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  1.  

    Paul Gracey

    We should understand that the choice of route for the HSR was driven by business interests. Musk, with businesses of his own at both ends was complaining about the practical speed, not the theoretical speed of that HSR plan. Look at the route and try and tell me it wasn’t planned by developers for the intermediate stops it will have, and the profits to be made along the route.
    Musk wanted to do what the Highway lobby got passed long ago that couldn’t be so easily exploited mid route, use the much straighter I-5 corridor that auto enthusiasts prefer for end to end. At best the HSR will only run a few trains a day non-stop to meet the performance specs.
    I like to think of the Hyperloop, should it even be possible to build as envisioned, as the real auto trip/ airline trip LA/SF replacement. I remember the days of PSA where I actually did an LA/SF round trip by air in one long day with more than one sight to see there. If it works, a big if, Hyperloop at conveniently timed frequent departures can supplement HSR. Consider the businessperson needing to serve a stop closer to the other end of the HSR. He/she can take Hyperloop to that end adding 1/2 hour by going longer and saving more time by using HSR back and forth to the meeting, still returning within the day to the starting point.

  2.  

    SFnative74

    Have you been on a HSR train? You can enjoy vistas perfectly well that are not within a few hundred feet of the rail line.

  3.  

    murphstahoe

    People LIKE a lot of things. But if giving them that thing is to the detriment of the community – something has to give.

  4.  

    SFnative74

    Part of the problem are too many separate trains in the tunnel vying for limited platform space in closely spaced stations. If the number of separate trains could be decreased but the capacity expanded by using 4 car trains instead of 2, then it could be a win-win.

  5.  

    SFnative74

    Or, if the DTX project to extend Caltrain and HSR to the Transbay Terminal doesn’t pan out, the train box being built into the Transbay Terminal could be used as the terminus for a new Geary line, which would save a Geary project the cost of building a station and give it a turnaround. Since subways here seem to cost a little more than a billion dollars a mile, the $2.5-$3B could build the 2 mile segment you describe.

  6.  

    mx

    Of all the underserved areas in the city that could benefit from a subway, I’m not seeing (probably because I’m not a Parkmerced real estate developer) why undergrounding the M, which already has a dedicated right of way for much of its route, is the top priority. I’ve long thought we need to be building new subways, but why not build actual new lines to serve more parts of the city instead of sticking with the existing map? A Geary subway/light rail and extending the Central Subway to serve North Beach, the Wharf, and the Marina are all obvious candidates.

  7.  

    jonobate

    Funny you should say that… even some seniors are starting to realize that increased density at West Portal might allow them to continue living there. http://archives.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/seniors-may-be-the-solution-to-increasing-housing-density-in-west-portal-neighborhood/Content?oid=2632713

  8.  

    Cameron Newland

    Easy: build HSR from San Diego to Orange County to Los Angeles, and don’t make any engineering shortcuts. Try to complete that project on-time and on-budget for less than $30M/mile. If you can make that work, then consider building other HSR lines from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (project already in planning stage), to Phoenix (a potential extension of the Las Vegas HSR line), and at some point, to San Francisco, if that project were to make financial sense and could be completed at a reasonable per-mile cost. Currently, the LA to SF HSR project is projecting a per-mile cost of $90M, which is more than double the cost of of HSR in Europe.

  9.  

    jonobate

    Most of that crawl is caused by delays loading and unloading passengers at the subway stations, which in turn is caused by insufficient capacity on the trains for the number of people that are trying to use them. The way to fix this problem is to increase the length of the trains, but that doesn’t necessarily mean building a full subway out to Parkmerced. You could start by running every L and M as two car trains, which requires nothing more than additional train cars; continue by upgrading the J and K lines to run two car trains, which requires minor capital changes such as stop relocation/optimization; and then move on to upgrading the surface lines to handle three car trains, starting with the N.

    Nice as it looks on paper, the all-or-nothing subway approach is not really necessary for the M-line. If I had $2.5-3bn to spend on a new subway, I would spend it on Geary. A subway from a portal at Embarcadero & Folsom to another portal at Geary & Gough, with Stations at Mission & 1st (Transbay), Geary & Stockton (Union Square), and Geary & Van Ness, would be similar in length and comparable in cost to the proposed M-line subway.

  10.  

    davistrain

    But some people LIKE a place where the sidewalks roll up at 7 PM. Most likely the majority of them are either old folks like me or people with small children who aren’t interested in “night life”. Of course the typical response to this is “why don’t you move to a quiet senior-citizens community or a “boring” suburb.

  11.  

    RichLL

    But isn’t the real bottleneck in the tunnel under Market?

    “We built half of a rapid transit system”, referring to the under-grounded Muni streetcars.

