Thursday, November 6, 2008

Next Steps

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

Now that we have won the fight for Proposition 1A, we need to start thinking about our next steps. This blog isn't going anywhere - I founded it in March to promote the project. Of necessity it became a pro-Prop 1A site (and before that we spent a lot of time on AB 3034), but Tuesday's victory does not mean we're going to close up shop. Far from it.

Prop 1A was the beginning. To ensure that we follow through and build this project - and build it right - an independent, grassroots movement is going to be needed. The HSR deniers have been defeated but they aren't likely to go away, and will continue to try and kill this project through other means.

Over the next few months and even years, here are some of the issues we will be focusing on to ensure that our SUPERTRAIN gets built right. Can't wait to share a bottle of champagne or three with all of you on the first train, but we still have a lot of work to do to get there.

1. Defend High Speed Rail. California isn't the first state to approve a high speed rail project. In 1991 Texas gave a franchise to a consortium to build an HSR system linking the "triangle" (Houston-DFW-San Antonio), only to see the project canceled in 1994 after heavy lobbying by Southwest Airlines. In 2000 Florida voters approved an HSR project concept but in 2004 under Jeb Bush's leadership they killed the project.

The same thing could happen here. The HSR deniers showed their willingness to distort facts and even lie to try and kill HSR. They had some powerful allies in the state legislature. Roy Ashburn may be on his way out, but we cannot rest on our laurels. Defending the high speed rail project and ensuring that the will of the voters is respected must be our top priority. Especially over the next few months and years when hard decisions will have to be made about financing, engineering, and other aspects of the project.

2. Secure Federal Funding. If we're going to build this we need to make sure that the promises of federal support materialize. As I have consistently argued, we have every reason to believe that they will, especially now that we have an HSR White House in the form of President Barack Obama and VP Joe Biden. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Dianne Feinstein came to California last week to stump for Prop 1A and now we need to ensure they hold up their end of the deal. (Note: just after I posted this I saw that Dianne Feinstein is planning to direct money our way out of a recent $1.5 billion HSR starter bill approved in Congress earlier this year.)

We'll need to get started on this in January 2009 and lobby the Congress and the White House to provide funding to the California High Speed Rail project. Once we put steel in the ground the HSR deniers are going to have an extremely difficult time killing the project.

3. Watchdog the Implementation Process. There are a lot of decisions made about this project in the next few years that will be essential to its overall success, from technology to engineering to routing. Some station locations have yet to be finalized, and some cities are still debating how the tracks will be laid. We have a lot of very smart, very experienced people here on the blog familiar with trains and high speed projects. We can and we will watch over the entire HSR process to make sure the best system is built and operated for the benefit of all Californians.

4. Fight the Lawsuits. As rafael has correctly reminded us, big projects like this attract lawsuits like moths to a flame. These lawsuits can delay construction and drive up the costs. We will have to provide some public pushback against frivolous lawsuits, such as those already filed. We're not a legal team, of course, but lawsuits on big public works projects are as much about politics and PR as they are about the courtroom.

5. Communicate With the Public. For all of the above to succeed we will need to keep the public informed. The HSR deniers have shown themselves to be skilled at flooding the media with misinformation, playing on Californians' unfamiliarity with large-scale passenger rail projects. Our task is to counter that by providing accurate information to the public as best we can. We'll continue to ramp up our media outreach, including op-eds and LTEs. Our communications work hasn't ended with Prop 1A's passage, not by a longshot.

6. Boost Other Passenger Rail. For HSR to be a success in California it will need to be integrated effectively with other passenger rail systems, whether it's commuter rail like Caltrain and Metrolink, urban rail like VTA light rail and LA Metro Rail, or other intercity rail like Amtrak California. We can and should support those projects.

We should also work to ensure that as much of that $950 million in Prop 1A gets delivered to non-HSR passenger rail as quickly as possible. This will boost public support for HSR and for passenger rail itself, especially if we can provide service where none or little currently exists. Here I am specifically thinking of the proposed Coast Daylight service between SF and LA via the Coast route (Salinas, SLO, Santa Barbara). Projects like that which are ready to go pending funding can help boost ridership and familiarity with intercity rail, thereby solidifying public support for HSR as well.

7. Improve the Blog. I started this site on Blogger in March because I am primarily a writer and a strategist, not a web designer. I needed something quick and simple. This blog has been functional enough, but sometimes not as robust as needed. I'd especially like to make folks have to pick a username before posting, be able to provide "there's more" (some of my posts can get kinda long) and track IPs. Plus CMS like WordPress or Textpattern can provide better layout, design, readability.

The one drawback is this website already has a badass SEO (search engine optimization). We're #2 on a Google search for "california high speed rail" and #5 for "high speed rail". Going to a unique URL will cause us to lose that temporarily, but I'm sure we can find a way to rebuild it.

