Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Reality Check Must Be Grounded In Reality

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

It's a bold headline from my alma mater: "A Reality Check on High Speed Rail" is how UC Berkeley bills a recent HSR symposium. Already Morris Brown is peddling this as yet another reason why HSR is terrible and doomed to fail. Morris wants us to not dismiss the symposium lightly. OK, I'll dismiss it heavily:

Even if high-speed rail attracted everyone who drove and flew between the Los Angeles basin and the San Francisco Bay Area during the year 2007, it would amount to only eight million passengers per year, nowhere near the numbers projected by the California High Speed Rail Authority, explained CEE professor Mark Hansen. But even that estimate is optimistic. HSR would be extremely unlikely to capture most current air travelers due to lack of transportation connectivity in most California cities and regions.

“In Europe and Japan, where HSR has been especially successful, it is a very simple thing to take a subway to the HSR station, go upstairs and get on the bullet train,” explained Madanat. For example, access to Eurostar—the HSR system that passes under the English Channel to link Britain with mainland Europe—is easy and car-less; a typical business passenger traveling from London arrives in downtown Paris in two-and-a-half hours and can walk or take the Métro from the same station to his or her meeting. This connectivity, or short access and egress time, is essential to the success of high-speed rail, and California has very little of it.

Oh really? This would be an accurate statement if HSR stations were going to be built on the edges of city centers. But they're not. The two key endpoints will be directly in the center of the existing mass transit networks in the state: SF Transbay Terminal and LA Union Station. Both are already served by an impressive amount of mass transit, and if Antonio Villaraigosa gets his way, LAUS in particular could be reachable from West LA and much of the San Gabriel Valley by passenger rail by the time HSR opens to SF. As anyone who is even remotely familiar with both SF and LA knows, Transbay Terminal and Union Station are both far more accessible, in a shorter period of time, than slogging through traffic on the freeways to LAX or even Burbank.

We can look to the Acela as an example. The Acela is a successful HSR route. It generates operating surpluses and has no trouble attracting riders. Sure, it helps that NYC has an excellent mass transit system. Washington D.C.'s system is pretty good, built in a very similar way to BART. Stations are located in the centers of both cities, even though DC has an easily accessible airport just across the river from downtown. Suburban DC is very car-centric, as is much of NYC outside the five boroughs, and that hasn't hurt the Acela either.

The presenters at the UCB symposium are not being realistic when they dismiss CA has having "very little" connectivity. Even in cities where the network still has some work to do, like San José (a stop they do not mention), the HSR station will be located very near to the airport (and is actually closer to downtown than the airport), putting both on an equal footing. And unlike SJC, Diridon Station has a stop on the VTA light rail line.

Of course, as Joey pointed out in the comments to yesterday's post, the UCB symposium seems to have neglected the fact that HSR isn't just serving SF and LA, and includes places like San José, Fresno, and Bakersfield, where HSR would still be a compelling choice even without mass transit connectivity.

In short, their theory that HSR ridership depends on mass transit options CA lacks doesn't seem to hold water.

Travelers heading to Los Angeles from San Francisco, for example, will consider the time it takes to go to and from airports at each end of the trip, versus the time spent getting to a high-speed rail station. Time spent on the line-haul portion of the trip (actual flying or riding time) is more productive than the access and egress portions. 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.

“High-speed rail trades unproductive access and egress time for productive line-haul time,” explained Madanat. That is advantageous to travelers, and they are willing to spend an extra hour or more in line-haul time if egress and access time are diminished. Air travel between some cities in Japan has become nonexistent, thanks to the ease of traveling by high-speed rail.

I'm sorry, but Madanat is just plain wrong here. The unproductive access and egress time belongs entirely to airplanes, at least in California. He does not appear to have included the ridiculous security theater involved in air travel that adds up to a half hour to travel times. TSA recommends people arrive two hours before a domestic flight. Add in the travel to LA-area airports, none of which have good mass transit connections (whereas LAUS is the hub of the entire Southern California mass transit network), and it is not conceivable to me that HSR is at a disadvantage in terms of travel times. If anything it is likely to have an advantage, or would be comparable, which is all it really needs to be.

Again, we can look at reality to demonstrate the point: if HSR was such a bad deal, why does the Acela have half the market share on the Northeast Corridor? Madanat apparently didn't speak to actual Acela users:

Barry Ginsberg of Deer Park, N.Y., boarded an Acela train after a meeting in Washington.

"It's a lot less hassle and more comfortable," Ginsberg says. "When you figure how much in advance you have to get to the airport, it's a lot more convenient."

So there's another strike against the "reality check."

The other piece of the symposium report deals with emissions, and claims that HSR won't actually be the cleantech wonder we expect:

Proponents of California high-speed rail tout its energy-saving, greenhouse gas–eliminating characteristics. But panelist Arpad Hovath, also a CEE professor, reported on research showing that, unless ridership is very high, rail cannot perform better than air travel. To compare the carbon footprint of rail with air or driving, he explained, far more than just tailpipe emissions must be taken into account.

Horvath’s life-cycle analysis of the three modes suggests that high-speed rail will produce some 10 million metric tons of CO2 per year during construction. Furthermore, electricity to run the trains must be generated from coal-fired plants, leading to additional greenhouse gas emissions once HSR is operational.

Except that Horvath didn't mention the reality that the CHSRA has mandated that its trains will be powered by alternative, renewable sources to the maximum extent possible, with the goal being generation from 100% renewables. CHSRA's very existence helps bring online that capacity, by providing a guaranteed buyer of solar and wind power.

Horvath's assumptions also assume that ridership will be low. It will take about five years to reach the projected ridership levels (which is why many of CHSRA's projections are for 2030, not 2020), but once you're there, HSR will produce the reduced carbon footprint we expect.

He also charges that the construction alone will generate 10 million metric tons of CO2 per year. Maybe it will. But the cost of doing nothing is not zero. Even those tons of CO2 are a worthwhile investment for long-term significant reductions in CO2, since without HSR CO2 emissions are either going to continue rising and drown us in rising seas, or they'll crash totally without any alternative method of transportation when the oil gives out. And no, this symposium report does not mention "peak oil" at all. If it was discussed, UCB didn't see fit to mention it.

Oh, and the symposium report got in one last shot that Morris Brown, Stuart Flashman, and the PCL will just love:

Changes in alignment could help build ridership early, Madanat said. By switching the Northern California route from Pacheco Pass to Altamont, many more potential riders from fast-growing areas of Contra Costa and Alameda counties could be lured away from air travel.

Or Madanat could have mentioned the Altamont HSR corridor that the CHSRA is planning, which will bring the very kind of "connectivity" he claimed those potential riders needed in the form of a much faster ACE train.

Now it's possible that the problem here is with the staff producing the UC College of Engineering newsletter in which this article appeared. They didn't have to frame it as "reality check" and there may have been a more balanced discussion than what the article presented.

Still, it's a pretty lame "reality check," especially since it doesn't actually consider the realities I described above.

UPDATE: In fact, that's what seems to have happened. Alon Levy in the comments points to a post by Andy Nash about the symposium, which was apparently far more balanced, insightful, and useful than the UCB newsletter made it appear:

Professor Carlos Daganzo gave the first presentation. He showed convincingly how high speed rail can bring down the total cost of travel given the expected increase in travel demand combined with the HSR's decreasing cost per passenger model. This means that there is a very strong case for subsidizing high speed rail in the early stages of development, since it will improve the overall transport system....

Professor Mark Hansen spoke next. Hansen looked at the relationship of HSR to air travel. He believes that with HSR the air travel market will become less competitive and that the reduction in flights will be most evident in secondary airports (only a small share of SFO, LAX and SAN flights are intra-state ... although they use more than their share of capacity since they are generally smaller planes)....

