Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ryan Avent Demolishes Ed Glaeser's Attack on HSR

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

Harvard economist Ed Glaeser posted the second in his HSR evaluation series for the New York Times' Economix Blog yesterday. There are several problems with his study, particularly his choice of Dallas-Houston as his example to assess HSR costs. Matthew Yglesias criticized this pick as being unrepresentative and not even being part of the official USDOT HSR route map. I wouldn't hang my hat on that latter factor to undermine Glaeser, since the USDOT HSR map will be updated this fall, and will likely include Dallas-Houston, which is part of the "Texas T-Bone" HSR project.

But is Dallas-Houston a representative corridor? Ryan Avent, writing at Streetsblog Capitol Hill, argues it isn't:

Why would he choose this corridor to examine? Why not begin with the most natural place to construct true HSR -- the Northeastern Corridor -- or the state moving fastest toward building its own true HSR network -- California?

Well, Glaeser was able to use Dallas' low share of commuters taking transit to knock the corridor's estimated ridership down by half. Transit's share of commuting in Los Angeles is nearly three times that in Dallas. In San Francisco, transit's share, at 32.2 percent, is more than seven times larger than in Dallas. Presumably this difference had something to do with his choice.

The Texas T-Bone scored pretty low on The Transport Politic's assessment of US HSR routes. Obviously Glaeser has not picked a representative sample. But Avent argues Glaeser's approach is more fundamentally flawed because of how his metrics work:

This is a bad beginning for Glaeser, but it actually gets worse. He presents a formula for determining whether the direct benefits of rail are worth the costs:

Number of Riders times (Benefit per Rider minus Variable Costs per Rider) minus Fixed Costs.

That seems simple, does it not? Perhaps a little oversimplified? But it must be so, says Glaeser:

I’m simplifying, but a formula needs to be simple if interested parties can seriously debate the numbers, and the only way that America is going to get to the right answer on public investments is if numbers trump rhetoric.

But it matters which numbers we're considering, and omission of important variables that planning experts take seriously is not the way to conduct this debate.

The simple fact is that Glaeser's stripped-down formula obscures far more than it reveals. Again, as I mentioned at the beginning, I am hesitant to judge this series a mere one part in, but the way he has begun here is simply irresponsible.

What are his long-term assumptions? How quickly does he think the population of the Dallas and Houston metropolitan areas will grow? What will that population growth do to the number of people living within easy reach of a train station? How will that population growth interact with planned expansions of local transit systems?

How sensitive are his projections of changes in oil prices? Do they take into account the effect of changing demographics on demand for various kinds of housing and transportation?

In short, Glaeser has left an enormous amount of stuff out of his calculations, exactly as I predicted he would. Avent makes the point Morris Brown expected me to make about the cost of doing nothing:

And that brings us to a final point (which, again, Glaeser may ultimately address): What is the proposed alternative?

Is it doing nothing? Then at what point does the rising cost of congestion justify construction of something? Let's say an alternative is new airport capacity; well, how do the costs and benefits there work out, and how does that math change with oil at $150 per barrel?

Or perhaps an alternative is new highway capacity. Can we see a cost-benefit analysis for that, and how that varies with oil prices, congestion levels, and so on? If we assume that drivers will need to pay the full maintenance cost of the highway network already constructed via a user fee (and currently they're coming up well short), what does that do to expected demand for rail?

Even if you accept the numbers that Glaeser uses (and one shouldn't automatically do so), you're left with almost nothing -- an amateurish, back-of-the-envelope analysis for a corridor that's not even part of the current Obama administration plan. What is this supposed to prove, exactly?

As is typical with conservative economists, HSR is treated as if it will exist in a vacuum, unrelated to any other changes in transportation, land use, oil prices, carbon taxes, population growth, or other costs.

I'm with Avent on this - Glaeser's metrics don't hold up. I'm curious to see part three, but I am not any less doubtful than I was after part one.

101 comments:

Fred Martin said...

I wouldn't call Ed Glaeser a "conservative economist", unless you consider all economists to be conservative.

His model is simple, but it captures the basic idea of cost-benefit analysis. How you calculate the benefits and costs is the hard, disputable part, but his basic model is reasonable. One gets the impression that any model he proposed would be objectionable.

The Dallas-Houston route is actually advantageous in terms of HSR fixed costs. Building the Texas T-Bone should be comparatively cheap (especially compared to California), since the route is flat -- no tunnels or difficult engineering required. The distances between large urban centers are also quite favorable to HSR, and Texas cities are growing at least as fast as California cities, probably faster actually. French HSR consultants were very interested in the Texas Triangle back in the early 1990s, so I wouldn't dismiss it as unrepresentative of HSR potential.

Let's also be honest: San Jose has the same urban form and transit-user profile as Dallas and Houston.

Fred Martin said...

Actually, Dallas and Houston have far more substantial downtowns with real skylines than what San Jose calls "downtown"...

San Jose "downtown" is supposed to be the heart of the California HSR system after all.

Rafael said...

@ Fred Martin -

San Jose "downtown" is supposed to be the heart of the California HSR system after all.

Says who? San Jose will be a major station between SF and LA, as will Fresno. If it were a major destination in its own right, San Jose would not have fought tooth and nail against an Altamont alignment. The fact that San Jose is home to more people than San Francisco does not automatically mean it is a bigger draw for HSR passengers.

Sorry to burst your bubble. The heart of the system, if there is such a thing at all, will be Los Angeles Union Station.

Fred Martin said...

If San Jose is not the heart of the system, why does every HSR train in the first phase go through San Jose?? Fresno isn't much of a stop either. The reason why Fresno has limited air connections: hardly anyone wants to go to Fresno.

The fact that San Jose is home to more people than San Francisco does not automatically mean it is a bigger draw for HSR passengers.

No kidding, Rafael? I think it has something to do with land use density and transit connections... just maybe... The municipalities of Houston and Dallas are much bigger than San Jose, and their transit systems are actually better. Dallas' light rail system isn't great, but it's better than San Jose's pathetic light rail system (thanks, Rod Diridon!). Houston's light rail system is quite well designed, because they avoided expensive grade separations. They didn't even require federal funds.

Glaeser's numbers involving the Dallas-Houston air market confirm my earlier point that these air passenger markets just aren't that big. Even if HSR captures most of the air passenger market -- a big, expensive 'if' -- where on earth are 117 million annual riders going to come from??? Even 30 million annual riders??

matt said...

Fred are you kidding me? Have you ever been to Houston. That tram is terrible. It is more accident-prone than any other public transit in the US. I agree Dallas is not bad, and they are working on improvement, but the system is still limited.

YESonHSR said...

71 dollars a barrel today...how about 150-200 in 2018..then lets see how much cheaper it is to drive and fly..

Anonymous said...

If San Jose is not the heart of the system, why does every HSR train in the first phase go through San Jose?? Fresno isn't much of a stop either. The reason why Fresno has limited air connections: hardly anyone wants to go to Fresno.

Because both cities are: a) along the way, and b) people FROM both cities will want to go TO SF and LA. In addition, if you think decades down the line, increased density, better TOD, and higher investment around all of the stations along the line will encourage more trips TO these areas as well.

It's not just what's possible now, it's about what's possible in the future, and what will be necessary to ensure efficient and responsible growth.

Fred Martin said...

Yes, I have been to Houston. Developers are actually aggressively building TOD projects along the Houston light rail corridor. That's another plus to building in Texas: the NIMBYs are not nearly as powerful. The project was also built at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable timeframe, which is rare for these rail projects. The ridership is solid, and the few minor car-trolley traffic accidents were limited to its early days. I don't believe any of the collisions were anything but minor fender-benders, and grade separations are a very, very expensive safety solution. Matt, have you checked Muni's accident record recently?? Two BART trains even hit each other this year.

r. motorist said...

Fred are you kidding me? Have you ever been to Houston. That tram is terrible.

I've never been to any place in Texas, but I'll bet either system beats San Jose light rail.

In addition, if you think decades down the line, increased density, better TOD, and higher investment around all of the stations along the line will encourage more trips TO these areas as well.

