Plan for 'blended' rail system gains steam

Rail Authority's peer review group latest panel to support Peninsula lawmakers' proposal to blend Caltrain, high-speed rail

A proposal by three lawmakers to blend high-speed rail and Caltrain on the Peninsula received a boost Friday when a panel of experts retained by the California High-Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) decided to lend its support to the idea.

The rail authority's "peer review group," which is chaired by Will Kempton, submitted a letter to state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and state Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, largely endorsing the plan the two legislators and U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo unveiled in April. Under the Eshoo, Simitian and Gordon proposal, the Caltrain corridor would be electrified and modified to accommodate both Caltrain and high-speed rail.

The rail authority, which is charged with building the voter-approved rail line, has so far focused on the "full build" approach, which calls for separate tracks for the new rail system.

In its letter, the group notes that the rail authority's demand forecasts remain uncertain and that the "full build" approach is "an unnecessary bet that the upper ranges of the demand forecasts are highly likely whereas the 'blended' approach would postpone larger investments until demand has been demonstrated by the initial services on the line.'"

The shared-tracks approach, the committee said, could also help the rail authority manage the new system. The agency has been in existence for more than a decade, but has spent most of this time advocating -- rather than planning -- for a new system.

"HSRA has, as yet, no actual experience with construction cost and management," the letter states. "Adopting a blended approach with local agencies would permit a sharing of the planning and management burden in those areas where HSRA could move up the learning curve on the higher speed section in the Central Valley."

The three legislators unveiled the plan largely out of concern about the way the controversial project is being managed. Early design plans, which called for the possibility of elevated tracks stretching along the Caltrain corridor, have galvanized Midpeninsula communities and have prompted various city officials, including the entire Palo Alto City Council, to formally oppose the project they once supported. The legislators have also been increasingly concerned about the cash-strapped Caltrain service and believe the electrification of Caltrain (which currently uses diesel) could increase its ridership and revenues.

The rail authority has been skeptical about the "blended" proposal, with several members of the agency's board of directors saying they were worried about the prospect of Caltrain dipping into high-speed-rail funds. Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark has also said that the blended approach could make it difficult for the rail system to meet its mandated goal of getting from San Francisco to Los Angeles in about two and a half hours. Earlier this month, when Caltrain released a study finding the blended option to be feasible, van Ark said such a system could be possible in the "near term."

The new findings by the authority's peer review group, which reports to van Ark, lend further credence to the legislators' proposal. The panel determined that the "blended approach" could make the system more financially feasible. The project, whose cost was initially estimated at $43 billion, is now expected to cost more than $60 billion. The 2008 bond passed by California voters allocates about $9 billion to the project and the rail authority hopes that federal and state grants, along with private investment, would make up the balance.

The rail authority decided late last year to launch the rail system in the Central Valley.

"A 'blended' approach would be much less costly at the outset than the 'full build' approach, meeting one of the fundamental objectives of efficient investment management, which is to shift investment as far out in time as is consistent with project needs," the panel wrote. "Given the large capital needs of the project, money saved can obviously be used elsewhere."

The committee's findings were greeted with enthusiasm by Gordon and Simitian, both of whom have been critical of the rail authority's projections. Gordon said in a statement that he appreciates the peer-review group's feedback.

"Their statement, in conjunction with last week's capacity study released by Caltrain, shows a way forward for a system that is consistent with the current rail system and also begins to address the concerns of the communities that will support it," Gordon said. "There is much work to be done, but I am encouraged by these statements."

Simitian, who has been one of the Senate's leading skeptics of the rail authority's projections and business plans, called the commentary by the Peer Review Group "particularly compelling given the professional expertise and experience of the Peer Review Group membership." Simitian said in a statement there appeared to be a "growing consensus in support of a blended system" and cited recent statements from the peer review group, Caltrain and various Peninsula cities. He also said he wasn't surprised by the panel's findings.

"My colleagues and I have been making the case that high-speed rail 'done right' means a 'blended system' along the San Jose to San Francisco corridor -- a system that integrates High-Speed Rail with a 21st century Caltrain," Simitian said.

Related stories:

Study: High-speed rail could use Caltrain corridor

Caltrain rethinks relationship with high-speed rail

Reps: High-speed rail should merge with improved Caltrain

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Posted by Malcolm
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 30, 2011 at 10:07 am

Hurray! There is NO need for two completely separate rail systems running up the peninsula.

