Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why The CHSRA Was Right To Reject The Settlement

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

by Robert Cruickshank

Reports of the CHSRA's rejection of a settlement offer put forward by Menlo Park, Atherton, the Planning and Conservation League, and several other unnamed organizations have gotten some notice in the comments to the previous post, but it deserves its own entry.

Especially so I can explain why this was the right thing to do for not just the CHSRA, but the HSR project.

The California High Speed Rail Authority has rejected a settlement offer that Menlo Park, Atherton and environmental groups made in a lawsuit challenging the decision to run bullet trains through the Peninsula instead of the East Bay, an attorney for the cities said.

The offer, which the authority rejected in a closed session meeting July 2, would have required the agency to consider running trains through Altamont Pass, said Stuart Flashman, an attorney for the petitioners. Altamont Pass and Pacheco Pass were the two finalists for the route, and the authority selected Pacheco in 2007.

"What we are proposing is we would agree to dismiss the case if you would agree at the project level to restudy one Altamont alternative," Flashman said Thursday. "You throw this out now, and it may not come back. They decided they would just roll the dice."

Why should the CHSRA believe this? Although the specific parties to a settlement would be bound by its terms, others would not. Flashman has done a lot of work to sow doubt about the Pacheco choice. Menlo Park and Atherton have residents who would still be free to file their own lawsuits - suits that are almost guaranteed to occur should the CHSRA decide on anything other than a no-build option for the Peninsula.

More importantly, it would open the door to revisiting route choices by what is essentially blackmail. Route selection and design choices must be driven by what is best for the HSR project.

There's more:

Flashman noted that the authority did not make a counter offer.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny held a five-hour hearing in the case May 29 and must make a ruling by the end of August, Flashman said. In the meantime, he must go through about 35,000 pages of documents.

"I felt, and talking with my clients they also felt, that this would have been an opportune time to try and settle," Flashman said. "Essentially we were in a situation where everybody could form their opinions about who was likely to win."

Flashman is parsing his words carefully here, but this is as clear an admission of defeat as we'll probably ever get from him and his crew. One has to assume the CHSRA recognized this as well and therefore felt no reason to settle. A court victory for the Authority would also do much to discourage other frivolous lawsuits.

Still, would it have been good for the CHSRA to offer a settlement anyway? Especially since it's possible that refusing to do so might reinforce the incorrect view among the Peninsula NIMBYs that the CHSRA is unaccountable and hostile?

I don't believe it would have been, since I'm not seeing anything the CHSRA could have offered that would be better than a court victory. As I noted above, no settlement could stop others in Menlo Park and Atherton - or other cities - from suing. Flashman et. al. want to force reconsideration of the Altamont corridor, but that ship has long since sailed, especially with CA voters ratifying the plan to use the Altamont corridor as a high speed corridor anyway.

I still await the final verdict, in favor of the HSR project and its fair process, against NIMBYs and those so-called environmentalists who prioritize small-time parochial concerns over the much greater benefits to the environment of actually building HSR.

68 comments:

Rafael said...

To be fair, CHSRA is studying Altamont, but only as a high speed commuter overlay. Presumably, that's because there simply is no available ROW for dedicated HSR tracks between Niles and San Jose Diridon now that broad gauge BART will use the WPML. So, this overlay will presumably amount to no more than upgrades to and expansion of the existing ACE service.

Note: my previous suggestion to use the I-880 median has been rendered moot because that median has been usurped by the asphalt lobby.

Note also that afaik, CHSRA has not yet secured a ROW between SJ Diridon and Gilroy, though commenter Bay Area Resident indicated some progress was being made in San Jose proper, in conjunction with a ballpark the city is planning. If someone has a link to documentation, I'd be grateful.

UPRR still remains opposed to selling any part of its ROW - basically, anywhere - because emergency communication/signaling integration and legal liability issues in the event of a derailment and subsequent track fouling have not yet been resolved.

Until CHSRA actually has a ROW down to Gilroy, Pacheco remains a paper tiger.

political_incorrectness said...

Rafael if I'm not mistaken, there should be plenty of ROW down the 101 corridor into Gilroy, it's just the matter of getting out of San Jose that will be a problem. Would it be possible to eminent domain UP ROW in any case?

I know that is probably not the preferred option but if worst came to come where there is no way to get out of San Jose, can that option be exercised?

Clem said...

no settlement could stop others in Menlo Park and Atherton - or other cities - from suing

If the Atherton et al. lawsuit fails, the certified program EIR/EIS will stand, and with it all the alignment choices, including the choice of the Caltrain corridor.

While cities would indeed be free to sue (this being the normal mechanism for dissent with an EIR/EIS certification), the peninsula corridor alignment would be a done deal, since the statute of limitations has long since kicked in for the program EIR/EIS. The deadline to sue was July 2008 + 3 months.

That's why the hundreds of requests to consider alternate (non-Caltrain) alignments in the project EIR/EIS scoping process will be summarily (and 100% legally) dismissed with a simple reference to the certified program EIR/EIS.

That's a desirable position for the CHSRA, and explains why they are rolling the dice on the integrity of their program EIR/EIS. Once that has been tested in the courts, it's rock solid and they can hide behind it.

