Tag Archive: California HSR

Jul 07 2014

Sunday Train: Thinking About a Bakersfield Express Bypass

Since Gov. Brown saved the California HSR project for the second time (the first time was in 2012), I’ve had a look at the general issue of funding HSR with Cap and Trade, and looked at some possibilities for complementary conventional intercity rail in the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley north of Fresno … so I thought I might start moving south of Fresno.

And today I am going to focus on Bakersfield and a starting sketch of an idea for what I call the “Bakersfield Express Bypass.” I do want to stress upfront, so its not lost in the details of talking about the Bypass, that I am not talking about “skipping Bakersfield”, but rather talking about how best to plan for those LA to SF trains that will eventually be Express trains, Anaheim, LA, Burbank, Fresno, San Jose, San Francisco Transbay.

Jun 23 2014

Sunday Train: Improving the Conventional Amtrak California services

I’m a terrible tease ~ that is, in the sense of “not terribly good at it” ~ since I teased more on Texas Rooftop Solar, both two weeks ago when I talked about Texas Utility Scale Solar, and last week when I talked about California assuring the funding to start building it HSR, using Cap and Trade funding. However, here I am, talking about California trains again … because while wearing my Sunday Train editorial hat, I wanted to force the author to follow through on the tease, wearing my Sunday Train author hat, I refused, because I wanted to write about both plans and opportunities for existing “conventional” intercity passenger rail in California.

That is, in general I am talking about:

  • The San Joaquin, from Bakersfield through Fresno with on leg running to Oakland and another leg running to Sacramento;
  • The Capitol Corridor from San Jose / Oakland through to Sacramento;
  • The Caltrain from San Jose though “Silicon Valley” to downtown San Francisco;
  • The ACE from Stockton via Tracy and Livermore through to San Jose; and
  • The Surfliner, from Santa Barbara through LA Union Station and Anaheim to San Diego.

For a Buckeye who has experienced a not too dissimilar variety of intercity rail services when living and teaching in New South Wales, Australia, a collection of intercity services to make me green with envy, given our two nightly trains between midnight and 6am in this part of Ohio three late night Cardinal services per week in Cincinnati, and ZERO FREAKING SERVICES PER DAY, PER WEEK OR PER FREAKING MONTH FOR COLUMBUS OR DAYTON, THANK YOU VERY MUCH HOPEFULLY ONE-TERM GOVERNOR. KASICH … {deep breath} … and here I’m going to talk about making those conventional California services better … below the fold.

Jun 16 2014

Sunday Train: California HSR Receives Cap & Trade Funding in Budget Deal

Sunday Train has covered the California HSR project on a number of occasions in the past. However, there was no special attention given to what was widely covered at the time as the “end of California HSR”, when a judge ruled that the proposed Business Plan did not meet the terms of the Prop1A(2008) which governed the sale of much of the $9m in state bond authority which had passed in 2008. The Sacramento Bee covered the issue at the time, including the appeal of the ruling to the Supreme Court.

And the reason the Sunday Train did not cover that court judgement is IANDL (I Aint No Dang Lawyer), so I was waiting to see what actually happened with respect to funding for the project. And now it appears to me that funding for the original segment from north of Fresno to the outskirts of Bakersfield has been secured, with the news that part of the Budget deal has secured Cap and Trade funding for the HSR project.

More on what this means, below the fold.

Jan 20 2014

Sunday Train: California Sierra Club Allies with Tea Party Against High Speed Rail

It’s a quite odd alliance. The Sierra Club is fighting the Climate Suicide Club both on the side of Supply, with the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline as one example and the fight against the establishment of Coal Export Terminals in the Pacific Northwest and on the side of Demand, with the Beyond Oil campaign, which in the Green Transportation component promises among other points that: “The Sierra Club will:

  • Ensure that all Americans have access to safe, affordable, clean transportation options. …”

And now the Director of Sierra Club California, Kathryn Phillips, has stepped up her attacks on the High Speed Rail project from “expressions of serious concern” to giving direct support for the attack from the Legislative Analyst’s Office that is working in concert with the Tea Party attack that is their most promising hope for killing the project :

“Inherent in AB 32 is that we need to act sooner rather than later,” said Kathryn Phillips, the Sierra Club’s California director. “The problem with taking that [cap-and-trade] money and applying it to high-speed rail is that we don’t anticipate that we’re going to get those benefits – reductions in greenhouse gas emissions – in the short-term. Given how urgent the problem is and has become, and how much we’re seeing the effects of climate change in this state, especially in water availability, it feels irresponsible to not apply that money to those programs that will get you greenhouse gas emissions reductions now.”

Given that we cannot feasibly arrive at a carbon neutral energy generation and transportation system within the next seven years, this implies that we should abandon the pursuit of a carbon neutral generation and transportation system and content ourselves with fighting for a slower rate of suicide as a national industrial economy than the faster rate of suicide that Big Oil, Big Coal and the rest of the Climate Suicide Club is pushing for.

