Rail directors told to lay low in Midpeninsula Issues Beyond Palo Alto, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Aug 9, 2010 at 11:07 am
Two members of the California High-Speed Rail Authority board of directors have been advised by agency staff not to participate in public hearings on the Midpeninsula, where residents and elected officials have persistently criticized and occasionally jeered the voter-approved rail project.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, August 9, 2010, 9:47 AM
Posted by Mike Cobb, a resident of the Greendell/Walnut Grove neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 11:10 am
How nice, to be lectured by Rod Diridon who, with manifest arrogance, has indicated on many occasions that the CHSRA in general, and he in particular, could not care less what those of us on the Peninsula think who will be severely damaged if HSR goes through using the CalTrain right of way. Any of the plans they are willing to pursue will be a physical rape of the Peninsula, and all of their meetings and talk are nothing more than an attempt to make that rape a seduction. The have grossly mismanaged the process, and lied and misled the public about and evaded the hard truths about the real impacts. But he wants us to be more polite. This is like thanking a mugger for not beating you while taking your valuables. I repeat my pleas to Peninsula residents: Wake up before it is too late ... contact your Council members and State Legislators and tell them that the HSR plans for the Peninsula are simple unacceptable. Local cities should come together and pass a resolution of opposition like the city of Orange in Southern Californa. Only public pressure will make this happen here.
Posted by Pro HSR, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 11:16 am
To provide some much needed balance - many of us are strongly IN FAVOR of HSR service - we need these alternatives. If done wisely, the impact should be minimal, and not fulfill the gloom and doom projections of the few who live along the route who purchased homes next to the tracks already. Sorry - but HSR service is something that many of us would love to see in California - and all along the west coast, for that matter.
Posted by 60 Year Resident, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 11:26 am
Minimal impact? Years of major construction,major traffic disruption,noise,permanent environmental impact,financial burden passed to the next generation,loss of housing,destruction of a quality of life------all this for a system that will require financial subsidy support without ever running at even break even.
Posted by Ann Bilodeau, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 11:35 am
This comment is for the person who wrote the headline on this story. Please learn the difference between the verbs "lie" and "lay." "Lie" is an intransitive verb, "lay" is a transitive verb. A dog lies down, a hen lays an egg. Yes, confusion arises because the past tense of "lie" is "lay," but a journalist should be able to use these verbs correctly, even if very few others do (perhaps because of Bob Dylan's song "Lay, Lady, Lay"). The headline should read: "Rail directors told to lie low on Peninsula."
Posted by Derek, a resident of another community, on Aug 9, 2010 at 12:02 pm
It's either build HSR, or widen freeways and expand airports at much greater cost, noise, and emissions, just to move the same number of people.
Every HSR system around the world, even Amtrak's Acela Express, even Spain's AVE in a country with a similar size and population distribution to California, makes an operating profit, so why would California's HSR be any different?
Posted by Michael, a resident of Menlo Park, on Aug 9, 2010 at 12:30 pm
I find it really amazing that so many people are so opposed to the idea of a high speed rail system. Not to mention the way people choose to vent their opinions and do all in their power to slow the project down. California, although good compared to many states, has a ridiculously old fashioned public transport system that I would assume many people avoid to save time. Just the fact that the trains aren't electric really shocked me when I got here.
I'm hoping that the project goes through and that the peninsula will get public transport of the same standard as the rest of the world had a couple of decades ago.
Posted by Bob, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 12:32 pm
No, Derek, the Acela Express in itself does not operate at a profit. The commute locals do that. It also doesn't go the highly touted 100 mph. plus except in a very few places, and the entire route is one long string of graffiti. . It has good ridership in the northeast corridor from Boston to Baltimore because of all the major cities and Ivy League and other universities including NYC and DC on its route. It does have people going places. California HSR cannot justify the ridership to make it pay. There are not that many cities where it will stop.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 12:43 pm
It it important to check facts -- many of the HSR projects around the world are operational only because they are highly subsidized by their governments. An example from France (Transport Politic):
"The odd result is that last year, RFF made its first profit since its creation even as SNCF lost €500 million (after a one billion Euro profit the year before). The situation is becoming so bad that almost a third of TGV services, once all operationally profitable, will require subsidies from the government beginning next year...American planners considering how to implement high-speed rail services have an obligation to look across the Atlantic to judge how they ought to approach similar situations in the future. There are a variety of questions that must be pondered based on the relationships our governments establish between high-speed rail track owners and operators.
Assuming that tracks are publicly owned, should train service providers be required to pay high track use fees, in order to maximize the use of operational profits for the creation of new lines? Or should profits from high-speed lines be redirected towards the operation of less productive corridors in order to encourage geographical equity, with the government stepping in to fully cover the construction costs of new tracks? Should we expect to see a direct fiscal payback for initial capital expenditures, or is it reasonable to simply ask that high-speed rail services cover their operations and maintenance regimes?
For services that are not profitable, should the government use separate funds to ensure their continued running? Wouldn’t that simply result in the all-too-familiar privatization of profits and socialization of losses?
It troubles me that states now funding new intercity corridor development, including California, Florida, Illinois, and Wisconsin, have failed to address these questions straight-on, as complicated as they might be. "
This is a doomed project because it is the pet project of a few, rather than a part of an integrated plan that is honest, accurate, and well-considered.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 12:44 pm
I will never understand why High Speed Rail is such a darling of liberals (and I was one before this project came along). The more bond interest the state pays, the less money is available in the general budget (less money for schools, aid to the poor, etc) This project is a complete boondoggle, and if all HSR systems make such a profit, private investors would be competing to invest in this one, which they certainly are not.
Posted by Babies!, a resident of another community, on Aug 9, 2010 at 12:47 pm
You people are some of the rudest in the BayArea...In ANY matter..really look at yourselfs and I have see videos of these HSR meetings and the loud shouting and sneers..And of coures when anyone treats this crowd in anything but a subservant way..there "bullies"
Posted by Just don't get it..., a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm
Why demand to start this disaster from SF to SJ when we already have Caltrain & the Baby Bullet??? Begin the run to nowhere from SJ south where they deem it is needed and then connect to SF when it is complete. Starting SF to SJ is redundant, and doesn't service any towns in between!!! Makes no sense but neither does the entire project!!
Furthermore, look to Seattle area for their high rise system through the city and burbs.... pretty awful.
Bob wrote: "California HSR cannot justify the ridership to make it pay. There are not that many cities where it will stop."
People who make that argument is why I mentioned "Spain's AVE in a country with a similar size and population distribution to California". The Madrid to Barcelona line is a distance of 386 miles, about the same as San Francisco to Los Angeles, and it has taken most of the market share for that corridor from the airlines.
Posted by Robert, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 1:09 pm
To Michael, resident of Menlo Park,
This is what you wrote: "I find it really amazing that so many people are so opposed to the idea of a high speed rail system."
Michael, most of us are NOT opposed to the IDEA of HSR, but rather to the particular harmful, financial-albatross project being deceptively foisted on the Peninsula by Kopp and Diridon. Do you get that point?! There is all the difference in the world between an idea and its concrete implementation, just as there was with the original Star Wars Missile Defense System IDEA (supposedly to render nukes obsolete) and its infeasible implementation (one whose pursuit wasted $26 billion dollars in the 1980's and yielded nothing).
