorry, couldn’t help myself)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Vancouver, with a third the population of the Bay Area, has more ridership on SkyTrain than the Bay Area has on BART. More than 100% of the difference is due to the fact that Vancouver developed the areas around the Expo Line stations instead of building parking lots. The station radius of Metrotown by bus is of course much less than the radius of any BART parking lot by car, measured in kilometers. It’s plausible that it’s even smaller measured in population; Metrotown is very dense, but the drop-off in density outside the immediate station area is steep, so the half-hour radius of a BART station with good freeway is probably much higher.

    Now reflect on the fact that Metrotown has the same ridership as Powell Street, in an area that was low-density suburbia thirty years ago. One of the census tracts adjacent to the station has a transit mode share of 50% for residents, the highest in Metro Vancouver. And Metrotown also draws commuters working at its malls and office towers, so there are fare-paying customers who don’t crowd the line at the entrance to Downtown. None of the SF suburbs matches that – in SF, the areas that are transit-oriented today were dense urban neighborhoods in the early 20th century already.

    Derek Reply:

    “We have recognized as a city that we have to grow differently — we have to grow up, not out — and the places we start doing that is around transit stations,” [a Calgary councilman] said. “The fact that we’ve surrounded a transit station, which is the ultimate in walkable, with a sea of parking just doesn’t make sense any more.”

  13. Reality Check
    Jun 10th, 2014 at 02:19
    #13

    Texas Central sees 90-minute Dallas-Houston commute at 205 mph

    A Texas company hopes to create a high-speed rail corridor to move passengers at speeds that would leave Amtrak’s Acela in the dust — all with private funds.

    Texas Central Railway, a private company working with Japan Railway Co., wants to build a closed high-speed rail corridor served by a bullet train that would get people from Dallas to Houston — the Lone Star State’s two biggest cities — in 90 minutes. The company is eyeing a 2021 date for starting service, and though the exact route isn’t yet pinned down, the company is hoping the rail line will run from downtown to downtown.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    If JR Central was smart it would call up WSDOT and do this for Seattle to Portland. Dallas and Houston are such a pipe dream it’s not even funny.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Not so Ted. Environmental regulations in Texas are similar to those in China. They can get it built if they want it.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    If environmental laws determined what got built, the HSR line from Orlando to Tampa would be done already.

    It’s true, the Japanese seem to think America is a developing country where you throw around cash upfront and get favorable long term deals. Anyone who is truly interested in this topic need only refer back to Rick Perry’s failed Trans Texas Corridor project to see why this won’t work.

    But also what people don’t realize is that Dallas and Houston are rivals and do not want to help each other out. They represent as much of a clash as SF and LA. But if you start in the middle, there are no intermediate destinations to link up with. It’s just angry, paranoid Easy Texas towns that will resist the project.

    First things first, Austin needs to be connected to Houston. Then figure out how to incorporate Dallas and San Antonio.

    EJ Reply:

    Now, I’m not a expert on Texas, but the air passenger volume between Dallas and Houston is nearly half that of SF-LA, and this project is much cheaper and and easier to build than our system in CA. If Dallas-Houston in 90 minutes isn’t a viable project, I don’t hold out much hope for CAHSR.

    It’s hard to compare it to TTC; I think – that was a gigantic project where HSR was only a small part – it also involved hundreds of miles of freeways, power lines, pipelines, freight railroads, etc.

    joe Reply:

    The initial costs were low because it was city edge to city edge along a highway and the initial business plan (How they discussed a for profit success) was to also own and develop the land around the stations and operate station facilities at a profit.

    Downtown to downtown is now the plan which gains support but adds cost and complicates station development and revenue. I bet the private company seeks help ($) from the State to build into the city centers.

    Government help might complicate the business plan if help comes with Buy American restrictions. They are partnering with Japanese HSR manufacturers.

    EJ Reply:

    Technically I believe they’re partnering with US-Japan HSR, which is a US venture from JR central. They’re affiliated with companies like Nippon Sharyo and Hitachi, both of which have manufactured N700 trains in Japan and have established US railcar manufacturing operations. Not saying Buy American wouldn’t increase the cost, but doesn’t seem like their would be major technical complications because of it.

    joe Reply:

    If they would need to meet Buy US criteria, CAHSRA and Xpresswest (also Sen Reid) claim it’s not possible today. That is supposed to a major barrier to the NV system – buy american requirements.

