Monday, March 16, 2009

The Five Year Curve

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

One of the best train bloggers out there is DoDo, and over at the European Tribune he offers one of his best pieces yet - an examination of the AVE system's ridership growth and a comparison to other HSR systems around the world. He draws two key conclusions, which I'll explore in some detail below (though you need to read his full post to get the full picture), the first of which is:

What should be striking is that traffic seems to reach its full potential in at least five years. (Air/rail market share data would have been more appropriate for this purpose, but it's harder to come by, and you get the picture.)...

The lesson from this: high-speed rail (and not just high-speed) is a long-term investment. Do not insist on instant success -- but do expect a permanent change in travel patterns.

In short, if the LA-SF route is fully opened around 2018, then we will not see the "full potential" reached until 2023. However, we WILL see a permanent long-term shift in how Californians get around this state, which is of course the core goal here.

DoDo uses as his model the AVE line from Madrid to Barcelona, which was finally completed about a year ago. It replaced the "Puente Aéreo" - the "air bridge" between Madrid-Barajas and Barcelona-El Prat that was the world's busiest air route by flights. The "Puente AVE" as DoDo calls it has eaten heavily into the Puente Aéreo, to the point where the AVE trains now take about 50% of the market share of Madrid-Barcelona travelers.

But as DoDo also notes, the Madrid-Barcelona AVE, despite those impressive gains in modal share, has yet to meet ridership expectations:

RENFE missed its own expectation for the entire line by almost 250,000 -- and that for the Madrid-Barcelona relation alone by 300,000. Only the last few months of Spanish intercity traffic were affected by the economic crisis, so there is something else at play here. I criticised high ticket prices a year ago, and I find that this has indeed become a theme in the Spanish media over the past year. Even at the anniversary press conference, where new airline-style last-minute discounts were announced.

What explains this? To DoDo the answer is obvious: "all potential customers won't try out a new offer instantly - you have to wait for people to discover that the new alternative is better."

This leads to DoDo's second key conclusion - that there are certain bad decisions that typically get made by HSR builders and governments in response to the slow start (though some of these bad decisions are made in the design and construction phase):

It happens actually quite often that a major new rail project gets off to a really bad start, generating bad publicity -- and then turns into a solid mainstay of the transport system a few years later (with less media coverage). To sum up the reasons:

  1. an expectation that people will change travel patterns instantly;

  2. financing (e.g. interest rates and period of maturity) and rosy projections themselves are tailored for short-term expectations on profitability;

  3. after diverse construction delays, (especially high-speed) lines are often opened half-finished (missing sections, stations, local transit connections, trains, signalling), and thus can't realise their full potential instantly

  4. when the builders become nervous about their ridership projections (be it due to cost overruns or 'half-finished' openings as per above), they tend to bet on passengers accepting higher ticket prices -- which usually doesn't work out.

I can all too easily envision some or all of these coming true in California. And though DoDo explains how SNCF successfully handled some of these issues in the early 1980s, under the Socialist leadership of François Mitterand (bringing down ticket prices to encourage long-term ridership growth), I think that at this stage in the process we have the opportunity to avoid some of these problems.

First, we cannot expect ridership goals to be met immediately. DoDo's analysis shows they will be met but not until around five years have passed. This will produce hackles from the usual HSR deniers (who will still be with us in ten years' time) - the Wendell Coxes and Martin Engels who will say that "omg you haven't met ridership - the HSR train is a boondoggle! kill all remaining extension plans!" We must resist them patiently but firmly and let the project steadily attract riders.

Second, we need to oversee the financing process to ensure that the project's finances are not going to be imperiled by expectations of high ridership out the gate. This is a long-term project; its financing should be long-term as well. This is one reason I am skeptical of some of the more broad public-private proposals for how to fund the train. Government has the luxury of waiting for the system to mature and work properly; the private sector instead demands immediate profits at the expense of long-term planning (and we see how well THAT worked out).

