Two Contractors Drop Out of Fresno-Bakersfield Bidding

Aug 27th, 2014 | Posted by

And then there were three:

Two would-be contenders for a contract to design and build the second stretch of a high-speed train line through the San Joaquin Valley have dropped out of the competition, leaving the California High-Speed Rail Authority with three contractors chasing the job.

The withdrawal of the two contracting teams potentially reduces the competitive pressure on the remaining firms bidding for the 65-mile job from Fresno to the Tulare-Kern county line. The state estimates the project’s value at between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.

Rail authority CEO Jeff Morales confirmed last week that two teams sent withdrawal letters to the agency in May. They are:

• California Rail Builders, a joint venture composed of Ferrovial Agroman U.S. Corp. and Granite Construction. Ferrovial is an American subsidiary of Ferrovial S.A., a Spanish company, while Granite Construction is a California company headquartered in Watsonville.

• Skanska-Ames Joint Venture, a team that includes Skanska USA Civil West California District Inc., a subsidiary of Sweden’s Skanska, and Minnesota-based Ames Construction Inc.

The two teams said in their letters that this wasn’t intended as a lack of confidence in the project or the process:

Jose Baraja, a Los Angeles-based representative of Ferrovial Agroman, said in his notice to the rail authority only that “the number of bidders shortlisted resulted in problems moving forward on the project.” Skanska USA Civil’s vice president of operations in Riverside, Jeff Langevin, wrote that his team’s decision was “based on internal business decisions and strategy and not a reflection on the authority or the project.” Both letters indicated that the companies hope to compete for future contracts on the high-speed train system.

So who’s left? There’s three teams still bidding:

• Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons, which won the $1 billion contract for the first segment in and to the north of Fresno

• Dragados/Flatiron/Shimmick, with Spain’s Dragados being the centerpiece of that bidding team

• Golden State Rail Partnership, which includes OHL USA and a US-based subsidiary of Samsung.

Tim Sheehan’s article also notes that in a conference call with investors, Tutor Perini CEO Ron Tutor indicated that the fewer bids meant a possibility of greater profit on this second segment. CHSRA CEO Jeff Morales disputed that, of course.

Bids are due in October and the board will make its choice in December. We will see who wins. There was no small amount of controversy last year when Tutor Perini won the first contract, something I’m sure the CHSRA board is keen to avoid this time around.

  1. lasdeng80
    Aug 27th, 2014 at 13:31

    Nothing new. List of 3 prequalified contractors was already posted to the CAHSRA website at least 2 weeks ago, when I was looking. Hope this doesn’t mean less competition = higher bids…

  2. cmoibenlepro
    Aug 27th, 2014 at 13:36

    Sorry for the confusion, but the article says that the first contract was from Madera to Fresno, the second one from Fresno to Tulare, and the third one from Tulare to Bakersfield.
    Will the HSR stop at Madera? How will it connect to San Francisco? Is there a plan for a connection between Bakersfield and Los Angeles?

  3. Keith Saggers
    Aug 27th, 2014 at 15:39

    A third contract will extend the route to just north of Bakersfield, while the fourth will cover the laying of steel tracks on the entire Madera-Bakersfield route.
    The rail agency expects to spend about $6 billion to build the Valley sections, which will be the backbone of a 520-mile, $68 billion system linking San Francisco and Los Angeles with electric trains carrying passengers at up to 220 mph

    Read more here:

  4. BMF of San Diego
    Aug 27th, 2014 at 16:54

    3 bidders is enough.

    They may dropped out on their own because they were advised that they did not make the short list. Better to make it look like it was by their own admission. Though with Skanska… they also got the award for 2 of the LACMTA projects, so they will be busy. The downtown regional connector and the west side purple line extension.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Hopefully, the Authority uses all three bidders and then decides based on these easy sections who to call upon for the more difficult segments. Shimmick and Flatiron deserve a chance even if Amtrak is leaning on them to use only American contractors.

  5. synonymouse
    Aug 27th, 2014 at 18:02

    “There was no small amount of controversy last year when Tutor Perini won the first contract, something I’m sure the CHSRA board is keen to avoid this time around.”

    TOM (after Nazorine exits)

    Who should I give this job to?


    Not to our paisan.

    Travis D Reply:

    Tutor won the job fair and square. If you have evidence of corruption please present it or just shut the hell up.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Whoever payolas the party bosses the best gets the job.

    Campaign contributions are legal bribes.

    JCC Reply:

    Stating that a fictional character is the person you would give the job to underscores how the wacky tobaccy, combined, no doubt, with a liberal amount of right wing talk radio and a conservative amount of Fox News viewing, has really screwed with your senses.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I take it you are not familiar with the Godfather. Don Corleone wisely parcels out the favors he asks of politicians for the appearance of propriety.

    The sham of legitimacy. The politicians are on the take.

    Travis D Reply:

    You evidence for this is what?

    Jonathan Reply:

    “fair and square” after CHSRA changed the ruies, arbitrarily. Without the arbitrary rule-change, Tutor would not have won.

    Travis D Reply:

    1) If the changed were arbitrary then they weren’t made to ensure Tutor won.

    2) If you have evidence they wanted Tutor to win then present it.

    Jonathan Reply:

    No, the changes were arbitrary in the sense of not being the rules under which bids were solicited
    Changing the rules in mid-course, to favor one particular entrant, does not match most people’s definition of “fair and square”. That is a fact.

    Travis D Reply:

    You have evidence they were changed specifically to favor one entrant?

    If so, report the whole thing!

    Jonathan Reply:

    The rules were changed in a way which favoured one bidder. That’s a *fact*.

    Travis D Reply:

    No, that is your unsupported assertion. This is the same as conspiracy theorists who assume that if someone made money on an insurance payout from 9/11 that said person must have really been behind 9/11.

    Just because you long ago relegated it to the column of “fact” doesn’t make it a fact anymore than chemtrails are real.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Travis you need some remedial lessons in rational discourse.

    *You* made a positive claim. The onus is on *you* to substantiate that claim; there is no onus on me or anyone else to refute it, if your claim is challenged. Here’s an example. “I claim you are a pedophile”. There. Now, by your rules, you’re a pedophile, unless *you* have *evidence* to the contrary. *Now* do you understand why the onus is on the person making the claim? — Note that I am not, repeat *not* stating that you are a pedophile.

    Next, you need to look at a definition of “arbitrary”. It is entirely proper to call CHSRA’s ad-hoc, after-the-fact changes to their contract evaluation criteria as “arbitarry”, even when those changes have the clear outcome of relegating Dragados &c’s bid to second place.

    joe Reply:

    You’re specifically describing an illegal act.

    Changing the rules in mid-course, to favor one particular entrant, does not match most people’s definition of “fair and square”.

    These are ARRA Funds. Here’s the link. Report it.

    you can report those concerns in several ways:

    Submit a Complaint Form electronically
    Call the Recovery Board Fraud Hotline: 1-877-392-3375 (1-877-FWA-DESK)
    Fax the Recovery Board: 1-877-329-3922 (1-877-FAX-FWA2)
    Write the Recovery Board:

    Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board
    Attention: Hotline Operators
    P.O. Box 27545
    Washington, D.C. 20038-7958

    You can also report fraud to an Inspector General.

    Book’em Dan’O

    Jonathan Reply:

    Poor Joe. Burdened by abysmal reading comprehension.

    joe Reply:

    “reading comprehension”. That gets ’em every time – right?

