Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spain's Transport Minister Makes Progressive Case for HSR

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

Although most Americans who know anything about high speed rail associate the trains primarily with France and Japan, it is Spain that has had some of the most dramatic success with high speed rail this decade. The AVE (Alta Velocidad Española) trains have attracted significant numbers of riders in a nation whose geography and population densities are quite similar to California, and operating profits from the existing lines have been plowed back into expansions of the system.

But there are bigger picture reasons to embrace HSR, as Spain's Minister of Transportation José Blanco López explains:

Someone could think that we, the political representatives in charge of looking after the public interests by assessing the opportunity costs of each choice, would be tempted to follow the easy path on those crucial crossroads. But this is not the case.

Maybe Spain, with the socialist party at the head of successive governments, is the best example of how a mindful combination of courageous decisions on difficult times, the power of a cabinet lead by egalitarian principles and the supportive effort of the taxpayers, can lead a country to new heights of economical and social progress.

Our high speed rail network reaches now several edges of the Iberian Peninsula, and connects some of the most important cities of Spain with the most sustainable transport mode and in a fast, safe and clean way: Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Seville and Valencia at the end of 2010. Its next objectives will be Galicia, the north coast, Portugal and France.

The effort under way is so big that, by 2012, Spain’s HS network will be the longest one in service in Europe. And only eight years later, by 2020, another historic landmark will be achieved when more than 90% of the country’s total population will have a HS train station at less than 31 miles away.

Sure, López is selling the PSOE as a good steward of a tough economy, but he raises the key points in how we consider high speed rail. HSR opponents have not offered any explanation of how they will grow the economy and provide economic recovery to the people of California. Whereas we who support HSR have history on our side. We built the Golden Gate and SF-Oakland Bay bridges during the Depression. We built Boulder and Shasta Dams. We built the Central Valley Project and countless other key pieces of infrastructure during the worst economic downturn in history. That spending, far from hurting the economy or making the Depression worse, provided job growth in the short-term and provides jobs and savings to this very day.

López explains that in Spain they too have had to battle conservative Hooverites who opposed AVE expansion:

Spanish conservatives even raised doubts and sowed distrust about a high speed system which finally yielded priceless benefits to the whole society.

’Boondoggle‘, ’Loss-making whim‘, ‘Monument to bad territorial planning’… Shielded behind overly simple, short sighted cost-benefit analysis, critics complained with those arguments against high speed projects over years, until the success of each one of the new corridors proved them wrong and showed that in troubled economic times, the best investments for a society are the ones which improve equality. Today, like we did over the last 20 years, we have to express our conviction in a brilliant future for high speed rail in Spain, with the extension of the network to each edge of the country, building a multi-node web in which each city is a centre. A network which draws territories together and grants equal opportunities to each citizen, no matter where he lives. A network which ties us strongly to Europe.

Now more than ever, we have to look towards the future and we shouldn’t slow down our pace, because each new high speed line carried out will be at the same time a retaining wall against the economic crisis and a lever to get the society ready for the incoming recovery.

López's article is produced in conjunction with this week's Labour Party conference in Britain, where the current British governing party is hoping to use high speed rail as part of its strategy to stave off electoral catastrophe in the spring 2010 election. Julian Glover, writing in the Guardian, makes the case:

High-speed rail can be justified as green if we sort out non-fossil fuel electric power, but the case is really as much social and economic. The unspoken aim of British politics is to make all of Britain middle class, and the middle classes travel – and will do so more and more. It's best if they go by train. Faster journeys are a bonus; the gains are as much about reliability and capacity – good links between Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, as well as to London.

Transport routes north from the capital are full, or soon will be. England's great cities cannot enrich themselves in isolation and the harder it is to get between them, the poorer they will be. Rail investment is a progressive cause, if we don't want to see London as a sort of Singapore, a first world island isolated from – and perhaps one day refusing to fund – an impoverished hinterland.

