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Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

The big news on the High Speed Rail front this week is the effort by the California Legislative Analyst to prevent the High Speed Rail project in California from breaking ground. This is in two of their recommendations:

Fund Only Needed Administrative Tasks for Now. ... only appropriate at this time the $7 million in funding requested for state administration of the project by HSRA.
Seek Flexibility on Use of Federal Funds. We propose that the Legislature direct HSRA to renegotiate the terms of the federal funding awarded to the state by the Federal Rail Administration (FRA). ...

Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida also "sought flexibility" as part of the process of rejecting the Federal funding. Combine that with denying the California HSR Authority the funding to allow it to break ground to meet the requirements of the funding, and this report is a frontal assault on the second of the two Express HSR projects funded by the Administration HSR policy.

Lose this fight, and the California HSR could lose its $3b+ in funding and fail to break ground. Win this fight, win approval to break ground, and the California HSR becomes much harder to kill off.

California's Legislative Analyst taking over Policy Making on the sly

Here's the core of the argument of the Legislative Analyst that the voters of the state of California were wrong when they voted for Proposition 1a in 2008:

Largely as a result of these federal deadlines and requirements, HSRA decided in December 2010 to begin the construction of the statewide system within the Central Valley. This decision by HSRA, however, represents a big gamble that additional monies will eventually become available from the federal government or other sources to connect the Central Valley line to other major urban areas of California. The authority acknowledges that operation of the Central Valley segment by itself is infeasible because the potential ridership of a high–speed rail line within that segment alone would be insufficient to operate the system without a substantial subsidy.

Here is the "analysis" of the cost of not pursuing an oil-independent corridor connecting the north and south of the State of California:


Seriously: the closest that the Legislative Analyst comes to recognizing the massive economic risk that California faces in terms of transport's oil dependence is the following steaming pile of shit:

Finally, some have argued that investing in high–speed rail infrastructure instead of other modes of transportation could lead to improved environmental outcomes, such as better air quality. This is because the proposed system will be electrically powered and not require fossil fuels the way most automobiles and aircraft currently do. However, other studies have suggested that the project may not realize such improved environmental outcomes, especially if levels of ridership were low to moderate.  
"Other studies have suggested that the project may not realize such improved environmental outcomes". Seriously? "other studies suggest"?

We've seen a credible argument from the UK (pdf) that if the power is sourced from sufficiently dirty thermal power plants, and if the alternative transport capacity already exists so that we are comparing the emissions from HSR operation and construction combined with the road and air operating emissions alone. However, when looking at new transport capacity, and making an apples to apples, construction and operations on both sides, that study makes clear that even on dirty power, high speed rail beats both road and air in terms of emissions ...
... and (as the California Legislative Analyst ought to know) the California HSR is committed to sourcing its power requirements from new renewable power generating capacity.

And we know that the California Legislative Analyst knows that the comparison is construction to construction, operation to operation, since it notes just three paragraphs earlier:

For example, HSRA estimates that this project would alleviate the need to build 3,000 new lane–miles of freeway, and 5 airport runways and 90 new departure gates—at a cost of nearly $100 billion—that would otherwise be necessary to accommodate intrastate travel by 2030. This is because the state’s population is projected to grow steadily for decades and significant investment in transportation infrastructure is expected to be needed to accommodate travelers between Northern and Southern California. ... completed below ...

And we've seen bullshit from Reason, Cato, and Heritage that assume incredibly low share of the total transport market for the service level, completely out of line with actual observed behavior of US travelers when faced with similar Quality of Service choices. Of course, the authors of those reports are hired to write reports that conclude that whatever rail project being described is a boondoggle, so if they have to go beyond the boundaries of credibility to get there, well, at least the paycheck cleared.

You'd think that it must be something like the UK study being referred to, but the Legislative Analyst could well be referring to "conclusion in advance, arguments marshaled afterward" work, since it concludes the point about the $100b having to be spent to provide the same transport capacity with road and airport investment with:

In theory, if those travelers choose the high–speed rail system instead of other modes, the project could reduce the state’s overall infrastructure costs.

This is a classic Cato/Reason/Heritage rhetorical trick: when an argument is strong, backhand it by portraying it as "just a theory". However, there's no credible reason to believe those travelers won't choose to ride the system.

All around the country, when passengers are offered more reliable rail services, ridership increases, when passengers are offered more frequent rail services, ridership increases, and when passengers are offered more rapid rail trips, ridership increases. Just like people around the world do.

So the alternative theory under which California travelers do not treat the reliability, frequency, and transit speed available from the California is that although Americans act like people around the world in terms of the choices they actually are presented with, there is an unobserved threshold, somehow coincidentally just between the quality services that have been made available and the Express High Speed Rail quality of service, where Americans suddenly stop acting like people around the world.

"Just a theory" is a deliberate rhetorical effort to suggest, "well, its kind of 50:50 whether or not it'll work that way." And its required in Cato/Reason/Heritage type "analyses" precisely where the explicit claim is easily debunked, so its necessary to suggest it without coming out and saying so.

Talking Around the Elephant in the Room

The Legislative Analyst is writing about risks. So how are we understand the Legislative Analyst completing ignoring the risk of oil price shocks in a state with a transport system heavily dependent on oil, when evaluating an oil-independent transport corridor between the first (LA-Long Beach-Santa Ana, 11.8m) and second (SF-Oakland, 3.2m) most populous urban areas in the state? A corridor that includes the fourth (San Jose, 1.5m), seventh (Fresno, 0.6m), and tenth (Bakersfield, 0.4m) largest urban areas in Stage One and the third (San Diego, 2.7m), fifth (Riverside-San Bernadino, 1.5m), and sixth (Sacramento, 1.4m) in Stage Two.

Clearly, there is some risk that the Legislative Analyst is downplaying. There's no way or me to know whether the risk of oil price shocks was deliberately omitted to justify avoiding the risk, or whether the Legislative Analyst simply overlooked the biggest risk that the California transport faces through a combination of incompetence and focusing on the policy argument that they were trying to make in risk analysis disguise ...

... but considering the basics of project risk analysis makes the risk that the Legislative Analyst was avoiding stand out like a red thumb.

When considering a project risk analysis, you've got two sides that you start with automatically: the risk of attempting to do the project and failing, and the risk of not attempting to do the project at all.

