Tuesday, October 20, 2009

LA to SD Scoping Meetings

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

CHSRA is hosting a number of scoping meeting down in Southern California this month - click that link to see the full details (PDF link). In advance of the LA County meetings, which kick off tomorrow night in Monterey Park, Streetsblog LA offers a primer on the LA-SD route:

I'm sure some are curious why the CHSRA choose to connect Los Angeles and San Diego via the Inland Empire instead of the more direct routing along the coast. From my years following this project I'll offer my cliffnotes on why this is so.

There are a number of obstacles to using the coastal corridor. The right of way in some places is narrow and also traverses environmentally sensitive areas. As the faq "How is this project different from other previous attempts to implement high-speed train systems in the U.S.?" on the CHSRA website notes:

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) considered but rejected a coastal alignment between Los Angeles and San Diego as part of its certified Statewide Program EIR/EIS (November 2005). The Authority concluded that limited existing right-of-way and sensitive coastal resources made high-speed train service on the coastal rail corridor infeasible. You can read more on the routing choices at the CAHSR's Frequently Asked Questions page.

Another factor is opposition from the coastal communities of Southern Orange County and Northern San Diego County. While cities like Anaheim and Irvine are eager to be part of the system, communities along the coast further south are hotbeds of NIMBY pushback (e.g. San Juan Capistrano and Encinitas). That is why the spur line serving Orange County goes no further South than Irvine. Plus the folks in the Inland Empire want the project to serve their region and have been actively lobbying for it to do so during the past decade. Similar lobbying by Palmdale and Lancaster is the reason why the project goes through the Antelope Valley instead of along the grapevine/I-5 corridor to reach L.A. from the Central Valley.

I would add some things to this. The issue isn't so much NIMBY pushback - that isn't stopping CHSRA elsewhere, nor would it be appropriate for it to do so - but the extreme difficulty of engineering tracks in this area. The tracks between LA and SD currently hug the coast through Capistrano Beach and San Clemente, squeezed between the beach and the bluffs. Those bluffs frequently come down onto the tracks in years of heavy rain, the most recent example I know of being in 1998. It's really not a good place for high speed trains.

The only real alternative along the coast is Interstate 5. But this is even less workable than the coast. I-5 is extremely hilly through much of the section from San Clemente southward (Camp Pendleton being less so). It also has some tight curves that make it additionally unsuitable for an HSR route.

Combined with the larger population along the Ontario-Escondido inland alignment, those engineering concerns made the Inland Empire alignment more viable. And yet it's not without questions - such as what will they do now that the I-15 ROW between Escondido and San Diego has been used up by Caltrans? Another is whether the trains will travel along the I-15 or the I-215 alignment in southern Riverside County. At one of these scoping meetings, yesterday in Murrieta, that issue came up, along with some of the now-standard NIMBY concerns:

Murrieta has been targeted for a station stop in an area near the intersection of the two freeways often referred to as the Golden Triangle.

Officials in the southwest Riverside County city see the station as a potential boon -- possibly a catalyst for commercial development and job growth.

As one of the most auto-dependent locations in a deeply auto-dependent region, Murrieta will derive quite a bit of benefit from having an HSR station, making travel to job centers to the north, northwest, and the south more feasible and affordable.

The issue of alignment was discussed:

Determining which freeway the train will parallel will be part of a lengthy environmental study that begins with the public comments fielded at the scoping sessions, said Jose Martinez, project manager for the Southern California line.

Each route has benefits and drawbacks. The terrain along I-215 is flatter and could allow the train to pass through both county seats. But the I-15 route is shorter and has more available land, said Rick Simon, a project engineer.

The I-215 route does include the ability to generate riders from Riverside, Moreno Valley, and San Bernardino/Redlands, whereas the I-15 route would be quicker from LA to SD but would not generate ridership from many of those cities.

And of course, the usual "omg this will cost too much!" folks came out:

Not everyone was supportive. Murrieta mother and son Ken and Louise Appel said they didn't believe that the benefits of the rail line -- shorter commutes and less dependence on foreign oil -- outweigh the costs -- more noise and the estimated $45 billion price tag for the entire system.

Which of course only makes sense if you assume there is no cost whatsoever to continuing the present model of transportation, which involves massive amounts of sprawl subsidized by everyone else in California. In other words, status quo. America has done a very good job of making those costs seem not only normal, but hidden, even nonexistent. So we who support HSR look like the ones wanting to just throw around money, even though opponents are actually the ones proposing a profligate strategy that, as we have learned with this recession, doesn't actually work for most people.


dave said...

Sorry I have to hijack the topic of this thread but I found these transit maps and thought I could share. They are pretty good and show existing rail transit, unfunded projects, futureprojects.

California Transit Maps

I'm not sure who the Author is but, he/she is due credit for them.

I think the bottom line is that all of this will not happen unless HSR is implemented and properly. It will most likely be the "heart" of all transit in California.

dave said...

All Maps say Jake Berman, so they are courtesy of him.

Robert said...

Thank you for this post, I wanted to attend one of the San Diego meetings but was sick in bed all week.

Rafael said...

A few days ago, commenter Dave dug up this link in the way back when machine: NOVA: Tracking the Supertrain

The hour-long program is in six parts an chronicles the previous effort to upgrade passenger rail service to implement HSR in California, between LA and San Diego in the I-5 corridor. This was was the brainchild of the private American High Speed Rail Corporation (AHSRC), headed up by a former Amtrak executive.

A report by the Transportation research Board concluded the following in 1987:

"The project proved to be very controversial, with the proponents eventually unable to obtain financing to continue. Opposition to the project centered mainly on environmental and economic impacts.

