Friday, August 14, 2009

Quentin Kopp Defends Pacheco Choice

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

Responding to a column in the San Mateo County Times by John Horgan, Quentin Kopp, member of the CHSRA Board and its president until last month, defends the choice of the Pacheco Pass alignment. Interesting reading, to be sure. After criticizing Horgan and the Times for publishing a "misleading" column and briefly describing the 10 years of studies that went into the alignment choice, Kopp offers this explanation for the choice:

The California High Speed Rail Authority has spent more than a decade studying the Peninsula Corridor and Altamont Pass or Pacheco Pass, and concluded twice that the Caltrain corridor is the premier solution for high-speed rail in California. The alternative route, over Altamont Pass, would bypass San Jose and San Francisco entirely.

That last sentence has been getting some attention in the comments to yesterday's post, with Morris Brown implying that Kopp is himself being misleading here, and potentially even violating CHSRA board policy in the process. Rafael agreed that the notion an Altamont alignment would cut off San Francisco and San Jose was "patent nonsense" but suggested that Kopp may have been thinking of one possible Altamont routing that would have sent trains to Oakland.

And yet Kopp is not wrong in the overall point, which is that Altamont had serious problems that could have produced significantly degraded service to SF and SJ. The concept being floated by some latter-day Altamont advocates is that San Jose would essentially be a stub track off the Dumbarton/Altamont mainline. San Jose wouldn't be cut off in this case, but it would get many fewer trains, as express SF-LA trains would not pass through Diridon Station at all. Rafael also pointed out in the comments that the Dumbarton corridor was far from an easy slam-dunk, presenting significant land use and engineering challenges. It is possible that those challenges may have ultimately forced an Oakland terminus.

AB 3034, which was approved by voters as Proposition 1A, mandated a 2 hour 40 minute runtime between SF and LA. As Pacheco is more direct and several miles shorter than the Altamont route, Pacheco met the standard. The same is true of the statutory requirement that SF Transbay Terminal be the route's northern terminus. AB 3034 wasn't yet law when the choice was made in July 2008, owing largely to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's delaying tactics on the state budget, but the key points of AB 3034 were already clear, and the existing Prop 1 already had much of that in place. So the CHSRA was constrained in its choices, and given those constraints, Pacheco is a legitimate solution.

Kopp offered further justification for the Pacheco choice:

A watchful public should be informed that this corridor has received more study than any other routes in California. If detractors want to cloud public memory, let me try to refresh it. Consider just a few of the reasons for choosing Pacheco Pass. An Altamont Pass alignment would require:

• Construction of a new transbay tube or bridge, an insanely costly endeavor, a threat to the Bay and certain to encounter opposition from environmentalists. Transformation of an antiquated 19th century railroad trestle bridge through a national wildlife refuge is a fantasy.

• As many as six tracks through developed East Bay communities, forcing expensive, controversial eminent domain proceedings and construction of elevated tracks, both bitterly opposed by residents and civic leaders.

• The splitting of trains, some going to San Jose and others northeast to San Francisco, eventually limiting the system's capacity and defeating the purpose of building high-speed rail service for Californians.

I discussed the first and third points above, but the second one is really worth noting. The Peninsula supporters of Altamont are being stunningly hypocritical in their demands - what they want to do is dump tracks they don't want onto neighborhoods across the bay. They are perfectly happy to force Pleasanton and Fremont to accept something they claim will kill communities.

Kopp also did a good job undermining the arguments made by the environmental groups that are party to the Altamont lawsuit:

You don't even need to accept my word. Consider that on April 30, 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified the Federal Railroad Administration and all interested persons that the corridor most likely to contain the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative for the Bay Area to Central Valley section is Pacheco Pass.

On May 8, 2008, the Army Corps of Engineers concurred, concluding the Pacheco Pass will cause less adverse effect to the aquatic ecosystem or other significant adverse environmental consequences, and "there are no other practical alternatives to the Pacheco Pass."

Some may argue that Pacheco has some environmental impacts, which it may. But the arguments being made here by federal regulators is that Pacheco's impacts are less than those of Altamont, particularly the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge.

Kopp closes his op-ed by calling for a "more reasoned discussion" of the matter. This reminds me of some of the health care town halls, where opponents of reform who know they have absolutely no chance to stop this through the usual political process (because the majority of Americans want reform to happen) have taken to trying to shout down their opponents. Although we haven't seen some of the more violent expressions of disagreement over HSR, I think there is a fundamental similarity between the health care disruptors and the folks behind this lawsuit. They didn't get their way in the normal process, and now they are trying to disrupt the HSR project rather than let it proceed, even though voters approved the project and the route.

