Thursday, November 12, 2009

Someone Has To Be First

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

This week's issue of the Sacramento News & Review includes an article discussing Sacramento's frustration at not being included in Phase I of the HSR project:

Even though the state’s high-speed rail system is slated to begin construction in about two years, it may not reach Sacramento for another 20 years, and even that isn’t certain. The Capitol Corridor line is one of the most heavily used conventional passenger rail lines in the country, but when it comes to high-speed rail, Sacramento is being treated like a backwater

First off, this is nonsense. Sacramento isn't being treated like a "backwater" - they're part of the planning process and are scheduled to be included in Phase II. There are a LOT of communities in California that aren't slated to get HSR service at all, from my own town of Monterey to Oakland to Redding to Santa Barbara to Palm Springs. The article is unfortunately taking the fact that someone else goes first to make it look like once again, poor old Sacramento is getting slighted. City officials are making similar comments:

That has chafed a few Sacramento leaders. Back in March, Mayor Kevin Johnson told The Sacramento Bee that he was “disappointed” at Sacramento’s second-tier status.

“I’m very interested in how we can expedite Sacramento being a part of the high-speed train,” Johnson said Tuesday. “We want to be a part of that first leg.”

I'm all for expediting the link to Sacramento. But the fact is, someone is going to get the HSR line first, and that means someone else won't. In this case, Sacramento is in the second tier behind the higher priority (more people, more riders, virtually no existing direct train service) route from SF to LA. It would be one thing if Sacramento were being left out entirely from the HSR project. But they're not. If they suddenly witnessed a population boom that gave them more people than the Bay Area or LA, I might say they had a case for moving up in the queue. Right now though, they don't. That's nothing personal. Strictly business.

Moreover, Prop 1A includes hundreds of millions in funds for the existing and popular passenger rail route connecting SF to Sacramento, the Capitol Corridor:

Even if Sacramento ends up being the last community in California to get high-speed rail, it might benefit from Prop. 1A sooner. The initiative included $950 million for upgrading conventional rail projects around the state. The idea is to beef up the local feeder systems for the eventual build-out of high-speed rail. Sacramento’s Capitol Corridor could attract a big chunk of that money in order to add additional track, to completely separate freight and passenger operations along the corridor, and to increase speeds for the commuter trains.

Dickinson noted that a rail trip to the Bay Area now takes about an hour and 40 minutes, a bit longer than driving. “But if we can take off 15 or 20 minutes, the train then becomes an extremely attractive alternative,” said Dickinson.

In fact, the Capitol Corridor is already programmed to receive a significant portion of that money. They were also programmed to get new train cars out of the 2006 transportation bond, Prop 1B, but Arnold Schwarzenegger's Department of Finance delayed that (the delays are over, but the new cars still haven't been ordered, through no fault of the Capitol Corridor). Improving the Capitol Corridor would give Sacramento a significant interim boost while they await the construction of their connection to the HSR "spine" at Merced.

So it's not clear that the situation is as dire as the SN&R would have readers believe. HSR is on its way to Sacramento, as is improved passenger rail service. In January the project-level scoping work will commence and locals will get a chance to weigh in on route and structures. In the meantime, locals are advocating for a Sacramento person to be given a seat on the CHSRA board:

Along with lining up its ducks, Sacramento could use a little political muscle to advance its interests. Cohn noted that the High Speed Rail Authority board, with nine members, is mostly composed of people from Southern California and the Bay Area. The one Central Valley representative, Fran Florez, is from the Bakersfield region—which is due to be connected on the first leg of the system.

“Not one of those board members is from Sacramento,” Cohn said. He suggested that Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg could appoint a Sacramentan when a seat opens up.

For example, board member Lynn Schenk is still serving on the board, even though her term is expired. Board rules allow members to stay until their replacement is chosen. Schenk is the governor’s appointee, but Steinberg could suggest a candidate for the governor’s consideration.

“Between the governor and Sen. Steinberg, who knows?” Cohn said. “But we need to be represented.”

I think finding a Sacramentan for the CHSRA board is a reasonable thing to do. Of course, Schenk is from San Diego, so it doesn't quite make sense to leave the other city to be served in Phase II unrepresented in order to give something to Sacramento. Surely there can be some way to resolve that matter.


Richard Mlynarik said...

The boundlessly corrupt all-trains-via-Los-Banos Pacheco "decision" by CHSRA means there will never be Sacramento-Bay Area high speed service.

Enjoy your nostalgic Capitol Corridor clang-clang-clang-fest, one slow, late, steam-era lumbering train per hour, and your unbounded contributions to UPRR's bottom line forever, Sacramentans! And be grateful for it.

It's the very least we can do for you ... until the BART extension from Livermore makes it up your way.

James said...

