Is the CHSRA Really Considering the San Gabriel Tunnel?

Aug 24th, 2014 | Posted by

According to Dan Weikel at the Los Angeles Times, the California High Speed Rail Authority is giving serious consideration to LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s proposal to put the bullet train tracks in a tunnel under the San Gabriel Mountains. The thing is, I can’t tell if the CHSRA is just humoring Antonovich or whether they might actually do it:

“We ought to take a serious look at this,” said Jeff Morales, the authority’s chief executive. “I continually push our team to look at ideas and to solicit and listen to what we get from the outside. We are sensitive to community input, and we’ve heard the concerns of Acton, Agua Dulce and Santa Clarita. That matters.”

Antonovich first approached the authority with his idea several years ago, but board members and the chief executive at the time were reluctant to work with the range of federal environmental agencies that would have to be involved in planning and approving a route through a national forest. With the arrival of Morales and board Chairman Dan Richard, the agency has been more receptive.

“We’ve had some discussions and talked to the supervisor,” Morales said. “I’m impressed by his focus to bring improvements to that part of the county and state. He’s pushed hard and we’ve listened.”

Morales and Richard are careful to not say they plan to endorse the proposal, but neither are they simply dismissing it:

Although none of the proposals have been fully vetted, Morales said there could be advantages to Antonovich’s plan, including lower construction costs and shorter travel times. The trip would take an estimated 15 minutes, 7 to 10 minutes less than the highway routes.

In addition, both Morales and the supervisor said there would be substantial benefits from reducing the project’s effects on communities along the 14 Freeway, where the population has grown at least 24% in the last decade.

Nowhere in the article are the costs or risks of a tunnel discussed, which I find surprising given that the LA Times usually does not miss a chance to criticize the project. I don’t mind it, but I have to believe that, rightly or wrongly, cost is going to be the primary factor in deciding whether this tunnel moves ahead.

Personally I’m all for giving this tunnel proposal serious, genuine consideration. I dislike the possibility of bypassing Santa Clarita and its population. The tunnels are risky, especially building one that long. But there are potential benefits to consider as well, and a thorough vetting is certainly warranted.

What isn’t helpful are clearly absurd complaints like those from Kathryn Phillips, who did indeed take this opportunity to slam HSR:

“The environmental impacts would be enormous,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, which generally supports the high-speed rail project. “Going through a national forest isn’t going to sit well with my members.”

First off, this is inaccurate, Phillips generally opposes the high speed rail project. But what environmental impacts exactly would result from a tunnel deep below the forest? It would preserve more trees than the alternative. It wouldn’t cross migration corridors or displace habitat. And most importantly, it helps reduce CO2 emissions (as would a Highway 14 route), which should be the Sierra Club California’s top priority unless they’ve suddenly become pro-global warming and pro-drought.

Heck, I might even be willing to back a tunnel just to spite the clueless Phillips. Maybe. We’ll see…

  1. Paul Dyson
    Aug 24th, 2014 at 16:57
    #1

    Notable that Dan wrote it rather than Ralph

  2. Jerry
    Aug 24th, 2014 at 17:05
    #2

    Phillips is preposition challenged. She should know the difference between ‘under’ and ‘through’. Maybe she thought it was an open trench.

  3. Alon Levy
    Aug 24th, 2014 at 17:09
    #3

    …why would there be a problem with bypassing Santa Clarita, which isn’t getting a station either way?

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Because later in 10 or 20 years when people are more open-minded there, it has enough people to consider adding a station (not every train would stop)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Wouldn’t it be better to just add back Sylmar?

    (Yes, I recognize this tunnel skips Sylmar, too. Sadly, the HSRA just dropped Sylmar anyway, on the theory that non-airport non-CBD stations are useless, or something. Finest transportation planners, etc.)

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Sylmar has merit, close to 118, 210 and 5. Unfortunately there is a State law (sorry, can’t quote it offhand) that requires connectivity between intercity passenger rail and airports. That’s one reason why, joke of all jokes, the Coast Starlight now stops at BUR in spite of there being almost no “intermodal” connections possible. I believe there is a flight from Phoenix and one from Las Vegas in the am that connects northbound, but nothing southbound, even if on time.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    …there’s going to be a stop at SFO. If LA didn’t give away parts of the Harbor Sub ROW to light rail, there could be a branch connection to LAX, which unlike BUR complements HSR rather than competing with it.

    Do laws ever have any meaning other than as poison pills used to justify state decisions?

    Jonathan Reply:

    No, there isn’t going to be an HSR stop at SFO. Millbrae is not SFO.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I know, but that’s how the HSRA advertises it.

    Eric Reply:

    SFO already has BART connectivity, which can interchange them at the downtown transit center in the future, I’m assuming.

    Joey Reply:

    The plan was to make Millbrae a HSR station because of its proximity to SFO. Unfortunately Millbrae-SFO connectivity is in a worse state than before the BART extension was built.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Yes, thanks to Quentin Kopp, deceased SMCo. Supe and SamTrans board member Supervisor Mike Nevin and other BART-obsessed “public servants”, the SFO connection from Caltrain at Millbrae is horribly fucked up. They went nuts and demanded BART go into SFO when transit advocates and sane non-BART obsessed people were pushing looping SFO’s APM across hwy 101 to a transit-first (no parking) intermodal BART/Caltrain/SamTrans station across from SFO. The “One-Stop Terminal” concept enraged Kopp. He fulminated against it and vowed to kill the idea once and for all with SF a ballot initiative measure which would make it official policy of the City and County of SF for BART to go into SFO. That became Measure I. SF Supervisor and Caltrain board member Tom Hsieh did his own competing ballot Measure H which essentially (in so many words) said to do whatever made the most sense from a cost, ridership and ease-of-use perspective, which the One-Stop Terminal concept was entirely consistent with. Kopp and his backers easily out-campaigned Hsieh’s technically nuanced measure with their much easier-to-sell bumper sticker concept of “BART Into SFO!” and the rest was history.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Oh, and the SFO stub-end station and “wye” track configuration was a result of the BART-must-go-into-SFO forces discovering that, yes, indeed, it was going to be cost-prohibitive to loop BART under 101 to an underground through-running station under SFO. The elevated stub-end station and Millbrae wye configuration was introduced as lower-cost design which preserved the must-go-into-SFO mandate.

    Joey Reply:

    The transfer station probably would have been best, but I’m inclined to say that the through-running airport station would have been better than the wye, even if more expensive, because it wouldn’t have permanently fucked up the service patterns.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “[P]ushing … ntermodal BART/Caltrain/SamTrans station across from SFO.”

    I think there were environmental reasons not to build across from SFO (wetlands). Still, it would’ve been better to have the AirTrain go to Millbrae to meet BART rather than BART going to SFO.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Wetlands or other (speculative) environmental impacts had nothing to do with it. As the AirTrain loop to the “One-Stop Terminal” on the Caltrain ROW across from SFO would have been on a viaduct too, it wouldn’t have required any more wetlands impact than building the BART wye into SFO did.

    Reality Check Reply:

    @Joey: yes, if you ignore cost and/or ease of construction, a through-running station in centered on the terminal loop would have been best. And that’s what what the BART-must-go-into-SFO crowd wanted too. But lack of the necessary billions forced the elevated stub-end wye … just like I hope it forces Tejon and Altamont, but in this case, because they’re not only cheaper … they’re better too! Win-win.

    Jerry Reply:

    It wasn’t just the wetlands. The San Francisco garter snake did not want to be relocated. (Talk about NIMBYs) One snake got run over and killed by a bulldozer during construction and the entire project was shut down for three days. Three days!

    John Bacon Reply:

    A single-car driverless shuttle between BART’s Millbrae and SFO Stations with a 15 minute round trip could provide a more frequent service at a far lower operating cost than the opening day shuttle service schedule.

    Reality Check Reply:

    The first garter snake killed shut down BART/SFO construction in that area for 18 days:
    5/16/2002: BART SFO construction resumes after 4th endangered SF garter snake death
    2/10/2003: BART to restore, repopulate marshland near SFO
    6/15/2003: SFO’s train comes in: a capsule history of BART SFO extension
    6/22/2003: BART Millbrae/SFO extension opened Sunday

    Jonathan Reply:

    … can the AirTrain be extended to the millbrae standard-gauge (Caltrain, HSR) tracks?
    Without having to traverse oodles and oodles of stairs?

    Reality Check Reply:

    Of course; AirTrain, being fixed guideway transit, can’t traverse stairs anyway.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Touche’. :-). I meant without stairs for transferring passengers.
    You conjure up a fun image, though.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Exactly, Santa Clarita would make a lot of sense as an infill station.

