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The headlines out of California indicate that there has been a substantial shift in terms of the California HSR system. In particular, it seems that Gov. Brown has waded into the fray and is reframing the issue from the Only-An-Infrastructure-Geek-Could-Love frame of the Initial Construction Segment and the mythical "Train to Nowhere", to the "when do I get to ride it?" frame of the Initial Operating Service.

You can find the lead up to the big move at the CHSRblog:
Deal Reached to Combine Caltrain Electrification and HSR (22MAR)
Legislature Appears to Have Votes to Approve HSR Funding (23MAR)
Jerry Brown Lowers HSR Cost by $30 billion

And Newspaper sneak previews of what will be Monday's Big News at:
Sacramento Bee: Gov. Jerry Brown to change high-speed rail plan, lower cost by $30
Mercury News: Questions remain despite revised Calif. rail plan  
SF Chronicle: High-speed rail plan slashes costs to calm critics

However, while the newspaper accounts given glimpses and hints and quotes of very carefully written statements from the principle actors ... digging into the details will have to wait until the details are released.

So instead, I want to take a look at the existing "Slow Speed Rail" systems of Northern California, to get a better background understanding of what "connecting with" the existing systems might mean.

First, an Inventory of the Rail Corridors

One Northern California Amtrak-California rail corridor is the San Joaquin (in purple), which runs four times a day from Bakersfield to Oakland and twice a day from Bakersfield to Sacramento ~ on the southern side, a a bus completes the trip to LA, while at the northern side, when the train runs to Oakland there is a connecting bus to Sacramento, and when the train runs to Sacramento there is a connecting bus to Oakland. The sections from Fresno on North are shown.

A second Northern California Amtrak-California rail corridor is the Capitol Corridor, which runs from San Jose along the eastern side of the Bay through Oakland and then across the Sacramento River to Sacramento. Most of the Capital Corridor is shared with the Amtrak service that connects northern and southern California, the Coast Starlight, which continues north from Sacramento toward the Pacific Northwest, and south from San Jose along the Central Coast to Santa Barbara and then Los Angeles, connecting to the Surfliner at LA's Union Station ("LA-US"). The Coast Starlight is the slender blue line running from top to bottom (the Capital Corridor is actually in Green, but only the Sacramento/Auburn section peaks out from underneath the various overlaying lines).

The third intercity service runs from Stockton is the Altamont Corridor Express (in an only slightly lighter blue (oops)), running from Stockton through Tracy, Livermore and Pleasanton to Fremont and San Jose. It is a classic "commuter" rail service, with three inbound services in the morning and three outbound services in the evening.

Much of the local rail in the Bay area is BART, which is a wide-gauge third rail electric mass transit system that is not directly compatible with shared operation with an overhead electric standard gauge system like the California HSR system. However the Caltrain system (dark blue) is a local diesel standard rail system that runs from San Jose to San Francisco, with occasional extended service to Gilroy. Caltrain has long had a plan to electrify the corridor and to run trains into the train station at the basement of the new TransBay Terminal. Indeed, the first strong indication that something was moving on California HSR was the announcement of a deal to fund electrification of the Caltrain Corridor from San Jose to San Francisco.

OK, those are trains ~ why do you call them slow?

I am only being slightly wry in calling these the "Slow Trains of Northern California". They are definitely faster than cycling, or than traveling by horseback ... but if you are in a real hurry, and have a car, its possible that you will not take the train.

Consider the following schedule times, compared to what Google Maps says is the equivalent Driving time:

Trip Corridor Rail Transit Google Driving
Fresno / Oakland San Joaquin 4hrs 5min 3hrs 5min
San Jose / Sacramento Capitol Corridor 3hrs 10min 2hrs 12 min
Stockton / San Jose ACE 2hrs 10min 1hr 22min
San Jose / San Francisco Caltrain 59mins / 1hr 20mins 52mins (Sunday)
Its only with the "Baby Bullet" Caltrain service and urban driving conditions that the train is time-competitive with driving. For intercity trips, its slower.

So, why are these trains "so slow"? Lets take a closer look at the Capitol Corridor. What I have in the following table is the Station to Station track mileage, track mile per hour, "line of sight" mileage (LOS), and "line of sight" mph (LOS mph), together with an approximate layout efficiency in terms of the LOS mileage relative to the track mileage.

Note that the layout efficiency is "micro" efficiency. In other words, making a beeline to go to a location that there is no real point in serving gets scored as 100%, so the LOS mileage is station to station, not end to end.

Also note that the track mileage comes from the timetable, which means the track mileage is only +/- half a mile ~ where the "layout efficiency" says 100%, it probably really means something like 95%.

Station Mileage mph LOS LOS mph efficiency
Sacramento --- --- --- --- ---
Davis 14mi 56mph 13 52mph 93%
Fairfield 26mi 65mph 26 65mph 100%
Martinez 18mi 51mph 13.5 39mph 75%
Richmond 19mi 46mph 13mi 31mph 68%
Berkeley 6mi 51mph 5.5mi 47mph 92%
Emeryville 2mi 20mph 2mi 20mph 100%
Oakland Jack London 5mi 23mph 3.5mi 16mph 70%
Oakland Coliseum 5mi 23mph 5mi 23mph 100%
Hayward 8mi 44mph 8mi 44mph 100%
Fremont 12mi 45mph 9mi 34mph 75%
Great America 11mi 39mph 10mi 35mph 91%
San Jose 7mi 18mph 6mi 15mph 86%
Sac-SJ 133mi 42mph 115mi 36mph 86%

Coming north to south, I start out going at a reasonable clip. Nowhere near as fast as my kid would go on the freeway (assumed that there is no highway congestion or State Highway Patrols to slow things down) ... but not all that slow, either, even on LOS mph, through Davis and Fairfield, where the train maintains a good speed and the point to point layout efficiency is good. The speed stays up around 50mph to Martinez, but it loses efficiency compared to the freeway that takes a more direct bridge further west.

Then between Martinez and Richmond, the train is taking a "water line", hugging the coast to avoid hill climbing, and between slowing down to 46mph along the track, and the layout only having a 75% efficiency Martinez/Richmond, the LOS mph drops to 31mph. This is a key slowdown, since at Richmond you can transfer to a BART train that runs under the water through downtown San Francisco.

Things slow down still more when we pass Berkely and the rail corridor starts threading its way through Oakland. Then the Capitol Corridor runs along the East Bay, with much of the drop in speed due to the slow down to the station stop, stop for passengers to entrain and detrain, and then acceleration again to head to the next stop.

The Elephant in the Room is that a lot of the destinations and a lot of the origins are on the other side of the Bay, which means either taking a bus over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco or catching a BART underneath the Bay.

Is There Anything That Can Be Done To Speed This Up!?

It requires a mental shifting of gears to go between thinking about HSR Bullet Train corridors and thinking about speeding up a corridor like this. When thinking in terms of 220mph bullet train corridors, the kinds of things that might be done to "speed this up" are things that have $100m and $1b type price tags ~ and in addition to their sticker shock will often generate furious local opposition:

  • Ease the turns in the rail corridor at and north of Fairfield, other taking the required land or running a viaduct over
  • Put in a new connector to Vallejo, add a rail bridge alongside the brudge used by the I-80, and run along the I-80 alignment to north of Berkeley
  • Put in a new Bay rail tunnel for standard gauge trains, running to downtown SF and then joining the Caltrain corridor
  • Upgrade the Caltrain corridor to four tracks wide all the way to San Jose, with 110mph~125mph Electric Passenger Express tracks for the intercity trains

Now, do that, sure, it'd be awfully fast. But given the headaches California is going through running a Bullet Train corridor from the second largest urban area in the country to the twelfth largest, at a spacing that ensures that a well built HSR Bullet Train corridor will be a slam dunk success in terms of US intercity passenger rail, not only covering its operating cost but generating a healthy surplus on top ... a separate Bay/Sacramento Bullet Train is not going to be built in this decade.

