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High-speed rail could stop in Palo Alto

Original post made on Dec 28, 2007

The California High Speed Rail Authority is eyeing Palo Alto as a potential stop for super-fast trains that could whiz passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 28, 2007, 1:54 PM

Comments (139)

Posted by Native Girl, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 28, 2007 at 6:53 pm

I will definitely be voting "No" on this item.

I have seen peaceful neighborhoods in the East Bay where BART has declared areas as "eminent domain". The homeowners now have BART trains running in their backyards all night long. Their properties are worthless, but they cannot afford to move. The people have to live with the noise from announcement loudspeakers, bells, and bright lights shining into their homes 24 hours a day all year long.

Crime has increased, and the value of homes in an entire community hit rock bottom. Only the elderly residents who were unable to move remain. Some properties with homes on them were also tagged as eminent domain. These were demolished and converted into parking lots. This happened right within a once quiet residential area.

The homes in the entire neighborhood physically shake each time a BART train passes by. It is nothing like the "shake" that the people in homes adjacent to the tracks experience from Cal Train.

Let us save our city and our neighboring cities from this horrible idea.

Let us all come together on this, to voice our opposition.

Get out and Vote "NO" in November.


Posted by EM, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 28, 2007 at 7:15 pm

Let come together to VOTE YES. The High Speed Rail line will be will share the same right of way as Caltrain. So no eminent domain. People should have already had a disclosure about railroad tracks in their backyard when they bought their property in the first place. And, electrified trains are quieter than diesel!! This is a great project that everyone should vote yes on. This isn't BART!!


Posted by Chris (Paly '73), a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2007 at 9:26 pm

Extending the high-speed rail alignment up the peninsula is the height of stupidity! It will 1) add untold millions of dollars to the cost of the project, 2) duplicate the route of Caltrain's baby bullets, and 3) once the trains get to San Francisco they have nowhere to go. San Francisco would literally be a dead end! In order to continue north to Sacramento as planned, trains will have to go through the east bay. They can't get to Sacramento from San Francisco. Being whisked from S.F. to Millbrae to Palo Alto to San Jose at 150 mph is an awfully expensive luxury, especially considering the millions that have already been spent upgrading the trackage for Caltrain's baby bullets. There is no need to extend this project up the peninsula. Passengers from the south can take high speed rail to San Jose, debark and take a baby bullet up the peninsula. Travellers from Sacramento could debark at Oakland and take BART into the city and pick up Caltrain from there.

I travel from Los Angeles to Palo Alto several times per year and I'm all for the high-speed rail service, but the only way it will work is if it's an auto train. Without the ability to drive your car onto the train and take it with you, you're forced either to take public transit or rent a car once you arrive, and that offers no advantage over flying and thus no incentive to take high-speed rail.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2007 at 9:54 pm

Definitely "NO" in Palo Alto. We need to protect our environment. Menlo and Atherton shown no interest for good reasons.


Posted by Peter, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 28, 2007 at 10:03 pm

Vote "No" in November. NO question about it.


Posted by Trains-are-better-than-cars, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 28, 2007 at 10:24 pm

What needs to happen in this state is to have MASSIVE disincentives created for staying in your car. The market, itself, has begun to make this happen with gas prices sucking up 10-15% of long-distance commuter's income. That number will increase.

We are heading toward a time when the automobile as we know it today is an artifact in the history of this state's development.

Those who argue against ANY kind of alternate-to-auto developments are little more than technophobes. We need to put a stop to the onslaught of the automobile.

To suggest that a high speed train need to be a car ferry - or to argue for such a feature - shows a complete lack of understanding of what our economy, and nation, need to do in the near-long-term, to guarantee economic and environmental sustainabillity.'


Posted by Chris (Paly '73), a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2007 at 11:24 pm

It's a little late to stop the "onslaught of the automobile".

Travelers will need an incentive to give up air travel and automobiles and use high-speed rail. Bullet trains will be slower than airplanes and unless they carry autos will be less convenient and likely more expensive than driving. High speed rail will have to be either significantly cheaper than flying or just as convenient as driving in order to get the general public interested. If it's neither of those, the public in all likelihood won't change its travel habits as long as cars are permitted in this state, highways remain open and the airlines are in business.

If all you want are "MASSIVE" disincentives, you might as well ban private passenger cars, restrict access to the highways and tax gasoline to the $20 per gallon level.


Posted by Kyle, a resident of another community
on Dec 29, 2007 at 3:59 am

Its about time- we are so far behind the rest of the world, and are falling further behind every day. Hopefully this line will start to bring us up to-date.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2007 at 9:02 am

> Its about time- we are so far behind the rest of the world

Really? Care to post a list of countries and their GDPs that the US is behind?


Posted by Ann, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 29, 2007 at 10:35 am

Yes, yes, yes!!!


Posted by Jenny, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2007 at 11:30 am

As I suspected the California High Speed Rail Authority are making the same mistakes that British Rail made when they first designed the bullet train from London to Paris.

When the bullet train first began there was a huge outcry from the residents in the county of Kent through which the train had to pass on it's way to the Channel Tunnel. British Rail was forced to reduce the speed of the bullet train through Kent which increased the time taken to go from London to Paris.

British Rail has since made huge design changes at great expense. This includes a completely new Station built in Kent especially for the Bullet train only. It makes just one stop before it goes through the Channel Tunnel.

If our bullet train makes stops at Cities along the way it will increase the time it takes to go from SF to LA. If that time is greater than driving to an airport and flying down to LA people will continue to fly. Also, if the train fare is greater than the airfare, people will continue to fly.

Both the British and French systems rely on heavy government subsidies. To compete with low airfares and keep the train fares competitive, are the voters of California willing to subsidize the bullet train indefinitely?

The bullet train is a huge gamble which will cost California heavily for decades into the future.


Posted by Paly 08, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 29, 2007 at 11:33 am

This is such a cool project. It will show more than those rediculous solar panels that Palo Alto is really "going green." Palo Alto is right in the middle of so much innovative technology, but you wouldn't be able to tell from the perspective of an outsider. This new train system will show that.


Posted by Eric, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Dec 29, 2007 at 11:39 am

If the bullet train is really going to travel at 250 mph just think of the wind it will generate. Glad I don't live near the tracks.



Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2007 at 11:44 am

There is a big difference between having the rail link run through Palo Alto and having it stop in Palo Alto. I would definitely be in favor of the former, but the latter idea is worthless.

Yes we need to get a high speed north south rail link. It would make sense to stop in San Jose, but that is it. What is needed then is feeder systems (from Palo Alto) which are designed to coincide with arrival/leaving times of high speed trains.

Stopping the train at any stop will add at least 10 - 15 mins on the high speed journey, taking away some of its intrinsic value as high speed. The only advantage of having this train would be in competition with air travel and by slowing it down too much it would be taking away this competition.

Secondly, if it was decided that the high speed trains did need to stop at some suburban stations, why should it be Palo Alto? It would make sense that high speed trains need to stop somewhere near high speed traffic flows (101 or 280) with abundant parking and room for other transit amenities, car rentals, taxi ranks, hotels, locker room facilities, etc., none of which there is room for in Palo Alto.

Yes, it may be useful for Palo Altans or Stanford people to have a top in Palo Alto, but I think that this time the luxury idea for them would be a detriment to the whole service.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2007 at 5:47 pm

"$10 billion" to "pay for preliminary studies?" Is that some kind of misprint?


Posted by Train Guy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2007 at 6:21 pm

""$10 billion" to "pay for preliminary studies?" Is that some kind of misprint?"

Yeah, by the author. It is 1/3 of the amount that will pay for the first segment of the rail system. SF to LA. The other 2/3 will come from: 1/3 federal funds, 1/3 private funds. If the bond measure passes, private investors have already stated they have deep pockets for this project, but need to see a commitment by the state first (understandable). Also, there are new measures going through congress that will back any public funding measures, dollar for dollar, on high speed rail systems being built in the country. California we probably be the model system for the rest of the United States. It will be contagious!!

Also, think about the 450,000 new jobs this project will create in the state!!

And as for the remark by Sarah, "we need to protect our environment", what exactly do you think this is doing. It uses far less fossile fuels than airplanes or cars!! Call your local environmentalist and you will find out they support this high speed rail project. Time to wake up and quit being so selfish!!


Posted by Marianne, a resident of Professorville
on Dec 29, 2007 at 7:26 pm

Fabulous news.

As for disincentives to get out of cars: a SF Chronicle poll
(unscientific) asked people on the street what price of gas
would get them into carpools or transit or bikes. Answer?
There is no top limit - people believe they have no options
and will pay whatever the cost is. $20, more, whatever.

3 hours to L.A. would be a big win over flying or driving, both
for decency of transport and for energy consumption.

Transitions are never easy or without cost - but I am surprised
that this "birthplace of Silicon Valley" is so lacking in
gumption and willingness to change and make a new difference.


Posted by Long time resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2007 at 9:19 pm

Wake Up!! The same people who developed and planned the "Light-Rail" and "Trolleys" around San Jose and downtown SanJose are behind and running this high speed rail system. Arent those great examples of what can and will be done. Billions of $$ have been spent on these local trains. How much is Bart to San Jose going to cost? Isn't it projected to be 10 to 20 Billion? It's only a few miles long.

Can you imagine 4 tracks in a 50 ft. corridor and 4 trains passing each other at some points within a few feet of each other going over 125+ miles per hour.??

If this is going to compete with airlines it will need parking structures the size of the ones at airports.

See an earlier site here for cost and other info about this subject


Posted by An Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Go to "Issues beyond Palo Alto" section of Town Square Forum for more on the High Speed Rail issue. It's from Dec.21 and has about 63 letters/responses that go into ridership and costs.


Posted by NO, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 30, 2007 at 1:52 pm

Keep it on the East Bay!!!


Posted by YES!, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Dec 30, 2007 at 2:24 pm

We need it here


Posted by Lois, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2007 at 4:49 pm

It was announced today that BART is cancelling it's train link from Millbrae to SFO due to lack of ridership. If they can't run a train that little distance and make a profit, how profitable is the bullet train between SF and LA going to be.

The link btwn Millbrae and SFO cost Millions to build now it's not going to be used - what a waste.

The bullet train between SF and LA will presumably run once a day. If you go to SFO there is a plane to LAX every hour. How can a train compete?


Posted by No again, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 30, 2007 at 4:52 pm

Train may be a good idea. But no stop in Palo Alto.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2007 at 4:58 pm

We pay a huge premium to live in Palo Alto, we should protect our housing value. We shouldn't take any chance. No stop in Palo Alto.


Posted by Vote Yes, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 30, 2007 at 5:36 pm

Jenny said:

> Both the British and French systems rely on heavy government subsidies.

They did indeed rely on subsidies to build the infrastructure (much like our airports and air traffic control). However, the high speed trains produce an operating profit and require no subsidy to operate. Evidently the same effect is hoped for in California, otherwise how would private entities possibly desire to fund 1/3 of the system?


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 30, 2007 at 6:35 pm

Vote Yes--

I have only limited familiarity with the high speed system which connects Britain and the Continent. You state that it operates at a profit. To what extent is the operating entity contributing toward the paying down of the capital expenditures the governments made to build the infrastructure?

Airport fees, for example, in this country are paid in a number of different ways by the airlines that operate at an airport. If you have information of if and how such things work for the high speed train system in Europe/UK, please help others understand how they compare.


Posted by Eric, a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2007 at 9:10 pm

Lois said:

"The bullet train between SF and LA will presumably run once a day. If you go to SFO there is a plane to LAX every hour. How can a train compete?"

If you read the implementation plan, it states the total trains per day, each direction are:

Express 20
Semi-Express 21
Suburban-Express 20
Local 21
Regional 4

Don't forget the seating in the train sets are big, first class seating, which also will have internet access. Not small cramped seats without internet. The trains also have NO weather delays!! They don't slow down or leave late because of weather. The trains also have the capacity to carry more passengers than airplanes by coupling together.

The high speed train systems in Europe and Japan are great and a breeze to use. Much more pleasant experience than the airports. Once you have tried them, you will always want them. They DONT rely on subsidies for the high speed rail lines, just normal lines like Amtrak.

Also, don't forget how much time you waste in the airports, not something you do when riding trains.

I can understand some don't want the train to stop in Palo Alto, but dont vote no on the whole project because you dont want a local stop. Let the city officials know another city is a better place for a stop. But still vote YES!!