P.S. Diridon, in the above article, criticizes the Peninsula opponents for their "entrenched" ideas. Well, I have not seen ONE IOTA OF CHANGE from the Kopp/Diridon original proposal of running HSR through the Peninsula on berms with overhead catenary structures. Diridon's chutzpah is unbounded. He has nothing but contempt for the public. Go to YouTube and watch his remarks to the PA City Council before the election. He explicitly promised that Palo Alto would be deeply involved in the design of the HSR system ("your staff will be deeply involved in that" were the exact words he used at the Oct. 2008 Palo Alto CC meeting. Yet at a P.A. City Council meeting of early 2009 he said that the basic design and route of the system was not negotiable. Classic BAIT AND SWITCH.
The reason St. Ron won't appear in public anymore is because he can't give direct, honest, detailed answers to the questions that the "Rotten tomatoes" (his words) would pose to him at such meetings, questions about HSR's Swiss-cheese business plan, the fraudulent surveys, and defective ridership studies CHSRA has been peddling to the public to get it to support HSR (meaning, put up for the cost and subsidies as they grow ever higher).
Posted by HSR in our lifetime?, a resident of Stanford, on Aug 9, 2010 at 1:12 pm
Mike Cobb's comments are indeed insulting and uncalled. Of course, he is one of those people who likes to remind everyone how he was once mayor of Palo Alto (read how he signs all his letters to the local papers). As if being mayor of Palo Alto is anything more than a ceremonial position which is awarded as the prize in a popularity contest--I think he feels that having been mayor gives him a greater knowledge of the subject and his word carries more weight than any other citizen in town.
Of course we had another former mayor who helped pass the tax for the HSR and she knew nothing about the consequences of having HSR in the peninsula!!!
Posted by andreas, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 1:17 pm
Rod Diridon, Quentin Kopp, and HSR need to state clearly how they will compensate homeowners for the loss in property value.
The numbers are staggering. An elevated rail will affect at least half a mile on either side of the track. From San Mateo to Santa Clara, there are at least 20-30,000 houses in that path. Every house here is around a million dollars. That's $20-30 billion in property value.
The Santa Clara County Tax Assessor should be concerned. If HSR lowers property values, it lowers property taxes. Will the tax assessor file a claim against HSR?
What about the schools? Police? Fire departments? Libraries? They all need property tax money. HSR will lower that.
Rod Diridon, Quentin Kopp, and HSR must clearly state the financial impact on property taxes and how they plan to alleviate that.
Posted by Just wondering, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 1:22 pm
Does anyone know how Mr. Diridon had the San Jose terminal named after him? And why 380 is named after Quentin Kopp? Mr. Diridon's disdainful remarks make it clear that the entire project must be fought vigorously if we're going to preserve our quality of life in the peninsula. All that talk of tunnelling, parks and bike paths was a sideshow to divide the opposition. It's time to wise up and take on these guys.
Posted by Floyd, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 3:00 pm
I'm Aware of Kopp's arrogance, but not of Diridon's. Neither one will be near the rail route, I guess.
Why shouldn't the peninsula towns look like the elevated in Chicago or the 3d Avenue El in New York. In those places it's probably an improvement on what it covers. Here it will be a disaster, an eyesore and another place for grafitti and trash collection.
I've ridden the TGV between Paris and Lyon at the height of the tourist season and it was about 1/4 full. Like our $3m passthrough at Homer and Alma. The proponents spoke of 1500 users/week. That's what i think the yearly use actually is.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 3:10 pm
I will mention again something I have said in my blog posts and other threads about HSR:
This thing makes no policy sense.
Forget NIMBY. Forget the duplicitous Diridon and Kopp. Forget the shabby work plans that CHSRA have presented thus far. Forget that the economics don't pencil out, and do not on existing such operations elsewhere in the world. Forget that an already bankrupt State of California cannot afford to take on a project of this magnitude. Forget that private investors will not touch this thing with a ten foot pole.
All of which are legitimate issues....
The vast majority of trips by travelers in this state are to get to and from work. From a policy standpoint, adding and improving local transit is what is needed and indicated and will provide the greatest benefit to the greatest number of travelers.
I question whether the funds are there to improve local transit up and down the state in the densest population areas, where it is most needed, but if there are, that is where the money should go.
Posted by Robert, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 4:44 pm
The point is that BETWEEN San Jose and San Francisco there are slated to be only 3 stops: Millbrae, San Mateo, and either Redwood City, Palo Alto, or Mountain View. To get your 5, you had to count Gilroy and SF. Nice move.
Do you seriously think that people would use the HSR as a commuter train? I deeply doubt that.
So, the point still stands that the vast majority of trips taken by people going back and forth to their workplaces, and a very small fraction of those people will use HSR. We need to radically improve LOCAL transportation systems, not construct an inter-regional system which will turn out as the Anglo-French Concorde did: not financially viable even though much faster than regular airplane travel.
Posted by John, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 5:23 pm
So let me get this straight... Diridon and Kopp don't have the cojones to talk to those most affected by the HSR project? I certainly don't begrudge families in the neighborhood for getting really mad. Living directly along the HSR construction project or completed above-grade route will destroy the home values they count on for retirement. Some folks will even be forced out of homes that have been in families for generations. This is no small deal.
I'm all for sensible mass transit ideas, but we're not being NIMBY's without good reason... trading off the life we know and love for a transit project that will probably not go as planned seems like too high a price.
Diridon and Kopp add insult to injury by refusing to hear our very real concern. Shame.
Posted by Jim, a resident of another community, on Aug 9, 2010 at 6:17 pm
Anyone who thinks the elevated structure with trains on top wont destroy the quality of life along the Caltrain ROW never spent much time along the Embarcadero in SF when the elevated freeway turned that neighborhood into a pit (I used to work down there).
I still work on the Embarcadero and we still have tons of cars but the whole quality of the area has improved simply by tearing down the old Embarcadero freeway after the 89 quake. Same cars, a world of difference.
As others have said you can just go to Seattle and see the same thing. And they are talking about spending billions to tear that down too - and guess what? Put the road in a tunnel.
Posted by Just don't get it..., a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 6:21 pm
I don't think anyone is "out to kill HSR" we just want it to be logical and the least offensive to the towns involved! It is perfectly reasonable to run up the 101 corridor or 880 on the east side of the Bay on high viaducts. It is done in so many other states. I just don't understand why it is so necessary to run through the heart of the peninsula towns instead of other areas. I do think Kopp and Diridon have a grudge against the area and are determined to punish us.
Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community, on Aug 9, 2010 at 6:22 pm
My world won't collapse if high speed rail is not built and yours won't be destroyed if it is built.
Images of viaducts and concrete in places like Oakland put the fear of high speed rail into the hearts and minds of some Peninsula residents who live near the tracks today. However, concrete and viaducts alone do not destroy a community. Concentrated poverty tends to do the trick.
You guys are relatively well off, white and productive. HSR won't change that.
There are ways to make a viaduct more attractive, though. Demand some architectural flourish rather than a tunnel or trench. The renders I've seen so far look good and they could look even better with less vitriolic advocacy. However, the route should remain at-grade where ever possible.
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 6:36 pm
May I ask you which (unspecified) meeting you are referencing? Do you mean the meeting where it was announced that tunneling and closed trenches would not be considered? If not, which meeting? If you do mean the no-tunnel meeting, then I believe I paid attention to it, if reading a newspaper article on it counts.
