Monday, October 26, 2009

Altamont Corridor Planning Begins

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

As mandated by Proposition 1A, the California High Speed Rail Authority is beginning its process of studying the Altamont Corridor alignment. Have a look at their announcement newsletter for some details.

The project corridor is defined as San José to Stockton, with a possible spur to Modesto:

As you can tell, this is basically an upgrade and electrification of the Altamont Commuter Express - the full newsletter includes drawings of electric ACE trains traveling along a high speed rail corridor with overhead wires. The projection is that Stockton will be anywhere from 55 to 75 minutes from downtown San José once the corridor is completed, with trains operating at 150 mph or greater.

And the explanation given on the newsletter of the project's scope and goals:

The Altamont Corridor Rail Project will provide a vital link in the regional transit network, connecting our communities like never before. The project will create a dedicated passenger train corridor between Stockton and San Jose, with stops in key cities in between. A spur link to Modesto is also a possibility. The project study area is shown to the right, along with opportunities for strategic intercity rail connectivity. Specific route alignments and station locations will be identified through a community-based planning process. Once developed, alternative scenarios will be evaluated through the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report.

The project could allow operation of trains between the Bay Area and points north including Stockton and Sacramento, as well as points south including Modesto and beyond, within the California High-Speed Train system. The project will provide intermodal connections to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to serve the Oakland Airport, cities of Oakland and San Francisco, as well as other Bay Area communities. Intermodal connections to BART could be located in the Livermore vicinity, should the Dublin/Pleasanton BART line be extended, as well as in the Fremont/Union City area, meeting either the Fremont line or planned Warm Springs/San Jose extension.

The Altamont Corridor Rail Project could also accommodate a future connection to the Dumbarton rail service in the Fremont/Union City area, as well as connect to the Valley Transportation Authority light rail in Santa Clara County. The project will coordinate with local bus services, providing access to proximate market areas and interfacing with regional bus links where appropriate. Whether for intercity trips, daily commutes, or access to the statewide High-Speed Train system, the Altamont Corridor Rail Project will serve our communities like never before!

My own view is that while faster ACE trains would be nice, this really isn't as high a priority for the state as upgrading the Capitol Corridor, restoring the Coast Daylight service along the Central Coast, and upgrading and speeding up the Pacific Surfliners, to name but a few projects more deserving. The inclusion of the Altamont Corridor in Prop 1A was a sop to Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani and interests in San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties to compensate for the choice of the Pacheco Pass route for the main HSR trains.

I don't have much of a preference about the implementation on the route, though we will predictably hear from residents in Fremont and Pleasanton concerned about the impact on their neighborhoods. And while it'll be nice to throw that in the faces of the people suing because the Altamont alignment was rejected for the main HSR trains, I'm not entirely sure what the Altamont high speed corridor project gets us. It doesn't deserve to be funded ahead of other higher priority corridors. I'm all for improved passenger rail and I wish the CHSRA and its corridor partners well in the development of a sensible plan, but if this never got funded, well, that's an outcome I could live with.

The scoping meeting schedule is below. All meetings are from 3PM to 8PM.

Livermore - Tuesday, Nov. 10
Robert Livermore Community Center
4444 East Avenue

Stockton - Thursday, Nov. 12
San Joaquin Council of Governments
555 E. Weber Avenue

Fremont - Tuesday, Nov. 17
Fremont Teen Center
39770 Paseo Padre Parkway

San José - Wednesday, Nov. 18
Le Petit Trianon Theatre
72 North Fifth Street


lyqwyd said...

I agree that the capitol corridor should have higher priority, but I'm guessing that the prop 1A funds are not really available for that.

Hopefully they'll prioritize the Dumbarton rail bridge as a part of this.

Anonymous said...

You can't deny that the Altamont corridor is extremely important in curbing sprawl, and ACE has been deserving upgrades for years. ACE is one of the better-run transit agencies in Northern California, in spite of the crumbs it has to work with. Upgrading ACE AND the Capitol Corridor are essential for a complete rail network in Northern California and for curbing sprawl in Livermore, Tracy, and Stockton.

Anonymous said...

Here's my theory,
With Prop 1A and federal stimulus funds will be used to FIRST construct the HSR commuter aspects of the system: full CalTrain, ACE upgrades in NorCal, Metrolink in SoCal.
As these commuter lines show profitability, the full system connecting SF-LA and the Central Valley Sac to Palmdale will be built.
I know I'm probably wrong with this theory, but why else study the Altamont in such great depth. Pacheco and Altamont: the best of both worlds.

Unknown said...

The whole Green and Yellow concept is kind of interesting...It almost seems like if you were to build phase 1 plus this component, a full connection to Sacramento wouldn't be that much further. Looking at the way that the ACE winds through Altamont right now, it's crazy to think about how the new line will pierce through all those hills straight to the valley.

Spokker said...

"ACE is one of the better-run transit agencies in Northern California"

How so?

MattO said...

There are already nearly 700,000 people in San Joaquin County and that number is likely to hit 1,000,000 in the not too distant future. Connecting the Central Valley to the job centers in the Tri-Valley and Silicon Valley seems like a no-brainer. Additionally, I think this is hands down a better way to connect the Tri-Valley to Silicon Valley than BART to San Jose. In fact, if BART makes it to Livermore and also down to SJ, as well as a sped-up ACE, commuters will probably be much more likely to take ACE.

political_incorrectness said...

Speaking of ACE, they recently had to cut back the 4th round trip due to lower ridership. The Altamont Corridor will be very useful when it comes to connecting Sacramento in reducing times drastically over having to go through Pacheco. Also, if this can promote a 4 track HS track from Fremont to San Jose, it might stall BART's march down the East Bay.

Anonymous said...

I don't buy the argument that upgrading ACE will curb sprawl in any way unless Tracy and other cities actively look to doing that. Putting Stockton within just over an hour of Silicon Valley by train will tend to encourage more sprawl, rather than discourage it, in the same way that BART to Pittsburg did.

Winston said...

The elimination of ACE's midday trip happened because the trip was funded as a mitigation measure for the impacts of widening I-205 which. Now that the widening is complete, the extra trip is no longer funded.

PeakVT said...

This line definitely seems like something that should be built only after the HSR line to Sacramento is built. But if it moves ahead on its own, it should be built to be 100% compatible with whatever CHSRA builds. It should piggyback on CHSRA's procurement process as well.

Anonymous said...

The "Green and yellow" concept probably has to do with Diridon Station having a new, adjacent ballpark for the Oakland Athletics. This juiced-up ACE will do wonders to bringing Tri-Valley and Central Valley A's fans to the new Diridon "yard."
Heck, throw the Sac Kings into HP Pavilion and Central Valley Kings fans won't miss a beat!

dave said...

I agree that we should upgrade the CC and Surfliner but to say that the Altamont doesn't deserve funding is taking it too far. The area desperately needs this rail upgrade. Especially because we don't only just get commuters over the Altamont but lots and lots of trucks use the I580 as their connection to the CV from the port of Oakland and in between. It always seems to be clogged with Intermodal container trucks particularly Eastbound during rush hour heading to stockton and beyond.

Also if you give the corridor the upgrade it needs a lot of people won't need a car. For example someone who drives from Stockton or Tracy and takes Bart in Pleasanton can take ACE to Livermore and get on Bart with no car and no car using I580.

dave said...

The two main purposes of the line are:

1. Provide regional service (Upgraded ACE) and feeder service to the State HSR service.

2. Provide a "gateway" or shortcut for trains going to Sacramento from San Fran.

Like I said a long time ago, if they chose Altamont as the primary line there would be no Pacheco a.k.a straight service from SJ down south. If Pacheco is selected as the primary line then Altamont will come after naturally.

According to the newsletter, ACE will use EMU's like the ones Caltrain plans on using. Two tracks are supposedly sufficient for the corridor, electrified and grade seperated.

Altamont Commuter Express will change it's name to Altamont Corridor Express.

Anonymous said...

If capitol corridor could shave 30 minutes off the SAC-EMY travel time that would be all they'd need. either by increasing speeds or running some express trains. I doubt anyone is going to go south from SF to dumbarton to get north to sac anyway and half the people already use bart to richmond to cap corridor to sac ( bart discount tickets and such as well as those departing from other than downtown locations in sf-balboa etc) the sf/okj /sac/dav/ market is best served by cap corridor improvements while stockton and modesto/silicon valley are for ACE.

Brandon in California said...

It absolutely baffling how often ACE is forwarded as being a good service!!! Although that service has a lot of value to those riders, they are very few in number.

Anonymous said...

hope it all looks like this one day map

Jarrett Mullen said...