Posted by Some Other Guy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2007 at 11:00 pm

86 trains per day, each way??? That's 172 trains total, per day. That's probably over $1 billion in rolling stock alone. If the public turns its nose up at this service, that's going to be an awful lot of empty rolling stock whizzing by at 200 mph. And don't forget, each of those trains will need one or two salaried operators, adding to the cost.

Not only do you not want HSR stopping in Palo Alto, you don't want it going THROUGH Palo Alto. As someone else observed, it would basically duplicate the service of CalTrain and its baby bullets at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. Really, how fast do you need to get from San Jose to Millbrae?


Posted by Jarrett Mullen, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 30, 2007 at 11:17 pm

I'm seeing some misconceptions here about the high speed rail project.

First of all, the line would require no operating subsidy, unlike current local mass transit systems we have. In fact, the California High Speed Rail Authority predicts the line would bring in $2.5 million dollars in profit by 2030 (mentioned in the CHSR authority promo video and brochure). Granted, the return would never pay for the initial capital cost, but transportation systems never pay for themselves directly, be it highway, airport, or rail system.

As Eric mentioned, there would be much more than one train a day, and the levels of service be it suburban or express offer a variety of options for the traveler. This system will be designed to be competitive with airline door-to-door travel times.

Since the train is designed to be competitive with airline door-to-door travel times, it is imperative the system serve downtown Los Angeles and downtown San Francisco. Simply ending the line in San Jose and forcing a transfer would hurt ridership, increase travel times, and offer an incomplete system.

As for worries about property values near the tracks, or the towns near the tracks, I wouldn't see why values would drop. Current trends indicate property near commuter lines and light rail lines are very desirable. BART has forgotten about the communities that surround their stations and the large parking lots create unwelcoming environments. Just compare a BART station with a current CalTrain station.

One final advantage of the Rail Authority construction along the peninsula is the track would be fully grade separated, which will decrease traffic dwell time at crossings and discourage trespassing which can lead to unfortunate accidents.

I urge residents to vote yes for the future of California's mobility beyond freeways or airports.


Posted by Jarrett Mullen, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 30, 2007 at 11:42 pm

Some Other Guy,

The High Speed Rail project is designed as a regional project, connecting Southern and Northern California with the Central Valley. It is not intended to be a commuter option between San Jose and San Francisco.

Although the Caltrain Baby Bullet service is a very nice operation, I believe forcing a transfer between CAHSR and Caltrain at San Jose would hurt ridership. Since the Baby Bullet service only offers morning and evening peak service, any mid day CAHSR arrivals at San Jose would force San Francisco passengers onto a very slow local train, with a long travel time of nearly 1 hour and 40 minutes (SJ-SF). This does not include the time for transferring trains and waiting. Even if baby bullet service was expanded and timed to transfer with every single High Speed rail train, the transfer would still hurt ridership and diminish the goal of being competitive with airline travel times.

Since Caltrain is planning their own electrification project, express track expansion, and service expansion, the CAHSR project would only expedite this construction and provide even better express options for Caltrain service, while continuing the trend of grade separation with roads to cut down auto congestion and trespasser deaths along the Caltrain right of way.


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2007 at 12:27 am

It seems like there are 3 separate questions here -

1. whether a SF-LA HSR line is a good idea
2. whether it should go through Palo Alto
3. whether it should stop in Palo Alto

#1 seems like a big complicated question with lots of factors - I'm not sure what the answer is.

Regardless of how you feel about #1, I don't get why PA residents would want #2. It sounds like it would add 172 big trains a day, going through at 125 miles an hour - yikes! Sure we get to use it, but the convenience for a few vs. the cost to all seems way out of whack (esp given that we have frequent train service to SJ and SF already). Why would we want this on the Peninsula?

If we don't want #2, #3 is moot unless we are over-ruled on #2. Moreover, it seems like the stops for this should be in big city hubs or off the beaten track, where people can easily drive from a wide catchment area and park. The PA CalTrain stations are neither.

Supporters of HSR - am I missing something?


Posted by Some Other Guy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 1:02 am

Jarrett -

Do you work for the CAHSR Authority?

<< any mid day CAHSR arrivals at San Jose would force San Francisco passengers onto a very slow local train, with a long travel time of nearly 1 hour and 40 minutes (SJ-SF). >>

Cry me a river. So you won't be able to zip from S.J. to S.F. at 200 mph. There are worse problems in this world.

One option would be to rent a car upon arrival at S.J. and drive the rest of the way. There WILL be car rental facilities at all of the stations, won't there, as well as long-term parking facilities?

<< Caltrain is planning their own electrification project, express track expansion, and service expansion, the CAHSR project would only expedite this construction and provide even better express options for Caltrain service, while continuing the trend of grade separation with roads to cut down auto congestion and trespasser deaths along the Caltrain right of way. >>

How many more tens of millions of dollars are we going to pour into rail service between S.F. and S.J.? And how does the Californian living in Yreka or Barstow benefit from the tens of millions of dollars that have been/will be lavished upon peninsula rail service? If the world revolved around the S.F. peninsula and money grew on trees, I would be in agreement with you.


Posted by Eric, a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2007 at 10:51 am

Some Other Guy,

The whole point of this project is an alternative to cars and planes. The freeways are already jammed packed and airports are full. San Francisco and Los Angeles are destination points for millions of travelers. You have to get people to the destination point, not 50 miles away and expect them to find another way there.

This project will help the Caltrain corridor by either putting the tracks in a trench or an embankment as they pass through Palo Alto. Less noise for the city. And have the trains electrified, makes them a lot quieter! You also have to remember that not all trains will be going by Palo Alto. Some will only be for local service in southern California and the central valley.

Yes, the initial cost of building a state-wide high tech train system is huge, but is would cost way less than to build more airports and roads in the state.

Its a good alternative that works EVERYWHERE else in the world! Its time to take a leap of faith (for people who have not been elsewhere in the world and not rode these types of trains) and vote yes to move the state into 21st century travel.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 31, 2007 at 11:09 am

Eric,

I would like to believe your assertion that building this system will cost less than building more airports and roads. I think you are implying that the economic benefits, not just the costs, of an HSR between LA and the Bay Area exceeds that of merely builing more roads or expanding the regional airports in the state.

But, I am skeptical of this assertion. I perceive the ridership of this rail will not be high enough to justify the high cost of building it. assuming that there are roughly 25,000 people flying each way daily between the two points.

I also perceive the amount of "feeder" infratructure needed to support the end points, and perhaps some intermediate ones, in order to generate ridership, will be necessary for this to be successful, just as it is at airports--parking, car rental, roadways, perhaps light rail feeders. This is a huge expense, given the highly built out, dense urban locations where such infrastructure would be needed.

That said, I would like to see some bona fide numbers that indicate that building this thing from soup to nuts is the best use of such a large amount of funds. I am of the belief that it could be a better use of funds to go much much deeper with light rail and BART in densely populated areas of the state, with light rail feeders to the regional airport network. A few regional airports, for example, one out by Concord or Livermore, might actually offer a better cost/benefit than a high speed rail that connects central LA and SF.

I would like to see a project like this happen, but I have not been able to convince myself that it makes economic sense, and I have not seen any numbers that persuade me otherwise. I have done a small amount of economic analysis on this myself, and noone has refuted my back of the envelope calculations that this idea is, unfortunately, a very expensive albatross.

Help me, and perhaps others, understand the numbers on this that can make the case. This is a time when my head won't let my heart goes where it would like to.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 12:02 pm

The cost of not doing this project is not really quantifiable, but should still be considered. Flying is getting to be almost unrealistic for shorter distances, (less than 2 hour flights) with the amount of time needed each end to get through security, etc. Flying taxis will become part of the future, although maybe not for another 15 to 20 years, but for the rest of us, using a modern, high speed, rail link will become an alternative.

To look on this project as a beginning of a high speed corridor up and down the west coast is a realistic projection. When this is up and running, a spur to Sacramento and a link to Oregon/Washington will be discussed. Mark my words.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 31, 2007 at 12:03 pm

Paul, how does High speed rail work in France, or Japan (and coming, in China) - and other places on earth. We have GOT to start thinking and *acting* long-term. Our Mayor talks about "seven generations" - would that all our actions, including our Mayor's actions, moved in the direction of that goal.

Web Link

Web Link

Here's an analysis that supports YOUR claims, but fails to consider the umbrella of necessary public transport change that could (and should) work if we dedicate our policy and our dollars to something other than building highways, and creating more boondoggles like the Prius. (which draws MORE people into cars, and onto the highways)
Web Link


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 12:06 pm

> If you read the implementation plan, it states the
> total trains per day, each direction are:

> Express 20; Semi-Express 21; Suburban-Express 20;
> Local 21; Regional 4

Max Number of People per day = 170 cars x 550 people/car = 95,000

So, the maximum number of people transported by this plan comes to about 100,000 people at day. It's difficult to believe that the actually run rates will be any more than 35,000 to 50,000, depending on numerous factors. When have the airlines claimed that they couldn't absorb this additional traffic?

Given that the time for the trip will doubtless be 2-3 times slower than that of an airplane, why would business people stop flying to utilize this means of conveyance? And once at the destination, people still need transportation within the city/region. The belief that business people are going to start taking the bus once they get to their destinations isn't realistic.

The total cost per trip needs to be considered before people even consider talking about this as an option. The $33B price tag is actually $66B (thanks to the media that still can't figure out that interest on bonds doubles the real price).

The capacity of highways can easily be expanded where needed. The costs of airport expansion is far less than this pig-in-a-poke.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 31, 2007 at 12:23 pm

I have never advocated building more highways. I do suspect, however, that some highway construction would be required to provide apprropriate access to the starting and ending points of the HSR terminals.

I have been suggesting that a more appropriate use of these funds, which will get more cars of the road, is more local rail, (light and BART.) I have not heard much back in response to my contention. Is that because there largely is agreement? Or am I missing something? How about we start there, instead of starting something that is questionable even by people like myself who would like to see it happen, but only if it pencils out.

I actually find Resident's comments about airport security to be a reason for more regional airports. My experiences in the last several years is that geting through security in regional airports such as Orange County, Riverside, Fort Lauderdale, and San Jose to be much less onerous than getting in and out of SFO, Dulles, Denver, Alanta and other major airports.

I don't want to get into a homeland security argument here, it opens too many other cans of worms, but I will point out Madrid and London both were affected by security incidents at train stations, not airports, in recent years.

The greater the distance, the less attractive even high speed rail becomes. A high speed train to Seattle or Portland will never come close to matching the time flying to those places from California.


Posted by Eric, a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2007 at 12:48 pm

Paul,

I understand your skepticism, as you should be in something this new and this large of a budget. First, from what I understand, there is $950 million dollars set aside of the total project amount that is to only help develop the "feeder" infrastructure all along the line (buses, light rail, etc. Believe it or not, the project will work in conjunction with airlines as well).

As for some numbers, there is a sheet at the CHSRA web site that is some good reading. Is generalizes the project, with some numbers thrown in about operating costs and profits. Here is the link:

Web Link

Don't forget that ridership will be more than just commuters. Lots of tourists will use the line. Spend half the day in southern CA, then northern CA, or vice versa. This can be for people who live in the state, or out. Also, there is another project underway in souther CA that is talking about linking up to the rail line, when it gets built. Its the high speed train from LA (Palmdale whereabouts)to Vegas. Would be a great plus!!

People forget, BART is sooo expensive because it runs on specialized equipment, with a specialized gauge of track (narrower) that is not compatible with regular rail systems. This is why it cost so much to expand it, along with the fact it is mostly an areal structure which runs the cost up enormously.

This line, if built will generate great enthusiasm for train travel in the United States. it will be the only TRUE dedicated high speed rail line in the United States. Acela Express is not a true high speed rail line.

No, I do not work for the Rail Authority. But I am very excited about this project. I have ridden the high speed rail networks elsewhere in the world and I see how well they work. Once you ride them, you will forget all about airports. I think it would be a great benefit to our state, now and in the future to invest in this system.

P.S. Just for some easy numbers. If you have 25,000 people (less than half the estimated ridership) riding it each day (commuters and tourists), paying $100 round trip ($50 each way), LA to SF or SF to LA, that is $2.5 million a day, $912 million a year. That is almost a billion dollars a year in income just using half the projected numbers. Now take out the operating and maintenance costs that are usually about 1/3 the total net income. Not to bad of an investment.