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Posted by go for it
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2011 at 10:11 am

This sounds like a good plan to me. Hope they can get it done soon. More delays will only increase the price.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2011 at 10:13 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Finally, some common sense.

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Posted by grant
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2011 at 10:36 am

give it up and put the money in the schools

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Posted by Rick R
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 30, 2011 at 10:51 am

While certainly a "better" solution than what was being proposed, I am skeptical and suspicious. Van Ark clearly indicated he viewed this as a "first step" and still plans to go with a 4 track, probably elevated approach, after the first step gives him a way to a fait accompli. By then it will be too late to pursue alternative routes or stop this altogether. In my view, this is still a boondoggle - way too expensive for whatever benefits they promise. Caltrain still needs and deserves a legitimate and secure source of funds, but selling its soul to the devil is not the way.

Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 30, 2011 at 11:40 am

"In my view, this is still a boondoggle - way too expensive for whatever benefits they promise. Caltrain still needs and deserves a legitimate and secure source of funds, but selling its soul to the devil is not the way."

+1; agree in full with Rick R.

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Posted by Blaine
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2011 at 11:53 am

Sounds like a good plan, demonstrate the true high spped rail on the other sections and save $ by using existing track on Caltran. Thsi way the system might have a chance of being built. Once you build it they will come! Elsewhere in world high speed blended rail works (eg UK). Take baby steps first.

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Posted by Concerned
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I understand mid-peninsula communities'objections to a 4-lane rail configuration, but the concerns of everyone in the state for a fast, efficient system are more important. That's why we voted to fund high speed rail in the first place!

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Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Sounds like the way to go. It enhances the existing commute service, both for the users and for the neighbors. It can only speed completion of SF-LA service. It allows for future expansion when and if necessary.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2011 at 2:22 pm

I am surprised at Van Ark with his European background being skeptical of the blended approach working to reach the goal of SF/LA in 2 1/2 hours. European rail systems share tracks and still manage to reach high speeds, the highest speeds being attained in rural areas.

What causes slowdowns are the numbers of stops. The more stops the lower the average speed and the longer the overall trip. What he should be questioning is the need for so many stops.

On a high speed trip in Europe there are very few, if any, stops between major cities. For the suburban part of the trip (think SF to SJ) the very highest speeds are not reached.

The better idea would be to eliminate the need for a stop on the Peninsula altogether. Any Peninsula rider to LA would instead get a baby bullet to SJ from his nearest Peninsula station. The added bonus to this would be that anyone wanting to travel from SJ to SF would have a faster option than Caltrain. Caltrain could then focus on getting its commuter services working faster without the need for speeding up the service for those (probably low in number) passengers who want to travel the SJ to SF part of the route.

This is how Van Ark should be thinking. If he isn't, I suspect political intervention. I thought that the whole idea of having Van Ark lead this was because of his European background experience and not being hand in glove with politicians or lobbies!

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Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 30, 2011 at 2:39 pm

As usual the devil is in the details, and details have yet to be released.

Before any conclusion can be reached, timetables must be generated so one can see what service like this will be. ( how would you like to be on CalTrain and be shunted off to the "passing tracks" for say 10 minutes, while a HSR train goes by? ---just an example)

We know, that CalTrain wants about $1.5 billion to upgrade their system to electrically powered trains. They claimed the better acceleration would allow them to restore service to closed stations and provide more frequent service. They were talking about 10 trips per hour (each way)during peak hours.

Now the blended plan comes along, and to accommodate HSR on their corridor they limit themselves to 6 trips per hour (each way). This will hardly provide better service, especially in the future.

The needed 7 - 8 miles of passing tracks go right through Belmont, which will have a 4 track system running through their city, which they strongly oppose (who wouldn't.

Then you surely know, that if this was built, it will be declared "insufficient" and back to 4 tracks through the whole Peninsula will be back on the table. If you think enduring another construction period is anything to "sneeze" about, talk to the folks in San Carlos who put up with grade crossings there some years ago.

Senator Simitian has always taken that stand that HSR must be "done right". I guess he thinks this is "done right".

It is hardly done right. What it is a money grab, to electrify CalTrain using HSR as a camouflage screen, to sneak in HSR funds, even though chances of HSR ever reaching the Peninsula are growing smaller by the day. There is a serious push to take funds away from the HSR project in the Central Valley to start funding on this possibility.

