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California High Speed Rail

Transportation Nation

Californians Want Benefits of High-Speed Rail, Not the Price Tag

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

KALW

A majority of Californians don’t want the state’s controversial high-speed rail line, says a recent poll for USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times. But at the same time, over two thirds of the voters surveyed said they think the project would create jobs and help the state’s economy. And 61% said a high-speed rail line would help reduce traffic at airports and on the highways. 

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Transportation Nation

California's High-Speed Rail Meets Opposition Over Eminent Domain

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Marketplace

In 2008, California voters approved a $10 billion bond for a high-speed rail system that would get travelers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in under three hours. The rail will have to travel through California’s agricultural hub -- the Central Valley -- but some local residents are trying to stop the project.

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Transportation Nation

California High-Speed Rail Challenge Will Move Forward

Monday, May 20, 2013

KALW

The first stage of construction on California’s high-speed rail is set to begin this summer, but the legal challenges aren’t going away anytime soon. Last week, a judge ruled that a lawsuit filed by Central Valley residents of Kings County to block construction will move forward as planned.

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Transportation Nation

California High-Speed Rail Gets First Contractor

Thursday, April 18, 2013

KALW

The first construction phase for California’s high-speed rail plan to link San Francisco and Los Angeles in under three hours has a builder. And the bid came in $200 million under expectations. 

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Transportation Nation

Poll: Fewer Than Half of Californians Support High-Speed Rail

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A map of the planned high-speed rail system in California (photo by flickr user Richard Masoner)

Back in 2008, California voters approved a $10 billion bond to plan and build a high-speed rail system across the state. Four years later, support for the high-speed rail has waned. Now that the estimated cost is $68 billion, a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that only 43 percent of likely voters support the project.

That number hasn’t changed since the last time the survey was conducted, about a year ago. When asked if they would support a high-speed rail if the cost was lower, support jumps to 55 percent. But the cost has gone down since the last survey, from $100 billion to $68 billion. It’s unclear what number would tip the public back in favor of the system, but they haven’t reached it yet.

At the same time, a majority of Californians (59 percent) think a high-speed rail system is important to the state “quality of life and economic vitality.”

Meanwhile, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has continued to win or settle its legal battles with cities across California. The Authority plans to move forward with construction this summer. The state must spend its $2.35 billion of federal funding on the project before 2017.

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Transportation Nation

"It's Like Costco": Why Calif. High-Speed Rail is Teaming Up with Amtrak

Friday, January 18, 2013

Rendering of an Amtrak NextGen high-speed rail train

Amtrak and the California High Speed Rail Authority are teaming up to bulk buy rail cars for high-speed rail. "It's like Costco," Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High Speed Rail Authority tells KPCC, "you get better prices."

Morales was visiting Washington, D.C. to get an early start making nice with a new key player in the world of rail megaprojects, Republican Congressman Jeff Denham of California, freshly appointed as chair of the House Railroads Sub-Committee. Denham is a known critic of the California high-speed rail project to connect Los Angeles with San Francisco for a cost of $68.4 billion. According to the Fresno Bee, Denham's home town paper, the congressman was originally in favor of the Calif. high-speed rail plan, but has come to be skeptical about revenue and ridership projections.

So one way to for CaHSRA to show it is serious about cost containment is to trot out innovative new savings ideas, like bulk purchasing rail cars. KPCC:

Morales also announced California is partnering with Amtrak to shop for locomotives and passenger cars - what railroad types call "train sets." These "train sets" will be a complete set of cars, and the high-speed version will have the power to run the train embedded in each car.

The type of train California and Amtrak are shopping for will be able to run on the curvy Acela routes in the Northeast and the faster, straighter California line.

This move looks like a smart move for both Amtrak and CaHSRA, assuming there is such a car that can work well on both routes. Amtrak says it only needs trains that reach 150 m.p.h. though the national rail network has explored a top speed of 165 m.p.h along the Northeast Corridor, running test trains in September that many rail fans captured on video. CaHSR trains go much faster: 220 m.p.h.

Amtrak said in a release:

"Due to the consistently strong and record setting NEC ridership over the past 10 years, Amtrak needs new and additional HSR equipment. The Amtrak plan envisions an initial acquisition of up to 12 new HSR train sets to supplement current Acela Express service and add seating capacity in the near term. Then, Amtrak would look to replace the 20 current Acela train sets in the early 2020s. California plans a first order of 27 HSR train sets.

(...)

