Monday, November 16, 2009

HSR Should Go Where the People Are

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

(Rafael helped with some of the research for this post. The words and interpretations are mine, so don't blame him for any errors or controversial statements.)

In some ways, the California High Speed Rail project has been a bit too successful in selling itself to voters. The project's emphasis - and, at times, my own - has been on getting people from the SF Bay Area to Southern California in just over 2 1/2 hours. Although this blog has frequently discussed the other areas served by the trains, we haven't always given them equal weight in the basic framing of the project. HSR is and has always intended to be more than just connecting two endpoints. It also connects some of California's fastest-growing cities, particularly those in the San Joaquin Valley.

Not surprisingly, when some people want to find a place to criticize the CHSRA and the HSR project, they point to the route choice between San José and Los Angeles. Some argue that HSR should follow I-5 through the Valley and over the Grapevine. And many of those commenters argue that the CHSRA's failure to pick such a route is either a sign of their incompetence or their complicity with big bad sprawl developers.

These comments crop up often enough that it seemed worth devoting a post to debunking such nonsense.

The basic flaw with the "use I-5" claims, whether they refer to the San Joaquin Valley, the Grapevine, or both, is that they argue for bypassing between 2.5 and 3 million people. There is no good reason to do so. Given that the system needs all the riders it can get to pencil out financially, it is absurd to send the route through completely empty land along Interstate 5 and ignore the populations along the CA-99 or CA-14 corridors.

Especially when those corridors desperately need an intercity alternative. The Highway 99 corridor is notoriously congested throughout much of the Valley, as it is the region's primary transportation route. An increasing number of both trucks and cars use the route, and more will do so if and when economic recovery comes to the Valley. A 2005 estimate showed it would cost $25 billion to bring Highway 99 up to Interstate standards and handle the projected traffic loads. HSR can be built through the Valley for a lower cost but can provide for the movement of people (and improve the movement of goods, especially through projects like Fresno rail consolidation) in a way that can make the widening and upgrading of Highway 99 less necessary.

There's also an environmental reason: the San Joaquin Valley has some of the worst air quality in the nation. HSR will play a major role in addressing that.

The Central Valley is going to see increased population growth during this century. The question whether it'll be sprawl or whether it'll be dense urban infill. HSR can help support infill development by providing opportunities for transit-oriented development. City center stations would help pull growth inward instead of push it outward.

The CHSRA's route FAQ has some more good info on the CA-99 route:

The I-5 corridor has very little existing or projected population between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. In contrast, according to the California Department of Finance, well over 3 million residents are projected to live between Fresno and Bakersfield along the SR-99 corridor by 2015, which directly serves all the major Central Valley cities. Residents along the SR-99 corridor lack a competitive transportation alternative to the automobile, and detailed ridership analysis shows that they would be ideal candidates to use a high-speed train system. The I-5 corridor would not be compatible with current land use planning in the Central Valley that accommodates growth in the communities along the SR-99 corridor.

Express trains in the SR-99 corridor would connect San Francisco to Fresno in just 1 hr and 20 min, and Fresno to Los Angeles in 1 hr and 24 min. This corridor would link San Francisco to Bakersfield in about 1 hr and 50 min, and Bakersfield to Los Angeles in 54 min. The SR-99 corridor was estimated to have 3.3 million more intermediate-market ridership (passengers to or from the Central Valley) per year than the highest I-5 corridor projections (CRA 1999). Therefore, while SR-99 corridor travel times would be 11 to 16 min longer than the I-5 alternatives between Los Angeles and San Francisco, overall ridership and revenue for the SR-99 corridor would be higher.


Similarly, the case for Palmdale and against the I-5/Grapevine alignment is compelling. In addition to the fact that Palmdale/Lancaster has just under 500,000 people right now, whereas hardly any live along I-5 north of Castaic, there is the inescapable geological fact that the Tehachapi Pass is flatter, less seismically risky, and cheaper to construct than the extremely hilly I-5 corridor. The I-5/Grapevine route would require individual tunnels of 6 miles in length, more overall miles of tunneling, and would come closer to the seismically unstable junction of the Garlock and San Andreas Faults, one of the more dangerous of California's numerous faults. Typically, you want to cross faults at-grade and not in a tunnel, which is very difficult on the Grapevine route. See more in the CHSRA Tunneling Report.

The time difference is estimated at 12 minutes between Grapevine and Tehachapi, which isn't nothing, but neither is it a huge sacrifice, given the fact that Tehachapi is cheaper, more seismically stable, and serves more people.

Combine all this with the fact that there are forecast to be 1 million people in the Antelope Valley by 2020 (even if that isn't reached, there will be more growth here, as in the San Joaquin Valley), and it makes it clear that here as well, HSR should go where the people are. Even if the Tejon Ranch housing development is actually built, there still won't be as many people as in the Palmdale/Lancaster area.

Quoting again from the CHSRA route FAQ:

The most significant difference in regards to potential environmental impacts between the Antelope Valley option and I-5 alignments is in regards to major parklands. The Antelope Valley alignment would not go through major parks. In contrast, the I-5 options would potentially impact Fort Tejon Historic Park, Angeles and Los Padres National Forests, Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area, Pyramid Lake and other local parks. The Antelope Valley alignment would also have a lower overall potential for water-related impacts, less potential impacts to wetlands and non-wetland waters, and was forecast to have less impacts on urbanized land and farmland conversion than the I-5 options (because the I-5 options would result in more growth in the Central Valley).

The Antelope Valley alignment traverses less challenging terrain than the I-5 options, which would result considerably less tunneling overall (13 miles 21 km of tunneling for the Antelope Valley option versus 23 37 km miles for I-5 options), and considerably shorter tunnels (maximum length of 3.4 miles 5.5 km for the Antelope Valley option versus two tunnels greater than 5 miles 8 km for the I-5 options) which would result in fewer constructability issues. Although the Antelope Valley option is about 35 miles longer than the I-5 alignment options, it is estimated to be slightly less expensive to construct as a result of less tunneling through the Tehachapi Mountains. In addition, due to its more gentle gradient, geology, topology and other features, the SR-58/Soledad Canyon Corridor offers greater opportunities for using potential high-speed train alignment variations, particularly through the mountainous areas of the corridor, to avoid impacts to environmental resources. In contrast, the more challenging terrain of the I-5 Corridor greatly limits the ability to avoid sensitive resources and seismic constraints. The alignment optimization system (Quantm) that was utilized to identify and evaluate approximately 12 million alignment options for each mountain crossing could only find one practicable alignment option through the Tehachapi Mountains for the I-5 Corridor.


For practical, financial, ridership, planning, and any number of other reasons, HSR should be built along the proposed route.

As we noted in the San Diego post last week, the purpose of HSR isn't to connect two points with a straight line. It's to move people. HSR serves people, not geometry. We need to find the balance between serving the most people possible and a sensible, non-circuitous route. I strongly believe the current CHSRA plan strikes that balance.



Reminder by Rafael:

Altamont Corridor Rail Project - Public Scoping Meeting
Today, Tuesday, Nov 17 3:00p to 8:00p
at Fremont Central Park Teen Center, Fremont, CA
39770 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont, CA, 94539
(510) 790-5541‎

If you attend and learn something new you feel would be worth sharing with readers of this blog, please email a summary to cruickshank at gmail dot com.

106 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why don't you just come out and say it, Robert, it needs to go through Gilroy so that you can get on it from Monterey.

The worst planned HSR project ever was how Joe Vranich described it, and he knows more about HSR any anyone on this blog.

Sacramento to SF not important to have a much more direct route is not important and then of course, don't worry about Contra Costa county with its over 1,000,000 inhabitants.

In any event why worry about it -- it will never get built, since there will never be the funding. the Authority will dump as many millions on planning as possible before the eyes really start to open up and the legislature realizes the State can't afford this and the Feds are not going to earmark enough funds to make it happen either.

(BTW, Vranich is a life long Democrat -- one smart guy)

Anonymous said...

I don't care where it goes through, I just want this thing built NOW. There are express trains that can by-pass stations along the way if need be.

My grandpa used to say "less yappin' and more doin'." Who the f--- cares where it goes, just start laying down the tracks right now.

I don't to spend years and years of "studies" or debates and leave me with wasted time and my tax money.

Why can China build these things in less than five years when we can't? Is there some sort of Communist advantage to get things done quickly? I don't think so because we built the transcontinental railroad in five years!!

Jack said...

@anon 9:17 (not ignorant first poster)

China has no environmental protection hoops to jump through, no lawsuits by NIMBY's. Communist China says build it, and it gets built. Not to say our way is worse, the protections we enact give us an overall quality product, just ten years later.

