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By Tim Hunt

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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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What will $20 million do to lessen congestion?

Uploaded: Jul 8, 2014

Following up on the post about the Alameda County transportation sales tax extension, it allocates $20 million to analyze and upgrade the Interstate 580/680 interchange.
Compare that with $400 million for the very expensive extension of BART to Livermore and the $132 million allocated to improvements on the Highway 84 corridor between Livermore and Sunol. The Highway 84 improvements can have a direct positive effect on the 580/680 interchange by providing an efficient route to southbound 680 in Sunol.
If the Highway 84 improvements allow southbound 580 commuters to save time, they will embrace it. The open question—the huge one—is whether anything less than a full-fledged freeway with a full interchange at 84/680 can improve mobility enough that motorists will readily take the alternative.
Discussing transportation, I already have posted about the governor and Democrat leaders diverting cap-and-trade revenues (another great government scam) to the high-speed rail. That was $250 million this year and 25 percent of annual revenues in the ongoing years. The environmental documents already show that the high-speed rail does not reduce greenhouse gases—so the legality is being appropriately challenged.
What's equally interesting is that incoming Senate leader Kevin De Leon of Los Angeles was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying the Legislature needed to save the governor from himself on the high speed rail. De Leon also said that the high-speed rail early expenditures would be much better if they were loaded in the metropolitan areas north and south so there was a payoff in lessening commute traffic. That brought up a route from Palmdale to Burbank that, because of mountains and urban areas, will be very expensive to build, but actually might be utilized by passengers.
Other reporting pointed out that if the pols were really interested in maximizing ridership, the route would run along the coast between San Diego and Los Angeles—trains that currently are well utilized by riders.
The governor, who took office with the state facing massive annual deficits, helped erase that by cutting spending and convincing voters to pass "temporary" tax increases in 2012 that are scheduled to expire in 2017. He's worked hard to be fiscally responsible in many areas, but continues to ignore reality when it comes to high-speed rail.


Posted by JT, a resident of Danville,
on Jul 11, 2014 at 9:21 am

Exactly, the place to put high speed rail is to serve the underserved communities. Try getting from San Diego or Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara or Salinas. What a joke, it takes way too long. But to put in high speed rail between two already highly served markets with air and freeway?
The place for high speed rail is the east coast, not the west coast. Boston?NY. NY/WashDC, Phil/NY, Phil/WashDC etc etc.

And if you think you will be able to just drive up to a train station and board a train is a joke. How long do you think it will take for the terrorists to realize they can kill more people by derailing a high speed train than you can by hijacking an airplane. Which means that the same TSA check in process will be required, the same car rental companies with shuttles and the entire length of the tracks enshrouded in tamper proof electronic fencing.

The High Speed Rail is a train wreck

Posted by Peter Kluget, a resident of Danville,
on Jul 12, 2014 at 12:24 pm

"The environmental documents already show that the high-speed rail does not reduce greenhouse gases"

This was such a remarkable statement that I was compelled to research it. I checked the final EIR prepared, vetted and debated for the first segment, which provides a detailed assessment of the GHG generated by both the construction of the system and its operation.

It turns out that statement is flat out false. Transportation using HSR generates ***far less*** GHG per passenger mile than auto or air travel. It's true that the construction of HSR would generate GHG - just as would the construction of additional roads and airport facilities that will be needed to meet future travel demands will if HSR isn't built. The EIR for the project projects that the entire amount of GHG emissions generated by construction would be offset by the savings in GHG emissions by people travelling by train rather than car or air in just 2 to 4 months of operations. (Section 3.3, page 44)

Others have challenged that analysis, but the only way to get the reduction of GHG gasses even close is to assume that almost no one will ever ride the trains (so the savings in operation aren't enough to offset the generation of GHG in construction), that no roads or airport expansions will be built to handle the traffic would not be travelling by HST if it's not built, and that no more GHG-free energy sources like solar and wind will ever be built in California in the future. (Only HST can effectively use non-GHG generating power sources for long distance travel; planes can't, and for electric cars it's still iffy with battery range limitations.)

The environmental documents don't show what is represented here - they show the exact opposite.

Just another Tim Hunt rant against the future. What else is new? As usual, when there's an issue out there where some corporation or corporations stand to increase significant future profits by spreading FUD, <cough> Chevron, Boeing, Southwest <cough> the disinformation flows freely, and there will always be those who uncritically lap it up.

JT, here's a reality check: the East Coast already has high speed trains (Acela) running hourly on the Boston-NY-Washington corridor with no TSA-style procedures in effect. The difference between a train and a plane is the train is limited in where it can go. You can't make a train crash into skyscrapers in New York.

And if you're going to build a transit infrastructure with large up-front costs why would you ignore the corridor which has the most traffic and put it somewhere else instead? That makes very little sense. The Acela Express doesn't travel between "underserved communities" it goes from Boston to Providence to New Haven to Stamford to New York, competing with airplanes and bus routes. (San Jose, Fresno, Bakersfield and Palmdale have larger populations than those East Coast cities, by the way)

Posted by Orville Right , a resident of San Ramon,
on Jul 13, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I think TGVs may make sense in areas of high population density, like Europe, Japan or the northeast corridor. Northeast has 345 people/sq mile, whereas the west has 42. Or if you prefer: NJ has 1210; CA 246. There's simply too much big emptiness out here to justify all the capital investment in fixed trackage -- for no increase in speed or convenience.

Trains are useful, mostly for bulk freight, but to call this 200-yr old technology The Future of passenger travel is to ignore the advantages of many intervening advances. You can drastically improve the pony express -- it'll still not compete with email.

It just won't fly.

Posted by Peter Kluget, a resident of Danville,
on Jul 14, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Orville, are you saying that because the technology of airplanes is only 100 years old it's the wave of the future? I would disagree. The ultra-modern SST is no longer being flown because while it was fast, it was inefficient and the extra speed didn't offset the extra energy costs. Until we can "e-transport" ourselves from place to place it comes down to simple physics, and over a 350 mile range (SF to LA) HSR wins hands down.

In Europe, HSR is used mostly for intercity tripe like Paris-Bordeaux, Paris-Frankfurt - trips comparable to SF-LA. It actually makes little sense to put HSR in New Jersey; by the time you get up to speed you're practically out of state. California, with its dense population centers less than 400 miles apart actually is ideally situated for HSR.

I'm always curious why people make arguments that actually prove the opposite of the position they're taking and then finish with a flourish like "It just won't fly." Did you just read something and repeat it?

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