Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Open Thread

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

Some California high speed rail items to keep you occupied and engaged as we approach the weekend. Apologies for not being able to offer a more in-depth post, but after that wild storm came through this week, the beautiful weather here in Monterey calls me outside.

  • The Caltrain/California High Speed Rail Authority’s Policymaker Working Group met last night to get their work off the ground in providing advisement to Caltrain and the CHSRA about the rail improvement project. As Gina Papan's comments showed, not only is misinformation widespread, but there's a disturbing willingness of elected officials to believe whatever they hear from constituents.


  • Merced Mayor Ellie Wooten and Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo published a pro-HSR op-ed in the Merced Sun-Star today. It offers some very good restatements of the basic case for HSR, from jobs to the environment, but the main reason for their op-ed is to reiterate their case for building the maintenance hub at Castle Airport.


  • A recent HSR scoping meeting in Escondido showed that NIMBYism can be found virtually anywhere in the state. Although most attendees supported the project, one whiner claimed "I'm going to fight it" because he's convinced the noise will lower his home values. Someone living in Escondido, which currently lacks a direct link to either the LA metro region or to the job centers in San Diego, should think twice about leaving their city's fate in the hands of oil and freeways. (Yes, Escondido has a rail link to downtown SD via the Sprinter and the Coaster, but it is indirect, requiring a transfer at Oceanside.)


  • Over at the Transport Politic, Yonah Freemark criticizes the FRA's preliminary rail plan that avoids pissing anyone off (a classic trait of the Obama Administration) and therefore doesn't actually offer any specific recommendations about how to develop a national rail program.


Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

106 comments:

Marcus said...

My brother considered living in Escondido. Until he realized that he would have to spend 2 hours every day sitting in the parking lot that is I-15. That's what lowers property values. High speed rail is an amenity that will attract people to the community causing home values to rise.

Bianca said...

Wow, Eminent Domain really is a bogeyman, isn't it? People don't just get eminent domain notices out of the blue. In any project, not just High Speed Rail, the agency doing the project will approach homeowners first to try to make a deal, and it only resorts to eminent domain if it can't reach an agreement with the landowner. And even at that stage, landowners have all sorts of procedural protections.

Until the CHSRA finalizes the plans for the alignments on the Peninsula, it's not even known how much land will need to be acquired, or where exactly that would be.

And I notice that the Daily Journal article describes the Altamont alignment as going through Redwood City before continuing up the Peninsula, when it actually goes through Menlo Park first on its way to Redwood City. Funny how that always seems to be overlooked.

Rafael said...

The FRA has historically been responsible only for rail safety. It has no staff with planning expertise and no budget to hire any. Besides, Congress has given the Secr. of Transportation only limited leeway to modify the 11 officially designated HSR corridors.

Given that $57 billion in grant applications are chasing $8 billion in ARRA funds, the Obama administration is going to have to decide against funding a great many proposals, at least for the time being. This "pissing off" will happen in February.

Politically, the Obama administration will seek to reward moves to grow the passenger rail funding pie at both the state and federal levels.

Rafael said...

@ Marcus -

SANDAG is currently adding four lanes in the I-15 median between Escondido and Miramar to ease congestion. Some BRT services will be added, but for the most part, the new freeway-within-a-freeway is supposed to speed truck-based freight.

This is actually a major headache for CHSRA, since it was hoping to use that median for train tracks. Now, it'll - somehow - have to run them either next to or above the freeway in that stretch.

john said...

@ Bianca

"I notice that the Daily Journal article describes the Altamont alignment as going through Redwood City before continuing up the Peninsula, when it actually goes through Menlo Park first on its way to Redwood City. Funny how that always seems to be overlooked."

Funny indeed, and not just the "poor" part of Menlo where the "brown folk" live.

Just wait until Suburban Park starts making Palo Altoesque noises. At least Caltrain runs everyday, i don't think anyone has run a train that far down dumbarton since the early 80's

Clem said...

Given that $57 billion in grant applications are chasing $8 billion in ARRA funds

California will be lucky to land even $2 billion of that!

john said...

“I have people saying they’ve received eminent domain notices in the mail,” Papan said

Wow, just amazing what some people will say. Have they actually become delusional or is it just a tactic to stir-up F.U.D.?

Marcus said...

@john

It's possible the anti-HSR folks, or maybe candidates for city council, are sending fake eminent domain notices to residents to scare them into opposing the train.

Peter said...

Hmmm, I'm curious whether such letters would be legal to send.

Probably not if they bear fake signatures.

Alon Levy said...

I'm curious whether any commenters here have gotten such letters, or know anyone who has and will agree to share them. If anti-HSR people really are sending fake ED notices, it's a scandal worthy of media attention.

Matthew Fedder said...

@Rafael: The Free-way-within-a-freeway is already done for about half the length of the freeway, and about half done for the rest. It's definitely too late to do anything about that.

Because it was designed to have a movable center barrier - to allow 3 lanes in the direction of greatest traffic flow, they won't even be able to put it on an elevated glide-way above the freeway.

@Robert/main article: Almost nobody takes the sprinter->coaster downtown. The fastest way downtown from Escondido is on an express bus - about 2 hours from city center to city center. It may only take 15 minutes longer, but the pass would cost 4 times as much.

Matthew Fedder said...

(@myself: I should say, it's done for about half the distance between Escondido and Miramar)

jim said...

what is fud?

dave said...

@ Jim

Dictionary.com

FUD:

1.fear, uncertainty, and disinformation

2. fear, uncertainty, and doubt


And also:

fud

n.
1. a stuffy person; an old-fashioned person, especially a male. : There seems to be a convention of fuddy-duddies in the park today. , I woke up some old fud sleeping on a park bench. He was mad.

jim said...

see page 10 for hsrcomments seems we are hell bent on being "the ones"

jim said...

fud.

oh, well im old fashioned. I must be a fud lol

NONIMBYS said...

FUD sounds like PaloAlto or the old "Mccain Railfans " at TRAC..

BruceMcF said...

Clem said...
" "Given that $57 billion in grant applications are chasing $8 billion in ARRA funds"

California will be lucky to land even $2 billion of that!
"

And unlucky if it lands much more, since California has promised to burn through its state bond funding at the maximum allowable rate if it wins ARRA funding.

