The conclusion from the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group yesterday, a group formed by the State Legislature and headed by former Caltrans chief Will Kempton:

In [the report below], we have discussed a number of considerations under which the [California High-Speed Rail] Funding Plan and the Business Plan can be improved. Some of these suggestions can also reduced project risk and improve financial feasibility. We do not discuss a number of additional comments on the draft 2012 Business Plan than have less bearing on the feasibility of the project or the reasonableness of going ahead. With this said, we cannot overemphasize the fact that moving ahead on the HSR project without credible sources of adequate funding, without a definitive business model, without a strategy to maximize the independent utility and the value to the State, and without the appropriate management resources, represents an immense financial risk on the part of the State of California.

Until a final version of the 2010 Business Plan is received, we cannot make a final judgment on the Funding Plan. Therefore, pending review of the final Business Plan and absent a clearer picture of where future funding is going to come from, the Peer Review Group cannot at this time recommend that the Legislature approve the appropriation of bond proceeds for this project.

The full text of the Peer Review Group’s report:

UPADTE: The response from the California High-Speed Rail Authority:

While some of the recommendations in the Peer Review Group report merit consideration, by and large this report is deeply flawed, in some areas misleading and its conclusions are unfounded.

Unfortunately, many of the most egregious errors and unsupported assertions would have been avoided with even minimal consultation with the CHSRA. Although some high-speed rail experience exists among Peer Review Panel members this report suffers from a lack of appreciation of how high speed rail systems have been constructed throughout the world, makes unrealistic and unsubstantiated assumptions about private sector involvement in such
systems and ignores or misconstrues the legal requirements that govern the construction of the high speed rail program in California.

The full text of the Rail Authority’s response:

119 thoughts on “California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Questions Plans For HSR”
  1. What?!? They want credible funding sources AND a definitive business model? How obtuse. They need to get out of Sacramento and spend some time in the Bay Area.
    It’s sure to make money through advertising plus come with a killer iphone app. You can build up an avatar that rides the rails up & down the state unlocking achievements, and it automatically updates your Facebook page when your avatar arrives.
    Now change the name to and prepare for the IPO. Problem solved.

  2. The cost of not building HSR is, at minimum, hundreds of billions in highway and airport expansion. Let’s get on with it already and stop wasting our time listening to the NIMBYs, do-nothings, and highway lobbies.

  3. “The cost of not building HSR is, at minimum, hundreds of billions in highway and airport expansion.”
    Not really. Many (or most) parts of the world don’t spend that kind of money expanding infrastructure. They just deal with it.
    And if Jet-A fuel costs doubled, how many people would be flying for business or pleasure? Significantly less.

  4. anon is probably referring to what it costs to build high speed rail in countries with authoritarian governments such as in China, where when the government wants to “just deal with it” when undertaking a project, they take peasant’s property without fair compensation, forcibly relocate said peasants to other areas, and if common people complain about it, they wind up in jail for long stretches of time.
    Don’t get me started on addressing environmental concerns. There’s a good reason construction of infrastructure in California is (much) higher than in “many (or most) parts of the world.”

  5. Brahma,
    It I am not mistaken the government of Spain recently built HSR and an extensive subway system in Barcelona for much less than we are able to do (CAHSR and Central Subway).
    There is something wrong with our process

  6. It is worth remembering that when BART was being proposed, all the NIMBY’s and doubters raised the exact same complaints — “it will never pay for itself” “It is too expensive” “no one will use it”, etc. Yet 30 years later, BART is an invaluable asset to the bay area, and becoming increasingly valuable as time goes on and the bay gets denser.
    What is really sad is that it is the same idiots in the mid-penninsula who blocked BART from circling the bay 30 years ago that are most active in blocking HSR now. You would think they would have learned from that earlier round of fearful stupid nimbyism.

  7. Big V, please show us a link to the data from 30 years ago showing costs of building/maintaining BART vs. estimated and actual ridership, and how they compare to HSR. Because if we’re dealing in metaphors, then I think you’re comparing an airliner to the space shuttle in terms of both costs and ridership. But I’m happy to be proven wrong if anyone has actual stats (stats, not thrice-redacted estimates from boondoggle supporters).
    Zig, if I’m not mistaken, the Spanish HSR system is a money loser subsidized by their taxpayers despite being built for less than our HSR would cost to build. There is indeed something wrong with our process.
    Lastly, the cost of not building teleporters far exceeds the cost of building them, currently estimated at bazillions in HSR trains and rail imported from China and assembled by migrant laborers, plus billions in bribes/kickbacks/studies to special interest and local officials, plus billions of road and highway maintenance on top of that. People originally questioned elevators but today we all use them, therefore teleporters will be the same.
    Solar-powered cars will be a viable alternative before this white elephant ever is. California has neither the density nor political will to make HSR cost-effective.

  8. Think about how much $100 billion (and that’s just the cost estimates- BEFORE construction has commenced) would go toward improving MUNI, San Jose, East Bay, and LA’s light rail transportation networks. I’d rather see that money go there at this point.
    We are putting the caboose before the engine here.

  9. Legacy Dude, the teleporter comparison is a specious argument at best, because the California High Speed Rail system isn’t being built around some non-presently existant technology that depends upon our current knowledge of the laws of physics being repealed in order for it to operate.
    If we just had trains with the technology currently used in Japan, for example (I’m sure there are better examples, but I’ve at least ridden trains in Japan and not the ones in France, China, etc.), which entered service in 1964, almost everybody would be pleased. Instead we get absurd sniping about cost-effectiveness and how we should give up before we even start.

  10. The teleporter comparison isn’t a specious argument, Brahma, it’s a joke. And yes, we should give up before we start because we can’t succeed at this (hence the teleporter comparison).
    This only makes sense if you build the whole thing and it works 100% as planned. Building half a system at 80% speed = useless. In other words, little margin for error. The stakes are too high to just try unless we’re completely certain this makes sense and we can do it right. It really is a binary decision/outcome type of situation.
    Are you certain this can be built on budget, on time, and people will ride it? Will you ride it, aside from the token one-time novelty trip down to LA?

  11. Japan got HSR almost 50 years ago
    France got HSR almost 30 years ago
    Germany got theirs almost 20 years ago
    All were resounding successes, totally changing their country’s dynamics.
    I guess we just got old and forgot to look ahead.

  12. The project makes total sense in the Northeast corridor, and it makes next to no sense in California. The distances here are too great and the population is too sparsely distributed. $100B to streamline and electrify transit between DC, Philly, New York and Boston (and points in-between) would benefit almost 1/3rd of the population. Well worth the $150B cost.
    Anything else, including a system in California, is a complete waste of resources.

  13. If you were teleported back to 1900 discussing the construction of roads, your comments would still apply, Jimmy.
    CA has more than 1/2 its population between the BA and LA/SD. The distances are within the goldylock range of HSR. Not too close, not too far.
    Sure it costs money. Everything that improves a country does.