HSR does not belong on the narrow CalTrain corridor. Senator Simitian, if you really want HSR "done right" get HSR to SF on another routing.

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Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 30, 2011 at 3:42 pm

This idea is terrible. We all know, having read Van Ark's comments, that any 2-track hybrid plan will only be a holding action until CAHSR can dupe the private sector or the public out of more money so they can get a 4-track system. Frankly, I am angry at Joe Simitian for falling for this crafty proposal. He hasn't indicated why there is a need to go beyond San Jose, he hasn't said anything about the overhead aerial tracks that HSR is committed to (on least cost grounds). He hasn't said anything about a tunnel through Palo Alto being a sine qua non and he hasn't said anything about the homes of people whose land will be seized by eminent domain for this unnecessary project for which the justificatory studies are utterly lacking. It's as if Joe has thrown in the towel after holding the line for a while. If it won't be stopped in San Jose (just so that SF pols can have a HSR node in SF even if it can't go more than 120 mph on the Peninsula), then the only thing that would make a "hybrid" system even remotely tolerable would be (a) a tunnel and (b) an explicit legally binding stipulation that CAHSR cannot come back later and bully its way to a full 4-track system.
Frankly, the case for this fiasco is as full of holes as Swiss cheese and if we are not to put an albatross around the necks of upcoming generations of Californians, we need to stop this boondoggle now. I'm am furious as Simitian and me-too Anna Eshoo for falling for this camel's-nose-under-the-tent hybrid-for-now approach. The major need is for improving local mass transit and public education, not for a HSR which will run in the red year after year.

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Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 30, 2011 at 4:18 pm

On July 7, 2011, the Republican leadership of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced a new six-year transportation reauthorization proposal that streamlines and reforms federal programs, and expedites the project approval process.

In the section "Streamlining Project Delivery & Cutting Red Tape", under the heading "Efficient Environmental Reviews", the Committee leadership propoal "Classifies projects in the right-of-way as categorical exclusions under NEPA." NEPA is the National Environmental Policy Act that is the Federal version of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

An unintended consequence of the proposal for a blended system for Caltrain and High Speed Rail if the Republicans on the Transportation Committee get their way is that a High Speed Train between San Francisco and San Jose on the Caltrain right-of-way would be exempt from at least federal environmental review.

The entire reauthorization proposal is at: Web Link

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Posted by Richard Peterson
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm

the Blended rail system is perfect, beside San Fransisco and San Jose are only 45 miles appart, there no reason to have trains travel faster than 80 MPH its like I'm Taking a Freeway to Grocery store when its only 1/4 miles from my house. the blended rail system only requires just the electrification of the existing Caltrain Tracks and gives caltrain a electrification of their commuter rail, however, Caltrain would have to eliminate the baby bullet express and let the high speed train take over the express service.

Or here is a second option, just have the HSR go from Anaheim to San Jose and end their line at San Jose and the HSR passenger would have to make connection with Caltrain and ride it to San Fransisco. this way they don't need to do anything on the Penisula cooridor. just run them with existing diesel train 45 miles between San Fransisco to San Jose.

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Posted by Kay Djordjevich
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Why a "shared-track" plan, why not an express shuttle running down the Peninsula to the bullet train in San Jose???

The shared-track plan is actually the first step in introducing the full-scale bullet train running as many as 10 trains an hour along a 4-track system on the San Francisco Peninsula.

But considering the “shared track” (interim) solution brings up several questions which are not addressed in any articles I have read about the proposed bullet trains.

1. Presuming these trains run on overhead power lines, which must be built(not a third rail), is it feasible that high speed trains can run over the existng tracks? I do suspect that they will require considerable improvements of the original track bed. How much space do the electric towers require? Their source of electricity?

2. How will this work be managed without disrupting Caltrain travel?

3. Once this is settled how will these trains be entirely segregated from pedestrian and auto traffic, which is a must unless you want to facilitate suicides -- by a wall? or what sort of barrier?

4. It seems certain that all train stations must be re-built?

5. What about the more than 50 intersections to be built, with “grade crossings”, which means overpasses or underpasses for automobile and for pedestrian traffic. Would they all be built simultaneously? Or one by one? how long will that take?

How will the traffic disruptions be managed? Will there be overpasses and underpasses constructed to accommodate only the 2 “old” tracks? Surely they will be made wide enough to accommodate 4 tracks – since that is the end game (or does the “shared track plan” include the funds to build these “grade crossings” twice?). (Businesses and apartments and homes adjacent to the crossings will be badly impacted, many demolished.)