    There is nothing “rapid” about them even in the tunnels. The crawl under Market Street at peak times is ponderous. What is the point in having more M trains rushing through the suburbs only to be backed up from Castro station, or even West Portal, and on in?

  12.  

    jonobate

    The West Portal area has so much potential that is wasted on a strip of boring single story commercial buildings, and a vocal NIMBY population who don’t want that to change. If those buildings were 3-6 stories high with residences above the businesses the area might not be so completely dead in the evenings.

  13.  

    murphstahoe

    “Additionally, the Super Bowl will cost Caltrain an estimated $400,000 to $500,000
    to operate extra trains to shuttle fans to and from Mountain View,
    where they can transfer to Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) light
    rail trains – operating for the exclusive use of Super Bowl
    ticket-holders.”

    This doesn’t bother me. Every rider that takes Caltrain costs the agency money. We subsidize public transportation with our tax dollars. The people going to the game are taxpayers. Any event that results in more people taking subsidized transit rather than subsidized roads is good.

    I read some pretty good reviews of the transport to the game. That’s a very good thing. From a global perspective – consider that Denver is having battles regarding public transit now – and thousands of Denver residents were just treated to a decent ride on public transit.

  14.  

    SFnative74

    Amazing how expensive subways are but not doing anything may be more expensive in terms of delay and congestion. I’m intrigued by the idea of 4-car trains which are not only more efficient as they only need one driver, but also also increase capacity along the Market St portion of the subway.

  15.  

    SFnative74

    I don’t know for certain that’s the reasoning…it’s what I figured. Another person thought it was to free up space for other (more lucrative) uses or to force people to drive, which could be true too.

  16.  

    theqin

    They should up zone to 300 ft all of the parcels within three blocks of the M line stations and fund the M tunneling via property tax value capture.

  17.  

    Jamison Wieser

    It might be strategy: “OMG! $6 billion?” “Don’t worry, your City government is so efficient we’ve managed to cut that price tag in half!”

  18.  

    jonobate

    Yeah, where did the $6bn figure come from? Both the Examiner article and the SFMTA meeting materials say $2.5-$3bb.

  19.  

    Paulish

    Your headline overstates the cost of the proposed subway by 200-300% 😐

  20.  

    Anandakos

    On an HSR train you really don’t want to look at the scenery. Closeby objects whiz by so fast it can be a big disorienting. That’s not a reason not to build it, but the scenery business is a bit of a red herring at 220 mph.

  21.  

    Anandakos

    If METRO would extend the Green Line to Disney World, I bet it would be PACKED.

  22.  

    Anandakos

    No way someone arriving on a train would drive to Anaheim. WHY would somebody forego almost completely grade separated transit running every half hour to drive in the horrendous LA freeway traffic FROM downtown?

  23.  

    Anandakos

    It will go to Anaheim in Phase 2

  24.  

    Anandakos

    So tell us how to have a viable project which ISN’T “far too expensive”. And no hand waving, Professor.

  25.  

    Joe Brant

    Straight out of Family Guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARXMTm91rM0

  26.  

    thielges

    I doubt this is really about security. It is more about making the NFL happy. Release the requirement to provide bike parking and at the same time free up pavement for more vendors or paid parking. Oh, and since now the people who would have biked can’t, they become paying customers for the day’s transpo gouge-atan.

    The SB affects more than just bicyclists. Central Expy. through Mt. View is closed on game day. I get the feeling that the NFL can get away with asking for a variety of “soft cost” concessions since the NFL gets to choose the future superbowl host cities. So be sure to roll over to demands or … wink, wink … you might not be hosting the superbowl in a couple of years.

  27.  

    danbrotherston

    Yes, typoed passenger/driver. Presumably however, you still understood the statement, in the context of the story.

  28.  

    frank

    Take a chill, man. First off, this is most likely not a system that we will see deployed in the next 5,10 or even maybe 20 years, or maybe ever. The main purpose of the competition at A&M (where my son’s team came in 3rd) is to spur innovation and practical problem solving for for tomorrow’s transportation challenges by today’s Engineering students.

  29.  

    david vartanoff

    Big Brother has promised chocolate bars for all bike riders next Tuesday. And now 2 minutes Hate.

  30.  

    Cameron Newland

    What do you mean, exactly? Are you implying that I only support construction projects with sub-standard engineering and/or construction? Of course not. I’m an American and I support quality American infrastructure to serve us. There are a lot of infrastructure projects – even expensive ones – that make a lot of financial sense because of the huge benefits that they can bring to a region, however, I believe that the current California HSR project is simply too expensive to provide more benefits than its projected cost. There are some corridors in which it makes sense to build HSR. Los Angeles, in many ways, is an ideal city to build HSR to and from, since it has such a large population and a lot of people travel to LA and from LA. HSR from LA to Orange County, San Diego, Las Vegas, and even Phoenix actually make a lot of sense to me. However, the California HSR line between SF and LA is much too expensive, costing more than double the average per-mile of other HSR lines, partially due to the three mountain passes that they have to bore tunnels through. I support HSR in general, but not expensive boondoggles that won’t pay dividends.