Third, construction delays. I have always said that we are likely to see both delays and cost overruns, but that we can and should work to ensure the are minimal. Sometimes the two are linked - Peninsula NIMBYs are inherently arguing that it is OK to both make the HSR project more delayed and more expensive to suit their demands. We may well see similar problems on other sections of the route. We cannot let these delays compromise the overall system. The route has always been intended to be opened in stages, as was BART, but the finances, operation, and political support for the project cannot be made dependent on that staging. Further, the stages should be opened for practical reasons, and not in an effort to cut corners or costs. Again the long-term vision for the system must be kept in mind at all times.

Fourth, fares. Whether the $55 fare from SF-LA is possible even in 2018 dollars is an open question. But the system cannot raise ticket prices to try and cover financial shortfalls or cost overruns if they are to build a long-term ridership base.

It is entirely possible that ten years from now the short-sighted short-term political and economic worldview that helped create the present economic mess will have been replaced with a renewed emphasis on long-term planning and infrastructure, and that Californians will be willing to wait a few years for HSR ridership to rise to expectations.

But I wouldn't bet on it. Instead we are going to have to continue to fight to ensure that HSR is built the right way, the proper way, without compromising for people who put all sorts of petty and small concerns above the HSR project itself.


arcady said...

Building things in the right order is important to the success of and continued support for the project. Which is why it's really disappointing to see that they seem to be focusing on the San Francisco-San Jose segment. I'd argue that the best place to start is the LA-Bakersfield segment. It connects the state's biggest city to a regional center. It crosses a natural barrier (the Tehachapi Mountains), and the existing connections in the corridor are very poor. The route is long enough that HSR will provide a significant travel time, and a connection to the San Joaquin would allow an all-rail trip between LA and the Bay Area in as little as 7 hours. Meanwhile, I think the only useful thing for the CHSRA to do on the Peninsula Corridor is to negotiate interoperability standards with Caltrain and maybe pay for a share of the electrification project so it gets done faster.

Devil's Advocate said...

The estimated fare of $55 is pure bonk based on nothing. I wrote to the CHSRA, as I question the claim on the basis of the prevailing prices in European links of similar lenght and this is their response I received yesterday: "As for the $55 fare, it was set to maximize riders, and calculated from the 2005 prevailing average fare paid LA - SF of $110 (50% of it). We have tested variants of higher fares, which reduces the riders somewhat, but up to about 77% of the air fares it continues to increase revenue. The final fares are not yet set, but the operation is forecast to generate a healthy surplus as do the French, European, Japanese, and other Asian services. For a bit more on this topic, there's an FAQ (#2 on this page: that discusses the experience.
Thanks for your interest in the project!Regards,Nick Brand
Operations Manager". I checked the current fare to fly from SFO to LAX and it is $50 one way today (21 days prior to departure). Obviously the train ticket was estimated without regards of actual operating costs. There are also other factors to consider when we compare European (or Asian) HSR and California. 1. The low airfares in the USA as opposed to Europe, where many markets are not subject to the competitive forces prevalent in the Bay Area/LA route. 2. The low cost of auto travel in the US. Gasoline here is 1/3 the price and freeways are in fact free. For example a trip from Rome to Milan (which I often take), similar in lenght to SF to LA, will cost you about $40 in tolls, in addition to over $100 in gas. 3. The urban transit infrastructure. By this I mean that if you travel from Barcelona to Madrid, or viceversa, once you reach your destination you have lots of urban transit options to take you to your appointment, and all very convenient. Whereas if you travel to any place in California (especially LA), then you probably still need to rent a car to get around the city because all other options are not convenient. This fact may convince many people who travel from the Central Valley to LA, that since they still need a car once in LA, they might as well drive directly from home. These 3 factors weigh heavily against the profitability and success of the CHSRA with the auto and air competition. But I also agree with Arcady that we should start from LA to Fresno. That area has very poor alternatives other than driving and it's probably cheaper to build due to both lower land prices and geography.

Fred Martin said...