Loving this article! I'm the prime statistic for the 99 route. My wife has a position where the home office is in San Fran, and the train makes commuting more realistic. Weekend trips to SF/LA become much easier and more likely without having to deal with the stress of a 4 hour car trip, (and the possible speeding ticket at the 152 interchange....)

Don't pass me by because the Anon's want to shave 12 minutes off their travel time. I know I would spend significantly to take advantage of HSR

PeakVT said...

HSR is and has always intended to be more than just connecting two endpoints.

True, and it's obvious to knowledgeable supporters. But a side-by-side comparison of 99 vs I-5 ridership estimates and times for endpoints AND intermediate points (or the lack thereof) would help the less-informed. (Perhaps such a comparison has been done and I haven't seen it - which indicates it needs more promotion.)

無名 - wu ming said...

sac to SF is close enough that an upgraded capitol corridor rapid rail system will work just fine. contra costa county has both bart and the upgraded ACE to work with.

i cannot wait for user registration and the new blog format, if just to see how many anonymice we actually have out there.

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

Yeah honestly I can't see many people taking HSR from SF to Sacramento via Altamont, considering how circuitous that route is. Upgraded Capitol Corridor seems to be the best solution.

Actually I wouldn't mind seeing a dedicated HSR link between the Bay Area and Sacramento. Might even be able to get Vallejo and Vacaville, each with 100,000+ residents each, into the route. I'm not sure there is/would be enough ridership to justify such a project though, especially since it would require a new transbay crossing. Maybe in 20 years...

Anonymous said...

Five years later with minimum taxpayer expense, or ten years later with ten time the expense.

I go with the former method.

No one cares about some barren desertland with some lizard ecolife. If there are trees in the way, chop'n down. In the end high speed rail is gonna reduce greenhouses gases so let mother nature take a hit for five years, it'll be paid back for generations to come.

Reps and Dems should agree to turn a deaf ear to NIMBYs on both sides of the spectrum. If they object, they can't vote for the other party because the other party is also turning a deaf ear to NIMBYs. No matter how you look at it, we are a two-party society. If both parties start turning deaf ears against selfish NIMBYs, they have to suck it up as tough luck.

I really had it with these NIMBYs. All they do is complain and the don't add any solutions. They're just a nuisance that's the root cause of problems for these debates and studies. If they don't like it MOVE! The gov't gonna pay them for their property at a profit to these guys anyway, and yet they still complain. Whiners, I tell ya!

I for one, support the Chinese method towards dealing with NIMBYs.
If they complain, they mysteriously disappear never to be heard from again. Why waste time and money from these whiners? Just get rid of 'em and you can cut probably 50% off the cost!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've been watching this thread for quite sometime now and plan to form an account soon when the new blog format is finished. Anyways, in regard to the travel time, I've heard things that the tracks will be built to handle speeds of up to 250 mph. If this is true, won't this help decrease travel time by a few minutes through the Central Valley?

Joey said...

Close, the design speed is 220 mph. Though I would hope that they would built the system to standards (i.e. curve radii) that could support higher speeds in the future.

BTW, what still needs to be done for the new site to be opened, besides "testing the various features and plugins of the WordPress system" ;-)

Annonymous said...

Really? Route is all driven by trying not to bypass 2-3Million? How many people are being bypassed on the east side of San Francisco Bay? And just think. An LA to Sac HSR wouldn't deal with a bay crossing either - how much EIR time and construction cost would that save?

SF has plenty of transit options for connecting almost anywhere (east bay, San Jose, and all points bay area). So really, what's the real point of threading the needle through the Peninsula anyway- doesn't make sense, since its a massive duplication of resources with Caltrain.

Hey your boy Newsom is pretty much cooked anyway, the whole thing is in process of crashing and burning. CSHRA needs to ditch their laser focus on the Peninsula, and get on with building a train that actually has a rats chance in hell of getting built. (What's up with Newsom anyway?)

By the way, this is your big error - HSR should connect cities where the people are, but it SHOULD NOT "go where the people are"! Why? Because there are PEOPLE and HOUSES and SCHOOLS and NEIGHBORHOODS there already. Sorry, you're late to the party for every legitimate reason in the world, but that doesn't give you license now to go barrelling through and ruining communities. You need to find ways to enter and exit 'where the people are' delicately, and yes, sorry, that will often mean by locating on an outskirt OR tunneling to reach into the city center. Its the right thing to do, and you know it very well.

And just out of curiosity, how is 'mingwu' or 'rafael' or 'joey' any less annonymous than 'annonymous'. Its either a quality point and you come back with legitimate counterpoint (or don't have a legitimate answer), or its a troll, and you ignore it. Whats the big obsession with 'anon'? Who really cares in the scheme of getting to the bottom of it? Does forcing people to disclose their identity, and therefore scaring off opposition that brings legitimate issue to the table - does that serve you? How? Threaten you? Or is it because you're just here to talk about cant defficiency and rolling stock specs, and the occassional train-porn link?

Alon Levy said...

Anon, I'm sure HSR would be more popular if it weren't a continuous line, but a hopping service with footprint in East LA, the Central Valley, and East Palo Alto. But unfortunately for the sensibilities of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, HSR does go in lines.

Spokker said...

"Because there are PEOPLE and HOUSES and SCHOOLS and NEIGHBORHOODS there already."

Those things don't exist in the East Bay.

Anonymous said...

"By the way, this is your big error - HSR should connect cities where the people are, but it SHOULD NOT "go where the people are"! Why? Because there are PEOPLE and HOUSES and SCHOOLS and NEIGHBORHOODS there already. Sorry, you're late to the party for every legitimate reason in the world, but that doesn't give you license now to go barrelling through and ruining communities. You need to find ways to enter and exit 'where the people are' delicately, and yes, sorry, that will often mean by locating on an outskirt OR tunneling to reach into the city center. Its the right thing to do, and you know it very well."

Pretty much the point why I prefer the Chinese method.

"Sorry guys, train development comin' thru. Yeah I know this is the first time you're hearing about this, so we'll be nice. You have until the end of the month before bulldozers come in and tear this place down. Here's some cash for relocation expenses. Yeah I know it sucks for the time being, but you guys will have free dips on the luxurious condos that'll be developed near the station."


LOL

Joey said...

Usernames make what would otherwise be a clusterf**k of random comments into an actual conversation, where you can follow specific arguments and better understand the viewpoint of specific people. I can see how the point could be made for straight-up, unbiased information, but the fact is that anonymity detracts from the discussion. We're humans after all, not robots.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I like the anonymous method because it's one less username and password I have to remember; I already have too many web-based accounts it's so hard to keep track of them all.

Besides, anonymity allows people to just jump in and post their thoughts immediately. It has the positive effect of getting all sorts of views from a broad prospective of people.

Anonymous boards works pretty well in Japan; the largest web-based community board in Japan (2-channel) is fully anonymous.

Anonymous said...

This best describes the benefits of an anonymous system:

"...people can only truly discuss something when they don't know each other.

If there is a user ID attached to a user, a discussion tends to become a criticizing game.

On the other hand, under the anonymous system, even though your opinion/information is criticized, you don't know with whom to be upset.

Also with a user ID, those who participate in the site for a long time tend to have authority, and it becomes difficult for a user to disagree with them. Under a perfectly anonymous system, you can say, "it's boring," if it is actually boring. All information is treated equally; only an accurate argument will work."

-Hiroyuki Nishimura, creator of 2-channel, the largest web-based community board in Japan, if not the world (according to wikipedia)

Joey said...

@Anon 10:36

The thing is, there will be little to NO bulldozing on the peninsula - just a low areal with upgraded stations, which will be, in all but a few cases, WITHIN the existing right-of-way. More trains, but quieter trains make the noise and vibration issues more or less irrelevant, and grade separations will render better connections between neighborhoods, so really the only impact is visual. Oh, and did I mention you get better transportation? It's really making a big deal out of nothing?

@Anon 10:43

Ever seen that little checkbox that says remember my username and password? Well, it works.

Anyway, anonymous and/or temporary usernames are fine for new users who want to contribute, but aren't sure about settling down permanently. In the long run though, it makes sense for everyone to choose a permanent identity. BTW, since I'm not familiar with it, do they actually do any sort of intellectual discussion at 2-channel?

Robert Cruickshank said...

Regarding the new site, it's pretty much ready, I'm just unhappy with the site layout, and haven't found a WordPress theme I like. So I dawdle on the transition while I look for something that I do like.

Anyone who has any WP skills, and who has an interested in helping create a site resembling the Seattle Transit Blog, let me know.

If not, I'll probably make the switch this weekend. I don't think there's much else left to be done.

Anonymous said...

