Monday, June 16, 2008

HSR and the November Ballot

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

The High Speed Rail bond is going to be on the November ballot regardless of what happens to AB 3034 - unless of course the legislature and Arnold Schwarzenegger decide to postpone it again. But as no such postponement is being discussed (at least as far as we know) it's worth looking ahead to the politics of the November ballot.

A few months ago it looked like HSR was going to be the only bond measure on the ballot. That has now changed. There will also be a $1 billion children's hospital bond and a controversial $5 billion solar and alternative energy bond. The other propositions include round three on parental notification for abortions, several dealing with prisons and justice, and the odious effort to roll back equal marriage rights.

It is also highly likely that the state budget solution this year will involve something being placed on the November ballot. It may be Arnold's deeply flawed lottery bond, a sales tax increase, or some other proposal. There may also be a multibillion water bond, although it will require either Dems to accept new dams or Arnold to be willing to live without them. Republicans intend to build their state legislative campaigns around an attack on "tax and spend" Democrats and while that frame is getting them zero traction on the federal level it may still, unfortunately, be able to move votes in the state legislative races (although I believe the chances of significant Democratic gains in the legislature are high).

That combined with the other $6 billion in bonds being proposed on the November ballot might make voters - especially low-information voters - skittish about all the proposed taxes and spending plans. There's a possibility that voters might just throw up their hands and vote down all the proposals - including the HSR bond - in a fit of pique. True, voters approved around $30 billion in infrastructure bonds in 2006 but that was before the economic downturn and the return of our perennial budget crisis.

Pushing back against this will require the following:

1. A strong grassroots effort to explain the merits and need for HSR, why it is cheaper and less financially risky than not building the project. This blog is intended to do exactly that.

2. A similarly strong grassroots effort to organize and turn out pro-HSR voters. We're already starting to roll this out - see the form on the right side of the page. But more will be necessary.

3. Emphasizing the environmental and energy savings of HSR as well as the 450,000 jobs it will create - green-collar, unionized, high-wage non-offshorable jobs that California desperately needs.

4. Going after HSR deniers and uninformed media reports. Again, we're doing that here, but it would be wonderful if more outlets would join in that fight.

The California Democratic Party this weekend endorsed a yes vote on the HSR bond, which is helpful in building a political coalition for HSR. It would also help if the budget were resolved by, say, Labor Day - and if gas prices remained above $4. Gas prices will be rising for the rest of our lives, but they won't always rise this fast, and it is probable that we'll see a retreat from $5 by the fall. I doubt the prices would ever go below $3.50, but the higher they are, the more likely voters are to see the merits of HSR.

Still, we should not and do not have to rely on external forces - whether it's the state government or the vagaries of the crude oil market - to determine whether HSR becomes a reality this November. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and if California approves HSR, it will open the way for the rest of the nation to follow suit. If we organize, and get involved, then we can make it happen. Sign up using the form on the right and look to this blog for further information about HSR activism in the weeks and months to come.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

IF AB-3034 fails to pass and they certainly are pushing the deadline, you can be sure that Governor will come out against the bond measure.

Unless some knows otherwise, what I read was June 26th as the deadline for modifying items for the fall 2008 ballot. I believe the measure can be pulled from the ballot up through the middle of August. All actions on this take a 2/3 vote of both houses of the legislature.

Schwarzenegger made quite clear last August that he was demanding State, private and Federal funding for the project. That's what AB-3034 was originally supposed to be all about. He is just going to look plain foolish if he flips on that stance.

In point of fact he wanted 1/3 from each of those funding sources. AB-3034 as presently written on demands only 1/2 of the funds from private and Federal sources, so he backed down quite a lot.

Diridon stated they needed the Governor's support to pass the bond measure.

Morrris Brown said...

I have just noted that AB-3034 has been placed on the agenda of the Transportation and Housing committee for June 24th.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I would be very surprised if AB 3034 did not pass. The issue is what sort of amendments will be included. That still remains unclear.

