Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fear and Loathing in San Jose

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

by Rafael

We can't stop here. This is bat BART country.

The recent Initial Ruling On Atherton vs. CHSRA highlighted the issue of ROW acquisition, especially if that might involve exercising eminent domain. There's been a lot of speculation about the possible implications for the route out of the Bay Area and even the project as a whole. However, the plain truth is that it's now up to the judge to spell out the remedial actions CHSRA must take to bring the program level of its EIR process for the Bay Area to Central Valley section back into compliance.

One aspect that will surely have to be addressed is the issue of exactly where and how to run dedicated HSR tracks between San Jose Diridon and Gilroy, a topic I'll explore below. First though, let's recap why CHSRA preferred a route that goes through San Jose at all.

Economic Objectives

San Jose likes to bill itself as the "Capital of Silicon Valley", which actually stretches from San Jose all the way up to San Mateo and across to Cupertino. Much of the so-called "Golden Triangle" portion, bordered by US-101, I-880 and CA-237, actually lies in Santa Clara and to a lesser extent, in Milpitas. However, most of Silicon Valley is chock-full of high-tech computer hardware and software companies, ranging from highly innovative startups to global leaders in the computing and internet industries. Along with agriculture and the movie/TV industry, Silicon Valley is a primary economic engine for the state.

Both directly and indirectly, tax revenue from these companies and their workforce will contribute a large fraction of the funding for the California HSR project. Paradoxically, wealth is both why HSR has to serve Silicon Valley and why CHSRA is facing opposition to an alignment with elevated sections in the SF peninsula.

San Jose has about a million residents, making it the country's tenth-largest city. However, a significant fraction of Silicon Valley's highly skilled workforce neither lives nor works within city limits, a situation San Jose's civic leaders would like to change. The General Plan shows the location of these limits and also the city's development pattern. Most of the built-up area is "medium low density residential", though there are some higher-density developments here and there. A sizeable area just south-east of the SJC airport is blighted by aircraft noise and FAA-imposed maximum building heights. It is used by the US Army and for Guadeloupe Park.

The Diridon station lies just west of the flight path and, high-density residential housing has been/is being built just west of it. However, except for Caltrain's CEMOF maintenance facility and the HP Pavilion, long-standing efforts to attract commercial development between the station and CA-87 haven't been as successful. Back lots and at-grade parking lots are plentiful. Caltrain ridership into and out of Diridon station has historically been low for that very reason. In conjunction with the BART extension, HSR is supposed to deliver what Caltrain never could: attract commercial and residential development to the mid-town and downtown areas within approx. 1/2 mile of the station.

Note that neither HSR nor the long-sought BART extension are fully funded at this point and that there's no reason to believe airport blight will abate.

Transit Oriented Development

Nevertheless, San Jose is giving this another try and hosting a visioning workshop for the Diridon station area:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009
Time: 9:00-12:00
Location: Parkside Hall, Room B (west of Tech Museum of Innovation), 180 Park Ave

(Note that as reported earlier, the Innovation Place HSR Workshop in Palo Alto will be held on the same day from 9:00am-3:30pm. See also Clem's post Palo Alto Innovates)

Separate plans for transit-oriented development already exist or are in development for Santa Clara, Beryessa, Fremont Warm Springs, Union City and Fremont Centerville (context: Dumbarton Rail + Amtrak CC/ACE). All of these are supposed to boost ridership into the downtown-midtown area of San Jose and, to connect to HSR at Diridon station.

HSR Phase 1: San Francisco, San Jose and Points In-Between

Whether all of these plans for rail transit and transit-oriented development will come to fruition or fail to attract sufficient funding remains to be seen. However, while the wording of AB3034 would technically permit CHSRA to exclude San Jose from phase 1 or even from later phases, any attempt to do so would face massive political opposition on account of the above. Note that the bill, which was the basis of prop 1A(2008), specifically requires the starter line of the HSR network to terminate at the San Francisco Transbay Terminal. Therefore, terminating it San Jose for now as some have proposed would require the state legislators to amend the bill with a 2/3 majority in both houses and probably, a new ballot proposition to approve that amendment. San Francisco would never allow that to happen.

Ergo, for all intents and purposes, both SF and SJ need to be served by HSR in phase 1. The most straightforward way to do that is to leverage the PCJPA's Caltrain ROW and cross over into the Central Valley via Pacheco Pass. Since Caltrain "baby bullet" service takes 57 minutes between these two cities and AB3034 explicitly mandates that express HSR trains do it in just 30, the plan of record is to quad-track the entire ROW, even though narrow ROW sections such as downtown San Mateo present major engineering challenges if eminent domain is to be avoided at all costs. A second complication is that even if FRA gives Caltrain a waiver to operate mixed traffic (new non-compliant electric EMUs + a few legacy diesels for SJ-Gilroy + UPRR freight trains) at up to 79mph, it almost certainly won't give CHSRA the same luxury in the related but separate "rule of special applicability".

So, for both regulatory and capacity reasons, the intent is to upgrade the Caltrain corridor for mostly two tracks to a full four everywhere. Building just HSR tracks in another peninsula corridor, US-101, was considered but rejected due to constructability issues (lack of available medians) and because the corridor doesn't run near the desired stations. Also, this option would have done nothing to fully grade separate and electrify Caltrain, nor could peninsula residents have transferred to long-distance HSR trains at selected stations between SF and SJ.

Approaches into San Jose Diridon

South of San Tomas Expressway in Santa Clara, CHSRA's Google map of the route (please zoom in) shows an expensive trench/tunnel section to just north of SJ Diridon. Presumably, that's just two tracks reserved for HSR, so Caltrain would remain at grade (it's already grade separated in the area). Also note that the HSR tracks need to cross over or under the UPRR tracks somewhere between Santa Clara and Gilroy. Doing so in Santa Clara isn't possible because the BART tracks will run east of UPRR's line as far south as West Santa Clara Street, immediately north of Diridon station. Present plans therefore call for HSR to stay west of the Caltrain tracks. Note that tracks will need to emerge to the surface north of W. Julian St. since that's an existing underpass and tracks need run length to fan out to the platform tracks on the new deck above the Caltrain/UPRR tracks.

CHSRA's plan of record calls for a mix of aerials, embankments and cut/fill sections to cross I-280 and reach Gilroy via the UPRR/Monterey Hwy corridor. In some sections, the UPRR ROW might have to be widened via acquisition of land or air rights from private property owners - via eminent domain if need be. Failure to qualify the risk of such takings was one of the complaints the judge upheld in Atherton vs. CHSRA.

The track fan south of Diridon station can merge west, east or directly above the UPRR tracks, as desired. However, note that W San Carlos St. is currently an overpass. It would have to be converted to an underpass to keep HSR tracks from having to change elevation yet again. However, there's probably a good reason is was built as an overpass to begin with. Also, it's not clear if all of the HSR-related grade separation works shown on CHSRA's Google map are strictly for the new HSR tracks or would also include the legacy tracks used for UPRR freight, Caltrain and Amtrak Coast Starlight. By default, the latter might be preferable, but also much more difficult to construct (shoofly tracks). Given the low total volume of FRA-compliant traffic between San Jose and Gilroy - just 6 freight, 6 Caltrains and 2 Amtrak trains - it may well be acceptable to retain grade crossings for the legacy tracks only.

Since UPRR declined to entertain an offer because of supposed safety concerns, it cannot credibly pretend they've magically gone away even CHSRA were to offer it the moon. At the very least, there would have to be some engineering studies to determine if a given implementation proposed by CHSRA meets UPRR's criteria, which it hasn't even spelled out yet. This could drag on for years even if price were no longer an issue.

Ergo, UPRR's decision not to offer up any of its ROW nor air rights above it south of Lick (Caltrain's Tamien Yard, just north of Almaden Expwy/87) means CHSRA will have to secure land/air rights nearby, if only to avoid delaying the project. This will be tricky to achieve without eminent domain, especially near the gated communities just south of Curtner Ave, which is an overpass. Note that a VTA light rail line runs in the CA-87 and CA-85 medians.

