SkyscraperPage Forum

SkyscraperPage Forum (https://skyscraperpage.com/forum/index.php)
-   Transportation (https://skyscraperpage.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=25)
-   -   California High Speed Rail Thread (https://skyscraperpage.com/forum/showthread.php?t=180558)

BTinSF Apr 8, 2010 6:03 PM

California High Speed Rail Thread
 
Incredibly, I don't think a thread was ever started for CAHSR. It's past time so here it is.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...sr_map.svg.png
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cahsr_map.svg

California High Speed Rail Authority web site (many interactive features, renderings, videos and other goodies): http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/

Quote:

What is Proposition 1A?

Proposition 1A is the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act approved by voters on November 4, 2008. Voters were asked the following: “To provide Californians a safe, convenient, affordable, and reliable alternative to driving and high gas prices; to provide good-paying jobs and improve California's economy while reducing air pollution, global warming greenhouse gases, and our dependence on foreign oil, shall $9.95 billion in bonds be issued to establish a clean, efficient high-speed train service linking Southern California, the Sacramento San Joaquin Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area, with at least 90 percent of bond funds spent for specific projects, with federal and private matching funds required, and all bond funds subject to independent audits?” . . . .

Will any Proposition 1A funds be used to improve current commuter, urban and intercity rail systems?

Yes. Proposition 1A provides for the allocation of $950 million of the total $9.95 billion in bond funds to eligible recipients for capital improvements to intercity rail ($190,000,000) and commuter rail and urban rail systems ($760,000,000). Eligible recipients are public agencies and joint powers authorities that operate commuter, light or heavy rail or cable car passenger services. The bond funds are to be used for capital improvements that provide direct connectivity to the high-speed train system, are part of the construction of the system, or that provide capacity enhancements, modernization, rehabilitation or safety improvements. Funds will be available upon appropriation by the Legislature in the annual Budget Act.

Intercity Rail - $190 M
Funds will be allocated for state-supported intercity rail lines by the California Transportation Commission (CTC) according to guidelines that the CTC will develop in consultation with the High Speed Rail Authority. Each of the state’s three intercity rail corridors (Capitol Corridor, San Joaquin Corridor, and Los Angeles-San Diego Corridor) will be allocated a minimum of 25% ($47.5 million) of the $190 million available.

Commuter and Urban Rail - $760 M
Funds will be allocated to eligible passenger rail agencies according to guidelines developed by the CTC, consistent with a statutory formula. Each recipient’s allocation will be a percentage amount based on the recipient’s share of three factors: 1) 1/3 based on the share of statewide total track miles, 2) 1/3 based on the share of statewide annual vehicle miles, and 3) 1/3 based on the share of statewide annual passenger trips. Recipients must provide a dollar-for-dollar local match and must maintain their previous annual average local expenditures for maintenance or rehabilitation of the passenger rail system so that the new funds supplement and do not replace existing funds for these purposes.
Source: http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/ne...=faqs&cat=8159

Quote:

What will it cost to build the California high-speed train system?

The most current estimated cost to build the 800-mile system is about $45 billion. Once built, the system will not require operating subsidies and will generate over $1 billion in annual profits.

Where will the financing come from?

The Authority awarded a Financial Planning contract in late 2006 to a team of financial experts. In May 2007, the Authority published the “High-Speed Train Preliminary Funding Strategy and Financing Plan”. This plan concluded that the project’s funding will likely comprise of private and public sources; however, support from local, state and federal sources will be particularly important in early development. It also concluded that the State can issue the $9.95 billion in GO debt scheduled on the November 2008 ballot, without exceeding the Administration’s current debt capacity guidelines.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority is actively pursuing a multi-track financing strategy for the planning, design and construction phases of the project, including three tiers: state and local funding, federal funding and “P3”- public-private partnerships.

State and Local Funding: $9.95 billion general obligation bond (Proposition 1A) . . . .

Federal Funding: Federal matching funds are expected to finance a significant portion of the construction cost. The targeted federal funding would come in part from existing program funding sources, but would also require the creation of new grant allocation programs designed specifically for high-speed trains. On October 30, 2007, the United States Senate passed the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007, a multi-year piece of legislation that provides increased funding for the nation's rail system. This bill (H.R. 2095) was signed by President Bush on October 16, 2008 and creates a framework to provide a direct means of funding high-speed trains that had not existed at the federal level . . . .

(California HSR received approximately $2.5 billion of federal "stimulus" funding.)

Public-Private Partnerships “P3” Funding: The Authority’s finance team anticipates that the commitment of state and federal dollars will attract private sector funding. The Authority’s finance team has identified a broad array of public-private partnership opportunities, including project debt financing, vendor financing, system operations and private ownership.
In March 2008, the Authority announced the release of a Request for Expressions of Interest (REFI) for Private Participation in the Development of a High-Speed Train System in California. Through the responses to the REFI, the Authority gained a better understanding of how the Project and State can benefit from private sector participation while also garnering an appreciation for key considerations that may encourage or dissuade private sector participation, such as phasing, timing and risk. The Authority sought input from respondents as to potential interest in participating in the development aspects of a high-speed train system, including perspectives on project delivery methods and private project financing.
Source: http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/ne...=faqs&cat=8173

BTinSF Apr 8, 2010 6:09 PM

Quote:

April 7, 2010
China Offers High-Speed Rail to California
By KEITH BRADSHER

BEIJING — Nearly 150 years after American railroads brought in thousands of Chinese laborers to build rail lines across the West, China is poised once again to play a role in American rail construction. But this time, it would be an entirely different role: supplying the technology, equipment and engineers to build high-speed rail lines.

The Chinese government has signed cooperation agreements with the State of California and General Electric to help build such lines. The agreements, both of which are preliminary, show China’s desire to become a big exporter and licensor of bullet trains traveling 215 miles an hour . . . .

China is offering not just to build a railroad in California but also to help finance its construction, and Chinese officials have already been shuttling between Beijing and Sacramento to make presentations, Mr. Crane said in a telephone interview.

China is not the only country interested in selling high-speed rail equipment to the United States. Japan, Germany, South Korea, Spain, France and Italy have also approached California’s High Speed Rail Authority.

The agency has made no decisions on whose technology to choose . . . .

According to G.E., the agreement calls for at least 80 percent of the components of any locomotives and system control gear to come from American suppliers, and labor-intensive final assembly would be done in the United States for the American market. China would license its technology and supply engineers as well as up to 20 percent of the components . . . .

The California rail authority plans to spend $43 billion to build a 465-mile route from San Francisco to Los Angeles and on to Anaheim that is supposed to open in 2020. The authority was awarded $2.25 billion in January in federal economic stimulus money to work on the project.

The authority’s plans call for $10 billion to $12 billion in private financing. Mr. Crane said China could provide much of that, with federal, state and local jurisdictions providing the rest. Mr. Zheng declined to discuss financial details . . ..

Toyota is shutting a big assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., that it once operated as a joint venture with General Motors, and one idea under discussion is converting the factory to the assembly of high-speed rail equipment, said Mr. Crane, who is also a member of the state’s Economic Development Commission.

Rail parts from China would then come through the nearby port of Oakland, in place of auto parts from Japan . . . .

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/08/bu...al/08rail.html

pesto Apr 8, 2010 6:27 PM

Lots of issues here.