  4. joe
    Aug 24th, 2014 at 17:14
    #4

    Kathryn Phillips might be concerned with work above the tunnels to drill down or something she can’t articulate clearly.

    IMHO she’s a stereotype of what everyone laughs at when they laugh at Californian environmentalists.

    FYI – national forests are not preserves. They are logged and managed lands with multiple use. We even hire civil engineers in the USFS and to build roads for harvesting timber that are supposed to last over several harvests aka hundreds of years.

    There is also a highway http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angeles_Forest_Highway cutting across the forest.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    Phillips reminds me of the hordes of “transit friendly environmentalists” who used to descend from the Hollywood Hills to MTA meetings to stop the Red Line tunnel between Hollywood and Universal City because it would “destroy the mountain”. Their sole ally on the Board was, of course, Mike Antonivich.

    joe Reply:

    Her criticism lacks substance.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Not for the first time…

  5. Paul Dyson
    Aug 24th, 2014 at 17:30
    #5

    The folks in Tujunga are already restive. Also in Antonovich’s district of course.

    Clem Reply:

    You think they’ll like the Lakeview Terrace Viaduct?

    EJY4 Reply:

    The residents of Sunland, Tujunga, and Shadow Hills are known to be Nimbys. They will fight the project if it above ground, especially if it has perceived impacts on the hiking and horse trails in the wash. It should be interesting to see what happens.

    JCC Reply:

    Tujunga is in the City of LA. There is no way that they would be able to derail it.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    But UP might over access to Vulcan. The Viaduct will be useful for hanging effigies of Mikey.

    Darrell Reply:

    My scoping comment to CHSRA:

    To shorten the tunnel length, would a route be feasible that:
    • Is at-grade along the existing San Fernando Road railroad right-of-way, then aerial across the Hanson Dam reservoir and I-210;
    • Tunnels from Lake View Terrace to Acton, but daylights in one or two canyons in the San Gabriel Mountains to shorten the tunnel lengths.

    Approximate topo map elevations are Burbank Airport, 700′; Hanson Dam, 1,100′; Lake View Terrace above I-210, 1,200′; Little Tujunga Canyon, 2,000′ (possible above-ground crossing of San Gabriel Fault?); Pacoima Canyon, 3,000′; Acton, 2,800′.

    StevieB Reply:

    The San Gabriel Mountains in the area a tunnel would cross lack access roads for portal construction and the area is a National Forest. Environmentalists would certainly resist construction of access roads into the forest. It is likely a tunnel would be one long one.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Why a base tunnel to Mojave?

    Darrell Reply:

    There are roads, although not wide or straight, starting with Little Tujunga Canyon.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    A national forest is the least protected category of undeveloped resource. Significant consideration is important to preserve its undeveloped state, but it is not a national park, state park, or national wilderness area. Perhaps legitimate forestry synergies could be found – developing effective fire roads / blocks that serve construction needs, for instance.

    Clem Reply:

    It’s not possible to daylight in any of the mountain canyons, since it would require a climb steeper than 4% out of the area of Hansen Dam. This is going to be a long tunnel, or actually a pair of tunnel bores with cross-passages, on the order of 13 miles (21 km).

    Darrell Reply:

    Not necessarily. From above I-210 to “Gold Canyon” west of Big Tujunga Canyon, elevation 2000′, apparently at the San Gabriel Fault crossing, is about 4 miles in 800′ or 3.8%.
    A next daylighting could be at “South Fork Pacoima Canyon” elevation 3200′, but that would be 1200′ in 3.75 miles or 6.1%.
    On the other hand, a tunnel from “Gold Canyon” to the Santa Clara River would be less than 9 miles of tunnel and only 400′ elevation gain, or 0.9%, and 9 miles sounds better than 13.

    Scott Rowe Reply:

    The maximum grade according to CHSR is 2.5%
    According to one of the engineers I sopke with at a meeting, he worked on designing the Tehachapi corridor, said they had it at 3% and the CHSRA kicked it back and told thenm to redo it and no more than 2.5%. They did so, longer tunnels, more viaducts, some of which will be around 320 feet tall.

    EJY4 Reply:

    The contractors at the scopes meeting mentioned that they where told they have to stay away from Hanson Dam because it isn’t structurally sound (part of the reason it is currently drained).

    Jesse D. Reply:

    What you did there, I see it. “Derail”. Ha.

    Dane Reply:

    Actually, the folks in Lake View Terrace and Shadow Hills are the most vocal opponents (I live in Tujunga and most Tujungans are indifferent so far).

  6. Clem
    Aug 24th, 2014 at 17:51
    #6

    The trip would take an estimated 15 minutes, 7 to 10 minutes less than the highway routes.

    Does not compute… Since when can you drive between Burbank and Palmdale in 22 to 25 minutes?

    Or are they over-estimating (as they always do) the trip time savings compared to SR14 HSR alignments? It’ll be four (4) minutes saved, not 7 to 10.

    That said, subject to there absolutely having to be a station in Palmdale, this tunnel plan probably makes the most sense. If you remove that constraint, however, Tejon saves triple the trip time and mileage, with far less tunneling.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I’m sure they are comparing the two HS routes, not comparing with driving.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    To a first-order approximation, what are the extra costs of this option? I remember you writing a comment saying it’s not thaaat much more tunneling, but I don’t remember what the final verdict was on net cost.

    Clem Reply:

    Applying the same cost criteria as in my Truth About Tejon piece, we have the following changes from the baseline SR-14 alignment to the Angeles Forest Tunnel alignment:

    Capital Costs:
    Length: minus 11 miles @ $50M/route-mile = minus $0.55 billion
    Tunnels: minus 0.3 miles @ $150M/route-mile = minus $0.05 billion
    Viaducts: minus 1.4 miles @ $100M/route-mile = minus $0.14 billion
    TOTAL: $0.75 billion cheaper to build

    Operating and Maintenance Costs:
    Infrastructure maintenance: minus 11 miles @ $0.25M/route-mile/year = minus $2.8 million/year
    Rolling stock O&M: minus 11 miles @ $1.75M/route-mile/year = minus $19 million/year
    Revenue: 4 minutes quicker @ $8M/year/minute = plus $32 million/year
    TOTAL: $54 million/year cheaper to operate

    Of course, these figures have to be considered in comparison to the Tejon Pass alignment, namely:

    Capital Costs:
    Length: minus 34 miles @ $50M/route-mile = minus $1.7 billion
    Tunnels: minus 10 miles @ $150M/route-mile = minus $1.5 billion
    Viaducts: minus 20 miles @ $100M/route-mile = minus $2.0 billion
    TOTAL: $5 billion cheaper to build

    Operating and Maintenance Costs:
    Infrastructure maintenance: minus 34 miles @ $0.25M/route-mile/year = minus $8 million/year
    Rolling stock O&M: minus 34 miles @ $1.75M/route-mile/year = minus $60 million/year
    Station O&M: minus 1 station (Palmdale) @ $4M/year = minus $4 million/year
    Revenue: 13 minutes quicker @ $8M/year/minute = plus $100 million/year
    TOTAL: $175 million/year cheaper to operate

    Details and references in above-linked article and its embedded PDF.

    joe Reply:

    Tejon has the added benefit of tanking support for HSR.

    Priceless.

    Clem Reply:

    Pure unmitigated nonsense, with nothing to back it up. Try again, with feeling

    joe Reply:

    Because you willfully ignore
    - This was the alignment that was voted by the legislature.
    - Deleon and SoCal politicians elevated work on the Burbank to Palmdale Segment.
    - Palmdale’s threat of lawsuit if the alignment changes.

    We’ll see when they wise up and switch alignments. After all there’s nothing to indicate if they did the proejct would lose support.

    But you are in a fog to think they’re going to change the alignment once they see your math. They know the math.

    Clem Reply:

    They know the math all right, and it’s possible that the increases in Palmdale property values will far outweigh a paltry $5 billion. Maybe HSR isn’t so much a transportation system as it is a politically juiced real estate development scheme? I surrender to the evidence

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Of course that’s what it is, Clem
    I assume that and try and make the best of it from the transportation point of view. It’s no good being a purist in this world

    synonymouse Reply:

    Clem, I’ll wager you could raise PAMPA property values by $5bil with a subway.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    If they really believed that, they’d pony up the money themselves.

    Money talks, synonymouse walks.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yup. Been hoofing it since 1965.

    The Cheerleaders talk the talk; the technicals(properly schooled or aficionado)walk the walk.

    joe Reply:

    Adding service to Palmdale residents of LA county is not a real-estate development scheme.

