Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend Open Thread

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

We're going to take a few days off here at the HSR blog; new posts will begin again on Monday, May 26. In the meantime millions of Californians will be confronting their first holiday weekend with $4 gas ($5 for diesel vehicles):

I took that photo yesterday afternoon here in Monterey, and most stations in town are showing similar prices. High gas prices are hurting tourism around the state, as Californians decide to save money and stay home this weekend:

Gas used to be a relatively minor cost of a road trip, at least on drives to the Sierra, Southern California or even Arizona or the Pacific Northwest. But now, it's real money - a big chunk of the budget of a vacation or weekend getaway.

Some travelers are calling off their plans altogether. [Rebecca] Renfro had planned for about a year to splurge and spend a few days in a lodge near Yosemite National Park in June to celebrate her 38th birthday - until gas surpassed $4 per gallon.

"After sitting down and calculating what it would cost in gas plus the lodge prices, I realized I couldn't afford it," she said. "It looked like it would cost at least $100 in gas.

"I'm really disappointed. I haven't been to Yosemite since I was a little girl."

As gas prices head higher over the next ten years, stories like this will become commonplace, and a state that depends heavily on tourism is going to have to find another way to get folks around the state - especially with the worsening airline crisis.

What better way than high speed rail? Instead of paying high fuel costs for the car or the plane trip, Californians will be able to afford to take HSR to or near to their destination, saving not only money, but time. This becomes especially valuable at the winter holidays - I once spent nine hours on I-5 driving back to Berkeley from Orange County after Thanksgiving - as families are able to quickly and cheaply take a train to visit grandma and grandpa down in SoCal, or take a summer weekend in Napa Valley (HSR won't get you all the way there, but it cuts down the overall cost and time spent on the journey).

Although it'll be several years until HSR exists to serve California's travel needs, you can take a (virtual) journey on the system right now:

Feel free to use this as an HSR Open Thread, and have a great holiday weekend.


luis d. said...

Opponents of HSR, please don't reject this project because it will not benefit you, you are not the only person living in this state. I know a lot of people who will ride this train including myself. Factor in the commuter trains linking to HSR and most of us will find it usefull!

This project is a must as an alternative in transportation, why you would appose it, I wouldn't know for sure. In a way it's now or never. Once this project gains momentum their is no stoping. You can't just pack it up and delay it for when we urgently need it and it's too late to save us, NOW OR NEVER!

Everything should have a back up plan, We don't have a back-up for transportation (The Car, The Plane) and look at us! We are at the mercy of Oil companies. We don't have a back-up for energy to move those cars or planes (Ethanol, Hydrogen, etc. are Not Back-Ups) and look at us. We always need something to fall back on just in case, we don't. If your arguement is that the short supply of oil today is like that of the 1970's your wrong! This time we ain't getting off so easy. You just can't lie to yourself and say their is enough supply of cheap oil out their!

This project is to be the "back-bone" of transportation of the state. It's not supposed to fix everthing in one shot. It's only the begining and it will develop into a system that keeps us running every day. If you look at the root of all our problems it's transportation, Gas prices, how we get to work. If we can't get to work we cannot earn money, if we cannot earn money we cannot spend, If we cannot spend, business's go out of business, those business's then have to lay off people, the people lose their jobs and cannot pay their mortgage's. Their is a dominoe effect and it all happens when oil is expensive because we don't have alternatives to use it wisely. (That's just the basics, I know! Their are other things to factor in)

On a related topic of energy I encourage everyone of this blog to check out "The Orion Project" at:

If you are interested in the technologies of free energy to the masses you need to check it out and get involved. It's a way for us to release ourselves from the Energy cartels of the world and live on free renewable energy for life. It's been done for decades by ordinary people, but supressed by these big oil companies who constantly watch the U.S and world patents before they reach the public and interfere by buying out the person. Imagine if we could get this free energy running HSR, better yet in our cars! It can be done! Check it out!