After years of ignoring HSR in Sacramento, now they wake up and realize they are not first in line? This is worse than Palo Alto city council waking up, after the election. The pols are well aware of HSR if they care to get involved. Maybe this is good that HSR is not going to the center of state politics first. That may give them an incentive to be sure phase II gets funding sooner.

As for CC, I understood that there is a speed limit on the tracks through the straight due to curves as well as the conditions of the track. If the tracks were upgraded and if the rolling stock could tilt then the travel time could be reduced. Is this still the case?

Anonymous said...

Funny - Sacramento needs it, and they get the shaft (phase 2, AFTER phase 1 makes a profit - which should be a few years after the sun starts orbiting the moon), while the Peninsula doesn't need but is getting it shoved down their throats. Ironic. Maybe the Peninsula Nimby's should partner up with the Sacramentoans and see if they can put their heads together.

Anonymous said...

First the SNR is a rag. Second, the mayor of SAC is former basketball player,who got elected but that's all it takes to get elected in a place like sacramento how much tdo you think he knows about running a city let alone hsr. Third, sacramento IS a backwater, even the governor won't live there. and finally, the distance from merced to sac is short and easy and if they wanted to they could fill that gap in earlyby simply passing a regional transit tax the way santa clara and other counties do it. thing is it will never pass, because its not a high priority for a large part of the popuation up there. They still revel in their cow town-y ness.

Anonymous said...

@richard. whats with the constant amtrak bashing.

Anonymous said...

So these are like anti-NIMBYs.... I guess IMBYs?

Anonymous said...

its only 100 miles of flat straight mostly rural row from merced to sac. whats the cost estimate?

Unknown said...

There's no set schedule for anything yet. CAHSR had a schedule in the August board meeting showing how they could build phase 1 and 2 concurrently and have the whole thing online within 1-2 years of each other. But that would require finding a source of funds for phase two other than the profits for phase one.

If Sacramento wants to get it built, they should start finding ways to get the money sooner. It doesn't sound like they're saying they want to get the line built to Sac and not SF, just that they want to get theirs built at the same time.

That's fine, we just need the money to do it, there's no technological reason it can't be built concurrently, and the sooner the whole thing is built, the better for everyone.

@Jim: yeah, they really do revel in their cow-town ness, despite the fact that 98% of people in sacramento couldn't tell you which part of the cow their steak came from (probably 99% in LA). They do love their cowbells at Kings games though. We're 'mericans, we love our cowboy costumes.

Anonymous said...

meanwhile, once merced is up and running you can expect that amtrak will adjust feeder service accordingly, especially if amtrak gets the contract to begin with- which would mean total coordination with existing trains and the statewide feeder bus service to bring the largest number of riders into the new system from the get go

Anonymous said...

high end dining in sac = pf changs.

( don't get me wrong I love pf changs but still...)

SAc as a city, is one of the slowest places to get things done. I mean that railyard project, dont expect to see it in your lifetime. There simply isn't enough interest from the public in such things. The push comes entirely from planners and developers but without the local population clamoring for such things, there just isnt any momentum so things flounder. SAc will be last because it will take them longer than anyone, to get anything done. just watch, youll see.

Robert Cruickshank said...

So Richard, you have any evidence you can share proving the "corruption" claim?

'Cause if you don't, then don't make those baseless charges here. Disagree with the route choice all you like, I really don't care, but this site won't be used to spew such unfounded statements.

Rafael said...

To my mind, upgrading Amtrak CC makes more sense for Sacramento than trying to accelerate the HSR spur.

The present service is indeed slow, it takes 1h-1h10m from San Jose to Oakland (45mi) and another 2h10m-2h20m from Oakland to Sacramento (89mi).

The most obvious way to improve line haul times is to run a couple of trains a day as express service with stops in Sacramento, Richmond, Emeryville, Oakland Coliseum and San Jose only.

The connecting motorcoach into downtown SF takes a whopping 30 minutes, with another 10 minutes reserved for transfers. Amtrak should strive to shave at least 10 minutes off that total.

However, there are gains to be had for local trains as well. For example, why does Oakland Jack London Square to Emeryville take 10 minutes? Because freight trains going in and out of the harbor have to run slowly there anyhow and, because the tracks run in streetcar mode along the Oakland Embarcadero.

Full grade separation would be expensive and/or upset local merchants on both sides of the tracks. A redevelopment concept based on pedestrians rather than cars crossing the right of way would likely be the most appropriate approach. That would mean moving some parking lots north and some businesses south, plus a short box tunnel around the tracks. The roof of the box would double as a promenade, with ramps down to grade level and optionally, direct access to commercial spaces at the same elevation via short bridges.

Water Street should be extended to Martin Luther King Jr Way, which would become an over- or underpass. this would also be the primary access route for emergency plus municipal services, transit buses and suppliers. Further east, a second over- or underpass at Alice St would be possible.

As always, fix the slow sections before you spend the really big bucks on upgrading the fast ones to even higher speeds.

