02 May 2009

No A's/High Speed Rail conflict, say planners

Years ago, when the High Speed Rail project was only slightly more than a pipe dream, I had a dream of my own. It involved a few friends and me going on a quick weekend trip on HSR. We'd pack light, walk from my house, and board an HSR train on a Friday afternoon. Three hours later, we'd be in Anaheim, just in time to catch the first game of a division rivalry weekend series at Angel Stadium. We'd bunk with some other friends in the O.C. We'd reciprocate the hospitality when they wanted to come up here, of course.

This was before the final alignment was decided. Since then, the East Bay has been shut out of the initial phases of HSR, making such a trip from the East Bay less convenient than what I just described (a transfer from BART in SF remains possible). From San Jose, the dream is not only alive, it's within grasp. And according to comments by SJ city planners and HSR planners, it can work for them too.

"Engineering hasn't been done, and decisions haven't been made," said Hans Larsen, San Jose's deputy director of transportation, "but there's nothing to indicate — that we've seen — any chance of a conflict between the two projects."

Added Mehdi Morshed, the rail authority's executive director: "The more activity, the more development, the more things that are located in and around the station, the better it is for our riders. We would go out of our way to work with them, to do everything we can to match our station design to fit the city's priority."

Now that sounds like the spirit of cooperation to me! Each independent working group knows what the others are doing, they appreciate what the other could bring to the table. Hopefully, they're also thinking about sharing infrastructure along the lines of what I suggested last month.

Eventually, HSR could be a boon for all sports teams situated near it. An A's or Giants fan in Fresno could conceivably get to SF or SJ about 90 minutes. A Padres fan who wants to attend a Pads-Dodgers game in LA but doesn't want to deal with LA traffic would have a solution that gets him end-to-end in just over an hour. Baseball fans from all over could join cool train-based ballpark tours, visiting all 5 major league parks as well as several minor league parks along the route if they wanted. The potential is staggering.


Tony D. said...

Just noticed over at SJRA that there's a prelimenary report out for the Diridon Area. Looks like there will be TIF at Diridon. Looking good for infrastructure financing at Diridon South; for future transit center, mixed-use development AND ballpark.

Anonymous said...

This is another major reason why MLB should give the A's and San Jose T-rights and the green light on this project. The willingness of both project planners to work with eachother will only make for a better finnished product.

Zonis said...

This would certainly go a long way to creating a real big rivalry with the Angels. More Angels fans in the A's park, more A's fans in the Angels park. You'd no longer have to make it a vacation to go see the game.

dbackman said...

Well that was definitely my primary concern about the Diridon site. I would still worry about how gameday traffic could affect the functionality of the transit hub. But if the planners say it will work out, well good for ya'll.

Bill said...

Unfortunately, that won't help squat for those of us who live in Eastern Alameda County and San Joaquin County.

dbackman said...

Baseball by rail is a great idea! Still haven't been to any of the SoCal ballparks, but this would make me excited to do so.

Navigator said...

Dbackman, There's a rail station outside the Coliseum.

That's right, San Jose got together with San Francisco, and derailed Oakland's high speed rail. Instead of the HSR coming over the Altamont Pass and into the East Bay which is the most populous region in the Bay Area, they took it through the Pacheco Pass so San Jose wouldn't suffer the indignity of being a just a spur on the line. Meanwhile, Oakland and the East Bay were left with no station at all.

Once again, here's San Jose attempting to make up for its short comings (small...aah..BUILDINGS)by screwing another region. It's the same mentality which attempts to poach teams from Oakland and San Francisco in order to give themselves a greater since of importance.

Enough with San Jose's inferiority complex. The Bay Area region is tired of paying the price.

Marine Layer said...

One has to question how much political clout the East Bay can muster to keep the A's there when it got rolled rather easily by the South Bay lobby on HSR. Parts of that same South Bay lobby want the A's in SJ.

Anonymous said...