OK, that is just a lame argument. That is what they say when they spend billions putting heavy rail in the middle of nowhere (Berryessa, ECCC). Sure, there is nothing there now, but wait till 2050 then you'll see! How about you put it where there are people ready to ride today.

Clem said...

My issue with Glaeser's analysis is that capital costs are seemingly never paid off. He assumes a certain cost of capital to build the high speed line, and then assumes this "mortgage payment" will occur in perpetuity. As we all know, mortgages do eventually get paid off.

jim said...

First. and pardon my french but Houston is a shithole.
Second. San Jose regardless of total size is denser than Houston or Dallas because ,
thrid, all california cities including Fresno are denser thatn texas cities because of land use and they way even suburbs are built here. No one builds subdivisions with so many single family homes so close together as California does and
Fourth, anyone would put our project in jeopardy and allow the likes of texas to get hsr before california gets it is a traitor and should be shot at high noon or run out of town by an torch wielding villagers. i'm not kidding. For shame.

Alon Levy said...

I'll repeat what I said in the other thread: Glaeser's ridership estimate is ex recto. A better estimate would examine real HSR corridors worldwide connecting cities of similar population. Note how Madrid-Sevilla, connecting two cities whose combined metro population is lower than Dallas's, has an annual ridership of 6 million, twice what Glaeser projects for Dallas-Houston.

I'm less harsh about Glaeser's choice to look at Texas and not the Northeast. Glaeser has nothing against investment in the Northeast, especially his home city of Boston. He just doesn't want the government to invest in the Midwest or the South.

gabe said...

Ryan Avent did a good job. But there are still more errors or omissions in Glaeser's "contribution".

Glaeser conveniently left out, you know, the indirect capital costs of airports, while using the indirect capital costs of HSR as the coup de grace. If we have to build new airports, they have to be paid for, don't they? Where are the opportunity costs, Harvard?

Also, infrastructure is a public good. It has spillover benefits, increasing business value added by facilitated business meetings, increased tourism on HSR, plus increased consumer surplus beyond the cost of a ticket, among other things. Maybe they're not significant, but Glaeser should at least mention them.

This is a lazy analysis. You can't do serious economic calculations with these kind of back of the envelope numbers with little actual data.

Clem- estimating the capital costs in perpetuity is reasonable. If the government doesn't build HSR, it could always put the money into paying off bonds, and thus save the equivalent amount in perpetuity. The problem is that Glaeser doesn't look at the "mortgage payments" of roads, airports, etc.

@ Fred- Glaeser is definitely a libertarian, and thus conservative economically. Not all economists are conservative, but Glaeser is. Try this: The case for McCain

Fred Martin said...

To be sure, Glaeser is no New Deal liberal or neo-Keynesian (not too many of these anymore in academic economics; perhaps a revival is coming), but as economists go, he's quite mainstream. He's no Milton Friedman either. He believes government has a role in regulating markets, which is distinct from the libertarian view of self-regulating markets.

How many airports has California built in the last few decades?? How many new runways have been paved?? Any? Airport capacity can actually be improved with bigger planes, better traffic control technologies, and improved load factors. It is usually the construction interests -- the exact same ones pushing for HSR -- that are lobbying for physical airport expansion, which is extremely difficult to do in urban areas. HSR shouldn't get a blank check just because we don't build new airports or highways in California any more.

yoyo said...

@Fred

Here in silicon valley, we just spent $1.3B to update 1 terminal at San Jose Airport. That's just 1 terminal in 1 city.

Robert Cruickshank said...

California continues to widen existing highways and build some new ones. The Interstate 210 extension project, around 20 miles at least linking eastern LA County to San Bernardino, cost several billion to build. yoyo noted the $1 billion on San Jose Airport terminal work. SFO spent nearly $3 billion on its expansion, including its International Terminal. (I do not believe that figure includes the BART extension.) LAX is undergoing a $1.7 billion renovation project. The 2006 Prop 1B bond includes around $10 billion in roads spending (the exact figure is unclear because Prop 1B funds are being slowly allocated and not all of it has yet been programmed).

Shall I go on?

Robert Cruickshank said...

Further, CA has had at least two major new airport proposals within the last 10 years. Both were killed by NIMBYs. They were the planned El Toro Airport in Orange County, to replace John Wayne Airport (and was voted on something like half a dozen times until airport backers finally gave up), and the Miramar Airport concept to relieve San Diego's Lindbergh Field was shot down partly through the complaints of local NIMBYs, partly through the activism of folks who thought it would push the military out of Miramar.

In neither case was cost a deciding factor.

Anonymous said...

Alon Levy

Note how Madrid-Sevilla, connecting two cities whose combined metro population is lower than Dallas's, has an annual ridership of 6 million, twice what Glaeser projects for Dallas-Houston.

Please substantiate these claims.

According to Wikipedia, the population of Madrid alone is higher than the population of Dallas. And that's true of both the city populations and the metro area populations. And the population density of Madrid is four times that of Dallas. And Madrid has far more extensive mass transit. And Madrid is Spain's capital city. For all these reasons and more, the idea that you can plausibly estimate ridership on a Dallas-Houston line from the ridership of the Madrid-Seville line seems rather, um, far-fetched.

Fred Martin said...

Airport terminals are very different from runways. Terminals are basically just buildings, free from NIMBY scorn. New terminals just make airports more passenger-friendly and symbolic, but they don't add any flight capacity to an airport. Runways, however, do add capacity, but they also stir up the NIMBYs. This is why there hasn't been a new runway at a major airport built in California for decades.

The Interstate 210 Foothill Freeway extension is the last of new freeways in California. Gov. Gray Davis even declared it as the last of new freeways, and California hasn't built any new ones since. This is a good thing, but it's disingenuous to say that the benefit of HSR is that same as building all these new airports and freeways that just aren't being built.

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/21/us/california-governor-sees-an-end-to-freeway-building.html

Freeways are still widened (with big political fights), but widenings are not the same as building new freeway ROWs. Freeway widenings are usually sold as HOV projects, just as MTC is currently proposing with their ill-conceived congestion-pricing project. Congestion pricing is a great idea, but MTC is going about it completely the wrong way. MTC should be better managing the existing highway capacity, not expanding the physical roadways.

All the new airport proposals, such as El Toro, have gone down in flames, which in part explains the appeal of HSR to the construction industry. They think HSR's credentials are 'green' enough that they might actually be able to built it.

Robert, go on and name a new airport or new freeway in California over the last decade.... Please go on...

Rafael said...

@ Fred Martin -

you're quite right to state that no new runways have been built at LAX or SFO because of local opposition. Same with turning El Toro and Miramar over to civilian use.

Similarly, there is opposition to constructing new freeways, so Caltrans is only working on filling in medians that had been reserved for additional lanes. One such project is widening I-15 from 8 to 12 lanes between Escondido and Miramar right now, elsewhere it is usually carpool lanes are being added.

All of this is, however, just a way of coping until the crunch time comes. Historically, California's population has been growing at a rate of about 500-600k annually, primarily though not exclusively in the already populated Bay Area, LA basin/San Gabriel Valley and San Diego area.

The current recession has changed, perhaps even reversed, population growth temporarily. However, in the rear view mirror of 2030, the period of 2008-2011 will be no more than a demographic blip. In spite of lousy government, drought, earthquakes and wildfires, California is still an attractive place to live.

The point of HSR is to provide the requisite people mobility before the political pressure to build more brand-new freeways and runways becomes impossible to resist. In addition, HSR may help shift some of the population growth to where there are still both space and naturally available water, i.e. to the Central Valley.

Note that agriculture still consumes 80% of all fresh water used in the state, much of it on thirsty crops like rice, cotton, alfalfa and pasture. The CV could easily support millions of additional residents, but it will take urban planning and high gasoline prices to avoid sprawl.

Alon Levy said...

To be sure, Glaeser is no New Deal liberal or neo-Keynesian (not too many of these anymore in academic economics; perhaps a revival is coming), but as economists go, he's quite mainstream.

