Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Biggest Obstacle to HSR in California

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

For most people looking at California's high speed rail project, the biggest obstacle to its completion would seem to be financial. Prop 1A has put $9 billion on the table to get the project started. We can expect $3 to $4 billion from the federal HSR stimulus. The cost of the first route, SF to LA and Anaheim, is likely to be around $30 billion, leaving about $17 billion left to secure. Most of that is expected to come from ongoing federal contributions, some from local governments, and some from private investors.

And yet, as Robert Goodspeed points out, that may not actually be the main problem facing HSR in California. Instead, he argues, it is a land use planning process that is unable to deliver these kinds of projects quickly and affordably:

Ironically, the California system is demonstrating the biggest problems for high speed rail in the U.S. may not be our lack of technical knowledge but our troubled infrastructure planning and delivery system. Disputes about alignments in California have already spawned lawsuits. Maybe beyond ogling their trains, we should study how our foreign counterparts resolve conflicts about system design. In one case study I read about planning a TGV line in France, the government convened a "debate" bringing together the stakeholders before choosing an alignment or other technical details. In the U.S. on the other hand, government agencies act both as project designers and boosters, relegating other stakeholders to reactionary roles as outsiders who rely on lawsuits to pursue their interests. In addition, our government agencies are also lacking in competent planners and administrators who specialize in rail. In the end, dysfunctional planning processes and weak planning capacity may result in avoidable cost overruns. Overcoming these obstacles may prove even more challenging than finding the historically elusive political will.

Goodspeed's analysis of how other stakeholders wind up being placed in "reactionary roles as outsiders" is quite insightful. Then again, that is precisely how planning in California is intended to be. CEQA is set up on the theory that government construction projects are bad, are threatening, and that stakeholders are already in a reactionary, even adversarial position. CEQA was written with a 1970s logic, reacting to a 1960s California Department of Highways that really did behave as a giant bulldozer not giving a crap about what anyone else in the state thought of its route choices, neighborhood impacts, or environmental consequences.

CEQA wasn't designed to promote smart, sustainable growth. It was written to enable people like Gary Patton to have legal recourse to stop projects they don't like, no matter the reason. The mentality is one that assumes the status quo is just fine, that the cost of doing nothing is actually zero - if a project isn't built, no problem, we didn't really need it anyway.

California's planning process should not be a tool for NIMBYs to stop projects they dislike. It should be a vehicle for public involvement in a project development, and to ensure that a project does not cause damage to the environment. CEQA currently fails to meet these objectives.

I'm not the only one making this point. SPUR, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, came to the same conclusion. In a 2006 report titled Fixing the California Environmental Quality Act they argued that CEQA has failed to meet its objectives, has actually made environmental problems worse, and that it should be replaced in urban and suburban settings with a statewide planning process along the successful path blazed by states like Oregon and Washington:

In the absence of strong statewide planning and in the presence of weak local planning, stopping projects is what California does best. CEQA has become the tool of choice for stopping bad ones and good ones. SPUR has reviewed CEQA from the standpoint of sound planning and environmental quality. We contend that after the law’s 30-plus years of operation, the type and pattern of developments, viewed at citywide, regional, and state scales, are environmentally worse than before. Not all of this can be blamed on CEQA; it has improved individual project design in some cases. Yet viewed broadly, CEQA has contributed to sprawl and worsened the housing shortage by inhibiting dense infill development far more than local planning and zoning would have done alone. To re-form California, we must first reform CEQA....

Our neighbors to the north provide a dramatic model for change. At almost the same moment that California turned to environmental impact reports to protect its environment, Oregon turned to a strengthened planning program, requiring effective local plans and zoning by all jurisdictions. Oregon has protected and greatly improved its natural environment without review of individual projects, but with sound intergovernmental planning. The recent property-rights crusade that passed compensatory zoning at the Oregon ballot box does not lessen the fact that the Oregon environment remains one of the most pristine in the country.

High speed rail should be assessed and planned in a statewide context. Instead, it is assessed in a town-by-town setting, totally divorced from statewide concerns, and even from local urban plans. As a result, sprawl has accelerated over the 40 years since CEQA's adoption, and it has become progressively more difficult to build sustainable infill projects, whether it is housing or mass transit, as the CEQA process empowers people to stop something they dislike, even when doing so causes significant environmental damage.

The alternative to CEQA reform is that more and more projects will simply be exempted by the state legislature from CEQA review. In fact, back in 1982, once and future governor Jerry Brown signed into a law a high speed train bill exempting the project from CEQA review. (The project eventually fell apart in 1983 for various reasons.) More recently, the landmark state planning law SB 375 signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger last year provides CEQA exemptions for certain kinds of infill urban housing projects that meet the AB 32 global warming guidelines.

Using the legislature to provide the occasional CEQA exemption isn't good planning. But it's what happens when the CEQA process is no longer functional. Rather than exempting HSR from CEQA - which, to be very clear, I am not advocating at this time, we should adopt the successful urban planning models used in states like Washington and Oregon that provide for regional and statewide planning processes that still give the public a chance to weigh in, still protect the environment, but don't come at the cost of prolonging a reckless dependence on sprawl and oil. Already the CHSRA is exploring a statewide planning effort, although it is not intended to supplant CEQA.

Of course, even if we did this, not everyone would buy into it. Those who still adhere to the 1970s "government is bad! there's no downside to killing projects!" attitudes will try and undermine a more sensible planning process in service of their own parochial ends. In fact, they're already doing it, as shown by this John Horgan column:

Belatedly, some citizens are raising alarms. It may be too late. The High-Speed Rail Authority has its own agenda, its own priorities, its own budgetary issues — and a great deal of power.

Input from county residents is being collected at countless public gatherings by the vast public relations armada on the authority's payroll. The panel's latest tactic is something called "context sensitive solutions."

Unsurprisingly, this actually reveals the depth of Horgan's ignorance. CSS wasn't something the CHSRA decided all on its own to use. It was pushed onto CHSRA by the very citizens Horgan claims to be speaking for, who demanded CSS be used on the Peninsula.

I'm still not convinced that the broken planning process is the "biggest obstacle" to HSR in California. I still believe the biggest obstacle is actually the unwillingness of the remaining beneficiaries of the 20th century model of economic prosperity and land use to accept any change in that model, regardless of the consequences. The opposition to properly funding HSR, and the breaking of the CEQA process, are both symptoms of that deeper problem.


Anonymous said...

Chinese method works best.

Ban all form of protests related to HSR project, control the media to positively support HSR, NIMBY voices should be quashed to the full extent, and bulldoze anything in its path.

Problem solved, thing gets done quickly and with minimum cost overrun. Plus, we'll have a HSR in five years!! Hurrah!