Important considerations were noise, vibration, and visibility; beach access and lagoons; safety and property values; and transportation, namely, Amtrak service, local traffic and circulation, and local public transportation.

The professional community seriously questioned AHSRC's ridership estimates and methodology.

The content and process of communication between the project proponents and the public and governmental agencies were important factors in the outcome. The proponents were not accustomed to working closely with these groups.

Elements of an approach to minimize communication problems in large-scale projects are as follows: exercise political diplomacy at all levels of government, maintain an open data process, establish open communication with the public and governmental agencies and keep the loop closed by continuing to provide feedback, maintain credibility by accepting criticism and handling it professionally, and avoid any perception of arrogance."

I suspect that more than a few residents of Orange and San Diego counties still live in the same houses, have paid the same property taxes since 1978 and now want things to change even less than they did in the 1980s. Get off my lawn!

My suspicion is that the route will now use hwy 60, hwy 57/60 and I-10 to reach an Ontario airport station near Archibald Ave. A people mover will be needed anyhow due to the linear configuration of the three terminal buildings there.

Cutting south via Corona would be cheap'n'cheerful, but current plans call for a station well south of the BNSF Transcon line. Move that north as close to the 91 interchange as possible and relocate the Corona Metrolink station east as close as possible to I-15 and, link the two via a pedestrian passage featuring moving walkways. Any HSR station in Corona must be intermodal if it is to serve the Santa Ana river valley, Riverside, San Bernardino etc.

By contrast, cutting across from I-10 to I-215 would be longer and very difficult to implement. In that scenario, it might be better to stick with hwy 60 median all the way and build a really fast people mover north to Ontario airport.

PeakVT said...

The I-215 alignment also would be make for a better connection between San Diego and Las Vegas if a HSR line ever gets built through Cajon Pass.

Devil's Advocate said...

I'll continue here the discussion from the previous thread, since I didn't have time earlier.

My argument is that if you build the HSR along the legacy tracks of California existing railroad you're bound to go through a lot of populated areas, and I doubt that in the end the train will be allowed to run through those areas at very high speed. This is much worse than in Europe, because in California the suburbias sprawl for much wider areas than European towns.
The idea of going around the towns rather than through them could therefore be a solution. Obviously before and after the towns you would need to build feeder tracks to connect the downtown station to the HSR (unfortunately America doesn't have legacy tracks of the sort that EU do). In those instances where the train needs to stop in those along the route town (therefore in a limited stop HST), the train would get off the HSR and get into the feeder line before the urban area to reach the downtown station. The express non stop trains would simply stay on the HSR line around the towns. This concept is visible in Italy in the line Bologna-Milan. To get an idea go to Google Maps and enter in the search box: Modena, Italy, then choose satellite image (the map hasn't been updated with the new HSR). You'll notice in the Satellite image that the HSR line swings very visibly around the northern side of the city of Modena. The HSR line from Bologna to Milan basically bypasses towns such as Modena, Reggio Emilia, Parma, Piacenza, all cities with over 250,000 people, comparable in population to the towns along the California HSR. You'll also notice that the MI-BO HSR runs along the Autostrada A1, north of the cities, rather than along the legacy rail line, which runs through those towns. It is only in Milan, Bologna and Florence that the HSR goes into town, but that's because practically all trains stop in those cities. However they plan to build a tunnel totally under Florence, with an underground station. If California were to adopt a similar concept, they could build the HSR not along the legacy railroads of California, but away from them and around the cities. I agree that thhis would not be necessary for Fresno, or maybe Bakersfield, since nearly all trains will probably stop in those two big cities and therefore the train will need to slow down anyway. The Peninsula won't have that option either because of lack of open space.
Regarding the high cost of construction in Italy, that has very little to do with this concept. Most is due to the fact that unlike the other EU countries, Italy wanted to build a High Capacity Rail, with the ability to accept also high(er) speed freight trains, and also because of the terrain (Florence to Bologna goes through a mountain range and it's totally underground for 50 miles). Note that the line between Bologna and Milan, although it bypasses the towns along the route is almost all on a concrete elevated structure (you can probably notice it on Google Maps, or also on the bird eyeview of Bing Maps. If a similar concept were to be adopted in the central valley you could easily build an HSR line that between San Jose and LA runs on the countryside and bypasses all cities except for maybe Fresno and Bakersfield. In the end the cost would probably be less than running the line along the existing ROW because in the countryside the cost of the land is less and you don't need to build noise abatement structures or other stuff like that. My fear is that they'll build this thing through all those towns along the ROW and later on they'll limit the speed of the train or require major expensive sound abatment improvements. If that happens you can kiss the train good bye, because the cost will be prohibitive or will prevent you from travelling from SF to LA in 2h and 40 min.

missiondweller said...

Every time I hear about the cost I want to laugh. It would be interesting to know what the net present value is of allwe have spent on freeways. It would make the cost of HSR look like bargain.

I'm in no way anti car but some perspective would be useful.

Joey said...

It's worth noting that CHSRA is planning <150mph speeds all the way to Riverside. If it's doable on the peninsula (which it IS), it's doable here.

YESonHSR said...

Great point missiondweller!! they act as if nothing expensive has ever been built!..I would say if you would try and build the interstate sytem now its cost would be 1.5 trillion and far more than HSR.

Anonymous said...

"maintain credibility by accepting criticism and handling it professionally, and avoid any perception of arrogance."

This is where childishly calling people names (NIMBY), trivializing their concerns (DENIER) really fits the bill.