Professor Robert Cervero proposed four lessons for California: (1) station siting is critical, building stations in freeway medians or surrounded by free parking will lead to more sprawl development and greater driving; (2) feeder systems are important for solving the "last mile" problem, extended TOD corridors are a good solution; (3) TOD as a necklace of pearls (e.g. like Copenhagen's approach) would be excellent, but California's current planning regime does not support this approach; (4) joint development must be high quality and pedestrian-oriented, studies of joint development in Hong Kong show that these types of joint development can be much more effective than the alternative basic systems.

So now the question is, why the biased report by the UCB "Innovations" newsletter?!

99 comments:

Joey said...

That was fast...

Alon Levy said...

According to Andy Nash, who attended the panel, the speakers were mostly positive about CAHSR. They emphasized issues of good planning, such as the need to build feeder systems at the same time, and talked about how to build TOD correctly, but they weren't nearly as negative as your link makes them look.

All ABOARD! said...

look.

these guys are just a bunch of intellectuals who can sit around on their well funded well cushioned behinds spouting off stuff, just so they can justify their existence, and horn in on the action. They don't know any more about what passengers want and where they want to go, than the acergage ticket clerk could tell you in 5 minutes.

Fact is, rail in california has been some of the most successful rail in the nation, all without any supreme version of local public transit, somehow people found their way.

smoke blowing. is all that other stuff is.

lyqwyd said...

It seems the writeup posted by UCB was heavily slanted towards the negative, not really sure why.

The statement about 8 million total ridership is way off, Southwest alone carries about 8 million people between LA & SF per year.

Bianca said...

I attended that UCB Symposium too, and that "reality check" article was awfully slanted. From my notes:

Carlos Daganza made the case that a properly managed HSR system will benefit users even of purely urban modes of transit. It will have a network effect on urban mobility, and will encourage cities to encourage transit.

Mark Hansen noted that competition from HSR would likely lead to reduced air service on the California corridor, but conceded during the Q&A that the tradeoff was increased flexibility and a mode of travel less vulnerable to weather delays and utterly indifferent to the rippling waves of delay that bad weather on the East Coast can wreak on flights within California. He also emphasized that proximity to the starting point is critical in making a transit alternative competitive. (This is why HSR stations *must* be located in downtowns in order for HSR to thrive in California.) In other words, no beet field stations!

Robert Cerveiro went to great lengths to emphasize the importance of an active insistence on TOD. He reviewed a variety of rail station construction and argued that pedestrian friendly designs lead to a ridership bonus. Good pedestrian circulation is good value!

Betty Deakin presented on Transit-Oriented Development in the Central Valley, and ways to create pedestrian-friendly downtowns that are effectively served by transit.

Arpad Horvath looked at the total environmental footprint of various modes of transportation. Critically, however, he acknowledged that his analysis does not include network or rebound effects, and, as has been noted already, his numbers assumed that HSR will be powered by fossil-fuel generated electricity. Even with those parameters, however, high ridership on HSR would offset the carbon footprint from construction in just a few years.

Overall, the tone of the evening was guardedly optimistic, not nearly as "cautionary" as the article suggests.

Anonymous said...

"As anyone who is even remotely familiar with both SF and LA knows, Transbay Terminal and Union Station are both far more accessible, in a shorter period of time, than slogging through traffic on the freeways to LAX or even Burbank.

Nice try. Access to internal SF is not easy or quick by any stretch of the imagination, in northern california terms. (try keeping it apples to apples why don't you? Peninsula resident will compare convenience and accessibility to HSR stations here to their other options HERE (not HSR station access here to driving on LA freeways.)

And as a 45 year resident of the Peninsula, Peninsula transit is pure misery, almost entirely unsustainable option for anyone other than singles, college students, and those who are forced by circumstances to make it work. Unless you are one of the unfortunate sobs that actually lives in the city of SF - then you have plenty of convenient transit options (that's the least of yor worries at that point). City of SF encompasses all of about 700,000people stuffed in like sardines. Not much of a recurring ridership base for long distance HSR trips from SF to LA.

Bianca said...

Anonymous 7:57 wrote:

Peninsula resident will compare convenience and accessibility to HSR stations here to their other options HERE (not HSR station access here to driving on LA freeways.)

Right, because 101 is such a delightful experience, especially during rush hour. Nothing like LA freeways at all. Riiiiight.

Peninsula transit is pure misery, almost entirely unsustainable option for anyone other than singles, college students, and those who are forced by circumstances to make it work.

Caltrain carries roughly 39,000 riders every weekday, so that's a lot of "singles, college students, and people forced by circumstances to make it work." And that number grows every year. But don't worry, anonymous: no one is going to make you ride the train if you don't want to ride it.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Anon 7:57

Some people need to get out more.

無名 - wu ming said...

the " HSR electricity will come from coal" line is especially absurd when one takes even a cursory glance at california's existing sources of electrical generation. coal is a big part of the midwest, south, and intermountain west's electricity mix, but on the west coast we overwhelmingly use a mix of natural gas, hydro and nuclear with a growing portion of wind/solar/other renewables. coal would only be a factor if california suddenly decided to build new coal plants, which is highly unlikely.

無名 - wu ming said...

wait, is the anonymouse claiming that there will be no way for peninsula folks to get to a HSR station on the peninsula? how freaking incompetent are you people? either take the closest caltrain stop to the HSR station, or else drive your freaking car to the HSR stop, park it, and ride HSR to wherever you're going. you won't have to go into the city at all.

one wonders how people like you manage to shlep yourself to SFO.

AndyDuncan said...

"Nice try. Access to internal SF is not easy or quick by any stretch of the imagination, in northern california terms. (try keeping it apples to apples why don't you? Peninsula resident will compare convenience and accessibility to HSR stations here to their other options HERE (not HSR station access here to driving on LA freeways.)"

Ok, how about this in peninsula terms: There will be four stations on the peninsula, one at SFO, so that's just as easy to get to as SFO, one in downtown SF, which will be easier to get to than SFO or even OAK for everyone in SF, the north bay, or most of the east bay and contra costa county, even after the BART-OAK connection goes through.

There will be another in Palo Alto (if the NIMBYs don't screw that up for everyone else) or Redwood city, and another in downtown San Jose at the confluence of two separate commuter lines.

That's four peninsula stations versus two airports. One of which is co-located with an airport, and the others of which are closer to the population centers. All of them are served by at least one other mode of rail (improved, more frequent, electrified and grade-separated caltrain), three of them are also served by BART.

As mentioned above, BART to the HSR stations will be faster than BART to SFO or even BART to OAK.

The problem with comparing CA transit against european or japanese transit and then saying that's a reason HSR won't work here is that airports in the US suffer from the same poor transit as HSR will. In fact, poor transit options puts airports at an even greater disadvantage in CA.

AndyDuncan said...

To pile on: Madrid has a metro link from their city-center HSR station to their airport that only takes 12 minutes, making flights that much more competitive with HSR, and yet HSR is still killing airlines on those routes. Yet we're supposed to believe that a HSR station can't compete with a 30-minute bart ride to SFO? Or a bus from SJ to SJC?

Anonymous said...

"the HSR station will be located very near to the airport (and is actually closer to downtown than the airport), putting both on an equal footing" in other words, not within walking distance to either one.

Anonymous said...

bianca, workable public transit, and connectivity is about so much more than trains - but I wouldn't expect anyone on this blog to have thought past the end of the ROW on that concept.

Anonymous said...

An HSR station at SFO. False.

an HSR station in Palo Alto. Wrong again. Not in this lifetime, unless someones going to come up with some cash to underground a station, the line and the roads from 101 to that station.

Redwood City - Yes! Oh yah, That's accessible... Cuz it takes (at least) 25 minutes to drive from Palo Alto to REdwood city - let alone from Fremont, or Mt. View or Sunnyvale.

Downtown San JOse - Yes! Yes, that too is SO accessible for all these residents for 50 miles around, to get in their cars and drive into the heart of downtown San Jose.

All so accessible. Riiggghhhtt.

Bianca said...

Anonymous 10:05 said: in other words, not within walking distance to either one.

Given that Anonymous-hasn't-bothered-to-register, much less to actually tell us where he/she/it lives, what is within walking distance and what isn't is impossible to establish. In any case, the Millbrae station is only one of four on the Peninsula.

