Sunday, March 8, 2009

The View From the Valley

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

I've spent two very interesting days here in Fresno organizing for another issue, but have had some time to talk to people about high speed rail (because really, what sort of HSR activist would I be if I didn't?!). I've found that the project actually has a fairly high profile here - most of the diverse group of people I've talked to actually know about it and support it. As there are at least 2.5 million people living along the HSR route between Merced and Bakersfield, their backing of the system is crucial - lest we forget, Merced, Fresno, and Kern Counties ALL voted FOR Prop 1A back in November.

What's behind the support? In my conversations there are some common reasons given:

  1. Desire to connect to the rest of the state. Whether they love living in the Valley or not, most people here want to be able to get to and from the bigger parts of the state quickly. They may have family or friends going to school in LA, or want to see a show in SF. Typically they're going to drive, which is usually at least 3 hours in each direction. A rapid train will help make that easy.

  2. Desire to cut pollution. Even though it's an early spring day, the air quality here in Fresno hasn't been so great this weekend. It reminds me of the 1980s in Southern California, where smog was commonplace. The San Joaquin Valley has some of the worst air pollution in the entire nation. Asthma and other respiratory diseases are extremely common, and given the frequent traffic on Highway 99 it's no surprise. People here WANT a method of travel that will not make their health problems worse.

  3. Desire to stop sprawl. To hear some people tell it Valley residents love sprawl. That's always been a debatable point; in reality it's the Valley's political leaders who have promoted it, along with the inexorable logic of having built an entire national, even global economy on sprawl. With the housing bubble collapse, which has hit the Valley harder than probably any other place on the globe, there is a clearer desire for preserving farmland, stopping sprawl, and channeling growth inward. The people I talked to get this.

  4. They're sick of being ignored. With at least 2.5 million people along the initial HSR route, and with over 5 million in the Valley as a whole (including Sacramento), Valley residents have watched state funds and projects go to the "cities" - SF Bay Area, Southern California, while Highway 99 has been ignored. And that enables opponents of mass transit, for example, to demagogue on the issue - "don't vote for this project, it's just going to help those Bay Area liberals who don't care about you." Which in turn emboldens those voices here that tell Valley voters "the cities will just take your tax money and give nothing in return" (if the Valley elected more Dems the 2/3 rule would no longer be an issue). San Joaquin Valley residents feel, quite reasonably in my view, that they deserve to be part of this system.

    And it makes practical sense in this case to include them. The flattest route between SF and LA involves the Central Valley. The 2.5 million people who live along the San Joaquin Valley portion of the LA-SF route are an important part of the potential ridership base of a financially viable HSR system. And it will play an essential role in achieving the kind of long-term shift in land use policy in California, a shift that cannot succeed unless the Valley is included. Otherwise the Valley plays the role of a kind of China, undercutting the efforts at higher labor and environmental standards elsewhere in the state.

I know that there have been some comments suggesting that we just bypass the Highway 99 corridor when building the LA-SF route, that the inclusion of Fresno and Bakersfield was just a political ploy, that it's just not necessary to build HSR in these places. I could not disagree more strongly. California High Speed Rail will not be successful unless it includes the Valley.


Alex M. said...

Killing two birds with one stone :) Thanks for the work on the equal rights movement!

Onto HSR: When the CHSRA gets to building the new tracks and infrastructure for HSR, do you think that Valley residents will welcome the project with open arms? Did talking to some of these people give you a good idea of the sentiments of the entire region? It would be nice to be able to cruse through the construction in the Valley without any struggles after the many fights from the residents on the peninsula.

Jim said...

I have always thought that the central valley is actually the most important part of this system. There are option for getting around the bay and there are options for getting around SoCal and there are options for getting non stop from one to the other but what is sorely missing valley-bay and valley-LA transportation as well as intra-valley options. The biggest advantage of HSR over air travel is the flexibility. HSR with it's variety of options makes it a flexible core system that can be all things to al people. There is a lot of business done in the valley and most of us in cali have friends an relatives in every region of the state and for the most part we have to drive. I can tell you the folks in the central valley are a lot more savvy then one might think, and very accepting of even our current slow rail travel. They love it and many would suffer a hardship without it. For some it's a real lifeline. As much as I can't wait to ride the train from down the street to LA, it's really the central valley who will derive the greatest benefit and liekly be the most loyal customers.

