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High-speed rail authority proposes higher fares

Original post made on Dec 18, 2009

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is banking on billions of private dollars, extensive federal support and riders willing to shell out more than $100 to take the new train between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the agency's new 145-page business plan reveals.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 18, 2009, 8:53 AM

Comments (97)

Posted by HSR fiasco, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2009 at 9:23 am

Raising fares cutting the number of trains is not going to work. By shopping for a discounted airfare, one will be able to travel to SOCAL in less than half the time and for less money. Fewer trains means fewer options for riders. Caltrain is dying as fares increase and service is cut. The same scenario is unfolding for HSR and they haven't even started building it. What a disaster!


Posted by HSR's-Too-Expensive, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 10:17 am

Dropping ridership numbers from 100M to 30M should be more than a red flag on this HSR Authority. This represents something akin to fraud on the part of this group. "There ought to be a law" Simitian might want to think about passing some laws requiring government officials to tell the truth, or be subject to criminal charges.


Posted by What a joke, a resident of Southgate
on Dec 18, 2009 at 10:35 am

I really had a laugh at the plan to 'charge higher property taxes for those located near the HSR'... Double jeopardy.


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 11:01 am

Ummm, HSR >> to expensive, you're a bit off base.

The amount they are planning to charge for tickets is a choice, pure and simple. They aren't saying fares were originally going to be X, and now due to inflation or whatever, they'll be Y instead.

They are saying that prices were originally pegged at 50% of airfare because that's where they'll get the best mix of ridership and revenue.

But, 85% of airfare is where they will make the MOST money. And that's a priority in this new business plan because a lot of people (including commenters like yourself) have harped on the plans because they don't think HSR will be profitable.

These prices will best ensure that HSR is profitable, but it will sacrifice ridership and benefit for the state.

But it's a choice, and a choice that voters and the government will hopefully be able to influence.


Posted by Mike Cobb, former Mayor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2009 at 11:14 am

This week, the High Speed Rail Authority has presented their 'business plan' ... a document that should be a clarion call of warning to every Peninsula resident, Instead of presenting something positive, it is a litany of reasons why, as presently proposed, the HSR would be an unmitigated fiscal and physical disaster for both the Peninsula and the State. Consider just a few items that can be taken from the report.

Everyone is so eager to get Stimulus funding, but that would only provide $17B-$19B for a project with an estimated cost (a cost that gets larger with every public report) of $45B. So where does the 60% not covered by the Stimulus come from? Start with $9B in State bonds at a time when the State is deeply in debt and young people are being turned away from our colleges and universities. Add $10B+ from 'public-private' partnerships and 'vendors' ... and what/who might these be, and what is the basis of and how much of a stretch is this number? And, finally, my favorite, $4-5B from developments, fees, and the sale of right of way (land) ... and, in each local jurisdiction, we need ask, what land sale/what development will we be forced to agree to as part of this process? And, as has been pointed out by others, there is no mention of the very significant ancillary costs that will have to be borne by local governments.

Some more numbers to test your credulity. They estimate an annual ridership of 42 million people (less than half of their original number). Divide that number by the population of California and see if you believe the answer; this is more that the total air and auto traffic together. Or, do you believe more than 31,000 riders boarding every day along the Caltrain line ... that's more than 2,000 per hour during the day and early evening. Neither of these is a remotely credible number. Here is another number: eight years of construction ... which means that, in Palo Alto for example, Alma Street would probably be closed for much if not all of that time ... what will that mean to traffic on City streets.

What is never mentioned by the Authority is the impact of the construction ... how many homes will be lost to eminent domain, and how many public and private facilities? The Authority never speaks to that question. They don't dare.

Properly planned ... in advance ... and properly routed, which I submit is not up the Peninsula along the Caltrain right-of-way, HSR might be be a good idea. The current report, which gives us higher cost, lower ridership, and higher fees, with silence on mitigating its impacts, should be a stop-and-go-back-to-the-drawing board warning for the officials at the State and local level who are tasked with reviewing and approving this project, And, to that end, they need to hear from those of us who will have to live with the results of their decisions. Before it is too late.


Posted by HSR's-Too-Expensive, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 11:16 am

> These prices will best ensure that HSR is profitable

If the total cost of the system is not charged to its users, then some else has to pay for these costs (operational + infrastructure). Taxing people who don't use the system is a typical trick. This amounts to theft, in the long run.

Keep in mind that if all of the costs were sifted to people who don't use the system (state, regional, and federal grants) .. then the system could become very profitable very quickly.

Better to demand that this system be paid for by the people who use it. If the costs mean that the per-ride costs can not compete with existing modalities of transportation .. then this system should not be built.


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2009 at 11:46 am

Mike Cobb is right. This HSR is a terrible idea. The fact that it was approved by state voters only indicates that most of the people can be fooled, some of the time. Our own city council was 100% fooled. What did they not understand about a wide elevated track going through Palo Alto? Did they even begin to wonder about where the electrcity will come from to drive this turkey? Did they, even once, consider the effect on our state bonds ratings? Did they ever think about security issues?

We need a new initiative on the state ballot to overturn this beast.


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Though I do love Mike Cobb, he's right not right. How can you argue finances, but then in the same breadth argue that instead of building a train where a clear, straight right-of-way already exists — the authority should be one of out thin air.

That's right, you can't. If you want HSR to be build effectively and cheaply, you need to support it being built where there's already a clear right-of-way. 2/3 of the entire SF-to-SJ Caltrain right of way is more than 100 feet wide!

If you want a construction job that will be create massive traffic problems, be easily over budget and delayed, instead try getting HSR to come up with a completely new right of way through the Bay Area.

The Caltrain line has been around much longer than the city of Palo Alto. This city was built around the train, grew up around the train and it's time that slow, noisy, outdated train line got an upgrade. And I can't wait for it happen.


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 12:03 pm

"If the total cost of the system is not charged to its users, then some else has to pay for these costs (operational + infrastructure). Taxing people who don't use the system is a typical trick. "

Hey HSR is too expensive, that's awesome logic. Want to remind me the last time Highway 101 operating costs (let's even ignore the massive construction costs for the moment) was paid for by its users? Certainly not today (Web Link), when people were killed and it took an hour to drive from San Mateo to Palo Alto Not to mention no money was collected.

Please, enlighten me. In the meantime, my tax dollars will continue to pay for your highway, if even if I don't use it.

Because that's how building infrastructure for the public typically works. Except that HSR, unlike 101, should actually pay its operating costs.


Posted by bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Hopes for money here; hopes for money there; estimates of cost; estimates of ridership; guesses on fares; hiring a PR company to sell the idea since it won't stand on its own merits. Are they serious?

Voters can be stupid once, but let's hope they won't be a second time. The concept may be a good one, but the way it is being touted seems more like a snake oil salesman pitching his wares.

As far as high speed rail making money in other countries, France has been heavily subsidizing its rail line from the beginning and sees no hope of it ever becoming profitable.

PS They never investigated who owned the right of way from Gilroy to San Jose. It's Union Pacific which won't give it up cheaply - if at all. Too many airy fairy ideas without solid advance planning.


Posted by HSR's-Too-Expensive, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 12:35 pm

> Want to remind me the last time Highway 101 operating costs (let's even
> ignore the massive construction costs for the moment) was paid for by its users?

Roads have always been the priority of state/federal governments. Some of the first priorities for the early Republic were Post Roads--that were paid for by private interests because the costs were too high for the various governments. When trains came along, these were built with (most often) foreign (mostly British) money--again, too expensive for the revenues of government. While railroads were important up until 1900 in the US, they aren't so much any more. And remember--the HSR isn't supposed to carry freight .. although there is no reason that it couldn't.

