06 August 2009

Another Lawsuit Brewing

Update 8/11/09: The lawsuit (full text, 4.3 MB PDF) has now been filed in San Mateo County Superior Court, amid a certain degree of pageantry.

Original Post
: Another lawsuit is brewing at the ground zero of legal action against high speed rail on the peninsula, the leafy town of Atherton. It isn't the first, and will surely not be the last.

Famously, the town of Atherton is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the CHSRA's program environmental certification, which settled upon a route that traverses Atherton via the Caltrain corridor. That lawsuit is scheduled to be decided later this month.

On August 5th, the Daily Post revealed in an article that Atherton Menlo Park resident Russell Peterson and his attorney Mike Brady are planning a new lawsuit to prevent any HSR construction from occurring without full compliance under the Union Pacific trackage rights agreement. In November 1991, when the peninsula rail corridor was sold by the Southern Pacific to the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (the operator of Caltrain), the Southern Pacific (later merged into the Union Pacific Railroad) retained certain rights pertaining to rail operations on the peninsula corridor. See Freight on the Peninsula for an overview of UPRR's peninsula operations.

Quite aside from the unanswered questions of exactly who is going to be sued, on what grounds, and whether Peterson even has legal standing to enforce an agreement to which he is not a party, the lawsuit will seek to enlist UPRR's purported rights to slow or stop the construction of high speed rail on the peninsula and through Atherton. Peterson may be trying to provoke UPRR into a dispute with the PCJPB over the high speed rail issue, triggering the Dispute Resolution and Binding Arbitration clauses of Section 7 of the agreement.

Brady, the attorney, spoke at the April 2nd Caltrain board meeting, opposing the Memorandum of Understanding that the PCJPB entered into on that day. That MOU established a framework of cooperation between Caltrain and the California High Speed Rail Authority, which Brady and other project opponents felt was in violation of the 1991 trackage rights agreement. The minutes of that meeting record his statement as follows:
Mike Brady, Menlo Park, said UP has written four letters to HSR over the years concerning its rights under the Trackage Rights Agreement. He is challenging the legal rights of the JPB to enter into this contract with HSR in light of the existing contract with UP. The JPB represents the citizens of San Mateo County and attention needs to be paid to the detrimental impact of HSR and steps need to be taken to alleviate it.
So what's all the fuss about anyway? HSR opponents have made much of the fact that the UPRR agreement contains a clause giving the Union Pacific the right to operate intercity passenger service, as opposed to Caltrain's commuter service. Section 2.7 of the agreement delineates the respective rights and responsibilities of the User (UPRR) and Owner (Caltrain).
2.7 Intercity Passenger Rights Agreement: Intercity Passenger Service on the Joint Facilities (except for User's Cahill/Lick Line) shall be subject to the following provisions:
(a) Owner shall permit User to allow NRPC [Amtrak] Intercity Passenger Service Trains to be operated over the Joint Facilities (except for User's Cahill/Lick Line) in accordance with the terms of the NRPC Agreement in effect as of the date of this Agreement with the understanding that any changes subsequent to the date of this Agreement in Intercity Passenger Service, including but not limited to the number or schedule of Trains, shall be subject to Owner's consent under section 2.7(b) hereof.
(b) User may amend its present or any subsequent NRPC Agreement and enter into any new agreements and amendments thereto with NRPC or with any other party for the provision of Intercity Passenger Service over the Joint Facilities (except User's Cahill/Lick Line) with the consent of Owner, which shall not be unreasonably withheld, subject to the provisions of Section 4.3 when Owner dispatches and controls the operations and provided that costs due to any such Intercity Passenger Service agreement, or amendment thereto over the Joint Facilities (except for User's Cahill/Lick Line) and costs of changes necessitated by such agreements affecting line capacity, yard capacity, or the signal system shall be borne by the User. The parties agree to negotiate in good faith with regard to any additional parties that may be engaged or User proposes to have engaged in Intercity Passenger Service.
(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 2.7(b) above, no Intercity Passenger Service Trains shall operate on Exclusive Commute Trackage without a written agreement between Owner and User.
While it will take lawyers to comb through this and other clauses, Section 8.3.c of the agreement is particularly interesting. This section was likely written to allow for a future BART takeover of the peninsula corridor, in accordance with BART's original plans, but might equally apply to the current plans for the peninsula.
8.3.(c) In the event that Owner demonstrates a reasonably certain need to commence construction on all or substantially all the length of the Joint Facilities (including User's Cahill/Lick Line) of a transportation system that is a significant change in the method of delivery of Commuter Service which would be incompatible with Freight Service on the Joint Facilities (other than User's Cahill/Lick Line), Owner may, at its sole cost and expense, file no sooner than nine months prior to the commencement of such construction for permission from the ICC to abandon the Freight Service over the portion of the Join Facilities (excluding User's Cahill/Lick Line) upon which the construction is to occur. User shall not object to or oppose such a filing; however, it shall be allowed to participate in the abandonment proceedings.
Given that Caltrain's plans for lightweight electric trains on a shared HSR corridor would potentially qualify as a "significant change" that is "incompatible" with UPRR freight trains, the PCJPB and CHSRA could conceivably kick UPRR off the peninsula corridor if they wanted to. (However, all signs so far point towards accommodation of UPRR and its freight customers.) In view of the low level of freight service and the strong nationwide push for HSR, it is unlikely that the federal government would oppose or deny such a radical move, if it ever became necessary.