There are productive ways Peninsula residents can help ensure HSR is built in a way that meets their needs. But this Altamont obsession is distracting them from that more necessary work. The sooner the Peninsula accepts the reality and permanence of the Pacheco alignment, the better they will be.


Anonymous said...

"There are productive ways Peninsula residents can help ensure HSR is built in a way that meets their needs. But this Altamont obsession is distracting them from that more necessary work. The sooner the Peninsula accepts the reality and permanence of the Pacheco alignment, the better they will be."

and that is the point. its time for peninsula residents to start focusing on real solutions and its time for engineers to start offering solutions to any noise, visual effect, and traffic mitigation for those communities. There are hundreds of ways to lemonade out lemons if you take a proactive approach.

Devil's Advocate said...

Some of the NIMBYs' concerns are unjustifiable. There are ways to mitigate the impact of an elevated structure so that it doesn't look like the Berlin Wall or splits the community like the Berlin Wall. It might cost some extra money but nothing like bridging the bay or buying a bunch of developed land in the east bay through eminent domain.
Said this I still think that the major hurdle is not going to be the NIMBYs or the enviromentalists, but rather the poor financial situation of our State. Add the total intolerance that Americans have for any kind of taxation (even for worthy infrastructures) and you'll see the problem. Expect a lot of nutroots Tea Parties organized by conservatives when this project starts rolling.

Bianca said...

The Peninsula supporters of Altamont are being stunningly hypocritical in their demands - what they want to do is dump tracks they don't want onto neighborhoods across the bay. They are perfectly happy to force Pleasanton and Fremont to accept something they claim will kill communities.

The hypocrisy isn't just about Pleasanton or Fremont; both the Altamont and Pacheco Alignments would run through Menlo Park, but for some reason only Pacheco would "destroy" the town.

Alon Levy said...

Bianca: Altamont would run through poorer parts of Menlo Park.

AndyDuncan said...

"...for some reason only Pacheco would "destroy" the town."

It's because the trains will smell like garlic after coming through Gilroy.

Bianca said...

@Alon Levy, I'm fully aware of that. I live in Menlo Park myself. (Yes, Virginia, there are pro-HSR people living in Menlo Park.)

Would the people who are insisting on a tunnel down the Caltrain ROW ask for one on the Altamont alignment as well? I wouldn't hold my breath.

The self-absorbed sense of entitlement around here about HSR is pretty breathtaking.

mike said...

Self-admitted NIMBYs are anything but hypocritical.

Agreed. Though only some of the NIMBYs admit their true motivations.

FWIW, the 2'42" mandate does not preclude Altamont. CHSRA's own run simulations demonstrate that Altamont can be just as fast from Fresno to SF (and by extension LA to SF) as Pacheco is.

The two Prop 1A clauses that eliminate Altamont from having any hope are that LA-SJ must be 2'14" or less (this is only achievable with Pacheco) and that SJ-SF must be 0'31" or less (obviously this is only achievable with Pacheco!).

Interestingly, it's not clear that the 1'12" Sacto-SJ mandate can necessarily be met via Pacheco (i.e., an Altamont commuter overlay might be necessary to achieve that), although at this point that's kind of irrelevant since there are no plans to serve Sacto in the first phase anyway.

NIMBY said...

Hows this for hypocritical. Unless CHSRA and their supporters voluntarily find a way to route this elsewhere, they'll be tied up in courts, in ballot measures, in grass roots political drama, in cost escalation, and red tape, for more years than they can even begin to imagine. (Loma Prieta/Bay Bridge - that will look like lighting speed once we get through with this project.)

HSR'ers grandchildren's grandkids will be lucky to get the first ride on high speed rail through california. Or. Find another route.

Selfish? You bet. I hope you don't like it. But then again, selfish is the name of the game for the HSR fanatics who are pushing this half baked scheme, by hook and by CROOK down californian's throats, so their indignant cries of 'foul' are really nothing but blatant HYPOCRITICAL theatrics.

Bianca said...

@NIMBY: Good luck with that. Litigation requires plaintiffs with both standing and legitimate causes of action. So far, they haven't come up with much.

Ballot measures take time and money, and you might discover that High Speed Rail has more support in the state than you think. Do you think that the voters in San Francisco, or Fresno, or Bakersfield, are going to have any sympathy for a handful of people who took a gamble buying property near an active railroad and lost that gamble? Good luck with that.

