Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Central Valley HSR to Open In 2015, With a Station in Visalia

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

UPDATE: The California High Speed Rail Authority has issued a correction to the reports on the "first" section of the HSR spine to open:

Some news reports Tuesday suggested the state's first completed high-speed train segment would connect Bakersfield and Merced. No decision has been made on which section of the backbone link between Anaheim/Los Angeles and San Francisco will be the first to become operational. Current plans anticipate that a test track may be built on a flat stretch in the Central Valley somewhere between Bakersfield and Merced.

Original post begins here:

Shifting to more productive news, the plans to build the first a segment of the California HSR project in the Central Valley are well under way, with the Merced to Bakersfield line projected to break ground in 2011 and open around 2015. It will be this track, of course, that will be used for testing trainsets as the CHSRA determines which train models to use on the entire statewide system.

And as the Visalia Times-Delta reports it is likely that a station will be built after all in the Visalia-Hanford area:

An earlier environmental study did not consider Visalia for a station. But input and intensive lobbying by Visalia officials led the rail authority to consider five possible stations in the Visalia-Hanford-Tulare area.

The most likely site for a station is on Highway 198 near Hanford, about 12 miles west of downtown Visalia. That location looks promising because Burlington Northern railroad company, owner of the railroad right of way, has expressed interest in partnering with the high-speed rail authority.

Four other proposed locations — all along Highway 99 — are near existing Union Pacific railroad lines.

"Union Pacific has stated it is not interested in high-speed rail," Schaevitz said.

High speed rail is an essential part of economic recovery in the San Joaquin Valley, which has some of the nation's highest unemployment rates, and has virtually no intercity travel options aside from overburdened freeways and the San Joaquins Amtrak California route, a great line but one that doesn't have high speed and that doesn't connect to Los Angeles.

This is further confirmation also that the CHSRA plans to follow the BNSF route through the Valley and not the UP route, although within Fresno there are still plans afoot to try and unite all the rail corridors in one place through the city, hopefully leveraging HSR funds to help accomplish that goal.

It's nice to see that we finally have some solid timelines on when to expect construction and first testing of trains. 2015 is only 6 years away - time will fly when we're turning dirt.

Again, I'm going to direct people who want to discuss the Peninsula to the previous thread - posts on that topic will be deleted from this particular thread.


Anonymous said...

Wow that is interesting.

Pick up the train in Gilroy and now you will add another extra 15 minutes to your trip, due to an extra stop?

Gilroy to LA now 4 hours?

Anonymous said...

I'd be really careful about building a station if I were Visalia. With an HSR station, then a certain unsavory element residing in the Palo Alto area will have easy access to your city. You do not want these guys coming in and wreaking havoc on your neighborhood. They'll just arrive and act like they're better than everyone else and try to block things that would benefit even their own city and start demanding every concession under the Sun. And they'll do it in a very ugly way, with lies and exaggerations and thinly veiled racist slurs. So be careful what you ask for don't want "those people" showing up in your town!

Robert said...

This isn't the Palo Alto thread, but hey Mike, you have a good point, actually. I have lived in two places that turned down metro stations - Georgetown, Washington, DC, and Arlington, MA - and both have lived to regret it. Both were concerned about unsavory elements, among other things. I think anybody who can have a station should get one, and my question for Wondering is ... not every train stops at every station, right? Even with HSR my understanding is that some trains will be express and some "local." Robert?

Anonymous said...

I love seeing dates like "2015" - it makes the project much more tangible. All this talk about how the TBT will look in 2030 is depressing. If they aren't the authority should be playing this date up to whatever degree is prudent.

On another (hopefully not rhetorical) note, what is wrong with UPRR? I'm sure business is good, especially with oil price forecasts, but this stance seems shortsighted. HSR could easily have a "halo effect" that brings about development of *all* rail infrastructure. IMHO, UPRR needs to get with this century.

Robert said...

Didn't mean everyone should GET a station ... but that they should GO for it! I'm not making sense today. It's tax season.

Anonymous said...

Wondering - Not sure what you are getting at. Most trains will not stop in Visalia. This is true even of non-express trains. For example, a service pattern might be SF-SJ-Gilroy-Fresno-Bakersfield-LA. That service pattern will take something like 2 hrs 20 mins from Gilroy to LA. There will not be many all local trains that make every single stop because there just isn't a lot of demand to travel directly from Gilroy to Visalia. Even an all local train wouldn't take much more than 3 hrs from Gilroy to LA though.

Anonymous said...

So much for CHSR as the big SPRAWL reducer. I hope they can drop this from their 'benefits' marketing material now.

If commute to Visalia from (andwyere) takes and hour, hey time to buy cheap cheap cheap real estate in Visalia (and I do mean cheap!), and start building a new Roseville.

Yay! Developers rejoice!

(Besides, you know all those millions of empty homes all over the central valley now? The ones is massive forclosure debacle? Those are all ruined, simply ruined by bad press. We need to move over a hunderd or so miles, and start a new little central vallye suburbia. Vi-sa-lia, here I come, right back where I started from...

bossyman15 said...

2015: Begin testing first prototype trains on Merced-Bakersfield line, including Visalia-Hanford-Tulare station.

ok mark your calendar.

Anonymous said...

woops! where I said (andwyere) - big typo, That should have read 'anywhere'

(that was not the suggested new name for the next new townhome neighborood community project in Visalia, although its kind of catchy, and they'll be looking for alot of clever new names for those big housing tracts...)

