Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day Open Thread

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

Busy here in SoCal for the weekend, and heading back up to Monterey tomorrow on the Coast Starlight. So this post will have to suffice for Sunday and Monday. I'm sure you all can manage.

  • Bart Reed of the Transit Coalition was on LA CityView earlier this week defending the pro side on Prop 1A against Joel Fox, former head of the Howard Jarvis Association and predictable train hater. Click "Roundtable 48" to see the video. Reed made an excellent case for Prop 1A. Definitely worth watching. I'll have more detailed responses to Joel Fox's claims in a post later this week.

  • Cathleen Galgiani was the subject of a positive piece in the Stockton Record about her work in getting AB 3034 shepherded through the legislature. This bill was originally going to be carried by Fiona Ma, probably the best HSR advocate we have in Sacramento, but when Ma's legislative calendar got too full she handed it off to Galgiani, whose persistence helped get the bill passed. This blog hasn't been totally supportive of Galgiani's approach to HSR, as we disagreed with her efforts to weaken the LA-SF "spine," but she has become a key HSR figure in the state and deserves to have her fine work recognized.

Anything else you guys want to discuss? Put it in the comments. Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend, everyone.


Spokker said...

I loved how the Howard Jarvis guy was the first participant to rudely interrupt another speaker.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the link to this program. I'll take this discussion anytime. I would guess 75% or more of the viewers who watch this clip will vote NO.

Spokker said...

Seeing how this is an open thread, I was reading an article about CAHSR's routing through Palmdale being influenced by land developers and how it was this horrible thing.

Then I saw this map of California's population density.

It appears that the routing follows the patches of red spots, including Palmdale. Why would you build a grapevine alignment so you can totally miss Palmdale?

I thought the argument was "Follow the lights"?

Brandon in California said...

^^^ Yeah, the NorCal pro-Altamont argument was to follow the lights. But, their map was also rotated a bit and tilted to convey a view that kinda showed Sacramento not being so far north. Stockton/Tracy lights may have been brightened a bit to indicate more density too.

In my opinion, it was disingenuous. Err... false. Err... lying to exploit the ignorance of the naive.

But back to Robert's post...

I consider myself open minded, objective, and tend to believe the good in others before the negative. On HSR I have been educating myself on the project for years; researching and vetting the data, and the pros and cons cited by the CHSRA or posters here and elsewhere. I have even submitted comments as part of the CEQA review process.

With that said, it's difficult for me to believe naysayers have educated themselves... and are likely responding in a knee-jerk fashion to a short-sighted view and ignoring the big-picture.

Maybe they are libertarians in their core. Or, maybe they are exactly what Paris Hilton says about McCain; "old white haired dude" ... and will not live long enough to be able to use the system.

So with that in mind... I try to get sucked into a stupid debate that often involves circular logic on their part.

HSR is pretty straight forward. We'll have 60 million folks in the state by 2050. We cannot keep building highways for numerous and obvious reasons...
- there is not enough space,
- not enough money even if we did have space,
- it perpetuates dependence on auto use and foreign oil,
- it fosters a mode of transportation that emits pollution, greenhouse gases and affects global warming,
- fosters a continued threat to national security and geo-political tensions concerning energy, which might be the cause for the next world war.

In fact, a 'no' vote might as well be a vote in belief that there is no such thing as global warming... that 'god' will provide and save us...

Spokker said...

I'm no environmentalist and I hate the "green" movement. When people buy carbon credits a part of my soul dies each time.

Forget the environment, rail, when done properly (i.e. not Amtrak), is the better way to get around.

無名 - wu ming said...

OT, but hey, it's an open thread:

i actually saw your train pass by 101 on friday around san luis obispo, robert. couldn't help but think "if he was on HSR, he'd be there by now."


that being said, i would have given anything to be on the train, even low speed rail, instead of driving incessantly up and down the coast this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it is argumented that cities in Europe are more dense so it has more sense to have better public transportation.

It's true, but the argument is bidirectional.
When you have near a good public transportation, you can avoid the use of cars, so you appreciate this services so the construction is attracted near this services.
So public transportation make, in long term, more dense cities.