@ Joey

I just read in one of CHSRA's formal documents (TECHNICAL MEMORANDUM) that the tracks between Bakersfield and Merced will be built to meet the recommended minimum requirement of 242 mph with sustainable speeds of up to 250 mph for at least 10 minutes. If this is true, why doesn't the Authority revise their travel times to cope with the speed increase? Is it because 250 mph is still a little far-fetched as far as high-speed tains are concerned?

Anonymous said...

The argument for the Tehachapis alignment is totally unconvincing. What it reveals is that the hsr has nothing to do with environmentalism and everything to do with population growth and real estate development.

But it has cleared the air for me. I vote no on everything now.

What California needs is 10 million less people rather than 10 million more.

Joey said...

I vote no on everything

Then why don't you go live in a cave?

What California needs is 10 million less people rather than 10 million more.

Do you suggest we implement a population control system like China? I agree that humanity needs population controls, but it just ain't gonna happen in America. The best we can do is encourage higher-density development rather than sprawl to cope with the new population.

Spokker said...

I will miss anonymous. They make the best posts.

K.T. said...

Anon 10:54pm,

That is most likely for future upgrades. Just like shinkansen, whose operation speed was 200km/hr in the beginning, but now same track handles operational speed up to 270 km/hr.

I think all other tracks for HSR system around the world was also designed in consideration of future upgrades.

Spokker said...

Also, I miss cursing. I hope Rafael won't be allowed to continue his reign of terror!

Anonymous said...

What California needs is 10 million less people rather than 10 million more.

Feel free to leave. I hear real estate is cheap in North Dakota.

angeleno said...

I reside and work in LA and the only CA city I visit often is SF. My selfish travel habits would demand as straight an HSR shot as possible along an I-5 route. But I pay taxes and use services in CA and I eat food grown in the Central Valley. To leave the strongest possible state to my children, HSR should hew to CA-99 both to help the Central Valley remain economically viable and to deter sprawl from gobbling up ever more farmland.

All ABOARD! said...

Ive gone like at least two weeks or more without any four letter words!

Anyway, thank god someone spelled out what I have been saying over and over again about how the train needs to go where the people are. We know it, the people who voted to have the train come to them know it, the authority knows its.

You should also mention another important aspect is the going via 99 there is an established train riding public already from which to draw., corridors like the san joaquin, LA-OC LA- Empire, etc. are well established transit corridors with ready ridership built in.

1-5 wouldnt help anyone except maybe the long distance -LA=SF driver, who already has an express option, via air travel.

hsr via 1-5 would add nothing to the states transportation mix.

Increasingly, as cali's poulation grows, there wil be more people in all the existing citites, whether you like it or not, these cities want growth, because growth is the only way to maintain a tax base.

You have two choices

1) pretend that if you don't plan for it, it won't happen, and then try to clean up the mess when its too late.
or 2) do your best to do planning in order to mitigate the effects, one of which is to offer new ways to keep a growing population mobile.

No one anywhere every said that hsr would help curb growth. its a response to growth.
Of course the antelope valley is gonna grow, with or without it, just as the IE has grown and grown and grown like crabgrass, regardless of a lack of infrastructure.
That is the story of california and will continue to be the story for the next generation of californians, who will be from all over the world and who will expect that california keep up with the rest of the world so that their children can have a future here as well.

YOu can't stop it. YOu may not like it, I don't really like it either. I miss the californian of the 70s. Sp mellow, so cool, so laid back, people weren't so high strung and life was really easy.

but, its gone, its not coming back, and the fact is, if we want jobs and services, we have to grow and we have to compete with the other countries, and certainly, we need to continue to lead america by the nose, god knows some one needs to do it.

So just get over it. The train is coming, you aren't stopping it, its going the way its going and when its done, you can ride or get out of the way.

All ABOARD! said...

by ther per tbt - if you haven't already looked through these pres. boards, they're very nice. Its a fantastic piece of archecture. Open, light airy, chcok full of amenities for travelers, commuter, and the neighborhood residents.

no more complaining about the gorgeous tbt.

All ABOARD! said...

^^^jim ( got bored with my name)

Rafael said...

@ All ABOARD -

the TBT will be nice at grade level and above. The train box, i.e. the part people will use most, will be strictly utilitarian thanks to the full mezzanine and wheel squeal from the throat curve, amplified by all those acoustically hard surfaces. The platforms will be no more inviting than BART's, there will be no sense of grace or grandeur for anyone standing there to enjoy. Grand Central of the West my backside.

And that's really the core of the complaints relative to the architecture: the heart and soul of the TBT isn't civic pride in public transportation. It's developer lust for a fancy strip mall and convenient access to nearby skyscrapers.

All ABOARD! said...

rafael, thats a little melodramatic. first of all, no one will be spending any time on the platform. they will arrive and board or detrain and take a direct escalator to street level. one level above is the train mezz where Ill be, ( god help me there sticking us in the same area as grehound,) there will be ticket counters, restrooms, seating, and so forth.
commuters show up and go, they dont hang out, and for those waiting, they don't want to wait on a platform with noisy trains and traffic flow, they wait upstairs where its comfortable. or if they have time to kill they go upstairs and dine, shop or whatever until its time to board.

see? besides, you cant tell sf what to do any more than I can tell you what LA should do and trust me, angelinos, you all have quite the mess to clean up after 100 years of the anti-plan. dont worry about us. just move along.

All ABOARD! said...

4----park
3----AC TRANSIT bus-go-round
2----retail/service/office mezz
1----grand concourse street level) other regional bus
A----train mezz/tkts/amtrak bus/greyhnd bus/lobby
B----platforms

All ABOARD! said...

its not developer lust, its an all in one for another of the cities up and coming 'hoods.

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

thanks for writing this up. Your point about intercity transportation alternatives for Central Valley residents is worth expanding on. Flights out of Fresno Yosemite and Bakersfield to the Bay Area and/or LA basin are few in number and very expensive. Driving takes forever. The upshot is that the CV is currently somewhat remote from both of these regions, inhibiting labor mobility and intra-state tourism.

Worse, many residents of SoCal and especially, of the Bay Area, perceive the entire Central Valley as "flyover country" and the people who live there as country bumpkins. This is not only condescending, it's also foolish: the Central Valley is where the water is and the earthquakes aren't.

The central section of the CV, roughly between Sacramento and Merced, is where future population growth and the development of greentech industries ought to be concentrated - as long as it's planned transit-oriented high-density growth rather than yet more auto-centric sprawl.

However, even the southern Fresno-Bakersfield section will inevitably have to diversify away from agriculture in coming decades. Between salinity management in the Delta, the thinning snowpack in the Sierras and aquifer depletion, there simply isn't going to be enough water to keep farming the current total acreage - even with drip irrigation systems. West side towns like Mendota and Firebaugh are already dying, don't expect them to rebound anytime soon.

Instead, the land there will have to be used for other purposes, e.g. solar thermal plants. Failing that, there will be dust storms of Australian proportions and the fertile top soil will be gone forever (who knows, the climate could become wetter again in a few centuries).

Absent fast intercity rail service, the southern Central Valley will struggle to attract migrants with the qualifications necessary to transition from food production to greentech industries like renewable electricity, biofuel production and farmaceuticals/biopolymers (in greenhouses, please).

Without HSR, the southern Central Valley may well become a dust bowl. Many of the people currently living there will migrate to the Bay Area, SoCal or out of state, looking for work. None of these are desirable outcomes for the state economy.

The Antelope Valley is a slightly different story because the High Desert doesn't have any rivers. Additional population growth there is not really desirable as it would require pumping even more water thousands of feet uphill and place additional stress on the Delta.

Unfortunately, the geology doesn't favor a straight shot from Bakersfield to Sylmar via the CA-99/I-5 corridors, so Palmdale lucked out. At the very least, though, there should be restrictions on the total volume of water that will be made available, forcing Palmdale and Lancaster to plan for smart, dense growth that minimizes evaporative water loss and enables the use of recycled water for public parks etc. No more sprawling subdivisions of single-story houses with large gardens and white picket fences, please.

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

Also, a couple of clarifications if I may:

(a) the risk of a major earthquake occurring is actually about the same for Tehachapis and the Grapevine routes. Both cross both the Garlock and the San Andreas fault.

What's different is that the Tehachapis route allows both faults to be crossed at grade. That makes it a lot easier to evacuate stranded passengers and, to repair any damage to the tracks.

For example, say the San Andreas slips by ~3 feet at some point in the next century, just where the tracks happen to be. To compensate in a way that restores the original high speed rating, engineers would have to construct a very gentle S-curve. For a curve radius of ~2 miles, that works out to ~200 feet of track work to either side of the fault line.

More extensive repairs would be needed if an earthquake that powerful damages the track geometry beyond that distance, which is entirely possible - even likely. In particular, it may create a vertical as well as a horizontal discontinuity. For high speed ratings, vertical transition curve radii of 6 miles or more are needed.

