Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Open Thread

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

Note: Robert is honeymooning all week. Regular posting will resume August 3. Until then use these open threads to discuss anything related to the California high speed rail project.

Comment Starter: What is your HSR "elevator speech"? Give a succinct yet convincing argument for why we should approve Prop 1 this November and build the high speed rail project. What do you emphasize and why?



That without it, our state is pretty much screwed. I mean that's pretty much the long and short of it :)

Rafael said...

1 - HSR will eventually provide an affordable, fast and convenient way to travel not just between San Francisco, San Jose and LA but to Anaheim, Sacramento and San Diego as well. Numerous secondary destinations in-between will be served by semi-express and local trains.

2 - HSR relies on off-the-shelf steel wheels technology that has proven extremely safe and reliable in many other countries, notably Japan and France.

3 - HSR fare box receipts cover operational expenses in other countries and also fund network expansion. That's why Spain, China, Morocco,Vietnam and many other countries are currently constructing or expanding their networks. Slower passenger trains typically require operating subsidies.

4 - the California system will use all-new dedicated high-quality track to support speeds of up to 220mph in the Central Valley and 100-150mph near the end points of the network. These tracks will NOT be shared with heavy freight trains. That means express trains will achieve downtown-to-downtown travel times will be equal to or better than air travel within the state.

5 - HSR tracks will be grade separated, i.e. all crossing road traffic will use over- or underpasses. Wherever HSR tracks run next to legacy commuter rail and/or freight tracks, they too will benefit from grade separation.

6 - HSR and adjacent tracks will be protected by fences to reduce the risk of trespassing people, livestock and wild game. Video surveillance may be used as well to maximize passenger safety.

7 - HSR is a perfect complement to local transit services and very green vehicles such as plug-in hybrids, pure battery electric cars and electric bicycles. Folding bicycles can be taken along in the baggage racks.

8 - HSR uses all-electric trains, the original zero emissions vehicles. Air quality will improve as a result. Optionally, the electricity can be generated from renewable sources, so you could literally Fly California on nothing but sunshine!

9 - HSR reduces California's dependence on (imported) oil, whose price is structurally high and rising. That helps avoid additional drilling off the coasts of California, Florida and Alaska as well as military action elsewhere in the world.

10 - given that the state's population is grown at the rate of roughly 500,000 a year, HSR avoids the construction of 3000 lane-miles of highways and 5 new airport runways. It costs half as much to build and does far less damage to the environment. The cost of doing nothing is not zero, as alternatives to HSR would have to be built at a later date.

Rob Dawg said...

CAHSR offers an opportunity to place a down payment and leverage $10b in new debt to generate $43.1b in state infrastructure spending.

Anonymous said...


Your facts in this post are not accurate; see population stats. The State is gowning at a rate of about 300,000 per year not 500,000. Eventually something will have to be done about the immigration rate which should bring down the rate considerably.

With only 6% of the auto trips being taken off the highways, and the project only affecting intra state air routes, the need for additional highway miles and airport expansion will effectively not be changed by the project.

What will be changed, is funds needed for local transit, where congestion is severe will not be available.

Spokker said...

I imagine that the train will be a tourist destination in and of itself. Currently the only high speed train in North America is the Acela Express, and it's only high speed on certain stretches of the route.

I don't see how CA HSR won't generate interest in California as a tourist destination. It should also help generate interest in high speed rail in other states.

Anonymous said...

Was it a mistake for the Bay Area to tax itself to build BART? It went over budget, requires a subsidy.... Would the Bay Area be better off without it?

Anonymous said...

anonymous -

6% of intercity automobile trips would be HUGE. Keep in mind that this project, as big as it sounds, would only be a small fraction of state transportation spending over the next 20 years, let alone all the investment that has happened over the past century to build the infrastructure we have now.

As always, the question is, what is the alternative? Upgrading Highway 99 to Interstate standards is estimated to cost ~$25 billion. But even that spending would increase total state highway capacity by only 2% (from around 50,000 lane-miles to around 51,000 lane-miles). So you'd need three projects of that magnitude just to equal the gain from HSR, and then there are all the airport expansion're talking a total cost of well over $100 billion. And all you get from that spending is business-as-usual: it's either much slower (in the case of cars) or much less reliable (in the case of air).

Anonymous said...

Hold the phone Anon @ 4:28

"Eventually something will have to be done about the immigration rate which should bring down the rate considerably"

Just what exactly what do you intend to do to bring down the rate of domestic immigration into the state!?

"Your papers, please?" Wow...

Furthermore, local transit projects and state infrastructure are totally different. This is a state wide project in scope. Killing it won't make MUNI any better. On the other hand, every transit agency in the state is holding its breath and crossing their fingers that Prop 1 passes.

