Thursday, July 31, 2008

If Spain Can Do It, We Definitely Can

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

In a joint presentation to the CHSRA last month, a delegation of rail companies from Spain described their experience with ambitious construction and expansion of HSR. Renfe (Spain's national train operator) provided the most striking slides, showing that Spain and California are kindred spirits, both equally capable of building HSR to provide their citizens convenient, non-oil-based transportation options.

As you can see in the comparison below, the population profiles of the two are similar, yet California has a much more robust economy, again shattering the myth that we can't afford HSR. Further, California's population is heavily concentrated in the metro areas that HSR will serve (and California is actually smaller than Spain). Along with the millions from more rural areas who will be able to access HSR through feeder trains and buses, the critical mass of a customer base is there (and will only increase along with airfares, oil prices, and the state's population).

By 2010, Spain will have the largest HSR network in the world. Even if China one day surpasses the figure, this puts California's wrangling over whether to build any HSR to shame.

As you can see, very few of the early adopters of the Madrid-Seville AVE route were previous train passengers (and the 34% induced demand represents a stimulated economy):

Overnight, the Madrid-Seville line positively transformed the travel landscape as the modal market share for trains went from 14% to 54%:

The rest of the world is leading, and Spain is truly visionary. It is high time for California to show the rest of the United States that HSR is as viable here as it is elsewhere, including less affluent economies.


Rafael said...

One difference between Spain and California is that the former has essentially one state-owned railroad operator focused on passenger traffic, whereas the latter has multiple competing companies focused on hauling freight. Ownership of tracks and rights of way is also distributed among multiple parties.

Combined with rigid FRA rules on mixed traffic, this legacy of the 19th century makes it much harder to actually construct HSR networks - especially in highly constrained downtown sections. Approving prop 1 in November means paying the price for 50 years of failing to secure at least the rights of way for intercity passenger railroads.

On the other hand, observers should take UPRR's refusal to sell part of its ROW with a grain of salt. The company knows full well that its own operations would benefit greatly from the grade separation and anti-trespass measures adjacent HSR tracks would bring. Capacity can be increased by operating at higher speeds. The rest is a matter of negotiating a fair price.

What is missing so far is a culture of safety in CHSRA's operations plans, such as they are. There is, as yet, no indication that the Authority understands the importance of reliable interfaces between the automated command-and-control systems of nominally independent operators. Without those, there is little chance of avoiding disaster in unlikely but realistically possible dangerous off-design conditions. Instead, CHSRA is denying there is a potential safety issue at all, much like GM fought tooth and nail against seat belts.

To illustrate the point, consider the fatal accident involving a commuter train and a school bus in Fox River Grove (Illinois) in 1994. Granted, the California system would preclude that specific type of accident thanks to end-to-end grade separation. Running on dedicated tracks would also eliminate any risk of colliding with trains operated by other companies, except if one or the other had derailed.

My point here is that Fox River Grove happened because two operations bureaucracies had failed to communicate and co-ordinate with one another (video pt.1, pt.2).

This is relevant to the California HSR project because deviating from the ideal alignments adjacent to the UPRR tracks (where applicable) will cause delays and cost escalations. Greater humility on the part of CHSRA just might go a very long way toward keeping the entire enterprise on track financially.

Anonymous said...

High Speed Rail off track in Capital is the title of an article that has just appeared in the Antelope Valley Press.

This article explains the kind of problems just getting a good ballot measure to vote on this fall faces. it starts:

PALMDALE - Prospects for getting ballot language changed that would aim a high-speed commuting train through the Antelope Valley are in jeopardy of going off the rails in Sacramento, with two area legislators saying the project is ill-timed for the November election and that the project planning is flawed and incomplete.

Even advocates of the project should read and think about what is going on here. Do you still want to vote on a deeply flawed ballot measure, as illustrated by the report from the Transportation and Housing committee?

The CHSRA leadership has done a dismal job of leading this project. A advocate of the project told me the other day,"I'm in favor of HSR, but the project has to be done right". This is not being done right.

Spokker said...

Haha, why did the HSR authority name one of the Big Dig contractors to build this project? They must have known how bad that would look.

Aren't there other construction companies not partly responsible for one of the worst construction projects in history, even if it really did improve traffic in Boston and people use it every day?

Anonymous said...


On a project this size, there is always going to be someone that says the project is not being done right, yet they "support the idea". Talk is cheap. This is because they will not directly benefit from it, or their OWN INTERESTS will not pan out, like yours. Not everyone is going to be pleased, no matter how hard you try.

Progress will always please some and displease others. This country/state is about what is best for the majority. This project is great for the state and in November, we will find out if the majority wants it.