What about at a more modest scale, though? After all, Ohio was proposing a corridor from Cleveland to Columbus to Cincinnati that would be much slower than the California HSR ~ but substantially faster than the above, and at a price tag closer to $1b altogether. And that was for starting a rail service from scratch, where this is an already operating service with eight trains per day each way.

The stretch of the corridor between the Sacramento River and Davis would seem ideal to upgrade the operating speed to 110mph. This requires upgrading the class of track, in cooperation with the Right of Way owner, and upgrading level crossings to 110mph class crossings. It requires installation of Positive Train Control signal systems ~ although this is scheduled to be required on all shared passenger rail corridor, its been a long standing requirement for any rail speed limit about 79mph.

There are a couple of curves that would require a train to slow down for, and the faster the top speed, the more potential speed is lost in slowing down to 40mph or 30mph to go around a curve ~ but using the tilt-train style passenger cars used on the Cascades Corridor in the Pacific Northwest would allow the speed limits to be raised for the passenger rail service.

The focus of new track would be in the coast hugging section between Martinez and Richmond. The benefit of a dedicated Express Track in this section is that, first, it can short some of these curves by "cheating" on the inside of the curve. While slow freight trains hauling bulk freight may require a 1% slope ("1:100"), an intercity passenger train can cope with a 2.5% slope ("1:40"). At the same time as curves are eased where possible, the track can be banked to allow trains to run through at a higher speed. And then if its possible to maintain 50mph or better along the Express track, the tilt train mechanism can be used to further increase the speed that the train can go through curves.

As far as expensive upgrades to speed the train through the East Bay, there could well be something that can be done at Jack London Square, where the Amtrak runs down road "streetcar style". However, a principle opportunity to shave a few minutes off transit in this part of the Capitol Corridor is further south. BART is coming to San Jose, and with the arrival of BART, it would make sense to have the Capitol Corridor act more like an Express and skip the Hayworth Station, through an area served by multiple BART stops.

Now, suppose that this succeeds in raising the track mph to 70mph Sacramento/Davis, 80mph Davis/Fairfield, 70mph Fairfield/Martinez, 60mph Martinez/Richmond, and 65mph Oakland Coliseum / Fremont.

The saving seems modest on my end to end trip: Sacramento / San Jose has dropped by 20 minutes from 3:10 to 2:50, for a trip that is reckoned to be 2:12 by Google Maps. However, for the urban trip from Sacramento to Oakland, Jack London Square, Google figures the driving time is 1:32 in Sunday evening traffic, while the our notional rail schedule is 1:33.

What appears to be the slowest section in the table is the Berkeley / Emeryville leg, but that is primarily due to the penalty of two stations 2 miles apart. What looks like the slowest transit is Emeryville to Jack London Square. A grade separation that allows the section between Emeryville and Jack London Square to be traveled at a track speed of 33mph (including station stops) would save five minutes.

The nature of these kind of incremental upgrades is that you keep taking bites out of the transit time. The next step in the incremental upgrade is electrifying the corridor, improving acceleration out of each station, and improving acceleration out of each curve. Electrification supports adoption of active tilt-train technology. If combined with a grade separation of the train at Jack London Square, another twenty minutes might be available, bringing the transit to 2:30.

How does this fit in with the California HSR, Again?

Oh, yeah, the new California HSR system ... wasn't that the topic?

Well, it has kind of been the topic all along. A key quote from the Mercury News article:

The updated business plan also devotes up to $2 billion to improve existing urban rail. Linking with those systems rather than pushing the high-speed rail line into California's major cities is one of the biggest cost-savers in the new plan.

"We are not sitting here saying that we 'saved' $30 billion," rail authority chairman Dan Richard said Saturday. By using existing railroad rights of way, he said, "We can deliver high-speed rail, as the voters voted for it, for $30 billion less than if we had to build our own system the entire length of the way."

Now, I haven't seen a map of the proposed Initial Operating Service, but one way to go about this would be to electrify the Metrolink Antelope Valley line from Burbank to its terminus in Lancaster (north of Palmdale), then construct the Express HSR corridor from Lancaster to Merced. From there, hook up a locomotive on both ends (both because it needs power and to get compliance with Federal Railway Authority regulations on crash resistance on lines shared with heavy freight trains), and run along the San Joaquin route to Stockton, then west to Martinez, then along the Capital Corridor to Jack London Square.

Aha! ... those who plowed through the blog above will have recognized some of those. If the Initial Operating Service were to run like this, any improvements along the Capitol Corridor between Martinez and Jack London Square would be shared by the loco-hauled temporary version of the HSR route. And while the San Joaquin route is not faster then driving from Oakland to Fresno ... if you hit Merced and then crank the speed up to 220mph, the result can be appreciably faster than driving to LA ~ with the benefit, of course, of not having to drive.

Just adding the notional HSR schedule from Merced to Palmdale to the Metrolink Express time LA-US to Lancaster and the San Joaquin schedule Merced to Oakland gives a six hour trip. That is a six hour drive "in current traffic", and of course today is Sunday. The time under weekday mid-day traffic conditions is going to rise from there. If the Metrolink corridor is electrified, with strategic Express passing track, the speed limit raised on the regular rail corridor between Merced and Stockton, and the above improvements are included, saving 0:30 to 1:00 off of that to bring the time down to 5-5½hrs.

If the next stage adds the proposed link to San Jose, and there is enough of a start on the "blended option" improvements on both sides to allow running from LA-US to SF TransBay Terminal, that jumps down to 3:45 or less. Then with completion of a Bullet Train corridor from Lancaster in the Antelope Valley down to Sylmar in the San Fernando Valley, and completion of the "Blended Option" upgrades on both sides, the trip is brought down to inside of 3hrs.

However ... that is along one alignment, with the system still to be extended to Sacramento and San Diego. Merced would remain the jumping off point for the Sacramento leg of the San Joaquin, and would continue to benefit from the improvements to the Merced/Stockton alignment originally made for a loco-hauled extension of the HSR service. That part of the San Joaquin Merced to Sacramento forms a quite natural extension of the Capitol Corridor, forming a "horseshoe" route from Merced to Sacramento to Oakland to San Jose, and linking up with Express HSR service on both ends of the horseshoe.

Opening the Floor: Thoughts? Suggestions? Amendments?

Note that the standing rule of Sunday Train is that all topics on sustainable transport are on topic, so while you are encouraged to talk about the new developments in the California HSR projects or improving the "Slow Speed Rail" of Northern California or elsewhere ... don't be shy about raising any sustainable transport topic on your mind.

Originally posted to Sunday Train on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 04:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is a superb diary (27+ / 0-)

    and filled with excellent research.

    I would like to hope that I will live long enough to see decent rail service in Northern California, but I am not at all optimistic.

    Since you mentioned BART, I would like to record a loud, primal scream of disgust at the Richmond BART station.  The facilities are primitive, inconvenient and not at all conducive to repeat business.   It feels good just to get that off my chest!

    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 04:59:56 PM PDT

  •  I think Jerry Brown is on the right "track" (17+ / 0-)

    One problem I wonder if you want to comment on is that the text of the law requires that any system built with proceeds from the Prop 1A meet certain criteria, including travel times, and the travel time for SF/Oak to LA was two hours and 40 minutes. It doesn't sound like any of the alternatives that you talked about would achieve that. Might there then be a lawsuit claiming improper use of the bond proceeds?

    One thing that has long bothered me about the issue of rail in California is the extreme neglect suffered of the existing continuous Amtrak right-of-way. For example, with existing track, you can run a train from that would offer service directly into downtown San Diego, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Salinas, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Davis and Sacramento. That is most of the big cities in California, and most of the places where tourists go. And those are places in the state best served already by public transit, where you can get off of the train and actually do things without need of a car. But zero attention has been paid in the last 30 years on this route, and if you look at schedules, routes, travel times for the existing Amtrak right of way in the state, it's ridiculous, and the trains are nearly always late. Travel times are like double what they are in an automobile.