I would wager that killing HSR would devastate local transit for at least a decade.

Anonymous said...

This is just silly. This project is not to any appreciable degree going to reduce the need for expanding the highways.

In fact, given the projections of CHSRA, they are expecting to produce 450,000 jobs directly to the project, mostly in the central valley. There are even arguments that the population expansion will seriously reduce farming activities by driving up land costs and making it very attractive for farmers to sell out.

Now how in the world can you claim you won't still need the highway expansion when you are going to grow (urban sprawl BTW), at this rate?

All academic analysis show that highway expansion is cheaper, more flexible and gasoline taxes pay for the expansions.

In the future cars are going to much more energy efficient and in the not too far distant future (on a time scale with this project) electric vehicles are going to be a big part of the fleet.

Finally the scale of the project is immense. You can absorb a 3 fold cost increase in a project like the Bay Bridge (although not easily), but the State will never absorb such under estimates on a project this size.

The State simply cannot afford to make a mistake on a project like this. The Senate report indicates lots of problems. That report has transformed the discussion from one of being non-partisan to one divided along party lines.

The project must be removed from this fall ballot. Senate Bill SB-53 should be passed and the project should pass to new leadership.

I have talked with several State legislators and everyone agrees, if Prop 1 comes on the ballot this fall and is defeated, that will be the last of HSR in California for at least 10 years. Even Roberts agrees a defeat is disaster

Spokker said...

Haha oh no! It's a NIMBY attack from Palo Alto and Menlo Park!

As far as the building new roads argument goes, won't this service be attractive to commuters who commute to/from San Francisco and San Jose, Anaheim/Irvine and Los Angeles, the Inland Empire and Los Angeles?

I have to imagine that the train will attract many business commuters with 20 minute train rides into Downtown LA, which would take more cars off the road.

Brandon in California said...

Anon 4:28 your stat observation is irrelevant. But I thank you for calling more attention to the states popultion. Observing it has been a hobby of mine for well over 20 years.

The only population figures meriting citation in this context are those published by the California Department of Finance and their demograhic unit.

To it... The Department of Finance projects the state population growing to approximately 60 million by 2050.

Or, 22 million more than today.

Or, approximately 500,000 per year over the ext 42 years.

For practical purposes, 500k is accurate enough. And, it's consistent with how quickly the state has grown since 1980 when 23.8m where tabulated.

Today's population is approximately 38.0m (1/2008). Over the past 28 years the state has grown by approximately 14.3m. Or, 510k per year on average.

Some years were much greater and some much less. Variations are attributable to economic flucuations occuring in the state or country and its affect on migration.

When times are good... the state grows at a faster clip due to in-migration. When things are down... it slows, or sometimes retracts by a marginal amount.

Natural growth (births minus deaths) surpass 300k annually.

Spokker said...

CNN is reporting that it will cost 140 billion to repair bridges in the US. One in four bridges is considered structurally deficient.

Wow, this automobile travel is really working out of us, eh?

Someone on another forum took the words right out of my mouth, "I find it hilarious because if all of our automobile infrastructure is going down the tubes, what's the harm in replacing these crumbling highways with trains instead?"

Anonymous said...

Seven Points

1. Our state is under the gun because we are rapidly running out of Airport capacity. The HSR project is not designed as the next AMTRAK project, it is to take the pressure off of our airports by providing in-state travel at about the same speed as air travel for much less.

2. Grade separation will have a ripple effect, making all of the trains that travel on the corridor much, much faster. Metrolink trains and Caltrain trains will be able to reach speeds of near that of the HSR trains on short runs (115mph).

3. The HSR project will allow for hassle free travel in the state, not dependent on catching the flight at the exact same time. Miss your train? There will be another in less than 10 minutes.

4. Even if it overruns the planned cost, it will still be far, far under what it would cost to make comparable projects on our freeways and airports.

5. The line will primarily reach underserved inland communities such as Riverside, giving them access to fast in-state travel. Inland California is where most of the economic growth is happening in the state. The presence of a HSR station will have an economic multiplier effect similar to that of an airport.

6. The HSR, whenever completed will be able to quickly make up for its construction costs and provide a massive economic stimulus for the California economy as a whole.

7. Other countries have designed, built and operated HSR lines for years. We have the opportunity of using that tested and proven technology in our own state and being ahead of the curve in America as other states and regions pursue their own systems.

Anonymous said...

anonymous @8:24 -

As I already showed above, 6% is approximately 3,000 lane-miles, equal to two to three Hwy-99s. Suppose that these estimates are severely over-inflated and it only draws half as much, or 3% (1,500 lane-miles).

