High Speed Rail Plus Infill Development Equals Lower Carbon Emissions

May 26th, 2015 | Posted by

There’s a great op-ed in the Sacramento Bee by Curt Johansen, president of the Council of Infill Builders, showing how high speed rail will fuel infill development – and why that is good for the climate:

Urban sprawl must end if we are to curb greenhouse gas emissions. This will be achieved only by forward-thinking developers and cities discontinuing their destructive practices of annexation and rezoning of prime farmland. This shift is already happening in many parts of California, and high-speed rail will provide a major boost to these efforts.

People want choices. Some prefer fast-paced, big-city life. Some prefer small cities, with their charm and a slower pace. And still others prefer the rural life. California accommodates many lifestyle choices, and savvy developers know that there is growing consumer demand for more walkable neighborhoods with better connections to jobs. Our current housing options are not adequately meeting this demand. The marriage of high-speed rail and infill development offers more lifestyle choices and a healthier future.

The whole thing is worth reading as a reminder that there is plenty of demand in California for infill development, and that HSR is going to play a key role in spurring it – especially in the Central Valley, where countervailing pressure to channel development somewhere other than onto farmland will be especially welcome.

  1. morris brown
    May 26th, 2015 at 10:35

    The article Robert is so enthralled about:


    By Curt Johansen (a real estate deveoper)

    should really be cast in a different light: From the article:

    As a real estate developer focused on sustainable projects, I see the results every day of decades of unhealthy sprawl development. Fortunately, positive changes are evident throughout the state, with hundreds of mixed-use, transit-oriented communities being built.

    Really!! Mr Johansen, why don’t you just be honest and write

    The HSR project promises to provide to me and the land developer community billions of dollars in profits.

    Edward Reply:

    Just as sprawling subdivisions have given the land developer community billions of dollars in profits. The difference is that infill doesn’t continue to eat up farmland. Sometimes the public interest and self interest coincide. Isn’t life wonderful.

    synonymouse Reply:

    JerryRail thru almond fields is not eating up farmland?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s gonna use up less farmland than the farmland that sprouted McMansions last year.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The McMansions house the crazy train patrons.

    Lewellan Reply:

    The giant parking garage and/or lots in Gilroy, so big they’re located within shuttle distance from the station. This is what they call infill? These lots will generate traffic throughout Gilroy, thus my preference for Altamont, where traffic reduction is warranted and infill potential OBVIOUSLY greater than Gilroy.

    Eric Reply:

    Less than another freeway would.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Some, but not so much as adding lanes to 99 or ultimately not building HSR.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They are going to add plenty lanes to 99 in any event.

  2. 42apples
    May 26th, 2015 at 10:46

    “This is a game changer for California. If you live in Fresno, you’ll be able to commute to a job in Silicon Valley. A traffic-clogged drive from Anaheim to Los Angeles becomes a short, high-speed rail trip.

    Some opponents say high-speed rail will worsen urban sprawl. They are wrong.”

    Wow, so a 300+ mile daily commute is magically good for the environment just because you’re taking a train. Give me a break. This article cites zero evidence that HSR will do anything to combat sprawl.

    Also, California’s fight against sprawl is only leading to enormously high housing prices and people moving to Texas, Arizona, Nevada, etc instead.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Infill and highrises are just iterations of sprawl.

    There is either more development or less; there is no smart growth. More population equals OMG Global Warming.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Meanwhile union loses on cameras:


    42apples Reply:

    “More population equals OMG Global Warming.”

    Yes, but US population is increasing due to immigration, not a high birthrate. Cities can grow or shrink depending on policy, preferences, and job opportunities.

    Eric Reply:

    “Infill and highrises are just iterations of sprawl.”


    There are a certain number of people in the world. You can’t change that number much except by murder or forced sterilization, which are generally considered to be morally unacceptable. All those people have to live somewhere. If they live in denser developments (infill and highrises), they use less land and resources. That’s about the opposite of sprawl.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “murder or forced sterilization”?

    I did not reckon the pro-life partisans had become so hysterical.

    IMHO the toll on the environment between “Pleasant Valley” suburbia and your urban concentration camps is roughly the same.