There is simply no demonstrated need for the State to get into the rail business. The HSR Authority has had more than enough time to put together a credible business plan that demonstrates how and why this train is needed, and how it will pay for itself. The claim that it is "infrastructure" can only be made if the "infrastructure" will be used by all the public. In this case, the HSR will not. Even if you don't use Highway 101 (and I assume that you will never be taken to a hospital in an ambulance that uses H101), it can be shown that without it the whole area can not function. Therefore, it is "infrastructure". Can you demonstrate that California will fail if the HSR is not built? No, you can't. So .. it is not "infrastructure". It becomes a discretionary project of State government that intends (it would seem) to burden throught new taxes millions of people who will never use it. It is for this reason that the demand that those who use it should pay for it.


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2009 at 12:53 pm

"Please, enlighten me. In the meantime, my tax dollars will continue to pay for your highway, if even if I don't use it."

Evan,

Do you shop at the store for food or supplies? Do you rely upon the goods and services of our society? If so, you are using highways, becasue most of our (and your) supply train uses the road system. The highways are paid for by user fees, aka fuel taxes. In effect, those who pay those fuel taxes are subsdizing your existence, even if you do not use the highways. Time to get off your high horse, Evan.

This HSR fails at many, many levels. Time to kill it.




Posted by Darwin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Nice Strawman, Jeff.


Argument fail.


Posted by PAwhinners, a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2009 at 4:55 pm

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2009 at 5:17 pm

"Nice Strawman, Jeff."

Nope, Darwin, no strawman, a completely legit argument. Our roads and highways are our arteries and veins of modern life. Unless someone grows his/her own food, without any external inputs, and does not make use of external goods and services, then he/she is completely benefiting from those of us who pay our fuel taxes at the pump.

This HSR is a loser from the get go. It doesn't pencil on any serious level, other than as a reliever of airport traffic.


Posted by Steve Glassman, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 5:55 pm

There is one thing about high speed rail that has always puzzled me - how many trains per day are we talking about?

When I look at the numbers (and I'm trying to be conservative) it seems like a LOT of trains. Am I making a wrong assumption somewhere?

Take the new, reduced ridership numbers - 41 million per year
Divided over 365 days, call it - 100,000 riders a day
Say there are 1000 riders per train - 100 trains a day
16 hours of trains - 6 trains an hour

That gives at least 1 HSR train every 10 minutes from 7AM to 11PM. And, that's on top of the 45 daily CalTrains.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Wednesday's Daily Post reported a train every 6 minutes during peak travel, but they neglected to note that that's only for one direction. This brings the actual count to a HSR train every 3 minutes. Add on top of that Caltrain, and we're talking a train every 2 minutes or so during the six peak hours. If in doubt, see page 66 of the Business Plan Web Link.


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Jeff, your understanding of economics seems to be a bit confused. A tax on fuel is not a user fee on a road. A user fee is a direct payment for a public good, like driving over the Bay Bridge or paying to enter Yosemite park. A user fee directly funds that particular good, etc, and raising or lowering the fee directly (not indirectly, like a gas tax) affects the consumption of that public good.

What happens if you raise fuel taxes? Well, no effect on electric cars, biodiesel cars, little effect on hybrids. Why? Because we DO NOT charge user fees on highways. We purely charge a tax on the consumption of fuel. They're not the same thing.

Not to mention HSR>>too expensive, the definition of infrastructure is NOT "something an area couldn't live without". It's a physical structure that helps goods and people flow through society. That's high speed rail. And yes, this project IS designed to continue to allow freight to flow up and down the Peninsula, hopefully more than it does today.

The government has and continues to massively subsidize America's highways, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. I'm trying to understand why you seem to think a system that will carry tens of millions of Californians each year and make commuting all over the Bay Area much easier isn't worthy of government subsidies for initial construction. Additionally, I'd love to hear your vision of how people in California, the Bay Area and Palo Alto should get around with 10 million more people in the state within the next few decades.

Would you prefer we spend billions to expand highways? Billions to expand airports? Or perhaps just spend much more time sitting in traffic, or listening to trains with noisy horns rumble up and down the Peninsula, cutting off traffic at every intersection?


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 8:14 pm

And that'd be "Evan", not "Jeff". Whoops.


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Also, note that the report says "This peak schematic pattern provides 57 trains in each direction in 6 hours, for an average of just under 10 trains per hour."

That's PEAK schematic. Meaning that they're explaining the maximum capacity, not what they're actually planning. And keep in mind the trains will be much quieter than today when they're (A) not blowing their whistles and (B) not at grade level.


Posted by Cynic, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Profitable? Are you kidding? 5% return on invested capital of $30 billion means $1.5 billion/year - at the ridiculously optimistic number of 41 million passengers/year (everyone in the state?), that's $37/passenger - before operating costs and property taxes!

The worst thing about this system - even worse that the huge drain on taxpayers into the distant future - is that its below-cost "predatory pricing" and eighteenth century technology will discourage innovation in airlines and passenger cars... Imagine what a white elephant this will be in 2070 when our grandchildren might ride in electric cars that cruise at 100mph! Trains go from where you aren't to where you don't want to go, when you don't want to travel.


Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2009 at 10:05 pm

I read somewhere, and maybe someone here can verify, that the Baby Bullet trains would no longer be run by Caltrain if HSR came through. Not sure why that's the case.

Also, Evan says that "f you want HSR to be build effectively and cheaply, you need to support it being built where there's already a clear right-of-way. 2/3 of the entire SF-to-SJ Caltrain right of way is more than 100 feet wide!" But, from what I understand, Union Pacific owns the right of way from SF to SJ and is still holding on to it. So, technically, HSR doesn't have a right of way at all.


Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Found it:

Web Link


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2009 at 10:27 pm

(Lower fares) <----|---|---|---|---> (Higher fares)
(Higher Social Benefit) <----|---|---|---|---> (Higher Profitability)

Of course, at the extremes fares 0% of airfares would result in overuse. Fares 500% of airfares would result in no use. Between those extremes you have to strike a balance.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2009 at 10:32 pm

"But, from what I understand, Union Pacific owns the right of way from SF to SJ and is still holding on to it."

Union Pacific does not own the right of way between SF to SJ. They only have trackage rights which means they get to run some freight trains on it.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2009 at 10:35 pm

"Imagine what a white elephant this will be in 2070 when our grandchildren might ride in electric cars that cruise at 100mph!"

In the 1930s the World's Fair exhibit Democracity depicted a city of the future featuring wide highways where vehicle spacing was controlled by remote signals so that speeds up to 100 MPH could be achieved. The city of Democracity would be traffic and pollution free. Obviously, it never happened.

Yes, let's not invest in a high speed rail system because someday there might be flying cars. I don't know why Japan and Europe continue to invest in this "eighteenth century" technology.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2009 at 10:44 pm

"When I look at the numbers (and I'm trying to be conservative) it seems like a LOT of trains. Am I making a wrong assumption somewhere?"

Consider this. A rider takes up a seat from San Francisco to San Jose. He disembarks. Another rider boards and sits in his seat and disembarks in Fresno. A new rider takes his seat and gets off in Bakersfield. A new rider takes his seat and gets off in Los Angeles.

While a train can leave San Francisco with X amount of passengers, its passenger count churns with the duration of the journey and it can arrive in Los Angeles with Y amount of passengers. A train might have a capacity of 500 riders at any one time, but it can certainly service more than 500 riders over the course of the trip. Obviously this only applies to local and regional trains, not expresses.

A plane, however, leaves LAX with X amount of passengers and, hopefully, arrives in San Francisco with X amount of passengers.


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2009 at 12:44 pm

@ Jeff (Crescent Park): "A tax on fuel is not a user fee on a road"

I refer you to the following:

"The Highway Trust Fund is unique in that it is funded by the users, namely those who travel on the highways."

Web Link

If it becomes harder to meter the fuel, e.g. electric vehicles, you can be confident that such vehciles will have an excise license tax to cover it.