We can say the same for California. High speed rail is essential to providing economic growth and prosperity to California in the 21st century. Driving and flying aren't going to be affordable for much longer, as the great gas price spike of 2008 showed. Since most jobs are going to be created in the urban centers, those who don't have the ability to live there, and other regions of the state, will be locked out of prosperity.

Those who oppose HSR are those who believe that the economic system of the latter half of the 20th century will persist forever, with a transportation system that hasn't evolved past 1985. They offer no arguments for how we will solve the gridlock on the freeways and the airports that would come with population growth, except presumably to spend twice as much money expanding those instead of building HSR. They offer no arguments for how we will wean California off of carbon emissions, to which transportation is a key contributor. They offer no real arguments at all about how California will generate jobs and economic opportunity - they just assume it will materialize out of thin air.

For the rest of us who have to live in the real world, we cannot put blind faith into a magical economic recovery based on a 20th century model whose failure has produced the present crisis. There is no reason for us to sit on our hands and refuse to follow the proven, successful model laid out by nations such as France and Spain, which have used high speed trains to provide sustainable economic growth and to try and battle a global recession.

And of course, Californians have already decided to reject the "lower your horizons and suffer" model being offered by HSR deniers. Californians knew what they were doing when they voted to build a high speed rail system in their state, and knew what they were doing when they voted to put Barack Obama in the White House, a president who understands the value of HSR and plans to fund it.

Still, we need to constantly remind ourselves and our fellow Californians of why we did that in November 2008, especially as the HSR deniers and those who would put small, parochial concerns over the needs of the state as a whole try and block HSR from getting built.

61 comments:

jim said...

It's the usual "we can't" suspects. Doesn't tmatter what the issue is.
ou know I think it is, believe it or not, some people actually don't have imagination. They actually can only see what is, not what can be, and they only see things with a two dimensional, black and white, perspective.

It's kind of like being simple minded or something.

I blame the crazy rock n roll music.

Anonymous said...

AVE staff's efforts. I think it was one of the reason for success.
customer satisfaction
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1rOPrUmrOQ

Rafael said...

Spain has a special dynamic in that not just its economy but its sense of national cohesion was in tatters after the Bolivar revolutions of the 1820s. The country never fully recovered from the loss of its colonies in South America. The resulting wealth gap between the relatively rich, industrialized Basque country and Catalonia in the north and the rural, impoverished rest of the nation was a big factor in Franco's ability to rise to power.

Connecting all of Spain's regions with a dense network of high speed train tracks is as much about tying the country together psychologically as it is about growing the economy and weaning it off oil.

While there is no history of colonialism, Californians also tend to identify with the region of the state in which they live rather than with the state as a whole. There are pockets of poverty and population loss, especially in the wake of the mortgage bubble bursting.

Even with just the starter line, California HSR will begin to help those areas recover because they will no longer be perceived as remote. The cities of Fresno and Bakersfield are prime examples.

For one thing, there is very little seismic risk in the eastern Central Valley, virtually none at all in the Sacramento area. Agriculture uses 80% of all managed fresh water but climate change is already reducing the amount available. No matter how productive the soils could be, the agricultural sector in the southern Central Valley may have to shrink over coming decades. Other industries have to be built up to compensate, it's not enough merely to attract worker bees from the Bay Area and LA who are looking for cheap housing.

The question is if Central Valley towns have the urban planning chops to reinvent themselves and their economies around HSR. For example, Zaragoza has become a popular spot for business meetings in Spain, because it lies about half-way between Madrid and Barcelona. Baby steps, to be sure, but the line has been open for less than two years.

jim said...

Rafael that is the most important intangible of all. One would hope he hsr will have the effect of helping to bring californians closer together on other issues.
The problem now isn't sacramento's inability to do the job, sacramento is a reflection of the schizophrenic nature of california residents.

Anonymous said...

Fresno as Zaragoza? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaragoza

Good luck with that.

I happen to think the most important intangible benefit of this is connection of Sacramento to the rest of the state, which makes its relegation to Phase 2 even more inexplicable.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

you might want to take a look at the web site of the Courage Campaign.