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2007 at 12:51 pm

There seems to be an underderlying assumption that rail travel is more energy efficient than automobile travel. This is not, necessarily, true:

Web Link

Looking to the future, when all trains and cars will be 100% electric, the issue of base load electrical supply, and peak demand, will become major issues. If this electrcity is produced by coal, how does that help our air quality/global warming? Where do you all propose that the electrcity come from? Have you even considered it?


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Egan Middle School (Los Altos)
on Dec 31, 2007 at 1:11 pm

> I don't want to get into a homeland security argument here, it opens
> too many other cans of worms, but I will point out Madrid and London
> both were affected by security incidents at train stations, not
> airports, in recent years.

Sorry, but there is a Homeland Security Issue here. As everyone knows now, anyone with a throw-away cellphone, access to high explosives and a soda can is able to bring havoc to a train station. Moreover, all of the tracks in any train system is unprotected, and can not be protected. Blowing up a track with a 300 mph bullet train on it would make quite a show on the 6:00 news.

Train stations will have to just like airports, if the scourge of terrorism persists into the future. The cost of some sort of security for a HSR would be quite expensive, compared to that of airports, if it were to be of any value.


Posted by Eric, a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2007 at 1:13 pm

It will be a LONG, LONG, LONG, time from now that cars are all electric. By the time they are all electric, the electric motors will be even more efficient.

Coal only makes up %15 percent of our electricity production in the states. We use nuclear, wind, solar and hydro power for the majority of power (to name a few).

Web Link

Yes, electric rail travel is more efficient than a car and way more efficient than a plane. Engineer, you need to consider how much energy/waste there is per person by each means of travel. The electric train is most efficient.


Posted by Chad, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 31, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Trains-Are-Expensive,

Come on, give us a break. Any trains on the East coast with thousands of people riding them daily get blown up yet by terrorists? NO. And why is that. Most systems have fail-safes if something was to go wrong.

It sounds like you are looking for excuses not to like trains!!


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 1:41 pm

> Come on, give us a break. Any trains on the East coast
> with thousands of people riding them daily get blown
> up yet by terrorists?

And what part of Madrid and London attacks did you miss? The point here is that trains can not be protected from terrorism.

And because it hasn't happened yet you are suggesting that it won't?

Now .. it's time for you to give the rest of us a Break!


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2007 at 1:54 pm

Eric,

I was thinking more on the national level, where coal produces about 60% of domestic electricity, but I will take your example of California (in isolation):

From your own link, you will see that California currently imports about 22% of its electrcity. That makes us vulnerable to demand/supply issues, such as the one that got Gray Davis booted from office. Of the 78% that we do produce, large hydro and nuclear, which are unlikely to increase (unless there is a major shift in political thinking) produce about 32% of that figure. Natural gas, of which we only produce about 13% of our own supply, constitutes about 42% of our produced electrical; coal is at about 16% and various renewables (mostly wind) is at about 12%. All of this means than any ADDITIONAL supply will need to come from coal, natural gas and alternatives. Coal and natural gas are greenhouse gas producers, big time. Alternatives show some promise, but it is only promise. Nuclear could solve the probelm, by itself, but it will not happen in the current political environment. The bottom line is that any electrical travel will make California more vulnerable to brown-outs as well as steeply increasing electrical rates.

I think you need to research the real operating efficienies of electric trains. It is not much better than autos at this poiint. Take a look at the link I provided above, for a start. It will introduce you to some of the mechanical/energy issues.

BTW, battery technology is improving. It may not be as long as you think, before we get all-electric cars. A few are already being produced.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 1:58 pm

> Coal only makes up %15 percent of our electricity production
> in the states. We use nuclear, wind, solar and hydro power for
> the majority of power (to name a few).

Time for a "fact check":

Web Link

Back in 2001, the components of US energy generation was:

Petroleum 41.4%
Natural Gas 23.7%
Coal 23.3%
Nuclear 8.8%
Water 2.6%
Other 0.2%

Electrical generation consumed approximately 36% of the daily fuel needs of the U.S. during 2001, and the electrical energy generated by fuel source was as follows:

Coal 58.1%
Nuclear 24.2%
Natural Gas 8.1%
Water 7.1%
Liquid Petroleum 2.3%
Other 0.2%
--------


Posted by Chad, a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 31, 2007 at 1:58 pm

Trains-Are-Expensive,

No, the point is we cannot stop our daily lives and live in fear of terrorism. We shouldn't halt future progress of our state/country because of terrorists. If you would like to live in fear and stay home, that is up to you, but this is about progress and the future of our state.

That has got to be the worst excuse I have heard for trying to stop a project that can help this state!!


Posted by Eric, a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2007 at 2:05 pm

Trains, I was strictly talking about California close to current power production, not the US as a whole in 2001. The state of CA has much broader power production means than many other states, so you cannot use the whole of the US as an example for the state. We have many alternate resources at our disposal (such a wind and hydro) and do not use as much coal production as others.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 2:09 pm

> We have many alternate resources at our disposal
> (such a wind and hydro) and do not use as much
> coal production as others.

Power that California uses is not all generated in California. It can easily be generated in other states, or countries, and then added to "the grid". The exact coal mix for an state's energy budget may not be all that easy to control.

The sun shines in other places, and the wind blows too.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 2:15 pm

> We shouldn't halt future progress of our state/country

No .. but there is little evidence that this white elephant is "progress" .. more than just another failed state project in the making.

> That has got to be the worst excuse I have heard for trying to
> stop a project that can help this state!!

There has been no suggestion to stop this, or any other project, because of a worry of terrorism. What has been clearly suggested here is that the system is not safer than airlines, and that safety issues need to be considered in determining total cost--which seems to be an idea that is constantly ignored by "big government" advocates.

(Note -- It pays to read the posts.)


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2007 at 2:24 pm

The main security issue with high speed passenger trains is the vulnerability of the tracks. An attack within the train, bad as it may seem, is a relatively low cost event. However, a single explosive placed on a bridge, and detonated remotely (similar to IEDs in Iraq), would be a major event. There is no cost effective way to prevent such attacks. Automobiles are much less vulnerable, beacuse the risk is dispersed.

If a bridge is blown by an IED, and an entire HS train is lost, it will shut down the system directly, and the psychological costs would dampen demand. However, if a similar IED took out an automobile bridge, drivers would immediately find new routes, and keep driving.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 2:38 pm

> An attack within the train, bad as it may seem,
> is a relatively low cost event.

Terrorism is not about damage/cost, it is about control of the population. Certainly the cost of a train and 550 lives would have some definite cost. But the indefinite cost happens when people stop using the service. After 9/11, some estimated that the loss of the US airline industry was over $300B. There was at least one "bail out" of $15B that Congress authorized.

In addition to the actual cost to replace the destroyed track, train and insurance/court cases, there would be a predictable loss of passengers and revenue.


Posted by Eric, a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2007 at 2:48 pm

Trains,

Here is decent piece of reading from group who's name you might be familiar with:

Web Link

If this train gets built someday and you are still concerned about safety, don't ride it. You can stick with flying or driving and find other/more reasons not to support it.

I will support it and vote YES. Bring on a great way to travel and a huge amount of jobs it will create!!


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 2:53 pm

> Here is decent piece of reading from group who's [sic]
> name you might be familiar with:

Anything supported by the Sierra Club has got to be suspect.

> Bring on a great way to travel and a huge
> amount of jobs it will create!!

Hmmm .. and now we need to see this State-backed project as a "jobs creator" too? Well, how does that help "global warming", or any of the other poorly supported ideas that have been promoted for this project?

What about need? Has anyone demonstrated a defined need for this thing?


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2007 at 3:51 pm

In the intial phase, probably lasting decades, the track vulnerability is a killer deal for HST. This was also true with earlier passenger and freight rail, but it was much easier, back then, to lay parallel track and switching junctions. Current day derailments are able to get around problem spots, but that will not be true with HST. A single blown bridge will take out the entire system.

A simple question to ponder: Suppose a deranged high school kid decides to climb up on the HST tracks and lay a 4" diameter steel pipe across the tracks, just prior to the train rounding the bend near a gorge? It is worth remembering that a single failed wheel, on a German HST, caused a very bad accident.

Air travel and auto travel do not have such problems.

The fundamental issues with HST are:

1. Security

2. Electrical generation

3. Economics (including ridership, destination issues)

...in that order.

If the first two cannot be solved, then the third is an academic point.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 5:51 pm

> and lay a 4" diameter steel pipe across the tracks,
> just prior to the train rounding the bend near a gorge?

While this is a good point, it would pay look at a map and see if there are any gorges between here and LA that the train path would cross before pushing this point too hard. (Having traveled Highway 101 a couple of times End-to-End, no gorges come to mind.)


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Trains,

My assumption was that the HST was going to travel along the general path of Interstate 5, not HWY 101. Grapvine come to mind? Even if it is HWY 101, have you ever heard of Cuesta Grade? Even if it is flat ground, a high speed derailment would be a serious event. And there is no cost-effective way to prevent it.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 31, 2007 at 6:01 pm

I took a look at some of the links provided, in particular from Eric and Mike, who are supporters of this idea. Thanks to Mike for providing some that write in favor of this as well as some that convey misgivings.

The link Eric provided summarizes qualitatively some numerical analysis, in generally favorable terms, but this is a piece from an advocacy group, so it may not be a complete or unbiased presentation of the economical analysis. Again, I would love to believe the numbers, but what is provided was too high level to satisfy my appetite to truly understand this thing from an economics standpoint.

I still have a hunch that if these resources and proper leadership were brought to bear on adding signficant rail to local transit, the returns are better, but that is not what this thread is about. So, I will confine my continued misgivings to one key ingredient: ridership.

In this day and age, people largely travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco because they have a reason to do so. Few people are holding back from traversing between the two points because of a relucatance to travel by car or airplane. (I think of John Madden, the football personality, who is afraid of flying.) So, I don't think we can expect a substantial creation of new demand for trips by introducing a rail artery that provides only a comparable benefit to air from a time standpoint. Some market share shift, but no increase in total trips by all modes.

The population growth of the state will impact the total primary demand. A simplistic analysis would be to assume that the total demand for trips between the two regions is a fixed percentage, and if the popluation doubles, as is projected, trips will double. I will concede this assumption, even though I think it is highly dubious, considering where the population growth is occurring, but I won't dispute it for now.

That said, it still appears that the cost of a trip, fully burdened to cover the capital expenditures, the financing costs, and the operating expenses still require somewhere around at least $300/trip. Quite simply, this is out of sync with the market, by at least 100%.

I have pitched enough business plans in my career to know better than to try to take this one to the corner office or the money guys. The value proposition for the passenger/traveler simply is not there. Even if it were, I remain skeptical that enough travelers would make the modal shift, which offers no competitive advantage to the general market. Ask yourself--if you work in Walnut Creek and have business in Anaheim, are you going to take the train from San Franciso to LA, or are you going to fly from Oakland to John Wayne Airport? That is what this project is up against, and I don't think a case can be built that is sufficiently compelling to drive the traveler count high enough to make this thing economically viable.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 6:13 pm

> And there is no cost-effective way to prevent it.

We have been in agreement on this point from the beginning.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 6:16 pm

> That said, it still appears that the cost of a trip,
> fully burdened to cover the capital expenditures, the
> financing costs, and the operating expenses still
> require somewhere around at least $300/trip.

Yes.

Depending on any number of factors, most notably the actual number of passengers carried--the cost per seat per trip could easily run from $300 to $1,000.


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2007 at 6:34 pm

"We have been in agreement on this point from the beginning."

Trains,

Yes, we have. I simply do not see a way around the security issue.

Next, as far as I can tell, is electrical supply. Unless we go to nuclear power, very unlikely in today's political environment, HST will be vulnerable to brown-outs, especially as they compete with the political power of thousands of people being deprived of electrcity. This is a serious factor that is just ignored. Those who advocate for HST just ignore the issue. Are they willing to support more nuclear power plants in California?

I am content to leave the general economic issues to people like Paul Losch.

Added together, it doesn't pencil. And I love to ride trains!

My estimate is that the future of California transportation will will involve more automobiles and highways, with increased efficiency; air travel will also contribute, although the inability of airplanes to go electrical will not contribute to global warming solutions.

I think the pressures will build to, eventually, build nuclear power plants. However, that is quite a ways down the road.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 6:48 pm

All of the public documents can be found here:

Web Link

(Maybe this has been posted before.)

