Merced Fights for Its Seat on the Bullet Train

Apr 25th, 2016 | Posted by

The Merced Sun-Star Editorial Board tells the story of how local elected officials fought to get Merced back into the Initial Operating Segment – and ensure that nearly 1 million people get access to a fast ride to Silicon Valley:

“I know very few people who commute from Fresno to the Bay Area,” said Adam Gray, who chairs the Assembly select committee on rails. “And people here aren’t going to drive to Fresno just to catch a 40-minute train to work.”

Fortunately, the vote was delayed and that part of the plan was junk-piled, thanks to some tough talk from the Valley’s legislative caucus and county officials.

“John Pedrozo, God bless that guy,” said Stanislaus Supervisor Vito Chiesa. “The way it went, he gets a lot of the credit.” But so should Gray, Sens. Anthony Cannella of Ceres and Cathleen Galgiani of Manteca, and others working on the Valley’s behalf.

“People were outraged,” said Gray. “I was outraged. It was totally irresponsible behavior” to eliminate Merced. “They publicly apologized.”

It certainly helps that Assemblymember Gray chairs the Assembly’s rail committee. But it’s not just his leadership, as the editorial makes clear. Sen. Cathleen Galgiani has been a champion for the project since at least 2008, and helped ensure that Merced stayed in the IOS.

And the Sun-Star editorial makes it very clear why this fight matters – and was the right one to wage:

Eliminating Merced would have created a no-man’s land stretching all the way to Modesto. Without high-speed rail and other connections, roughly 1 million people would be living in a forgotten zone with no modern connections to the opportunities being created in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Fremont – opportunities we desperately need.

Without those connections, we’ll be left begging for scraps – the landfills and prisons usually tossed our way.

For those who live on California’s coasts, the Central Valley may seem like one big no-man’s-land. It’s a heavily populated place, but it is also big, and that’s the point. A station in Fresno doesn’t really benefit people living in Merced or Modesto. The northern San Joaquin Valley has big and growing populations, and most of them work in the Bay Area.

A bullet train that gets from Merced to San José in less than an hour is a game-changer, allowing people to work in the Bay Area while living affordably in Merced – and allowing Merced to bring businesses out to the Valley, where land costs are significantly cheaper.

That’s why Merced has been one of the most consistently supportive communities of HSR anywhere in the state of California. And that’s why the CHSRA was right to put them back in the IOS.

  1. Neil Shea
    Apr 25th, 2016 at 14:56

    Did Richard and the CHSRA omit Merced knowing that Gray, Galgiani and others would push back hard — and create the optics and momentum for the legislature that HSR is in strong demand. If so it’s probably the kind of thing you have to do to move a large, complex, high-budget undertaking forward amongst all the noise and completing demands.

    Joe Reply:

    Possibly. They clearly adapted to the political pressure and now have a system that does more for the CV ares that supports the project.

    The losers are Kern Co and Bakersfield. Based on the response, their representatives could care less.

    People in Bakersfield feel cut out of High-Speed Rail Authority’s new plan

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Well that would be the three dimensional chess level of political maneuvering…

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Have you spent quality time with Dan Richard?

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    I have not, why you ask?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I doubt that.

  2. Jerry
    Apr 25th, 2016 at 15:14

    “people do commute from Merced and Stanislaus counties to the Bay Area every day. All those paying customers – anxious to get onboard –”

  3. Bdawe
    Apr 25th, 2016 at 15:30

    “The northern San Joaquin Valley has big and growing populations, and most of them work in the Bay Area”

    Is that so? It’s surprising how often people overestimate the number of long distance commuters there are, which would go along ways towards explaining the absurd lengths we go to serving their needs.

    Per the American Community Survey (, for Merced County, 74% of workers work in Merced Co, 12% in Stanislaus, and only 4% in Santa Clara, with a Bay-Area County total of less than 6%, for a grand total of 5215 workers

    For San Joaquin Co, 73% of workers don’t leave the county, and only 17% work in the Bay Area (45,000), and 77% of Stanislaus workers never leave Stanislaus Co ,with less than 8% of them working in the Bay.

    While it appears to be true that such people exist and are growing in number, by no means do ‘most’ of the population of Northern San Joaquin Valley work in the Bay Area

    SMG Reply:

    I was going to bring this up a question about this, so thanks for preemptively answering it. I found it very hard to believe that a majority (i.e. most) workers in the San Joaquin Valley go to work anywhere in the 9 county Bay Area on a daily or regular basis.

