Two New Thoughts About High Speed Rail | Invest & Innovate | Steve Levy | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

Invest & Innovate

By Steve Levy

E-mail Steve Levy

About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

View all posts from Steve Levy

Two New Thoughts About High Speed Rail

Uploaded: Nov 30, 2014
At the end of this blog I invite comments on two thoughts related to high sped rail (HSR) in California:

--Will the spread of options like Uber, Lyft, Zipcar and others help solve the challenge of getting to and from the HSR stations?

--Will HSR allow households to live further away from job centers in less expensive locations and commute in without adding to car traffic?

Background

I was part of the original (1998) HSR consulting team and expressed reservations about the ridership projections. I voted against HSR and have told the Governor, who I voted for and generally support, that I thought the HSR money would be better spent improving intra-regional mobility and commute options.

The main problem I saw and still see is that there are substantial challenges in getting to and from the HSR stations. These challenges cast doubt on the total travel time and cost projections and, hence, the ridership projections. One clear problem is that most if not all stations do not have the capacity to house the parking, shuttle and taxi service that is available at airports in the Bay Area and Southern California.

The Origin and Destination Trip End Challenge

Could services like Uber, Lyft and Zipcar reduce the time and cost of getting to and from the HSR stations? While some trips begin and end near HSR stations, most do not forcing many riders to take taxis or drive and park—both expensive options and often time consuming as well.

Do any readers regularly use these services and also take north-south trips? Do these options make it more likely that HSR would work for you?

Helping the Housing Affordability Challenge

Housing is generally cheaper farther away from job centers. The current HSR alignment would open up Kern County as a residential commuting center into the San Fernando Valley and open up Monterey and San Benito and southern Santa Clara counties as residential commuting options in the Bay Area that would not require much car usage.

This service is at least a decade away but over the long term could be part of addressing housing affordability and access in parts of the state's two largest regions.

The usual guidelines apply—stay on the topic, which is these two thoughts, no personal comments or put downs. There are plenty of other threads on high speed rail for those who want to comment outside these guidelines.

Comments

 +   2 people like this
Posted by John, a resident of another community,
on Nov 30, 2014 at 1:47 pm

I think your concern about the "last mile" problem is valid. However, transit services tend to develop into and out of busy rail stations, just as they have developed into and out of busy airports that once did not exist. To judge the rail system by lack of taxi/parking/transit now is not right. Rail tends to cause building-development and transit.

Furthermore, to pose a question like "if it takes effort to get to the station, will people use it?" discounts the fact that, for people like me, rail is actually a preferred mode of transportation. I use it every other month, on average, and I prefer it where available. My reasoning does not always center around "fastest, absolute cheapest, etc." I'm looking at things like, "It's less stress than driving; it's an enjoyable trip; I can make the trip when I'm tired; the cost is comparable to driving; the travel time is comparable to driving, but even if longer, I actually enjoy the trip and don't arrive angry--even if Amtrak is late; I enjoy the scenery; it's the best way to see my country." See my reasoning?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Pablo Cruise, a resident of another community,
on Nov 30, 2014 at 2:27 pm

You make a great point and I just recently attended a USC conference with SCAG Exec Director Hasan Ikhrata and he mentioned that missing link - or option such as Uber and Lyft being a new development in mobility options. But I also agree with the other reader John that transit-oriented developments will follow HSR stations and create a demand for taxi's or light-rail connections. In the L.A. and Bay Area, you already see this happening with their Metro planning and the new transit plans is also connecting or in-the-works to connect to airports such as SF, Oakland up north and LAX, Burbank, Ontario airports to the South. All in all, in CA, we're finally getting our act together on transportation needs unlike the rest of the U.S. - no thanks in part to the obstructionist in Washington.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by George, a resident of Mayfield,
on Nov 30, 2014 at 3:07 pm

" The current HSR alignment would open up Kern County as a residential commuting center into the San Fernando Valley and open up Monterey and San Benito and southern Santa Clara counties as residential commuting options in the Bay Area that would not require much car usage."

