Sunday, August 9, 2009

CHSRA Project Workshop Presentation Now Available Online

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

At last week's California High Speed Rail Authority board meeting a project workshop was held to lay out the CHSRA's current approach to project planning, and to lay out what some of the next key steps are. The powerpoint presentation used at the workshop is now available online (PPT file, 91 slides, 6.1MB). The primary purpose is to demonstrate the status of the project planning at the section level, and there is a TON of information on that that I've only now begun to look over.

There is a lot of other interesting stuff, including a mockup of what a morning southbound timetable might look like (slide 14; don't get too attached to it as it's clearly to demonstrate the concept, but may be interesting fodder for discussion in the comments of what an ideal schedule might be); a discussion of the various options for public-private partnerships (slides 69-71); and an in-depth discussion of the construction needs on the LAUS-ARTIC segment as an example of the overall design and planning work that will have to be done on other system segments (slides 76-89), including discussion of the need to move 18 high-tension powerlines, build 49 grade separations, including constructing a 5.1 mile long viaduct over the BNSF Hobart Yard and a big rebuild of the Slauson Ave/I-605 interchange, and discussion of contract requirements.

Should be plenty of conversation starters here. Have fun!

Note from Rafael: documents from the August 2009 CHSRA board meeting are now available here, including clean PDF versions of the slides from the phasing workshop. These download a little faster and are not subject to the vagaries of whatever application you use to read PPT files, what fonts you have installed etc. Enjoy!


Alon Levy said...

The slide show was unreadable. For example, the timetable for completing each section of the line has four bars per section, with different colors; however, no legend explains what each bar is and what the beginning and end signify. For another example, it's unclear what the difference among the three DBOMF packages is.

Bianca said...

Wow, that was the ugliest powerpoint presentation I've seen in a very long time. Slide #72 in particular was just criminally bad, and I despair at the quality of what CHSRA is releasing to the public.

I'll go through it again tomorrow with a fresh pair of eyes, but yikes. Have they never heard of Edward Tufte?

Anonymous said...

--off topic--but--.
illinois is stealing our limelight- the gov just authorized 850 million to add to the pot to compete with cali for the hsr funds.

"With the governor's signature on the capital bill, Illinois becomes a national leader in high-speed rail," Midwest High Speed Rail Association Executive Director Rick Harnish said. "The $850 million for rail infrastructure in the legislation is the largest state capital investment in railroads in the nation outside of California."

Anonymous said...

IBM is taking the lead for smart high speed rail- article here and video here

Anonymous said...

And this is supposed to be CHSRA's demonstration of professional competence to the public??

Oh man... good luck.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I don't disagree with the points Alon and Bianca made. These powerpoints are most assuredly NOT something I would have created myself, and they aren't going to be useful for conveying information as simply and directly as someone like Tufte or Lawrence Lessig might rightly suggest.

That being said, I have to consider the source here. The authors of the powerpoint are project engineers who probably did not design the presentation for the general public, but for a specialized audience that prized information (and hopefully they prize LOTS of information, because that's certainly what they got).

My goal in posting about it, aside from drawing everyone's attention to it, was to crowdsource the interpretation of what the information actually means.

The CHSRA has made some strides in their public outreach, but clearly they have some way to go. Better ppts would be a good start. So would using HTML for press releases and meeting information - save the PDFs for the project reports and EIR documents.

Spokker said...

"the timetable for completing each section of the line has four bars per section, with different colors; however, no legend explains what each bar is and what the beginning and end signify."

I'm sure they explained it during the presentation.

dave said...

I actually thought it was informative. I don't know what's the big deal. What graph or model I didn't understand, screw it. I wasn't their to listen to the presenter.

The model for schedules was interesting. The timetable for construction and completion was good to see. I don't want to wait for 2030 to ride the whole route.

Anonymous 12:41am

I doubt you can give all the credit to CHSRA. They most likely didn't create it nor present it. More likely it was being presented to them.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

I don't think Illinois is stealing anything from California, not even the limelight.

First off, here's a state that understands its chances of getting federal funding will be much improved if it puts some skin in the game - whatever ARRA says about the theoretical possibility of 100% federal share. $850 million is much less than California voters approved last November for the starter line of their own system, but then again Illinois doesn't have earthquakes, mountain ranges and extremely narrow rights of way through NIMBY central to contend with. Even at express HSR speeds, constructing a Chicago - St. Louis line would probably cost no more than $3-4 billion.

Second, the more viable HSR projects with a state-level funding component there are, the easier it becomes to secure Congressional majorities for more federal funds. Everyone knows the $9.5 billion in ARRA + PRIIA aren't enough to implement HSR in the designated corridors.

What is needed is to really get the ball rolling is something on the order of the $50 billion rail infrastructure "bank" proposed by Reps. Oberstar and Mica as part of the next surface transportation bill. Depending on what happens to healthcare reform, that may or may not get pushed out until after the mid-terms, but that's ok as long as enough states get realistic about the need to make a significant contribution (20%+ of total project cost plus operating subsidies for decades, if applicable).

Rafael said...

@ Bianca -

CHSRA can't catch a break on their publications. On the one hand, the state legislature is withholding funding, on the other it is criticized when some of the slides on what is essentially an interim status report presentation are not quite up to snuff.

Sure, it would be nice if the Authority's consultants paid more attention to the quality of their slides now that it's clear CHSRA intends to give the general public a lot of insight into the planning process as it happens. However, many of those consultants are or have been working on IOUs for some time. Professional results need to be funded.

TomW said...

A good powerpoitn presentation should not contain all the information the presenetor wishes to convey to the audience - otherwise, what's the point in the presentor talking?

What would be ncie would be a video of the presnation being given - or better yet, a video with the audio from the talk with the slides shown in sync.

Rafael said...

Specific nuggets in the PPT presentation (part 1):

Slide 14:
The timetable shows Redwood City as the mid-peninsula station. Perhaps it's just a placeholder, I wasn't aware a decision had been made on that already.

Slide 15:
The timeline shows 5pm through 11pm, but there are no trains running in the early afternoon and the schedule does not thin out late at night. Afaik, there are no plans for running trains all through the night, so the first ones should leave at around 6am and the last ones arrive before 12:30am.

On the right-hand side, there are locations called "CP Daniels" and "CP Jong". Perhaps these refer to alternative locations under consideration for a single rail yard in the Central Valley.

For example, overnight parking in Merced/Fresno and Bakersfield would reduce overnight parking requirements in SF and Anaheim to perhaps 8 trainsets each, but it would also encourage long-distance commuting - with all that entails for sprawl risk and real estate values. So far, I've seen no scenario analysis at all on overnight parking from CHSRA, a potentially serious omission IMHO.