Rafael said...

HSR does not directly address the most pressing public transportation need, that of getting to work. Indeed, this is one of criticisms that have been leveled against it.

However, Luis makes an important point: HSR is not a stand-alone project, the intention is to integrate it with other transportation services, both existing and new. This includes everything from local and regional buses to light rail to commuter rail to airports. For some, it will also include (electric) bicycles.

You might well ask why the state of California isn't investing the proposed $33 billion directly in local transit and bike lanes. After all, getting people to work should be the top priority. There are two reasons for this:

a) Cities and counties are expected to take the lead in developing their own local transit and road infrastructure. The state and even the federal government will chip in, but private investors will not: local transit is a social and environmental service, not a business proposition.

b) For intercity travel, the state is natural lead agency, with the feds chipping in. The cities and counties served are only expected to make relatively small contributions. Private investors will drive a hard bargain, but if gasoline is expensive enough, it is possible to make money off intercity passenger trains.

Profitability is also a big issue for politicians who absolutely don't want to take on additional permanent funding obligations. The idea is that once the bond is paid off, HSR will pay for itself, perhaps even make a net contribution to the general fund.

Of course, no-one is claiming that public transportation will replace personal cars. These will still be heavily used for individual and family mobility, but the annual mileage will come down as people gradually move closer to work and switch to HSR for longer distances. For recreational trips to places like Yosemite, connecting bus service will become increasingly popular. This will also good for the environment there, the very thing that makes it a destination.

Of course, gas still costs only half as much in California as it does in Europe. However, as a share of disposable income, prices at US pumps have risen much faster thanks to low excise taxes and a weak dollar. That won't go on forever, but prices will remain high. A return to $2 gas appears extremely unlikely.

As a result, the decades-old California car culture is already becoming increasingly less affordable for those on lower incomes - people that those higher up the social ladder depend on for their own livelihood and quality of life. It's in everyone's interest to get HSR built, preferably on time and on budget.

Anonymous said...

Well I am an opponent of this project. I have now read enough to learn that the project will be under used and horribly over cost.

The promoters of this project have been involved in other rail projects to which they forecast grand benefits only to saddle the public with projects that are under utilized and bring huge deficits that continue .forever.

The focus of this blog never seems to discuss what this project will do to solve existing transportation problems. It focuses of solving the problems that are presumably in our future. I guess that is supposed to the big sell to the voters this fall.

AB-3034 is a huge disappointment. The Governor promised some real teeth that would demand a sound financing plan and as written contains none of these provisions.

If you want to look at the future, you must consider that cars are not going to be wedded to gasoline, but will also able to run on electricity. They will be more energy efficient and less polluting. There is tremendous flexibility in the highway system which takes you to where you want to go, rather than a fixed bed of rails, that takes you where it has been laid.

Lately this blog seems to be focusing on trying to kill off the airline industry. Talk about a disaster. The trip from LA to SF is around 400 miles, and at the speed HSR can run makes for a fairly competitive, in terms of time en route trip. But are you going to want to make the trip from LA to Denver, a trip of over 1000 miles which the airlines can do in 2 hours and HSR would be six hours minimum. The airline infra structure is needed and supported. Are you going to try and kill off air freight at the same time, by decimating the airlines with a fully taxpayer subsidized rail system.

Finally the public is being totally deceived about what it will cost to ride this train. It has been pointed out and I checked, similar trips in distance in France on their HSR cost today over $100 at the cheapest times, and up to $300 at prime times. This is not going to be an economical means of transportation. The businessman will love it and they promote it, but when it comes time to take your family to Disneyland, rather than fork out $500, or most likely even more, for a trip there from SF, into the family auto they will go.

Anonymous said...


My comments were written before I saw your post, which must have been posted while I was writing.

