High-Speed Rail Authority Meets In L.A., Hears From Critics and Supporters

California High-Speed Rail  construction underway on the San Joaquin River Viaduct in North Fresno, March 2018. Photo by CAHSRA
California High-Speed Rail construction underway on the San Joaquin River Viaduct in North Fresno, March 2018. Photo by CAHSRA

At its monthly meeting held in downtown Los Angeles this morning, The California High-Speed Rail Authority Board approved a transfer of $40 million to utility relocation work in the Central Valley. It also approved extending an interagency agreement with Caltrans for its legal team to continue to support property acquisition for the initial under-construction phase.

Public input at the meeting focused on two informational items, where the board was not making a decision today:

Streetsblog CA has covered CAHSRA’s draft 2018 Business Plan, when it was released and when it was discussed in legislative committees. It increases the estimated cost for CAHSR phase 1 (basically from L.A. to San Francisco) to $77.3 billion, from $64 billion estimated in 2016. The plan also pushes back the planned start of rail service from Silicon Valley to the Central Valley. In 2016, this was planned for 2029, and the new plan pushes the estimate back to 2033.

Travel time comparisons - Chart via CAHSRA draft Business Plan
Travel time comparisons – chart via CAHSRA draft Business Plan

Though Southern California service will follow the initial Northern-to-Central California service, the agency is gradually moving forward with plans for four segments that will bring high-speed rail all the way to Los Angeles and Anaheim. In addition to early alignment analysis and technical work, CAHSRA is a partner on several rail modernization/early implementation projects in L.A. County – including Metro’s Regional Connector subway, Union Station upgrades, grade separations, Metrolink trains, and more.

Public comment included high-speed rail supporters and opponents. Plenty of vocal criticism came from nearly a dozen speakers from northern L.A. County communities, including Acton, Santa Clarita, Kagel Canyon, and Shadow Hills. Critics spoke of “deafening trains in a mountainous echo chamber,” “communities held hostage,” and “insanity” and “intentional insults” from the CAHSRA.

Board chair Dan Richard pledged that when the future Southern California alignment decisions come before the CAHSRA board, it would host a meeting in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, close to the north county communities expressing concerns.

Board member Lynn Schenk questioned CAHSRA Southern California Regional Director Michelle Boehm about the future connection to San Diego, which is not included in phase 1. Schenk asked Boehm if HSR would reach San Diego this century, to which Boehm replied “definitely.” Boehm stressed that the connection is important not just for San Diego, but for future HSR to Phoenix and Las Vegas, and that, this year, the CAHSRA was completing a Los Angeles-San Diego feasibility study.

16 thoughts on High-Speed Rail Authority Meets In L.A., Hears From Critics and Supporters

  1. Hyperloop uses, in part, MagLev technology. The Japanese have been building & testing MagLev since the 1990s. Without the semi-vacuum tube required by Hyperloop, they have been able to operate it at 311 mph. Yet they find MagLev so expensive that they won’t complete MagLev from Tokyo to Osaka until 2045. By then, they expect MagLev to connect 2 metro areas of over 60 million people to draw enough businesspeople paying a price premium over Shinkansen (211 mph by then). If you think HSR and highways are expensive, look up the per mile cost for MagLev, then multiply it by an unknown factor for Hyperloop’s special enclosure.

  2. Even if construction is ever completed, the authority’s problems are not over. The plan estimates 18 million to 32 million riders in the opening year of the full, Los Angeles-to-San Francisco line, rising to 32 to 55 million trips by 2040. Based on this ridership, the authority estimates that fares will cover operating costs. But Amtrak only carries 12 million trips in the Boston-to-Washington corridor, which has more people and a better central anchor (New York vs. Fresno), so even
    California’s low numbers seem optimistic. Even if it could cover operating costs (Which it wont), that won’t be enough for long, because rolling stock and fixed infrastructure wears out, as Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington transit riders know all too well. Rail has a life expectancy of 30 years, after it’s that old you either have to replace it, or painstakingly refurbish it. Taxpayers will have to start injecting about $500 million a year (in today’s dollars) after around 2060 to keep the system moving. Politics follows, not leads, social change. Funding for politically
    driven projects like High-speed rail won’t dry up until it’s painfully obvious it’s
    toast. And buses have already made it toast. You can get LA to San Francisco bus tickets for a fraction of the price. Greyhound is running $24.00 fares to and from, buses with reclining seats, free wi-fi, power supply, air condition, seat belts, overhead storage and bathrooms. Wanderu has buses that start seats for a dollar.