  31.  

    Gezellig

    In 3 years of living in LA Lady Luck was never that fortunate to me haha. I think the important thing is while you may occasionally luck out, you certainly can’t *plan* to arrive for a flight that way. I’ve come unnervingly close to missing flights even with the standard cushion time.

    And even if trains start requiring TSA security checks, if we’re talking about places like Union Station or Transbay Terminal there’ll still be the added benefit of being conveniently located in a major urban center. Of course some travelers’ destinations really are El Segundo or Millbrae but for many trips a downtown location would be a huge plus.

  32.  

    Cameron Newland

    Yes. Most (but not all) of today’s expensive freeway projects are boondoggles. One of the worst offenders is LA’s 405 widening. I generally support more public transit (specifically, underground rail and/or BRT) spending or more road maintenance money rather than building/expanding highways within metro areas, and I’m also a big proponent of constructing rail and/or HSR to connect metro areas to one another, but only when they make sense to build. In fact, I support California HSR, just not the currentl plan. I think it makes more sense to connect San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles via HSR by 2025 or 2030, and potentially link that HSR system to Las Vegas and Phoenix via HSR. I think that San Francisco needs to see more municipal and regional population growth before it would make sense to build a 535 mile-long HSR line between SF and LA. Just my $0.02.

  33.  

    Cameron Newland

    How dense an area needs to be to be “dense enough” to build HSR depends primarily on two factors: how highly populated are the two main cities on your HSR route (or more than two cities if you have other high-population cities on the proposed HSR route), and how big your budget is.

    Indeed, Los Angeles has a gigantic population. Los Angeles is a city that makes sense for HSR in certain scenarios, depending on which cities it would be paired with on an HSR route. For instance, if New York City or Chicago were located less than 500 miles away from Los Angeles, then it would likely make sense to build HSR between LA and one or both of those cities even if there was nothing but desert in between them, because you’d be taking two megacities with lots of airline traffic and build a downtown-to-downtown HSR line that might save people time and money versus the hassle of going to the airport. That’s a scenario similar to Madrid and Barcelona, where there was lots of air traffic, and now a HSR line exists there that people increasingly prefer to take over flying. I don’t know if that HSR-friendly scenario matches the situation in California. Honestly, if San Francisco and its surrounding counties were a lot more growth-friendly and development-friendly than they are, then we’d see enough population growth there within the next decade to make HSR between Los Angeles and San Francisco make sense. Unfortunately, SF and its surrounding cities and counties are decidedly not growth-friendly (this is evident by their high housing prices which are a result of a stifling of housing construction by restrictive zoning policies and intimidating lawsuits brought by housing activists), and San Francisco’s population is less than a million, making it much closer in population to Seattle than a megacity like Los Angeles. It is San Francisco’s lower population combined with the higher-than-normal projected construction costs of SF-to-LA HSR that are the nail in the coffin of California HSR. Even if SF and its surrounding communities were to grow significantly, there would still be the costs of boring through three mountain passes to deal with. I’m not saying that California HSR would never happen. In fact, I hope it gets built. It’s just that today, California HSR does not make sense between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It might make sense between San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, and perhaps Las Vegas and eventually Phoenix, but not 535 miles north to San Francisco.

  34.  

    Marven Norman

    No, I got dropped off. Just like a lot of other people who fly out of LAX. Or do you think all that traffic in the terminal area is just a bunch of people out for a joyride?

  35.  

    Steve Taylor

    “Even at LAX, I’ve been able to arrive as late as five minutes after boarding started and still made my flight.”

    You expect us to believe you have been able to arrive at LAX 5 minutes AFTER boarding of your plane has begun, parked your car, reached the terminal, gone through security and reached your plane BEFORE the jetway has been closed? I want some of what you’re smoking!

  36.  

    Marven Norman

    I hope that driver can identify the driver. Or was the driver unsure of if it was a Google car or Tesla on autopilot?

  37.  

    Marven Norman

    Care to help us understand exactly how dense an area needs to be to be “dense enough”, especially since LA is the densest urban area of the country and even prototypical sprawling communities are often in the 5000/square mile range or more, which is actually denser than quite a few Dutch cities?

  38.  

    Marven Norman

    Are you also up in arms about freeway projects with similar per-mile figures or in many cases, double or more?

