Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Multi-Pronged Attack on California HSR

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

Last year this blog led the fight against the staggering amounts of misinformation put out by opponents of mass transit in their effort to defeat Proposition 1A. Even though these opponents were frequently given room to spout their misleading claims in TV and print reports around the state, whereas pro-HSR forces rarely ever got that opportunity, we won the battle. Californians rejected the arguments of the HSR deniers, the people who tried to argue against the evidence that high speed rail would be a financial disaster or that it wouldn't work in California or that people would never ride the trains. The voters showed that they understood the value and need for sustainable transportation, for economic recovery, for giving Californians an alternative to soaring oil prices.

That was the easy part.

2009 has seen a different and much more challenging battle taking shape. The Reason Foundation is still out their with their talking points, but few are listening. Instead most HSR deniers, like Morris Brown, have shifted tactics. Instead of arguing against passenger rail - a losing argument in California - they are trying to play on the environmental concerns of Bay Area residents. In order to undermine high speed rail, which will be one of the most environmentally beneficial projects this state has ever seen, they have joined with misguided environmentalists to try and block the progress of California high speed rail by claiming the project as planned will harm the environment.

Environmentalists have made a deal with the devil (so to speak) and allied with people who are fundamentally opposed to high speed rail. The environmentalists in question - particularly those from the Planning and Conservation League - apparently believe that they can use the HSR deniers for their own purposes without enabling the deniers' broader attack on the HSR project. In this the environmentalists are very, very wrong. They are jeopardizing the viability of the project as a whole, are placing a parochial and small concern above the concept, and are enabling anti-environment, anti-rail arguments in order to achieve their goals.

Californians rightly want to protect their environment. They rightly want big infrastructure projects to be built affordably and properly. And even though the environmental/NIMBY alliance ultimately seeks none of that - in fact, they are pursuing methods that jeopardize those values - they are increasingly effective at spreading their misleading claims among both the public and the state legislature.

As longtime blog readers know, these criticisms of mine are not new. What is new is that the Planning and Conservation League and the BayRail Alliance, two normally progressive organizations that support environmental and mass transit projects, have allied with the vehemently anti-HSR TRANSDEF, the "Cal Rail Foundation" (and its three members), and the cities of Menlo Park and Atherton to launch a deeply misleading attack on the high speed rail project.

The centerpiece of the attack is a new website: HSR: Let's Do It Right. The site is chock full of misleading statements, and embraces messaging that will ultimately and fundamentally undermine the HSR project they claim to support.

Before taking an in-depth look at the flaws of this site, let's lay out the landscape of HSR opposition in California:

Peninsula NIMBYs. Concentrated in the Menlo Park/Atherton/Palo Alto area, these are a quite small but vocal group of well-off homeowners who are adamantly opposed to building a grade-separated railroad for Caltrain and HSR, despite the numerous safety and environmental benefits of doing so. They've been convinced that a tunnel is a better solution, but have not identified any funding source for such a ridiculously expensive solution. They have no organization, but have instead brought on board the cities of Menlo Park, Atherton, and Palo Alto to their cause.

HSR deniers. Contrary to those who criticize the use of the term, this refers to a very distinct group of people who deny the proven benefits of high speed rail and want to kill the project outright. They are called "deniers" as an analogue to global warming deniers, based on the HSR deniers' repeated use of claims about HSR's supposed lack of financial viability, its supposed inability to meet projected ridership, and/or its supposed lack of environmental benefit. They tend to be ideologically opposed to government spending and to passenger rail projects. Not all HSR opponents are HSR deniers. But HSR deniers have had a lot of success in allying with more mainstream and respectable groups to advance their cause - specifically, the NIMBYs. HSR deniers have achieved significant gains by convincing some Peninsula residents that above-grade tracks will be a horrible city-killing disaster and that a tunnel is a better alternative - despite the fact that a tunnel is too expensive to ever become reality. HSR deniers hope that NIMBYs will provide the political power they themselves lack, and kill the project when it becomes clear that there is no viable alternative to grade-separating the Caltrain corridor.

Parochial environmentalists. The state's main environmental organizations, like the Sierra Club, strongly embraced high speed rail AND worked to ensure Prop 1A was as environmentally strong as possible (particularly by writing a ban on a Los Banos station into Prop 1A). They recognized that HSR will be a revolutionary shift in California infrastructure in favor of truly sustainable transportation that helps fight global warming, reduces pollution, and grows mass transit while shrinking the ranks of automobile commuters. But a small group of environmentalists have chosen to reject these broad benefits in a fit of pique about the choice of the Pacheco Pass alignment. The Planning and Conservation League is the biggest offender here, apparently convinced that the Pacheco alignment is so horrible that it is worth risking the entire HSR project to block it. To do so they are now allying with the NIMBYs and HSR deniers.

Parochial state legislators. California's Legislature is a broken institution totally incapable of governing this state in a time of crisis. One reason for this is term limits, which encourage legislators to ignore long-term planning and focus on their own careers. This incentivizes a focus on their own districts at the expense of the state's needs. As it relates to HSR, it enables ideological opponents of HSR like Senator Roy Ashburn, a genuine HSR denier, to try and tie down the project through burdensome and unnecessary oversight rules. It also enables people who don't care about the project's stated purpose of providing sustainable intercity transit to try and use the Prop 1A money to fund pet projects in their own backyards, like Senator Alan Lowenthal. NIMBYs, HSR deniers and environmentalists are allying with both Ashburn and Lowenthal to try and kill the HSR project by running it aground on the shoals of the legislature.

All four of these groups are represented on the HSR: Let's Do It Right site. The website is an incoherent jumble of anti-HSR claims that are sometimes mutually contradictory, but together represent a formidable threat to high speed rail.

Let's have a look at some examples.

Lying About Altamont/Pacheco

The main intent of the site is to rally the public to oppose the Pacheco alignment and force its abandonment in favor of Altamont - despite the fact that the decision for Pacheco was made through a legitimate process a year ago, and despite the fact that it was ratified by voters at the November 2008 election. Their Why Altamont? page consists of this extremely dishonest graphic:



This is pretty ridiculous stuff. The notion of "fewer impacts on communities" is only true if you don't consider Fremont, Pleasanton, Livermore and Tracy as communities. As I'll explain in a moment the site is full of "concern" for the "livable communities" on the Peninsula that would be harmed by HSR, but no such concern is offered here for the East Bay cities along the proposed Altamont route. There are about the same impacts on communities in the Altamont alignment - but those communities do not count, are not relevant, to the PCL and the other backers of this website.

It is true that expanding passenger rail along the Altamont corridor would help ease congestion. Which is why Prop 1A created a high speed corridor along the Altamont Pass and directs the CHSRA to spend money upgrading it for the purpose of easing congestion. But you wouldn't know that from the site or this graphic.

Sure, a shift from the Pacheco to the Altamont alignment might serve more East Bay residents. But it would come at the expense of about the same number of people in Santa Clara County and the Monterey Bay Area. Given that San José is the state's third largest city and one of the state's key economic centers, you'd think that it would have a pretty strong argument for being included on the HSR line. But you won't hear that argument on the website.

The claim of "$2 billion saved" is not sourced or proved. Given the support for Peninsula NIMBYs, the site's authors are in no position to make claims about saving money.

As to the wilderness area, this is is complete bullshit. The graphic is designed to mislead people into thinking the whole wilderness as shown on the map is under threat from HSR. It isn't. The tracks will run close to the existing Highway 152 corridor, and will go underneath Pacheco Pass State Park in a tunnel - which is conveniently not mentioned anywhere in this graphic or on the site.