The authority has gone and hired independent companies to do studies and engineering work in preparation of this project.

What have you anti-HSR people done besides spread false information on the project and make numbers up out of the air WITHOUT backing?

Spokker said...

One of the things you see in comments sections on newspaper articles is people who continue to spread false information about the project, whether they are doing it deliberately or not.

One of my favorites, and it's still happening, is that the high speed train will share tracks with freight trains. I wonder if anti-HSR people are pretending to be willfully ignorant in order to spread enough misinformation to kill the proposition.

You need only to do 5 minutes of research to know that HSR is incompatible with freight traffic. Not everyone can be this dumb.

Brandon in California said...

Spokker is right. Concerns about mixed track are miss-directed. The plan is to have dedicated right-of-way.

There would be zero opportunities for auto-train collisions as autos will not have access to tracks. Raising that concern is irrelevant and moot.

Additionally, if there is mixed traffic with other trains... it will not be with freight. Maybe local commuter trains; however, their trains would be consistent with HSR trains sets to maintain efficient operations... and perhaps operated by the CHSRA on behalf of the local agency. At a minimum, they'd take responsibility for dispatching.

Caltrain is probably the best example... as they intend to move to electrified train sets.

Nevertheless, there is no longer an opportunity for train engineers of differing agencies or companies to not communicate with each other. A local dispatcher has authority of tracks and directs movement of trains. Imagine the control an air traffic controller has at airports. Very similar instances occur with shared track.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Brilliant post, and the stats are devastating to the HSR deniers' longstanding claim that CA lacks the "population density" needed to make this project a success.

As to the SFVBJ article, Palmdale residents and businesses should run Ashburn and Runner out of town on a rail (sorry) for their opposition to HSR. These are two arch-conservatives who seem to believe the Antelope Valley's future somehow lies on Highway 14, a failed mode of transportation if ever I saw one.

Uh-oh...I think this laptop's about to go flying into the Noyo River...more from me on Sunday!

Anonymous said...

I would definitely describe myself as a supporter of high-speed rail and transit in general. However, in blogs like this I’ve come across a lot of information that casts the authority in less than favorable light. It’s made me warm up to the idea of postponing the ballot measure so that the project can be put in the hands of more capable people. I do want to see this project get done, but wouldn’t mind having it delayed two years if it really would improve the project. I do realize though, that many who want to postpone the measure would really just rather have the project killed entirely.

Just for the purposes of full disclosure here, I am from Sac.

Rafael said...

@ spokker, brandon -

I'm not saying communication and co-ordination between different operators isn't possible, just that CHSRA has expended exactly zero effort so far toward making that happen. Caltrain may very well agree to a shared dispatcher controlling access to whatever station platforms end up being shared, especially if FRA grants a waiver for operating non-compliant EMUs. Very few freight trains ever run in the Caltrain corridor north of Santa Clara.
CHSRA's animations show bilevel stations for San Jose, Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles etc. It's not clear if secondary stations like Gilroy, Bakersfield, Sylmar or University City will be that fancy. Will HSR trains share platforms with commuter trains there? Amtrak, Metrolink and Coaster all run on tracks owned by freight operators and will need to stick with FRA-compliant equipment.

Railroad operators quite rightly put safety first. Even if nominal operations are extremely safe thanks to extensive grade separation, there is still potential for off-design situations that may require near-instantaneous communication and corrective action. None of the people on the CHSRA board have ever spent a day in railroad operations and, it shows in their dismissive attitudes toward the risk of derailments and track fouling.

Without an attitude adjustment, there's little chance they can re-open ROW negotiations with UPRR.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this Spain vs. California comparison is that it neglects the huge difference in rail construction costs.

Unlike the CHSRA, the Spanish really did their homework before undertaking HSR development. As a result, their construction costs are several times cheaper than comparable projects in France and Germany.

I would expect an even bigger difference between CA and Spain, (even though CA terrain is a bit less challenging) based on past projects; i.e.:

In Spain, cost for new subway is $50m/mile, vs. $200+m/mile in CA (examples: Madrid, Bilbao, Los Angeles, San Francisco).

In Spain, cost of tram is on the order of $1-$10m/mile vs. $50m/mile in CA (examples: Valencia, Santa Clara, Los Angeles)

So, yes, Spain does have similar demographics as California. But that hardly means we can replicate their astounding success. The reason they are able to build over 1,000km of new ROW is because they have construction firms that are extremely good at that sort of thing. California, on the other hand, has PB...

