Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lindbergh Field HSR Station Plans Emerge

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

So reports the San Diego Union-Tribune:

After nearly a year of meetings, the Ad Hoc Airport Regional Policy Committee is putting the final touches on a proposal to shift most passenger operations to the north side of the airport, along Pacific Highway.

The $5 billion to $12 billion overhaul would include a new passenger terminal, parking lots and a transit hub linked to Interstate 5 and a planned bullet train....

Steve Peace called the transit hub the centerpiece of the group recommendation. He said tying together mass transit will make the region more economically competitive.

See also the map of the proposed terminal.

This strikes me as a pretty damn good idea. It unites transportation methods in a single place - the passenger terminal - which would include Amtrak/HSR, SD Trolley, and of course passenger autos. The airport terminal would be located very close to downtown and in the center of the San Diego urban area, which is one of the goals of HSR station siting anyway.

Obviously there are lingering questions about how to pay for this, and for the extension to San Diego, and what the routing will be between Escondido and San Diego. But having an endpoint in mind certainly helps, by creating an incentive to solve those questions and connect California HSR to downtown San Diego.


Andrew said...

Three miles isn't very close from a pedestrian point of view. You would still need to transfer to an SD Trolley or take a taxi to get to downtown SD, when you really should be able to walk straight off the train to your appointment or hotel. This is the same reason we were all saying that terminating at 4th & Townsend in SF is a bad idea, and in that case there is less distance involved.

I don't really care how many transportation modes are tied together, an airport station being SD's main station is a bogus idea.

Erik said...

On a related note, I stumbled upon stimulus funding for Diridon station expansion in the Stimulus bill: http://www.stimuluswatch.org/project/view/15655

Matt said...

@ Andrew

Actually it is only a 1.5 mile distance from the proposed terminal to the San Deigo Amtrak station. And I think that is along an existing ROW so it would not be hard to extend it and have another station in San Diego, especially since it is at the end of the line. But I don't think the demand would be there for a second station, people would not mind taking, the trolly, amtrak or coaster, which all go along that ROW to get from downtown to the airport.

BBinnsandiego said...

I agree with Andrew. San Diego's airport, unlike LAX, SFO, or Palmdale is too small to generate a lot of transfers for HSR. And San Diego doesn't need HSR to bring people to the airport, they need to go downtown! Nobody's proposing that HSR stop at SFO and passengers take Bart downtown. Light rail and commuter rail will service San Diego's airport just fine.

JAtik said...

I guess this all depends if Lindbergh is a way station or the terminus. If it is simply a close-in station (like Back Bay Boston, North Philadelphia or 125th Street) with quick stops, it might add value. But Lindbergh makes sense as a terminal - I too doubt there will be significant HSR-air transfers there. About the only plus I see would be sharing long-term parking with the airport - not sure where you'd leave your car if you originate an HSR trip at Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.

Frank said...

I don't see why the HSR train couldn't stop at both Lindbergh and downtown. So what if the two are a couple miles apart. This is basically then end of the line anyway, so it isn't like this is going to slow travel time for people going south of SD. It would be more of an issue to have two stops in Fresno.

I still also like the idea of connecting rapid rail from downtown to the TJ airport. This way SD folks could fly out of Ontario, Lindberg, and TJ, all by hopping on the train.

Car-less in San Diego said...

If San Diego cannot have both Lindbergh and Santa Fe HSR stops then I say Lindbergh. It's not perfect but having all modes of transportation under one roof anywhere in San Diego is monumental. That could never happen downtown unless we did something like the Transbay terminal SF... and we're no SF. Downtown is only a trolley stop or two away from Lindbergh, I live here and I'm fine with that.

arcady said...

And once again, I have to ask: how many people are really going to be transferring between HSR and the airport. Looking at the airport schedule, there are about 80 flights per day to HSR destinations, and 105 flights per day to non-HSR destinations. International flights are almost nonexistent, and of the 105 flights, about 40 are to Las Vegas and Phoenix, both places which may well be reached by HSR in a foreseeable future. I suspect that it's much more likely that people travel from San Diego by HSR to LAX than vice versa, which is why it's important to build a mainline rail link to LAX, but that's a whole different matter.

Peter said...

I can see major arguments for both. Ideally both could be built, but I doubt there's money for that.

The main question is what will be people's main transportation getting to/from HSR?

Lindbergh's advantages have nothing to do with the airport and everything to do with the auto facilities it'll have. It (will have) a great freeway connection, lots of long-term parking, and full rental car facilities. For people in the SD area this makes driving over to the airport and hopping on the train up to LA for the weekend trivial. For anyone coming down from LA they can grab a rental car and head into the city. The station will also have fairly good transit with both buses and one of the light rail lines. It's a 6 minute ride on the light rail to downtown.

