Tuesday, November 18, 2008

BART to San Jose Lives?

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

High drama in Santa Clara County, where Measure B now has exactly the 66.67% needed for passage as of Monday afternoon's update. Measure B is of course the 1/8 cent sales tax increase to help bring BART to downtown San José. In the comments on yesterday's post peter noted that "the Yes vote right now is at 66.6679741% Out of 611,886 there are 8 more yes votes than exactly 2/3rds." The next update is likely to come early next week and the vote must be certified on December 2. BART supporters are growing more optimistic about their prospects:

As the absentee ballots were counted, the yes votes crept higher — but not, it seemed, quickly enough. But as provisional ballots began to be verified late last week, the yes votes started coming in at a much higher rate.

Counts taken Friday and Monday came in with 73 percent-plus support for Measure B, pushing it to the two-thirds level overall.

"It shows the strength of support for BART in this county," said San Jose State University political-science Professor Terry Christensen. "Over and over voters have proven how much they want BART. This is not just a bond, but a tax increase. That makes it more astonishing."

Christensen believes the late surge is coming from young voters, who tend to be more supportive of mass transit, and who may have been more heavily represented among the late and provisional ballots.

"That is a very valid theory," he said. "It really is attributed to an effective campaign that they ran. I know they worked the college campuses very hard, and it's the young voters I know who are very supportive of BART. That was smart on their part."

Further evidence that here in California the 2008 election was a wave election for mass transit, creating powerful new momentum and public support for rail projects that ought to quiet the deniers and doubters for some time to come.

Meanwhile, the San Jose Mercury News filed a "Questions remain about HSR" article which does little more than state the obvious: there are still some decisions to make on the Peninsula:

"Up to this point, we've had very limited discussions of a very general nature," [Caltrain spokeswoman Christine] Dunn said. "I know people are very anxious to know what's going to happen next and how it's going to impact their communities, but a lot of those questions at this point are unanswered."

What particularly appeals to Caltrain about the high-speed project is the proposed widening of its tracks and construction of grade separations up and down the Peninsula because bullet trains must run above or below street level....

The high-speed rail authority also has yet to decide where the bullet train will stop, though Millbrae, Redwood City and Palo Alto have been named as potential stops.

We'll obviously be discussing those decisions in much greater detail over the coming months, but it's worth reminding ourselves that these are normal decisions that get made in any major transportation project. My own view is that Millbrae/SFO and Palo Alto would be the best choices for HSR stops.

That Merc article also points out that even though Menlo Park is party to a lawsuit against the HSR project, the city voted FOR Prop 1A:

The cities of Atherton and Menlo Park in August joined a lawsuit challenging the environmental report for the train's route, claiming it underestimates the impact it would have on communities.

Despite elected officials' opposition, Menlo Park voters approved the high-speed rail bond measure while Atherton voters struck it down, according to unofficial election results updated Friday.

Menlo Park voted 57.4 percent in favor of the project compared to 42.6 percent opposed out of 14,021 votes cast. Atherton rejected the measure with 46 percent in favor to 54 percent against, a margin of about 300 votes out of 3,918 cast.

Perhaps Menlo Park wants to reconsider? There's still time to drop out of the lawsuit. Given stressed city budgets this doesn't exactly seem like a good time to spend taxpayer money to sue a project your voters supported.


Brandon in California said...

Whether or not this passes, which I hope it does, the results will be an excellent example to tell would-be voters debating whether or not to cast a ballot that every vote counts.

I know I will be telling my brotehr that!

Aaron said...

This would be one of the closest elections ever. I pulled out my calculator and had to multiple by 10,000 just to get a number I could translate.

It appears to have passed by 0.0013%. That's got to be one of the closest elections ever.

Does that trigger an automatic recount in California?

Brandon in California said...

Wait, it's not over yet. The article Robert linked to reads that they are still counting provisional ballots; about 1,000 or 11,000 left as I recall? Something like that.

But, people involved are theorizing that the provisional ballots tend to be students; peeps registered but without a precinct. And, that students tend to be more pro-transit than our ancestors still rooted to foreign fueled/pro-terrorist modes of transport; ie cars and suvs.

Anonymous said...

It is time for SF to put up a measure to built BART from Montgomery out Geary to 19th, down 19th to the existing Daly City BART. And add a station at 30th/Mission. BART keeps expanding geographically to suburbs and exurbs, but there is still a lot of need in the urban core.

Marine Layer said...

9,800 provisional ballots remain. They should be counted by Wednesday at the latest. Before everyone starts celebrating, the AK Stevens-Begich senatorial race showed an expanding lead for Begich before it pulled back a bit during the provisional vote count. It's nice to see a trend, but anything can happen with these ballots.

Rafael said...

Wouldn't it be deliciously ironic if the HSR station ended up neither in Redwood City nor in Palo Alto but rather, in Menlo Park? ;^)

Ok, that's not going to happen. Of the two realistic choices, Redwood City would be easiest to access from the East Bay, 101 and 280 via hwy 84 and El Camino Real. The San Mateo bridge (hwy 92) is also fairly close. However, the town is currently not a major commuter hub.

Palo Alto is a bigger, more affluent town with an ivy league university (Stanford). HSR trains are up to 1320 feet long, though, so El Camino Park might have to be converted into a station/transit terminal with a roof garden (cp the new California Academy of Sciences in SF's GG Park).

A Palo Alto station would be easily accessible from the south via Central Expressway/Alma Street, from the West/280 via Sand Hill Road (home of many venture capital funds) and from the north via El Camino Real.

However, access from the east (Dumbarton bridge/101) would be via University or Willow Rd., Middlefield, Lytton and Alma, i.e. less than optimal. It is highly unlikely that Menlo Park would permit a bridge to be built across the San Francisquito creek at Alma Street, because that would invite a lot of traffic through a swank residential neighborhood.

Still, on balance I'd agree that Palo Alto might be the better choice.


Decent access to the HSR station is important for residents of the central East Bay because CHSRA mapped the spur to Oakland into an unfunded "HST/commuter overlay" that it is "considering".

To add insult to injury, Santa Clara county voters have probably just eliminated any chance of a dedicated standard gauge alignment for passenger service between Niles and Milpitas, which means the section down to SJ Diridon cannot be built at all. End of consideration.

In spite of its obvious utility for Caltrain/Capitol Corridor/ACE, the Dumbarton rail project might now be shelved until Caltrain electrification and the DTX tunnel are completed.

The old rail bridge dates back to 1910, has not been used or maintained since 1982, only supports a single track, features two swing bridges, does not meet modern seismic code and, 1500 feet of its western trestle was destroyed in a suspicious fire in 1998. Reconstruction would be quite complex given its proximity to the Don Edwards National Wildlife Preserve and gold rush era mercury methyl from mines in SJ that has settled in the Bay mud. Tearing down the old bridge and building a completely new one would be prohibitively expensive.

