Bullet train, sexy buses, air quality: HWR, Feb. 22

Interestingness from Twitter: 

I’m not much for awards shows, but I recently saw “Mr. Roosevelt” from 2017 and it was one of the funnier flicks I’ve seen in the last couple years. Warning: it has adult language and other adulty stuff. I also watched “Annihilation” on the plane the other night and thought it was pretty good in an Alien/Predators/Avatar/Contact kind of way. But not as good as “Arrival.”

Another good day for the attorneys: President Trump has ended negotiations with California over Obama-era emission standards for cars. As the NYT reports, at the heart of the talks was our state’s right to set its own tighter emissions rules to help air quality — which is often bad but could be worse. The issue, shocker, is almost certainly headed for a long stay in the courts.

Bikes: Thieves have been hitting Metro bike lockers and bike hubs, leading staff to mull some changes, reports the Daily News.

Bullet train: A lot has been written about Gov. Newsom’s statement that the project would focus on the Bakersfield-to-Merced segment in the San Joaquin Valley (underpasses, bridges, grade separations and other rail infrastructure is being built on some of that now).

I’m not sure why that surprised anyone or why it was treated as a major announcement — there hasn’t been the funding to build anything beyond that segment anyway.

I’ll simply repeat what I’ve said before: I think high-speed rail would be a great benefit to California but it doesn’t have to be insanely high speed to be great. I’d personally be perfectly happy with a train that could run between DTLA and DTSF in four or even five hours.

Why? It currently takes 11+ hours to get to Oakland on a train (seriously) and I bet a four- to five-hour ride would be attractive to those who drive or those who don’t want to fuss with airports — or those traveling from the many fine places between LA and SF.

Anyway, stay tuned. I think there are a lot more questions than firm answers at this point and I’m curious to know what will end up running on the Valley segment.

710 gap news: Alhambra is talking about the area between the 10 freeway and Valley Boulevard into a park, reports the Alhambra Source. Not everyone is loving that idea, saying traffic from the freeway will likely go somewhere — and that somewhere is their neighborhoods.



Categories: Transportation News

16 replies

  1. I blame Union Pacific for not allowing the San Joaquins to proceed past Bakersfield southbound.

    • Well let’s put the Bullet Train blame-game into prospective. The current freight railroad between Bakersfield and LA is jointly operated by the Union Pacific and the BNSF railroads. Originally, they were the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe railroads. The Southern Pacific chose to send all of its passenger trains on the long, slow trek over the Tehachipis to LA. However, to offer the public a faster ride to LA, its arch competitor the Santa Fe, stopped most of its SJV trains at Bakersfield, then switched the passengers to railroad-owned express buses to various towns in the LA Basin, via the dreaded Old Grapevine Route. Clumsy as the Santa Fe’s train/bus operation may seem, it still was hours faster than the Southern Pacific’s all-rail route. Thus, it was the Santa fe’s faster train/bus service that was ultimately taken over by Amtrak/CalTrans. This route continues today over a much improved (though still dreaded) Grapevine using modern “motor-coaches”. However, there are some down-sides to this train/bus service: 1) For many, it is a pain in the caboose to transfer from a roomy, smooth and quite train ride to a constricted, bumpy and noisy bus ride. 2) Passengers will miss experiencing the scenic and thrilling ride over the Tehachipis–including the world-famous “Walong Loop”, where the train makes a complete circle over itself-one of the greatest railroad feats of all time. 3) They’ll skip the growing bedroom towns of Tehachipi, Palmdale and Lancaster. So, “if” the Bullet Train actually makes it to Bakersfield, passengers would either have change to buses, or their 220 MPH train would have to crawl over the mountains, whilst dodging freight trains or a series of long, expensive of tunnels must be dug directly to the Southland. That’s it in the real world of “Thomas” and that just may be a mountain too far in this era of diminishing funds and dreams.

        • Did I write that climbing was the only option? I suggested that digging a long, very expensive tunnel(s) may be the best option, but first put on the table all the cash, dinero, brass, shekels, Bitcoins you brought to the game! In other words “show me the beef”, otherwise, please get back in the que for the next bus (ooops “Motor-Coach) to LA-LA-Land.

  2. LA -Bakersfield should have been first for the exact reason and problems we have now. If LA- Bakersfield were the only part of the project to have ever been completed, then at least SoCal-NorCal would have finally been connected by a direct rail route. The existing San Joaquins (Albeit with different equipment- maybe Talgo equipment) could have run from Oakland and Sacramento direct to LA.
    The route should have and still needs to be I-5 to save the overall project. Wandering through Palmdale is a joke- over the Tehachipi’s AND the long tunnels through the San Gabriels is crazy. Call up Japan and ask them how to build in earthquake country. Consult with Germany and France on how to build more economically through farmland and medium size towns. These countries should have been on board since day one to assist in planning and design. Politicians and consultants have almost ruined this project. This is the last chance to have serious discussions to change the plan going forward.

  3. I believe I’ve made this comment on this blog a few years back, but I’ll make it again: Starting the train in the Central Valley was a mistake, because the Central Valley already has reasonable Amtrak service between Bakersfield and Stockton; making that service faster is helpful, but not extremely helpful, and also it doesn’t help the people outside that segment.

    The most important part of the project is closing the Bakersfield–Palmdale gap, which is currently overcrowded with slow freight trains. Building it up to high-speed standards is super expensive, but building enough capacity for standard 79-mph diesel service would have fit within the original $10 billion budget. This would immediately cut the travel time between L.A. and Oakland to around 8 hours, compared to 11 hours on the coastal route. Additional improvements, segment by segment over many years, could eventually cut the time to 4-5 hours, or even less if built to true high-speed standards. The main advantage of this strategy is that once the initial build is useful and popular, it’s easier to get the public to support improvements.