With that ace in play, can Russell Peterson succeed in provoking UPRR to take a hard stance on the trackage rights agreement?


  1. Clem, thanks for your interesting analysis.

    Although Caltrain may have the right to eliminate UP from SF-SJ, they will probably want to retain their leverage with UP on the SJ-Gilroy, given UP's strong stance in their letter.

    Also, it is possible that some cities (e.g., SF, RWC, which incidentally are HSR proponents) may lobby to retain freight service on SF-SJ. So, seems possible that UP could be pressured to make an agreement with Caltrain that is consistent with their MOU.

    Skeptical of the suit's potential to get off the ground. But I suspect that this may be good news for HSR, actually.

  2. I'm also extremely skeptical of the lawsuit going anywhere. Unless Russell Peterson has an utterly novel and compelling argument for why he has standing to litigate over a contract to which he is not a party, that suit will be dismissed.

    Very interesting information about Section 8.3 (c).

    The plot thickens!

  3. Caltrain First07 August, 2009 11:53

    Get that trickle of freight traffic off the Peninsula route. Catering to the FRA specifications of those few daily freight trains just greatly inflates the total project cost and requires a great deal of over-building of unnecessary tracks and structures.

    Section 8.3 (c) suggests that kicking off this freight traffic can be easily accomplished. UPRR can't make much profit (if any) from the tiny amount of freight it moves on the Peninsula. SP got out for a reason. This should be a boon of savings for Caltrain and CHSRA, but the concern is that CHSRA's contractors want to over-build all these elaborate structures and tracks... This could be a conflict of interest between an efficient transportation system and a desire to just build, build, build...

  4. waiting_for_facts07 August, 2009 12:14

    When it comes to lawsuits, it is dangerous to speculate about what they MIGHT be about - I'll wait to see the actual lawsuit.

    Will you provide a link to it?

  5. I might be completely misunderstanding the legal meaning of "inter city" but doesn't Caltrain already provide "inter-city" passenger rail service? Is the negotiation with UPRR over the rights south of Gilroy?

    If Caltrain is in fact already providing "inter-city" service, how could anybody argue with the right to sign an MOU with CHSRA?

    Finally, it seems to me the stimulus money could go to the peninsula projects for Caltrain as an emerging HSR corridor rather than express HSR, thereby bypassing the lawsuit, even if it were to win in court.

    If it's stimulus money it doesn't seem to me to matter exactly what project the construction falls under, as long as it meets the various criteria for the various levels of HSR.