Getting HSR started up in some fashion between SF and LA is a good idea, so making the existing San Joaquin service integrate with Bakersfield-LA HSR is a great first step. It demonstrates that this otherwise enormous project is going somewhere. Crossing the Tehachapi Range will be tough, but it is probably the single biggest mobility improvement HSR can bring.

Now, ideally, I would rather CHSRA build along the I-5 in the Central Valley, connecting to Bakersfield, but I am all for making improved San Joaquin service feed in to Bakersfield-LA HSR during the interim.

Unfortunately, the politics are such that Kopp and Diridon want the Peninsula done first; Pringle wants LA-Anaheim done first; etc...

Spokker said...

"This fact may convince many people who travel from the Central Valley to LA, that since they still need a car once in LA, they might as well drive directly from home."

From Los Angeles Union Station:

A Central Valley traveler may take the Metro Red Line to Downtown, Hollywood and North Hollywood. A great BRT connection to the San Fernando Valley is also an option at the Red Line's North Hollywood terminus.

They can take the Metro Purple Line to Korea Town. By 2030 they should be able to take the subway to the mid-Wilshire district, Westwood and finally Santa Monica.

They can take the Gold Line to Pasadena or East LA. By the time HSR is built the Downtown Regional Connector should be completed, which would allow one-seat service to Long Beach. One could transfer from the subway to the Expo Line to Culver City and Santa Monica at 7th St./Metro Center.

They can take Metrolink toward Oxnard, Riverside or San Bernardino. They could also take the Orange County Line to destinations not served by HSR such as Buena Park or Fullerton.

There are a wide variety of rapid bus options pouring out of Union Station. There's a FlyAway bus to LAX. Then there are the usual local buses if their final destination is close by.

They could also have a friend pick them up, hail a cab, and yes, rent a car. That's not any different than airports, but at LAUS you have an incredible amount of transit options and it's growing every year.

arcady said...

Oh yeah, another good reason that LA Union Station is a good place to start: you get a very convenient transfer to LA's Metrorail, which by the time HSR will start running will have direct service to Santa Monica, Long Beach, East LA, Azusa, and Hollywood, with the line to Westwood probably coming shortly after HSR. You also get a transfer to Metrolink, which serves San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange County, and many suburbs in between, as well as Amtrak to San Diego, and by then maybe Las Vegas and Palm Springs. There's also a major bus hub there and an express bus to LAX.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Devil's Advocate, I've never taken the claims of $55 fares seriously and nobody else should either. It is nearly impossible to determine in 2009 what the proper fares will be for 2019 given the likelihood of dramatically changed circumstances.

Which include the near-certainty that neither the cost of driving or flying will be as low today as they are now. I realize you must be new here, but take a trip through the archives; you'll see literally dozens of posts on the "airline crisis" and the end of cheap oil, all of which make the point that even if $55 is not attainable, the ultimate fare structure is highly likely to be more affordable than either driving or flying between LA and SF in ten years' time.

Spokker said...

Here's an early analysis of the high speed rail situation in South Korea from 2005 if anyone is interested.

It's a 185 MPH train through mountainous terrain and the fares look very reasonable.

jim said...

I know I've said this before but the $55 fare wouldn't mean every fare is $55, it just means that there would likely be a similar low fare available. Remember its al about fare buckets and airlines and railroads use the same method of buckets. There are classes of service and each class of service has fare buckets with seats sold per availability. Only some one who has never left their house wouldn't know this. Did some people actually take it to mean that every ticket will be a flat 55 bucks? I don't have my terminal in front of me but at amtrak we have at least - oh - 10 fare plans between sf and la - maybe 12 actually. from a low of 47 bucks to about 120 or more, one way. plus up t0 3 classes of service. What we don't have that airlines do have - area ll the taxes and fees. we have no added taxes and fees. whearas that 59 ticket on southwest actually costs more like 70 something.

jim said...

oh yeah and don't forget the additional fare plans for regular riders. "point to point" multi rides and monthlies. for instance right now a 10 ride ticket from SF to LA is 385.00 or 38.50 each way. and fresno to LA is 220.00 or, 22 bucks each way.

jim said...

and one more example since im still in at work mode... for the 5 days per week commuter -- the monday thru friday set.... a monthly from SF to Fresno is 567.00 and that person would do 20 round trips per month or 40 one ways per month for a cost per trip of 14.18 each way sf to fresno. yes 14 bucks.

