Wednesday, July 8, 2009

San Jose Mercury News: Take Out The "HSR Killer"

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

Silicon Valley's main newspaper doesn't mince words in its attack on the legislature's moronic attack on high speed rail:

Innocently or not, a poison pill for California's high-speed rail project has been slipped into the state budget. Lawmakers have to remove it before a budget is signed into law, or else the project approved by voters will suffer a possibly irreversible setback. At a minimum, it's likely to cost the Bay Area more than $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars expected for the project.

The budget appropriation includes a sentence, apparently inserted by clueless staff members, that calls for further study of different routes through the Bay Area. But all the routes, including the environmentally devastating Altamont Pass option, were thoroughly studied and argued at public hearings. This led to the selection a year ago of the Caltrain route through San Jose and the Peninsula to San Francisco. Some Peninsula residents don't want the trains, but it's not for lack of study.

Redoing the work would set the project back a year or more and squander the federal dollars, which will be contingent on a 2012 groundbreaking. The lack of legislative support for the current plan implied by the study requirement could be another crippling blow in future quests for funding.

If it's true that "clueless staff members" inserted the provision then there should be no debate about removing it. Of course, the provision fails on its merits, as we have thoroughly discussed in the comments to yesterday's post. As the Mercury News noted, there were exhaustive hearings and debates on the HSR route. Altamont advocates had years to argue their case. They did an admirable job of it, and the CHSRA decided on something else. Those advocates can either accept the decision and work to ensure HSR gets built, or they can undermine the HSR project and cost the state billions of dollars just because they didn't get their way.

Similarly, Peninsula NIMBYs who want the CHSRA to waste even more time and money studying the flawed and unworkable 280 or 101 alignment aren't advancing a legitimate technical case, but are trying to undo 11 years of studies merely because they don't like the outcome. CHSRA studies laid out the reasoning for rejecting 280 and 101, but nothing's going to be good enough for these NIMBYs.

Let's hope the Legislature does the right thing and takes this costly and reckless provision out of the budget.

79 comments:

Fred Martin said...

Take a look at these simple "studies" in an appendix. Hardly any analysis at all is presented. Only two paragraphs are used to explain why the 101 corridor was dismissed, and another similar two paragraphs were used to explain why the 280 corridor was dismissed.

I certainly hope CHSRA has more documentation and data to support its analysis of the 101 and 280; otherwise, the NIMBYs are going to have a field day in political opposition.

It looks like Rod Diridon got to the SJ Mercury editorial board. I love the language of the "environmentally devastating Altamont Pass option"!! The bill language wasn't even about the Altamont Pass, and if this is all CHSRA has in terms of studying 101 and 280, further detailed study is required out of a simple sense of due diligence. Where have the $60-70 million in studies been spent!?!

Morris Brown said...

The Mercury has never cared to do anything other than support this project. Even though owned now by MediaNews, whose other papers all decried the project as a boondoggle, the editorial board of the Mercury continued to ignore the facts and support the project.

This is non-sense of about losing 1 billion in Fed stimulus funds.

The paper is clue less. The Authority's board refused to endorse the findings of its own staff and executive director, which stated that the project could not meet the Fed timeline for the stimulus money.

In fact HTMB gave a presention to the rail group (PCC), which clearly showed a completed EIR not being finished until the 4th quarter of 2012, at which time construction drawings were to be at about the 5 - 10% level.

When questioned about this after the Authority's board over ruled Morshed, they now say the EIR, will suddenly be completed by the end of 2011. Amazing, with the wave of a few hands, and the timeline changes.

The line in the editorial claiming "Altamont" to be the environmentally devastating route is really quite funny.

Rafael said...

One way or another, the Pacheco vs. Altamont tug-of-war (read: HSR through Atherton/Menlo Park/Palo Alto or not) will continue for months or years to come, because people with deep pockets oppose the decision CHSRA arrived at.

Whether or not the CEQA process was implemented properly is merely a proxy fight, the only thing that matters to these NIMBYs is the outcome.

There is no justification - none - for depriving CHSRA of the funds it needs to proceed with its project-level efforts in other corridors. I'm sure there are or will be enough component projects in LA-Anaheim and Merced-Bakersfield to soak up any stimulus money California could obtain.

As for SF-SJ, the program-level EIR/EIS was conducted twice and has been certified by FRA. If someone wants to re-open this can of worms, they need to get a judge to rule in their favor. In the meantime, CHSRA should be permitted to continue its work to avoid expensive delays to the construction timeline.

However, it would be appropriate for state legislators to demand that CHSRA implement the project-level EIR/EIS such that adequate consideration is given to the following:

- minimizing eminent domain takings by making do with the narrowest practicable ROW wherever less than that is presently available (i.e. don't insist on 75' width if you can squeak by with less for a short stretch)

- selecting designs, materials, artwork and landscaping commensurate with the architectural quality and real estate values of abutting residential properties (failure to do so could trigger expensive reverse condemnation lawsuits, so don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish here)

- preserving trees older than e.g. 15 years located on railroad property wherever practicable without impact on railroad safety or significant constraints on railroad operations

- keeping noise and vibration exposure levels of abutting and nearby properties, especially K-14 schools, at or below 2009 values through 2030 in spite of the expected increase in rail traffic volume

- selecting ROW fences and/or sound walls such that additional shading and other visual degradation of abutting properties is minimized

- selecting overhead catenary systems that minimize visual clutter

- maximizing the permeability of the railroad ROW in downtown areas (i.e. make it possible for land at road grade to be re-used for other purposes including additional cross roads in the future)

"Adequate consideration" means getting it priced out alongside the cheapest option already being pursued. The aesthetics and psychoacoustics of an elevated four-track alignment are hard to quantify, so the requirement should be that CHSRA (via its consultants) collect relevant data from the closest comparable implementations in other countries.

The decision on whether to implement any solution that goes beyond the required minimum will then be up to the state legislature in the context of appropriating prop 1A(2008) bonds to the construction of this segment.

