California high-speed train in the new Transbay Terminal (Image Source: NC3D)
A plugged-in tipster reports with respect to High Speed Rail and the Transbay Terminal:

Thought you should know that both Nancy Pelosi and [Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger] both sent strongly worded emails to the Secretary of Transportation this week endorsing the Transbay Terminal as the San Francisco terminus for High Speed Rail.

Pelosi’s letter was pretty detailed technically on how the trainbox would look (to combat the misconception that has been floating around that the terminal cannot accommodate all the HSR traffic; which is massively over-optimistic, but that is another argument all together) and why the ‘Beale street option‘ is not realistic at all in terms of cost and the fact it would undermine all the work Caltrans has just done on the Bay Bridge approach.

More Evidence Of A High Speed Snub For The Transbay Transit Center [SocketSite]
While San Francisco Might Get High-Speed Rail, Will The Transbay? [SocketSite]
Unplanned Obsolescence For Transbay High-Speed Station Design? [SocketSite]

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Get it Built

    I hope tranbay gets the stimulus money despite Kopp’s best efforts to illegaly block it. Kopp should be removed from the Board. How old is he anyways? 81. If the govenor and the third most powerful person in the country are for it, who is Kopp to stand against it? Get it built.

  2. Posted by ex SF-er

    A monorail you say?
    this is a clusterfrack.

  3. Posted by spitpalm

    Build it.

  4. Posted by Legacy Dude

    Just 2 things, real quick:
    1) No way to pay for it, and 2) few will ride it.
    Other than than, great idea.

  5. Posted by Outsider

    I don’t know the finance behind it so can’t comment on that but I, for one, will ride it. It takes three hours or so to get to LA. That’s less time than I would spend flying when getting to and from the airport is included. And it is infinitely more pleasurable. I got in the train at Waterloo station in London at 7 am and I walked out at the center of Paris at 10 am. Read my paper, had breakfast on the train and took a nap. Besides, America has to learn to reduce dependence on automobiles and planes.

  6. Posted by location

    Legacy Dude,
    Is thing #2 based on the fact that you personally won’t use it? I haven’t seen any studies so I can’t comment on the general demand, but I would probably use it 1-2 times per month as long as it is not more expensive than flying.

  7. Posted by a little bird

    What kind of processing are you doing that causes the form to take up to a minute to post? Consider doing it asynchronously?

  8. Posted by a little bird

    Actually, that last one took more than 2 minutes. Zoiks!

  9. Posted by Legacy Dude

    Total estimated costs of the system, in order to be actually effective, were around $100 billion last time I paid attention. I’m sure somebody will correct me if I’m wrong there.
    Then expect massive overruns for “unforeseeable” events that everybody already knows will occur. Case studies, hearings, delays, consultants & lawyers, etc. But maybe the taxpayer will have some money left over after funding foreclosure prevention programs and GSE bailouts.
    Most importantly, regarding timing, the LA example is a good one. Southwest, Oakland to Burbank + rental car to downtown is about 3-hour trip (I’ve done it several times). The train would be SLOWER door-to-door, and you’d still need a ride when you got to LA.
    And what about cost/convenience? Southwest has like 30 daily flights from SFO/Oakland to LAX/Burbank. How many trains will there be daily? Flights are currently around $200 to $300 round trip. How much will tickets need to be for this project to make financial sense? Anybody done the math?
    I would ride it if, as you guys metion, it’s as quick, cheap, and convenient as flying. But I doubt it will be.

  10. Posted by anon

    Total estimated costs of the system, in order to be actually effective, were around $100 billion last time I paid attention. I’m sure somebody will correct me if I’m wrong there.
    You’re completely wrong. There has never been an actual estimate higher than $45 billion for the entire network (including Sac and SD) and never one higher than $40 billion for SF to Anaheim. There have been plenty of people throwing larger numbers around, but without ANY basis in how they came to those numbers, other than “government stuff always costs more.” That’s a fine complaint to make, but not something to quote or stand behind as a hard number.
    Any cost for the system also must be weighed against the costs of not building it (and the associated costs of freeway and airport expansions and/or increases in the costs of congestion).