  6. "Intercity" specifically/legally means the NPRR aka Amtrak.
    Caltrain is not legally Amtrak.
    Not to be confused with Caltrain "contracting out services" to Amtrak.

  7. If I read all the trackage right

    8.3b is CAHSR/Caltrain's negotiating ploy to get access south of Cahill/Diridon.

    8.3c is the ace in the hole. The could choose to shut down freight between SJ/SF and just find another path (101? tunnel) south of SJ Diridon.

    I find that section 8.3b the most interesting.

    Basically it states that Caltrain can just build a single freight track that is "suitable for the then volume and speed of freight service" and wash their hands of freight between SJ and SF.

    Wouldn't it be ironic if CAHSR and Caltrain decide to grade separate the whole way and leave the freight trains at grade? The neighbors would be furious. Caltrain/CAHSR would have no "juristiction" over the remaining freight track.

    Better be careful what you wish for. .

  8. Don't you find it amazing that there are so many authoritative comments by people who aren't lawyers and who haven't read a lawsuit that hasn't been filed yet?

    And, when it comes to language written by lawyers, why anybody can understand what they say, what it means, and draw a whole blog full of reliable conclusions.

    Of course, we also know that all newspaper articles are absolutely fully researched, fact checked and authoritative. Right?

    As they say: It's easy to know things when you make them up.

  9. 1: Bianca is a lawyer.
    2: She's absolutely right. (I'm also in law school.)

  10. both Bianca and count Z should know not to comment until you have seen the complaint.

    You might look like fools.

    BTW, the attorney filing is well known... look at his credentials.

  11. Bianca... I you are an attorney. Look really carefully at 8.3(c)

    Really try to understand why it doesn't apply.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Don't you find it amazing that people who post anonymously expect to be taken seriously and considered credible?

  14. Anonymous 17:06, 17:08:

    I am indeed an attorney. I am not anyone's lawyer in this particular case. The legal doctrine of third party standing is about as black-letter as law can get. The courts are not going to allow a private citizen to enforce another entity's contractual rights in an agreement that private citizen plaintiff is not party to.

    The language in Section 8.3(c) or any other section is irrelevant to this fundamental element of civil procedure.

    I've never said anything about Section 8.3(c) other than that it is "very interesting information". That comment requires no defense, and even if it did, I'm disinclined to spend my time justifying my words to someone who comments anonymously.

  15. @anon 16:30, this is indeed a blog, and blogs may on occasion opine or speculate.

    Speculation is the only option at this juncture since the lawsuit hasn't been filed, although that doesn't preclude laying out your expert opinion if you have one.

    Regardless of 2.7 or 8.3, there appears to be no animosity between UPRR and PCJPB, so I am curious to understand how a declaratory ruling could be sought when seemingly no conflict exists.

    We are all curious to find out more.

  16. As for why 8.3(c) might or might not apply: it applies only commuter service, not HSR. Nevertheless, Caltrain could express a desire to operate...

    (1) with lightweight non-compliant rolling stock
    (2) with 3% grades to minimize the physical impact of grade separation structures
    (3) with high platforms for inter-operation with HSR
    (4) using an advanced automatic train control system
    (5) using 25 kV electrification that restricts vertical clearances unless modifications are made to tunnels or overpasses

    All of these characteristics would make Caltrain as exotic as BART, minus the funky track gauge. That is why I believe they could feasibly invoke 8.3(c), quite aside from the HSR project.

  17. Wouldn't it be ironic if CAHSR and Caltrain decide to grade separate the whole way and leave the freight trains at grade? The neighbors would be furious.

    In many ways, I think that would be the ideal solution. I see no reason for neighbors to be "furious" as there is negligible freight traffic, and the steeper grades would incur less disruption. Indeed, that is basically how BART was built south of Oakland:


    Of course, not making it FRA-compliant would infuriate the Amtrak fuddy-duddies.