    Politicians want votes and build consensus. Palmdale is part of LA County. They’ll act to take care of their voters and be inclusive. You want better transportation projects, eliminate the 2/3 vote needed for taxing and bonds.

    It’s the democracy part of this that upsets you.

    And yes Paul this is certainly not a purists world. Purists usual end up drinking kook-aid.

    Joey Reply:

    The Antelope Valley has only about 5% of LA County’s population. Just sayin. Perhaps they have more political influence than population but they’re still small in the grander scheme of things.

    Joe Reply:

    LA county wants Palmdale. Palmdale wants HSR. Santa Clarita opposes the system.

    Maybe the grander scheme of things is second to the scheme LA County pushes.

    synonymouse Reply:

    LalaLand sorely needs a wakeup call from the grander scheme of things.

    As I have remarked before you could put together a pretty decent college American lit course on notable writers who have shanked the City of Fallen Angels and so deservedly.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Sure, and the Antelope Valley Freeway had nothing to do with real estate development either. :rolleyes:

    Owen Reply:

    Transportation and real estate have always gone hand in hand. This is not an evil. This is a fact of life and has been for eons. The NYC Subway was mostly a real estate scheme. Most of the private suburban railways in Tokyo were real estate schemes. Basically every interurban railroad ever built was a real estate scheme. The transcontinental railroad was partly for politicians’ egos but from the point of view of the companies that built it it was a real estate scheme.

    The problem in California is that if it’s a real estate scheme, then the real estate interests should be funding it, in the form of TIFs or some other, but they’re not (are they?) There is a great deal of public benefit so public funding is definitely in order, but the benefit that accrues to developers is much larger than the cost.

    jimsf Reply:

    yes of course it is. Thats why hsr will be good for the state economy

    synonymouse Reply:

    I suspect many voters in California think it is naturally going via Tejon. Resetting to the default SOP route will not result in the loss of any support.

    Please, Palmdale, sure your ass off. But most of all, PAMPA, sue for your own multi-billion dollar “NIMBY” subway. What’s is fitting and proper for Sta. Clarita also accrues to PAMPA.

    Talk about hypocrisy from the Cheerleaders. Rake PAMPA over the coals but nothing but kid gloves and caviar for Sta. Clarita, Palmdale and the Tejon Ranch Co.

    synonymouse Reply:

    sue your keester off Palmdale

    Darrell Reply:

    The voter booklet for Prop. 1A explicitly mentions Fresno, Bakersfield, and Palmdale in the Analysis by the Legislative Analyst.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You really think the voters(and I mean most all of them)read the election pamphlets with anything but the most cursory attention, certainly to not to that degree of detail. Hell, who knows where Palmdale is amongst us northern barbarians. Isn’t it right next to Lebec?

    “How do you get to Pismo Beach?”

    I remember as a kid watching one of the very first episodes of “Dragnet” wherein Sgt. Joe Friday and his partner are in the patrol car and keep running into this guy driving around LA. The guy sticks his head out the car window and slurs “How do you get to Pismo Beach”. He is so totally, utterly sloshed he can hardly hold his head up. This happens several times in the story. My, how our mores have changed since 1950.

    Joey Reply:

    Aren’t longer tunnels in general more expensive to build than shorter ones?

    Clem Reply:

    Yes, that is not accounted for in this zeroth-order assessment.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    …I did not remember that this involves less tunneling than going via Santa Clarita. Thanks!

    Jon Reply:

    Clem, does your “baseline SR-14″ alignment follow Santa Clarita North or Santa Clarity South? There are significant tunnel length differences between the two (2 – 3 miles).

    Clem Reply:

    Santa Clarita South, without the Sand Canyon NIMBY tunnel.

    Note my tunnel length figures do have a bit of slop: they are automatically computed based on the difference between the terrain elevation (obtained from Google elevation API) and the track elevation. To be counted as a tunnel, the track has to be at least 50 feet below terrain elevation for a stretch of at least 1000 feet; anything shallower or shorter is considered an open cut, not a tunnel. While this algorithm is approximate, it produces results that match official documents surprisingly well.

    Jon Reply:

    Okay, so the new route is likely to be an improvement over even the cheaper of the two SR-14 options. Good to know.

  7. les
    Aug 24th, 2014 at 18:05
    #7

    I was thinking that if the new HSR Palmdale station was put at Vincent grade/Acton then Metrolink might benefit from tunnel. Metro could run two lines, one from Sun Valley thru new tunnel to Acton and on to Palmdale and a 2nd would head from a Y before Acton to Santa Clarita looping back around current route back to Burbank. Seeing how Palmdale to sun valley is 66 mins this would cut trip time to less than 1/2. It would also considerably cut trip to via princessa. The Palmdale to SC trip would be 53 instead of 77 with Metro now running directly from Acton to Sun Valley and then back up to SC. This would might allow HSR to leverage more than the 25% C&T to 30%.

    I don’t live in the area so just throwing something out there from what I can determine on google maps.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Why would Metrolink operate on the old route between Palmdale and Princessa? The market is de minimus. The RoW is obsolete as far as running a modern passenger service is concerned. If Metrolink runs to Santa Clarita at all it will be a stub end service.
    I note “if at all” with reason. Caltrans is investing over a billion in carpool lanes along I-5 through Burbank. When complete it will be faster to use express buses from Santa Clarita direct to the studios in Burbank rather than the current bus/train connection. Metrolink is already losing passengers on the AV line, it’s just not competitive. Metrolink/Metro will really have to think through what their service offering is going to be instead of randomly running 20th century commuter trains.

    Clem Reply:

    Not to mention that Metrolink would need electric rolling stock to handle the tunnel alignment. The steep grades (2+ percent) combined with diesel exhaust would make this climb impractical without high-power EMU rolling stock similar to what Caltrain is currently considering.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Of course Metrolink, or the successor agency, will have electric traction.
    Electrolink!

    Ted Judah Reply:

    If this alignment is pursued, it’s more evidence that Metrolink is about to be dismantled for good.

    Meanwhile, it’s likely that the Authority is acting interested in this alignment because they want something that De Leon cannot sell to other Southern California politicians and therefore have him be unable to spend all the AB 32 money that he thinks LA was screwed out of in the budget negoations in June.

    This is the downside, sadly, to the bookend strategy. Once there’s no longer a requirement to tying funding to what gets built, every interest group and power broker will attempt to use Prop 1A funding for their local transportation upgrades and almost guarantee a situation where even more funding will be needed to bridge the mountain gaps and re-standardize services so that one train can make it through.

    In another way, this is a good sign. Six years after Prop 1A and now at least we have escaped Egypt and are able to wander through the Desert on the way to the Promised Land.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ted, suggest you (and all) make clear which “Authority” you are writing about. SCRRA. CHSRA, LACMTA are all involved in this issue.

    Jonathan Reply:

    In context: … bookend[s]…. Prop 1A (twice). Which Authority do you think Ted means?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I am sure he means CHSRA, but others may not, and other postings are not always clear. You have nothing better to do this morning? I see you are also nit-picking about Millbrae and SFO.

    Jonathan Reply:

    It’s not nit-picking. Millbrae is not SFO, and Millbrae is a pain to get from standard-gauge to BART

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    In recent years California has started to plan a high-speed rail system. If constructed, Millbrae would serve as one of two stations between San Francisco and San Jose, and would allow high-speed rail passengers to reach SFO.
    wikipedia

    Joey Reply:

    And how exactly would they reach SFO, Keith? Before BART there was a shuttle between Millbrae and the terminals. Now there’s only BART, which may require two transfers depending on what time of day it is and which terminal you’re going to.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Your comment is based on the current BART schedule, hopefully that will change when HSR comes in to play.

    Joey Reply:

    Its still another transfer to get to terminal 2 (and possibly 1), and the BART surcharge to the airport is a lot. In the long run AirTrain needs to be extended to Millbrae but the problem of airport access doesn’t seem to have crossed anyone’s minds yet … at least anyone other than blog commenters.

    Jon Reply:

    It’s very likely that BART will reinstate the Millbrae – SFO shuttle once HSR arrives, or extend the yellow line to Millbrae at all times. The infrastructure is already there, it’s just not cost effective to run the service given the ridership at Millbrae. If ridership increases, so will service.

    Jon Reply:

    Joey – the question is how long it would be before the construction + operating cost of an AirTrain extension to Millbrae became cheaper than the operating cost of reinstating direct BART service between SFO and Millbrae. My guess is that the latter would be cheaper over most realistic timescales.