"In addition, the preferred train set has Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) power distribution among all cars, operates bi-directionally with a cab car on each end that allows for passenger occupancy and has a seating capacity of 400 to 600 passengers.  CHSRA is seeking a HSR train set able to operate up to 220 mph and has Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) power distribution among all cars, operates bi-directionally with a cab on each end that allows for passenger occupancy that has a seating capacity of 450 to 500 passengers per 656 feet train set."

All that is to say, they're in the market for a specific kind of train, but one that could serve them both just fine based on what each agency needs. We'll keep an eye on the Costco approach to high-speed train procurement and watch how much, if at all, partnership moves like this one can sway cost skeptics like Denham.

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Transportation Nation

Calif. High-Speed Rail's One Vote Survival Reveals New Anti-HSR Faultline

Monday, July 09, 2012

(Oakland, Calif -- KALW) California Governor Jerry Brown scored a razor-thin legislative victory on Friday when the California State Legislature voted to release initial funding for high-speed rail—a major infrastructure project that he wholeheartedly supports. The plan got the green light four years after voters first approved a bond measure that would help build a network connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The vote to release $8 billion in state and federal funds came at the tail end of sessions on Governor Brown’s latest state budget, which includes potentially drastic cuts to many social, educational, health and public safety programs.

The state still has not secured any of the additional money needed to complete the $68 billion project.

Plans for the bullet train have become increasingly unpopular among voters in California. And up until the last minute on Friday, the future of the project remained uncertain. The State Assembly had already approved funding for initial construction by a wide margin the day before, but the sharply divided state senate also had to approve the proposal. Support falls mostly on party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans against the plan. If just five Democrats joined Republicans, that would have been the end of bullet train bond money.

In the end, four Democratic senators voted against the plan—including Transportation Committee Chair Mark DeSaulnier (Concord), Alan Lowenthal (Long Beach), and Joe Simitian (Palo Alto), all of whom had played key roles in the development and oversight of the plan. Fran Pavely (Agoura Hills) also voted against the plan.

Senator Simitian—a long-time supporter of high-speed rail—said that while he staunchly supports the vision of high-speed rail in California, he could not support the current plan, which he said was very different in “scope, content and price,” than what voters approved in 2008.

Sen. Simitian said passage of the high-speed rail plan could imperil Brown’s chances of getting voter approval for statewide tax increases in November that could generate as much as $40 billion in badly needed revenue.

Not a single Republican senator voted to support the plan, and many invoked the upcoming tax initiative and cuts to education in their statements prior to the vote.

The money approved on Friday will combine with $3.3 billion in federal Recovery Act funds, to pay for initial construction of the high-speed rail line in the Central Valley, running between Fresno and Bakersfield.  In addition, money approved on Friday includes $2 billion in “connectivity” funds—that will pay for improvements to existing commuter rail lines in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Approving the funding is just one of many hurdles for the beleaguered plan. The bullet train faces ongoing lawsuits, as well as vocal opposition from Central Valley farmers.

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Transportation Nation

UPDATE: Calif. High-Speed Rail Barely Survives Do or Die Vote -- A Primer

Friday, July 06, 2012

A rendering of a California bullet train (image courtesy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority)

UPDATE: 7/6/2012 4:05 p.m. PT

By a narrow margin the California State Senate authorizes funding for the nation's biggest high-speed rail plan. The vote was mostly along party lines, with Democrats supporting the plan and Republicans opposing, but several powerful Democrats crossed the aisle, including the chair of the transportation committee, Mark DeSaulinier.

Republicans began the session with several procedural motions to avoid the vote all together, but even Democrats who eventually voted no, opposed that conclusion so after lengthy floor speeches about fiscal responsibility and investing in our future Democrats got the 21 votes they needed, and not one more. The final tally was 21-16.

The Democrats who voted against the plan are: Mark DeSaulnier, Joe Simitian, Alan Lowenthal and Fran Pavley.

We'll have a full analysis on Monday from KALW's Julie Caine. For now, here's our original post explaining how the west coast bullet train came within one vote of demise.

 

ORIGINAL POST: Today's the day of reckoning for America's most ambitious high-speed rail plan. While we wait for the verdict, here's a recap of the rocky road to laying rails from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

Let's start with the news: Last night the California State Assembly approved Governor Jerry Brown's $8 Billion proposal for a California high-speed rail plan. Today, the State Senate has to approve that plan or the project will almost certainly fade away into failure, if reports from the Sacramento Bee are accurate.