Downtown (at the current Amtrak station) has better transit connections. Since it's right in downtown people from LA could walk from the station to a number of hotels. It's also on 2 of the light rail lines instead of just 1, so it would provide a 1-transfer connection to the Eastern suburbs. There are a few more buses that service the station also. The major downside is that there is limited parking, no direct freeway connection, and no rental car facility.

IMHO Lindbergh is a better choice. It has reasonably good transit connections and very good auto connections. I think downtown's much worse auto support outweighs its better transit connections.

Michael said...

Downtown definitely needs a station; otherwise, the transit oriented development benefits are null for San Diego. The vast majority of people taking HSR to and from San Diego will be people who would otherwise fly to San Francisco/Sacramento, or drive to LA. Since it isn't a transfer, why not put the station, the origin or destination of all the trips, in the heart of the city?

Andrew said...

While there are successful HSR stations around the world that are located a bit outside of city centers (Shin-Osaka for example), SDIA doesn't provide a dense commercial and pedestrian environment that a big-city train station should be integrated into. Also, as others have pointed out, very few people coming from points north will be using HSR to catch a flight out of SDIA, most people will be wanting to go to downtown San Diego. Besides, all of this is contingent upon SDIA building such a terminal, which seems rather doubtful.

Personally, I don't think SDIA should even be where it is. San Diegans screwed up when they rejected Miramar.

Rafael said...

Considering that Miramar isn't an option - San Diegans want to keep the Marine Corps there - an HSR station at Lindbergh Field strikes me as eminently useful.

The point isn't so much using HSR as a feeder for the airport but rather, to free up airport capacity by getting passengers bound for other parts of California to just use trains instead. Either way, they will have the option of getting there by transit or by car. That means the extensive car parks can be shared by both modes of transportation.

A valid question is if SD wants all of the traffic in one location, given that Santa Fe depot is nearby and just as easy to reach by transit or car. It is nearer to downtown but not really smack in the middle of it, either. The design of any HSR station at Santa Fe would have to work around the historic building, so it might make sense to leave it well alone.

Note that some fraction of train passengers will want to use bicycles to reach the station, which implies a need for safe bike lanes or paths and storage for full-sized models. Folding bikes, with or without electric assist, can always be taken along on any public transit system incl. HSR and therefore do not require storage.

Wherever the primary HSR station in SD ends up, HSR will need a place to park at least a half-dozen trainsets overnight. One option would be to construct multiple elevated platforms at the Lindbergh Field Transit Center.

Right next to Petco Park, the convention center and the 12th & Imperial trolley station might be an alternative, especially if passengers can board or alight there as well. It would be fairly trivial to relocate existing parking there to the roof of the structure.

A third alternative would be to run tracks down to Imperial Beach and site a terminus station that doubles as overnight storage just west of the Main St. off-ramp of I-5. Running tracks all the way to the border would be much more difficult.

What I don't like about the solution the ad-hoc committee is proposing is the expensive subway under the runway, since they intend to tear down the existing terminals anyhow. Why not build all the new gates to the north of the runway? Sure, they'd probably have to obtain some land there from the MC Recruit Depot, but they could trade that for land south of the runway. Once the new terminal is built, operations could switch over with minimal disruption to airlines.

Final note: HSR to San Diego point blank isn't going to happen unless a ROW is secured to get there. Caltrans is currently usurping the wide I-15 median between Escondido and Miramar to add not two but four(!) new lanes of traffic. Afaik, there are no plans to construct these as covered trenches to facilitate future HSR track construction.

The existing railroad ROW along I-5 runs right along the beach in Del Mar and San Clemente, though that could be addressed with tunnels slightly further inland. The ROW is also very narrow, especially south of Irvine in OC, so tracks might have to be stacked there. In all of these sections, NIMBY resistance would be fierce, especially because CHSRA has already accepted that overhead catenaries so close to the beach are not ideal (mostly because LA really wants tracks to run past Ontario airport). Switching to I-5 would be a major change that would leave the Inland Empire without HSR service.

yeson1a said...


as stupid as it is not to plan together and a waste of money they can rip up 2 of those lanes and lay tracks in them. Far cheaper than tunnels

Rafael said...

@ yeson1a -

I'm all for integrated planning, but Caltrans got this project approved as part of prop 1B in 2006 - while the HSR bond was postponed. The root cause is California's addiction to single-issue ballot propositions because voters cannot bring themselves to clean up the constitutional mess that lies at the heart of the permanent budget gridlock.