    At some point pouring more concrete at SFO – Millbrae just looks like throwing good money after bad. Instead, we should be using the infrastructure that’s there more effectively. BART/HSR/Caltrain should have an integrated ticket system, so you can buy a ticket from Los Angeles to SFO – or Palo Alto to SFO – and that ticket would work in the BART faregates for the last leg between Millbrae and SFO.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    It’s very likely that BART will reinstate the Millbrae – SFO shuttle …

    It is indeed likely. Mainly because BART’s operating unions and BART’s executive staff would love love love love love it, while San Mateo County taxpayers would be soaked for it and for as much made-up overhead as BART can load onto it.

    The infrastructure is already there, it’s just not cost effective to run the service given the ridership at Millbrae. If ridership increases, so will service.

    It’s simply not possible for ridership on this one-stop shuttle to increase enough to justify BART operating costs.
    (Bonus fun fact to know: BART’s union agreement requires a 15 minute break at every end of run turnback!)

    BART to Millbrae is and always was the PB/Bechtel solution looking to be a problem.

    Oh, and one guess who was the BART=PBQD Board Chair and bagman for this turkey? Go on, guess!

    Why, none other than CHSRA=PBQD’s Board Chair and bagman Dan Richard. Who could ever have seen that coming?
    Take a bow, Dan!
    Massive construction cost and schedule overrruns. Check. (Primary contractor: Tutor-Saliba! Take another bow!)
    Catastrophic ridership shortfalls. Check.
    Huge ongoing taxpayer subsidies of a line that was advertised as making an operating profit. Check.
    Effective bankruptcy of the local transit agency. Just wait.
    Who could ever have predicted any of that? (On yeah, pretty much everybody who has problems with HSR to Los Banos and Palmdale today predicted that.)

    Anyway, the only remotely realistic way to make lemonade from the SFO-Millbrae business is to rip out the BART tracks and replace them with some sort of automated people move. That’s long term. In the short term, the only remotely sensible thing to do is to run a 15 seat mini bus between SFIA and the Millbrae “multimodal” cluserfuck. Run it every 15 minutes 24 hours a day and it will come out cheaper. (BART’s cost are on the order of $1000/hr.)

    Jerry Reply:

    @ Richard M. “Anyway, the only remotely realistic way to make lemonade from the SFO-Millbrae business is to rip out the BART tracks and replace them with some sort of automated people move.”

    Agreed. Hey, if you can rip out Candlestick and replace it with two new separate ball parks for baseball and football, you can do it with ill designed transportation structures. (Oakland is also considering a rip out replacement for its Coliseum.)
    In the meantime, at the $1.3 Billion dollar Levi Stadium, the 49ers will pay Great America $12.5 million to have the park close on all game days, now, and into the future. Just so the 49ers can use the Great America’s 6,500 parking spots on game days. Santa Clara, meanwhile, loses its share of the GA revenue on the closure/game days.
    Wow. Try balancing the books on all of that.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Millbrae will also serve as a transfer hub to the BART system for Northbound HSR passengers

    Reality Check Reply:

    @Keith: only for folks wanting to ride BART somewhere south of downtown SF … otherwise, the faster/cheaper HSR-BART transfer hub will be via a short walk at Transbay. HSR will cover Millbrae-Transbay a hell of a lot faster and more comfortably than BART will cover Millbrae-Embarcadero.

    @Jerry, here’s the story: Great America closing during 49ers games

    In exchange for $12.5 million from the team, the amusement park’s owners have agreed to close the park on game days – both this season and in the future – and turn over their 6,500 parking spots to fans at the parking-challenged, $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium.

    Given that Santa Clara receives a portion of Great America’s revenue, some locals are asking what the city will get out of the parking deal.

    “That’s a question I’ve asked,” said Councilwoman Lisa Gillmor.

    The short answer is zilch.

    [...]

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Well this is convenient…as I was going to respond to the SFO thread…

    I think part of the reason for the ass-hat connection at Milbrae is that United forced BART to pay for its station and track using exclusively BART funds. The AirTrain I think, was all airport funds. The stub at Milbrae occurred because BART wanted a through connection with CalTrain at the end of the line but the airlines stiffed BART building the AirTrain to Milbrae.

    Now of course there were ulterior motives at play too, but they couldn’t change the basic issue of AirTrain being on one side of the 101 and the CalTrain ROW being on the other side…

    synonymouse Reply:

    How you could you ever go wrong ripping out BART?

    John Bacon Reply:

    A large proportion of the demand for the San Joaquin Vallley to the San Francisco Bay Area for CHSR service is likely to be long distance airline connections to San Jose and SFO airports. CHSR cars built with extra space for long distance traveler baggage scheduled to pick up San Joaquin Valley passengers should be split from San Francisco bound CHSR trains at Millbrae. A single 3,000 foot long 1.435 meter gauge track could replace BART’s 1.524 meter gauge track from the present SFO station to where the BART SFO to Millbrae shuttle double-track-way begins to exactly parallel the current Caltrain track-way.

    Clem Reply:

    It’s still far easier and better to extend the AirTrain to Millbrae by re-using the southern half of the BART wye. Then all Caltrain and HSR passengers can have a one-transfer ride to any terminal.

    On my last business trip out of SFO, I took Caltrain to Millbrae and a cab to the terminal.

    Jonathan Reply:

    CHSR cars built with extra space for long distance traveler baggage scheduled to pick up San Joaquin Valley passengers should be split from San Francisco bound CHSR trains at Millbrae.

    Bam, there goes 10 minutes to half an hour. FRA rules require re-testing of brakes in both portions of the split consist (or the single consist, when joining for the reverse route). There may also be work rules around it. The DRG used to do that in under 2 minutes, n the 1930s. With modern HSR trainsets, the split takes seconds. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_coupling has photos showing ICE-T sets:approaching, mechanically coupled, and mechanically/electrically/pneumatic/whatever coupled.

    I shudder to think what PB’s Techical Memoranda say about couplers. (I’ve forgotten, and I don’t want to spoil my evening by looking it up.)

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Clem,

    That is very reasoned and well thought out idea…and it won’t happen. Here’s why:

    Note the AirTran for all its limited funding still drops rental car passengers off right at the facility. Could it be because the rental car fee goes right back into SFO’s account…nah….

    Part of the tension is that airports make around 50% of their revenue from parking. If everyone can arrive via public transit, that means you have to raise the landing fees on the airlines who predictably threaten to leave and cut worker hours and yada yada. When the airlines weren’t so consolidated, airports had at least a hope of bucking the the trend once and a while. Now, they are at the carrier’s mercy. So just be glad SFO doesn’t put barbed wire fence and landmines around the Milbrae station to deter connections….

    My honest opinion is that the CASHR SFO station is going to be placed on top of the International Terminal to ensure maximum amounts of concrete pouring and glass…but also to sidestep the SFO-BART donnybrook.

    Michael Reply:

    John- Please see the many times repeated “BART loading gauge” discussion. Also consider that any BART platform is only 700′.

    Additionally, as discussed before, to close the “gap” in BART-SFO funding, SFO paid for all BART construction on SFO property, to be repaid through the “SFO surcharge”, with some mechanism to rebate the charge for SFO employees.

    John Bacon Reply:

    Is re-gauging a single 3,000 foot track all that expensive? And why run half empty trains to the end of the line in downtown San Francisco? With the primative conventional approach the San Joaquin Valley bound train must wait at Millbrae while boarding passengers decide if this is the correct train, which car has availble seating and luggage space, and who in their group should carry which bag. Long distance travelers are surely less familiar with the local transit system than daily commuters. Transfering mistakes are far more likely and potentially far more costly in time and money when connecting to less frequent airline and CHSR services when compared to regeonal transit users. What happens to the traveler at the Millbrae station headed for SFO if the AirTrain fails to run. Better to have three active choices at Millbrae Station. A driverless BART shuttle, the present Millbrae to SFO transfer at San Bruno or best of all for the CHSR to SFO passenger a dedicated set of cars terminating at the present SFO Station.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Ted:

    My honest opinion is that the CASHR SFO station is going to be placed on top of the International Terminal to ensure maximum amounts of concrete pouring and glass…but also to sidestep the SFO-BART donnybrook.

    Pure crackpottery. Who’s going to pay to get HSR from the Caltrain ROW, across 101, to SFO, and then back across 101 and back to the Caltrain ROW?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Jonathan,

    Who is paying for HSR to cross the 101?

    You are.

    Bwahahahaha. (Sorry, it’s late.)

    Owen Reply:

    Agreed with Clem. The south leg of the SFO BART wye and connection to Millbrae has negative utility. A shuttle bus is a better solution since at least that can reach the terminals with only a single transfer and costs less to ride and operate. Rip it out and replace it with Air Train.