That's more common than success with high-speed rail plans in the U.S.A. Wisconsin and Florida already scrapped their HSR plans at the behest of Republican governors. Ohio too rejected federal money after crafting a plan. California's proposal -- more ambitious and expensive than any other -- has been rescued from declining public support and rising costs by a supportive Democratic governor. But today's vote is out of his hands.

Dan Richard, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority board, hand picked by Gov. Brown after an embarrassing high-profile resignation of the previous board chair, told The Sacramento Bee and other outlets Thursday, "If the Legislature doesn't move forward with the project this week, then the secretary of transportation has made it very clear that they need to look at withdrawing the money from California and putting it some place else." In other words, if it loses political support, he'd scrap the whole thing.

So here's what the legislature is considering: As KQED reports, "The plan the Assembly passed provides for construction of a 130-mile bullet-train segment in the San Joaquin Valley and devotes about $1.5 billion to passenger-rail improvements in Southern California and the Bay Area." Some money also goes to converting commuter rail lines to be ready to merge with CAHSR. The Assembly vote was a clear sign of support: 51-27, but Democrats have a slimmer majority in the Senate, and as Reuters explains, Republicans are opposing the plan as fiscally irresponsible for these lean times.

KCRA's Mike Laurey is reporting on Twitter that some Democrats in the State Senate are feeling pressured to vote yes, but have decided against releasing state bond money for the project, including the chair of the Transportation Committee, Mark DeSaulnier.

Voters approved over $9 billion in bond money for the project in 2008 by a wide margin, but almost certainly wouldn't do so again according t0 recent polling that shows only the slimmest of majority support remains, and not among likely voters.

And if the funding is approved today, we want to know how it will be dispersed. The original plan has construction starting in the relatively less populous Central Valley and spreading out in both directions to San Francisco and Los Angeles. That means construction jobs start away from the population centers and the first beneficiaries will be on the middle of the state ... probably not that interested in taking a bullet train within their region. That will likely stay the same, but which rail agencies and which parts of the project get first funding for sticking shovels in the dirt may make the difference to legislators on the fence.

Part of the opposition has come from increasing costs. After several budget revisions and much debate, the most recent estimate for the 800 mile rail link is $68.4 billion with completion set for 2028. Initial estimates were around $45 billion. Popularity has been dropping so steadily that  last month, in hopes of drumming up support, the California High Speed Rail Authority released a web video, an attempt to get rail boosterism going viral. Today we find out how well that worked.

 

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Transportation Nation

California High Speed Rail To Cost a Third Less

Monday, April 02, 2012

A rendering of California's high-speed rail (image courtesy of California High-Speed Rail Authority)

Better, Faster, Cheaper? That's the promise being pushed by the agency in charge of California's ambitious high-speed rail project as it unveiled an updated business plan for the ambitious project to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco by bullet train. The California High-Speed Rail Authority released an updated business plan that now puts the price tag at $68.4 billion with a completion in 2028.

That's about five years sooner and $30 billion cheaper than a draft plan released last fall that drew wide criticism as a potential boondoggle. The new cost is still $25 billion more than the plan approved by voters four years ago in a referendum to allow the issue of bonds to finance the project.

The new business plan was created at the behest of Democratic Governor Jerry Brown who has remained a steadfast supported of high-speed rail unlike Republican governors in Wisconsin and Florida. Some lawmakers questioned the convenience of the new estimates in the updated business plan.

Some of the cost and time savings will come from a "blended" approach to rail construction, merging the new bullet trains with existing commuter lines. It would involve upgrading commuter rail in L.A. and in the San Francisco Bay Area while building the initial HSR line in the Central Valley as planned using federal funds.  Los Angeles gets linked to the Central Valley first, then San Francisco in a following phase.

To pay for it CAHSRA wants to use "cap and trade" revenues as a potential "dedicated funding source." Private investment continues to be spotlighted as a major source.

with Julie Caine -- KALW, and Associated Press

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Transportation Nation

SURVEY: Californians Favor High Speed Rail, But With Wide Variations

Thursday, March 08, 2012

By a 51 to 45 majority, Californians favor high speed rail, according to a Public Policy institute of California poll.  (page 17 of pdf) But that majority turns to a minority among likely voters, with only 43 percent supporting high speed rail and 53 percent opposing.

The areas that would benefit from high speed rail were the most in favor.  San Franciscans support it by a 57% majority and Los Angelenos with a  54% majority, with the Central Valley almost evenly split.