Settling would have opened the floodgates for anybody who wanted a slightly different alignment "studied" again, which is a very slippery slope for this project.

BruceMcF said...

"So, this overlay will presumably amount to no more than upgrades to and expansion of the existing ACE service."

Does that follow? A connection into the Caltrain corridor would find an express path to San Jose for a 125mph "Regional HSR" corridor.

Tony D. said...

"Until CHSRA actually has the ROW down to Gilroy, Pacheco remains a paper tiger."

You're still hoping, aren't you Rafael.

Someone here a couple of threads ago mentioned that VTA had an option to buy some of the SJ-Gilroy UPRR right of way at some point in the future; can someone here confirm that?

Also, between Morgan Hill and Gilroy, there is enough room in the 101 median to build a rail line, and the curves in the freeway are long and not to drastic for 125 mph speeds. HSR would need to cut over from UPRR just north of Morgan Hill over to 101, then proceeding towards Pacheco Pass.

looking on said...

Tony d.

By this time is should be absolutely clear, the UPRR is not going to allow HSR on its SJ to Gilroy corridor.

Their comments to the project level EIR on the SF to SJ segment also make clear they expect their freight operations to not be interfered with as well.

So maybe Morgan Hill to Gilroy is no problem, but its quite a long distance from SJ to Morgan Hill --- you find a path outside of the UPRR ROW.

jim said...

I think that 101 between san jose and gilroy actually maked more sense. There is room, and its further from developed areas. The rail corridor goes through areas that will become a nimby problem in morgan hill and gilroy.

jim said...

That said, UPRR will allow hsr no doubt so long as they get some kind of good deal in the process.

Rafael said...

@ Tony D -

even if VTA has an option to buy part of the UPRR ROW, that does not mean it would be permitted to make it available to CHSRA. It depends on what strings, if any, UPRR would attach to such a deal.

At this point, all we've got is a rumor.

For the record, I respect the decision in favor of Pacheco. It's just that it makes limited sense to build HSR from SF all the way to SJ Diridon unless we can be sure trains can get to Gilroy as well. I expect CHSRA is working on that issue behind the scenes and that the negotiations may be too delicate to make public at this time. Let's hope they'll be able to release some information before long.

Tony D. said...

Thanks Rafael,

I'm thinking HSR + UPRR SJ/Gilroy = "SHOW ME THE MONEY!!"

Looking on,

The UPRR right of way between SJ and Morgan hill, in conjunction with Monterey Hwy., is wide enough and rural to accomodate HSR. In South SJ, you can go east into Monterey Hwy, and south to Morgan Hill either east or west, as it is wide-open rural.

Anonymous said...

I have to assume that the CHSRA would be loathe to use the 101 corridor in the Gilroy area as it would set a precedent for using 101 north of San Jose

izabal said...

It takes soo long to get anything build in States anymore. Can obama just waive or declare some kind of federal emergency to build this thing? Bypass any EIR or whatever obstacles it may face.

This is really pathetic. 10 Years to build a railroad!!!

BruceMcF said...

@ izabel ... actually since its a joint federal/state process, even if President Obama could just exercise dictatorial powers (and since the preceding administration had little interest in railroad building, its not likely that they grabbed dictatorial powers along these particular lines) ...

... it'd still have to go through the process.

And indeed, around the world, it normally takes more time to build an Express HSR corridor than to put something like an Emerging HSR, because of the tunneling and grade separation structures. High Speed 1 in the UK took from '96 to '07. And the Madrid / Barcelona AVE opened two years late. Construction costs are certainly inflated in the US, for whatever reason, but these kinds of projects tend to take a bit of time.

looking on said...

Jim writes:

That said, UPRR will allow hsr no doubt so long as they get some kind of good deal in the process.

July 13, 2009 9:15 AM

WRONG

The UPRR turned down $1 billion in subsidy dealing with the route over the Sierras. They are not going to be bought off.

jim said...

The freight attitude seems to be consistent with these statements about cascade region hsr.

"Representatives of the BNSF and Union Pacific railways were receptive to allowing more passenger rail on their tracks. But their stipulations included that passenger service not impede freight capacity, add any liability for the railways or go too fast.

Anything over 110 mph must be on separate tracks in a separate right of way, said Scott Moore, Union Pacific's vice president of public affairs for the Western Region.

Andrew Johnsen, assistant vice president for state government affairs at BNSF, said their tracks can take passenger trains up to 79 mph with little trouble and 90 mph with major upgrades and increased maintenance.

Faster speeds than that, he said: "You really need to have separate tracks. Whether you need to have separate right of way is a question we can discuss."

-- same tracks, no, sharing row with separate tracks, open to discussion--
which means "as long as our interests are protected and we get something in the deal"

UP is going to take a hard stance so they can drive a hard bargain that's all. There's no benefit to them in prohibiting HSR on their row, when they can benefit from it.

jim said...

The route over the sierra is far more critical and congested.

Andy Chow said...

I don't get it why you're becoming a mouthpiece for Diridon and Kopp. The settlement is reasonable. The settlement would not require the program-EIR to be invalidated or somehow redone, but only ask HSRA to consider one more option in the project EIR that HSRA does not have to recommend.

You could slice and dice the settlement, but instead you keep defending Kopp and Diridon who have their own personal agendas.

mike said...