The one thing I can't improve is the quality of discussion. You guys are the best. When I started the site I figured it would basically be an annex of Calitics and maybe get some comments of its own. But the site has come into its own. Now we have many excellent commenters and, as I've come to discover in the last few days, a lot of readers around the state and in the transit community.

Progressive organizing is only as good as the quality of the interactions within the movement. This site is nothing without you all. I look forward to continuing to support, build, and eventually ride California High Speed Rail with you.


AMRivlin said...


Matt said...

I have a question as to the impacts of possible lawsuits. It seems to me that HSR opponents could file lawsuits to cause construction delays and to drain money, which may help them erode public support. They could turn to the public and say "See, we told you it would never come in on time and on budget." How realistic is that scenario? Could lawsuits drain a sizable portion (say several percent) of HSR funds?

Matthew Melzer said...

Already some of the press have ignored the $995 million that will go towards improving the existing system. While all of your points are spot on, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of furthering public familiarization with the concept of passenger trains and getting more people riding the existing system and clamoring for more transportation options. Amtrak ridership is at record levels across the state (not to mention the country) and we need to build on that.

As I said yesterday, the heavy lifting has only just begun! But I'm feeling very good about our prospects.

Loren said...

A potentially serious problem is what to get done first -- this will be a massive project, and it would be convenient if some parts of it could be gotten into a usable state as construction continues on other parts. What might be a minimum sort of system?

San Jose - Bakersfield

One would then open segments as one builds them:

San Jose - SFO - downtown SF

Bakersfield - Palmdale - LA - Irvine

Anonymous said...

When would you expect the bidding for the train to start? Which are the top companies and which are your favorites? I am a newbie and just saw a post about the 500 series Shinkansen...gorgeous.

I encouraged 20 people I know to vote yes on 1A and R.

What system would be the least expensive but at the same time provide the speed of 220 that is expected?

Dennis Lytton said...

Thanks for your "next steps" on the advocacy for this project.

Of particular interest is the majority yes votes of Kern, Madera, and Fresno Counties. These are conservative counties that wouldn't normally vote yes for a measure like this. They voted yes because of the tremendous benefit it would give them.

We owe them good advocacy. And also resist calls for the bakanization of the system (A SF to SJ and Palmdale to Curt Pringle Anaheim Station) with no connection.

Dennis Lytton

Anonymous said...

My 8-year-old daughter is THRILLED TO DEATH about 1A's passage. She knows it won't be built until she is 18 or so, but she already made me promise her that we would ride it as soon as it was done. She's asking me how old you have to be to become an engineer (the infrastructure-building kind, not the train-driving kind) and telling me her ideas for making a train that goes EVEN FASTER.

It's funny because this is the hook that engaged her in politics. When she heard that we could vote to build a high speed rail system, and that McCain was against Amtrak, finally it all clicked together for her why politics matters, even when you're 8.

And as soon as the Coast Daylight is running, we're buying tickets.

Anonymous said...

I was excited to see that measure Q in Marin/Sonoma passed as well. What are the plans to tie that line in with the main Amtrak routes, given that it ends at Larkspur?

Rubber Toe said...

Concerning lawsuits. It is one thing to sit on your sofa and post negative stories to this blog or even writing the local newspaper to try and convince people that HSR isn't worth doing, or that it will be too expensive.

It is entirely another matter to go out and start legal action against the authority. That requires lawyers, who like getting paid well to do their work. The 1991 effort that Robert mentioned was primarily opposed by Southwest Airlines. At the time airlines were actually making money, so they had some deep pockets to fund their legal opposition to the project. Lobbying was also one of their strategies, but that takes money too. I think the current climate would not be as supportive of an airline backed effort to stop the CAHSR system. People want choices. And, HSR is much more environmentally friendly than air travel. That wasn't the case in 1991, and nothing can change that as planes need jet fuel to fly.

In any case, for the sofa sitting nay-sayers to go out and hire lawyers to try and stop the system and go up against the authority that now has some pretty deep pockets seems possible but somewhat unlikely. Unless they thought that there was a way that they could get tremendous "bang for the buck" and with a single lawsuit set the process back several years I don't see them making a concerted effort over time.

Now, if there was a commercial entity (i.e. airline) that had deeper pockets and wanted to make trouble that is another story. But the 1A proposition showed that there isn't much unified opposition to the system. The airlines stand to take the biggest hit, but they are just trying to stay solvent right now, let alone spending millions on lawyers to fight a system that won't break ground for several years. In Europe the airlines are now not even competing with HSR. They have essentially conceded the short haul to the trains and focus on the more profitable long haul routes. This would likely happen here in California, especially when oil prices start their inevitable climb back up.

