Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The LAO and Sen. Alan Lowenthal Attack the HSR Project

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

Over the last year it's become quite clear that the California High Speed Rail Authority is not exactly the most beloved of state institutions. Arnold Schwarzenegger has tried to kill its funding streams, notably in the 2007-08 budget. Quentin Kopp and Rod Diridon are distrusted by some on the Peninsula and in the Santa Clara Valley. The CHSRA's ongoing financial problems, a creation of the state budget mess, make it more difficult for the Authority to effectively plan the system, and wind up reinforcing some of the negative perceptions of the agency.

I have consistently rejected most of the more conspiratorial criticisms of the CHSRA. I don't see the point in making bogeymen out of Quentin Kopp and Rod Diridon. Sometimes I agree with the Authority's decisions, sometimes I do not, but as a supporter of the project and someone who believes in evidence and reality, I think they're generally a good agency that tries to make the best of a troubled state government, and an overall lack of political leadership for the high speed rail project in California. Quentin Kopp in particular has a tendency to be rather forceful in his public statements, but given the general unwillingness of California politicians to speak out in defense of the project, can you blame him?

One of the CHSRA's more persistent critics has been Democratic State Senator Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach. Lowenthal, you may remember, was behind the flawed report put out by the Senate Transportation Committee last summer that proposed gutting the high speed rail project in favor of turning it into a glorified commuter rail. One hoped that the passage of Prop 1A - which got 55% in LA County - would have shown Sen. Lowenthal the need to support the vision of fast intercity trains connecting SF to LA. But no dice. Sen. Lowenthal is now targeting the CHSRA, but in ways that suggest he is still out to undermine the project itself.

Sen. Lowenthal recently requested an assessment of the CHSRA from the California Legislative Analyst's Office, which you can find as a PDF here. Under Elizabeth Hill, the former Legislative Analyst, the LAO was seen as one of the most respected, informed, and nonpartisan sources of information in the Capitol. Under the new head of the LAO, Mac Taylor, I have instead noticed a steady rightward drift in the work product of the LAO. Sen. Lowenthal appears to have found a willing partner in his effort to undermine the high speed rail project, by using an attack on problems with the CHSRA to mask an attack on the project itself.

Some of the recommendations make sense, including having Caltrans play a larger role in helping vet some of the CHSRA's funding requests and acquisition of federal HSR money. Some are not that useful or necessary, but aren't objectionable, such as the "more oversight and accountability!" portions. Worth noting for a moment that what HSR needs most isn't oversight and accountability, but political support from California leaders and a commitment to getting this thing built the right way. That is nowhere to be found in this report.

One of the more troubling aspects of the LAO report is their lack of context when criticizing the 2008 Business Plan. The LAO lists some specific things that were missing, and concludes:

The information provided by the revised plan is very general and does not provide specifics that are included in typical business plans. In particular, the plan does not provide any better sense of how the authority would accomplish the objective of developing, constructing, and operating a high-speed rail system.

But this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, for the LAO report does not mention - anywhere, at all - that the 2008 Business Plan was delayed and undermined by the state budget delay, as Quentin Kopp explained last October. I wonder how the LAO would perform if it were asked to deliver their usual in-depth analyses of the state budget but were denied the funding to produce that study. It is quite dishonest of the LAO to criticize the business plan without mentioning the budget delay.

By far the most egregious portion of the LAO report is the reappearance of Sen. Lowenthal's effort to gut the HSR project - this time in the guise of a neutral analysis from the LAO. Here's the offending language:

Project Selection Criteria Should Encourage Immediate Mobility Benefits. The authority plans to commit the majority of the Proposition 1A bond funds early in the project. It is important that the funds be spent on projects that benefit the state's overall transportation system in case the high-speed train program is delayed or suspended. We recommend that the authority be required to adopt project selection criteria that prioritizes the use of bond funds to the delivery of projects with the greatest immediate mobility benefits.

Come on, admit it, until you read that you probably thought I was being overly dramatic. But there's no other way to read that section as anything other than an attack on the HSR project itself. Shouldn't the LAO be in the business of trying to carry out the will of the voters and ensure the project gets built? Sure, there's always a nonzero possibility the project will be delayed or suspended. But isn't the best way to prevent that to ensure that project funds actually go to the HSR project itself?

