Sunday, November 1, 2009

New Pro-HSR Group Forms on Peninsula

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

As reported in the SF Business Times on Friday (subscription req'd for whole article) a new pro-HSR group has been formed on the Peninsula. The Alliance for Sustainable Transit and Jobs is comprised of some of the Bay Area's heaviest hitters, including representatives of the largest businesses in the region. They don't yet have a website, but that doesn't really matter right now; these groups have already been very active behind the scenes in lobbying for high speed rail, and their coming together as a formal organization portends much greater public visibility. From the article:

Countering critics of high-speed rail along the Peninsula, business and labor groups have banded together to support the approximately $8 billion section between San Francisco and San Jose.

The Alliance for Sustainable Transit and Jobs “was formed in response to recent community outbursts regarding the high-speed rail route through the Peninsula cities and the forthcoming lawsuits, political posturing and other blocking maneuvers,” according to a flyer promoting the group, which will be based in the Belmont offices of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association.

In addition to SAMCEDA, business groups in the alliance include the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, Bay Area Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the chambers in San Mateo and Redwood City. Labor groups in San Francisco, Santa Clara County and San Mateo County are members.

“We’re coming from the point of view of what (high-speed rail) might bring to the Peninsula” in terms of jobs and other economic boosts, said Rosanne Foust, a SAMCEDA vice president and Redwood City mayor.

The Bay Area Council is of particular importance here. 60 years ago they came together to promote regional mobility in the wake of the transportation crisis the World War II boom created; out of their early proposals came the system we know as BART. While they didn't design the system itself, they helped get it launched and built, and look to do the same with HSR. Their member list reads like a who's who of Bay Area businesses, including companies like Chevron and Google; their executive committee includes representatives from Wells Fargo, Clorox, Bank of America, even Janet Yellin, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank. Similarly, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group includes similar (and even some of the same) companies, as does the SF Chamber of Commerce. Clearly, this is a serious effort to promote high speed rail and counter the distortions and NIMBY attacks on HSR on the Peninsula.

Of course, it's not the case that just because a bunch of large corporations say HSR is a good thing, we should just do as they say. In this case, though, the interests of the Bay Area's largest employers match those of working people and families living in the Bay Area and on the Peninsula, clear majorities of whom showed their own support for HSR by voting for Prop 1A last fall.

Having talked with some BAC staff about HSR, they made it clear that for their member companies, sustainable transportation is a very high priority. California is in a severe economic crisis, part of a global recession. When the global economy recovers, multinational corporations will look for places to invest. And it won't necessarily be California, especially if we are burdened with a transportation system that gets gridlocked during times of growth and is dependent on oil, a commodity whose costs are definitely going rise. Those companies want to invest in the Bay Area, but are saying that high speed rail needs to be part of the equation, part of the recovery, if they are going to make long-term plans for the region.

Again, there's nothing to say that the Bay Area should do something just because their largest employers recommend it. But that does place the burden on HSR deniers and NIMBYs to explain to people - especially people on the Peninsula, many of whom depend on the companies represented by the organizations that have formed this new pro-HSR group - where jobs and economic growth are going to come from without high speed trains. The answer is likely to be an assumption that the conditions of the late 20th century will just somehow magically continue indefinitely into the future, and that answer will likely not mention that the current economic crisis was caused by an overreliance on late 20th century sources of growth (sprawl, oil, finance capitalism).

Most Peninsula NIMBYs are those who were the "winners" of the late 20th century economy, those who own property near the tracks and prefer to maintain that asset value at the expense of the economic prosperity of others. Presumably they don't think they have any need of HSR, such is their economic security, but since HSR might possibly in some alternate universe threaten their property values, they're going to fight it tooth and nail. Even if that causes long-term economic distress for the region.

Even those who might not want California's 21st century economy to be dominated by a handful of large corporations can find value in high speed rail. HSR will create a green dividend that makes capital available for new entrepreneurial ventures by reducing spending on oil-based transportation. The hundreds of thousands of jobs HSR will create will produce more buyers of local businesses' products, more tax money for local governments to improve quality of life, and the trains themselves will enable Peninsula residents to have a broader spectrum of job opportunities and mobility that a 21st century economy requires.