    This is how most high-speed lines in the developed world were built: through small increments which save maybe 30 minutes each, but which add up over the years to a true high-speed network. Unfortunately California’s decision to go all-out caused the project to run out of money before it could deliver something useful to most of the population.

  4. Here’s how the train should’ve been built.

    Step 1: build a simple (and relatively cheap) pair of tracks alongside the 5, for normal (non-bullet) service through the SJV.
    Step 2: connect the cities to that spine via high-speed ready branches.
    Step 3: *if* there is money in the future, build a bullet-train spine through the SJV, including Bakersfield, Fresno, etc.

    In other words, first build something that is complete and works…then gold plate it later.

    My hope is that we still get major improvements in the L.A. area, and eventually get a connection to the San Joaquin right-of-way.

    • Great points and I agree. I’d go a step further and say build the tracks along 99, which runs through the most populated parts of the SJV. Also the project could have upgrades the tracks that Metrolink uses between DTLA and Antelope Valley instead of building a whole new set of tracks. Those tracks continue to Mojave and up and over Tehachapi Pass to Bakersfield.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • I am not clear as to “Metrocenter’s” routing of the Bullet Train along I-5 LA to the Bay Area. If it includes I-5 thru the Grapevine here are the three main reasons why it was not routed that way as told to me by CAHSR: 1) No major population centers on the I-5 route north of Tejon Pass, except for Los Banos, Harris Ranch and Coalinga-home to Pleasant Valley State Prison. 2) The Tejon Ranch Co. (older than the state itself) won’t hear of it and it has very deep roots and even deeper pockets–if you get my drift. 3) Tejon Pass is one of the most earthquake-prone locations in the state–generally not good for trains because they prefer turning left or right, not up and down, up and down and up and down! Sorry, no getting around it: the route chosen by CAHSR is the same general route historically chosen by the Santa Fe Railway, the Southern Pacific Railroad and now the Union Pacific and BNSF railroads. 50 million railroaders can’t be wrong!

      • The 5 is the most direct route. But the 5 also traverses some very steep terrain that would likely be a big engineering challenge. A route along the 14 to the Antelope Valley and Mojave is not as direct, but the terrain is less severe and there is the benefit of serving the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, which I think is important. My three cents.

        Steve Hymon
        Editor, The Source

        • If you go back and read the environmental docs for the bullet train alignments, one major factor is that through the Tehachapi the ROW cannot cross fault lines “at grade” which means on flat-ish ground. Either it would be tunnels or bridges and in the case of a major San Andreas displacement, they would be very difficult to repair.

          • Not totally true, as the hSR authority has studied alignments for six different routes from LA to Bakersfield, and their modeling showed there are several ways possible to traverse Tejon while crossing both garlock and the San Andreas fault zones at grade. And that’s still possible with maximum grades of 2.5% up to 3.5%. But, probably because of the Tejon ranch company, there would be some environmental impact and additional risk in constructing in the Castaic lake floodplain.

            The Tejon section starts at page 55 of this pdf.


            Note HSR wound up not using these alignments for the passage through the San gabriels from Palmdale to Los Angeles which is a great example of scope creep and community opposition from Santa Clarita, the HSR is currently planning for a billions over budget 24 miles of tunnels instead of the minimal tunneling they originally planned for in selecting Palmdale instead of Tejon,

            now getting from LA to Palmdale currently takes more tunneling than the initial worst case scenarios of 20+ miles of tunneling that caused Tejon to be rejected as a route years ago! Time to reconsider Tejon.

            And that’s without all the tunneling through the tehachapis from Mojave to Bakersfield.

  5. A 4 -5 hour train ride between SF and LA on an Acela type service would be just fine at this point, and much more sensible than having a 220 mph top speed train that STILL doesn’t connect to Los Angeles. What Newsom is committing to is primarily a Northern California train now which is not what we voted for. Given that he comes from the Bay Area, I suppose this isn’t too surprising. We get stiffed. Connecting to LA should have always been a priority as it is the largest metro area in the state… smh… It’s insane to think that we will be essentially be building a high speed version of Amtrak’s existing San Joaquins service without any construction of the KEY MISSING LINK in the state’s rail system! What a mess…

  6. The news of thefts in the bike hubs is distressing. Aren’t they supposed to be monitored 24-7 via video?

  7. Gov. Newsom’s freewheeling take on the Bullet Train should not have surprised anyone. True to his style, he managed to both support it and denigrate it in the same speech. But Newsom’s unique style also gave The City, and ultimately the nation, gay marriage via the “full faith and credit clause of the Constitution”. The only politician he resembles, in his MO, is POTUS himself, with whom he immediately locked horns! I hope the Bullet Train to Madera is equipped with seatbelts because the next 4 or 8 years is going to be a bumpy ride indeed! As for Metro and its LINK US “Flying Saucer” Station Annex, I wouldn’t send out for the contractors yet because that money may end up paying for the Madera Bullet Train Station…in what would be the first train robbery at 200 MPH! You know what they say about Madera: “What happens in Madera stays in Madera!

  8. I second the idea of making a park at the dead end of the 710 Freeway in Alhambra, and I further move naming said park the Messina 710 Memorial Park. Do I hear a second on its name? Of course, before any land is designated a public park it must undergo an archeological survey–who knows what they will find buried in an Alhambra dead end, maybe even Jimmy Hoffa?