Jim said...

The customers traveling to visitation in the central valley prisons alone are enough to keep the numbers up.

Andrew Bogan said...

Including the Central Valley cities on the route makes a lot of sense and shows real forward thinking (for a change) from Sacramento.

This population density map of California illustrates why including the Central Valley cities by roughly following highway 99 (as opposed to Interstate 5) makes so much sense. Just connect the red dots and you basically have the proposed HSR route.

Spokker said...

The biggest disadvantage in the Central Valley is the lack of feeder services to and from the proposed HSR route. This was already discussed under the last post though.

Another worry is price. I think local trains are going to be important to intra-valley travel and I hope the fares stay affordable and competitive. I hope to see discount tickets requiring advance purchase and off-peak deals. I am thinking about someone like my girlfriend's aunt who visits Southern California occasionally.

Also, the reservation system should be able to sell San Joaquin train tickets in addition to HSR tickets. Caltrans and Amtrak should work together to develop timed transfers so someone from say, Turlock/Denair, has a reasonably good connection to some local or regional runs.

Jim said...

FYI per an earlier topic - i found this video shot from the cab of a caltrain mtview to menlo park with a perfect view of available ROW.

Rafael said...

I agree completely on the need for fast, long-distance passenger rail service in the Central Valley. None of the airports there attracts a lot of airlines. Short-hop flights to LA or the Bay Area are expensive and waste slots at SFO and LAX that ought to be used for long-haul flights.

The whole point of switching to trains is to avoid the snooty concept of "flyover country". Landing a plane at an intermediate location before continuing on to the final destination is a big deal, stopping a train much less so.

Of course, the preference for Pacheco means that fewer CV cities will be served in phase I and that direct HSR service between SF and Sacramento will never be time-competitive.

Yet it is precisely the Delta counties that have the water - strategically, that's where much of the state's future population growth ought to happen. For that reason alone, Pacheco was a suboptimal choice IMHO.

However, CHSRA would now abandon it only in extremis, i.e. if it lost its lawsuit or was unable to secure a ROW down to Gilroy. UPRR is not expected to entertain offers from CHSRA for any of its ROWs anywhere in the state, though money does talk - even for UPRR. We'll see.

Note that the starter line is not expected to attract enough ridership to turn an operating profit unless every train stops in both SF and in SJ. Reducing service frequency to each by forking the route in the east bay might mean operating subsidies from the state and indefinite postponement of the phase II spurs to Sac and SD - both totally unacceptable risks.


That means trains would still have to run through Palo Alto even if a route via Pacheco proves impossible!


It also means the SJ station would not be SJ Diridon but Santa Clara/SJC. That's no longer as big a deal as it used to be for SJ residents now that the BART extension to Santa Clara has been approved - it's just one additional subway stop away. Caltrain already serves both stations.

If all things BART were kept underground north of Diridon, there would be plenty of room at grade for every other standard gauge service already running through that busy location to stop and feed HSR. Even a future light rail spur could be accommodated, by running tracks on top of those for BART.

The 2-4 HSR platform tracks would run underground to avoid a grade crossing of UPRR's Alviso line. Caltrain customers would access the platform at the north end, all others at the center or at the south end. HSR would need to end up east of the BART yard to access the I-880 median, which would be the only available ROW left.

The alignment would cut over to the hwy 262 median. However, CHSRA's original route assumed the WPML ROW to Niles would be available. Now that BART will be using that after all for its extension to Santa Clara, HSR would need to continue dead straight, passing under UPRR, BART and 680 to reach Calaveras Rd via a tunnel. Ideally, both the Hayward and the Calaveras fault should be crossed at grade. There was a 5.6 earthquake in the area earlier today.

The alignment would run at grade to the 680/84 junction, cross that on an aerial and tunnel through the hill south-east of Pleasanton. Instead of Bernal Ave, the HSR station (2 platform + 2 express tracks) would be underground at El Charro Rd half-way in-between Pleasanton and Livermore. There are some ponds in that location that might need to be drained during station construction. I'm not sure what they're used for.