But focusing on the Chinese "financing", the last I heard the Chinese were demanding federal guarantees before putting a nickel in which makes it US taxpayer financing. I would be very favorably impressed if they really put their own money in since this means that they believe the system might make economic sense. Otherwise, they are in it for the construction related profits and will let others take the risk.

northbay Apr 8, 2010 6:35 PM

really there's no thread? just in the local section? i guess we spend too much time hating on las vegas and florida. now we all can hate on cali too. ;)

i saw that article in the times. i know china has tons of money lying around and would LOVE to invest it in something like this, but id rather ride a japanese or french train than a chinese one. im not sure if jr or sncf have 12 billion dollars lying around though.

northbay Apr 8, 2010 6:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pesto (Post 4786635)
Lots of issues here.

But focusing on the Chinese "financing", the last I heard the Chinese were demanding federal guarantees before putting a nickel in which makes it US taxpayer financing. I would be very favorably impressed if they really put their own money in since this means that they believe the system might make economic sense. Otherwise, they are in it for the construction related profits and will let others take the risk.

wasnt that only related to funding a line to las vegas?

pesto Apr 8, 2010 8:35 PM

Northbay: you're right, my mistake. It could be the same terms, but that was a different proposal.

northbay Apr 8, 2010 10:15 PM

the california high speed rail authority came out with some long awaited press releases today:

"Press Release: Alternatives outlined for key segments of high-speed rail. Public helps shape San Francisco-San Jose, Fresno-Merced project."
http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/ne...inal-40810.pdf

"Press Release: California High-Speed Rail Authority approves further study of shared track alternative for Los Angeles to Anaheim section"
http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/ne...Release-LA.pdf

these documents were taken from the ca hsra website: http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/

so will this satisfy people in the oc and on the pennisula? many were expecting a final decision (to elevate or dig?) to be made today, but i don't think that's coming till fall at the earliest.

peanut gallery Apr 8, 2010 11:20 PM

^One great piece of news today was officially discarding the Beale St. option for the SF terminus. Never saw how that would fly with all the property that would require eminent domain and demolition.

northbay Apr 9, 2010 3:29 AM

more news on the norcal segments everyone is so worked up about:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mountain View Voice
Published Thursday, April 8, 2010, by the Mountain View Voice

HSR may cut into Central Expressway
Rail Authority: there will be no berms or "Berlin Wall" in Mountain View

By Jocelyn Dong and Daniel DeBolt
Mountain View Voice Staff

Should high-speed rail come to Mountain View, it will not sit atop a massive Berlin Wall, as some rail opponents have feared. But it may mean the loss of two
lanes on Central Expressway, according to a report released Thursday by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Though a berm may not happen, the 125-mph trains still could zip along on an aerial viaduct, in an underground tunnel, through an open trench or at street level, according to the report.

The Authority's report <http://tinyurl.com/HSRA-SF-SJ-AA-report>, a "preliminary alternatives analysis", identifies ways that the 48 miles of tracks between San Jose and San Francisco could be configured. It also eliminates options it deemed unfeasible due to factors such as geology, various cities' regulations, negative
effects on traffic, the need to protect natural resources and more.

Some methods will be significantly costlier than others. In Mountain View, theRail Authority reports a cost of $155 million for at grade tracks, $344 million
for an aerial viaduct, $615 million for an open trench and $1.4 billion for a covered trench. Yet the Rail Authority did not eliminate any option solely on
cost, according to the report.

The report also notes that the width of at grade and below grade alternatives may require a loss of two lanes on Central Expressway north of Rengstorff
Avenue. An option for an aerial platform is narrower, but would require that San Antonio Road overpass be removed and the road rebuilt at grade level across the
Caltrain right of way.

Between San Antonio Road and Castro Street, the report notes that "the berm option does not enhance connectivity and mobility as well as an aerial viaduct
option or trench or tunnel option. The aerial viaduct, at grade, and open trench options may result in the loss of two traffic lanes on Central Expressway north
of Rengstorff Avenue. A stacked configuration (2 tracks over 2 tracks) couldminimize right-of-way requirements and possible relocation of the VTA (light
rail). The aerial viaduct option requires converting the San Antonio Road and Shoreline Boulevard overpasses to at grade configurations."

Between Whisman Road and the Sunnyvale Caltrain station, the report points out a similar problem. "The aerial viaduct, at grade, and open trench options may
result in loss of one to two traffic lanes on Central Expressway or Evelyn Avenue. A stacked configuration (2 tracks over 2 tracks) could minimize right-of-way requirements."

The overall rail line, which would stretch from Los Angeles to San Francisco, received voters' approval for $9.95 billion in funding in November 2008.

Since then, rancorous debate and considerable grass-roots activism has occurred in some peninsula cities, along with city-organized lawsuits and lobbying.
Opponents, some protesting the rail line altogether and others advocating for a plan that will not harm residents' quality of life, have questioned the state agency's processes, calculations and receptivity to public input.

But holding fast to its prior plans, the Authority states that its analysis "reconfirms that four-track, grade-separated, shared Caltrain and High-Speed
Train system is feasible and the preferred ... alternative between San Francisco and San Jose on the Peninsula."

....

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/44789

JDRCRASH Apr 9, 2010 5:00 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pesto (Post 4786874)
Northbay: you're right, my mistake. It could be the same terms, but that was a different proposal.

Yeah. The chinese said they were willing to dump $7 Billion into the maglev project.

BTinSF Apr 12, 2010 4:17 PM

Quote:

State's high-speed rail plan is up in the air
Phillip Matier,Andrew Ross
Monday, April 12, 2010

Is it a high-speed rail ride to the future or a Bay Bridge boondoggle times 10? That's what lawmakers are wondering as more and more questions arise about the plan to build a multibillion-dollar bullet train between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"I'm all for high-speed rail, but I want it to be high-speed rail done right," says state Sen. Joe Simitian.

Simitian has plenty of reasons to be concerned. Not only will the rail line go right through his Peninsula district, but also he chairs the Senate budget subcommittee that oversees the $9 billion in voter-approved bonds for the project.

In addition to worries about how many backyards will be torn up for the line, he and other key legislators are asking question's about the High Speed Rail Authority's business plan - which remains murky at best.

For example, no sooner had voters approved the bond package than the initial $33.6 billion price estimate jumped to $42.6 billion because the authority had failed to account for inflation. And that cost could climb even higher if the rail goes underground through the Peninsula, as many communities are now requesting.

Then there is the estimated ticket price for a trip from L.A. to San Francisco, which has jumped to $105 one way - making the line much less competitive with the price of an airline ticket.

There are also questions being raised about the bullet train's ridership projections . . . .
Source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...SF3I.DTL&tsp=1

Lot of second guessing going on.

Gordo Apr 12, 2010 4:38 PM

PR for the CHSRA has been a disaster so far ("so far" being 10+ years now).

The Authority didn't "fail to account for inflation." The $33.6 billion number is year of bond passage dollars (2008). The $42.6 is year of expenditure dollars (with amounts spent from 2008-2020 or so). Neither is more honest or dishonest than the other, they're simply different numbers. The only reason that year of expenditure dollars were released was that it was a requirement for receiving stimulus dollars. The fact that the Authority has never come out and fully explained this themselves is ridiculous.

Along the same lines, the $105 ticket is nothing more than an estimate of where airline ticket prices will be at the start of operation. The REAL PRICES being discussed are percentages - HSR prices will be set based upon a set percentage of air prices. Of course, this could change, but under the way that the business plan is written now, there is no chance at all that HSR will be priced higher than airlines - but the prices could be $30 or $300 depending on where plane tickets are.