Also, when I said ruined by bad press, I should have said, (more like) ruined by just plain bad karma, those neighborhoods are really just so 1990.s, and now blighted because no one lives there besides! We just need to abandon those, and build a bunch-o new houses in the middle of farmland. Yippee. Housing boom! Hooray! Thanks all powerful and all knowing CHSRA!

TomW said...

@wondering: adding an extra stop will not add fifteen minutes to the travbel time - more like 5 minutes at most.

Seperate thought: will Hanford Municpal airport become the airport of choice for the buinsessman flying to California? My instinct feels that where you have two large cites linked together, those places roughly in the middle can benefit the most. ("Can't decide whether to open an office in LA of SF? Then come to Hanford, and be in easy reach of both. Plus all the benfits of small city living for your workers")

The cities on the UP route have a larger total popualtion than on the BNSF route. However, the gap is never more than ~15 miles, so it won't make huge difference. Also, smaller cities mean cheaper mitigation measures.

TomW said...

@ on topic: if the population of California incraeses by a million, surely it is better to add 50k to twenty different cities than 500k to two? The latter scenartio is far more "sprawly".

Aaron said...

I've never been convinced that the HSR = Central Valley sprawl argument makes any sense. How many people are really going to be willing to pay that kind of money to commute that far? Sure, there are people with Amtrak NEC monthly passes, but I would venture to say that the vast majority of them had ties to, say, New London before getting a job in Boston and didn't want to leave home. I cannot conceptualize moving that far out and then commuting that far.

@mike: totally off topic, but totally hilarious.

Anonymous said...

David, UPRR is pretty much an unmitigated disaster with respect to interfacing with passenger rail. BNSF is generally much better. Look at the San Joaquins - it has good on time performance despite running on a single-track BNSF line for most of its route. I was always impressed by the reliability with which the BNSF freights would be waiting on sidings for us when I used to take the San Joaquins.

If I were CHSRA, I'd be trying to work with BNSF and avoid UPRR wherever possible.

Spokker said...


I love it. I'm saving that comment.


Yes, a Gilroy stop would add some time to your trip if you were on the train that stops in Gilroy. The extra time would not be 15 minutes.

The run time for LA-SF was always a little over 2 and a half hours and applied to express trains. Local trains will take longer.

@on topic

I plucked a portion of rafael's comment on sprawl from an earlier discussion.

"The term often used to refer to this is “sprawl”, but that actually refers to the unbridled expansion of low-rise construction in a single city. HSR is really about “exurbanization”, i.e. people living near the center of one city and working near the center of another, far away.

In France, the TGV network has greatly increased the attractiveness of this new form of long-distance commuting. That’s fine by them, Paris is an old city with very little room for residential growth. No-one complains that SNCF is offering sweet deals for people who ride the TGV every day. In stark contrast to California, local authorities in France get their funding from the central government."

The Central Valley is going to grow with or without HSR. If Visalia can make their HSR station a mass transit hub, make their city more walkable and more bike friendly, and all the better. It's a far cry from unrestricted growth spurred by cheap gasoline and the personal automobile.

Brandon in California said...

I recognize that the Hanford/Visalia Station is only a possibility and there has been no final decision.

That said I am interested in the implications relative to AB3034 (or other) specifying that the system or bond monies be limited to funding the line and no more than 28 stations.

A couple questions come to mind...

- Does Hanford/Visalia Station impact the 28 station cap identified in 1A/AB3034 and does than mean another pre-identified station location will be removed from consideration?

- If the Hanford/Visalia Station is considered outside the umbrella of 1A/AB3034 does that mean zero of the California bond funding authorized would be apportioned to the station and it becomes a 'local' responsibility.... a la possible penninsula tunnel feature.

As an aside, it's ironic that citizens in one region are doing almost all they can do to get rid of HSR through their bergs while another is seeking connectivity.

Unknown said...

@mike - gee thanks a lot, now I have to clean up the diet coke I just snorted out my nose.

So much for CHSR as the big SPRAWL reducer. I hope they can drop this from their 'benefits' marketing material now.

I've no idea what's going on toward the end of your comment, but there's a certain amount of validity to this point. The TGV, for example, has meant that people can commute to Paris from far-flung places like Lille (France's answer to Visalia), and still live a more suburban (i.e. sprawl-creating) lifestyle than they would if they lived near Paris.

Anecdotally, I personally know a number of people who work in downtown LA and chose to live out in places like Pomona, where they could afford to live the suburban California dream, specifically because they had the option to commute via Metrolink. Since Metrolink is fairly comfortable and attractive, and you can read or get work done on the train, they consider the major part of their commute to be the drive from their house to the train station - Metrolink is factored in as a monetary expense but not as a major cost in terms of time or annoyance. At least when the engineers keep their eye on the signals and don't crash into freight trains.

To sprawl or not to sprawl is more a matter of local zoning and transportation decisions - HSR may provide a modest incentive for denser development by creating a central transport hub, but people, or Californians at least, are perfectly willing to drive from their little split-level suburban ranch home into town to catch the train.

To me that was always a major argument against the Pacheco alignment - that's a very lovely part of California and I think it would be a shame if it got excessively built up, and a Gilroy station would encourage that. But, that train has sailed.

Rafael, it may be true that in some French TGV commuter towns everyone lives near the city center, but in many towns the TGV station is built away from the city center and everyone drives or takes the bus to it. The French jokingly call them "les gares des betteraves" because the first one was built in a beet field. In this respect I think the CHSRA's emphasis on city centers is commendable, even if a modest time penalty and additional construction expense is incurred.

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic news. Seems like there are some folks in charge who actually do know what they are doing despite the inflammatory publics comments by spokes people and the media's inability to report real news. What this says is that they are proceeding just as they planned, Why do things always have to get whipped into a mad frenzy in the meantime.

