News

Poll: Opinions sour on high-speed rail

Republican pollster finds close to two thirds of California voters would vote to halt project

Nearly two thirds of Californians now oppose the state's high-speed rail project -- and the more they know about it, the less they like it, according to a new poll.

These were the findings from Probolsky Research, LLC, a Republican polling firm based in Irvine. The poll asked respondents to choose three spending priorities for the State of California. While the overwhelming majority chose education, public safety and health/social services (in that order), high-speed rail finished dead last with only 11.2 percent of respondents listing it as a priority.

Perhaps even more dramatically, 62 percent of those polled said they would vote to stop the high-speed rail project, while 31.1 percent said they would vote to keep it around (6.5 percent were either unsure or refused to answer). Close to two thirds said they are unlikely to ever ride the train from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The poll results should come as no surprise to residents of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, where feelings about high-speed rail have been turning increasingly sour over the past three years. The Palo Alto City Council, which initially endorsed Proposition 1A (the successful 2008 ballot measure that earmarked $9.95 billion in state funds for high-speed rail and rail-related transportation improvements), has grown highly critical of the project and adopted an official position of "no confidence" in the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the agency charged with building the new rail line. Residents and city officials have been particularly angry about the rail authority's design plans (some of which involved elevated tracks), its business plan and its ridership projections.

The new poll by Probolsky also found that the more residents know about the project, the more they are likely to oppose it. Of those who said they were "very familiar with high-speed rail," 59.5 percent said they would halt it (compared to the 45.3 percent among those who had never heard about the project before getting the call).

"Opposition to the project doesn't appear born of ignorance of California's high-speed rail endeavor," the poll stated. "The more voters know about high-speed rail, the more they are likely to vote to stop the project."

Furthermore, those who don't like the project are fairly intense in their opposition. While 61.3 percent of those who support high-speed rail said they "definitely" support it, the proportion of opponents who said they would "definitely" vote to halt the project is 81.4 percent (16.5 percent said they would "probably" vote to halt it).

The firm surveyed 750 California voters over the phone between Aug. 10 and Aug. 15.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Josh Lindgren
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Americans have their understanding of civilization upside down. Education of children begins at home, -schools can never do what parents can do and should do. On the other hand government does public transport the best, -and a high speed train needs a lot of time to build.

Yet, most people want government to take care of teaching their kids, while they waste their time stuck in traffic jams :)

Civilizations rise and fall, and America is definitely not rising.


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Posted by James Baloun
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 30, 2011 at 1:08 pm

The questions in this poll seem to cast HSR in negative terms. However, biased polling questions are nothing new. To see how rail can work just look at the examples in Japan, France, Germany and England. To see how not to do it, look at China. It is time the United States catch up with modern transportation options or chain ourselves to the automobile. I am amazed at how people are so negative about a few feet added to an existing rail line yet pay no attention the thousands of acres of asphault and concrete needed for automobiles. If anyone is interested in how to correctly upgrade peninsula rail to get better service from Caltrain and HSR with the lowest impact please review the 'Corridor To Do List' on Clem Tillier's blog: Caltrain HSR Compatibility Blog. He spells out in detail what needs to be fixed to get the most people where they need to go in the least time with the least cost and the least environmental impact. Before the design is set in concrete, and within practical limits, let's be sure it is done right. Too many people are against HSR simple because they have listened to people who are poorly informed.


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Posted by political_incorrectness
a resident of another community
on Sep 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm

If you look at the poll question, it puts the HSR in a negative light. Usually with polls, depending on how they are asked matters greatly for the response. With this poll, it was no surprise saying that costs are expected to escalate, to continue or not to contine. We need to look into the future, infrastructure is pricey no matter what and the more we wait, it will cost more later on.


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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm

My college kid was furious about California saddling his future with this boondoggle, and declared angrily he was moving out of California as soon as he was done with university if this didn't get shut down. Looks like he may be able to stay after all!


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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 30, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Using the much more "People per square mile" in France, Germany, England and Japan to say "see, California, it would be good for us" is counter-logical.

How on earth does anyone think for one second that there will be enough riders to pay for the cost of this boondoggle?

Unless Californians want to add to subsidizing transportation even more with taxes, we need to end the line of this train.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 30, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Enough already! Let us put California HSR to a halt before another penny is spent on this concept.

Since the initiative passed--barely--in 2008, there has been one analysis after another that calls into question the viability of HSR in this state. I can count on less than one hand the number of objective reports supporting this effort.