HSR is a statewide project on the order of the interstates or the California Aqueduct. Perhaps that will be enough for voters to pay attention to the 2/3 rule at the heart of the permanent gridlock in state politics, but otherwise the two issues are essentially separate.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 9:34am -

Fresno can't match Zaragoza's rich history, that's not the point. Until just a few years ago, people in Madrid and Barcelona considered Zaragoza to be a sleepy little backwater, i.e. "flyover country". No more.

Of course Fresno would have to be bold and innovative in its urban planning to put itself on the map in the eyes of Bay Area and SoCal residents. HSR creates the opportunity for diversifying the economy and competing with those regions for high-paying jobs in greentech and other industries.

As for Sacramento: you've got to start somewhere and the Bay Area and LA both have larger populations. The language of AB3034 explicitly defines phase 1 as SF to LA and Anaheim, but other portions of the network can be developed concurrently if sufficient funding can be rustled up. That is why CHSRA has staggered its planning efforts for the individual corridors - including the Altamont overlay - to be completed within a couple of years of each other.

Other than funding, the biggest issue between south Stockton and Sacramento will be right of way. UPRR is essentially the only game in town, they're not co-operating and some sections of their land wouldn't even be wide enough for four tracks. Sound familiar?

Anonymous said...

"The question is if Central Valley towns have the urban planning chops to reinvent themselves and their economies around HSR."

Won't happen with all the regulation that CA imposes on businesses in the state.

California has some very basic problems that HSR won't solve.

jim said...

anon- if its so hard to do business here then why is california one of the worlds largest economies?

obviously people are making money.

Alon Levy said...

Singapore is first-world precisely because it didn't have to fund its hinertland. Not needing to spend $40 billion a year on subsidizing other regions as Greater LA and the Bay Area do does wonders to a region's economy.

Peter said...

If we base our decisions where to build HSR based on a city's history compared with ANY city in Europe, we'd never build anything. We can't change the fact that our cities have only existed for a few centuries, at the most.

Anonymous said...

Becuase of the natural resources (ie: fertile farmland which is why califoria became what it is today), the climate (which is the most hospitable in the world), and the coast (easy access to the outside world).

California HSR could make sense if that's what they were buildig. Instead they are talking about a slow speed ramble through hundreds of miles of suburban neighborhoods, which will ultimately be the undoing of this project. The high speed rail vision that makes sense is the one they sold to voters with their glossy visuals, mock up HSR video, which shows HSR speeding in what is essentially an I5 like corridor. A straight shot that can actually achieve the HIGH SPEEDs (not 50-100mph as it meanders through towns), connect Sac to LA - THAT would make sense.

HOwever, what they are actually planning is nothing more than exploitation of prime real estate - ruining MORE open space and ruining perfectly well functioning suburban towns - with no regard for damage - only what they can REAP from it.

I watched the National Parks documentaries on PBS this weekend, and what struck me was the SHORT SITED EXPLOITATION of big business, with no concern for the health or wellbeing of the long term - for the sake of a buck NOW. It sounded a lot like the CHSRA at work in California, setting their sites on anything and everyting in their way - in fact going OUT OF THEIR WAY to set sites on the plumpest real estate they can.

Peter said...

I dunno about you, but 125 mph down the Peninsula doesn't sound slow to me. Neither does 220 in the Central Valley. If you'll actually look at the videos that were on the Authority's website, they show full-well that the trains will be travelling through developed areas. Not having looked at the videos in a while, I don't remember the trains ever being shown along a freeway in the Valley (I may be mistaken).

The HSR will be travelling along already established corridors. That will lessen its ecological impact over if they were simply trailblazing through pristine wilderness. Under CEQA, they HAVE to mitigate the effects they find, unless they make a finding of Overriding Significance (I believe that's the term). While the mitigation effects will not be perfect, they won't have AS great an impact.