Asians were most in favor of high speed rail, with 69% in favor.  Latinos were also more in favor (56%) than whites, where a 55% majority oppose high speed rail.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Transpo Bill, Tappan Zee, and Cracked Metro Rails

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Top stories on TN:
US Chamber of Commerce: House transit cuts could pass (link)
Crossing Delancey Street will soon get safer (link)
LaHood says high-speed rail in California is all about jobs (link)
FTA head Peter Rogoff joins list of officials who hate the transportation bill (link)
Photo: the ugliest rat (link)

DC Metro Station (photo by Jill Robidoux)

TN's Andrea Bernstein talks about the House's transit cuts on this morning's Brian Lehrer Show. (WNYC)

A New York Times editorial provides a "brief and by no means exhaustive list of the (transportation) bill's many defects"; calls it "uniquely terrible." (New York Times)

And: NYT critic: move Madison Square Garden to far west side to fix Penn Station. (New York Times)

A TSA program that pre-clears passengers --and lets them keep their shoes on while being screened by airport security -- is being expanded to more airports. (Star-Ledger, The Hill)

California labor groups are running ads that hammer home U.S. DOT head Ray LaHood's message that high-speed rail=jobs. (Sacramento Bee)

Pennsylvania's governor didn't budget for transportation because its problems are too overwhelming. "This is not a budget item. It is too large for that. Transportation must be confronted as its own distinct and separate topic." (Philadelphia Inquirer)

A German carpooling website plans to enter the U.S. market. “We think all trips by car could be shared,” says the founder. “Whenever you want to go with your car, you could take people with you, and therefore reduce carbon emissions and your costs.” Everybody say Mitfahrgelegenheit! (The World)

The four consortiums picked to bid on New York's Tappan Zee Bridge rebuild include some of the world's most successful construction companies -- and some with histories of delays and millions of dollars in cost overruns. (Journal News)

Why is there an uptick of cracked rails on the DC Metro? (Washington Post)

A pair of lawmakers from New York and New Jersey are pushing legislation to roll back last summer's Port Authority toll and fare hikes. (Star-Ledger)

Manhattan's Hudson Square neighborhood sees bike boom, installs more racks. (DNA Info)

Megabus is moving its Manhattan pickup site -- and doesn't have to pay rent. (DNA Info)

A map that replaces London Underground station names with anagrams is getting second life. You can get from Arcadian Noodle to Satan Dew, and you don't even have to transfer at Mind Eel!

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: House Blasts Feds Over Chevy Volt Battery Fire Investigation, PATH Ridership Booming

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Top stories on TN: The president gave two nods to transportation in his State of the Union address -- to the auto industry and cutting red tape. San Francisco and Medellin won the ITDP's Sustainable Transport Award. New York State released a report saying there were no environmental barriers to replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge. A Maryland county is exploring bike share. Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood -- which has only one bus line -- will get two more buses added to that route later this year. And the Bronx will join Staten Island in having real-time locating information for all its buses.

A natural gas hydraulic fracturing site near Platteville, Colorado (photo courtesy of Senator Mark Udall's Flickr stream)

The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to give more weight to factors including affordable-housing policy in deciding which local mass-transit initiatives will get federal money. (Bloomberg)

Hydraulic fracturing -- fracking -- has produced so much gas that the price is at a ten-year low. (NPR)

Maryland's Montgomery County wants to use bus rapid transit, not rail, for its Corridor Cities Transitway project. (Washington Examiner)

California's high-speed rail project relies on risky financial assumptions and has just a fraction of the money needed to pay for it, the state auditor said in a new report. (AP via San Francisco Chronicle)

Adolfo Carrion Jr. -- former Bronx Borough President and HUD executive -- will launch a consulting firm that will advise "private sector businesses that are building roads and bridges and pipes and wires and buildings." And: "I'm going to work with players in the affordable housing production universe and I'm going to advise governments about smart growth here and around the country." (New York Daily News)

Airlines are turning increasingly to renting planes -- and the trend is likely to keep growing. (The Economist)

The head of the MTA’s largest union — currently locked in bitter contract negotiations with the transit agency — refused yesterday to rule out the possibility of a crippling subway strike. (New York Post)

Elected officials in Toronto are pushing a new transit plan that could have a new busway operational in less than three years -- and shovels in the ground for new light rail lines by 2014. (Toronto Star)

Disabled parking placard abuse is rampant in downtown Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Times)

