Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Palo Alto's DIY HSR Planning Effort

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

Palo Alto has decided it's time they did their own HSR planning:

Not trusting the California High Speed Rail Authority to look out for locals' best interests, Palo Alto will spend $70,000 to arm itself with expertise on high-speed rail design options.

The city council voted 7-0 on Monday to hire engineering consultants and hold an informational symposium and a separate design workshop on plans for the Peninsula portion of the planned Los Angeles-to-San Francisco rail line.

Many in Palo Alto and neighboring cities are pushing for the trains to run underground while fearing that the rail authority will instead run them above-ground to save money.

I'm with Rafael on this - I don't see an inherent problem here. If Palo Alto wants to spend $70,000 to learn that a tunnel is going to be extremely costly, or that sending trains down the 101 or 280 corridors is practically and financially unworkable, fine with me.

I'm also pleased to see that Palo Alto plans some public design workshop meetings:

The symposium will come first. On Sept. 12, the city will sponsor an all-day "teach-in" to educate the public on "urban design and planning concepts" related to railroad design. The $5,000 event may be funded partly by Caltrain, Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie said.

The city is hoping Caltrain will also chip in for a $15,000, two-day design workshop on Oct. 3-4. The charrette, open to the public, will include brainstorming sessions, briefings from design professionals and presentations of conceptual plans from "a team of national experts," according to a city staff report.

I'll post more details about the September 12 meeting as I get them. Ironically I was going to be in the area that day anyway, so I should be able to attend the "teach-in." I hope that Palo Alto plays it straight and offers a truly informative discussion of design and planning concepts. In fact, an honest discussion of urban design concepts would make it clear that urban passenger rail and transit-oriented development are essential to a high quality of life for a 21st century city.

The charrette, long discussed, should also be a very interesting and hopefully valuable event. More details on that one too as I get them.

Ultimately anything that increases public knowledge of HSR principles, design, and operation - so long as it's presented in an unbiased way - is an extremely valuable thing to do.

106 comments:

andyduncan said...

$70k doesn't go very far in the consulting world. Here's hoping they get someone better than Dr. Nick.

Bianca said...

I am glad to see this. It has seemed to me for quite a while that if local architects and engineers used their skills to develop solutions that work for their communities, taking local aesthetics and ideas of civic identity into account, then some genuinely attractive designs could be implemented that most residents would be satisfied with.

A much better use of time and energy than putting together video where the walls are too high and the catenaries too close together and the landscape devoid of vegetation, like some post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Rafael said...

I think it would make a lot of sense for the other four SF peninsula cities that have filed amicus briefs in the lawsuit against CHSRA to join Palo Alto in its efforts to secure its own technical expertise. The sums involved are relatively small and, CHSRA could even cover them in the context of a settlement to withdraw those briefs.

The purpose of the program-level EIR/EIS phase is to identify how the preferred route can be implemented. I'd rather have everyone stick their heads together to come up with a sensible and affordable solution than to keep writing checks to litigators.

As for a tunneling option, four tracks would indeed be prohibitively expensive. Two tracks deep underground (~70' below grade) would still cost an arm and a leg but avoid issues with gravity-drained conduits and kinks in the Caltrain ROW.

Emergency exits would be needed at least every six miles, preferably much less than that. Underground station platforms would be suitable exits.

If there were four tracks at each station, it would be possible to run both HSR and Caltrain HiSpeed trains on the same tracks, provided some reasonable compromises are made:

First, the two services would need to run on a single, integrated timetable.

Second, HSR trains would run at slightly lower speeds during rush hour. AB3034 does not specify that an express SF-LA line haul time of 2h42m must be feasible at any time of day and on any day of the week, just that it must be feasible at all.

Third, Caltrain might have to discontinue service to selected secondary stations during rush hour.

Fourth, Caltrain would have to limit rush hour service to trains that only stop at every other station (mutual leapfrog strategy). The exception would be Redwood City, a station with six platform tracks. All trains would stop there, some passengers would have to execute cross-platform transfers to reach their final destination.

Fifth, HSR and Caltrain would have to use the same platform height.

Note that this modified service pattern would apply along the entire SF peninsula, even if only part of the alignment were to be in a tunnel. My point is that a lot of savings could be realized by addressing track design and operations planning in an integrated fashion.

The biggest issue by far is UPRR, since its heavy trains would cause too much wear and tear on tracks rated for 125mph top speed. Also, they can't negotiate more than 1% gradient and need at-grade switches to reach customer freight spurs. Finally, any requirement to support extra-tall AAR plate H cars would greatly increase tunneling cost.

As Clem has pointed out, the best solution in this particular case might well be to pay off UPRR and its customers and shift freight onto trucks or barges. In general, rail freight is a really good idea, but in the SF peninsula it may be more trouble than it's worth.

Mind you, I still think a well-executed above-ground solution with appropriate sound mitigation would be preferable.

Bianca said...

If I understand your two-track tunnel scenario correctly, Rafael, then some towns along the alignment would lose frequency or even rush hour service altogether so that Palo Alto/Menlo Park/Atherton can have a tunnel. Is that right? I'm sure that will go over just great.

Rafael said...

@ Bianca -

that's not what I had in mind. Caltrain HiSpeed service would feature 10 trains per hour during rush hour, in line with Caltrain 2025 objectives. That means each station would still be served by at least 5tph, same as today.

The leapfrog strategy would give Caltrain a chance to run at higher average speeds. That way, HSR would not be inconvenienced too badly. It would also cut line haul time to SF and SJ, respectively.

The secondary stations I was referring to are any with low boardings/alightings that are also in close proximity to a larger station. Since Caltrain is a commuter railroad, any reduction in service to any station will be opposed by customers.

However, he aforementioned leapfrogging strategy will work well only if the distance between a station and the one after the next is large enough to allow trains to reach high speeds. I was merely pointing out a contingency, that something might have to give to make a solution with just two tunnel tracks workable.

Caltrain's official objective is to leverage electrification for higher acceleration, such that the locals of tomorrow will have the same SF-SJ line haul time as today's baby bullets. Unfortunately, that strategy precludes running HSR trains on the same tracks.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Bianca, if they put everything all along the line deep underground there wouldn't be many stations at all. Underground stations, deep ones in particular, are very very expensive. 20 or so deep Caltrain Stations ... easily ten billion dollars. In addition to the tens of billions to build the 50 miles of tunnel. It's not going to happen.

Rafael said...

@ Adirondacker12800 -

afaik, no-one is talking about putting the entire Caltrain alignment underground. As Bianca pointed out, the most contentious section is Atherton-Menlo Park-Palo Alto. Clem's recent post on downtown San Mateo reveals that, too, is a tricky section because the Caltrain ROW is very narrow there.

That said, even 10 miles of tunnel and 3-4 stations would be very expensive.

Note that CHSRA is planning a trench/tunnel between San Tomas Expy in Santa Clara and W Julian St in San Jose. Presumably, there isn't enough room for to add both BART and HSR tracks at grade to the ones already running under I-880 and past CEMOF.

The alternative would be to keep BART underground north of SJ Diridon and perhaps, to put the planned Newhall maintenance yard in Santa Clara underground as well. The air rights could be sold to the developers of the planned transit village.

Bianca said...

It's not going to happen.

I'm already pretty clear on that- tunnels are wildly expensive and hardly the silent, unobtrusive solution some tunnel proponents seem to think. Did I mention that they cost a lot of money? I was just clarifying my understanding of Rafael's hypothetical tunnel scenario.

Besides, I'm not sure I really want to be 70 feet underground when the Big One hits. I think I'll take a big pile of ballast and some sound walls, thank you.

Morris Brown said...

Rafael:

You talk about 2 tracks along the CalTrain corridor.

From the MOU between CalTrain and the Authority:



D. Ultimate configuration of the Caltrain corridor will be a four-track, grade-separated high speed rail system, with mixed traffic from Caltrain commuter rail and the high speed train service capable of operation on all four tracks to enable Caltrain to achieve service levels of no less than eight trains per hour in each direction. In some places the corridor may consist of more than four tracks.


I don't see why anybody is thinking CalTrain is going to give up on their dream 4 tracks, grade separated and electrified all the way from SF to SJ. If they don't get that, why be in bed with the Authority at all?

Also, of course, is UPRR with freight, which the FRA is never going to allow on HSR tracks.

And on top of all of the is the rights agreement which the UPRR still owns on the SF to SJ corridor, which states, inter city passenger rights, still belong to us. CalTrain only has commuter passenger rights.

