Monday, August 10, 2009


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

The middle of a severe recession led by collapsing real estate values may not seem like the best time to start talking about developing property around planned HSR stations. But the economy will eventually recover (even on the slow timescale forecast by many economists there will probably be real recovery between now and 2018) and that in turn will mean developers will bring the capital and the will to use HSR stations as anchors of new projects.

The CHSRA has always emphasized their stations as bringers of urban density; you can see it in the NC3D animations produced last year for the Authority. Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is one of the strongest selling points for high speed rail, as it will help provide needed new housing in city centers, spur the development of other housing, commercial, and retail properties, and help act as magnets for bringing growth back into the cities and away from the exurban sprawl that characterized California's last period of economic growth (a sprawl which was directly responsible for the current economic collapse).

The question, as the San Diego Business Journal points out, is timing:

“I think not only is it something that is a good thing, it’s certainly going to be a phenomenal planning tool for the next generation of growth,” said Perry Dealy, president of Dealy Development. “The opportunity to take the high-speed stop hubs and convert them to maximize their mixed-use, high-density potential is great. You’d have what I’d call a TOD, transit-oriented design, starting with residential, work-live, retail, entertainment and other kinds of venues that are part of the mixed-use characteristics.”...

Dealy said that the type of project he has in mind would ultimately cost $1 billion to $2 billion. It would entail acquiring land to build on, adding or refurbishing infrastructure, and preparing a master plan.

“There is demand for the region to grow, we’re definitely going to add a million people, maybe not in 10, but in 12, 14 years it’s going to happen,” said Dealy. “Now’s the time to actually get these concepts defined.”

Of course, Dealy will have even more time than that to plan for San Diego, where revenue service may not begin until as late as 2030. But for some of the other stops, such as Anaheim, Fresno, Gilroy and San Jose, now may well be the right time to get TOD concepts under way, especially as cities start evaluating land use rules surrounding the proposed HSR stations.

Some developers aren't convinced there's any rush to get plans started:

Shawn Tobias, project manager at Houston-based Hines, a real estate firm and commercial developer, stated that he doesn’t see that much of a push from the development side to start planning for a project like this immediately.

“I think (development) firms in general right now tend to be shortsighted in terms of their business, just to make sure that they’re weathering the current conditions well enough, but planners are certainly into the future,” said Tobias. “Whether that becomes a reality is a different situation because the real challenge is integrating the plan within the existing municipalities, but it certainly is on Hines’ long-term radar.”

Tobias cited economic factors for the reasons that some developers have chosen to focus on more short-term projects.

“I don’t see a planning rush right now because most people are in survival modes,” Tobias said. “Once the economy starts to heat up and there’s more demand for development, I think you’ll see more firms clamoring for this.”

Of course, Hines isn't really saying anything that different from Dealy - both agree that HSR TOD will make a compelling financial opportunity for developers, investors, and buyers, but they aren't sure whether there is the resources out there right now to get this started given the economic climate.

As HSR TOD plans begin to take shape we'll start covering them in more detail here on the blog. One issue that the HSR stations raise related to development is whether there will be overnight and long-term parking allowed at these stations, a question Rafael brought up in the comments to yesterday's post. If such parking is allowed, Rafael rightly argues, it could mitigate against TOD, especially in lower density locations like the Central Valley.

Parking is a big issue when it comes to development in existing urban centers. TOD and density advocates have increasingly pushed to limit or eliminate city planning codes requiring new developments to provide a fixed number of parking spaces, and more attention is being drawn to the drawbacks of urban parking lots.

On the other hand, overnight and long-term parking would represent a potentially significant revenue stream for the CHSRA. There are many years of studies ahead that will examine this question, which will have an impact not only on how Californians interact with the HSR trains, but how the HSR system interacts with its surrounding urban environment.


Anonymous said...

Let them build parking. It wil increase ridership and make investers some money. Actually, the parking concessions at all stations, should go exclusively to the rail operator to go towards the profit on their investment.

looking on said...

Well now Robert is really talking about what this project is all about.

Making money for developers and other stakeholders. It has never been about moving passenger or developing more efficient and convenient passenger travel. No. It is about making money and plenty of it for those on the inside.

Thank you Robert for focusing on the real object of the project.

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

(part 1)

my comments yesterday regarding overnight parking were actually related to parking the trains, not cars. My point was that the HSR operator will need to store a certain number of trainsets at the end points of the line to deliver early morning service.

At some point during the morning, the first trains of the day will arrive from the other end of the line, get turned around and then service can continue for the rest of the day.

Given the different service levels and cleaning requirements, an HSR trainset will take 6.5-7.5 hours to make a round trip from one end of the California starter line to the other (longer time applies for Anaheim, all-stops to LA etc). In practice, that means each trainset will make two round trips per day, with two crew shifts.

If we are to believe CHSRA rosy scenario of ~8 HSR trains per hour, that would mean service from SF (and conversely, from LA and Anaheim) would require 20-25 HSR trainsets to be parked overnight at each end.

The new Transbay Terminal will have room for 12, but only if Caltrain agrees to terminate its last trains of the day at 4th & King (or shifts them there, a doable but awkward operation given the design of the DTX tunnel). As far as I can tell from the docs and animations, Anaheim ARTIC will have 4 slots. The number available at the new upper deck of LA US depends on the number of platform tracks there, which in turn depends on how trains will get there. It would be very expensive to create more than a couple of HSR run-through tracks across the freeway that runs just south of the station.

Plenty of land is available for overnight train storage if you're willing to run strictly regional HiSpeed services early in the morning and late at night. For example, the first group of trains leaving SF in the morning would use trainsets stored there overnight. The second group would be based on trainsets parked overnight in Merced or Fresno. The first express trains from Southern California will arrive between 08:30 and 09:00, depending on when the first ones leave.

Conversely, a fraction of the fleet could be parked in Palmdale or Bakersfield overnight and make their first run of each day to LA and Anaheim, respectively, to sustain morning operations there until the first express trains arrive from SF.

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

(part 2)

The upshot of parking a significant fraction of HSR trainsets overnight in the CV/AV is that Merced, Fresno, Bakersfield and Palmdale would all become attractive places for long-distance commuters to live. After all, they would be served by a significant number of trains when it matters most: early in the morning and late at night. In France and Japan, long-distance commuting by high-speed train is already an established lifestyle.

The cost of annual HSR passes would be much less than that of owning and operating an additional car, never mind the wholly unproductive time it would take to drive. However, not having a commute car and yet living so far from work is only viable if there is high-quality connecting transit at both ends or, both home and workplace are within walking distance of HSR. Folding (electric) bikes would be an alternative in fair weather only.

In practice, commuting without a car may prove popular with singles, childless couples and families with just one small child. These demographic groups can most easily afford to buy or rent an apartment in a mid-to-high rise building within walking distance of the nearest HSR station. Later in life, when they have several older children, the same people will want to move into larger houses and switch to a local job - especially if parking near the HSR station is expensive.

If all this actually happens in California, expect businesses to set up shop near HSR stations in the Bay Area and in SoCal to take advantage of an affordable, skilled workforce that commutes by train. Also expect those businesses to gradually shift some divisions - e.g. back office/data center operations - to the Central Valley to retain those workers when they decide it's time to buy a house. This two-step life dynamic means HSR could indirectly lead to further sprawl on the outskirts of Central Valley cities, but only if they fail to plan for new townhouse communities near local light rail lines and networks of bike paths to nearby schools, shops, parks etc. Families that grow up on bikes and public transportation will still want a car, but perhaps not two or three.

At the same time, HSR will continue to attract mid-to-high rise construction near its stations, even in the CV. This will give cities there a denser urban core and more of a metropolitan feel. Skillful real estate development based on self-shading architecture, water features and shrubbery supported by recycled water could easily create hip neighborhoods offering restaurants, nightlife, theaters etc. in easy walking distance of each other. You may not think of places like Fresno and Bakersfield - let alone Merced or Modesto - in those terms today. However, 10-20 years from now, the situation could be very different. It all depends on local leadership.

In terms of a long-term growth strategy for the state, anything that makes the CV more attractive is a good thing because that's where the water is and the earthquakes aren't. That said, it's important not to overstate the impact HSR will have on the demographic development of the state. At best, it will amplify trends that already exist, e.g. because new EPA/CARB rules for all types of diesel engines will clean up the air in the CV, electricity and water supply are constrained in the Bay Area and SoCal etc.

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

as opposed to what, maximizing property values for those who already own homes in e.g. Silicon Valley, where local zoning laws keep supply artificially low?

Please don't tell me NIMBYs don't have a self-serving economic agenda.

Nicolas said...

@ looking on

It is said that the only public transit system that makes a steady profit is the Hong Kong MTR. The main reason is that MTR is a major property developer for land adjoining their train stations. And yet, contrary to your arguments, MTR is one of the world's most efficient transit systems.

Anonymous said...

So what system is in place for the public to recapture the land value increases due to all this public investment in HSR? I don't see one, but I see lots of greedy land speculators for private gain off public spending. Where's the accountability?

At least Hong Kong's MTR directly coupled transit efficiency and property development into a mutual interest. MTR is a quasi-public entity.

Anonymous said...

@rafael - You could simply deadhead the trains from somewhere down the line early in the morning before the first runs. For example, some extra trains could be stored at Diridon and then deadhead to SF early on when needed.