By prioritizing "projects that benefit the state's overall transportation system" the LAO is doing several things. First, they're saying that HSR is NOT part of the overall transportation system, which is nonsense. Second, they are saying that the long-term mobility needs of the state - which HSR is designed to serve - are irrelevant. Third, they are suggesting that the system planning be compromised in order to serve "immediate mobility benefits" even if doing so will undermine the ability of the project to be completed effectively, on-time, and on-budget.

Besides, virtually every part of the HSR proposal can provide "immediate mobility benefits" - from upgrading the Caltrain corridor to starting work on the Transbay Terminal to building track in the Central Valley or grade crossings along the Metrolink corridor in LA County.

Some readers might say I'm reading too much into this, that it's not necessarily an attack on the HSR project. But read this in the context of Sen. Lowenthal's nonsense HSR report from June 2008, which included this recommendation:

6. Ensure that the Authority stages its construction program so that state funds are used on regional segments of the high-speed rail corridor, before developing the long distance link between the state’s major urban centers, i.e., Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is possible that the rail bond program could be approved by voters before the Authority has an approved financial plan that includes state, federal, and private resources. In that case, it is important that the first expenditures of state money should be used for improving regional travel segments where rights-of-way may be shared with commuter operators, Amtrak, freight railroads, and eventually high-speed rail.

It's almost exactly the same language, and clearly making the same overall point. As I wrote at the time:

the State Senate Transportation Committee led by Alan Lowenthal wants to turn the HSR project into commuter rail, and gut the "killer app" aspect of HSR - providing sustainable, non-oil based travel within the state of California. It flies in the face of the stats listed in the study suggesting that the long-distance link is what will make HSR financially viable.

Unfortunately Sen. Lowenthal has gotten the LAO to join his attack on the HSR project. A shame.

I'm all for improvements to the CHSRA. I'm even open to the "Department of Railroads" concept proposed by Senator Denise Ducheny in SB 409. But not every recommendation is a good one. We must support the good ones, and fight the ones designed to gut the HSR project in the mask of "reform."

The California high speed rail system is still facing determined opposition from the usual suspects, even after the passage of Prop 1A. Passenger rail advocates need to not let up their activism at a time like this if we are to avoid becoming the third state to approve and then kill an HSR project. This project is too important to let die.

UPDATE: State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and the Pooled Money Investment Board are going to try and sell $4 billion in bonds this week - but they have not decided whether to give $29.1 million of that to the CHSRA despite Mehdi Morshed's stated concern that the CHSRA would have to shut down without it. However, things do look promising:

Tom Sheehy, who was sitting in on the investment board for Finance Director Mike Genest, said he came to the meeting prepared to support the high-speed rail loan, but decided to wait until the board meets again in two weeks. By then, he said, board members will know if next week's bond sale was successful.

Morshed said he would ask the project's engineering and environmental-review contractors to keep working, banking on the assumption that the loan will be approved in two weeks and they'll get paid.

"With the Department of Finance's strong support I think we're probably in good shape," he said.

29 comments:

yeson1a said...

Also important is the 29million for the work in progress..per SFGate they did not get it today and it will be decided in 2 more weeks..Gees

Morris Brown said...

Morshed stated clearly yesterday that if he didn't get the funds today he had no other option but to close down.

The article

LINK

clearly states the funds were not approved today. (thanks yeson1a)

@Robert

Why you would go off and bash Senator Lowenthal is hard to understand.

With reference to the T&H Senate committee meeting yesterday (3/17/09):

The Senator made it quite clear at the onset of the meeting and at numerous times during the meeting he was a supporter of the project.

Why do you bash the LAO for doing its job? Morshed in his testimony clearly stated he agreed with "everything" the Senator and the LAO had stated.

It seems your view is not being taken as truth by our legislature.

I could go on and on. I have requested that the video from the meeting be posted so that those who missed the meeting can view and form their own conclusions.

BruceMcF said...

"The Senator made it quite clear at the onset of the meeting and at numerous times during the meeting he was a supporter of the project."