  14. @Legacy Dude
    “if I’m not mistaken, the Spanish HSR system is a money loser subsidized by their taxpayers”
    It’s profitable, in fact almost every HSR system is profitable. Even Amtrak’s HSR, which is barely HSR, has shown profitable years.
    “The distances here are too great and the population is too sparsely distributed”
    That is incorrect, California’s population has many similarities to Spain’s, both from a total population as well as overall population distribution. There are differences certainly, but some of them are to our favor (our population is distributed mainly in a single corridor, while Spains is spread out across the entire nation).
    The distances between population centers in CA are perfect for HSR, and the densities are more than sufficient to make a profitable system.
    There are certainly legitimate criticisms of HSR, mainly concern over escalating costs and the political will to get it done competently, but the majority of the critiques posted here are completely spurious.
    And let’s not forget that neither roads nor air travel are anywhere near profitable when accounting for the tremendous amount of subsidies they are given. And of course the cost of gas is going to continue to increase over the coming years and decades, so their costs will continue to grow.
    HSR has been proven successful all over the world dozens of times and in many places similar to California. If we can’t do a decent system it’s not because HSR doesn’t work here, it’s because we chose to do it the wrong way.

  15. I agree with lyqwyd as well
    CA does have the population density for HSR
    The concerns I have are the we are incompetent in planning something like HSR and the local control over landuse might prevent the served cities from planning correctly to maximize the system. The ridership numbers are also clearly fraudulent too (but this is normal; BART to San Jose numbers are also fraudulent)
    I look at BART as an example of bad planning. San Mateo extension has rebuilt malls and graveyards and Costcos next to it. Wonder why ridership is such a disappointment?

  16. Well, lyqwyd, here’s a WSJ article which says the AVE system loses money. Any links to the contrary, preferably not from train lobbies?
    California’s population density is not dissimilar from Spain’s but is much lower than many other Euro countries and much lower than Japan’s. And European/Asian cultures are already used to taking mass transit. Not everybody there owns cars, whereas most everybody here does. You can give Californians a faster Amtrak, but few people ride Amtrak to begin with, so what’s the point? You still need a car when you get to LA.
    And regarding air and road subsidies, are you suggesting that these will decrease if we build HSR? Because I don’t think we can let the roads and airports fall apart. Given we can barely afford to subsidize two forms of transit already, how are we going to build and then subsidize a third?
    Lastly, I’m still waiting for all the resounding cries of would-be passengers screaming, “I’ll ride this!” How many of you go to LA on a regular basis (more than once a month), and are you willing to increase your travel time by a few hours to take a train rather than fly? Honestly think about it.
    Seems you’re all excited to get your new choo-choo, but aside from the new/cool factor, who are we really building this for? I, too, have taken some train in country X while on vacation. So what? That’s not a justification for spending billions on a white elephant.

  17. LD,
    France has a similar density. Germany is a bit higher. What counts is big urban centers. CA is perfect for that.
    Not wanting a new “choo choo” for the sake of it, this is a strawman argument. Just to have the country expand instead of shrink.
    Plus, do look into the rear-view mirror for what will be California tomorrow. If we stand still we will become irrelevant.

  18. @Legacy Dude
    Your article was almost 3 years old, doesn’t say spain’s lines are unprofitable (only that some critics claim it will never be), and was generally positive about HSR. I’m not sure how it supports your argument in the least.
    But here’s a recent article from CNN that refutes pretty much everything you’ve claimed about HSR:
    Personally I’m not concerned with HSR profitability, but the reality is that it’s at least as profitable as air transport, and far more profitable than highway transport (which is tremendously unprofitable).
    “California’s population density is not dissimilar from Spain’s but is much lower than many other Euro countries and much lower than Japan’s”
    Who said anything different, and so what?
    “Not everybody there owns cars, whereas most everybody here does… You still need a car when you get to LA.”
    That’s the same old tired BS argument that things can never change. People fly to LA without cars, they rent one when they get there, just as they will with HSR.
    By the way, my parents live in LA and my dad lived without a car for 2 years, commuting 3 days a week. Not because he couldn’t afford one, but because he didn’t want to.
    I grew up in LA, and I travel to LA 1-2 times a year, and rarely rent a car. I’d go more often if there was HSR.
    LA’s transit system is vastly different than it was 20 years ago, there are now many parts that can easily be reached without a car, particularly given that there will be close to 10 stations in the LA area.
    “You can give Californians a faster Amtrak, but few people ride Amtrak to begin with, so what’s the point?”
    That is completely false, California already accounts for 3 of the top 5 most ridden Amtrak lines:
    1) NE corridor
    2) Pacific Surfliner
    3) Capitol Corridor
    4) Keystone Service
    5) San Joaquins
    And about 20% of all Amtrak ridership, and the San Joaquins line had the highest growth in both ridership and revenue:
    and California’s Amtrak ridership has been growing steadily for the last decade.
    All of this at a top speed of 79mph.
    “And regarding air and road subsidies, are you suggesting that these will decrease if we build HSR?”
    Nope, never said any such thing. Building rail means we will not have to build more highway and airline capacity, which will be even more expensive than the HSR.
    “Because I don’t think we can let the roads and airports fall apart.”
    I never suggested any such a thing, so I don’t see how that’s at all relevant.
    The reality is that highways are very expensive to maintain, and the air travel system is pretty much at capacity in the areas that most need to be expanded.
    “How many of you go to LA on a regular basis (more than once a month), and are you willing to increase your travel time by a few hours to take a train rather than fly?”
    HSR goes more places than merely to LA, gets you closer to your actual destination, is a far more pleasant and comfortable journey, and most importantly, it is be faster door to door than flying. In almost every market where HSR and air directly compete, HSR has taken large chunks of market share. Which is actually good, as it allows airlines to focus on what they are really good at: true long distance travel of 1,000+ miles.
    Your arguments seem to be based entirely on incorrect information.

  19. I would take it. Really. Travel time would probably be faster, point to point, than flying (depending on where you are going in LA). I could even use the LA transit system once there to get around. It’s quite extensive and getting more so each year, although we like to forget that up here.
    I expect there would be some healthy competition between airlines and rail (and yes, that would make it more difficult for the system to be profitable).
    I’m not sure that any HSR systems are profitable on a total basis. That wall street journal article had no real numbers in it. It is quite possible for them to be profitable on an operating basis, but the capital costs are immense.

  20. “You can give Californians a faster Amtrak, but few people ride Amtrak to begin with, so what’s the point?”
    I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to by “Amtrak” since there are at least two different systems that go under the name Amtrak in this state (three if you count Caltrain which for now is still run by Amtrak too). “Amtrak California” runs the trains that start and end within this state. It gets plenty of ridership. Amtrak national (long distance trains to other states) is currently runs trains appealing to mostly tourists here out west. It also gets a lot of ridership but those riders have time on their hands.
    “…I don’t think we can let the roads and airports fall apart.”
    Of course not. But without HSR we’ll need expand both roads and airports and that is not only very expensive but investing in a transportation system highly exposed to petroleum prices. Doesn’t it seem a little stupid to invest in infrastructure that we know will become disproportionally increasingly costly? We might end up with excellent freeways and airports that few can afford to use. Also check out the cost of remodeling a freeway interchange. The going rate seems to be between 40 to 200 million each. There are hundreds of interchanges in along the HSR route.
    “How many of you go to LA on a regular basis (more than once a month), and are you willing to increase your travel time by a few hours to take a train rather than fly?”
    Door-to-door total travel time is less via HSR compared to flying. That is unless you live in San Bruno and are traveling to Inglewood. Remember to include time for airport security checks. People traveling from the dense center of SF to the dense center of LA will have shorter total travel times compared to flying.
    Once HSR is in place it will take a huge bite out of the bay area to SoCal passenger base. And you can bet that the airlines profiting from that route are strongly opposing HSR.

