High-Speed Rail Authority Updates Plan to Finish Central Valley Segment

Cedar viaduct over Highway 99 south of Fresno. Image: CAHSRA
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The annual update on progress and planning for the California High-Speed Rail program includes more precise estimates of costs and an outside analysis of the program’s feasibility.

Estimated costs for the project have risen over time, as tends to happen with projects of this magnitude. Currently the cost for the first segment in the Central Valley is estimated at around $20-23 billion, with most of that funding lined up as long as the federal government doesn’t back out and cap-and-trade revenues remain high.

There has never been enough money in hand to fund the entire project in one go, so the plan has been to build it in pieces in a way that brings benefits as soon as possible, even before the project is completed.

As has been outlined in previous yearly updates and by Governor Newsom in his January budget speech, the first step will be to build the Central Valley portion of the project and connect that to existing services, which are being improved by separate efforts. The plan recommends focusing on a central spine from Merced to Bakersfield, with a hub at Merced connecting to the current San Joaquin trains to Sacramento and Oakland, and the Altamont Corridor Express trains to San Jose. Both of those services have planned improvements in the works.

In addition, Caltrain, which runs from San Jose to San Francisco, is becoming an electric train, partly with funding from the high-speed rail project.

An outside analysis of costs and projections of revenue and ridership was completed last year by DB Engineering, which is the U.S. arm of the firm that runs high-speed rail in Germany. Its conclusions, included in this update, recommend the focus on starting service in the Central Valley while continuing “bookend” investments–including the Caltrain electrification project–at both ends. One day, those investments would be used by high-speed rail, but until then they can provide immediate benefits such as more frequent service and less pollution by eliminating diesel engines.

That plan would be “the best option to increase ridership and get an operational segment up and running,” says the report.

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 3.47.14 PM
Interim service plan for high-speed rail (click to enlarge)

An idea that was discussed in the 2012 business plan seems to be getting some attention now. Shifting existing diesel intercity passenger trains onto newly built high-speed tracks would have the immediate benefit of reducing travel time in the Central Valley. Those current diesel engines could go as fast as 125 mph on the new rails. In addition, passenger trains would no longer have to share tracks with freight and could set their own schedules. While this interim idea wouldn’t include the environmental benefits of cleaner engines, faster and more frequent service could help build ridership and reduce highway driving. Improving bus and train connections at both Merced and Bakersfield could shorten overall travel times further.

This would, according to the outside analysis, not only bring higher ridership but also “greater value for the public funding spent on operating intercity and regional rail services through the Central Valley.”

The analysis found ridership would increase even assuming no change in service levels on existing connecting services. Other assumptions are that high-speed rail prices would be similar to current San Joaquin rail prices, and there would be regular hourly high-speed service.

The update says there is enough funding available now to complete the Central Valley portion, the “bookend” investments including a Merced connection, and environmental planning for entire San Francisco-to-Anaheim phase.

As noted by Ben Adler at Capital Public Radio, however, a bigger problem looms for the high-speed rail project, as well as for other matters in California: the federal administration just stopped doing any work on their end, freezing environmental reviews in addition to threatening to pull back funding.

  • Nicholas L

    Perhaps the polluting freight companies would like to lease time on the tracks from the people to move their products.

  • Nicholas L

    And renewable diesel until then.

  • Thomas Jelen

    Unfortunately doing this would require consolidation and California picked inefficiency and local control over smart planning. If the state had taken a bigger role in the rail system, we’d already have a higher speed rail system and an integrated commuter rail system. But the state takes a rail line over and immediately kicks it off to a JPA who has to cobble together resources and a will to live.

  • Ming

    The Initial Operating Segment is still San Jose to Bakersfield (or LA to Merced, depending on how money arrives in the future). The near-term plan is to finish building the Central Valley section, but this will not be enough to form an Initial Operating Segment. But, California will use that track for running Amtrak trains while waiting for the funding to come into place for finishing the construction of the Initial Operating Segment. This was anticipated when the Central Valley section was started. Part of the federal funding for the Central Valley section was conditional on the track being usable for Amtrak trains initially while waiting for the high speed train to get running. There’s nothing mysterious or contrary to the law here.

