CFAH

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

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.

Today, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) will release its revised Business Plan, a plan that’s expected to announce a reduced project cost of $68 billion, down from over a hundred billion, and a first leg linking Merced and the San Fernando Valley that would be operational within a decade.
California High-Speed Rail Map: First Leg
The CHSRA press conference will be live-streamed at 10 am and the revised budget will be made availble at: cahighspeedrail.ca.gov. We’ll let you know how the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group responds.
California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Questions Plans For HSR [SocketSite]

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by tipster

    That’s enough to buy every living resident of California ten round trip plane tickets between LA and SF and just give them away.
    And I think you can assume it will be 5x the cost when it is finally completed, so that will be 50 round trip plane tickets for every man woman and child in the state.
    The train will require everyone to buy a ticket, probably for a price that is higher than the cost of a plane ticket (and therefore no one will ride it). My plan allows everyone to fly free 50 times for life. If you need to fly more than 50 times, the plane ticket will still be cheaper than a train ticket.
    I’m a big rail supporter, but C’mon. There is no way this will be worth the cost.

  2. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “That’s enough to buy every living resident of California ten round trip plane tickets between LA and SF and just give them away.”
    OK, that covers the SF-LA transportation needs for the first couple of years. Then what?
    “And I think you can assume it will be 5x the cost when it is finally completed…”
    I would not be surprised if there are cost overruns, but 5X? That seems really out of line. And remember that whatever projects would be done in the absence of HSR (airport and freeway expansion) are also prone to cost overruns. So this point is moot.
    “The train will require everyone to buy a ticket, probably for a price that is higher than the cost of a plane ticket…”
    Please see my prior comments about how DB in Germany has been selling discount tickets in HSR journeys 2X the length of the SF-LA run for 30 euros. Germany’s HSR (ICE) trains are heavily patronized. This has been going on for decades. How do they do it?
    “There is no way this will be worth the cost.”
    Name one significant transportation mode that operates without subsidies.
    ——————————–
    While I’m a supporter of HSR I do not understand how they figure a HSR trip from Merced to Sylmar saves 215 pounds of CO2. Aren’t CO2 emissions from cars roughly the same as the weight of the gasoline burned? No way that journey consumes 215 pounds of gasoline unless you’re driving a Hummer towing a 3rd wheel.
    Maybe they’re including externalities in that calculation.

  3. Posted by redseca2

    “That’s enough to buy every living resident of California ten round trip plane tickets between LA and SF and just give them away.”
    If we didn’t build those darn airplanes and airports we cou buy everyone a car.
    And if we didn’t build all those darn highways and freeways we could buy everyone a horse.

  4. Posted by tipster

    The big dig: 3.5X initial estimates.
    The reality is that there are a lot of high paying union jobs at stake in these projects, so there is every incentive to underestimate, so that the public buys in.
    So call it 35 free round trip tickets. Does the average person in the state make that trip 35 times per lifetime? Doubt it.
    Just take the money and hand out the tickets. The airlines will replace the jets with widebodies. No infrastructure needed. Problem solved for the next 75 years.
    If you want more tickets, take the 60 Euros from the tickets you got for free and multiply by 35 to get $2730, which would be the price of 35 subsidized train tickets you would have bought. Now buy 13 more plane tickets with the money you saved. That’s 48 tickets. Still way more than anyone needs. And the whole thing will have to be rebuilt in 75 years, so the entire thing is a complete waste of money.
    The reality is this is just a boondoggle for the unions. It isn’t going to be worth the cost. No way.

  5. Posted by tipster

    Correction, I forgot about the $300 round trip subsidy in my calculations above.
    The subsidy is more expensive than a plane ticket, so…you could really just make all air travel between those cities free for all residents indefinitely and it would be cheaper.

  6. Posted by Jackson

    California’s future population is going to continue to grow immensely.
    We need High-Speed-Rail because we cannot build enough freeways and airport facilities to handle growth.
    Yes, I also want the costs as close to the bone as possible!
    However, delays in construction of HSR will increase costs.
    The minute I hear rants about union jobs, yada, yada, I turn off. These people have their own political agendas and perceived injustices.
    HSR will create California jobs and improve our economy.
    What would this State be now (water, roads, parks, etc.) without the sacrifice of previous generations?
    Let’s move forward.

  7. Posted by sf

    Do we really need a stop in Gilroy? Is outlet shopping high on the projected riders’ list?

  8. Posted by R

    “No way that journey consumes 215 pounds of gasoline unless you’re driving a Hummer towing a 3rd wheel. ”
    One gallon of gas is around 6-6.5 pounds, so 215 pounds is ~35 gallons.. Still, that’s a lot for 287 miles.

