TRAC’s Unfeasible Alternative HSR Plan

Sep 29th, 2014 | Posted by

There’s a certain kind of transit advocate out there who will oppose new transit and rail lines if those lines offend their own personal beliefs as to what makes for good routes. In California, those advocates like to congregate at TRAC – the Train Riders Association of California.

TRAC falls into the category of those who do not want San Joaquin Valley residents to have access to high speed rail, and would prefer the entire region to simply be bypassed. Instead of building the voter-approved system, they argue for a radical revision that would, magically, attract tens of billions in private funding:

Besides the massive undisclosed subsidy to developers, the current plan cannot possibly work financially. There’s no conceivable source for the $26 billion shortfall for a line just to get from Merced to the San Fernando Valley. Neither federal nor private investment is forthcoming. Cap-and-trade revenue cannot fill the gap, either, even if that proposal survives a legal challenge.

There’s numerous flaws here, starting with the idea that serving the Valley cities is somehow a service to developers. The CHSRA dropped a proposed Los Banos station and pushed hard for stations to be built in the center of these cities, rather than on the fringes. If sprawl was their goal, they’d not have made those particular decisions.

Federal investment will materialize once Republicans are thrown out of power in Congress. And private investment will materialize, as has long been known, once there’s an initial segment. Cap-and-trade funding can indeed help provide that segment.

To replace the voter-approved plan, TRAC proposes something that flies in the face of reality:

The state needs a much less costly plan, built around private investment, which benefits passengers now – not 20 years in the future. Here’s what our association proposes:

• Spend federal stimulus money to upgrade the existing Amtrak corridor between Sacramento and Bakersfield to 110 mph. That would provide fast service up and down the San Joaquin Valley, without noise to cities and disruption to agriculture that the current project would bring. The mission to connect these population centers to the rest of the state could be accomplished by spending a tiny fraction of the planned $6 billion.

The stimulus funds cannot be redirected to this cause. The 110mph speeds on existing tracks will cause significant noise and disruption. The reason why higher speeds on dedicated HSR tracks will be less disruptive is because it will be constructed entirely new.

• Use cap-and-trade funds to upgrade the San Diego-Los Angeles Amtrak corridor to 110 mph. These investments in the state-subsidized Amtrak system will provide significant improvements in mobility at an affordable cost. San Joaquin Valley residents would be able to board in Fresno, for example, and disembark in Los Angeles or San Francisco less than three hours later, without changing trains. Existing stations would continue to be served by Amtrak, with tickets that cost much less than high-speed rail.

This is already underway, though not all the necessary projects on the SD-LA tracks have been funded. Still, while upgrading the Surfliner route is good, it’s no substitute for HSR. The speeds are a lot slower and there’s not enough ROW to get the frequent service that’s needed.

Notably, these “upgrade Amtrak instead” proposals do nothing to offer the crucial high speed connection between SF and LA via the Valley cities that the CHSRA project will provide. One can assume that such a connection, linking the state’s major population centers, is not important to TRAC. Here is what they do have to say about real HSR:

• Create an open bidding process for private investment in high-speed rail. We believe that experienced operators should direct the development of new routes. Past interest by operators suggests that access from Bakersfield to Los Angeles via the Grapevine is far superior to the authority-proposed detour through the Mojave Desert via Palmdale. Similarly, operators are likely to prefer access to the Bay Area via Altamont Pass, rather than Pacheco, as that route would add significant revenue from Sacramento.

The idea that the private sector would pay for HSR tunnels from Bakersfield to LA is absurd. They are not going to pay billions to do so. It’s too big a lift, too much risk, for the private sector to pull off. I am skeptical of the claims made in Texas that HSR can be built without any public funds, but it’s more plausible there given that Texas has much less challenging geography than California – especially between Bakersfield and LA.

The TRAC plan is created by people who are way too caught up in small details and have lost sight of the bigger picture. Their ideas won’t go anywhere, of course. But it’s worth pointing out them why they’ve never been influential in Sacramento. They continue to ask for the wrong things, things that don’t motivate the public to care. Californians like the idea of the public paying for high speed rail between SF and LA, serving populations in between. That is popular. TRAC’s proposals don’t generate that kind of backing. Then again, TRAC’s previous efforts to undermine HSR have consistently failed, so this new op-ed touting old ideas isn’t likely to go anywhere either.

  1. Scramjett
    Sep 29th, 2014 at 15:21
    #1

    Federal investment will materialize once Republicans are thrown out of power in Congress. </blockquote

    LMAO! Not in my lifetime!

    Scramjett Reply:

    Oops, messed that up.

  2. Keith Saggers
    Sep 29th, 2014 at 15:28
    #2

    Two courts have ruled that the authority failed to meet bond measure requirements

    Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/09/29/6743679/viewpoints-heres-a-better-high.html#storylink=cpy

    citation needed

    Alan Reply:

    Last I heard, Judge Kenny was just one court, not two. The op-ed also conveniently ignores the fact that the lower court’s rulings were overturned by the Court of Appeal. But why let facts get in the way?

    Joe Reply:

    Kenny was over turned with extreme prejudice. It was not even close.

    Scramjett Reply:

    Hah! That Sac Bee never lets a little thing like facts get in its way!

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    In case you didn’t notice, the appellate decision noted that CHSRA failed to meet bond measure requirements. Its “innovation” and the reason for seeking Supreme Court review is that the Court of Appeal said there was no remedy. The requirements were unenforceable, according to that court.

    Alan Reply:

    The appellate decision was tepid in noting the “alleged” deficiencies of the funding plan, and also noted that the first funding plan “served its purpose” by providing the Legislature with sufficient information to enact SB 1012.

    A court can “note” anything it likes. It can note that the sky is blue if it so chooses. All that matters is the ultimate decision, and in that, you lost.

    …the reason for seeking Supreme Court review is that the Court of Appeal said there was no remedy. The requirements were unenforceable, according to that court.

    The unanimous Court of Appeal was exactly right. It used long-held–as it put it, “well worn”–principles to decide the issue. Your argument about a remedy is with the author of AB3034, and it’s a bit late for that.

    synonymouse Reply:

    When a judge complains that an intentional legal stricture imposes a “fiscal straitjacket”, it is all over. Hasta la vista, Prop 1a. Hola carte blanche.

    Joe Reply:

    TRANSDEF is proving once again that legal recourse is about the delay and not the law.

    Their is no legal remedy becuase their is no Court oversight into how the Leglislature conducts its constitutionally assigned business.

    The way I see it, TRANSDEF uses the courts to leglislate. TRANSDEF will settle lawsuits with an agreement requiring the State run TRANSDEF scenarios and publish the results.

    That settlement did 0% for the people TRANSDEF is supposed to represent but is awsome for TRANSDEF and their alterantive view of how the world should work. Delay and extract concessions for TRANSDEF to use taxpayer money to further thier private interests.

    Alan Reply:

    That’s exactly right. TRANSDEF is trying the same crap again in the ARB case. Fortunately for the real world, the Court of Appeal sent a clear message that they’re not inclined to legislate from the bench. TRANSDEF is doing nothing to represent the public interest–if they were, they’d stop with the endless obstruction tactics.

    It’s interesting to note that the last TRAC newsletter posted to their website is from February, and is laced with hysterics about the “Palmdale Land Scam” and the “Last Desperate Days of the HSRA Bubble”, where they confidently predicted that the Court of Appeal would uphold Judge Kenny. Funny how they’ve gone silent since then…

    I spent some time yesterday reading the petitions that the Howard Jarvis people and the Bakersfield church filed with the Supreme Court. Amazingly, they’re trying to litigate before the Supreme Court the issues that haven’t yet even been tried in the district court–the nonsense about the blended plan not being compliant, etc., and why that should prevent validation. Those claims are grossly premature for the Supreme Court, and I’d expect the Court to say so. Those parties completely disregard Judge Kenny’s ruling that issues regarding the use of the bond proceeds are different from the issues concerning validation. Kenny got the decision wrong on validation, but he was right about keeping things separate. Validation is about the bonds being lawful obligations of the state. Nothing more.

    joe Reply:

    The TRANSDEF settlement: Have the government run your pet scenarios and publish them for free. http://mtcwatch.com/pdfiles/3-04_TRANSDEF.htm

    .
    ….
    i. TRANSDEF will supply the 2030 land use assumptions to MTC consistent with MTC’s new 1,454 travel analysis zone system.