Slide 39:
CPUC and FRA to leverage existing international safety standards in formulating their own rules. Good, hopefully that means they won't try to re-invent the wheel on PTC, either.

Slide 41:
Noise impacts on wildlife - I don't think any other HSR operator has had to worry too much about those before. Not at all easy to nail down. Personally, I'd be more concerned with reliable fences, fire breaks, emergency access dirt roads and ensuring wilderness habitat isn't bisected.

Rafael said...

Specific nuggets in the PPT presentation (part 2):

Slides 45-50:
ROW negotiations are just 1% done and not expected to be completed until months to over a year after dirt is turned. I'm not entirely sure how that is supposed to work, normally you can't build on land you don't own.

Slides 46-50:
Revenue service on the starter line to begin section-by-section in the 2017-2019 timeframe, a little earlier than previously indicated. The kicker here is that revenue service on the phase II spurs (Irvine not mentioned, BTW) is supposed to commence in 2020-2021, far earlier than I had thought.

While this is welcome news, I can't help but wonder how this squares with the funding strategy for phase II. Unless something has changed, that is based on private-sector bonds backed by operating profits from the starter line. It usually takes a few years for an HSR starter line to build ridership, profits don't materialize on day 1.

Slide 51:
CA state budgets are more predictable now? News to me, especially given that Sen. Lowenthal and others will delay or withhold funding whenever they aren't fully satisfied with CHSRA's work. It's their only lever in the oversight process.

It's not clear yet which if any oversight processes USDOT will attach to HSR grants, in addition to the existing environmental and safety processes. Will CHSRA receive federal grant money directly, or will it be routed through the state legislature as a supplement to state funding?

Slide 68:
Lisboa Oriente station by Santiago Calatrava, a taste of the shape of things to come. I happen to like modern architecture, but traditionalists will no doubt mourn the decline of old-fashioned rail depots.

Slide 72:
Tunnels, bridges, viaducts, maintenance facilities and stations don't need to be operated and maintained?


Overall impression: CHSRA is beginning to get a handle on the technical, regulatory and process management issues of this mammooth project.

However, it may be too optimistic on the prospects for early funding, especially for phase II. Overnight parking and ROW acquisition are other red flags at this point IMHO.

And yes, it would be nice if presentations were formatted for public rather than strictly internal consumption. However, I'd rather have CHSRA publish docs to keep the public appraised of its progress than to withhold publication for strictly cosmetic reasons.

Anonymous said...


Boy where are you these days.

You write:

"I don't think Illinois is stealing anything from California, not even the limelight."

Obama just like all other president is going to take care of his home state first. get real...

The state is hardly "withholding" funds, constricting them; ridiculous. Admit incompetence when you see it.

I don't think Redwood City is there as any place holder. Rather it is a message to Palo Alto, you put ups resistance, we take your station.

mike said...

Re: The Draft Timetable.

WTF is up with Train 140752 (SF-Merced)? Who is going to want go from SF/SJ/Gilroy to Merced at 8 am in the morning? Makes no sense until the Sacto extension is done (and even then it's not clear they should start it above Redwood City).

Trains 210733 and 180737 (7:33 and 7:37 Limiteds) seem potentially redundant if the mid-Peninsula stations do not attract substantial ridership.

Train 20730 (the express) does not stop at San Jose Diridon Grand Central Station. Oh noes!!!!!!!!

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 8:32am -

please stop foaming at the mouth for a minute.

Of course Obama and Ray LaHood have a soft spot for their home state, but that does not mean funding HSR in Illinois will come at California's expense. As long as the pie is growing, it's not a zero-sum game.

As for "withholding" vs. "not granting" the funds CHSRA has requested, I plead poetic license. The outcome is the same, state legislators are using the budget process to hold the Authority's feet to the fire. Nothing wrong with that at all, except that it is happening way too late in CHSRA's funding cycle.

The state's budget process is fundamentally broken because the budget has been passed late in each of the last 23 years. The decision to simply include HSR in the annual budget fracas was foolish. Infrastructure projects depend on predictable, reliable funding to stay on time and on budget.

If the state legislature is thoroughly dissatisfied with the work of the Authority, it should not hesitate to replace a board member or two. If that doesn't work, curtail CHSRA's independence by folding it into Caltrans' Division of Rail. As long as they are doing the work they are supposed to, it's not appropriate to stick third parties with the bill for what are essentially political shenanigans.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I found the timetable in Slide 14 to be interesting, but I caution readers to not make too much of it. My sense is it's an early mockup of what a schedule could look like, not a firm proposal. And I see little reason to believe that the choice of Redwood City indicates anything about the future - struck me as a placeholder.

Similarly, Slide 15 seems to be a way to show "see this is what the train timeline might look like" but isn't a solid plan that will guide future work.

As to Slide 51, that may mean that Prop 1A helps ensure the CHSRA can keep its doors open for a while and avoid having to beg the Legislature for the money they need to pay their staffers and contractors. That being said, Rafael is absolutely right that state budgeting is anything but fixed and predictable, especially with people like Alan Lowenthal happy to use the budget process to impose his own personal will on the project.

I did notice Lisboa Oriente in the presentation - as I argued in my post on the ARTIC design plans, Oriente seems to be the model upon which new HSR stations are designed. I wouldn't say I hated Oriente, but I was less than impressed. I cannot imagine Californians would take well to the vast, low, dark, gray space underneath the platforms.

Of course, that's not what most people think of when they see picture of Oriente - instead they see the Calatrava signature twisting white beams that remind me of a DNA molecule. And even that looks more impressive from afar than up close. After 11 years Oriente hadn't worn well.

I have no objection to modern architecture, but surely Oriente doesn't have to be the only possible design model.

Robert Cruickshank said...

mike, that's one reason why I advised people to not take that timetable as a serious proposal. It seemed to instead illustrate what an HSR timetable might look like. You're right that an SF-Merced train in the morning like that is rather pointless, and I doubt CHSRA would seriously consider that.

But the timetable did offer some interesting concepts for how the trains could operate - "limited express," "express," locals, and a timetable that seemed pretty accurate in terms of time from station to station. That is of much more interest to me, and hopefully is to other blog readers as well.

BruceMcF said...

@Rafeal: " Slides 45-50:
ROW negotiations are just 1% done and not expected to be completed until months to over a year after dirt is turned. I'm not entirely sure how that is supposed to work, normally you can't build on land you don't own.

If you look more closely, you'll see that the ROW timeline is not just to the point that you hold title, it also includes activities after the title is held, such as relocation assistance.

