Friday, July 3, 2009

Orange County Takes Over The CHSRA Board

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

That's one way to look at the news that the California High Speed Rail Authority board has a new chair and vice-chair, and they're both from Anaheim. According to the press release:

Earlier in the meeting, the Board elected Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle to be its chairman, replacing Judge Quentin L. Kopp who had served two terms as chairman. Former California Assemblymember Tom Umberg was elected vice-chairman.

Pringle is a moderate Republican; Umberg is a Democrat who narrowly lost a primary for a State Senate seat to Lou Correa in 2006. Both are well-known in Sacramento and may have better relations with the Legislature than Quentin Kopp. Pringle is a strong supporter of HSR:

“High-speed trains are needed in California,” said Pringle. “The state must find a viable surface transportation alternative to ease auto and air traffic congestion between major urban centers and high population growth areas like the Central Valley.

Pringle clearly understands the need for the HSR project and for it to be kept whole, unlike Sen. Alan Lowenthal who wants to chop it into a glorified commuter rail for the Bay Area and Southern California.

I wouldn't read too much into the change of leadership on the CHSRA board. Quentin Kopp has been the chairman for several years now, taking time away from his spot on the San Mateo County Superior Court bench. Kopp's term as chair was a clear success, as California voters approved Prop 1A and the federal government approved billions in HSR stimulus money - and California will likely be largest recipient of that money.

Now it's Curt Pringle's turn to lead the HSR project through this crucial moment. On the plus side the project has the support of the people of California, of the Congress and of President Barack Obama. It has as much as $13 billion ready (assuming we get $4 billion of the HSR stimulus, and that is likely to be the high end of the likely funds) and is well along the way of finalizing the project plans in some of the key corridors.

The HSR plan also has some challenges, from the Peninsula NIMBYs to people like Sen. Lowenthal who want to gut the project. Pringle can help sway more Republicans to support a project that will create a lot of jobs and opportunities for business up and down the corridor. And hopefully he can help navigate the project through the state legislature.

So this blog welcomes Curt Pringle and Tom Umberg to their new positions as leaders of the CHSRA board and of the HSR project. Besides, as an Orange County native myself, it's good to see leadership from OC stepping up for high speed rail.

55 comments:

Rafael said...

Kopp had presided over the CHSRA board for two terms, during which the prospects for actually getting this built have improved dramatically. Like Rod Diridon, he was perceived - perhaps unfairly - as representing Northern California interests. For all his accomplishments, he was unable to find common ground with TJPA, the authority responsible for planning the new Transbay Terminal in SF.

In addition, shifting the focus to SoCal issues may be no bad thing. For one thing, Pringle may have a better angle on outfoxing Alan Lowenthal than Quentin Kopp did.

Besides, the LA basin home to about half the state's population and, there are still significant issues in securing the co-operation of freight rail operators and/or CalTrans regarding the right of way between LAUS and Anaheim ARTIC as well as down to San Diego via Riverside.

That said, the addition of Las Vegas to the officially designated California HSR corridor was probably also a significant factor. As chairman of the CHSRA board, Curt Pringle has no choice but to put maglev out of its misery: there simply isn't enough room - never mind funding - for two incompatible HSR technologies in the San Gabriel Valley.

There may be a place for maglev somewhere in the nation, but after California voters explicitly endorsed steel wheels by passing prop 1A(2008), it no longer makes any sense to even consider it for the Golden or Silver States.

Anonymous said...

DOn't trust Pringle he hired security guards to keep latino voters from voting in the 80s!

Spokker said...

"DOn't trust Pringle he hired security guards to keep latino voters from voting in the 80s!"

So he kept six people from voting?

my view said...

Boy -- Robert what have you been smoking!

Pringle and Lowenthal are gong to be best buddies -- they are going to make sure that So. Calif. gets done first, and most likely the only segment that will ever be completed, at least in the next 25 years.