I support HSR for a couple of reasons. First, oil isn't going to get any cheaper. We aren't making more of it, and when oil is back up at $150/barrel (when, not if) we will need other options. Second, the population of California is growing and we are projected to add another 15 million people to the state in next 20 years. The current state of our freeways and airports can't handle that increase. Building new freeways and new airports is even more expensive than HSR, and that's setting aside the question of where, exactly, would you put them? The footprint for HSR is actually rather small when compared to the footprint for a new freeway or a new airport.

I don't have any financial stake in HSR being built. I just think that California needs it, in order to remain a nice place to live. If that is "selfish", so be it.

Alon Levy said...

that's setting aside the question of where, exactly, would you put them?

Why, in East Palo Alto, of course.

mike said...

Hows this for hypocritical.

I don't know about hypocritical...more like nonsensical. All of your "threats" (frivolous lawsuits, political drama, etc) will occur regardless on any route.

Your statement doesn't even make any sense unless you are saying that residents near the Caltrain ROW are willing to take on all liability for all lawsuits, delays, etc. that might occur with whatever new route would be chosen. Now that is quite an offer!

BruceMcF said...

jd said...
"NIMBY @ 134pm = "I've got mine and you and your kids and your grandkids can go suck an egg. I'm taking my toys and going home!""

The absurd thing is that "I got mine" depends on cheap gasoline. Let gas hit $6/gallon and the same people will be complaining about why electrification to speed up Caltrain and their electric train to LA is not done yesterday, and wailing about the threat to their property values if something isn't done! !!! ... didn't anybody see this coming? ??? ... whaaaaaaaaaaa

lyqwyd said...

NIMBY @134

good luck with that, all of us HSR supporters are trembling in our boots.

yes, the 53% of Californians that voted in support of HSR are pushing it down the throats of those who didn't. That's a little thing called democracy.

Tony D. said...

Outstanding post Robert! And kudos to Kopp for finally putting a nail in the coffin of the Altamont-only fantasy.

And as has been stated before by others, Pacheco Pass WITH a Altamont HSR overlay will present a win, win for the entire Bay Area and Northern California.

Bianca, you deserve some sort of medal! Good to see that there are peninsula residents with smarts and sense.

NIMBY 1:34 = an Imperial Japanese soldier fighting WWII on a Western Pacific island...IN THE 1960'S! Dude, the war is over; the sooner you come to the reality that HSR will one day BE a reality on the peninsula, the better for yah!

Bay Area Resident said...

This blog cracks me up. You are all delightfully unaware of your own cluelessness.

Would the people who are insisting on a tunnel down the Caltrain ROW ask for one on the Altamont alignment as well? I wouldn't hold my breath.

No Bianca, they wouldn't, because the east bay transportation corridors are utilized primarily for TRANSPORTATION, unlike the Caltrain ROW that has pristine real estate literally WITHIN the ROW in many cases. In fact there is a portion (in Sunnyvale somewhere I believe) where a CHURCH is located 5 FEET from the Caltrain tracks. This is not the case in the east bay, of course I know that, you know that, but continue to dwell on your illusions for all of our amusement.

Anonymous said...

Aandyduncan It's because the trains will smell like garlic after coming through Gilroy


@nimby Ah yes, "the down our throats", cry. This is soemthing that is particularly common in the rightists circles, weather is hsr, the gay agenda, healthcare reform, or anything other issue they don't like, they all turn into little victims who are having everything "crammed down our throats" here's a reality check. Thats the way it works my dear. You win some you lose some. I mean I had the Iraq war crammed down my throat. but I never once said it was crammed down my throat. I said damn them they got away with it. When prop 8 passed , I didn't think it was crammed down my throat, but it was a loss. this time. and with health care reform, while people are trying to work out details and create policy, the same god damn crybabies are shouting "crammed down my throat"

such hysterics. When you lose, the winner get to do the thing they won, and you don't. That's not having something crammed down your throat. Thats called "dude, you totally lost that one."

Sam said...

BAR - you're seriously asserting that the Caltrain ROW is not used primarily for transportation?

What are you drinking, because I want some!?!?

And we've discussed this before, but just because the per-unit value of the real estate is high doesn't make the real estate land value high. If peninsula cities had high-density uses next to the line, it might be some really expensive real estate, as it is, the land is relatively cheap (because the land is zoned for such low-density and thus low value use).

Bianca said...

east bay transportation corridors are utilized primarily for TRANSPORTATION, unlike the Caltrain ROW that has pristine real estate literally WITHIN the ROW in many cases.