You know all of this I am sure. I don't think these issues can be ignored in an discussion about what the CalTrain corridor is going to feature, if HSR indeed is built along this routing.

Anonymous said...

when BART was being constructed, the city of berkeley objected to the elevated way and requested a redesign to the current tunnel we see today. if i am not mistaken, the city of berkeley paid for the increased cost of this change itself!

if atherton/palo alto/menlo want tunneled way rather than above grade, they should fund the difference in the cost. only then would we see what the change is really worth to them.

Brian Stankievich said...

@Rafael

Why do you keep repeating three falsehoods about Caltrain's plans?
1) Caltrain wants to run only locals.
2) Their equipment will be incompatible with HSR trainsets.
3) That electrified locals would match Baby bullet speeds.

The HSRA-Caltrain Memo of Understanding specially lays out that Caltrain will retain access to ALL tracks. They even got heat for specifying all four tracks. Of course, now it just says all tracks however many that might be. See:
http://caltrain.com/highspeedrail.html

"D. Ultimate configuration of the Caltrain corridor consist of a multiple track, grade- separated high speed rail system, with mixed traffic from Caltrain commuter rail and the high speed train service capable of operation on all tracks to enable Caltrain to
achieve service levels of no less than eight trains per hour in each direction. Track configuration analyses will consider both horizontal and vertical alignments in the Caltrain corridor."

Caltrain has repeatedly stated that they want lightweight EMU equipment and is deep into the process of obtaining a waiver from the FRA to operate such equipment. So why keep stating they will have equipment incompatible with HSR?

Rafael said...

@ Bianca -

"I think I'll take a big pile of ballast and some sound walls, thank you."

That's why an above-ground alignment remains my preference, as well. I wasn't advocating two tunnel tracks, just trying to explore what might be involved in making that workable for both Caltrain and HSR.

Any proposal calling for four tunnel tracks over any significant distance is pretty much DOA in my opinion. It would just be way too expensive.

@ Morris Brown -

the MOU isn't a final contract, it's subject to modification. CHSRA would like to have its own tracks to avoid FRA mixed traffic issues. It also wants to avoid scheduling dependencies between HSR and Caltrain and, to lay down enough track capacity to last for a century. However, just because a bunch of bureaucrats wants something doesn't necessarily mean they will get it.

With modern signaling, it's perfectly possible to runs 20 - even 24 - trains per hour each way on a pair of tracks, provided their speed differences aren't too great and/or there are bypass tracks at the commuter train stations. Therefore, the MOU's stated ambition of enabling 8 Caltrains per hour on its own tracks relates to signaling upgrades, not track sharing.

As for UPRR's supposed poison pill, we've been over this. Yes, the SP contract with Caltrain reserves the rights for intercity passenger service for SP. However, when UPRR bought SP a few years later, that particular clause may well have been voided because UPRR had already relinquished all of its intercity passenger rights and obligations when Amtrak was founded.

I'm no legal eagle, but I do know that UPRR hasn't raised the issue in public. They just want to make sure HSR doesn't interfere with their freight operations in the SF peninsula nor expose them to additional liability.

Ergo, I think you're on a wild goose chase with that intercity passenger rights clause. Getting UPRR to give up freight service to SF just to accommodate a two-track tunnel alignment through Silicon Valley - now that would be a very different kettle of fish.

Of course, we'd been in a happier place if the western trestle of the old Dumbarton rail bridge hadn't burned down in 1998. If it were operational, the daily Mission Bay Hauler could take a shortcut to the Fremont yard, bypassing the contentious Atherton-Menlo Park-Palo Alto section. HSR through San Mateo would still be a headache, though.

Brian Stankievich said...

@Morris Brown

Nice way to quote from the draft rather than the adopted Memorandum of Understanding. You realize amateur tricks like that blow your credibility right?

http://caltrain.com/highspeedrail.html
Click on the link to get the PDF

Rafael said...

@ Brian Stankievich -

Caltrain's own literature on the 2025 plan suggests its locals are supposed to achieve the same SF-SJ line haul times as its baby bullet trains do today.

That doesn't mean they don't want to retain bullet train service at line haul times below those currently possible. I refer to those upgraded baby bullets as HiSpeed in analogy to similar strictly regional HSR services in Holland and now, the UK.

Caltrain is still subject to CPUC's General Order 26 from 1948, which limits platform heights to protect ye olde practice of freight rail workers hanging off the side of cars. Therefore, it has - for now - chosen to stick with lower platforms than the ones HSR will use to facilitate level entry. This incompatibility would prevent Caltrain from ever using HSR platforms - even in an off-design situation - without additional measures.

The new Caltrain EMUs will be permitted to share track with true bullet trains and also - in all likelihood - with UPRR's and Caltrain's legacy FRA-compliant diesel trains. The issue boils down to capacity: Caltrain will need to run HiSpeed trains at just that whenever they make an excursion onto the HSR tracks. Otherwise they would either force the HSR service to slow down or, increase minimum time separation on the HSR starter line.

Morris Brown said...

Brian Stankievich:

I stand corrected on the final wording of the MOU --- I was un-aware of the change. I was in no way trying to play any tricks; the link I posted was the only one I had.

So, the wording on the MOU is now:


D. Ultimate configuration of the Caltrain corridor will consist of a multiple track, grade-separated high speed rail system, with mixed traffic from Caltrain commuter rail
the high speed train service capable of operation on all tracks to enable Caltrain to achieve service levels of no less than eight trains per hour in each direction. Track configuration analyses will consider both horizontal and vertical alignments in the Caltrain corridor.


Nevertheless, CalTrain's future plans have been published, and 4 tracks, grade separated and electrified is what they claim to need.

Rafael:

The "poison pill" as you label the track rights agreement has not been voided. Indeed in the scoping comments from the UPRR to the CHSRA letter dated 2/23/09 it is referenced.

Quoting from the letter:


"Union Pacific also retained all rights and obligations relating to intercity Passenger service provided by Amtrak or any other operator, at Union Pacific's sole election, operating over this line"


Isn't that raising the issue in public?

Brian Stankievich said...

@Rafael

That handout is confusing. A 2007 presentation states a 10 minute savings for a 15 stop run. Far less than the current difference of 34 minutes between current Baby Bullet and local.

Either way, the FRA and CPUC regulations are not written in stone. Caltrain is in the process of changing both.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

I was unaware of that passage in UPRR's letter. Still, their assertion that they have retained the right doesn't necessarily mean they actually still have it. It just means the legal eagles would have to determine which rights and obligations take precedence - those of SP or those of its new parent, UPRR.

This is just the normal assertion of positions at the beginning of a negotiating process. UPRR wants to make sure Caltrain doesn't forget about freight rail as it embraces HSR.

Rafael said...

@ Brian Stankievich -

getting electrified locals to actually match baby bullet line haul times would require very powerful electric motors and consume a lot of electricity (unless recuperation is effective). Perhaps Caltrain is backing away from its initial ambition because its capex and/or operating budget would not permit it.

Whether or not there will be sufficient demand to justify three levels of passenger rail service in the SF peninsula is still unknown. Afaik, there hasn't been a whole lot of integrated operations planning yet because it's not yet certain if four tracks along the entire peninsula (except DTX tunnel) is really possible. Figuring all this out is what the project-level EIR/EIS is for. I suspect Caltrain's plans may evolve over the next two years.

As for the FRA and CPUC rules, Caltrain may well succeed in getting them updated. That would open up new design options elsewhere in the state and country as well.

Rail>Auto said...

I hope they consider the WHOLE U.S HSR rail picture and not just the California picture.... My biggest concern is that half the country is going to build Maglev, and the other half steel wheel... Although studies have shown that most ppl would use rail for <600 mile trips... I still think we need direct routes from eastern to western cities and in between on tracks that dont necessary stop at every city in between, which is why there needs to be plenty of track space left for this project.

Rafael said...

@ Rail>Auto -

the topic of a connected national passenger HSR grid keeps cropping up. That may make sense east of the Mississippi, but probably not west of it. The population density just isn't high enough to support anything other than isolated regional corridors on the West Coast.

The California corridor is one such example. It was recently expanded to include Las Vegas. One day, it might be extended yet again along the I-10 corridor to Phoenix - but that's a long shot. For other destinations, flying will continue to offer superior economics for both taxpayers and consumers. This isn't the 19th century.

As for maglev, I'd prefer to see at least one other country actually implement a line of significant length (100s of miles) first.

urchin said...

If UPRR gives up trackage rights - then that freight goes on the road in trucks.