Also, the "meandering" you refer to adds all of 15 miles to the overall route length. At the speeds the train will be travelling, this essentially inconsequential.

jim said...

all the videos show hsr in railroad row.

Rafael said...

This just in:

The Chinese JV of Canada's Bombardier has landed a $4 billion order for 80 Zefiro 380 trains, averaging 14 cars each. This top-of-the-line model will be the first in the world to reach a top speed of 380km/h (236mph) in commercial operation. Delivery is due from 2012 through 2014.

While Bombardier has been a subcontractor on many high speed trainset projects in Europe and a prime contractor on Amtrak's Acela Express, this order will firmly establish Canada as the ninth nation with the know-how to design and manufacture trains capable of commercial operation at speeds at or above 300km/h (186mph).

The other eight are Japan, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the UK, Korea and China.

Alon Levy said...

Anon, the CV rail line is almost dead straight north of the Tehachapis. It doesn't meander through anything.

Peter said...

@ Rafael

Quick question, not sure if the answer is going to be short.

If CAHSR was to purchase the Zefiro 380, would they be able to run them at 380 on the straight-aways in CA? (Maybe slowing to 350 *ouch* while going through towns in the Valley) Would that be of help to CHSRA in attaining its time mandates?

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

other railroads have ended up running trains at somewhat higher speeds than their alignments were originally designed for, so California could end up with trains capable of more than 220mph at some point in the future. For now, CHSRA has given no indication that it will need to shoot for anything faster in the Central Valley, e.g. to compensate for speed limits in built-up areas.

Keep in mind that at high speed, energy demand increases with the square and traction power demand with the cube of velocity. Increasing top speed from 360 to 380km/h means uprating the motors, power electronics, pantographs and overhead catenaries by 20%, i.e. it's nose-bleed expensive. International prestige is hugely important to China so the Communist party there is willing to spend that kind of money.

Anonymous said...

CHSRA's proposed CV line roughly parallels SR99 through many sprawling, very-low density cities. No one drives along SR99 to get from the Bay Area to LA. No one.

The diversion of avoiding the direct, easy-to-build I-5 route and the Grapevine is substantial.

Peter said...

@ Rafael

Yeah, that's what I thought. Thanks!

Sidenote: On Clem's blog they're discussing how the San Bruno Curve may not be as much of a speed bump as they thought at first.

Peter said...

@ Anon

The Grapevine would be an engineering nightmare, and an I-5 alignment would skip ALL the population centers in the Central Valley. THAT would be a major waste.

Anonymous said...

I guess jim likes to pretend that businesses aren't closing or leaving. CA used to be business-friendly. We're seeing the steady erosion of that.

Alon Levy said...

THAT would be a major waste.

Yes, but an I-5 alignment that doesn't serve San Francisco and goes through the Grapevine would be sure to have cost overruns and limited ridership. It would make sure nobody would build HSR again in the US, which is the point of opposition here.

Peter said...

@ Alon

We'd see low ridership happen in any I-5 alignment scenario. Even if the Bay Area was included. The intent, after all, is to connect CALIFORNIA, not LA and the Bay Area

Alon Levy said...

True, but you don't want to risk the system being profitable. Also, if you're a Bay Area NIMBY, your first priority is avoiding the Bay Area - the "ZOMG, they're serving Fresno" part is just one more wolf-whistle to other Bay Area residents.

Devil's Advocate said...

Actually Fresno will benefit from HSR more than any other city. It will make Yosemite more reachable from LA, and will be also the major hub of the 3 main lines going to LA, SF and SAC. It does have the potential to become a meeting capital like Zaragoza (albeit somewhat uglier to the eye), since it's exactly in the middle of the 3 major metro areas the HSR serves (SAc, SF and LA). Future generations of Californians might be even considering to make it the capital of the state one day. They just need a more vibrant downtown and also to bring back the population to the center, which has now gravitated north of Herndon Avenue. Hopefully the HSR will do the trick for the Ash Tree City.

Anonymous said...

