Thursday, July 3, 2008

CHSRA Seeks Public Comments for Final EIR

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

The California High Speed Rail Authority is holding its monthly meeting this coming week in San Francisco - a full agenda and further information are available on their website.

On Tuesday July 8 the meeting's first day will be dedicated to public comments regarding the Final EIR/EIS. This will include the alignment and station location information - one hopes we can finally start to settle the Altamont/Pacheco argument, even though the ultimate resolution depends on the outcome of AB 3034.

The meeting will be held at the Judicial Council Conference Center, 455 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, at 1 PM on Tuesday. Day two of the meeting begins at 10 AM on Wednesday.

The Central Valley Business Times wrote about the upcoming meeting today, closing on this puzzling note:

Money to build the system is yet to be found.


Um...what? "Yet to be found?" No mention of Proposition 1 or the fact that the HSR bond was originally approved for the ballot in 2002?!

Wow.

Anyhow, I hope as many of you can make it to the CHSRA meeting as possible. The more strong public comments for the Final EIR and for the project, the better!

Enjoy your 4th of July holiday, everyone. I'll be on Caltrain heading to the Giants-Dodgers game tomorrow. The Salinas extension can't come quickly enough!

17 comments:

Rafael said...

At this point, the statement regarding funding is still correct. The bond measure has not been approved yet and, neither individual California cities and counties nor the federal government nor private investors have actually committed to matching funds. "Strong interest" is encouraging, but it won't pay the bills.

My own reading of the tea leaves is that IF California voters approve Prop 1, billions of federal and private money may well follow in 2009. However, it will still remain a challenge to scrape together the whole $33 billion currently estimated for the SF-Anaheim starter line.

Nailing down some loose ends would be valuable for building investor confidence in project implementation:

- Altamont vs. Pacheco Pass route

- Redwood City vs. Palo Alto station

- web portal integrating information directly related to this particular HSR project. Sources: CHSRA, FRA, designated HSR feeder services, urban planning & traffic projects near the identified stations, ROW issues etc. CHSRA should have at least one person on staff whose only job it is to identify gaps and potential conflicts between independently projects. Another valuable addition would be a moderated blog.

- reliable low-latency wireless broadband internet access on the entire HSR network, for both operations and passengers

- legal and operational relationships with other railroad operators

- FRA waiver for off-the-shelf trainset technology from Europe or Japan

- IATA and ICAO codes for all HSR stations, integration with airline booking systems

- inclusion of (electric) folding bicycles in the definition of HSR feeder infrastructure, incl. courtesy electric outlets for recharging batteries (also useful for laptops)

- ensuring that the $950 million reserved for HSR feeder infrastructure is spent on the nitty gritty of intermodal connectivity as appropriate, e.g. shared platforms and stations, covered pedestrian walkways, bicycle lanes & storage, punctual rail or bus shuttle services between airport terminals and HSR train stations, checking through baggage etc.

Other improvements, such as improved pedestrian access to BART platforms in SF, may well need to happen much sooner. However, they are not directly related to HSR connectivity and should therefore be funded as separate projects.

bikerider said...

Yes, the funding statement is correct.

Recall that Diridon is also promising that his San Jose BART extension will get Federal funding "real soon now". Well, it has been 8 years since voters approved that project, and the Feds are still not willing to fund it, due to what the FTA has termed "unrealistic" ridership projections.

Quentin Kopp's own BART project (SFO) also failed to qualify for FTA funding, though it did ultimately get $750 million in Federal funding through earmark.

Robert Cruickshank said...

The article's statement, "money has not been found," was the ONLY statement regarding funding for HSR. No mention of Proposition 1 was made. Saying "money has not been found" rather strongly implies to the reader this is an idea without financing, which isn't the case - the funding proposal exists and is going before voters.

rafael and bikerider are right that no funding has been secured - and the article ought to have put it in those terms, mentioning that the initial funding is going before voters this fall.

