Tuesday, May 13, 2008

AB 3034

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Over at the Facebook group I've been seeing some questions about what exactly AB 3034 is and what it would do for HSR. It's a good question and so I thought I'd provide a brief overview here.

AB 3034 is Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani's bill to make some changes to the bond proposal that will go before voters in November. If AB 3034 fails the HSR vote will still take place but will likely lack support from the Sierra Club and Arnold Schwarzenegger, for reasons discussed below. In fact, AB 3034 is designed to win their support, as well as the support of folks along the ACE corridor (which Galgiani represents).

Some of the specific things AB 3034 will do:

  • Prevent construction of a station between Gilroy and Merced - i.e. no Los Banos station, appeasing the Sierra Club which did not want to open that region up to further sprawl. Of course, no Los Banos station was ever proposed by the CHSRA. Actually, one was - see comments.

  • Makes the HSR bond money and possible federal funds available to any portion of the line, and would eliminate the requirement to build LA-SF first. In the very first post on this blog I was deeply critical of eliminating the LA-SF first requirement, and it is my hope this can be stripped in an amendment. Galgiani's goal here is to appease folks along the Altamont corridor, as well as in Sacramento and San Diego, by holding out the possibility that they might get funded sooner than intended.

  • In determining which sections will get funded first, the CHSRA is to "give priority to those segments requiring the smallest amount of bond funds as a percentage of the total construction cost and consider the utility of that segment for other passenger rail services." I still worry about this undermining the connectivity of LA-SF, which is really the reason for building HSR.

I get the sense that this bill is Galgiani's way of giving the Altamont alignment people an opportunity to get funding and service upgrades that they believe they missed out on when the CHSRA chose the Pacheco alignment. I'm all for upgrading the Altamont corridor, and I never much cared which alignment was chosen. But I think it would be an extremely bad idea to help Altamont at the cost of the LA-SF portion, which really does need to be prioritized first in construction of the system.

So is AB 3034 a good idea? That all depends on the politics. If this is the only way we can get the HSR bonds passed this fall, then I might be able to swallow it and fight another day to get LA-SF built first. But if this isn't necessary to get the HSR bonds done, or if we can firmly eliminate the Los Banos station another way (and therefore keep the Sierra Club happy) without risking the core of the system, then AB 3034 may not be such a great idea.


Anonymous said...


The CHSRA had a Los Banos station in the middle of nowhere on Henry Miller Road for quite sometime.


Archive of a story from the Sacramento Bee about the Los Banos station:


So yes, it was/is a valid concern of many folks. It was nowhere near Los Banos, or Santa Nella. It was also a dog, with the second lowest ridership of any station.


All very interesting. Reminds me a bit of the movie "Chinatown".


Anonymous said...

And while I'm at it, AB 3034 is necessary before the November election to clean up the language for the ballot, so it's probably a good idea.

It's hard to parse, but the language about the funding some segments first can mean that improvements already underway on portions that will be shared with Metrolink or Caltrain (or I wish, ACE) could be funded and opened sooner than the complex alignment from LA to Bakersfield. While there might be a very few building to knock down to improve the urban portions of the alignment, there are no complex multi-mile tunnels or viaducts.

I hope and believe that the CHSRA is not aiming to get a Visalia-Fresno segment opened first.


Brandon in California said...

The CHSRA was not originally supportive of the SF-LA segment being required first. That was the idea of some one in the legislature... with maybe some influence from San Jose?

Although, I liked the phasing that it introduced even though I am in San Diego. SD and Sac legs, both south and north, would have been setup nicely to go in tandem together.

With AB3034... I suspect the LA-SD segment would get more attention after November as that leg anticipates much greater ridership relative to the distance (and possibly cost).

Altamont supporters have a steep uphill battle with or without AB3034. MTC has shown more support for Pacheco, local communities oppose the alignment, and it provides less capacity for direct SF destined trains from and to LA.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Thanks for the corrections about Los Banos, Michael - I updated the post.