6. And then there is the final plan -- to run 10 to 12 trains per hour. How many passengers are expected to use these trains? And once they arrive in Los Angeles, how do they get to their final destination? (Shuttle bus? rental cars? helicopters??) Hundreds of them every hour.

Or take it from the other end, how will all those hundreds of Los Angeles-bound commuters get to the San Francisco station, and where will they park--will we have in place a shuttle system for them, feeding from all over Northern California? (Even supposing that there actually are so many potential SF to LA commuters out there)

On the Peninsula we are accustomed to being close to the Caltrain tracks, they are threaded through our neighborhoods and cities, which grew up around them. But commuter trains are not the same thing as High-speed trains! Do you imagine that you can add dozens of high speed trains each day, rocketing up and down the Peninsula, through these neighborhoods, traveling across “grade-crossings” which must be made wide enough to accommodate 4 tracks, without unacceptable disruption of the communities?

A final note, if you must have this bullet train which will cost billions, disrupt communities, destroy many businesses everywhere it runs.... at least you could save the SF Peninsula by using an express shuttle, running from San Francisco to San Jose, using the old tracks, saving billions--
boarding the actual “bullet train” in San Jose.

Kay Djordjevich,

Menlo Park Resident

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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 30, 2011 at 5:41 pm

There is no way the blended approach will work. We must stick with four tracks. NIMBYs get out of the way.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Aug 30, 2011 at 5:46 pm

In the interim "blended" condition HSR trains won't operate that differently than current baby bullets. Transfering at San Jose means nothing can go forward because the bond financing is tied to a non-stop trip of 2hrs 40 minutes SF to LA. One or two non-stops a day provide competition for planes for people who don't need cars at each end. The rest of us get cleaner, quieter, grade separated, rail transit. If it gets too crowded in 20 or 30 years, add fourth track and additional platforms. Current railbed gets rebuilt in grade separation areas, the rest has already been rebuilt over the last 12 years or so to carry baby bullets. Electric trains are much lighter than diesel, so less wear and tear on rails and grade. Poles and wires don't look that different from light rail in the median of Highways 85 or 87 in San Jose. Without HSR's capital funding to do these things, Caltrain has a fiscal emergency like this summer every two years unless the economy always grows. Passing sections in this configuration get built with less disturbance to Caltrain and communities than the grade separations.

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Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Morris Brown is absolutely right: this is a money grab, pure and simple. Simitian et al. are only focusing on the 50 miles between SF and SJ rather than the entire 400-mile system, which will be a boondoggle of colossal proportions if it is ever built.

If it were to be built (and it shouldn't be) there is no reason whatsoever to have dual, redundant rail services going up and down the peninsula. Let them change trains from HSR to CalTrain in San Jose. It might add 15 minutes to the trip but it would save billions of dollars and countless homes in the process. BTW, are Simitian and company even aware that those tracks are used for Union Pacific freight trains in the off hours? Does their plan even acknowledge the existence of freight trains?

CA HSR has every chance of paying for itself but only if they close Interstate 5, the 101 and the 99 and shut down all the airports and air travel. Then HSR will have a monopoly and it might have a chance of meeting its ridiculous ridership projections.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 30, 2011 at 10:41 pm

I'm with Robert. I'm angry with Simitian for furthering this dangerous and idiotic idea. High speed rail doesn't belong in peoples back yards, in school yards, and through residential walking, bike riding neighborhoods - period. AND, all this is, is a way for CHSRA to stick their foot in the door now, and then force themeselves the rest of the way in, in a few years when can grab whatever the hell they please a couple years down the road - when it will be WAY too late to prevent it.

I'm angry with Simitian. He has no way (especially given that he terms out next year) to control CHSRA's actions once they get their foothold - no way to prevent ariels and 20 foot walls, and inappropriately high speeds, nor to enforce assurances that CHSRA foots the bill for grade separations at the crossing and funds appropriate mitigations, and provides fair compensation to impacted property owners, - NONE OF IT. They pay for Caltrain's electrification plan - even WITHOUT introducing ANY HSR - and its all over.

Its nothing more and nothing less than a deal with the devil. And Simitian is signing on the dotted line as we speak. SHAME ON YOU SIMITIAN. NOT OK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Don't you all see why Joe Simitian is doing this? He's termed out next year, and he needs his next job on public's dime. He's not running for Congress because Anna Eschoo, the incumbent, decided to run again.