If the railroads that don't want to share right of way or some other corporation decides to start throwing legal roadblocks into the HSR plans, then a coordinated public relations campaign against such entity could prove useful. The internet has shown that it is fairly easy to get a group of people together in either support or opposition to a cause. Plus, with the President, the Governor, both Senators, plus the populace on your side, who in their right mind is going to try and derail that?

They just have to get the business plan right, no screw ups, and start building it. I can see the Feds kicking in money, I think the hard part will be the private end of the financing. We will see when the business plan comes out Friday.


Spokker said...

Is it really true that the city of Menlo Park voted in favor of 1A?

Spokker said...

Check out the San Mateo County election site here.

Click on "View Google Maps".

Find Menlo Park. Click around on the Menlo Park precincts, especially the ones that are right next to the tracks.

You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Here's a comment from someone who actually counted them up.

"The Almanac might also want to confirm the results for the Menlo Park 1A vote. My count (using the San Mateo County website numbers for precincts 4401 - 4430) gives: Yes 6049 No 4424. This means Menlo Park voters approve the measure by over 1500 votes, or roughly a percentage of 58% to 42%."

It sounds like the Menlo Park City Council isn't quite in touch with their residents.

"Atherton Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen, who just won re-election to a third term, said that it's in Atherton's best interests to continue with the lawsuit. "It means they have to listen to us," she said."

Continuing the lawsuit is going against the wishes of the community, actually. The Authority will listen to you with or without the lawsuit. In fact a lawsuit only exacerbates the situation. At least in the short-term, the lawsuit should be dropped. It's time to unite and work together on this.

Loren said...

As to the proposed Sonoma-Marin line, one could use existing rail lines from Novato to Fairfield, or else one could cross the Richmond - San Rafael bridge to the Richmond Amtrak station.

I've been unable to find out about the Menlo Park vote, but I've found a nice interactive map by the Los Angeles Times. You can see in it which areas had what level of support for it.

Not surprisingly, the Bay Area and Los Angeles County supported it, but Orange, San Diego, and Sacramento Counties opposed it. Central Valley counties were a mixed bag, and the largest fractional opposition was at the north end of the state. The largest fractional support was in San Francisco, at nearly 80%, while the rest of the Bay Area had 60-65% support. Los Angeles was less at 55% support.

Spokker said...

I guess Martin Engel's influence only spread as far as his precinct. His voted this way.

NO - 289
YES - 119

It was one of few in San Mateo County, and even Menlo Park, that voted no on the measure.

Yeson1A said...

Well googling for HSR news I came across an LA Times article about the win and wants next..Guess what they had a quote from Martin about some "Sword of something" hanging our the taxpayers head to get this done!!! See Monsters and whinners cant be rid of that easy!!!!

Tony D. said...

Been going over every European system over at Wikipedia: French TGV, Eurostar, etc. Excited over our system is an understatement.

Question Robert: I'm really interested in the transit-oriented development aspect of the HSR system (especially Diridon Station). When can we expect concrete plans, as well as renderings, for the stations along the HSR line? Can't wait for our version of St. Pancras International! By the way, where have all the naysayers and trash-talking anon's gone...oh, who cares!

Rafael said...

@ matt -

I can think of three classes of lawsuits against a project like this:

1) fundamental objections to how the EIR/EIS process was executed, resulting in what the plaintiff considers decisions or omissions that harm the public interest.

A typical plaintiff would be a subject matter expert from an NGO pushing a particular policy agenda through the court system. Example: TRANSDEF

2) opposition to the exercise of eminent domain against the plaintiff or lesser actions the plaintiff believes will reduce the value of his property.

A typical plaintiff would be a homeowner or business, in some cases a railroad. Example: NIMBYs

3) fundamental opposition to the merit of the project as a whole, based on commercial interests or ideology. The MO is to cripple a project on fair competition grounds or else, to tie in up in court and rad tape until it is no longer viable. Lobbying legislators to deny appropriations to the project is another avenue of attack.

A typical plaintiff would be a corporation or a think tank fronting for an industry. Example: Southwest vs. Texas Triangle HSR

@ matthew melzer -

thx for your work on prop 1A. Wrt to your comment, the amount reserved for HSR feeders is $950 million, not $995 million.

Just as important as getting people into the habit of riding trains at all is getting them to used to the concept of transfer points. Connecting flights are common enough, but on the ground many are used to the convenience of driving from A to B without having to change vehicles.

A third is to push aggressively for reliable broadband internet access, preferably terrestrial rather than satellite-based. This is especially valuable on slow Amtrak trains that are often delayed by freight traffic. If you can be productive in transit, time to destination is less critical because it is not wasted sitting behind the wheel. People need to grasp that driving time is an opportunity cost.

@ loren -

at this early stage, the main focus will be on securing matching funds, acquiring the entire ROW and, securing an FRA director who doesn't prioritize freight over passenger rail.