  • Claude

    It’s only a conspiracy theory if you aren’t watching the news. The Republican leadership has been doing everything they cold think of to undermine and delay the project in California, and in Texas the Republicans in the legislature are trying to pass laws specifically to prevent anyone from using their own money to build high speed rail.
    Airlines were the big opponents last time, since they didn’t want competition for long distance passengers, but this time they’re staying out of the fight for the most part. There’s even a recognition that HSR can be used as a feeder carrying passengers between airports and taking over the less profitable short haul routes so airlines can focus on the more profitable long haul service.
    The new Charger locomotives can pull the trains at 125 mph and the rail cars are in excellent condition and can be operated at those speeds comfortably. The wheels aren’t falling off or anything!
    The service isn’t between two small cities. There are two large cities on that section, Bakersfield and Fresno, plus stops at Hanford, Madera and Merced, making a total of ten city pairs just in that corridor, plus initial through connections to Sacramento and Oakland (which may also be tiny hamlets to the anti-rail crowd.)
    Planning and development are still ongoing for the rest of the system, so the intention is still to connect LA to SF, despite the increased focus on the current construction. The project has not been abandoned.

    As you say, you already knew I was making a rhetorical point about the rights and how they’re another reason for the difficulties, so I’ll just assume you’re just being snide to be snide. Well done, Molière.
    The loan program is another example. It’s specifically to build new rail assets, and the Republicans are blocking it’s use for the intended purpose. HSR isn’t unproven. It’s been tested and proven for a half century now, and has been so successful that countries from Morocco to Uzbekistan are either building or expanding HSR systems.
    Theoretically, TER already has the authority to buy the land under eminent domain, since Texas laws give that authority to companies building pipelines, power lines and railroads, but the Republicans (There’s that word again! Who are these people?) are saying that a company incorporated to build and operate a railway isn’t a railway company until after they already have trains running on the finished track. Lawsuits are ongoing.
    They could probably get around that by building on the land they’ve already acquired, but the Republicans are trying to preemptively block that by passing a law banning construction of the line in sections.
    As a Republican myself, I’m annoyed to see my party stooping this low for purely ideological reasons.

  • John Nachtigall

    HSR competes against air travel so if you are going to push a bogus conspiracy theory then at least pick the right “villain”. And if you think the 40+ year old equipment that Amtrak runs can really at 125mph you are delusional. You know very well the actual equipment many be rated for that speed but can’t really meet it. But let’s say they can…what are the economics of running HSR between 2 small cities? HSR is for connecting dense urban areas, not farmland. At least be honest with yourself.

    I am glad we can agree the authority has been incompetent. But I have to ask why you are sad we are not in China and that citizens have rights? You really wish citizens didn’t have property rights? I assume you were kidding.

    As for the other 2 you obviously have not been keeping up. AAF is in financial trouble and sold out to Richard Branson. They are not meeting the ridership projections (shocked face). And as you pointed out they are not HSR. So they fail on both accounts. They are a money losing slow train with limited stops in Florida…big whoop.

    Texas has built exactly nothing. They have not raised the money. They are relying on a federal loan that has never been given for unproven HSR. The same loan that was turned down for Las Vegas to Los Angeles HSR. And they have not shown they can even get authority to get the land.

    This was the shot…and they blew it.

  • Claude

    First, there is no stranded asset. The initial construction segment is a perfectly usable rail corridor that can and, initially, will be used for the San Joaquin trains, allowing 125 mph basic HSR service from Bakersfield to Merced every hour, and shorter times for the trains that make the full run to Sacramento.

    I do agree that they left too much power in the hands of consultants. They’ve come to realize how big a mistake they made and are trying to bring the project back under direct control as much as possible.
    This should make property acquisition easier and more efficient, although it will still be a problem when 90 percent of one major party is fighting tooth and nail to obstruct, delay and collapse the project. Sadly, we aren’t China and the citizens do have rights, so we can’t just steamroll the public.
    “Face facts, they ruined the 1 chance at proving HSR in the United States.”
    Nope, there are still two projects in the works. All Aboard Florida is running the Brightline between West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale. It’s not quite 125 mph basic HSR, but when expected to Orlando service speeds are planned to be 125mph for much of the route.
    And Texas Central Railway is trying to build full shinkansen level service between Dallas and Houston, although there the Republicans are trying top pass TER specific legislation to block a private company from spending there own money to build it.
    In any case, if nothing gets built you can’t really say HSR can’t work in America, you can only say the Republicans won’t allow anyone to compete with the freeway monopoly.