The So. Cal. population percentage advantage certainly would seem to mean that they should be able to control just what gets built. You say 13 billions with Fed stimulus of $4 billion. Well just remember the 9 billions coming from the Prop 1A bonds (which can't even be marketed right now with the Cal fiscal crisis ) require 50% matching. Thus even with 4 billions from the feds, you you have 8 billion to work with until other sources are found.

Will the State approve more spending from another bond issue? Lots of luck. More likely an initiative to reverse Prop 1A would come along before that.

Why you, Robert and Rafael both talk about outfoxing Lowenthal, you both have it wrong. He wants HSR. He just wants it down south first.

Addition of Las Vegas to the mix, is nothing but a side show. Reid makes a lot of political posturing, but when it actually comes to getting real funds, he fails. Nevada has very little clout. Reid is a passing shadow.

I'm personally so happy to see Kopp and Diridon pushed down quite a few pegs.

Spokker said...

So the corruption is just being moved from the Bay Area to Southern California?

By the way, Pringle's first idea is to put armed guards in front of train stations with signs that say, "Non-citizens can't ride trains."

Jack said...

I see nothing wrong with that. If there not suppose to be here, why should they get to ride the train?

jim said...

If socal thinks they are going to steal this project for themselves we will all join the nimbys up here and defeat the project. Don't even try it.

Anon256 said...

Jack: Hopefully you are joking. Obviously stopping tourists from riding the train would be disastrous and absurd. The more people paying fares, the better.

Alon Levy said...

Does anyone have links for the stories they tell about Pringle?

Rafael said...

@ my view -

CHSRA's position is to develop SF-SJ, LA-Anaheim and Merced/Fresno-Bakersfield in parallel. Pringle will now no doubt seek to maximize state and federal funding for Anaheim ARTIC, even though the Fullerton-Anaheim bottleneck will severely constrain HSR service to that station. However, that may prove a modest price to pay for getting the car-crazy denizens of OC excited about public transportation at all.

Sen. Alan Lowenthal isn't convinced the Feds will pony up enough money to make all of that possible, so he wants CHSRA to defer the Central Valley section and concentrate spending on the ends of the starter line.

Mehdi Morshed et al. claim the CV section is needed for high-speed testing, FRA rulemaking and vendor qualification. Voters approved a statewide HSR system featuring speeds of 220mph in the CV, not glorified short-distance commuter rail at 125mph (or less).

jim said...

I still think doing the easier, cheaper central valley segment first to get it up and running as an example is the best thing. It can be done more quickly while the heavy construction involved at the urban ends is proceeding.

Jack said...

@Jim

I am a resident of the central valley and want the train more than anything. This train personally affects my wife and I in many ways. However, I would hate to see them build the CV segment first and have State point to low ridership as examples of how the train would never work. If that means building socal up first for a proof of concept I am down for that.

As to Lowenthal, he remains a member that considers us here in the valley as second class citizens, here to pick and cook his food, much like most of the Legislature.

Clem said...

easier, cheaper central valley segment

It will be neither easy nor cheap.

The CHSRA has chosen a route that traverses several urban cores in the central valley, including Madera (ka-ching!), Fresno (ka-ching!) and Bakersfield (ka-ching!). The grade separations that drill through these urban street grids will be far more numerous and more difficult to build than in a more logical green-field approach as used in Europe or Taiwan.

Alon Levy said...

Rafael, re: your description of Pringle, it sounds like his main improvement over Diridon is that his pet train station mega-project isn't named after him.

Alon Levy said...

Clem, I find it strange that you want California to imitate one of the TGV's most criticized features. If CAHSR wants to avoid intermediate built-up areas, it might as well run nonstop on I-5 instead of build a couple of Haute-Picardies that nobody will go to.

Anonymous said...

The French built their system to move people, not to satisfy local politicians and greedy land developers. This is the worst planned system that one can hardly imagine. It will be a disaster if ever built

jim said...