    But rest assured the elite, the Warren Buffetts, the Carl Icahns and Jerry Browns, will still be enjoying sybaritic living in their enclaves, while the masses grind in misery.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No it’s not. And Pleasant Valley has bus service to Newark and New York City. And train stations nearby with direct service to Penn Station.

    Eric Reply:

    “IMHO the toll on the environment between “Pleasant Valley” suburbia and your urban concentration camps is roughly the same.”

    Let’s take one example showing that you’re wrong: New York City has less than a third of the CO2 emissions per capita that the US as a whole does. And judging by the rents, NYC seems to be a pretty desirable “concentration camp” to live in.


    Joey Reply:

    Humans are the real problem. We really need to get rid of them.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Free market capitalists are working on it. Social Darwinism.

    morris brown Reply:

    The whole concept that HSR will enable thousands and thousands of workers to commute long distances, because HSR is fast and the commute time will be short, is economically ridiculous.

    Say the commute trip is 250 miles. CHSRA wants you to believe that operating costs for the HSR train, are $.0.20 per passenger mile. OK. The operating cost for your 250 mile trip will then be $50.00 each way, or $100 per day for the commute trip. That will cost about $2500 per month.

    But it is much worse than this. HSR systems around the world show operation costs of around $0.40 per passenger mile; about twice that of which the CHSRA want you to believe. At this realistic rate, the cost would be $5000 per month.

    How many workers can afford such costs to commute. Those that could, I strongly suspect would not wish to live in Fresno, but much prefer to spend millions for a Beverly Hills estate, or comparable.

    42apples Reply:

    Also the fantastical notion that even if HSR were affordable for commuting, that 500 miles/day on a train is somehow environmentally preferable to say 50 miles by car (which is quite a bit farther than the average Bay Area commute).

    The only way that HSR could reduce sprawl is if it entices frequent business travelers or offices to locate closer to stations.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Solar powered corporate aircraft?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    even if HSR were affordable for commuting, that 500 miles/day on a train is somehow environmentally preferable to say 50 miles by car

    You’re probably right, but it looks a lot closer than you might think:

    Assuming a gallon of gasoline contains 121MJ, a 50mpg car will use 121MJ to travel 50 miles.

    Using a figure of 170kJ/seat-km for a fully-loaded shinkansen N700 (which I think is reasonably accurate), a person will use 136MJ to travel 500 miles….

    In any case, of course, it’s very unlikely somebody would commute from LA to SF daily, and to the extent there are “HSR commuters” (there won’t be so many I think, simply based on the high price), they’re more likely to be coming from nearer places like Fresno. Fresno to San Jose is only about 150 miles, which would require about 41MJ using the above figures, equivalent to driving the car 21 miles.

    [Anyway, I don’t really think HSR commuters will really be a thing in California, it’s just too expensive for most people. The Japanese experience is somewhat atypical I think, because Japanese employers tend to pay train commute costs in full, even via shinkansen (and to the best of my knowledge, Japanese HSR commuters tend to come from the extreme fringes of the metro area, not from distant cities).]

    Peter Reply:

    How many people actually have 50 mpg cars? While fleetwide fuel economy may be increasing, it’s nowhere close to 50 mpg, and won’t be for many years.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Sure, but I’m trying to be a bit conservative in my approximations, and as I’m basically arguing for the train, being conservative means giving cars more benefit of the doubt than they probably deserve… :]

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Electricity consumption on an example AVE train is 51 Wh/seat-km, but that’s with fewer seats than on most export trains (and with a top speed of 300 km/h, not 350). With 2+2 Shinkansen assumptions of train weight and capacity, you get 31 Wh/seat-km, or 111.6 kJ/seat-km. When I ran numbers on an example Northeast Corridor route I got about the same number, with a lower top speed than 350 on nearly all segments, but a lot of acceleration and deceleration cycles.