I guess some people never learn, eh Robert? Rafael? (Diridon, Kopp and crew?)

Anonymous said...

Not a good point at all because a) road infrastructure has been built in tiny pieces over 100 years. Sure, so lets do the same for HSR, shall we?

b) road infrastructure is a done deal. HSR is not. The existence of one doesn't validate the creation of the other.

c) We have one expensive infrastructure, does that mean we should have TWO? The creation of HSR doesn't help us get away from roads. Roads stay. The cost of maintaining roads stays. We can't afford to maintain two.

So pine away about the cost of roads - make sure you include the economic value of moving people and good around from door to door with total flexibility in your calculations (and remind yourself again that trains only travel in straight lines and don't take anyone to where they actually need to get - unless you sleep in train stations). And while you're at it, ask yourselves why passenger railroads are a mere shadow of what they were in their heyday. Their utility was overtaken by vehicles with total flexibility on demand, on roads. And that's not going to change, only the method of fueling autos will change.

YESonHSR said...

So every other country in the world is wrong? AND of course it can never work here because its America? How Reason Foundation/Cato
since that is your mindset..

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 4:40pm -

I personally have never called anyone an HSR denier. Indeed, I've called Robert on it but it's his blog and he feels it's justified.

NIMBY is in a different category. It's a widely used terms used to describe individuals who support public works except any that would affect the immediate surroundings of their property. It's often an understandable position but no less selfish for that.

The individuals labeled NIMBYs generally hate the moniker, preferring to think of themselves as advocates for "doing it right". By this, they typically mean gold-plated solutions that jack up the value of their property, paid for by John Q. Public.

Note that the NIMBY label does not apply to advocates of gold-plated solutions that are prepared to raise funding for the difference locally.

Btw, opponents of this project have called advocates "foamer", "socialist" etc. Pot, meet kettle.

Btw 2: is it just my impression or has CHSRA and its consultants become better at listening since Curt Pringle took over as chairman of the board?

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 4:52pm -

no-one is seriously suggesting that we rip up existing road lanes to make room for trains. At best, there's discussion of using land originally set aside for future road expansion to lay tracks instead.

It's also incorrect to assert that road construction is already over and done with. The objective of HSR is to deliver a transportation alternative that will reduce or eliminate pressure to construct thousands of additional lane-miles of highways and additional runways at congested airports like SFO and LAX.

Robert Cruickshank said...

This whole discussion of whether trains should go through or around cities is fascinating and important. I know I need to do more research on this.

What I will say is this: for cities where we plan to have a station, the case for a city center station is overwhelming. Stations on the edge of town would reinforce the very kind of development patterns HSR is designed to change. Plus, the ridership argument is simply overwhelming.

That being said, as Clem noted in the comments to the previous post, there's no real reason why the route should necessarily blow through the center of Madera or Wasco. If those can be bypassed, it might be cheaper to do so.

On the other hand, these are not exactly "dense" cities. It's not the Peninsula, where homes are built right up to the tracks (Fresno is an exception here, but it's a city I argue deserves a central HSR station anyway). There is likely more flexibility here than people like Tolmach claim.

As to the 200mph issue, well, this is where the local-level studies currently being conducted are so valuable. If there's a way to build the trains through these towns with soundproofing that can enable high speeds, it should be explored. The only towns I believe (please correct me if this is wrong) that would be getting such speeds through them would be in the Valley.

Finally, we do need to keep in mind that this "omg 200mph through cities" is one of Tolmach's efforts to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the project. We HSR supporters can and should discuss this openly, and criticize the project design where warranted. But let's not forget why Tolmach is making this point.

I plan to have a more detailed post on this stuff soon, but not until I have greater mastery of the details, especially the European HSR details. It's been a while since I used the AVE, but as I recall, its stations and routes were quite close to the city centers - definitely in Madrid, Córdoba, Sevilla.

Robert Cruickshank said...

@Rafael: Totally agreed about CHSRA's communications and outreach. They were beginning to improve around late spring/early summer anyway, but Curt Pringle has definitely prioritized it and we're seeing some much better work. A shame that wasn't done about a year or so ago.

As to advocating taking road lanes for rail tracks, heh, that IS something I do advocate. And I also advocate it within my own community (I believe Monterey should convert two lanes through the Lighthouse Tunnel for LRT to Pacific Grove, which currently only exists as a proposal in my own head).

That being said, nobody in any position of authority, and certainly not at CHSRA, is advocating that position.

Robert Cruickshank said...

As to labels:

"NIMBY" is a term older than I am, used frequently to refer to people who may or may not support a project, but who are primarily animated by a desire to not have it in their backyard. I'm sorry if Peninsula NIMBYs don't like the term, but that particular shoe fits. They quite simply don't want HSR in their backyards. I don't know what else to call them. "NIMBY" actually seems the most neutral of possible terms.

I quite strongly believe that while people living near a project should have a role in the planning process, they have no right to a veto over that process, though they frequently claim one and abuse the CEQA process to create one. I also think their basic logic is illegitimate, elitist, exclusionary, and not in the public interest. So I see my role as arguing against their core assumptions.

As to "HSR denier," heh, I'm not giving that one up. It is an analogue to "climate change denier" and is a term I apply to people who refuse to acknowledge the proven benefits of HSR - usually folks who argue nobody will ride it, that it will be a financial boondoggle, etc. I think this is an accurate term as well.

I don't intend to use these labels as epithets, but as descriptors, as shorthand, as pronouns.