Anonymous said...


my bad I got my million and billions mixed up - so easy to do these days with so much money flying around.. cali put up 10 billion - not 10 million - cali's 950 million figure - is just the transit up grade portion... Illinois is waaaay behind.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

thx for the clarification.

Alon Levy said...

Robert, what I found the most depressing about the schedule is the large number of trains that are skipping Sylmar, which is projected to have the highest ridership of all stations between LAUS and SFTT, and where train speeds will be limited even if they don't stop, and stopping at Fresno or Bakersfield instead.

CHSRA has a lot to learn about scheduling from the Shinkansen. Too bad it's choosing to learn from Amtrak and KTX instead.

mike said...


Despite my previous post, I do agree with broadly on the timetable - it's just a preliminary example being thrown out there. I'm sure that if some stations have low ridership and others have high ridership, the timetable will be adjusted accordingly.

The run simulations (slide 13) are somewhat interesting. Most sections look pretty much as I'd expect except that now they are running at 220 mph from Gilroy to the Coyote Creek Golf Club (this is contrary to the earlier run simulations).

The difference vs. the earlier simulations is that now they have no sharp curve and associated speed restriction at Gilroy. That is a good thing. I'm not sure about the feasibility of doing 220 mph through Morgan Hill (and possibly Gilroy) though. If they reduce track speed to 150 mph approaching Morgan Hill they will add about 1 minute of running time (and if they reduce it from Gilroy north they will add about 2 minutes of running time).

mike said...

Sorry, above should read "I do agree with Robert broadly on the timetable"

Unknown said...

@Alon Levy I think the scheduling is going to be a long fight for "WNIMBY" (Why Not In My Back Yard) people campaigning for their station to be put on the express trunk. I imagine this schedule is going to be heavily modified based on ridership.

That said, I don't think three inbound trains per hour (four if you count the merced originating line) at sylmar is skimping on service. It's also possible that they could add a commuter line, or metrolink could provide a commuter line running EMUs on the CAHSR tracks for anaheim-destined trips if the demand is there

Adirondacker12800 said...

I'm not entirely sure how that is supposed to work, normally you can't build on land you don't own.

You build on land you do own while the negotiations for the land you don't, get completed. That way when you do have all the land construction is already completed in places.

My sense is it's an early mockup of what a schedule could look like, not a firm proposal

Even when they have a firm proposal if no one shows up for a train or trains.....they'll change the schedule! :-)

You're right that an SF-Merced train in the morning like that is rather pointless

Ya never know until the train/plane/bus/boat starts running. Someone somewhere may have information about the thundering herds of people who want to be in Merced for late coffee before lunch. If no one shows up... they can cancel the run.

BruceMcF said...

Isn't the answer of why the NoCal all-stations goes to Merced so that it can turn around again and go back all-stations to San Francisco? People wouldn't be taking the all-stations from the Bay to, say, Bakersfield, they'd take a Ltd.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure they will let people who know how to run railroads, do the scheduling.

And the schedules will be adjusted based on demand.
Let's turn some dirt before worrying about how many tains stop at Pumpkin Center.

Anonymous said...

I didn't think that presentation was all that informative.
Obviously it was designed as an outline for insiders and not for public consumption.

I did like the pic of that very cool station on page 68. Looks like the one shown for Fresno in the cahsr central valley videos.

Anonymous said...

do you know that there are actually two Pumkin Center CA, in CA? Its true. One in Kern and one in Lassen. Wow the things you can google.

That's your trivia question for your next party.

Unknown said...

A bit of a newbie question here:

What is meant by ROD / NOD?


Robert Cruickshank said...

NOD: Notice of Decision
ROD: Record of Decision

In that order. They refer to an action taken by a government agency. The NOD goes out first, to solicit comments and feedback on a proposed decision. Then once the agency has made their decision, they release the ROD.

That's a basic, barebones explanation; I'm sure there may be commenters able to provide more insight.

Unknown said...


Rafael said...

@ Marcus -

in the context of the HSR project, I believe NOD/ROD refers specifically to actions taken by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) relative to the Environmental Impact Report/Statement (EIR/EIS) process mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). You can't turn dirt without getting an ROD.

The state of California has a stricter review process based on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The California HSR project must pass that as well. Given the large scope, the whole shebang was split into a system-wide program level (completed) and segment-level project level review (ongoing).

The Bay Area to Central Valley program level process was re-done after the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) received numerous requests following a controversial outcome, but that ended up confirming the original conclusion in favor of a route through Pacheco Pass. FRA did render a ROD for this portion of the EIR/EIS as well, but that is currently being challenged in court.

Adirondacker12800 said...

People wouldn't be taking the all-stations from the Bay to, say, Bakersfield, they'd take a Ltd

Assuming the fare and the schedule meets their needs. If I want to be in Bakersfield at 9:00 the limited that arrives at 9:14 doesn't do me much good. The local that arrives at 8:42 fits my needs better. And there's some people who have time to waste who will take the lower fare on the local versus the faster trip time and premium fare on the limited. There's going to be a few people on the local who want to get from Gilroy to Bakersfield too.

Shantal said...

The presentation is nice but I was wondering, since HSR is federal, public, private funded, do you have any more names as to whom the private funders are besides a possibility from Virgin?

In other words, I would like to see a blog discussing who our public, private funding partners of HSR are. The CA constituents would greatly appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Shantal said...

"In other words, I would like to see a blog discussing who our public, private funding partners of HSR are."

Private funding partners -- dreams only -- there will be none -- what fool is going to fund a project that will result in bankruptcy for any private entity participating.

All the money will come from California and the Feds. There won't be enough. There will never be extensions to Sacramento and San Diego.

Rafael said...

@ Shantal -

so far, afaik there are zero private investors who have signed on the bottom line. Quite a few expressed interest last summer but the global recession has probably reduced their number.

Possible candidates are infrastructure and HSR equipment vendors, who would invest in kind. Instead of taking payment up front, they get a percentage of operating profits. Usually it's a package deal in which they are also involved in building the line and operating the service. Example: Alstom in Argentina.

It's also quite possible that real estate developers will participate in the design and construction of stations and nearby residential and commercial buildings.

Institutional investors (pension funds etc) may become interested in the later stages of the project, when the risk is lower and the prospects for operating profits clearer.

In theory, even a labor union could decide to invest. I'm not holding my breath on that one, though.

As for specific names, I think it would be counterproductive to speculate. It's their money and therefore their prerogative to choose if and when to go public with a decision to invest in the California system. If the general public does not respect this right to privacy, potential investors could very easily decide to take their money elsewhere.

bossyman15 said...

*clicks on the link*
page not found


Rafael said...