Robert Cruickshank said...

rafael, I completely disagree about HSR and getting to work. It WILL be used as a commuter system AND as an intercity travel system. The HSR system will run a mixed schedule very much like Caltrain, with some express runs between LA and SF, some local runs that hit all the stops in between, and some commuter runs along the major LA and SF corridors. The notion that HSR doesn't address "getting to work" is false, and we need to soundly reject that framing.

The state of California definitely needs to spend more money on local transit as well, but this project does NOT prevent that from happening. A carbon tax and congestion pricing would be excellent ways to provide mass transit funding.

As to anon, sounds like you're yet another HSR denier. The problems we face are real and they are here - do you really believe that gas prices won't rise from $4 over the next ten years?

Our existing transportation problems include gas prices so high that folks are having a hard time getting around the state. Our existing problems include an airline industry in crisis - I have no desire to "kill off the airlines" but you're blind if you don't see the crisis they're already in.

Electric vehicles cannot replace every car mile driven in California, there's simply not enough electricity to go around. No, if we really want a solution to our fuel, transportation, and climate crisis, we're going to have to drive less. It's already happening, and HSR provides the opportunity to do that.

The ridership WILL be there, and even if HSR costs more than is projected now, it will still be cheaper than driving or flying, whose costs are soaring and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

As you prove, anonymous, to oppose HSR involves denying fundamental truths about our world. California needs to adjust to new realities, not pretend that those new realities do not exist.

Anonymous said...

"The airline industry as it is constituted today was not built to withstand oil prices at $125 or $130 per barrel, and certainly not when record fuel expenses are coupled with a weak U.S. economy," AMR Chairman and Chief Executive Gerard Arpey said.

No one wants to kill the airlines. If anyone has been killing them, they have been killing themselves. The airline industry should be encouraging HSR since short-to-medium distance trainservice to the airports would free up capacity for the profitable long-range flights that should be their core business. They don't make money on short-haul flights (shuttle services) anyway which is why they are now slashing flights on those routes and retiring airplanes.

Ironically, Southwest Airlines lobbied in the early 1990s to kill off Texas HSR. Admittedly, they are the only carrier still doing well but for how long? Within a decade high oil prices are going to catch up with them too, and by then we will have real problems in ensuring [affordable] mobility. Because of the scale of the problem, expensive and scarce oil will radically change our daily lives.

HSR is not a panacea. It's an element. Likewise for alternative cars (electric or otherwise). But the new cars won't solve the capacity problems of the roads and highways. A highway doesn't care whether cars are oil-dependent or not; it has a fixed number of lanes for an ever-increasing amount of traffic. Widening highways will be more expensive than building HSR (sidenote: asphalt requires oil, too). Of course, maybe driving will become so prohibitively expensive that capacity will be automatically freed up. Remeber those empty highways of the 70s? But people and goods still need to move.

Another problem is the sheer number of cars on the road. With 240+ million vehicles in the US, exchanging the majority of the fleet to alternative solutions will take at least a generation or two.
Thus the coming decades will be very painful since the economy of every industrialized country relies on cars and trucks, more so in the US. The accordant changes in our lifestyle will be forced upon us whether we want them or not. The question is: how are we going to mitigate those changes?

luis d. said...

Sorry My Link to "Free Energy" Was wrong it's:

The one I posted first is a non-related website.

Anonymous said...

The airlines are not a utility and as such can choose to cut or add service as needed. If Southwest is losing money on flying from the LA basin to the Bay area, they would quit serving that route.

There are other factors, of course, like perhaps on a segment they could lose money, but because of providing connecting flights over another segment they end up with a profitable trip.

Robert should be careful he doesn't end up killing off this project. He keeps talking about new taxes and let us do more than just HSR. If the public really learns and understands this project is going result in forcing new taxes, it will be DOA.

Diridon emphasizes everywhere he goes, "this project will not raise your taxes". Well the money has to come from the general fund and the fare box collections will never pay back the bond holders.