    No, Travis. Learn to read. I *never* said that there was corruption. I said that CHSRA arbitrarily changed their criteria for evaluating bids. That is a true statement.

    Try re-reading what you write.

    Changing the rules in mid-course, to favor one particular entrant, does not match most people’s definition of “fair and square”. That is a fact.

    This is an illegal act.
    The change was to favor one particular entrant. That’s precisely what you wrote.

    Travis D Reply:
    August 31st, 2014 at 8:48 am

    If you don’t think there was corruption then what is your problem with this?

    A legitimate question.

    Travis D Reply:

    I made no positive claim. The positive claim was that there was corruption. Assuming a lack of corruption is neutral which is my position. If you think there is corruption then present your evidence otherwise admit it is just your own paranoia.

    Jonathan Reply:

    No, Travis. Learn to read. I *never* said that there was corruption. I said that CHSRA arbitrarily changed their criteria for evaluating bids. That is a true statement. The outcome of that rule change was that the lowest-priced, but also lowest technical-ranked bid, ended up winning. *You* made the jump from those facts, to falsely insisting that I claim corruption occurred. I made no such claim.

    Travis D Reply:

    If you don’t think there was corruption then what is your problem with this?

    Jonathan Reply:

    .. and Travis D, do you, or any of your immediate family members, have any relationship or financial stake in Tutor-Perini? I doubt it, but I can’t imagine any other reason to be so defensive about Tutor &co winning the contract. Given the *facts*. Which have been examined to death, here on Robert’s blog.

    Travis D Reply:

    I have seen no facts. I’ve seen an echo chamber of a witch hunt for a company that seems to be just like any other major construction contractor.

    Jonathan Reply:

    The event was reported in the media:

    Here is a timeline on the CARRD site:

    It has also been discussed on this blog:

    Echo chamber? Witch hunt? What a strange world you live in.

    Travis D Reply:

    I’m still not seeing any evidence that the changes were made to specifically favor one bidder over the others.

    If you can produce a memo somewhere that says “we need to make sure Tutor wins the bid, change things so this is so” then do so. Otherwise admit this is nothing more than unsupported speculation.

    This honestly looks like so much of the bullcrap I see about Monsanto. The company becomes unpopular for nebulous reasons no one can ever clarify and then the echo chamber opens up with everyone taking their “evilness” as an established fact then working backwards from there to make their conspiracy theories fit.

    Alan Reply:

    Be nice…if Paul Ryan can base his economic theory on a novel for teenage boys, Syno can have his fantasies about the Godfather…

  6. jimsf
    Aug 27th, 2014 at 21:42

    when when when will actuall construction begin. Jeez, what is the damn hold up.

    Travis D Reply:

    Apparently buying property is taking longer than expected. People are playing hardball on the offers.

    Observer Reply:

    They said construction would begin this summer. I am guessing we will be lucky if construction begins before the end of the year.

    Bill Reply:

    It looks like construction has begun albeit under the radar. Buildings have been/are being torn down and tests for bridge pilings is being done.

    jimsf Reply:

    well that’s something at least. Im waiting for the big “official” turning or dirt where all the politicians come trotting out to have their pictures taken.

    les Reply:

    yes, it will be something if all Fresno’s council members show. I hope they bury them in the process.
    I know CHSR has been beefing up its land acquisition crew. I think they’ve learned from this first section and are trying to make up lost time on the 2nd.

    Observer Reply:

    Fresno has always had a reputation of being an unprogressive city to say the least. I was hoping that starting HSR construction in Fresno would give Fresno a better reputation. But seeing the way the politicians around Fresno are acting, my hopes are dashed. First it was the County Board of Supervisors withdrawing their support for HSR, then the city council refusing grant money for HSR station planning downtown, then Assemblyman Perea being against CnT funds which will help fund HSR. Add in other state assembly and senate members, and Fresno’s reputation for being unprogressive gets worst. Hopefully far into the future once HSR gets up and running, Fresno will become a more progressive place – you think?

    Bill Reply:

    Most of the Central Valley is unprogressive save for some pockets of clarity.

    joe Reply:

    Coastal liberals will colonize the CV and Fresno when HSR is completed.

    Mac Reply:

    Just because the CV doesn’t support the current plan doesn’t mean they are non-progressive. Just means they are not stupid. No money to complete –means no connection the LA Basin for decades, or possibly never. Look at the air quality impacts in the Fresno-Bakersfield ROD appendices. They even adjusted it UP in the errata here. Why in the heck would the CV want to support this when we have been fighting tooth and nail to attain containment. This will only set us back…and make the 6 years of proposed construction a suffocating nightmare. You folks who live outside the valley just don’t get it. Check out the last 4 pages to see .
    If all we get is a faster Amtrak from Bakersfield to parts North… is an easy call—-HELL NO>

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    synonymouse Reply:

    Fresno is progressive – it is the car theft and meth lab capital of California. San Francisco and Oakland urban mean streets values.

    joe Reply:

    The “reptilian” brain, or the brain stem regions (the medulla & cerebellum) are the most primitive.

  7. Adam
    Aug 28th, 2014 at 15:21

    To be honest, this doesn’t sound too promising. The CHSRA may have erred in shortlisting 5 teams–the rule of thumb in procurements is 3, maybe 4. The cost of preparing a competitive proposal is not insubstantial, and the benefit-cost analysis skews in favor of dropping out when there are too many competitors and the chances of being selected falls substantially assuming all teams have an even chance (ie. 20% with 5 candidates, 33% with 3).

    The (self-)selection process has achieved this result by other means, but CHSRA may have overplayed its hand in attempting to demonstrate that, really, no really(!), there is lots of private-sector interest in California High Speed Rail. A classic Hollywood case of “curb your enthusiasm.”

    Plus there is an element of unpredictability in the selection process given the controversy surrounding Tutor Perini’s selection the last time–how will the points system be reconfigured to determine “best value”? Will CHSRA want to spread the work around to other firms, or will its primary weighting again favor the lowest cost? If I were Skanska, I may not want to take that risk.

  8. jimsf
    Aug 28th, 2014 at 15:51

    Feature> The Golden Ticket

    Multi-modal transit hubs are driving development from coast to coast

    StevieB Reply:

    Except Lancaster mulls closing Metrolink station to stop homeless from arriving in the city by train.

    Downtown Los Angeles is actually sending transient individuals via Metrolink to access homeless services and resources from the city of Lancaster, council members argued at Tuesday’s meeting.

    And in response, city officials have called for staff to study closing the Lancaster Metrolink Station.

    There are several comments that punishing hundreds of daily commuters by closing the train station is not a good solution to homeless in Lancaster.

    les Reply:

    instead of Lancaster closing the station they should open up a homeless shelter.

    StevieB Reply:

    The comments suggest that Lancaster has the only homeless facility in the Antelope Valley which is drawing homeless to that city and that homeless would find other ways to reach the facility if the train station closed.

    joe Reply:

    It’s illegal to ship homeless and mental ill to other arras. If it were ture they should sue the City of LA.

    Nevada has been caught buying one way tickets to SF for their homeless and ill residents. It’s cheaper than providing services. It’s illegal.

    StevieB Reply:

    Lee D’Errico, Lancaster’s Public Safety Manager, alleges the homeless are riding trains without paying fares. They risk being fined but it is difficult to deter those without money with monetary penalties.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The county bears responsibility for indigent persons in California. If there is no space at a shelter, the county is well within it authority to transport clients via Metrolink to services in the Antelope Valley.

    jimsf Reply:

    it happens. The gal at the alundromat in my town which is county, told me the city of placerville cops drive homeless people out of town and drop them off in county areas like ours.

    joe Reply:

    San Francisco should collect and transport their mental ill and homeless to Kings County. Clean them and hand each 20 $5 bills.