The final cost of all the grade separations along the SR99 corridor will be many billions. Fresno and Bakersfield can be tied in to an I-5 CV route with a fast regional rail route along SR99 that doesn't require all the grade separations. Dual-routing is a win-win compromise that would still cost less yet offer better service all around. Fresno and Bakersfield can be more closely knit to all the small cities along the SR99 corridor, strengthening the CV economic region. The riding majority going between SoCal and NorCal don't suffer needless delays, yet ALL the little CV cities can be linked in. Such dual-routing also hinders the CV from become a sprawling bedroom community for the Bay Area and LA. Ideally, the CV should be developing its own internal networks, not being a slave or outlet for the big metropoles.

The Grapevine isn't much harder than getting across the Tehachapis. Indeed, they brought highways and water viaducts over the Grapevine many decades ago. What's the maximum grade of the existing I-5 highway? Early plans for California HSR had the route going along the I-5 median across the Grapevine from Bakersfield to LA. Effective engineering involved creativity and vision, and the Tehachapi route is a 19th-century cop-out that kills system performance.

Peter said...

@ Anon

I'm confused. Or maybe you are.

Incorporating the CV cities into HSR from the outset does not mean that they're inferior (or "slaves", to use your words) to the Bay Area or the LA area. It means that they're equal to said areas.

They would quite literally be screwed if left out of the initial build. HSR does not make sense ridership-wise if they are not included in the initial build.

As has been stated before, maybe a "super-express" might make sense someday in the distant future built along I-5, that shaves a few minutes off the regular express time over the Tehachapis. For now, you wouldn't get the ridership if it is built on I-5 to justify the construction cost.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 1:03pm -

will you please give it a rest with the I-5 idea. The Central Valley will supply a disproportionate share of total HSR ridership precisely because it is so underserved by airlines and so far from both the Bay Area and LA by car. It would be idiotic to exclude Modesto, Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield from the route.

The gradient of I-5 across Tejon Pass is 6%. The maximum HSR trains can handle is 3.5%, so you'd need many and long tunnels - expensive!

Shaving 12 minutes off the SF-LA non-stop line haul time would be attractive, which is why CHSRA looked hard at a direct route between Bakersfield and Sylmar, at the expense of not serving the currently remote Antelope Valley.

However, the ability to easily cross both the Garlock and the San Andreas faults at grade is a major plus for the detour via the Tehachapis. In addition to easier - not easy - access for rescue crews, repairs to the line after a quake would be much easier to implement.

I'm not crazy about the extra distance nor about encouraging further sprawl in Palmdale, but you do have to look at the big picture. You're refusing to do that. Perhaps you conceive of HSR very narrowly as an alternative to flying between the Bay Area and SoCal. It's a lot more than that.

Alon Levy said...

The final cost of all the grade separations along the SR99 corridor will be many billions.

Do you have sources for that, or are you just assuming that every option that serves the CV is expensive?

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

CHSRA's 2008 Business Plan gives some insight into the capital investment by route segment.

That particular forecast underestimated the cost of LA-Anaheim by a factor of 2, it's now become the most expensive segment overall. I can't help but wonder to what extent that is due to Curt Pringle taking over as chairman of the CHSRA board.

We have yet to see if CHSRA can contain cost escalation pressures elsewhere. Still, it seems unlikely that massive cost savings could be achieved by switching from a route near the CA-99 corridor to one along I-5. There would definitely be a high penalty in terms of ridership, not to mention political support.

Anonymous said...

Fresno lacks air service, because it is not profitable to provide air service to Fresno. Sufficient demand isn't there. It is not some airline conspiracy against Fresno. Fresno lacks an attractive market for long-distance travel, yet CHSRA wants to make every train detour through Fresno.

We've Got No Money for Toys said...