Note that there is a shuttle bus between Union City BART to Palo Alto Caltrain. File that under "band aid".

Rafael said...

@ michael -

Geary to 19th and down to Daly City would be a prohibitively expensive BART extension.

Perhaps a Muni line branching off the planned Central Subway at Geary/O'Farrell would be more feasible. The plan already includes a passage to Powell St. BART.

It could run south from Geary in-between Funston and 19th as far as GG Park, cut across to Martin Luther King Jr Dr and head west to Sunset Blvd. Follow that south and then Lake Merced Blvd as well. Finally, head east via John Daly Blvd to Daly City BART.

Anonymous said...

The stores and business along Geary
do not want any light-rail and have stated .I think Muni gave up on that as I have seen busway proposals .Next year there is going to be a major revamping of all Muni lines and more buses on Geary.

Anonymous said...


I agree expanding BART in the city would be very expensive, but so is this extension to San Jose. I was just in DC, marveling out how much they learned from our mistakes (their Metro is based on BART).

I would love to see a real subway in San Francisco someday, but I am fully aware I won't. Instead we will have a really crappy streetcar that is unreliable, slow and crowded. Oh, I mean a bus.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, should this end up passing, I guess we should applaud this very good (and very expensive) connection to HSR and improved transportation options on the 680 corridor into SJ. While I agree with many that there are better and cheaper ways to provide this service, there are worse things. Like it or not, BART is the core of transportation in the Bay Area.

accountablevta said...

Whether the tax passes or not, VTA does not have enough funds to complete the project.

VTA aleady suggested to build a shorter line. That is likely to happen once the updated cost estimate and tax projections are revealed.

The No campaign really stressed the poor governance and planning at VTA, and that VTA has not been truthful about the cost. The provisional voters may not be aware of these issues (they might be in grade schools 8 years ago when the first tax passed) when they cast their votes, but these issues remain true regardless.

Anonymous said...

I agree that BART is almost an inevitability now. Measure B is almost certainly going to pass based on the trend of incoming votes. There will likely be other crises down the road for SJ BART just like there are for any major public works project, but it just seems like there is almost no point in trying to stop it anymore. Instead, transit advocates may want to put their efforts into ways to improve BART or make it less harmful to other transit projects and agencies.

I know that BART is not perfect, but one interesting and very important comparison that needs to be digested if we are going to move forward is that Santa Clara county voters were significantly more favorable towards BART than HSR:

Prop 1a - 60.25% Yes (approx 3/5)
Measure B - 66.67% Yes (approx 2/3)

And this is despite the fact that those same voters have already passed a 1/2 cent tax to pay for BART to SJ in 2000, and the fact that BART to SJ will be paid for mostly with local sales taxes, while HSR will be paid for mostly with state, federal and private funds with local contributions here and there for local bits of infrastructure (land, terminals, etc.)

But the thing is HSR and BART don't have to be adversaries to each other. While they might feel that they are competing against each other for the same limited sources of revenue, at the same time they ultimately plan to physically link up with each other in SF (DTX), Millbrae, and eventually SJ (Diridon). And it seems telling to me that voters are approving both projects in the same election. Maybe it's time that transit advocates and policy planners figure out a way to see that both projects are successful, both in being constructed as well as in receiving the operating revenue that will be necessary for them to be successful.

One thing we should all be able to agree on is that public transit systems stand to benefit when their network connects with other systems' networks, expanding the usefulness of each system from the rider's point of view and encouraging more and more folks to make use of public transportation instead of driving. While we might quibble about the details of one route vs. another, or one train spec vs. another, the voters have once again said they want BART, and that they are up for HSR as well.

Folks often complain about the balkanized state of Bay Area planning and the numerous different transit agencies with there own territories and agendas and the lack of cooperation or integrated planning between them, but, with the enormous size and complexity and inter-connectivity of these two multi-billion dollar construction projects, the next decade or two presents a real opportunity for each agency to show some leadership and to work together on everyone's behalf to see that each project is successful because we all win that way. And this same spirit of cooperation could lead to better integrated planning in the future on a regional level, not only with regard to transportation, but with the wider need to move towards sustainable practices such as TOD and urban infill vs. sprawl, sustainable energy and water policies, etc. These are all things that are hard to do, but are necessary, and perhaps the simultaneous passage of both measures heralds an opportunity to see some real progress be made on advancing everyone's common interests by working together. As someone who plans to use both systems if and when they are eventually built, I am hopeful that this will yet happen.

accountablevta said...

The problem with the BART project is that VTA never demonstrated how it could build the project or even how much it would cost.

The goal for the transit advocates is how to contain the damage this project would have on other priorities. VTA service will be threatened next year with declining state subsidy and sales taxes. It would be unconscionable to see service getting cut so that this project could do forward in its entirety.

A VTA audit already shows that a tax twice as much won't be enough. VTA could only get this tax passed by hiding itself and not telling anyone how they can pay for it.

As for high speed rail, 60% is quite a high percentage considering that the pro-HSR effort spent almost nothing, while the B folks had to spend a million.

VTA won't have enough money and that voters are unlikely to pass another tax in the next 8 years. It is just a matter of time the pro-BART folks wake up to reality.

Rafael said...

@ yeson1A, michael kiesling -

to pay for the BART extension, Santa Clara county voters accepted a 1/2 percent tax hike in 2000 and it looks like they accepted another 1/8th of a percent now.

If SF residents were willing to accept higher taxes, it might be possible to construct a pair of single track standard gauge rail tunnels with overhead catenaries at 25kV AC linking the existing Caltrain tracks with the GG bridge.

The easiest alignment might be to branch off inside the tunnel section just southeast of the 101/280 interchange, cut across under Alemany to an intermodal with the Glen Park BART station, then continue under Twin Peaks to GG Park.

There would be another intermodal with Muni's N-line at Carl & Hillway and an underground station at Fulton and 14th Ave. The tracks would then continue underground between Park Presidio Blvd and 14th Ave, with possibly another station at Lake. From there, the alignment would burrow under the Presidio directly to near the GG bridge toll plaza, where there would be another station.

The reason for this alignment is that it is easier to tunnel through solid rock with plenty of overburden so you don't have to worry much about structures overhead.

The idea would be to one day run a single track across the bridge and along an aerial anchored in the 101 median to join up with the SMART ROW just north of Corte Madera (on Marin/Sonoma's nickel). There would be an elevated station in Marin City and another in Corte Madera.

By the time all that gets built, the old ROW between Novato and American Junction will probably have been brought back into service.