  21. @LD- it does take less time to fly from SF to LA and from OAK to BUR. However, given the requirement that we now have to get to the airport more than two hours ahead to clear check-in and security and wait for the plane to take off, it takes about about five hours to “fly.” Call it the law of unintended consequences, but if one has a decently fast and comfortable car, driving is currently the best option.
    Plus you get to take a break at In N Out. As for needing a car in LA, yes, but more than likely there will be rental options at the stations.
    I’ve taken the TGV. It’s great, and crowded. You should try the Acela sometime- it’s always packed and it’s not even that fast.

  22. Rocco, you do not have to leave home “two hours” in advance to fly. I once left my front door in San Bruno and walked onto the plane 29 minutes later start-to-finish. Of course I flew with only carry-on bags and I have super-duper airline status.
    You sometimes have to wait for trains to arrive and depart too you know. The lack of security pat-downs does make the experience more pleasant and civilized but it is not like the train is some kind of magical conveyance that will solve the world’s petroleum problem overnight.

  23. “…it is not like the train is some kind of magical conveyance that will solve the world’s petroleum problem overnight.”
    Not overnight but consider that an electric train can consume power generated from any source, including renewables. But jet aircraft only run on jet fuel. There are no nuclear, solar, coal, or even wind powered passenger aircraft.

  24. “There are no nuclear, solar, coal, or even wind powered passenger aircraft.”
    What about a hot-air balloon? It would be powered by locally sourced, organically grown biomass, burned in a high-efficiency fluidized bed reactor to make the hot air, while a gentle Santa Ana breeze would convey you in grand style to Los Angeles* (*only available in season).

  25. Wow. 29 minutes.
    For mere mortals it’s actually closer to 90 minutes or 2 hours.
    I concur with Rocco about the fill ratio of European systems. I have been in 4 countries with them. You’d better book at least a week ahead for busy days, and sometimes a few weeks ahead.
    French TGV uses very little fossil fuel whatsoever as this country’s power is 4/5 nuclear.
    At least HSR prepares us for the inevitable switch to a better power source.

  26. Population density in CA is ridiculously lower then European countries. It’s not f-ing even close unless you look at Europe as a whole which include vast basically uninhabited areas near the arctic circle (e.g. most of Finaland, Norway, Svalbard).
    Population per square mile:
    California 228
    France 307 (+ 33%)
    Italy 529 (+129%)
    UK 663 (+191%)
    Belgium 915 (+301%)
    Netherlands 1,273 (+458%)

  27. jet aircraft only run on jet fuel
    Virgin Atlantic has made a demonstration of a passenger jet running on biofuel. Whether or not biofuels are a good idea environmentally speaking is another question.

  28. He he, I forgot about a hot air balloon. Maybe it could be filled with the hot air generated by politicians and lobbyists. “We are sorry to inform you that passengers planning to travel to LA will be going to Reno instead due to a change in wind direction” 🙂
    And congratulations on your 29 minute door to jetway sprint. However the average air traveler can’t expect such a swift connection.

  29. anon,
    The closest to CA is France. It’s one of the less dense country in Western Europe but yet they have the most expansive and oldest network.
    What matters is population centers. Paris to London works really well. Paris-Lyons-Marseilles works well too. Madrid-Barcelona too.
    whenever you have 5M+ urban centers between 150 and 500 miles away you have a winning formula for HSR. If you have several aligned over 500+ miles like London to Madrid, it works too because of the synergy and multiplied possibilities of travel: London-Lyons/Madrid-Paris/Paris-Montpellier
    Look at the West Coast. Vancouver/Seattle/Portland/San Francisco/Los Angeles/San Diego would fill that kind of purpose, with stops every 200 to 400 miles.

  30. “It’s [population density of CA] not f-ing even close unless you look at Europe as a whole which include vast basically uninhabited areas near the arctic circle”
    Note that by using the California political boundaries that you’re also including vast sparsely inhabited regions that dilute the state’s density figures. A better region to compare would be the state’s populated core: roughly a region bounded by Roseville, Santa Rosa, and San Diego.
    And it really doesn’t make sense to compare this state’s populated core with small Eurocore countries like Holland and Belgium. Travelers in those countries don’t even use HSR for intranational travel.

  31. @anon
    you left out:
    Spain 231/sq mi
    Spain has one of the largest HSR systems in the world.
    Norway and Finland both have High Speed Rail, although their lines are fairly short.
    Sweden 53.8/sq mi also has a fairly extensive HSR network, which they are continuing to expand and increasing the network speeds.

  32. Until this thing is up and running I vehemently refuse to believe California has the political will and density to make it successful. If built, I predict it won’t run as planned and will suffer massive delays and cost overruns. But if I’m wrong, enjoy your trips on the Wabash Cannonball.

  33. Sorry lol, I should have been clearer. The Dutch and Belchians don’t use HSR to go from city to city within their own country. The ordinary IC trains (which themselves exceed Amtrak’s top speed) are fast enough.

  34. “You can give Californians a faster Amtrak, but few people ride Amtrak to begin with, so what’s the point?”
    That is completely false, California already accounts for 3 of the top 5 most ridden Amtrak”
    Just want to put in my two cents about the Surfliner. It is packed on the weekends dispite the dismal service caused by antiquted and inadequte investment. Many places you can only go 50 mi/hr single tracked.
    If nothing can be done with HSR or even in addition I hope somehow we can reestiablish the CA Coast Daylight from SF downtown to LA
    If my grandparents could take this trip in 9 hours I should be able to also. I am positive there is a market for this.

  35. Single track railways is unique in the world. Wait, there’s India (not all) and probably a few dilapidated African countries.

  36. LD,
    Unfortunately you do represent a vast portion of the electorate on this issue.
    This is a sign of an aging nation. We are refusing to learn new things from others when they do better than us. Economic sclerosis might ensue.

  37. “You can give Californians a faster Amtrak, but few people ride Amtrak to begin with, so what’s the point?”
    That is completely false, California already accounts for 3 of the top 5 most ridden Amtrak”
    Just want to put in my two cents about the Surfliner. It is packed on the weekends dispite the dismal service caused by antiquted and inadequte investment. Many places you can only go 50 mi/hr single tracked.
    If nothing can be done with HSR or even in addition I hope somehow we can reestiablish the CA Coast Daylight from SF downtown to LA
    If my grandparents could take this trip in 9 hours I should be able to also. I am positive there is a market for this.

