Wednesday, November 5, 2008

All Aboard!

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

There are still some votes to be counted in the Inland Empire, and my own home county of Monterey still has not fully reported, but with 95% reporting and a 422,000 vote lead Proposition 1A looks to have passed. Remaining votes in San Bernardino and Riverside counties will have to run much more strongly against Prop 1A than the current results indicate for us to lose.

I have to admit my joy at this is somewhat tempered by the abomination of Prop 8 passing as well, but Prop 1A's passage is an enormous victory for Californians and their future. We stood up to the NIMBYs, the new Hoovers, the oil companies, the right-wing think tanks, and told them "you can't take away our future."

It is especially nice to see Prop 1A joined by other successful transit measures, such as Measure Q - the SMART passenger train from Sonoma to Marin, and Measure R which will provide passenger rail expansion in the LA area (including new connections to Union Station, which will become one of the busiest HSR stations in the state).

The $950 million contained in Prop 1A will also provide immediate benefits to other passenger rail service in the state, from Caltrain and Metrolink to existing Amtrak California lines. It will also likely help get the Coast Daylight service funded, which will serve the SF-LA corridor via the coast (Salinas, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara).

Several folks need to be thanked for their work in getting Prop 1A approved, especially the staff of the California High Speed Rail Authority - Mehdi Morshed and Dan Leavitt in particular. Quentin Kopp and Rod Diridon did an excellent job explaining the project to the public and defending against some ridiculous criticisms from HSR deniers in the Legislature. Emily Rusch at CALPIRG also did excellent work helping build a coalition for Prop 1A, as did that entire organization and their on-campus supporters - I'm sure Dan and Cynthia at UC Santa Cruz are celebrating this morning. The Sierra Club deserves thanks, especially those who ensured that the statewide organization endorsed Prop 1A.

The last-minute campaigning by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Dianne Feinstein was a needed shot in the arm, reassuring Californians of the project's soundness and showing that it is very likely to get the federal funding it needs, especially under President Obama. Fiona Ma has been a key figure here in California for high speed rail, from her high profile public activism to her work in the state legislature. The folks at the "official" campaign are to be congratulated as well for putting together this victory. The Fresno Bee has been a great source of pro-HSR commentary and they should be pleased that Fresno County approved Prop 1A by a 10 point margin.

And of course everyone who helped make this blog the center of Prop 1A and HSR activism online. Matt Melzer and Dennis Lytton have provided invaluable support and information over the last few months. Bart Reed of The Transit Coalition has much to celebrate this morning and I thank him for all his support and help with this site.

Our commenters deserve a special shout-out. rafael has forgotten more about trains than I'll ever know, and has been a key resource for all of us with his information and insight on the technical details and the big picture. Michael Kiesling has provided useful information as well and informed commentary. "mike" has provided some valuable commentary, especially his smackdown of the Reason Foundation's lies. Nikko, spokker, bossyman15, tony d., and other commenters have kept our spirits up and also helped spread pro-HSR information as it was needed.

Now it's time to think about the next steps. This blog isn't going anywhere, although we will move to a unique URL and install a better blog software, which will happen by the end of the year. There is still a lot of work to be done for California High Speed Rail, especially securing federal funding and maintaining a close eye on the planning decisions that will be made in the coming years. We can also expect to see a raft of lawsuits; every major project has them, and we'll be here to provide insight or debunking as needed.

I look forward to being on that first high speed train rolling out of the Transbay Terminal, destination Anaheim, and hope to see as many of you as possible on there with me.

UPDATE: There are still absentee and provisional ballots out there. We don't yet know where or exactly how many, which is why the news outlets have not yet called it for Prop 1A. We are confident of victory but I felt I should make that note. The Secretary of State expects to have these reported tonight or tomorrow.

UPDATE 2: LA Times calls it for Prop 1A. We very nearly won San Diego County - 48%-52%, with a 35,000 vote difference.

UPDATE 3: The LA Times map of Prop 1A:

Apparently Del Norte County's early reporting was flipped, so no they didn't vote for the SUPERTRAIN. But every county that is getting a station in Phase I did vote for it, except Orange County. That's OK, we'll give them a station anyway. San Bernardino and San Diego counties were fairly close, and the vote was extremely close in Riverside County. The county with the widest margin of victory was SF, 80-20. The strong pro-HSR vote here in Monterey County (58-42) bodes well for when it comes time to fund the Monterey Branch Line.


Yes on1A.. said...

THANK YOU Robert for all you have done for this cause!!!!We all have a long way to go to get on that first train but a GIANT step closer!! You really are one of the"Fathers" of this train

Rubber Toe said...

When you move to the new web site and software, please post a donation link so that we can help defray the cost of maintaining the site if that would help you out.

I was posting last night as Anonymous cause I was having trouble getting logged on. Maybe the new blogging software is a good idea :-)

Very glad to hear that the site will continue. I very much look forward to following the process going forward. Like I said last night, they have to get the business plan right, and the Feds need to come through with some money. It's definitely not rocket science...

I e-mailed some out of state cousins this morning and told them that the Yes on 8 debacle would be overturned within 4 years. The trend on that is clear, we just came an eyelash short this time.


Crazy Joe said...

Should be more like "destination LA" since OC voted no on 1A. But now's the time to be positive, so at least it will happen! And yay for R!

And yeah, 8 will surely be stricken as unconstitutional.

Matthew Melzer said...

Robert, thank you for your tireless work here and elsewhere (both in the blogosphere and the real world) to frame HSR and Prop 1A as essential to the state's future, and to so meticulously debunk the arguments against it. Frankly, I can understand folks' visceral economic fears, but it appears the people have spoken and have voted for long-term progress in mobility, real prosperity, and truly Californian innovation.

As a rail advocate, I see this effort as only the start of what I hope will be a lasting coalition between all serious believers in alternative modes of transportation, as well as ally groups such as environmentalists, smarth growth activists, labor, students, and forward-thinking business interests.

The hard work has only just begun. We must now get the attention of Congress and the Obama Administration to demand federal leadership on passenger trains. If they answer California's call, it will be a strong starting point and a great precedent for the rest of the nation. As always, please let me know what we can do to assist.

Rob Dawg said...

I look forward to being on that first high speed train rolling out of the Transbay Terminal, destination Anaheim, and hope to see as many of you as possible on there with me.