    But at any rate, going to Merced on the IOS is certainly a welcome bonus. I really don’t see why they shouldn’t just go all the way up to Sacramento on the IOS as well. The valley is the easiest part of the state to build the line in, so why even delay? I assume it’s money and nothing else really.

    morris brown Reply:


    Nice set of numbers you expose. But it never seems to deter those who just want the project; that is to say, don’t confuse us with facts.

    The latest is the myth that the IOS north will run profitably and will have tons of riders from Fresno and Bakersfield commuting via HSR to Silicon Valley. This in the face of the reality that such commuting means spending about 1.5 hours on the commute to getting to jobs and will such commuters will spend $34000 annually on commuting fares (not counting parking fees or destination fares upon arrival in Silicon Valley).

    Dream on Carl Guardino and the Authority.

    Joe Reply:

    Do nothingism means always fooling yourself.

    Already 5,000+ workers make the mega-commute without a competitive rail alternative.

    People can’t afford pennisula’s multimillion dollar home prices or rents. Employers offer mass the air passes and subsidies.

    Try to spent some time thinking about someone other than yourself. Wtf do you think they’ll live?

    A Study in Germany showed how NEW HSR stations boosted local GDP because workers have more access to larger job market. It’s actually shown true.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    5000 people have to put something down on the form or say something during the interview. It doesn’t mean they hop in the car every morning and spend the day in a cube farm in Santa Clara County.
    … looking at an old ACS, 16 people who live in Albany County NY work in Los Angeles County CA. They don’t commute everyday.

    EJ Reply:

    2 hour+ daily commutes aren’t unheard of in California. I don’t know about New York.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There are masochists east of the Sierra Nevada.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Never underestimate the willingness of Americans to spend quality life time commuting.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Nonetheless, a long rail commute is infinitely better than a long driving commute, because you basically don’t have to pay attention, it’s purely idle time…

    I used to have about an hour commute and I loved it, ’cause ever morning I’d time it so that it wasn’t too crowded (still couldn’t get a seat, but I’d get a nice spot standing in the last car), and spend my time reading and idly watching the scenery. On a spring morning with the sun streaming in and a good novel it was practically the high point of my day…! ^^;

    [Later the company relocated to a location that happened to be a five minute walk from my house… it was obviously super convenient, but … I kinda missed my commute…]

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Some of my best conversations have happened commuting. Of course the odd hour long commute with three changes was not nice, but smartphones are a wonderful invention ;-)

    I honestly do not understand why people would voluntarily commute by car.

    Joe Reply:

    2013 census says ~ 110,000 workers in the Bay Area commute over 90 minutes.

    Obviously this means a system that connects CV cities to the Bay Area will be used. It’s not a commuter system but it’s not anti-commuter.

    Those who think the economics don’t make sense aren’t aware of how hard it is to start out now.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    how many of them live in Fresno? A train to Bakersfield doesn’t do much good for some one commuting from the east or north.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    …I think you are hoping against hope that the Hooli!’s of the world won’t just often heavily subsidized passes for employees. Google’s bus operation isn’t cheap. Moreover, Bay Area cities might subsidize the passes as well to minimize their costs for traffic mitigation and affordable housing.

    Anandakos Reply:

    There are lies, damn lies and Brown as Scheize lies. This is one of the last. $34,000/260 working days = $130.75 per day. So you are saying that the fare from Merced to San Jose will be $65 one way? Oh, uh, sorry; “$65.38”. The fares on the ACE are $13.75 one way. Yes, that’s subsidized, so maybe the actual price is $30 and there will doubtless be lower multi-ride prices. So say $50 per day. That’s 13,000 per year, an amount that a person who buys a $300,000 house in Merced instead of paying $900,000 for the same house in San Jose will save in interest.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Yes, and a lot of folks would work from home Fridays so it’s $10k/year to commute 4 days/week. Or $15k to Madera or $20k to Fresno

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Merced is in a tough position.

    Currently, you can depart Oakland on either the San Joaquins or the Capitol Corridor and arrive home in Modesto or Roseville in 90 minutes. Once CAHSR starts, the same will be true for Fresno.

    The only locale left out between Sacramento and Fresno, surprise, surprise, would be Merced. What’s interesting, however, is that Merced has the potential to be a major job center, given the presence of both the UC campus, but also the redevelopment of Castle Air Force Base.