Five years of pain is worth the benefits that HSR can bring. Let mother nature take a hit for five years, it'll be paid back with the reduction of greenhouse gases. Let NIMBYs disappear, no one's gonna care about a few thousand because there'll be millions more Californians in the next decade.

Alon Levy said...

China doesn't ban HSR protests. On the contrary: when residents in Shanghai complained too much about the maglev extension, citing radiation concerns, the government canceled the project.

The boosters who built the Three Gorges Dam are out of power, and have been so for almost a decade. And even when they were in power, the Three Gorges Dam was controversial and barely passed the Politburo.

Robert Cruickshank said...

And yet China wasn't mentioned anywhere in this post...

Spokker said...

Well, here's what I think. People decided that living in cities was a bad thing (it gets complicated when you ask why so we'll leave it at that).

White people moved away because they were able to and pulled up the ladder by enacting strict zoning laws through local government that limited density and some even outright banned the construction of apartment units. When people of color wish to "move on up" they find it difficult because of said zoning laws that artificially inflate the price of housing.

Eventually minorities overcome and move out to the suburbs. They push whites even further out. People of all colors move up next to railroad rights of way and good spots to build airports and freeways in a vain pursuit of the American dream. Building a rail line becomes not so much figuring out how to get out of the city, but how to get out of the suburbs, which are now out of control.

Instead of geographical, technological, and financial constraints, there are now homeowners associations and suburban governments to contend with. They cry afoul and play the victim, as if building a rail line through their town is unethical and cruel.

Of course, fleeing from blacks and Hispanics and enacting policies that keep them out of your neighborhood is perfectly rational thinking. Increasing the burden of powering your way of life and saturating your lawn in clean water on society is all in God's plan.

So I often like to think of it as an ethical question. Neither outcomes, blocking HSR or building HSR are "right" or "wrong" from a moral standpoint. It's just that both sides are going to do what they can to get their way and preserve their way of life. The highway lobby, the CHSRA and countless homeowner's associations across the state are all the same and they all lie through their teeth.

So I say pick a side and hold on for the ride!

Anonymous said...

I say let's all just wait for the Big One to hit our state. It'll level homes, kill alot of people and we can start from scratch with federal assistance.

And hopefully, we'll get it down right this time!!

Alon Levy said...

Spokker: just one correction - usually when blacks and Hispanics suburbanize, they get the suburbs on the opposite direction of downtown as the favored quarter, while the whites get the favored quarter all to themselves. This opposite direction also tends to be adjacent to the ghetto, so as the inner portions of the ghetto are gentrified away, the ghettos expands out, bringing the same social problems to the black middle-class suburbs.

For example: in the DC suburbs, PG County is located due east and southeast of DC while Tysons Corner is located due west and Bethesda is located to the north. Furthermore, in DC itself, Southeast DC and the eastern DC suburbs inside the Beltway are the ghetto; Northwest DC is middle-class. Atlanta has the same dynamic as DC. In LA it's a bit different, but there's a pretty big favored quarter to the west and north, on the opposite side of downtown as East LA and South Central.

Spokker said...

Alon, some of this is from personal observations from having lived all my life in North Orange County, CA.

What is and has been interesting to me growing up here is that today people are always talking about how much Anaheim has turned into Anaslime. These comments are said by whites who either still live here, have moved away, or visit Disneyland often. They only vaguely explain why, often mentioning that you can't let your kids play outside anymore.

Coincidentally, Anaheim has developed a very large middle-class Hispanic population in its central core. My mother informs me from time to time how brown my old neighborhood, where she still lives, has gotten.

Whether one has anything to do with the other is anyone's guess. I feel perfectly safe here, as if that meant anything. Even in places where Hispanic families *aren't* turning neighborhoods into ghettos, the whites seem to move out anyway. Between 1990 and 2000 Anaheim lost 33,000 white people.

Sadly, I am too stupid to interpret this data into anything meaningful.

Anonymous said...

I made a brilliant post on the thread below:

Give the NIMBYs what they REALLY want: a change in their shitty lifestyle.

The government should offer nice free homes with no mortgage to pay to these NIMBY areas with all relocation expenses paid. Tack on a lifetime pass on the HSR system when it gets built and priority dibs on HSR jobs.

It'll be like winning the lottery: no more rent or mortgage to pay, all the money that you make goes into consipicous consumption to help the economy, and the state can get rid of these NIMBYs for development easily!!

Man, I'm a genius. Everyone should STFU and elect me as the head of state. I'll be kick ass totalitarian dictator!! LOL

CEQA_&_CSS? said...

@ Robert - what do you think of CSS?

Bianca said...

From the Horgan article:

Input from county residents is being collected at countless public gatherings by the vast public relations armada on the authority's payroll.

All the countless public gatherings that have been held since the Board of CHSRA voted on November 5 to approve the contract with Ogilvy? Or does Horgan think that CHSRA has another "vast public relations armada"? Is this some sort of post-Rove political maneuver? Instead of taking your opponent's strength and turning it into a weakness, you take their weakness and present it as a strength? I'm not sure how that works.

And I love how he raises the specter of "environmental disaster" without actually explaining how that would be brought about. "Construction disruptions" does not equal "environmental disaster." In fact, a very strong case can be made that not building HSR equals environmental disaster.

AndyDuncan said...

@anon: that might be a little extreme, but there's a more subtle point there that is often overlooked in the nimby arguments against eminent domain: it's only eminent domain if the people don't want to sell. Otherwise it's just a real estate transaction like any other.

Anonymous said...

I've said it before, give too much power to the people and they become stupid. Let's all just ban democracy for a time being and instigate martial law while the HSR project goes forward.

That's what the ancient Romans did; they elected a temporary dictator to oversee that the thing gets done. All rights and freedoms were abolished until the project is finished.

I call it the Caesar's Law. The California Dictator will have full rei gerundae causa (screw the environmental cost), seditionis sedandae causa (quash NIMBYs), and dictator legibus faciendis et rei publicae constituendae causa (temporary ban on all prior laws passed that impedes on the project).

The California Dictator will be limited to a one time six year term and can only be called for once every fifty years (about the right time for more problems to pile up).

Anonymous said...


Which again, brings me back to the Chinese method. Screw NIMBYs, they're just a bunch of whiners who won't settle for anything even if it's a great deal.

If you can't deal with 'em, eliminate them like the Chinese: they mysteriously disappear. It'll teach a lesson to other NIMBYs that if they don't shut up, they too will mysteriously go "missing." LOL

Anonymous said...

Seriously folks, all this talk is getting us no where.

Just make a deal with one of the deathrow prison inmates to drive a tank and plow through the state in a projected course. Implant a chip inside him saying that it's a mini bomb that'll explode if he goes off path. Cut a deal that if he does what he's told, he'll be given a free ride all the way to Mexico.

Then once he reaches San Ysidro, the bomb will go off anyway! LOL.