It would be feasible to implement all of this underground, one track at a time, provided a sufficiently tall and wide fault crossing chamber is excavated during initial construction.

Note that the Garlock fault also creeps slowly, so track geometry there will have to be tweaked on a regular basis.

(b) through Tejon Pass, I-5 sports a gradient of about 6%, far too steep even for HSR.

IIRC, the Australian Qantm software CHSRA used for its tunneling workshop did identify a single alignment just east of the freeway that did cross both faults at grade, but only at the expense of additional miles of tunneling to implement mild switchbacks. However, there was essentially zero flexibility to tweak this alignment if exploratory tunneling reveals any nasty surprises in the meter-scale geology. Unfortunately, I can't find the document any more.

Note that as good as Qantm is, the quality of its results depends on that of the model parameters entered, e.g. the precise location of weak rock strata, water columns, pockets of natural gas etc. Tunneling deep into bedrock has come a long way since the 19th century, but many projects have to deal with unexpected geological complications, often leading to completion delays and cost escalations. The longer the tunnel system, the higher the risk.

The I-5 alignment involving the least number of total miles tunnels would cross both faults underground. The tunnel system would involve individual tunnels of 9-10 miles in length, which means two single track bores plus a smaller service/escape bore (cp. Channel Tunnel). Per mile, three-bore tunnels are substantially more expensive to construct than tunnels based on single bores wide enough to fit two tracks side-by-side.

Summarizing, current knowledge of the small-scale geology of the Transverse and Diablo Ranges is necessarily imperfect, so it's wise to minimize the geology risk even if that entails a substantial detour, yet more hassle with UPRR in the Antelope Valley and increased sprawl risk in Palmdale.

On the upside, the chosen route via the High Desert would make it much easier to tie Las Vegas into the network - at Nevada's expense.

Anonymous said...

Amazing just how much technical knowledge Rafael possesses, yet he still claims to not be on any payroll of the CHSRA.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 5:46am -

it's called reading the published documentation. You should try it some time instead of casting aspersions on people.

Neither Robert nor I are affiliated in any way with CHSRA or any of the consultants it has hired. In fact, I've not been shy about calling CHSRA on stuff I believe it has mishandled, e.g. the whole TBT saga, its badly broken relationship with UPRR, advertising PMD as a relief airport for LAX while LAWA is planning to install a solar farm there etc.

I also remain skeptical of plans to run express trains through the downtown areas of Central Valley cities at 220mph, but I'm willing to give engineers a chance to come up with ways to keep the noise down to acceptable levels. It's a tall order.

NONIMBYS said...

NO parent!!!its not going to ruin those schools and homes that were built long after the railroad and seem to be just FINE with trains running by them all day now and with out grade seperations and clean electric power..enough nimby whinning about stupid made up future "horror" from HSR

BruceMcF said...

The anonymous writer in this thread (unless there are several) said: "Hi, I've been watching this thread for quite sometime now and plan to form an account soon when the new blog format is finished."

You can just pick a pseudonym and start posting with it now - you don't have to wait to "form an account". Its the "Name/URL" tickbox. If the label is confusing, bear in mind that the URL can be omitted and the Name is just whatever you type in.

BruceMcF said...

Anonymous said...
"Amazing just how much technical knowledge Rafael possesses, yet he still claims to not be on any payroll of the CHSRA."

Given how much of it appears to be gleaned from product announcements and technology news, more like a testimony to the power of Google news and RSS feeds. Anyone with an interest and a bit of technical knowledge can pick up a wealth of technical tidbits that would have required long experience in the industry just twenty years ago.

Of course, given the necessity of draining educational funds so we can fight the War on Drugs with massively expensive and futile incarceration, it may be that that technical knowledge is less common than it once was.

BruceMcF said...

All ABOARD! said...
"commuters show up and go, they dont hang out, and for those waiting, they don't want to wait on a platform with noisy trains and traffic flow, they wait upstairs where its comfortable. or if they have time to kill they go upstairs and dine, shop or whatever until its time to board."

But its a design decision to make the platform uncomfortable, and a design decision to make the wheels of the trains squeal. And obviously a commercial decision to try to drive people up into the mezzanine to spend money even if they would prefer to just sit and wait for their train.

In places where platforms are made into reasonably comfortable places to wait for a train, larger numbers of people wait for their train at the platform. You grab your paper and your snack on the way in, then sit down, read, sip your coffee and and eat your rockcake (or whatever) until the train pulls in.

Anonymous said...

will be built to meet the recommended minimum requirement of 242 mph with sustainable speeds of up to 250 mph for at least 10 minutes. If this is true, why doesn't the Authority revise their travel times to cope with the speed increase?

Engineers call this margin. You always design something to be a little bit faster / stronger / longer / etc. than it needs to be in everyday service. That's what makes things safe. Notice 242 = 220 + 10%

Rafael said...

@ All ABOARD -

to illustrate my point:

Venerable, lush Madrid Atocha vs. Barcelona Sants - useful, clean but squirreled away in a basement like an ugly stepchild.

Berlin Central Station underground tracks, elevated tracks, exterior at night - modern and entirely devoid of plants, but with tall interior spaces and graceful roof lines that reflect the importance of passenger rail for the city's economy. It's an architectural anchor for the infill development that will happen nearby.

Future HSR station in Florence, Italy: the cross-section shows most of it is underground as well, but the mezzanine is limited to walkways so natural light can reach all the way down to the platform level. Again, no plants but the tall, wide spaces reflect the difference between gran turismo and the daily grind of strapper-hanging on a crowded subway. The aesthetics of the massive concrete elements are more of an acquired taste IMHO, but they do attest to the permanence of the structure. If you respect what they can do, rails will be around for a very long time indeed.

Of these examples, the train box at the San Francisco TBT most closely resembles Barcelona Sants - in stark contrast to e.g. Anaheim ARTIC.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 8:38am -

"Notice 242 = 220 + 10%"

That's figure is not a coincidence, either. By convention, HSR trains are certified for commercial operation at 90% of the top speed they achieve in an official test run.

FRA isn't going to take some foreign rail authority's word for it, so the Central Valley test track and OCS have to be built to support higher speeds than are planned in regular operations.

Will a future generation of trains run at even more than 220mph there? Possibly, but the required rated power goes up with the cube of velocity and energy consumption with its square. Is getting from SF to LA ten minutes faster worth paying say, 25% more for a ticket?

In this wired age, I'd rather spend the money on WiFi on board while still getting there in plenty of time. Anything under 3h is an attractive offering in my book.

AndyDuncan said...

@Robert Khoi Vinh and Allan Cole released a very nice WP theme today called Basic Maths. Look very nice and very complete. I'd love to help you but we're swamped this month.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with this idea that a long distance transportation method needs to situate itself in the middle of prime downtown location. If this were everyday transportation for the community, that location would make sense. But we're talking about an airline alternative, NOT an everyday commuter line - this uses prime location for a service which individuals in that community will use infrequently. The HSR station won't be serving the local community on a daily basis the way local downtown commerce would. HSR will be a draw of long distance travelers from far and wide, who will basically squeeze in to the community downtown to long term 'park' in the middle of what should be your bustling downtown. Those people aren't going to be there to shop and wander around your economic center - they're there to pass through the infrastructure as quickly as possible, to move from a parking structure to their long distance transport as seamlessly as possible.

But your LOCALS won't be using this regularly, whereas the kinds of things you want in your downtown are things that draw locals regularly. You're using up prime downtown real estate for something that won't be drawing in "regulars". This is a concept people use every day, look at how you organize your home, your kitchen - infrenquently used things go in the back of a closet somewhere, you don't take up prime real estate on your kitchen counter to store your ice cream maker. You don't store your camping gear or your christmas lights with your towels.

There are some VERY good reasons why airports sit on the outskirts of towns - accessibility for the out-of-town customers is far superior (unimaginable to think you'll force millions driving INTO the middle of SF to catch this train, and you CERTAINLY won't get your millions of ridership just from people who live within walking distance). The nuisance to the surrounding community is huge, and needs to be kept out of the prime downtown. The infrastructure would put ugly where shopping and downtown amenties should be located for local benefits. For the frequency that locals would be traveling long distance (to Bakersfield? LA?) And its not just the station, its miles of infrastructure approach besides. Doesn't make any sense.

Its alot easier, and cheaper to design viable convenient ways to get locals to the train station for their once a year long distance trip.

Mark said...

Besides tourism and long distance commuting for San Joaquin Valley cities, HSR will enable more companies to open offices there because of better transportation to the rest of the world. Now when they look at Fresno for example, they see how much it costs to fly to SF or LA and they decide that it will be cheaper to open somewhere else with better transportation connections if their people will have to travel a lot.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Amazing just how much technical knowledge Rafael possesses, yet he still claims to not be on any payroll of the CHSRA.

