The California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) announced a new proposal that reduces costs while promising more immediate benefits during a press conference this morning.
Responding to criticisms of high costs and a “train to nowhere,” in which the initial Central Valley segment would be built but not used until the entire corridor was developed, the CHSRA unveiled their plans for an Initial Operating Segment between Merced and Bakersfield, along with “early investment” upgrades to Amtrak San Joaquin and Caltrain for a Northern California Unified Service to connect Bay Area residents to the rail service near Merced. Southern California Metrolink commuter rail would also receive early investment funds in this proposal.
In the above map, dark green represents the “Initial Operating Segment” for 300 miles of Central Valley HSR running at 220 MPH.
The purple lines are Amtrak San Joaquin (service from Bakersfield to Sacramento and Oakland via Stockton) and ACE (commuter rail between San Jose and Stockton).
After HSR in the Central Valley becomes operational a decade after construction begins, the next phase connects Bakersfield to the Los Angeles basin.
I love the message CHSRA sent to SF Peninsula NIMBYs, placing the SF Bay Area in the same unfunded light green “maybe a future project” status as HSR to Sacramento and San Diego. I’ve been thinking HSR should stop at Gilroy or maybe Morgan Hill in the southern part of Santa Clara County, but service to Merced seems reasonable to me too.
This “blended” system of Central Valley HSR, unified northern California train service, and upgraded tracks and speeds for Amtrak San Joaquin will get passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles Union Station in 2 hours and 40 minutes, according to CHSRA staff. Driving time on I-5 is about six hours. Flying time between SFO and LAX is about an hour, though you also have airport hassles like the security check.
- Risking tl;dr, Bruce McF at the Daily Kos looks at how Northern California “slow” train service can be improved to work with HSR. He kind of lost me with the claim that Caltrain is slower than driving between San Jose and San Francisco (it is on Sunday when nothing is happening in the city, but for the times people actually travel, it’s no contest: Caltrain wins).
- At the CAHSR Blog, there’s some concern that this blended approach might not conform to the voters’ intent in Proposition 1A.
- Sacramento Biz Journal takes a closer look at the costs and funding sources.
- A Palo Alto local daily’s April Fools joke mocked Peninsula anti-HSR NIMBYs.
I love how fast Caltrain is, and that they provide Baby Bullet service, and roll-on bike service. I think electrification of Caltrain is one of the best parts of this plan and will have the most immediate, tangible benefits for existing passengers (faster trains, less point source pollution, quieter, etc.).