    Eliminating the north leg of the Bart-SFO wye and ending BART service direct to SFO altogether is another matter. It probably has net positive utility in that it provides a somewhat faster ride from SFO to downtown San Francisco and BART stations further down the line than a longer people mover ride would. Perhaps it was not worth the money spent to built it, but given that the money is already spent to build it, and that tearing it down would cost money, keep it.

    A short people mover extension to San Bruno caltrain, and a BART station there as well (as well as HSR) would probably have been the best alternative if we were starting from scratch, but the ship has sailed on that alternative. Just extending Air Train to Millbrae using the existing BART Viaduct is probably the best option given the current state of things.

    Jon Reply:

    Replacing the southern leg of the BART wye with AirTrain sounds like a messy business. Either you’d need to remove the BART connection to Millbrae and use the entire BART ROW south of the wye for AirTrain, or run AirTrain elevated above the BART ROW between the southern end of the wye and Millbrae. With the former you lose the BART/Caltrain/HSR transfer point, and with the latter you incur extra expense and opposition from the properties along the ROW.

    You’d be better off just building a new AirTrain ROW than trying to adapt the BART infrastructure. Probably the best way would be to branch off the existing AirTrain track just west of Parking Garage A, and head south along S McDonnel Rd. Then swing over US-101 to meet Millbrae station at right angles.

    Better than both would be simply creating a shuttle between Millbrae and SFO using existing BART track. You could use dedicate BART trains with seats removed and more space for luggage, just a few cars in length. You could make it driverless as suggested above to reduce operating costs.

    No concrete to pour. Organization before electronics before infrastructure, right?

    Joey Reply:

    The problem with the BART shuttle is that it’s invariably going to be expensive to operate, and requires an AirTrain transfer for people going to terminals 1 and 2 at least. And while a driverless shuttle might be a reasonable compromise, the unions are never going to allow it.

    Michael Reply:

    Any connection from whatever hub with BART/HSR/Caltrain to SFO MUST be free for riders. The current connection from Caltrain, where one needs to pay a separate fare (if one is not local or without a Clipper card, have money ready for the BART ticket machine) is cruel.

    As a traveler, think about it. You’re within sight of the airport, riding in from either Merced, Sunnyvale, or San Mateo, and you have to negotiate a new fare machine, usually with a line. So modern and well-thought through.

    The Airtrain extension to a hub is the best way to let travelers know they’re at SFO when they step off any other train. It also can connect them, without a transfer, to any terminal AND the huge airport consolidated rental car facility.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Better than both would be simply creating a shuttle between Millbrae and SFO using existing BART track. You could use dedicate BART trains with seats removed and more space for luggage, just a few cars in length. You could make it driverless as suggested above to reduce operating costs
    Fun fact to know: the signalling system on Bechtel/PBQD/Tutor’s extension from Colma to Millbrae with the side-thing to SFO has never functioned reliably and still does not. Those “switching failures” you may hear about all the time. Yeah. It’s so bad that for years BART has operated the line on the basis of operators using mandatory voice radio contact with the preceding train to ensure that it has left the station ahead, because the signal system (and BART has a legacy backup system also, which has averted disaster more than once) simply is not trusted.

    So good luck with that driverless BART shuttle business, even aside from the operating unions, and even aside from organization before electronics before concrete.

    As for new fantasy Airtrain ROW, the idea would be to repurpose the insane (but massively profitable for Tutor-Saliba and friends!) southern wye leg that crosses Highway 101 and lies directly underneath existing Airtrain structure. Aerial above the utterly batshit massively-PBQD/Bechtel/Tutor-profiting insane cut-and-cover BART tunnel (yeah, plenty of bonus cost to deal with What Lies Beneath) to an aerial station above Millbrae train tracks.

    If we were really talking electronics before concrete, then take one of the two BART tracks between the wye and Millbrae and turn it over to Airtrain. That’s would amount to just under 950m of BART single track and Airtrain single track. Given that BART trains’ average speed in this section is well over 40kmh and the maximum train length is 214m, the single track bottleneck would be cleared in around 90 seconds. With detection, route locking, reaction time, etc say two minutes. The situation is particularly favourable since one end of the single track is a terminal station, so lining up trains to enter and leave the single track is extremely simple compared to, say, a single track narrows in the middle of open track on a main line.

    Given that there is no way in hell Millbrae will ever justify more than 6tph of 10 car BART service (4tph peak today is due to agency policy, not actual passenger demand), there is pretty much zero operational difficulty with sustaining far more than that level of service through a sub-1000m section single track.

    So the right thing to do today is to simply kill all BART SFO-Millbrae at all hours and to operate a shuttle bus to connect the stations.

    In some future where money grows on trees, replace the dead and rusting BART southern wye tracks with Airtrain guideway, replace one of the BART tracks between the southern end of the wye and the Millbrae station with a single Airtrain track, and spend a pissload of money redoing Millbrae to allow sensible levels of BART (4 tph; at most two platform tracks, perhaps a new island platform below grade), Airtrain (~8tph; a single platform if it loops, an island platform with two faces if a stub; aerial either way) and combined Caltrain/HSR (two island platforms four tracks any train any platform at grade for 6-8tph Caltrain and 4tph HSR)

    You’re welcome.

    Reality Check Reply:

    @Michael — free AirTrain connection to SFO, yes, yes, yes! That is soooo the way it oughta be.

    Fun, possibly useless fact: you can ride AirTrain JFK for 8.1 miles on an elevated viaduct along Van Wyck Expessway to LIRR’s Jamaica station and back for free (it only costs if you try to leave the AirTrain part of the station!).

    Riding out to Jamaica and back is a fun, foamy way to kill time between flights at JFK.

    Jonathan Reply:

    It’s so bad that for years BART has operated the line on the basis of operators using mandatory voice radio contact with the preceding train to ensure that it has left the station ahead, because the signal system (and BART has a legacy backup system also, which has averted disaster more than once) simply is not trusted.

    Un-be-leivable. BART never got a substitute for AATC then, they’re continuing to run with whatever-they-had-before, plus radio confirmation from the train ahead !?

    Someone needs to give Mr. Allen a good kicking, next time he foams about Caltrain/HSR being “unsafe”.

    Jonathan Reply:

    [...] combined Caltrain/HSR (two island platforms four tracks any train any platform at grade for 6-8tph Caltrain and 4tph HSR)

    Sorry, can’t happen. Violates PBQD’s Technical Memoranda to the (unwritten but clearly implied) requirement that all HSR stations be a flight-level-0-airline terminal, with security checkpoints separating “ground” and “air” side.

    if you, or Clem, want to talk about level boarding and efficient use of TBT/Caltrain “blended” resources, the *first* thing you need to attack is the”flight-level-0-airport” design rule. Until you get rid of that, you *can’t* change anything else.

    (Imagine the benefits to HSR travellers, if they can show up at the last minute, board a train with their POP, and not go through any security theater. Just down the escalator, onto the platform, and onto the train. Ooops, already far too late for that at TBT… )

    Joe Reply:

    Cheer up, unions are so weak and dying off that you’ll probably never have the chance to belong to one or pay dues. When BART breaks the union, everything going to be better.

    jimsf Reply:

    The wye is for the future when bart extends to san mateo. That way people coming from the south also have a direct connection

    Reality Check Reply:

    Yes, that’s what some people undoubtedly thought … but extending BART beyond Millbrae toward San Mateo JUST isn’t going to happen!

    To be fair, that was less clear when BART/SFO was being designed & built, but even then, a whole slew of transit wonks/advocates and even some electeds — most of whom also opposed to BART into SFO vs. the One-Stop Terminal — said that extending BART further down the Peninsula was insane (vs. upgrading Caltrain) and predicted (correctly, as it turns out) that it would probably never happen.

    Scott Rowe Reply:

    CHSRA will not allow Metrolink to use the tunnels. CHSRA says that by 2040 they will have a train going every 12 minutes, each way. Chances are that any tunnels will be a 3 tunnel system such as was used for the Chunnel. Were it not for Plamdale throwing a tantrum there would not even be a discussion of a tunnel from Palmdale to Burbank. The route would go up the 5 As voted on.
    This high speed rail is rapidly becoming a Greyhound Train System, stop at a bunch of small towns, avergae speed will probably be 80mph, not 220mph.

  8. Neil Shea
    Aug 24th, 2014 at 18:36
    #8

    OT @Paul Dyson, others — are Southland / Metrolink folks discussing level boarding and the desirability of a common standard with HSR?