    MTC will model this alternative using assumptions supplied by TRANSDEF, as described below. The description of the alternative will clearly identify the conditions and assumptions that are beyond current MTC authority or funding constraints.

    The description would also indicate that the assumptions are those of TRANSDEF and have not been reviewed with local governments or the public, other than through the Smart Growth process.

    • The description of the TRANSDEF Smart Growth Alternative would indicate that MTC does not foresee that Bay Area transit operators will have the financial capacity to operate significant new service, and that this alternative assumes new sources of operating revenues.

  3. Zorro
    Sep 29th, 2014 at 16:09
    #3

    Agreed Robert, TRAC’s plan is going nowhere, no one is really interested in their plan, HSR will be built in the CV and HSR is not 110mph, not in the least.

    wdobner Reply:

    110mph may be HSR by the definitions laid down by the FRA, but it’s definitely not particularly useful. And even then, just because California plans to run 110mph on existing tracks does not by any means guarantee UP or BNSF will let California within a few miles of their track.

    Eric Reply:

    “The reason why higher speeds on dedicated HSR tracks will be less disruptive is because it will be constructed entirely new.”

    well, the main reason is that on new tracks it will not have to compete with slow freights for track space.
    mixing speeds just makes operations messy.

    Alan Reply:

    The feds certainly have not helped matters by arbitrarily defining “high-speed” as 100+, when the international definition is quite different. The news media have all picked up on the feds’ mis-definition, and that makes our work that much more difficult.

    Scramjett Reply:

    Agreed. The Feds really need to fix it by labeling “high-speed rail” as >180, 90-180 as medium-speed (or perhaps intercity) rail and <90 as low-speed rail. I think there is room for variation, but designating a speed of something like 180 MPH as "high" is crucial.

    I also think that there should be improvements in freight rail that allow it to travel at "medium-speeds" somewhere in the neighborhood of 120-150 MPH. But that's a whole other topic of discussion.

    Alan Reply:

    I mistyped, and should have said “110+”, not 100…

    That said, I think you’re correct in saying that the Federal definitions should be changed, but I wonder if that horse is too far out of the barn to close the door. By now, 110+ “HSR” is ingraned into the public consciousness, and it’s going to take a lot to change that.

    I think that 120+ freight rail is a non-starter. Bulk commodities don’t need that kind of speed, and can you imagine the public outcry over 150mph trains of oil tanks?

    Scramjett Reply:

    I think they could still do it, but you’re right about overcoming public perception.

    I think that 120+ freight rail is a non-starter. Bulk commodities don’t need that kind of speed, and can you imagine the public outcry over 150mph trains of oil tanks?

    I would still like faster freight trains to minimize or even eliminate long haul trucking from the roads. However, you make a good point about the oil tankers. I would hope that as we move to make our infrastructure cleaner and more sustainable, the need for oil tankers would be eliminated eventually. But that could just be wishful thinking on my part.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Moving freight fast is a waste of fuel, and is not necessary to be competitive with other modes. Rail intermodal already has a high market penetration, but the residual highway freight tends to move in less dense lanes that are harder to compete with. Overall density of rail freight traffic prevents the RRs from offering expedited services without soaking up capacity. There may be limited opportunities for expedited freight by HSR but these won’t have much impact on traffic or the environment.

    Scramjett Reply:

    While I can’t really comment to most of what you said since I’m not familiar with rail freight logistics, I will say that I think all rail, freight and passenger, should be electrified which would solve the fuel problem. Trains are already basically electric and just use diesel engines to generate current.

    As to the rest, I’ve never been one that takes economics into consideration when determining if something should be done. In my view, something should be done because it’s the best solution, not because it’s cheaper.

    (I apologize if you weren’t really talking economics. It was your “high market penetration” bit that made me think you were).

    Reality Check Reply:

    In other words, “cost is no object”, huh? Must be nice being that rich … oh, wait, nobody is that rich.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I try always to talk economics. I live in a real world.

    Scramjett Reply:

    And THAT, is why, as a civilization, we are f***ed.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Scramjett, looking at the economics allows us to achieve the greatest benefit for the least cost. Why bother electrifying the US freight rail network, for marginal benefit, when you could probably decarbonize the US electric sector for the same amount of money?

    Scramjett Reply:

    Actually, you can accomplish the same thing by doing what is most efficient or what is most feasible. It’s not all about cost you know. Economics is usually a justification for NOT doing something, rather than doing something more “cost effective.” Also, Economics tends to lead towards cutting corners and getting an inferior result more often than getting a superior result. Quality (and humanity) is often sacrificed on the alter of Economics.

    As to your question, my answer is, why not do both? First of all, I’m not convinced that electrifying and speeding up freight rail would lead to a marginal benefit. I’ve seen a very well written piece (about 5 or 6 years ago, I’ll try and find it again) that made the case that electrifying and speeding up freight rail can actually have an even greater benefit than passenger HSR. Secondly, I’m tired of the false choices “oh, you want HSR? Well then you can’t have public transit. Oh you want good public transit? Well forget HSR then.” There is one reason and one reason only (at the end of the day, politics aside) that we’re presented with this false choice, economics. No one wants to spend the money to have both for “economic” reasons.

    No civilization ever survived on “ok, but it must be economically feasible.” Most of history’s greatest contributions were, in fact, very uneconomical.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Really? The way I see it, most inventions in the industrial era made the people involved very rich. It wasn’t necessarily the original inventor, but the fact that these inventions are worth enough money that businessmen steal them (Edison from Tesla, for example) means they are very economical.

    Other inventions, which for various reasons are poorly served by the private sector, were very cost-effective from perspectives like public health. For example, regulations mandating a toilet in every apartment.

  4. Paul Druce
    Sep 29th, 2014 at 17:10
    #4

    The 110mph speeds on existing tracks will cause significant noise and disruption. The reason why higher speeds on dedicated HSR tracks will be less disruptive is because it will be constructed entirely new.

    I’m pretty sure that’s not how acoustics works.

    Joe Reply:

    They can mitigate noise with a new dedicated HSR track. In fact they will be required to mitigate the noise impact.

    In my town asked for a trench approach to the downtown station. The noise propagation model tells me this will cut noise impacts.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    You can mitigate noise with legacy track as well.

    wdobner Reply:

    You can mitigate it a lot easier by not running near areas you won’t be serving with stations. Using the existing tracks means every town along the route built near the tracks gets the impact of your 110mph 80-90db trains. With the CHSRA’s current alignments the bypasses of towns along the extant rail corridors should greatly reduce the impact in cities not receiving station stops.

  5. Ted Judah
    Sep 29th, 2014 at 17:25
    #5

    I especially enjoyed the part where TRAC calls for upgrading passenger rail speed in the San Joaquin Valley right after saying there is no logic in putting HSR in the San Joaquin Valley.

    I’m left with a very distinct impression that TRAC might get a lot of its funding from Union Pacific while RailPac gets support from BNSF. Maybe I am wrong about this, but I seem to recall the GE wanted to have lower speed trains designated as higher speed rail to protect their sales of some heavier diesel trains….

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ted:

    RailPAC does not receive any support from either Class One RR, or indirectly through memberships. We rely on small contributions from individuals and a maximum $500 corporate donation. I don’t think TRAC receives any support from UP. I have not seen a financial report from them.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Sorry for the baseless allegation, Paul.

    I don’t understand why there is are two advocacy groups though. Given Amtrak’s relationship with BNSF is much different than UP’s I thought that might have trickled down to actual lobbying. You are very protective of Amtrak, which is interesting because the biggest beneficiary of the current passenger rail system in the US are, wouldn’t you know, the Class I railroads….

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I am not protective of Amtrak. They can leave California tomorrow if they like, focus on their first love, the NEC. The relationships with the Class Ones and passenger are really not that different, just that BNSF smile more often as they say “no”, or demand more money. Note the Devil’s lake scam.

    J. Wong Reply:

    You do know that the Capitol, San Joaquin, and Surfliner are all funded by Caltrans not Amtrak (Caltrans contracts with Amtrak to operate them).

    Alan Reply:

    Not to mention the current Raton Pass scam.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I thought the Raton Pass scam was “we’re not running trains over Raton ever again, toodles.”