Rafael said...

I expect the Senate will not want to stand in the way of letting voters have their say on HSR. However, it may well insist on the following:

- an explicit phasing policy that prioritizes bottleneck sections that must enable high growth in freight and/or commuter rail in addition to separate tracks for HSR. In practice, that means the Caltrain and LOSSAN corridors.

- priority for LA-San Diego over crossing Tehachapi Pass, based on ridership considerations. One option would be to switch from an SF-LA starter line to two shorter ones in Northern and Southern California, respectively. See this map for details.

- an external engineering review of construction feasibility and SF-LA line haul time estimates for Altamont Pass variation 9 (excl. spur to Oakland), separately for San Jose Diridon and Santa Clara/SJC station options. Target date: ASAP

- updated cost estimates for all sections of the network, including especially the sections down to San Diego and up to Sacramento (the latter separately for Altamont only, Pacheco only and Pacheco+overlay options). Target date: October 2008.

- a prospectus aimed at investors, itemizing not only the many benefits and business opportunities but also known project risks. These include but are not limited to tunneling, ridership projections, the FRA waiver for running off-the-shelf European/Asian equipment and, land acquisition in urban/suburban areas and at stations. The prospectus should also quantify the opportunity cost of failing to construct HSR, itemized for each phase of construction. Target publication date: early October 2008 - CA voters should be considered investors, it's important to set realistic expectations.

- explicitly tasking CHSRA with planning railroad operations, especially tools for optimizing the express/local mix and, processes and technologies for handling emergency situations involving both HSR and other railroad operators.

- formally tasking a separate organization responsible for day-to-day quality assurance of CHSRA research and decision-making, especially with regard to major expenditures such as finalizing the network structure and San Mateo county station, choosing trainset vendors and especially, awarding construction contracts.

- spelling out the consequences of the outcome of the ballot initiative for CHSRA and HSR in California. If it's now or never, voters must be told as much.

Needless to say, CHSRA will need sufficient funds to do all this extra work at such short notice in addition to actively marketing the project to investors. Any amendment by the State Seneate should ensure it doesn't run out of money before the November ballot.

Rafael said...

Wrt to the $5 billion alternative energy bond, it actually contains many aspects that are highly compatible with the HSR proposition:

- a strong focus on solar electric and other renewable electricity generation

- subsidies for purchasing all-electric cars, which offer many benefits but are inherently limited in their range

There are, however, also some problems IMHO:

- there are also subsidies for purchases of hybrid electric cars and those that run on hydrogen. I have no problem with fostering emerging alternative technologies, but electric hybrid passenger cars are arguably already well established by now. And while cellulosic ethanol, algal biodiesel, biomethane etc. are also eligible, hydrogen really should not be.

- there is no mention of encouraging car owners to switch to carsharing or carpooling instead.

- there is no mention of encouraging drivers to switch away from cars and toward transit. For example, how about subsidies for people who buy a 12-month transit pass and voluntarily have DMV suspend their driver's license for that period? They'd also be given a free state ID card.

- (folding) (electric) bicycles are not listed as low-emissions vehicles eligible for purchase subsidies.

- cities and counties and transit operators are not eligible for financial support if they invest in grade-separated bicycle lanes, bicycle parking and/or expanded bicycle capacity ob buses and trains.

---

Even so, the alternative energy bond is on balance probably a better way to spend public money than most. In particular, the incarceration and health care costs of the three strikes law for repeat offenders are extremely high. In the long run, you cannot solve the connected social issues of race relations, chronic poverty and recividism by locking up as many people as possible for the rest of their lives.

Nor is extra spending on childrens' hospitals the best way to improve pediatric population health. What they need is illness prevention, i.e. affordable green leafy vegetables, exercise opportunities and relief from VOCs, diesel particulates and NOx - e.g. by switching to all-electric transit and dedicated traffic lanes for (electric) bicycles.