It shouldn't be CHSRA's responsibility to minimize construction cost no matter what. Instead, this planning body should come up with a bare-bones plus at least one "nice" alternative. After that, let the politicians duke out which of these is chosen and how large the local contribution needs to be to get it built.

Anonymous said...

Amen to the Merc for telling it like it is! As the first poster implies Robert, not even a million pages of study would satisfy these NIMBYs!
One correction does need to be pointed out; its not about reopening the Pacheco/Altamont debate but re-studying the corridor between SF-SJ.
Just delete the wording already and be done with it!

Tony D. said...

"One way or another, the Pacheco vs. Altamont tug-of-war...will continue for months or years to come, because people with deep pockets oppose the decision the CHSRA arrived at."

You display a lot of knowledge on this board Rafael, but in this instance I am happy to tell you straight up that YOU ARE WRONG on this point!

First off, it's not even about re-opening that debate; it's about the corridor between SF and SJ. And as others have stated, the "HSR Killer" wording will simply be removed/deleted in due time. End of that story!

Second, there are also a lot of people (including myself) who wholeheartedly support the decision of Pacheco by the CHSRA. They have even DEEPER pockets and POLITICAL INFLUENCE than the small group of wealthy NIMBY's and so-called transit advocates who keep crying over Altamont-only. Please Rafael, don't tell me you're one of them?!

I'll take the political establishment of SF, SJ and Silicon Valley any day over NIMBY's, the East Bay and Altamont communities.

By the way, what the hell is wrong with the proposed Altamont HSR overlay? We'll be getting the best of both worlds damnit!

Gavin Newsom once stated last year that picking Pacheco Pass as the primary HSR route into the Bay Area was "a proverbial no-brainer." GOOD NIGHT!

Rafael said...

@ Tony D -

all I said was that there are people in Silicon Valley who will keep fighting a rearguard action to keep HSR out of their portion of the Caltrain corridor because they have enough money and/or influence to do so. Among resident of the SF-SJ corridor, "Altamont" is code for "not in my back yard in Atherton/Menlo Park/Palo Alto". Let them fight that battle in the courts, not the state legislature.

Of course there will be pushback from those who support Pacheco. This storm in a teacup over a single sentence that was inserted into a draft of the 2010 budget appropriation for CHSRA will blow over quickly enough because that kind of sneaky/sloppy legislative maneuver is inappropriate. However, it will hardly be the last skirmish in this fight.

For the record, I would have preferred Altamont-via-Santa Clara, with no HSR station at SH Diridon. However, voters explicitly endorsed Pacheco as the preferred route out of the Bay Area when they passed prop 1A(2008) and, I respect that.

NONIMBYS said...

IT will be removed....

Spokker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spokker said...

"However, voters explicitly endorsed Pacheco as the preferred route out of the Bay Area when they passed prop 1A(2008) and, I respect that."

No, you should lob lawsuits in all directions when you don't get your way, like Trasndef does.

Clem said...

Why is everyone surprised that San Jose's hometown rag would take a strong editorial position in favor of the alignment that best connects San Jose?

Morris Brown said...

A lot of writing going on here, most of which indicates the writers haven't read the language in the budget bill that is in question. I copy it below. Make your own judgements, but at least read the text, rather than a second hand article or report from the papers.

==========
The High-Speed Rail Authority
is required to post in the
2009-10 fiscal year and
annually thereafter its budget
on their Internet Web site in
order to insure public access
and transparency.
Of the funds appropriated in
this item, $139,180,000 is
appropriated to the High-Speed
Rail Authority for the
following purposes: project-
level design and environmental
review, program management
services, financial planning,
and public-private partnership
program. As part of the
project-level design and
environmental review
activities, the authority
shall analyze alternative
alignments to that identified
as the preferred alignment in
the certified program
Environmental Impact Report
(EIR) for the San Francisco-
San Jose corridor.

Of the funds appropriated in
this item, $69,590,000 shall
be available for expenditure
only after January 1, 2010,
after the submittal of a
revised business plan to, and
a 30-day review by, the Joint
Legislative Budget Committee
that, among other things,
addresses, at a minimum: (a) a
plan for a community outreach
component to cities, towns,
and neighborhoods affected by
this project, (b) further
system details, such as route
selection and alternative
alignment considerations, (c)
a thorough discussion
describing the steps being
pursued to secure financing,
(d) a working timeline with
specific, achievable
milestones, and (e) what
strategies the authority would
pursue to mitigate different
risks and threats. The
authority shall submit the
revised business plan to the
Joint Legislative Budget
Committee no later than
December 15, 2009.
The revised business plan
shall also provide additional
information related to
funding, project development
schedule, proposed levels of
service, ridership, capacity,
operational plans, cost,
private investment strategies,
staffing, and a history of
expenditures and
accomplishments to date. In
developing this revised
business plan, the authority
shall work in consultation
with the appropriate
legislative policy committees
and the Legislative Analyst's
Office to respond to specific
aspects in the plan.
Notwithstanding any other
provision of law, funds
appropriated in this item from
the High-Speed Passenger Train
Bond Fund, to the extent
permissible under federal law,
may be reduced and replaced by
an equivalent amount of
federal funds determined by
the High-Speed Rail Authority
to be available and necessary
to comply with Section 8.50
and the most effective
management of state high-speed
rail transportation resources.
Not more than 30 days after
replacing the state funds with
federal funds, the Director of
Finance shall notify in
writing the chairpersons of
the committees in each house
of the Legislature that
consider appropriations and
the Chairperson of the Joint
Legislative Budget Committee
of this action.

Anonymous said...

Just another noisy, shabby elevated abutted by rundown neighborhoods. Like BART in Richmond.

The wheel squeal probably won't reach the hills where the Richies live. The only people left down by the tracks those who have no money to relocate.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

"As part of the
project-level design and
environmental review
activities, the authority
shall analyze alternative
alignments to that identified
as the preferred alignment in
the certified program
Environmental Impact Report
(EIR) for the San Francisco-
San Jose corridor."

(emphasis added)

This is precisely the crux of the issue. The whole point of tiering the environmental review is to identify the route at the program level and the specifics of its implementation aka alignment at the project level.