    In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if what’s really behind this outcry is a desire to resurrect the plan to use Castle as the Heavy Maintenance Facilty site, using the stub track to serve Merced itself incidentally. But the presence of the HMF would then induce more commuters from the other, competing hinterlands. It would also make sense because a HMF in Merced could also serve traditional diesel trains as part of the Northern California Unified Service.

    Joe Reply:

    Yes. Good point. UC Merced is the newest and, from applications, the least in demand of the UC schools.

    Connecting Merced with HSR makes UCM much more accessible to the Bay Area. That accessibility will help them recruit students and faculty in robotics research, biotech, software and etc.

    swing hanger Reply:

    The presence of the HMF at Castle is probably the only justification for having HSR extended on a spur to Merced. Trainsets leaving the HMF (in the early AM hours) and arriving (in the late evening) can earn revenue by transporting the aforementioned commuters between Merced and the Bay Area, rather than just being deadhead runs. As for commuting costs, they can sell special discounted monthly/season passes to these Merced residents, or employers can subsidize them.

    Jerry Reply:

    An old survey with old numbers.
    Check out the many many many new office buildings on the Peninsula built since the survey. (And many more to come.)
    And check out the number of new jobs and workers in those new buildings.
    Where do YOU want them to live?
    How do YOU want them to travel to work?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    sure..lets throw out the actual data in favor of your assertion that there are “many many many new office buildings”

    I mean, if you are going to use 3 “many” in a row, that trumps any survey hands down.

    Cough up a better set of data if you want to throw out the old

    Joe Reply:

    Question: How do you disprove ridership in the absence of data?

    Clown-show started the argument that our CV is too far away for working in the Bay Area. There wouldn’t be enough ridership.

    We have politicians and CV residents who want the service.

    You want hard data to disprove an opinion. The census data doesn’t disprove their is demand or need. It just shows what’s happening in absence of good alternative transit.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    That’s why ridership projections often undershoot reality…

  4. Also
    Apr 25th, 2016 at 15:59

    This was another editorial that appeared in the Fresno Bee.

  5. Car(e)-Free LA
    Apr 25th, 2016 at 16:31

    This is a horrible plan. While I agnoladge that Merced has a sizeable population, serving commuters is not the goal of CAHSR. CAHSR is intended for semi-frequent cross state travel, not daily commutes for which it is too expensive. Therefore, the authority should cut any cost, whether it be not electrifying, omitting Gilroy or Hanfor stations, or single tracking some sections so as to bring the train to downtown. San Stanislaus and San Joaquin commuters should rely on upgraded ACE and Livermore BART, not HSR. The authority is making a massive mistake, as it’s goal ought to be constructing an IOS that can run 6 DMUs per day, from Bakersfield to San Jose, with one stop in Fresno, in less than two hours. That should be its most basic, unambitious goal for the IOS, and so far it is failing even that.

    Joe Reply:

    What the hell is do goddamn special about Bakersfield? And cutting a station saves peanuts but leaves the residents out cold. All got Bakersfield and its hostile congressional delegation.

    Cutting Gilroy cuts out Monterey country.

    Bdawe Reply:

    Well, there’s more people than Monterey County, off the top of my head

    joe Reply:

    There’s also demand for travel to Monterey Co.

    Anyway a station can be simple and not an expensive undertaking for needed the benefit of riders and users.

    car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Population of Kern County: 874,589

    Population of Monterrey County and Gilroy: 483,877

    Population of Tulare County and Kings County: 608,467

    Clearly Gilroy is the least important stop, and Bakersfield is most important.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Carefree, you’re oversimplifying. First, you’re leaving out 50k+ other residents of self Santa Clara county in Morgan Hill, San Martin, elsewhere, plus another 57k+ residents in San Benito county between Monterey and Santa Clara, so the number is really 600k people.

    But you don’t even save much money by eliminating a simple en-route station and service for 600K people. Bakersfield is a different issue – it’s at the end of a line that will be extended, it’s a city and county that requested that the construction package be truncated outside of town, and whose congressman is the top leader who could easily direct enough funding to fully serve his city.

    car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Yes, but Merced is also a costly extension off the end that doesn’t serve as many people and is not on the way to LA.

    trentbridge Reply:

    From Amtrak:

    After a quick stop in Merced, CA and a scenic Thruway bus ride in through Mariposa and El Portal, Yosemite National Park greets you with a spectacular sight.

