California High Speed Rail is getting scaled back

Discussion in 'High Speed and Other Non-Amtrak Intercity Rail' started by sttom, Feb 12, 2019.

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

  1. Feb 12, 2019 #1
  2. Feb 12, 2019 #2

    frequentflyer

    f

    frequentflyer

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2008
    Messages:
    663
    Merced to Bakersville. HSR to nowhere............At least the San Joaqins will be faster.
     
  3. Feb 12, 2019 #3

    sttom

    s

    sttom

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2019
    Messages:
    231
    They really should have done Tehachapi Pass first. This is what we get when you consult politicians instead of transit planners. 
     
  4. Feb 12, 2019 #4

    crescent-zephyr

    c

    crescent-zephyr

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    1,589
    Isn’t what we really need a high speed connection from Bakersville to LA?  That would connect the Bay Area and LA right? 

    That seems to be the logical first step to me. 
     
  5. Feb 12, 2019 #5

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,083
    Location:
    Virginia
    I lost a reply on this to a computer restart.  Sigh.

    Basically:
    (1) The project was a disaster area from start to finish.  There were a number of onerous requirements in the initial specification that were non-starters (most notably, the 30-minute San Francisco-San Jose runtime demand, as well as the 2:40 San Francisco to Los Angeles demand).  Looking at HSR operations elsewhere, many of these items weren't even necessary (an end-to-end time of three or three and a half hours would likely have been sufficient and would have allowed more engineering flexibility).  Being saddled with this nonsense meant that they were stuck with vexatious lawsuits that dragged on for years.

    It was also mis-sold (in terms of price) from the start, probably to shuffle that initiative through.  In a sense, the project was probably in permanent trouble from when that initial cost estimate jump occurred.  Clearly some folks thought they could simply channel Robert Moses' ghost and get a lot more money for it that way.

    (2) Setting aside most of the initial mangling of the project, they picked a dubious first segment.  I get it, the valley is the cheapest area to start.  Lancaster/Palmdale (where SCRRA ownership ends) to Bakersfield (where existing San Joaquin service starts) is the hole that needed filling.  You could spec that section of track to enable higher speeds later and then work on the other "hole" between the Valley and San Jose and go from there (bearing in mind that you'd be supporting 6-7 existing trains plus some additional frequencies that you'd probably want/need to lay on as a result).  Instead, the new routing is both mostly redundant with existing tracks (but doesn't totally take the existing trains off of them) and doesn't really add anything new in terms of service.

    (3) All of the issues with the project don't avoid the fact that California is going to have to spend a LOT of money on transportation infrastructure regardless.  New airport runways aren't cheap, most of the highways in the major cities have filled out their physical capacity, etc.  Oh, and that's all happening as the Highway Trust Fund is in long-term trouble because of (in particular) mounting vehicle fuel efficiency.

    (4) I find a deep irony in this coming out about three days after the Green New Deal announcement was dropped.  Not that I haven't found that to be an aggravation from my end as well, but this borders on farce.
     
  6. Feb 12, 2019 #6

    leemell

    leemell

    leemell

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    Messages:
    1,509
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    No, they consulted with engineers.  This is the best way to construct a major project.  Iron out problems with the easiest first.
     
  7. Feb 12, 2019 #7

    seat38a

    s

    seat38a

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2014
    Messages:
    1,898
    Location:
    Orange County California
    Spreading little bit all over the place is a big problem. I do agree, with the Newsome that they need to finish the current central valley section COMPLETELY and then focus on tunneling through Pacheco Pass. Personally, I think they should build it all the way to Stockton where the split to Oakland / Sacramento happens and then improve the existing line to the Bay Area.

    ICE, TGV, KTX and other system do the same, build out the core line, upgrade existing line and then build out the rest in phases. In France on our way to Switzerland, we left Gare de Lyon on conventional tracks then got onto LGV Sud and back onto conventional tracks near Dijon before getting back on the LGV.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 12, 2019
  8. Feb 12, 2019 #8

    chrsjrcj

    c

    chrsjrcj

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2011
    Messages:
    733
    Location:
    West Palm Beach, FL
    My fear is that they'll finish the Central Valley, and never do the end pieces.

    In hindsight, it might have been a better idea to build Bakersfield to Los Angeles first. I would think it would certainly have more utility as a stand alone project as opposed to Bakersfield to Merced where rail service already exists. 
     
  9. Feb 12, 2019 #9

    sttom

    s

    sttom

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2019
    Messages:
    231
    It was but it was probably "deemed to cost to much" and would be visible for Brown to get glamour shots and for people to see it getting built. 

    It was also sold as being a commuter service when high speed trains aren't built for that. 

    And the highway trust fund is going to run dry by the end of 2021.

