Transbay Transit Center Cross Section
With the former chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority who has long opposed the proposed terminus setting the odds of high-speed rail ever reaching San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center at 50-50, the “will it just be a bus station” talk has resumed.
That being said, keep in mind the $400 million Transit Center train station box has already been funded and will likely still be used by Caltrain or Amtrak absent any high-speed rail service.
More Evidence Of A High Speed Snub For The Transbay Transit Center [SocketSite]
If high-speed rail never happens, Transbay center will be a bus stop [Examiner]
Transbay Center Plans: Revised, Refined, And Unveiled Today [SocketSite]
San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center About To Has Broken Ground [SocketSite]
A $400 Million High-Speed Stimulant for San Francisco’s Transbay [SocketSite]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by lol

    I surely hope we build HSR.
    As the Chinese say “Wealth doesn’t pass 3 generations”.
    The Greatest Generation that fought WWII and pulled us out of the GD built our current infrastructure.
    Boomers tried to maintain it, but Reaganomics and the “Government is not the solution. Government is the problem” idiots have helped us spend-if-forward.
    Now we need to renew our infrastructure, and HSR is not just an option, it’s a necessity. If we don’t build it we’re just the worthless 3rd generation that doesn’t recognize the value of hard work and forward thinking.

  2. Posted by BT

    When this thing was first talked about, I said it was a waste of money because “downtown” was coming too 4th and King–the railhead need not be moved to 1st and Mission. I believe it has happened as I said it would.

  3. Posted by James

    I agree, a real train station at 4th and king would be cheaper and less disruptive than first and mission, and could encourage growth in both eastern Soma and Mission Bay. It could also help establish the central subway as an essential transit link.

  4. Posted by lol

    4th and King are too far from the true center of the business district. If you build it away from Market it will lose a sizable bit of its appeal. Modern transportation is high speed and needs to go from downtown to downtown.
    Had we had to go through so many hoops, BART would never have been built. This 1970s piece of technology is the last big public transportation that was built in the City, which tells a lot about our priorities. If we do not build on the top of what our parents have built, we are bound to become irrelevant. Seeing how fast China is developing itself, I guess that’s what’s happening…

  5. Posted by Legacy Dude

    Agreed that Cali needs a lot of things, including better infrastructure like HSR. Sadly, few of these things will ever get built. Has precious little to do with generational gaps or civic priorities and everything to do with budgets: sorry kids, mom and dad can’t afford this choo choo set right now.
    I’ve ridden HSR in both Asia and Europe, and it’s great there. I’m a big believer in the concept, but it’s just not a viable reality here & now. We don’t have the money, urban planning foresight, or political will to make this work the way it should. Sorry to rain on the parade, but this won’t get built in our lifetimes, and we should just accept it now instead of wasting time daydreaming about it.

  6. Posted by lol

    We don’t have the money
    Yes we do. But we voted ourselves so many tax-cuts that all levels of governments are in deep deficits.
    This is EXACTLY the generation gap I was talking about. Good infrastructure brings higher revenue by helping business happen more efficiently. What you need to do is keep a bit of this added revenue to maintain yesterday’s infrastructure and then a bit to create TOMORROW’s.
    But nope. When things were good, we had tax cuts (to give folks their money back). When things were bad, we had more tax cuts (to help folks to spend more). Now that everything is close to be beyond repair, we are choosing to reduce government even some more.
    In the mean time our parent’s efforts are falling into disrepair. We were very lousy heirs.

  7. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Lack of budget as an excuse to abandon HSR is ridiculous. We have plenty of money to continuously incrementally upgrade the freeway system. Isn’t that project to add one lane to ten miles of I-405 down in LA budgeted as $1B alone? And what is the bill for the east span of the Bay Bridge going to be once the ribbon is cut?
    This isn’t a lack of capital problem, it is a lack of will to bite off a project of this size. Put a hold on the next decade’s worth of CalTrans freeway upgrades and you’ll have plenty of cash to build out HSR. Better to start now before gas reaches $10/gallon or Jet-A fuel goes even higher.

  8. Posted by sfrenegade

    “In the mean time our parent’s efforts are falling into disrepair. We were very lousy heirs.”
    Yeah, but our parents also screwed us by pushing their costs onto us.
    We do have the money to do this, however. It will cost much more to make our roads, airports, and other infrastructure more robust if we don’t have HSR.

  9. Posted by Adam

    HSR makes financial sense when you look at it in any one of a few different ways.
    First, it sharply reduces the pressure on airports and can put off or eliminate hugely expensive airport improvements/expansions.
    Second, just as the interstate highways helped create a suburban boom 50 years ago, HSR will help strengthen our cities and create economic growth in our cores. Not only SF & LA, but along the way, too. This is especially true of neglected central valley downtowns that we now just fly over (or drive past on 5, miles outside the urban cores).
    Third, a little bump in the cost of gasoline and everyone will be clamoring for rail options.
    Finally, a lot of this negative publicity about HSR is really being pushed by exurban Republican interests (who love government as long as it’s paving their roads and paying their favored contractors/contributors) who see HSR as a threat. They’re getting even more politically irrelevant in this state after redistricting, thank goodness.

  10. Posted by El-D

    Lack of budget as an excuse to abandon HSR is ridiculous.
    Agreed. I can’t say much for the political will, but the dollars are definitely there.

  11. Posted by vivaventura

    this is nothing but a politically-driven boondoggle and has nothing to do with business. the train is not supposed to carry any freight. and no business person I know will want to spend 3.5 hours in the train to get to L.A. to then have to take cabs from the train station to Century City or even figueroa. you can fly much cheaper and faster or you can drive and enjoy the flexibility of having a car. this could have worked in NYC/Boston where you go downtown to downtown – not a with a city sprawled out like LA – even there the Acela is a poor shadow of originally proposed design b/c they could not lay the tracks to have it go as fast as it can.
    and that itenerary – meandering among every single outcrop of civilization in the SJ valley the route looks nothing like the straight shot of I-5 and makes me dizzy just looking at it. but every little constituency needed to have the train come through it.
    and on the peninsula, the elevated lines and the noise will further devalue any properties within sight and sound of this monstrosity.
    there is an astonishing tendency in this country to think that just b/c China is doing something, that is necessarily the wave of the future – probably fueled by the same people who 20 years ago were teaching their kids Japanese. Folks outght to travel to China and see how the Chinese waste their money on useless public works projects just to keep their population from revolting. there are whole ghost cities built there inhabited by no one. this train to nowhere would be a fitting addition.