Morris Brown said...

Robert pens:

(from the article)

" Even though the state’s high-speed rail system is slated to begin construction in about two years, it may not reach Sacramento for another 20 years, and even that isn’t certain. The Capitol Corridor line is one of the most heavily used conventional passenger rail lines in the country, but when it comes to high-speed rail, Sacramento is being treated like a backwater

(Robert says)

First off, this is nonsense. Sacramento isn't being treated like a "backwater"

Of course this is truth not nonsense in every sense of the word. Backwater is a perfect term. Here is the State capital being shoved aside by the politicians in the Bay area, so that San Jose can be on the direct line for all trains.

It has been pointed out so many times, Altamont is the vastly superior route. Wait until the lawsuits start flying over the project level EIR.

BTW, Didron responded to the Daily Past article of rotten apples.

Being asked to provide an examply of the misinformation,after hesitation he brings up the misinformation being projected by the picture taken in Menlo Park of the train station area.

Well Mr. Diridon, from the EIR this was the type of structure that could be surmised to be favored since it would be the cheapest and mirrors the kind of elevated structures that CalTrain had used along the peninsula, although on berms, since the ROW was wider in those areas.

Andre Peretti said...

@anon 12:27
What you suggest is exactly what happened in France with the Aix-Nice line.
The Nimbys who absolutely did not want HSR joined forces with the cities that absolutely wanted it. They won and the original route was scrapped.
Of course, I don't mean it should serve as an example for California.

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

"its only 100 miles of flat straight mostly rural row from merced to sac. whats the cost estimate?"

(a) show me the the right of way. UPRR? CA-99 median? Just west of CA-99? Given UPRR's stance, that'll be difficult through towns large and small along the way.

The BNSF right of way only goes as far as south Stockton and intersects the UPRR tracks at a very undesirably right angle there, with plenty of buildings blocking a generous transition curve. The water table in Stockton is probably very high so tunneling could be a dicey proposition. Switching to the CA-99 corridor toward Lodi would mean bypassing the downtown area altogether, abandoning a key objective of the entire HSR project.

(b) Without the Railyards to Richards redevelopment, what's the point of taking HSR to Sacramento at all?

Cost is not the only factor to consider. So is ridership.

Anonymous said...

What's the point in going to Sacramento? What about, like, connecting the state capital to the other parts of the state?

You could probably do merced to sacramento for less money than LA - Anaheim which is at $5 bn and counting (10 miles of bridges and structures, gobs of crossings, 17 different utility companies to deal with etc).

Anonymous said...

The present service is indeed slow, it takes 1h-1h10m from San Jose to Oakland (45mi) and another 2h10m-2h20m from Oakland to Sacramento (89mi).

Let's put that into units we understand: 40 mph

Jim, this is why your dear Amtrak CC is being described as steam-era

MPPBrian said...

At least we have a community that wants HSR sooner rather than throwing up roadbloacks to delay or endanger the project! I'll take this over the shenanigans on the peninsula any day.

Peter said...

Capitol Corridor does in fact need speed upgrades.

Simply referring to it as a steam-era train doesn't change that.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 2:34pm -

Anaheim was added to the starter line, with an extension to Irvine down the road, because OC is the second most populous county in the state.

Would extending the starter line to Ontario airport instead have created more transportation value by allowing LAX to avoid some upgrades? Perhaps.

However, at this point the most important calculation is getting as many members of Congress to vote for HSR funding as possible or there won't be any starter line to argue about.

OC is heavily Republican, but Curt Pringle is a fierce advocate of HSR. I just don't see anyone playing that role for Sacramento.

Matthew said...

Frankly, they'd better not push Sacramento ahead of San Diego. We've got 3 times the population, and with 200,000 daily commuters from Riverside to San Diego, we've got a heck of a demonstrated need, and tons of likely riders.

owenandbenjamin said...

It would seem to me that SD to LA should be the highest of priorities.

Tony D. said...

Gee Morris,

Including the "State Capitol" (CowTown) in Phase 1 or THREE TIMES THE POPULATION, ECONOMIC ENGINE OF THE STATE SAN JOSE/SILICON VALLEY in Phase 1? Can you say proverbial no-brainer? Cmon Morris, you're truly smarter than that I hope! And why do you keep ignoring the fact that the Altamont Pass will get a HSR overlay? I guess the truth is an annoyance to your lame arguments.

"Wait until the lawsuits start flying over the project level EIR."

Ohhh, we're shaking in our pants now! Run for the hills Robert! We're all at the mercy of a small bunch of whiny, rich babies on the Peninsula!

See you on the trains in 2020!

Anonymous said...