The issue of electricity does seem to be in the document indexes on the web-site (maybe they are located more deeply in the documents).


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 6:49 pm

> does seem => should have been:

does NOT seem


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 31, 2007 at 8:04 pm

The high speed train will be built. Why? Because it will be a political win for anyone suggesting the idea, and taking the very first steps toward implementation. The money will be found, if necessary, by taking funds away from new highway construction and other auto-related expenditures.

California is facing massive forward constraints unless we revolutionize the way we transport ourselves.

Along with high speed rail, we are going to see increasing efforts to create smaller scale intra- and urban transport, as well as far better coordination among transportation agencies. This is a no brainer.

As far as risk goes, there is a big difference between the kind of risk that the private equity venture community takes, and that visionary politicians take. The former are generally not in the same league. In fact, private equity as a sector is way overrated when it comes to intuiting the next big thing. I say this because we need to exclude private equity parameters from a discussion like this; it makes no sense to include private equity rules to public transport.

Happy New Year!



Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2007 at 9:07 pm

> The high speed train will be built. Why? Because it will be a
> political win for anyone suggesting the idea, and taking the
> very first steps toward implementation.

Let's see, the reasons promoted for building this thing have run the gamut from "preventing global warming" to "spending half a day in Southern CA and the other half in Northern CA" to "creating State-subsidized jobs". And now--we have a new candidate for justifying the reason for the HSR. This fellow seems to think that "It will be a political win for those suggesting it". What a leap of faith that anyone can follow this logic.

It would be really nice if someone could produce a solid list of reasons about NEED!


Posted by Just a Rumor, a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2007 at 11:12 pm

Rumor has it that the bullet train is being driven by the desert communities around Palmdale because this is their only hope of getting a rail link into LA!!


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2007 at 11:14 pm

We have US HSR of course - Amtrak's Acela from Bos to NYC to DC. Looking at Amtrak's numbers (you have to dig a bit), ridership was 3.2 million on Acela in FY07, which is about 9K per day. With about 20 trains/day, that's about 450 passengers/train, though given the route many passengers only go part-way, so the train may have far fewer at any point in time.

These seem like modest numbers compared to some of those mentioned above for a CA HSR. I can't tell if Acela makes money or covers its capital ($3B was one number I saw).

As a former Boston business traveler, we would consider, and occasionally take, the train, but it was neither faster nor cheaper than flying, parking was inconvenient, and if it broke down, you were stuck for hours without options (and it did break down from time to time). It does have a role though, and gets some stable share.

I still don't get why we'd want this going through PA - a necessary evil at best I think.


Posted by I want my train!!, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 1, 2008 at 2:39 am

"It would be really nice if someone could produce a solid list of reasons about NEED"

What if Henry Ford had listened to that argument?



Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 1, 2008 at 8:47 am

Human behavior is a very complex matter. Freight doesn't really care how it moves, people do. And actually it is not even how they travel, but what they get from the way they travel.

Most people think, sometimes unconciously, about benefits and outcomes, the ends, not the means, when making choices. me drop all my mis-givings for a moment about:

--whether this pencils out
--the need for major infrastructure to support and feed this HSR on either end of the line
--the notion that the same pool of money could provide more benefits toward car trip reduction, environmental improvements, and the like if it were invested in robust local transit programs
--and a host of others...

I will "assume" that all of these issues can be dispelled to my satisfaction. I remain unclear about one basic thing: getting the ridership.

Terry, like myself a former Boston resident, illustrates the issue quite vividly. People choose to travel from their personal origin to their personal destination based on what comes closest to achieving their particular needs or requirements. Generally, no option is ever perfect, so it becomes a matter of optimizing for a variety of factors.

The actual high speed train ride between LA and SF is but one component of a much more comprehensive equation. And, at best, this element appears to offer only a parity solution to flying between the two areas. Layer in the various aspects from leaving home or one's place of work to get to the "port" and what is required upon arrival to get to the ultimate destination, and you have a more complete picture of the decision each and every traveler makes each and every time they make choices around a trip.

It would be very easy to conduct some market research to understand what people would choose to do, given different options and the attendant outcomes in time, convenience, cost to traveler, etc. My hypothesis is that were such consumer behavior research undertaken, this project would not show very well. If it did, I'd be the first to stand up and salute that the ridership issue is in fact not an issue, but if it didn't, that would be enough for me to turn down this proposal.

Then we could start thinking about some of the other issues, policy and leadership questions, which tend to range from concrete to abstract. This still would not be a "no-brainer," but if we can't get a good understanding of whether "they will come" if it were built, what's the point of going on with the discussion?

And, please don't invoke the argument that people don't understand how great this thing will be, and once they experience it, their attitude will change. We are talking about people getting between Northern and Southern California in order to do something else, not travel for the sake of traveling. You can have a great room at a hotel, but if the rest of the experience, such as food, meeting facilities, access to other imporatant things from the hotel's location, are not meeting the need, it is unlikely one will stay in that hotel again just because the room was terrific. This is no different.


Posted by Andrew B. Holbrook, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 1, 2008 at 9:47 am

I stopped reading a bunch of these comments. I live a few blocks from the current rail line in Mountain View, take the train to work, and in general am a big fan of train travel. I don't think Palo Alto should be a stop on the HSR because of its lack of feeder. There isn't that much parking at University Ave, getting there from 101 or 280 is a PITA, and besides buses Caltrain is the only option to go N/S.

I would think Redwood City or Mountain View would be better options. Redwood City would at least have the advantage of connecting to the East Bay, as I believe if Caltrain ever built an extension, the extension would leave from there. I'm not sure about RWC's freeway connections, as honestly I never drive there. Mountain View has very easy access to the 85 South Freeway, and reasonably easy access to 101. Furthermore, it is a terminal station for the light rail, which while painfully slow, could again connect East Bay passengers. Parking seems a little bit more in supply in MV than PA, too. However, it is closer to SJ (which also is connected to the light rail) than either option, so that's a detriment.

So I say build it, have it run through Palo Alto, but don't have it stop there.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2008 at 11:45 am

> What if Henry Ford had listened to that argument?

Henry Ford didn't use $60-$100B of State money to start his enterprise.


Posted by Brit, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2008 at 11:55 am

The arguments for and against are showing that we are judging this in old last century terms. While comparisons with other markets is fine, we should really be looking on this as something designed for the 21st century with new technology and fitting into new lifestyles. Travelling the train, is not going to be the old fashioned idea of yesteryear, but a new innovative method of multi-tasking which cannot be dreamed of until the technology exists.

As an example, when I left the UK, the latest thing in trains was that they had installed payphones for use on every train. This was a wonderful innovation for the traveller whether business or whatever. The ability to make a phone call to let someone know your train was running late, or whatever, seemed wonderful at the time. Little did anyone realise that with five years or so it would be obsolete as the technology that made the phones on the trains work so well was the same technology that enabled everyone to have their own cell phone and the need for payphones on the trains was non-existent. Should British Rail have gone to the time, trouble and expense of installing something for five years? With hindsight the answer was probably "no". However, for those five years the service was extremely useful and paid its way.

Looking on the High Speed Rail Link is probably similar. What we envision in our 2008 minds is probably nothing like what it will look like in the year 2020 or whenever it is up and running. Does that mean we should not move ahead? No, of course not. Because if we do nothing now, it means that in the year 2020 we will still have nothing and when the next technology comes into play, we will be so far behind that starting then will make for another outdated service.

We should move with the times now and plan for the future. The trains of the last century will not be running on this link. The future is around the corner and innovation is what will pay in more ways than we can plan.

As someone above said, if Ford had had the same naysaying attitude, he and many others would have lost out. Let's look at this as pioneering for the new technologies Silicon Valley is famous for, and not be such outdated stick in the muds.


Posted by Chris (Paly '73), a resident of another community
on Jan 1, 2008 at 11:57 am

Market research! What a concept! It is a crime if all of these ridership projections are being put forth without any proper market research having been done. Forget environmental impact reports; without market research they are taking shots in the dark. "Would you come if they built it?" is the basic question. Have they conducted such a study?

I grew up in Palo Alto but have lived in L.A. for 29 years. There is one small silver lining to this project. In the south, CHSR will zip right past Burbank airport, where a stop is planned, in much the same way that Bayshore zips past Moffett Field. The smart traveller would take the train to/from Burbank airport where there is already an infrastructure set up for long-term parking, car rental and hotel accomodations. You're going to need something like that in the north (San Jose? Oakland? Sacramento?).


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2008 at 12:00 pm

> I live a few blocks from the current rail line in Mountain View,
> take the train to work, and in general am a big fan of train travel.

Seems this poster is almost alone in this sentiment --

2006 Mountain View Ridership
Downtown: 2,999
San Antonio: 525
--------
3,524 people per day

About 1775 individuals take the train from Mountain View Stations daily.

From the Highway 101 traffic counts previously posted -- there are about 400,000 vehicles a day passing through Mountain View. The train system is of no interest to people with places to go, people to meet, and a living to earn!

The use of public money to subsidize the employees and users of this almost unused mode of travel is almost criminal. These same sorts of numbers also play for Amtrak, which has not only low ridership numbers nationally, but a bad rep from on-time performance.

There is just no evidence that this idea has any real roots in the reality of California's near-term, and intermediate term, future


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2008 at 12:20 pm


> What we envision in our 2008 minds is probably nothing like
> what it will look like in the year 2020 or whenever it is
> up and running.

To some extent this sentiment is true. Looking back, for instance, to the World's Fair of 1939, no one of the "futurists" making claims about the future foresaw a world war that would begin by September of that year and enmesh almost all of the countries presenting at the fair with a fight for their lives.

We (as a society) are still living in the same homes, or homes built along the same lines, as we did, 50-100 years ago. A few more amenities, more electrical appliances, but houses still are built with four walls and a roof.

Twenty years is simply not that far out to be claiming: "it will be all different then".

> The trains of the last century will not be running on this link.
> The future is around the corner and innovation is what will pay
> in more ways than we can plan.

Train people have been telling us that the "future is MAG-LEV". Well, where is it? Virtually every one of the MAG-LEV projects has produced nothing but a mounting pile of bills.

> The future is around the corner and innovation is what will
> pay in more ways than we can plan.

Boeing and Airbus have been very busy for the past few years doing just that. Have you taken the time to review their progress and vision.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 1, 2008 at 12:28 pm

The reason Henry Ford is seen as a visionary is because he came up with a cost effective way for people to get around more easily and faster than the choices that existed at the time.

It is not because Ford was the first to deploy the assembly process that made this possible, and he did not invent the automobile, which up until then was a novelty for the wealthy. He made a tangible benefit widely available to many people for an affordable price.

Using the word vision does not mean that one exists. Just what is the vision here? I see more blinders than true forward thinking. A rail artery with trains that go really fast between two regions 400 miles apart is not a vision. Ignoring the full value proposition that goes into a traveler's choice of how he gets from his point of origin to his point of destination is an exercise wearing blinders.

Shall we look at this as a proof of concept? Perhaps the experiences in Europe, Japan and Shanghai are existing candidates for that desgination. What can we learn from those case studies? What I read tells me the concept won't "fly" in this case, if you pardon the pun.

I find myself very torn with the polemics in this conversation. I want to see more green initiatives, and I support public leaders sticking their necks out on certain things in order the break through the existing paradigms. Governors Earl Warren and Pat Brown did that with the CA highway system and the University and college system in CA. Those were incredibly bold initiatives that brought about significant benefits to people that were otherwise not available. This train idea is at best a "new and improved" version of something that already exists, let's not call it more than what it is. This is not anywhere near the likes of the Warren and Brown legacies of a prior time.

I don't even see this as being a vision for something greener at this point. I still maintain that using these types of funds for robust systems that get more people into local transit will do a great deal more to achieve a "green" vision than something that carries several thousand people a day through a portion of their journeys.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2008 at 1:48 pm

> Henry Ford's vision

It's more than a little odd that anyone would invoke Henry Ford's name in a discussion on State-owned/financed trains --
----
Web Link

"I will build a motor car for the great multitude," Ford proclaimed in announcing the birth of the Model T in October 1908. In the 19 years of the Model T's existence, he sold 15,500,000 of the cars in the United States, almost 1,000,000 more in Canada, and 250,000 in Great Britain, a production total amounting to half the auto output of the world. The motor age arrived owing mostly to Ford's vision of the car as the ordinary man's utility rather than as the rich man's luxury. Once only the rich had traveled freely around the country; now millions could go wherever they pleased. The Model T was the chief instrument of one of the greatest and most rapid changes in the lives of the common people in history, and it effected this change in less than two decades. Farmers were no longer isolated on remote farms. The horse disappeared so rapidly that the transfer of acreage from hay to other crops caused an agricultural revolution. The automobile became the main prop of the American economy and a stimulant to urbanization--cities spread outward, creating suburbs and housing developments--and to the building of the finest highway system in the world.
---

Henry Ford could have built a better train -- but he saw that the future to prosperity was personal car ownership and built a car for the common man. Ford was a radical who believed in the individual -- not the State.

