26 August 2009

Atherton et al. Lawsuit Decided

The Honorable Michael P. Kenny has now ruled on Sacramento Superior Court case number 34-2008-8000022, better known as the Atherton lawsuit. The basics were discussed here a few months ago. Today's decision is a mixed bag, with some claims ruled in favor of the plaintiffs (Atherton et al.) and others in favor of the defendant (the California High Speed Rail Authority).

Summary of Ruling

The complete ruling can be downloaded from the Sacramento Superior Court's document server. Select 2008 (the year the lawsuit was filed), and enter the case number 80000022, then hit the search button. This will dredge up all the case documents, including the ruling dated August 26th, 2009. Here is a quick summary, with the plaintiffs' claims and the judge's respective rulings:
  1. The CHSRA's Final Program EIR failed to provide an adequate description of the project between San Jose and Gilroy (on or near Union Pacific's right of way adjacent to Monterey Highway) before selecting the Pacheco alignment. Ruling: in favor of Atherton et al.

  2. The CHSRA's cost estimates were inadequate and resulted in favoring the Pacheco alignment over the Altamont alignment. Ruling: against Atherton et al.

  3. The CHSRA did not adequately consider "train-splitting" as an operational alternative that might make Altamont alignment operate as well or better than Pacheco alignment. Ruling: against Atherton et al.

  4. The CHSRA's ridership analysis did not fairly evaluate the Pacheco and Altamont alignment alternatives, and was generally flawed. Ruling: against Atherton et al.

  5. The CHSRA's analyses of biological impacts to the Grasslands Ecological Area (along the Pacheco alignment) and the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge (along the Altamont alignment) were inadequate, neither equal nor impartial, and lacking in detail. Ruling: against Atherton et al.

  6. The CHSRA's analysis of growth-inducing impacts (a.k.a. sprawl) was inadequate for San Benito, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Ruling: against Atherton et al.

  7. The CHSRA's analysis of noise impacts on the peninsula was inadequate. Ruling: against Atherton et al.

  8. The CHSRA's analysis of vibration impacts on the peninsula was inadequate. Ruling: in favor of Atherton et al.

  9. The CHSRA's analysis of visual impacts on the peninsula was inadequate. Ruling: against Atherton et al.

  10. The CHSRA did not acknowledge the potential for extensive land taking (eminent domain) in peninsula communities. Ruling: in favor of Atherton et al. because of the related Union Pacific issue.

  11. The CHSRA's analysis of impact to mature and heritage trees along the peninsula right of way was inadequate. Ruling: against Atherton et al.

  12. The CHSRA's analysis of alternatives was improperly biased towards the Pacheco alignment, and improperly determined that Altamont alternatives were infeasible. Ruling: against Atherton et al.

  13. The CHSRA improperly omitted the possibility of reusing the existing Dumbarton rail bridge for the Altamont alignment, and overstated the difficulty of constructing the Altamont alignment. Ruling: against Atherton et al.

  14. The CHSRA's analysis of alignments along highways 101 and 280 on the peninsula was deficient and improperly eliminated those options. Ruling: against Atherton et al.

  15. The CHSRA failed to amend and recirculate the EIR after Union Pacific forcefully reiterated its position that its right of way was not available. Ruling: in favor of Atherton et al.

  16. The CHSRA failed to respond to Menlo Park's comment letter. Ruling: against Atherton et al.

While the plaintiffs will no doubt spin the favorable rulings on four of their contentions as a big victory, the fact remains that most of their contentions were found without merit, as evidenced by more red than green in the above summary. With Atherton et al. prevailing on this subset, largely on the back of the Union Pacific issue, some questions immediately come to mind.

Is the Pacheco Pass alignment being overturned in favor of Altamont? No. The CHSRA must now amend and recirculate its Bay Area to Central Valley EIR, in order to re-certify it under CEQA. The result is still likely to favor a Pacheco alignment, although the CHSRA will need to address in detail how it plans to circumvent Union Pacific's unwillingness to share its right-of-way.

Does this ruling stop HSR on the peninsula dead in its tracks? No. At worst, it may delay it a bit, possibly enough to miss the boat on federal stimulus funding.

Does this ruling prevent the CHSRA from continuing the San Francisco - San Jose project level EIR work, and will HNTB be told to stop work? Probably not. The work being performed at the project level could just as well be re-purposed to serve the "patching" of the program-level EIR. Tiering under CEQA allows a program-level EIR to be certified prior to project-level detailed work, primarily to relieve the agency preparing the material from having to delve into overwhelming detail too soon. However, that doesn't prevent the agency from going into more detail than is strictly required under CEQA for a program-level EIR, for example by continuing the project-level EIR work currently underway under the guise of fixing the program-level EIR.

What happens next? The program-level EIR will be amended, possibly with contingency material already prepared by the CHSRA as part of its project-level work on the San Francisco - San Jose section and especially the San Jose - Merced section, which includes the controversial stretch along Monterey Highway. The Union Pacific issue, now subject of an unrelated lawsuit, must be very high on the CHSRA's risk radar; it is very likely that mitigation of this risk would be well underway if not already completed.

Does this create another opportunity to sue? Yes. Once the amended EIR is re-certified under CEQA, there will be another opportunity for lawsuits, one which the increasingly entrenched HSR opposition is unlikely to pass up. Whether the entire EIR is back in play, versus just the amendments, is an important legal question that we won't pretend to answer here.

As always, keep in mind this is a blogger writing, not a lawyer. And pass some more popcorn around, will ya?


  1. Sadly, this isn't good news in any shape.

    The exclusively contractor-profit-driven, BART-extension-obsessed mafiso will just crank the wheels (ka-ching!) and churn out (ka-ching!) another laughably corrupt and technically meaningless and economically crazy SEIR, but one that covers the narrow legal bases of the ruling.

    If there's one thing they're good at (BART to Millbrae, BART to Santa Clara, HSR to Los Banos, ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching), it's churning out fraudulent "technical" studies and transparently mendacious "environmental" documents based upon knowingly fallacious ridership and cost projections.

    "Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me" as they say.

    Poor CHSRA Brer Rabbit consultants! Meanly thrown into the nasty briar patch of additional studies! Forced to do more paperwork and escalate prices even higher, while getting to do exactly what they wanted to in the end anyway. Oh no!

    The fact is and remains that PB and their p0wned political shills have lied repeatedly and egregiously about Pacheco. Worst is that nothing is going to change after this bit of make-work do-over.

    The fundamental fact that abides is that absolutely nobody has any interest in stopping them, because nobody cares about taxpayer value for money or about environmental quality.

    Don't throw poor B'rink Parsons into that there briar patch!

    The only hope for California is a that the entire project is 100% defunded. In practice it's *impossible* to unbuild the wrong thing, while doing nothing and deferring the right thing just causes a lot of pain, but at least keeps the option open.