Asking CHSRA to go back and study alternative routes would mean re-doing the program-level review. It doesn't belong in a project-level effort, otherwise no decision ever sticks.

A non-preferred route that has already been studied at the program level should only be considered once again if the preferred one proves impossible to construct for legal, technical or financial reasons. For example, Pacheco would be impossible if no ROW can be secured down to Gilroy.

However, a ROW has already been secured - in principle - in the SF peninsula via the MOU with the PCJPB. In engineering terms, an above-ground implementation will be challenging in places but possible within the allocated budget. And so far at least, no judge has invalidated any part of CHSRA's EIR/EIS work to date.

Now, it's perfectly fair to demand that CHSRA acknowledge the concerns raised during the public comments period and that it seek out ways to mitigate them - within financial reason. In other words, how HSR is to be implemented in the Caltrain corridor is very much fair game at this stage, but running tracks somewhere else (i.e. "anywhere but here") no longer is.

It's one thing for some blogger to think out loud about alternative routes in the Bay Area, including new ones over the open water. It would be quite another for CHSRA to do so.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Excellent points!

Morris Brown said...

@Raphael

As usual you make valid arguments and I concur with almost everything you say.

However, your comment:


"However, a ROW has already been secured - in principle - in the SF peninsula via the MOU with the PCJPB. In engineering terms, an above-ground implementation will be challenging in places but possible within the allocated budget."


I wish to challenge.

The MOU can be terminated by either side with 30 days notice, without penalties. It is hardly a document securing a ROW.

As I keep saying, CalTrain even today, does not have inter-city passenger rights on the SF to SJ segment; they are owned by the UPRR, which has thus far not agreed to giving them or selling these rights.

As for being within the allocated budget, I have been told by a CalTrain representative, that they estimated electrification and full grade crossings on the SF to SJ segment to be about 4.8 billion. That is for 2 tracks, not 4 tracks 2 of which would be dedicated to HSR. The budget put forth by the Authority for this segment is 4.2 billion. The numbers just don't math up.

Finally, Robert's editorial here was parroting the San Jose Mercury editorial with the claim that HSR would be stopped and that 1 billion in federal stimulus money would be lost. The language in question, certainly doesn't do that.

new to HSR said...

I have a question:

I went to a meeting in January and the HSR people said that they would look at all alternatives for the
SF to SJ segment and that "no build" is an option they must "study."

Now in the article Morshed(?) says they will have to look at possibly stopping in SJ if it is too expensive or difficult, etc. But then Diridon says that the voters approved SF to LA and so they HAVE to build it. Well then, why were we told that they will review the "no build option."

I'm new to this blog - so sorry if this is an ignorant question....

Morris Brown said...

@new to HSR

No reason to feel sorry at all. This kind of paradox keeps coming up all the time.

AB-3034A certainly said the project would be built all the way to SF, and this was the legislation that authorized the voter approved Prop 1A (2008) bond.

What you have are representatives from the Authority saying different things. So Diridon, who sits on the Authority's board and is higher up in the food chain says they must build to SF, and cannot stop at San Jose, because that is what the voters approved.

However, other items in AB-3034A also called for actions which have been or are trying to be voided.

1. AB-3034A said a business plan would be produced before the election. It was never produced and even today, an adequate business plan has yet to be found.

2. AB-3034A stated the project would terminate at the Trans Bay Terminal in San Francisco. Yet Judge Kopp, who also sits on the board has been claiming they have only to go to 4th street --- that is far enough according to him --- avoiding a very expensive tunnel for the extra 1.4 miles or so to the planned TBT.

So there you have 2 instances where the Authority is willing to ignore provisions of AB-3034A.

So Mr. Diridon can say what he wants -- the law says they must go to SF, but they seem to break the law at will, with no consequences thus far.

Reality Check said...

"The wheel squeal probably won't reach the hills"

There is no squeal on tangent (straight) -- or nearly so -- track.

Anonymous said...

I should have called it the roar of the four.

jim said...

@rafael "Now, it's perfectly fair to demand that CHSRA acknowledge the concerns raised during the public comments period and that it seek out ways to mitigate them - within financial reason. In other words, how HSR is to be implemented in the Caltrain corridor is very much fair game at this stage, but running tracks somewhere else (i.e. "anywhere but here") no longer is."

Thats the common sense that I'm seeing as well. I don't know where all this 101 280, trains the bay, stuff came from but none if that is going to happen. The point is to mitigate impacts along the route within financial reason and that's easy enough to do.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

thanks for your response. Wrt the points you raised:

a) at this point, all CHSRA has with PCJPB is an MOU and that could indeed be canceled by either side at 30 days notice. However, there is no indication whatsoever that either side is remotely interested in invoking this clause.

b) the issue of intercity passenger rail rights in the SF peninsula may be more complicated than it appears at first. It is true that SP did reserve those rights in its contract with PCJPB. However, some years later SP was acquired by UPRR, which had given up any exclusive rights to operate intercity passenger service way back when Amtrak was created (SP had not).

I'm no lawyer and don't know if SP still exists as a wholly owned subsidiary of UPRR. Even if it did, it's not clear if the rights SP had reserved were voided in the context of the acquisition. Either way, UPRR has not recently claimed any such rights, merely insisted on those retained for freight rail operations.

c) Regarding the cost of the SF-SJ segment: I'm sure there will be some negotiation on exactly who pays what in the context of upgrading the Caltrain corridor, but afaik PCJPB always expected to chip in. Therefore, the amount quoted by CHSRA is presumably for what it thinks will be its share of this joint project, not for total project cost.

d) The $1 billion figure refers to stimulus funds that would be lost to the Bay Area, not to California. ARRA requires applicants to submit applications for Type 1, 3 and 4 HSR-related grants by July 10. The deadline for type 2, which is corridor development, is in October. Afaik, a subset of component projects in the SF peninsula was to be included in a type 1 "shovel-ready" application, with the rest mapped to a separate type 2 document.