Simple. You get rid of one deathrow inmate, you get to shift the blame to this psychopath, and the trail left behind will be the HSR tracks! LOL

Reality Check said...

I doubt it's any consolation, but Horgan is a lazy columnist who doesn't do his homework and so frequently has his facts wrong. I've engaged him on points made in columns on other subjects and he betrayed an alarming misunderstanding of basic facts that were the basis of his views and comments. He's a guy in his late 60s "phoning in" his ramblings for as long as they'll keep paying him to fill the space.

Anonymous said...

C'mon folks, this is fun!

This is the great thing about anonynimity. People can start to express what they really want.

You've gotta admit that deep down, you want this HSR done immediately at minimal time and cost right?

Anonymous boards allow these kind of stupid comments to be made, but at the same time, they're the reflection of what the people REALLY want without the fear of being politically incorrect.

Bianca said...

Anonymous at 10:42pm, 10:50pm, *not* LOL. Not funny, not at all.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I know its not funny, but look deep inside you and you'll find that spot that all this talk, discussions, debates and environmental restritions are just a waste of time and money.

I call it the "people are stupid" syndrome. They know it benefits society, but they don't want to give up their own way of life. Just look at the mess we made: ugly urbn sprawls that span 100 miles from the city center with no means of transportation other than the car. And yet the population of California continues to grow while we dilly dally forever.

You know that deep down, this HSR project is gonna end up costing us more money with cost overruns and people on both sides are gonna bicker at each other again at whose fault it is. By the time it finally gets time to put a shovel in the ground, we'll run out of money and the project will be put on hold indefinitely. And when we try to resurrect it again, more development was made so the whole idiotic process goes over and over again.

If you have any better ideas to deal with NIMBYs and tree-hugging laws that just add up to time and wasted tax dollars (that's your money too!) and taking twenty years to get a track laid onto ground I'd like to hear it.

Have a little faith? Bah. It took us fifteen friggin' years since the inception of the HSRA to get a ballot asking us if we want HSR or not. Fifteen years for just a proposal to the citizens of California! And how many HSR lines did China build during that time!?

My method is advocating the Chinese method. It's much faster and efficient. What's yours?

Joey said...

Since is has become apparent that you are a regular poster, how about choosing a nickname?

Anonymous said...

I'll keep my name Anonymous for now. That way, when I make real nice comment (some of you are not aware that I've made good arguments instead of this Red China advocacy) you won't overlook at my statements as some nut job.

That's another great thing about anonymous boards. It allows the person to make stupid (but a reflection of what the person really feels) and brilliant remarks (what the person says as a practical person in society) while remaining completely anonymous, without the distinguishing handle name of being flagged as "disregard."

Somewhere along this thread, I'll actually give you my real opinion on this article. But you will NOT be able to distinguish me as the same guy who deep down advocates the Chinese approach to this matter.

The end result is that you'll have an anonymous who says stupid things that is a reflection of my true feelings that nothing will get solved at this current state, and another anonymous who shows the pragmatic approach. But you won't know who it is.

Joey said...

Oh c'mon. I can't speak for everyone here, but I know I'm not so presumptuous as to disregard a post based on its author. After all, we're all rational adults here (I would hope). Besides, if you really hate your reputation, you can always, you know, change nicknames (though I don't recommend it).

Alon Levy said...

Anon, someone needs to say it: you are FSM-damned insane.

The whole "Admit it deep down" routine reminds me of any number of racist firebrands, who would tell the people that deep down they're all afraid for their race. Where I'm from, Israel, there was Meir Kahane, whose slogan was "I say what you think" and whose followers would spray acid on every Jewish girl who dared date an Arab. In the US, Goldwater ran on an "In your heart, you know he's right" slogan; today's Minuteman, Islamophobe, and Southern revanchist might as well use the same language.

無名 - wu ming said...

the very fact that you would pause before making a jackass out of yourself with flip comments is what recommends a system based on stable pseudonyms.

Anonymous said...


And your point being?

The same "deep down" feeling can be reciprocally made towards liberals who consider conservatives nothing more than ineducated slack jawed yokels, rednecks, hillbillies, crackers, and anti-government militias.

Just look at this hate mongering we see at boards everywhere. When Bush was in charge, liberals called him and his supporters as Nazi fascist "Dubya" and variants. When Obama comes into charge, conservatives starts calling him a socialist "Obummer" and variants.

You think this kind of polarized America that we live today is going to get us anywhere? I highly doubt so.

Don't deny the "deep down" voice. Everyone has it. Men, women, young, old, conservatives, liberals, Republicans, Democrats, whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Califonians, Texans, New Yorker, Americans, Europeans.

But that's the real voice that needs to be expressed more to get down to the true feelings of things.

You can't hide a nice/crappy gift with gift wrappings. What exists inside is the real you.

So tell me. Enough of the BS "goody-goody" side of the talk.

You want HSR built in California fast with minimal cost? Tell me your ideas that will debunk my China method. If it's a good one, I'll happily accept it. Honestly speaking, I cannot find a better solution to solve this forever NIMBY and bureaucratic red-tape mired situation.

Alon Levy said...

Okay, here's a way of debunking your China method: rail building costs the same everywhere once you adjust for local incomes. HSR is somewhat less sensitive to income because of the technology, but there's still a difference: China's GDP per capita is one twelfth that of France and Germany, and its per-km HSR construction cost is about one fifth that of Germany and one third that of France. Relative to how much they make, the Chinese are actually paying a premium.

And yes, polarized societies are capable of working quite well. India isn't any less successful at growing an economy than China. The difference: Indian growth goes to everyone, whereas Chinese growth goes mostly to the rich. It turns out that in the grand scheme of things, forcing the government to listen to people doesn't actually hurt anything except politicians' egos.

Anonymous said...

In a perfect democracy inspired by our founding fathers, they put faith that the people of America will be pragmatic, unselfish and that they'll settle all matters like gentlemen.

What exists today is the total opposite. Just look at the town hall debates on healthcare. It's ugly, and that's the representation of America today.

Face it, we're passed the point where we can talk pragmatically.

Sadly, I don't see America stepping beyond this "I'm right because I believe it to be so, and the hell with what you have to say" mentality that has infected everyone left and right.

And as one sees this happening day in and day out, it's getting tiring for any hope that anything will get done.

The reason why you're seeing me advocating the Red China method is because quite frankly, I've pretty much lost all hope that anything will get done in this current state of affairs that's plaguing America today.

If there are any other options to persuade me away from this Red China method, I'm all ears.

Anonymous said...


Good point, but I still think that China has an advantage of keeping costs down by not having to deal with wasted money going to holding public meetings, debates, EIRS, and studies after studies before even a shovel is put to ground.

I'd like to know, how much money has the CAHSRA has spent so far up until now. Those money could've been spent to put a shovel into the ground already when land was cheap back in the 90s.