The wholepoint was to have downtown stations. How many times have we heard the mantra "downtown to downtown blah blah blah" and that is what rail does best. Also, the benefit to the the cores of these otherwise lackluster cities is that the economic stimulus will be very valuable which is exactly why the chambers supported 1a to begin with. The number of grade separations, ( which are going to be done anyway) are no worse through these little towns than anywhere else, there is generally a lot more room in the row and far less valuable property adjacent to the row, than in the urban areas, and the locals, mostly working class people, want the jobs, urban improvements, and mobility that hsr will bring and they don't have nearly the number of large sticks up their butts that the bay area and orange county folks do. It will be easier there. add to that the large empty stretches, of which you have none in the bay and la, and you get something can simply be completed more quickly.

jim said...

Anonymous said...
"The French built their system to move people, not to satisfy local politicians and greedy land developers...."

Thats why the train is going to the cities and not passing them by, so they can pick up "people" If they were transporting almonds and raisins, then they'd put the stops out in the wheat field with Sandy Duncan.

jim said...

by stopping in merced for instance, the yosemite trip - which we sell all day long every day of the year, will be cut from 5.5 to 3.5. hours and the vegas trip via bakersfields stop will be cut from 12 hours to 7 hours. you just have to serve these existing markets or there's no point. This system is designed very well. to serve the most people in the most ways.

Clem said...

I find it strange that you want California to imitate one of the TGV's most criticized features.

Criticized by Alon, for sure.

Pretty much every intermediate station on the TGV system is on the outskirts of town. I'm not talking about Haute Picardie, which is literally in the beet fields, but places like Avignon, Aix or Reims where the high speed line is tangent to urban cores rather than through urban cores. This is how you do it fast, cheap and without thousands of people getting an earful from a 220 mph train thundering by.

Alon Levy said...

Criticized by Alon, for sure.

And by the cities themselves. Aix wanted a station closer to the city, but didn't get one. I was near the station area only once, but as far as I can remember it's pretty desolate there.

jim said...

There are only three stations in the valley anyway. Merced Fresno and Bakersfield. They want to develop their downtowns not build new suburbs on the outskirts of town.

luis d. said...

It's funny that no matter who the Chairman is, as long as the route through the Peninsula stands as is, they will always get smeared as "corrupt". Very predictable, Very!

This new leadership is good in that it will no longer look like a Bay Area project and more like a State of California Project.

About the stations, let's remember that the station is the first impression of HSR that you will get. If the station looks like a trolly stops there then..? Not very impressive for a first date with HSR. At the same time lets not get carried away and try to build "THE" station of California in any one city.

Clem said...

There are only three stations in the valley anyway.

So why ram through Madera?

They want to develop their downtowns not build new suburbs on the outskirts of town.

That tune is going to change in a hurry when they find out that high speed tracks through downtown are about as pleasant to listen to as an airport. The chamber of commerce and developers may like it, but residents may not. What do you think, will those people demand tunnels too?

Spokker said...

"The French built their system to move people, not to satisfy local politicians and greedy land developers."

There are no corrupt French politicians?

jim said...

the system map is going to wind up being just the way it looks. There's no point debating it here. The people who are going to make this thing happen already know why and where they are doing it. The stations are going downtown. and either the bnsf or the UP row will be used. Just like its not going on the 101 or the i-5. It just is. You'll see.

jim said...

There does appear to be an element of bias here that says the most important job of this railroad is to get people from sf to la as quickly and with as little interference as possible. When the real utility of the railroad it to serve as many population centers as possible while still allowing for a reasonable express travel time where needed. It looks like a compromise to some get-there-quick purists, but its actually the most useful and versatile way to go and will ensure the highest ridership. just like its important to go all the way into riverside and down the 215 via murieta, versus mising riverside and cutting corners down the 15. You need riverside and the fact that it brings it close to the eastern inland empire (SNB) to get those markets on board the trains. As for Madera, depends if they wind up on the BN or the UP.

Spokker said...

If the preferred alignment into the Bay Area were Altamont I wouldn't care. If HSR ends up going up I-5 I wouldn't care. If Phase 1 was Los Angeles to Oakland I wouldn't care. None of these things are deal breakers for me.

Anybody else? I mean, we all advocate for a preferred alignment, but what are your deal breakers? What transforms you from a supporter into an opponent, and vice-versa?

jim said...