  • Ethan

    Well if you go back to my first reply to you I wrote

    “Decades from now ACE should tunnel the SETEC route”

    It sounds like you haven’t read up on the SETEC route, because yes it would have some tunnels. The PDF also shows with text and pictures how the the Fremont portion could be trenched to avoid bothering nearby homes.Trenching is less expensive than tunneling.

    Also when I said “Decades from now…” that’s my acknowledgement that this would happen after the Pacheco tunnels, no matter how I feel about which is the better alignment. If HSR pulls together billions of dollars more within ten years, Pacheco tunneling will happen begin within ten years, not decades from now.

  • crazyvag

    Are you saying you’d tunnel under Sunol, under BART (with an underground station) all the way to Dumbarton?

    That’s a lot of expensive tunneling for suburbs. Like I said, it’s lot of Nimby, UP and expensive tunneling that all has to fit together for HSR to go through, and with HSR on life support as is, it’s just not something that realistically could get built. Even then, you’d need to split trains between SF and SJ which will increase costs in the critical early years when system needs to prove itself.

    Someday, this will make sense, but not if you want to ride HSR in the next 20 years.

  • Ethan

    As I already said, the Fremont Irvington BART station is slated for 2022. With a moving sidewalk, the connection would take 2-3 minutes.

    Valley Link would still be a thing, connecting Livermore to the Dublin/Pleasanton BART.

    The state is going to upgrade the Stockton-Sacramento track eventually for 125 mph HSR right? That’s planned to happen even if Altamont never gets upgraded and the Pachco tunnels get dug. So ACE will eventually use that upgraded track.

    Improving ACE just makes more sense from a usefulness point of view in terms of the larger population it serves in the Central Valley, even after subtracting Pleasanton and half of Livermore.

  • crazyvag

    Right, but now you’re asking for an all new RoW or trying to squeeze extra tracks into a constrained UP corridor, then moving stations out of convenient downtowns into sprawling suburbs. That’s not to say that such corridor wouldn’t be useful to some, but the sheer high number of political challenges – any of which could derail viability for HSR use.

    None of the new locations will link up with BART unless you rely a lengthy shuttle that eats away at your time savings.

    Maybe someday, when the individual segments get some upgrade, this will be more viable.

    Now that you mention Sacramento, it’s also worth bringing up that route between Stockton and Sacramento is largely single track and currently sees 4 trains a day, so that again requires significant upgrades. That again takes my back to the point that while demand might be there – there are better places to spend money.

    Linking up with an electrified Caltrain in Gilroy just makes more sense from execution point of view. Less NIMBY to derail the work and track from SJ to SF is largely complete and electrified.

  • John Nachtigall

    i am not ignoring that. I freely admit they are building things. My point is they are building them inefficiently, in contradiction to the law governing the project, and without enough money to make an actual practical usable segment.

  • John Nachtigall

    No one expects the project to spring from the ground fully completed after you shove 80+ billion dollars into a magic black box. The law certainly envisioned sections being built at a time.

    However, the building of those sections was specifically defined in the law with specific requirements. And those requirements are not being met. In fact an argument can be made that they have never been met, but the courts decided to give the authority the benefit of the doubt. Fair enough, people need space to do their jobs.

    The issue now is that the authority is no longer even asserting the sections meet the requirements of the law. The last fig leaf has blown away. The law was drafted and more importantly sold to the voters as ironclad with respect to making sure there was no stranded asset and no subsidy required. Per your highway example, no such restrictions in the law exist. It took 60+ years to build I-70 across the country. Perfectly legal because the law that authorized it and the money that was raised was not done under any such restriction.