Hey socialists! Stop making comparisons with Spain just because they're gov't is socialist like you. Spain has nothing in common with California, except for a lot of people speaking Mexican in both places. Spanish cities are compact. Many hundreds thousand people live within WALKING distance from the central station, whether it's Atocha or Sants or Santa Justa. Unlike many of you, I've been to all three of them, because I may be a red neck, but I'm a cosmopolitan world traveler red neck. California has none of that. Except for San Francisco which is the most European city in the West, all others are just a bunch of sprawling suburbs. Far fewer people live within a short distance from the station than in Spain. Also the cost of gasoline is much higher there and makes the train looks much more of a bargain than it would be here. Why don't you stop making people believe that Spain is like California. This is false advertising. Just a bunch of liberal socialist propaganda. Stop this nonsense. This train is a waste of taxpayers' money. We just need to widen our beautiful freeways, we don't need this XVIII century technology to suck up all our tax resources for a minority of liberal elitists who are infatuated with a train.

lyqwyd said...

So what if Fresno lacks air service? Or if air service can't make a profit there?

HSR is more than merely competition for airlines. There are a number of major ridership sources that have nothing to do with air traffic.

looking on said...

Anonymous 10:47 worte:


I watched the National Parks documentaries on PBS this weekend, and what struck me was the SHORT SITED EXPLOITATION of big business



I also watched this series. You hit the center of the bulls-eye.

This project has always been about the money and certainly not about providing a efficient high speed passenger train. It is a disaster...

looking on said...

Rafael says:


That particular forecast underestimated the cost of LA-Anaheim by a factor of 2, it's now become the most expensive segment overall. I can't help but wonder to what extent that is due to Curt Pringle taking over as chairman of the CHSRA board.


Whatever the reason, it is now out in the open, A cost overrun of 100%. This will replicated many times.

Are we still ready to keep dismissing the Reason foundation report.?

Is it you opinion that the board is influencing how the project is to be built --- whether tunnels are needed in certain parts, as an example, or not etc.?

A new business plan is due by Dec 15th. Will it show better cost estimates?

Andre Peretti said...

@Rafael
"this order will firmly establish Canada as the ninth nation with the know-how to design and manufacture trains capable of commercial operation at speeds at or above 300km/h (186mph)."

The trouble is that Bombardier Transportation, contrary to its aviation branch, is a European firm headquartered in Berlin with plants in every European country. None of the trains it sells worldwide are designed or made in Canada, except some FRA-compliant rolling stock.

When Bombardier outbid Alstom on a €4.5 billion contract with the SNCF, Alstom wanted to sue, arguing that the protected American market enabled Bombardier to dump its trains in Europe. They quickly dropped the lawsuit for an obvious reason: Bombardier's market in North America was too small to have any influence on its business with the SNCF.
French workers didn't lose anything in the deal as the 600 trainsets are built in Bombardier's French plant in Crespin. That's one of Bombardier's strengths: they are at home in any country they do business with. It's even more true in France. No language barrier, and Bombardier Transportation's president is André Navarri, a Frenchman and ex-Alstom top executive. When the SNCF decides to replace its ageing TGV fleet, Alstom had better look out.

Rafael said...

@ Andre Peretti -

I'm well aware Bombardier's trains division in based in Germany. So what, the company HQ is still in Canada so that's where most of the profits go. For all intents and purposes, it is rightly perceived as a Canada-based multinational.

Rafael said...

More news from overseas:

In an effort to close the gap with the opposition Conservative Party in opinion polls ahead of the general election, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has decided to back a GBP 20 billion plan to extend HSR to the north of England after all. Scottish MPs want the line extended all the way to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Today's policy reversal means a formal project for some variation of HS2 is now virtually guaranteed to happen.

NOstupidtoytrucks said...

Toys..are you really that bored of a person?? nobody cares what you post as its all dribble and its always the same lame brain thoughts

Andre Peretti said...