He's mainstream by Harvard standards, which are quite conservative. Harvard's economics department consists mainly of Republicans - the only major exception I can think of is Larry Summers, who's a very moderate Democrat. Certainly, an economist who's a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the Manhattan Institute can't be liberal at all.

According to Wikipedia, the population of Madrid alone is higher than the population of Dallas. And that's true of both the city populations and the metro area populations. And the population density of Madrid is four times that of Dallas. And Madrid has far more extensive mass transit. And Madrid is Spain's capital city.

The Larger Urban Zone of Madrid has 5.8 million people. That of Seville has 1.2 million. The MSA of Dallas has 6.3 million people, and that of Houston has 5.7. So I was wrong to say that Dallas was bigger than Madrid and Seville combined, but it's bigger than each of the two. But what I said will become right in a few years, since Dallas and Houston are growing much faster than Madrid and Seville.

Dallas and Houston are less dense, you're right, but it's not clear density has any effect on ridership. Consider the Tohoku Shinkansen, where Tokyo is the only dense city: Sendai's central city density is 1,305/km^2, Morioka's is 588. Niigata, the outbound terminus of the Joetsu Shinkansen, has a density of 1,119/km^2.

The capital city effect may not exist at all. In France, Spain, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, the capital is the largest city, the HSR hub, and the airline hub, but in other countries this is not always the case. In Germany, the air hubs are Frankfurt and Munich, and the ICE's new HSR lines (which are generally successful) tend to focus on those regions as well as on the Rhine-Ruhr area, instead of Berlin, which is smaller and poorer. In Canada, the air and rail hub is Toronto, not Ottawa; in Turkey, it's Istanbul, not Ankara; and so on.

Sick of NIMBYs said...

If San Jose is not the heart of the system, why does every HSR train in the first phase go through San Jose??

Since the first segment to be built is supposed to be Merced to Bakersfield, doesn't that really mean that Wasco is the heart of the system, at least according to your bizarre NIMBY logic?

mike said...

@Clem

Glaeser would argue (and I would more or less agree) that whether the mortgage is paid off or not is irrelevant because you still need to account for the opportunity cost of funds. I.e., if you use $10 billion to pay off the debt, then you are incurring an implicit cost of no longer being able to earn X % interest on that $10 billion.

The real issue, as he points out, is what discount rate you want to use. He uses a rate of 5%, which presumably maps into a real discount rate of around 3%. This is equivalent to saying that we basically assign no value to the benefits three generations out or later. Is this fair? I don't know. The Tokaido Shinkansen is already two generations old, and it produces more benefits than ever before. Amtrak's NEC is easily three to four generations old now, and I'm confident that Glaeser would consider it to be one the nation's most valuable pieces of infrastructure.

But perhaps our ancestors who built these things didn't particularly care whether or not they would provide benefits for us. At the end of the day, assigning a value to the discount rate comes down to asking yourself whether or not you care about future generations.

mike said...

Since I may be the only one here who has ridden the Houston light rail, let me just say that operationally it is far superior to MUNI Metro or VTA Light Rail (in spite of the fact that we have our crack team of highly compensated MUNI union employees). They actually have transit priority signaling and so forth. You know, all the stuff that MUNI is supposed to implement under our city constitution, but never actually happens because everyone in this city is some combination of lazy, stupid, and selfish. Anyway, the average speed of Houston LRVs is surprisingly high given that they don't have a dedicated ROW.

That said, there is currently just one line, and it's not that long. So overall ridership is of course much lower than MUNI Metro, but boardings per route mile are 2.5x as high. But it still beats VTA LRV ridership by 20%!!! Yes, you read that correctly. Houston's 7.5 mile LRT has higher ridership than VTA's 42 mile system. I can't wait for BART to San Jose...

BruceMcF said...

Glaeser does not even establish that Express HSR is the most capital-efficient HSR system ... given the distance, potential regional HSR corridors need to be identified and have their potential ridership modeled before it is clear whether multiplying the fixed cost per mile will yield enough ridership gain to justify it ... which reinforces Ryan's point about Glaser selecting a corridor that has not had its state level planning far enough advanced to even reach the stage of corridor designation.

And Ryan is on the money about the presumption that existing infrastructure is free over the long term, independent of (1) the maintenance costs of those systems that do not offer operating surpluses to pay for their own maintenance and (2) the prospective growth of population in the city-pair and the new transport capacity that will be required to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

Alon Levy,

You keep throwing around numbers without providing any sources for them. Wikipedia contradicts your population claims.

From Wikipedia:

City population:
Dallas: 1.3 million
Madrid: 3.2 million

Metro area population:
Dallas: 6.3 million
Madrid: 7 million

Population density:
Dallas: 1,427/sq km
Madrid: 5,293/sq km

And as I said, Madrid probably also has much better mass transit than Dallas. Not only does Madrid have far more people living close to its central train station, but transit links are better too. This is obviously relevant to ridership estimates.

Dallas and Houston are less dense, you're right, but it's not clear density has any effect on ridership. Consider the Tohoku Shinkansen, where Tokyo is the only dense city: Sendai's central city density is 1,305/km^2, Morioka's is 588.

This is a nonsequitur. What is the ridership from Tokyo to Sendai? Not ridership along the entire Tohoku Shinkansen line, but ridership for trips that begin in Tokyo and end in Sendai, or vice versa. And again, produce your source.

andyduncan said...

@mike: and the value of that future impact is the whole point of publicly-funded infrastructure, no?

I agree that any evaluation of the costs of HSR have to take into account the cost of the alternatives (including the no-build option).

Even Glaeser's numbers point to an operating surplus.

So, in the end we're talking about infrastructure investment with heavy use-taxes (libertarians and conservatives are supposed to love those, maybe we should sell it as a "Toll Road On Rails") that will likely pay for it's own operation and maintenance, possibly even it's own expansion. Even the pessimistic ridership numbers would have fare-box collections higher than most other infrastructure projects.

I think it's a bit unfair to deflect all criticism of a project with "well what's your solution?", since it's perfectly reasonable to find fault in something without having to creatively provide an alternative, but I'm actually curious, for the few people on this board that don't think this is a good idea, what alternatives would you propose?

BruceMcF said...

mike said...
"The real issue, as he points out, is what discount rate you want to use."

An even bigger issue, however, is whether first party benefits to the rider are the only substantial benefit of the fixed cost. First are the kinds of benefits that Ryan Avery focuses on ... the property value gains associated with the infrastructure. Clearly, including the fixed cost of the infrastructure and excluding the property value gains resulting from the infrastructure is understating the benefits.

Associated with that are the benefits of the structural changes in property development. The Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex is the kind of vast, sprawling metropolitan area that could benefit substantially from clustered infill development around four or five nodes, associated with HSR stations and then the local transport networks that use the HSR station as one of their patronage anchors.

Second are the energy efficiency gains ... Glaeser assumes that the full social costs of all operating costs are equal to their monetary cost, but clearly when we do that, the social costs of operating costs that consist of imported energy are undercounted, and the operating costs that consist of wage and salary income is overcounted. The most direct way to proxy that is to weight energy savings by an extra 50% to account for the loss of secondary multiplier effects from energy imports.

And then there are other third party costs of the rival, status quo, transport modes, and the presumption that Dallas / Fort Worth and Houston have static populations so that they can stand pat on existing transport capacity in support of the status quo transport modes. Clearly, transport capacity between two growing metropolitan populations under 300 miles apart will require expansion, and the cheapest expansion options for road and air capacity have already been taken up. Treating the alternative as "no cost" is assuming a free lunch, and there is no such thing as a free lunch.

As Ryan notes, Glaeser may go on in the second and third parts of the series to account for some of those ... but the way that it is framed, to first put the HSR in the biggest financial hole possible in the first of the three part series, makes it seem likely that the look as third party costs and benefits will be an effort to note enough to say, "and I looked at externalities", without risking the HSR corridor looking like a good public investment.

Sam said...

New terminals just make airports more passenger-friendly and symbolic, but they don't add any flight capacity to an airport.