Was that by pushing a policy agenda making a constructive contribution, or by saying, "I am a supporter of the project".

Appropriate technical terms for the latter without the former would be "claimed" and "asserted", as opposed to "made clear". "Made clear" from a politician entails, in addition to remarks, positive policy contributions.

I sat down today and tried to generate am hourly schedule for the TBT trainbox on the assumption of 3 minute headways and switches both at the throat and a least a train length within the tunnel connecting L2 to both L1 and L3. And, note, even if not built in at the start, that switching would be the least disruptive upgrade to provide ... far less than adding a dive, and you can't very well expand the box later down the track unless the shell is in place at the outset.

But I don't see any problem for HSR if it has priority access to the central four platform tracks and two tail tracks. 8tph with 12 minutes to debark, 15 minutes at the tail track, 15 minutes to embark, access and egress on dedicated access and egress lines six and nine minutes apart ... no problem in sight. Fighting on the grounds of a design limit to 4 tph is a very poor strategic choice of ground.

Provided priority access to those resources, the real bottleneck is on Caltrain services ... available slots to cross the path from P1 or P6 to L2 and available slots to use L2 as either a relief access or relief egress line clash, and if HSR were to make full use of that priority, and run 8tph in and out of the trainbox, Caltrain would be left with 4tph.

But I'm just a regional economist sketching it out in a table ... in order to understand what they need to be pressing for, CAHSRA needs to have the appropriate people with operational experience to advise them to go for a guarantee of platforms and priority access and abandon this bluster about a two level train box.

(Mind, a two level train box, HSR on top with two straight islands connected to tail tracks, Caltrain below with two straight islands being, in effect, two Caltrain sets in length, would eliminate the access problems, because the level separation to access the two levels provides the same operational benefit as the dive that would untangle the proposed train-box. Its just that building a second level costs more than adding a dive, and funding seems to be tight over on that coast).

Morris Brown said...

@BruceMcF

I would suggest you view the video yourself as to the Senator's postion on the project.

The whole approach was that proper over sight was necessary.

There was quite a long discussion on the Authority's request for more space at the TBT. I'm no train expert, but from what was presented and not really refuted by Morshed, it seemed like this request was on an engineering level not needed to accommodate the traffic predicted by the ridership projections. Certainly the TBT people don't think the larger train box is needed.

Again it was an important hearing. Hopefully it can be viewed by those who are interested.

bossyman15 said...

wait so CAHSR have shutdown or not?

Rafael said...

@ robert cruickshank -

Reading between the lines, I get a different sense of where Sen. Lowenthal's may be at:

- a high speed test track in the Central Valley for the engineers at CHSRA and FRA is not a high priority for him.

- he wants CHSRA to spend prop 1A funds on grade separations + signaling upgrades (PTC etc) on the BNSF Transcon line between Redondo Junction and Fullerton. Perhaps also phase II of the Alameda Corridor East project that is already doing the same for UPRR's lines through the San Gabriel Valley.

- he has no confidence in CHSRA's chances of attracting enough federal and any private matching funds at all.

He's clever enough not to say these things verbatim, but he's really just another pol trying to feed at the trough. He's the representative for Long Beach, home to one of the largest harbors on the West Coast. As such, he cares a whole lot more about moving goods inland than he does about moving people around the state.

That doesn't mean he wants to kill HSR, he just wants CHSRA to change its priorities within the HSR project. Considering that they are in fact working on a project-level EIR/EIS for LA-Anaheim already, it's not as if they're being unresponsive. IMHO, Sen. Lowenthal just wants make absolutely sure money is spent in his district before any is spent in the Central Valley.

And fwiw, CHSRA really hasn't exactly been terribly successful in integrating its own plans with that of other state and local agencies (cp. Transbay Terminal, grade separations in the Caltrain ROW, I-15 managed lanes project, solar farm at Palmdale airport, dedicated truck lanes in the San Gabriel Valley etc.)

This is arguably not entirely CHSRA's fault, it's been on a starvation budget and there is no Secretary of Infrastructure at the state level who could resolve the inevitable bureaucratic turf wars. Gov. Schwarzenegger hasn't spent any of what little political capital he's got left on securing such a cabinet-level post because he's trying to keep the state from going bankrupt as a direct result of the idiotic 2/3 rule for the state budget.