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    That’s what they said about Devil’s Lake sub

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah, but there, Amtrak can reasonably call the bluff and say “awesome, can we run on the Transcon plz?”. It’d save so much time it could detour to Albuquerque and back and still run faster than today.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    You are behind with events
    BNSF has a similar price tag for that reroute, not to mention station facilities etc

  6. Trentbridge
    Sep 29th, 2014 at 17:54
    #6

    Well, if I spend another $1,000 on my VW Passat with 100,000 miles on the odometer, it will/might last another couple of years. Or I could buy a newer model that had either zero miles or less miles for $25,000 or more. Amtrak could refurbish 50 year old passenger coaches and locomotives which is far cheaper than buying the ACS-64 locos and the Viewliner 2 passenger coaches. This list is endless. Why spend Government dollars on upgrading from Windows 95 to Windows 8? Why not spend $2-3 billion on upgrading the track on the Central California coast so Amtrak could run a ” Coast Daylight” between LA and Oakland. Good luck to TRAC! The problem with all their arguments is that the public is being sked to spend billions to upgrade ROW that’s owned by private entities. Me? I’d say take the railroad tracks used by passnger services in California under state ownership with eminent domain and then lease the track useage back to the freight railroads for each and every freight train.

  7. Paul Druce said:
    I especially enjoyed the part where TRAC calls for upgrading passenger rail speed in the San Joaquin Valley right after saying there is no logic in putting HSR in the San Joaquin Valley.

    Yes, Paul, at a cost an order of magnitude cheaper and providing almost the same benefits that the currently planned 220-mph route from nowhere to nowhere would.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Misquotation there, that was Ted Judah, not me.

  8. Ted Judah makes a slanderous remark:
    I’m left with a very distinct impression that TRAC might get a lot of its funding from Union Pacific while RailPac gets support from BNSF.

    No Ted, we get all our funding from membership dues and our annual meeting. And you look foolish by speculating that the Union Pacific would provide ANY funding to an organization advocating ANY kind of passenger trains on its tracks. Get a clue.

  9. Trentbridge said:
    …The problem with all their arguments is that the public is being sked to spend billions to upgrade ROW that’s owned by private entities…

    The State of California has already spent a lot of money on existing corridors owned by both BNSF and UP with the provisio of perpetual easements to operate passenger trains as long as the ongoing maintenance expenses for passenger standards over and above freight continue.

  10. TRANSDEF
    Sep 29th, 2014 at 20:50
    #10

    I’m not sure if Robert is wrong on every single assertion made above, or only on the vast majority–I didn’t look that closely. Here are two choice ones:

    Cap and Trade can generate the $26 billion to complete the IOS. Dream on…
    TRAC doesn’t want better rail service for the Valley.

    We assert (I’m a TRAC Director):
    110 mph service is considered HSR by the feds. If the state were willing, the funds could be shifted.
    Upgrading track to 110 mph requires no condemnation of property or demolition of buildings.
    220 mph trains are incredibly loud. 110 mph trains much, much less so…
    Our proposal has always been a PPP. Robert intentionally misunderstood that.
    The reason TRAC has a hard time getting listened to is that it represents the public interest.
    TRAC has no money to spread around.
    Big expensive projects by Robert’s pals like PB get approved. How do they get politicians’ interest?

    There is one point of confusion in the OpEd: The quoted 3 hour travel times were for a one-seat ride that connected into the eventual HSR system to LA and SF, using bi-mode equipment. That detail got lost in the editing.

    See the TRANSDEF blog for TRAC’s resolution on Palmdale: http://transdef.org/Blog/Whats_hot_files/TRAC_Opposes_Palmdale.html

    wdobner Reply:

    Except that 110mph trains are useless. Chicago and St Louis are far closer than SF and LA, yet at the completion of the current work they’re unlikely to attract more than 10% of the intercity market between those cities. If your goal is to ensure that passenger rail is never free of subsidies (and how better for TRAC to retain relevence?), then I can think of no better way than to slow the service to the point where it will never turn a profit.

    And 90 to 98 dba is hardly “incredibly loud”. And again, you misrepresent 110mph operation, which will result in noise increases to between 80 and 90dba on the Chicago-St Louis route.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Agree Mr. Dobner. 110mph (MAX!) on the SJ route will have minimal impact on market penetration or overall mobility. 30 years ago RailPAC was formed on the basis of incremental improvements to existing routes and services. For the most part this has not happened, and if we want to see a step change in passenger rail we need new routes free of freight traffic. This excludes secondary routes such as the Coast line where there is still room for improvement and the market is limited and tourist oriented.
    As for which route the trunk line takes, that debate is stale and, for the most part, unproductive. We have a project. If it is stopped and reviewed the almost certain outcome is “no project”.
    We should all be more concerned with Los Angeles and the MTA. They seem to have convinced themselves that HSR is not coming. Why else would they come up with this ridiculous design for Union Station, and why else would they plan on diesel shuttles from Burbank as an interim step? Whether you are a Tejonista or a Mojavista, you’d better be concerned about the last ten miles into L.A.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Why should anyone in NorCal care about the last ten miles into LA when the rest of the putative escape from LA is an utter failure?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Syn, if for no other reason than discussing Muni and BART is sooooh boring.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Depressing is more often the case.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And/or disgusting

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Don’t let them grind you down

    synonymouse Reply:

    Every day I think about 1946-1956 and what was lost.

    If it were up to me I would just start digging up Mission and Geary and start laying grooved girder rail, just to get even with the bastards. Re-lay the #11; I don’t care how many damn autos there are on the street. I know it is irrational but the younger people don’t understand what it was like to watch everything destroyed one after the other.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I fought rearguard actions my whole career. Now I just want to drive my Jag until the oil runs out

    synonymouse Reply:

    I think you have got a couple hundred years. Easy.

    Scramjett Reply:

    What I’d like to see and what I hope comes out of CalHSR is a permanent shift away from having rail lines used for passenger and freight rail. Even if some lines, such as CapCor (Capitol Corridor Express) never get the HSR treatment, I would still have hope that they would build improvements that would allow CapCor to be electrified (at some point) and have its speed increased to over 110 (preferably closer to 150) instead of its current 79. That can’t happen if it continues to share track with UP. They could do something like the plan between Amtrak and UP where there will be a third rail for UP between Roseville and Sacramento. But to me, having passenger trains and freight trains run on separate track is key.

    Eric Reply:

    Oakland to Sacramento is only 80 miles. 79mph is sufficient for it, the only problem is the extremely windy parts between Oakland and Martinez which are much much slower than 79mph in practice.

    Scramjett Reply:

    There is a lot of old industry in those areas, hence the curves. Part of the track improvements could be to relocate the track in a way that would smooth out the track and remove some of the curves. I don’t know that area very well so I don’t know how feasible that would be (if at all).

    Right now, car travel to the bay area is still preferred over CapCor so I’m trying to think of ways that would make CapCor more attractive to drivers. Faster service came to mind. Personally, I find the lack of stress from driving more attractive, but I’m not most people.

    J. Wong Reply:

    The hills come right down to the water (the Carquinez Strait) hence the curves not any existing industry. Yes, you don’t know the area very well.

    Jerry Reply:

    Hills? Tunnels anyone? Incremental improvements as Paul D. says he has been advocating certainly would help.

    Scramjett Reply:

    Nope. My sister-in-law lives in Walnut Creek and that is about the extent of my knowledge of the area. I speculated that it was the industry based on the old factories CapCor passes while running between Martinez and Richmond. A lot of old rail lines exist to provide service to those old factories (and some actually still use it!).

    Still, I like Jerry’s tunnel idea. I’ve never been a fan of the “it’s too expensive” argument so I don’t see any reason not to beyond that.

    Joey Reply:

    You can get a pretty good idea of the geography just with a quick look at Google Maps.

    Scramjett Reply:

    Do they have an elevations feature? I mostly use Google Maps for trip planning and not much beyond that.

    Eric Reply:

    Yes they do have elevations. Search for a place, then under “Getting around” there are several options for layers to show: ” Traffic Transit Bicycling Terrain”.

    Terrain may not work if you are zoomed too far in.

    Traffic is cool because you can look at traffic for a specific time, not just the current time. So you can quickly see which corridors in a metro area are clogged and new more capacity (whether road or transit), very interesting…

    Reality Check Reply:

    Google Earth shows terrain in 3D.

    Joey Reply:

    So does the newer version of Google Maps, though I mostly use Google Earth.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I am deeply concerned about the new Union Station design, but I think it speaks more to the fact that HSR is a very abstract issue for their transportation brain trust compared to Metrolink’s continued collapse and the marginally utility of light rail versus grade separation.