The engineering priorities will be tunneling because that takes the longest to complete and, laying down a long flat segment to support vendor qualification for the equipment tender which needs to happen early. There's been talk of a central maintenance facility at Castle Airport in Atwater. Some scale models will be tested to verify vendor claims regarding aerodynamic performance.

Finally, the details of how grade separation and environmental impact mitigation will be executed and paid for need to be nailed down. This requires a deft touch, because mayors generally resist pressures to close grade crossings and re-route traffic to a limited number of over- or underpasses. Trenches and tunnels are much more expensive than raised berms, but small towns cannot afford to fund the delta yet perceive berms as ugly. The reverse is also common: a small town that wants a stop to put itself on the map.

Critical sections include the Caltrain corridor, downtown Fresno, San Fernando Valley, run-through tracks for LA Union Station and the narrow mixed traffic LOSSAN corridor.

@ anon @ 8:50am -

vendor selection usually has to happen very early on because there are no open standards for in-cab signaling protocols, the catenary interface, track geometry tolerances etc. Alstom and Siemens recently addressed interoperability, so now there are TGV Est and ICE3 trains jointly delivering service on a cross-border route. In 2010, the EU rail market will be opened up to competition.

The Siemens Velaro is widely considered to have the nicest interior of the products on the market today. The outside looks quite nice, too. The model is certified to run at 350kph (220mph) in commercial operation. Ultimate speed was clocked at 403kph.

Alstom's AGV is the successor to the TGV. Both feature articulated frames, which have been credited with keeping a train that suffered a freak derailment at 182mph in 1993 from jackknifing or toppling over. A tracks had been built over a previously unidentified WWI trench that had been filled with earth. Heavy rains washed it out and created a 4'x7' sinkhole that suddenly collapsed under the weight of the tractor car. Another train had passed the same location just 10 minutes earlier without incident. One person was slightly hurt.

Talgo 350 trains are only running in Spain so far, but RENFE sources its standard-gauge HSR track designs from Alstom. The Japanese have their own standards, which may be harder to integrate with those of the European vendors. The 500 series is indeed a looker, but it is very expensive. Only a small fleet was purchased before the rather homely but cheaper 700 series became available.

Only the Kawasaki/Hitachi 700T in Taiwan is currently certified to operate at 220mph, in Japan top speeds range from 150-186mph. That's a function of track capacity and noise constraints, not engineering prowess. The Japanese also have by far the most experience in designing systems in seismically active zones. CHSRA has already identified alignments that cross the Garlock and San Andreas faults at grade, but the Calaveras fault will be crossed in a short tunnel at Pacheco Pass.

Alstom offers a bi-level version of the TGV rated at a top speed of 186mph. They appear to be working on a faster bi-level model, quite possibly based on the underpinnings of the AGV. The Japanese E4MAX series is also a bi-level design but is kept to 135mph.

@ anon @ 9:56 -

while SMART owns the ROW, there will also be some freight traffic from Mendocino county to Novato. The freight operator, a local outfit, owns the old ROW from Novato to American Canyon. Apparently here's a good chance it will be re-activated. A trackage agreement for SMART and/or Amtrak would be possible. There's an old ROW into downtown Sonoma as well as active track into Napa and Vallejo.

You should think of SMART as the foundation for rail service in the North Bay counties, up to Sacramento and down to Oakland. Add a couple of turn-offs to get to the Delta counties, possibly also the new district in the old Concord Naval Weapons Station. However, a rail link from Larkspur to SF seems seems infeasible. Residential development has severely enroached on the narrow old ROW south of Larkspur. there is a single-lane median on 101 that could be used for a single track, I suppose.

A three-section rail tube to the new SFTT with underwater escape structures/stations in Sausalito and Alcatraz and would be an engineering tour de force with a price tag to match. It might be possible to stick with clean diesel engines if the tube is properly ventilated with large fans sited at the escape structures.

However, escaping to Alcatraz would be a hit with the tourists. The ferry operators would be adversely impacted. I didn't bother to address the issue of where to put bypass tracks.

Rafael said...

@ loren -

BART across to San Rafael was proposed but CalTrans nixed the idea because it would have meant sacrificing the emergency shoulder lanes.

Matthew Melzer said...

Thanks for correcting me, Rafael. I guess I'm in infomercial mode... All this can be yours for just $9.95! ;-)

Rafael said...

Turkey commits $15 billiom to rail upgrades, of which $10 billion for last phase of Ankara-Istanbul HSR.

Ian said...

Yeah, I think the best bet for SMART is expansion and connecting to Richmond over the Rich/SR bridge (assuming CalTrain changes its mind, maybe if the tracks were embedded in the emergency lane like a streetcar? Probably depends on the trainsets they choose.) To that note it'd be nice to have a consolidated commuter rail system in the bay, but that's a pipe dream for now.