Anonymous said...

robert seems to not understand anything about the economics.

He is a rail zealot who many are now beginning to understand is most likely on the payroll of Calpirg or some collation formed by the Authority.

I'm glad I am not from California, but as one who understands pork and special interests, your state is being taken to the cleaners by even thinking about a project like this that solves nothing except putting hundreds of engineers and construction workers on the payrolls. Look on page 7 of this
engineering magazine to see what I mean.

http://www.oe3.org/news/files/0806_EN_News.pdf

Robert Cruickshank said...

anon, the charges you make are baseless. I'm not on the payroll of CALPIRG or the Authority or any engineering company, union, etc. I'm just someone who knows this is a good idea.

Anyone who calls HSR a "project that solves nothing" has no knowledge of what HSR actually is, hasn't looked at its record of financial stability and high ridership everywhere in the world it is used - even the Acela.

Tony D. said...

Hasn't the Pacheco Pass already been chosen over Altamont? I still remember the SJ Mercury News headline stating such. Bay Area MTC wants Pacheco, SF/SJ want Pacheco, the CHSR Authority has already chosen Pacheco; just go over to their website (with Altamont as a high-speed commuter overlay). Am I missing something Robert?

Rafael said...

@ anonymous @ 3:33am -

it would be nice if everyone on this blog refrained from ad hominem attacks. It's perfectly fine to disagree and to have strong opinions, but let's stick to rational arguments please.

The article you quote is from a union newsletter which naturally highlights the employment opportunities. A project of this size will indeed create a very large number of engineering and construction jobs for a decade or more. However, that is no different from other infrastructure construction projects, e.g. highways, bridges, dams, levees, aqueducts etc.

HSR is an excellent mode of transportation for medium distances (which CHSRA defines as 100-500 miles) and experience in other countries shows that very large numbers of travelers do choose it over both cars and planes for such trips. It just takes a number of years for ridership to ramp up.

Even if you personally choose never to ride a high speed train, you will benefit from the congestion relief it will provide.

@ tony d. -

CHSRA has indeed issued a recommendation in favor of Pacheco Pass and, it looks as if state politicians will not challenge it. However, HSR is just a paper tiger at this point. The first and arguably most important of many real-world milestones will be on Nov 4, when California voters will render a decision on proposition 1.

An Altamont-only solution that delivers high service frequency for both SF and Silicon Valley plus acceptable SF-LA line haul times plus connections to BART in somewhere in Fremont and/or the Livermore Valley would likely attract a broader majority. A well-executed Altamont-only solution would serve transportation needs both to Southern California and within the emerging Northern California mega-region. Considering rail alignments tend to be used for many decades, solving two problems at the same time would save voters a lot of money in the long run. According to CHSRA's own analysis, the cost of the HSR portion would be the same as for Pacheco.

Final public comments on the Bay Area to Central Valley EIR/EIS have been invited for the SF meeting on July 8. Only after those comments have been collected can this portion of the plan be sent off to FRA.

That federal agency still needs to render a positive decision of record on this component of the plan if the whole HSR project is to proceed. One aspect FRA needs to evaluate is if CHSRA executed the EIR/EIS process correctly. For the most part, it appears to have doen so. My personal beef is that I believe CHSRA rejected one particular Altamont option (variation #9), essentially on the basis of grossly incorrect data for the SF-LA and SF-Sac line haul times. At the very least, CHSRA failed to double-check these for plausibility. A planning agency ought to make a good faith effort to explore all the opportunities, not just go through the motions.

In addition, the current wording of AB3034 states that the bill should not prejudice CHSRA's decision on the route out of the Bay Area but then goes on to define an SF-LA line haul time that can only be met via Pacheco Pass. That's really sneaky - a well-drafted bill should be either neutral on the issue or explicitly endorse CHSRA's decision. As it is, the wording almost invites a lawsuit from one pressure group or other.