    The conclusion to draw from any attempt to look at real-life trains’ GHG emissions is “make your sources of electricity greener.” France has really low TGV emissions, since its electricity is nuclear.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But Hollande and certainly the more militantly green faction of the PS has no particular love for nuclear. There is on older facility in Alsace-Lorraine that they have promised to close but never seem to get around to.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Quibble: Alsace-Lorraine hasn’t existed since 1918. There’s Alsace, and there’s Lorraine; these are separate regions, at least until the end of the year. German-occupied Alsace-Lorraine consisted of Alsace and a small slice of Lorraine (the post-WW1 department of Moselle).

    (Also, the French region consolidation is a bundle of idiocy, but, separate argument.)

    synonymouse Reply:

    I couldn’t agree more about the regional governments – I would get rid of that level of bureaucracy completely seeing as how some towns are facing bankruptcy, a much more pressing need to fix.

    I used the old term because I could not recall off the top the name of the facility. I believe it is Arkheim in Alsace but too lazy to try to check now.

    I am one of these hopeless fogies who believe that the Rein-Ruhr-Palatinat should be closer governmentally to France and North Africa belongs with Europe.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The regions themselves are useful, it’s just that the regional reform is completely incoherent. For the most part they’re in line with historic and cultural regions. France just likes rearranging the deck chairs instead of engaging in real devolution.

    Except in education. Education is devolved to the regions and departments, which helps ensure that Franciliens can study at the University of Paris without fearing competition from unwashed provincials.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You are clearly closer to circumstances than me.

    Crudely, France seems to me a relatively smaller country and all you need are the counties(departements)and the capital. Regional differences can take care of themselves.

    It is all about the economy and the money now anyway.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Fessenheim nuclear power station near Mulhouse.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Nah, the departments are too small. That’s why they were created in the first place: to enable centralized government after the Revolution. What France needs is to engage in consolidation of municipalities (it has about 30,000, the same as the US on just one fifth the population), do minor tweaks to the regions, and give the regions statutory authority. Right now the regions and departments can spend money but not make law. Smaller departments, around the same size as English counties or Italian provinces or counties in the denser parts of the US, would also be nice, but it doesn’t reeeeally matter with current transportation technology. (US counties were sized to let the citizen day-trip to the county seat and back on horseback; French departments were sized to let the state send an army from the county seat to anywhere on horseback within a day.)

    Oh, and the whole open-admissions-within-each-region system for the universities is even more elitist than the admission tests for the grandes ecoles. A smart Auvergnat can score high and get into ENS, but the various universities with Sorbonne in their name will prioritize the Parisians.

    (And with that elitism, France is still leagues ahead of the US, with its high university tuition, student debt slavery, holistic admissions, legacy preferences, and complete lack of serious end-of-high-school tests.)

    synonymouse Reply:

    Again you are much closer to the actuality of France than me. I would think the city governments would be adequate along with the departements.

    It will be interesting to see what Marine Le Pen proposes if she comes to power. I believe she has a chance as the EC or EU, whichever you wish, cannot deal with refusing any and all immigration or the manifest destiny of making everybody a member and not kicking out those who really aren’t happy in. I’d suggest pressure from “external” sources is in play, definitely Foggy Bottom and the Vatican.

    But then I still think the world needs a second power bloc, as Putin asserts, to counter the Buffetts and Icahns and all the rest of the investor and entrpreneur wunderkinder a-holes. They are worse than the French elite and Italian political class and mafias put together.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You know how some people fantasize about Alan Keyes getting elected president in the US? That’s where the Le Pen clan is. Marine just puts lipstick on that pig.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The only person who fantasized about Alan Keyes being president was Alan Keyes.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    The 170kJ/seat-km figure is calculated from JR’s central figure of 90MJ/seat total (measured) usage for the Tokyo-Osaka run (515km, and of course their figure incorporates extra energy for stops etc)…

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Incidentally, although JR central use the 90MJ figure all over the place, for the purpose of comparison with air-travel, and make it clear it’s for Tokyo – Shin-Osaka, I’ve always been suspicious that it’s actually for a round-trip, which would of course halve the energy/seat-km figure.