    Most of the extreme delays have to do with the fact that freight has priority over passenger rail. This is ridiculous, when you think that a train full of people can be sidelined for an hour waiting for a train full of inanimate objects to pass by, but it's what happens. Why can't we just pay the freight companies whatever that priority is worth, and then at least speed up service on all of the existing rail lines in the state to the maximum level feasible on existing track? And then why not maybe subsidize fares/service a bit to make a bit more attractive? Then start speeding up sections, separating rights-of-way, electrifying, etc.

    I also didn't see much about what's going to happen with "slow rail" in Southern California pursuant to Brown's new plans. Assuming that HCR is using standard gauge track, we have many miles of commuter rail that could be integrated into the system.

    •  There are several questions that ... (13+ / 0-)

      ... ought to be tested in court, because Prop1a is a bit of a ramshackle mess cobbled together to meet objections from a wide variety of directions.

      As far as "none of the systems" ~ 2:40 for an Express Limited Stops service SF/LA is exactly what my "under 3hrs" refers to.

      The 2:40 is not a time that any interim service has to meet, as long as they are compatible with a plan that can reach 2:40. So, for example, there might be a legal objection to electrifying the Antelope Valley line from Burbank to Lancaster with Prop1a funds, since there's no way that the Antelope Valley line gets 2:40 LA-US / SF-TBT. That's for either the the 5:30 and 3:30 version.

      On the other hand, the HSR corridor from Lancaster to Merced would be part of a 2:40 system, given either a Wye at Chowchilla and the Pacheco alignment or a Wye at around Lanteca and an Altamont Pass alignment, so that would be a kosher use of Prop1a funds.

      If the Caltrain corridor is electrified and shared between the HSR and Caltrain, then as a pure two track corridor, it would be short ~ with a long enough stretch of mid-Peninsula passing track and the existing 4 track section in South San Francisco, though, and with a fix for the San Bruno curve, it would work. So if the money is being spent on the stuff that is useful for meeting the 2:40, the fact that a second stage service is 3:30 is not a violation.

      And upgrading the Amtrak corridor heading into LA-Union Station to support genuine urban Express Electric Passenger rail would certainly be usable in the 2:40 trip, so that would be kosher.

      In short, most, but not necessarily all, of the spending would be infrastructure to eventually be used by a 2:40 service. The stuff that might not be a kosher use of Prop1a funds, it would need some other funding source.

      AFAIU, the 2:40 is not the trickiest of the legal issues ~ what does partial segment mean, and what do 5 minute headways mean when running on a shared corridor? These are things to be settled in a test case.

      I believe there has been discussion of using Cap&Trade funds for part of this ~ that would certainly be appropriate for electrifying the Antelope Valley line, since by the time HSR no longer needs it, there will be an electric rail corridor all the way to Union Station, so the Antelope Valley Metrolink service could be electrified ~ and if electrified, the Express would be substantially faster.

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

      by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 06:15:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm with you on the LA to SF via the coast (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chimpy, Mr Robert, sfbob, Simplify, KenBee

      I live near SLO and would take the train but it's very slow, sometimes doesn't even run and is often buses.  The trip between Grover Beach and Santa Barbara is beautiful and even goes along the beach at Vandenberg, great tourist stuff.

      Congressional elections have consequences!

      by Cordyc on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 07:40:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  utterly impractical, but (21+ / 0-)

    I'd love to see the North Coast line back in operation.  Once upon a time you could take a train from Mill Valley to Eureka, and most of that trackage is still there.  As late as the 60s there was a "Skunk" diesel-powered locomotive/coach running north from Willets, just like the Skunk that still goes over the hill from Willits to Fort Bragg.

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 05:44:23 PM PDT

  •  I'd love (16+ / 0-)

    to use even the cobbled-together existing system more if it was halfway integrated.

    If only BART and Amtrak (and CalTrain) shared stations and you could leave Amtrak or Caltrain, walk across a platform and get onto BART for your local Bay Area stops and going to SF, it would be so much easier.

    The Google travel times don't always take into account some of the worst traffic jams in the USA either.

    That 4 pm drive from San Jose to Sacramento can easily take 4 hours on a bad day, not 2 hrs.

    If the local transit systems were tweaked and co-ordinated, and you could get on a 200 mph train out in the Valley, maybe HSR could avoid some of the expensive urban track redesigns of which you spoke.

    •  You can do that at Millbrae BART station. nt (5+ / 0-)

      It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

      by Radiowalla on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 06:12:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's the BART decision to go for wide gauge ... (10+ / 0-)

      ... it means that when a rail corridor is taken over for BART, its not available for Amtrak / Caltrain / ACE, etc.

      It makes integration hard and expensive unless you happen to have a convenient place where the two types of corridors meet or cross. That's why Richmond is a strategic junction. That's why San Jose will be strategic once BART runs to it. Its why its worthwhile to look into pedestrian subways connecting BART and the TBT rail station. Its why I would be happy if the Jack London Square grade separation involved something that allowed for a closer connection to one of the Oakland BART stations.

      Regarding expensive urban rail infrastructure, it just so happens that there is an existing rail corridor that is 100ft wide for most of its length that runs from San Jose into downtown San Francisco. On the other hand, there are NIMBY's in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton who are opposed to grade separations and protecting the property values of their houses from the effects of oil price shocks.

      One advantage of the "Initial Operating Service" plan is that there will then be an existing service, and its a lot easier to mobilize support for bringing an existing service closer to your door than one that is not yet in operation. So the odds are that once the first version of the service is in operation, PAMPA NIMBY's are going to be facing a growing number of PAMPA YIMBY's.

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

      by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 06:24:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The drive time posted for SJ-SF is a joke (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF, BYw

      It's well over an hour just SF to Mountain View at rush hour, which these days can go from 6:30 AM to 10:30 AM. and re-starts at 3 PM until 7:30 or later.

      The train is starting to become competitive even considering the last mile problems.

  •  Great diary (12+ / 0-)

    I'm hoping the latest update to the HSR plan gets the project back on track. They should of focused on just using a blended approach instead of being on the losing end of a public relations fight with all of the cities along the SF Peninsula.

    Living just outside San Francisco, I have to say I'm increasingly envious of Los Angeles's light rail/subway system. (Especially when the Regional Connector and the entire Expo Line comes online by the end of the decade.)

    Not that I'm ragging on BART, I love it, but I think the problem with BART is they're too focused on expanding out the system to far flung suburbia where the ridership numbers are below projections (I'm looking at you SFO extension) and where they lose money.

    I wish BART would focus on building a line down Geary Boulevard in San Francisco. where they would easily serve tens of thousands of people (far more than BART to Livermore) and would relieve pressure off the 38-Geary and help relieve congestion in that area.

    Sigh...wish Marin County didn't pull out of the BART system...

    "Viewing time at the zoo!" - America on the GOP Presidential primaries

    by ehstronghold on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 06:05:09 PM PDT

    •  Hmm... (8+ / 0-)

      It seems building a line down Geary is MUNI's job...

      And I'm surprised you say that about the SFO extension - I rely on the fact that it goes to SFO and never take a shuttle any more.  Though I know far too many people who still drive / take a shuttle to SFO when BART gets them there easier and cheaper. - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 06:16:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  BART on Geary (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cpresley, PeterHug, chimpy, Mr Robert, sfbob

        To my memory, that was part of the long-term plan, to take Geary then up north through the Presidio and across the GG Bridge.  So while in many places BART is a commuter rail system, it kind of "transitions" to local rapid transit system at points, particularly in parts of San Francisco.  It's also the East Bay cities' only subway.

        "What Washington needs is adult supervision" - Barack Obama

        by auron renouille on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:13:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I'm amazed (6+ / 0-)

      that a train to SFO runs below ridership projections.

      I'm in Seattle, land of the NIMBYs, and we only have one train. The only place it goes is the airport (well, and a few places that happen to be on the way to the airport). And that thing is packed every time I ride it.

      "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

      by kyril on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:15:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Millbrae-SFO doesn't run during business hours (9+ / 0-)

        From the south, you have to Caltrain to Millbrae, switch to BART north to San Bruno, then switch to BART southeast to SFO. Even during off-hours, switching from Caltrain to BART is a pain with significant luggage. It's especially frustrating because Millbrae is literally within sight of the airport.

