Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday Open Thread

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

Comment Starter: Prop 1 will authorize $9.95 billion - and the $950 million that isn't for the high speed rail project is intended for passenger rail that will connect to the system, as well as providing funds to Amtrak California. Where should that money go? What are the state's most pressing non-HSR passenger rail needs? Bear in mind that local rail, such as light rail or BART, is presumably ineligible for this funding.


Brandon in California said...

Can you convey more information about the requirements and what-not. It was my understanding that the non-HSR funding would be apportioned to operators by some type of transit characteristics... by formula.

Maybe that was AB 3034 language that was never adopted?

Anonymous said...

It will not go where it is needed. Here is where it ought to go.

*LA basin interurban lines
*San Jose to Venture 101 corridor
*Central Valley to coastal connections e.g Fresno -> Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield -> Santa Barbara and Santa Maria

Anonymous said...

anon 7:03

Those routes are definitely secondary to building a trunk line HSR line. And the line goes through central valley and not the coast because it is a more direct route and because of the growth in the region.

Brandon in California said...

Speaking of which, who and where will reviews occur for that $950 million? Again, I thought it was to be apportione dto current rail operators by some sort of formula.

If I were a dreamer... I'd like to see the trolley in downtown San Diego put underground. Prop 1, with other funds, could help make that happen if local decision makers liked that idea.

Spokker said...

Haha these EIRs are pretty funny sometimes.

"Mr. Schonbrunn claims the Final Program EIR/EIS is a hack political job. The Authority staff do not agree with this comment."


Anonymous said...

The $950 million is nothing but a pay off to the other transit agencies so that they would not oppose the project.

In the original version, even the cable cars in SF were going to get a piece of the action.

MTC wrote a letter crying that $950 million was not nearly enough; they wanted $2 billion. However they finally concluded they better take was being offered. There are about 36 separate transit organizations in the No. CA Bay area. It is any wonder everything is so screwed up?

This whole project is a hack political job. A few in Sacramento got the message.

Rumor has it that AB-3034 will be taken up again on Monday, Aug 4th. I wouldn't bet on that. If they can't get 2 republicans to bolt, AB-3034 is dead. You would assume that will get Schwarzenegger to oppose the project. There is even a rumor that they are going to try and put back in a station in Los Banos.

So goes politics in Sacramento.

More than a rumor is a bomb shell to be lobbed before then end of next week.

traal said...

Passenger rail to Vegas.

Spokker said...

The money should go to fight the lawsuit over the Pacheco vs. Altamont pass nonsense.

Anonymous said...

I understand the politics behind not having a station in Los Banos. But, realistically, the place is already a bedroom community for Silicon Valley. Eventually someone is going to move into all those foreclosed mini-manors.

Cut whatever political deal they need to. But by the time HSR is constructed, mass transit in that area will be a important regionally.

crzwdjk said...

For the $950 million, I'd say spend it on electrification and upgrades for Amtrak California, Metrolink, and Coaster (presumably Caltrain already gets benefits from sharing tracks with HSR). Electrify the Capitol Corridor and Santa Barbara to San Diego. Electrify the busiest Metrolink lines. Use the displaced rolling stock to start new services, like LA to Vegas and Palm Springs, maybe even Phoenix, more service along the coast, and trains from Sacramento to Redding and Reno. Hopefully by that time, the federal government will be offering 80% matching funds for intercity rail, and California would be able to get even more upgrades and new service out of this. The end goal is to have Swiss-style hourly service on the Capitol and Surfliner corridors, and at least some train service along all the major rail corridors in the state.

Anonymous said...


Just how far do you think a paltry $950 million goes.

CalTrain several years ago was estimating $600 million to electrify their line SF to San Jose, 47 miles.

Nobody seems to face reality. These are enormously expensive changes. Are you going to cut teacher salaries ,cut medicaid or other programs. Perhaps your one looking for the 10% sales tax (which won't be enough)

Anonymous said...

Any further spending on Amtrak-California would largely be wasted. Consider the example of the Capitol Corridor. Close to $1 billion has been spent on upgrades (i.e. blank check to Union Pacific), as well as $30m/year in operating subsidies. All they have to show is 5000 daily trips (i.e. 2500 round trips). It has had no practical impact on shifting mode share away from cars on the hyper-congested I80.