But, for those of us located within walking distance of a Caltrain station, we are also automagically within walking distance of HSR, because we can take Caltrain to HSR, easy peasy.

And anonymous 10:07, I'm fully aware that workable public transit is about more than trains. It's about density, land use, zoning, the cost of gas, the cost of parking, and a whole host of other factors. For some reason a lot of folks on the Peninsula want to preserve this place in amber, as if time could stand still. But time doesn't stand still, and 20 years from now the Bay Area is projected to have another 3 million people living here. We need to start making meaningful improvements in local, regional, and long-distance transit, and we need to start yesterday.

Anonymous 10:16 pm: ah, the easy certainty of the anonymous poster. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Joey said...

AirTrain really needs to be extended to Millbrae anyway...

YESonHSR said...

This oil funded UCBerkley trash has been at this since last November...The chair is a big no on Prop1A person.funny for such a "
left wing" school .an alumini at UCMinn is a parrott for this mind set which is cars and lots more of them

All ABOARD! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan S. said...

Anon @ 7:57 said:

And as a 45 year resident of the Peninsula, Peninsula transit is pure misery, almost entirely unsustainable option for anyone other than singles, college students, and those who are forced by circumstances to make it work. Unless you are one of the unfortunate sobs that actually lives in the city of SF - then you have plenty of convenient transit options (that's the least of yor worries at that point). City of SF encompasses all of about 700,000people stuffed in like sardines. Not much of a recurring ridership base for long distance HSR trips from SF to LA.


The ridership base for HSR trips is anyone who wants to travel from one HSR stop to another one based on the price of the ticket. Plenty of people in CA and the Peninsula want to travel around the state.

I guess since I was "single" that I already fall into your exception clause, but I was thrilled to be able to use Caltrain to commute to work for a year while I lived in Palo Alto. Refreshingly convenient. And my married colleagues (ah-hah!) used it as well. However, I would say that admissions of a poor transit system on the Peninsula (and I would agree) are an excellent reason for starting new transit projects and improving existing ones. HSR fits into that scenario nicely, especially with the upgrades it will bring to Caltrain. But you're right to say it can't end with investment in trains. I would advocate further investments in buses and TOD.

Anyway, it's just as easy to drive to the train station as it is to drive to the airport. You don't need public transit to get there. And don't be so quick to assume that change can't come to our neck of the woods. Every year brings a new batch of 18 year old voters and who knows what those crazy kids will want! I'm just saying, don't be so afraid of change, as it's likely coming in one form or another...

Also, even though your view of city-life is one of a "sardine-like" existence, I think most of the 700,000 in SF would disagree, else they would probably move to the burbs, right?

Don't you have any friends or family who live in the city and love it? If not, as a 30+ year resident of the Peninsula, I'd like to personally help you meet some of your neighbors who actually think highly of city-life! Perhaps you and I can become friends. I'm Dan. Your name again was... ?

All ABOARD! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
All ABOARD! said...

@ anon Unless you are one of the unfortunate sobs that actually lives in the city of SF - then you have plenty of convenient transit options (that's the least of yor worries at that point). City of SF encompasses all of about 700,000people stuffed in like sardines.

let me tell you as one of those people who lives in SF and had to practically crawl through broken glass to hang on here, I consider myself to be quite blessed to have the privilege. As do about 850,000 other people who insist on living here over other other choices. none of the 850,000 is being held here against there will and people from around the world pay big bucks for the chance. We have real estate value that runs circles around your faux high end connecticut wannabe peninsula suburbs to which nobody gives a second thought.
The only poor unfortunate sob I see around here is the one who bought a house near the train tracks and now regrets it.

Ian said...

I'm glad the symposium was more positive than the report made it sound. unfortunately te negative article was the one that was sent out to all the engineers here :/

i have to say i can be disappointed at times by the minds here... was at a sustainable third world transportation talk by a visiting ph.d from sciences po, and this guy next to me was so sure that everyone in CA wanted to live in single family homes, that sprawl was the preference, that no rail system ever was economically feasible, and that roads were. i wanted to tell him that i could debunk his ideology in my sleep (thanks to blogs like this), but he wouldn't have understood, most likely.

Rafael said...

Quick recap:

(a) On Nov 4, 2008, voters approved prop 1A(2008) in spite of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the worsening recession everyone knew that entailed.

(b) Prop 1A(2008) includes $950 million in capital improvements to the state's legacy heavy rail systems, e.g. Amtrak California, BART, Metrolink, LA Metro, SF Muni, Caltrain, ACE, NCTD etc.

(c) In that same election, voters in LA, Santa Clara, Marin and Sonoma counties all voted to increase their sales taxes to fund improved local transit.

Ergo, voters approved every single transit measure that was on the ballot, even though the economy was already anything but rosy. They had just recently experienced the disruption of high and rapidly rising oil prices, which led to kerosene and other surcharges on flights plus expensive gasoline and diesel.

They also understood that in the long run, electric trains must be a key component of any strategy to wean the state off oil and reduce its CO2 emissions via renewable electricity plants. Electric cars alone aren't going to cut it, because they use up exactly the same amount of space on roads and in parking lots as conventionally powered cars do.

So with that context, how credible is it that once HSR is built, California voters will never ever again approve additional upgrades to/extensions of connecting local transit systems? The more places you can get to from a well-designed multimodal hub, the greater the incentive to add services to and from that hub and, to add more hubs.

The price of oil is already back up to $80 - almost doubling in nine months. Consumers in other countries haven't been hit as hard, because their currencies have appreciated by 20% or more against the US dollar in the same time frame.

In California, gasoline is already back up to $3. Gas taxes may go up. Where do you think prices at the pump will be going when - not if - the global recession ends?

By contrast, naysayers point out that since public transportation isn't as well developed everywhere in California just yet as it already is in say, Berlin, therefore the whole concept is doomed from the outset. Color me convinced.

They then get into their SUVs and spend the next hour stuck in traffic, trying to get to an airport where they can subject themselves to check in and the new-fangled ritual of smelling each others' sweaty socks. After waiting around some more, they line up in single file for the privilege of cramming themselves into narrow peanut class seats on a 737. There's a half hour of circling over the ocean because of you know, fog at the destination airport. Upon arrival, they discover their bags have been lost, they may or may not arrive mañana. Ever chipper, our intrepid heroes hop, skip and jump to the car rental counter to pick up their gleaming white Chevy Crapolas. Happy happy joy joy, more traffic jams! Bonus: there's nowhere to park!

Ah yes, the land of milk and honey...

looking on said...

@Rafael

Where you are missing the boat sir is you and others on this blog and elsewhere don't understand what is the large picture.

This project is doomed to economic failure because of poor planning, planing done by politicians, not by HSR rail experts. We gave up a travel by rail culture in the 1950's and chose air and auto.

You can't with one great swoop build a HSR system which has no underlying other transit support and expect it to come anywhere near the projected ridership numbers that have been posted.

We have excellent air and highway infrastructure and as pointed out, getting the population to change and suddenly decide to ride this train in great numbers just isn't going to happen.

Right now they are beginning to project $20 billion deficits in California for next year. Get your head out of the clouds and realize that this economic crisis is not over.

Furthermore look at the financing in place to date and realize that unless the Feds do one hell of a lot more than $ 4 billion this project is going to result in nothing more than digging holes in the ground and no possibility of connecting those holes to make a functioning system.

Anonymous said...

I respect Mark Hanson as a scholar but when he and 'looking on'/Robert Poole claim that high speed rail won't work because of the lack of local rail systems to provide a feeder network, I wonder what alternative world they live in. In Los Angeles County, the Gold Line extension just opened, plans for a light rail line on Crenshaw Boulevard were recently announced, and Antonio Villaraigosa is committed to extending the subway to Santa Monica within 10 years.

The Sprinter commuter rail system began service last year in San Diego County. Additionally, BART will be extended to San Jose. When people claim that high speed rail will not work in CA because of the lack of local rail systems, it shows how blinded they are by their rigid libertarian ideology

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

"We gave up a travel by rail culture in the 1950's and chose air and auto."