Anonymous said...

Anon @8:18 - property tax collections will rise. Seems pretty obvious to me.

Anonymous said...

@anon and looking on.

Are you kidding? developers benefiting from public investment? all of a sudden after 300 years of Us history, suddenly its a problem?

And, looking on, just because there will be development opportunities at the stations, doesn't mean that's the reason for hsr. You know, sometimes one can do two things at once. The way things have always been done. You may have noticed, outlet centers, home depots, and Walmarts along side all your favorite freeway interchanges... does that mean the real reason for the freeway was to build the walmart? Lets' put on our thinking caps.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God!
Some people will make money off of HSR TOD!
This project is so for the hills!
And the reaching continues from the deniers and NIMBYS...

Anonymous said...

so, on the one hand this will never be profitable and on the other hand what do we do about the (gasp) profits!

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 8:21am -

you could dead-head them at SJ Diridon (if there's enough room) or do so in Merced and/or Fresno. Similarly, you could dead-head them in Sylmar instead of Palmdale and/or Bakersfield.

The decision depends on the space available, revenue on those first and last trains of the day and to some extent, on where state and local officials decide they want to concentrate future population growth.

It may not be wise to let San Jose balloon to two million or more, it's close to multiple major faults and already forced to recycle much of its water. Much the same logic applies to the San Fernando Valley.

I'll admit that further residential growth is not desirable in the Antelope Valley. Pumping vast quantities of water uphill to an area that is just as threatened by earthquakes as the Bay Area and LA basin makes no strategic sense to anyone except LA county developers. However, HSR will run through Palmdale because of the airport and because tunneling through the Grapevine would be riskier.

Morris Brown said...

I copy below an article from the Menlo Park Almanac concerning the new lawsuit -- this not yet available on the internet.

I have asked Mr. Brady for a copy of the lawsuit, which I understand is to be filed today. If I can secure that document, I'll get it posted.

part 1.
In heated high-speed rail battle, Peninsula
residents may have found their Goliiath

Sean Howell Menlo Park Almanac 8-12-09
Citing potential common ground between Peninsula dwellers and Union Pacific, local residents plan to file an action to assure the railroad behemoth has a seat at the table in high-speed rail negotiations.

Those who would like to see the high-speed rail line run in a tunnel or a trench,
rather than on a berm, as it passes through the Peninsula might have found an ally in the negotiating process — in the form of, ironically, a major railroad company.
According to Menlo Park attorney Mike Brady, Union Pacific railroad retained an unusual set of rights when it sold the Caltrain corridor to the Peninsula Joint Powers Board, which represents Peninsula counties, in 1991. Among those rights is the right to "veto any other inter-city passenger service" running along the rail line, and to prevent any invasive construction in the right of way, according to Mr. Brady.
With Mountain View-based attorney Zachary Tyson, Mr. Brady plans to file a declaratory relief action Tuesday, Aug. 11 in San Mateo County Superior Court on behalf of Atherton resident Russell Peterson. In the claim Mr. Peterson asks the court to declare that the High-Speed Rail Authority cannot begin work on the project without Union Pacific's consent.
Residents who feel that neither the High-Speed Rail Authority nor the Joint Powers Board are looking out for their interests hold out hope that Union Pacific could disrupt potential plans for raised tracks, which many feel would have deleterious effects on local communities.
Mr. Brady and Mr. Tyson are working pro bono, according to Mr. Brady.

Morris Brown said...

part 2 of almanac article.

Unlikely Union
Peninsula residents and Union Pacific officials would make unlikely bedfellows, given that the three Peninsula counties — Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco — originally bought the rights to the rail corridor from Union Pacific.
But residents who are concerned about the potential impacts of the high-speed rail system on local jurisdictions have said they think the Caltrain board is more interested in securing benefits for its own system, such as electrification of the rail line, than it is in defending the interests of Peninsula communities.
It's not clear where Union Pacific stands on the prospect of high-speed rail, though it has said it doesn't intend to give up its right to veto the high-speed trains, according to Mr. Brady. He points out that a memorandum of understanding between the rail authority and the Cal- train board doesn't even mention Union Pacific, saying the railroad giant is "being completely ignored by the authority and the Joint Powers Board."

In response to a request for an interview, Caltrain said in a statement that "nothing has been done that would violate" Union Pacific's rights.
Mr. Brady agreed with that assessment. "They can plan all they want to, but they couldn't start the project until Union Pacific agrees," he said. "It's a waste of public funds for the Joint Powers Board and the High-Speed Rail Authority to be planning this project without Union Pacific's consent."
Mehdi Morshed, the authority's executive director, said in a statement: "We're looking forward to working in good faith with everyone involved and can't speak to a lawsuit that doesn't exist."
Common ground?
On the issue that looms largest in the minds of locals — whether the rail system would run underground, or on a berm — Peninsula residents and Union Pacific might find some common ground, Mr. Brady said.
For instance, running Caltrain and high-speed rail tracks through an underground tunnel, with Union Pacific freight running above ground, could be a win- win for both locals and the railroad giant, he said. Union Pacific wouldn't have to share the aboveground tracks, enabling it to run freight trains during the day. And Peninsula cities wouldn't have to confront a 15-foot-high berm bisecting their communities.
Perhaps Union Pacific would make the tunnel option, thought in many quarters to be prohibitively expensive, a condition for its consent to the high-speed rail system.
Mr. Brady admits it's all speculation at this point. He met with Union Pacific representatives, but didn't get any indication of the railroad's position, he said.
If Union Pacific is concerned about its rights when it comes to the rail corridor, why doesn't it file for declaratory relief itself?
"It's probably political," Mr. Brady said. "Maybe they have to be careful, who knows. I don't purport to answer for them ... What their ultimate position will be, I don't know."

Clem said...

Residents (...) hope that Union Pacific could disrupt potential plans for raised tracks

Oh, the irony... I don't know whether to chuckle or sigh.

Nicolas said...

@ Morris Brown


Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Union Pacific can fight their own battles and probably prefers to negotiate on their own.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 8:18am -

one option would be for cities to require that any developer looking to build within a certain distance of an HSR station either become an investor in the station and/or network or else, agree to pay a property surtax for some number of years. Either way, the cost would be passed on to those who end up living in or running a business out of those buildings.

However, I doubt this will happen. Cities will be happy enough if developers actually agree to build property near stations at all, given that they will be zoned for mid-to-high-rise buildings. Those are more expensive to build. Afaik, the seismic building code is uniform throughout California, even though there are only a few minor known faults in the Central Valley.

See also the USGS Map of 30-year earthquake risk in California. When - not if - the Big One hits the LA basin or the Hayward fault slips in the East Bay, the damage could easily top $100 billion.

Strategically, it's time to start growing the CV's share of the state's population and diversify its economy. If global climate change leads to a structural reduction in the Sierra snowpack in coming decades, it could very well shut down thirsty agriculture in parts of the CV. Fortunately, virtually all other economic activities are less water-intensive.

The seismic risk in the Arizona border area is also low, but it's a long drive to anywhere. Only the area around Blythe has enough water for agriculture, i.e. more than enough for urban development. That could happen if bullet train service is ever extended to Phoenix via the I-10 corridor.

Observer said...

Be clear. They don't push to eliminate parking codes requiring minimum number of parking spaces per unit, because of some altruistic TOD vision.

TOD advocates are developers. Period. And developers don't make any money off parking.

What a wonderful increase to profit margin if they can build right up to the lots boundaries, and SCREW the community. What they hell do they care if there aren't any parking spaces? Parking space equals lost $$$ for developers.

I'm surprised Robert that you are being as open and as blatantly truthful about the motivations that are truly behind HSR - the opponents have been claiming this for a long time. Its all about forcibly prying open these lucrative prime locations for development - which goes 100% of the way toward explaining why the route "MUST" be down the Peninsula. Max profit- ruin the land around the tracks, then snap it up for dense ticky tacky housing development. Prices in these communities much more profitable for developers than doing the same through the east bay. Its pretty much that simple.

Central valley cities may be dumb enough to hand over the bluprint of their cities to HSR/Developers (because they're desparate? shortsighted?) but Peninsula cities are never going to relinquish their environments and long standing planning practices (which have grown up over more than 100 years to protect the quality and character of these cities) to these greedy dogs.

This is why Palo Altan's (all except the insidious developer types who are creeping the corridors at city hall) are very happy to see CHSRA putting the station bullseye on Redwood City. Palo Altan's have a fight on their hands to keep the developers from 'working their magic' to somehow miraculously keep palo alto in the station plan.

(That is assuming CHSRA can get through the next fifty years of litigation.)

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

[...] win- win for both locals and the railroad giant [...]

[...] Union Pacific freight running above ground [...]

[...] freight trains during the day [...]

Ok, so someone in Atherton with zero standing thinks it would benefit the SF peninsula if the Caltrain corridor were not grade separated (i.e. continued to bisect the community)?

Does he even know how UPRR operates day-to-day in the SF peninsula?

As for Sean Howell's piece in the mighty Menlo Park Almanac a.k.a. the Grey Lady of the West: Extra extra, read all about it! Flea on hair at the end of the tail of the dog desperately tries to wag the dog!

Rafael said...

@ Observer -

yes, by all means, let's keep screwing the entire state so a small number of middle-aged and elderly SF peninsula homeowners can return to the happy days of 20% year-on-year growth of the value of their treasured Eichlers.