In short, HSR offers opportunities for businesses big and small, for workers young and old, for cities along the tracks and those that aren't. The Alliance for Sustainable Transit and Jobs, along with truly grassroots groups like Californians for High Speed Rail, will help give voice to those on the Peninsula who so far have been drowned out or ignored by the loud but few NIMBYs.


Greg said...

Thank God, Jesus, Buddha, SpongeBob, shit I don't care I'll thank 'em all, just so long as we can finally have a counterpoint to the sheer amount of bullshit being pumped out by wealthy NIMBYs who don't care about California. the BAC is not to be frakked with. They get shit done.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Agreed with you there, Calculon. BAC is a very good, savvy organization that knows how to communicate effectively to the public. Their decision to take a more active role here is very significant, and welcome.

Anonymous said...

You don't care about california. All you want to do is jack off in front of your own HSR.

Anonymous said...

Just more corporate gauleiters.

Anonymous said...

Steve Heminger came from Bay Area Council to join MTC. He knows how to get things done... ineffectively and inefficiently. BAC alums are a key part of the reason we have clusterfucks with the Bay Bridge and BART-to-SFO projects.

These business organizations have a tendency to screw up projects with grandiose overbuilding, not make them better.

Jonah Horowitz said...

Right on, we need to counter the NIMBY BS.

Robert said...

Can't wait till you change platforms and ban anon contributors. Why is it all the pro's have names, while many con's are anon? How can I respect the opinion of someone who is afraid to sign it?

Peter said...

@ Robert

Amen. Anons need to find either join in the discussion productively or find their own forum to have temper tantrums.

Anonymous said...

I apologize for my inappropriate language and behavior. I was way out of line.

Anonymous said...

I knew this would happen. I was inevitable. There was no way that business and labor were gonna let a group of, well you know, stand in the way of what will be a huge part of the state's future economic engine. A handful of wanna be wealthy hangers on, are no match for california business and labor. No match at all.

Peter said...

@ Anon 9:05

And here's your dilemma: Since you're anonymous, we can't tell if you're actually the same anon from before. See the problem? Please, pick a pseudonym.

looking on said...

Quoting from Robert's post, the most interesting item is:

Countering critics of high-speed rail along the Peninsula, business and labor groups have banded together to support the approximately $8 billion section between San Francisco and San Jose.

The cost estimate of SF to San Jose in the EIR was $4.2 billion. So this pro HSR group now estimates the cost at $8 billion.

We now also know that LA to Anaheim has doubled in cost. This will go on and on.

The phase one cost estimate given one year ago at 32 billion will grow to at least $60 billion. Even with $4 billion from the stimulus funding, they will be $47 billion short. And this is before a single construction contract has been issued.

Stop this now!!!

Peter said...

@ looking on

Please note who you're quoting. You're quoting Robert, who is quoting a newspaper, not the Alliance.

Tony D. said...

One big round of applause! This is the people and corporations of the Bay Area finally telling the wealthy, selfish minority on the Peninsula ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Could not have said it better myself Greg.

Matt said...

We could do without all the auto-erotic references.

This is why you should require people to register, so you can ban those who are out of line, and at least make them go through the registration process again. It will limit some discussion from some who don't want the hassle of registration, but then the trolling limits the discussion anyways. So what do you want to limit? Legit discussion of HSR, or the trolls?

Joey said...

I would be hesitant to put any faith in that $8b number. It looks like an inaccuracy to me, and the last official figure I heard was $4.2b, so I think its safe to assume that's what it is, until CHSRA says otherwise.

looking on said...


Nobody believed the $4.2 billion estimate given by the Authority.

CalTrain estimated electrification and grade separation of their 2 track non-high speed system was $4.9 billion from SF to San Jose.