Are you saying that the Caltrain ROW is not utilized primarily for transportation?

Are you saying that the east bay has no pristine real estate?

Can you define "pristine real estate" for us?

I'd like to know how anything that is 5 feet from a railroad that has been in continuous use for 140+ years can be described as "pristine."

Spokker said...

I heard that the High Speed Rail Authority's death panels are going to decide who lives and dies on the peninsula. Pass it on.

Anonymous said...

Bay area resident.

choke. pristine real estate in the caltrain row?

what the freakin hell are you taking about? for real. Pristine real estate? pristine? really? in the caltrain row? hmmmm. interesting. When did that happen? Cuz I was on caltrain, oh, bout a month ago... and I have to say I don't recall seeing anything, uh, pristine-ish about it. Wait, is that railroad using italian marble ballast again? Or is this about some rare make of chain link fence? hmmm pristine, you say hmmm. now let me think... give me a hint.

Anonymous said...

I heard that the High Speed Rail Authority's death panels are going to decide who lives and dies on the peninsula. Pass it on.

that's not the half of it. the death panel employees, are going to be union and if they strike, they will hold up the whole process of euthanasia of peninsula residents causing them to spend their last days living with the horrors of hsr in their towns.

Rail>Auto said...

I'm not from CA so forgive me if my ?s are dumb but...

1. Is it Pacheco vs Altamont or will both be built?

2. Was Altamont going straight thru San Jose instead of a Spur studied? ( I would still want Pacheco bc it covers more cities)

3. Is Altamont the proposed route for San Fran to Sacramento?

4. What trees are going to be cut down if the Pacheco route goes inside of mountains and elevated over everything else?

AndyDuncan said...


It's not that more people would be displaced, or more houses would have to be taken, or more money would have to be spent, or other quantitative reasons. It's that "My house is nicer than theirs, so put the line over there."

AndyDuncan said...

1. Is it Pacheco vs Altamont or will both be built?

It was a: Pacheco, b: Altamont, c: Pacheco + Altamont Commuter leg, the authority chose "c", Peninsula NIMBYs are still pushing for 'b' even though the route has been studied for over a decade and the authority already revisited their conclusion once, only to re-decide on Pacheco as the main route.

2. Was Altamont going straight thru San Jose instead of a Spur studied? ( I would still want Pacheco bc it covers more cities)

I don't think there's a difference in "city count" but the level of service to both SF and SJ would be less due to the need to run separate trains (or join them up), a line "straight through" SJ is sort of nonsensical geographically (and geologically, since there's mountains in between the two)

3. Is Altamont the proposed route for San Fran to Sacramento?

Yes, sort of. There's already a "Capital Corridor" amtrak line from Oakland to Sac (actually SJ to Sac), but the Altamont commuter spur would make the trip faster and arrive at SF instead of Oakland.

4. What trees are going to be cut down if the Pacheco route goes inside of mountains and elevated over everything else?

It's not tunnels and elevated the whole way, but the line would be mostly along existing ROW in the places it's not in a tunnel, there will inevitably be some trees cut down..

looking on said...

@Tony D. and others:

Kopp likes to spin tales, untruths etc. Here he goes again. In point of fact, he signed the article as being a member of the board, thus supposedly expressing the actions of the board.

In point of fact, the Authority has laid done a set of rules governing the conduct of board members, one of which is:

"Each board member is to make sure that any statement of fact or policy made on behalf of
The Authority is consistent with published facts and adopted policies."

Now the statement in his article, which is an outright falsehood is:

The alternative route, over Altamont Pass, would bypass San Jose and San Francisco entirely.

So to you and others who proclaim his virtues -- I say he shouldn't be allowed to stay on the board while writing such falsehoods.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter anyway cuz the decision's already been studied and made. Can we get to the discussion of how best to mitigate the caltrain row?

AndyDuncan said...

Hey Jim, what are the plans for the Capitol Corridor? Is Amtrak going to electrify that or try to convert it to emerging hsr/hsr?

The altamont route should make the trip do-able, but it's still almost twice as long as going along the existing rail line.

Tony D. said...

Looking On,

It's really quite simple: Mr. Kopp stated why Pacheco was chosen over Altamont as the primary HSR route into the Bay Area. A decision that was made based on 10 years of study/data. A decision based on facts, not "spin tales" or "untruths." GET OVER IT!

Jim's right: time to focus on mitigation/design for the Caltrain ROW/peninsula.