Alternative to the UPRR ROW

However, the medians of both I-280 and US-101 are still available. Freeway medians are usually narrow, possibly limiting the maximum safe speed to below what CHSRA was counting on for a given section of the route. BART trains aren't constrained, but then their top speed is 79mph to begin with. As always the devil is in the details, i.e. exactly how many feet of width are available. Google Map's satellite view doesn't provide that level of precision.

The hardest part would be the section between W Santa Clara St and just east of the gnarly I-280/CA-87 interchange. Overpasses there may not be tall enough to permit HSR trains to run underneath, so it's better to avoid it altogether. In addition, HSR trains are limited to gradients of 3.5% and need generous curve radii at elevated speeds, so an entry point west of the interchange would be ambitious.

A deceptively simple solution would be to keep the HSR tracks underground south of CEMOF all the way to east of the interchange. Once you've bitten the bullet and gone underground, there are advantages to staying there. However, it would also put the SJ station underground, with full-length (1/4mi) platforms placed at an angle relative to those of both Caltrain and BART. There would be no need for architectural Viagra on the surface, not that need ever had anything to do with it to begin with. However, in raw transportation terms, an underground station with as little as two run-through tracks and one large island or two generous side platforms would get the job done. Fortunately, the area is partly parking lots and the aforementioned visioning workshop - a very early stage of the urban planning process - hasn't even happened yet.

There's plenty of room to run west of the BART tracks curving around the HP Pavilion, but the HSR tracks actually need to run sufficiently deep to pass under the VTA light rail line that already crosses under the Caltrain/UPRR tracks. HSR would also need to cross under the Guadeloupe River, a residential district, CA-87 and a second creek before emerging in the I-280 median. Note that the HSR tracks would also need to run either west of or else under the future BART tracks.

In other words, the HSR line and platforms would have to be very deep underground anyhow. Since San Jose is a through station anyhow, perhaps a single extra-wide island or two generous side platforms would actually be sufficient. Trains run past platforms in Europe and Japan at fairly high speed all the time. Waiting passengers are simply warned to retreat to a safe distance via the PA system and markings on the floor. The VTA tracks would prevent a full concourse level, but none is needed anyhow. Multiple pedestrian connections to the surface, to BART, Caltrain and the VTA station would be sufficient. Some of these passages could feature moving walkways to reduce transfer times. ADA compatibility would be achieved via elevators, but ramps or inclined moving walkways are more reliable in case a wheelchair user needs to be evacuated.

At the anyhow pre-blighted I-280/US-101 interchange, the cheapest solution would be a tall aerial to transition between the medians. However, it would have to fly over a descending overpass lane, so it would be a tall structure. Still, the incremental visual and noise impacts should be minor. The alternative would be to execute the transition underground, but that's more expensive.

Optional Extension through Altamont Pass

Tunneling under the I-280/US-101 interchange only makes sense if there is a desire to leverage all the work that was put into reaching the I-280 median for something else: a turnoff to continue east to I-680, whose median is also still available - all the way to the foot of the Sunol grade in Fremont, actually.

If Caltrans is prepared to reserve that median for HSR trains, it could be the basis for a future shortcut to Sacramento via Altamont Pass. Between Scott Creek Rd and E Warren Ave in Fremont Warm Springs, the tracks would veer east and across to Haynes Gulch via a long tunnel under Monument Peak. There, they would veer north, running essentially at grade next to Calaveras Rd. as far as the CA-84/Calaveras Rd exit off I-680. An aerial across the CA-84 and another tunnel would lead the tracks to an intermodal with BART at El Charro Rd in east Pleasanton/west Livermore. It would be heard to avoid impacts on both the nearby ponds and Livermore Municipal Airport, since crossing at grade is not feasible because of UPRR. Altmont Pass would be traversed - except for one short section - via the I-580 median. Passing north of Tracy, tracks would connect to the phase 2 spur to Sacramento near either Manteca or Escalon.

Optional Extension to Walnut Creek

Note that the I-680 median is still available between just north of the CA-84 exits to just south of the CA-24 interchange in Walnut Creek. A tunnel section under California Blvd. would be needed to create an intermodal with the BART station. However, that road features a tight chicane and there is a medical center next to the freeway. Tunnel tracks would have to thread a needle between its buildings. This would require a technical feasibility study as well as the consent of Kaiser Permanente regarding any number of issues, including construction nuisance and vibrations from passing trains. Eminent domain against a hospital is basically unheard of, so I'd consider the whole thing a long shot. However, even without an intermodal with BART, there would at least be HSR service to eastern Alameda and central Contra Costa county.

Maps for Alternative #1

The alternative ROW and extension options are shown on the map below. Switch to satellite mode to see why the HSR station would have to be deep underground. Zoom out in map mode to see the regional implications. Switch to terrain mode to see where there are mountains to contend with.

The picture below the map shows location of major known faults - basically, Calaveras Rd. and I-680 north of Sunol are right on top of the Calaveras fault. The Hayward fault generated the 1868 earthquake, estimated at 6.8 on the Richter scale. Paleoseismologists have estimated the mean time between such events on that particular fault to be 140 years, so statistically, it's due right around now. Perhaps it's not the most auspicious time to build a railroad, but the people of California have never allowed themselves to be paralyzed by a fear of Mother Nature. See our earlier post Shake, Rattle And Roll for more background on earthquake engineering in the railway industry.

View San Jose Diridon: HSR Underground in a larger map

Alternative #2

Since we're talking hypotheticals anyhow, here is a second alternative based on using 101 between SJ and Gilroy.

To come up with this one, I started in Gilroy and worked my way north. It quickly became apparent that the problem in San Jose could be addressed by simply moving the HSR station to the huge transit-oriented development at Beryessa and continuing north up the East Bay instead of the SF peninsula. CHSRA did study the scenario of SF + Oakland + SJ via Pacheco but not along this particular right of way, which does not depend on UPRR but precludes extending BART south. Moreover, whatever is gained in San Jose is lost (and then some) because the only available unused railroad right of way runs from Union City to just north of Oakland Coliseum. Reaching it from Fremont Irvington with full grade separation requires tunnels in Niles, tiptoeing around the water supply for 100,000 people.

The aforementioned available ROW runs right next to BART, but unfortunately its tracks cross over in three locations. That would greatly complicate the vertical alignment, though at least heavy freight does not impose any gradient constraints.

North of Oakland Coliseum, a few miles of greenfield ROW immediately next to BART would be required, complicated by the Fruitvale station and transit village. A tunnel under the Lake Merritt outflow and 4th Street in Oakland would need to pass under the east portals of the Webster/Posey road tunnels across to Alameda. The upside is an elevated intermodal station with West Oakland BART. Sanity would dictate that HSR terminate here in phase 1, after all downtown SF is just one BART stop away. However, as discussed above, AB3034 mandates a terminus in San Francisco Transbay Terminal. Since the station there is in the basement and the new east span of the Bay Bridge was redesigned specifically not to support the weight of BART/light rail/HSR trains, a second transbay tube would have to be part of the phase 1 specifications. Note that it could not cross the existing tube underwater.

As a result of all this, switching to the East Bay would be no easier than sticking with the peninsula. Multiple hard-fought political decisions would have to be reversed, multiple EIS/EIR processes re-done. Whatever ARRA is available for California HSR would be spent elsewhere in the state.


- HSR up 101 from Gilroy ($)
- modest elevated San Jose HSR station at Beryessa TOD ($)
- VTA's WPML ROW used for HSR (priceless ;^)
- tunnel in Niles to reach UC BART (stacked single tracks, $$)
- dedicated HSR alignment next to BART ($$$, ROW incomplete, BART crosses three times)
- tunnel under Oakland's Chinatown ($$$)
- second transbay tube to San Francisco Transbay Terminal Center ($$$$)

Consolation prizes:

- BART extended to Livermore via I-580 ($$)
- Caltrain electrification SF-SJ Diridon ($$)
- VTA light rail subway under E Santa Clara St and up to Beryessa via track stacking on short section of WPML ($$$)

Canceled: BART to Santa Clara (-$$$$)
Canceled: BART maintenance facility in Santa Clara (-$$)
Canceled: widening Caltrain corridor (-$, -litigation-related delays)
Canceled: Dumbarton rail (ROW in Union City usurped by HSR) (-$$)

Shelved indefinitely: DTX tunnel in San Francisco (-$$$)
Pushed back to PCJPA: full grade separation of Caltrain corridor (-$$$)

View HSR up WPML instead of BART in a larger map

Basically, this Alternative #2 was an interesting exercise, but it would really put a pride of lions among the pigeons. The takeaway is that switching to the East Bay would solve some political issues in the mid-peninsula at the expense of a whole new set of headaches.