BTinSF Apr 16, 2010 4:25 PM

Quote:

Friday, April 16, 2010
Bullet train’s business study aims to get project on track
San Francisco Business Times - by Eric Young

Amid criticism from state officials and Peninsula residents, California’s high-speed rail planners will amend their business plan to better estimate ridership and revenue on the planned $42.6 billion project.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority said last week it hired consultants at Cambridge Systematics and transportation researchers at University of California, Davis, to produce new ridership and revenue estimates.

Additionally the rail authority said the Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California, Berkeley, will review the authority’s existing ridership forecasts. Their work will be done by the end of the year . . . .

The bullet train’s rider and revenue plan, submitted to state lawmakers four months ago, is imporant. If the system can show substantial ridership and revenue numbers, it will have an easier time attracting private investors and other government support . . . .

Source: http://sanfrancisco.bizjournals.com/...19/story5.html

pesto Apr 16, 2010 6:03 PM

The reviews are important because it's hard to take their estimates seriously any more. I don't know the specifics of who's reviewing, but the institutions involved strike me as potentially having conflicts of interest. Somewhere out of state and with no past connections would be ideal.

I notice also that Buena Park has joined the list of cities looking for re-routing and mitigation. Apparently eminent domain was an issue there as it was on the Peninsula.

BTinSF Apr 19, 2010 11:55 PM

Quote:

Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto draft letters slamming high-speed rail project
By Jessica Bernstein-Wax
Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 04/16/2010 09:17:11 PM PDT
Updated: 04/17/2010 01:17:50 AM PDT

Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto next week will consider approving letters that tell the California High-Speed Rail Authority they still have major problems with its proposal to run bullet trains up the Peninsula even after the agency revised a draft environmental impact report on the project.

The rail authority had to change sections of the draft report after Atherton, Menlo Park and several environmental groups filed a lawsuit challenging the agency's selection of the Pacheco Pass route that would take the trains through the Peninsula, instead of through the East Bay.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled last August that the draft report failed to provide an adequate description of the project or include proper land-use analysis. He also said the rail authority should have recirculated the documents after Union Pacific Railroad Co. stated it didn't want to share its tracks with bullet trains.

Atherton has drafted a letter — which the town council will discuss Wednesday night — that roundly criticizes the revised environmental document, saying it failed to respond to Kenny's ruling or comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA.

"And most of all, it still does not adequately respond to the concerns of the people most affected," the letter states. "The public controversy over the alignments selected in the months since the court ruling should have resulted in a reevaluationof other alternatives, either another way to run the train up the Peninsula, and/or another route not on the Peninsula."

The draft letter goes on to criticize the authority for not analyzing what property it may need to seize in Atherton and other Peninsula municipalities to build the tracks and for neglecting to study vibration impacts, as the court requested.

In its letter, Palo Alto objects to "the failure of the California High-Speed Rail Authority ... to solicit comments from communities along the Peninsula" during the scoping process and the original and revised environmental report public review, as required by CEQA. The Palo Alto City Council will decide whether to approve the letter at a meeting Monday night.

Menlo Park's proposed letter, which the council will discuss at a meeting Tuesday night, asks the authority to further study stopping high-speed rail in San Jose or Union City and connecting it to BART or Caltrain there.

"This analysis should include the possibility of sending some (high-speed trains) all the way to San Francisco on shared tracks with Caltrain," the letter says. "These trains (sic) sets could run at speeds similar to the current trains run by Caltrain and on the same number of tracks as Caltrain."

California voters in November 2008 approved Proposition 1A, a measure authorizing the sale of $9.9 billion in bonds to help finance the $45 billion San Francisco-to-Los Angeles high-speed rail line.

Rail authority Deputy Director Jeff Barker said Friday that attorneys have determined the agency can't legally consider stopping the trains in San Jose because the already approved measure "says San Francisco is the northern terminus" . . . .
Source: http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-...nclick_check=1

glowrock Apr 20, 2010 12:07 AM

This reeks of NIMBYism, and the stench is overwhelming...

Aaron (Glowrock)

BTinSF Apr 20, 2010 12:19 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by glowrock (Post 4802776)
This reeks of NIMBYism, and the stench is overwhelming...

Aaron (Glowrock)

That's exactly what it is. You can't even consider calling it anything else. But the folks in those 3 cities have no shame and really don't care what the rest of us call it. They are rich, entitled and they want what they want, the rest of the state be d*mned. The real question is, can they successfully use the legal system to get what they want. I sure hope not, but I'm worried. It's California, after all, where single individuals and small fish or snakes have been known to stop mighty projects in their tracks (as they say).

Gordo Apr 20, 2010 12:22 AM

^Pretty terrible reporting too. Including statements like this:

Quote:

"And most of all, it still does not adequately respond to the concerns of the people most affected," the letter states. "The public controversy over the alignments selected in the months since the court ruling should have resulted in a reevaluation of other alternatives, either another way to run the train up the Peninsula, and/or another route not on the Peninsula."

The draft letter goes on to criticize the authority for not analyzing what property it may need to seize in Atherton and other Peninsula municipalities to build the tracks and for neglecting to study vibration impacts, as the court requested.
Why does the author neglect to state anywhere in the article that the judgment in the lawsuit last summer specifically upheld that the authority was in the right with ALL of their dealings on the peninsula? The court didn't request anything more be done with the Menlo Park and Atherton segments - only some parts of the segments in San Jose.

"Should have resulted in a reevaluation of other alternatives" - ???? Why, exactly? Because the dude she interviewed says so? She couldn't interview the other side or possibly look at what the court said last summer when all of the requests for other alternatives were clearly thrown out, and perhaps mention that?

BTinSF Apr 20, 2010 1:29 AM

:previous: I think you're being a little harsh. The article is just reporting about these letters the Peninsula cities are sending. The "Should have resulted in a reevaluation of other alternatives" bit is what one of the letters says. It's not up to the reporter to explain the logic (or lack of logic) of the city.

Gordo Apr 20, 2010 2:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BTinSF (Post 4802886)
:previous: I think you're being a little harsh. The article is just reporting about these letters the Peninsula cities are sending. The "Should have resulted in a reevaluation of other alternatives" bit is what one of the letters says. It's not up to the reporter to explain the logic (or lack of logic) of the city.

I suppose that maybe I was a little harsh, but I still think it's pretty sloppy journalism to not even mention when something is blatantly false. Maybe at least include a link to one of the past stories that her own paper has done? If you're just going to state exactly what the letter says without adding any context or commenting on whether the facts are correct, why not simply reprint the letter verbatim?

She does go into a little bit of detail with other parts, but completely leaves out the fact that the judge dismissed every single one of the complaints regarding the peninsula section of track. If I were reading the article without knowing more, I would certainly assume that part of the EIR being revised dealt with the peninsula section.

202_Cyclist May 1, 2010 1:55 PM

High-Speed Rail: Transit Solution or Fiscal Disaster? (Governing, May 2010)
 
High-Speed Rail: Transit Solution or Fiscal Disaster?

California is racing to build an ambitious high-speed rail system. Some cities think it should slow down.

By Josh Goodman
May 2010
Governing

http://www.governing.com/article/hig...iscal-disaster


Though Palo Alto, Calif.-a city of 60,000 people in Silicon Valley that is home to Stanford University-is clearly not a tall stick, that is literally what "Palo Alto" means in Spanish. Most likely the city's strange name comes from El Palo Alto, which is a tall stick or, more precisely, a famous redwood tree. El Palo Alto is an old stick too. The tree is 1,070 years old, give or take a few years. It's a historic landmark and the inspiration for Stanford's popular tree mascot. But in a few years, it might be dead.