Well as long as it gets to sf. although I need it to serve the valley or its of no use to most of the people who would other wise use it.

Andre Peretti said...

Taking examples from the French TGV is pointless because the two systems are basically different. CHSRA is a political project whereas the SNCF do not have a single politician on their board. The TGV is run like an airline, with all the + and - it involves. Having stations in town centres would be counterproductive. Most cities are linked by express trains (Corail, TER) running at 110mph and people seem to be happy with them. Why would the SNCF spend more money and make TGVs slower with the only result of having its other lines cannibalised?
When intense lobbying from NIMBYs and local politicians threatens to make a project unprofitable, the SNCF prefer to abandon it. This is what happened 2 weeks ago for the direct spur to Nice. It is now definitively buried. It was killed by an unhealthy combination of local politicians, who did not want their towns to be by-passed, and hard-core environmentalists, who depicted the project as the train to sin-city disfiguring pristine landscapes.
The big loser is the Nice region (which includes Cannes and Monaco. They were counting on the TGV to replace short-haul flights and reallocate the slots to fewer but more profitable international flights.
So, the environmentalists have succeeded in perpetuating the most insane transit solution: short-haul flights.

Spokker said...

"It was killed by an unhealthy combination of local politicians"

Yes, this is exactly the example California should follow.

NONIMBYS said...

Im happy that there is a new chair/vice chair.Its not that I disliked Kopp/Diridon its all the unfair dislike from old school people here in the BayArea that was
a possible roadblock to getting the project moving. The naysayers down the pensiula have 2 of their boogymen removed from the "They are ruining our town" whinning

Alon Levy said...

Andre, how is the Nice spur buried? I thought the French government just approved a route from Marseille to Nice, with an expected completion time of 2025.

NONIMBYS said...

New Nimby term..Transparency..ie our self centered way..right Niada?
one of the 50 Nimby/whiners

Andre Peretti said...

@Alon Levy
What has been approved is not the spur the SNCF and the Nice region wanted. The new route is longer as it will follow the densely buit-up coastline instead of cutting straight through unbuilt land. Lots of tunneling and bridging will be necessary. The cost has been estimated at €18bn instead of €8bn for the original project. The government will have to foot the bill as neither the SNCF nor the cities who lobbied for the route want to pay the extra cost.
For the SNCF and the Nice region this government-dictated route is clearly a defeat: Paris-Nice in 4 hours won't beat Air France and Easyjet.

Alon Levy said...

The cost argument is valid, but the alternative route that was rejected, following A8, would take 3:40, versus 3:50 on the currently chosen option.

jim said...

heres a blog where they talk about how they don't want the landscaped ruined and a flood of outsiders - you have to see there side of it to some extent..

looking on said...

BTW, add into the equation of Orange Co. taking over, Will Kempton taking over the Transportation Authority down there. Talk about a guy who knows everybody in DC, he is it. Guess where what area he is going to be pushing for Fed funds....

Andre Peretti said...

@Jim
Their side of the story is really one-sided. These valley people want things to remain as they were 100 years ago, but what happens when they are snowbound and power lines are broken? They probably expect helicopters to bring them electric generators, fuel and food.
The way this sort of people often use photographs is very dishonest. They generally publish photos of work in progress, with a lot of rubble and cut-down trees but never show what the landscape looks like after a few years when trees have been replanted and grass has grown again on the embankments. It's like photographing a patient on an operating table, with his belly ripped open, and screaming "look what they have done to him!"
What these people don't mention is that other villages want this line because it will be the end of a nightmare: thousands of noisy fume-spewing trucks crossing their villages night and day.
As for the radical remedy some of them propose: stop carrying freight between France and Italy, use local products, this is a return to the middle ages.

jim said...

@andrew-
I realize that, I'm just saying to some extent I understand where they are coming from. In Sf we are also very protective of things. I generally support local people who are protecting certain things, a way of life, natural beauty, keep developers at bay and so forth, provided the position is a legitimate one. In some cases such as the peninsula nimbys, I went there myself to see the row and 99 percent of it is already ugly as hell and there isn't anything of significance to protect, and there aren't any downtrodden souls who will be put out. So their argument is simply one of "we don't need it so screw everyone else" So i do not support that kind of nimbyism.