HSR can be viable in certain places, mostly in high-density population centers near each other. Hence, Europs and Japan can make it work. China? Not clear. Eastern US? Possibly. Out here, with wide open spaces between dense population centers. NO!

The clowns on the Potomac River think CA HSR still is a good idea. They are enamored of HSR, and have blinders on about how it will not work in California. If we could get Feinstein, Pelosi, and a few others in DC to call it quits, this charade will end. Until then, it will hobble along, but it never is going to happen, it really is a question of how much money will be wasted "studying" this albatross.


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Posted by James Baloun
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Similar to the difference between a rodeo clown and a figure skater is the difference between a boondoggle and an efficient transportation system. If we do it right the cost will be lower.

A commonly referenced comparison for HSR between Los Angeles and San Francisco is the HSR line between Madrid and Barcelona. This comparison is discussed in the blog: California High Speed Rail in a post titled 'more-evidence-that-california-compares-favorably-to-other-hsr-routes'

Web Link


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 30, 2011 at 3:00 pm

James,

Comparing a Madrid/Barcelona line to a NORCAL/SOCAL line is a stretch. I have no personal experience with that Spanish HSR project, but I do know Spain, and the nexus between Barcelona and Madrid is not at all like what we have here.

Besides, does a huge project get justified on a report about how one corridor has worked? There remain numerous other, objective, reports that call into question its viablity in California. And I cannot tell from what you state if the Madrid/Barcelona line is financially viable.

Don't get me wrong, HSR has its place, and I am a supporter of it in such places. It just does not make sense as it is proposed in this part of the world.


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Posted by James Baloun
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 30, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Others can explain how HSR should work in California better than I can. Please when you have a few minutes look up the two blogs I referenced for a more in depth explaination. The bottom line is that it does work in other countries and the Freeways will only grow more crowded and add more lanes. With HSR interconnected with commuter rail, light rail, BART and bus routes we can build a better system to meet our needs now and in the future. We are already too late but better late than never. Or are we to accept that the United States cannot do what other countries are already doing with modern rail transportation. We do not even have to do all the work, we can by all the technology we need right now. The United States GDP is on par with the top 5 countries that operate HSR. California's own GDP is on par with Spain which operates HSR. We can do this.

Again, I urge you to read the blogs for a much better explaination.


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Posted by James Baloun
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 30, 2011 at 5:15 pm

For example, in just one of many of Clem's excellent Blog posts, he demonstrates for Caltrain how 6 trains per hour operated in an efficient manner can replace the 10 trains per hour proposed in a Caltrain analysis and with better serivce for all customers. A 40% cost savings just by being a smart operator.

Web Link

Also check out the series of focus postings. It is one thing to simply say 'put the train in a tunnel' but it is not so easy to accommodate freight trains in a tunnel with HSR or to move a creek or stream around a tunnel. There are also grades to consider. Fortunately there are solutions that have a lower overall impact. 56


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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 30, 2011 at 6:32 pm

The poll in question was under sampled, the sample was directed to conservative tea party types, and the question was hopelessly biased to be anti HSR. The reporter should be ashamed to present this as if it meant anythhig.


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Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Everyone who made a comment here and the 750 who answered the poll don't know what the finances of the HSR are, either the actual cost (not the lowball $40B Eshoo talks about) nor the operating cost nor the projected ridership nor the projected cost per trip. And that's because the perpertators of this thing made numbers up and we won't have something that has passed some reviews until next year. So, how in the world can people be for this thing with out the numbers?


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Posted by DF
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:34 pm

CAHSRA are like snake-oil salesman - willing to say anything, do anything, slit anyone's _____ to get what they want. If you believe any their promises then you are setting yourself up for defeat and pain. They lied to the good trusting people on the Peninsula, they lied to people in Palmdale, they lied when they sold this crap to the voters in 2008, they lied about projected ridership numbers, they lied about the projected costs, they lied about the projected ticket prices, they flat out called their ballot information "a sales pitch", they lied about the multi-billion dollar 30-year hits to the General Fund from financing the interest on bonds for this stinker, they lied about private investors contributing even $1 dollar to this project, they lied about local governments contributing $5-7 billion from THEIR general funds for this state stinker of a project, they liked to local Kings County, Kern, Central Valley residents regarding impacts to their homes and farms, and now - apparently - they lied to Kern County about a "promise" to build HSR maintenance facility in Kern, in exchange for their "support of the project." Now that Kern raises the promise, all of a sudden the HSR hasn't ever heard of such an "arrangement." Amazing. People be very careful of who you make your bed with - this CAHSRA is to be avoided like the plague.