If you must use cars, regardless you live, it is probably you prefer outside of the city where noise levels are lower and it is exists cleaner air. The cities, because of abuse of cars, became dirty place to live.

HSR will promote a more efficient city.

Anonymous said...

On listening to the LA Roundtable discussion, I found interesting a comment regarding the premise that keeps coming up here; that by taking cars off the roads, you won't need to build more highways, and thus save billions and billions. A favorite theme of Robert's.

It has been pointed out here, the reduction of auto trips is not all that significant even if they reach the goal of 6% of inter city auto traffic, but what was mentioned in the roudtable brings another factor into play.

It was suggested that a significant number of the riders, will be not riders taken off road, or riders taken off the airplanes, but they will be riders that are added to the system.

How many of the riders on HSR will be taking the train because you provided a new method to get from A to B and thus increase the amount of travel that everyone wants to accomplish.

Wow, you can say how great for the economy; the travel agents and hotels and theme parks will be over joyed. But these miles are not taken off the roads, they come from no-where; they generate their own green house gas production.

This kind of ridership goes absolutely counter to all the arguments that HSR is going to improve the environment and is going to save money by eliminating the need for new highway and airport runways.

The project is poorly designed, by politicians and it should not be implemented.

Kevin Gong said...

@ earl g.

Was there any reasoning behind the assumption that airplane riders would not be taking the train? Evidence around the world suggests that HSR competes very well with short haul flights.

I agree however that some freeway expansion projects will need to go forward anyways, precisely because they are the only option for some people (remember, that 6% of all intercity travel is just that, ALL intercity travel in CA, not just the SF-LA route).

Remember that the goal is to provide an attractive alternative to driving up and down the valley between the Bay and the Basin. Its worth taxpayer dollars get it started.

Brandon in California said...

You're wrong. No one is saying additional highways will not be needed. What is being said is that HSR will hlp mitigate the need for some of those highways... and additionally count towards other state and national goals for this or that (see my above post).

And the travel behavior you're speaking to is called 'latent demand.'

And yes, I am sure there is some of that. But, are you arguing that those people that would otherwise be holed up in their homes or bergs versus travellign the way they want and desire to is a good thing? Again, I am sure those would-be travellers are a minority relative to the total.

And, kevin gong's post immediately above is right... many HSR travellers will be old and future air travellers.

But if you're a naysayer of the system... how would you propose to solve expected increased demand in statewide trave expected of 60 million people.... an increase of over 57% relative to current demand???

Would you tell people to stay home and order more ONDEMAND video services and do mail-order through Amazon?

Will you tell your children and grand children that they will be expected to go to the Middle East to protect oil supplies?

Anonymous said...

Since this is an open thread, I thought I'd throw out this piece (via slashdot) by the BBC about China's HSR aspirations:

To be completed "within four years"

Tony D. said...

Here in the Bay Area (San Jose/South Bay more specifically): Any chance passage of Prop. 1A and future HSR helps subsidize BART to San Jose operations/maintenance? BART from Fremont to San Jose/Santa Clara will in affect act as a feeder line of the HSR system; linking East Bay travellers via Diridon Station. The funds exist to actually build the extension; what's needed is operations/maintenance monies (hence a 1/8 sales tax hike on the SCCo. November ballot). My take is that it's possible a succesful HSR could help "feed" BART to SJ...any thoughts?

Spokker said...

Cities with extensive mass transit systems have some of the worst traffic in the world. To me, it isn't about getting cars off the road. It's about giving people choices and providing better mobility options for everyone.

Spokker said...

The lady in the video said that trips on the HSR system may be new trips that wouldn't have otherwise been taken. I think that's great.

People will make that trip to San Francisco or San Diego because it's relatively easy to do so. They won't have to compete with other drivers or pay out the ass for airfares that provide few amenities and limitless frustrations.

They will go ahead and decide to spend money in another city. If HSR generates NEW trips within our state, I'm all for it.

Unknown said...

The argument that only new trips will be created is not a bad thing. The fact that the argument is wrong is one thing, but having a whole lot of new trips means that the economy will be stimulated.

Anonymous said...