Brandon in California said...

by Rafael: "I'm not saying communication and co-ordination between different operators isn't possible, just that CHSRA has expended exactly zero effort so far toward making that happen. "
Zero effort?
With much respect, how would the general public know whether or not discussions have occurred?
Keep in mind, communication may have occurred off-radar and not generated any media attention. … which would alert and inform the general public. Communication and coordination don’t really grab ones attention, do they?
Two, is it necessary that coordination and communication discussions occur prior to this November? One could argue that it is not necessary until we approach detailed design and implementation. In a sense, only a positive vote on Proposition 1 is what triggers the necessity for those discussions to occur in those areas known would require shared right-of-way… errr, I mean ‘shared track’ which is more appropriate.
And, where is it known that shared track would be required? This would only specifically be relevant to the Phase 1 area from SF to LA Union Station (or Anaheim/Irvine)? Discussion of later phases would be premature…. and getting too far ahead of things.
But anyway, I can only think of the peninsula and the Caltrain corridor where those discussions have merit and should or could occur. And, we already know CHSRA and Caltrain have had those very discussions.
See the following link concerning Caltrain’s electrification effort from circa 2004. The site and its documents frequently cite the proposed state high-speed rail system. One should assume the two agencies did indeed already discuss shared-track…. Otherwise it would not be cited.
So, saying there has been zero effort would be false… with all due respect.
As for other corridors with other operators… I’ll go back to the plan to have separated/dedicated right-of-way and there been zero areas having shared tracks… relevant to Phase 1. And again, if so, those discussions could have been informal and off-radar.
I have followed high-speed rail efforts for 10 years. I am also familiar with what can happen in an accident and I have some familiarity with train safety regulations and safety practices. Although train safety is very important, it is not necessary to vet many of the fine-grain details involved in coordination and communication between operators at this point in time. They will occur… it is just not pertinent now and can be refined when needed later.

As for the animations, yes, I think we can and should assume dedicated right-of-way and no shared tracks. However, I think we should also assume those animations are ONLY conceptual and open to change.

Brandon in California said...

Back to the Spain comparison... is there any information on the trend in local transit usage comparing before and after usage?

I'd be really curious if implementation of the Spanish system induced greater usage of local rail and bus systems.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 6:19 -

if the entire CHSRA board were replaced and the HSR bond measure postponed a third time, chances are it would never make it onto any future ballot measure. Basic construction cost escalation since 2002 means the bond volume is now already too low to cover 1/3 of the starter line. The cities and counties served will have to chip in several billion more to make up the shortfall in funds from public "in state" sources.

Congress' new policy is to match 80% of selected new rail infrastructure, the same ratio it applies to road projects. It's not yet confirmed that it would match contributions from cities and counties as well as those from the state of California.

Finally, private investors may be reluctant to assume more than 33% of total project risk. Cobbling together all of the funds required to complete construction will be a major challenge.

Neither the CHSRA board members nor their proposal is perfect, but don't let that be the enemy of the good. California really needs HSR.

@ brandon m. farley -

CHSRA dismissed UPRR's concerns regarding he safety of adjacent tracks out of hand and then failed to have further talks with UPRR for a year.

The safety concerns may have related to a very unlikely scenario, but CHSRA's arrogant posture gave UPRR an excuse for discontinuing negotiations that it was never very keen on in the first place. It would have been much harder for them to walk away if CHSRA had acknowledged their operational concerns, assigned a senior liaison engineer to sort them out and made this fact public.

After all, like all private railroads in the US, UPRR enjoys strictly circumscribed powers of eminent domain that were delegated by Congress. This is because railroads are still considered services to the general public - surely a generous interpretation of their business activities.

It would be very hard for UPRR to maintain that the public interest is best served by reserving a portion of its ROW for freight capacity expansion in the distant future if the people of California indicate an immediate need for high speed passenger rail capacity by passing prop 1. While it is true that ROW negotiations cannot proceed in earnest before prop 1 actually does pass, CHSRA did a poor job of positioning itself for these talks ahead of the vote.

As it is, CHSRA may well have to resort to plan B, which implies obtaining land next to the UPRR ROW. This will involve many more parties, no doubt numerous eminent domain proceedings plus associated delays and cost escalations - needlessly handing HSR opponents ammunition in the run-up to the November vote. It's unclear if plan B will even be possible in certain constrained sections between San Jose and Los Angeles.

A similar concern exists in the LOSSAN corridor, though that is owned by BNSF.

Anonymous said...

Having been in Spain a few months ago, and ridden the new HSR (including a 17-mile-long tunnel I'd say the comparison is somewhat apt, albeit with some geographical differences:

1. Both jurisdictions (Calif. and Spain) have to major cities and a main trunk line between them. They are similar distances although LA and SF are considerably larger than Madrid and Barcelona.