@ bossyman15 -

you can now download the PDF version of the slide presentation here.

Shantal said...

@ Rafael,

I understand but considering the amount of research I've done on HSR and the cost/benefit analysis, how do we expect to get all 8 phases done without the help of private funders?

Which parts do we expect to receive 100% federal funding? LA-Anaheim? They seem to be the furthest along.

BruceMcF said...

Shantal, at 80:20 federal:state funding, after the general revenue bonds have been exhausted, the state component would come from revenue bonds.

There's no guarantee that the federal:state match will be the same as new Interstate Highway construction, but so far the signs have been pointed in that direction.

As Rafeal noted, the most likely private participants are vendors who take part of the price in a revenue share.

BruceMcF said...

Adirondacker12800 said...
"Assuming the fare and the schedule meets their needs. If I want to be in Bakersfield at 9:00 the limited that arrives at 9:14 doesn't do me much good. The local that arrives at 8:42 fits my needs better."

But if you want to be at Bakersfield, there'd be a limited that would leave after the hypothetical all-stations and arrive before it, which would suck out most of that demand.

Richard Mlynarik said...

Eight trains every hour departing San Francisco = pure, outright, deliberate, systematic fraud.

8tph = over 20 full 737-800 departing SF for lovely San Jose, Los Banos and parts south. Every hour.

8tph = over four times the service level of Madrid-Barcelona. Does SF look like Barcelona to any of you? Does LA look like Madrid?

(Hint: Madrid metro -- rail alone -- 690 million annual passengers vs LA bus+rail ~470 million. Barcelona metro -- rail alone -- 422 million vs SF bus+tail ~200 million. And we're supposed to believe that more than four times as many people will ride HSR SF-LA as do on Madrid-Barcelona, which was the busiest air route in the world.)

Of course, pure, outright, deliberate, systematic fraud is exactly what you'd expect from Quentin "BART to Millbrae" Kopp and his very, very, very special friends at PBQD and allied consultants. (33,000 daily riders at Millbrae BART "projected" vs 4300 actual).

CHSRA and their consultants are outright lying about ridership. Their numbers don't remotely correspond to anything on planet earth. This is unadulterated, systematic, and naked fraud.

When do the jail sentences begin?

Peter said...

@ Richard

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but is anyone claiming that every single seat on every single train needs to be full?

Alon Levy said...

Does SF look like Barcelona to any of you? Does LA look like Madrid?

LA has 3.5 times the metro population of Madrid. The Bay Area has 2.5 times the metro population of Barcelona. And Madrid-Barcelona is a line that's not yet running at its full load, because it's just opened. So yes, four times the Madrid-Barcelona level of service is achievable.

The part about mass transit is a red herring. LA has a good mass transit system, if all you want is to get to Union Station. SF will have okay mass transit taking you to Transbay Terminal, if current plans are built. This is the same pattern in the rest of the US, in which commuter rail is bad at getting you to where you work but good at getting you to the train station. The Shinkansen and TGV, meanwhile, often serve towns with little mass transit connections to the new train stations. It's a lot easier to get to LAUS on regional rail than to Shin-Osaka or Sendai, to say nothing of Avignon-TGV or Haute-Picardie.

Alon Levy said...

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but is anyone claiming that every single seat on every single train needs to be full?

To avoid waste, the rail authority needs to have at least 70-80% seat utilization, as is common on the Shinkansen and TGV. The airlines can achieve close to 100% utilization using their dynamic seat pricing mechanism, but that has caused everyone to hate them and look for ways of gaming the system. The Shinkansen has a simpler fare system - there's a table you can find on JR Central's website where you look up the origin and destination stations and the level of service, and immediately see the fare.

Matt said...


Chill out. It just a hypothetical. It is not set in stone. you need to ease off the angry old man-ness.

YESonHSR said...

Glad you all finally found it,I posted about it Sat!! dont think it was bad as it really is just a visual as someone is talking when its presented.I like the 2018-19 service start up and early SD service.its exciting as its moving forward and we all have much to see and watch as this great system is built

Adirondacker12800 said...

But if you want to be at Bakersfield, there'd be a limited that would leave after the hypothetical all-stations and arrive before it, which would suck out most of that demand.

Assuming the station you start out at has service, assuming the fares are close to the same.

The Northeast Corridor has at least three levels of service at the major stations, some have five. Most stations are served by the local commuter agency. If you want to go from Rahway NJ to Boston the closest place you can get a train to Boston is in Newark. DC, Metropark. If you are starting out in New Rochelle your only choice, for a one seat ride, is a Northeast Regional. Acela doesn't stop in New Rochelle. If you are in Newark or Stamford you can opt for Acela.

I've been on platform 4 in Newark with 50 or 60 people when Acela to DC pulls in, a few of them get on. The rest of us wait 5 or 10 minutes for the Regional and get to DC later. Been in Union Station in DC many times when the biggest crowd waiting for the train is the the crowd for the regional. Been on regionals that are standing room only between New Carrolton and Philadelphia too.

Between NYC and DC lots and lots of people opt for the Regionals. Acela isn't that much faster and can cost twice as much. Since lots of those people are used to the subway or commuter trains... an Amfleet car moseying along at 125 MPH is good enough. .. well compared to a subway or five across commuter seating and airplanes it's positively luxurious. The only way to get there faster is Acela.

Other corridors exist with multiple levels of service. Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama come to mind. Not that CAHSR will ever have the passenger volume of Japan.

The airlines can achieve close to 100% utilization using their dynamic seat pricing mechanism, but that has caused everyone to hate them and look for ways of gaming the system.

Amtrak uses similar software, at least for NEC and Empire Corridor trains. Seats get much more expensive closer to departure time. It's not as byzantine as airline fare structure but they are managing passenger loads. CAHSR won't have an airline like fare structure but they aren't going to have single fares either.

Brandon in California said...

I sure hope the TBT can accomodate 8tph. Uggg.

As for anticipated ridership... all the figures published to date depict a future build-out year; not opening day.

If 2030 or 2035 ridership is portrayed... it really illustrates the current understanding of planned land use and travel characteristics... and a mature HSR network.

That said... there are many unplanned events that will take place between now and then, yet, decisions must be made today. The information being used today... is the latest and best available at this time.

If there were such a thing as a crystal ball... or time travel... tell the planners where it is. And tell me too.. I have a bet I want to place on the superbowl.

mike said...


There are currently around 15 flights per hour leaving from the Bay Area to the LA Area (LAX/BUR/ONT/SNA) at peak time. Most of those aircraft are 737/A320.

