Significant Rail News, October 31, 2014

Marin Voice: SMART Needs San Rafael-Larkspur Trolleys

From the Dark Side, We Knew It Dept: Portland Eliminates Free Parking For Disabled Placards, Frees Hundreds of Spaces

We Knew That Dept: The Bias In Transportation System Design

Chandler, Arizona Looks At Light Rail, BRT

London, England Reveals Preferred Route For CrossRail Two

Major Downtown Sacramento Developer Thinks Streetcars Are Worth Paying Special Assessments

Opinion: Sprawl and Bad Transit Increase Unemployment

Clayton County, GA Votes On Extending MARTA Rail And Bus Service

Construction Begins For All Aboard Florida’s Downtown Fort Lauderdale Station

BART’s Oakland Airport Connector Testing, Should Open Before Thanksgiving

CAHSRA Tries To Short Circuit Judicial Process Via Surface Transportation Board Ploy

Plans For High[er, 110 mph] Speed Rail Between Chicago and Detroit

Amtrak Creates “Blue Ribbon Panel” To Solve Chicago Rail Gridlock

Better Late Than Never Drowned Railcars Dept: New Jersey Transit Agencies Prepare For Future Hurricanes Like Sandy

Get A Warrant? Dept: Chicago Mayor Defends Random Bag Searches At CTA Rail Stations

Sacramento Streetcar Funding Push Underway

CA Bullet Train Barely Discussed In Governors Race

Remaining Free Parking At Certain BART Stations Days Numbered

BART Seeks Public Comments On BART Station Improvements In San Francisco

Silicon Valley Business Group Wants To Improve Caltrain

Sun Also Rises In East Dept: All Aboard Florida Company Spending Money On Political Lobbying

Well, Media Thinks So Dept: Bullet Train Path Looking Smoother

Rail And Transit Advocates Knew This Years Ago Dept: Don’t Get Your Hopes Up About Self-Driving Cars

Tax To Fund ACE Trains To Modesto Discussed By Politicians

Chicago, IL: Flyover Aims At Cutting Metra And Amtrak Train Congestion

Amtrak May Sell Real Estate and/or Development Rights In Northeast Corridor To Raise Capital Funding

What French Cities Can Teach The U.S. About Transit Design

New Jersey: Will Wise Guys’ Kin Get Benefit Of Their Property?

No One Goes There Anymore Because Its Too Crowded Dept: Five New York Subway Records Set in September

FRA Releases First “Southwest Multi-State Rail Planning Study”

But Are You Sure They Are Willing To Pay For It Dept: Poll Says Americans Favor Public Transit Over Roads

Texas: Proposed Routes For Dallas-Houston High Speed Rail Revealed

Silicon Valley Sprawls East, How Tech Jobs, Housing,  Transit Are Shaping A “Megaregion”

China Firm Lowballs Price On Constructing MBTA Replacement Railcars

Lack Of Park And Ride Slots Reduces Los Angeles Transit Ridership, Media Says

Minnesota: How The Twin Cities Got Transit Right [North Star Excepted?]

Revamping of Sacramento Valley Station – still no fix for long distance to platforms, though

Important Transit Measures In 2014 Elections

From The Dark Side Dept: Can a $5.4 Billion Tunnel Fixed The “Notorious” I-710 Gap In South Pasadena?

Business Leaders Claim Labor Pushed Proposed Railcar Factory From L.A. County

Chicago, IL: Metra’s 30-Year Plan Could Reshape Regional Rail

BART Makes Progress With South Fremont/San Jose Extension

From The Dark Side Dept: Media Parrots Highway Lobby Alarm About “How Terrible” Congestion Is

From The Dumb Side Dept: Golden Gate Bridge District Wants To Dunn Walkers, Bicyclists For Using Big Red Bridge

Portland, OR: Five Reasons To Support The Milwaukie LRT Extension

New York Subway Prepares For Ebola With Random Subway Drills

Columnist: No Winners In Railcar Builder Kinkisaryo’s Departure From Palmdale

San Jose BART Extension Work Continues, Above And Below Ground

SMART Could Get More Railcars After 2016 Startup

Freight Would Pay For It? Dept: New $250+ Billion+ High Speed Rail Plan Revealed From Moscow To Beijing

Anti-Rail Gadfly Randal O’Toole Surfaces in Virginia Beach, VA Calling LRT “Lie Rail” (sic)

Report Says Younger Generation Prefers Transit [And Bicycles] To Cars

CHSRA Wins Round In California Supreme Court; Opponents Continue Battle In Other Venues