    The non-vehicle owning foreign tourists anxious to visit Yosemite might like an HSR stop in Merced, too. So we could add a few thousand tourists to these commuter numbers…

    datacruncher Reply:

    Thruway service (operated by YARTS) from Fresno to Yosemite started last year. Tourists would have Yosemite access with or without Merced.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    “Access” with a bus is not the same as a HSR stop. If you don’t believe me, just replace the terminal integrated stops serving airports with a bus…

    EJ Reply:


    Please discontinue posting until you’ve had a chance to look at a map of California.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Well Fresno and Merced seem to be about the same distance from different points of the park. Of course it makes sense (from both viewpoints) to spread out the tourists so that they don’t all go to the same place within the national park.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Yosemite Valley is actually closer to Merced than to Fresno… So that’s that.

    datacruncher Reply:

    “Of course it makes sense (from both viewpoints) to spread out the tourists so that they don’t all go to the same place within the national park.”
    The Merced and Fresno Thruway buses both serve Yosemite Valley. As large as Yosemite is nearly all tourists visit the same sights centered on Yosemite Valley.

    Both bus routes are operated by Yosemite Area Rapid Transit with Amtrak selling a single rail/bus ticket for the routes.

    Road miles there is about a 15 mile longer distance to Yosemite Valley from the Fresno Amtrak station vs Merced.

    For rail passengers the biggest difference is that the Merced bus starts at the Merced Airport (5 flights per day on 9 passenger aircraft) then goes to the Amtrak station before going to Yosemite while the Fresno bus starts at Amtrak then goes to the larger Fresno Airport before leaving the city for Yosemite.

    That makes the run time for rail passengers longer from Fresno but potentially adds more tourists picked up by the bus at the larger Fresno airport.

    At Fresno it is also possible in summer to transfer to another bus to visit Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. Merced passengers would have to reboard a train then travel to Fresno and then transfer to another bus to visit the other parks.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Fresno knew what they were doing when they renamed the airport Fresno Yosemite. They even have fake forest in the middle of the airport terminal.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Just like Hahn knew what they did when the renamed their airport “Frankfurt”-Hahn. Two hours by bus…

    car(e)-free LA Reply:

    I know, but CAHSR’s #1 priority is getting people from SF to LA. Bakersfield is on the way to LA. Merced is not. Any expenditure that does not meet that goal is a waste of money, and one CAHSR reaches LA, then other places, like Merced can be focused on.

    joe Reply:

    The top priority is not SF to LA and Bakersfield isn’t LA County.

    The Law states the State must build usable segments which include stations so cutting them out reduces segments and ridership. It says the state should prioritize segments based on cost, prioritizing those that cost less.


    car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Bakersfield is on the way to LA county, and offers frequent bus connections there. Merced isn’t. it is simple.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Yep -(unless you do Altamont, of course)

    Car(e)-Free LA Reply:

    Which I am starting to think might be the better option.

    Bdawe Reply:

    On the other hand, stopping short of Bakersfield and kicking the LA access can a ways down the road leaves open the possibility that a future authority may change their preference for crossing the Tehachapis

    Car(e)-Free LA Reply:

    Or further ingrain the choice of Palmdale, once XpressWest opensto there.

    les Reply:

    It will be interesting to see what the cost of taking it into Sacramento will be. It may have been wiser to make it phase one and LA phase two. Why not beef up ridership via the proximity of several city pairs for the sake of rallying congress to help pay for the Mountainous segment. Sure the Palmdale segments are inevitable but if self sustaining is the goal then a robust Sac/SF/Fresno/Bakersfield system would better sell the cost of Palmdale down the road.

    Car(e)-Free LA Reply:

    So essentially creating a high speed San Joaquin system…and leaving out Southern California.

    les Reply:

    Just changing the order. Would help draw private money sooner.