  38. Legacy Dude wrote:

    Are you certain this can be built on budget, on time, and people will ride it? Will you ride it, aside from the token one-time novelty trip down to LA?

    No, I am not certain that it can be built on time and on budget, because I am realistic and not a child. This is where Big V’s analogy with BART is exactly on-point.
    Cynics and Libertarians who know, just know, that anything funded by the public simply must go over budget and be completed late try to poison the well of public political discourse by saying that whatever project in question won’t be built on time or on budget, because they are ideologically opposed to the public funding things, and then, when the cost overrun or schedule slippage occurs, they go around saying “See, I told you so!”
    Look at Los Angeles’ light rail system, or perhaps the one in the Santa Clara valley. In my mind, they were both worth doing for reasons that don’t quite make it into a typical financial analysis. As far as I know (and it’s been quite a while, so I might be fuzzy on the historical details), they both went over budget and were late. And yet, if we had to do it all over again, knowing what we know now (or, in the case of the one in the Santa Clara valley, what we started knowing in about 1996), we’d choose to pursue both projects, except that we’d start earlier (when it was cheaper to do) and try harder to coordinate regional planning decisions and reduce the externalization of low-occupancy automobile commuting costs.
    So, I realize that the ridership projections might not pan out immediately after the system is built, but I do think it will materialize over time. Initial construction might go over budget and be late. Most projects that involve doing anything that hasn’t been done several hundred times before do go over budget and beyond their schedule. That’s just part of the nature of things.
    I will ride it. More importantly, my children will be able to, instead of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Hollywood Freeway because the current generation of Californians were unable to plan for the future.

  39. My 2 cents is that this money would be far better spent beefing up local public transportation throughout the state so tens of millions could benefit every day rather than tens of thousands who might ride this train. I travel to LA far more than most (once a month or a little more), and I’d ride this train but am equally content to fly. But I waste time on SF’s poor public transportation just about every single day (and, incredibly, SF’s is better than any other city in California).

  40. I’ve use HSR in Europe and Asia and love it, but that’s because it connects places I go.
    Who is going to ride California’s first stretch from Fresno to “slightly north of Bakersfield”? Once that $8 billion is spent, is there anything useful besides a fast train to nowheret? How much needs to be spent to get HSR between any two of SF, San Jose, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego?

  41. Thanks Brahma, you got my point exactly: these are *generational* infrastructure projects. Them may not be profitable in the first 10 years of operation, but that is ok — they will last for decades after that and be enormously beneficial for and profitable for much longer. And, if you think “oh, well why don’t we wait 10 years more to build it so that it is profitable right away” you are missing the point that it will be much more expensive 10 years later (higher density leads to higher land costs, more roads to cross, etc)
    A few folks have said “I would rather spend it on local transit”. This would have an AMAZING impact on penninsula transit. The first stop out of SF would be Palo Alto — *in*15*Minutes* — Let me repeat that: 15 minutes from downtown SF to Downtown Palo Alto. (and then san jose in another few minutes).
    I currently ride Caltrain — the SF to Palo Alto connection is the heaviest uses of caltrain (w/ SF to Mountain View being right behind). It is amazing how many folks get off at palo alto every day, so that would be of benefit to many folks.
    And, more than just commuters, that connection is significant because of the *industry* connection it represents, with high tech companies and VC’s traditionally clustered in the south bay, but increasingly moving into SF because that is where the employees want to live.
    Finally, imagine SF to San Jose commute of 20-30 minutes. Tieing two such urban cores together in a reasonable commute time would have an interesting impact. I suspect it would be good for SF, with more folks zipping up for dinner or entertainment, or work.

  42. @elbee
    we would be starting in SF and going to San Jose first, if it were not for the obstructionist nimbys in the atherton/menlo park/palo alto area. same communities who tanked bart circling the bay 30 years ago.
    For those who wish bart went to san jose, keep that in mind — you would have it already, except the communities who are blocking HSR also blocked bart.

  43. A.T., Prop 1A said that the money could only be spent on funding the HSR system, and whoever wrote the language probably was a clairvoyant, because if that language wasn’t present, then the idiots in the State legislature would have raided it to balance one of the many, many late and unbalanced budgets that they’ve passed in the last few years.
    So the money isn’t available to spend on improving local transit, and if the cynics are howling now about HSR being a boondogle and a waste of money because it won’t be “profitable”, I can imagine what they’d be saying if we were borrowing $10 Billion to fund the operation of local transit systems. Even if, on a purely utilitarian basis, it would make more sense to spend an equivalent amount of money on local transit that people are currently using.
    Stucco_Sux, I believe that BART to San Jose didn’t happen because the sales taxes to fund it weren’t approved by Santa Clara county-area voters. I’m sure that the people that have BART now and where it is expanding now, e.g., Contra Costa County, voted to increase their sales taxes to fund BART extensions.
    I also agree with the political conclusions that Big V wrote about above at 9:11pm; sadly, “the obstructionists” on the Peninsula are probably going to contribute at least ten million dollars in cost overruns if the system gets built with their lawsuits. Unfortunately, those people have lots of money and our civil litigation system responds to rich people willing to spend lots of money to get their way.
    Even if the first link was re-designated to run directly between San Francisco and Los Angeles with no stops in the Central Valley, thus maximizing the number of potential riders per kilometer of track, all that would do is give the obstructionists on the Peninsula more power to torpedo the entire thing.

  44. Alai – New transportation modes like this are handicapped from the start because they require a huge investment before anyone can use it. In comparison roads and airports can be incrementally expanded. $50M here and $400M there, year after year: no-one will notice it. But $99B raises a big flag.
    So if HSR fails it will be a testament to our short sightedness. Especially when N years down the road various realities will force us to implement something like this anyways at double or triple today’s cost.

  45. I’m glad to see that the majority of readers of this blog have the vision and understanding of long term infrastructure to support HSR in intelligent and informed debate. That gives me hope — maybe there is more chance for this to succeed than we fear….

  46. lyqwyd,
    I have traveled a fair amount through Spain. Of course the rail network is extensive but it is mainly used because people are relatively poor compared to other countries and fuel prices are taxed to very high levels.
    Driving in Spain (outside of city centers) is a great pleasure. There are some very well made roads with almost zero traffic (probably less than 10% of what you would see on Bay Area highways). I felt like I had the Spanish highway system all to myself…splendid! So fast and convenient.

  47. anon,
    Spain isn’t really “poor”. They’re between Italy and France in terms of GDP/capita and in the pack of most EU countries.
    The love story of Spain with rail has a lot to do with 2 big factors:
    1 – As you said a very high gas tax. Gas costs 2 to 3 times more.
    2 – A very decent rail network that goes deep into the country. This is why HSR did fit right in. You reach the regional hub by HSR then hop onto a local choo-choo on another platform.
    Of course nothing beats France on this rail model.
    Rail is not really “cheap” in Spain or anywhere else in W-Europe, especially since it is a per-person cost. Cars make sense after the 2nd passenger but you still see many families taking the train for their summer vacations.
    Also, I am not sure when or where you have driven, but I have wasted countless hours in traffic around Barcelona as well as between Barcelona, Zaragoza and Madrid. It’s a developed country and has become more car-centric in the past 40 years.