That said, I don't think Sen. Lowenthal's proposal to put Caltrans in charge of HSR is a wise one. You might as well put the fox in charge of the hen house. Co-ordination and prioritization of infrastructure spending has to happen one level higher up.

Alon Levy said...

Quentin Kopp and Rod Diridon are distrusted by pretty much everyone who's heard of them.

Corrected.

Rafael said...

Here's the announcement from State Treasurer Bill Lockyer regarding the sale of $4 billion in GO bonds.

The talk is of federal stimulus funds that will supplement the proceeds from the bond sales and, of putting $500 million of the total to get 5300 small-scale but stalled infrastructure projects back to active status again.

The other $3.5 billion state are needed to begin to replenish the coffers of the state's pool for infrastructure projects, which is $6 billion in the red.

It's unclear if any prop 1A funds will be offered to provide CHSRA with some funding for project-level EIR/EIS and preliminary engineering work in 2009. Considering AB3034 explicitly exempted up to $900 million from the requirement to secure matching funds precisely to permit that work to go ahead, that is how the treasurer should meet CHSRA's funding request. The question is when he will choose to do so.

BruceMcF said...

Morris Brown said ... "I'm no train expert, but from what was presented and not really refuted by Morshed, it seemed like this request was on an engineering level not needed to accommodate the traffic predicted by the ridership projections. Certainly the TBT people don't think the larger train box is needed."

I don't see a video at the link you posted.

Regarding the size of the train box ... if Caltrain thinks they can get by with two platforms, then four platforms plus two tail tracks is a reasonable long term capacity for HSR. What is needed is an ability to get to the platforms ... what Caltrain sketched out in 2003 is not good enough.

It'd be nice if they have an updated design to cope with higher frequencies, but someone should pose the question ... instead CAHSRA is chasing down a blind alley on the size of the train box.

Or else a design that is better suited for expansion ... a four platform box that is designed in advance for an additional four platform level to be built underneath would also work (four platforms per level have much fewer cross-over bottlenecks than six).

jim said...

The idea of putting HSR under caltrans may sound good at first. A state dot dealing will all the state transportation - makes sense and caltrans has a dept of rail already in place. But remember cap corridor was originally run by caltrans and was failing until the currently organizations took over and made it a success. Maybe the state should have a separate department of railroads to act as a clearing house for all heavy passenger and freight and to coordinate and consolidate heavy passenger and freight within california while implementing a cohesive state wide long term plan. things such as HSR, Alameda Corridor, Fresno consolodation and other types of porjects could all get on the same page.

BruceMcF said...

"Maybe the state should have a separate department of railroads to act as a clearing house for all heavy passenger and freight and to coordinate and consolidate heavy passenger and freight within california while implementing a cohesive state wide long term plan."

This seems to describe the Ohio Rail Development Commission, collecting the rail crossing upgrade project, the Ohio HSR Commission, and one other state rail authority under one roof.

jim said...

Of course the current existing agencies will fight to keep their local control.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

are you worried about train or pedestrian access to the platforms?

For the trains, the problem could be eased on the DTX side by shifting the tunnel from 2nd to 3rd Street. That leaves more room for turnouts. However, it's not ideal because of the super-expensive MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) but perhaps it could be skirted to the east, especially if the tunnel is reduced to two tracks (20tph max total). I still don't understand the purpose of the third track.

Moving the tunnel to 3rd Street would also permit the platforms to be shifted west a little bit, creating more room for access to the tail tracks. Note that there is some flexibility in the curved transition to Main Street as there are no buildings there to worry about right now, just the bus ramps. If need be, the tail tracks can be extended beyond Harrison to just shy of the Bay Bridge supports.

Pedestrian access capacity can be improved by keeping passengers waiting to board from descending until those alighting from the preceding train have (mostly) cleared that half-platform. The fire marshal may also prefer to have as few people as possible on the underground platforms at any given time - the concourse level is easier to evacuate in an emergency.

Spokker said...

"Corrected."