  18. Caltrain First07 August, 2009 22:25

    To refine the point about freight: lightweight non-FRA-compliant trains with sleek performance characteristics can still carry freight. They just shouldn't carry things like coal, cement, and ore, which just isn't in heavy demand along the Peninsula. They can certainly carry whatever UPS trucks or delivery vans move and at higher speeds, so trucks can still be taken off the road. It's the clunky, heavy, expensive-to-accommodate FRA-compliant freight cars that are functionally obsolete to the future transportation needs of the Peninsula.

    Let's face it: heavy industry has almost entirely disappeared on the Peninsula, and it's not coming back. The port of Oakland already has all the container traffic. Passenger traffic and light fast-freight are far more important to the Peninsula now and into the future.

  19. A bit more on the lawsuit from the Almanac:


  20. In many ways, I think that would be the ideal solution. I see no reason for neighbors to be "furious" as there is negligible freight traffic

    OK, but would we now be talking about 5 tracks? With a big fat Anaheim-style crash wall to keep the freight trains from derailing into harm's way? I don't think that's ideal. Certainly not for the neighbors, and certainly not for any taxpayer who cares the least little bit about bang for the buck.

    Euro-style freight might work, or simply refraining from loading the freight trains to the gills... enforce an axle load limit at 20 tonnes with scales wherever freight trains enter the ROW. Kind of like the weigh station concept on freeways?

    I'm starting to sound like Rafael ;-)

  21. I've seen what freight is carried on the Peninsula: mostly, it's gravel, scrap, and various things in tank cars (corn syrup?). A few refrigerated cars as well. Unless you somehow expect the Peninsula to become entirely residential and offices, with all construction material trucked in (to increase construction cost), you need that freight. And keep in mind, infrastructure decisions made now will last not 10 or 20 or 50 years, but 100 or 200. 100 years ago, the Peninsula had a few small towns and a whole lot of prunes. Now it's all one giant suburban strip. Who's to say what it will look like in another century? Planning that far into the future is hard, but it's best to keep your options open even if it costs a little bit more.

  22. Caltrain First08 August, 2009 00:29

    Look at the Peninsula today and the trends over the last several decades: it's already primarily comprised of offices, commercial districts, and leafy residential areas. It's the playground of the highly educated 'creative class' and the real estate prices reflect it. What heavy industry that is left is marginal and in decline, and no noxious polluting industry is ever going to be allowed to start up on the Peninsula. The trend is quite clear: this is a toney fru-fru area, not the forge of the region.

    The Peninsula has always been one of the richest areas of the Bay Area, largely removed from heavy industrial processes. The southeastern parts of SF and South San Francisco constituted the industrial section, but the towns along the rest of the Peninsula have always been posh suburban residential enclaves (Redwood City being the minor exception). This is where the railroad executives lived, and you can be damned sure they didn't want any belching factories near them. The Port of San Francisco has lost almost all its traffic to the Port of Oakland. That's not a trend that will reverse itself.

    The Peninsula does have a growing need for certain types of freight, but it comes in the form of online shopping deliveries, express packages, fresh food, and other relatively light-weight consumerables for wealthy end-users. Coal and ore trains need not apply.

    The gravel and scrap that UP currently moves in low volumes in half-full cars does not represent the future of Peninsula freight. Even for construction materials, SF and the Peninsula cities are building scarcely any housing these days, even though the demand is extremely strong. You can thank the NIMBYs.

  23. clem said

    As for why 8.3(c) might or might not apply: it applies only commuter service, not HSR. Nevertheless, Caltrain could express a desire to operate...


    UPRR owns the inter-city rights. HSR is inter-city, not commuter.

    The public should applaud Mr. Peterson bringing the lawsuit -- why should millions and millions be spent studying a route, which like the San Jose to Gilroy fiasco, may well not be available.

    Is this the worst planned project ever? Maybe so.

  24. BINGO?

    Your point does not eliminate the possibility of invoking 8.3(c) if Caltrain substantially alters the method of delivery of commuter service.