Foothill Gold Line Releases New Promotional Video

Twin Cities, MN: Metro Transit’s Green Line Doubles Ridership Over Previous Bus Service

Zurich, Switzerland: World Class Transit Metropolis

Group Says High Speed Rail Shortchanging West Fresno Residents

Creepy Crawlies Halloween Dept: Deadly Snakes, Leopards And Landmines Can’t Stop Sri Lanka Railroad

Another Reason Not To Drive Dept: Woman Who Doesn’t Own Car Gets 18 Tickets From Fastrak Highway Bureaucrats

Podcast: Return Of Streetcars In The United States

Nothing To Worry About Peak Period Only Commuter Bus Dept: Private Bus Tries To Compete Against Toronto Streetcars; Horsecars Too

Opinions On California’s High Speed Rail Plans

Thought Experiments Dept: Evolution of Twin Cities’ Green Line: A “Retrospective”

Before The Oil Runs Out Dept: Middle East Plans $200 Billion Worth of Rail And Transit Investments

I’ll See It When I Believe It Dept, Road Bureaucracy Edition: DMV Offices People Like (?!)

Caltrain Trench In Palo Alto Would Cost Over $1 Billion

Pittsburg Secures Grant For Its eBART Station

Chicago, IL: Aldermen Seek O’Hare Airport Express Trains To Union Station, McCormick Place

Dallas DART Looks At Rail Extensions Options To North

Rod Diridon Receives “Hall Of Fame” Award From American Public Transit Association

Are There Differences Between Motorist And Pedestrian Brains?

Minneapolis, MN Will Pursue Streetcars and BRT For Poor, Minority Neighborhoods

Tour Of The Roof Of New Anaheim Surfliner Train Terminal

Amtrak Northeast Corridor Hudson River Tunnels Into New York Need Extensive Repairs

New Hudson Tunnels May Require Amtrak To Buy $400 Million Hotel Next To Penn Station

Boorish Punks Inconvenience Other Riders On New York Subways

Downtown L.A. Light Rail Subway Begins Construction

Supporters Say Alameda County Measure BB “Last Chance” For Livermore BART Extension

From The Doh! Homer! Dark Side Dept: Talking Cars Are Distracting To Drivers

New York Will Face Transit Crisis When Hudson Tubes Undergo Repairs

Hey, I Thought This Was In Tony Soprano Land Dept: Transit Board To Rehire Felon After Prison Term Up

Doh! Homer! Dept: Dan Walters – Bay Bridge Failures Cast Doubt On High Speed Rail

Concerned About Safety, California PUC To Inspect Railroad Bridges For First Time

Poll Shows High Interest In Riding SMART By Marin And Sonoma Residents

CHSRA Takes First Steps Towards Buying Rolling Stock

Zombie Trains In Time For Halloween Dept: Push For Ballard-West Seattle Monorail Line Rises From Its Grave

Hard To Tell When BART Parking Lots Are Full

Marin County: Generic SMART Station Design On The Right Track For Civic Center

Fort Worth, TX: TEX Rail Receives FTA “Record of Decision”

Tucson Streetcar Ridership Continues To Exceed Projections

“My Bridge For A Bucket of Bolts” (With Apologies To Shakespeare’s Richard III) Dept: Bay Bridge Bolts Sitting In Water

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A 110 mph Upgrade Example for San Joaquins

See links below to an article and website about proposed upgrades to existing Chicago-Detroit Amtrak corridor service on existing tracks, to 110 mph standards and other improvements, all for less than $3 billion.

As shown by the Chicago-Detroit corridor example, with the addition of a Bakersfield-Los Angeles route via Tejon Pass–34 miles shorter than via Tehachapi–conventional upgraded San Joaquins could travel from Sacramento or the Bay Area to Los Angeles Union Station in ~4 hours, 45 minutes versus ~3 hours for 220 mph non-stop express high speed rail, or 3 hours, 30 minutes+/- for a high speed “all stops local.”

But CAHSRA wants Calfornia taxpayers to spend another $50 to $100 billion on top of the $10-$12 billion+/-  a combined San Joaquin upgrade/Tejon route would cost to save a maximum of 60-90 minutes per trip. While 3.0-3.5 hour travel times are needed to effectively compete with air travel between Sacramento/Bay Area and Southern California, they are not needed to compete with most intercity trips, which are made by automobile.

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CHSRA Responds Directly to TRAC; Our Response

TRAC’s opinion piece on September 28th ( in the Sacramento Bee apparently annoyed the denizens of the California High Speed Rail Authority, leading to a response by CEO Jeff Morales (, plus a followup, much more detailed letter directly to TRAC on October 22 (

The text of our response to Morales’ Bee op-ed and followup letter is presented below.