I'm not aware of a precedent for ripping up existing freeway lanes to make room for rail tracks. It just never happens.

Here's a WMV video of how these "managed lanes" in the I-15 median will work. As far as SANDAG is concerned, transit = BRT.

Jim said...

Looking at the google satellite view of san diego,and the distance between downtown and the airport there is no way they can justify the cost of tow stations. SD is mainly a tourist destination and the airport is closer to sea world and hotel circle. Other than that downtown versus airport doesn't amount to much of anything. I say let the people of SD decide where they want it. Its pretty irrelevant to the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Peter said: "It (will have) a great freeway connection, lots of long-term parking, and full rental car facilities. ...this makes driving over to the airport and hopping on the train up to LA for the weekend trivial. ...coming down (or up) from LA they can grab a rental car and head into the city. The station will also have fairly good transit with both buses and one of the light rail lines."


Fact is ALL of the California stations need to serve up transportation convenience in this manner. Because California is (sadly?) not densely packed, and populuations are not conveniently located within walking distance to the train stations. And CA doesn't have any comprehensive robust public transit solutions that make sense in a cost effective way. Public transit just can't feed HSR stations in the numbers and from the reaches that would be required to make HSR ridership numbers.

So which of the proposed CHSR stations do the; convenient freeway connections, long term parking, rental cars, connections to transit? Well? Its an important aspect in getting the CHSR ridership the numbers they think they'll get. And it speaks to viability of CHSR's plan.

Locating stations in undrivable city centers, and in suburbs deeply disconnected from freeway access - big mistake in terms of ridership draw.

Michael Kiesling said...

Lindbergh Field is a great location, as it is not too far from downtown, and will provide a ton of parking and rental cars. While San Diego does have decent transit, most visitors will want a car, and most residents from the San Diego region will still drive to the station.

Most people using transit would transfer to light rail anyway from the downtown station, or get a cab or bus. The airport location will be only two stops (five minutes?) past the existing Santa Fe depot and provide all the transportation options of an airport, including shared-ride shuttles (SuperShuttle, etc).

The existing Santa Fe station is constrained. It is probably better all around if the Lindbergh station is throughly vetted and weighed against a concrete plan for accommodating all necessary functions at an expanded Santa Fe depot location.

Jim said...

good point about rental cars and freeway access. DT SD isn't the big financial business center like SF and LA Moat people going to SF are going to leisure trips and conventions. Everyone in SD drives a car (except for car less in SD obviously) and it is one of those places where you need a car once you get there. so the parking and rental car access makes sense. But again, I would defer to San Diego county and the people and the cahmber of commerce there to best determine what is best for them from a tourist/revenue standpoint.

Jim said...

how good is the light rail down there as far getting to downtown/amtra/convention center/beaches/ themparks -- is there a good frequent reliable loop?

Jim said...

correct me if Im wrong but according to the sd tranist skeds it is only a five minute trolley ride from the airport stop tot he santa fe stop.

Car-less in San Diego said...

Thanks for the shout out Jim! I actually prefer the term "carfree" now but haven't gotten around to changing my handle. After 3 months cold turkey without a car I gave in and bought a scooter. So I'm still technically carfree.

Our trolley is effective if you have gone to great lengths to situate yourself near a station and are traveling to downtown, mission valley, convention center, or the ball park. As for theme parks and beaches forget it. You'll be transferring to a bus and it will take you too long to get where you are going.

Jim said...

there's always a lot of opposition from private transport services when it comes to making effective connections like that. hey that carfree ( like carefree) thing would be a good ad campaign for SD you should run that by city hall. you know a logo like "CAReFREE San D ! "
(just make the check payable to...)

yeson1a said...

Not to go to far off topic ...is there any chance that the plan to build a new airport at Miramare can be voted on again? looks like the HRS runs near it. Why was it voted down?

Anonymous said...

Don't overestimate the ridership market to/from SF, using SF residents or SF tourism alone.

The WHOLE entire rest of the bay area (which CHSR also needs for their ridership numbers) is VERY spread out, and auto dependent. The city of San Jose alone is only traversible by car. Shoot, the city of Menlo Park is only traversible by car.

A trip to the dentist from PA to MV (neighboring cities) can ONLY be accomplished by a 20 minute car drive. For that matter, a trip to the grocery store from WITHIN a city, can only be accomplished by car. Distances between homes and commercial areas are such that not even BIKE is viable for most. Buses? Nada.