The Altamont supporters propped up their case like HSR was a commuter rail. It's not. Pacheco ties the region to Southern Calfornia. Altamont was thought up to bring people from the Central Valley to their jobs on a daily basis, even though proposed ticket costs made that rather infeasible. There would have been nothing "high-speed" about it and all the spur routes it required.

Anonymous said...

Navigator, the only person showing an inferiority complex around here is you. You obviously feel some petty rivalry with SJ and I can only guess that having the A's was one of the last things you could hold in your tortured mind to make you feel superior to the people of SJ. You'll just have to get over that, though I suspect you never will.

San Jose isn't stealing anything. The A's want to move there. Deal with it. And for god's sake, please stop embarrassing the A's fan base. You don't speak for even half of us.

dbackman said...

Nav. I work for one of the premier transportation architects in the state, so you can spare me the lecture on the ins and outs of HSR. In fact, I designed a station area master plan proposal for the Diridon site earlier this year, albeit without a ballpark. There is a big difference between the dinky Coliseum stop and the proposed regional transit hub at Diridon. I too am very disappointed by the chosen route for HSR. However, I still think Oakland wins on it merits in terms of transportation access, especially since everything is already in place here in Oakland, whereas the BART extension and HSR connectivity will drag on for years with massive schedule and cost overruns. But the conspiracy theories are not a good look for you. Let's focus on Oakland's strengths, rather than continuing to drive the wedge in between the city and the team.

Navigator said...


What conspiracy theories? I'm stating facts here.

San Jose was originally a spur on the HSR line. They got together with San Francisco and decided to reroute that line from the Altamont Pass, which would have taken it right to the center of the Bay Area's most populous region, and instead drove it through San Jose and all the way up the Peninsula into a San Francisco culdesac. This isn't about putting HSR where the majority of the population resides and where it would be most cost effective to build, this is designed so that politically connected areas can divert traffic to their own private business interests.

They could have taken the HSR above ground all the way to Jack London Square through light industrial neighborhoods with much lower costs and very little public opposition.
Instead, they decide to cave in to powerful business and political interests, and made it a much more expensive and controversial project by taking it up the Peninsula where opposition from wealthy well connected communities is already arising. They also choose to burrow underneath one of the most congested cities in the World in order to run it directly into a culdesac. This is the HSR to nowhere. This has to be the biggest boondoggle since the Big Dig in Boston.

Again, this comes down to two cities getting together and undermining the best interests of the entire region for their own benefits. San Jose, in order to hope to capture some of the traffic heading for San Francisco, thereby making itself a second tier destination, and San Francisco hoping to funnel more tourists to its hotels and retail establishments.

As far as the families who live among the 2.4 million residents in the East Bay, and who would love a connection to, let's say take their kids to Disneyland, they're out of luck or they're forced to travel across a congested bridge so that San Francisco and San Jose interests get what they want.

Another example of you tax dollars not benefiting the majority of Bay Area residents. And, another example of the San Jose inferiority complex having a negative effect on the entire Bay Area region.

Marine Layer said...

Nav, now you're getting your facts wrong on HSR.

The Bay Area segment was always a two-man race between Pacheco and Altamont. It's not as if Pacheco never existed and was then concocted out of thin air. Yes, SVLG used its muscle to get Altamont out of the way. I didn't like it, I even supported Altamont over Pacheco. But to disregard the whole project over one decision in which neither alternative was perfect is incredibly disingenuous.

One of the major problems with getting HSR in the East Bay is that the rail services there are disjointed. Regular rail doesn't link with BART except in a few places like the Coliseum, Richmond, and in the future, Union City. There should have been some natural synergy in Oakland, but the natural terminal, JLS, is several blocks away from BART and lacks an easy link between the two. The Coliseum area isn't the right place for rail terminal since it isn't downtown. And due to the strange pre-existing buildout of ROW in southern Alameda County, there wouldn't even be a proper hub for transferring among the three spurs.