Please explain how that works, Steve. HSR bypasses Monterey County and does not stop in San Benito County. Or are you saying that workers will move over to the Central Valley, and lessen housing pressure in the Bay Area? If the latter, then these homes will simply be filled with newer workers, perhaps at a higher pay scale.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Nov 30, 2014 at 3:34 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ George

You are correct under the current plan, which I do not support yet, but I am musing about the options if HSR planners begin to consider the option of stations or links that open up housing options. The thought to date has been around the idea that HSR captures north-south travel mostly.

I am thinking about a broader set of possibilities that could expand the benefit of HSR, always presuming that the "last mile" challenge can be met. It might not be the regular HSR service but something else that shares the tracks for a short distance.

I am not optimistic but thought the idea was worth discussing.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by George, a resident of Mayfield,
on Nov 30, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Steve,

If HSR is to remain high speed, as promised to the voters, then it can only have a few stops between LA and SF. Sharing of its tracks, even for a short period, by commuter trains is a major logistical and engineering problem. HSR was not conceptualized or designed as a commuter train; it was designed to compete with and supplement long distance N/S air and highway travel. It should remain dedicated to that purpose, if it gets built, IMO.

Major metropolitan commuter areas should be serviced by muni rail and buses and taxis (or Uber/Lyft, etc.).


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by iconoclast, a resident of University South,
on Nov 30, 2014 at 9:02 pm

"--Will the spread of options like Uber, Lyft, Zipcar and others help solve the challenge of getting to and from the HSR stations?"

No.

"--Will HSR allow households to live further away from job centers in less expensive locations and commute in without adding to car traffic?"

No.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Adina Levin, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Nov 30, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Adina Levin is a registered user.

" Sharing of its tracks, even for a short period, by commuter trains is a major logistical and engineering problem. "

This is not the case in Europe, where sharing of tracks and stations is common and well-established practice. See this article based on a recent research study of practices in Europe.
Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sprawl?, a resident of another community,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 9:01 am

" The current HSR alignment would open up Kern County as a residential commuting center into the San Fernando Valley and open up Monterey and San Benito and southern Santa Clara counties as residential commuting options in the Bay Area that would not require much car usage."

Sounds like sprawl to me. Also, who could afford to commute at HSR prices? Hasn't the Authority itself stated that it wouldn't be a commuter train?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by George, a resident of Mayfield,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm

"This is not the case in Europe, where sharing of tracks and stations is common and well-established practice. See this article based on a recent research study of practices in Europe."

Adina, I read your link. As far as I can tell, it did not mention sharing of tracks. It described sharing the same station, with parallel tracks.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 12:39 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ sprawl

It could be considered sprawl but also could be considered affordable housing locations. A large part of the argument against sprawl is the cost, congestion and energy usage of auto commuting, especially single occupancy commuting.

Using the HSR infrastructure addresses these concerns and, as Adina said, is done regularly in Europe with great success.

What I am exploring IS different from the original concept of HSR, which I voted against.

@ all readers

This is not a place to debate the merits of HSR. That has been done many tomes on Town Square and is not the purpose of this blog post.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Justin, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Yes to the first question. It might not be much cheaper to take these modes to HSR than to the airport though (at least in the Bay Area, where there are 3 airports that are not that far from city centers).

"Will HSR allow households to live further away from job centers in less expensive locations and commute in without adding to car traffic?"
No. As others have said, HSR is not intended for commuters. The pricing is similar to plane tickets, not to driving. Maybe with gas prices at $8 a gallon like in Europe, HSR would be competitive for solo drivers (but still not for carpools).



 +  Like this comment
Posted by George, a resident of Mayfield,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 4:44 pm

"Using the HSR infrastructure addresses these concerns and, as Adina said, is done regularly in Europe with great success."

Steve, please support your statement. Adina did not (in her link). Europe uses parallel tracks, not the same tracks for commuter trains and high speed trains. If you are talking about parallel systems, sharing the same stations, with interconnectivity (like Europe), you have a good point. Are you supporting parallel systems, with all that means, Steve?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Adina Levin, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Adina Levin is a registered user.