Fuel taxes not only support the road system, but also subsidize those who do not pay fuel taxes, as I have already explained. I would add that mass transit systems, which are not self-supporting, siphon off funds from our fuel taxes.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2009 at 1:52 pm

"Fuel taxes not only support the road system, but also subsidize those who do not pay fuel taxes, as I have already explained. I would add that mass transit systems, which are not self-supporting, siphon off funds from our fuel taxes."

Even if you "put back" the money diverted to mass transit, highways still don't pay for themselves.

There's also indirect costs, the negative externalities, such as pollution, death, destruction and social inequities that an unequal transportation system brings. Poor areas do not receive the benefits from a freeway that suburban areas do, yet poor areas were targeted for these freeways to be built. The destruction done to the neighborhoods along the Century Freeway in Los Angeles puts to shame anything Peninsula residents think is going to happen on the Caltrain right of way.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2009 at 2:03 pm

This is real blight: Web Link

Web Link

That same intersection today. No development. No improvements. No increases in land value.

Web Link

On the Peninsula everybody is bending over backwards to placate those with concerns. There are special workshops. There will be special mitigation measures. There aren't even any local emissions. If a high speed rail station is built in Palo Alto, nearby residents will likely see their property values rise. There was no such benefit for the poor residents of South LA. The Century Freeway freeway is 200 feet across. 350 feet if you count the entire freeway right of way. It's not quite a Berlin Wall (you can still go under it if you're brave enough), but it's closer to it than any high speed rail line.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2009 at 2:37 pm

> Or, do you believe more than 31,000 riders boarding every day along the Caltrain line

40,000 riders board Caltrain every day. HSR is clearly counting on poaching the vast majority of Baby Bullet riders, Caltrain's least unprofitable customers.

Sort of like BART once counted on poaching all of Caltrain's ridership north of Millbrae... turns out they were delusional! But the concrete got poured, and the money's in the bank, thanks very much.


Posted by aw, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2009 at 3:42 pm

I won't try to speak on behalf of other Palo Altans, but I visit LA a couple times a year and Fresno a couple times a decade. In LA I need a car to get around, so I drive about half the time. For my purposes HSR from SFO to LAX would be the most useful, since it plugs into existing parking and car rental infrastructure.

Let's talk about specific HSR winners.

HSR will make Silicon Valley, SF and LA commutable from Fresno and Bakersfield if the tickets are priced right. Merced and Modesto get a nice commute to Sacramento. If HSR turns into a commuter train, it'll push up property values in the Central Valley and possibly push down mid-level salaries on the Peninsula. Why pay a first-level manager enough to buy a house in Menlo Park when he's an hour on the train to Fresno? Big win for the Central Valley. Less good for the Peninsula.

So I do think it's fair for the Peninsula to ask what's in it for us. Don't know if we get a veto, but certainly a place at the table is reasonable.

HSR to Truckee on a snow day? Now that's a winner!


Posted by realist, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2009 at 3:47 pm

It's simply ludicrous to suggest that HSR would poach most of Caltrain's customers. Maybe a tiny percentage -- those that happen to use the Redwood City-SF, SF-SJ, or Redwood City-SJ routes. But if I live in Mountain View and work in San Mateo, I'm not going to take Caltrain to Pedwood City, switch to HSR to go to SF, then take Caltrain back to San Mateo.

>>If a high speed rail station is built in Palo Alto, nearby residents will likely see their property values rise.<<

Spokker, have you ever been to Palo Alto? Property values rise around train stations...in blighted areas. That's not Palo Alto, and ample research indicates that property values would plummet.

I love it when out-of-towners take over our forum and try to prove to us that up is down and black is white. Maybe a slim majority of residents voted for Prop 1A (I didn't) but now that people understand the ramifications of this proposed project, that snake oil has started to smell pretty rancid.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm

"That's not Palo Alto, and ample research indicates that property values would plummet."

What research? Property values have not plummeted in the many years that Caltrain has been offering over 100 diesel trains per day between SF and SJ that operate at maximum speeds of 79 MPH with loud noises, belching fumes and numerous crossings.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2009 at 5:33 pm

This study is about light rail, but check out "Impact of Proximity to Light Rail Rapid Transit on Station-area Property Values in Buffalo, New York" by Daniel Baldwin Hess. He concludes that "a home located within one-quarter of a mile radius of a light rail station can earn a premium of $1300-3000, or 2-5 per cent of the city's median home value" and "proximity effects are positive in high-income station areas and negative in low-income station areas."


Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 19, 2009 at 5:39 pm

@Spokker: This is just the first item that came up when I searched HSR and Union Pacific
Web Link


And what happens to the already struggling Caltrain when HSR takes away their profitable Baby Bullets? Or are we to assume that all of those HSR riders will then take a slow train to their intended destination?


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2009 at 5:51 pm

That the Baby Bullet service is going to be "taken away" is nothing but speculation at this point. Also, I am not aware that the Baby Bullet service is profitable. Overall Caltrain service has a farebox recovery ratio of ~40%.

The UP drama will be hashed out in court.


Posted by aw, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Web Link

This UC study shows that proximity to BART increases house values, but proximity to CalTrain has the opposite effect.

"The disamenity value associated with living near CalTrain is probably a function of of the noise levels generated by CalTrain service, noise levels that are much higher than BART's. Note also that while BART is undergrounded in some communities and contained by a freeway in others, CalTrain runs at-grade for its entire length." p. 38


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2009 at 7:02 pm

I have no doubt that property values decrease the closer you get to the Caltrain right of way, however, these areas are not exactly ghettos. They continue to be "nice areas" despite the fact that they are situated near a railroad track.

Second, Caltrain's electrification program eliminates bells and horns by eliminating all grade crossings. Also, an electric train at 125 MPH may be quieter or the same as a diesel train traveling at 79 MPH.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Correction, not Caltrain's electrification program, but electrification of the entire Caltrain route.


Posted by aw, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2009 at 7:22 pm

If you read the study you see trains that are quiet, convenient and commutable increase property values. HSR isn't for the Peninsula. How many Sunnyvale residents are clamoring to commute to Fresno?

Look, I'm not arguing we shouldn't do HSR at all. It's certainly a win for the Central Valley. It may even be a good thing for SF and LA. But it's just as likely to be a negative for much of the Peninsula as a positive, and it's fair to ask how to mitigate and minimize the negatives.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Mitigation is being discussed.

Every community has an opportunity to ask for reasonable accommodations. Whatever is above and beyond reasonable a community should expect to pay for those mitigation measures.

One example is the Gold Line Foothill Extension in Los Angeles County's San Gabriel Valley. The City of Arcadia didn't like that the rail line was going to run at-grade across Santa Anita Avenue. The city, however, raised the money to pay for the grade separation itself. While I am not a fan of the Foothill project, I admire their ability to get it done.


Posted by aw, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2009 at 9:14 pm

I think this is where the disagreements lie. If it's true that Fresno wins and the Peninsula loses from HSR, then why shouldn't Fresno help pay for mitigation? There are plenty of ways to get HSR to SF without blasting up the CalTrain right of way. Tunneling, Altamont, design competitions for viaducts, 101, even up the Bay via Alviso, Moffet and SFO.

The Bay area infrastructure tradition is that local harm trumps distant benefits. In the interest of fairness I'm willing to re-evaluate that tradition, but I'd sure like to see 101 and 280 freeways connect to the GG bridge and BART circle the Bay first.


Posted by Cynic, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 20, 2009 at 8:54 am

The Channel Tunnel Eurostar service is shut down for a while to figure out why Europe's severe cold weather is causing failures... News reports say that this is inconveniencing 26,000 Saturday and 31,000 Sunday travelers. If those are typical numbers, then this 288-mile route between two of the world's great cities gets 10 million riders/year. Discount airfares are $239, train fares are $120 to $800.