I kinda hope it's Alstom for the CA trainsets, parce que j'etudie le genie mechanique, et... je pourrais travailler chez Alstom a Lyon, ma ville favorite en France... ;) haha

@Robert's "call to arms" of sorts
I think we're all here for the long haul -- ["you have my sword" "...and my bow" "...and my axe"
...and my engineering education.]

I think we have a great community to ensure this project, and the $950M complement projects, are built. (and fast!)

Can't wait for Coast Daylight service! ('cause we need *another* Amtrak CA route to top the list in ridership)

Ian said...


Yeah! 1A passes just in time for us to not fall behind Turkey and Morocco and Argentina...

I think Morocco's line is longer than as ours, 1500 km to our 1100 ish, and costs, oh, about $3 Billion. 1/10th! Man, land is so much cheaper there...

Paul Herman said...

As someone who is looking into a career in transportation, specifically possibly for California High Speed Rail some day, Prop 1a's passage was a huge step forward for California.

Here on the Pacific coast we have become trend-setters for the greatest country on earth. Now we all have to do our part to ensure this plan is implemented and built smartly and correctly.

We all need to do our part in our local communities. Here in Fresno I have gone to many transportation and downtown redevelopment meetings to ensure High Speed Rail is being put on the table. High Speed Rail for California will boost Fresno's economy and growth by measures that no single plan has ever done. With that, the city of Fresno MUST revitalize and redevelop our downtown. These ideals must be adopted in all cities and communities in California.

I would like to thank Robert Cruickshank and any other contributors to this blog. You guys have been dedicated to the cause that I care very deeply about. And if you have any connections with this project or need vocal support in person anywhere in California, I will GLADLY help the cause. We need this California.

contact me at

Anonymous said...

Congratulation by california!!!

SantaTeresaHills said...

You can see the city of San Jose's plan for the Diridon Station area at

If you look at the video that the California HSR made for the San Jose station, you can see that the projections on what the buildings would look like were taken from this plan. San Jose is starting to buy up land southeast of the station and put in surface parking lots.

Ultimately I believe that buildings will be in the 8 to 10 stories tall range east of the station. Short term and HP Pavilion parking will need parking garages. I would think that these parking garages would be integrated with the new commercial, office, and residential buildings. There are also plans to make a parking garage out of the main surface parking lot for the HP Pavilion. This would also include retail along the west side of HP Pavilion.

I thought that I read where the city of San Jose may put one piece of land up for development next year in the Diridon Station area next year. This may be postponed because of the economy.

arcady said...

"vendor selection usually has to happen very early on because there are no open standards for in-cab signaling protocols, the catenary interface, track geometry tolerances etc."

That's just plain false. The whole point of steel wheel rail technology is that the wheel-rail interface, catenary interface, etc are generally very well defined, and all train manufacturers have to work within their bounds. Now, European HSR standards might be different and even incompatible with FRA standards, but it should be possible to design a standard that any vendor can meet. As for cab signal systems, there is at least a quasi-standard in America, the pulse-coded 100Hz track circuit: 75 pulses per minute for 30 mph, 120 pulses for 45 mph, 225 pulses for 60 mph, 180 pulses for maximum line speed. Amtrak's ACSES is built on top of that and is also, I believe, an open standard. It would be incredibly dumb to buy into some vendor's proprietary technology which may soon become obsolete and unmaintained. You'd get something like Muni and their OS/2 based signal system.

"What might be a minimum sort of system?"
I'd say the first thing is to invest a pile of money into Caltrain electrification, and the LA Union Station Run-Through Tracks since those projects are basically ready to go. It would be nice to get LA-Bakersfield early on as well, as that's by far the most glaring gap in the state rail network.

luis d. said...

I'm already jumping to the Trainsets that could be used on the line. I'm looking at the models and I have a few favorites.

I'm liking that Shinkansen 700 trainset as shown in the SF transbay Terminal video. I also really like Alstom's last TGV model in Double-Decker style. I hope we can get the AGV by the time we're running trains here. I also like the Valero, or ICE style trainset, it looks sharp.

Hopefully we get a mix of different trains as opposed to just one kind and make sure they are all compatible with each other in case we want to hook them together during rush hour.

Rafael said...

Governor Schwarzenegger calls for 1.5% sales tax hike and $4.5 bn in across-the-board spending cuts to address worsening budget crisis.

Republicans legislators say they will block tax hike, so Democrats will refuse to cut spending. California requires a 2/3 supermajority to pass a balanced budget.

Special election in 2009 likely. because some budget items require voter approval.

Suggestions for amending the California constitution:

A) Require simple majority to pass a balanced budget. Gov can veto if carried by less than 2/3 in each House. Veto override requires 2/3 majority.

B) Raise the majority required to amend the state constitution to 2/3 in all subsequent state elections.

Rafael said...