Indeed, given that Sierra Club California had an official position in support of Prop1a which got the California HSR project moving , this could well be as strong an attack on the California HSR project that Kathryn Phillips is in a position to make.

Nov 11 2013

Sunday Train: Will We Be Ready for the Great 2017 HSR Policy Unlock?

I’ve posed a question in the title of this week’s Sunday Train that I have no intention of answering myself.

The first thing you may have noted is that the title presumes a “Great 2017 Policy Unlock” that is by no means certain. And assuming an event in a title as a lead-in to talking about the likelihood of that event is a long-standing internet link-bait practice.

The second thing, however, is that even that would be focusing on political fortune telling, and the Sunday Train is not normally about making guesses about what will happen. It is more often focused on policy in the sense of thinking about what should happen and, sometimes, what we can do to make it more likely to happen.

The foundation of the Sunday Train is the premise that on our current track, with our current transport and energy systems, we are driving the possibility of retaining a national, modern, industrial economy over a cliff. We are doing that in three ways:

  • Our Energy Production and our Transport Systems combined are responsible for a majority of our CO2 emissions, and even if we converted everything else in our economy to be 50% carbon negative ~ sequestering 50% as much CO2 as it present emits ~ our current Energy and Transport systems would be sufficient to drive the globe far enough into Climate Crisis to bring down our national industrial economy;
  • And the world has hit Peak Petroleum Production, as is clear from the variety of “scraping the bottom of the barrel” oil and oil-replacement exploitation efforts taking place today, and has started to slide down the other side of the peak, so that an economy as exposed as our own to oil price shocks is going to lose massive ground compared to competing economies that are already positioned to shelter themselves from the impact of oil price shocks
  • And we are heading toward the Energy Return on Investment cliff for the fossil fuels we produce ourselves that our current Energy and Transport systems relies upon, and as we slide down that cliff, the economic benefit of that domestic fossil fuel production will progressively decline, leaving us behind any national economies or continental economic systems that seriously pursue sustainable, renewable energy sources that are seeing growing Energy Return on Investment, due to technological progress.

Pick your poison, since any one of them is serious enough to either drive the US economy from the ranks of the core economies into the ranks of the semi-peripheral economies, or even to eliminate our ability to retain a national economy at all.

Given that premise, the “odds of success” in a political forecasting sense is not the focus of the Sunday Train. The focus is rather the prospect for improving those odds. Whether that is improving the odds from a 50% chance of success, or a 1% chance of success to a 2% chance of success, in either event it is worth the investment in effort to try … whether the mere 1/5 improvement in the odds, or the more impressive doubling in the odds, what is won in the event of a win is such a jackpot that its worth the effort to simply improve the odds a little bit.

Aug 19 2013

Using the Hype-Loop to Understand the California HSR System

Cross-posted from its origin station at Voices on the Square

On Monday, entrepreneur Elon Musk launched on attack on the California HSR system in the guise of a pie in the sky alternative that he has dubbed the “Hyperloop”. Now, I got into this topic from the back end, since I waited for the technical people to download the PDF and chew into it before giving it a serious look, so when I first encountered the notion floated that this is just a car builder (well, an electric car builder) attacking a rival form of transport, I thought that might involve some shaky inference regarding motive for otherwise puzzling statements …

… but then I read the first paragraph of the blog post where he introduced the proposal, and there really isn’t any doubt:

When the California “high speed” rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL – doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars – would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world? Note, I am hedging my statement slightly by saying “one of”. The head of the California high speed rail project called me to complain that it wasn’t the very slowest bullet train nor the very most expensive per mile.

So this is explicitly a proposal from the guy who made big bucks on an internet payment system, Paypal, showing how the California HSR is old, outdated technology and if he wasn’t busy doing other things, why, he could give us an intercity transport system that would knock our socks off.

Jul 02 2012

Sunday Train: Is State Sen. Simitian aiming to kill High Speed Rail in California?

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

This coming week is supposed to contain an important symbolic Independence Day: the day when the California State Senate votes whether or not to proceed with one strategic element of Energy Independent Transport for the State of California, or whether to gamble the state’s future on petroleum.

It is, of course, a very sure thing as a gamble ~ on the losing side. They aren’t making more, and the butane from natural gas liquids and energy inefficient production of ethanol from corn starch that has been used to juke the states on US “liquid fuel production” doesn’t change the fact that we still depend on petroleum imports for over half of our petroleum consumption. We deplete more and more low production cost petroleum every year, shifting our consumption to higher cost petroleum.

And even if we had the petroleum that Pollyannas would like to wish into existence, we can’t afford to burn it all at an accelerating rate, due to the CO2 emissions that will result.

State Senator Simitian does not seem to see it that way, as he appears set to vote kill the effort to allow the California High Speed Rail project to break ground next year.

Now, in an wonderful display of political pretzel logic, State Senator Simitian threatens to kill the HSR project will declaring his strong support of it: it will all be someone else’s fault if he votes to refuse to break ground next year.