The Legislative Analyst report is written with one eye closed: their conclusion regarding the risk of not attempting to do the project at all is:


That is, they raise three of the four risk factors on the side of not attempting to do the project at all, ignoring the biggest and most obvious one, grossly misrepresenting one, and using a rhetorical trick to try to minimize the one that they are not able to talk away ... and then ignore them for the balance of the report.

To put it bluntly, in the Legislative Analyst's Report, the risk of not trying is so minimal it does not bear taking into account. That may be an alternate universe to the one we all live in, when a outbreak of expectation that oil prices are going up can on its own momentum push the price o gas to $4/gallon ... but its the universe the Legislative Analyst wishes us to imagine we inhabit.

Now, think about what living in that alternate universe would imply. With no risk of failing to try, it implies that it is very hard to justify taking on risks when trying to succeed. In that alternate universe, the most worthwhile projects are the ones that meet other goals as well. In that alternate universe, having an organization run the project that views risks in terms of the risk of failing to succeed would be a mistake.

Clearly, that it is indeed that alternate universe that the Legislative Analyst wishes us to believe we live in:

  • The Legislative Analyst recommends sidelining the California HSR Authority and folding the project into Cal-Trans.

Following the Trail of Logical Contradictions

However, this inability or unwillingness to demonstrate basic competence in project risk analysis is just one symptom that appears that something is up. When we consider the logical contradictions in the arguments provided, it seems clear that the argument emerged to support the conclusion, rather than the conclusion emerging from the analysis.

When arguing that the State of California should try to get freedom to treat the Federal funding like a block grant, the Legislative Analyst simply ignores the result when Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida asked to do so, and argues that the effort is likely to succeed in California's case because:

California Offers a True High–Speed Rail Option. The federal administration has prioritized dedicated high–speed rail projects, or projects that result in trains running at speeds of over 110 mph and generally do not share tracks with freight rail. California’s project is currently the only federally funded high–speed rail system in the country. (Some federally funded “high–speed rail” projects in other states would incrementally improve existing passenger rail services, but none of these are dedicated high–speed rail projects.) For this reason, it is in both FRA’s and the state’s best interests that the project succeed.

And what is the Legislative Analyst asking for permission to do? Consider the examples of three "better uses of money":

  • Los Angeles–Anaheim. This highly travelled corridor includes commuter, freight, and intercity rail traffic, which could benefit greatly from corridor improvements along the alignment shared with the proposed high–speed rail system.
    Of course, this is not a "true HSR segment", and so the argument would not apply.
  • San Francisco–San Jose. Similar to Los Angeles–Anaheim, capital projects in this heavily congested corridor could improve both rail and auto traffic. This segment currently hosts 86 commuter trains daily, and freight trains use it at night.
    Of course, this is not a "true HSR segment", and so the argument would not apply.
  • San Jose–Merced. The state provides intercity rail service from Sacramento to Merced (and on to Bakersfield), and a separate rail service between Sacramento and San Jose. If the state chose the segment between San Jose and Merced for a high–speed rail project, the state would essentially “close the loop” and enable a significant increase in passenger rail mobility between the Central Valley and the Bay Area. This benefit from high–speed rail construction would result even if high–speed trains ultimately were never operated on the system.
    This is a strong indication that there is something else going on than the expressed concern with th risk of not completing the project ~ this segment is supposedly a better use of funds than the Valley alignment, though it has  always been projected to be more expensive than the funded Valley segment, and the fallback suggested here is a hypothetical Amtrak-California service, so if the project did not proceed, this would represent a greater "regret cost" than the Valley alignment

So this is what the Legislative Analyst is pushing for:

Putting a hold on the Central Valley segment, and asking the federal government for more flexibility to examine this and other alternatives more carefully, ...
... means, when the San Jose to Merced segment is set aside as being a "possibility" to divide and conquer politicians from the Valley by bidding for support from Merced area politicians for a segment that the balance of the report would reject even more strenuously than the Valley alignment ...

... freedom to build incremental improvements to commuter rail in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and to "maybe someday" build the actual HSR connection between the the Bay Area and the LA Basin.

The "time to study more carefully" is one of the oldest delaying tactics in the book ... and, after all, what is the point of asking for "time to study more carefully" in the middle of a report demonstrating an inability or unwillingness to engage in serious analysis?

The basic request in this report is to the freedom to change the policy that a majority of the 2008 California electorate voted for in 2008, to build a corridor connecting the Bay Area in North California and the LA Basin in Southern California.

This also helped explain a clear contradiction in terms of the proposed funding of the California HSR Authority itself. Just consider these two statements side by side, and I am sure you will spot it yourself:

We recommend that the Legislature reject the administration’s 2011–12 budget request for $185 million in funding for consultants to perform project management, public outreach, and other work to develop the project, and only appropriate at this time the $7 million in funding requested for state administration of the project by HSRA.
Before the passage of Proposition 1A, the HSRA maintained a staff of roughly seven positions and conducted oversight of a relatively small number of consultants developing the general approach for building the high–speed rail system. After the voters approved the bond funding for the project, the number of consultants working on its implementation increased significantly. At the time we prepared this analysis, the HSRA operated with a staff of approximately 19 filled positions and a team of consultants that is the equivalent of 604 positions. While HSRA is authorized to have a staff of 40, vacancies have persisted largely because of hiring freezes imposed in recent years in response to the state’s severe fiscal difficulties. If all of the authorized state positions were filled, the ratio of state employees to consultants would be 1 to 15. As things stand, with only 19 state workers actually in place, the ratio is 1 state employee for every 33 consultants.  

This first is a recommendation, and the second is the analysis. Of course, the recommendation that follows from the analysis is that the CHSRA should be exempted from hiring freezes and should expand its paid staff to be able to perform more work in-house. You only get to the recommendation actually made if you add the premise that it does not matter that much if the work fails to get done. Which is only reasonable, if the target is to abandon the process of building the Express HSR part of the Express HSR system.

Everything else falls out from that:

  • Why ignore the question of the risk of failing to pursue an HSR corridor connecting North and South? Because the policy change being pursued quite substantially increases that risk, so doing the Legislative Analysts job of giving competent risk analysis across the board would undermine this policy agenda of abandoning that as a policy goal.
  • Why propose that the California HSR Authority be pushed to one side? Because the policy being proposed is to raid HSR funding to build other things, and an organization with its first priority being to complete the HSR system will be an obstacle to pursuing that policy while hypocritically pretending that an HSR system to connect North and South of the state is being pursued.