It would be a crying shame if HSR opponents succeeded in a campaign against the bond measure on the grounds that these other measures are more important and that the state can therefore not afford HSR right now.

Voters must be made to understand that failing to approve HSR in 2008 means it will never happen. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to avoid future highway-and-runway bonds totaling as much as $82 billion (as opposed to ten). Moreover, those would only make the state even more dependent on expensive oil and undermine its efforts to clean up the air and reduce CO2 emissions.

Transportation demand is driven by population and economic growth, there is no way to duck this long-term issue. Voting for HSR will not place an unacceptable burden on the state's finances, whereas voting against it will not solve the state chronic budget problems.

The culture war ballots relating to abortion and same-sex marriage are important, but they are not tied to significant spending. Note that legal recognition would mean that same-sex couples - by definition usually childless - would typically fall into a higher tax bracket once they file jointly, as is already the case for heterosexual couples.

Tony D. said...

Rafael,
Your expertise in the HSR subject can not be denied. But in reading your posts, you appear to hold out that somehow Altamont will still get the nod over Pacheco in terms of primary HSR line into the Bay Area. I could be wrong in my assessment. But if not, may I respectfully ask why? The Authority has already chosen Pacheco over Altamont, and agency's that supported the Pacheco alignment reads like a whose who of political power: City's of SF/SJ, Bay Area MTC, VTA, SVLG, and (again) the CAHSR Authority itself. As someone who supports the Pacheco alignment with Altamont overlay, I'd be concerned if any of the aformentioned agency's were coming out strongly against the wording of AB3034: that has not been the case.

Rafael said...

@anonymous -

AB3034 does not say only half the total funds have to come from non-state sources.

It merely says that ground may not be broken on any one section before non-state matching funds have been secured for that section. That's a subtle distinction, but an important one.

Note that State Senate report actually makes no recommendation of minimum matching funds at all. Instead, it advocates turning the project turned into what amounts to a public-works-plus project.

This would allow the California bond to be spent immediately on bottleneck sections that cannot otherwise accommodate dedicated HSR tracks in addition to rapidly expanding freight and/or commuter rail service. Breaking ground before any matching funds are secured would demonstrate to both the federal government and private investors the urgency of avoiding opportunity costs and construction inflation.

Naturally, SSen. Lowenthal's home district of Long Beach would benefit from a solution to the looming capacity constraints in the LOSSAN corridor, but so would every one else in the LA basin, the state and indeed, neighboring states. The harbors at Los Angeles and Long Beach handle a large fraction of the goods the US trades with Asia, Latin America, Australia and the Persian Gulf, in addition to military logistics.

Rob Dawg said...

That combined with the other $6 billion in bonds being proposed on the November ballot might make voters - especially low-information voters - skittish about all the proposed taxes and spending plans.

Robert, with all due respect I do not think painting the opponents (or just plain doubters) of CAHSR as uninformed and such is good strategy. Allowing to discussion to devolve has a history of sending propositions to defeat. Sure some opponents are going to take a low road but don't give them the ammunition that proponents started it.

Morris Brown said...

@Rafael
You write "AB3034 does not say only half the total funds have to come from non-state sources.

It merely says that ground may not be broken on any one section before non-state matching funds have been secured for that section. That's a subtle distinction, but an important one.


The actual wording of the bill reads:

SEC. 4. Section 2704.08 of the Streets and Highways Code,
as added by Section 2 of Chapter 697 of the Statutes of 2002, is
amended to read:
2704.08. (a) Proceeds of bonds authorized for high-speed train
purposes pursuant to this chapter shall not be used for more than
one-half of the total cost of construction of track and station costs
of each segment of the high-speed train system.


I find the language ambiguous. I presume the words total cost of construction certainly does not include ROW or land acquisition. I also think that engineering studies, are not covered by this statement either, since the bill specifically states CHSRA can spend up to $900 million of the funds on studies of this nature.