The dimensions of the wall came directly out of the previously 'certified' program EIR which CHSRA hails as gospel. In that they drafted a solid wall through at least Palo Alto, reaching as high as 18-20 feet, from the menlo park border to past Paly. Now, that CHSRA didn't deem fit to show animation of the ugly underbelly of the CHSRA, per their draft, in the residential suburbs directly abutting homes and schools and small residential streets, in their glossy marketing propaganda- but rather only showed distant animation of a train running silently through unpopulated countryside, and serenely alongside the coast (one I believe one of their animations showed the remodeling of a busy commercial area from an at grade to a (massive) underpass - certainly nothing near a representation of impact in neighborhoods. Who's fault is that? The logical and obvious thing to do is to build a visual representation to asses impact - CHSRA didn't deem it worthy (or realized it would immediately create uproar and tried to desparately avoid letting THAT misery out of the bag). So some local residents filled in the void. I'd call an intentional VOID of information at the hands of a negligent CHSRA even more misinformation, than some individuals developing their own mock ups. If CHSRA calls that misinformation, I'd like to see THEIR drawings of the plans they put on paper in the Program EIR.

NONIMBYS said...

Martin ..SHUT UP this is about HSR to Sacramento..not Nimby Park

Rafael said...

@ Matthew, Tornadoes28 -

AB3034(2008) explicitly defines the starter line as SF to LA and Anaheim.

It also defines a total of eight "corridors", i.e. usable segments of the entire California network. The nomenclature is unfortunate in that it has a different meaning at the federal level.

The idea is that those corridors that can attract the most non-state funding (i.e. federal, city/county and/or private) should be first in line for prop 1A(2008) bond appropriations, provided this does not interfere with the objective of getting the starter line built.

This is technically not the same arrangement as CHSRA's phasing plan, but in practice the starter line will use up all $8.1 billion reserved for HSR construction in AB3034(2008). An additional $900 million may be spent on planning and preliminary engineering of the HSR network and/or on HSR construction.

The balance of $950 million is reserved for capital improvements to legacy transit services such as Amtrak California, BART, Metrolink, LA Metro, Caltrain, ACE and NCTD.

So far, CHSRA has kicked off project-level planning for all of these "corridors" except Merced-Sacramento. The authority's biggest headache for that is arguably that of securing a suitable right of way between south Fresno and downtown Stockton. UPRR isn't playing ball and there is no available median in CA-99 in many places. Add to that the objective of running express trains through towns at 220mph.

The decision on where to lay tracks between south Fresno and Merced will have a knock-on effect for the rest of the spur up to Sacramento.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

@ Anon

In the meantime, they HAVE produced a video simulation of what an elevated alignment would look like.

Also, as you stated yourself, the Authority's preliminary plans were for an 18-20 foot elevated. NOT 30 feet.

So much for not producing misinformation.

lyqwyd said...

@Tony D

well said!

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 4:30pm -

"If CHSRA calls that misinformation, I'd like to see THEIR drawings of the plans they put on paper in the Program EIR."

Here you go, found in Appendix D of the Bay Area to Central Valley Final Program EIS/EIR:

Initial cut at possible vertical profile of HSR implementation in the Caltrain corridor, used for baseline cost estimates. Date: 05-04-07.

I'm not sure exactly when this was published on the CHSRA web site but it was many months before the Nov 2008 election. It's admittedly not all that easy to find and you need to really zoom in to get the information on a particular intersection, but it's been there all along.

Since then, CHSRA has produced a more detailed description showing all the alternatives under consideration:

Alternatives Exhibits

For Palo Alto in particular, CHSRA had N3CD produce a computer animation of the alternatives (excl. keeping tracks at grade and constructing additional road underpasses). This is the first animation I've seen that includes noise, though afaik there hasn't been any independent verification of how accurately the relative noise levels are portrayed:

Alma Street, Palo Alto

Note that the video does not show the construction nuisance in Palo Alto or in the case of bored tunnels, at the portals. For now, the focus is on the end result, minus the development of air rights, escape routes and ventilation fans in the case of tunnel construction.

Dan S. said...

What a cool video! Too bad that wasn't available way back when the Berlin Wall video was produced, but better late than never. That kind of visualization really makes it seem possible to me -- I think all the scenarios they presented would serve Palo Alto quite well.

Except for the tunnel and the trench, though, it really won't calm the nerves of those living right against the ROW who think the railroad must serve all the demands of the local community. It's to be expected that they would rail against such an incursion using whatever arguments they can cobble together. But I think with affordable proposals such as those shown in this video, we can get a majority of the local residents on board with the plan. (Although as I hypothesized before, I do think gas will need to rise back to $4 a gallon before Californians really get supportive of HSR. So for now patience is required of us evangalists. But I also think that's gonna happen!)

From the perspective of someone who used to live in P.A. but several blocks away from the tracks, I would take any of those alignments in a heartbeat. Great upgrade to the corridor.