Rubber Toe said...

Since Caltrain was discussed I thought I would bring up something that I saw in both the "business plan" and the Central Valley EIS/EIR. And yes, I realize that this was discussed in a previous blog entry, but I can't seem to find it with the terrible search feature. If anyone can point me to the original discussion thread I would also appreciate it.

The subject is opening the first LA/SF phase in segments.

The business plan says the following: "Selection of workable segments and the order
in which they are phased should include these
the availability of capital to construct the
segment/s and procure train systems
ridership and revenue potential and the
ability of the segment/s to be operated
without state subsidy
the ability to service trainsets at appropriate
maintenance facilities
a distribution of construction and initiation
of service in regions of both Northern and
Southern California
the avoidance of cost increases related
to labor or material scarcity.
The High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act
(SB 1865/SB1169) directs that the first portion
of the high-speed train system to be funded will
be San Francisco to Los Angeles. Even along
that route there may be regional segments that
can be opened before construction is complete
on the entire north-south line."

It is pretty clear from this that certain segments will be opened up for commercial service before the entire system is up and running. I seem to remember that Robert was against this idea, and wanted the whole thing brought on-line at the same time, I could be wrong about that. My feeling is that given the budget constraints, if a minimum segment can be initially brought into revenue service, that it would not only generate revenue for the authority, but also serve as a showpiece for why the remaining part of phase 1 should be completed. Having a SF/Gilroy and/or a Bakersfield/LA segment running in 6 years as a starter line versus waiting 14 years for the whole system to be built before running the first train seems a no brainer. Curious as to what others think.

And here is the corresponding part of the EIS/EIR that talks about Caltrain, from page S-20..

"The Pacheco Pass alternative would enable the early, incremental implementation of the entire
Caltrain Corridor section between San Francisco, San Jose, and Gilroy. The HST system is
complementary to Caltrain and would utilize the Caltrain right-of-way and share tracks with express
Caltrain commuter rail services. Caltrain intends to use lightweight, electrified trains that would be
compatible with HST equipment. Because it utilizes the Caltrain corridor, environmental impacts
would be minimized. Utilizing the Caltrain Corridor (between San Francisco and San Jose) allows the
Authority to maximize the use of local and regional funds dedicated to train service improvements,
and thereby helping to reduce the need for state funds."

So, it looks like they plan on not only using the Caltrain ROW, bit also sharing the same tracks in some cases. Presumably, this would require complete electrification of the Caltrain tracks. You guys like Rafael who are more familiar with this can correct me if I am wrong here.

Wouldn't the following scenario make a lot of sense as a way to proceed moving forward. Decide to open up SF/Gilroy as one of if not the first segment.

1. Figure out what the cost would be to do this.
2. Develop revenue estimates.
3. Go to the feds for matching funds.
4. Get the private investment $ arranged now that State $ and Federal $ are confirmed.
5. Select and purchase trainsets to run on that segment.
6. Start building the initial SF/Gilroy segment.

Assuming that a decision was made to proceed in that manner, I'm curious as to what the cost might be, and when that particular segment might be ready to start revenue service?

Even if the SF/Gilroy segment were not to be chosen as the first segment to be opened, in general, wouldn't the authority plan moving forward be to identify one or more of those kind of "easily implementable" segments and then phase the actual construction in that order?

I remember speculating in the previous thread that both a NorCal and a SoCal segment might be identified as initial segments, per this in the implementation plan... "a distribution of construction and initiation
of service in regions of both Northern and Southern California"


P.S. Rafael, thanks for that explanation about the Mohave/Vegas alignment and the $1 billion cost estimate.

P.P.S. It occurred to me that you guys that are intimately aware of all the alignment and ROW issues might consider going to work for the authority. If you think about it, they will be hiring people whos job will be doing exactly that, just getting paid for it! Don't know if your background would qualify you, or if this is just a hobby like most of us...

Anonymous said...

@ accountablevta, I think what your analysis doesn't include is that BART is extremely popular with the voters in a way that conventional rail and even high-speed rail are not.

There may be a number of different reasons for why this is, but it doesn't change the reality on the ground which is what I was trying to get at. BART is different from HSR in that it already exists and is enormously successful (based on their ridership numbers), and has an established network that SC residents would like to join.

On the other hand BART is different from Caltrain, ACE and the Capitol Corridor, as well as the VTA light rail system in that it is viewed as a higher-quality service than those others - the cadillac of public transit so to speak.

I ended my BayRail Alliance membership a number of years ago b/c I disagreed with their efforts to block BART and inhibit the expansion of public transit, based purely on their analysis that conventional trains are better. Yes BART is unnecessarily expensive and yes it will require increased funding, but the writing is on the wall. BART to SJ is going to happen, and that is not a complete catastrophe. In fact BART may be a much wiser investment than some of the particularly low-ridership light rail lines that VTA is considering building.

Along with the negatives, there are many positives to having a complete network of rail around the bay that is electrically powered (hopefully by 100% renewable energy), without the need for a lot of transfers and connections, covering a large geographic area, and offering high levels of service (low headways and long operating hours), attractive stations and seating, one universal fare card (someday), and all of the other goodies that are within reach.

I no longer see the point of obstructing BART any further, except to keep the pressure on the VTA to be fiscally prudent and to not gut other worth-while services. It makes more sense to me to find out how to pay for BART as well as HSR and bus and light rail, because the majority of people have stated repeatedly that they want BART, and BART will help to bring more transit-riders to/from SJ which will increase the market-size of rider's who will need to make a connection to/from VTA, so that there will actually be some people on those new light rail cars that have one of the lowest farebox recover numbers of any transit system I've heard of.

Anonymous said...

Something that doesn't seem to be mentioned much here, or on other sources of information about CAHSR, is when construction will actually start. Searching through old comments finds an unsourced estimate of construction starting in 2012 and finishing 2018. What is delaying the start of construction so long?

Anonymous said...


In short, there needs to be a project level EIR and engineers need to draw up the plans. You can't just take a bulldozer and start moving dirt without a plan. The CAHSRA have limited engineering work done. A two to five year period of engineering on a project this size and complex is understandable. Things need to be right, for the most part, without a ton of change orders during construction which can add substantial $$ to the project.

Spokker said...

I've barely followed the BART to San Jose extension over the years, but having Bart to San Jose on the east side and having Caltrain/HSR on the west side of the Bay sounds awesome. You could ride around the bay in the loop.

Also, did anyone catch the BART reference on the Simpsons last Sunday?

Tony D. said...