I have to assume that the CHSRA would be loathe to use the 101 corridor in the Gilroy area as it would set a precedent for using 101 north of San Jose

Hardly. The primary difference is that 101 near Gilroy actually has room for a primarily at-grade HSR alignment, whereas large sections of 101 north of SJ clearly do not (except perhaps in the minds of a few Palo Alto area NIMBYs?).

lyqwyd said...

I agree that rejecting the settlement was the right decision. Had they accepted it they would have gained nothing, as they can be sued by any other group, but if they win the lawsuit the EIR is then considered valid and there's much less case for any future lawsuits.

I preferred the Altamont alignment over the Pacheco, but the Pacheco is good enough so I now support that over starting from scratch, or even starting from half-way.

More transit less HSR said...

Hey California Dreamers! Why do you waste all this time and energy and megabytes to discuss something that will never happen? This money would be better spent improving and expanding the existing transit systems around California (BART, Caltrain, VTA, Metrolink etc.). There is no money, no interest, and too many obstacles from various interest groups for high speed rail. Just give up on this pet project of yours and use that little federal money for something useful.

Morris Brown said...

Regarding the earlier topic of the language in the budget bill -- a local paper "the daily post" printed the following this morning (7/13/09)

========

A poison pill provision that would require the state high-speed rail authority to re-examine the route trains would take likely won't become law, according to a spokesman for a key legislator.
No one has admitted they have put the poision pill provision in the budget bill.
But a spokesman for state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, said that it's likely that the language will be taken out of the bill before it is finalized. Lowenthal — who has blasted the rail authority over its business plan and other issues — chairs the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and sits on the budget subcommittee that handles transportation appropriations.
"It's likely going to change," Lowenthal's legislative director, Josh Tooker, said. "What was in print earlier may not be what's ultimately decided upon."
That pleases rail authority official Ron Diridon, who said the single sentence could delay the construction of the highspeed rail line along the Peninsula — as well as improvements to Caltrain — for up to four years.

He said a re-examination of the Peninsula bullet train route could cost the region $2.5 billion in construction dollars for the project and tens of thousands of jobs


Not surprising at all. Diridon continues to spew garbage about the effects of the language. Does he have an credibility left at all?

Spokker said...

"This money would be better spent improving and expanding the existing transit systems around California (BART, Caltrain, VTA, Metrolink etc.)."

There were people who said some of the systems you mentioned would never happen and to quit dreaming.

Adirondacker12800 said...

110mph should be easy .

Once they figure out how to do that with third rail. The world record speed using third rail is 108. And no one does that in regular service. And no one is going to want to sit on a BART train for two hours to get from Sacramento to San Francisco.

Richard Mlynarik said...

BART has started awarding contracts for extension to Warm Springs. This is all that northern California "HSR" was ever about. Game over.

There is now no danger of any non-BART (= non-PBQD/Bechtel-controlled) rail system coming into Fremont and disrupting the multi-billion pork avalanche upon which they have relied for decades.

That was all that any of this fraudulent rejection of alterntives and even more fraudulent "study" and fore-ordained dismissal of alternatives was ever about: guaranteed and massive payouts to the non-competitive pair of companies that have controlled Bay Area public transportation expenditures (= "planning") for nearly half a century now.

Upstanding Public Servant Quentin Kopp has done his duty to ensure that the right project -- ie that conceived by the right people, promoted by the same people, "studied" by the same people, and to be contracted to the same people -- goes forward. Just as he did his duty with the BART extension to Millbrae in the 1990s. Good job, Citizen Kopp!

The first time he only ruined transportation on the San Francisco Peninsula for three decades and ensured the continued borderline bankruptcy of two public transportation agencies and completely wasted two billion public dollars. This time around the stakes were bigger and the payoff more spectacular: screwing up the future rail system of all of California north of Fresno for 50 years or more, wasting $10 to $20 billion of public money -- once the costs of duplicative BART to Santa Clara County, unnecessary but contractor-profitable Caltrain over-building in people's back yards, and Altamont, Dumbarton and Sacramento fiscal black hole dinosaur trains, and guaranteed geotechnical (extra tunnelling, always a grand idea!) blow-outs on Pacheco are added up. Out elderly transportation overloards intend to go out in style!

BART to Warm Springs and Berryessa (or whereever they run out of money) will of course be a titanic scale failure in terms of both cost blowouts (guaranteed to be 100% by all BART extension precedent) and ridership shortfall (guaranteed to be 50% likewise.) But that doesn't matter. There will be no consequences. The right people will have made their money, and done it hands over fist, as they always do. And we can thank our brave public servants for having made it all possible.

Brave board and staff members of MTC and CHSRA, we salute you! Keep fighting the good fight! (And with Kopp's protege and former staffer safely ensconced in lifetime sinecure as MTC chief executive, the good fight will continue to be waged and won for a long time to come.)

Spokker said...

BART rules.

Winston said...

Those of you who are saying that there's no ROW between San Jose and Fremont that you could run HSR in are just wrong. The Alviso route (used by ACE and the Capitol Corridor) is plenty wide and more direct than the route BART is using. It also has the advantage (for an intercity system like HSR) of running through industrial wasteland and swamp instead of through neighborhoods. That being said, it's kind of a moot point right now since CHSRA is sticking to the Pacheco route.