@ arcady -

Alstom and Siemens at least can made to work on the same HSR line. The TGV Duplex has been around for a while. There is no AGV Duplex at this time.

Anonymous said...

I'm anon @ 9.56 :-) and I appreciate the replies for my questions about SMART tying in to the rest of the grid. I look forward to a rail connection, but I would probably settle for a fast, efficient, easy bus transfer that just went station to station. It beats having to take the bus the whole way or driving from Cloverdale to Martinez to catch an 8am train.

Ian said...

@Anon 9:56 and 15:18
Actually, yeah, now that you mention it, a BRT connection from SR transit center across the bridge (driving in the emergency lane during bad traffic?) to Richmond would make a very good quick solution to the connection issue... (until rail takes of the world! er, the north bay)

We should start lobbying that to GGT and SMART... (I use the 40/42 to get home from college sometimes, and a BRT would be a good next step)

Rafael said...

There are loads of GGT buses running out of the San Rafael Transit Center. The">SMART downtown San Rafael station will be located immediatly north of this transit center. Here's a helpful cheat sheet listing the bus connections there.

Rafael said...

@ ian -

CalTrans did open up the emergency lane for traffic for little while after the Loma Prieta quake knocked out the Bay Bridge for a while. Thst was strictly temporary, though.

Looks like GGT 40/42 is as good as good as it's going to get.

Anders Ekströmer said...


It baffled me when I read about the Texas HSR, and that South West Airlines opposed it. Was it her thank you for the help it (SWA) got from TX government to start, to kill an other valuable project.

I also got exited at the Florida project. I cannot understand why people her killed the research, and then the TX and Fla project. Maybe it is the size of the country?

Lufthansa, the German Airline has their own high-speed train that is running between Frankfurt and Cologne. Could that cooperation be implemented with an American Airline and CA HSR?

AMRivlin said...

What happens from LA-Irvine?

There are 2 tracks that dominate the ROW, and stations at Santa Ana, Tustin, Orange have no space to go wider. I highly doubt they want a train racing at 220, going by Metrolink Stations. Does anyone have any info on this leg of the system?

Spokker said...

First of all, it won't go 220 MPH in urban areas. Second, over the coming weeks and months we're going to find out in detail how this thing is going to be built. I'm glad that the Authority finally has to resources to find those things out.

Eric said...

I vote for Siemens Velaro for the train sets. Better than the TGV/AGV or Shinkansens.

Anonymous said...

The HSR lawsuit is using a contingency lawyer who specializes in NIMBY lawsuits against smart growth.

Note this quote, the development is under construction now...

"It's part of the process in Berkeley," Hudson said. "They have raised many concerns on this project, and all of them have been addressed. We're confident it will withstand a legal challenge."



SO I don't think the lawsuit will end until the lawyer gets paid. They won't win, but he'll probably get fees.

arcady said...

Yeah, the Siemens Velaro is great... when its brakes aren't failing and its wheels aren't falling off. Though there haven't been many actual accidents involving them, Siemens has had a lot of problems with reliability on their recent trains, and they've had to be taken out of service repeatedly for emergency repairs. Hopefully by the time CAHSR will be buying trains, they'll have all the problems worked out though. And the issues about Alstom and Siemens on the same line is really an issue about German trains versus French trains, with all their various signal and safety systems. I believe Spain's HSR runs trains made by Alstom, Talgo, and CAF, and Britain's CTRL line will soon have Hitachi high-speed commuter trains in addition to the Eurostars.

For the LA-Anaheim segment, the official plan as far as I understand it is to share tracks with Metrolink, and to have two dedicated passenger tracks on the BNSF mainline. I'm not sure how much BNSF like that idea, it's going to be interesting to see how things work out. Also, I suspect that there would be scheduling problems between HSRs to Irvine and all-stops Metrolink trains if there are only two tracks all the way. Having the express pass the local at Buena Park would be very useful. In any case, the HSR will run at regular speeds, probably in the 80-100 mph range.

AMRivlin said...

I am not too sure what they would do in Santa Ana, where there are 5 grade crossings. You can't run the train through at 50mph muchless 100mph near the santa ana train depot with the station and curves and crossings.

Further down it seems they could grade separate and are starting to already.

Newport Ave future underpass
Red Hill, looks like a nightmare.
Tustin Ranch Road, Future bridge (2010)
Jamboree, bridge
Harvard? Unknown
Culver, underpass
Yale, bridge
Jeffrey, underpass (2009)
Sand Canyon? Unknown
I-5, overpass

But again Santa Ana / Tustin dont have space for a 3rd track, and would a 3rd track be enough?

James said...

One aspect of the HSR system I have not heard discussed is the natural focal point made by the junction in the central valley where the Bay Area branch meets the north/south line.

This is an opportunity to locate a station at or near the junction and to develop a focused facility that would be fed by three HSR branches.