  25. Caltrain has always intended to run FRA compliant and non-FRA compliant equipment even after electrification, that's why Caltrain is applying for waivers with FRA and installing positive train control as part of its 2025 plan.

    UP's intercity right can easily be superseded by CAHSR forming a partnership with Amtrak, or put CAHSR operation under Amtrak California.

  26. "Caltrain has always intended to run FRA compliant and non-FRA compliant equipment even after electrification ..."

    And that's a completely crazy policy with zero upside and infinite costs.

    It just goes to show how screwed up things are when spending is capital grant-driven (ie based on what pork can be landed) rather than based on any sort of cost-benefit analysis.

    From Caltrain's point of view, some tooth fairy or another pays to massively over-build structures and pays for PTC "research" programs.

    From Caltrain's point of view, whether a station serves passengers or not doesn't matter, as long as it is funded and no piddling, self-interested, cost-oblivious agency somewhere (port, FRA, PUC) gets to object to the funding.

    From Caltrain's point of view, the aount of time (a decade, multiple decades, whatever) it takes to deliver an attractive service to the public is entirely beside the point, because nobody expects the system to work and nobody expects it to improve.

    (This isn't unique to Caltrain -- it's how every transit agency in the country functions: score grants and earmarks, pay off contractors, maybe deliver something accidentally as a side effect, maybe not, whatever, repeat.)

    The money keeps trickling in (or gushing in, if you're BART) from the local sales taxes or the state or the federales regardless or performance.

    There's just no incentive anywhere in the system to look at the transportation system and even ask whether some policy makes even the slightest sense.

    If Caltrain were results-driven (ie public benefit-driven) then the idea of spending hundreds of millions to pander to freight trains or Amtrak would be laughed out of the room -- and would have been laughed out of the room two decades ago. Instead, we spend eveything that comes in on new stations with 8 inch high platforms and ensuring that nothing stands in the way of BART extensions or a once daily Amtrak Coast Daylight train.

    Oh man, the pain.

  27. If you are a Coast Starlight/daylight passenger and you want to get to SF, I think that's a situation where you can transfer to Caltrain at San Jose.

    If accommodating once-a-day trains that are going to enter the area when God-only-knows is going to screw with HSR and Caltrain electrification, screw Amtrak.

  28. Well, let's not screw Amtrak, but do screw FRA-compliant Superliner equipment, which might dictate the platform height for Caltrain.

    Two trains a day should not dictate the specifications for a 30-year vehicle procurement that will be used by 80,000 people daily (I refer to Caltrain's new fleet, presumably with ADA-mandated level boarding).

  29. I like Superliners. They use them in a lot of Surfliner consists and I prefer them to the regular cars, but they have no business being on the peninsula.

  30. Spokker said...
    "If accommodating once-a-day trains that are going to enter the area when God-only-knows is going to screw with HSR and Caltrain electrification, screw Amtrak."

    But the premise is something that simple need never happen, so the conclusion is redundant.

    If, for example, after looking at the potential ridership on an upgraded 110mph Coast Daylight alignment, it turns out to be best for one or more services to run up the Peninsula and terminate in San Francisco, that would be including the right rolling stock to do the job.

    The idea that there would be any intrinsic conflict between the Caltrain/HSR corridor and whatever rolling stock is acquired to operate a regional service into the corridor is just silly.

    There are, of course, goal conflicts, but they are the kind of conflicts that have engineering solutions. And these kinds of "problems" seem to emerge from groups where someone who has inflated a solvable technical problem into some grand obstacle to the HSR is likely to get a lot of online stroking in return for airing his fantasy.

  31. Bruce, the problem isn't just engineering, it's regulatory. Amtrak and freight carry with them a bevy of regulatory requirements that could severely limit engineering options that might provide better service on the peninsula and have less impact on communities. (Unless this isn't about providing service or minimizing impact, in which case I will withdraw anything I've said.)