These ridership figures represent a train-riding culture where car ownership is low, over a route where driving is extremely difficult, where airfares are high and capacity regulated by international treaty, and where cars are usually not needed by visitors. California HSR has none of these 'advantages.' And even with these advantageous circumstances, the developer of the Chunnel system went bankrupt.

Also, regarding grandchildren in long-range 100mph vehicles - this has indeed been predicted many times, and battery technology has evolved slowly - but it does continue to evolve and we're now within one order of magnitude of really usable electric cars. The only reason this would not happen is that oil-powered internal combustion vehicles will continue to be superior in every respect (which I personally expect to be the case, but I'm an AGW 'denier' :-).


Posted by realist, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 20, 2009 at 9:47 am

The future is modular: electric cars, small buses, automated transit. Investing in these HSR behemoths from an earlier era is backward thinking as well as financially indefensible.

Comparing the cost of HSR to the cost of upgrading our freeways and airports is pointless. No matter what new options we introduce, for the foreseeable future we will still need our freeways and airports. No one is going to use HSR to get to a job at 101&Mathilda or to travel to New York. Sadly enough, this HSR debate is occurring at a time that our local public transit agencies continue to cut services and raise rates. The people who rely on public transit to get to work -- not the majority of the HSR target market -- are being ignored.

Spokker, buddy, good to see that you have come around. Your stance used to be that you wanted to see HSR on the peninsula so as to stick it to the rich white people who live here. Sounds as though you've learned that it's more productive to tone down the angry, spiteful rhetoric. Good for you, and maybe Ogilvy will put you on the payroll!


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2009 at 5:03 pm

"Sounds as though you've learned that it's more productive to tone down the angry, spiteful rhetoric."

Oh, don't worry, I still want to see rich white homeowners suffer. It's the only thing that will avenge those impacted by the 105. I only wish they were planning to pave over Caltrain with a freeway.


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 21, 2009 at 12:07 pm

You might wish for us to be an out-of-towners, but I've spent the last 25 years (that would be all 25 years) in Palo Alto. Sorry :)


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 21, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Whether a car is powered by gas or electricity doesn't really change the space it takes up in a parking spot, parking garage or on the highway or your street.

You know what does? HSR and a revamped Caltrain.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Evan, are you assuming that riders will all walk or bike to the HSR station?

If so, why will a 4-story parking structure be needed?


Posted by Even More Real, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2009 at 4:03 pm

I agree with Realist. In the future we will all be "driving" little all-electric Smart Cars on an automated, Chaplinesque conveyer belt highway between Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Why bother with a fast rail service?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 21, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Evan, HSR doesn't take a single car off the road or a single freeway off the map. Build HSR and we'll all be supporting Roads, Freeways, Autos, local transit, (electric or gas), AND now a new expensive HSR infrastructure that only serves the wealthiest (at $200 round trip, who will ride?) Not many, and not very often.) The freeway congestion we have today is driven by workers getting to their daily jobs locally. HSR doesn't serve that need, even in the least. Every person who has a car today , will still have one tomorrow and use it just as much if HSR were available. Why? How many times a year does the average person need to go from SF to LA - once? And how many of those go by plane? And how many of those would switch to HSR? HSR doesnt even deliver the benefits it claims, and it delivers much more harm than it admits.

And unless you live in a train station, the train doesn't get a single person to where they need to go - you get off the train, you STILL need to get in an auto, or some other roadway utilizing vehicle to get to the end point of your trip. This is especially true in a spread out place like LA or Peninsula. The chances that your end point is wihtin walking distance of a train station - close to nil. Building huge HSR stations in middle of downtowns in the Peninsula does nothing but draw auto traffic off the freeways, into the middle of downtowns, clogging up those downtown roadways. The concept they are pushing that requires HSR stations in the centers of downtowns is utter garbage, nothing more than an attempt to make strong-arm robbery of prime downtown real estate for developers.

We need a new initiatve on the ballot - overturn this very bad idea. How do we get that going?


Posted by Even More Real, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I am confident that all of the opposition to HSR in Palo Alto is based on a Big Picture focus on the Greater Good and none of it comes from a parochial, "Not in My Backyard!" (NIMBY) world view.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2009 at 5:06 pm

"I agree with Realist. In the future we will all be "driving" little all-electric Smart Cars on an automated, Chaplinesque conveyer belt highway between Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Why bother with a fast rail service?"

Why bother? Well, it could be because amazing transportation systems of the future were promised before but never delivered on anywhere in the world, so it would be helpful if we could actually start building a transportation system a little more realistic (that actually exists in places elsewhere in the world) than automatic electric cars that drive themselves and do your taxes for you.


Posted by Palo Altan for HSR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2009 at 9:40 pm

"I am confident that all of the opposition to HSR in Palo Alto is based on a Big Picture focus on the Greater Good and none of it comes from a parochial, "Not in My Backyard!" (NIMBY) world view."

Ha ha ha, I had a good laugh reading this comment. Someone with a good sense of humor wrote it!

"If you read the study you see trains that are quiet, convenient and commutable increase property values."

Well, HSR will be quieter than Caltrain, that's for sure. It will be electric vs. diesel, it will eliminate train horns. Much quieter right there. HSR will be convenient, just convenient as any other train. Furthermore, if we are smart enough here in Palo Alto to ask for and get the mid-Peninsula HSR station, it will be convenient for anyone who communtes to San Francisco or San Jose.

I don't know if it will increase property values but I am ready to bet there won't be any negative impact on property values with a quieter train.



Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2009 at 9:41 pm

"Big Picture focus on the Greater Good"

Yep. I would have voted against this big pig even I lived elsewhere.

Not all of us are under the illusion that HSR will solve any problems. Horrific waste of resources and money in a high tax state that can't even fund basic services.


Posted by realist, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 21, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Millions of Californians who live nowhere near the proposed tracks voted against HSR. There are a few arguments in favor of HSR, but many, more cogent and compelling reasons for deep-sixing the project. Instead of wailing NIMBY, how about addressing those very real concerns?

Sure, HSR would be great for anyone who just happened to commute between the handful of stations that it would support. For everyone else, it would be at best useless and at worse problematic, as cars driving to and from the peninsula station would add congestion to local streets.

Quieter? Sure, if it's underground. Otherwise, it's a big, heavy beast traveling very fast. There's a reason why other countries require about 1/4 mile separation between the tracks and buildings where people work or live.

But even if it were quieter, even if it did provide greater convenience to a few people, that would not justify the outlaw of cash and the indebtedness we are imposing on future generation, especially at a time that our state has already handicapped the next generation of residents with its massive cutbacks in education.


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 21, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Hey Realist, I'm sorry, but I think you've got your wires crossed. In fact, there are many reasons to support HSR:

- Quieter trains through the Peninsula
- Improved and electrified Caltrain
- Money saved from highway and airport expansion
- Huge time savings for Californians traveling via HSR
- Vastly improved safety once pedestrians and vehicles no longer have access to Caltrain right-ofway
- No more traffic at current grade-level intersections
- Decreased vehicular traffic up-and-down the Peninsula, thanks for more commuters taking the faster Caltrain
- Caltrain connection to downtown San Francisco and BART
- Faster trips between Palo Alto and San Jose and San Francisco
- Hundreds of thousands of permanent and temporary jobs
- Real estate price increases near stations
- Transit-oriented development, hopefully saving our state's farmland from suburban sprawl
- Eventual operating profit

Arguements against HSR? Mostly based on hearsay and bad assumptions. For example, I'd be surprised if any — save the majority of — countries require 1/4 mile between HSR and homes/businesses. But feel free to prove me wrong on that.