I wish you were right, Chris, because there are still three options on the table: aerial structure, berm plus catenary, and open trench (option B1). If you can show me evidence that HSR will run the entirety of Palo Alto "below grade" then I would welcome that. I am not holding my breath waiting for you to produce that evidence.
"Stronger case" than what? Than a case based on concern for the fiscal health of California and the tax burden of its citizens and their children from the construction cost and annual deficit of this albatross system, not to mention something which apparently doesn't comprise part of a "strong case" for you: the seizure of property by eminent domain. What exactly would be a "strong case" for you, Chris? One that showed that HSR was a violation of the laws of physics?
As for being out to "kill HSR," I have nothing in principle against HSR between San Jose and LA (other than the minor fact that its cost will be a tremendous burden on the citizenry when we need money to address far more important issues in California, like education AND local transportation systems). I actually voted for Prop. 1A. I am most strongly against this particular system running the particular route it does on the Peninsula because, if built above grade, either berm plus catenary or "aerial structure," it will seriously degrade the life in my community and negatively affect the property values of not only those immediately adjacent to the tracks but much more widely in Palo Alto than most people think. And the studies and projections that have been put forward to justify going forward with HSR seem to be deeply flawed, if not outright fraudulent or deceptive. (More and more people are beginning to see the light on that point, which is one reason why Diridon will be avoiding meetings with the public who would challenge him on these studies.) Do you get the point between supporting HSR in principle or in the abstract, and having deep doubts about the desirability and financial viability of this particular implementation of the HSR idea? That's a critical point to grasp. I'm not out to kill HSR at all, but I am opposed to this poorly planned, poorly designed, poorly justified, and financially harmful incarnation of the HSR idea.
As for "who do you have on your side," that's the second comment like that you've made to me. As if the fact that opponents of this HSR may not have their hands on the power levers should make them recoil in fear, stop speaking out, fold up their tents, and go home. Too bad you didn't make that kind of comment to other oppositional and resistance movements, e.g., the Civil Rights movement, when it was initially unpopular, or the anti-Viet Nam war movement which was initially quite unpopular or the anti-U.S. SST movement when it was so unpopular. I look at the situation at hand and decide whether I think the project in question is good for my community, my fellow neighborhood residents, and my quality of life and speak out accordingly. I don't make whether or not I speak out hinge on whether I think I have the most power on my side, which appears to be a primary concern of yours.
Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community, on Aug 9, 2010 at 7:27 pm
"With all the talk and blather about keeping taxes down and reducing government deficits, why is this HSR idea even on the table?"
Because some people don't want to keep taxes down? When when was keeping taxes down an inherently "good" thing to do? Many countries have higher taxes and are happier, healthier and more well off than we are on average.
As far as government deficits go, perhaps the backers of high speed rail wish to reign in deficits by cutting something else.
Yes, some people do have a different value system than you.
Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community, on Aug 9, 2010 at 7:30 pm
One additional observation, communities along the Peninsula voted yes on Prop 1A, which was known to represent a high cost even back then. It sounds to me that, even if some residents on the Peninsula don't want high speed rail near *their* houses, they are willing to pay for it to be constructed *somewhere* in the state.
I don't think the low-tax, budget busting folks on are on the Peninsula. Orange County takes that title.
Posted by Robert, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 7:33 pm
Here's a prediction:
if this HSR project is built, and if it winds up costing tens of billions more to construct than the current utopian figure of $43 billion (as I believe will happen), and if the system winds up running an operational annual deficit (as I also believe will happen),
then CHSRA will have to either get a massive subsidy from the federal government (unlikely) or return to the citizens of California and ask for another bail-out bond issue;
if, I say, all that happens, then many, many current zealous supporters of HSR will be absolutely livid at being asked to cover additional subsidies and/or pay higher taxes to keep HSR afloat. Their children will also be asked to carry the HSR albatross around their necks for years.
Kindly remember this likely outcome, what it will mean financially to you and your children and make your concerns known LOUD AND CLEAR to your government representatives, local, state, and federal.
Posted by john burrows, a resident of another community, on Aug 9, 2010 at 7:54 pm
I guarantee you that Rod Diridon DOES have the "cojones to talk to those affected", and while I have not met Quentin Kopp I would guess that he is not lacking either. What both are lacking is not "cojones", but rather the ability to "massage a situation". And if ever there was a situation in need of a massage, it is the one that now exists on the Peninsula in regard to high speed rail.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 7:56 pm
To: Just don't get it....
Of course many of us do not want it and do wish to kill HSR!!
Read the truth regarding the cost, devastation to private and public lands. How many private land owners will lose their hard earned homes to emminent domain( and most people on or near the tracks did not vote for this 'thing' that we do not need).
Look at trains going by. They are basically empty except at commute time. The light rail is also empty! If we spend billions building this , that only a few will use, I would like every 'rider' to visit a school struggling to survive, a medical clinic that is going under, a fire station or police department and let them know that they are not importaat- what is important is that a 'rider' gets to LA a little bit faster!! Selfishness pure and simple!
Posted by Paco, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 7:58 pm
High speed rail is an essential component of developing a new transportation system with reduced carbon emission. Compared to the staggering impact of, say, highway 101 as a noise source, HSR will be relatively benign. Palo Alto should be supporting this rare opportunity for energy efficient mass transport, rather than joining in with the lawsuits aimed at effectively stopping HSR.
Posted by Lorraine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 8:18 pm
Ron Diridon wants to be polite! It was the same Ron Diridon, who, upon arriving late at a town hall meeting hosted by Anna Eshoo in Menlo Park a few months ago, promptly took a seat on the dias and spun his chair around turning his back on the members of the community in the audience. I realized at that point that he and the HSR board had absolutely no interest in listening to our concerns and that his own agenda would prevail. He didn't even have the guts or the grace to look us in the eye. Apparently nothing has changed since that meeting.
Posted by Robert, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 8:56 pm
You need to read the analysis of Civil Engineering Professor Arpad Horvath at UC Berkeley. Here's the jist of it: when determining whether in switching from one transport technology to another carbon emissions will be cut, you must do a "life-cycle analysis," not just look at "tail pipe emissions" of cars vs. HSR per se. In particular, one has to take into account the carbon intensivity of the production processes used to make the HSR cars and tracks too. The UCB professor concluded, if I recall correctly, that HSR would yield a significant decrease in carbon emissions only if two conditions were satisfied: (1) HSR consistently ran with a very high load factor (most seats occupied in the trains) and (2) renewable energy technologies were used to make the cars. He doubts, and I share his doubt, that either condition would be likely to be satisfied. So, Paco, don't be at all sure that HSRE would be a significant carbon emissions win. I appreciate the fact and share your goal that cutting carbon emissions is desirable. But don't swallow uncritically HSRA's attempt to portray HSR as a great boon for cutting carbon emissions. Think about the whole system, from "cradle" to "grave," not just relative tailpipe emissions.
Posted by HSR Costs, a resident of Menlo Park, on Aug 9, 2010 at 11:51 pm
I read your article. It's rather damning in and of itself. Some choice quotes:
"So, if you're in favor of high speed rail, you can point to the Acela's success. If you think it's a money pit you can point to overall picture."
- OK, some some locations can _barely_ eek out an _operating_ profit; historically, Japan's system can do this as well.
"U.S. taxpayers spent about $32 subsidizing the cost of the typical Amtrak passenger in 2008, about four times the rail operator's estimate"
- The rail lines can't even estimate their own costs. Hmmmm.