November 17, 2009 5:46 AM



The more I read his musings, the more I am certain that he doesn't work for CHSRA. At times it is closer to fan fiction than inside knowledge.

Then again, considering CAHSRA's Pacheco over Altamont, 12tph, laughably inflated ridership guesses, guaranteed to double cost estimates, fan fic is kind of a signature over there....

Anonymous said...

HSR foamers: please get real.

There will be absolutely zero limitations on real estate development in the high desert. The whole idea of moving away from the Los Angeles basin is to get away from restrictions on the traditional LA lifestlye(ie, sprawl and freeways). In a few decades it will just be another slum, like its instigator.

Ditto for the moronic notion that the hsr will somehow slow sprawl in the actual CV. The hsr will only accelerate the process you see, for example, in and around the Sacramento area.

The vision of the growthmongers running this state and the hsr(Schwarzie, the Pelosi machine, the Cof C, the Church, ad nauseum)is one of solid beautiful downtown Burbank from the Mexican border to the Oregon border.

Both the Tehachapi and Grapevine alignments have technical shortcomings which cancel each other out. The direct route is distinctly superior, but mediocrity invariably rules, in lockstep with the Brutalist aesthetic promulgated by Bechtel.

Eric said...

The platforms will be no more inviting than BART's, there will be no sense of grace or grandeur for anyone standing there to enjoy. Grand Central of the West my backside.

The platform areas at Grand Central are bland and utilitarian, as they are at most train terminals built last century. I like the grand old victorian glass trainsheds as much as the next person, but with rare exceptions, they haven't built those in a very long time - and they almost never built them in the US at all.

Anonymous said...

Mark, not sure that's true. For one thing, folks on this blog are convinced that there are millions already out there, so company's can already locate there today with plenty of labor and cheap housing, but where are those companys? Fresno is pretty much an armpit, and company's and people just aren't going to live in expensive places and commute to work fresno. There's plenty of work close to home. If anything, if company's locate in fresno, people will move there too because there's plenty of cheap housing, and hsr for commuting to Fresno on any regular scale is moot.

Alternatively what is sounds like you are suggesting is some sort of sprawl - locating places of work, and places of living hundreds miles apart from each other. CHSRA claims they fight sprawl, not induce sprawl.

Mark, neither CHSRA or HSR supporters are even trying to claim CHSR is a daily commuting solution.

Peter said...

I'm sorry, but your "very good reasons" for siting airports on the city outskirts are crock.

It's not about making it easier for out-of-towners to get to the airport. It's about finding a flat stretch of real estate large enough and long enough to build two or three 10,000 foot long runways, which are preferably aligned with the prevailing winds. Add in the needs for a large ramp area, terminals, parking, and suddenly your airport's footprint is HUGE.

Oh, and also, that real estate has to be located preferably in a location where there is not already substantial development, so that they have to displace the smallest amount of people. All this, while still trying to build it as closely to the nearest major city as possible, so that the LOCAL travellers can access the airport with the least amount of hassle.

Sorry, but no one gives a crap about the out-of-town travellers.

BruceMcF said...

Anonymous said...
"Anonymous said..."

Sock puppet, clearly. ^_^

BruceMcF said...

Anonymous said...
"Both the Tehachapi and Grapevine alignments have technical shortcomings which cancel each other out. The direct route is distinctly superior,"

If the technical shortcomings cancel each other out, then the Tehachapi route is clearly superior, since it adds 2m+ in intermediate population centers. Of course, in rail corridors, intermediate population centers add a disproportionate amount of patronage because of shorter transport time to both ends, and population centers with more restricted transport alternatives add disproportionate patronage - and the CV gives both.

AndyDuncan said...

Sprawl is happening in the CV without the city-center grounding effect of HSR. Whether or not HSR's grounding effect will overcome the demand for growth it brings, I don't know. But if you're trying to reduce sprawl, putting your transportation infrastructure downtown and connecting it to other downtowns is a hell of a lot better than putting your stations in a greenfield site along I5.

If the demand is there, and the tracks between merced and sylmar become a bottleneck in the system, I'm all for building an express line (no stations) over the grapevine, up I5 and up over altamont. but in the meantime, 3-4 million people (more by the time this thing is running) with very few transportation options don't represent a backwater, they represent a market.

To whoever said that California needs 10 million less people, California's population in 2008 was up over 3 million from 2000 (about 10% in 8 years). Even with linear growth slower than that, we'll hit 50m by 2050. You can put your head in the sand and continue complaining about breeders and immigrants, but that's the reality.

Instead of bitching about how HSR is going to induce sprawl, how about you start campaigning for state-wide anti-sprawl and zoning reform? If you're worried about sprawl in Fresno, do something about it, but don't use the sprawl argument to shoot down a piece of infrastructure that will only be MORE useful if sprawl is curbed.

Those next 12million people are coming whether HSR does or not, the question is how we plan on handling them.

Anonymous said...

We don't handle your 12 million. If you do you'll just get 12 million more.

Let the chip fall where they may. Vote no.

Anonymous said...

Interesting point Robert brings up about populations 'not served' by certain routes.

Using County Population Stats:

In the Bay Area, by choosing the Peninsula route with a San Jose Station, the East Bay is 'not served' (that's Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties - thats 2.9M not served - and that counts only bay adjacent counties.)

If an east bay route with a San Jose station were chosen, counting the northern portions of Santa Clara County not served (Santa Clara City northward), San Mateo County and San Francisco County - not served would be only 2M.

Note that in both cases greater San Jose area, Milpitas, etc., are both counted as 'served' with a SJ station.

But for the sake of argument, lets say you completely bypass SJ station too, staying entirely to the east bay, That adds the rest of north SClara County to the not served count, which adds another 1.3M 'not served'. That's makes the two routes about equal in 'not served' 3.3M not served (if routed to EB, to 2.9M not served if routed to Peninsula.

HOWEVER note that Bay crossing costs entirely avoided with an East Bay alignment choice.

The real travesty here is that the Peninsula is hard bounded in population growth by physical geographical features, mountains to the west, and bay to the east - The future population/HSR reach potential on the Peninsula is bounded. East Bay is the obvious place for most ridership growth potential.

And then you can start adding places like Tracy area which are clearly better served by East Bay than by having to traverse bay crossing of some sort to get to HSR.

If serving the most population (or avoiding the 'leaving out' of the most) was the objective, the East Bay would have been the obvious choice.

So, avoiding the 'leaving out' of populations, apparently not a very compelling consideration for CHSRA

Pop in M
SF County: .8M
SMateo County: .7M
SClara Cty Total: 1.8M
SC north of SJ: .5M
Alameda Cty: 1.5M
Contra Costa Cty: 1.0M
Solano Cty: .4M

SC County South (served by a SJ station): 1.3M (incl Campbell, Gilroy, Los Gatos, MIlpitas, Morgan Hill, SJ, SClara, Saratoga)

All ABOARD! said...

This is an argument that will go on and on.

Imagine if the bay area had not built bart. would the population be any less?

of course not, all the cities, with or without the public transit infrastructure grow.

Thank god for bart, otherwise another 300000 cars a day would be on the bridges.

Not to mention the economic benefits of providing transport to the - whats that old word for the working class-

as bart is to the bay, hsr will be to the state. only better as it will have limited and express service, its a sort of hybrid approach that compromises in order to offer the most service options to the most people for the money.

No im very sorry deniers, but you are going to have to get over it. its happening, growth is happening, and you can't speculate on the kind of growth that will happen in the antelope valley as far as water, as the younger generation doesn't have a problem with conservation, in fact they prefer it, its very likely that the A-valley, if their smart, will use it as a mareking tool, we already have things available such as "drought tolerant" landscaping which has been in use in the coachella valley for eons, we have a whole host of low flow everything, for conserving water in the home, proper pricing helps curb water use, and new homes/subdivisions can build homes that incorporte these things plus solar and market them as the states first fully green communities. People love that stuff.
And if a young up and comer or newly married professional couple can buy say a downtown condo at a great price within walking distance to the PMD HSR, for half the price as the same condo in Westwood, and its only a 23 minute trip to the studio in Burbank or 27 minute to the office downtown, then there you go.

Now, as for TBT people. Im very sorry you don't like it but too bad. It ours and we like it. There was a design competition. CIty Hall and input from the people of san francisco, determined the outcome, and voila there you have it. Im very sorry you suffer from claustrophobia and have sensitive ears, but thats why they make xanax and cotton balls. YOu'll live. Now if you'll step up this way we'll show you to the dippin dots booth.

:-P

Anonymous said...