Also, Richard, it's time for your medication.

Rafael said...

@ Winston -

a) the Alviso ROW is in fact quite narrow in many places between Santa Clara and Alviso. UPRR is down to a single track and there has been encroachment from both sides.

b) UPRR has stated that for safety and liability reasons, it is not interested in selling land to CHSRA so it can run fast, lightweight trains on brand-new tracks adjacent to those for its own lumbering heavy freight trains.

c) you can't just build brand-new tracks through the salt marshes, they're part of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. In particular, the Saltmarsh Harvest Mouse is an endangered species.

d) at high speeds, trains need tracks with large curve radii. The ones in the marshes and the one in Newark are way too tight.

e) there isn't enough width in the Newark-Niles section to lay down two additional tracks. Stacking HSR tracks above UPRR's would require the acquisition of air rights from UPRR (see b)

---

You'd have a better chance of success if you pursued UPRR's Milpitas line through San Jose. Afaik, the portion between SJ Diridon and 101 is no longer used for freight traffic.

However, the ROW is only wide enough for a single track, so any HSR tracks would have to be stacked. Given the water table issues and desire for full grade separation, that would probably boil down to one track in a subway tunnel and another elevated above street level. Getting that concept through environmental review and then implemented would be extremely difficult.

In addition, UPRR's Fremont yard is still in active use. Getting a ROW from 101 through Milpitas and up to Niles would be next to impossible. The abandoned ROW that runs from Niles past the east end of Milpitas Great Mall and into east San Jose - the WPML - has been usurped by BART.

Anonymous said...

Why not just eminent domain from UPRR if they won't agree to something?

Anonymous said...

@Richard

Amen! Finally someone who can point out how this is NOT about environmentalism or the will of the people or any other noble cause - it's about egos and money!

Winston said...

@Rafael
You're right that there are challenges with the Alviso route, but I don't see anything insurmountable here.

a) I'm aware that there's some encroachment on the ROW and you're going to have to have some takings. The particular location you picked on Google maps seem to be easy to solve - take 2 lanes from the never remotely busy Lafayette street.

b) UP's reluctance to sell is a problem and it will probably come down to a court case to see if the state can take their land. Such a case is likely anyway as they seem dedicated to opposing the project in so many places.

c)should be possible to overcome, but could present some challanges

d & e are not very big issues. If you're building new tracks in the swamp anyway than it shouldn't be hard to run them to highway 84 and use this ROW.

You are right that there are problems with this route, but they aren't insurmountable.

K.T. said...

Winston,

There is a expressway construction project proposed by Alameda County Transportation Improvement Agency which is planning on using that open space. Although this project is still not in construction, I would expect they would be the first ones to pour concrete on that open space.

See link below for their project description and timeline.

http://www.actia2022.com/rss/pdfs/ACTA%20MB%20226_I-880%20to%20Mission%20Boulevard%20East-West%20Connector%20_June%2009.pdf

Rafael said...

@ Winston -

see my map of how Dumbarton, Altamont and the Alviso gambit could theoretically be combined.

The concept looks like a huge can of worms to me, see map description for details. CHSRA shouldn't go near anythign remotely like this unless efforts to secure a ROW between SJ Diridon and Gilroy should fail.

Voters endorsed Pacheco in November, that should remain plan A. Elevating the Caltrain ROW will impact residents whose property abuts the railroad, but if it's done intelligently it will also bring massive improvements for SF peninsula cities as a whole.

jim said...

Sure is a lot of hysterics around here. First Bart has done a great job for the bay area for almost four decades. It should and will go go to san jose and the voters of santa clara county said so.

HSR is not screwed up north of fresno. Pacheco and keeping san jose on the mainline was the right choice. The existing agencies in the sac-bay maket and the central valley-bay market - CCJPA and ACE, will continue to serve those markets with better travel times and upgrades to service

With this arrangement, ccjpa gets their territory/market, BART gets its territory/ market, ACE gets its territory/market Caltrain continues to serve the peninsula and HSR does what it was suppose to do, connect norther cali to southern cali and the san jooquin valley with sac and the bay and southern cali.

Its a win win win win for everyone. IT creates the right types and levels of service for the markets.

So much drama from so many people who aren't even in the railroad business.

And all this ongoing nonsense about kopp and whats his name. Nothing but political whining - the same kind you hear from republicans about anancy pelosi, or any other figure wiht whom one might have a political difference.

The money will be spent and jobs will be created and in the end there will be a functioning system.

So fucking what if bechtel makes money. Do they employ californians? Then Im glad they are gonna make money. Im glad for all the construction workers, and all the railroad people, and any one else who will become employed by this thing.

especially the union workers who had better score big.
When its done there will be a new railroad, and people will ride the trains as designed, and adjacent agencies will coordinate in the appropriate manner and the sky will not fall.

I can't say that this will create world peace, but it wil produce a train that will get me from A to B in reasonable time and comfortable fashion and what more can a REASONABLE person ask for.

I assure you that no one building this project cares what anyone on this blog thinks about it.