2. Both have other major cities to be served, however California's are better aligned along a major trunk while Spain's are more dispersed. One line, with a couple splits at the ends, can serve the major Californian cities while Spain need a web to connect them. California is long and narrow (at least where the people tend to live east of the Sierra), while Spain is pretty much square.

3. Spain has better transit use, especially in smaller cities. While San Francisco has decent public transit use, it is nothing compared to the Madrid Metro. In Barcelona, the Metro puts anything in LA or SF or anywhere else to shame. There are smaller systems in other cities, lots of commuter rail use, and well-designed and -used bus systems in most larger towns. There are fewer suburbs and auto use as well.

4. Connections to other countries/states are similar. Spain is a peninsula, so the only connections are to Portugal and France. France, however, has a functioning high speed rail network which would be compatible with the AVE. California is also a bit of a peninsula, surrounded on most sides by water or empty desert. However, Phoenix and Las Vegas could easily be be connected, and a line up towards Eugene, Salem and Portland is not out of the question.

All that said, California can have a similarly-functioning high speed rail system as Spain with a much shorter amount of track. Since nearly everything between LA and Fresno is in one corridor, it will be much more highly used.

That's my two cents (three Euro centimos).

Anonymous said...

@spokker you write:

"Haha, why did the HSR authority name one of the Big Dig contractors to build this project? They must have known how bad that would look."

The answer to your question as to why Parsons Brinkerhoff is the prime contractor might well be found by looking at major donors to the Mineta Transportation institute in San Jose; of which PB is a prime member of that club.

Rod Diridon draws a 6 figure salary from the Minetta Institue. Need I go further?

Anonymous said...

Delaying the bond measure would save substantial money in the long run. Reconsideration of the Pachecho decision means a $5 billion Altamont "overlay" does not need to be built for the Sacramento extension. As well, an Altamont alignment obviates the need for the $6-8 billion BART-SJ project, the proposed $1.5 billion Livermore BART extension, nor the $600 million Dumbarton bridge for Caltrain.

It also gives opportunity to bring in new leadership, and staff who have the proper engineering background.

Indeed, Spain's HSR line vastly increased local transit usage. That is because they leveraged the new Madrid trunk line to run vastly improved commuter rail service.

Anonymous said...

Bikerider makes good points with regards delaying the bond measure.

Altamaont is so clearly superior for all of these reasons and more.

The stakes are very high. If Prop 1 is not delayed and goes down to defeat, kiss off HSR for a generation or more. You could hardly pick a worse year to try and pass a bond measure.

Rafael said...

fyi -

just in time for the Olympics, China today launched trial operations of its first HSR service. The 71 mile non-stop link between Beijing and Tianjin will be served by trainsets running at a top speed of 217mph. The first batch was manufactured in Germany, but as part of the deal the Chinese partner is licensing the design to satisfy future orders locally. Regular service will commence in October.

Note that China explicitly labels this a commuter service into Beijing, which is trying to get a handle on its chronic traffic congestion and air quality problems. The coastal city of Tianjing is the capital's port, moving more people there will also reduce freight traffic into Beijing. During rush hour, trains will be running at 3 minute headways.

The electricity powering the trains will likely come primarily from coal-fired power stations. China has yet to install flue gas scrubbers on most of these, but at least they are point sources and use a domestically available fuel source.

Based on the official exchange rate, construction cost was USD 2.1 billion. First class fare one way is USD 10.

Here is a presentation to the World Bank that puts this effort into context. By 2020, China will have 100,000 km of rail tracks, of which 10% will be PDL, which refers to passenger trains running a 125mph or faster. This includes 2000 km of new HSR track in three mega-regions.

Combined investment volume for all rail projects in China through 2020 is roughly USD 240 billion, primarily from central and provincial government sources.

Brandon in California said...

UPRR's concerns have no merit if the two systems will not share tracks or have cross-overs between the systems. And that is the intent of the CHSRA.

In my opinion, there is no function occurring that would prompt such discussion from ever needing to be arranged... concerning communication and coordination during operations.

Of course, implementation/construction phases will likely involve much communication and coordination efforts; but not regular operations.

I'll admit... at some point in the future there may be a local consideration to permit mixed traffic on the same track; however illogical. Yet, those instances may not be known until the CHSRA gets further into detailed design. That's when discussions at some level should begin. Not now. It's premature.

At this time we should envision the CHSRA system to be completely separate from other systems... much like BART or other third rail systems.

As an aside (#1)... is it UPRR arguing for this communication, or other freight interest? Could it be that those interests are trying to leverage something out of the bond funding or the CHSRA? Seems under-handed and dastardly to me if that is the case.