Um, not so much. To accommodate larger planes, larger terminals and/or modifications to terminals are needed to deal with the increase in passengers. SFO and LAX both spent millions simply to allow the possibility of A380's landing. If we OAK or SNA or other airports that are primarily serviced by 737 size aircraft all of a sudden have to start dealing with even slightly larger aircraft, there would be immense problems with capacity within the terminals - more room for seating, more room for parking, more room for security, etc.

Fred Martin said...

Airport don't even need terminals on a strictly functional basis. The planes could just be parked and loaded on the ground in theory. Third World countries actually do this quite often with a rudimentary Nissen hut for the terminal. Even Long Beach airport gets by with portables and no jetways. Terminals are a luxury for convenience and ease of travel, but runways are essential for basic flight operations. These fancy airport terminal designs are largely wasteful, and runways just aren't being built in California.

This is another reason why using a large share of public HSR funds for terminal temples is a bad idea. It's the trackage that is important; not the terminals themselves. A nice terminal area is gravy, but outside the platform layout, they are not essential for operations. Having appropriate boarding certainly helps smooth flows, but that should be common sense design, not a major cost item.

Bianca said...

Fred Martin said:

Airport don't even need terminals on a strictly functional basis. The planes could just be parked and loaded on the ground in theory. Third World countries actually do this quite often with a rudimentary Nissen hut for the terminal.

It isn't just third world countries that do this. I've had that exact experience at Frankfurt airport as well. But you know what? Passengers hate that. It's a hassle for everyone, but especially for disabled people or families traveling with babies to have to get themselves down a flight of stairs onto the tarmac and then board a bus and stand jammed in with half the planeload of people for a 45 second ride to the terminal, to then have to climb another flight of stairs.

Passengers flying in and out of Bay Area airports aren't going to tolerate that, and will pick a different local airport that won't treat them like cattle.

Are you seriously suggesting that instead of building HSR, we should implement a significant decrease in the quality of air travel?

Regardless of airport capacity issues, using airplanes for short-haul flights (i.e., Bay Area to LA area) is a terribly inefficient use of fuel. Bringing a 737 to cruising altitude uses an enormous amount of fuel; if you have been on a flight between San Francisco and LA you know that the flight attendants barely have time to serve everyone drinks before the plane begins its descent and they have to scramble to collect everyone's cups. Going 5 miles up in the air to go 250 or 300 miles and then go back down again is frankly dumb. And wasteful. And when (not if, but when) oil is back up at $150/barrel, there will be no question that HSR is the way to go for distances of 300 miles or less.

YesonHSR said...

There will never be any additional runways at SFO/SJO..totally landlocked/SFBAY as Im sure most people realize,thats why I dont get people that say we have planes so we dont need HSR, well how about the next 30 years..Are these airports able to handled it?..A big NO for the long term. HSR will give us that room and a great advantage with transportation

jim said...

@mike far superior to MUNI Metro or VTA Light Rail (in spite of the fact that we have our crack team of highly compensated MUNI union employees)......They actually have transit priority signaling and so forth. You know, all the stuff that MUNI is supposed to implement under our city constitution, but never actually happens because everyone in this city is some combination of lazy, stupid, and selfish.
don't bash muni and sf here. Please leave the city is you don't like it here. I for one have been riding muni for 40 years and It works just fine for me. I also love the city just the way it is. it needn't change for me. You''d be happier in Houston I think. And you can totally get a place there way cheaper. and the needless union bashing is tired.

jim said...

There will not be any more runways in san francisco bay. It will never be allowed.

HSR is designed to and will, serve travelers within the state of california in a way the airlines can't and never will.

Hsr is a third component of passenger travel, ( air, rail, and road) essentially a massive upgrade to bring rail up to date and treat its potential with equal value as we treat cars and planes within california. Its simply a matter of "using the right tool for the job"

Currently rail is a weak, yet still popular in spite of its weakness, link, in our state transportation policy. It is ripe for development and laden laden with untapped potential.

Anyone with an ounce of common sense, and who doesn't have some nimby-based and/or ideological political ax to grind ca see this.

Neither air nor auto has anywhere near the potential that hsr has to impact and shape the state's transportation future.

HSR can and will be a major force, at least as significant as that of the freeways in the 60's.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

"[...] the needless union bashing is tired"

So are your frequent assertions that only union jobs are good jobs. IIRC, one reason the Millbrae-SFO BART shuttle was discontinued is that BART unions wanted to treat it like a brand-new line, with drivers entitled to 15-minute breaks at each end.

The others, of course, are that BART and Caltrain couldn't figure out how to sell a single ticket from e.g. Palo Alto to SFO or make cross-platform transfers happen.

Alon Levy said...

This is another reason why using a large share of public HSR funds for terminal temples is a bad idea. It's the trackage that is important; not the terminals themselves. A nice terminal area is gravy, but outside the platform layout, they are not essential for operations. Having appropriate boarding certainly helps smooth flows, but that should be common sense design, not a major cost item.

But then Diridon wouldn't get a big phallic symbol bearing his name.

IIRC, one reason the Millbrae-SFO BART shuttle was discontinued is that BART unions wanted to treat it like a brand-new line, with drivers entitled to 15-minute breaks at each end.

This is not a problem of unions in general, but of particular idiots. Even New York City unions, infamous for their intransigence, aren't this stupid: the subway's 42nd Street Shuttle dwells 1 minute at each end during rush hour, and 1 minute at one end and 5 at the other at other times.

jim said...

@rafael

Im as big a supporter of hsr as anyone here. But the "one over the other' game isn't going to get anyone anywhere.

There has to be a level of cooperation and mutual benefit that takes into account HSR, conventional rail, Bart and so forth. None is going to succeed without the others. And just because a lot of smartasses think that FRA and conventional rail are the work of the devil is gonna change that.

It it weren't for the latter laying the groundwork and building up ridership and introducing californians - quite successfully I might add,(as amtrak's top three performing trains per customer satisfaction, revenue and on time performance,as of today's date are in the Pacific Division,) none of this would even be in the works.

Thats right. Amtraks Pacific division out scores the darling Acela by nearly 10 points on all scores.

So no Im not gonna let snarky anti amtrak comments slide because I know better.

Sam said...

This is not a problem of unions in general, but of particular idiots. Even New York City unions, infamous for their intransigence, aren't this stupid: the subway's 42nd Street Shuttle dwells 1 minute at each end during rush hour, and 1 minute at one end and 5 at the other at other times.

Very much agreed. I have zero problem with unions overall, but I have HUGE problems with most unions in California. Our political process has become so corrupt that public sector unions wield far more power than they should. My number one worry with HSR is that unions will destroy service in the same way that they have destroyed service on BART and Muni (among many other agencies). Checks on power are needed for everyone in order for EVERYONE to get along. Those checks have been removed in California, in large part because of the initiative process (and subsequent passed initiatives) and ridiculous gerrymandering.

jim said...

@sam - the initiative process and the gerrymandering, not to mention the back room wheeling and dealing with all the much hated bechtels and others - is what made HSR even a possibility in california... like it or not, that's how an economic power as large as california, does business. Just roll with it.

flowmotion said...

@ Fred Martin
Sorry, but Gray Davis lied to you. New freeway ROW is being built in Fresno and Bakersfield.

mike said...

@jim

I ride MUNI virtually every single day. That's why I care. The SF City Charter states that "Decisions regarding the use of limited public street...space shall encourage the use of...public transit" and that "transit priority improvements...shall be made to expedite the movement of public transit vehicles." I'm over 30 years old now, and virtually nothing has been done to "expedite the movement of public transit vehicles" since I was a kid. The whole thing is a joke.

I don't just blame MUNI employees and management but also the leadership - and ultimately, the voters - of San Francisco. You tell me to go to Houston (the same knee-jerk xenophobic reaction you hurl at many people), but my complaint is that SF wants to be too much like Houston (in that it wants a heavily auto-oriented transportation system). You're the one that wants a cars-first, Houston-like city, not me. It would be equivalent to me telling you that if you don't like Prop 8 you should just move to Texas because you'll like it more there. It doesn't even make any sense.