The Authority is now facing multiple tunnels or other much higher cost structures then berms to traverse the CalTrain corridor. Reality is the cost will be well over $10 billion.

YesonHSR said...

Join Californias for HSR and put your money where your mouth is.counter the loud mouth oil funded "think' tanks and MediaNewsgroyp assH..

nonimbys said...

The tracks will traverse that 140 year old ROW at grade..your silly nimby towns will pay for any other opition..OR move sissy

Peter said...

@ Looking On

Ok, where are your $4.2 and 4.9 billion number coming from? The highest I've found so far from any authoritative source is $1.23 billion... and that was from Caltrain a couple of weeks ago.

Back up your numbers or take a hike.

Anonymous said...

"Auto-erotic" is not quite the proper term. "Train-erotic" fits.

Anonymous said...

I found this cost: Q: How much will electrifying Caltrain cost?

A: A precise answer cannot be given until all studies are completed, but based on the recently completed electrification of the high speed Amtrak line from Boston into Connecticut and other projects around the world, it will cost approximately 2 million dollars per mile of double track line. This cost includes erecting the poles and stringing the wires, building electrical substations and connecting them to the power grid, as well as some other items, like making sure the electrification doesn't interfere with train signals and building guards on overbridges to keep people away from the power wires.

So to electrify the 50 miles from San Francisco to San Jose will cost somewhere between $100 million and $150 million. The costs of electrifying the additional 27 miles to Gilroy are harder to estimate, since the tracks themselves are not owned by Caltrain and it is not known whether one track or two tracks would provided. It may cost as much as $60 million.

In addition to just providing the wiring to power the trains, Caltrain will need to purchase electric trains. There are two ways this can be done. One possibility is that Caltrain could completely replace its locomotives and its antique fleet of passenger cars with high-performance "Electric Multiple Unit" trains. These are, like BART's, self-propelled trains without separate locomotives. The other option is to replace the existing diesel locomotives with electric locomotives. Since modern electric locomotives are very much more reliable, 19 or 20 electric locomotives could do the work of Caltrain's 23 diesels.

Electric locomotives recently bought by New Jersey Transit and Amtrak have cost around $6.2 million each, so replacing Caltrain's locomotives would cost about $125 million, while selling the existing diesels might realize $30 million or so, for a net cost of approximately $90 million. EMU cars purchased by the Long Island Rail Road have cost about $2.3 million each, so replacing Caltrain's passenger fleet would cost around $250 million, minus $30 for diesel locomotive sales, minus perhaps $70 million for passenger car sales, for a total of around $150 million.

So putting these numbers together, we can arrive at figures anywhere between $200 million and $350 million to transform either 50 or 77 miles of Caltrain into a modern, high-performance, quiet system, or around $4 million per mile. Just for comparison, building just 8.7 miles of BART to Millbrae is costing over $200 million per mile.

NONIMBYS said...


Joey said...

The Summer 2009 Electrification Newsletter says that costs have escalated to $1.23b. I guess cost escalation is inevitable, all the more reason to build things sooner rather than later. Though really CalTrain shouldn't do any significant work until they have sat down with CHSRA and worked out exactly what the corridor will look like when HSR comes along.

Joey said...

Also can we stop the name calling? It's getting really immature on both sides. You know who you are.

Cost Control said...

A very serious question: why has the cost of electrification dramatically exceeded both the CPI and even general construction cost indices???

From $150 million to over $1 billion!

Is this going to be a pattern for the whole project? If so, the $9 billion bond will be evaporated in no time.

NONIMBYS said...

Thats how the babies WANT to be treated...that why they cry about silly things like a railroad that they moved next to and now is HORRIBLE and please "HELP" me because Im a you treat crybabies by slapping them

Joey said...

@Cost Control:

CalTrain's original number was $831m; don't know where $150m is coming from. Regardless though, this cost escalation is troubling. Presumably, inflation and material cost fluctuations are at least partially to blame, but there are probably other factors as well. CHSRA is going to have to step very carefully in order to avoid similar problems in the HSR arena. Obviously, an estimate is an estimate; no one knows the exact cost until the thing is actually built, but there are plenty of preventative measures that can and should be taken to make sure that cost escalation is kept to a minimum.