  9. Posted by no_ vally

    re MOD’s comment:
    “Germany’s HSR (ICE) trains are heavily patronized. This has been going on for decades. How do they do it?”
    The biggest single difference between Europe and western US is the fact that European cities “grew up” discouraging car usage and emphasizing rail as a core part of their public transportation infrastructure. Western US cities not so much. Virtually every major European city is served by efficient trains that drop passengers in the heart of downtown areas. Think of Paris, London, Rome, Stockholm, etc. So easy for them to reach critical mass and scale; hence cheap tickets.
    Keep in mind 80% of CA’s population lives within 20 miles of the coast. So any “solution” that would require Bay Area passengers to drive (or shuttle) to Merced…for the trip to Sylmar(where?)…at which point it’s find another transportation solution to the ultimate destination…is bound to fail because it creates far more complexity than it solves. Until a service is developed that provides HSR service from downtown SF to downtown LA, adoption is going to be at the low end of any official estimates. But railroad right of way laws (dating back decades) will keep passenger traffic second to the whims of commercial cargo carriers who own the lines, so don’t expect downtown to downtown service anytime soon.
    Net net: fight the political battle and declare the eminent domain as necessary to get access to/from downtown metro areas in SF/LA/SD, then spend $100B building out the infrastructure and service. Until then, it’s just money poured into a central valley that won’t board the train.

  10. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “Do we really need a stop in Gilroy”
    Population-wise, no. Network-wise it makes sense since it is the first stop on the western side of the Diablo range. It would be an attractor for traffic from San Benito, Monterey, and Santa Cruz counties. And Gilroy/Morgan Hill will probably grow to 100-150K population over the next few decades on its own.
    ———————-
    tipster – airport capacity is limited by more than just the number of seats on aircraft. there’s a whole network of checkin counters, security, baggage handling, parking, transit, freeway capacity, rental cars, etc. that also need to expand as passenger volume grows. That will require remodels and expensive construction. Those same diabolical unions would be getting those jobs. Same exposure to cost overruns.
    All of the negative aspects you bring up about HSR apply to air travel too. The key difference is that air travel relies singularly on petroleum, a resource that is guaranteed to become scarcer and more expensive in the near future. HSR can be powered by anything from nuclear power to manure and everything in between that can be converted to electricity.

  11. Posted by Debtpocalypse

    It is long past time that the under-utilized and long-neglected communities of Merced and Sylmar regain their appropriate status as twin anchors of the Golden State.

  12. Posted by futurist

    Let’s move ahead. Build HSR. Think futuristically.

  13. Posted by lyqwyd

    @tipster
    According to this page The average one way fare between SF & LA is $125, so the $68 billion would only pay for 7 round trips. Now the $68 billion is in year of expenditure, which means the number would be lower if adjusted for today’s dollars, or the price of tickets will be higher in the future due to inflation. The project is expected to be about 10 years, and annual inflation of 2% would lead to prices being 20% higher, 3% would result in prices being 35% higher, so you really only get about 5 round trips per person.
    We can throw out your 3.5x & 5x multipliers as they are obviously fabricated.
    Currently between San Francisco and LA there are a little over 3 million annual air passengers. California’s population is 38 million. If each person only used a free flight every ten years, then on average that would be 3.8 million passengers per year, more than doubling our current air utilization. Therefore we would need to begin a massive expansion of our air travel infrastructure, which would cost us tens of billions of dollars, possibly more than the original cost of building HSR in the first place.
    Your idea was pretty weak idea without looking at it too closely, but when examined in the slightest it is easily shown to be a terrible idea.

  14. Posted by lolcat_94123

    Finally, my dream of having breakfast in Merced and a lunch meeting in Sylmar is one step closer to reality.

  15. Posted by Toady

    “Therefore we would need to begin a massive expansion of our air travel infrastructure, which would cost us tens of billions of dollars, possibly more than the original cost of building HSR in the first place.”
    Uh, no. Right now, outside of repositioning flights, most SFO/OAK/SJC-LAX/SNA/BUR/ONT flights are handled by narrow bodies and commuter jets. If there is a need for more capacity (and the market can justify it), they just need to upgauge aircraft. Heck, even in Japan, the land of the Shinkansen, they still fly 747s in the domestic market!
    As for the need to expand counters, etc. – no again. Technology is making these parts of the airport less necessary. Come on – you print your boarding pass at home, don’t you?
    Sorry – there is no reasonable cost justification right now for HSR. Comparisons to our air infrastructure is just silly.