    Another rotten day for the global environment.

  2. The vibration stuff seems like a successful "gotcha" where very little has been got.

    The real story is the San Jose / Gilroy issue, but that is something where it seems a good thing to push the CA-HSR to resolve the issue. Since Altamont also involves UP ROW, it is difficult to see how that could be spun into a Pacheco vs Altamont issue either.

    All of the direct Pacheco vs Altamont challenges were thrown out, so clearly Altamont is not so clearly superior to to Pacheco that blatant lies were required for the route alignment. That implies that nobody can now seriously claim that Pacheco is so much worse the Altamont that California is better off scrapping the whole thing and starting over.

    Mind, the interweb tube thingy being what it is, there is certain to be people willing to hyperventilate in public to try to make the claim ... its just that when they had a chance to prove the case in court, they failed to prove their case.

  3. For me this is looking like a win for HSR.

    The vibration issues seems really trivial, it seems to state that there were contradictory statements, not that it was inadequate.

    The UP stuff was already a known issue.

    Recirculation doesn't matter, since unless that was the only point that court upheld it would have to be recirculated anyways.

    The eminent domain part is probably the only element that could grow in to something of a problem, but on the other hand if CHSRA comes to an agreement with UP, it becomes a moot point.

    Assuming the the project level EIR can be done and used to fill in the gaps in the program level, this should really result in very little to no delay.

    Waiting to see what remedies the judge requires.

  4. As usual in these types of cases, the ruling is inconsistent. On the one hand, it finds the EIR deficient with regard to noise/vibration and South-SJ alignment. On the other hand, it says that CAHSRA did not fudge the overall cost numbers.

    It is hard to reconcile those two points. Depending on what remedies are required, the Pacheco costs could go way higher.

    At this point, it is too early to tell how this will play out. But from the standpoint of CHSRA, I think they have to be unhappy with this outcome. It is almost always the case that plaintiffs have these kinds of EIR challenges thrown out of court.

    Finally, with regard to Bruce's comment: CA environmental law only requires that an agency document the direct _negative_ environmental consequences of a project. There is no legal requirement that CHSRA pick the route with the most ridership. Thus, it is not unexpected that the ruling avoided ridership issues as that is outside the scope of the case.

  5. @ bikerider -

    the court ruled against CHSRA on vibration only, not on noise. Basically, it shouldn't have claimed that there would be no vibration problems when the consultants were conservative and claimed that there could be since they were not yet in a position to perform analysis at the program level.

    The judge did not assert that any vibration problems had been identified nor that any special mitigation would be needed.

    Keep in mind that Caltrain and UPRR together operate almost 100 trains each day on that corridor, on clapped-out tracks and using super-heavy FRA-compliant equipment. To the best of my knowledge, the substantial vibrations that generates are not causing foundations slabs to crack and crumble. Could it be that buildings abutting the Caltrain ROW were actually designed to cope with vibration?

    Quad tracking will bring trains closer to some abutting buildings laterally but elevating the tracks will add physical distance. Retained fill embankments provide better damping than all-concrete aerials. Trenches and tunnels also radiate vibrations, btw.

    However, assuming FRA gives Caltrain its waiver, its rolling stock will be much lighter. The bullet trains will need to be light anyhow, otherwise 220mph isn't going to be possible. FRA will need to draft a "rule of special applicability" for California HSR to permit that speed, 25kV AC overhead electrification and other "innovations". Lower mass + tighter track tolerances + superior rail/wheel interface = low vibrations. Train speed and the number of events will go up, but this should be overcompensated by the reductions in intensity per event.

    UPRR freight trains will continue to cause significant vibration. Wouldn't it be ironic if that issue forced Caltrain and CHSRA to keep the slow traffic on the center tracks or, UPRR to accept lower axle load limits on its locomotives and freight cars? Clem has advocated both!

  6. The plaintiffs clearly "won" the lawsuit. This is most directly revealed by the fact that CHSRA has to pay the plaintiff's legal fees. The judge didn't agree with all the plaintiff claims, but the judge did agree with enough to re-open the program EIR. That's a "win" for the petitioners, no matter how you want to spin it.

    CHSRA's arrogance actually makes this outcome even worse for their image in the public eye. After all, this was a lawsuit they claimed would be easily defeated and crushed, and CHSRA's supposed invulnerability has now been punctured. CHSRA now has blood in the water. Kopp was previously crowing about how this lawsuit didn't have a chance and would be thrown out. Even this week, he was talking about "frivolous" lawsuits. Well, this lawsuit just stuck!

    Eshoo's right: CHSRA truly does need to work on their public relations!

  7. The plaintiffs clearly "won" the lawsuit. This is most directly revealed by the fact that CHSRA has to pay the plaintiff's legal fees. The judge didn't agree with all the plaintiff claims, but the judge did agree with enough to re-open the program EIR. That's a "win" for the petitioners, no matter how you want to spin it.

    Yes, they won. Congrats. Open a bottle of champagne. ( I had some scotch last night, and while that was in honor of a late great drunk, you can take it as me drowning my sorrows about this case if you like).

    Now, what happens next.

    "the judge did agree with enough to re-open the program EIR."

    That's not true at all, the writ hasn't been submitted yet and the judge hasn't made any decisions about remediation other than making the CAHSR pay the attorney fees.

    Any talk about re-opening the program EIR is speculation. It even appears, and again, IANAL, that there are two ways to fix this without touching the EIR: 1: file a supplemental EIR covering the revised section (this needs to go through the normal draft EIR review process), 2: file an addendum to the EIR (this does not require the same level of review).

    I have no idea which of those will satisfy the Judge, and neither does anyone else until he makes a decision about it.

    Even so, it appears extremely unlikely that the entire program-level EIR will be up for review.

  8. Great win for the environment, it looks like HSR will go ahead on schedule. This will save California having to expand freeways and airports to deal with all the extra traffic projected population growth would have required.

    Greens everyone will be celebrating tonight.

  9. Looks like the only "winner" was actually Union Pacific, since essentially all the NIMBY related claims about Pacheco being unfairly favored or inferior to Altamont were ruled against and the judge simply ruled for the plaintiffs that CHSRA needed to properly negotiate some kind of clarity about track usage with Union Pacific and whether or not they would eventually need to eminent domain the land for a parallel section of track down to Gilroy.

    This ruling is not favorable at all to the Atherton NIMBYs, it is favorable to Union Pacific whose negotiation position has been significantly enhanced by the Court. Union Pacific's sole interest is their shareholder's value. If HSR's impacts on their business can be properly mitigated, there will be no issue with Union Pacific. CHSRA will now attempt to negotiate a clear understanding with Union Pacific with regard to usage rights and indemnification in the unlikely event of an accident. If it proves impossible to do so (which is quite unlikely), they will then simply revise the EIR to include the eminent domain of a portion of land parallel to the Union Pacific tracks.