Bay Area Resident said...

I can't post on the San Jose alternative route thread anymore (I have been out on vacation). But to answer a few questions some had on that thread,
- the current speed through N Willow Glen/Gardner for Caltrain is 35/40mph. I have been told the area to the east of Bird is Gardner and the area to the west of Bird is NWG.
- The curve area there is known as the fishhook.
- Somewhere in the back of my mind I recall CHSRA claiming that the fishhook speed would need to max out at 90mph given the current train design.
- Since 90mph through SJ is not acceptable according to CHSRA's speed guidelines, the original EIR tried to straighten the route IN THE AIR in an attempt to speed it up. This caused massive outrage, for one thing there was no aerial called out in the original EIR on that section, and its just plain insensitive to the locality. A birm is bad enough, but an ELEVATED? Thats going to spew noise for miles.
- The City of SJ has invested millions into the Gardner area lately because parts of it were blighted, and with the downtown businesses like Adobe concerned about safety, SJ had an incentive to clean it up.
- SJ is the agency behind most of the alternatives for the route.

I believe the situation with San Jose is different that Palo Alto- ? This is where the CITY and SJ DOT are formally requesting a re-route. Is that happening in Palo Alto?

Rafael said...

@ Bay Area Resident -

with 5" track cant (a.k.a. superelevation) and 6" cant deficiency (a.k.a. unblanaced superelevation), I've estimated the top feasible speed through the fishhook is 64mph. This probably means 60mph in practice. Even so, passengers may well have to hold on to their beverage containers.

In theory, FRA could allow CHSRA to increase the track cant of the passenger-only tracks and therefore feasible top speed. You quickly get into the law of diminishing returns, though, because the lateral acceleration due to cant deficiency is proportional to the square of velocity.

However, since there is much less rail traffic south of Diridon station than north of it, I suspect that CHSRA would have difficulty getting environmental approval for a 90mph speed limit through that chicane.

An additional complication is that many trains will in fact be stopping in San Jose. For passengers on those, high track cant in the fishhook section would generate excessive lateral forces in the other direction.

Since the only realistic way to run express trains through San Jose would be a straighter alignment in a tunnel, I suspect CHSRA is simply going to have to lower its sights on top speeds through the fishhook section.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Since the only realistic way to run express trains through San Jose would be a straighter alignment in a tunnel

Keep in mind the thing that makes an express train an express train is that it goes faster than "stop". It's the not stopping part that makes it an express not the speed at which it moves, so you can realistically run express trains on the existing tracks.

In recent post about Glen Gardner it says Diridon to Lick is three miles. At 30 MPH that take 6 minutes. At 60 miles per hour that takes 3 minutes. At 120 it takes a minute and half. So going from 30 MPH to 120 MPH saves you all of 4 and half minutes assuming the train doesn't stop. Much less if it did stop at or will stop at Diridon... accelerating or decelerating the train too fast is just as unpleasant for passengers as going through the curves too fast. . . so building a tunnel saves how much time for a train that will be stopping anyway?

Bay Area Resident said...

I think they pretty much have to tunnel through that section. Otherwise CHSRA will be sued under CEQA guidelines. There is actually a church and a community park right on the tracks that will have to be levelled. And trying to make a case for why CHSRA has to put a train literally 2 blocks away from not one but TWO major freeways- both of which were allowed to blight this area before- is going to be a real howler. It has to be tunnelled, with that mole machine with another huge cost overrun.

Bay Area Resident said...

hey adirondacker- the CHSRA is under such severe speed restrictions that they ware talking about 10 SECONDS as if it is a dealbreaker for many parts of the line. If there are 4 minutes on the line as you imply this thing is going to get tunnelled or rerouted there, PERIOD.

Alon Levy said...

Strictly speaking, you can run an express train while still stopping at SJ. The CAHSR plan is to have dwells of 3 minutes at major stations; this can be shaved to less than 1 minute, saving 2 minutes per express station on the route.

Peter said...

Given that CHSRA's preferred alternative is to add two tracks to the "fishhook," it sounds like CHSRA has already taken the time it costs to go through the fishhook into account in their time calculations. Why would they reroute at insane cost (i.e. tunneling) if it wasn't something that would make it or break it for them? Especially not if they have to pay for it?

Peter said...

Also, HSR wouldn't be going that slow all the way from Lick to Diridon. The time saved would be even less by tunnelling.

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker12800, Alon Levy -

you both make good points, my objective was to underline that tunneling should be avoided if possible.

Non-stop SF-LA time is an acceptance test criterion, in the real world the vast majority of trains will stop in both SF and SJ, even if that ends up adding - egads! - a couple of minutes to the trip.

@ Bay Area Resident -

If you're referring to Biebrach Park, it's several hundred feet from the tracks.

The church at the corner of Delmas and Fuller is a more valid issue. However, the ROW map for that location shows that PCJPB already owns a strip 100' wide in that area - substantially more than 70' minimum required for four tracks side-by-side.

Since it's a house of worship, it would be good idea for CHSRA to make a generous offer on the property or one to install triple glazing even if there is no legal requirement to do so. Parishioners would be free to decline any such offer.

jim said...

correct me if Im wrong but what I see is that curve or fishhook or whatever is only a 2-3 thousand feet from the station. The trains wouldn't even have accelerated to anywhere near a high speed at that point.

jim said...

seems they wouldn't really even step on the gas till about willow street.

Brandon in San Diego said...

My thoughts are consistent with Jim.

Every train will likely stop at this station, or at least a great portion.

Therefore, the merits of each alignment (straight tunnel or fishhook) should consider the time differential from Diridon Station to some control point to the south.

Non-stopping/express trains should not be considered... that's the reality in my opinion. Unless... and with respect to AB 3034 or 1A.

AB3034 or 1A should be respected, which I believe provides a directive to achieve a certain travel time between LA Union Station and SF Transbay Terminal... irrespective of intermediate stops.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

my point exactly, plenty of HSR trains approaching from either direction will be traveling through the Gardner district at low speed because their route includes a stop in San Jose.

