Monday, April 28, 2008

California High Speed Rail Video

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

As requested by tony d. in the comments to the last post, here is a 3D animation of what Diridon Station and downtown San José might look like when the high speed rail system is completed. Some disclaimers are necessary - this is merely one possible configuration, the new downtown construction is conjecture (none of the new buildings are specific proposals and any new development has to be approved by the city of San José), and it's intended as a conceptual vision instead of a hard prediction.

I laughed when I saw the BART station - that's never going to happen - but overall it's a good way to start thinking about the positive impact of HSR on cities like San José. The animation is produced by Newlands & Company for the CHSRA, and they've done similar animations for locations across the state - the Sacramento HSR animation is especially popular on the CAHSR Facebook group, and other videos include the SF Transbay Terminal, the Pacheco Pass, the Tehachapi Mountains, I-5 in the San Fernando Valley, and Anaheim.


Tony D. said...

You are the man! Awesome visuals for a future Diridon/Arena! Can't wait for that HSR campaign to begin. Now living in Gilroy, it would be awesome to park at the 8th street station and be at the Shark Tank (and the rest of that awesome downtown development) in 15 minutes. I'm also a huge proponent of BART to SJ, so your comments sadden me Robert. I've always liked the idea of a modern metro/subway serving downtown San Jose. But unfortunately, I think you're right in that BART to SJ won't come to fruition. So for us living in the South Bay, if BART doesn't happen, what to do with the $8 billion that will ultimately be raised by the 2000 Measure A. One thought that I shared in the past with the Mercury News' Mr. Roadshow is that those funds now earmarked for BART should be diverted to HSR through the Altamont Pass or a complete overhaul of ACE (since Pacheco Pass in now the chosen initial route). Santa Clara County being served by both would benefit us far more than a BART extension; direct HSR service from Diridon to both Southern California and Sacramento/Central Valley. BART to SJ isn't over until it's over, but it's time to start thinking outside the box just in case the fat lady start singing.

Anonymous said...

@ tonyd -

the CHSRA has actually suggested that in the wake of the Pacheco decision, something will need to be done to improve regional rail service across the Altamont pass. They call this idea High Speed Commuter Rail/HST overlay, see e.g. page 9 of
this presentation

So far, this idea does not appear to have been developed much further. As portrayed. the eastern end of this overlay would be at Manteca - where there is NO HSR station. Presumably, trains would run up to at least Stockton and down to at least Modesto.

It's also quite unclear if this overlay would be electrified and fully grade separated. The FRA has set a 110mph speed limit for routes with regular level crossings, which may be enough especially between Manteca and Niles. It will be expensive enough to refurbish and straighen the north slope alignment through Niles Canyon and, to dig a second tunnel through the Altamont Pass. In that corridor, getting passenger trains to run on time is more important than getting them to run very fast.

Besides, traffic through the Amador Valley will be relatively light, perhaps one train every 30-60 minutes - if only to avoid turning the Central Valley counties served into sprawling bedroom communities for Silicon Valley worker bees. That would depress house prices up and down the peninsula and deprive cities there of property tax revenue - probably the real reasons behind opposition to building a new rail bridge at Dumbarton.

Service between Oakland and San Jose might be more frequent and therefore justify partial grade separation (i.e. close smaller crossings, leave some medium ones in place and build overpasses for the major ones). However, note that the alignment hinted at between Niles and San Jose is currently not in use and would compete with the proposed - and stupendously expensive - BART extension.

Running standard gauge trains parallel to 880 would probably involve digging a trench between roughly Great Mall and Guadeloupe Parkways (with short tunnels under existing cross roads incl. 101). In some sections, the trench might need to be covered to limit noise. At N 1st and Bassett, VTA light rail would have to be moved back up to street level, but that would create an opportunity for an intermodal station there - useful for regional trains running between SF and Oakland/Central Valley that would bypass SJ Diridon.

A significantly cheaper alternative would be to stick with the existing alignment through the wildlife refuge. Many ACE customers currently disembark at Great Mall Pkwy rather than SJ Diridon anyhow. VTA could fairly easily introduce a new light rail service on existing tracks between Alum Rock and Milpitas to improve access to businesses in the so-called Golden Triangle.