I like this idea. Depending on how the Altamont Corridor Express gets built, it could become a model for lower cost, regional rapid rail implementation around the country. However, the large number of tunnels through the East Bay hills and Altamont Pass won't make this project cheap. Considering the expense It's amazing that they're shooting for a 2015 construction date despite having zero sources of dedicated funding.

Anonymous said...

can they do 110 or 125 on the existing row with upgrades but without additional tunneling?

swing hanger said...

ACE, with only 3700 daily riders (3round trips, weekdays only), is at best a middling operation. Once they get Caltrain level service, can they start to be considered truly "good".

Anonymous said...

ace will only be useful if and when a) the cali economy booms again and b) if that boom includes silicon valley tech.

There was no such thing as a central valley-silicon valley commuter market prior to the chip/pc boom in the late 80s early 90s.

thats gone now.
bio tech and energy will be next but where? and with values down all over, people can afford to buy closer in in there is a boom. itll be a long while before we see the need for people to go to stockton for an affordable home.

I think, and hope, the we can get into a new paradigm here in cali where jobs and housing are more equally spread across the state.

instead of huge cities surround by little cities,

lets have a series of 500k pop cities along the hsr line and have each one have a job/housing/education and wealth balance.

Rafael said...

Parsons Brinkerhoff must be salivating at the prospect of building a brand-new high-speed line through Altamont Pass. The only problem is that there simply aren't enough passengers to justify that level of investment.

Therefore, I'd recommend the following for the Altamont Corridor:

- call this what it is: an upgrade to ACE, i.e. a commuter railway linking bedroom communities in the Central and employers in Silicon Valley. For the moment at least, there's very little demand for east bound service in the morning and westbound service in the evening.

- stake in the ground: stick with FRA-compatible diesel trains (e.g. US Railcar with EPA Tier 4 emissions)

- get speeds in the CV section up to at least 90mph, preferably 110mph. What's feasible depends mostly on UPRR and the signal block length.

- purchase the old SP right of way between Tracy and Niles from UPRR and rebuild the single track (special solution may be required in Pleasanton; NCRY operates historic trains with historic signaling along north slope track through Niles Canyon)

- either negotiate trackage rights through central Tracy (shorter route) or build greenfield connector between the rights of way west of that town

- implement FRA quiet zones for remaining grade crossings where appropriate (assuming CPUC permits them)

- move the Lick Mill VTA light rail stop a few hundred feet west to create an intermodal station at Lafayette/Tasman in Santa Clara (confusingly, ACE calls this Great America)

- change zoning laws near this intermodal station to encourage the development of office campuses within walking distance/one stop away via VTA light rail. Consolidate the vast at-grade parking lots at the convention center into multi-story car parks. Move the 49'ers training facility north next to 237. Move the golf course north as well.

- get UPRR to complete track work at Santa Clara Caltrain so the ACE stop there can be restored

= new ACE2 service: Modesto-San Jose

- obtain trackage rights on the UPRR main line to reach stations in downtown Manteca and downtown Modesto (on newly constructed sidings).

- negotiate trackage rights on UPRR's single track Milpitas line. Leverage the grade separations constructed for the BART extension, implement FRA quiet zone between Milpitas Great Mall and SJ Diridon.

- Fremont Warm Springs should be a BART/ACE2 intermodal.


Separately, embark on a program of upgrades to Amtrak CC. For starters, grade separate the Oakland Embarcadero, e.g. by putting motor vehicle traffic underground or diverting it to south of the rail line.

Anonymous said...

All this is just risk mitigation, the CHSRA hedging their bets on Pacheco.

it might stall BART's march down the East Bay.

What planet do you hail from?

Rafael said...

Here's a map detailing the existing ACE route and the new ACE-2 route I suggested earlier. Potential rectifications shown in green.

With suitable ROW connectors (shown in purple), numerous permutations would exist for delivering both the existing Stockton-San Jose and a new Modesto-San Jose service.

The two routes could be used either as one-way tracks or, as independent two-way tracks that segregate freight and passenger traffic to the maximum extent possible. The latter makes more sense to me, especially since the two routes diverge substantially in Tracy and in the South Bay.

Note that double-tracking or electrifying the Alviso route would be next to impossible because of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. There's also not enough remaining ROW width in certain sections between 237 and the Santa Clara Caltrain station.

Fremont said...

Good morning everyone,

I work for the City of Fremont and know quite a bit about the Bart extension. Ground has been broken, tunnel construction has begun, so this will not definitely not change any Bart plans. I am a big supporter of all things related to the high speed rail project, but I don't understand where how this will be routed. The map cannot be accurate as it shows a tunnel clean through from Pleasanton to Milpitas. UP has just spent two years moving their tracks to accomodate BART and it looks to me like the right of way will never again support more than one line. Tying into the new Warm Springs station makes a lot more sense than going backwards up to Union CIty but that is not the current path of ACE. Anybody care to share the specifics.

Fremont said...


Impressive, youu answered my post as I was typing it and before I posted it.

Followup, the current Centerville Capitol stop is in one of the oldest parts of Fremont and not near any employers. What are the chances of the stop moving to the new Warm Springs BART intermodal.

Thanks, Rick

Rafael said...

Just for kicks, here's a MAP of a possible alignment for an Altamont HSR connector instead of ACE.

Since there's no available ROW for a dedicated standard gauge passenger alignment between San Jose and Niles, this suggestion leverages the HSR starter line and includes a new tall bridge across Dumbarton, hugging the eastbound lanes of the road bridge to minimize conflicts with the Don Edwards National Wildlife refuge. The CA-84 median is available between the toll plaza and I-880.

A tunnel under Decoto Road would enable an intermodal with the Union City BART station, there's anyhow no other available right of way across to the hills.

Note the use of the old SP right of way through Pleasanton to stay out of UPRR's hair. Unlike Caltrain in the SF peninsula, no trains at all have run in this particular ROW for decades. For that reason, an elevated alignment may not be environmentally possible there.

Livermore is more difficult, as UPRR may not be prepared to sell any ROW there for the purpose of running non-compliant HSR trains there. The distance to the legacy freight tracks is very small.

Trains would reach the I-580 corridor via a short tunnel east of Livermore. The tracks would run just south of the eastbound freeway lanes, on individual terraces cut into the hillside.

The I-205 and I-120 corridors are leveraged to reach the HSR spur up to Sacramento. At least two alternatives are still being considered for that, both are shown in red.

Rafael said...

@ Fremont -

frankly, there's still a lot of handwaving from CHSRA on exactly how the Altamont Corridor would be implemented between Union City/Niles/Fremont area and SJ Diridon.

The WPML will be used for BART and the Milpitas line is not available for non-compliant passenger trains. The I-880 median is not available between CA-262 and CA-87 and the Alviso line was grandfathered in when the Don Edwards National Wildife Refuge was created. It's home to the saltmarsh harvest mouse, an endangered species.

This is why I believe there are only two credible options here:

(a) stick with FRA-compliant rolling stock and negotiate a mix of ROW purchases and trackage rights with UPRR to upgrade and expand service, including out to Modesto. Full grade separation would not be required, though FRA quiet zones should be implemented if CPUC permits them.

Note that Fremont Centerville permits transfers to Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains up to Oakland. The ACE-2 route ought to feature an intermodal station with BART in Fremont Warm Springs.

(b) connect the HSR starter line in the SF peninsula with the HSR spur up to Sacramento via a new, fully grade separated alignment dedicated to passenger service based on non-compliant rolling stock.

In this massively more expensive scenario, there would be direct HSR service from both SF and SJ to Sacramento via a tall new rail bridge at Dumbarton and an intermodal with Union City BART.

Robert Cruickshank said...

To be clear: I think this corridor, like all passenger rail corridors in the state, deserves to be improved for speed, reliability, electrification, etc. There are legitimate reasons to do so and I wish CHSRA, ACE, and the partners success in designing this.

My only point is that I wish this hadn't been written into Prop 1A, since I believe there are higher priorities for funding and upgrading. Oh well.

@lyqwyd, the PDF newsletter linked in the post notes that they will indeed look at connecting this to the Dumbarton rail corridor. As Rafael and our guest from Fremont explain, though, that's easier said than done.

Anonymous said...

Anon 829,
No, this is not mitigation and CHSRA isn't hedging their bets on Pacheco. The primary route from the Bay to SoCal will use the Pacheco Pass.
I don't believe we'll see any HSR connection across Dumbarton in our lifetime. SF-Tri-Valley-Sac commuters will simply use BART/upgraded ACE via future intramodal station in Livermore for their travels.
I believe this is why future BART trains will be designed with luggage-carrying features in mind.

Richard Mlynarik said...

This isn't Altamont corridor planning.
Such a thing would require any trace of honesty or technical competence or regard for the public interest on the behalf of our proven corrupt friends at the CHSRA and their controlling consultants, and, well, hell hasn't yet frozen over.