USDOT has divvied the total amount available up by type and, CHSRA is trying to dip into every federal pot available. Hence the urgency in getting that one sentence removed from the budget bill.

e) Regarding the business plan: you can't write one if you can't pay your consultant to produce it. The state legislature passed AB3034, including the requirement to draft a new business plan by September of 2008, well past the regular deadline for ballot initiatives. CHSRA immediately stated the updated plan would be available 45 days after it received funding for 2009, but the state legislature and governor took additional weeks to pass a budget.

CHSRA did in fact publish the promised plan 45 days after it had received its funding. Since the legislature commissioned it, it's up to that body to decide if the quality of the work is up to snuff. There's been plenty of sniping from HSR opponents, but afaik the legislature never rejected the documents presented as inadequate.

Claiming that CHSRA had fallen down on the job in failing to meet the deadline imposed by AB3034 is disingenuous and akin to insisting Obama has no birth certificate. The truth is the state legislature that failed to pass the 2009 budget on time.

f) Quentin Kopp's ploy of making do with 4th & King was indeed an example of chutzpah: AB3034 explicitly requires HSR service to the Transbay Terminal in phase 1. Of course, that presumes the design of the tunnel, throat and platforms is suitable for HSR operations...

Bay Area Resident said...

Hey, Peninsula nimbys/geezers: This budget insertion even pisses me off. You do incredible harm to your cause with charades like this, and you turn the rest of the state against you- not because anybody cares about HSR, but the ENTIRE STATE cares about the budget and your self absorption on this issue is annoying.

The San Jose Mercury News caters to the BUSINESS COMMUNITY in San Jose. It is the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which includes tons of companies from Cisco down south to Genentech up north, who want the train on the Pacheco route. Personally I think the Pacheco route stinks for the residents of the bay area, but there it is. Quit blaming the CITY OF SAN JOSE for your ills. The CITY OF SAN JOSE is not more powerful than every peninsula city put together, it is JUST NOT.

Your problem with Pacheco resistance on the peninsula is you don't seem to have any workable options on the table. Arguing for Altamont won't work, because the ONLY beneficiaries there are Palo Alto, Atherton and Menlo Park, in other words, not enough significance. If Altamont bypassed the ENTIRE PENINSULA then you might have something. But with Altamont, only half the problem is solved! Burlingame and San Mateo county STILL GET SCREWED, understand? You need another plan.

Today I was forwarded an email from one of the palo alto nimbys - I am not on the distribution list but somebody forwarded it to me- where they are urging SIMITIAN to KEEP this HSR budget provision in the budget, as if 1)somebody thinks will work, hahah- Simitian has state level ambitions you idiots, this will impede his future in the state, 2)somebody thinks SIMITIAN is the only person who can REMOVE the provision another howler.

The peninsula should take a page from San Jose, those people successfully moved the route. They produced an alternative plan utilizing a civil engineer that lives in Willow Glen, then they produced a 100 page scoping document during the EIR process that was intended to drive the train away from their area. They are organized and smart down there, they manage to succeed without pissing everybody off, they are a bunch of smart young professionals not a bunch of old coots from Atherton that do nothing but create carbon footprints and watch their real estate appreciate.

Really- get over yourselves.
/rant

Fact Checker said...

@ Raphael
"CHSRA did in fact publish the promised plan 45 days after it had received its funding. Since the legislature commissioned it, it's up to that body to decide if the quality of the work is up to snuff. There's been plenty of sniping from HSR opponents, but afaik the legislature never rejected the documents presented as inadequate."

I was at the Budget Senate Sub-committee hearing and the committee most definitely stated the business plan was inadequate and that they had to get them a thorough plan ASAP or there would be no money distributed. That is why they haven't received all the money they asked for....

Rafael said...

@ BAR -

interesting, do you by any chance have a link to documentation of the changes that were made in San Jose?

jim said...

I don't know where this is but I think this looks great for standard station design for most stops.

Arthur Dent said...

As I keep saying, CalTrain even today, does not have inter-city passenger rights on the SF to SJ segment; they are owned by the UPRR, which has thus far not agreed to giving them or selling these rights.

Very true. This suggests that the Authority should seriously consider making Caltrain provide the final leg of the LA-SF HSR service. It’s the path of least resistance even with respect to UPRR. Once travelers transfer from HSR to Caltrain they’re technically on a commuter train. No need to negotiate with UPRR, except the Gilroy to San Jose corridor. Who knows, maybe UPRR would give a little in the south in order to keep their rights north of SJ. The sooner the CHSRA acknowledges that the world doesn’t revolve around them, the faster they’ll be able to move the project forward.

jim said...

What's the difference between running high speed caltrains on elevated grade separated electrified row versus running a tgv on elevated grade separated electrified row? There isn't any difference.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

those who advocate Caltrain take care of the last track consider 79mph plenty fast enough and two tracks with grade crossings just dandy.

In other words, they are opposed to the concept of any change whatsoever in their back yard, even though some piously claim otherwise (the "HSR done right" crowd)

Alon Levy said...

BAR, do you think Altamont-via-a-new-Transbay-Tube would solve the Peninsula's problems?

lyqwyd said...

"the Authority should seriously consider making Caltrain provide the final leg of the LA-SF HSR service"

Agreed. So when the HSR crosses the border to the bay area the conductor flips a switch and the signs on the train change from CAHSR (or whatever the final name is) to Caltrain and continues on the lovely fully grade separated 4 track Caltrain ROW.

Problem solved NIMBYs satisfied.

Truth is CAHSR is going from LA to SF through SJ, no matter how much the NIMBYs complain.

jim said...

I'm pretty sure that any politicians involved and the authority, are just giving the nimby's some lip service to let them think they have any real input. In the end, the choice will be between which type of mitigation they get, sound walls, etc.

Arthur Dent said...

@Jim, Rafael & Lyqwyd:
Where were you when platform heights were discussed? Caltrain and HSR trainsets are not alike. They require different platforms and therefore every station with a HSR stop must be redesigned. This is why deciding between a station in Redwood City or Palo Alto (or neither) is such a big deal. With Caltrain, it becomes a paper decision of how to schedule the stops. No specialized platforms or stations are necessary; no decision of SSFF, SFFS, FSSF, or the dreaded FF|SS where | is a wall that makes HSTs designated and Baby Bullet obsolete. Don’t think it can happen? It’s already in the plans with the Metrolink in Anaheim.