What public opinion can do!
Last year Gordon Brown said HSR's environmental benefits were "far from obvious" and electrification of the railways was an unnecessary expense.
Then, the opening of HS1 and London-Paris in 2h15 changed everything. Every northern city in the UK started clamouring for their line. They say without it there will be a hyper-developped triangle, the London-Paris-Brussels region, while the North of England risks becoming a forgotten backwater.
Gordon Brown will probably lose the next election but that will change nothing as the conservative leader supports HS2 even more than he does.
From what I've read about it, the line will be built in stages, in order to have trains running as soon as possible. The English call it "build as you go".

Alon Levy said...

The line is designed really poorly, too. There's one trunk line with all the cities (except London) on spurs - so no trains will be able to serve London-Birmingham-Manchester, only London-Birmingham, Birmingham-Manchester, or London-Manchester. The government has also dropped its previous support for a line that would connect the East Coast and West Coast Main Lines, preferring to just serve the West Coast area.

Anonymous said...

The arguments against I-5 and the Grapevine are simply not at all convincing. This project needs to break out of the mould. The San Joaquin market is being oversold and can be tapped anyway from branches to the I-5 backbone.

The current Bechtel concept of hsr will still be very pricey and yet thoroughly mediocre. Lose the 150 year old rr route.

jim said...

@rafael - Rafael said...
This just in:

The Chinese JV of Canada's Bombardier has landed a $4 billion order for 80 Zefiro 380 trains, averaging 14 cars each.


I like that design... I'm not sure about the interior though. I don't like that 2-3 seating and the interior seems a little dull. They need to step it up a but more to match the alstom agv interiors.

but the outside looks good.

Alon Levy said...

The arguments against I-5 and the Grapevine are simply not at all convincing.

Care to elaborate why?

jim said...

The arguments against the current hsr plan
( suggesting "hey lets start over cuz we are concerned and X will be better")

are exactly like the arguments against reforming health care.

( we want to do it but let's not do it that way, or so fast)

Its a stall tactic. Drag the process out and mire it in delays if you can't find the public support to stop it.

Anonymous said...

Here's why arguments against I-5 and the Grapevine are not convincing:

The technical difficulties of mining the Grapevine are being inflated. Call for an opinion from an experienced base tunnel builder such as Herrennecht & Co. as to how to go about building it. The Saint Gotthard is easier than the Grapevine? I am going to believe that from an outfit that built BART to Indian gauge?

The San Joaquin Valley market is being touted as being crucial. Not so - the CV is impoverished and auto-centric and is likely to remain so.

The Bay Area and LA-San Diego with their 30 million residents can't or won't support express hsr? Balderdash.

The UP can be brought to heel? Questionable.

Who needs cheap ROW along I-5? Incredibly short-sighted.

Why worry about a detour? In reality add the extra mileage and the extra stops and a half hour extra running time SF-LA is more likely. Fatal.

jim said...

The San Joaquin Valley market is being touted as being crucial. Not so - the CV is impoverished and auto-centric and is likely to remain so

Thats a load of crap. You don' know anything about the central valley expect your own stereotypes.

The valley had and continued to fight for more, rail service long before the ccpa and surfliner service started.

And the valley patrons are the most loyal to rail service.

And the valley is no more car-centric than the rest of the state. In fact valley residents are the ones who are most excited about high speed rail because they have the most to gain.

jim said...

Why worry about a detour? In reality add the extra mileage and the extra stops and a half hour extra running time SF-LA is more likely. Fatal

more likely wishful thinking on your part. this sounds just like right wing delay tactics.

The strategy is tired.

Anonymous said...

The arguments against I-5 and the Grapevine are simply not at all convincing.

I agree, as long as you change your wording to:

The arguments for I-5 and the Grapevine are simply not at all convincing.

Alon Levy said...

The technical difficulties of mining the Grapevine are being inflated. Call for an opinion from an experienced base tunnel builder such as Herrennecht & Co. as to how to go about building it. The Saint Gotthard is easier than the Grapevine?

They did get an opinion from experienced tunnel builders. Unlike in Switzerland, in California there are earthquakes, which means that they have to cross fault lines at grade instead of in tunnel.

jim said...