    The complexity of making HSR equipment here and assured reliability of the product would be a barrier or large commitment on their partners – not sure it’s possible in the timeline they mention. The US facilities just don’t do this kind of manufacturer.

    Anyway I’m just speculating. If they need US help, it comes at a price.

    And building in urban areas will be costly – probably follow ROW as much as possible but once they hit urban areas, it gets expensive which is why their low costs had them out of town.

    Something to watch.

    EJ Reply:

    And that part of Texas is fairly flat. If their costs per mile are anything like CAHSR, they’re doing it wrong.

    joe Reply:

    From link below CA comes out to about 45m euros per KM.

    TX line would fit in somewhere below CA.

    Spain Is the World’s Cheapest High-Speed Rail Builder
    When it comes to cheap subway tunneling, Spain is the world’s leader, rivaled in the developed world only by Italy and South Korea.

    And so it goes, it turns out, with high-speed rail. Ranging from 6 million euros per kilometer (for the Madrid-Seville line, opened in 1992) to nearly 19 million euros (for the Madrid-Valladolid one), nobody builds a kilometer of high-speed rail at a lower cost than Spain, a report by the state-owned infrastructure manager ADIF found.

    Elsewhere, construction costs surpass 20 million euros per kilometer (one exception: France’s Atlantique high-speed line). Germany’s high-speed railway between Frankfurt and Cologne set them back 33 million euros a kilometer, whereas the per-kilometer cost of Italian high-speed rail surpassed 44 million euros. In Japan, lines generally cost between 35 million and 45 million euros per kilometer to build.
    http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/spain-high-speed-train-toronto-commuter-new-york-elevators

    EJ Reply:

    Worth noting, too, that Dallas, Houston, and Fort Worth mayors have all endorsed the idea.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Arguably, the region of the country most prepared for HSR is the Northeast Corridor. The West because of land use patterns that are more urbanized is the second best. Texas is a Southern State that is less compatible with HSR. I would think we get a France style full HSR on the coasts and inland a more German mixed system. This I would be real shocked if JR Central succeeds in those state with a more French type product.

    Hence, Washington should not be overlooked.

    EJ Reply:

    “Southern” isn’t in itself really a reason why a state would be incompatible with HSR. Are you saying it’s a political issue?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    At the core you are talking about land use patterns. The South is a rural land pattern designed for cash crops: big farms but little unusable land anchored by rivers. HSR thrives in urban land patterns because there is a greater penalty from sprawl there. Low density growth is much less problematic in the Midwest or South than in the West or East.

    And water plays a big role too: empty desert without water won’t be used for anything except roads and train tracks anyway. In the South and Midwest, every scrap of land has some usufructory value.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    A good rule of thumb is that if your theory for why the South couldn’t have HSR would also apply to France, you should toss the theory.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    No…France is the epitome of the urban land use pattern. They are the architects of the Pan European HSR network.

    The South is more like Germany but obviously as a cash crop economy it has larger estates. The point is that the US really is like Europe in that the regions share more differences than similarities. The success of HSR in France and Spain doesn’t mean it will work in Germany or Britain nor will success in California and the East Coast ensure it works in the heartland.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The population density in Texas is almost the same as in Washington State. In nice round numbers half the people in the state live in metro Houston or metro Dallas.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ted, I don’t think you understood what you just said in the last two comments. You first said the South is not urban because there is no penalty for sprawl there as there is in the Northeast and California because the land has agricultural value and (presumably?) there are no geographic barriers to sprawl. And then you said France epitomizes urban land use pattern. Why? French land, like Eastern US land, has high agricultural productivity, and few natural barriers to sprawl. The background population density in France is marginally higher than in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

    There’s basically no reason ever to lump the UK and Germany together in contrast with France and Spain in terms of economic geography. Presence of HSR, sure – the UK and Germany have fast legacy intercity trains, Spain and France have full-fat HSR. But the UK is as capital-centric as France, and has a more linear population distribution. And Germany actually has a large HSR network, combining new lines with upgraded legacy lines at higher speeds than the West and East Coast Main Lines.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Alon, you are getting hung up on the fact that until very recently Europeans came to America to get free land and this wealth. What happened was that as the population moved west, te land became more and more unsuitable for European agriculture and required more infrastructure to support it. This is consistent with the growth of urbanization.