Richard Mlynarik said...

Re routing through Central Valley cities:

Shockingly enough, the Italians -- yes, Italians! -- pretty much have it right with a number of their LAV routes.

The direttissima line often takes the fast, direct, lower-impact, lower-cost route past some urban centres, meanwhile junctions connect to lines that loop into and back out of existing urban rail ROWs.

It's the best of all worlds, given comparable circumstances: the loop tracks can be built less expensively because they don't need to be engineered for 350kmh, existing train station sites central to existing towns are still served by exactly those trains that will in fact do so, as opposed to those that just invade them and blast through to negative local benefit, and the engineering of the direct route isn't compromised and its cost isn't made stratospheric by the need to wedge stopping HSR, through HSR and existing not-going-away-guaranteed freight tracks into constrained urban/suburban rights of ways.

The downsides are the costs of constructing the junctions and of building the extra connecting tracks. In practice, these can be more than mitigated by the huge cost savings of not having to ram the tracks through where they shouldn't all go. You're still building four tracks (or whatever), it's just that engineering economics can make it less expensive and more operationally advantageous to build them along two routes than to try to cram them into one. (See also: Altamont Pass.)

This scheme doesn't always work, but it almost certainly have in the most of the Central Valley.

Of course CHSRA rejected this alternative. (See also: Altamont Pass.)

As usual, it was a toxic combination of:
* cost maximization (doing things the wrong way costs more, and that's very much in the interest of those conducting the alternatives "analysis", who, surprise surprise, end up being those doing subsequent expensive design and construction);
* mush-brained so-called "environmentalists" who fasten on slogans like "use existing transportation corridors" and "activate the community via transit oriented development in vibrant stations" without thinking about what they might mean in particular instances;
* a political cave in to a farm lobby (hey, they're NIMBYs!!!) that had worked out, unlike the blind-sided cities up and down the state, that the line might have some effect upon it and got their backs up early.

Basically, this was a simple "gimme" for our CHSRA friends. They got some potential opposition to evaporate (agricultural lobby, possibility of environmental agency objections), they threw a completely meaningless bone to some dim-witted "environmentalists", and they got the very most expensive project.

It's not too unlike the Bay Area all-trains-via-Los-Banos disaster, except in the latter case they outright said "screw you" to the environmental agencies and the environmental lobby, nakedly placing cost maximization ahead of any other consideration of any sort. Just like the Los Banos route, there will be lots of unnecessary impacts on conurbations, whose political representatives have or will only work out what's happened too late, and a massive amount of unnecessary and very lucrative engineering to make those impacts.

And to top it off, the result, of course, will have the worst operating characteristics (permanent speed restrictions, longer route, compromised station designs, etc) -- the Gifts That Keep On Giving. (See also: Altamont Pass; see also: Quentin Kopp's BART line to Millbrae.)

It's just the way we like doing things around here. It works well very nicely for some parties, and it isn't about to change.

jim said...

I don't think it was as sinister as all that. But the current design does make the most sense for the most californians. These cities do want to revitalize their downtowns using an hsr component. The current design works well for intermediate city pairs which will be the bulk of ridership anyway. and using express trains for the longer distance city pairs will still result in adequate travel times. Its the biggest win for the most people for the investment.

jim said...

FI serving city centers isn't htat important then we may as well use san jose as a terminus with a connection to caltrain, its no different then having people use local connection to get out to the beet field station.

Anonymous said...



FI serving city centers isn't htat important then we may as well use san jose as a terminus with a connection to caltrain, its no different then having people use local connection to get out to the beet field station.



This from an HSR supporter and zealot. Robert is likely to kick you off his blog.

Alon Levy said...

Anon, I'm 95% positive Jim meant, "If serving city centers isn't htat important then we may as well use san jose as a terminus." FI is a typo for If, not FYI. This is in line with Jim's general views and with the sentence's grammatical structure.