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Posted by DF
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Call California Governor Jerry Brown at (916) 445-2841 and Calfiornia Tresurer Bill Lockyer at (916) 653-2995 to demand that they end the boondoggle now, and Lockyer not sell bonds for this project.

Mother Jones – the ultra liberal, leftist, greenist, periodical in the World said on 8/11/2011 in an article titled “California’s HSR Boondoggle – Now More Boondoggly” that the California High Speed boondoggle should be ended, now, for several reasons, mostly that construction costs have already ballooned, likely to exceed $100,000,000,000,000.00 ($100 billion) in 2011-year dollars. Mother Jones said: “Look, I'm sorry HSR lovers. I love me some HSR too, but this project is just a fantastic boondoggle. It didn't even make sense with the original cost estimates, and it's now plain that it's going to cost three or four times more than that. What's more, the ridership estimates are still fantasies and it won't be able to compete with air travel without large, permanent subsidies. This is just too much money to spend on something this dumb. It's the kind of thing that could set back HSR for decades. Sacramento needs to pull the plug on this, and they need to pull it now. We have way better uses for this dough.” Article here: Web Link


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Posted by DF
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:36 pm

California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, the California politician responsible for selling these CAHSR bonds, said on March 14, 2011 to an LA news reporter that no one is interested in buying CA HSR bonds because the CAHSR is more interested in issuing bad PR, rather than coming up with a sound business plan. Until there is a sound business plan, or even a half-baked one, then no one will invest in this stinker of a project. Interviewer asks: “so are investors saying we’re interested, but it doesn’t look like you guys [CAHSR Authority] know what you’re doing” & Lockyer responds: “that’s what they’re saying”; Interviewer: “what do you think?” & Lockyer responds: “well, I think the same thing.” Lockyer also says “we don’t have a [business] plan that makes sense” and “I don’t think the State of California can sell these bonds”, and even though voters authorized the bonds, the bonds don’t need to be sold and the project can be cancelled in 2011 or 2012 - see interview here:
Web Link

Also, here's are more useful way to save $1 trillion about to be wasted on national High Speed Trains - it's called a fast bus, or "high speed bus."
Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus ...
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by DF
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:39 pm

On June 15, 2011, the United State House of Representatives Budget Committee awarded the coveted “Budget Boondoggle of the Year Award” to California’s “Train to Nowhere” due to the huge multi-billion dollar cost, inadequate ridership projections, insufficient funding, requirements for operating subsidies, fiscal infeasibility, inability to find any private investors or federal funding, the fact that no high speed rail lines in the world make a profit and require ongoing operating subsidieis, that the Central Valley segment in California will be non-operational with no trains, electrification for $6.9 billion. Way to go California taxpayers! Really, you can’t make up this kind of crap. Sad but true. See Award here: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by DF
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Want to know who is the main, driving force behind this boondoggle? The entities that are driving Democratic politicians to keep supporting a project that will not pencil out, will require hundreds of billions to construct (due to mega project cost overruns) and require billions in yearly operating subsidies because no one but business travelers will be able to afford the high ticket prices - who are these entities behind HSR? Well, watch this video and public comment from the CA Sentate Transportation Committee hearing on May 3, 2011 (where State Senator LaMalfa's state SB22 to defund the CAHSRA and project was being discussed). In the OPPOSITION public comment to this bill you can see who speaks against LaMalfa: 1. California Labor Federation (union); 2. State Operating Engineers (union); 3. State Buildings and Construction Trades Council (union); 4. California State Federation of Laborers (union); 5. State Laborer’s Council (union); 6. Contractors/Vendors standing to make money off the project (i.e. Siemens/Parson’s Brinkerhoff, etc.) The Unions support Democratic politicos, from Governor Brown, to Galgliani, etc. There is also a revolving door between former public sector Democratic politicos then going "in house" with fat "non-public" employment contracts that aren't subject to a California Public Records Act Request (under Cal. Govt. Code) for review of those contract - so they need to make sure the boondoggle and BILLION DOLLAR CONTRACTS are still being awarded when they leave office - it's about the money, money, money – that’s it: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2011 at 7:00 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Still, elimination of grade crossings and electrification are an imperative. A staged HSR could accomplish these and leave the future to the future.