Wouldn't you rather be first on the inaugural segment Oakland to Bakersfield? You might have to wait 18 months for full SF to LA and 2+ years for Anaheim.

John said...

Congratulations, California! You've just taken a big step in fixing not only your state's transportation system, but possibly this country's transportation system.

Now you'll be able to follow in the transit footsteps of China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, the UK, and oh god about every other developed country on this planet.

Space Kimchi said...

So hey stupid question, does Measure R include plans to connect the Green Line to Norwalk Metrolink Station, or something along those lines? I find it something of a travesty that you can't ride trains from Orange County to LAX without a bunch of transfers.

Regardless, I'm stoked that 1A passed and after 8 passed I need all the good news I can get.

I've been following this blog but haven't participated much, though I wish I did! If you need someone who does Wordpress professionally to help you out with the new site, let me know, I'd be happy to lend a hand.

AMRivlin said...

Thank you! I have your exact sentiments, I am elated 1 has passed but discouraged that 8 did as well.

I think it is important that we do not lose sight of the vision and over the next decade continue to push forward with this fantastic project.

And thanks to everyone in my address book for getting out there and voting YES on this crucial prop in California's future.

I too am available to help track / blog and follow the future of this project! Let me know if I can help you!

Robert said...

Thanks for all the hard work ... and the nod to Measure 8. On one of the two level heads prevailed! A huge infrastructure project will be great for the economy, and with VP Biden banging the drum for rail, and the House Speaker from California, I think we're on our way. Now let's get moving with the extension so San Diego!!! ;) Again, congratulations.

Michael J. said...

Robert, thanks for all the reliable work you put into making prop 1A pass. It didn't pass by much, and it's undeniable that your blog was part of the push that helped it cross the finish line. I think it's safe to say that the second google result for "california high speed rail" - this blog - was responsible for directly or indirectly swaying a few percent of the vote - perhaps more than 2.2%.

A bittersweet victory it is, now that we've amended our constitution to inflict necessary and inhumane pain and alienation on so many good people out of fear - but I am very glad California has taken the step of investing ~10 billion in a more sustainable, stronger, 21st century future.

Cheers ran up and down the Bart trains in the hours after the election - but that had more to do with Obama than CAHSR.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Congratulations on the 1A looking like it will pass! I cannot wait to get on that first high speed train and set the example Europe and Japan have for years.

As for your comments on Prop 8, please stay on topic with the HSR blog you have. Lets not stir up ongoing debate about something unrelated. Just because this HSR blog appeals to people who are more likely to vote no on 8 (like myself) lets not offend those who decided to vote differently then you on an unrelated issue. Being impartial in writing is one of the most respected traits of a good writer.

Mark in Riverside said...

Robert, thanks so much for the amazing job you've done with this site. I've been reading it everyday and have been able to use your facts and figures when discussing High Speed Rail. I'm very glad to hear the site will continue. I hope to be on the first train leaving Anaheim and I'll wave to you in the Central Valley as we pass at a combined speed of 440mph.

Congratulations Prop 1A! It feels great to be proud of my state again! When I was a kid in the 60s California was cool and we helped lead the nation. Now if we keep working hard and do it right, we're again going to have something cool and we'll help lead the nation.

Anonymous said...

While thanks are being distributed, many, many thanks to you for your steady, intelligent and articulate efforts on behalf of HSR. As soon as you have an open date in the Bay Area, I look forward to meeting you and would like to take you to lunch at any restaurant you choose. Fortunately, the outcome was favorable even though the presentations I had hoped we could arrange did not materialize (due to a long scheduled travel commitment on my part.) Going forward, please let me know if I may be helpful. I hope I can get a seat to be on that first train with you!

David Milton

Crazy Joe said...

You might have to wait 18 months for full SF to LA and 2+ years for Anaheim.

Source? The initial segment should be LA to SF, with Anaheim, SD, Sac coming later, right?

Francesco said...

Yes I agree. I have been following this blog for a long time. I worked for CALPIRG in Berkeley and stood outside at locations all over the bay area persuading people to vote for it and I feel like all the hard work we've done together has paid off. Applause! I look forward to seeing the project move ahead.

kimmus122 said...

As an American but not a Californian, I want to say thank you for your efforts to help get this passed. This is something that has the potential to spur many alternative transportation initiates throughout the United States. Thank you! And please let us know when you hear for sure that it passed.

Rafael said...

Well folks, here's your theme song for phase I of California HSR:

Choo Choo by the UK Indie Band The Arctic Monkeys.

It cuts off part-way through. Think of that as a reminder that we still need those matching funds, the ROW, wooden stakes for NIMBY lawyers (just kidding!) and an FRA administrator with a clue.

Btw, the UK Conservative Party wins next year's general election, the will build HSR from St. Pancras to Heathrow, Birmingham Airport/NEC, Manchester and Leeds. An extension to Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow might follow at a later date. They've sure come a long way since the Iron Lady wielded her fearsome handbag.

Don said...

I am so elated this has passed, but this is only the beginning for HSR in America. Much of the country will be looking to CA's leadership on this new idea.

This is a great opportunity as well as a difficult task. If problems mount it could ruin High Speed Rail for the rest of the country. It is up to us as citizens to make sure we do everything we can to make this happen, and happen effectively.

Rafael said...

As for prop 8, it must be heartbreaking for the gay and lesbian community. Here's a silver lining for y'all: moderate opponents object not to formalizing same-sex relations but rather, to calling them "marriage".

Don't hit your heads against a brick wall for another decade, just invent your own vocabulary and rituals to celebrate your relationships. Traditional matrimony comes with millenia of baggage, such as the tacit expectation that couples are supposed to sire and raise children.

Changing the verbiage will make it much, much easier to grant same-sex couples the exact same legal rights and obligations that married heterosexuals enjoy, including - ultimately - the right to adopt children. Rome wasn't built in a day. Agent O has to figure out how to work the flashy thingy so we can all forget the last eight years. Cut him some slack and just defuse the situation. Yes you can.

The social status that comes with marriage will be granted very quickly to same-sex couples that choose this alternate path to formalizing their relationship, especially now that there are no red states and blue states any more. Let the bitterz cling to their bibles if they want to, you've got your own lives to get on with.