    I will lay out this case in an upcoming post, at which point you'll be able to judge if it's really a grand inflated fantasy. Stay tuned.

  32. But here's what Clem is saying, Bruce. You can accommodate Amtrak and freight, but I guess you're going to have more elevated sections of track. You're going to have to build platforms that aren't level with the train. Things like that.

    Electric trains can navigate grades that diesel trains can't, right? So if only electric trains run on the peninsula, they'll be able to get up in the air quicker, and down to Earth much quicker, eliminating the need for too many "Berlin Walls" that these NIMBY clowns are complaining about.

    At least, that's how I understand it.

    Electrifying the coast route from LA to SF is not going to happen in our lifetimes. Could the Daylight be a diesel train towing an electric consist? Once it gets to San Jose can activate the pantograph, detach the diesel locomotive and make it wait off to the side for the return trip? I'm guessing you would need another locomotive on the back of the electric consist because it would be non-compliant equipment.

    I don't know. Just a thought.

  33. "... upgraded 110mph Coast Daylight alignment ..."

    What are you foamers smoking?
    And where can I score some?

  34. The money keeps trickling in (or gushing in, if you're BART) from the local sales taxes or the state or the federales regardless or performance.

    It sounds a lot like how RATP is funded. But then again RATP is not German or Swiss, so it can't possibly deliver good service, can it?

  35. Bianca on 8/7 at 11:41 is correct; this lawsuit is going no where without the litigant proving he has 'standing.'

    This suit will very likely be dismissed in the first 15-20 minutes before the judge.

  36. This is new:

    SILICON VALLEY -- The city attorneys for Atherton and Mountain View are teaming up to sue the California High Speed Rail Authority.

    Bad reporting, or a third lawsuit? I didn't know Mountain View was on the tunnel bandwagon.

  37. Whatever it is, it is sloppy reporting. Considering that no other source has the City Attorneys of Atherton and Mountain View filing suit, I suspect it is the same anticipated litigation we've been talking about.

    Besides, City Attorneys have a firm grasp of the standing requirements, and are unlikely to waste municipal resources in an effort to "get Union Pacific on-board, and force those rail lines underground".

    Union Pacific has its big-boy pants on, and is perfectly capable of defending its interests itself.

  38. This report of a another lawsuit is total baloney.

    The Plaintiff of the suit that is the subject of this thread is an Atherton resident.

    One of the attorneys filing has a Mountain View address.

    Cities are not involved.

    There should be much more to report tomorrow.

    Terrible reporting.

    Mountain View has shown no interest in tunneling. They have shown an interest in getting a station.

  39. The lawsuit is pretty academic BUT legally it has legs. The plaintiff can raise written comments that others such as UP can use as legal points in their own case or future negotiations.

    This is why public agencies get very nervous when other agencies raise comments during environmental that may become ammo for other entities. Worst case scenario is that UP uses this lawsuit to their own benefit along the Peninsula (please rebuild UP's South City freight yard extra luxurious or else) and in other corridors. There has probably been an uptick in phone calls between Menlo Park and Omaha is recent months. Are you surprised?

  40. Super sloppy reporting. UP didn't sell anything to Caltrain, they inherited a contract between Caltrain and the Southern Pacific Railroad when they bought the latter.

  41. The case has now been assigned a first hearing (case management) for Dec 18th.

    So even though this type of complaint is supposed to receive expedited treatment, it is gong to be quite a while before anything is ruled upon.

  42. Not sure who on here is an STB attorney or specializes in railroad transportation law but for those that think that Caltrain (JPB) can force UP to abandon its freight rights you have another thing coming. That provision in the agreement violates STB law. Caltrain can not abandon the freight rights nor can they force UP to abandon them. If there is a demand for freight on the line and there are interested parties that demand freight service UP must by law provide that service since they are a common carrier. Caltrain is not a common carrier therefore they have no say in what commerce intends to move or will move by rail.