El Palo Alto's possible killer isn't old age. It's high-speed rail. The tree stands just a few feet from train tracks where, if all goes as planned, trains will be whizzing by at more than 100 mph within a decade. Rail officials are aware of El Palo Alto's significance and are hopeful they can design the track to avoid doing any harm. Dave Dockter, an arborist and environmental planner for Palo Alto, is skeptical. "It's inconceivable," he says, "that you could do this without really serious risks to the tree."

As California advances with what is easily the nation's most ambitious high-speed rail project-and, Californians say, the largest public works project in the United States' history-El Palo Alto's uncertain fate is just one hint of the complexities of building 800 miles of new infrastructure in a heavily developed, densely populated state. How does a state pay for such a system? Who operates it? Where do you put the tracks and stations? And how do you minimize disruptions to the environment and to communities that suddenly will have trains speeding through them at up to 220 mph?

With all the enthusiasm for high-speed rail in Washington, D.C., it would be easy to miss that California does not yet have answers to all of these questions. What's more, answers the state does have are making many people unhappy-nowhere more so than in Palo Alto. The United States may be on the cusp of a high-speed rail renaissance, but if that's going to happen, California must make all the right moves over the next decade.

The federal stimulus package included billions in grants to states to build high-speed rail-or at least higher-speed rail. In reality, most of the money will fund things like additional tracks, upgraded signaling systems and improved grade crossings. Trains will travel somewhat faster, but they won't be anything close to high-speed by international standards.

When California officials talk about building high-speed rail, they actually mean it. The plan is to build a system that stretches from San Francisco and Sacramento to San Diego that's serviced by true bullet trains, similar to those in Europe and Asia. Top speeds would be 70 mph faster than the top speed of Amtrak's Washington to Boston service-at 150 mph, it's the fastest train in the United States today.

California is also different from other states in that it's been seriously contemplating high-speed rail-and arguing about it-for 15 years. Proponents advocate for high-speed rail as an environmentally friendly way to relieve congestion from clogged highways and airports. Opponents cast it as a costly boondoggle.

In 2008, the proponents won a major victory. After years of delays, California voters approved a ballot measure to authorize $9 billion in bonds to build the system. That commitment helped California win $2.25 billion in stimulus funding for high-speed rail, easily the highest share of any state. But the stimulus funds come with a deadline: Construction must begin by September 2012. In other words, if high-speed rail is going to happen in California, it must happen soon.

With its transit-friendly Bay Area sensibilities, Palo Alto is the sort of place where high-speed rail would be expected to find friends. And for a time, it did. The City Council voted unanimously to endorse the ballot measure in 2008. At the polls, Palo Altans supported it by a 2-1 margin.

But during a Palo Alto City Council meeting in March, it was evident how much the mood has changed. The debate was between members who said Palo Alto should oppose high-speed rail unless it takes the form of a tunnel, and others who said even a tunnel might not be acceptable. Ultimately with council members still awaiting more detailed plans from the state, nothing was decided-yet.

The reversal from Palo Alto's council reflects the difficulty in making high-speed rail a reality. A 220 mph train can't go just anywhere; it can't intersect any road, or easily share track with slower freight trains or conventional passenger trains. It needs a dedicated right of way that is straight and flat to maintain its speed.

In practice, that means high-speed rail tracks in California will have to follow the routes of either highways or existing rail lines. Barring a last-minute reversal, high-speed rail will follow the route of Caltrain, the region's commuter rail service, from San Jose to San Francisco. That will take it straight through Palo Alto.

Adjacent to the track is Palo Alto High School, as well as parks and neighborhoods with funky one-story homes designed by renowned modernist architect Joseph Eichler.

Then there's El Palo Alto. At only 110 feet tall, El Palo Alto is downright diminutive compared to California's giant sequoias. But in old photos, it towers over the landscape. It survived the arrival of the locomotive, which puffed it with soot. It survived the tapping of its water table, which sickened it for several decades. And it survived Stanford students racing to climb it once a year-a tradition suspended in 1909 when a student got stuck. Today with careful management, including a pipe running up its trunk that serves as a personal sprinkler system, the tree's health is improving. Dockter, the arborist, says it could survive another 100 to 300 years-if it didn't have to cope with high-speed rail. "My wife and I voted for it too," he says.

No one knows for sure how high-speed rail would affect Palo Alto's schools, homes, roads, parks and trees. One major question is what form the tracks will take. The trains might run in a tunnel or a trench, or they could run at ground level, with roads burrowing underneath. Or there's the option that the people of Palo Alto like least: an elevated track.

In April, the California High-Speed Rail Authority presented alternatives on what form the track will take from San Francisco to San Jose. Acknowledging community opposition, the authority ruled out a track on top of a berm in Palo Alto-essentially a wall. Other below-ground, at-grade and elevated options remain under consideration.

Tony Carrasco, a local architect, wants to bury both Caltrain and the high-speed rail underground. In its place would be a new greenway that would help connect Palo Alto's extensive network of parks. The train tracks, one of the few impediments to Palo Alto as a walkable, bikable place, would be gone. But tunnels are expensive, and Carrasco's vision may be ignored. "The high-speed rail board is charged with the task of getting this rail line done," Carrasco says. "They're not charged with the task of making the community better."

That's what worries Palo Altans. They're concerned that noise and vibrations from the trains will affect their quality of life and reduce their property values. The noise will be hard to avoid: Thanks to a temperate climate, some homes' only air conditioning is an open window.

Of course, before the trains arrive, the track must be built. The Caltrain right-of-way through Palo Alto squeezes to less than 75 feet wide at some places. The track configuration the authority chooses will affect just how wide the right of way needs to be for high-speed rail. But it seems likely that some homes will need to come down, especially since temporary "shoo-fly" tracks may have to be installed to allow Caltrain to keep operating while construction takes place.

Opposition in Palo Alto and surrounding communities isn't unanimous. Unions are eager for the construction jobs, and many business groups hope it would enable upgrades to Caltrain allowing it to travel faster, with speeds of more than 100 mph.

Still, the concern over high-speed rail is hard to overstate. When authority representatives visited Palo Alto recently, they were greeted by a crowd of 500 people, and the meeting lasted more than five hours.

For their part, authority officials say they're willing to work with anyone who will accept high-speed rail. "We take all of those concerns very seriously," says Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, who chairs the authority, "but there's very little we can do if someone starts out by saying, 'We don't want a high-speed train at all.'"

In response to critics in Palo Alto and elsewhere, supporters also say, "Where have you been?"

"We would oftentimes ask for meetings with city government and have a hard time getting people's attention," says Jeff Barker, the authority's deputy director, "because people didn't think it was real." Barker acknowledges that, with two years until they break ground, he doesn't have all the answers yet.

There's a less charitable response that no one with the authority would say, but that serves as tense subtext to the whole debate: Palo Altans only care about what's happening in their backyards.

After all, if high-speed rail lives up to its promise, it will move tens of millions of people each year, create tens of thousands of jobs, help relieve congestion, clean the environment and spur economic growth. With benefits that big, does it really matter if a few homes must be removed and some other residents have to deal with a little more noise? Or that the view in one city isn't as nice and that traffic doesn't flow quite as smoothly? Or if one old tree must be sacrificed?

But there are a few reasons the critics in Palo Alto can't be dismissed so easily. For one thing, in some sense, it doesn't matter whether they're right or wrong. Local opposition could stall the project regardless.