The planned BART extension to Livermore would run at grade along El Charro Rd, in-between those ponds. That would give East Bay residents a third location to catch an HSR train (the others being SFTT and Santa Clara/SJC). HSR would continue on under the municipal airport and re-emerge in the I-580 median.

In the interest of minimizing the SF-LA non-stop line haul penalty relative to Pacheco, the Tracy station would be in the available 205 median. Tracy doesn't really have a well-defined downtown anyhow and, the HSR station could support a new TOD district in the north of the city. Note that 2 platform + 2 express tracks are needed here, too. If four cannot be accommodated side-by-side because Caltrans says so, they will have to be stacked, with the express tracks running straight and the others curved. Side or island platforms are possible in principle, it's a question of how much space is available and how pedestrians would get there.

Continuing on via the hwy 120 median, the alignment would connect to the BSNF ROW just south of Escalon. The future spur up to Sacramento would use the ROW between Simms (west of Escalon) and Ortega (Stockton airport) so trains can enter Stockton from due south. The ROW already used by ACE would connect the Bay Area to Sacramento.

Again, I'm assuming the preferred UPRR ROW along hwy 99 won't be available to CHSRA. The Modesto station would be at E Briggsmore Amtrak at the eastern edge of town. Again, TOD village there would be possible. Four tracks at the station should be no problem.

The Merced county station should be at Castle Airport to support 24/7 air freight and limited long-haul passenger operations. No transshipment or passenger terminals exist yet, so HSR could be integrated into the designs from the outset - a huge advantage over Fresno Yosemite, the nearest existing airport with long runways. Bus service would connect passengers to downtown Merced and Atwater plus UC Merced.

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

"The customers traveling to visitation in the central valley prisons alone are enough to keep the numbers up."


@ spokker -

the Amtrak California site is down right now. Once it's back up, check out their ROW report and the bicycle route map. You'd be surprised at how well people could get around on folding electric bikes that they could take along on HSR trains and slide under their seats. Max permitted speed is 20mph and you have to be 16 to ride one in California.

If there are courtesy power outlets, they could even recharge in transit. With modern Li-ion batteries (e.g. Toshiba SCIB) it takes just 10 minutes. Voila, full range (20+ miles) at either end. That should be plenty.

Jim said...

Well the prison comment is a bit of an inside joke, ( and the trut is we transport a lot of graduates and their families ) but Ill tell you those valley folks are our bread and butter and as many of them would suffer a hardship without the railroad so do they stand to benefit most from the improvements. As for the pacheco choice, I still the real reason has to do with hsr not cutting into amtrak and ace territory. A fast route from sac to sf via altamont would kill capitol corridor.

Jim said...

I've even heard comments about bart to san jose " is bad for the corridor" in the past. This is the kinds of territory protection that goes on all over the state so far as we have laws regarding what carrier can serve what communites.

Jim said...

favorite hsr video ( looks just like the central valley too)

Anonymous said...

I find it incredibly fascinating, Robert, that on the one hand you say "the people have spoken" regarding HSR...and therefore it will be done...and yet you are also leading a campaign to organize people to repeal Prop 8. Wait...but haven't the people spoken there as well?????


PS: I hope the campaign to repeal Prop 8 is successful. And I also hope the so-called HSR "deniers" are successful in derailing that travesty as well.

Jim said...

This is very funny.

and by the way, prop 8 and prop 1a are two very different things. One is a revision to the state constitution that should require a two thirds vote and the other is a bond issue for an infrastructure project that only requires a simple majority.

Anonymous said...

Sinple bond issues to improve our schools in our communities have to pass 2/3 vote. So why shouldn't statewide bonds be subject to the same?

So not so different. Both should be subject to 2/3.

Besides, it's not the % majority I'm getting at. It's Robert's case that "the voters have spoken, so that's that."

Jim said...

Well, there's also the fact that one is good for cali and one is bad for cali and in the future the initiative process needs to be dumped altogether because most average californians aren't educated enough to vote and such things.

Jim said...

The voters did speak. But the passage of prop 1a isn't challenged as being bad law. If 8 had been flawless, then it would be upheld without challenge.

Anonymous said...

You're missing the point, Jim.

Robert has stated more than once that the voters that is that. Ed of discussion.