No idea why you think Madrid-Barcelona was the busiest air corridor in the world. Maybe it was the busiest between two airports, but overall Bay Area to LA Area air traffic has long been much higher than Madrid-Barcelona. (Of course, that should be impossible under your model, since Madrid-Barcelona has more public transport ridership).

Nicolas said...


I think this is where Richard got it


I suspect there are more transfers to BCL through MAD, although I cannot find numbers to confirm that.

Anonymous said...

ok people look. all this what do you call it... uh.. oh yeah, speculation... about schedules and who would board at BFD and does Madrid look like Merced, ( they both start with M?) and foreign city pairs and blah blahd blah, well, far be it for me to throw a wet blanket on the discussion but its all irrelevant.

This is california and the train will be built for california, and californians will ride the train in whatever way they see fit and-- other than future population growth patterns--we can not speculate on who is going to do what or board where. Even if LA and SF were exactly identical to Madrid and Barcelona or Paris and London, it wouldn't mean anything. It just doesn't mean anything.

The only thing we can do here is.... build the railroad and have it serve as many city pairs as possible.

Then run a combo of express, limited, and local trains. to be adjusted per actual demand.

Make sure the trains run on time.
Make sure the bathrooms are clean.
Make sure the seats are roomy enough for americans' fat asses.
and make sure there is a good well stocked selection of food and booze on board.... and I can'tt emphasize that food and booze thing enough...

do that, and californians will be happy as pigs in shit, and they'll figure the rest out by themselves.

We have to stop worrying so much about all this minutiae. The truth is, this thing doesn't have to be perfect. it really doesn't. trust me.
build it best we can, they'll ride.

You will never build the perfect system, and you probably won't even build the "most optimal" system.

what you will build is a system. period.
It is what it is. Just watch. you'll see.

I know how californians tick. I have been working face to ugly ass face with the greater general california public on the front lines for 30 effing years. I know what they want, need, and will deal with.

So relax. Everything is gonna be just fine.

just focus on doing outreach, keep a light positive upbeat message floating around the local honeybee yogurt store at the mall.

"Wow itll be a lot better when the high speed rail is done" ( call it "The" high speed rail cuz that's what they are gonna call it anyway)

"Oh really yeah that will be totally cool"

that's it. thats the whole conversation that needs to take place.

they may add "when is that thing suppose to be done?didn't they already build it"

"theyre working on it now, itll just be a few years"

thats it. leave it that . and in a few years when we all wake up one morning. there it will be. trains galore zipping too and fro.

nothing to worry about. the big playa's know what they are doing. relax.

Anonymous said...

"Oh really yeah that will be totally cool"

or if you're in northern california

"oh really, yeah that will be hella cool"

Fred Martin said...

Caltrain carries more passengers per day than all the daily planes between Bay Area to SoCal. This isn't some future scenario. This is today.

Estimation is never perfect, but the CHSRA ridership studies are deeply flawed and biased. Now if Cambridge Systematics was financially penalized for being far off in their estimation, I think they would have come up with a better ridership study.

The chickens do come home to roost: BART-to-Millbrae is a ridership failure, demonstrating that its ridership estimates were bunk (and called out by critics when they were first made!). The EIR had bold predictions for 2010 that are nowhere near to being met in 2009. At some point, you have to stop foaming and get your head out of the sand.

Hey, Alon, you'll will like this piece about the false "profits" of SNCF and JR:

Anonymous said...


I don't think bar to sfo is a failure. I use it to go the airport and I love it.

Fred Martin said...

Jim, how self-centered and anecdotal can you get? Just because it works for you doesn't make it a success. How many trips do you make to SFO a month? Look at what airport workers have to pay to take transit to the airport! BART-SFO is a financial and operational disaster. Many bus routes have been cut and fares greatly increased to compensate for the bloody mess of BART-SFO.

Anonymous said...

maybe youre just mad cuz it doesn't serve you.

Anonymous said...

and I avoid oak because bart doesn't go there.

they are equal distance for me. one has bart. it works. one doesn't it doesn't work.

Richard Mlynarik said...

"Mike" said: "Maybe it was the busiest between two airports, but overall Bay Area to LA Area air traffic has long been much higher than Madrid-Barcelona."

Asserting something doesn't make it true, sorry. The data are out there. Use the googles, at the very least, before reporting wishful or imagined hearsay.

"(Of course, that should be impossible under your model, since Madrid-Barcelona has more public transport ridership)"

Back to HS choo choo 101 folks: (1) rail trips are slower station to station than airline trips are airport to airport; (2) it is only with compact urbanization (no, not Fresno and not San Jose) and without excellent connecting transportation that there is any door to door time advantage for rail.

The level of urban transit use, where existing services already run to the most promising, densest CBDs and easiest to serve regions, is a very good proxy for the accessibility of the CBD located HSR stations around which all our choo choo 101 plans are laid.

PS When it opens a couple years from now (it's presently a pile of dirt), Barcelona's La Sagrera station (10 HS tracks, 2 commuter rail lines, 3 metro lines; 3 times SF Transbay size; 15 times the capacity; 200 deep taxi rank; 1/6th the cost) alone will see as many daily passengers as the entire BART system in the Bay Area. We're barely on the same planet.

Anybody who thinks they can get comparable rail travel demand from LA and Madrid by googling urban region population numbers is extremely unclear on the concept. Station access and destination proximity is night and day, and that's not going to change overnight or even in 40 years, much as I'd prefer otherwise.

SF-LA HSR demand: 2tph peak for the first 5-10 years, perhaps 4tph ultimately. (Don't underestimate the number of seats in a 400m double deck train.)

CHSRA and its consultants are simply lying about travel demand. There really is no question.

They've done it before, as we've
seen with every single BART extension, all brought to you by the very same cast of characters.

The corridors that resemble LA-SF have ridership that doesn't resemble CHSRA's fictions; and the corridors that have traffic resembling CHSRA's wet dreams (meaning Shinkensen into Tokyo, and ... uh ... Shinkansen into Tokyo) don't lie in the same galaxy cluster as our World Class Californian Cities.

Anonymous said...

keep in mind that travel time is not the only consideration. Some might be surprised to find out that not every around here is in a big fat mad rush. A lot of people use rail for a variety of reasons and speed is rarely one of those reasons. Nevertheless, hey love the train.
Don't worry. They'll ride.

The biggest determination of initial ridership success is going to depend far less on the railroad and far more on the economy on opening day.

If ten years from now, we are in a similar contraction as we are now. Not much is gonna happen with ridership. If on the other hand, hsr opens in a 1999-2000 type of economy, with a buiding boom and 3 percent unemployment, the train swill be packed from day one.

Anonymous said...