As an aside (#2)... Much or all of the LOSSAN right-of-way in Orange and San Diego counties is not owned by freight operators, but with local transit authorities. Although, SD County would be a later phase given current status of the project. The SD Santa Fe Depot is an exception... owned by Catellus... a division of a freight operator I believe.

Brandon in California said...

"Indeed, Spain's HSR line vastly increased local transit usage. That is because they leveraged the new Madrid trunk line to run vastly improved commuter rail service."

I understand. Have you seen any date. I'd be curious. I'd look it up, but if you have it on hand... that would be of interest.

If there is great synergy between local transit and HSR that would be something to possibly call-out as part of the bond measure.... irrespective of the $100 million or so already earmarked for local rail suppotive improvements in Prop 1.

Rafael said...

@ brandon m. farley -

track separation eliminates mixed traffic and hence, the risk of collisions while both trains are still on their rails. Level cross-overs, on the other hand, would require locally integrated signaling.

UPRR's safety objection related to derailments and fouling of adjacent tracks. Ensuring safety in these extremely rare but very dangerous off-design situations that operations computers need to be linked. It's not about people talking to each other; at 220mph, if anyone has to pick up a telephone, it may already be too late.

CHSRA refused to acknowledge this point and apparently, so do you.

Anonymous said...

@bikerider - But the $5 billion Altamont overlay would itself obviate the need for the BART extensions you mention. You're double-counting things and overstating the Altamont benefits by at least a factor of 2.

I would have personally preferred Altamont, but in my experience the Altamont boosters tend to go overstate their case. Regardless, the decision has been made and that is that. There is no politically reasonable scenario in which it will be changed, and regardless, delaying the project another 5 yrs would almost certainly raise costs more than choosing Altamont would lower them.

@anon 8:53 - "You could hardly pick a worse year to try and pass a bond measure." Are you kidding? Have you seen the price of gas lately? In your world, maybe gas still costs $1.50/gal and Southwest is still offering OAK-LAX fares starting as low as $29 one-way (plus taxes and fees)?

I guess if by "a bond measure" you mean a generic bond measure, yes, it's not a terrific year. But for an HSR measure, it's certainly better than any other year in the past decade. As they said in '92, "It's about gas prices, stupid." Seriously though, for the average swing voter, $4/gal gas is going to influence their vote way more than arcane details about Altamont vs. Pacheco or how much the UPRR might or might not demand for access to part of its ROW.

Brandon in California said...


I agree that concerns involving communication and coordination between rail operators have merit, particularly for unplanned events. But, we should assume the CHSRA system will be completely separate from other rail; zero crossovers or level crossings like BART or other third rail systems. There would be zero opportunity for non-HSR trains to occupy the same space as other rail, such as freight or commuter systems…. except, god forbid, in cases of accidental derailments when systems are adjacent to each other.

In instances where HSR tracks and other rail are adjacent to each other… we should assume without any question at all, that in due time that the CHSRA will discuss with others design considerations that would encompass those concerns. In fact, development review discussions occur as a matter of common practice among public agencies and developers. It also happens vey frequently/predominantly in non public forums…. And do not need to be during public meetings that generate meeting minutes and press releases and media attention. In fact, public meetings are not needed for many actions unless a specific or important agency decision is needed. And frankly, unless the media perceives them to be of interest to the public… they are not going to put the effort out to report on them.

But back to agency-to-agency off-line discussions on this topic… I can image they’d discuss physical distance separation, barriers (if any), or if/should HSR be elevated or depressed relative to rail height a bit. In fact, maybe some of those discussions have already occurred on a concept level for generating initial cost estimates, but details were not elevated enough to reach media attention and alert Joe Blows like you and me to seek-out and review staff reports or dive into news articles.

Either way, such discussions are not necessary until the project advances further into finer grain design efforts. It’s a concern or interest, but it’s not necessary to have that answered at this time… regardless of the November elections. I can imagine that such information would not be vetted before needed unless there was some pressure from some place, and maybe had implications for political support or what-not.

Anonymous said...

Well, I admit I'm confused. Other sources of information about CAHSR state that it can be built inexpensively by sharing existing tracks. However people here are claiming that it will be entirely 100% grade-separated with no crossovers or shared track. This presumably includes over/underpasses over all existing roads and rail spurs.

Or is the idea to establish "low-speed rail" on existing tracks and then phase in sections of grade-separated lines? There seems to be a lot of missing detail here.

Brandon in California said...

The intent is to be grade separated.

Some advocates forward shard track scenario's in order to enable local access. Unfortunately shared track means that HSR trains would need to be built to stronger FRA requirements, be constrained to operating limitations of other trains, and have restricted speeds.