With the Governor now apparently proposing, as an alternate, raising the sales tax by 1% to balance the budget, let's urge him to raise the sales tax 1.5%, with the extra one-half percent being dedicated to HSR.

Rafael said...

@ robert cruickshank -

there will be some who will use HSR for commuting, especially if they both live and work close to a station. For example, Gilroy to SJ, SF to Palo Alto or Anaheim to LA.

The CHSRA ridership study (slide 15) suggests short commutes will account for 8% of the total. A further 8% would be short business trips during the day. The 32% long commute/business trips were lumped together.

Perhaps that's because in France, the TGV did create the phenomenon of the high speed commuter (navetteur a grande vitesse). For example, a TGV will get you from Tours in the scenic Loire Valley to Paris in 1:15 minutes. Daily commuters typically buy an "abonnement forfait" covering just that route, at a cost of EUR 523 per month in the first year (dropping to EUR 455 in the second and EUR 414 in the third). You can take the train as often as you like, but there's an additional EUR 1.50 seat reservation charge each time you use a TGV rather than one of the slower trains.

For commuters from Reims in the equally scenic Champagne region to Paris (45 min by TGV), there is a new eForfait priced at EUR 423 per month for the first two years (dropping to EUR 345 in the third). This new electronic ticket lets you make your TGV seat reservation online at no extra charge. It will probably be offered for other routes in the future.

People that bought houses out in the TGV belt early on are now sitting pretty. Property values are way up and fares amount to much less than the fuel cost for long-distance commuting by car. Of course, thanks to the train they don't even need to own (a second) one. Plus, time spent on the TGV is shorter and can be spent productively.

So yes, if California's HSR offers fare options that make long-distance commuting attractive, expect home buyers to take advantage of them. However, the only prices being discussed for California's system right now are for simple one-way fares.

I suspect that fear of promoting long-distance commuting was the real reason why Pacheco was chosen over Altamont and, a station in Los Banos was explicitly prohibited. Thanks to prop. 13/1978, mayors up and down the peninsula have to keep local realty expensive to protect their tax base and get re-elected.

Obviously, people who work in Silicon Valley but cannot afford a decent house for their family there are upset about the decision, especially now that gasoline prices have reached all-time highs.

Rafael said...

@ anon at 7:03am -

it is actually one of the goals of the HSR project to connect to major airports, with Palmdale and Ontario receiving direct service. Others will have to make do with connecting bus or rail shuttles, that's a consequence of having to leverage existing railroad rights of way.

The objective is to reduce flights within the state, because airports like SFO and LAX cannot be expanded in the face of massive local opposition. The strategy is therefore to free up slots for flights of more than ~600 miles, for which HSR offers is not available nor attractive.

I'll wager that even Southwest is struggling to make money on short-hop flights these days. By contrast, long-haul flights are quite profitable.

Indeed, it is expected that HSR stations will get IATA and ICAO codes to permit booking connecting train tickets via the airline reservations systems. This is already common in Europe.

Rafael said...

@ luis d. -

your link to is both off-topic and a crock. Energy can be converted but not created. Also, no thermodynamic cycle can reduce entropy. Perpetual motion machines would violate the laws of physics.

What is possible and often sensible are heat pumps. These use a circulating medium and - usually - a compressor to move heat either into or out of an enclosed space against a prevailing temperature gradient. The latter case is called refrigeration or air conditioning, depending on the context. Note that insulation greatly reduces the amount of heat that must be transported.

Geoexchange systems use the soil rather than the outside air as their heat source or sink. Such systems are more expensive to install but save money in the long run because soil temperatures are more favorable.

Heat pumps can sharply reduce but not eliminate the electricity demand of your home. To generate renewable electricity, you must install solar panels, a wind turbine or an anaerobic digester plus generator.

All of these systems cost money to install and maintain, so they only make sense if you are off the grid or energy prices in your area are very high.