The difference between you and I, Sir, is that I don't consider myself forever bound by a decision made in the 1950s.

As for the success or failure of HSR, consider that the Paris-Lyon HSR line is one of the busiest in the world. Paris has long had excellent local transit, but Lyon didn't get its first streetcar until the turn of the millenium.

Madrid and Barcelona both have excellent local transit, but Seville, Malaga and other Spanish cities that have or soon will be tied into the country's rapidly growing HSR network do not - or did not at the time they were tied in.

As for the "let's all be poor together" argument: bullpuckey. When the inflation adjustment of your country's defense budget is on the order of its total investment in civilian infrastructure, you're not living in a poor country. You're living in one whose priorities are totally out of whack.

The real issue here is that you personally are so set in your ways that you cannot look beyond the next few years or accept that future generations want additional lifestyle choices - including those related to personal mobility.

TomW said...

Something this post didn't pick up on is that HSR's target market isn't really those who fly LA-SF - it's those who drive between any points along the route. Those drivers hugely outnumber the flyers.

Anonymous said...

looking on/Robert Poole--

As expected, your rigid libertarian ideology continues on without and basis in reality.

"We have excellent air and highway infrastructure and as pointed out, getting the population to change and suddenly decide to ride this train in great numbers just isn't going to happen. "

If California has such an excellent highway system, then why does Southern California have the nation's worst highway congestion and the Bay Area have the second worst congestion, year-after-year, according to the Texas Transportation Institute? Just yesterday, the LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-405-freeway17-2009nov17,0,2485737.story) reported on Orange County's plans to spend billions more on widening the 405 freeway, which is not likely to alleviate congestion in the long run but will lead to yet greater dependence on foreign oil and yet more air pollution and greenhouse emissions (although I am sure that you think global warming is a big fabrication).

Looking on, only ideology can blind you to the very real investments being made throughout the state in local transit systems. LA County voters passed Measure R last November, which will provide $30B+ in sales tax revenues over the next couple of decades to pay for expanded transit infrastructure. Similarly, Prop 1A contained nearly $1B for local and regional commuter rail.

Anonymous said...

Looking on--

"This project is doomed to economic failure because of poor planning, planing done by politicians, not by HSR rail experts. We gave up a travel by rail culture in the 1950's and chose air and auto."

If this is at all true, how do you explain the record ridership in 2008 on Metrolink and other commuter rail systems throughout the state when gas was $4 per gallon? I guess you expect cheap gas forever, despite as Tom Friedman notes today, the 2.5 billion additional people we will have by 2050. Unless you expect all of these 2.5 billion new people to be content with a subsistence lifestyle, many of them will drive, as is already happening in China and India, further driving up the price of oil.

Anonymous said...

"for those of us located within walking distance of a Caltrain station, we are also automagically within walking distance of HSR, because we can take Caltrain to HSR, easy peasy."

Thanks for explaining why HSR doesn't need to travel down the Peninsula at all, and should terminate in SJ.

looking on said...

@Rafael

Believe me Rafael I 100% agree with you that our country's and State's priorities are "totally out of whack"

Where I strongly disagree with you is what and how to get back on track.

You put this project at the top most level, yet education and social programs are being cut drastically. If you believe in the future, you surely must believe that having the best education system, rather than one of the worst and headed even lower, should be priority one.

Yet here the blog persists promoting a project that will forever drain hundreds of millions from the general fund; money that should be spent elsewhere.

Don't throuw at me, change the 2/3 rule in the legislature and just tax more and we can have it all. That is non-sense

Why is everybody talking about congestion in the LA basin, and how this project is going to make a serious impact on that problem The last I knew, the SF to LA main line is what is the main focus here; it is the route that is supposed to make all this money and the last time I drove from SF to LA, (2 months ago), I found 101 -> I-5 -> LA more than adequate.

One of Robert's main points from the beginning is we must build this now, because of what the future holds. Well we must do many other things now, because now is what is needed to be fixed first.

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

hooray, we finally agree on something. However, this isn't about investing in rail infrastructure instead of paying teachers.

It's about investing in rail infrastructure instead of investing even more in additional highway lane-miles and runways.

The problems in Sacramento aren't going to get fixed by eliminating strategic investments. They're going to get fixed by changing the state constitution's 2/3 rule on passing tax laws and a balanced budget. Unfortunately, the fiscal meltdown is going to have to get even worse before voters will be prepared to bite that bullet.

Anonymous said...

Rafael--

It is also about investing in rail infrastructure instead of transfering billions of dollars per year to oil exporting countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela) that are opposed to the U.S. Additionally it is about investing in rail infrastructure instead of paying billions in health care for respitory ailments and diseases caused by automobile-generated air pollution.

looking on said...

Rafael:

Actually we agree on quite a few things, even dealing with this project; I agree that Altamont is the better routing, you do as well, but you are willing to accept Pacheco, whereas I am not.

Here is another take on Schwarzenegger's wrong headed cutting out other rail projects from the stimulus funding request.

http://www.insidebayarea.com/trivalleyherald/opinion/ci_13807705

The last paragraph says a lot.

Doling out billions of taxpayer dollars for an unrealistic California bullet train that is a long way from construction would be highly wasteful and a misuse of stimulus finds. Schwarzenegger's request should be denied.

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

@ looking on

Wasn't that the whole point of the 8 billion stimulus package? To jumpstart HSR projects?

Bianca said...

Anonymous 8:10 said:

Thanks for explaining why HSR doesn't need to travel down the Peninsula at all, and should terminate in SJ.

Nice cherry-picking there. Completely disregards my comment earlier in this thread:

proximity to the starting point is critical in making a transit alternative competitive. (This is why HSR stations *must* be located in downtowns in order for HSR to thrive in California.)


Stopping HSR in San Jose is a non-starter, and proposing to do so is simply a disingenuous way of trying to kill it altogether. If you are posting anonymously, you might as well be honest about your true viewpoint.

If you seriously think that stopping HSR in San Jose is a meaningful alternative, you're going to have to come up with a real argument. It has to be something better than "I don't want it on the Caltrain ROW." It has to be an argument that will convince everyone in San Francisco why that's a good idea. And among those people in San Francisco, you're going to have to convince Nancy Pelosi. Good luck with that.

Blarney said...

Stopping HSR in San Jose is called the "No Build" Alternative for the SF-SJ project EIR, and by EIR guidelines, it has to be a real alternative. Or do you prefer the corrupt fix, Bianca?

Peter said...

Yes, it will be a real alternative that must be studied. However, that does not mean that the result will be anything different than it was before. If you really think that the best option for CALIFORNIA is to stop it in San Jose, then you're delusional. If you think that is the best option for the Peninsula, then you're just a NIMBY.

Bianca said...

Blarney, let me be clear. Under the EIR process, "no build" certainly is an option. But in order for the "no build" option to be considered, a serious argument needs to be presented. That argument has to acknowledge the following facts:

1. There is an existing, active railroad connecting San Jose and San Francisco.
2. 94% of the length of the ROW is wide enough today to run four tracks on it.
3. On weekdays, over 100 trains a day go back and forth between San Jose and San Francisco, and diesel-powered freight trains use the tracks in the middle of the night.
4. San Francisco has the highest population density of anywhere in the state and today has a variety of mass-transit alternatives to bring people to the Transbay Terminal.

If you want the "no-build" option to be the winning alternative, someone needs to come up with an explanation why San Francisco should be cut from the route.

And I'd really like someone to present a convincing argument that "no build" is a real option from a political standpoint. Because for the life of me I don't understand how anyone can think for one moment that Nancy Pelosi will allow a dime of Federal funding to come California's way if HSR won't serve her constituents. Need I remind you that the Transbay Terminal is in her district?

It's not me you have to convince, it's Nancy Pelosi.

BruceMcF said...