Is this an example of fixing "misinformation"? Not really, in my opinion. CHSRA just failed in putting out enough good information to make a good case for the ROW re-alignments in the peninsula, and now they're paying for it. Diridon is a terrible spokesman and I hope the first thing the new PR firm does is tell him to STFU! ;-)

On the Sacramento positioning, I would really say much ado about nothing. Fine, some in Sac want to appeal for starter status, that's their right. But it's just not as big a population or business center as the Bay Area, LA, or SD, right?

Alon Levy said...

With Altamont-through Dumbarton, SF-Sac nonstop would take 1:06. Via a second trans-Bay tube, it would take 0:58. Against 1:26 on I-80, it's not very time-competitive with driving except at rush hour.

Yes, Altamont would be better for Sacramento than Pacheco. But no, it's not that big a deal; most Sacramento traffic in any case would be bound to Los Angeles, not the Bay Area.

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

At least the video is cool, although it will be just that, a video, since HSR will never be built (no money).
Every time I visit here the only interesting posts are from Rafael. What are the rest of you doing here? Just posting BS all day?

Joey said...

And what are YOU doing here, besides being cynical of everything?

stupid truck said...

Toys..go play on the freeway..and without your stupid truck

Brandon in California said...

My prediction -

Efforts to get lines to San Diego and Sacramento each will occur in a snap as soon as the first line is completed... regardless of the current proposal to use 'profits' to fund those extensions.

Why? Because Sacramento and San Diego will be too jealous to let their bergs go un-connected.

Brandon in California said...

Rafeal - OC is not the 2nd most populous county in the state; San Diego is.

Jack London said...

I have always been confused by the route that the Capitol Corridor takes through downtown Oakland versus the route that the Port of Oakland uses to move its containers out by rail. Container trains will certainly increase and I am wondering what would be involved in building an improvement like the Alameda corridor that could accommodate both freight and passenger. What is stopping the Port from moving containers out to rail yards near Sacramento or Tracy where trucks could then take them the rest of the way to their destination. Truck traffic and pollution is a big Bay Area problem. Can anyone explain these routes and/or make up one of your cool maps. Thanks,

Matt said...


Wikipedia says OC has a slight lead based on July, 2007 estimates:

Not 100% accurate, but it doesn't mean much since the difference is so small and county population has little to do with anything.

Matt said...

Sorry, better Link

Spokker said...

"OC is heavily Republican, but Curt Pringle is a fierce advocate of HSR."

He is also stupid about mass transit. I'm not saying that CAHSR is a vanity project, but it is for *him*.

Orange County has bigger problems.

The OCTA is not only cutting bus service in March 2010, but they are cutting it in a stupid way. The route I take, which is in the top 5 busiest route in the system, will no longer serve a MAJOR GODDAMN UNIVERSITY. Instead, they will force students to transfer to another bus route to get there, which just adds more time and more risk of being late.

Not only that, but OCTA is proposing to cut the limited-stop rapid bus (They call it "Bravo!"). They received federal air quality grants to make this service a reality but it is three years late. Since they still want the money, they are going to spend it on traffic signal synchronization instead. They couldn't be stupider.

I cannot in good conscious support the LA-Anaheim HSR link at this time. I have sent a comment to the OCTA and the CHSRA voicing my objection to that particular segment. Orange County does not deserve HSR.

Spokker said...

When they cut 300,000 hours of bus service in Orange County, do they plan to put them back in place so that the low-income people who will work at ARTIC can get to their jobs? Is the parking structure at ARTIC going to be bigger than the goddamn station?


無名 - wu ming said...

i think people are looking at this backwards. sacramento knows HSR is part of what it will take to be a successful urban center in the 21st century. they're an old railroad town, and people are already quite fond of the capitol corridor. while suburban NIMBYs across the state are trying to kill this train, and many city governments seem blasé about the whole projects, sac wants in early.

how is this a bad thing? even if it's not part of a conspiracy to hold sac down, this is exactly the sort of enthusiasm we want people to have for this project. hopefully as HSR comes closer to reality amtrak can get a reliable, express feeder service to merced so that sac can take advantage of HSR.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Spokker, I agree with you about the outrage that is the OCTA cuts. Of course, they're not alone in slashing service. By that logic nobody in this state deserves HSR.

The problems are not exactly related. California gutted state funding for local mass transit, leaving huge holes in local operating budgets. OCTA is largely suffering from that problem.

I don't see why HSR should be punished for the CA government's problems, and for OCTA's unwillingness to seek a tax increase to fund operations.

Robert Cruickshank said...

wu ming, agree that Sacramento's desire for a train isn't a bad thing. The problem here is the way the SN&R framed it, that Sacramento's place in the second phase is somehow an anti-Sac conspiracy. As I noted in the post, I'm all for accelerating construction of the Sacramento route, just not at the expense of the main spine.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Morris, that is hilarious. "could be surmised to be favored" is a sputtering way of saying "it's something we made up entirely, it's a longshot guess, backed by no firm plans or hard evidence at all."