        Then, when at SFO, they still have you switch to a people-mover, although I wouldn't bother with that — just walk through the international terminal straight off BART, and it's not far to the other terminals.

        Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

        by Simplify on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:53:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, that sounds awful. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          chimpy, Mr Robert, Woody


          "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

          by kyril on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 10:41:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kyril, Mr Robert, Simplify

            SFO-Millbrae part of the extension was really badly designed. It's like Union station in LA where trains running the Millbrae-SFO section have to first pull in and then back out again. That requires the train operator to literally walk from one end of the train to another which wastes valuable time.

            Even though BART's plans dating back to the 60's had that "Y" going into the airport, it would of been better to just build the Millbrae station with a people mover to shuttle people to the airport.

            "Viewing time at the zoo!" - America on the GOP Presidential primaries

            by ehstronghold on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 08:06:50 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Which, you know, MAKES NO SENSE. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mr Robert

          It's mind-boggling.

        •  that was ridership (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ridership was low, $$$ needed to be found, that was the spot.

        •  This sums up the biggest problem with transit (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Simplify, raines

          in the Bay Area: Depending on who you ask and how they count there are somewhere between 14 and 17 distinct transit agencies around the bay, all of which are more interested in protecting their own turf than coming up with a consistent solution.

          Back in the late 80s there was a move in the California legislature to consolidate all these agencies, but it was blocked by a huge array of special interests.

  •  I haven't tried Amtrak in years but (12+ / 0-)

    would love to use it to get from Sac to OC in a reasonable time.  I find it pathetic that, in a state with this many commuters, you have to get off the train and get on a bus for several legs of the journey.  I would certainly take a bullet train and visit my daughter much more often.  I am old enough that the drive is a bit too long, and the airplane a bit too inconvenient (and sometimes expensive).

    On a lighter note, when my daughter lived in OC and commuted to Torrance, public transport would have taken her 3 hours each way.  Everything went straight into LA and then she would have had to backtrack.

    Pretty sad.  

    •  I've done the trip-with-bus many times (7+ / 0-)

      It's more doable than I would have originally predicted, but it is a really obnoxious interruption to have to take the bus across at Tehachapi, made worse by the fact that you have to wait in the station to reconnect to the train.

      It's still my preferred way to go to LA or SD, because the endpoints I need are better served by train.

      Getting the segment in the middle back to a train with a tight connection (or better, no connection, so you can sleep and not schlep) and taking even just two hours off the north-to-south trip makes it far better. If they can get it down to three hours I'd do it several times a year.

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

      by elfling on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:08:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Its not clear that they will be ... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aunt Pat, cpresley, Mr Robert

        ... using the Antelope Valley line, nor where the initial operating service will run, but if its Burbank, that connects to the Surfliner for a two-seat ride to/from San Diego, and the Antelope Valley and Ventura Metrolink services.

        I do think that there's a lot to like about coupling locomotives when it gets to the end of the HSR corridor and just continuing on the San Joaquin route. There'd be a halt at Merced, but no need to leave your seat in the middle of the rail journey.

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

        by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:27:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Either coast or inland would be fine with me (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BruceMcF, Mr Robert

          Not sure how they would find a route that deals with the grade between Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo aside from the one that's already in use to capacity.

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

          by elfling on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 08:53:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Problem with the coast ... (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elfling, Mr Robert, sfbob, KenBee

            is not enough oportunity to stretch its legs.

            But as far as Rapid Rail,  an Express cutoff would go exactly in the section north of SLO ~ not just due to the superelevation for higher spped around the curves, but also the steeper track that's possible can cut the zig-zag to half the length.

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

            by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 10:27:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  You have to take a bus because (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      we can't shove collectivism down people's throats.

      I find it pathetic that, in a state with this many commuters, you have to get off the train and get on a bus for several legs of the journey.
      Also, Real Men advocate for shitty infrastructure policies, because things that make life better and easier for everyone are for wimps (see also: HCR).

      Paternity rules, fraternity drools. - Rick Santorum (paraphrased)

      by VictorLaszlo on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 10:00:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Years ago, a friend told me BART did run faster (8+ / 0-)

    when it first began, but it was found to  be wasting fuel and so, slowed down. It would be great if BART ran longer, maybe not 24 hours but at least until the bars closed. And don't get me started on tghe restroom problem. Until 2001, all stations did have bathrooms open to the public. Not anymore, which is a shame, given that BART has never come under serious "terror" threats. Riding CALTrain down to San Jose is a dream, the stations are better situated to bus service than BART is, imo.

    "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 Apr 01, 2012 at 06:08:02 PM PDT

  •  Capitol Corridor (11+ / 0-)

    I commuted from Auburn to Sacramento from the first day that this service became available.  It wasn't always easy and there were many problems in the beginning as Union Pacific owns the tracks and for the first few years felt their fright traffic was more important than a silly commuter train.  Things have gotten much better and the on time rate is now over 90%.  I loved not having to drive, not having to pay for parking, and was only late to work 3 times in the 7 years I took it.  I will be the first to admit it wasn't always fun but it got better and if Capitol Corridor had the money for more train sets it would be even better.  I am would love to see high speed rail in California but don't understand why they are talking about installing track in the San Jacquin Valley in an area that won't use it to its full potential.  It should be built down Highway 5 in my opinion.

    Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't.... (then it's on to Plan B or more duct tape).

    by Aunt Pat on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 06:17:24 PM PDT

    •  I don't follow the last part ... (9+ / 0-)

      ... building it down Highway 5 would miss Bakersfield and Fresno, and wouldn't make the system any shorter, since it would still have to swing west to get to an alignment over the Tehachapi Pass.

      Even if they decide to play massive high risk poker with tax dollars and try for the Tejon Pass, they still need to swing west from Highway 5.

      It'd be economic insanity to turn their back on the Central Valley passengers, they are an underserved transport market, and when they are less than two hours from either the Bay or the LA Basin they are going to be a big chunk of the difference between just breaking even and running a healthy operating surplus.

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

      by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 06:31:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are right Bruce McF (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, cpresley, Radiowalla, Mr Robert

        I wasn't trying to eliminate the potential Central Valley passengers with my suggestion of using Hwy 5.  I was thinking in terms of already having a right-of-way with few NIMBY types to object to building the rail line.  Is there a freight rail line over the Tejon Pass?  Do you know the route taken for freight?  Thank you.

        Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't.... (then it's on to Plan B or more duct tape).

        by Aunt Pat on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 06:47:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But there's not serious NIMBY problem in the ... (6+ / 0-)

          ... Central Valley. Of course, you can't entirely avoid some people making a stink about a change if you happen to go where there are people, but the

          The major freight rail is oriented to go East/West, so it goes up out of the LA Basin through Riverside. The main northbound freight corridor out of the LA Basin is along the coast, the route that the Surfliner and the southern end of the Coast Starlight. Since rail is focused on longer distance freight, freight bound to San Francisco doesn't normally ever go down into the LA Basin, instead it bypasses LA to the north and runs up the San Joaquin Valley.

          And that's for pretty much the same reason that the Central Valley is the ideal flat track to run the HSR trains up to 220mph~250mph. The original San Joaquin Valley rail alignments run where they do because that's good terrain to build a railroad. Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced, Stockton ... they all are located where they are because that's a good place to build a railroad.

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

          by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:09:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I've met people on the train (7+ / 0-)

        doing a work commute between San Francisco and Fresno, typically two income families.

        Fresno is also terribly underserved by air service and it's pretty much impossible to fly from Fresno to LA or San Francisco. Many of my travel companions originating from Fresno are not able to drive 4+ hours safely or comfortably.

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

        by elfling on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:13:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The Hwy 99 route connects to Fresno and (8+ / 0-)

      Stockton and Bakersfield, which not only has far more population than I-5 but also means that the system hooks up a large percentage of California universities, making it useful for students, for people visiting students, for faculty, and for people wanting to otherwise avail themselves of university services.