But what could be built there?
- A new international airport with the terminal above the HSR station?
- A hotel, convention, shopping, sports, arts center?

You could travel from LA to San Francisco, stop and shop and eat dinner, and get back on a later train. Revenues could benefit the HSR system.

A new airport could serve travelers from the south bay area, and the valley from Stockton to Bakersfield. Before 911 SFO was approaching capacity. It is only a matter of time before we need another airport.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Concerning lawsuits, which I would not be suprised if there will be many, it is my hope that this blog does not become a site to vet the merits or not of them.

For one, we'd be spinning our wheels needlessly. Two, there is always the chance a comment here could alert an attnetive eye on the wrong side.

Spokker said...

I have said before that the LA-Irvine segments looks like the toughest.

LA-Fullerton (yes I know it's not a station), where the BNSF line branches off to the Metrolink owned ROW, looks relatively simple.

It's that Fullerton-Irvine part that scares me.

Spokker said...

By the way, the shiny new Obama-Biden administration started their new web site.

They have a page where you can send in your "vision" here. It might be productive to send in your thoughts about passenger rail transportation in this country.

I sent a message with some stuff about federal funding for the smallest of local light rail lines to the bullet trains of tomorrow and that electric trains could help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. You know, that sort of thing.

I don't know if anything would come from it, but hey, it's something I guess. I know people who are already rushing it and sending in messages about legalizing marijuana haha. Well, good luck to them.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Red Hill is a nightmare. But if they get the Newport and Tustin Ranch grade separations done (and they've been talking about putting Newport through to Edinger for 20 years) then you can work on Red Hill.

My guess is everything between Edinger and the tracks will have to go. Tustin might not mind redeveloping that intersection anyway.

Santa Ana and Orange will indeed be a tight fit. I too will be interested to see how that gets resolved.

James said...

Re: Post #4 by Loren on a minimally functional HSR system.

Consider a first HSR system as linking to the existing rail lines. HSR from San Jose to Palmdale would link CalTrain from San Jose to San Francisco and the Metro from Palmdale to LA.

However, it may not work to link just outside the population centers where the political power is focused.

Ken said...

In order to prevent a repeat of the Southwest lobbyists that killed the proposal to build HSR in Texas, we need to reach out to some of the carriers that were actually for HSR in Texas - American and Continental.

They wanted the HSR in Texas so they could alleviate some of the air traffic problems and reduce the need for small commuters flights which really don't add up revenue to them.

The same holds true for the flights in CA - LAX-SFO is dirt cheap at $59 one-way, it hardly makes up any revenue. But they continue to fly it because the demand is there.

What CA needs to do is to reach out to those legacy carriers who want this to be built, and offer them a good alternative such as code-shares on a train (American has code-shares with French TGVs! and Continental code-shares with Amtrak's Acela!) and a promise to link HSR stations directly to airports like Ontario and SFO.

If you think this is too far-fetched, look again. Even Japan has its own problems where their carriers are lobbying intensively in their government AGAINST more Shinkansen bullet trains.

Ian said...


Yeah, the transit center is pretty loaded (at least, every half hour when the busses leave) but the BRT idea was to address the Northern Marin and Sonoma / East Bay commuters — it'd give them a chance to use transit with SMART, BRT, and BART... dunno, just an idea...

Any word on SMART or GGT getting any of the $950M?

Rafael said...

@ james -

Merced county pushed hard to have the train run through Castle Airport in Atwater, an old strategic bomber command site that has been cleaned up and is now used for general aviation only. It has a single very long runway, in principle suitable even for big birds like the A380.

However, the rest of Castle Airport would require fairly massive investment before it could be used for commercial passenger operations. Fresno Yosemite is having a tough time attracting airlines as it is, not to mention the smaller airports up and down the Central Valley. HSR will provide excellent connectivity to Palmdale.

Bakersfield in particular should anticipate that commercial passenger operations at its airport will end real soon now. It would be prudent to start drawing up plans for rezoning Meadows Field into a new transit-oriented residential district connected to the downtown HSR station by a commuter rail shuttle. I think a lot of people still underestimate just how much of game changer HSR is going to be.

As a consolation prize of sorts and, to keep future options open, there's been talk of siting the HSR maintenance facility at Castle Airport.

@ ken -

back when Southwest lobbied to kill off the Texas Triangle proposal, oil prices were much lower and the economy was humming. The fact that the airlines didn't put up a fight against prop 1A suggests that they either expected voters would reject the bond anyhow or, that they silently bought into the idea of one day offering both long-haul flights and connecting intercity rail services.

CHSRA has always said it would put HSR operations out to tender and welcome bids from airlines. Virgin Trains already operates in the UK. Air France is set to compete against SNCF on the Paris-London route after the EU liberalizes rail traffic in 2010.