In Germany,where they do an excellent job of station and service integration, they also regularly share tracks. Let me see if I can find the material in the report, but I'm heading out and will look later.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Kraut, a resident of another community,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 5:27 pm

@ George, Google the München-Nürnberg (Nuremberg?Munich) line. IC (InterCity) and ICE (InterCity Express) trains share the same tracks, with passing sidings in strategic places.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by J. Wong, a resident of another community,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 8:51 pm

The challenge of getting to an HSR station will actually be less than the challenge of getting to an airport mainly because they will be easier to transfer to from mass transit than the airports. I don't think getting to airports today is particularly easy except for SFO to which you can take BART. It may seem convenient to drive except that traffic is horrendous. Do you like sitting in traffic? I don't.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Neil Shea, a resident of University South,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Thanks Steve, good questions. I also live in downtown PA. My wife and I use Caltrain regularly, we used Uber quite a few times in SF and other cities, and we own cars.

Q1: Uber is just more convenient than taxis. They arrive faster and the waiting is less frustrating because of the updated arrival info. Drop off is easier, no futzing with payment. And currently Uber costs less than half of taxis. The internet brings efficiencies so even if costs trend upward I expect they will stay cheaper than taxis.
ZipCars are widely located. Automated bike rental systems are spreading in California and worldwide, and that supplements the bike storage and repair shops at PA Caltrain and elsewhere.
All this change in the last few years. In part its because Millennials want alternatives to driving -- and we're all trying new things.

Q2: More than for commuting I think it will allow companies to locate both high value and lower cost types of work within California. Today we see companies like Intel locate their fabs in Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico because engineers and middle managers can easily get their for same day/two day meetings.

But I do believe HSR will reinforce network effects with regional rail and transit, for example at 4 stations along the Caltrain corridor including SFO, TTC, and Diridon with CapCor/ACE/Amtrak; within the CV, and at key SoCal transfer stations including BUR airport, LAUS, OC Artic, ONT airport, SAN airport, etc.

In fact one reason for investing in HSR may be exactly to spur these network effects. Airports physically cannot be in city centers but train stations largely are. Even if it is a gradual transition, doesnt it make sense that we orient more transportation options to where the people already are?

In fact Palo Alto may give us a skewed impression of an HSR destination because, despite being the #2 Caltrain stop, this city is ill prepared for much additional car traffic. But Redwood City does have better street connections for cars and Uber, and can add more parking structures, and is getting intensive development.

What about asking about increased use of bikes? Caltrain is overflowing with bikes. Cities including PA are adding many more miles of shared and dedicated bike paths.

You and I have grown up in one world but change is happening rapidly. If you've lived and commuted in Europe or Asia you take for granted many more transportation options.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Justin, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 9:09 pm

To clarify the first part of the statement, I meant that HSR won't be any more accessible than airports for those who don't live in SF or SJ. Probably the best thing about carshare and rideshare is that it makes it a lot less necessary for those who travel to the Bay Area to need to rent a car, so less (valuable) space at the stations needs to be devoted for car storage.

About sharing tracks
I don't know if German intercity trains are necessarily an indicator of what would happen with Caltrain. In populated corridors, there are a lot more than 4 tracks in many places. Less populated areas may share tracks, but don't serve the density of residents as the Caltrain corridor.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 9:27 pm

@J. Wong - Oakland is now connected by train/tram to bart, so both SFO and OAK are easily accessible from most of the bay area via rail.

@Justin - I agree about ticket pricing, but if HSR isn't primarily for commuters, why stop in Gilroy, or why have more than 2-3 stops at all? (Portion deleted)




 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Neil Shea, a resident of University South,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 9:45 pm

A couple more quick comments...
BUSES: We think that middle class Americans don't ride buses, that they are for poor/working class and dirty/unsafe/etc. But now buses are a perk and essential to our big tech employers' strategies for getting workers to the offices. And there are new private bus services. Many, many bus trips traverse the peninsula each workday. Maybe buses will improve and many more of us will ride them.