Jack Duluoz said...

@ anon at 7:03.

I'll take wagers on this "anon" as either Morris Brown or our friend Martin. If not they seem to have taught the poster their talking points quite well.

It is important to remember that these HSR deniers have no interest in learning about this project or our position in regard to it. They are not interested in reason, or logic, or peak-oil or the myriad reasons to move forward with it.

Rather they are a cadre of condo owners who live close to the caltrain right-of-way, and have worked for the past two decades to kill public transportation in my hometown of Menlo Park (specifically Caltrain electrification and grade separations).

Don't be fooled by the Menlo Park NIMBY's, they will say ANYTHING to keep HSR away from their precious condos

Robert Cruickshank said...

Agreed, jack. And anon makes it sound like our choice is to not build HSR and save money or build HSR and bankrupt taxpayers.

That's not remotely close to reality. anon has a habit of not reading this site - if he did he'd know the cost of doing nothing isn't zero. Taxpayers save money by building HSR because the alternatives - shackling the state to ever-increasing gas prices - will cost everyone much, much more money.

But then I suspect the anons know this, but cannot admit it lest they give up the game.

luis d. said...

@ rafael

No I don't think that it was off topic at all. I beleive we are talking about fuel, high gas prices and how we are suckered to using them unnecessarily!

Of course you can create energy, not only convert it like you say. What you are talking about is what we already have working today somewhere on the planet. We are talking about amazing technologies that are self starting and self maintaining that CREATE ENERGY. These technologies are capable of being put in everything that requires power. Although it would take years to get them to the public you can see how this will be usefull in powering our cars, homes, and High Speed Rail. Solar power, wind power and other fuels used today are not free! They are also controlled by someone! We cannot let anyone control our fuel or energy sources and supplies.

I think you should not judge this stuff without fully understanding it! But then again you know everything right?

Jack Duluoz said...

Sorry Luis D...I recommend looking into the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Energy can neither be created or destroyed, in may only change form.

Are you talking about Tesela's early experiments with AC? Not "free" energy by any means, but rather a means of transmission of energy more akin to something like Bluetooth or an electric car power through something like the radio. This reduces transmission costs (which i think are about 60% of the cost of energy today) but is not "free".

I should mention here, that ironically it is this quest for free energy that got us into this oil mess to begin with. Karl Benz's "otto cycle" motor ran on alcohol in 1879, as Rudolf Diesel's motor ran on peanut oil when it was first shown at the 1900 World's Fair. In the early 20th century however, both of these fuels were very pricey, and petroleum or rock oil as it was called then was cheap, easy, and a more efficient fuel.

But i digress...
Lets not forget the social impact of not building HSR in the Bay Area too.

How much wider will we need to make 101? 20 lanes? How many homes in East Palo Alto will be demolished to widen it? How will the people of East Oakland, San Bruno, and East San Jose feel about even more jet traffic over their homes?

Furthermore, Anon your price comparison with European HSR is garbage. Given that fuel isn't maintained at an artificially low price like here, and that the dollar is low relative to the Euro, those prices are competitive in France. A beer in Paris mind you costs about $10 - $15 for an American right now. A good deal of those costs are related to SNCF's mandate to continue legacy non-TGV rail lines.

I also DO agree with Luis D's earlier point that HSR is being conflated with the very real need for metropolitan mass transit. These BART style projects serve a specific region and should be largely planned and funded by the communities they will serve (with supporting funds of course) A huge infrastructure project like HSR that will take 20 years to build and maybe another 20 after that to become profitable is ideal for the state to tackle because of the long term commitment needed. What CEO is going to propose a project that won't be completed in a professional lifetime.

Rafael said...

There are interesting parallels between HSR in California and HS2 in the UK, as proposed by advocacy group Greengauge21.

Perhaps the most relevant nugget is that even in Europe, finding the funds to expand popular high speed rail service remains an uphill battle. It is a difficult, expensive and protracted process, but the rewards are worth the wait.