A train running to a 'city center' will do the average bay area citizen no good without a car to get there, except for those few who have gone to some pretty extraordinary lengths to line up their entire lives within walking distance of transit. Its not a realistic plan for people in any TRULY viable numbers (for HSR), without cars. I hope CHSR is planning stations in places that can truly accomodate huge auto traffic. Palo Alto isn't one of those places. Is the middle of city of SF really one of those places?

Alex said...

@ Anonymous -

WE GET IT! WE GET IT! You don't need to repeat literally the EXACT same thing MULTIPLE times. NOBODY cares about your opinion anymore, we've already argued against you and you STILL have to reiterate your point.

And the caps are to show how annoying your obsessive capping is.

Andrew said...


Just because you think of your car as a fifth-limb doesn't mean everyone else does. I've lived car-free in more than a few places in CA, dependant on your dreaded buses. Believe it or not, it's doable.

Car-less in San Diego said...

@ Yeson1a...

Miramar was voted down because it is a marine air base and the region is very sympathetic to their wishes. They claimed that the proposed commercial/military uses were not compatible and the voters took their side. I doubt this would ever go to the ballot again, the outcome was a resounding no from voters (not including myself).

You are correct in that Miramar is situated right next to the proposed HSR route along I-15 just outside of the UTC station (which would incidentally pose the same problem as Lindberg vs. Santa Fe over which would get the HSR stop).

yeson1a said...

Why do some keep acting like California cities are so spread out? look at google maps..Its very dense as compared to cites in the midwest or south..there is very little open land and everywhere the HSR line paases thru in the Bay Area is dense. It takes so long to get anywhere by transit because its so minimal,even here only 1 bus every 20min ..that kind of service level.In a true transit style of city a bus every 5min would enable you to move around very fast.HSR and far better transit are what many here hope for and YES bolth are needed

yeson1a said...

@car-less SD
Thanks for the info..so looks like Lindbergh will be San Diegos airport for a very long time. just as well as I want to HSR to SD!!

James said...

@ Anon 2:54 PM

Capital letters aside, you make a good point. The majority of Californians only think in terms of automobile transportation. I am not saying it is the right thing to do, but it is worth keeping in mind the thinking of the traveling public. This same public which will someday be the customers for HSR. It will take considerable education just to get across the point that there are transportation alternatives. Many people simply don't know that they should be riding a bus or a train.

A great Ipod app is a transportation finder like bus and train schedules made easy when you find yourself in a new area.

The price of gasoline (and other economics) will eventually be a huge motivating force toward alternatives. Anything to make it easier to learn and use the system will help save time and attract riders.

Part of the problem is the pressure of the value of time. Waiting for a bus feels like wasted time. Again, I am not saying that this is the right way to value time spent on transportation. Wireless on HSR is a must.

Sidewalks are standard in new construction but ISTM there must be miles of sidewalks in the LA basin that have almost never has a pedestrian because they are miles from anywhere. California is still a car culture for good or bad.

Michael Kiesling said...

May I suggest this:


Is the most important transit improvement made in the Bay Area (and elsewhere) in the last decade.

arcady said...

Anonymous: going to the dentist is not quite the same as going to the HSR station. For one thing, the HSR station will have Caltrain service. So if you live in Menlo Park or Mountain View, you drive to the Caltrain station, get on the Caltrain, go to the next HSR station (San Jose or Palo Alto) and step across the platform into an HSR train. Ideally, your HSR ticket will cover this Caltrain journey, and the trip planning for the HSR will include Calrain connections. The missing piece is providing some long-term parking spaces at Caltrain stations.

Jim said...

how bout this. and I'm sick of having to baby my fellow californians on everydamn thing... god when did we become so helpless.... how bout we build the HSR. those of us who have the sense to find our way to a station by car, subway, broomstick, whatever, will use it and the rest of the dumbasses can stand in line at the airport or sit in traffic up until the time they finally figure it out. I'm sick of this lowest-most helpless and nimby common denominator deciding how things are done. How bout we build something for smart forward thinking people and then wait and see if the rest can figure it out. They will. eventually. I mean if its gonna fail based on a mile distance difference in station locations then californians don't deserve it at all. Hey maybe muni will come up and get me out of bed every morning and wrap me in bubble wrap and carry down the stairs to the bus, that way ill be able to ride it. ugh.

Anonymous said...

anon 2:54,

SJ Diridon is served by VTA light-rail (2 lines), Caltrain and future BART; so your idea that SJ is only traversible by auto is false.

While I like the Lindbergh idea, the airport will still remain a one-runway airport located in a very dense part of town. Locate a HSR station in downtown SD and resurrect relocating SD airport altogether.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 2:31am -

San Diego spent what, a decade, looking for an alternate site for its airport. Basically, the terrain limits the choices to Miramar and a second runway at/right next to Tijuana Rodriguez.