SHORTER TAXI RIDES COST LESS: A taxi from PA to SFO costs ~$90. That's how we've traditionally accessed intercity transport. Uber is ~$40, a big difference. But what if we could instead take a taxi to downtown Redwood City or even here in PA?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Justin, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Dec 1, 2014 at 9:50 pm

@Mr.Recycle
There are a lot of transit advocates who oppose HSR because it has so many stops. SNCF proposed to build a more direct route without government support, but were rejected by the bureaucracy at the top. We don't know what the ticket prices will be (if it ever gets completed), but I doubt that poorer people (who tend to have a lower time value of money) could afford to commute from Gilroy via HSR.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Dec 2, 2014 at 12:30 am

@Justin - It may have been awhile since you were in Gilroy, but there are already plenty of million dollar homes there, and if HSR happens, there will be many more. Commuting is a more practical use of HSR than replacing Southwest flights from LA. (portion deleted)


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park,
on Dec 2, 2014 at 2:07 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The conjecture about Uber, Lyft and ZipCar (partially) makes the unwarranted assumption that everyone has smartphones. I recently saw stats that only about 1/3 of the cell phones currently in use in the US are smartphones. I expected the number to be higher, so I made it a point to observe who was using what around me (friends, acquaintances and strangers). There were a lot of non-smartphones. Especially among those that might be using rail for commuting from less expensive areas.

When I was a software developer, the assessment of usability included a section called "Disadvantaged Systems" which was for computers that were many years old. As developers we had the latest-and-greatest, and it was so easy to forget what the general population was actually using. The current version is people who assume that everyone trades up to the newest, fastest smartphone every year or two (with the newest version of the OS...).


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Dec 2, 2014 at 9:46 am

"stats that only about 1/3 of the cell phones currently in use in the US are smartphones"

Given that smartphones can be had for free with many plans, anyone that wants a smartphone can have one.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Dec 2, 2014 at 9:50 am

@George

"it did not mention sharing of tracks. It described sharing the same station, with parallel tracks"

It mentions sharing platforms. And you know how a train gets next to the platform? On the tracks.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Dec 2, 2014 at 9:55 am

@steve levy

"energy usage of auto commuting, especially single occupancy commuting"

Not to rain on your parade, but Uber, Lyft, etc. are "single occupancy commuting". You cannot count the driver, he's not a commuter.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Dec 2, 2014 at 10:45 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

This blog is about two questions--

1) Will new services like Uber, Lyft and Zipcar help solve the "last mile to and from the station" problem for HSR? I am most interested in responses from people who use these services and do the north-south trip that HSR is supposed to serve.

In this regard it does not matter if some residents do not have smart mobile devices. Many do and more will in the future when and if HSR ever reaches the big regions north and south. Moreover, people will change behavior if it helps them.

2) Will HSR (if changed from current thinking) help open up lower cost areas for housing without creating the traffic/congestion problems from driving? I agree as currently planned it will not do this. I am musing about a new approach to solve a very challenging problem in the Bay Area and Southern California.

A reader above misinterpreted the question about Uber, etc., which is oriented to the last mile problem. I am not suggesting commuters from far away will use Uber to commute to work.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by beware sprawl, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Dec 2, 2014 at 11:20 am

HSR will promote commuters from the central valley. Homes and land are less expensive there, and buyers can obtain large lots and low-traffic communities, at least to start. Some current car trips into the bay area may transfer into HSR, but there will be more people in the central valley. There also could be extensive sprawl - in central valley UNLESS those communities shape development to preserve farmland and open spaces.

I agree with "Steve" that Uber, Lyft, etc. can help provide single-occupancy trips to HSR stations, but I question the value of that, other than to save on requirements for parking spaces. Better would be accessible multi-passenger modes of transportation that take people between the HSR stations and where they are. That could minimize the number of long single occupancy car trips within the bay area due to people who want to take HSR for long distances.

(portion deleted)

Sharing of tracks and stations between local and long-haul trains does occur in Europe. In many instances in Europe, these stations are underground in order to preserve cities and neighborhoods. I believe there would be a lot more support if that were the plan on the peninsula even though this would increase costs considerably. However, undergrounding would allow much more frequent trains for local trains, allow use of the ground above.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Dec 2, 2014 at 5:34 pm

@stephen levy - You are the resident urbanist here, even if HSR could open up lower cost areas for housing, why would you want that, and even if you do want it, isn't a grossly expensive way to do it? High speed caltrain would do the same thing at a fraction of the cost. BUt back to my first question, wouldn't you prefer a downtown San Jose that was 4 times as dense over Gilroy growing 4 times as dense?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Dec 2, 2014 at 8:45 pm

HSR will open to new areas for housing and business development in the Central Valley but smart development with smart local transit options. New high denstiy commuities in the vally with BRT and 5 to story building.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by PatrickD, a resident of Barron Park,
on Dec 3, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Clearly yes to both questions.