    I mean, think about it. What if all mass transit in the Bay Area was either like CalTrain or VTA? That’s what it is like in Southern California. HSR is such a fantasy it’s hard to even describe it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Start with the LA connecting subway. And as many grade separations as there is funding. The PE obviously tried but had no financial resources and eventually no political friends.

    EJ Reply:

    The subway is being built right now. What are you complaining about?

    les Reply:

    C&T funds may not be enough to finish the line but what they allow for is leverage to apply for RRIF loans and to stimulate private interest. I fail to see where Robert said C&T would fund the 26 billion. Also, when most avid supporters think of High Speed Rail 90%+ of them have ridden HSR in Europe or Asia and have an idea of what it is. Who cares what feds determine as HSR, a definition of 110mph as HSR is only there to pacify certain interest. And isn’t it cheaper to acquire and demolish land now then later? Why the incremental step? Or is 110mph the max we’ll ever expect to see?

    Alan Reply:

    The reason TRAC has a hard time getting listened to is that it represents the public interest.

    Now, that’s funny! TRAC so well represents the public interest that the public voted to adopt the HSR plan that TRAC opposes, the public overwhelmingly reelected the governor who backs the HSR plan that TRAC opposes, and the public will likely again overwhelmingly reelect that same governor on November 4.

    Yeah, really great job of TRAC representing the public interest!

    Ask 99.9999 percent of Californians what “TRAC” is, and they’ll answer that it’s the thing that trains run on…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Jerry Brown represents the “public interest”?

    He represents the teachers union and the Tejon Ranch Co.

    les Reply:

    Brown represents union. union represents teachers. ergo Brown represents teachers. I have no problem with that.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Brown has become a virtual lobbyist for the teachers union, whose interests he puts before the interests of the electorate.

    Joe Reply:

    If he’s not taking people’s interests then Brown will lose relelection. Is the Teacher’s Union even a campaign issue? I thought it was snashing toy trains and playing homeless in Republican Governed Cities.

    Your scapegoats are always working people being paid above minimum wage. Such a wicked and petty way to screw over ordinary people on your way out the door.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Gimme a break – Feinstein’s a billionaire.

    Limousine liberals – slap eminent domain on almond farmers and little people in the Valley but don’t come close to the Tejon Ranch Co.’s golf course and tracts for the affluent.

    Basically the teachers’ union wants to make it impossible to fire any of their members. No matter what.

    Joe Reply:

    Baasically you want eliminate due process becuase teachers can be fired now.

    Let’s add authority-ass-kissing to the list.

    datacruncher Reply:

    “The quoted 3 hour travel times were for a one-seat ride that connected into the eventual HSR system to LA and SF, ”

    Fresno to San Francisco is already a 3 hour car drive. While 3 hours rail travel is an improvement over current Amtrak schedules it would still leave travel by rail as simply an equal travel time to a personal vehicle. That probably is not much of an enticement to changes modes.

    Lewellan Reply:

    The Amtrak Cascades trip time from Portland to Seattle, 150 miles with 5 stations between, is 3.5 hours, a half hour longer than driving, yet consistently records excellent patronage at its 45mph average speed. Opposition to Talgo-type trainset systems and statements like “110mph is useless” are ignorantly unreasonable.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    “..records excellent patronage..”

    It’s, to be polite, anemic. And it dropped from fiscal year 2012 to 2013.

  11. Well, I see you don’t want to engage in informed debate, Robert.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Actually, just didn’t get around to approving comments until tonight.

  12. Darrell
    Sep 29th, 2014 at 22:52
    #12

    Michael Setty writes that serving the San Joaquin and Antelope Valley cities “will waste tens of billions of dollars.” How can that be when the cost of building the initial 130 miles from Bakersfield to north of Fresno is less than $6 billion, and either Tejon or Tehachapi require similar major mountain crossings?

    The later extension to San Diego is another matter. The cities along the existing LOSSAN corridor oppose adding HSR there, but incremental upgrades to Amtrak service – especially a La Jolla tunnel – could be sufficient for that length of corridor.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Agree Darrell, except that unfortunately MTS’s plans do not call for a tunnel to avoid Rose Canyon. They are wasting money double tracking up and around the hill instead. No analysis apparently of the lifetime cost of doing that vs the fuel, time and operational savings of a tunnel, not to mention making the service competitive.

    Eric Reply:

    Plus serving the UTC job center with commuter rail.

    EJ Reply:

    If you can upgrade the whole length of the LAUS-downtown SD Surf Line to permit an average speed (including stops) of 80 miles per hour, you’ve got about a 90 minute trip. Which is about the same as the proposed LA-SD HSR dogleg through the IE.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    That’s a huge IF.
    A. BNSF RoW to Fullerton.
    B. Political pressure for existing and additional stops.
    C. Bottleneck San Juan Capistrano to San Onofre through San Clemente.
    D. Line capacity pre-empted by commuter agencies whose members own the track and who control the dispatching.
    I’m not against the idea, just that thirty years of pursuing it have not delivered much and I don’t see it happening.

    EJ Reply:

    That’s why I think, where possible, (e.g. Northern SD county) they should shoot for 125 mph instead of 110, since you’ll realistically have the Capistrano/San Clemente bottleneck unless you spend god knows how many $billions on a tunnel to bypass it.

    I don’t see any major practical obstacle, though, to having full double track from Fullerton to SD, with the exception of San Clemente (if you have to move or close San Juan Capistrano station, then do it). That should be more than enough to handle both the commuter traffic and the surfliner without dispatching conflicts (bearing in mind that the Coaster terminates at Oceanside, and many Metrolink trains terminate at Laguna Niguel, which minimizes traffic at San Clemente).

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Honestly, 125mph really isn’t worth it. I can run some of the numbers later on, but basically it takes forever and a day to reach that speed with a conventional set, for a very limited reduction in total travel time.

    Eric Reply:

    Could there be any cheaper/easier location to tunnel than under the cliffs of San Clemente? I’ve never been there, but I’ve been to La Jolla, and the sandstone cliffs there are so soft you can scratch them away with your fingers. Plus, there’s plenty of vertical room so you shouldn’t run into the utilities of the houses above.

    EJ Reply:

    Soft ground isn’t necessarily easy to tunnel under – it’s less stable than hard rock. Regardless, I don’t think it’s an extraordinarily difficult tunnel to build, but it would be several miles long, which is going to be costly no matter what you’re tunnelling through. Not to mention any property damage that results is going to be expensive to mitigate – that’s some eye-wateringly expensive real estate to tunnel under. There were some very preliminary estimates tossed around in the early 1990s; I don’t have them handy but it wasn’t cheap.

    Eric Reply:

    Of course, the other option is to build a second track on the surface next to the first, and truck in some more sand to keep the beach wide enough.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Honestly, both LOSSAN and the Capitol Corridor to Sacramento need to become HSR lines, even if maximum HSR speeds are not achieved for certain city pairs. The State can continue to fund conventional rail in places where HSR makes no sense (like San Luis Obispo), but we are wasting our time upgrading freight tracks to 125 mph. It’s a huge cost that the taxpayer will have to pay completely, and it will leave us with even more outmoded technology in a generation’s time.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    either Tejon or Tehachapi require similar major mountain crossings?

    Where by “similar” you mean “more than 30% longer; 40% more tunnelling; more than 800% more bridges” and, of course, “two major mountain crossings instead of one”.

    Almost indistinguishable!

    http://www.cahsrblog.com/2013/06/the-truth-about-tejon/

    Joe Reply:

    Viva Las Vegas.

  13. wdobner
    Sep 29th, 2014 at 23:48
    #13

    There’s a certain kind of transit advocate out there who will oppose new transit and rail lines if those lines offend their own personal beliefs as to what makes for good routes.

    Hahaha! Well done. There’s absolutely no one around here that matches that description at all. </sarcasm>

    I had no idea Synonymous and Llewellen were the same person and that the poster’s name is Michael, but kudos to him for not mentioning Talgo in his opinion piece. Too bad he stuck detour in there.

    synonymouse Reply:

    No, I’m really VBobier.

    Zorro Reply:

    And all this time I thought you were daffy duck.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Watch out, Disney is going to charge you for using his copyrighted stuff “OTA”.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They would have to be the copyright holder to do that.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If Hollywood had its way copyrights would be forever.

    Zorro Reply:

    Disney does not own the copyright to ‘daffy duck’, Warner Bros does, Syno.