Excellent post Matt in SF! Glad to see you ended your membership with the obstructionist Bay Rail Alliance group. AccountableVTA, the people in Santa Clara County are speaking loud and clear on BART; enough of your sour grapes! By the way, I don't live in SF, but I love the idea of a Geary BART subway out to 19th Ave.

accountablevta said...

matt in sf:

BART is no doubt popular, but I don't see it more or less popular than other forms of transit in terms of voter support.

The taxes in LA and the North Bay all passed by a higher margin. VTA's has the lowest percentage among all the rail taxes.

No matter what, with this margin, VTA would not be able to pass another tax again for BART in the next 8 years. However, all of the documents indicate that VTA needs another tax increase to complete the project.

Some people like BART more than anything else. Some hate BART entirely, but neither constitute the majority. The majority has no strong preference, other than that BART is a more familiar brand.

HSR is a proposal that most are not familiar with, and there was very little campaigning for HSR.

The problem with the BART project is that VTA is dishonest about the cost and the ridership projection. Those who pushed BART the most does not care about the rest of the transit system that everyone else rely on. If BART were defeated other superior proposals can go forward, which wouldn't have the same adverse consequences.

Whether it passes or not, BART itself is too difficult to defeat. But that damage needs to be contained. Most voters would agree that existing transit shouldn't be sacrificed for this project, even though they can't connect the dots.

Believe me, rail advocates don't like to participate in these kinds of campaigns, because it rob them the time to push more positive campaigns like electrification. However funding shortage and political realities force them to contest. Although they didn't get what they want, they at least have a good shot at reducing the damage and allow other priorities to go forward.

accountablevta said...

Certain facts don't change no matter how popular a rail project is.

Perhaps some people really don't care how it would impact existing VTA services after all. Perhaps some people really won't accept a different type of train even if it won't impact other services.

Measure B is just a way for VTA to buy a few months of lies.

Brandon in California said...

I would be curious to know the latest status of Federal funding toward the SJ BART extension.

As I recall, and my memory is dated by about 2 years, FTA did not recommend a sufficient finding to support federal financial participation. If that is accurate, and was related to local financial participation being insufficient... maybe that 1/8th tax increase will result in a change on the Federal side?

That information is online at FTA's web site and I could look it up, but I am sure someone here is familiar with the Federal New Starts program and process and what actually did happen with previous efforts?

ian said...

I gotta say, maybe fun that B passed so closely, but looking in the long term, not sure it's a good idea.

I think the wide gauge / proprietary system that BART uses really kills it. 4'8.5" is for some reason, so much cheaper than 5'6". (BART train costs 40% more than a TGV of the same capacity? WHAT?)

I feel like the future (oh, wait, and our entire past) is with standard gauge, which has the potential to be full metro, quasi-bart-metro, commuter rail, everything... by committing to BART we lose the flexibility (read: higher speed commuter / regional trains) that metro east would have provided. it's also HELLA bank in comparison.

plus, using standard tracks and trains would've meant that the train systems would be interoperable and could maybe, possibly, someday, merge a bit, and be like... one system. wow.

Robert Cruickshank said...

LA County's Measure R also squeaked past with 67.51% of the vote. Still, 2/3 support from the public for *anything* is a huge margin of victory, California's moronic 2/3 rules notwithstanding.

rubber toe, I'm not opposed to opening it in segments - I just want to be sure that there are firm plans to complete the whole line. If construction is ongoing on the whole route but we open, say, Gilroy-SF first, that's fine.

That may not be quite how it works out. But whatever the specific arrangement, one my core goals going forward is to ensure that SF-LA-Anaheim is built in full completion.

Spokker said...

It seems like everybody is lying when it comes to transit.

I think BART is wacky in a few ways. But I think it would beneficial to finish the job to San Jose, and then never build another BART line again.

I agree, this wide gauge thing is a bunch of BS, but it least it was entirely grade separated and works well.

bossyman15 said...

Spokker: I also saw that on simpsons lol!

Robert Cruickshank said...

BART's wide gauge was chosen back when it looked like they'd be running trains over the Golden Gate Bridge. Wide gauge was going to ensure that the trains stayed on the tracks in strong winds.

Eventually Marin County dropped out of BART, partly over whether to use the Golden Gate Bridge for BART, but by that point the wide gauge had already been adopted system-wide.

Anonymous said...

I may have stated this before in previous posts, but, just to reiterate, I don't have any kind of background in transportation planning or engineering. All of the information I get on the subject of California and Bay Area transit comes from blogs and BATN. It also goes without saying, since I read these kinds of blogs, that I am very pro transit, and I am not by any means opposed to making large investments in developing transit in this state. Projects like HSR and DTX are very expensive but worthy of support if it creates a more transit oriented environment. However, from almost everything I read online about certain subjects, there appears to be almost unanimous agreement in a couple of areas. One is that the Pacheco Pass is clearly an inferior HSR route, but that doesn't necessarily make it a worthless project. The other is that BART to San Jose is a terrible idea. It is based on unrealistic projections and it cost $6 billion. And what do we get? something like 16 miles of track? A simple comparison to other rail projects around the country just makes that seem like a complete waste of money. This is just some perfunctory research, so I in no way stand behind these numbers as 100% accurate, but...

A 23 mile extension of the DC Metro is supposedly 1.8 billion. The Sprinter in San Diego is 22 miles for 477 million. Smart is projected to cost 450 million for 70 miles. Nashville built a 32 mile commuter line for 41 million. Granted, these last 3 might not provide the same level of service as BART (which, South Bay area doesn't necessarily need in this corridor), but the general trend is that all of these projects are a small fraction, even a very tiny fraction, of this BART to San Jose project. There might be some who want to see huge capital investment flow into the south bay region, but other than that I cant see why any rational transit advocate would be looking forward to this project. $6 should be able to buy so much more than what is being offered.

As far voters coming out in favor of this (whether or not it passes), I think that shows that they are supportive of mass transit in general. If the casual voters were aware of the details of the cost, or given any kind of alternative, I can't see why they would make a choice in favor of this.

Transbayblog posted a good series on why BART to SJ sucks so bad a few weeks ago.

luis d. said...

I have a question to whom ever may have an answer.

What happens to the $1/2 Million that was donated to the Prop 1A campaign and wasn't used for advertising & such? Can the HSR Authority use it in some other way? Or is it given back?

Andrew said...

Not only is BART wide-gauge (which I heard was for passenger comfort at higher speeds) but it runs on DC power, necessitating several power substations along the lines. Extending it to San Jose is a bad idea, as would be running it under Geary in the city. For the latter I would have been happy with a Muni extension when I lived there, like subway to Japantown and then properly signaled and road-traffic separated to the Cliffhouse.

Rafael said...

@ rubber toe -

it is quite likely that the Caltrain corridor will be among the first sections tackled, because of all the grade separations that must be built.

LA-Anaheim is another priority section. for the same reason.