Joey said...


You're not helping anyone, and your language is nearly incomprehensible. Defeating NIMBYism is going to take logic, reasoning, and professionalism; more complains only add to the problem.

NONIMBYS said...

LETS type this real clear..these babies moved next to a 140 year old that? now they are whinning that they are being that clear?

Cost Control said...

Caltrain's original number was far less than $831 million. The $831 million may be a recent estimate, but the number was less than $200 million only a few years ago. The figure has been skyrocketing, and electrification is not even a complex construction project.

Anonymous said...

Well, I understand the nimbys being concerned but the thing is, they can't seem to stick to a story.
Are they arguing cost because they live near the tracks and are just trying to throw out whatever will stick or are they tax tightwads who don't care about noise but use it as an excuse cuz they hate spending money, Are they concerned about mitigated and tunneling, or are they folks who want to kill the project altogether because they don't like the route that was chosen?

Hard to tell who is who and who is lying and who is telling the truth.

The reason they are slippery like this is because they know that any real reason they have, can't stand up to logical arguments and solutions ( its like trying to argue with a right winger on the bible or something, they will never give you a straight answer)

Joey said...

@Cost Control

Though I don't see the sub $200m number anywhere, after looking back at a bunch of CalTrain's documents, there does seem to be a general trend of cost escalation on the electrification project (not to mention scaling back to SF-SJ instead of Gilroy). What I really want to know is WHY the costs are escalating so much.

One thing to note though - it does not seem appropriate to take one example (CalTrain electrification) and assume that the same thing will happen to HSR. Rather, the possibility of cost escalation should be acknowledged and steps taken to prevent it. Prevention is critical, especially, since, I will admit, there does seem to be a general trend of projects going over-budget, between BART to SFO, the new Bay Bridge, OAC, and now this. Oddly enough, for one reason or another, the problem seems to be focused on the Bay Area.

looking on said...

My 4.9 billon for electrification and grade separation came from a CalTrain representative , who gave me that number at a meeting a couple of months ago. (again that was for 2 tracks ).

You can keep your heads in the sand and ignore what is being slowly revealed on cost structures, but this article and the now in black and white numbers on the LA to Anaheim route having doubled in cost from 1 year ago are real.

Jim's numbers are just pure fantasy; they don't agree with anything published, including the cost estimate given by the Authority to the Feds, for their stimulus application. Ignore his rant, which is what I in general do with all his postings.

At the next board meeting this Thursday, maybe we will learn a bit more about costs, since they are set to do some sort of discussion of the new business plan which is due Dec 15th. The Authority will produce this one, whether they like it or not, because if they don't, they won't get funded for the seconds half of this fiscal year.

The Simitian/ Lowenthal sub-committee means business this time, and the Authority knows it. How are they now going to claim they can't produce it, claiming they have no funds, when they are spending $9 million to hire a PR firm to spread the propaganda the Authority wants to indoctrinate in all Californians.

無名 - wu ming said...

a small meta point -

the purpose of arguing with trolls is not to convince the troll, but rather to provide a better argument to the lurking reader who is not as monomaniacally fixed in their opinion and thus can potentially be convinced.

as much fun as it is to yell insults at people who irritate you, that doesn't actually do you much good with the lurkers.

Unknown said...

You are missing the forest for the trees.

The big deal is that the HSR $4.2 billion number for the Peninsula did not have a single dollar in it for Caltrain electrification.

As per various MOUs, HSR was always on the hook to help pay it for in exchange for use of the ROW.

The exclusion of this number, along with actual tracks for Caltrain, along with modification of current grade separations, along with REBUILDING all the current Caltrain stations is why the $4.2 billion number is in the process of being revised up by CHSRA, way up.

Anonymous said...