    Europe is similar in that countries that were part of the Roman Empire also had lare urban patterns and the rest had smaller, more decentralized settlement patterns. The French have used HSR as their tool of Empire and for countries with big capitals and more rigid land use, it is highly compatible.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Until very recently, even in the US, people lived on farms or in the villages supporting the farms.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ted, please stop. You’re making these grand historical statements with nothing to back them. Is Italy more centralized than Germany? No. More to the point, England’s settlement pattern today has nothing to do with Roman England’s. Krugman linked to a study a few months ago that even makes this point, in comparison with France: urban civilization in England (but not in France) collapsed completely with the fall of the Roman Empire, so English (but not French) medieval cities formed based on optimal locations based on medieval technology, which unlike Roman technology used water transportation rather than roads. Of course Birmingham and Manchester both grew based on 18th-century access to resources rather than any earlier technology…

    Re US regions, I’m not specifically accusing you of this, but there’s this brand of pop longue durée writing in the US about Deep Historical Causes that are detached from current political issues. If you write about how Southern culture is influenced by Scottish settlement as opposed to the English puritan settlement of New England, people will think you’re interesting. If you write about how Southern culture is influenced by slavery and segregation, people will think you’re shrill.

    But certain things are a lot shorter-term than this pop history, and HSR infrastructure is very recent. The reason Britain doesn’t have HSR isn’t anything about its settlement pattern, which is in fact the most conducive to HSR of any European country; it’s about its lack of postwar investment into railroads, its 1970s-and-onward choice of incremental upgrades rather than new lines, and its current extreme construction costs. The reason the US doesn’t have HSR is not about settlement patterns, but again the exact same three causes for the NEC, and those but with the second cause replaced by “choice of not investing at all in passenger rail” elsewhere.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Sometimes, Alon, you forget that everywhere here is expressing an opinion that is base on perspective. Just because you aren’t as familiar with the US as you are with Europe is no reason to be dismissive. HSR in part hasn’t happened in the is because foreign firms don’t really understand transportation here and take the same tactic they would with a developing country.

    You need to step back and recognize that political fragmentation always results in political diversity. If you can accept that, move on and don’t trouble yourself with details.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ted, I know that Americans are taught from childbirth to be proud of their ignorance of the rest of the world, but not everyone is like you guys. Just like some of us come from countries where you can visit without being fingerprinted, and some of us have never offensively used nuclear weapons in a war, some of us actually have lived in multiple countries and learned about their politics.

    In this particular case, you could talk about special things about American history and how the US doesn’t support HSR. You could even talk about political fragmentation (which somehow didn’t prevent the Interstates) and pretend Germany isn’t fragmented.

    In general, people tend to ascribe their national properties to every cross-national comparison, no matter how inappropriate it is: for example, Koreans believe that South Korea is highly corrupt, so they think that its rail construction is extravagant and needlessly expensive, where in reality their construction costs are among the cheapest in the world (link).

    The real reasons are a lot more prosaic. The US underinvested in rail from about 1910 well into the postwar era, so it was left with nothing that could form the basis for investment in strong corridors, with the exception of the NEC. Once it did start investing, it was left with an outdated regulatory regime, which made everything harder and more expensive. Now that it’s slowly discarding the outdated regulations, the costs are excessive, and half the political system wouldn’t want it even if it were highly cost-effective. California is moving on this a bit earlier since it’s a single state with a persistent center-left majority, but has especially egregious costs because of the mountains and so is having difficulties.

    jonathan Reply:

    Ted, I know that Americans are taught from childbirth to be proud of their ignorance of the rest of the world, but not everyone is like you guys. [….]

    Alon, that’s all actually pretty funny, given your abysmal ignorance and outright lies about other nations and cultures.

    jonathan Reply:

    California is moving on this a bit earlier since it’s a single state with a persistent center-left majority, but has especially egregious costs because of the mountains and so is having difficulties.