I really, honestly hope you'll see the good in this project. It's got the power to truly change this state, this area and this city for the better, I hope it doesn't fall pray to rumors and NIMBY fears.


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 21, 2009 at 11:45 pm

"Evan, HSR doesn't take a single car off the road or a single freeway off the map."

@Parent: Are you serious with that? Perhaps you're a bit out of touch on how younger people are living their lives these days, but people my age often don't want a car. Why do they have them? Because for half a century, this country has thrown dollars and pavement around like beer at the Old Pro. We've subsidized — to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars — the surburban, car-embracing lifestyle. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Investing in high-speed rail will be a huge, huge investment in making it possible for Californians to get around with being forced to rely upon an automobile. Do I think that a single train line alone will change that? No. But look at the Peninsula for an example. HSR will transform, fundamentally transform Caltrain, bringing electrification and all that comes with it — faster trains, speedier service and a connection to downtown San Francisco. That will spur more use of Caltrain, which will spur more public transit connections. All of this will make for much more vibrant and pedestrian-friendly downtowns. It will also make commuting around the Peninsula much easier.

I don't think everyone will drop their car as soon as HSR starts running, but there are a lot of people my age who are tired of cars. They, at minimum, want options, and that's exactly what HSR will provide. Just wait 10 years, and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. Parent, those kids of yours might not be as eager to hop in a car as you are :)


Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 22, 2009 at 10:18 am

Evan, Caltrain can electrify without HSR. Period. Which delivers your entire list of 'HSR' benefits, all without HSR. You are accruing Caltrain improvements to defend HSR. Here's another way to get all those benefits. Terminate HSR in San Jose, electrify Caltrain on two tracks. And here's the added benefit of that solution - Save Billions.

And if you're suggesting we need HSR to do Caltrain's work you're a moron - because we already have a commuter train on this route, and HSR is a massive duplication of resource. Even CHSRA isn't even suggesting HSR as a commute alternative. HSR will cost more than 6X the caltrain ticket price. (3X in their original 'business plan, now their ticket prices have doubled)

And Caltrain's usability for 'young people' is an apples to oranges comparison to HSR. Yes, Caltrain can and is used for local commute, and gets people to work. Entirely useful. Does it help people NOT own cars? Rarely. HSR? Gets people from LA to SF, and how often does that help a person or a family? Plus at over $200 round trip per person - does NOT take any cars off the road. Everyone who owns a car today STILL needs to own a car after HSR, because a once a year trip to Disneyland doesn't do the daily driver any good. And since you're a 'young person' (which does wonders for our understanding of your myopic perspective), you may want to ask yourself a real question about what people in California use their cars for. Will HSR help you get to work? HOme from work to the grocery store? Pick up the kids from school, then to soccer practice? Will it help you get to Christmas shopping on your lunch break, then over to the doctor's office? To dinner and a movie? HSR does NOTHING to help with daily lives of majority of Californians (who are out here living in the real world and not confining ourselves to the nasty streets of SF), HSR does not ONE single thing to help get even ONE SINGLE CAR off the road. If you want to live in a train stations, that's up to you, but my bet is that once you arrive in a train station at the other end of your trip, even YOU probably have to go somewhere to get to the place you sleep at night. Or maybe not.


Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 22, 2009 at 10:24 am

Evan, what are you smoking? Can you pass it around?

"- Money saved from highway and airport expansion"

Still will have to be spent. To believe that investment in HSR will preclude this is delusional.

"- Huge time savings for Californians traveling via HSR"

Just takes one terrorist attack on HSR to have TSA all over this.

"- Decreased vehicular traffic up-and-down the Peninsula, thanks for more commuters taking the faster Caltrain"

Transit alone will not solve this problem. The fact that certain municipalities will have varied approaches to businesses and taxes (I'm looking at you, San Francisco), cars will be required.

"- Caltrain connection to downtown San Francisco and BART"

This is separate from HSR.

"- Hundreds of thousands of permanent and temporary jobs"

That should be generated by private companies, not government. The fat pigs at the SEIU are salivating over this.

"- Transit-oriented development, hopefully saving our state's farmland from suburban sprawl"

It actually increases sprawl by making the Central Valley open for development because they can now commute to Silicon Valley.

"- Real estate price increases near stations"

Yeah right.

"- Eventual operating profit"

Show me a public-run transit system in the United States that has an operating profit.


Posted by patrick, a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Parent said: "Caltrain can electrify without HSR"

Caltrain does not have the resources to electrify without HSR. And it's not just electrification, it's grade separation, which again, Caltrain has no resources to do. With HSR, Caltrain gets electrification and grade separation essentially for free (considering that HSR will pay for all that, so little expense to Caltrain).

Without HSR none of that happens, and Caltrain will be crippled.

The cost of the work is doing the grade separations and electrification. It matters very little about the number of tracks, the addition of 2 tracks adds very little to the cost, so there is no billions saved. HSR can be built for as little as $15 million a mile on straight flat ground, the real expense is the grade separations.


Posted by aw, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 22, 2009 at 1:29 pm

With HSR in the mix there are three users on the right of way. HSR, CalTrain and UP. I've read HSR and freight can't share tracks. I've read that UP wants clearance for double stack container cars. I've also read HSR and CalTrain have different platform height requirements. Web Link

Anyone know how many tracks total are proposed for the Peninsula corridor and whether the base HSR plan proposes to grade-separate and electrify all rail users on the Peninsula corridor right of way?


Posted by HSR's-Too-Expensive, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 22, 2009 at 3:41 pm

> I don't know why Japan and Europe continue to invest
> in this "eighteenth century" technology.

That's a simple one to answer—population density. Trains make a lot of sense in places where there is a lot of traffic. For instance, in the Washington-Boston Transportation corridor there are perhaps 70-80M people living. Flying over that region at night, there is almost a solid band of white light from Norfolk to north of Boston—all the light from the communities and people below. Not so for California. Two population zones—with 80% of the people living in SoCal.

The HSR in China (Beijing-Shanghai) connects two population zones of maybe 60M-80M people. It's generally full on every run, but such trains generally carry only about 500 people (out of 80M).

> If it becomes harder to meter the fuel, e.g. electric vehicles,
> you can be confident that such vehciles will have an excise license
> tax to cover it.

Roger that! There will be nothing but taxes in out collective futures in this country.

> The future is modular: electric cars, small buses, automated
> transit. Investing in these HSR behemoths from an earlier era
> is backward thinking as well as financially indefensible.

Yes. But this case has yet to be well made enough for people to understand it.


Posted by HSR's-Too-Expensive, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 22, 2009 at 3:59 pm

> that only serves the wealthiest

There's every chance that this train, if built, will be heavily used by Europeans, Japanese and Chinese visitors--not ordinary Californians who will see their taxes rise to pay for it.


Posted by Lily515, a resident of Woodside
on Dec 22, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Evan is right! What is really missing from this article is the mention that the HSR will open up travel in the Central Valley to SF and LA. The fare increase shown is only for the SF to LA route. Have any of you checked the fare from SF to Bakersfield? I guess that the PA folks have not. It is around $500 round trip. I think it is highly reasonable that folks will travel and commute between these areas of Fresno, Merced, and Bakersfield if the price is $100 for a round trip.
It's either HSR or more freeways. Opposition by the wealthy cities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton are a result of their elitist view of the world. How shallow is their commitment to a more sustainable environment?


Posted by HSR's-Too-Expensive, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 22, 2009 at 4:26 pm

> I think it is highly reasonable that folks will travel
> and commute between these areas of Fresno, Merced, and
> Bakersfield if the price is $100 for a round trip

Got any market research to back that up? And what about all of the ancillary taxes that go along with HRS to subsidize these low ticket prices?

> How shallow is their commitment to a more sustainable
> environment?

How shallow are people who throw around words that have no meaning?


Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 22, 2009 at 4:28 pm

How ironic that someone from Woodside, the epitome of non-urban, non-transit would lecture Palo Alto on "sustainable." Even more fun is throwing the "wealthy" title at us. Pot, meet Kettle.

Hilariously ironic.

Before we even think of something like HSR, can we please fix local transit? Without having effective local transit (MUNI and VTA don't count), the HSR is a train to nowhere.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2009 at 4:42 pm

business travel is down 40%+ in most firms.
People are using Cisco and HP telepresence systems and other technologies that are getting cheaper and cheaper and better and better, they are never going to sit in a train like spam in a can for a day to go from SF to LA.
The business case for HSR has evaporated.
New planes coming on line are much more fuel efficient, the price of oil is going to be 70- 80 $ for the forseeable future, the $39 air fare SF-LA will continue in inflation adjusted dollars.
The high tax rates and anti business climate in CA will continue to drive firms out of state.
HSR is dead in the water-- this dog don't hunt


Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 22, 2009 at 4:57 pm

The number of tracks is important because the volume of train traffic and the width and vertical profile of the tracks matters to the quality of life for the residents. Caltrain can exist on two tracks, Caltrain plus HSR requires four. That's a massive negative impact to these neighborhoods.

Secondly, Caltrain CAN electrify and grade separate without HSR. They don't have the money today, and guess what NEITHER DOES HSR. There's not a reason in the world that Caltrain can't put together the same federal grant applications, and local funding wish list that HSR has put together. And in fact, should be alot EASIER to obtain those funds because Caltrain adds value to the localities who are being asked to pay. in HSR's plan, The peninsula gives up prime downtown real estate for stations, pays to build the stations, pays to remodel its own infrastructure to support the stations, then it gives up real estate to massive parking structures located inside their downtowns, THEN, on top of all that, gives up the rights to concessions and private businesses in and around the station areas give up their revenues to help generate the rest of the private funding HSR needs to build. And what does the peninsula get in return? 125mph trains running one every three minues for 12 hours per day, barrelling through their backyards, schoolyards, and parks. Great idea. Do yourselves a favor and find another route. The Peninsula residents are not going to sit by on their laurels and see this happen.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2009 at 2:11 am

"There's every chance that this train, if built, will be heavily used by Europeans, Japanese and Chinese visitors--not ordinary Californians who will see their taxes rise to pay for it."

Yeah and if that's true they'll be spending money here so what's the problem? Go to their countries and ride their high speed trains if it bothers you so much.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2009 at 2:21 am

"The high tax rates and anti business climate in CA will continue to drive firms out of state."

And leave a sizable and educated pool of qualified workers behind? Students come out of the UC system and go straight to Google and Intel.

All of this "businesses leaving California" crap is based on anecdotal evidence anyway. No state agency tracks business movements into or out of the state. There have been some studies though. Here's an article about it.

Web Link

"What do these studies tell us overall? Although more businesses moved out of California than moved in, two developments mitigate the negative effect on the state economy.

First, our analysis of Silicon Valley shows that newly formed businesses overwhelmingly outnumber businesses lost to relocation. Between 1990-2001, for every business Silicon Valley lost to other states, nearly 150 new establishments were created, which was more than enough to compensate.

Second, although more establishments move out of the state than move in, the long-term net effect on the economy may not be negative. In the biotech industry, despite the fact that more firms left California than arrived, the ones that moved in hired 4,049 employees by 2001, more than twice the number (1,181) that had been employed by those who moved out."


Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 23, 2009 at 8:15 am

The UC system is slowly falling apart thanks to the lack of funding and need to increase fees making the system too expensive for many Californians. With the additional debt burden created by HSR, the system will suffer more. The flow of cheap, educated labor for the valley will decrease, as will the need for companies to be based near that labor pool.

Can't count merely businesses moving in and out of SV. Many of those created never made it out of the garage. Stats from 1990 - 2001? How useful are those today?

Let's see what's happening lately. Thanks for giving us such timely data points. Those are about as useful as CAHSR's business plan numbers.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2009 at 11:05 am

Spokker, if job exodus out of California is purely anecdotal, why are CA legislators so worried about it? (See Web Link for one assembly member's exasperated response.) Nevada's governor ran a series of controversial campaign ads targeting CA's workforce. You're in LA, I'm surprised you didn't hear about it.

From LA Times Web Link:
"'If the Legislature doesn't stop monkeying around, you can kiss your assets goodbye,' says a voice-over in one spot, which features a monkey making spitting sounds at the camera as cartoon bananas fall from the sky.

"In another, a news anchor -- working for fictitious channel KTAX -- turns into a swine, and a voice tells businesses not to wait 'until they put lipstick on that pig' to leave California. A print ad shows a pig with white, fluffy wings underneath the text 'California will be more pro-business . . . when?'"

"Somer Hollingsworth [president and chief executive of the Nevada Development Authority] said that 35% of companies he had recruited to the state this year [2009] were from California, compared with 20% last year. 'January was the tipping point,' he said. 'Companies were saying they couldn't stay there.'

"A report released in June by the Milken Institute estimated that California lost 79,000 manufacturing jobs from 2003 to 2007, while seven other states with a meaningful percentage of U.S. manufacturing gained 62,000, in part because of California's regulatory environment."

Enough said?


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2009 at 3:17 pm

"Spokker, if job exodus out of California is purely anecdotal, why are CA legislators so worried about it?"

Legislators are worried about a lot of things that aren't as bad as they sound. That's why they enact feel good laws to convince voters they are doing something about these problems, whether real or perceived.

Like I said before, California is losing jobs, but new jobs are (were, anyway) being created within the state by new businesses starting up. The new jobs often pay more.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2009 at 3:19 pm

"The UC system is slowly falling apart thanks to the lack of funding and need to increase fees making the system too expensive for many Californians."

Still a better deal than private school.


Posted by patrick, a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Caltrain has had electrification plans since before 1999, and nothing has happened. The only realistic way it's going to happen is with HSR, the same is true for complete grade separation. Grade separation will REDUCE noise as there will no longer need to be any horns blown.

HSR has $9 billion. Add in the typical 50/50 match from federal and that brings it up to $18 billion. Add in the stimulus and there's several billion more. Add in the recent $2.5 Billion a year that congress approved and there's lots more. Add in that congress is likely to change matching funds requirement down to only 20% from state level, and you pretty much have all funding needed for HSR, without even needing any private investment.

Caltrain has $0.

Redwood city would be more than happy to have the HSR station. They understand that it will bring many benefits to the city. It brings benefits to business and property owners. There are more people to work & shop, property values go up (it's happened many times all over the world & in the U.S.). Most cities in the HSR corridor are fighting over the right to have a station.

Oh by the way, the peninsula voted massively in favor of the HSR bond. As much as you may like to believe that somehow people have now changed their minds, it just ain't so. The HSR bond proposition was victorious in the midst of the worst economy since the depression, while there was NO money available from the feds. Also note that only 1 county that HSR travels through voted against the HSR bond, the majority of those counties voted yes in a landslide.

"gives up the rights to concessions and private businesses in and around the station areas give up their revenues" where in the world did you get that crazy idea from?


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2009 at 7:51 pm


IF HSR were built in Palo Alto property values would collapse for at least 1/2 mile each side of the tracks,
Paly would be a noise nightmare and any sensible family would relocate to the Gunn district, further collapsing property values in N PA etc

Fortunately the HSR scam will never happen, there is no market, no need and no viable business plan.

A Berlin Wall through Palo Alto would look better, apart from that there is no business nor environmental case for this white elephant


Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 24, 2009 at 9:42 am

Since 1999? A whole 10 years? Wow. How far back do HSR plans go? Farther than that, and look, nothing has happened on that either.