TomW said...

@ Brandon in San Diego: 28 station cap!??! Where does it say that?

Anonymous said...

as for the comments about an extras stop adding estra time.... thats only on locals, not on limiteds and express. There was also a sample sked that showed "suburan express" and its important to remember that this isn't all about LA to SF the biggest benefit of CAHSR will be the intermediate travel - between the valley and LA and soley within the valley. These folks are very loyal to trains already.

Alon Levy said...

My instinct feels that where you have two large cites linked together, those places roughly in the middle can benefit the most. ("Can't decide whether to open an office in LA of SF? Then come to Hanford, and be in easy reach of both. Plus all the benfits of small city living for your workers")

It didn't happen in Trenton and New Haven; why will it happen in Visalia?

Anonymous said...

I just can't wait to be able to get to fresno quickly from Sf cuz my friend owns a hair shop there and she is way better than supercuts. I will finally be able to make and appt with her once a month.

Anonymous said...

ALON but it did happen in sacramento.

crzwdjk said...

For those worrying about HSR commuters and induced sprawl: keep in mind that, contrary to whatever HSRA may be saying now, HSR tickets will not be cheap. I'm not sure that many people will want to pay $1200 a month for a commuter pass (or even $50 each way) to commute from Visalia to LA or SF. But the ability to easily make the occasional trip to the big city for entertainment, shopping, access to airports, and so on, will certainly make places like Visalia more attractive to live and work in.

Anonymous said...

A monthly pass would be less than half that and they do pay it already. The tickets prices will be based on class of service and availability and the low fares will be available for those who seek them out. the high first class fares will subsidize the off peak coach fares. and the usual discounts, AAA senior student advantage, disabled, veterans, ans such will also be available.

Unknown said...

It's no surprise, is it? These central valley communities are much more economically depressed and more blue-collar than most of the peninsula. These are the kinds of communities that fight to get prisons located nearby.

The kinds of jobs provided by HSR, both in construction and operations, would be a huge benefit for them. Not to mention their intercity transportation options are much more limited than for SF and LA - air travel from cities this size is inconvenient, infrequent, and expensive.

I suppose one could argue that giving central valley towns a reasonably priced, fast connection to SFO, SJC, Palmdale, Burbank, and Ontario could actually create increased demand at these airports, nonetheless giving this part of the state more mobility is a worthy goal.

crzwdjk said...

Alon: what about Stamford? It's done pretty well, and it seems to me like the easy access to Metro North and Amtrak was a key factor in its success.

Anonymous said...

tons of people are already paying 400 a month to commute from sac to sf. and 400 to commute from fresno to san jose and 567.00 from fno to sf and 385 for 5 round trips between la and sf.

Unknown said...

For those worrying about HSR commuters and induced sprawl: keep in mind that, contrary to whatever HSRA may be saying now, HSR tickets will not be cheap.

OK so from where are we going to get 90 million trips are year that CHSRA is predicting? That volume implies commuters, a few Fresno residents popping over to SF every once in a while to ride the cable cars isn't going to cut it.

Besides, high speed trains in Europe and Japan are not particularly cheap and they are extensively used by commuters.

Anonymous said...

Like I said people are already doing it.

crzwdjk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
crzwdjk said...

Eric: I'm pretty much saying that their 90 million number is bullshit. That was the ridership of the entire TGV (and Eurostar and Thalys) network in 2005, which is at least three separate corridors and in a country with a much more developed railway network and denser population. As for fares, I'd expect the normal end to end fare to be at least $100 or so. For comparison, a trip on the ICE from Frankfurt to Hamburg is about 300 miles and costs about 100 euros. Keep in mind that the HSR will have to price tickets high enough to not only cover the costs of operation, but also have a surplus to pay off the construction bonds. There's just no way that you'd get a huge number of commuters that way. If you look at the ridership of the Capitol Corridor, it's only got some 4000 a day. I don't expect more than a couple million annual rides from commuters. And if the home price differential really is that steep that huge numbers of people commute by HSR, that just points to the sheer insanity of the Bay Area's urban planning. We shouldn't be encouraging this kind of thing.

Brandon in California said...

I was incorrect about the number of stations; I over-stated.

AB 3034 section 2709.09 (d) reads:

(d) The total number of stations to be served by high-speed
trains for all of the corridors described in subdivision (b) of Section 2704.04 shall not exceed 24. There shall be no station between the Gilroy station and the Merced station.

But, it looks like I should back-step from my previous submission.... the adopted preferred alignment identified 27 stations and did not include one in Visalia/Hanford; however included 3 along the east side of the Bay at Oakland, Oakland Airport & Union City. If subtracted, which makes logical sense right now relative to AB 3034... we arrive at a consistent number of 24.

CHSRA's current online map is not consistent with the adopted preferred alignment whereas 26 stations are plotted; the difference includes Gilroy and Visalia/Hanford.

Nevertheless, right now the legislation cites 24. A question surfaces how this will administratively pan-out to reconcile the difference.

Brandon in California said...

Arcady and all,

I've scrathed my head on the ridership numbers too. However, let's not forget that many planning assumptions are behind then numbers... none reflect existing conditions... but those projected in 2050 (or thereabouts). That includes population approaching 50-60 million (up from 37-ish today), more dense development that is condusive to mass transit useage, and higher energy costs.

Gamecoug said...

You say they're projecting to open in 2015? that's very fast for the first portion. I assume they're planning to open the test portion for public use at some point? That would be worth a special trip.