  16. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Toady – don’t those people boarding 747s from SJC to ONT still have luggage? Don’t they still need to be screened at security? And do you realize that a 747 can’t fit into a gate designed for a 737? You can’t even land a 747 at SJC without extending the runway. That project alone would cost billions.
    But never mind the capital investment costs, think in terms of how operational costs will rise with the cost of oil. Eventually the cost of jet fuel will dominate the retail cost of airfare. Without HSR travelers will be stuck with oil price influenced fare increases forever.
    The same goes for auto traffic down I-5. I’m about to make that journey this weekend and expect to set a new personal record for gas expenses.
    You need the shortsightedness of a politician to not see the the corner that we are painting ourselves in. The heat in this pot is gradually increasing and shows no sign of cooling.

  17. Posted by EBGuy

    I may have missed something, so corrections are welcome. The fastest way for a San Franciscan to access the initial HSR link will be BART to Richmond. At Richmond, you would transfer to the Amtrak San Joaquins. Its then a 2hour 45 minute train ride to Merced. There is legislation pending for a San Joaquins Joint Powers Authority — so the hope is that service levels could be ramped up (like on the Capitol Corridor route which is managed by a JPA). It looks like after the initial north-south HSR link is up and going a spur will be built to Gilroy that connects to the Caltrain tracks. According to SJ Merc, the trains will travel on the existing two tracks (no upgrade to four tracks).

  18. Posted by lol

    To the questions of why we would build stations in Gilroy or any medium sized city on the Central Valley, I thinks it’s not “do we need it today” but what can happen to these cities once they’re closer from LA or SF thanks to HSR.
    HSR has changed life in my hometown in France. We used to be able to go to Paris in 4 hours and London in 12. Now it’s 1h10 and 4h respectively. The economy is more dynamic. Universities and graduate schools are expanding because their excellent teachers are more accessible (students from Paris will go study there because they can do a WE trip back home). Everything runs faster and better. Pay is more aligned with the capital city because people and businesses have more access.
    It’s the natural next step of our societies. Virtual presence complemented by faster access when actual presence is needed. If we miss this step the future will pass us by. A 50-year delay compared to Europe, and 60 years compared to Japan is already built in for chrissake! At least let’s build it.

  19. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    EBGuy – Yes that sounds right and there will be a similar albeit shorter slow speed connection at the LA end via Metrolink. The whole journey will be slow and inconvenient for SF-LA travelers (but faster than the current Amtrak time of 12 hours!.
    I predict pathetic ridership numbers until there’s at least a direct link from SJ to LA. Ridership will increase once the route extends up the peninsula to SF but not by much (it will only save 30 minutes over the whole SF-LA journey time).

  20. Posted by lyqwyd

    @Toady
    One 747 costs over $300 million on average. To upgrade the entire fleet would cost tens of billions. Those prices would then be past on to customers. And as MoD pointed out, it’s not nearly as simple as just swapping out airplanes.
    but you do raise a good point, not only will the airports need upgrading, the airlines will have to add many planes to their fleets, which will costs billions, if not tens of billions, more. the cost up upgrading the fleet would then be passed on the travelers, thus increasing the cost of tickets, so you really wouldn’t even get 5 round-trips, more like 2-3, at more cost than building HSR.

  21. Posted by eddy

    This will fail if there is not one train that goes from SF to SFO to San Jose to LA with no other stops and gets it done in under 2.5 hours from the time the door closes in SF or LA.
    The truth is that if the airlines could run a more efficient shuttle service like they do between DC/NYC/BOS — it would eliminate the need for the high speed rail services.

  22. Posted by kg

    @tipster, Yeah, because plane ticket prices won’t increase as oil prices go through the roof. Typical shot sighted BS we hear from baby boomers who are going to be long gone before the real problem manifests. No, let’s keep spending money on social security, medicare and cheap oil until they die. Don’t rock the boat.
    4 hours from SF to SD beats any plane I’ve ever taken after security, boarding, baggage claim, delays, cancellations and all the other crap. We could definitely do without several of these stops however.

  23. Posted by Alai

    lol’s point is good. It may be possible for air travel to compete against HSR from SF-LA– not on operating costs, but once you add up all the construction costs, which are undoubtedly high. Once built, I think HSR will eat the airlines for breakfast, but it costs a lot to get there.
    However, it’s a totally different story for all the stops in between. Air may be competitive with HSR on the full run SF-LA, but it’s nowhere near competitive for Fresno-LA or Bakersfield-San Francisco or Stockton-Fresno. And neither is anything else, either time-wise or price-wise. For the smaller cities, this sort of connectivity is something that simply didn’t exist before, and has the potential for longterm benefits.
    It’s also a multiplier for transit. The SF and LA stations are already hubs for transit in their respective cities, but adding a large number of passengers passing through will allow transit agencies to economically add service, which will improve frequency and convenience, which will attract more passengers, making the system more cost-effective. As a result, even locals who never set foot on the train get the benefit of improved local transit service.