    Per Clem’s work it certainly seems important to have the discussion between Caltrain, Metrolink and HSR on a 30″ standard.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It’s not important Neil, it’s absolutely vital. I see or hear no evidence of such a discussion taking place. I believe that Chad Edison is trying to do something at State level, and indeed it is at State level where standards should be set. FRA, FTA and CPUC are all missing in action (actually inaction). Metrolink et al seem to have bought in that their tracks will be segregated from HSR, no blending here, so it’s not going to be necessary. Cross platform (or half a mile walk) at Burbank is their version of blending for southern California. Complete this sentence: “America’s finest tra…..”

    Clem Reply:

    This is an exceedingly difficult issue because none of the agencies involved have the slightest interest in standardization. Caltrain only recently became dimly aware of the benefits of level boarding– to them it was an accessibility thing, not a speed or punctuality thing–when in fact the latter is by far and away more important than the former.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    “… an accessibility thing, not a speed or punctuality thing–when in fact the latter is by far and away more important than the former.”

    It is, I believe, universally true that implementing accessibility for the least-able among us improves access for everyone.

    Jonathan Reply:

    False.

    Lewellan Reply:

    True. Curb cuts, easy boarding low-floor transit, wheelchair ramps etc improve access for everyone.
    GM & FORD should produce low-floor (plug-in hybrid) paratransit vans suitable for seniors and disabled. Municipal transit agencies have too long purchased obsolete high-floor diesel paratransit vans and acted like the public good is served because public money is spent.

    Eric Reply:

    Transit agencies shouldn’t run paratransit at all. Why do we have food stamps rather than building separate supermarkets for the poor? Because some things are run more efficiently by the free market. Similarly, Medicare and similar organizations should give out credit cards that provide a discount of, say, 80% on taxi fare. Then the old/disabled can order disabled-accessible taxis rather than waiting for paratransit. Not only would this probably be more efficient, but it would shift the financial burden of paratransit off transit authorities, and put it with other medical services where it belongs.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Agreed. I can cite personal experience from Burbank as former chair of the TC. We spend a ridiculous amount on paratransit while the taxi services need the work, and have equipped themselves with a reasonable number of accessible cabs. Needless to say the wrinklies have a formidable lobby.

    Zorro Reply:

    Privatizing government programs is wrong and most people are against this stupid idea.

    Joe Reply:

    We’ve used WIC and it is complicated – some food packaging sizes are okay and others are not.
    Para transit vouchers will need heavy handed verification and come with stupid restrictions.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    debit cards

    Jonathan Reply:

    “heavy handed verification” and “stupid restrictions’ are a second-order effect. Though quite possibly painful transaction-costs for the beneficiaries. (Those transaction-costs take money to implement, too)

    The real thing to watch for — as with turning Medicare into vouchers — is whether the proponents are going to inflation-index the vouchers; or use voucherization as a vehicle to freeze the vouchers in nominal terms.

    jimsf Reply:

    most taxi cabs cant accept people in whellchairs and scooters, nor or taxi drivers trained for it, nor do they want to deal with it.

    Jonathan Reply:

    No, it’s simply false. Not *every* more-accessibility-for-the-less-able increases accessibility for everyone.

    Repositioning *every* ATM in the country, so that it’s easily visible and usable by someone at wheelchair height, makes it harder — sometimes much harder — for tall people to read the screen, use the buttons, and so on. If I had neck problems, I would not be able to use an ATM anymore.

    William Reply:

    While level-boarding has clear benefit of reducing dwell time, the benefit of sharing platform height between different lines is much less, especially between Caltrain and CHSR.

    For the EMU/DMU that Caltrain and CHSR intended to buy, it all comes down to where to fit all the traction/power/HVAC components. For trains designed for 48” (1219.2mm) high platforms, there is enough space underfloor to fit all the components, which is more desirable for HSR trains since it lowers the center of gravity and enable some lightening of the above-floor structure.

    For 25” (635mm) trains, designers can reduce the lower floor length to fit the components, or put them on the roof, but that reduced the benefit of bi-level cars due to shorter bi-level sections, and require strengthening of the above floor structure so to carry a heavier load above the roof. This is less of an issue for commuter/rapid transit trains due to their shorter distance of travel and frequent stops.

    Again, level-boarding is great, but forcing two systems of substantial size such as Caltrain and CHSR to “compromise” just to have the same floor height, not so great.

    Jonathan Reply:

    One might think CPUC is the logical authority to set a statewide standard platform height to allow level boarding (sans gauntlet-track idiocy).

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Logical yes. Likely to do anything, has competent staff to do anything, no and no. If they did anything, likely to hand the job to our favorite consultants and get “the best possible answer”, probably. CPUC, another organization for Ko-Ko’s list.

    Clem Reply:

    Or hand the job to UPRR, just like they hand the job to PG&E

    Jonathan Reply:

    I recall reading assertions that if Caltrain really wanted to fix the 8in-ATOR in CPUC GO 26-D, they “could do it with a phone call”. I have no idea if that (perhaps rosy-eyed) scenario was an exception for Caltrain, or if it could become a standard ;).

    Oh, and *if* SMART has non-diverging (“tangent”) tracks which give level boarding at 48in platforms, and diverging gauntlet tracks for freight, then they’re not in compliance with CPUC GO 26-D.

    William Reply:

    @Jonathan, when the freight train travels on the diverging gauntlet tracks, that section of the tracks is what’s defined as “tangent” to the station platform, not the non-diverging tracks that’s not intended to for freight trains. CPUC GO 26-d Section 3.1.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Isn’t tangent track is just railroading lingo for “straight track”?

    William Reply:

    Yes. I am pretty sure the tracks, all four sets of them, next to the platforms in question, are straight. The switches are not next to the platforms.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Reality Check:

    Yes, if and only if by “railroading” you mean US railway practice :-)

  9. synonymouse
    Aug 24th, 2014 at 19:19
    #9

    base tunnel in the wrong direction

    synonymouse Reply:

    PAMPA gets s subway too

  10. StevieB
    Aug 24th, 2014 at 22:49
    #10

    I attended the Union Station presentation last week and am told staff intend to present possible San Gabriel tunnel alignments by the end of the year. A route under I-5 north of Burbank Airport station would probable be pursued as it is difficult to gain enough elevation to cross over.

    Clem Reply:

    Elevation to cross over I-5? That doesn’t sound right.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I-5 crosses over San Fernando Road and the AV line tracks just south of Tuxford which is where the line would branch off, so yes, they would need to get up and over. Or lower the freeway…..

    StevieB Reply:

    Additional options to cross I-5 are an underpass or tunnel. Each option would need to consider curve radius and track grade.

    synonymouse Reply:

    So if Sta. Clarita does not get what it demands from LAHSR it will sue? Ditto for Palmdale?

    Please, let’s get on with the litigation. If Sta. Clarita demands no surface others will sue for parity.

    After all PB tried to ram a 4-track Embarcadero Freeway on rails right thru the heart of PAMPA. PB should try to ram similar down Sta. Clarita’s throat.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    If CHSRA chooses not to build through Santa Clarita and yet remains within the parameters of the project (which criterion a tunnel under Angeles National Forest meets) then there are no grounds for a suit by PAMPA. Remember that there is no adequate existing RoW between Palmdale and Burbank for HSR or blended service, whereas the existing Caltrain RoW serves the purpose.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Not according to the Cheerleaders who want the Embarcadero Freeway on rails for PAMPA.

    Don’t you think Sta. Clarita should get a load of the real PB? PAMPA had to make its bones fighting PB every step of the way. Why should Sta. Clarita get the kid glove treatment?

    Yes PAMPA does have the right to pursue equal treatment and equal expenditures. Who died and made Barry Zoeller king? PAMPA is a better real estate investment anyway.

    Let’s everybody lawyer up. It is California after all.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    “the Embarcadero Freeway on rails for PAMPA”

    So you’re admitting HSR will be built, then?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Please explicate this very cryptic posting.

    Or in simple vulgate: say what?

  11. Reality Check
    Aug 24th, 2014 at 22:56
    #11

    California High-Speed Rail—More Questions and Concerns
    “Bad, bad, bad,” and other critiques.

    [...] this is No. 8 in a series on the most ambitious and consequential infrastructure project now under consideration in our infrastructure-degraded land. [...] today we’ll hear a range of questions, complaints, fears, and outright denunciations of the system, drawn from mail that has arrived in the past few weeks.

    [...]

    StevieB Reply:

    California High-Speed Rail—More Questions and Concerns, The Atlantic

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    If that’s the best collection of criticisms that Fallows’ readers can offer, we’re in even better shape than I thought.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “Of course the actual rail line is round-about to avoid tunnels and serve those small towners in between.”

    That would presumably be Caliente, Mojave, Tehachapi, etc. What good is a high desert development commute rr without manifold stops?