"Forty-one of Amtrak's 44 routes lost money in 2008"
- 93% lose money. Not good odds.
"Subsidyscope says its review counted certain capital expenses that Amtrak doesn't consider when calculating the financial performance of its routes, namely wear and tear on equipment, or depreciation."
- So maintenance isn't considered when calculating performance. Eek. Trains never break down, right?
"the train traveling between San Antonio and Los Angeles — the Sunset Limited — which lost $462 per passenger. Taxpayers subsidize the losses to keep the passenger train service running."
- That's a hefty loss. Hopefully the profits on the other end are equally large to offset.
"The Northeast corridor has the highest passenger volume of any Amtrak route, greatly enhancing efficiency. The corridor's high-speed Acela Express made a profit of about $41 per passenger. The more heavily utilized Northeast Regional lost almost $5 per passenger."
- Oooh, doesn't offset the above loss. Unless the volume is 10x greater than the above. But even another heavily utilized route loses $5 per passenger, so I doubt it.
"Passenger rail systems throughout the world lose money and require government subsidies to cover operating expenses."
- Ouch. Subtracting the $32 subsidy, the Acela line made a profit of only $9. Doesn't seem to make up for that $462 loss elsewhere...
At issue here are several items:
- Operating profits are different from total system costs. The only reason Japan sees a profit is because they wrote off construction costs, knowing full well the system would never recoup them.
- Don't we already have perfectly acceptable alternatives? That $105 train ticket buys a flight from SFO or SJC to LAX or SAN; total time was in the 2hr range. Families on a budget can drive I5. I'm just not sure who would use this service on an ongoing basis. Most I talk to are interested in the novelty, but one ride won't support the costs.
- Why would we want to burden an already broke state with $50-$150 Billion in new debt to subsidize a few patrons? We're firing teachers while building $30 Million performing arts centers on local campuses. Our state's financial head is screwed on backward. We can't afford something as costly as the rail project that fills such a small niche.
- What else could we get for the money? Figure 40 Million people in the state; $120 Billon for the project. That's $3,000 for every man, woman, and child. That's a used car for everyone. Or 30 round trip plane tickets SJC<->LAX based on 'I wanna get away' sales. Or instead use it to fund projects. It could pay for 6+ years of NASA's $19B budget. Or fund scientific research to the tune of 120 projects at the same scale as the large hadron particle collider. Use your imagination; this is a huge pile of money that could have much greater impact.
- For the 'we subsidize all transportation crowd.' Trains are very inflexible systems. A problem on one part of the track disrupts service nearly everywhere on the line. Our road and highway system and to a large extent air traffic are self optimizing systems - if there's a problem with one route, they go around it. If there's a problem with scheduling, they can delay.
Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community, on Aug 10, 2010 at 12:05 am
"when determining whether in switching from one transport technology to another carbon emissions will be cut, you must do a "life-cycle analysis," not just look at "tail pipe emissions" of cars vs. HSR per se."
This would be correct if the choice was to build high speed rail or do nothing.
However, even if the high speed rail project were to fall through, there would be a need to increase transportation capacity in some other way, most likely a combination of highway and airport expansions. These too contain some kind of environmental cost to construct.
It's a clever argument, but it doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community, on Aug 10, 2010 at 12:14 am
"- The rail lines can't even estimate their own costs. Hmmmm."
There is an argument over how to account for depreciation. Yes, they do account for maintenance.
"- 93% lose money. Not good odds."
These include many routes that are basically hotels on wheels for retired people who enjoy looking out the window. Comparing long-distance Amtrak routes to high speed rail is not a good comparison to make.
"Don't we already have perfectly acceptable alternatives? That $105 train ticket buys a flight from SFO or SJC to LAX or SAN"
Consider researching airfare to and from the Central Valley.
$105 is the average price in a scenario where train tickets cost 83% of average airfare. There will be fares below and above that if that scenario is chosen by the operator. The operator could also choose the 50% scenario. It's wide open.
"If there's a problem with scheduling, they can delay."
Posted by Jay Tulock, a resident of another community, on Aug 10, 2010 at 10:15 am
Those of you on the Peninsula fighting this, I believe it is time for a united campaign to demand the removal of Rod Diridon and Quentin Kopp from the High Speed Authority board. That is not rude, that is practical. Removing ones enemy is practical. Yes, "Just Wondering" it is strange that two of the only living people to have transportation infrastructure named after them are Rod Diridon and Quentin Kopp. Usually such designations are saved as memorials for the dead. In removing Rod Diridon and Quentin Kopp from the High Speed Authority board, at least they would finally be dead politically regarding the project. Then you all could enjoy driving the Quentin Kopp Memorial freeway and catching a train at the Rod Diridon Memorial Train Station. Every meeting, every day until they are gone, one united message. Out with Diridon, out with Kopp. They can take their "untrenched" positions with them as the door hits them in the ass on the way out.
Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 10, 2010 at 11:29 am
Getting back to Diridon's & Kopp’s cojones to speak with the public – they both have plenty. Their avoidance has nothing to do with their willingness or ability to face the public. They’ve been muzzled. After the HSRA contracted Ogilvy to do their “communications and outreach” (a $9 million contract), the professionals advised the HSRA to keep these two board members away from the press & public. They’re harmful to the project’s image.
Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 10, 2010 at 12:55 pm
Circumstantial & heresy. It won’t hold up in court, but it’s good enough for this forum. Kopp & Diridon stopped talking about the time Ogilvy was hired. It’s also common knowledge that the other board members had been asking them to muzzle it because they’re known for saying stupid things like ‘rotten apples’, that the tracks could fit within 50 feet, etc.
Posted by Bill, a resident of Menlo Park, on Aug 10, 2010 at 1:42 pm
High Speed Rail makes sense for the following reasons:
1 - Steel wheel on steel rail is the most energy efficient mode of transportation known.
2 - Trains can run on electricity, airplanes cannot.
3 - Electricity can be generated from wind, sea, hydro, solar, biomass, nuclear, natural gas, and any other energy source you can think of.
4 - Airplanes require the high energy density of hydrocarbon fuels, jet fuel comes from oil.
5 - Burning fossil fuels increase the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, increasing warming from the greenhouse effect, . . .
6 - The HSR route needs to connect to existing transit (CalTrain) to minimize the number of transfers during a trip, which is why a 101 alignment would not be useful.
7 - HSR is not meant as a substitute for local transit, it is for longer trips -- Los Angeles to San Francisco, and subsets. For most it will not be part of a daily commute.
8 - Our communities are already divided by CalTrain, following, and expanding that right of way is the least disruptive path
9 - San Francisco is where tourists and distance travelers want to go. (I know, they should skip the City and visit San Jose and Stanford instead, but that is not how it has been for the last 50 years, nor is that likely to change in the next 50 years.) Hence ending the HSR in San Jose and requiring a transfer to a local system (CalTrain or Bart) is a poor compromise.
10 - Electric powered trains are much quieter than the existing diesel locomotives used on CalTrain, HSR and electrification of CalTrain go hand-in-hand and will reduce the noise impact overall.
I live in Menlo Park. I support HSR. So do many other Menlo Park residents. I am waiting for the city government to reflect the interest of the whole of Menlo Park, rather than the noisy self-interested handful of opponents.