If Obama and Congress decide to throw billions at CA HSR as well as the NEC, Texas and Florida HSR will surely get a second wind. In the Midwest, Obama's back yard, the best option may be a regional network of routes at 110mph, the maximum speed FRA allows for grade crossings with four-quadrant gates.

Beyond that, there's been talk of an HSR line from Portland to Vancouver BC and from Las Vegas to SoCal.

Atlanta to Nashville via Chattanooga is a maglev idea born out of desperation: Georgia wants to divert water from the Tennessee river.

@ ian -

afaik, the powers that be have already divvied up those $950 million according to rules laid down in AB3034. The Amtrak California corridors will get a total of $190 million, with each guaranteed at least a quarter of that.

The remaining $760 million will go to existing systems that will connect directly to HSR stations, with priority for heavy and light rail. That primarily means BART, SF Muni, Metrolink and LA Metro. Some of the money may be put toward an underground pedestrian passage linking the future SF Transbay Terminal and Embaracadero BART.

IIRC, only $41 million was going to Caltrain and $15 million to ACE. SMART doesn't connect directly to an HSR station, but there might be a little bit in the kitty for GGT if they need to expand their bus fleet as a result of measure Q passing.

Remember, prop 1A is all about capital investments, the money cannot be used to subsidize operations. Also, $950 million isn't all that much when you have to spread it around like this. I did read somewhere that the structure of AB3034 would make HSR feeders eligible for federal matching funds. Private investors will probably focus narrowly on HSR because that's the only component expected to turn an operating profit.

Sean said...

Alright, so how can we best get involved to ensure this project is taken for paper to soil?

Brian said...

As far as SMART and connecting to San Francisco, Marin County is currently studying restoring a couple sections of trolley/streetcar in the county. The first line to be studied is Sausalito to Mill Valley. I could see that line eventually going to Larkspur to meet SMART.

In 20-30 years I could see light EMUs/trolleys that run on electrified SMART line then going two ways. East across the Richmond-San Rafael bridge street running in one of the traffic lanes or an emergency/transit lane. Others would go south, running down through Sausalito then up to the Golden Gate Bridge and along Doyle to Bay/Embarcadero or Lombard Central Subway to downtown SF. Where it would connect to the Transbay Terminal.

Rafael said...

@ sean -

probably the most useful thing we could do is assist efforts to get a handle on the California state budget process, since prop 1A bonds will increase the debt service portion of the general fund. AB3034 stipulates that CHSRA must ask the state legislators to appropriate a fraction of the bond volume in the context of the annual budget circus.

IMHO, getting a handle on that will require a change to the state constitution at the next opportunity: state budgets should require a simple majority and, future constitutional amendments a 2/3 supermajority.

This would mean that the majority party - currently the Dems - alone would be responsible for balancing the budget: raise taxes, cut spending or both. If voters don't like the proposed mix, they can hold their legislators accountable at the next election by voting for the opposition. Right now, lawmakers all just blame each other and the ball just gets kicked forward every time, after ridiculous delays.

@ brian -

streetcars would be too slow to attract much traffic these days.

IMHO, it would be more effective to reserve one lane of traffic on 101 south of San Rafael, the GG bridge, Lombard street and Gough/Franklin for express buses during rush hour. Of course, service frequency would have to be a lot higher.

Separately, I'd recommend extending at least the bike path portion of SMART all the way down to Sausalito and the GG bridge. The speed limit should be about 25mph and scooters with four-stroke engines and a two-way catalysts also permitted to use it.

Modern pedelec designs hide their battery packs inside the frame. There are hundreds of thousands of these on the road in a number of northern European countries. Also, there are now CVTs for bicycles. Finally, there are folding electric bicyclesyou can take along on a train. Some new battery types support rapid recharging in less than 15 minutes, so plenty of courtesy 110VAC outlets rated at 15amps each would be a good feature to add to SMART rolling stock specs.

There are even folding scooters with small internal combustion engines, but train operators generally don't allow them on board because leaking fuel would be a fire hazard.

Quality pedelecs are still expensive, but $2000 for a useful commuter vehicle is peanuts compared to buying an electric car.

Anonymous said...

Number 6 on your list should be item number 1. Unless Southern Californians start riding rails every day ("glorified commuter rail") HSR will be a boondoggle. (My fear - HSR is the cart before the horse).

People don't drive to NY's Penn Station. There are three railroads feeding Amtrak intercity services -

HSR and Commuter and Metro systems are inseparable. To undertake the first without plans for the other two is pointless.

Jim said...

French trains please . They are just better. They set the speed record. The french just do everything better. I think the german trains might have too many problems. If there are any problems at all once this starts running the naysayers are gonna sya I told you so real quick. I trust the french trainsest to be more infallible.

Jim said...

very nice check this out:

Jim said... amazing!