    For instance, in various google searches, I’ve run across a figure of 0.086MJ/seat-km for the N700, which would be consistent with a figure of 90MJ/seat for a Tokyo – Shin-Osaka round-trip (1030km). E.g. https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=1el-e-31Y_0C&lpg=PT444&ots=BP9odJ0qUA&dq=shinkansen%20n700%20MJ&hl=ja&pg=PT445#v=onepage&q=0.086&f=false

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The NEC has dedicated 25Hz generators at Safe Harbor Dam. I’m gonna assume Amtrak gets to participate in the NYSPA electricity. New England’s electricity has lots of non carbon sources in it too.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    North of New Haven it buys power direct from utilities, no?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They buy it direct from utilities south of New Haven too. Excelon owns Safe Harbor. PECO another Excelon company supplies power as far north as Metchuen. That doesn’t stop the State of New York buying power from itself and having delivered by the utilities. And municipalities and the MTA. I would hope the Federal government and Amtrak can cut the same deal. New England has relatively low carbon electricity between nuclear and HydroQuebec.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    So, recalculating using (more realistic?) figures of 35mpg for the car and 86kJ/seat-km for the train, the energy used for a 150mile commute from Fresno to San Jose is 20.7MJ, and the car distance using the same amount of energy is only about 6 miles!

    So sounds like HSR commuting is the way to go for energy efficiency… (plus of course as Alon mentioned, HSR is more likely to use an environmentally-friendly source of energy)

    Even HSR would probably take longer though… :]

    42apples Reply:

    Nope. HSR isn’t going to be filled to capacity and a car isn’t likely to have only one person for a 150 mile trip. And I highly doubt bulky American trains will be as energy efficient as Japanese ones, not to mention CAHSR is supposed to go much faster and I presume stop more, and possibly (not sure of this) go over more mountains, although the latter may be a net advantage for rail due to regenerative braking. Also, while HSR will probably not get more much more efficient due to using off-the-shelf technology, vehicles may well be closer to 50 mpg than 35 mpg highway by 2030 if fuel efficiency standards hold up. Finally, the distance traveled by train is not necessarily the same as the distance by car-for trips from SF to LA, driving a car is probably more direct due to I5, but maybe rail would be more direct from SJ to Fresno.

    Also gasoline emits 0.528 lbs/kwh of fuel content (source http://www.epa.gov/cpd/pdf/brochure.pdf), which is lower than the average emission factor for CA electricity (under the EPA CPP) by 2030 of 0.537 (source https://www.wecc.biz/Reliability/140912_EPA-111(d)_PhaseI_Tech-Final.pdf). That’s overly simplifying-we should be using marginal time-weighted electricity generation for the whole western region. There is no “dedicated electricity source” no matter where it is bought from because we have an interconnected grid that operates in real time.

    So we don’t really know what an energy comparison of HSR to driving looks like.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Why are California HSR trains going to be any less energy-efficient than what’s available on the market? They’re not going to be bulkier than Shinkansen, which are already extra-wide. They might be heavier because any non-Korean technology is inferior the Velaro, AGV, and Zefiro are heavier than Shinkansen, but they’re not going to be Amtrak heavy.

    42apples Reply:

    Weight partially, but they will also go up to 30 km/hr faster than the fastest Shinkansen.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    The speed of the Shinkansen in Japan is limited by external factors, not the actual trains themselves. Things like curve radius on the older lines, strict Japanese noise regulations combined with a fairly urbanized environment and narrow Japanese tunnel diameters, and cost concerns (the faster you operate, the more you have to spend on maintenance).

    Miles Bader Reply:

    The car is only going 6 miles (or another shortish distance) in this example, not the same distance as the train.

    That was the whole point of this exercise: to show that (maybe counter-intuitively) a long trip by HSR and a short trip by car use similar amounts of energy, and thus that “HSR commuting” is not necessarily a bad thing in terms of energy usage / pollution.

    If you don’t like the exact numbers I used, choose ones you like better—Alon provided a handy list of HSR efficiencies, and there’s another in the Google Books link I gave—but basic result remains the same: HSR is really energy-efficient, an order of magnitude or more so than cars, and so HSR commuting is not inherently worse for the environment than car commuting.

    Eric Reply:

    Not every day, but I think there a significant number of jobs where commuting once or twice a week to a more distant location is sufficient.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In research academia, people can arrange schedules so that they only have to show up to campus twice a week. At Brown, it’s common for faculty to live in Boston and reverse-commute, usually by car since the rail options blow.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    A significant number of jobs don’t involve manipulating symbols, they involve manipulating tangible objects.