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember BART opening the fremont to richmond line well before the rest of the system was ready. the trains just went back and forth every 20 minutes. you couldnt go anywhere else.

Alex M. said...

Sorry to burst everyone's bubble but the CHSRA has just released a statement saying that the info circling in the news is incorrect, they have not selected the Merced to Bakersfield route yet.

Sorry to be messenger.

Anonymous said...

This isn't really in response to any one person, but rather an attitude I've noticed as a relatively young person who has lived in the bay area his entire life. I call it "You can't live here syndrome."

I was born in Marin. I have since been priced way, way, out of that market. Why? Tremendous resistance to building new housing stock. Tremendous resistance to infill development, replacing low density housing with higher density. The problem certainly isn't limited to Marin. The bay area in general is just out of land, and existing communities don't want to do infill. (Note, this is starting to change in some places). However, lots of the infill is still relatively inexpensive and definitely does not meet the needs of a growing region.

So now I'm hearing an argument around here that goes something like this. "We don't want to increase housing stocks in our precious town, because that will change the landscape!" Now its "We don't want you to live somewhere else, either, because that will increase sprawl!"

OK, guys. Where do I live?

Here's the deal. If Visialia wants to encourage growth around a HSR station, *more power to them*. The difference between this scenario and stockton, is that it will be transit-oriented from the start. The communities can be planned around a definition of transit that goes beyond "how are we going to move cars from here to there."

There's a reason that communities in the Central Valley sprawl: land is cheap. HSR removes that cheapness. It creates value in the immediately surrounding areas. Higher value means that denser development is possible.

I know this was kind of a rant, but like it or not growth is coming. You don't want growth in your neighborhood, fine, free society I can't do anything about that. But CA's growing population will have to live somewhere. We maybe can't control where they live (the market decides that) but we can have an impact on how they live.

Gamecoug said...

1. The 90 million rider number includes a lot of commuters, of which the thalys has none. That inflates the CAHSR numbers significantly, as they're including EVERYONE.
2. A trip from Paris to Marseille on the TGV is currently $83 US for the cheap fare. TGV often has even better deals (I bought tickets from Brussels to Avignon on the TGV for US$47/each a couple months ago), so the rate they're planning for LA/SF doesn't seem out of line to me.
3. The determining cost of a ticket on HSR isn't going to be the number of riders divided by the operating costs plus payback on the bonds. That would be like charging more for rides in your taxi because you're still paying it off and you're only averaging 2 fares per day. HSR is going to be priced based on where it is competitive.

People commuting from Visalia to LA or SF on the HSR might not be a great thing, but think of the impact it would have for people who right now commute from Gilroy or Los Banos to SJ or SF. The HSR line would shorten their commute by an hour each day, while decreasing their carbon footprint.

Brandon in California said...

The past few days have seen a number of posts speakign to compromises here and there to accomodate interest x, y or z. Since I just landed on some of the legislation speaking the operating parameters that the CHSRA is planning for I thought to provide here:

"2704.09. The high-speed train system to be constructed pursuant to this chapter shall be designed to achieve the following characteristics:
(a) Electric trains that are capable of sustained maximum revenue operating speeds of no less than 200 miles per hour.
(b) Maximum nonstop service travel times for each corridor that shall
not exceed the following:
(1) San Francisco-Los Angeles Union Station: two hours, 40 minutes.
(2) Oakland-Los Angeles Union Station: two hours, 40 minutes.
(3) San Francisco-San Jose: 30 minutes.
(4) San Jose-Los Angeles: two hours, 10 minutes.
(5) San Diego-Los Angeles: one hour, 20 minutes.
(6) Inland Empire-Los Angeles: 30 minutes.
(7) Sacramento-Los Angeles: two hours, 20 minutes.
(c) Achievable operating headway (time between successive trains) shall be five minutes or less.

Spokker said...

"I'm pretty much saying that their 90 million number is bullshit."

Agreed, but the ridership projects are now more realistic.

Page 10.

Robert said...

David I didn't see that as a rant and as an old feller I appreciate your comments. Where indeed? Come by a cheap condo in San Diego and hopefully HSR will connect here in your lifetime ...

Unknown said...

If you look at the ridership of the Capitol Corridor, it's only got some 4000 a day.

Do the math, dude. That right there is almost a million round trips a year. (for back of the envelope purposes I assumed 20 workdays in a month). The vast majority of these are commuters. You really think a faster, better option isn't going to attract more commuters than the existing slow, poky train on this one corridor?

LA to SF fare isn't the relevant statistic - nobody expects vast numbers of daily LA-SF commuters, the time, let alone the expense, isn't practical. A better European comparison would be fares from places like Vendome or Meuse into Paris, full-fare these usually run about 30-35 Euro for a second class ticket - however there are numerous discount programs and most commuters pay about half that.

Besides, CHSRA's fares need to be competitive with other modes of travel; it can't just set them wherever it wants.

Now, I agree that 90 MM/ yearly and a $50 LA-SF fare are pretty fanciful, at least out of the gate. I suspect it's going to take quite a bit longer to get to profitability than what's being predicted - in fact that's what happened with the Channel Tunnel - even as ridership approached projections, the operator had to discount fares to compete with airlines.

crzwdjk said...

"The determining cost of a ticket on HSR isn't going to be the number of riders divided by the operating costs plus payback on the bonds."
Actually, it pretty much has to be. The HSR is supposed to pay back its bonds from operating surplus. So yes, the average fare pretty much has to be the operating costs plus debt service divided by the number of riders, it's a simple matter of arithmetic that you can't do anything about. How the actual price for any given ticket is determined, though, is a different matter, and will probably be based on demand for any given train, plus various attempts at price discrimination. There will be cheap fares, but they will be for off-peak trains.