Alternative #1 is more limited in scope, it "just" completely reconfigures the SJ station and moves the one in Gilroy to the 101 median.

UPDATE: Alternative #3: Commenter BruceMcF (h/t) has suggested that stacking HSR and VTA light rail tracks in the 87/85 medians between Lick and the Santa Teresa district would be both feasible and cheaper than the alternatives discussed above.

There are multiple existing road overpasses, including Almaden Expressway and Blossom Hill Rd. next to the station there. The stacked tracks would have to fly over those, raising tracks very high. VTA light rail leaves the 87 median and forks tracks at Ohlone Chynoweth station next to the 85/87 interchange. It leaves the 85 median in the Santa Teresa district. Combined with station access issues, this favors stacking the HSR tracks on top of light rail.

However, that puts the (slightly) heavier HSR trains on top and increases noise emissions. HSR's maximum gradient is smaller than the one light rail vehicles can negotiate and, greater vertical transition radii are needed on account of the higher speed. Note that VTA light rail is triple-tracked in some sections and would be down to just two after the project. Separately, note that the 101 median is not available right at the 85/101 interchange but that land for tracks to hug the northbound on-ramp is. At an appropriate point further south, the alignment would cut back over into the median.

Note that VTA's daytime light rail operations would need to continue during the construction period.

View SJ Diridon to Gilroy via UPRR/87/85/101 in a larger map


jim said...

It looks like there might be room for 4 tracks in the current 87 vta row. then transition to the 85 vta row to the 101 median at bernal. take a look.

Eric M said...

Rafael, sometimes I think you talk just to hear yourself talk. Enough of the "suppose we do this" or "suppose we do that" idea which is totally outside of the original plan where the trains are mandated to run.

jim said...

and even if there isn't room in the median, there is room along the sides. all the way from 85 to 152. more than ample room.

QV said...

Rafael, dealing with these vast hypotheticals, while interesting, does not help us understand the real options. As you mention, the issues with the currently selected UPRR corridor are mainly political, and politics takes negotiating, which is what CAHSR is (or should be) doing. You also cannot assume that an East Bay alignment would be any easier politically, and certainly not financially, especially with the technical challenges involved.

jim said...

where's the guy from san diego? - i have some transit questions....

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

it looks to me like there is room and since it is already a transit row and freeway median, nimbyism should be at a minimum. there is room to transition at the 85 to the 101 and the 101 below the 85 all the way to gilroy has ample center and side row. its also far removed from any homes 99 percent of the way.

Peter said...

Jim, you raise an intriguing idea. It never occurred to me to use the 87 median. I measured it out on GoogleEarth and it looks to be about 50 feet wide
And what about making it 3 tracks in order to maintain VTA service? VTA could just switch to using EMUs instead of its current light rail cars on that route. That would make that VTA route more useful, as it would connect to Caltrain at Diridon as well, instead of just at Tamien...

Adirondacker12800 said...

tracks need run length to fan out to the platform tracks on the new deck above the Caltrain/UPRR tracks.

It'd be cheaper and easier to ask why they need more than 4 platforms, maybe 6, at San Jose.

BruceMcF said...

@ jim, Peter, what is the frequency of the light rail, 4 each way per hour in peak - can one track handle that?

Mind, it may be cheaper to create a crossing loop vertically for the light rail than to run the HSR on a viaduct.

Also, I didn't have either the time or patience to wade through the full verbiage of the post ... does finding a way from Diridon to 101 solve the UP problem in the decision? If it doesn't, the idea that getting UP to agree to something is some brick wall but radical changes to the overall alignment is a straightforward thing is absurd - nothing but an excuse to engage in model railroad layout games.

Peter said...

My understanding is that avoiding the UPRR ROW in getting down to Gilroy would solve the main problems identified by the court's ruling.
Also, wouldn't use of EMUs by VTA on that route permit them to use the HSR tracks? This could help avoid scheduling conflicts, assuming VTA stays on one track unless required for passing.

Rafael said...

@ Eric M, QV -

there's a difference between exploring an option and advocating it. Unlike a lot of people, I don't actually have a particular outcome in mind, other than to try to get HSR built.

As indicated, running up the East Bay probably isn't a viable option now, if it ever was. Cutting over to I-280/US-101 to get down to Gilroy would involve making the San Jose HSR station a lot smaller and putting it deep underground - also not ideal.

If CHSRA can secure an agreement with UPRR after all or, buy land next to its alignment between Lick and Capitol Caltrain and on south to Gilroy via the Monterey Hwy corridor, that would be preferable.

In a comment to a previous post, Tony D. suggested moving the southbound traffic lanes laterally to create a new greenfield ROW for HSR tracks between the road and the UPRR tracks. Laying new asphalt costs money, but it's worth considering. Union Pacific will still try to claim safety issues even if the distance between the centerine of its single/northbound track and HSR's southbound one is well over the usual 15' as a result. However, since it's a greenfield ROW, they would only have a limited say in the matter.

Morgan Hill owns the stretch of the Monterey Hwy that runs through town away from the UPRR tracks and reportedly isn't interested in offering it up for CHSRA to modify. There are homes and businesses on either side of the UPRR ROW, it couldn't be widened to create a greenfield ROW without significant eminent domain takings.

In Gilroy, creating a greenfield ROW would be even harder.

A combo approach might work: cutting out a greenfield ROW south of Lick and cutting across to the 101 median near Bailey Rd via an aerial section.

Spokker said...

This is like high speed rail fan fiction.

Rafael said...

@ jim, QV -

VTA light rail has island platforms in the 85/87 medians and there are houses and businesses to eitherside of those freeways. Blossom Hill is actually an upscale neighborhood, though not as tony as ATH-MP-PA in the peninsula.

Since HSR and light rail cannot share track and there would be strong aerodynamic interactions, the idea of three tracks in the median is a non-starter. It's anyhow not possible in most locations. Stacking tracks in a freeway median would be incredibly difficult to construct, even if the locals were prepared to accept that.

I seriously doubt VTA would be prepared to cancel part of its light rail service and sell the ROW to CHSRA. Note how the tracks fork at the 85/87 interchange, there are multiple lines that use this infrastructure.

"Pre-blighted" refers to the freeway median, not the buffer zones to either side. If the median has been used for traffic lanes or light rail, it's gone and that freeway section is IMHO simply not available for HSR.

Peter said...

@ Spokker

Or it's the community trying to help come up with solutions to an issue that affects the entire state?

Morris Brown said...


I for one, really appreciate your posting. It illustrates some more of the many different options that should be available.

Rob Dawg said...

I missed the part where you discussed the cost growth not included in the current business plan. More, lots more and a whole heck of a lot more are not good enough.

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker12800 -

I was cheeky enough to suggest just two HSR tracks with (an) extra-wide platform(s) and nothing else for alternative #1 with the station deep underground but still at SJ Diridon.

Two platform + two through tracks would allow planners to mix express and non-express trains more easily. However, AB3034 merely states that SF-LA non-stop must be feasible in 2h40m. CHSRA probably isn't planning to run more than one non-stop train each way per day, just to prove its design is in compliance.

CHSRA has indicated dwell times of 2 minutes for secondary and four minutes for primary stations. That's actually generous, Japanese shinkansen operate well on dwell times as low as 50 seconds. Of course, the Japanese are a polite people who don't mind seat reservations and queueing up in the right spot on the platform and leaving room for alighting passengers to vacate the premises quickly. They've also got a lot of experience actually riding HSR, they know the drill.

Given these cultural differences, planners for the California HSR system might argue that four platform tracks plus two island platforms as a rock-bottom minimum for the San Jose station. Rod Diridon and SJ city officials would no doubt want something much grander, just for prestige reasons.