Mr. Morales:
You PR people chose to reiterate their talking points rather than respond to our arguments, in composing your October 21 letter responding to our SacBee OpEd. Key examples:
You write “We remain confident that an operating segment can be delivered with existing funds and future Cap and Trade proceeds, at which point a private entity would pay for the rights to operate the system (and receive the revenue it generates), thus allowing for completion of the full statewide system.” Note the lack of an answer for how CHSRA will fill the $26 billion shortfall in the budget for its Initial Operating Segment, which it admits needs to be complete before any private investment is possible. We all know Cap and Trade won’t go that far.
Your people either don’t understand or refuse to accept the judicial rulings. As we wrote, both the trial court and the Court of Appeal found deficiencies in CHSRA’s compliance with Proposition 1A. The Court of Appeal, however, ruled there was no remedy for the failure to comply, at this time. The Supreme Court chose to not review that decision. In no way did it “reaffirm compliance.”
Your comments about “what the Congress and President appropriated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” betray either an intentional misstatement of the terms of the legislation, or ignorance of them. Several Midwestern states are upgrading Amtrak service to 110 mph under that program, on “tracks owned by private freight operators.”
You write “Currently, there is no passenger rail link between Bakersfield and the Los Angeles Basin…” If CHSRA makes good on its intention to proceed with Palmdale-Burbank, there won’t be one for a very long time. While it wasn’t mentioned in the OpEd due to space considerations, TRAC has long considered the missing rail link as its top state priority.
You write “We have consulted extensively with experienced foreign governments and high-speed rail operators to improve and refine our plans.” This is a far cry from the open bidding process we recommend, where the successful bidder puts capital at risk, rather than mere advice.
Finally, you offer a very skewed reading of Proposition 1A. CHSRA is reverent about complying with legislative intent (except that of having an operating system by 2020), even though these are not mandatory provisions. Yet it brazenly flouts the mandatory requirements–the part of the bill it didn’t write–and then begs the Supreme Court for a Get out of Jail Free card when caught.
If you wonder how CHSRA managed to alienate rail advocates that would otherwise be its natural supporters, look no further than these points.
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Spanish HSR Station & Tunnel Flood In Girona, Spain

Photo – Flooded High Speed Rail Station in Girona, Spain

By Richard F. Tolmach

Barcelona-Figueres AVE high-speed trains as well as all Spanish international TGV service was stopped for over a week, following heavy rain September 29 that flooded the Girona AVE station and blocked the six kilometer tunnel north of the station. About 15,000 riders were negatively affect- ed, and several hundred trains cancelled.

Renfe was initially forced to cancel all AVE (high speed) and AVANT (regional expresses) north of Barcelona, partly because the line was cut, partly because the entire local fleet was stranded in Figueres. By three days after the incident, water was drained from Girona AVE sta- tion and service was re-established to that point, using sets borrowed from Madrid. The fleet shortage and delays turning trains also somewhat disrupted and delayed Barcelona-Madrid AVE service.

The line north of Girona was more chal- lenging, because infrastructure operator ADIF had to clear 15 million gallons of water from the last mile of the tunnel, a process that lasted several more days. ADIF requested help from the army’s Emergency Military Unit (UME) which brought 84 sol- diers, 30 vehicles, a boat and an aircraft

to Girona. Its pumps were theoretically capable of moving 300,000 gallons an hour, but the distance between the closest access point and the water meant slower progress.

Conditions for travelers to Figueres and France were chaotic. Passengers were gen- erally redirected to conventional regional trains or bus shuttles, but without much warning. International passengers clogged both Girona and Perpignan stations, waiting for delayed buses to show up.

Between 2 and 4 inches of rain fell in the 24 hours preceding the tunnel problem. This certainly was not a 100-year storm, but set a record for more than decade, because the region has had low rainfall for years. Various streets and highways around Girona also flooded at the same time.

The Girona AVE station was particu- larly vulnerable to flooding because it was placed underground next to a watercourse. The conventional Renfe station above it, perched 20 feet above water level and with a modern viaduct connecting northward, was relatively unaffected.

The AVE station filled to platform level, approximating the appearance of a Venetian canal. The tunnel filled to 7 meters height, enough to submerge the catenary. Luckily, no trains were on the line at the time.

For three days, ADIF was silent on the cause of the flood, but then blamed the problem on city infrastructure. ADIF went so far as to claim that flooding of AVE through Girona acted to divert water from flooding city streets, which prevented “greater harm” to the city itself.

Girona Mayor Carles Puigdemont retort- ed, calling the ADIF statement “a shameful text that is an insult to public intelligence.”