    Domayv Reply:

    CHSR is intended for fast services between LA and SF, not as a glorified commuter train. That is left to Metrolink, Caltrain, ACE, and Amtrak California. We should see an upgraded version of those services supplementing HSR

    joe Reply:

    CAHSR is for within state transportation for Californians,

    If SF to LA were the goal, HSR would run along I-5 and bypass the CV.

    car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Fine. CAHSR is for SF, LA, Fresno, Bakersfield, and the Antelope Valley. it is not worth sacrificing service to these much larger cities to serve puny 80 thousand person Merced.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Do kindly look up the number of people living in Montabaur

    Car(e)-Free LA Reply:

    Perhaps montabur shouldn’t have got its station.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Perhaps. But its ridership is doing fine for a town of its size. After all, nowhere did it say trains have to stop there. The only thing the state of Rhineland Palatinate could force anybody to do was build a station there. Actually stopping there is a business decision on the part of Deutsche Bahn…

    Car(e)-Free LA Reply:

    Perhaps Montabur shouldn’t have a station.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    You are repeating yourself, methinks.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They will let people who don’t live in Merced itself use the station.

    Bahnfreund Reply:


    I thought they would build a Berlin Wall around Merced to keep that from happening.

    Domayv Reply:

    @joe too bad there’s barely anything there (I-5 between Tracy and Wheeler Ridge was designed as an express route).

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Serving commuters is absolutely one of the many goals of HSR, as it has always been. HSR serves commuters, business travelers going from SF to LA and vice-versa, tourists, and so on. Same as any HSR system in operation around the world today.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Regardless of what HSR is intended as, evidence shows that people do commute on HSR. Even in Germany where the overwhelming majority of commutes is one hour or shorter, people commute Wolfsburg-Berlin on HSR.

    Eric Reply:

    Commute trains were in the plan as far back as 1999-2000 when I first started reading their stuff on the web as a college student. They were planning Express trains between N and S california (LA-SF, SD-SF, LA-SAC, SD-SAC) with no stops, locals that stopped every station, and regionals that had limited stops in the valley but all the stops at the urban ends (serving a commuter market).

    swing hanger Reply:

    You just described a service pattern that addresses customer needs, in their diversity. Hopefully we will see it, sometime in the (far) future.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    The 2020 are not that far off. If you can make money of such a pattern a private sector operator will offer such a pattern.

  6. Nadia
    Apr 25th, 2016 at 19:54

    Galgiani is asking for Altamont:

    From her letter:
    Summary of My Requests for Consideration in the Business Plan

    1) I urge the HSRA to immediately proceed with construction of the high-speed rail line from Madera north to Merced, using existing funding originally planned for extending the test track south another 23 miles to Bakersfield.

    2) I urge the HSRA to develop an immediate strategy for connecting the Central Valley Test Track at
    Merced with the “Altamont Commuter Express” train (ACE). Planning to extend ACE south to Modesto and Merced is already underway.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Walking across a platform isn’t Altamont.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    …um…yeah…uh…Nadia…Galgiani’s comment means the opposite.

    She wants existing ACE service extended south to Merced. She likely trying to draw attention to the fact that currently, the plan is to have the type of intermodal station she wants in Madera, not Merced.

    Edward Reply:

    And ACE *plans* to extend south to Merced. This is part of the Northern California Unified Service.

    Long term 125 mph over Altamont is envisioned, and not just by ACE. It is an eventual higher speed rail service to connect the northern part of the San Joaquin Valley and all of the Sacramento Valley to the Bay Area. I hope to live long enough to see this… but then I’m an optimist.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Precisely – Galgiani is being perfectly consistent here, as she has been for the last 8 years. This is part of the NorCal Unified Service, and she is asking that the promised ACE service improvements materialize as intended. She is *not* saying that the Pacheco HSR alignment should be abandoned in favor of an Altamont alignment.

    car(e)-free LA Reply:

    What would the cost be to cut Pacheco and build a completed line from Bakersfield to Livermore BART or Bay Fair BART or Union City BART. (Without Madera. Stupid Madera doesn’t deserve its stop. Cross platform transfers can occur in Merced—they just have to realign either HSR or, preferably SJ trains, which makes sense anyway, because UP tracks serve downtown Madera, HSR Fresno, Visalia, Tulare, and Delano.)

    car(e)-free LA Reply:

    Or to extend to Sacramento instead (I know it is phase 2 but…)

    Zorro Reply:

    Sacramento has no funding, not under current law, it’s only mentioned in passing in Prop1a, nothing more.

    Wells Reply:

    Sacramento is an imminently desirable and absolutely necessary HSR destination, as is the Altamont corridor. Gilroy is a sleepy backwater burg that will no doubt become just another hideously sprawling and miserably traffic clogged community of clueless automatons along the Pacheco corridor.

    Joe Reply:

    Enjoy Sacramento-phase 2.