  39.  

    Marven Norman

    Eh, people really like to overestimate the amount of time that flying takes. Even at LAX, I’ve been able to arrive as late as five minutes after boarding started and still made my flight. Similarly, deplaning usually takes nowhere near 30 minutes, especially with just a carry-on. Also, given recent developments around the world and country, I have doubts that trains will over the long-term, continue to remain free of the TSA screening fiasco. If (when) that occurs, the time to board will suddenly be far more comparable to flying, further impacting any time comparisons.

  40.  

    Marven Norman

    Your first sentence is what’s wrong with a lot of transit in the first place and which HSR intends to remedy. The Amtrak lines serving the Central Valley already have high ridership. An even better option via HSR will bolster their usage further, especially if the sensible options of providing transfer capabilities is undertaken.

  41.  

    Marven Norman

    Have you not heard about the ARTIC? The plan already exists to take it to Anaheim, or there’s always Metrolink too.

  42.  

    Marven Norman

    So far, all the bids have come in decently under budget, though they haven’t reached the mountains to tunnel through them yet. Also, it doesn’t HAVE to be all taxpayer dollars, even though private money hasn’t exactly flocked to the project. However, as the switch to VMT-based analysis takes place, expect developers to see the value in putting money into HSR to help meet their goals.

  43.  

    murphstahoe

    Do you apply the same standard to say – the Bay Bridge? Bridges are built cheaper in China too. They kill workers and ignore environmental issues, but hey….

  44.  

    jonobate

    Yes it does, and so will HSR once it’s completed. But even if it didn’t, the fact remains that if you can reduce the amount of driving (or flying) in your journey by over 90%, that’s a very good thing.

  45.  

    Cameron Newland

    Doesn’t Metrolink go from Union Station to Anaheim?

  46.  

    Cameron Newland

    I know that all transportation is subsidized. It’s just that the cost-per-mile of the California HSR line (~$90M/mile) is stratospheric compared to the ~$27M/mile for HSR in China or the $40M/mile for HSR in Europe. I’m not advocating for a hyperloop in place of HSR, I advocate for financially reasonable HSR. I understand that building HSR between SF and LA isn’t easy, and that just because we wish it could be done for $25M/mile doesn’t make it so, but it’s clear that the California HSR line is much more expensive than any HSR line that’s been built before it, and it’s not clear if the potential future benefits of the HSR line will make it a good investment today or in the future.

  47.  

    Cameron Newland

    That’s a good point. I want HSR between SF and LA, too, it’s just that the current plan is far too expensive, in my opinion.

  48.  

    Cameron Newland

    California’s population is comparable to Spain’s and France’s, but keep in mind that Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands have much higher population density than California does, and as a result, rail makes a lot more sense there. Spain’s HSR line between Madrid and Barcelona has been a success, however, that was a particularly high-traffic route, with airlines running 971 flights per week in 2007 (before HSR was built). The Los Angeles to San Francisco trip market is likely smaller than the Madrid to Barcelona route, since the populations of both Madrid and Barcelona are considerably higher than the population of San Francisco (but smaller than LA).

  49.  

    Cameron Newland

    Spain is a good test case because its population density is similar to California, yes, however, in 2007, before the AVE HSR line was built between Madrid and Barcelona, the Madrid-Barcelona route was the world’s busiest passenger air route, with 971 scheduled flights per week. By the way, the distance from Madrid to Barcelona is THE SAME as the distance from San Francisco to Los Angeles. In the case of AVE, the Spanish HSR line eventually took 80% of the market share from the airlines, and as a result, the AVE trains have solid ridership and revenue. Is the situation the same now between San Francisco and Los Angeles as it was between Madrid and Barcelona in 2007? I cannot say for sure, but I’d tell you that I believe that air traffic between New York City and Los Angeles is probably the best comparison to Madrid and Barcelona circa 2007, not San Francisco to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, New York City is too far away from Los Angeles for rail to be a legitimate option. As a result, the folks in Sacramento have seized on the idea of an SF to LA line, however, it simply doesn’t make financial sense, and will require decades of major subsidies in order to remain operable.

  50.  

    Cameron Newland

    The Chinese are going to build that line at a lower cost, which is why it makes financial sense to do so. The California HSR project from SF to LS quite simply doesn’t make financial sense.

    In July 2014, The World Bank reported that cost of California’s high-speed rail system was $56M/km ($90M/mile!), more than DOUBLE the average cost of $17–21M per km ($27M-$33M/mile) of high speed rail in China and much more than the $25–39M per km ($40-$62M/mile) average for similar projects in Europe.

    The Chinese plan to build the LA to Vegas HSR route for $21M per mile, though obviously, this is just a projection and will likely rise.