The third is Fresno-Bakersfield, because CHSRA needs a long stretch of flat track to test vendor claims of supporting 220mph in commercial operations during pre-qualification.

There's also been talk of a central maintenance facility at Castle Airport in Atwater as consolation prize for not running the main line through there. It would cost billions more to bring that old AFB up to the standard required for commercial long-range service.

Rafael said...

@ matt in SF -

I like your Cadillac comparison. Both that brand and BART were the gold standard in the 1950s. The luster has definitely faded.

The problem is that BART technology is incompatible with anything else and, so is their fare and ticketing system. Wherever BART goes, standard gauge trains are effectively shut out, so there is no way to leverage BART tracks for additional services. The CAF company in Spain has developed retrofit variable gauge trucks but BART also has proprietary signaling and its rolling stock is not FRA compliant.

Case in point: CHSRA scrapped the HSR spur to Oakland in large part because there was no way to take trains downtown.

Another problem is that BART is essentially an exploded subway system with a structural capacity bottleneck in downtown SF. Nowhere else in the world are there subway line that are 50+ miles long.

There are no bypass tracks for express train, though BART is now - after half a century - implementing a crossover in Contra Costa county. That is the rail equivalent to overtaking a car on a two-lane rural highway, i.e. it relies on signaling to avoid head-on-collisions.

It's also silly to pretend that Caltrain is a fair representation of the state of the art. The service is chronically underfunded and makes do with the crumbs it does get. Regional services in populated areas in Europe are not only electrified but also grade separated and based on fast, lightweight EMU rolling stock - exactly what Caltrain wants and will now get thanks to sharing its ROW with HSR.

Extending Caltrain to Fremont and creating the option of later hosting Capitol Corridor and ACE trains would create rail-around-the-bay plus improved connection to inland areas of NorCal. By contrast, BART enjoys funding primacy so expect Santa Clara county to starve Caltrain and VTA light rail/bus services to pay for operating that Cadillac of yours.

Honestly, people in south city will kick themselves for extending the reach of the BART octopus instead of fostering standard gauge.

Anonymous said...

I've mentioned this before elsewhere, but I'll mention it here for the benefit of the readers of this blog...

BART's gauge is actually not that unique or nonstandard. In fact, there are over a BILLION people who are served by BART-gauge systems. There are over *55,000* miles of BART-gauge track laid, 40% of which is electrified. The only catch is that it's in India. India's standard gauge is the BART gauge!

India is now developing and deploying modern trainsets for their rail network. They are churning out massive quantities of ballastless track.

Mumbai railway trainsets could be modified without much fuss to run on BART (with the biggest change being adapting to third rail), and the Kolkata Metro trains are almost DROP IN replacements for BART (change voltage of transformers, adapt ATC onboard systems, adjust suspension height, repaint platforms for different door locations).

India's older trains are crappy, but they are now deploying new world-class trains as part of their ambitious infrastructure improvements.

If we bought trainsets and track from India, the old "BART gauge is expensive" argument would be dead in the water. The grade separation is expensive, but any good short-headway system is grade-separated.

Now granted, BART extensions all over the place would be silly. Even with advanced cars, BART will never go faster than 120 miles per hour (unless someone makes a breakthrough in third rail power delivery -- current speed record is 108mph, albeit using 1988 tech), but the gauge is not really a huge obstacle when over a sixth of the world's population shares it.

IMHO BART should have short extensions into the suburbs so they terminate at intermodal stations. i.e. the San Jose/Diridon extension, the downtown Livermore extension, and an extension to Antioch Amtrak. In addition there should be an infill BART station at San Bruno Caltrain to improve Caltrain connectivity to trains that don't go to Millbrae. If these short extensions were defined as the maximum extent of BART, it would integrate with every major standard-gauge rail system in the bay area except for SMART (though a Golden Gate Bridge Caltrain crossing that integrated it with SMART would fix that), and riders on every line would have a no-backtracking one-transfer access to them (with the exception of PBP->Capitol Corridor riders, who would have to backtrack to Richmond).

I think these are reasonable extensions that improve the intermodal usefulness of BART for all involved. After that, declare BART-to-suburbs finished.

The Caltrain Metro-East plan would not have near the same benefits. BART would not be intermodal with HSR or ACE, and a rider from Castro Valley who wanted to go to Stockton would have to backtrack all the way to Bay Fair, then backtrack to the new infill Union City Station and transfer to another train to backtrack further to an ACE station. BART-to-Livermore would let them go straight to ACE, and even without that BART to San Jose would at least eliminate transfers (and I don't believe for a minute that CME would have 1:1 timed transfers with BART -- call me when they at least get 1:2 or 1:4 timed transfers working at Millbrae -- BART runs every 15 minutes like clockwork, it wouldn't be hard).

Off-the-shelf track exists for BART. Mostly off-the-shelf rolling stock is in production. The ATC is the same Alcatel ATC used in systems around the world (including Muni Metro) so no excuse there. BART has no reason to be more expensive than any other grade-separated, automated system. The real problem is with BART management paying too much for everything -- and that could be fixed with a ballot measure too.

Rafael said...

@ jims -

so now we're going from Cadillac to Hindustan Motors?

Btw, the issue is not that broad gauge is inherently bad, it's that it creates an interoperability problem in a country that is otherwise standard gauge. Fwiw, Spain also has thousands of miles of legacy 5'6" gauge track. All of the new HSR track is standard gauge, though.

Also, no-one here is talking about Caltrain Metro East. Rather, the issue is if the alignment along Santa Clara Street and up to Fremont should be implemented using antiquated BART technology or, using cheaper modern standard gauge with bi-level cars and 25kV AC overhead electricity.

By the time the segment is completed, Caltrain will will be electrified between San Francisco and San Jose. There would be no need for any new tracks between SJ Diridon and Santa Clara just because of the incompatible gauge.

Eventually, standard gauge to Fremont would allow express trains with two-mode locomotives to reach downtown San Jose directly from Sacramento, Stockton or Modesto (even North Concord if planners there don't make a hash of it) and continue on to San Francisco or - someday - Monterey. Laying tracks commits you for many decades, so it's wise to keep options open for future generations. BART closes these options.

Regarding Oakland, the smartest thing to do might be to construct a covered trench down the median of Nelson Mandela Parkway between Emeryville and the Jack London Square station. That would create a bypass for express trains and an intermodal at West Oakland BART.

Andrew said...

@rafael: Your plan kind of sounds like a Japanese-style subway line, minus the bi-level cars. In Tokyo and Osaka, private rail companies inter-operate with several municipal subway lines. In fact, I can only think if a handful of subway lines that don't have such an arrangement.

Pretty much unheard of in the US, though, even in AC-powered standard gauge systems.