The former was rejected by voters because it would have meant kicking the Marine Corps out.

The latter raises complex eminent domain, cross-border as well as safety issues: Otay Mountain extends south of the border, rising steeply to 2000 feet smack in the flight path of aircraft approaching from or taking off toward the south-east. Brown Municipal Field, a former military airfield, is even closer to the mountain. Planes have crashed into it.

Constructing a new airport at the mouth of the Tijuana river is technically infeasible due to flood and earthquake risks as well as airspace conflicts with Tijuana Rodriguez.

Constructing an airport on an artificial island, such as Kansai International in Japan, is incredibly expensive and challenging. Subsidence at the site proved to be much more pronounced and uneven than anticipated, so every year parts of the extremely long terminal building have to be jacked up a little more with spacer plates.

James said...

@Jim @1:15 AM

With ALL due respect, there is a big difference between if a person *can* use a bus schecule and if a person *will* use a bus schedule.

Bruce.McFarling said...

As an outsider, one thing has me confused ... stage 1 of the HSR network is supposed to be around $46b, San Diego would be in stage 2 which will be billions more ... and getting to San Diego may require a substantial elevated or viaduct section and a big NIMBY fight ... why in the hell would anyone balk at 2 San Diego stations just because they are a mile and a half apart?

The primary financial COST of an HSR station is not the construction cost, its the capitalized value of the lost patronage from the delay imposed on through travellers. And there are NO through travellers beyond San Diego on the HSR. An airport station with good freeway connections (which will continue to be providing Express Bus access even after most of us have had to give up our cars), ample parking, and a station that connects directly to another one of the Trolley lines and a short walk to the ferry ... take both.

You can't extend that trolly line or drop the Ferry pier north of the Airport runway for anywhere near the cost of the second Downtown station.

The only reason I can see for making a choice between the two is that its offers an endless running argument, while the capital efficient dual station solution simply solves transport problems.

Jim said...

I know that's my point though. why do we have to make it exactly perfect in order to get people do use something for their own good. I mean say in the bay area the ended the hsr line at some place like hayward. I live in sf. I would not be suddenly rendered incapable of using hsr "becuase its too far and too compilicated boo hoo" I'd still hop on bart and go to hayward then head to LA. Just like Id hop on bart and go to sfo and head to LA. I just don't understand all the hand wringing over station placement "or they won't use it" ya know?

BruceMcF said...

Jim: "I know that's my point though. why do we have to make it exactly perfect in order to get people do use something for their own good. I mean say in the bay area the ended the hsr line at some place like hayward."

There is a serious confusion in language when we start talking about this in categorical, "yes/no" terms, when the reality is incremental changes in patronage for incremental improvements.

Having an HSR station in the urbanized core of the SF area will attract a given level of patronage. Moving it effectively "closer" to more transit corridors by providing more 1 transfer trips to the HSR via a single local transit line will increase the patronage.

Establishing something like the Transbay Terminal and putting a second transfer into a lot of trips to get to the HSR station will cost an increment of patronage ... and so, given the life of the capital improvement, it is worth making a quite serious effort to get the HSR station in the Transbay terminal.

None of this means there should be no attention given to effective parking, rental car facilities, and freeway access ... but its an HSR station, not an airport, its perfectly sensible and appropriate to have multiple stations in a greater metro area the size of the Bay, and different stations can have different specialties in the nature of the transport access the provide for originating and arriving passengers.

Jim said...

@Bruce of course IMHO all stations would ideally be located in downtown cores of every city served. That is where I would travel, that is were the bulk of local transit would connect and that is usually the most interesting part of towns. My point is, if a place such as San Diego wants to do something a certain way, then let em do it. And while I prefer downtown rail, well, let me put it this way, its like th argument over parking with BART. Some say more parking means more ridership, others say don't spend the money on parking. SAme with suburban versus downtown locations for HSR. Weh i go to the airport now, I either board bart at civic center and go to SFO then transfer to a people mover or borad bart at civic center and go to oakland and transfer to a shuttle. either way, it doesn't stop me from taking my trip. I would till use HSR if it didnt come to my front door ( which it will) Why are people willing to jump through a manner of hoops to get to their plane ride but we assume they won't jump through any hoops to get to their train ride?

Jim said...

whether the SD station is downtown or at the airport should have zero impact to me unless the retirement home is closer to one or the other since it won't be built until then anyway.

Jim said...

In fact I would suggest that HSR come up with a standardized prefab station design that can be quickly assembled/constructed in each location . With modifications as needed to fit the site. That would be an economical use of the money.