We went over this in another thread: Caltrain can and will operate at 110 mph after they’ve completed their 2025 Plan upgrades. The difference in travel time between 110 mph Caltrain and 125 HSR is three and a half minutes. We’re spending several Billion dollars on the SJ-SF corridor for an uninterrupted 3.5 minutes. That’s an outrageous waste.

HSR is a cool idea, but not if it kills the Baby Bullet service or costs Billions to squeeze the travel time down by a mere 3.5 minutes.

Anonymous said...

How about Pacheco Pass to SF via SJ,Oak-East Bay and new transbay tube? Gets all three major cities on the mainline! No fricken spurs and with Altamont overlay, a win win all around.

Clem said...

@Arthur: it all revolves around travel times, not speeds. At a top speed of 125 mph, a train can do SJ - SF in 30 minutes non-stop.

Caltrain does not and will not run non-stop, even if it has a top speed of 110 mph... as we have often pointed out, it's all in the average speed, not the top speed. Comparing top speeds, as you did, is meaningless.

Due to the large disparity in average speeds between Caltrain locals and a non-stop express, overtaking moves will be required and at least large sections of the corridor will need four tracks to facilitate this.

Grade separations will be required due to the high speeds. Grade seps are a big factor in the NIMBY opposition to the project; they would still be required for anything much faster than 79 mph.

The only Caltrain solution that would work without grade separations and without track amplification is to live with a run time just shy of 1 hour, similar to today's baby bullets. That means a doubling of the run time on the peninsula, and 15% longer time to LA.

Even then, it's not clear that there would be enough track capacity (trains per hour) to handle the demand. The speed disparity kills capacity (unless you add more tracks!) and as it is, Caltrain can't run any more trains than they already do. Where are all those passengers going to go?

While there may be a valid argument against four tracks all the way, 100% grade separation is a worthy pursuit and worth every dollar in the long term.

Morris Brown said...

@Raphael -- regarding your reply to my comments.

I am not a lawyer either, but the CalTrain board tacitly acknowledged they didn't have these rights in a reply to me at a board meeting. Their approach was "we have had successful negotiations with the UPRR in the past". Since so much is on the line, just as with with ROW from SJ to Gilroy, you would have thought an agreement would be in place years ago.

on your point:


"e) Regarding the business plan: you can't write one if you can't pay your consultant to produce it. The state legislature passed AB3034, including the requirement to draft a new business plan by September of 2008, well past the regular deadline for ballot initiatives. CHSRA immediately stated the updated plan would be available 45 days after it received funding for 2009, but the state legislature and governor took additional weeks to pass a budget.


This is the line that Kopp keeps repeating, but it is a lie. In point of fact, Kopp in testimony before the committee, agreed to the production of the plan by Oct 1st, 2008, not 45 days after a budget was approved. He agreed to the language which was written into AB-3034A. I have a transcript of his testimony on my computer. This issue is really a hot one with me, since I made the lack of a business plan my key argument when I spoke to the Lowenthal committee last summer.

Board Watcher said...

I agree with Morris. The Senate Transportation Committee put them on notice in January 2008 that they expect a comprehensive business plan before putting anything on the ballot. The old business plan was from 2000, woefully out-of-date. As Commissioner Schenk pointed out in last week’s board meeting, it’s better to keep up with a thorough business plan because it’s the right thing to do than to wait until the legislature mandates it. I have no pity for the Board. They spent their money unwisely and now they’re paying for it. It’s a pattern of behavior -- no small wonder people don’t trust them with their money.

Spokker said...

Hello all,

I was playing Sid Meier's Railroads the other day on my computer machine and I tried to build a TGV-style high speed train to San Francisco on an American map. Suddenly my computer froze, turned off and threw itself out the window. I didn't know computers could do that. Has anyone else run into this bug?

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the Murky News.

Home of "journalist" Gary Richards.

Fully paid-up members of the Carl Guardino sycophancy league.

Unceasing shills for the most obscene BART scams, at quite literally any cost.

Just the place to go for well-reasoned, objective transportation planning advice.

Andre Peretti said...

@lyqwyd
Something like that exists in Paris. Some trains are jointly operated by the Paris metro and the regional express company. When one of these trains reaches the limits of Paris, the metro driver and conductor get off and regional express staff take command. The metro train becomes a regional express. Passengers don't realise they have been riding on two different trains, except when there is an incident and responsibilities have to be sorted out.

Alon Levy said...

The difference in travel time between 110 mph Caltrain and 125 HSR is three and a half minutes.

And the difference between a one-seat ride and a transfer is the majority of ridership.

Anonymous said...

We don't have the money for this project!
Listen,I'm a die-hard democrat. HSR would be awesome. It would get cars off the road, stop sprawl, etc. All the things you always talk about. But seriously, how can this get funded? The stimulus money won't even be a down payment on this project!

You complain about rich NIMBYS bit you guys act like money is no object!

Arthur Dent said...

And the difference between a one-seat ride and a transfer is the majority of ridership.

Not true if you study the CHSRA’s ridership numbers.

I don’t comment on Robert’s or Clem’s blog very often but I’ve followed the discussions for a long time. A lot of posters are guilty of stating opinions as though they’re fact.

Spokker said...

I usually assume a person's statement is their opinion or point of view rather than fact unless indicated otherwise. You don't have to say "I think..." or "In my opinion..." before everything you say.

YESonHSR said...

NO one will get off a HST and transfer to Caltrain to finish the ride into SF ..thats plain insane!
Thats the same as Acela passengers get off in Baltimore and ride MARC the rest of the way to DC!! nobody would chose that!IF your talking about the HS train running up the Caltrain line at Caltrain speeds thats different..as long as its a one seat ride

timote said...

Does anyone really believe the UPRR is going to deny HSR on the peninsula due to their passenger rights? They might well use it as a bargaining chip to maintain freight rights here and elsewhere in the project. However, anyone who really thinks that UPRR is going to outright prevent this project - to be the knight on white horse, come to the rescue of peninsula NIMBY's really needs a sense of reality.