Rafael said...

@ andrew -

interesting, I was not aware of that. Most subway systems run on dedicated rails which are not shared even with other subway lines. Rail services such as the S-Bahn in Munich and Vienna and RER in Paris, do usually share a network core within the city and intermodal stations with the subway system.

The reason for separate tracks is that subways usually tend to operate at 3-5 minute headways during rush hour, so there's not enough capacity to host regional rail services as well.

This is different from the situation in San Jose, where BART trains will run at - perhaps - 10 minute headways. Given the length of BART lines and the inherent bottlenecks in SF and Oakland, I don't see how they could run at 2-3x that frequency.

Note that extending Caltrain to Fremont would still permit trains to run only as far as Santa Clara to enable subway-style headways during rush hour if those are needed at some point in the future.

Google Maps satellite view shows a large unused area at that station. It looks like a former freight rail siding, but the tracks have been ripped up. The land could be purchased and pressed back into service for passenger operations incl. overnight parking. Note that both HSR and Caltrain might need more of that, because the TTC and 4th & King don't offer a whole lot.

Capitol Corridor and ACE trains with dual-mode locomotives could use the Alviso route during that time and the downtown SJ route during the day. It's all about flexibility, which you only get with standard gauge.

Marine Layer said...

@ rafael -
BART is planning a large storage and maintenance yard at Santa Clara that will use up most if not all of that area.

For decades track siding was there with dozens of freight cars. There were even the remains of an old roundhouse. All of that was removed some 10 years ago.

Anonymous said...


Yup! Hindustan. Indian engineering has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. Yes, they can make good vehicles in Chennai. Inexpensively, too.

I'd say that, overall, the Indian engineering base is crap due to their crank-em-out education model (i.e. people who take the career for the money/job, even if they lack talent or affinity for the field). However, the unwashed masses of McEngineers are the ones working for the outsourcing companies. In truth, India does produce some of the best engineers in the world -- because there's a ton of opportunity for people who *are* talented and motivated. With over a billion people, the amount of potential talent dwarfs the U.S.. These people are building well-engineered rockets, fighter jets, and yes, trains. Mock them at your peril, you might be working for them someday.

Moving on, why on earth would you want to run an express train down that alignment? The advantage of it is you can hit local stops at shopping malls and residential areas -- i.e. the sort of thing BART is good at. Spending the money to put an express train there makes no sense when the existing Fremont-to-SJ-via-Middle-of-Nowhere alignment works just fine for this purpose.

That said, standard gauge rail *SHOULD* have a downtown station, but not coming from that direction. A short, deep bore stub line from Diridon makes way more sense. Bore it under the downtown BART station (trains that cover longer distances should go deeper, because the longer time to get to the platform matters less). This stub would serve as the terminus for commuter routes like Caltrain (except for the Gilroy trains), ACE, Capitol Corridor, and the San Joaquins (which really should go all the way to San Jose, not just Jack London).

Long-haul trains (HSR from L.A./San Diego, and the Coast Starlight/Daylight) would just pass through Diridon, as a short transfer to BART (or a short-headway Caltrain) to get downtown is not as big a deal for long trips.


If, for some reason, you *really* want to run through that alignment, though, you can still build it alongside BART. The surface ROW to Santa Clara Ave is pretty wide, and most of the narrower spots have parking lots next to them that can be painlessly annexed. Plenty of room for two sets of tracks. There are some choke points in the residential area north of Beryessa, but BART intends to use a retained cut and below-grade street crossings as aerial grade separation would piss off the neighbors. That segment could be "capped" (effectively turning it into a cut-and-cover subway) and you could then put back the at-grade standard gauge line (since this train would cross the streets at-grade, it would never climb above the soundwalls).

Now, the Santa Clara tunnel is a bigger problem, but there's a couple options.

The expensive option is to just bore a third tunnel. Since these are express trains they dont *need* to stop partway through, so it's okay to single-track this very short segment. Then either adjacent to or inside the downtown BART station, you'd build a standard-gauge station with two tail tracks (so incoming trains can still use the single-track segment if a train is already stopped at the station).

The crazy, fun, cheap, and backwards-compatible option is to dual-gauge the tracks in the tunnel. BART can handle 3-4 minute headways, but because the core SF-tube-Oakland segments limit the headway on individual lines, the Fremont line has an average headway of 7-8 minutes. This leaves slots for the standard gauge trains to run between the BART trains. To keep pace, the trains would stop at all the underground stations, or just move slowly. Stations could be built adjacent next to the BART stations. It could even use existing BART stations by opening the doors to platforms on the opposite side of the track from the BART platform. This arrangement would violate the third-rail-always-furthest-from-the-platform BART rule, but plenty of cities have platform-on-both-sides stations. Futhermore, the third rail would be on the BART side under the "lip". Since the standard-gauge-train's platform would be lower, people who fell onto the tracks would automatically climb that way rather than trying to climb up the BART platform.

Because it's amusing, I am rather fond of the latter scenario. =) It might require an FRA waiver (since BART non-FRA cars would be sharing track with mainline vehicles), but since no freight would be on it that would be an easy sell.

The only caveat would be that any train that used it would have to, in addition to its native ATC/PTC system, have an Alcatel SelTrac device onboard, potentially leading to a modest increase in cost (unless it used SelTrac natively). The driver would switch over to SelTrac right before the merge section (rather like what Muni Metro does before entering the subway).

(As an aside, I despise SelTrac and wish BART and especially Muni would upgrade to something that doesn't store its route/schedule configuration as hardcoded into the binary. You shouldn't have to write code and rebuild from source just to change a destination announcement.)

The Mandela bypass is an amazingly good idea. I think you could get away with a simpler/cheaper retained cut though. The only thing you'd have to move is dirt, and the freeways are already above grade there, 2/3 of the minor roads could be blocked off, and the other ones would need only cheap bridges (infill bridges could be added later if people clamored for them). The only major work you'd have to do would be the Peralta/Grand intersection.

One thing does make me sad about the BART intermodals. NONE of them, including your hypothetical West Oakland one, are stations served by interstate trains. Diridon will be the first when the San Jose extension is built, and even that will only catch the Coast Starlight. The California Zephyr requires a secondary transfer on Capitol Corridor/San Joaquins or an annoying bus ride.

Actually my dream solution to that problem is to add an entirely new BART line that's a standard gauge metro (i.e. doesn't interline). It'd follow the standard 19th/Geary subway route from Daly City, run parallel to a couple of the downtown stations, then take a new transbay tube to TREASURE ISLAND (finally connecting it properly to the rest of SF), continue across the bay, coming ashore at the Powell St. Marina, and meeting up with the main Amtrak station at Emeryville. It would then curve right aerial (or tunnel) through the business/industrial area, and then become a subway following MacArthur (and thus including a stop at MacArthur Station) and continuing further, possibly switching to Bancroft at some point, all the way down to Bay Fair, thus covering most of the underserviced urban core of Alameda County while connecting at transfer stations for all four suburban lines.