I am more aware than any of you that I have a...shall we say...boisterous style. I wear my HSR advocacy on my sleeve, I have little patience for project opponents, and that comes across in my writing. After a year and half I think people are used to it.

That's why I'm also glad we have Rafael writing here - he brings some balance to the blog, offering the kind of in-depth technical stuff, presented in a different tone than mine, that this site probably needs.

Board Watcher said...

I've got to agree with Robert & Rafael on the communications. It seems they've even put a gag order on Diridon.

Anonymous said...

The I-5 and Grapevine with a branch to Bakersfield and Fresno is the solution.

Forget the Peninsula. This will be even more in order if the TBT tunnel is dumped. It has had a sad track record of being derailed.

dave said...

Yeah, can someone explain what the Grapevine vs. Tehachapi fuss is about? I must have missed it. Anybody?

Joey said...

Shorter tunneling distance mostly (grapevine would require much, perhaps most of the route to be tunneled as there is no way through that's straight enough for HSR). Also AFAIK Tehachapi doesn't require HSR to be in a tunnel at an active fault ... which would incur all sorts of issues.

Anonymous said...

"NIMBY is in a different category. It's a widely used terms used to describe individuals who support public works except any that would affect the immediate surroundings of their property."

I guess that doesn't make me a NIMBY -- just a person with common sense to realize this is a complete waste of money. I don't want HSR anywhere in CA, especially because we can't afford it.

Peter said...

@ Anon

I guess that just makes you a denier, not a NIMBY.

NONIMBYS said...

We CAN afford it for God sakes!! ITS 9biilion over freaking 30 years!! enough of the old man/backward/tightwad Reagan mindset..that has ruined this state/country for any kind of major investments because..WAA it cost to much.its stealing my taxes ect ect

NONIMBYS said...

AND you dont want it anywhere here in CA? to bad WE voted YES deal with it..cause WERE building it!

Anonymous said...

Robert, I can think of alot of deragatory terms older than you or I are. Does that excuse your use of them? No, in fact you delete posts that contain them.

Anonymous said...

And Robert since you live in the model TOD town of MONTEREY, perhaps you should consider putting your money where your enormous mouth is as you go walk the quiet streets in your little bedroom community far off the beaten path.

"on the edge of town would reinforce the very kind of development patterns HSR is designed to change."

How very BIG of you to be pushing and shoving redesigns of other peoples home towns and lifestyles.

Gee, I can think of a few terms older than you I'd like to throw in here to decribe you, but then you'd just delete it.

Anonymous said...

Really? I always though you were making a reference to "holocaust denier".

But Robert - feel free to continue with the name calling. Its suits you and your cause.

Travis ND said...

Lodi is one city that is being bypassed. So doing so is clearly something that CAHSR is open to if it isn't going to break the bank.

Anonymous said...

Um, what "center" of Wasco?

Unless it's built up quite a bit recently, there's not much to distinguish it from the surrounding space other than a couple of signs.


Anonymous said...

If we can't afford this, then we can't afford another lane on highway 99 or any airport expansions, either.


Anonymous said...

I ahve to advocate for the i 215 and taking it further east to capture the most possible inland empire population. those are areas that not only contain a large population with limited options, but also will be absorbing a large portion of cali's future growth.

Intermediate city pair travel is just as and in some cases may well be, more important that the big end points

Anonymous said...

One really has to look at hsr not as a way to get from
sf to la or la and sd

but as three fully functional regional systems as well. the valleys ( san joaquin/antelope/san fernando)

the bay

and the EI.

each could function and be successful on its own.

yet it still allows for good long haul times on express trains

Some would see it as a compromise compared to pure hsr express between the 4 biggest cities,

but the state wants to get the most population for its construction dollar.

Further, the states growth patterns will eventually render the la=sf model less important as the population and jobs even out along the routes.

looking on said...

This will surely get an editorial from Robert:


Dan Walters: Take bullet train claims with grain of salt

Anonymous said...

looking on

a typical conservative viewpoint coming from a sacramento media source is fairy par for the course.

Its about as surprising as an orange county columnist writing an article about the problems with immigration or the public schools.

People who are comfortable in their own lifestyles ( and its always because they go that way with hard work not because they had any privilege to begin with -yeh right) never believe in spending any money on anything that might help "those other people who are just lazy"

and they can always come up with the long list of rehashed talking points which are the same no matter the issue
be it health care, public schools, public transportation, hell, public libraries for that matter.

They will be against it.

The answer is always no and that ilk, not surprisingly is losing more and more ground and relevance everyday. Their response to losing more and more ground is to yell NO even louder as they are drowning.

Anonymous said...

Unrelated to the topic, but wasnt sure where to post it:

There was another teenage suicide by Caltrain last night in Palo Alto. The fourth one in the last 6 months, all from the same high school (Gunn High School)

All 4 committed sucide by kneeling or lying on the Caltrain tracks. This is unimaginably tragic.

Anonymous said...

they need a time out down there. put studies aside for a minute and take some time to find out whats going on with the kids down there.
someone's not paying attention.

If a had a kid in school there Id pull em right out for a long vacation and some r and r and to check in and find out how things are going. math can wait.

Anonymous said...

And they all did it on the same East Meadow intersection where the tracks are exposed.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 1:41am -

it'll be a while before full grade separation is in place in the Caltrain corridor.

Meanwhile, how about asking Caltrain to install some inconspicuous CCTV cameras with real-time H.264 encoders and secure broadband internet connections? To that, add reliable wireless broadband connections for the driver cabs of locomotives and an industrial PC with a large enough display.