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

      by elfling on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:10:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  By the way (7+ / 0-)

    that was freight train, not fright train!  Sorry.

    Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't.... (then it's on to Plan B or more duct tape).

    by Aunt Pat on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 06:21:21 PM PDT

  •  Capitol Corridor fan here. (16+ / 0-)

    Various observations: I live in Chico, about 100 miles north from Sac.  The only train through here is the Coast Starlight which comes through in the middle of the night in both directions and is highly unreliable due to the problem of SP owning the tracks and giving priority to freight.
    But there is Amtrack bus service about 3-4 times a day in each direction that connects with the Capitol Corridor train in Sac.  
    My union exec board meets monthly in Oakland, a block from a BART station.  So I take the bus from Chico to Sac, Capitol Corridor train to Richmond, BART from there.  Elapsed time, is 4 hours, compared to 2:45 by car.  But I arrive rested, I get to look at some really amazing scenery and now there is wifi on the train segment.  Most of the time it works a treat.
    On the other hand, I travel most years to Europe (mostly France) for a 3 week hike or bike tour.  Usually get to ride trains at some point in the process.  The TGV is a dream.  It's important to note that on most of the lines, the TGV does not go all the way on high-speed track.  Paris to Dijon, only about 2/3 of the trip is at full TGV speed.  The rest of the way is slower travel - still pretty brisk - on regular track.  So the kind of integration that the California HSR is looking at now has been part of the French approach for a long time.
    I've also spent some time in the Netherlands - very different situation due to small size and high population density - where you usually wouldn't bother to check a train schedule because they come so often - Amsterdam to Den Hague? It's like your local city bus - comes along every 15 minutes.  And every major train station has a bike shop - naturally you got to the station by bike - so if your chain is getting worn or the tires need replacing you can just drop it off before you catch your train.  I am sooooo envious!
    Oh: I have a personal dream to hop a freight north from Chico to go up the amazing upper Sacramento River canyon in the day time - the only passenger train goes through at night and it's a stunning trip!  I've boated the river many times, the track pretty much follows the river.  Leading, of course, to the infamous Cantera spill.

    "Wouldn't you rather vote for what you want and not get it than vote for what you don't want - and get it?" Eugene Debs. "Le courage, c'est de chercher la verite et de la dire" Jean Jaures

    by Chico David RN on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 06:49:16 PM PDT

    •  WiFi and outlets on the bus (7+ / 0-)

      would sure help, eh?

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

      by elfling on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:14:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My Electric Steel Interstate notion ... (15+ / 0-)

      ... would include as a side benefit an ability to run electric long-haul trains ... I believe Chico would be along one of those routes, since I believe that rail corridor is one of the Strategic Rail Corridor Network rail corridors.

      This is a graphic I did that overlaid the Steel Interstates (in Blue) and the designated HSR corridors.

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

      by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:16:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have to think the shear size of the US... (6+ / 0-)

        will always make air the preferred choice for very long distance passenger travel.  LA to SF strikes me as about the upper limit of the distance where rail can really compete equally with air.  Just looking at your graphic there paints a picture of what makes sense for rail.   Seems to me like much of the Eastern US could be well served by HSR, as could selected corridors in the West.  LA to SF, LA to Las Vegas, Portland to Vancouver via Seattle,  But your graphic makes it pretty clear that vast open space west from Chicago or St Louis is likely always going to be an air route for most folks.

        "Wouldn't you rather vote for what you want and not get it than vote for what you don't want - and get it?" Eugene Debs. "Le courage, c'est de chercher la verite et de la dire" Jean Jaures

        by Chico David RN on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:34:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Likely a tier of states further west than that ... (5+ / 0-)

          ... while places get spaced further apart as you cross the Mississippi, it also gets easier and cheaper to run HSR.

          Its important to bear in mind that trip lengths and route lengths aren't the same thing: for instance, half the trips on the Amtrak transcontinental routes are six hours or less.

          The 110mph services are much less expensive, and when they connect cities of 250,000 or more that are within two to three hours of each other by rail can work perfectly fine on the share of people who could drive but would rather not or who cannot drive. And the range of cities like that at distances like that for 110mph trains spills across the Mississippi by a tier of states and into East and Central Texas.

          However, there's a space spanning the Rockies where you'd need a Bullet Train to span the distance, but the sizes of the cities being connected are not bit enough to justify a Bullet Train.

          So the Steel Interstate Passenger services are basically just Super-Amtraks running along corridors where they have an opportunity to actually work well. The Steel Interstates are designed to support 100mph freight rail paths as well as 60mph freight rail paths, and to support high reliability to market freight deliveries, and both of those make it possible to avoid the serious operating delays that Amtrak suffers by running on bulk freight rail corridors.

          However, the main purpose of the Steel Interstates is to save over 5% of the fuel that we currently consume, by shifting long haul trucking to long haul container rail with short truck runs at either end to complete the journey. However, when crude oil hits $200/barrel and aviation kerosene hits $10/gallon, the market space for a bit slower but more comfortable and substantially cheaper trips will increase.

          I expect most people who have to take true cross country trips will fly, so long as flying is an option, but one day it may be taken for granted that you fly to a regional hub and from there take a train to your final destination.

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

          by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:59:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  With peak oil and climate change, (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cpresley, Odysseus, BruceMcF, Mr Robert

          my prediction is that airlines will change such that "first class" will mean a jet while "coach" will mean a turboprop.

          Also, airships may make a comeback for medium freight, in the form of airships that have less buoyancy than they weigh but get some lift from their shape.

          All of that assumes we don't find something environmentally friendly with higher energy density than oil. But yes, for long-haul, it would be hard to switch to rail.

          Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

          by Simplify on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:59:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Since I live in LA without a car (10+ / 0-)

    I've taken all the trains to to the Bay Area more than once: the San Joaquins with a bus at each end, the Pacific Surfliner with a bus to/from San Francisco, The Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Emeryville with bus and back. The Coast Starlight is remarkably unreliable, and the service on the other trains is spotty.  I'd LOVE to see a high-speed train, however it gets to the Bay Area, but until then, Virgin America and eating at Terminal 2 at SFO.

    Economic Left/Right: -6.00, Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.31 All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:18:33 PM PDT

    •  The Coast Starlight is not known as the ... (10+ / 0-)

      ... Coast Starlate for nothing ... in many parts of its route, its running on the primary freight corridor through the area, and since so much of its route is Union Pacific, its constantly being delayed by freight trains running on a "whenever we get there" schedule.

      One of the ongoing questions when it comes to HSR alignments is whether it runs along or intersects a Union Pacific alignment.

      The more BNSF track a Western Amtrak train runs on, the more likely it is to be on time, and the more UP track a Western Amtrak train runs on, the more likely it is to be late.

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

      by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:36:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Is there any chance this will change? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, PeterHug, Mr Robert

        If I ride, this is my train. Seattle to SF. I rarely do anymore because of some very bad experiences waiting and waiting and being a day late for short trip.

        You would think that with GPS tracking and computer management, Union Pacific could get it together a bit more such that the Starlight would be mostly on time.

        Any chance? Or does UP just not want to?

        •  I don't think they want to. (8+ / 0-)

          It's corporate culture. UP seems to have one of they are are freight railroad and the passenger trains are a nuisance. BNSF has an attitude that passenger trains are a customer, and there job is to get a customer through ontime.

          Its also infrastructure, because long single track sections mean if you miss a chance to go through, you have to wait until the train coming the other way clears the section. But if investing in infrastructure to let passenger trains through with less delays, be wary of having UP operate that infrastructure.

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

          by BruceMcF on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 10:37:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Just took the train from Davis to Paso Robles... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I don't think the train ever hit more  than about 15 mph on the last leg into Paso.  I've taken some very slow, local trains in Europe that are faster than the Starlight.  

        My other pet peeve is that if you get on at Davis for this route, you can't bring your bike even if it's boxed.   I was heading to Paso to ride my bike for the weekend and had to find someone to drive my bike there. Ridiculous.