Don't believe those fake tales of San Francisco values.

Spokker said...

Last night could be characterized as a night of successes and failures.

The election of Obama is a high I don't know how soon I will come down from. I also like Biden for obvious reasons, so good for him.

I too am feeling the sting from the passage of Prop 8. I hope it's overturned eventualy. If I didn't feel strongly that 8 was blatently unconstitutional I would gladly give up 1A to get 8 defeated, if that were possible.

But as a transit advocate who likes to argue on the Internet, I could not have expected a better outcome. Measure R and Prop 1A. Holy cow.

It's impossible to determine how much of an impact some random jerk on the Internet had on the vote, but I like to think that my constant bickering with people on sites like Palo Alto Online wasn't for nothing.

Today is the day we train nerds can finally say, "We got ours." after years of well-off NIMBYs expressing that same attitude as they vote down transit projects and transportation funding.

Here in Orange County that attitude has been especially strong. This is a county that voted down a light rail project that would have connected a large California public university to Santa Ana and other OC destinations. Not even they could destroy the promise of this project.

We got ours.

Rob Dawg said...

crazy joe said...
[Dawg] "You might have to wait 18 months for full SF to LA and 2+ years for Anaheim."

Source? The initial segment should be LA to SF, with Anaheim, SD, Sac coming later, right?

No source but my engineering judgement. There remain major obstacles to the Oakland to SF segment and Bakersfield through the Tehacahpis. Then there are the political and rights of way issues in the SFV and into LA.

Face it, the Tehachapi tri-tunnel segment isn't going to be ready anywhere near as soon as the Central Valley. Cost/revenue pressures will push for an early opening and that means Oakland to Bakersfield followed shortly by SF opening and then either Burbank or hopefully Los Angeles.

AMRivlin said...

Update: It just went official!

mike said...

rob - There is no Oakland-SF segment in any final proposal. Do you mean Oakland-SJ? Why would that be easier than SF-SJ, where they already have the right-of-way (Caltrain)? I suspect many of us are confused as to what you are trying to say.

Spokker said...

Yup. They called it. It's official.

This wild journey to high speed rail to California continues.

Rafael said...

@ rob dawg -

Oakland? That's on the "HST overlay" which is merely "under consideration" as a separate, complementary project. The Fremont-Oakland segment may never get built at all, because BART already covers that.

Phase I is SF-SJ-Gilroy-Fresno-Bakersfield-Palmdale-Burbank-LA-Anaheim, with some other stations in-between. Phase II is the spurs up to Sacramento and down to San Diego via Riverside.

This plan will not been changed unless a judge invalidates the Bay Area to Central Valley EIR/EIS or, getting an affordable ROW between SJ and Gilroy proves impossible and Santa Clara county abandons its cherished BART extension and its insistence on SJ Diridon - rather than Santa Clara/SJC - as the Silicon Valley station.

The Fresno-Bakersfield segment of phase I may get built early simply because CHSRA and FRA need a test track to make 220mph possible and it will certainly be needed.

Also, Rep. Costa (D-Fresno) has been instrumental in keeping the HSR dream alive all these years. He will be critical to securing federal matching funds and making sure the Obama administration appoints an FRA administrator with a clue. On the other hand, Fresno also wants to shoehorn UPRR, BNSF, HSR and Amtrak into a single corridor just 100' wide or else, secure an expensive bypass for the freight trains.

The 40x2 miles of tunnels through the mountains at Pacheco Pass, Tehachapi Pass and in Soledad Canyon will be dual tubes without service tunnels. They are not required as each individual tunnel is less than 6 miles long. Both the Garlock and the San Andreas fault will be crossed at-grade.

Still, the small-scale geology near seismic faults is usually incredibly complex, so exploratory tunneling should start asap. I hope they bring in Japanese HSR experts to deal with seismic safety issues.

timote said...

Congratulations and all of our thanks.

So now I think the blog needs to move on to implementation - I'd love to have more information about schedules, the maneuverings, etc. Any information about how this is really going to happen - even if just at the rumor stage :-)

Spokker said...

timote, you'll find a ton of information at the official high speed rail authority site. Explore the the documents in the "library", especially the implementation plan.

Some of the documents are a little outdated but it should get your imagination going.

Tony D. said...

Congrats to all and thanks Robert for all you've done on this site; looking forward to getting from Gilroy to the Shark Tank in 15 minutes! Rafael, respectfully, you really need to put the Altamont/Pacheco conflict behind you. A little upset here in Santa Clara County with Measure B/BART; in any normal democracy, 66.27% in favor should be more than enough to pass a measure; however, it's not over until it's over. I'm still hopefull, with a strong message sent by the voters, that BART will find it's way to San Jose/Santa Clara.

Jathnael said...

Now I can do my happy dance!

Matt in SF said...

Wewt! This has been a long time in the coming.

It will be many years before this thing is fully funded and built, and there will doubtless be setbacks along the way, but I can't help but be optimistic now that we'll have some sort of high-speed, renewable-energy-powered passenger rail running in California in the next 15-20 years if not sooner.

This also bodes very well for the plans to bring Caltrain to the new Transbay Terminal in downtown SF. Funding will be much easier to obtain with passage of prop 1A and with strong Democratic majorities in Congress and the new guys in the White House.

Grats to everyone and special thanks to Robert in Monterrey.

Rafael said...

@ tony d -

I've made my peace with Pacheco a long time ago. That is plan A now, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be a contingency plan B. Fact is, the strictly local BART project forced the statewide HSR into a suboptimal corridor. That subway had better be worth having.

My beef isn't with SJ residents' desire to have a subway but rather, with extending BART to implement it. People all over the world change trains every day when they commute. A stand-alone subway line between Fremont Warm Springs and Santa Clara, run by Caltrain and using off-the-shelf standard-gauge technology would be a lot cheaper to build and operate. It could do so at intervals of 3-5 minutes during rush hour, something BART cannot hope to match because its lines are so long.

If SJ can get the per-mile cost of its subway project under control, it should re-submit Measure B if it is still needed. Measure Q in Marin and Sonoma was passed on the second attempt, after it had been rejected by a similarly narrow margin the first time.