Anonymous said...

andyduncanAndyDuncan said...
Hey Jim, what are the plans for the Capitol Corridor? Is Amtrak going to electrify that or try to convert it to emerging hsr/hsr?
Capitol Corridor's existence and mission are based on serving the sac-bay corridor. As of this year funding did not get cut in the state budget. Any future expansion will likely hold until the economy turns around and demand goes up. investments are being made as we speak with ARRA funds, mainly upgrades to station facilities ADA compliance and so forth. sort of a lot of small houeskeeping type projects that put people to work while wrapping all the little loose ends that need to be done. There is a goal of increasing speed or reducing trip time, and Im not sure exaclty how they will do it since there are also plans to add intermediate stations. things will go in stages most likely, complete double tracking, oh yeah , i think they are currently adding more crossovers too with ARRA money - if Im not mistaken, The logical step would be 110 with current equip but you're talking about a huge undertaking. Then some day, electrification after that. Just depends on demand. Keep in mind that few travel the entire length. you have the arn sacs, and sac-east bay sf's and eastbay-southbay, and a lot of suisun sfc etc. and its also a big part of the feeder bus service that gets people all over norcal. There isn't a real need for 220 sac to sfc. the current service is very popular, very successful and the only thing the market is asking for is OTP and not to run out of products in the lounge car. Oh, and once more equip is purchased, you can finally expect to see business class on CC as well as seat side beverage and snack serivce. The state has funded a job (new poistion) for this. CC is very responsive to its ridership.
Teh other valley market is tracy to san jose and that's ace's deal. and they will do the same thing. incrementally.

Everything is spelled out in detail here here

Anonymous said...

I mean here

Unknown said...

Six tracks through Fremont? For what? Where? Why not 8? or 10?

And people wonder why CAHSRA has zero credibility with the public.

Unknown said...

So which is it - the Altamont alignment bypasses San Francisco, or it would require an "insanely expensive" Bay crossing? Aren't those mutually exclusive?

Kopp used to be a top-notch BS artist, but now it's like he's not even trying.

Anonymous said...

@andyduncan some things to look forward too including express service on surfliner between LA and SD 9 ia hdan't heard that one before.

and The Department proposes three routes for service in this ten-year plan.
• San Francisco to San Luis Obispo (and Los Angeles) via Coast Route -

One round-trip train between San Francisco and San Luis Obispo, starting in
2010-11, with a second train in 2013-14.
• Sacramento to Reno - One Capitol Corridor round-trip from Sacramento to
Reno/Sparks in 2014-15, and a second round-trip in 2016-17.
• Sacramento to Redding - One round-trip between Sacramento and
Redding in 2015-16.

oh found it... CC goals are "reduce travel times by up to 12 percent over ten years.

also statewide adding wireless,

but read through the report. it covers everything. even desert express.

Bay Area Resident said...

I heard Sarah Palin is behind the Pacheco choice. Pass it on.

That ought to kill Pacheco, and fast.

looking on said...

I guess Tony D. can't read.

Anonymous said...

The splitting of trains, some going to San Jose and others northeast to San Francisco,

Might want to straighten up that map, or would that be "Passed out, head resting on his desk" Northeast?

This is a great blog and I applaud the extensive and time consuming efforts to inform and advocate for HSR. This is a great resource for both the CA efforts and others across the country. However, too often the author undermines its effectiveness when he resorts to the same type of gross exaggeration, hyperbole, hypocrisy, and ridiculous spin that the NIMBY's and Kopp employ. Yeah, we get that you are a liberal progressive, but the straw man oversimplification of health care opponents' views (just the latest example in this blog of this technique) is no different that what those silly NIMBY letters to the editor do, or what Kopp just did.

(And yeah, I'm posting anon, attacking that in order to ignore the above substance is a copout.)

Anonymous said...

the bottom line is that using altamont, with its environmental concerns, equal or greater nimby resistance, and service split, not too mention the cost of building not one line but two - one to sf and one to sj, and either a bay crossing or a terminal at oakland instead ( cutting out sf) is wildly more troublesome and less effective than using the established plan which will use existing passenger row, bring all service to all stops, and where there isn't any problem other than a handful of nimbys. Most communities are going to be content with some agreed upon mitigation. The cost of using existing row from pacheco to san francisco meets all the system requirments for far less than construction through altamont, the eastbay and a bay crossing.

there will never be another bridge of any kind built over san francisco bay. not now, not ever as long as any of us are alive. it will not happen. not a rail bridge, not a car bridge. And a second tube won't be built until 2050 a later assuming one goes into planning by 2020.