        If Liberals Hated America, We'd Vote Republican

        by QuarterHorseDem on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 04:33:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You could probably box it (0+ / 0-)

          and drop it at Sacramento, yes? They've got full-service luggage there.

          •  Could do but it would be a pain and a bit of risk. (0+ / 0-)

            Considering I've ridden trains in both Italy and France with my bike and never had a problem, it just galls me.  

            To take my bike on the Starlight train, I would have to get on the Capital Corridor train in Davis, take it the wrong direction to Sac. then I would have about 5 min to get onto the Coastal Starlight.  These two trains don't "connect."  Not to mention the pain of putting the bike in the bike box....

            If Liberals Hated America, We'd Vote Republican

            by QuarterHorseDem on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 03:13:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  One more Capitol Corridor comment: (11+ / 0-)

    The ride out of Richmond to Sacramento is gorgeous!  

    Yes, it's slow as it winds its way along the shore and then down the Carquinez Straights and over the bridge.  But the views are gorgeous and reminiscent of long-past decades before the gross sprawl that has engulfed the region.

    Once over the bridge, the train passes through beautiful marshland, filled with wildflowers and birds.  Then there are fields and farms and cattle ranches.

    There are no strip malls, no fast-food franchises, no belching trucks, no neon signs, no ticky-tacky, nothing to sap the soul.  It's the perfect antidote to the I-80 corridor.

    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 07:50:31 PM PDT

  •  wonderful diary (8+ / 0-)

    I have missed reading Sunday Train for several weeks....I hope that you are well and not too busy, and that I can once again anticipate reading my favorite blog every Sunday night. Thanks for all of your hard work!

    •  Months! ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, KenBee

      ... It dropped in frequency in Fall Term, when I had more classes, and then in Winter Term I was underemployed as usual but that employment came on Saturday Morning, so my usual calculations and browsing on Saturday afternoon in preparation for writing on Sunday just never seemed to happen.

      I've got a class on Tuesday Morning, plus whatever tutoring I happen to pick up, so my weekends seem to be clear for the next few months at least.

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

      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 12:54:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this, I still have to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Mr Robert, Woody

    digest it all.

    You've also provided a good reverence point for WA HSR.  I looked up that our goal with all of the WI and FL money was to get our trains up to 79 MPH.  Boy was I disappointed, I was rooting for at least 88 MPH.  So, compared to 42 MPH, I guess it''s not so bad.

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Sun Apr 01, 2012 at 10:53:21 PM PDT

    •  Slow steps to greater speed (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF, markdd, raines

      On the Cascades Corridor, the first steps being taken with the stimulus money is to try to eliminate bottlenecks that lead to a MISERABLE on-time record -- something like one third of all trains are late.

      The Cascades will also be getting two more tilting Talgo trains for the equipment pool. If I got it right, that will allow at least one more frequency between Seattle and Portland starting next year. It will also add two more frequencies between Bellingham (or possibly Vancouver, B.C., subject to bureaucratic hurdles) and Seattle at one end, and between Eugene and Portland at the other end.

      Adding frequencies cuts trip times if you consider how-long-until-the-next-train? as part of the larger question.

      The next steps will work to add passing lanes or doubletrack where possible. These steps will add capacity (so another round trip can be added to the schedule) as well as speeding up the schedules.

      In general, trip times are reduced when slow spots are eliminated, rather than when top speeds are increased. If a section of track is limited to 30 mph before upgrading, but can handle 60 mph after the work, you will gain more time than by raising a 60 mph section to 90 mph. So expect many many incremental steps on the Cascades route, with sharp improvements in on-time reliability and then continuing gains in average speed.

      •  Ooh, ooh, ooh, I just said that ... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        markdd, raines, KenBee

        ... yes, +10mph makes the biggest impact to a train that is stopped waiting for something, next to a train moving 10mph, and so on ... because the slower the speed in a segment, the more heavily the segment weighs in the average trip speed.

        110mph is (1) after you have the bottlenecks worked out for a good 79mph system or (2) if you are building from scratch and can avoid building those bottlenecks in, in the first place.

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

        by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 03:38:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  IIRC (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        We're supposed to get up to 5 more Sounders over the next 5 years, Everett to Seattle, Tacoma to Seattle routes.  They mostly follow drive time commutes, 4 inbound in the AM, 1 outbound in the AM.

        Everett to Mukilteo has about 2 lost weeks per year for mud slides and some part of the Everett to Bellingham main line also gets shut out by slides.

        There is a 3-4 track main from Seattle to Everett.  But it follows the coast very closely, getting up to speeds here will be difficult.  And some of the houses overlooking the tracks cost a lot more than rebuilding the track.

        With 2 intermediate stops, Sounder schedules 59 minutes from Everett to Seattle.  Google claims 31 miles via Interstate and surface streets.  Not LOS by any means.

        “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

        by markdd on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 04:09:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sounder + Cascades (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          It helps to have both Sounder and Cascades growing together, adding frequencies. That spreads the cost of capital investments over a larger base of passengers. So the more trains, and the more passengers the trains get, the more that paying for further upgrades becomes a political and budget possibility.

        •  More trains coming this summer! (0+ / 0-)

          From the NARP newsletter

          Washington State and Oregon announced on April 4 that they will be creating a unified management structure for the rail corridor stretching from Eugene, Oregon all the way north to Vancouver, British Columbia.
          The Cascades will introduce two new 13-car Talgo trains into the fleet this summer, funded in a partnership between the state of Oregon and the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  One of the first goals for the new director is to add two daily Amtrak Cascades roundtrips between Seattle and Portland, for a total of six each day.
          Much more info at the link.

          NARP is the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

  •  Spectacular diary! especially (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Radiowalla, Mr Robert, Simplify
    The nature of these kind of incremental upgrades is that you keep taking bites out of the transit time.
    Not only the time benefit--keep preaching the point of the added benefit of Not Having to Drive!!
  •  Need to think big or it won't work. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Radiowalla, Woody

    High speed trains are 200 mph plus like the TGV in France or ICE in Germany.

    To get value from these, the distance between stops needs to be 50 miles or more, and the competition is more likely to be with air rather than car For example after the TGV was introduced in France the air routes between Paris and Lyon were shutdown, same between Paris and Brussels.

    From a time basis, any trip between major cities up to around 800 miles can be faster by HSR than plane, as the time spent checking in and going through security at the airport will add on average about 2 hours to a journey time.Coupled with the fact that airports are always outside the city (except LAX perhaps), getting to the final destination is usually easier from a city center train station.

    For California, it seems to me that you need one North South dedicated line (NO FREIGHT TRAINS), with feeder mid speed lines going off on spurs to population centers.

    As in France, if you use the same gauge, the HS train can run at lower speeds on the mid speed spurs and allows the occasional non stop service to less dense population centres.

    •  Need to both think big and think small ... (4+ / 0-)

      ... France and Spain and the UK already had Rapid Rail, since they had been improving their passenger intercity rail as technology developed ~  what is Rapid Rail for us is just a regular Express Train there.

      Express HSR in California conditions will be quite similar to Spain's Madrid-Barcelona, and while that dominates flying, it also has about the same number of trips shifted from cars as shifted from planes. California should be similar. The takeover of former air passengers grabs headlines,  but a lot of people drive longer trips because flying is not a realistic option, and the HSR offers a viable alternative. That will be especially noticeable in trips to and from the CV.

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

      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 05:47:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Spain is a similar density to California (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        They have a bit more population, but they're also bigger. California has the advantage of having most of the population along one side (the coast).

        "Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is." - George W Bush

        by jfern on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 02:53:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I am so glad you are still doing this series (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, PeterHug, Radiowalla, Mr Robert

    Excellent job.  Keep it up.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 04:14:25 AM PDT

    •  The term with Saturday morning class ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PeterHug, Radiowalla, Mr Robert

      ... is over, which turned out to leave me thinking about getting started with the Sunday train about 4pm Sunday. So I expect I'll be OK for another run.