To some extent, it already is. In 2008, Menlo Park and Atherton, two nearby cities, launched a lawsuit against the authority, claiming that the chosen path of high-speed rail up the San Francisco Peninsula was based on faulty environmental reviews. The cities preferred a route that would take high-speed rail through the East Bay, avoiding their cities. In 2009, Palo Alto supported that position in court. The court ruled that the authority had to redo some environmental analysis, but the route appears unlikely to change.

The suit in Menlo Park and Atherton suggests another reason why critics in Palo Alto can't be ignored: They're not alone. Burlingame and San Jose also are worried about elevated tracks. Buena Park, near Anaheim, is worried that a commuter rail station or adjacent developments will be torn down to make room for high-speed rail. Farmers in the Central Valley wonder whether vibrations from the train will knock almonds off their trees.

All of this is quite familiar to anyone who's ever been involved in a major building project, whether it's a new airport, road, ballpark or Wal-Mart. Residents worry about noise and how new development will affect their quality of life. Sometimes they sue.

What's different about high-speed rail in California is the scale. The state will make hundreds of interdependent design decisions that must work from an engineering standpoint and pass legal muster. In effect, California is testing whether the most mega of mega-projects can succeed in today's fiscal, legal and political context.

Success certainly won't be easy. While Palo Altans are worried about their own backyards, they're also voicing much bigger concerns-concerns that are shared by many others, including key legislators in Sacramento.

First, there's the question of paying for the system. Estimates peg the cost of building the initial San Francisco to Anaheim section at $42.6 billion. So far, the authority has about $11 billion from the California bonding measure and the federal stimulus. This is an impressive start. There's no way California could attract private investment without this upfront public commitment.

But cost estimates already have increased. What if they increase again? The authority's business plan counts on $17 billion to $19 billion in federal funding and $10 billion to $12 billion in private funding. The stimulus package only had $8 billion for high-speed rail for the entire country. If Congress doesn't provide recurring funding for high-speed rail, the project's budget will a have giant hole. It's a hole that California-the nation's most fiscally troubled state-is uniquely unqualified to fill. "They don't appear to have the dollars to do the $43 billion of construction that they're estimating," says Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt, "and $43 billion appears to be severely below what it will really cost. They're two giant steps away from reality."

Another question is ridership. A series of trade-offs will influence how many people ride the trains. The more stations that are built, the more places trains can pick up riders. But stopping frequently slows high-speed rail down. Likewise, lower fares would mean higher ridership, which would relieve more train and plane congestion. But up to a point, higher fares would generate more revenue for the system.

The authority's most recent business plan floated the idea of train fares at $104.75 from San Francisco to Los Angeles-or 83 percent of a plane trip's projected cost, instead of the 50 percent in its previous report. For ridership, that difference is huge: The authority projects 58 million riders with the 50 percent level in 2035. At 83 percent, it drops to 41 million. Critics contend that the projections are unrealistic. Everyone agrees ridership estimates are, at this point, informed speculation at best.

But how do you design a rail system if you don't know how many people will ride it? "It drives everything-how many tracks, how many parking spots, how many everything," says Nadia Naik, co-founder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, a Palo Alto-based group that has pushed for more disclosure from the authority. Ultimately Palo Altans worry that their homes will be razed to build capacity the system won't end up needing.

All of these obstacles would be difficult enough if the authority had complete flexibility to execute the project. But it doesn't. In addition to the 2012 deadline to begin construction under the stimulus, the 2008 ballot measures included two key requirements: Trains must run between Los Angeles and San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes or less, and the state isn't allowed to pay an operating subsidy for the system. It must at least break even. The optimistic view is that these rules will help keep the project focused on key goals. "Of course they tie your hands, but they also create the parameters in which you operate," Pringle says.

The less optimistic view is that the mandates are one reason the doomsday question is unavoidable: Will high-speed rail ever be built in California?

It turns out the authority has addressed that question explicitly. On orders from the Legislature, its most recent business plan included a section titled, "Risks That Could Jeopardize Project Completion."

The section reads like a road map for what could prevent high-speed rail from becoming a reality. Federal funding could fail to materialize. Low ridership projections could drive away private investment. Political support could crumble. The project could fail to meet environmental standards or could get tied up in courts. Construction problems could leave the authority short on cash to complete the system.

Burt, Palo Alto's mayor, worries the system won't be built, citing costs. "Once it gets over $50 [billion] to $60 billion," he says, "we think there'll have to be a 'come to God' on why we are spending all this money on a plan that can't conceivably be funded."

But he also worries that the system will be built. "Our fear," he says, "is that [the authority] is planning to do what's called the 'stake-in-the-ground' strategy, which is that you get something partly built and so much money spent that they can't back out because they've already put so much money into it. Somebody somehow has to come up with tens of billions of dollars more."

Burt's mantra is that he's for high-speed rail if it's done right. His fear is that signs point to high-speed rail being done wrong just to get the project completed one way or another.

Authority officials think this view is awfully cynical for a project that, despite its lengthy conception, is in many ways just getting started. They acknowledge that the challenges are great, but feel that with trains not scheduled to start carrying passengers for a decade, they can overcome the obstacles.

In fact, Barker, the authority's deputy director, has his own idea as to the project's biggest threat. "The biggest hurdle from a governing point of view is going to be public involvement," he says.

What he means is that in places such as Palo Alto, the authority has lost the goodwill of local officials and residents. As a result, Barker says there've been many disagreements about process, but comparatively little discussion of substance: what high-speed rail should look like and how it can best serve California's people.

Barker says it's essential that the authority make up for lost time by fostering a constructive, respectful dialog. Such a complicated, expensive endeavor will never succeed unless the people most affected by it are, by and large, on board.

On this point, no one in Palo Alto would disagree.

mwadswor May 1, 2010 7:14 PM

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/apr...-rail-20100430

Quote:

California high-speed rail plan troubled, official warns

The state auditor cites poor planning and uncertain funding. She says the result could be delays or a failure to complete the system.

April 30, 2010|By Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times

California may not be able to complete a high-speed rail system, set to begin construction in 2012, because of poor planning and a lack of funding, the state auditor warned Thursday.

Auditor Elaine Howle reported that the authority overseeing the rail system could very likely fall billions of dollars short of what it needs to complete the project, even though California voters approved borrowing billions of dollars to help pay for it.

JDRCRASH May 1, 2010 7:16 PM

Slowly but surely, this proposal is dying...how sad.

Onn May 1, 2010 7:24 PM

Andd...the plan is taking hits, what do you know. California will be lucky if they get anything out of it all now.

JDRCRASH May 3, 2010 6:22 PM

What reallly pisses me off is that despite the passage of Prop1A, which allocated $10 Billion to the project, it still is being opposed.....

GOOD LORD I HATE NIMBYs.....

Nexis4Jersey May 3, 2010 7:51 PM

oh well , at least we know the Northeast Corridor will be upgraded to speeds of 190mph and i know that nimby's in the Northeast are really low.:)

pesto May 3, 2010 11:15 PM

Hopefully this is the first step in reshaping HSR into something that makes sense. There never seemed to be any doubt that the economics didn't work and this is what led to the dramatic shifts. Hopefully one or two more good auditors can weed out the nonsense and figure what is salvagable.