So I wonder if a segment, as an example, was going to cost $5 billion in hard construction costs but a total of $10 billion for total costs, I believe AB-3034 says, $2.5 billion of bond money can be used for the hard construction costs, $5 billion of bond funds can be used for land acquisition (Kopp's own estimate) and say $500 million could be spent on the engineering studies. Only $2 billion for this segment would then need to come from funds outside the bond measure.

This example would leave very little for any other segment, but under AB-3034 it seems to me it would be a legal possibility.

Rafael said...

@ tony d. -

just because CHSRA staff has expressed a preference for Pacheco and the board did not object to it does not mean voters will approve the bond.

Fact is, CHSRA offcial reason for rejecting Altamont variation 9 was penalty in SF-LA line haul time, which was "calculated" incorrectly.

Table 7.2-9 and 7.2-12 of the Final Bay Area to Central Valley EIR/EIS report assert 3:17 via Altamont var 9 vs. 2:38 for Pacheco base, a difference of 39 minutes. However, when you compare the San Jose-LA line haul times, they are 2:19 and 2:09, respectively, a difference of just 10 minutes.

Deduct the wet from the dry and the SF-SJ line haul time is 29 minutes. Ergo, CHSRA is claiming that Altamont var 9 would require trains to spend a whopping 29 minutes at San Jose Diridon Station.

Morover, CHSRA claims the SF-Sacramento line haul time via Altamont var 9 would be 1:39. For SJ-Sacramento, they give 49 minutes, a difference of 50 minutes. Since SF-SJ line haul time is still 29 minutes, that implies trains would spend 21 minutes at San Jose Diridon.

Therefore, if CHSRA is to be believed, the time it takes a train to reverse direction depends on its destination. That is patent nonsense.

Moreover, HSR trainset designs all feature identical power cars at either end, each with a fully functional driver cab. There is no traditional locomotive. At San Jose Diridon, the driver would only have to transfer from one end of the train to the other - a maximum distance of 1/4 mile. If he walks, that takes about 8 minutes. If he uses a Segway, bicycle or other aid, it'll be about 4 minutes - not 21 nor 29. The platforms at the station would of course have to permit train drivers to make this jaunt unimpeded, e.g. via elevated walkways with restricted access.

Now add the 10 minutes the Altamont route adds relative to Pacheco and, you end up with an SF-LA time penalty of 14 minutes - not 39. If the Silicon Valley station is moved to Santa Clara/SJC two miles further north, there is no need to reverse direction and the SF-LA line haul penalty shrinks to about 8 minutes.

Applying the same logic to SF-Sacramento, Altamont var 9 actually has a line haul time of 1:22 via SJ Diridon and 1:16 via Santa Clara/SJC - vs. 1:47 via Pacheco base.

Any ridership lost between SF and LA would probably be at least compensated by additional passengers between SF and Sacramento.

Construction cost estimates of SF-Madera are virtually the same (Pacheco @ $12.4 billion, Altamont var 9 minus Oakland spur @ $12.3 billion).

Recap: Altamont var 9 and Pacheco base neither unduly impact any wildlife area. Both yield acceptable SF-LA line haul times, total network ridership is comparable and, construction cost down to Madera is about the same.

---

Therefore, the route decision ought to be based on constructability, on environmental impact on communities during and after cnstruction and, on total network cost. Let's address that last one first.

CHSRA estimates the cost of the 80-odd mile stretch from just south of Stockton to Madera along the preferred UPRR alignment is $2.7 billion. At least $2 billion of that is already included in Altamont var 9, whereas it is not in Pacheco.

Two billion dollars is not peanuts in the context of this project, especially since CHSRA would like to defer construction of the Sacramento spur until the starter line is finished and generating an operating profit. That would essentially concentrate a lot of ridership risk on the northern Central Valley, where political support for the project is correspondingly weak. Much the same is true for San Diego county and towns along the inland empire.