Screw the 500,000 or so people that California grows by each year. Get off my lawn!

Anonymous said...

parking is very lucrative. of course they make money. parking is 10-30 bucks a day.

flowmotion said...

Despite Observer's conspiratorial tone, he/she is likely correct and there will never be significant new development along the rail line in the mid-Peninsula. (Maybe a little in San Mateo.)

If high-density development opportunities were the goal, the available land parcels are located along the 101 corridor. A more reasonable conclusion is that the CalTrain route was chosen purely out of convenience, not any greater social goals.

Rafael said...

@ Flowmotion -

why don't you talk Caltrans into giving up its carpool lanes on 101, then we can talk about running HSR in that corridor. Of course, Caltrain and UPRR would still be ringing bells and blowing whistles at every remaining grade crossing.

Think things through, please!

Bianca said...

The notion that Atherton/Menlo Park Palo Alto would be better off with freight trains running at grade during the day and HSR in a tunnel is extraordinarily misguided.

Seriously? Freight trains? During the day?

This is a non-starter on a lot of different levels.

Wow. Just. Wow.

Anonymous said...

If there is a station in mt view, they will surely welcome development there. if there is a station at rwc, they will definitely welcome development there. and Millbrae will weclome development as well. (There isnt going to be an hsr station at san mateo)

and obviously the sf and sj stations have development plans.
The questionable location is if there is a station in PA instead of RWC. and will PA want the development. Which is why RWC is the better choice.

flowmotion said...

@Rafael, please read more carefully, I'm saying 101 isn't happening. The idea of a Palo Alto development conspiracy here is bunko.

Nicolas said...

running Caltrain and high-speed rail tracks through an underground tunnel, with Union Pacific freight running above ground, could be a win-win for both locals and the railroad giant

Bianca is right. WTF.

flowmotion said...

Also, the fundamental problem with Robert and Rafael's argument here is that the "T" in TOD stands for Transit, and (handwaving aside) very little of HSR's projected ridership will be using it a replacement for automobiles or other commute modes. Like an airport, most residents and businesses won't see any particular advantage being located near the station.

Which isn't to say that some TOD isn't foreseeable in the Central Valley, there will probably be a few midrise office buildings and those depressing condos for divorced businessmen. However if Fresno and Bakersfield really wish to densify, they will need to radically re-evaluate their overall development and transportation priorities. Simply plopping down an HSR station won't do it.

Poster 'looking on' claims TOD is the "real object of the project". If that were true, it would be the stupidest $40 billion ever spent. The money would be far better invested in local transit systems. Fortunately, that isn't the real object at all. But it does illustrate how HSR fans tend to believe the project as a panacea.

IMO it's fairly easy to predict that the biggest TOD winners, at least in the short-to-mid term, will be the places that already have good transit connections, i.e. downtowns San Francisco and Los Angeles (and San Jose to a lesser extent).

Sam said...

The key to TOD for HSR is that a station means that quite a few local transit lines will be re-routed to pass by or terminate at the HSR station. This creates a "transit hotbed" that may not exist in other areas, at least to the same degree, since it will likely create several trunk lines serving the station and areas near it.

Development can then piggyback on the lines to use them for other purposes. This can't happen at an airport because most of the surrounding land has to be low-impact or is just undesirable.

Unknown said...

Elevated rail "bisects" the community, but an at-grade freight line doesn't? Have these guys ever been at a railroad crossing? It can take a good 15-20 minutes for one of those long, slow freight trains to lug on by. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire!

Rafael said...

@ flowmotion -

sorry, I misread your comment. I agree, it's unlikely we'll see any high-rise development in downtown Palo Alto. As Jim points out, it may well happen in downtowns elsewhere along the line.

It's just that the trains have to get through downtown Palo Alto to make that possible. Putting three or even four tracks deep underground there would be way too expensive. Making do with just two tunnel tracks would still be expensive and mean keeping those at grade just for UPRR (a non-starter) or, banning heavy freight (not trivial).

Note that Clem advocates the latter even for an above-grade alignment: freight requires 1% gradients, few transitions in elevation and super-strong supports for bridges and aerials.

flowmotion said...

@Jim -

OK, "Downtown" Mountain View is currently 3 chinese restaurants and a dental office. Sure, they would like some development, maybe even up to the bustling level of downtown Palo Alto, which also has 2 law offices and a Quizo's.

However, Google isn't about to abandon their office park and move into a skyscraper downtown. The land uses on the Peninsula just don't favor a lot of development opportunities around the CalTrain corridor.

Rafael said...

@ flowmotion -

[...] stupidest $40 billion ever spent [...]

TOD is indeed not the core objective of the HSR network, linking the existing population centers of the state is. That includes a number of CV towns.

However, if HSR encourages people to choose a lifestyle that doesn't revolve entirely around the automobile, that will be a valuable fringe benefit. It's up to civic leaders in Fresno, Bakersfield, Palmdale and elsewhere to decide how they will leverage their HSR stations for growing their populations and tax base. More sprawl would be short-sighted.

flowmotion said...

@Rafael - No problem. While I might be arguing with some of the assumptions, I'm certainly not taking an NIMBY tact here.

Keep in mind, CalTrain is already grade-seperated and fenced-off in downtown PA (both of them actually), that's not the issue. The tunnel demands are actually coming from the residential areas, which make them all the more ridiculous.

San Mateo is the most "downtownish" area on the peninsula, and apparently the narrowest ROW. If a subway could be justified anywhere on the basis of high density development, it would be there.

BruceMcF said...

Observer said...
"What a wonderful increase to profit margin if they can build right up to the lots boundaries, and SCREW the community. What they hell do they care if there aren't any parking spaces? Parking space equals lost $$$ for developers."

And communities as well. Parking requirements are a massive subsidy to the car transport system.

"When do a Prius and a Hummer have the same enviro impact? The 95% of the time they are parked"

Rafael said...

@ flowmotion -

"The land uses on the Peninsula just don't favor a lot of development opportunities around the CalTrain corridor."

That's true near Caltrain stations today, but may no longer be once HSR is added into the mix. Right now, lots of people who work in the SF peninsula but can't afford to live there have to cross the bay in their cars, since the Dumbarton rail bridge is out of service and there are currently no commuter trains on UPRR's Milpitas line. Business have set up shop near the peninsula's freeways because there is no rail service across the bay.

HSR via Altamont would have drastically changed that dynamic, but HSR via Pacheco will still do so to some extent. Merced will be just 45 minutes from San Jose Diridon and an hour from Redwood City, still a reasonable commute if you live and work within walking distance of the tracks - especially if there's reliable broadband internet access on the trains. Add another 10 minutes for Fresno.

Gilroy will be in an even better position, but Santa Clara county will continue to resist development there, mostly to prop up real estate values in Silicon Valley. IMHO, that - rather than the graslands - is what the legal prohibition on a station at Los Banos was really all about as well.

Hollister may yet profit from that decision. If UPRR is willing to sell trackage rights, it would be simple enough to run a rail shuttle to the Gilroy HSR station. Tiny San Juan Bautista is also just a short bus ride away.

Expecting land use patterns in the SF peninsula to remain unaffected by HSR is unrealistic. Businesses will demand new office space within walking distance of HSR, perhaps even selected Caltrain stations. And after some wrangling with local NIMBYs, they will get it.

Anthony Thomas said...

I don't understand sometimes. Why is the general public always having an opinion on something they know very little about?

Ah its an American thing...

All I really know is this, I could go to the Frankfurt Main train station and go anywhere in Germany from that station. I could take the subway, the trolley is outside, the bus, the subway, IC or ICE.

In fact on my way to the 24hrs of Le Mans in 2007. I took the train from Frankfurt to Paris, it was a new service and they had promotional pricing - $80E

It took 15 mins to ride ICE from the station to the Frankfurt Airport.

It took roughly 4 hours from Frankfurt to Amsterdam.

Why is there all this concern with who's making a profit?

I've come to realize that America is too set in its ways and it would take 50-100 years to undo the damage of uncontrolled and unfair social policy.

So as long as I can ride the HSR for a reasonable cost which won't happen until 10-20 years from now anyway I don't care who makes the money as long as its kept up and no serious accidents happen.

I don't care where they build shhh, could I live in an affordable area like Merced with the rail system and with a car hauler on it?

In other words, how come its most certain people that consume themselves with stuff that have no control over???

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

ironically, plug-in hybrids could actually be productive in vehicle-to-grid applications. Even if they just spend the time they are parked recharging off the grid, they would still help reduce demand for oil.

That doesn't mean I buy GM's grandiose claim of 230MPGe for its upcoming Chevy Volt, announced earlier today with great fanfare. The inconvienent truth is that plug-ins fundamentally break the concept of MPG, because they no longer run on dino-juice alone. EPA doesn't want to admit that because consumers are used to the MPG metric and perhaps also because the federal government now owns a big chunk of GM and wants to move the goal posts in its favor. If the metric is rigged, its objective value tends to zero.

Electric trains, like all true zero tailpipe emissions vehicles, will always achieve infinite MPG. Unless they run exclusively on nuclear and/or renewable electricity, they do of course still cause some CO2 emissions at power plants burning either coal or gas. Auto and oil industry marketing departments will hate it, but MPG's days as a useful metric of fuel economy are numbered.