  12. Posted by vivabatista

    “First, it sharply reduces the pressure on airports”
    nonsense – LA to/from SFO traffic is a fraction of the LA/SFO total traffic and as noted above few people will regularly use this. besides, e.g., SFO’s expansion works fine now and no further expansions are needed.
    “Second, just as the interstate highways helped create a suburban boom 50 years ago, HSR will help strengthen our cities ….. especially true of neglected central valley downtowns that we now just fly over (or drive past on 5, miles outside the urban cores).”
    this may be a true goal but that is precisely why no one will ride this train. who wants to go on business to LA only to stop in Merced. by this logic, in order to revive Omaha and Detroit, we should all be taking Amtrak cross-country
    “Third, a little bump in the cost of gasoline and everyone will be clamoring for rail options.”
    no doubt – as gasoline went from 50 a barrel to over 120 the demand for this really skyrocketed. :-) no doubt those people who make the SF to LA daily commute will be relieved that they now have a rail option – all of five of them.
    “Finally, a lot of this negative publicity about HSR is really being pushed by exurban Republican interests (who love government as long as it’s paving their roads and paying their favored contractors/contributors) who see HSR as a threat.”
    Yes, it’s the Republicans. Easiest way to mobilize Democratic one-celled brains is to tell them that Dick Cheney hates HSR. While at it why not blame Reagan for the homeless urinating on Market street – I mean he was governor 40 years ago but once he cut mental hospitals, California was at the mercy of the urinators forever, right?

  13. Posted by Peninsulabound

    “not a with a city sprawled out like LA”, OR a city sprawled out like the Bay Area. As hard as we try to convince ourselves that the Bay Area is not like Los Angeles, I still feel that outside of San Francisco, the majority of the surrounding suburbs have a lifestyle and transit mobility similar to Los Angeles, vs. NYC or Boston. The center of economic gravity of the Bay Area is not Market and Montgomery, but about 25 miles south of that location.

  14. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    vivaventura – can you explain why someone arriving at a central train station must rely on taxi cabs? Wouldn’t rental cars be available at the station much as they are at airports?
    (I find it interesting that this HSR topic always tends to bring out never before heard from anti-rail posters like vivaventura. They have talking points but no history.)

  15. Posted by anon

    Well, California HSR not going to happen within the next 10 years…maybe not in our lifetimes. And that $400MM train box is worthless unless a few billion are spent building a tunnel to it….likely much more when the time finally comes.
    If this were such a great idea then BNSF or some other rail company would build it (and be profitable) without public funds.
    And China, LOL! How many people have actually spent some time in that polluted nightmare of a country. Watch the documentary film ‘Last Train Home’ and see what it is like to wait 24 hours a day for five days, outside in the rain and cold, for a train that may never come. What a sad joke.

  16. Posted by sfrenegade

    “nd no business person I know will want to spend 3.5 hours in the train to get to L.A. to then have to take cabs from the train station to Century City or even figueroa.”
    First, it’s 2 hours 40 mins on an SF to LA express. It takes at least that long when you include security, baggage claim, etc. on a plane.
    Second, people have to get from LAX, BUR, or LGB to wherever they’re going already. To say that people won’t do so from Union Station is silly.
    You can’t fly cheaper, especially not with airfare these days, and especially not if you look at airfare projections in the future.
    “and that itenerary – meandering among every single outcrop of civilization in the SJ valley the route looks nothing like the straight shot of I-5 and makes me dizzy just looking at it. but every little constituency needed to have the train come through it.”
    Trains need to go where people are. Beetfield stations don’t do much. HSR is meant to alleviate traffic on CA 99 as well as I-5.
    “there is an astonishing tendency in this country to think that just b/c China is doing something”
    Stop right there. European countries already did this. Spain’s HSR line is very similar to California in density/distance. This has little to do with China specifically, but rather having better infrastructure in places that need it.
    “and on the peninsula, the elevated lines and the noise will further devalue any properties within sight and sound of this monstrosity.”
    Not true. Eliminating grade crossings will eliminate whistles. Electric trains will be quieter than diesel. They will be going only 125mph on the Peninsula, and not everything will be elevated. Stop repeated lies spread by Peninsula NIMBYs who live on a 100+ year old right of way.

  17. Posted by Adam

    Wow, Ventura, you’re way out in left field here…
    Travel time SF-LA is 2:38. Not 3.5 hours.
    “Train to nowhere”? WTF? Downtown SF thru SFO, San Jose, downtowns of the central valley, downtown LA? That’s nowhere?
    “not supposed to carry freight”: HSR has nothing to do with freight. Miss.
    LA public transport is improving over time, and downtown LA has become much more livable – if you need to to Century City then maybe HSR isn’t your choice, you can still fly to LAX. This is for downtown-downtown connectivity which:
    A – doesn’t exist now, and
    B – takes a lot of pressure off the airlines.
    C – makes downtowns more viable economically
    As for “meandering every single outcrop…” of the central valley, there are a grand total of 3 stops there on the SF-LA route, all aligned on the 99 corridor. This is the fastest part of the route, which, once again, comes in at only 2 hours thirty eight minutes.