That way, train drivers could see what's going on at a critical intersection well before reaching it, giving them the precious lead time needed to bring their train to a full stop and avert tragedy, property damage and/or extended disruption to rail service.

Video surveillance of the ROW will anyhow be needed for HSR, so it's not as if the investment would be a throw-away in a few years' time.

Brandon in California said...

I would like to see an alignment option added to the AA study... a link through the low mountains between Anaheim and Murrieta/Temecula.... allowing trains from San Diego to bypass the Inland Empire.

And perhaps... the line between Riverside and Murrieta/Temecula may not be needed.

So, higher cost here... lower cost there... overall probably a higher cost (assuming); however, a trade-off that may mean relatively palatable increase in cost relative to quicker trips and possible more riders (assuming).

Orange County folks benefit the most... because they now have two easy travel choices... for residents and the business community. San Diego folks benefit by quicker trips.

Those between Riverside and Murrieta/Temecula loose; however, population in that vicinity is relatively low. Relative.

Peter said...

@ Brandon

Submit a comment to CHSRA, then your alignment will be looked at.

I've been getting frustrated with people on this blog coming up with great ideas and not submitting them to CHSRA for review. If no one submits the idea, then the idea won't get looked at. Writing it up on this blog doesn't do anything.

Rafael said...

@ Brandon -

(a) how would you get from Anaheim ARTIC to te Cleveland National Forest? Orange and Tustin are built-up areas without an available east-west right of way.

(b) it's not how high the hills are but how steep. Anything above 3.5% and you're looking at tunnels.

(c) lots of people live the inland empire, they would surely oppose being cut out of the network just so San Diegans can shave 5-10 minutes off their trip to LA. Those going to Anaheim are already served by Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, which could and should be treated to a program of incremental upgrades over the next 15 years or so.

(d) with PMD now a ghost airport, LA needs a station at ONT to relieve LAX. San Diegans would get limited relief for Lindbergh Field, as Ontario will be less than an hour away by HSR. If you're headed to e.g. Europe or Asia, that's an acceptable connection.

Anonymous said...

Labelers. What a bunch of simple-minded NorCal people. How lame.

Anonymous said...

CCTV cameras

Trains routinely pass at high speeds within a few steps of people standing at a crossing gate or on a platform.

Cameras don't read a person's intent and cannot provide sufficient warning to avert a suicide.

Peter said...

Yes, but from what I've heard and seen, people committing suicide by train set up well in advance of the train hitting. A lot of them don't just step in front of a train as it is about to hit, they get themselves well situated.

Anonymous said...


You have unbelievably high expectations of the engineering group at CalTrain.

Why in the world would you expect this group to be able to do something that complicated (install cameras, wireless TV screens in cabs etc.), when they can't fix the horn noise, which they so wisely broke in the first place 6 months ago.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 9:24am -

well, if you prefer, just think of ROW surveillance as something that could be prioritized within the context of the HSR project in the SF peninsula.

CHSRA has already received a number of briefings from railways that operate HSR services and infrastructure overseas. Many of them, e.g. SNCF, have engineering departments that will consult on the design of high speed lines. They have experience with this sort of thing.

Of course, if Caltrain insists on re-inventing the wheel, it could take a little longer...

Anonymous said...

@ 12:43 AM: This is a pretty poor argument against rail transport. Someone who wants to commit suicide will always be able to find a way; it's just not feasible to remove from California everything that one could possibly use to kill oneself.

Besides, cars kill far more people than trains, and most car accident victims *didn't* want to die.

Peter said...

I don't think Anon @ 12:43 stated anything against rail transport. Just that there was another suicide.

Let's not be putting words in people's mouths.

Anonymous said...

The I-215 alignment also would be make for a better connection between San Diego and Las Vegas if a HSR line ever gets built through Cajon Pass.

And to Palm Springs, Phoenix, Tucson, too. Though perhaps because of their 'culture' and 'autocentrism' they will be deemed not deserving of and denied access to the urban fountain of youth known as HSR. Hard to say, since Neo-Marxists with totalitarian tendencies (redundant) can be fickle.

But yeah, IMHO I-215 is the best route for a build-out system.

Anonymous said...

I can now see why Richard Tolmach is not popular on this site. He agrees that the Tehachapis routing is a serious error and refers to a detour that amounts to 100 miles, more than I had guesstimated.

It is not auspicious that serious railfans are deeply displeased with the CHSRA scheme. Many of these objections are obvious and way beyond bruised egos.

If the public were polled, the I-5-Grapevine routing would be vastly preferred over the Tehachapis. Who from the Bay Area would take 99 instead of I-5 to go to LA? This is an obvious blunder particularly as there are serious technical limiations with the Tehachapis alignment as well. The ruling gradient is still very steep and the area is still seismically active.

Peter said...

When you're DRIVING you don't care about picking anyone else up along your route. You don't care about whether you drive through any other cities.

A train, though, may need to make intermediate stops along the route where other people live. Otherwise it is purely an airline replacement. THAT'S NOT WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO BUILD!

Peter said...

As has been stated before, an I-5 alignment may be needed many years from now when the system is at capacity for a "Super-Express" line. Until then, it is literally a "train to nowhere", whereas the 99 alignment goes to where the passengers are.