  24. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    2C8H18 + 25O2 ~> 16CO2 + 18H2O
    Is a pretty good first pass for what burning gasoline creates.
    If I recall my high school chemistry correctly, the atomic mass of C=12, H=1 and O=16, so 2(12*8+18) = 404 pounds of gasoline produces 16(12+2*18) = 768 pounds of CO2. We’ll call it 1:2.
    Still 108 pounds of gasoline or about 18 gallons, which gives us 16 miles per gallon. A bit high, but not totally crazy.

  25. Posted by SanJoseRenter

    lolcat: that was quite funny!
    SS’ers: my feeling is that the cost of building a complete railroad from Central Valley to LA doesn’t make sense at this time from both financial and demand perspectives.
    But it is a good time to allocate the land and build the SF and SJ terminals in anticipation of future expansion as the economy improves.
    Does that make sense?
    (Note: I’m not interested in appeasing labor unions or career politicians.)

  26. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Thanks for setting me straight NoeValleyJim. I was reading that as 215 pounds of carbon rather than CO2. I even typed CO2 in my original query. Duh!

  27. Posted by MM2

    Remember when the Board of Supes spent about three years arguing over whether BART should go into SFO or if they should just have a shuttle bus from the Daly City station? Never mind that that “solution” wasn’t a solution, the cost, not the need determined the bredth of the stupidity.
    HSR to transport goods argues for one route, but moving people argues for another. Running between SF through SJ and into LA and SD makes sense because those are the major cities.
    People would ride it if they could get to it. But putting it where it is guarantees failure by making sure there is low ridership and no business use. People taking 2 1/2 hours from the Richmond BART staion to the train is just not going to happen.
    Since it takes forever to build it, the still standing railrod stations could once again become urban centers they used to be. Union Station in downtown LA could become like Union Station in DC, a destination as well as the anchor to a neighborhood that’s in distress. Where are the urban planners and why aren’t they all over this built to fail plan?

  28. Posted by Jimmy (No Longer Bitter)

    Good example: I just flew Phuket-Bangkok, which is a 55-minute flight, and they used a 747 on that route. It was packed! So, you can scale up the number of airplane passengers by simply flying bigger planes which, as far as the taxpayers of California are concerned, are free.

  29. Posted by lol

    Jimmy,
    This shuttle probably changed the way people traveled and lived. But if jet fuel doubles in price can they double the size of planes to try and make up for it? With train service, a lot of the cost is amortizing infrastructure. Add more cars to the train and you increase capacity with minimum increased cost. Or add more schedules. Train flow is computer-controlled anyway, with several levels of fail-over systems. The planned usage of HSR in CA is not very high compared to intensely used networks in Europe.
    In any case, an HSR is an insurance on oil rarity. It uses way less energy per mile traveled. Also the fuel trains will use will be the fuel we want it to be. Today it’s coal and gas plants. Tomorrow it can be renewables if we have politicians with real cojones.

  30. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    The line won’t stop in Merced, the plan is to finish the whole route. The Peninsula NIMBYs are a serious menace here: remember they stopped BART from running down 101 in the 60’s. We would have had SF -> SJ BART 20 years ago if it weren’t for their meddling.
    I expect that the part to San Jose will get built pretty quickly and then Palo Alto will delay with lawsuit after lawsuit and eventually get their tunnel. For now, we will have electrified Caltrain, which is something I guess.
    I actually expect that the main use will end up being a commuter rail instead of a long haul system. Merced will be 45 minutes from a San Jose. San Francisco and San Jose will be 30 minutes apart, even less from the 4th Street station. This is going to transform where people live. Have they determined where in Merced the station is going to be? This is probably a good time to buy up apartment houses within walking distance of the new station.

  31. Posted by shza

    ^^^Do we know how much a roundtrip to/from Merced to San Jose will cost? If it’s anything like the east coast corridor pricing, we’re talking at least $1000/month for commuting costs. Yes, the $1000 commuting costs are smaller than the housing price differential, but it’s not like you’re not paying for it in other ways. It’s still a long commute, especially if your place of business is not in San Jose, within walking distance of the station. Plus you’re living in Merced (yuck).

  32. Posted by R

    $1000 a month in commuting? Plenty of people spend more than that..
    San Ramon to San Francisco, figure 20 business days in a month, that’s $120 in bridge rolls, $250 for parking, and 1500 miles (20mpg and $4.50 gas and that’s about $350 a month). So at least $720 out of pocket before you even think about car payments, maintenance, and wear and tear on the car.
    Replace all that driving with a comfortable train ride where you can work on a laptop or nap? For the same price? Seems ok to me.
    Of course, you’re still stuck living in Merced, but some people are into that.