Say what you want about the people in charge but the fact is there isn't any one else who can pull it off. There's not one group or any other politicians in california who can get something this big done. I mean look at all the whining and crying about every single tiny little aspect of this project. They don't have any choice except to plan it and do it their own way because left to any one else, as you can see by the blog, there would never be any agreement on anything and nothing would ever get built. and really , the personal vendettas? its not junior high.

Peter said...

Rafael: your map loads centered on Tulsa, Oklahoma for some reason.

Also how on earth would that 10 miles long Dumbarton to Alviso connection work? Neither a bridge nor a tunnel seem remotely reasonable for crossing that much of the bay, especially considering it's smack in the middle of a sensitive habitat.

jim said...

and I happen to be thrilled with bart to sfo and use sfo instead of oak specifically because bart takes me door to door. so thank you kopp, or whoever did it.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

I don't know why the map loaded with the wrong origin for you, it works fine for me.

As for that 10-mile section between Dumbarton and Alviso: a low causeway would do the trick, much longer ones have been built elsewhere, e.g. across Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana.

The water is shallow in the south bay, though the mud still contains traces of methyl mercury from cinnabar mining in Almaden (south San Jose) in the Gold Rush days. Special precautions would need to be taken during construction.

Note that only some former marshes are included in the DENWR (brochure). The proposed alignment would thread the tracks in-between two protected sections located north of Alviso - still a major environmenal concern, though.

Note that there is a shipping lane on the east end of Dumbarton that needs to be retained. A bascule section would disrupt train operations every so often. If implemented as a fixed bridge, the tracks hugging the freeway should follow its vertical alignment as well. The other option is a tunnel to the freeway media, re-emerging just east of the toll booth.

To be honest, the bits in the water would be relatively straightforward civil engineering. The political and procedural issues in securing rights of way on land would be much more daunting.

Morris Brown said...

@Rafael

You write:


Elevating the Caltrain ROW will impact residents whose property abuts the railroad, but if it's done intelligently it will also bring massive improvements for SF peninsula cities as a whole.


Could you please explain why and how your comment in bold would work?

As a resident of Menlo Park, I can't think of any scheme in which that statement would be true for Menlo Park.

Anonymous said...

Morris - grade separations for Menlo Park? That's not an improvement?

Having an HSR station in the town next door? That's not an improvement?

Electrified Caltrain? That's not an improvement?

Quieter trains? That's not an improvement?

Please, let us know exactly how any of these would be accomplished without HSR paying for it.

Bianca said...

Morris Brown wrote:

As a resident of Menlo Park, I can't think of any scheme in which that statement would be true for Menlo Park.

I'm also a resident of Menlo Park. I want grade separations. I want those darn bells and whistles to be quieted. I want Menlo Park to finally build that bicycle/ped underpass at Middle so that folks on the west side of El Camino can get to Burgess Park without going all the way down to Ravenswood. The city has been talking about that bike/ped crossing for ages but holding off on doing anything until the design of HSR is known. It's right that they would hold off on that, but I'd like to see those things done sooner rather than later.

I agree with Rafael that grade separations and Caltrain electrification are massive improvements that benefit Peninsula cities as a whole.

Morris Brown, I understand from your writings here and elsewhere that you are categorically opposed to HSR in California. I don't agree, but I respect that you are being transparent about your position. Are you categorically opposed to grade separation also? If so, can you explain why?

Peter said...

Interesting. Tucked at the bottom of an article about wasting money on rural airline subsidies are these two paragraphs:

The legislation approved Monday by the House panel also provides a $4 billion appropriation to support construction of high-speed railroads, quadrupling Obama's request and coming in the wake of $8 billion provided in the economic stimulus bill.

The increase came as the panel flat-funded highway construction even as the bill's overall appropriation increased by 14 percent, according to a table distributed by Democrats. Republicans said the increases were more like 25 percent.

Now what are all the people who claimed that no Fed money would ever appear so the business plan was flawed going to complain about?

Winston said...

@Rafel

We're on essentially the same page, but I'd rather see HSR on the East Bay side because it makes an eventual connection to Oakland more likely to happen. That being said, I don't really have an axe to grind here and am willing to accept the conclusions of someone who has enough time to do a good engineering analysis. I was really only pointing out that there are alternatives to the ROW that BART will be using if you want to pursue that. The HSRA's current approach of running up the Caltrain corridor seems best to me, especially if combined with significant upgrades to the Capitol Corridor (they're already contemplating double or triple tracking the Alviso ROW, including the causeway).

Anonymous said...

Nothing stays the same. Generally in California things decline. The hsr-Bechtel elevated on the Peninsula will of course be much noisier and uglier than touted. The usual bait and switch. And as with BART the noise and overall shabbiness will worsen as everything wears out. Depreciation and corrugation, etc., etc.

No big deal. Just move away. Palo Alto, Menlo Park et all will just have to deal with a bigger skid row. Look at Berkeley it has been deteriorating for decades and it got a subway. Paradise to ghetto - that's the California way.

Time to move to a smaller state where the corruption is not so overwhelming.

progression.

jd said...

^^^^^ Waaaahhhhh! bitch and complain...

lyqwyd said...

not sure how you come to the conclusion that Berkeley has been declining over the last few decades, I just spent the weekend there and it is doing just fine.

BruceMcF said...

Morris Brown said...
"
"Elevating the Caltrain ROW will impact residents whose property abuts the railroad, but if it's done intelligently it will also bring massive improvements for SF peninsula cities as a whole."