@looking my numbers came from a rail 2000 publication I didn't make them up. They were low because they were old. I didn't make them up. Ignore this post ok.

Rafael said...

@ Jim, looking on, Elizabeth -

Jim's numbers refer to just the electrification portion. Looking on's refer to electrification plus grade separation.

Apples and oranges.

It doesn't really advance the conversation much to be throwing numbers around without supporting documents that spell out exactly what the bottom line number actually covers. For example, is the new train control system included? How about rebuilding Caltrain stations where the tracks end up elevated or underground?

At this point, what Caltrain says grade separation for just two tracks would cost is at best a check on what CHSRA claims it will cost for four. The objective is to grade separate the entire right of way.

Note that the cost of grade separation does not necessarily increase linearly with the number of tracks, especially for under- and overpasses across tracks that remain at grade.

Also note that the largest single line item in any electrification project is usually the construction of the substations. In the context of the SF peninsula, those will be shared by both HSR and Caltrain, as will the poles and/or headspans. In other words, Caltrain electrification becomes an inexpensive by-product of HSR electrification.

Leveraging the HSR project to make infrastructure improvements Caltrain has long sought but never had the funding to do on its own is precisely why PCJPB has entered into a MOU with CHSRA on sharing the right of way.

BruceMcF said...

A little typo in the article: "Most Peninsula NIMBYs are those who were the "winners" of the late 20th century economy, those who own property near the tracks and prefer to maintain that asset value at the expense of the economic prosperity of others"

"prefer" should read "fantasize that they will be able"

Bear in mind that if there is any relative change in property values of properties adjoining the corridor to those two and more lots away from the corridor, it is more than offset by the absolute benefit to all property values from having high frequency, oil-independent transport in the form of electric Caltrain services.

BruceMcF said...

One likely source of cost escalation of the Caltrain project would have been grade separations, since with the increase in frequency of Caltrain services there would be more intersections where the gates would cause extended queues during peak hours.

The HSR project must include full grade separation and full electrification, which means the substations and pole interconnections have to be in place in any event, so the cost of the Caltrain electrification would lose any grade separations it had picked up along the way and a large chunk of the support infrastructure for the catenary.

That would leave the rolling stock as the major cost, the local track catenary and supports a secondary cost, and everything else carried by the HSR upgrade.

Anonymous said...

And so I assume we'll see these businesses putting their $$$ on the line to fund the gap in building costs, and fund the guarantees on that HSR will not operate at a loss?

I think not. I think this is more of what we've already seen, which is big business salivating over big business's chance to sink their teeth into juicy Peninsula real estate development and juicy tax payer subsidized stimulus.

If they're so darn hot on high speed rail, its not a PR campaign they need, they just need to send in their billion dollar checks to get it built. Are alot of those rolling in all of a sudden? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

The Bay Bridge cost escalation was from just over a billion to more than six billion. If HSR can do better than road and airport projects in terms of cost escalation, I'll be happy. There isn't any way that we can just build nothing, so might as well build something more useful than what isn't working now, regardless of cost escalation, since that comes with ANY infrastructure project.

Peter said...

@ Anon

I'll have to agree with you on that. Cost escalation happens in essentially ANY project. It doesn't matter what the project is or who builds it. Think about how much the extra freeway lane miles would cost that would have to be built if HSR wasn't built. What would the cost overruns be on those? Simply stating that a project will have cost overruns is not a sufficient reason to kill an otherwise legitimate project. You also have to consider how much the replacement project will go over budget.

Look at the Space Shuttle replacement program. The replacement they were looking at years ago (that looked like a literal "pie in the sky") was killed because of cost overruns. Now we're designing the CEV, and who knows whether that will ever be completed, or how much THAT will go over budget.

You have to build something at some point somewhere.

Rafael said...


South Korea will likely throw its hat in the California HSR ring. No surprise there, they've invested heavily in developing a high-speed train of their own after buying Alstom trains for the first generation of the KTX service.