House Transportation Chair John Mica intends to release text of the “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs” proposal perhaps as soon as Friday. (Transportation Issues Daily)

A House committee is holding a hearing this morning on whether NHTSA delayed warning consumers about possible fire risks with the Volt because of the federal government's financial investment in General Motors. (New York Times)

Residents and officials in Tenafly (NJ) blasted a plan to extend the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail through the community, saying it would bring pollution, accidents and noisy train horns. (The Record)

Customs officials intend to shut down their inspection station at Brooklyn's Red Hook terminal. (New York Times)

More commuters rode PATH trains across the Hudson River in 2011 than in any other year since the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took over the rail system in 1962. (Wall Street Journal)

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Transportation Nation

Governor Jerry Brown, In State of State, Makes Impassioned Case for High Speed Rail

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

California Governor Jerry Brown in 2010 (photo by Steve Rhodes via Flickr)

(San Francisco, CA -- KALW) In his State of the State address today, Governor Jerry Brown didn’t give an inch on the state’s embattled high-speed rail plan.  Likening the project to the launching of BART, the Panama Canal, and the Suez Canal, Brown said: “Those who believe California is in decline will naturally shrink back from such a strenuous undertaking,” he said. “I understand that feeling, but I don’t share it.”

Although California faces a $9.2 billion deficit, Gov. Brown strongly reasserted his support for high-speed rail, which is currently projected to cost $100 billion. This support is in the context of a speech optimistic about the state’s future, but almost completely focused on raising taxes to stave off further deep cuts to the state’s already beleaguered public education system.

Brown said that “Contrary to those critics who fantasize that California is a failed state, I see unspent potential and incredible opportunity.”

The rail project is on shaky ground after a series of high-level resignations from the High Speed Rail Authority Board last week coupled with polls showing voter disapproval and a government-appointed panel report earlier this month that recommended against state funding for the project.

In a press conference following the address, Speaker of the Assembly John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) said that in a time of high unemployment, projects like high-speed rail make sense for the state. “Many of the arguments that have been used today against high speed rail were used against water infrastructure, were used against highways, and were used against all of the major infrastructure developments that we now take for granted,” he said.

Legislative Republicans did not specifically address high-speed rail, but criticized the call for higher taxes in a response accidentally released a day before Gov. Brown’s speech.

Republican state senator, Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon) released a statement after the address critical of Brown’s recent proposal to create a new state Transportation Agency,  consolidating departments like the High Speed Rail Authority and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

“The Governor and I have discussed Caltrans and High Speed Rail a number of times and I have been very encouraging with him,” said Anderson. “He needs to implement major reforms at Caltrans immediately…He also need to cut the state’s losses on High Speed Rail and end this scam now.”

In his speech, Governor Brown said that a revised high-speed rail business plan will be out in several weeks, and that “Without any hesitation, I urge your approval.” The public comment period for the business plan ended earlier this week.

You can read the full text of the speech here

An excerpt is below.

"Now, just as bold is our plan to build a high-speed rail system, connecting the northern and southern part of our state. This is not a new idea. As governor last time I signed legislation to study the concept. Now, 30 years later, we're within weeks of a revised business plan that will enable us to begin initial construction before the year is out.

President Obama strongly supports the project, and has provided the majority of funds for the first phase.  It's now your decision to evaluate the plan and decide what action to take. Without hesitation, I urge your approval (applause). If you believe that California will continue to grow, as I do, and that millions more people will be living in our state, this is a wise investment. Building new runways, and expanding our airports and highways, is the only alternative. That is not cheaper, and will face even more political opposition. Those who believe California is in decline will naturally shrink back from such a strenuous undertaking. I understand that feeling, but I don't share it. Because I know this state, and the spirit of the people who chose to live here. California is still the Gold Mountain that Chinese immigrants in 1848 came across the Pacific to find. The wealth is different, derived as it is, not from mining the Sierras but from the creative imagination of those who invent and build and generate the ideas that drive our economy forward.

Critics of the high-speed rail project abound as they often do when something of this magnitude is proposed. During the 1930’s, The Central Valley Water Project was called a “fantastic dream” that “will not work.” The Master Plan for the Interstate Highway System in 1939 was derided as “new Deal jitterbug economics.” In 1966, then Mayor Johnson of Berkeley called BART a “billion dollar potential fiasco.” Similarly, the Panama Canal was for years thought to be impractical and Benjamin Disraeli himself said of the Suez Canal: “totally impossible.” The critics were wrong then and they’re wrong now.