I figure since the transbay portion of BART is already at its max capacity, any new transbay lines might as well be built as a standard gauge metro, (which, despite all my talk about India, is still generally a better idea if building an entire line from scratch.)

Rafael said...

@ marin layer, jims -

you're just proving my point: making BART to SJ play nice with any other rail service is either impossible, expensive or funky. BART doesn't really offer anything that electrified standard gauge could not.

Wrt express trains - I was thinking of Capitol Corridor "baby bullets" that would stop in Richmond, Emeryville, Coliseum/OAK, either Union City or Fremont Irvington and then turn into local trains to SJ Diridon. Beyond that, e.g. to SF, they could revert to "baby bullet" mode. It's a compromise, but it doesn't look as if there will enough room for bypass tracks in the Fremont-SJ Diridon segment.

Wrt interstate trains, Amtrak could choose to run the Zephyr down to LA - or even San Diego - via the central coast if it wanted to. It's just a question of how many customers want that service and who will subsidize it.

Personally, I think contributors on this blog ought to focus on the sweet spot for high speed rail, roughly 30-600 miles, depending on circumstances. Any further and flying makes more sense unless you've got a lot of time on your hands or a fear of flying.

luis d. said...

Here's a pretty recent (pre-election) video from PBS about California's road congestion problem and building Public Rail Transportation Infrastructure. They also mention Ca HSR.

25 min. long but a pretty good video.


Anonymous said...


BART *does* offer something that the others don't though -- connection to an extant infrastructure that's already the backbone of East Bay transit. BART to San Jose is expensive (though I'm convinced that the price could be cut drastically through better sourcing and better contract negotiations). It still makes sense to build in much the same way that the ridiculously expensive Caltrain-to-Transbay-Terminal connection does.

As an analogy, wouldn't you find it annoying if it were decided that Caltrain would forever end at 4th and King, and getting downtown would be accomplished with timed transfers to Muni Metro?

Or, to make similar distances match, what if Caltrain ended at *Millbrae* and you were told you shouldn't extend Caltrain to SF because you could transfer to BART instead?

Intermodals are good, but they only work well when they are either at a major hub terminus (being a major destination and connecting a ton of lines) or connect heavily used lines with major destinations in *either direction*.

This is why Millbrae is terrible and is not the great intermodal it was touted to be. It is not a good terminus, and while there are great BART destinations along the way, they are only in one direction. In contrast the SFO station is starting to pick up steam because it is a good terminus. It will probably not meet the 2010 ridership projections (17k, currently it is at 11k, or roughly one third of SFO's overall traffic), but given the growth curve from 2003 it will probably reach 14k, which is damn good.

Assuming Capitol Corridor gets upgrades, a BART Fremont intermodal terminus would at worst be a Millbrae, and at best be something akin the the LA Orange Line. (Good ridership-per-dollar, but far, far less discretionary ridership than if they'd build the seamless Red Line)

Transfers, even good ones, dramatically discourage new, discretionary ridership. The 12 St. Oakland/Macarthur BART transfers are the easiest on the planet, and I *still* know many people who won't take BART on weekends because of it, or will wait extra time for a direct SF/Richmond train even though the transfer would get them to their destination faster.

Anyway, back to HSR... If we're willing to do Euro/Asian style tunnel-straight-through-mountains thing, interstate trains make total sense. SF->Sacramento->Reno->SaltLake->Denver has tons of good city pairs in the 400-600 mile range (assuming tunnels rather than meandering).

Assuming a well-tunneled route that went under Donner Pass and went straight across Nevada instead of following the meandering Humboldt River, SF -> SLC would be about 650 miles. Flying overall would probably work out to be about an hour faster (approx 4 hours to fly after you figure in airport hassles, 5 or so for HSR), but I'd pick HSR every time purely for comfort reasons. I don't hate planes. I *love* planes. I just hate cramped economy class seats, and airports are some of the most miserable experiences you can have that don't involve crime, relationships, accidents, or natural disasters.

crzwdjk said...

So to whoever talks about BART being Indian gauge: yes, the tracks are nominally the same gauge, so at least some of the same tooling and layout can be reused from India (although I'm not sure that it's *exactly* the same, and a few millimeters can make a huge difference here). But the structure gauge is not at all the same. Indian trains are something like 11 feet wide, certainly wider than BART trains, and obviously rather too tall to fit into the subway tunnel.

Rafael said...

@ jims -

please read between the lines. First, Caltrain to Fremont would connect to the existing service up the peninsula. Six one way, half a dozen the other. And of course soem way will be found to run HSR trains into the new TTC, even if it doesn't look that way right now.

However, Capitol Corridor trains also run the length of the East Bay and, ACE trains all the way from Stockton. Right now, they have to cut across to Santa Clara, which is better than nothing but leaves the south-east Bay Area underserved. BART to SJ is definitely better than nothing, but IMHO standard gauge to Fremont and beyond would be better.

@ arcady -

slapping a broad gauge truck underneath an existing standard gauge car doesn't require a lot of engineering effort (the inverse does).

The issue with BART tracks is that in California, only BART can use them. Anyone else would have to jump through several technology hoops to get a train into downtown Oakland or through the transbay tube. And that's after a suitable business model has been negotiated.

Note the irony of BART itself now proposing to use standard gauge diesel multiple unit non-compliant rolling stock on brand-new tracks along hwy 4 between Pittsburg/Bay Point and Antioch.

As if Colorado Railcar didn't have FRA-compliant bi-level DMU gear that BART could run on the existing freight rails between North Concord and Antioch. A couple of new turnoffs and they could run to Tracy, Stockton, Napa, Sacramento, Oakland etc. But no, it's BART so they must lay their own track because that's how they've always done it.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good stuff in the comments here.

So the speed limit for BART is constrained by the use of a 3rd rail power system? I've always wondered if it would be possible to make BART run faster than 80 mph or whatever it tops out at, but it is not something that I've ever seen discussed.

As far as BART being "my" cadillac I don't mean to come off as some kind of BART fanatico, just a realist. It seems more effective to call a truce with the pro-BART to SJ forces and offer to work together with them for mutual goals. Those goals might include their support for HSR, for an agreement to cap BART expansion with the proposed intermodal stations in SJ and Livermore, to not decimate VTA funding, to adopt stringent TOD policies, to prioritize public transit connections to the new BART stations and to de-emphasize plans for parking garages at new BART stations, etc.