How is that eco-friendly?

Rafael said...

@ urchin -

in general, rail freight is preferable to trucking. However, the volume of rail freight in the SF peninsula is low, just one train a day, with little scope for substantial growth - no matter what UPRR and the mighty Port of SF claim.

CHSRA and Caltrain are currently pursuing an implementation strategy that would permit freight rail to continue and even grow a little alongside substantially expanded passenger rail service.

However, if SF peninsula cities somehow force the construction of expensive tunnel sections, the incremental cost and environmental impact of constructing a solution that still permits rail freight would need to be carefully weighed against the financial and environmental benefits. It's a special case, not at all comparable to e.g. rail freight out of the LA/LB or Oakland harbors.

urchin said...

@Rafael

Thanks for the info - but I'm still unclear.

you write "CHSRA and Caltrain are currently pursuing an implementation strategy that would permit freight rail to continue and even grow a little alongside substantially expanded passenger rail service."

Is there any proof of this actually happening? All I've seen is people guessing about this on this blog - but no one has any data. (which I've come to expect from this group).

If the Draft Alternatives Analysis is coming out in the next few months (Sept?!) then shouldn't we have either a statement by UP or a ruling from the FRA?

And what would make it safe - a safety wall? Wouldn't that only add to the width of the tracks?

What are they doing in LA? Isn't their freight down there?

BTW can someone remind me how to use the HTML tags? Sorry!

Travis D said...

This sounds like a lot more productive path for Palo Alto to take. Obstructive lawsuits were never the way they would get anything, anyways.

Nicolas said...

Borrowing some design aspects from the U6 in Vienna would be a good idea. The line is mostly in a below-grade trench, but is also above grade for much of the route. The above-grade portion features beautiful masonry arches with shops underneath. The ROW is buffered by trees on both sides and is a very picturesque aspect of the city. Take a look.

Obviously there are significant differences in terms of rail technology, construction materials, etc., but from an aesthetic point of view, the Peninsula could take a lot away from this idea. It is actually a lot higher than the proposed Caltrain tracks! With the right elements, this solution provides a palatable way to bring above-grade rail to the Peninsula.

Adirondacker12800 said...

I'm already pretty clear on that- tunnels are wildly expensive.

I'm sorry, "it's not going to happen" could be taken that way. I was heavily editing my thoughts. I edited "I wanna drink whatever it is he's been smoking" down to "it's not going to happen"... Some of the hallucinations tossed around need good drugs to get that far out. "it's not going to happen" wasn't directed at you, it was directed at the castles-in-the-air or in this case the castles-in-deep-tunnel.

no-one is talking about putting the entire Caltrain alignment underground.

You were. I was taking your comments as a coherent whole and not random tidbits about tunnels. That was your intent wasn't it, being coherent?

Taken as a whole I see long long stretches of two track tunnel being proposed. I think that when I read things like "emergency exits every six miles". Exits imply something that is longer than 12 miles. Using "exits" can also imply more than 2 exits because if all they needed was two you would have said "two", so something longer than 18 miles.

And "preferably much less than that. Underground station platforms would be suitable exits." Implying that in some cases stations would be more than six miles apart, that the stations more than six miles apart would be underground and more than six miles from the tunnel portal.

Or "Caltrain would have to limit rush hour service to trains that only stop at every other station (mutual leapfrog strategy). The exception would be Redwood City, a station with six platform tracks." implying that there would be two tracks for much farther than the few stations around Palo Alto.

I think that because above ground stations where there are four ( or more ) tracks don't need to engage in skip stop service. The local could toddle along on the local tracks while the expresses whiz by. Then get on the short section of two track tunnel. Schedule it right and you don't even have to engage in things like skip stop service. With a mostly three or four track system and the right schedule the Caltrain express doesn't stop once it's on the express tracks. So I'm seeing a grand underground vault with six tracks and platforms so trains can dwell until THE track becomes available. ... though why at a suburban through station with two tracks, one in each direction, trains would have to dwell for very long escapes me.

Four tracks/platforms is more than adequate for a service running 20-25 trains an hour. I tried to figure out why they would need six platforms and came up empty. I tried to figure out how to do cross platform transfers with six platforms but gave up. LIRR does it on six tracks but it only involves four platforms. They have far more than 25 trains an hour and multiple destinations in either direction... and Redwood City is never going to be Jamaica...

If you had in mind "even 10 miles of tunnel and 3-4 stations" emergency exits, skip stop service and Redwood City aren't pertinent.
...again assuming your comments were to be taken as a coherent whole.

Getting UPRR to give up freight service to SF just to accommodate a two-track tunnel alignment through Silicon Valley..

Why would building tunnels stop them from hauling freight? There's a perfectly good ROW that they use today that they could continue to use in the future. Move all the passenger traffic underground and freight would need one track. Freight can move effectively at low speeds and since it's 3 trains a day the problems with grade crossings are much less urgent. They could go to ten freights a day, one track would still be more than enough and grade crossings still wouldn't be an urgent problem.

Morris Brown said...

Rafael wrote:


I think it would make a lot of sense for the other four SF peninsula cities that have filed amicus briefs in the lawsuit against CHSRA to join Palo Alto in its efforts to secure its own technical expertise.


Well I thought I knew what was going on with the lawsuit, and so far as I know, only Palo Alto filed an amicus.

That amicus was dismissed by the judge.

There are 4 other cities which have currently joined with PA to form the Peninsula Cities Coalition. Perhaps that is what you are referencing.

jim said...

Quoting from the letter:


"Union Pacific also retained all rights and obligations relating to intercity Passenger service provided by Amtrak or any other operator, at Union Pacific's sole election, operating over this line"



oh yeah don't forget that amtrak is going to bring regular service up the corridor as well to SF in the form of either extended surfliners or a coast daylight. those trains will have to use the same track as UP freight.

Maybe there can be one FRA track, and three electrified emu/hsr shared tracks - a southbond a northbound and a center passing / crossover track.

Ill bet with good tech, they can manage it all on 3 tracks.

Reality Check said...

When considering Peninsula freight do not forget the Port of Redwood City. There are lots of heavy hopper cars going to Granite Rock at 355 Blomquist St. all the time. It's a big cement & road-building materials depot.

Have a look at all the hopper cars visible there using this Google Maps link.

There are other customers further out along Seaport, but Granite Rock appears to be the one generating the most carloads.

The line to the port branches off at Redwood Junction at the Woodside Road overpass and runs down the middle of Chestnut St., crosses under Hwy 101 just north of Woodside Road and runs all the way out to the end of the port area along Seaport Blvd.

Anonymous said...

Y'all keep forgetting the key problem with elevateds - they are way too noisy. And they attract low-lifes looking for a place to hang out. They are fine for the train riders flying over above but a headache for the neighborhoods they pass thru.

Since the hsr apparatchiks have adopted a monolithic attitude I hope PA can kill the whole damn thing. Let Bechtel build in Sacramento since the CV has become the focus anyway.

Nicolas said...

@ Anonymous, 12:53AM

Actually, the above-grade solution will be much less noisy than Caltrain presently because a) the train is electrified and b) no more horn-blowing at crossings.

Anonymous said...

Elevateds amplify rail noise - look at BART. Surface, trench or tunnel are quieter. Besides Caltrain will be electrified no matter what. Certainly if it were replaced by BART.

TomW said...

Anon @ 12:53 AM said "[elevated tracks] attract low-lifes looking for a place to hang out"

Really? And there was me thinking that no-one would want to hang out on an elevated track because of it being high up and with trains coming down it at 125mph and all.

Rafael said...

@ urchin -

the current plan is four tracks all the way, fully grade separated. Of those, two would be used by Caltrain locals and UPRR, the other two by HSR. Caltrain baby bullets/HiSpeed trains could make excursion onto the HSR tracks.

As for safety, grade separation will eliminate the risk of accidents with motor vehicles. Fences will keep people from trespassing. Modern signaling will massively reduce the risk of train-on-train collisions on the same track.

The residual risk UPRR is talking about is that of one of their trains derailing and fouling an adjacent HSR track. This is an extremely unlikely event but its consequences could be disastrous. Just imagine a passenger train full of people ploughing into a freight car that has fallen over or spilt its load.

The best safeguards there are proper maintenance of freight cars and track and, audiovisual surveillance of the entire ROW. Freight train derailments usually unfold over a period of time, if the initial event - the derailment of a single bogie - can be detected early, controllers have a fighting chance of using the signals to automatically bring any approaching passenger trains to a full stop before a follow-on accident can occur. Success depends on rapid reaction and a large enough distance between the derailment location and the approaching train(s).