Building broad political support for the November ballot depends on treating voters at all four endpoints of the network as equals. This implies network construction should begin simultaneously at all four endpoints and gradually work its way toward a "golden spike" at Tehachapi Pass. In that context, linking SF and Sacramento via Altamont var 9 would cost less, increase ridership and permit revenue generation to begin earlier.

---

Perhaps the unspoken reason for the bias in favor of Pacheco was the planned BART extension to Santa Clara along the Western Pacific Milpitas Line, a ROW Santa Clara county purchased specifically for this purpose.

The extension calls for a subway underneath Fremont Central Park and the UPRR freight line that is still active down to the Almeda county line. From there, BART plans call for its trains to run at grade. Even if BART service were not extended across the county line, someone (VTA? Caltrain?) would still need the alignment for local transit between Fremont Warm Springs and Santa Clara/SJC - I-880 south of Fremont is extremely congested during rush hour.

However, if CHSRA, BART and perhaps VTA/Caltrain co-ordinated their plans and construction schedules, the space constraints between the Alameda county line and Niles would be surmountable. In particular, BART and/or VTA/Caltrain tracks stay underground, then HSR tracks can switch from SPML in Santa Clara county to the immediately adjacent WPML in Alameda county, at grade. This would let UPRR continue to run freight trains down to the Alameda county line on the SPML. It would also keep the number of adjacent tracks at grade level at the present four.

BART and VTA/Caltrain could each get by with a single track at the Fremont Warm Springs multimodal station with a shared central platform. For each, the other track would end in a stub short of the platform. Each operator would back his trains out the way they came before cutting across to the other track. Several trains could be parked there overnight to allow bidirectional service to commence normally in the morning. There is no need for the usual tail tracks beyond the last station.

Naturally, stacking train tracks above each other would mean grade separation against road traffic would have to rely on over- rather than underpasses. This is an issue at e.g. Paseo Padre Parkway, for which the city of Fremont is planning an underpass in preparation of the BART extension.

Track stacking would also require several miles of expensive portal construction capable of surviving an earthquake along the Hayward fault. Along with similar space constraints in Pleasanton and Livermore, constructing Altamont var 9 would no doubt be difficult.

However, if residents along the SF peninsula and in the LOSSAN corridor are expected to live with four or more parallel tracks, environmental impacts on Fremont, Pleasanton and Livermore are not legitimate arguments against building HSR there.

If UPRR balks at the proposed alignment, it might be possible to cut over to I-680 and follow that to Sunol before tunneling through some hills and across farmland to join up with highway 84 and follow that as far as I-580. There, the alignment could either track the freeway to Tracy or else cross it to run further north and traverse Altamont Pass in a tunnel. The UPRR alignment would be crossed with an aerial, permitting freight trains and ACE to continue operations during HSR construction. The Livermore Valley station would located near the intersection of Stanley and Isabel (hwy 84) and could easily accommodate full 1/4 mile platforms. A bus line would connect it to Dublin/Pleasanton BART and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Unfortunately, this alignment option was not part of the EIR/EIS process.

However, CHSRA obviously still feels its original alignment Altamont var 9 can be constructed or else, it would not have suggested part of it for an overlay network serving Northern California. However, that would add another $6 billion to the total network tab, already estimated (optimistically?) at $40 billion. Parsons Brinkerhoff et al. must be salivating at the prospect.

---

Conclusion: based on CHSRA's own numbers, building only Altamont variation 9 minus the Oakland spur would be a whopping ~$8 billion cheaper than what they are now proposing and "considering".

Eight billion extra because one of the engineers - in which Quentin Kopp has expressed absolute confidence - "miscalculated" both the SF-LA and SF-Sacramento line haul times for Altamont var 9? I don't think so.