What's the cost for holding all these meetings and doing all these studies, what's the cost and time and effort going to waste for dealing with NIMBYs?

And you know anti-HSR opponents are going to use these exact points to debunk the project. They don't support it so it costs more money. Then they use that point as an example that it's a waste of taxpayer money. It's a friggin' vicious cycle!

Anonymous said...

Ill go for the california dictator thing, but only If I can be the dictator.

First order of business: picking who can stay and who must be banished.

Spokker said...

We should fund roving execution vans to eliminate dissenters...

無名 - wu ming said...

don't forget the storm troupes...

Rafael said...

Can we please put this "Chinese method" nonsense to rest? California is a civilized, democratic society and this kind of rhetoric is extremely counterproductive.


Robert's point that CEQA is inadequate is well taken. It was, after all, written by lawyers for the benefit of lawyers. That said, leaving elected politicians to decide wouldn't guarantee a fair process, either. In a system based on geographic constituencies, that would simply force bureaucrats to take the path of least political resistance, even if that path fails to deliver the desired infrastructure value and therefore wastes a lot of money.

One factor that is often overlooked is that communities actually tend to start out with a neutral or even somewhat positive attitude. Voters do understand and accept that infrastructure is useful and necessary and also that it is controversial and expensive to construct.

However, they expect to have their say and for that input to be properly processed. The allergic reaction comes when they perceive planners as merely going through the motions without any intention whatsoever to deviate from their original plan.

In particular, those most immediately affected by construction nuisance and the permanent infrastructure despise being talked down to by those who inevitably have better knowledge about the project than they do. Bureaucrats asking for blind trust are more likely to get exactly the opposite.

It may be annoying, but the only way to avoid or defuse an emotionally charged dispute is to take the emotion out of it. First order of business: put a gag order on any planner who refers to opponents as "rotten apples" or some such.

Second, acknowledge that you've made mistakes in implementing a complex process - especially when opponents had to file a lawsuit to establish that fact. A little humble pie goes a long way.

Third, spend some money on producing user-friendly documentation of the program-level alternatives already analyzed. User-friendly means concise and available on the Internet, preferably in a video documentary format, with cross-references to more detailed documents. Such a video should look clean and professional but not at all glitzy. No sales pitch, just the facts, please.

Many voters did not bother to get involved with the planning process before it started to affect their local community in earnest. The majority of them will accept the consequence that certain stakes have been hammered into the ground, but only if they understand why.

Fourth, seek to defuse irrational fears regarding visual impact, noise and vibration impacts and associated impacts on real estate values with scientific data gathered in countries that already have HSR, while acknowledging that those impacts are not negligible. Assessing them fairly also requires measuring the status quo.

For example, a blanket assertion that an HSR train traveling at 125mph emits less noise than a freight train at 79mph - even if supported by reproducible data - is beside the point if the actual speed of existing traffic is more like 45mph in the particular spot in question.

In addition, be careful with fully rendered animations of implementation alternatives. They tend to look like a fait accompli, suggesting certain decisions have already been made. Psychology is hugely important in collective decision-making processes, there's a reason why architects and car designers show their hand sketches.

無名 - wu ming said...

let me second rafael on the "chinese method" business, both for the reason he mentions but also because the main reason why theirs is getting done and at a scale dwarfing our attempts lies far more IMO on the fact that their government was willing to pony up a massive amount of cash, up front, and build the damn thing. even with the same EQCA process as we have today, if the state or federal government had said, at any point in the past 30 years, "we want this train built and we will provide the full funding right now, because it is a critical public good," we would not be having this discussion today, because it would be a fait accomplis.

the PRC put its money where the 21st century's energy reality will be. same reason why they just funded the construction of extensive subways in most of their major eastern cities just over the past decade. process aside, things only get built if governments pay for them. china did, and the US is only just sorta kinda doing so.

Anonymous said...

I think the biggest obstacle to HSR in California is a decided lack of honesty in the planning process and political agendas behind it, which makes a decided mockery of the CEQA process.

When the driving forces behind HSR seriously say things like, 'there's already a 140 year old ROW going through, so the impact is zero' its blatant BS and everyone knows it. Yet they persist. They put a preference for a Palo Alto station in the EIR which they approve, and none of the city council even know how that came about, the CHSRA can't explain it to them, and there is NO information about what that would mean to the city of palo alto - who would pay, what the land impacts would be, what the infrastructure impacts would be, what the traffic impacts would be, nothing. Yet the EIR is CERTIFIED with blanket statement of overriding consideration (meaning, disregard everything else we said about mitigating everthing in this EIR, every and any any negative consequence you can dream up is certified to be 'worth it' according to the Lords of HSR.

And arrogant statements from its biggest supporters like "IMHO, the existing view across the Caltrain tracks at grade is overrated".. further weaken HSRs reputation.

Arrogance and greed are the biggest obstacles to HSR in California, and from those, all other problems springs (including the financial problems).

owenandbenjamin said...

Typical. In countries such as Taiwan, South Korea or Japan, these projects move forward in a matter of years. In the United States they move forward in a matter of decades.

Owen Evans said...


Not so in Japan

The new Fukutoshin subway line in Tokyo (which opened just over a year ago) entered the planning phase in 1972.

The Kyushu Shinkansen and the Hokuriku Shinkansen, both of which are currently under construction, were first planned in 1970.

The Japanese build infrastructure well. They are exceedingly good at coming up with a plan, sticking to it, and actually following through with execution - hence the fact that these projects conceived in the early 1970s are actually still in the works now.

They also get away with building their infrastructure in a pragmatic and durable but visually obtrusive way that would make US NIMBYs' heads explode.

But one thing they do NOT do is move quickly. Things take FOREVER to get built in Japan.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 8:26am -

nobody is claiming HSR will have zero impacts in the SF peninsula.

Rather, the argument is that that change will not necessarily be a net negative.

There will be a lot of positive impacts (full grade separation, elimination of bells and horns, air quality improvements due to electrification, increased and improved passenger rail service, potential for reduced subsidies to Caltrain) as well as some negative ones: small amount of ROW widening, visual mass if elevated, visual clutter, change in noise quality, construction nuisance.

Your refusal to acknowledge the positives while exaggerating the negatives undermines your credibility.

As for CHSRA, the CEQA process requires that it and it alone certify its own process. That's not arrogance, it's how the law is written. A certified EIR can be challenged in court and indeed, it already has been, with partial success.

Would it be nice if issues could be resolved without lining lawyers' pockets? Sure, but regardless of when or how CHSRA attempts to wrap up the regular process, there will always be a few who will challenge the process because they oppose its outcome.

Note that the Bay Area toCentral Valley Final Program EIR does NOT call for an HSR station in Palo Alto. It merely identifies that city as one of three candidates (RWC, PA, MV) for a mid-peninsula station, with the additional option of not building one at all. Palo Alto is and has always been free to take itself out of the running, but the city council has not done so.