    Overall the criticisms are decent. Much more relevant than the high school editorial level crap from the regular rags, say the LA Times.

  12. Eric
    Aug 25th, 2014 at 15:34
    #12

    Interesting:

    SF is often thought of as a very expensive city. But according to this, it’s the second cheapest city in the US after DC, once you take both housing and transportation costs into account.

    http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/08/7-charts-that-show-how-good-mass-transit-can-make-a-city-more-affordable/379084/

    Reality Check Reply:

    Due to its mild climate, home HVAC costs are significantly lower too. Most homes don’t even have A/C and heating is only needed sporadically during the maybe 4-month heating season. I fully shut down heaters (cut power & turn off pilot lights) for most of the year.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Prop 13 is the primary reason for the alleged low costs.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    Prop 13 lowers costs for those least affected by costs: People who have owned homes for a very long time.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Retirees and other people with limited income are very affected by exploding assessments.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    There are ways to cap assessments without making them ridiculously low for long-term owners. I was looking at real-estate listings, and two homes next to each other – each with the same asking price and estimated values (~$600,000) – had tax costs of $600/year, and $6000/year. A factor of 10 difference between two identical homes, because of prop 30′s ridiculously-low 2%/year cap. That is grossly unfair.

    Rather than a fixed percentage-per-year cap, I think the assessment cap should be tied to wages, or to GDP.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    Grr, “because of prop 14″.

    And while “retirees and those on fixed incomes are affected by exploding assessments”, if you are prosperous enough to have owned a home for 15-30 years, you can afford to keep up with GDP or wages.

    jimsf Reply:

    owning a home in no way makes you “prosperous”. Owning a home for 15-30 years just means youve been paying a mortgage for 15-30 years, and ton of other costs. People mistake an increase in estimated value on paper, as “profit” It isn’t.
    If you buy a home in 2014 for 136000, and its “worth” 300,000 in 30 years, one has not made 164000 dollars because one has paid most of that in interest and upkeep costs.

    Any luxuries you acquire thanks to “equity” do not represent prosperity, they represent new debt.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You didn’t pay any rent over those 30 years either.

    jimsf Reply:

    but you paid a mortgage so you didn’t get ahead, you didnt gain any disposalble income. you didn’t increase your income. you gained some equity on paper only, which if accessed results in even more debt. you can sell and cash out, in which case taxes take a large chunk and what remains isn’t enough to replace your housing needs.

    Its not the end all be all that people think it is, its just that in this counttry its the only way most people can have safe retirement – pay off the house so no one can take it. otherwise you rent forever and a social security check doesn’t cover rent food and bills even the cheapest of locations.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Why would Prop 13 lower HVAC costs?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    He said it was due to the milder climate. It’s one of the reasons California’s greenhouse gas emissions are lower. If you barely have to heat the house in winter you emit less greenhouse gases for heating and you have to have an air conditioner for there to be emissions associated with it.

    joe Reply:

    Step back and think.

    SF Firefighters, Police, & Teachers cannot afford to live in the city where they work. They commute in long distances either because they’re all mistaken and can’t work a basic budget or do the math or MAYBE because the cost of living in SF is too high for their salary.

    Eric Reply:

    Yes, that is why I added the “according to this”. Because it’s quite counterintuitive. I would love to see a thorough analysis of how they came up with their numbers.

    But the existence of those firefighters/police/teachers does not necessarily disprove the point. Perhaps they or their spouse works in one of the areas not easily accessible by transit, so they’d need a car anyway, and car costs are even higher in SF. Perhaps they have social reasons for living in a particular suburb. Perhaps Prop 13 distributes housing costs very unevenly, so the average expense is low even while some people have to pay high housing expenses.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Okay, first, they don’t actually have transportation costs at this level of zoom; they’re estimating them from demographic variables and regression coefficients.

    Second, if you actually probe the numbers a bit better, what they will tell you is that in the US, suburbs are richer and hence more expensive than central cities. See PDF-p. 13 here for averages based on commute length, and PDF-p. 23 here for a distribution of housing costs in the Philadelphia area. The averages neatly show the poverty donut of older US cities (rich gentrified center, rich suburbs, poor in-between areas): housing costs dip as your commute length rises, but then go back up. The Philly maps show the same, and also show that very little of Philly consists of the high-rent center. Finally, if you look at the BEA’s metro area purchasing power parity documents, which divide the US into various zones, you’ll see that New York’s suburbs are higher-cost than the city, which makes sense in light of housing costs in Westchester and Long Island.

    What the H+T model won’t tell you is the hedonic adjustment for neighborhoods. Yes, you can have very low housing and transportation costs if you live in North Philadelphia. But then you’d be living in North Philadelphia, which is cheap for a reason.

    The other thing it won’t tell you is what you’re getting at in your comment: social reasons differ in various social classes. San Francisco is an expensive city, but so are its suburbs, and overall, the city has higher population growth. But this is not the same in all social classes. Housing and transportation costs more or less cancel each other out – see PDF-pp. 10-11 of my first link for data across metro areas for working-class households. What’s really happening is that if you’d own a car anyway then the suburbs are cheaper, whereas if you’re at the margin between owning a car and not owning one based on transit access, then the city is cheaper.

    And the social class that tends to be the most privileged in discussions of Real San Franciscans/New Yorkers/whatever tends to be the kind that would own a car anyway. For example, in New York, cops need to have a driver’s license for obvious reasons, which means that the sort of people who’d live their entire life without driving aren’t going to be cops in the first place. More broadly, this social class tends to consist of people who’ve lived in the city for a long while, and have social ties that are local to the city: they know their neighbors, they have strong ties to the neighborhood but through diffusion know people in many different neighborhoods, their neighbors ask them for favors. All of this tends to favor drivers, socially.

    Take, for example, police attitudes. As we’re seeing in Ferguson, and nearly everywhere else in the US, cops faithfully reproduce the local social status by brutalizing people differentially. They tend to be more tolerant of violence on the right (open carry, etc.) than on the left (Ferguson, WTO, the largely nonviolent Occupy). They tend to be more brutal toward blacks and Hispanics than toward whites. And, in San Francisco, they arbitrarily imprison people who they identify as gentrifiers while letting NIMBYs stone tech shuttles.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Please leave “firefighters/police” (AMERICAN HEROES! 9/11! EXTINGUISH ALL RATIONAL THOUGHT!) out of this.

    They are an extremely well-compensated and politically powerful lobby group, whose members’ choice of residence (eg Novato) generally reflects personal social cohort and class choice as much or more than it does San particular urban area housing costs.

    Stick with the iconic school teachers (not powerless, but less so than the “public safety” lobby, and hugely less paid) and with the janitors and cooks and under-unionized blue collar people if you want a rational argument.

    Joe Reply:

    If I wanted a rational argument you’d be the last person to offer one.

    You have a very strong correlation with 9/11 as much as any ditto head. A negative correlation is still a correlation.

    I’m friends with two police officers who work in the more affordable mountain view area and they can’t afford a home. They live in gilroy. Their perk is a good retirement, not wages. San Jose has cut salary for their police. All part of that powerful union getting their way you argumentative twit.

    And of course bring He-Man you would not break down physically carrying the weight firefighter or police carry day in and out. Losers physically break down and wear out their knees. You would work to age 67.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I thought their main perks were getting to shoot unarmed people with the wrong skin color, and playing with surplus military equipment during protests.

    Reality Check Reply:

    While teachers truly don’t make much, unionized fire & police make plenty and dominate the lists of highest-paid public employees in all the Bay Area cities I’ve seen. The oft-repeated trope that they sadly can’t afford to live in the cities they serve is largely BS since, in most cases, like with many other well-paid folks, simply choose to live elsewhere and commute.

    Reality Check Reply:

    The police dispatchers in my Peninsula city all make around $85k in base pay. With overtime and “other” pay, they average $150k a year. The rank & file officers make more than that … with quite a few in the $200-$300k range. Same story for “fire fighters” who live, cook and play at the firehouse between what is mostly medical calls (fires are rare) for multi-day “shifts” so they can drive back to their huge rural spreads (Sierra foothills are popular places to live among these guys) and enjoy long multi-day “weekends” with family, friends at the lake, pool or riding their ATVs.

    Joe Reply:

    Other pay for…..? More work in addition to their full time job.

    These are fascinating stories. Over time is over time. It’s working more which isn’t free and comes on top of normal time.

    Overtime because the city saves money paying over time rather than hiring. You don’t buy a home or go to college banking on overtime. You don’t spend time with family making overtime.