    We can then negotiate the HSR alignment and lawsuit.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They would quickly decamp to Fresno where crack, speed, smack is readily available.

    Besides SF is a self-declared sanctuary city.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Jim is correct that many smaller incorporated homeless problem by dumping them across city or even county lines. Most large cities have the infrastructure and desire to serve a large indigent population. It’s the less urban ones and more conservative counties that refuse to treat their homeless population.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You mean like Central America?

    joe Reply:

    He means like Nevada.
    Feb. 4, 2014
    Over the past five years, Nevada’s primary state psychiatric hospital has put hundreds of mentally ill patients on Greyhound buses and sent them to cities and towns across America.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Dumping unwanted souls. The Crown used to dispatch them to the Colonies.

    I like Angelica Huston as Cinderella’s nasty stepmother in “Ever After” being threatened to be sent to “the Americas”.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Nevada is a well publicized case– but many hospitals in California do the exact same thing after they discharge a patient who has nowhere to go. It’s not a uniform practice, but it happens.

    joe Reply:

    The Military “blue discharge” is used to explain the large “Gay” population in port cities.

    Eric Reply:

    “the Navy’s estimates of blue-discharge homosexuals was around 4,000”

    Doesn’t seem to me like enough to change cities’ demographics.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The homeless can commute via the Antonovich base tunne from Pamdale to LAUS.

    Hey, Jerry, them homeless deserve a free lawyer too.l

    synonymouse Reply:

    I guess the “l” migrated from tunnel. Interesting. Is it the software or the operator?

    Donk Reply:

    Why don’t they just put them back on the next train back to LA

    synonymouse Reply:

    The can just ride back and forth – just like Muni at nite.

    datacruncher Reply:

    It was only 5 years ago that there was coverage about a nonprofit in Lancaster, with support from the local mayor, buying bus tickets out of town for the homeless.

    Even back then, as stated in the article, there was an accusation that Los Angeles was shipping homeless to Lancaster.

    Donk Reply:

    Why don’t we just ship all of our bums and our nuclear waste to Lancaster. The bums can be hired to run the nuclear waste facility. This solves the homeless problem in America as well as the Yucca Mountain problem.

    jimsf Reply:

    the bums and the nuclear waste belong in nevada. We should purchase nevada and use it as a landfill.

    Donk Reply:

    Agreed. What people don’t realize is that the Yucca Mountain area is already a nuclear wasteland. It is the perfect place for nuclear storage. I read that people used stay in hotels in Vegas in the 1950s and could see nuclear explosions going off far to the north (most were underground).

    How pathetic that our country can’t agree to find a single place to store its nuclear waste. Every time I drive by the now shut down San Onofre power plant I think how ridiculous it is that the nuclear waste will probably be stored there, right on the beach along a nearly pristine stretch coastline, forever.

    joe Reply:

    The National Academy of Sciences found EPA’s storage safety standard to be deficient by a factor of 100. That’s one issue holding up Yucca Mountain.

    San Onofre power plant is a nuclear wasteland, will cost billions to decommission and when done will not be a safe palace to picnic or surf. The facility failed to perform as designed and critical subsystems wore out early.

    There’s a lesson to leaned here and it’s not Nevada sucks.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    San Onofre a nuclear wasteland? That’s definitely one of dumber things I’ve heard recently.

    joe Reply:

    Why you’d probably build a housing complex on it.

    If having a plant store material is dumb because the plant is in a good beach location then why the hell was it put there in the first place.

    David Victor, chairman of the panel and professor at UC San Diego, agreed, and said another concern is how the stored waste will be monitored over the long term.

    “Part of that is buying a container, and part of that is a plan for monitoring the container, monitoring what’s called the ‘overpack,’ which is the concrete in which the container sits, and then periodically relicensing it,” Victor said. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires that every container be relicensed every 20 years.”

    The plan covers storing the radioactive waste through 2050. Edison officials are calling for the U.S. Department of Energy to be responsible after that, since Edison said it has failed in its commitment to provide a long term storage solution for spent nuclear fuel.
    We understand the NRC staff is worried about short and long-term waste storage in dry
    casks of high burnup fuel and has initiated a new study to determine if it can safely be
    stored in dry casks. Is this report complete? Will it be released to the public, and when?
    It is not clear what NRC study the question is addressing. Currently HBF is licensed to
    be stored in approved dry cask storage systems for an initial period of 20 years, with a
    potential extension of one or more 40 year intervals. However, with the delay in
    availability of a final repository for spent nuclear fuel it was determined that the dry
    storage of spent fuel might have to account for a considerably longer period of time than
    originally planned. As such, the NRC staff is examining the regulatory framework and
    potential technical issues related to extended dry storage and subsequent transportation
    of spent nuclear fuel for periods beyond the initial licensing and single renewal period
    (i.e., beyond ~60 years of storage).

    60 years of dry storage nuclear waste.

  9. joe
    Aug 28th, 2014 at 20:13

    Texas rulz.

    The number of Texas cities that could be served by high-speed rail is growing quickly….

    Read more here:
    “The Houston-to-Dallas connection is going to happen,” Houghton told the Star-Telegram. “It will have one stop, in College Station. It will be just east of Highway 6.”

    A preferred alternative will be identified during the federal environmental process.

    In previous discussions about high-speed rail, Texas Central Railway officials have said the route would generally follow the Interstate 45 corridor, which could put a high-speed line closer to Madisonville. College Station is about 40 miles west of I-45.

    Meanwhile, members of the Commission for High-Speed Rail in Dallas/Fort Worth stressed that their focus is on ensuring that high-speed rail serves not only downtown Dallas [and] also Arlington’s entertainment district and downtown Fort Worth.

    The Metroplex connection from Fort Worth to Dallas is expected to cost $2.5 billion to $4 billion and would likely require federal funding, officials said.

    The idea is to make the project bigger, with possible connections to Oklahoma City and Mexico, so it is a more appealing candidate for federal funds, officials said.

    It is hillarious to see Texas add requirements and costs, detour from the DAL to HOU alignment to service cities without a peep. Our rail expets mock these design changes and Palmdale for it’s connections to Las Vegas yet in Texas going to OAK City is smart becuase it will attract Federal funds.

    Hilarious to see Texas follow CA’s model and is all cool. Detours to add cities and expanding the proejct stations and scope are not cost overruns. Running service to other states is cool. That expandsion will get TX Federal funds. In CA LAS service it’s a waste and terrible and no Federal funds for us.

    CA’s Kevin McCarthy CA-R might be invited to cut the inaugrial ribbon at the Dallas station. After all, he’ll probably push the House to fund TX’s system.

    jimsf Reply:

    it is pretty bizarre to see texas doing this. but please never ever say “texas rules” again. Ive lived there and reading that makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    This is hype, a press release posing as journalism. Texas will take free money, but they any actually make the project happen.

    The total and abject failure of the Trans Texas Corridor indicates this is a pipe dream–foamer madness— and nothing more.

    Eric Reply:

    Not to mention the “Texas TGV” from years back

    Eric Reply:

    Serving College Station does not mean adding a giant zigzag and mountain crossing. The cost and travel times are much more likely to be affected by the route out of Houston than by the couple extra miles to College Station, and College Station appears to have an easier route out of Houston.