    Wells Reply:

    You mean Sacramento Phase 1 right?
    Just reaching Stockton connects Sacramento, falecimo.
    Most productive soonest, soonest subsequently.
    Joe won’t appreciate this engineering perspective.
    Baby steps, Joe, baby steps.

    Joe Reply:

    Phase 2.

    Joe Reply:

    Gray, Cannella and Galgiani are trying to work the ACE extension into a statewide plan calling for an enormous investment in transportation. The cost of bringing ACE service to Modesto has been estimated at $200 million.

    Read more here:

    Ted Judah Reply:

    In Stanislaus County, local government officials are *not including* a significant amount of seed money for an ACE extension to Modesto in a half-cent road tax measure proposed for the November ballot.

    Gray said the possibility of getting state funding for the extension *should* not have a bearing on whether local voters approve the countywide road tax. Both Stanislaus and Merced County, which is discussing its own tax, are in dire need of funds to fill potholes and repair crumbling roads, Gray said.

    “I have always supported the notion of a self-help (transportation) tax,” Gray said. “People argue between fixing roads or getting new regional projects. We ought to stop limiting ourselves.”

    That’s a more aggressive strategy than I originally imagined–the local JPA was created (and ACE was given funding the State used for the San Joaquins) preecisely to make local governments be responsible for their own transportation priorities.

    Then again, Gray does have a swing district the Democrats need to entertain thoughts of a 2/3rd majority and the tax measure will drive turnout up in November either way. So it’s a cliffhanger…definitely.

    morris brown Reply:

    One should remind Senator Galgiani who now want funds to build north of Madera, of the following requirements in Prop 1A.


    (2) As adopted by the authority in May 2007, Phase 1 of the high-speed train
    project is the corridor of the high-speed train system between San Francisco
    Transbay Terminal and Los Angeles Union Station and Anaheim.

    (3) Upon a finding by the authority that expenditure of bond proceeds for
    capital costs in corridors other than the corridor described in paragraph (2)
    would advance the construction of the system, would be consistent with the
    criteria described in subdivision (f) of Section 2704.08, and would not have an
    adverse impact on the construction of Phase 1 of the high-speed train project,
    the authority may request funding for capital costs, and the Legislature may
    appropriate funds described in paragraph (1) in the annual Budget Act, to be
    expended for any of the following high-speed train corridors

    The “author” of Prop 1A, now wants to take funding from Phase I and use it elsewhere, but this can be done only if there is not adverse impact on funding Phase I. Certainly not the case today when they don’t have funds to get even to Bakersfield on the South end or to SF on the North end

    Joe Reply:

    There’s no adverse impact on the construction of phase 1. Raed what you pasted. You mistakenly wrote funding.

    Adding Merced increases the ridership And utility of the phase 1 under construction. They don’t have funds to reach Bakersfield. The uses the funds effectively.

    car(e)-free LA Reply:

    They cut electrification, Kings Tulare, Madera, Merced, and Gilroy, and then they DO have enough funds to reach Bakerfield. They can run the San Joaquins on the HSR track until 2029, when all those items, plus LA, are added back in.

    Jon Reply:

    That’s not possible, for many reasons. You probably won’t be able to get diesel trains through the HSR Pacheco pass tunnels, due to ventilation and gradient issues. Prop 1a specifies electric service, so there is no way you could use bond funding for this plan. Even aside from that, a slow diesel line would never turn a profit and so would again be in violation of prop 1a.

    Removing the stations you suggest, plus the single track Merced extension, is not going to give you enough extra cash to get to Bakersfield. Stations are cheap, and so is at-grade alignment such as the connection to Merced; viaducts, such as the ones planned to be built through Bakersfield, are not cheap.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    So there is one way and one way only to go to Bakersfield sooner rather than later. Get more money. No matter what the source. Be it private funding, bonds, a new tax, the feds, the state or Johnny Manziel…

    Zorro Reply:

    Though until after the November 2016 election, We won’t know if Congress will still continue to refuse to appropriate(spend) money for HSR or not, and that means for California too.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    What are the odds, you think?

    Given the most likely outcome is a Hillary presidency a Dem or split Senate and a Republican House (too gerrymandered for anything else)…

    Joe Reply:

    Every election is a new chance to get funding.