And Gamecoug, you know what would really reduce people's carbon footprints? Walking to work. Maybe if we let the free market, and not the Marin County (or whatever other county) department of planning, decide where people can live, we'd have a more efficient Bay Area.

Spokker said...

"but rather an attitude I've noticed as a relatively young person who has lived in the bay area his entire life. I call it "You can't live here syndrome.""

As a fellow young person I agree, and I also see a, "You can't visit here syndrome."

It has been expressed by some anti-rail folks, and not just anti-HSR folks. It's this idea that rail lines, whether it's high speed or light rail, will induce an unsavory element into your community.

That's part of the reason why the Purple Line extension in Los Angeles hasn't gotten off the ground until recently. Besides the fear mongering over methane gas explosions in the Miracle Mile district, residents in West LA didn't want that "unsavory" element taking the subway to their utopian enclaves. Of course, a logical person would conclude that criminals can afford cars and use them to commit crimes, and that the demographic that uses mass transit in LA in the highest numbers are low-income Hispanic folks. You put two and two together.

Here's another awful example. Some beachfront residents in San Clemente bemoaned the introduction of Metrolink service from the Inland-Empire to Orange County because it would bring "white trash" to their beachfront wonderland. Talk about classism.

No, you can visit this beach. This is our beach. Well, tough.

Anonymous said...

I bet they will stick with the BNSF
route and do that cutover above Fresno as pictured in the EIS/EIR for Merced-Barksfield..Rafael had a post on this subject in December
and altho it misses downtown in Merced it has direct access to Castle Airport perfect location for the big train yard which I bet Merced would love to have

Spokker said...

Robert just posted an update. I guess the media jumped the gun in concluding that the Central Valley would be the first leg of the network built.

Rafael said...

The Hanford/Visalia/Tulare station was always going to be marginal in terms of HSR ridership, but Kings and Tulare counties really want one in their neck of the woods. Other than Madera, those two were the only ones not to get a station. That created political pressure even if the business case is weak.

Visalia has actually been a fan of transit-oriented development for a while now, but the BNSF line runs through Hanford, where planners still think more conventionally.

One compromise option would be to set some reasonable preconditions:

- location east of Hanford, though perhaps not as far as the county line

- local HSR feeder train serving Hanford-HSR-Visalia, with possible extension

- a new planned township (transit village) centered on the HSR/feeder line intermodal station

- further reductions in drinking water consumption by nearby agriculture to support new township

- water recycling plant, mandatory purple (non-potable) plumbing into every dwelling; used for green roof/water spray instead of a/c, decorative potted plants, outdoor landscaping

- buildings architected for minimal direct solar exposure, interior courtyards, pedestrian arcades integrated into building at ground level, perhaps even second story (for grade-separate bike network) -> keep streets narrow to maximize shade, south CV = Morocco in terms of annual rainfall

Alon Levy said...

Alon: what about Stamford? It's done pretty well, and it seems to me like the easy access to Metro North and Amtrak was a key factor in its success.

Stamford is an edge city of New York, rather than a city that benefits from being between two major cities.

It's also very auto-oriented. Local planners are trying to make it more transit-oriented, but most people who work there still drive. The Metro-North stop has 7,000 daily riders, compared with 81,000 jobs in Stamford. On a percentage basis it's equivalent to Manhattan minus the subway, PATH, and the Metro-North, leaving only the NJ Transit and LIRR.

Besides, high speed trains in Europe and Japan are not particularly cheap and they are extensively used by commuters.

The volume of HSR travel is tiny compared to that of commuter travel. For instance, the Tokaido Shinkansen carries 350,000 people per day, compared with 36,000,000 for the Tokyo urban rail system and 15,000,000 for the Osaka urban rail system.

The HSR line would shorten their commute by an hour each day

No, it wouldn't. It would just make them move further away from where they work. Average commute times are surprisingly constant: see, for example, a literature review in section 2.2 of this paper.

BruceMcF said...

"No, it wouldn't. It would just make them move further away from where they work. Average commute times are surprisingly constant: see, for example, a literature review in section 2.2 of this paper."

Don't misunderstand the Marquette Principle literature, where the authors of that paper grab hold of the portion of that literature that describes it in terms of "time budget".

Bear in mind that the time budget is per day ... a sixty to eighty minute time budget is a half hour to forty minute commute. People within that time budget and people outside that time budget will react differently to a faster travel mode.

For those who currently live beyond the Marquette limit, a new form of transport that brings their commute within the thirty to forty minute range will not lead to "just moving further out".

For those living with the Marquette limit, pushing the Marquette limit out will mean other factors than commute time will tend to drive their choice of residence within the new, larger, Marquette limit.

The big difference in terms of sprawl development for HSR versus freeway expansion is that freeway expansion tend to push Marquette limits out over a broad area, and then as new development occurs in areas brought inside the Marquette limit, the increase in VMT generates congestion which then shrinks the Marquette limit again (and creating political support for more roadworks to kick the cycle around another time).

By contrast, HSR stations bring the area around specific origin stations within the Marquette limits of specific stations, without bringing in all of the intervening space between the stations.

James said...

From the Merced Sun Star

Planners offer forum for high-speed rail
Residents will be able to offer their thoughts on the proposed high-speed rail system during a public meeting March 18.

Anonymous said...