    Alan Reply:

    Doesn’t matter. If Disney had its way, they’d collect royalties on everything, whether they own it or not…

    Lewellan Reply:

    As far as I know, Synonymouse and I have never met. The only people I’ve encountered who hate Talgos are those who’ve never been on one or don’t mind if their unreasonable bias for 200mph systems ruin their credibility.

    Alan Reply:

    Of course, there are those who recognize reality, and understand that the legal requirement for “200+ mph, electrically powered trains” does not and cannot include diesel-powered, slow-speed trains.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yet those silly silly Spaniards went out and built HSR….

  14. Travis D
    Sep 30th, 2014 at 07:00
    #14

    Interesting. Once again a coastal elitist who thinks the people of the San Joaquin Valley are subhuman and not real citizens of the state. Otherwise why call serving them a “waste”?

    If they are so prejudiced against so many people why listen to any of their ideas?

    datacruncher Reply:

    Among TRAC’s 13 officers and board members there is only one person from the San Joaquin Valley. That person is from Madera County, the smallest population county in the Valley.
    http://www.calrailnews.net/about/
    That does not sound like a way to come up with policy recommendations that reflect the needs of the San Joaquin Valley.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Among TRAC’s 13 officers and board members there is only one person from the San Joaquin Valley.

    San Joaquin Valley population, around 4 million, is around 10% of that of the state of California. (“California” as in “California High Speed Rail”.)

    Or shall we be honest about “one real estate developer, one vote”?

    That does not sound like a way to come up with policy recommendations that reflect the needs of the San Joaquin Valley.

    The “C” in “CHSRA” standing for “Central Valley”?

    StevieB Reply:

    By that reasoning the Sacramento metropolitan area — which includes seven counties — has an estimated population of 2.66 million so is an even less worthwhile destination for High Speed Rail.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If there is HSR service between Sacramento and Bakersfield there won’t be any demand for conventional service. If HSR comes to the Valley they won’t be able to get their heavily subsidized thrills on conventional trains anymore.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “datacruncher” is the one supplying the “reasoning”, not I.

    Anyway, it’s about cost/benefit. Costs can be quantified and so can benefits. Costs have something to do with geography, and something to do with population and with the distribution of that population, and benefits also have something to do with population and population distribution. “datacruncher” might like to crunch on that a little.

    And maybe just maybe there are better ways to spend twenty of thirty or fifty extra billion dollars on the San Joaquin County other than by giving shoving that money into the overflowing pockets of very large and politically juiced and extremely cost-ineffective engineering and construction companies?

    StevieB Reply:

    Is your reasoning that building through the economically depressed cities of the east side of the central valley will cost an additional fifty billion dollars over the cost through the west side and the economic benefits will be negligible? Why is increasing transportation in the central valley not needed in your economic development planning?

    Joe Reply:

    That’s exactly right.

    Dude lives in SF and wants to keep his taxes low. Invest that money wisely which means not in the CV.

    HSR to the CV wastes his hard earned tax dollars. Best to spend his tax dollars retrofitting that Hetch Hetchy water pipe to carry CV water to SF.

    People need live with the consequences of not being able to afford living near infrastructure. Central Valley residents are unworthy of investment. He’s done the math.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Not everybody is going to get rail. MCI coaches are pretty nice, sometimes with a better ride than poorly maintained, flat-wheeled day coach.

    wdobner Reply:

    “datacruncher” is the one supplying the “reasoning”, not I.

    No need for cowardice. You’re the one who brought up the percentage of the state living in the Central Valley, why duck the point now that someone pointed out same logic applied to Sacramento means it doesn’t get served?

    Anyway, it’s about cost/benefit. Costs can be quantified and so can benefits. Costs have something to do with geography, and something to do with population and with the distribution of that population, and benefits also have something to do with population and population distribution.

    And the unstated premise is that serving the people in the San Joaquin Valley has no benefit, so any cost is clearly too much. Let them ride their 3 hour train to SF and be happy we kicked them those crumbs, but if your HSR train is delayed by so much as 20 minutes between SF and LA then it’s an absolute disaster.

    And maybe just maybe there are better ways to spend twenty of thirty or fifty extra billion dollars on the San Joaquin County other than by giving shoving that money into the overflowing pockets of very large and politically juiced and extremely cost-ineffective engineering and construction companies?

    Innumerate much? Who is spending anything near $20 billion in the entire Central Valley, let alone San Joaquin County?

    synonymouse Reply:

    PB’s Tehachapi Folly could very well be $20-$50bil.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ StevieB

    IIRC the Cheerleaders have claimed Sac is not properly “CV”, I guess because that would somehow mess with Fresno-centrism. An argument could be made that Sac is now part of the greater Bay Area.

    If LA can demand a free and extremely expensive commute line to Palmdale then SF-Oakland can demand Altamont be reinstated for the purpose of a cheaper and faster commute line to Sac. **** San Jose centrism – the inner Bay Area is richer and more populous.

    Alan Reply:

    I saw the same thing this afternoon. It explains much about the position of TRANSDUMB/TRAC/CRF, which seems to be, HSR for the Bay Area-to-LA market, and to h*** with anyone in between. That’s why they continue to push for I-5–no one else matters as long as they have their straight shot from SF to LA.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Once again a coastal elitist who thinks the people of the San Joaquin Valley are subhuman

    Hey “Travis D”,

    Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

    Joe Reply:

    Have you ever made a positive suggestion for the CV? No.

    You made vague references of better ways to spend money on the CV but avoid offering any suggestions as to what considering you use population to rate usefulness.

    People are not as stupid as you pretend. This phoney cost effective argument is about cutting HSR spending and keeping your benefit.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “Move HSR out of city centers” is a positive suggestion – one I don’t always agree with, but still a concrete suggestion.

  15. Alon Levy
    Sep 30th, 2014 at 07:20
    #15

    Federal investment will materialize once Republicans are thrown out of power in Congress.

    Was there some secret part of the stimulus bill that gave HSR $50 billion? If so, why has it all been wasted away? And if not, then why do you think smaller majorities than those the Democrats had in 2009-10 are going to lead to huge amounts of investment (as opposed to a couple billion here and there)?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Democrats are haunted by how most states used ARRA funding and how ephemeral most of the political payoff has been. Next time they control Congress, the majority of working age Americans will be much younger and much more interested in infrastructure development.

    The relative size and staying power of the Baby Boomer cohort keeps delaying a full economic recovery because it will devalue many older American’s assets while increasing the value of regular workers.

    synonymouse Reply:

    say what?

    Where are you going to get the money to maintain all this extraneous infrastructure?

    From Apple?

    Scramjett Reply:

    That may be true, but they either don’t vote because they’re too busy (I’ll let you decide what that means) or they are/will be suggested to voting “laws” designed to disenfranchise them. There will be no democratic majorities (at least none that are meaningful) for many years. Even then, Dems have moved further right than even 10 years ago, which means that any infrastructure projects will have too heavy a reliance on “private” investment. This will result in sucky infrastructure projects that will turn off an entire generation to to infrastructure investments which will lead to more political rightward movement and more crappy infrastructure projects, etc etc, wash, rinse, repeat. I’m not optimistic (even though I think CalHSR has a much better shot than it did 6 years ago).

    Scramjett Reply:

    suggested=subjected :|

    Neville Snark Reply:

    I wish this weren’t true.

  16. TRANSDEF
    Sep 30th, 2014 at 09:14
    #16

    I’m told Mr. Setty posted a reply or replies, but has either been blocked or left to wait in Moderator Hell. Please let the man speak!

    EJ Reply:

    Have you seen the crap that gets posted on here? Pretty sure no one gets blocked unless they’re a spambot.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    I’ve confirmed it. Setty’s been blocked, for petty thin-skinned reasons.

    SET SETTY FREE!

    Eric M Reply:

    Roberts blog, so he can do what he wants. Unlike some other blogs that don’t allow comments at all.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Usually the first comment by someone has to wait for moderation as I recall.

    Scramjett Reply:

    That would have been nice. Then my flubbed comment would be fixed.

    Eric Reply:

    That seems to have been my experience too.

  17. Have you seen the crap that gets posted on here? Pretty sure no one gets blocked unless they’re a spambot.

    That’s a good one, Robert.

    TRAC Spambot here.