It's just a few million thrown away at pork-sucking consultants to "study" a project that is designed and explicitly specified to be a failure -- notice anything about this "corridor", like, ummm .... how to put this ... it's so ... VERY SUBTLE ... the complete lack of any connection between Fremont and Redwood City?

I know, it's just a small detail. Easily overlooked.

Gee, we wasted a couple million "studying" this according the the guarantee-failure-in-advance criteria you set, and guess what? We need more money to study it some more! In the mean time, full speed ahead on BART to San Jose!

This way EVERYBODY wins ... except the public. As usual.

Anonymous said...

RM 10:25,
I am a member of the "public" also and I'm proud to say you don't speak for me.
By the way, can you explain the great importance of connecting Redwood City and Fremont?
Its by far more important to improve connectivity between SJ/SV and the East Bay and Tri-Valley/Stockton; hence BART to SJ and this ACE proposal.

Rafael said...

@ Richard Mlynarik -

I assume by "the people" you mean the select few who purchased stupendously overpriced real estate abutting the very much active Caltrain tracks in Silicon Valley.

Because of course they are the only people that matter.

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

don't forget that cap corridor also uses centerville and the "great america" vta stop (GAC)
If were gonna start shuffling things around you gotta get everyone in one room

Anonymous said...

Personally I think that with Bart to livermore and San jose, and an upgraded ACE. plus upgraded cccjpa service and upgraded sanjoaquin service (skn-okj) all that combined will offer ample service for quite a qwhile

Peter said...

@ Jim

Yes, it will offer ample capacity, but there is always room for improvement. I think restoring Dumbarton Rail would be an excellent idea to improve service between the Peninsula and the East Bay. It's just one of those things that seems logical.

I know the Dumbarton Rail Bridge would have to be rebuilt, and I assume it would have to be rebuilt with two tracks?

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

"If were gonna start shuffling things around you gotta get everyone in one room"

I completely agree, transportation planning should always be integrated.

However, I wasn't suggesting that the Fremont Centerville and Great America stops be abandoned, just that additional ACE services from Modesto to San Jose be routed via Milpitas to avoid congesting the already-busy single-track Alviso line.

Land use changes to increase the number of jobs within walking distance of the Great America station would boost ridership on Amtrak CC as well as the existing ACE route.

So would moving the Lick Mill VTA light rail stop to create a three-way intermodal, though that would require widening the overpass to accommodate an island platform at the crest.

Anonymous said...

the thing is now there will be al these agencies

ccjpa ace caltrain bart and hsr so who is going to do what.... especially when it come to the bridge.

id say give caltrain the bridge service to the eastbay, and take away their gilroy service. and extend ccjpa south to gilroy salinas in lieu of that. like this
never should have shown me how to do these maps

Now if one were to start from scratch one might suggest that each urban area, ( bay area for instance) have only one operator that would link to one hsr station. but its too late for that now. so we have this overlay of local, regional, and long distance with various styles equipment goals etc. ( you do realize that there are plans add another layer of rail transit on the i 80 corridor between auburn and fairfield.

Nicolas said...

This would be infinitely better than BART to San Jose!

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

afaik, current plans for the Dumbarton bridge call only for

(a) reconstructing the western trestle that burnt down in a suspicious fire in 1998


(b) replacing the two swing bridges with bascule sections. See also the lower left and upper right on this satellite photo.

Double-tracking would require the construction of a second bridge. Given the short distance, the sensitivity of the wildlife refuge and the very low volume of expected commuter rail traffic, it's not clear two tracks are worth shooting for.

The big question mark is if hundreds of millions should be spent on refurbishing a bridge that is already 100 years old, hasn't been maintained in over 20, is obviously susceptible to lightning strikes/arson and not up to modern seismic code.

HSR traffic would require a brand-new dual-track bridge without any swing or bascule sections at the two shipping lanes. A tunnel would also work. Either way, the location would have to be further north to reach Union City BART and across to Pleasanton in a tunnel. The existing UPRR ROW between Newark and Niles is not available for dedicated passenger tracks.

Anonymous said...

and for our "we need more freeway" freinds, not to worry, freeway studies and planning are alive and well in this recent doc which if nothing else, shows how bad congestion is. Talk about taking land and building more blight....

although in fairness there will always be a need for good roads and there will always be those depend on the auto/truck/road for their livelihoods.
What those folks should realize though is that even when they don't use transit they benefit because for those who can and do and prefer transit, getting them off the road means better sailing for you.

its all about the right tool for the job and no one is trying to confiscate your car or truck.

Samsonian said...

The inclusion of the Altamont Corridor in Prop 1A was a sop to Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani and interests in San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties to compensate for the choice of the Pacheco Pass route for the main HSR trains.

If Altamont is a "sop" to those communities, then Pacheco is a sop to SJ.

I heard you're a Poli Sci guy Robert, you should know why they chose to do Altamont "High Speed Commuter Overlay/Joint Use Project," or whatever they're calling it now (Altamont Corridor Express?). It was a grand bargain to end the Altamont vs Pacheco debate. It was the single most controversial part of the CalHSR project to date (silly Peninsula NIMBYs notwithstanding). Why keep trashing it when the compromise was to do both? Unless you enjoy the conflagration and in-fighting that Altamont vs Pacheco does to the community.

I'm kind of amused that so many keep trashing this corridor. I suspect most of you that do this have never driven over the Altamont. I don't commute over it, but every time I and/or my family have to go to Modesto, Stockton, or Elk Grove, it's a real pain on both weekdays and weekends. One that could be alleviated by this project.

Re Current and Future ACE/Altamont ridership:

ACE's current ridership doesn't tell the full story. Yes, its current ridership is tiny. But that's really just a reflection of the fact that it's dependent on a windy, single track, UPRR freight line that's also subject to chronic delays.

The real story is in CalTrans' Average Daily Traffic Counts (AADT). Specifically on highways I-205 and I-580 and I-680.

It's difficult for me to say exactly how many people are driving on this corridor, because of how the data is expressed. But assuming some of the people are driving between these locations, some are just passing through, and some of these vehicles have more than 1 occupant, I can safely say that 300,000+ people per weekday are driving on this corridor. And a ridiculously large number even on weekends.

There is a lot of pent up demand for fast rail service on this corridor. If you drive on this corridor you'll know this. It should also be pointed out that this doesn't just serve Pleasanton, Livermore, Tracy, and Northern San Joaquin commuters. This is the critical link for Bay Area - Sacramento HSR as well.

"it might stall BART's march down the East Bay."
What planet do you hail from?

Maybe he's from the planet where $8 billion for a proprietary subway into suburbs is the worst transit project in history?

Hell, the entire Peninsula Rail Program costs less than this. This Altamont project will probably cost less as well, despite far more trackage and even tunnels.

BART is the biggest sham in all of public transit. It's purpose is to transfer taxpayer money to its contractors, union employees, and management.

Samsonian said...

@ Rafael

I saw an earlier version of your Altamont HSR with new Dumbarton rail bridge as well, and I kind of liked it as well. It should be able to handle both commuter and intercity needs though.

I don't like the incremental approach though. This corridor needs the big bang that only this type of project can bring.

I agree that the station in that area should be in Union City as an intermodal with BART and Capitol Corridor. This location is well suited for crossing the bay. The locations in Fremont are lacking in one of those ways.

It also makes sense to pull Dumbarton rail into this project's scope as well. I doubt it'll happen, because SJ is the center of the universe.

As you pointed out, getting from Union City/Fremont into SJ Diridon is complicated to say the least. SJ's raging hard on for BART (~$8 billion) at the cost of all else (CalTrain, bus, light rail) appears to have also cost it a ROW for standard gauge passenger rail.

I was thinking about a way to fix this and some other issues in one shot. Santa Clara County already bought the Milpitas Line for BART to Barryessa in SJ, relocating UP's rail line there within the existing ROW, and giving them trackage rights. The line used to connect to the main line, but I think after SJ's rail yard closed, it was severed. Restoring that link (acquisition/condemnation required) would allow freight to bypass downtown SJ. And the Hayward/Decoto Line (right name?) just to the west would then be available for passenger use into SJ Diridon.

This may seem a bit far out, but if those happen, the Alviso Line becomes redundant and could be removed. I personally don't have anything against that line. As far as I'm concerned that rail line was built long before that whole area became protected federal land. It should be fully grandfathered, and have been allowed to double track. The existing track doesn't seem to have any adverse impact on wildlife anyway. That said, maybe DiFi could get money from some other pot of money (wildlife, wetlands protection etc.) to buy out that line, and invest it into the other 2.

Again, probably far out.

Unknown said...

I agree that looking at ACE ridership for this corridor is a bad place to start. ACE is uncompetitively slow, even in traffic.

Putting in a non-compliant line would enable fast Sacramento-San Jose trips as well, something that should be taken into consideration when estimating ridership.