Another lie is the "no sprawl effect" claim made. The graphic labels "land speculation" as possible in the Los Banos area, not informing readers that a station at Los Banos was specifically outlawed when Prop 1A passed. No station is planned on the western side of the Pacheco Pass. There IS a station planned at Gilroy, but that alone doesn't induce sprawl - unless the site's supporters think Caltrain service to Gilroy does that already. South County has its sprawl issues, but those already exist without HSR, and residents of Gilroy have already shown their willingness to oppose sprawl (fighting a planned Wal-Mart supercenter, for example).

Embracing NIMBYism

Environmentalists who actually care about doing something to stop global warming should be extremely wary before getting into bed with NIMBYs. NIMBYs around the country have fought wind turbines, solar power generators, and the transmission lines needed to bring clean, sustainable, renewable power to cities that need them. Solutions designed to protect our environment and arrest the pace of global warming will necessarily impact communities in ways some won't like. We have to weigh their objections against the dire and pressing need to act to reduce pollution and reduce carbon emissions.

The environmentalists who put the website together have thrown all such caution to the win. Desperate to stop the Altamont alignment, they are busy fueling misleading NIMBY claims that WILL get used elsewhere in the state to attack the HSR project, presumably in places where the PCL (among others) claims to support HSR - like Pleasanton.

The site includes a paged titled Visualize What Disaster Looks Like. It's the old misleading "Berlin Wall" images from Menlo Park that we debunked back in March.

But that's not the most insane and crazy element of the unholy alliance between the PCL and the NIMBYs. On the contact page, which includes the list of organizations sponsoring the site, in bright red capital letters is written the statement "REMEMBER: THE CITY YOU SAVE MAY BE YOUR OWN!"

Umm...wow. Is that a message people who supposedly support the HSR project, as the PCL and the BayRail Alliance claim, want to spread? By claiming that HSR will destroy cities, they're inviting open season on the HSR project from other cities, including those along the Altamont alignment. Does the PCL want Fresno to sue? Do they want Fullerton to sue? This is madness.

Allying With Legislative Enemies

The final lunatic aspect of the site I want to examine is their alliance with a broken legislature and in particular with legislators whose opposition to high speed rail has frequently been demonstrated. The site encourages the broken legislature to exert "oversight despite the fact that the legislature is incapable of effectively doing so until that institution is repaired and restored to functionality. There is no better way to undermine the HSR project than to make it dependent on a legislature that can no longer effectively govern the state.

Especially when the site specifically calls out for praise known HSR opponents. One of these is Senator Roy Ashburn, who tried to postpone the Prop 1A vote beyond 2008. Here's what the site has to say about Ashburn, listing the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee (emphasis mine):

Below is a list of Senators on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Note that Senators Simitian, Yee, Cedillo, Corbett, and Oropeza, along with Senator Ashburn, are on both Committees. Senator Ashburn has been very sympathetic:

Perhaps the site would like to explain WHY Ashburn has been sympathetic? That he has worked hard in the last year or so to throw as many roadblocks and obstacles in the path of HSR as he can?

Although Alan Lowenthal is not singled out for praise (yet) on the site, he is one of the leading figures in the legislature trying to use "oversight" to destroy the project. This blog has frequently demonstrated Lowenthal's desire to chop the statewide project into disconnected pieces, to create a glorified commuter rail benefiting Southern California and presumably the Bay Area (although the alliance with Peninsula NIMBYs jeopardizes that).

There are more flaws with the website in question, but I've gone on long enough as is. The above should be enough to make it clear that the folks behind that site are not interested in telling Californians the truth about the high speed rail project, and certainly aren't interested in ensuring that HSR actually gets built.

In fact, as I will demonstrate tomorrow, the Planning and Conservation League has taken a leading role in trying to undermine California's application for federal HSR stimulus funds, thus jeopardizing the financial viability of the entire project. There's much, much more to come.

95 comments:

NONIMBYS said...

IF the PCL is up to this then its high time for some march and protests at these peoples homes..Enough.. the voters of California need to know who this people are..BY NAMES that includes the4 Nimbys in PA..Right Naida and Susan and where they live and what they are up to.

Board Watcher said...

Yawn. Nothing of substance to write about tonight? This reads like a gossip rag.

Michael said...

Semi-good news: the Authority has NC3D working on a visualization movie of the train coming through Menlo Park/Palo Alto. Apparently they are under a tight deadline to get it done, so hopefully we see it soon.

Anonymous said...

What's that I hear? World's smallest violin....

political_incorrectess said...

BayRail Alliance against HSR? That sure is rhetorical to the title of the organization. These environmentally harmful claims have no substance to them. Land speculation? If they are worried about that, why not put down the iron curtain of development?

Is there anyway to derail these pests because they're becoming like a virus.

bronson said...

The Altamont route connects SF, SJ, Sac and LA? That sounds awesome! Way better than the current proposal.

So why is Altamont bad?

Morris Brown said...

Robert writes:


"Even though these opponents were frequently given room to spout their misleading claims in TV and print reports around the state, whereas pro-HSR forces rarely ever got that opportunity, we won the battle."


Your rant here Robert (2350 words) won't persuade anybody, with a statement like this.

Kopp and Diridon got ten times the media coverage. They got their videos displayed numerous times. They got radio and TV coverage galore. The radio campaign, paid for mostly by "The Alliance for Jobs", to the tune of over $2 million, dwarfed any funding for the opposition which in total was virtually nothing.

Since you mention me by name in your post, let me be clear, I am not involved in any form with the web-site you are targeting.

I guess the site is getting under your skin, which I find delightful. If you keep attacking everyone, like Democrats who supported AB-3034 and even co-sponsored it, you will soon have no support at all.

dave said...

@ MB

Really, I never saw anything on tv that was pro-HSR. The Alliance for Jobs radio ads where made and donations by them, not the CHSRA like you make it seem.

Your last paragraph makes it seem like your saying that this is Robert's project. It isn't, it's our project, California's project. Nobody beleives you, your statements are plastic, we can see through them.

jim said...

This is nonsense about Altamont being better. for instance, to say it (altalmont) won't somehow won't induce sprawl but somehow Pacheco will? What kind of BS is that? So you mean that more sprawl won't happen in livermore and tracy if hsr goes there but more sprawl will happen in santa clara county if hsr goes there? WTF? The peninsula communities will be affected by hsr but East Bay communities would not be affected by hsr? The populations of Santa Clara, San Benito and monterey counties are not important but alameda county populations are important? The mountains east of gilroy are sensitive but the bay west of Fremont is not? The tunnels will be expensive but a bay crossing won't be? I mean I guess if hsr planning is really just about making shit up and saying whatever you have to say in order to keep it out of your backyard then one can see the reason for these arguments but we can't pretend that they have any real merit.

Anonymous said...

To Mr. Morris Brown:

I for one see right thru your motives. You knew years ago when you bought your home that it is next to the Cal Train rail, right?

So, why don't you just deal with it?

What you are doing is disgusting. Wasting tax payer money, and trying to shift the problem from your neighborhood to others. Do you think are you better than everyone and the whole world should revolve around you?

It is disappointing the the Menlo Park City Council is playing tricks also. But the rest of the Menlo Park neighbors are seeing thru this, and I guarantee you the politicians will pay for this.

A Menlo Park Resisdence

Bianca said...

(from the "do it right" website")

Building a high speed train from San Francisco to Los Angeles through the Pacheco Pass would also destroy several communities along the Peninsula including Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Mountain View by:

* Tearing down homes and local businesses, using the power of eminent domain to seize properties needed for the train
.