Peter, they're not my very good reasons. Airports exist outside of city centers already.

The airports (SF and SJ) have been there for a long time. You don't see those becoming major downtown hubs. Wonder why...

If you could get the runway space, would you serious be saying that downtown SJ was a better place for SJ Airport? Well, that's pretty much what CHSRA is saying - we're forcing the 'runway' through here for HSR. Screw the noise, the massive inward draw of traffic, dispacement of other types of acitiviies that would make downtown uable for residents, the visual impacts, the desctruction of neighborhoods - the DEAD CENTER is where it has to be.

If the dead center is where it has to be then HSR is going to have to pay to enter the city center unobtrusively - if it can't afford it, then we can't afford HSR.

All ABOARD! said...

and what about the people who work there, at least now we'll be able to get a convenient lunch on those "always too short" breaks

Matthew said...

@Transbay PDF (Yes, I'm addressing a computer file): How 'come those illustrations always show happy, smiling people? I want to see rushed, harried passengers, worried about business meetings and late for their trains, and some panhandlers.

(WV: clogrog - Booze for those who dance with wooden shoes)

Anonymous said...

Hey Alon,

When you get here check the prior thread, it has a tidbit you may be interested in.

Matthew said...

@12:10 Anon: San Diego is often said to be incredibly gifted in having an airport so close to its business core. The only drawback is constraints that has placed on its growth.

Peter said...

@ Anon

I thought that, at least in SF, that was the plan for HSR. It will enter the city center unobtrusively (underground, out of sight, out of mind).

Nearly everywhere else, HSR will take a route to the city center that follows existing railroad ROW.

You obviously can't build a large airport in the downtown of a city, although some cities have/had them (London City, Berlin Tempelhof, etc). Airport planners would love to have their airports in the downtown areas, that would give them easier access to their passenger base. Of course, for obvious practical reasons that doesn't work very well (noise, tall buildings necessitating steep approaches and departures, less real estate available leading to shorter runways and smaller planes, etc).

However, you're trying to use the rationale behind building airports in greenfield locations as the rationale for building greenfield HSR stations. Simply because the requirements for the two are so different means that you cannot equate the two.

HSR: Uses existing ROW. Narrow stations in central locations. Small footprint. Therefore easier to bring into the downtowns.

Airports: Requires large real estate. LARGE footprint. Very controversial and difficult to implement in urban areas.

All ABOARD! said...

@@Transbay PDF (Yes, I'm addressing a computer file): How 'come those illustrations always show happy, smiling people?
like I said, xanax.

flowmotion said...

Let's double-check reality. Building anything near people's back yards creates NIMBYs. NIMBYism is not insurmountable, but they have defined rights in the process, it can weaken political support, and requires mitigation. Mitigation can inflate the costs and slow the schedule.

Which is fine if one is willing to accept the consequences. However, the general attitude displayed on this blog is simply not very pragmantic. NIMBYs should simply "disappear" (Chinese-style if need be), Pro-HSR politicians are attacked for being hands-off. Project opponents are blamed for all delays and potential cost-inflation. And so on.

CHSRA deliberately chose a route which carries the greatest possible passenger base, but also the greatest possible political and cost/schedule risks. Accept it and move on.

I think if people are willing to step-off "Bulldozer Them!!!" rhetoric, most people here actually want HSR "done right". That is, implemented in a manner that's appropriately sensitive to urban and rural areas. And the political process (including NIMBYs) is the primary means of ensuring that it's "done right" with broad public support.

Aaron said...

The platforms will be no more inviting than BART's, there will be no sense of grace or grandeur for anyone standing there to enjoy. Grand Central of the West my backside.

@Rafael: I don't ask this to be rude, but have you ever seen Grand Central Terminals's platforms? They look like an unfinished warehouse. The station house is absolutely beautiful, but the platforms have all of the ambience and romanticism of an industrial loading dock. Penn Station's sprawling mezzanine may be a PITA to anyone looking for their train (reminds me of what would happen if you put O'Hare underground and cranked the thermostat to 85f), but even Penn's platforms are better than GCT's.

Rafael said...

O/T:

GE and China MOR Sign Strategic MOU to Advance High-Speed Rail Opportunities in the U.S.

O rly?

GE Evolution Series AC:

- Tier 2 diesel-electric locomotive
- 4400bhp (~3300kW)
- 415,000lbs (188.4 metric tonnes)
- 6 axles (31.4 t/axle)
- train control: manual
- top speed 75mph
- aerodynamics: like a brick

Great for freight, lousy for passenger rail.

Siemens Velaro E (RENFE 103):

- 25kV AC OCS
- 8800kW
- 8 car trainset
- 404 seats
- 425t
- axle load < 17 metric tonnes
- train control: ETCS level 1+2
- top speed 220mph
- aerodynamic nose cones

Great for freight, lousy for freight.

I fail to see the synergy. Just about the only thing the products share is the track gauge.

All ABOARD! said...

Im no engineer, but it seems to me, the problem of noise of express trains running through town , even on elevateds could be mitigated by using high walls on the sides of the structure and lining them with some sort of space age sound absorbing material 9 temperpedic matresses?) like this?

AndyDuncan said...

"GE and China MOR Sign Strategic MOU to Advance High-Speed Rail Opportunities in the U.S."

A few months ago when I said that I wouldn't be surprised if a large US Defense firm joined up with a foreign company to put in a bid for the CAHSR contracts, I was practically laughed off this blog.

just sayin.

AndyDuncan said...

@Rafael: GE Evolution Series AC:

- Tier 2 diesel-electric locomotive
- 4400bhp (~3300kW)
- 415,000lbs (188.4 metric tonnes)
- 6 axles (31.4 t/axle)
- train control: manual
- top speed 75mph
- aerodynamics: like a brick

Great for freight, lousy for passenger rail.

Siemens Velaro E (RENFE 103):

- 25kV AC OCS
- 8800kW
- 8 car trainset
- 404 seats
- 425t
- axle load < 17 metric tonnes
- train control: ETCS level 1+2
- top speed 220mph
- aerodynamic nose cones

Great for freight, lousy for freight.

I fail to see the synergy. Just about the only thing the products share is the track gauge.


Ferruccio Lamborghini was a tractor manufacturer until Enzo Ferrari pissed him off.

Rafael said...

@ Aaron -

I referenced NY's Grand Central tongue-in-cheek because it's been held up as some kind of gold standard that SF and San Jose are supposed to emulate.

A champagne bar is more like it! Or if the tracks have to be underground, at least a well-litplatformlevel. Full mezzanine = pure concentrated evil.

Rafael said...

@ Andy Duncan -

"Ferruccio Lamborghini was a tractor manufacturer until Enzo Ferrari pissed him off."

True, but Lamborghinis were barking mad machines until VW bought the company and put some Audi engineers in charge of keeping the customers alive. Unless I'm in the driving seat, I'd rather be in a German vehicle to begin with - but maybe that's just me.

Btw, Lamborghini Tractors is still in business, albeit as a separate company.

Tony D. said...

anon 12:10,

That was one of the worst posts I've seen on this blog. Comparing major international airports to a high-speed rail line? Seriously!? Man, do some people need help or what.

OT: something I wanted to share regarding the AirTrain serving NY's JFK airport:

Wikipedia- "The $1.9 billion AirTrain has become a success that defied critics who feared the project could become a boondoggle because of some southeastern Queens residents vocal complaints..."

The same will be said for California HSR. That is all!

old pilot said...

Matthew said...

@12:10 Anon: San Diego is often said to be incredibly gifted in having an airport so close to its business core. The only drawback is constraints that has placed on its growth.
--------

Well anyone who has landed there will echo comments similar to:

Pilots are not so sanguine. ''It's the worst airport I have to operate into,'' said Richard D. Russell, a veteran United Air Lines pilot who is the regional air safety coordinator for the Air Line Pilots Association. He said pilots needed special training to land at Lindbergh, and that it is one of the few airports where it is legal to land short of the length normally required for a particular plane.

from:
LINK

Matthew said...

@Old Pilot: I am well aware of those complaints. Thankfully, given that nobody has crashed into the Aerospace Museum yet, our pilots seem well up to the task.

Adirondacker12800 said...

I fail to see the synergy. Just about the only thing the products share is the track gauge.

GE has been manufacturing locomotives for over 100 years. In addition to being one of the world's leading manufacturers of freight locomotives they also manufacture passenger locomotives. They have a bit of experience the Chinese might be interested in. They also have a plant in North America that has the equipment and staff to manufacture locomotives.

If you believe everything you read on the web in addition to rapidly building HSR lines all over China, the Chinese still have a few lines that regularly use steam. They might be interested in a few modern diesel locomotives. And not all their lines will become HSR lines overnight ( or ever ) they might be interested in electric passenger locomotives.