The Tragedy is that Somebody Needs to Do the Legislative Analyst's Job

Making policy decisions is not, of course, the job of the Legislative Analyst Office. The LAO's job is to consider who to implement policy in a cost effective and efficient manner.

And taking on a policy agenda clearly undermines the effectiveness of the LAO in terms of actually doing its job. Since it has to pretend that studying cost effectiveness and efficiency is what it is doing, and these conclusions "just happen to emerge" from doing that, in order to smuggle a policy agenda into its analysis, it has to perform a biased analysis.

Unlike a Bay Area or LA Basin state politician, the LAO cannot come out and say, "Screw You, Fresno, the actual Express HSR part of the "HSR system" goes through the Valley, and building it means less opportunity to raid HSR funding for commuter rail systems in LA and the Bay Area."

But to pursue their policy agenda, they definitely must screw Fresno over.

Once it was determined that the Central Coast route would cost far more than a Valley route, it would take an utter fool to run the HSR through the Valley and not serve Fresno and Bakersfield. LA to SF will be just under 3hrs, a travel time where rail is competitive with air, attracting around 40% of the existing air market, and similar amounts of ridership pulled from car travel and in travel that happens because of the newly available option. But Fresno to the Bay and LA is 1:24 and 1:20 ~ Bakersfield to the Bay and LA is 1:50 and 0:55, transit times where rail dominates air. And because of the much more limited existing transport options, the Valley gets much more economic benefit relative to existing transport options.

Indeed, there are Silicon Valley companies that have their front office and R&D in the Bay Area and their back office and production outside of California, who will have a strong incentive to locate their back office and production facilities in the Valley, because at present flying out of state is less trouble than driving to the Valley, and with the HSR system, taking the train to the Valley will be the least trouble of all.

While there is no reason to conclude that the policy agenda that seems to underlay this LAO report is a deliberate preference to say, "Screw You, Fresno" ... (unlike, for example, Dan Walters, who agreed with the LAO under a different Legislative Analyst a number of years ago that Merced did not deserve a University of California campus, and now is all in, in support of the anti-HSR LAO report) ...

... that is one more implication of abandoning the Express HSR part of the Express HSR system in pursuit of raiding the HSR funds in support of commuter rail projects in more populous parts of the state.

Even if it is necessary to ignore the existence of oil price shocks in order to bias an "analysis" to arrive at that conclusion.

Where to find more info and how to take action

Much more information and ongoing coverage of the pushback against the LAO's proposal to abandon the policy adopted by a majority of the California electorate in 2008, can be found at the California HSR Blog:

Someone living inside California who wants to pushback should write and call your state legislator.

What someone living outside of California can do is a trickier question. One thing you can do is to publicize the issue and to write The Racheal Maddow Show to ask them to cover this "risk analysis concern troll" attack on HSR and the way that it completely ignores the risk to the California transport and economy in general of oil price shocks.

Midnight Oil ~ Truganini

Originally posted to Sunday Train on Sun May 15, 2011 at 04:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by California politics and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Notice that a to difference between ... (10+ / 0-)

      ... the big city and the idyllic countryside in this Japanese anime is that in the big city you catch the big mass transit train to school, while in the idyllic countryside you catch this single-car railbus that switches from a two track station to a single track line.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun May 15, 2011 at 06:26:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  ride the catbus if you nice to the Kami (7+ / 0-)

        fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

        by mollyd on Sun May 15, 2011 at 11:08:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  WHO IS the Legislative Analyst's Office? (6+ / 0-)

          Surely it's human beings of some affiliation or other... Let's go take a look.

          But, without taking a look, we'll never see who the manipulators are.

          •  My question precisely. (0+ / 0-)

            The anonymity of "Legislative Analyst" alone raises prickly, suspicious feelings.  Can the diarist tell us who this really is?

            Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth - Abraham Lincoln

            by Gustogirl on Mon May 16, 2011 at 07:05:52 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Not much real info. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Gustogirl, Judge Moonbox

              This site makes the following statement:

              The Legislative Analyst's Office has been providing fiscal and policy advice to the Legislature for more than 70 years. It is known for its fiscal and programmatic expertise and nonpartisan analyses of the state budget. The office serves as the "eyes and ears" for the Legislature to ensure that the executive branch is implementing legislative policy in a cost efficient and effective manner.

              California State Capitol The LAO is overseen by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC), a 16-member
              bipartisan committee. The office currently has a staff of 43 analysts and approximately 13 support staff. The analytical staff is divided into ten subject areas: Criminal Justice, State and Local Finance, K-12 Education, Higher Education, Health, Local Government, Resources and Environmental Protection, Social Services, State Administration, and Transportation, Business, and Housing.

              (emphasis added).

              So, who runs the place?  Who appointed them?  And is it "bipartisan" 50-50, contrary to the California legislature, or is the head appointed by the governor?

              Really not enough info to go on.

              I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

              by tle on Mon May 16, 2011 at 07:23:40 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  This is a visionary, uber-Keynesian project. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The State of California just can't fund it at present, even partially.  Just ask its Governor.  And I agree that UC-Merced was a mistake.

    It's better to curse the darkness than light a candle. --Whoever invented blogs, c.1996

    by Rich in PA on Sun May 15, 2011 at 04:12:13 PM PDT

  •  I think the leg analyst (0+ / 0-)

    has something here.
    I don't think the HSR people have even thought past 'lots of people will ride when it's finished'. Witness their lack of understanding of rail route planning: they think they can run a rail route over the Grapevine, a 6 percent grade that taxes cars and trucks.
    (Maybe they ought to learn something about railroads and rolling stock before they start planning.)

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Sun May 15, 2011 at 04:12:36 PM PDT

    •  The grapevine alignment is not a ... (18+ / 0-)

      ... 6% grade. Neither is the Tehachapi Pass alignment. So it seems they know more about rail route planning than you give them credit for.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun May 15, 2011 at 04:40:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  They said the same of BART in the '60's. (6+ / 0-)

      People go somewhere when there's a means to do so.

