Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two Quick Ones

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

Busy day, busy week. Winter break cannot come quickly enough. Two stories for your perusal:

1. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved the scoping plan for the implementation of the AB 32 carbon reduction goals. As we explained in June CARB sees high speed rail as an important part of their overall goal of reducing carbon emissions 30% by 2020. With the Obama Administration showing its commitment to global warming action this move is all the more important, reminding the state and the country of HSR's role in promoting renewable, carbon-neutral energy.

2. The Press-Enterprise looks at the debate over HSR routing in the Riverside-Perris area - should the I-215 corridor be used, or does the proposed Metrolink Perris Valley Line make this problematic or unnecessary? One problem is that the article is really unclear - it suggests that the discussion over the I-215 corridor is over a connection TO the HSR route and thus the $950 million in Prop 1A funds is at stake. But as the board-approved route map shows the plan is to run HSR itself along the Perris Valley/I-215 corridor. So either I'm missing something or the article is missing something.

Still, it is an opportunity to discuss the Inland Empire, which we've almost never discussed here - but should.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps they're viewing the proposed expansions as connections to the Phase I network in the short term and as a regional rapid rail feeder system for the Phase II network in the long term.

In any case they're hungry for a piece of the $950 million pie.

Peter N said...

Not too unexpected: The VTA priority: BART


"It's clear we can't see the BART project getting ($750 million in federal) money if we're spending our local money on other projects," Burns said in an interview earlier this week. "That just doesn't add up."

That means everything else could be in question unless other sources of money are found.

# Electrification of Caltrain: On hold until the impact of running high-speed rail along the Caltrain corridor is known.


Obviously VTA won't stop Caltrain electrification, but they simply won't be funding it to help.

Peter N said...

And going down to SoCal, LA Times has a long front-page article about PTC and how it could have prevented the Metrolink crash. I like how they mention that PTC was first recommended in 1922, and freight has been fighting it ever since.

Anonymous said...

Yeesh. The VTA isn't gonna get any federal money for its stupid BART extension anyway. There are *so* many better and cheaper projects out there it's not even funny. When will they give it up?

Rafael said...

Re 1. In addition to AB32 objectives on CO2 emissions, CARB remains focused on toxic emissions. Its most recent effort is a diesel truck plan designed to force retrofits of exhaust gas aftertreatment to legacy trucks. This relates primarily to particulates (smoke) and NOx.

The requisite equipment (CRT and SCR) has been installed in most new European HDVs since 2005, but won't be de facto mandatory on new US trucks until 2010. This is because CRT and SCR are sensitive to sulfur in the fuel, so EPA had to get US refineries to produce ULSD diesel (max. 15ppm sulfur) first. The next step is to set up an infrastructure for manufacturing and distributing a very pure solution of 35% synthetic urea in demineralized water, which is needed for SCR. Retrofitting a CRT and especially, SCR to legacy vehicles is often difficult and always expensive, but that is what CARB wants to insist on.

The analogous EPA regulations for locomotives, known as Tier 4, won't come into effect for new units until 2015, never mind retrofits.

One obvious solution would be to shift more freight to rail and electrify freight rail lines, especially in the LA Basin and near the port of Oakland. Operators could choose to use electric locomotives to shuttle trains to inland locations where they are handed off to legacy diesel equipment, possibly after reconfiguring consists. In NorCal, suitable locations might be Fairfield, south Stockton and Gilroy.

In SoCal, they could be in in Bakersfield, Barstow, Coachella (north of the Salton Sea). This would not just eliminate a lot of toxic tailpipe emissions but also cut diesel fuel consumption and brake liner wear related to elevation gain/loss. Electric locomotives are more powerful and can feed electricity back to the grid during hill descents. The grid operator may need several minutes advance warning so he can maintain a stable voltage by temporarily buying less electricity from power plants (e.g. hydro).

In addition to regular rail freight, it is also possible to piggyback trucks onto freight trains to reduce congestion and/or improve air quality.

My point is that public money should be spent on measures that address multiple health and economic development issues beyond just AB32.


Re 2. The above discussion highlights the importance of freight to the California economy, its air quality and its GHG emissions. That complex should be dealt with before any HSR spur through the Inland Empire and down to San Diego can be constructed.

In the meantime, it is appropriate to improve Metrolink service, but only after the roots of the Chatsworth disaster have been dealt with. That means installing modern positive train control (PTC) measures as mandated by HR 2095.

Other than chronic underfunding, the main reason Metrolink decided not to install such safety systems is that UPRR and BNSF refused to install them on their huge fleets of locomotives. PTC isn't really effective unless all operators in a given area implement interoperable solutions. In the context of the regional electrification proposed above, only the anyhow new electric shuttle locomotives plus some yard switchers at the ports and inland terminals would need to be equipped with PTC.

Metrolink could continue to operate diesel locomotives for the time being, migrating to either electric or Tier 4 diesel DMUs as and when funding permits. In absolute terms, Metrolink does not contribute significantly to air pollution in SoCal.