 

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Transportation Nation

For California High Speed Rail, A Season of Woe

Friday, January 13, 2012

 

This train is not high speed. (Photo by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker)

It's been a difficult season for California High Speed Rail. A budget revision that put the total price tab ominously close to $100 billion. Two congressional hearings pillorying the project.   Lots of noise by legislators positioning themselves against the project.

Now comes word the man in charge of California's high-speed rail project has resigned, dealing yet another set back to the nation's most ambitious rail project. Roelof van Ark took the CEO position at the California High-Speed Rail Authority in May 2010 after heading up the American division of a French manufacturer of high-speed trains. His resignation takes effect in two months, giving him a total of less than a year in the post. He said he resigned for personal reasons.

Van Ark was in charge of the agency when it revised the business plan, raising the cost estimate to just under $99.5 billion over 20 years, a move that detracted from popular support, though supporters said it gave a much more "realistic" assessment of the projects costs, which they argued was ultimately fairer to the state.

Van Ark wasn't the only leader to step down. Tom Unger will give up his seat as chairman of the Authority's board, though he will continue to serve on it. Last week the press spokesperson for the Authority quit as well.

The resignations follow what the Los Angeles Times called "a serious blow" earlier in the month when funding of the plan was put in jeopardy. A government-created review board voted to recommend the legislature not issue $2.7 billion in bonds to pay for early work on the rail plan. A study commissioned by the Authority found that ridership projections were inaccurate and overly optimistic.

Governor Jerry Brown remains supportive of the plan and said he will seek legislative approval for new state funding anyway. In fact, in some ways, he's doubling down, according to the AP. One of his two hand picked advisers on the Rail Authority board, Dan Richards, will replace Mr. Unger as chairman. Brown has a plan to shift high-speed rail planning and management to a new agency that includes CalTrans, the state department of transportation.

Calif. Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani issued a statement saying, “Today represents a turning point for the Governor to put his stamp on the project."

Standing in the way of that is finding a new bullet train boss. As the Sacramento Bee predicts, the turmoil around the plan, its string of setbacks, and declining public support will make it harder for the new agency to find a leader with credentials to match van Arks.

Voters authorized the plan, and backed it with the go ahead to issue $9 billion in bonds to get the project started. That was back in 2008 before high-speed rail became politically controversial and fears of cost overruns led two Republican govenors to cancel plans in their states.

Governor Brown's budget proposes $16 billion next year for the Rail Authority, as Bloomberg Businessweek reports in a detailed rundown of the shifting costs and budget projections for the California plan.

California's high-speed rail plan would connect San Francisco to Los Angeles, with a spur into the Central Valley, totaling 800 miles of track. Construction has already started on a 130-mile stretch in the San Joaquin Valley.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Another Speed Bump For California Bullet Train, Canada Annoyed with U.S. Over Keystone Pipeline, FreshDirect Wants Rail Access

Friday, January 13, 2012

Top stories on TN:
PICS: Haiti’s Transportation Two Years After the Earthquake (Link)
NY MTA Completes Four-Night Shutdown For Repairs Along Stretch Of Busy Subway Line (Link)
Boston Launches App Challenge to Link Transit and Bike Share (Link)
California’s Diesel Decade (Link)
Bloomberg Not Budging on Bike Share, More Bike Lanes (Link)
Mica Praises Romney, Stops Short of Endorsement (Link)

FreshDirect ad on bus stop in NYC (photo by Yodster via Flickr)

The chief executive of California's bullet train project suddenly announced his resignation, just months before construction was supposed to begin. (Los Angeles Times)

Canada is annoyed that pro-environmental groups in the U.S. are delaying approval of a pipeline that would move Canadian oil. (NPR)

Access to rail is a big factor in NYC grocery delivery service FreshDirect's relocation plans. (Crain's New York)

Pennsylvania's governor will unveil his much-awaited plan for dealing with the state's transportation funding shortfall in his budget message Feb. 7 or sooner. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; h/t Stateline)

2011 milestone: for the first time ever, the roughly $2,800 dollars that a household spent at the pump was more than a year’s worth of car payments. (KQED)

Bike share GPS data will help plan NYC's bike lane network. (Streetsblog)

MTA work blitz: after shutting down one subway line this week, NYC's 7 train will be suspended for work for 11 weekends in a row. (Gothamist)

 

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Transportation Nation

Senator Dianne Feinstein Wants To Save CA High Speed Rail -- As Republican Assemblywoman Tries to Kill It

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rendering of a proposed high-speed rail station in Anaheim (image courtesy of California High-Speed Rail Authority)

UPDATED To keep California's increasingly beleaguered bullet train program alive, move it to the state DOT.