Richard, the costs of the bypasses in Italy are in the billions. On EuroTrib the HSR posters reamed TAV for choosing such a costly option. It's easy to romanticize Continental Europe's rail choices from far away, but the commentators within that region seem to think some of those choices are stupid.

BulldozeMenloPark said...

NO you moron..its for the valley not your stupid white/jewish rye bread town ..ie Menlopark ect!!!

Anonymous said...

Of course San Jose could serve as an interim terminus, just as the 99 corridor could be incrementally upgraded after the I-5 line is completed expeditiously. But of course that's not the plan. Drill the Techachapis first thing so as to lock in Palmdale. That's what will happen.

I am happy to see Socal piling on to this thing as the hsr needs a total rethink. Since Palmdale has become the obvious linchpin just dump all the money on the CV. The Bay Area would be better off to be left out of it entirely since who needs to go to Fresno to get to LA.

Clem said...

Did anybody pick up this article?

Morshed said the board will have to consider terminating high-speed trains in San Jose if environmental obstacles and public opposition are too daunting.

That's an amazing and unusual thing for him to say!

jim said...

Alon - you are correct in what I meant - sorry bout the typos - ( my english grammar and spelling are very good but I have zero patience for typing and proofreading)

my point was indeed, that if one is going to say "avoid the city centers and just use a spur connection, then one may as well say term at sjc and use caltrain because its essentially the same thing....and that thing is "a bad idea."

jim said...

@clem
that statement was just to stir up shit. you see how right way SF said no way to the idea. and really, do they think Sf will let PA cut SF out of the deal? fat chance. I for one am going to start ticketing sf homeless people to PA and tell them there's a really good shelter there.

TomW said...

The job of heading up CHSRA shoudl nto be something with appointed "terms" of a fixed duration. It should be a full-time *job*, appointed like the head of a company. I don't want someone who also has to run a city in charge.

Alex said...

That tune is going to change in a hurry when they find out that high speed tracks through downtown are about as pleasant to listen to as an airport. The chamber of commerce and developers may like it, but residents may not. What do you think, will those people demand tunnels too?




They do it that way in Japan. Straight through residential areas and into downtown. And noise (much more than visuals) is the big concern there.

Anonymous said...

If San Francisco wants the hsr so much then let Newsom lean on the CHSRA and Caltrans to relocate to 101. Quit bugging the Peninsula burgs with threats of a a 4-track elevated monstrosity. San Francisco would have a hissy fit if something like that were tried in the City, especially after the experience of tearing down the Embarcadero and Central Freeways. Property values skyocketed. Elevateds are blighting. Residents in Seattle are already bitching about the noise of the Sound Transit elevated and the line hasn't even opened yet.

Anonymous said...

The difference between SF complaining about an elevated monster and Menlo Park / Atherton / Palo Alto, is that it wouldn't happen if San Francisco was complaining. They could care less of a damn about what will happen along the peninsula, as long as they get the train and the TBT. Their attitude is Robert's attitude.

jim said...

@anon - correct we in sf, do not care about menlo park. The train will come here and you won't stop it.
and how we do things here has nothing to do with any place else. San Francisco is important to the state and Menlo park just isn't. And the bigger reason is this, the intelligent non hysterical people who are designed the project know the same thing I know - that caltrain row and everything adjacent to it, is a dump. Ive ridden the train, ive seen whats there - theres a handful of homes in a couple of short spots and the rest is a shithole. Anything that was done to ti would be an improvement. Some people will be inconvenienced, but not enough to worry about. Sory that's just the way it is. Is the governor gonna stick up for you? pelosi? boxer? feinstein? Obama? the cali legislature? snowballs chance in hell. see, as much as you all try to paint the area as some bucolic pristine ancient redwood forest with spotted owls and endangered butterlfys , people who are familiar with the peninsula know what it actually consists of. its just not all that. and the most people aren't even remotely impressed with anything between sf and sj. of all the places one could live int he bar area, the peninsula is not that high on the list. I think the bigwigs know this and any trouble makers can be bought off fairly easily.