To go back to the comparison with Spain, $1 billion would have been enough to build an entirely new 125mph line in that corridor.

Rafael said...

Crap, blogger is broken yet again.

Anyhow, here's the comment I wrote up in a nutshell:

a) prop 1 is about HSR. Period. It is not about curing the myriad ills of California's woefully balkanized and underfunded transit infrastructure. If strictly local benefits accrue as a fringe benefit, so much the better.

b) the $950 million reserved for feeder infrastructure need to be spent on local projects designed to improve access to HSR stations using something other than a private motor car.

c) example 1: clean, well-lit subterranean walkway at concourse level between BART/Muni Metro at Embarcadero and the new Transbay Terminal in SF. Preferably with security guards and airport-style conveyor belts. This walkway is not part of the TT project definition.

d) example 2: dedicated traffic lanes for the existing Union Station-LAX shuttle bus, other city buses and sharecabs. Extension of the Metro Green Line (light rail) to Norwalk Metrolink and of the Red Line (subway) to Santa Monica beach via Wiltshire Boulevard. Note that prop 1 could only make a small contribution toward this Subway to the Sea.

e) example 3: a bicycle rental service for Orange County, modeled on Velib' in Paris. To cope with the heat and large distances, it would have to provide electric bicycles plus foolproof charger hook-ups at the rental locations. A supporting network of bicycle paths would be required, the one along the Santa Ana river is no more than a good start.

f) example 4: a generous pedestrian and transit plaza east of SJ Diridon, with a shopping mall attached to the west. Cp. Utrecht Central Station in Holland or the new Hauptbahnhof in Berlin.

g) non-HSR heavy rail services do need to be upgraded or re-introduced as well, e.g. Amtrak Coast Starlight/Daylight, Amtrak Del Monte, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, Altamont Commuter Express etc. Specifically, extensive sections of new track will be required to deliver attractive transit times and on-time performance. The core concept is mutual trackage rights agreements with the freight operators.

In addition, affordable terrestrial broadband internet access and courtesy electrical outlets should be made available on all new heavy rail rolling stock in California as soon as practicable.

Laying new track in particular goes well beyond what a few scraps off prop 1 could fund. Think billions of dollars, not tens of millions. A separate, well-planned proposition should be put to voters in 2010.

Anonymous said...

From the original bond language, it's a formulatic distribution...

(A) One third of the eligible recipient's percentage share of statewide track miles.

(B) One third of the eligible recipient's percentage share of statewide annual vehicle miles.

(C) One third of the eligible recipient's percentage share of statewide annual passenger trips.

Using figures from the 2000 National Transit Database

ACE $28m

BART $269m

Caltrain $42m

Sacramento $20m

Muni LRT $62m

Muni Cable Car $12m

LA Subway $41m

LA light rail $53m

Metrolink $135m

San Diego Trolley $61m

North San Diego County Transit $16m

Santa Clara VTA $22m

This is an old calculation from the first time the bond was proposed. The percentages will have changes, as Sacramento opened the South line, LA opened the Gold Line, San Diego opened the Escondido Sprinter, VTA the Capitol line and MUNI opened the T-Third. The original total might have been less than $950, as well, but the language is still the same.

It does give an idea of the rough amount each property should receive. Caltrain just spent $20m to rebuild the platforms at the Burlingame station.

I've posted with name, rank and serial number before, but now post anonymous, in PROTEST that there is still an anonymous option. Real debate does not take place if one side gets to stand behind the curtain, like the Wizard of Oz....

Anonymous said...

IF AB-3034 passes, they chnaged the language a bit on the allocation of the $950,000,000.

As stated it says money is supposed to go only to those agencies which have direct connection to HSR...

Wouldn't that leave BART out?


2704.095. (a) (1) Net proceeds received from the sale of nine
hundred fifty million dollars ($950,000,000) principal amount of
bonds authorized by this chapter shall be allocated to eligible
recipients for capital improvements to intercity and commuter rail
lines and urban rail systems that provide direct connectivity to the
high-speed train system and its facilities,

Anonymous said...

BART would meet HSR at Millbrae/SFO, get really close at Transbay in San Francisco, and is planned at San Jose Diridon.

Anonymous said...

BART would meet HSR at Millbrae/SFO, get really close at Transbay in San Francisco, and is planned at San Jose Diridon.

Anonymous said...