    Especially egregious because of mountains? Where are the mountains on the Peninsula?
    You don’t think the CalMod [sic] costs are especially egregious? Compared to, oh, let’s say Auckland?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Sadly, my laptop is in the shop. I have to rely on my iPhone to compose long and coherent posts. You can guess how successful I am in this regard. But I am still taken aback that Alon would not get that it’s no coincidence the transportation of the 19th century makes a comeback as the US starts to look like the 19th century politically.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Jonathan, the biggest problem is not the Peninsula but the mountain crossings, which would be expensive anywhere.

    As you know.

    Just as you know exactly how awful Key and Abbott are. Not sure about Key, but Abbott is probably a worse human being than Harper.

    And Ted, you have my heartfelt condolences for needing to use an iPhone. But re 19th century, are the politics of France, Japan, South Korea, Germany, etc. anything like the politics of 19th-century America?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Alon, individually European countries don’t bear such a resemblance to the US in the 19th century. But collectively, the EU keeps forging closer ties while the US keeps devolving at the moment. Europe also has sectional quirks like the US but population there has less to do with economic activities in a European country. In America, where a state is located geographically pretty much defines everything about it, regardless of what policymakers try to do.

    Higher federal taxes, a fixed exchange rate, and defense spending did a lot to smooth things out, but all of those have fallen out of favor. HSR can’t undo all that on its own.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    And they’re a pipe dream because…?

    Michael Reply:

    Houston is over 2 million residents and Dallas is about 1.2m. Portland and Seattle are both a bit over 600k, with Seattle the larger. Portland and Seattle are closer, about 170 miles compared to about 240. But there’s a lot more “open space” and easy geography in Texas than Washington, and straight shots into the center of each city, while getting from Vancouver, WA to central Portland, either east or west bank, will be pretty complicated and expensive.

    If a private company is looking to invest, more customers are there for a Texas project with fewer engineering and environmental challenges.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Just like they let people from the suburbs use the airport they’ll be letting people from the suburbs use the train station

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Also, Houston doesn’t have a zoning code, so as long as they can build enough parking (or – dare I say? – get an exemption), the sky is the limit for TOD there.

  14. BMF of San Diego
    Jun 10th, 2014 at 07:44
    #14

    Does anyone know what guarantees there are that funding will not be “borrowed” to fill State budget funding gaps? And then forgiven later?

    I would like to see ironclad guarantees. No swapping.

    As we have seen on the past, the State has diverted funds away from Transit to fill holes elsewhere. And, there have been many talks here about that in the past.

    Zorro Reply:

    There is a budget surplus, cause bonds and debt are being paid down thanks to Prop 30, so why would anyone borrow? Only Repubs/baggers would borrow and they ain’t in power anymore.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    There is a budget surplus, cause bonds and debt are being paid down thanks to Prop 30, so why would anyone borrow? Only Repubs/baggers would borrow and they ain’t in power anymore.

    Because clearly economic cycles are not a thing and there are no shortfalls ever in the state budget.

    Zorro Reply:

    That’s why the state has a Rainy Day fund, to try and prevent shortfalls.

    flowmotion Reply:

    After 20 years of austerity with one big dot-com exception, I’ll remain skeptical for a while.

    joe Reply:

    That we have a surplus even after the national GDP shrank last quarter and we’re in a massive drought.
    Not bad.

    BMF of San Diego Reply:

    Obviously, Yes, today the State is fine. How about 5 or 10 years from now?

  15. Keith Saggers
    Jun 10th, 2014 at 12:31
    #15

    How can CHSRA increase the number of tracks (currently two) between Bayshore and 16th St.?

    Joey Reply:

    Why should they need to? The combined number of trains CalTrain and HSR will be running won’t exceed the capacity of a two track line, and there’s only one intermediate stop (two if Oakdale is added). There’s room for a second set of tracks (and tunnels) immediately west of the existing ones, and in fact one of the tunnels already exists, but that’s invariably going to be expensive, especially when you consider the need to navigate the 280 pylons around the northernmost tunnel.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    By digging a hole and throwing money into it.

    The same way America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals increase the number of anything (except passengers.)

    Robert S. Allen Reply:

    No need for HSR under the Bay. BART runs about every 4 minutes between San Francisco’s Embarcadero and BART’s crossing over UP in Oakland, where there really should be a transfer station.

    Robert S. Allen Reply:

    Running time is about 6 minutes.