  33. Posted by shza

    R, point taken. I am maybe in my own bubble. That just all sounds like an absolutely miserable existence to me. I’d sooner move to a different part of the country altogether than make an exurban commute from San Ramon or Merced everyday. (I also wouldn’t consider working on the peninsula since I’m unwilling to live there.)
    I guess I’m living large with my $0 casual carpool 20-minute commute in and my $4 25-minute bus commute home.
    As someone pointed out above, the livable version of the ultra-long commute is probably the work 4 out of 5 days remotely from home schedule.
    Still, while there are not many places I’d rather live than where I currently am, there are (at least) hundreds of places in the U.S. where I’d rather live than Merced (or San Ramon) — including plenty of places that do not require a Bay Area salary to afford.

  34. Posted by R

    I hear you. My commute when working is all of 9 miles round trip. Takes me 10 minutes each way on my moto, using 1/4 gallon of gas.

  35. Posted by EBGuy

    Do we know how much a roundtrip to/from Merced to San Jose will cost?
    From my reading of revised Draft, there will never be a direct trip from Merced to San Jose. The only way to do that route would be to take a southbound train to Fresno, and then get on a northbound train from Fresno to San Jose.
    But for reference, a monthly ACE pass from Stockton to San Jose is $300. BTW, ACE will be getting upgraded and a SuperACE service will extend north from Stockton (the current ACE terminus) to Sacramento. The language in this section is fuzzy enough to suggest that ‘some day’ high speed trains could travel on the Altamont alignment. It is dependent on the SuperACE infrastructure being upgraded to accommodate a high speed train. So never say never (Merced to San Jose via Altamont Pass)…
    I should also note the 2:45 trip time I gave for Richmond (BART) to Merced on the San Joaquins is expected to be whittled down to around 2 hours.

  36. Posted by EBGuy

    I expect that the part to San Jose will get built pretty quickly and then Palo Alto will delay with lawsuit after lawsuit and eventually get their tunnel.
    The revised Draft noted that work on the current pennisula EIR will immediately be suspended. The ‘blended’ service (Caltrain & HSR on two tracks) will require a new EIR which will be a smaller target for the PA/Atherton folks. No doubt, though, they’ll do their best to delay it…

  37. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    ^^^ another possibility is that during the delay on the peninsula segment the political climate shifts away from the small group of wealthy property owners and towards the general public. Perhaps laws get changed to clarify when it is OK for a small amount of local environmental degradation is allowed when it prevents a large amount of widespread environmental harm.
    It would also be interesting to look into the reasons why railway rights-of-way were established by the federal government back in the 1800s. My guess were that these RoW giveways were done specifically to increase commerce and support growth, exactly what HSR would accomplish.

  38. Posted by mike

    “From my reading of revised Draft, there will never be a direct trip from Merced to San Jose. The only way to do that route would be to take a southbound train to Fresno, and then get on a northbound train from Fresno to San Jose.”
    I haven’t read the revised draft yet but the original legislation accompanying the bond election required that a passenger would be able to get from any station on the system to another station without transfer. Once operational, there will be a combination of local, limited, and express trains running on the system. This may be a requirement at buildout, i.e., not until the segments to Sacramento and to San Diego are constructed.

  39. Posted by EBGuy

    @mike, That’s a good point. I could be wrong. The maps definitely make it look like Merced is on the ‘to Sacramento’ spur. Going north from Fresno there is a Y, with one spur going up to Sac and the other branching to San Jose. Trains could go up to Merced, retrace to the south and continue to San Jose.

  40. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “…required that a passenger would be able to get from any station on the system to another station without transfer.”
    That’s a surprising requirement for any network that includes Y. Usually the less popular “U” shaped journeys are accomplished the way that EBGuy describes. It is much more efficient for overall operations and only mildly inconvenient for passengers who need to transfer on the leg of the Y. Often that transfer is timed to minimize layover and is typically a “walk across the platform” style transfer.
    In reality thanks to Mt. Ham and the rest of the Diablo range there really isn’t a good direct way to travel from San Jose to Merced by rail or road.

  41. Posted by roger rainey

    I’m outta here. This state is run by communists.

  42. Posted by mike

    MOD, the “Y” is really a “wye”. Think if it as a triangle with two sets of tracks along each edge. There will not be a need for trains to stop and reverse direction to complete their journey.
    And Roger, don’t let the door hit you….