  18. Keith Saggers
    Sep 30th, 2014 at 13:30
    #18

    https://witness.theguardian.com/assignment/542aac89e4b0cd82a095e4b0?INTCMP=mic_231930

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Share your pictures celebrating 50 years of Japan’s shinkansen bullet train

  19. Keith Saggers
    Sep 30th, 2014 at 13:47
    #19
  20. Robert Benson
    Sep 30th, 2014 at 15:49
    #20

    (1) I think it is clear from the critiques of the TRAC plan that it just won’t fill the bill of a realistic statewide passenger rail upgrade. The current plan, despite it’s limitations and flaws, is still the best plan going forward, and it IS feasible. There has been a lot of careful thought put into making its details work, and for that reason I am fairly confident that it is a workable plan.

    (2) The now-eroded Federal support is a problem. Although it should be possible to complete Phase 1 without significant additional Federal monies, it will not be easy to pull off. The C&T monies in this case are essential, as well as private monies.

    (3) I do agree that lack of support for CHSRA in Congress by the Republicans is a temporary thing. They are on the wrong side of changing demographics, and their House majority is due entirely to redistricting tricks from the 2010 census. It is likely that they will not be able to sustain the tricks in the new redictricting in 2020. Also, the younger generation is more forward looking than they are, and while participation rates are low now, they will improve in the next few election cycles since political action is increasing (and Democrats are making efforts to increase it).

    (4) Once people start seeing improvements on the ground — HSR tracks in place, the San Joaquin running faster on the new tracks, HSR trains testing on the route, stations in place — the tone of the conversation will change. I believe there are enough funds to reach the “ignition point” where public interest will increase and solidify behind support for the HSR system. This should happen, if the schedule is correct, by 2019-2020. This is a tight schedule, but still possible to achieve.

    Thus, on the whole I’m pretty confident that CHSRA has a good chance to get done what they need to do.

  21. Roderick Llewellyn
    Sep 30th, 2014 at 16:13
    #21

    The TRAC plan does not call for tunnels between Bakersfield and LA. It calls for at-grade crossing of the Tehachapis, which SNCF has indicated is eminently feasible for their equipment or similar rolling stock.

    Clem Reply:

    Where does that leave the other half of the mountain crossing, through the San Gabriels? Also at grade? Or with long tunnels that cross faults underground?

  22. SL
    Sep 30th, 2014 at 20:19
    #22
  23. Reality Check
    Sep 30th, 2014 at 23:01
    #23

    The Koch Brothers’ War on Transit

    […]

    The Kochs also have plenty of ties to widely quoted, transit-bashing pundits like Randall O’Toole, Wendell Cox, and Stanley Kurtz — people employed by organizations that receive Koch funding, like the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation, and who spout the same talking points against walkability and smart growth.

    […]

    Scramjett Reply:

    Yep. I don’t know if they’ve succeeded, but the Koch’s were looking to kill a BRT project in Nashville.

    Why Are the Koch Brothers Messing With Nashville?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Diesel BRT is the highway lobby’s idea of transit. The Koch Bros. are not in Columbus, but yet Big C does not yet have streetcar one.

    The auto clubs are still out there. One of these days China is going to get them.

    Scramjett Reply:

    BRT in any form is not my preferred solution for transit (much prefer rails like trams and streetcars), however, BRT is about the only practical use of a bus because at least they get their own right-of-way (that is, proper BRT gets its own ROW, not the half-assed stuff that get’s defined as BRT, like HOV lanes for buses, etc).

  24. Joe
    Oct 1st, 2014 at 01:56
    #24

    The Cato Institute HQ is in WA DC.
    It is conveniently located near these Metro lines.

    Green Yellow Mt Vernon Sq/7th St-Convention Center 0.29 mi
    Blue Orange Mcpherson Sq Metro 0.33 mi
    Blue Orange Red Metro Center Metro 0.35 mi

    Green Yellow Blue Orange and Red lines are within 0.35 miles.

    Blue and Yellow stop the the DCA Airport.

    Now how close is Cato from Amtrak?

  25. Ted Judah
    Oct 1st, 2014 at 07:26
    #25

    Well, at least TRAC didn’t call certain people in the San Joaquin Valley “inbred”: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-ontario-lawsuit-20140929-story.html

    After the Central Valley and Inlamd Empire are both roughly 4 million people.

    Alan Reply:

    Interesting point in the article…it mentioned that part of the grand scheme had been to use Palmdale as a reliever airport for LAX, but that airport has now closed. HSR to Palmdale could conceivably revive it–passengers from the north being able to access domestic and possibly international flights without having to pass through LA to do it. But from the spin that the Ontario airport people put on it, the LAX management wouldn’t be too anxious to see that happen…

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Decades ago Palmdale was mooted as the site for a new LA Airport, when that was deemed unfeasible the Mayor of Palmdale came up with the plan to have HSR as an alternative. Something like that, please don’t quote me, a long time ago.

    Alan Reply:

    According to the article, there was commercial air service to Palmdale until 2008. It’s not clear from the article whether the end of service was due to the recession or for other reasons. It may be worth revisiting the idea, to see if HSR service could make Palmdale air service feasible again.

    EJ Reply:

    What would be the point, when Ontario International is well below capacity?

    Alan Reply:

    Keeping some flights out of the airspace in the immediate LA basin might be one reason, as it does get a bit congested. By the time HSR to Palmdale is up and running, the situation at Ontario may be quite different, given that service through Palmdale probably won’t start until at least 2022. Capacity beyond that of LAX and ONT might be needed by then.

    I don’t have all the answers. I’m just suggesting that at this point in time, while the HSR plans from Bakersfield south are still being developed, it might be a good time to look 20 or 30 years into the future and see if there might be something worth pursuing.

    Alan Reply:

    Another point: According to Wikipedia (so take it with a grain of salt, as always) the city of Palmdale gained control of their airport in 2013 and is said to be working toward developing commercial air service again. But now, with its independence, Palmdale doesn’t have to wait for whatever crumbs the people at LAX might throw their way.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The Bay Area cadre on this blog does care much for Southern California logistics. Out of sight, out of mind.

    joe Reply:

    The LA airspace congests and flights are held.

    Palmdale airport could offload LAX traffic but which kind? Not shuttle flights. I would not fly to Palmdale and driving in to LA basin. You could use BUR airport. Maybe east coast, long distance flights at a large airport with large runaway. It just seems like a waste to use LAX for shuttle flights.

    HSR will reduce the number of commuter flights. That capacity can be reprogrammed to longer distance flights at LAX.

    Alan Reply:

    No, I don’t think that shuttle flights would work for PMD, especially after HSR is running. International flights are another matter. Those flights will never operate out of airports like Bakersfield or Fresno, and being able to take the train to Palmdale and catch a flight there would represent a significant time savings. I’ve also read that from some areas of LA proper (Sherman Oaks was mentioned) it’s as fast or faster to travel to Palmdale as to LAX. Not to mention avoiding the hassle of driving through the city.

    The neighborhoods around LAX and Burbank don’t want more flights than they have to put up with now, so growth is necessarily going to have to look at airports like Ontario and Palmdale. Long haul flights are never going to disappear from LAX, but moving some to other fields could be a win-win for all.

    But again, I’m trying to look a decade or more into the future, when HSR is up and running through Palmdale.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The problem is that the international flights wouldn’t want to operate into Palmdale, either, not when there’s a perfectly functional (if crummy) airport closer to the parts of LA international travelers are likely to want to go to.

    Alan Reply:

    What do you suggest when LAX runs out of room, even with the reduction of intrastate flights due to HSR?

    EJ Reply:

    The first step would seem to be pretending that Ontario, Burbank, and John Wayne airports don’t already exist.

    Alan Reply:

    Hardly. There are a lot of factors involved, and all I’m saying is that it may be a good time for a serious look at the entire picture–not ten years from now, when someone wakes up, realizes the existing airports are at or beyond capacity, and says, “OMG, what now?”

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    When discussing airport capacity I reflect on the fact that the 737 started life as a 90 or so seat aircraft. The latest versions have nearly 200 seats. That gives airports like Burbank and Ontario a lot of opportunity to grow without expanding their footprint, at least on the air side. BUR has fewer flights than 2008 and slightly fewer passengers.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Fly larger planes.

    …or build a brand new airport, far from the city, connected to it only by HSR – like the Berlin-Brandenburg disaster, only farther from the city and less useful for passengers flying to or from the LA Basin.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The way HSR is going to decongest airports is by removing short-haul passengers from the air. A large fraction of LA’s traffic is within California, especially to San Francisco. But this is less true of LAX than of the secondary airports (so, in particular, the very HSR that’s supposed to make Palmdale attractive would in fact end any reason for an airport to exist there).