    Now that is the legal argument. The practical argument is that we are ~10 billion into a 100+ billion dollar project. The people running the project have done a TERRIBLE job as demonstrated by failing every audit in the last 8 years. They are so incompetent they still have not assembled all the land to build a simple 30 mile flat stretch the width of 2 railroad tracks (CP1) in 8 years. There is no more money from the federal government coming, There is no private money without a promise of a subsidy. And now the one thing they did have, a governor that was committed to the project, is replaced by one who just wants it to go away. Any further money spent is just wasted. Even if the plan works it is a HSR line between 2 small cities. It will never “prove its worth” with that line. It will just lose money and be empty.

    Face facts, they ruined the 1 chance at proving HSR in the United States. Now any future project will point to this and say “see it does not work”

  • Claude

    The problem with that kind of ideological thinking is that it ignores the original intent to build the first section and extend it out.
    We start with the initial stretch of track and get what use out of it that we can while we’re extending and upgrading it. Move the San Joaquins to the new track and run them at high speeds until the electrical work and new trains are ready.
    Run whatever service we can get to defray the initial investment until we get the connecting lines built and we can run directly into SF and LA.
    Ideally, I would like it if we could wake up in the morning and build the entire system all at once, then start riding the trains the next day. But in reality, it’s always done in stages.
    That’s how we’re doing the I-11 project. Not one single finished project from Canada to Mexico, but starting with the bottle-necks like Boulder Dam first.
    Nobody says we should disassemble the 405 just because we only have the sections in Seattle and LA.

  • Ben Phelps

    I don’t know about this. The coastal route is certainly used, not my question. This particular corridor… ?

  • Ben Phelps

    you can’t ignore that things are being built right now as we speak. It’s reality. It’s the present.

  • Ethan

    Mines & Tesla is 3 miles from downtown, 3.5 miles from Vasco Rd, and 3 miles from the gate to the labs. My second and third sentences of the first paragraph answer how people get there, with shuttles, or autonomous cars drop them off and pick them up.

    Pleasanton as I said has BART. If it has to lose out on ACE in exchange for half a million people in the central valley gaining a massive time savings, not to mention replacing the Capitol Corridor as the fastest way from Sacramento to San Jose, I can live with that incredibly beneficial trade-off.

    Some of the trains would go to the Peninsula over the Dumbarton Rail Bridge. The remaining ones would use UP track, but we’d see what could be negotiated when the amount of track needed is 16 miles, instead of today’s 60.

  • crazyvag

    Mines & Tesla is “middle of nowhere”. Yes, you could build a station, but how is anyone gonna get there? Even BART is moving away from giant garages for remote stations, and that was my point that moving ACE station there would not make sense.

    But let’s suppose you do build a station there. What about Pleasanton station? What about Lawrence Livermore station? Are you thinking about building three distant stations?

    And then, you’re still gonna have to build massive tunnels across Sunol.

    And then? You still don’t have a fast double-track RoW since UP owns the remaining routes in east bay.

  • Ethan

    There could definitely be a Livermore station on Mines Rd. near Tesla Rd. There’s already driverless shuttles being tested around the world. In 20+ years by the time this could get built there would easily be shuttles to and from the Labs and downtown Livermore. Pleasanton at least has BART.

    ACE where it is is “single track, windy, and narrow, therefore it’s congested, slow and has limited ability for expansion since it runs through a valley”.

    ACE would almost certainly gain ridership, because trains at 125 or 200 mph through straight or gentle grade-separated curves from Fremont to Tracy would save a massive amount of time for Central Valley commuters. In Fremont, the tracks would cross 1000 feet north of the Irvington BART infill station planned for 2022. Build a moving sidewalk and put a roof over it so people can transfer. Down by Newpark Mall, build a 2-mile tunnel or viaduct connecting to the existing San Jose-bound track. ACE trains can then go to San Jose, or Redwood City over the Dumbarton rail bridge.

  • crazyvag

    They definitely use it for trains heading to Central Valley and SoCal. They also send some trains along the coast, but that’s a longer/slower route.