I agree that I'd rather see a HSR line along the capitols route first, but a fast connection from stockton, intermodal with BART in Livermore, would help complete the "system" in the greater bay area.

Ultimately, we'll need a Dunbarton connection and a fast capitols line, but I don't think it's the end of the world that this got crammed into 1a.

30-ish minutes to SJ from the Livermore/Pleasanton area is going to get a lot of ridership. Heck, it might even get you to SF faster than BART, especially with a Dunbarton connection.

Anonymous said...

@samsonian I agree that the altamont commute ( and god knows the 680 sunol commute) both need help.
The problem I see is that linking the greater skn-tracy-modesto area with silicon valley is difficult because of sparse service and lack of density.

ACE doesn't cover enough locations in between the c-valley and the s-valley. amtrak covers only the mod-skn corridor. bart stops short, even with a livermore extension.

Id propose that ACE expand its raison d'etre to include not just getting folks in and out of the valley but also point to point around the greater altamont conglomoburb. skn-tracy-mod-liv-sjc-dub-manteca- cuz theres a big gap in rail bringing those netherland communities together as one.

Id make ace like this to provide local services to all the smaller towns in the region. ( note i know i didnt follow exact rows just making a point)

lyqwyd said...


It's not that I'm trashing the Altamont corridor, I just think it makes more sense to upgrade Capitol Corridor now, and Altamont later.

Until HSR connects to Sacramento, I don't think there's any need to improve Altamont. The San Joaquin valley is just too sprawling, and I believe has insufficient transit access for there to be a significant increase in ridership. Once HSR goes in, you greatly increase the number of potential riders that will want to travel via the Altamont corridor.

I also believe improvements to the Capitol Corridor could be done less expensively than Altamont... I believe there are a lot of tunnels that would need to be dug for Altamont.

Anonymous said...

As far as all the bart bashing that goes on around here. I have to step up and defend bart. Because I have spend most of my life in the bay area and most of my life living and working without a car and without bart it would not have been possible. Also, bart is a success. The have high ridership, they virtually saved our asses after the earthquake, ( say what you will about the construction costs but the system was up and running the next day, when nothing else was operating)

and further, the extension so san jose has be seen from the perspective of a bay area resident. As someone who has lived in every county i can tell you that being able to count on bart to get to every corner of the bay is a necessity and the southbay gap is a real pain in the ass. please so not discount the demand and the people who are mid day walnut creek to san jose riders or richmond to milpitas and other city pairs. just as we shouldnt discount the intermiediate HSR city pairs.

It really bugs me when people sit and think, from a distance, that only the big stuff matters. There are millions of low income working people, the working poor, who depend on transit, for whom a single seat ride from their home in san leandro to their hotel job in the great mall would be a godsend. thats just one example but it matters. I worked most of my life that way and relegating the working poor to long bus rides with multiple transfers, well, just remember you don't want them showing up for work tired and frustrated when they are the ones making your lunch, or hopefully changing those sheets in your hotel room.

lyqwyd said...


My thing about BART to San Jose is that they could have done standard commuter rail for about 1/10th the cost. Caltrain east + Capitol Corridor would have been much cheaper.

In my mind, BART's biggest problem is that they are ignoring the places that it really shine: the urban core: Berkeley, SF, & Oakland. If BART wants to do commuter + urban, they really need to build a strategy for skip stop & express trains, like Caltrain.

If they had a baby bullet like service out the the suburbs of the East Bay, I think the ridership would go up significantly. Instead they spend the money on vanilla extensions, which always seem to miss ridership & revenue projections miserably, which wind up costing the existing riders in higher fares.

Anonymous said...

Well granted. bart does want it all. they always have. In fact at one point they had planned on going all the way to stockton.

and before we go making the usual accusations about the fruad and deception, I want to remind everyone that when bart was conceived, conventional rail was in steep decline and the idea of traditional subways offended california sensibilities. ( the bay area has always tended to believe itself a bit "above and beyond") conjuring up visions of graffiti scarred run down crime and grime "A trains" was not going to fly here.

they needed a futuristic space age design in order to sell it to the public. One can argue now that it was a mistake but had they not proposed a futuristic product it never would have gotten built. and now , for the sake of standardization within the system, we continue with the same construction and trains. and.... bart is,,, bay area rapid transit, and their destiny has always been to ring the bay and serve the nine counties. and they will likely pursue that until they make it happen.

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

it would indeed be nice to have a single railway planning all passenger services in the state. Unfortunately, the government at the state level is permanently hamstrung by a broken constitution (slews of ballot initiatives + 2/3 rule), so individual counties have bandied together to create regional rail fiefdoms.

The bureaucrats responsible tend to perceive each other as somewhere between a nuisance and a competitor, rarely as a partner. Intermodal stations are unfortunately the exception, not the rule.

Wrt to the old Dumbarton rail bridge, it belongs to San Mateo county. It wants Caltrain to provide diesel-based shuttle service between Redwood City and Union City BART. Plans call for a new turnout at Van Euw Common in Fremont Shinn to reach that destination. However, UPRR has not yet offered trackage rights for the critical Newark to Van Euw Common section, nor has it given permission to construct the planned turnout.

An obvious alternative would be to forget about Union City BART and just run Caltrain consists up to Oakland JLS via the existing Mulford line, but both BART and CCJPA perceive the East Bay as "their" turf. As I said, fiefdoms.

However, Caltrain is keen to electrify its line and would probably quite like to phase out all diesel equipment before 2020. This technology shift creates an opening for a new short Amtrak CC service from Oakland JLS to San Jose via Dumbarton.

As a quid pro quo, CCJPA could assume responsibility for operating standard speed service between San Jose and Gilroy, with possible extensions to Hollister and/or Salinas if the respective counties fund that and UPRR is willing to offer up trackage rights.

Similarly, ACE could conceivably operate Modesto to San Jose via Dumbarton. Commuters to and from Union City and Fremont would board at the Fremont Centerville station. Newark is due get its own station a little further west.

This option would be a plan B in case UPRR refuses to offer trackage rights on the Milpitas line and/or residents of e.g. the Ryland Park district of San Jose refuse to allow trains to once again run south of 101.

After Hansen Cement in Cupertino switched from coal to natural gas to curb mercury emissions, UPRR stopped running coal trains through San Jose and up the Vasona line that parallels hwy 85 between Los Gatos and Cupertino. It hasn't maintained the tracks on the Milpitas line, so they're now reportedly restricted to 10mph south of the Fremont Warm Springs yard.

Anonymous said...

hello socal people heres your plan ( i havent read it yet)

@rafael, well certainly giving gilroy to ccpa would be inline with amtraks plans to fill in the coastal gap.

Rafael said...

@ Samsonian -

whether the Altamont corridor gets incremental standard-speed upgrades or a full-fat high speed line is primarily a question of ridership potential and funding.

Right now, we don't even have full funding for the HSR starter line. It's ok to plan ahead, but realistically any high speed line through Altamont won't turn dirt much before 2030.

Restoring the old SP alignment to carry all passenger traffic through Altamont and Niles Canyon could be done sooner. Getting trackage rights on UPRR's Milpitas line (SPML) should also be possible, especially if the decrepit southern portion is purchased outright with emergency freight rights reserved.

Note that VTA purchased the WPML right of way for BART. It runs immediately east of the SPML between Fremont Irvington and Milpitas, then veers off toward Alum Rock. Since BART uses broad gauge, I'm suggesting ACE-2 trains from Modesto to San Jose run on the standard gauge SPML tracks that connect to San Jose Diridon.

Anonymous said...

ps dear angelinos please remind your people that they need to take the n hwd red line all the way to BUR so that I can fly into BUR and get to hwd without having to metrolink all the way to laus and redline back up. thanks.

Rafael said...

@ lyqwyd, Jim -

the BART extension to San Jose is so expensive mainly because third rail requires full grade separation for electrical safety, irrespective of speed. It doesn't help that Fremont insisted on a tunnel under its Central Park.

The alignment under E Santa Clara Street in San Jose serves passengers within that city as well as commuters from further north. However, the price tag for constructing a dual track tunnel all the way to the Newhall yard in Santa Clara is indeed stupendously high by international standards. The "contingency fees" must be astronomical.

Note that BART operators actually resist the construction of ever-longer lines, because they are already causing brittle logistics in the system core (downtown SF and Oakland). During rush hour, there is zero slack to dampen out delays related to e.g. dwell times that are longer than hoped for.

The extension to Livermore and thee eBART project out to eastern CC county are driven mostly by politics: the locals pay county taxes that support BART, so they want BART service.

Spokker said...

Off-topic, but my biggest concern over this project is that politicians treat it as a vanity project without regard to how it fits into the overall regional transportation networks in which it will have a drastic effect.