  43. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    mike – the “sharp” leg of a wye (SJ to Merced in this case) is usually not used for passenger traffic and only used for utility purposes like repositioning equipment. If you know of a scheduled service that takes the sharp U turn through a wye then I’d be interested in that curiosity.
    Also I was not suggesting that the train reverse direction but rather a passenger making the U shaped voyage would be taking two trains : southbound from SJ towards LA, and then northbound from LA to Sacramento, transferring at Fresno or some place north of there.

  44. Posted by mke

    mod
    No u turn suggested by me. There’s a wye under downtown Oakland on the BART line.
    Also, check out wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wye_(rail)
    (Sorry, I don’t know how to insert links.)

  45. Posted by mike

    ^^^(apparently I do)

  46. Posted by EBGuy

    another possibility is that during the delay on the peninsula segment the political climate shifts away from the small group of wealthy property owners and towards the general public.
    An optimist! I certainly hope that is the case. Here’s the message to PA that I believe was encoded in the revised draft: No tunnel, for you! The text from the document: Any expansion in the corridor to add additional capacity, accommodate dedicated tracks, significant structure or tunnel work, and additional right-of-way beyond what is defined in the blended system [Caltrain & HSR on two tracks] would have to be revisited through one or more additional, future second-tier environmental reviews.
    Also note, that as part of the blended EIR they will be revisiting the route into the Bay Area.

  47. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    If HSR starts service between SJ and LA, Caltrain will need additional capacity to shuttle passengers up the remaining miles up the peninsula. Or more likely HSR will run at Caltrain speeds on Caltrain tracks to SF.
    That will require more quad tracking, grade separations, and electrification. But not the whole HSR burrito.
    More expensive and a lower level of service with the same or greater level of noise and vibration. Thanks to NIMBYs.

  48. Posted by Caveat

    Speculation wrapped in babble wrapped in politics wrapped in money. Cornucopians in charge of the conversation, with not a thought to the fact California is already woefully overgrown and overpopulated in terms of essential resources and life support systems.
    On the plus side, day laborers will be able to get to street corners in urban centers up and down the San Joaquin Valley more quickly.
    The best way to corrupt a good idea in California is to run it through the sold-out state government.

  49. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    shza, not everyone has the options to live where they prefer like you (and me). I got to talking with the janitor on the late shift at my place of work and it turns out that he lives in Stockton and works in Silicon Valley. He commutes over 3 hours a day.
    I asked him why he did it and he told me that it is the only way he can afford a house: he has three kids and he owns his own 4 bedroom home. He would not be able to afford one anywhere nearby, even back in the late 90s when he was buying. And wages in Stockton are half what they are at my place of employment.
    So I didn’t ask, but I am sure he would love to live in Palo Alto or Los Gatos, but it is just not a realistic option for lots of people. Remember Fresno and Stockton are some of the largest cities in the state.
    It is possible that California’s population will stop growing, but only if we mismanage the state even worse than we have so far. The weather, economy, tolerant political climate and location along the Pacific Rim are going to continue to be big draws for people. Building things like HSR prepares us for the next century, just like Pat Browns visionary network of canals, freeways and investments in The University of California and CSU systems prepared us for the last 50 years.

  50. Posted by shza

    NVJ, that is a result of your janitor’s (in my mind, horribly misguided) own set of preferences. As I noted, I would opt to live in another part of the country entirely, someplace as cheap or cheaper than Stockton, but more centrally located to a downtown area, before living in an exurb like that.
    Just ponder the absurdity of spending an additional over 3 hours away from your family so that you can afford to keep that family in a house in an area you’d actually prefer not to live, that is far enough away from any metropolitan center that you will rarely, if ever, spend time in that metropolitan center.
    Wouldn’t you just choose to live in, e.g., Denver, instead?

  51. Posted by shza

    ^^^ Also, the idea that a janitor needs to own a 4-bedroom home is absolutely ludicrous. That’s a “preference” as well.
    Could he rent something smaller and closer in that would allow him to actually see his family during waking hours but might result in two of his same-sex kids (gasp) sharing a bedroom? Probably. I have lawyer friends who aren’t above that. But your janitor is. Go figure.

  52. Posted by Toady

    @ lyqwyd
    “but you do raise a good point, not only will the airports need upgrading, the airlines will have to add many planes to their fleets, which will costs billions, if not tens of billions, more. the cost up upgrading the fleet would then be passed on the travelers, thus increasing the cost of tickets, so you really wouldn’t even get 5 round-trips, more like 2-3, at more cost than building HSR.”
    Uh, but it will be corporations doing market assessments that will determine whether or not it makes financial sense to fly larger planes between SF and LA rather than some BS business plan that saddles the state with billions of debt. At least companies have to react to market forces to determine even if it makes sense. If the cost is too high, they won’t do it.
    Corporations can die from their market mistakes, but the state can’t walk away from debt.
    As for the gates for 737s don’t fit 747s – sure, there are some gates like that, but most modern airports (which would include SFO) don’t have that problem. If you look at, for example, United in T3, you see the same gates handling both narrowbodies and widebodies with no problems.
    Face it, HSR fans probably shouldn’t lean too heavily on comparison with air. Numbers don’t work out.