Anonymous said...
""for those of us located within walking distance of a Caltrain station, we are also automagically within walking distance of HSR, because we can take Caltrain to HSR, easy peasy."

Thanks for explaining why HSR doesn't need to travel down the Peninsula at all, and should terminate in SJ.
"

Precisely - if we assume for the sake of argument that there are no population centers in the Bay north of the Peninsula, HSR would indeed not need to travel down the Peninsula at all.

I don't know what alternate universe you are visiting from in which the assumption is anchored in reality, but for that universe, where there is no SF to terminate at, I recommend the SJ terminal.

Its in this universe, where SF exists, that SF should be the terminus.

All ABOARD! said...

Ah, I see the conversation is making progress.
First of all the money used to build HSR will just be equal to or more likely less than, the amount of money needed to move the equivalent number of people by increasing runways and highway lanes and a single hsr system has capacity to carry far more people than a lane of highway, far into the future. Of course highways and airports are likely to still get improvement funding, but they will get less funding in the future as the money goes to to hsr instead. We aren't just talking about managing existing transportation infrastructure for existing population, but as we go forward, we will need to to fund transportation for the next generation, and the new arrivals. Whereas our choices have been to build and fund highways and airports, the next gerneration will build and fund highways and airports and high speed rail, splitting transport funds in different percentage.

say we're spending 80/20 highway/ airport now, they may spend 60/30/10 highway/airport/hsr as people shift there way doing things.

While the flat earth folks will not be able to adapt thus rendering themselves irrelevant, new generations will embrace the future and look back and say "at least those old farts did one thing right before they completely screwed things up"

All ABOARD! said...

all other benefits aside, neither a car not a plane can match the superior travel experience offered by rail, especially high speed rail when it comes to speed, comfort and amenities. It is by far the most civilized form of transportation. Whereas the 737 is worlds first flying torture chamber.

Peter said...

@ All Aboard

Sorry, no, I think the honor of the world's first flying torture chamber goes to the Canadair Regional Jet.

All ABOARD! said...

ah, whats that, an EMB or something?

Peter said...

No, it's similar, but its designed by Bombardier. It's a stretched version of the Challenger business jet.

I've never been on the ERJ 130 or ERJ 140, but they're roughly equivalent to the CRJ in terms of size.

Peter said...

The seats in the CRJ are probably only 3/4 the width of the seats on a 737.

AndyDuncan said...

CRJs have exactly the same seat width as a 737 (17.0 inches, the industry's smallest), but there's only two seats per row, so nobody has to be in the middle. Plus, most carry-on bags won't fit on the CRJ so airlines let you gate-check them and then bring them out for you, which takes a minute or two but there's no waiting while some idiot tries to squeeze his carryon on the wrong way, and no running up and down the isle trying to find an open bin, something that has only gotten worse with the new $20/bag trend.

I'll take a CRJ over a 737 any day of the week.

All ABOARD! said...

i can't find a pic but the one I flew on once was sea-vrv emb dehavillan some kind of prop thingy with the wings on top... it bounced all aver in the storm betwee seattle and vancouver, I had to give my "scsred o heights" friend some cough syrup to calm him down lol. "The plane is bending!" " duh they're flexible. relax Its just wind"

We didnt even get our drink cuz the gal had to stya strapped in the whole time. Anyway I guess these are very reliable planes that they use a lot up north. It was alaska air. was it dh8 or something?

anyway, point is, trains are way more roomy, way more comfy.... in fact coach on a train is better than first class on a plane.

Peter said...

Ah, sorry. I've only flown on a CRJ twice.

However, I do know that from an operational standpoint, the CRJs are problematic. They have weight and balance issues, necessitating the carriage of ballast on certain flights. They have safety issues, too. There have been a number of incidents and accidents with them (a dual engine flameout at maximum certified altitude, a catastrophic (uncontained) engine failure, etc) that make me as a pilot slightly worried when riding in them. Also, the pilots that fly them on for the regional airlines have less experience than their counterparts flying 737s and the like for major airlines. Can you say ColganAir? That is more worrisome to me than the mechanical problems, and part of why I try and avoid flying on regionals.

All ABOARD! said...

oh yeah the airlines are running their reputations right into the ground and running their customers right over to amtrak. I hear it everyday. "I can't stand to fly any more with all that bs they put us through"

And we at amtrak gladly take the airlines business thank you.

Peter said...

The DHC-8 is a VERY reliable aircraft.

The Colgan Air accident I just mentioned was with a -8, but it wasn't caused by a problem with the plane, just too-lax training and inexperience of the crew.

Peter said...

@ All Aboard

I'd take first class on long haul any day. THOSE are some nice digs.

Oh, and I think you meant Horizon Air, which is owned by Alaska Airlines and is used as their regional airline.

All ABOARD! said...

a long haul flight or a long haul train?

plus first class on a train is way less expensive than first class on a plane.

yeh it was horizon but it was an ak booking sfo-sea-vrv

of course if I have to fly now, its virgin american or nothing.

All ABOARD! said...

firstclassamenities

Peter said...

Well, let me rephrase that. I would take long-haul on a plane any day if I was a millionaire.

I've taken first class on long-haul trains before. Berlin-Prague was very nice.

missiondweller said...

"it is a very simple thing to take a subway to the HSR station, go upstairs and get on the bullet train"

So how would he contrast that to taking BART from anywhere in the Bay Area, exiting at the Montgomery station and walking one block to the Transbay Terminal?

In reverse,a businessman arrives at the Transbay Terminal he is within walking distance of anywhere in the Financial district they might have a meeting.

His comparison is not just bad it demonstrates why HSR makes sense as it currently aligned.

All ABOARD! said...

id suggest trying the coast starlight, a day trip between la and sf, with an upgrade to first, private room, 3 full meals, afternoon wine and cheese, access to the pacific parlour car, first run movies downstairs, and spectacular scenery, 2 people can do it for 199 total.

Rafael said...

Getting back to the "grounded" and "reality check" aspects of this discussion thread: did anyone attend the Altamont Corridor scoping meeting in Fremont yesterday?

I'd love to know where they intend to run a pair of dedicated standard gauge passenger tracks between Union City/Niles/Fremont and San Jose Diridon now that the WPML is definitely going to be used for the BART extension.

AndyDuncan said...

@Peter: Ah, sorry. I've only flown on a CRJ twice.

However, I do know that from an operational standpoint, the CRJs are problematic. They have weight and balance issues, necessitating the carriage of ballast on certain flights. They have safety issues, too. There have been a number of incidents and accidents with them (a dual engine flameout at maximum certified altitude, a catastrophic (uncontained) engine failure, etc) that make me as a pilot slightly worried when riding in them. Also, the pilots that fly them on for the regional airlines have less experience than their counterparts flying 737s and the like for major airlines. Can you say ColganAir? That is more worrisome to me than the mechanical problems, and part of why I try and avoid flying on regionals.


It's a tradeoff: when you fly a CRJ, you're more likely to die in a fiery crash, but each time you fly on a 737, you die a little inside .

Anonymous said...

Instead, lets transfer our billions to rail technology exporting countries...

Anonymous said...

Bruce McF - I live in the universe where there is already a Caltrain that serves SF to SJ. Why duplicate resources. Pure waste.

Zach said...

Here is yet more evidence to support the need for a HSR system in California. These are a couple of excerpts from a news article published by the Bay Area News Group today.

“Delays at SFO will gradually climb to an average of 21 minutes by 2035, up from six minutes in 2007, if the airport continues its recent dominance in attracting Bay Area fliers, aviation consultants hired by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission said. The government body, which oversees Bay Area transportation, is exploring how to accommodate future air travel demand through a committee of local airport executives and politicians.”

“They forecast that by 2035, some 2.4 million of SFO’s annual passengers will transfer to Oakland and 1.9 million to San Jose. But SH&E researchers say that all depends on airlines’ decisions to expand service and lower fares at Oakland and San Jose.”