Density around train stations (like in Europe and in Japan) will also make it so that many people won't have to travel very far to use HSR.

To George's question about sharing tracks, yes, it's common in Europe, at least in Germany. When trains ramp up to higher speeds, they of course need their own dedicated, specialized track. Here's a link to the ICE system, which tops out at 180 mph on the Cologne to Frankfurt run. Web Link Check out the route planning and layout section.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by George, a resident of Mayfield,
on Dec 3, 2014 at 1:52 pm

I understand that Steve wants a different system, aimed more at regional commutes. I suspect that would need to be put back to the voters.

Some places in Europe do have shared tracks, but that necessarily slows down the system. For example the German HSR system is not allowed to use maximum speed anywhere in Germany.

For the French TGV:

"LGVs (high speed rail) are reserved primarily for TGVs. One reason for this is that capacity is sharply reduced when trains of differing speeds are mixed. Passing freight and passenger trains also constitute a safety risk, as cargo on freight cars could be destabilised by the air turbulence caused by the TGV."

Dedicated HSR rails might deliver what was promised: High speed between LA and SF, competing with plane flights. A shared system will not and cannot do this.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Dec 3, 2014 at 2:02 pm

"A reader above misinterpreted the question about Uber, etc., which is oriented to the last mile problem. I am not suggesting commuters from far away will use Uber to commute to work."

No he didn't. The point is that for the last mile, Uber and taxis only get one person where they are going and are not suitable for thousands of people arriving by HSR. Some form of mass transit is needed at the HSR stations to make it viable. Look at any existing HSR stations in Europe or elsewhere.

If you want to say that Uber will help, because they can take 2% of the riders, sure, it will help. But it's not a big part of the solution.







 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve Levy, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Dec 3, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@Mr Recycle and George

You raise good points.

But I am neither advocating HSR even if I am right about Uber, etc and the potential to open up housing.

And I do not see myself as the "resident urbanist", possibly the local regional economist.

In the time since I worked as a consultant on the first HSR study and thought the proposal as planned was not a good idea, two things have happened that are the questions in this blog.

I thought the "last mile" and station capacity of planned HSR stations would make the cost and time of the TOTAL trip, not just the HST part, far above what was projected.

I think the existence Uber type alternatives could change the cost equation for the mainly business users for the long distance trip by 1) reducing the cost (time and money) of getting to and from the stations and 2) reducing the parking needs at stations. I think other public or private transportation alternatives as suggested would also be helpful.

I am suggesting that this change is worth studying for how it might interact with HSR alignment and station configuration.

The second major change since 1998 is the major housing cost and availability challenges in the Bay Area and Southern California--the two regions I know the most about.

Yes, stations that serve far away locations could be considered as facilitating "sprawl" and if everything were equal BUT COST IS NOT EQUAL, I think the market and many households (not all) would prefer to live closer in to job sites.

But I also worry about the competitiveness of the region as housing becomes a more intense barrier to hiring and I worry about constraining the choices of households if all they are offered is expensive housing in SF, San Jose or Palo Alto.

So if there were a way to develop real communities on the edge of the region where residents could get to jobs without driving, I think that solves two big problems.

Many readers have pointed out that what I am proposing is not the current thinking about HSR and may not happen.

That is besides the point in sharing ideas about whether my two questions might put a new perspective on HSR, now 16 years after the original study work was done.

I am interested in hearing from readers who have used Uber and related services and how, if at all, that has changed their mobility choices and costs and whether that might have implications for total HSR travel time, costs and convenience.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by whatever, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Dec 3, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Uber, Lyft, Zipcar are not the panacea (portion deleted) Let's say you want to commute from Merced to Santa Clara via HSR and Uber.

Uber to and from each HSR station probably average about $10 to $15 each way so that's say $50 - a day. HSR 2012 Business Plan estimated one way Merced to San Jose fare at $54 each way - or about $100 a day for your new Merced commuter. I'm going to be generous and say there's a monthly commuter pass discount of 35%. Let's add our Merced commuter's daily costs up - $70 for HSR and $50 for Uber. A bargain at $120 a day or $2500 a month. Yep HSR and Uber will result in a massive migration of folks to Merced. True the savings in mortgage might pay for the commute fare, but add in the three hours a day of commute time, then those agonizing days you miss your train schedule (portion deleted) - well you can at least count me out.