That leaves a political appointment to a State or Federal position... and so it shouldn't be a suprise to anyone that Joe gets appointed to some mucky-muck position after he leaves office at some 6 figure salary, just like his pal Yoriko.

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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2011 at 4:31 am

"The legislators have also been increasingly concerned about the cash-strapped Caltrain service and believe the electrification of Caltrain (which currently uses diesel) could increase its ridership and revenues."

Where is the proof of this? CalTrain's ridership is influenced by a lot of factors but I doubt people avoid it just because it isn't electric. I think this is so much Kool-Aid that is being ladled out to the public who are supposed to take it on faith.

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Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 31, 2011 at 11:07 am

@ "Concerned" Here's what you wrote: "I understand mid-peninsula communities' objections to a 4-lane rail configuration, but the concerns of everyone in the state for a fast, efficient system are more important. That's why we voted to fund high speed rail in the first place!"

This statement makes my blood boil, in both Fahrenheit and Centigrade!

1. The location of the right of way was not even specified on the (deceptive) initiative or in the voters pamphlet before the Nov. 2008 election. An oversight? NO, IT WAS DECEPTION IF NOT OUTRIGHT FRAUD. Had Peninsulans known it was planned to run up the spine of the Peninsula, right through our cities, it would have lost on the Peninsula. As it was, the Yes vote only garnered 52.7% (NO 47.3%). So much for your cheery "we" in "That's why we voted..."

2. The initiative was approved by 52.7% with a PHONY price tag of about $32 billion. Does that YES vote still apply if the price tag is two to three times the claimed amount, or do you think it gives CHSRA a carte blanche to build it regardless of cost? The current claimed price tag is about double that. Would you like to bet your life savings that it will, if built, come in at a mere $66 billion? I predict that it will prove to be more like $100 billion.

3. Did the YES vote authorize CHSRA to build this system regardless of what the ridership will be and regardless of whether it will run in the red or black? NO!

In any event, sorry to complicate things when all you posted was, in effect, a cheery "sorry Peninsulans, your interests will have to yield to the (alleged) broader public interest since the initiative passed." (That argument makes me wonder whether you ever recognize any important local interests that deserve to be respected even if they are outweighed by global regional interests. You must know the old challenge to utilitarianism: should a senile rich old person be killed so that her/his fortune can be used to alleviate major social ills? Answer: NO!, that would be a violation of her/his right to life. Well, similarly, there can also be important local interests/rights (like preservation of community residential character and integrity) that deserve to be respected even if they are outweighed by regional interests, like "speedier transport.")

P.S. By the way, pace your quote, "we" DIDN'T "vote to fund it..." The initiative voted to have the state float a $9.8 billion bond issue and to let CHSRA see IF it could raise the rest of the money in the private market.

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Posted by What a mess
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2011 at 11:37 am

Dear Senator Simitian,

I am profoundly disappointed in your performance on this issue. Is this really the legacy you want to leave? The scale of this project means that it is one you'll be remembered for. Think carefully about the door you are leaving open.

I have been a long-time supporter of your work, but you have FAILED the community on this one...and I will remember that.

Like this comment
Posted by ishe
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 31, 2011 at 11:44 am

We should remember,was he a clown?

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Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Whatever ends up being done, the option of ending the HSR line in San Jose, and having HSR passengers change trains in San Jose to go on to LA/SF, is a non-starter. This one option would be sure to turn HSR into a BIG losing project. Build the whole thing to SF (blended or not) or don't do it at all.


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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 31, 2011 at 12:43 pm

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has been engaging in a lot of Madison Avenue double-talk lately. They've been coining new phrases which are code and highly misleading.

The latest is called the "Blended, two-track Caltrain/HSR Solution." It means they will take the existing infrastructure of Caltrain's two tracks and modify them minimally for running some high-speed trains as well. We'll get back to that in a moment.

The other phrases, like "phased implementation," "initial construction segment," and "value engineering" conceal much more about their intentions than what they reveal. When you read between these lines, what we are actually being told is the following.

a. They will do the cheapest thing possible. The lowest cost will drive the design. This ignores the requirements of mitigating environmental impact and they will double-talk their way around that.

b. They will violate the requirements of the authorizing legislation by not having all the funding in place to build a HSR-usable segment, but will go ahead anyhow by claiming that completion will take a lot longer but they will get a start regardless.

c. They will not build a required, operational segment first, but merely lay as much track in the Central Valley as they have money for. That locks up their "territory" while they lobby for more funds, regardless of how long that takes.