  11. Posted by anon

    And what about cost/convenience? Southwest has like 30 daily flights from SFO/Oakland to LAX/Burbank. How many trains will there be daily? Flights are currently around $200 to $300 round trip. How much will tickets need to be for this project to make financial sense? Anybody done the math?
    Southwest’s fuel hedges (keeping fuel costs for them effectively in the $40 a barrel range) expire late this year and next. They have other hedges over the next four years keeping prices at around $60 a barrel. What do you think is going to happen to prices next year when their effective fuel costs rise by 50%? Or in several more years when fuel costs go up even more?
    The plan is for 2-4 trains per hour (depending on the time of day) leaving SF at the beginning of operations, potentially more if demand merits it.
    Yes, plenty of people have done the math. SNCF is the latest outside company to “do the math” since they’re interested in investing and/or operating the system. It would be nice if you would do a little bit of research on the project before offering up complaints that were answered (and easily accessible online) years ago (sometimes more than a decade ago on some questions).

  12. Posted by Legacy Dude

    Oh snap. I stand admonished.
    Look, as I’ve said before on these threads, I think this is a great concept and long-term solution if it can be executed properly. I just don’t think it can be given the current budget situation and politics. But we’ll see. When the planet does eventually run out of oil, there will be bigger things to worry about anyway.
    To repeat, I would absolutely ride it if it really was as convenient as flying, or if airfares tripled. This is one instance where I would be ecstatic if my ignorant skepticism is proven wrong.

  13. Posted by sidelined

    Although this project completely reeks of political look-goodism, it’s important to note where the real benefit of HSR for SF lies: vastly improved short- and medium-distance commuter rail. That Caltrain doesn’t already go to the financial district already is pathetic, and that it isn’t already electrified and grade-separated is equally pathetic. HSR will, in theory, get that done.
    Of course, they’ll find a way to make it even more expensive and still bungle it, though.

  14. Posted by Toady

    Then why not focus on local/regional transit than this HSR cluster-****? Great for people who want a ride from SF downtown to Anaheim, but how to get people around once they’re there?
    Great, AK has their bridge to nowhere, and now we have a train to BFE.

  15. Posted by sidelined

    It would be great to focus on local and regional transit. Unfortunately, politicians seem more concerned about taking credit for big, high-visibility things and don’t seem to care about stuff that could save time and money for lots of people. Otherwise, the Geary Street subway would have been built, uh, how long ago?

  16. Posted by OneEyedMan

    ^^ The BFE station/extension is not scheduled until phase 3 of the project.

  17. Posted by tipster

    SFO will be a ghost town when this is implemented.
    We won’t have to expand that airport for 30 years, saving at least $10B. Similarly, I5 and 101 should require somewhat less maintenance and expansions.
    I also expect that the fuel savings will be significant. Although the infrastructure costs will overwhelm any savings (the air that planes fly in is cheap to maintain), at some point we need to start doing things that reduce our dependence on oil, because that too costs us dearly.
    Build the darn thing and get on with it. The rental car fleets will grow up around it, and the hassle factor is about 1/10th of flying so lots of people will use it.

  18. Posted by resp

    what math has been done on the projected number of riders that would actually terminate their trip in downtown L.A. within easy reach of the station? (or same for other proposed stops like anaheim)
    i much prefer train but not sure of the logic of running a bullet train into an urban sprawl.

  19. Posted by anon

    resp – why would travelers need to terminate their trip within easy reach of the station? Rental cars would still be available. What’s the difference between picking up a rental car at the airport and one at the train station? At the train station, they’d likely be closer to their final destination, since there are several train stations to choose from for their final destination.

  20. Posted by location

    Why is running a bullet train into sprawl less logical than landing an airplane in sprawl? I’m sure the rental car companies will set up shop by the LA and OC stations, the same way they do at the airport.

  21. Posted by location

    Sorry for duplicating what anon said. Should have refreshed before posting.

  22. Posted by Jimmy (No Longer Bitter)

    I’d take it, even if it was 50% more expensive, just to avoid the TSA.

  23. Posted by lyqwyd

    I’d rather see the $400 million spent on the actual rails than a station. The station will definitely get built if the line is built, but the line will not necessarily get built just because the station is.
    Spending $400 million on the SF station means that is $400 million less available for the rail line.