    And now we are getting stuck with $9 billion in debt and a useless line. They still should have pushed through the Tehachapi Pass and given us the capacity to travel between Northern and Southern California. 
     
  10. Feb 13, 2019 #10

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,083
    Location:
    Virginia
    That sort of line can carry commuter services.  Nothing, conceptually, was stopping the service from running a Japanese-style Nozomi/Hikari/Kodama model with perhaps 2-4 Kodamas/hour.  That would equal all but the most aggressive commuter schedules in most areas.  No, it wouldn't have the stop density (you'd probably need to handle that with some paralell/semi-parallel conventional tracks or quad-tracking in the denser areas), but using the service to establish major new suburban developments in the Central Valley that could vent folks from the (seriously overloaded) Bay Area is hardly an illogical or improbable use of the service, especially given the housing situation in the Bay Area (i.e. forking over $1000/month for a bullet train commuter pass isn't even an illogical decision compared to housing prices (e.g. a house in Sacramento will tend to run about $325,000 where one in San Francisco will tend to run about $1,600,000; the difference in the mortgage on that is about $5000/month, to say nothing of property taxes, which effectively add another $1300/month to the difference).

    Honestly, with prices like that, I'm surprised that there hasn't been a serious proposal to do something aggressive with the Capitol Corridor route (or the San Jose-Merced bit) and pay for it with major developments along the line.  I don't think it is hard to envision getting a serious "refugee" flow there.
     
  11. Feb 13, 2019 #11

    jamess

    j

    jamess

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2017
    Messages:
    38
  12. Feb 13, 2019 #12

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,083
    Location:
    Virginia
    I'm not seeing any clear commitment in there to get even to San Jose.  A San Jose-Bakersfield system (with trains almost obviously carrying onwards to either San Francisco or Oakland) would at least be something.  Not that knocking 30-45 minutes off of the existing run is nothing, but it seems pretty clear that there isn't even the stomach to sort out funding for one of those chunks of the project.
     
  13. Feb 13, 2019 #13

    cirdan

    cirdan

    cirdan

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2011
    Messages:
    2,310
    The problem with that comparison is that there is a perfectly good line between Dijon and the Rhine-Rhone TGV segment that has been invested in over the years, is double track, electrified and is cleared for 100mph operation. It's not perfect of course, but it does the job pretty well.

    Tehachapi on the other hand is owned by a railroad that doesn't like passenger trains, and even if that were to miraculously change, the route has serious constraints that would need big dollars to put right. And if you're going to spend those big dollars, isn't it better to spend them on proper HSR?
     
  14. Feb 13, 2019 #14

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    24,429
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 13, 2019
  15. Feb 13, 2019 #15

    bretton88

    b

    bretton88

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Messages:
    1,019
    Here's what's getting lost in this, California is still committed to the entire project as the long term vision. What they are doing is now concentrating all the funds and effort on the initial segment, with environmental study efforts now only focused on the Merced to SF segment. The idea is this more concentrated focus should allow for better cost control and delivery. This should have been done a long time ago, project management resources where just getting spread too thin, especially in a state that has no pre-existing experience with a railroad project of that scale. So they're basically breaking things up into more phases is what's happening here.
     
  16. Feb 13, 2019 #16

    Blackwolf

    Blackwolf

    Blackwolf

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2011
    Messages:
    1,507
    Location:
    CIC
    That's not really true.  California has a great amount of experience as a State with huge infrastructure projects.  One could even argue that it is one of the most experienced public organizations in the United States.  As an example, the California State Water Project is an incredibly complex and extremely expensive entirely State-owned public works system that actually embarrassed the US Federal Government to a degree, mainly because it was implied that the Feds were the only ones who could design, build and operate something so huge... California simply replied with a "hold my beer" kind of response and made it happen.  The SWP makes the CAHSR project pale in comparison.

    In regards to the HSR project, it was a political football from the inception even back in the 1970's.  The opposing side is entrenched and radical about wanting nothing to do with it, and they've been very well funded.  And the Phase 1 portion is right smack in the middle of the geographical epicenter for the opposition; the major voices and political movers there are the large land owners: corporate agriculture, the petroleum industry and shipping.  The have nothing to gain from HSR, and have something to loose in a tiny portion of their land and perhaps some profit with a flashy new transportation option that will pull dollars and people out of the highway and airport sectors.
     
  17. Feb 13, 2019 #17

    bretton88

    b

    bretton88

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Messages:
    1,019
    Yes, my parents and grandparents actually oversaw many of those projects, there's an extensive history of massive non railroad projects in that state. I should have said Railroad projects (and have edited appropriately). I'm not sure that the contractors California brought in (who where the usual suspects) helped that cause.
     