There are great ideas out there about how to connect existing networks to HSR. Here's one such idea that I hope is given serious thought. Similar research should be happening for all the HSR stations.

Peter said...

Did VTA do its homework before coming up with the numbers for the tunnel? Who gave them the estimate for the tunnel?

Were they planning on cut-and-cover or using TBMs?

lyqwyd said...


What do you mean by "Note that BART operators actually resist the construction of ever-longer lines"?

Is there a different organization for operations of BART vs. construction?

Also, what is a "consist"? I keep seeing "Caltrain consists" but don't know what that means... I assume it means train, just wanted to be sure.


Samsonian said...

@ AndyDuncan, jim, lyqwyd

You won't find disagreement from me that Capitol Corridor should be improved.

Incremental improvements will help, it's just that I'd like to see more radical improvement in passenger rail. And the only way that happens is with dedicated passenger tracks. In some ways, it's an even harder to bring radical improvements to the Capitol Corridor than ACE.

The UP ROW is the only option, and it's ROW constrained in a number of areas. Oakland's Jack London Square being particularly egregious. There are also 3-4+ tracks in some areas already, laying down 2+ dedicated passenger tracks requires UP cooperation similar to what BNSF has and is providing to CHSRA (e.g. relocation of freight tracks within existing or widened ROW).

The sad thing is, it really is in UP's interest to work with us. Dedicated passenger tracks take passenger trains off UP's tracks. We'd both be out of each other's hair, but it requires them sharing ROW and be willing to have to their tracks moved slightly.

If the Altamont Overlay works out, CHSRA should designate the Capitol Corridor and LA - SD via coast as a High Speed Overlay as well and figure out a way to build dedicated passenger tracks in partnership with local rail transit operators.


Every transit advocate loves the idea of Rail Around The Bay.

The problem is with BART and the way they designed it. The worst is 5' 6" broad gauge, instead of 4' 8.5" standard gauge. Did they not get the memo from 1860 that standard gauge won the gauge wars? (And standard gauge works just fine in windy conditions)

Other big problems include the tiny loading gauge preventing bilevel cars thus more seats, third rail instead overhead catenary resulting in less power and speed, no passing tracks requiring an all-local stop pattern, and various proprietary technologies creating lock-in on Bechtel and Parson Brinkerhoff (although I'll cut them some slack on Automatic Train Control (ATC)).

These dumb design decisions plus incompetence results in a system that costs upwards of $300 million per mile. That's tunneling in Manhattan or SF territory. Even the ~10 miles at grade from Fremont's Warm Springs to San Jose's Berryessa will cost $2.1 billion. That's ~$210 million per mile at-grade. Grade separations are expensive, but there's no excuse for this. Especially when you're using an existing rail ROW and aren't doing any tunneling. Keep in mind HSR on the SF Peninsula should be less than $100 million per mile ($4-5B over ~50 miles). Altamont HSR could get you from Fremont/UC to SJ Diridon faster, with less capital and operating costs.

BART as designed makes Rail Around The Bay unaffordable.

BART extensions are so blatantly bad and expensive. But I'd give a pass on BART to Livermore provided Altamont HSR happens, and there's an intermodal in Livermore. It would really fill-out the rail system.

I'd like to point out that just because BART has decent ridership and frequency doesn't mean it's good, despite it's stupendous cost. People think it's good because it's all we have, and existing standard gauge rail is in such a piss poor state by comparison. People actually think that's what all "conventional rail" is.

If you want to see want a competently designed rail system looks like, look to the Paris RER or the S-Bahns in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.

The RER is not just a favorite of mine, it's the most apt comparison. Like BART, it too was designed and built in the 1960s, on dedicated tracks, and largely underground inside Paris proper. And yet the French used commercial EMUs on standard gauge rails, overhead catenary at 25kV, and a big loading gauge which supports double-decker trains with overhead catenary. The Paris metro area has an extensive rail system that costs less, and has more capacity, reach, and speed than our system.

It really makes you think what could have been. Rail Around The Bay could have been a reality decades ago.

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

LA World Airports owns LAX, ONT, PMD and VNY. Burbank Airport is a competitor, so extending the Orange Line BRT another 3.5mi to serve BUR is a low priority for the city of LA. Nevertheless, just such an extension is being advocated by the Transit Coalition (Los Angeles chapter).

This is just an aside, this thread was supposed to be about the Altamont Corridor, after all...

Rafael said...

@ lyqwyd -

the folks who operate the trains are an organization within BART, not one separate from it.

A consist is a train configuration, typically composed of a locomotive and a number of unpowered cars (passenger and/or freight). Most long-distance passenger trains are based on consists with pulling locomotives. Short consists may also be operated in push mode, with the driver sitting in the locomotive at the end (e.g. Caltrain, Metrolink etc.)

A trainset is a semi-permanent passenger consist, often but not always featuring Jacobs bogies located in-between cars (e.g. Alstom, Siemens Desiro) or single-axle wheelsets at one end of cars (e.g. Talgo, UAC Turbo Train). The semi-permanent coupling permits more passenger-friendly connections between cars, on both levels in the special case of the Talgo 22.

Trainsets are usually self-propelled, with either one or two tractor cars or else distributed traction with 50% of all cars featuring motors + power electronics and the other 50% the heavy transformers or battery buffers (for emergency use and buffering hotel loads: A/C, heating, lighting etc.)

The OeBB railjet is an exception, an unpowered trainset pulled or pushed by a conventional locomotive.

Around the world, many regional and virtually all high speed rail services are based on trainsets. A key safety feature is that there are fully equipped driver cabs at both ends, so the driver always has an unobstructed view of the track ahead. At any given time, only one cab is authorized to control the locomotive in either pull or push mode.

BruceMcF said...

Note that there was a win in Senate committee on allowing some of Carbon Fee revenue on clean energy transport (though of course it is not set in stone).

If that goes through, there's a possibility it can be used for part of the electrification costs.

lyqwyd said...


There's a much better comparison to BART, much closer to home:

The Washington Metro.

Basically, BART & the Metro are very similar systems, in reasonably similar areas, built about the same time, but Metro serves well over twice the number of daily rides. Detailed statistics are below:

Washington Metro:
Stations: 86
System length: 106.3 miles
Daily ridership: 801,400
Electrification: Third rail
Planned Expansion: Silver Line, 23 miles, 29 stations, ~$2 Billion

Stations: 43
System length: 104 miles
Daily ridership: 346,504
Electrification: Third rail
Planned Expansion: San Jose, 16 miles, 6 stations, ~$8 Billion

Washington Metro Area:
Population: 5,358,130
Density: 963 people/sq. mi
Area: 5,565 sq. mi.

SF Bay Area:
Population: 7,354,555
Density: 830 people/sq. mi.
Area: 8,757 sq. mi

Data taken from wikipedia

Joey said...


Short consists may also be operated in push mode, with the driver sitting in the locomotive at the end (e.g. Caltrain, Metrolink etc.)

Correct me if I'm wrong on this, or if I just misunderstood your post, but my understanding is that push-pull configurations have a driver's cab in the last car of the train, so in push mode, the driver sits there and controls the locomotive remotely.

flowmotion said...

@lyqwyd - I never understood how BART's broad gauge and third rail tallies up to triple the construction costs over HSR. There has to be something else going on there.

In theory, construction and ROW costs should be similar between the two. (Of course suburban subways and deluxe stations with parking garages get expensive.)

Samsonian said...

@ Rafael

Re Dumbarton Rail:

I hope that Dumbarton Rail would be more than just a refurbish.

For a few hundred million, we should be able to build a new electrified, 2 track, rail bridge. Heck, it could even have a bike/ped path on it, get those group's support (and money) as well.

This isn't the Bay Bridge we're talking about. It'd be a simple bridge, in shallow water, with only relatively small boats going under it. The Bay Bridge rebuild is the antithesis of that.

I think it's worthwhile to do so. We're sorely lacking in transbay rail options. Bridge tolls could pay at least some of the cost.

I hope this could be integrated into Altamont HSR as well, if not outright pulled into its scope.

Re Rail Operations:

We really need rail consolidation, at least regionally. Ideally a NorCal and SoCal regional operator, if not a state one. Maryland, New York, and New Jersey all run it from a state level, and seem to have better results. Then again, our state is dysfunctional.

Re Altamont HSR:

I just want to see it happen, because it's important for all the reasons we've discussed above. Worst case, it needs to happen in a similar timeframe as Sacramento HSR to fill out the hole in the HSR and regional rail systems. Any sooner would be awesome, any later would be fail on CHSRA.

I think freight and (ugh) BART in a restored WPML and HSR in a restored SPML is a good way to open up a ROW and consolidate/clean up rail operations. WPML is already publically owned, and going through freight track relocation. ACE needs EMUs on dedicated tracks though, that's what counts. Uber-heavy FRA rolling stock on freight tracks is just fail.