What's at issue is how fast SF-LA express trains could run through SJ Diridon and this district. In practice, I expect there will be very few if any trains that fail to stop in San Jose, simply because of ridership considerations.

So what we're really talking about is whether or not CHSRA has to design an alignment that permits speeds much higher than 60mph in order to meet the acceptance criterion of SF-LA non-stop in 2h40m spelled out in AB3034. IMHO, switching to a tunnel alignment to make that possible would be fairly insane.

Anonymous said...

When is the judge going to rule on the mitigations required for the EIR?

jim said...

I mean can't they just max out at full speed somewhere else for a couple extra miles to make up for it?

jim said...

seems lot would depend on the sj-gilroy- central valley portion. how much of that - including the tunnels under the mountains at pacheco.

jim said...

..can they straighten out.

jim said...

they should do it like one of these with a straight as an arrow bore
that'd give them way extra minutes.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

CHSRA was very aggressive with the line haul targets it communicated to the lawmakers drafting AB3034. There's very little room for increasing speeds anywhere in the system, except for the following:

a) straighten some curves

Probably a really Good Idea (tm) for San Bruno, even if it means re-doing the EIR work Caltrain did a decade ago, acquiring some houses and possibly messing with the I-380 supports.

However, it could be highly contentious in the ever-combustible Palo Alto: Alma Street has intruded on railroad property at the University Ave interchange for 70 years.

CHSRA would have to pick its battles very carefully if it chooses this option to improve line haul time for express trains.

b) buy trains with a top speed of 380km/h (236mph)

Since wind resistance increases with the cube of velocity, the extra 20km/h would require equipment with ~20% more power. Right now, only one vendor (Bombardier) has received an order for trains that fast. Others could probably get there before CHSRA has to pre-qualify a vendor shortlist, but wasn't the whole point of choosing steel wheels to buy proven off-the-shelf equipment?

Btw: speed limits in south San Jose are peanuts compared to what Fresno, Bakersfield and other CV cities are going to ask for once they realize how loud trains actually are at 360-380km/h.

Andre Peretti said...

Loading gauge:
Concerning car width, much discussed yesterday, I did some research and found that whatever train is chosen, it will have to fit "the North American loading gauge for passenger trains" which is 10ft 6in (10ft 8in being only allowed for freight trains).
In fact, so-called "off-the-shelf" trainsets vary considerably in width depending on the country they are sold to.
An example: Alstom's Pendolino.
In the UK it is 9ft wide.
In Italy and Switzerland, 10ft 4in.
In Finland, Russia: 11ft 2in.
Finally, comparing trains by their width in another country is pointless, since they have to fit the loading gauge in your country, not an inch less, not an inch more.
So, if Jim lobbies hard enough to have the AGV selected, he will have a train 2 inches wider than the one on the Alstom ad.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

let's not go back to discussing tunnels through Henry Coe state park. It was very soundly declared OFF LIMITS during the program-level EIS/EIR process.

Geology, hydrology and topography will determine the exact route through the mountain sections. CHSRA has Australian software called Qantm for optimizing the alignments for cost subject to environmental and engineering constraints. This is one context in which simply drawing lines on a Google map is totally inappropriate.

AndyDuncan said...

@Andre: Which brings up an interesting point, despite the fact that the intent is to buy trains "off the shelf", high speed trains are still more or less bespoke models for each particular customer. The overall design may be "off the shelf" but the trains are built to order and will have to be customized to a relatively large extent.

The shinkansen, for example, are too wide for US loading gauge, and the mini-shinkansen are the same width, more or less, as the European trains, which are about a foot too skinny, which would exacerbate the problems with attempting to share platforms with caltrain rolling stock.

Rafael said...

@ Andre Peretti -

car body width also depends on top speed and track gauge.

Most shinkansen trains are slower than the ones in France. Finnish gauge is 1524mm, just 6% more than standard gauge, but those millimeters do make a difference.

The UK is a special case, there are a lot of very narrow tunnels dating back to the 19th century on the network there.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Concerning time differentials between the two options; tunnel or fishook... using some rudimentary math and making some approximations I see the following for northbound trains:

For a tunnel:

Assuming a decel rate of 1.7mph per sec^2, approx. 71 seconds will be needed to go from 120mph to 0... and need approximately 6,248ft.

If a straight tunnel were implemented, northbound trains would need to begin decelerating at approximately Willow Street.

For a fishook:

If a fishook were implemented, and trains were limited to 64 or 60mph through fishook, it would take approx 36 seconds to drop to 0mph and about 1,600 feet. Northbound decelerating would need to begin at about San Carlos Street upon entry to station.

I am assuming a final trains stopping point approximately perpendicular to San Fernando Street.

From San Carlos to the beginning of the Fishook at Willow Street, the distance is approximately 5,840ft. If capped at 60mph through this it would take approx. 66sec to cover.

Decelerating from 120mph to 60mph before fishook would take approx. 36sec and need about 4,800ft.
(I'm rounding). That places the nose of a train somewhere around Alameda or Almaden where decel would need to begin.

Back to tunnel:

For comparison, this location is approximately 5,000 feet before a train using a tunnel would need to decelerate.... at about Willow Street.

At 120mph, it takes abot 29sec to cover that distance.

Summary:

Tunnel:
29sec cruising from Almaden to Willow.
71sec to decel from 120 to 0.
100 seconds total

Fishook
36sec decel from 120 to 60; Almaden to Willow
66sec cruising through Fishook
36sec decel from 60 to 0
138 seconds total

Assuming my approximations are close enough, what is the cost differential of the tunnel vs fishook design to save 38 seconds?

A tunnel will cost approximately $500m a mile... or probably about that here.

The fishook has high capital costs too... how many new or expanded grade separation efforts are needed?

The differential cost may be marginal relative to the time savings.

Rafael said...

@ Brandon -

a tunnel would also imply putting the platforms at SJ Diridon about 100ft underground, due to vertical conflicts with VTA light rail and the "sacred" planned BART extension.

If CHSRA wants to compensate for an extra 38 seconds needed to get through San Jose, it should do so by straightening the San Bruno curve.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Yes, a fair analysis should include the cost differential of all related elements. We're agreed on that.

jim said...

ok so how bout they just make the train go faster between los banos and frenso by a few mph, and between fresno and bfd by a few mph, and make sure the tunnels east of bfd are super straight along with the approach to pmd. I mean run the trains at 225 for a few miles and make up the dif.