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Posted by DF
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2011 at 9:00 am

Any city or regional transportation plan that somehow relies upon the completion of a multi-year $250 billion dollar HSR boondoggle connecting SF to LA is inherently flawed. You'd better off betting the farm that a magic money fairy is going to come and erase the US $14.3 trillion dollar debt. No, instead, local cities and regional county transportation agency should have (ALL ALONG) been planning for grade separations through CALTRANS funds, or other state revenues. Talk about "shovel ready" projects. Each grade separation could have been planned, funded, and started in the last 1-2 years, without undue delay. But, tying grade separations to a HSR boondoggle is short sighted, stupid, and will ultimately prove a complete waste of time (San Mateo, are you listening?) when the boondoggle is officially ended - think in 2011-2012.


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Posted by Ada
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2011 at 10:42 am

There are many more less expensive alternatives to alleviate traffic in Bay Area, e.g. expand Bart from East Bay to South Bay, and from San Francisco to South Bay. But I can't see how HSR would help local traffic. Who would take HSR to travel from Bay Area to LA??? Ridiculous idea.


Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 1, 2011 at 2:24 pm

No matter whether you like the polls or not, look at the facts. The business plan steering HSR in California is fabricated, for "promotional purposes", according to the HSR itself. Does anyone really believe that the CA HSR will carry more passengers than the well established, and heavily used NorthEast Corridor route, besides the CA HSR Authority? Cost projections are severely underestimated, and CA taxpayers are in the bulls-eye to pick up the massive construction and operational debt for decades to come, the mass transit infrastructure in LA is incapable of delivering passengers to/from HSR to make it a viable transportation option. The CA HSR Authority demonstrates its ignorance of how to integrate HSR in any community it will pass through, and arrogance regarding citizen concerns about the project nearly every time they issue any type of statement or hold a public forum.... Should anyone think that this thing isn't politically driven, Obama, via Ray Lahood, described the opposition to the project in California as "a little bit of background noise of criticism" and pretty much told CA taxpayers to prepare to be saddled with a massive dept to pay off big labor for his re-election effort.


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Posted by James D
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 1, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I moved to California from Massachusetts to pursue a PhD here and build my career in what was branded as a forward-moving place. Eight years later, I graduated and reevaluated my feelings towards California. My dreams about California's potential have faded. The Silicon Valley cities are all the same. There is little to distinguish one suburb from another. What it has in wealth, consumption power, and tech, it lacks in culture. The proposition system is a mess -- the gold pioneers didn't learn from their Eastern compatriots about the importance of Republican democracy so policy swings drastically in both directions from year to year, depending on what the popular opinion is at the time. Hence, why California has gay marriage and then gets rid of it by letting mob rule change its constitution. Or why voters approve 1A and then rail against HSR. I look forward to moving back to New England, which has culture, a more stable government, and a more mature history.

As for high speed rail, and California's inability to work together to get it off the ground, the Northeast has had electrified trains and modern track infrastructure for more than a decade. The infrastructure just needs upgrading so we are way ahead of California in the high speed rail sector.

California can't make up its mind on the path forward on any contentious issue. I'm out of here!


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Anyone who proposes a BART extension as cheaper than HSR is smoking something. Standard gauge is, after all, standard. 750 volt third rail? Not even 20th century! The only thing BART has going for it is grade separation. That could have been achieved for our existing rails for a tenth of the cost. BART is a circus ride, inoperable beyond its rails and totally unfit for freight or express, the loads that make rail profitable. Re-lay BART to standard gauge, string 25kV overhead catenary and run interchange with the rest of the systems. In off hours run express, mail and packages. Once you have a nice, state of the art 120 MPH system, then systematic upgrades can be brought on line.


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Posted by DF
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm

BART around the FULL BAY AREA to all nine counties, including Sonoma, up North, etc. will actually do something to alleviate traffic. The sucky thing about the HSR boondoggle is that it will have the exact opposite effect from what is being advertised. Say you spend the $250 billion required to finish this boondoggle (SF Bay Bridge original estimate 1.2 billion, but now at 7.0 billion expended and not completed yet; Boston Big Dig original estimate 2.3 billion, finished at $23 billion after fraud, corruption, union kickbacks and federal investigations). "If" it is finished, will it alleviate the massive congestion from SF to Santa Rosa on Highway 101 - NO. Will it make a small dent in Highway 680 mess near Walnut Creek - NOPE. Will it do anything for the poor Hwy 580 people that get stuck on San Mateo bridge to Pleasanton and Tracy every day - NOT A CHANCE. So, you will spend every available CA Transportation dollar into a HSR project that does not connect to good Regional Transportation (like BART around the BAY to all NINE COUNTIES) and so you will subsidize only rich business travelers and rich people who can afford to spend $1000 roundtrip from SF to LA for their family of four ($210 RT per person, then rent car for $200 upon arrival) vs. a POOR FAMILY of four that will take their Honda Civic that averages 35-40 mpg who spends about $150 for the same trip. Great, the poor subsidizing the ultra rich again. And, the counties and cities and state will cut BUS ROUTES THAT POOR PEOPLE ACTUALLY USE because they will find that the massive HSR White Elephant has sapped all available money, and the budget must be "balanced" somewhere, so how about cutting bus service, or CALTRAIN routes that "ironically" actually do something to reduce GHG and emissions. How absolutely stupid, and all to feed well connected unions in California chomping at the bit to fund their coffers and build the "wrong infrastructure" b/c their workers are not building houses anymore due to the housing bubble.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

There may be a need for an around the bay rail system - for those who want to go around the bay, which is almost no one. For the 94% rest of us, NO rail is a direct help. For those of us who live and/or work more than a half mile from a station, our only hope is that someone else will take the train. Ideally, commute trains should be paid for by a tax on the businesses served by rail.
As for the Bay Bridge "overrun", what do you expect when you build a monument to two Browns. For under a billion you could have had a serviceable viaduct - instead 10 billion bucks for a suspension span over a mudflat. Not even an increase in capacity. Just an ego trip. It makes me sick, just as does BART.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2011 at 10:51 pm

"Close to two thirds said they are unlikely to ever ride the train from San Francisco to Los Angeles."

That says it all right there. This is exactly the kind of ridership data that should have been obtained from the very beginning. Instead, they went to Cambridge Analytics and fed numbers into a computer until it regurgitated the fanciful ridership projections they wanted to see. This is precisely what I've suspected all along.

One argument I never hear against CAHSR is that it would benefit such a tiny portion of the state population -- the portion that lives or does business near the rail line. People in Redding, Bishop or Barstow would be on the hook for the multi-billion-dollar construction costs and the inevitable state subsidy, but would receive no benefit from it.

Here is my absolutely guaranteed, sure-fire, can't-miss plan that will ensure the profitability of CAHSR in perpetuity: Simply shut down interstate 5, highways 99 and 101, all airline service between S.F. and L.A., even Amtrak service to and from so. Cal. (consisting of one train each way per day). This would give CAHSR a total monopoly on all travel between the bay area and L.A. and would absolutely guarantee its profitability, even if they have to charge $600 for a one-way ticket.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2011 at 7:08 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Ain't gonna happen, Larry. We already have the highways, we already have the rails. The question is, what do we do NOW. Our rails have been pretty rationalized these past 50 years or so, and highways have been on a continuous improvement cycle. Each can justify investment based on usage. We have seen monumental construction and it doesn't work. HSR will come a mile at a time.


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Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2011 at 7:15 am

It was a facetious comment, Walter, not meant to be taken seriously.


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Posted by James B
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2011 at 10:16 am

Actually a closer look at the poll indicates that it's a very skewed poll. The wording is very biased and I am not surprised the polls results--which contradict an earlier poll this year; here's an explanation: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2011 at 11:38 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

People seldom release polling results contrary to their own wishes.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Has anyone released the real figures for what it costs a normal person (who doesn't live of work next to CalTrain) to take the train to work five days a week?

After all, it is $12+ roundtrip to the city from Palo Alto. However, you also have to pay for parking at CalTrain stations.

There are 260 weekdays per year (not counting holidays). So, at ticket price, the cost would come out to more than $3000 a year just to take the train ($12 per ticket x 260 days = $3,120). If it costs $2 per day to park, that is another $520 per year. If a connecting mode of travel is required (like VTA or BART), then the individual cost would be even higher.

Now, I would appreciate it if anyone can correct me about these figures. I suspect that some employers will help cover the cost of CalTrain, so that would be beneficial to some rail travelers. In addition, there may be some substantial savings for frequent travelers that I am not aware of.

So, it would be very helpful to know the cost per person per year.

At some point, the real cost for each person has caused demand to taper off. For public transportation to be viable, it has to have some sort of cost benefit.