Someone - e.g. the State Senate - needs to insist that an independent engineering consultancy update the ROW acquisition, constructability assessment, total system cost estimate and total network ridership projections for both Altamont var 9 minus Oakland spur and Pacheco base. They also need to look at operating schedule and fare structure options between the Central Valley and San Jose during weekday rush hour.

Voters must be confident that CHSRA's decision-making processes will be fair and impartial going forward or, the November bond measure may be rejected. This is a matter of trust.

Rafael said...

@ rob dawg -

HSR opponents have generally made an effort to inform themselves. They may not agree with Robert Cruickshank's conclusion in favor of the bond, but I don't believe it was them he was referring to as "low-information voters". Rather, it is those - and there are still surprisingly many - that are still blissfully unaware of this bond.

@ rob morris -

I'm not a lawyer, but my perception of the political intent behind that verbiage is to ensure CHSRA and others secure at least matching non-state funds before awarding any contracts to trainset vendors or construction companies. The stated objective is to award design-build contracts, so very little if any of the bond money can be spent before someone - anyone - puts additional billions on the table.

bikerider said...

Therefore, if CHSRA is to be believed, the time it takes a train to reverse direction depends on its destination. That is patent nonsense.

Indeed, the CHSRA study was utter nonsense, but so is your idea of reversing trains at Diridon. Even if the turnaround could be done in "4 minutes", you are tying up two tracks for an unacceptable amount of time, which would severely impact throughput at a relatively cramped station serving a large number of commuter and regional trains.

Perhaps the unspoken reason for the bias in favor of Pacheco was the planned BART extension to Santa Clara

Bingo.

Why build the most cost-effective alternative, if it is going to cost PB an $8B BART contract.

Rafael said...

@ bikerider -

1 - direction reversal would tie up track on one side of one platform per train. Note that the video of the San Jose station that CHRSA commissioned envisages a bilevel station, with freight and commuter trains on the lower level.

Altamont var 9 would effectively turn the upper level into an old-fashioned terminus, cp. Caltrain's 4th & King, the current state of LA Union Station and the underground Caltrain/HSR station at the rebuilt SF Transbay Terminal.

Moving the station to Santa Clara/SJC would allow the tracks to run through, reducing line haul time. San Jose Diridon would remain at its current size and well connected via both Caltrain and the proposed subway. Air travelers could board a shuttle bus at the end of Brokaw Road.

Note that in Europe, it is quite common for regular intercity trains to have several minutes of dwell time at large stations, mostly to allow passengers to connect from local/regional trains.

2 - without the Oakland spur, HSR along Altamont variation 9 would not compete with BART for passengers. The two systems would serve different catchment areas and different purposes. Indeed, the structure of the HSR bond considers BART to be a feeder service, just as a subway line through downtown San Jose would be.

However, local/regional rail and HSR might compete for alignment space between Niles and the Alameda county line. As I tried to outline above, if need be that could be solved by stacking tracks vertically for a number of miles.

I'm not suggesting that SJ doesn't need a subway, merely that it might be smart to let VTA or Caltrain rather than operate the section located in Santa Clara county, using off-the-shelf standard gauge technology. That alone would bring down spiraling construction costs.

BART's East Bay lines already extend to Richmond and Millbrae/SFO, respectively, using what is essentially a hybrid subway/R-bahn technology - multiple lines share tracks, but there are no bypasses. It would be extremely expensive to operate on such long routes all day long on the 3-7 minute headways typical of a normal metropolitan subway line.

BART needs to concentrate on rush hour capacity in its core service area between downtown Oakland and downtown San Francisco. In particular, platform and stairs/elevator capacity is limited at the downtown SF stations during weekday rush hour, but dwell times are very short. The fact that Muni light rail tracks run directly above BART but still underground exacerbates this bottleneck.