The proposed new Metrolink service to San Jacinto would use existing freight tracks that run just west of I-215. While I believe PTC ought to have priority in how Metrolink's share of the $950 million is spent, expanding service is in part an attempt to stabilize housing prices in places like Hemet that have been hit especially hard by the foreclosure crisis.


Regarding the HSR phase II extension to San Diego:

a) As currently defined by CHSRA, this would run on dedicated tracks in the median of I-215. There would be no conflict with a new Metrolink line to San Jacinto. If CHSRA sticks to its route, I'd suggest the following for the tricky connector between West Colton and Box Springs:

- run south of the cement works and across the Santa Ana river

- create an intermodal station with Metrolink in Grand Terrace instead of UC Riverside. Extend Metrolink lines that currently terminate in Riverside to San Bernardino. Run the new Metrolink like to San Jacinto there as well, possibly on to Victorville.

- veer east south of Highgrove into a short tunnel under Box Springs Mountain Reserve to avoid the NIMBYs in Belvedere Heights

- hop onto I-215 at the junction with hwy 60 in Box Springs, rather than at March AFB as originally planned


There are at least two sensible alternatives to the presently preferred HSR route to San Diego:

b) Cut the HSR alignment over to I-15 immediately east of Ontario airport. Move the existing North Main Metrolink station in Corona to an intermodal with HSR at Quarry/El Sobrante. Route the new El Jacinto line either west to LA US via Ontario airport or else, south to Anaheim.

If cutting across to University City past Miramar is not possible, switch to the hwy 163 median instead. Terminate either in Balboa Park with tail tracks to Ash Street or, tunnel under 10th and 11th to a larger station at Tailgate Park (intermodal SD trolley), with the option to continue south to Tijuana airport as discussed in a previous thread. Alternatively, the alignment could double-back north to Santa Fe depot.

c) Extend the starter line south from Anaheim along the I-5 corridor after all. This would require stacking HSR tracks on top of freight tracks in OC. In addition, between San Juan Capistrano and San Onofre, the alignment would have to use either the I-5 median or, run in a six-mile tunnel. The existing freight alignment along San Clemente beach is not suitable for electrified dual track HSR service.

Whatever the choice, it is really important to consider HSR in all future freeway and rail projects in SoCal or, it may become impossible to run tracks to San Diego in the late 2020s.

yeson1a said...

Well more important and serious informantion, if the state does not get its act together there will be no money for the on going work after January. They wont be able to tap any funds. The Contra Costa Times has a article about it as others will probally

Rafael said...

@ yeson1a -

the state's tax base has shrunk alarmingly as a result of the housing bubble bursting. In addition, California is still unable to get short-term bridge loans to tide it over through April. Selling any bonds at all in the current environment will be either impossible or very expensive.

The bottom line is that either services will have to be cut further, which means lay-offs, or taxes will have to be raised in the middle of a recession, or both. Dems won't cut services, Repubs wont raise taxes. Same old, same old.

In particular, the three strikes law is fast becoming a financial boat anchor.

I really hope PEBO forces California to change its constitution in return for a bridge loan. State budgets should be passed by a simple majority (with 2/3 needed to override a veto by the governor) and all future constitutional changes related to the budget should require a 2/3 majority.

That way, lawmakers and voters alike will know exactly who will be held accountable for delivering a balanced budget. No more pointing fingers at each other.

yeson1a said...

@ rafael
Yes the yearly budget show needs to be changed ASAP hopefully this spring. Did you see the article on line in the Contra Costa Times ? what do you think thet can do?

davisgrad said...

I think a good use of TARP funds would be to buy state bonds like California's so they can continue to fund programs. If their willing to give billions for infrastructure, it's cheaper to just loan that money to states, it should be a no brainer.

The default should be low, I don't think California would want to take on the US govt.

Spokker said...

"I like how they mention that PTC was first recommended in 1922, and freight has been fighting it ever since."

I watched a show on the history channel about the Transcontinental Railroad and it seems like the railroads have been fighting safety improvements since the beginning of time.

When someone was critically hurt, the railroad's only responsibility was to send the body back home. New safety measures such as safer couplings and better braking systems were scoffed at because of cost.

What they found however, when the government mandated these new safety features, productivity actually went up. The safety measures didn't just save lives, but they increases the overall efficiency of the railroad.

If PTC prevents crashes, then it also prevents all the delays and headaches that results from those crashes. The implementation of PTC in Southern California is long overdue.

Frank said...

Next crisis: State Bailouts. Coming soon...

Robert Cruickshank said...

That damn financial bailout is going to make all future bailouts - many necessary - less politically palatable.

I'm writing this from a seminar in Sacramento on the budget. It's a mess. The possibility of some form of default is growing, which would be troublesome for selling the Prop 1A bonds.

Rafael, in my day job (working for the Courage Campaign), I am spearheading a campaign to repeal the 2/3 rule. If you are interested, by all means sign the pledge. We're going to go all out to get this on the spring special election ballot and get it passed. It is THE key to fixing this state and securing its future.

Robert Cruickshank said...

And yes, Frank, state bailouts are next up. Pelosi has been pushing this for months. It's necessary for Obama to include it in early '09 or CA will face an outright Depression.

Rafael said...