  18. Posted by lol

    A couple of points out there:
    - Point #1 – HSR is good for downtown-to-downtown but in LA it brings you nowhere where you want to be because there’s no public transit.
    >>> This amounts to “we cannot build infrastructure because we have no infrastructure to accept it”. I am calling out this chicken/egg BS. If HSR is bound to arrive in LA, expect locals to beg for better local transit. LA is a city of cities. In 1900 LA had an extensive surface rail system connecting all these vital nodes. They were torn out to make place for roads. Rebuilding this network (surface, elevated, underground) should be on the top of the priorities to make LA more people friendly.
    - We would need to take money from roads to put it into HSR.
    >>> While I see the attraction this can have to rebalance transit choices, I totally disagree that we have to undress CALTRANS to dress HSR. We can do both. And we have done more challenging things in the past. A country that managed to create a nuclear bomb along with the very first nuclear power plants in less than 10 years would not be capable to dig deep enough to build such a high ROI system as public transit? Heck, we got to the moon in 8 years! Of course we can! All we need is get all sane people together and vote where it matters. I am sure they’d get a majority. Of course if we let the Tea Party steer the budget debate towards starving and shrinking government for one-time corporate windfalls/tax breaks, the US will become a shadow of what he was.

  19. Posted by rubber_chicken

    Build the damn thing! HSR can come later, but it definitely won’t at all if the station is not there to receive it.
    And spend those Federal dollars as fast as you can, to get it done! After all, California only gets about 70 cents back from the Feds for each $1.00 paid in taxes:
    http://www.mtc.ca.gov/maps_and_data/GIS/maps/monthly/Blue_vs_Red.pdf

  20. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “If this were such a great idea then BNSF or some other rail company would build it (and be profitable) without public funds.”
    Is that like if highway travel were such a great idea then a private company would build a profitable tollway? Where are they?
    In addition to publicly subsidized freeways we also have a heavily subsidized airline industry. It isn’t fair to expect privately funded rail to compete with our existing heavily subsidized roads and airports.
    This article is about the funding of the transbay train box. I agree that whether or not HSR comes to SF the train box will be useful to Caltrain (not so much Amtrak since there’s no direct Amtrak rail service to SF). But the real cost is tunneling into the train box.
    If this were my project I’d have canned the transbay HSR terminal and terminated at 4th and King because that’s significantly cheaper with little impact on travelers. There are plenty of successful HSR stations that aren’t located in the city’s center. Central stations are nice to have but not required.

  21. Posted by Legacy Dude

    Back to the budget issue, we really do not have the money to pay for this without taking it from somewhere else or taxing for it. So we let our roads fall apart to spend 20 years building a white elephant that may not even have sufficient ridership to break even?
    Since we live in California, whatever the budget estimate is, you can go ahead and double it. And even at twice the cost it will still be built years behind schedule after all the cost escalations & overruns, delays, archeological excavations, spotted dung worm preservation efforts, protests, environmental studies, bla bla bla.
    Even if they do complete it in my lifetime, of which I’m doubtful, who’s going to ride it? The majority of SF/LA transit is business people making day trips. I know – I do this myself at least 3x/month. Flying + rental car gets me to meetings anywhere around LA by 9am and then home for dinner, same day. Oakland to Burbank is a 50 minute flight, and you only need to be 20-30 minutes ahead of flight time for either airport.
    In other words, I can go door to door from my house in SF to a meeting in LA in the same time I would spend just riding this (and that’s assuming it lives up to speed expectations, which I also doubt). Sorry, but business people are not going to spend 6 hours/day on a train, not even if Southwest triples its fares. Especially if they still need to drive an hour once they arrive.
    This is California. We do not have Europe’s density or common sense approach to transit, nor do we have China’s budget + totalitarian regime. I would love to be wrong, but I just don’t think HSR is a valid concept here today.

  22. Posted by anon

    I would love to be wrong, but I just don’t think HSR is a valid concept here today.
    That’s why it’s being built for ten years from now.
    LA and Bay Area density has increased substantially over the past 20 years, and there’s no reason to think that that isn’t going to continue.
    I’ll pledge to buy 40 tickets per year each way now, if that helps any. I fly to the LA area around four times a month, but there are some locations that flying might still be more convenient, so I’ll plan on taking eight flights per year.
    My most common trip of OAK to SNA+rental car would be blown away by a train (because of where the Anaheim station is), even if the time ends up being five hours door-to-door.

  23. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “So we let our roads fall apart to spend 20 years building a white elephant that may not even have sufficient ridership to break even?”
    I’m not recommending allowing the roads to crumble. Keep the budget to maintain roads that exist today. Take from the capital budget for expanding road capacity.
    We’ve already reached the point of diminishing returns on road expansion for most of California’s cities. Rail is a lot more efficient and can support growth better. Like anon@3:36 said, this is being planned for the state of our cities 10+ years from now (when adding lanes and enlarging interchanges will offer even less benefit).

  24. Posted by sfrenegade

    “We do not have Europe’s density or common sense approach to transit, nor do we have China’s budget + totalitarian regime. I would love to be wrong, but I just don’t think HSR is a valid concept here today.”
    Spain’s AVE line between Barcelona and Madrid (6 hours by car, 2 hours 38 mins by train) is similar to California’s HSR proposal between SF and LA, in both density and distance, and it has succeeded in taking away traffic from most of the former flights between those two cities, and the Madrid-Sevilla line definitely created additional travel:
    http://www.cahsrblog.com/2010/03/another-look-at-spains-hsr-success/ — references the following NYT article:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/16/science/earth/16train.html
    Even the Sacramento Bee thought CAHSR compared well to TGV in France between Paris and Lyon (and Marseille):
    http://burritojustice.com/2011/05/24/do-not-fail-high-speed-rail/
    But hey, I’ve never accused California of having a vision for the future. Far better to cave to NIMBYs, as usual, and say it can’t be done, I’m sure.

  25. Posted by Mark F.

    Spain’s high speed rail system is costing the country $6 billion Euros a year and is only carrying 1% of the traffic of conventional rail. In addition, fares are so high that the bus is now the preferrred mode of travel for students and lower income people.
    We already have high speed travel between San Francisco and LA–it’s called Southwest Airlines.