Many advantages are lost with shared-rack scenario's.

With that said, Caltrain and CHSRA may be able to share the same tracks with Caltrain providing an overlay of local commute and express service on the peninsula from San Jose to San Francisco.

That ability depends on Catrain electrification efforts, providing compatible equipment, and them working together on schedules. Or, CHSRA operates the service on their behalf.

Spokker said...

If marijuana was legalized California could probably pay for our stupid train with tax revenues from weed sales.

Something to think about, my friends.

Spokker said...

"However people here are claiming that it will be entirely 100% grade-separated with no crossovers or shared track."

People are claiming that it will be 100% grade separated, and it will be. Those claiming that it will have no shared track are incorrect.

It will share track with Caltrain in the north and Metrolink/Amtrak in the south. It will not share track with freights.

Anonymous said...

I would have personally preferred Altamont, but in my experience the Altamont boosters tend to go overstate their case. Regardless, the decision has been made and that is that.

This is a sentiment that is often heard from HSR supports now that the authority has formalized the Pacheco route. There is a wide spread consensus that the Altamont is the proper route, but, because of corruption, incompetence, or both, the Authority went with Pacheco. Now, potential supports are being told that they should support the project anyway, because that’s the way it is and there is nothing we can do about it. I agree that a Pacheco route train would be better than no HSR at all, but this argument nevertheless doesn’t sit well with me. I’m hesitant to vote for the project as it is because it would be a tacit endorsement of the poor decision making process thus far and put billions of dollars in the hands of an incompetent agency. As such, I’m very much in favor of ideas like taking it out of the authority’s hands or a (Transdef) lawsuit, whether or not it ends up being detrimental to the project.

I’ve been subjected to enough poor transit planning in the bay area already. If this is going to get done, I really want to see it done the right way. What I don’t want it something like the SFO extension x 10.

Spokker said...

I think both alignments should be built eventually. From the Bay Area, Sacramento bound trains could use the Altamont route, and Los Angeles/Central Valley bound trains could use the Pacheco route.

And using the Altamont route would probably mean improvements to ACE, unless I'm stupid, and I probably am.

Anonymous said...

I think both alignments should be built eventually. From the Bay Area, Sacramento bound trains could use the Altamont route, and Los Angeles/Central Valley bound trains could use the Pacheco route.

Not a good idea, for several reasons:

1. Pachecho is slower than Altamont for SF-LA.

2. You want to allow timed transfers between the various trains, in order to increase travel options. For example: SF-LA and SJ-SAC could have a timed connection somewhere around Fremont.

The biggest problem in the EIR is that it never takes into account the possibilities of timed transfers.

Spokker said...

There's a lot of things that the opposition says that sound nutty to me. Why should there be a push to amend the proposition to remove the emphasis on LA-SF? That's the backbone of the network. That's what's going to be built first.

If that segment is successful then the rest of the system gets built. If the other segments are eligible for bond money wouldn't that just delay construction of the LA-SF route and the project as a whole?

All resources should be directed to the LA-SF line and getting it up and running as reasonably fast and safe as possible. Once we see that route take off HSR will begin to flourish in California and in other states.

So correct me if I'm wrong here, but that's what it seems like to me.

Rob Dawg said...

As currently envisioned CAHSR will share rights-of-way with freight. Given the projected frequency of trains actual sharing is a physical impossibility.

While mostly grade separated there will almost surely be limited controlled access private at grade crossing in the Central Valley as grade separation would bust the budget just to get the occasional lettuce truck to the next field.

Spokker said...

How is Pacheco slower? I'm looking at both the Altamont pass and Pacheco routes on the Google Maps version of the high speed rail route and they both seem to wind as much as the other. The Pacheco pass route looks to have a lot of tunneling.

For Altamont, passengers on an SF-LA run would have to go down to San Jose, travel up to Stockton, and then down the Central Valley to LA. That seems really out of the way. Unless a new bridge is built across the bay, and from everything I read that isn't happening, I don't know how useful Altamont is.

Spokker said...

Here's what the EIR says:

"The Pacheco Pass enables the shortest connection to be constructed between the South Bay and southern California with the quickest travel times between these markets. A southern Santa Clara
County HST station increases connectivity and accessibility for the South Bay and the three county
Monterey Bay area."