BAR-

As much as I appreciate your rant (and it really was a good one), I'd like to point one thing out about these NIMBY's. By definition they only care about their backyard, and these NIMBY's are no exception (thereby proving their NIMBY status BTW). If I'm a NIMBY and I live in Palo Alto or Menlo Park or Atherton, you better believe I'm pushing for Altamont as hard as possible. I don't give a **** about the rest of the peninsula - I have a reasonable (but specious, I'm using it for another end rather than actually believing it) argument about Altamont vs Pacheco and I'm going to milk that to death in the hope that they miss my backyard by a few miles.

Note that IMHO it's a silly resistance cause without the dollars that HSR is going to bring - both from the state bonds and the feds, it is unlikely that Caltrain will be able to afford electrification. I know that people like to point to the Caltrain long-term plan, but folks that's just a plan and I don't think they're going to be able to afford that plan in the absence of HSR. Regardless, these NIMBY's are implicitly giving up electrification and grade separation with HSR (both are good for the purposes of noise reduction) for the possibility of getting the same without the added HSR trains. I think that if they succeed, they'll be listening to loud diesels and horns for a long time, personally.

Devil's Advocate said...

The more I read your comments about NIMBY problems, UPRR ROW problems, etc., the more I remain convinced that the best way to connect SJ to SF is by building the HSR on the shallow portions of the bay (East bay, West bay or right on the middle doesn't matter) from Alviso to Sierra Point. The only challenge is that you need a bridge somewhere that is tall enough to permit the passage of boats below (or alternatively a tube to sink the HSR underwater for a distance sufficient to permit the boats to pass above it). The SFO station is not unresolvable. You can build it on the water side to the east/northeast of the airport and connect it to the terminals with a people mover. I bet my plan would be much cheaper than doubling the Caltrain line on an elevated embankment or structure. On the bay there are no roads, no houses, no backyards, no Caltrains, no UPRR ROWs, there are only birds and fish, and they can move without having to put their nest for sale on zillow. You need only to throw some dirt in the water, since most of the bay is very shallow. It would be exactly like the Ponte della Liberta (Liberty Bridge) from Venice (Italy) in the middle of the Venetian lagoon to the mainland. Check it out on Google maps or Bing:
http://www.bing.com/maps/#JnE9eXAuUG9udGUrZGVsbGErTGliZXJ0YSclMmMrVmVuaWNlJTJjK0l0YWx5JTdlc3N0LjAlN2VwZy4xJmJiPTQ1LjQ0ODQyNTQxMTIxNjElN2UxMi4zMTQ0MzMyNTE2MTA5JTdlNDUuNDQ0Nzc1NTQ1MjU0MyU3ZTEyLjMxMTI0Nzk1MzY3MDI=

Bob said...

Anyone know when the lawsuit verdict is due out?

I know we're quick to dismiss it - but I'd still like to hear a judge tell us that we're in the clear...

Anonymous said...

First of all I would like to say I am pro transit and my job is one who is the position to benefit from high speed rail. However, I do not get it. California is broke and has no money.

This is why we in are a state and national financial crisis. We are spending money that does not exist. The interest from the bond payments will come from General Funds. We are already in the negative and can not print money like the Federal Government.

It is very sad. Our kids will suffer because we are wasting money on something we can not afford at this time. Education will suffer. Prisons will be emptied. State Agencies will not provide services. All for what? So that High Speed Rail can be built in 10 years and hopefully we will have ridership on it. But don't forget no transit (or transportation) agencies operates without subsidies. This is something we will pay for not 30 years as the bonds were but forever. We are complaining transit/government agencies are squandering taxpayer money and now we are starting another one. I really do not understand our logic.

Clem said...

Regardless, these NIMBY's are implicitly giving up electrification and grade separation

Many of the same names have opposed those very Caltrain improvements, for many years before HSR came along. They're not "giving up" anything.

timote said...

"They're not "giving up" anything."

:-)

Fair enough!

Spokker said...

"California is broke and has no money."

California's problem is a structural budget deficit in which tax revenues don't pay for basic services. Make corporations, oil companies and property owners pay their fair share. Legalize marijuana already. Overhaul public school administrations to reduce overhead.

Curtailing infrastructure spending and deporting all illegal immigrants doesn't begin to fix the problem. If you want to have the best schools and the best highways, you're going to have to pay. If you don't want to pay taxes, go live in 19th century America.

"Education will suffer."

And I'm feeling the pain. My financial aid this year will mostly likely be an IOU. I will likely go into debt to finish my degree, of which I have one more semester left. I am still a high speed rail supporter.

"Prisons will be emptied."

Good. State prison spending has outpaced general fund spending by a wide, wide margin. So non-violent drug offenders (dudes who sell bongs, God forbid!) and illegal immigrants who were racially profiled and probably intimidated into a confession will be let out? Right on.

"This is something we will pay for not 30 years as the bonds were but forever."

This doesn't seem to be a problem for road and airport infrastructure.

Daniel Krause said...

High speed rail is the only positive thing going for California's economy right now. Why? Because the Federal government is about to ship us several billion dollars because we have a well-developed plan for high spee rail. Additionally, by moving this project forward, we will continue to benefit from federal funds that will almost certaintly be included in upcoming transportation reauthorization bill. In fact, a preliminary draft of a bill included $50B for high speed rail for a six year period. Whatever the final total is, it will be significant. If we listen to folks that claim high speed rail is too expensive, and we derail the project, we will forgo billions upon billions of dollars.

No, high speed rail is great for California's economy Those that believe it is too expensive are misguided about the benefit that large infrastructure projects have on the economy.

Brandon in San Diego said...

I've never had an ounce of concern regarding NIMBY ability to greatly affect HSR on the peninsula. I find it hard to expend much energy discussing the matter.

At the end of the day, like Spoker or Jim wrote, NIMBY objections may result in some local mitigation measures... like sound walls or the alike.