However, if SJ officials refuse to interpret this narrow defeat as a wake-up call when prop 1A, measure R and Measure Q all passed in spite of a cratering economy and a state budget fiasco, they are nothing if not tone deaf. They need to amend their proposal to restore voter confidence that can execute a subway construction project without having to go back to the well a third time.

nikko pigman said...

HUZZAHZ for prop 1a!! Well being from a family involved in public transportation and planning to get into it myself, I can tell you that this success is a turning point for public transportation nationwide.

The democrats now control the House, Senate, and Presidency which will allow pro-transit legislation to be passed and allow for pro-transit policy. America has really been resistant to public transportation since the advent of the automobile, but this crucial element to a greater more efficient society and economy now has a true potential. The passing of a passenger rail program of this magnitude inevitable leads to a domino effect of public transportation projects being launched everywhere in the nation.

America's transportation prospects are looking bright.

luis d. said...

Congradulations and Good Work to all here for your efforts on this project.

I've been reading the blog but not commenting since most of you pretty much have everything covered. I noticed that the blog has reached #2 on Google searches and passed Wikipedia.

Rafael -

Although I myself have accepted Pacheco as the route I still feel that Altamont has potential in the future when the Tri-Valley (from where I'm from) gets a line running through it once the area grows (and it is) in the future.

My question to you is if they made a second Transbay Tube from SF to Oakland would they run it down and through Altamont to Sacramento, or would they try to run it straight through Richmond through Pinole and on to Sac? Of course that isn't even in the plans as I know it but what do you know of any of this?

Robert Cruickshank said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. And yes, luis d., I did notice we are #2 on Google for a "california high speed rail search." We have been jockeying for #2 with Wikipedia's article for a few months now. I doubt we'd ever pass the Authority, and I'm happy to be #2. Top 3 in Google is always where you want to be.

(Yes, I obsess over SEO, and check our Google ranking via a number of search strings at least once a day. I think it paid off.)

Rafael said...

Ironically, public transit is what will keep traffic flowing on roads in built-up areas. Being pro-train does not imply being anti-car or anti-plane.

Each technology has its strengths and weaknesses and, they will be even more complementary once high oil prices leave us no choice but to switch to cars that get at least several tens of miles range solely on electricity drawn from the grid.

Railroads are inflexible, expensive to construct and expensive to maintain. However, they use little land, are clean, safe and don't need fancy batteries to cover intercity distances on grid electricity. In the 21st century, we're forced to make these trade-offs - motorized mobility isn't a birthright any longer, if it ever was.

timote said...

spokker -

I'm well aware of those docs and the site. I'm saying that the purpose of this blog could potentially move towards the implementation phase - it would be exciting to see progress, get the inside details, etc. The official word tends to be stale, as you mentioned, and overall communication poor. This blog has been a better source of information to date than the official news releases, etc.

bgfa said...

Robert, thank you very much for this blog. Your talking points were repeated by me everywhere I went. I am sure this blog had an effect getting this thing to pass. Congratulations.

jojo said...

@ Rafael-

Nice link! But I think this one is a little more appropriate for today ;)

arcady said...

Please do keep this site around, because the vote is really only the beginning. Now the HSRA has to actually design the thing, settle on a final alignment, work out ROW-sharing agreements with railroads and track-sharing regulations with the FRA, and of course get the matching funds from the feds and the private sector.

And to those who are talking of a stop at Santa Clara rather the San Jose Diridon, why would Rod Diridon even consider not running his train to his own Rod Diridon Station? That aside, Cahill St is a much better destination than Santa Clara, as it's already a terminal for Caltrain, ACE, and Capital Corridor, the Highway 17 bus to Santa Cruz, MST route 55 to Monterey, and all manner of local VTA transit including light rail, plus there's actually an increasing amount of housing and retail coming up around the station. Santa Clara station is much more isolated and has poor transit connections. The airport is not as important a destination as you might think for HSR, given that it's mostly served by Southwest, an HSR competitor. Serving SFO makes more sense though the current arrangement at Millbrae is really, really bad for getting to the airport from the station.

Brian said...

See you in 2014.

Rubber Toe said...

I would have to concur with Anonymous suggestion earlier that we stick to the matter at hand here and leave the Prop 8 discussion for their blog site.

After all, we wouldn't want them on their site to be discussing the merits of a high speed rail system, or would we...



Eric said...

I have to laugh at the opponents in San Mateo County that said everyone along the peninsula opposed this project. (i.e. Morris Brown and his cronies)

San Mateo County results showed:

61.2 voted Yes
38.8 voted No

Hmmmm, just shows the true colors of the "derail" group. I hope they build right through his backyard so I can wave as I go by!!!

Tony D. said...

I'm not quite ready to state a "narrow defeat" of Measure B/BART. But if it doesn't pass, it has more to do with the STUPID 2/3'rds majority requirement for a special tax: Prop. 1A (thankfully) only needed a simple majority. As for passage of Prop. 1A, along with Obama and majorities in both houses, I actually think BART to SJ is still realistic. The BART line from Fremont to SJ will in affect act as a feeder line to HSR for the East Bay (Oakland), Pelosi and company are ready to inject money into infrastructure projects for immediate jobs stimulus, and (again) the fact that an overwhelming majority (66%) wanted Measure B passed show strong support for BART in Silicon Valley. I read an article last week in the LA Times that stated the Red Line Metro would see a huge increase in passengers due to HSR at Union Station; the same could probably now be said for the BART to SJ line. Stay tuned!

sergey said...


Many thanks for your hard work in support of 1A! I was pessimistic of 1A chances in the current economic climate, but I’m very happy that I was wrong.

Now, if we could only change the Bay Area route to use Altamont pass...

Robert Cruickshank said...

timote and arcady, I am definitely going to keep the site open to focus on issues just like that. I started this blog primarily to advocate for the project - by the fall this site of necessity became a Yes on 1A blog, but it's not going anywhere.

I do plan to move to a unique URL and install a better software.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, by 2030, Disneyland tickets would be around $210 for those above 5. ;-)

Matthew Fedder said...

I've got to also add my thanks: I had been peeking in on the progress of the high speed train for a while, but this site is what really armed me with the numbers and the sources to allay the concerns of any of my friends (and of course to get my first letter to the editor published :)).

Thus informed, I know I swayed at least 5 people to vote for it, and informed another dozen or so about it in a positive light (most who probably would have been inclined towards it, but might have been easily scared off by the economic downturn or scare tactics of opposers).