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

Helllloooooooo Train Huggers! Gotta pay a visit to my socialist friends once in a while! So at what stage is your project since last time I was here? Is it still at the day dreaming stage? Or has it progressed to the night dreaming stage? Or maybe it's at the "Just dreaming and talking about" stage! And how are the Palo Alto NIMBYs? Still messing with the train huggers as well? I feel really sorry for you guys! You really love this toy, and you can't have it. There is no money, then there are all these mean rich Nimbys, and those mean environmentalists, and of course the "conservatives" car (and pick up truck) lovers.
How about a comprimise, a nice deal? We all agree to build a high speed train from Great America to San Jose. We'll make it one of the rides at Great America. We can do the same in Southern Cal. From Disneyland to downtown Anaheim. That way all the train lovers can enjoy a ride when they feel the need, while the rest of the state doesn't need to find all those billions that we don't have. Nimbys in Palo Alto, I'm sure, will also be very happy.

And thank you Dave for those California Transit Maps. They're really nice. See! I'm not just a conservative truck driving red neck. I'm aware of the congestion problems facing our metropolitan areas, so I'm in favor of expanding urban transit.

But if you need to travel across the State you can drive or fly. There is no traffic congestion near Coalinga, and the skies are mostly open. Why do we need such an expensive train that WON'T relieve any congestion in our metro areas? STOP this NONSENSE.

Robert Cruickshank said...

The I-5 Grapevine alignment is not credible. It is extremely mountainous and would be far more costly than the Tehachapi alignment. Tolmach knows this - he's trying to put CHSRA in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" position where they can't win, arguing that they have to build on an alignment nobody can afford to construct.

As to Monterey, I am organizing to get both the city of Monterey and the county transportation agency to adopt light rail as the preferred option on the Monterey Branch Line from Castroville. TAMC staff have already endorsed it, and I am hopeful that the TAMC board and the city of Monterey will do so as well.

TOD is currently included in the city of Monterey general plan, oriented around the downtown area (Alvarado Street and environs, down to the area near Fisherman's Wharf where the LRT terminal would be built).

So I don't know what Anon @9:58 is talking about.

Devil's Advocate said...

Who said that the Grapevine alignment is not credible? I found something we could copy for the Grapevine here.

PeakVT said...

He agrees that the Tehachapis routing is a serious error and refers to a detour that amounts to 100 miles, more than I had guesstimated.

From Bakersfield to Santa Clarita, the Tehachapi alignment adds about 32 miles, 13 minutes (@150 mph average), and 500k residents as compared to the I-5 alignment. From Los Banos to Santa Clarita, the 99/Tehachapi alignment adds about 70 miles, 30 minutes (@150 mph average), and 3.5M+ residents as compared to the I-5 alignment. So, less than 100 miles added in exchange for a significant number of trips. Sounds like a good trade-off to me.

Plus, a line through Tehachapi would work better if a LA-LV line is built. A connector from Mojave to Barstow would bring more Central Valley cities within HSR distance of Las Vegas.

Anonymous said...

The tehachapi route is not an error. Get over it already. and neither is the inland empire.

will you gain more riders with inland empire and antelope valley or will you gain more riders by saving 15 minutes here and there?

The goal with the initial runk line is to cover as much of californias' population as possible.

Califonrnians voted for it based on getting service. They didn't vote to give nonstop service to people in San jose.

The chosen route covers the maximum amount of current and more importantly - future - population.
It's beyond me that some people can not grasp the concept of the train going to where to people who voted for it are.
I know the little out of place squiggle on the line on the map bugs you. It bugged me at first too, even pacheco bugged me way way back in the early days, until I looked more closely at the arguments and reasoning and it makes sense. I see what the goals are and the system as designed meets those goals.

Anonymous said...

Of course you don't understand - because you have selective powers of reasoning.

The fact is you live in Monterey, hundreds of miles from the nearest metro city center. And why should you care? Because you live in, and despoil the sensitive natural environement that is the Monterey Bay coast. And you drive or take other forms of transportion hundreds of miles to get to those city centers FREQUENTLY where your business dealings take you.

What IS your travel mileage Robert?

As a person who cares so deeply about redesigning the way EVERYONE ELSE lives and thinks about land use and densifiying living conditions FOR THE GREATER GOOD, one would think YOU would be first in line to pack yourself in to a tiny high rise apartment in San Jose, SF or even Sac.

Why not Robert, what's the matter? You mean you don't ENJOY the hustle and bustle urban lifestyle, you prefer a little nature and open space near your home?

Do you know that its 91 miles from Monterey to Menlo Park? That means that when you graced the town hall meeting with your presence several weeks ago, that was a 180 mile trip for you. (And a 180 trip for our environment too.) What a hero you are!

And that lifestyle choice is just dandy for you - but lets make sure to defile the Peninsula towns and neighborhoods of their rights to foster some semblence of livable suburban neighborhoods. No, its EVERYONE ELSE that needs to get on board with ridding ourselves of "the very kind of development patterns HSR is designed to change"

But surely, leave you and your dainty little town of Monterey out of it. Because Monterey is going to have a full one or two square block of TOD, which to is probably what, 2 or three apartment buildings around the quaint peer district. And I bet they'll have a cute little light rail trolly that moves the tourists in a big circle around Monterey. Makes you feel like a real hero of the environment, huh?

Anonymous said...


To put it plainly, your knowledge of rail is so puny as compared to Tolmach's it is laughable. He spent many years in the rail division at Caltrans and although you don't agree with his views, for you to challenge his knowledge is without reason.

You, as a history professor, I thought still working on a graduate degree, can put on a good spin, but your knowledge is lacking. Many readers here have understood that for some time. I just thought it was good to bring it up at this time again.

Peter said...

@ Anon

So, are you saying that people who live in areas not well-served by regional and inter-regional public transportation should not be advocates for improvements to such systems?

We'd never get ANYTHING done if we put a litmus test on advocates.