Tony D. said...

You know you've won the argument when the opposition can only resort to personal insults (see Looking On's gibberish @ 8:26).

Eric, it's obvious you were hurt by the choice of Pacheco Pass over Altamont. All will be OK bro!

Rafael or Clem might have a better answer, but I believe the hypothetical 6-tracks through Fremont would have to do with splitting trains between SF, SJ and Oak; also taking into consideration express tracks and locals.

Who knows, maybe an Altamont-only alignment would have meant 8 or 10 tracks through Fremont as Eric suggests.

Oh well.

r. motorist said...

Another important advantage of the Pacheco route is that it serves the city of Stockton better than Altamont.

According to the Authority, Stockton's annual boardings for the differing routes looks like this...

Pacheco: 1,711,000
Altamont: 1,251,800


r. motorist said...

For all of you Pacheco/Authority boosters out there, can someone give me a rational explanation for the stat above?

While your at it, can you tell me why, according to the authority website, Gilroy (pop 51,000) has station boardings similar to San Jose or San Diego?

Also, for all this talk of the environment, tell me why the Sierra Club was a supporter of the Altamont alignment, and not Pacheco?

If someone can solve those three riddles for me, then I will shut up about Pacheco being a sub-optimal choice

Anonymous said...

Fist I have to say that the sierra club are not real envrionmentalists. There isn't a scientist among them they are lawyers who make a living extorting huge sums of cash by suing using the guise of environmentalism but they did support the hsr decision - "......, the cities of Menlo Park and Atherton filed suit in August 2008 against the HSRA over the Authority's acceptance of the Program EIR and the choice of route up the Peninsula. Sierra Club would also have preferred a different route.--- However, after considerable deliberation, Sierra Club California chose in January 2008 to focus on influencing AB 3034, which became the basis for Proposition 1A, and, ultimately, to support the measure on the November ballot.

Alon Levy said...

R. Motorist:

1. I have no idea. If I had to guess, it'd be that Pacheco involves less splitting of trains, which means a higher frequency of trains to each destination. That means more convenient Stockton-LA traffic, which is going to be far larger than Stockton-SF traffic in any case.

2. Maybe because the Gilroy station would also serve Monterey Bay? I'm not sure.

3. The Sierra Club was afraid that a station in Los Banos would allow development in an environmentally sensitive area. It agreed to support Pacheco in exchange for a guarantee that there would be no station in Los Banos. It doesn't care so much about tracks, which have very little footprint when there's no station.

Alon Levy said...

Sorry, strike my answer to question 2. Another reason Gilroy could get high ridership is that it'd be used by commuters going to SJ and SF. In SJ the train would have a smaller advantage over Caltrain or driving.

It's similar to traffic patterns in New York State, where, after New York and Albany, the busiest Amtrak stops are Rhinecliff and Hudson, where people can commute to New York and Albany but have no local commuter rail option.

looking on said...

Very interest article on UPRR freight carrying on the SJ to SF corridor

Anonymous said...

So when the CEQA lawsuit wins with a ruling that SJ to Gilroy, if used must be re-certified and a whole new EIR for that segment must be done, taking at least 1 year, and ROW for the segment must be acquired, probably can't use Pacheco until 2020 at the earliest.

dave said...

@ Alon Levy

Your first guess was most likely correct as seen on slide 29 on the link below. Kopp was right about possibly 6 tracks using Altamont as shown in slide's 12 & 13.

CHSRA Preferred Alternative pdf

This seems to be before the prefered alignment was officially chosen.

Anonymous said...

They should name the Great Wall of Palo Alto after Quentin Kopp. The Koppian Way?

Rafael said...

@ Eric, Tony D -

the "6 tracks in Fremont" snippet refers to a short section south of Niles. In an Altamont scenario, there would have been 2 UPRR tracks (FRA compliant) + 2 HSR tracks down to hwy 262 + 2 BART tracks (broad gauge).

UPRR isn't about to sell any part of its marshaling yard in Fremont Warm Springs nor the northern access to it. The medians in hwy 262 (a city street) and I-880 that were pencilled in for HSR early on have since disappeared, mostly thanks to the delays in getting HSR onto the ballot.

Ergo, there is no longer any place to construct an HSR spur down to San Jose via the East Bay. That means HSR-via-Altamont would de facto mean either no HSR service to the Bay Area's largest single city (fuggedaboudit) or else, splitting the line at the existing Redwood City wye.