      ... though if I get another term with three classes, it'll probably notch down in frequency to once a fortnight.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 06:10:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Or (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Radiowalla, Dianora, Mr Robert

    Run HSR to Stockton and extend BART to Stockton along the 580 corridor.  BART is already being extended to Livermore.

    As for Caltrain, I used to take that for the morning commute from Menlo Park to the South Townsend Street "station."  I worked in the SF Financial District and then catching the bus, forking out more money for the bus and riding it about a mile to the Transbay Bus Terminal was a pain in the ass.  

    From my  perspective the real elephant in the room is getting the Caltrain from its pathetic current terminus all the way to the basement of the new bus terminal.  That would make the commute from the peninsula to SF (or vice versa) a lot more civilized.  

    What are the prospects of that happening?

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 06:57:02 AM PDT

    •  It's something that has been talked about (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, BruceMcF

      for eons.  Nothing ever gets done.  Only more talk, talk, talk.
      It's so discouraging.  I quit following the issue out of pure lassitude, but perhaps Bruce or someone else knows.

      It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

      by Radiowalla on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 07:53:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They talked and talked because they had no ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... money to Build! Baby! Build! ... now that the Memorandum of Understanding on funding the Caltrain Electrification has been signed, it may be possible for progress to begin, in 2013 if not this year.

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        by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 02:08:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The Caltrains will be running at least some ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... of their trains into the TBT Train Station ~ basically, four of six platforms to be used by HSR and two of six to be used by Caltrain.

      And the agreement on electrification also means that work on the tunnel does not have to wait so long ~ can't run diesels in a tunnel to an underground station.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 01:40:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Altamont Corridor Express ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... "commuter overlay" is supposed to be a 150mph system ... this is the middle section planning, which has some alignment options alongside I-580. I don't know how the different BART Livermore alignment options and ACE Commuter Overlay alignment options interact.

      However, since sanity seems to be prevailing with the project as a whole, sanity may prevail on the ACE project to scale it down to a more reasonable 110mph corridor.

      And if they are going to do all that tunneling west of Livermore, it seems like you could do a dual-gauge tunnel and share it with BART.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 02:07:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The HSR is a big issue in Fresno. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, BruceMcF, hankmeister

    We've got daily news and letters about it in the Fresno BEE.  There is strong support from the mayor and unions, but neighboring counties have seen their boards of supervisors rescind their support. Our supervisors have discussed doing the same but are waiting for details of the new plan.  One of HSR's strongest supporters is a long-time conservative supervisor, and he may prevail.  Last year I heard Congressman Jeff Denham say at an HSR meeting that we should take the funds and build a 6-lane freeway to Bakersfield instead.

    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 Apr 02, 2012 at 07:51:32 AM PDT

    •  What kind of foolishness is that? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, ybruti, Mr Robert, KenBee

      Of course, early last year people were fantasizing that the 2008 oil price shock was a one-time thing.

      It makes sense that some Fresno politicians with links to the business community would be strong supporters, since once the core of the trunk corridor is finished, Fresno will start picking up back office operations that today go outside of the state where its easier to fly to from LA or SF.

      Once Fresno experiences a train trip to LA in 2-2½hrs, it'll be one of the strongest supporters of extending the actual bullet train corridor all the way to San Jose to link up with the Caltrain corridor.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 08:04:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Fresno so needs this system (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dianora, ybruti, Mr Robert, BruceMcF, KenBee

      The lack of good air connections and the distance from LA and San Francisco are huge limiting factors on their citizens and their viability for anything other than a center of agriculture. And the agriculture would benefit too. I imagine all of them would enjoy destinations other than Bakersfield.

      So many things are in play, like access to medical specialists. If you get cancer or some other difficult medical issue and you live in the Fresno area, they will tend to send you to UCSF.

      It's fine to say your 30somethings will burn up their day driving to The Big City. Your senior citizens, though, probably shouldn't.

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

      by elfling on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 09:02:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, people often drive from Fresno to LA (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, KenBee

        or San Jose or San Francisco to get better air fares than are available from the good Fresno airport. It's probably not cost effective for one fare, but for two or more passengers it's often cheaper to make the long drive and pay for parking, even a hotel, near LAX etc.

        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 Apr 02, 2012 at 11:59:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It makes it brutal if not impossible to travel (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BruceMcF, ybruti

          for business because of the extra time involved and the lesser connections, which in turn means that those companies that might locate there choose to be elsewhere, closer to airports and other connections they need.

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

          by elfling on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 12:37:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Now, business travelers fly to SF and LA (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            from Fresno; some even use their own planes, like a dental specialist I met who pilots himself down here from the Bay Area twice a month. But those of us without large expense accounts drive.

            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 Apr 02, 2012 at 01:07:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this diary (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, BruceMcF, Woody, raines

    I moved to the Bay Area from NYC about six months ago, and ever since have been continually boggled by how inefficient mass transit is around here. The way the systems are set up, where they go and when, how long they take -- almost none of it makes sense to me, coming from a city that relies on mass transit like a lifeline.

  •  I was one of the first regular commuters (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Woody

    when BART started up in the East Bay. I took BART between Hayward and Oakland five days a week. It was far better than driving on Hwy 17 and cheaper too.

    I'd love to see High Speed Rail in California, but sadly I doubt that I will see it in the time I've got left.

    Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. Kin Hubbard

    by Mr Robert on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 11:49:40 AM PDT

    •  Well, hang on a few years ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, KenBee, Mr Robert

      ... and you'll be able to ride on the first HSR corridor, since they are going to let the San Joaquin use it until the corridor from Burbank to Merced is ready for the first HSR revenue service.

      That won't be 220mph, but it'll be 110mph with no track delays from freight.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 01:01:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The biggest problem with Amtrak (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in Northern California is that it is run by Union Pacific. Union Pacific is primarily interested in running freight and considers Amtrak to be a nuisance. Since there are no longer dedicated passenger tracks, Amtrak has to share the rails with freight trains*, which is complicated by the fact that most of the routes are single tracked. If there is a scheduling conflict between a freight train and an Amtrak train, UP gives the freight priority.

    I'm told by railroad enthusiasts that in parts of the country where Amtrak is operated by Burlington Northern, the opposite is true, that BN gives precedence to passengers over freight.

    Another thing I was told ten years ago when I was commuting by Amtrak is that Amtrak has an annual bonus plan wherein their operators can receive a substantial bonus for consistent on-time performance. Over the years BN has routinely collected all or part of the bonus. UP has never collected one.

    *The running of passenger trains on freight tracks is also a problem because those tracks banked for slower trains than passenger tracks would be, which means that passenger train speeds are limited to those of freight trains.

    •  Turn that around ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... the trains are operated by Amtrak, but outside of the Northeast Corridor, the tracks and system they run is operated by Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, etc.

      One reason the San Joaquin has the 5th best ridership in the country is that it runs for such a long stretch on BNSF track, so it has better on time performance than a train that runs mostly on UP track.

      I noted the banking situation above ~ at higher speed and on track with lots of straight sections, the problem can be substantially reduced with passive tilt-trains, like the Talgo trains up in the Pacific Northwest.

      However, on sections with lots of turns, where the train can't maintain a speed above 50mph, the passive tilt-train that works with diesel trains have to be locked down ~ passive tilt does not operate very effectively at 20mph or 30mph.

      That's why I suggested that new track be focused Martinez / Richmond, which can be banked for Express operation ... and then that Express operation can allow the train to stay above 50mph, so the tilt-train can be unlocked to allow it to go through the curves even faster. The section from Martinez to Sacramento would be pretty good with 110mph speed limit even without banking the occasional curve: if you have to slow down to 60mph to go through a curve, then can speed up again, the 110mph speed limit can be put to use. If you have to slow down to 35mph to go through a curve, then you rarely actually hit the 110mph before its time to slow down for the next curve.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 01:10:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's been a while since I've paid attention (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, Woody

        but there was some talk of once again double-tracking the section through the East Bay. The right-of-way is wide enough, since it was double tracked in the past. If they were to do so, I would solve a lot of the delays on the Capitol Corridor line.