I beg to differ. HSR is a new animal and passengers will be prepared to accept new rules related to using it, as long as they're eminently sensible and not a pain in the keister. It will take many years for train frequency to reach Japanese levels, if it ever happens. That means passengers will have time to adapt as the system gets busier.

Also, keep in mind that HSR platforms are a full 1/4 mile long to accommodate one full-length or two half-length trains at the same time. The appropriate model for an HSR station with run-through tracks is not some Grand Central Station head-end station straight out of the history books, except where there's no way to run tracks out to a yard in a less densely built-up area.

LA Union Station will need additional HSR platform tracks because the network will split south of it. That's not the case in San Jose, unless dedicated passenger tracks are built up to Fremont and across Altamont Pass in addition to the main line through Pacheco.

Rafael said...

@ RobDawg -

if you're referring to the dollar signs, those are just supposed to give an indication of the relative cost of individual components that would have to be built and those that would not be.

Modifications to the route invariably drive up costs not down, which is why I hope CHSRA is successful in its bid to stick to plan A between SJ and Gilroy.

QV said...

Rafael, thanks for your clarification. I understand that you are not advocating these options, and I agree with your conclusions. And to be fair, your posts respond to many other people who might may be wondering 'what if.'

My point is that these projects inevitably encounter political opposition at many levels. We cannot infinitely dodge the opposition by "detouring" around the problem. I am waiting on the results of UPRR and community negotiations before thinking about the next step.

BruceMcF said...

@ Peter, OK, thanks. The resolution where tracks come into view was zoomed in too far for me to follow 101 all the way to Gilroy.

The HSR and the VTA definitely don't mix - problem is speed mismatch, if the HSR is to maintain 5 minute headways. Even if it continues running at 125mph until it hits the 101, that'll be around 3 minute headways. It's do-able for an EMU running express, but AFAIU, not for an EMU running local, let alone for light rail.

However, light rail goes into elevated structures much more cheaply than heavy rail. AFAIU, something about it being lighter. Still need a wider space for the rise to and drop from the crossing loop, but an elevated section between the two 87 stations would make sections of bidirectional track more feasible the rest of the way.

Indeed, it would be cheaper to put the light rail on a viaduct than the HSR, if sharing the median was unworkable. Boatload cheaper than tunneling, too.

BruceMcF said...

Rafeal: "Stacking tracks in a freeway median would be incredibly difficult to construct, even if the locals were prepared to accept that."

Harder than tunneling? That's absurd. Three stage process: (1) build the elevated section; (2) start running the light rail on the elevated (3) start building the HSR on the level.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

does finding a way from Diridon to 101 solve the UP problem in the decision?

The issue wasn't UPRR per se but rather, CHSRA's failure to clarify that without co-operation from UPRR, a greenfield ROW next to its tracks would have to be acquired - if need by, via eminent domain.

Assuming those freeway medians aren't already spoken for in road expansion projects like the managed lanes on I-15 in San Diego county, they are worth considering provided they can support the desired train speeds.

Excavating sufficiently deep tunnels underneath pre-existing property is legal in the US, but seismic considerations, subsidence risk etc. are non-trivial issues that would have to be studied in greater detail. The judge's ruling also related to vibration risks, both during construction and in commercial operation.

That said, yes, I believe a route through south San Jose based on available freeway medians could be built with no or minimal eminent domain takings.

Btw, Clem has published detailed maps of the Caltrain ROW. If CHSRA did the same for the UPRR and BNSF ROWs it wants to purchase part of or acquire a greenfield ROW next to, it would be much easier to identify and address specific (potential) problem areas in specific communities. That's what the project-level EIS/EIR process is supposed to be about.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

agreed, in any stacking scenario it is preferable to put the lightest tracks on top.

However, stacking relatively quiet light rail on top of HSR in a freeway median would require passengers to climb an extra 30 feet or so (California General Clearance Requirement of 22'6" plus the thickness of the aerial structure).

The primary access to the platforms is via stairs from below, typically accessible from a surface street running underneath the freeway. Adding 30 feet to the climb could kill ridership and introduce some emergency evacuation issues, though escalators or inclined moving walkways could mitigate that (at considerable investment and maintenance cost).

The biggest headache by far would be keeping the light rail service operational and the freeway open during construction. There essentially zero room for construction crews to safely work in, at least during the day. Construction at night is possible as are temporary lane closures on freeway sections, but what you're proposing would be difficult.

Overall, it might well be cheaper than tunneling but it would be much more expensive than laying tracks in a still-available median or constructing an conventional aerial.

Tony D. said...

Would it help the CAHSRA in terms of acquisition costs that Monterey Hwy south to Blossom Hill Rd. is designated a State Route (82)?

Also, like your idea about HSR cutting over near Bailey to 101. I would put the "cut over" just north of Cochrane/Morgan Hill (north of the new Sobrato High School), as the 101 median south of there to Gilroy is plenty wide.

amandainsjc said...

Slightly OT, but I'd be more in favor of using the existing ROW between Diridon and Gilroy without having to reinvent the transit wheel. VTA light rail south of downtown (both Winchester and Santa Teresa routes) is the one part of the system that works. If light rail is going to be elevated and grade separated, it should be the entire system north of downtown.

Anonymous said...

If what you really want to get done, as you claim, is just to get HSR built - then what you should be suggesting is a straight shot down I5 from LA to Sac at the fastest speeds known to HSR, with a branch off/connection to East Bay through 580/Livermore, or something and a branch off to reach the Bakersfield area. Period.

The cost will be fractional, it will avoid almost every NIMBY, it will be a showcase for 'real' HSR (spokker can get his rocks off all day long), and if its really so great the Pensinsula cities WILL find a way to get their connection in the future - YOU don't have to be the keeper of that! Wake up from your Diridon/Kopp administered koolaid already.

Will the REAL HSR proponents please stand up and start making sense.

The problem is you've fallen TOO in love with the story you've been forced to weave around why it MUST go through the Peninsula.

And as for ab3034 - not a problem. Once you go down the crazy paths to reinventing the route, like the ones you've suggested - which you eventually must - the eir is blown out of the water - which in turns mean the vote on the bond measure is now under false pretenses and is likewise blown out of the water. You're better off anyway NOT bound by the politically designed limitations in that bond measure imposes. Start fresh and get the thing done - let go of those prejudices you've entrenched yourself in for years now. Knock off all the concern about electrication of Caltrain! WHO CARES! Let the peninsula cities wallow in electrication of caltrain - they'll get that done on their own terms at their own cost eventually. Caltrain is NOT going to roll over and die without HSR. What does it really further the HSR problem, anyway?

looking on said...

Anonymous 4:10 PM is absolutely on target. But that isn't where the money is, and this is all about the money.

Pacheco was chosen to satisfy the demands of San Jose --- that's it -- that's all there is to that decision.

The rest of the State is to suffer and build a vastly inferior system, just so San Jose can be bailed out of its mistaken projections for its downtown? So that developers there can make millions, maybe even billions?

Powerful money interest forced this route. PCL was almost the only widely know conservation group to object, and quite frankly they did so meekly. The Sierra Club, once it got the Los Banos station removed, gave its support. The Sierra club lately is making plenty of poor decisions, and they should stick to what they understand, not to advocating TOD.

Now San Jose is touting a population gain of 450K in 20 years. That's almost a 50% leap from their present position. One should begin to wonder if they will go bankrupt, making projections that are surely way off the mark.

On the point of getting it done right that Anonymous above states, that only way that is going to happen, is removing the planning from politicians --- that's a tough road to hoe, but it is necessary.

looking on said...

Don't you just love the way this public agency behaves.

I just looked at their website. They have some news listed, but nothing about the lawsuit.

What they do show is this item:


with the Title:

Give All The High Speed Rail Funds To California

lyqwyd said...

Anon - 4:10,

I'm not entirely clear on what you mean, are you suggesting that the line go directly from LA to Sac, bypassing both SJ & SF (but getting close to SF by having a branch in the east bay)?