As to the segments, my concern is that without a legislative mandate to complete a line from LA to SF we might have a "missing link" situation where the HSR system is built up in urban corridors but doesn't actually connect north and south.

Obviously portions of the line will open sooner than others and it is possible that even with an LA-SF priority Visalia-Fresno could be the first leg that opens. But it would be followed within months by other portions as the full buildout is reached. Which is pretty much how BART opened - in stages from 1972-74, first in the East Bay, and only in 1974 did the Transbay Tube open providing the key connection to SF.

I agree with bmfarley about Altamont having an uphill battle - Galgiani's bill seems designed to give the Altamont folks something, which is fine, it just needs to not come at the cost of the system as a whole.

kaibab said...

Feels like those that have issues with 3034 will have to eat the bullet to maintain the longterm viability of the project...

Robert Cruickshank said...

And that was the conclusion I came to, xdnation. If AB 3034 is necessary to the passage of the November bond measure, then I can live with it.

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

sprawl in Los Banos = lower house prices in Santa Clara county. But of course, you need an environmental fig leaf to justify specifically excluding a particular town for *ever* getting a station.

Also, as I understand it, the trunk line of the system is now SF to Anaheim. Only segments along that line can compete for priority in the implementation of phase 1, which is all the 2008 ballot initiative will cover. Phase 2 will be LA - San Diego and/or Chowchilla - Sacramento. Funding for these spurs is expected to come from operating revenue and/or private investment, with construction beginning around 2020.

Likewise, the $950 million for feeder service will be opened up to more services, such that ACE can apply for about 10% of that to pay for freight turnouts and additional rolling stock. None of the $9 billion reserved for HSR is available for rail upgrades in the Altamont Pass.

Rafael said...

Did anyone attend the LA to Anaheim presentation this morning?

Tony D. said...

My view regarding AB 3034 might be a bit simplistic, but here it is anyway. If any of the heavy hitters that promoted the Pacheco Pass alignment (City's of SF/SJ, SVLG, Bay Area MTC, Rod Diridon himself, etc) aren't objecting loudly to the wording of AB3034, than perhaps there's nothing to worry about in terms of getting the main line built (SF/LA). I'm all for the regional commuter aspect of HSR; rail lines feeding into the main urban/economic hubs from far-flung suburbs. But like Robert, I feel the main line between SF and LA must be built and given priority.

Anonymous said...

AB-3034 was initiated to satisfy the Governor and get his support for the project. Last summer he proclaimed with much fanfare, that the project must have Federal and private funding to go along with the bond measure funds.

He seems to have flipped on his demands, since this bill does not demand those funds, but only accepts them. Thus when you read the bill, you find that CHSRA can spend 10% of the funds on studies or other non-construction activities. For sure, the $8 billion left for true construction from the bond measure itself is going to build only a small portion of any system.

Kopp was on Public radio on Monday (FORUM program) expounding the virtues of the project. He wants it both ways, saying Altamont is not completely ruled out.

Comments here about not proceeding and building first where the demand is greatest just make no sense.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Perhaps what's needed is some statement from Cathleen Galgiani or the CHSRA clarifying the effect of AB 3034 on the completion of the LA-SF line. The main selling point to Californians is providing a fast link from the Bay Area to SoCal - when I mentioned the HSR project in passing to my students in a college class in Gilroy today and said "it would probably get you from here to LA in around 2 hours" there were audible gasps.

As to anonymous' arguments about demand, the demand is for an LA to SF system. Californians want a method of traveling around their state that is not dependent on soaring fuel prices.

Anonymous said...

The CHSRA states they need 117,000,000 passengers per year to make the project work financially.

How many passengers want to go from LA to SF in a year? Right now on the airlines, I believe the number is around 40,000 per day or about 15,000,000 per year.

For certain, they are not going to get many to leave their autos, and they know it.