This project could take decades to become operational. Meanwhile, they remain in business and on the government payroll. The more they can put on the ground the soonest, the more their eternal future is assured, even if they never complete and make this train operational. As we keep insisting, it's not really about the train. It's about money and politics.

So, back to this blended business on the Caltrain corridor. "Blended" means squat! They state that they are going to accept the recommendations of Congresswoman Eshoo, State Senator Simitian and Assemblyman Gordon to use only the existing two tracks, and run both high-speed trains and Caltrain during the day. That makes for about ten trains, combined, each hour, or twenty trains north and south. Without grade separations, it will be a show-stopper! By which I mean traffic will seriously back up at intersections.

That, of course, will add to the urgency of grade separations which, in turn, will add to the urgency of elevated viaducts. And if the tracks are going to be elevated, they might as well put all four tracks up there for Caltrain and HSR. Problem solved. (Of course, nobody has asked UPRR's opinion yet, but that's another discussion.)

Ten trains per hour also means that the trains won't go faster than 110 mph (if that fast) and HSR wouldn't be able to meet the time requirements of the legislation. But, who cares?!

In order for this "phased implementation" modification to happen, the rail corridor will have to be electrified, necessary for HSR and a dream come true for Caltrain. The rail authority will also require additional tracks for passing, so it will no longer be a 'true' two track system. (They already have four short additional passing track segments along the whole corridor, but will 'blend' in a lot more.)

While our jolly three politicians stipulated that this 'blended' solution would be the final one, with no future modifications, the rail authority has not accepted that. Remember, their intention is to have four tracks elevated on a viaduct. They are agreeing to this reduced version only because they don't have an extra $6 to $10 billion right now to build the four track elevated viaduct, but they sure will when (if) they get the cash from D.C..

Once they have the funding for that, the 'blended' two track solution goes out the window. The article below tells us that they estimate a cost of around $1 billion to do this blended version. Don't believe that either. It's not as simple as they make it sound.

Oh, yes, and what has been built for the 'blended' two-track version, including electrification, will all have to get torn out once they start building the elevated viaduct.

All this is typical of how this project continues to unfold in California. Lies, deception, false promises, endless, pointless negotiations, threats, and lots of double talk in the rail authority documentation and Senate hearings, as well as their own monthly board meetings.

With all due respect to all our well-intentioned colleagues, we still don't begin to appreciate the determination and ruthlessness of Van Ark and the rail authority. They are arrogant because the know there is no one to stop them from doing whatever they damn please. "Don't like what we are doing? Sue us!"

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Mr. Engel, we have 3 choices:
Full blown super-duper trains, a blended system, or leave it alone to rot. I vote for a phased system. The first step would be to eliminate all grade crossings South to Gilroy. The second, or concurrent phase would be electrification. Whatever happens after that I don't care.

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Posted by waste
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 31, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Why do we build it at all?

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Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 31, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Hey Walter,

Why do you view electrification do enthusiastically? Is it that you expect electric trains to be faster, attract a lot more passengers, and/or be cheaper than the Baby Bullets? If so, where's your solid evidence for that belief?


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Posted by Kathy Hamilton
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 31, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Actually not much has changed, no finished EIR, no valid Ridership, no business plan showing support for project to be built or to run without subsidy. No attorney general opinion that this Simitian/Eshoo/Gordon (SEG WAY) Let's support Caltrain in another way- with a bond measure or a vote on a transit tax. We should not save Caltrain at the cost of accepting High Speed Rail into our communtiies. And by the way, double the amount of trains with horns ablazing and stopping traffic. Underground it but only after we have the proof this is a viable plan. There is also no proof that HSR will follow the SEG WAY plan, which is only the removal of some objectionable parts of HSR, it is not any where near the best case scenario which would simply be tunneled period.

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Posted by peanuts, pretzels or pork barrel?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 31, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Wanna get away? $59 to LAX with bird's eye view of California Coastline
I despise driving I-5 to the Grapevine. Only fools and politicians on free rides would ride the HSR thru southern San Joaquin more than once.
Where's the ridership?
In HSRA staff's wet dreams

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Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 1, 2011 at 10:15 am

@ "peanuts, pretzels, or pork barrel"

BRAVO on your succinctly expressed skepticism re CHSRA's utopian and grossly inflated ridership claims!