The decision regarding the mid-peninsula station was pushed into the project-level phase precisely because it requires analysis of traffic flows and other knock-on effects that CHSRA felt was too detailed for a program-level document.

Rafael said...

@ Tornadoes28, OwenE -

Not so in Europe, either. 20 years between the start of planning and start of commercial operations is pretty common, especially for complex projects involving alignments through cities and/or tunneling.

Such inertia is the price of freedom. China's rulers won't get away with their present style of planning and building forever, either. It's not a free country and many people are still focused more on climbing out of poverty than on protecting their environment. However, there is a rapidly growing middle class and before long, it will be too large for the government to simply ignore.

looking on said...


You are right that the biggest obstacle is funding ... when you write

"The cost of the first route, SF to LA and Anaheim, is likely to be around $30 billion,"

of course nobody who has been keeping you should believe anything you write further.

It isn't around $30 billion and was from Morshed's own mouth summer 2008 $32 billion, and now it is at least $40 billion. Don't you follow costs at all? Look at currents cost of LA to Anaheim...

Crane posed the question at the board meeting of how with $9 billion and $31 billion short, had the consultant ever run into a project with this kind of funding... the answer was vague but basically said sovereign deep pockets government agencies, as compared to this project mean they can raise funds as needed.

Your economics are out to lunch and this thread is simply disgusting.

Anonymous said...

"full grade separation, elimination of bells and horns, air quality improvements due to electrification, increased and improved passenger rail service"

All of these are already planned for Caltrain, without HSR. Those are not benefits that HSR can step in and claim. HOWEVER a two track Caltrain is possible, whereas a two track Caltrain/HSR combo is not. All the negative impacts of going from two to four belong in HSR's side of the balance sheet.

There's a difference between certifying its own EIR of quality and certifying its own EIR of crap.

I don't believe MV was in the certified PRogram EIR, that's new since Nov 2008.

The point is how does one city (over another) get singled out as a finalist without any IMPACT ANALYSIS input from that city? And what does that say about the validity of the process behind the PRogram EIR analysis and 'certification' process. It basically says we're a bunch of desk jockies looking at google maps and throwing darts, and what do you mean the impacts on the ground make any difference? Of course high speed trains are so friggin sexy that every sane person on earth would love to have one run by their bedroom window once every 3 minutes.

looking on said...

Rafael writes:

The decision regarding the mid-peninsula station was pushed into the project-level phase precisely because it requires analysis of traffic flows and other knock-on effects that CHSRA felt was too detailed for a program-level document.


The decision to go ahead now without a certified program level EIR was purely to avoid any delay that would jeopardize receiving stimulus funds for this section of the project. This leaves wide open to legal challenges, which will be forthcoming, both on the program level and project level EIR for the SF to Merced segment.

Peter said...

@ Anon 9:32

Yes, Caltrain had hoped and planned to implement electrification, full grade separation, etc. (Interestingly, no one was up in arms about it at the time). The question was, though, that Caltrain did not have the money to implement the upgrades.

@ looking on

If I recall correctly, the Final Program EIR was certified prior to there even being a hint of possible stimulus funds.

Anonymous said...

Caltrain didn't have the money YET, just as CHSRA doesn't have the money YET. Caltrain would qualify for federal stimulus as easiy as HSR can, if HSR were not in the mix ripping off all other California mass transit projects of their opportunity to go for those funds.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 9:32am -

"full grade separation, elimination of bells and horns, air quality improvements due to electrification, increased and improved passenger rail service"

All of these are already planned for Caltrain, without HSR.

Caltrain 2025, a plan written before prop 1A(2008) was approved, sets the following objectives:

1 - doubling corridor capacityin terms of trains per hour via improved signaling (shorter headways) and electrification (better acceleration)

2 - reducing accident risk at FRA-approved Supplemental Safety Measures (SSMs) at the remaining 44 grade crossings, but NOT eliminating bells and horns there

3 - switch to electric rolling stock, preferably UIC- rather than FRA-compliant (requires FRA waiver)

Considering that Santa Clara county has de facto reneged on its share of the Caltrain electrification project in favor of the BART extension, objectives 1 could only be partially achieved and objective 3 not at all (Caltrain has ruled out dual-mode locomotives)

Regarding objective 2: if Caltrain were to achieve its objective of tripling rush-hour ridership and running trains with 50% more seats at twice the frequency, noise near 44 grade crossings would double and cross road capacity fall to less than half. Caltrain 2025 includes no effort at all - none - to mitigate the impact of increased rail capacity on cross roads.

Your tale that Caltrain was already planning to implement all of the benefits that HSR will bring to the right of way - never mind have a any chance to corral the requisite funding to implement those benefits - is spun from whole cloth.

Anonymous said...

CHSRA just needs to start getting good information out, and do some advertising. a lot of people still don't even know about this project. Get people excited about it, build some more support. Obviously it was passed by the voters, people forget and you have to keep the excitement and buzz.

Rafael said...

@ looking on -

"The decision to go ahead now without a certified program level EIR was purely to avoid any delay that would jeopardize receiving stimulus funds for this section of the project."

What does this have to do with the mod-2008 decision to defer analysis of the precise location of the mid-peninsula station to the project level? Back in November of 2008, there was a certified program level EIR for the entire network. The stimulus bill was passed in February of 2009.

Also, the component projects for which ARRA funding was requested are not specific to HSR, their benefits extend to legacy railways already operating in the same rights of way.

For example, California asked for funds to electrify the Caltrain corridor. The substations and poles were always going to be designed such that they could support both HSR and Caltrain. Thanks to the stimulus, Caltrain will be the first to benefit.

Same for urgent grade crossings and other aspect of the request. In keeping with the spirit of AB3034, CHSRA only asked for funding that would deliver tangible benefits to California communities not only if HSR ends up being built but also if it isn't.

But go ahead, savor you opportunity to shout "WRONG" at every opportunity, even when it makes no sense at all. It's a free country, you're allowed to make a fool of yourself.

Unknown said...

All of these are already planned for Caltrain, without HSR. Those are not benefits that HSR can step in and claim. HOWEVER a two track Caltrain is possible, whereas a two track Caltrain/HSR combo is not. All the negative impacts of going from two to four belong in HSR's side of the balance sheet.

So even in a scenario where funding is found and Caltrain remains two tracked (and by the way, it's already three and four tracked in sections, that's how they're running the baby bullets), you're admitting that the only difference between having HSR on the peninsula and not having HSR on the peninsula is the other two tracks? The vertical profile is identical, the electrification and grade separations are identical. We're just talking about the noise difference for having more trains go by?