Posted by Larry Cohn, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm
Interesting arguments, Bill. Now please explain how HSR can work economically, without requiring huge taxpayer subsidies for generations to come and without incurring cost overruns during construction. While you're at it, explain how HSR will entice travelers to refrain from using airplanes (faster) and highways (you have an automobile at your destination) in favor of HSR. Also describe how, in the current economic environment, the needed private investors will be attracted as a source of funding. You also need to consider that commercial airplanes and highway travel will not go away with HSR, so their environmental impacts will still be felt.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Aug 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm
Bill --"2 - Trains can run on electricity, airplanes cannot and 3 - Electricity can be generated from wind, sea, hydro, solar, biomass, nuclear, natural gas, and any other energy source you can think of."
CAN BE is key here. That generating the electricity for the train can be polluting should be taken into account before advocating this as reducing emissions, etc.
6 - The HSR route needs to connect to existing transit (CalTrain) to minimize the number of transfers during a trip, which is why a 101 alignment would not be useful. TRANSFERS TO WHERE? If the train has few stops, the transfer issue is minimal. Are you assuming that someone who takes HSR from LA to Palo Alto will be transfering to Cal Train or public transportation? Not likely.
"7 - HSR is not meant as a substitute for local transit, it is for longer trips -- Los Angeles to San Francisco, and subsets. For most it will not be part of a daily commute." THEN IT DOESN'T NEED TO RUN THROUGH OUR COMMUNITIES.
"8 - Our communities are already divided by CalTrain, following, and expanding that right of way is the least disruptive path."
Least disruptive to whom? Certainly not the thousands of residents who will be impacted very directly. You really can't compare CalTrain, with two tracks, to a four track monstrosity hovering over and dividing our community. And then there is the plan for trains to run every 3 minutes.
This project is a bad idea on so many levels, it is amazing anyone would see it as viable. Financials, ridership, and cost overruns have been distorted at best, lied about at worst. Cost: Very high, both financially and in terms of quality of life. Benefit: A very few (relative to those negatively impacted) will get to take a fun run to LA once in awhile.
We must do all we can to redirect the route or, better yet, scrap the project.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm
You did not include in your analysis the investment needed to create the electrical power generation needed to power the HSR, nor have you analyzed what the cost of the electrical power would be under different scenarios where electrical power capacity is constrained.
Today we have days where the power company wants the population to restrict their use of air conditioners; I could imagine a scenario where the HSR would also be restricted as well.
Solar power is very nice, but it does take significant investment, and since the HSR is planning on running at night, it will be using those carbon based electrical power plants to generate the electrical power it needs to run.
You state that HSR needs to connect to Caltrain as a justification for routing on the Caltrain corrider - that's illogical (especially since in your next point, you say that Caltrain is for local commmutes, and HSR is for long distance travel). The HSR & Caltrain just needs to intersect at one common location to be able to transfer between the two systems; after that the routes can diverge.
You say that San Francisco is where people want to go, not San Jose. Based on that logic, the HSR could go up Highway 101, or Altamont to San Francisco, and riders could then use BART or Caltrain to get to other points on East bay or Peninsula. This would save the HSR hundreds of millions of dollars in property costs (eminent domain), as the state already owns the Highway 101 land. The only reason this is not being considered is because Ron Diridon, the San Jose HSR board member is closed minded and has an entrenched position about the route.
Posted by Larry Cohn, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 10, 2010 at 3:43 pm
The project needs to be scrapped up and down the state.
<< 1 - Steel wheel on steel rail is the most energy efficient mode of transportation known.
2 - Trains can run on electricity, airplanes cannot.
3 - Electricity can be generated from wind, sea, hydro, solar, biomass, nuclear, natural gas, and any other energy source you can think of.
4 - Airplanes require the high energy density of hydrocarbon fuels, jet fuel comes from oil.
5 - Burning fossil fuels increase the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, increasing warming from the greenhouse effect, . . . >>
It bears repeating: All this talk about how much greener HSR will be, your first five points, make sense only if airplanes are taken out of the sky and cars off the highway. HSR will run IN ADDITION TO, not INSTEAD OF these other modes of transportation. Even if you get a few hundred people out of airplanes and a few hundred cars off the highways each week, the planes will still fly on schedule and cars will still go up and down the highways. It is safe to say there will be no net energy savings if HSR runs in addition to these other modes of transportation; rather, HSR will be an added consumer of energy.
Can you or anyone answer the question of where the electricity for HSR will come from? It's probably safe to assume that electrical generators will be working 24/7 to keep the HSR system powered up 24/7. Where will these generators be and what kind? How is this scenario more efficient than starting a car or airplane engine at the beginning of a trip and turning it off at the end of a trip? You must then divide the energy used by the actual number of passengers carried (not the wildly inflated projected number of riders). I still haven't seen a specific plan for powering this system. One would think it would be in the EIR. If it's not then the public has been duped again.
Posted by Robert, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 10, 2010 at 4:20 pm
You responded to Larry Cohn's reasonable request for an explantation of how this HSR can work economically without huge public subsidies (of the sorts that every European country with high-speed rail has paid and continues to pay) NOT by answering it but by asking him which of CHSRA's "figures" he disagreed with and why.
I'll give you three. First, the price tag for constructing the system. Originally set at about $15 billion CHSRA has had to raise it to about $45 billion, and that's not in dollars in the years in which the system would be built but in yesterday and today's dollars. While it does not prove it, the history of large scale technological projects in the U.S. and in the world in general STRONGLY SUGGESTS that the final price tag for such a project typically is a multiple of 2 to 4 greater than the low-ball figure promoters have the incentive to provide in order to seduce the public to support it. The tunnel in Boston and the National Ignition Facility at Livermore Lab are not exceptional. They both wound up costing much more than their boosters said they would. Other figures I disbelieve are CHSRA's claim that its HSR system will make millions of dollars a year in profit and its claim that SF/LA ticket prices will be less than airline tickets between SF and LA. Obviously the mega-profit claim is built on the flawed and dubious ridership studies that have been revealed as such by distinguished experts without axes to grind in the last two months.
In short, I'd say that CHSRA's projection of annual operating profits of millions and its projected ticket prices are DECEPTIVE IF NOT FRAUDULENT FANTASIES aimed at duping the public. I have long predicted that the final construction cost for this proposed mega-project will be closer to a tenth of a TRILLION dollars. Whether or not one thinks that HSR is desirable in itself, this price is something that CALIFORNIA CANNOT AFFORD TO PAY.
Posted by noHSR, a resident of another community, on Aug 10, 2010 at 4:32 pm
Anyone know why the Sunnyvale city council hasn't joined the consortium of cities opposed to HSR? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe there are at least two condo complexes and an apartment complex right next to the Caltrain tracks in Sunnyvale. Are these going to be torn down if the HSR is built?
Also, the condo complex where the Old Mill shopping center used to be is pretty close to the tracks, as are several businesses in Mountain View. Has anyone taken this into consideration?
Posted by Derek, a resident of another community, on Aug 10, 2010 at 4:43 pm
Larry Cohn wrote: "All this talk about how much greener HSR will be, your first five points, make sense only if airplanes are taken out of the sky and cars off the highway."
They will be. If the Acela is any indication, the HSR will capture over 50% of the market share from the airlines for travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Larry Cohn wrote: "It's probably safe to assume that electrical generators will be working 24/7 to keep the HSR system powered up 24/7."