  10. CHSRA will now attempt to negotiate a clear understanding with Union Pacific with regard to usage rights and indemnification in the unlikely event of an accident. If it proves impossible to do so (which is quite unlikely), they will then simply revise the EIR

    From the limited statements from CHSRA, it sounds like their strategy may be to use eminent domain adjacent to the ROW in areas where it is cheap to do so (i.e., farmland), and negotiate with UP re: sharing ROW in constrained areas (i.e., south of SJ Diridon, maybe in Morgan Hill or Gilroy). Most likely the agreement would include a concrete barrier of some type in the constrained areas and indemnification. But presumably CHSRA will not make any definitive public statements while negotiations are ongoing.

    It wouldn't be surprising if they ended up going with BNSF in the CV rather than UP. Which would be fine by many of us since it would avoid having to go through the center of Madera.

  11. Anon, you were right to include quotes around the word "won". All the plaintiffs really "won" was their court/ legal fees, they lost pretty much everything else of importance.

    They certainly lost their bid to have the route changed, and in fact pretty much locked it in as the right way to go.

  12. If more detail and information exists via the 'more detailed than necessary' work, is that required to be disclosed in the program level EIR? More info is known now on many points, is that going to be required to be included in the next circulted round of program EIR.

    Even if unrelated to uprr row or vibration? If they don't add latest info (example updated info regarding natural resource status) can that become a new point of contention in next comment round?

    In other words can some parts of the eir remain 'old' or out of date, even when known to be out of data, in the final eir?

  13. In other words can some parts of the eir remain 'old' or out of date, even when known to be out of data, in the final eir?

    1: IANAL.
    2: The Code seems to state that the program level EIR only needs to be modified if the subsequent (project) EIRs conflict with it. It seems to me that would mean a properly ambiguous Program EIR would not need to be modified if more specific but not conflicting information was reported in a project/subsequent EIR, but that the Program EIR would need to be updated if the project EIR directly conflicted.

    Wish we had a lawyer on these boards.

  14. So, for example, if they decided to run the lines along the caltrain corridor in a tunnel, that would not require a new program EIR because the program EIR doesn't have that level of detail. But if they decided to run the lines up around the bay and across the golden gate, they would need a revised program EIR because the program EIR didn't cover anything like that.

    In fact, the question of what belongs in the program EIR vs what belongs in the project EIR was brought up in this case, the judge seemed to sympathize and refused to rule on what, specifically, the cutoff point was between the documents. The two points that he ruled against CAHSR on were both related to this problem, and while the noise issue was a pure "gotcha" where the CAHSR had messed up and given conflicting statements, the UPRR issue could be seen in the same light. The judge noted that the program EIR didn't specify that they WOULD be using the UPRR ROW, but that they gave diagrams showing track close to or along the UPRR ROW. Presumably the judge wouldn't have had a problem if those diagrams weren't in the Program EIR.

  15. I agree with the commenter that UPRR comes out ahead on this. Throwing hundreds of millions at that company while receiving effectively zero public benefit (see: Capitol Corridor -- $700 million sunk for, what, a train an hour, if you're lucky) is a factor in all of this.

    So a few millions or tens of millions to compensate them for their massively, massively, MASSIVELY profitable Peninsula rail service wouldn't go amiss. It never does.

    (But that's only north of Santa Clara. Don't go overboard on that buying off stuff -- we have to ensure there's still scope to *not* use an unacceptably cheap corridor south of San Jose, and we to ensure we don't get too much return on each public dollar.)

    And of course I agree that the contractor mafioso score biggest of all.

    Here's something else to consider: the entire northern Californian rail system is being based around the necessity of (a) building a BART line -- no non-proprietary non-vendor-captive non-PBQD-specified non-BART technology acceptable -- to megapolis-of-riffic San Jose and (b) building the largest, most over the top, most wastefully excessive and least useful pangalactic terminal in San Jose.

    (Note again that Caltrain ridership from the San Jose CBD *AT PEAK HOURS* can comfortably fit in a few shuttle vans. But don't let that get in the way of wanting a station sized like those that serve 60 train per hour overseas.)

    So ... what's the best possible outcome? What would YOU do if you made you money by setting up straw-man "insuperable problems" to the appropriate, cost-effective and beneficial alternative (wetlands! trains splitting! spur lines! Pleasanton!) and then specifying, designing and building something that avoids those "problems" and meets Design Requirements that you youself set?

    I know that what I'd be doing would be designing a new Diridon Intergalactic Multi-modal Megazone that "avoided" the appalling and unsolvable problems associated with UPRR (one train a day!) by, let's say, building a big-ass tunnel in San Jose on a *new right of way*, and ideally building a huge-ass station, preferably underground to maximize cost, and preferably not on the Caltrain station site, and I'd be singing all sorts of songs to SJ Redevelopment (our motto: "billions disappeared without a trace!") about synergies with ballparks and BART and sports stadia and the like.

    The possibilities are endless. And remember: There Is No Alternative. We have to avoid UP! And we have to have at least 8 platforms for through running(!!!!!) HSR, because, well, the Sacred Technical Specifications and Precise Ridership Models and World Class Train Operations Procudures we Professional Developed say so.


    Add in this takings for a new ROW south of San Jose, preferably with a lot of overpass and freeway reconstruction (mmmmm....) and I think things will be looking good for our Special Friends. Even if they only get half or a tenth of such a plan it will be a boondoggle beyond what most mortals could dream.

  16. @ mike -

    the BNSF ROW avoids downtown Madera and Modesto but it runs for many miles through residential districts in Fresno and Merced.

    Since CHSRA is counting on "up to 220mph" through the CV, noise is going to become an issue there.

    In Italy, they use direttissima lines through the countryside with detour tracks into and out of city centers. A top-speed western bypass for Fresno plus much slower detour into downtown via the BNSF ROW would echo that concept, but it would also mean laying a lot of additional track miles + grade separations, tearing up farmland etc.

    In Merced, a detour + station at Castle Airport instead of the Amtrak station might be worth considering. The former AFB is currently only used for general aviation and a candidate location for the central HSR maintenance facility. A possible future passenger terminal there could be integrated with the train station, which could also include transshipment spurs for unit load devices and modified TGV Duplex trainsets (cp. CAREX).

    For now, though, it looks as if a decision to partner with BNSF will not prompt the construction of any detours or relocation of the Merced county station.

  17. @ Richard Mlynarik -

    copious snark and vitriol as usual. I really wish that just once, you'd rein yourself in because I believe you actually have a lot to add to the technical discussion.

    Unfortunately, I still haven't seen e.g. a Google map showing exactly how you would route the HSR trains from the Central Valley to both SF and SJ and also solve the need for some type of commuter rail/subway service between Union City and downtown San Jose.