    Now, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is responsible for Bakersfield and he opposes the project and any hypothetical alternative. That strong opposition tells me HSR extensions to Bakersfield will be prioritized lower than other segments — assume segments will be prioritized according to the support in the state and federal Legislatures.

    Merced and Fresno stand to reap the rewards of the early phase 1 because they support the project and statewide rail.

    SoCal Palmdale to Burbank alignment has to get settled by the local pols. It’s their problem to solve.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the incumbent retention rate somewhere above 90% ?

    Joe Reply:

    Then what?

    Cut everything out so people can board a bus in Bakersfield rather than Wasco.
    Tells us the time savings. It’s a 28 mile distance and 33 minutes by car.

    It’s a bad idea and not being discussed.

    isgota Reply:

    After spending billions of dollars in a HS line you better have something impressive to show to the taxpayers. Diesel trains have a practical limit of about 125 mph, that is not very impressive compared to Amtrak, critics could eat you alive.

    You must go electric to +180 mph and build hype for better passenger rail systems. Even a dual mode train could perform to about 150 mph and offer a nice contrast to the 79 mph Wasco-Bakersfield travel section.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    There are enough Californians who love speed and modern technology. Once a train hits the rails at 200 mph, there will be a momentum almost as fast as said train to get it build from SFO to LAX. No such things would happen with stinky Diesels. Even if they do reach Bakersfield.

    JB in PA Reply:

    As the freeway traffic increases we will have no choice but wider access to more efficient mass transit. We had it 80 years ago. Could have had it again 40 years ago. 10 years ago. By the time I retire?
    The NIMBYS have to get off the pot and get out of the way.

    les Reply:

    Merced will spur greater ridership which as the potential to spur greater private investment.
    “2704.07. The authority shall pursue and obtain other private and public funds”

  7. Paul Dyson
    Apr 25th, 2016 at 21:51

    The logical progression was always to create north and south regional networks to grow demand and act as anchors for the spine route. 8 wasted years and we are beginning to move in the right direction. Let’s hope it is not irredeemable.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    It’s what happens when you flatten every city’s redevelopment agency…

    On another note…any luck figuring out how to blend HSR, commuter rail, and a Metro Red Line extension in Burbank? (This is not said sarcastically…)

    les Reply:

    HSRcommuterrailMetroRedLine. there blend is done.

    Woody Reply:

    Now, THAT is said sarcastically.

    James Fujita Reply:

    Why would a Metro Red Line extension go anywhere near the HSR line? The current terminus is in North Hollywood, so you would either head north to Burbank Airport or maybe east-west if you’re aiming for downtown Burbank.

    Unless, of course, you’re just deliberately trying to make things as hard as possible.

    Eliminate the Red Line from the picture and it’s just a question of upgrading Metrolink to electric or quad-tracking wherever possible.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Why would a Metro Red Line extension go anywhere near the HSR line? The current terminus is in North Hollywood, so you would either head north to Burbank Airport or maybe east-west if you’re aiming for downtown Burbank.

    When Villaraigosa was mayor, his dream was to have the Red Line end in Sylmar, where there would be an HSR station to help spur development in the otherwise downtrodden burgs of Arleta and Pacoima.

    But…why Burbank? It’s because that’s where Paul D. lives does some consulting for, apparently. I was poking fun at him, and I think he won’t take it too hard.

    But why *should* it be Burbank? Because it’s actually *possible* to have an intermodal station there that could link their airport, HSR, the Surfliner *and* whatever is left of Metrolink.

    Nevermind that as an independent city, it has an urban plan that actually does converge into what you might call a “downtown”.

    …or that the Red Line already happens to serve Hollywood and its growing constellation of entertainment industry jobs, an area where Burbank would be a prime candidate to connect to…

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Viva el Rey Dyson

    James Fujita Reply:

    I can see why one would want a Red Line extension in Burbank, or maybe a Gold Line extension. Given unlimited funds or enough time, I can even see it reaching Sylmar.

    What I don’t see is how that necessarily means following the exact same route as high-speed rail.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Oh no…I wasn’t imply they should follow the same route…

    Car(e)-Free LA Reply:

    Obviously all three should meet at Burbank airport, but blending HSR and locals in that area is impossible due to capacity and speed. Red Line HSR is impossible, and they follow different routes.

  8. agb5
    Apr 26th, 2016 at 04:54

    The spur to Merced should be cheaper to build compared to the extension to Bakersfield.
    The UPRR/SR 99 corridor from the West of Chowchilla Wye option is about 16 miles at grade over mostly empty farmland.