    Just because some politicians are now talking about extensions to Ft Worth, OKC and Mexico, does not mean that these extensions will ever happen or that they are good ideas. If anything, it shows that once you get away from professional analyses by private companies and plan based on politics and federal funding instead, a project which started out efficiently and successfully can quickly turn into a boondoggle. CAHSR of course has been this sort of boondoggle from the beginning.

    joe Reply:

    Texas has it well understood. The ROI and metrics for private are DIFFERENT than a public system. They know it and articulated the different goals. Public means public service and economic growth service and private means profit.

    The private, low cost proposal was city edge to city edge. It’s evolving to a city core with detour and stop. This i snot a 10B project but let’s remember that’s the baseline cost. We’ll see how it balloons as this moves forward.

    CAHSRA isn’t going down I-5 ROW SF to LA because that’s the private interests alignment.
    Public money shifted HSR to being a public service and included the CV.

    What we’re seeing in TX is perfectly understandable and for some reason accepted (for now). As it gets public interest their will be pressure to be a derive. If it takes public money then they’re going to be a different kind of system suited to the new criteria.

    In CA the public project’s being criticized for not service a narrow profit interest and running down I-5 and etc.

    Eric Reply:

    “Public” means crony capitalism, i.e. subsidies for Tejon Ranch Co and Palmdale developers.

    jimsf Reply:

    In ca hsr’s case public ultimatley means a route that will serve as many popualtion and future growth areas as possible, connecting as many of them to each other as possible with the system. That will give the largest number of californians in as many regions as possible, access to as many other californians in as many other regions as possible with the single system.

    We are lucky in ca to have a state this is roughly shaped like a corridor and the current plan , when you include phase one and two puts huge percentage of californians within easy reach of an hsr station. That has great public and economic value and thats why hsr is a good investment in californias future.

    Eric Reply:

    Serve them all. WITH SPURS. NOT ZIG ZAGS.

    jimsf Reply:

    spurs are not as efficient.

    Eric Reply:

    Spurs are more efficient for the 35 million people in the LA, Bay, SD, and Sacramento areas. Arguably less efficient for the 0.5 million people in the Antelope Valley. Spurs are more efficient overall.

    jimsf Reply:

    Build as planned and you get this coverage these areas show 30 miles or less, crow fly coverage from each planned station and as you can see the bulk of the california population is within 30 miles of an hsr station where they can catch a train and be connected with nearly anyone else in california within a couple of hours. That will revolutionize travel in the state and bring and unheard of amount of connectivity, speed and convenience to the majority of the population like never before.
    And that is what makes this project of value to so many californians.

    jimsf Reply:

    especially when the “zig zags” are minor and still allow for express service and an acceptable end to end travel time.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Palmdale is simply off-route. To detour to it – at enormous cost – is sandbagging what is otherwise a project reasonably likely to break even.

    Eric Reply:

    Yeah. In a perfect world, I-5 or Altamont might be preferable to the current route. But Palmdale is inexcusable.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Anyone in the know about the Ranch’s real, substantive position is on the San Gabriel “base” tunnel? They have to know the controversy about the costs is going to refocus attention on them.

    joe Reply:

    HSR to Palmdale is a subsidy for Palmdale real estate developers.
    HSR avoiding Tejon is a subsidy for Tejon Ranch Developers.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Tejon Ranch apparently considers hsr as potentially attracting the wrong class to their toney kingdom. But from the strategic point of view they probably favor the same route Brown decides on believing, correctly, that Brown’s subservient judiciary will rubberstamp.

    There will lots of unhappy campers no matter what. But Jerry is too busy taking care of the teachers union to even notice.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    There’s a much simpler explanation for why Palmdale is favored over Tejon for HSR-based development: water.

    Palmdale and Tejon may look like similar projects, but they are vastly different in their access to water. Just as LA can pull millions of acre feet from the Owens Valley, Colorado River, and the State Water Project, Palmdale only increases Southern California’s clout over the North as far as being able to take water but not be forced to share any.

    Tejon, on the other hand, has access to the Kern Valley Water Bank and imports from the State Water Project but nothing from LA. The Department of Water of Power knows this and uses the KVWB to act as a shadow reservoir as a way to monopolize the use of more water than Southern California can currently use, but may need in the future. If Tejon suddenly starts to reduce the capacity of the KVWB, LA has some problems on its hands.

    Eric Reply:

    There’s no need for HSR-based development in either of those exurbs. Better to have HSR-based development in LA, SF, San Jose, Fresno, etc.

  10. jimsf
    Aug 28th, 2014 at 20:14

    even though there are zero services there…. all the services are in PVC

  11. joe
    Aug 28th, 2014 at 21:02

    Cost overruns? Ridership! Politics!
    Where are the Technicals!!

    High-speed rail could expand to Austin, San Antonio, Oklahoma and Mexico

    The Japanese-built train would likely stop in downtown Dallas, possibly at the existing Union Station before heading south to Bryan-College Station and Houston.

    The main goal for the North Texas commission is to bring that high-speed rail west to Arlington’s Globe Life Park and AT&T Stadium and downtown Fort Worth.

    Detours and politics adding stations and stops. OMG! Costs were pegged at 10B. How much more will this cost and they want federal taxpayer money fo rover runs!!!

    Where are the technicals? !

    synonymouse Reply:

    More pertinent question is where are PB and Tutor? Private entrepreneurs can promise a lot. Remember Sin City maglev, monorail, hsr?

    swing hanger Reply:

    Texas Central Railway is backed by a listed company (i.e. for-profit) that actually runs HSR (for 50 years as of this October) unlike those “entrepreneurs”. If PB or their ilk want in, TCR can just tell them to GTFO, at least on the portions of line it funds itself.

    EJ Reply:

    You’re doing a great job arguing with the voices in your head, joe.

    joe Reply:

    Then stop interrupting.

    Here’s the costs:
    35M per route mile construction costs for 40 more miles = 1.4 Billion.

    Operating and maintenance costs from Clem’s analysis on added costs per mile.
    Added infrastructure costs 10M/year
    Added Rolling stock costs 70M /year
    Station maintenance 4/year.

    Cost of the detour in time
    Assume they bypass the city and run express trains 220.
    40 miles at 220 is 11 minutes. The time cost of the 12 minute Palmdale detour on ridership using the CAHSR ridership model was computed to be 100M a year. It should be greater for TX where the added time is greater fraction of total travel time.

    So it’s 184M/ year added costs on a for profit system.

    Joey Reply:

    Where are you getting 40 miles from? I measured the difference to be closer to 25.

    joe Reply:

    The article describing the detour’s distance used 40.
    Also used google maps to verify the distance was within reason. Maybe they can get it down to 35.

    Joey Reply:

    Is there a map of the proposed alignments somewhere? Unless you’re detouring back to I-45 rather than proceeding directly to Houston I really don’t see how it could come out to anything near where 40.

    Joey Reply:

    Even just using the driving routes it comes out to 26. I’m calling shenanigans on this 40 number until I see an actual alignment.

    joe Reply:

    Post a map link.

    Follow 45 and then alternatives such as 190 and it’s 36. Check the articles and see they are mentioning 40 miles.

    Joey Reply:

    Okay, here is the alternative. It splits from I-45 farther north than 190. Length is 265 vs 239 miles.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re deviating along roads that are not even decent ROWs for construction. Who needs to go through that jughandle at the 6/14 intersection near Hearne? Who needs to go through Hempstead?

    Do you see why these road-distance estimates are so wrong?