Atherton and Menlo Park joined the TRANSDEF lawsuit challenging CHSRA's decision in favor of Pacheco precisely to deflect HSR away from the Caltrain ROW through their downtown areas. Johnny-come-lately Palo Alto filed an amicus brief for the same reason.

Once they figure out that Altamont isn't the cure for the common NIMBYtude they thought it was, perhaps they'll drop that particular lawsuit and concentrate on the task now at hand: designing a vertical alignment that everyone can live with - albeit grudgingly - without breaking the bank in the process.

Brandon in California said...

As I have written numerous times, Altamont provides less service versus Pacheco.

As Kopp accurately stated, which in my opinion is the crescendo of the points made, is that all northbound trains would need to have a chosen destination, either San Jose or San Francisco... not both. That ultimately means less service to San Jose and San Francisco.

Further, the argument that more service could be thrown at the problem fails when considering the Central Valley, if you consider it a throat, will be limited in teh number of trains it can process. And lest we not forget, more service to mitigate the handicapped Altamont alignment means it is a much more costly system to operate. And it's not chump change.

Brandon in California said...

In my opinon, the "threat" of constant lawsuits to tempt the CHSRA to terminate the line in San Jose or re-select Altamont will be a failed strategy.

If it were the correct strategy, some day we would see the CHSRA have their attention diverted and ground breaking pushed back. The number of days delayed would be the measurement of success by those threatening and filing lawsuits.

So, someone tell the group here what and when a lawsuit of sufficient merit has arisen to do that... can they?

What we've seen recently is more humourous than serious... filing a suit without having standing?

I think we should do the peninsula trolls and proponents here a favor if we did not highlight and promote their agenda. Unless something makes it to the San Jose Merc or SF Chronicle... it's not news or worthy of a write-up. As we know, those little daily and weekly rags on the peninsula are itsy bitsy tiny... probably written by volunteers for volunteers.

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

your link didn't work for me, this one does:

Mike Rosenberg's article is a steaming pile of bull puckey. Overhead electric lines do not prevent diesel-powered locomotives from operating underneath them.

Also, it is technically possible to run OCS wires high enough to support even AAR plate H freight (double-stacked containers), Indian Railways is doing it already and the new Betuwelijn in Holland is also set up for the purpose.

As Clem reported back in February, UPRR cannot operate AAR plate H rail cars today. The Port of SF would like Caltrain to jump through hoops just so it can earn an extra $2.5 million a year by transshipping imported cars into bi-level autorack cars.

In particular, it wants Caltrain to construct a central gauntlet track in tunnel #1 just north of Bayshore station, because extra-tall plate H cars wouldn't fit any other way. They could only run when there's no Caltrain traffic and the overhead electric line in that location switched off to avoid arcing, i.e. at night.

It is grossly misleading to present this as electrification killing off freight rail. AAR plate H cars don't run on the peninsula today!

Similarly, the 1991 purchase agreement does not give UPRR the right to operate freight trains for 15 out of every 24 hours. The requirement is for Caltrain to provide a 30-minute window during the day so UPRR can run its switcher traffic to the marshaling yard in South San Francisco. In addition, Caltrain has to provide a 30-minute slot to let UPRR run a train at commuter speeds down to San Jose during the day and, to provide a five-hour window for running freight at night.

Don't get me wrong: there are good arguments for converting the SF peninsula into a short freight line with moderate axle load limits or else, eliminating FRA-compliant rail freight there altogether. It's just that Caltrain electrification isn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

There is no "vertical alignment" that today's Palo Alto can live with. Faced with defeat the elevated's opponents will simply leave an area that is not as attractive as before. Other people will replace them.

Decay will in time result in urban removal wherein the noisome and hulking elevated will be "mitigated" by being masked or dwarfed by high rises.

Rafael said...

@ Brandon -

just FYI: a full-length HSR train consisting of two trainsets can easily be split up, with each trainset continuing on to a different destination.

Conversely, HSR trainsets can be combined in a matter of seconds to continue on as a single train. This protects throughput capacity on a congested trunk section of the network.

Both operations are commonly performed in Japan, Germany, France and elsewhere. Other than line capacity, splitting/combining also reduces the number of drivers needed to provide long-distance service.

However, none of this applies until ridership is high enough to create capacity problems. In the early years, whoever ends up operating the California HSR network will focus on building that ridership, which means running short trains frequently. In avoiding a line split, Pacheco ensures every train has a chance to stop at both ends of the Bay Area, putting enough bums in seats to make running them profitable.