I'm gettin' kinda scared to go that fast actually. i mean thats really fast. I don't know how they stay on the track. I mean I don' like the idea of falling to my death from 30,000 feet either, but, well I guess it doesn't matter. dead is dead.

jim said...

I don't understand what the big freakin deal is to tunnel under a park ( especially one that no one even knows about or uses) as long as you aren't disturbing the moose etc up above. Didn't the swiss just tunnel under the alps for god's sake?

Alon Levy said...

Brandon, Siemens states that the Velaro decelerates from full speed to a stop over 3.8 km.

Rafael, the Shinkansen trains aren't slower than the European HSR trains. The Tokaido Shinkansen is slower because it was built for 200 km/h, not 300, but the Sanyo Shinkansen has trains running at 300 km/h built to the same loading gauge as Tokaido, and the Tohoku Shinkansen will soon have trains running at 320.

Clem said...

I've estimated the top feasible speed through the fishhook is 64mph.

Correct. Quite consistent with my estimate.

they ware talking about 10 SECONDS as if it is a dealbreaker for many parts of the line.

There are words, then there are deeds. Follow my gaze to San Bruno, where far more than 10 seconds are being pissed away.

Non-stopping/express trains should not be considered

OK, let's call the whole thing off, then! Sorry to have bothered anyone.

buy trains with a top speed of 380km/h (236mph)

The wrong solution, as Richard Tolmach can explain quite clearly (and correctly.)

a tunnel would also imply putting the platforms at SJ Diridon about 100ft underground

A ridiculously gold-plated solution, par for the course in Santa Clara county, the land of milk, honey, and wasted transportation dollars.

Sometimes the way they're going about this HSR project is so depressing...

Tony D. said...

BAR,
It won't be tunnel or nothing south of Diridon to Tamien. That was easy.

My preferance would be a three-track ROW through Gardner/NWG, which the City of SJ is proposing: two-track for HSR and one for UPRR/Caltrain.

How about eliminating CalTrain service south of Tamien, while adding a HSR local station in Morgan Hill? That could mean less right of way to acquire from SJ to Gilroy, and less money for CalTrain to spend south of SJ/Tamien.

Bay Area Resident said...

rafael, no I was referring to Fuller Park, it is a neighborhood park with a bocci ball court and picnic tables directly on the tracks adjacent to the church.

Peter et al: The reason they have to tunnel through the fishhook is because otherwise, CHSRA will be sued on CEQA grounds.

Thats the real reason all these alternatives were put forth at the meeting- because the city as well as CHSRA know that they are on poor footing with the current alignment, legally.

As far as I know, this section of Gardener San Jose is the only place where CHSRA actually presented alternative alignments at an outreach meeting. They have to find an alternative for this section for many reasons but the primary issue is a legal one

Tony D. said...

Clem,
Just lay off SCCo. will yah! You need to show a little more respect to the ECONOMIC ENGINE that drives the Bay Area/Northern California!

And for the record, the 100 ft. deep solution is one of CHSRA's idea's, not SCCo.'s. Just plain and simply listening to the people of Gardner/NWG (SJ) and acknowledging THEIR ideas.

Tony D. said...

BAR,
Beating a dead horse, it won't be tunnel or nothing in SJ.

And where in the hell are you getting all this crap about lawsuits or poor legal footing on the current alignmnet through Gardner/NWG? CHSRA could easily force a 4-track alignment down everyone's throat, but they're being open minded and listening to the people of the area; hence the HSR alternatives for the area.

Again, consider a three-track alignment at-grade or a "thread the needle" along 87 and 280 and all should be well. No lawsuits or tunnels necessary.

BAR, do you reside in Gardner/NWG? Sure sounds like it.

Joey said...

For the record, CHRSA's business plan indicates that ALL trains will be stopping in San José.

Peter said...

@ Joey

If they're looking at stopping all express trains in SJ, then why are they looking at two separate express tracks going through SJ?

@ BAR

If Palo Alto isn't going to get a tunnel without paying for it, then how is it that you'd expect San Jose to get a tunnel?

I know that the San Jose board members claimed at the meeting in Gardner that "If SF gets a tunnel, then we should get one too," but he's either (a) delusional, or (b) playing an angle to get as much as he can out of the whole business.

AndyDuncan said...

@Joey/Peter:

The CHSRA has gone back and forth on their projected schedules and stopping patterns. As recently as August, they showed a true SF-LA express running once an hour and a SF-SJ-LA express running once an hour as well.

However, the most recent schedules from earlier this month show the express trains stopping in SJ.

I think it's fair to say that the stopping pattern is far from being locked down, and that we can expect that it will change leading up to, and even after the first trains start running, to better adjust to real, rather than estimated, passenger load

jim said...

they should run one true express per hour and have it all business and first at a premium price to maximize profit. there are those who will prefer it and can afford it.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that scares me about this project is that they are planning to fence the tracks in which will destroy wildlife movement through out the state.

Joey said...

Hasn't this been discussed before? Besides tunneling in mountainous and elevated in extremely sensitive areas, there are solutions (like those implemented in France) to keep wildlife moving even with the tracks in place. The question is whether or not these solutions will be implemented in CA (something people should be advocating, rather than just whining about how it will destroy wildlife).

Tony D. said...

These pie in the sky tunnel idea's for San Jose/Diridon-Tamien are actually quite unfortunate: they may be giving some in the area a false sense that this might actually happen and, because of astronomical costs, are just as likely as the now-defunct Pombo Freeway proposal over the Diablo Range.

The more reasonable, and realistic, solutions for concerned Gardner/NWG residents are (again) a three-track option along current ROW (City of SJ proposal), or a "thread the needle" aerial which runs along 280 and 87 and navigates the ramps/viaducts of the massive Fwy/Fwy interchange.

Peter, are you sure it was a San Jose "board" (council?) member, or was it a neighborhood association member who made the comments regarding if SF gets a tunnel than we should to? The City of SJ's official proposal is the aformentioned three-track option (2 for HSR, 1 CalTrain/UPRR).