    Peter Reply:

    People commute long distances by HSR every day in Europe. Berlin-Hamburg or Berlin-Hanover are popular commuter routes. Those two routes are approximately 170 miles (driving distance).

    Also, commuters will not make up a large percentage of passengers on HSR. Most passengers will be traveling for business, plus a variety of people who just happen to have to go places that are served by HSR.

    For example, a few weeks ago I had to travel to Fresno from San Diego. If HSR had been built, I could have made it a day trip and just taken the train. Instead, I had to rent a car, get a hotel room, pay for gas and overall just inflict over 12 hours of driving on myself in less than a 24 hour period.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    HSR systems around the world show operating and track access costs of around $0.20 per passenger mile

    Corrected. Follow links to the European railroads from here. The Japanese railroads charge more; JR East and West have too much other stuff going on, but JR Central’s revenue is largely Shinkansen, and the company’s making money hand over fist.

    Peter Reply:

    The role of combating sprawl rests with local city and county governments, not with the CHSRA. The most CHSRA can do is encourage infill development and hope. State laws like AB32 and SB375 will have greater impact on sprawl than HSR ever can, although while HSR will not itself reduce sprawl, HSR station locations may help focus development.

    What HSR will not do is make sprawl worse. A region that refuses to implement anti-sprawl land use and transportation policies will produce sprawl with or without an HSR station.

    synonymouse Reply:

    On the contrary the interests who are demanding PBHSR be detoured to the high desert are utterly convinced that it will indeed induce massive real estate exploitation.

    Reedman Reply:

    The belief that HSR will induce sprawl is so great that environmentalists twisted arms in the writing of Prop 1A to explicitly make it illegal to build a CAHSR station at Los Banos (which would be a more logical place to base a Central-Valley-to-Silicon-Valley commute from than Fresno).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The only remedy is withholding bond money. If they don’t use bond money they can do whatever they want.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The role of combating sprawl rests with local city and county governments, not with the CHSRA

    Then why is the CHSRA surrouding its stations with acres and acres of surface parking? Cities aren’t doing that — the CHSRA is.

    Peter Reply:

    If the local governments refuse to implement measures to combat sprawl through improved transit, is the CHSRA supposed to simply shrug and not offer parking?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m sure there are many many companies in California that are willing to offer parking services near stations.

    Joe Reply:

    Actually drunk engineer is wrong. Take Gilroy for example, the city is distributing parking on the south end of the downtown area and planning to use shuttle buses to bring people to the station. There’s also desire to slowly add parking rather then build out to the fully scoped size.

    The problem is ridership. Modeling is heavily car depended at this time. In order to meet ridership projections the stations will need a certain amount of parking. Because the system does not allow subsidies, there is additional pressure to build parking out at the high-speed rail stations.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “the system does not allow subsidies”

    he he he

    At least Willie Brown does not insult our intelligence.

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    The goal is to ignore “helpful” advise from certain people and make the train profitable.
    The track record (pardon the expression) of HSR and the GAO review Congressman McCarthy had done both indicate a strong future for the success of HSR.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The plan for Gilroy is to build 6,400 parking spaces, with the assumption that most passengers arrive by car. That is the opposite of TOD.

    joe Reply:

    The envisioning plan for the downtown station is on the web.


    Page 41.
    Only 20% of parking need be within vicinity of the station aka 10 min walk. The rest will be shuttled bus.

    Parking capacity requirements range from 1000 in the beginning to 6500 at full build out.

    That location is the Gilroy Transit Center and the envisioning plan shows TOD around the station.

    joe Reply:

    And page 38 is the station and surrounding landuse map which shows the station in the downtown area which by definition of TOD is TOD oh Drunk Engineer.

    Currently strip mall parking lots are at risk of development and replacement with a multistory parking structure. This infill means parking surface area in the walking vicinity should decrease when the station is built.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    4 parking garages within 5 min walk
    2 additional parking garages within 10 minute walk
    1 additional garage just outside the 10 minute boundary

    Presumably, the new “mixed-use” development will come with their own parking requirements.