  18. While the noise issue was a pure "gotcha" where the CAHSR had messed up and given conflicting statements, the UPRR issue could be seen in the same light.

    The UP issue is hardly a "gotcha". No judge is going to permit an EIR that studied a different alignment than what actually gets built.

    Moreover, (as far as I know) CAHSR has not said anything about what an alternative alignment might look like, which suggests CAHSRA doesn't have a Plan B.

    Picking a new route means scoping sessions, new studies, and big delays. And judging from the maps, I'm not seeing any obvious route that doesn't avoid tunneling, neighborhood impacts, or sharp turns. Heck of a job Rod!

  19. HSRA left themselves a little wriggle room in the NOP for the SJ-Merced project EIR by stating that the route would be Caltrain or maybe a parallel route. They have also told City of Morgan Hill that 101 will be one of the alternatives studied.

    Whether this is legal or not I have no idea, but it does look like people knew that there was a possibility plan A wouldn't fly.

  20. @ bikerider -

    the program level EIS/EIR drives the decision on the route, which is to say the transportation corridor in which tracks are to be constructed. In rural areas, there's typically quite a bit of leeway on the exact location, as the critical impacts are primarily on farmland and the natural environment.

    In built-up areas, that's not the case, as even a small lateral shift can have significant impacts on the human environment, i.e. private property, parks, vehicular traffic etc.

    This is precisely what the judge dinged CHSRA on: if there's a substantial risk that ROW acquisition in a given corridor could involve eminent domain on a substantial scale and/or additional elevated/underground structures, that needs to be factored into the selection of the preferred route.

    The judge did not rule that the preference for Pacheco was ok anyhow, just that there wasn't enough evidence to support the claim that it had skewed the process against Altamont and in favor of Pacheco.

    The red flag UPRR raised was on fundamental safety/liability concerns it has with HSR tracks running in close proximity to its own. These would apply in equal measure to the Altamont alignments, which all hewed close to the UPRR ROW through Pleasanton, Livermore and Niles.

    At this point, CHSRA can no longer get away with hand-waving and deferring the brass tacks to the project-level EIR process. IMHO, it needs to spell out exactly where its ROW would run through South San Jose, both horizontally and vertically. In the rural section further south, it will still have some leeway at the program level.

    Whether or not Pacheco can remain the preferred route depends on whether CHSRA's modifications of the program-level EIR regarding ROW acquisition between SJ Diridon and Gilroy are accepted by the various stakeholders that get to comment on them.

    For that reason, the judge may decide to require CHSRA to also spell out one or more non-preferred Altamont options, updated to reflect the risk that UPRR won't be willing to co-operate there, either.

  21. Rafael:

    Your post at 29 Aug. 00:07 is right on target.

    Right now the plaintiff will be working on preparing the writ of mandate, on which the judge will rule. That's the way the system works.

    BTw, I should hope that Robert would now agree that the resistance to this project is not limited to ~~ 50 NIMBYs.

    He was there. He was inside, a row behind me in the council's chambers. Outside were about 200 more who didn't make it in time to get inside. They were a much more outspoken group. Best estimate is that 400 - 500 persons in total were attending.

    Even Robert would have to admit, it was not a pro HSR crowd.

  22. @ Morris Brown -

    I don't know where the number 50 came from, I for one never ventured a guess as to how many HSR opponents there are in the SF peninsula.

    Statewide, prop 1A(2008) passed with 52.4% of the vote, which means plenty of people voted against it. Drilling down, the proposition was also approved by a majority of voters in all peninsula cities except Atherton, in many cases by larger margins than the state average. Whether that result could be repeated today is essentially irrelevant, regular elections only happen once every two years. Democracy isn't about making everyone happy.

    However, it's also not supposed to be a dictatorship of the majority. The median age of a town hall meeting tends to skew higher than for the general population in a given area. I wasn't at the one in Menlo Park, but I'd wager that senior citizens with the time and patience to attend were well represented. Nothing wrong with that at all, just don't mistake it for a representative cross-section of the general population.

    Young people voted for HSR in droves because it's a long-term proposition they will benefit from for decades to come. They're also willing to shoulder the debt burden of getting the system built. However, many of them do not (yet) own property of their own, so their financial risk is both much lower and easier to quantify.

  23. Supporters also have less to gain than opponents have to lose, hence the greater passion and dedication you see among opponents. Nevertheless, Morris is right, the opposition cannot be ignored or dismissed.

    We all want it "done right"... and that means something different depending on who you ask.

  24. Notwithstanding her answer to Robert's question at the Town Hall, even Anna Eshoo would likely now acknowledge that there is opposition to HSR.

    However, this is one of those situations where opponents of the plan, precisely because they feel threatened by it, have organized in a vocal and noticeable manner. Supporters of the plan haven't energized with the same vigor, and so it might be tempting to discount the amount of support HSR still enjoys on the Peninsula.

    Just because 400 people show up at a Town Hall meeting doesn't mean they represent the whole community. It just means that they bothered to show up.

  25. As to the crowd at Wednesday's meeting being representative of the community -- it was in Menlo Park. I'd be very interested to see a meeting up north a bit in San Mateo. I live here & every time I talk to people about HSR it's clear that 1)the issue hasn't made it to their radar yet and 2) especially after recent sound/horn issues, they really don't like HSR as it is shaping up here. I haven't had one conversation about this issues that goes otherwise.

    That said I'd be interested to know how many watched the meeting as I did, on the internet.

  26. @ Karen -

    Clem's written posts entitled Focus on San Mateo and Threading The San Mateo Narrows to discuss the lay of the land there.

    They're a good starting point for anyone who want to get up to speed on the issues raised by HSR. In particular, the issue of how many track HSR + Caltrain + UPRR really need. There are some regulatory and track maintenance overhead issues for HSR and UPRR. Mostly, though, the issue is that the planned average operating speeds for Caltrain and HSR are too far apart.

    Also, CHSRA wants to overbuild the system just in case HSR ridership goes through the roof and it needs to run a boatload of trains in the middle of Caltrain's rush hour by 2030. They feel making do with two, perhaps three, tracks until then isn't a viable option because adding (a) track(s) later on will be nigh-on impossible.

    In that context, The Effect Of Heavy Freight is also valuable background information.

  27. @ Karen

    The City of San Mateo seems aware of the implications of HSR for the Caltrain alignment. The City sent some very well-considered comments to the CAHSR for the environmental scoping process, so at least the city government seems to have a good grasp on the issue.

    It's important to remember that these meetings are really meant to engage the opposition, not to gauge community sentiment. These meetings generate far greater turnout among the opposition than among the supporters, who already have CAHSR to speak for them.

    Another thing to remember is that there can be a big difference between the facts and what people hear from their neighbors. One of the purposes of these meetings is to dispel rumors and provide the public with the correct information.