DoDo said...

Thanks for the plug! My article was pretty long, and even so, I did not expand on many details, so you had a difficult job of condensing it. So I hope you don't mind if I make some notes for precision.

1. "Puente AVE" falling short of predictions

You quote me with the shortfall in absolute numbers. In my article, I put that to scale with the actual traffic in diagrams. (BTW, I authorise you to hotlink to it :-) ) So, for CAHSR readers, I want to emphasize that the shortfall was relatively minor: just -3.8% for the entire line, and -11.3% for the Madrid-Barcelona relation alone (which is in competition with the Puente Aéreo). This certainly can't be called a lack of success, like for the KTX in Korea or THSRC in Taiwan (though it was enough for RENFE to forget the predictions in anniversary releases).

The question of what explains this was not central in my diary (it was more the occasion for me to get to the issue of ticket prices); so I feel I need to add details after you highlighted this. RENFE's first-year prediction for the Madrid-Barcelona relation (made in 2007; then for calendar year 2008, because they still hoped to open the line in December) translates to 2.635 million AVE and 3.145 airline passengers. Actual numbers: 2,337,913 for AVE; and interpolating AENA's monthly figures (for 20.02.2008-19.02.2009), the Puente Aéreo carried around 3.37 million. So the shortfall of the entire market vs. the predictions -- in effect the collateral of the global economic crisis (in Spanish intercity traffic, kicking in from November; which can also be seen on the graph on page 2 in the INE release) -- was a little over 70,000, of which AVE's part can be hardly more than 30,000 - so the economic crisis explains just 10% of AVE's shortfall vs. RENFE's prediction.

So, what explains this shortfall? I blamed ticket prices, but you made a jump there, to my more general points. However, I request that you move the part on passengers not trying out a new offer instantly: that doesn't fit here. RENFE's predictions do anticipate hysteresis. Their Madrid-Barcelona prediction also had figures for 2010, with around 3.8 million for rail. For another line I covered, Córdoba-Málaga, their prediction involved a rather strong hysteresis: a continuous rise (1.65 - 2.0 - 2.8 - 3.5 - ? - 5 million) to a plateau from 2013.

DoDo said...

2. SNCF's TGV success

I did not make it explicit in the article, but I want to emphasize here: while Mitterrand's election came just at the right time around the TGV line's opening, and helped enhance its policies; French state railways SNCF fought for the TGV all on its own for most of the planning and construction phase: the then right-wing Presidents, prime ministers and transport ministers were all sceptical at the least (and active layers of stumbling blocks at the worst). This is noteworthy given the general image of European, especially French public companies.

3. Meeting ridership predictions five years after

This mixes up two things: if you make predictions right, you can anticipate the at least five years lines may need to reach their full potential in a given state of construction (see RENFE above; I also note that the CAHSR prediction Herbie linked for me -- thanks! -- is for 2030, 12 years in).

I note that my Asian Tiger examples are still far away from the original predictions -- then again, they aren't finished, either. This is worth to go into more detail in terms of errors to avoid. Korea's KTX will realise its full potential only once the last third of the line to Busan is ready: now trains chug along an upgraded old line. Much more relevant for CAHSR is Taiwan's THSR. That line currently ends in the suburbs of Taipei resp. Kaohshiung, the extensions to downtown main stations are still in the works. Also, some wayside stations started with no public transport connections at all, or only some inadequate bus shuttles. Since station projects are the ones where delays are most likely, CAHSR (resp. local authorities planning the public transport connections) should pay the most attention to this.

DoDo said...