Rafael said...

@ luis d -

afaik, any plans for a second transbay tube have been shelved for the time being. The most urgent bottleneck in the BART system is pedestrian flow capacity in the downtown SF stations during rush hour. Dwell times are extremely short and the BART architecture is very unforgiving if any one train suffers a delay because the platforms are overcrowded.

Part of the problem is that BART must share flow capacity with Muni Subway on the way up to the concourse level. Another is that Americans culture does not encourage orderly queueing and one-way circulation within rail cars, as is common in Japan.

It's not hard, just paint some stripes and arrows on the platform and declare the doors at the front of each car to be exits and those at the rear to be entrances by painting appropriate traffic signs on the cars.

I'd encourage a combination of these simple measures and mandatory seat reservation via SMS for California HSR as well. There's no reason not to recommend a specific spot on the platform where a passenger in car 4, seat 13B is supposed to wait for it if there's a crowd or they have bags they need to stow. Southwest already manages its boarding procedures in a similar fashion.

Trains can get going well before everyone sits down, there is no need for seat belts. However, they do get delayed if people cannot board because someone in front of them is blocking the aisle because they are stowing their stuff. If passengers board in exactly the right order, everyone keeps moving until everyone can deal with that at the same time. Not exactly rocket science, but for some reason some cultures are resistant to the idea.

Back to that second transbay tube: it would no good unless there is capacity to exploit the additional traffic at both ends. And that won't exist until the Caltrain downtown extension into the basement of the new Transbay Terminal exists.

At that point, running one over to Emeryville and up to Sacramento might be worth considering, though it would compete with freight trains out of Oakland harbor for real estate, especially between Richmond and Benicia. Those 55 million Californians in 2035 will ship and consume a lot more goods than the 37 million today.


A short tube by itself wouldn't be all that expensive, most of the cost is in what's on either end of it. This is why I think any new tube ought to veer north to Marin City. From there, new tracks along the 101 corridor to meet up with SMART in Larkspur.

There would have to be permanently anchored floating escape structures, one off Alcatraz and the other off Sausalito. These would be linked to the rail tubes via circular stairwells inside large vertical tubes leading to chambers anchored to the sea floor and accessible from the tracks. Permanent pontoon bridges would be used to reach dry land. Yes, I do see the irony of escaping to Alcatraz.

All of these parts would feature flexible but tight seals at either end to accommodate minor relative motions due to wave action or an earthquake. In theory, these emergency structures could even be tarted up to serve as the world's first underwater train stations - significant tourist attractions in their own right, especially if there are windows for observing the marine fauna.

Note that there are already plans to revive the old ROW between Novato and American Junction, albeit for freight traffic out of Santa Rosa and Mendocino county. Old spurs and ROWs exist to Sonoma, Napa and Vallejo. A private "wine train" operates in Napa Valley. SMART should be thought of as the foundation for standard-gauge trains connecting the North Bay counties to the Capitol Corridor, the CC freight lines to Stockton and Tracy and perhaps one day, San Francisco's new Transbay Terminal.

That would put some ferry operators out of business, but that may not be a bad thing. Trains are faster, clean and can't collide with ocean-going freighters.


My advice to anyone living in Costra County is to accept BART for what it is. Focus on making Concord attractive enough for businesses to move e.g. back office operations out of SF so demand is reduced and existing capacity better utilized in both directions.

Already, plans are afoot to turn the inland portion of the former Naval Weapons Station into a new transit oriented district served by North Concord BART. For the sake of argument, let's call it Diablo Creek, which runs through there.

The site includes a network of rail lines connecting two types of munitions storage facilities to the port, which the Navy turned over to the Army. Inland, there's an array of structures for long-term storage and shielded rail spurs for short-term buffering. Both feature extremely thick rebar concrete, for obvious reasons.

Such structures are, by design, virtually indestructible, cp. this anti-aircraft tower in Vienna's Augarten park, Austria courtesy of the Nazis. It's a horrible eyesore but attempts to tear it down with explosives failed. Elsewhere in the city, a similar structure was repurposed to house an aquarium.

I'd recommend this second approach for Diablo Creek. Those bunkers would be a great place to store arrays of superflywheels for storing energy recuperated from BART trains or simply as a giant ride-through buffer for the state's electricity grid. Alternatively, they could be used to house university lab spaces or green tech start-ups.

West of the BART station lies Buchanan Field, which is now only used for general aviation. Those planes could be moved to Byron or Stockton. Shut that down and build a second, larger transit-oriented new district there. Let's call that Buchanan. It could be tied in by buses running between Martinez Amtrak and the North and downtown Concord BART stations. Both districts would also be close to highway 4.

BART has plans to extend service to Byron near the eastern border of CC county. For obvious reasons, it would make sense to extend that to Tracy and either of the future HSR stations in Modesto and Stockton.

However, extending the BART line east of Pittsburg/Bay Point would be expensive because the median in highway 4 disappears there. To keep the cost down, eBART would use standard-gauge clean DMU trains, similar to NCTD Breeze and now, SMART.

My guess is BART intends to leverage the existing track bed that run from right next to North Concord BART station under the freeway and join up with the main freight lines inside what is now the Army facility. Amtrak San Joaquins already run through there.

Reluctant Motorist said...

This was a fantastic election for bay area transit. 1A and Q both pass, Berkley’s KK goes down, and, perhaps most importantly, measure B went down in the south bay. As happy as I am that 1A passed, I am just as happy that Bay Area residents are one step further away from getting fleeced out of $6 billion.

On a related note, I have not made my peace with the Pacheco alignment. There have previously been calls for transit advocates and environmentalists to get behind this project so that it would be successful at the polls. Now that the prop has passed, these same people should do what they can to make sure they get the most out of their $10 billion bond.

Anonymous said...

This may be an odd question to ask at this time but when will the initial SF-LA segment be operational?

Rafael said...

@ reluctant motorist -

I can't speak for anyone else, but I for one consider Altamont Pass via the South Bay - pretty much the only affordable option Silicon Valley interests would even consider - strictly a contingency plan at this point. Voters endorsed not just HSR but a specific route for it. That needs to be respected, unless there is a broad consensus that it can't be implemented or, that an alternative would be better for the state and good enough for those who would lose out. That consensus does not exist today and you can't build one with lawsuits.