Somehow the CHSRA seems to be moving decimal points around. They need the commuters to make any kind of reasonable passenger numbers work.

All the arguments of congestion etc., don't apply to the SF to LA segment. Congestion is only in the urban areas, yet this project will do very little to solve any of those much more pressing problems.

What it all gets down to this November is whether the millions of dollars that unions, equipment suppliers contractors etc., will throw in advertising at the voters will be enough to keep the voters from killing this project.

The taxpayer coalitions will soon be getting out their messages, along with some environmental groups. There will be opposition.

Anonymous said...

How many drive though? Are you including all airports in the Bay Area and all airport in LA? It would be nice to see a source.

Rafael said...

@ anonymous @ May 14, 10:49pm

The 117 million figure refers to the maximum capacity of the entire system, indicating plenty of room for growth in passenger numbers long after start of service.

CHSRA has never claimed it needs anywhere near that many passenger to break even. There will be some that will use HSR to commute, but they will be in a minority. The truth is, California needs both HSR and improved commuter rail, something that is reflected in the funding structure envisioned in the bond measure. Please see


-> Ridership and Revenue Forecasting Study

for details on projected ridership levels and patterns.

Robert Cruickshank said...

What makes you so certain people won't leave their cars? It's already happening as gas prices soar and commuters flock to public transit. In ten years, when gas prices are above $6 or $7 a gallon, what makes you think people will still want to spend 6 or 7 hours in a car to drive from the Bay Area to LA?

If people are going to doubt the ridership projections, they need a reason. And if that reason is "people won't give up their cars" I think reality is proving that assumption to be very, very wrong.

Anonymous said...

People won't leave their cars in any kind of meaningful numbers because they need their cars to get where they want to go. They want their cars to be available to get to other destinations than an airport or hotel downtown.

The proposed fare of $55 from LA to SF is just non-sense. So is the economic projection that the system will generate profits enough to expand the line and produce dividends for the private investors.

Right now the cheapest fares on HSR in Europe on similar distances are more than twice the $55 that CHSRA proposed. In fact at the most desirable times of day they are over 4 times that number. That's fares today, not what they will be in 2018.

Quite simply, the economics of the project make no sense whatever. That is why I believe that no private investment group is gong to fork up their dollars to get a piece of the action. On the Federal side, what make anyone believe that all of a sudden California is going to be blessed with 10 Billion dollars. Do you think that the whole east coast of just going to lie down and watch this kind of earmark come our way, when they have much more urgent needs in terms of present traffic congestion?

You know this is not going to be just a $4 billion over-run like the Bay Bridge has come to be. You are looking at cost over-runs of tens of billions. Those kinds of numbers don't get fixed with a stroke of a pen. My fear is they spend 10 billion, they need 30 billion more and that is the end.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, from:


...which I assume you're getting your 117m number from has a clearer description of HSR vs non-HSR travel. On slide seven of the presentation, it says that in 2030 they project 896m trips in the state. They project 57m will be on HSR.

Hmmmmmm..... lots less dramatic than the case you try to build.

On slide 22, they give the 117m number. That's riders. Modeling lingo sucks, but a "rider" is someone who gets on the vehicle and gets off at the end. A "trip" is a "rider" who goes and comes back, so the "rider" number is generally 2x "trips".

Also, the 57m number is ALL HSR TRIPS when it goes from Sacramento to San Diego, as well as SF to LA. You argue that the 2x 57m number is only the people who are going specifically from SF to LA.

Good work on distorting the numbers. It's 896m vs 57m for HSR, or 6% of all trips in 2030. Wow! That sounds almost too LOW!

Anonymous said...

The CHSRA waves its magic wand and now we have 117,000,000 passengers.

From national Statistics, only 1% of travelers use rail on trips like LA to SF.


The airlines grab about 10%, cars and trucks the majority.

Their projections are simply not believable, but what would you expect when the group that is doing them is being paid by them.