Only if they are all base load power plants (such as Nuclear), or if the trains run on the same schedule during on-peak and off-peak hours. Neither of these are safe assumptions.
pat wrote: "Review of “Bay Area/California High-Speed Rail Ridership and Revenue Forecasting Study..."
The study says, "We are, for the most part, satisfied with their responses and agree that their work on this project meets generally accepted standards for travel demand modeling." So if there are any errors in the forecasting study, they must not be serious ones.
Robert wrote: "First, the price tag for constructing the system. Originally set at about $15 billion CHSRA has had to raise it to about $45 billion..."
We can thank the real estate bubble for that. This is why it needs to be built now, when real estate and construction prices are low and aren't expected to rise soon. If we put it off until later, the price will rise even more.
And if you can find any flaws in the CHSRA's final figures, please bring them to the table.
Robert wrote: "While it does not prove it, the history of large scale technological projects in the U.S. and in the world in general STRONGLY SUGGESTS that the final price tag for such a project typically is a multiple of 2 to 4 greater than the low-ball figure promoters have the incentive to provide in order to seduce the public to support it."
The alternative to the $45 billion HSR system is $80 to 150 billion to expand airports and freeways to move the same number of people. So let's apply your 2-4x multiplier to both figures. $45 billion comes to $90 to 180 billion for HSR. $80 to 150 billion comes to $160 to 600 billion for airports and freeways.
Which to you looks like a better deal, $90 to 180 billion, or $160 to 600 billion?
Posted by Amazed, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Aug 10, 2010 at 8:13 pm
Wasn't HSR on the ballot last year? Wasn't it approved? I do not recall this level of interest or angst preceding the election. Now, AFTER THE FACT, people seem to be cluing in to what HSR is all about. This discussion should have taken place a year ago. Here's another data point that was true before the election: even if HSR is desirable we live in a state that cannot fund the most basic human services or sustain an education system that keeps us even out of the bottom 5% but we want to be able to move 300 people from here to LA in 3 hours. None of this makes sense to me. The one thing I hope will come of all this is that more people will be more engaged in the election/initiative process and that those who are engaged will be diligent with their franchise. I voted against HSR b/c I didn't find the various claims about cost and ridership and jobs credible. Those promoting such a significant project have an obligation to get things right before an issue is placed before the voters. This whole thing is wrong all the way around.
Posted by Robert, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 10, 2010 at 8:30 pm
Re your post: bravo!
To explain why fervid opposition to this HSR has crystalized now and had not before the Nov. 2008 election, Kopp and Diridon had already decided in the summer of 2008 to run the HSR up the spine of the Peninsula, but they deliberately kept that plan vague and underneath the public radar. Few Peninsulans knew exactly what the plan was and as soon as they found out, shortly after the election, the protest movement started getting organized (in January and February of 2009).
One senses that the opposition to this HSR is picking up momentum, because of cost concerns, community impact grounds, lack of credibility of the studies that CHSRA has paid for, and the phony facade of receptivity to community input that Kopp, Diridon, and their acolytes have shown. We all know now that they intend to shove it down the throat of the Peninsula Communities that stand to be hard hit by it and put California into much deeper debt than it already is.
This has been a deceptive, flawed process with bogus studies from the start.
Posted by observer, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Aug 10, 2010 at 10:09 pm
I have attended several of the HSR 'community' meetings. I have never seen such arrogant 'leaders', or contempt for the communities HST wants to plow through, than from HSR. I haven't heard much about Dominick Spaething lately. Does he still get up in front of groups, smile, and say we're going to destroy your community for reasons we really can't articulate, so be happy! I saw Diridon appear before the Palo Alto City Council about a year ago. Arrogance on two feet. He didn't mince words. He made it perfectly clear to the entire city council that HSR was coming through Palo Alto, he didn't care what anyone had to say about it, though he would listen to some comments, but only if you were very polite. It was absolutely pathetic to see Kishimoto ("I was deceived by HSR...") try to engage Diridon in dialog about how Palo Alto wanted to discuss HSR options, and be a part of the planning process. Diridon made it perfectly clear that there would be no discussion. Palo Alto could submit a concern just like any one else, HSR would duly note it received, and then throw it out. And yet, Palo Alto City Council still flounders, trying to figure out what to do about HSR. Menlo Park, Atherton, and other communities who have litigated, have had the courage to stand up for their communities. HSR has no obligation to respond to any community concerns besides dismiss them as too costly or engineering obstacles in their EIR reports. I recall listening to a KQED radio interview with Kopp a while back. A man from Menlo Park called in to the show, and had to pause a moment as CalTrain rumbled by his house, clearly audible to the listening audience. Kopps comment was to the affect, "I don't hear anything, what's the problem". I think that just about summarized his concern for communities on the peninsula.
I hope HSR dies, sooner rather than later. Why isn't anyone in Sacramento screaming about the billions CA will be shelling out in the future for this giant boondoggle, when the state can't even pay it's bills today?
Posted by ODB, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 2:17 am
It would be a huge gamble to spend $40 billion (or $80 or $120 billion taking into account cost overruns) only to hope HSR's market share comes close to that of Acela. Given the disputed ridership projections I fail to see how HSR could ever hope to turn a profit. By profit I mean recouping every penny spent on construction, eminent domain land acquisition, rolling stock, marketing, bond principal, bond interest, studies, reports, staff and administrative salaries, legal expenses (the Menlo Park/Atherton lawsuit), everything including cost overruns, as well as turning an operating profit.
Communities which don't even stand to benefit from HSR but which must cut safety, educational and community services can't be too happy at the prospect of so much state indebtedness going toward a project which benefits such a small number of people. Though Amazed is off by a year (it was on the ballot in 2008) I don't think Californians fully understood what they were voting for at the time.
Posted by Toady, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 7:03 am
" If the Acela is any indication, the HSR will capture over 50% of the market share from the airlines for travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco."
Acela connects some very major cities in its system (Boston, New York, Philadelphia and DC) in among the densest metropolitan areas. This pig only connects two cities and goes through mostly sparsely populated rural areas in between the Bay Area and Southern California. Somehow, I have hard time putting Fresno and Bakersfield in the same sentence as Philly or Boston.
The comparison between Pig-Choo-Choo and Acela doesn't work at all.
By the way, it is very easy to upgrade air capacity between LAX/SNA/BUR/ONT and SFO/SJC/OAK without expanding airports. It's called "upgauging," where you replace a smaller plane with a larger one. Most if not all flights are in small, narrowbody plans or regional jets. If travel between NorCal and SoCal grow that much, the airlines will put larger planes on it.
If Robert and his buddies like HSR so much, how about we just terminate it in Monterey in his backyard. I'm tired of his carpetbagging.
Posted by Derek, a resident of another community, on Aug 11, 2010 at 7:46 am
Toady wrote: "Acela connects some very major cities in its system (Boston, New York, Philadelphia and DC) in among the densest metropolitan areas."
That made it expensive to build, and it isn't as fast as California's HSR will be. If the Acela can capture 50% of the market going only 70 mph on average, then California's at 164 mph average speed between San Francisco and Los Angeles will have no trouble.
Posted by Robert, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 7:54 am
You may well be right that it's their publicly paid PR firm, Ogilvy, that has "instructed" them to avoid public meetings with Midpeninsulans who have serious questions and want serious answers.