That hardly sounds like the End Of The World scenario that most people have been spouting on this board. The difference between a two and four track system is hardly an issue. I don't hear people complaining that the proposed 15 foot aerials are too wide.

As clem pointed out, the ROW is optimistically wide enough along 94% of the route, and pessimistically wide enough along around 88% of the route, for a full four tracks.

But lets be clear: you're campaigning for a two track, grade separated, electrified system as something profoundly superior to a four track, grade separated, electrified system that fits within the same ROW.

Two tracks: the peninsula is a paradise.

Four tracks: the peninsula is a blight stricken ghetto.

Rafael said...

Food for thought in this context: in his article

California Has No Idea How Bad Soaring Oil Is Going To Hurt

oil analyst and energy sector investor Gregor MacDonald notes that unemployment in the Golden State is now somewhere between 12.2 and 19.9%. He suggests the following drastic remedy:

1 - Build light rail, commuter rail, and high speed rail on an emergency basis, by-passing much of the public review process.

2 - Cease all new investment in roads and highways.

3 - Drill offshore, and onshore, for oil and devote every penny to the construction and maintenance of new Rail and new Solar and Wind power.

4 - Adopt a policy similar to the new resource and economic policy coming out of Brazil. [...] Demand that drilling rigs [...], rail cars, electronics for the new rail, and other manufactured goods for the new rail system be built in California.

5 - Build out massive new Wind and Solar, again, on an emergency basis and by-pass much of the public review process. The new extraction of California’s oil and gas would have as its single purpose the creation of capital, not energy, with which to fund the transition to a more sustainable energy system.

He then goes on to assert that "the construction fuel for a global buildout of Power Grid 2.0 will be oil."


While I agree with the author's basic premise that California can ill-afford another oil price shock in the near term, not one of his suggestions appears to be even remotely feasible, legally or politically.

His point about California ramping up oil and gas extraction to pay for but not actually enable the manufacture solar panels and wind turbines yet do so everywhere else is entirely lost on me.

The whole thing sounds like a very convoluted argument for "drill, baby, drill" wrapped in several layers of greenwash, protectionism and fond memories of Robert Moses. Surely, California can expand its public transportation infrastructure without turning the clock back to the 1960s?

don't blame the victims said...

So if I read this post carefully, what you are saying is that the biggest obstacle to HSR in California is the CHSRA's decision not to use a CSS style/ French process that engaged the stakeholders right at the beginning.

CEQA is a minimum standard. There is nothing that prevented CHSRA from doing more, from doing CSS, from the beginning.

Now that I know that the French, whose success in getting a project done was available for all to study, used a CSS type process, I lay even more of the blame on the Authority's doorstep.

It is unreasonable to blame the communities, now that they are fully in the loop, from being unhappy about plans.

Unknown said...

We're just talking about the noise difference for having more trains go by?

Actually, there wouldn't even be more trains going by. If the "stop HSR trains in San Jose and force passengers to transfer to caltrain" system has just as high of ridership as a through-running train, then there will be the same number of trains running along that corridor whether they are split between two tracks (which is four in some places) or four tracks.

So really we're just talking about structure width. Sure that's an issue, but it's not one I've heard the NIMBYs campaigning for, unless I missed the "Athertonians for thinner elevated rail structures" community meetings.

Anonymous said...

again, I have to ask isnt there a way to use sound absorbing materials placed on 3 or 4 ft walls along the elevated sections that soak up most of the noise?

Peter said...

@ All Aboard (keep on wanting to call you Jim)

I believe someone actually showed a picture of exactly such measures having been taken in Japan (?).

Unknown said...

@The Artist Formerly Known as Jim: The japanese have short sound wall designs for aerials that attempt to capture the noise coming off the bogies, and they have been experimenting with bags of aggregate placed between the (otherwise concrete) tracks. The new e5/e6s also have fully faired (covered) bogies on all cars. I know you want to run french trains, but the wider, more US-like loading gauge of the shinkansens and their attention to noise reduction, might make them a better match on the peninsula.

If I was living along the peninsula, I'd be campaigning the CHSRA to pick the quietest of the available trains, as well as sound wall designs, ballast vs concrete track beds, and a pre-defined maintenance plan that treats track and wheel maintenance as top priorities to keep noise down.

Anonymous said...

( go head and call me jim i only changed it in temporary burst of pro amtrak sentiment I think I get bored easily)
but yeah it seems to me there are plenty of spage age materials that can absorb a lot of sound. amd whatever the cost of the materials, its gonna be less then tunnels etc

Rafael said...

@ don't blame the victims -

CHSRA has been holding scoping meetings for over a decade now. There was a total of four rounds in the Bay Area. Residents also had the opportunity to email their comments.

While it may make sense to use the formal CSS process, as CHSRA is now doing in the SF peninsula section, there is no requirement for it to do so.

Individuals had plenty of opportunity to get involved, their local elected representatives were involved. Who's the victim here, the people who are only now waking up to the scope of this project or the rest of the state and country that now have to pay for the consequences of their prior laziness?

Unknown said...

Also, the shinkansens, while having a lower top speed in their current iterations than the Velaros or the AGVs, accelerate much faster. I wonder what that would do to CHSRA's run time simulations. It seems like some time could be shaved off the peninsula. I wonder if the quicker acceleration would offset the lower top speeds on the whole line. Maybe not for the expresses, but the locals might.

Blame the victims said...


Have you seen this map of the meetings held during the environmental review process?

Do you notice a curious pattern where virtually no meetings are held on the Peninsula and lots of meetings held along Altamont route?

Peter said...

@ Blame the victims

Note the comment to the map:

"This is a map of outreach meetings held with cities prior to the release of the Draft Environmental Statement EXCLUDING those in San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland."

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

sound absorption is primarily a function of mass, though double/triple glazing can be especially effective due to the layer of vacuum between the panes. Noise suppression is optimal if in addition, the frame is elastically supported.

There are no space-age materials that are exceptionally good at absorbing sound. It's not really a problem in outer space ;^)

Blowback said...

From this map of meetings, one could come the strong conclusion that CHSRA was trying to scare the locals along the Altamont route, while leaving the locals along the Pacheco route in blissful ignorance. Many accounts of these meetings suggest as much. Another deceptive tactic by CHSRA, which is coming back to bite them.

Rafael said...

@ Blame the victims -

The person who created the map even provided a URL for the document listing all of the outreach events that CHSRA delivered for just the second iteration of the Bay Area to Central Valley Program EIS/EIR.

See what I mean with laziness?

Peter said...

@ Blowback

As I stated above:

Note the comment to the map:

"This is a map of outreach meetings held with cities prior to the release of the Draft Environmental Statement EXCLUDING those in San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland."

Rafael said...

@ Blowback -

one could also come to the conclusion that the map is incomplete because it says so right in the title!