Measure B has very narrowly missed a 2/3 majority, which means the BART extension is currently unaffordable. The incoming administration may decide revisit an earlier decision to waive federal cost/benefit thresholds for contributions to infrastructure projects, which Mike Honda apparently finagled. HSR requires a huge federal earmark and voters did approve it. It will take a little while for SJ city officials and Measure B proponents to come to terms with this.

Between prop 1A and Measure R in LA county, local transit in the Bay Area has become actual rather than potential HSR feeder infrastructure for planning purposes. That means officials need a solution to chronic congestion I-880 and Sunol Grade that is not just effective at the local level but also preferable at the regional and state level.

They must now think well beyond their city and county boundaries and, factor in the aggregate financial impact of multiple concurrent mega-projects on the electorate. Voters are apparently willing to open their wallets wide to invest in transit, but not at any price.

Rafael said...

@ anon -

CHSRA has indicated it intends to break ground in 2012 and have the first trains running in the 2018-2020 timeframe. The phase II spurs would be completed before 2030. Of course, all that was before the financial crisis hit and the project took on a deficit spending role. The Authority said it would deliver an updated business plan 45 days after California passed a budget to fund that effort. That means its due on Monday. A majority of voters accepted that logic and ignored complaints that AB3034 mandated delivery well before the election.

The timeline includes a number of assumptions, notably that NIMBY lawsuits can be dealt with quickly because the Authority has executed a protracted EIR/EIS process and California voters have explicitly endorsed that.

This being California, such litigation is probably the single biggest risk wrt to the timeline and construction cost. Considering the scale and complexity of this and related rail projects, it would not be unreasonable to set up a special court for them.

Anonymous said...

So *my* guess is that of the initial SF-SJ-Gilroy-Fresno-Bakersfield-Palmdale-LA-Anaheim line, the first funding will actually go to SF-SJ. CAHSR needs to coordinate closely with Caltrain, and Caltrain is in an advanced state of project development already. Plus, Caltrain's doing a lot of the heavy lifting for getting modern lightweight equipment approved by the FRA. The second pot of money will probably go to coordinate with and build Metrolink and Amtrak improvements from LA to Palmdale. Of the "feeder line" improvements ready to go, these are the ones which are *also* part of the HSR route and can share civil engineering work.

Railroad, landowner, and environmental negotiations will slow down the progress of the Central Valley portion. I expect that the first part to actually get built will be civil engineering work on the LA-Palmdale route, because the preliminary engineering has gone a long way already and the political problems in assembling the ROW are minimal.

The first train to actually *run* will probably be on the Central Valley test track (once the ROW is settled). But the first high-speed train in *revenue* service could be SF-SJ, SJ-Bakersfield, or Fresno-LA -- depending on which of the subsections progress fastest.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Yes, when will ground be broken? Are there any indications embedded in reports or comments from Kopp?

Imo, I suspect doing something ceremonial is ncessary within the next year; like a ground breaking. Maybe it would be for a maintenance building?

Rafael said...

@ anon -

sounds about right, but there is nothing in AB3034 that says CHSRA can only build one segment at a time. If the necessary prep work is done and the ROW plus matching funds are secured, the legislature can choose to appropriate a fraction of the bond to chip in on multiple parallel efforts.

Appropriations from this bond are annual, so the legislature can decide how fast it wants to proceed based on the general fund's ability to take on additional debt service at the rate CHSRA proposes that year.

In practice, that could hold the project hostage to the state's notorious delays in getting a budget passed. CHSRA needs to anticipate these delays and also submit its proposal for early consideration to avoid cost escalations and opportunity costs. I'm sure there are legal ways to pass a portion of the budget early and the rest at a later date if legislators want to handle the process that way.

However, the biggest problem is that the state's constitution requires a 2/3 supermajority to pass a budget, which is supposed to be balanced. That means no one party is ever solely responsible for matching spending to tax revenue, so legislators aren't held to account at elections.

It doesn't help that some 80% - perhaps more - of discretionary spending is decided via ballot initiatives. Other countries manage to get HSR built without a specific referendum.

Ironically, ballot amendments to the state constitution can pass with a simple majority - which is why it happens so ofte. To get a handle on the situation, constitutional changes should require a supermajority and the budget process a simple one.

How would the state make that happen? Via the last-ever constitutional amendment initiative to require a simple majority. First, though, the legal status of same-sex couples who got married prior to Nov 4 needs to be resolved. I just hope the state doesn't declare bankruptcy first.

MIchael Kiesling said...

Thanks for the nod. Glad this thing got passed and we get to show the country that real high speed rail can happen.

It promises to be an exciting next few years for Caltrain, which now has about 40 grade separation projects to look forward to, construction all along the line. I suspect that we'll see some sort of early action between Fresno and Bakersfield, for the "test track. I'm also very hopeful that the Federal dollars will flow for the project. LAUS run-through tracks would be a great start, along with closing the funding gap for the Caltrain extension to Transbay Terminal.

Tony D. said...

Rafael 5:57,
No one has proclaimed Measure B/Santa Clara County as going down to defeat; 164,000 votes still needed to be tallied (as of 11/5). It aint over until it's over!! "Voters are apparently willing to open their wallets wide to invest in transit, but not at any price." I assume you were making reference to Measure B. Again, the idiocy of the 2/3 supermajority to pass special taxes, and to get a budget passed in California for that matter (you made reference to this above at 7:33)! 66.27% voting in favor of Measure B MAY NOT be enough to pass a 1/8 cent sales tax hike, but it shows extremely strong support in Santa Clara County to get BART service to SJ/SC. Silicon Valley leaders, both local and in Washington, will see this as a sign of strong support. Could the remaining $790 million for BART be part of a Democratic infrastructure stimulus package? As many have stated here, if the French TGV can subsidize local train service feeding into the main system, why not a scenario where CA HSR subsidizes BART maintenance/operations into Silicon Valley. Again, it's not over for Measure B/Santa Clara County, but our transit leaders may have to start thinking outside the box to get BART to SJ.

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks to Robert! and all you experts and knowledgeable enthusiasts who helped debunk the false arguments of the last six months, and the bitter "didn't do it my way" opponents, and the legitimate worries provoked by the economic shudders of the last two months, and the explication of benefits and costs...... Absolutely essential to keeping the focus on the real issues and not letting stuff spiral out of proportion and reason....

xdnation said...