  • crazyvag

    The SETEC route bypasses Livermore, Livermore Labs and Pleasanton stations, so ACE wouldn’t move there as that would result in losing ridership. But by keeping it where it is, also reduces the need for SETEC in the first place.

    One area of value would be to move the Tracy station into the tracks running through town center. Tunneling through Altamont pass also has benefits. Aside from that, the value for money is very low in that corridor.

  • John Nachtigall

    So what “report” will be used to meet the requirements copied above? In the 2019 report they ask multiple times for the remaining money to be released. It is the updated report and the 2018 business plan is dead.

    A segment is defined as having at least 2 stations, that is true. But the OPERATING segment has to meet the requirements of the law to get the money. They don’t.

    It is not ok to ignore the law because you don’t like it. You like the 9 billion part and you ignore the rest. It was passed with these protections and it should be followed. This authority has poisoned the well for HSR for the entire country. They have managed the project so poorly they have made it impossible to build a usable segment. We should stop now because this is just a black hole for money and we are not going to get anything useful out of it.

  • John Nachtigall

    It does not meet the requirements of the law. It is not idealism, it is rule of law. You can’t just ignore the pasts you don’t like.

  • Ben Phelps

    it proves nothing but it does mean we have a usable part to get us closer to the actual thing. I want High speed rail and it would be great and work great in California. Our political system makes it nearly impossible. This is not the way I would choose to do it. It’s what is happening.

  • QuestionQue

    The 2019 update is a Report on progress not a Business Plan.

  • John Nachtigall

    Simply not true. Usable segments are defined in the law…excerpt below. The authority uses the IOS language but a usable segment is defined. And I agree courts have ruled for the authority before but in the past the plan made the claim they complied. The current plan no longer claims to comply. Tell me how the 2019 update in any way complies with the law excerpt below. If you are just advocating to ignore the law then just say it but don’t pretend voters can’t read.

    d) Prior to committing any proceeds of bonds described in
    paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 2704.04 for expenditure
    for construction and real property and equipment acquisition on each
    corridor, or usable segment thereof, other than for costs described
    in subdivision (g), the authority shall have approved and
    concurrently submitted to the Director of Finance and the Chairperson
    of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee the following: (1) a
    detailed funding plan for that corridor or usable segment thereof
    that (A) identifies the corridor or usable segment thereof, and the
    estimated full cost of constructing the corridor or usable segment
    thereof, (B) identifies the sources of all funds to be used and
    anticipates time of receipt thereof based on offered commitments by
    private parties, and authorizations, allocations, or other assurances
    received from governmental agencies, (C) includes a projected
    ridership and operating revenue report, (D) includes a construction
    cost projection including estimates of cost escalation during
    construction and appropriate reserves for contingencies, (E) includes
    a report describing any material changes from the plan submitted
    pursuant to subdivision (c) for this corridor or usable segment
    ther

  • QuestionQue

    Prop 1A specifically requires a plan for a system without subsidy be approved by the legislature before bonds are released but there is no requirement for the IOS. That plan has already been approved and is slowly being implemented. Funds are identified for a segment not the entire system before bonds for the segment are released. The courts have ruled repeatedly the California High-speed Rail Authority has complied with the provisions of the bonds.

  • John Nachtigall

    So we agree no such plan exists then right? The authority won the previous cases specifically because the courts deferred to the authority plans and agreed it was not their job to judge the probability the plans would work out.

    But now, the authority has dropped the fig leaf and does not even claim they will run at a profit. They also make NO claim to expansion of the system to San Jose or any part of the 2018 business plan that previously claimed they could run at no subsidy.

    Prop 1a specifically required the IOS run without a subsidy and required the funds be available BEFORE construction started to avoid this exact situation, a stranded asset.

    I respect democracy. I never supported this project but recognized that it passed in a legitimate vote. Similarly I expect the supporters to respect the law that was passed. It is called the “sunk cost fallacy” for a reason, it is a fallacy, it is not true. The money is not available to build this system and the authority has shown no ability to execute any plan.

  • QuestionQue

    Work continues on environmental reports on all additional sections from San Francisco to Anaheim. The route is years from being finalized and engineered to a level to be put out for construction bidding. Prop 1A does not anticipate being able to fund the entire line and is used as requirements are met for fund release. The law has been followed and been upheld in court several times.