Unknown said...

"ironically, plug-in hybrids could actually be productive in vehicle-to-grid applications"

I know this is off topic for a HSR blog, but V2G is not going to happen. The wear and tear on the batteries will be enough to discourage people who own them to not allow a power company to put extra cycles on it. If the batteries are leased (highly likely), the leasing companies are sure to put clauses in the lease banning any V2G usage as it would drastically affect the residual value of the battery (or they'll put a limit on the number of cycles you're allowed to place on the battery, which will have the same effect). Not to mention the inconvenience of walking out to your car only to find out that the power company has decided to drain it (even partially) while you thought it was charging.

Unknown said...

"EPA doesn't want to admit that because consumers are used to the MPG metric"

I was aggravated by the fact that they're actually attempting to give MPG ratings to plugins, but then I read that they are also going to put the gas-only mileage (about 62mpg) and the electric-only efficiency (about 25kwh per 100miles) on the sticker right next to (below?) the estimated MPG, so at least the important information will be there, even if it's overshadowed by a ridiculous attempt to estimate an effective MPG

BruceMcF said...


Bakersfield is within 1.5 hrs of Irvine. At 8tph, that is 12 trains south of Bakersfield ... say, 6 in Irvine/Anaheim, 6 in Sylmar.

Merced is about 1.25 hrs from San Francsciso. So 4 at SF, 6 at San Jose would cover that.

Bakersfield feeds trains North for an hour and a half until the first train from Irvine passes, and feeds trains South for just under an hour until the first train from Merced passes, Merced feeds trains south for an hour until the first train from SF passes the Y, and feeds trains north via the Y for just under an hour until the first train from Bakersfield passes the Y.

When the Sacramento line opens, Merced can handle that with platform stabling in Sacremento, but when the San Diego line opens, there's probably a use for a third stabling yard between San Diego and LA-Union.

BruceMcF said...

Rafael: "@ flowmotion

sorry, I misread your comment. I agree, it's unlikely we'll see any high-rise development in downtown Palo Alto.

High rise development and TOD are not the same thing. Two floor townhouses on top of ground floor retail/commercial/office is urban density, so are stacked garden/patio townhouses. And a quarter mile radius is not really all that big for those who worry about a cancerous blotch of green on what should be lovely asphalt parking lots.

Since, after all, some of the more promising infill development areas for walkable TOD in the Peninsula will be the space wasting sprawling commercial/retail in places like El Camino Real in Menlo Park. After all, an elevated station there with a viaduct between the two current level crossings would allow for substantial parking spaces on what is now track at grade.

And that must be the fear ... that people will live in places that used to be a parking lot. The horror.

K.T. said...

Slightly off topic...

Flowmotion, Rafael,

Flowmotion said...
"If high-density development opportunities were the goal, the available land parcels are located along the 101 corridor."

Rafael said...
"Gilroy will be in an even better position, but Santa Clara county will continue to resist development there, mostly to prop up real estate values in Silicon Valley."

When talking about potential future developments, please consider that lot of the areas along 101 corridor and near Gilroy is within the 100-year floodplain, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A new development within the floodplain would require environmental permits, which are sometimes very difficult to get approved.

BTW, you can quickly get a floodplain information using following Google Earth attachment from FEMA:

(unfortunately, San Mateo and San Francisco County does not have updated floodplain map to be dispalyed in Google Earth browser, but at least you can see the floodplain map for Santa Clara County, and for other counties where proposed HSR line will be)

Anonymous said...

@flowmotion. you are making the mistake of thinking today's terms. The upcoming generation and the economy in place 15 years from now have nothing to do with what you see today.
In 1980, the city of roseville ca was a sleepy town on the way to sacremtno. 15 years later its was one of calis fastest growing cities. No one would have dreamed it. Just because there is nothing in mt view now - you have know idea whatsover what will happen 20 years from now.

NONIMBYS said...

OH Nimbys this is should be just what you upscale housing for you crybabies

Rafael said...

@ K.T. -

according to those maps, Gilroy is at risk of of 100 year flood but e.g. Hollister isn't (at least not to the same extent). Any high-rise developer worth his salt would work around such flood risks by using grade, perhaps even first level as a parking lot, with offices or apartments above that.

Morris Brown said...

A copy of the Peterson Lawsuit against the CHSRA and PCJPB can be downloaded at:

Mr. Brady, the attorney for Mr. Peterson, kindly furnished a copy to me to scan and post. The complaint was filed today around 11:00 AM.

Unknown said...

The two big questions I had about the lawsuit where what did they think the standing was, and what were they trying to get out of it:

"Plaintiff has standing under Code of Civil Procedure, section 526a as a taxpayer who seeks to prevent the illegal expenditure of public funds..."

"For a declaration that no contracts between defendants for the construction of a high speed rail facility on the ROW may be entered into, nor any construction undertaken related to the project on the ROW, unless and until the express written consent of UPRR has been obtained for such undertakings"

I think he's going to have a hard time proving any actual or imminent harm without some sort of existing contract that violates his interpretation of the agreement and/or a physical start of construction along that ROW:

"Plaintiff specifically alleges that defendants are planning to enter into contracts for the construction of the project without obtaining the express consent of UPRR as required under the TRACKAGE AGREEMENT, or in the belief that no such consent is legally required..."

Proving that seems to be the key to the whole case right there (assuming he's found to have standing).

flowmotion said...

@Rafael - Agreed on Gilroy and Los Banos.

I think the big development game-changer in the Bay Area isn't so much HSR itself, but the improved Caltrain service that comes with it. Being able to hop from downtowns San Francisco to San Jose within 30 minutes will greatly change the dynamics of the local economy, far more so than being able to cruise out to Fresno.

Nobody's really talking yet about "What happens when they build down to Gilroy and run out of money?" But I'm sure Diridon and crew have thought about it. ;)

@jim - My impression of Roseville, CA is that its your typical sprawl suburb that's probably been on the books since the 1970s. Pretty predictable.

Fred Martin said...

I think Rod Diridon and his crew know full well that they are going to run out of money. That's why he's doing all he can to make sure "his" super-station is first in line for funding. It's a race to grab what you can until the money and public confidence are gone.

Unknown said...

Being able to hop from downtowns San Francisco to San Jose within 30 minutes will greatly change the dynamics of the local economy

Absolutely, as someone mentioned before, caltrain ridership almost doubled when they added the baby bullet and dropped SJ-SF time down to 55 min from 1:30. I imagine cutting that to 30 min would have a similar effect on ridership.

Does anyone know what portion of the Baby Bullet riders are going from SJ to SF or Redwood City to SF? Obviously reducing the stops makes it less attractive to those not on the trunk, so I'm not sure what the exact increase would be.

Clem said...

I imagine cutting that to 30 min would have a similar effect on ridership.

With the minor caveat that the CHSRA's ridership models assume all the peninsula express traffic will be poached from Caltrain. Sorry, Caltrain! You can keep operating those money-losing locals while we try to make our numbers look good!

BruceMcF said...

andyduncan said...
" "ironically, plug-in hybrids could actually be productive in vehicle-to-grid applications"

I know this is off topic for a HSR blog, but V2G is not going to happen.

It may be a bit off-topic for the TOD post, but since its a policy of the California HSR to power from sustainable renewable power, its certainly not off-topic for the blog.

Note that independent of the V2G concept, electric vehicles charging off a smart grid that are given a lower rate if they submit a charging schedule with more leeway represent dispatchable demand ... which becomes another power generation management tool in the context of a portfolio of diverse volatile renewable power sources.

Rafael said...

@ andyduncan, BruceMcF -

battery life is only severely shortened if cells are discharged to well below 30% capacity, something the on-board electronics could easily prevent. They would also deny a draw-down if the battery pack is outside of the temperature range the manufacturer has specified for nominal life expectancy. It's not as if the utility could do with your car's battery whatever it liked whenever it liked.

The V2G concept is based on leveraging tens of thousands of car battery packs to handle ride-through events lasting up to 30 seconds. That's not nearly long enough to drain any of them and, it would be in the utility's interest to replace the drawn charge as quickly as practicable. It's these brief spike loads that limit the capacity of the distribution grid. They occur whenever a large producer or a large consumer connect or disconnect from the grid.

A potential secondary application is powering your home's A/C with your car battery using V2G management. Right now, utilities have to deal with large numbers of people in e.g. the CV coming home from work and immediately cranking up the A/C, often to maximum cooling power. The aggregate effect is a factor 2 increase in demand for power. The best solution would of course be to insulate the homes or else, to upgrade the grid capacity - whichever is cheaper. However, as long as politicians keep retail electricity artificially cheap, the best solution won't be implemented.

Rafael said...

@ Fred Martin -

actually, the latest phasing study shows LA-Anaheim as the segment on which ground will be broken first. Curt Pringle, mayor of Anaheim, is now CHSRA chairman and he's mustard keen on his ARTIC temple.

However, CHSRA's (reasonable) stance appears to be that cities that want extra fancy stations are going to have to rustle up some extra fancy additional funding for them.

As for the money running out, at this point that's a baseless assumption. If it happens, I expect it will be because some group of NIMBYs finds a sympathetic judge who couldn't care less about the economic cost of construction delay or design changes.

Anonymous said...

Rail Authority Announces Plans to Destroy Menlo Park

Rafael said...