  43. Caltrain and its awkward multi-county joint powers arrangement may or may not be qualified to initiate STB abandonment proceedings, but the more relevant question is, could the State of California (a.k.a. HSRA) undertake such?

  44. To Clem: Why would the state want to?

  45. To Caltrain First: SP got out because the Joint Powers Board offered $300 million dollars. Who wouldn't take the money and run? The little traffic you talk about still generates between 20 & 30 thousand rail cars annually which equates to 100 to 150 thousand truck loads. DOT stated in a 2005 study that there are over 600 thousand trucks a day that serve the three peninsula counties. Seems it would be smart to figure out a way to handle freight and passengers.

  46. @Anon 20:05, I'm not sure I follow. 150k trucks per year is infinitesimally small compared to 600k trucks per day. I suspect you meant 600k trucks per year, and that discontinuing freight would increase truck traffic by 25% ?

  47. Clem

    The 2005 study was called Annual Average Daily truck traffic on the California State Highway System. So the numbers are correct for daily and annually. This data shows the trucks that originate or terminate in each county. The point is the railroad line needs to handle more freight than it is currently. Taking freight off of the Peninsula would not help anyone.

  48. Caltrain First19 August, 2009 20:19

    Anon (Peninsula Heavy Freight User?), your own data demonstrates how little freight is actually moved by rail on the Peninsula. 20,000-30,000 annual carloads sounds like a lot, but it only translates into 50-80 carloads each day. That's next to nothing! From direct observation of the actual freight trains operating on the Peninsula, many of those cars are lightly used or even empty. UP doesn't make any money off this trickle of low-value freight such as gravel and sand. Even assuming that 20,000-30,000 annual carloads translates into 100,000-150,000 annual truckloads (a leap of faith), that's still a tiny fraction of truck freight moving on the whole Peninsula.

    Rail freight on the Peninsula has been in steady decline for decades. When this Peninsula line was an actually mainline for SP decades ago, it carried freight to and from the Port of San Francisco. The Port of San Francisco moves hardly any freight these days -- it's all gone to Oakland and is not coming back -- and the very low volumes reflect this shift.

    Rail freight competes very poorly over short distances with truck freight, because trucks are much more flexible and direct. Rail freight does well over long distances, but the Peninsula line is no longer a mainline. It's a short-line that's ineffective for freight movements, which is reflected by all the freight short-lines that have been abandoned.

    This blog has demonstrated all the reasons why keeping heavy freight on this Peninsula rail line is a bad idea: from the design restrictions to the track maintenance issues to the additional project costs. Light freight can still be carried on the Peninsula, but even that is going to stuggle with the flexibility of vans and trucks over short distances. Huge amounts of public subsidy should not be wasted on the hopeless idea of improving heavy freight rail on the Peninsula.

    And the PCJPB paid about $200 million for the corridor... Kopp even thought that purchase price was too much and opposed the purchase. Ironic, eh?

  49. Caltrain First
    Well I guess you don't plan on building or maintaining your sidewalks or city streets or buying food at the grocery store. All construction on the peninsula should just stop so we won't need concrete, aggregate, steel, sand, lumber. You are going to give up consuming anything. Therefore we don't need trucks or trains. Maybe we should be just like Europe and move less than 14% of all goods by rail. Currently the US moves almost 50%. Yes you are right that the amount of freight on the line now is negligible to what it once was. The point is that since the Bay Area doesn't manufacture anything anymore everything we buy is transported in. I can't believe you don't see the value in both freight and passenger for the SF Peninsula. I want to see both HSR and freight. You must work for a trucking company since you want to see it all go to trucking. The whole point is that the 600,000 truckloads that travel the roads now, half of it should move by rail. We would all breath a little easier if people and freight went by rail. Don't hog up the whole corridor just for yourself. Didn't you learn in kindergarten that you are supposed to share?

  50. TO: Caltrain First - What about the huge amount of subsidy needed to just run Caltrain now? How about the huge subsidy needed to build HSR with out freight? What about the huge subsidy that the trucking companies and auto companies get through our heavily subsidized "free" roads? Has the US gone socialist? As far as I know Union Pacific and all of the shippers on the line run a for profit business, does Caltrain or HSR?