    Joey Reply:

    Yeah, that’s what happens when I don’t bother to align it properly.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s not your fault for not aligning this properly – there’s no road alignment that realizes anything close to the straight-line distance, because older roads meander to go through small towns, avoid hills, and connect to other small roads. In contrast, I-45 was built to be straight, taking supposedly sacrosanct private property, in order to minimize Dallas-Houston travel time.

    joe Reply:

    Recall the ROW along I-45 makes building the system easier and cheaper. It’s already available for construction. Every inch out of that corridor is probably a property seizure. I will bet the Texans will want the HSR train back to the I-45 ROW and not cut across.

    Joey Reply:

    Some have made the same argument for I-5 in California. It doesn’t really make sense because (a) The freeway isn’t dead straight so deviations for curves are necessary anyway, (b) You have to build new grade separations either way which ends up being the expensive part and, (c) Land is relatively cheap in these areas – you still have to acquire it, but it ends up being a small portion of the total costs even if you overcompensate land owners to avoid litigation.

    joe Reply:

    Acquiring land is a significant change from the original proposal to use the I-45 ROW.
    Land aquisition is a big deal to the people opposing the CA project in court and Kings county and Texas too.

    TX is an example of how an initial proposal changes and adds requirements/desire-ments – rightfully so – as it moves forward. Costs go up and travel times lengthen.

    Joey Reply:

    Land would have to be acquired along I-45 too (less, true). Like I said, curves would have do deviate significantly from the freeway and it looks like not all of it is wide enough to accommodate HSR, particularly in the vicinity of interchanges.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Texas HSR is going to have lower ridership than California HSR, so the extra operating costs of a detour are reduced.

    joe Reply:

    yes. The bunk of the cost is the loss of riders due to the 12 minute longer trip duration. (model estimate).

    It’s going to be different in TX but it’s not a trivial change or impact to add the stop and detour.

    Texas HSR end to end is 235 miles at 220 MPH is much less than than a 90 minute ride. A 10-12 minute detour is going to have a disproportionally greater impact on TC ridership than in CA where the LA to SF which must be capable of achieving 2:40 and operationally I suspect 3 hours.

    Look forward to the hand wringing over cost overruns off that 10B baseline cost. The loss of ridership and etc. No federal money and blah blah.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If it’s 60+ km, then it’s nontrivial… but still, you can’t use the same dollar cost estimates. At most you can talk about proportions of revenue.

    joe Reply:

    Note: Service to Palmdale adds less than 60KM to the CAHSR alignment.

    For ridership models, it’s time that matters. And time in proportion to total trip time and trip time by alternative modes. The distance is an approximation

    60KM at 220 MPH (top speed) is ~10 minutes.

    I’m told 10-12 minutes is supposed to matter for CA HSR on a 3 hour trip SF to LA. For a trip marketed at 90 it would have a far larger impact. Not proportional, it would be disproportionally worse.

    Bullet train goal: 68 trips a day from Dallas to Houston by 2021

    That’s 34 trips a day in each direction on weekdays and less on the weekends.

    During peak travel times, Japanese-built trains will be departing every 30 minutes, traveling at speeds of nearly 200 mph. In off-peak times, the trains would leave every hour. The journey would take about 90 minutes to travel the roughly 240 mile distance.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    But the Palmdale detour is not at top speed, because the mountain grades impose speed limits upward (by power) and downward (by braking requirements).

    Ted Judah Reply:

    …but if you use a really long base tunnel….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Okay, and now I actually computed the distances on Google Earth. It’s a 13 km difference, based on straight line distances. The only way you’re getting 40+ is if you assume HSR has to follow road alignments; there’s a straight freeway from Dallas to Houston, but to get to College Station requires going on older, curvier roads.

    13 km at $25 million per km is $325 million. Maybe marginally more to account for the fact that the College Station route is a bit farther inland, so the topography is a bit more difficult, but in neither case is there any need for tunnels or major viaducts, only perhaps slightly more cutting and filling.

    I’m not defending the College Station route, but if we’re attacking it for being a detour, let’s actually get the numbers right. By the standards of the Erfurt disaster, or the impending Palmdale disaster, it’s shrugworthy.

    joe Reply:

    It’s not a straight line difference.

    The I-45 ROW is the initial, light footprint alignment and leaving it means acquiring land.
    That’s the baseline. Deviate off that alignment to College Station and you’ll get the added distance.

    25M per KM is the low end of European construction costs. Color me skeptical.

    The impact is a switch from a project that is using HW ROW to a straight line across private property.

    Acquiring land from Texans is a big deal. Ask Antonio López de Santa Anna.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Land in rural Texas is cheap. More productive (=expensive) European farmland routinely gets bought off for HSR purposes; LGV, AVE, etc. alignments don’t usually follow motorways closely, and when they don’t, they never curve as much as older roads do.

    joe Reply:

    You see that Kings County is up in arms about land acquisition.

    Land in Taxes is sacrosanct.

    What Europeans think and do is irrelevant in TX.

    Joey Reply:

    What makes you think land is sacrosanct in Texas? In Houston, I-10 has doubled in width since the early 2000s.

    joe Reply:

    You have to acknowledge there is a difference between taking land for a HSR system and real-estate development.

    Joey Reply:

    I-10 isn’t a real-estate development. And the land it occupied wasn’t empty before it was built.

    joe Reply:

    You can hammer on this all day long – not getting it is your problem.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You have to acknowledge there is a difference between taking land for a HSR system and real-estate development.


    Los Banos


    Joe Reply:

    You forgot Monterey.

    Joey Reply:

    joe, I’m really not sure what point you’re trying to make here. If I’m not getting “it” (some unique universal truth about land acquisition in Texas specifically?) perhaps you can explain why land acquisition for freeway expansion and HSR are inherently different. Eminent domain for a private entity would require government intervention, but that’s not uncommon either.

    And let’s not forget that the I-45 alignment would require a lot of new land – HSR absolutely cannot fit within the existing freeway envelope for large portions of the route.

    joe Reply:

    Land acquisition for adding lanes vs building a new alignment?

    Well one is adding lanes to a highway and the other is cutting across land with a new alignment rather than following I-45. You don’t see a difference?

    HW 101 in NIMBY PAMPA Caltrans 2 new lanes (car pool and entry/exit). Did CARRD complain? Any City complain? Any complaints about expanding HW 99 in the CV?

    You don’t see any difference yet there are obviously differences in how these different things are received and treated.

    Texas already tried to build a new rail alignment and it failed. The Keystone pipeline is controversial.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If by “new rail alignment” you mean the Trans-Texas Corridor, ask yourself what differences there might be between a 370-meter wide corridor carrying everything, and an HSR corridor that’s 40 meters wide when it can be and 10 meters wide when it has to be.

    joe Reply:

    And CA HSR across Kings County is not 370 m wide. Locals opposed CA HSR for cutting across and dividing property.

    Texas is somehow a mystery because …..

    Joey Reply:

    Locals oppose regardless. The thing PAMPA is complaining about is an existing corridor, to be possibly widened and grade separated. Not dividing properties is true, but its a minor concern – like I’ve said previously, land is cheap compared to grade separations.

    And just to clarify, it’s entirely possible that the economics dictate that the I-45 route is more profitable in the long term. What I disagree with is your insistence that this routing choice (trivial compared to the routing choices in California) will make or break the project.

    joe Reply:

    Why is dividing a farm a minor concern? It’s a major issue in the valley and why parcels have to be bought with that consideration. Opposition in Kings Co. is over the taking of land, not the price.
    Political opposition to land seizers is no less complicated in TX.