Oh no, these big bad politicians are going to build HSR to make their developer friends rich! Someone save us from all this development!

We want transit orientated development and then some people decide to build a train station, some housing and some commercial space in the same place and some people go apeshit.

I hope the backers, developers, designers, and Rafael and Cruickshank get rich of this project. I could only HOPE that Rafael, Cruickshank and Clem are getting backdoor payments for their ridiculously extensive work in helping people understand why high speed rail is good for California and America.

So many industrialized European, Asian and some emerging Asian nations can't be wrong! HSR is the future and I can't wait to take a dump at 220MPH between Bakersfield and Fresno.

Jarrett Mullen said...

@ BruceMc et al.

I think transbay capacity may be fine assuming it will be used exclusively by Caltrain and HSR. However, the terminal should be able to support increased levels of service by different providers. For instance, Amtrak wishes to provide additional SF-LA service via the coast. It would be excellent to have this service terminate at Transbay. In addition, Monterrey will likely get regional rail service in the future, and Transbay would be the ideal terminus.

Thinking way out, the second transbay tube could feed Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin trains along with BART directly to the terminal. Considering the possibility of these services, the design of the station box shouldn't hinder the true potential of the Terminal.

Morris Brown said...

@BruceMcF (and others)

The California channel took down the video, but I got them to put it up under recent activity today.

So if you go to:

http://www.calchannel.com/

you will see a link to the video.

Those interested in the TBT, towards the end they show slides and a pretty long discussion of the terminal. I found it informative.

(the interface is strange -- you can pause, go forward etc., once you figure it out --- also the meeting doesn't start until about 11 minutes into the video.

Alon Levy said...

We want transit orientated development and then some people decide to build a train station, some housing and some commercial space in the same place and some people go apeshit.

That's not the issue. The issue is that Diridon intends to build the station bearing his name as a monument instead of as a utilitarian train station. If you ask Rafael, he'll tell you that the main reason Altamont got short-changed is that Diridon vetoed the idea of having trains stop at Santa Clara instead of Diridon Station.

We have the same shady developers here in New York, one of whom is now trying to overrule two separate referendums so that he can keep running for Mayor indefinitely. That's not TOD - that's Hugo Chávez-style authoritarianism. People in this mold rarely support TOD because they're serious about reducing sprawl or pollution or CO2 emissions; they support it as yet another form of urban renewal. Kopp's Robert Moses-like speeches to Palo Altans make it clear that the last thing he cares about is making HSR work.

To me, the greatest problem is that it doesn't really do much for TOD or emission/pollution cuts. You can see it in Curitiba, where Jaime Lerner had dictatorial powers for enough years to promote world-class BRT, pedestrianism, and pollution control. The city itself is clean, but its suburbs have heavy industrial pollution. Some of these suburbs are located upwind of Curitiba proper, so that the toxic fumes blow over the city. This authoritarian TOD is really no different from Jane Jacobs' examples of urban renewal-era parks built in the shade of skyscrapers. The planner-king rarely plans well. It's the planner-activist - think Rafael and Clem rather than Kopp and Diridon - who knows what he's doing.

Spokker said...

"If you ask Rafael, he'll tell you that the main reason Altamont got short-changed is that Diridon vetoed the idea of having trains stop at Santa Clara instead of Diridon Station."

So one guy was responsible for all trains going to San Jose? Other people had to agree that Pacheco was a good alternative. Diridon wasn't the sole person who made the decision.

jim said...

I knew pacheco was the right way when I looked at a map. San Diego-Los Angeles-Fresno-San Jose-San Francisco. The five largest cities in the state.

Spokker said...

There's eight other people on that board. Are they all beholden to Diridon or something?

arcady said...

"There's eight other people on that board. Are they all beholden to Diridon or something?"
No, but I'm sure he promised to support them if they promise to support him. Trading favors is what politicians do. For example, there's a board member from Anaheim, and coincidentally, the startup segment of the HSR got extended to Anaheim, and LA-Anaheim is being looked at as one of the first phases to be built (along with SF-SJ). It makes no sense from an engineering or ridership standpoint, but makes perfect sense politically. So yeah, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Diridon was the main force behind the choice of Pacheco vs. Altamont. Both alignments have their pluses and minuses, and maybe a thorough engineering analysis would have chosen otherwise, but politically, I think neither choice helps or hurts any of the board members besides Diridon, who of course wants the line going through his city and his station. The real question is why are we letting nine politicians, rather than someone actually qualified, plan this line?