  53. Posted by anon

    ^The big airlines won’t be allowed to die. How many times have the bankruptcy laws been fudged/manipulated over the past two decades to keep every major airline alive? The last major airline to liquidate was in the 80s.
    It’s hard to imagine a less “free market” industry.

  54. Posted by anon

    ^I forgot to mention that while it’s been since the 80s since an airline has liquidated, nearly all have been in and out of bankruptcy since then – on chapter 11 terms that are unheard of in every industry except the airline industry.

  55. Posted by diemos

    When the ability to easily move around ends, people will find that the “need” to do so will disappear with it.
    The past was about mobility. The future will be about staying where you are.
    The existing airports will be able to easily accommodate the amount of flights we’ll have the fuel to run.
    I’d much rather spend the money to electrify the current freight railways. Moving goods around matters a lot more than moving people.

  56. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Toady – Sure you can park a smaller aircraft at a gate designed for a 747. But most gates aren’t sized for jumbo jets. The next time you’re at SFO take a walk around and compare the size of the gate area for a 747 to one designed for the smaller jets. It isn’t just the size of the piece of tarmac where the aircraft sits but also the number of chairs in the waiting area, the size of the corridors leading to those gates, and then all of the unseen apparatus used to move luggage.
    ————————
    Diemos – I agree that telepresence will supplant travel. But we’ll save a lot more by applying this concept to daily work commutes than to the less frequent trips between the big cities in CA. My office ramped back on air travel in a big way several years ago when the economy started going downhill. We still need to travel though we do so less frequently.
    ————————
    Just returned from a trip to LA and spent almost three hundred dollars on gasoline alone. Ouch!

  57. Posted by Toady

    @anon – actually if look at what’s happening today, with airline consolidation, it has the same impact as liquidation. The new United and Delta are actively taking capacity out of the marketplace. Continental and Northwest no longer exist as players in the marketplace, and US Airways is circling around American to take it over.
    What you are forgetting is that with bankruptcy, someone does feel the pain, and it’s the shareholders. Their ownership stake goes to zero. Pre- and post-bankrupcy entities are completely different. The old structure did indeed die.
    @Milkshake
    I do walk around SFO quite a bit. The additional infrastructure required for larger jets is overblown. I see narrowbodies (A320, 737s, 757s) sharing gates with 777s all the time in the United terminal.
    My point is that there is plenty of room to grow in the air between SFO/OAK/SJC and LAX/SNA/ONT/BUR. I have been talking about adding capacity through upgauging, but the fact of the matter is that there are still opportunities to add frequency as well.
    In fact, United has been actively taking capacity out of the intra-California market, which makes you question the ridership numbers even more…

  58. Posted by anon

    …actually if look at what’s happening today, with airline consolidation, it has the same impact as liquidation.
    Um, no. If an airline would have liquidated over the past 20 years, you would have seen ripple effects through several related industries (Boeing, Airbus, taxi companies, airport contractors, etc), with the possibility of other modes becoming more viable.
    As it is, the industry as a whole was successful in convincing folks of the need for a backdoor bailout, to prevent other competing industries of staking a claim to their turf (similar, though not quite as blatant as the auto company bailouts of a few years ago).
    They’ve done such a great job that you don’t even seem to consider that the air industry competes with anyone but itself! They’ve won!
    To be clear – I’m not a fan of this train plan, but to color the airline industry as anything but a protected oligopoly (or smattering of several interconnected oligopolies) is crazy.

  59. Posted by Toady

    “Um, no. If an airline would have liquidated over the past 20 years, you would have seen ripple effects through several related industries (Boeing, Airbus, taxi companies, airport contractors, etc), with the possibility of other modes becoming more viable.”
    There absolutely have been ripple effects from consolidation – why not ask the leasing companies who have to figure out what to do with older planes, or the unions who are getting their retirement benefits trimmed (not that it’s a bad thing necessarily).
    You also might want to ask how SJC and OAK are doing these days – SJC can’t fill its new terminal, and OAK is seeing airlines move everything to SFO. Other airports are also seeing negative effects (ask how Cleveland, Cincinnati, Memphis are doing after the CO-UA and DL-NW mergers).
    I don’t think you’re looking at the right places if you don’t see what’s going on from consolidation.
    And that tells me that there is plenty of capacity for travel between the Bay Area and Southern California that does not require the airport infrastructure investment that HSR proponents have claimed that is needed if we don’t invest in their prized choo-choo.