With the City of SJ three-track proposal, I would (again) eliminate CalTrain service south of Tamien, build a HSR Local station in Morgan Hill, and make the CalTrain line between Diridon/Tamien rush-hour/M-F only (for light-rail connection purposes).

Peter said...

@ Andy Duncan

Yes, I understand that the actual stopping pattern has not yet been developed, but from what the people at the alignment alternatives meeting said, it sounded like if they are looking at a tunnel to Diridon solution, they want to have express tracks going through without stopping.

I don't quite see how that would work technically, as the pressure in front of a train constrained underground would be enormous as it went through the station. Wouldn't they need four bores at least if they want to run express trains through at 125 mph (which was a reason given for the tunnel alignment in the first place).

Peter said...

@ Tony D

Yes, it was in fact a San Jose City Council member who made that pitch re the straight tunnel alignment. Including the "But SF is getting a tunnel" justification. I had to keep from laughing. He, or the other City Council member also mentioned the suggested 3-track alignment.

Anonymous said...

Can they lawfully choose not to mitigate negative impacts if the mitigation is deemed 'too expensive'. Is that a legal reason to avoid mitigating? Or can they choose cheaper decisions if they cheaper ones result in more negative impacts than he more expensive ones? I'm just trying to understand how they deny tunnels on the grounds of 'too expensive' if the negative impacts associated with above ground solutions are real.

Joey said...

If we couldn't have any negative impacts we wouldn't built anything, anywhere. Period. Cost-effectiveness is a perfectly good reason for choosing one solution over another. This applies especially for a PUBLIC project which is going to need all the money it can get just to build the basic system. Now, there are certainly limits to what impacts are acceptable; limits that are often disputed because the nature of impacts and "acceptability" is that they are very speculative, and subject to perspective bias (on both sides of the equation).

Peter said...

@ Anon 9:12

Yes, there is one legal option to not mitigate under CEQA, namely if they make a Statement of Overriding Considerations. This is a last-resort measure that agencies try to avoid, since it doesn't look good for the agency when they evoke it. The statement is only made at the Final EIR stage.

The question is, however, will they actually have to invoke this measure for an above-ground option?

The above-ground options will have real effects, obviously. However, they will likely be less than the community is fearing at this time. Trains will not be tearing through the Gardner neighborhood at 125 mph. As discussed above, they well likely only be travelling 60 mph max. Eminent domain is, though a remote possibility, unlikely. Noise and vibration levels can be determined by studying noise and vibration created by similar trains elsewhere in the world. Mitigation measures for those concerns are available.

While people at the Gardner meeting were muttering to themselves that the service will be like BART in its frequency, it will not be like BART in terms of noise levels (it will likely be quieter in that neighborhood). Add the removal of grade crossings noise (bells and horns) and diesel noise and fumes, and it doesn't seem as bad as everyone is claiming.

Dennis Lytton said...

I'm curious to read any coverage of the meeting in Murrieta next Monday. I predict that Murrieta/Temecula, being among the most conservative exurban parts of the state, you may acually see some more widespread opposition at the meeting. This depsite the fact that in the post oil era, exurbs like will be the most screwed.

Adirondacker12800 said...

With the City of SJ three-track proposal, I would (again) eliminate CalTrain service south of Tamien, build a HSR Local station in Morgan Hill, and make the CalTrain line between Diridon/Tamien rush-hour/M-F only (for light-rail connection purposes).

If Caltrain uses lightweight equipment - same kind of specifications that HSR uses but not able to go as fast - the three track arrangement can be be two tracks for HSR/Caltrain and one for UPRR's freight. .. some the trains that would normally terminate or orignate in San Jose would go all the way to Gilroy.

Travis ND said...

Mitigation is about cost/benefit.

If you establish the project is in the interest of the public. If you establish that the project is impossible to implement without constructing it as proposed and that potential alternatives are so expensive as to make the project untenable then you can get away with dismissing a mitigation as "too expensive."

dave said...

This is what will on ocasion happen on HSR lines.

Video Link

This small fence is barely noticeable in the video and looks acceptable.

Video Link

I don't think it's as bad as you can imagine.

dave said...

Btw, that was two cows hit on the AVE.

James said...

This video has made the rounds. Check it out NIMBYs and new-comers.

Compare ROW, air-rights, ADA access, grade separation, noise and vibration impact, "Berlin Wall" etc. with the Market_Train

Good to get a reality check once in a while.

jim said...

wow and they didn't even get lawyers.

James said...

Wow, I did not know that

Market_Train_Part_2

is not only walkable but inter-modal.

Not_unlike_100_years_ago

Jim is that your house on the right?

Rafael said...

@ Tony D -

AB3034 imposes a limit of 24 stations for the network, CHSRA is already over that limit. There will be an HSR station in Gilroy, which could be served more frequently than Caltrain does today. There won't be one in Morgan Hill as well.

Indeed, the only way standard-speed Caltrain service south of SJ Diridon is going to survive the arrival of HSR at all may be the extension out to Salinas that TAMC is pushing for. However, Caltrain is anything but keen to keep operating super-heavy FRA-compliant legacy diesel equipment forever.

@ adirondacker12800 -

If Caltrain wants to run trains on the HSR tracks for an extended distance, it must have rolling stock that can keep up.

Modern EMU drive concepts rely on rare-earth permanent magnet synchronous motors attached directly to the axles. That forces a trade-off between maximum torque (cp. acceleration at low speed) and maximum speed.

What Caltrain currently has in mind is high-acceleration regional rail EMUs that top out at around 90mph. That's fast enough for the fishhook through the Gardner district but it's too slow to go all the way down to Gilroy without causing a traffic jam.

There are examples of strictly regional HSR rail services, e.g. NS Hi-Speed (Amsterdam-airport-Rotterdam(-Breda)(-Brussels)) and Southeast Rail's Javelin service on HS1 in the UK. The former will be based on equipment with a top speed of 250km/h (155mph), the latter already uses Hitachi trains with a top speed of 140mph.

So far at least, Caltrain appears to have no plans at all to purchase two sets of rolling stock.

Rafael said...