    •  HSR route is not planned to go over the grapevine (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Judge Moonbox

      It's the Antelope Valley/Tehachapi route that's in play.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Mon May 16, 2011 at 08:27:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They are doing a study whether to ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... bring the Tejon Pass back into the alignment alternatives. While the project risk of the Tejon Pass is much greater than the project risk of the Tehachapi Pass, it turns out that the Tehachapi Pass alignments bottleneck into a single run into Sylmar, and the geology, both in the various alternatives out of Palmdale and in the common southern part of the descent into Sylmar is worse than they thought.

        Since the Tejon Pass alignment was quicker, they need to check whether the Tehachapi Pass alignment as a whole is still sufficiently superior to the Tejon Pass alignment to be the only alignments getting detailed study.

        The Tejon pass would make a preliminary system through to LA-US on the existing Antelope Valley line simpler, because it would be using less of the track and so would have less impact on existing local services, and also because it would be a shorter run and so would impose a smaller time penalty on the preliminary service.

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 11:44:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Tejon Pass goes through Sylmar too (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox

          So I'm clearly missing something. I used to live there and know that bottleneck intimately, where 5, 14, 210 and 118 all join up.

          I don't particularly care either way, although the Soledad/Tehachapi run would be more scenic and it would pick up more existing population centers. A Tejon alignment would fuel new subdivisions.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Mon May 16, 2011 at 11:55:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The bottleneck in the Tehachapi alignments ... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elfling, Judge Moonbox

            ... is the longest section of tunnel heading west from Sylmar toward the first viaduct. Its not where all four of those roads join up, its further west, where the alignment options dictate the tunnel has to run. In the Techachapi pass area itself, there is a lot more leeway in local alignment, in case detailed geological assay shows that there is very loose or very hard rock in one particular tunneling alignment.

            Its that leeway that initially gave the node to the Tehachapi pass, since there is very little leeway in where the Tejon pass alignment goes if it is going to go across the faultline at grade.

            HSR corridors passing through does not tend to have any impact on residential development. A station would be a different matter, but there wouldn't be any Tejon station ~ if there is no Palmdale station, whether the additional station made possible is at Hanford or somewhere else, there's not going to be a station along the tunnels and viaducts going up to and down from the Tejon Pass.

            Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

            by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 12:10:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Even if the money fairy conjured up $100 billion (13+ / 0-)
    3,000 new lane–miles of freeway, and 5 airport runways and 90 new departure gates—at a cost of nearly $100 billion

    Where would you put the airline infrastructure in flat locations close enough to LA and SF to be useful?  Never mind siting the freeway lanes near the large metros.
  •  Save the Oilmen! snicker (26+ / 0-)

    Let's see what people think about HSR after a couple more seasons of paying what, $5 a gallon. (i don't have a car) Thanks for the diary.

    "Such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing." - Thomas Paine

    by blueoregon on Sun May 15, 2011 at 04:27:43 PM PDT

  •  More money for Illinois and the East Coast? (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, JayinPortland, thomask, Woody, Matt Z

    Holy moly.

    Ideology is an excuse to ignore common sense.

    by Bush Bites on Sun May 15, 2011 at 05:15:10 PM PDT

  •  A lot of these guys are trying to put HSR on ice.. (17+ / 0-)

    ....just long enough that the jobs don't benefit Obama.

    Which, of course, would explain him wanting to keep it to a few administrative jobs now but ramp up construction sometime after 2012.

    Ideology is an excuse to ignore common sense.

    by Bush Bites on Sun May 15, 2011 at 05:19:31 PM PDT

    •  Its been speculated on CAHSRblog ... (15+ / 0-)

      ... that this is more Smitian and Lowenthal, who are termed out in 2012, trying to raid the HSR funds to fund legacy projects ~ Caltrain improvement in the Bay, rapid transit LA-US / Anaheim in the LA Basin.

      Of course, despite the curious selective optimism of the LAO ~ optimistic that California can get the HSR funding turned into a commuter rail block grant ~ on the basis of being pessimistic whether any more Federal funding will be forthcoming, ever ~ there is no reason to believe that the Federal government will approve of that commuter rail block grant approach, and since the State bonds cannot be released without at least a 50% match, there's no reason to believe either can actually be funded.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun May 15, 2011 at 05:47:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Who IS the legislative analyst anyway? (6+ / 0-)

    What's his background?

    What does anybody know about him?

    Ideology is an excuse to ignore common sense.

    by Bush Bites on Sun May 15, 2011 at 05:31:10 PM PDT

    •  Information on the office... (7+ / 0-)

      ...can be found here.

      Mac Taylor is the current head, since 2008, but I don't know much about him myself.  His bio (pdf) is here (pdf).

      •  My question, eggzackly. (3+ / 0-)

        I note there's no evidence of political leanings, but he was appointed in 2008. What does that tell me? Well, let's ask ex-Gov. Steroid.

        •  The LAO serves at the pleasure of ... (4+ / 0-)

          ... the State Senate and House, both with Democratic majorities.

          He claimed, when asked which state legislators pushed for this analysis, that he just thought it was the time for this discussion. If telling the truth (at least a remote possibility), then he has a massive blind spot in his view of the world, which does not bode well for the quality of analysis the State House and Senate is getting from his office.

          If lying, well, then he is allowing the LAO office to be politicized to crank out biased reports in service of insider political agendas, which bodes even worse for the quality of analysis the State House and Senate is getting from his office.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 06:58:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  That's something that's been asked ... (15+ / 0-)

      ... at the CA HSR blog.

      The LAO should have sought the expert advice of the independent peer review group, and it could have avoided getting dragged down into a policy fight and instead could have focused on doing its job. This from CBS SF:

      Former Caltrans director Will Kempton, who led a separate review of the rail project, concurred with some of Taylor’s findings.

      Kempton testified that the rail authority needs more staff, more funding sources and a better business model. But in his view, none of those concerns should delay the project.

      "We should move full steam ahead, trying to accommodate those guidelines that have been provided in order to take advantage of the federal funding," Kempton said.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun May 15, 2011 at 05:39:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  One critique of LAO: (15+ / 0-)
      Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani blasted the LAO’s lack of expertise and their desire to handicap the project:


      Last year, I asked the Legislative Analyst Office whether they had consulted with anyone who has had experience in building a high-speed train system. The answer to this question was no.