    Joe Reply:

    Not enough parking at those stations.

    We need to build more parking lots in SF if we want TOD.

    Derek Reply:

    So that people living in SF can commute to Oakland?

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Robert – why has BART never shown an interest in building this transfer station you keep speaking of? Is there any BART document proposing or analyzing this option?

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    That is also one of the most crowded points on BART. So this transfer station would be dumping HSR customers on standing room only BART trains at peak hours for people to reach San Francisco, the major destination of HSR riders.

    Mr. Allen is a former BART Director, 1974-1988, retired Southern Pacific employee/executive. He was actually one of the more reasonable BART Directors and actually rode BART. Any time I attended a BART Board meeting back in those days, I would see Mr. Allen on BART. He has got to be 75-80 years old now. He has posted similar comments numerous times about HSR connecting to BART in San Jose or Fremont, no HSR up the peninsula, peninsula without grade separations is too dangerous, don’t squander HSR money on Caltrain electrification/improvements, etc.

    As for “squandering” HSR money on Caltrain, he knows that if Caltrain were electrified and grade separated and run the way it should be, that would end all hope of the BART manifest destiny of “ringing-the-bay” with BART. It would also expose the shortcomings of BART (astronomical cost, lack of express service, limited capacity per train car, lack of a monthly pass, etc.) People would realize that there is something better than BART at a fraction of the cost.

    During his tenure as A BART Director there was ultra strong sentiment against Caltrain, not so much from Allen though. The anti-Caltrain mind-set was such that Caltrain doesn’t carry anybody and will never carry any ridership over 15,000, maybe 20,000 at the most, Caltrain improvements will suck away all transit monies for decades to come. There were heated debates over extending Caltrain to downtown SF vs. extending BART to SFO vs. east bay BART extensions. MTC was in the middle of all this garbage too. Some of this anti-Caltrain attitude still exists today.

    Remember, Southern Pacific tried for years to abandon the peninsula train service, so maybe it’s inherent in Mr. Allen’s blood. Maybe he is becoming senile in his old age.

    Eric Reply:

    1. HSR traffic volumes are not so high compared to BART, and standing for 6 minutes is not so bad.

    2. BART costs are high, but are they higher than comparable systems like WMATA? I don’t think so.

    3. Caltrain electrification is clearly justified on its own merits, but blending or four-tracking HSR in the same corridor would be difficult and/or expensive, and what exactly is the advantage over using a separate East Bay corridor, besides direct service to downtown SF?

    4. Given the snobbishness of San Franciscans and their resistance to upzoning, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have the focus of the Bay Area gradually shift to Oakland (which is already the focus of the BART system, perhaps that’s why Allen is so vocal about this).

    Eric Reply:

    1a. Why is BART headway 4 minutes? Surely with competent signaling and travel demand, it could be 2 minutes.

    2a. Perhaps Caltrain improvements will also have horrible cost overruns like all modern US transit projects, and we expect otherwise only because we don’t yet have experience with Caltrain improvements.

    Joey Reply:

    IIRC BART runs 23 tph peak through the Transbay Tube, which corresponds to a minimum headway of 157 seconds. At this point I think they’re limited by how quickly they can load and unload with only two doors per car and frequent equipment failures. The new fleet will go a long way toward solving these problems of course, but the new fleet isn’t going to be delivered a for a few years and it was needed a decade ago, much more than projects like SFO and Dublin/Pleasanton and Pittsburg/Bay Point.

    I could be wrong though – I have heard some claim that steep grades in the vicinity of Balboa Park are more of an issue for minimum headways, but this can be alleviated by short-turning trains at Montgomery and 24th St.

    Michael Reply:

    At the peak it’s past 4 min. They run four lines through San Francisco with 15 min headways, but add one or two additional trains on the Pitt/BP line between trains on other lines. All those trains are packed, standing room only. The peak load is obviously between SF and Oakland, so a stop between Embarcadero and West Oakland would have trains open doors in the peak direction to trains with no room for additional passengers.

    Embarcadero’s platforms at the peak are crowded to packed conditions.

    Joey Reply:

    It’s more than one or two. When I last looked at the schedules there was a 1 hour period with 11 inbound Pittsburgh/Bay Point trains. The headway can be as small as 6 minutes.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    1. I don’t think you realize how much it kills ridership to tell intercity travelers to take that extra transfer to the SF CBD.