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 4:10pm, 4:48pm -

the decision that phase 1 tracks need to reach SF Transbay Terminal has been made, that's what voters approved in November. I'm not crazy about the design of the DTX tunnel and station throat, but there it is. Elections have to have consequences.

"The peninsula" actually consists of two halves, SF-RWC and RWC-SJ. A new standard-gauge transbay tube between Oakland and SF has been ruled out for now not because the tube itself would be horribly expensive. Rather, it's getting to up to Union City, on to Oakland Coliseum and beyond to West Oakland (or Point Alameda) while avoiding UPRR that would be extremely difficult.

In other words, HSR will have to be constructed in at least the SF-RWC portion of the peninsula. US-101 is not an option (no available median) and a new causeway in the Bay isn't, either. I-280 is even less suitable. Burying tracks under El Camino Real and/or Alma/Central Expressway for tens of miles isn't viable, either. I mean, what's next from the NIMBY crowd, tracks along Skyline Blvd?

That leaves the Caltrain corridor for at least the SF-RWC section. While this project is specifically about HSR, it does make sense to build it such that local/regional transit also benefits. About 10% of the prop 1A(2008) bond volume is reserved for capital investments in legacy rail systems, but that gets spread around so it doesn't amount to a hill of beans in the real world.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 4:10, 4:48pm -

(part 2)

Note that switching from Pacheco to Altamont-via-Dumbarton might not in fact avoid HSR construction in the more hotly contested RWC-SJ section of the Caltrain corridor, especially the ATH-MP-PA bit. With the WPML allocated to the BART extension and Fremont insisting that it must run as a subway through its Central Park, there would only be four conceivable alternatives for running a spur down to San Jose:

a) splitting off in the Pleasanton/Livermore area and reaching SJ Diridon via Calaveras Rd, a long tunnel through Mission Peak, the I-680/I-280 medians and another tunnel (cp. Alternative #1 above). CHSRA did not study this option.

b) tracks in the available median of I-880 between Decoto Rd and the hwy 262 interchange, with an aerial above the left lanes south past 87 and through Guadeloupe Park to SJ Diridon. It would have to fly over existing road overpasses. FAA would almost certainly have a safety issue with such a tall structure so close to the SJC runway. This option was studied, but only the section south of hwy 262, a city street that still had an available median back then.

Note that the 101 median is not available between the I-880 and the UPRR overpass just east of 10th St. Afaik, UPRR isn't using the Miliptas line south of 101 right now but even that section is not available for HSR. UPRR is retaining it as a backup freight conduit for the Alviso line through the salt marshes. If it can't get through San Jose, there's no point for UPRR to hang on to the entire Coast Corridor, itself a backup for the main line through the Tehachapis.

Note that the ROW anyhow narrows to single track through the Ryland Park area, so full grade separation there would require stacked single tracks (one in a tunnel, the other elevated). There would be just as much resistance to that as there already is in ATH-MP-PA.

c) a causeway from East Palo Alto to Alviso and subway tunnels under Lafayette St. While there is just barely enough room to technically avoid the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, the Saltmarsh Harvest Mouse is an endangered species. This option was also not studied.

d) splitting the starter line in RWC, west of any new fixed link across Dumbarton (MAP). This was studied but rejected in favor of Pacheco.

Of these three, (d) would be the easiest in engineering, though not in political terms. It's also the only one with fringe benefits for regional rail.

However, all proposals to split the starter line at all have serious implications for service frequency to both SF and SJ, with knock-on effects on ridership in the critical ramp-up phase immediately following start of operations.

Btw, contrary what you may think, AB3034 does in fact give CHSRA substantial legal leeway to change the route. The Bay Area to Central Valley program-level EIS/EIR would have to be amended but not completely re-done in that context. No court would lightly throw out 10+ years of planning effort plus voter endorsement and force the process to start from scratch.

Rafael said...

@ Tony D. -

yes, clarifying exactly who owns which bit of the Monterey Hwy would be helpful.

@ amandainsjc -

I agree that streetcar service in north San Jose is perceived as too slow to be useful. Presently, there is only one grade separation, against UPRR's Milpitas Line.

However, I limited the scope of my alternative #2 to only compensate for the loss of the planned BART extension to Santa Clara. The model for a VTA light rail substitute would be SF Muni's subway tunnel under Market Street.

Grade separation and long platforms would allow VTA to run four-cars consists between SJ Diridon and Beryessa, cp. the U6 line in Vienna (Austria). Each U6 train offers 232 seats plus room for 544 standees for 776 passengers total. All trains that run all the way out to Winchester would be the typical two-car consists to enable streetcar mode south-west of SJ Diridon.

BruceMcF said...

Rafael said...
"The primary access to the platforms is via stairs from below, typically accessible from a surface street running underneath the freeway. Adding 30 feet to the climb could kill ridership and introduce some emergency evacuation issues, though escalators or inclined moving walkways could mitigate that (at considerable investment and maintenance cost)."

So, three escalators versus tunneling costs. There's an order of magnitude reversal problem in comparing those costs and making the three escalators the "considerable" costs.

"Overall, it might well be cheaper than tunneling but it would be much more expensive than laying tracks in a still-available median or constructing an conventional aerial.

In what way is it not a conventional aerial? A LRV corridor in an elevated structure above another transport corridor is an entirely conventional aerial.

And nobody advocating HSR in California would suggest tunneling on the CHSR dime if there was a still-available median, so I'm assuming you've determined that there are none except in some Peninsula NIMBY fantasies about dumping all the issues of the HSR corridor going through onto the other side of the bay.

Rafael said...

@ lyqwyd -

no, if Pacheco is used as the primary connection to SoCal, any connector via Altamont Pass would be just a shortcut from SF to Sacramento.

Millbrae, RWC/PA, San Jose, Pleasanton/Livermore, Tracy and Stockton would be served along the way.

The connector to Modesto would be for belts-and-suspenders in case the Pacheco Pass route were to become unavailable for any reason, e.g. a tunnel fire or quake on the Ortigalita fault near the pass (trains will cross in a tunnel), flooding or earthquake on the San Andreas near Gilroy, accident, breakdown etc.

Without Pacheco, any Altamont-via-the-South-Bay route featuring run-through tracks at the South Bay station would avoid a new Bay crossing and splitting the starter line.

However, it would also add on the order of 8-12 minutes to the SF-LA line haul time, depending on feasible speeds. For reference, that's roughly the penalty already incurred by choosing to tunnel through the Tehachapis rather than the geologically much more difficult Grapevine.

A spur up to Walnut Creek has never been discussed before, I just wanted to point out one might be possible. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a way to continue all the way up to Sacramento, which would yield a faster route than connecting via Altamont.

That said, Central Contra Costa county is home to a sizable population in its own right. Current plans call for residents there to use BART plus a long walk to board HSR trains at SF's Transbay Terminal Center. The only reason that might work is that Oakland airport and SFO, never mind SJC, are also pretty far away.

Commercial operations at Concord's Buchanan Field ended in 1992 because of excessive noise from jets, so now it's only used for general aviation. Propeller planes with turbocharged aero diesel engines are fuel-efficient and could easily be muffled, but they're too slow for the mass market. Even small commercial prop planes use gas turbines (hence the name turboprop).

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

I think we got our wires crossed. Track stacking in a freeway median is expensive because the existing service has to continue operations during construction. In the case of light rail, that refers to daytime operations only.

The capital investment of adding a few escalators at stations is a rounding error in that context, though they are usually a pain to maintain, especially in outdoors settings.

But fair enough, if CHSRA cannot secure a ROW out of San Jose via an agreement with UPRR nor obtain a greenfield ROW next to it, tracks stacking in the 87/85 freeways is one option that merits a closer look. I'm not married to the idea of tunneling across to the I-280 median.

Are you aware of a precedent for tracks stacking in a freeway median, anywhere in the world?

Spokker said...

"Or it's the community trying to help come up with solutions to an issue that affects the entire state?"

I was just joking.

Bay Area Resident said...

Looking on, another mindless Palo Alto housewife. Really this is just tiring. Can you please read up on basic political influence and try to comprehend what your issues are?