That's the recommendation of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who sent a letter Monday to California Governor Jerry Brown urging him to combine the state's High-Speed Rail Authority with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

Senator Feinstein, a long-time supporter of high-speed rail, urged quick action by Governor Brown to avoid losing $3.5 billion in federal funds for the project.

Here comments came as Orange County Assemblywoman Diane Harkey introduced a bill to halt state debt funding for the high-speed rail project.

Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, today joined fellow Republican lawmakers in introducing legislation to halt state debt funding for the high-speed rail project.

"The verdict is clear, it’s time for California to move forward and de-rail this ill-conceived project," Harkey said in a statement. " Lack of future federal funding, oversight, accountability and inconsistency in route and planning, should sound a strong signal to pull the plug,” said Assemblywoman Harkey.  "This one project has the potential to double our state's debt and become a huge future drain on our state's budget, while our existing rail and roadway infrastructure is in dire need of repair.”

In her  letter, Senator Feinstein said she found it hard to “debunk” the conclusions of a report issued last week by a state appointed peer review committee that recommended against the release of state funds for the project.

However, Senator Feinstein said that combining the High-Speed Rail Authority with Caltrans would go a long way in addressing some of the concerns of the peer review committee. “I am concerned that our state’s future would be greatly hindered if this project either failed to get off the ground, or failed to be completed."

Interestingly, she continues: "I have spoken to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the importance of utilizing CalTrans’ expertise, and we both agree that your leadership in this area could improve prospects for success.”

The governor’s newly released 2012-2013 budget proposal calls for the creation of a new transportation agency that would consolidate a number of state departments and agencies, including Caltrans and the Rail Authority.

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Transportation Nation

California Budget Supports Bullet Train, Would Create New Transportation Agency

Friday, January 06, 2012

Badwater Road 178 in Death Valley National Park, CA (photo by Vlasta Juricek via Flickr)

California Governor Jerry Brown released his 2012-2013 budget yesterday -- six days earlier than planned -- after the document was accidentally posted on the state’s Department of Finance website. And yes: it still funds high-speed rail.

The proposal calls for $15.9 million in administrative support for the High-Speed Rail Authority, regardless of what happens with the current funding. The high-speed rail project is still in a review period.

This first draft of the budget estimates California’s deficit at $9.2 billion for the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1. Although that number is much lower than the $26 billion projected last year, it still means deep cuts for welfare and medical programs, the elimination of 3,000 state jobs, and the closing, consolidation and reorganization of more than 50 state agencies.

Under the new plan, transportation departments, which are currently part of the Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency, would get their own agency. The new Transportation Agency would include the Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Department of Motor Vehicles, the High‑Speed Rail Authority, the Highway Patrol, the California Transportation Commission, and the Board of Pilot Commissioners.

In terms of transportation funding, the new plan proposes transferring close to $350 million in weight fee revenues collected from commercial trucks to the General Fund to offset transportation bond debt. It also cuts $3.7 million and 41 jobs from the Division of Mass Transportation. And the plan calls for a $13.9 million increase in payments to Amtrak for current intercity rail services in Southern California, which would reduce funding available for other projects.

You can read the budget proposal here.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: California Bullet Train Hits Borrowing Bump, Boston Faces Steep Fare Hikes, and the Rise of the Gondolas

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Top stories on TN:
Romney: I’d Stop Funding Amtrak, and Have Big Bird With Ads (Link)
Chicago, New York to Make Snow Plow Locations Live During Storms (Link)
Coach Bus Files Chapter 11 (Link)
And: have you seen "New York’s Lost Subways" yet? What are you waiting for!

Billboard on the Bay Bridge (photo by Colin Mutchler/LoudSauce.com)

Expert panel: California's high-speed rail plan isn't financially feasible, and the state must delay borrowing billions for it. (Los Angeles Times)

Boston would raise subway fares by up to 70 cents and dramatically cull bus routes, eliminate ferries, and end weekend commuter rail trains under a plan unveiled Tuesday to help erase a projected $161 million deficit. (Boston Globe)

Work has begun on BART's Oakland Airport connector (Oakland Tribune). (And learn more about the battle over the airport connector in our documentary, Back of the Bus.)