"The core purpose of the HST system is to serve passenger trips between the major metropolitan areas of California. There is a critical tradeoff between the accessibility of the system to potential
passengers that is provided by multiple stations and stops, and the resulting HST travel times.
Additional or more closely spaced stations (even with limited service) would lengthen travel times and reduce frequency of service and the ability to operate both express and local services. The Pacheco Pass has the advantage of fewer stops through the high-speed trunk of the system between San Francisco or San Jose and southern California, the most populated regions of the state.
Between Merced and Gilroy, the HSTs will be maintaining speeds well over 200 mph. The fact that
there is no population concentrations between Merced and Gilroy along the Pacheco Pass is a positive attribute since there are fewer communities and hence fewer community impacts."

So what's the problem here? Seems like they are trying to avoids NIMBYs haha.

Brandon in California said...

In my opinion, anonymous posts that allege corruption are only slander and should not be allowed to remain. Facts are needed. Not allegations.

Also, I'd like to know where and what of the details of shared track with freight or non compatible HSR equipment? Any details out there? I am assuming Caltrain will be compatible equipment.

I don't recall Metrolink in any of those discussions other than they'd have shared right-of-way... which is not the same as sharing track.

Spokker said...

"In my opinion, anonymous posts that allege corruption are only slander and should not be allowed to remain. Facts are needed. Not allegations."

It's difficult to know what lies in the hearts of man. Everybody acts in their own self-interest. That includes Ron Diridon, the residents of Menlo Park, myself, and every commenter here.

Everybody should get off their high horse and admit that they want what's best for them.

I want to ride high speed trains without having to learn Japanese or French. The NIMBYs in Menlo Park want to impede progress to save themselves some minor inconveniences. The high speed rail authority wants to construct a network of high speed trains that will transport undesirable ethnic peoples to factories and melt them down into soap (currently being studied in an EIR).

The heart wants what the heart wants...

Brandon in California said...

Ha ha. That is truely funny. But I get what you're saying.

On the other hand, peeps are comming here and citing a lack of consensus and confusion and... heck, why not postpone Prop 1 b/c obviously there is no agreement.

People are stupid. And stupid people are likely visiting this site (probably x30 the number of posts). And, they are suckers for what they read.

On the other hand #2... without HSR in California... those in the Central Valley are going to choke on lack of oxygen and those on the coast are going flooded by melted water from continental ice on Greenland and Antartica; it's either dikes and gas masks... or HSR. You choose.

Spokker said...

I'm the biggest batshit insane supporter of prop 1, warts and all, but CA HSR won't solve every problem we have. I mean, it'll help, but it's not going to be all things to all people.

For example, it will do nothing for the central coast. In fact, a group pushing for Coast Daylight service is considering officially opposing HSR because there's nothing in it for coast cities.

I'm telling you, it's rail advocate on rail advocate violence out there. It's just stupid. Hence my point, people, whether they are for or against this project, act in their best interest. And for anyone to say that anyone else is insincere about their beliefs about this project is full of crap.

My interest is seeing more rail in this state and the country as a whole. I may live in Southern California but I would vote for almost any measure that would allocate funds toward constructing and upgrading rail lines, where ever they are in the state...

...except for the Sprinter in Escondido. Now that is one crappy light rail line.

Anonymous said...

Altamont alternative includes new Bay crossing (one of the key advantages BTW).

Travel times for Altamont:
LA-SF: 2:36

Travel times for Pachecho:
LA-SF: 2:38

Note that speed profile for Pachecho assumes 160+mph operation through residential neighborhoods in South San Jose and Morgan Hill!!

arcady said...

By the way, on the topic of derailment fouling adjacent lines and so on, this sort of thing has actually happened, in Australia. There are places there where there is a standard gauge track and a broad gauge track next to each other, obviously with no connections. They're owned and operated by entirely separate companies, with no communication between the two. A freight train derailed on one line and fouled the other one, but communication was slow and a passenger express train on the other line crashed into the wreckage. So it's potentially a serious concern, depending on how things are built.

Spokker said...

"Altamont alternative includes new Bay crossing (one of the key advantages BTW)."

Yes, but how likely is that to happen?

"Note that speed profile for Pachecho assumes 160+mph operation through residential neighborhoods in South San Jose and Morgan Hill!!"


Anonymous said...

"Note that speed profile for Pachecho assumes 160+mph operation through residential neighborhoods in South San Jose and Morgan Hill!!


Seriously. What is the issue? The lack of knowledge regarding high speed operations is unfortunate, albeit understandable given that people out here have no exposure to high speed operations.

Forget going overseas. Operation near 160 mph through neighborhoods like Morgan Hill is standard not just in other countries, but in the US itself. Acela Express operates at 150 mph between Boston and Providence (a distance of 43 miles), including 150 mph operation with no problems at all through the city centers of Mansfield, Attleboro, and South Attleboro. These cities have populations of 20,000 to 40,000, very comparable to places like Morgan Hill (pop 33,000) or Gilroy (pop 45,000).