    What will make or break TX for profit project is travel time. Adding stops that add time to the trip and operating expenses to every end to end trip cost readers and interfere with cost recovery.

    TX investors have to recover construction costs and operate with a profit.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Kings County NIMBYs are an irrelevance. The ones in PAMPA are more powerful – although not powerful enough to lead to a change to Altamont – but are also far richer and more connected than the Texan farmers we’re talking about.

    Dividing properties can be dealt with using land swaps. Texas ranches do not have the orderly division into square plots of California farms, which means they stand to benefit from land swap deals, as in France.

    joe Reply:

    The Kings County NIMBYs are an irrelevance. The ones in PAMPA are more powerful – although not powerful enough to lead to a change to Altamont – but are also far richer and more connected than the Texan farmers we’re talking about.

    PAMPA NIMBYs are a minority and not well connected. Proof?
    The Project was popular and remains so with the majority of voters.
    Jerry Hill’s Bill allowed the project access to the ROW. He also locked the funding to the ROW.
    That’s not NIMBY.

    Kings Co. lawsuits are an issue – they can’t stop the project but the opposition is deep in that County.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    As opposed to what Californians do, which describes Texan behavior to the T?

    joe Reply:

    You can use set theory to define set of cultural behaviors for CA, TX and Europeans.
    The intersection of the CA and TX set is larger than the TX and European intersection. CA is a better representation.

    On an ordinal scale of property rights and distrust of government. CA is less distrustful and less prone to allowing property rights to over ride other rights.

    That is you can get shot in Texas for trespassing. In CA it can happen but the land owner who shoots you is arrested.

    “A 1868 Cattle Ranchers Law in Texas which still is in effect to date states you can shoot anyone that trespasses onto your property can be shot because they deem harm to you and your livelihood. ”

    “The controversy is, that there have been 2 major shootings one in Houston Texas in 1990’s where an Asian Trick or Treater walked up to a house and rang the doorbell and was shot and killed by the homeowner.

    After court review, the trick or treater failed to read the multiple “Do Not Trespass” warning signs, and ruled that ignorance of the law is not an excuse even in light of the rather young age of the trespasser. ”

    You can tell me there’s no difference but I dare you to bang on a door in Texas and flip off the homeowner.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Nice theory. The reality is that Texas also has an ethos of getting things done fast, and another ethos of mocking Californians for overlitigating everything.

    joe Reply:

    They have an ethos.
    Texas also tried and failed in 2002. You acknowledge the failure and then they quit.
    But they have an ethos.

    The Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) is a transportation network originally envisioned to be a 4,000-mile network of highways, rail and utility lines. The network was to be funded by private investors and built and expanded as demand warranted.

    Gov. Rick Perry proposed the idea in 2002, according to TxDOT documents. The proposal relied heavily on public-private partnerships and toll roads because gasoline taxes haven’t kept up with need for more roads. But in the years since it was originally proposed, the idea has withered under public outcry, particularly from farmers worried their land would be taken and from those suspicious of long-term private involvement in managing and money-making from state roads.

    How can-do macho.

    But you know that kid got shot and died for trick or treat trespassing. That kid needed to read the sign. Trespass in TX and you get shot. Property rights trump all.

    There’s ample evidence acquiring HSR land in Texas will be difficult.

    EJ Reply:

    And that’s why nobody has ever built a freeway, public building, or railroad in Texas.

    joe Reply:

    I’m no match for Super Snark.

    Low tax Texas didn’t build the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) so there’s something going on.

    EJ Reply:

    TTC was a massive project that involved a superhighway, a powerline, a high speed train, a freight route… It was like nothing before, and it wasn’t just NIMBY farmers that killed it. The point is, in Texas as in California, NIMBYs alone can’t kill a project if it’s otherwise popular. You might as well say CAHSR can never be built, based on the fact that South Pasadena has been able to block the 710 freeway extension for decades.

    joe Reply:

    Well the can do state quit after that attempt.

    It’s popular because it’s free, frequent and the system will use the I-45 ROW. That’s the current message. Private funding, 10B cost and minimal impact.

    When the Politicians and public want added stations at FT Worth, College Station and etc, it’s not so low cost, not so minimal impact. Costs increase, Federal money will be needed. NIMBYs will form.

    Texas’ HSR project is going to face the same challenges and CA faced.

    The notable exception is low tax Texas cannot easily afford to fund HSR.

    The TTC was using private money.

    EJ Reply:

    OK – you’re right. Texas is bad and dumb.

    Somebody better warn the people building Highway 99. They’re gonna get shot for trespassing!

    Joe Reply:

    Cartoon man wins!

    Eric Reply:

    Not only is I-45 not straight enough for HSR along its length, but it goes through the Sam Houston National Forest just outside Houston. It also will have lots of difficulty getting up the I-45 corridor through the Houston suburbs, as the I-45 corridor is not wide enough to add two tracks at grade.

    In contrast, to reach College Station from Houston, you can take the rail ROW parallel to US-290, which is wide and extremely straight and avoids populated suburbs. I expect that with this alignment the construction costs will come out lower than going right up I-45, and the travel time may be lower as well.

    joe Reply:

    The marketing in Texas is pretty clear, the system will follow I-45 and have minimal impact. That’s what the private investors are saying right now.

    The Federal EIR will specify more clearly what this alignment means. I expect it will be flush rout.

    The baseline is 10B cost and I-45 alignment.

    On the other hand, the private funding that supports Texas Central — which has done its homework and looked at over 90 city pairs before giving the I-45 corridor a green light — will likely put the Dallas-to-Houston railway on a fast track that could mean bullet trains are up and running within the next 10 years.

    There are plenty of signs that we’re finally becoming a multimodal society in Texas. It was only five years ago that TxDOT created its rail division. Many other states have been planning and operating passenger rail for decades.

    Rail projects have to be cost-effective and show a return on investment. For private projects, that means profit for shareholders. For public projects, that means benefits in time savings, convenience, connectivity and the resulting economic development that keeps our state growing.

    Those are tall orders — but hey, we’re Texans, and we like a challenge.

    Texas wisely recognizes a private and public system have different goals and different success criteria. This is something CA critics refuse to acknowledge when CA State is held to private standard.

    Joey Reply:

    Marketing and the reality of the alignment are two very different things. I have an exercise for you: go into Google Earth (or Google Maps) and estimate the radius of some of the curves along I-45. For full speed, you need around 4km or 2.5mi.

    joe Reply:

    Indeed they are different. A low cost, easy to build system is very popular.

    What they end up with will depend on the reality on the ground.

    So far the TXHSR has been compared to our under construction system. It’s an unfair comparison.

    Eric Reply:

    “The Commission for High-Speed Rail in Dallas/Fort Worth voted unanimously to seek federal funding for a study of a route to Austin, according to the newspaper. That line would be separate from the entirely private high-speed rail that’s being developed to go from Dallas to Houston.”

    So it’s an entirely different project. And a less successful one, probably, since it’s on the model of CAHSR.

    Also see my comments above.

    To my knowledge, there is not yet a site on which I can make critical comments about this development.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Indeed, one of the points of completely private investment (or the most possible) is to prevent political meddling and involvement of contractors that game the system.

    joe Reply:

    Well, it’s doomed because it’s seeking federal funding so politics is on.

    Adding a station takes the route off the highway ROW so thell need to take land which is political. This dogleg will add costs to every HOU and DAL trip and add time to every single passenger between DAL and HOU.