    2. Probably, but it’s unclear. The projected cost per km of a Livermore extension in the I-580 median is about $150 million; the DC Silver Line is a little more than that, but is somewhat more complex, including substantial off-freeway segments and a short tunnel in Tysons Corner.

    3. It is easier to blend HSR service on the Caltrain line than on the existing ROWs in the East Bay.

    4. Moving the CBD of a mature metro area is incredibly hard. It’s been done before, but it’s very uncommon, and the examples I can think of (Part-Dieu, maybe possibly La Defense) involve much tighter limits on construction in the old city center than in San Francisco.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The example I can think of for moving the CBD of a mature metro area is New York City. It didn’t happen deliberately, but the CBD relocated from Downtown Manhattan to Midtown Manhattan during the early 20th century. That move isn’t very far.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    DC’s CBD epicenter has been moving eastward, towards Union Station and beyond, I’m guessing largely because of the height cap, but perhaps also as a result of the gentrification of Near Northeast (H Street, etc.) and the increasingly luxury of Capitol Hill/Eastern Market/etc.. My sense is that Paris’s primary business district is still the old center, but I’m not sure about that. Surely the highest rents are in central Paris (although by that measure, LA’s CBD is Malibu and Santa Monica), but I’m not sure how much total office space there is. There’s 3.5 million square meters in La Défense – anyone know how much in central Paris?

    CBDs move gradually because of market forces all the time – downtown up to 14th/23rd St. and then finally all the way up to the 50s in Manhattan is a good example, as is Philly’s gradual westward shift. In fact right now the highest rents in the region are actually in University City, though the amount of office space there is dwarfed by Center City proper).

    (And didn’t Osaka’s move a bit towards Shin-Osaka after the Tokaido Shinkansen opened?)

    But the natural movement in San Francisco is actually in the opposite direction from Oakland – it’s southward towards SoMa, and more broadly, to the peninsula (the region’s highest rents are on the Sand Hill Road-University Ave. axis, emanating from the Palo Alto Caltrain stop towards Stanford in one direction and Facebook in the other). It’ll be a while before new construction pencils out in downtown Oakland. If they let the waterfront, transit-disoriented (if only there were some sort of existing East Bay waterfront line that could be repurposed for rapid transit!) part of Berkeley and Emeryville grow, that would probably be the first place that sees enough demand for new urban (unsubsidized; throw in gov’t money and you could get office space to pencil out in the South Bronx if you tried hard enough) office space in the East Bay.

    But Prop M aside, San Francisco doesn’t seem as bad about permitting new office space as it is about permitting new resi space. (Though even here its aversion to growth is overstated – no, it hasn’t kept up with the national population growth rate or housing construction rate when it comes to housing, nevermind the excess demand from SF’s sheer growth in desirability over the past few decades, but it’s doing a lot better than NYC in pure percentage terms.) I don’t see the region moving to Oakland any time soon, unless Oakland decides to pull a Houston and get rid of its zoning code.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Mr. Allen – Jeff has a good point, you’d be dumping a large new flow of riders right at the existing choke point of the entire BART system. You’d probably need a 2nd tube. So your idea may be a bit ‘half baked’, again it seems BART itself failed to actively consider it.

    Alon is also right that adding a mandatory transfer will lose a lot of riders.

    Thank you for your earlier work on BART but it may not be the only solution to every transportation problem.

  16. joe
    Jun 10th, 2014 at 19:52
    #16

    From Today’s mercury news. Looks like HSR is going to get at most 15% with 5% for other rail projects.

    Brown seems to agree to spend just under half for affordable transit oriented housing as lon as he gets his HSR kickstart. Housing doesn’t hurt HSR if it’s focused on rail stations and light rail as reported (maybe a conclusion of the reporter). Sure could boost ridership to have more and more people living near transit systems as the HSR project goes forward.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_25938599/state-budget-deadline-looms-nasty-tone-previous-years

    Brown and Democratic legislative leaders have also nailed down a framework for spending the cap-and-trade proceeds now collected annually from the state’s worst polluters in the fight against greenhouse gases and climate change.