          This year’s report fails to provide us with any detail about the extensive process the Federal Rail Administration already went through to arrive at this decision. If the LAO had talked to the FRA, they’d know that the FRA has sought peer review from countries that have built profitable systems, and that those reviews have been considered all along during California’s planning process.

      Source: Cahsrblog
      So we see that their "expertise" is not universally accepted.

      Greg McKendry, Linda Kraeger, Dr. George Tiller, Steven Johns. Victims of Wingnut violence

      by Judge Moonbox on Sun May 15, 2011 at 06:52:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  WHAT, we can fund (11+ / 0-)

    hundreds of military operations around the world....???

    This is a win win for everyman except, airlines, oil and a couple of others I can't think of right this instant.....this will be done sooner rather than matter who the naysayers

    The goal is not to bring your adversaries to their knees but to their senses. -- Mahatma Gandhi

    by Mindmover on Sun May 15, 2011 at 05:53:14 PM PDT

  •  So will the LAO prevail or not? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It might also make sense if, at the start of your post, you have a key point that says the "so what" upfront.

  •  God save us from small minds and Republicans. (7+ / 0-)

    Of course, they're often one and the same, so Lord, You get a two-fer by taking them unto You.

    Thanks much.

    The Rest of Us

  •  The only reason I wouldnt mind the CHSRA to go slo (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yoduuuh do or do not, CA Nana the make sure we are getting the best HSR line we can for the buck, and plan it so well its financially successful and the model is implemented all over the country. I've dabbled in Transportation planning and am currently trying to get a job with ESRI to create a Routing analyst that helps plan the most efficient and cost effective way to go from point A to point B.

     And I also personally, don't really like the route they have up on the web. I would love to model ridership for San Diego - Anaheim - Los Angeles - Bakersfield - Fresno - Gilroy - San Jose - San Francisco  first....then when the upgraded trans bay tunnel is complete, send the train to East bay, Fairfield, and Sacramento. The Sacramento - Fresno line could just as well be a reliable Class B line with normal Amtrak trains.

    •  As long as you use the same guage (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BYw, Judge Moonbox

      you can run High speed trains on low speed electrified lines, so no need to change.

      For example, in France the TGV runs at 300kph between Paris and Tours ( about 250 km) at around 160 kph between Tours and Bordeaux about 300 km), and in Summer one train per day continues at around 90 kph to Arcachon on the coast (about 65km)

      The result is that the journey time from Paris to Arcachon is under 4 hrs for 600km - an average speed, including stops of a hair under 100 mph.

      "you(sic) existence arose from a popcorn fart out of nobodies ass." - A Kossack who wishes to remain anonymous.

      by senilebiker on Mon May 16, 2011 at 03:48:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Good point but (0+ / 0-)

      the people in the far east Bay have been paying for BART from the get-go.  Still no BART there. Let's be sure we serve all the people equally.

  •  the NIMBYs in the Peninsula destroyed HSR (7+ / 0-)

    Because of the NIMBY resistance in the SF Peninsula, the HSR was forced to break ground in the Central Valley. Naturally people will question the wisdom of starting up an HSR in the middle of nowhere.

    Those rich dickheads have f*cked us over good.

    •  Hey - you got a rare tip from me (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Matt Z, MKSinSA, Judge Moonbox
      Those rich dickheads have f*cked us over good.

      The money quote. Thanks !

      "Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time." ~ Harry Truman

      by ozsea1 on Mon May 16, 2011 at 12:28:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  NOT SFpeninsula...south of there. (0+ / 0-)

      SF had no dog in that fight.

    •  Actually, ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      icemilkcoffee, Judge Moonbox

      ... it seems like the US Department of Transport insisted on the Valley segment ~ they wanted to actually fund Express High Speed Rail, and the Peninsula alignment along the existing Caltrain alignment which is 100ft or wider for most of its length, only needing to take a couple of feet of backyard from a small handful of rich bastards and former Stanford profs sipping tea in the backyard ...

      ... it wouldn't go faster than 125mph.

      So the CAHSR would indeed be similar to the French system ... though our rail network is so biased toward bulk slow freight that we need to improve in most places to have suitable Express Intercity lines to run onto ... and the Federal Government wanted to fund the 220mph part.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 07:03:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am on the end user part of this discussion (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox

        and my family would choose the train over the auto or plane every time if we could get all the way from Sac to LA/SD on a high speed train, or if the Coastal Starlight didnt take ^%$ over 9 hours to get from the Bay to LA-but that is a slightly different problem since the tracks are owned by the Freight companies.  Sigh, we love rail travel, loved it in Europe and Scandinavia, Go USA!  meh.

        •  The Coastal route is not just the ownership ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Judge Moonbox

          ... of the corridor by freight companies, but also the terrain ~ the reason that its such a twisty, turny route between SLO and Salinas is because of the terrain.

          Indeed, I'd support upgrading as much of the Surfliner up to SLO to 110mph as possible, and the same for the Capitol Corridor from Sacramento to San Jose, then extending to Salinas.

          That would also spill over into speeding up the Coast Starlight route, since the regular Amtrak-California equipment is capable of up to 110mph if the track, signaling and crossings permit it.

          OTOH, putting a lot of money into the section in between, which might see two trains each way per day if a Coast Daylight LA/SF was added to the existing long-haul Coast Starlight LA/Oakland/pts north ... I wouldn't see that as a high priority as a complementary regional HSR line to the Express HSR system through the Valley.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 11:29:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Yup. the disruption in the Peninsula is very (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox

        mild. Using existing Caltrains right of way. Compared to the kind of work required in San Jose downtown, the disruption in the Peninsula is just trivial. In the downtown section, there is talk of underground (too expensive) or some kind of skyway.

        Thanks for the input about the Feds only wanting to fund the 220mph part. That's great info.

        •  To be precise ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Judge Moonbox

          ... the Federal government wanted to fund the 220mph part first. If the White House proposed Infrastructure Bank was passed into law, California could expect to get funding for a "Minimum Operable Segment", and could set aside the worry about "independent utility" in case further funding for the project got stalled.