Andrew said...

@Bianca:

"Besides, I'm not sure I really want to be 70 feet underground when the Big One hits. I think I'll take a big pile of ballast and some sound walls, thank you."

Actually, an underground tunnel is safer than many other places to be during an earthquake because the shaking isn't as strong and there aren't any buildings to fall on you.

Still, the peninsula rail tunnel is a superbly asinine idea.

@urchin:

"What are they doing in LA? Isn't their freight down there?"

The Port of LA/Long Beach is served by the Alameda Corridor.

The volume of freight coming out of the Port of SF is so low, I don't see why they can't shift everything over to the Port of Oakland. It does a ton more business and is just across the bay.

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker12800 -

I expect that if Atherton-Menlo Park-Palo Alto somehow get tunnels, other cities (e.g. San Mateo, Belmont, perhaps Mountain View) will push for one as well.

My comment was therefore formulated in a more general sense. However, afaik, no-one has suggested tunnel alignments north of SFO nor south of Mountain View - except for the DTX in SF and the aforementioned section through Santa Clara.

As for Redwood City, it pointedly hasn't asked for tunnels and is also easy to reach for East Bay residents in the Hayward/UC/Fremont area. I suggested six platform tracks there simply to accommodate a transfer station between the leapfrog locals I had suggested and, HSR. I figured there might be situations in which two locals might need to wait for an HSR train to pass in the same direction. If that can be avoided with careful timetable development, great.

For reference, RC is roughly half-way between SF and San Jose and already a candidate for the mid-peninsula HSR station.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

ah, I guess I'm behind the curve. You are correct, my intent was to encourage collaboration between SF peninsula cities on obtaining their own technical expertise on tunnel construction, perhaps other options.

Rafael said...

@ Adirondacker12800 -

"Why would building tunnels stop them from hauling freight?"

If there are only two tunnel tracks, they would need to support bullet trains at 125mph. US-style super-heavy freight trains would chew up the track geometry pretty quickly and generate high track maintenance costs. Lighter European-style freight trains might be more feasible, cp. e.g. the Channel Tunnel between Europe and France.

Rafael said...

@ Reality Check -

as I said, shutting down freight rail in the SF peninsula would have impacts not just on UPRR but also its customers. They, too, would have to be compensated.

Granite isn't something you can effectively haul with trucks, so the entire operation on Blomquist St. would have to move elsewhere - e.g. north of Richmond in the East Bay. That's an expensive relocation, impact on local jobs, loss of revenue for the city of RC etc.

It just underlines that even though the total volume of freight rail in the SF peninsula is very modest, eliminating it altogether would still be quite difficult.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 12:53am, 1:59am -

BART's aerials aren't necessarily the model for HSR. First, CHSRA's initial suggestion was retained fill embankments. Those do not provide covered spaces for "undesirables" to congregate.

Second, the sleepers of the BART tracks are attached directly to the concrete foundation, there is no ballast to dampen the noise from rail-wheel contact or sudden motion of the superstructure. In addition, the underside of cheap-and-cheerful concrete aerial structures tends to radiate sound toward grade level. I'm not a civil engineer, perhaps more advanced designs can mitigate that.

It is possible to place ballast bags in-between the rails but BART hasn't done that. They also never installed sound walls.

Perhaps the most telling difference with HSR is that the rail-wheel profile of BART trains isn't nearly as precise. Commuter trains will seek, i.e. move laterally, to find the lowest point. HSR trains have to run rock solid on their tracks because seeking would create a safety hazard.

Ergo, demand information on HSR noise and reproducible measurements from places where HSR has already been implemnted. Do not jump to conclusions based on your subjective perceptions of BART or for that matter, Caltrain.

Morris Brown said...

The Daily Post, a local newspaper, not on the Internet had a front page story with the headline.

Lawsuit seeks to stop the bullet train.



Here is a link to an OCR'd copy of the story.

LAWSUIT

This relates to what Rafael labeled the "poison pill" possibility from UPRR, so far as routing through CalTrain along the peninsula.

The article is about 500 words -- I dind't know if Robert would like it copied here or not. (the link is only usable 10 times before it will expire)

Finally, let me answer before it is asked --- I personally have nothing to do with this lawsuit. Do I approve of its filing --- absolutely.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

this is just a nuisance NIMBY lawsuit. Russell Peterson, an Atherton resident, claims that CHSRA cannot begin construction in the SF peninsula until after UPRR has given its blessing.

While that may or may not be factually true, only UPRR itself can invoke a claim to whatever rights it believes it has as a result of the SP contract with PCJPB. Mr. Peterson's lawsuit ought to be thrown out on the basis that he is asserting someone else's rights.

Next up: Quentin Kopp's is really from Kenya.

andyduncan said...

@Morris: Just to be clear, you support the lawsuit because you believe that an Atherton resident has the legal right to file suit on behalf of a company he is not involved with, regarding a contract to which he is not a signatory? Or you simply support anything that will delay or prevent construction of the line? I find it difficult to reconcile your rants about cost escalation with your support for frivolous lawsuits that will only raise those costs further.

Anonymous said...

I doubt the Great Wall of China berm scheme will be received any more favorably than the concrete viaduct. Extensive fences with razor wire will be required to keep people from climbing up onto the ROW.

The scuttlebutt from Seattle is that the new Sound Transit elevated is really noisy, ostensibly from using hollow core concrete beams. So much for mediating sound problems with new technology.

I also question the wisdom of operating Caltrain at speeds much beyond 80mph. BART has found out the hard way that motors arc at high speed and maintenance costs zoom. Station spacing on the Peninsula is similar to BART anyway.

The hsr-Caltrain marriage is strictly shotgun. BART, despite all its shortcomings, underscores that not sharing operations improves reliability. When in doubt go with the simplest and cleanest solution.

That's why hsr should go 101, even if it requires a little more creative engineering. Everybody will be happier in the long run.

Now if we could just find a financial angel to pay for an independent and sympathetic study of the grapevine route.

Devil's Advocate said...

I think that there is room for a compromise. CHSRA could change the aerial structure design to match aesthetically beautiful designs which are available around the world. This option would be cheaper than tunneling through the Peninsula. Nicolas above showed us an example in Vienna. Another example is the Vatican railroad viaduct in Piazzale Gregorio VII at the Vatican City (link to picture below). If this is Ok for the Pope, I think it should be ok for the Palo Alto people. Are they holier than the pontiff?

http://static2.panoramio.com/photos/original/23310940.jpg

Anonymous said...

It won't stay beautiful. Even BART's undergound stations have ongoing problems with transients, crime, vandaism and drug dealing. Check out SF Civic Center or 16th and Mission. It is sad but that's California in 2009.

All the towns and municipalities are struggling to deal with the slums they already have. The long term financial burden of coping with hsr blight is being pointedly ignored in the cost evaluations. The Bechtel types just want to pour concrete without any thought as to the neighborhood havoc in their wake of their elevateds.

Morris Brown said...

Rafael and andyduncan:

As I said, I am not involved in the lawsuit. You will have to read the lawsuit to fully understand what is being challenged here. It is yet to be filied -- I'm not an attorney --- I haven't read it either.

Why do I support it filing?

I think both proponents and objectors (Robert can add deniers), should all want this or any other project to be planned and built responsibly.

A bit of history.

Now the CHSRA went ahead and planned on using the Pacheco routing and certified an EIR which studied using this route on a corridor that the UPRR owns; a corridor which the UPRR clearly has said the Authority cannot use. this is one main point in the Lawsuit filed by Menlo Park, Atherton, et. al.

Now this new lawsuit by Peterson. On the CalTrain corridor from SF to SJ, UPRR sold the land, but retained a number of track rights.

UPRR has in response to the scoping of the project level EIR, made clear they expect their rights to be observed. As Rafael has expressed it, the UPRR could have a poison pill to use of the CalTrain corridor by the CHSRA.

The PCJCB response to this when being brought up was "we have had successful dealing with the UPRR in the past and expect to in the future"

Fine. Wonderful. Why wasn't this done before entering into an MOU with the Authority. Right now the Authority is spending millions of public funds on EIR's, studies etc., which may all result in totally wasted dollars, if the UPRR is not agreeable to having the HSR on the CalTrain corridor.

As I understand this, the lawsuit seeks to have UPRR make it position clear on its rights over the CalTrain corridor. Why is this bad?

So, andyduncan, I don't at all see this as being a delaying tactic, that is costing money and time. Just the opposite. Get the matter cleared up, one way or the other.