Ergo, you can't draw any conclusions at all about CHSRA's outreach effort history in the Altamont vs. the Caltrain/Pacheco corridor.

None at all.

Anonymous said...

The point of the map is to show the meetings that were held in the towns along the route (as opposed to San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland where numerous meetings were held).

Here is the map with those ones.

The point stands - a curious pattern of going to all the small towns along Altamont and scaring them and letting sleeping dogs lie on pacheco.

Andre Peretti said...

The way CHSRA is managed reminds me of France 60 years ago. Top-heavy state agencies launched projects with minimal public consultation. Then, protests and lawsuits began. That could lead to hundreds of modifications, especially when an election was looming. In the end, original projects were totally disfigured, 10 years late and dramatically over budget.
The TGV was built quite differently. Before deciding on the route, the SNCF had hundreds of meetings, either public, or with individual property owners. The technicians from the "parcs naturels" were not only consulted but actively participated in designing the route.
The result: no lawsuits, no public domain. Of course, many owners realized time was on their side and clinched deals well over the market price. Yet, the SNCF considered it was not wasting money because lawsuits and delays would have cost a lot more and given it bad press.
The funny thing about this approach is that many people in France believe it's the American way of doing things. I remember students in business schools being taught how "everybody-wins" deals were the secret of American efficiency, as opposed to French confrontational habits breeding delays and frustration.
I'm sure if those students had been given CHSRA as an illustration of that teaching, they would have been quite perplexed.

Blowback said...

The map is representative of the trend. Why so much attention to cities of Livermore, Dublin, Tracy, Pleasanton, Modesto, Merced, and San Ramon when compared to the lack of consultation with Peninsula and Coyote Valley cities?? Note that the single meetings with Menlo Park and Gilroy are comparatively late to the early outreach with the Altamont cities. Compile all the outreach meetings ever held involving CHSRA, and the trend holds. A curious lack of consultation and meetings were held on the Peninsula. Consultations in San Francisco and San Jose do not count as LOCAL outreach on the Peninsula.

Rafael said...

@ Blowback -

I hope you realize that any sufficiently large organization or group can contact CHSRA and ask for a private briefing.

They also have a phone number and a web site.

Every household received mailed notices of public scoping meetings.

Arguing in retrospect that CHSRA didn't invest enough in outreach in Silicon Valley and along the Pacheco route just shows that you didn't make any effort whatsoever to get informed. Don't blame everyone else for your laziness.

Morris Brown said...

Rafael writes:

For example, California asked for funds to electrify the Caltrain corridor. The substations and poles were always going to be designed such that they could support both HSR and Caltrain. Thanks to the stimulus, Caltrain will be the first to benefit.

I'm not sure even about your claim that CalTrain is eligible for stimulus funding as you write, but for sure, CalTrain is not eligible for matching Prop 1A funds, to use with the criteria you write above.

Prop 1A is for HSR and not local commuter rail; without linking to HSR on Prop 1A money from the 9 billion is available to them. Furthermore, Prop 1A states that segments or corridors must have in place funding for completion of that stage, before construction can start. Electrification of CalTrain nowhere near meeting this threshold.

The submitted application, telling the FRA that matching funds would be available from Prop 1A, particularly for electrification only, is not in keeping with the Prop 1A funding.

Anonymous said...


Households who live on the tracks were NOT noticed.

Our neighborhood, which is on natl register of historic places, was not noticed.

They flyered ace caltrain and bart users one day I believe and put a notice in the Modesto Bee, Merced Sun Star, Fresno Bee, Stockton Record, Sacramento Bee, Daily Republic, Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Examiner, and San Jose Mercury News. Notice the conspicous absence of any Peninsula city - and if there is one thing we have on the Peninsula, it is newspapers.

It was only at the project level (i.e. January) that everyone who lived within x feet of the tracks got "the postcard".

This is why people are upset.

Anonymous said...

Engagement of shareholders is different than checking the box when it comes to notification requirements.

HSRA chose the latter path and they only have themselves to blame for current brouhaha.

NONIMBYS said...

AND that neighborhood was built next to active railroad tracks and whos fault is that??? your towns zoning !!80 years ago or 10 you people moved next to those tracks!!!

NONIMBYS said...

And this "brouha" is nothing more than whinning from an ultra-sensitive group of nimbys! AN active busy railroad is already there!! most places in the country this would be a big nothing..but NOO down in nimby alto/park they at like a 10 lane freeway is going in..enough of these big crybabies

Blowback said...

Hey, Rafael, I am not trying to get a project built. CHSRA's deceptive tactics and their own public misinformation strategy are backfiring on them.

And to return your ad hominem attack, you're a sad apologist for CHSRA.

Matthew said...

You can't afford a decent feedback system without finding. With Republicans having a veto over the budget, the only way to fund a large project like this is using bonds. The only way to get a bond measure is to have a firm plan.

So it's kind of a catch-22

Matthew said...

That's supposed to read "You can't afford a decent feedback system without FUNDING".

Rafael said...

@ Blowback -

no, I'm not an apologist for CHSRA. I do criticize them when they do stuff I believe they should have done better.

Could they have done even more to reach out to the public at the program level? Could they have done so more effectively with a better web site and better drawings/3D models of what they were basing their cost estimates on? Perhaps, if they had been given the funding they asked for but were denied by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

That does not excuse the lack of involvement by many - far from all - property owners near the tracks. Folks in Atherton and Menlo Park certainly knew about the project, they organized locally in an effort to oppose it. That's their right and they exercised it.

Folks in Palo Alto simply couldn't be bothered. That's their right also, but to then blame CHSRA for that strikes me as revisionist history. The Caltrain corridor was chosen as the preferred route through the SF peninsula as far back as 2004. Why anyone would think that decision was still up in the air in 2008 is beyond me.

For an overview of the CHSRA outreach effort for the Bay Area to Central Valley Program EIS/EIR, already a redo in response to complaints about the Altamont vs. Pacheco decision-making process, see chapter 10 of the report.

Be honest: when you first heard of a high speed rail project from SF to LA, did you bother to find out who the planning agency was and ask to be put on it mailing list or in some other way attempt to find out more? It's your property at stake, did it not occur to you that a new rail service might use an existing, active rail right of way nearby?

Anonymous said...

@rafael There are no space-age materials that are exceptionally good at absorbing sound. It's not really a problem in outer space ;^)

maybe not now, but just wait till those crazy college kids start celebrating spring break up there, NASA better get to work on some.

Okay how bout we put the trains in glass tubes through sensitive areas, that way they're enclosed but you still get light in and out.

Anonymous said...

or we could put the nimbys in glass tubes...

Let me just point out what goes on now, and it has to stop. We have raised a nation of babies. big fat stupid helpless victim babies.