Fred Martin said...

The CHSRA Board clearly needs to be more politically accountable. It would even be better if the nine members were actually active elected politicians, so at least then they can be indirectly influenced by voters. Right now, only two of the nine members hold elected office.

Curt Pringle is at least the Mayor of Anaheim, and Fran Florez is on the Shafter City Council. Shafter has a population of 12,000, so she can hardly be considered a political heavyweight.

The rest are either political "has-beens" with undistinguished records (with notable transportation failure such as Kopp's BART-SFO disaster and Diridon's VTA light rail) or private citizens representing specific industry and union beneficieries of this project.

Alon Levy said...

Jim, the size of the city proper doesn't matter too much. Fresno metro is tiny; San Jose and San Francisco are the same metro area. Personally I think Pacheco is a better choice than Altamont, but you could make a good argument for Altamont-with-a-stop-at-Santa-Clara. But then of course Diridon Station would be bypassed...

Spokker said...

I would be disappointed if the same shady backroom deals and political nonsense that gets highways and airports and other infrastructure projects built or expanded were not used in getting HSR in California built.

As much as I appreciate Clem and Rafael's technical analysis of HSR, I think that if they were in charge of the project HSR would never be built in California no matter how much their alignment or design would boost ridership. Their starry-eyed idealism would drown in a sea of harsh political realities.

Both Pacheco and Altamont alignments should be built, and I'd be pissed if a wetland or NIMBYs stopped either alignment.

I don't think the stimulus should have included $8 billion for HSR, but $30 billion. Stimulus money for mass transit and HSR was up for debate during the stimulus debates, but highways never were and that's frustrating.

"It makes no sense from an engineering or ridership standpoint, but makes perfect sense politically."

And why is that a bad thing? Anaheim has put in the effort to accommodate HSR. They've designed the ARTIC which is Anaheim's pet transportation project. So if they are so eager to get their hands on HSR anyway, and if we agree that Anaheim is a place HSR should serve someday, I see nothing wrong with it being part of Phase 1.

I applaud Curt Pringle for doing whatever he did to make HSR to Anaheim a priority, even if he had to grease the wheels a bit.

BruceMcF said...

Jarrett Mullen said...
"I think transbay capacity may be fine assuming it will be used exclusively by Caltrain and HSR."

If Caltrain picks and chooses which trains terminate at 4th and which continue on to the TBT, yes ... otherwise not.

"However, the terminal should be able to support increased levels of service by different providers. For instance, Amtrak wishes to provide additional SF-LA service via the coast. It would be excellent to have this service terminate at Transbay. In addition, Monterrey will likely get regional rail service in the future, and Transbay would be the ideal terminus."

Start adding another regional rail terminal and Amtrak services and then the argument of CAHSRA that the TBT limits them to 4tph would start to have weight.

The next step up in cost is a two level box with eight platforms total. And of course, that would solve a problem with ...

"Thinking way out, the second transbay tube could feed Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin trains along with BART directly to the terminal."

Through tracks on one level would interfere with access to the tail tracks ... but debarking on one platform and embarking on the next, with restock/clean at the tail track in between, is what untangles the access between the tunnel and the trainbox for the HSR ... the tail track are why the current design would not be a bottleneck for HSR if they get 4 out of the 6 platforms.

A two level box would allow the tail tracks to be at the top level, as presently planned, and transbay tube through tracks to leave via the bottom level. Of course, making two terminal platforms into through platforms substantially increases train capacity of the box right there.

Getting funding for a two-level box might be hard ... if it can be done with the shell built up front but only the top level populated, maybe.

Alon Levy said...

Spokker, you don't need corruption or authoritarianism to build things. The New York City Subway's first line was built with plenty of input from locals. Merchant opposition even caused a major change in routing, from running under Broadway all the way to running under Fourth south of 42nd and Broadway north of it. Similarly, much of the impetus for building new subways came from local interests that wanted them to replace els.