    Projects like this always generate fear and mistrust because of poor public relations and a decision-making process that seems unclear. San Mateo would probably get the best response from HSR by cooperating on the design process to find a solution that works for the community.

    On a different note, I am not sure why you are associating the horn sound issue with HSR. One of the reasons for upgrading the tracks is in fact to abate the noise generated by horns.

  28. Southern California and San Diego seem to have zero knowledge of opposition to HSR on the SF peninsula.

  29. The rights of UPRR along the 'preferred route' pertain in places other than simply SJ to Gilroy. Therefore cost assumptions for row aquisitions and land use mitigations are in question in far more places than just SJ to Gilroy.

    Either CHSRA will be buying something up front or leasing something they hadn't already planned on -where are these costs in the Program EIR?

    I think the judge needs to require that UPRR rights along the whole suggested route need to be worked out, and the full cost of aquiring that ROW needs to be included.

    Otherwise, how can you rule out options like overpasses along 101 or train bridge over dumbarton as being too expensive? Too expensive compared to what? - does anyone really know based on the current EIR? And if they only resolve the UPRR issue from SJ to Gilroy - will that really make it any clearer? Not at all.

  30. It's important to remember that these meetings are really meant to engage the opposition, not to gauge community sentiment. These meetings generate far greater turnout among the opposition than among the supporters, who already have CAHSR to speak for them.

    @Nicolas: Let me tell you a story.

    For the EIR hearing held by CAHSRA in San Jose, there was obviously huge interest in the whole Altamont/Pacheco debate. All the news media were there to cover it, and the meeting was well attended (with many having driven in a long distance away).

    The Honorable Quentin Kopp opens the meeting by saying he will be calling Speaker Cards "in no particular order".

    For the next 2 hours, he calls his speakers -- all of whom sang the praises of Pacheco (i.e. it is clear the CAHSRA staff had stacked the deck with their supporters).

    Many of these CAHSRA flaks were permitted multimedia presentations (clearly coordinated with staff). As soon as the TV talking heads had gotten their soundbites and left, then it was turn to hear from actual members of the public.

    (To their credit, Channel-2 news did stay through the whole thing interviewed a number of representatives from San Joaquin county).

    I wasn't at the Menlo Park meeting, so don't know how that was conducted. But in general, I don't see CAHSRA really engaging any members of the public.

  31. BNSF ROW avoids downtown Madera and Modesto but it runs for many miles through residential districts in Fresno and Merced.

    Yes, but the Fresno/Merced issue remains regardless of whether they go with UP or BNSF. UPRR through Fresno does look somewhat better than BNSF through Fresno, but it would be relatively easy to transition from the BNSF to Hwy-99/UP corridor before entering Fresno. Who even knows what will happen there, though, given the talk of freight corridor consolidation, etc.

  32. CHSRA has made (at least) two fundamental and catastrophic "decisions".

    Pacheco is of course one. (We could stop right there .)

    The other is to route what (they pretend will be, but guaranteed will not be) 350kmh trains through the Central Valley cities.

    The train speeds and stop-to-stop timings on all of their studies are completely fictitious, in light of the fact that real people live alongside a system they've designed as a Flight Level Zero airline with massive local impacts (construction, fly-though noise) and minimal local benefits (what is proposed on the Peninsula keeps getting worse and worse for Caltrain service. You ain't seen nothing yet in terms of amateurish third-world not-getting-it transportation "engineering"!)

    I'd bet we're not going to see 200kmh anywhere north of Mountain View. (I don't live anywhere near the tracks, I'm soft in the head about trains, I travel all over the place to ride trains, etc, but those who do live near anywhere near the tracks would be crazy to put up with this.)

    You're not going to see 300kmh hit between San Jose and a 200kmh blast through downtown Gilroy.

    And you're certainly not going to see 330kmh right through the middle Merced, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield, etc. Nor should you. It's fundamentally wrong-headed, and the net effect would be destructive.

    This is all independent of UP rights of way -- it's just abysmal, amateur, unclear-on-the-concept, lets-draw-some-lines-on-map engineering.

    NIMBYs aren't always wrong, you know.
    (People unconditionally opposed to HSR are, generally, but there are better and worse places to put anything.)

    Local impacts should be minimized (which doesn't mean running no trains through Pleasanton or Burlingame), and local benefits should be maximized. A ram-it-through, 1950s-engineering-dude, 1950s-freeway-style plan like the 1950s-style CHSRA consultants have on the table isn't going to win a lot of hearts and minds, and it's not going to be allowed to operate (as presently misrepresented) once open.

    I like trains as much as any foamer who reads these blogs, but I also keep in mind that trains are supposed to serve people, and that there are more and less bad ways of trading off the benefit to some (SF to LA commuters at flight level zero) against the costs to others (all those in flyover country.)

    Fundamentally, public works infrastructure is supposed to serve some end other than solely giving the people who design and build it tens of billions of public dollars.

    There's a fantastic potential passenger rail system in California to be built around a well-designed, carefully considered, maximally beneficial north-south high speed high speed spine, but it bears only a faint resemblance to the fiascos being promoted by our local "world class" engineering fraternity. (Funny how none of them seem to be in demand for jobs elsewhere building real rail lines in real countries with real rail systems, isn't it? I guess the rest of the world hasn't caught up with our Advanced American Concepts yet. Feet and inches! #14 AREMA turnouts! 40 minute dwell times!)

  33. Richard, noise impacts can be mitigated. They are in Japan, which seems perfectly capable of running Shinkansen trains at 300 km/h through towns. It has problems raising the speed limit because its noise mitigation was intended for trains traveling at 200 km/h rather than 300, but a system designed from scratch to hit 350 could pass through cities without stopping.

    It's more expensive to mitigate sound near central cities than to bypass them, but the alternatives cost even more. The TGV way of doing things - running the lines tangent to urban areas, with outlying station areas - is the only alternative that's affordable, but it would depress ridership. Amtrak and the local bus systems, and even local businesses, are centered around the existing downtowns rather than the beet fields.

  34. "Richard, noise impacts can be mitigated."

    Thanks for the info. I had no idea.

    "They are in Japan, which seems perfectly capable of running Shinkansen trains at 300 km/h through towns."

    You have no idea. Really.

    Look, I just loooooooove trains, but anybody who has been anywhere remotely close lineside to trains running over 200kmh and claims the experience is either enjoyable or tolerable other than a rail fan thrill just isn't thinking straight. It's certainly not something that a rational planner (rather than a 1950s-mentality engineer) would choose without a gun held to his or her head.

    The whole of central Europe is going nuts with hugely expensive programs of building soundwalls around the long-established classic (ie sub-200, non-HSL, ie through city centres) lines. 300+ new builds through the town centres is simply not on the table anywhere. Outside California, home to the world's greatest and most successful rail planners that is.

    I'm trying hard to think of anybody else "planning" 350kmh routes through the middles of flyover country towns, and I'm kind of drawing a blank.