Incidentally, I like how you confidently declare Houston to be a "shithole" even though you likely haven't visited it recently and quite possibly have never even been there. Some of us have noticed that you do that about a lot of stuff. I don't like the sprawl or the summer heat in Houston, but that doesn't mean that I can't appreciate its positives (e.g., great food that's inexpensive, low housing prices). One thing I can tell you is that Houston and METRO do a better job in terms of design and operation than SF and MUNI do. We could stand to swallow our pride and learn a few things from them. Hurling insults at other cities and refusing to learn anything from them doesn't make one loyal or patriotic. It just makes one ignorant.

Incidentally, where do you think most of your Amtrak passengers live? It certainly isn't downtown San Francisco. Do you tell them that they all live in shitholes? Is that the kind of customer service you aspire to provide?

Anonymous said...

OK, that is just a lame argument. That is what they say when they spend billions putting heavy rail in the middle of nowhere (Berryessa, ECCC). Sure, there is nothing there now, but wait till 2050 then you'll see! How about you put it where there are people ready to ride today.

Don't be silly, and read my comment again. Stations in San Jose, Fresno, Bakersfield, etc. will be in the centers of existing cities with a population to support them. They will continue to grow into the future, like it or not -- so it behooves Californians to ensure that they grow responsibly and with a minimum of sprawl. That is possible and likely with HSR, and is much less likely with wider highways or new runways.

Oh, and please don't equate "heavy rail" (I assume you mean intraurban subway or metro lines) and intercity HSR. They are not the same and serve two different purposes.

jim said...

I have been to houston and its ugly as sin.
San francisco has done a lot for transit improvement but its slow to happen and I'm not the one blocking it. As far as I'm concerned all cars should be banned from the city.

As for my customer service, I keep my opinions to myself and do my best to make sure they find the best of SF while they're here.

ANd muy reaction comes from being sick and tired of, no matter where I turn or what I read, a constant barrage of anti SF, anti Bart, Anti union and anti Muni sentiment from all over.

and with that last plague of easterners who came here and did all the damage I'm just really fed up with all the criticism.

Maybe i'm not spoiled or maybe I have lower expectations but I like things fine just the way they are and it would be nice to hear someone somewhere point out something positive about the aforementioned items

And my family has been here 100 years and I've heard all the stories about the glory days, and I hate seeing that ravaged and bitched about by a bunch of no nothing newbies. quit screwing up my nice town - thats my sentiment.

The last 10 years around here has been like this..its like having uninvited company come into your houses, with muddy boots, not wipe their feet, tell you you have bad taste in decor and then proceed to rearrange your furiture without asking while making rude comments within earshot.

I'm sick of it.

jim said...

I may not like houston but I don't then go move there and complain about it... or go to their local newpaper blog and tell them how they should do things. I don't care what LA does either. Its not any of my business. This is a smll town and everything that happens has a big impact so I'm very wary of those who would change things cuz they are more than likely going to make it worse.

sorry off topic but it burns my ass.

gabe said...

@ Fred

"To be sure, Glaeser is no New Deal liberal or neo-Keynesian"

No, he isn't liberal, and "The case for McCain" is pretty clear, no? Besides, him being conservative isn't the point, it's that his analysis is lazy.

"Airport capacity can actually be improved with bigger planes, better traffic control technologies, and improved load factors."

Really? Bussing people to the runway will allow us to move tens of millions of new Californians that will be moving around the state in the next few decades? And congestion and flight delays?

And surely we can take Southwest around the state with bigger planes right? Are they going to put more seats in a Boeing 737?

YesonHSR said...

Southwest is a shewed operator..would not be suprised if they start making plans to bid on running our HSR..and the one in Texas if they smell good money and work on long haul flights

jim said...

YesonHSR said...
Southwest is a shewed operator..would not be suprised if they start making plans to bid on running our HSR..and the one in Texas if they smell good money and work on long haul flights


great just what we need, the airline industry ruining the railroad they way the ruined the airline industry.

So that magical $55 ticket, don't forget to add $20 for the first bag and $30 for the second. oh and by the way - we've eliminated meal service and peanuts in order to keep you all thin so we can cram 800 more seats on board.

southwest rail. bleh.

YESonHSR said...

Not THAT I want them running it!! But Money will talk when CAHSR puts this out for bid..And yes no
20buck bag fees and nuts for dinner!..more like Acela with a real hot meal in First class and a nice Cafe with beer and drinks and food! Had a lobster roll when I road Aclea a few years back!

Bay Area Resident said...

The municipalities of Houston and Dallas are much bigger than San Jose

Oh Christ, what are you talking about? Dallas is a city of ONE million people. In order to get substantially more population than the SJ metropolitan area, you need to include FORT WORTH, and if you are going to do that, then to be fair regionally you would need to compare it to all of the SF bay area including SF and SJ which is over 7 million. Houston has 2 million people, roughly the same density as San Jose/Fremont area.

jim said...

yeson-First class and a nice Cafe with beer and drinks and food! Had a lobster roll when I road Aclea a few years back!"


mmm that's how it should be. lobster roll... wow. I'm still wondering when we're gonna get business class on capitol corridor.

YESonHSR said...

IF you really want to get depressed
read the CNN on line report about China's new HSR system and what they are planning to do..and then compare that to the USA and this lame Enconomists thinking about HSR

Anonymous said...

Thanks heavens Glaeser has the wide reach of the NY Times, whereas Avent has a funky blog, similar to this one, reaching hardly anyone.

Sam said...

Jim,

You hear anti-BART and anti-Muni stuff all over because they suck for the amount of money that we spend on them. I'm a Bay Area native (born in Oakland, went to school at Berkeley, went to grad school at Stanford, live in SF now), but that doesn't somehow make me "proud" of the fact that we spend waaaaay too much on two agencies that perform sooooo poorly. I think that it would be ridiculous for me to "just shut up and deal with it because that's the way things are." It's our money being wasted on sub-par service.

There are thousands of things that I LOVE about San Francisco and the Bay Area, and thousands of things that I'm proud of about the area and the accomplishments of people past/present/future in the area. Muni ain't one of them. BART ain't one of them. I'm still optimistic that HSR can be one of them, but it's going to take a lot of hard work and luck, based on the poor structure of government that we have here.

Alon Levy said...

Metro area population:
Dallas: 6.3 million
Madrid: 7 million


Wrong - Madrid's metro population is 5.8 million.

What is the ridership from Tokyo to Sendai? Not ridership along the entire Tohoku Shinkansen line, but ridership for trips that begin in Tokyo and end in Sendai, or vice versa. And again, produce your source.

9 million per year (p. 26) - but the entire route has 85 million, buoyed by a lot of other small cities connected to Tokyo and to each other.

YESonHSR said...

Your Glad Glasers slanted conserative corporation style info has wide reach and grass roots like Roberts blog reaches little.?
Your thinking is a prime example of why china is building HSR and much more and why sadly the USA is becoming a has been

K.T. said...

Follow-up on information on Tokyo-Sendai Route:

Distance: 351.8km
Ticket Price: 10,590 yen (additional 2,300 yen for reserved couch)
Time: 1 hr 38 min to 2 hr 23 minutes (express or all-station stopper)

http://www.shinkansen.co.jp/ryokin_tohoku.htm
Search results from transit.map.yahoo.co.jp/
(both sites in japanese)

Population of Sendai-Shi - 1.03 million (Miyagi-Ken is 2.37 million)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sendai
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miyagi_Prefecture

mike said...

@jim No, you don't move to Houston and complain about it. Instead you stay in SF and complain about all of your fellow citizens. Which, you know, make up the city.

I at least have real policy proposals in mind to address my complaints regarding MUNI (e.g., more transit lanes, more limited stop buses, more transit priority signaling, more efficient/better enforced fare collection). I may be complaining, but at least I have constructive suggestions about how to improve things.

What constructive proposals do you have? Nothing, as far as I can tell. At a national level, sure, you can build your mega-wall on the border or whatever. But at the sub-national level, you know that you can't restrict migration in/out of California and in/out of San Francisco because that would be totally unconstitutional. So what do you have?

andyduncan said...