Here's an Inland Empire HSR and Metrolink map showing variations of how HSR to San Diego could be implemented and how it could leverage Metrolink as a feeder service.

Right now, neither the existing Metrolink lines in the Inland Empire nor the proposed extension to San Jacinto would have a single intermodal station with the officially preferred HSR route.

Metrolink cannot claim to be an effective HSR feeder service if its passengers cannot transfer to the HSR somewhere well east of LA US. Its management needs to sit down with CHSRA, UPRR/BNSF and other planning agencies and hammer out a sensible solution.

Francis said...


I just graduated from UC Riverside and lived off Box Springs road senior year. The Tunnel idea is good cause the Belvedere Hights neighborhood NIMBYs are rediculous. They are the biggest party poopers imaginable and kill all attempts to party at UCR as fast as possible. Now if u present to them a HSR going through their area, lord help CAHSR. NIMBY hive waiting to attack anything that causes a slight disturbance in their silence.

It would be awesome for UC Riverside to have a HSR station because many students come from NorCal and could come and go as they please. 80% of student go home on weekends, so if it wasnt for the kids from NorCal the school would have been empty. I lived an hour away in San Diego and would have loved to make a HSR trip home.

Anyway, what are the benefits of making the HSR go down the highway median? Would the contruction be too expensive? I know the state owns the land so thats good, but is it really worth it? Why not have the train be next to the highway so you dont have to rip up the whole highway to put a train in? In your map you have 100 miles of I 15 and I 215 with a train down the middle, probably would double cost of that segment.

Rafael said...

@ Francis -

in my proposal, the UC Riverside station would be moved a couple of miles north to Grand Terrace to permit an intermodal station with Metrolink.

Running tracks in the available median of a freeway is generally a relatively cheap way to implement a fully grade separated rail alignment. BART has used this approach extensively in the East Bay.

However, note that Caltrans is in the process of converting the I-15 median into additional traffic lanes between Escondido and the hwy 163 junction. If that were constructed as a covered trench now so that tracks can be laid underneath the lane in 15 years or so, that wouldn't be a problem - but that is not how Caltrans is executing its project, since it would be more expensive. It might be possible to temporarily close these new lanes at a later date to construct these trenches. Tunneling underneath them would be prohibitively expensive.

Running next to the freeway through Escondido and Poway would not be easy or cheap and, who knows if the hwy 56 median will still be available in the 2020s.

That's why I think it is becoming increasingly likely that the extension to San Diego will be down the I-5 corridor after all.

Previously, CHSRA was quite happy to accept complaints about catenaries from beachfront homeowners in San Clemente and run the route past Ontario airport, because that's what LA county wanted. Now, stacking tracks south of Anaheim and digging a six-mile tunnel from San Juan Capistrano to San Onofre may have to be reconsidered: it's a much shorter route with proven ridership (Amtrak Surfliner, NCTD Coaster).

San Diegans wouldn't be able to use Ontario as a relief airport for Lindbergh Field, but perhaps they'd rather leverage Tijuana airport anyhow, especially for intercontinental flights.

Either an HSR or a "rapid rail" spur from LA US to Ontario airport terminals, Riverside and San Bernardino should still be possible if a new connector between Guasti and Champagne along E. Airport Drive and on to E. Mission Blvd. is built.

UC Riverside would get connecting service via the proposed Metrolink line out to Hemet and San Jacinto, which would use the existing track past Belvedere Heights. If they're smart, they'll implement FRA quiet zone regulations to appease the NIMBYs. Those 120dB train horns really are ridiculous.

calwatch said...

One of the interesting things discussed in a recent Technical Working Group meeting on the LA-Ontario portion of the HSR is the fact that they are going to use the SCAGLEV alignment, elevated over the 10 freeway, instead of the UPRR right of way, due the usual intransigence from UP, coupled with design decisions made when constructing grade separations that would require reconstruction of them to accomodate two additional tracks. SCAG has signed off on this idea, since the Maglev dream of Mark Pisano has been made technology-neutral, and there is no reason for two competing high speed transport systems in the San Gabriel Valley.

In addition, Industry is apparently unhappy that the Brea Canyon Road location is a stop, and would prefer to have it located on the Cal Poly land west of the 57, or in Downtown Pomona, which would be a horrible place to put a HSR station (too close to ONT, not enough of a destination point, not enough parking or road access to the station). So it's more likely that the West Covina Fashion Plaza site will be the HSR stop for the San Gabriel Valley, coupled with an elevated alignment that could also incorporate toll or HOT express lanes to help pay for part of the cost of the structure. All this is at least 10 years from breaking ground though.

Rafael said...

@ calwatch -

interesting, I'd have figured stacking tracks above the UPRR right of way would have been simpler than doing so in the middle of the freeway.

Moving the Industry station is fine as long as Metrolink's is moved as well. Ridership depends on being able to get to the HSR train, preferably without having to use a car.

If HSR will be built in the freeway median, the Ontario airport station will not work unless there is a connecting people mover across the parking lots to the two terminals. Air passengers don't like lugging their bags for half a mile before they get to check-in.

I guess that still leaves the question of how best to connect to San Diego.