Re Funding:

I fully realize we still don't have full funding for just HSR starter line. Federal Stimulus money (ARRA) is just a drop in the bucket compared to the need. The real fight is getting a real Transportation Bill with $10+ billion per year in HSR matching funds. That's what we need to push for. Along with matching credit for money already spent, so money we spend now is money we save later on.

@ Spokker

One of the reason why this project, Altamont, is so important is that it fills the gaps in rail systems. In addition to filling out the Bay Area - Sacramento HSR, it'll fill out the Bay Area's regional rail network. Connections with BART in Livermore and Union City/Fremont provide strong transfer opportunities and access for the East Bay.

@ Peter

The VTA is planning on using TBMs to tunnel under Santa Clara St. Which makes it unnecessarily cost billions.

This isn't like 4th and King/Townsend to Transbay in SF. There really isn't much of a choice if you want to get to downtown SF. And the additional ridership makes it worthwhile to do so.

Caelestor said...

BART is outdated. The only good purpose it has is to move people between the East Bay and San Francisco. People like rapid service, not frequent service.

I do agree that fast electrified rail for Norcal (not all sections below have to be HSR) is needed in the following areas:

SF Peninsula Line: from SF to Gilroy, for Caltrain.
East Bay line, runs btwn Sacramento and SJ, for CC. Connects w/ Caltrain at SJ.
A second Transbay Tube connecting Oakland and SF efficiently.
San Joaquin Valley Line: Redding to Bakersfield.
Altamont Corridor: Connects East Bay line to San Joaquin line.
Pacheco Corridor: Connects Gilroy with the San Joaquin line.

Unfortunately, money and politics are going to get in the way.

Joey said...


I never understood how BART's broad gauge and third rail tallies up to triple the construction costs over HSR. There has to be something else going on there.

In theory, construction and ROW costs should be similar between the two. (Of course suburban subways and deluxe stations with parking garages get expensive.)

Bart is expensive because it requires full grade separation, likes to tunnel even in areas where it doesn't have to (i.e. SFO extension), and DC electrification means more substations have to be built. That's not to mention the fact that wide gauge means that rolling stock must be custom built, though I'm skeptical as to why a solution like the Velaro RUS couldn't be used, where you have a standard train fitted with wide-gauge bogies.

Samsonian said...

@ lyqwyd

That's an interesting point. And shows really how bad BART is.

But I think the Paris RER is still a model for how to do urban and commuter rail right. And it was designed and built during the same period as BART.

The DC Metro still made some of the same bad design choices as BART. Namely third rail instead of 25 kV OCS, small loading gauge preventing double decker EMUs, and proprietary technologies (although I'd cut them some slack over ATC/PTC, ERTMS/ETCS is a recent advance).

The RER model is closer to what CalTrain and ACE are trying to be with HSR upgrades. They'll essentially be a big, fast, high-capacity light rail line.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

(a) what's the expected revenue from selling GHG emissions permits (a.k.a. climate indulgences) in the US?

In Europe, there was a grand giveaway to the most polluting industries, so the whole thing ended up shoveling large sums into the coffers of utilities for doing stuff they were planning to do anyhow because fuel costs money.

(b) 3% of not very much is even less.

(c) electrification eliminates tailpipe emissions and improves train acceleration, because electric motors punch above their weight.

There is some benefit from recuperation, especially for regional trains, subways and light rail, all of which stop frequently. However, in conventional systems, the electricity generated can only be used if another train on the same electrical segment is accelerating or cruising at the same time and, if the substation feeding that segment can tolerate rapid changes in power demand. Otherwise, braking is mechanical or rheostatic (large resistors, typically mounted on the roof of train cars).

Some modern substation designs for rail electrification feature banks of supercapacitors that can act as energy buffers, insulating the backbone grid from rapid fluctuations in power demand.

A more important consideration, especially for long-distance passenger rail, is how the electricity is generated in the first place. Burning coal to run electric trains generates higher CO2 emissions than running diesel locomotives does. Switch to natural gas and the situation is reversed.

Switch to nuclear and there are no fossil carbon emissions at all beyond those during the construction period, but there is of course plenty of radioactive dreck instead.

California HSR is an exception in that CHSRA has committed to run the trains exclusively off renewable electricity, i.e. some mix of wind, solar, geothermal, small hydro and biomass.

Note that nuclear power is not considered renewable, as fuel reprocessing merely improves the efficiency of fuel utilization.

For the purposes of AB32, CHSRA's commitment means utilities will need to prove that for every GWh consumed by the HSR system over a given period (e.g. a year), they actually generated one GWh of renewable electricity. It is possible but not essential that all trains run exclusively on renewables every second of every day.

Note that there are already laws/regulations governing the fraction of total in-state electricity generating capacity that has to be renewable. After the federal court ruling to permanently reduce the volume of water pumped up the California Aqueduct by 1/3, I expect large areas in the southwestern Central Valley that will soon be converted to solar thermal power plants because even the best soils can't produce food without an adequate supply of water. Linear Fresnel systems aren't just the cheapest to install per unit of power, they also do the best job of curbing topsoil erosion.

Separately, California ISO also has limits on how much coal- and gas-based electricity it may import from neighboring states.

Rafael said...

@ Joey -

"Bart is expensive because it [...] likes to tunnel even in areas where it doesn't have to (i.e. SFO extension)"

BART's original plans called for trains to run at grade through Colma and out to SFO. It was San Mateo county that insisted on putting the tracks underground, mostly because the right of way runs right past several cemeteries.

Others, including the city of SF, insisted on running BART directly into SFO, rather than extending the SFO AirTrain to San Bruno. The result is convenient for BART customers arriving from the north, but Caltrain customers arriving from the south really got the short end of the stick - especially after SFO eliminated the courtesy bus to Millbrae and BART eliminated the rail shuttle.

Still, it's not appropriate to blame BART for everything. A lot of political stuff is simply beyond its control.

lyqwyd said...

@Joey, the grade separation & non standard rail gauge for BART does not explain why it is so much more expensive to build. DC Metro is fully grade separated as well. It only explains why the cars are so much more expensive.

I think it is a problem endemic to the Bay Area, almost every project we do here costs 2-10 times more what it costs in other comparable areas. Even Los Angeles is getting far more bang for it's buck than we are.

Joey said...

Does anyone know why BART tunneled between the SFO wye and Millbrae station? It's such a short segment in which ample ROW was available.

lyqwyd said...


I agree the Paris system is a great model, I was just trying to compare BART to another system that made some similar mistakes, and still manages to be much more cost effective.

some more comparisons between the 2 systems (Summary: Metro wins with lower fares, unlimited ride passes, and a discount for off-peak rides):

Metro fares vary based on the distance traveled and the time of day at entry. During regular hours (weekdays from opening until 9:30 am and 3–7 pm, and Friday and Saturday nights from 2:00 am to closing), fares range from $1.65 to $4.50, depending on distance traveled. At all other times, fares are $1.35, $1.85, or $2.35, based on distance traveled. Passengers may purchase passes at most farecard vending machines. The passes are used the same way as farecards but grant riders unlimited travel within the system for a certain period of time

The BART minimum fare of $1.75 is charged for trips under 6 miles (9.7 km), such as a trip between two adjacent Berkeley stations.[43] The maximum one-way fare including all possible surcharges is $10.90

Rafael said...

Btw, did anyone else notice that in the CHSRA-provided map of the Altamont Corridor, the BNSF alignment alternative in the Central Valley now bypasses Stockton altogether? Interesting...

On a separate note, just to put the proverbial cat among the pigeons: is anyone up for restoring the Iron Horse trail (maps of north, south section) to support a transit system of some type? The trail runs from Pleasanton to hwy 4 in Concord, passing close to Pleasant Hill BART and crosses under Dublin/Pleasanton BART.

It's currently a bike/ped recreational route. Some sections have been lost to development. Also, there's only enough room for a single lane in most locations. I'm thinking BRT rather than rail in this case, but I'm not sure how congested I-680 is between Walnut Creek and the I-580 interchange.

Peter said...

Is there anything that locks VTA into using TBMs? Is there any way that they could be persuaded to change to using cut-and-cover in order to actually be able to construct their extension?

Rafael said...

^^^ I'm referring to the HSR spur up to Sacramento now running right past Stockton in the BNSF alignment alternative. It's the orange/light brown dashed line.

Peter said...

I noticed that. Wouldn't Stockton have a conniption fit if they were bypassed?

Anonymous said...

"California HSR is an exception in that CHSRA has committed to run the trains exclusively off renewable electricity, i.e. some mix of wind, solar, geothermal, small hydro and biomass.'

Where is this going to come from - California does not have generation or (esp) distribution capacity. Is this funded by CHSRA? If not, by whom and how much will it cost to upgrade necessary for HSR?