My non technical understanding of crossing the fault is like this..

first, the land on either side of the san andreas is moving - very slowly - but moving, and anything that crosses it, roads, fences, creeks, tracks, gradually gets moved out of alignment.

when you cross it on the surface you can easily see, access, and correct this process as needed.

If you run a tunnel through the moving plates,

you can not access, see or correct the mis-alignment without re aligning the tunnel versus re aligning the track on the surface.

Also in the even of an earthquake in the immediate area where the ground movement can snap the alignment seriously out of whack all at once, ( right place right time) you can clearly see and correct the problems verus having a deep tunnel snap under a mountain.

And while high tech solutions and detectors are designed to shut the system down quickly at the first hint of seismic activity, in the off chance you are in a train that is crossing a sudden rupture point, you'd much rather derail on the surface where you at least have a chance to escape, than smack into the side of a mis aligned tunnel in the dark under a shaking mountain.

Alon Levy said...

Jim: you're right, and in addition, when there's a derailment, you'd rather have easy access to the accident site. A tunnel under the Grapevine would have to come with multiple emergency shafts to mitigate this, raising construction costs.

Anonymous said...

LOL, the wonderful Socialist Utopia Spain that is about to be the 1st major European country to fall into Depression territory of 25% unemployment after their massive spending spree and overbuilding?

I guess authors of frenzied Bolshevik screeds don't have time to read the fine print. "Who cares about cause and effect? Trains will save the Motherland!"

Alon Levy said...

Anon, the small-government countries of Europe, all of which were hailed by right-wing thinktanks - Ireland, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia - are already in depression territory, and are doing much worse than Spain. Back in 2006, Cato and Heritage and the AEI were crowing about the low taxes and lax financial regulations of Ireland and the Baltic states; they say nothing about them today.

Anonymous said...

So you have to cross the San Andreas on the surface. I guess the Tehachapis quake of 1952 didn't happen.

Wouldn't it be karma for Bechtel, Kopp & co. if the Tehachapis detour is trashed by a quake while the Grapevine remains relatively unscathed? Payback for BART, Big Dig, etc., etc.

jim said...

anon - you missed the point - either place is subject to earthquakes - its a matter of crossing on the surface in an accessible way versus crossing in a deep tunnel with no access.

Either location can and will be damaged, but which is easier to fix and or escape from?

do you even read what people post?

Alon Levy said...

So you have to cross the San Andreas on the surface. I guess the Tehachapis quake of 1952 didn't happen.

With the Tehachapis, you have to cross faults at grade, too. However, it is easier to do so, since the mountains have gentler slopes due to the detour. That's why when the engineers took a map and programmed it with the parameters "cross fault lines at grade" and "don't exceed a 3.5% slope," they got hundreds of available options for the Tehachapis, and just one for the Grapevine.

The problem now is geological risk. If one option for the Tehachapis doesn't work out due to geological intangibles, such as unknown fault lines or unstable rock formations, then it's easy to pick another. If the one option for the Grapevine doesn't work out, then it's either back to the Tehachapis (which requires a new EIR) or a huge cost overrun trying to mitigate the option's problems.

Anonymous said...

The risk of the Grapevine alignment is well worth it. Itr is manifestly more direct, even for the CV.

The entire hsr project is risky. It may very well turn out to be a great disappointment. The Tehachapis detour just adds to the risk of failure.

Now that brings up a question for the more abjective bloggers: what will the impact on the hsr concept if the CHSRA bombs? Are politicized projects doomed to underwhelm?

jim said...

doesnt palmdale only add like 10 minutes to the trip while at the same ime brining service to 500,000 in LA county while also making for a good future connection to vegas and making for faster thruway connections to points south and east ( currently division of rail has thruway service implemented as an important part of statewide connections to the high desert, inland empire and coachella valley and bring HSR to PMD would be a very big improvement to service to these areas.

Alon Levy said...

The risk of the Grapevine alignment is well worth it.

So you assert. How many dozens of papers in geology have you published that make your "I believe so" assertions valuable?