  26. Posted by anon

    ^Um, can I make some wild claims that aren’t backed by any sources or based on reality too?!?! This sounds fun.
    “High Speed Rail in Spain literally requires hitching up each train to a team of flying pigs! We don’t even have flying pigs in California!”
    I think my statement is actually more grounded in fact than yours, now that I re-read it. 1% of the traffic of conventional rail – LOL!

  27. Posted by Legacy Dude

    Uh huh. Good intentions aside, I still haven’t heard any resounding cries of, “I will ride this!” aside from anon at 3:36. Hundreds of us do OAK or SFO to Burbank, LAX, SNA, San Diego, or Ontario on a regular basis.
    So show of hands, please…which of you regular business commuters look forward to spending 6 hours/day on a train rather than 2 on a plane? How expensive does airfare have to get before this becomes a viable alternative?
    And regarding the thought of this being built in only 10 years and on budget…I’ll believe that after I take my first ride on the Potrero subway.

  28. Posted by A.T.

    Is SF-LA really going to take 6 hours? That is not very high-speed. I had thought it would be four hours. At four hours, I would take it in a heartbeat assuming it is not more than about 20% more expensive than flying. Given taxi time on both ends and security and air travel headaches/unreliability, that would make it about wash time-wise, and I’d pay more to be able to work all that time and just get on and get off with nothing more.
    At six hours, I’d probably fly.
    I’m a huge rail fan, but my time is also pretty valuable. I was in our Munich office last month and had planned to take the German high speed ICE to Berlin, but one of my partners said everybody flies because it is cheaper and much quicker. He was right on both counts, and I flew to Berlin. Flight was packed, and cheap, and convenient, and on time (2.5 hours instead of 9). I’d rather go by train, but not at the expense of all else.

  29. Posted by Legacy Dude

    A.T. – 2 hours 40 minutes one way for HSR – supposedly – vs. 50 minutes one way Oakland to Burbank. So call it 6 hours vs. 2 hours of daily travel time.
    Anyway, here’s an interesting article I found:
    “Critics say the AVE will never stop losing money. Even its backers say high-speed rail can only be economical if the state bears much of the construction costs. But they say the train’s benefits-lower greenhouse-gas emissions, less road congestion and, in Spain’s case, greater social cohesion and economic mobility-make it an investment worth making.”
    Purrrfect, because we here in Cali love things that never stop losing money! Like “investment” real estate, tech companies, and so forth.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124018395386633143.html

  30. Posted by anon

    I love the false choice of 6 hours in a train versus 2 hours in a plane.
    I WISH that my weekly flights only took up an hour of time in each direction. If that were the case (any of the time), I might agree that HSR is a waste. Since even three hours is stretching it (show up half hour before, which is doable at OAK and BUR and maybe ONT, but none of the other airports – 30 minutes prior at LAX?!?! You’re waiting for the next flight, buddy), that seems closer to a good choice.
    I would say that my flights run on time about 75% of the time, so a good one in four times I’m looking at more than three hours (last week the total was five, with an hour delay leaving OAK on Tues and almost a two hour delay out of SNA). HSR, at least if we build to the specs of other countries, runs like clockwork and is on time upwards of 98% of the time, which is about the same as BART (BART is 99%).

  31. Posted by tipster

    1 Hour ago:
    Curt Pringle resigned today from the embattled California High-Speed Rail Authority board, saying he is doing so to “focus my attention on my company and my other responsibilities.”
    http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2011/07/pringle-quits-high-speed-rail.html
    This project is so not happening.

  32. Posted by PJ

    People are deluding themselves if they think flying to LA only consumes an hour of their time. Add in security, boarding, baggage collection and you’re not that far off from the proposed HSR time, but you get to do without the TSA taking your dignity in the process. That, coupled with the ability to immediately connect to the internet while riding the train until the moment you step off and you’re probably ahead of the game being able to work while in transit.

  33. Posted by Alai

    People who say LA has no public transit are ill-informed. Today, there are two subways which connect to LA Union Station where HSR will go. There is an extensive bus network.

  34. Posted by El-D

    Is that like if highway travel were such a great idea then a private company would build a profitable tollway?
    Yes, that’s exactly what people mean. Of course, they’re the same people who don’t ever expect the 101 to turn a profit.

  35. Posted by FormerAptBroker

    Legacy Dude wrote:
    > Uh huh. Good intentions aside, I still
    > haven’t heard any resounding cries of,
    > “I will ride this!” aside from anon at
    > 3:36. Hundreds of us do OAK or SFO to
    > Burbank, LAX, SNA, San Diego, or Ontario
    > on a regular basis.
    HSR is like LBS (Local Book Stores) there are a lot of people that love the concept, but when it comes down to it most people will buy a cheap book on Amazon and take a cheap flight from Southwest.
    The difference with HSR is that it will cost so much that the politicians will probably subsidize it for many years before pulling the plug (It won’t just close up quietly after losing money like so many local book stores).

  36. Posted by anon

    ^Yes, because like local book stores, we can all point to failed HSR systems all over the world.
    Oh wait.

  37. Posted by Toady

    “People are deluding themselves if they think flying to LA only consumes an hour of their time.”
    You think that HSR wouldn’t be a terrorist target as much as an plane? I don’t think the Spanish would agree with you.
    We have no money for HSR. Rather than spending time blaming people who know that California is bankrupt, maybe you should be looking at those who have wasted the already large sums we’re sending to Sacramento or have funneled into the piggy banks of the well-connected and who get people elected.
    Rather than bleating that we need to spend even more money, perhaps we should look at things we shouldn’t be spending on today and funnel money to HSR.
    Then come back to us.

  38. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “You think that HSR wouldn’t be a terrorist target as much as an plane?”
    Absolutely not. Sure any place that people gather is a target for mass murder but there’s no comparison to a highly vulnerable vehicle that will fall thousands of feet if slightly damaged. The tiny bombs that have been used or attempted against air flight to cause hundreds of deaths wouldn’t do much to HSR. Even though a larger bomb could cause some death and injury the numbers are far lower than what would happen in a ruptured airframe at 40,000 feet.
    “I don’t think the Spanish would agree with you.”
    Bad comparison. That was multiple large bombs in a crowded standing-room-only commuter train. The target was a crowd and the fact that it occurred on a train was almost incidental.
    “…perhaps we should look at things we shouldn’t be spending on today and funnel money to HSR. Then come back to us.”
    Done. See my comments above about redirecting funds from roadway capacity expansion.