One can only wonder if those invoking Ford's name (and "vision") really know much about Ford?


Posted by Jacob, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 1, 2008 at 1:53 pm

What is clear to see by reading all these lengthy posts is that Trains-Are-Expensive is very closed minded and negative. He will rebuke any positive comments/statements someone has made about rail (or whatever else for that matter) and turn it into a negative, unless its negative already. Pretty sure he will do the same with this comment posted. People just need to understand, people like them will never change their attitudes because of closed mindedness, which leads to negativity and what ultimately leads to retrogression, not progression.

I for one support the high speed rail idea, but would rather see it stop in another city which has better connections to other means of bay area transit. But I will still vote yes.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 1, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Brit: "What we envision in our 2008 minds is probably nothing like what it will look like in the year 2020 or whenever it is up and running. Does that mean we should not move ahead? No, of course not. Because if we do nothing now, it means that in the year 2020 we will still have nothing and when the next technology comes into play, we will be so far behind that starting then will make for another outdated service."

Very prescient. We have a lot to learn from Europe.

The problem with most domestic analysis on these matters is that those analyses are burdened by the linear history and experience of Americans who have come up in the last generations watching their nation recover from one blunder after another, because we could. Those days are over. Now, we have to plan, and be far more strategic than ever, because we will be challenged as never before.

It's OK to couch Henry Ford's accomplishments in technocratic terms, if that's the perspective one prefers, but lest we forget, it WAS Ford's vision to implement assembly-line technology and vertical integration on a scale that would create a dominant manufacturing machine. Henry Ford's gumption, never-say-die attitude, managerial genius, and market vision took his company a long way. We will need the same kind of gumption, determination, grit and vision to bring this this region to a place that inoculates this region from large economic downswings in years to come.

High Speed rail is one part of many parts of the mass transportation and infill housing revolution that must be realized - not to mention many others (like *real* broadband communication communications - if we are to remain competitive.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2008 at 2:08 pm

> He will rebuke any positive comments/statements someone has
> made about rail (or whatever else for that matter) and turn
> it into a negative,

Reality is about the truth .. being "positive' may have nothing to do with the truth.

(Ever wonder why lemmings never question the lead lemming as it gets close to the edge of the cliff? Perhaps its because "being positive" is more important than staying alive to lemmings.)


Posted by Reality Check, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 1, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Gee, now you're anthropomorphizing lemmings? Stay tuned for further desperation, as the strength of the opposition's argument crumbles all over their Humpty Dumpty thinking.


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 1, 2008 at 2:46 pm

I'm not sure about trains, but I'd rather see people attacking arguments than other people. TAE shoots down a lot, but generally with data and argument. I haven't seen much strong argument back on TAE's or Paul's points, other than "it's non-linear" or "trains are good" or the "vision" thing.

If things are really going to be so different, or if European examples are good signposts, it would be great to have some data and argument to show how. When people say "things will be different going forward" they are usually (though not always) wrong. So it is worth it question people with bold plans asking for lots of money.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 1, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Web Link

Web Link

Terry, here are two web links posted above; you may have missed, or discounted, them.

You may not agree with the push back on other points, but it's there, and couched in language that doesn't only hang on "vision", although that's a large part of the necessary ingredient in public transportation advancement, because we've had anything but vision in that sector, for too long.

I don't think you're getting to the deep subtext of the "pro" arguments for high speed rail, but rather getting stuck, like others, on the line-iteming of costs, as if this was a private equity venture. It's not.

Think different.


Posted by hlafeh, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 1, 2008 at 3:27 pm

For the long term future, an inter-urban bullet train seems like a good idea. What bothers me is how such a system would operate along the current Caltrain tracks. Japan's bullet train system works well with an excellent safety record because there are no grade crossings. If we are to take this proposal seriously, a similar system without grade crossing should be planned here....
Why not build such a bullet train system along existing Freeway corridors..We do not need more noise and congestion through the center of our community..I am voting NO.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2008 at 4:02 pm

> Think differnt

Why .. the current system has produced the highest standard of living in the world, which (more-or-less) the greatest amount of individual freedom. People are swimming with the sharks to get into this country.

Why should we "think different" because a "talking head" says so?


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2008 at 5:22 pm

From reading one of the links just posted, it's like a walk through a "socialist's primer". For instance:

> Fortunately, some of that money goes into new infrastructure,
> not just the pockets of private sector spivs.

So where does this guy think that money spent on airlines and cars goes once the corporations get their hands on it? The corporations pay taxes, they hire people to do productive work, and those people pay taxes, and buy things that they want -- rather than being told by the government what they can have from the rationed government stores.

Canada is a country with a population less than California's. Even though it has a liberal immigration policy, there are only so many people who want to live in Canada--not to mention the problem of cultural integration that is gripping Canada. Most of the 25M people live in 6-7 major cities--with the rest scattered across the country side where it would be prohibitively expensive to run tracks that no one would use. There was a cross-country train at one point, but low ridership forced it to close.

So, what makes this "visionary" think that people should do what he says because "he has a vision?"


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 1, 2008 at 5:27 pm

Mike, thank you for those links, which I had not clicked through on.

The first looks like a blog entry about a CBC (Canada) story about UK rail investment. It seemed like the blogger liked it, but I didn't see how it applied to CA high-speed rail. There was a comment about how a train emitted 7x less CO2 than airplanes - though not sure at what capital and operating cost.

The second was a page describing a proposed Wisconsin high speed rail lines, part of a large midwest HSR initiative. This is interesting, though still in the development stage.

On that same project - here is an article (Web Link) from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 2002 looking at the midwest HSR plan. The headline is "High-speed rail likely hinges on federal funding, but does getting such funding automatically make it a good idea?" The seems to be "no." One quote germane to the CA discussion:

"Cox also felt that the facts often get misrepresented. Rail advocates "do not understand the difference between a subsidy and a user fee. If you do not buy gasoline, you do not pay for the roads. I do know there is general fund tax subsidy for local roads in communities. For the most part, all of the money that goes into the intercity highways comes from the gasoline tax or user fees," Cox said. "These people are playing with words. Virtually all of the spending on airports in this country, for 30 years, has been through user fees" that are included in the price of a plane ticket."

The article, while long, may be of interest to people thinking about the California HSR.

I agree, btw, that government infrastructure is quite different from private equity or even venture capital. The cost of capital is a lot lower, the return horizon is much longer, and, most importantly, the benefits are widely distributed (and not necessarily monetized). So I agree, there is no ready "market test" on government infrastructure projects. That doesn't mean we shouldn't do cost/benefit math, but the objectives are pretty different.

That said, take a look at the Fed article, which points out some of the general cost/benefit of HSR and see if it impacts your thinking.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 1, 2008 at 11:38 pm

Trains are expensive: "The corporations pay taxes, they hire people to do productive work, and...."
Let me finish that sentence for you:
...get government subsidies, and corporate welfare.

The only "socialism" on this thread seems to be the corporate socialism that your incomplete analysis misses, time and again...

&&&&
Terry, I have read the articles, thinking that they would provide a good range of perspectives. HSR is not an "easy" thing to consider, but we must think ahead to when California has a much larger population. We are going to need that HSR, along with many different kinds of inter-, and intra-urban public transport.

As far as payment through user fees, we need to think more like Europe in this c ountry, when it comes to mass transport. We are too dependent on the automobile, and airports just never stop expanding. We need other alternatives, and we will get them.

Have you read the HSR business plan? There's some compelling stuff in there.
Web Link

That said, a long time ago I learned to call every business plan I saw the "Big Lie". They're exaggerations - all of them. They're sales pitches, meant to make someone more comfortable about handing over cash.

With the above as a given, one often has to look past the financials, and take a visionary risk based on what one thinks will be the (market) case sometime in the future. IN the private equity game, that's 3-5 years; in public infrastructure, the payoff is almost always in the long term.

Can we imagine where we would be if the kind of bean counting that's being applied to mass transport has been applied to building highways, when there were doubts about the value of the latter?

So, now we have a great highway system, and cars aren't going away anytime soon. But we know that cars COST us a great deal more than any other kind of transportation, and we're beginning to see a diminishing return from the automobile's overuse. Something has to be done.



Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 2, 2008 at 9:12 am

Ridership


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 2, 2008 at 11:04 am

Web Link

As suggested by two independent analysts at a VC conference I attended some two years ago. We now have $100 per barrel oil futures. Two people who I trust in this sector say we could see $130-140 before things settle back (if not right away, sometime soon).

Now, Paul has suggested that ridership is key to making something like HSR work. He's correct in that.

Where Paul's argument, and others like it, fall down is an understandable failure to comprehend just how challenged our region is going to become within the next decade - never mind the entire state of California.

There is a kind of "ho-hum" attitude in this region at the policy level, relative to the exponential gains that other regions with similar infrastructure and demographics have been making.

We need to make investments now - in housing near urban centers (including BMR housing; in a comprehensive and well-connected mass transit system (from intra-urban jitneys to HSR); in regional broadband deployments (with or without the help of the telcos).

An interesting wrinkle in all this is that the private equity sector, for which these investments don't usually make sense, might think hard about looking for ways into one, or all three of the forgoing sectors. There is money to be made, if only the private equity boys (who are sitting on idle wads of cash) could see their way to taking slightly lower margins (say 4-5x), over a longer return cycle (say 10-12 years).



Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 2, 2008 at 11:29 am

It is understandably difficult for the anti-HSR and anti-ABAG folks to see into the future and to analyze what they see with clarity and insight. This of course is why they respond with whining negativity to the visionary insight evident some of the analysis that contradicts their weak ramblings on these subjects.

I've personally spoken to numerous people I trust on this issue and know that the future of this region is bleak unless policy makers wake up to the GLOBAL competetion we are up against. I have an inside connection to many of the top VC's in the area, and from my confidential conversations with them, I know they are plenty worried about the failure of local policy makers to take my recommendations seriously.

These people are smart and connected to the future in the ways you parochial anti-everything whiners can't even imagine. Right now they're sitting on their money primarily because they are losing interest in this region and it's self-satisfied backward looking attitudes.

But as I've advised them many times, the rest of the world isn't looking to us any more. There are returns available elsewhere that will knock your socks off when you consider the multipliers. We're talking gross marginal returns of 20-30x over suitably long return cycles.

We need to throw off the yoke of the naysaying few who are holding back the explosive potential of this region without further dithering. The synergistic effects and multiplyers plus myriad positive externalities of combined BMR housing and HSR are evident to anyone who will see.

Connecting HSR with BMR units regionwide through innovative and visionary mass transit modalities such as mag-lev local rail and using small jet-taxis for longer executive commutes are only a few of the developments that will completely ecclipse the current paradigm policy makers are using. Web Link

The old cost-benefit calculations don't apply to a world filled with 100x returns for those with vision. Ignore this wisdom at your peril.




Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 2, 2008 at 11:53 am

Mike,

Your arguments in favor of this particular HSR project tend to have a foundation primarily on the need to make improvements in this region. Much of what you say about the regional challenges that exist here and elsewhere I largely I agree with. The regional imperatives you describe do not depend on an HSR initiative, I view the HSR support as a smokescreen to get a boondoggle done under the guise of local regional solutions.

Please stop insulting people's intelligence by saying to question this HSR idea suggests lack of vision. If that is the best you can do when someone like myself asks some reasonable questions and puts forth some genuine numbers in an attempt to understand how this thing can work, you are doing your cause a huge disservice.


Posted by Trains-Are-Expensive, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2008 at 12:24 pm

> we know that cars COST us a great deal more than any
> other kind of transportation, and we're beginning to see a
> diminishing return from the automobile's overuse.

What gobbledygook. Clearly no other society has a "train-based" economy that "proves" that cars are bad and trains are good! Any claims that you can replace cars with trains is delusional.