Now, I have heard the argument that people don't need cars (and associated fees with vehicle ownership) if they use public transportation. However, that is very skewed perspective -- because nearly everyone who rides CalTrain will also own a car too (and has to eat those cost, other than gas) regardless.

I have spoken to people who formerly used CalTrain. They told me that they stopped using it when the rates went up and when they realized the actual cost of it versus the cost of simply driving or carpooling to work (and comparing the convenience).

Currently, there seems to be about 16,000 individual riders (32,000 trips in both directions). At what ridership does CalTrain need to maintain to be viable? What can they do to get there WITHOUT having to raise ticket prices yet again?

Something is broken with CalTrain, but I suspect that it is with the thinking of people associated with the train. To increase ridership demand, the cost per person needs to be lowered. There is no need to argue theoretical figures about car ownership and road subsidies that are ALREADY paid for (and will continue to be paid for) by the 99.5% of Bay Area residents who don't use CalTrain.

Personally, I think that it means that CalTrain needs to offer substantial discounts to people or businesses located within a half-mile of the stations.

Does anyone know the actual REAL COST figures?


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Posted by old timer
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 2, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Perspective: Your "college kid" is gonna move out of California because of high speed rail? What "college" is he going to? What a sad commentary on your kid. Astonishing! A one-issue ignoramus wonder! To think of all the things to be upset about, and this is the issue he picked? Send him back to school. Get him to read and study on the subject of transportation, and HSR. Send him to France and make him ride some TGV trains, or Japan. Get this poor deluded kid to start THINKING about the future. Frankly, if this doesn't work, send him to Utah.


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Posted by BB
a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 2, 2011 at 5:44 pm

We already have a high speed transportation system in California. Its called "the airlines." The air system is almost infinitely adjustable to demand. Flights and routes are added and removed based on ridership rates, and a new route doesn't require billions in new infrastructure and massive environmental impact to find out if anyone will travel it. Allegiant just shut down service from Stockton to Long Beach because ridership was low in the first year. They did all the demographics before they started up, but it didn't work out- so they cut their losses and moved on. How does California cut its losses after building hundreds of miles at billions, if not trillions of dollars, and finding that "Field of Dreams" really was just a movie? Remember- ridership projections are nothing more than educated guesses.

You can travel from any one of four NorCal airports to any one of six SoCal airports in less than two hours flight time. Aha! you say, what about security lines and check-in time? Do you think you won't be passing through the same TSA type checkpoints? After Madrid? The stations for HSR will be similar to airports, with check-in lines and baggage claim, etc. And speaking of security- how do you secure hundreds of miles of rail? Imagine the all TSA staff, fencing, etc.

Use the money to maximize regional transit, like BART and Cal-Train and ACE, and the proposed high-speed tunnel between SFO and OAK, so the two airposts can work as one when it comes to plane changes. Connect the regionals to the airports- now you've got something that will really take cars off the road. HSR is a pipe dream. We aren't Europe- and we still won't be after building this monstrosity.


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Posted by JB
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 2, 2011 at 9:46 pm

'HSR will not pay for itself'
So how much to freeway users pay? Nothing, that is why it is called a free-way. Does this mean the freeways do not pay for themselves? Then why did we build them?

'Airlines have no infrastructure'
True, a flight vehicle does not have a road-bed, but it does have airfields and terminals. As population grows we will need more airport capacity. A rail system will deliver people to destinations not served by airports. When you arrive by aircraft you sometimes need to rent a car. Similarly with HSR, sometimes you will need to rent a car to go the last mile.

'It will be a boondoggle'
Yes, we need all the help we can get to ensure they build it right. We need to build the HSR line right so we avoid unnecessary expenses.

'We cannot afford it'
The cost of not-building HSR is not zero. With the growth of population and increasing car trips we will still need to add miles of freeway lanes to relieve congestion. A large fraction of the passengers on HSR will result in fewer car trips. Without HSR we will need that many more miles of added freeway lanes. HSR may allow us to defer adding a third lane to sections of I-5 in the central valley.

I gather from people who have studied HSR systems that it can cover the operational cost if ridership is high enough.

Please study reasonable arguments from both sides before simply jumping to a conclusion based on incomplete information. One of the two blogs I mentioned above is hosted by an engineer who is very critical of CHSR and advocating the system be built at the lowest reasonable cost that gives us the best system.

Imagine riding in comfort with a cafe car and internet access. Or imagine worse and worse bumper-to-bumper traffic. HSR will give us another option.