Now where's my DeLorean?


bossyman15 said...

oh lol

無名 - wu ming said...

good, i hope they build the central valley line first, and then the bakersfield to LA leg next. that would make N-S rail travel a heck of a lot faster than now, and would concentrate construction jobs where they are most sorely needed.

and i totally hear what David is saying about "you can't live here." hopefully the housing bust will eventually leave housing within reach of mere mortals, but really there needs to be density enough so that younger generations can actually live where they grew up and work. HSR can be a big part of that, if done well.

anyone who has been to visalia in the winter knows that people arent exactly going to flock there from the bay area anytime soon. then again, i am boggled every time i drive through the inland empire that people willingly live there, so who knows. people gotta live where they can afford to buy or rent houses, after all.

those who oppose sprawl are obligated to support densification (and the transit that supports it), otherwise you're just telling the young and the non-rich to leave the state.

無名 - wu ming said...

d'oh, what i meant to say was "anyone who has been to visalia in the summer." winter's not so bad, really.

Anonymous said...

this just confirms that the BNSF is a much more forward thinking railroad than the daytraders union pacific... with potentially $1 billion/year in profits this is a great opportunity for existing railroad companies. i'd much rather the BNSF be the private entity involved than some foreign conglomerate like virgin that dabbles in everything.

i've been dreaming that a planned city would be built somewhere in the central valley right on the HSR line with a station, as a model sustainable city for the 21st century that builds off the development pattern driven by the HSR line. but of course this city would have to be very ambitious, dense, green and planned for a big population. perhaps this could be the visalia station.

crzwdjk said...

"but really there needs to be density enough so that younger generations can actually live where they grew up and work."

Really, there's a very, very simple cause for this. Zoning and building restrictions imposed by the local governments. A secondary problem is very poor infrastructure planning, which leads to local residents blocking further growth because of worries about traffic impacts and the like. The problem with restrictive zoning is that it gives huge benefits to existing homeowners, increasing their property values by artificially restricting supply. And it's the current homeowners who get to vote in local elections, not people who would have wanted to live there had they been able to afford it.

Unknown said...

i'd much rather the BNSF be the private entity involved than some foreign conglomerate like virgin that dabbles in everything.

Right because American railroads are renowned for their embrace of leading edge passenger train technology. And railroads are conglomerates more or less by definition.

Besides, the foreign company most likely to be involved would be Virgin, and Virgin is dead serious about trains back in the UK. Other than Eurostar, they are probably the most technologically advanced and savvy train operators and are leading the charge to raise the speed limit on the West Coast Main Line from 125 mph to 140 mph (not impressive by continental standards, but this is on a heavily trafficked, mixed passenger and freight, 19th century rail line, not a dedicated high speed route, and is a big leap ahead for the UK).

Rafael said...

@ David, Robert, wu-ming, arcady -

things are actually changing, albeit that it's early days. Here's a KQED radio piece on the relatively new phenomenon of the transit village.

In the Bay Area, I'm aware of plans for such villages in San Jose (SJ Diridon, Beryessa BART), Santa Clara (Caltrain, BART), Fremont Warm Springs (BART), Union City (BART), Oakland Coliseum (BART) and North Concord (BART). The SFTT project is embedded in a transit-oriented redevelopment as well. There may be others.

As I suggested in my recent post "Tight Squeeze At Transbay Terminal?", Point Alameda has at least the potential to become the mother of all transit-oriented developments in the region in the 2025-2030 timeframe. It's basically up to the city of Alameda to decide if that's a direction they want to pursue.

What California HSR will add to the equation is distance: a transit village between Visalia and Hanford would attract "high-speed commuters" with jobs in Fresno or Bakersfield. One in downtown Palmdale might also make sense, assuming that officials don't hamstring the airport by installing a solar farm that will force pilots to literally fly blind.

The whole point of the detour via Palmdale is the airport. Unless it's fully available and expandable, CHSRA might was well switch to the shorter Grapevine route. The geology there is more complex and Lake Castaic is a wildlife refuge, but a viable alignment that crosses both the Garlock and the San Andreas at grade was identified. Also, the ROW in the Palmdale-Mojave section is owned by the our ever-helpful friends at UPRR.

In any case, any new transit-oriented developments in the parched southern half of the state needs to be based on architectural concepts drawn from southern Spain and Morocco: white walls, small windows on elevations facing south, self-shading (e.g. small interior courtyards with potted plants/palm trees and cooling fountains, brise-soleils/awnings, deep balconies on high-rises), mutual shading (narrow streets with pedestrian/bicycle traffic in arcades), cool/green roofs.

Recommended additions:

1) water recycling plant and mandatory purple pipe (non-potable water) plumbing into every building, in addition to regular drinking water supply. Cities in the south Bay may consider this for their new transit villages as well, given that San Jose has already in the recycling plant.

2) district cooling, a variation on district heating that uses waste heat from electricity generating plants to drive an large absorption chiller. Requires a third plumbing infrastructure and special radiators, as the transport medium may be alkaline in the winter heating season. Putting the waste heat from combustion processes to good use year-round can increase energy efficiency to 80%.

Central cooling also works for renewable heat sources: geothermal fields that yield wet steam/hot water (Inyo, Imperial counties) and solar thermal power plants.


It would be foolish for CHSRA to in any way encourage the development of transit villages in these arid areas without a solid plan for minimizing both water and electricity consumption.

The state already uses about 1GW of electrical power to pump water to the Bay Area and SoCal, about 2% of total generating capacity. For reference, that is as much as all of the internet data centers and twice as much as the HSR system will ever use.