  39. Posted by anon

    You think that HSR wouldn’t be a terrorist target as much as an plane? I don’t think the Spanish would agree with you.
    The Spanish absolutely agree with him, which is why they don’t have TSA-style security on the AVE. I’ve walked onto an AVE train after arriving at the station five minutes before departure time (two months ago). Certainly not possible with a commercial plane in Spain.

  40. Posted by Toady

    “which is why they don’t have TSA-style security on the AVE. ”
    And they’re not in the United States. TSA is an American invention. It would just take one bomb for our government to impose TSA on rail. Just one.
    As for Milkshake’s proposal to take away roadway expansion, then I’m in favor of eliminating our high gas tax (among other things) that are supposed to fund it.
    I’m seeing the usual false equivalence of HSR and roadways. HSR is for long-distance travel as it is currently proposed. Comparisons to air are apt. Comparisons to cars are not. Cars are primarily a commuter mode of transportation. There’s no way anyone is going to take HSR to work. That’s ridiculous.
    If you’re going to move roadway expansion dollars, move it to LOCAL transit, not HSR. Roadway expansion is for increasing capacity in-region, not across region.

  41. Posted by lol

    We have no money for HSR.
    We do. Repeal Prop 13 and the Bush tax gifts. These 2 money sucking schemes are bankrupting CA and the US.
    Sorry to break it to you, but the US was a much healthier country when our tax rates were higher. Think the 50s and humongous marginal rates. Think the 90s before the Bush tax gifts.
    This country was built on private enterprise helped by a coordinated and well funded Federal Government. The discourse since the 80s has been that everything government is bad, and this lie has been sold to the little guy by… guess who?… private entities who are now thriving on much lower tax rates.
    As I said earlier, we are voting ourselves out of our future. Let’s accept a few 100s less on our paycheck and we’ll fund retirement, our kids’ education, our healthcare, the infrastructure that will keep this the greatest country on earth.

  42. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “…then I’m in favor of eliminating our high gas tax (among other things) that are supposed to fund it…
    Don’t make me laugh. The gas tax hasn’t been raised in two decades and is ridiculously low. It doesn’t come anywhere near covering the costs of maintaining roads let alone capacity expansion. So there’s another funding source: increase the gas tax so it can fund our current USDOT and CalTrans run rates and then redirect the funds that are currently funding roads for HSR.
    We seem to have unlimited funds for our massive freeway system yet only crumbs for alternative modes.

  43. Posted by anon

    And they’re not in the United States. TSA is an American invention. It would just take one bomb for our government to impose TSA on rail. Just one.
    It would take one bomb to impose TSA on buses, just one. And one bomb to impose TSA on cruise ships, just one. And one bomb to impose TSA on freeway entrances, just one. And one bomb to impose TSA on subway systems, just one. And one bomb to impose TSA on entrances to skyscrapers, just one. And one bomb to impose TSA on commuter rail systems, just one. And one bomb to impose TSA on any other place that people congregate, just one.
    The fact that we overreact and impose TSA on any and everything isn’t a strike against HSR, since we’ll do it with anything.

  44. Posted by A.T.

    2 hours and 40 minutes from SF to LA? Yeah, I’d take the rail option in a heartbeat.
    That’s not to say HSR makes any sense economically. I’m just saying that if it were built and the costs were sunk, and the fares were at least within spitting distance of one another, I’d take that rail option of the uncertainty and inconvenience of flying any day.
    When gas is $10/gal. (and it will get there not too long from now) rail will make more sense, and since these projects take many, many years, the time to start is now.

  45. Posted by Boris

    And they’re not in the United States. TSA is an American invention. It would just take one bomb for our government to impose TSA on rail. Just one.
    So, wait. You claim that the “Spanish won’t agree with you” on security for HSR trains, I suppose because there was a commuter train bombed a decade ago, then your rebuttal, when shown that they in fact DO NOT in fact use heavy security on HSR trains, is to say, “Well, darn it, they’re not the US!”
    LOL.

  46. Posted by Toady

    “Sorry to break it to you, but the US was a much healthier country when our tax rates were higher. Think the 50s and humongous marginal rates. Think the 90s before the Bush tax gifts.”
    Sorry to break it to you, but taxing the “rich” doesn’t even come close to closing the gap. Raise all you want, but what ends up happening is that capital flows freely out of high tax regions.
    Raise taxes, see it leave, and get nothing in return. It doesn’t work.
    “The fact that we overreact and impose TSA on any and everything isn’t a strike against HSR, since we’ll do it with anything.”
    If people are going to use the time it takes to get on a plane, then lets talk about why it takes so long, which is security. If the same security is applied to HSR as it is on a plane, then it will take just as long to get on a train.

  47. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “If the same security is applied to HSR as it is on a plane, then it will take just as long to get on a train.”
    While there should be security precautions anywhere large groups gather, there’s no reason that they need to be as stringent as for air travel. Aircraft by nature are more vulnerable to damage from within compared to ground vehicles.
    The only HSR trains I know that have any security delay at all are the Eurostar runs through the Chunnel. I’ve only taken that route a few times and the security delay was minimal, maybe two minutes. Every other train allows you to walk aboard seconds prior to departure if you’re so inclined.

  48. Posted by lol

    Sorry to break it to you, but taxing the “rich” doesn’t even come close to closing the gap. Raise all you want, but what ends up happening is that capital flows freely out of high tax regions.
    Not if these companies want to do business in the US.
    What has happened is that these huge tax breaks have happened along with irresponsible deregulation. We were sold the whole package under the “trickle down” theory that proved to be the biggest transfer of wealth scam in human history. Give the upper crust “their” money and allow money to flow as freely as possible. It will end up into everyone’s pockets. Trickle down has turned out to be a Trickle up. 95% of citizens have seen almost nothing of the money transferred to the upper 5%. Now our retirement, healthcare, education, infrastructure are about to slowly fade away.
    The jobs created in the 00s were an illusion, created on debt contracted mostly by the citizenry and the government (a higher level of the citizenry), not “trickle down”. The debt is now due and the “trickle down” people have already moved their assets into safe havens like GLD, SLV or overseas.
    The 30 year Reaganomics experiment is over. Let’s not be scammed by the latest maneuver to strip us out of what is left.