  3. Your observation: “The plan also pushes back the planned start of rail service from Silicon Valley to the Central Valley. In 2016, this was planned for 2029, and the new plan pushes the estimate back to 2033.”

    Based on what I read in the “Draft 2018 Business Plan,” this is not what I understand to be true. What it sounds like is the completion schedule identified in the business plan for 2016 between the Silicon and Central valleys is 2029 supporting what you wrote. However, with regard to completion of valley-to-valley segment, again, based on what I read in the latest (“Draft”) business plan, my understanding is regarding the estimate for the entire Phase 1 section connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco with arms to Anaheim and Merced, the assumption of both the construction cost and completion time frame are $77.3 billion and 2033, respectively.

    The information in question can be found on page 29 in Chapter 3: Capital Costs and Funding the second and third bullet points of the four presented.

    Since bullet points 2 and 3 do not provide a direct apples-to-apples comparison, it makes the information in question somewhat difficult to interpret in my opinion.

    I could be wrong, but you may wish to revisit this to see if you don’t agree.

  4. Yes, I keep coming across people saying “$77 billion for a train from nowhere to nowhere in the Central Valley!” That’s the estimated price for San Francisco to Los Angeles. The cost from Madera to Bakersfield, which is probably pretty close to actual as that section is far along, is estimated in the 2018 business plan to be $10.6 billion. Not pocket change, but less than 14% of the cost repeatedly quoted.

  5. Sarcasm and optimism often looks exactly the same. Consider “The Prince” by Machiavelli. Personally, I read it sarcastically, but some might believe he really wanted to do these things.

  6. It’s a mindset stricken by the entire country. The Northeast Corridor Amtrak train shares a single tunnel with NJ Transit into NY Penn Station. A tunnel that was built over a hundred years ago. There has been talk about adding capacity with another tunnel, but it’s just talk. This is the largest metropolitan area in our country that doesn’t invest wisely in its ageing infrastructure. As for HSR in CA, it’s a sad state of affairs given the explosive cost overruns and listless political and community support, both of which will seal its eventual doom…after billions are spent. Talk about a boondoggle.

  7. Also looking forward to the 19th century technology of cars being kicked to the curb. And the 1903 invention of the airplane. Obsolete!

  8. Looking at the map of stations along the HSR route, I see 6 in various Central Valley cities, with the HSR route connecting to Sacramento, San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

  9. The California chapters of the Sierra Club also opposes high density housing and getting rid of parking lots. They seem to be a conservative no change group now, rather than a forward thinking organization trying to protect or enhance the environment.

  10. Wrong. Not acceptable. Look at Prop 1A (the High Speed Rail Bond Act), Section 2704.09(d). The Sierra Club (headquarters in San Francisco) withheld support for Prop1A until it was re-written by Sacramento Democrats to specifically prohibit building a proposed HSR station in Los Banos. The Sierra Club only supports a future with high density urban housing, and will not tolerate an HSR system than enables living in the Central Valley and commuting to Silicon Valley.

  11. Investment in hyperloop is a waste when Star Trek style transporter technology is just around the corner.

  12. Looking forward to hyperloop kicking this nineteenth century technology’s ass into history where it belongs….

  13. Build it! And faster! The resistance to building more housing in California to address the housing crisis makes it even more imperative to connect the Central Valley with the coastal cities. Imagine being able to own a house for $300,000 and having the option to take a smooth 45-60 minute train ride (where you can work, relax, read, etc) to your $150,000/year job in the Bay Area.

  14. Some of the comments made by the critics represent extreme ignorance. They need to visit China, Japan, Europe, South Korea, Taiwan and other locations and experience real high-speed rail in action. We need to make far more rapid progress with our high-speed rail development.

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