Discussion related to commuter rail and transit operators in California past and present including Los Angeles Metrolink and Metro Subway and Light Rail, San Diego Coaster, Sprinter and MTS Trolley, Altamont Commuter Express (Stockton), Caltrain and MUNI (San Francisco), Sacramento RTD Light Rail, and others...

Moderator: lensovet

  by VikingNik
 
I am certainly not an expert on the area but why would the S.F. station require a lot of tunneling? Would they not just use the Southern Pacific r.o.w. and their old station? Is that already fully used up by CalTrain?
  by lpetrich
 
Here's what they plan for San Francisco - San Jose:

To expand the entire route to 4 tracks. The inner tracks will be express tracks, used by CHSRA trains and Caltrain expresses, while the outer tracks will be local tracks, used by Caltrain locals.

The ex-SP ROW ends at 4th and Townsend Streets, where the existing downtown Caltrain station is. It will be extended in a tunnel from there to the Transbay Terminal, something long-proposed for Caltrain itself. In addition, Caltrain will be electrified, permitting greater acceleration and less maintenance.


Which suggests another opportunity for scrimping: to use part of that existing station as a CHSRA station. But the SF Muni Metro runs to there, and Market Street is a few minutes away.
  by lensovet
 
lpetrich – there's no need to speculate here on things that have already been determined long ago. look on the CAHSRA website, it's all laid out.

the initial stretch to be built is the anaheim-sf segment. in addition, i believe that the anaheim-laus section will be the first in operation, along with a high-speed test track in the central valley which will be capable of full 220 mph operation.

i'd also like to point out that the anaheim-laus segment is *not* politically difficult, and that the central valley might actually be harder due to UP ROW concerns. orange county is very interested and pushing hard for this project to happen, so they will be using all the power they have to make sure there are as few obstacles as possible to this project being a success.
  by lpetrich
 
Yes, I'm familiar with that plan, but I think that my concerns could be expressed as:

Which parts of it will they try to build and open first? Or will all of it be opened at the same time?

As to being politically difficult, I was thinking of the problems with the existing SF-SJ ex-SP right-of-way. In parts of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, there are a lot of buildings that get rather close to the tracks in some places, making it difficult to expand it from 2 to 4 tracks. And the existing San Francisco part has technical difficulties also: tunnels. However, these are tunnels through some hills, making them hard-rock tunnels, which are likely easier politically than dug-up-streets tunnels.
  by lpetrich
 
I wish to announce that the full business plan is now available.

It is at the CAHSR site's Library page, under "2008 Business Plan".

It's a rather big collection of documents, but it should fill in the details that the earlier-released business-plan documents had lacked -- those earlier-released documents look like some glossy and vacuous brochure.

It will take me a while for me to read them, so I can't say much more at this point.
  by lpetrich
 
I finally read it. Some highlights:

* They plan to select from existing high-speed-train designs, and to have spatial and/or temporal separation from built-like-a tank, FRA-compliant trains. Spatial includes crash barriers and elevated trackways.

* The system will be available for light-freight service using similar rolling stock. Imagine USPS, UPS, or FedEx trains on the system.

* They plan to try to have parts of the system completed if they cannot complete the whole system, and they have chosen SF-SJ and LA-Anaheim as such high-priority parts, since these can be useful for commuter service. If they can complete more, they will try to do the Central Valley and then connect it to either LA or SF.

* From the construction and financing schedule, they expect to do all segments close to simultaneously, with SJ - Central Valley done a year after the others.

* It seems that part of the official cost estimates is padding for construction costs, in case overruns happen along the way.

* The initial line has a spur out to Merced, a spur that will be served by locals from SF and Anaheim.

* They will operate a mixture of local, semi-express, and express trains, the latter stopping only at SF, SJ, LA, and Anaheim. Some of the semi-expresses are skip-stop trains, and some of them are local near SF and LA.

* The best SF-LA time is 2h41m (express), while the worst one is 3h23m (local).