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Posted by JB
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 2, 2011 at 10:18 pm

In some areas it is getting more difficult to add another freeway lane. The added lane relieves traffic which attracts adjacent traffic which uses up some of the new capacity. HSR will make it more attractive to enhance local transit systems to serve the new stations and new traffic. Connections will be possible that do not exist today. Anyone who has traveled in Europe or Japan has seen how transit systems can work. As someone else pointed out, it will only get more expensive in the future. BART was expensive, but now it is an integral part of the daily commute. And it came in handy when the bay bridge was knocked out by the earthquake. Yes HSR will have a cost to build. Yes it will create a valuable transportation system.


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Posted by boondoggle
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 2, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Voters heard all the messages about the shiny new trains taking traffic off the road and "it's an investment in the future." But three years later, the honeymoon is over, and in this current economic environment no one is falling for starry-eyed pitches any more.

Conversely, the arguments that caused many of us to vote against the original proposition are even stronger than ever. The numbers never held up to scrutiny. HSR is not an affordable alternative to anything (check the Acela prices vs the prices of other modes of transit; do the same for hsr in other countries) and when you don't have a well-developed infrastructure, people still need cars at either end of the route. Ever tried using public transit in LA?!?

Trains were cutting-edge technology in the 19th century. Now they are expensive and inefficient anachronisms. Our future lies in modular, adaptable technology. My money's on driverless cars.


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Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 2, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Let's update our local rail systems first, with the slated California HSR bond money. As need develops, we can look at tying the north/south metro areas together.

Local mass transit, overrides pie in the sky statewide systems.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 3, 2011 at 4:54 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

...and reducing trips is more important than anything. If your job is moving data rather than things, there is no reason for you to relocate your body to do it. Congestion is telling you something.
Passenger rail is a convenient use of a system also carries freight and express and mail. It will never cover its cost alone, that is the flaw of BART.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2011 at 8:21 am

More of complaining about the cost of HSR for our grandchildren, I think our grandchildren will really complain about lack of foresight if this does not go ahead.

Our grandchildren will be much more well travelled with experience of public transport systems worldwide and will look on rail travel as a useful alternative for flying for short (LA-SF) trips. They will use it much more than we think because flying is becoming more and more cumbersome and will get worse. The basic ticket cost is only part of the costs of flying as airlines charge for more services such as checked on baggage and advance seat reservations (this is already happening in Europe). Trains will have the advantage of no weight allowance and the freedom to move about the train as well as use of high tech gadgetery.

Our grandchildren will want an alternative and will use it. They won't have the 20th century attitudes of dependency on cars that many seem to hold dear. Already car sharing programs are very popular with the under 30s and are gaining in popularity all the time. Zip cars will be available statewide and are ideal for travel to and from city bound rail stations.

Don't judge future ridership on 20th century ideals. Instead, look at how innovative business can be in seeing new opportunities HSR will produces.

Sticking heads in sand is not what silicon valley is noted for, unless of course we are talking politics and infrastructure. Business will move forward and we need to move forward too.


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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 3, 2011 at 8:52 am

To Oldtimer: This college kid is brilliant. The HSR is a metaphor for the silliness of California. S/He sees his future earnings being ripped off in taxes for wasteful stuff. Going elsewhere for work where s/he can keep what s/he earns, and have some trust that what is paid to the State is actually somewhat wisely spent is a good plan.

But, hey..keep saddling the next generation with unsustainable bills as we lose 100,000 tax payers per year..and gain 200,000 non-taxpayers. A winning formula if ever I saw one.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 3, 2011 at 10:41 am

>“I think our grandchildren will really complain about lack of foresight if this does not go ahead.”

I think our grandchildren are smarter than that. As Perspective says, they’ll be paying for our mistakes – along with their college loans!

All the things you say about flying (cumbersome, ticket & service costs, reservations) will apply to train travel, as will travel to and from the stations, parking—and security.

>“Please study reasonable arguments from both sides before simply jumping to a conclusion based on incomplete information”

YES! The biggest incomplete is funding. Even if there was a reasonable business plan for HSR (which there is NOT!), where would the money come from?

> “Local mass transit, overrides pie in the sky statewide systems.”

AMEN!


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Posted by Jan in LA
a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2011 at 10:47 am

Here's a thought build a quasi high speed rail, learn from Disney, from Anaheim to Las Vegas. Have Nevada co venture this partnership. Now you have passengers with a purpose!