The CHSRA is working from the premise that success is guaranteed. I suggest that is not necessarily the case. Failure is a real possibility along the lines of the BART-SFO misadventure, as has been pointed out by many.

IMHO the single biggest risk is the Tehachapis detour coupled with the 99 corridor. Between the extra miles and the extra stops you are looking at an extra half hour. That is a lot when you compare it to actual time in the air for Norcal-Socal plane travel.

And all that detour for a lousy 3.5% gradient, perhaps ruling out any freight, even with electrification.

If it is true(which I question)that that Grapevine is not buildable then perhaps the whole project doesn't compute, at least at the level of investment required. It may turn out to be Kopp's second and crowning fiasco.

mike said...


Yeah, if you only look at airport-to-airport (as does the Wikipedia list), then I can believe that Barajas to Barcelona would have the most traffic. Of course that is because Madrid and Barcelona only have one airport each. SF has three (SFO/OAK/SJC) and LA has five (LAX/BUR/ONT/SNA/LGB), so of course no single pair of airports will exceed MAD-BCN.

Asserting something doesn't make it true, sorry. The data are out there. Use the googles

Richard, Richard, Richard. Of course I have used Google. Please, don't be silly. You may be interested to learn that, even in the depth of this recession with major capacity cuts at all airlines, there are still 180 (179, to be exact) daily flights from SFO/SJC/OAK to LAX/BUR/ONT/SNA/LGB. Multiply by two for return flights. The exact breakdown is:




That's ~360 flights per day, or ~2500 flights per week. I challenge you to find a reference that puts the MAD-BCN traffic at even half that level.

Incidentally, ~290 of those are Airbus/Boeing (757/A320/737 series) and ~70 of those are Regional Jets. Combined, they represent ~47,000 seats per day, or around 17 million seats per year. Current airline load factors are approaching 90%, so actual passengers carried could exceed 14 million per year.

And again, this is just SF area to LA area. No San Diego/Sacramento (which are quite substantial) factored in here, or Fresno/Bakersfield (which are not so substantial). Adding those cities to the network more than doubles the total number of flights.

Big Man said...

I don't fly to LA from SF when I go, I drive. I live down the peninsula a way; it is less hassle to drive than fight my way to an airport, undergo the check-in hassle, delays, security, etc... I figure driving maybe adds an hour to the trip.

I know a number of people like me who make similar decisions.

A train would take passengers not just from the air traffic, but off I-5 and 101.

Alon Levy said...

it is only with compact urbanization (no, not Fresno and not San Jose) and without excellent connecting transportation that there is any door to door time advantage for rail.

That's not true - many successful HSR stops are nothing like Tokyo or Osaka. Sendai isn't compact, and has little connecting transit. Nagoya has relatively little transit ridership by European and East Asian standards. The Köln-Düsseldorf-Dortmund-Essen complex has no large downtown of its own, and has an S-Bahn with 209 million riders a year, which means it has less heavy rail ridership than Chicago and Washington.

The point of this is not that LA has better connecting rail than Köln. It's that cities of different levels of connecting transit manage to have successful HSR, in rough proportion to their population. Nagoya Station is a more successful HSR station than the more transit-connected Berlin Hauptbahnof and Puerta de Atocha, and much more successful than St. Pancras, which is in the center of the city with the world's third highest rail ridership. To put things in perspective, Tokyo-Sendai rail traffic is the same as London-Paris traffic.

Alon Levy said...

IMHO the single biggest risk is the Tehachapis detour coupled with the 99 corridor. Between the extra miles and the extra stops you are looking at an extra half hour.

No, it's not half an hour. It's more like 10 minutes, if the train skips all the extra stops.

And re: freight, one could argue it the other way. If there's room for just one two-track tunnel through the Grapevine, it's better to use it to relieve freight, which handles gradients worse. Passenger rail can live with going from the LA Basin to the Central Valley through Antelope Valley and lose only about 10 minutes. Freight loses hours from the same exercise.

Unknown said...

IMHO the single biggest risk is the Tehachapis detour coupled with the 99 corridor.

CAHSR wants to claim that the Tehachapi alignment was due to the fact that they would have to cross a major fault line in a tunnel going over the grapevine but are able to cross slightly smaller, less active fault-lines and do so at grade by going over Tehachapi.

If that's the whole truth, that's fine, but the one ginormous thing that the Tehachapi line has going for it that the Grapevine does not is that the Tehachapi alignment makes a Las Vegas spur much, much cheaper by dragging the N/S line over the mountains. All you have to do now is drag rail over cheap, relatively flat, sparsely populated desert.

Getting a Vegas spur is going to be politically difficult, regardless of how many people are going to ride it. I don't think it would happen if we had to pay to drag the line over the mountains as well. An extra 10 minutes on SF-LA trips is worth it, in my opinion, to make the Vegas line financially feasible. (whether it's the DX people or CAHSR building their own line, or some combination of the two).

James said...

@ Rafael 8:07 AM

Does "CP" refer to Consist Parking?

Alon Levy said...

Andy, both the Tehachapi and the Grapevine alignments allow crossing major faults at grade, assuming a ruling gradient of 3.5%. However, the Grapevine alignment only offers one such possibility, which may turn out to be unsafe once the meter-level geological studies begin. The Tehachapi alignment offers multiple options at the project level, which makes it almost certain that at least one option will be available.

The Las Vegas option doesn't figure - for one, the project is centered around California, without any consideration for connections to other states. If the authority could count on a connection to Phoenix and Las Vegas, the system would likely be configured somewhat differently in the Inland Empire.

Besides which, SF-LV is only 72 km longer via the Grapevine and Cajon Pass than via Palmdale and Victorville. Conversely, SF-LA is 74 km longer via the Tehachapis. The Grapevine corridor is faster overall - it's just that it's not certain it can be built. If it were a 150 km detour then it might be worth it, but 74 isn't long enough to bet the project on it.

Clem said...

Does "CP" refer to Consist Parking?

CP = Control Point. Standard nomenclature for remotely controlled railroad junctions.

Anonymous said...

Legalizing casino gambling in California is inevitable and that will belie the need for an expensive rail connection to a an LV in decline.

The Grapevine is manifestly superior to the Tehachapis even for service to the Central Valley. That's why I-5 is there.

There has been a lot kvetching on this site that the hsr has already been studied to death. Considering the quality of the resulting plan maybe the studiers were dead.

The Tehachapis detour is a serious detriment. The CHSRA should perform a intensive evaluation of the one Grapevine alignment before proceeding.

The CHSRA is presenting this as an obvious choice. It is not. Constructing the Tehachapis line will prove to be on the same order of difficulty as the Grapevine and the gradient just as steep.