Could you please explain why and how your comment in bold would work?

As a resident of Menlo Park, I can't think of any scheme in which that statement would be true ...
"

Since the big objection that could be noted in Menlo Park is that some on street parking a little ways from El Camino Real might have to be taken over (gasp! shock! horror!), it should be noted that a viaduct in that area would create more parking.

And of course with better Caltrain service times, more people on the trains means fewer people competing for more parking places. And of course, no more waiting at level crossings for a train to pass to get to or from a place to park. So really a win-win-win for Menlo Car Park.

BruceMcF said...

Rafael: "d) at high speeds, trains need tracks with large curve radii. The ones in the marshes and the one in Newark are way too tight."

For the commuter overlay, wouldn't tilt-trains be fast enough? If its running at 110mph-125mph on the overlay, more critical would be the seperate line or two when sharing a ROW that gets heavy freight traffic ... at that speed, available space to build in the ROW is more critical than the curve radius.

jim said...

The solution for altamont is pretty simple. Upgrading ACE to 110 would cut travel times to a reasonable amount using the same row and same service stops and would provide more than adequate commute times and service for that market with a minimum cost.

The plan is for a new stockton station to combine amtrak and ace - and hopefully hsr if they're smart, just to the southeast of where the two current stockton staions are. currently its 2 hours from stockton to san jose - get that down to 90 minutes, and 30 minutes or so for intermediate stops and you get a reasonable result for a reasonable expenditure for the stockton altamont silicon valley commute.

The ame goes for the sac-bay commute. eventual upgrade of ccjpa to 110mph eliminates the need for full blown hsr between sac and okj-sjc and can be doen with far less costs will still providing expanded service to the market. ( new stations in hercules and dixon) and more trains to auburn.

jim said...

It doesn't make sense to spend billions on stockton-bay and sac-bay service when it can be done for millions.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

what I was referring to was a fully grade separated plan B for express HSR.

If instead, CHSRA's present concept of a high speed commuter overlay in the East Bay becomes reality, my guess is that will operate on existing tracks at standard speed west of Niles and stick with diesel, albeit EPA Tier 3/4 engines. Road crossings could remain at grade but be improved to FRA quiet zone status.

Perhaps UPRR's single-track Milpitas and Alviso lines could be combined into a one-way loop with a head-end stop at SJ Diridon, to improve passenger train throughput in that context.

Most of the ACE route lies east of Niles. There are non-trivial incremental improvements that could be made to straighten it, e.g. bringing the north slope single track in Niles Canyon back into commuter revenue service - it is presently used for a historic tourist railroad. A short tunnel or two would increase the line haul time through there.

Other improvements could include short tunnels dedicated to passenger trains in Altamont Pass plus bypass/double tracks in Pleasanton, Livermore, Tracy and on to Stockton/Sacramento as well as Modesto/Merced.

Active tilt trains could be very useful, but they can't improve line haul times as long as passenger trains have to wait for passing freight trains.

---

Btw: insane heretical stray thought. Much of the rural legacy network in Japan is still 1000mm narrow-gauge tracks, since those were cheap to build. The featherweight JR281 active tilt DMU trains manage the 200-mile run from Sapporo to Hakodate in a very respectable three hours, even in winter - thanks in part to an up-to-date track geometry database.

It may not be relevant for California, but could more marginal emerging HSR routes (e.g. Cheyenne-Denver-Albuquerque) benefit from adding narrow gauge passenger-only rails to existing freight tracks?

political_incorrectness said...

"The legislation approved Monday by the House panel also provides a $4 billion appropriation to support construction of high-speed railroads, quadrupling Obama's request and coming in the wake of $8 billion provided in the economic stimulus bill."

Is this quadrippaling in respect to the $1 billion a year? Will this be put forward for bidding for projects? Or is this already accounted for?

Richard Mlynarik said...

"grade separations for Menlo Park? [...] Electrified Caltrain? [...] Quieter trains? [...] Please, let us know exactly how any of these would be accomplished without HSR paying for it."

Well, the voters of all of the Peninsula counties -- San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara -- were explicitly promised that these programs would be part of transportation sales taxes that were explicitly approved by the voters, all within the last decade.

What has happened is an utterly and limitlessly corrupt bait-and-switch, in which Santa Clara County has defunded essentially all other explicitly promised and voter-approved capital programs anywhere in the county ("Provide light rail throughout Santa Clara County", hah!) in order to solely fund one PBQD-designed and PBQD-promoted and contracted-to-PBQD BART extension; while San Francisco County has systematically defunded Caltrain projects (not under the politcal control of power-mad SFCTA staff, therefore must die) and put all its funding into Doyle Drive and the PBQD-designed, PBQD-promoted and contracted-to-PBQD Central Subway project. Meanwhile, San Mateo's sales taxes will continue to be drained for decades to come to pay for operating a disastrous BART extension over which it has no control and of which it has completely washed its hands.

So the answer as to how Peninsula Caltrain improvements would happen without HSR is: "a rudimentary level of honesty and any non-zero amount of ethics evident in any of the actions of the SFCTA, SCVTA or MTC staff."