I'd postulate that the issue of marriage rights is much better understood by the California voter than the issue of HSR.

But...this is a blog on HSR, so certainly this is a sidetrack. But if "the will of the people" can be overturned (Prop 8 repeal) then it's not cast in stone, is it?

Aaron said...

Robert: Interesting to see that the folks in the Central Valleys are plugged into this, my feeling in LA is that there isn't yet widespread knowledge of the project; I guess I would describe it as disbelief that it will ever exist combined with some bemusement "Well, I hope it happens, but it never will." While most usage will involve the Bay Area or SoCal as at least one endpoint of a trip, I think the people who will see the largest changes in increased connectivity will be in those Central Valley areas. LA and SF at least have cheap air travel (for now, barring oil prices) (for now, barring capacity issues at LAX and SFO) (no matter how inconvenient).

Commentors 11 through 17: My God, take the off-topic anti-HSR nonsense to another post, Robert has certainly provided ample fora for it. I don't read the Peninsula posts anymore because I don't need to read this childish garbage, so maybe I just need to stop entering the comments entirely.

Jim said...

The folks in the valley are probably more aware of HSR than the rest of the state.

Spokker said...

"and yet you are also leading a campaign to organize people to repeal Prop 8."

As someone who does want to overturn Prop 8 I'm surprised you don't see a difference between a ballot measure that would trample on the rights of homosexuals and a ballot measure to fund a fast train.

The people have spoken on Prop 8, but the argument is that it doesn't matter if the people have spoken. The majority cannot violate the right to equality of the minority, or something like that.

If Prop 8 was passed with 99.9% percent of the vote I would still hope for its repeal, and I'm sure you would as well.

Prop 1A on the other hand will annoy a small percentage of residents whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. This train is all about equality :)

Fred Martin said...

I still don't like the SR-99 corridor. Not only are the demographics weak for HSR demand, but I am concerned that these small urban areas will also seek to restrict the performance of the train by speed/noise restrictions and/or more stops. Before you know it, Madera will want a stop. I can't believe that Visalia may get a stop?!? That's going to be a giant parking lot of a station. Fresno will probably have lots of parking garages like an airport terminal, but Visalia is going to have a huge surface lot.

The CA HSR train should follow two basic system design principles:

1) A reasonably fast urban train, collecting both commuters and long-distance passengers. Since it is not politically reasonable for HSR to go any faster than 125mph (probably averaging about 100mph) in urban areas, HSR can improve intra-regional traffic by offering limited-stop service within the main urban regions and mixed traffic with existing commuter services, which are simultaneously greatly improved through electrification and corridor improvements. This is how HSR can offer a type of premium rapid transit service and relieve road congestion.

2) A 'bat out of hell' train, going at full speed without interruption. If this system is to be genuinely competitive with air travel, it needs stretches where it can go like a bat out of hell at top speed for sustained periods of time. I don't see this happening properly on the SR-99 corridor. The I-5 corridor makes perfect sense for rocketing along the Central Valley in about an hour at 220mph. This makes up time for when HSR has to behave like a fast commuter train in the Bay Area and SoCal.

I am concerned that SR-99 corridor will make HSR behave like a fast commuter train throughout most of the system. I think Fresno and the smaller CV cities should get improved train service, but it shouldn't be HSR. HSR needs a place where the trains can run at full speed for a good while.

Aaron said...

Frankly, I'm bloody sick of this foolishness.


1) What particular characteristics make the SR-99 corridor non-conducive to the speed specified by the documents to date? SR-99 appears to be as straight as I-5. You keep repeating that like a broken record, but you haven't explained why.

2) So what if Visalia has a huge parking lot? We're not trying to solve all of the world's problems at once here. I'm car-free myself, but I accept that we to have to work with the facts on the ground. HSR should encourage local transit options, but trying to make HSR the sole savior of California will instead doom the project to failure. The goal of any good transportation project is to tailor its components based on the surrounding community.

3) "Slippery slope" arguments as a class are predominantly meritless. We're not talking about Madera, we're talking about Visalia.