If so, then the article at the top of this page contains another lie. It reported that Kopp and Diridon have been "advised by agency staff" and "instructed" not to participate in public meetings on the Midpeninsula. The CHSRA "staff" can't and wouldn't "instruct" those two prima donnas to do anything. Maybe Kopp and Diridon now consider Ogilvy to be part of their staff. That would be about par for the course for this fiasco project.
Posted by ODB, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 3:29 pm
Acela was built on existing rail lines. They merely had to electrify parts which weren't already electrified and widen some curves.
The northeast corridor already had a thriving commute rail operation when Acela was conceived. CA HSR will require the construction of all-new trackage up and down the line, and there isn't already a thriving commute service in place. Those are two disadvantages HSR faces which Acela didn't. Where are the figures saying there is unmet demand for commute rail service between Bakersfield, Fresno and Merced? It's silly to equate those cities with Boston, Philadelphia, New York and D.C.
Posted by Derek, a resident of another community, on Aug 11, 2010 at 4:38 pm
ODB wrote: "CA HSR will require the construction of all-new trackage up and down the line..."
And that's how CA HSR will achieve much higher speeds and therefore be even more competitive with flying than the Acela.
ODB wrote: "...and there isn't already a thriving commute service in place."
If you ignore Caltrain, Metrolink, and the Coaster, then you would be correct.
ODB wrote: "Where are the figures saying there is unmet demand for commute rail service between Bakersfield, Fresno and Merced?"
Check out the April 2010 addendum to the business plan on the CHSRA's web site. See Table D on page 22. In Phase 1, it anticipates 5,300 daily boardings at Merced, 4,500 in Fresno, and 5,100 in Bakersfield, and it partially explains these figures on pages 18-19.
ODB wrote: "It's silly to equate those cities with Boston, Philadelphia, New York and D.C."
Then why are you doing it?
Instead of Bakersfield, Fresno, and Merced, it would be better to compare Los Angeles and the Bay Area with cities that have HSR service.
Posted by ODB, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 6:57 pm
<< ODB wrote: "CA HSR will require the construction of all-new trackage up and down the line..."
And that's how CA HSR will achieve much higher speeds and therefore be even more competitive with flying than the Acela. >>
At a cost to California taxpayers of tens of billions of dollars, likely far more than was spent on Acela. Again, do you or anyone else know the construction costs for Acela?
<< ODB wrote: "...and there isn't already a thriving commute service in place."
If you ignore Caltrain, Metrolink, and the Coaster, then you would be correct. >>
Those are local services, not long-distance.
<< Check out the April 2010 addendum to the business plan on the CHSRA's web site. See Table D on page 22. In Phase 1, it anticipates 5,300 daily boardings at Merced, 4,500 in Fresno, and 5,100 in Bakersfield >>
And you believe those figures? One has to ask, if those cities are served by conventional rail, why isn't there already a thriving commute operation between those cities a la CalTrain?
<< Acela connects some very major cities in its system (Boston, New York, Philadelphia and DC) in among the densest metropolitan areas.
ODB wrote: "It's silly to equate those cities with Boston, Philadelphia, New York and D.C."
Then why are you doing it? >>
"Today" made those comparisons. Pay attention, Derek.
Posted by ODB, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 7:59 pm
Here are some concrete figures:
5,300 daily boardings at Merced
4,500 in Fresno
5,100 in Bakersfield
This totals 14,900 boardings per day.
Acela's daily ridership in 2009 was 8,272.
So we are being asked to believe that CA HSR's ridership in these three cities alone in semi-rural California will exceed Acela's daily ridership total in the densely-populated Northeast Corridor by EIGHTY PERCENT??? That proves to me how grossly overinflated CA HSR's projections are.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 9:27 pm
Derek wrote: The [Berkeley] study says, "We are, for the most part, satisfied with their responses and agree that their work on this project meets generally accepted standards for travel demand modeling."
Read the next sentence: ”Nevertheless we have found some significant problems that render the key demand forecasting models unreliable for policy analysis.”
Further: Our review of the ridership models and the responses … has led us to the identification of a number of problems that will affect the accuracy and reliability of these models.”
Posted by Toady, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 9:28 pm
It would be hilarious if it weren't so sad.
Needless to say, Prop 1A proponents pulled the green wool over California voters. It's funny how we as Northern Californians like to tout how educated we are. I guess the collective we aren't as smart as we like to think we are.
Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community, on Aug 11, 2010 at 10:11 pm
Here's the analogy the professor used to describe the high speed rail ridership model.
Say you are flipping a coin. You get $1 if you get heads and you lose $1 if you get tails. After flipping this coin many times, the expected outcome is that you break even. A few lucky or unlucky flips could put you up or down a few dollars. This coin flip experience has a relatively low variance.
Now say you get $1,000 if you get heads and lose $1,000 if you get tails. The expected outcome is, again, break even, but a few lucky flips could put you a few thousand up or a few thousand down. This coin flip experiment has a relatively high variance.
So when the ridership model says that there will be 14,900 boardings at so and so station, it could be 5,000 boardings or 30,000 boardings if the variance is high enough.
What the Berkeley study basically said is that the ridership of the high speed train system could be very high or very low. They feel that the forecasters could use more refined methods to narrow down more accurate figures, some methods that weren't available when Cambridge Systematics did the study. You could say that the study is outdated. However, Cambridge says that the methods Berkeley is talking about have not been vetted in the real world.
It's largely an academic vs. professional debate.
What the study did not say was that there was any malfeasance on the part of Cambridge Systematics. The numbers were not cooked, according to Berkeley.
Is more accuracy desirable? Of course. It takes time and money, though. And no matter how much accuracy you think you have, there is always an element of risk.
However, one point I would like to make is that our private automobile infrastructure does not appear to attract this kind of scrutiny. Where I live, parking lots are often only half-full even during the busiest parts of the day. This parking certainly imposes a cost, not just to the private firm that built the parking lot, but also to people who find it more difficult to get around. If minimum parking requirements were not so aggressive, the city could rezone the land for something else.
When we forecast that this WalMart or that Target needs so and so spaces, and we were way off and ended up overbuilding a desolate, unproductive parking lot, does anyone care?
If you're worried about concrete and asphalt, hell, look into the parking issue too.
Posted by Robert, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 10:56 pm
I wondered the same thing about Derek, viz, that he might be an Ogilvy plant, instructed to fire back aggressively at HSR opponents.
Why do I think that could be the case? First, I see no apparent motive for his boosterism. Second, he appears familiar with a lot of the CHSRA studies buried on their web site (often pointing us to things deep inside a document). What would propel him to ostensibly read these long studies? Third, he buttresses his claims with a lot of specifics, albeit ones that are often factoids.
It would not be at all surprising if Ogilvy is using part of the $9 million that CHSRA is paying them of taxpayer money to pay some people to be aggressive advocates for HSR in online forums. If we could only get a hold of Ogilvy's budget showing how they're spending our money.
Posted by ODB, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 11:25 pm
<< Let's compare apples and apples. How many boardings would the Acela have in 2035 if its average speed were 164 mph like CA HSR instead of its current 70 mph? >>
If the CA high-speed rail authority is coming up with the numbers, about 30 or 40 million each day.
<< So when the ridership model says that there will be 14,900 boardings at so and so station, it could be 5,000 boardings or 30,000 boardings if the variance is high enough. >>
When someone says the combined daily boardings in three not-very-large California cities will be 80% higher than all of Acela, common sense dictates that you have to question the underlying assumption.