Besides, East Bay users will be able to take BART to the Transbay Terminal and transfer to HSR there. Cry about that all you want, but it's worked for NYC users at Penn Station for decades. Are Acela users complaining because it doesn't go out to Long Island? No, they have regional services to handle the transfer. After all, it only takes 10 minutes to go from downtown Oakland to downtown SF, as you said previously.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about the rest of the bloggers on here but I have reached the point of just ignoring what Nav has to say---from my perspective he is just trying to goad folks with his twisting of facts and his victim mentaility and inferiority complex about the city of Oakland--time to ignore and maybe he goes away--

Navigator said...

Marine Layer,

You haven't addressed the much higher costs of what amounts to a spur up the Peninsula and all the way to underground San Francisco, with no connection to points North such as Portland and Seattle.

An HSR line running next to Highway 5 all the way through the Altamont Pass on the way to the Jack London Amtrak Station with a connecting spur down 880 to San Jose, would have made the project much more affordable with no need for tunneling under San Francisco, and no need to fight the rich NIMBY's on the Peninsula. The Lake Merritt BART station could easily be linked to the Amtrak Station at Jack London Square and the Ferry Terminal on Clay Street.

The Altamont route would have allow the HSR to use modified existing rail which currently links Jack London Square with Sacramento via Amtrak. This alignment would have allowed a natural logical progression to Sacramento with possible future linkage to Portland and Seattle.

Again, the current Pacheco Pass alignment instituted via pressure from San Jose and San Francisco interests, may ultimately doom this project because of much higher tunneling costs and lawsuits from powerful and well connected neighborhoods in the Peninsula.

Like the location for the ballpark for the A's, we need to think of what's best for the interests and convenience of the region, not for well connected special interests.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know about the rest of the bloggers on here but I have reached the point of just ignoring what Nav has to say---from my perspective he is just trying to goad folks with his twisting of facts and his victim mentaility and inferiority complex about the city of Oakland--time to ignore and maybe he goes away--"

See, here's exactly what you didn't want to happen, Navigator. Your breakdown of the relative advantages of Altamont over Pacheco makes an awful lot of sense. I tend to agree with you, not with the SJ/SF paranoia part, but with the rational cost and efficacy part.

But few people will listen to you, Navigator. You've poisoned your own well with your irrational hatred of all things San Jose and even more irrational refusal to acknowledge the reality of the seriously dysfunctional Oakland city government. In fact, one suspects that the chances of HSR being routed through Altamont might actually have been adversely affected by the egregious performance of the Oakland city government over the years. Which in turn translates into "no clout," as Marine Layer points out.

It's really a pity, Navigator. You seem to be a pretty sharp individual. but you're now just a voice in the wilderness.

Marine Layer said...

The most popular Altamont alignment used a bay crossing at Dumbarton. That still would've brought rail traffic through the Peninsula. Any crossing itself would've been extremely expensive, whether it was a rebuilt Dumbarton rail bridge or transbay tube option to SF. There was no way to exclude SF from the project, that would've been suicidal.

Politically, HSR along I-5 was a nonstarter. It wouldn't have served a large section of the populace and would lose support in the process. Your argument translates to satiating Oakland while alienating Fresno. That's no way to foster transit use throughout the whole state. Also, last I checked Fresno is a larger city than Oakland.

Going I-5 also would've severely reduced the process of buying cheap, little-used ROW in favor of large-scale eminent domain use on farmland.

As for a link north, that would occur via Phase 2 to Sacramento. Though the cost-effectiveness of building through population-scarce Southern OR and Upstate CA would likely doom such a project.

How would Lake Merritt BART be "easily" connected to rail? A 1/2-mile pedestrian tunnel? The light rail line that never got out of initial planning stages because the budget isn't there?

Any large project will come with lawsuits and challenges. We're not in China. For the cities that want tunnels, there is a solution: fund them yourself and pay it back through air rights. Otherwise, let the cost-effective method and mitigation work for the public.