Please propose a highway expansion plan that costs under $50 billion, runs along the same corridor as HSR, San Francisco-San Jose-Gilroy-Madera-Fresno-Bakersfield-Palmdale-Santa Clarita-Burbank-Los Angeles-Anaheim, and adds 4 net lanes of highway capacity. Please. I am waiting to hear how you will miraculously achieve this.

At a minimum, please provide references for the "academic" studies that you claim show that adding highway capacity in dense areas is "cheaper" than adding rail capacity.

Anonymous said...

spokker - California bridges are in good condition because of the seismic retrofitting done since the Northridge earthquake.

Also CAHSR isn't going to displace the Hwy 99 Interstate project, that's just not politically realistic. Hopefully it will displace future freeway expansion on the urban fringes of SF and LA though.

Spokker said...

"California bridges are in good condition because of the seismic retrofitting done since the Northridge earthquake."

That's certainly a relief.

Spokker said...

Wow, that Palo Alto site is awesome. It's where I found the Ultimate NIMBY, destroyer of all trains!

"It seems like this whole area is going down the tubes. A high speed rail next to a high school? Is there room for long term parking?

This is horrid!

If you combine this with the overcrowding, lack of major supermarkets, dwindling water supply, wait list for average schools, over priced housing, poor air quality, too much traffic, crime rate, and too many people, it makes me wonder why people keep moving here.

If it keeps getting more crowded, people will look for jobs in other states.

Many residents already own homes in these states and are waiting to cash in. This area is going to look just like Los Angeles. The high speed rail will bring LA to us."

The sky is always falling with these people.

Anonymous said...

"Inland California is where most of the economic growth is happening in the state."
Yep, with the ever-growing real estate market that just magically never goes down! Oh wait... So you might want to update your economic predictions to more closely with reality there.

Anonymous said...

^anonymous @ 8:24

Despite the good intentions of electric cars (and I am for it), it will be many years before they will penetrate the car market. The majority of cars in 2015 will still be running gasoline (including those Priuses out there) and there will only be more drivers out on the freeways. And where will the gasoline taxes come from? I'd like that to happen, but that won't happen in the upcoming years.

I have just come back from Japan (it was a high school graduation omiyage/present) and I have been on the Japanese Shinkansen about 18 times. They are wonderful and everyone rides them!
One time, there happened to be a school vacation b/c at the Shin-Osaka Station, 1000 students came onto the platform, all riding the NOZOMI trains!

With a Japan Rail Pass, I took them all the way from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka to Hakata and that took me a little over 6 hours including transfer times on the HIKARI trains. Not to mention that CA HSR will be a lot cheaper than the Shinkansen. In Japan, they're sooo expensive for some reason (can someone explain this?). I mean, a ticket from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka is 25,000 Yen and that was a summer special I believe. And this is not including seat reservation charges which add even more $$$.

OK, enough blabber. I just want to emphasize the fact the CA HSR is also AFFORDABLE and that EVERYONE will ride them.

Anonymous said...

I am interested to travel in train. I must know about the speed rail recently. I am eager to travel in this rail. It is really fantastic.

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Anonymous said...

stephen -

My guess is that the Shinkansen are so expensive (relative to other high speed systems) because it's the one place in the world where the demand saturates the system capacity (it's pretty hard to saturate a double-track rail line...max capacity of a single double track line should approach that of two 8-lane superhighways). Hence they charge fares as high as the market will bear. It's like trying to buy a plane ticket to SoCal at Thanksgiving or Christmas...if you can get a roundtrip fare for much under $300, consider yourself lucky.

Spokker said...

"I am interested to travel in train. I must know about the speed rail recently. I am eager to travel in this rail. It is really fantastic."

Hey man, when it finally opens we'll go get a drink in San Francisco to celebrate!

Spokker said...

New video. Anaheim ARTIC station updated.

I don't think ARTIC will ever happen but those high speed trains look sexy.

David said...

@ Anonymous 8:24

I would like you to quote one reputable source that says highway expansion is cheaper than rail development that provides similar capacity. One source. I would bet quite a lot that you can't. Amtrak survives on a paltry 4% of the yearly funding that the Federal Highway Administration gets, and yet manages to run a modern rail service that has captured more than half of the air/rail market in the southern Northeast Corridor.

Additionally, you say that gas taxes pay for expansion of the highway system, which is also not true. Gas taxes are currently having trouble paying for maintenance of the current system, not even close to your so-called "expansions" - and, yes, I can provide you with sources for that, if you desire. Then, a few sentences later, you claim that electric vehicles will soon be a "big" part of the fleet. Now, by your own arguments, if electric vehicles take over more of the road, they will not be buying gas. How can gas taxes pay for roads (as you claim) if people are not buying gas (as you also claim)?