Again, I would focus on the intra-regional (LA and Bay Area) sections; each of those areas has legitimate traffic issues already and each area expects substantial growth. Palmdale, IE, OC to DT LA should be quite heavily used if priced correctly. Since the Peninsula doesn't want the train, I would just upgrade the existing service, and focus on SJ-Oakland-Sacto, which has train connections but they are very slow and with multiple stops.

Of course, these routes need to be audited for reasonable costs and ridership projections so that the amount of the losses expected can be budgeted for.

Gordo May 3, 2010 11:27 PM

Did I miss something? Nothing has changed with the project. A state auditor released a report, nothing more.

The Bay Bridge had several such reports showing that the price was likely to double or more - guess what? The auditor was wrong - the price ballooned by several times that. Guess what else? The bridge is still being built.

Until there's an actual ballot initiative to kill the project, I don't understand why everyone's getting in a tissy about it being killed. We can talk about poor management or wasted money, but those things happen with projects (public and private) every day, everywhere. Doesn't mean that they don't get built.

pesto May 3, 2010 11:42 PM

Gordo: the single most cynical post I have ever seen: "just because it doesn't make sense, doesn't mean we shouldn't build it; none of our projects make any sense!".

btw, any idea how the state got so broke?

Gordo May 4, 2010 12:25 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pesto (Post 4823958)
btw, any idea how the state got so broke?

The initiative system. You and I both know that that's the only way anything gets done, and whether or not something "makes sense" has little bearing on whether an initiative will pass or not. Cynical? Perhaps. Realistic? I think so. If an initiative could pass court muster and be put on the ballot that would hand out hundred dollar bills every day to everyone, it would certainly pass in a landslide, even with the state's current finances.

BTW, I certainly don't think that the auditor's report showed that the project "doesn't make sense" - it simply showed that the authority has been poorly managed and that the total price of the project is likely to go up. Most folks would concede that the Bay Bridge still "makes sense" to build at $6 billion, even though the original price tag was $1 billion.

northbay May 4, 2010 1:48 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gordo (Post 4824012)
I certainly don't think that the auditor's report showed that the project "doesn't make sense" - it simply showed that the authority has been poorly managed and that the total price of the project is likely to go up. Most folks would concede that the Bay Bridge still "makes sense" to build at $6 billion, even though the original price tag was $1 billion.

well said!

JDRCRASH May 4, 2010 4:03 AM

Damn, the new bridge's cost increased by 600%? Why?

bmfarley May 4, 2010 4:20 AM

Short-comings of the CHSRA can be fixed. Probably the biggest obstacle they have had is insufficient funding and inability or permission to increase staff. As a result, they have resorted to hiring consultants... whom must also be overseen.

I don't trust that the State auditor is qualified to understand and appropriately measure the effectiveness of the HSR program... and they seem to overlook that the entire plan was to build the system in operable segments... to assure that something usable is constructed should funding come in spits and spurts... as would be expected with a $40 billion project. They also overlook that CHSRA just was awarded $2.5 billion in Federal funds that were not originally planned... they are ahead of the game.

DJM19 May 4, 2010 4:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JDRCRASH (Post 4824339)
Damn, the new bridge's cost increased by 600%? Why?

Im merely guessing but I'm going to guess it was the idea to make the bridge more aesthetically pleasing as well as a decade of inflation and material's rising cost.

HSR, likewise, has had its cost misinterpreted in the media because cost is relevant to time. The longer we wait, the more it costs.

mwadswor May 4, 2010 3:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bmfarley (Post 4824351)
Short-comings of the CHSRA can be fixed. Probably the biggest obstacle they have had is insufficient funding and inability or permission to increase staff. As a result, they have resorted to hiring consultants... whom must also be overseen.

I don't trust that the State auditor is qualified to understand and appropriately measure the effectiveness of the HSR program... and they seem to overlook that the entire plan was to build the system in operable segments... to assure that something usable is constructed should funding come in spits and spurts... as would be expected with a $40 billion project. They also overlook that CHSRA just was awarded $2.5 billion in Federal funds that were not originally planned... they are ahead of the game.

While I'm not going to dispute the state auditors lack of understanding or sophistication, the $2.5 billion in federal funds is actually a big part of what she takes issue with.

From the article I previously posted (you have to click on the link to read the whole article :) )

Quote:

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is counting on up to $19 billion from the federal government but has a commitment for only $2.25 billion so far, Howle said.

202_Cyclist May 4, 2010 3:56 PM

Quote:

BTW, I certainly don't think that the auditor's report showed that the project "doesn't make sense" - it simply showed that the authority has been poorly managed and that the total price of the project is likely to go up. Most folks would concede that the Bay Bridge still "makes sense" to build at $6 billion, even though the original price tag was $1 billion.
I'm sure most of you have seen it but the California High Speed Rail Blog has a good analysis of the short-comings of the Audit report: http://www.cahsrblog.com/2010/04/pus...uditor-report/

mwadswor May 4, 2010 9:12 PM

Hey, does anyone know if there's a reason the Caltrain and CAHSR trains won't be set up to share tracks when needed, eg to run an express Caltrain service? After the electrification is done, Caltrain trains won't have to be FRA compliant will they? So there shouldn't be a regulatory reason to keep them separate, should there?

Gordo May 4, 2010 9:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mwadswor (Post 4825294)
Hey, does anyone know if there's a reason the Caltrain and CAHSR trains won't be set up to share tracks when needed, eg to run an express Caltrain service? After the electrification is done, Caltrain trains won't have to be FRA compliant will they? So there shouldn't be a regulatory reason to keep them separate, should there?

I don't believe that has been officially decided one way or the other yet (whether Caltrain will be able to share tracks for express service). There isn't any federal regulation that would preclude it, and there isn't any technical reason that would preclude it, only local/regional/state bickering and fiefdom-protecting that would do the job. The CHSRA has been pretty vocal about "needing" four of the six slots at the Transbay Terminal (chalk that one up to fiefdom-protecting), but I haven't heard much about the actual tracks on the peninsula (recently).

Everything would point to at least HSR trains using the Caltrain tracks at times (since it's likely some express trains will have to pass locals somewhere on the peninsula), so hopefully we'll see the reverse as well.

Busy Bee May 5, 2010 3:29 AM

Everything you ever wanted to know about CAHSR and Caltrain compatibility and inter-operation can be found at http://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/

PragmaticIdealist May 5, 2010 9:55 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pesto (Post 4823919)
Again, I would focus on the intra-regional (LA and Bay Area) sections; each of those areas has legitimate traffic issues already and each area expects substantial growth. Palmdale, IE, OC to DT LA should be quite heavily used if priced correctly. Since the Peninsula doesn't want the train, I would just upgrade the existing service, and focus on SJ-Oakland-Sacto, which has train connections but they are very slow and with multiple stops.

I'm among those who are indifferent to many of these stories and to the increased resistance. This pattern of initial support that is gradually replaced with vociferous opposition has been repeated with every reinvestment proposal that has come from the President and from those aligned with him.

I do agree very much with Pesto that working on the intraregional service before the backbone Initial Operating Segment is preferable, even though doing so may be less profitable in the short term.

The car and highway problems are probably more immediate than the airplane issues.

pesto May 5, 2010 8:26 PM

PI: thanks for the support. It's rare I get any.

I understand how much sexier SF-LA is, with images of Hollywood and the Golden Gate and bullet trains flying through the desert at 200 mph plus; and how mundane a commuter train from Palmdale sounds, even if it gets you DT in 27 min., which allows you to catch LRT to the westside, LB, etc., and still take under an hour.