    This is a bullshit TOD plan. Only someone as stupid as Joe would fall for it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Why park your electric Bugatti? Just keep on trucking.

    Joey Reply:

    Doubtless you’ve read San Jose’s station area redevelopment plan which calls for tens of thousands of off-street parking spaces?

    Robert S. Allen Reply:

    “Acres and acres of parking around stations.” It makes sense. Intense commercial development later of such land use, with parking put in structures, is far more feasible than if the land were built upon as residential.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Ah yes multi-story parking structures just scream pedestrian friendly.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The point Bob Allen is making is that once you zone for housing at whatever density chosen it is almost possible to redevelop into something denser. The surrounding area around Diridon is not that dense and very close to single family tract homes from the 1950s.

    As with BART, the benefit of parking lots is that you let density increase at an organic rate, instead of trying to induce it through various land use strategies. Keep in mind San Jose will probably be the largest beneficiary of HSR as California cities go…

    Ted Judah Reply:

    *almost impossible*

    Joey Reply:

    Recall that this is Robert “TOD brings thugs” Allen.

  3. synonymouse
    May 26th, 2015 at 12:18

    The real Warren Buffett:


    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I know that followers of Saint Ronnie think that Dear Leader, no matter who he is, is omniscient, but what makes you think Warren Buffet even knows Berkshire Hathaway owns electric utilities much less cares what regulations Nevada enacts?

    Eric Reply:

    NV Energy is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy. Pretty straightforward.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Mr. Buffet gets 24 hours in a day just like everyone else. He hires people to attend to the details.

    Tokkyu40 Reply:

    He didn’t get rich by having no idea what he was doing.
    Other people handle the details, but he has to know what fields (and most of the companies) his empire is involved in.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    He doesn’t obsess about which trains are on time either. He hires people who know what they are doing and let them do it.

  4. keithsaggers
    May 26th, 2015 at 13:29
  5. agb5
    May 26th, 2015 at 14:12

    Speaking of infill, what could be done with the large amount of rock excavated for the Palmdale – Burbank tunnels?
    London used their tunnel spoils to build a bird sanctuary

    les Reply:

    put it along the border, we can’t afford to pay for border patrol forever. :)~

    Zorro Reply:

    Then you pay for HSR there, Les…

    les Reply:

    i guess they got the tunnels there already. Just need a few stations.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Or don’t bore them.

  6. john burrows
    May 26th, 2015 at 17:38

    Case in point—

    Living in a transit oriented development in Central San Jose, next to Diridon train station. I can board Caltrain, VTA, or Amtrak in less than 10 minutes. Fromour front window I can see Adobe Systems headquarters is a half mile away, on the other side of the train station. If I worked at Adobe, work would be only a 15 minute walk away.

    San Jose has a master plan for greatly increasing the amount of housing and commercial development around Diridon and even if only some of this were to happen thousands of new San Jose residents moving into this area would also have the opportunity to walk, bicycle or take Caltrain, VTA, or eventually BART to work.

    Once high speed rail gets to San Jose I could still, from where I live, easily work for Adobe even if their headquarters were located not in San Jose, but instead. a half mile from the Fresno train station. Or, if I were to move to a development near the Fresno station, I could just as easily work for Adobe in San Jose. Either way the walk to the station would be 10 minutes or less, the train trip about 55 minutes, and the walk to work an easy 15 minutes—well under an hour and a half in total.

    Like San Jose Fresno has a master plan for extensive residential and commercial development around their high speed rail station. If their master plan becomes a reality I would think that by the late 2020’s high speed rail would form a strong link between the two cities that would benefit thousands of residents in each as well as many businesses.a

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Your case study ignores what the Bay Area’s experience has been with BART, however.

    Namely, that while the area in the immediate vicinity of stations will likely appreciate in value and attract “transit oriented development”, the total distance the commuter travels is as equally important as the trade-off of being able to buy more house for your money.

    In San Jose’s case…most of the new HSR commuters are going to be coming from Gilroy, not Fresno. The same would be true with Palmdale and Los Angeles, except the labor market in downtown LA is actually contracting.