  48. The comment about fuel taxes in Europe making driving less attractive than trains for long distances are quite germane. Not only are trains much faster but they’re often cheaper too, and you don’t have to park them when you arrive at your destination.
    I’ve seen off-peak fares on the TGV as low as a few euros roundtrip, for example.
    Doubling the price of gas in California and using the extra taxes to fund high-speed rail would definitely work wonders to tip the cost-benefit equation in favor of an expanded high speed rail system.
    Just one more thing that’ll never happen.

  49. I also get a kick out of the discussion of NIMBYs on the Peninsula (many in my neighborhood with their stupid lawn signs). The logical route for the high-speed rail is to leave the Transbay terminal, stop at SFO airport and then head across the bay (in a tunnel, like BART does), stop at Oakland and then zip down to San Jose, before heading to LAX non-stop.
    Peninsula dwellers should be prisoners to their cars and traffic, and Caltrain should be shut down immediately (it is insolvent anyway).

  50. I’m all for higher gas taxes and more public transportation of all stripes.
    However, I’m not convinced that this HSR from SF to LA is even in the top 100 in terms of priorities given the enormous expense, the relatively few who will benefit, and the relatively scant (if any) improvement over other options. I mentioned this earlier – when I was working in our office in Germany this summer and wanted to take the HSR from Frankfurt to Berlin, the Germans laughed at me and told me to fly because it was much cheaper and much faster. They were right on both counts. HSR is cool, but it is better suited for shorter travel – under a couple hours – where it soundly beats airport/plane travel. It’s not going to beat air travel to LA and thus won’t get used. It would be great from SF-San Jose or SF-Sacramento or LA-San Diego.

  51. One example: HSR stops at Paris airport and you can zoom to Luxemburg or Lyons from there.
    Many national airlines have quasi-monopolies on some routes, and prices are highly dependent on the home country’s local schedules like spring break or summer vacations.
    Air+train can sometimes compete by leveraging low/high season differences. I have done 3 such trips: SFO-London-Brussels / SFO-Brussels-Paris / SFO-Paris-Luxemburg the last one jumping straight from the airport to the HSR. They were cheaper than direct flights, due to seasonal airline pricing. Sure I wasted 2-3 hours each and every time but price mattered more to me.
    For the CA HSR, say a guy from San Diego wants to go to Tahiti. He has a choice: either do the driving, take a shuttle or do the 40 minute hop by plane. If the HSR has a stop at LAX you’d go from downtown SD to Tahiti without driving one mile.
    It’s all about the variety of offerings and healthy competition created by choice. Otherwise all the ferry companies would have closed shop when the Eurotunnel opened. Each has its segment.
    Of course if the only option is air, there’s no discussion. But do not be surprised by the giant sucking sound coming from the bottom of your wallet…

  52. A.T. – Yes you can fly faster from Frankfurt to Berlin (and there are excellent rail connections to both airports). But that’s due to the fact that the German HSR (ICE) route between those cities isn’t really very fast, averaging about 75MPH along that route. I dunno why it is so slow there. Probably they’re running HSR equipment on normal tracks. However the price is right: 30 euros if bought in advance. And as a bonus you roll right past that huge VW silo in Wolfsburg. Germany does have real HSR though not on routes to Berlin yet.
    As for Jimmy’s route being logical, I’m not seeing the benefit of zig-zagging to SFO and through Oakland via a very expensive tunnel. HSR should terminate at either SF or Oakland, not connect the two. That detour via Palmdale in SoCal is bad enough and the route needs no more kinks.

  53. The benefit of zig-zagging to SFO is simple: a fast link between the airports and the three major cities in the Bay Area. That would eliminate a ton of $50 cab rides, crappy BART service and provide a mega boost to ridership. Making SFO the hub would make that airport even more desirable than it is now.
    Classic example is London’s Heathrow Express train — it takes 15 minutes and costs about $25 each way. Even high-speed rail could be profitable when riders are paying $100/hour each to ride it.
    And this solution also circumvents all the Peninsula NIMBYs who deserve to suffer for their obstructionism in any case.

  54. But it’s an alternative to air travel to begin with. I don’t see the logic. Not to mention that airports in California are typically in inconvenient locations. The benefit of rail is that it can ostensibly place you in city centers.

  55. Jimmy – The Heathrow Express or any of the London airport expresses for that matter don’t connect airport-to-airport. In fact London has pretty bad airport to airport connections because you end up training into the city and then taking the tube to another train station and then on to the departure airport. That’s a minimum of three trains and who knows how many staircases to schlep your luggage up and down. Fastest and easiest is to take a cab or rent a car to transfer between Heathrow, Stansted, or Gatwick by going around the city centre. I’ve tried both ways and will only use transit if I have at least four hours to transfer, have packed light, and don’t have to deal with rush hour.
    Though easy airport-to-airport connections would be great I believe it is pretty far down on the priorities for HSR.
    The problem with punishing the obstructionist NIMBYs is that it also penalizes the other 90% of the peninsula who don’t have a strong objection to HSR.

  56. [anon.ed],
    There’s no logic when you see it from very far away with our existing filter. When you’re looking from the ground and live with it, it makes perfect sense.
    For instance Luxemburg is well known for low cost charter plane travel. Their clients are mostly from Belgium, Saarland and surroundings, North-eastern France. Before the HSR in Luxembourg, charter airlines would suck their clients from a 60-mile radius. Now it’s 200 miles to the West. They become a viable alternative to Brussels or Paris or Frakfurt (once all the lines are completed of course).
    From an airline prospective, this helps fill the planes instead of being spread too thin and having money-losing local connections for the sake of having local presence.
    This is a game changer.

  57. @anon.ed
    Air travel and HSR are much more complementary than competitive. An example of how it would work is:
    Say you live in Gilroy, and you want to travel to New York. There is no airport, so you get on your local HSR stop, with a single ticket that includes a connecting flight at San Jose or San Francisco airport, get off the train and walk to your flight. This is how it’s done in Europe all the time, a single ticket gets you a seat on both the train and airplane. There are numerous train stations that have their own airport code to accommodate just this type of travel.
    Where air & HSR compete is at the edges of their respective travel, most airlines do not really want to do the short haul trips, they only do them because they are required for connecting flights in order to give travelers enough options.

  58. Sorry, but no. Trains, yes, that’s how it’s done after a transfer, or two. HSR direct to the airport? Why? More like HSR direct from Gilroy to an area with BART overlap or close BART proximity. Then onto SFO.

  59. “And this solution also circumvents all the Peninsula NIMBYs who deserve to suffer for their obstructionism in any case.”
    Sorry . . . but does circumventing the NIMBYs make them suffer? It gives them exactly what they want. Who suffers is the people in that area who want HSR but cannot get it because of the NIMBYs.

  60. @anon
    I simply provided you a logical example of why HSR would make sense going to an airport. This example is also reality all over Europe today, and has been for years, if not decades. You can choose to ignore the reality of how transportation works, but that makes you illogical, not HSR connecting directly to other modes of transportation.