  49. Posted by anon

    If the same security is applied to HSR as it is on a plane, then it will take just as long to get on a train.
    Sure. But no such regulations exist NOW for trains and no talk has been made of changing policy to reflect what you see as happening. Your response to that is that they WILL exist as soon as one of the trains is blown up.
    So…now we’re deciding what we should and shouldn’t do based on the expectation that a terrorist will blow something up and we’ll change policy then? What kind of sense does that make?

  50. Posted by Legacy Dude

    Even in Spain, where they consider this a success, it’s losing money. From what I’ve read, the French TGV is also a money loser and is subsidized by the rest of the SNCF system.
    So the plan here is to spend money we don’t have to build this – we can’t really say how much it’ll cost or how long it will take. Once operational, we’ll spend more money that we don’t have to subsidize it, because A.T. and anon will be the only two people riding it. Well, not really, because with California’s political environment it will take 20 years to build, and both A.T. and anon will be retired by then.
    Talk to me when gas actually hits $10/gallon, Southwest flights are $1K+, and building this makes financial sense. Until then, no thanks.

  51. Posted by Samuel

    I envy people who can show up 30mins prior and get onboard without issue and I envy people whose flight always leaves on time. Because that has not been my experience, especially in the madhouse that is LAX. Every single one of my LAX flight is delayed to some degree and I once had a LAX-SF delayed for four hours.
    With a flight, you have to show up one hour in advance. With a train, 20 mins. So basically it’s 2HR flight vs. 3HR HSR one way, assuming of course that your flight leaves on time.
    I’m assuming that you don’t have to book a HSR weeks in advance like you do a flight, and a rail ticket is less than a flight ticket. It’s a no brainer for me, I’ll take the HSR. Less hassle, more reliable, cheaper. So what if I lose an hour each way, I’ll just spend it surfing the net.
    My understanding is that HSR should not be taking customers (business flyers) away from the airline industry because that’s socialism, that’s bad. Its targeted customers should be drivers, Greyhound riders, Amtrack riders, and casual travelers who otherwise would have just stayed home.

  52. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Dude – Almost every transportation system is subsidized (i.e. “losing money”) including every major transport mode in the USA. So you might want to direct your disdain for money losing systems to bigger targets like air and roadway travel.
    And if you wait until gas hits $10 to start on HSR it might be $20/gallon before the system becomes operational. Now is the time to start.

  53. Posted by Legacy Dude

    Oh, OK. So since we already subsidize roads and airlines, let’s subsidize rail as well. What the hell – not like California or the U.S. have any budget issues at the moment, right?
    Samuel and anon, my flight experience has been much different than yours. OAK to BUR is only $400 round trip for flights tomorrow. Book a week in advance and it’s half that. I show up to either airport ~30 minutes before departure and have never missed a flight – check-in takes 15 minutes max. If a flight is delayed or cancelled, there are over 10 daily directs each way. Sorry to sound like a Southwest commercial, but this has been my personal experience. I avoid SFO and LAX if I can – OAK to BUR route is much easier and rarely delayed. YMMV.
    And if this train isn’t for business travelers, who is it for? Because casual travelers will not take a 3-hour train to LA and then rent a car down there. They’ll just drive down the 5 in their own cars.
    Anyway, I’m done with this topic, but as before, I would like to propose we funnel these funds into teleporter research – I think it has a higher likelihood of being successful than HSR.

  54. Posted by anon

    @Legacy Dude – you seem to think that the choice is:
    1. Build HSR and subsidize it
    2. Don’t build it and spend nothing
    In reality, the choice is:
    1. Build HSR and possibly subsidize the operations (most HSR systems are operationally profitable, depends on how you tweak the fares – Spain decided to go for maximum overall ridership ahead of operational profitability. Acela, for example, goes for operational profitability over maximum ridership)
    2. Don’t build HSR and build more highway lane-miles and airport runways, which we KNOW will require operational subsidies
    Status quo bias is understandable, but try to look at the bigger picture and understand that the current method does cost substantial operating subsidies, and scaling up with more lanes and runways will not decrease the amount of operational subsidies, but simply add more.

  55. Posted by lol

    MoD, perfectly agreed.
    From what I’ve read, the French TGV is also a money loser and is subsidized by the rest of the SNCF system.
    Please send us a link. The SNCF usually makes a profit. Not a small feat for a government controlled entity in a country very eager to have the best of the best even if it comes at the taxpayer’s expense (best retirement, best healthcare, best nuclear coverage, best rail transport).
    We are stuck in the 1980s culture of “all little guys can become millionaires if only the government would let them do it”. To allow 5% to live the American Dream we are stripping off the 95% others from their chance of a decent life and the hope of a better one for their kids.
    This a democracy, a majority based system. How did we get there?
    (I blame Murdoch, everybody does)

  56. Posted by lol

    not like California or the U.S. have any budget issues at the moment, right?
    Typical of the current discourse in the GOP.
    Starve the government.
    See it borrow to continue its operations.
    Say there’s no more money and cut off big chunks of the government along with everything good it was doing.
    Real shame.

  57. Posted by anon

    OAK to BUR is typically pretty hassle-free, I’ll agree with you there.
    However, that accounts for less than 20% of the Bay Area to LA area market. Flying into Burbank simply doesn’t work if you’re going to most parts of the Southland, as it’s tucked into the northern corner and you’re then dependent on some rather nasty freeways to get anywhere very far to the south.
    OAK is definitely better than SFO, but it does still take me at least 35-40 minutes (60+ if I pick the wrong time) to get there from where I live. An HSR station downtown or at 4th and King would be less than a ten minute cab ride.
    Most folks here also often like to talk about how all of the jobs are now south of SF. Well, thankfully, HSR would have three stations south of SF but still in the Bay Area. Diridon Station in SJ will be about two hours from LA, yet SJC is pretty much the exact same amount of time away from BUR or the other LA airports as OAK and SFO are.