4. Hackles from the usual deniers when you have a bad start

Good point; and I put you on advance notice that my next diary, a non-HSR supplement to this article, will just be about an American example of this, with a quote from [Devoid of] Reason Foundation for some chuckles :-)

Also, as something of an ammunition, I note: while the KTX underperformance was a national scandal to the extent that the then President "apologised" to the public, a few years in, the second KTX line (a branch to Mokpo) was approved and is currently also in construction.

As for your points on CAHSR, I endorse them all enthusiastically :-)

DoDo said...

Some comments on comments:

@ arcady, good point on how to pick the first segment to construct. I will only add that generally, it is also a good consideration to tackle the most difficult sections (the ones which can be expected to have the longest construcxtion time) first: it will be much easier to get momentum for the remaining sections then.

For bad and good examples, I again turn to Spain. On the Madrid-Barcelona line, the most difficult sections are the descent from the coastal mountains to Barcelona resp. the Barcelona city access in built-up area. They were tendered, built and opened last, and that didn't work out that well...

Meanwhile, on the tree of lines from Madrid to the North, they did just the opposite. The trunk line (opened last year, covered in my article) contains the crossing of the Guadarrama mountains, with the longest tunnel. All three of the next sections in advanced construction cross the mountain range along the Atlantic coast of Spain, with several tunnels (including another giant, the 24.7km = 15.3mi Pajares Base Tunnel). The easy connecting sections on the plains have been started only now.

On another in-construction Spanish network, the Levante one to the Southeast of Madrid, the most difficult section is again the crossing of the coastal mountains to Valencia -- and it was again the first to be taken on.

DoDo said...

@ Devil's Advocate:

You make some good criticisms, but I will nitpick.

1) Since the appearance of budget airlines, most European high-speed lines are (or, in case they thwarted it, were) exposed to airlines competing tooth-and-nails (among each other too). In the article, I mention that this competition adversely affected Eurostar (the Franco-Belgian-British one, not the Italian :-) ) for three years from 2000; here I add that they also had to cut prices for that.

3) Transit infrastructure: even if LA's system will expand by the time CaHSR is up and running, a good point I also made, and this is also one reason I think Taiwan's THSR is a better comparison for California. (Taipei, like LA, has a relatively new and still rapidly expanding fixed-guideway mass transit system.)

DoDo said...

@ Spokker,

Even KTX's initial fares looked reasonable from a Westerners' point of view, but when it started, many Koreans preferred the cheaper long-distance buses -- and the price advantage vs. planes wasn't enough, either. (These things are also referred to on page 19 of the pdf you link to.) So KTX cut fares and introduced more special offers. (However, their various policies contributed to a lasting low customer perception of the operating company.)

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

that $55 one-way fare from SF-LA stems from one of the scenarios analyzed by Cambridge Systematics and clearly marked "in 2005 dollars".

If you assume 2.5% general inflation, the nominal amount would be more like $76 in 2018. But then, air fares and everything else would go up as well.

A more useful price target would be 50-75% of air fare with similar restrictions. SNCF prices its ad-hoc TGV tickets based on a rating engine every bit as sophisticated as the ones used by the airline industry. On top of that, there are monthly and annual passes for frequent travelers (e.g. long-distance commuters) between specific city pairs.

looking on said...

Why are they awarding contracts on Altamont?

There have been press reports today about Aecom getting contracts from the CHSRA one of which is to study the Altamont corridor.

What is gong on here? Altamont is not a route to be used.

• AECOM Technology Corp. has obtained two high-speed rail contracts totaling more than $70 million. The company will provide environmental and preliminary engineering services to the California High Speed Rail Authority for the Altamont Corridor and Caltrain Corridor projects. AECOM will lead the $56 million contract for the Altamont Corridor, an 80-mile portion of a high-speed rail system that will connect the Central Valley to the San Francisco Bay area via the Altamont Pass. AECOM also will work in partnership with HNTB Corp. on a $16 million contract for the Caltrain Corridor, a 50-mile segment that will connect San Jose to San Francisco.

Morris Brown said...

For those interested, the California State Senate Transportation and Housing committee is having a hearing on the High Speed Rail Project at 1:30 today 3/17/09.

It is supposed to be webcast on the California Channel.