The first thing you need to come up with is a plan and rally ENOUGH people around that alternative plan. Right now, you have that ridiculous Altamont option, which ONLY helps Palo Alto, Menlo Park and the geezers in Atherton. Your little plan does nothing for San Mateo, Burlingame etc and nothing for Willow Glen or Santa Teresa. So its a NON STARTER. Whats your plan B? Oh you don't have one, so its just more whining about insignificant San Jose, as if San Jose is Manhattan or something. Give me a break.

By the way I read the lawsuit and Altamont is DOA, more now than before the ruling.

BruceMcF said...

@Rafeal, obviously most countries do not put a lot of light rail in freeway medians, because of the loss of some of the strongest benefits of light rail that results, but the KL monorail was build above busy urban streets. I never rode it as it was the STARLine that went where I needed to go.

Its hard to imagine that it would be hard to get pre-formed members into the construction site at night, given that there are these railroad-track looking things at the ground level in all the medians under discussion.

An agreement in principle with VTA that CHSRA can build in the corridor if it first provides an aerial for the VTA lines and pays an annual perpetual lease, determination that the HSR can use 101, and then CAHRS goes into negotiations with UP without UP holding them over a barrel, and so with a much better prospect of being able to reach a deal.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

I whipped up a quick map so everyone can join in the discussion on your track stacking idea. See the UPDATE: Alternative #3 that I've added to the end of the post.

On closer examination, I don't think stacking VTA light rail on top of HSR would be feasible. Either way, there are also multiple existing freeway overpasses to content with.

Rafael said...

@ BAR -

just curious, how do you know commenter "looking on" is a housewife?

As for Altamont, all the judge ruled was that CHSRA's analysis had not been unfairly biased in favor of Pacheco. There really are major issues with constructing HSR tracks across Dumbarton and on to the Central Valley that have nothing to do with the sentiments of Fremont, Pleasanton and Livermore residents.

In particular, there's the issue of getting across Union City while staying out of UPRR's hair. The 84 median of the eastern approach to the Dumbarton road bridge is available and, a subway tunnel under Decoto Rd might be feasible. Union City has doggedly pursued a TOD project next to its BART station, using Decoto would permit an intermodal with HSR.

However, CHSRA did never studied this particular variation. See MAP.

Further east, CHSRA might be able to persuade UPRR to co-operate. Otherwise, yet more tunnels would be needed to avoid the UPRR and downtown areas of both Pleasanton and Livermore. A station serving both cities at El Charro Rd. would permit an intermodal station with the planned BART extension to Livermore.

However, there would be impacts on the ponds in the area and/or Livermore Municipal Airport and nearby buildings. Except for a short tunnel on account of the gradient, HSR could use the available 580 freeway median to cross into the Central Valley - unless BART decides to usurp it.

The Tracy station would be in the 205 median, the connector to the BNSF ROW would leverage the 120 median plus farmland.

These variations weren't studied either. All Altamont variations that were assumed that UPRR would be willing to share ROW.

Note that Alternative #1 described in the post, which wasn't studied either, would permit Altamont-via-San-Jose, with run-through tracks at that station. All Bay Area HSR trains would serve both SF and SJ.

Note that running the starter line via both San Jose and Altamont to the BNSF ROW would make relocating the Merced county HSR station to Castle Airport much more attractive.

Non-stop line haul time from SJ Diridon would be on the order of 40 minutes. If a new passenger terminal, integrated with the HSR station, were built at Castle, there would be scope for shutting down SJC. A drastic step, to be sure, but the value of that real estate, combined with eliminating noise blight, might make it worthwhile. General Aviation could switch to Reid-Hillview or Palo Alto.

However, since Altamont-via-San-Jose would add on the order of 8-12 minutes to the SF-LA line haul time, someone would first have to find something very wrong with Pacheco after all. Something NEW.

Brandon in San Diego said...

It's hard for me to get to 'into' this post. It's both very long... and, secondly... well.. I'll just leave it at that.

As for 87/85... Rafael's first response is accurate... there's insufficient room.... it's a non starter.

Rafael said...

@ Brandon -

a) if San Jose-Gilroy is such a problem, do we even need to solve it?

If tracks need to run through Pacheco, then yes we do.

b) if CHSRA cannot find a way to stick close to UPRR tracks, are there alternatives?

Yes: #1, #2, #3. None are easy, least of all #2.

Short enough?

jim said...

or we can hang the trains from the underside of a zeppelin and float them to sf so they won't make any noise.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

well, if you're the Pentagon, you've got money for stuff just like that. Meet the Lockheed P-791 heavy lift airship a.k.a. the StayPuft Marshmellow Man. The circular structures underneath generate suction to help land the craft and keep it anchored to the ground, octopus-style.

Your tax dollars at work. Small wonder civilian transportation planners can only look in envy at what Spain, China and other countries are doing to prepare their economies for the rest of the 21st century.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Yes... the cliff notes to the conclusion or exec summary help .

But, scimming through the described alternatives that... they remind me of alternatives forwarded by some peninsula nimby's.

neroden@gmail said...

"there's no reason to believe airport blight will abate."

Well, if we were doing it like Europe, we'd eliminate so many airplane flights with HSR that:
(1) the San Jose airport couldn't support long-distance flights any more;
(2) it would be easier to fly into SFO or Oakland and connect to San Jose by rail.

At this point San Jose could be reduced to a minor general aviation airport or closed entirely.

So if there were a real long term plan, then the airport noise and height restrictions *could* be eliminated.

Anonymous said...

Move SJC!

Shut down SJC? Relocate operations? A real high-rise downtown San Jose? I LOVE IT!

Morris Brown said...


You wrote:

General Aviation could switch to Reid-Hillview or Palo Alto."

Sorry not nearly adequate. Reid Hillview is still lucky to be around today with the shopping center at one end just inviting tragedy. Both of these airports support low end GA traffic well, but your dealing with corporate Jets at SJC, and they just don't fit.

Imagine Larry Ellison flying one of his big jets into Reid Hillview!

The South County airport was supposed to at one time be the airport of choice for GA, but that has never panned out.

AndyDuncan said...

Note that VTA's daytime light rail operations would need to continue during the construction period.

In LA they just run shuttle busses between the affected stations when they need to do track work. And they do it on lines with higher ridership than these.

How high is the VTA ridership on that line? It's not very long, running shuttle busses for even the entire route seems feasible.

Peter said...

@ Rafael, Morris Brown

I have to agree with Morris Brown. You can't switch the "general aviation" planes that use SJC to Palo Alto or Reid-Hillview. The runways are not long enough. The GA planes that use SJC the most are corporate jets. I instruct out of Reid-Hillview, and the only jet I've ever seen in there was one of the smaller Cessna Citations. No Gulfstreams, Falcons, definitely no Learjets. You just can't operate anything bigger out of an airport with a 3,100 foot long runway. Also, please note that there is no chance of expansion, due to said mall.

Same deal with PAO, their runway is only 2,443 long, and they're built in the middle of wetlands, as I gather.

The community would have a heart-attack if they expanded either airport, as well. NIMBYs don't exist only to rant and rave against railroads.

jim said...

I was just reading somewhere that britain's goal is to eliminate all flights to the continent and that Virgin is now offering thru ticketing on eurostar online.

Peter said...

They're planning on killing flights to Berlin, Barcelona, Rome? Those distances aren't practical with rail... That makes no sense.

jim said...

Virgin and Eurostar shack up
Transport : 24/08/2009
Virgin Atlantic has become the first airline to offer the possibility of buying Eurostar train tickets for onward journeys between London, Paris and Brussels. Passengers will now be able to make their Eurostar booking at the same time as reserving their flight with the contact centre or through their travel agent. If booking from one of Virgin Atlantic's international destinations, bookings can be made up to 270 days in advance. What's more, if you are a member of the airline's Flying Club or you have a Virgin Atlantic credit card, any miles earned can be redeemed against your Eurostar journey.

Alan Lias, head of Loyalty at Virgin Atlantic commented: "This new agreement gives Virgin Atlantic passengers even more flexibility. They can quickly and effortlessly book Eurostar tickets when booking a flight, and experience the delights of Eurostar's key destinations-London, Lille, Paris and Brussels."

in other news... back in america the debate over wood burning steam versus coal burning rages on.

jim said...