    In San Jose’s case, the people who can afford to live closest in will move to where they don’t need to use HSR. The next band of affordability will commute to the Gilroy station from Santa Cruz-Watsonville-Salinas-Monterey. They will trade a higher commute cost for the ability to own a house, but they won’t necessarily have a lower cost of living overall.

    But Fresno, with approximately 90 minutes of pure commute time on HSR will be about as attractive to commuters as Stockton, Modesto, or Merced on ACE.

    The real question though…is what happens to Adobe. As a private company, it will gladly relocate further away from the station if housing demands get too tight. It’s not clear to me how these large campus tech firms survive in a dense Silicon Valley scenario, but I’m sure they can find cheaper space.

    Michael Reply:

    Ted, Adobe is the lone highrise-dwelling tech firm in downtown San Jose.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Michael…you are making my point.

    Walking from Diridon to Adobe adds 15 minutes to your commute. The VTA light rail takes almost as long. How many commuters are going to sign up for 90 minutes on top of that?

    joe Reply:

    Compare that productive passenger time to an automobile trip in today’s traffic with current housing prices and that 15 minute walk is exercise.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Productive passenger time is only possible if you can work aboard the train….

    Joe Reply:

    Productive time can be many things besides work. There are personal as well as profession responsibilities and it can even include waking to from. Even quite restful trip listening to Muzak beats driving stress which improved productivity.

    joe Reply:

    Gilroy is connected to San Jose by Caltrain and express buses. No big change.

    The BFD is the HSR system also heads south from SF SFO RWC and SJC to Gilroy in the AM. Caltrain only does computer N am and S pm.

    This whole area is going to open up to development because it will be a reverse commute and serviced by HSR just one stop closer to LA and already has affordable, high quality housing.

  7. keith saggers
    May 27th, 2015 at 14:16

    The (UK) government is pressing ahead with legislation that will eventually enable work to start on the £50bn HS2 high-speed rail link. Legislation which will give the government the legal powers to construct and operate the London to Birmingham first phase of HS2 is going through Parliament. If it progresses smoothly, it should receive Royal Assent around the end of 2016, with work beginning on the project in 2017, with a finishing date of 2026

  8. john burrows
    May 31st, 2015 at 14:15

    A while back my wife was taking Caltrain from Burlingame to her nursing job in Santa Clara. At the Santa Clara station she would take a hospital supplied shuttle the rest of the way. The shuttle would also pick up two nurses who had taken the ACE train from Tracy. They would nap on the train and were able to leverage four commutes per week into a 48 hour work week by working 12 hour shifts back to back and using a crash pad between shifts.

    Santa Clara County has (According to a 2013 Census Bureau report) 12,000 mega commuters who spend more than 3 hours per day going to and from work on trips of more than 100 miles.

    The median sale price of a home in San Jose is about $700,000. The median sale price of a home in Fresno is about $200,000.

    Santa Clara County has 15,000 registered nurses who have a median income of about $110,000 per year.

    Two large hospitals, O’Connor and Valley Medical Center with a total of over 900 beds are within a 3 mile drive of Diridon Station.

    Using RN’s as an example—

    If it were possible to commute between San Jose and Fresno in less than one hour it seems to me that a substantial number of RN’s planning on working in San Jose would at least consider this choice that did not previously exist. Many in the workforce, nurses included would opt to own the place where they live if it were affordable. A yearly income of $110,000 will not buy very much anywhere near San Jose, but certainly would in Fresno. If I remember right a sample timetable from a while back had a one way ticket price of $60. Four round trips per week would be $480, or $24,000 per year, $24,000 is a lot of money but considering the opportunity of home ownership combined with the saving of driving expenses, and maybe the need for one less car, the commute option would be worth considering.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Yes. I think it’s very much the case (as can be seen in other places) that HSR changes the way people think of transportation. It offers much of the speed of airplanes, but without the huge amount of rigmarole and discomfort, and it integrates far, far, better into the community.

  9. john burrows
    May 31st, 2015 at 16:44

    For a nurse working two 12 hour shifts back to back and doing this two times per week, there would be two round trips, nor four. The potential yearly ticket price would be $12,000, not $24,000.

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