Nowadays, when the law empowers local communities more than it did in 1904, it's even more important to work with residents rather than against them. Local communities can be pretty good about coming up with their own development initiatives, too. In New York, they're called 197a documents, which upzone neighborhoods without causing too much disruption. The problem is that 197a's are written by powerless community boards, so the city tends to ignore them and pass more disruptive zoning changes, which tend to be more in line with Bloomberg's personal vision for the city.

What you definitely don't need is shady backroom deals to build things, or development agencies to be run by people who know nothing of engineering. Even the Shinkansen and TGV, which were built without any local input, were designed by experts rather than politicians.

BruceMcF said...

arcady said... "For example, there's a board member from Anaheim, and coincidentally, the startup segment of the HSR got extended to Anaheim, and LA-Anaheim is being looked at as one of the first phases to be built (along with SF-SJ). It makes no sense from an engineering or ridership standpoint, but makes perfect sense politically."

I don't follow this. If the full system is to include a branch past LA-Union with one branch to go to Anaheim and the other to San Diego, and the first stage will consist of SF-SJ/LA via the Central Valley, it makes all the sense in the world in terms of building ridership on the SF-SJ/CV/LA/Anaheim route to make the full route available earlier rather than later.

Indeed, given the SF-SJ/CV/LA route, and a through terminal at LA, continuing to a planned terminus at Anaheim would seem to give the strongest network economies per incremental route kilometer.

And in terms of building ridership, given that LA-Union will need to be a through station from the outset to avoid later loss of ridership from construction while the station is in service ... and continuing to a temporary terminus that will be abandoned once the Anaheim leg has opened means throwing out a portion of the ridership built up and starting over.

Now, it seems likely that without a political impetus, the sensible decision might not have been made, but whether the right decision was made for the right reasons or the wrong reasons, isn't it enough that the right decision was made?

Rafeal said ... "I still don't understand the purpose of the third track." ... well, in the normal design, that's because extending six platform tracks through the tunnel would cost so much, so you switch each pair of platform tracks together.

However, that mode of operation becomes obsolete when the HSR starts using the train-box, so in high throughput mode, its so when you have a crossing movement, the cross can go to or come from the central track, and only block one other island. So, for example, with L:1 the egress track, it allows a train on P:6 to cross over to L:2 at the same time that a train on P:2 is leaving via L:1, then the Caltrain service can switch over on a mid-tunnel switch to L:1 to run in the open slot behind the HSR.

Its still an awkward kludge and constraints Caltrain service capacity in the TBT train box.

BruceMcF said...

Morris Brown said...
"The California channel took down the video, but I got them to put it up under recent activity today.

So if you go to:
http://www.calchannel.com/

you will see a link to the video.
"

Thanks for that ... without it would not have been nearly as clear how the support staff at the TBT are either out of their depth about being a terminus for a collection of HSR services or spinning in order to get an under-capacity design through or both.

Some highlights were comparing platform dwell at through stations to platform dwell at terminus, comparing turn-around for a regional rail service with platform dwell for an inter-regional rail service, the assumption that all trains on all routes will be maximum sized trains, and the comparison of capacity on single HSR routes to capacity on what is supposed to be the northern terminus to multiple routes.

The TBT people really came loaded for bear to take advantage of the current lack of funding for staff at the CAHSRA to score as many points as possible to get an inadequate design through and make it a fait accompli.

BruceMcF said...

The most useful information from the meeting is that Caltrain has one island and HSR two islands, because of platform height.

One the downside, it means if one of the HSR platforms are not connected to the tail tracks, its no longer possible to use the debark/tail/embark shuttle system, and HSR capacity drops to 6 2/3 tph.

On the upside, it means that the central of the three tunnel tracks can be used as an access track, while the HSR uses one line as an egress track and the Caltrain services use the other line as an egress track, which eliminates almost all problems of interference due to the different dwell times of the two types of services.

Connect all four HSR services to both trail tracks, and 8tph Caltrain and 8tph HSR is straightforward. That may require staggering one island forward, and definitely means that the Caltrain island is the one on the inside of the access track curves.