  24. Posted by anonm

    A plugged-in tipster reports with respect to High Speed Rail and the Transbay Terminal
    No links or source documents for any of this? That’s it?

  25. Posted by ZapBrannigan

    Sitting on a train, even Amtrak’s crappy Capitol Corridor, is like sitting in a Maybach when compared to sitting on a 737, be it Southwest, United, or whatever. I will pay more and waste more time if that option were ever available to me.

  26. Posted by resp

    because adding a rental car to a train ride eliminates a lot of the time savings advantage. I flew Virgin America last week for 30 or 40 bucks each way to L.A. People that do the trip regularly have the choice of SFO, OAK, LAX, LGB, BUR, ONT, SNA, etc and have it down to a science.
    i want the train to work but i hope economics, not politics make the decision.

  27. Posted by Morgan

    “because adding a rental car to a train ride eliminates a lot of the time savings advantage”
    Recently I thought it was interesting to hear a conversation on the SFO “blue line” that connects to BART and to the Rental Car building. Almost EVERYONE gets off at the rental car station. We may want to think those people are all going to Union Square, but in overhearing conversations they were going to Tahoe, Yosemite, Point Reyes and Napa. Many who fly into SFO are not going to San Francisco at all. Caltrain will be for Californians but will probably only work best for long range commutes within the two urban regions.

  28. Posted by anon

    Morgan – HSR will have an SFO station, for anyone who needs to get off there and rent a car to go to Tahoe, etc.
    resp – I don’t see how having to rent a car after getting off the train is a disadvantage. The advantage is that I DON’T have to get to the airport from my starting point. I fly to LAX/BUR/SNA/occasionally LGB/ONT from OAK/SFO at least a couple times a month, and I would never do it again if I could get out of the hassle of having to go to SFO/OAK. For most of the places that I need to go, the HSR stops are more convenient anyway, even though they’ll still require a car rental – for Burbank it’s exactly the same place, LAUS is closer to the places I need to be, and Anaheim’s station is a better location than the cluster**** SNA area.
    Not to mention how much more convenient it will be to get to San Jose (where I go once a month or so) and Fresno (once a month). The Central Valley will benefit more than anyone, as the several million people out there are immediately put within an hour or two of BOTH LA and SF.

  29. Posted by anon

    Morgan – almost everyone gets off at the rental car building from the blue line because most people going to BART or taxis or shuttles (the ways that most people going to SF use – most tourists going to SF don’t rent a car) walk to those places rather than take the airtrain. The airtrain is really only useful for the rental car areas and the parking garages. Every time I’ve tried to take it to get to BART, it feels like I spend more time getting to the airtrain, waiting for it, and riding it than I would just walking there. I’m sure most people who use it regularly would agree.

  30. Posted by missiondweller

    People are fond of comparing current options against the HSR as if it existed today.
    HSR was deemed cost effective because its substantially cheaper than the massive upgrades to both airports and freeways that will be required over the next 30 years without it.
    Thus, comparing the drive time from Oakland to LA now against HSR is silly. In that 15-30 year period you’d be competing for road space with 10 million more people in the state. Can you you say “congested freeways”?

  31. Posted by anona

    I flew Virgin America last week for 30 or 40 bucks each way to L.A.
    VA is burning through cash now to build up ridership. They sure as hell aren’t making money on 60 dollar round trips to LA. I guarantee you won’t be paying $60 round trip (even in adjusted dollars) ten years from now, even if oil prices don’t go up. There simply isn’t going to be the capacity for enough new short haul flights to fill the demand at that low of a price, so prices will rise.
    We’re going to need to add capacity to north-south quick travel in some way, whether it be new runways, HSR, or teleportation. Teleportation likely has a better chance at being discovered than new runways have a chance at being built on the Bay or in the ocean.

  32. Posted by Legacy Dude

    Exactly! I made the same comment on the previous thread:
    If there’s any place that teleporter technology can be developed, it’s surely here in Innovation Mecca.

  33. Posted by OneEyedMan

    So fast high speed rail
    teleportation station
    in L. A. too soon

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