Let's say the hsr turns out to be underperforming to the point that projected revenues are simply not forthcoming. You have two full tracks thru the Tehachapis but you can get by with single track. Sending freight thru on the other track could generate revenue to offset the disappointing passenger business. But with a 3.5% ruling gradient I don't know if that is feasible even with electric locomotives.

The Tehachapis is the only possible freight alignment. I don't think it is possible to construct something akin to the Loop on the Grapevine. That's why it wasn't done in the 19th century. But as an hsr alignment the Grapevine may be feasible and if so is clearly preferable geographically.

If the Tehachapis turns out to be as big a stymie as I suspect future generations will lambaste the CHSRA, Kopp, Bechtel et al for having failed to do their homework and allowing themselves to be bullied by some developers.

Unknown said...


I think we're saying basically the same thing, if that one option to cross the fault line at grade doesn't work out, that would drive the line underground over the fault line. It's not that there's only one option going over the grapevine, it's that there's only one option that crosses said fault at-grade.

I don't believe that the Vegas connection was a driving force for CAHSR choosing the Tehachapi alignment, but the end result is a really, really nice benefit for southern californians who are campaigning for a LA-LV line. It makes such a connection far cheaper and therefore more likely to happen. It also makes a SF-LV line possible and while I don't think such a line would get very high ridership from SF as it would most likely approach 4 hours, some San Jose-ans might use it and the CV certainly would. And while it might only be an extra 72km to go up the cajon pass, we'd have to build the cajon pass line which would be very expensive, and it's 130km shorter if you connect at Mojave instead of palmdale (and there's already a rail ROW from mojave to barstow you could use). On top of that, the run from mojave to barstow, even going through palmdale and victorville, could be run at higher speeds than are planned for the streches between sylmar and rancho cucamonga.

If you were just trying to build a line from LA to LV you probably wouldn't go through palmdale (even though that's only 20-something miles longer from LAUS than going over cajon) because a cajon-pass line would better serve the IE and san diego, but like I said, it ends up working out well for a LA-LV line or even an anaheim-lv line, whether that was the intention or not.

Anonymous said...

For budgetary reasons all 50 states will have to legalize gambling. They simply cannot let instate money go to out-of-state casinos.

Las Vegas may have diversified but gambling is still its cash cow. Just look at what has happened to Reno in the wake of Indian casinos that cater to gamblers who used to have to climb the Sierras.

Besides LV lacks the water for unlimited growth. The longterm hsr market isn't there.

Unknown said...

@anonymous: let's say that all 50 states legalize gambling and Las Vegas is forced to reinvent themselves as a diversified economic powerhouse. I would expect that they would then, in their economically depressed state, be pushing even harder to have a HSR line to southern california. I don't expect CA to pay for the whole thing, and while initially ridership would be disproportionately weekend-centric, having a HSR connection to the SoCal economy might be LV's last great hope should gambling revenue deteriorate. Such a situation would make LV more like Bakersfield or Fresno, but like I said, since we're already building the line over the mountains, the rest of the trip is relatively cheap.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 1:11pm -

CHSRA conducted an extensive tunneling workshop using Australian software called Quantm that was used to analyze literally thousands of alignments across the transverse range. The software allows planners to disallow certain areas of the 3D map, e.g. because they are wildlife refuges or suspected aquifers, pockets of natural gas, weak rock strata etc. They can also specify maximum gradients, minimum curve radii, maximum acceleration/deceleration rates, where tracks have to run at grade and other constraints. Genetic algorithms are used to identify viable and optimal alignment variations.

The workshop yielded massive reductions in the cost estimates relative to earlier rough numbers PB produced using conventional reckoning. It also showed that while there were hundreds of viable variations for crossing both the San Andreas and the Garlock fault at grade but only a single one for the Grapevine - and even that ran close to a wildlife refuge.

In addition, I'm sure LA county had an interest in seeing the Antelope Valley included in the route. At the time, it was the fastest-growing portion of the county. It is also home to an airport that could relieve LAX, but only in conjunction with HSR service (in practice, that means HSR platforms in a new passenger terminal building).

Your position appears to be that the CV and Antelope Valley are flyover country and that HSR competes only with short-hop flights in the Bay Area-LA basin. This is not true, the majority of HSR ridership will actually come from people who would otherwise drive for hundreds of miles. Residents of the CV and AV are actually likely to use HSR much more than those in the Bay Area and LA basin.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 1:30pm -

a quick gander on the map tells me Las Vegas is close to the Colorado river and Los Angeles isn't anywhere near it.

The city of angels recently had to accept a 15% cut in water pumped down south from Tracy because of the Delta smelt, a little fishie in the tidal zone between Vallejo and Stockton. Researchers consider it something of a canary in the coalmine, the decline of its population as evidence that excessive diversion of water was causing the water in the Delta to become too saline. If that were permitted to continue, it would lead to loss of farmland and wildlife areas.

Now, you can argue if preserving the Delta is worthwhile if it constrains growth in the LA basin. However, if you look anywhere else in the world (except Libya) you'll find that people have always settled near natural sources of fresh water. California is an anomaly in that most of its population is supported by water that is pumped over hundreds of miles.

Alon Levy said...

Rafael, even in humid areas, cities need extensive water works to function. New York's water supply comes from the Catskills, about 100 miles to the north. The difference between New York and Los Angeles is that LA has to compete for water with irrigation-based farming, whereas the Northeast can practice rainfall-based agriculture.

Fred Martin said...

The Colorado River flow was divided up well before the state of Nevada and Las Vegas became political players, so Nevada has a tiny claim of Colorado River water. It doesn't matter how close Nevada is, because Los Angeles and California staked their claim well before Las Vegas grew into a city. This sort of legal legacy isn't going to change. Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert has a good discussion of this water history.

If you are concerned about water and urban development, the Delta and the upper San Joaquin Valley are much better for urban development than the dry lower San Joaquin Valley. Palmdale and the Antelope Valley are inhospitable places for humans. Guess which alignment serves the Delta and upper San Joaquin Valley better? Altamont.

Alon Levy said...

Fred, the Acela alignment is even more conducive to human development. So based on water politics, the Feds should just give the money to the Northeast and leave California out to dry.

Fred Martin said...

Hey, Alon, I am still waiting to hear your explanation about how the French and Japanese systems pay for themselves...

Anonymous said...

My french customers today said they are looking forward to selling us their trains and they are confused by why it took them 12 hours to get from la to sf. Its beyond their comprehension. i had to explain to them that americans do things a little differently and by the way did they see the health care debates"

LOL they don't understand us at all but wished us luck. I asked them If I could stow away in their suitcase when the go home.