Wow. The FUD is thick on that page. How many times have we been over the Caltrain ROW, and how it's already wide enough today for most of the length of it? Clem did a really informative post on his blog a while ago. 94% of the ROW is 75 feet wide or more, but these folks have HSR coming through like some unholy hybrid of Robert Moses and Godzilla, wreaking destruction and ruin in its path.

The most damning thing about that "do it right" website is that it doesn't allow for comments. So they put this baloney out there without allowing any venue for people to correct the record.

Cowards.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Michael, that is very good news about new animations - since the website in question includes the animation you helped debunk back in May.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Morris, I'm assuming that by your comment here you aren't disputing my criticisms of the misleading statements and factual errors on that website?

jim said...

By the way in case anyone has forgotten, hsr is bing built to move people from livermore to san jose is being built to move people between northern california via central california, to southern california. We have regional rail already in place for moving people around the bay, and between sac and the bay and other places within northern california. i often wonder, "why is this so hard for people to understand?" Then I realize, "oh they understand it, but it doesn't support their real reason for trying to gum up the works...the so called "done right" bullshit. Nice try but really, you're going to need a lot more sheep to pull that much wool over peoples eyes.

PaulT said...

To Bianca's point, she is totally right that the PCL web site is total BS and it doesn't even allow comments.

I think something need to be done. How about a "Tell The Truth" web site that will pop up on Google when people search for the topic or for PCL web site?

Just let me know where to send the donation!

Morris Brown said...

Just to be clear, at this point 5 cities have joined the Peninsula Cities Consortium --- Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto, Burlingame and Belmont. Representatives from Sunnyvale and Mountain View have attended these meetings.

In addition the San Mateo council has re-affirmed a position stated years ago, that they want the tracks in a tunnel.

dave said...

Here's what the Altamont Overlay is so far (For you lazies). As an Altamont supporter myself, I'm happy with it. It's pretty much "upgrades" to the line which will ultimately be "fully grade seperated", New HSR signal's and will "support and be compatible with all HSR equipment". Sounds like Altamont won't be left out entirely like most of you think.

This project as is, was always the best way to do it (my opinion).

What I find ridiculous is that the "do it right" website makes it seem like East Bay Cities don't mind HSR running through their backyards and who cares right, as long as It's Not In My BackYard through the S. Peninsula. Let it go through Pleasanton, wich I beleive is probably the PA, MP, ATH, of the East Bay. Livermore, is not so much. They'll most likely will be getting a deal with the BART Extension, a HSR Regional connection, ACE Intermodla Station.

jim said...

correction

jim said...
By the way in case anyone has forgotten, hsr is**NOT** bing built to move people from livermore to san jose

Anonymous said...

I for one will be doing all I can to expose PCL's insane and shortsided anti-HSR position and this sick unholy alliance. And if they are really trying to work against funding for the project, shame on them! I would be up for a protest in SAC in front of their office.

Enraged Environmentalist

Morris Brown said...

@Robert who asked


"Morris, I'm assuming that by your comment here you aren't disputing my criticisms of the misleading statements and factual errors on that website?"


Your assumption is wrong. All I have said is that I am not involved in the site.

Quite frankly I hadn't looked at that site in months --- contrary to your statement of it being new, it has been up and running for some time.

On the whole, however, I would have to say that I disagree with most of your assertions and criticisms.

Spokker said...

Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

Spokker said...

Phillip Glass makes anything good.

Skip the CAHSR video to :40 and increase the volume of the soundtrack for best results.

Clem said...

Nice piece of red meat.

Why is everyone so upset about the lawsuit? A lawsuit is the only viable response mechanism afforded under CEQA to ensure that environmental law is complied with. It's no big deal. And this particular matter will be settled soon, so amping up the rhetoric might be a bit premature.

Once again I note the insinuation that San Jose would be "left out" of an Altamont alignment. I don't believe that would ever be the case, even if the CHSRA's ridership studies oddly show this very omission would improve total ridership. (No doubt to clear the way for BART... $6 billion of business depends on it!)

Robert Cruickshank said...

Clem, if it were just a lawsuit I probably wouldn't bother. They are going to lose the court case, and soon.

However, the battle will continue. The most troubling aspect of the emerging anti-HSR coalition is their willingness to go to the Legislature and manipulate Senators into throwing roadblocks in the project's path. I have no confidence whatsoever that the Legislature, a broken institution that has great difficulty managing the state's needs, is in any position to exercise effective oversight.

Now that federal representatives like Anna Eshoo are getting involved, it is even more important to push back against these forces.

I know that my willingness to aggressively push back against those I believe are working to undermine the HSR project is one of the most contentious aspects of my work on this blog and in HSR advocacy more broadly. But I believe that our success in beating back the misleading arguments in 2008 helped Prop 1A pass, and I believe it can help the project navigate what seem to be more difficult waters here in 2009.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Also just noticed that the Altamont vs. Pacheco graphic they produced misleadingly suggests that only an Altamont alignment would bring trains to Sacramento and Stockton, which is bullshit.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Once again I note the insinuation that San Jose would be "left out" of an Altamont alignment. I don't believe that would ever be the case.

I don't want to beat a dead horse but look at the Amtrak schedules for Hartford. Twice a day, three times on Fridays, you can get a through train. Otherwise there's a train to New Haven that lets you connect to a Northeast Corridor train or Metro North.

There are 1.6 million people in Nassau County. The closest Amtrak station, one that doesn't involve the use of a ferry, is in Manhattan. Same thing for the 4 million people living in Brooklyn and Queens.

Westchester county fares a bit better. They have three Amtrak Stations. You can actually get through trains in New Rochelle. If you board in Yonkers or Croton you can get to Montreal, Toronto, Chicago. If you want to go to Philadelphia... you have to change trains in Penn Station. New Rochelle is on the main line of the Northeast Corridor.
Using Altamont would mean Caltrain or ACE or Capitol Corridor to an HSR station would be good enough for a very long time.
If they ever built HSR capable tracks to San Jose it would have low frequencies. Compare the schedules for Hartford to the schedules for Trenton sometime.

bossyman15 said...

Michael @ 9:51 PM

Where'd you hear that NC3D are making a new CAHSR video?

Fred Martin said...

Clem, the latest official figures for BART-to-San Jose is now up to $7.5 billion (from $6 billion), according to MTC, yet not a single shovel has been turned yet. The final figure, if the project ever comes close to completion, will easily exceed $10 billion. These megaprojects are consistently underestimated in cost, and the benefits are overestimated. Funny how it never the reverse...

$33 billion for the SF-LA HSR line is also a serious low-ball figure with no detailed cost-accounting. Even the $33 billion just for SF-LA has escalated from an earlier figure of $26 billion for the full system.

What if CHSRA loses the lawsuit?? CHSRA leadership was given a chance to settle, but they will be badly exposed in a loss.

Robert narcissistically believes he is some sort of political player in all this. I hope Robert is learning something about grassroots movements in his dissertation research...

matt said...

The website doesn't bother me because coming at it from every direction makes them sound dumb. You can not say you want HSR done right, and then say it should be stopped everywhere. You can not say you want the Altamont alignment and you don't want HSR at all. Unless you are willing to admit that you live near the tracks and just do not want a 125 mph train coming by, in which case I, and most other Californians, dont care.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

there's a lot more to operations costs than fuel/electricity. Staff salaries and maintenance, for example.

See here for details regarding the incremental cost to passengers for using renewable rather than fossil sources of electricity.