4) Explain in detail how you're going to ensure the sale of Prop 1A bonds - once you strip the Central Valley of HSR; that action will be correctly described as fraud by every Central Valley politician with a voice, and will probably have the effect of killing the system. "You voted to support HSR based on the promise of service through the Central Valley, and now the rich fat cats in San Francisco and Los Angeles want to spend your money on a train that you'll never use." Try to counteract that one.

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

hate to burst your bubble here, but Amtrak CC probably had exactly zero to do with the decision in favor of Pacheco. CHSRA thinks of all legacy rail services as feeders, not as competitor. Pacheco was about protecting the ROW for the BART extension to Santa Clara and making sure all HSR trains stop at Diridon station.

IFF Pacheco proves impossible, a switch to Altamont would be the only option. It would kill ACE, but that's ok - customers would much rather have HSR, staff could switch employers and counties could avoid paying operating subsidies.

Amtrak CC also requires operating subsidies, whereas an HSR service between SF, SJC and Sac via Altamont would be time-competitive with driving. So yes, Amtrak CC might lose some customers and get scaled back. Or, simply having an HSR system to connect to might generate sufficient ridership from secondary cities (Auburn-Fairfield corridor, Richmond-SJ express relative to BART) to justify maintaining current service levels in addition to HSR.

A real boost to Amtrak/Amtrak CC would come from an underground shortcut between Emeryville and Oakland JLS via the median of Mandela Parkway in West Oakland. That would create an Amtrak/Amtrak CC/BART intermodal station there. Somewhat expensive, but extremely useful for growing ridership. Lord knows it would be cheaper than running HSR up to Oakland as well.

Besides, if and when the connector from Novato to Fairfield becomes available, there would probably be a case for a new Amtrak California service between Sacramento and Novato (perhaps Santa Rosa), especially if Sonoma, Napa and Vallejo get connecting service. SMART will already provide that between Larkspur and Cloverdale.

Focus on growing the transit ridership pie, not on protecting your share of the crumbs on the table right now.

@ Fred Martin, Aaron -

Hewing more or less to the SR 99 corridor is appropriate because that's where the people live. And frankly, I hope many of the new migrants will choose to live where the water flows naturally, rather than in already-overcrowded places because that would require expensive new water pipelines.

Also, the CV is much less at risk of earthquakes. If a big one hits in the Bay Area or in SoCal, you want as much of the California economy to still be up and running as possible.

Btw, we were talking about a station near Hanford, not Visalia, because that's where the BNSF ROW is. Hanford is a marginal proposition at best without some connecting transit to Visalia and Porterville, which is why CHSRA has recommended against a station in the area.

Alon Levy said...

The voters did speak. But the passage of prop 1a isn't challenged as being bad law. If 8 had been flawless, then it would be upheld without challenge.

And opponents of 1A say it's a bad law, too! Note that opponents of 8 are leading a dual strategy of court challenges and a repeal, which is more or less what anti-HSR people try to do.

I'd say a better argument for keeping prop 1A, besides that it's objectively good while 8 is objectively bad, is that it's a spending commitment. Once the commitment has been made, it should not be broken lightly. That's why opponents of the Iraq War are arguing for a phased withdrawal rather than for pulling out in days, and why Congress doesn't pull the plug on the budget mid-year and passes another.

Jim said...

@ rafael, I'm all for the increasing the whole pie approach but i'm just saying the agencies involved are always protective of their territories, jobs and funding.

Jim said...

besides no one know yet who will get the hsr operating contract... could be anyone...

Aaron said...

@ Alon Levy: Not to get all lawyerly on you, but there's a difference between saying "This proposition is bad law" and "This proposition is a bad law."

Pardon me for a moment while I attempt to make the distinction by comparing the two propositions without judging either of them.

There are laws that you would describe as a bad law - the 2/3 requirement for budgets and revenue is often described as one. It's perfectly constitutional, but it's also a terrible idea. To my knowledge, that's also the argument about 1A - I am not aware of any halfway credible arguments that the enactment of 1A was illegal. There will certainly be disputes about the adequacy of any EIRs etc. as we move forward, but 1A didn't legally hinge on EIRs, instead merely authorizing the bond sale and explained the permissible usage of the bonds. People arguing against 1A are not claiming that its enactment was flawed or that 1A violates California or Federal law - instead, they're saying it's a terrible idea.