Perhaps the lesson for California is that voters in the Central Valley and San Diego County must be given legally binding assurance that approving the bond means that they, too, really will be connected to the HSR network once the SF-Anaheim trunk line is operational. Commitment must cut both ways.

Building the network higgledy piggledy as envisaged in AB 3034 might not allow the operator to start generating significant revenue before the entire network is finished. That would make it much harder to complete construction without additional funding from the state, exactly the scenario everyone wants to avoid.

CHSRA needs to make sure it has enough leeway to stick to the original implementation plan of trunk line in phase 1 (to be completed by 2018-2020) and spurs second (to be completed by 2028-2030).

Anonymous said...

Some of the statements here are really scientifically false. You certainly can create energy by converting mass into energy; i.e. nuclear fission or fusion. However, converting heat (from the sun) or ocean waves into electricity certainly is not creating energy only changing its form. Finally it is the first law of thermodynamics that states energy must be conserved, not the second law. However, back to what this should all be about.

From Jack Duloz:

"A huge infrastructure project like HSR that will take 20 years to build and maybe another 20 after that to become profitable is ideal for the state to tackle because of the long term commitment needed. What CEO is going to propose a project that won't be completed in a professional lifetime."

I am glad to see you understand why no private equity financing is gong to be available for this project. What CEO is going to invest and wait 40 years for a return on equity?

Private financing is supposed to be one-third of the project cost. It will never happen. Private equity into toll roads, a sure bet.

Anonymous said...

Does the argument work if you say the only way people in California should travel is by plane or driving (or a train that runs sometimes faster than a car and maybe more than once a day?

Does the argument work if you assume that oil that has cracked $100/barrel and is not looking back is much less of an issue with electric trains?

Does the argument work if you understand that airlines are actually partners in HSR service in Europe?

Or that United Airlines supports HSR in California?

Or you feel good that Southwest has $20 million sitting around to fight to make sure you have no choice of rail vs train?

Does the argument work if you concede that HSR is not a "woo hoo Buck Rogers" technology but a run-of-the-mill technology that doesn't turn a head (except for the Americans) in the UK, Japan, South Korea, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Holland....stop me before I kill.....

Does the argument work if you've ever driven I-5 from here to there?

No, it only works if you assume what we have is good enough. I don't want to leave the future of the best place on earth to you. That's why I waste my time posting here.

ps: don't post anonymous...anyone

Rafael said...

@ anon at 8:55pm -

my guess is private investors would only seriously consider operating the system, i.e. they would pay a fixed fee for using the infrastructure incl. repair yards by acquiring time slots at an open auction. They would buy or lease their own rolling stock from a shortlist of pre-qualified vendors. An appropriate model for electricity metering would have to be formulated.

That would make it a cashflow business, with net operating profit as soon as ridership is high enough. With any luck, that should take just a few years.

I don't know where you have your 40 year figure from.

PS: E = mc^2. Mass is just another form of energy, fission and fusion release some of it in the form of photons and other leptons. Einstein did not overturn the laws of thermodynamics.

Anonymous said...

@ michael Kiesling

Your statement "Or that United Airlines supports HSR in California?"
is intriguing. Would you please provide reference to your statement here, since I certainly have not heard or read such a policy from United.

I also have yet to see any airline start any campaign to try and stop the bond measure which is also intriguing.

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh. Why is it that the opponents posting on this website against HSR always uses anonymous? More intriguing than their posts and is says a lot more!!

Rafael said...

@ anon at 7:26am

I haven't seen an explicit statement of support for HSR from any US airline, but there is a precedent:

United Airlines offers connecting TGV service from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport. Naturally it helps that the station is actually inside the terminal there and, that SNCF secured IATA codes for its TGV train stations so travel agents can resell them via the airline reservation systems.