If you believe that research contains factual errors, please specify and back up your assertions with competing research. Truthiness doesn't cut it any longer in 2009.

@ Fred Martin -

just because the BART extension to Santa Clara is so poorly managed that its costs keep exploding does not mean the HSR project will necessarily suffer the same fate.

The $33 billion estimate for the HSR starter line related to SF-Anaheim. The $26 billion figure referred to SF-LA only, so that explains about $3 billion right there. The balance of the increase is simply the result of many years of construction cost inflation - the longer you wait, the higher the nominal amount.

Given that the cost of oil and energy-intensive materials like steel and cement has come down since last fall, construction cost inflation should be zero or even negative right now. Unfortunately, that won't last: if PCL, TRANSDEF, NIMBYs or anyone else gets either the courts or the state legislature to add several years to the project timeline, the total cost for the starter line will indeed be higher than currently forecast. Just don't blame CHSRA for that.

Btw: CHSRA has actually published very detailed accounting of how it arrived at its capital cost estimates. Please don't let the dog eat your homework.

Isola Sparks said...

This website is not new Robert - this is old news.

And I don't see Morris' name anywhere on the site - though you seem to insinuate that he is part of this alliance.

While I may disagree with Morris, he and Martin Engel are always clear about what they believe and they sign their full names each time they write.

Good for them for standing up for what they believe, even though they are clearly in the minority here...

Morris Brown said...

Rafael writes:
"Given that the cost of oil and energy-intensive materials like steel and cement has come down since last fall, construction cost inflation should be zero or even negative right now. Unfortunately, that won't last: if PCL, TRANSDEF, NIMBYs or anyone else gets either the courts or the state legislature to add several years to the project timeline, the total cost for the starter line will indeed be higher than currently forecast. Just don't blame CHSRA for that."

If the courts delay the project, then certainly CHSRA is to blame. They planned the project. They will have certified an illegal EIR. The "buck stops" right there -- right at the CHSRA and its board.

In point of fact, construction costs have fallen about 25% in the last 18 months to 2 years time frame. This is the reason why Diridon's pleading at the board meeting a couple of months ago, proclaiming delay was costing the project 5% per year because of construction escalation was such a joke.

Thanks for the link to the study on renewable energy costs. I fully understand that energy cost are not the only cost factor in operations for the train. The document is long a complicated. What I do know, is raw production of renewable energy, taken on a full cost accounting basis (no government subsidies etc.), now costs 2 to 3 times that of fossil burning plants. If subsidies are going to be part of the equation, then the game changes quite a bit. We all pay for subsidies --- just not accounted for in the same pool.

What I still don't know, is what percentage of operations cost are due to the cost of energy.

Thanks to Clem for some rare support on the continued deception Robert continues to dispense about Altamont leaving out poor San Jose.

Bianca said...

Robert said:
The notion of "fewer impacts on communities" is only true if you don't consider Fremont, Pleasanton, Livermore and Tracy as communities.

I don't think their reasoning went that far at all. They were thinking "fewer impacts"= "run HSR through the (less affluent) part of Menlo Park (that most people think is East Palo Alto.)"

Menlo Park would be destroyed by the Pacheco Alignment, so we must change it to the Altamont Alignment, which somehow will be able to run through Menlo Park without destroying it.

Anonymous said...

just because the BART extension to Santa Clara is so poorly managed that its costs keep exploding does not mean the HSR project will necessarily suffer the same fate.

Why would you expect the same engineering and construction firms to perform better on HSR than on BART? It'll have the same cost inflation factor.

Fred Martin said...

No, Rafael, the 2002 total figure of $26 billion did include extensions to Sacramento and San Diego, not just SF-LA. According to this November SPUR policy report, which I assume is just following CHSRA's official numbers in 1999, the SF-LA segment was only supposed to cost $12-14 billion!

"The current estimated capital cost of the entire system from San Diego to Sacramento is $25 billion, with an estimate of $12 to $14 billion for the critical Los Angeles to San Francisco segment."
http://www.spur.org/publications/library/report/californiahighspeedrailproject_110199

Man, that's some cost escalation in only a decade! That's a 250% cost increase, most certainly NOT due to price inflation. With a 250% increase in costs every decade with this sordid management team, an $80 billion price-tag for SF-LA by 2019 seems right on target.

I wonder if SPUR has changed its opinion given the cost escalation over a decade? I doubt it, but you have to wonder when supporters start to de-commit from such wasteful and inept management. A good HSR system is being "denied" by such sloppiness and sleaze, which this blog blindly supports in total faith and obedience.

The poor management of both the BART-to-San Jose and CHSRA projects are intimately related, since the same actors are involved in both. Parson Brinckerhoff (PB) is knee-deep in the management of both projects, and PB specializes in change-order blowouts.
http://www.calrailnews.com/crn/0704/0704_7.pdf

By the way, this "detailed" cost accounting doesn't impress me in the least. Just take the time to look at the accounting closely. It consists of estimates of unit costs of materials and fixtures, etc, but it doesn't break down the engineering costs. Big numbers are just coming out of nowhere. This is the biggest public works project in recent memory, and a couple hundred pages of unit cost estimates is all they can come up with given $60-70 million in studies! A proper cost accounting should be the size of a telephone book, and it should seriously consider risk management and contingencies (not just cost percentage inflator catch-alls). Wait until all the change-orders start rolling in. Just from looking at the charts, they even have overestimated the segment distances between 4th/Townsend and Millbrae by several miles. This is the level of competence we're dealing with...

The bottom line is that with this sort of bad management and cost escalation, an effective HSR project will never be built, so the sensible rail advocates who have been following the sleaze all along are correct to demand accountability and change from CHSRA.

morris Brown said...

All interested parties should make sure they visit

www.terrapinn.com/2009/usarail

and learn about "USA Rail 2009" meeting in Chicago in September. There you can listen to Judge Kopp. Also present will be Joseph Szabo, an administrator of the FRA, and the person to whom the stimulus request for funds to this HSR project were sent.

As described it sounds just wonderful with:


Investment and development opportunities for operators,
developers, government and investors.


Be sure to provide your e-mail info and get their brochure. On page 7 you learn you can enroll for prices of only $2695 to $4395 and they offer 10 - 20% discount for groups of 3 to 6 or more. What a deal!

Surely you could arrange to visit the Art Institute in Chicago while there, which I highly recommend --- one of the great museums in the world.

bronson said...

"only an Altamont alignment would bring trains to Sacramento and Stockton"

With Pacheco, how long would an SF -> Sac run take? Or SJ -> Sac?

Now compare that to the current, slow as molasses, Capitol Corridor.

So, no, Pacheco doesn't connect the Bay Area to Sac. Seems a pretty major problem, no? What's so elite about San Jose -> LA that it should take precedence above all other routes?

It's a serious question. I go to Sac once a month and LA twice a year. Personally, I'd much rather see HSR to Sac than to LA.

Jack said...

@bronson

HSR is going to SAC, in Phase II. Prop 1A funds are for specifically LA (Anaheim...) to SF.

Isn't it about time we have a comprehensive pro-hsr website. I love this blog, but a full fledged site with forums and links to all the (correct) relevant information would provide an excellent counter to the opposition.

I would be willing to moderate such forums on a volunteer basis. Unfortunate my coding skills are nill, but I am sure we have many fans that read this blog that could come up with some awesome design to rival CHSRA.

bronson said...

That's a good PDF Dave. Let's clear the air: both Altamot and Pacheco will induce sprawl. Both will require eminent domain. Both will require 120mph trainsets 30 feet in the air screaming over suburban backyards. Neither route is magic.