Take any given community, okay, they go on about their business, and likely, on their own, wouldn't give a second thought one way or another, to changes that go on around them, except that now, you the media, and people with agendas, who benefit from stirring up ****. they get folks whipped into this " oh my god we are victims and some one better pay attention to us or we're gonna throw a fit" frenzy.

Its an automatic response now with everything, no one can propose anything anywhere no matter what it is, without people over reacting.

Now some things, like say, fighting segregation or protesting the bombing of chilfren, etc, sure, that warrants a reaction.

But now, its de rigueur, to scream and stomp your feet over just EVERYTHING.
believe me, not a day goes by that some group is yelling and screaming outside my building about some perceived injustice.

There used to be this song that went like this

"I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden."

Translated into today's language, "Get over it"

All I can say to the opponents who are older than me, shame you, you people were raised by the ww2 and you should know better than to bitch and whine about everything.

And the rest of the opposition is going to come from minorities once lawyers whip them into " its racsim and we are gonna sue and get money" frenzy.

Im right. I watch this bs go on over and over again in california now.

35 million people and about 25 million of them have lost, or never had an ounce of common sense.

Just get out for christ sake. Take you loser behinds to some loser state and quit draggin the rest of down. You're really starting to affect the curve.
remember those cats on the porch I told you about.

Anonymous said...

I want everyone to watch a few episodes of peoples court and judge judy and such, and you will see, what the american people have become, and how they deal with things now. those people on those shows, I see them everywheeeerrrre. I mean they are stupid. Thats the only word for it. ( how stupid to you have to be to take your " I got him a cell phone and he didnt pay the bill waaaaahhhhhh" drama, up on tv so everyone can see how dumb you are.?)
Well, when I think of today's "typical californian" THAT is the image in my head, cuz thats all I ever seem to see, its like a parade.

ok ok forget it. Just give em some candy or vodka or cash or something and get em out of the way.

Anonymous said...


Usually you make sense. Sometimes too much sense.

But this:

"Folks in Palo Alto simply couldn't be bothered. That's their right also, but to then blame CHSRA.."

is bizarre and ridiculous.

The groundswell of concern that has occurred since REAL notification (postcards to all households along route, meetings with diagrams of vertical elevations) would seem to indicate the opposite.

What is your theory about how before they couldn't be bothered but since January and the postcards there were near riots at every public meeting on the topic?

I think it is safe to say that public notification, such as it was, is case study of inadequate.

The big problem with notification is now Central Valley - where only a small group of people that DOES NOT include the media - understand the Rail Authority's obsession that the trains will go through at 220. They have no concept of the 10 mile elevated structures planned for their town.

Those are plans that could use some constructive feedback.

Anonymous said...

The majority of trains will stop in frenso and will not run thru town at that speed and the ones that do will be during daylight business hours anyway. There won't be any express trains going thru fresno at midnight, or at 7am on a sunday morning.

Anonymous said...


According to the latest operational plan, there will be 16 trains per hour passing through Fresno. While 8 of those will stop in Fresno, 8 will not and will go at 220 mph.

A train at 220 mph every 7 1/2 minutes....

That's a great way to revive a downtown area which already suffers from 2 freight corridors. According to the stimulus application, they will NOT necessarily be grade separating the freight lines. page 14

Alon Levy said...

Anon, the noise can be mitigated. Intermediate cities on the Sanyo Shinkansen have 10-12 trains passing at 300 km/h every hour, and soon intermediate cities on the Tohoku Shinkansen will have about 12-14 trains passing at 320 km/h every hour.

Joey said...

It's called a sound wall. It works. If the people on the peninsula are so worried about noise, they should be advocating them too.

Alon Levy said...

Joey, the noise generated by an aerodynamic train at 200 km/h is pretty low. Those trains are engineered to be acceptably quiet on the platforms they bypass at 320 km/h; at 200, when the noise level is one quarter as much, it's a trivial issue.

Anonymous said...

220mph generates 95-100 decibels with a quality that is a bit shocking.

They tested a number of soundwall designs a couple of years ago when French TGV set speed record.

The biggest noise reduction was 5 decibels. It is not nothing.

Joey said...

100 decibels? At what distance? AFAIK a standard conversation is about 60dB where your standing. 100 is about 40% more, which doesn't seem like that much.

Anonymous said...

And 40% more than 100 dB is considered to cause permanent hearing damage without hearing protection.

Joey, you're a rhetorical genius!

K.T. said...


100db noise is 10^4 times stronger than 60db noise.


It would be nice if you can share the source of where you get 95-100db for TGV. I think there was a link to the studies for German ICE in this blog, which was also around 90-95db.

BTW, standards in Japan for HSR is 75db for commercial/industrial area and 70db for residential area. I think current and new generation trainsets (AGV, Sephiro 380, E5, efSET 350, etc) should be able to achieve noise standards comparable to this with the assistance of soundwalls and other mitigation techniques at its full operating speed.

Anonymous said...

urban living is noisy.

Joey said...

Ah, my mistake.

Anonymous said...

ALL Aboard.

Menop Park etc. are hardly what we call urban living... we are suburban
and we value our quality of life and you can take this train and shove it. (preferably where the sun doesn't shine)

Joey said...

You actually think HSR will decrease your quality of life ... you're funny.

Bay Area Resident said...

Here comes another THURSDAY meeting in Sacramento (not this week, next week) with what, 500 peninsula and south bay speakers this time? There are dozens of carpools going, I hear. Standing room only, and not ONE person will be for the existing route I suspect.

Not to worry Simitian and Morshed, you have your 10 million funding for "public relations" to save you. HA HA HA.

Bay Area Resident said...

Hey Blowback- no worries, man. This train is imploding on CHSRA as we speak. The resistance (referred to as NIMBYs, here) is gaining steam not dissipating, the concerned towns go way beyond just Menlo Park and PA now. Diridon and his stupid cronies better get ready to pull a rabbit out of a hat. This train is DONE in the SF bay area.

Bay Area Resident said...

Hey all aboard,
Do those judge judy participants come from the $3 million and up neighborhoods in Palo Alto? Well do they?

Until the idiots that run the CHSRA figure out that the people that live on the peninsula are smarter than they are- they will continue to be bamboozled and befuddled by the opposition and its ability to mobilize.

But keep trying to convince yourselves you are up against the 90 IQ judge judy crowd.... it serves our interests.

ArroyoLover said...

While the author makes valid arguments about the importance of a regional approach to planning, this is not how HSR conducted its scoping process. In particular, HSR's initial rail alignment out of downtown Los Angeles northward traversed three City of Los Angeles Specific Plans and the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan, yet HSR 'planners' never reviewed these documents nor consulted with city officials before making their recommendations. Thus, this article appears to be nothing more than an argument to viscerate CEQA or gain CEQA exemption status so the high speed rail advocates 'win.' To suggest that the HSR Authority truly believes in a regional planning approach in light of its actions is rather disingenuous.