    It needs a spur.

    They already have cost creep – 10B and now the stations head closer to city cores and detour.

  12. les
    Aug 29th, 2014 at 12:16

    And all this talk of Monterrey in the long rang plans; if this doesn’t bring the feds in I don’t know what will. And I’m curious if Denham will stick his nose into it and get the federal rail committee involved or does his federal reproach only apply to California?

    Mattie F. Reply:

    Monterrey would be a heck of a long train.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    I take that back, Monterrey’s a lot closer to the border than I envisioned.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Always crack the atlas….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    But not all that close to California!

    Eric Reply:

    Some day we’ll be able to take HSR from Quebec to Mexico City. There may also be a connection to the west coast, it would go through Tucson and El Paso to avoid mountain crossings. Go Gadsden Purchase!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Nah. Make no little plans, I say: build vactrains, all over the world, across the oceans, and across the Darien Gap.

    Eric Reply:

    Quebec-Detroit, Detroit-Chicago, Chicago-STL-KC-Tulsa-OKC-Dallas, Dallas-SA, SA-Monterrey, Monterrey-Mexico are all plausible routes. You won’t get a direct train from Quebec to Mexico City though. And the trip will take something like 20 hours not including transfers. It’s impractical, but fun to imagine.

    On the west coast end, LA-Tucson is likely. Tucson to El Paso and El Paso to Dallas are questionable, but if Juarez becomes stable and prosperous these routes have a chance. If all this happens, you would have a NYC-SF HSR connection, which once again would take over 20 hours.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Semi-plausible, really – Quebec City is too small, and San Antonio-Monterrey may have the standard international underperformance problem (although given San Antonio’s Mexican population, it may succeed).

    But as you say, trains aren’t going to run directly, and pretty much nobody is going to do the trip by train. At most, there could be night trains on routes taking 7-12 hours, like New York-Texas, New York-Denver, New York-Florida, and maybe Chicago-Texas.

  13. Reality Check
    Aug 29th, 2014 at 13:45

    James Fallows: California High-Speed Rail No. 9 — the Chairman’s Turn Again
    You want to hear more about the biggest infrastructure project being considered anywhere in the country? You’ve come to the right place.

    When last we visited this topic, with No. 8, eight readers were offering eight complaints about the concept and execution of the system. Back in early July, with No. 3, the chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority, Dan Richard, replied to some preceding rounds of criticism. He is back again, with his answers to the latest crop.


    Keith Saggers Reply:

  14. Ted Judah
    Aug 29th, 2014 at 16:56

    Speaking of vapor ware:

    Does the FRA act on All Aboard Florida’s loan application before Election Day?

    Jonathan Reply:

    Note to those who read the link text: that’s not actually 187 billion dollars, it’s 1.87 billion dollars.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    For one thing, the draft EIS has not been released yet. And for the US DOT to decide on the RRIF loan, the final EIS will have to be released. So no, there will not be a decision on the RRIF loan application before Election Day. Also, the $1.87 billion amount is not verified. I have seen other numbers for $1.5 and $995 million.

    The TC Palm paper is very much anti AAF by the way. I would question any article they publish. They have their own agenda and from what I can tell are supporting the efforts of FNAA and KC Traylor to influence elections locally.

  15. jimsf
    Aug 29th, 2014 at 20:19

    Mayhem in the skies

    Arilines dont give a crap about their passengers and their passengers dont give a crap about each other.

    Flying is has become consistantly miserable.

    joe Reply:


    They packed coach seats so close that the seat tray unfolds and hits the arm rest. It can only unfold if it’s retracted.

    This bickering is just normal behavior reproducible in any lab. Pack rats or any mammal into tight spaces for prolonged periods of time and you get conflict.

    I’m happy there’s some ruckus over seats reclining. They can factor the cost of people arguing and flight diversions into their spreadsheets. Airlines are 95% responsible.

    That 150 complete strangers can self organize and sit tightly together calmly is pretty amazing. Not many other species of mammal can perform this cooperative behavior.

    Eric Reply:

    Passengers don’t give a crap against anything except low fares. For those who do give a crap, there is first class.

    Luckily there is a way of putting our high-speed vehicles on rails with an attached overhead power supply, rather than having them need to continually fight gravity using by burning the oil in big attached fuel tanks. With the resulting gains in efficiency, the vehicles can be large enough to be comfortable while still being cheap.

    jimsf Reply:

    and these electric rail bound vehicles of which you speak, what would they be called. Its an intriguing idea

    jimsf Reply:

    I’m not so sure you can put most of the blame on airlines though, when people continue to purchase the tickets and board the planes. Its just like the people who trample each other to death trying to get a cheap tv set on black friday. American values have devolved to place of “cheap and tacky.” The problem with that is that “cheap an tacky” is never an attractive place to be. But when you have a nation of people who aren’t aware that cheap and tacky, is in fact, cheap and tacky and unnatractive, or know it but don’t care, youre doomed because of the lack of awareness and caring.

    My great grandmother told me that back in the day, a lady never went downtown without proper hat and gloves. Must have been so pleasant.

    EJ Reply:

    Oh fer god’s sake. Like Eric said, if you don’t want cheap and tacky, go business class or first class. Oh, you can’t afford it/don’t want to pay that much? Enjoy the fact that airlines have managed to make air travel affordable to the masses.

    jimsf Reply:

    actually you missed the point. Its very sad that americans have gotten used to this downward slide, and have become willing to accept everything from endless voice prompts on 800 numbers, to cattle car seating on airlines and everything in between. Its not about making things affordable to the masses. “things” don’t need to be dreadful in order for the masses to have access to them. ITs a direct result of the massive shift of weatlh upward in the last 40 years. If americans wanted better service and better quality, they don’t have to pay more the just have to insist on not buying the products at all and put the squeeze back on the supplier.
    Its like going on stirke. If tomorrow americans said, “you know what, enough is enough, and satyed home, didn’t travel, didnt shop and announced that until things change they would not purchase ( except food of course) The economy would stop and the corporations would lose billions.

    But alas, americans are like a cheap easy date. Toss them a 99 cent super size and your in.

    joe Reply:

    The reduced leg room in coach is done to add more leg room in the higher fare classes.
    United cut 1.5 inches out of coach leg room. Did anyone see that on web site?

    FAA should force airlines to sell seats with guaranteed minimal leg room and seat width. The consumer can’t tell what they are buying. Carriers can compete on space and price.

    And when you fly for business, you don’t go business class. You go coach class and any upgrades come out of your own pocket. At least have a chance to select the most roomy coach class flight.

    Airlines continue profitability streak
    Posted: Aug 22, 2014 12:15 PM PDT Updated: Aug 22, 2014 12:15 PM PDT
    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Profit is soaring for airlines.

    The top nine major U.S. passenger airlines — Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Hawaiian, Jetblue, Southwest, Spirit and United — more than doubled net profit in the first half of 2014.

    Eric Reply:

    In every plane I’ve been in, first class is a small part of the plane (though it makes a big part of the airline’s profits). The reduced leg room is to add more passengers in coach, much more than it is to make more space in first class.

    FAA should require airlines to report how big the seats are, but should not require any minimum size (except for safety considerations).

    Eric M Reply:

    Actually, most airlines lose money with first class class and most people in first are flying on award/upgrade tickets. Economy plus or business class makes the most money for the airlines, excluding air freight (which is the biggest money maker for ALL airlines).

    joe Reply:

    I call bullshit.