Opening the line required overcoming many problems. The tunnels were filled with mud, which had to be cleaned with more water. Until the tunnels were dry, ADIF technicians couldn’t check damage caused to catenary or AVE’s electrical and signalling equipment.

Ironically, less than a week after the disaster, Girona hosted a summit of cit-
ies on high speed for which French par- ticipants had to arrive by bus. Girona Parliamentary representative Santi Vila believes that the AVE flood made the Rajoy administration “ridiculous in the eyes of the world.” In a speech before Parliament, he noted that Rajoy has made high speed rail its flagship project, and characterized the tunnel flood as a “collapse of a project of which [Rajoy] boasted until recently.”

Mayor Puigdemont not only criticized the AVE project for negligence, but for intrin- sic safety flaws in its design. He made
the point that many lives would had been in danger if the tunnel had flooded when trains were operating instead of overnight. The tunnel section below the river was one of the most expensive features of the line through Girona, but now seems to have become the Achilles heel of the project.

On October 10, the Girona City Council overwhelmingly passed a resolution stating that the event showed that the AVE line, although operating for 21 months through Girona, is clearly not completed and lacks essential safety provisions.

Officials characterized ADIF as having produced “totally unnecessary and unac- ceptable risk.” The text concludes by ask- ing ADIF to complete “immediately and urgently without further delay” remaining work especially in Central Park and in the neighborhood of Sant Narcís. It has been forwarded to the Minister for Public Works, Ana Pastor, the Ministry of Development and President of ADIF.

The resolution criticizes ADIF for resum- ing service without adequate security. Mayor Puigdemont was sent to Madrid to put ADIF on notice of the City’s concerns..

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16th Century Dutch Invented Timed Transfers, Clock Headways

Photo – English Canal Boats (By Graham Horn)

NOT the Swiss.

From the September-November issue of TRAC’s California Rail News (

The Pursuit of Glory, Cambridge professor Tim Blanning’s 2007 study of baroque to modern Europe (Viking Press 2007, $39.95) provides revealing insight on timetable innovations and passenger amenities which predate railroads by over two centuries. Here are some choice excerpts:

“The Dutch economic historian Jan de Vries has reconstructed a journey under- taken in the mid-seventeenth century from Dunkirk, in … the Spanish Netherlands, to Amsterdam in the Dutch Republic.”

De Vries describes regular scheduled departures for most of the way. The barge pulled by four horses on the Bruges-Ghent canal, according to the contemporaneous British tourist Thomas Nugent was “the most remarkable boat of the kind in all of Europe; for it is a perfect tavern divided into several apartments, with a very good … [meal] at dinner of six or seven dishes, and all sorts of wine at moderate prices.”

Following a coach segment to Antwerp and two sailing segments onward toward Rotterdam, “on the following day he could once again benefit from fixed timetables. He took the 5 a.m. barge, the first departure of a scheduled service which left every hour on the hour for Delft, changed there for Leiden … finally reaching Amsterdam at 6:15 in the evening.” …

Blanning opines, “Once established, the idea that ‘time is money’ meant that coach or barge companies with an atti- tude of ‘we’ll start when I feel like it’ were doomed. Travelling by passenger-barge in the Dutch Republic in 1670, Sir William Temple wrote: ‘by this easie way of travelling, an industrious man loses no time from his business, for he writes and eats, or sleeps while he goes; whereas the time of laboring or industrious men is the greatest native commodity of any country.’”

Makes one wonder if there were any similar services in the Roman Empire, of which there is no record…

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CHSRA CEO Morales Misses Point of TRAC Op-Ed

Instead of responding substantively to my piece in the Sacramento Bee on Monday, September 29th, California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) CEO Jeff Morales merely repeated his agency’s PR schtick. His article read like something written by CHSRA’s “Office of Communications” e.g., their PR flacks.

Reading between the lines, however, Mr. Morales’ article spoke volumes: by claiming “interest” in the HSR project by private companies and investors, he tacitly admitted that CHSRA actually has no commitments for private capital.

After some more verbal gesticulating including a specious claim that American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds can’t be moved to upgrading existing lines (a political choice by the Obama Administation, not a legal one), Morales failed to explain where CHSRA will get the $26 billion of public funds his plan calls for. This means that private investment is an utter pipe dream.

In short, if the courts are kind to CHSRA, they may manage to blow through $6 billion improving railroad service through downtown Fresno. After that, though, the current manifestation of HSR in California is dead in the water. CHSRA simply doesn’t have the money to build much more of its insanely expensive infrastructure, and has no idea where they will get any more money, public or private.

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