Rafael, I have great respect for your knowledge and opinions.

You wrote:


Mr. Peterson's lawsuit ought to be thrown out on the basis that he is asserting someone else's rights."


My understanding of what the lawsuit seeks is not what you write here. Again, I haven't read it -- I am not an attorney. What I was told is it just seeks to get UPRR to make their intentions known.

Devil's Advocate said...

@Rafael: Fremont/UC residents will not use the Midpeninsula station, ever!
These South East Bay residents will not go all the way to RC to catch a HST to San Francisco (BART is more convenient and faster). And for their trips to the CV or LA they'll definitely go to San Jose to catch their express HST. It makes no sense to back track to Redwood City to go to Southern Cal. Besides a trip to RC or PA takes longer than getting to Diridon. You can reach Diridon from Fremont in 20 minutes (max 30 at rush hour). Try that to Palo Alto in the morning from Dunbarton via University Ave.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 9:56am -

"Extensive fences with razor wire will be required to keep people from climbing up onto the ROW."

You forgot the landmines. Belts and suspenders and all that. Can't be too careful with all those hordes of suicidal maniacs scaling those 15' Berlin Walls.

"So much for mediating sound problems with new technology."

The only thing that deadens sounds is mass. Take that away and you save money at the expense of more noise.

"[...] motors arc at high speed [...]"

Railways all over the world operate oodles of electric trains at speeds well over 80mph all day long, every day. Surprising fact: they don't all catch fire! In fact, electrical fires on trains are exceedingly rare.

May I humbly suggest you read up on synchronous three-phase motors, especially permanent magnet types with rare earth magnets. That's what modern HSR trainsets like Alstom's AGV use.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

UPRR is a private corporation and under no obligation to make its negotiating strategy public.

Morris Brown said...

@Rafael:

you write:

"UPRR is a private corporation and under no obligation to make its negotiating strategy public."


CalTrain is public agency and should not be promising another public agency,CHSRA, rights etc., that it may well not be able to deliver.

Again much public funds very potentially at risk here.

Rafael said...

@ Devil's Advocate -

no-one will force any East Bay residents to use Caltrain or HSR, let alone force them to board in Redwood City. I was just pointing out that Sequoia station is easier to reach from Dumbarton than Palo Alto.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

afaik, Caltrain has not promised CHSRA anything that would undermine UPRR's ability to operate freight service.

If UPRR wants to kick up a fuss about its supposed intercity passenger rail rights in the Caltrain corridor, then it's up to UPRR to do so. Joe Schmoe, NIMBY of Atherton, needs to butt out.

Anonymous said...

BART's speeds are typical of suburban rail operations. BART wanted to go with higher speeds but found it unreaistic. Caltrain will discover that in time too.

Operating two different types of trainsets on the same line will also prove to be problematical. Agsin BART shows the modern way of thinking here. Uniformity and standardization is the way to go.

Bianca said...

That lawsuit will not survive summary judgment because the plaintiff lacks standing. Private citizens cannot sue to enforce a third party's rights. That is a fundamental part of our legal system, and the court isn't going to waive it for these plaintiffs or any other. It's really not clear what the plaintiffs hope to accomplish here, other than waste the court's time and cost the taxpayers money in dismissing a lawsuit that is laughably frivolous on its face.

It is a waste of time, and a waste of money.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 10:43am -

railways all over the world operate different levels of service using different rolling stock according to a meshed timetable.

BART is subway technology that has grown to lines over 50 miles long. It cannot support strictly local trains (e.g. just within SF) nor can it host long distance trains (e.g. SF-Sac) nor are there bypass locations for express service. BART is the very embodiment of how not to build a regional rail network, even if it functions tolerably well as a commuter service into downtown SF.

Spokker said...

"It is sad but that's California in 2009."

That was California in the 80s. It was California in the 60s. It was just happening somewhere else.

"The long term financial burden of coping with hsr blight is being pointedly ignored in the cost evaluations."

Didn't stop freeways from being built where black and brown people live. The damage done to places like South Central LA and East LA by freeways is incredible and sad.

Now you're getting a little taste of what they went through, however, HSR will not have as many impacts as a freeway. Far from it.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 10:17am -

Caltrain's bells, whistles, sulfur-laden smoke and grade crossing accidents really are the cat's meow, aren't they?

Aerial structures attract blight/the wrong crowd only if nothing worthwhile is done with the space underneath them. Bike paths, linear parks, water features, outdoor cafes etc. It just takes a little imagination and a comparatively small amount of additional money. Skylights in-between the rail tracks, anyone?

The SF peninsula counties already own the ROW, so they have every right to use the land underneath any aerial structures that end up being constructed. Note, however, that current plans call for retained embankments, so there wouldn't be any such land to use.

Rail>Auto said...

@ Rafael

If you think about the amount of flights that go from east to west and vice versa there would be plenty of demand if done properly..

And by done properly I mean implementing direct routes(express) that require few switchovers...

I'm pretty confident that in the next few years both Maglev and Steel Wheel rail will come out with technology that will be > or = to air speed..

The reason why I believe rail needs to compete with air is because 1. I don't like flying 2. flying takes forever at check in 3. Planes put way too much emissions into the air.

Anonymous said...

The UP is going to wish it had donated big time to the no on hsr campaign.

It may very well find itself forced by the Bay Area political machine to renounce passenger rights and maybe even freight operations on the Peninsula.

And then it may compelled to part with ROW elsewhere thru eminent domain. You have to wonder what kind of encroachments it will have to face in the Tehachapis.

No wonder the SP forced BART to adopt broad gauge to make it thoroughly incompatible.

lyqwyd said...

@Anon

you have a wild imagination, do you also wright children's books?

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 12:59pm -

the HSR tracks will cross the transverse range in a fairly straight line via a series of tunnels with a maximum grade of 3.5%, well away from the famous loop used by freight trains.

Perhaps you're referring to the approaches from Bakersfield and Palmdale. CHSRA will need to negotiate with UPRR for part of its ROW for those or else, obtain land for a brand-new ROW next to it.

BART adopted broad gauge because initial plans called for tracks to run across the Golden Gate bridge to Marin county. Engineers were worried standard gauge would not give trains sufficient stability in high wind conditions. Marin county eventually withdrew from the BART consortium because its tax base at the time was too small to support participation, but BART stuck with broad gauge anyhow. Afaik, SP had nothing at all to do with that decision.

Anonymous said...

Rafael:

My understanding about BART not going to Marin and also down the Peninsula, was the citizens in those areas, saw no reason why they should be paying for the infra structure in SF and elsewhere, where it was so much more expensive to implement, than in their own, rather open areas.

Also on the Peninsula, a certain, high powered Development family, which didn't want the possibility of their shopping center being by-passed, kept it off the Peninsula.

Michael said...

@Anonymous

From the perspective of physics, there is nothing magical about 79 mph. This isn't like the sound barrier or the speed of light.

MARC runs commuter trains at 125 mph every day. I believe that Metro North and NJ Transit also run 90-100 mph where track speed supports it. I am sure that Caltrain can easily run their lightweight electric equipment at 90 mph or 110 mph if they choose to do so.

Owen E said...

Couldn't the Graniterock construction materials plant on Blomquist St get their heavy raw materials by barge? That's actually a very efficient way of moving goods, and they are located at the port of Redwood City after all. They wouldn't have to move, either. A single barge could potentially carry as much as 20 or 30 railcars.

Rafael said...

@ Owen E -

Graniterock produces building materials. I'm guessing the raw materials (mostly) come in on barges, the finished products (mostly) go out via rail freight.

Clem said...

It may very well find itself forced by the Bay Area political machine to renounce passenger rights and maybe even freight operations on the Peninsula.

This would be the best possible outcome for many reasons. Freight is becoming such a huge design driver for every aspect of HSR on the peninsula that I've come to the conclusion that the best solution for all aspects of the problem (including environmental) is to build the railroad to passenger specs. Once the communities come to realize how freight worsens the impact of HSR construction, they will oppose it too.

jim said...

"It may very well find itself forced by the Bay Area political machine to renounce passenger rights and maybe even freight operations on the Peninsula.

This would be the best possible outcome for many reasons. Freight is becoming such a huge design driver for every aspect of HSR"



uh, what about all the jobs, port jobs, railroad jobs, etc - I don't think they will agree. Part of the problem with the whole environmental movement is they don't take into account the people who are trying to earn a living.

jim said...