  • John Nachtigall

    They are not spending the last $5 to finish it. They currently have no usable segment or track. They could easily stop.

    You don’t run HSR between small cities through sparsely populated farmland. What would this segment prove? Stop it now or we are looking at a stranded asset.

  • John Nachtigall

    Really, so where in the plan is any mention is any mention of the CAHSR authority running trains….much less trains with no subsidy? This plan specifically states that Merced-Fresno-Bakersfield is now the IOS and there is no plan beyond that. What “plan” is the legislature approving?

    At least be honest and admit they are trying to ignore the law and the tenets of Prop1A are not being followed.

  • QuestionQue

    The 2019 Project Update Report mentions the ETO’s Report on farebox revenue for the Central Valley (Merced-Fresno-Bakersfield) service. This is not the same as the California High-Speed Rail system operations you alluded to in Prop 1A. The California legislature will have no problem releasing Prop 1A bonds for sale this year.

  • Ben Phelps

    no one (rational) here is suggesting electrification isn’t vastly superior.

  • Ben Phelps

    you could have an idealistic point here, but it’s kind of irrelevant in the real world. There’s no going back. The money will be spent and things will be built. You can’t unspent and unbuild. Or, I guess you could unbuild, but what would that accomplish? The money is not coming back. If the reality on the ground is we’re left with a usable right of way but an unfunded electric line, we should use the right of way.

  • John Nachtigall

    Specifically that the latest plan requires a subsidy. All the previous plans claimed no subsidy. But this plan drops that pretext. So now even the plan admits to a subsidy. How could they release the remaining money when they dont even pretend to meet 1A now?

  • QuestionQue

    Prop 1A is a bond act and outlines what is necessary to release bond funds. Prop 1A specifically requires a plan for California High-Speed Rail operations without subsidy be submitted and approved by the California Legislature before bonds can be sold. A plan has already been approved. An additional $4.2 billion in bonds is awaiting sale. What needs to be resolved?

  • John Nachtigall

    you left out the part of the report (page 15) that said it would lost 50-80 million dollars a year. Prop1A specifically prohibits subsidies. So even assuming it is awesome, how do you propose to resolve this with the very specific law?

  • Joe R.

    Those current diesel engines could go as fast as 125 mph on the new rails.

    One important thing to mention here is “could” isn’t the same as would. The problem with diesel trains is the lower power-to-weight ratios and much longer acceleration times. 125 mph might be reached briefly before the trains need to start braking for the next stop, or perhaps not reached at all. Compare this to electric trains which might do the 125 mph for much of the run between stations.

  • John Nachtigall

    You cant just decide, 11 years after Prop 1A was passed, that the money needs to be spend on diesel trains running in the Central Valley. Prop1A has specific requirements regarding system performance, subsidies, and availability of funds that cant be ignored because the reality of the cost of this boondoggle and now being accepted. Either build the system authorized by the law or dont build it at all

  • QuestionQue

    The DB report provides and example of economic development provided by high-speed rail in Germany. “Similar to Germany, California has thriving urban areas as well as communities that have less access to opportunities. It is worth noting an actual reference case out of many others, where the impact of integrating the communities with less opportunities with high-speed rail network can have a truly substantial impact. Montabaur was a disadvantaged community in Germany back in 1999. During this time, there was a 13.8 million Euros CAPEX made as an investment for a 3 platform high-speed rail station. The total construction costs (including new parking slots, industrial area and Highway connection to the City) were 23.6 million Euros. Since the construction and final operation in August 2002 this connectivity opportunity attracted 205 million Euros investment by private entities in the community. A 3.2 million sq. ft big new neighborhood of the city of Montabaur developed between the city and new HighSpeed Rail station. The result of this is a creation of 2,200 new permanent jobs, 80
    new companies on site in Montabaur and over 2,500 passengers per day riding high
    speed rail. The passenger number increased since the opening in 2002 by over
    +130%. Now Montabaur is a thriving community. According to DB’s experience, DB is
    confident that similar positive impacts will happen to the communities in the Central
    Valley from the introduction of high- speed services creating positive long term and
    permanent changes.”
    http://hsr.ca.gov/docs/about/legislative_affairs/Central_Valley_and_Peninsula_Corridors_Operations_Financial_Plan_Study.pdf