And how do you know that Robert didn't take the currently limited public transit to GET to Menlo Park?

Anonymous said...

Well I can tell you where there is demand.

where do people want to go that it currently takes too long to get too?

Coachella Valley
Las Vegas
The entire inland empire
and every single one of those central valley towns.

No one ever asks to go to livermore.
or Lebec
See, between bakersfield and Santa Clarita there are about 10 people. and between Bakersfield and Santa Clarita via antelope there are 500,000 people.

Aslo between irvine and oceanside There are people who don't like and don't want public transportation nor do they want it in their neighborhoods, whereas in the inland empire there are people with limited access, who do want the hsr, and, theres also a lot more of them.
see? now do you get it?

Peter said...

I know that one of the arguments NIMBYs and deniers have is that there won't be enough time for trains to get up to full speed between stations. How long (and far) does it take for a train to get up to 220 mph?

Peter said...

Sorry to interject a technical question above.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's hilarious when Robert Cruickshank tries to speak with authority on rail issues, when it is clear his knowledge is very limited and biased in favor of whatever CHSRA proclaims.

Richard Tolmach is an actual rail professional who has worked for decades to promote passenger rail in California. Cruickshank is a political hack who seeks to attack anyone he disagrees with, because he doesn't understand the issues well enough to engage in constructive debate. Who do you trust more?

The I-5 alignment would be much cheaper to build than the 99. The I-5 misses the low-density Central Valley sprawl (which makes it cheaper to build), but it speeds up dramatically the connection between the dominant population centers of the state: SoCal, Bay Area, and Sacramento.

Don't forget the 90-100 additional miles of route trackage is both very expensive to build AND maintain. HSR track requires intensive maintenance.

dave said...

Take it easy Jim, just because you live in THEEE destination of Northern California doesn't mean you can take a dump on the East Bay. I want to go to Livermore, when I'm out of town and want to go HOME!

Sure it's not a tourist attraction like SF, but it was a bad example particularly because an Intermodal Station in the Livermore Area would be a major gateway for the whole Tri-Valley region all the way up to let's say Walnut Creek and ever city in between, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Danville. Not to mention the future BART extension to Livermore. Something I'm hoping the Altamont Overlay can bring us.

dave said...

Must I mention the hundreds of commuters just to the Lawrence Livermore National Lab would be a big chunk of ridership. You should see Vasco Road during rush hour mornings and evenings. It's nonstop traffic just to and from the Lab. Looks like a curtain of water composed of cars coming down that road.

Eric M said...


Just because someone has been doing something for years does not mean they have been doing it correctly all along. Do something wrong long enough, they start to believe it's right. i.e. Tolmach

You and others are so short sighted, that nothing in this country ever gets done anymore. It's no wonder we are falling farther and farther behind.

Anonymous said...

Peter, no that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that Robert lives in the boonies, and enjoys the wide open spaces that his living choices give him. Robert has no business shoving the densification of towns and neighborhoods down peoples throats, when he himself is not willing to accept the personal implications of an urban lifestyle. I'm not talking about whether he takes the train - he sure as hell better be. I'm talking about his arrogant overbearing demands to see a whole bunch of happy and productive suburban neighborhoods get trashed so that more people can pile in on top of each other - and HE's not willing to walk that talk.

Monterey has a population of 29,000and is at least 50 miles from the nearest metro area, major employment center. Real big of Robert to expect thousands of people to start packing tightly into towns around HSR.

Peter said...

Sorry, but you're still imposing a litmus test on advocates.

There are other reasons why people move to towns like Monterey other than they just like low density suburban life. If, for example, a person gets a well-paying job in a town "out in the boonies," I would expect that person to move there, and not contribute to congestion by commuting.

The simple fact that a person lives in a certain location should not mean they cannot advocate for things they would like to see somewhere else.

The same way I, for example, would love to ride public transit, but don't because the current layout and service is highly inconvenient for me. Does that mean that I cannot advocate for improved service that may benefit me and others some day?

Anonymous said...

and enjoys the wide open spaces that his living choices give him.

You know this how? I lived in the boonies in eastern Idaho for years and couldn't wait to get the h@#$ out to a more dense place. I couldn't, because my JOB made me stay there. As soon as I found something that paid an equivalent amount in a dense area, I left. Just because someone lives somewhere doesn't mean they like the same things that you believe they must.

Peter said...

Also, just because someone is advocating for TOD doesn't mean that he or she wants suburbia to be abandoned. Let's get real, it's not 1920s science fiction where everyone is supposed to live in Megalopolis. People will still live in the suburbs. We're just advocating that they be offered a way of travelling local, regional, and interregional distances that is more energy-efficient and more environmentally friendly.

Another problem is that there will be MANY more people living in CA in the future. We would like to have attractive places for them to live that are not necessarily 30 miles from their workplace. Hence one of the reasons for TOD.

Bianca said...

Someone who can't even bother to register a pseudonym is taking Robert to task for advocating for TOD in a place that doesn't yet have much? Which is something that we all know because Robert has chosen to share that here? That's pretty rich.

Brandon in California said...

Re: TRAC and Richard Tolmach...

I know folks in the rail industry and who are familiar with the TRAC puplication. The majority, perhaps unanimous, is that TRAC is a paper written by enthusists FOR enthusists.

I'm being diplomatic.

In my opinion, articles written by Richard are ridiculous. They are one-sided and overly biased. Very transparent. A junior high school kid could see a writer with an agenda.

It's hard for me to take TRAC/Richard at all serious.

I like some of the pictures.