The general public overwhelming supports BART - including the 20+% of those Santa Clara county voters who voted *against* HSR (40% of the electorate) but who then voted *for* BART to SJ - which is why it makes sense to work with them not against them. Why bother? Because there are many important design decisions that are yet to be made that transit advocates could help to influence, and BART supporters might welcome the support of the broader progressive community since there are certainly going to be continuing issues with getting BART financed and built and operating smoothly. The pure politics of the situation are that BART has the general public on it's side compared to more tentative support for conventional rail, but the transit and planning advocates can still leverage their more modest clout to play a meaningful role, either on the inside or on the outside. So far, working from the outside to obstruct BART at all costs doesn't seem to have been all that productive.

And as far as the idea of running passenger rail from SF over the GG bridge to meet up with SMART, that sounds pretty unlikley to me. There is very little population in southern Marin county and many pristine open spaces instead, they don't like transit (or the low-income folks who ride it for that matter), would not pay for it, and it is extremely challenging terrain that would potentially cost tens of billions to tunnel through. The much more realistic rail connection would be across the bay along the Richmond-San Rafael bridge corridor to meet up with the east bay rail lines, and some sort of second transbay tube between SF and Oakland, all of which is probably decades away from any serious consideration let alone financing, design, construction and operation. Ridership in this corridor is not high enough to support this kind of investment although 30-50 years from now it might be just right.

accountablevta said...


It is actually more complicated because UP has never been friendly to passenger rail. BART building its own tracks would avoid these problems.

It is one of these corridors that UP most likely wouldn't sell. UP is more willing to sell off the Altamont Pass.

Anonymous said...

If anyone is having a hard time visualizing all of this, I found an awesome website that has maps of every major rail service in northern california.


There are also a bunch of other maps including a HSR map on the left side.

Andrew said...

@rafael: The Japanese subway arrangement works with very low headways is because the private trains and municipal trains are interchangeable from a subway passenger's point of view. You can ride either within the subway system on the same ticket. It's when you go past the subway line's terminus and on to the private companies rails that you enter that company's fare regime.

Japanese passenger rail is dizzyingly complex but it works extremely well.

accountablevta said...

matt in sf:

The yes on B side spent much more campaign money than the yes on 1A in Santa Clara County. May be those folks vote against HSR because they haven't seen much of the yes on 1A efforts and that they were willing to vote for only one form of transit. Of course, there are those who voted yes on 1A and no on the B.

In LA, 1A got 55% support and Measure R got 67% support. Measure R is a tax 4 times higher than what VTA was asking.

BART is really no more or less popular than any other forms of mass transit. However, unlike other projects, VTA is still not honest about the cost and how it could pay for it.

Anonymous said...

BTW - As the votes continue to be counted in Santa Clara, Measure B has climbed from 66.67% on Monday up to 66.74% tonight or a pick-up of 0.07%. It looks like they added another 6,034 votes since Monday which would leave 13,000 or fewer ballots left to be counted - probably less if you figure some ballots were rejected.

Anonymous said...

@ acountablevta,

The comparison you make of the vote for Prop 1a (55%) and LA's Measure R (67%) is interesting, but (and correct me if I'm wrong) I believe Measure R was a general transportation sales tax, and that it is going towards roadways as well as light rail and buses. I think most people feel that LA traffic and transportation options need improvement, so it is not surprising that they voted in favor of trying to improve it; however this makes it difficult to use as a measure of support for public transit alone.

Regardless, it all depends upon how you want to interpret the votes, and there are always going to be a number of factors. Overall I think it's good to see that voters were willing to fund these projects. If everything ends up getting built as planned it will be a significant expansion of public transit all across the state.

Spokker said...

"however this makes it difficult to use as a measure of support for public transit alone."

65% is going to public transit according to the expenditure plan. 20 percent is going to highways. 15 percent is going to things like street resurfacing, pothole repair, bikeways, pedestrian improvements, and other crap.

Anonymous said...

I was quite pleased to find that Penrith, my local intercity station in Northern England, will from December have far faster links to London by means of a same-platform connection at Lancaster, two stops down the line, even though we now have fewer direct trains. In the same way, Caltrain running down the same alignments at the HSR means, given a moment's thought, that every station on the caltrain network will have an easy link south, even those which aren't served directly by the HSR.

With this in mind, an excessive number of stops in the Bay area, each with an effective dwell time of four minutes, slowing down journeys for San Fransisco-bound passengers, ought to be avoided, given the risk of making HSR's journey time less competitive with air and increasing the economic cost of the time spent traveling.

Rafael said...

@ accountablevta -

there are two separate ROWs between Fremont and Milpitas, right next to each other. The SPML on the west is still owned by UPRR and in active use. Afaik, the continuation down to SJ Diridon is no longer in regular use but retained as an emergency backup in case the Alviso line ever becomes temporarily unavailable.

Santa Clara county purchased the WPML on the east from UPRR for the express purpose of bringing BART to downtown SJ. This ROW is only wide enough for two tracks.

UPRR currently runs about 25 trains a day through Altamont. If it were to sell the ROW, those trains would have to use the Capitol Corridor and/or Contra Costa routes instead. That might work, especially if the Niles-Oakland Coliseum section were double-tracked. Between Industrial Pkwy and Fremont, an old track right next to the BART line could be pressed back into service for southbound trains.

Converting the Altamont Pass ROW to passenger-only service would permit a decent HSR/commuter rail overlay based on FRA-compliant clean diesel multiple unit rolling stock, even if Niles Canyon were retained in favor of a tunnel between Pleasanton and Union City and, if speeds were limited to 110mph to avoid the expense of full grade separation.

UPRR might well want to retain the right to use Altamont Pass in case the route via Oakland were to become temporarily unavailable.

@ andrew -

common ticketing across multiple operators is common in Europe too, though few services are provided by private companies.

@ Zoltan Connell -

SF to SJ is 50 miles. Caltrain has something like 15 stations along the way, though its "baby bullet" semi-express trains bypass many of them. It's unclear if Caltrain will still offer semi-express service once HSR goes live, but local trains will be faster after electrification.

Caltrain electrification plans call for top speeds of 90mph, with an option to upgrade to 125mph. However, these were drawn up before prop 1A passed. Caltrain will now have to revisit most of its plans to reflect the impact of HSR service levels, grade separation, track construction and electrification work. A lot will depend on how FRA handles requests by both Caltrain and CHSRA to use rolling stock designed against international crash safety standards.

At this point, the only confirmed HSR station in-between is Millbrae/SFO. Planners are considering a second one in either Redwood City or Palo Alto, but it is still possible neither will be chosen.

Brian said...

Here's the latest and likely final on challenges to BART to San Jose: