Thursday, February 26, 2009

Debating Peninsula HSR

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

Wow, 70 comments and counting on the last post - hardly any of which were about Sir Richard Branson and private operators! (I'm sure Branson's ego won't mind.) I think I know what's on some folks' minds regarding HSR, and it's the debate over how to build HSR on the Peninsula.

We haven't had contentious discussions here for a while - not since October - and so perhaps some folks have forgotten the rules of etiquette around here. I'll delve into that first, and then offer some more general comments on the debate.

First, I ask that all users post with a username. It can be a pseudonym. Call yourself Ishmael if you want, I don't care. It's impossible to follow which anon said what. Blogger doesn't offer a way to ban just anonymous comments - I'd have to force everyone to register either with Google or with OpenID or something else. I would prefer to not do that, but will do so if necessary.

Second, I ask that comments have some basis in fact and evidence. If someone persists in making stuff up, I'll delete the comments. Same goes for any comments that are abusive or contain personal attacks on other commenters.

Other blog platforms offer more functionality, like WordPress. I'll be honest that I simply do not have the time to implement that system, though if anyone wants to help I'll work with you on that (and I mean that this time!).

Now, the discussion on the peninsula. I think Clem at the Caltrain-HSR Compatibility Blog put it well when he made this comment on his blog's most recent post:

HSR has strong political backing from SF, SJ, Sacramento and Washington DC. I don't believe the city or the developer will be allowed to delay the project. While the process may indeed be acrimonious, I believe it will be short.

Anyone on the Peninsula who thinks they can kill this project is nuts. By "kill the project" I mean cut it off at San José, try and reroute it through Altamont (where cities like Fremont and Pleasanton will put up a huge fight), or stop its construction altogether.

None of that is going to happen. It's not possible. HSR has solid support from the highest level in American politics - President Barack Obama - and is widely supported in Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the Congress. This line will be built and it will be built as is currently routed: along the Caltrain line on the Peninsula.

Let's be clear about what the political effect of trying to kill HSR via lawsuit, street protest, or whining on a blog will be. Californians will look at you as if you've signed on to Bobby Jindal's 2012 campaign. You will be seen as attacking a popular president and a popular project and will very quickly become isolated. I don't know if that's fair, but it's the reality.

Peninsula residents have the right and the responsibility to speak up about this project and seek to work out the best methods for constructing HSR in their communities. But there needs to be both a sense of collaboration, of working for the public good, and supportiveness of the HSR concept. When that is absent, concerns will be ignored. Again, that may not be fair, but it is reality.

There appear to be three camps on the Peninsula regarding HSR. The first is likely the largest: outright supporters who just want this thing built. Over 65% of San Mateo County residents voted for Prop 1A, after all. The second are people who are a bit concerned about this or that aspect of the project, but who are willing to work constructively to ensure the project is built in a way that meets their needs. The third are HSR deniers who never accepted Prop 1A's passage and who are using the fight over how to build it on the Peninsula to try and kill high speed rail outright.

The problem is that the local media on the Peninsula likes to feed the trolls in the third group, and blows the opposition out of proportion. And that's how HSR denial and NIMBYism works - shout really loudly and hope those in power decide to placate you. That isn't going to happen this time. Again, HSR will be built. The question is how to build it the right way.

I would set out some key points for everyone to understand in this debate:

1. HSR is going to be built along the Caltrain route from SF to SJ.
2. We want to build this in a way that works for all the communities affected. But we're not going to give into NIMBYism or HSR denial.
3. If people on the Peninsula want a trench or a tunnel they must pay for it themselves. We're going to focus on raising money to build the entire system and can't devote systemwide funds to give Palo Alto a trench.
4. HSR will benefit all communities along the line by providing faster, safer, and cleaner transportation options that do not rely on the automobile.

Bil Paul's column on trenching is a welcome bit of sensibility on this debate, although he conveniently avoids the issue of payment.

Let's hope that we can have a more reasonable discussion among the first two groups I described above. Those who just want to refight the Prop 1A battle, or the Altamont vs. Pacheco battle (which Bil Paul rightly said is "final" and "futile" to try and reopen) should leave the debate to those of us who actually want to do this thing the right way.

So, get your Peninsula fix in here. Tomorrow I'm writing about something totally different.


Anonymous said...

Nicely stated all around. Good to get the blog re-focused. I like to participate in debate with facts, otherwise it's like debating the flatness of the Earth.

Also, folks should remember that it's really hard to dig a hole while standing in it. Same goes for running a train in the same place you're digging a trench.

Bay Area Resident said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Robert Cruickshank said...

Bay Area Resident, you're welcome to post here, as long as you're willing to stick to the facts.

Anonymous said...

I hope Southern California doesn't have as much opposition to this project as the Peninsula does.

With current closure of Palmdale airport and with plans to convert it to Solar Power Farm, is the Rail Authority working with LAXworld airpots? The Palmdale airport should have the main stop for the area. I hope they don't blow this opportunity up. They should be buying more around that airport so it can be expanded later and not face the obstacles posed by Westchester.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I would assume that the Authority is working with LA World Airports on Palmdale. LAWA has long wanted to develop Palmdale as a reliever to LAX and HSR is perfectly positioned to help make that happen.

It's worth noting that the solar plant plan would not mean the end of passenger operations at Palmdale although there is some contentiousness over just what it means for future operations.

Finally, anon, I'd like to ask you to pick a username, even if it's something made-up. I'm trying to cut down on people using the "Anonymous" username as it's difficult to keep track of which anon said what.

Anonymous said...

I doubt you will see any real opposition in social. All the rail lines down here are well established. Metro link already runs to proposed route to Palmdale because the 14 and 5 are a nightmare. Most people would prefer HSR because it will be far faster then the 40+ min commute times to LA. Also everyone for the most part hates LAX, HSR provides one alternative to SF and SJ.

Anonymous said...

Robert, if you are going to move to a new blog/forum system, please hide offending posts instead of removing them, leaving a "Show" button for people to see just what was posted. That way, we public observers can understand exactly why a particular post was suppressed.

David said...

Hi Robert,

Just FYI, there was a pre-scoping meeting last night in North Willow Glen (the section of San Jose just south of Diridon). This is an area with a relatively quiet single-track at the moment. While I am a big supporter (I live about 4 blocks from the tracks), a lot of folks in the neighborhood are just finding out about the impact of adding two additional tracks and the necessary fencing/barriers.

I'm guessing you will be getting similar bursts of traffic after each meeting introduces people to the reality of HSR. It would be interesting to post a graph of your page views every so often.

Thanks for the great post.

- Dave

Aaron said...

Anon @ 2:38pm:

I highly doubt it - Most of the line through LA north of Burbank will need to have tracks added, but that's not a big deal, as the median of San Fernando Rd. is so large that there are small parking lots for Metrolink between N. San Fernando and S. San Fernando. Those parking lots are not long for this world, but the area is a largely industrial area with some exceptions.

The ROW is already so wide that it seems like communities are already divided, and the big issue will appear to be that the only sensible way to build will be to put the ROW into a trench and let the streets run on bridges over the tracks - this already exists at some places, but it'll need to be done throughout the ROW. There are a handful of places where the ROW is close to residential areas, but it seems that it is fortuitously especially wide there. From a brief Google Maps view, there really aren't any homes that abut the tracks, but I could've missed a lot.

Newhall does look like it has about 5 potentially hairy blocks, and they're going to have to play nice and build sound walls for roughly 19 houses near Wiley Canyon Rd.

There appears to be a residential community east of Via Princessa station in Canyon Country that may be the biggest issue, but I haven't yet heard of any objections or controversy.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Agree with all of it, Ed. I think SoCal will have much less opposition to HSR, although the Anaheim-Irvine portion gets tricky in certain places (Orange and Santa Ana come to mind). Generally speaking you don't have communities right up against the rail lines as you do on the Peninsula.

Robert Cruickshank said...

MissionPk, that's an excellent point you make. I don't mind folks coming here to vent, and I don't mind HSR deniers posting here - I let Martin Engel spew his nonsense for months in 2008 on this. I just would like to tone down the conversation a bit, as things seemed to be getting a bit out of hand on the last post. Firm hand on the till and all that.

Anonymous said...

As I said on the other thread, there appears to be widespread confusion about what "HSR" means. The upgraded Caltrain would not be considered a true HSR line in other developed countries. It is considered an upgraded conventional line.

The fact that a high speed train will run on a conventional line does not make it noisy. In fact, it makes it quieter than the existing conventional trains. It is very common throughout Europe to run conventional lines through towns and cities, even upgraded conventional lines.

Here is a picture of an upgraded conventional line (137 mph) that hosts the TGV straight through Poitiers, France:

Rafael said...

@ robert cruickshank -

thank you for this point of order, though I suspect we haven't heard the last of the peninsula NIMBYs. It's unfortunate that some people who chose to buy property near active railroad rights of way failed to read up on prop 1A before November. Hopefully they will decide to invest some of their spare time into doing some research and making constructive suggestions on what would make implementation acceptable to them, without breaking the bank.


What has me more worried, frankly, is this idea of turning Palmdale airport into a solar power plant. Don't get wrong, I think solar farms absolutely should be part of California's energy future, because it's not realistic to attach millions of solar panels to legacy houses whose roofs were not designed for them.

However, solar farms can generate a lot of glare, which for obvious reasons represents a major safety hazard near an airport. This is especially true of solar thermal plants that use arrays of mirrors to concentrate sunlight hundreds of times in a small focus region.

For photovoltaic panels, perhaps there are special manufacturing techniques that scatter the reflected light to create a more diffuse effect, but I'm not aware of any.

If commercial aviation operations at Palmdale airport are permanently scaled back to permit a solar power plant, then there is no good reason for HSR to make an expensive detour via Tehachapi Pass. There is no value in risking even more population growth in the high desert unless there is an upside for the rest of the state, specifically an effective relief airport for LAX.

One consequence could be a change to construction phasing, with LA-SD prioritized over LA-Bakersfield.

Of course, there's no need for any changes to HSR plans if this solar farm concept for Palmdale is merely a temporary fix to generate some revenue in the interim, with firm plans to relocate it deeper into the desert once the airport is served by HSR trains. Then again, nothing outlasts a "temporary fix", so I'd like to know more about what's being cooked up.

Anonymous said...

Yes there is a small group of very
loud anti-HSR working the local paper website and speading all kinds of horror stories.If anyone posts a postive piece they are quickly jumped on by the 3or 4 of them. Its real sad that this group will probally get the station in Palo Alto nixed..I do hope that CAHSR does some kind of 3D work to show that this is not some horrible
10 lane freeway type of project but an upgrade that can look much like whats already there. Way cooler heads are needed

James said...

Some people may not understand that commenting on a Blog is a privilege, not a right. The Blog belongs to the owner and contributors. Everyone else is a guest and must follow by the rules or not post.

Thank you again for hosting this very interesting, useful, and relevant blog. I hope the CHSR system is better for it.

Bay Area Resident said...

I stuck to the facts. I know you don't want to accept reality that 50 miles worth residents of the most valuable sections of the SF bay area are not going to let this get built, period, but the sooner you accept it the better. You and your 10 million prop 1A vote won't do anything to stem the anger and resentment this project is inciting among this part of the state. As the mercury news accurately states, the anger among voters is building, nobody was aware of the implications of this- now they just starting to be. The scoping meetings are doing more harm than good also while they sit up there and harp on what Merced wants, or the fact that "they don't know" what the impacts are.

Bay Area Resident said...

Palo Alto will block the station and force the train underground or it won't happen. Reality check.

Anonymous said...

Bay Area Resident:

What is your plan to prevent the system from being built? Please enlighten us. You do realize that CHSRA and Caltrain are not subject to city zoning regulations, right? They don't need to go before the zoning board to get this approved - this isn't a case of your neighbor adding an extension that doesn't conform to code or some developer petitioning to get a single family residence rezoned so that he can built a condo. So, what exactly do you plan to do with all that "anger" and "resentment"?

Many of us would engage with CHSRA and Caltrain to voice our concerns to choose the best among among the feasible alternatives (e.g., check out the feedback that Mountain View has given CHSRA regarding the Castro that CHSRA has acknowledge and appears to be following). But that clearly isn't your plan. What is your plan?

Anonymous said...

Bay Area Resident: CHSRA doesn't need a station in Palo Alto (Redwood City appears much more amenable to hosting). As for going underground, the only way that can happen is if the city and/or county come up with money to fund it. This is in fact exactly what Berkeley did to put BART underground in 1970.

Bay Area Resident said...

mike, no no you don't understand. These cities will sue this project, indefinitely, out of existance. You need SUPPORT from the community. This isn't the inner city ghetto in 1968. There are dozens of historic points and landmarks on this "route" that CHSRA apparently missed in their zeal to ram this stupid train down our throats. El Palo Alto, for one. The destruction of El Palo Alto, which would be the result of the above ground implmentation of this train, is a showstopper. Environmental impact of schools another, these are the the public schools in the nation that will be ruined with overhead, ROARING train tracks.

I am truly sorry your ilk missed the composite makeup of the property on the Caltrain tracks when you drafted this proposal. You cannot put this train overground and knock out every historic landmark on the way. Any landmark within 800 feet of this thing is fair game for a lawsuit, and all it takes is for one or a few of them to win. El Palo Alto should go first.

The myopic view of you HSR supporters is truly remarkable. You really think you can win against every rich person and company on the peninsula? I don't.

Anonymous said...

I noticed that Bombardier has announced Catenary Free operating system.

If this proves to be a viable technology, how will this help CA HSR project.

Bay Area Resident said...

My proposal is to stop it with lawsuits for environmental concerns (both historical landmarks like most current caltrain stations, and true environmental damage to schools/hospitals etc), then the effect scared city planners and city councilmembers who will be voted out of existance unless they force an underground system or stall it (ie the Palo Alto city council, scared to perpetuity about their initial support of this are doing all they can to derail it), and finally a repeal of prop 1A, UNLESS the route is changed.

Thats the plan and it will work.

Anonymous said...

That tree is NOT going to be removed..dont worry all the people will still be able to get drunk under it.You have no idea what is going to be built at this point but
have already in your mind ripped an 800 foot ROW thru..BTW where were you when that Freeway was ripped thru SJ a couple of years ago? that was ok right?

Anonymous said...

Bay Area Resident, do you think just because peninsula residents are rich, it makes them more important?

California needs a coherent rail transportation network investment for it's future (see China's massive investment), we all need to make some sacrifices.

Peninsula route is the cheapest way to connect SF to LA, and can serve large section of the population. It's not like there isn't already a very loud, frequency, and dangerous rail already on the peninsula.

We residents living near the corridor should focus on the positives that this can bring: grade separation, dedicated right of way, electrification, and faster transportion. We can work with the HSR planners to make this more tolerable. My house is only 500ft from caltrain line right now in sunnyvale, I look forward to the day when there's no more diesel train blasting its horns causing traffic jam.

Anonymous said...

No it will not...keep drinking your nimby kool-aid...And dream on if you think San Jose is going to stop this project for willow glen

Mike Fogel said...

@ Bay Area Resident:

Your words would have more credibility if you believed in them enough to tie your name to them.


Mike Fogel

Alex M. said...

@ Bay Area Resident -

How about you get the cotton out of your ears and read a couple of our posts. In the "Mid-Peninsula HSR Station" post it was specifically stated that there is plenty of room on the west side of the current tracks that pass by El Palo Alto that the two additional tracks can be built there. Therefore nothing will happen to El Palo Alto at all. Actually, things will improve because the dirty diesel trains will be gone, El Palo Alto won't have to be sucking NOx gases all day long anymore.

Wrt historic buildings, what exactly is HSR going to do these buildings to threaten them so much? The fact is that the improvements brought by HSR will mean cleaner, quieter, and safer operation of the trains along the corridor. Also, Caltrain and the CHSRA aren't going to touch your High School for over-privileged brats (as a recent graduate from Berkeley High School I detest anyone who thinks their high school is so much better than everyone elses because they are rich, considering we survived with so little), they are simply going to improve the ROW nearby and even put up sound walls so your funded orchestra can practice.

What you are failing to understand are all of the improvements that HSR will bring. I can empathize with you, I wouldn't be particularly happy about a train going daily next to my backyard (Maybe you shouldn't have moved there in the first place!!) but what I can't empathize with is how you refuse to be diplomatic and simply spit hate. Please state some constructive facts instead of simply being an annoying insect that won't leave us alone.

Jarrett Mullen said...

Bay Area Resident,

Why are you so certain every single individual on the peninsula will rally against HSR? Where is your evidence for this? Menlo Park, Atherton, and Palo Alto may be extremely afraid of HSR, but these three cities do not represent the entire peninsula. What about Redwood City? Mountain View? San Carlos? Millbrae? East Palo Alto?

In addition, please spare us the doomsday hyperbole regarding landmark destruction. There's simply no evidence to support your exaggerated claims.

Aaron said...

My proposal is to stop it with lawsuits for environmental concerns (both historical landmarks like most current caltrain stations, and true environmental damage to schools/hospitals etc), then the effect scared city planners and city councilmembers who will be voted out of existance unless they force an underground system or stall it (ie the Palo Alto city council, scared to perpetuity about their initial support of this are doing all they can to derail it), and finally a repeal of prop 1A, UNLESS the route is changed.

You remind me of Dr. Evil. "One-hundred million billion dollars..."

Please, keep it up, this is amusing.

Look, of all the people who post here, I'm understanding of the fact that Peninsula residents have legitimate concerns, and I'll be closely watching the planning and mitigation process, but if people think the fact that residents there are in a high tax bracket means they get special consideration, my level of understanding is going to plummet.

Aaron said...

Er, "they're" rather. Oops.

Bay Area Resident said...

Bay Area Resident, do you think just because peninsula residents are rich, it makes them more important?

Well yes I do think that, and the reason is simple, it is because MONEY from the San Jose chamber of commerce bought this route. The preferred route historically was Altamont. All systems go for Altamont. Then the San Jose chamber of commerce (who, in the general scheme of things is a smallish organization with no relevance compared to silicon valley businesses which are not, generally SJCC) decided that they wanted to make San Jose a HUB and not a spoke, for political reasons, having nothing to do with what was best for HSR. This political kingmaking as a result of money is the reason we have the peninsula/SJ route. then the SJ politicians did an excellent job of sleazing the local councilmembers of Palo Alto etc so that early on, these stupid fools actually SUPPORTED this boondoggle, the net effect was that it ended up passing. So it was all about money, not desirable route, cost or anything else. There is simply no room for more sets of tracks on Caltrain, 20 ft high concrete walls are eyesores and add blight, this is not a desirable addition to any city, not interested.

As for the historic districts and monuments, I don't know if they will be destroyed or not. Palo Alto online states that moving El Palo Alto will kill it, so thats that. Other monuments like the historic train stations and whatever that historic housing district is in San Jose that is 400 ft away from the Caltrain tracks may or may not be destroyed. But what is certain is that there are laws against touching historic landmarks in any way and if this train thinks it can just bowl over those laws it is sadly mistaken.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Well at least you're honest, BAR, you want to sue the project into oblivion. And your claims about El Palo Alto have been debunked.

But let me be clear about what is really going to happen here. Atherton will lose its suit. The CHSRA will move the mid-Peninsula station to Redwood City if Palo Alto makes a stink. Palo Alto will call for a trench or a tunnel and will not be willing to fund it. Eventually some major political players will get involved, compromises will be made, and Palo Alto will walk away happy.

California and San Mateo County have spoken. HSR will be built and it will follow the Caltrain route to SF. That's a done deal. The only question left is how exactly it's engineered. Better to focus on that issue than waste everyone's time crying over what you see as spilt milk.

Bay Area Resident said...

I think its funny that you keep repeating that this will be built, on the Caltrain tracks, bar none. I would say the chances of this getting built on the Caltrain tracks is almost nil.

Brandon in California said...

Has anyone cited the comprehensive effort by MTC and the CHSRA to study alignment options in the Bay Area? Have we forgotten? It was only last year.

Where were these communities then? It was certainly publicized enough. And, as I recall, it was very contentious too.

The alignment decision was made last year... sorry BAR, but you had your opportunity to speak last year on this very issue and pardon the pun, but the train left the station.

Anonymous said...

Bay Area Resident,

Thanks for laying out what I had suspected, which is that right now there is no coherent or realistic plan at all.

These cities will sue this project, indefinitely, out of existance.

Go ahead. Everyone has the legal right to spend money on lawyers. But that doesn't mean you have a case.

There are dozens of historic points and landmarks on this "route"

And to a first approximation, none of them lie on the Caltrain ROW.

The destruction of El Palo Alto, which would be the result of the above ground implmentation of this train, is a showstopper.

This issue was already covered on Clem's Caltrain HSR Compatibility Blog. He proved that there is absolutely no issue here. Just because you read a story in the local rag doesn't mean it's true.

Environmental impact of schools another, these are the the public schools in the nation that will be ruined with overhead, ROARING train tracks.

Yes, how oh how will all those students study once we replace the noisy diesel trains with quieter electric trains?? :-)

Any landmark within 800 feet of this thing is fair game for a lawsuit, and all it takes is for one or a few of them to win.

Historic landmarks that aren't on the ROW will have no bearing on the final outcome. You won't get anywhere with those lawsuits.

You really think you can win against every rich person and company on the peninsula?

Please, don't be so silly. That's like me saying, "You really think you can win against every rich person and company in the State of California?" Or, since it has Federal funding, "You really think you can win against every rich person and company in the United States of America?"

My proposal is to stop it with lawsuits for environmental concerns (both historical landmarks like most current caltrain stations, and true environmental damage to schools/hospitals etc)

Best of luck then, because you're going to need a ton of it.

I can tell you what you will get, if you're quite lucky, which is mitigation. E.g., they will build sound walls to offset any noise (though it will be hard to make the case that the electric trains will make more noise than diesel). They will plant some trees to camouflage the 30' catenary poles, or maybe offer to underground your even taller 40'-60' utility poles for you in order to more than offset the added catenary poles. They will do, uh, nothing to offset the decreased pollution from zero emissions electric locomotives and the decreased fatalities from grade crossings that no longer exist.

But honestly, I bet you could get these things just by engaging with CHSRA and not wasting millions on lawsuits that won't come close to shutting down the entire system.

Thats the plan and it will work.

You just keep telling yourself that.

Look, since your current plans are so unlikely to be successful, I'll give you some constructive hints.

First, forget about the historic landmarks. You may want to believe that they're on the Caltrain ROW, but they're not (even if that ROW is expanded via eminent domain in the very small number of places where it may be necessary).

Second, the noise argument isn't going to get too far either. Electric trains are much quieter than diesel trains. You'll have a tough time arguing that a 125 mph electric train is louder than an 80 mph diesel train - especially one that blows its horn at grade crossings! And after they install any sort of sound dampening material, then for sure the HSR system will be quieter than the current diesel system.

Third, don't think that lawsuits about the aesthetic damage of catenary poles will net you much. Contrary to what you might have read, modern catenary poles are only ~30' high. The cities in question already keep some of their 40'+ utility poles above ground, so clearly they don't consider overhead wires to be much of a blight. If they did, they would have long ago spent the relatively small sums of money necessary to bury all utility poles underground (very small sums in comparison to burying an entire railroad underground!)

Finally, keep in mind that the new system will be zero emissions and could eliminate as many as a dozen grade crossing fatalities per year. This will make it very hard to sue successfully on "environmental" or "safety" grounds.

Your best bet, honestly, is to find an endangered species that lives on the Caltrain ROW. ESA is a Federal law, so the state is bound by it. Even this lawsuit, however, will only delay the system while mitigation measures are developed (see, for example, the endangered gartner snake that delayed the SFO BART extension). It would also be a pyrrhic victory since your town would forever be stifled by this newly discovered endangered species in any future projects that it undertook.

Even the ESA will not be enough. At that point, you will need to find the equivalent of the Berkeley tree sitters. They were supported by the rich residents of the Berkeley Hills who didn't want the Cal stadium expansion built. They made the exact same types of arguments as you (historical burial ground, ancient trees, yadda yadda yadda). But none of those got much traction in court. Camping out in the trees, however, did manage to delay the stadium for months.

Maybe you can find some critical trees along the Caltrain ROW, trespass, and camp out in them. But I hope you enjoy never taking a shower, depositing your feces in a bucket, and eventually getting arrested. It doesn't sound too pleasant to me!

Clem said...

There is simply no room for more sets of tracks on Caltrain

I always thought that the best arguments were made from a position of knowledge.

There is lots of room in the Caltrain right of way. There are only a couple of spots in Palo Alto (Southgate @ 75 ft and Peers Park @ 60 ft) where it is even remotely difficult to fit four tracks.

Anonymous said...

Bay Area Resident said...
If this passes I will organize a petition and possibly sue in the Willow Glen San Jose area, to go along with the Menlo Park Atherton suit (unless Menlo Park is a class action- which we will join).

This train plows through every quaint small town in the peninsula and sits smack in the middle of residential areas. Willow Glen is the most expensive part of San Jose. No WAY. Rod Diridon has some nerve putting this POS in the backyard of every Silicon Valley executive. what a crock

November 5, 2008 6:54 AM
Well..remember this everyone?!!

Anonymous said...

Can someone fill me in on one point? Why are we all so certain that the lawsuit is destined to lose?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant to put my name on that last one.

Tony D. said...

r motorist,

Re-read Roberts entire post...THAT'S WHY THE NIMBY LAWSUIT WILL LOOSE! And again, 65% of penisula voters SUPPORTED high-speed rail..ANOTHER REASON WHY THE NIMBY LAWSUIT WILL LOOSE! The "Big Dogs" of SF, SJ, Sac and Washington D.C....THE NIMBY LAWSUIT WILL BE MORE SUITED FOR TOILET USAGE! Need I say more?

HSR denial must be a horrible feeling.

Matt said...

r. motorist,

also read mikes lengthy post a few pages up. He did a good job of answering your questions.

As far as I can tell, and I am no lawyer, there is no legal standing for a lawsuit. Most will get thrown out. Perhaps a few will get heard, but mostly it will be a lot of money wasted by the plantiffs. It does not cost too much to have state lawyers get a frivolous suit thrown out.

If anyone has any legal reason to believe any lawsuit would succeed that would be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone seen this, $5 billon per year for HSR in the Obama budget. Thats above the $8 billion stimulus...

Peter said...

"A five-year, $5 billion state grant program would boost high-speed rail."

That's $1 billion / year.

Bay Area Resident said...

new mercury news article about the highly charged scoping meetings, the CHSRA seems to be BACKING DOWN.

"Caltrain is the preferred corridor, but it's not the only possible way," said Gary Kennerly, the rail authority regional manager for the San Jose to Merced section. "If there's fatal flaws, it could change."

Bay Area Resident said...

yeson1a, I have not organized a petition although there are MANY petitions already going. Other people beat me to it. Here is just one.

You all have no idea about the violent opposition going on here. Move this to Altamont and its done. leave it and this will go on for years.

Unknown said...

Ok, I got my screen name. I didn't realize I could just used my google account :)

Anonymous said...

quick question:

I'm not against the Altamount corridor, but I don't understand exactly how it will be routed. The east bay is fairly heavily built up. Will the HSR go from the transbay terminal to Oakland to Hayward to Livermore along the Bart line?

is there any existing rail line that the HSR can be built on? how much of the ROW is already in place? I always through they choose the Pacheco corridor because Caltrain offers existing ROW.

Anonymous said...

I've read the original post and most of the recent discussion, and it seems to focus mostly on Peninsula nimbys. I know their claims have been thoroughly covered on this blog well into last year (and in the past 48 hours).

However, it's my understanding that the central issue behind the lawsuit is the alignment choice for the central valley to bay area portion of the route. I know most readers here are well aware of this and the details don't need to be covered again. But I think it is safe to say that most people would agree that these concerns are not 100% groundless.

I'm don't have any detailed knowledge of CEQA laws, but my understanding is that the law says something to the effect that the state has too choose the most environmentally friendly project option. Apart from the issues that concern a narrow group of Peninsula residents, the question seems to be whether or not the other issues brought up in the lawsuit meet any kind of legal standard. It sounds like many people are convinced that they don't. So, to re-phrase my original question, why is there the consensus that these concerns don't meet any legal standard?

Anonymous said...

Moving it to Altamont does nothing
when it comes to Menlo Park and north I dont understand what the big push for that is..Yes San Jose would be bypassed ..a no starter.
The only to use Altamont and still go to SJ would be a split system in Menlo Park I believe..and then you have the Bay to cross...All major projects have nimbys and they are overcome,and many are alot worse than CAHSR.

Anonymous said...

The Caltrain comment is for the San Jose to Gilroy section on the UPRR

Spokker said...

I detect a double-standard in the comments right now. If we're going to call the opposition NIMBYs, and I agree that they are, you should allow them to call us names too. It's only fair.

I'm disappointed to see more moderation on this blog. While Robert may do as he pleases with it, more moderation just turns me off to the cause.

Anonymous said...

speaking of call should make a visit over to the nimby paper boards..I did see them bannting your name about in a not very kind way

Spokker said...

Speaking of Orange County, I believe opposition will become fierce once focus moves to the LA-Anaheim-Irvine leg of the route.

I think the portion of the route in Anaheim will be a tough sell. Santa Ana is also going to be hell to deal with. They vehemently opposed double tracking the right of way through the area just before Santa Ana station. They are going to put up quite a fight against the perceived ill-effects of high speed rail.

Anonymous said...

Peers Park.. Interesting. Just insidethe park (quite nearthe tracks) there many (maybe 6-10?) significantly large trees. Monsters really.(not good judge of height,maybe 100ft?) They may be redwoods.

Atherton's comments said somethingabout requirements for 25 to 1 replacement requirement for the really big heritage size trees, with a very significant costfor the new trees, plus the aquisition costs for land to plant them on.

Any study on this yet?


crzwdjk said...

One thing we're missing here is a sensible comparison to what will happen without HSR. As things stand right now, Caltrain is planning to electrify the line, and increase service to about 150 trains per day. HSR service would be on the order of 50-60 more trains per day, a 33-40% increase over baseline. The baseline Caltrain capital program includes new platforms at San Jose, Santa Clara, and South San Francisco. There are some plans in the works for more grade separations in San Bruno, and I've heard something about four-tracking and grade separating Redwood City, producing another four-track passing area. There's some chance of having more Gilroy service (VTA has permission for 10 roundtrip), and some chance of Dumbarton service.

Tony D. said...

What the hell are you reading B.A.R?

Where do you get "highly charged" and "CAHSR backing down" from that Merc article?

Yes, about a dozen residents (in a city of one million) living near the Caltrain corridor are concerned about their property and HSR; will the authority buy their property or force eminent domain? How is that "highly charged?"

And how exactly is the CAHSR "backing down?" Don't see it pal! (because it's not there)

Also, not exactly sure what "fatal flaws" means. However, what it doesn't mean is some NIMBY who doesn't want HSR PERIOD!

Lastly, as YesOnProp1A stated, the Merc article is about the SJ/Diridon to Merced segment, not Peninsula.

anon 9:29 let's save the trees,
Now that's what I call reaching!

Anonymous said...

I thought HSR was planned to end in Anaheim for that very reason with Santa Ana and the city of Orange.The project work is only to Anaheim and I think that leg to Irvine is just long range even after the SD and SAC legs are built

crzwdjk said...

Peers Park is indeed a narrow section, but I think with a bit of cleverness you could fit four tracks. I'd suggest having the east edge of the ROW right up against up against Alma, and have catenary supports down the center. That keeps the structures away from the park, and provides some clearance. They might have to trim a few branches to keep them out of the wires, and probably just accept the risk that sooner or later something will fall onto the wires. For only a few trees, it's a small enough risk.

Anonymous said...

That Redwood will make great backyard fences for the deniers...
As if that crowd really cares about real Eureka like

Bay Area Resident said...

Tony D, I was there and I can assure you it was highly charged. It lasted from 7-10 and it was supposed to be one hour. The comments in the article are indicative of the caving going on by CHSRA about this route. It won't happen. It will be moved, or moved underground or some other option. You can't go through the most expensive residential areas of Silicon Valley its just that simple.

James said...

When I hear mention of the heritage trees I recall that photos from 80 to 100 years ago show much fewer trees than today. They will grow back. If anything the suppression of natural fires are resulting in dangerous levels of fuel.

Notice the clear lands in the background of the photo.

Tony D. said...

The main problem with scooping meetings is that those against a certain project will show up "in force" or, as Robert stated, yell very loudly; which gives the impression of representing the majority. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In actuality, the "caving in" (which I still don't see) was probably done just to shut people up and get the hell home. But again, CAHSR isn't going to make wholesale changes against the vast majority of voters because a dozen people can scream and chant "hell no, we won't go." Sorry B.A.R.

By the way, highway 85/6-lane West Valley Frwy. was built through some of the richest parts of the Santa Clara Valley: Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino. Those citizens worked with Caltrans to make the freeway the best possible for their communities. I suggest you do the same B.A.R. or risk going crazy.

(my last response to your ranting)

Bay Area Resident said...

Good one James! Let me get this straight.
- The foliage will grow back in 100 years anyway and besides more fires are good.
- El Palo Alto can withstand whatever soil damage occurs nearby, no big deal according to you all.
- as long as historic residential districts are not actually IN the Caltrain ROW, then no environmental damage has occurred. So for example a designated historic home section that is 400 feet from the elevated tracks is fine, no impact.
- Any schools that are not actually ON the Caltrain ROW are not impacted even if they are next door to the tracks.

Is that your schtick?

Look, I realize all of you that support this are feeding from the public trough. But why don't you get a real job and quit ramming this boondoggle down our throats. It is obvious whatever "Nimbys" you dealt with before were not well heeled connected folks that have the ability to shut things down like this.

James said...


- Read what I wrote, not what you think I wrote. I was comparing the foliage today to that of 100 years ago.
- My daughter's friend, a Paly student was tragically killed at the Churchill crossing, not Caltrain's fault. We need grade separation.
- I live near the Charleston crossing and fully support CHSR and understand the benefits it will bring to the state and the communities.
- You have been invited to engage the planning process to make the transportation system better.
- Your comments demonstrate that you are indeed not well heeled.
- I suggest you are welcome to regain respect if you will engage in civil conversation.
- I refuse to play your silly game.

(look it up)

Anonymous said...

What a stupid comment about jobs and this project..people on here are not working for the CAHSR we are backers of a new and better transportation system. I guess the trains will have ER rooms since Im working on the public trough for HSR

Robert Cruickshank said...

I think James' point is very well taken, and suggests to me that BAR is not really interested in a real conversation on the issues, but in pushing a rather hardcore version of NIMBYism. My suggestion is to stop feeding the troll. He's not going to listen to reason.

Spokker said...

There has been a lot of talk about the peninsula. Not that it's a bad thing, but have there been any recent developments or comments on the other sections of the route?

I mean, we hear almost nothing about LA-Anahiem. There's some vague stuff about ARTIC and a monorail can be seen in the official renderings, but when will we see more details emerge?

Why aren't they holding meetings in Orange County? Are they? The rest of the project is become a blur amidst the peninsula drama.

Spokker said...

Haha, I'm thinking of becoming an Anaheim NIMBY just so the CAHSRA can come down here and talk about the LA-Anaheim portion of the route!

Anonymous said...


You should just relax and let it go. You will live a longer, more enjoyable life if you don't hold onto the anger and hatred. Is this really worth fighting a losing battle over? You will look back in 10 years when you inevitably fail and regret all this wasted effort, time, and stress.

The rest of us are just chillin out, enjoying ourselves, euphoric about the windfall of HSR funds. Meanwhile you are sitting there typing with blood vessels popping in your head and yelling at HSR officials at scoping meetings. Chill out and joint the fun...

Anonymous said...

@ Spokker

I live down in LA. One of the concerns I had was the pending debate over the route thru the Cornfield north of LAUS. I read some articles a year ago or so about the Cornfield parks with the reporters painting a doomsday scenario about the impact HSR would have on the parks. Anyway, that is one issue that I'd like to know the status of.

Peter said...

BAR: new mercury news article about the highly charged scoping meetings, the CHSRA seems to be BACKING DOWN.

You should read that article again. The article is talking about the San Jose to Merced section of the system, and the scoping meeting for that section. I has absolutely no impact the SJ to SF section that you're so worried about.

Along the peninsula Caltrain (PCJPB) completely owns and controls the tracks and RoW, so they can do anything they want with it. South of SJ Caltrain owns the RoW but UPRR has various rights to use it for freight and has been making some noise about their rights. They probably just want to be paid off, but this has absolutely no impact on the peninsula section at all.

Spokker said...

"The rest of us are just chillin out, enjoying ourselves, euphoric about the windfall of HSR funds."

And some of us are going batshit insane over the loss of a crucial funding mechanism for mass transit when the California state budget was agreed on.

Once transit agency, the OCTA, has devoted a whole section of their web site to their financial meltdown.

While Obama's 8 billion for HSR and a commitment to allocate even more funds to HSR is something to be happy about, if you care about the whole of mass transit in California you should be shitting your pants right now.

Spokker said...

"I read some articles a year ago or so about the Cornfield parks with the reporters painting a doomsday scenario about the impact HSR would have on the parks."

The one that Gold Line whizzes by? It's a nice park. I would visit it if I were planning to rape a woman, for example.

I don't know. I value parks as well, but you could always build right through the goddamn thing and make up for the loss of some park land by expanding or building another park somewhere else. What's wrong with that?

We need an alternative travel method that doesn't use oil or result in the deaths of over 40,000 people each year more than we need some grass North of Union Station.

Spokker said...

A rail line doesn't have to be "ugly". The high speed rail line can be a part of the lofty plans to reclaim the LA River and develop parkland in the area.

Anonymous said...

@ Frank

I doubt that park will be touched, the gold line had a hard time building there. I'm pretty sure who ever becomes mayor will not want to be associated with allowing that particular park be turned over to the state. I won't say it would be political suicide, but it would cause the mayor a major headache.

If anyone has any updated info on the SoCal part of the HSR line, I would like a link to the information please.

crzwdjk said...

"We need an alternative travel method that doesn't use oil or result in the deaths of over 40,000 people each year more than we need some grass North of Union Station."
No, spokker, you need an alternative travel method more than you think the people of Downtown need a park. LA has one of the lowest amounts of parkland per capita of any major US city, and much of that is huge parks up in the hills. So don't go messing with people's Cornfield. Besides, the park isn't even fully built out yet.

Anonymous said...

High-Speed? Rail

Congratulations to everyone for your hard work in planning and communicating the need for California's High-Speed Train System; your vision, drive, imagination and persistence were instrumental in passing Proposition 1A. However, it appears we are forgetting just what HSR is, a system for moving passengers reasonably long distances at very high speed. HSR is not a light rail, suburban or regional system but we need to integrate it (preferably only once)--not compete with or duplicate the purpose of those existing systems.

Since the election last November, we have undergone enormous economic challenges. Considering these financial changes and our historical problems with construction delays, budgeting, over engineering and estimating (i.e., SF-Oakland Bay and Richmond-San Rafael Bridges, post-earthquake infrastructure repairs, etc.) we need to re-visit California’s HSR project in a more pragmatic way—neglecting, for a moment, the political aspects of this Project. Yes, we may have the money for at least a portion of this system, but that does not mean we have to waste it! We addressed most of these issues before the election; however, they warrant our reconsideration:

1. Highest priority: Should be connecting over 24 million people (70% of California) between Los Angeles (second largest metropolitan area in United States) with San Francisco (5th). When we connect San Diego (17th) and Sacramento (24th), we met the HSR needs of almost 85% of our California population--with just four stations. All these regions have reasonably developed suburban systems. There are certainly arguments for San Jose, Oakland and Anaheim; however, for the time being, CalTrain, Amtrak, BART and Metro serve those cities well. There is also an argument for a Bakersfield station, provided we integrate it with Amtrak, now efficiently serving the central valley (Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Fresno, Hanford, etc.);
2. Cost Effective Construction: High-speed rail does not necessarily require a completely new infrastructure or right-of-way. Ironically, many interstate highway corridors developed over the last 50 years—those designed with wide center medians—offer multipurpose opportunities for HSR requiring only electrification, minor grading, track and safety barriers limiting expensive right-of-way purchases and grade separations. Using existing corridors can reduce or eliminate construction cost overruns, eminent domain delays, environmental impact reports and ‘over-engineering’; this also offers an opportunity to start rebuilding our national power grid in these corridors with reliable superconductors during HSR construction;
3. Develop “Express” trains first: Save substantial initial capital by providing an “express” route in the existing Interstate I-5 right-of-way, which has approximately 300 miles of wide level median, between Sacramento and Bakersfield and majority of grade separations already constructed. Using existing corridors can reduce or eliminate construction cost overruns, eminent domain delays, environmental impact reports and ‘over-engineering’—these medians are ‘shovel-ready’ with minor engineering; this also offers an opportunity to start rebuilding our national power grid in these corridors with reliable superconductors;
4. Gradually develop more expensive ‘valley’ corridor: The Highway 99 corridor requires substantial grade separations and expensive ‘river’ gouge bridges (Stanislaus, Merced, etc.). Although the ‘valley’ has two existing rail right-of-ways (one used by Amtrak), both systems are primarily single track and will require significant grade separations, due to the substantial number of valley urban and rural crossings. Develop after ‘express’ Interstate 5 corridor is finished (with potential operating capital)—starting with Fresno to Bakersfield, then a single Merced/Modesto/Stockton station and Sacramento connections;
5. Use Altamont Pass: If a connection between San Francisco (5) and Sacramento (24th) is important (it should be), why Pacheco Pass, which requires HSR to travel south approximately 130 miles (Merced/Los Banos) before double-backing north? Why it is important to keep engineers busy, the expensive mountainous Pacheco Pass is approximately 24 miles long, Altamont is only 8 miles long. We certainly have enough challenges on the Peninsula into downtown San Francisco, the Tehachapi Pass, back down from the Mojave to the Los Angeles basin and the mostly urban Los Angeles to San Diego corridor. Additionally, you could also possibly (partially) use the Altamont Pass old rail-right-of way; Pacheco has no preexisting rails;
6. Eliminate smaller stations: At some point High-Speed rail at 220 mph is not ‘high-speed’ with the multiple small city stations; 3-5 minute acceleration/3-5 minute deceleration/3-5 minute stops. Consider eliminating smaller stations and supplementing them with Amtrak to HSR stations;
7. Station Spacing: Ideally, should be a minimum of 100 miles apart; at 220 mph, stopping every 30 minutes, as it is, is time consuming: use regional and light rail (Amtrak, BART, Metro) for trips less than 100 miles apart, to connect for efficiency;
8. Priorities: Limit HSR to the following metropolitan areas until they are developed and connected in order with the highest priorities: Los Angles (2nd), San Francisco (5th), San Diego (17th), Sacramento (24th), Fresno (53rd), Bakersfield (64th), Stockton (75th), Modesto (93rd), Salinas (102nd), Santa Barbara (103rd) and Visalia (112th). At some point San Jose, Oakland and Anaheim could be used for their own ‘Express’ departures south or north;
9. Interstate system: With national or additional adjacent state funding, consider a interstate system connecting these large metropolitan areas:
a. Phoenix (14th),
b. Las Vegas (31st),
c. Seattle 13th)-Portland (22nd)-Eugene (122nd) via Sacramento,
d. Salt Lake City (35th) via Las Vegas,
e. Tucson (57th) via Phoenix and
f. Reno (119th) via Las Vegas, connecting with Los Angeles system;
10. Available Private Capital: We do not necessarily need to limit HSR to passengers. Private capital could be available to develop overnight high-speed freight during late night hours (when rail maintenance is not required); we could reduce energy inefficient long-distance trucking with quick-loading, HSR container cars departing from separate rail spurs in the same metropolitan industrial areas or ports.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember 12 years ago when we brought over an ICE train set to build interest in high speed rail. I'll bet manufacturers would stumble over themselves to do this again. Could they retro one car to hold batteries and give a true demonstration of what one of these trains would sound like passing at 80 mph. This could go a long way to settle fears in Palo Alto, etc. Having the train stop at stations along the way for walkthrus wouldn't hurt either. Just a thought.

Rafael said...

Just a quick note on rights of way:

a) CHSRA has illustrated its preferred alignment for its run-through tracks at LA Union Station here (please zoom in on LA US). Note that these run-through tracks are entirely separate from the ones planned for Metrolink/Amtrak.

The northern approach avoids the new Cornfield park by running on an aerial above N Main St. Nevertheless, both the northern and southern approaches would require significant demolition of existing buildings.

We had a discussion about three alternative alignments on this blog back in December. As commenters were quick to point out, each of those presented its own set of problems.

b) the Altamont variation preferred by some residents of Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto would have HSR trains cross the bay and then tunnel across to Pleasanton and beyond.

There are a few problems there.

First, the existing Dumbarton rail bridge (what's left of it after that suspicuous fire in 1998) is single-track and not up to seismic code. It also contains two swing bridges that preserve the shipping lanes. It is entirely unsuitable for HSR.

A brand-new dual-track bridge tall enough to allow ships to pass underneath at any time would be seriously expensive to build. Moreover, the proximity to the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge and the methyl mercury in the bay mud would make it extremely difficult to secure a construction permit.

Second, there is no available right of way between Newark and Niles/Union City. The only option would be to tunnel under this built-up area. Again, very expensive, more so because of the high water table in the area. Additional tunneling would be required to reach Pleasanton. Long tunnels require a third bore for evacuation in case of a fire.

Third, even assuming that UPRR would be willing to cede any of its narrow ROW east of Pleasanton, construction there would be very challenging. Residents of Pleasanton would be just as ferocious in opposing HSR as residents of Palo Alto are. Nothing is gained.

Fourth, and this is perhaps the most serious issue, Santa Clara county would scream blue murder if the HSR alignment passed it by entirely. Since the objective of the whole exercise would be to avoid running HSR tracks through Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto, the only way to provide service to San Jose would be a spur in the I-880 median. Even then, trains would have to split/recombine in Union City or else, SF and SJ would each be served by only half as many trains as planned.

In other words, the peninsula route was chosen because that's where there's a ROW at all. There was some legitimate discussion of whether the route should continue south of Santa Clara toward Gilroy or double back toward Fremont, but that particular choice had no impact on Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto. In the end, San Jose insisted on a station at SJ Diridon and CHSRA on the 8-10 minutes saved by going to LA via Pacheco.

The notion that HSR will somehow lay waste to the mid-peninsula, which has hosted Caltrain service for decades, is untenable. In particular, the notion that properties many hundreds of feet from the rails will be negatively impacted is baseless. Palo Alto High has operated right next to Caltrain for decades, apparently with great success. There is no reason whatsoever to assume that it would fare any worse after grade separation at Churchill Ave.

Between improved regional and statewide service, full electrification, full grade separation and noise mitigation measures, HSR will in fact be a significant improvement relative to the status quo for everyone - except those whose residences directly abut the existing ROW. I'm all for compensating those folks generously for any eminent domain takings that may become necessary - it'll be a lot cheaper than the construction cost escalation and opportunity cost of years of litigation.

There is legitimate discussion regarding the pros and cons of the various grade separation/hardened crossing options, which will hopefully be open to civil, rational discussion before long. No-one wants to destroy any of the towns and cities HSR runs through but neither can the state or federal government afford to spend billions over and above the budgeted cost.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Rick C, that is perhaps the most brilliant idea I have read in some time. I love it.

Brandon in California said...

Given the concerns over noise I would advocate both an online simulation and booth at the scoping meetings to demonstrate the before and after distances of HSR... and at various distances; ie 200-300 ft from tracks, 500 feet, 1000 feet, etc.

Perhaps it is already being done. And, there are certainly enough Youtube videos incorporated sound that may be tapped.. assumign they were scientifically set up.

Anonymous said...

@ Spokker

What's the deal with the anger from you too now!?!

First off, my comments to BAR were about HSR, not public transit or forclosures or the stock market. This is a HSR blog after all.

My comments about the Cornfield were in response to your question about other socal corridors that might up to debate in the future. I answer your question, then you go into attack mode? What gives?

I wasn't saying that I was against the use of the cornfield...

Brandon in California said...

The CHSRA Board meets on March 5th. The agenda is loaded with good stuff!

- Discuss MOU with Penninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board.

- Discuss MOU with Transbay Joint Powers Authority

- Discuss Evaluation Criteria for Project Phasing

Owen Evans said...

I don't agree with any of Bay Area Resident's arguments, but he does have reason for hope. Namely, that for the last few decades, NIMBYs (tending towards BANANAs actually) always get their way - especially rich ones, and especially in the Bay Area. They have enough money to hire lawyers and give big donations to politicians in return for support. They know people at the newspapers and TV stations, they know people at the city halls, and they know lobbyists at the state capital.

They know just how to take a few loud voices, make it look like a cacophony, paint their cause into a david-vs-goliath battle and a push for social justice, and "win the hearts" of the masses. They've done it before. They've been doing it for decades. That's their MO and they know it well.

They can make it SEEM that building attractive grade separations exactly like the ones in San Carlos and adding two tracks, WITHOUT any right-of-way or private property takings, is the equivalent of cutting a 500 foot wide swath and ramming 10 lanes of double stacked elevated freeway together AND a Berlin Wall complete with guard towers manned with machine gun toting socialist troops, through an unsuspecting neighborhood of schools, young families, and children! think of the children!

The unfortunate fact is, this is a disease that has permeated our culture and we have only ourselves to blame for it. Misguided public policies like Robert Moses's highways, and Urban Renewal in the 60s and 70s went way too far with ramming infrastructure down the throats of poor people under the banner of "the greater good" when the people had no way of organizing or defending their interests. This was rightly been construed as a social justice issue, and resulted in the passage of the NEPA, which started the pendulum swinging back in the other direction.

Gradually this movement spread across the socioeconomic spectrum, and the whole issue of analyzing the legitimacy of concerns fell by the wayside, and "being sensitive to and mitigating impacts" has come to mean that rich NIMBYs can hire lawyers to argue that ANY change is automatically and unmitigatably bad.

Bay Area Resident has made it absolutely clear that he does not want to talk, does not want to be reasonable, does not want to be objective about the impacts. He just wants to GET HIS WAY, no matter what, because he's rich damn it, and if money can't buy you enough influence to get your way then what's the point of having it?

Gotta at least admire him for being honest enough to drop the charade.

Spokker said...

"LA has one of the lowest amounts of parkland per capita of any major US city, and much of that is huge parks up in the hills. So don't go messing with people's Cornfield."

I know that, but I find it hard to believe that rail lines and parks can't live together in peace and harmony.

Spokker said...

"@ Spokker

What's the deal with the anger from you too now!?!"

I wasn't attacking you.

Robert said...

I'm amused that there are only one or two negative posters in this whole string, and at least a couple of dozen positive. There's your demographics (not a very scientific sample) and one's vehemence can only partially offset the numbers. I note that in general the further from the mainstream a person's position, the more shrill he becomes. Spokker, I'm not clear on where you're at with all this, but please set up as many roadblocks to Anaheim as you like. I would be thrilled to have the funds diverted to build the San Diego extension first.

Robert said...

By the way Spokker I don't mean to suggest you are the one who is being shrill. It's that BAR feller ...

Anonymous said...

While I am not naive about the local interest politics driving how the HSR route was selected, the Altamont Pass is superior to Pacheco Pass in terms of construction cost and access to Sacramento (an important, growing market). Going next to the I-5 would be much faster and cheaper to build than following the SR-99 corridor.

Looking into my crystal ball, I think the Altamont Pass will ultimately be the HSR route, because I don't think CHSRA will have enough money to tunnel through the difficult and sensitive Pacheco Pass. Altamont will be the easier and cheaper fall-back alternative. If you wonder why, look at the history of why Southern Pacific (and its antecedents) abandoned a Pacheco Pass plan in favor of the Altamont Pass when they were building their original transcontinental system. The engineering across Pacheco Pass was too difficult and expensive, and even though the Altamont route was slightly out of the way in terms of going to Southern California, the tracks and grades were already in place. I think this logic will again prevail.

I understand why San Jose feels that the Altamont Pass route may neglect them, but before the Dumbarton Rail Bridge was built, the Southern Pacific went from San Francisco to San Jose and then up and across the Altamont Pass and beyond for decades. I think CHSRA will ultimately do the same. As a regional cost savings, the Altamont route also eliminates the need for the wasteful, ill-conceived BART-to-SJ project.

CHSRA is also causing great harm to their overall system performance and construction budget by catering to Fresno interests. Simply, when one is driving between the Bay Area and SoCal, who prefers to drive along SR-99 as opposed to I-5??? SR-99 is a considerably longer route. The I-5 route is not only much faster and more direct, but it requires hardly any major grade separations! This is an enormous cost savings when compared to all the grade separations required along the lightly urbanized SR-99 corridor. An I-5 corridor route can still integrate with Bakersfield and beyond, yet it will also be much faster and cheaper. Fresno just isn't a valuable market, especially considering the price tag in terms of grade separation costs and longer travel times between the Bay Area and SoCal.

Let's hope CHSRA ultimately dumps Fresno, but I am less optimistic about that.

It's politically-charged and technically-ignorant planning like this that is holding back an effective HSR system. CHSRA desperately needs a technically-competent and strategically-savvy executive director held accountable by the public.

BruceMcF said...

Fred, you seem to be taking both sides of the travel time argument ... arguing in favor of saving a very small amount of travel time in order to avoid serving Fresno, while arguing in favor of imposing a larger time penalty in order to avoid the tunneling to avoid the Pacheco pass.

And the idea that "ultimately" cost pressure will force abandonment of Pacheco Pass makes me think that your crystal ball is a bit cracked, and needs to be taken back for servicing ... the tunneling will of course be started relatively early in the process, and its unlikely that the tunneling will be abandoned when it is, say, 1/2 done because of a decision that Altamont Pass would be a lower one-time capital cost to justify a permanent, ongoing reduction in potential passenger revenue.

On both sides of your argument, instead of vague hand waving at trip times, it would be better to put up the time impact on SF/LA for your preferred SF/SJ/Altamont alignment, and the time impact on the SF/LA of your preferred I-5 alignment, and clearly explain why those two changes make for a sufficient reason to scotch the current CAHSR alignment, abandon Prop1A and go back to voters for a new package of bonding funding on those terms.

Aaron said...

Spokker, the Cornfield is a political third rail in LA. Getting into LA is going to be otherwise relatively easy, compared to the nonsense in the Peninsula, and nobody is going to want to touch that particular third rail. The Cornfield park has a history in terms of activism amongst minority and underprivileged communities that means that going after the park would be akin to poking a sleeping dragon with a very sharp stick. Leave the dragon alone :).

Anonymous said...

Owen E said it perfectly about what is wrong with this situation and the entire country when it now comes to any construction.Lets hope that this project is one of the first to show how overpowered these people have become

Anonymous said...

We may have some money for at least a portion of this system, but that does not mean we have to waste it! Our highest priority should be connecting over *24 million people (70% of California) between Los Angeles (*second largest metropolitan area in United States) with San Francisco (5th). When we connect San Diego (17th) and Sacramento (24th), we met the HSR needs of almost 85% of our California population--with just four stations.

High-speed rail does not necessarily require a completely new infrastructure or right-of-way and the existing Interstate I-5 right-of-way has approximately 300 miles of wide level median, between Sacramento and Bakersfield and a majority of grade separations already constructed.

Fresno is a wonderful city and needs to be added, however Sacramento (*24th in the nation) is larger than Fresno (*53rd). Gradually develop more the expensive ‘valley’ corridor: The Highway 99 corridor requires substantial grade separations and expensive ‘river’ gouge bridges (Stanislaus, Merced, etc.) due to the substantial number of valley urban and rural crossings. Develop Fresno after an ‘express’ Interstate 5 corridor is finished (with potential operating capital)—starting with Fresno to Bakersfield;

Use the Altamont Pass if a connection between San Francisco and Sacramento is important (it should be). Pacheco Pass will require an HSR to travel south approximately 130 miles (Merced/Los Banos) before double-backing north. Construction in mountainous areas is extremely expensive (this includes tunnels) and Pacheco Pass is approximately 24 miles long, Altamont is only 8 miles long--all things being equal, Pacheco will be three times as expensive. You could also possibly (partially) use the Altamont Pass old rail-right-of way; Pacheco has no preexisting rails.

Brushing politics aside for a moment (if we can) metropolitan HSR stations should be developed and connected with the highest priorities: Los Angles *(2nd), San Francisco (5th), San Diego (17th), Sacramento (24th), Fresno (53rd), Bakersfield (64th), Stockton (75th), Modesto (93rd), Salinas (102nd), Santa Barbara (103rd) and Visalia (112th). At some point San Jose, Oakland and Anaheim should be used for their own ‘Express’ departures south or north.

*(2nd) 2000 census

Anonymous said...

The Altamont has been show to have a number of big issues with it also
Its all UPRR and they want no part of it over there.Then what about the bay crossing? A huge issue and expensive..tunnels thru the East Bay Hills. The valley is not the problem so I-5 is no answer its getting in to the Bay Area. What I think could happen is if the Ninbys do win anything they will get the Caltrain line to be uprgraded to Caltrains plans only and HSR will have to make do with it and the slower speeds at 90MPH
not really that horrible but would add 10-15min to the total LA-SF time

Anonymous said...

I love Altamont, but the real tricky part is not Livermore-Tracy but Newark-Pleasanton.

Spokker said...

"Spokker, I'm not clear on where you're at with all this, but please set up as many roadblocks to Anaheim as you like."

I'm an HSR supporter, but as someone who has lived in Orange County all his life and grew up in Anaheim, as well as a frequent rider of Metrolink's Orange County line, it's clear there will be opposition to the route through Anaheim once focus shifts to that area.

I remember reading an article about the double tracking through Santa Ana. One resident said something like, "I moved here because housing was affordable, and now they want to push more trains through my backyard?!"

The resident failed to make the connection between the rail line and his affordable house.

Orange County killed Centerline, and I think they are going to try and kill HSR, at least the part that runs through OC. I think getting it to Anaheim will be difficult. I think getting it to Irvine will be even more difficult.

Of course, once HSR meetings do come to OC, I WILL attend them and express my support for the project.

Owen Evans said...

Just wanted to reiterate from my last post. What this blog and others seem to be doing is disregarding the opposition in Palo Alto and Atherton and wherever, by simply stating "it WILL be built and it IS going in the Caltrain corridor and CHSRA WON'T pay for a tunnel on its own."

Calling them mere "HSR Deniers" is doing supporters of high speed rail a disservice. These folks DEFINITELY constitute a credible threat to HSR.

I personally disagree with them, in that I believe that an elevated 4-track Caltrain line -- even one that carries HSR trains -- would actually be a net POSITIVE for the town over present conditions in terms of safety, aesthetics, pollution, traffic, and noise. There are legitimate concerns, all of which I believe could be addressed, but that won't make them happy. But just because I disagree doesn't mean I get to discount them as a credible opposition.

Let me repeat: NIMBYs almost always win! They're used to winning! They know how to win! These folks DO have a credible shot at shutting this down. You have to acknowledge this in order to confront them. They're already winning the battle of the media and in the court of public opinion, by positioning themselves as the underdog and as "protectors of the Chidren(tm) etc.)" Even as we speak they are hitting the streets to make their case even to people who live a mile away from the tracks and have no personal skin in the game. They are trying to get to the point where they have broad enough public support where no politician would want to back CHSRA up when the time comes. If they reach that point, my friends, the war is lost.

At this point - honestly - the best shot CHSRA has is for this lawsuit to go to court. The first lawsuit sets the precedent, and I hate that so much would be riding on just one judge (whose personal views could fall anywhere on the spectrum) but a lawsuit failing in court on many of its major points, and then failing again on appeal, is probably the only blow from which the opposition will not be able to recover.

Anonymous said...

Let's be clear about the main construction costs of building HSR: once ROW issues are resolved, grade separations and tunneling are the most costly elements. Everything else is small change in comparison. Tunneling is especially bongo expensive.

Building an HSR system in North Dakota would be dirt cheap with very fast trains: flat, hardly any major roads to cross, and no NIMBYs complaining about trains going full speed. Of course, hardly anyone lives in or near North Dakota. A system designer has to seek an optimal balance between minimal construction costs, fast operating speeds, and getting to where the people are.

But... one place in California actually approximates North Dakota in landscape: the I-5 corridor. The distinction from North Dakota is that the I-5 corridor connects the three major population centers of the state: the Bay Area, Sacramento, and LA/SoCal. Fresno simply pales in comparison, and a Fresno stop slows down the ability to go at top speed in the flat Central Valley.

The beautiful thing about the I-5 corridor is that it would be cheap to build, and the trains could reach 220mph with ease. No NIMBYs are present to complain about the noise, while that can't be said of the SR-99 corridor. I don't think top speeds will be achieved on the SR-99 corridor, because local political movements will seek speed restrictions. NIMBYs are everywhere, except the I-5 corridor...

HSR trains are unlikely to be politically allowed to exceed 125mph in urbanized areas, so HSR trains need to make their top speed over the long stretch of "North Dakota" known as the I-5 corridor.

The Pacheco Pass route is slightly faster than the Altamont Pass from certain parts of the Bay Area to LA (the I-5 time savings are far more significant), but the Pacheco Pass severely bloats the travel times between the Bay Area and Sacramento. Sacramento is far more important than Fresno, especially for Bay Area travelers. The Pacheco Pass will also be bongo expensive to build, so let's see what actually happens...

crzwdjk said...

I-5 may or may not be better, but there's a very strong political tendency to pick a route that goes through various "growing" and "developing" markets with "affordable housing", aka subprime. Hence the going through Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield, Palmdale, Riverside, Temecula.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Owen E, what the NIMBYs really need to worry about is that their objections will fuel the attack on EIR/EIS and CEQA rules. Republicans already forced the Legislature to suspend review on certain highway projects. If Peninsula NIMBYs decide to try and use the process to kill HSR, they risk the same thing being done here - excluding HSR from reviews. The statewide public does not care for these objections on the Peninsula.

I strongly support the concept of environmental review, of neighborhood involvement. The solution to the Robert Moses problem is greater democratic involvement. The problem is that NIMBYs abuse the system to try and kill projects that have been democratically approved. That undermines the system of public review.

I say it because it's true - the NIMBYs aren't going to kill this. They don't seem to grasp that the political support behind HSR is enormous and literally goes all the way to the top.

We're not going to convince the NIMBYs. But we can convince the folks on the Peninsula who want to find an accommodation between the HSR project and the community to stay away from dead-end NIMBYism.

Isolating NIMBYs is the best way to deal with them.

As to Fred Martin's points, I don't know how to be clearer - the route decision is done. Altamont isn't going to be used. San Jose is one of the state's largest cities and a major transit hub. They deserve HSR. Running HSR down I-5 is totally pointless because it does nothing to help provide transit options to the Highway 99 corridor. Fresno and Bakersfield will provide significant ridership numbers, and the San Joaquin Valley deserves to be a part of a statewide mass transit system. There is no good reason to bypass them.

Robert Cruickshank said...

arcady, I have to strongly disagree with your framing of those cities as "subprime" cities. The cities on the Highway 99 corridor have significant population and ridership. The notion that trying to connect important cities in the state to an HSR system is somehow "political" is absurd on its face.

Fresno and Bakersfield deserve to be on this system. And again, the route has been decided. That train has left the station. I mean, do you really want to go to voters in Fresno and Kern counties, that endorsed Prop 1A, and tell them "sorry, you're cut out"?

Those cities have fewer mass transit options than LA and the Bay Area, fewer air travel options, and therefore have an arguably greater need for this than anywhere else in the state.

Spokker said...

That Pacheco pass was chosen doesn't preclude Altamont from being built later.

I also support finding the money to incrementally improve the Capitol Corridor and ACE. Improve those routes as much as possible so they can feed into HSR.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Robert Cruickshank's comment, you are probably correct—that we have made the final route decision--but that does not necessarily make it the right decision. Nobody is arguing that San Jose is not one of the state's largest cities, they deserve HSR and you can still use the Altamont from San Jose to the Valley—including a closer connection to the state capital. I strongly disagree that running HSR down I-5 is “totally pointless”; it is a great 'shovel-ready' and substantially less expensive way to connect SF with LA metropolitan areas (70% of California)--not to mention Sacramento and San Diego (bringing it close to 85% of California)--and the Altamont Pass (8 miles) is one-third the cost of Pacheco Pass (24 miles). We should also consider the 'marketing' benefits seeing HSR going down a 300-mile I-5 median three times faster than cars/trucks.

If we really have $40 billion to finish this thing all at once, then you would be right; but first look at our economy. I am young enough to remember the extremely poor cost estimates from CalTrans and other engineers and the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge debacle that was way over engineered and still way behind schedule. I am also old enough to hope that at least some HSR system will be functioning so I can enjoy it before my expiration date.

Bakersfield will be a transit station along either a Highway 99 OR I-5 corridor and can temporarily integrate with Amtrak, which now serves the Central Valley (including Fresno) very well, until a more expensive Highway 99 HSR link north to Fresno-Merced-Modesto-Stockton, etc. is built.

Fresno is the 5th largest metropolitan area in California and would be the next connection after SF-LA-Sacramento and San Diego areas.

Nobody disagrees that the San Joaquin Valley deserves to be a part of a statewide mass transit system and no reason to bypass them--but you need to start somewhere and set priorities and unfortunately the first priority is not Fresno.

Aaron said...

Why all this hostility about Fresno all of a sudden? I feel a certain level of confidence that I'll probably never be in Fresno or Bakersfield in my life, but there's no reason not to connect them into this system... People in Fresno and Bakersfield need to go to San Francisco, San José, and Los Angeles too. CAHSR estimates that Fresno to LA will be about an hour and a half - that's enough to enable those folks to make day trips to LA or SF without the hassle of driving, and will probably help future-proof the I-5 corridor against a need for future expansions for quite awhile. Not only that, the cost of building a station is not going to be near as high as the cost of building the route - we can build as many stations as we need, so long as we don't have all trains making all stops.

This system's goal is to connect as many people as possible while still keeping it a fast system, without turning it into an Amtrak local milk run. The map as currently designed does that. We are lucky compared to many states (PA comes to mind) and most of our major cities can be shoehorned into a relatively straight line. Let's take advantage of it and connect as many people as possible.

Anonymous said...

Owen E, Out of curiosity, is there a single example in which a large scale federal or state project that had already received a large amount of funding and already owned 99+% of all the required real estate was cancelled due to local concerns raised in the EIR process? I'm not saying it's never happened, but I'm not aware of one.

Spokker said...

The Interstate Highway System cost $114 billion dollars ($425 billion in 2006 dollars) and took 35 years to complete.

The initial cost estimate was $25 billion over 12 years.

Considering construction costs have outpaced general inflation, it would cost even more if built today.

And once the era of cheap oil is over it'll all be useless, that is, if the electric car ever gets off the ground (or up a hill).

Anonymous said...

The planning decisions are by no means finalized. In politics -- and if you don't think this is political, you must be new to transport planning -- nothing is ever really over. Just look at all the re-designs of the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge East Span. 20 years and counting...

From the Prop 1A bond vote, I was surprised how tepid the support was in the Central Valley, especially since Fresno's Jim Costa was one the earliest project boosters. Alameda County, however, which gets essentially nothing from Prop 1A, was second only to SF County in its support of Prop 1A.

crzwdjk said...

One minor technical note: freeways are designed for speeds of 75 mph. High speed rail is designed for speeds of up to 220 mph, which requires turning radii about 9 times as large. So you can't just drop a rail line in the median and be done with it, unless your interstate really is straight enough. Building HSR lines in the general vicinity of freeways is not a bad idea, and may be a good way to minimize impact, but that does require things like reconstructing bridges.

Bay Area Resident said...

Owen E, you make my life so easy. You said,

They can make it SEEM that building attractive grade separations exactly like the ones in San Carlos and adding two tracks, WITHOUT any right-of-way or private property takings,

So your concept of an attractive grade separation is that thing in San Carlos? I used to work near there. Do you understand that that structure is located on EL CAMINO, buttressed by two McDonalds establishments?

Your problem is the peninsula residents have much higher standards than you do. That San Carlos station is NOT in a residential area, it is zoned commercial, as it should be. the fact that you think some resident would want to wake up in the morning and look out the window at that "attractive structure" is a mind blower.

Alon Levy said...

A lot of the people here arguing about metro areas conflate microdestinations with macrodestinations. People aren't going to use CAHSR to travel from SoCal to NorCal, but from a specific address in the LA metro area to a specific address near San Francisco. In particular, it's critical for stations to be near as many points of origin and destination as practical.

In the Bay Area, of course, the problem is that the main destinations are in Oakland/Berkeley, San Jose/Silicon Valley, and San Francisco, and it's impossible to serve all three. The current alignment, which drops the East Bay, is probably optimal, as there is plenty of rail capacity from East Bay to San Francisco, and there will be even more to San Jose in the future.

As a corollary, HSR will need way more than four stations. To collect people from LA, it'll need at least as many as are planned for the entire project. LA transit isn't good about serving the major destinations, which are spread too far apart: Hollywood, Santa Monica, the port area. It's good about serving downtown, Anaheim, and the Valley, but that's about it.

On a different note: there are plenty of perfectly straight rail ROW that do serve good markets. For example, from Chicago to Bowling Green, Kentucky, through Indianapolis, there's an almost perfectly straight existing rail line. It helps to have a flat topography.

Bay Area Resident said...

arcady, your comments about curves in freeways is interesting. The caltrain tracks in the San Jose area, which is the Merced route, at the juncture of 280 and 87 appears to be too curved for HSR. The Caltrain goes in an S shape at that juncture. I suppose this train is going to blow out that entire residential area, eh?

Bay Area Resident said...

according to Robert Cruickshank,

I say it because it's true - the NIMBYs aren't going to kill this. They don't seem to grasp that the political support behind HSR is enormous and literally goes all the way to the top.

Thats hilarious Robert. The political support behind HSR is ENORMOUS? really? The proposition barely passed, and would likely not have passed if 1)the budget woes were clear at the time and 2)the bay area - not just the peninsula mind you but San Jose also- were aware of the Pacheco route and its consequences. Watching the "political support" for HSR not only dry up but turn around and start to go 220MPH in reverse in the northern HALF, yes HALF of the state has been quite the miracle of modern technology driven grassroots efforts. The "moneyed classes" in N California who would likely support this- and regrettably voted for it- do not support the Pacheco route due to HUGE environmental concerns. These are the classic rich greenies you need to get on board a project like this- they have been left off of the process and are really, really, really pissed off. The budget minded fiscal conservative types don't support this, never did and certainly don't now due to the CA budget. That leaves people who might benefit from it that don't care about environmental concerns, basically people in Merced who want to commute to San Jose and other lower economic rung folks who want cheap transportation. You won't get far with this constituency.

PS a "protest march" against HSR is scheduled for March 6 on the peninsula- be there!

Bay Area Resident said...

Owen E,

Even as we speak they are hitting the streets to make their case even to people who live a mile away from the tracks and have no personal skin in the game. They are trying to get to the point where they have broad enough public support where no politician would want to back CHSRA up when the time comes.

You are correct the agenda is to scare the politicians into killing this project and it is working since the Palo Alto city council is now asking questions about how to sue CHSRA where prior to the vote they supported it.

But as to people living one mile away- this is what this blog DOES NOT GET. You people must not live here. The bay area towns were created on the train tracks 100 years ago. Every downtown is on the tracks, these are the nicest areas of every town (the "in town" locations). Schools are on these tracks, the best ones (Paly high school)- and when I say on these tracks I mean NEXT DOOR to the tracks, the field backs up to the tracks. If you look at San Jose, the Willow Glen section has a North area which is above the Caltrain tracks and beneath the freeway. While I am certain that is not the best part of that town, putting a 15 ft high separated concrete grade in that location -even if it is extremely attractive- will effectively cut off that section of the city, between the HSR 15 ft concrete grade and freeways, and turn it into a blighted crime destination. This is obvious from looking at any map, and situations like this are all the way up and down the peninsula. People who don't live on the tracks are rightfully concerned, and thats why the resistance is so heated.

And make no mistake- ANY Northern CA voters that see an artist rendering of Paly high school and a bunch of kids playing soccer with a 15 ft high concrete wall and roaring trains immediately overhead will turn against HSR.

Bottom line- if this train must go to SF, and if you must use the Pacheco route, this project will be relegated to the scrap heap of California politics in the next 9-12 months.

Anonymous said...

BAR: arcady, your comments about curves in freeways is interesting. The caltrain tracks in the San Jose area, which is the Merced route, at the juncture of 280 and 87 appears to be too curved for HSR. The Caltrain goes in an S shape at that juncture. I suppose this train is going to blow out that entire residential area, eh?

Arcady's comments were specifically about design considerations for 220mph trains, as is the goal in the central valley. As has been stated over and over and over the trains are NOT going to run that fast though downtown Palo Alto, nor anywhere else on the peninsula.

Owen Evans said...

Bay Area Resident:

I like how you employ every hyperbolic exaggeration of the impacts possible in order to make it SEEM like you're poor helpless souls having your rights trampled by "the man."

The SJ paper has this quote from a Palo Alto resident:
Resident Bill Cutler said he lives across the street from the Caltrain tracks. He wasn't as concerned about the method used to build the train — whether it were above or underground, or used a different route — as long as the rail authority found a way to make it quiet and visually unobtrusive. He said the process hadn't had enough public input up until this point, and questioned how seriously the rail authority was listening to residents.

That sounds like an appropriate attitude to me. Sit down at the table and set objective standards for the definition of quiet and unobtrusive for the CHSRA to meet.

BTW, it probably won't look too good to a judge that your group's very first action is a lawsuit. Judges typically like to see people [i]trying to work things out like adults first[/i] before bringing it to the courts.

And to the folks crying "Deception! We were given the bait-and-switch!" - that's a lie. Who ever told you that you were getting a tunnel? Nobody. You're just making that up in an attempt to give yourselves legal standing.

Owen Evans said...

The more I think about this, the more I realize that this isn't even necessarily about this one project in particular.

This is about control.

The Palo Alto folks worry that, "If we let them build this without making them pay dearly, then that emboldens others, and what comes next!?"

That's why they don't want to TALK to CHSRA about what would be appropriate criteria to meet. If they TALK with CHSRA, then that shows weakness - and if we're week, then there might be others waiting in the wings to ram something else through town.

Anyway, like I said, BAR and crew know how to play the mainstream media like a fiddle. In recent years, the mere mention of "Eminent Domain" - a necessary tool so that unreasonable landowners can't stand in the way of essential public projects - is such a lightning rod that the shrill cries are sure to reach far and wide.

This is what we're up against.

BruceMcF said...

arcady said... "One minor technical note: freeways are designed for speeds of 75 mph. High speed rail is designed for speeds of up to 220 mph, which requires turning radii about 9 times as large. So you can't just drop a rail line in the median and be done with it, unless your interstate really is straight enough. Building HSR lines in the general vicinity of freeways is not a bad idea, and may be a good way to minimize impact, but that does require things like reconstructing bridges."

Yes, a reason why many HSR lines in Europe (especially in rural areas) have sections along expressway rights of way, but in one of the fringes rather than down the median.

A median line is more suitable to a regional Rapid Streetcar that does not have a rail alignment available (or cannot get a time slot for exclusive light rail use of a rail line used by freight) that is traversing between two population centers. Given the wealth of idle and underbuilt rail rights of way in Ohio, some of them from the days of the Interurbans, that's not an issue for importing the tram-train concept into Ohio, but it could be a useful solution for Rapid Streetcar systems in parts of California.

A median alignment could also be of interest for some Rapid Rail applications, as a tilt-train can maintain 110mph on track designed for 70mph trains. There is, of course, overpass works, but compared to acquiring an entirely new right of way, its still normally less expensive.

Anonymous said...

This project is NOT going to be stopped by nimbys period..You and your Drama acts! Going thru Altamont does nothing for Menlo Park and north...Did you read the different EIS?
At BEST for the nimbys will be a tunnel or trench of some sort or simply the HST will pass thru this area at slower speeds and without all the sound walls and crossing, which will add time to the SF-LA trip but will not in any way Kill HSR..there are a number of 3plus hour HSR routes in Europe and there full will ours

Anonymous said...

Following up on BruceMcF and arcady’s comments on using highway medians: At 220 mph, this will probably not work on many medians, however you cannot make the 300 mile Sacramento to Bakersfield I-5 much straighter, although it has a few minor rolling hill grades (looks like less than 5-6%) which gives it some visual interest and breaks up the monotony . If you have not driven I-5 from at least the Altamont Pass to Bakersfield (or Tracy to Sacramento), ‘ride’ it on Google Earth for an hour.

There are few grade-separations on I-5 since it is rural; many, if not most are overpasses already in place. It will require new bridges in the wide HSR median, but the most are short stream and creeks (20’-40’ wide) and could be modular.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Alon Levy's comments:

I do not believe CAHSR was designed as a LA "specific address" to a "specific address" in San Francisco, anymore than the most heavily used LAX to SFO air corridor and currently the preferred choice (but certainly not ‘specific’) between LA and SFO.

What is critical is that we integrate HSR terminals with CalTrain, BART, Amtrak, Metro, MUNI and any other suburban transportation stations.

BruceMcF said...

The first question, though, is whether an I-5 alignment is justified. Fresno may be a smaller metro area, but given the travel time Fresno/SJ, Fresno/SF and Fresno/LA, the HSR will take an even bigger share of those trip markets than it will of the trip markets for larger metro area pairs further apart.

The question to be addressed, therefore, is what are the minutes saved by the I-5 alignment, how many additional passengers LA/SJ and LA/SF are expected at those minutes saved, and do those justify the substantial loss in patronage in omitting Fresno from the alignment.

Unless the result is more passengers, and the proposal is a "lose passenger but also do it cheaper" proposal, then there would seem to be a serious failure to include full economic (aka opportunity) costs in the analysis. Shifting passengers from HSR to highways and airports is, on average, a net cost per passenger shifted, so "cost savings" at the expense of lost patronage is in reality cost increases due to lost patronage, its just that the cost increases will show up in some other budgets.

Brandon in California said...

I agree with your 2/28 9:08am post. Although the HSR legislation specified LA's Union Station and SF's Transbay Terminal... the intent was not specifically for those people going to those addresses, but 1) to enable the connectivity to other systems such as those you mentioned, and 2) serve a downtown/core area already having many 'trip ends'.

With the active discussion of freeway alignments above I see the need to add that development of TODs is ever more challenging. Simply put, freeways are unpleasant to be around and consume a huge amount of land. It would be close to impossible, if not already impossoble, to create a TOD area at a hypothetical HSR station located in a freeway median.

Brandon in California said...

Of course, there are just over a 1 million persons in the Fresno metro area.

Aaron said...

The idea is to incorporate as well as you can into the local transit system. The soon-to-be-rebuilt Transbay terminal is about as good as you can in San Francisco, and Union Station, with its connections to the Metrolink, Amtrak, the Muni bus hub at Patsouras, and the Metro Red and Purple subway lines and Gold Line LRT (soon to also be Blue Line LRT when they do the DT Connector) will also be as good as you can get - I cannot think of a better place to put it in LA ;p. No mode of transportation can get you from address to address unless you're lucky (although in major cities the goal of doing that means that development is drawn to transit stations). HSR will serve the Valley at Burbank, and the Westside can't be served by the line so we'll have to hold out for Expo and the Purple Line extension. Expo will more likely than not be in place by the time it's built.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Brandon in San Diego’s comments:

If CAHSR was run as a business—admittedly it is not, it is run by the government, engineers and politicians—you would first find your largest market (LA-SF metropolitan areas contain approximately 70% our California’s population) and with San Diego and Sacramento (almost 85% of our population) and build a revenue base and then expand. If you could theoretically reduce your initial cost by 30-60% using 300 miles of I-5, then you can use those savings to start addressing the other 15% of our state.

My thoughts on the I-5 median use is strictly as a HSR starting point and simplify the construction, make the progress go incrementally faster and much less expensive than first doing the Highway 99 corridor. There is no need for an I-5 median station between SF-LA-Sacramento, perhaps an initial station in Bakersfield for temporarily integrating with Amtrak and a future separate Highway 99 HSR expansion all the way up to Sacramento, as funds allowed. Fresno would be next, along with other Highway 99 communities.

Anonymous said...

About HSR noise:
Some people seem to think HSR emits the same sort of noise as diesel trains but much louder because of the speed. It is entirely wrong.
HSR noise is high-pitched and mostly aerodynamic. The higher the speed, the higher the pitch. A sound engineer will tell you that high-frequency soundwaves are directional, which means they are easily deflected and don't go round obstacles. They are damped by soft material such as foliage.
Diesel engines, on the contrary, produce a high-amplitude low-frequency noise. A lot of it is infrasonic so that you feel it rather than hear when near the engine. Unfortunately, infrasonic waves cannot be easily deflected or damped. When they hit an obstacle like, for example a thin wall or a window, this obstacle becomes a "secondary source" and produces a variety of sounds which are very unpleasant. In some cases you can even have small objects falling off shelves.
If the train runs on unwelded rail, then you must add the clickety-clack which is transmitted through the ground to the whole structure of the house.
To conclude: those who talk of high-speed trains "roaring" and shaking houses are either ignorant or deliberately lying.

BruceMcF said...

Daniel Archer, Mill Valley said..."If CAHSR was run as a business ... you would first find your largest market (LA-SF metropolitan areas contain approximately 70% our California’s population) and with San Diego and Sacramento (almost 85% of our population) and build a revenue base and then expand."

But given the magnitude of the capital investment, and permanence of the investment, a business would insist on building that line in a way that maximizes the total commercial potential of the first stage between the major population centers.

No business would drop Fresno from the line unless it was for time savings that generated enough additional SF/LA, SJ/LA patronage to more than replace the lost patronage on the largest intervening metropolitan area between the Bay and the LA Basin.

So, again, where is the modeling of the I-5 alignment that establishes the time savings being discussed, and what is the projected ridership gains from those time savings?

That is, if the argument is intended and is to be taken seriously?

Aaron said...

Andre is correct - I used to commute to work for about 3 months in Boston from a platform shared with the Acela (Ruggles, where all Amtrak service ran on tracks adjacent to the commuter rail service I was taking into Downtown), and the Acela was probably the quietest train of all of them, though if you're standing next to it there was quite the wind effect, I lost a Red Sox hat once :). But the wind was solely because all of the tracks were down in a trench, thus creating the perfect wind tunnel, and that trench was part of where the Acela reached its top speed ;p.

Unknown said...

@Daniel Archer et. al.

CHSRA estimated that an I5 alignment would be only 6% cheaper and save 11 to 16 minutes of journey time vs. an alignment that served Fresno, and would serve about 1.2 million fewer passengers annually. This was, rightly I think, not seen as a a reasonable tradeoff.

Anonymous said...

Flaw in logic here. People are not the HSR market. People who want or need to travel between SF to LA are the market.

And where those travelers start from, the convenience and cost of their alternatives also are part of the equation.

CHSRA has sort of made this broad swipe assumptiont that every northern californianer is part of the market for HSR. which is of course, not true at all.

Anyone east of the bay, won't drive deep into cities (adding hours of inconvenience to their trip time), they'll simply jump off freeways and go to SFO, SJ or Oakland as they do today.

As gas gets more expensive, it not only makes rail travel more attractive (ie - makes people more willing to deal with the inconvenience factors), but it at the same time it starts putting new incentives into the automobile market to come up with alternative vehicles and alternative fuels.

I'd like to see some stats on how much electric vehicla and very small commute vehicle market grew , while train traffic was enjoying $4/gallon gas. My guess is that it also showed some pretty good growth.

As California learns how to use smarter, greener personal and family size vehicles, this will again put downward pressure on train demand.

And personal vehicles will ALWAYS win the convenience game.

The CHSRA's so far takes the position that trains are going to somehow hold a captive market once they are built. (Build it they will come.) Their astronomically rosy scenarios about demand for HSR travel only puts their own plans at risk. Unrealistic revenue streams - the whole scheme breaks down, from the operations you can deliver (safety, quality, ticket prices), costs you can bear, to the investors you can attract, to the politicial support you'll sustain.

I think CHSR supporters need to put a little more pressure on CHSRA to get an appropriate business model in place.

Brandon in California said...

When I spoke to a freeway alignment I was not speaking to your I-5 valley alignment to provide express service between SF & LA and bypassing Fresno that forwarded on 2/27 at 12:14p.

I was speaking to Penninsula freeway comments and tried to be be specific in citing your other post because I believe your earlier posted suggestion is a non-starter.

It's a non-starter because certain legislative findings included acknowledgement that the Valley will grow tremendously over the next 50 years... and along the 99 corridor. And, the HSR project is intended to mitigate some of the intercity travel needs of those populations. The adopted prefered alignment includes the 99 corridor... and we additionally see local officials trying to advance station planning and design efforts.

Fresno will very likely be a stop for all north-south trips because of it's size and location.

Anonymous said...

Response to BruceMcF:

If we have the $40-50 billion now to do the whole system at once, then you are correct and doing the Highway 99 corridor first is wise, but we do not have that money and it is tentatively not forthcoming. We have watched repeatedly major government projects spiral out of control, over budget and delayed for years. The way we are approaching this plan has all the makings for disaster again, with no one to rescue the Project—certainly not the state, which is near bankruptcy—and the federal government, has greater economic concerns in the near future. We need to proceed with caution since the economy has obviously changed dramatically the last four months (since passing 1A).

Fresno should certainly be part of the overall plan; however, again if this were a business, they would still go after the four largest metropolitan markets first--with 85% of Californians. The metropolitan Fresno area (representing less than 3% of the state), should be next after LA, SF, San Diego and Sacramento and part of that permanent Highway 99 corridor investment, along with perhaps Wasco, Corcoran, Hanford, Madera, Merced, Turlock-Denair, Modesto, Stockton and Lodi. Currently all those cities are served by six Amtrak San Joaquin’s daily (each way) and they could connect temporarily with an HSR station in Sacramento or Bakersfield. You could also easily provide a direct HSR Manteca Highway 99 station (or Modesto and Stockton, which are both close) which is less than 7 miles from the I-5 corridor (and easily constructed in a 50 feet wide Highway 120 median.

The timesavings for using an initial I-5 corridor is in EIR’s, eminent domain, lawsuits, construction costs and would put the Project on track—so to speak. Excluding Sacramento, the Central Valley has less that 8 percent of the state population. I grew up in Modesto and am certainly not hostile to Fresno or any other city—but believe we need to seriously look at our budget. You can see the issues already generated on the SF-San Jose peninsula corridor; the HSR Highway 99 corridor is very suburban—and you will have similar issues and delays, not to mention the construction costs alone, which will certainly be some higher multiple of an I-5 corridor route.

Unfortunately, we will probably not take the I-5 argument seriously; but kudos to you, if we forge ahead and succeed with this approach. The only point I am trying to make is that if we head down this very expensive path INITIALLY, it may not be the most pragmatic approach and can see a lot potential construction money spent on attorneys, EIR’s and extensive delays—which also has a heavy price tag.

Like you, I just would love to see this built—sooner rather than later. If we have 8-10 billion dollars now, it will probably take all of that—and possibly more--just getting from San Francisco to Los Angeles—and that via 200 miles of a ‘shovel ready’ I-5 corridor, not requiring eminent domain and possibly no EIR’s for that portion.

crzwdjk said...

Interesting question, and I'm not sure the HSR folks studied this, but what if the HSR mainline were built along I-5, and the 6% savings (which is, after all, $2.4 billion) were invested in improving the San Joaquins? Getting the top speed up to 110 or 125 mph would help considerably, as would building more double track. Fresno and Bakersfield get a somewhat sped up train to the Bay Area and, via a transfer to HSR, one to Southern California as well. Bakersfield-Oakland in 4:45 would be possible, and Fresno-Oakland in 3:15. Is it worth the 11-16 minute savings to the much larger number of through travelers? I don't know, but it certainly would have been an interesting option.

Alon Levy said...

You need an EIR for every new development, including HSR in the I-5 corridor. So it's not clear how using it will speed up the project.

Robert Cruickshank said...

This argument of moving HSR to I-5 is nonsense. Complete and total nonsense. As Bruce McF points out there is a lack of understanding about the need to get San Joaquin Valley riders on board the trains to meet ridership goals. If someone can show that the system can pencil out by throwing away tens of millions of annual passenger trips I'd like to see the numbers.

Debating running these tracks down I-5 is like debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It is not going to happen. It would be an unusually bad idea from a intercity travel perspective, and would unnecessarily cut out around a million people from the route.

The problem here is that people assume the train is designed to move people from LA to SF. That's only part of it. It's also designed to move people to and from Fresno, to and from Bakersfield. To solve a severe mobility crisis in the San Joaquin Valley, and help grow the economy in a region where unemployment is approaching 20%.

I am frankly amazed at the level of contempt and ignorance being shown toward residents of those cities. Some folks here are suggesting we just cut them out as if they don't matter, as if their votes for Prop 1A don't matter, as if only the big coastal cities deserve HSR and the inland cities can go fuck themselves.

It is good and right that HSR will serve the Highway 99 corridor. That's one of its most positive and beneficial uses.

It's also reality. If anyone here thinks that HSR can survive politically with the Highway 99 corridor cut out, they're nuts. Cutting out those cities is a guarantee that the line will never get built.

That doesn't mean HSR is being routed there for political purposes. But if you want HSR to get built, you should not be attacking the San Joaquin Valley routing.

Anonymous said...

It appears that most of you are upset with discussing a Plan B I-5 corridor. Considering our new economic problems, it was just a suggestion—obviously already considered—and dismissed.

Let us hope that the estimators who found only a 6% savings in an I-5 corridor are not the same people who initially thought a San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge eastern span replacement was $200 million, sent it out to bid thinking it would be $780 million, received bids for $1.4 billion and recently estimated at $6.2 billion. Construction started in 2002 and completion expected in 2007; completion is now slated for 2013. Is anyone willing to put money on that as a final cost and completion date? Let us hope CAHSR does not head down a similar dark path.

Most of you also appear to ignore that building a HSR Highway 99 corridor project would be part of the final project—after first meeting the higher priorities of Los Angles (including Anaheim), San Francisco (including San Jose), San Diego and Sacramento and including Bakersfield (which you pass through to Los Angles). Fresno (the 5th largest metropolitan area) is next.

Let us look back twenty years for now to see if we have learned any lessons from our previous mistakes. We will then know how many angels ended up dancing on that pin. I hope everyone forging ahead with doing the Highway 99 corridor first is right, but glad that this discussion is well documented.

Unknown said...

@arcady - the 6% savings is not $2.4 billion - it's not referring to the cost of constructing the whole line, just the central valley portion. In addition, the commission found that constructing spur lines to valley cities would cost at least $2 billion and cause severe operational constraints.

The cost savings are trivial in terms of the overall project. I5 delivers a sub-optimal solution and incurs major expenses later.

Here's a summary:

See page 34.

Finally, can we dispense with the "run this like a business" talk? First, it's a meaningless buzzword. I mean, sure, a retail business, say, would try to serve its biggest markets first. It doesn't have major logistical constraints to work around if it decides to expand in the future. The analogy makes no sense when applied to a rail line.

Secondly, HSR is in part a business but also a public service and a major contributor to the economic health of the whole state. Fresno and other smaller cities arguably get a greater benefit from HSR than LA and SF, as their air travel options to either of those destination cities are fewer and significantly more expensive compared to SF-LA.

The economic, social justice, and, yes, the BUSINESS case all say build along the SR99 corridor.

Unknown said...

@Daniel Archer - of course there will be cost over-runs and delays. This is a hugely ambitious project.

I can't quite believe, though, that the prospect of building some cookie-cutter overpasses and knocking down a few buildings in mostly industrial parts of Fresno really has you worried about spiraling costs. This is by far the easiest and most straightforward segment of the whole project.

Then you want to build a whole extra line, at significant expense, to serve the SR99 cities? When? The initial system won't even be finished for 10-15 years.

I mean, if you want to get rid of some serious fiscal question marks, let's abandon Transbay - once the central subway is built 4th and King will be at least as well connected to Downtown SF as Union Station is to Downtown LA.

I don't think this is a wise course either, but if you want to eliminate fiscal risk, it's a much more obvious target than the SR99 cities.

Alon Levy said...

Daniel, it's not true that metro areas should be served in decreasing order of size. HSR isn't about serving a single metro area, but about connecting multiple metro areas; therefore, size is just one consideration, along with distance and connectivity by other modes of transportation. The LA-SD route will likely not be very heavily traveled, because at this distance the time bonus of HSR isn't enough to get people out of their cars. The bulk of the ridership will be on the LA-SF and LA-Sac lines. Most of it is expected to be from the LA basin to points in NorCal - I believe Fresno will actually have higher ridership than SD.

Aaron said...

Alon, I actually recently learned that the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner is one of the more popular Amtrak lines out here, with frequent departures and a lot of traffic. Unfortunately HSR will probably kill the Surfliner, assuming most of the Surfliner traffic will be served by HSR (Surfliner cuts northwest through Santa Barbara, differentiating it from the HSR route), but there is a lot more LA-SD traffic on it than traffic north of LA, and I tend to think it will be popular; not enough to justify a standalone LA-SD HSR route, but as an extension to LA-SF, I believe that it will be popular and well-utilized.

Having said that, this argument about Fresno is silly. The inland cities need to be served by HSR, and I tend to believe that the Fresno-SF and Bakersfield-LA service will be very popular among residents of the Central Valley who really hate the concept of driving into LA or SF, as well as among City residents visiting friends and family and conducting business.

(sorry if this comment posts twice, the web interface is being cranky, I'll delete if it does).

Anonymous said...

Bakersfield can easily be included in a proposed I-5 alignment. A regular train from Fresno and the smaller CV agricultural centers can feed passengers into the Bakersfield HSR station. What we are really asking is whether Fresno is important enough to be on the first HSR stage, justifying roughly 25 miles in additional travel distance between the vastly more populous Bay Area and LA/SoCal? The stop itself will slow down the train, and trains have to decelerate and accelerate. The SR-99 route will certainly be more expensive due to all the grade separations required and the potential for NIMBYs seeking to restrict top speeds. The paltry Fresno ridership (even CHRSA only estimates 7,000 boardings a day, lower than most other stations) does not justify the loss in BA/LA ridership by significantly slowing down the connection between vastly bigger urban areas.

The Fresno SMSA only has 1 million people, while the neglected Sacramento SMSA has over 2 million people with considerably more growth potential. More critically, Fresno does not have the economic demographic to support HSR travel. To be blunt, we're talking about the key demographic of any premium intercity service: business travelers. Fresno is about 200 miles from SF and and 220 miles from LA, yet Fresno's airport only handles 1.3 million passengers annually. In stark comparison, Sacramento Airport (much closer to Bay Area airports too) handles 10.4 millions passengers annually (2006 data). Fresno just doesn't have the business travelers, and you are kidding yourself if you don't realize that business travel is the core market for inter-regional HSR. The SF-LA airline market for business travel is immense, yet the HSR system would hobble its competitiveness with a costly diversion to Fresno.

I certainly don't believe CHSRA claims that a I-5 alignment is only 6% cheaper than a SR-99 alignment. First of all, where is the rigorous peer-reviewed analysis? The number of grade separations required for the 'empty' I-5 corridor are dramatically fewer than the lightly urbanized SR-99 corridor. Anyone who has followed the Altamont vs. Pacheco debates knows that CHSRA can play fast and loose with the numbers to endorse political decisions already made. For your enlightenment:

If HSR is actually going to be built, it has to be an open process that seriously evaluates all alternatives. The room for error is minimal.

Unknown said...

@Fred, et. al.

If you really have a desperate need to travel straight from SF to LA without stops, you can always fly. That's not really how trains work though.

Anonymous said...

Response to Eric:

Flights less than 500 miles are very inefficient and we should save our fossil fuel for lengthy cross-country, European and Asian flights. If we are still interested in energy and the environment, electrical HSR has the potential to be 100% fossil fuel and carbon emission free, potentially relying on renewable sources of energy, including hydro, solar, wind, wave, geo-thermal— and even nuclear, provided new plants reprocess their spent nuclear fuel.

There are ‘trains’ and then there is HSR; we should define its’ use in California. Our smart European counterparts have express HSR directly between London and Paris (240 miles), Paris and Lyon (240 miles) and St. Petersburg-Moscow (400 miles); Paris to Marseille (410 miles) has one stop and Rome to Milan (400 miles) has two stops. At some point High-Speed rail at 220 mph is not ‘high-speed’ with multiple small city stops; 3-5 minute acceleration/3-5 minute deceleration/3-5 minute stops. We should probably revisit why we even need HSR if we intend to use it as milk runs.

Spokker said...

"Flights less than 500 miles are very inefficient and we should save our fossil fuel for lengthy cross-country, European and Asian flights."

Try telling that to Palo Alto Online posters.

"We don't need this High Speed Rail. There are already plenty of energy efficient, low cost flights between Northern and Southern California and we already have a train between San Jose and San Francisco."


Anonymous said...

Response to Spokker:
One would assume that the same logic from the Palo Alto Online poster would also declare “… energy efficient… flights between Northern and Southern California…” also has the potential to be 100% fossil fuel and carbon emission free since most jet engines are made from General ELECTRIC.