There will be many new trips..I would have gone to LA for a long weekend and seen friends..but the thought of flying or driving 7hrs never!!Right now there are probally
100,000 tourists in SF..many from overseas, Iwonder how many of those would use the HSR? Hopefully Labor Day 2018 I will be looking out the window at 220mph..on the ground!!

Rafael said...

@tony d -

to be worthwhile, a subway line needs to run at 3-5 minute headways during rush hour, using trains of 6-8 cars each.

Unless the BART extension allows a subset of trains to reverse direction somewhere in the Milpitas to Fremont stretch, it will be stupendously expensive to operate the service at such short headways.

It will also make the process of interleaving westbound trains bound for the transbay tube even more brittle - longer distances require larger tolerances in arrival times, exactly what you don't want in that critical section of the network. This could be mitigated by extending only the Richmond to Fremont line as far south as Santa Clara and/or creating a new line from Pittsburg/Bay Point to Santa Clara - at least during rush hour.

However, I stand by my basic point: subway lines aren't supposed to be 50+ miles long. Nobody else anywhere in the world is building their regional rail systems in this insane way.

Plus, I stongly suspect that for the same money, South Bay counties could band together to create several bus rapid transit lines between Fremont, the Golden Triangle, SJC and SJ Diridon as well as across the Dumbarton Bridge and/or 237. Whereever possible, the BRT lanes would be dedicated to public buses and other qualifying vehicles.

Admittedly, ach bus would have substantially less passenger capacity, but it would let people get much closer to where they work. So yes, more would need to be spent on driver salaries but at least you'd get high ridership and genuine traffic relief on the freeways.

Plus, money spent on operations jobs tends to stay in the community, whereas money spent on materials does not. Ergo, for short-distance low-speed services, this trade-off should always be considered carefully.

For high speed intercity travel, safety and energy consumption considerations favor massive investment in rail tracks. However, note that the aerospace department TU Delft is actually developing an intercity BRT system with a top speed of 155mph.

Anonymous said...

This has been irking me. Referring to Earl G's comment: you said that HSR will only take 6% of intercity auto traffic.

I've read the actual report where they got that figure. It refers to auto traffic overall including just car trips around the corner to get a bottle of milk and intercity trips that go to places that HSR wouldn't serve (like Santa Barbara to Los Angeles).

Spokker said...

"However, I stand by my basic point: subway lines aren't supposed to be 50+ miles long."

BART is trying to be two things at once, a rapid transit system and a commuter rail network. It does these things to varying degrees of success and failure.

I don't know. I like that BART exists, but it seems like it was trying to be all things to all people, and ended up being ridiculously expensive. The decision to go wide gauge was definitely a sticking point with me.

Spokker said...

From DerailHSR:

"So here perhaps the reason why a station at Los Banos was proposed.

Again we say, this project is not about transportation. This project is about the money. Its about the money to be made by land speculators, home builders, contractors, rail hardware manufacturers. With $45 billions to be had, they are all seeking a piece of the pie."

Hey, so is there any way to build this project so that nobody makes any money? I think this is the only way to please the opposition.

Maybe if we ask the contractors to work for free people will be more inclined to vote yes on prop 1.

Anonymous said...

Since this is an open thread..has anyone seen any plans for LAUS? I googled and nothing real showed up.
From the CHSRA site map it looks like it passes thru the station and out over the freeway.There seem to be no drawings or real plans..maby its to early?

Brandon in California said...

I know for almost a fact that nothing has been done for a conceptual station design at LA Unio Station. The same is true for San Diego and many other stations.

San Francisco, Anahiem, Fresno, Sacramento and San Jose may be the only ones where 'something' has been done... with bigger nods to SF, Snsheim and Fresno.

Anonymous said...

Well how in the world would you expect to have them look at designs for all the stations.

They have only spent $56 million and 10 years. They do like to pay 6 figure salaries and provide for junkets to various legislators, however. What a bunch.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Regarding LAUS, the plan is to have the HSR project help fund the long-desired plan to build "run-through tracks" so that Union Station isn't a stub off the mainline. It would indeed go out over the 101 freeway.