無名 - wu ming said...

having just ridden the taiwanese HSR a month or so ago, i can report that the taipei extension to the downtown train/subway station is indeed complete, and while the kaohsiung extension is not complete yet, the zuoying temporary terminal stop connects quite effectively with the new kaohsiung metro subway line, maybe 10 minutes' ride to get to the train station.

i expect it will see increased numbers when the kaohsiung extension is complete, however. it was pretty full when i rode it right before chinese new year.

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

the way AB3034 is worded, Altamont is one of the possible corridors in which HSR could be built using prop 1A funds, provided only that this does not interfere with the phase I starter line of San Francisco-LA-Anaheim.

(G) Merced to Stockton to Oakland and San Francisco via the
Altamont Corridor.

Note the absence of any mention of San Jose in either context. Ergo, even though CHSRA's preferred route is Pacheco Pass, the legislation actually requires them to perform project-level EIR/EIS studies of the alternative as well.

That might come in handy if UPRR refuses to cede any of its ROW between San Jose and Gilroy and buying land close by proves impossible or, there are other circumstances that force CHSRA to revisit its preferred route.

So think of AECOM's work as merely belts and suspenders for now, as there has been no commitment to actually build the HSR/commuter overlay CHSRA has floated.

Andre Peretti said...

As DoDo implies, it must be very difficult for Americans to understand that the SNCF, although state-owned, is not state-run. Otherwise the TGV would not exist, with the 1980 government being on the deniers' side. How is this independence possible?
First, the SNCF has permanence. "Governments pass, we remain", said an executive. It's a big animal and no politician knows how to tackle it. And it doesn't need government money. It doesn't have to implore subsidies every year as Amtrack does. This renders politicians powerless. In fact, they generally are on the begging side. For instance, the decision to build TGV stations away from town was criticised by both government and opposition but he SNCF was inflexible.
This independence can create illogical situations. Marseille airport obtained subsidies to build a new no-frills terminal for EasyJet and RyanAir to compensate the loss of the Air France air shuttle which lost 80% ridership to the TGV. Thus, the French state is subsidising two foreign airlines to enable them to compete with a railway it owns.
By the way, in a prevous post I gave EUR90,000 as the yearly salary of a TGV driver. I was misled by a partisan website. This is the salary of a minority of drivers, those who are employed by the SNCF on the Taiwan HSR. In France, they get half that sum, end of career.
In the past, the SNCF was managed by politicians who decided on routes and fares. It consistently ran huge deficits. I'm afraid CHSR has a lot in common with the "old" SNCF.

Morris Brown said...


Something doesn't make any sense here. At the Palo Alto council meeting, CHSRA made quite clear to that council, that scoping comments with regards an Altamont route would not be in order. That the certified EIR had eliminated that route and therefore comments regarding Altamont are not in order.

Now we have millions of dollars apparently about to be spent on studying Altamont. Clearly something is amiss here.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Morris, as Rafael pointed out, the CHSRA has *always* delineated Altamont as a "high speed corridor". These studies appear to be in that vein - upgrading ACE, for example. What was not in order is suggesting that the main LA-SF trunk line be routed through Altamont and not Pacheco, since that decision has been made and ratified by voters.

BruceMcF said...

In public meetings collecting community input for a specific design for Altamont pass alignment (designs plural, if its not just the commuter overlay but also the alternative main alignment), comments of "don't go here, go via SJ and Pacheco instead" would also be out of order, since the purpose of the meeting is to inform the design of that option.

Tony D. said...

Looking on 8:24,

No worry's!

Despite what Rafael subtlety suggests, Pacheco Pass WILL BE the HSR route from the Central Valley into Bay Area.

And the Altamont HSR-overlay, which will basically be a completely overhauled/upgraded ACE service, will serve Diridon Station/San Jose.

Why Rafael selectively cited (G) from AB 3034 is beyond me.

A little San Jose/Silicon Valley bias still lingers?

jim said...