Kottke linked to an article today on the cost of providing free parking:

http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/010266.html

As one of the alternatives to HSR is expanding freeways, it's worth considering what to do with those cars once they arrive (to say nothing of the street traffic impacts).

Certainly many of the people who take HSR will rent cars when they arrive, just as those who fly do, but I think most people agree there will be fewer rented cars (and therefore fewer parked cars) with city-center HSR.

Anonymous said...

Alon Levy,

Wrong - Madrid's metro population is 5.8 million.

It is not wrong. Your link refers to the population of Madrid's "Large Urban Zone" (whatever that is). Wikipedia reports the population of Madrid's "metropoitan area" as 7 million, not 5.8 million.

9 million per year (p. 26)

There is no ridership data on page 26 of the document you link to. Try again.

mike said...

Regarding ridership, apparently the LGV PSE (Paris Southeast) is reaching a saturation point during peak times, and SNCF regrets not having 4 tracks on the high speed line (though that still seems like overkill to me): http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/aug/05/tgv-high-speed-rail-in-france

For comparison, the LA Metro Area has 10% more residents than the Paris Metro Area (and is actually denser, believe or not), while the SF/SJ Metro Areas have 35% more residents than the Lyon Metro Area.

Alon Levy said...

Your link refers to the population of Madrid's "Large Urban Zone" (whatever that is).

Larger Urban Zone is Euro-speak for metro area. It's a way for the EU to harmonize different national definitions of metro areas, and is almost perfectly equivalent to a Metropolitan Statistical Area in the US.

There is no ridership data on page 26 of the document you link to. Try again.

It's page 26 out of 106. The name for this page is "24" - it's a distinction between PDF page numbering and the page number on the printed document.

jim said...

@mike. So what do you have?

What I don't have is a problem with muni as it works fine for me. What I do have is the realization that that the "progressive" point of veiw in SF is not the only one that's important. Yes I'd like to se fewer cars but I also know that small business owners are bearing the brunt of policies such as increased parking meter rates. I always vote to the left in this town but I will not tow the progressive line blindly. I don't believe for instance in all this focus on bicycles. and I don't like the bad behavior that liberal policies seem to foster. I certainly despise the sanctuary policy as well as the horrible prosecution record for criminals and I wold advocate for many more cops on the beat.

Being a liberal or progressive should not mean endorsing bad behavior and criminal activity and as long as it does, the progressive movement will not be respected by mainstream america.
And finally, if california and san francisco wasn't pissing away money on welfare, and illegals we might actually have the money to improve muni, build high speed rail, and create real jobs.

ps. cyclists who ride on the sidewalk should be shot.

mike said...

@jim Thanks for the response. As far as I can tell, none of the things you suggest will do anything meaningful to keep out the "plague of easterners" that you constantly complain about.

jim said...

the only thing keeping them away right now is the economy. I just hope the next "hip" "in" place to be is someplace other than SF.

jim said...

@mike there's some interesting video clips from a san francisco series here kind of fun to watch. I especially like the 1950s clip as the couple shown from broadmoor was my mom and grandparents generation. This was a time when people had manners and class. The city was clean. My grandparents always said " we wish you could have seen this town before the bridges were built. It was heaven."

anyway its interesting viewing.

BruceMcF said...

Having the time today to take a more in depth look at it, I agree with Ryan Avent ... this is a hack job.

Fred Martin may well say: "His model is simple, but it captures the basic idea of cost-benefit analysis. How you calculate the benefits and costs is the hard, disputable part, but his basic model is reasonable. One gets the impression that any model he proposed would be objectionable."

... however, in his analysis, he pursues a line of analysis that assumes away all of the reasons why one might wish to invest in an Express HSR corridor instead of a Regional HSR corridor, assumes away population growth so that the alternative is "do nothing", and then, "surprise", the fivefold higher per mile capital costs of the Express HSR are not justified.

There is no clear rationale for PICKING Houston/Dallas, and then having picked it, he only considers Express HSR, the most capital intensive tier of HSR, and in ignoring the T-Bone alignment, assumes the most capital intensive alignment for Express HSR.

Given how badly his argument falls short of the standard of cost-benefit analysis, this seems to be a piece where he is trading on his reputation in order work in order to dash off something that fits with his gut instincts.

Adirondacker12800 said...

What I don't have is a problem with muni as it works fine for me.

It doesn't work fine for other people which is why they complain.

Some of those people wish SF was denser and more diverse and can't understand why you complain about it. You wish they would stop complaining about MUNI and they wish you would stop pining for 1935.... I'm sure when your great-grandparents arrived in SF there were people whining and moaning about how all these new people were ruining things....

My grandparents always said " we wish you could have seen this town before the bridges were built. It was heaven

The grass is always greener 20 or 30 years ago.
The bridges were built because the ferries were inadequate. If they hadn't built the bridges Oakland would have become much more attractive. SF and Oakland would have traded places, the hills the glittering city was spilling over would be the Oakland Hills.

mike said...

@jim I'm not a big fan of hipsters either, but they are an integral part of what the city is. It appears to me that you're ultimately trapped by the contradiction that you like certain aspects of city life and, at the same time, you are a conservative at heart (the traditional definition - someone who wants to conserve things the way that they are - not necessarily the crazy GOP extremist version). But a city is an inherently dynamic place - that's what people like about it - and so of course it is always changing. Your utopian vision of immutability could only be achieved in a rural countryside location, but that also doesn't appeal to you for other reasons. And so you're trapped.

jim said...

I realize things are going to change. Even high speed rail, which I support, is going to bring some of the changes I detest. So my position is often to take the opposing opinion because someone has too. The goal isn't to stop change which would be impossible but to slow it down to the point where things don't get rushed through prematurely. For instance all the high rises that took forever to get though the pipeline - many have since been cancelled due to the market. Si we will now get another decade before they are revived and we won't have a bunch of empty buildings blocking views and sunlight. So it works.
The liberals who endorse policies that promote the filthiness of this neighborhood are the same ones I know I can count on to support rent control. I have a rent controlled apartment. The third world-ish foreigners who live in this neighborhood, are also the ones who pushed to save this particular neighborhood from development. (western soma plan) by helping to ensure the existing old housing stock and small business is protected against the puh of big money. Ultimately the way it works out is I get a good deal in a new development, a lifetime rent controlled lease, surround by a neighborhood that will remain low rise with a neighborhood feel, in the heart of the downtown area and six blocks from the transbay terminal where I can work my union job.

See.like everyone else, I play my cards to my best interests and choose my battles.

But someone has to push back or you take what makes the city "not be houston" away, and it turns into houston. If it werent' for the people who fight against progress there wouldn't be anything worth fighting for to begin with.
yes I'm trapped cuz I'mhaving my cake and eating it too and I'm not giving that up... but it doesn't mean I have to shut about it... I'm still for preserving as much of the city as possible and I want the pop capped back at 750k. because that's when the city is most pleasant for those of us who live here. and its ours. Thats my position and I stand by it.

jim said...

and let me add - that it's not the fact that people wee places for improvement that bother me - its the lack of respect for the city's past and its previous decisions that pisses me off. A bunch of young overpiad spoied pushy east coasters come in and proclaim that everything is not the way it is back home then think they are gonna "fix" things. Well no, no they aren't. They live here and like it and become a san francisco or we will drive them nuts to the point they leave. Thank god the recession did some of that work.

the proper way to be critical of san francisco goes like this;

You have a lovely city and we feel very blessed to have the opportunity to live here. I hope we can contribute something and learn your ways customs and history"

That's also how it should be for newcomers to the country and I don't make any apologies for that.

You sure wouldn't go to France and try to tell those folks how they should be doing things. They wouldn't put up with it for a minute.

flowmotion said...

@jim -- SF MUNI apparently loves those "hipsters" located in New Economy areas like Mission Bay and Dogpatch, and tourists going from Chinatown to the ballpark.

It seems that most complaints about Muni service come largely from longer-term residents located in the Richmond and other poorly serviced parts of the city.

jim said...

That's not whos complaining. Its the young urban professionals, many of whom live in the avenues for cheaper rent, who com plain about the lenght of time it takes to get across town. The rest of us have been use to the trip for decades. ITs slow the young people who have made the trip experience unbearable. Combine that with the additional 150,000 people the city added in the last 10 years and there's the problem. It was the established residents and business people of the Richmond who have consistantly been against a geary subway actually.

I used to ride the 38 from 8th ave in the early 80s. There was nothing to it. NO problem except the bunching of buses which, was just a local joke. We joked, we lived with it. no one made a fuss.

As for eliminating stops to speed up service. Too much burden on our older and disabled citizens. I'm not one now but I will be one some day. and since I plan to stay till I drop. I know where my bread is buttered. Unlike the young newbies who want everything right now their way cuZ they are in a bug freaking hurry with no thought of the future.

See you'll be old too one day, and you won't wnt to walk that extra block. but you will probably have moved on by then to live in some other city. I wouldn't dream of living any where else, ever.

I'm really not trying to argue, I just believe firmly in my position and I will always be a voice for slow and moderate change, over hurry up to accommodate the latest wave cuz they won't last.

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

saving this neighborhood per the Western SoMa Plan ( a subset of the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan) this will make a nice low rise neighborhood adjacent to the higher rise transbay development district

mike said...

@jim Yeah, I don't really understand why you like things to be bad, but whatever.

You had to go there on the stops though. I cannot let that go. Trust me, I've heard all the "but the old people don't care if the bus is slow as molasses, they just want a stop that's close no matter how long it takes" arguments. At the end of the day they don't hold water.

Here is a super-simple zero-cost proposal for the Geary Corridor:

1) Make the 38L the default service. It runs at all hours (i.e., 24 hrs/day) and frequencies that the 38 currently runs at. (During Owl Service, it could run local.)

2) Make the 38 the supplementary service. It runs at all hours and frequencies that the 38L currently runs at (i.e., Mo-Sa, 6 am to 6 pm).

3) Outside of normal hours (i.e., all day Sunday and Mo-Sa 6 pm to 12 am), run a local 38 at half hour frequencies to "clean up" the local stops that the 38L is skipping.

This will be zero cost because the faster 38L will require fewer buses and drivers to complete a given set of runs, so resources will be available to run the local "clean up" buses at off hours.

Of course, a small number of old people who do not live near a Limited Stop, are uncomfortable walking to a Limited Stop, and take the bus at off hours will have to wait somewhat longer for the local "clean up" bus. On the plus side, they'll be guaranteed a seat when it comes, because few others will want to take it.

From the MUNI TEP data I can see that of the 25,000+ outbound weekday Geary riders, only around 100 would fall into this category. Those 100 would have to wait, on average, an extra 10 minutes for the bus (and remember, this is a group that we've been repeatedly told does not value their time and does not care about slow service or long waits!). In contrast, some 2,500 evening outbound riders would have their rides made faster by about 7 minutes on average. Even if the only people you care about are old people, the number of old people that save 10 minutes from this plan is greater than the number of old people that lose 10 minutes from the plan!!! It just boggles the mind how insanely inefficient the current "let's make all the stops, all time time" operation is....

Sam said...

It was the established residents and business people of the Richmond who have consistantly been against a geary subway actually.

No. No. No. It was a handful of merchants and residents in the Richmond that have railed against change (any and all change). If you look at vote totals, the neighborhood routinely votes for transit improvements at rates similar or higher than other parts of the city. It's just a couple of old quacks that have successfully prevented progress thus far.

jim said...

well obviously enough were against it to stop the subway.

I think there should be a geary subway. But ill settle for brt.

At the same time, may outsiders and newcomers are complaining about the central subway. When the central subway makes a ton of sense for reasons I won't get into. The city has just been over run with people for whom nothing is good enough. i mean if it takes you too long to get from the avenues then don't move to the avenues. Of move to the avenues and deal with it.

As far as im concerned, people who are always in a big rush are people who aren't managing their life very well.
Its like me leaving three minutes too late for work and then getting mad that "muni made me late" because I missed the 203 and had to wait for the 210. Its not munis fault there's a 7 minute gap. I know better. And that's what's happening with people they want muni to be their personal on call limo. and in what other city can you be 3 blocks from a muni line no matter where you are. No one has the kind of coverage we do. and these "hurry up" people are the ones who are advocating cutting that coverage in favor of getting them downtown faster. Like its all about them.

Sam said...

Jim,

$800 million dollars. That's how much Muni operations will cost this year. You're damn right that I'm going to question new projects and complain about bad service when we're doling out that kind of dough. It has nothing to do with me "being in a hurry." Would you expect me to "just grin and bear it" if an airline was constantly giving me bad service? No, you'd expect me to use a different airline. We don't have that choice with Muni, so our only option is to complain, question, advocate, etc for change.

This has nothing to do with "outsiders." Muni is an embarrassment to San Francisco, one of the great cities of the world.

jim said...

You aren't spending any money on muni other than your fast pass. please. and what do you want for 55 bucks.

You are just in too much of a rush. Ill bet you're from new york.

YESonHSR said...

I will always be proud the city voted 74% YES onProp1A !! by far the largest percentage ..and to think the nimbys want to stop HSR from coming up to the city from San Jose!!

jim said...

keep pushing that growth and density nonsense on SF and we'll all being rents like this

no thanks. if you like that. go there.

jim said...

I strongly support hsr and even passed out flyers at work and keep info posted there as well. In spite of some of the drawbacks it will bring. I'm not unreasonable like the peninsula nimbys. So long as the effects are in a contained area. Which they will be. In fact the hsr will make it easier for people to live outside the city and hopefully take some of the pressure off the neighborhoods. I'm hoping like hell that Fresno will get on the ball and maximize its downtown potential and draw people there with the promise of easy access, affordable living, toasty summers by the pool, plus their museums. staduim, symphony and other arts. I spoke with a gal whos involved with city development. They are trying like hell to plan around HSR but can't get a handle on when its gonna happen. Sounds like they losing faith thanks to the peninsula hold up.

jim said...

I spoke with a gal whos involved with city (FRESNO)development.

Sam said...

You aren't spending any money on muni other than your fast pass. please. and what do you want for 55 bucks.

Jim, we all pay taxes. I would care even if I wasn't paying anything more than for my Fast Pass. Wasting society's money for no good reason will always make me angry, because of the good that it could do.

And no, I'm not from NYC. I already mentioned in this thread that I've lived in the Bay Area my whole life - 31 years (Oakland, Berkeley, SF).

It's pretty clear that you haven't been to other places that have decent transit (and pay less for it overall) if you think that Muni is anything but deplorable. A bus stop on every block is not a sign of a good transit system - it's a sign of a LAZY transit system at best.

jim said...

ok well, you're getting your TEP. so there you go.

jim said...

here Sam. improvements galore for your tax dollar. Its all being taken care of. be patient.

Sam said...

Jim, how many collisions has Muni had in the past month? I've been patient since the Muni meltdown in the '90s through the disastrous opening of the T. Patience is running thin these days.

Sam said...

Jim, those are all capital improvements in your link. Important, sure, but operational improvements are what are more urgently needed at Muni, but never seem to happen.

jim said...

you know i take the 38 out to laurel heights and it really does seem to work just fine. I simply do not see what the problem is. I never wait more than a few minutes for a bus. The nextbus tells me how long it will be and it takes 15 minutes to get back down to Polk where I walk down to market. What is the prob? do you want an express from your stop to montgomery street?

The only thing unpleasant about the trip are the people on the bus. In fact the biggest hold up is people on the bus who refuse to grasp the "move the hell back" concept. Thats not muni's fault, unless you expect the drivers to start tasering folks to get them to follow the rules.

and shouldn't someone your age be out drinking and getting laid on a friday night instead of worrying about bus schedules.

Sam said...

Jim, I work from home and don't need or expect any express service anywhere. My wife takes the Genentech shuttle to work. We both just use Muni to get around for other things (no car).