    The governor wanted to allocate a third of the fees — roughly $850 million in the next fiscal year — to construction of the bullet train. But that figure may drop to as low as 15 percent, with another 5 percent of proceeds spent on intercity rail projects, said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who chairs the Senate’s budget and fiscal review committee.

    Moving forward, Brown has reportedly agreed to Senate Democrats’ pitch to spend a little less than half of the cap-and-trade money generated each year on affordable housing constructed near “green” transit, such as trains and light-rail lines.

    “The governor was clear that he wanted some cap-and-trade money spent on high-speed rail, but his comments on what to do with the rest of the money were much more brief,” Leno said. “That’s where the Senate’s plan comes into play.”

    Zorro Reply:

    Interesting, June 15th is this Sunday.

    Suddenly robust state finances and voter-approved measures that made it possible to pass a budget with a simple majority and dock lawmakers’ pay if they don’t meet the June 15 deadline to pass a budget are responsible for much of the civility. But this year’s discussions also showed that Brown and the Democratic-controlled Legislature that some had predicted would want to spend wildly are pretty much on the same page.

    “They have a lot of differences, but at the end of the day, the differences are not so great that they can’t find a way to compromise and get the budget done on time,” said Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and top aide to former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.

    Previously, legislative leaders had already struck deals with the Brown administration on some key issues, including a new “rainy day fund” and a plan to fund teacher pensions. And they’re expected to spend the rest of the week ironing out several other deals ahead of the midnight Sunday deadline.

  17. morris brown
    Jun 11th, 2014 at 06:37
    #17

    House votes against California high speed rail

    http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2014/06/11/3692255/house-votes-against-california.html

    “I think it’s unfortunate, because it continues the politicization of transportation policy,” Dan Richard, board chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said of the House provisions in an interview Tuesday.

    Richard, while sighing that “we go through this every year with these guys,” also emphasized that killing the California high-speed rail program would wipe out contracts that include a number serving veterans. According to the rail authority, 71 companies working on the rail project have offices in the Central Valley; 47 of these are in the Fresno and Clovis area.

    Statewide, the rail authority says 8,589 California-based employees were working on the project as of April.

    I find it hard to believe Richard’s claim, that 8589 persons are working on the project right now, and they haven’t even turned a shovel of dirt.

    Alan Reply:

    You find it hard to believe that the earth is round and the sun comes up in the east, so why should we be surprised that you find this hard to believe?

    Obviously, you have better sources that the chairman of the Authority. Cite them.

    morris brown Reply:

    If indeed 8589 job are currently being paid for by the Authority, then assuming $50,000 to $100,000 is the cost per job, the expenditure for these jobs, right now, when real construction has not started would be:

    between $430 million and $860 million per year to pay for these jobs. That doesn’t any sense. Just think 3 or 4 times this amount of funding needed when real construction begins on this 29 mile stretch of the project.

    Joe Reply:

    These are design build contracts. There are engineers designing the system and laborers in the field sampeling and measuring to verify that the designs are appropriate.

    Larry Scheib Reply:

    CRC development/planning cost was 200 million for a 3.3 billion project. CRC was only a 3/4 mile bridge. For a 68 billion project that would equate to about 4.1 billion for pre-construction cost. HSR has to plan around fault lines, HSR specific grades and a whole lot of environmental work.

    Alan Reply:

    There are undoubtedly also people *working on the project* (Richards’ words) who are employed by a contractor, PG&E, etc., whose duties on the HSR project are just a part of their other duties. In other words, the HSR authority is not responsible for the entire salary/benefits package for all 8500 jobs, but the work being done is still essential.

    Morris simply is unable to grasp the idea that this is a massive undertaking.

    Alan Reply:

    So in other words, you have no proof. You’re just pulling numbers out of your ass.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Someone has to tell them where to dig the holes. Someone has to hire the people to dig the holes. Someone has to arrange for the concrete to fill the holes once they are dug.

    Alan Reply:

    And someone has to move the power lines, sewers and so on that are in the way of the holes. Someone has to write and administer the contracts between all of the agencies and companies involved. Someone has to administer the payroll and make sure the contractors and vendors get paid on time. And someone has to go to court and defend the frivolous lawsuits from the a-holes who still don’t understand that they lost the election.

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