  61. You provided an example that you consider logical, based upon the underlying concept of air travel as endgame. You also included a pie in the sky take of positing single ticket train-to-plane travel as the logical conclusion, there. Then you summated that I can “choose to ignore the reality of how transportation works” ? Do tell. “Transportation,” is it? Big, big conclusion there. Unmerited.
    Get out of here. Go ahead and make points but spare me the “logic” this “logic” that stuff. Too many people on the internet try to go that route.

  62. And I’ll tell you why your point is illogical, for that matter. The HSR under consideration for California is about connecting population centers, not bridging a gap for those who live in between population centers. It’s for people who travel between San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles. The idea is that that demographic is a significant one. Your Gilroy example, Gilroy being a small town, is illogical. In fact add all the travelers in Gilroys, Bakersfields, Fresnos, et all who would consider a train to plane ticket together. They’ll pale in comparison to the demographic that would utilize HSR between population centers. That’s the idea. So don’t try to talk “logic,” like that. That word gets so abused on these interwebs it’s beyond pathetic.

  63. By logically making HSR go through airports and major metros in the bay area you pretty much guarantee that the trip from downtown SF to downtown LA will take like 4 hours instead of 2:20 (naturally it will also logically require stops in Pasadena and Hollywood, et al, on the other end).

  64. [anon.ed],
    pie in the sky take of positing single ticket train-to-plane travel
    I probably have 1 or 2 of these pie-in-the-sky tickets somewhere in my pile of old receipts! Railway companies in Europe have understood they were part of a bigger picture. They offer rail as part of a wider offering in partnership with other companies.
    Another beauty of HSR is that you can build a solid backbone then have minor branches for more specific trips. Say you have a market for 2000 passengers a day for SF/LA, 500 for Bakersfield-SF, 400 for SD/LAX, 200 for Portland, OR to SFO, you can set up specific non-stop routes using 95% of the backbone rail, then branch out at their destination without blocking the way for other trains. You put 5 trains a day on one route, 3 for another, 10 for another etc…

  65. LD,
    You’re thinking of HSR as if it would function like Caltrain between SF and SV today.
    But you can imagine a direct non-stop route SF/LA that would coexist with a LA-SFO or Bakersfield/LAX, all non-stop. All you need is branches in the rail network. This is something that has been done for 170 years in Britain and is being done in Europe’s HSRs systems…

  66. I don’t doubt agreements in Europe with plane to train.
    Can you provide links to HSR direct to airports, tho? I’m thinking a disembark + a local or shuttle is more likely.

  67. @anon
    Frankfurt Airport (FRA) in Germany
    “Airports with intermodal capabilities have an edge on their competitors because intermodality generates additional traffic: Integration of Frankfurt Airport in Deutsche Bahn’s high-speed rail network has expanded the airport’s catchment area compared to airports without Long-distance Train Stations. It strengthened the hub function, raised passenger figures, and given us important competitive edges. At the same time, moving air traffic to the rail eases some of the strain on flight capacity.”
    Schiphol Airport (AMS) in Amsterdam
    “Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, where the country’s high-speed rail is stationed directly under a terminal, is often mentioned as an ideal model.”
    I’ve actually taken that one, and it was quite nice being able to walk directly from my plane onto the train.
    @Legacy Dude
    Not all trains stop at all stops, so once again you are wrong.

  68. Right, it’s a shuttle loop off the main line. There’s no reason that what you’re talking about couldn’t link to the existing BART shuttle.
    Don’t forget that France is socialist. They can get bridges built and infrastructure done much cheaper than we can. What you’re talking about is individual airline corporations drafting agreements with state transportation boards.

  69. [anon.ed],
    Yes, it’s part of the terminal shuttle loop. Minimal walking. Very convenient.
    France doesn’t directly ask its people for big structural decisions, which leads to abuses but also to great infrastructure. But I wouldn’t call France Socialist. De Gaulle who started all of this was not a socialist by any means but more a paternalistic figure with a vision Every president and government that has followed took the same path, which ensures continuity in large scale investments. None of what they’ve accomplished there would fly here. It’s counter our principles of government and that’s a good thing.
    But it doesn’t mean we cannot accomplish our own great things. We have built a fantastic highway system that was unchallenged almost anywhere in the world for many decades. We still can do great things, but they must not be micro-managed. Over a 20 to 30 year plan required to make an HSR happen, 100s of politicians each with their own local and temporary agendas can decide to make or break the project. Because they can freeze it means they can multiply its cost beyond reasonable targets. And because it will become too expensive because of local politics, more politicians will pile in against it for short term deficit issues.
    The end result would be that we would have thrown HSR under the bus for short-term reasons but cut ourselves from the future.
    We’re already 30 years late. In 20 years we will be irrelevant.

  70. let me add that the difference between a SFO-based station and a BART stop is the difference between 2 minutes and 30 minutes. Plus you have to pay for the ticket, and you still have to take a shuttle. It’s one more lengthy step.

  71. I would love HSR between SF downtown and SFO — if the train actually stopped within walking or AirTrain distance of the airport. Requiring a transfer to BART would make the entire rail trip a non-starter for me.

  72. The BART airport station is its own terminal shuttle loop that links to BART trains. Why not just have HSR link to that? (not BART itself?) Sorry but you can’t simultaneously talk about individual American companies such as airlines linking with municipal railway authorities in order to provide a single rail to air ticket, and outright dismiss that they’d spring for the BART airline shuttle loop. Is it such a stretch that if they were to negotiate the one, they’d negotiate the other? But regardless, it isn’t likely to happen. And that’s why I said “pie in the sky” in the first place.

  73. True, I forgot the terminal stops.
    I agree also that all of this is not going to happen, at least not in a way as convenient with what has been described by lyqwyd or yours truly.
    CA, the state that couldn’t.

  74. “The BART airport station is its own terminal shuttle loop that links to BART trains. Why not just have HSR link to that? (not BART itself?)”
    You can, it’s just a worse experience: it takes longer, and it’s an extra step where a traveler has to get out of their seat, collect their bags, walk, find a new seat (or perhaps stand if the shuttle is too crowded & place their bags.
    BART using airbart was a mistake in the first place, (it should have connected directly to SFO). Dropping HSR passengers there would be an even worse mistake.

  75. “and it’s an extra step where a traveler has to get out of their seat, collect their bags, walk, find a new seat (or perhaps stand if the shuttle is too crowded & place their”
    If there is a model of HSR running straight through a terminal you’re welcome to point to one. The ones that have been cited have adjunct loops. Are you reading the thread?

  76. “CA, the state that couldn’t.”
    Well, maybe we still can. Hopefully HSR survives this hiccup. (Hopefully it’s just a hiccup.) But France IS socialist, lol. The railway is state owned, the electrical company is state owned, and it currently owns like 20 percent of Air France or something. You don’t think those two facts facilitated the creation of a rail to plane ticket?