This just in... American airlines and Wells Fargo team up to offer thru ticketing on hot air balloon to stagecoach transfers.

AndyDuncan said...

Even if you were to drop 100% of all CA-bound flights from SJC, the balance would be taken up by the expected increase in interstate and international trips.

That's part of the point of HSR right? To relieve congestion at airports by removing short hop flights, providing space for more long-haul flights?

AndyDuncan said...

I was just reading somewhere that britain's goal is to eliminate all flights to the continent and that Virgin is now offering thru ticketing on eurostar online.

I think you mean all flights to Paris/Brussels/Amsterdam. There's no way London-Munich is going to drop flights.

The 2010 EU open trackage mandate is interesting though. It will be fun to watch how that plays out.

jim said...

(@peter - I re read it - its actually domestic flights and some continent flights not all continent flights.)

jim said...

Where's the guy from san diego?

Peter said...

@ jim

Yes, that makes more sense. It's a very big continent after all... ;)

jim said...

i was automatically thinking only of the important places, you know, like paris, and ..... uh, paris.

Peter said...

As someone whe grew up in Berlin, I take offense to that. ;)

jim said...

I'm sure Berlin is very nice in its own special way.

Peter said...

I don't see how stacking HSR on top of light rail is going to increase noise along 87 and 85. It's already a busy freeway. People there are already used to the large amount of noise associated with it.
My question is what to do with the overpass at Almaden Expressway. That would have to be completely reengineered to pass over the tracks and freeway even higher?

mike said...

Imagine Larry Ellison flying one of his big jets into Reid Hillview!

I'm sure he could work out a deal with Sergey and Larry to use Moffett Field...

Adirondacker12800 said...

I was cheeky enough to suggest just two HSR tracks ... . .

I should have been clearer. Why do they need more than 4 or 6 tracks for everything at San Jose? Well maybe 5 or 7, one track for the the Amtrak dinosaur that toddles through every hour or so.

NJ Transit will be more or less doubling it's capacity by 2030. They are building all sorts of new stuff between Penn Station in New York and Penn Station in Newark to handle the traffic. Not a peep anywhere that I've read that Penn Station in Newark doesn't have the capacity to handle it. Penn Station in Newark has 6 platforms for conventional trains. Jamaica on the Long Island Rail Road has more trains than San Jose will ever have, it has 8 platforms.

Are you aware of a precedent for tracks stacking in a freeway median, anywhere in the world?

Freeway-ish and not parallel, the multiple levels at Atlantic Ave and East New York Ave in Brooklyn comes to mind. Can't see it in the satelitte views, the LIRR is under Atlantic Ave. East New York grade separations

The avoidance of eminent domain is relatively recent. Four track railroads are relatively rare. I suspect that stacked tracks are uncommon if not unheard of because it's cheaper to get out the bulldozers and wrecking balls than it is to build elaborate structures. The only places I can think of off the top of my head where tracks are stacked for long distances is the New York City Subway. That's partly because it's cheaper to dig a hole two tracks wide and two tracks deep than it is to dig one four tracks wide. In the case of the subway under Central Park West it keeps all of the platforms on the west side of the street where all the passengers live.

Peter said...

Fry's Electronics tried real hard to get their 747SP based at Moffett. NASA said no, as did SJC. They even offered to pay for the construction of a gate and everything for that beast.
Does any corporate operator base out of Moffett? Other than Aris Helicopters and the new Zeppelin?

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown et al -

when I wrote "General Aviation" I was thinking of the propeller planes some rich people fly as a hobby. I forgot about executive jets. those do need a longer runway.

Hayward Executive might be an option, but otherwise I agree with mike: Moffett Field would be large enough. I wonder how badly the Navy needs an airport smack in the middle of Silicon Valley. More to the point, how badly Silicon Valley needs the Navy to be there. There is the NASA wind tunnel, but couldn't that be served equally well with a civilian airport? Just wondering...

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

my default assumption for alternative #3 is that all road structures would have to be left alone. The upper level of the rail sandwich would have to fly over the overpass, i.e. reach lofty heights of ~60 feet above freeway grade. Several times along the way, actually.

Considering the vertical curve radii in the transitions, HSR trains would need a minimum of 2000 feet of run length to climb over Almaden Expressway and another 1000 feet to descend to the upper stack level, a total of 3000 feet. The Lean Ave and Cottle Rd overpasses are separated by 3000 feet, so tracks would probably just stay extra-high between them.

Track stacking might be cheaper than tunneling across to the I-280 median, but it would also be ugly as sin and from that height, noise would radiate further. Can't say for sure how significant an issue it would be in a freeway context, though.

Also consider how a train traveling at high speed that high up would behave in windy conditions or during an earthquake. The taller the structure, the more flexible it is. Emergency evacuations would be "exciting", a derailment still very unlikely but absolutely catastrophic.

I'm not trying to pooh-pooh the idea of track stacking in freeway medians in principle, I just think that in this particular case it's literally a very tall order.

Peter said...

@ Rafael

Let me correct you on what it is that happens at Moffett Field. Moffett is the location of NASA Ames Research Center. I'd say about a third of Moffett is devoted to Ames. Ames does a lot more than aerodynamics research. They work on space technology in many shapes and forms. They do a lot of aviation human factors research. They are one of the country's leading research facilities in the field of air traffic control. They have major projects there where they test the layouts of airports like O'Hare to determine how the traffic flows will work, so the controllers know in advance where the problem spots will be, well before the changes are implemented. I don't know what other major research projects they have going, but they have a lot of 'em.

Additionally, they are the home base for the local Air National Guard unit. A LOT goes on at that airfield that isn't visible from the outside.

About "the propeller planes some rich people fly as a hobby," I have to say that you apparently do not know who the people are that fly airplanes. I scratched a living out of flight instructing for a number of years. Only a very small fraction of the students and pilots at Reid-Hillview, for example, are "rich." Many of them are college students aspiring to become professional pilots. Many others are just everyday people who have always dreamed of learning how to fly. And many of them use airplanes as a business tool, to enable them to reach clients throughout California and in other states. Deriding everyone who flies light aircraft as "some rich people" is an insult.

Peter said...

@ Rafael

Yes, a transition via the 87-85 medians is sounding less and less attractive. It may be technically feasible but operationally impractical.
Oh well, just an idea.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

United used to offer GroundLink, a combo ticket of transatlantic flight to Paris + connecting TGV service. They appear to have canceled it, perhaps it didn't attract enough additional customers.

An airport's catchment area may increase if its has an HSR station within walking distance (e.g. CDG, AMS) that is ona main line, but the train + plane combo has to be aggressively marketed by innovative airlines. Many trains stations already have IATA codes to enable integrated booking. AirFrance will operate TGV trains to London and elsewhere under its own brand after the EU liberalizes the cross-border rail markets next year.

Meanwhile, at SFO, the status quo is BART + BART + AirTrain + schlepping suitcases between island platforms + futzing with BART ticketing machines - a complete cluster**** for anyone trying to connect to Caltrain now or HSR in the future. If it were just the courtesy AirTrain or a courtesy shuttle bus, the connection would be much more attractive.

LA county will have to decide if it wants to invest in an non-stop shuttle train between the LAX terminals and Union Station, a new passenger terminal-cum-HSR station at Palmdale or both. I expect residents along the HSTC right of way would prefer light rail service, but that would only be fast enough if it were fully dual-tracked and grade separated.

The ROW has narrow sections, so that might mean one track in a trench, the other elevated or else, widening via eminent domain.

Peter said...

@ Rafael and Jim

I believe Lufthansa used to offer a choice of either a flight or a train ride on some inner-German route out of Frankfurt on a train in Lufthansa livery in the 1980s and 1990s.

dave said...

Here's the just released EIR/EIS for San Jose To Merced for August, 2009:


dave said...

Some of the things mentioned here like using VTA's corridor following Highway 85 & 87 as well as running HSR on the 101 to Gilroy is being considered.

AndyDuncan said...

@Dave good find, although that's just the scoping doc, not the full EIR.

The comments are interesting. Question: what is "Greater Gardner" and who is Harvey S. Darnell?