Anonymous said...

@anon, 8/1 5:03 pm

It's funny that HSR opponents (which you may not be) always bring up BART SFO as the "OMG this could be a total disaster" worst-case scenario for HSR. BART SFO went overbudget by 25% (from $1.167b to $1.488b). The most optimistic ridership projections I've ver seen for it were 68,000 by 2010, though Wikipedia cites 50,000 as the original forecast. BART SFO ridership is currently on track to reach 45,000 by 2010, or 66% of the most optimistic projections.

What does this mean for HSR? It means that the "worst case total disaster" scenario that opponents trot out is that it costs $50 billion to build (instead of $40 billion) and attracts 77 million riders by 2030 (the most optimistic projections I've seen are 117 million riders).

That would be more passengers than are currently handled by LAX + SFO + SAN + OAK + SJC + SMF all combined together - nearly our entire commercial air transport system combined. I would consider that a big success, and this is in the "nightmare" scenario!

Rafael said...

@ arcady -

thank you for the real-world reality check. I suspect that at some point - or points - in UPRR's 146-year history, they've had to deal with serious derailments that fouled adjacent tracks and led to follow-on accidents. They don't need to make this stuff up, they've been there done that.

CHSRA hasn't. A little humility on operational issues would really go a long way.

@ spokker -

not to belabor the now-closed Altamont vs. Pacheco debate, but the only alternative that was ever considered both functionally and environmentally viable was variation (not love potion :-) #9. It called for all trains to get to Fremont and points east via the South Bay. Specifically, via SJ Diridon.

The estimated San Jose-LA line haul penalty was 10 minutes. The estimated SF-LA line haul penalty was 40 minutes. Ostensibly, this was because trains would need to change direction in San Jose. However, that process does not take 30 minutes - even for a full-length (1320') train.

Moreover, the analysis showed that trains bound for Sacramento would only dwell in San Jose for 20 minutes. In other words, someone probably tweaked the data to make Altamont #9 look worse than it really would have been.

Moving the station to Santa Clara would have reduced the SF-LA line haul penalty to perhaps 8 minutes. Considering CHSRA's own analysis of interregional trips in 2030 and allowing that some southbound trains would terminate in e.g. Merced, my conclusion is that CHSRA simply solved the wrong problem.

Instead of a narrow focus on the fastest line haul time for SF-LA, it should have picked the solution that delivered the biggest bang for buck for all of Northern California. Of course, Parsons Brinkerhoff, the Mineta Institute and others are more interested in just maximizing the bucks - never mind the bang.

As a result, there will be no relief for highways 80, 580, 880 or 680 nor for ACE. There will be no connection to the HSR network in the East Bay nor in the Livermore Valley. Nor will there be a Central Valley connection north of Fresno for many, many years. The Delta counties will not attract as large a share of the state's incremental population as they otherwise might have, with knock-on effects throughout Northern California. Unsurprisingly, prop 1 support will now be a lot weaker north and east of San Jose than it could have - and should have - been.

But oh well, it's not like the French, Germans, Spaniards or Brits hadn't made any seriously dumb decisions when they were building their own HSR systems. I expect much the same is true of Japan, professional transportation planners all seem to have some difficulty in thinking laterally.

00 said...

Yes! THank you. SPain's HSR is wonderful and is a great model for California.

Jorge Campo said...

"In Spain, cost of tram is on the order of $1-$10m/mile vs. $50m/mile in CA (examples: Valencia, Santa Clara, Los Angeles)"

I work in the border between France and Spain in a 42km HSL which will connect the two countries. Due to the complexities (compatibility issues, countries involved, French, Spanish and some English and Catalan language involved, etc) the cost is higher, around $30m/mile (with my own numbers).
We also have an 8,4 km tunnel which logically has increased the cost.

Thanks to all the comments to our new lines. Working from here I do not see it as ideal as it looks like, but certainly we can be a little bit proud of it. :)

Unknown said...







Anonymous said...

If California is to finally do something about high speed rail, how about we not just copy and compare ourselves to another program? What if we actually lept ahead with some vision and created the next generation of transit technology? Which in fact is a whole lot more than a higher speed metal box rolling along steel rails bolted together with wood and spikes. If California can not figure out how to capture the imagination of the world and ignite the flame to jump forward then we really are destined to just wobble down to a pathetic ending. The US has been in total stasis for over fifty years or more regarding transportation evolution. There is an opportunity for California to leap forward with an intelligent multipurpose technoloy that serves as the stem-cell equivalant to our socio-economic fabric. Is anyone listening? Does anyone care?