  77. What’s important to passengers reaching airports via transit are frequent service, minimal connections, and connections that are as easy as possible when laden with luggage. The easiest connection is a walk across a platform to another track: no stairs, people movers, elevators, or passageways (hello Chatelet!). Speed of journey is important too but not nearly as important as convenience.
    BART is pretty slow and takes about 30 minutes from downtown to SFO. On the other hand it leaves every 20 minutes all day long. A HSR to SFO connection might do that same run in half that time (HSR will run slow while snaking through SF) though trains stopping at SFO will likely be a lot less frequent: there won’t be anywhere near the sixty or so departures a day to SFO that BART currently provides.
    So if you built HSR to SFO it would save SF residents *maybe* 15 minutes over BART. Meanwhile it will delay longer distance HSR passengers. So for great expense in both dollars and delay a HSR SFO connection provides minimal benefit.
    And speaking of “improving” transit technology to SFO, BART-SFO itself was a step backwards from the prior Caltrain to shuttle bus to SFO connection at Millbrae. That putzy shuttle bus wasn’t sexy or high tech but it worked great. Its gone and replaced with an expensive and inconvenient BART connection for Caltrain riders. During weekdays you have to take 2 different BART trains to cover the vast distance of one mile between Millbrae Caltrain and SFO.

  78. @NJ
    BART goes to Airbart, which goes to SFO. Riders have to get off a bart train, get on the shuttle to get to the terminal. The way it should have done is that Riders exit the BART train within walking distance of the SFO terminal, or even better, directly in the terminal.

  79. [anon.ed],
    If there is a model of HSR running straight through a terminal you’re welcome to point to one. The ones that have been cited have adjunct loops. Are you reading the thread?
    CDG is pretty close to that. If you have more than one terminal there’s not much you can do but have something like light rail connecting the bunch.
    But I feel that we’re getting into minor technicalities there. There’s proof that this level of “straight in the middle of the airport” system works and does exist. BART doesn’t really cut it for the reason some of us have given: 30 minutes plus the hassles of a local transit system. CDG shuttles take you from the HSR to a Terminal.
    Also, I agree that a state owned system helps a lot getting things done. And no it is not really socialism.
    If this were socialism the US would be a socialist country because it has government owned roads and government owned retirement. Also we have a government controlled army when we could have private militias. There’s a limit to what the private sector can or should do. Common sense and common interest do matter.
    If this were socialism, then the witch-hunt of McCarthyism happened during what is probably the most “socialist” period of American history!
    If people want to have good far-reaching HSR we need to see if a competent government can do it. If they do not see any value in doing it, then let the private sector step in and do whatever will bring the most profits. But at least the people should have a say with all the available information in hands (along with the debunking of wild misconceptions). So far, only government-controlled/sanctioned entities have built HSR.
    In general, infrastructure is too big and too essential to be given 100% to the private sector. Having a healthy private sector is essential for a sound economy, as long as this private sector is not a parallel government/monopoly. But whenever the government would be a better fit for some activities, I am OK with that too.

  80. lyqwyd: You are wrong. The BART station is inside the international terminal. You can also walk from there very easily to Terminal 3, and it’s a slightly longer walk to Terminal 1.
    I have done the above many times. The reason, however, that I usually do not take BART to SFO is that the 32-minute trip from downtown is too long for the $8+ they charge per person. I’d rather take a taxi in less time. For me, it has nothing to do with “convenience” after arriving at the airport.
    Of course, the AirTrain is an option too, but what did you think — BART would stop at every terminal in the airport?

  81. @ lyqwyd,
    Socketsite was acting weird earlier. I didn’t see your examples. But it seems to me the Frankfurt one actually employs a secondary loop system similar to what the AirBart might become.
    Also, again, I don’t follow the air travel driver here. Why should air travel be crucial? The demographic the California HSR is intended to serve is urban center to urban center. That trumps any potential air travel midlands bridge demographic, surely.
    @ lol,
    Don’t get me wrong, France is a democratic republic. But many aspects of life are socialized there. They are examples of socialism. So that’s why I called France socialist. Indeed, it IS socialist, even if it’s the mother of all modern republics and not a socialist state.
    And your 30 minutes and dealing with the hassles of a local transit system thing? I don’t follow that. We’re talking about AirBart only here. What’s the difference between that, potentially, and any of these other HSR to airport station to airport loop systems?

  82. @anonanon & NJ
    I stand corrected… all the more reason to have HSR do the same!
    “The reason, however, that I usually do not take BART to SFO is that the 32-minute trip from downtown is too long for the $8+ they charge per person. I’d rather take a taxi in less time.”
    I’ve never taken BART to SFO for exactly the same reason, which is probably why I was entirely wrong in my understanding of how BART connects. I believe I confused it with the (discontinued?) Millbrea extension.
    My bad!

  83. We’re talking about AirBart only here. What’s the difference between that, potentially, and any of these other HSR to airport station to airport loop systems?
    As I had said earlier at 11:10AM, it’s the difference between 30 minutes and 2 minutes. Not a small difference. At least for me.

  84. @anon
    “I didn’t see your examples. But it seems to me the Frankfurt one actually employs a secondary loop system similar to what the AirBart might become.”
    no worries, I believe Frankfurt is directly beneath one of the terminals, but I have no personal experience so could be wrong.
    “Why should air travel be crucial?”
    It is not crucial, but connecting rail and air when reasonably doable make both better and more desirable. Many travelers would love to the train to the airport and then fly to their final destination as long as it is convenient, speedy, and reasonably priced. Adding a transfer eliminates convenience, and often dramatically reduces speed, and if it’s a transfer to BART it’s added cost as well.

  85. “…(discontinued?) Millbrea extension.”
    Not discontinued but nearly so. That segment of BART track is poorly utilized and only active outside of the weekday working hours (evenings and weekends). So BART runs trans to SFO via either the San Bruno-SFO link -or- Millbrae-SFO but never both at the same time. So depending on the time of day either downtown BART users or Caltrain users receive maximum inconvenience.

  86. How do you figure 30 minutes? Those AirBart trains come around every couple of minutes.
    Your point was that an HSR straight in SFO would not be needed because we already have BART going from SF to SFO.
    I am pointing out that we could have an HSR stop in SFO and save 30-odd precious minutes. This is what a couple of HSR/Airport connections are doing in some examples given earlier.

  87. Actually, I pointed out numerous times that I was talking solely about the shuttle/station/AirBart, at 10:41, at 11:20, and I think afterward as well?

  88. “How do you figure 30 minutes? Those AirBart trains come around every couple of minutes.”
    If by “AirBart” you are referring to the BART train that runs between Millbrae Station and SFO, those most certainly do not come every couple of minutes. If HSR were aligned to stop at the Millbrae BART station, and passengers would have to transfer to that BART train to go from Millbrae, to SFO, I will not be taking HSR from SF to SFO. That BART connection is very annoying.
    If by “AirBart” you are referring to the little blue trains that run around SFO, you actually are referring to the AirTrain. I am not aware of any version of HSR that would have an SFO stop that would require transferring to AirTrain to reach the terminals, but I could be wrong.
    I see the value in having HSR stop inside the BART station in SFO’s international terminal. It would only add a few minutes to the SF-LA trip, yet potentially create a huge benefit to locals and visitors. I would certainly ride it, and I do not ride BART to SFO now because it takes too long.