(portion deleted)


 +  Like this comment
Posted by whatever, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Dec 3, 2014 at 8:11 pm

correction
"one way Merced to San Jose fare at $54 each way - or about $100 a day"

That should be - or about $108 a day.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Ahem, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 4, 2014 at 10:53 pm

Uber, and lyft will not change anything... they are just taxis operating under a different business model (and regulatory regime). The technology that is going to change everything is the automobile.

The car is a nearly perfect transportation system... it is on demand, private, and serves every nook and cranny of the civilized world. The car has only two major drawbacks... cars do not serve those without a driver's license (disabled, youth, etc)), and they cause a lot of pollution, but within about a decade (or two), the entire fleet of automobiles (and taxis) will be replaced by electric (or ULEV) self-driving cars.

The electric self-driving car will be a great way to get to HSR (the car can go park itself anywhere), but will be the final nail in the coffin of local train and bus services.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by beware sprawl, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Dec 5, 2014 at 12:01 pm

@ ahem: Electric vehicles may cause less pollution but they will be as stuck as any other car in the congestion that already is horrific.
Traffic congestion is another reason why shifting to uber doesn't solve a lot. What might is a means to get people out of single occupancy vehicles into other modes and multi-passenger vehicles.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Dec 5, 2014 at 3:26 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I think the earliest HSR could be near the Bay Area is ten years out, probably more. So this is not a discussion about how today works as it is not a discussion of the pros and cons of HSR.

I am trying to get readers to look out ten or more years and remain most interested as to the use of Uber type alternatives in the views of actual users.

I see at least two advantages relative to the last mile problem with HSR--cost in time and money and eliminating the need for some parking at the stations. I think it would be wonderful if there were more public transit options as long as they are cost effective but am less optimistic about that than I am about innovation in the use of shared vehicles.

I am an HSR skeptic reexamining what Uber type alternatives and the need for lower cost housing might mean for HSR.

If there are people who support HSR and think my ideas won't help, that is more interesting to me than hearing from people who think HSR is a bad idea no matter what.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Dec 5, 2014 at 10:59 pm

HSR is great (if implemented correctly), the Japanese have been doing this for fifty years (c.f. Tokaido Shinkansen, the most heavily used rail route on the planet).

The thought of using ride-sharing services as the last-mile solution is myopic though.

The Japanese (and other Asians) and Europeans select HSR cities because they are existing cities on high-volume rail routes. You don't put an HSR station in a backwater town like Merced. HSR towns around the world already have good mass transit access because those locations already have high-volume rail traffic.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Queueing Time, a resident of another community,
on Dec 7, 2014 at 9:42 am

Will "Technology!" solve the last-mile transit problem? No. Star-Trek style transporters might get it done. But ride sharing?

The issue is transit time. The only transit times reduced by (traditional, slow) last-mile solutions are the wait times between last mile methods. Even If I have a dedicated ride from my destination rail terminus to my destination the total transit time has five components.

1.) Home to originating station.
2.) Wait for train.
3.) Train from originating station to destination station.
4.) Wait for lyft.
5.) Ride to destination.

The real time hog is going to be last-mile traffic congestion in high density destination areas, and "Technology!" won't solve that. Why would I live in Merced to pre-pend a 45 minute train ride onto my hour long Bay area commute?

Some people may do that, but not enough to "save the world". It's not a solution to any problem except how to give taxpayer money to construction companies and workers.

Basically, you need to eliminate connection times AND implement true HIGH-SPEED last mile. The metaphor is the technology evolution of computer networking which paralleled computer terminals moving from dumb RS232 terminals to powerful and fast workstations that support higher-and-higher speed ethernet.

So long as the delivery nodes are the bottleneck having fast backbones won't matter.

My prediction is that development housing/jobs will occur near the HSR nodes, and, most true commuting on HSR will be to destinations hat are COMPLETELY NEW development, near HSR nodes, which otherwise would not have existed without HSR.

In other words, HSR will stimulate new development near its nodes, but won't substantially help existing development or reduce existing commute times.