    Pay cuts for people who work two jobs because they are earning too much.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Highest-paid public workers call Bay Area home

    My ex-neighbor is a Peninsula cop who, like his colleagues makes fantastic money, great overtime and makes extra pay for relatively juicy/cushy assignments. Believe me, these guys know how to maximize overtime in lots of ways that aren’t painful at all based on the union-negotiated contract rules. Many of these guys deliberately organize their work schedules to maximize pay; no surprise there, it’s human nature. I used to hear them talking about it all the time as they frequently stopped by my ex-neighbor’s house to socialize. When I started looking them up by name in the public employee pay databases, I couldn’t believe the kind of pay they were pulling down in addition to their very sweet other benefits and 3% at 30 pension thing (retire with 30 years on and get 3% of your maximum final pay X years-on = 90% for life). More than a few “retire” young and double-dip — draw a pension and go on to work other jobs (either in or out of law enforcement) … and lots of other goodies they can talk about endlessly, if in the right frame of mind. Another one that I heard about is that any sorts of chronic malady, ache or pain (soft tissue injuries, nerve twinges, bad back, etc., etc.) that crop up after a certain number of years, by contract, presumed to have been caused by their work … hence, it’s a workplace injury … even if it’s totally not. Like a heart problem that MEDICALLY was obviously a congenital defect. Ka-ching!

    And so what did your two poor police friends who work in the Mtn. View area make in 2013 and how many years have they been cops? If you know their names, you can look that up in the 2013 Bay Area Public Employee Salaries database and tell us.

    Joe Reply:

    “play at the firehouse”
    One of the more despicable things I’ve read in past month.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Don’t get your panties all bunched up. You can only compensate so much and even a relatively rich city like San Jose is having trouble funding a bloated a fire and police budget.

    Jerry’s prison guards are getting 8 weeks of annual leave so hold the tears and angst.

    Reality Check Reply:

    You never saw a basketball court or volleyball court at a firehouse? You can only polish the trucks and do other firehouse chores (take the fire truck to Safeway, cooking, cleaning, etc.) so much … then it’s games, reading, web surfing, watching TV or whatever else to take fill the waking time between the infrequent service calls (mostly medical) to which you must drive a $500K ladder truck or engine (designed to fight big structure fires, because, you know, there might be a fire call) instead of the paramedic van-ambulances that are used in much of Europe.

    Eric Reply:

    Hm, maybe I should become a firefighter. There are so many things I’d want to do if I had free time plus a computer. Instead, I sit in my tech job until 8pm, and I only get to visit this site because it’s quick and non-mentally-taxing so I can comment quickly while my code compiles and runs.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Good luck with that … it’s common for THOUSANDS to apply every time a handful of firefighter jobs is advertised.

    Joe Reply:

    But not for any other non minimum wage job.

    We have massive under employment and unemployment. Yes any decent job will get many applications.

    I’m fascinated to know These applicants all want to live in large Sierra compounds and not in the wealthy cities they work.

    Maybe that’s part of the selection criteria. Also being good Halo player.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    A lot of these million-applicants-per-job stories miss the fact that people apply for more than one job. In academia, tenure-track search committees have many hundreds of applications for a single position. Does it mean one academic in five hundred gets a tenure-track job? No. In US pure math, it appears to be about one in six Ph.D. graduates, and two in five people who already got postdocs. People apply for 50+ jobs, and hope that the one they happen to get is within a few hundred kilometers of a place they want to live in. (In academia, the basic tradeoff is you get paid less than other people of your skill level, and have limited control over where you end up, but in return get perfect flex time and your own choice of what projects to do, and in many countries, including the US, far more job security than in comparable industries).

    My guess is that low-wage retail jobs, which have tens of applicants per position, are similar, only instead of applying to 50 universities spread across like 5 time zones, you apply to 50 places that are hiring in the same metro area: a bunch of temp agencies, a bunch of different big box stores (Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc.), a bunch of restaurants, a bunch of clothing stores – it adds up. You get to choose where you live – and depending on where that is you may well even have a sub-hour commute – but job security is shit, the pay is shit, the hours are unpredictable because if they give you a full-time job they have to give you health care benefits*, etc.

    *Robert: why don’t US leftists call for revisions to benefit regulations to avoid having benefits kick in only at some definition of full-time work? It’s bad for people who have to scrounge part-time jobs, and it also encourages big businesses to limit worker hours, which is part of why workers have to scrounge part-time jobs in the first place. It’s not really my area of wonkery, but why demand that businesses cover full-time workers, and not e.g. that they pay 3x% of premiums for workers who average x hours a week? In the Obamacare regime, there’s community rating either way, so instead of employer-based insurance, workers could buy their own on the exchanges.

    Reality Check Reply:

    @Alon, in the case of highly-sought-after full-time professional (vs. volunteer) firefighter jobs, positions seldom come open since there is low turnover. So unlike with some generic low-wage service industry or retail job, it’s not practical or possible to apply for a large number of firefighter jobs at the same time.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    http://xkcd.com/303/

    Jonathan Reply:

    Eric,
    Amen….

    Joe Reply:

    I have been to mountain views newer station with the Boy Scouts.
    Did you see the equipment they carry? The physical demands that a 50 year old body has to endure and drills.

    I’m fascinated that these well off couch potatoes consistently choose to live in less expensive areas. It’s all intentional I’m told.

    It’s a coincidence mountain view police live in gilroy. They could probably fit their family in a small two bedroom apt. in mountain view. That’s how they live in Europe.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Build apartments above the fire stations.

    Reality Check Reply:

    @Joe, your point — if you still have one — is getting pretty scattered. All you need to know is that fire and police are very well compensated. It’s a fact.

    Oh, yeah, and I have done the full hand-on tours of police and fire as part of citizens academy. They were trying to impress us with their heavy outfits and (relatively small air breathing air tanks). I’m a cold (and warm) water SCUBA diver, and a 100 cubic-foot tank plus around 30-34 pounds of extra lead plus a BC and dry suit make their get-up seem light and comfy. (Of course, divers are not running around in burning buildings … but then they very rarely are either.) And there are lots of 50-year old divers …

  13. Mark
    Aug 25th, 2014 at 17:31
    #13

    Robert: Wouldn’t an “endorsement” by the Authority CEO or Chair before the alternatives are presented to the Authority board for selection be improper, perhaps opening up the environmental process to litigation? If I understand this correctly, this new alignment has to “catch up” to the other ones already on the table and then the Authority will select which ones go forward for further analysis. Correct?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    At this point Morales is willing to examine the Hyperloop again to find a cheaper alternative.

    I just pray we don’t get some insane compromise that pushes the alignment from Palmdale east to Cajon, down to San Bernardino with a wye splitting off to Orange County San Diego and Phoenix and another stub for LA.

    That would not be well received in the City of Angels, even if it would solve some logistical issues.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “At this point Morales is willing to examine the Hyperloop again to find a cheaper alternative. ”

    How can you any claim for the vaunted value engineering on Morales’ part when his boss fired the much more experienced Van Ark for merely stating the obvious that Tejon must be revisited?

    synonymouse Reply:

    make any claim

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Because van Ark, as I have told you before, wasn’t relieved because of Tejon. Not even close.

    He was a holdover from Arnold’s Administration, and he seemed too cozy with Alstom and the Douty Plan for Brown’s liking. I think van Ark did want to look at Tejon again when Jerry became Govenor, but Brown seemed more or less confused why he would focus on that when the shortfall from the business plan was tens of billions more than any potential savings you might wring from Tejon.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You are giving the comatose Brown way too much understanding. He has not got a clue, then or now.

    The Ranch waved a finger and Van Ark was toast.

    Clem Reply:

    If cheaper alternatives are being sought, I’ve got one.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    If you actually want to do formal advocacy, De Leon would be where I would start. But I wouldn’t get my hopes up about him embracing Tejon after his remark about Fresno being full of “tumbleweeds”.

    If anything, the two-track CalTrain-istas need to realize that using Prop 1A money for that purpose probably killed any hope of an alignment that avoids a major urban center: Altamont, I-5, Tejon. Now that local politicians see that HSR funds can be used for their local projects, it’s game on.

    On the other hand, riding BART to Merced might have a sort of therapuetic quality to it….

    synonymouse Reply:

    There wasn’t any change. San Jose, Fresno, and LA co-opted hsr at the beginning and turned it into regional commute for the purpose of real estate speculation and exploitation.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I am sure Quentin Kopp, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and Arnold really wanted the same thing as Mike Antonovich….

    Kopp unquestionably with Diridon and Schenck wanted BARTHSR. Katz too. But the federal government no longer earmarks federal appropriations so Democratic lawmakers had to use HSR grants as a back door earmark. Now the cat is out of the bag though and there is little chance of reining him in.

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