Trains have always been subsidized by government in this country, and certainly that has been true in Europe. China, of course, is nothing but one big government subsidy -- or it has been for most of it's Communist experience.

> Have you read the HSR business plan? There's some
> compelling stuff in there.

> That said, a long time ago I learned to call every business plan
> I saw the "Big Lie". They're exaggerations - all of them. They're
> sales pitches, meant to make someone more comfortable
> about handing over cash.

Agreed!

But they need to make their case, and we need to shoot it down where we find holes in it.

What needs to be done is to look at how any money would be spent on a HSR would be better spent on other means of transportation before this idea is given any serious attention by the state. For instance, a serious look at the air needs of the state should be performed in terms of estimated passenger growth, and what will be needed to carry those passengers. How many planes, how many runways, how many people needed in the system to make it work. Then there is the issue of better planes. Boeing and Airbus are in the final years of their current airplane designs. What comes next? Can we reasonable expect to see 1,000+ planes that changes the profitability and capacity of the air corridor? And then there is the never-ending need for greater fuel efficiency and noise-abatement of large aircraft. And what about the impact of Broadband ("the real Broadband") on business travel? Certainly it's worth trying to look at how an office that uses effective conferencing software, and collaboration software, would impact both air and land travel.

Without a larger view of the matter, the HSR's "business plan" will be little more than a look at their world through rose-colored glasses.


Posted by Rick Tietjen, a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2008 at 2:04 pm

"YES" on CA High-Speed Rail Authority project. Its the way of the future. I was a kid before TV came out & people thought that was going to be weird. You have to imagine the population of California as 2 to 3 times larger than now & what are we going to do to stop the polution & traffic jams? From Walnut Grove - Sacramento County


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 2, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Trains: "Any claims that you can replace cars with trains is delusional."

That's right, and nobody's proposing that. Please calm yourself down.

Paul: "Please stop insulting people's intelligence by saying to question this HSR idea suggests lack of vision."

There is no question of intelligence suggested. You should also note that we have a troll in our midst; the last post from "Mike" of College Terrace, are not my words. This person has chosen to turn my rhetoric "up a notch" - apparently, with good effect.

It's hard to imagine that anyone would take the ramblings of that last post seriously, as the multipliers are so fantastically exaggerated. Ironically, the visionary meat of the post is mostly right on. :)

The "new" Mike could learn a thing or two from the more measured and polite nature of my posts, here, and elsewhere. Certainly, s/he has taken the best of what I have to offer, to make a joke. Poor, frustrated soul, s/he.


Posted by Rick Tietjen, a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2008 at 2:05 pm

"YES" on CA High-Speed Rail Authority project. Its the way of the future. I was a kid before TV came out & people thought that was going to be weird. You have to imagine the population of California as 2 to 3 times larger than now & what are we going to do to stop the polution & traffic jams? From Walnut Grove - Sacramento County


Posted by Rick Tietjen, a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2008 at 2:06 pm

"YES" on CA High-Speed Rail Authority project. Its the way of the future. I was a kid before TV came out & people thought that was going to be weird. You have to imagine the population of California as 2 to 3 times larger than now & what are we going to do to stop the polution & traffic jams? From Walnut Grove - Sacramento County


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 2, 2008 at 2:21 pm

Perhaps I missed the original thrust of the arguments for HST, but I thought it was about improving the environment, especially global warming issues. Can someone please explain to me how HST would accomplish that goal in California?


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 2, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Engineer, at your service...
Web Link


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 2, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Mike,

I read your link, but it simply does not answer my question. I want to know how much CO2 reduction is achieved by going to eletric rail HST between LA and SF. Your link does not address this issue. If you care to read the link I provided, above, I think you will find that that there is little, if any, difference between autos and electric trains.

Any additional electrical demand, in Calfiornia, will come from coal or natural gas or alternatives (primarily wind farms and, maybe, solar thermal). Coal and NG will predominate for the next few decades. The action, as always, is at the margins, and that means that electic trains will cause more CO2, not less. Nuclear power would negate my argument, but that is not about to happen in California.

Highways and automobiles offer much more flexibility and redundancy and security, compared to trains, therefore I see no reason to choose trains over autos. If you can, please do.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 2, 2008 at 6:42 pm

Engineer, your (and the article you provided) classic error is one of excluding functional key variables. I love studies like this, because they're so easy to refute on the basis of exclusion.

What about the cost of highway maintenance? What about the supply chain cost of automobiles? I could go on and on. They're not included in the paper you quote. Why? Could it be that your writer has, to put it gently, a rather strong built-in bias against HSR that he has embedded into his paper?

Nobody said that HSR would be cheap, but what's the cost of NOT doing HSR *along with*, other embedded forms of public transportation?

This is a classic example of "we'd better build it, or else".



Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 2, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Mike, not sure you are right. The paper compares the energy efficiency of auto travel vs. rail - it asks a specific question and answers its. So you aren't "refuting" it - you are trying to expand the scope of the question.

If you wanted to ask instead what would the net impact on CO2 be (which is what Engineer is asking as well), I suppose you could look at the total supply chain for rail cars vs. autos, for track construction vs. roads, maintenance, etc. But I don't think that is the right thing to do. Adding a city-pair of train track does not impact the total number of cars sold; it would just keep those cars (or planes) idle some of the time. So car supply chain is impact is zero; but we do have to build train and track. It also, I think, would only minimally impact the amount of road built, since it would only marginally impact the number of cars on the road.

Similarly, the Fed article from yesterday pointed out that the midwestern HSR from Minneapolis to Chicago would only minimally impact total pollution, since even if it took a 20% share of total travelers, it would only be for that one city pair. So if Minneapolis to Chicago is 2% of all travel from the Twin Cities, you've only impacted 20% of 2%, and only that by the delta of rail vs. auto/plane (which is not so great, according to Engineer's article). It starts looking marginal.

If we are talking about an extensive intra-city network of HSRs - then we are talking about a different thing.

I am still with Paul, however, I'm just not sure the riders will come, now or anytime soon.


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 2, 2008 at 7:47 pm

Mike,

Maintenance costs must be derived on a passenger mile basis. If, for example, a 1000 mile electric train carries 40,000 passenger per day, and a similar 1000 mile highway carries 400,000 passengers per day, then the maintenance costs of rail must be 10% that of highways. One must also add into the maintenance cost the cost of shutdown. A single bridge taken out of service on the HST line (bombs or floods or structural failure) would shut down the entire system (not so with roads and automobiles).

If HST (or even slow speed train) could be built cheaply, maintained cheaply, not contribute to CO2 issues, be redundant to avoid security/shutdown issues and be cost effective in their operation, I would be all for them. However, at this point, and in the future, all I see is failure on all these points, compared to automobiles and highways. I wish I could say otherwise, becasue I like trains, but I cannot.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 2, 2008 at 8:05 pm

"you are trying to expand the scope of the question"

That's exactly right. We haven't included environmental costs in our line iteming until lvery recently. That's a good example of "expanding the question". In this case, I prefer to say that we're expanding the active variables that are operant in the question. Why shouldn't we be doing that - especially if we want the most robust result?

btw, keeping with the thing I've mentioned over and over again - i.e. that HSR be *part* of an OVERALL mass transport revolution, we can assume that some cars would not be purchased. I don't know what that number would be, but as population heats up, and oil goes up, you can bet we're going to see people giving up cars. If there are viable alternatives, more will do that.

Look at LA. If there was good public transportation there - really good - MANY people would give up their cars. I've spent a lot of time talking to Los Angelinos about this - they're ready!

btw, thanks for say that "If we are talking about an extensive intra-city network of HSRs",. because that's what I have in mind. This one HSR is just the beginning; we have to start somewhere.


Engineer: "If HST (or even slow speed train) could be built cheaply, maintained cheaply, not contribute to CO2 issues, be redundant to avoid security/shutdown issues and be cost effective in their operation, I would be all for them."

Well, let's get the private equity people - and state investment stimulators - to work! What are we waiting for?!?


you say: "A single bridge taken out of service on the HST line (bombs or floods or structural failure) would shut down the entire system (not so with roads and automobiles)."
What about the price of fuel for automobiles? What is the total cost of our continued access to that fuel? Please factor in the cost of the Iraq war as a line item. Again, we have to expand the operating variables to include ALL the costs of driving. the latter have cost this country more treasure than a bunch of electric trains ever would.


Posted by Eric, a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2008 at 8:17 pm

This whole project is about creating an clean alternative way to travel instead of just cars or planes along one of the busiest travel corridors in the world. SF - LA. I think the point is being missed when comparing the three. One needs to look a per-passenger mile of pollution.

Electric trains are the only one of the three that have the potential to not admit any emissions. If the rail line is hooked up only to nuclear power (or any such clean power source in CA), you have next to no emissions. Something that cant be done for the millions of the cars and planes currently out on the roads and in the air!! This is a clean way of transportation.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 2, 2008 at 8:28 pm

Imagine a series of private jitney buses that augment intra-urban mass transit (things like shuttles, VTA). Assume that latter are well coordinated with the former. Assume that we have excellent medium-range transport that nicely manages intra-regional travel. Assume that these transport modalities are easy to access, safe, available at almost any time, and that they almost completely exhaust the possible choices of destination for any domestic traveler. Add that to HSR. Now throw in some incentives for ridership. Factor in cost savings to the environment, and other savings - like time gained on the train (or other public transport) doing something *else* besides driving, like reading, studying, working, playing a game with your kids, etc. These are all benefits that one could put a metric to.

There ya go. That's the back of the napkin vision. Assume further that fuels research (electric, hydrogen cell, fossil-based) continues, and auto engine efficiencies increase.

Now we're talking!


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 2, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Mike,

You say, "What about the price of fuel for automobiles? What is the total cost of our continued access to that fuel? Please factor in the cost of the Iraq war as a line item. Again, we have to expand the operating variables to include ALL the costs of driving. the latter have cost this country more treasure than a bunch of electric trains ever would."

That's a fair question, but you fail to expand the picture to include plug-in automobiles, along with increased autombile efficiencies. You also fail to factor in the cost of coal extraction on our environment, along with imported NG from Saudi Arabia (to run our electrical generation). The only way that I can see the electrical issue being solved, for both auto and trains, in a relatively environmentally friendly way, is to build nuclear generating plants. However, that will not happen in this state, becasue there is an inordinate fear of radiation.

I think this situation leaves us at a point where we need to decide among trains and autos and airplanes according to parameters other than direct air quality environmental issues. I have already explained why I think electric trains do not rise to the occasion. I wish I could say otherwise, but I cannot.



Posted by Eric, a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2008 at 9:03 pm

Engineer,

We currently do have nuclear power in this state: Web Link
Also, plug in automobiles still use gasoline to charge their batteries. Those cars a few and far between in the state compared to all gas powered vehicles. They are such a low percentage of the total. Dont forget, planes do not run on electricity, they burn lots of fuel. So an electric train is the cleanest choice of the three (especially when run on clean sources only).

But, I don't think it is a matter of choosing between the three. Its about having an alternative to the others.

Electric trains are the cleanest way to travel, bar none. Hard not to see why they rise to the occasion. Its been proven around the world for many decades.


Posted by Adam, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 2, 2008 at 10:06 pm

There must be convenient transportation from a terminal to hundreds of different destinations. This is what airports are faced with, and cars and a few cabs and buses solve the problem. Palo Alto has >200 miles of roads and residential streets and would need scores of shuttles/buses to replace cars - if you could find qualified drivers.

Larger cities such as LA and SF have thousands of miles to cover to deliver train passengers to a final destination and would need many thousands of shuttles/buses. People who lived in the city would still use cars since none of our cities have good transportation systems.

We will always have some form of private transportation that is fast and will carry passengers and their baggage. (Bicycles wont cut it.)

As an aside I think the present cost estimate is woefully low. It should be increased by a factor of 4 or 5.


Posted by , a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 2, 2008 at 10:31 pm

Adam, you should try to use a different IP address when changing your name from Engineer


Posted by I want my train!!, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 3, 2008 at 12:16 am

"Larger cities such as LA and SF have thousands of miles to cover to deliver train passengers to a final destination and would need many thousands of shuttles/buses."

That's the goal. Thanks for elucidating it so well!


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 3, 2008 at 7:34 am

Eric,

Please take a look at the link I posted. Electic trains are theoretically quite good, but in operation they are about the same as autos, in terms of energy consumption.