I would love nothing more than to believe that post-auto era transit economics in the vast American West will mimic secular Europe whose transit modes are inherited from a feudal pre-automobile economic legacy, but I'm not silly enough to think it will actually happen.

In America, public policy is driven by economic interest, and, if we are lucky, it corrects, from time to time, to "public good." I really don't believe that most American profit maximizers are interested in replicating socialized Europe unless you can tell them how much money and power it will give them.

Solve that problem and you're done.








 +  Like this comment
Posted by Queueing Time, a resident of another community,
on Dec 7, 2014 at 10:00 am

My two more thoughts about high-speed backbones vs high-speed last mile.

1.) Video viewing changed once high-speed last mile was in place to allow on-demand streaming. DVD stores closing down, theaters closing and getting much less traffic, etc. High-speed last mile ompletely disrupted the prior economics of distributing and consuming video.

2.) Amazon looking to solve the last-mile delivery problem via drones. They are not working on faster backbones, they are working on faster last mile.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Adina Levin, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Dec 7, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Adina Levin is a registered user.

In terms of first/last mile and commuting, I don't think the answer is a yes or a no, it's how long is the commute in total.

A commute from San Jose Diridon to Stanford University or Research Park is ~35 minutes including a shuttle to the destination. If you add an HSR leg from the Central Valley, plus a first mile connection, that is a 75-90 minute commute each way. At least the rail experience is less stressful, but it is still 3 hours per day away from one's family or other life activities.

Sure, there are some people who are willing to spend that kind of time and expense for 3 hours of commuting per day, in exchange for a roomier house. There are also people who would prefer a shorter commute and a smaller house.

It's good to have more choices but I don't think we can count on large numbers of people commuting very long distances as the magic bullet to address housing needs.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Dec 7, 2014 at 3:40 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thanks everybody for posting.

I think Merced is an alternative for some but I was thinking 1) of Kern County into the San Fernando Valley and 2) making it possible for residents south of San Jose but not in the Central Valley of having the option (not in the current plan) to use the HSR alignment to get to jobs in Silicon Valley with a rail commute similar to what many folks do today by taking CalTrain to SF and a last mile option.

I am wondering if HSR (Maybe with an Altamont configuration if my idea for San Benito/Monterey commuting does not work) could open up lower cost housing without long and costly auto commutes. I think there are lots of lower cost housing alternatives much closer than Merced. The problem is the current commute options, time and cost.

It is easy to say no to everything but the housing cost and access challenge is very real and we are doing longer term planning here as any HSR is a decade or more away. It is the current uncertain state of HSR that makes thinking of alternatives way to use HSR more realistic for 2030.



 +  Like this comment
Posted by beware sprawl, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Dec 7, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Won't housing costs go up dramatically in remote areas if there were a way to have a large house/large yard and long-but-no(or little)- driving commute? Prices probably wouldn't approach short-commute bay area or LA area locations, but would unlikely stay at remote long-commute prices.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Essay writing service reviews, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Dec 16, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Thanks a lot for sharing this excellent blog post about the topic Rails It is really helped me a lot to learn more about this topic.Web Link


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by PaulPC, a resident of Jordan Middle School,
on Mar 19, 2015 at 8:54 am

The recent death on Caltrain tracks of a teenager during walk-to-school hours near Churchill in Palo Alto got me thinking. We have many related issues that could possibly be addressed in one well-coordinated infra-structure development initiative. If high speed rail really is coming to Palo Alto let it serve several purposes. All the following could be resolved (or at least improved) at the same time.

1. Affordable housing for employees of Bay Area commerce.
2. City street and train track safety.
3. Train noise in near-track communities.
4. Rush hour traffic through Palo Alto.

Your blog covers the first point. I would only add that, with the inevitable delay between (1) committing to high speed track construction and (2) service initiation, there would be ample time for impacted communities to plan and implement bus routes to and from high speed terminals. The poorer communities that would host the aforementioned ?affordable housing? could finance those routes with a development tax on residential builders. They might even be able to convince developers that said dedicated tax was in their own self-interest (bus lines would increase housing values).