As for Caltrans Division of Rail... the division largely manages contracts with Amtrak to provide regional rail services, developing a state plan to run those for the foreseeable future, developing improvement plans, and commenting or overseeing corridor improvements.

The divisions' activities and scope is limited and related to their budget.

Per a September 20090meeting in which Richard spoke, the below blurb was provided to describe his background or scope of train knowledge.

Rich Tolmach – President, California Rail Foundation
Richard Tolmach recently retired from the Caltrans Division of Rail after a 33-year career in passenger rail planning and service development, during which he planned the schedules and oversaw marketing of the service startup on each of the three California 403(b) intercity corridors. He currently has a consulting practice specializing in transit system start-ups, maps, timetables, vehicle graphics and information systems. Tolmach helped found the Train Riders' Association of California and serves on its Board of Directors. He is also the Editor of California Rail News.

Anonymous said...

Aint no way in hell a penny of California money will go to building a line to Sin City. So that we can give what little of left of the citizenry's disposable income to Steve Wynn?

If you are against fully legalizing casinos in the once-Golden State you are much more of a NIMBY than anybody in Palo Alto.

Anonymous said...

@ dave

The only reason I used livermore as an example is because I was thinking in terms of where do my customers want to go that they currently have a slow or difficult time of getting to and anyone leaving from here can take bart or ace out that way. I wasn't referring to points within the bay area. I was thinking in terms of where people want to go around the state that could be helped with hsr.

Nothing against the eastbay. I have friends who live in the eastbay and sometimes I even let them in my house.

@anon Richard Tolmach is an actual rail professional who has worked for decades to promote passenger rail in California. Cruickshank is a political hack who seeks to attack anyone he disagrees with, because he doesn't understand the issues well enough to engage in constructive debate. Who do you trust more?

WAs he part of division of rail when caltrans nearly ran capitol corridor into the ground before ccjpa took over and salvaged what was left of it?

I read tolmachs pile of horseshit that he printed in the rag and its clear as hetch hethcy water that he's coming from a pace of " I didnt' get my way so Im gonna trash the whole thing.

ITs bullshit. thats what it is.

I have posted over and over and over again the reasons for the chosen route and why it makes sense.

Im very sorry that some foamers are upset about not getting there way but tough shit.
You know there is more than one way to do it. and both ways have their merit and their drawbacks and for californias purposes, the chosen way is the right way. Its not richards train. it belongs to the people of california who voted for it and those people live in places like fresno palmdale riverside and san jose.
If you don't like then all of you should pack up your shit and go to another state and see how far you can get with your ideas.
You lost this one.

You lost.
grow up and get over it.

are you not

Anonymous said...

Brandon in San Diego said...
Re: TRAC and Richard Tolmach...

I know folks in the rail industry and who are familiar with the TRAC puplication. The majority, perhaps unanimous, is that TRAC is a paper written by enthusists FOR enthusists.

thats putting it mildly and Ive heard the same thing and you certainly went to great lengths to clean up the thoughts for public consumption.

Anonymous said...

The only reason I haven't removed that pile of rags from my lobby and tossed it in the bay is out of respect for the first amendment.
I've been told before that they aren't even allowed to put that thing in the stations.

Anonymous said...

Jim, are you responsible for Amtrak's failures? Why isn't Amtrak better? Is it because of your ticket-taking?

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 9:05pm -

(a) Las Vegas has a population of almost 2 million people. While gambling is a mainstay of the economy, it's not all there is to the economy of that city.

(b) Las Vegas is in the desert. Guess what, so is Los Angeles, except that it gets its water from hundreds of miles away instead of tens of miles.

(c) I see nothing wrong with legalizing regulated gambling in California. Yes, some people develop a gambling habit. They're probably the same people that flipped houses for a few years before they started flipping burgers in some other state.

(d) No-one ever said that California state revenue would be used to build a rail line between Las Vegas and SoCal. DesertXPress is a privately funded venture and the maglev pipedream is just that, a pipedream.

Brandon in California said...

Jim... yeah... origionally I had a much more different tone.

Anonymous said...

Point is that with fully legal gambling in California traffic to LV will be so much reduced that no private interests will finance hsr or maglev.

Indian casinos in Northern California have already signficantly reduced travel to Reno.

Peter said...

I'd guess that's primarily because Reno is a dump.

While Lost Wages leans heavily on gambling, they also have many other attractions. I.e., they are a major convention city. They have a number of universities. They are a major tourist base for trips to Lake Mead and the Grand Canyon. The list goes on.

They are not just gambling.

Anonymous said...

again anon - my point is that anyone who can read can see not only the bias but the intent to deceive by omission when reading those articles. Its not like there was an argument for /against routes and planning based on the merit of each solution. It was just a trashing of cahsra.
And so far, cahsra are the only ones who are actually doing anything on this project.

They came up with a plan, ran it by the public, the public said ok. The feds are in agreement,

and while one can argue that there are flaws, one can always argue that there are flaws in project or law. The question is at what point to stop trying to kill or delay and important project because we didn't please every single person.

And I sand firmly by my position that while I don't have technical expertise, what I do have is a view of how the public travels, in california and what they want from the same perspective as the average californian who voted for this.

No one cars about grades and curve radii and 10 or fifteen minutes here and there.

What the traveling public wants is to be able to get to as many places as possible as quickly as possible and thats what this design does.

Know one is more bay centric than I but even I recognize that the people in the central valley are the heart of this states population and they have been left out and been given the table scraps of the transport budget for far too long and once again trying to push them aside as somehow secondary in importance is unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

'scuse the misspellings im not awake yet.