CHSRA's commitment means utilities will need to prove that for every GWh consumed by the HSR system over a given period (e.g. a year), they actually generated one GWh of renewable electricity.

Utilities need to prove? Or CHSRA needs to prove? Or thought of anohter way - does CHSRA need to assure that the capacity for the incremental renewable they consume exits in the system?

"It is possible but not essential that all trains run exclusively on renewables every second of every day."

Did AB3035 say something about CHSR running exclusively on renewable?

Joey said...

@Rafael: Having spent some time in Contra Costa County myself, I too have noticed that the San Ramon valley needs a decent transit link. Actually it looks like it's upwards of 50' wide in most places (plenty of room for two tracks/lanes/whatever; you could even keep a pedestrian path. The problems are a) As you have said, development has taken parts of it (mainly just in downtown Danville and a little bit in Alamo) and b) This would be proposing a new transit corridor through residential areas (and most of the trail is right up against backyards), so community backlash would be expected.

Peter said...

@ Rafael

In addition, you would run into resistance from the people who actually do in fact use the trail.

EB Regional Parks District is likely not going to be in any hurry to sell the property.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

again, it's not a VTA decision. San Jose residents did not want cut-and-cover, having observed the disruption to Market Street in SF.

Of course it would be cheaper to construct an elevated, strictly local transit system with a suitably convenient transfer (level change) at Fremont Warm Springs.

Compared to sitting on I-880 for God knows how long and breathing in foul air, the few minutes lost due to a transfer are peanuts. Besides, there are operational advantages to segregating commuter traffic from local transit.

At this point, I suppose even maglev might be cheaper than extending BART all the way to a maintenance facility on the wrong side of SJC. At a top speed of 80mph, maglev would be very quiet. But no, San Francisco has a BART tunnel so inferiority-complex-ridden San Jose must have one too.

Note that BART enjoys funding primacy when it comes to capital investments and operating subsidies, so VTA light rail, buses and Caltrain will all be starved of resources.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 5:06pm -

(a) CHSRA isn't going to build any power plants, it will simply buy power from various utilities with the constraint that they prove to the state of California that it was generated renewably in the sense I described.

For reference, the fully built-out system running at full tilt in 2030 will have a power requirement of approx 480MW, roughly 1% of total generating capacity installed in California in 2008. That compares with 2% used for pumping water up the California Aqueduct, another 2% used for powering all those internet data centers and 1-2% required to keep all those plasma/LCD TVs and other consumer electronics on standby instead of switching them off.

(b) CHSRA made this decision after a study showed the incremental cost for a train ticket would be peanuts, especially if the primary source was wind rather than solar. That was based on technology available at the time, though, so the mix may change over time.

The bottom line is that the capital investments required to implement the decision will be made by utilities and paid for by passengers. The decision places zero additional burden on California state or federal taxpayers.

(c) The legislation enacted into law by the passage of proposition 1A(2008) is called AB3034(2008) (summary).

The bill does not specify how the electricity used to run the trains should be generated.

Rafael said...

@ Joey, Peter -

actual plans for any new transit system would have to be driven by local need, i.e. congestion on the regular roads. Eliminating or even just narrowing an established trail is not something to be done lightly.

In terms of the vehicle, I was thinking of a electric bus with a large ultracapacitor bank, conductive recharging at stops and a gasoline-based genset for limping home in the event of a systems failure. Ergo, quiet and no tailpipe emissions.

Anonymous said...

The BART extension to SJ will be serving downtown SJ, so it will still be serving the urban core through the extension. Also, BART to SJ will serve as an important HSR feeder line for East Bay/Diridon.
By the way, when did BART to SJ all of a sudden become $8 billion? Or is this the cost adjusted for inflation circa 2020, or are some of you BART haters just stirring up crap?

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 6:50pm -

according to lead agency VTA, total project cost for BART to Silicon Valley is now "about $6 billion in 2008 dollars". However, that is just for the 16 miles Fremont Warm Springs to Santa Clara section. To be fair, it also includes the BART maintenance facility at the Newhall yard in Santa Clara.

Est. cost/mile: approx. $375 million


The related but separate extension from the existing Fremont station to Fremont Warm Springs (WSX) comprises 5.4 miles of new dual track alignment. The total budget of $890 million includes $54 million in "SFO extension surplus revenue".

This cryptic formulation simply means that BART had to put the WSX project on hold for many years so it could plug a $145 million hole in the budget for the extension to SFO. Of that, $91 million was repaid last year when SMCTA approved an MTC request to re-allocate funding originally reserved for Dumbarton Rail to WSX.

Cost per mile: $890m/5.4 = $165m


In other words, the VTA-led project costs roughly twice as much per mile as the BART-led one. Each includes both tunnel and at-grade sections as well as stations and grade separations. No-one has ever accused BART of building as cheaply as possible.

If past is prologue, expect final costs to exceed current projections.

BruceMcF said...

@Rafeal, I see no reason why allowing as much emission as people wish while charging them a set price is supposed to be the ideal, while fixing the quantity while allowing an auction to determine the fee is second-best.

It seems to be mostly people comparing an idealized "how I would do a fixed-rate carbon fee" to "how actual politics did a fixed-quantity carbon fee", but in the real world it would not be the ideal fixed rate carbon tax, but a carbon tax with all the same give-aways and concessions to the worst offenders and therefore those with the greatest incentive to buy politicians.

As to how much, I included the CBO estimates in the Sunday Train of two weeks ago ... each 1% is around $400m in 2011, projected to around $1.3b in 2019, and the total state share is 10%, so around $4b in 2011 rising to around $13b in 2019, which is why I suggested focusing on using funds for interest rate subsidies on capital projects that can be wholly or partly self-funding through operating cost reductions or user fees.

I don't have the details of what came out of the Senate committee - the link I gave is the most detailed I have seen so far.

"(c) electrification eliminates tailpipe emissions and improves train acceleration, because electric motors punch above their weight."

I would be interested in your reference on energy efficiency - you are handing the standard Rafaelesque shotgun blast of technical details without actually giving the facts that the details would offered to explain. The ones that I have seen have shown electric rail to be more energy efficient than diesel rail - even diesel-electric rail - for comparable speed per ton-mile.

lyqwyd said...

Anon @ 6:50

San Jose BART + Warm Springs + SJ Airport connector + maintenance facility is about $8 billion. Since none of the other stuff would be done without the extension, and some is required by the extension, I include the total cost.

And that's without the usual cost overruns seen in any BART project. Personally, when all is said and done I would not be surprised to see a few more billion tacked on with cost over-runs.

Just as a comparison about how effectively this money is being spent, denver has a $6.2 Billion dollar project that will provide 140 miles of rail, light rail, & BRT.

And sorry, but San Jose is not the urban core. San Jose is a large sprawling city, which is quite different than urban core. San Jose has 2/3 the density of Oakland, 1/2 the density of Berkeley, and 1/5th the density of San Francisco.

So is it facts that makes me a BART hater? In fact I just hate ridiculously expensive projects that keep us from doing better, less expensive transit projects. BART is responsible for the lion's share of those projects. If you ignore reality the problem will never get fixed.

BART's problems have little to do with the overall system, but a great deal to do with the people running it, and the people deciding which projects are worthwhile.

Peter said...

So, will the completion and successful operation of eBart perhaps convince VTA that it can get much cheaper service to Santa Clara than with crazy-unnecessary third rail technology?

Maybe build a standard gauge "sBART" line from Warm Springs along the route for BART to Santa Clara?

Anonymous said...

wow everyone is chatty today. meanwhile the bay bridge broke again and will likely be closed for the next 24 hours. For the second unexpected time in as many months, providing a perfect example of both our crumbling infrastructure and our need for alternatives during emergencies.

And of course BART will be the main savior of the day along with amtrak and the ferries, to keep the bay moving.
Bart has already put in a plan for extra and longer trains, amtrak has already got its plan in place for the sf-eastbay link. And the ferries most likely have done the same. This is all good practice for the next big disaster.

@rafael - per burbank I dont want the brt I want the red line to north hollywood to continue to BUR. Ill call them and let them know myself.

As much as we are all rail advocates I have to say that the bay areas best and most under utilized asset is the bay itself. Ferries are more flexible and more unaffected by disaster and disruption than any other mode and why we don't have hundred of ferries connect everything from fremont to SF to mt view to sfo to berkeley to mission bay and more is beyond me.

A central rail terminal where re routed commute trains could converge at a ferry terminal in emergencies would be a good idea.

Bridge out? Bart down? no prob, route all ace ccjpa and sanjoa trains to the train/ferry emergency terminal and load everyone onto boats to all points.