Patrick, read the business plan, they expect BILLIONS to come from local governments, plus tapping concessions and private business revenues to attract their private funds. AND those lavish billions you think are coming from the feds are a pipe dream (at VERY best - a gamble), because disenchantment with the current administration will create (already is creating) loss of seats in the house and senate, starting as early as the next midterm election. So the only money you can really count on from the feds is whatever the administration doles out in the next several months. And that's going to be 2 billion at most. Which by the way, won't even be usable because California requested unders terms that can't be delivered by the state - that is with matching funds. Prop1A Bond is ONLY allowed to be used on usable segments whith 100% of the funding secured for the completed segment before the Prop1A bond can be appropriated. And CHSRA didn't request for complete segments, they requested projects here and there.

Redwood city will have another good long think on that station when they come to understand that the CHSRA plans to have RC donate the land for the station AND the parking, then stake claim on all the business and concession rights in that station/parking, then have RC pay to remodel its downtown completely to accomodate the roads and infrastructure around the station, then when its all successfully built to CHSRA's satisfaction, RC will enjoy a constant parade of thousands of auto trips drawn off 101 through their small residental streets into that downtown station. Which will undoubtedely be drivethrough traffic, much like SFO and SJC have drivethrough drop off/pickup, resulting in zip in terms of downtown business generation. And RC gains? Headache, autopollution downtown, and destruction of their neighborhoods both along the tracks, in their downtown AND in all the feeder neighborhoods leading to down town. Good for them. They can have it.

Read the business plan summary report and the local funding section of the business plan if you want to know where I get that from. (start on about P90). But while I was there I found this little tidbit (its a cool document, everytime you read it, you get another little jolt of CHSRA's monumental arrogance:

"The Authority is currently investigating ridership risk sharing structures used in greenfield transportation infrastructure projects as well as considering proceeding with an "investment grade" ridership forecast."

In other words, the ridership forecasts they currently have are utter garbage for the purpose of attracting private funding. This is CHSRA admitting they're putting forth garbage - good enough for the tax payer, not good enough for real investors.


Posted by Board Observer, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 24, 2009 at 7:56 pm

"investment grade" ridership forecast (CHSRA's quotes)... What, as opposed to the garbage grade ridership forecast their trying to sell the legislature and the california voters?

The business plan hasn't even been reviewed or voted on by the CHSRA board. This business plan has spent exactly ZERO time on the CHSRA meeting agenda. Is it even legal for them to have sent it to the legislature unreviewed and unapproved?

They claim that the doubled ticket pricing and resulting 18 MILLION per year drop in ridership is a "scenario", not a strategy. BS. Low cost/high volume versus high cost/low volume is absolutely a strategy decision, one that the board should have discussed before sending a business plan off to the legislature. Especially since its precisely opposite to the business model strategy they sold the voters during Prop1A. And according to the business plan is the only once that will result in enough revenue to attract investors. In other words, voters were sold a BAIT AND SWITCH.

They just unceremoniously pushed out of the market millions of middle to low income californian's. What's the chance that an average income family of 5 would take a $1000+ high speed rail trip to disneyland? Nil. They sold this as a public transportation that would be viable attractive substitute to auto trips down highway five. (And in fact COUNTED on the saved auto trips to defend their environmental benefits) BS.

A family of five can drive from LA to SF for about $200 or less. Even if Gas prices double - it will STILL be far cheaper to drive.


Posted by patrick, a resident of another community
on Dec 25, 2009 at 2:07 pm

since BEFORE 1999, as I clearly stated. And even if it is only since then, Caltrain has been able to make 0 progress.

"nothing has happened on that [HSR] either"

Wow, do just make all this stuff up in your head? I repeat Prop 1A passed: $9 billion in funding, $8 billion in HSR funding from stimulus, $2.5 Billion in HSR funding from congress. All within the last year.

As far as congress goes, I'm not too worried, sure Dems are likely to lose seats, but they will probably hold majorities in at least 1 branch, and even then, Repubs are not unified against HSR, in fact some of them are strong supporters. Especially once their states start having some serious plans.

Just because you say the prop 1A bond money can't be spent doesn't make it true. Funding will be secured for an entire segment, at which point prop 1A funds become available. As you yourself pointed out, it's funding for a SEGMENT, not the entire project, that is required.

You claim Redwood City will completely reverse it's position, as if nobody there has read the biz plan. You claim that congress will cancel all funding for HSR, except for a small amount that makes it out over the next few months. So your basic argument is that you know better than everybody else, and sooner or later everybody will finally listen to your wisdom and come to their senses. Are you able to predict the future?

I am fully aware that CHSRA expects local governments to pay, because they know that local governments will want to pay. San Francisco, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles already have plans to spend hundreds of millions on their stations. That's because they want to. Cities that don't have stations won't be paying anything. Cities that will have stations can spend as much, or as little as they want depending on their desire to have a "grand" station or not.

"RC will enjoy a constant parade of thousands of auto trips" and "ridership forecasts they currently have are utter garbage for the purpose of attracting private funding"

So on one hand you claim that there will be so much riders that any city will be inundated with drivers, and on the other hand the ridership is inflated in order to draw investment. You can't have it both ways.


Posted by Board Observer, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 25, 2009 at 3:05 pm

California has precisely zero federal funding for HSR. In a few months, they MIGHT be able to claim $2B or about 5% of the total cot of their nonsense scheme. California's hopes for some piddly HSR funding are nothing more than a mad race against the clock - because what's bearing down on the CHSRA is a garbage business plan, a thrown out EIR, zero secured funding, momentum building up and down the state against the HSR debacle, growing calls have prop1A repeal put back on the ballot, and a political climate that is merely momentarily friendly toward TALKING about HSR funding (when what is needed is aobut 20 years of sustained guaranteed funding at about 20X the level that might materialize this year), all for a disfunctional state that can't pay its bills, and a disfunctional CHSRA Board that can't even manage a public vote on its own garbage business plan.

At half the ridership which would be ruinous for the HSR system and which would NEVER attract another dollar of funding of any kind, would still bring thousands of drivers off 101 deep into the downtown areas, which is a ridiculously stupid and ill conceived idea - for RC AND for SF. Oh wait, I guess all these thousands of daily riders are going to come from the immediate neighbors of the hSR stations - because all of a sudden thousands of people who have never had a reason to travel daily from SF to LA will suddenly have a reason? pff. moronic.

You go ahead and go back to your visions of sugar plums. That's about as close to your HSR fantasies as you'll ever get in your lifetime.


Posted by well, but..., a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 25, 2009 at 3:20 pm

where is the proposition to repeal 1a or otherwise stop spending money on this?


Posted by patrick, a resident of another community
on Dec 25, 2009 at 9:40 pm

You can make up as much stuff as you want observer, but here are some facts:

The voters of California approved $9 billion for the California HSR project. The voters of the peninsula were over 60% in favor. $8 billion in funding from the stimulus, $2.5 billion in annual funding from Congress.

"bring thousands of drivers off 101 deep into the downtown areas" which downtowns? How many per hour? Your rhetoric is pure scare tactics.


Posted by observer, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 25, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Prop1A was based on lies - for example, predicated on a final Program EIR of July 2008, which has just been ruled by a judge to be invalid and was decertified by the CHSRA. So what then is the Prop1A predicated on. No one knows.

read the CHSRA's own propoganda materials if you want to know which downtowns and how many per hour (Because they make it up as they go along, so every document you read will be different) but ANY version is bad news for downtowns of the small peninsula communities.

$8Billion in stimulus is nationwide. California will be lucky to receive even a fraction. 2.5 annual is one year only (this year) and it also gets shared across all states and many flavors of transportation projects. Those numbers you state say ZERO about California's federal funding. And any federal funding received thi year says ZERO about the viability of CHSRA plan.