But the reality is that the major commuting freeways in LA (and the Bay) are choked now and will just get worse, and the LA-Bay routes generally move well and air service is wide-spread and reasonably priced.

Even the regional pieces will take 10-15 years to implement and in the meantime we can see what new facts drive future builidng plans.

Gordo May 5, 2010 9:14 PM

^I would certainly welcome that approach being taken, and those areas being built first, but that would be nearly impossible politically. You have to face facts - ballot initiatives are the only way to fund things in California, and the only way to get enough money to build what you're talking about is to go statewide with an initiative framed like prop 1A was (which allowed 50%+1 to pass). Very unlikely that you'd get San Diego County or Riverside County to vote to pay for a train from LA to Palmdale. The Bay Area would be even more difficult - San Mateo or Marin County paying for high speed service connecting San Joaquin County to Santa Clara County? LOL. Only the "sexiness" of LA to SF (and the state-level, assembly-initiated tricks to make it a 50%+1 prop) make it remotely feasible politically.

You could possibly get something done in Southern California, because of the ginormous counties (and small number of them) that exist, but trying to put together anything in the 15+ counties of the Bay Area and Central Valley (Sac to Fresno)? Impossible.

PragmaticIdealist May 6, 2010 8:19 PM

Prop. 1A was sold to people, though, with the prospect of the Sacramento and San Diego routes. I think it would be very easy to find the political will to establish two separate high-speed rail systems in the northern and southern parts of the state before a line is established through the Central Valley.

I think everyone recognizes the immediate need for better connectivity among San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento and among Anaheim, Los Angeles, Sylmar, San Bernardino, and San Diego.

202_Cyclist May 11, 2010 8:30 PM

California can learn from Japan's Shinkansen (SF Chronicle)
 
California can learn from Japan's Shinkansen

Michael Cabanatuan
Sunday, May 9, 2010
San Francisco Chronicle

http://imgs.sfgate.com/c/pictures/20...9031_part6.jpg
A Shinkansen high-speed train approaches a station in Tokyo. They arrive and depart every three to four minutes.

In a conference room in the Central Japan Railway Co.'s high-rise headquarters, Kenji Hagihara, a public relations manager, pauses in his telling of the story of Japan's high-speed rail system and glances at a calendar on the wall.

"By the way," he says, nonchalantly, "yesterday was the 45th anniversary of the Shinkansen."

http://imgs.sfgate.com/c/pictures/20...0501569119.jpg
A Shinkansen high-speed train awaits maintenance in the East Japan Railway Rolling Stock Center.

While California's plans to build high-speed rail agonizingly inch forward, attracting federal funding and support as well as increasing opposition from communities concerned about noise and critics who question its financing, in Japan, the world's premier high-speed rail system offers a glimpse at how high-speed rail could change communities, cope with the challenges of noise and earthquakes, and become a part of everyday culture.

The Shinkansen, as the speedy train network is known in Japan, is not considered futuristic, fancy or for the elite, as some critics of California's high-speed rail plans have scoffed. Rather, it's part of the fabric of daily life, something not so much taken for granted as relied upon. The sleek trains - better known outside Japan as bullet trains - shoot through much of the nation almost unnoticed every few minutes, efficiently hauling more than 300 million riders per year.

The world's first high-speed rail line, the Shinkansen opened in 1964, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics, with a single line between Tokyo and Osaka. It was like nothing the world had seen, with dedicated tracks and a train that ran at speeds of 130 mph.

http://imgs.sfgate.com/c/pictures/20...0501568756.jpg
The bullet train's cars feature comfortable seats, plenty of legroom and windows to watch the scenery speeding by.

Japan's rail culture
Today, the Shinkansen, which means "new trunk line" in Japanese, covers about 1,400 miles on five lines. Another 400 miles of extensions are under construction and 300 miles are planned. Three private rail companies run the trains at speeds up to 186 mph on tracks built and maintained by the national government.

Japan's high-speed trains run with an efficiency, frequency and reliability unimaginable to those familiar with Amtrak or U.S. commuter railroads. The sleek trains with the distinctive long noses depart as often as 14 times an hour - and they're almost always on time. Over the past 45 years, the average delay is less than one minute - and that includes stoppages because of floods, earthquakes, accidents and natural disasters. Rail officials also note their safety record: There's never been a passenger fatality on the Shinkansen.

"The Shinkansen is very fast, very comfortable - you can relax," said Soichiro Takeda, a marketing manager for a construction corporation, who rides it at least once a month. "And it's never late. Time is very sacred here."

Commuters account for about 5 percent of riders, railway officials say, but the reclining airline-style seats (but with more legroom) are also filled with business travelers, families, students, shoppers, weekend adventurers and a few wide-eyed foreign tourists.

But while Japan and the Shinkansen show the promise of high-speed rail to California, they also reveal the challenges.

"Japan, especially Tokyo, is the epitome of rail culture," said Tomohiko Tanaguchi, a senior adviser for the Central Japan Railway, "and California, especially Los Angeles, is the epitome of car culture."

Even before the Shinkansen's debut, Japan was a rail-oriented society. And the Shinkansen, now with five lines operating, remains just a small part of the nation's extensive rail infrastructure, which includes a subway system with 19 lines run by public and private operators. Other large cities have subway networks as well, and even smaller towns have rail lines that loop through the city.

"You can get anywhere in (Tokyo) without a car, and around the country as well," said Jared Braiterman, a former San Franciscan studying sustainability in Japan as a research fellow. "Trains are coming every three to four minutes. The coverage is phenomenal; the efficiency is amazing."

Challenge of urban planning
California lacks such an extensive transit network, even in the Bay Area, and the tradition of traveling by train disappeared more than half a century ago, replaced by a culture of driving and flying. California doesn't have the same population density as Japan either, and it's only been a recent convert to building around transit stations. But that will probably change with high-speed rail, as it has in Japan.

"Whether it can succeed (in California) totally depends on the development of the area around the stations," said Teruo Morita, general manager of East Japan Railway Co.'s international railway business division.

The advent of the Shinkansen brought a population and business boom in many cities, and spurred others, like Kakegawa City, in the green tea-growing Shizuoka Prefecture, about 120 miles southwest of Tokyo, to lobby for stations of their own. Kakegawa, a city of 63,000, was dying like many American farm towns, with children heading off to college in Tokyo and never returning.

A Shinkansen station, residents figured, would lure new businesses and would also allow people to commute to work in Tokyo. They reached a deal with the railway, raised $120 million for construction, including $30 million in donations from residents, and built a large town square in front of the station site. The station opened in 1988, and businesses and residents began moving to town. Multistory buildings rose around the station, rents increased and the city developed an industrial park filled mainly with tech businesses, and new residential areas. The population nearly doubled, along with tax revenues.

Success at curbing noise
Deputy Mayor Kimiharu Yamamoto believes the station saved Kakegawa City, and advises smaller cities to embrace high-speed rail.

"If we didn't have any station, there would be no industrial park, no businesses," he said. "We would just be left alone as a farming town."

High-speed trains don't just deliver prosperity, though. They also come with problems, and noise has been a primary concern, much as it is on the Peninsula where some residents and cities are fighting with the High-Speed Rail Authority.

Japan has a national noise standard for the Shinkansen, limiting the noise it generates to 70 decibels in residential areas and 75 decibels in commercial districts. For comparison, a vacuum cleaner at 10 feet produces 70 dB, and a car passing 10 feet away measures 80 dB.