Dumbarton Rail, Caltrain electrification, Caltrain grade separations, Caltrain SF extension: all voter approved (in multiple local sales tax program and in regional bridge toll program votes), all official parts of the legally approved Regional Transportation Plans, and all systematically defunded by grotesquely and limitlessly corrupt actions by local agency staffers, with redirected funds just so happening to all go directly to projects promoted by Very Special Friends of the agencies.

They've been pulling the same bait-and-switch on Caltrain for decades now (see Caltrain electrification in the 1980s and 1990s; see Caltrain SF extension in the 1980s and 1990s -- all explicitly approved by voters, all part of RTPs, all part of regional rail plans concocted to defraud the US FTA of matching grants for projects they never intended to build), and it's always PBQD/Bechtel-controlled BART extensions that end up with the voter-approved Caltrain cash, somehow. Funny, that.

Devil's Advocate said...

Altamont makes no sense. It would be prohibitively expensive to go through Newark/Fremont/Pleasanton, and it would increase the distance SF(SJ) to LA. For the Sac-Oak-SJC route, it's much better to upgrade the existing capitol corridor. There is no need for HSR to connect Sac to the Bay area.

But I like the route from Alviso to Dunbarton/Menlo Park that Rafael showed. It bypasses Palo Alto Nimbys totally. If it weren't for the boats in RC seaport and the various marinas along the bay I'd say to build the entire HSR from SJ to SF on the water. Nice and straight and no obstacles or Nimbys.

mike said...

especially the union workers who had better score big

Not sure what you mean by this. Are you implying that you hope they pay salary/benefit packages that are well above market compensation? This would obviously reduce or entirely eliminate any operating surplus, thus making it impossible to fund system expansion to San Diego or Sacramento. Or are you just saying that you hope there will be a lot of (unionized) jobs created in running the railroad?

Morris Brown said...

@Bianca

Please don't consider this to be a "cop-out", but I don't really think this is the proper forum to go into detail on local situations like MP presents.

My question was directed to Rafael, who, not being a MP resident, I presume would have more general comments, than what a particular local situation presents.

Peter said...

Morris Brown: how is Menlo Park any different than any other community that has residential built up along the tracks (both communities along the Caltrain tracks, and communities down in the LA basin)? How would the improvements that Bianca and others list not apply to MP?

BruceMcF said...

Rafael said...
"Active tilt trains could be very useful, but they can't improve line haul times as long as passenger trains have to wait for passing freight trains."

Which is what I said: "If its running at 110mph-125mph on the overlay, more critical would be the separate line or two when sharing a ROW that gets heavy freight traffic"

IOW, gaining the free path is more critical than the alignment of that path for the distances in the commuter overlay.

BruceMcF said...

Peter: "Morris Brown: how is Menlo Park any different than any other community that has residential built up along the tracks (both communities along the Caltrain tracks, and communities down in the LA basin)?"

When you look at the Caltrain ROW through Menlo Park (pdf), most of the Caltrain corridor in Menlo Park is close to a very busy commercial corridor (El Camino Real) on one side, so there is more flexibility in Menlo Park in pursuing visual amenity complementing the transport improvements, should Menlo Park elect to pursue a constructive rather than obstructionist approach.

Board Watcher said...

@Bianca--
I'm also a resident of Menlo Park. I want grade separations. I want those darn bells and whistles to be quieted.

Too bad the grade separations won’t silence those darn bells and whistles across your entire city. They’ll continue to sound when approaching the stations from either side. They’ll sound further away from the stations and for a greater distance, thanks to the physics of distance and speed. And if they start blasting on an elevated wall, the sound will travel to neighborhoods further away from the tracks – ones that are currently unaffected. So, yes, grade separated crossings will improve, but the station noise will increase and affect a greater radius.

Oh, and don’t forget that the number of trains passing through will roughly double.

@Bruce McF—
And of course with better Caltrain service times, more people on the trains means fewer people competing for more parking places. And of course, no more waiting at level crossings for a train to pass to get to or from a place to park. So really a win-win-win for Menlo Car Park.

How is that a win-win-win for the residents? The problem from the start has been that the project is completely rail-rider focused. Until the pro-HSR folks start recognizing the legitimate concerns of the communities being bifurcated, these people will continue to dig their heels in and stand up for themselves and yes, their backyards, too. Can you blame them?

Fred Martin said...

Eminent domain cannot be applied to the legacy railroads. They are exempt, so UPRR truly has CHSRA over a barrel regarding their ROWs. UPRR doesn't even have to negotiate if they don't want to, but they might settle for an outrageous sum.

The exemption from eminent domain was established in a Supreme Court ruling over a century ago. A case would have to make its way up to the Supreme Court to overturn the precedent. Remember the reaction to the Kelo decision? The Supreme Court does pay attention to the public mood, and they aren't going to touch a case involving eminent domain. Also, talk about delay...

Clem said...

They’ll continue to sound when approaching the stations from either side.

@Board Watcher: trains are NOT required to sound their horn when entering a grade separated station. They may exceptionally do so if somebody is standing too close to the platform edge, but as a rule they go through without horn blasts. Come to San Carlos and you can observe for yourself.

I lived for several years at 0.4 miles from the tracks in Menlo Park and I could hear every train blasting its horn, especially at night with the freight trains. Now I live 0.2 miles from the tracks in San Carlos, and I rarely hear the trains. The grade separations make a huge difference, with a nearly 100% reduction in horn & bell noise.