If you want to play around with statistics, consider these:
Boston metro population: 4,522,858
Philadelphia metro population: 5,838,471
New York metro population: 19,006,798
Washington, D.C. metro population: 5,400,000
Fresno metro population: 1,002,846
Bakersfield metro population: 827,123
Merced population: 80,608
8,272 (Acela 2009 ridership) / 34,768,127 (combined NEC metro populations) = .024% of the combined metro populations rides Acela each day.
Applying that percentage to the three cities in California ...
.024% * 1,910,577 (combined populations of Merced, Fresno metro and Bakersfield metro) = 455 passengers each day.
To review, if 8,272 passengers ride Acela each day, that represents .024% of the metro populations of the four major cities in the Northeast Corridors.
If .024% of the combined populations of Merced, Fresno (metro) and Bakersfield (metro) ride CA HSR, that works out to 455 passengers per day, a far, far cry from the projected 14,900 riders per day.
The CA HSR projection is so wildly inflated as to defy all reason and reality.
Posted by ODB, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 12, 2010 at 12:13 am
I'm going to stir the pot some more.
According to subsidyscope.com, the Amtrak San Joaquin route between Bakersfield/Stockton and Oakland/Sacramento lost $8.7 million in fiscal 2008. Now before Derek comes along and says it wouldn't lose as much money if the trains went faster, I will say that there are many factors influencing ridership and profitability besides the single factor of train speed.
The San Joaquin route is losing money despite the track having been laid decades ago and long-since amortized, and using conventional passenger rolling stock. There is no $42 billion (or $82 billion after cost overruns) in construction costs and bond principal and interest yet to be amortized.
Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Aug 12, 2010 at 7:44 am
We are turning into a Third World country because decision makers are listenting to too many self interested cry babies. The HSR system should be designed so it is as cost effective as possible then if the plan can sustain itself over the long run it should be built. Of course that probably means an elevated system. We should have BART ringing the Bay but we don't due to a few idiots in San Mateo. The issues like noise and lower property values are simply bogus. Look at HWY 280 running through LAH and Woodside - has that road dramatically diminished property values? Can you imagine the screams of anguish we would have today if Caltrans tried to build HWY 280 exactly the way it is?
Posted by Derek, a resident of another community, on Aug 12, 2010 at 8:18 am
The San Joaquin takes 2h 15m to go from Merced to Sacramento. That's far too long for a daily commute, so of course few people ride it. When HSR is built, the same trip will take only 43 minutes, which is just within reach of a daily commute, if you live and work next to the stations.
Posted by Robert, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 12, 2010 at 12:02 pm
For "Alphonso," of Los Altos Hills,
You wrote: "The issues like noise and lower property values are simply bogus."
Ok, Alphonso, if you say so, they MUST be "simply bogus."
Your post deserves an award for combining an evidence-free pontifical claim (see above) with an utterly specious analogy. Few if any houses in LAH, Woodside, PV are cheek by jowl next to 280 the way hundreds would be right up against the right of way. Would you like to argue that those that are proximate to 280, even if on much bigger pieces of land, are not paying a property value price for that location, in the sense that you believe that their market value would be no different if the same houses were located at considerable remove from 280 and its constant drone of noise? If so, my advice would be that you steer free of the real estate appraisal profession.
Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Aug 12, 2010 at 2:09 pm
"Ok, Alphonso, if you say so, they MUST be "simply bogus.""
Seriously, the people claiming property devaluation have stated the project will impact all property within a half mile. There are plenty of LAH homes within a half mile of HWY 280 and a highway is much noisier than than the HSR will be. I used to live in Belmont before and after the elevation of the tracks. Before the tracks were raised the warning signals/horns bothered me - we were only about 2-3 blocks away. After the tracks were elevated I hardly heard anything unless I was outside on a quiet morning.
Your concern about the projects financial viability is reasonable, but all of the other concerns are simply scare tactics.
Posted by Sharon, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 12, 2010 at 2:11 pm
This is rather odd-----
"Companies hoping to compete for a piece of California's $45 billion high-speed rail project would have to disclose whether they transported Holocaust victims or POWs to Nazi camps during World War II.
The state Senate today voted 31-1 to send AB619 to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk.
The bill would require companies seeking contracts with the state's High-Speed Rail Authority to reveal any involvement in transporting people to concentration, prisoner-of-war, labor or extermination camps.
It does not authorize the rail authority to disqualify bidders based on their disclosures".Web Link
What is the logic behind the bill-- particularly as it bars disqualification on that basis?
Posted by ODB, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 12, 2010 at 2:47 pm
<< The San Joaquin takes 2h 15m to go from Merced to Sacramento. That's far too long for a daily commute, so of course few people ride it. When HSR is built, the same trip will take only 43 minutes, which is just within reach of a daily commute, if you live and work next to the stations. >>
The first phase of HSR won't even go to Sacramento. What a ridiculous argument.
<< If Derek is an Ogilvy plant, he's not doing a good job. His one trick pony (speed will magically conjure up riders in Fresno) is simply not credible. >>
He has offered no valid proof for any of those claims.
Posted by Sharon, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 12, 2010 at 7:03 pm
"The bill would require companies seeking contracts with the state's High-Speed Rail Authority to reveal any involvement in transporting people to concentration, prisoner-of-war, labor or extermination camps".
As written that would negatively effect, French, Dutch, Italian, German,Austrian,Russian,Polish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, Ukrainian, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, Czech, Danish, Norwegian, Finish and other HSR companies.
That leaves Canadian, British, Australian, American,Indian, Swiss and Irish HSR companies.
The Irish and the Swiss are not big manufacturers of HSR systems, so it narrows the field to the Anglosphere---interesting !
What a bizarre PR stunt and a waste of CA tax payers money on the Senate
Posted by Sharon, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Aug 12, 2010 at 8:07 pm
Sweden and Portugal could also be candidate for the contract, Spain is suspect because of the transports under the Franco regime, same applies to Argentina, Brazil -- same applies to African countries-- for example during the Boer Wars trains we used to transport people to prison camps in South Africa.Portugal did the same in the Congo
Come to think of it trains were used to transport POW in America during the Civil War and England and Australia used trains to transport POW during WW 11.
Indian history is a bit flawed-- so maybe we need to look to
New Zealand as the prime contractor in compliance with the Senate bill-- that makes it easy-- no competition!
Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community, on Aug 14, 2010 at 6:23 pm
"His one trick pony (speed will magically conjure up riders in Fresno) is simply not credible."
It's not magic, it's that there is a demand for a service that simply takes people where they want to go more quickly.
I've taken the San Joaquin to Sacramento and the Bay Area from Los Angeles. It is a comfortable and enjoyable way to travel, but it isn't very fast. There is a bus ride between Los Angeles and Bakersfield and you transfer to the train in Bakersfield. The bus ride itself is actually very popular. People will pay the fare from Los Angeles to Wasco, only to get off in Bakersfield and throw their train ticket away (per California law you must buy a bus ticket with a rail ticket). A proper rail link would clean up here.
The San Joaquin does well for what it is, a 79 MPH diesel train service. Some believe there is latent demand for faster trips to and from the Central Valley, a region with abysmal air service. It is intellectually dishonest to compare California's conventional train service with any proposed high speed rail system. The San Joaquins offer two trips to Sacramento and four trips to the Bay Area each day. The comparison doesn't make sense.