I need to travel to Sac a lot, LA hardly ever. Altamont provides both, Pacheco only provides LA. That's why I'm personally very interested in an Altamont alignment and don't really care at all about Pacheco.

I'd sure appreciate it if someone could say what the downside of Altamont is! All I could find by searching this blog is an attidude of "Pacheco was chosen now shut up." That just doesn't seem a very compelling argument to me.

Anonymous said...

The BART San Jose line is a fait accompli. Let's name names: Pelosi, Feinstein, Boxer, Mineta - all from the Bay Area and staunch allies of BART. Funds will be secured, even if so-called "committed" hsr monies have to be diverted to BART. Wait and see.

The HSR has blown its consensus with a meandering route alignment and an elevated war with the Penisula. As currently conceived it deserves to be opposed.

Count Z said...

@bronson Because changing the alignment costs time and lots of money?

bronson said...

Thanks Jack. What sort of travel time for Bay Area <-> Sac do they anticipate for phase 2? It seems like it's going to waste a LOT of time and energy if everybody has to pass through Gilroy, no?

I'd love to see an apolitical HSR appreciation site. The discussion in newspapers and blogs gets awfully shrill at times. A place to summarize and investigate rational arguments supporting the opposing positions without all the name calling and S-bombs? Sounds awesome.

I have coding skills but no HSR expertise or time at the moment. If someone organizes something, I'd certainly try to help.

Anonymous said...

Aren't we in the Bay Area getting the best of both worlds with Pacheco AND Altamont HSR overlay? What the hell's all the fussing about!?

bronson said...

Count Z, that's exactly the "Pacheco was chosen now shut up" attitude that I was referring to. Not a very compelling argument for Pacheco is it?

r. motorist said...

vehemently anti-HSR TRANSDEF

These guys are anti-HSR? Aren't they the ones that went to the meeting with the "Follow the Lights" poster?

BruceMcF said...

bronson said...
"I'd sure appreciate it if someone could say what the downside of Altamont is!"

It takes San Jose off the main alignment to LA, forcing it to wait on completion of a second stage and then offering it far less frequent direct services to SoCal. The downside of Pacheco is the same thing, except rather than San Jose its swapping Fremont and Livermore off the main alignment.

"With Pacheco, how long would an SF -> Sac run take? Or SJ -> Sac?"

With the Capital Corridor upgraded to 110mph, SF->Sac would almost certainly be quickest by getting over the bridge and transferring to the Capital Corridor.

SJ->Sac via the commuter overlay would be faster than via the Capital Corridor - bear in mind that even if the Commuter Overlay is at the 160mph of the Caltrain Corridor, once it hits the main Sacramento/LA corridor it hits 220mph.

Stockton / San Jose is 55mile, line of site, so if the commuter overlay alignment is 50% inefficient, that'd be about 80 miles. The difference in trip speed would be under ten minutes.

bronson said...

Thanks Bruce, that's good info. The spur problem seems pretty minor: just have every SF train pass through SJ. Would there be much time difference be between Altamont with a SJ stop and Pacheco with a SJ stop? To me, a *small* delay seems resonable if it allows SF-Sac service.

Google doesn't seem to know a definition of "Altamont Overlay." What is that? Does that mean actually sending the HSR trainsets over Altamont at some point in the future? Or is it some other thing, like upgrading existing lines?

Spokker said...

"Aren't we in the Bay Area getting the best of both worlds with Pacheco AND Altamont HSR overlay? What the hell's all the fussing about!?"

The most compelling argument I've heard is that the Altamont ROW is already there, and while it would require tunneling too, Pachecho would require laying track in virgin land.

The argument is basically, use what you have. I'm guessing Altamont is cheaper for that reason.

Anonymous said...

BruceMcF's explaination of Pacheco vs. Altamont is hardly accurate.

As been pointed out here many times before, Altamont, in Phase I would serve San Jose, but not necessarily on a direct route. That is San Jose's objection. They insist on being on the direct line, regardless of how this affects Sacramento and how it affect the wilderness areas by passing through Pacheco. San Jose (Diridon) won't play second fiddle to anyone, especially San Francisco.

Of course, this is not satisfactory to Robert, who living in Monterey, insists that Pacheco is superior, when almost all metrics shows it to be inferior.

As far as I can tell, the $60 million being given to AECOM to study Altamont (supposedly as an overlay??), is a backup to what happens when they can't go Pacheco, because of the lawsuit or rights owned by UPRR.

Now CalTrain, is never going to agree to an Altamont routing unless they get their full grade separations and electrification along the Peninsula all the way to San Jose, whether or not HSR would need that, which they wouldn't if the route for HSR went over a Dumbarton bridge bay crossing.

Anonymous said...

HUGE TUNNEL TO BE BUILT UNDER SF BAY.

Ummm.... where exactly are the "environmentalists" (aka paid shills for BART contractors) who were so very very very very very very very upset about horrendous environmental impacts upon the pristine wetlands far outside of San Jose (most of those inside San Jose having been, uh... filled in for office parks with SVMG/SLVG's full and enthusiastic promotion) and so very very very very very very very very concerned about the massive impacts to the powerful powerful powerful and densely populated massive city of Pleasanton that they went all out to ensure that no horrible horrible horrible horrible environmental impacting train tunnel was built in the Dumbarton corridor?

Oppose evil tunnels through the wetlands! Come on, show some consistency here -- other than a consistent tendency to do what is most expensive for the public and most profitable for BART, that is.

Can't our brave, environmentalist, anti-NIMBY-heroic leaders step up and oppose this horrible desecration of the wildlife preserve!

All water must flow via San Jose! It's only fair! It's the tenth largest city in the most important and god-fearingest country on the only known inhabitable planet in the universe after all.

Anybody who wants to send water any other route IS A NIMBY.

BruceMcF said...

Cowardly Anony-mouse said...

"As been pointed out here many times before, Altamont, in Phase I would serve San Jose, but not necessarily on a direct route. That is San Jose's objection. They insist on being on the direct line, regardless of how this affects Sacramento"

The difference between a 160mph corridor between San Jose and Stockton, continuing on the main Sacramento/SoCal corridor and a 220mph corridor from San Jose and Stockton, continuing on the main Sacramento/SoCal corridor is ... under 10 minutes travel time.

So anyone who claims that travel between the Bay and Sacramento ought to determine the alignment of an Express HSR corridor is either being misleading or has been misled.

Posing the argument in terms of the differences in the alignment for ridership between the Bay and SoCal is certainly legitimate ... obviously, the time to pose that argument was when the alignment choice was made, but it is, in any event, framed in credible terms.

However, someone posing the argument in terms of "Sacramento being blocked off from the Bay" is either poorly informed or dishonest ... the Bay and Sacramento are simply not far enough apart for the difference between Regional HSR and Express HSR to result in substantial differences in ridership.

"As far as I can tell, the $60 million being given to AECOM to study Altamont (supposedly as an overlay??), is a backup to what happens when they can't go Pacheco, because of the lawsuit or rights owned by UPRR."

Where is the evidence that it is something different from what it claims to be?

Since the strongest arguments in favor of the Altamont alignment are in terms of transport within the region rather than in terms of the inter-regional transport role of an Express HSR corridor, the Express HSR corridor was designed with a priority on the job of an Express HSR corridor, and the "commuter overlay" concept was invented to address those regional transport tasks that supporters of the Altamont alignment pointed out.

john said...

The NIMBY alliance seems to love to hit the refrain of "Why Altamont" again and again. I for one would like to hear them elucidate exactly WHERE Altamont.