    "The TGV way of doing things - running the lines tangent to urban areas, with outlying station areas - is the only alternative that's affordable"


    Anyway, believe what you like. You'll be proven wrong, and "I told you so" won't be any consolation to me for the billions wasted.

  35. I'm trying hard to think of anybody else "planning" 350kmh routes through the middles of flyover country towns, and I'm kind of drawing a blank.

    JNR did. So are its successors - JR Central's plan for the Chuo Shinkansen is to either skip intermediate cities entirely or serve them with city center stops (which most trains will skip, flying through at 500 km/h). The cities in question actually want the central city stops.

  36. If you had free will, would you live next to the railroad tracks? Probably not. So it's a good thing that most of us have free will.

  37. JR Central's plan for the Chuo Shinkansen is to either skip intermediate cities entirely or serve them with city center stops (which most trains will skip, flying through at 500 km/h). The cities in question actually want the central city stops.

    Admittedly, I'm no expert on Japanese HSR, but a quick google search indicates that while there were cities in the Nagano region lobbying for the "indirect" route option, the highly competent rail planners decided on the shortest and least expensive option which will bypass those cities.

    (Clearly, JR Tokai is not aware of CAHSRA expertise in this area, otherwise they would have picked the more roundabout route.)

    Supposedly, the majority of the line will be running in tunnel which presumably will not have impact to people living near the line. Assuming the thing is ever built, that is...

  38. Democracy is high speed rail's worst enemy.

  39. @ anon @ 16:32 on 8/30 -

    fwiw, CHSRA's 2008 Business Plan actually include $2.3 billion for ROW acquisition, about 7% of the $33 billion total for the starter line. How they arrived at that number I do not know, but it's not correct to state that their cost estimates do not include a line item for ROW.

    As for a new fixed link across Dumbarton, all of the Altamont options studied relied on acquiring ROW from UPRR as well. Except for the Caltrain ROW and BNSF's line from Richmond to south Stockton and Bakersfield, UPRR owns every single freight rail ROW in the Bay Area outright.

    In light of UPRR's reluctance to cut a deal, any route through Altamont via Dumbarton would have to be radically changed to studiously avoid their property except for crossing either over or under it, see MAP.

    Moreover, given that BART will use the WPML ROW between Niles and east San Jose and, that UPRR's Milpitas line is neither suitable (SJ Ryland Park area) nor available and, that there is no available median on I-880 south of hwy 262 and, the salt marshes are home to an endangered species, Altamont-via-Dumbarton means the line would split in Redwood City.

    Basically, the only way to build a spur down to SJ in the east bay involves splitting in the Pleasanton/Livermore area and a very expensive solution involving a second long tunnel through the east bay hills, well south of downtown Fremont to reach the 680 and 280 medians and then another tunnel o reach an underground station at SJ Diridon from the south. See the relevant portion of this MAP (ignore the lines north of SJ Diridon, south to Gilroy and north to Walnut Creek and focus on San Jose to Modesto). Calaveras Rd and 680 north of Sunol are right on top of the active Calaveras fault.

    Bottom line, any decision to run tracks across Dumbarton would mean one of three things:

    1) the tooth fairy brings CHSRA countless billions to split the line in the Pleasanton/Livermore area.

    2) SJ does not get an HSR station at all, its residents would use either Caltrain to RWC or BART to UC to board an HSR train.

    3) HSR tracks are built between Redwood City and San Jose Diridon along the Caltrain ROW.

    Outcome 3 would be the most likely by far.

  40. @ Richard Mlynarik -

    thank you for your restrained and cogent comments regarding the speeds at which trains can realistically run through towns.

    I'm not sure I agree with your assessment entirely. Speed in and of itself is not really an issue, since the line will be fully grade separated. Rather, the issue is noise. There are ways to mitigate it both at source and in the transmission path.

    The Japanese have a high tolerance for visually unappealing aerials but far less for noise, which is considered plain rude in their culture. They've even developed ballast bags filled with a special material that is more effective than regular aggregate and can be placed between the tracks if there is no ballast bed.

    In combination, sound walls and ballast bags can reduce noise emissions by 10dB(A). However, between rail-wheel contact and wind resistance, CHSRA still has to show that it can keep the sound exposure level (SEL) within acceptable limits or else cope with speed limits.

    Clem published the detailed speed profile that HNTB have put together for the SF peninsula and it does indeed call for express trains to run through at 125mph where possible. I have not seen anything comparable for the Central Valley racetrack CHSRA is planning. For all I know, that 220mph figure only applies to the rural areas. Certainly, the BNSF ROW through Fresno isn't even suitable for top speed, it contains some sharpish curves.

    Still, there are plenty of small towns and villages that both UPRR and BNSF tracks run through. Residents there are used to mile-long freight trains thundering through at 75mph, blaring 120dB(A) horns, with bells at grade crossings, in the middle of the night. The quality of HSR noise is different: it's harsher, the volume higher but each event is also much shorter. Afaik, CHSRA has not yet contracted with anyone to make calibrated sound recordings that accurately reflect the noise emissions in various situations and at various speeds. Without those, how is anyone supposed to know what is and what isn't acceptable?

    The Italians build direttissima trunk lines through farmland and detour tracks through downtown areas. The latter have lower speed limits and typically connect to legacy tracks already present in the downtown areas. They don't have to deal with FRA rules on mixed traffic and exercising eminent domain against e.g. farmers is much easier than in California. Even so, the detour tracks add a lot of cost.

    Btw, maglev would be quieter but was rejected for the California network because of perceived technology risk, vendors who refused to participate in operations risk and the need to accommodate freight trains in e.g. the SF peninsula. Maglev needs more width per track than steels wheels trains do.

  41. I have not seen anything comparable for the Central Valley racetrack CHSRA is planning. For all I know, that 220mph figure only applies to the rural areas.

    But the run simulations and quoted timings (eg 2'42" SF-LA) imply 350 kph from Los Banos to Bakersfield...

    FWIW, CHSRA is clearly adhering closer to the Japanese model in designing this line than to the French model. Speaking of Japan, a nonstop Nozomi service from Hakata to Osaka (running through even more city centers than CHSRA!) would average 252 kph with a top speed of 300 kph. CHSRA's target for a nonstop SF-LA service is 259 kph with a top speed of 350 kph.

  42. CHSRA's 2008 Business Plan actually include $2.3 billion for ROW acquisition

    Well, the good news is that dramatic reductions in the cost of obtaining Central Valley ROW should offset possible unexpected expenditures in obtaining SJ-Gilroy ROW!

    Check out this somewhat problematic curve on the BNSF approach to Bakersfield. This is one of the only problematic curves in the Central Valley outside of Fresno.