There have also been reports that airlines are losing money because fuel prices are rising faster than they can raise fares, surcharges and fees. Short-hop flights require more fuel per passenger-mile and also generate more wear-and-tear on the aircraft.

Industry analysts expect that some airlines could cut shuttle routes like SFO-LAX soon. I expect they would quite like to offer their customers a high-speed train alternative, but for various reasons their execs cannot afford to state this publicly just yet.

CHSRA officials have stated multiple times that the operations of the California system will be put out to tender and, that they would welcome bids from airlines.
Note that e.g. Virgin Trains already operates intercity passenger service.

Also note that SFO Director John Martin has endorsed high speed rail, while LA Mayor Villaraigosa ensured that the route passed by both Palmdale and Ontario airports to alleviate pressure on LAX.

Anonymous said...

Since Robert declared this to be an open thread, let me suggest that some of the futurists here read a very serious article about a much larger looming problem than HSR, but certainly related.

It is titled “Powering the Planet” and the author is Nathan Lewis, a professor at CalTech. It can be found at:

It is rather large and if you elect to save the file it is almost 10 Mbytes.

luis d. said...

@ Rafael

In the previous post on this blog you gave us a link to google maps and the map of the ACE train/Bart integrated system using Spanish BRAVA systems for gauge changes. I was wondering if this is something that you put together or is it actually being considered by the CHSRA?

I would love to see this get built, it would probably be cheaper than a full extension of BART anywhere on the system. Anytime frame when It would be built, costs and such? Also I would imagine that ACE would have to modify their coaches or change them altogether. That would also be true with Locomotive wich cannot spew all that Diesel exhaust at underground stations.

The video you linked us to also doesn't show what the system really does like it shows in this video.

Rafael said...

@ luis d. -

The map of an Altamont pass commuter rail option using the Brava system is something I put together myself (thank you for the video link). Perhaps someone from CHSRA has looked at it, perhaps not - I don't know.

The - preferably self-propelled - rolling stock ACE would indeed need to use would need to be bi-modal, featuring diesel-electric plus third rail propulsion in addition to the Brava bogies. Each of these systems has been applied separately elsewhere, but never in combination.

BART also uses proprietary signaling but I don't know if that requires modified control systems or just additional driver training. Double-decker cars might be ok down to San Jose. However, I'm not sure they would fit into the tunnels in Oakland.

I can't put a price tag on the solution, but my gut feeling is it should be a lot cheaper than tunneling through two mountain ranges and constructing a second fully grade separated alignment in the East Bay. CHSRA is chartered with building high-speed rail, so their solution is something of a gold-plated Mercedes-Benz. Only about 1300 people currently use ACE on any given day.

My proposal does include and aerial structure to support a southbound turnoff in Hayward. It would be expensive and quite possible face substantial opposition from residents. The alternative would be to figure out a way to let trains reverse direction at Bayfair station.

The biggest problem is that BART was designed as a subway, so there are no bypass tracks. Every train must stop at every station, there is no express option. That limits average speeds on the BART network to just 33mph, even though top speed is 79mph. My proposal would add a number of bypasses where they would be relatively easy to construct. The one at Oakland Coliseum would have to be co-ordinated with plans for the Oakland airport people mover.

Note that Google maps' satellite view shows an abandoned single-track freight line at grade running parallel to the BART alignment between Oakland Coliseum and Fremont. Perhaps some of that land could be used to construct aerial viaduct structures for a third bypass.

Another issue is that there is currently no way to terminate trains within Oakland. However, it may be possible to adapt tracks near McArthur station to permit trains to reverse direction there rather than forcing them to run out to Richmond or Stockton. Again, self-propelled rolling stock would be preferred because drivers can walk from one end of the train to the other without leaving it.

Rafael said...

Unlike San Diego, the city of Las Vegas is still contemplating the construction of a new airport to cope with capacity constraints at McCurran. How about constructing an HSR spur off the California network instead?