Rotten apple indeed.

Spokker said...

"Of course, they're not alone in slashing service."

But they're doing it in a very stupid way. Their board members are on record saying outlandish things about transit, some even suggesting to eliminate it altogether.

The 91 and 405 freeways continue to be widened and improved while bus service languishes. Where is the equity here?

Morris Brown said...

Matt and Brandon:

Well there were about more 100,000 votes from San Diego Co. than Orange county on Prop 1A last year. Both counties negative

San Diego yes 48% - no 52%
Orange yes 43% - no 57%

If Orange Co. is larger in population they certainly don't show it at the ballot box.


Thanks for posting the link to the expected profile in the EIR.

I took the picture of the MP station area, and the Photoshop work was done by somebody else, but with the idea of making it conform to what we knew.

Just in case a few reading here have not seen the pictures in question, go to:

Spokker said...

"I don't see why HSR should be punished for the CA government's problems"

I'm still giving my support for the LA-SF segment. However, I oppose the LA-Anaheim segment not just because of what the OCTA is doing, but because I think that spending all that money for 125MPH service or whatever the hell they end up at is insane (especially when you consider that Metrolink and Amtrak service receive zero benefit like Caltrain will) compared to upgrading the Surfliner to 110 MPH, and you won't need insane flyovers and tunnels to do it.

HSR on the peninsula makes sense. It doesn't make so much sense between LA and Anaheim.

Spokker said...

I'm finding it harder and harder to support this project.

Jesus Christ.

Joey said...

Well I don't think it's justified to discredit the whole HSR project because of this. But the actions of the governor on this and with shifting the corridor funding around on the stimulus application have seriously made me question his ability to manage funding for rail transport in CA. Guess Pringle and Crane are questionable too. Maybe it's time for a change in leadership...

Robert Cruickshank said...

Working on a post about that, Spokker. We need to not play Arnold's or the media's game of pitting mass transit modes against each other.

Brandon in California said...

Matt and maybe Rafael -

Wikipedia is likely relying on US Census data - because they cover the entire country and provides consistency.

However, in non decineal years the California Department of Finance is the most accurate and definitive source for population estimates. The CaDOF efforts are much more exhaustive. They use the US Census figures only as a tuning fork in decineal years.

That said, San Diego surpassed Orange County in Spring 2006, but the US Census wouldn't know that because they do not apply the necessary tools for a preceise measurement.

As of 1/1/09 per CaDOF:
SD: 3,173,407
OC: 3,139,107

Brandon in California said...

Your stats only have meaning it Prop 1A were a county proposition. It was not.

Unknown said...

Agree with Robert about pitting modes against each other, but was it really an appropriate request for Caltrans to ask for "high speed rail" money to grade separate metrolink and the surfliners?

Not saying those shouldn't get funded, but most of those wouldn't have even been part of any 110mph "high speed" service.

Brandon in California said...

Caltrans was only the agent for the application... one state, one application.

The grade-crossings were likely origionally submitted by the local transportation plannign agencies... ie LACMTA, or SANDAG, etc.

I agree with you, do such grade separation projects really deliver 110mph trains... or are local safety projects? ARRA HSR funds should be for enabling high speed trains.

Joey said...

They really should have been more transparent about the fact that those projects aren't really HSR though, rather than just killing the applications quietly.

Rafael said...

@ Spokker -

I read about the fact that Caltrans Division of Rail had prepared ARRA applications of its own last month on, so the article you reference wasn't as much of a surprise to me as it apparently was to you.

My guess is that the governor has had conversations with Secr. Ray LaHood and got a sense of where his thinking is on this. There are lots of applications for upgrades to 110mph incl. PTC implementation from other states. There are very few applications for full-fat express HSR: California, Florida. The latter project is more mature but does not come with matching funds, which would set a bad precedent. I'm not sure if Amtrak itself put in an application for upgrades to the NEC, that should be a national priority as well of course.

California probably could have applied for funds for both express HSR and the Amtrak California upgrades. However, given that LaHood only has $8 billion to work with right now, national politics dictate that he would have had to turn at least part of that application down in any case.

There just isn't enough in the kitty yet and once a project gets turned down, it's that much harder to get it approved the second time around. Politics is about managing perceptions as much as anything else.

The bitter irony is that the top speed of HSR trains in the LA basin will be - drum roll please - 110mph. So we've ended up in the Kafkaesque situation that an existing, popular service (Amtrak PS) won't get near-term upgrades that would stimulate the economy right away and achieve much the same result in terms of transportation value between LA and Anaheim. And that's because USDOT probably wants to fund at least one express HSR project right now.

Rafael said...

@ Brandon in San Diego -

"ARRA HSR funds should be for enabling high speed trains."

The trouble is that to the average California resident, high speed means fully grade separated, electrified tracks and speeds of 220mph in the Central Valley.