          And once California can start operating a service on an operable segment, the state will be in a position to issue revenue bonds, at which point finishing the project stops being a matter of if and becomes a matter of when.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 11:24:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Brown is committed to HSR and the problem... (4+ / 0-)

    is not the LAO, they are just cover for the actions of the entrenched special interests and pet projects of state legislators that want to improve their political position  before the 2012 elections. It is pure politics and the LAO is being pushed by local LA and SFO county politicians to find a way to redirect federal money to local projects that benfit them directly. Also, there are no Democratic constituencies in the Central Valley worth mentioning, as most Democratic strength is along the coast, so building a HSR system that brings new jobs to places that benefit Republican constituencies is not particularly attractive to coastal Democrats.

    It's all about the money and has nothing to do with the actual benefits of the policy.

    "Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are..." George Santayana

    by KJG52 on Mon May 16, 2011 at 12:42:28 AM PDT

  •  typofix: who -> how (0+ / 0-)
    The LAO's job is to consider who to implement policy in a cost effective and efficient manner.
  •  Republished to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    California Politics.

    I agree with you on the overall rail question, but I'm not sure your statements on the role of the LAO are really correct. The LAO has opinions and makes policy statements all the time, about how the budget is handled, about charter schools, all kinds of stuff. They aren't just detail oriented, they make policy recommendations too. That is part of their job.

    •  I was referring to their job ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... it is certainly not their job to pursue a policy agenda by making flawed analysis that misses the basics, such as overlooking California's exposure to oil price shocks when electing to treat the risk of failing to try to complete the project as negligible.

      If an action is proposed to meet a goal, it is certainly part of their job to say whether the action would in fact meet that goal. It is not their job to say whether or not that should be the goal, and if they are doing that regularly, they are overstepping.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 07:10:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well (0+ / 0-)

        I'm not sure how familiar you are with their work ... but for folks who work in the Capitol they are a regular part of policy debates. They have their own perspective and offer it on various topics. They may be wrong in this instance, or about any number of other things, just like any other policy related agency. But this isn't overstepping, it's part of their role.

        •  If so, then they could come out and ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... say the policy they are pusuing.

          Remember, the policy recommendation they are stating is not the policy change they are pursuing with this report. The policy recomendations are stated in terms of "seeking flexibility", and "change the governance structure of the project".

          The actual policy they are pursuing is putting completion of the HSR corridor between LA and SF at a lower priority than using HSR funds to upgrade commuter rail systems.

          I believe that if they felt that this was within the perceived limits of the kind of advice they should be giving, they could just come out and state it, and in the process would not be forced to present what is, on the face of it, such a shabby piece of analysis.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 11:35:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  how can they really stop anything? (0+ / 0-)

    they aren't allowed to legislate, and this has been passed both byt he legislature and another component by a public bond measure passed by the voters.

  •  Why the hell is President Lincoln building (5+ / 0-)

    a rail line to Promontory Point, Utah? It's in the middle of nowhere! nobody wants to go to Utah! There's nothing there but a small town full of Mormons, and they don't want to go anywhere else!

    This is nothing but a huge government boondoggle! That money should be invested in America's existing stagecoach infrastructure! People actually USE the stagecoach!

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Mon May 16, 2011 at 07:52:49 AM PDT

  •  why not SFO-SAC and LA-SD HSR? (0+ / 0-)

    shorter segments, bigger initial markets and
    prove out the attractiveness?

    Trying to make fresno work first seems like a riskier bet.

    George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

    by nathguy on Mon May 16, 2011 at 08:04:50 AM PDT

    •  The biggest hole in the current rail system (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ybruti, Judge Moonbox

      is that there is only one passenger train a day that goes between SF and LA. All other traffic has to go across the Tehachapis by bus.

      Fresno is actually a fabulous point to start. People in Fresno do a lot of commuting and their airport is marginal. They already use the train quite a bit.

      LA-SD is decently served already by the Pacific Surfliner, and SFO-SAC is served by the Capital Corridor. The new HSR route not only is fast, but it creates service that currently requires using a bus link. There is established, underserved ridership on the SF-LA route.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Mon May 16, 2011 at 08:34:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I should point out that the reason for this (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Judge Moonbox

        is because California's rail system is full up with freight, and there's not enough time/space to put additional regular speed passenger service over current rails.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Mon May 16, 2011 at 08:36:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  For SFO/SAC and LA/SD ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Judge Moonbox

      ... 125mph would do. Heck, get the Capitol Corridor up to 110mph max, electrify it, and give it active tilt trains for the twisty turny bits, and it'd be a big hit. It would also include the Concord urban area, one of the two "top 10 urban area populations" that the HSR system misses.

      This is not "trying to make Fresno work first", this is "trying to make SF/LA work first". It just so happens that you lay out alignments as a corridor, and the strongest 220mph HSR corridor between SF and LA necessarily runs through Fresno.

      Connecting the two largest urban centers in the state, at a distance for which a 220mph system can be viable but for which a 125mph system would take too long to strongly compete with air travel ...
      ... is kind of the least risk bet there is to make on 220mph rail.

      Why the Federal Government was wise to insist that California build the Fresno section first is exactly because of the kind of BS that the LAO is being the front-man for here. California has a long and tawdry history of funding one thing in transport and then raiding those funds to actually build something else. If the money is spent in upgrading local commuter rail "for later use by HSR", there is lots of incentive to keep raiding the funds in the same way until the bond authorization is exhausted.

      But if the Valley alignment is built, then the incentive to press on through to the LA Basin to the south and the Bay Area to the north is much stronger. And it only has to complete the route to one side or the other to have an operable service that can start supporting revenue bonds.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 11:57:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  i see your point (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox

        i guess if i boil it down is

        1) LA-SD/SF-SAC make more sense as 125 MPH lines then
        250 MPH corridors

        2) That building from Fresno to Bakersfiel would create
        the hooks for a system to connect from LA and SF later.

        if that's correct, i guess i see where you are going, but,
        would it make more sense to invest where you have things

        How much would it cost to add some more rail in those lines and that way establish growth on an incremental basis?

        I'm a fan, i'm just wondering about the strategy.

        Me I'm just wishing they would put a high speed line from Richmond to Boston.

        George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

        by nathguy on Mon May 16, 2011 at 12:08:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But we 'have things already' ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Judge Moonbox

          ... in the Valley as well. The San Joaquin runs on conventional rail corridors through the Valley to Bakersfield.