Nav, perhaps in your world there is no room for compromise or consensus. The rest of us need to work together to get by.

Anonymous said...

Navigator getting his facts wrong on HSR? Being disingenous? There's a shocker.

In Navigator's bizarro world, the 2.4 million people of the East Bay somehow constitute a "majority" in this 7 million person region. Hmm, I must have missed something in 7th grade math.

Look, HSR serves two fundamental purposes: (1) tourism; (2) business. You can't leave SF out because of #1, and you can't leave San Jose out because of #2. Like it or not, Santa Clara County is now the economic heart of the Bay Area, with more tech companies and tech jobs than Oakland and SF combined. This is "what's best for the interests and convenience of the region," not your selfish desire to get your kids to Disneyland without having
to take a ten minute BART ride.

(Hey wait a minute, I thought BART was what was supposed to be so great about the East Bay?)

And the whole point of the thing is supposed to be speed; it needs to compete with air travel. Routing the thing through the East Bay and trying to make it serve as commuter rail would undermine its fundamental purpose and likely make it a white elephant.

Navigator said...

Marine Layer, I respect your opinion and knowledge on many issues. However, in my humble opinion, your last argument on HSR is not one of your better arguments.

First of all, someone already complained on this site that the HSR failed the Altamont route because it was pitched as "a commuter rail." Now, you seem to be advocating against a stop in Oakland which would greatly benefit the Oakland Metro Area and its population of 2.4 million residents, for a stop in Fresno and all of the much smaller communities along highway 99.

Also, there's a reason why Amtrak doesn't go to San Francisco. It's too expensive. Amtrak at one time have the "Oakland Mole" which extended about two miles into the Bay, almost to Treasure Island, where train passengers would transfer onto a ferry on their way to San Francisco. Now, the "San Francisco" Amtrak station is Emeryville.

San Francisco would still have great access to HSR with a BART connection at the Bay Fair BART station in San Leandro, as the HSR made its way across the Livermore Valley and into the perfect transfer point for BART patrons. This would have been the perfect station to connect HSR to Bart which has a line heading east to Pleasanton. This alignment would also connect to the future BART extension into San Jose. The HSR would then continue towards Oakland, with a stop at Jack London Square which would allow for another BART connection to San Francisco, along with a connection to the Ferry Terminal on Clay Street at Jack London Square.

We are needlessly wasting hundreds of millions of dollars just so San Francisco can pretend to be Manhattan. I don't want my tax money wasted so that they can drive HSR to a culdesac in San Francisco because that's the politically correct thing to do. There are other options which are much less expensive, and which are much more logical.

Marine Layer said...

I'm not advocating against a stop in Oakland. I supported Altamont over Pacheco. However, CHSRA chose Pacheco over Altamont in the end. I still support the project, warts and all.

Oakland will have indirect access to HSR through BART. In fact, many users of HSR will utilize local transit (MUNI Metro, VTA Light Rail, buses, ferries, taxis) to get to an HSR station. The East Bay will be no different. Now, if on one hand you tout BART's convenience but then disregard it when it comes to issues like this, your argument is going to look really misleading and full of half-truths. Answer me this: Do you think BART can competently act as a feeder system for HSR? If so, why not take advantage of that? If not, why not?

My argument is that leaving out Fresno to make things slightly more convenient for Oakland is a poor choice. I'm glad they chose to be inclusive of the Central Valley's population, even if it means adding 20 minutes to each trip.

If the Pennsylvania Railroad had taken your advice, there would be no Penn Station and trains from the west and south would have terminated in Hoboken or Newark.

Amtrak doesn't go to SF because the ridership isn't there to justify a bay crossing. Amtrak doesn't own tracks in the Bay Area. How could they even begin to push a rail crossing, when most of the area's current rail traffic is freight and SF doesn't have significant port operations to support it?

Navigator said...