    Domayv Reply:

    they also serve the cities more directly compared to the route that San Joaquin trains use (they serve the fringes and not the city centers)

    datacruncher Reply:

    Most stations on the San Joaquins (Fresno, Bakersfield, Hanford, etc) are located in the city centers. For example, the Fresno Amtrak station is across the street from City Hall, Merced is about 5 city blocks from the County Courthouse. It is only a few stations like Modesto or Madera that ended up on the edge of the main cities.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The cost of including Merced, according to the biz plan, is over $2 billion. They are going to single track and leave out a small piece of the wye so $1 billion?

    agb5 Reply:

    The cost of the spur to Merced must depend on the chosen wye.
    With the West Of Chowchilla wye option, the mainline comes closeset to Merced and the spur alignment is at grade all the way.
    With the East of Chowchilla wye option, the spur to Merced is longer and has a 7 mile elevated section.

  9. datacruncher
    Apr 26th, 2016 at 08:58

    From the Merced newspaper.

    Art Lewellan: Merced should be in rail plan, but it should cross the Altamont

    Re “Hopes brighten for passenger rail” (Page 1A, April 22): As a rail transit advocate since 1992, I’m satisfied with the number of new regional light rail lines built to address noxious traffic, despite the political contentiousness that muddies public discourse. Discussion about California’s high-speed rail system proposal seems likewise as clear as mud.

    Neglecting Merced in the first phase makes little sense given the eventual extension to Sacramento and reaching the more immediate junction with the Altamont corridor. Neither an upgraded ACE commuter-rail nor BART Livermore can adequately increase transit service in the Altamont corridor. Moreover, the much lower population density along the Pacheco route seems more suitable for ACE commuter or regional rail.

    Read more here:

    Joe Reply:

    Interesting. The premise is CA is building a uber ACE commuter system. We aren’t.

    HSR Pacheco services Monterey County and the millions of tourists that visit every year. The aquarium alone has 1 million visits a year.

    Joe Reply:

    This is a nonsensical contradiction.

    The HSR Pacheco corridor will enable more sprawling subdivisions that increase car-dependency and worsen traffic throughout the Bay Area.

    Read more here:

    The opposite – improved rail along the congested 101 corridor will decrease car trips along 101.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    I somehow find the conclusion that better rail service will create more car trips hard to swallow. I don’t quite know why that is…

    Wells Reply:

    Commuter-rail systems create more demand for commuting than they can handle. Light rail systems have more potential to guide station area development which reduces the need for long-distance travel; except when LRT stations are ‘singular use’ park-n-rides and/or transit centers. Neglecting the connection between transportation and development ultimately results in more traffic that commuter systems cannot handle. A HSR system that operates on 15 minute service intervals (theoretically) can operate like light rail and similarly guide station area development by which existing communities may reduce their perceived need for long-distance travel.

    Bdawe Reply:

    They say that, but they’re ultimately blaming rail for the effects of underpriced road use.

    Wells Reply:

    Rail can be blamed for the effects of underpriced road use.
    Apples and oranges are almost equally round.
    Extended range hybrids ‘incentivize’ combustable fuel taxation.
    All-Battery BEVs are more dependent upon grid recharging.
    Fuel Cell EVs use more hydrogen than an internal combustion hybrid engine.
    Why is Warren Buffett such an A whole?

    Joey Reply:

    What proportion of the Monterey tourist trips are actually addressable by HSR? It seems unlikely that many in the Bay Area would use it for that purpose, given that you’d probably spend as much time in a rental car or on the bus getting to Monterey as you did on the train, and that’s assuming that you live near a station. SoCal is probably a better but, but I don’t know the relative distribution of tourists.

    Joe Reply:

    The total number of annual visitors is in the millions. This has been a commonly argued topic here.

    What proportion of that large number makes keeping Gilroy vs bypassing a station to reach Bakersfield? Pretty small given omitting a stop saves little money.

    Monterey has an airport. It’s an international destination. So is SF.

    SF visitors typically do not rent a car as it costs 50+ a day to park at a hotel and surprisingly Monterey parking is limited and 5-20 depending on the time of day and duration.

    A quick train ride and bus from Gilroy to Montetey makes it an easy day trip.

  10. synonymouse
    Apr 26th, 2016 at 09:33

    How about a single-track spur to Palmdale?

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