          Building the Valley also slashes the risk of not completing the project because either extending through to LA or extending through to San Franciso yields a system that can operate without subsidy ... therefore a system that can be put out to bid for operators for the franchise ... therefore a service that can be put into use and generate actual ridership figures for that quality of service, providing a much stronger ridership projection for the full project in terms of seeking revenue bond finance.

          The big project risks are financial, and the more different ways are available to skin that cat, the higher the likelihood that at least one of them will pan out and the system will get built.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 12:14:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Why start with HSR? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is something I've always wondered about.

    Yes, HSR is fantastic, I've used it in Europe.

    But I've also used conventional passenger rail to travel all around Europe, it it's also fantastic.

    A project to interconnect the major and medium population centers of the state using tracks dedicated to passenger service, running state-of-the-art conventional passenger trains, would be absolutely wonderful!

    As it is now, the rail system is difficult to use, with many segments requiring the use of buses, and with speeds much slower than possible with conventional hardware because of the condition of the tracks.

    This would be much less expensive, would have a larger effect on the state because it would directly affect much more of the state, and if it were successful, it would create momentum to construct HSR connections between the highest volume points.

    Just a thought.

    Greg Shenaut

    •  If you're putting tracks in anyway (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox

      it seems to me that the marginal savings of doing conventional rail is pretty small in the grand scheme of things, and HSR makes the system far far more functional.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Mon May 16, 2011 at 11:04:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In most places, with most ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Judge Moonbox

      ... population distributions, I'd agree with you wholeheartedly.

      But California has the 2nd and 12th largest urban area populations in the country, separated by a distance where an Express HSR service allows single-day trips where a Regional HSR service would not, and with expensive investments required for either to get into / out of the Bay Area and LA Basin respectively.

      And if the SF/LA corridor can get built, it will provide hefy network economies for complementary Regional HSR corridors throughout the state.

      The population distribution in California is similar in many respects to the population distribution in Spain ~ both population density and distance and populations of the number one and number two urban areas. And Express HSR between SF and LA is a big deal for pretty much the same reason that Madrid / Barcelona proved to be a big deal in Spain.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 12:02:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also, it bears considering ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Judge Moonbox

      ... the California is by no means starting with HSR. You already have the Surfliner, the Capitol Corridor and the San Joaquin running, the start of local rail in the larger urban centers throughout the state ~ and by 2020 will have more.

      But the existing rail corridors that connect the LA Basin and the Bay are being used by freight, and unless you want to dump a shit-ton more truck freight on the road network, you don't want to shoulder them aside to put passenger rail on that network ~ and if you did, the distance between LA and SF would mean the benefit would be muted.

      You need a passenger rail corridor connecting the north and south of the state. The most cost effective system, taking both capital cost and potential operating revenues into account, is an Express HSR system.

      If it were Ohio, 220mph would be massive overkill ~ a 110mph system would connect Columbus to both Cincinnati and Columbus in 2hrs, a 125mph system would connect Cincinnati and Cleveland in 3hrs. But its not Ohio, with a population density like Germany, that we are talking about here. Its California, with a population density more like Spain.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 12:19:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Judge Moonbox

        I see things like basic connectivity and frequency of service as much more important than high speed, even for Sacto/SF to LA/SD. I can drive from my house near Sacramento to my sister-in-law's house in San Marcos, about 500 miles, in about 8 hours, depending greatly on traffic. That is the baseline. There is no way to get there reasonably on the train, or even very near to there. Even if I were just going to downtown LA, it's a similar story.

        What we need in California, if we want people to ride trains more, is lots more trains. They should go at least as fast as you can go in a car, but I don't thing they need to go three times as fast. They should connect with air and local ground transportation, and there should be lots of safe, free parking lots and car rental outfits.

        But there can't be just one train per day and lots of segments on buses and travel times 2-3 times longer than you can drive in a car! People aren't completely stupid, you know.

        When I first went to Europe in 1970, highspeed rail was still rather unusual. But conventional rail was really good. I've never seen anything in the US even close to European conventional rail. If you have a very good conventional rail system, that sets the stage for HSR. People are accustomed to using the rail system for their basic transportation needs, and there it is easy to make the case to save a couple hours time and travel in greater comfort in a TGV or whatever. In the US, most people are not at all accustomed to traveling by rail. HSR will be a harder sell to them because of that, not to mention the lack of connectivity of an HSR system to other rail and other public transportation.

        I think we aren't ready for HSR. I'd much rather have a really well-connected, high frequency conventional rail system any day.

        Greg Shenaut

        •  But its a virtuous circle. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Judge Moonbox

          First, that frequency in the conventional rail services are due to government subsidy. Only a few of the conventional rail corridors yield an operating surplus, and those that do tend to cross-subsidize those that don't. If we were to subsidize passenger rail to the same extent, then in the parts of the country were we have Europe-like population densities, we'd get Europe-like intercity rail service.

          On the other hand, we urgently need more oil independent local transport, and so we urgently need to increase the operating subsidies to local transport, so if a massive increase in operating subsidies is on offer, I'd rather that get directed to oil-independent local transport.

          But for large enough metro areas on both ends, close enough together, and fast enough trains, the trains yield an operating surplus, because the higher speed means a larger population density in terms of station catchment populations per hour. And so we can pursue higher speed intercity rail services that can generate an operating surplus.

          Get SF-downtown/LA-UnionStation in under 3hrs, you grab a substantial share of the existing air travel market there. That share is big enough to run trains every hour, and express trains during peak demand. That frequency increases the ridership. Also, it happens to run through an underserved cluster of transport markets, because the Fresno/Bay, Fresno/LA, Bakersfield/Bay distances are awkward for point to point air, which pays a massive time penalty for each stop ... but its under 2hrs from either to either end, so the LA/SF transport demand is supplemented by demand from the middle toward both ends, allowing further increase in frequency, providing additional ridership because the higher frequency means more distinct "have to be there" and "can't leave before" times match up with the train.

          Before Spain established its HSR corridor Madrid to Barcelona, it had a train on that route, but it was one of the busiest air routes in Europe. The HSR basically took over the air market, and took about an equal amount of car ridership. And Spain is a good European example, because the size and population, and therefore population density, is quite similar to California's.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 02:03:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  As you said, (0+ / 0-)

            before Spain started the Madrid to Barcelona HSR, it already had a train on that route (I've ridden it several times). That's my point: adding HSR to a country already committed to rail travel will always make more sense than trying to impose one on a country where people think of trains, with good reason, as overpriced, inconvenient anachronisms.