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Posted by bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 3, 2011 at 10:14 pm

bru is a registered user.

I hate this hapharzard plan for high speed rail. I generally support things to move into the future, but this appears more and more just a plan to direct money to certain people, without a plan, without analysis of where this is needed, what it is trying to accomplish, or how best to do it.

I hate the idea of running it up the middle of all the cities in the peninsula, right through the middle of cities, and just ramming it through forcing everyone to knuckle under and accept orders.

That shows not much thought or consideration was given to doing this. More and more of what we do as a state or country is like this, and we see the impoverishment of our lives with these idiot plans where someone gets rich and who cares about how or what it does to help the state.

We do not have the money for this, the plan is bad, I oppose it and want to see it shut down.


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Posted by bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 3, 2011 at 10:16 pm

bru is a registered user.

>> HSR may allow us to defer adding a third lane to sections of I-5 in the central valley.

Oh, sure, spend billions of dollar and disrupt thousands or millions of lives and take their money because it "may" save us from adding lanes to a freeway that is going to get bigger regardless. Very muddy thinking, especially to base such a decision on.

It scared the hell out of me how thoughtless some people are.


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Posted by JB
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 3, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Thoughtless? Wow. Really?

I chose every word of a carefully constructed, logical sentence based on 25 years engineering experience and real world examples. I have disclaimed to be an expert. I have provided references. There is nothing wrong with the sentence you quoted. I said, "may allow" us to defer adding a third lane to "sections" of I-5. To clarify: HSR will not prevent the need to add lanes to "sections" of I-5. On busy travel weeks I-5 would already benefit from additional lanes in the Central Valley in places near interchanges and rest stops. On thanksgiving week the headlights and taillights extend to the horizon.

It is possible to get up to 1000 passengers on each train. Three an hour. At an average of three people per car that would be 1000 cars an your taken off the Freeway. 16 a minute, a car every 3.6 seconds. Just about equivalent to a freeway lane.

Thoughtless? Really?


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Posted by JB
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 3, 2011 at 11:01 pm

HSR and Caltrain on the Peninsula, fully grade separated, and electrified. It can be done. The property taking can be limited to a few feet. The railroad already has the right of way. It is in the greater interest of the people.

Again I refer you to Clem's blog:
Corridor To Do List
where he offers excellent suggestions on how to do it right and is scrupulously critical of the CHSR authority.

Web Link

Here is his suggestion to cut in half the pouring of concrete:

Web Link

If you are really serious in your opposition, please point out where Clem is wrong.


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Posted by JB
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 3, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Surprise! That thing in your back yard is a railroad. It has been there for almost 140 years. Over those many years they have gotten very good at getting people where they need to go (at least in Japan, France, Germany, Switzerland, and England among others, apparently it is a challenge for the good ol USA) . The government has the right to take property for the greater good. Some fences will have to move a few feet along "sections" of the peninsula rail line.

If the Lord Of the Flies NIMBYS win we can look forward to hours wasted sitting in traffic and I am sure our grandchildren will understand the wisdom.


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Posted by Drew
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 9, 2011 at 9:18 pm

I love the idea of European-style HSR being built in California - but the more I read about the plans, the more I am put-off.

For example, the plan would still keep diesel powered cal-trains operating on the the same track which is ridiculous. Cal-trains are reconstituted freight engines pulling passenger cars - they are noisy and slow. Also, the plan could potentially cut Palo Alto in two eliminating many of the crossings.

If done right, the track would be submerged when passing through populated areas - unfortunately, HSR will either not come to the US or will be poorly executed (think Acela) and could potentially turn Palo Alto into a valueless suburb.


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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 10, 2011 at 8:00 am

Drew, you nailed it. The IDEA is great, sounds gorgeous and fun and happy etc. The reality is a different story. We are not a densely packed State, we are not a culture dependent on railways, we are not a culture that embraces schedules and limits..we are not a State where the passengers will pay for the rail, it is a rail that will be highly subsidized, like all our public transport, by the taxpayers. And the taxpayers are fed up.

We are tired of paying for ourselves AND everyone else. Enough already.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2011 at 8:29 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

A staged HSR is inevitable. First close the Grade Crossings. Then electrify. After that, who knows? Tunnels? In your dreams. Just think of the right of way as unavailable land, like the bay.


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Posted by Will
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I would like to know how much the HSR board spends on suppressing negative information, supporting misleading propaganda, and paying people to comment positively in online media. I think that would be a meaty story.


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