WHOO!!!! We won!

Thanks for all your hard work!

bcooley said...

This is not a conservative vs. progressive issue. After having lived overseas for several years and having had the chance to use high speed rail, it's simply the most convenient and best way to travel to nearby cities.

When the system is up and running, Californians will realize that it's just altogether cheaper and easier to take the high speed train between LA and San Francisco than to either drive or fly.

Hooray for high speed rail! Congratulations!

bossyman15 said...

We won! yes!

now let's see those updated plan...

Nov 8th right?

Rafael said...

@ brandon -

breaking ground can't happen until the project-level EIR/EIS for that segment is approved by the FRA, matching funds are secured, a complete project management plan is available and, the legislature actually appropriates the state's share of the funding and the bonds are actually sold.

In the immediate future, the focus will be on acquiring ROW and securing that all-important "rule of special applicability" from the FRA so the whole can be based on proven off-the-shelf products obtained in competitive tenders.

In parallel, project-level EIR/EIS processes have to be conducted. Cities and counties will want a say on each and every grade crossing, station architecture etc. many will try to tackle long-standing local issues at the same time. For example, Fresno wants to shoehorn UPRR, BNSF, HSR and Amtrak San Joaquin into the UPRR corridor, which is 100' wide.

HSR needs two dedicated tracks spaced quite far apart to avoid blowing out windows on express trains passing at relative speeds of 440mph, this is a tougher proposition than sharing the Caltrain ROW, where the speed limit will be more like 100-125mph.

That would mean UPRR would have to let both rival BNSF and Amtrak use its freight tracks - which might need to be moved - for a fee. For safety and fair competition, UPRR would have abide by ground rules on dispatch authority or hand it over to a third party (cp. Alameda corridor).

Moreover, legal liability issues related to running HSR trains at 220mph on adjacent tracks would need to be addressed. What if a freight or Amtrak train derails and fouls adjacent track(s)?

It would be an extremely rare event, but after 146 years of railroad operations, it's probably happened to UPRR before. Given that HSR trains will run at up to 220mph in the Central Valley, such an incident would have to be detected and communicated immediately to the HSR dispatch computers to minimize the risk of a potentially catastrophic follow-on accident.

It takes several miles of track and advanced brake technology to slow 400 metric tons of train mass from one football field per second to zero. In 40 years of HSR operations, this particular horror scenario has never ever happened, but a 16-car French duplex TGV has 1090 seats and SNCF achieves average occupancy rates of 75%.

More prosaically, there's still the issue of removing the debris as quickly as possible. With HSR, it doesn't take long for a queue of stopped trains to form. Would the HSR operator hold the freight operator liable for lost revenue? What about the even more reverse scenario?

Livestock or wildlife wandering onto the tracks and acts of sabotage/terrorism against them require additional safety measures such as sturdy fences and CCTV surveillance. These ghastly hypotheticals need to be thought through, especially in the context of express trains running through the downtown areas of Central Valley cities at 220mph.

Within a section of to either side of Fresno station, HSR will require at least four tracks to support a mix of express and slower semi-express and local trains. Trains need to slow down well ahead of of negotiating a wye to avoid damaging it.

The upshot is that a long section of the ROW in the built-up downtown area would either have to be widened to also accommodate the freight tracks or, the dual HSR tracks would have to be elevated well ahead of the wyes near the station. The freight tracks would then run - without elevation change - underneath the elevated station. However, they too would fan out into four tracks so freight trains can pass Amtrak passenger trains that need to stop at the station.

The simplest station configuration would be separate platforms for each direction, connected by pedestrian over- or underpasses. Note that HSR platforms need to support train lengths of up to 1320', about four football fields. Pedestrian flow capacity can be a significant issue, especially if there is a major sports or other event attracting large numbers of passengers from another city.

If full-length trains will not be used initially, the land required for future platform extension and the associated flow infrastructure still needs to be reserved from the outset.

And if all of that breaks the bank, the alternative is an also expensive freight bypass corridor around the city. However, since FRA won't let non-compliant HSR trains with compliant Amtrak San Joaquins, that precludes their use as connecting transit to the many smaller Central Valley towns where HSR trains won't stop.

Elsewhere in the Central Valley, the mostly single-track BNSF alignment to the east is supposed to remain in use and continue hosting Amtrak trains and stations at the edge of town. In other words, they already have their bypass.

So far, Fresno is the only Central Valley town pursuing a shoehorn strategy through its downtown area.

All of this is supposed to illustrate why breaking ground real soon now isn't possible. The ducks aren't in a row yet. What might be possible soon is a marketing event in which train manufacturers show off scale models and mock-up sections of their products and architects models of the proposed stations to the general public.

Now that they are on the hook for a cool $10 billion, voters will probably take greater interest in what exactly that money will buy. They will also want to educate themselves about safety, noise, construction impact and schedule and how exactly California's disparate passenger rail and bus services will work in unison.

Separately, questions on walking distances, timetables, fare structures, ticketing, bicycles, WiFi etc. need to be answered to give voters confidence that the investment will be worth it. Many probably voted based on an incomplete understanding of the project.

Planners often don't focus on the devil in the details of the customer experience, but they make a big difference in customer satisfaction and ridership. Case in point: getting from say, Palo Alto to the check-in counters at SFO currently requires getting to the Caltrain station, buying a ticket, waiting for the train, riding it to Millbrae, buying a BART ticket, waiting for the train, riding it to San Bruno, transferring to a waiting train, riding it to SFO, waiting for the courtesy AirTrain, riding that to the terminal and walking down to check-in. What a pain, especially if you have suitcases and a kid in tow.

Would that get any easier with HSR instead of Caltrain? Could you buy an electronic ticket for the flight, HSR train and the shuttle in-between?

Could you obtain your boarding pass and check your bags in Fresno and pick them up at your destination airport? How about the return trip?

Could you get on the train in Fresno, obtain your boarding pass and baggage labels while the train is moving to cut your total travel time, drop off the bags at Millbrae and proceed directly to security at the airport?

Rafael said...

@ tony d -

oh, I didn't know they hadn't counted all of the votes yet. I saw that 100% of precincts had reported and took that to mean the result was final. Is there a recount in progress?