Obviously crossing the hundred year old SP bridge is out of the question so new bridge? new bay tube? How much? Why is this form of cost maximization acceptable while full grade separation on the peninsula is some how a scam to enrich a 90 year old retired judge?

How about getting from the bay lands to the pass? Build a wye in the middle of a Fremont sub-division? Is that what the great wall Palo Alto folks want? (we go ours, screw you? really?)

How about getting down to San Jo? BART is slotted for the WPML and they aren't giving up on that pipe dream in the next generation or two.

How about getting over the pass? Is that really gonna be cheaper than Pacheco? Really? How about building another massive wye in the central valley... $$$ whee!

These aren't abstract, conceptual problems. They are boulders right in the middle of the road. Why is this a superior alignment? Please do tell, and show your work.

Also, just for fun does anyone else enjoy the high irony of the Nimby brigade using the specter of cost escalation during the prop 1A campaign to argue against the project and then within weeks of the election forming an organization to lobby for the exponential escalation of the project's costs? Martin and Morris I'm looking right at your tunnel.

Anonymous said...

I just don't see the great importance of connecting the Bay Area and "Cow Town" Sacramento in Phase 1. The CAHSRA made the right choice with Pacheco Pass and directly connecting the states largest, third, and fourth largest city's on the mainline.
Just because some here go to Sac twice a month should not dictate how HSR is designed.
"Cow Town" Sacramento will come to those who wait via Altamont HSR commuter overlay.
To those who keep whining and bitching over the decision of Pacheco Pass...Enough already!

dave said...

@ spokker

No, Pacheco isn't virgin land. It has highway 152 running through it. HSR will follow that to minimize impacts on the area.

@ anonymous 12:43

No, the HSR overlay is NOT a backup for the lawsuit when it is defeated. It's most likely going to be a "half-way" point for true HSR, with the potential for minor improvements in the future to the line for use of HSR Trainsets. It was obvious Altamont would still get picked even if Pacheco was Officially picked a year ago. It's a win, win. You Lose! The lawsuit will lose!

Regarding UPRR, the Fed's can always change what power they have if it gets in the way of Obama's vision of HSR, California included!

@ bronson

I forgot to mention, the Altamont Overlay will be Electrified in addition to Full Grade Seperation and compatibility with all HSR equipment. My guess is that ACE will have to buy new lightweight, electric Trainsets like Caltrain to use the line. HSR trainsets will eventually run if not initially, with possibly one stop in Livermore and existing Stations for ACE train.

Their is no faster way to get to Sac. then through Altamont. CHSRA knows that and they have to build the line in order for HSR to be successfull overall. ACE train has been trying to get it's own dedicated tracks through the pass away from freight trains and this will be it's chance.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1247,
Apples and oranges pal! Fresh water tunnel (which is the key to life for millions in the Bay) and a potential train tunnel.
Pretty pathetic trying to draw parallels.

Spokker said...

"No, Pacheco isn't virgin land. It has highway 152 running through it. HSR will follow that to minimize impacts on the area."

But that's not the argument I heard. There's no rail right of way there. Altamont has a ROW that can be upgraded now.

Again, this isn't coming from me. This is just the argument I heard. If someone has the counter argument I'd be happy to hear it.

Anonymous said...

Look all,
Like the Sun rising every morning, here's reality: HSR primary route into Bay Area will be via Pacheco Pass with future HSR commuter overlay via Altamont Pass. Stupid NIMBY lawsuit is also DOA!
Enough with all the pathetic "why not Altamont" BS!

Clem said...

@anon, I'd get a good chuckle if the lawsuit prevailed... is "overlay" a polite word for contingency plan?

gabe said...

Maybe Brucemf can help with this, but regarding Sacramento:

Are there plans to upgrade the capitol corridor to 110+ mph?

It seems logical, and much cheaper than express HSR. With frequent terrible traffic around Berkeley on I-80, it would be much faster than driving. Maybe this could come out of the "feeder" lines?

Bay Area Resident said...

Look, I am an HSR foe. But I am REALLY SICK of this whining about Altamont from the blowhards in Palo Alto and Atherton. Altamont does NOTHING, NADA for the really important peninsula cities- Burlingame, San Mateo etc. Why the BLEEP should northern californians be more concerned with Atherton vs Burlingame. What is your solution to Burlingame? The reason Pacheco was chosen over Altamont was due to the SILICON VALLEY alliance of companies along the peninsula. If you want to convert the route elsewhere, deal with the Ciscos, Genentechs and HPs of the world.

Anonymous said...

Clem:


"Overlay" would seem to be a way to expend $60 million on more studies. I wonder who, besides Minetta, who sat on the Aecom board, pushed this through. I do think this is a contingency plan.

The corporates, HP, Cisco etc., do support Pacheco, but it was the City of San Jose, which told the Authority "if you choose Altamont", then we will oppose the project.

dave said...

@ anonymous 9:26

There was even a political figure (a woman), I don't remember who it was, from San Jose, that said not only that she would NOT support HSR if Altamont was chosen but "Would do everything in her power to stop the entire project" if Pacheco wasn't chosen.

Seems very sleazy, dirty way to play the game. Could you blame CHSRA for that kind of pressure?

Anonymous said...

Dave,
I guess there's sleaze and dirt to go around for everyone.
Clem,
You're "chuckle" comment speaks volumes on which side of the fence you're on (NIMBYs, Altamont whiners). You put out so much knowledge hear and at your blog, and then you throw out that crap...unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

BruceMF writes: However, someone posing the argument in terms of "Sacramento being blocked off from the Bay" is either poorly informed or dishonest

Or perhaps they have superior map reading skills.

... the Bay and Sacramento are simply not far enough apart for the difference between Regional HSR and Express HSR to result in substantial differences in ridership.

You really don't know what you're talking about. The EIR says SF-Sac would be almost 1 hour faster via Altamont.

Anonymous said...

There was even a political figure (a woman), I don't remember who it was, from San Jose, that said not only that she would NOT support HSR if Altamont was chosen but "Would do everything in her power to stop the entire project" if Pacheco wasn't chosen.

Zoe Lofgren. She represents the Morgan Hill area, so clearly she was putting self-interest ahead of the common good.

I guess that makes her a "Nimby".

Anonymous said...

Are there plans to upgrade the capitol corridor to 110+ mph?

No.

And if you were even remotely familiar with the state of the ROW, FRA rules, and Union Pacific stubbornness, you'd know how ludicrous the idea is.

And even if it were possible, travel time for Sac-SF would still be substantially slower than the Altamont alternative, not to mention Sac-SJ.

dave said...

@ Anonymous 9:50

Actually Clem has his right to oppose and prefer any option he want's. That doesn't mean he's a bad person. Pro HSR is all that matters, Nimby's & "deniers" of HSR not included because their claim of HSR done right isn't real, It's a smokescreen.

@ anonymous 9:59

Actually she's probably the opposite of a NIMBY. She actually want's it in her backyard.

Clem said...

@anon 9:50, the real world isn't so clear cut between supporters and "deniers". I'm a big fan of nuance.

@BAR: can you bring me up to speed on the Big Problem over in Burlingame? Is it anything like Atherton where they fret about eminent domain takings but actually have plenty of room within the existing right of way?

Alon Levy said...

HSR ridership is sensitive to the population of the largest city on the route. For instance, in Japan the second busiest Shinkansen line is Tohoku, connecting Tokyo with a string of small towns, plus one metro area of 2 million people. The Sanyo Shinkansen, which is slightly shorter and somewhat faster, and connects Osaka to Hiroshima (metro pop. 2 million) and Fukuoka (metro pop. 5.5 million), ranks third. Fukuoka may be far larger than the cities on the Tohoku route, but Tokyo is much larger than Osaka and that's what counts.