* Intermediate stations will have platforms on sidings on each side of the main line.
  by lensovet
 
great info, thanks. glad to hear that they are going to have light trains running instead of reinventing the wheel like the acela did. can't wait to start seeing these trains run.
  by icgsteve
 
lensovet wrote:. can't wait to start seeing these trains run.
from the pic it appears that you might be young enough to see it happen.

Last I heard this plan also included $ billions in private capital...ya, right. MTA is getting killed by financing capital programs with loans from financial markets only a couple of years ago, yet we think that California can finance an entire HSR system with borrowed money?... When it currently can't pay its bills, or even come close. Sorry Charley, the days of irresponsible lending are over. If the voters approve raising the entire $30 billion or so with taxes, and if they come to the table with $10 billion cash in hand as a down payment, maybe then they can finance the rest.
  by lpetrich
 
The private capital would likely come from real-estate companies hoping to build near it and train-operator companies that might be operating the system's trains.

That aside, I decided to assess the time penalty for stopping at each station. Working from "Ridership and Revenue", the express SF-Anaheim case is

San Francisco - 0, San Jose - 30, Los Angeles - 161, Anaheim - 183

The local SF-Anaheim case is

San Francisco - 0, MIllbrae - 13, Palo Alto - 23, San Jose - 38, Gilroy - 55, Fresno - 95, Bakersfield - 132, Palmdale - 165, Sylmar - 185, Burbank - 194, Los Angeles - 203, Norwalk - 215, Anaheim - 228

All times are in minutes. The document states that 90 s was used as the station stop time, except for 2 minutes at SJ and LA. The express-local time difference is 45 minutes, and distributed over 11 stations, it is 4 minutes/station. The average extra time from accelerating or braking is thus 1.25 m, which agrees with the estimate that I had found in the DesertXPress thread.

The distances are:
SF - SJ: 47 mi
SJ - Gr: 30 mi
Gr - LA: 384 mi
LA - An: 31 mi

Gr = Gilroy, An = Anaheim. Sources: Old Southern Pacific San-Jose Area schedule, Wikipedia on Caltrain, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner schedule.

The Gilroy - LA route I simulated with a Google Maps flat-road trip:
Gilroy - CA-33/CA-152 - Chowchilla - CA-99 - Bakersfield - CA-58 - Mojave - CA14 - Sylmar - I-5 - Los Angeles
It yields a total SJ - LA distance of 414 mi and a SF - LA distance of 461 mi.

Express and local times and speeds:
SF - SJ: 30, 38m - 94, 74 mph
SJ - LA: 131, 165m - 190, 151 mph
LA - An: 22, 25m - 85, 74 mph

SF - LA: 161, 203m - 172, 136 mph

This is beyond the limit of most existing high-speed trains, which go as fast as 300 kmh / 186 mph. However, some of the upcoming generation of high-speed trains can go as fast as 350 kmh / 217 mph, meaning that their best time between Gilroy and LA will be 88% of their top speed.
  by lensovet
 
they had released a map some time ago (which is no longer available) which showed the expected MAS for all segments of the system; in particular, the first segment to be built, between merced and bakersfield, as a testing line for equipment etc, was marked as being 200+ mph in speed. in addition they have consistently thrown around 220 mph as a likely speed. they are aware of the need for these speeds if they want to get these times, but they are also planning on obtaining an FRA waiver so that these things don't need to be heavy as hell.
  by jbvb
 
Having ridden HSR in Europe, it will be a real shame if CHSRA has to sacrifice service flexibility (German ICE equipment probably runs 30% of its miles off the high-speed lines) for speed at an affordable cost. But it will take a major change at the FRA to revisit that.
  by VPayne
 
I believe they are still planning on running on mixed use lines at lower speeds. From the 2008 business plan engineering section, begining on Page 5:

1.2
SYSTEM DESIGN AND SAFETY....

One of the key technical differences between successful high-speed train technology and current U.S. regulatory requirements governing passenger trains is the trainset specification. Current U.S. trainset regulations are based more on a “crash worthiness” approach to safety, while a “collision avoidance” philosophy is used to design high-speed train systems in Asia and Europe. Due to this differing approach to system safety, the Code of Federal Regulations currently requires all existing U.S. passenger trains to be at least twice as strong than the lightweight vehicles used in European and Asian high-speed trains. In order to meet this strength requirement, high-speed train manufacturers would have to structurally redesign their trains, adding significant development time and cost, resulting in higher costs to the Authority, but with uncertain effect on the ultimate safety of the operation. Such a redesign would make high-speed rolling stock heavier, require more energy for the same speed, and jeopardize the low axle loadings that effectively enable the high speeds, low operating and maintenance costs, and positive cash flows enjoyed by high-speed train operations in Europe and Asia. In addition to being more costly to purchase and operate, heavier equipment will likely cause changes in other system components such as track or bridges and result in higher maintenance costs and shorter replacement cycles. In summary, it is unlikely that high-speed trainsets meeting current U.S. standards can be economically built and successfully operated at the 220 miles per hour speed targeted for the California High-Speed Train system.

Trainset concerns are higher where the relatively light-weight high-speed trains might share track with much heavier conventional U.S. passenger trains. Shared track is being considered where existing tracks are available and a dedicated high-speed line is prohibitive due to environmental impacts, right-of-way impacts, and costs. Similar to railway systems in Asia and Europe, the California High-Speed Train System includes two short segments (Los Angeles to Anaheim in Southern California and Caltrain in the Bay Area) which are currently expected to share track with conventional rail providing a cost-effective way of bringing high-speed train service directly into major metropolitan business centers. In both segments, the high-speed trains will operate at reduced speeds no greater than 125 miles per hour. Passenger safety on high-speed systems, both dedicated track and shared-track, is achieved by a train signaling system that provides positive train control and separation, and automatic train-stop capabilities to monitor train traffic and avoid collisions. Crash-energy management components are also incorporated into the high-speed train design in the unlikely event of low speed collisions. It should be noted that high-speed train travel is the safest form of transportation in the world and that proven systems in Asia and Europe have been operating safely in shared-track conditions for over 40 years.
  by icgsteve
 
jbvb wrote:Having ridden HSR in Europe, it will be a real shame if CHSRA has to sacrifice service flexibility (German ICE equipment probably runs 30% of its miles off the high-speed lines) for speed at an affordable cost. But it will take a major change at the FRA to revisit that.
And why is it that after the ten years or whatever that this plan has been kicking around, with planning funded and in process, that California does not have a deal with the FRA? What knucklehead (California taxpayers) agrees to fund a project when the basic legal frame work (FRA Rules) for the project are not in place?
  by lpetrich
 
It's still in the planning stages, but some people are already talking about where it should go next. I've seen some such talk in the Facebook group for it, for instance. It may seem premature, but it would nevertheless be interesting to assess the possibilities. Here goes:

San Jose - Fremont, Fremont - Oakland, Fremont - Stockton

Those possibilities were considered and rejected by the CHSRA, though the CHSRA has left them open for possible future construction. However, I've seen some transit activists sound very wounded by the CHSRA's choosing the Pacheco Pass route rather than the Altamont Pass one (SJ - Fremont - Stockton). It would make Bay Area - Sacramento service easier than the Pacheco-Pass route, because it does not detour to Gilroy and Merced, but it has various drawbacks, like cramped rights of way.

Oakland - Fairfield - Sacramento

That's a logical possibility for HSR service between the Bay Area and Sacramento, though I haven't been able to find out why that was rejected. The existing route, used by the Capitol Corridor trains, follows a rather twisty route along the shore of San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait, crossing that strait from Martinez to Benicia. A HSR route might tunnel through the East Bay Hills from the Richmond area to Martinez before crossing to Benicia and Fairfield, or else it will follow the coastline before crossing from Crockett to Vallejo, turning east across the hills to Fairfield. The rest of the way from Fairfield to Sacramento should be easy, though the HSR line will likely need its own version of the Yolo Causeway.