As for the budget situation... yes, it's a structural problem. Services cost more than revenues coming in. But, the legislature is no more to blame than Joe Voter.

Joe Voter is everywhere. He's in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Mateo County. Jow Voter is the one that voted on minimum class sizes, making more things illegal, extending minimum sentences for crimes, eliminating the death penalty, and basically advocating more and more services and not paying for them.

Yes, some in the legislature are learning their new job on the spot and innocently doing harm, but we helped them get there.

At the end of the day, the capital cost of HSR to the State, spread out over 30 years.. represents less than 1% of the annual State budget. And, the State would have spent the money on other transportation projects... airports and highways. In other words, we would have spent the money regardless... at least HSR goes toward cleaner technology and benefits the environment.

jim said...

Brandon, you can't expect voters to take responsibility for their actions, its unheard of.

Brandon in San Diego said...

About half, in good years, don't even bother to cast a vote! So, of course not!

Alon Levy said...

Not true if you study the CHSRA’s ridership numbers.

Really? How many transfers does CHSRA plan on having people make from LA to SF?

Anonymous said...

The Peninsula towns should set up a fund to pay for an independent cost-out of relocating the hsr to 101. Also the long-term loss of property values due to elevated blight. Decades of experience with BART elevateds have demonstrated that it is not possible to mitigate only to solve by undergrounding. Tunnels are too expensive for the hsr budget.

I fail to grasp the resistance on this blog to carefully comparing the Caltrain alignment to 101. I suggest 101 will actually be cheaper and a better investment once the long range collateral costs are factored in.

The ongoing upgrade of Caltrain is perfectly adequate and in line with standard practice. Remember if BART had been successful in usurping Caltrain the top operating speed would be same as it is today.

Anonymous said...

Anon - why would the new elevateds on 101 not cause blight there? Why is blight on 101 not a problem but it is a problem on the Caltrain corridor? Both already have some blight from a transportation corridor, and HSR could potentially bring more, though since elevateds would need to be MUCH higher along 101, I would assume it would be much worse there, though the neighborhoods aren't as wealthy so not as many people would complain. That seems to be the primary difference.

Anonymous said...

101 is already an effective brownfield - an environmental and aesthetic no mans land where the noise of the hsr would be totally masked by the drone of the freeway.

The overpasses would be raised, not the hsr. The hsr elevated would be only so high as to meet clearance requirements. Enter creative engineering that is possible in the freeway setting. Higher overpasses would also permit some freeway expansion thru single decking.

Anonymous said...

And that would be cheaper than the Caltrain corridor? I don't what planet you're from, but not here on earth.

Clem said...

Remember if BART had been successful in usurping Caltrain the top operating speed would be same as it is today.

Top operating speed is totally irrelevant. Travel times are what matters (and, by extension, average operating speeds). On that count Caltrain express service is much faster than BART. I just hope that HSR doesn't ruin this.

Bay Area Resident said...

The state budget is 40% larger than when Grey Davis was governor. How the bleep did that happen? If it is prison spending or pensions or something, I support a CA bankruptcy. I can't imagine what costs 40% more in CA now than when Davis was governor, especially since we were in the middle of the dot com bubble at the time. While I am not a fan of HSR, HSR is not a budget buster, something else is. I think we need another initiative that capped spending, that Jarvis Gann spending thing from years ago whatever it was called.

Anonymous said...

BAR - a state cannot declare bankruptcy. The only thing that California could do would be to default and claim sovereign immunity to get out of repaying debts. The legality of that has never really been investigated (in other words, if California defaulted and declared sovereign immunity, would the holders of the debt have any claim against the federal government).

Anonymous said...

You have to include the drop in property values caused by elevated blight. The Embarcardero Freeway illustrates how much elevateds depress the adjacent neighborhood.

All told 101 is a better alternative. 1A would have never passed on the Peninsula had it been known that the CHSRA was planning to build a massive elevated.prepriga

Anonymous said...

Most of the areas that would be "blighted" by a small (less than a third as high as the Embarcadero Freeway) berm are extremely low density, thus land values are significantly lower than those surrounding the Embarcadero in SF anyway. Even if the properties on either side by half a mile dropped to zero we wouldn't be approaching the cost of rebuilding all overpasses on 101 and decking (!!!) portions of the freeway to add lanes.

The 101 corridor would be at LEAST $15 billion in the way that you're proposing.

Alon Levy said...

I think we need another initiative that capped spending, that Jarvis Gann spending thing from years ago whatever it was called.

You mean Howard Jarvis's Prop 13? That capped taxes, not spending, and is a major reason California's in crisis right now.

Bay Area Resident said...

no not prop 13, there used to be 2 parts to prop 13, one part was the part that is still alive today that caps property tax increases (which I do not support btw), but at one time there was a separate component that said the CA budget could not increase in total more than some percentage a year.

Here it is, In the good old days, there was something called the Gann amendment. It was
passed as part of the Prop 13 package, and it was the necessary flip side
Prop 13, namely, a State spending cap. Spending could not grow more than
consumer price index plus a formula for increased population. The Gann
amendment was hated by many, especially the state employees unions, and it
was eventually neutered by Prop 111 and one other proposition whose number I
can't remember. Prop 111 effectively eliminated spending cap and spending
has been out of control ever since.


I was under the impression that states could declare BK, why not? Counties can.

Brandon in San Diego said...

To posters that keep pushing a US 101 alignment, or I-280 for that matter, why do you keep trying to push that boulder uphill knowing that:

1) CHSRA already studied those and decided they were not options, and

2) NIMBY opposition would fight those too.... in the case of I-280 probably more adamantly.

They seem like dead ends to the nth degree.

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that states could declare BK, why not? Counties can.

Counties have no constitutionally protected sovereignty. It would be unconstitutional to include a place for states to declare bankruptcy in the federal bankruptcy code, because it would imply that states are just sectors or wards of the country, rather than autonomous entities.

Regardless, the Treasury will never let a state default, because the reaction from the international community would be catastrophic. State debt is looked at in a similar way to the way that Fannie/Freddie debt was looked at - an implicit backing by the feds is in place. If CA were to default, a real danger of a bottoming of the dollar or skyrocketing interest rates for Treasury debt would present itself as foreign investors are scared by a default of the largest state (of whom they thought the debts were backed by the feds).