But what people are saying about Prop 8 is different - they're saying that it's both a terrible idea as well as illegal under the California Constitution. It's both bad law AND a bad law. And yes, the indefinite article actually makes a difference to lawyers. Yes, we're annoying like that. Worse than Japanese grammar at times :). So there is a distinct difference between those two issues.

Jim said...

well I love california I really do but you know this state is a collection of 37 million of the most dysfunctional people on earth. next we'll be hearing the kids on the playground saying " that train is so gay" ( and we already have people worried the train will bring the illegals to their back yards)

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

"... could be anyone"

God, I hope it's not "Joe the Train Engineer" or that guy who's doing 50 jobs in 50 states in a single year ;-)

And we have Spokker to thank for putting "trains" and "gay" in the same sentence. My little nephew prefers "ka-plonkee"!

Jim said...

kaplonkee lol. Well of course I hope that amtrak california gets the operating contract. Cuz hat means jobs.... for me.... its not entirely out of the question as we already have a very good relationship with the state. Then I can work the first class station lounge. I can dream. ( who's kiding who, his thing won't be operating until i'm retired anyway..)

Is spent some time watching ghi speed rail clips on ou tube last night. It was sad how far behind we are. That new station in london, amazing. The new AGV roll out vids. Amazing. Those counties take a great deal of pride in their rail tech, and the USA = third world losers.

Jim said...

ghi - typo meant HSR

Jim said...

here's a good documentary about the trial and tribulations of ca high speed and note the representation of PA by the shiny engine who declines to help...

Anonymous said...

Having driven Hwy 99 fairly recently and having ridden the San Joaquins and watched people getting on and off at the various stops, it's clear to me that HSR absolutely should follow the 99 route and tap into Fresno et al.

Besides, while I have no need or desire to visit Kettleman City by rail, I do in fact have regular interest in traveling to Fresno, Visalia, etc. We have three CSU campuses and one UC along the route, compared to zero along I-5. Putting HSR down 5 would encourage growth there, which I think would be a big negative for the state in terms of water resources and smart planning. The communities are already built along 99. It shouldn't be a radical idea to take the trains to where the people already are.


Jim said...

I 5 was studied eons ago and discarded. Since when did this become an issue? the whole point of hsr is that the central valley cities will be the fastest growing part of the state in the near future.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I only mentioned the Prop 8 stuff to explain to people what I was doing in Fresno this weekend. This blog is SO not the appropriate place to have a discussion about that issue. If anyone wants to, my email is my last name at gmail.

Robert Cruickshank said...

The BNSF line only deviates from the general vicinity of the Highway 99 corridor in the Visalia area, where it serves Hanford instead. Since we're not talking about putting a stop at Tulare or Delano, I don't really see this as being a problem.

I've always thought federal pressure ought to be brought to bear on UP regarding their stance on ROW sharing. But if that's not going to happen, the BNSF line through the San Joaquin Valley should be acceptable.

Aaron said...

@Robert: I'm not an expert on these things, but what is the legal status of these right-of-ways? Public roads are just that - public roads, for all to use. Are freight railroad tracks outright owned by freight companies? Is there any legal requirement for them to co-operate with competitors or passenger rail entities? Perhaps requiring them to agree to reasonable requests for usage? It seems that the current situation allows for monopolistic practices, which was supposed to be outlawed a century ago or so ;p.

Obviously, if the freight companies own and maintain the tracks, they should be able to enjoy the rewards insomuch as federal law permits, but it seems that UP in particular has a certain hostility to passenger rail service that goes beyond mere concern about future viability of its trackage investments.

Jim said...

UP is hostile to rail service. BN is cooperative. The railroads own the land and it is private property not public - thus the term "trespasser" for the dummies who get run over by trains. Of course, it was the feds who original granted a crapload of free land to the railroads originally but so much for gratitude. I say go with BN just because they will amke a better partner.

Aaron said...

@Jim: Thanks. Growing up in Arizona I was familiar with the original agreements regarding granting surrounding land, but I didn't know that those were still the basis for current operations.

It's kind of a shame, you would think that a smart company would be open to passenger rail services in exchange for some consideration in terms of perhaps a joint maintenance agreement, upgrades to the rail lines, etc. There's ways to sweeten the deal that won't cost CAHSR a great deal of cash but will still provide incentive to freight railroads.