    Airlines make a shit load more on higher service fares and seats. I’ve paid for business and first class and it’s hundreds of dollars more.

    Economy plus is 60-80 per seat more on United for 5″ more. First class hundreds of dollars more.

    In fact, a Wall Street Journal study in October 2013 found that airlines were reducing space for economy class passengers in order to make more room for first and business class passengers, who pay far higher ticket prices.

    The norm for long flights has gone from around 18 inches (46 centimeters) in the 1970s and 1980s, briefly up to 18.5 inches before shrinking down to just 17 inches in recent years, the newspaper reported.

    joe Reply:

    “In comparison, legroom on a typical US train is more like 20 inches.”

    Reality Check Reply:

    As a rule of thumb, business is double economy and first is double business (4x economy).

    Caveat: it’s only a rule of thumb — so there are (and I have seen) significant deviations at certain times and/or on certain routes/airlines … but it seems more or less approximately right, on average.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    “United cut 1.5 inches out of coach leg room. Did anyone see that on web site?”

    I always check SeatGuru when I’m comparing fares.

    joe Reply:


    I looked for reservation on my last flight and they don’t list seat pitch (surrogate for leg room), it’s ordinal data. Average.

    FAA should require seat pitch or some comparative data along with duration, stops and cost.

    Also ban the knee protector.

    Reality Check Reply:

    @jimsf wrote:

    It’s a direct result of the massive shift of wealth upward in the last 40 years.

    Check out Robert Reich’s excellent and very watchable “Inequality for All documentary about that wealth shift and the dangerous-for-democracy disappearance of the middle class in the last 40 years … if you have Netflix, it’s conveniently available to play instantly or as a DVD.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Here’s the official “Inequality for All” website.

    jimsf Reply:

    yes i watched that a while back. very well done. I have always liked that guy.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Reich’s the one who wants the US to stop trading with Sweden, Germany, and Switzerland, right? (His official line is not to trade with countries with lower minimum wages; those three, and several others in Europe, have no minimum wage at all. Switzerland doesn’t even have very extensive collective bargaining agreements the way the Nordic countries do.)

    Reality Check Reply:

    Must be a somewhat obscure ad hominem, since I wasn’t able to Google anything about that, and there’s nothing about that in the “Inequality for All” film — I checked the script — so I’ll assume you’ll be immensely relieved that it’s safe for you to watch, enjoy and learn something from! You can stream it (or add it to your DVD queue) now if you’re a Netflix member.

  16. Donk
    Aug 31st, 2014 at 07:21

    NIMBY season for the BUR-Palmdale corridor is officially open:

    “A recent proposal to study cutting a high-speed rail corridor through the Angeles National Forest is drawing fire from San Fernando Valley communities near the preserve’s southwest boundary.

    Calling Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich’s idea vague and ill-conceived, groups that represent thousands of residents want the California High-Speed Rail Authority to disregard the suggestion.”

    Donk Reply:

    This is going to get nasty. Maybe so nasty that it will re-open discussions about the Tejon alignment.

    Travis D Reply:

    No. The EIR’s into the Palmdale alignment are too mature to discard now.

    Clem Reply:

    An EIR is never too mature to be discarded. For certain entities, there is great profit in doing it over.

    joe Reply:

    And for other entities there is great reward in endlessly attacking a project for not doing enough.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Donk, they would likely have to fire Richards for Tejon to be revisited.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But a very enlightening map in the LA Times article – what is that amounting to in the Sta. Clarita area, about a 110 degree curve off to Palmdale?

    Alon Levy Reply:


    synonymouse Reply:

    One of the comments:

    “The route proposed by Mr Antonovich is as poorly conceived as the entire HSR idea. He thought the people in Acton, Agua Dulce and Santa Clarita were upset? He’s not seen anything yet! The people in Shadow Hills, Sunland, Sun Valley, La Tuna Canyon, Lakeview Terrace, La Crescenta, and others didn’t get upset until they saw this broad yellow stripe drawn all across their densely packed neighborhoods! There is NO PLACE in that 10-mile wide swath targeting Burbank Airport that won’t go barreling right through densely populated and/or environmentally sensitive areas, after it has already gone through at least a 20-mile long tunnel under the San Gabriels. The whole HSR proposal is rapidly becoming a government circus in which all the acts stink! No amount of music or clowns will improve it. Time to get a new referendum on the ballot to rescind this whole HSR can of worms.”

    But these people had better lawyer up and start raising money and get ready to march. They are dealing with the Tejon Ranch Co., which seems to be as powerful as PG&E in SoCal. The Ranch seems to have Jerry Brown by the cojones. If there is any room left to grab after the teachers’ union.

  17. datacruncher
    Aug 31st, 2014 at 10:31

    Viewpoints: An environmentalist’s case for high-speed rail
    The California League of Conservation Voters supported Proposition 1A, the 2008 ballot measure that approved the issuance of bonds to fund high-speed rail in the state. As the president of the California league, I wanted to share why I think this program is so pivotal in our efforts to “decarbonize” California and is part of our international climate leadership.

    joe Reply:

    Good news. This endorsement will force the Sierra Club Executives to explain their opposition.

    Meanwhile Antonovich is taking heat for moving the alignment. CEO Jeff Morales was smart enough to sidestep any decision and offer to study the proposed alignment as part of the EIR.

    Proposal for rail corridor through Angeles National Forest draws fire

    Calling Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich’s idea vague and ill-conceived, groups that represent thousands of residents want the California High-Speed Rail Authority to disregard the suggestion.

    Clem Reply:

    CEO Jeff Morales was smart enough to sidestep any decision and offer to study the proposed alignment as part of the EIR.

    “Decisions” such as this can only be made in the EIR process, so I’m not sure what intelligence was on display when the only available path forward was chosen. I concede that Morales may be smart, but for other reasons.

    joe Reply:

    Yes. I wasn’t clear in what I meant by “decision”.

    My understanding is the CAHSRA can generate alternative alignments to study for the EIR. They let the local politician proposed this alternative alignment. He pushed it and owns it politically.

    Since it has been proposed CAHSRA would be wise to study it – it’s required they consider alternatives under CEQA. They’ll face a lawsuit for not building a complete EIR. One example is Atherton and others suing because the CAHSRA didn’t study other alignments proposed by opposition experts.

    They decided to not study all proposed alignments.

    On appeal, petitioners alleged that the Authority’s revised final PEIR violated CEQA because:

    the range of alternatives analyzed was inadequate.


    Finally, the court held that the Authority analyzed an adequate range of alternatives and was not required to evaluate additional alternatives proposed by petitioners, based on one of the following findings:
    the claim was barred by collateral estoppel;
    the alternative was substantially similar to one of those evaluated in the revised final PEIR;
    the alternative would continue to be studied at the project level; or
    the Authority’s infeasibility findings were supported by substantial evidence.

    William Reply:

    OT Comment: for people who wants a Tejon alignment, the entirety of a Tejon alignment needs to go through Los Padres National Forest, while the Techachapi alignment does not. If any Tejon alignment was selected, it would also need to be reviewed by the USDS Forest Service, and one of the question they would have asked could be “is there any alternative that not go through Los Padres National Forest”. Adding another layer of red-tape and review and thus increased chance of being “rejected”.

  18. Emmanuel
    Aug 31st, 2014 at 16:41

    I don’t know much about the details, but if they are all supposed to build exactly the same thing, then my money would go to the one who can build it the fastest and cheapest way. I would also do a background check on cost overruns. But, that’s just me.

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