I don't think you get my point about additional electrical consumption in California. It can only come from coal or natural gas or alternatives, because all of our large hydro and nuclear is at capacity. To make it simple for you: We will not get any more moving electrons from large hydro and nuclear to run those electric trains. This is a political reality, not a physical one. More large dams and nuclear plants could be built, but it is highly unlikely in the current political environment. Therefore, I conclude that electric trains will add to the carbon footprint, not detract from it. There is no energy free lunch.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2008 at 11:48 am

"To make it simple for you: We will not get any more moving electrons from large hydro and nuclear to run those electric trains."

Read my links, above. There is innovation in HSR - lighter trains, more fuel efficient trains. Just as in so many other areas, there appear to be too many "we can't" statements here, instead of putting our heads down, mustering some political will, and getting to work.


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 3, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Mike, You say, "There is innovation in HSR - lighter trains, more fuel efficient trains."

Electric motors are already highly efficient, so there is not a lot of potential gain in that area, although there is some. Weight reduction is a potentially large gain, although it must be factored against safety and cost. I assume that we are discussing future electic trains, not fossil fuel driven motors, therefore, I don't understand your reference to "more fuel efficient". Do you mean more efficient electrical generation turbines at power plants? Or possibly new materials to transmit electrcity with reduced ohmic losses? If so, I think that is very speculative.

The expanded picture is that innovation in electric trains will always be competing with innovation in automobiles and airplanes. Airplanes will probably never be electric, but they can significantly improve their per-passenger fuel efficieny. Autos have every opportunity to become all-electric, or at least plug-in hybrid. Autos can also be built much lighter, but safety would probably be compromised (as with trains). Trains will be facing competition with relatively flexible autos and even planes.

If electricity is going to run our future (trains, autos, computers, etc.), then most increments of electricity generated to meet the demand will come with a carbon footprint. Alternatives (solar, etc.) offer some hope, but they are not base load producers, at least at this point. As more and more autos (and trains) go electric, there will be a large increases in demand at night time. In fact, base load and peak demand will become closer to each other, perhaps becoming a distinction without a difference. Think about all those autos charging their batteries at night.

My concern, in this discussion, is that electric HST are being sold as somehow reducing the carbon footprint. This is simply not true. It would only be true if alternative energies expanded enormously, and/or if expanded nuclear power was to be allowed.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2008 at 2:23 pm

Engineer, good points..

here are some links to how HSR is on its way to reducing carbon footprint
Web Link
Web Link

About electricity: nanotech efforts re: the creation of superconducting will impact the actual efficiencies of electricity transmission, carrying electrical energy a long way l with little loss.

I fully understand the present constraints, and empathize (as a fiscal moderate) the real financial challenges. We cannot afford the cost of NOT moving in the direction of a transport revolution that INCLUDES HSR. We need incentives to develop new technologies that will make HSR more feasible, but we need to start creating all the necessary social and capital infrastructure, and political will, now.



Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 3, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Nothing on this thread has persuaded me that this is more than hopes and dreams. "We cannot afford NOT to ..." - uh oh, watch your wallets. The Fed article was the most persuasive material I saw, and it was pretty underwhelming on both the economics and green impact of HSR.

Maybe sometime in the future, who knows. But right now it seems like building well ahead of the demand curve and in anticipation of a bunch of things (new electricity transmission technology now) that aren't in place. Too much (certain) buck, not enough (maybe) bang.

Let's focus on local transit, which is plenty hard as it is, but has compelling benefits if we can work it out. If people start riding trains to avoid real-life, every day (2x a day!), traffic jams, then we can start working on region-to-region train lines.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Yes, focus on local transit, now, but start the process toward HSR - it will happen, and we'll have to have people understanding the benefits once all the variables are in place.


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 3, 2008 at 4:49 pm

Mike,

Your links in your previous post are mostly public relations or focused on externalities. I am happy to see the increased overall CO2 reduction target (25%), but such gains are also possible with airlines and autos. Your second link is about turning trains into low flying planes (ground effect). Cool idea, but don't bet on that one!

The big gain in energy efficiency for trains is a major reduction in weight. New materials might allow this, such as carbon composites. However, the same thing will happen with planes and autos, probably faster. If autos continue their trend of becoming more efficient than trains, what is the point of developing HST? I don't know about the relative costs of adding two lanes on Interstate 5 versus building two electrified train tracks parallel to it, but I would guess that the highways would be less expensive. Given the great flexibility of autos, what would be the competitive advantage of HST?

Nanotechnology has some real possibilities, and I am with you on this one, Mike (see, for example: Web Link ). It is important to remember, though, that nanotech will probably help autos more than trains. Leaving aside such dreams, the proposed HST needs to be sold on its own merits, with the electrical supply system that we have avaialable to us.

This has been an interesting discussion, Mike. I like your advocacy and spirit. However, I am an old engineer, so the numbers and engineering models matter to me. If one considers security, energy (including carbon footprint) and economics, it doesn't pencil in my mind.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Yes, focus on transit, but local and statewide. Today's generation do depend on cars, but there is no saying that this will remain the same. Many of those moving into the area are moving from areas of the world where mass transit is the norm. Many moving here are used to high speed travel for vacation and business purposes, even if not on a daily basis, and used to public transport to get them to work daily. Those are the people who will be the first to use a system that is in place, because that is what is normal for them. California's population is growing, not from babies but from immigration. This population boom will not fit into the freeway structure we have in place. They will soon discover that alternatives will be quicker and they will adapt.

Our young people now are still young enough not to fall into the trap that their parents have in that they expect to drive everywhere and find ample parking when they get there.

The trends will change, not because of the Californians of present, but because the Californians of the future will want what is best for them. We must get the infrastructure in place to enable them to live their Californian dream, not ours.


Posted by Kraut, a resident of another community
on Jan 3, 2008 at 6:10 pm

Engineer,

You keep stating you the numbers don't work for you for HSR, but people keep giving you more and more data to show you that electric trains are more energy efficient than cars or planes. It has been proven all over the world for decades. Electric trains right now are the only form of transportation that is capable of emitting no emissions. But you dont accept that. You keep stating cars and planes are cleaner travel, yet they produce far more emissions per passenger mile. You say cars and planes have the possibility of producing less emissions in the future, but electric trains do that now. How long is it going to take before there are enough cars that make a difference. You talk about development, but electric trains have already been DEVELOPED in Europe, Japan and other places in the world. Sure, there is going to be a need for more energy usage, but that is going to happen with population growth anyways.

The HSR system will use .6% of the California grid power and all that power is not dirty power as you allege. Clean power is a much higher percentage of the overall power. So if coal is 15% of the total of our power production in CA, HSR will use .6% of that, as it will use of everything else. That is only .09% of coal power.

Remember, its about per passenger mile of emissions, which electric trains produce less of.

It looks as though you have had your mind set about the lesser of trains before this discussion forum ever started. The rest of the world seems to realize the benefit of electric trains. Heck, 50 years ago, so did this country. We need to quit being so ignorant in this country by thinking our way is the best way. This is why we are falling behind in the transportation sector.

The argument about power plants producing more emissions for the electricity of trains, than cars produce, might be correct in other states where the population is drastically lower. But in California, there are 33 million cars in the state. That is a lot of cars, producing a lot of emissions.

We need alternatives to cars and planes. As for economics, this project will produce a huge amount of jobs at a time when the state needs them. State and private investment do just that. Spending on a project this big benefits the state.

Mike, I think you, along with other people can show or state facts as to why electric trains work, until you are blue in the face. Heck, they are all over the internet. But some people are not going change their mind, no matter how good the facts are, or how hard you try to teach them. They cant see past their cars parked in the driveway and are incapable of ever looking to the future, only following the past!

This is a GREAT project and hopefully there will be enough votes for it to pass!!! Go High Speed Rail!


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 3, 2008 at 6:51 pm

Kraut,

It appears that I have not convinced you. However, your so-called "facts" about electric trains versus autos are wrong. Please read the link that I posted in the beginning. Here it is, again:

Web Link

In terms of additional electrical supply, you need to realize that it does not proportion across currently available sources. It must come from current sources that can be expanded, and those are coal and natural gas and solar; large hydro and nuclear will not expand. Therfore, electric trains will increase the carbaon footprint, unless ADDITIONAL solar can power the system.

I think you need to settle down and think about these things. Wishes are not fishes.


Posted by Kraut, a resident of another community
on Jan 3, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Engineer,

I don't need to settle down. You are the one that is still not getting PER PASSENGER MILE OF EMISSIONS. Look it up, you might learn something new. Maybe you have just been ignoring this, or missed this in other posts above.

Here is piece of your article you posted above:

"It turns out that for both trains and autos this efficiency is roughly 30% under the best conditions. This is also the case for electric trains."

Now, how many people are riding on the train? 500. And how many are in the car? 4. So, 125 cars for one train. Again. per passenger mile of emission. A lot more emissions from all those cars compared to one trainset!

As for the power grid, do you really think we are using 100% of the produced power at all times? No. So an increase of .6% doesn't strain the state wide system at all and is not requiring additional power outside of normal capacity to be produced.

Trains will reduce emissions by getting more cars off the road and having less flights in the air. Sure, trains do leave an emissions footprint, but much less than what it takes to move the same amount of people by car or plane or both.


Posted by Empty Trains, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 3, 2008 at 10:10 pm

Kraut -

What if most trains are empty most of the time? What if some of them are empty some of the time? Why is emission per passenger mile more relevant than actual emissions associated with building and running a (high speed) train vs. those associated with cars/planes achieving the same goal?




Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 3, 2008 at 10:18 pm

Kraut, I'll leave it to Eng. to talk about the efficiency thing - though I don't think it takes the same amount of power to pull 500 people on a train as 4 people on a car - is that what you meant?

But on the grid. Let's assume that hydro and nuclear are the lowest operating cost per incremental kwh (which I believe they are). In that event, they are at 100% utilization all the time. So the available capacity in the system is the high cost plants, which are generally oil and NG (I believe).

So even if you add a small amount of new demand, you can't fill it via hydro or nuclear plants - they already at 100% utilization all the time. It will have to come from higher operating cost (and higher emissions) fossil fuels plants. We can't apply the average mix to the incremental demand, I'm afraid.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2008 at 10:31 pm

" Let's assume that hydro and nuclear are the lowest operating cost per incremental kwh (which I believe they are). In that event, they are at 100% utilization all the time. So the available capacity in the system is the high cost plants, which are generally oil and NG (I believe)."

Maybe. But let's factor in forward savings in the grid from conservation, and new efficiencies.

I'm with Kraut on this one. HSR is not a slam dunk, but we here in America are too hung up on making public infrastructure pencil in like private investments. That's a problem, because public infrastructure generates far HIGHER returns than many private investments.

If you don't but that, look at the federal highway system. It took vision to build that at a time when oil was cheap. We need a new vision, and we need the courage to begin to change our ways.

Call that "PR" talk if you want. Was Lincoln's Gettysburg address "PR" talk. Perhaps a poor analogy, but the time for bean counting analysis is over - we have to get moving.

Certainly we should be starting NOW on getting HSR included in an array of public transport modalities.


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 4, 2008 at 8:09 am

Kraut,

Given the nickname that you chose for yourself, I would expect a better understanding of the engineering principles involved. That 30% ideal thermal efficiency only tells one how much potential fuel energy is converted to useful work. It takes a lot more fuel to move a train than it does a car, because the train is much heavier. In fact the train is also much heavier on a per-seat basis (anywhere from double to ten times, compared to autos, depending on the passenger train model). To put it in a way that you might begin to understand, it takes more energy to move a 500 lb man from SF to LA than it does a 100 lb man. Trains make up for this increased per-passenger weight by having much lower rolling resistance. However they give it back when they need to accelerate or climb hills. Overall, autos and trains are about the same efficiency, on a passenger mile basis, assmuming similar ridership percentages (seats with butts in them). Therefore, Kraut, it doesn't matter if the people go by train or auto, becasue they will produce the same amount of emissions.

That additional 0.6% of electrical draw will most likely be generated by expensive natural gas, just becasue that is the way the system is designed (probably too complex for you to understand, so I won't bother).

The bottom line is that electric trains are not cleaner than automobiles, although they are considerably cleaner than planes. If the point is to get as many people from point A to point B, in the least environmentally damaging way, then autobiles are probably the best bet. Why? Becasue autos actually get you from A to B, whereas trains only get you from region to region. Autos also are much better in the security area (as I have discussed previously).