So yes, you are correct: Altamont would reduce service frequency to both SF and SJ relative to Pacheco.

Kopp, however, is wrong: line capacity is the same for Altamont and Pacheco. Same number of possible trains per hour to SoCal, same number of possible seats to and from the Bay Area.

Note that splitting and combining single trainsets in Fresno and LA, respectively, may occasionally happen sometime after the phase II spurs go live. If a connector to the DesertXPress line gets built, the LA-Mojave section will be the busiest on the network.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 12:49am -

I didn't mean to imply that there's a solution that will make everyone happy. Some people may indeed move out of their homes.

Grade separation will indeed prompt some communities to rezone the environs of their stations to promote the development of clusters of mid-to-high-rise office and residential buildings, which will create some shade issues. However, provided most people actually reach those buildings with public transportation, they won't generate a lot of additional motor vehicle traffic.

The changes coming to the Caltrain corridor create a lot of opportunities as well as a few downsides. Only those communities that refuse to embrace change and make it work for them are guaranteed to see their fortunes decline.

Anonymous said...

@ Rafael

The 1984 world you endorse is anathema to some of us.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 1:14am -

as opposed to what, the actual "1984" world that Bush and Cheney perpetrated for eight years? I'll take electric rail and transit-oriented development over that garbage any day, thank you very much.

looking on said...


Sorry that link on freight doesn't work for you --- it still works for me.

What is overriding is that UPRR cannot be forced off the corridor if that is indeed their plan, and quite frankly that seems to be their outlook.

In their scoping comments, they make quite sure they would get overhead clearance for whatever they wish to run.

You should be aware that a very pro development group in Palo Alto is planning a workshop, wherein a tunnel would be financed by selling development rights over the tunnel.

Their aim is to transform Palo Alto into a SF like environment along the tracks. PA is having a local election this year --- 14 candidates looking for 4 seats. HSR and how or whether it should be permitted will be a major issue.

Quite frankly this blog doesn't have a real clue as to what is really happening along the peninsula.

Anonymous said...

No the nimbys dont have a clue... and will find out

Clem said...

What is overriding is that UPRR cannot be forced off the corridor

Umm, have you read their trackage rights agreement? If you had, you might not be saying this.

Brandon in California said...


Re: Splitting trains...

That's a good reminder and point not to forget that you raised.

However, splitting trains is not as easy as 1-2-3. It takes additional crews and time. It introduces an operational in-efficiency, and, needless exposing riders to marginally greater safety issues.

But you're right; it's done elsewhere... including on some local light-rail lines, such as in San Diego.

But, let's not overlook and forget... although splitting trains may mitigate a reduction in the number of trains from Southern California destined to San Francisco or San Jose by not splitting trains, it does not mitigate:

1) The reduction in capacity (split trains = shorter trains/fewer seats);


2) The need for direct service between, SF and SJ, without additional and costly service. It means more Caltrain or more CHSRA trains to make up that difference. But a problem with that... additional trains will fill-up, or infringe, on available capacity of the line between SJ and SF.... and uncessarily cap the total seat capacity of line segment.


Altamont is far from ideal and the operational difference in details between the two is not part of the debate that continues...

Hypothetically, if Altamont were selected (either in a previous decision, or somehow it were re-decided) as you point out, could result in shorter trains along the peninsula; however, more trains would need to be operated to provide the necessary capacity.

Wouldn't that be ironic!

Anonymous said...


Well I read the rights agreement many times -- Do you rally think trying to invoke an abandonment clause, put in for possible BART expansion, can possibly prevail. Are you going to ignore defense needs? They can't abandon even if the so wish.

BruceMcF said...

Anonymous said...
"Are you going to ignore defense needs? They can't abandon even if they so wish."

That's not how STRACNET works. There is a list of alternative actions, in priority order. Relocating the railhead may be the second last preferred outcome, but its one of the possible actions on the list.

They cannot, of course, abandon without a formal abandonment hearing in any event - what being on STRACNET means is that the military logistics command has standing at the abandonment hearing.

And I'll note again that I have not seen the most recent state maps, but the only map I've seen based on the most recent report leaves it uncertain whether the Caltrain corridor is still in STRACNET.

Joe Sez said...

HSR through Gilroy would service Salinas, the Monterey Bay and coastal areas north, like Watsonville.

There already are busses connecting Monterey's bus hub to the caltrain stop.

I suppose feeder trains can be run along the SP line and via Castroville and HW129, connect to Gilroy