As for the question of why the bar area folks get screwed when it comes to paying for everything from rent to gas to projects to food to pay toilets, its because we are so used to paying more for everything all the time that we don't even flinch anymore.

Why does Neimans charge 500 for a pair of shoes? because they know some one will pay it.

EVeryone knows bay area people will pay anything because we always do.

The costs that are in these big projects... I mean you could hire millions of union wage workers for that, but what really happens is the money goes from the treasury to the wallets of friends, in exactly the same way that the purpose of the iraq war was to take all the money out of the US treasury that clinton had taken from the rich, and give it back to the rich under the guise of defense contracting. (yes thats all that was about)

There are vast sums of public money raised everyday and that money is siphoned into the pockets of the wealthy quite easily because they know the we will keep replacing it and won't say anything. And the reason we won't say anything is because we think the money is being used to pay good wages amd to get high quality and to make things extra pretty and fancy for our bay area sensibilities. Of course that emperor has no clothes but no one is going to put down their Veuve Clicquot and Humbolt Fog long enough to say so.

Anonymous said...

look folks and nimbys, you can always raise a fuss about stuff, but the fact is in the end, raising a fuss just means you will either be punished by going without or waiting longer, or paying more. Ultimately the rich and powerful win. They always will. You can rage against the machine but you can't stop it. So when it comes to altamont, or HSR or Dumbarton, or BART and all the players who are involved, its best to just let them do there thing and take what they give you cuz thats all your gonna get anyway. If you find that difficult, try drinking more.

Anonymous said...

SF denser than downtown SJ? Of course. Oakland and Berkeley? Yeah right!
You're also not taking into consideration that downtown/central SJ will become even denser/more developed with time and (again) the HSR feeder aspect of the BART line from Fremont to SJ.
By the way,why don't we just add other Bay Area transit projects to the BART to SJ price tag and make it a cool $20 billion project.

Anonymous said...

rafale heres the proper red line

Samsonian said...

@ lyqwyd

The BART fare structure has always been seriously out of whack. It basically makes urban commuters in SF, Oakland, and Berkeley subsidize suburban commuters from places like Concord and Dublin.

I remember hearing that BART in SF is operationally profitable. It wouldn't surprise me given how many use it for intra-SF trips.

Most other commuter rail systems use a zone fare structure. BART has some abomination of conditions to determine fare structure, including distance travelled, crossed transbay tube, SFO/Millbrae stations used, and other particular stations used.

I remember hearing in some cases it's actually cheaper to leave the fare gates and re-enter, than to stay in the system for the whole way on some trips.

Bizarro World.

Samsonian said...

@ Rafael, Peter

Re HSR routing/bypass:

I noticed that as well, and it struck me as odd. I'm sure it has to do with UP more than anything else.

If it has to do with NIMBYism though and avoiding the downtowns of cities, then that's a mistake. The debate over how route it to serve particular cities is no doubt complicated.

But I think the Japanese got it right the first time by serving downtowns, including those of secondary and even tertiary cities along the line and receive local and maybe limited service. Some of the others made the mistake of building bypasses and/or spurs which cost more and result in less operational flexibility.

It would be a mistake to bypass towns along the line. Even if they don't get a station when built, it doesn't mean it can't be added as an infill station later on. That 24 station cap will fall in time.

If I was a leader of a city like Elk Grove, Lodi, Madera, etc. I'd be lobbying for HSR route to pass through my town. Even though it wouldn't serve cities like that for quite a while, there's no technical reason they couldn't add an infill station some years later, and receive at least local (all stop) service.

Re Iron Horse Rail/I-680:

It would have been nice if they'd preserved that rail ROW, instead of allowing it to become a trail. This is part of the problem with rail abandonments. Once it's abandoned, it's often gone for good. It's very expensive and impractical, if not impossible to rebuild lost rail lines. The thousands of miles of old streetcar/light rail and commuter rail lines across the country are proof of that. We've been spending billions to rebuild just a portion of what we used to have.

If it still existed and wasn't encroached on, it'd be a trivial matter of getting rail service going. Since that isn't the case (it's a park/trail now), the communities in question are all suburbs, and there's an 8-lane Interstate highway serving them, it's kind of hard to justify the expense.

That said, if there was a way to get it going cheaply, I'd be all for that.

Re Rail to SJ:

A standard gauge rail link ('sBART' essentially) was an option for the VTA discussed in the 1990s during the push for BART. The cost varied depending on desired grade separations and electrification, but essentially it was a fraction of regular BART (maybe ~$1B or less).

But they scoped it out because they didn't want "dirty, old, slow, commuter rail," like Amtrak, CalTrain, etc. They wanted their subway, like 'world-class cities' (eye roll).

Never mind that commuter rail doesn't have to be like that. In Japan and Western Europe, electrified commuter rail isn't like that all. I mentioned earlier how the Paris RER is great model for metro rail done right. It was designed and built in the same time period as BART, and it's superior in every way, including cost, capacity, performance, and reach.

I think this is really a matter of perception. The Bay Area has paid a lot of money for public transit projects, but so much has been and continues to be squandered. BART gobbles up all the money, and the others live on crumbs. The rail services offered, generally reflect the money distribution. So people come to the conclusion that BART is the one true way, and commuter rail sucks.

This is why a lot of us are so hopeful about HSR upgrades on the Peninsula. The Bay Area will see that 'commuter rail' doesn't suck, and that this is the way to do it, not legacy BART extensions.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

"electric motors punch above their weight"

That wasn't a metaphor, I was literally referring to kW/kg.

To compare carbon footprints, you really need to look at well-to-wheels comparisons. See e.g. table A1 here: per GWh of electricity, coal-fired power plants emit ~290 metric tonnes of fossil carbon. Gas-fired cogen plants do much better at ~125. For nuclear and renewables, the number is zero.

It's important to differentiate thermodynamic and transmission efficiency from fossil carbon intensity. The two are not at all the same.

Anonymous said...

But they scoped it out because they didn't want "dirty, old, slow, commuter rail," like Amtrak, CalTrain, etc. They wanted their subway, like 'world-class cities' (eye roll).

like I said before, thats exactly why BART was designed the way it was to begin with. same reasons.

funny thing is though, dirty old clunky caltrain riders or the most loyal riders around to their service they think bart is ghetto.

and cap corridor is constantly praised for its "luxurious" (cough) "california cars" "oooh these trains are soo niiiiice"! go figure.

Anonymous said...

Of course, hsr in california will have an on board spa and wine bar, serve peets coffee, and feature a Gary Danko* Lounge.

BruceMcF said...

@Rafeal, so its only conventional speed rail that the energy efficiency of electric rail is so much greater than the energy efficiency of diesel rail that it has lower CO2 emissions even with coal-fired power.

lyqwyd said...


You are welcome to believe whatever you want. If you want to think San Jose is urban, that's fine with me. Ultimately Santa Clara county is paying for this. You could have had Caltrain provide the same connectivity, plus about 100 more miles of light rail, but you chose a 16 mile, 6 station BART line. I think it was a poor decision, but hopefully I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

My question is this - per bart to sjc

will they run a line from livermore to san jose? that would get high ridership because even people who drive the altamont could park and ride from there on a better more frequent sked than ace offers

Peter said...

@ jim

You're forgetting the disco on HSR.

lyqwyd said...


I'm not sure, but I doubt there will be a direct train from Livermore to train SJ... but hopefully there will be timed transfers.

Alon Levy said...

Est. cost/mile: approx. $375 million

In Manhattan, we'd kill for those costs. Our subways cost $2-3 billion per mile.

Anonymous said...

Alon - Manhattan has 50 story (or taller) buildings lining the streets that a subway is built under. The area that BART to SJ is being built is lined with single story houses and storefronts (or less in some places).

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

the Caltrain/HSR DTX tunnel in SF will be 1.3mi long and cost $2.8 billion (incl. access portal and interior of train box at Transbay Terminal).

In San Jose, the BART extension calls for a five-mile two-track tunnel under Santa Clara Street and the Caltrain/UPRR tracks between SJ Diridon and the Newhall yard in Santa Clara (near SJC airport).

Alon Levy said...

the Caltrain/HSR DTX tunnel in SF will be 1.3mi long and cost $2.8 billion (incl. access portal and interior of train box at Transbay Terminal).

Train boxes are really expensive - the new deep-level train stations under Grand Central and Penn cost billions. Also, three-track subways cost more than two-track ones. Our $2.7-billion-per-mile subway is a two-track continuation of an existing tunnel, with no train box or access portals.

As incompetent as Kopp and his ilk are, they're models of efficiency compared to the people running capital construction in New York.

Chris M said...

Rail transport, especially electrified rail, is much more efficient, and less damaging to the environment, than transportation by car or truck. It can help to dramatically reduce energy use and carbon emission. Even better, it's a win/win scenario for the economy, the environment and the fight against global warming.