K.T. said...

Clem,

"...They may exceptionally do so if somebody is standing too close to the platform edge..."

If that is the case, then how about installing Platform Screen Doors in all Caltrain Stations?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/Paris_Metro_St_Lazare.jpg

That should increase overall safety and reduce the chance of the trains blowing their horn at the station. Also, can't we install something like a soundtube to cover the station platform?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/3d/TullamarineFwy.jpg

Again, features like this should reduce the noise emission from station to external environment (And in my taste, these look better than the type of the roofs I see in the BART station).

Anonymous said...

RM makes some excellent points about decades of local political corruption. It is just the way things are. So all you NIMBY-haters don't worry the city-manager types at Palo Alto, Menlo Park, etc. will sell out their residents to the train nazis. These bureaucrats work for and take of each other just like lawyers and doctors. You'll get your Big Dig elevated.

After 50 years I finally learned to vote no on everything.

lyqwyd said...

"The problem from the start has been that the project is completely rail-rider focused"

hmm... how strange a rail project that focuses on it's users...

"these people will continue to dig their heels in and stand up for themselves and yes, their backyards, too. Can you blame them?"

yes, I can and I do. I see that exactly what is wrong with the US today and why nothing can get done in this country. People are just too selfish here.

jim said...

What I meant was I hope lots of well paid construction workers get jobs building this so they can buy houses and support their families and that once completed, it will create good union jobs for for the rest of us. Conductors, Res agents,on board services railroad clerks, mechanical departments and so on. I still think I'm pretty sure that in the end we will get the operating contract for the simple fact that we have the skilled, trained, experience labor force in place as well as a built in customer base, res system, and established working relationships with the freight railroads and caltrans division of rail. In fact, all the people involved in rail in california - amtrak ace metrolink caltrans, ccjpa and so forth, are pretty familiar with each other already. You know how that works. There isn't a company around that can come in and make this an operating success better and more quickly than the people at amtrak. We can be ready to run that railroad with the flip of a switch and all while bringing in addition capital via fuding from washington, that a private company can't compete with. Of course if you want to hire some fly by night non union, minimum wage outfit staffed by illegals and former burger king employees, to run the trains and provide the service, go head and let them be in charge of your safety. You get what you pay for. that's what I meant.

Alon Levy said...

It may not be relevant for California, but could more marginal emerging HSR routes (e.g. Cheyenne-Denver-Albuquerque) benefit from adding narrow gauge passenger-only rails to existing freight tracks?

What use would narrow gauge rails have? There are perfectly good standard gauge tilting trains.

jim said...

The Talgo XXI would be good for the emerging hsr as it is a true high speed (156mph), diesel articulated trainset with tilt and The talgo pendular, with passive tilt, as used on the cascades, would be a good choice for the 110mph including , in my opinion, the the california regional routes ( the choice of the so called "california cars" was a political one - I always thought the talgos were much nicer and more versatile and could have been used for higher speeds on the coastal curves)

BruceMcF said...

"
"@Bruce McF—
And of course with better Caltrain service times, more people on the trains means fewer people competing for more parking places. And of course, no more waiting at level crossings for a train to pass to get to or from a place to park. So really a win-win-win for Menlo Car Park."

How is that a win-win-win for the residents? The problem from the start has been that the project is completely rail-rider focused.
"

More parking spaces for motorists ... because, after all, you can put covered station parking underneath a viaduct and that frees up current parking outside the corridor for more sprawl commercial development with supporting parking spaces.

Now, sprawl development is obviously what is being supported when opposing improvement of the Caltrain corridor, but in the specific situation in Menlo Park, there isn't a conflict ... you can have your sprawl development at the same time, if you wish.

Its not the way I would prefer to leverage the opportunities of a major corridor upgrade if it was my community, but if the residents of Menlo Park have that much of a sentimental attachment to an obsolete approach to development, they can cater to it in the context of the upgrade.

"Until the pro-HSR folks start recognizing the legitimate concerns of the communities being bifurcated,"

This, I will note, is a lie, since removing level crossings and replacing them will grade separations is eliminating delays facing existing motor transport.

"... these people will continue to dig their heels in and stand up for themselves and yes, their backyards, too. Can you blame them?"

Its hard to blame people who have been conned into thinking that opposing the electrification and upgrade upgrade of the Caltrain corridor is protecting their property values. However, it is straightforward to blame those who have propagated the nonsense.

Obviously, since the cost of oil will be several multiples of the current price before the HSR corridor has been completed, the improvement in the Caltrain corridor will be protecting the property values of all properties that have access to the electric rail services on that route.

The idea is that those with properties directly backing onto the rail corridor may lose ground in terms of value relative to all property that is not directly bordering the rail corridor ... and so they should oppose the rail corridor, despite the fact that their absolute property value will surely be higher with the improved rail corridor compared to without it.

But its certainly not the role of public policy to preserve invidious distinctions that ten or twenty property owners in Menlo Park have to other members in their community, as compared to taking an action to increase the total real wealth of the community as a whole.

Andrew said...

We need some more information...

Thanks for sharing...


___________________
Andrew
Entertainment at one stop