All the boosters can reply is "if you build it, they will come." That tired chiche fails to take into account issues of time, ticket price, post-trip travel at both ends, and the few minutes that would be saved (compared with CalTrain Baby Bullets) by running HSR (limited to 120 mph on the Peninsula) from SJ to SF and with major incremental financial costs and community harms.

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Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Unbelievable that if we're going to spend the billions of dollars to electrify, straighten and grade-separate the line, we wouldn't spend the millions to add two extra tracks to allow for local and long-distance tracks. Sigh. Hope you're happy, NIMBYs. Me and my kids sure won't be thanking you.

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Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Robert, it's just not "a few minutes". It's a whole modal transfer. That's a major deterrent that decreases ridership. You can't in the same breathe badmouth their ridership figures AND say that they should stop HSR on the outskirts of the Bay Area and force most riders to transfer. You do realize that's contradictory, right? No…what am I saying…you probably don't.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

A few votes for doing nothing, rebuilding old diesels from the scrapyard, and continuing the death toll.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 1, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Blended - that's right. Just another scam from our political friends in Sacramento and DC who seem to have put their ideas in a blender along with their common sense.

Might sound nice but HSR officials say the blended plan is a good "first step" - in other words HSR officials still want to split the Peninsula cities with four sets of tracks up on a viaduct.

By the way folks do you really want 200+ commuter trains a day plus freight trains zooming through town, with the HSR trains traveling at 110 mph to 125mph?

With all those trains and the required lengthier closings for HSR trains delays at the track crossings would increase geometrically backing up traffic into neighborhoods and past El Camino. Emergency service vehicles would be delayed - fire, ambulance and police.

How are your CPR skills and hopefully your garden hoses are in good condition. Both may come in handy while you wait for fire and ambulance.

How do you feel about high winds from the HSR trains buffeting your school children while they wait to cross the tracks? And no study has been done on the health dangers of the track electrification.

What are the long term costs?

The cost of HSR, virtually all of which would be debt, would exceed the current state budget deficit. Close some more parks, libraries, courts and schools so the politicos and tourists can take the train.

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Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 2, 2011 at 11:24 am

@Evan. You wrote: "Robert, it's just not "a few minutes". It's a whole modal transfer. That's a major deterrent that decreases ridership. You can't in the same breathe badmouth their ridership figures AND say that they should stop HSR on the outskirts of the Bay Area and force most riders to transfer. You do realize that's contradictory, right? No…what am I saying…you probably don't."

1. re your "whole modal transfer"; yes, as in walking across a platform to board a synchronized electrified CalTrain traveling at the same speed up the Peninsula to SF. And no one, neither you nor anyone else, knows whether that would decrease ridership on HSR from LA and SD to SF.

I go to NYC quite often and, along with many others, take the NY Subway, the Long Island RR, and the JSF shuttle -- two entire "whole modal transfers"! -- to get to my terminal at JFK Airport from Manhattan in 45 minutes. I'm not even deterred by taking the local NYC Subway from 79th to 72nd St, then walking 20 feet across the platform to get the Express to 34th Street [Penn Station]. Changing from HSR to CalTrain in SJ would be MUCH simpler. Don't assume what is to be proved.

Many people who might take HSR from LA or SD to SF would still have to get to the East Bay via Bart. Do you think that will deter them from taking HSR to SF?

2. re stopping HSR at the "outskirts of the Bay Area": It's called "San Jose" and last time I checked SJ was an integral part of the Bay Area.

3. as for your "You do realize that's contradictory, right? No…what am I saying…you probably don't." Apparently you don't just recycle plastics and bottles since you've used the identical verbal trope numerous times before to insult those you're addressing. Some less condescending insults would be most welcome, Evan.

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Posted by just thinkin"
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2011 at 2:56 pm

I've asked this question in a various venues, and it gets sluffed off...
WHY if the HSR is intended to connect Sacramento and points north to LA and points south is it necessary to dead end in San Francisco??????

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Posted by why
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm

No money

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2011 at 7:28 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The difference between 79 MPH and 100 MPH, especially with electrical motive power and NO GRADE CROSSINGS [!] would hardly be perceptible. Them Juice Jacks are QUIET!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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