Looks like HSR is losing support of the conservation community. A new article just appeared in the FresnoBee, and certainly questions their position.

Diridon may have cooked his golden goose by not allowing Altamont.

Anonymous said...

65 percent of Cailfornia is not they where ever going to vote for it!! Say goobye to the old white dinasoures..Yes on prop1 for the NEW Cali...

Anonymous said...

NO need to post Anno ..simply type your name in the name /url..I do...Rember YES on prop 1..or we will kill you...Just kidding..maby

Spokker said...

Has not putting a station stop in Gilroy been considered to help placate concerns about Pacheco? Is it that important of a station? If these people are so concerned about sprawl then throw them a bone and get rid of Gilroy.

In any case, I think they're damned if they do and damned if they don't. If Altamont had been chosen, wouldn't the NIMBYs in those areas cry afoul about high speed trains running through their communities.

Rafael said...

@ spokker -

Gilroy is getting a station because that will give southern Santa Clara, northern San Benito, northern Monterey and southern Santa Cruz counties access to the HSR system. Granted, in the absence of decent HSR feeder services that argument is still a bit of a stretch.

Hollister has tried and failed to get Caltrain to extend its service there, but with HSR they'll likely try again. Monterey county is close to scraping together the money needed for extending limited Caltrain service out to Salinas. Unfortunately for them, UPRR has not yet offered up the ROW and Caltrain says the tracks south of Gilroy are in poor shape for passenger service. Besides, Caltrain is focused on electrification and its 2025 plan right now.

As for sprawl, the word has been widely misused. It refers specifically to suburbanization of the type fostered by excessive reliance on the automobile. What HSR has brought in other countries is a different phenomenon called exurbanization, i.e. people commuting between distant cities. This may go hand in hand with sprawl at either end but it doesn't have to. It all depends on how transit-oriented the urban development plan for that particular community is.

In California, the picture is complicated by seismic risk and associated building codes. The medium-rise (3-7 story) buildings that best complement transit-oriented development tend to have resonant frequencies around 1Hz, near the excitation frequencies produced by earthquakes. The excellent damping properties of wood cannot be exploited beyond 3 stories because it's not strong enough. Masonry would collapse. That leaves steel frames, but those are so expensive you might as well build a really tall structure. Note that Gilroy and Hollister sit virtually on top of the San Andreas fault. Santa Clara county has imposed strict zoning regulations to prevent sprawl in Gilroy and Morgan Hill. I'm not sure what San Benito county has done so far.

The Altamont pass option was opposed by Fremont and Pleasanton, perhaps even by Livermore - not sure about that one. Of course, this could have been mitigated by a route running south from Diridon station, east along 280, north along 680 to the base of the Sunol grade, tunneling northeast to Sunol, crossing 680, tunneling northeast to Vineyard Ave, continuing on to 84 (Isabel Ave), following that north to Livermore airport across the UPRR tracks before heading east to Tracy along 580 and 205. The Livermore Valley station would then have been somewhere near Livermore airport, a location easily reached by the proposed BART extension. Unfortunately, this variation was never even considered.

Anyhow, the discussion on the route is effectively over. Let's focus on the open issues, e.g. exactly how the $950 million for HSR feeder services are supposed to be spent.

Robert Cruickshank said...

We already threw them a bone by deleting the Los Banos stop. Their objections to a Gilroy stop are baseless. What's happened is they got so focused on opposing Pacheco that they're still in attack mode and have totally missed sight of the bigger picture.

The Sierra Club has said they support the concept of high speed rail. So are they going to actually back it, or sabotage it? The PCL's objections make little sense and they seem to have lost sight of the big picture almost completely. If either group files suit against the Authority they will have given up their credibility on sustainable transportation, on fighting global warming, and yes, on fighting sprawl.

They know not what they do.

FLUBBER said...

i think caltrans should develop a corridor (like the capitol corridor, san joaquins, & pacific surfliner) linking LA to SF (via Oakland if it's cheaper.) they should use the same rolling stock that they currently use on those routes, and try again at getting wifi on them. Lastly, they should charge a rate that would make it competitive vs. driving or flying between these cities and presumably would be less costly than HSR. This corridor should take much less time than HSR to develop and would complement it well.

Spokker said...

brian, it's called the Coast Daylight, and it may be up and running as early as 2010-2011.