@anon Anonymous said...
It won't stay beautiful. Even BART's undergound stations have ongoing problems with transients, crime, vandaism and drug dealing. Check out SF Civic Center or 16th and Mission. It is sad but that's California in 2009.


uh I live at civic center and I do not live in a slum. Just because the place isn't crawling with pretentious yuppie fwads with broomsticks up their butts doesn't make it a slum

jim said...

@anon Operating two different types of trainsets on the same line will also prove to be problematical. Agsin BART shows the modern way of thinking here. Uniformity and standardization is the way to go.

that's called ig'nance. every hear of the NEC?

jim said...

some may call me a xenophobe but at least I'm not stuck up butt face like the folks in menlo park - they are really a piece of work. read this

These people are just too much.

Fred Martin said...

@Anon @9:56am and 10:43am

BART is the case example of how NOT to design a transit system, and Parsons Brinckerhoff, Tudor, and Bechtel were the primary system designers. BART is schizophrenic about what sort of service it is supposed to provide: urban metro or regional commuter rail? It tries to do both in its design, and screws up both service types. BART's stations are spaced rather far apart over long distances in a commuter-rail-type system, yet BART doesn't have the ability to run expresses to bypass stations and reach high sustained speeds. BART trains don't offer restrooms or any other en route services, yet BART seeks to offer longer and longer routes -- BART once conceived itself as going to Stockton and Sacramento.

Trying to be like an urban metro, BART adopted a third rail propulsion system, which does develop the electrical arc problem at high speeds. This is why third rail propulsion can only go so fast (~80mph). The third rail propulsion also necessitates total grade separation, which makes the BART system so expensive to build and expand. BART is an expensive, compromised, and inflexible system, and its severe design flaws should be a lesson for any future transit system design.

Caltrain, on the hand, has the opportunity to mimic countless other effective rail transit systems around the world by offering a mix of express rapid transit and frequent metro-like locals. MTC worships BART, but it is Caltrain that has the potential to be the much more effective rapid transit system.

I don't believe SP ever forced BART to adopt a broad gauge. BART's consultants (that would be PB et al) adopted a broad gauge system on their own, since they naively thought this would be more innovative and luxurious for a premium transit service. It has proved to be a very costly mistake.

Doesn't it make you feel ever so good that PB is involved with the CHSRA design...?!?!

Rafael said...

@ Fred Martin -

it may be a little unfair to lay all the blame at the feet of consultants and construction companies. At the end of the day, it is bureaucrats and even elected officials who make decisions based on their advice, knowing full well that it is formulated to maximize revenue for those construction companies. Good public servants push back to secure a good deal for taxpayers. Bad ones allow themselves to be co-opted.

BART was implemented using 3rd rail electrification because that minimized tunneling costs. Most subway systems around the world use third rail. The problem with BART is that money was spent on expanding the network to ridiculous lengths without ever biting the bullet on turnaround spurs for short routes and bypass sections for express trains.

Btw, there are proven technologies for changing gauge and also for switching a locomotive between 3rd rail and overhead catenaries or a diesel genset. Even BART's proprietary signaling technology isn't a dealbreaker, cabs can be equipped and drivers trained to cut over between systems at designated locations.

jim said...

First. Bart is very successful which is why it is so worn out. It has also been very reliable and does the job it was designed to do.'

One of the reasons bart has an unconventional design to begin with is that californians, at the time, simply would not have been compelled to ride a conventional train or conventional subway. There wasn't a huge need for bart when it was built. It was built for today's crowds, but, initially to get people interested, they had to design something that was- at that time- considered new and futuristic. I remember it as a kid. It was promoted that way. Not as "just anothe subway - subways were "out" at the time and so were old fashioned "trains" The only way to get people excited was to build this unconventional star trek system. That is why it is the way it is. That was the draw for riders. EVeryon at the time was totally fascinated by bart and rode it just for fun. I remember. I was there.

Fred Martin said...

BART's ridership was absolutely terrible in the 1970s, Jim. BART also had all sorts of technical flaws. Remember the Fremont Flyer? You should know, if you were there. Even now, BART's ridership is nothing to be proud of. Washington Metro, BART's sister system, has almost three times as many riders as BART. Little ol' Muni's ridership is almost twice that of BART. For all the regional transit money BART absorbs, BART does a terrible job.

BART's ridership is also heavily dependent on the Transbay Tube. If that Tube ever went out of commission, say in an earthquake, BART's ridership would plummet drastically. This is why it is a scandal that BART is deferring Tube seismic retrofit work to fund the silly Oakland Airport Connector (OAC), a project that will scarcely attract any more riders at double the fare than the existing AirBART. BART is an aging system that has a backlog of maintenance needs, yet it is tempting a complete disaster with adventures such as BART-to-San Jose and the OAC.

Anonymous said...

Nonethelsss the hsr will take the best route it can find thru the Tehachapis. If the freight railroads ever really did get around to upgrading and eliminating the Loop they would find the best alignment already taken. That's encroachment in my books. Especially if the hsr turns out to be underperforming, a real possibility. My take is that this alignment has way more freight than passenger potential.

And all that detour to a remote part of the state for a 3.5% gradient, the same as with the grapevine? Quelle farce.pharl

jim said...

yes I do remember the myriad of technical difficulties BART had all through the 70sand into the 80s including the train overshooting at fremont, the air conditioning that never shut off in the iwnter and the doors that used to fly open in mid air on elevated section. BART tech was the latest thing at the time and relatively untested. My point was that it was this futuristic high tech ( for the time) asp[ect of bart that made bart possible - if someone had proposed and ordinary old school east coast type of subway for the bay area it never would have gotten off the ground. America's subways and railroads in the 60s were in a huge delcine. yes it took bart 20 years to build up ridership but, it was the novelty of the system that drew the interest and got it built.

jim said...

the route via palmdale is there because that is LA county and its the only part of LA that has room to add another million people. Its one of the parts of the state the will absorb the new population as it arrives.

Alon Levy said...

uh, what about all the jobs, port jobs, railroad jobs, etc - I don't think they will agree.

UP runs three trains a day on the Caltrain corridor. It's not like there are a lot of railroad jobs on the line. (And even if there are, they will be replaced by even more trucking jobs. The reason rail is competitive in the first place is that a crew of 3 can ship 400 containers, which by truck would require 200 drivers.)

Clem said...

uh, what about all the jobs, port jobs, railroad jobs, etc

If this is a jobs program, then I suggest switching from freight trains to wheelbarrows. It's a tough job to push a wheelbarrow, but I'm sure that if it comes with good benefits and a pension at 55 everything will work out and more jobs will be created.

Adirondacker12800 said...

As for Redwood City, it pointedly hasn't asked for tunnels and is also easy to reach for East Bay residents in the Hayward/UC/Fremont area. I suggested six platform tracks there simply to accommodate a transfer station between the leapfrog locals I had suggested and, HSR. I figured there might be situations in which two locals might need to wait for an HSR train to pass in the same direction.

Why would a local, any local, wait for the express to pass if there are two tracks in the same direction? That's the point of local and express tracks, so that the expresses can pass the locals, whether they are stopped or moving. If locals are loitering about waiting for the express to pass that implies that the locals and expresses are sharing one main track. So Redwood City would either have two tracks, one in each direction making it necessary for locals to remain there while the express overtakes them or there's two tracks in each direction and the locals don't have to wait because the express is on the express track.

Six tracks impede transfers, you can't walk across the platform from track 1 to track 3, unless you want to trespass across track 2.

If there are only two tunnel tracks, they would need to support bullet trains at 125mph. US-style super-heavy freight trains would chew up the track geometry pretty quickly and generate high track maintenance costs.

Putting the passenger trains in a tunnel doesn't make the existing ROW evaporate. The freight wouldn't go anywhere near the passenger tracks. They would stay on the existing tracks, 70 feet ( or however deep the tunnels are ) above the passenger trains, on the surface. Where they run now. On the existing track. Where the rails are today. or There's a perfectly good ROW that they use today that they could continue to use in the future.

BART adopted broad gauge because initial plans called for tracks to run across the Golden Gate bridge to Marin county. Engineers were worried standard gauge would not give trains sufficient stability in high wind conditions

Urban legend. Marin pulled out before design work began.
I've never found an authoritative source explaining why they chose broad gauge. The best explanation I've found, which is speculative, is that they were building something bright shiny and new and standard gauge wasn't bright shiny and new enough for them.

jim said...

UP will need to retain one track for freight and future amtrak expansion to sf. HSR and CAltrain will have to utilize three tracks.