So we've had hsr threatening to only go to 4th st cuz they don't want to pay for caltrains tbt extesion, you have caltrain, hoping hsr money will help pay for the extension and electrification, you have sf and tbt expecting hsr to be located in the terminal, and you hsr saying that terminal is not adequate and that the city will have to make it bigger. Does anyone have any faith that caltrain hsr and tbt can work together to get this done or do you think that we will end up with infighting and fragmented less than perfect result? And instead of guessing at this solution or that solution in this case wouldn't it be better to advocate for an outpouring of public outrage and pressure on these guys to snap out of it and get the job done instead of playing politics? Or shall we just let it go as usual and maybe in 20 years we'll finally open a flawed railroad?

Rafael said...

@ morris brown -

one of the persistent problems is that some of those who say "Altamont" really mean "Altamont-via-Dumbarton", which is not at all the same thing.

There isn't going to be an HSR-capable link across the bay at Dumbarton because of the DENWR. Altamont-via-SantaClara/SJC would still run through Menlo Park so that's why comments regarding Altamont were out of scope for the project-level EIR/EIS process for the SF-south bay segment.

As far as CHSRA is concerned - i.e. unless a court forces it to change tack or SF-Gilroy proves impossible - the only questions that remain relate to how the tracks will be run through the peninsula. The decision regarding the preferred route has been made.

@ Tony D -

I cited AB3034 language because that is the legal basis for CHSRA's actions going forward. While it's true that a non-forked route through both SF and SJ via Pacheco is preferred, its implementation depends on securing a ROW down to Gilroy, which has not happened yet.

Car-less in San Diego said...

We will be looking at multiple problems given that Phase II (build-out to San Diego and to Sacramento) is dependent on ridership numbers and profitability of the LA-SF route. If CAHSR does not meet expected ridership goals until 5 years out this will inevitably delay phase II by at least that much.

When do we think the system to San Diego and Sacramento will be built out in reality? Are there ways to ensure it will be built in a timely manner and can these ridership realities be built into the financing without pushing the schedule?

Perhaps a portion of Prop 1A funds could be used now to begin acquiring ROW for and designing phase II. Once money has been spent on these segments there will be a disincentive to stop or delay them.

ladyk said...

Maybe we could add one item to the list of potential problem areas. Some of the bad design decisions could be characterized as reverse-NIMBYism. Once a HSR plan surfaces, every shitty little town potentially along the line wants a stop and some guaranteed service. That problem is probably minor compared to technical problems, finances, NIMBYism and so forth. But considering that millions, even billions are spent to shave minutes off the total trip time... Then out of political considerations or because of political wrangling, the line is 'disfigured' and you get such stops as Montabaur or Limburg on the Cologne-Frankfurt line. Ever heard of Montabaur or Limburg? Me neither. Montabaur's population is 13,000 - Limburg's is 33,000. There has been some development around the Montabaur station but clearly it's in no proper relation to the cost. It's simply not what a HSR main line is about. Another fruity example is Forbach in France (population 22,000). Once a day an ICE3 train stops there on its way between Paris and Frankfurt. Why? Because early on some town official thought it would be nice to have a convenient way to travel into the 'big big world'.
I'm not a Californian, so I don't know - but is Visalia maybe such a case?

arcady said...

Andre Peretti: At least SNCF, even back in the politically-run days, was still a large and functioning railroad full of people who knew how to build and run a rail system. CHSRA is a board of nine politicians and a staff of six. Not at all encouraging.
ladyk: Yeah, there's definitely a pork-barrel factor in various communities trying to pile onto the line. Palmdale, Riverside, and Temecula come to mind. Serving Visalia would be a matter of building a station on the existing line, which is not as bad as diverting the line via a less direct route.

Capitol Corridor Rider said...