Academic studies done about 10 years ago projected 10 - 12 million passengers. Three years ago CHSRA projections were about one-half of what they are boasting about today.

It's truly amazing what a research group can justify when trying to satisfy a client and promote a project.

Don't we ever learn from history. All these rail and capital projects come out at huge over runs in cost and huge under runs in usage.

One question I have is why in the world is HSR being extended from San Jose to San Francisco, along th e same track right-away that is used by CalTrain.

CalTrain now has bullet train service to SF. The HSR tain will only save a very few minutes at the most on this segment. That's one I just understand at all.

As far as I can tell its money and politics.

You might look at an article by William Garrison -- he seems to have it right.


Robert Cruickshank said...

anonymous seems to have totally ignored michael's explanations of the ridership figures. But his more fundamental flaw is to assume that present conditions will continue indefinitely into the future. Apparently anonymous hasn't been paying attention to the impact of high fuel costs on airlines - causing several to go bankrupt and others to cut back service on the LA-SF route - and seems to have missed the rising gas prices, which have sent people flocking to mass transit and brought a decline in overall miles driven and gasoline sold in California.

HSR critics never mention these issues, because to them it is always 1970 - cheap oil will last forever, no need to build any alternatives. So instead they come up with flawed arguments on ridership and financing to try and "derail" the project because in an honest assessment of our present and future needs, their case will lose every single time.

Anonymous said...

I certainly don’t think issues will stay the same. I applaud the decline in miles driven as the result of higher gas process. The airline industry certainly has its problems, but this is hardly a new phenomenon. To my way of thinking the airline industry is now and for most of its existence (since deregulation) trying to self destruct. The value given by the airlines for services rendered is amazing. When I travel, it’s not the air fares that break your budget, but the hotels ($400 and up in NYC) and the rest of the expenses that go along with travel.

Automobiles are going to get more efficient in the future; they will be using less fuel and certainly within 20 years, electric vehicles will be a major component of new auto sold. They will probably be averaging 50 miles per gallon on an equivalent basis in 20 years. Electricity will be much more expensive. Coal will be more expensive.

The best run airline today is Southwest. They thrive on relatively short hauls and I don’t see them wanting to abandon a route like LA to SFO.

This is off the track really of the discussion here. I would hope that everyone would agree that if HSR is built and if instead of 117,000,000 passengers per year that number is one fourth to one third that number, and as a result instead of over a billion dollars per year profit from the operation, you have two or three billions in deficits per year, you would agree that HSR was a bad idea. I can just imagine Judge Kopp then getting up and saying, “I have never been involved in a project that didn’t meet its expectations”.

I find it interesting that Kopp talked about the success of BART, while acknowledging that it only recovers about 50% of costs. I believe that BART is a success also and I accept the costs to the taxpayers, since BART really makes a difference in the number of auto trying to use the congested highways.

Certainly the run from LA to SFO, except for the LA basin section and the Bay area section is not congested. There is no congestion payback for that major portion of the route. HSR, if built, will not appreciable reduce the number of auto trips from LA to SF. It will be an economic disaster.

Anonymous said...

Some more info for the other Anonymous.

(1) The extension from San Jose to San Francisco is not redundant with Caltrain -- it IS Caltrain. Advantage of integrated rail systems: HSR will simply drive right onto electrified Caltrain. As long as you're already at San Jose, why *not*? You make a bunch of trips easier (fewer transfers) and it doesn't cost any more!

(2) There are really quite a lot of passengers in the Central Valley who will travel to either the north or the south; HSR is not point-to-point like airlines, so comparing it to the LA-SF flights severely understates the potential. You have to add in the trips from Bakersfield-LA, Fresno-SF, etc. And those corridors are crowded. Heck, even the San Joaquins Amtrak is crowded (and that will totally be running, at much higher speeds than now, on the high-speed tracks when & if they're built.)