Rubber Toe said...

Richard says...

"CHSRA and its consultants are simply lying about travel demand. There really is no question."

Richard, predicting things 20 years into the future is a pretty tough business. Why don't you take a few minutes and tell us a little bit about what you think the cost of electricity from renewable resources might be to run the trains, versus say the cost of jet fuel to run the planes?

Hint: Do you think it might be possible that declining worldwide oil supplies might lead to greatly increased prices versus electricity generated from renewable sources? When building systems that will be running 30-40 years from now, you have to think about things like that. Maybe thats why China is investing $300 Billion in it?

Alon Levy said...

Hey, Alon, I am still waiting to hear your explanation about how the French and Japanese systems pay for themselves...

They first lines, the Tokaido Shinkansen and the LGV Sud-Est, were funded by bonds, which were then paid back within a few years. Subsequent lines were funded out of the system's initial profits, plus some extra bonds (which were again repaid, more or less).

I'm papering over the fact that JNR was forced to build so many unprofitable local lines that it got into debt and collapsed while two of its lines were incomplete and had not yet paid their bonds. However, having been completed, those lines have high ridership now and would almost certainly be able to cover their original debt, if the Japanese government hadn't wiped it as part of the company's restructuring.

I'm also papering over the fact that SNCF operates commuter lines, which are subsidized locally and which Amtrak uses to argue that railway companies always need subsidies (as if Amtrak operates local commuter rail). SNCF the national intercity rail operator is profitable - it just contracts to run the local commuter lines. Not that it's any excuse - the mainland JR companies manage to make a profit on the local commuter lines - but the Amtrak-style lines it operates overall make money.

Fred Martin said...

Operating at a profit is distinct from recovering capital costs. Operating at a profit is not so hard to do considering the trunk line nature of HSR. Given that operating costs are a small fraction of the enormous capital costs of HSR, recouping capital costs is something that has not ever been attained without heavy public subsidy. Even the French and Japanese efforts have required heavy subsidy, and their HSR is basically the capstone for well-established passenger rail and urban transit systems. The US is under-developed in these areas, and this is why building fancy HSR is 'putting the cart before the horse'. (By the way, if you have ever been to Sendai, you would realize that it has a great transit system.)

Furthermore, remember that Japan and France developed their HSR systems when their air travel systems were very expensive and highly regulated. This isn't the case in the US, where air travel remains quite cheap. Automobile use is also very expensive in Japan, and fuel taxes are high in France.

In every detailed study I have seen, the capital costs of HSR requires heavy public subsidy even in a favorable competitive environment. The creative accounting of separating "profitable" operating companies from heavily subsidized public infrastructure companies is a shell game. These subsidies can be justified in certain social and environmental terms and according to efficiency measures, but HSR most certainly does not pay for itself.

BruceMcF said...

Fred Martin said...
"Operating at a profit is distinct from recovering capital costs."

Except for the small minority that are ideologically opposed to all capital subsidies for intercity travel, this is a red herring.

There is no serious claim that the system will recover all capital costs, the system does not depend for its success on recovering all capital costs and the rationale for building the system does not rest on recovering its capital costs.

The claim is that the system will yield an operating surplus, and Fred Martin concedes that at the outset in order to avoid being distracted from pursuing the red herring.

There are two prospective scenarios that we face.

In the optimistic scenario, energy costs will remain somewhere in the present neighborhood, the US will work through its sluggish rates of real investment in productive capacity of the past fifteen years, and in that scenario, California will clearly experience substantial population growth. That growth will require new capital investment in transport capacity across the board, including for intercity transport tasks.

The HSR is the more capital efficient means of providing that transport capacity. And of course, since it increases the range of transport options, it will increase the average efficiency of both road and air transport as well, since those for whom road and air transport are less efficient options will be disproportionately represents in the HSR ridership.

In the pessimistic scenario, prices of petroleum and close petroleum substitutes explode, and as the core economy with the greatest exposure to petroleum prices, that hammers the US economy more than any other large high-income economy. In that context, both the competitive position and the public benefit of HSR is much stronger than the corresponding situation in the EU or Japan today.

In a future that is mostly an extension of the present, the eighty years of capital subsidy bias in favor of intercity road and air transport infrastructure means that removing that bias and leveling the playing field is the most capital-efficient strategy.

And in a future that represents that greatest risk to the economic and, indeed, political sovereignty of the nation, the benefit of investing in HSR is a slam-dunk.

Alon Levy said...

Fred, just two things:

1. There are two ways of defining capital profit. One is whether operating profits exceed depreciation. To my knowledge, SNCF and the mainland JR companies are profitable by this metric. The other is whether the line has paid off its construction bonds; this takes some time - the three HSR lines that have paid their bonds are also the first three to have been built, and the next two had their debt wiped before they had the chance to pay it off.

2. The lack of a gas tax in the US is a subsidy, since tailpipe emissions cause considerable health problems. To balance just air pollution externalities, excluding carbon emissions, the US gas tax needs to be hiked $2.21/gallon.

Anonymous said...

If the hsr is going to insist on detouring far to the east thru the Tehachapis it should adopt an alignment with gradients that can accommodate freight.

What private operator, let's say a company with real world experience running a railroad, is going to want a line that cannot handle freight to offset poor passenger revenues? Who's going to pay to maintain two tracks when single track will suffice?

Kopp's hsr is a turkey like the BART SFO line but on a much bigger scale. Too big and too expensive for the state to run indefinitely. Eventually it will have to be taken off the taxpayer lifeline and then there will be much pointing of fingers, just as with the ill-conceived, circuitous, underperforming BART SFO line.

BruceMcF said...

Anony-mouse emerged from his mousehole to say:
"If the hsr is going to insist on detouring far to the east thru the Tehachapis it should adopt an alignment with gradients that can accommodate freight.

What private operator, let's say a company with real world experience running a railroad, is going to want a line that cannot handle freight to offset poor passenger revenues? Who's going to pay to maintain two tracks when single track will suffice?

Since you've chosen "argument by rhetorical question", riddle me this: what Express HSR system anywhere in the world is designed to accommodate heavy freight?

If the proposal was for an Emerging HSR corridor, the point would be well taken. In the context of an Epxress HSR line, its absurd.

Anonymous said...

What is absurd is hobbling a purported express line with an unnecessary detour into a remote area.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
What is absurd is hobbling a purported express line with an unnecessary detour into a remote area

LA county is not a remote area. no mater how you slice it. It isnt now and sure won't be in the coming decades. calling LA County a remote area of the state is like calling end of life planning "Obama Death Panels."