Los Angeles - Las Vegas

There is already a plan for this, in the form of a separate system called the DesertXPress that will run between Victorville and LV along I-15 and the UP line. Its backers hope to get private funding for it, which IMO will be rather difficult. But this system could be extended from Victorville to Palmdale or to Riverside to connect with the California system. Victorville - LV is about 200 mi, and Palmdale and Riverside each add another 50 mi.

Victorville - LV construction should be fairly easy, as should Palmdale - Victorville. However, Palmdale - Riverside will require crossing Cajon Pass, which will be much more difficult.

Los Angeles - Phoenix and Tucson

LA - Phoenix is about 323 mi along I-10 or 405 along the UP line (simulated with a Google Maps road trip); the latter goes through Yuma. From Phoenix to Tucson is 116 mi, and Tucson to El Paso, TX about 315 mi. Construction should be fairly easy, though that cannot be said about a connection to Albuquerque, NM, which is separated from Phoenix and Tucson by a mountain range. Albuquerque - El Paso is 266 mi in relatively easy terrain, however. Populations: Phoenix: 5.3m, Tucson: 1.0m, El Paso: 740k, Albuquerque: 840k -- not very populous.

Sacramento - Reno

That distance is 132 mi by I-80 and 151 by the UP Donner Pass route. But one must cross the Sierra Nevada mountains, making construction of a HSR line very difficult. Furthermore, Reno has only 340k people as opposed to Las Vegas's 1.8m, and it would be hard to justify nearly 100 miles of viaducts and tunnels just to get there.

Sacramento - Redding

That distance is 161 mi by I-5 and 159 mi by the UP line over fairly flat terrain, making for easy construction, though Redding's population is 180k, rather small for a possible HSR endpoint. Chico, also on the UP route, has a somewhat larger population: 210k, but Yuba City has 170k, and the other towns there have even less.

Redding - Eugene

This is for connecting to a possible Pacific Northwest HSR line. Distance: 316 mi along I-5, 314 mi detoured to Klamath Falls, and 355 mi along the UP line, which goes through Klamath Falls. The I-5 / Siskiyou route looks more direct, but is almost continuously mountainous, while the Klamath Falls route, a.k.a. the Natron Cutoff, has some more-or-less flat area near KF and Chemult. However, even the KF route has about 60 mi of mountains near Redding and another 60 mi of mountains near Eugene.

And Eugene is not very populous, at 150k. However, Eugene and Redding are big cities compared to the most populous city on the I-5/Siskiyou route, Medford, with 76k people, not to mention the most populous city on the KF route, KF itself at 19k.

Looking beyond each end along I-5/UP, we find some sizable cities: Sacramento (2.1m) and Portland (2.2m), and beyond them, the San Francisco Bay Area (7.1m) and Seattle-Tacoma (4.0m). Sacramento-Portland would make respectable ends for a HSR line, except for the distance between them: I-5: 580 mi, KF: 579 mi, UP: 647 mi.

Conclusion

An extension to Las Vegas is the most plausible possibility, though it will likely need political support from Nevada.

Of the others, an extension to Phoenix and Tucson is the most likely, though it is a bit long by HSR standards, and it will need political support from Arizona. Reno, however, has 1/5 the population of Las Vegas, making it difficult to justify construction of 100 miles of mountain HSR line to it. And Redding is even less populous, though the construction would be much easier.

And a Redding - Eugene HSR line would be very unlikely.

Scaling back a bit to intermediate top speeds of 110 mph or so, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, and Redding become more likely, because of the relatively easy construction, while Reno and Eugene remain difficult. But these would not be true extensions of the CA HSR system, but separate lines that connect to it.

Site Admin Note: Merging some CA topics, and updating topic thread title. Also going to sticky.
  by VPayne
 
Not that I approve of the outcome but California did take on the EPA and win... at least for now. Compared to that the FRA would be a somewhat mild battle. Further, the FRA does allow for a crash energy management but nobody has gone through the process yet.

I for one would love to see how an articulated crash energy management trainset with a long nose (TGV) would behave in a grade crossing collision with a semi at 80 mph compared to a Bombardier aluminum cab car that meets the older standards or even the newer standards being rolled out. I think that model alone would probably prove the case.
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