And as Californians, including Peninsula residents (but not limited to), learn the truth as opposed to the glossy PR lies CHSRA is selling, they come out in droves against the plan. That's the facts now. CHSRA had the advantage of controlling their message in Nov2008. No longer the case, and they can't and won't get away with their slimy lies any longer.

Now, whats interesting is that they THINK they can get away without telling any lies by failing to discuss or approve their business plans and strategies in a board meeting, (not a peep) and notice, not a single board member is on record in support of their garbage business plan - because no board vote. The business plan is NOT ratified by the CHSRA Board. I am going to LOVE watching them try to defend THAT in front of the legislature. With this stunt even the second half of their 2009 funding should be at risk.


Posted by NONIMBYS, a resident of another community
on Dec 27, 2009 at 7:05 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Voter, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 27, 2009 at 11:11 am

There are 36M people in the state of California. the California high speed rail authority just submitted a business plan to the legislature that reduces the number of HSR trip by 18M per year from the plans they used to sell HSR to the voters in Nov 08.

Bait and switch


Posted by patrick, a resident of another community
on Dec 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Just because you say things up Observer, doesn't make them true. Bring some evidence to support your claims.

The $8 billion in stimulus funding is for HSR, not just any transit project. The $2.5 Billion from congress is for HSR, not just any transit project. California has the most progress on it's HSR project of any state, and therefore is likely to get a significant portion of those funds.

I'm not worried about funding. You believe there wont be nearly enough, I believe there will be plenty. One of us will be right, one wrong; only time will tell.


Posted by Observer, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 27, 2009 at 11:21 pm

The federal funding is FEDERAL - covers ALL states projects and will be spread around accordingly - east coast, Florida, texas, etc. That's a fact. And the federal definition of "HSR" covers improvements to existing rail, and is not limited to new 200 mph hsr lines. That's a fact. There's no reason to believe that California will attract even 1/4 of the federal funding, especially since the CHSRA at every turn is pulling shenanigans (like sending a "business plan" to the legislature that they haven't even ratified yet.) And even if they attracted 50% of the federal stimulus funds (ridiculous even in their wildest dreams), that would only leave California about 30Billion short. hmmm.

You ARE right in that just because a thing is 'said' by someone doesn't make a thing true. Like "California is shovel ready" or "farther along in its HSR than any other state". CHSRA puts forth a half baked Project EIR for the Peninsula, uses it to trick voters, and a judge saw through it and ruled it inadequate. The CHSRA just DE-certified that program EIR. Yet California law makers are STILL telling the feds that the California HSR program has environmental impact done and is shovel ready. So you're absolutely right, saying somehting doesn't make it true. Especially when its the CHSRA and their high priced PR machine spewing forth.

I'm also not worried about funding. CHSRA may get $2B or so, which they'll never be able to spend, because they'll never meet environmental clearance requirements, they'll never close on every lawsuit lining up between SF and Anaheim, and they'll never adhere to California's bond parameters to obtain matching funds. And they'll never in a BILLION years get local governments to hand over their local tax bases to fund the balance on such a monumental waste. And elections are right around the corner, which makes this year the last time in about 25 years or so that the federal government will enjoy this kind of one-sided spending agenda. So all in all, I'm not worried about this getting funded.


Posted by Observer, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 28, 2009 at 11:27 am

Don't forget to write to your state and local officials and ask them to defend high speed rail in your town. Make sure you ask them what kind of local TAX INCREASES they're going to support in order for high speed rail to run through YOUR backyard, YOUR school, YOUR city park.

(Phil, Erin, etc etc et - nice try. REst assured that HSR is going to remain at the TOP of the agenda in 2010.


Posted by lameobserver, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 28, 2009 at 3:15 pm

There is more to life than your constant old man prop13 welfare opinion


Posted by Observer, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 28, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Why hasn't the California High Speed Rail Authority Board discussed the serious changes in the business plan versus prior version, in a public meeting, so that the public can see what kind of thoughtful and analytical thinking has gone in to protecting the public interest in some of their apparent 180 degree decisions?

For example, a low cost/high volume business model provides a pubic transportation method that would serve almost all income levels in California. The 180degre turn around, to a high cost ticket that shaves off 18Million in ridership is an entirely different business model, with an entirely different appeal to people (at differnet income levels), which in turn drives different funding and operational issues. Why wasn't this model used during the election? Is this a unanimous decision? Any discussion of pros and cons? Any political ramification? HOw does that change the viability for stations in low income areas? The authority has apparently adopted signficant strategy shift with no public discussion.

Aren't there public meeting laws that should govern this? Are the legislators in charge of doling out the authority's budget going along with this?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2009 at 1:18 pm

I believe the Simitian and Lowenthal public meetings have now been scheduled. Does anyone have the schedule and location information?


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 31, 2009 at 10:43 am

Another day, two more Caltrain fatalities:
Web Link

How much longer are we going to let this go out? When will we finally put this to a stop and grade-separate Caltrain along the entire Peninsula, as we should have years ago?

I'm not OK with this. For better safety, for faster and more uninterrupted transit trips, for more connected streets not blocked by rail lines, we need to do this.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 31, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Liar alert. We DO NOT need to install MORE and FASTER trains in order to grade separate Caltrain. Yes, lets grade separate Caltrain. NO we do not need to bring HSR through to do it. We do not need to increase speeds to 125mp and increase frequency of trains to one every 3 minutes and build gigantic concrete retaining walls of blight. And by the way, lack of grade separation is NOT the cause of the majority of deaths along the Caltrain row. Suicide by walking on the tracks or jumping in front of trains from stations or elsewhere is NOT solved by grade separation.


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 31, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Sorry Parent, no lying going on, as much as you might wish it. The lack of grade separations IS the cause of most of these deaths. Have you noticed that most of these deaths (and nearly all suicides) have occurred far from stations?

That's because suicides, for the most part, happen far from crowds, where there's no one to stop them. And sadly, there are many places for that because of the lack of grade separate.

Implement grade separation, and the only place someone could walk in front of a train (whether by accident or on purpose) is at a station. Which is very rare. Take away easy access and you take away most of the fatalities (including probably close to 100% of those that are accidental).

Also, note that my post didn't mention HSR. If this were 15 years ago, I'd be advocating for Caltrain separation and electrification alone, a fantastic project in its own right.

But, so long as there's a wonderful high-speed project that will have funds to pay for grade separation and bring super-fast service to SF, SJ, the Central Valley and LA, why not hitch our car to that locomotive, so to speak?

Man, I love puns.


Posted by parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 31, 2009 at 7:38 pm

The lie that is perpetuated by HSR fanatics (and counted on by the CHSRA to defend the entire Peninsula segment) is that HSR is desparately needed to accomplish grade separation for Caltrain. Caltrain can grade separate without HSR. I apologize to you if you were not attempting to suggest that HSR is the means for Caltrain grade separation (although you DID post the train accident comment on the HSR thread...hmmm). But this is one of the favorite lies on Robert/Rafael's blog.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 4, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Web Link

The towns up and down the proposed HSR route from the Bay Area to Anaheim.

The California High Speed Rail Authority has defined their problem incorrectly. They keep trying to say that tunneling is too expensive (and therefore must be denied).

What they should have realized from the beginning and need to admit to now (if they hope to salvage HSR in California at all), is that the cost of putting high speed rail through the middle of towns and neighborhoods, through backyards and school yards, costs a far cry more than they were willing to concede or willing to present to voters.

In other words, the cost of installing high speed rail in the pathway THEY CHOSE, IS a far more expensive proposition - precisely because they need to install it underground in many many places to avoid ruining our towns, indeed ALL the towns they hit. Its not a PROBLEM of Nimbys ruining their party, its a problem of inadequate definition of the boundaries HSR could breach, and resulting poor planning by CHSRA.

Their job now is to go find the appropriate amount of funding to do the job correctly, or go find another route that doesn't every town it hits.


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