  89. “I am pointing out that we could have an HSR stop in SFO and save 30-odd precious minutes.”
    The savings comes to maybe 15 minutes. You can’t run a train very fast for such a short link because it takes time to ramp up speed and then come to a stop. It will be about the same speed as driving a 1982 Toyota Corolla down King, onto 280, to 101, and into SFO. Kind of a waste of HSR technology. Yes, it does save some time over BART but at huge cost to route a dual track train line through that spaghetti maze of SFO. Then consider that the HSR station will likely need to be grade separated two or three stories below or above the existing BART station. Very expensive.

  90. Wow, I have a lot of difficulty explaining how it works in the existing HSR systems today.
    I guess you understand it when you experience it. If we base our knowledge of trains on the local Caltrain, it’s tough to imagine that anything relevant can be achieved with HSR.
    we’re talking about the value of coming into SF from the South. Some trains would go straight to SF, others would end up in SFO. Some trains do Paris Airport-Luxembourg without ever stopping or coming close to Paris. From the North it would work too, provided there’s a way to go from the North to SFO without being given the run-around.

  91. Wow the 100 mark. Based on the various suggestions, it is no wonder that the final route has yet to be determined, and that the costs will continue to rise. It appears that HSR is to be all things to all people.

  92. Yes I can see some value for northbound trains to stop at SFO. There you’d need to compare against the existing plan on the books of placing a HSR stop at the existing multimodal Millbrae station. If they get the BART link to work correctly (i.e. time BART departures 5 minutes after HSR arrival AND have a one-ticket transfer) then moving the HSR station a mile towards SFO would essentially save riders about 10-15 minutes. Still doesn’t seem worth the cost and expense.

  93. The airport loop one that comes every few minutes, and the point was that hypothetically a HSR could tie into that system. No, no version exists. Nor does a version that ties into the airport. So that’s why it’s all hypothetical. Not too sure why it was unclear because I clearly said that several times in several different ways. Regardless, whether or not somebody doesn’t rate BART to SFO as particularly viable right now, and whether or not the airport would become part of the HSR are two separate things.

  94. HSR is not going to happen in California, nor should it. We’ll probably get money-losing little spurs here and there in the CV where land is cheap and density is low. If the money just has to be spent, spend it making automobiles more efficient and figuring out how to make highways more cheaply.

  95. Californians had an election in 2008 specifically for deciding the question “should California have HSR?” and the measure passed, so unless you’re an anarcho-libertarian who doesn’t accept the concept of democracy or society, HRS should happen in California. If you are an anarcho-libertarian, well, you should probably be doing some soul searching about why you’re living in California.
    And the money doesn’t “just” have to be spent. While making automobiles more efficient is a laudable goal, the federal government’s CAFE standards are pushing that forward. Proposition 1A’s statutory language prevents it from being spent on making highways more cheaply. That would be a waste of money, anyway, since building more highways just invites more traffic.

  96. The ICE train comes directly into on of the Lufthansa terminals in Frankfurt and the connection is seamless and fast. Just the way a rail-to-air link should be, and thus will never be in California.

  97. Having a SFO rail station would work both ways. N->S and S->N
    Say you could have Bakersfield-SFO-Portland without stopping in SF. You’d also have Bakersfield-SF-Portland. A flexible system does 2 things: 1) it creates possibilities that were not there in the first place, changing geography forever. 2) the use of a common backbone improves the ROI of the huge investment.
    Not one person in Europe regrets HSR. Even the British who are always so anti-everything–continental.

  98. Everybody’s got their hobby horse for where HSR should have “just one more” stop that would convenience them. Even the palo alto/atherton/menlo park nimbys will want a stop.
    For california HSR to work, travel times from downtown SF to downtown LA must be 2:20 or less. 2:21 or higher, and the funding goes poof and so does HSR. This means HSR is going to run from SF to LA with ONE STOP in SJ. Then if that meets the performance deadline with some headroom other cities can bid to bleed off some of that performance to add a stop that benefits them. I anticipate 5 to 10 billion per stop will be the going price. Still a way better investment per dollar than building a sports stadium.
    BTW, the Frankfurt combined terminal is awesome but most german aiports connect to ICE at downtwon train stations using local S-Bahns, which is fine (I’ll take an S-Bahn every 12 minutes over trying to make connections to a once per hour ICE that I have to book in advance). Some non-trivial airports (eg. TXL) don’t even have any rail.

  99. Delancy – Adding stations won’t necessarily prolong the journey time of the fastest trains since they can just blow past (literally, hang on to your hairdo ! 🙂 the secondary and tertiary stops.
    I have the same attitude as you regarding reaching an airport via rail: better to shoot for frequent regional services like S-bahn, BART, or Caltrain than infrequent long distance HSR.

  100. ^^^ Just to clarify my comment that adding stations won’t slow down the fastest trains: I meant adding stations along the existing corridor without meandering the line from the optimal straight to reach a new station because curves slow the train down. And that’s why I think that the SFO station should remain at Millbrae so it avoids a double curve to reach SFO and return to the Caltrain ROW.

  101. No need for a double-curve.
    Around 170 years ago they invented a really cool system that can make a train go to another track and go another route for a few miles, then come back to the main route as if nothing had happened!
    [/end snark]
    In short, again, for the hard of hearing: straight line on the peninsula for direct trains. A diversion to stop in SFO then merge back into the backbone.
    Possibilities are endless. But, as I have said twice already earlier, people who only know Caltrain or BART have a real difficulty to comprehend why HSR is quickly becoming the norm for 150 to 500 miles travel in all the developed world.

  102. More stops will add time, period.
    There’s stop and there’s station. 2 very different concepts. A station doesn’t need to be on the backbone and slow down the rest of the traffic. A station can be a stop only part of the time. Similarly a terminus of a trip doesn’t need to be at the end of a line. Genius, isn’t it? It’s 1830s technology!
    Rail is a whole culture all by itself. I am afraid we’ll make the wrong choices simply because of our deep misconceptions of rail travel.

  103. In somewhat related news the UK just approved the HS2 project connecting London and Birmingham with HSR:
    It will cost more per mile than CAHSR and the plan is to have a station at Heathrow airport. Though I’m not sure what that means since the terminal complexes at LHR are a mile apart.

    There had been almost 55,000 responses to the consultation process on the project, which clearly “generates strong feelings, both in favour and against the scheme”, the minister said.

  104. Having lived in London, I can tell you this will totally change geography. Many Londoners live more than an hour away from the center, especially if they want to live around the countryside. This will create a new class of commuters, living 200 miles away from their jobs and still a quite manageable 1 hour away. You could get a mini-mansion in a much cheaper city for the price of a 2BR flat, solving many relocation issues.

  105. Republicans block High Speed Rail Funding.
    “House Republicans late Thursday night adopted an amendment that would prohibit California from receiving any high speed rail money in a huge five-year transportation bill headed to the House floor next week. The $270 billion bill also eliminates bicycle and pedestrian programs and detaches urban mass transit funding from its traditional revenue source.”

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