  58. Posted by Legacy Dude

    My last post here, but here are some links:
    “one in five TGV services now lose money”
    http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2010/03/02/as-sncf-loses-its-public-focus-the-future-of-french-rail-is-in-question/
    Saw other articles saying that as many as 1/3 TGV services are in the red – you can use google yourself to check.
    Here’s a quick one on all the jobs this will create:
    http://www.businessinsider.com/americas-new-high-speed-rails-will-be-built-by-china-2010-1
    In any case, I have better things to do than get in a link-off on this, so will let you folks resume the daydreaming. Being broke is just rhetoric, bullet trains and unicorns for all! Woo-hoo!

  59. Posted by lol

    LD, I see you’re a glass 1/5 empty kind of guy

  60. Posted by sfrenegade

    “vs. 50 minutes one way Oakland to Burbank”
    Wrong. Even the shortest scheduled itinerary from OAK-BUR is 65 mins. Some are 70, particularly when flying the reverse. “It’s only 15-20 mins,” but it’s 30-40% more. Make it SFO-LAX, and many of the itineraries are 80 mins. And that doesn’t include when my flights have been 30-90 mins late, which is routine (at least 50% of the time, if not more, and probably about 100% of the time when flying at peak hours).
    In contrast, 2 hrs 38 mins on a train that is rarely ever late? I’ll take it all the time. Add wifi, a coffee cart, and nice picture windows, while I can actually get work done vs. sitting in cattle class in a loud pressurized tin can and getting random fees added to my trip ad nauseum with service that gets crappier every year.
    The TSA/bomb thing is a red herring (yes, we have an itchy trigger finger and don’t do anything that really protects against these things), and so is price (ever increasing, the day of routine $39 each way tickets is gone).
    “German high speed ICE to Berlin”
    ICE trains don’t go fully high speed to Berlin. Very few sections of line are capable of 300 kph right now (only Frankfurt-Koln, and halfway between Nurnberg and Munich). Frankfurt to Berlin is currently a combo of 250-280 kph lines and 100-230 kph lines (for the latter, think Acela, which is not high speed rail). California’s system will be capable of a higher speed than that, although it will go only 125 mph on the Peninsula.

  61. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “So since we already subsidize roads and airlines, let’s subsidize rail as well.”
    I’m not saying that subsidies are a good idea just that the playing field between transport modes should be level, especially to a new entry that is strategically more sustainable than the others.
    Alternatively take away all of the subsidies and you’ll get your $10+/gallon for gas right away.

  62. Posted by Boris

    What does that even mean – “one in five TGV services now lose money.” Why would we care if the overall operation is profitable?
    Every company uses loss leaders, that doesn’t mean that those companies are not profitable. I don’t see anything in that article that implies that SNCF is losing money on TGV operations, in fact I see the exact opposite.
    Is Google not a profitable company because the Chrome group isn’t turning a profit?
    Bizarre line of reasoning, Legacy Dude.

  63. Posted by BobN

    The tiny bombs that have been used or attempted against air flight to cause hundreds of deaths wouldn’t do much to HSR. Even though a larger bomb could cause some death and injury the numbers are far lower than what would happen in a ruptured airframe at 40,000 feet.
    Sure, if the bomb went off while the train was sitting at a station. That would be better than a bomb going off on a place sitting at the gate. However, moving at 200 mph, a bomb would be a catastrophe with hundreds dead. The severity of an accident is why it’s so important to separate the rail line completely and maintain such high safety standards.
    There’s no security at rail stations in Europe, not because there shouldn’t be, but because there can’t be the level needed or, more realistically, because they don’t see our TSA-style “security” as particularly useful.

  64. Posted by sfrenegade

    “Every company uses loss leaders, that doesn’t mean that those companies are not profitable.”
    Yeah, and in fact, airlines use it quite frequently. Certain international routes are known for this and are kept because “you have to have that route” and “everyone else has that route” and “it’s a prestige route.” Some domestic cities fall in that category too — Hawaii flights can be a good example, especially in the off-season.
    When you start naming things that are true of pretty much any business, you’ve really run out of criticism.
    It took more than 50 years for San Francisco to build out its transit plans from the 1930s. What will happen in the next 50 years?

  65. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    BobN – I disagree that a bomb while the train is in motion would cause as much harm as you suggest. The undercarriage of a train is very robust compared to an airliner’s fuselage so it would take a much larger charge (which is easier for security to detect) to cause a derailment. And even if there was a derailment you wouldn’t have “hundreds dead”. No doubt there would be fatalities near the bomb and some additional due to the derailment but hardly hundreds. Even the Eschede disaster only left about a hundred dead and that’s pretty much the worst case and a scenario that HSR designers now eliminate through design (i.e. no central posts on the ROW).
    Certainly HSR is vulnerable to terrorism but it is nowhere near the exposure that air travel has. This terrorism angle is simply FUD created to discredit HSR. Anyone worried about bombs on railways should instead be concerned about the exact same thing happening on a crowded weekday Caltrain run. Or at an Giants game. Or Castro on Halloween. Or Bay to Breakers. Or any number of other vulnerable crowds.

  66. Posted by lol

    In 1983 Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (aka Carlos) put a bomb in a TGV. 5 dead that include the dead at the train station where another bomb was planted. I think “only” one person died in the train itself.
    The key with HSR safety is that the whole train is pretty rigid. Part of the design revolves around a “backbone” structure around the very solid frame and attachments. Not grand-dad wobbly round-axle connector… If the train is compromised by an explosion, it is highly unlikely to break up. Soft parts will give out, but the solid frame will be very tough to bend.
    Even if it derails, the mass and momentum are so huge that the train will go straight along and slow down by pure friction.
    What happened with the German crash was a totally freak accident. Wagons folded over each other simply because of a physical obstacle (bridge). How many car crash deaths in the US in one year?

