13 October 2009

HSR routing effects on Diridon

The California High Speed Rail Authority has been workshopping route details all over the state. Especially sensitive are the Atherton/Menlo Park/Palo Alto areas and the area immediately to the south of Diridon Station, where numerous alternatives exist. In the picture below, you'll see a mix of working class residential and industrial buildings near the station. Further south is the well-heeled neighborhood of Willow Glen, and while the train wouldn't run through Willow Glen its residents are more than a bit concerned about HSR.

Unlike in the Peninsula, which the existing Caltrain corridor is the only available route, several route options exist south Diridon Station. CHSRA wants to use the most cost-effective route possible since they want to stretch the $10 billion in state bonds and whatever federal stimulus money comes their way, but every option has a cost/benefit component in both the short and long term.

The least expensive route is probably the green/white line above labeled SR87/I-280. It's an S-curve that would run in an aerial along the two area freeways. However, the S-curve makes it also the slowest option, and could adversely impact many of the express trains that would pass through San Jose without stopping at Diridon. The route also runs through the original Orchard Supply Hardware location's parking lot. Along with the other Caltrain-aligned routes, it would likely take some amount of land from the ballpark site. FWIW, that land wouldn't be for the ballpark anyway, it'd be used for parking.

The "Downtown Aerial/Tunnel" option is misleading because running an aerial isn't really an option. An aerial would require billions of dollars of eminent domain proceedings and would kill any chance of developing the six blocks between the ballpark site and the arena. A tunnel would be an enormous engineering challenge, since it would bore under both the existing light rail tunnel and the planned BART subway, plus a creek and a river. In either case, the route would have minimal impact on the ballpark site, clipping the northeast corner at worst.

However CHSRA and Diridon area residents proceed, it's good to know that the ballpark can be built without having to worry about the final route's impact.


Tony D. said...

My choices are the three-track alignment options on the existing Caltrain/UPRR corridor or the 280/SR87 option you described in detail. While trains may need to slow from 125 to 60 mph to navigate the S-curve, it shouldn't take that much time off a LA-SF express run; a couple of minutes at the most?

The tunnel options are most certainly a no go ($$$$$$$$$!)

And like you said R.M., none of these options appears to affect the ballpark footprint to much. Parking could probably be built under the aerials.

By the way, John Willfolk stated this morning in the Merc that trains would be zooming at 220 mph through the Gardner/Willow Glenn neighborhoods. Can you say blatant lie?!

Anonymous said...

Personally prefer the tunnel--beleive the ballpark in Minnesota has the trains beneath it--also--aren't they tunneling under Lake Elizabeth in Fremont right now for BART to WS---assuming the ballpark is built would want to maximize development around the park and not waste any valuable land with aerial trains-

Ezra said...

@Tony D.

You are correct, that the slowdown won't effect LA-SF express runs that much anyway. In Europe, the trains usually slow to 80 km/h (50 mph) through major stations (which SJ will be), even if they aren't stopping.

As for Willfolk, he probably got confused with km/h and mph. The trains will certainly be running at 220 km/h. Although the speed record for conventional rail (meaning not maglev) is 574.8 km/h (357 mph), so it is possible to go that fast, though I don't think any trains go that fast normally.

Anonymous said...

Any idea of the projected cost of a ticket from SF to LA on the HSR line?

Marine Layer said...

My memory's a bit fuzzy on this. I think they're trying to undercut plane fares by 20%. Not sure about discounts.

Pork chops and applesauce said...

Ticket cost on HSR from SF to LA is approximately $55. Check out

for routes and prices.

Brent Pearse said...

@ Tony D.

You are correct about affecting the run by a couple of minutes; the problem is when every city along the alignment affects the run by a couple of minutes even seconds, 20 cities at 30 seconds each is 10 minutes in the long run. HST is under law to complete its run in 2 hours and 50 minutes from SF to LA, and every second counts. My vote is for the existing 3-track ROW. It is the most cost effective and would require the most minimal about of ROW takes.

I keep hearing tickets $50 one way, but that is most likely to change.

John P. said...

the slowdown won't effect LA-SF express runs that much anyway. In Europe, the trains usually slow to 80 km/h (50 mph) through major stations (which SJ will be), even if they aren't stopping.

It's inconceivable to me that every HSR train, including the fastest express, wouldn't stop in San Jose. It's the third-largest city in the state, and the center of a sub-region of about 2.7 million
(Santa Clara county and the southern thirds of San Mateo and Alameda counties) with the highest per-capita income in the state.

Since all trains would/should stop at Diridon, the speed implications of the various alignments would be
practically equivalent.

Marine Layer said...

It's evident from CHSRA's documents that express trains will be true express runs with no stops. That will go for SF-LA and SJ-LA trips. Some trips from Anaheim may even skip LA, which would be a good thing since the way Union Station is configured a stop may be very awkward and time-consuming. There's also the opportunity for limited stop runs, with stops only in major population centers (SF, SJ, Fresno, Bakersfield, LA, Anaheim).

John P. said...

What makes LA Union station awkward? It's a through-station, not a terminal stub, right?

BTW, the Frankfurt main station, which is a stub, is the third-busiest in the world outside of Japan. It handles 632 trains a day, and serves 350K passengers daily. It's also beautiful.

Marine Layer said...

Nope, Union Station has a stub layout. There may be through tracks to Anaheim in the final HSR buildout.

Ezra said...

@ John P.

There are ICE routes that skip Frankfurt Hbf and go directly to Frankfurt Airport. Similarly, Gare Montparnasse (in Paris) is a stub. If I were taking a TGV from Bordeaux to Paris it would go non-stop to Montparnasse. But if I were taking a TGV from Bordeaux to Lille, it would skip that station (and not stop in Paris at all). So it's highly likely there will be express trains from Anaheim (and even San Diego) to the bay area that don't stop in LA.

And as ML pointed out express routes from LA to SF and LA to SJ are likely. There's no reason to have a train stop in SJ just because it's large if it's not the final destination of the passengers. People wanting to go to SJ will just take an LA to SJ express (and there probably will be more of them scheduled anyway)