    It seems like it would be nice to exercise eminent domain on the row of houses just north of the ROW and straighten that curve out. The sale prices for 3 houses on that block from 2007 to 2009:

    2007: $190k (3/2)
    2008: $148k (3/2)
    2009: $80k (4/3)

    No doubt virtually everyone in that neighborhood is under water right now. Many of them will be happy if CHSRA suddenly shows up and offers to pay off their mortgage and dispose of the property for them. You could probably buy all the properties you need for just a few million bucks. Then it's straight running through Bakersfield from there on.

  43. Rafael -

    The costs for ROW acquisition are just a roll up from the individual segments. The detail for the cost estimates are in the EIR. There are ZERO costs for the SJ-Gilroy segment.

  44. @anonymous. The unrolled costs for Gilroy-SJ are on page 4-A-22 of volume 2 of the EIR/EIS.

    They plan on purchasing roughly 38 hectares of low density suburban and undeveloped land for their ROW through that section.

  45. The detail for the cost estimates are in the EIR. There are ZERO costs for the SJ-Gilroy segment.

    Where is the table that breaks this down?

    $2.3 billion actually sounds pretty generous. They need around 360 miles of ROW from SJ to Sylmar, so that works out to $6 million/mile.

    The current market value of a one mile long, half-block wide row of houses in Fresno or Bakersfield, which are by far the densest parts of the Central Valley, is only $5 million!

    Even assuming that CHSRA pays well above market value and has to do pay for a substantial amount of reverse condemnation (i.e., acquire much more land than it needs), $2.3 billion is still a very big chunk of change for ROW acquisition in this area.

  46. The unrolled costs for Gilroy-SJ are on page 4-A-22 of volume 2 of the EIR/EIS.

    Thanks Andy. Posted before I saw your reply.

  47. Bikerider, I know that JR Central is planning to avoid the intermediate towns altogether. However:

    a) Those towns are much smaller than Fresno and Bakersfield,

    b) The detour necessary to serve them is much more significant, adding more length and more curves than SR-99 does, and

    c) The Fresno-sized cities that the Chuo Shinkansen does avoid, such as Shizuoka, already have access to the Tokaido Shinkansen.

  48. a) Those towns are much smaller than Fresno and Bakersfield

    Actually since geology dictates a Tehachapi alignment, Bakersfield wouldn't be a detour on an i-5 route.

    The mileage difference between a 99 alignment from Bakersfield through Fresno, to Los Banos (152), versus Bakersfield to Los Banos up the 5?

    About 12 miles.

    Seems worth it to me.

  49. Actually since geology dictates a Tehachapi alignment

    This is something that the Grapevine proponents seem to ignore. Actually, at an even more fundamental level, I would say that simple geometry dictates a Tehachapi alignment.

    The Grapevine rises over 2,000 feet in less than 8 miles. If you limit the alignment to an average grade of 3.5% (which is already pretty steep, even for HSR), then you reach the inescapable conclusion that you must build a continuous 10-12 mile tunnel through unknown geology. Doesn't sound like a good way to keep a lid on costs!

  50. @ mike -

    CHSRA also needs to buy ROW/air rights from BNSF for the critical LA-Fullerton section, they may need to widen about 1.12mi of the Caltrain ROW to 70 feet and perhaps also straighten some curves, e.g. San Bruno.

  51. That reminds me: how about moving the HSR stop from the Millbrae situation to the anyhow new San Bruno Caltrain station?

    Just run a spur off the AirTrain line to the long-term parking lot across 101 and over San Bruno Ave. That would be shorter than running the AirTrain all the way out to Millbrae station and, HSR passengers arriving by car could use the airport's long-term parking lot. If required, expanding capacity there via a multi-story car park would be straightforward enough.

    There's no reason why there couldn't be an AirTrain shuttle between San Bruno station and the long-term parking lot, independent of service into SFO. HSR operators might have to pay SFO a fee for providing this service as a courtesy to their customers traveling to or from San Bruno station.

  52. CHSRA also needs to buy ROW/air rights from BNSF for the critical LA-Fullerton section, they may need to widen about 1.12mi of the Caltrain ROW to 70 feet and perhaps also straighten some curves, e.g. San Bruno.

    Indeed. However, I think they will be able to manage.

    The current plan entail CHSRA buying ~1,000 hectares of land at an average price of $2.3 million/hectare. 90% or more of this land is farmland or undeveloped mountain/desert land. The current price of Central Valley farmland is $10k-15k/acre (i.e., $20k-30k/hectare). In other words, they can pay almost two orders of magnitude more than market value for much of the land they acquire and still come in under budget for ROW purchases.

  53. Mike:

    In point of fact, CalTrain has advised various City engineering departments they need 85 feet not 70 or 75 feet of space.

  54. In point of fact, CalTrain has advised various City engineering departments they need 85 feet not 70 or 75 feet of space.

    Sounds reasonable. CHSRA has specified the minimum ROW width as 71-72', but obviously you'd really like more than the minimum wherever you can get it. Fortunately 80% of the Caltrain ROW is 85' or wider. It certainly makes it easier to work in the constrained areas when they are relatively short and dispersed.

  55. @ mike -

    The length of individual tunnels is indeed just as important as total tunneled distance.

    According to CHSRA's Tunneling Report dated 2004 (p33 PDF):

    "Tunnel Length and Configuration

    The group concurred on several points regarding the length and cross-section of the tunnels. The
    attendees concurred with the tunnel configurations as presented in Chapter 4. Due to construction
    efficiency and fire-life-safety issues, twin single track tunnels should be assumed for lengths of 0-6 miles.
    See Appendix A. For lengths greater than 6 miles a third tunnel is required for ventilation, evacuation
    and construction access. See Appendix A. Additional infrastructure would be required for tunnels over 12
    miles in continuous length to accommodate crossovers necessary for safe and efficient train operations.

    Due to tunnel boring construction practices and equipment maintenance, the attendees suggested
    practical limit of 6-8 miles for a single tunnel heading. By using multiple headings (boring in both
    directions toward the midpoint of the tunnel segment) tunnel lengths of 12 miles could be achieved.
    However, based on the additional tunnel infrastructure (third tube) required, continuous tunnel lengths
    beyond 6 miles are also significantly more costly. In addition, the attendees raised issues regarding the
    size and limitations of current contracting practices that further support limiting the continuous length of
    tunnels. Tunnels of over 12 miles in total length were considered impractical."

    The Grapevine option would require more tunnel distance overall, but no individual tunnel would be longer that 6 miles (see p17 PDF). The issue is that the only lateral alignment that crosses both the Garlock and the San Andreas faults at grade runs very close to the Lake Castaic wildlife refuge.

    Also, there is far less scope for tweaking the alignment if exploratory tunneling reveals unexpected problems underground, the Antelope Valley is home to half a million people (albeit very spread out) and HSR has the potential to finally make Palmdale a viable relief airport for LAX.