Bay Area Resident said...

Brandon in SD,

1) CHSRA already studied those and decided they were not options, and

2) NIMBY opposition would fight those too.... in the case of I-280 probably more adamantly.


I know you are in SD and don't know the bay area, but if you were from here you would know that the freeways have no prominent housing or small business nearby, as opposed to the sleepy caltrain which features the most desirable real estate in the country abutting the tracks directly. Caltrain goes 35mph through all these towns which is why this has happened over the years. There is NO COMPARISON between nimby opposition from freeway dwellers vs caltrain.

On the "CHSRA studied it.." part, that is precisely the problem. CSHRA did not study much of anything, yes they made a lot of noise about studying whatever they could but based on political reasons (cost reasons since land was already owned on Caltrain ROW regardless of its workability, a cheaper way for Caltrain to electify, etc)- the Caltrain ROW was chosen. The caltrain ROW was never the best solution for this, it was just a way to satisfy a ton of special interest groups. The public is aware of this and not interested in the CHSRAs excuses.

Anonymous said...

I know you are in SD and don't know the bay area, but if you were from here you would know that the freeways have no prominent housing or small business nearby...

Blatant lie. Drive down 101 and count the number of small businesses and housing abutting the freeway - substantially more than happens on the Caltrain corridor because the 101 corridor tends to have denser housing near it, especially in stretches in San Mateo. The small businesses are everywhere along the corridor.

...as opposed to the sleepy caltrain which features the most desirable real estate in the country abutting the tracks directly. Caltrain goes 35mph through all these towns which is why this has happened over the years.

More blatant lies. It would be IMPOSSIBLE for a Caltrain Baby Bullet to make it from SF to SJ in an hour if they were only going 35 mph. Caltrain regularly runs at much, much faster than that. Sleepy? You have a weird definition of sleepy.

There is NO COMPARISON between nimby opposition from freeway dwellers vs caltrain.

You're right, there isn't, because one area makes sense (Caltrain) and one area makes no sense (101). Dwellers near 101 aren't becoming NIMBYs for HSR because they know that it would make absolutely zero sense and cost tens of billions to run the train in their backyard.

Alon Levy said...

Spending could not grow more than consumer price index plus a formula for increased population.

This is really stupid. The CPI is an average of the price change in many different goods and services. Some, like cars, computers, and other products based primarily on technology, become cheaper over time. Others, like construction, domestic service, education, and other products based primarily on labor, scale with income, so their cost grows faster than inflation.

State spending is predominantly on services in the latter category, and one important government service, health care, is seeing cost inflation larger than average income in the US. That's why government spending remains more or less constant as a share of GDP, despite rapid economic growth.

Anonymous said...

BAR is correct but it won't make a damn bit of difference because the fix is in, just as with Palmdale and the Tehachapis.

The smartest approach for Palo Alto would be to accept the worst scenario as the most likely. Start talking up a tax proposal to pay for the tunneling - that will wake up the public from their torpor and will flush out the BART-Bechtel mindset in the CHSRA. Just as with BART and Berkeley the CHSRA is loath to see anyone breaking ranks on their delusion of elevated grandeur. Their massive hubris cannot cope with anyone trifling with their grand plan. The Wikipedia article on BART describes its architecture as "brutalist"" - an apt description that applies as well to the mentality that is manifesting at CHSRA.

Anonymous said...

I do find it funny that BAR continues to say that land around Caltrain is "the most valuable in the country."

Land value is primarily determined by zoning and the level of density. An undeveloped acre of land in downtown SF is worth millions more than an undeveloped acre of land in Atherton, simply because the development potential is significantly higher.

Using this same measure, lets look at the developed land around the Caltrain corridor and the 101 corridor. In San Mateo, there are condos abutting 101 that are roughly 20 units to the acre. Most of the lots abutting Caltrain in Atherton are one or two units to the acre. So...even if the per unit cost is $5 million in Atherton and only $350,000 in San Mateo, the total value per acre is significantly more in San Mateo.

Anonymous said...

If Palo Alto and neighboring towns wish to come out of this conflict intact they will have to be prepared to fight the CHSRA every step of the way.

The CHSRA - essentially the San Jose corporate elite and Bechtel - will claim tunneling is not feasible even if the towns are willing to pony up the money. Palo Alto et al will have to go to court and they will have to pay for their own engineering studies. As they say the price of freedom and independence comes high.

They will also have to bring some heat to the political machine that rules the Bay Area. Eventually their unhappiness will get back to Pelosi and the other kingpins.

Anonymous said...

If Palo Alto and neighboring towns wish to come out of this conflict intact they will have to be prepared to fight the CHSRA every step of the way.

The CHSRA - essentially the San Jose corporate elite and Bechtel - will claim tunneling is not feasible even if the towns are willing to pony up the money. Palo Alto et al will have to go to court and they will have to pay for their own engineering studies. As they say the price of freedom and independence comes high.

They will also have to bring some heat to the political machine that rules the Bay Area. Eventually their unhappiness will get back to Pelosi and the other kingpins.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Wwo... 4 anon posts in a row! How many are from the same person?

BAR... I use to live in the Bay Area. I was also born in San Francisco. I am from Northern California and still travel there.

Btw, do planes from SFO create noise for the same NIMBY's here? If so, well then, won't HSR reduce flights and noise into SFO?

get real said...

anonymous 3:01 AM wrote:

Land value is primarily determined by zoning and the level of density. An undeveloped acre of land in downtown SF is worth millions more than an undeveloped acre of land in Atherton, simply because the development potential is significantly higher

What a silly statement. Location, Location, Location --- 1st rule of real estate values.

You could zone for 100 story buildings in Tim Buck Two, and have gained nothing.

Anonymous said...

^No, it all depends on what was allowed there before. And clearly we're talking about metro areas here, not rural areas. Land along the Caltrain tracks would clearly be MUCH more valuable if it was zoned to allow higher densities.