California can ill afford the high cost and environmental damage of constructing additional water distribution infrastructure, so on top of promoting transit villages, HSR should be used strategically to encourage new migrants to settle where the snow melt flows of its own accord, i.e. Sacramento to Merced county. Blythe on the Arizona border would be another candidate, especially if an HSR spur to Phoenix were built. These areas would need to diversify their local economy to include green tech, e.g. electricity from biogas and algal oil based on closed vertical reactors and recycled water. There will be some high speed commuters, but transit villages should not be mere bedroom communities.

In both cases, land use conflicts with agriculture - still the state's biggest industry and consumer of 80% of its piped fresh water - could be eased with zoning laws that enforce the transit village concept (i.e. residential/mixed-use mid-to-high-rise construction and walkable neighborhoods) near rail stations.

crzwdjk said...

Two things about Virgin Trains: they're only half owned by Virgin. The other half is owned by train and bus company Stagecoach, which also owns Megabus. Do you want your trains operated by Megabus? Secondly, Virgin Trains operates a franchise given to them by the government. They have effectively a limited monopoly on a given route for a certain time, and get government subsidy payments to ensure they make a profit. They certainly have been one of the more technically advanced train companies in Britain though, and have been leading the charge to have the government modernize the West Coast Main Line.

crzwdjk said...

From what I've been able to gather with a quick search on the internet, Virgin Trains gets a subsidy of about $400 million a year, and I think that's just for operating costs. Network Rail gets separate subsidies for capital improvement. With a massive amount of government money, is there anything you can't do?

TomW said...

Communting issue: To take an exmaple form the UK, an annual season ticket from Petebrough to London costs £5000, or ~$7000 for a one hour journey.
Last year there were about 2m trips from Peteborough, of which about 600k used a season ticket of some sort, which implies at least 2300 season ticket holders per day, or around £11.5m/$16.1m in revenue
This from a town with a population of 163k, goinn to a city with population ~8-10m. In my experience, an hour's train ride is around the upepr limit for regular commuting.

So, the answer is yes, people will commute daily into LA or SF from surpriseingly far out, evene if the ticket prices seem expensive.

TomW said...

Another bit from AB 3034, section 2704.09(h) "Stations shall be located in areas with good access to local mass transit or other modes of transportation."
... which actually means nothing, providing there is some means of getting to the station. Rather pointless, really.

Does anyone know *why* there is a limit on the number of stations?

Robert Cruickshank said...

The limit on the number of stations is to ensure that trains can go from SF to LA in 2 hours 40 minutes without getting slowed down everywhere. It may also have been put there as another defense against putting a station at Los Banos, which was a condition of the Sierra Club's support for Prop 1A.

Alon Levy said...

TomW, my point is not that people won't commute; it's that very few people will commute. There's a big difference. Your example with Peteborough doesn't contradict it. According to your number, 1.4% of the people in Peteborough commute to London. The outer margin of a US combined statistical area is empirically about 2-3%.

Rafael said...

@ arcady -

Virgin started life as a music retailer. Now they're a huge, profitable conglomerate active in many industries. The airline is just one of them.

Their Trains' subsidiary "lowdown":
Employees: 4500
Speed: 125mph
Altitude: 100ft (God I hope not :-)
Decibels: 125

Dissing Megabus makes no sense, they're the ones providing the connecting regional services. Having them on board means timetables will be co-ordinated.

Btw, long-distance intercity rail at 125mph is not time-competitive with short-hop flights, so Virgin can't attract the ridership needed to turn an operating profit. Virgin is pushing for an upgrade to 140mph, perhaps because the government would like to reduce or eliminate the subsidy.

Note that Virgin trains terminate in Euston station in London, one subway stop from the Eurostar terminal at St. Pancras. Which is a bit of a hassle if you traveling with bags.

Also, VT cannot offer long-distance service into Heathrow, though admittedly that airport is current saturating its two runways anyhow. VT does serve Birmingham Int'l/NEC conference center.

If HS2 is built, it will operate at 180mph or more. That should be able to turn an operating profit, i.e. not need public funding beyond assistance for construction. I'm sure VT would love to be the operator for that.

TomW said...

@Alon Levy: My point wasn't that lots of people will commute, it's that even a small proposrtion of the population commuting can make difference to number of trips and revnue

@Rafael: A few points:
* The trains are not 125dB. I've stood on the platform as one's gone by at full speed, and I would say 80dB max.
* In the UK, inter-city travel at 125mph *is* time competive with rail, up to about 250 miles (which includes Virgin's London-Manchester services). 140mph running would just be generally 'better'.
* VT's ridership is sufficvient for them to turn a profit. (The reason why the get subsidies rather than pay a premium is because they were promised an upgrade to 140mph, but didn't get it. So they got a subsudy by way of payoff). The operator of the other long-distance main line (National Express east Coast) pays about £100m in premiums each year.

(Going from 125mpg to 140mph isn't trvial, because it requires in-cab singalling... above 125mph, drivers can't reliably observe line-side signals.)

TomW said...

@ Robert Cruickshank: ... which is bad logic on the lawmakers part, because trains don't have to stop at all stations, as we all know.

The thing is... regardless of the number of stations, the operator will seek to arrange stopping patterens to maximise profit, balanceing serving more places against shorter travel times. All the limit does is potentially prevent the operator from deploying the optimum solution. This can'tbe in the taxpayers or travelling public's interests.

Prediction: there will be at least one train an hour doing LA-SF with two or fewer intermediate stops, and at least one train an hour doing all stops.

Unknown said...

* The trains are not 125dB. I've stood on the platform as one's gone by at full speed, and I would say 80dB max.

125 DB may refer to their DMUs, which can be quite loud at top speed. Not sure if Virgin still operates any of the old Intercity 125 sets with the Valenta engines, but those used to be absolutely thunderous.