            I suspect that for the price of the proposed HSR system, you could get much better conventional rail coverage of a place like California in both time and space, and have enough left over to fund some improvements in regional ground transportation.

            •  You can't connect Northern California ... (0+ / 0-)

              ... and Southern California, effectively, with conventional rail, or MRRS style Rapid Rail, or Regional HSR. As long as the system is below the Express HSR level, it'll be a Northern California system and a Southern California system ...

              ... and between the two, as California presently has with the Bay Area to Bakersfield leg of the San Joaquin, and then a bus to LA, which is what you'll continue to have without putting a corridor with a combination of tunnels and viaducts over either the Tejon or Tehachapi passes.

              The incremental cost of a 6 hour Bay to LA Basin corridor and a 3 hour Bay to LA Basin corridor is much smaller than the incremental benefit from the upgrade from 6 hour Bay to LA Basin corridor.

              That's what the policy decision is: to have two separate partial state rail networks, or one, that connects the two largest urban centers and eight of of the ten largest urban centers in the state.

              Many people when they voted in 2008 did not understand the fine details of all of this, but I think they did understand that they were voting to put an Express HSR corridor from SF through to LA.

              Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

              by BruceMcF on Mon May 16, 2011 at 09:17:06 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And I did vote for it (0+ / 0-)

                but there are pretty big mountains in Europe, too, and the trains have always found a way around or through them. Why not in California?

                We both know the real reason: huge government support for the automobile/trucking/highway side and almost zilch for rail, not to mention public transportation in general.

                I think it's a policy/political issue, not a technical or geographic one.

                •  Not always to great effect. (0+ / 0-)

                  Consider the rail ridership between Spain and France, and consider what it will be once the HSR link is completed.

                  Indeed, when European countries build base tunnels nowadays, one of the things they do is to include a connection to an HSR corridor on both sides, since that is the most cost effective way to gain the full benefit from the base tunnel in terms of total passengers using the tunnel per year (Mind, you don't take a base tunnel through an active seismic fault, so base tunnels are often not an option in California).

                  The financial issue is that the capital subsidy per passenger for 220mph Express HSR is lower than the capital subsidy per passenger for 125mph Regional HSR, so while a $40b~$60b in Express HSR LA/Valley/SF would provide the same transport capacity as $100b in road and air infrastructure, a $20b in Regional HSR LA/Valley/SF would not necessarily provide the same transport capacity as $20b in road and air infrastructure.

                  Because the share of the LA/SF market at 6hrs is much lower than the share of the LA/SF market at 3 hours.

                  There is no silver bullet, and that goes for proposing Regional HSR systems for all intercity transport corridors as much as for anything else.

                  Now, the California project would be a bit cheaper and less politically controversial if there always was an Express Intercity network in place as a legacy, as in France, and the Express HSR corridor could just build the Express HSR corridor part.

                  But it does not follow that California should "go back and do that first". Given what it has in place now and given current mature technology, the Express HSR corridor is the most capital-efficient way to get the oil-independent transport connection between Northern and Southern California that the state needs.

                  Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

                  by BruceMcF on Wed May 18, 2011 at 07:07:15 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  The freights (0+ / 0-)

          The main barrier to adding new passenger services and to improving Amtrak's existing network is that the freight operators own most of the tracks. The freights' opposition to "more and better Amtrak" has been a bigger problem than even the opposition from 'the Party of No'.

          Consider that currently the Sunset Limited runs three days a week L.A.-Palm Springs-Yuma-Maricopa (Phoenix)-Tucson-El Paso-San Antonio-Houston-Lafayette-New Orleans. Daily service would spread some costs (stations, advertising/marketing, bus connections, etc) over seven days instead of three, and meanwhile attract many more riders to the convenient schedule.

          Amtrak recently worked up a plan to make the Sunset Ltd a daily train. Union Pacific said that would create considerable interference with its freight operations. But it said, those problems could be cured if Amtrak paid for $750 million in upgrades to its main line, adding more passing sidings, wider bridges, etc. Three quarters of a billion for four more trains each week. Railway robbery.

          Upgrading California service on the short Capital Corridor, San Joaquin, and Surfliner routes has been easier than adding service to a long distance train, but it hasn't been 'easy' even at that. To expand the routes of conventional trains across the state would be harder.

          The UP will not be having any passenger trains across Tehachapi, none, not even for $750 million, so you would have to build a brand-new route merely to run a few conventional Amtrak-speed trains. It's a better deal to just "go for it" with a new HSR line.

          When you get that main stem of HSR running SF Bay-L.A. and carrying millions every year, it will be easier to upgrade other tracks to improve connections and frequency. The high-volume of the high-speed trains will bring along the feeder routes.

  •  Excellent diary, thanks. -eom- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Stupid is as stupid elects.

    by TheOrchid on Mon May 16, 2011 at 08:56:22 AM PDT

  •  Henry Perea, Fresno County Supervisor, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox

    responds to LAO rail report today in the Fresno BEE. He makes an excellent case for HSR starting in the Central Valley.  

    Large projects require optimistic cooperation, not pessimistic bureaucracy. With the passage of Proposition 1A in 2008, California's voters asked for high-speed rail. Recently, our Legislative Analyst's Office released a report that jeopardizes our democratic will.

    The report raises concerns with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, but does so while making recommendations clearly aimed at derailing the project. If these prescriptions are taken seriously, our future prosperity will never see the light of day.

    The LAO questions CHSRA at every step of the process. They question the decision to start with rail segments in the Central Valley; they question the ability of CHSRA to find the necessary funding to complete the project.

    Yet CHSRA has considered two truths regarding all project development: Once a project has commenced, the impetus for completion is ever-present, and projects do not get cheaper by waiting.

    The decision to begin work in or around Fresno is not based on an illusion that a line from Fresno to Bakersfield would generate significant ridership; the decision was made because a section of the route has to be completed before 2017 in order to use American Reinvestment and Recovery funding....Link

    The whole article is worth studying.

    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

    by ybruti on Mon May 16, 2011 at 09:58:24 AM PDT

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