AndyDuncan said...

SAN, like Kai Tak before it, is an anachronism, and the problems with capacity, aircraft weight, and noise are exactly why. Nobody is putting airports in downtowns. The best idea anyone has for building new airports to serve large metro areas is to put them in the middle of nowhere and link them to the city center via *gasp* High Speed Rail.

trainsintokyo said...

do they actually do any sort of intellectual discussion at 2-channel?

No. In fact, it's infamous for its vicious flamewars and harassment (think 4chan but a hundred times worse). Ironic that someone would use 2ch's anonymity as a positive selling point here...

Morris Brown said...

Here is a new perspective about which Robert might want to comment.


A Reality Check on High-Speed Rail for California

Since this symposium had faculty from the Highly respected Berkeley Transportation Institute, perhaps it shouldn't be dismissed lightly.

AndyDuncan said...

Since this symposium had faculty from the Highly respected Berkeley Transportation Institute, perhaps it shouldn't be dismissed lightly.

I'll bite:

On connecting transit being crucial to HSR success:

" This connectivity, or short access and egress time, is essential to the success of high-speed rail, and California has very little of it." .. "But if access and egress times from HSR stations are as long and onerous as those for air, passengers will save time by driving to an airport instead."

In the countries mentioned, they also have easy rapid transit access to airports which HSR must compete against. Also, the author has apparently never tried to save time driving across LA to one of our many airports, all of which are 30 minutes to an hour away from downtown in traffic.

"Furthermore, electricity to run the trains must be generated from coal-fired plants, leading to additional greenhouse gas emissions once HSR is operational."

Even if you think the claim that CAHSR will run entirely on renewable energy is BS (and I think it partially is, but for other reasons), the system will have no choice but to pull it's power from the California grid. Our power in CA is about 45% non-carbon emitting, and the remainder is mostly natural gas, we have very little if any coal.

Joey said...

@Morris Brown

The article comes from a respectable source. Unfortunately, it falls victim to many of the most common mistakes and misconceptions floating around. For instance, it bases ridership SOLELY on current travel between SF and LA, completely neglecting trips that will be taken from destinations between the two cities (of which there are plenty). Intermediate stations are a critical part of HSR.

Its assessment of total line haul times does not account for time spend waiting in airport security etc. It also neglects the fact that HSR seeks to improve local transportation (you may have noticed that they already set aside money for that), as well as the fact that many of the stations are planned at existing transportation hubs (i.e. LAUS). While what we have/will have will probably never rival local transport in Europa/Japan, you still have to give some credit.

Finally, greenhouse gas analysis does not account at all for alternative energy. It's true that most of our power comes from coal, but CHSRA seeks to get as much power as possible from alternative sources, and those sources are bound to expand in the future.

AndyDuncan said...

Finally, greenhouse gas analysis does not account at all for alternative energy. It's true that most of our power comes from coal, but CHSRA seeks to get as much power as possible from alternative sources, and those sources are bound to expand in the future.

Except that it's not even true that most of our power comes from coal. Any assessment that doesn't look at our actual power generation and simply looks at powering everything with coal, is at best myopic and at worst intentionally misleading.

Here's a rough rundown on our nationwide power generation versus CA power generation. The numbers listed for non-carbon-emitting sources like nuclear, hydro, solar and wind are higher than I've seen elsewhere, but most places I've seen put it around 50%.

Dan S. said...

I think an important driving force in route selection for CAHSR are those first two letters, "CA". This is a transportation project whose purpose is to serve California's transportation needs. Not the needs of LA and SF, not the needs PA and MP, not the needs of SD and Anahiem. It's getting its money from a statewide ballot, which means that voters from all over the state had to approve it.

That includes all the votes from the valley where people are expecting the train to come to their towns and not to the less populated I-5 corridor. And it also includes all the votes from people living from SF to SJ who don't live immediately adjoining the Caltrain corridor.

And because it is a political process, we have to give up on requiring it to be the optimal design. It's parameters are to satisfy the political constraints that want to kill it. So far it has survived by making all sorts of compromises. That's just how something big like this is going to go down.

It's fine with me if people are strongly opposed to the project. But I don't see them acknowledging the benefit that the train can bring to all their neighbors and fellow citizens in the state, or just the fact that a good portion of Californians want this train built. Certainly the project is neither all good nor all bad. After all, this train might get built and it might not; our kids will still be going to school together.

Dan S. said...

On platform beauty, I personally don't care very much about it. Japan's HSR platforms are ugly but functional, and I see them reaping the rewards of a long-term investment in infrastructure that I drool at with envy.

Rafael said...

@ Dan S. -

Japan is hit by about 10% of all earthquakes world-wide. Add to that frequent typhoons. People there just don't expect structures to survive for very long, a few decades at most.

A number of Japanese shrines are rebuilt every 20 years using the original medieval design and traditional construction methods, but new materials - even if the existing ones aren't damaged by a natural disaster. Impermanence and renewal is simply integral to the Shinto belief system.

Railway stations, of course, are hardly shrines. They are not lovingly rebuilt every 20 years. However, the fundamental expectation is still that sooner rather than later, mother nature is going to destroy whatever station infrastructure is built. Therefore, little effort is put into their aesthetics or indeed, that of the elevated tracks.

California is subject to earthquakes as well, but attitudes toward architecture are still informed more by European history than by Japanese philosophy. Residents of the Golden State do want their infrastructure to look impressive, that's why the GG bridge is a landmark and e.g. the design of the new east span of the SF Bay Bridge was modified.

Strictly utilitarian structures, e.g. BART aerials as well as the Richmond-San Rafael and Dumbarton bridges, are held up as examples of civil engineering "brutality".

TransitPlanner said...

The reason to go the I-5 route is affordability. CHSRA has let the budget for the project blow up, making it unlikely anything will ever get built.

HSR should bridge the gap between our existing corridors in NorCal and SoCal. Reduce the project from 800 miles, much of it duplicating existing lines, to a more reasonable 400 and it might actually get built.

You don not need to ram 200 mph trains through the middle of cities to provide 3 hr. travel times between L.A., S.F. and Fresno. They will have to slow down so much through those cities that it well not be that fast anyway.

Why spend twice the money that we don't have to provide 1 1/2 hr. travel time from Fresno to L.A. and S.F. ? It makes no sense. I don't think it's in anyone's interest to have Fresno, including Fresno's, to become a bedroom community for L.A. and S.F.

Build a new high speed line from Santa Clarita to Fremont. Travel time 2 hrs. Use existing lines to get to L.A., Palmdale, Fresno, Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco (via Dumbarton) and Sacramento. They will all be within three hours of each other for half the cost and much less enviromental impact.

All ABOARD! said...

FResno is already a bedroom community to SF and LA. Didn't you know that?

All ABOARD! said...

FResno is already a bedroom community to SF and LA. Didn't you know that?

Anonymous said...

TransitPlanner is correct. The essential concept of an I-5-Grapevine racetrack hsr is sound. Unfortunately it is not possible to trust the incrowd who runs California to do the common sense thing. They had to let themselves be corrupted by LA developers. The CHSRA planners could screw up the proverbail free lunchl.

That's why the voters have to turn thumbs down on every issue for the time being.

AndyDuncan said...

@anons et al: Unless you're going to propose a solution to getting over the grapevine without tunneling across the san andreas and garlock faults, then give it up on the grapevine/I5 alignment. Simply posting the same BS every thread about how grapevine/I5 is superior, without addressing the reasons why it has been rejected, is just noise.

Blarney said...

TransitPlanner's concept makes far too much sense to be implemented in dysfunctional California. I don't think CHSRA is going to be able to build much of anything while wasting $billions, but CHSRA could have easily build along the I-5 with a fast racetrack system linking the existing regional rail systems of the Bay Area and LA. The regional rail systems could have received their own funds for improvements.

Watching CHSRA's futility play out (oh, and it will be a disaster) knowing that an efficient, viable system could have easily been build will be cold consolation for knowledgeable transit activists. See how BART-SFO turned out? It was predicted as a disaster by the informed transit activists, who recognized that improving Caltrain incrementally was always the better plan.

Ignorance is always exposed eventually.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Blarney using your logic on the Northeast corridor means Acela is useless because there are perfectly good regional rail systems in place. All that has to happen is extending MARC or SEPTA one stop and there would be continuous regional rail service from New London CT to Washington DC. Extend the MBTA trains to New London or the SLE trains to Providence and regional rail could get you from Boston to DC. Silly people on the East Coast with these new fangled through trains... Start in Boston and transfer in Providence or New London from MBTA to SLE. Transfer from SLE to Metro North in New Haven or Stamford. Transfer from Metro North to NJ Transit in NYC. Transfer from NJTransit to SEPTA in Trenton. Transfer from SEPTA to MARC in Newark DE or Perryville MD. Shouldn't take much more than 12 or 13 hours to get from Boston to DC.