@ andyduncan, Clem -

Even post-electrification, Caltrain's locals won't make the SF-SJ trip in 30 minutes.

However, there is absolutely no reason to assume Caltrain will not end up operating any HiSpeed (regional HSR) trains of its own between SF and Gilroy, perhaps even out to Merced/Fresno if those counties join Caltrain.

Just because Caltrain hasn't yet decided to run HiSpeed trains doesn't mean it won't. If cross-platform transfers at SJ, RWC and Millbrae prove possible, would a combo of local + HiSpeed service be preferable to today's baby bullets? It's way too early to tell, we're only at the very beginning of operations planning for the upgraded Caltrain corridor.

Note that Caltrain could also just lease blocks of seats wholesale on selected HSR trains operated by someone else and retail them to its own customers with a markup. Some airlines might prefer that model as well, albeit for longer distances.

SCRRA (Metrolink) is in essentially the same position as Caltrain between Palmdale and Redondo Junction and also between Fullerton and Anaheim: it owns those portions of the HSR ROW.

CHSRA is a planning agency, not a railroad. They will neither own the tracks nor will they operate any trains. All of that will go out to tender and/or be part of the ROW agreements.

Ergo, the notion that HSR will somehow "steal" customers from existing commuter rail operators is utter hogwash. It's up to them to adapt their business model to take advantage of the HSR network.

looking on said...

Rafael, as you well know, right now construction delay is not increasing the cost of construction. Rather, project construction cost are about 20-30% less now then they were 18 to 24 months ago.

This false argument gets nowhere right now. What the future holds, nobody knows. What should be most important is getting the planning done properly, and that may well take much time. That way, change orders don't come into play, and raise the price.

Right now, CalTrain applying for funds to build 2 track stations, and electrification, when what they want and will certainly need if HSR runs with its corridor is really un-forgivable.

Surely the FEDS will turn this kind of nonsense down.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 3:03pm -

c'mon, the cat's not even on the rail. Didn't they teach you anything in Pagan Sacrifices 101?

looking on said...

Rafael writes:

"Ergo, the notion that HSR will somehow "steal" customers from existing commuter rail operators is utter hogwash. It's up to them to adapt their business model to take advantage of the HSR network."

If there ever was "hogwash" this statement qualifies. You really believe that magically twice as many passengers are suddenly going to appear, so each competitor can have enough to keep going? CalTrain will lose its bullet service, on which right now its economic survival is dependent.

We've Got No Money for Toys said...

At various posts in this blog you've all mentioned various alternatives:
- 101 corridor
- Elevated 4 track Caltrain corridor
- Tunneled 2 or 4 tracks under caltrain corridor
- On the bay water/marshes bridge/corridor

Well my friends, sorry to tell you but the only alternative that will actually see the light of day is:

- The status quo/No HSR corridor.

It's actually much cheaper than all of your pipe dreams, and therefore the only one that is feasible and the only one you'll see happen.

Sorry guys (my offer for a toy choo choo train is still good).

Nicolas said...

Published Tuesday, August 11, 2009, by the Palo Alto Daily Post

Rail foe slams meeting format

If you plan on asking Rep. Anna Eshoo a question at the Aug. 26 town hall
meeting on high-speed rail, you might want to practice your penmanship.

Eshoo's office told the Post yesterday they will only be taking questions that
are written down on comment cards, meaning residents will have no direct verbal
communication with the congresswoman or the panel of experts.

The format has infuriated one rail critic. "There really won't be an opportunity
for Eshoo's constituency to stand up and speak to her [BATN: or make
grandstanding speeches]," said Martin Engel, a Menlo Park resident. "That
doesn't sound like a town hall meeting to me."

Engel said the format allows the panel to spin the answers and removes the
opportunity for a follow-up.

Eshoo spokeswoman Danielle Lee said her office chose the comment card format
because it have been successful in the past. Lee said the question-and-answer
sessions will begin after presentations from the panel, which will include state
High Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain officials.

Engel said: "We would expect our Rep. to listen to us. This isn't China. This is
the United States of American and that is how it is supposed to work."

The meeting will be in the Menlo Park Council chambers from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
on Aug. 28.

Lee said Eshoo's Office plans to hold additional town hall meetings on "other
subjects" but did not say whether they would be on health care, another subject
that has resulted in contentious meetings in other parts of the country.

BruceMcF said...

Clem: "With the minor caveat that the CHSRA's ridership models assume all the peninsula express traffic will be poached from Caltrain. Sorry, Caltrain! You can keep operating those money-losing locals while we try to make our numbers look good!"

Those were speculative questions in the blog you post to, upgraded in your comment to definite conclusions.

But they might not be conclusions that follow. 50% of 2008 Caltrain ridership is, clearly, less than 50% of likely ridership at the higher speeds available all around.

And as locals speed up, so do limited stop services.

While HSR will certainly "poach" patronage between HSR stations, it will also create additional local patronage, and wherever the HSR Peninsula station is located, there will remain a number of strong origin stations to be drawn to limited stop services that offer both quicker trip times than the current Baby Bullets combined with a wider range of destination stations to choose from.

Indeed, if one were looking at this from a strict Caltrain partisan perspective, distinctive platform heights, while introducing operational headaches, does ensure that the HSR rolling stock cannot be used by an HSR provider to poach business created at non-HSR stations by the new Limiteds.

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

just because CHSRA and Caltrain have asked for funds in the context of ARRA doesn't mean they will get them, at least not all of them. FRA isn't completely inept, they're not going to pay to have Caltrain press ahead with electrification only to have them rip out and move the support poles a few years hence. Have some faith.

As for construction cost escalations, they will resume soon enough, from whatever base is reached. The fact that the global recession has actually reversed the increases seen since approx. 2004 is all the more reason to press ahead.

The notion that this has somehow created extra time for mulling it all over once again is false. What counts in the end is actual costs (incl. opportunity costs), not forecasts. I agree that getting the design of the grade separations right up front is important because change orders are expensive.

Clem has written up a persuasive post on how maintaining UPRR's single daily heavy freight train in the SF peninsula will lead to much more intrusive and expensive grade separation structures than would be required for Caltrain and HSR alone. See also my comment regarding the possibility of intermodal freight on the HSR tracks.

Finally, keep in mind that without heavy freight trains and reasonable modifications to both CAHSR's and Caltrain's operating models, it may well be possible to avoid quad tracking the entire corridor. Ergo, if you really care about priorities and total amount spent, please focus your efforts in the near term on lobbying UPRR to abandon its heavy freight operations in the SF peninsula.

Peter said...

California Code of Civil Procedure 526(a) gives a taxpayer standing to prevent "any illegal expenditure of, waste of, or injury to, the estate, funds, or other property of a COUNTY, TOWN, CITY, or CITY AND COUNTY of the state" (Emphasis added)

I'm not a lawyer yet, but I don't see how that gives a taxpayer standing to prevent expenditures of STATE money.

Peter said...

That is, unless it is being argued that the construction of HSR would constitute "waste of" or "injury to" the property of one of those entities.

Bianca said...

Peter, the way I read the lawsuit, the plaintiff is arguing that the damage would be to the Caltrain ROW, which is owned by the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara.

That still doesn't address how the plaintiff has standing to defend the contractual rights of UPRR.

The good news is that 526a actions get precedence on the calendar, so we won't have to wait terribly long to find out what the court thinks of this argument.

Peter said...

Yeah, I just saw the link to the pdf. I'll review it in a bit.

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

it is your logic that is broken. CHSRA is a planning agency, it doesn't operate any trains. All it cares about is that enough people ride HSR trains, not who they pay the fare to.

If Caltrain and Metrolink end up operating some fraction of HSR trains (or retailing seats on them), that just means some of the HSR operating surpluses will accrue to those agencies as opposed to other operators. Nothing wrong with that, they are after all investors in the HSR network by way of the ROW they are ceding. Operating surpluses from HiSpeed service can then cross-subsidize the locals to some extent.

Also bear in mind that Caltrain 2025 was a strategic plan formulated under the assumption that HSR would not happen. You might as well tear that document into itty bitty little pieces now.

And btw: commuters all over the world transfer between trains. Let's see Caltrain prepare updated ridership and financial projections for two scenarios: constrained local service + constrained baby bullet service + HSR vs. unconstrained locals + HiSpeed + single ticket.

I don't know why, but there seem to be a lot of people who cannot wrap their heads around the idea that Caltrain will no longer be limited to offering service at a top speed of 79mph once the HSR tracks go live.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

Caltrain operates on behalf of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (PCJPB). That body is a consortium of SF, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Even so, PCJPB is talking to UPRR and there is no indication at all that UPRR feels any of its rights in the SF peninsula are about to be curtailed. Ergo, while the suit might have standing in the strict legalistic sense of 526(a), I strongly suspect the judge will still throw it out.

In effect, the lawsuit's angle is that as a county agency, PCJPB must not even begin to negotiate with CHSRA until after UPRR has agreed not to invoke the intercity passenger rail and freight rail clauses of the 1991 contract between PCJPB and SP.

That's totally unreasonable because PCJPB has not yet presented UPRR with a concrete proposal for how future passenger and freight rail operations on the peninsula would even work. On what basis is UPRR supposed to make such a decision at this time? Besides, why would a judge intervene - on behalf of Joe Schmoe of Atherton, no less - as long as the parties actually involved are talking to each other in good faith.