He seems to have a set of amazingly detailed questions (and no comments, by the way) about the impact to Greater Gardner (which from what I can find is the area nestled in between the crotch of the 280 and the 101.

AndyDuncan said...

@Dave: actually the document doesn't say those options are being considered, just that they were raised in the scoping process as comments.

Alon Levy said...

Adirondacker: I don't disagree that San Jose could make do with 6 tracks, but what you say about Newark Penn is inaccurate. ARC is projected to lead to one-seat rides from the Erie lines, rather than to more traffic on the Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Shore Lines.

jim said...

rafaelMeanwhile, at SFO, the status quo is BART + BART + AirTrain + schlepping suitcases between island platforms + futzing with BART ticketing machines - a complete cluster**** for anyone trying to connect to Caltrain now or HSR in the future. If it were just the courtesy AirTrain or a courtesy shuttle bus, the connection would be much more attractiv

well only domestic terminals. - international arrivals and departures and well as domestic flights on jet blue and virgin america and virgin atlantic - a total of 29 airlines ( international and domestic) depart and arrive at the international terminal with direct access from ticketing and gates to to the bart platform.

I use it whenever I can to avoid setting foot in the eastbay.

jim said...

and I live on top of a bart station so yay for me and bart to sfo.

Adirondacker12800 said...

but what you say about Newark Penn is inaccurate. ARC is projected to lead to one-seat rides from the Erie lines, rather than to more traffic on the Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Shore Lines.

They will be adding capacity for 25 trains an hour. They aren't all going to be coming from the old Erie lines.

7 billion or so for the ARC project and another 2 billion or so west of that, some of it west of Secaucus, to add capacity to Newark.

All of the lines that go through Newark, either at Penn Station or Broad Street are standing room only during rush hour, they are going to be adding trains. Once they decide where to put it, there's going to be a new branch off the North Jersey Coast line. The Raritan Valley Line is going to get one seat rides out of this too, I suspect that is going to generate a few more trains every rush hour - a repeat of Midtown Direct and Montclair Direct. Rumor has it that Amtrak is going to be getting more slots during peak also. There's going to be more trains passing through Penn Station in Newark.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 4:10

The Sac t0 LA via I-5 is good altho San Jose taps the Bay Area and Sac logically should be on the 99 corridor route.

At some point we may see the CHSRA altering course and deciding to swim via I-5 rather than sink in the Tehachapis. The hsr mandate is eroding and it is time to return to a backbone concept before it is too late. The CHSRA has yet to disprove the likelihood that both alignments are roughly similar in terms of difficulty of construction. But if feasible the Grapevine is obviously preferable because it is more direct, even for the CV.

AndyDuncan said...

But if feasible the Grapevine is obviously preferable because it is more direct, even for the CV.

Yes, but it doesn't look like it is feasible. I mentioned on another thread that if you're going over tehachapi, bakersfield is not out of the way, so you might as well have a station there even if you go up the 5. And if you go up the five, skipping Fresno, you only save 12 miles. If you were somehow able to make the grapevine alignment work, you'd save about 27 miles.

That's about 3 or 8 minutes at 200mph, respectively.

I think the benefit of getting Bakersfield and Fresno connected are worth 3-8 minutes.

AndyDuncan said...

Bad sentence. Fixed:

And if you go up the five [from bakersfield], skipping Fresno, you only save 12 miles. If you were somehow able to make the grapevine alignment work, you'd save about 27 miles [by skipping bakersfield and fresno].

BruceMcF said...

@ Rafeal,

I don't see why you have to pick up both tracks to clear the overpass. Cheaper to drop the HSR into a trench to add the extra 10' required to get under the overpass. The LRT is already 30' over grade, so to get over an overpass that is 20' over grade, it only has to rise 10' itself.

Indeed, for at least one station that would allow bring the LRT over above its parking lot instead of having one of those idiotic patronage killing highway median stations.

The last connection to 101 would require a full viaduct, but that's less than a mile, and allows the HSR to arrive wherever it needs to for the alignment down to Gilroy.

BruceMcF said...

AndyDuncan said...
"And if you go up the five [from bakersfield], skipping Fresno, you only save 12 miles. If you were somehow able to make the grapevine alignment work, you'd save about 27 miles [by skipping bakersfield and fresno]."

Skipping Fresno loses more ridership than 12 miles gains, and skipping Fresno and Bakersfield loses more ridership than 27 miles gains.

Its a suboptimum - optimizing for a partial set of goals, not for the full set.

Subgoal optimization.

Anonymous said...

You would serve Bakersfield and Fresno on a branch, the beginning of a 99 corridor to Sacramento that would be completed in a second phase. But Bakersfield and Fresno would be included in the first phase for political expediency.

jim said...

can we just build thew damn thing as planned and be done with it.

BruceMcF said...

Ah, I see Anon, two independent corridors, one for Expresses, one for Limiteds, Semi-Expresses, Station Skippers and All-Stations.

Now, since the branch that goes through Fresno and Bakersfield has the best benefit/cost ratio, why not build it first, and then if there is ever the benefit/cost ratio to justify building the Express-only corridor, then build that then. Given the capacity of a single corridor, that might be a while, but that's fine.

Anonymous said...

I don't forsee the 99 corridor as necessarily anything other than a true hsr. It would be more expensive than the initial I-5 due to urban areas onroute and somewhat less express due to more stops. In practice hsr trains on the 99 corridor would hit all the stops whereas I-5 would be express.

IMHO Pacheco and Altamont are both acceptable - both have their pros and cons. But the Tehachapis represents a built-in handicap. The Grapevine route is graphically and markedly superior and deserves exhaustive study before being rejected. Since it has already been reduced to one alignment an in-depth study would not be a budget buster.

To recapture public support the hsr needs to boldly go where no train has gone before.

jim said...

you can't leave out the antelope valley. You don't get to leave people out just cuz you don't want to go there.

Anonymous said...

There are a whole lot of places that won't be on the hsr - say, Redding, for example. The LA regional network can serve Palmdale quite adequately.

jim said...

ITs not going via grapevine.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

if tunneling through the Grapevine weren't so expensive and risky, the Antelope Valley would be SOL in a New York minute. They left out CoCo county, fercrissakes. That has twice as many residents in a much smaller area.

neroden@gmail said...

New suggestion!

Run it in the 101 median south of Blossom Hill Road, or if that doesn't work, the highway 85 merger.

North of that and south of San Jose Avenue, run in the Monterey Highway right-of-way. The median means there's room to move the road over and put the railway in; at worst make it elevated, along this stretch only. It would probably need to be elevated or trenched north of Curtner Avenue.

This non-101 section is all within City of San Jose limits, so theoretically there should be less problem in getting the road ROW...

Reconnect to either Lick or all the way around to Diridion Station using the disused ROW north of San Jose Avenue (in an elevated or trenched alignment). It's disused, someone will sell it.

Connect the two with an elevated alignment across one-story commercial buildings and parking lots. This would be a tougher sell, but sounds feasible. Careful examination may spot a cut-and-cover tunnel option with a small number of demolitions.

- straightness
- no residential takings
- no construction more than one story away from ground level (no "bridges over bridges")
- should therefore have good curves and vertical curves
- good approaches to San Jose Diridion (especially if you keep following the disused ROW the 'long way' to where it meets light rail near Auzerais Ave).

- long viaduct work (presumably expensive)
- utility relocation in the Monterey Highway area

If UP could be convinced to deal between Lick and Caltrain Capitol only it would simply things immensely.bulo

neroden@gmail said...

"The Grapevine route is graphically and markedly superior and deserves exhaustive study before being rejected. Since it has already been reduced to one alignment an in-depth study would not be a budget buster."

Since that *one alignment* involves crossing *two faults undergound*, and IIRC in the *same tunnel*, it sounds outrageously unreasonable.

Rafael said...

@ neroden@gmail -

are you suggesting running HSR tracks through the residential Willow Glen neighborhood?

Also, the old ROW ends at San Carlos St. and crosses VTA light rail. It's not clear to me how track would connect to SJ Diridon or how full-length (1320' = 1/4 mi) straight platforms could be constructed there.