@ Bay Area Resident -

Fuller Park is a very narrow park in-between the railroad and Fuller Ave. The PCJPB right of way in the area is 100 feet wide, but the tracks run through it at an angle on account of curve south to Tamien.

It should be possible to preserve the section west of the church and most of it east of there, but there is a potential conflict near Prevost St. It depends on whether there will be 3 or 4 tracks and exactly one where they would run (it's not a given that the existing tracks won't be moved laterally).

Peter said...

Re cows hit by AVE

There has yet to be a fence created that can actually hold back a cow. Once a cow discovers how to go through a fence, it will do so time and time again. Some even learn that the best way to do so is to push the fence over at the posts. This is why they will need to have other types of security as well.

Anonymous said...

"the only way standard-speed Caltrain service south of SJ Diridon is going to survive the arrival of HSR"

Uh, this is an intersting comment. So that is to say the Gilroy residents lose their CAltrai service, with absolute certainty (I hadn't realized that before), and will be required to use the more expensive HSR service to get to SJ? And is that consistent with Prop 1A? And is that consistent with the Program EIR?

Peter - they've already published Final Eirs (Final progrma eirs) and they've made no such Statements of Overriding Considerations - they've basically said in the final program EIRs that everything can and will be mitigated.

jim said...

@jamesNot_unlike_100_years_ago
Jim is that your house on the right?


uh just about judging by the distance to ferry buiding. of course that was pre 1906 so the buildings are different. notice those are cable car tracks and not streetcar tracks.

--
sj-gilroy - is 101 still in the mix? seems it would make sense here.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 9:18am -

to clarify: neither Caltrain nor CHSRA have stated that Caltrain service down to Gilroy will be discontinued.

It's just that I personally don't see anyone in Gilroy hopping onto Caltrain once there's a much faster HSR connection to San Jose and the mid-peninsula available. The Morgan Hill and south San Jose stations alone won't sustain even three trains per day.

It's very expensive to leave diesel equipment unused all day long, even if it's fully depreciated: it needs to be maintained, you need staff that can operate it and you need somewhere to park the equipment during the day - preferably not at SJ Diridon nor at 4th & King.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 9:18 - you do realize that Caltrain has only weekday service to Gilroy, and only three northbound trains and two southbound trains then, right?

If it's a huge deal with them losing Caltrain service (they already knew that EMU service was not going to go down there, so there was likely going to be diesel service to SJ, then transfer for anything more), then it's probably cheaper for Caltrain to simply pay HSR a certain amount to allow residents to use HSR trains (3 in the morning, two in the evening) at a discounted rate, similar to the arrangement that BART and Muni have for intra-SF trips.

Peter said...

Then I don't think they're going to make such Statements of Overriding Considerations, which indicates that they WILL in fact be mitigating everything.

Of course, there's always the possibility that they may make such a statement in a Final Project EIR. I think that's the whole point of the tiered approach.

AndyDuncan said...

A couple things:

1: Mitigation doesn't mean that ill effects are completely offset, it just means that they are made less severe.

I can mitigate a new noise by making it less noisy, but I don't have to make it silent, or even below ambient.

Mitigation doesn't mean that the neighbors experience zero ill effects.

2: With regards to noise, I wondered what the noise level of the average city bus is, turns out it's about 80dba at 50ft for a diesel/cng bus travelling at 40mph, at least according to one study.

IIRC that's slightly higher than the number quoted for a 125mph HSR train. I think that's interesting as it's something everyone can relate to. Busses are noisy, but we're not talking about the end of the world, and I'm sure there are plenty of busses that run along the streets near the caltrain ROW.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Modern EMU drive concepts rely on rare-earth permanent magnet synchronous motors attached directly to the axles.

...like the NYC subway?.... or any electrically driven train these days?

What Caltrain currently has in mind is high-acceleration regional rail EMUs that top out at around 90mph.

They have something in mind that will use electricity instead of diesel. There's a difference between a number they pulled out of the air for the publicity brochure in 2006 - I suspect someone Googled "Metro North top speed" - and actual specifications for a contract they put out to bid in 2015. Same brochures say the catenary will be capable of 125. The antique catenary on the NEC can handle 135.

If Caltrain wants to run trains on the HSR tracks for an extended distance, it must have rolling stock that can keep up.

It's 50 miles between San Jose and San Francisco. Unless they go to all local service all the time between San Jose and San Francisco they'll have something that can keep up with HSR trains between San Jose and San Francisco.

It's 30 miles from San Jose to Gilroy. They are going to be using signals not telegraphs and written train orders. In other words they will be able to have more than one train on the track between San Jose and Gilroy. The parts of tracks that have speeds higher than whatever Caltrain will be capable of will be somewhat less than 30 miles. How fast will HSR be going through Tamien? Schedule it so Caltrain is at the platform which is masquerading as a passing siding - how fast does Caltrain then have to go so it gets between Tamien and Gilroy before the next HSR comes through. How many trains an hour have to be passing through or serving Gilroy before two tracks becomes a problem? 2030? 2045? Never?

It's very expensive to leave diesel equipment unused all day long, even if it's fully depreciated: it needs to be maintained, you need staff that can operate it and you need somewhere to park the equipment during the day - preferably not at SJ Diridon nor at 4th & King.

Why would they use diesel equipment when they have electric equipment that can run as far south as Anaheim? All they have to do to serve stations south of San Jose is to extend a few trains south to Gilroy like they do now.

jim said...

caltrain service can easily be replaced by capitol corridor service and other planned coast service.

jim said...

to gilroy

Peter said...

@ Jim

Very true. You could even run it to Salinas and Monterey.

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker12800 -

I was referring to fast regional and long-distance EMU equipment. For those, energy efficiency in cruise mode is a big factor. Subways have to stop-and-go all the time anyhow, so many designs for those still use plain old asynchronous motors.

It's not yet clear if Caltrain will retain its existing - and popular - baby bullet service. It's a complete misnomer since top speed is unchanged at 79mph. It just doesn't stop as often.

As long as HSR express trains cruising at 125mph are few and far between, allowing some number of relatively slow baby bullets to make brief excursions onto the HSR tracks should be manageable. However, the lower weight and higher acceleration mean that the new non-compliant EMUs will support significantly higher line haul times for locals as well.