“…they will also study whether they can shift passengers to smaller airports in Stockton, Monterey, Santa Rosa and Sacramento. Other options include implementing new air traffic control technology that would allow airports to beef up service without expanding their runways. SFO could also start charging airlines more for flights during peak hours…”

Population growth and higher demand for transportation around California are going to be realities whether we like it or not.

Adirondacker12800 said...

I live in the universe where there is already a Caltrain that serves SF to SJ. Why duplicate resources. Pure waste.

If there is no change in service at all there will be thousands of HSR passengers milling around at Caltrain terminals hoping to get on a train. So Caltrain would have to start running extra trains between San Francisco and San Jose. The extra traffic would mean the grade crossings would be closed more often. That would increase demand for more grade separations. Grade separations speed up Caltrain service which increases demand for Caltrain sevice. Which means the remaining grade crossings are closed more frequently. Eventually you end up with a very busy Caltrain that is fully grade separated. Busy Caltrain means there are demands for electrification. An electrified grade separated Caltrain will be much faster than today's service, which will increase demand. Enough that they have to build three or even four tracks in places. Once it's electrified HSR trains could run all the way to San Francisco. So doing nothing means that eventually Caltrain is a fully grade separated, electrified four track railroad serving Caltrain and HSR trains. Which is different from the plans for HSR to San Francisco which call for a fully grade separated, electrified four track railroad serving Caltrain and HSR trains, how?

YesonHSR said...

Caltrain is not HSR and NO NO No its not stopping in San Jose once again thats just a nimby idea.
What other HSR system stops 45 miles from one of its main endpoints and has passengers take a commuter train to end the journey.It does not matter if caltrain is there now or not 2 different sytems that work together all over the world and will do the same here in SFBay

Anonymous said...

"there will be thousands of HSR passengers milling around at Caltrain terminals hoping to get on a train." Uh no. When they want to get on an HSR, they'll just continue their drive on to San Jose, because why would they drive to a Caltrain station where there is no HSR? Because in HSR world, you're forcing all these thousands (yeshure) of passengers to drive in to these Caltrain stations along the peninsula, (buried deep off 101). Highly inconvenient location for anyone outside of walking distance to those stations. So, if there's no Peninsula HSR stations, BFD! They stay in their cars, and just drive another 15 minutes - staying on 101or 280 if they're lucky, to the SJ station.

The only ones that would find the Peninsula stations of any convenience anyway are the ones that will be located within walking distance of those stations -and if you think those miniscule numbers justify Peninsula LONG DISTANCE HSR stations, you're severely confused about the reality on the Peninsula.

Take a PA station - First ask yourselves, how many people will be within walking distance. (3000? 5000?) Then ask how many of those need to go with any frequence to LA. When you see how small of a number you have from this set, you'll say - oh but people will come from miles around. And then ask youselves HOW they would get to that station, what roads or transport is there for that purpose, where they would long term park, where they would hook up with rental cars, WHO will pay for the massive infrastructure buildout that would imply and what friggin city you think would approve such development plans. Because that ain't palo alto. RC? - ask yourselves the same things. The only difference is that ~maybe~ RC would approve it. But would they pay? would they have the $$$ chops to pay? doubful.

Matthew said...

Anon@3:34: Your argument seems to work for eliminating the Palo Alto station, sure - but not for eliminating San Francisco (which has a massive integrated public transportation system) or SFO (which has a rich use-case for CA residents transferring to air for inter-regional flights.

Interestingly, however, Palo Alto is not one of the communities seeking major changes to the route. They WANT a station. So, you seem to be sticking words in your neighbors' mouth to justify your own purposes. I'd call that a highly dishonest tactic.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 3:34pm -

For historical reasons, the anchor city in the Bay Area is San Francisco. Not San Jose, not Oakland but San Francisco. Unfortunately, the only land route to that city is via the SF peninsula. Building yet another fixed link across the Bay is not on the menu for the next few decades.

According to CHSRA's own analysis of the route alternatives (chapter 7 of the Bay Area to Central Valley Final Program EIS/EIR, p88 PDF), a Pacheco Pass that terminates in San Jose would deliver 15% lower ridership than one that runs all the way to SF.

Frankly, I think that's wishful thinking. In Europe, HSR modal share for single-seat routes is very high, e.g. 85% for London-Paris. For London-Cologne, which requires a transfer, it's just 5%.

Either give passengers a fast single-seat ride from LA to SF or don't bother building the line at all.

Adirondacker12800 said...

which has a rich use-case for CA residents transferring to air for inter-regional flights

Pretty well connected to the Bay Area too. After all some of the people flying in and out of SFO come from the area. Take the airport shuttle to the airport and catch a plane or a train...

Anonymous said...

Real argument for No Build being
1)that SF to SJ is already served by a viable passenger rail system, 2) that system can and will be upgraded to speeds that will be practically identical to to HSR's operating speeds along this portion, 3) could be electrified by Caltrain who could easiy qualify for federal grants for this purpose as easily as CHSR, 4) that the SJ connection between Caltrain and HSR could be made to be as simple and no hassle as crossing a platform for passengers, 5) the incremental benefit gained by mid-peninsula HSR stop is negligible, particularly given the massive costs (and fights) for building mid-peninsula stops that will ensue, 6)and the whopper being that avoidance of HSR though the Peninsula would save CHSR BILLIONS and get the Nimby's out of CHSRA's hair immediately.

Would the nimby's go to work on Caltrain electrification/grade crossing impact issues, you bet. Would that be CHSRA's problem. Nope. CHSRA could go on their merry way building their system, and cirlce back when they're done (in about 40 years) to get any remaining Caltrain issues mopped up.

Bianca said...

Take a PA station - First ask yourselves, how many people will be within walking distance. (3000? 5000?) Then ask how many of those need to go with any frequence to LA.

You're overlooking the elephant in the neighborhood. Stanford University already has a shuttle to the Palo Alto station, and draws a very large number of visitors to the campus. Which brings me to the second point: it isn't just about how many local people want to use it, but how much demand there is for a station as a destination. And if you are overlooking Stanford, you are overlooking a very large number of visitors to Palo Alto.

But that is all secondary to the question of whether or not San Francisco gets a station; using your criteria (people within walking distance, existing transit infrastructure, how many people travel between SF and LA, what city would approve such development plans) a San Francisco station is a no-brainer.

Matthew said...

@4:59: But CalTrain won't be able to upgrade to anything near HSR service without making the exact same changes needed FOR HSR service!

Given that those changes are coming, you might as well just let the HSR trains shoot through, and avoid forcing visitors to transfer who don't otherwise need to.

YesonHSR said...

A blue and gold HST will be no different than a red or silver Caltrain thats already full..and you want to try and add 300 people
from a high speed rail train? NO if the nimbys dont want a station then the HSR trains will just pass thru to the Transbay terminal.
Your semi right about one thing and thats CAHSR has taken all the heat on this route when Caltrain has had these plans in the work for some time with or without HSR

AndyDuncan said...

Real argument for No Build being
1)that SF to SJ is already served by a viable passenger rail system, 2) that system can and will be upgraded to speeds that will be practically identical to to HSR's operating speeds along this portion, 3) could be electrified by Caltrain who could easiy qualify for federal grants for this purpose as easily as CHSR, 4) that the SJ connection between Caltrain and HSR could be made to be as simple and no hassle as crossing a platform for passengers, 5) the incremental benefit gained by mid-peninsula HSR stop is negligible, particularly given the massive costs (and fights) for building mid-peninsula stops that will ensue, 6)and the whopper being that avoidance of HSR though the Peninsula would save CHSR BILLIONS and get the Nimby's out of CHSRA's hair immediately.

Would the nimby's go to work on Caltrain electrification/grade crossing impact issues, you bet. Would that be CHSRA's problem. Nope. CHSRA could go on their merry way building their system, and cirlce back when they're done (in about 40 years) to get any remaining Caltrain issues mopped up.