Honolulu's $5.3 billion commuter rail line will break ground in March -- unless a judge halts it. (New York Times)

The Transport Politic has a map of transit projects underway in 2012.

Pay the toll, or spend the extra time? Two reporters test-drive whether it makes sense to pay the new tolls on the NJ Turnpike -- or spend more time on free side roads. (New York Times)

Two retirees are suing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for canceling their lifetime free passes over its bi-state bridges and tunnels. (Star-Ledger)

In San Francisco nearly 2 in 3 trips in the city are made by car -- but transportation officials want to get the number to 1 in 2 trips before the decade is over. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Chicago's street parking rates are increasing. (WBEZ)

Gondolas: the transit wave of the future? (Toronto Star)

The 2012 presidential elections will decide the fate of transit projects nationwide. (City Limits)

Thanks for paying taxes, San Francisco! Learn the story behind the billboard on the Bay Bridge. (SFist)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: FAA to Unveil New Pilot Fatigue Rules, GOP Wants CA Bullet Train Audit, TSA Chorus Serenades LAX

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top stories on TN:
Your TN Transportation and Infrastructure Holiday Gift Guide: New York Edition (link)
Deal Reached on Controversial NYC Taxi Plan (link)
Newt Gingrich: Rail Visionary, Lover of Oil (link)
Rating Agency Says Loss of Tax Revenue Could Hurt NY MTA (link)
Cashless Tolling In NYC – Not Yet, But Moving Toward It (link)

The U.S. highway system, mapped as a transit route (image courtesy of Cameron Booth)

The Federal Aviation Administration will release new rules for addressing pilot fatigue today. (The Hill)

House Republicans are calling for a GAO audit into California's high-speed rail program. (McClatchy via Miami Herald)

Congress moves toward a tougher stance on pipeline safety, but is it enough? (ProPublica)

Now that Troy has rejected federal funds for a regional transit center, other Michigan cities are scrambling to claim it. (Detroit Free Press)

Battered by criticism and low sales, Honda will redesign its Civic -- just eight months after releasing the last version. (Changing Gears)

Reimagining highway routes as a transit map. (Cambooth.net)

The nostalgia train brought out New Yorkers' inner flappers/Southern gentlemen/vaudeville hosts. (Wall Street Journal)

Cap'nTransit asks: will Cornell's Applied Sciences campus on New York's Roosevelt Island be car-free?

TSA agents in Los Angeles are trying to get on passengers' good sides by singing holiday carols. (Marketplace; video below)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Troy KO's Transit Center, Palo Alto Opposes California Bullet Train, and Beijing Airport Will Soon Be World's Busiest

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top stories on TN:
Sweating Bullets: Body Scanners Can See Perspiration as a Potential Weapon (Link)
Real Time Train Arrival Info Coming to LIRR (Link)
NY Senator Schumer: Transit Tax Benefits Dying in End-of-Year Congressional Frenzy (Link)
Where Astronauts Do Their Christmas Shopping (Link)
The Ten Worst Holiday Bottlenecks in the New York Area (Link)
Straphangers Campaign Top-10 Worst (And Best) NYC Transit Moments of 2011 (Link)

Beijing Capital Airport (photo by John K via Flickr)

Troy turns down a regional transit center, passing on federal funds to build it. (Detroit News)

Who will be the next head of the FAA? Guesses abound. (Politico)

A report by the New York MTA's Inspector General takes the agency to task for mistakes during the 2010 blizzard -- but says it's better prepared for a storm now. (New York Daily News)

Beijing Capital Airport will soon be the world's busiest airport -- and China is preparing for the coming passenger influx by building airports built big and well-staffed. (Marketplace)

The Maryland Transit Administration says it has to raise Baltimore-area transit fares by 40 percent jump in order to meet state revenue goals without cutting service. (Baltimore Sun)

Virginia's governor wants to shuffle millions of dollars from public schools and health care to his top priorities of pension reform, higher education and transportation. (Washington Post)

The city of Palo Alto formally opposes California's high-speed rail project. (Mercury News)

The expedited Lake Champlain Bridge went over budget, but some say it was worth it. (Burlington Free Press)

Two rapping teachers protest cuts to California's school transportation budget. Sample lyric: I teach little children/I don't mean to cuss/but how in the @#! will kids get to school without a bus? (Good)

Want to buy the apartment of the former head of New York's MTA? (New York Times)

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