Also, afaik UPRR gave up all of its intercity passenger rail rights and obligations when Amtrak was founded in the 1970s. SP did not but it was later merged into UPRR. Ergo, the intercity rail rights clause in the 1991 contract may well be moot: SF-SJ is not considered an intercity distance in the US railway system and UPRR couldn't run them south of there even if it wanted to.

Freight rail is another matter entirely, though Clem has discovered a clause - originally intended for BART - that would permit PCJPB to unilaterally initiate freight abandonment proceedings under certain conditions. UPRR would be contractually bound not to object but would be a party to the abandonment process.

At this point, PCJPB has not indicated it would invoke this "nuclear option", even though supporting even a single freight train per day actually makes upgrading the Caltrain corridor to full grade separation much more expensive.

Perhaps Joe Schmoe of Atherton should be suing PCJPB, but for not throwing UPRR out on its ear. It just might be the difference between two tracks and four through his town.

BruceMcF said...

looking on said...

"If there ever was "hogwash" this statement qualifies. You really believe that magically twice as many passengers are suddenly going to appear, so each competitor can have enough to keep going? CalTrain will lose its bullet service, on which right now its economic survival is dependent."

This is why I always tell my students that rhetorical questions make for a weak argument. If a member of the audience thinks, "why, that's the wrong question", you have surrendered the framing of the question.

Caltrain Locals will be 20% faster, which extends half hour radius of destination stations by around two stations and the hour radius by around four.

Caltrain Limiteds will be able to operate as fast as today's Baby Bullets while serving more stations. Which means higher frequency service as fast as the best on offer today.

Caltrain Specials will be able to operate offer express service faster than today's Baby Bullet at any Express Station, and in particular at Express Stations that are not HSR stations.

And in addition to that, Caltrain services will gain new trips from HSR passengers that begin or complete their HSR trip with a Caltrain trip.

The conclusion that its an obvious net loss for Caltrain is arrived at by including the negatives and ignoring the positives.

The reality is, however, more complex than that.

Peter said...

@ Rafael

After reviewing the complaint, I agree with you completely.

UPRR "is in a position to protect the interests of the residents of the Peninsula on the ROW, and that those public interests and the interests of plaintiff in such things as increased safety and efficiency and prudent use of public resources, will be served by acknowledging the rights of UPRR under the trackage agreement."


In what universe are "the interests of the residents of the Peninsula on the ROW" UPRR's guiding light? They are a for-profit company, not a non-profit charity.

My favorite though: "UPRR is in a position to work with the towns, cities, and communities of the Peninsula to protect the aesthetics of their geographical area and to better protect the environmental concerns of those communities from the deleterious effects of the high speed rail project."

Bam. There's the entire motivation for this suit. It's not about the rights of UPRR. It's about property values and "aesthetics."

Why does UPRR care about the aesthetics of a rail line they no longer own? Why do they care about what the neighbors think?

Hint: They don't.

The whole reasoning of the complaint is wonky. Can't wait to read the Demurrer.

Bianca said...

No wonder Morris Brown was able to post a copy of the lawsuit so quickly. He was there to record the moment for posterity.

The Almanac also has a link to the lawsuit, together with the all-important Exhibit A, The Trackage Rights Agreement that is the basis for the litigation.

NONIMBYS said...

What silly nimbys..UP "cares" about beautiful Menlo/PaloAlto and the nimbys..GEES UP would run 30 trains a day thru these babies backyards if it could make money on it..these people would be screaming at the top of there loud mouths at the "horrible" Union Pacific Railroad

sillynimbys said...

This lawsuit is grandstanding with no standing.

Nicolas said...

Is anyone else amused by how eagerly the Almanac is covering the lawsuit and associated NIMBY antics?

And of course, the lawsuit:

"UPRR is in a position to...protect the aesthetics of their geographical area and to better protect the environmental concerns of those communities..."


Brandon in California said...

Fun stuff here!

As for trains, I would expect that they would be stored over night at a storage and maintenance facility, not at a station as a matter of typical practice.

As for San Diego, I believe a maintenance and storage facility is planned in the Miramar area. I am uncertain about Anahiem or Sacramneto or the Peninsula. However, at least one was cited near, or at, Merced, right? Five to 10 total have previously been cited... however, as planning and thinking evolves, I wouldn't hold those previous understandings against the powers that be.

If HSR operations are similar to regional rail systems, trains would be dispatched from a maintenance and storage facility early in the morning, and they'd 'deadhead' to the station where they'd begin service.

And, they'd 'deadhead' back to a facility after providign service.

BruceMcF said...

A Brandon in SD: the recent powerpoint slideshow cited one major maintenance and overhaul center and two other maintenance centers.

Some HSR systems shut down each night, which provides for ongoing corridor maintenance. If those are not at the extreme ends of the corridor that often means supplemental storage closer to the extreme ends. So 8 trains starting up in SF and 4 starting up in SJ before trains starting up in Merced have arrived to turn around does not imply those trains stabling overnight at platform.

And of course, the numbers are an outer envelope based on that notional timetable ... a simpler 6tph service pattern and a ramp-up in the first hour and number of pre-positioned trains scale down in proportion.

Brandon in California said...

I agree and we're on the same page. I don't believe I implied trains would be stored overnight at a station... if I did, my bad.

I believe, instead, that trains would 'deadhead from a facility to the station where'd tehy begin service.

Of course, if that distance is great, some 'deadhead' trips could be converted to in-service runs... assuming the utility of such could offset some costs of running that trip.

And, do you have a link to that powerpoint? I grabbed one linked to in a previous post, but must have overlooked the slide speaking to maintenance facility locations, or number.

Aaron said...

...Taxpayer standing?

I'm with Peter. This is going to be interesting. Might make a good Civ Pro bar exam question. Although kind of gets into the nitty-gritty of it.

Brandon in California said...

Concerning the lawsuit filed by Russell Peterson of Atherton... what kind of advice is he getting from his pro bono attorney's?

On the face of it, actually, quite obviously, the suit clearly lacks standing.

So, could there be another motive involved? Could Russell Peterson be leveraging some exposure to run for a political office... with the two attorney's being the intial front men with possible proceeds to come later?

Is there another motive?

Fred Martin said...

Rafael, plenty of reason exists for why CHSRA could easily run out of money. It's by far the most likely scenario.

First, CHSRA still needs to produce a real business plan that will be accepted by the State Legislature.

Second, CHSRA only has $10 billion in bond money so far, and that's locked up in the state's fiscal crisis. Just as in the Florida HSR case, another ballot measure could come along and wipe away that funding. Given the herky-jerky nature of the California ballot process, it's quite a realistic threat.

The federal government is considering HSR funding measures, but the quantities are nowhere the near the amount that this project will need. Bruce McF naively believes a 80:20 federal match will be forthcoming, but the political constituency for that level of federal support is just not there for HSR projects that only serve specific areas of the country.

The local governments don't have much money, and CHSRA has made no effort to set up local taxing instruments (such as a TIF) near stations to help fund them.

The private investors are nowhere to be found, yet aren't they supposed to paying for a full third of the total project costs? Just one look at the current business plan would leave any private investor laughing.

K.T. said...


Sorry for the late response, for this slightly off-topic stuff.

you said,
"Any high-rise developer worth his salt would work around such flood risks by using grade, perhaps even first level as a parking lot, with offices or apartments above that."

I think that would not be enough to obtain a permit to develop a area within floodplain. In my knowledge, developers need to justify that their project would not "significantly" impact the existing floodplain (floodplain extent, pattern, depth, etc).

HSR project is no exception. A detailed study (signed by civil engineer) with mitigation measures would be required for all HSR alignments within the floodplain.

If I remember correctly, BART tracks were required to be outside of the 100-year floodplain, and its external facilities is required to be outside of the 500-year floodplain. Although this is BART's standard, and not HSR's standard, I am expecting similar design requirements will be enforced.

Anonymous said...

What in hell is all this nonsense about caltrain losing bulllet service. hello.. duh..... take a look at the caltrain bullet service stops - there isn't going to be the same stops on hsr. Catrain will modify their schedule perhaps. bu tthe fare structure won't even be the same. Amtrak charges 20 buck or so on cap cor from sf to sj caltrain charges 7.75.

amtrak charges 8 bucks to go from sf to berkely - bart charges 3.
amtrak charges 15 bucks from sf to coliseum = bart charges 3.

understand how it works now? Transit agencies have both legal and unwritten service jurisdictions and accompanying fare structures.

caltrain is designed to do a job. it will continue to do that job.
hsr has a different job, and will do its job.
samtrans buses have yet another job and will continue to do that.
they will all at some point make an effort to be loosely coordinated for connex purposes.

i mean some of this is like basic railroad/ transit 101. its called using the right tool for the job.

flowmotion said...

@Rafael, Fred Martin -

If you ignore that it took 10 years to pass HSR in the first place, and if you ignore the state's politics and budget, and if you assume Obama loves trains, and if private investors, and if ... then surely $40Bs is just around the corner.

I hate to be pessimistic about the big picture, but 'high speed mass transit' in the SF/LA regions would satisfy a whole lot of politicians, and it might be a while before we get a state-wide "system".

Its only reasonable for CAHSR to plan around that, and actually get something demonstrably good into the ground with the money they can reasonably expect.

In other words, a lot of talk about Fresno happy TOD downtown time might reasonably be 20-30 years out into the future.