The moral of the story for California is that what matters is connecting the rest of the state to Los Angeles. Other concerns, such as connecting San Francisco to Sacramento, are secondary.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Wow, still all this talk about Altamont. Geez, it's over. It was over months ago. CHSRA selected Pacheco.

Pacheco is better. It's more convenient for more people.

Altamont is less service and less convenience. Altmont has a fork... all northbound trains must either split to SF or to SJ. That is a cut in proposed service for both. The only way to mitigate this reduction in service is to run more of it... at greater expense. That is non-sense.

An Altamont alignment can be added later if more time-effecient service to Sacramento is pursued.

BruceMcF said...

Anonymous said...
"You really don't know what you're talking about. The EIR says SF-Sac would be almost 1 hour faster via Altamont."

The EIR/EIS did not compare SF-Sac via Altamont with SF-Sac via the Capital Corridor upgraded to Regional HSR. While the Capital Corridor can be made substantially faster than it is today, its not eligible for an Express HSR alignment between the Bay and SoCal, because it goes the wrong direction ... the issue of speeding trips on that corridor is part of the complementary network of Emerging/Regional HSR corridors.

The EIR also did not say that the SF-Sac via a trunk corridor on Altamont is one hour faster than SF-Sac via a commuter overlay on Altamont.

Your argument requires the premise that the Express HSR corridors are the only interurban rail corridors that will ever be available ... because when you remove that premise, then from the South Bay and inland toward Livermore, the commuter overlay will offer the quickest trip from the Bay to Sacramento ... and from San Francisco / Oakland / Berkeley, an upgraded Capital Corridor will offer the quickest trip.

And, clearly, pretending that the only way to provide quick trips from the Bay to Sacramento is via the Express HSR trunk corridors is either the mark of someone who "doesn't know what they are talking about", or else is someone trying to con the uninformed and gullible.

Anonymous said...

Clem:

Both Burlingame and San Mateo have been on record for many years as telling CalTrain, if your going to do grade separations through our cities, then it is going to be below ground and electrified.

San Mateo ex-mayor Jerry Hill, supported that position then. Now as a assemblyman he has changed his mind, and he support the project fully. In other words, he could care less about his supporters. Hopefully he will be replaced and soon.

Anonymous said...

No one here yet has made a case of why it's so important to connect SF via Altamont to the states 6th largest city.
Again, by connecting SF, SJ and LA on the mainline, the right choice was obviously made with Pacheco Pass.
But go ahead, keep whining about Altamont not being the primary HSR route and not being able to get from SF to Cow Town.

BruceMcF said...

Anonymous said...
"No one here yet has made a case of why it's so important to connect SF via Altamont to the states 6th largest city."

Actually, in terms of transport markets, its likely that connecting Sacramento to the Bay will be a dominant task ... both in terms of providing access to a higher ranking central place and in terms of supporting travel by state government employees ... and while its not the same priority as connecting the Bay to the LA Basin, its still certainly the kind of thing you want to do.

Its just that at that distance, its not a high priority Express HSR transport task.

r. motorist said...

It sounds like a couple of people have put forward a couple of different ways that the SF bay area can be connected to the Sacramento Area. In the end though, I think everyone can agree that the most cost effective way to do things is to build both the Pacheco Pass and Altamont "overlay", and then throw in a 6+ billion BART extension on top of that. After all, transit gets plenty of funding in this country. So, once you are done with those projects, there should be plenty of money left over to upgrade all sorts of other rail lines to HSR. If anyone thinks there is any cheaper or better way to do this, you are clearly one of those people who want to kill rail or transit in general.

Tony D. said...

The old "follow the lights" argument was perhaps one of the weakests for a Altamont primary HSR route.

Most of those "lights" are former Bay Area-proper residents who chose (key word being "chose") to move out past Tracy to have a big house with big front/back yards. I can't tell you how many friends and relatives moved from SJ to the Central Valley so that they could have a bigger house for less money. The hell with the fact that it would now take them 2 hours to get to and from work.

Again, these "lights" made a personal choice and the CAHSRA was correct in making Pacheco Pass the main HSR route into the Bay Area; rather than cater to thousands who chose (key word being "chose") to move 2 hours away.

But alas, in time there will be an Altamont HSR commuter overlay for these "lights," so not all will be lost for you Altamont-only folks!

lyqwyd said...

Altamont:
San Jose is on a branch - Major disadvantage: limits operational flexibility since trains have to be sent to SJ or SF, they can't go through both
Includes more Central Valley Cities - minor advantage: there's a higher potential ridership in those cities and has the posibility of inducing TOD in those cities
cheaper to build - minor advantage: it's not that much cheaper

Pacheco:
goes through protected wilderness - minor disadvantage
no secured ROW - minor disadvantage: minor because it will likely be secured, there will be a lot of pressure on UPRR to allow the usage
full grade separation & electrification for Caltrain - major advantage
faster trip to SJ - minor advantage
Altamont can still be done via Altamont Overlay - Major advantage

Neutral:
bypass some Peninsula NIMBY cities, but Altamont will pass through some East Bay NIMBY cities

I was formerly an Altamont supporter, but was OK with Pacheco, but I had forgotten about the Altamont Overlay. Given that most if not all of the advantages of the Altamont alignment can be achieved with the overlay, I think Pacheco is definitely the better choice.

Alon Levy said...

Altamont wouldn't have a secured ROW any more than Pacheco. It would have to deal with UP in the East Bay - even without the fight with the BART extension.

Bay Area Resident said...

There was even a political figure (a woman), I don't remember who it was, from San Jose, that said not only that she would NOT support HSR if Altamont was chosen but "Would do everything in her power to stop the entire project" if Pacheco wasn't chosen.

dave, what the %^$& are you talking about? Which woman? The current mayor of San Jose, and the last mayor and I believe the one before that was male. There aren't any significant political players in SJ that are female that I can think of other than at the assembly level and those CERTAINTLY are not powerful enough to stop a HSR route decision.

Will you palo altans please GROW UP! Quit blaming this one city SJ for your ills! The problem is you have no solutions other than Altamont which helps a small percentage of people at the expense of everybody else. You should have come up with a real plan to move HSR to 101 or to the marsh there if possible. You needed a plan- you had no plan- QUIT WHINING.

Bay Area Resident said...

Oh Christ, ZOE LOFGREN? She is in the US house of representatives, representing California district 16. Here is her district.
http://www.nationalatlas.gov/printable/images/pdf/congdist/ca16_110.pdf

It includes Gilroy, San Martin, parts of San Jose, and even some Milpitas I think. She is not tied to the city of San Jose, since she is in the US house. She probably just wants the stimulus funds.

Whats next, Palo Alto blames MICHELLE OBAMA for sabotaging their stupid little town?

Bay Area Resident said...

Clem, the problem with Burlingame is the train goes right through the town and buttresses the high school. The burlingame caltrain station is a renovated historic station that adds to the downtown district. I can't remember the stores that immediately face the train station- I think a wine shop and Pottery Barn or something. Just your typical high end shopping district with a train running through there. And then Burlingame high school which you can see on any google map, about the same as Paly. Definitely far less space in Burlingame vs Atherton.

Anonymous said...

BAR, you are profoundly illogical. Aren't you the #1 NIMBY for preserving Peninsula neighborhoods just the way they are??