Clem said...

future amtrak expansion to sf

For what? Just what market would Amtrak have left serve that would require a San Francisco connection? Coastal cruise tourism? Somewhere resonant to yell "aaaaaall abooooarrrd" ?

Amtrak is another huge headache for the peninsula. There is pending federal legislation to FORCE all commuter platforms west of the Mississippi to be built at Superliner floor height. This will FORCE Caltrain to be platform-incompatible with HSR even if the dumb CPUC 8-inch freight platform regulation is waived.

In a shared corridor whose primary users are Caltrain and HSR, those two should be able to use the same platforms.

Attention: une idiocie peut en cacher une autre!

jd said...

@ Fred Martin 6:31pm
That is a lie Fred Martin,

The OAC is being partially funded with SURPLUS money from the transbay tube retrofit, which is nearing completion and came in somewhere around $100 million UNDER budget. In part because those shady PB engineers did a really good job building the thing back in the sixties.

Also, can we drop the HSR = BART rhetoric around here? This is not 1959 and we are not talking about building a freeking metro. There are dozens and dozens or real HSRs around the world to compare to, and non of 'em look like BART!

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 6:47pm -

HSR won't run anywhere near the Tehachapi loop, which was created in the 19th century when tunneling wasn't a technical/economic option.

3.5% gradient is what HSR trains can handle. The Tehachapis were chosen over the Grapevine primarily because the geological risks are much lower, but also because LA county wanted the Antelope Valley and Palmdale on the line. It looks like an enormous detour on the map, but at HSR speeds it boils down to about 10 additional minutes.

Rafael said...

@ Adirondacker12800 -

I was talking about a single tunnel track in each direction, increasing to four (or six) only at stations.

To keep construction cost manageable, only part of the route would be underground. Where that's the case, the old at-grade tracks would be ripped up to make room for developers. Selling air rights is the only hope in hell Caltrain would have for funding the delta for tunnel construction. IMHO, that would spell the end of rail freight.

As for BART, it is entirely possible that they ended up sticking with broad gauge precisely to prevent their system from ever being connected to the legacy standard gauge network because of the mixed traffic issues that could have raised. Its engineers wanted to use efficient, lightweight trains - not the super-heavy behemoths favored by freight operators.

@ Clem -

sounds to me like just another attempt by freight railroads to make Amtrak as unappealing as possible - especially now that politicians are getting hot and bothered about HSR at 110mph.

Caltrain owns its ROW. SCRRA (Metrolink) also owns a fair chunk of its network. That ownership should count for something. Forcing freight railroads to abandon ye olde practice of hanging off the side of rail cars does not impede freight operations.

There has to be room for reasonable changes: level boarding would reduce average dwell times as well as delays related to e.g. disabled passengers.

Clem said...

Selling air rights is the only hope in hell Caltrain would have for funding the delta for tunnel construction.

Caltrain? They wouldn't pay for a tunnel, even if they could afford it (which they can't)

There has to be room for reasonable changes: level boarding would reduce average dwell times as well as delays related to e.g. disabled passengers.

To be clear, level boarding is definitely coming to Caltrain. Again by federal mandate. The question is this: will the "level" for Caltrain equal the "level" for HSR? My contention is that they should be equal, in order to maximize operational flexibility and to minimize the number of platform tracks required at HSR stops in Millbrae and PA/RWC (not to mention SF and SJ).

The dark forces of freight and Amtrak threaten to preclude this possibility.

Anonymous said...

I think an extra 10 minutes ia very optimistic and don't forget the stop in Palmdale. Detours undermine the entire concept and taint it with influence peddling.

And I guess that Tehachapis quake of 1952 was just a figment of the imagination.

The BART broad gauge decision was controversial from the beginning. The long time rumor of SP's involvement is based upon the fact that SP had leverage at the highest levels of BART management.

Fred Martin said...

I believe Bechtel was primarily responsible for the Transbay Tube design, and the very fact that it is being seismically retrofitted since opening in 1974 (put in place in 1969) speaks to the poor quality of design. Bechtel is also doing the lucrative retrofit work, proving that it pays to make mistakes in the original design.

From a December 29, 1996 SF Chronicle article, "Big Quake Could Devastate BART, Experts Warn" (BART just got started on their $1.3 billion seismic retrofit program within the last couple of years):
<<"BART was built at a time when there were inferior codes. The system goes through every kind of bad soil in the Bay Area," said Peter Yanev, president of EQE International, the world's largest seismic engineering firm. "A big earthquake could be a major disaster for the system.>>

The Transbay Tube is nestled in backfill that is prone to liquefaction during earthquakes. If the Tube cracks through movement during liquefaction, flooding from bay water could reach as far as the Powell St. station. (= bad, bad, bad)

I like this warning from Bechtel's own 2004 study:

"Earthquakes greater than magnitude 6.5 on either
the San Andreas or Hayward fault are “almost certain” to cause liquefaction of the Transbay Tube backfill materials."
http://www.bechtel.com/assets/files/PDF/BIP/32801.pdf

BART has many striking similarities to the CHSRA process, even involving the same cast of characters.

Adirondacker12800 said...

future amtrak expansion to sf

For what? Just what market would Amtrak have left serve that would require a San Francisco connection? Coastal cruise tourism? Somewhere resonant to yell "aaaaaall abooooarrrd" ?


Clem, they could still holler "alllll abooooarrd!" out the door of an HSR train, Caltrain too. Nothing stopping them from clanging bells or blowing horns either.

Having Amtrak serve SF has the advantage of keeping the foamers off the fast trains. No one who is interested in gettting to SF would be on Amtrak, they'd get on HSR as soon as possible. Or on Caltrain as soon as possible since either would be faster. Caltrain would probably be cheaper too.

I was talking about a single tunnel track in each direction, increasing to four (or six) only at stations.

How many more times you gonna change your mind about whether you were discussing short tunnels or long tunnels?

The only place they need four platforms is at express stations. Since the express, being an express, doesn't stop at local stations, two does just fine at a local station, since only the the locals stop there, which is why it's called a local station. Oh btw, you don't need express plarforms at local station since expresses don't stop there.

Two island platforms at the intermediate express stops is more than enough, they are predicting less traffic than busier railroads that get by with two island platforms.

As for BART, it is entirely possible that they ended up sticking with broad gauge precisely to prevent their system from ever being connected to the legacy standard gauge network.

Just another urban legend. FRA doesn't allow lightweight trains on FRA compliant track nor do FRA compliant trains get onto non FRA compliant track,

It's not a problem for the Boston subway, the New York City subway, the Philadelphia subway, the L in Chicago... or nowadays for the Metro in DC or MARTA in Atlanta or PATCO in southern New Jersey... or anyplace else in the world where the owner of the railroad says "nope you can't take your train over my tracks".

PATH has always been FRA compliant but that's because decades ago freight and conventional passenger trains shared the track. It's conceivable that freight or conventional passenger trains could operate on PATH tracks, they don't.

Its engineers wanted to use efficient, lightweight trains - not the super-heavy behemoths favored by freight operators.

BART cars are very very close to BMT/IND cars on the New York City subway. They could have easily spec'd out R40s with carpeting and nicer seats and gotten the same effect.... because BART wouldn't have to worry about freight on it's tracks because they would say "nope you can't take your train over our tracks" just like the NYC subway does with it's tracks or the Boston subway with it's tracks or the L with it's or.....

jim said...

@clem/adirondack - smartass anti amtrak remakrds

As for amtrak - first - don't be so sure we won't be the ones operating hsr. I'm betting on us.

two - there are cities up and down the coastal route that want additional coastal service - and service into the city proper - not the eastbay.
**UP is a partner with Amtrak California.**and in spite of a public perception of a discontented relationship - they working together to each others benefit. UP knows that it has something to gain by holding on to those passenger rights for amtrak.

The sf-surfliner bus routes a very successful and its just a matter of funding and equipment availability requited to turn the bus route into a train.
It will involve one of two things - surfliner extension or revival of the coast daylight.


And having just come from annual training class in getting in touch with management and all the crafts, I found out today that the back room buzz is that the freight railroads want to get back in the passenger game themselves.

So just be aware that you the public, isn't always aware of everything behind the scenes.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 11:55am -

no-one said the Tehachapis aren't at risk of earthquakes from the Garlock fault. The issue is the number of viable alignment options to cross both that and the San Andreas at grade while keeping the whole thing limited to gradients of 3.5% and avoiding aquifers, pockets of natural gas, unstable rock strata etc.