If Measure B does pass, even by a whisker, plan A goes into effect: BART to San Jose plus HSR via Pacheco Pass. Not my personal favorite, but the outcome of an election is the outcome. Any word on how soon we might expect the official final tally?

bossyman15 said...

mmm all that sounds good tho some of them may not be possible like getting the plane pass and bag label while in the train.

they should be careful not to go overboard and try to give so much serives and options. they should start small, not too small, like have just have wifi in the train.

later once the ridership picks up they could add more services like what you said.

bossyman15 said...

oh and if the ridership gets so high like during rush hour. they could add double deck car like what japan have.

Rafael said...

@ bossyman15 -

SNCF deploys TGV Duplex trains on the busy Paris-Lyon route. Note the location of the Jacobs trucks in-between the relatively short but wide cars (except power cars at either end). Alstom calls this "rame articulee" (articulated frame) and uses it for all its designs.

The feature is credited with keeping cars from jackknifing or toppling over after a freak sinkhole caused a derailment at 182mph involving a single-level TGV in 1993. One person was slightly injured. That's why I prefer the French designs to the Siemens Velaro, even though the latter is prettier and reportedly has the nicest interior on the market. Siemens does not offer a bi-level version.

A full-length TGV Duplex trainset offers up to 545 seats, about as many as an Airbus A380. Some trains feature two trainsets.

Top speed for the TGV Duplex is 186mph but SNCF is collaborating with Alstom on an update. Most likely, it will be a derivative of the new single-level AGV, a true EMU design rated at 100m/s (224mph) that supports a maximum of 650 seats in a 14 car configuration. If so, the duplex variant would have about 1200 because the stairwells take up some room. Still, that's equivalent to 4-5 short hop planes.

Spanish manufacturer Talgo goes one further than Alstom and makes do with a single axle in-between its cars to minimize mass. A passive steering mechanism ensures each axle always remains perpendicular to the tracks, so there's absolutely no screeching in bends. The Talgo 350 is certified for top speeds of 217mph and features a rather ungainly duckbill nose. Talgo doesn't offer a bilevel model.

The much heavier and slower 700 series shinkansen, the faster 700T in Taiwan and the slower bi-level E4MAX shinkansen also feature striking nose designs.

Arguably the sexiest high speed train design is the 500 series shinkansen on the right with a top speed of 186mph. Only a small number were built because the 700 on the left is cheaper.

Rafael said...

SJ Mercury reports that officials would consider extending BART extension only as far as East San Jose as a Phase I if Measure B does fail and defer the expensive tunnel under E. Santa Clara until funds for phase II can be found.

A partial implementation would supposedly attract 50,000 riders per day, half of the original proposal. The primary purpose of the extension is supposedly relief for rush-hour congestion on I-880.

BART estimates the cost of the Warm Springs portion of the extension at $890 million for 5.4 miles of new grade-separated tracks + third rail + grade separations (except Paseo Padre) + subway section under Central Park and the active portion of the SPML freight line + station building. Not sure if there would be a parking lot.


Just for reference, CHSRA estimated the construction cost of HSR tracks + overhead catenaries + signaling + grade separations from SJ Diridon to Niles via the I-880 median and WPML at $1.7 billion for roughly 11 miles. Source (see alternatives 4, 6 and 7).

The Caltrain Metro East proposal would use standard gauge EMU rolling stock and overhead catenaries to connect SJ Diridon, the SJC terminals and Niles via a new aerial alignment along Trimble Road, which was also considered by CHSRA. Price tag $1.5 billion incl. at least one new station at the airport. Of course, this alignment serves the golden triangle rather than downtown SJ.

Conclusion: the infrastructure costs per mile aren't all that different for the three systems, as long as most of the tracks are mostly above ground. An aerial structure over Santa Clara St. would cost a lot less than a tunnel underneath it.

The trick is keeping it from looking really ugly. You'd want to spend a little extra to make it look elegant rather than utilitarian. Santiago Calatrava is an architect and civil engineer who knows how to make concrete structures look lithe.

Between SJ Diridon and 13th St, it could be supported by columns in the median if the left turn lanes there are shortened or sacrificed. Between the columns, the median would be converted to a vegetation strip with a high concave curb. Additional protection for the lower part of the columns would be recommended.

Between 13th and 24th Streets, the median disappears and one of the traffic lanes would have to be sacrificed to make room for the columns supporting the train tracks. That would leave one lane in each direction plus one that could be used for traffic westbound in the morning and eastbound after noon. There's also an old bridge to contend with but it could probably be left alone.

If special BART rolling stock equipped with both pantographs and third rail pickups is deployed, the entire section between east SJ and Fremont Irvington could be implemented at grade with grade crossings for most cross roads. Four-quadrant gates and flashing lights would suffice to turn it into an FRA quiet zone. This would eliminate a lot of underpass projects. The trains would switch back and forth between third rail and overhead catenary on-the-fly, coasting briefly.


Alternatively, the whole thing could be turned into a Caltrain extension based on 25kV AC overhead catenaries throughout. The operational advantage would be high-capacity bi-level EMU rolling stock, so the gates on the grade crossings wouldn't have to close as often. Caltrain service would terminate at Fremont Irvington. BART would be extended only that far and passengers would transfer trains to reach downtown SJ or continue north along the peninsula.

Caltrain service south of San Jose would be replaced by an extension of Amtrak Capitol Corridor to Gilroy for selected trains.

Caltrain's computer simulations indicated crashworthiness in grade crossing accidents equal or superior to the FRA-compliant alternative and received positive feedback from FRA. That will be a moot point along the peninsula now that prop 1A has passed, but a waiver would still be needed to avoid full grade separation in the East Bay section of the solution described above.

Non-compliant EMU equipment would also be crash compatible with non-compliant HSR trains, facilitating FRA rulemaking for HSR. Operators would share the Caltrain extension tunnel to the new Transbay Terminal.


Heads up:

CHSRA readies action plan - which sounds more like "Jumping Jack Flash" than "updated business plan" to me. We'll see.

Sen. Feinstein says she will appropriate an unspecified fraction of the $1.5 billion in HSR funds in HR 2095 to the California system, since it's currently the only concrete proposal in the nation. Your tax dollars at work.