The KTX-II, derived from the HSR-350x development platform, is now in commercial service in South Korea and also being produced under license in Turkey. Note that the design relies on conventional tractor-trailer configurations, cp. TGV and Talgo 350. The passengers cars are all unpowered.

Anonymous said...

The good news is that now we have all these big businesses stepping up to the plate to get this built -we'll have PLENTY of funding for the appropriate design and mitigations needed to get it done properly.

And since massive cost escalation (compared to the 'no-one-ever- really-believed-$33B-number'), is a given, the 'tunnels will put us over budget' excuse pretty much flies out the window.

So all in all, with this good news of the Peninsula big businesses stepping in, even less reason to avoid tunneling the Peninsula, and even less reasons to suggest that damaged neighborhoods should put up their own ransom money to avoid negative impacts.

And the really excellent news for HSR lovers and HSR deniers alike, is that with California businesses underwriting the potential operating losses (which tax payers will not be underwriting), this simply blasts this whole debate about profitability, over blown ridership demand, low balled ticket prices, infrastructure subsidized or not to be subsidized, out of the water. Deniers - be gone! We'll now have our biggest coalitions of California big business investing and guaranteeing the HSR operating break even.

Won't we? I mean, that's what this news about the big business coalition throwing all their support behind HSR means, right?

Thank GOODNESS all these big businesses are riding in now to save the day and get this thing done already.

Peter said...

Sorry, no, what it means is that they will be providing political support. Those businesses are not in the, well, business of building infrastructure.

They will provide a powerful counterpoint to people whining about property values.

Rafael said...


Deutsche Bahn will offer its corporate customers eco-tickets with a guarantee that the associated electricity will be purchased exclusively from renewable sources located in Germany - primarily hydro power.

The regular grid mix is 34.5% anthracite, 25.9% nuclear, 13.1% lignite and just 16% renewable. Compliance with the specifications of the new offering will be verified by TUeV SUed, though it is not immediately clear if it will be based on the number of available seats or those actually occupied.

The non-discounted fare from Berlin to Frankfurt increases by just EUR 0.76 (~$1) if the eco option is chosen. Note that DB is not adding any renewable electricity generating capacity of its own nor does it require utilities to do so.

DB isn't offering the new eco-tickets to the general public at this time, so you won't find them on the railway's web site.

BruceMcF said...

Anon said: "The Bay Bridge cost escalation was from just over a billion to more than six billion."

And that was with segmenting the construction to get each segment in under the thresholds where "Buy American Steel" kicked in, allowing Chinese suppliers to low bid.

However, although I don't read the Bay Area press, I'm sure that worked out well.

Anonymous said...

For those who are heralding the arrival (finally) of big business political and marketing $$$ into California's HSR - I highly recommend the PBS documentary "Saving the Bay", the history of San Francisco Bay. (running on KTEH on Thursday's through NOvember.) Not only fascinating history on development of the SF Bay since the arrival of the first settlers, but also a great David vs Goliath tale on Nimbyism and dense development pressures in the 60s and 70s.

Jack said...

Maybe the Palo Alto folks could start "save my multi-million dollar view of the great phallic Hoover Tower"

Not as catchy as "save the bay" but, well, neither is their cause.

Rafael said...

It's not just corporations that support HSR in Palo Alto. Slowly but surely, residents in favor of the project are venturing forth into the NIMBYs' favorite forum, Palo Alto Online.

Some opponents are still putting out incorrect information such as "While the trains may be quieter than Caltrains, the horns will not be." I'm not sure if that's just ignorance of when and why FRA requires train operators to sound their horns or deliberate FUD.

Anonymous said...

Logic is easy.

The cited passenger numbers are completely bogus. Logic dictates that CA can't afford to have a shiny choo-choo for the train-erotics around here.

The budget numbers are bogus. It will cost a lot more.

Californians will be on the hook for the cost overruns.

Your support for HSR is based on a complete fallacy.

So, where's your logic? Or are you too busy on the can looking at the new HSR centerfold?

Evan said...

Does this organization have a Web site?

domus said...