CHSRA's tunneling workshop yielded hundreds of suitable alignment variations for the Tehachapis + Soledad Canyon, but just a single one for the Grapevine (and even that ran close to the wildlife refuge at Lake Castaic). And that result was based on imperfect data about the meter-scale geology. It's entirely possible the identified Grapevine alignment would turn out to be extremely difficult to construct.

Don't get me wrong, I see the attraction of the virtually straight shot from Bakersfield to Sylmar. If nothing else, it would eliminate pressure to pump water uphill to Palmdale and Lancaster, which will become much more attractive to developers once the Antelope Valley has an HSR station.

Unfortunately, the geology is what it is. At least it should be possible to build a cheap connector to the DesertXpress line to Las Vegas.

Rafael said...

@ Fred Martin -

so Bechtel didn't put in emergency bulkheads on both sides of the BART tube? That seems a bit irresponsible...

Alon Levy said...

Is there any way to build a decent HSR car for which level boarding equals 8 inches?

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker12800 -

I'll try to explain one more time:

I was exploring the possibility of modifying both Caltrain and HSR service patterns such that they could get by with an alignment containing extended passenger rail only tunnel sections with just two tracks, with the air rights above them sold to developers to help defray the still-high cost of construction.

This exploration was prompted by the belief that four tunnel tracks through suburbia will prove economically infeasible. Even two will almost certainly be more expensive than four elevated tracks above ground.

The number of tracks and platforms at stations is a sideshow compared to the number of tunnel tracks as such and, the implications for freight service.

Clem said...

Is there any way to build a decent HSR car for which level boarding equals 8 inches?

There is no need to even consider this possibility since it is illegal under ADA law. See 49CFR38.175

All cars for high-speed rail systems, including but not limited to those using ``maglev'' or high speed steel-wheel-on-steel rail technology, and monorail systems operating primarily on dedicated rail (i.e., not used by freight trains) or guideway, in which stations are constructed in accordance with part 37, subpart C of this title, shall be designed for high-platform, level boarding (...)

jim said...

this platform level thing is not an issue. Caltrain is only going to share a station with hsr at san jose,sf, milbrae ( on a separate leverl anyway and maybe a mid peninsula station. its only 3- maybe 4 stations.
HSr can have hi level. and caltrain can keep what it has. its not a big deal.

Adirondacker12800 said...

I was exploring the possibility of modifying both Caltrain and HSR service patterns such ...

Either you were expecting your readers to be mind readers, an unreasonable expectation because mind readers have more lucrative things to do than read about HSR, or you were pasting together random facts about tunnels and hoping no one noticed. It's your blog if you want to do that, go ahead. It's your reputation...

For example nowhere in your original comments or follow ups did you mention air rights. Not particularly well thought out. Clem has mentioned that the whole ROW is approxiamately 700 acres. Sell it all off at 4 million an acre, which is overly optimistic, you'd get 2.8 billion. How many miles of two track tunnel do you get for 2.8 billion? Ten? Fifteen? If you are selling parts of it you are only get parts of the 2.8 billion. You're thinking in terms of at least 12 miles of tunnel because there's going to be at least one emergency exit six miles into the tunnel....

As for amtrak - first - don't be so sure we won't be the ones operating hsr

Makes sense to me. Amtrak has experience doing all the things that happen behind the scenes to have a staffed train arrive.

there are cities up and down the coastal route that want additional coastal service - and service into the city proper - not the eastbay.

Jim, you have a national timetable handy?.. do they still publish a national timetable?... How many Acelas go to Albany? Amtrak's tenth busiest station, it would seem a good place for higher speeds. There is that pesky problem of not having any catenary. I'm sure there are lots of people north of Sputyen Duyvil who would love to have a one seat ride south of Penn Station. They don't, all Empire Corridor trains terminate in Penn Station. How many Acelas go to Harrisburg? There's wire all the way out to Harrisburg. I'm sure there are lots of people in Harrisburg who would love to have higher speeds and a cushier ride. I'm sure there are people in Harrisburg who would love a one seat ride to DC on anything including um um ...Heritage cars... They change trains in Philadelphia. How 'bout people in Cleveland? If I remember correctly the Lake Shore Limited wanders through in the dead of night.
Just because they want it doesn't mean they should get it. People on the coast can cope with walking across the platform just like people all over the world do.

UP knows that it has something to gain by holding on to those passenger rights for amtrak.

We'd need a railroad lawyer. The foamers on places like railroad.net seem to think the railroads gave up those rights when they turned service over to Amtrak, Conrail and sundry commuter operators.

freight railroads want to get back in the passenger game themselves

If the foamers are right they, should have thought about that back in 1971 when they gave up their rights to passenger service.

Anonymous said...

The best solution is to obtain a quickie divorce for CHSRA and Caltrain on the grounds of mutual incompatibility.

Don't you think it would be worth a few millions to take a serious second look at the routing before this thing is set in concrete?

I am referring to both the 101 corridor on the Peninsula and the grapevine. I am simply not carried away by the contra arguments. I sense a rush to judgment where the negatives have been inflated and the advantages ignored. And just the opposite for the selected alternatives.

Amtrak and UP interests will be protected and the hsr will have its own ROW with the 101 alignment. Don't you think it would be worth it to have the engineers really work over the 101 route to see if there is a creative solution to its shortcomings? It certainly appears to me that the extra capacity is warranted.

Ditto for the grapevine. Since there is only one feasible alignment over the grapevine isn't it reasonable to give it an in depth lookover now? If it really is hopeless that would have a significant impact on future hsr. I guess any other escape from LA would have to go along the coast.

jim said...

@adirondack -- well, I'm just repeating things I here through the railroad grapevine. Its not just foamers who want that daylight train back, but the municipalities too. Yes its been talked about for a decade and may not happen... but.. I'm just trying to sort of remind people to keep things in mind - I am a HUGE HSR supporter BUT we have to remember that there are other players and those players are significant ones.

My experience as a californian would lead me to put my money and all the usual power players. Things will play out the way they decide behind closed doors. That doesn't bother me even though it often results in decisions that we mere mortals think incorrect.

Its why I don't bother getting worked up about bechtel or whoever, or he bart sfo extension or muni not being perfect, or altamont not being chosen etc etc. You have to roll with it. UP is a gigantic railroad. Things will only be the way they want them to be. We all know they hold the key to Gilroy, the central valley, the caltrain row etc.
like it or not everyones interests are gonna be onthat bargaining table

Clem said...

The best solution is to obtain a quickie divorce for CHSRA and Caltrain on the grounds of mutual incompatibility.

But that's the whole point, they're not incompatible and while it will be challenging to integrate them, there is potential that the whole could be more than the sum of its parts. Of course, outdated rigid regulations and lazy, unimaginative engineering threatens to piss away that potential.

Amtrak and UP interests will be protected

Amtrak and UP will be minority players on the peninsula. If you're looking for interests that need to be protected, I'd start with Caltrain.

Anonymous said...

clem wrote:


Amtrak and UP will be minority players on the peninsula. If you're looking for interests that need to be protected, I'd start with Caltrain.


CalTrain is making a colossal mistake by being a host to HSR. If it ever gets built, they will be chewed up within 5 years. Watch for all the insiders trying to get improved pensions.

NONIMBYS said...

Enough with the Stupid 101 ..its coming up that 140 year old Railroad and its NOT going to ruin ANYTHING..ultra sensetive BABIES!!

victor said...

i thing you have a wild imagination, do you also wright children books?

___________________
victor
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Adirondacker12800 said...

CalTrain is making a colossal mistake by being a host to HSR. If it ever gets built, they will be chewed up within 5 years.

Why would it be any different than all the commuter railroads in the Norhteast and Chicago? Amtrak owns the ROW between NY and DC and gets along reasonably well with the LIRR, NJ Transit, SEPTA and MARC. Amtrak operates over ROW owned by Metro North and the MBTA north/east of NY and things work out reasonably well.

All sorts of scary things going on too. Level boarding, electrified trains, MUs even, all getting along quite happily with diesel hauled passenger trains and frieght, freight that goes past the passenger platforms! Same sort of thing goes on all over the world, no reason why it can't work in California.

jim said...

adrianoncker"! Same sort of thing goes on all over the world, no reason why it can't work in California."

part of the problem is that east coast folks know what trains are and what they do and californians are just learning. Trains are a gigantic mystery here.

every day I hear " omigosh, I've never done this before, wht do I do? YOu know, like they are going into outer space or something. The average california doesn't have any idea how railroads operate. Californians only know that they vote on propostiions, and then things appear and happen as if by magic.