  • QuestionQue

    While the 2012 business plan discussed diesel trains on the new high-speed tracks the DB analysis depends on high-speed trains. “The analysis concluded that improving service between Merced, Fresno, and Bakersfield with a high-speed rail interim service –in coordination with improvements aligned with the State Rail Plan north of Merced to Sacramento and to the Bay Area and bus connections south of Bakersfield to Southern California–created the greatest value and benefits, including: …Allow for early testing of high-speed operations and passenger use and reduce ramp-up time for future extensions.” The report in addition states as Merced-Fresno-Bakersfield interim service benefits, “the faster travel times and the improved connectivity that high-speed rail will bring to the Central Valley has the potential to fundamentally transform the regional economy.”

  • Sluggo67

    “The analysis found ridership would increase even assuming no change in service levels on existing connecting services.”
    Melanie is either severely misinformed or flat-out lying. The supporting material prepared by DB clearly states that the ridership model and forecasts assume “the future available connections and improvements in the northern and southern Central Valley by 2026” (pp 189 and 191 in ‘California High-Speed Rail Early Train Operator’). Section 6.1.2.4 and Appendix A also detail the extensive increases to ACE, San Joaquins, and connecting bus service needed to attain the projected ridership increase.

    BTW, DB projects that ridership will increase from a 2017 annual total of 846,000 to about 1.7 million annual riders in 2026. That’s an annual increase of about 850,000 riders (~2,300 per day) after spending $20 billion for HSR, an additional $1.3 billion for the Northern Valley Rail Plan, and an untold additional sum to create the Merced ‘cross-over tracks or loop’ needed for the cross-platform transfer. For comparison, The Caltrain Modernization Program is about $2.2 billion for 12,000 new riders per day.

  • Ethan

    Valley Link is going through the Altamont Pass on the historic Transcontinental Railroad right-of-way. it crosses tracks with ACE on both sides, which means trains could pass each other there.

    Decades from now ACE should tunnel the SETEC route to bypass the NIMBYs and provide rapid connections from Tracy and beyond to Redwood City and San Jose.

  • Ben Phelps

    UP doesn’t use it though right?

  • crazyvag

    The problem with ACE corridor is that it’s single track, windy, and narrow, therefore it’s congested, slow and has limited ability for expansion since it runs through a valley, is constrained by houses where NIMBY will fight any expansion and is also owned by Union Pacific. UP hasn’t been welcoming of passenger trains on general.

  • Ben Phelps

    so the more I think about this… we should work on improving ACE corridor and linking it with high speed rail, or “higher” speed rail at this point, allowing same trains (even if they’re diesel) to run along them without transfers. A gradual improvement. ACE should continue along Dumbarton Rail Corridor and bridge… and join Cal Train up to San Fransisco. That way HSR rail can focus on the greatest challenge and game changer where they should be focused anyway: SoCal and getting over Tehachapis (Hopefully not through Palmdale but that’s a separate issue).

    Gradual, cost saving. Usable along the way. If, after we connect to Los Angeles, we have the money for the Pacheco pass, great. Another upgrade. But let’s get the segments connected to the city and usable as quick and efficiently as possible.

    I know the Altamont debate was long and vicious… and I’m sure there are lots of limits on the ACE corridor as it is. We need to be smarter here though. Come on California.

  • aarond

    It’s a no-brainer to lump existing San Joaquin services onto the new tracks. Instant upgrade and maybe CHSRA is able to charge a fee to get some fare recovery – useful for soliciting privately issued loans or stock. And with the proposed bus service over Pacheco, CHSRA could potentially solicit separate general purpose Fed money for tunnels there or into Palmdale, something that is much easier if the bus connects with vastly improved rail services on both ends.

    Also, it’d probably marginally reduce freight rail congestion as well which is desirable in it’s own right. This is useful if ACE wants to do anything on their end, as it gives them more breathing room for limited track space.

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