BruceMcF said...

@Brandon in SD: I just used the link in the prior blog post ... I just tried the link and its not working. I didn't download it, so I can't find the slide# - AFAIR, it was just a bullet point item in a works list.

There was some discussion a while back when Merced was raised as a possibility for a maintenance center about the maintenance center being closer to the end of the route ... but of course, the full system is designed to be a Y at the north end and a Y at the south end, and near the fork of the Y is one fairly natural place for the main overhaul center.

Fred Martin said...
"The federal government is considering HSR funding measures, but the quantities are nowhere the near the amount that this project will need. Bruce McF naively believes a 80:20 federal match will be forthcoming, but the political constituency for that level of federal support is just not there for HSR projects that only serve specific areas of the country."

The odd thing is that "HSR projects that only serve specific areas of the country" adds up to over 30 states and metropolitan areas representing over 60% of the national population.

Sadly for Mr. Martin, but happily for California, there are some clever politicians working on this.

Fred Martin said...

Let's see, Bruce McF, the Union has 50 states, and these metropolitan areas are not going to vote as a bloc for HSR, especially not for a 80:20 federal match program! To the extent that the highway program worked as a federal program, it was because it could hand out goodies to a very broad constituency.

You are extremely naive and silly about politics, Bruce.

BruceMcF said...

Fred Martin said...
"Let's see, Bruce McF, the Union has 50 states, ...

... controversial legislation can require 60 of the 100 Senators to quench debate and a minimum of 51 Senators, or 50 with support of the Vice President, for passage. And while Reason, Heritage and Cato may be working to firm up opposition to HSR, it simply does not attract the unanimity of opposition among the Republicans as Health Care and Climate Change seem to do.

And, of course, there are states that are not in the designated corridor list that have reason to support ... just as, for instance, North Dakota is part of the Midwest HSR Association without having a HSR corridor in the Midwest Hub since, with a greater than average reliance on Amtrak, the benefits of more reliable Amtrak service and faster connections is a benefit to them.

"and these metropolitan areas are not going to vote as a bloc for HSR, especially not for a 80:20 federal match program!"

... wonderful habit there of adding rhetorical flourishes that do not change the outcome. The large metropolitan areas served do not have to vote as a bloc, since the benefits are not restricted to the large metropolitan areas. The possibility of having an HSR station is an appealing one in a rural area, for example.

"To the extent that the highway program worked as a federal program, it was because it could hand out goodies to a very broad constituency."

The HSR program that the DoT is developing is certainly capable of handing out goodies to a broad constituency commensurate with the required funding levels.

"You are extremely naive and silly about politics, Bruce."

As of course one would be following thirty years of Republican destruction of our nation's economic independence ... nothing like the experience of hopes dashed and programs clearly in the public interest killed for narrow partisan advantage to fuel a rose-colored-glasses outlook on politics.

However, you are selecting what you wish to accept as the facts of the matter for compatibility with the conclusion you have already arrived at.

Fred Martin said...

However, you are selecting what you wish to accept as the facts of the matter for compatibility with the conclusion you have already arrived at.

What sort of overly verbose gibberish is this? Am I supposed to accept your uninformed rhetorical rubbish? No, I have much better data sources.

Any federal funding is going to be carved up all across the nation, and that won't leave CHSRA with much, certainly not what their crude budget assumes. Even if HSR optimistically secures $50 billion in the next six-year federal transportation bill (now delayed by 18 months), California can expect $10 billion at most. Even with this extremely optimistic state and federal funding scenario, CHSRA still has gaping holes in its financial plan, and this even assumes that the $33 billion first-phase cost estimate is reliable (a highly risky assumption).

The idea of HSR being an almost entirely federal program is insane, so the 80:20 match idea doesn't pass the political smell test. A successful HSR system should primarily be funded within its service area. Federal money is a devil's bargain, because strings are always attached.

Amtrak is a federal program, but it struggles to get additional funds because its economic performance record is so poor. Its economic performance is so poor, because it is so dependent on securing federal money. The systemic structural flaw with Amtrak is that it caters to these money-bleeding long-distance trains that have to go through lots of congressional districts to secure its federal support, when Amtrak should be dedicating funds to corridors that can be successful, such as the NEC. Amtrak is hamstrung by its federal masters, when it would be better served by more localized funding (e.g., a consortium of states or regions). This is why Amtrak California has been moderately successful (at least in comparison). With state support, it's more independent of its federal masters.

lyqwyd said...

California has a lot of representatives, and both senators are in favor of HSR.

Combine that with Northeast corridor and Chicago area politicians and that's already a lot of support.

I'm not worried about money running out.

lyqwyd said...

@fred martin

Amtrak struggles to get funds because george bush and republicans in general have been actively trying to destroy if for quite a while. Fortunately that is over.

I commuted by Amtrak for a while, it was quite pleasant, the only problem that made it unworkable was the fact that the trains would frequently be delayed by an hour or more by freight trains parked on the tracks. The trip itself was very enjoyable and far better than being stuck on the freeway, but the delays caused by freight trains. If these delays were eliminated Amtrak ridership would skyrocket.

Alon Levy said...

Fred, Amtrak California is glorified commuter rail. It runs at commuter rail speeds, stops at commuter rail interstations, charges commuter rail prices, and gets commuter rail subsidies. Just compare the financial performance of the trains in California to the trains between Chicago and St. Louis, a state-supported route which nonetheless operationally breaks even.

Fred Martin said...

Commuters vastly outnumber intercity riders in just about any operating scenario. Commuters are a target market that Amtrak neglects far too often.

Chicago-St. Louis is a good link that Amtrak should be further developing, but Amtrak is a slave to federal politics in running all these long-distance trains.

Anonymous said...


you don't know shit about what really goes on at amtrak.

Fred Martin said...

Amtrak has had many near-death experiences over the years due to their record of incompetence and bloated inefficiencies, so they should be pursuing things that work just for their survival.

The regional commuter-type lines are the best thing Amtrak has going. The NEC has a lot of commuter-type traffic, and the shorter routes between dense urban areas are where profits can be found. NYC-DC is essentially a roundtrip that can be done in a day. In California, the Capitol Corridor and the Surfliners are the best services. Why? Because they serve regional markets and commuter sheds. Even the San Joaquin service does distinctly better than the long-distance trains, and even the San Joaquin service gets most of its ridership from travelers within the Central Valley such as Fresno-Bakersfield and Fresno-Hanford -- look it up!

It's clear that the local, regional trains get the most ridership by far.

I notice that Fresno has less than 1,000 rail passengers a day even with their ridership upswing, yet Fresno has minimal air service as well. Jim, I thought you said you sold lots of tickets for your train? Japan and France would never consider HSR service to such a tiny travel market.

BruceMcF said...

Fred Martin said...
"The idea of HSR being an almost entirely federal program is insane, so the 80:20 match idea doesn't pass the political smell test."

This is what happens when instead of trying to work out what the answer is, you have decided the answer is, and are trying to string together an argument that gets from the starting point to the pre-determined answer ... if you get to a gap in the argument, you have to bluff.

"The idea of HSR being an almost entirely Federal program is insane" is one critical step in the logic of the argument.

Around the world, the dominant transport services provided by rail services that fall in the DoT "HSR" categories are trips in the range of 100 to 500 miles.

Around the United States, the capital spending in support of almost all trips of that length are heavily subsidized by the Federal government.

The second leg of the argument consists of using the inability of conventional rail to offer the longer trips in this range as day trips to argue that a rail service that can offer these longer trips as day trips will therefore fail:

"The regional commuter-type lines are the best thing Amtrak has going. The NEC has a lot of commuter-type traffic, and the shorter routes between dense urban areas are where profits can be found. NYC-DC is essentially a roundtrip that can be done in a day."

Its success therefore supports the view of rail service operators around the world that the key to improving the mode share of longer distance rail is to increase the opportunities to perform day trips between large population centers. That is not the sole transport function served by such routes, of course - indeed, routes that succeed in increasing those opportunities at the same time increase their competitive advantages in a wide range of transport market segments.

"In California, the Capitol Corridor and the Surfliners are the best services. Why?"

Because of the diversity of useful trips of one to three hours that they provide.

"Because they serve regional markets and commuter sheds. Even the San Joaquin service does distinctly better than the long-distance trains, ..."

... because the present average trip speeds of long distance conventional rail remove those destination/origin pairs from the day-trip market entirely - of course, with Express HSR technology, the largest intercity transport markets in the state fall within the one to three hour day trip range ...

"... and even the San Joaquin service gets most of its ridership from travelers within the Central Valley such as Fresno-Bakersfield and Fresno-Hanford -- look it up!"

This style of, "Why? Well I'll give you the answer that fits my conclusion and ignore the answer that has been the basis of successful development of new rail services around the world" argument works well with people who want to reach the same conclusion. So its fine for attracting ego stroking in a group of people who are looking for rationalizations to oppose HSR.

The weakness of using arguments that are simply collecting whatever points that can be framed as if they favor the pre-determined conclusion is that they depend on not being questioned at their weak points.

However, in the context of a policy debate, there will be those that question them on their weak points.

BruceMcF said...

lyqwyd said...
"California has a lot of representatives, and both senators are in favor of HSR.

Combine that with Northeast corridor and Chicago area politicians and that's already a lot of support.