To meet Japan's stringent standards, rail officials say, they use lightweight trains with sleek and sometimes odd-looking noses, design windows, doors and the spaces where cars connect to be as smooth and aerodynamic as possible, cover the wheels, and work to quiet the overhead electrical supply system, a major noise source. The railways also install sound-walls in some locations along the tracks, ranging from roughly 2 to 12 feet high, and they travel at reduced speeds in the densest areas.

From beside the elevated tracks in the countryside, the Shinkansen is definitely noticeable as it whips past at top speed. But the low rumble and swishing sound it produces seems quieter than a passing BART train or Caltrain. There's no high-pitched screech or metallic roar, and no blaring horns. In urban areas, where the trains travel at lower speeds, the sound is mostly a muffled rumble.

Built to survive quakes
Japan also has experience in dealing with another California problem - earthquakes. The nation is as seismically unstable as California, and the Shinkansen is built to survive major temblors. While the system has been damaged in earthquakes, there has never been a death or injury on the Shinkansen caused by a quake.

The Shinkansen employs an early warning system that officials at the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency say is unique. It detects the primary waves of an earthquake, which travel faster than the main shock waves, instantly calculates the intensity and location and potential damage, then, if the temblor seems serious, cuts off the electrical supply to trains in the region and automatically applies emergency brakes.

"You need a mile, a couple of miles to stop," said Kazunari Kikuchi, special projects director for the agency. "Every second counts."

Ready to build in California
With its seismic sensibilities, its longevity and its reputation for punctuality and safety, Japan considers itself a good candidate to build California's high-speed train system.

California's system is still deep in the planning stages with engineers and planners mapping out specific alignments and station sites and completing environmental studies. The High Speed Rail Authority has $9.95 billion in state bond funds and another $2.25 billion in federal high-speed rail money but needs to line up more private and public investment to pay for the $43 billion cost of the first phase between San Francisco and Southern California. Construction is expected to begin by 2012 with the first trains running in 2019.

Japan, along with a number of other nations, has served as an adviser to the High-Speed Rail Authority and would like to bring the Shinkansen to America.

"I have a strong dream that the Shinkansen bullet train will be running on the land of California some day," said Seiji Maehara, the minister of Land Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. While the Japanese have plenty of advice for California about the system's design and operation, their overall message is simple: Build it.

"California doesn't have any image of the benefits they will get," Kikuchi said.


Chronicle staff writer Michael Cabanatuan visited Japan in the fall of 2009 on a fellowship provided by the Foreign Press Center, Japan.

ltsmotorsport May 12, 2010 5:33 AM

Back-seat Driver: Sacramento's off the bench in high-speed rail competition

By Tony Bizjak
tbizjak@sacbee.com The Sacramento Bee
Published: Monday, May. 10, 2010 - 12:00 am | Page 1B


Some say California's bullet train is a dream that'll never happen or a bad idea that'll end up being a money pit.

State voters, however, have given a thumbs up, approving $9 billion in seed money. And the feds just kicked in a few billion more.

That's caused some in Sacramento – including Mayor Kevin Johnson – to begin pushing the case for fast trains to Sacramento.

At the moment, Sacramento's bullet train ticket is stamped "second-class city."

San Francisco and Los Angeles scored the good seats. The first high-speed rail line is planned to run between those two cities.

Sacramento and San Diego would get service later, if the first line makes money, as projected in the state high-speed rail business plan.

That's a huge if.

The business plan's ridership numbers are being challenged in a new lawsuit. Meanwhile, Bay Area communities and advocacy groups are bickering over the S.F.-L.A. route.

Some Sacramento leaders figure the moment is good to try to move this area up from caboose status.

Last week, they took a step forward.

The High Speed Rail Authority board agreed to study the feasibility of building a precursor system (call it a mini-bullet train) linking Sacramento, Stockton, Merced and Livermore.

It would be electrified and have grade separations, allowing the state's high-speed rail trains eventually to share the line.

"It whets the appetite," said Stacey Mortensen of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission.

Michael Faust of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce likes the creative thinking. He was among several last week who asked the state to make Sacramento part of phase one for the bigger system.

But where's the money to build the regional line? How many will ride?

Proponents say answers are a ways off. For now, Sacramento finally is stepping into the game.

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/05/10/273...#ixzz0ngrZKzSB

BrianSac May 13, 2010 3:46 AM

:previous:
I'm glad you posted the above. I was going to post it tonight.

Positives
1. I'm glad Sacramento's leaders are finally stepping-up. They have been absent regarding the subject far too long.

2. We all know once High Speed Rail gets going between LA and SF; it will be another 25yrs before they connect Sac to the network, so in the meantime, this Sac-Stk-Merced-Livermore ("SacMerMore") electric train gives us a better alternative other then relying on amtrak to connect us with Merced and therefore the whole High Speed Rail network.

Negatives
1. If this "SacMerMore" electric train is successful then the High Speed Rail leaders may feel it isn't necessary to truly connect Downtown Sac with the network because the "SacMerMore" train is sufficient.

2. On the other hand, (you have five fingers), if the "SacMerMore" train is not successful then the High Speed Rail leaders may feel it isn't worth the cost to connect Downtown Sac.

JDRCRASH May 13, 2010 6:00 AM

^ Another 25 years? C'mon, that's a stretch.

mwadswor May 13, 2010 3:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BrianSac (Post 4837347)
:previous:
I'm glad you posted the above. I was going to post it tonight.

Positives
1. I'm glad Sacramento's leaders are finally stepping-up. They have been absent regarding the subject far too long.

2. We all know once High Speed Rail gets going between LA and SF; it will be another 25yrs before they connect Sac to the network, so in the meantime, this Sac-Stk-Merced-Livermore ("SacMerMore") electric train gives us a better alternative other then relying on amtrak to connect us with Merced and therefore the whole High Speed Rail network.

Negatives
1. If this "SacMerMore" electric train is successful then the High Speed Rail leaders may feel it isn't necessary to truly connect Downtown Sac with the network because the "SacMerMore" train is sufficient.

2. On the other hand, (you have five fingers), if the "SacMerMore" train is not successful then the High Speed Rail leaders may feel it isn't worth the cost to connect Downtown Sac.

3. A precursor line isn't built to full 220 mph standards to save money and is never retrofitted down the line because it would be to disruptive to the existing service, forever leaving the Sacramento leg at a lower speed than the rest of the system.

4. Regional boosterism and infighting ends up sinking the project for everybody.

Fixed it :)

202_Cyclist May 15, 2010 2:13 PM

Guns vs. butter
 
Factbox: A look at costs of Afghan war to U.S. taxpayers

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64914820100510

This is pretty amazing. The administration is seeking $33B to prop up the corrupt Hamid Karzai. High speed rail connecting the 7M people in the Bay Area with the 18M people in Southern California is expected to cost $43B. CA voters already approved $10B in state bond money in 2008. For the cost of this war supplemental, we could fund an infrastructure investment that will reduce our consumption of oil, make the US more competitive, and create good paying jobs for the hundreds of thousands of people out of work in CA.

I don't mean to bash the Chinese but we have plenty of money to fight these wars but we have to beg China and other countries to fund our infrastructure? Some times you can't help but ask which is the developed country and which one is the developing country.

OhioGuy May 15, 2010 3:17 PM

So what happens if Meg Whitman becomes governor? She strikes me as someone who probably doesn't care all that much about transportation issues, other than her party's general pro-road stance. Is she different? Or will she come in and strip away state financial support for high speed rail?


All times are GMT. The time now is 9:00 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.