The denizens of Washington, D.C. apply a much lower standard: a reasonable expectation that 110mph can be reached for an unspecified length of time will do, and grade crossings are allowed at that speed. They don't care what the trains run on.

Internationally, the informal definition of HSR appears to be fully grade separated @ 125mph cruise speed. Anything above 186mph cruise speed is now called very high speed rail (VHSR). California HSR would qualify under that definition.

flowmotion said...

@Alon Levy
With Altamont-through Dumbarton, SF-Sac nonstop would take 1:06. Via a second trans-Bay tube, it would take 0:58. Against 1:26 on I-80, it's not very time-competitive with driving except at rush hour.

Curious where these numbers come from. It seems like a rather long detour via Dumbarton for only eight minutes of additional travel time.

Alon Levy said...

Flowmotion: the source is the Bay Area to Central Valley EIR, volume 1, chapter 7.

Anonymous said...

RAfael, my reason for asking the price tag for merced to sac was to get a number and divide it to see how much the locals would have to raise to speed up the process.

also, the bus link route 99 from sfc - emy only takes 15 minutes if traffic is moving, but the sked has to be padded due to unpredictable = and getting worse, traffic on the embarcadero and bridge approaches. usually the bus is in much sooner that what the sked says. There is no way to speed it up becuase its subject to traffic conditions.

Thats said - id di get a juicy tidbit of info today.... it seems we will be mving to tbt in 5 years. after all, and thats why we havent gotten our ticket office improvements, because they arent going to spend money when we are gonna move to TBT, this was up in the air until now. but a co worker said a guy from TJPA was there measuring our baggage area baggage cart etc, to see what would or would not work in the new space at TBT

so first one could speculate as to why we'd move in there. does amtrak plan to indeed, start running trains like the daylight into SF?
Is amtrak maybe super confident that it may be the hsr operator?
inquiring minds want to know.
I have mixed feelings about it.

for one, my new apt is only 6 blocks from the new tbt - yay for walking to work.
BUT, god help me if they put us next to greyhound cua those people will be bugging us all day. UGH.

and, we will have to have our own bathroom. Im not walking halfway to hell and back to use some filthy public bathroom.
I mean I just hope they get us a decent functional space that doesnt have some kind of screwed up baggage access - ( believe me this always happens - the never consult the employees, the do everything on paper, then leave us to deal with the flaws for all eternity)

but nevertheless, it will be cool to be working in a landmark. and i will sell with great pride, HSR tickets, if amtrak gets the contract.
I could really get into this. cross your fingers everyone. would you like to upgrade today for just 49 dollars more? ( and yes now I will obsess over this for the next five years)

hope to see you all on the mezzanine!

Anonymous said...

and I hope amtraks clunky daylight steam train goes right past richards house every day, bells whistles and all.

Anonymous said...

rafael - per the emy-sfc bus - one thing for sure, after moving to tbt, that will speed things up - it wont speed up things from the other stops aournd town, but once it leaves tbt, the bus has direct bridge access. The current rush hour lead up to the bridge is a nightmare. traffic backs up all the way back throught the financial district. Also, any time there is an event, game. parade, fair, protest, strike, etc in the city - which is nearly every week now, traffic on the EMB and SoMa becomes a fustercluck.
on a good day with tbt, the ride from EMY to TBT will be 15 minutes max.

Brandon in California said...

Rafael -
Yes, I know that stuff already.

Anonymous said...

AT some point there will also be to additional san joaquin trains in and out of sac so that will increase connections at merced in the meantime.

and again, part of the reason sacramento as a city, gets left behind is the simple fact that the majority of the voters there have other priorities.

無名 - wu ming said...

the city of sacramento voted for prop 1a 55-45. the more conservative exurban parts of the county voted against it, so that the county as a whole voted against it 52-48. the same pattern was in place in neighboring yolo county, where davis (which is on the capitol corridor route) voted yes on 1a 61-39, while the county as a whole was 51.5-48.5.

so it's not as simple as an anti-HSR cow town, so much as an urban-exurban split, which corresponds to the TOD vs. sprawl models that we've discussed here at length. there's a pretty big difference between sac city and unincorporated sac county.

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

the 2008 business plan only spells out capital costs for the segments on the starter line.

It forecasts $35 million/mile for Merced-Fresno and $37 million/mile for Fresno-Bakersfield. This is based on the assumption that both BNSF and UPRR would play ball. Of the $33 billion total, only 7% ($2.3 billion) is penciled in for ROW acquisition.

Since the spur up to Sacramento will be going through quite a few towns, I'd expect it to be a little more expensive per mile than Fresno-Bakersfield, but still below the $40 million mark. Quite a bit depends on who ends up paying for the fancy station in Sacramento. My guess is Sac will have to chip in just like all the other towns that want fancy architecture.