Or alternately build the new high speed line between NYC and DC along I95 and the NJ Turnpike. Doesn't really matter much that the straightest route is miles east of Philadelphia and the easiest route through Baltimore is around Balitmore. Let 'em take 45 minute shuttle bus rides from downtown. Even better.. avoid Manhattan altogether, that would be lots cheaper, have a very nice station out in Queens somewhere. It's probably save time too since they wouldn't have to contend with the congestion in Penn Station. I'm sure the thundering herds of people who want to get from Jackson Heights in Queens to Annapolis MD will love it....

Blarney said...

The Northeast Corridor is a historical assemblage of smaller regional rail systems with long-distance trains running through on the assembled network. The Northeast Corridor wasn't built from scratch. It is an assemblage of separate systems made into a (somewhat) coherent whole. California should do the same with its rail network. Where's your logic, Adirondacker?

Link improved regional systems with a high-speed trunkline along I-5, and you have a network that is much better than what CHSRA is proposing at a fraction of the cost. Even integrate in improved San Joaquin service. Simple.

AndyDuncan said...

"Link improved regional systems with a high-speed trunkline along I-5, and you have a network that is much better than what CHSRA is proposing at a fraction of the cost. Even integrate in improved San Joaquin service. Simple."

Improving those systems to the point that your amalgamated system is equivalent to the CAHSR system, and "linking them" to an I-5 Racetrack is going to cost just as much if not more than what is planned. And in case you hadn't noticed, what you are proposing: that regional systems be improved, and a connections be built between them is exactly what the CHSRA is doing

the much maligned bay-area segment is just an improvement to the existing caltrain ROW with provisions for express trains. The SoCal sections from Anaheim to Sylmar and LA to ONT are improved metrolink sections, and the Sacramento-Bakersfield line is an improved San Joaquins.

If your solution is to save costs by not improving them "as much", or by not allowing through trains, then your solution is not "much better than what CHSRA is proposing".

And you still haven't answered how you're going to run a line up I5. In case you haven't checked, because I'm sure you haven't, once you've gone over the Tehachapis, the route up 99 is a whopping 12 miles longer than the route up the 5. Tell me with a straight face that it those 12 miles aren't worth connecting another 3 million people who have practically zero other transportation options?

Blarney said...

How is TransitPlanner's concept much cheaper and realizable than CHSRA current overbuild proposal? No need to do all the nose-bleed expensive grade separations on the Peninsula and other urban areas when the proposed HSR speeds are already limited. Grade separation is the dominating cost factor in building HSR. HSR is essentially a grade-separated highway for trains using the exact same construction techniques (same consultants and contractors too). For urban areas, you just don't need a fully grade-separated rail highway on the Peninsula, across Altamont, along the San Joaquin route, or across the Metrolink network around LA for 100-110mph service. Who benefits from grade separations anyway? Trains don't need the grade separation. The cars do! Grade separations are about improving car traffic, which sorta goes against the whole ideology of HSR as an alternative to car use. Make the cars wait, I say.

For the truly high speeds (>125mph), you will have to go to empty corridors to avoid time-sapping and fund-obstructing NIMBY opposition and interfering with private freight rail operators. The I-5 is the ideal corridor for a sustained-high-speed racetrack by having virtually no inhabitants -- no need to stop and slow down! The I-5 corridor in the Central Valley requires hardly any grade separations, so it will be much cheaper than the SR99 route, which requires significant grade separations for anything beyond 125mph. The Grapevine crossing will require significant engineering, but it is most certainly achievable, even more so if the train is slowed down during the high crossing. The Tehachapi crossing won't be any cheaper or easier, and it involves significantly more construction and travel time.

Capital investments should be wisely made in the interest of getting an integrated rail system up-and-running quickly and affordably, not flowing to where political patronage demands them.

Blarney said...

As for the 2 million people who live in the most impoverished part of the state, they already have the Amtrak San Joaquin service, which could be improved significantly without resorting to expensive grade separations. It is well known that poor people have the lowest demand for long-distance travel, so this explains why Fresno and Bakersfield have such a miniscule level of air service. If the demand was there, the airlines would serve it, but the demand just isn't there.

The western edges of Bakersfield could be integrated directly into an I-5 route, so Fresno's low level of long-distance demand is best served by regional rail feeders.

Adirondacker12800 said...

The I-5 is the ideal corridor for a sustained-high-speed racetrack by having virtually no inhabitants

Virtually no inhabitants means virtually no passengers either. Sounds like a plan, build a passenger railroad where there are no passengers....

Blarney said...

Adirondacker, why did they build the I-5 in the Central Valley in the first place? It's actually a relatively new highway designed to be a quicker, more direct route than 101 and SR99.

Oh, it only connects the Bay Area (6-7 million people), Sacramento (2 million people), and LA (12 million people). Compare that to the dispersed and impoverished 2 million people scattered along SR99. Do you design for the urban masses or the agricultural workers? Easy choice.

The Central Valley I-5 connects well over 20 million people, but the beauty is that the people are at the ends of the corridor, not along it. The ROW is clear, inexpensive, and without NIMBYs. It connects millions of people without rocketing through millions of people. It's absolutely perfect for HSR!

All ABOARD! said...

Christ the view points here are are so LA as the center of the word centric its just ridiculous.

The valley is not populated by a bunch of cave dwelling hunters and gatherers. Get over yourselves LA, we can live without The OC housewive and we can live without TMZ, but we can not live without Sierra snowpack and the edible bounty it supplies.

We should have made this a north of the tehcaphis system anyway. linking the bay and the central valley from reddding to bakersfield and then then turn off the faucet too.

Anonymous said...

Blarney is not speaking blarney. He is totally right that I-5 and the Grapevine are the obvious way to go.

I assure you that if the issue were put on the ballot the majority of California voters would choose I-5 as the route for the hsr. Dump Palmdale and Bechtel.

AndyDuncan said...

No need to do all the nose-bleed expensive grade separations on the Peninsula and other urban areas when the proposed HSR speeds are already limited. Grade separation is the dominating cost factor in building HSR.

No need to do all those grade separations when caltrain is running 2-4x as many trains per day as they are now to handle the increased passenger loads? There's a need to build those NOW, speeding up caltrain and increasing it's service to the level of the proposed shared corridor is going to require the same amount of concrete and cost as calling the trains "caltrains".


The Grapevine crossing will require significant engineering, but it is most certainly achievable, even more so if the train is slowed down during the high crossing. The Tehachapi crossing won't be any cheaper or easier, and it involves significantly more construction and travel time.

Saying it doesn't make it so. Unless you have a solution to the fault-crossing tunnels, you're just spouting jibberish.

Alon Levy said...

The Northeast Corridor is a historical assemblage of smaller regional rail systems with long-distance trains running through on the assembled network. The Northeast Corridor wasn't built from scratch.

No, the NEC is a historical assemblage of intercity corridors. The current line in New Jersey is a high-speed cutoff of the original line from New York to Philadelphia, which reduced travel time from 6-7 hours to about 3-4. North of New York, it's one line from New York to Boston, built mostly by the same company.

About the only thing an I-5 alternative would have in common with the NEC is that the NEC skipped Princeton, creating a branch line to a junction called Princeton Junction. That would work for HSR, too, if there were one intermediate city to serve in the Central Valley instead of five. And, unlike on the NEC, the option that does serve the intermediate cities is dead straight because the tracks came before the cities, whereas in New Jersey the only way to serve Princeton would have been on a curvy alignment.

TransitPlanner said...

It's good to see the support for the cost-effective I-5 alignment. I am sensitive to the needs of the Central Valley. I've lived there half of my life.

With the I-5 aligment, a Fresno resident could ride the existing San Joaquin to either Bakersfield or Stockton in 2 hrs. The new HSR line would then get them to L.A. or the Bay Area or L.A. in about 1 hr.

The same would be true for Sacramento, which is left out of the current plan. The 3 hr. travel time from the Central Valley would be the same as L.A. to Bay Area trips at half the cost and mileage.

I am promoting a phased approach that would bridge the gaps between our existing corridors first, with additional HSR segments (Las Vegas and San Diego) coming later. The goal is a California HSR system as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

There is just the slightest possibility that Balfour Beatty(apparently nee Bechtel)could have a last minute epiphany about the I-5-Grapevine solution.

The State is in worsening budgetary straits and I believe that the hierarchy's plan to tax the middle class to pay for peripheral canals, welfare cadillacs, UC sinecures, legislative per diems, and Palmdale real estate scams will come to naught. Dearth of funds might cause a rethink.