If you want trains to compete with autos, from an environmental perspective, then nuclear power will need to be built. That would, indeed, change the equation, at least until autos become all-electric.


Posted by Isabelle, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 8, 2008 at 9:30 pm

I am afraid it will somehow force Palo Alto to build even more affordable housing in Palo Alto, just like what Caltrain is causing. So definitely NO!


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2008 at 1:50 pm

"The bottom line is that electric trains are not cleaner than automobiles"

This is inaccurate. Trains run for longer periods between replacement, and don't use nearly the same amount of resources in their construction as the number of cars that they potentially replace. When one includes the costs of advertising, and other market externalities that are tied to auto production, there almost no comparison.


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2008 at 11:00 pm

Mike,

You need to look at HST lines that will cover long distances. That is what this thread is about. Just consider a 500 mile route vs a similar length of highway, for example I-5 and the proposed HST (SF to LA). The highway has much more carrying capacity of passengers, compared to HST. I have already tried to show that, on a per passenger basis, autos and HST are about equal, in terms of energy. You are arguing that initial construction and replacement of vehicles favors HST. Do you mean on a passenger carrying capacity, Mike? If so you will need to provide the numbers.

You also seem to ignore the fact that autos have a high recycle recovery, thus reducing new materials mining and development.

I am very dubious of your assertion, Mike.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2008 at 11:33 pm

Engineer, Your arguments are compelling, but I find them ultimately wanting because so many other nations have successfully implemented HSR. And users love these trains. So why aren't we doing this?

There is no doubt that the ridership argument, and some other arguments, appear to raise primarily cost accounting objections, but then how is HSR so successful in other countries, and why is it so PROFITABLE in other countries. We need to learn from successful deployments in other places.

This state is growing, and we HAVE to find new modalities of transport, or we will force more people into cars. That is not something that I want to see happen, and I'm not alone in that preference.

We can get into debates about passenger carrying capacity, but that begs the question about new ridership, marketing, and a general tilt toward more mass transport in the future.

If we DON'T do HSR, what's the alternative. More cars? More highways? More suburban sprawl (HSR favors urban dwelling).

Strategically, the initial arguments made on cost units alone, simply don't cut it. Why did we go to the moon? Your argument would have stalled that project. We need to move forward, and not get bogged down with living by numbers, especially when the alternative to those numbers create so many negative scenarios.

Frankly, in this constrained budget year, I don't see Arnie committing the $$$ anyway, but I think this project should stay on the table.

from a web site:

"I just wanted to put my 2 cents in the debate, since, as a French high speed train user and enthusiast, I am puzzled by American resistance to the very idea of high speed train...Talk about a modern country! .....but I don't wan't to look typically "cheese-eatin'-surrender-monkey arrogant", and I'm sure that had I been born and bred American I would think just like M. Garrison ; so, just to share my experience with ya on high-speed trains :

1)- High-speed trains have nothing in common with a "granddad's dream", you should think of it rather like a "terrestrial plane (with a bit more room for legs)" ; this is truly state-of-the-art technology and a real pride for all the people who may use it (that is nearly everybody)!

2) - High speed train is extremely well-suited for travel in the 150 miles - 500 miles range ; MUCH more practical and less stressful than plane ; MUCH less stressful, tiresome and costly than car, even in a country where oil is probably cheaper than evian water, if you count the incidence of mileage to your car's value.

3) - Nobody's forbidding the people who plan high-speed train lines to interconnecting the terminals with other means of transportation: taxis, rented cars, airports, subways, even (why not? it's done on "le shuttle")taking your own car onboard ; there's room for everybody!; and all this can work perfectly!

4) - High speed lines are not only a tremendous success everywhere they are implemented, they are LUCRATIVE! in France, indeed, it's the success of the existing network that is now financing its extension...If we can do it in France...well, you understand.

5) - The experience of riding at 300km/h on the ground is UNIQUE! AT LAST a train that doesn't bore me to death! the landscape is changing every 10 seconds! all that in perfect, air-conditioned comfort...

JUST A LIVED EXAMPLE :

I used to live in the suburbs of Paris, by luck, not far from the only suburban TGV station in Massy ; my mother lived in Lyons (300 miles from Paris), 10 mn by foot off the TGV station in centertown. When I planned to stay at her home for a weekend, I would just take the bus to Massy station(20 mn), then the TGV to Lyon (2h20mn, with 50 mn in the suburb at low speed before reaching the high speed line), then walk 10mn to my mom's home ; total : 3 hours DOOR TO DOOR! when I think of it I still can't beieve how easy it was ; I did it by car sometimes and it took me 5 hours each time...

But wait! I now live in Marseille, 500 miles from Paris, and it takes (believe it or not) 3h only for the whole direct trip...I can make it from my appartment (10 min. to the station by subway, 20 min. by car)to the champs élysées in less than 3h30mn!!! I've tried it! and it seems so incredibly easy I just buy some magazine before boarding and by the time I'm finished I'm in Paris! no plane trip can give me such a relaxing experience...

The only reasons I can imagine why California wouldn't benefit as much as other places from high speed train is if the main towns that it makes sense connecting (L.A., San Diego, San Francisco)are spread other such enormous areas that the benefit made by reducing the time it takes to get from a town to another town is destroyed by the time needed to go to/from the stations ; but then again it's the same problem with airports, and airports aren't in centertowns, so you'd better not live opposite to an airport (I mean, relatively to the centertown, where train stations should be, you see?) ; and considering car use, at least in the case of an S.A.-L.A. route, it's already a won case for the train (how much is it, 400 miles?)!


I can tell you guys, this high-speed train thing is really AWESOME! ohterwise it couldn't be such a huge success...

"Last but not least, if you can implement the line finally, DON'T let any middle-sized town mayor lobby to have his own stop!! this works only if it is the most DIRECT route between VERY POPULATED TOWNS...More than 1 stop per hour of travel and you spoil the whole thing!I tell you because in France it is the plague! seems that every Mayor of some beet-growing village of 500 genuinely believes he is truly entitled to have his own TGV-station, given the economic importance of "trifouilly-les-oies" or "bécon-les-bruyères"!!


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 10, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Mike,

My arguments have been, primarily, about transportation energy efficiency, with special referecne to CO2 burdens. I have not argued about costs, as a primary factor. I will leave the costs arguments to others.

HST in France make a lot of energy sense, becasue they are powered by nuclear plants (low CO2 life cycle). However, unless HST are powered by electricity from nuclear or alternatives, it does not save on CO2.

I have said that I love trains (especially those old coal fired steam locomotives!). I take Amtrak every now and then (a fine martini in the observation car is a real delight!). I am sure that I would love HST, too. However, I thought the idea was to solve the greenhouse gas issue. Unless the HST, in California, is provided with additional nuclear and alternative energy, it will not solve this issue.

Your other arguments, such as sprawl may have merit, but they are external to the issue I have been discussing, which is clean energy methods to transport people. Highways and automobiles appear, to me, to be a more efficient method, at this point. I would change my mind if nuclear/alternatives come on line to provide the energy to power the trains. In fact, nuclear/alternatives would be a good thing, period, for general electrical use.


Posted by Chris (Paly '73), a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Question for the experts: How will HSR fare in the dense tule fog of the San Joaquin valley? Will they be able to whiz through the fog unimpeded at 200 mph? Will there be any safety concerns due to zero visibility?


Posted by steve levy, a resident of University South
on Jan 12, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Comments from legislators yesterday on the HSR plan.

Web Link.




Posted by I want my train!!, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 12, 2008 at 2:56 pm

a public comment from the above link, posted by Steve Levy

"Perhaps we should emphasis the benefits of high speed rail to the people of California instead of just the cost. This is a long term project for the future of California similar to what the Highway 5 project was years ago. It would be hard to imagine California without Hwy 5. We will need better transportation for the future to keep California's economy growing. High speed rail would appriciably help our economy as it has done in other countries. It would show the rest of the world we are keeping up and we are serious about the future of California. It would also show that we are more than just talk about fighting global warming. High speed rail is one of the most sensible ways of moving people and cargo. It is much more efficient than planes and our airports are nearing capacity, moving that many people in individual cars is nearly a crime against Mother Earth. Let Californian's be proud of our state. We can let the world know that California is moving into the future."


Posted by I want my train!!, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 12, 2008 at 3:02 pm

another really good link, showing more advantages to the train. Wow! With all these promises of economic development to the state, how can voters say no?
Web Link


Posted by Person with the facts, a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2008 at 5:49 pm

I think some of you need to research the real operating efficienies of electric trains, versus automobiles and buses.

They're huge. They are the following:
(1) Steel-wheel-on-steel-rail gives much better traction than rubber tires. This means more energy efficiency.
(2) Powerplant-sized electric generators are very efficient. Train-sized electric motors are very efficient. Power line transmission is very efficient. Internal combustion engines are very *inefficient* and actually are outright worse.

And the big one:
(3) Packing a lot of people into one long train gives much better per-person energy usage than attaching a heavy car to each person, or a heavy bus to each 40 people. Note that EMPTY trains are obviously inefficient. The HSR trains will not be empty -- they will suck up pretty nearly all within-California plane traffic, because the trips will be faster than air without all that 'boarding' and'unboarding' time wasted for planes. And they'll suck up most of the long-distance driving traffic.

*EVEN IF* the trains are powered entirely by oil-burning power plants, they'll produce less greenhouse gases than the current situation where the people are in cars or planes. (Planes pack in a lot of people so they're relatively fuel-efficient, but they dump their greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere, which is a lot worse.)


"Engineer" wrote:
" The highway has much more carrying capacity of passengers, compared to HST. I have already tried to show that, on a per passenger basis, autos and HST are about equal, in terms of energy."

I have no idea what sort of bogus numbers you are using, but both of these claims are literally false. The HST has much more passenger carrying capacity than a highway of equivalent cost, and uses much less energy per passenger than a highway of equivalent capacity. Perhaps you were cheating by assuming that all cars would run at full speed (the 'no congestion' assumption which is known to be false), or by omitting the energy lost in refining gasoline from oil?

Oh wait -- I figured out your biggest error:
"In fact the train is also much heavier on a per-seat basis (anywhere from double to ten times, compared to autos, depending on the passenger train model)."

WRONG! DING DING DING DING! While this is true of current "tank-like" Amtrak trains, High-Speed Rail would use lightweight European equipment (safety guaranteed by signalling and tracks, not by weight). You're also quite likely underestimating the weight of autos (currently "light trucks" dominate the road due to fairly realistic safety fears).


Posted by Person with the facts, a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2008 at 5:59 pm

So I looked into "Engineer"'s references. It seems that the supposed claims that autos are as efficient as trains indeed depend on the ASSumption that the autos are not stopped in traffic.

Since in actual fact they *are* stopped dead in traffic, even on freeways, this assumption is asinine.

Well, we could try to build roads to stop this congestion. But the passenger capacity of an extra lane of freeway is a small fraction of the passenger capacity of a single railway line -- and it costs *more*.

So clearly if you have congested freeways, trains are the only sane option. Unless you simply want to prevent people from travelling, which may be a worthy goal (telecommuting, etc.)

Guess what: the entire route from LA to SF is congested.

High Speed Rail from Barstow to Needles would be insane; with low demand and no congestion, autos *are* more efficient than trains. But with high demand and high congestion, trains are as efficient as you can get. High Speed Rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles is obviously correct.


Posted by Person with the facts, a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2008 at 6:02 pm

"Question for the experts: How will HSR fare in the dense tule fog of the San Joaquin valley? Will they be able to whiz through the fog unimpeded at 200 mph? Will there be any safety concerns due to zero visibility?"

Yes, they will be able to whiz through the fog unimpeded at 200 mph. There will be no safety concerns. At 200 mph, if you see something on the track, you can't stop in time to avoid hitting it anyway; safety is maintained with fencing, signalling systems, automatic systems to detect obstructions and broken track, etc. -- stuff which gives the driver information well before he can see anything. The system is set up so it doesn't depend on sight, period, so the fog won't make any difference (unless it causes electrical shorting).


Posted by Person with the facts, a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2008 at 6:06 pm

'Train people have been telling us that the "future is MAG-LEV"'

No, Maglev fanatics have been saying this.

Train people have been advocating off-the-shelf TGV and ICE high-speed trains, which are working, right now, in Europe.

"the system is not safer than airlines"

Actually, it is safer. You can't hijack a train and drive it into a building. It just stays on the tracks.

Not safer for the people on board, but way safer for everyone else.


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