The overhead catenaries on the Caltrain/UPRR tracks will be set up for 90mph, with the option of increasing that to 125mph at some point in the future. That's basically just a matter of increasing the mechanical tension on the wire. The reason Caltrain locals don't need 125mph top speed is that the stations are so close together, often less than 2 miles. High acceleration/deceleration rates are more important.

Of course, if Caltrain does decide to maintain multiple service levels in addition to those offered by HSR, it's possible it will spec different motors for different trainsets.

jim said...

There is a goal of getting full coast service by either running the daylight or bringing ccjpa and surfliner together probably at salina.

map

Rafael said...

@ jim, Peter -

yes, extending either Amtrak CC or ACE out to Salinas may make a lot of sense. TAMC is looking for 3-4 trains each way on weekdays.

There's also planning a light rail line from Monterey to the metropolis of Castroville along the old railroad ROW. Passengers to and from the Bay Area are supposed to transfer there.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Clem,
at 5:26p you took my comment out of context. You're a bad person. :)

jim said...

you can't substitute hsr for baby bullet on the penninsula because hsr in only going to have two stops on the pen.

currently residents of san jose, mountain view, palo alto, redwood sicty, hillsdale, san mateo, and millbae all enjoy some level of baby bullet service.

To remove it would mean only millbrae and one other stop would get hsr instead.

the residents will raise a ruckus you can count on that.

AndyDuncan said...

@Jim, renewed service from the bay to SLO would be nice. I think I must have taken one of the last trains from Monterey to SLO before they dropped that service.

Upgrading it to 110mph would, of course, be even more welcome. Hopefully that line can get some cash to turn it into one of the "emerging" HSR corridors. 125mph trains would be plenty to get significant mode share along that route since you're basically only talking about getting from San Jose to SLO or LA to SLO. Longer than that and you could just backtrack, like LA-SJ-Monterey, or SJ-Burbank-Santa Barbara

Even something like San Jose to Santa Barbara could be done in under 3 hours if they averaged 100mph.

jim said...

caltrain could focus on a dumbarton service in place of the gilroy service.
these local agencies,

caltrain
ace
ccjpa

need to get together and decide who gets what territory.

i think ace should stick with what it does now and focus on up grades and more frequent service.

ccjpa should focus on reno to salinas.

and caltrain should do san jose san francisco and union city via dumbarton.

there should be a multi mode transfer between ace/ccpa and caltrain in central eastbay location.

jim said...

I get from the buzz that many are hell bent on riving the daylight.

Personally, as the one who works SF. just between us, its nice not having any trains and the drama that goes with having them. (my buses run like clockwork regardless of what is happening in the rest of the system)

but, from a service standpoint, I would like to see real trains come back into the city. I take pride in my railroad job and in being a san franciscan and my customer base is overwhelming international and domestic tourism and I wish so much to have something better than these endless bus connections all over the state.

I know rafael is against the daylight to sf. But we simply must have a train here and perhaps a revived daylight could use DMUs and be integrated into the caltrain Sked, so as not to be disruptive?

Rafael said...

@ jim -

in case you haven't noticed, peninsula cities are already raising a ruckus.

Caltrain would not drop baby bullet service lightly, precisely because it is so popular. Any alternative based on local + timed cross-platform transfer + HSR would have to offer most passengers faster line haul times at the same fares. That's not an easy target to shoot for, which is why Caltrain is keeping its options open by insisting on access to all four tracks.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

to clarify: I don't think adding a new service makes sense during the remodeling of the peninsula corridor. Once that's done, I see no reason why one Amtrak train a day (each way) would be a problem for PCJPB, unless the remodeling introduces steep gradients.

So I'm suggesting the Coast Daylight start out as Emeryville-LAUS or SJ-LAUS and then gets modified to SF (4th & King) and LAUS at a later date. Just make sure the FRA-compatible diesel locomotive has all the necessary PTC gear and enough oomph to keep up with the Caltrain EMUs.

jim said...

can they get get the trip from sjc to sfc to under an hour using high speed locals? fast acceleration and braking? that would be a sucky ride though.

or the other option would be staggered schedule - maybe thats a better choice,.

with more frequent service - say 15 minute headway, they could alternate a skip stop sked.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Some updates on the Coast Daylight project, courtesy of friend and colleague Chris Flescher, can be found at the RailPAC site. Short story: UP is dragging their feet again. Even though there is state money available to buy and operate the trainsets to run the Daylight, tracks have to be upgraded, and UP isn't in a mood to play along, at least not yet. The 2012 date for starting service is not likely to be met.

In terms of Monterey light rail, well, you'll all be hearing more about that from me in the next day or two.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Also meant to discuss the Gilroy Caltrain service. Earlier this year Caltrain floated the notion of cutting that service entirely to save money as it faced a severe budget crisis. It didn't happen, but there is widespread agreement that the service is vulnerable as Caltrain continues to face financial challenges.

You have to also keep in mind that Gilroy isn't the only stop: San Martin, Morgan Hill, and Blossom Hill all have stops as well on the Gilroy line. Neither the Coast Daylight nor HSR would be able to meet their needs.

jim said...

some one need to put UP out of their (our) misery once and for all.

jim said...

i think that the state regional systems (ccjpa/san joaquin/surfliner) and the hsr core system should be under one operator to best have a cooridinated complete state system including the feeder thruway buses.
Schedules would then be best designed to route passengers via the best alternative for the trip.

Alon Levy said...

Adirondacker:

It's 50 miles between San Jose and San Francisco. Unless they go to all local service all the time between San Jose and San Francisco they'll have something that can keep up with HSR trains between San Jose and San Francisco.

Neither the express nor the local tracks are expected to be at capacity. This means that Caltrain expresses can briefly go on the express tracks to overtake slower trains. All it takes is some scheduling. It doesn't even have to be good scheduling - Amtrak and NJT already do it on the NEC.

Adirondacker12800 said...

I was referring to fast regional and long-distance EMU equipment.