Or it's just Virgin's usual sense of humor.

Bay Area Resident said...

Whats really hilarious is that in the Palo Alto HSR City Council scam session Rod Diridon was actually trying to threaten Palo Alto that if they didn't want a stop for this HSR blightmobile, that that stop would go to Visalia! As if, a stop in Visalia matters to anybody or anybody would really care. Diridon then pulled a "Walmart" with the standard ~This WILL be built~ diatribe. Ha Ha. Yes it will be built, in Visalia. Have fun commuting around the central valley.

Anonymous said...

Hello California dreamers! Not that I don't like the idea of HSR, but can anybody explain to me how this CHSR train can travel from SF to LA in 2h 38m on a route almost 450 miles long with 10 stops in between?? The TGV from Paris to Marseille, on a similar distance, needs 3 hours and makes NO (you heard it!) NO stops. If you take the TGV that stops at two stations along the way (at Avignon and at Aix-en-Provence), then the trip becomes 3h 16min. The price of $55 for a ticket is also greatly understated. I've never paid less than 70 euros for similar distances in Europe. I'm not saying that it's a bad idea to build it, but is anybody going to ask the CHSR Authority how they came up with these rosy estimates? Do they have break through technology that the French are unaware of?

Brandon in California said...

I doubt very much the Diridon-PA exchange happened in the way you explained it.

However, the current framework that the CHSRA is working under includes a legislative directive capping the number stations at 24.

Palo Alto is currently identified as having a station per maps generated from/for the process of adopted a preferred alignment and last years MTC-CHSRA alignment selection.

On the other-hand, Visalia does not.

Advantage Palo Alto.

Hypothetically, I suppose a station alottment could be divested to Visalia from Palo Alto; however, why would Palo Alto want to loose that option... and along with it an access point for residence to the rest of the state and provide an economic input for possible visitors... while retaining the trains?

After-all, the system will be built. The trains ARE coming whether locals like it or not. A station at least minimizes a lot of concerns and provides a benefit to the city.

Spokker said...

A Mountain View City Council member used the same argument to lobby for a station in Mountain View.

"Last week the Rail Authority told the Mountain View City Council that if Palo Alto rejects plans for a stop, the authority would begin looking to Redwood City and Mountain View as potential stops.

"Why would anyone want to stop in Redwood City?" said council member Tom Means. "You can go east or west from here, there is bus and light rail, Highway 85 and 280 -- we're a perfect spot.""


Spokker said...

"can anybody explain to me how this CHSR train can travel from SF to LA in 2h 38m on a route almost 450 miles long with 10 stops in between??"

It won't. The figure you cite is for express trains only.

Anonymous said...

What happened to postings between

March 5, 2009 9:42 AM
March 5, 2009 1:13 PM

There were at lest two of them.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I deleted some off-topic posts, MissingContent.

Brandon in California said...

Based on the current approximate California's population growth rate, I calculate that 160 new residents in 128 cars drove across state lines and squashed them.

Anonymous said...

You can't cite TGV ridership figures to prove CHRA's predicted figures are bloated. TGV ridership is a small fraction of total ridership which 1 billion for a population of 62 million (France minus overseas territories.
Corail trains have speeds of 100 to 125mph and would be considered high-speed in the US. Far more French people ride them than the TGV for many reasons: their stations are downtown and linked to city transit, unlike TGV-Med "cornfield" stations. On trips shorter than 200 miles you lose just a few minutes and the ticket is cheaper. And Corail trains are at least as comfortable as the TGV.
Without them, TGV ridership would be much higher, supposing it were physically possible.
As California has no rapid trains, CHSR would have the possible ridership. Then, CHRA predictions don't look so unrealistic.
Concerning the price of tickets: beating the SNCF is more than feasible as CHSR won't have all the burden the SNCF has inherited.
Its ratio staff/riders is ten times that of JR. The salaries it pays are the highest in France. For example a TGV driver is paid, if you include the various bonuses, EUR90,000 ($117,000) for a 25-hour week. The SNCF also pays EUR14billion a year in pensions.
On the other hand, its size allows economies of scale. When it buys 680 trains at a time from Bombardier, it certainly gets better conditions than Virgin which buys them by the half-dozen.
Even if CHSR is more expensive to build than the TGV, the fact it will not have to bear the enormous legacy obligations of the SNCF will allow it to be more affordable.

Alon Levy said...

TomW: the current ridership projections are for most ridership to be intercity rather than commuter. This is consistent with the service pattern in Japan, where most Tokaido Shinkansen trains run express, stopping only in Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka. There are very few local trains.

Now, CAHSR is designed from the outset to have longer average interstations on its LA-SF line than even semi-express Shinkansen trains. But that's at the cost of making them even more inconvenient for commuters. It might be more heavily used for commuting once the LA-SD leg opens, though.

BruceMcF said...

I think the envelope 24 station limit is precisely to allow the CAHSR to "consider" stations in X, Y and Z, without being forced by the politics to actually allocate stations to each of them.

It is important to bear in mind that the CAHSR is going to pass through a lot of areas that are severely lacking in common carrier services of all kinds, and that if it is focused on filling the HSR role, that will leave a gap on the side of local transport services.

Of course, that gap ought to be filled with local common carrier services on dedicated transport corridors, but if it is seen as easier to partly fill the gap with an HSR station, that is an option that would be appealing due to the low incremental cost.

And given that appeal, its easy to see the local services on the HSR alignment bogged down to the point that California is in effect attempting to run a bullet train system and a Rapid Rail system on the same tracks.

(I will also add a blanket apology for an on-topic comment so late in the comment thread.)