However, if at the end of the day, the decision is to stick with Pacheco regardless, that's a lot better than nothing and deserves voter support.

bikerider said...

In addition, the current wording of AB3034 states that the bill should not prejudice CHSRA's decision on the route out of the Bay Area but then goes on to define an SF-LA line haul time that can only be met via Pacheco Pass.

You are making this up. For SF-LA, Altamont has faster travel time than Pachecho.

nikko pigman said...

Bikerider - you're not reading. He's just citing what the statement says.

Unfortunately, I live in Florida (but I'm probably moving to California in a few years), so I'm not really familiar with the exact geography so I can't say a whole lot on this situation.

Morris Brown said...

@ bikerider or others

AB-3034 as amended on July 1 by the Senate T&H committee is on the agenda of the Appropriations committee for July 7th.

However, I can't find the amended version, only the version amended as of June 26th.

Anyone know where to get the current version?

Rafael said...

@ bikerider -

CHSRA's analysis says San Jose-LA in 2:09 via Pacheco base (variation 12) and 2:19 via Altamont (variation 9). For San Francisco-LA, the numbers stated are 2:38 and 3:17. That implies trains would have to spend 29 minutes at the station in San Jose, which is far longer than it would take to reverse direction. A more realistic estimate for the SF-LA line haul penalty using Altamont variation 9 is about 14 minutes total. It would be down to approx. 8 minutes if the station were at Santa Clara/SJC instead of San Jose Diridon.

For SF-Sacramento, the corresponding numbers suggest trains would have to wait at San Jose Diridon for 20 minutes via Altamont variation 9 - reversing trains should take the same time regardless of destination. If Santa Clara/SJC were used instead, an SF-Sacramento express train via Altamont would be faster than driving across the Bay Bridge and up I-80 - even if you don't hit traffic.

For details, please see chapter 7 of the Bay Area to Central Valley Final EIR/EIS on the CHSRA web site.

@ morris brown -

please search for bill 3034 on this page for the latest amended version (dated 6/26).

Morris Brown said...

@rafael

Thanks for that link, but I have used that link and others and they all lead to the version that was amended on 6/26/08.

The changes made on July 1st are not there. In particular they omitted the 5% that would be allowed without matching funds for ROW acquisition and lumped it into the 10% for other stuff.

There were other changes including a very controversial change that would make the whole project use CalTrans people, rather than allowing outside private firms.

Finally Rafael, we are considering a section on our website where a position paper advocating a pro position on the project would be prominently displayed.

You would be our #1 choice to author this position. I hope you are interested and will contact us at an e-mail address displayed in the join section of our site. We have no other method to initiate contact.

Thanks

www.derailhsr.com

Morris Brown said...

@rafael

How embarrassing -- the e-mail contact address is in the "about us" section.

Robert Cruickshank said...

While I certainly hope rafael takes you up on the offer, Morris, what's up with the 1995 technology? Few websites these days don't offer comments or other forums for people to challenge an author's viewpoints. I've never shied away from allowing your kind to comment here, our project has nothing to fear from your weak criticism. Why refuse to allow an open back and forth discussion on your site?

Amanda Sevall said...

Saw your article re the Big Sur fire on another site today and found my way here. Just felt compelled to write to say hi to a fellow Cruickshank who in the same part of the world! :) I can be reached through my blog if you're interested in talking family tree -- you look remarkably like my Dad's cousin Reid! Cheers -- Amanda (Cruickshank) Sevall

Luis D. said...

Anonymous - 3:33 AM.

Desperate times equals desperate measures, in this case personal attacks towards Robert because you have no case in your HSR opposition!

Your anonymous name in this blog suggests that you yourself don't beleive in your comments!

Construction jobs would benefit greatly in constructing this project since they have been cut back dramatically since the housing crisis began!

You seem to be turning yourself in by suggesting Robert is on a special interests payroll, when it might be that your special interest is threatened by this project being built!

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