Robert Cruickshank said...

earl g. apparently did not read Matt Melzer's excellent post a month ago on the subject of the source of HSR riders. Spain's experience has been that about a third of the riders are "induced demand" - new travelers or new trips, created because of the particular benefits of HSR. Cars and planes each accounted for 25% of the HSR riders, and the remainder came from other forms of mass transportation.

With this, as with most things, HSR can accomplish several objectives at once.

Spokker said...

About Union Station, I think for HSR to work and play nice with Amtrak and Metrolink, the run-through project would finally have to be done.

A side effect of HSR is that all these projects we've wanted for years finally get done. Caltrain electrification, new track, run-through, a Bakersfield-LA rail connection, etc.

Hooray for high speed rail.

Anonymous said...

Why not HSR? It would basically be a bragging right in California and make me want to travel down there just to take it. Even if it was $100 bucks, it's still better than sitting in the airport and on an airplane. Acela costs about $155 one way but people prefer it over taking airlines to get from Boston to New York or D.C. to New York and vice versa.

We are behind in rail and our country needs to just get with the program that HSR is the way to go.

Anonymous said...

@ political-i

As the lady on the round table discussion, an analyst, said: ridership numbers are all based on
a $55.00 fare. I don't believe those numbers, but if you get realistic and use real fare cost numbers, the ridership estimates all fall apart.

So for all you advocates of the project,the question is if instead of HSR producing the huge profits CHSRA projects, it produces say $750 million in deficits every year, which have to be paid from state taxes, do you still support the project? I suspect for many of you, absolutely yes; this project must be built at any cost.

Then without those imaginary profits, the system never reaches, Sacramento, San Diego or Oakland, because those sections are to be built from profits.

And no private money is going to be found, because private firms want a return on their invested capital.

Finally here it is Sept 2sd, and the business plan that is mandated in Prop 1A to be produced by Sept 1 does not seem to be found.

At least it wasn't on the CHSRA's site last evening.

Rafael said...

@ spokker -

BART chose broad gauge because early on, there were plans to run tracks across the Golden Gate bridge to Marin. Engineers were concerned about stability in high wind conditions. When Marin pulled out because its population was too small to support BART service, designers stuck with broad gauge regardless.

Note that many countries - e.g. Spain, Portugal, Russia and Finland - have legacy rail networks with gauges other than the standard 1435mm, primarily to avoid handing would-be invaders supply lines on a silver platter. Today, CAF offers retrofit variable gauge trucks for passenger and freight trains for top speeds of up to 155mph.

Of course, BART trains aren't FRA-compliant so they wouldn't be allowed to share track with standard-gauge freight or commuter trains even if they were retrofitted with these devices. This is relevant for e.g. the planned eBART extension to Byron.

@ cal et al -

the LA Union Station runthrough tracks EIR/EIS is obsolete. The westernmost tracks at LAUS have been reallocated to the Metro Gold Line Eastside extension due to open in late 2009. The bridge across 101 has already been built.

The HSR tracks at LAUS might well have to be located on an upper level covering the eastern tracks, with a third concourse level above that.

In a (financial) pinch, however, HSR could make do without fancy run-through tracks IFF the platforms are architected such that drivers can get from one end of their train to the other within ~4 minutes, using e.g. a moving sidewalk. After all, all HSR trainset designs feature complete driver's cabs at both ends. Double trainsets can be up to 1320 ft (4 city blocks) long, so passengers would presumably appreciate moving sidewalks as well.

Alternatively, a replacement driver could already be waiting at the far end of the platform as the train pulls into the station.

Robert Cruickshank said...

The key, anon, is that while I don't expect a $55 fare either, the actual fare will still be cheaper than flying or driving, probably by a significant margin. Gas price inflation isn't done, not by a longshot.

Inflation will likely be what drives the fare up, and that means the 2018 fare would be the 2018 equivalent of $55. Still a bargain relative to everything else in society.

Spokker said...

"Finally here it is Sept 2sd, and the business plan that is mandated in Prop 1A to be produced by Sept 1 does not seem to be found."

I read on the LA Times Bottleneck Blog that it's due October 1st now.

Spokker said...

"BART chose broad gauge because early on, there were plans to run tracks across the Golden Gate bridge to Marin."

Thank you for the clarification.