Like Metroliners. Or like Jersey Arrow 1's which used to run between New York City and Washington DC now and then. They don't anymore because they were retired years ago. Rumor has it, and it's all just rumor at this point, that the design speed for Jersey Arrow IVs will be 125. Makes sense since the design speed for the NJTransit bilevels and the ALP46a's is 125. ALP46s and bilevels already run in revenue service from New Haven to Washington DC. Not often but they do run occasionally. The appear in the schedule as Amtrak trains or Metro North trains.

For those, energy efficiency in cruise mode is a big factor.

Combustion engines, whether internal or external combustion have particular places in their operating ranges that are more efficient than in other places in their operating ranges. Electric motors don't have that problem to a great degree. It's one of the reasons to use electric motors.

Subways have to stop-and-go all the time anyhow, so many designs for those still use plain old asynchronous motors.

The MTA has it's faults but they can get out really sharp pencils and look at how much it costs to maintain things. It's the reason why the new cars have IGBT power converters and the motors run on three phase power. Some train systems even vary the frequency to better match the motor to the load.

It's not yet clear if Caltrain will retain its existing - and popular - baby bullet service.

Why would they cancel it? Why wouldn't they add rush hour express service like commuter railroads all over the world.

It just doesn't stop as often.

Yes I understand the concept. Sorta like the NJTransit express to Trenton. Or the NJTransit express to Gladstone. Or the Metro North Express to New Haven or the SEPTA express to Trenton or the MARC express to DC or Metra express to.... Something commuter agencies all over the world manage to do. Some of them on two and three track systems. Many of them with branch lines that have to be integrated into the trains on the mainline. Some of them with electric trains and diesel trains and branches and voltage and frequency changes and level boarding and low level platforms and .... unlike Caltrain which will have to manage an all electric service on a line without branches and have four tracks to do it on.

As long as HSR express trains cruising at 125mph are few and far between, allowing some number of relatively slow baby bullets to make brief excursions onto the HSR tracks should be manageable.

Why would the Baby Bullets be on the express tracks? Wouldn't the express trains be on the express tracks? If the 5:17 express to San Jose leaves San Francisco and doesn't stop until it gets to Sunnyvale there's no reason why it can't be on the express tracks until it passes through Mountain View. YMMV depending on where they put switches, the service patterns and whether or not the 5:15 HSR is express to LA or stops at SFO and Palo Alto...

The overhead catenaries on the Caltrain/UPRR tracks will be set up for 90mph, with the option of increasing that to 125mph at some point in the future.

They would have to try really hard to do that. The antique catenary on the NEC can handle trains going 135, or ten miles an hour faster than what trains will be doing on the Peninsula.

The reason Caltrain locals don't need 125mph top speed is that the stations are so close together, often less than 2 miles. High acceleration/deceleration rates are more important

...but the trains on the express tracks won't be making many stops hence the "express" part.

Joey said...

The issue is that the CalTrain express services might not be able to keep pace (or even close) if equipment is chosen which emphasizes acceleration over speed. Granted, the express trains don't have to go all the way up to 125 to keep a decent schedule on the express tracks but 80 mph probably won't cut it. One option would be for CalTrain to use different equipment for the express trains than for the locals, though this adds the unnecessary complication of maintaining new fleets.

Remember, CalTrain is planning to double the number of trains it runs in the near future. This means that the current model of express trains only overtaking locals at certain points might not work forever. CHSRA documents already show that the center tracks will be used by both HSR and CalTrain express services. The problem is choosing equipment that can maintain a decent speed on express runs while keeping acceleration on the local tracks. I would expect any train that does both very well to be prohibitively expensive.

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker12800 -

there seems to be some serious terminology confusion here. Let's me try and explain the terms used out on the west coast:

Express, semi-express, local etc. refers to the number of intermediate stops a given train makes along the route.

For example, a Caltrain local stops about 15 times between SF and SJ, a limited at around 10 and a baby bullet at around 7. The latter two are therefore "semi-express" service levels.

An HSR local will stop at 2-3 locations in the peninsula (Millbrae, mid-peninsula and San Jose), a semi-express in San Jose only and an express not at all until it reaches LA.

By contrast, "standard speed" currently refers to passengers trains with a top speed of 79mph. Post-electrification, it will mean 90mph. "High speed" implies more than that, e.g. 125mph in the SF peninsula and 220mph in the Central Valley.

The high speed tracks in the SF peninsula are intended for trains that actually run at 125mph where curve radii permit. Ergo, assuming that Caltrain will purchase a fleet EMUs with a top speed of 90mph, it may be restricted to the standard speed tracks except when there is a gap in the HSR schedule that allows them to make a brief excursion onto the high speed tracks without impeding HSR traffic.

Initially, there will be many such gaps while HSR operators ramp up ridership. After a few years, the number of gaps will start to come down, constraining Caltrain's ability to sustain its standard speed semi-express service levels.

Since equipment needs to be in service for 20-40 years, it makes sense IMHO to re-evaluate the service concept of limiteds and baby bullets in the context of expanding HSR service. Caltrain has the option of running locals with equipment optimized for high acceleration and HiSpeed trains between SF and Gilroy, optimized for high speed. Passengers would have a limited number of stations at which to execute timed cross-platform transfers.

AndyDuncan said...

Well, the HSR "local" stopping pattern is a Caltrain "express" – it's all relative.

Are there places along the peninsula corridor where there is enough room to put sidings or even a full fifth track to allow Caltrain to run baby-bullet-type service on it's two tracks, leaving the HSR tracks for the HSR trains, and are those places located such that they are in the areas needed? Barring that, could extra tracks at stations allow the same sort of leapfrogging?

Adirondacker12800 said...

Are there places along the peninsula corridor where there is enough room to put sidings or even a full fifth track to allow Caltrain to run baby-bullet-type service on it's two tracks, leaving the HSR tracks for the HSR trains

How many HSR trains an hour have to be running before that happens? How many Baby Bullets have to be running before Caltrain alters it's service pattern and starts running things that make five local stops and then express on the same pattern as an HSR "local" and can seamless integrate into the HSR schedule?

Four tracks for 20-25 trains an hour in each direction is a bit of overkill as it is. I don't see them needing 5 tracks until cars are outlawed. Adjusting the schedule here and there or the service pattern or both is a lot cheaper than concrete ties, welded rail and catenary.