Sac-Merced is about 115 miles via the UPRR ROW, so figure a tab in the $4.5 billion range. Note that this is in 2008 dollars, by the time dirt is turned the nominal amount will of course have increased due to inflation. Over the past 12 years, the average was 2.5% p.a., which compounds to 34.6% total.

Anonymous said...

I would seriously argue for going to Sacramento before Anaheim.

Having Sacramento more accessible to the rest of the state could really change the dynamics of state government. It wouldn't just be a town of lobbyists anymore.

Anaheim is not even going to be 110 mph - more like 90 mph in latest figures. There already is a train that have cheap upgrades and connect LA to Anaheim just fine.

Doing Anaheim in Phase 1 means that you have to build a ton of extra capacity in terms of rail yards, parking etc that will go away when San Diego gets done. The forecast for ridership numbers are much higher in Phase 1 than 2 because it proxies for everything south of LAUS.

Also, you might want to reconsider the other routing from LA to Anaheim that was discarded but would at this point actually be cheaper and MUCH straighter, allowing much faster speeds.

Brandon in California said...

Seriously? I mean, are you truely serious?

Are you serious enough to use a username?


btw, when does this blog move to the new site?

Anonymous said...

"It's admittedly not all that easy to find and you need to really zoom in to get the information on a particular intersection,"

Precisely. When credit card company's do this to consumers, its called 'fine print' and nailing people with 'fine print' is illegal.

How many people do you think knew this existed before the election. Just a wild guess... About 20? Did YOU know?

Secondly, this is exactly the information I was refering to - the CHSRA put this out there but it certainly doesn't speak at all to impact. And since CHSRA didn't provide any ground level visual impact, the residents filled the void. Is that misinformation? To take CHSRA published data and represent it visually as the CHSRA failed to provide?

And 'since then' - is SINCE the locals attempted to provide a mock up drawing. Big if CHSRA to come in AFTER someone else did it for them, and well AFTER the election to try to do something that should have been done in the first place. They're chickensh for not having provide impact visuals prior to the election.

But really, where's the misinformation by Peninsula's here? Diridon Fail.

Peter said...

Claiming that Sacramento is getting the shaft is like saynig that San Diego is getting the shaft = stupid.

Anonymous said...

RAfael, at that price , never mind, the locals would never come up with that amount on their won to speed things up.

as for anaheim, it has to go there first because they voted for it that way and without their botes it wouldn't have passed. so leave it alone, stick to the plan, the sooner people stop quibbling and changing things, the sooner the whole thing willbe finihed

Anonymous said...

Take it easy, guys.

Shouldn't you be happy that somebody is enthusiastic about high speed rail and wants it sooner?

The article pointed out that 1A is good for Sacramento.

MB94128 said...

Re : Steam trains
40mph is a lame joke. There were steam locomotives in express service that regularly ran at 75mph. Also, diesel locomotives have several downsides : weight, pollution, and altitude sensitivity. That last is why one of the Andean railroads switched BACK to steam loco's due to the inefficiency of diesel ones.

Anonymous said...

The original high speed rail at 126mph

Rafael said...

@ MB94128 -

Steam loco's running on coal also generated plenty of toxic emissions, including particulates with attached sulfuric compounds plus trace contaminants like mercury. Why do you think so many railway terminus stations were built at was was the edge of town in the 19th century?

IIRC, the Argentinian railways experimented with steam locos powered by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) donkey's years ago. Their tailpipe emissions would be fairly clean, depending on the amount of sulfur in the fuel.

Of course, all steam engines require more operations and maintenance staff than diesels, that was a key reason for switching in the first place.

As for weight/horsepower, here's an example:

Union Pacific Big Boy locomotive @ 6300 drawbar hp weighed 548t incl. a fully loaded tender = 11.5 hp/t

GM F40PH diesel @ 3000 hp and 141t = 21.3 hp/t

MB94128 said...

Thank you Rafael for those numbers. The comment by R.Mlynarik that derided the commuter rail ops. as "steam-era" was my target. A properly run rail system will choose the most cost effective equipment mix it can.

The champs in the weight and horsepower category are electric trains. Unfortunately one has to spend a lot of money to erect the overhead wires or lay down a third rail. Once you've paid that piper you get a very efficient sort of mechanical music.

Footnotes :
1] I'm aware of donkey or mule engines that can allow EMU's to run on bare rails. The problem is that they defeat the purpose of electrification by adding weight to the consist and increasing the maintenance workload.
2] All rail lines are subject to ROW issues. If you want speed and few mammal accidents (e.g. deer-on-the-road) then you have to have a dedicated ROW. Mixing traffic types (freight+pax, rail+street, at grade crossings, etc.) will reduce a train's speed.

Alon Levy said...

Why do you think so many railway terminus stations were built at was was the edge of town in the 19th century?

Because there was no room for them downtown. The newer development did follow the train stations, so that many were in the city's downtown.