        And I have to admit, delays and all, Amtrak is an incredibly civilized way to commute. Beats the hell out of sitting in traffic on I880.

  •  the capitol corridor is great (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BruceMcF, Radiowalla

    but i wish they subsidized the tickets to the point where it was worth taking with a family. i hate driving on 80, and would much rather use the carbon-efficient, much more civilized capitol corridor, but once you've got two parents and a kid, it adds up, and gets exorbitantly expensive to take into the city for a weekend or day trip. the speed is tolerable, given the incredible traffic jams on 80, but the cost ends up forcing me back into the car.

    and yeah, a BART transfer at martinez (were BART to ever extend out there) would be much preferable to the unpleasant richmond transfer they've got right now.

    •  It would be good if the frequency was high ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... enough that they could give off-peak discounts. A family off-peak discount would be popular, and normally the train that it is helping to fill up will be running full as an on-peak service on its return journey.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 01:11:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yup, and longer hours as well (0+ / 0-)

        although until they can get a comfortable and safe BART-CC transfer station set up (richmond's transfer station is pretty sketchy after dark), it won't be as popular as it could be. the bay area has such great nightlife, it's a shame the trains end as early as they do.

        •  An EL above the BART line and ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... then the freeway to connect back to the rail line with an elevated station above West Oakland BART would be a pretty good transfer station ... four lines worth of East Bay BART trains run through the Bay Tunnel and into downtown SF.

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          by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 03:34:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I voted against, and I still don't see how the HSR (0+ / 0-)

    is ever going to pay for itself. Not even close.
    First, the competition, with infrastructure already built, goes about 500mph. Sure, there are a few things to slow you down, like security, and traffic to/from the airport, but you'll have some of that with HSR.
    Not only that, you will have to tear up a mile wide strip 600 to 700 miles long, (700sq miles of prime California real estate!).
    And to date, I haven't seen one reliable energy ROI analysis. Just saying Airplanes! pollute, won't do it.


    " In England, any man who wears a sword and a wig is ashamed to be illiterate. I believe it is not so in France" Sam. Johnson, per Boswell

    by Mark B on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 02:11:34 PM PDT

    •  Anybody what? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, Radiowalla, raines

      It will pay its operating costs with a surplus ~ all main trunk bullet train corridors do, but its not clear what you mean by "pay for itself".

      If California's population grows as projected, its not competing against existing highway and airport capacity, but against not yet build highway and airport capacity that will cost more to build than the HSR will cost. Some people would consider picking the cheapest way to add required new transport capacity "paying for itself".

      The claim that the strip has to be "a mile wide" is an absurd exaggeration.  100 feet wide is more than enough for a two track HSR corridor, and 100 feet is less than 0.02 miles.

      What ROI analysis do you want? HSR being electric transport is pre-adatped to use sustainable power, and unlike new electric cars the vehicles are not idle 90% of the time. And the next electric jet airplane I see in operation will be the first.

      On a capacity basis, the HSR infrastructure has a lower energy cost than equivalent road infrastructure, and since unlike local mass transit you can scale service scheduling and frequency to available demand, operations have load factors that guarantee that they have a lower energy cost to move passengers around than current airplane and motor vehicle technology.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 02:25:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  can you reference all that? Just saying that, (0+ / 0-)

        well the last two paragraphs doesn't make it so.

        As to the first sentence, you are aware the the Japanese bullet train system built up a $1T dollar deficit (reference: Nova) and almost sunk the whole country? They (the Japanese gov't) gave it away so that someone else would bear the operating costs. The J. taxpayer was saddled with the capital costs.

        I'm not sure how the future population of Cali will get around but, one option is that they might travel much less, but one thing absolutely req'd by HSR is a reliable 24/7 source of electricity most certainly not the type that one gets with wind or solar. Nuclear would work, but HSR is hard to sell already.

        Finally, if it can "pay for itself", why involve the taxpayer at all?
        A subject for my first diary, perhaps?

        " In England, any man who wears a sword and a wig is ashamed to be illiterate. I believe it is not so in France" Sam. Johnson, per Boswell

        by Mark B on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 04:03:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  As I asked once ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... what do you mean by "pay for itself"? Do you mean operating surplus? Do you mean least cost means of providing the infrastructure? Do you mean cover all capital and operating costs out of farebox revenue, like the first French HSR corridor?

          As far as references, sure, I got them, and have linked to them previously in this series.

          I notice you have no reference for your claim that an HSR corridor is a mile wide, and that your "reference" for your claim regarding the Japanese bullet train is not actually usable in a form to allow your claim to be quickly confirmed or rejected, but is just "(ref: Nova)". Even O'Toole and the other Petroleum industry paid anti-rail advocates put actual references in their papers to allow any arbitrary page that they write to be debunked by anyone with the patience to follow up on their references.

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          by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 04:30:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  ok it was $350Billion in 1987 (0+ / 0-)

            It was still a debt catastrophe.
            Still, I live in Cali, and the idea that you can build a downtown to downtown rail line strikes me as ludicrous. And, I don't see any environmental advantage, I still don't see any ridership (Stockton to Bakersfield is their proposed first line. I kid you not.) and you still haven't addressed the issue of power source.
            And, whether it's operating costs, infrastructure costs, capital costs or whatever, I still think if it would make money in any way, private capital would be all over it. Like they are when you want to build a new football or baseball stadium (hmm, yeah, they want humungous subsidies for that, too).
            And try a 100ft corridor in this country, where any anti-gov't crazy could stop a TGV for a month with one shot.

            " In England, any man who wears a sword and a wig is ashamed to be illiterate. I believe it is not so in France" Sam. Johnson, per Boswell

            by Mark B on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 06:17:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  P.S. France has a higher population density, and t (0+ / 0-)

            he whole country is shorter than Cali. even in kilometers.

            Even the land of Descartes and Voltaire can make a mistake.................

            " In England, any man who wears a sword and a wig is ashamed to be illiterate. I believe it is not so in France" Sam. Johnson, per Boswell

            by Mark B on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 06:26:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  More info on Pac NW? (0+ / 0-)

    Would love to see your thoughts on HSR in OR and WA.  There was a flurry of activity on this 18 mos. ago, but it's really died down since then.  

    •  That's cause they're Building, Baby, Building. (0+ / 0-)

      When our Petro-Governor in Ohio, the Petro-Governor in Wisconsin and the Petro-Governor in Florida gave our hard won money back, the Pacific NW got pretty much all their plans that they had on their shelves funded.

      Right now, they are hard at work, and sometime from the next few months to the next few years, the benefits on the Cascade Corridor will start showing up.

      Next step is to decide which parts of the corridor to upgrade to 110mph, which their current rolling stock can handle, but requires the upgrade to track class, level crossings and signaling mentioned in the Sunday Train with regard to speeding the Capitol Corridor north of Martinez to 110mph.

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      by BruceMcF on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 03:32:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  where are they gonna get the power for this? (0+ / 0-)

        already built dams? Or Nukes? Or nat. gas?

        " In England, any man who wears a sword and a wig is ashamed to be illiterate. I believe it is not so in France" Sam. Johnson, per Boswell

        by Mark B on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 06:29:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Nothing succeeds like . . . (0+ / 0-)

    Nothing on behalf of high-speed rail will succeed and do more to stimulate development than a successful demonstration -- and here, in my belief, is what should be done:  Las Vegas -
    Los Angeles - Las Vegas, with max speeds of 160 mph. It
    should be an entirely new roadbed, coach service mixed with
    luxurious First Class service, and it should run every hour,
    eighteen hours a day.
       Let's just say that is done and it works brilliantly -- within
    a decade you would see many similar rail developments under
    way in major markets across the US.
       For the sake of the environment I hope it all comes true!
    # # #

  •  Slow rail (0+ / 0-)

    I would settle for slow rail connecting the the beautiful vacation lands of Mendocino and Humbolt.Rail service was replaced with busses in the 1980's.

    Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us? William O. Douglas

    by GayHillbilly on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 12:47:47 AM PDT

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