Jim 11:50 PM. RE: Amtrak monthly pass from Fresno to SF = $567.
Sorry for going sort of off-topic, but does anyone actually ride Amtrak from Fresno to San Francisco on a 5-day-per-week round trip basis? Checking the timetable, the earliest Fresno to SF trip is 6:50 AM - 11:20 AM, and the latest return is 5:15 PM - 9:51 PM. So our hypothetical commuter is spending more than 9 hours per day on the train and less than 6 hours per day in their place of employment... a little bit absurd if you ask me. Anyway since you are the one in the know, I am definitely curious to find out how many monthlies for this route (and other similar length routes, like Fresno-LA) are sold per month.

jim said...

@CCR I don't have the numbers on how many point to point monthlies are sold on the CC or the SJ routes but if we weren't selling them they'd get rid of them. I do know that there is a large amount of regular riders between the valley and sf. Up and down the valley Id imagine there are as well (bakersfield fresno etc) I guess my point was for people wondering who is going to pay to commute and picking at that famous $55 dollar fare from HSR, that the fare is possible and in fact much lower per a multi ride ticket. and while not many would travel 3 hours from fresno to work, they will travel 80 minutes or whatever, on the HSR and likely have a similar pass. I can tell you that after all these years I am still amazed at how many people actually take the train, at how many people absolutely DEPEND on the train, and how many people even enjoy the train. who'd a thought??? To make this relevant to the topic as afar as building ridership... well the cali state trains (Caps/san joaqs/surliners) are all perfect examples of how to build ridership. The valley started with tow trains a day and old beat up ancient rolling stock and the folks out there pushed for more trains and now they have 16 per day. I think caps started with 4 trains each way per day in the early 90s, and now there are 32 or so, and the state is currently building ridership via the surfliner buses north from SLO to SF until the numbers can justify a train. ANd the 6 or so, 8 hour bus rides from santa barbara are full all the time. SO if you build it they will ride and I'd say 80 percent of californians who don't ride, don't ride because they don't even know the state trains exist. You may be surprised to know that californians for all our tech, are incredibly uninformed about many many things. HSR is going to need to hire the best advertising firm on the planet to get people to ride at first.

jim said...

building riderhsip in california - keeping in mind that none of these services have the potential to replace air travel the way that HSR will. So HSR should exponential gains by not only taking new and existing train riders, but grabbing at least half the air market.

-In 1991, Caltrans created the Capitol corridor between Sacramento/Roseville and San Jose where no local (non-interstate) trains had operated for over twenty years. With-- three-- trains operating daily, ridership was higher than the Pacific Surfliner ridership was when Caltrans got involved there -- approximately 400,000 per year. In Fiscal 96-97. one daily round trip was added to the Capitols, and ridership eclipsed the previous year's total by nearly 100,000. Revenue rose 6.6% during the same period to nearly $6 million. In 1998, the service was removed from Caltrans' management. Since then, frequency of service have increased to-- sixteen round trips daily. Ridership has reached 1.2 million in FY 2005-2006. Revenue was approximately $16 milion for the fiscal year.

jim said...

In the valley where many of the HSR riders will likely be found, the increases in ridership that come with increases in trains seem to be exponential. Given they loyalty and pent up need in the valley for more service, HSR should do very well there.

---" In the San Joaquin corridor, trains have increased from a single round trip carrying approximately 80,000 riders per year, to six round trips daily with ridership exceeding 800,000 in Fiscal 2005-2006. Revenue rose during the same period to over $26 million."

--and in car crazy southern california of all places, the building of ridership is most impressive of all - frequencies increased x6 and resulted in ridership increasing by almost 9
-"Caltrans, working together with Amtrak, had increased the frequency of Pacific Surfliner trains from three round trips daily in the mid 1970's, with annual ridership around 300,000, to eleven round trips (twelve on Fridays) daily with ridership exceeding 2.6 million for the fiscal year 2005-2006. Revenue for the same period was $32.6 million."

So the point is again, californians will ride and the more choices you give them they more they ride and once hsr passes the threshold to where it becomes "the" thing to do. Then they'll really ride. 9 (that's where our abundance of celebs and movie makers come in) yep the first time a hollywood producer makes a blockbuster action flick that features CA hsr - ridership will bump way up. And if anyone doubts we californians are that shallow... may I point to exhibit A - our governor.