Zoe Lofgren most certainly represents the city of San Jose -- her district covers most of it, including what San Jose calls a "downtown" -- as she is their most direct representative in the US Congress. Do you honestly believe that she is not a significant political player??? Your political analysis is very weak. SVLG also claims to speak for the big companies of Silicon Valley, but my guess is that the CEOs just aren't on top of the issues, blindly following that huckster Carl Guardino.

Lofgren likely wants the state and federal funds to build infrastructure in her district, so it is logical that she would favor the Pacheco Pass. It doesn't change the fact that Altamont is a better investment strategy. SJ-Gilroy-Salinas-Monterey can have the HSR "overlay" whenever sufficient funds are available.

Bay Area Resident said...

Anonymous,

The corporates, HP, Cisco etc., do support Pacheco, but it was the City of San Jose, which told the Authority "if you choose Altamont", then we will oppose the project.

OK so your position is that San Jose made a stand for Pacheco early on. Although I doubt it went like this, I can't really blame the City of San Jose for trying to influence in their direction.

Which begs the question.... Just what did Palo Alto say about choosing Pacheco???? Did Palo Alto say- If you choose PACHECO we will oppose the project? Well did they? Why not?

Devils advocate here- lets say Palo Alto DID opposed HSR on Pacheco and they moved it to Altamont months ago. Would you feel any sort of compassion for the east bay residents whose homes were going to be destroyed?

Bay Area Resident said...

Obviously I believe Zoe Lofgren is a political player, but at the NATIONAL LEVEL it is extremely naive to attach her to city politics, which is what you are trying to do.

I just don't believe that the City of San Jose is this boogeyman that sabotaged Palo Alto. San Jose is only one city who would NEVER have the might to stand up against a COALITION of peninsula cities- no way. Zoe Lofgren is one congressperson- aren't there any congresspeople on the peninsula? For gods sake the way you people talk about San Jose you act like it is MANHATTAN or something. I don't even live in San Jose but I can tell you there are many times when San Jose's interests have been compromised in favor of Cupertino or Saratoga in the south bay, two MUCH SMALLER towns.

Face it- Menlo Park, Atherton and Palo alto are unorganized. You don't know what to do to thwart this train. Your city council was bamboozled and you don't have a plan. You are holding up San Jose as some evil boogeyman and giving them way too much credit for your failures.

looking on said...

Bay Area Resident

The history of San Jose opposition is in black and white. Google the subject and be rewarded --- it goes back even before 2003 --- led by Diridon, BTW.

Palo Alto didn't have a clue --- that's really the best way to put it. They were only playing the Democratic line --- taking for granted that what Feinstein, Pelosi, Eshoo etc., were urging was outstanding. Atherton and MP were much better informed and their councils had been informed to the true nature of the beast.

Robert wants no accountability for the Authority. Let them do what they want is his motto --- nothing should be put in the way of this project. He berates everyone, including a supporter like Lowenthal, who while favoring the project, insists that controls and oversight be in place.

You can already see what happens when there is no oversight. Why is this strange statement in AB-3034, "there will be no station between Gilroy and Merced"?

Insiders had already brought up land for their projects around a station that was planned near Los Banos. They were looking to make a financial killing.

Anonymous said...

Just what did Palo Alto say about choosing Pacheco?

Palo Alto's official support for Pacheco was described in detail in the CHSRA's response to Palo Alto's amicus curiae brief. Pull up case number 34-2008-80000022 on the Sacramento Superior Court document server.

The city is said to have stated the following in a letter addressed to the CHSRA in December 2007:

The High Speed Rail project alignment from San Jose to San Francisco along the Peninsula would be consistent with the City's public transit goal of developing an efficient public transit system that offers a convenient and viable alternative to driving. Palo Alto has a long range plan for upgrading and expanding the Palo Alto Intermodal Transit Center in a manner consistent with the future high speed rail service.

I believe that's as close as you'll get to what Palo Alto said about Pacheco back then. The CHSRA is trying to use this to disqualify the city's amicus brief.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention, the Palo Alto city council then unanimously endorsed Proposition 1A (which specifically described the peninsula alignment) at their October 6th, 2008 meeting.

Morris Brown said...

anonymous 4:52 wrote

"...The CHSRA is trying to use this to disqualify the city's amicus brief."

It is past history ... the court has already dismissed the amicus.

Spokker said...

The Bay Area is all things to all people. The Bay Area giveth and the Bay Area taketh away.

The Bay Area also voted for a high speed rail project that was widely known to be going through the Pacheco pass and up the Peninsula. Or maybe the Bay Area isn't as informed about the issues as they claim they are? I mean, gosh, it's not like you couldn't do a 5 second search and find a map of the goddamn thing on the Internet.

These Bay Area rail groups are just mad the rest of the Bay Area doesn't share in their utopian vision. Actually, I like some of their ideas too. I see their point on BART and Caltrain over Dumbarton and this and that. But unlike Transdef I don't sue when I don't get my way.

Spokker said...

The "Let's Do It Right" site is laughable.

"Tearing down homes and local businesses, using the power of eminent domain to seize properties needed for the train"

Even Clem, who actually supports Altamont, has proved that eminent domain will probably amount to about four acres.

"Removing all the trees that line the tracks."

Plant... more?

"Building a high speed train from San Francisco to Los Angeles through the Pacheco Pass would also destroy several communities along the Peninsula including Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Mountain View by:"

Okay, so let me get this straight. It's NOT okay to ruin the communities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Mountain View, but it's okay to ruin the communities north of them?

Or maybe it just says something about what these pricks think of the more northernly portion of the Peninsula.

Let's do it right? It sounds like some of the rank and file behind this site think that doing it right is it going through someone else's neighborhood.

Spokker said...

"REMEMBER: THE CITY YOU SAVE MAY BE YOUR OWN!"

And there lies the fatal flaw in their reasoning. If this thing is so awful that cities must be saved from it, why would ANYONE along the Altamont corridor want it in their backyard? Wouldn't it be in their best interest to start their own anti-HSR site?

That's why this campaign is not about doing it right, but killing the project outright. It's so transparent. TRANSDEF fucking wants high speed rail, so why are they aligning themselves with an organization that is saying that it will destroy communities? How does this help them get it through Altamont? The Altamont resident is thinking... holy shit, I don't want this thing coming over here!

gabe said...

They might take that Burlingame Pottery Barn? Oh, the humanity!

neroden@gmail said...

The Altamont corridor runs through major wilderness areas! Namely, when it crosses the bay!

Now, for a fast commuter rail link, that's fine, because work can be kept very close to the existing bridge, or the trains can go 'around the bay' to San Jose.

But for true high speed such as is needed from the main North-South route, Altamont would require massive, environmentally disruptive bridging over a bay which is the home to threatened species. It would never pass Environmental Impact Statement review!

neroden@gmail said...

"But that's not the argument I heard. There's no rail right of way there. Altamont has a ROW that can be upgraded now."

The Altamont ROW cannot be upgraded due to real environmental issues. The bridge over the bay -- a protected wilderness area and wetland -- can't be rebuilt from scratch, as would be necessary for true HSR, because that would be massively environmentally damaging, unlike the Pacheco route. This means there will be permanent and serious speed and capacity limitations across the Bay on the Altamont route. Again, it's good enough for a fast commuter route.

In addition, upgrading the Altamont route to true HSR would require quite a lot of property takings, because it's simply not straight enough. For a fast commuter route, however, it is good enough.

Stanford said...

This "opposition" is the brain child of Richard Tolmach of TRAC who has received contracts from California politicains who have NOT supported High Speed Rail and this is an attempt to screw Californians out of a viable alternative.