Its not just the Chicago area ... the states signing the MOU from the recent Midwest HSR Summit are all five Great Lakes States ... Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin ... as well as three Midwestern states ... Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri.

And it only takes a bit of money on capital improvements for the Downeaster to make HSR funding filibuster-proof.

K.T. said...


"Japan and France would never consider HSR service to such a tiny travel market."

Unfortunately, for Japan that is yes.

Iwate-Numakunai Station (いわて沼宮内駅) in Tohoku Shinkansen had only 119 passengers/day in 2008.
(sorry, I was not able to find the english version of this in JR-East website)

And there are couple more shinkansen stations with less than 1,000 passengers per day.

Alon Levy said...

NYC-DC is an intercity corridor. True commuter corridors, like Irvine-LA or Poughkeepsie-NYC, only work if ticket prices are very low, say under $15-20 one way, which typically requires large operating subsidies. People are willing to spend $80 one way on an intercity trip, even a day trip, because they don't take it twice a day.

Anonymous said...

narprail is an outside advocacy group with their own agenda and preferences just like you.

Anonymous said...

and amtrak is getting ready revive more long distance service because the people and states are asking for it. customer satidfaction with long distance trains is around 92 percent now. compare that to the airlines.

Fred Martin said...

Bruce McF, we'll see how HSR fares in the next federal transportation bill. It's going to be bloody, and California just isn't going to get the lion's share of the federal funding due to its limited proportional representation. The history of all federal transportation programs should be your guide. Use data and scientific reason, rather than postmodern semantics. Regarding ridership data, people are either on a train or not, not in some sort of quantum state of rhetorical being.

As I said earlier, Bruce McF is extremely naive about the legacy of US federalism. Indeed, why should the feds be funding a project that is entirely within California? That goes against the meaning of the US Constitution's interstate commerce cause justification for federal involvement in transportation. For every federal dollar California gets, other states will demand similar levels of funding. In order for California to achieve $20 billion in federal funding for HSR, the total federal bill will need to be $160 billion due to proportional political representation. That's a very tall political order, since that will constitute a very large proportion of total federal transportation funding (the federal pie is ultimately constrained). Back to my original point: if CHSRA is expecting the feds to fund most of this project, the federal politics are "insanely" difficult. CHSRA is highly likely to run out of money in such a fed-dependent scenario.

Alon Levy said...

...and because Congress is willing to pay for it. In good years, Amtrak minus the long-distance trains makes an operating profit, which boils down to saying the NEC's profits are higher than the other short-distance trains' losses. NARP and other organizations motivated by nostalgia like long-distance trains because they remind them of the good ole days; those organizations typically also snub their noses at any attempt for Amtrak to move on and concentrate on HSR or other postwar inventions.

Fred Martin said...

Alon, longer trips are rarer trips, stemming from the basic function of cities as transportation-cost-reducing agglomerations of people, so markets that regularly attract the same rider en masse tend to be shorter trips. It doesn't matter if the nominal fare is lower if the distance is lower (and cheaper to provide) and the ridership is significantly greater. Just compare the 30 BILLION annual transit riders in Tokyo to the 150 MILLION annual HSR riders. The longer the rail trip, the more serious competition from air travel becomes. Rail routes through urbanized conglomerations have the advantage of bypassing road congestion, but road congestion is often non-existent for intercity trips, especially if you are going through rural areas. Just compare I-5 in the CV to the I-5 in LA.

NYC-DC is a great rail corridor, not just because of the two major activity hubs at each end over roughly 200 miles or so, but the major urban centers such as Philadelphia and Baltimore along the route (not to be compared with Fresno and Palmdale).

Going out of the way with very expensive HSR infrastructure to get to a small market like Fresno is the problem. The I-5 is a much better alignment for 220mph HSR (no stops, hardly any grade seps=cheap, no NIMBYs, full speed between the two main cores), while the SR99 corridor should get fast regional trains to better serve the local rail markets that make up most of the existing ridership in that area. Needless to say, 220mph HSR doesn't work well if it is stopping all the time.

Jim, are you seriously questioning the NARP data??? Has Bruce McF's fear of contrary arguments got you spooked? NARP is an advocate for Amtrak, and I am quite sure they are just using the ridership data that Amtrak is required to collect. NARP is not collecting its own ridership data when Amtrak already collects it. If the data is flawed, that's Amtrak's fault.

Alon Levy said...

The SR-99 corridor can run nonstop trains, too. Not all trains will stop at Fresno and Bakersfield - in fact, I believe that most trains will skip all stations between the LA Basin and the Bay Area.

While short-distance trains have a higher ridership than long-distance ones, they generate fewer profits. JR-East generates 27% of its revenue and 15% of passenger-km from the 2% of passengers who ride its Shinkansen lines. For JR-West, the comparative figures are 40%, 29%, and 3.5%.

Alon Levy said...

I should mention that in my last post, I used short-distance and long-distance to mean "commuter" and "intercity" respectively, which is different from how I used them further upthread.

Anonymous said...

just fyi-- amtrak california got full funding in the budget. so no service cuts for our california riders.

Amtrak is also going to increase long distance service offerings, in some cases, by increasing state partnerships ( including reviving the pioneer route).

Amtrak long distance trains are very popular, more than ever. OTP is higher than its ever been, customer satisfaction is higher than its ever been and ridership is higher than its ever been which is pretty amazing because we have less and older equipment than we've ever had and fewer employees than we've ever had and all in the face of huge congressional funding struggles in the last admin. which means that we not only doing more with less, but excelling at doing more with less. My happy customers outnumber my disgruntled ones 100 to 1 and there's no business out there that is doing any better than that satisfying their customers. People right now are pissed at everyone from the airlines to the cable companies and everyone in between. There will always be a place for our long distance trains. Amtrak fully expects to be the leader in american high speed rail operation and is gearing up for that now. In addition to that, there has been a profound and fundamental change at amtrak just in the 9 years I've been here. and I'm a +skeptical+ rank and file front line employee, but I must concur, that indeed this company is stepping up, more so now that we are finally getting some respect from washington dc and the public instead of being look upon as some red headed stepchild. You try keeping moral up when the public is spitting on you, and you're threatened every budget with job loss year after year. amtrak employees have done a god damn amazing job with the shit they've been given to work with and the job they've been given to do. and the job gets done. everyday across this county. So get off my skirt Mary Martin you don't know shit about the railroad. Everyone on this blog including me are nothing but a bunch of hsr foamers. No one here is making hsr decisions. No one here has any power. No one here is doing anything except posting information and then arguing about said information. All I try to do is temper the woulda coulda should mights, with some actual reality about how things get done from a working on the railroad perspective. appreciate it or not. those who live in a dreamland of hsr perfection and utopia are going to be disappointed. with your all express / 1-5 /grapevine / altamont/ wishes. just as disappointed as the nimbys are gonna be. I'm going to go right on a limb and tell ou wahts gonna happen. Californian is going to get a basic, solid, utilitarian, functional, versatile new transportation system to compliment the ones we already have which will give more californians more choices. period. thats all its gonna be. thats all it needs to be. Id love to see this blog focus more on the details of the benefits and in support of that reality rather than go off on these - route via the moon and mars and power it with stardust- ideas. The chosen routes and existing plan are the right ones. from a railroad operations and passenger service stand point and exactly what california needs for the coming decades. ths system as designed is the right tool for job at hand. like it or not. and Im cranky cuz i was busier than shit today with no help and my back is in a knot so parden the rant. for my 20 bucks an hour i pull in about 100k a month for amtrak in ticket sales) did I already say get off my skirt Mary Martin? what do you do?

Anonymous said...

"Going out of the way with very expensive HSR infrastructure to get to a small market like Fresno is the problem. The I-5 is a much better alignment for 220mph HSR (no stops, hardly any grade seps=cheap, no NIMBYs, full speed between the two main cores), while the SR99 corridor should get fast regional trains to better serve the local rail markets that make up most of the existing ridership in that area. Needless to say, 220mph HSR doesn't work well if it is stopping all the time"


Anonymous said...

stop pretending like you give a damn about it and admit you just want it out of your back yard and will use any argument to make that happen.

Alon Levy said...

Jim, Amtrak's long-distance trains are doing well because the recession has reduced freight train volumes. This means Amtrak no longer needs to sit on a siding while a mile-long container train heads down in the other direction.

However, those trains are still bleeding money. The profitable part of Amtrak, the NEC, is hurting in the recession rather than enjoying it, so Amtrak's losing even more money than it did in 2008, which was a very good year for it.

Anonymous said...

They will always lose money as does all other transit, but it provides a service that americans want. We'll be investing new rolling stock starting this year with new baggage cars and either slepong cars or diners... I forget which... I think it dining cars and baggage cars as they are most in need of being replaced. The pioneer and other routes are looking at revival. the pioneer is very close to happening.

Anonymous said...

Fred Martin is correct about the superiority of the I-5 route.

Maybe California will get lucky and some unforeseen problems with the Tehachapis detour will emerge that will wake up Kopp & co.

Anonymous said...

the 1-5 route is not superior as you'd leave out a third of the state... the part that is going to see the most future growth.

Anonymous said...

as for the "small market" in frenso. Fresno has higher passenger counts than san francisco.

Anonymous said...


Jim commented 17 times in this thread

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

and I ate four slices of pizza for dinner since you're keeping track