  18. Feb 13, 2019 #18

    bretton88

    b

    bretton88

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Messages:
    1,019
  19. Feb 13, 2019 #19

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,083
    Location:
    Virginia
    The main problem is still that it won't "demonstrate HSR in a US context" because unless they're going to do something wacky like grab gas turbine locomotives, you're either going to have a bullet train running in the (relative) middle of nowhere with forced connections to other trains to get out of the valley or you're going to be accomplishing something that's restricted to 125 MPH, which (I hate to break it to folks) is basically on par with Washington-New York operationally.  The only "bonus" is arguably more 125 MPH running...but I'm not even sure that gets your average speed up over 90 MPH.

    What I need to think the project is going to happen is a hard commitment to either Tehachapi, Pacheco, or another link to either metro area.  Both are needed in the long run, but either works to get things rolling.
     
  20. Feb 13, 2019 #20

    VentureForth

    VentureForth

    VentureForth

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2007
    Messages:
    5,805
    Location:
    Richmond Hill, GA
    Wow.  They're literally going to spend BILLIONS to connect a town of 90,000 to a city with 900,000. 

    Just wow.
     
  21. Feb 13, 2019 #21

    leemell

    leemell

    leemell

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    Messages:
    1,509
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Not really.  It will connect a city with 500,000+ (Fresno) with a ctiy of about 400,000 (Bakersfield).
     
  22. Feb 13, 2019 #22

    seat38a

    s

    seat38a

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2014
    Messages:
    1,898
    Location:
    Orange County California
    Like i've said it in the past, the only way to get money for anything is to combine it with something for cars out here. The whole Pacheco Pass tunnels need to be a car/rail tunnel to make it work. CAHSR has a better chance of getting money for it if they combine the two rail tunnels with car tunnels. Currently CA-133 is a slow winding road to get from Silicon Valley to San Joaquin Valley. Say charge a toll for cars to use it or something along that line to get the tunnels built. We have A LOT of cars and people and that can be leveraged if done correctly. Tolling what already exists is a taboo but new stuff is wide open.

    This is something Metro has figured out well in LA County. Every transit taxes that have passed have included road money. Widening of the 405 cost 2 billion and did absolutely nothing to relieve traffic but thats the cost to get rail.

    Tehachapi tunnels? Not sure if it would be advantagous for BNSF and UP to be allowed access to them. Not sure if a car tunnel would bring in enough revenue.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 13, 2019
  23. Feb 13, 2019 #23

    Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate

    Conductor

    Joined:
    May 24, 2010
    Messages:
    10,605
    Location:
    Америка
    &

    HSR is still being fought tooth and nail by the landed gentry and by special interest groups that are well connected with deep pockets.  Right now CA is forced to work under an extraordinarily adversarial federal government that was not envisioned when this project was being planned and promoted.  This means reduced funding, more bureaucratic setbacks, and fewer options for resolving disputes and shortfalls.  In that context it's reasonable to pump the breaks now in order to keep things moving at a slower speed while you try to rework the process so it can hopefully survive long enough for prospects to improve further down the line.  For now the anti-rail side has largely won the current battle but the war itself is not yet over.  The real question is whether HSR can survive whatever 2020 brings.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 13, 2019
  24. Feb 13, 2019 #24

    seat38a

    s

    seat38a

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2014
    Messages:
    1,898
    Location:
    Orange County California
    Actually no. No system, except probably China, built their system 100% from the ground up. Even the latest TGV running in Morocco uses a combination of upgraded lines with it. If you read the history of KTX train in South Korea, they ran into money issues as well and had to cut back phase 1 to half its length and then upgrade the existing tracks. France's TGV and LGV speed were incrementally increased over time. 

    I think if there is money, the line should be built to Stockton and then use regular rail all the way Emeryville / San Jose and Sacramento. LGV Atlantique was just recently extended and before then, it was not uncommon for diesel locos to pull the TGV trains further down the conventional line. Get it up and running ASAP and getting people on the trains is what will change peoples minds.

    If they can get Bakersfield to Emeryville in 2.5 to 3 hours using HSR + Conventional, then I think they may have a temporary solution until funding for tunneling comes though. Stockton to Sacramento is currently little over 1 hour but if combined with HSR could just make it in little over 2 hours from Bakersfield.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 13, 2019
  25. Feb 14, 2019 #25

    bretton88

    b

    bretton88

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    Messages:
    1,019
    The real roadblock in the USA to the incremental approach is that the existing railroad infrastructure is largely privately owned. You really won't get UP to agree to anything above 90 or to the frequency you'd need. So the USA largely is stuck with an all or mediocre approach.
     

Share This Page

arrow_white