Jim said...

@aaron actually that does happen already -- some of the money the feds give amtrak finds it way to improving the private freight rr row - its a l a big bunch of political shenanigans and posturing that goes on. you know what they say about making sausage... that you'd rather not know...

Jim said...

there is so much that goes on behind the scenes with RRB and FRA I'm sure they are no different than FDA and DEA when it comes to how decisions are made. So many things come into play. Think of for instance, what would happen the retirement fund if amtrak shut down and the 15000 plus employees stopped paying into the fund. (managers, employees, freights and passenger railroads all depend on this fund) that's a lot a stake. UP just got its sac san jose line upgraded on amtraks dime at least paritally. I mean the freights especilly up in particular will run their trains on until they are on dirt before they'll pay for new track and ballast. and forget about double tracking. they are too busy pulling out double track because it costs more to maintain. so the only way double track comes back is when amtrak needs to have it. its 100 percent pure big money and politics and has little do with anything else. Now granted, now that everyday folks are taking an interest there will be pressure to get stuff done but rest assured nothing will get done without first making sure interests are protected. and of course I fully support this method. its slow but necessary. again FRA ? think FDA.

yeson1a said...

I hope they stick with BNSF thru the Valley..there will be fighting
with the UP on some other key system points.Fresno should be ok with UPRR as its wide thru town on UP The BNSF is not a good option passing thru town as its all
new housing along the route

Jim said...

to get back on topic id say put the station in which ever town wants it more. Instead of "can our train please go this way" It should be "if you want it then beg for it" so to speak. If Visalia wants it then they will outdo Hanford or any other location trying to get it. Same goes for UP verusu BN, whichever one wants it - and the bennies it will provide in the way of federal dollars, is the one who will have to work hardest to get it.

Fred Martin said...

My hypothetical I-5 corridor would have no stops between Stockton and Bakersfield. The whole point is to blast over the nothingness that is Kettleman City. It's simply a shorter route between the population centers too.

Aaron, do you think Fresno, Madera, Visalia, and other small CV towns don't have NIMBYs? They certainly do. They will probably welcome the project as badly needed capital investment in a depressed area, but they will then seek speed and noise limits once built. This happens with airport NIMBYs all the time: people move near airports and then seek noise and flight restrictions. The beauty of the I-5 corridor is the lack of NIMBYs.

The current CHSRA plan has several flaws, but the passage of the bond doesn't correct those flaws.

As for railroad law -- the foundation of American corporate and regulatory law -- eminent domain cannot be applied to legacy railroads. This was established in a SC case over 100 years ago, and it will take another SC case to overturn it. UP doesn't have to bend to the public will at all, but they may accept a lot of cash eventually. BNSF may be more willing but not necessarily any cheaper. UP and BNSF don't have to play at all if they so decide...

I can't imagine that it is hard to acquire ROW along the I-5.

Jim said...

The train isn't going down I-5 at all ever so forget it.

Fred Martin said...

If UP and BNSF don't play ball, I-5 and its easily acquired ROW may become the only option.

Never say never...

Jim said...

There's no point in building it if it goes down 15 it wouldn't serve any purpose. If all your doing is serving the bay to la market then you may as well leave it to the airlines.

Jim said...

we will pay and they will play.

Jim said...

this was from 2004 - I wonder how much of it is still relevant:

The Authority staff recommends utilizing both the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) right-of-ways for high-speed trains in the Central Valley.

The Sacramento Rail Depot in downtown Sacramento is recommended for the high-speed train's northern terminus. From Sacramento to Stockton, Authority staff recommends the (UPRR) alignment bypassing Lodi on the Central California Track and reconnecting to UPRR to serve the Stockton Downtown ACE station site.

From Stockton to Merced, Authority staff recommends BNSF alignment because it avoids most of the urban areas between Stockton and Merced; is less costly; has fewer environmental impacts; and serves the Castle Air Force Base. Potential station locations include Amtrak Briggsmore in Modesto and Castle Air Force Base, allowing access to the developing U.C. Merced campus.