So, the "no-build" option is to build a caltrain system that looks just like CAHSR, but with caltrain painted on the side? How on earth is that "no-build"? Where are the peninsula NIMBYs going to come up with the billions required to fund those improvements? The rest of the state is giving the peninsula a big fat kwanza present of electrified, grade-separated and vastly improved caltrain. That's part of the reason the peninsula ROW was chosen, because there's a heavily used commuter line that is begging for improvements, and a big fat ROW that can fit four tracks.

As a taxpayer in another part of the state, you're welcome.

Anonymous said...

No, the caltrain system is already there - and what they 'build' on to it is their business. No reason on earth for CHSRA to insert their demands (or their funding) there.

Anonymous said...

And no, its not a big fat row that can fit four tracks, which is the entire point really. Without HSR, no need for 4 tracks. And HSR won't force 4 tracks through there anyway without more WAY money than they can muster.

Dan S. said...

One or more anons said stuff like:

Caltrain stations are not conventient at all except for those within walking distance.

It'll be much cheaper and easier to not take HSR to SF because of construction costs and because the NIMBYs are so disruptive.


I suggest you take your car and drive on over to a Caltrain station some weekday morning and check out how full the parking lot is there. I can tell you from my experience commuting on it, that lots of people drive to the stations to take the train. The fact that it is closer to downtowns and El Camino makes it more convenient IMHO for people to access directly from their homes than an alternate location you've hypothetically proposed along 101, IMHO.


As for stopping in SJ, you say it will be cheaper for the project. But think how much easier it will be to sell HSR tickets that advertise one seat from LA to SF compared to a ticket from LA to SJ. Sure, there will be takers, but this system needs to make some operating profit too. And you probably know that CAHSR has been sold to the California voter as a system from LA to SF, and Californians approved that idea! I don't think you can discount the will of the people so easily.


Regarding the ability of NIMBYs to disrupt, harrass and annoy those working on the project... Well, people opposed to this HSR system are free to voice their opposition in whatever constructive or appropriate or churlish ways they want to. Opposition is expected; differing views are encouraged to be expressed. But I'm pretty sure that critical NIMBY voices are not a surprise and will not just by nature of their expression derail the project.

There is a political way for the NIMBYs to kill this project. It involves legislation, which requires a coalition of support. But local opposition in and of itself can't kill it. A certain amount is to be expected in a project like this, unfortunately.


As for the HSR loyalists -- keep feeding your friends with the meme that we have to kill the 2/3 rule! Minority rights is one thing, but granting budgetary veto power to the party that keeps losing elections is just plain stupid. Come on, majority dems -- don't be afraid to throw your weight around! Why the hell do we keep electing them anyway? (Just picture all the republicans reading this now and laughing.)

Matthew said...

So Anon@6:35 is claiming to oppose the high speed train, not because of any changes to the right of way, but only because it's being done by CAHSRA.

I have an easy solution to YOUR problem: Let's let CalTrain run the high speed train! yay!

Joey said...

It's highly probable that the CalTrain capacity increase required for carrying all of HSR's passengers to SF would require 4 tracks in many sections anyway. The Baby Bullet system has its limits, you know.

It's really not so much a question of build/no build, so much as build now or build later.

Besides, CHSRA is right that terminating in SJ would effectively kill ridership. If people have to transfer from HSR to CalTrain, and then to local transit to get to their destination, do you really think it will be attractive? It's not worth killing the project because of a few whiners who are afraid of change and won't accept a minor visual impact (all other impacts being more or less equivalent to current conditions).

Joey said...

Anon @6:37

Where does your claim that the ROW can't fit 4 tracks come from? Have you gone out and measured it yourself and determined, based on your vast knowledge of the technical requirements for railroads that 4 tracks can't fit? Really?

No. With >75' in most places, there is plenty of room for four tracks. And I don't recall much, if any, of that insufficient space being in the PA area (most of it is in San Mateo and Redwood City AFAIK).

All ABOARD! said...

and duh, anyone heard of a cab?

I mean if I live in menlo park, and I need to get to LA, I can drive to SFO, or I can drive to SJC, or I can take a supershuttle (lengthy) or a cab to the airport$$$$, but a cab ride from MP to the hsr station nearby, quick, easy cheap, the guy helps me get my bag out of the trunk, bam, simple.10 mintues Im on the train at my seat with my bloody mary and my laptop

All ABOARD! said...

taking a cab from redwood city or mountain view or atherton, to the nearest hsr station is much faster and much cheaper than going to the nearest airport, and ad that to the fact that you show up 15-20 minutes, buy your ticket, get on the train and you're off, versus schlepping hundreds of yards through an airport, TSA, to the gate, wait at the gate, do the "rows 900-2000" cattle call thing, down the aisle do the carry on bag stuff, god that whole process is the sh-tiest ( sorry rafael) most uncivilized, infuriating, process on earth. They may as well tie us and down and give us enemas and beat us with sticks..... anyway meanwhile on the train the train is off and running env before you reach your seat. no " no electronic devices" waiting period, just total comfort and full amenities at 220mph and you don't even know youre moving.
2.5 hours, enough time to get some work done, have lunch, take a 3 way call, and when you arrive all the doors open and you exit in about 30 seconds, and you're in a cab within 5 minutes rather that doing the whole 30 minute deplaning process and terminal schlepp all over again.

I mean do you people not get the difference between the two types of travel experience or what?

Are americans so used to living in a completely disfunctional country that you don't know how to act any more?

swing hanger said...

@ALL ABOARD!
I read somewhere that only 2% of the entire population of the U.S. has ever been on a train, so I can understand their ignorance of the advantages of train travel. And many are so single-person- occupancy-vehicle oriented that they cannot even conceive the concept of taking a cab or having someone else give them a ride to the station.

HSRforCali said...

Hi, I'm a anon that posted only twice. Anyways, the way you describe it All Aboard! makes it sound so wonderful t travel by train. And it's true! I've had the pleasure of taking both the Acela and the Eurostar in the past couple years. Even though the Acela isn't all that fast, I found it to be a wonderful travel experience from beginning to end. Imagine having a "true" high-speed rail system here. Although, I do think the CHSRA should try to cut the travel time between LA and SF down to a little under 2hrs 30min. This could be accomplished using Bombardier's Zefiro 380 whcih can cruise at speeds of up to 236 mph, 16 mph faster than what CHSRA is currently planning. And there's also a new Korean train in the planning stages that will be able to cruise at speeds of up to 250 mph!

Clem said...

And no, its not a big fat ROW that can fit four tracks, which is the entire point really.

You are factually incorrect.

Anonymous said...

See, all this talk is just pure nonsense. Go with the Chinese method. STFU and build, screw the human and environmental toll!!

No wonder the Chinese are owning us: they're really productive in getting things done in a fast, efficient, and the most practical way: "Less talkin' more doin'"

Both parties of California should just STFU and not adhere to NIMBYs and lobbyists. This is an all go-for project.

What are the benefits? It puts people back to work immediately. It gets stuff built really fast with minimal cost overrun. It'll create lots of permanent jobs to man the stations and run these trains. Maintenance workers gain experience in repairing these railcars so oneday we can start building our own purely American made high speed rail trains. It reduces greenhouse gases and our reliance on foreign oil. It'll introduce a real third reliable alternative to flying and driving. It'll compete with the airlines that are nickel and diming us to death.

Any idiot can see these benefits. Why waste talking this over and over again, wasting time and taxes in the process?


As I stated before, I don't give a rats ass where his HSR is positioned. I just want it to be built NOW. Not twenty years later, but NOW!!


Does anyone give a shit about some desert lizard's habitat being ruined? Does anyone give a shit about some millionaire douche-bag worrying about HSR going near their multi-million dollar mansion (which they got by screwing everyone left and right?)? Does anyone care about some poor illegals homes being leveled (they shouldn't be here anyway!)


Heck, just give me a bulldozer and the secret backdoor immunity deal and I'll start plowing through the route path immediately!! LOL!!!

AndyDuncan said...