However, I want the 38 to be useful to the average person living on the line for getting anywhere - work, play, whatever, which ends up benefiting me as well. I simply care about public transit getting better, not worse, as Muni's downward spiral seems to be doing.

You're right that you can use Nextbus to see when the next bus is coming, but how long will it take once you get on the bus? 10 minutes? 20 minutes? 30 minutes? Reliability increases the number of people that will/can/want to rely on Muni for everyday travel. I know that you don't care how long the bus takes once you're on it, but most people do. Not because they're "in a hurry," but because they like to be able to schedule their lives. Having no control over their schedule is a HUGE turnoff, even if they don't absolutely have to be somewhere at a specific time. If more and more people decide that Muni isn't reliable enough, that will hurt your use of Muni as well, as fares rise and service levels continue to fall.

On your last question - I've got a baby on the way due in three months, so not as much Friday night partying as in the past ;)

jim said...

okay well see there have been improvements. Back in the day we would never have dreamed of needing next bus. especially since on most of geary you can see all the way to sutro heights.

You ahv eto understand, that in the time I have lived here, this has gone from being a town where people had a very laissez faire attitude towards life and all the city's quirks and downsides, were taken with a grain of salt and a sense of humor, to a place where things have become overly frantic, overly busy, overly bitchy, and overly cynical and divided.
No one around here seems to be happy about just being lucky enough to be one of the chosen few to live here. all i ever here is how horrible this city is and Im sick of it. I blame a spoiled younger generation with a short attention span. and the biggest scourge was that dot com boom. it devasted this city to a point and the city hasn't been the same ever since. we can't survive another one of those. It must be stopped.

jim said...

not to mention if you want to raise your child in the neighborhood you'd better join the neighborhood assoc. and make sure you keep the place clean and crime free and not over run with criminals and thugs and bird flu and stuff. You want that nice big park out there to stay nice for your kids don't you?

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Alon Levy said...

Combine that with the additional 150,000 people the city added in the last 10 years and there's the problem.

Jim, San Francisco's population is barely higher than what it was in 1950. The city depopulated from 1950 to 1980, and has taken this long to recover to its population peak.

jim said...

no more new people. enough...

ok actually they are planning to put most of the new people in the following places.

TBT district/Rincon Hill - towers for the wealthy
Fourth street from Market to Townsend - central subway corridor - mid rise corridor.

Third from Caltrain to Candlestick.- low rise medium density with pockets of single family omes ( india basin)

That's why the t-thrid central subway project is going in. But those areas are currently places that have room.
I will tell you though that I watched an hour or so of sfgtv planning commision last night and the neighborhood groups in all the micro neighborhoods along third - from dogpatch to Hunters point, including india basin and bayview - they are all already hard at work giving the various develpment plans the fine tooth comb assessment. And the final version of the projects will wind up getting the san francisco treatment. do you know there is an association for the india basin neighborhood. I didn't even know anyone lived there! ( I don't go to that part of town) They are busy ripping the plans to shreds and re doing them. and they have a planning commision who is sympathetic to residents and supportive of the reduced height limits, open space requirements, view corridor retention and on and on.

As for the other 80 percent of sf neighborhoods they are built out with the exception of infill.

jim said...

Any new population will be directed to these locations. easternneighborhoods

indiabasin

hunterspoint

These are major projects that will change a huge swath of the city and each of these areas has strong community input groups and the commission in each case is bending to the will of the current residents and business. as they should.

jim said...

I wonder if there shouldnt be an hsr station on the eastern waterfront since that is were all the growth will be located including biotech, the new ucsf campus, and I think a new cancer hosptial and childrens hospital.

Anonymous said...

Alon Levy,

It's page 26 out of 106. The name for this page is "24" - it's a distinction between PDF page numbering and the page number on the printed document.

Huh? Each page in the document is numbered. The page numbered 26 does not have the information you claimed it has. You apparently meant page 24. But page 24 doesn't answer my question either. I asked how many trips begin in Tokyo and end in Sendai. Page 24 shows only the number of riders between Tokyo and Sendai. It doesn't tell us the number of trips that begin and end in that city-pair. Tokyo and Sendai are both major hubs of the JR network. Tokyo is the primary hub of the entire system. The vast majority of travellers boarding the line at Tokyo and getting off at Sendai, or vice versa, will be connecting to other lines in the network to reach their final destination. A more meaningful comparison to Dalllas-Houston would be Tokyo-Niigata or Tokyo-Yamagata. Neither Niigata nor Yamagata is a major hub. Ridership for Tokyo-Niigata is only 4.9 million, and ridership for Tokyo-Yamagata is only 2.5 million.

But the larger problem is that you cannot make meaningful estimates of ridership on a proposed HSR line in the U.S. simply by looking at ridership on a line of comparable length in Japan. Not only are population sizes different, but also population densities, which affects the potential market size within a given distance of the stations, mass transit connections to the stations, which also influences the accessibility of the stations to the potential market, the availability and relative cost of air and road competitors, historical circumstances, and many other factors.

K.T. said...

Anon

Sorry I am not Alon Levy, but at least I can help to answer some of the questions you have.

"I asked how many trips begin in Tokyo and end in Sendai. "

Number of Train that starts at Tokyo Station and stop in Sendai station is 1-2 per hour. However, half of the train that stops at Sendai Station has either Akita, Morioka, or Hachinohe (all north of sendai) as final destination. After adding those trains, the frequency of train are following, on weekdays:

Sendai > Tokyo 2-4/hr
Tokyo > Sendai 2-4/hr

http://www.shinkansen.co.jp/jikoku_hyo/en/

("jikoku_hyo" is timetable in japanese)

BTW, more detailed or more technical the data gets, it would be difficult to collect Japanese HSR information on the web in California or in US. The reasons are:

-Official information (press release, technical papers) available only in Japanese
-Information not posted on the web, only available in published documents (again, mostly written only in Japanese)
-technical information available on web, but only accessible to the members of Japanese engineering societies

BruceMcF said...

Anonymous said...
"But the larger problem is that you cannot make meaningful estimates of ridership on a proposed HSR line in the U.S. simply by looking at ridership on a line of comparable length in Japan."

Then do as Glaeser did, and do it back of the envelope based on total flight passengers between the two cities ... but do a more plausible back of the envelope than "all of the air traffic and none of the car traffic".

At 1.5 hrs, the train should capture 70% or more of the air traffic. And the captured air traffic won't be the majority of the traffic, taking auto traffic and induced trips. So, 70%/50%=140% of air traffic would be conservative, or 2.1m.

For a three hour Emerging HSR service, that should capture 40% of air traffic, and again to be conservative under half of total passengers, so 40%/50%=80% of air traffic, or 1.2m.

The cost of the Emerging HSR service, assuming new capacity is required and not just signalling and crossing upgrades, would be ~$80m-$90m/year, on Glaeser's discount rate, (which is high and inflates the capital costing). With Zero Population Growth, as Glaeser assumes, and if existing capacity suffices to the existing market, then net passenger benefits of $75/passenger would suffice to cover the construction costs, and all the third party benefits simply boost the payoff.

If population growth in Houston and Dallas do not come to a grinding halt, and, say, $65m/year would be needed for capital costs of air and road transport infrastructure if the rail line is not built, that leaves a net capital cost of ~$25m, and $21/passenger net benefit would cover the net public capital cost, again with all third party benefits just increasing the total net benefit.

Without substantial congestion on the existing transport infrastructure, and without a capital cost conserving approach to Express HSR (such as the Texas T-Bone, which would have lower capital cost per passenger than Glaeser's imaginary system), an Express HSR corridor is tenuous.

By contrast it seems likely that detailed planning on an Emerging or Regional HSR corridor could yield a slam dunk.

Alon Levy said...

I asked how many trips begin in Tokyo and end in Sendai. Page 24 shows only the number of riders between Tokyo and Sendai. It doesn't tell us the number of trips that begin and end in that city-pair.

Yes, it does. It gives the total number of riders between those cities, in order to accurately compare it with the size of the air market. There aren't just 9 million people on trains that go as far as Sendai - the total ridership on just the Tohoku line is 84 million.

Now stop pretending not to understand.