    However, Palmdale's TOD plans are centered on the existing Metrolink station at E Ave P-12, which is 2 miles from the existing passenger terminal. Commercial service to PMD ended in January when subsidies ran out. LAWA, CHSRA and the city of Palmdale have no concrete plans to site the HSR station further north and enable a viable combo with a new passenger terminal.

  56. @ anon @ 19:03:

    the extra width may be required for a single shoofly track, in case the grade separation works are executed for all four permanent tracks at once instead.

    Also, informing the cities does not mean any private property needs to be purchased. Shoofly tracks can be built on frontage roads, but that has impacts on traffic incl. at grade crossings.

    Where that is not possible, construction has to be organized such that grade separations occurs for two tracks at a time. This is more complex and expensive.

    An alternative would be to substitute temporary bus service on El Camino Real and/or Alma/Central Expressway. However, train passengers don't take kindly to being herded into buses and, it would be expensive to provide sufficient capacity. It's not as if you can just lease a fleet of buses for a few years. They would have to be purchased and later repurposed for new routes or else sold off.

  57. The Grapevine option would require more tunnel distance overall, but no individual tunnel would be longer that 6 miles (see p17 PDF).

    So I don't totally understand how they can do that while going in a more or less straight line. The Grapevine rises over 2000 ft in 6 miles - the grade is 6-8%, sustained. And that's the least steep approach in that area! If you limit yourself to 3.5%, then you have to go into a tunnel. And the further you go, the deeper your tunnel is (relative to ground level), until the surface grade levels out.

    By the time you hit the 6 mile mark, you're 1000 feet underground. Then it takes you another 5 or 6 miles to get back up to surface level. The only way that you could avoid this is if you found a deep canyon in the mountains that afforded you a chance to "break out" for a moment in the middle before tunneling again.

  58. @ mike -

    pls take a look at the tunneling report I provided a link to. They don't itemize the length of each tunnel, but the graphics indicate that no single on is longer than 6 miles.

    It doesn't really make a huge difference, if shaving 12 minutes off the route were a top priority they could bite the bullet and build a longer tunnel with a service tube.

    Your point regarding the generally speed terrain and complex geology in the Grapevine is well taken. Even 6 miles is a really long tunnel in that neck of the woods.

  59. Adirondacker1280003 September, 2009 11:59

    It's not as if you can just lease a fleet of buses for a few years.

    Sure you can. WMATA buses have been know to lumber through the streets of Manhattan, when the Grumman fleet was abruptly taken out of service.

    There's enough buses in the Bay Area that if they need a few hundred buses all they would have to do is tweak purchasing schedules - keep buses for a few months longer than planned and buy a few buses earlier than planned. If they can't scare up enough buses that way they could come to an arrangement with Los Angeles. It would all melt away when the project is complete.

  60. Sure you can.

    Again, LA has done just this on sections of the Blue Line which, as stated before, gets way more ridership than said VTA line.

    You don't need enough busses to cover the entire route, you just need enough to cover the section between the affected stations. You get off the train and transfer to one of the waiting shuttle busses and ride it to the next available stop.

    It's sub-optimal, but what are we talking about here, 10k boardings/day, max on that line?

  61. @ adirondacker12800, AndyDuncan -

    I stand corrected. Obtaining a fleet of buses to provide bridging service during construction would be possible then.

    Caltrain ridership stats, Feb 2009:

    avg. weekday ridership: 39,122
    all-time record
    up 5.8% year-on-year
    up 85% since 1992

    Caltrain suffered severe ridership decline between 2001 and 2004. The introduction of "baby bullet" semi-express service level led to a 53% increase in ridership over 5 years.

    Avg pax/baby bullet: 549
    Avg pax/limited: 476
    Avg pax/local: 273

    Operating revenue 2008: $44.8m
    Total expenses 2008: $90.0m
    Subsidy rate: 50%

    Other commenters have expressed concern that extended use of temporary shuttle buses during remodeling of the ROW would sharply reduce ridership levels and establish alternate commute patterns that would be hard to reverse. Occasional service interruption of 1-2 weeks for major component projects would not deter customers from returning.

    Dunno if that's a realistic take. Certainly, three years of continuous remodeling is going to take a toll on ridership and have an impact on road traffic.

    One upside in the peninsula is that El Camino Real runs parallel to the tracks for tens of miles. South of Menlo Park, the frontage roads Alma and Central Expressway permit higher speeds.

  62. pls take a look at the tunneling report I provided a link to. They don't itemize the length of each tunnel, but the graphics indicate that no single on is longer than 6 miles.

    Thanks. The graphic on p. 15 appears to support my belief that the Grapevine would require a continuous tunnel of 12 miles in length or more, even at 3.5% grade, but perhaps I am missing something.

  63. Thanks. The graphic on p. 15 appears to support my belief that the Grapevine would require a continuous tunnel of 12 miles in length or more, even at 3.5% grade, but perhaps I am missing something.

    Not sure it's 12 miles, but it's certainly around 10 ish.

    The 2.5% grade tunnel is pretty much in tunnel the entire route. Other than the added risks of deep tunneling, why bother even putting it in as a grade at all? Just run it straight through like the Gotthard Base Tunnel. Sure, you'll have to dig some shafts and put in a rescue station or two. But the trains could run straight through at 200-ish MPH.

  64. @ mike, Andy Duncan -

    I guess now you're gonna make me go so an optometrist ;^)

    A base tunnel is what you excavate primarily for freight trains, including intermodal freight. The consequence is that you end up with a lot of overburden in the middle of the tunnel. If the rock there is weak - as it proved to be in some sections of the St. Gotthard, the walls need to be reinforced quickly to avoid a collapse.

    There are currently 4 base tunnels through the Alps in various stages of gestation, plus the Pajares tunnel (Spain) and Koralmtunnel (Austria). All in the 25-50km range.

    I'm sure UPRR and BNSF would love Father Christmas to bring them an 80km basis tunnel through the Grapevine, made of pure unobtainium. It would be the longest tunnel in the world, by a large margin.

  65. Maybe 10 or 12 or more small underground nuclear, clean explosive devices could be rigged and a base tunnel could be created in very little time.

  66. @ anon @ 10:34pm -

    "nuclear explosion" and "clean" in the same sentence. Is this your idea of a joke?

  67. Yes Yes Rafael.. I was not being serious.

    I really didn't take the base tunnel fantasy as serious either.

  68. Just released information for the upcoming "teach-in" being sponsored by the Peninsula Cities Consortium.

    Note the new location and now released details on the event.

    Saturday, September 12, 2009 from 9:00 AM - 3:30 PM (PT)


  69. @ anon @ 19:54 -

    ok, I'm relieved. The Soviets actually used a nuke in one of their oil reservoirs to increase production. Now, there's a huge glass dome down there and the wells had to be capped.

    And yes, a freight+passenger base tunnel through the Grapevine isn't going to happen.