I'm convinced that logic doesn't work for some people, and I'm also convinced that many of these NIMBYs don't even live near the tracks. I've had the displeasure of spending the night recently at a friends house who lives along the metrolink tracks here in SoCal, the ones south of anaheim that may or may not be on an Irvine extension. Let me tell you, nothing is as bad as those horns. 2-3 120 Db horns in the middle of the night that you can hear coming from miles away blowing their horns in their FRA-mandated short-long-long-short pattern at every freaking grade crossing, vs a bunch of 70-80 Db trains during the day that go by in about 10 seconds? You've got to be kidding me if you think that HSR is going to make things worse. It just defies logic. And yes, Mlynarik, I have been near a HSR train at speed and it's nothing like a mile-long, twin engine diesel freight train.

The people I know who live there are adamant that all they care about is getting rid of the "f*cking horns" (their words, sorry Rafael/Robert). These are people who live ON THE TRACKS. HSR is an improvement on the peninsula, and fast, reliable caltrain connecting to it is key.

Alon Levy said...

Various Anons:

The current plan is for the high-speed line to terminate in San Jose anyway. North of San Jose, HSR will run on the legacy Caltrain corridor, upgraded to 200 km/h. Once those lines are connected, there's no reason to terminate the trains in SJ, instead of send them onward to SF at lower speed.

The only novelties here are grade separations, and four-tracking. Electrification is going to happen anyway. And neither four-tracking nor grade separation is a very big deal, since the Caltrain corridor is wide enough for tracks for 94% of its length, and since grade separation only requires a few kilometers' worth of els.

AndyDuncan said...

@Red Anon (which I think you should use as a handle):

The Chinese method works great when the leadership gets it right, not so much when they screw it up. I'll take our NIMBYs (even Toys) over their political prisoners any day.

Anonymous said...

The problem with dealing with these NIMBYs is because the government is not making a sweet deal towards NIMBYs end.

Just build a bunch of nice condos near the sea, give these NIMBYs a deal to trade in their shitty worthless homes for a nice condo with an oceanfront view plus moving expenses, and people will move out in no time. Tack on a lifetime pass of high-speed rail and priority in getting a HSR job when it gets built and they'll just shut up and leave.

Take that offer, or stay there until bulldozers come and roll over your dead body.

Pick a choice. I'm sure a lot of NIMBYs will take the former deal.

Anonymous said...

Heck that's a brilliant idea.

The government should just create a front company and build condos near the sea.

It'll look like some real estate developer is building condos for the rich, when in fact it's for trade deal with the NIMBYs for their crappy homes to a nice property. Put an upfront price tag of $4 million per room. If a willing buyer want to buy it, it'll be sold as state revenue.

Once the NIMBYs move, the area will be a deserted wasteland that is up for grabs. Once again, a front company can buy these empty homes and fence them off for further development. That further development will be laying down tracks for HSR!!


Man, I would be a kick ass totalitarian dictator! People should just STFU and put me as head of state! LOL

Anonymous said...

Heck, that'll work for residents living in the Westchester area near LAX and any other place where public projects are going around!

All apartment tenants near these NIMBY areas should be given free homes (no mortgage) with free relocation expenses. They'll move out quickly!

Think about it. These guys are butt poor; they'll pick up on anything that'll change their lives.

It'll be like winning a lottery to them: get the heck out of their crappy lifestyle to a nice home with no more rent to pay! They get to keep their jobs, live in a home with no mortgage to pay so all the money they make from their shitty jobs can go to extra spending of consipicous goods and it'll help the economy.

Give these NIMBYs a sweet deal that'll make them want to move. It's gonna be an offer of a lifetime to them and they'll be stupid to pass up on that offer.

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

"[Caltrain] electrification is going to happen anyway."

Uhm, actually it isn't and that was one reason CHSRA ended up selecting the Caltrain corridor.

San Francisco and San Mateo counties had already pledged to fund respective shares of the electrification project. However, Santa Clara county has essentially ignored the PCJPB decision to electrify and decided to fund BART to Silicon Valley instead, because its priorities are:

(a) relieving commute traffic on I-880 in the East Bay and,

(b) fostering commercial development in the downtown-midtown area of San Jose. This includes the area near SJ Diridon, but the city is apparently convinced that the worker bees for all those new office towers will still predominantly hail from its eastern districts and the East Bay, rather than from SF or the SF peninsula.

This is also why the Altamont Corridor is being couched as an opportunity for improved commuter service into San Jose only.

Alon Levy said...

Anon, could you not post the same three comments on multiple threads?

Arthur Dent said...

@Matthew: But CalTrain won't be able to upgrade to anything near HSR service without making the exact same changes needed FOR HSR service!

That’s not what we’re hearing from Clem and Rafael. They’re notably silent in this particular thread, but here’s what they’ve had to say in the past.

Clem, on platform heights:
One can easily see where this is all headed, based on the figure at left: with bi-level EMUs, Caltrain is likely to end up with an entry floor height in the low twenty inches, while HSR will end up in the forties. The non-negotiable requirement for level boarding would result in two different and incompatible platform heights.

In that same thread Rafael said:
Note that if Caltrain and HSR trains are to share platform tracks, it's not just the floor height above the rails that needs to be harmonized.

The two services must also purchase rolling stock of similar CAR BODY WIDTH, with the narrower model(s) possibly equipped with retractable floor boards to bridge the gap. Incompatible widths would mean wider trains could not use platform tracks designed for narrower ones, even to just pass through in an off-design condition.


Rafael, answering a question to Adirondacker:
Clem has argued in favor of FSSF track order throughout and island platforms for all Caltrain-only stations. Such changes would involve some eminent domain and substantially more disruption than a relatively straightforward change of platform height.

(Clem has a separate thread dedicated to the intricacies of carefully designing the track order to accommodate two different services, speeds and dimensions.)

Based on their expert opinion, it appears that adding HSR to the Caltrain corridor introduces unique -- and costly -- design problems which Caltrain would not have if it were to handle the HSR load by itself.

I look to you guys for expert rail knowledge, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s only forthcoming if it favors the HSR system. Very disappointing.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Based on their expert opinion, it appears that adding HSR to the Caltrain corridor introduces unique -- and costly -- design problems which Caltrain would not have if it were to handle the HSR load by itself.

Based on their propensity to assume the worst. Railroads all over the world run multiple levels of service using the same tracks and platforms. Even NJTransit and Amtrak manage to do it. The other commuter systems that share track with Amtrak manage to do it too.

AndyDuncan said...

I look to you guys for expert rail knowledge, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s only forthcoming if it favors the HSR system. Very disappointing.

Melodramatic much?

The issues that people are complaining about, the expensive ones, ie: grade separations, aerials, berlin walls, headpsans, noise, 4-tracking, FSSF vs SFFS operation, are identical whether or not Caltrain ends up picking EMUs with floor heights at 36" or 48", or european-width, US-width, or Japanese-width loading gauges.

As Mylnarik is happy to point out, it makes no sense for Caltrain to pick a platform height and loading gauge different than HSR, but even if they did, it's an operational flexibility issue, not so much a cost issue.

A caltrain line providing the same level of service as the proposed HSR + Caltrain line is going to cost nearly or just as much, and have the same set of problems that a HSR line does.

Again, what does it matter if the trains are painted with "Caltrain" on the side or "CAHSR"?

If your proposal is to have those caltrain trains run slower, and have less of them, then your proposal is not "equivalent".

Anonymous said...

Arthur Dent writes:
"look to you guys for expert rail knowledge, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s only forthcoming if it favors the HSR system. Very disappointing."

This blog is a propaganda vehicle for HSR in California. Robert has never claimed otherwise -- he does say it is not officially affiliated with the CHSRA and no funding from them has been provided. Rumors I keep hearing, say the Robert is hoping to use this blog as a stepping stone to political office. He is on the very far left of the Democratic party views.

Rafael is more independent, and his input is the only reason I bother to visit and comment in this site. His knowledge is immense and he on few occasions will actually have a few bad words to say about the Authority.

The project is in very deep trouble right now --- funding is not to be found. How much longer it can continue was a major reason why they needed a PR firm to try and boost appeal to the California voters, who unfortunately and without knowingly passed Prop 1A.