Robert Cruickshank said...

rob,

A "low information voter" isn't an idiot and the term is not typically used as an insult. Instead it defines voters who do not pay close attention to the issues and do not have a great deal of information at hand when assessing the issues. Instead they're voters who pay occasional attention to politics and usually form their opinions based on a few snippets of info, usually from the media, usually lacking depth and insight. The term "low-information voters" captures that phenomenon while rightly not making a value judgement about the voter themselves.

Campaigns necessarily need to include such voters in their strategies. While I would love for all California voters to read my blog and to have the same level of understanding of the project I have - that's just not going to happen. Instead it's more likely they'll hear a few things about it on TV and the radio, perhaps see an "omg UP is going to kill HSR" article or an "HSR is a flawed project" editorial and form their opinions based on those things.

To reach these low-information voters, who make up a significant portion of the electorate, we need strategies to counter the misinformation they hear. The blog can help push out better information that HSR advocates and higher-information voters can use in their daily lives to try and counter the impact of misinformation.

Make no mistake - a lot of Californians ARE uninformed about the basic issues facing their government, or are deeply misinformed. One of the main reasons blogs exist is to counter this trend, because the media surely is not going to provide better information. They are invested in defending the status quo. So everything we can do to push out more accurate information is therefore valuable.

bikerider said...

1 - direction reversal would tie up track on one side of one platform per train.

Nope - this is a severely restricted location with heavy traffic, and the arrangement you describe takes up double the number of train slots (at least). Imagine a BART train doing a 4-minute U-turn at Embarcadero station and the chaos that causes throughout the BART system.

Moreover, it is not clear what problem you are trying to solve. The whole problem with Pachecho is the stupid detour through San Jose. Your proposal has the same unnecessary detour. The Dumbarton rail project already has the majority of funding in place today, so just leverage that.

Note that in Europe, it is quite common for regular intercity trains to have several minutes of dwell time at large stations, mostly to allow passengers to connect from local/regional trains.

Those stations have MUCH larger footprint, so the comparison isn't valid. MOreover, for an intermediate stop (like San Jose), I have never seen a 4-minute stop on a HSR service. Shaving even a minute can cost billions in construction, so a 4-minute delay sitting around at San Jose is not a smart thing to do.

Tony D. said...

Rafael,
Again, your knowledge on this subject can't be denied: excellent info/data you've provided on HSR. Respectfully however, the Bay Area powers that be appear to have spoken loud and clear regarding which primary HSR alignment should be considered for Central Valley to Bay Area, and that is the Pacheco Pass. Just looking at a map of the system shows Pacheco Pass as being a more direct route from the south (northwesterly), as oppossed to Altamont (north, southwest and then north again). As SF Mayor Gavin Newsome stated regarding the Pacheco Pass alignment, "It's the proverbial no-brainer." Altamont is however perfect for the high-speed overlay that is now proposed, and should serve commuters of the Central Valley well. As for a San Jose station at Santa Clara/SJC, the largest city in Northern California won't have any of that. They are busy buying up huge parcels in the vicinity of Diridon Station/HP Pavilion for the future "premier" TOD, with HSR/possible BART acting as the catalyst for redevelopment. Respectfully.

Rafael said...

@ bikerider -

I'm not sure what you are talking about. Direction reversal at San Jose is not my idea, it's implicit in CHSRA's Altamont variation 9 - just look at the map. San Jose Diridon lies to the south of the point at which the SPML line branches off. Direction reversal would not involve a U-turn, trains just leave the way they came and cross over to the one they are supposed to use. That's how every terminus station in the world works. There is no second track in play. And if HSR trains are on a upper level, why would increased dwell time have any impact at all on freight and commuter trains on the level below?

San Jose is hardly "a stupid detour", it's the station for all of northern Santa Clara county, home to Silicon Valley and millions of taxpayers - far more than all of San Francisco county. Every train into and out of the Bay Area will stop there.

Note that I have suggested that the HSR station be moved to Santa Clara/SJC. We are in violent agreement that HSR trains should avoid direction reversal and run through stations along the line. Los Angeles is planning run-through tracks for its Union Station for just that reason, even though this will cost a minor fortune and have a massive impact on the neighborhood immediately south of it.