Continuing from Merced to Fresno along the BNSF is the Authority staff's preferred option. This alignment includes transitions to the UPRR to serve Fresno and Merced. The Downtown Fresno station is recommended because it has high connectivity and accessibility. A direct route through Fresno rather than an express loop outside of the city is recommended because it has fewer environmental impacts; is less costly; and has better access.

Authority staff recommends the BNSF alignment between Fresno and Bakersfield. Amtrak intercity rail service will serve Kings County and Tulare County to the high-speed train system. The proposed station location is Downtown Bakersfield Truxton station

Jim said...

map - bnsf with up and sjvr

Jim said...

or here's a very good map - see the options. I suppose even sjvr might be up for it for a price but it probably wasn't considered because the big railraods really want it - they just want to play like they don't so then can work it. you know it's all so sordid really.

Jim said...

Robert Cruickshank said...

The entire point of this post, Fred, is to explain why bypassing the major cities on the Highway 99 corridor is not a desirable or politically viable option. If that were pursued, Central Valley legislators and likely voters as well would join to kill the project entirely.

Anonymous said...

Fresno hasn't been a small town for decades.


Anonymous said...

Also, Bakersfield isn't on Interstate 5.


無名 - wu ming said...

fred -

fresno has 500,000 people, and is the 5th largest city in california. it isn't a small valley town by any measure. it's as silly as the deniers calling the peninsula cities quaint villages. one could be a jerk and all it an inconsequential place, but not a small one. the northern sacramento valley's fairly sparse north of sac, but the san joaquin has a lot of people, nearly all of them along 99.

as a resident of the central valley for most of my life, i don't think it's possible to overstate the deep and abiding sense of marginality you get here, and concern for any kind of state investment. HSR was a brilliant idea in terms of tying the state together, and people here can tell it'll be a good deal for them. i just hope that this damn line gets built ASAP so that the extension to sac gets built soon. while i wouldn't cry over a switch to altamont for purely regional reasons, anything that delays the overall project is still a bad idea, because it delays me getting that sac extension.

additionally, while summer can cook you, the valley's flatness makes it exceptionally suitable for bicycle-to-train commutes. all you need is a decent bike lane infrastructure (admittedly a lot easier when done when originally laying down streets) and some shade trees, and you can cruise to the station. i've dine this several times when catching the capitol corridor to the bay area from davis.

requiring bike lane access and bike parking when designing the stations and surrounding denser urban districts, esp. in the valley and other flat places, could take a lot of pollution out of the air.

Rafael said...

@ wu-ming -

now that their website is back up again, you may want to check out a couple of reports by
Caltrans Division of Rail.

In particular, the San Joaquin Corridor Strategic Plan (just a DRAFT right now) and the Rights of Way study. Lots of meaty goodness in there, including a two-part map of bike path networks in California.

In addition to the usual suspects (Bay Area, San Diego), the cities of Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield and south-west San Bernadino county have relatively well-developed networks. That said, the information isn't perfect, for example the bike path along the Santa Ana river in OC isn't shown.

I've always argued that bicycle infrastructure - especially lanes/paths and parking - should be included in the concept of the HSR feeder. Many cities are the result of decades of sprawl and they can't increase population density overnight. That means transit service will be limited compared to Europe and, completely absent in many suburban areas.

Moreover, I think the relatively new phenomenon of folding electric bicycles is a perfect fit for train passengers, even at intercity distances - provided the weather is nice. You don't arrive at the station all sweaty, which other passengers will appreciate. Plus, you don't risk catching a cold because the A/C is on in the train.

On the outbound leg to your final destination, you can sweat to your heart's content, even in flat terrain, if you want a workout: just switch your assist motor into generator mode.

FEB's are doubly useful if they are small enough to fit underneath the seats in the train and there are courtesy electrical outlets to recharge the batteries in transit.

The state speed limit of 20mph doesn't sound like much. However, if you factor in that you usually have to wait for connecting transit, it often doesn't take the most direct route to near your destination and you have walk to reach it, riding an FEB sounds rather attractive by comparison.

The only downside is that California law restricts electric bicycles to persons 16 and older. No exception is made for younger children that are accompanied by an adult, something worth looking into.

An FEB also fits easily into the trunk of a car, boat or light aircraft. Again, the battery could in principle be recharged by the vehicle's generator, driven by the combustion engine.