  60. Posted by Jiv Veeperish

    I’d like to be the salesman for this hog turd of a project, the buyers are so brain dead stupid for swallowing estimates that originally skyrocketed from $33 billion to $98 billion. Now, magically the estimate is shaved to $68 billion. Does anyone have any idea what’s going on by shoveling billions and billions of taxpayer dollars around like candy? Californians simply have to be the most idiotic for getting behind these shenanigans and not throwing up any resistance.

  61. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Toady – SJC is just now completing a decade long expansion project, so no surprise that it has excess capacity especially right now in a down economy.
    The demand projections used in CAHSR look quite far in the future, as any large capital project should. It isn’t looking to fill a transportation void in 2020. If we did nothing the airports and freeways could tolerate the projected 2020 increases with the sorts of expansion that you suggest.
    If we wait until all of the airport capacity is used up before starting HSR then we’ll be in a lot of pain. You can’t build out HSR overnight.
    And don’t forget that air travel depends on oil, a commodity that everyone expects to rise in price dramatically over the next few decades.

  62. Posted by Toady

    “SJC is just now completing a decade long expansion project, so no surprise that it has excess capacity especially right now in a down economy.”
    You’ve made my point. As for being in a down economy, yes, there’s a down economy overall, but the key driver for growth here is reaching Bubble 2.0 proportions – you would think that travel will increase enough to fill the capacity that we already. But it hasn’t.
    And still points out to the fact that we have more than enough airport infrastructure capacity to increase the number of seats between LA and the Bay Area.
    “The demand projections used in CAHSR look quite far in the future, as any large capital project should. It isn’t looking to fill a transportation void in 2020. If we did nothing the airports and freeways could tolerate the projected 2020 increases with the sorts of expansion that you suggest.”
    If their projections are anything like the ABAG projections of population growth in the Bay Area (or any other growth projections these days from government), then its crap. ABAG has consistently overestimated population growth by at least 40%.
    You probably can get better numbers from a random number generator.

  63. Posted by Legacy Dude

    @ Jiv Veeperish: what do you expect from the birthplace of Hollywood and tech bubbles? If you think it sounds stupid, they just need to revise the estimates again. For example, with an anticipated cost of only $88 million, and California’s population projected to hit 1.2 billion souls by 2094, how can we NOT build this? BUILD IT NOW!! And make sure you like it on Facebook!
    Luckily for all us taxpayers, this thing has zero chance of ever coming together as anticipated. Even if it did, it’d take decades, by which time we’re equally likely to have solar-powered cars and supersonic jets with engines that run on dogshit.
    But at least talking about this thing seems to keep a bunch of bureaucrats busy – I think they call that “creating jobs.”

  64. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    I looked around for evidence that your statement that ABAG has consistently overstated population growth Toady and I can’t find it. They claim that they have consistently been within 5% of correct, but I can see how they might tend to cherrypick.
    Can you provide any proof of your statement? I know that the UC population growth estimates have tended to be right on and they are also projecting continued California growth.
    It is definitely a subject worthy of debate, because California has been growing entirely due to immigration from overseas for a while now and immigration from Mexico has ground to a halt. Whether this is a temporary or permanent thing remains to be seen. I expect that with good infrastructure investments we will see population growth.
    I still think that the prudent thing to do is to borrow the money now while interest rates are low and start building it.
    shza, I agree with you, but not everyone makes the same choices or preferences. Most suburban and exurbanites have chosen the “drive until you can afford it” method of home choices. Studies have shown that such long commutes don’t get people the enjoyment that they think they will, but the suburbs are popular for a reason. I am sure that giving people a quick way to get from the Central Valley to job centers in SF and Silicon Valley will be good for both regions, especially if the growth around the transit centers in The Central Valley is done property with Smart Growth.

  65. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    I will contact Councilman Schmidt and see where he gets his data from. My recollection is that the UC growth forecasts have been solid and I have been watching them for at least 30 years. I was kind of a strange kid, being interested in stuff like that even in high school.
    CA tends to grow when the economy is growing and shrink when the economy is shrinking because we are kind of a “boom-bust” state still, with lots of employment due to the construction trades.
    I know people tend to overreact and assume that the sky is falling every time we have a downturn, but it probably isn’t so.

  66. Posted by Jimmy the House Flipper

    Caltrain better get electrified and sped up or I’m gonna be pissed. And add a terminal INSIDE SFO and SJC airports, not a mile away in Millbrae or wherever it is in San Jose.
    I don’t give a cr*p about the middle of the state. They can drive their rusty pickup trucks in the dirt for the rest of eternity for all I care.

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