As for Dumbarton Rail, it's just not going to happen. Ever. That's not because I don't want it to but because on environmental grounds alone, SamTrans will never get federal approval to rebuild the destroyed western trestle of a single-track heavy rail bridge that runs through a National Wildlife Refuge but does not meet modern seismic code. Not after the well-orchestrated hue and cry about Altamont HSR variations that included a new rail bridge at Dumbarton.

@tony d. -

the HSR network is not just about creating the fastest possible link between SF and LA. It's about serving the intercity transportation needs of 85% of the state's population.

As I explained, running trains via Altamont var 9 instead of Pacheco base increase line haul time by 8-14 minutes. The "powers that be" in the Bay Area had no problem accepting a detour via Palmdale in Southern California that added 10-12 minutes to line haul time.

Switching to Altamont var 9 would have a much smaller impact on SF-LA ridership and a much bigger one on Bay Area-Sacramento than the - IMHO bogus - numbers provided by CHSRA suggest. You can't make good decisions on the basis of bad data.

And fwiw, I don't think it's appropriate to stick with a solution that - based on currently available estimates - will increase total system by ~$8 billion just because the City of San Jose has decided to already buy some land in Sunol-Midtown. That's the tail wagging the dog.

Note that a station at Santa Clara/SJC was in fact briefly considered and eliminated only because it was so close to San Jose Diridon, which had already been confirmed at the time. Besides, the argument went, both stations are linked by Caltrain and the future subway. Well, that cuts both ways. Moreover, connecting HSR to the state's airports is one of HSR program's key objectives.

Pat Moore said...

@rafael --


As for Dumbarton Rail, it's just not going to happen. Ever. That's not because I don't want it to but because on environmental grounds alone, SamTrans will never get federal approval to rebuild the destroyed western trestle of a single-track heavy rail bridge that runs through a National Wildlife Refuge but does not meet modern seismic code. Not after the well-orchestrated hue and cry about Altamont HSR variations that included a new rail bridge at Dumbarton.


About the only thing right about the above statement is "well-orchestrated". The reality is that all environmental groups support the Dumbarton Bridge alignment. All. No exceptions. Including Committee to Complete the Refuge. Signed by one of the original advocates to create the Don Edwards Refuge, Florence M. LaRiviere. page 23-114 (page 443)

Hell I ought to know - 4 years ago or so I helped educate them about HSR.

You want to know the real funny thing about this?

The Committee to Complete the Refuge actually wants the train to be tunneled under the refuge.

Why? Because what do you get a lot of with tunnels? Thats right - clean dirt. What does the refuge need? Clean dirt! With clean dirt the Head Ranger estimated that the Cargill Salt Pond restoration would be accelerated by 20 years because all the toxic bittern would be buried under 10 feet of dirt. Now to top this off -- if as compensation for "impacting" the DEWR this way - the refuge got the money to buy out to the legal boundaries of the refuge.... Elk could be reintroduced to the refuge.

So Rafael -- stop listening to the CHSRA folk.

Anonymous said...

The Dumbarton rail project is certainly not going to get built. Building a one-way rail bridge seems crazy anyway.

Contrary to the statement that most of the funds are there, the original $300 million cost estimate escalated to $600 million.

Then they sent divers down to examine the existing structures and lo and behold they have problems. (what are they about 80 - 100 years old?) There will be a final report on this by the end of the year.

Diridon claimed that all the environmental groups opposed a crossing near Dumbarton, and that was a major reason for choosing Pacheco.

Then apparently BART wants $100 million of the accumulated Dumbarton funds, and it looks like they might indeed get those.

Of course in a letter from the MTC dated June 6, regarding AB-3034 and really saying we want $2 billion from the bond measure, but I guess we can't get it, so we still support AB-3034.

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