    Ted Judah Reply:

    …or Ontario…

  26. Andrew
    Oct 1st, 2014 at 08:30
    #26

    I’m sorry Robert, but the alternative they’re proposing is far superior. You think “private” means rich and privileged folks serving themselves at the cost of regular folks. In fact the only true “democratic” solution is to listen to what the market says, which is essentially the sum total of everyone’s decision as to what is valuable to them (ie, what they’re willing to trade money for). Markets can’t do everything, but they’re a far more decentralized and truly democratic decisionmaking system than central political control, and are the correct decisionmaking system in most situations, including where and how to build transport routes in California. They result in providing the maximum value for everyone, whereas centralized government control results in waste, cronyism, corruption, and routing decisions that follow the logic of politics, not the logics of human development or environmental sustainability. You’re on the wrong side of this issue, in a fundamental way.

    Alan Reply:

    Where were these free-market ideas when the highway system was built? Centrallized government planning didn’t seem like such a bad idea then.

    There was a “decentralized and truly democratic decisionmaking system” determining the HSR route. It was the election where Prop 1A was approved by the voters. The voters determined that the HSR project should be implemented by a centralized state agency.

    TRAC’s so-called “better ideas” have been rejected over and over, for good reason. TRAC and its supporters have enough sour grapes to supply a decent-sized Napa winery.

    synonymouse Reply:

    There a lot more cars than highways so if you build a freeway, no matter who pulls it off, it will fill up shortly.

    Certainly not something to celebrate but to accept. With rail you have to plan carefully and allocate accordingly. So you have to go with what is working in the real world. Like for instance I-5 not going thru Mojave.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How are those Southern California toll roads working out?

    jimsf Reply:

    I just got my fastrak device and plan to use those roads this week and the new express lanes.

    MarkB Reply:

    I think adir is referring to the OC toll roads– the ones that were suppose to pay for themselves in a free-market, profit, god, guns (but no gays) sort of conservative way, but have instead “rescheduled” (“defaulted” is such an ugly term) their debt over and over because the predicted traffic volumes never arrived, and neither did the cash flow.

    Scramjett Reply:

    I agree, but I think jimsf is referring to the fact that you can use fastrak on those OC toll roads.

    Scramjett Reply:

    Or maybe I’m thinking of the San Diego toll roads, but it’s the same result really.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Centrallized government planning didn’t seem like such a bad idea then.

    No, destroying city centers didn’t seem like a bad idea, because they supposedly caused poverty and if only people could be forcibly moved to the suburbs or to housing projects, the US would no longer have poverty. Strange how it didn’t work.

    Scramjett Reply:

    I was royally PO’d when I found out Southside Park in Sacramento was split in half for the W-X elevated freeway.

    les Reply:

    I wonder where China’s 300 billion HSR system would be if left exclusively to private enterprise? Anything expensive and on the edge needs government involvement. NASA preceded Musk as did Bell Labs precede Intel. The greater the scope of a project, the higher the number of parties involved and the greater the risk factor the more critical it is for government to be involved.

    Eric Reply:

    NASA never turned down a viable proposal from Musk, or Bell Labs from Intel, like CAHSR did from SNCF.

    Travis D Reply:

    They wanted to build an inferior system. We should be thank our lucky stars it wasn’t implemented.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “inferior system”? Wait until you see the details of PB-LAHSR’s $50bil Grand Tour of Mojave.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Damn straight!

    Far better to have nothing (other than more than a billion dollars!!! of consultant payments) and to be looking at $100 billion to pay for something that might (might!) be in service in 30 years than it would be to have HSR operating from SF to LA and have a hundred billion or so left over to build connections to Visalia or Lancaster or Gustine or wherever the hell else you like.

    Lucky lucky lucky stars for PBQD dodging the bullet of somebody else, somebody with any track record, somebody with any record at all of operational success, somebody with some notion of cost control, somebody with some conception of cost effectiveness, somebody with some skin in the game and hence any interest in successful outcome, somebody else taking away their cozy endless revenue stream under no-competition, bought and paid for the “public” agency head, cost is no object, failure is guaranteed and rewarded, no schedule, no penalties, all upside, no deliverables, no budget cap.

    Lucky stars to not have HSR built on California, and instead to be doing nothing but bending over for mafiosi.

  27. Lewellan
    Oct 1st, 2014 at 11:47
    #27

    The ‘decentralized, democratic decisionmaking system’ determining the HSR route was the voter approved Prop 1A. Not true. No route was approved in 2008. Voters were offered only estimated routes with an underestimed price tag that unsurprisingly more than doubled. The project nearly died on the vine but was resuscitated with a cost cutting low-speed ‘blended’ system that is incompatable with the 200mph Madera-to-Fresno supertrain to nowhere, fast.

    Alan Reply:

    The “decentralized, democratic decisionmaking system” was the voters affirming the role of the CHRSA in making those decisions.

    As far back as 2005, the Statewide EIR made clear that the preferred route was through Fresno.

    Prop 1A itself makes clear:

    It is the intent of the Legislature by enacting this chapter and
    of the people of California by approving the bond measure pursuant to this
    chapter to initiate the construction of a high-speed train system that connects
    the San Francisco Transbay Terminal to Los Angeles Union Station and
    Anaheim, and links the state’s major population centers, including Sacramento,
    the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley, Los Angeles, the Inland
    Empire, Orange County, and San Diego consistent with the authority’s
    certified environmental impact reports of November 2005 and July 9, 2008.

    (Emphasis added)

    You might not have noticed, but the population centers in the Central Valley are not along I-5.

    Prop 1A spelled it out in general terms, and the environmental documents were available well before the election of November 2008. The “decentralized, democratic decisionmaking” of the voters of California reaffirmed the role of the centralized state authority. Sorry, but that’s reality.

    But that’s OK–just keep showing the rest of us how little you really understand about the project.

    Scramjett Reply:

    I never had a problem with the CV segment of CalHSR, but I still tend to SMH over having HSR go to Lancaster/Palmdale. Do you know what the rationale for that was? I’m not opposed to the concept, but I wonder if a better approach might be to have a direct line from Bakersfield to Burbank going over the San Gabriels (since they have to go over it anyway from Palmdale) and then later building a loop out to Lancaster/Palmdale (and maybe even an eventual spur to Las Vegas)?

    Alan Reply:

    I’m sure that others could give a more complete answer, but I believe there were two issues: Constructability of the more direct route (including seismic issues) and a desire to serve the Antelope Valley, a rapidly growing area and one which is underserved by other forms of transportation.

    I don’t think this was considered at the time, but if HSR to Vegas ever comes to pass, Palmdale is a logical point for the junction between that line and the main SF-LA route. Going through Palmdale with the SF-LA line affords an opportunity to bring both that line and a Las Vegas line into the LA basin on the same tracks.

  28. Keith Saggers
    Oct 1st, 2014 at 11:50
    #28
  29. Reality Check
    Oct 1st, 2014 at 12:02
    #29

    Latest Bay Bridge defect: nearly all tower anchor rods sitting in water

    Nearly every one of the 423 steel rods that anchor the tower of the new Bay Bridge eastern span to its base has been sitting in potentially corrosive water, Caltrans officials said Tuesday — one of the most serious construction defects found yet on the $6.4 billion project.

    Several of the high-strength, 25-foot-long rods inspected after the first signs of trouble appeared last month were found to be submerged in several feet of water, in part because not enough grout had been pumped into protective sleeves to keep them dry, officials told members of a bridge project oversight committee in Oakland.

    “I am a problem solver,” the bridge panel’s chairman, Steve Heminger, said after the meeting. “This is another problem — I certainly wish we would stop finding problems to solve.”

    […]

    Joey Reply:

    These sorts of problems aren’t exactly rare in American transportation projects, but how did the bridge come to have so many?

    Jerry Reply:

    What? Water in tower anchor rod support areas. Fires in air-traffic control towers. Intruders in the White House. Hard to keep things/people out of where they don’t belong.
    What next – people flying to Hawaii in plane wheel wells? Ebola in the USA?

    Eric Reply:

    At least we don’t have nail clippers on our airplanes.

    synonymouse Reply:

    So there is one “m” in Heminger.

    Heminger is a BART asset, a system riddled with defects from the get-go. MTC, PB, Tutor – these are our transport guys in charge. Should anything come as a surprise?