  67. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    If there was 2 hr 40 min HSR trips to LA I would take them at least once a month.
    If we don’t build this, we will have to build another few airports to handle all the increased air traffic and that will cost almost as much.

  68. Posted by sfrenegade

    In 1983 Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (aka Carlos) put a bomb in a TGV. 5 dead that include the dead at the train station where another bomb was planted. I think “only” one person died in the train itself.
    In the Sendai earthquake, no one died on Shinkansen. In fact, Shinkansen’s automated system threw the emergency brakes for all trains because it detected seismic action above a certain threshold. This is a passive safety system, and didn’t require a driver to do this.
    Even if it derails, the mass and momentum are so huge that the train will go straight along and slow down by pure friction.
    In the Chuetsu earthquake, 8 cars of a 10-car Shinkansen did derail, but none of the 154 passengers were injured. It was the first derailment of Shinkansen ever. http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/investor/ar/2005/pdf/ar2005_17.pdf

  69. Posted by castrogurl

    I would also love this option. Husband travels to LA for business, and now we are contemplating our next trip to LA to visit the grandparents, with two small children in tow. We hate doing the airport with the TSA patdowns and the delays, but driving the I-5 for 6-8 hours is also no fun. Wish we had HSR as an alternative, would be great for non-business travelers also.

  70. Posted by eric

    “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

  71. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Why would we care if the overall operation is profitable? Every company uses loss leaders, that doesn’t mean that those companies are not profitable…Bizarre line of reasoning, Legacy Dude.

    I agree with most of this. But the justification for public undertakings can’t just be simply the same as a profit-seeing private company.
    I believe it was Rachel Maddow who said recently that “we didn’t launch Apollo 11 to put a man on the moon because we knew ahead of time that some company would be able to turn a profit off of it.”

  72. Posted by serenity now

    How many schools do we want to close to run these trains?

  73. Posted by lol

    ^^^I don’t think the Moon program is really a good analogy there. No-one knew what the potential benefits of moon exploration would provide. They simply did it and hoped we’d get ahead in the process. In some ways, it did, if only by tech advances side effects.
    HSR has KNOWN and DOCUMENTED benefits. Anti-HSRs try to depict it as a pie-in-the-sky idea.
    One simple plane ride to a country or another continent (Korea, Japan, China, France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy, Belgium, etc…) shows a parallel world where the benefits are not even discussed. They are lived by everyone there. HSR works well for trips less than 700 miles and there are many of them around the country. for that we need to build a grid. What are we waiting for?

  74. Posted by lol

    How many schools do we want to close to run these trains?
    Schools are starved of funds because of Prop 13. If you want to play the kid card (I am 100% with you schools should be priority #1), go door to door and meet retirees in high-cost counties. Try and convince them to stop financing groups that favor Prop 13 tax gifts that are making CA bankrupt. That’s where the issue is, not the future of our infrastructure.

  75. Posted by serenity now

    No problem with your Prop 13 comment but at the end of the day the money all comes from the same budget. If we add a long term liability like light rail that is a fine choice but please tell me where the money is coming from?

  76. Posted by lol

    ^^^The same place as Caltrans. Obviously we are finding Billions/Y to maintain freeways. We are never asking them where the money is coming from each and every year. We tell them “make it happen” even it takes valuable $$$.
    Then a rail project comes along and suddenly it’s all about “money, what money?”. It’s like asking your 18-y-old to go pay for his own studies when you have the 42-y-old in-law who’s been slouching in your basement living on beer and Cheetos ordering VOD porn all day.
    CA is the richest state in the country. It needs to fix its public financing (yes, financing as “tax”) to have services (ALL services) in par with its capacity. right now we’re sliding into a 3rd world service society for 1st world people. Something’s gonna give.

  77. Posted by sfrenegade

    “right now we’re sliding into a 3rd world service society for 1st world people.”
    Our infrastructure is already worse than some 3rd world countries I’ve visited. This is not your father’s or mother’s California.
    “If we add a long term liability like light rail that is a fine choice but please tell me where the money is coming from?”
    Another thing that people often ignore is that certain government spending is necessarily “stimulus.” Infrastructure spending is actually one of the most effective forms of stimulus and leads to more jobs, more efficiencies, and more growth. Everyone agrees that overpaying certain civil servants is not particularly effective stimulus, but you can’t put HSR in the same category with a straight face.
    Not all government spending is the same. When you take dollars out of the government budget, you also take dollars out of GDP growth. That ratio may not be 1:1 in all cases, but for high quality infrastructure, it might even be better than 1:1.

  78. Posted by lol

    For sure infrastructure ROI is way way better than a 1:1 ratio. Have you ever imagined CA without roads, power, phone/cable? It’s a bit extreme, but the world as we know it would be so different without forward-thinking public investment.
    To take an example of what happens when you start from good infrastructure and suddenly stop spening money to maintain it:
    Look at post-colonization sub-Sahara Africa. It is NOT pretty. Most of the infrastructure of colonizers has crumbled (not that I condone colonization). Most African countries had a free ride for 10-20 years on what was already there. Until they didn’t. The explanation was always the same: who cares about fixing roads when people need basic things like medical attention, food and education?
    Well, newsflash: the roads you failed to fix were the bloodline of the system that could have kept you healthier and well fed.
    This will be CA if we fail to look further than this Reaganomic idiocy that has become the new cult. Taxes are not inherently BAD. They are our contribution into our current and future well-being.
    Oil will run out, we all know this. Electrical power will be more and more present for transport, created out of whatever we decide is the best option. Trains are the best use of electrical power for transportation.

  79. Posted by tipster

    It’s now officially on hold. Probably for the rest of our lifetimes.
    http://blog.sfgate.com/nov05election/2011/11/17/house-gop-kills-high-speed-rail-funding/?tsp=1

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