Please read the comments attached to the article and feel free to add your own.

Rafael said...

Back to the original issue of rising gas prices and how they help make the case for HSR.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I just read the following article.

This article implies AB-3034 might really end up killing HSR from San Francisco to LA Is this bill just camouflage to get approval of funds which will end up say building a system only in southern California? This is scary.

Rafael said...

By 2010, Spain claims it will have the most extensive HSR network in the world. More here.

RENFE is already forcing airlines to cut domestic short-hop flights and focus on long-distance routes.

By 2020, plans apparently call for a whopping 6200(!) miles of HSR track - roughly 8 times what is being proposed for California. The projected cost of the entire 15-year project is a whopping EUR 108 billion.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I am in agreement with you, concerned, about that potential problem with AB 3034. Eliminating the LA-SF requirement would be extremely bad and would guarantee that the system would have a missing link, since the Central Valley would not be able to successfully compete with the Bay Area and SF. I don't understand what Cathleen Galgiani - who represents the Central Valley - is thinking in proposing it.

My main HSR-related project for this week is to get some sort of explanation about this. If AB 3034 really does remove the guarantee that LA-SF has to be completed, then we will have to try and get it amended. The current timetable is that they want the bill passed by June 30 so it can replace the current HSR bond plan on the November ballot, which would give an amendment movement leverage should we need it.

Rubber Toe said...

To those posters posting links to other web pages where the URL exceeds the awfully tiny width of the allowed posts here, please try and embed the link so that it appears as a regular underlined link. This is pretty easy to do. If you are using the Firefox browser, go to the "View" pulldown and select "Page Source" to see examples of how other posters do this.

Robert, the blog infrastructure on this site is terrible. Is there any way that you could either adopt a different format (i.e. wider) or move it to a different hosting site? While I'm in asking mode, how about a link so that we can e-mail you material for good stories or blog entries? Sometimes I find really relevant stories and would like to pass them along, and end up providing a link in an entirely different thread.

I'll follow up shortly with some observations concerning a book I just read since it is an open blog today.

Other Robert

無名 - wu ming said...

i love the argument that cars are FREEDOM! because you can drive ANYWHERE!, unlike those trains which follow a given route.

as if there were no such things as highways connecting cities along set routes, as if we all just drove our cars across the countryside wherever we liked, instead of following other cars bumper to bumper between the same big urban cores that will be the stops on HSR.

with decent feeder networks (which, it must be stated a million times apparently, is included in the HSR funding package), the biggest "freedom" long distance car trips will offer over rail is the "freedom" to spend a day strapped in your seat steering your car along the highway, and deciding which fast food rest stop to get off and stretch your legs at.


Rafael said...

Here's a map of a possible HSR spur to Las Vegas. It is NOT part of the proposed network that will be put to California voters in November. A spur would have to be funded by the state of Nevada, the federal government and/or private investors.

Since ~30% of flights into and out of overcrowded McCarran airport serve cities on the California HSR network, this might eliminate the need for the planned $4 billion Ivanpah Valley Airport between Jean and Primm in Nevada.

It would also eliminate the need for Sen. Reid's maglev gadgetbahn to Anaheim or the DesertXPress proposal to run diesel trains at 125mph to Victorville.

Robert Cruickshank said...

"other robert," I'm not a huge fan of Blogger, but I had spent about six months prior to opening this blog trying to build an HSR advocacy site using Joomla!. It was a huge pain in the ass - I'm not a tech person, I'm a writer, and the constant delays and obstacles were driving me nuts.

So in March I finally said "screw it" and started this blog. Other web platforms have better functionality, but this has simplicity, which was what I craved.

If anyone wants to help design and migrate this to a better system I welcome your aid in doing so, but it's not something I have the time or skill set to do on my own, unfortunately.

As to a link, my last name at gmail dot com is the best way to contact me. Feel free to send me tips, links, etc.