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    You’re being redundant when you write “MTC, PB, Tutor.”

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yes

  30. jimsf
    Oct 1st, 2014 at 12:54
    #30

    Too many people wanting to play choo choo.

    The State of California is building a high speed rail project.

    This is the route

    There will be express trains to serve the LA SF market that will have competitive door to door travel times

    There will local service that will connect the majority of californians with each other by offering trip times within and between regions that are faster than driving by a lot.

    origin and destination options will be more convenient than existing airports.

    Comfort will surpass that of both driving and flying.

    Prices will be set at a competitive level.

    Thats what californians had in mind when they voted and thats what they want and thats what they will get.

    Everything is a distraction and a disservice to the people of california.

    These rail groups are made up of people who just want to play choo choo.

    just knock it off.

    And in a state this big, 110 is useless.

    go away.

    Joey Reply:

    110 might be a reasonable speed for LOSSAN which needs to be done eventually but yeah, this proposal isn’t really a substitute for real HSR.

    les Reply:

    sorry jimsf, but you must have missed the notice. This blog was taken over by a group backed by Rick Scott, Jeff Denham, et al. The blogs new name is “California Zephyr breaks another speed barrier over the Rockies”. Robert is no longer on board but is now chief writer for “The Orient Express – And How to Lasso a Maglev”.

    jimsf Reply:

    The system will get built as planned its just going to take twice as long to do it. Early on the chsra dropped the ball and was unprepared with no plan to provide proper publicity.
    They appear to be only reactive, and not even very good at that.

    Of course the sleazy pandering republican ( surprise surprise) politicians in the valley were allowed to run roughshod over the project by running with negative media coverage.

    The media, print and television, have done a piss poor job because “journalists” or whatever they call themselves these days don’t even know the difference between a train, a track, a tie or a rail and yet they are allowed to dispense errant information week after week.

    The state and Caltrans, I think its Caltrans anyway, at least have a very good document in the ” state rail plan” but implementing that plan will be difficult when you managers of agencies who don’t even know California geography.

    The only way a project this large is going to be completed is under the direct supervision of a strong governor and a strong appointed board with exceptional powers.

    Otherwise its going to continue to be a clusterfuck and right now that is what it looks like to the general public and everytime the public views transit as a clusterfuck, it undermines future credibility.

    governor brown needs to clean house and I hope he does so after the election. If this is to succeed he needs to have a high speed segment up and running by the end of his next term.

    I think he will do it.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I too think Brown will push HSR over the first goalpost before the end of his next term. I just hope he lasts that long—lest we end up with His Excellency of Yerba Buena.

    john burrows Reply:

    Way back in 2008 the goal was to to be running HSR from San Francisco to Los Angeles by 2020.

    Last I heard we could conceivably have the “Bay to Basin” segment running by 2026 although I wouldn’t bet too much money on that one.

    In 2020 I will be 82 and probably would have been able to make some use of the high speed trains if they were running.

    But by 2026 or later any idea of me riding a high speed train will be fading rapidly—Hopefully major construction will begin right away and construction will be made a priority so that the next generation will see a completed HSR system within their lifetime.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Hopefully when the IOS is up and running many segments can be started at the same time.
    Meanwhile lets both hope for level boarding.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    It must be awfully comforting, JimSF, believing what you are told by those in authority. No need to think for yourself, no need to question, no need to worry, just the ongoing repetition of soothing words “It will all come out just fine!”

    It’s gonna be a tough day when you see that you were lied to.

    Alan Reply:

    Your alternative is that we should believe what you, The Great Schonbrunn, tell us. No need to think for ourselves, no need to question, no need to worry.

    Got it.

    jimsf Reply:

    more useless “advocates”

    Scramjett Reply:

    It must be awfully comforting, TRANSDEF, believing that you’re right and everyone else is full of **** for having the audacity to believe in a better system that will benefit California and bring us into the 21st Century. Me thinks you will not ride HSR out of spite when it finally gets built.

    Do I think it’s perfect? No. Do I think there are some things that should be changed? Yes. But I’ve never been one to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    I honestly believe that when fare service on CalHSR begins, you will have the same look of shock and disbelief as the Fox Pundits did when Obama was reelected. This will, of course, precede an epic style meltdown that would make Karl Rove’s meltdown look like a mild complaint. You won’t know what a tough day is until that happens.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Scramjett, so which one of these mutually exclusive statements about yourself are wrong?

    I’ve never been one to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    … and …

    I’ve never been one that takes economics into consideration when determining if something should be done. In my view, something should be done because it’s the best solution, not because it’s cheaper.

    Sooo confusing!

  31. jimsf
    Oct 1st, 2014 at 12:56
    #31

    (…..”everything “ELSE” is a distraction” )

  32. Alicia
    Oct 1st, 2014 at 21:55
    #32

    Something that surprisingly has not been mentioned about this railway going through the San Joaquin Valley is the risk of contracting the San Joaquin Valley Flu (actually a fungal infection, Coccidiodomycosis). This “flu” is caused by a spore which is endemic in the soil in SJ Valley, and through inhalation of these spores, it elicits an illness seemingly identical to tuberculosis (and is often diagnosed as such) and is particularly dangerous to those with weakened immune systems (elderly, children, HIV and cancer patients), which could lead to pulmonary disease. The building of a railroad would certainly disrupt the soil, causing the spores to become airborne, and rail workers would certainly be exposed. A train at the proposed speeds would likely stir up dust too, causing even more spores to become airborne. Would outside air get into the train cars? Probably.

    Anyhow, just thought I would contribute some science to all of the politics.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    This actually has been mentioned before. There are advanced techniques used during any kind of construction in the Valley to address this problem, and the HSR project will absolutely be using those methods to prevent your scenario from occurring.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Dust never gets into automobiles or buses.

    Alan Reply:

    And dust is never, ever stirred up by agricultural use of the land.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Keep in mind, as the drought persists, less irrigation will dry out the soil and allow more transference that way. If it stays drier than normal, cases will go up and the popular reaction will be HSR construction was responsible.

    EJ Reply:

    Uh oh, better stay out of the valley! We’ll die!

    Scramjett Reply:

    Robert’s right in that there are techniques used to mitigate dust impacts (both for the health risk you raise and air quality impacts) in the CV. Also, snarkiness aside, there are many other ways that dust can get kicked up in the CV. I drive pretty frequently and one of the many dust sources are wind (it gets pretty windy), Ag activities, cattle operations, reduced irrigation due to the persistent drought (tied to wind), construction in general, etc.

    Scramjett Reply:

    Sorry, I should say “I drive through the CV pretty frequently.”

    Roderick Llewellyn Reply:

    The total acreage to be disturbed by building HSR is tiny compared to that routinely farmed, thus plowed, as well as impacted by other construction such as roads and buildings. Blaming HSR for the spread of disease reminds me of the movie “Volcano”, in which the construction of the LA Metro caused, well, a volcano (a computer generated one that was totally flat, true). Ludicrous. I sense the hand of General Motors in both cases.

    synonymouse Reply:

    How much acreage of golf course would be taken out with CAHSR thru the Tejon Mountain Village?

  33. Scramjett
    Oct 2nd, 2014 at 14:23
    #33

    Sorry, I should say “I drive through the CV pretty frequently.”

    Robert, you ever going to use something like discus where we can at least edit our spelling and grammar errors?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sorry, I must interject: please, no Disgust, ever, anywhere, under any circumstance. There are comment preview plugins for WordPress.

  34. Robert said:
    The TRAC plan is created by people who are way too caught up in small details and have lost sight of the bigger picture. Their ideas won’t go anywhere, of course. But it’s worth pointing out them why they’ve never been influential in Sacramento.

    Robert, brush up on your California rail history. Rich Tolmach and TRAC, along with PCL were the sparkplugs behind the development and successful passage of Proposition 116 in 1990. Without the $2 billion in Prop 116 bond funds, the Capitol Corridor would simply not exist today at all, we’d still probably be stuck with only one or two San Joaquins, the Surfliners would probably be where they were 30-40 years ago (5-6 round trips per day, maybe), and a large number of transit projects would not have been built.

    The same people, including Tolmach, who were involved with the Modern Transit Society (before creation of TRAC) successfully sold the concept of light rail in Sacramento, which opened in 1987. And without TRAC allies such as State Senator Jim Mills, the San Diego Trolley and the modern rebirth of light rail would never have occurred, or would have occurred much later than the 1980’s.

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