Marine Layer,

I'm touting BART's convenience in the perfect feeder station for the entire Bay Area, at the Bay Fair BART Station. If that's not THE most effective way to link HSR to BART, and still save the expense of tunneling under San Francisco, then what is?

I'm willing to sacrifice a little bit of San Francisco's prestige in order not to attempt to drive a HSR train at 200 MPH through some pretty influential Peninsula neighborhoods, which will no doubt not look too kindly on their bucolic enclaves being spit up with a mini Berlin Wall to accommodate HSR.

Also, I can do without the excavation expense of a downtown SF HSR station just so that we can put another jewel on San Francisco's crown. If this is intended to drive tourists from San Fransisco hotels to LA, it will never begin to pay for itself. If this is meant as a convenient form of transportation for the entire region which can compete with air travel, it may have a chance.

Marine Layer said...

Just to elaborate further, here are some travel times to certain planned HSR stations exclusive of 5-10 min of walking time.

To SF Transbay Terminal (Montgomery Station via BART)
Oakland City Center - 13 min
Rockridge - 21 min
San Leandro - 27 min
Richmond - 36 min
Concord - 43 min
Dublin/Pleasanton - 47 min
Balboa Park - 13 min

To SF Transbay Terminal (MUNI)
Cole Valley - 16 min
Outer Sunset - 32 min
Marina - 35 min

To SJ Diridon (VTA/Caltrain)
Sunnyvale - 23 min
Oakridge - 32 min
Milpitas/Cisco - 45 min

Marine Layer said...

BART isn't the perfect system for the Bay Area. It's perfect for the parts of the Bay Area it serves. Big difference. If, as you suggest, no bay crossing is built at all, you'd create a situation in which 2 transfers would be required for most SF residents. Why? Because BART doesn't serve most of SF. OTOH, BART does serve most of Oakland, Berkeley, etc. 1 transfer for most of the East Bay. With each mode switch, ridership drops. So the best thing to do is to make it as easy as possible for as many Bay Area residents as possible. BART effectively adds the service area without adding cost, which is a near miracle from a planning perspective. Don't penalize those who don't have BART.

As you can see from the travel times I posted, many East Bay users will have an easier time than those within many SF neighborhoods, and that's with a single transfer.

Marine Layer said...

One other thing - I sympathize with landowners who will be affected by the train. I look at it, however, as a safety issue. Grade separation is necessary for safety. There have been far too many pedestrian-related rail fatalities on the Peninsula in recent years. Bucolic enclaves or not, I'd rather save lives.

hamachi said...

I've had the HSR dream about visiting the southland for a day or night too. see my folks, catch a game, visit SD again.

what is the schedule for that thing to get built? 20 years?

dbackman said...

Just overheard confirmation of this info from a principal's meeting in my office. We didn't win the master planning competition for Diridon, but still hoping to be involved in BART station design.

Anonymous said...

i am really liking the people from san jose.
i think bart to san jose is a great idea.
bart wants to build an oakland connector to the airport 3.2 miles for 500 mil dollars using stimulus money.
that money should be spent on bart to san jose.
while maybe a pedestrian bridge across i-880 included in a new stadium project and then a bus from that new side of the freeway to the airport might be a better alignment.

with bart to san jose then HSR can terminate in san jose. from there san jose can help figure out a way to get the HSR to Sacramento in phase 2.

if there was a canidate from san jose running for govenror of california, i would vote for him/her.

i also like the people from oakland, they stepped up and said we dont want the a's to leave our city. losing a mlb franchise would not be good. so oakland stepped up fast and showed that they have alot of the same qualities as the people from san jose.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:57--could you please refresh our memories as to what all these good folk from Oakland have done to retain the A's...or was your post written tongue in cheek---recognizing that 15 years has gone by with nothing out of Oakland--

V Smoothe said...

The elephantine sense of entitlement displayed by those who insist the A's should remain in Oakland never ceases to amaze me.

Anonymous said...

V Smoothe,

Couldn't agree with you more.