  51. Ooh.

    I think Caltrain will end up using that abandonment provision. If they're clever, they'll walk in with a plan for "specialized" freight service to replace the freight service to the majority of the customers on the line.

    "I've seen what freight is carried on the Peninsula: mostly, it's gravel, scrap, and various things in tank cars (corn syrup?). A few refrigerated cars as well."

    Short trains of containerized traffic (singlestack!) can be managed on an HSR line without unduly affecting the profile. Refrigerated containers, tank car containers -- no problem. Scrap is fairly thinly packed, not that heavy, already, and can also be containerized comfortably. If not containerized, custom cars can be used; transloading to the "national network" is perfectly reasonable given that this is not high-priority time-sensitive cargo.

    The aggregates (gravel, rock, sand) traffic is another matter -- it's genuinely heavy and would rip up the rail line even with lighter loadings. And I still wonder if it can be switched to barge, which makes so much more sense for such an extremely low-priority operation.

  52. "Not sure who on here is an STB attorney or specializes in railroad transportation law but for those that think that Caltrain (JPB) can force UP to abandon its freight rights you have another thing coming. That provision in the agreement violates STB law. Caltrain can not abandon the freight rights nor can they force UP to abandon them."

    Technically, they can. They can file for abandonment with the STB, as the provision says. I believe you are talking arrant nonsense when you say it violates STB law. The STB may (or may not) rule that the public interest outweighs the interest of local freight service, and allow the abandonment. The STB has certainly allowed the abandonment of service on lines with local freight demand in the past, and it will again in the future.

    " If there is a demand for freight on the line and there are interested parties that demand freight service UP must by law provide that service since they are a common carrier. Caltrain is not a common carrier therefore they have no say in what commerce intends to move or will move by rail."

    Nonsense. Caltrain is the rail owner, and the moment the STB approves an abandonment application -- which they would approve, no doubt about it -- the contract extinguishes UPRR's rights and the abandonment extinguishes its responsibilities.

    The Caltrain-Southern Pacific agreement doesn't have a severability clause. Accordingly, declaring clause 8 illegal -- which I doubt is possible -- would open up a REAL can of worms. Caltrain would probably get money damages from Union Pacific, in very large amounts.

  53. neroden@gmail

    There is existing traffic and a substantial amount, UP would not be allowed to abandon the line and Caltrain can't force them too. I suggest you research the STB laws a little more thoroughly.

    If you want to get a rail line that can't accommodate freight take over the 101 corridor. We won't need freeways anymore...oh yeah we will all freight will have to go by truck!

  54. Caltrain First28 August, 2009 20:21

    The existing rail freight on the Peninsula is negligible and low-value. Spending hundreds of millions, even billions to accommodate the trickle of gravel trains is an enormous waste of public resources. It is better to spend the savings on freight rail corridors that could actually make use of the investment. If you want to improve heavy freight railroads, improve the rail access in Richmond and Oakland, where large amounts of rail freight actually move. Heavy freight on the Peninsula is an anachronism, and UP will be glad to abandon this unprofitable shortline.

  55. Caltrain First - The heavy subsidies that keep trucks on the road (600,000 daily on the Peninsula) does not let UP compete. There is a lot of traffic that would move by rail if the UP could actually compete with an unsubsidized competitor. You are asking to subsidize another mode in order to finish freight rail for good. The UP with its own money is already improving the Oakland to Denver corridor by adding tracks over Donner Pass. This is being done with out subsidy. Before you comment on what little freight is being moved look into what are the root causes of the problem. In case you haven't noticed the corridor is already subsidized to make Caltrain work now there will be more subsidy to build HSR. Freight could operate as a stand alone business on the Peninsula with out subsidy. In fact UP subsidizes Caltrain by helping them to pay for capital upgrades and maintenance now.