Note that there are actually two rail alignments along the 880 corridor between Niles and San Jose. The eastern one could be converted into a narrow two-lane road dedicated to VTA express autotram service, which would use E. Santa Clara between SJ Diridon and N. 28th. Such a service would not be as good as BART but massively cheaper to implement. Remember, the voracious octopus that is BART would have funding primacy - existing Caltrain and VTA services will suffer very badly if the extension south of Fremont ever gets built. Just ask SamTrans customers about the impact the SFO extension has had.

Btw, I've put together some annotated PPT slides showing all existing, planned and proposed rail alignments in the Bay Area and east through Stockton, plus five alternatives of my own. I'll send a copy to Robert Cruickshank via email since I don't have a web server to publish them on.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that should read:

"Many ACE customers currently disembark at Great America Pkwy rather than SJ Diridon anyhow."

Robert Cruickshank said...

tony d., I've come to the conclusion, as have many transit advocates in the Santa Clara Valley, that BART to San José is a hopeless boondoggle that wastes valuable money unnecessarily. The BayRail Alliance has marshaled some strong arguments on this point, that it would be far better to upgrade standard-gauge rail such as ACE, Capitol Corridor, and perhaps improve light rail service to fill in the gaps.

They also propose something quite interesting called "Caltrain Metro East" to serve the corridor that the BART extension is slated to serve. Others have proposed extending BART to Great Mall/Milpitas and connecting to other transit systems there. Whatever the solution, there definitely seem to be better ways to accomplish the regional mobility goals of Santa Clara County without pouring billions into BART.

anonymous' points about upgrading the ACE corridor are germane to this. btw, thanks for the powerpoint slides, and that excel file you sent a week or two ago - I will try and have them up on the site in some form this week.

Anonymous said...

There are maps of the Caltrain Metro East alignment and a Google Earth flight at:


for the Google Earth file.

for the regional plan, slightly outdated, and:

for specific maps of the alignments.

Even with the "decision" to run HSR over Pacheco, the Altamont alignment is still valid because there's no point wasting money on upgrades in Niles Canyon unless it's a tunnel from Pleasanton to Fremont, and no use wasting money on Altamont Pass unless it's a new alignment. Just as with a house, there's a point where it's cheaper to build new than to do an extensive remodel.


Anonymous said...

@ michael kiesling -

if tunneling is really cheaper, by all means. It just seems a far-fetched claim to me. If you're going to go to the trouble of implementing a brand-new alignment, you're also going to want full grade separation and electrification.

In essence, you'd end up building full-fat HSR alignments through both Pacheco and Altamont, which would arguably be somewhat extravagant. To my mind, it might make more sense to spend that money on better feeder infrastructure and a route deviation through Castle Airport in Merced.

Short tunnels that straighten the existing alignment may be sensible, but really long ones would preclude the use of diesel-only locomotives - the existing alignment is owned by UPRR.

However, note that there are locomotives that feature both a diesel genset and a pantograph, allowing them to switch between electricity sources on routes that are only partially electrified.

Tony D. said...

General questions for you:
1) Could any of the $950 million of the proposed HSR bond be used for BART to SJ (which in itself would act as a feeder line to the main HSR line).
2) If BART to SJ becomes a definite no go, how would an alternate plan (ie Caltrain metro East) become reality? Another county measure? A decision by the VTA/SCC governments?

If no BART to SJ, I'm all for two "full-fat, extravagant HSR alignments" through Pacheco and Altamont. BART/SJ is now projected at a little over $6 billion; what would, say, $4 billion get us?

FLUBBER said...

i also laughed when I saw the BART to SJ station! Although it'd be nice, I agree that it is far more costly than alternatives like "Caltrain Metro East." BART may be beloved, but Caltrain would probably be faster, and already serves a far more important SJ commute (SJ to SF.)
All that said, BART may eventually reach SJ (it's getting as close as Warm Springs in Fremont.) HSR will more than likely also make its way to Oakland as part of the trip to Sacramento.
Besides, it's not even clear that BART would be faster, or even more comfortable to ride than Caltrain, which offers huge coaches, plenty of bike racks and express services. Similar statements can be said about Capitol Corridor.

BTW, I love these HSR simulation videos, even though they are a bit fantasy. The Sacramento station graphic shows the proposed Railyards Development (which is def. going to happen) as well as the streetcar (which is currently being considered.) Similarly, the SF terminal shows the Caltrain downtown extension (which is definitely going to happen.)

The bottom line I guess is that HSR WILL stimulate a lot of rapid transit and density growth. Perhaps, given time we'll even see the BART to SJ boondoggle get made...