Concerning street safety and rush hour traffic, Alma is a major thoroughfare. It is a direct extension of Central Expressway, which fact Palo Alto has always tried to wish away. Perhaps that is because of the poor list of alternatives that Palo Alto is faced with. There is no way to expand Alma and separate it from residential housing (as a safe expressway would demand) without sacrificing a great deal of very expensive residential and commercial property. That would no longer be true if the Caltrain right-of-way were available for roadway construction. We could put in a true expressway (with sound barriers)and still have room for a separate two-lane local street to serve Alma residents.

And how could all this, and train safety and noise abatement, be accomplished?

Put the local train on trestles, and the high speed train underground. Put the expressway under the trestles. Build sound barriers into the trestles ? you could achieve far better sound elimination that way than the walls along freeways (car noise trapped by both side walls and trackbed above) while simultaneously adding in train sound barriers above. Note that the noise of train whistles would be completely eliminated (no further need for whistles). Use tunnel boring machines similar to those being used in Mexico City ( Web Link ) to put in the high speed tunnel.

But how to finance? Use the initial high speed rail financing plus other state and local funds to put in the elevated tracks and sound barriers. Palo Alto would eventually have to pay its own way (with state and federal support?) to put in the expressway, but not for many years. Initially *rent* use of the trestles to the high speed rail (or levy a tax on its Bay Area operations) to pay for the boring of the high speed tunnel over time. Once the trestle is built it will immediately begin blocking Caltain and high speed train noise, until the tunnel is complete and high speed is routed underground while the local trains take over the elevated track. At that point the former grade-level right-of-way becomes available for use as roadway.

Just as an after thought, if the elevated tracks extended north through Menlo Park, Atherton and beyond, those communities would also get potential benefits, including an expressway that could relieve some El Camino and Middlefield traffic. To the south, Mountain View and other communities might have their own uses for the Caltrain right-of-way, but that might not justify extending the elevated track there.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by PaulPC, a resident of Jordan Middle School,
on Mar 19, 2015 at 11:02 am

High Speed Rail
Current High Speed Rail (HSR) plans call for stops/stations at Fresno, Gilroy, downtown San Jose, Millbrae and San Francisco. There is also an option to add a "mid-peninsula" stop in Menlo Park. If HSR really happens, I think our region would be better served if HSR moved the San Jose stop to Santa Clara (near Scott Blvd perhaps) and added stops not just in Menlo Park but also Blossom Hill and Los Banos.
There are already many people that *commute* through the Pacheco Pass to Silicon Valley, so a Los Banos stop is justified. Moving the San Jose stop to Santa Clara would not harm San Jose (considering traffic pattern impacts, San Jose would be better off). And putting it there would better serve Silicon Valley, especially if nearby centers are connected by dedicated shuttle bus (HSR, SJC, SJ convention center, SJ main train depots, hotels both north and south of SJC, Great America). Adding a Blossom Hill stop would further serve those "worker bees" that can't afford a million dollar "modest ranch house" in the west valley or peninsula areas, and would give SJ stops both north and south.
Considering the substantial bitter opposition in this area to *any* HSR plan, the HSR Authority would be well advised to cater to local regional concerns whose resolution could make the opposition less bitter. And while the SoeCal public may not be aware of it, adding five or ten minutes to the trip to San Francisco with a couple extra stops would serve the entire state, making the commercial powerhouses of the Silicon Valley more accessible as well.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by One Dollar Bob, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jun 29, 2015 at 11:46 pm

A rail connection through the Pacheco Pass connecting Los Banos and Gilroy is an interesting concept. HSR should then end at either Gilroy or San Jose. It will be extremely expensive and disruptive to build a redundant rail system up the peninsula. HSR travelers could debark in Gilroy or San Jose and take Caltrain the rest of the way up the peninsula. It would be a minor inconvenience for them but it would pale in comparison to the vast expense and disruption to thousands of people, of continuing HSR up to San Francisco.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by sally, a resident of another community,
on Feb 3, 2016 at 1:37 am

Very interesting and informative post. Many thanks for sharing. Your post gave me a good understand of rails. Thanks again. Web Link



Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:

Follow this blogger (Receive an email when blogger makes a new post)

SUBMIT

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Cherries and Berries
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 1,437 views

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 822 views

Meeting Other New Parents
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 619 views

 

One more week to vote!

Don't forget to cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 29th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 21st issue of the Palo Alto Weekly.

VOTE HERE