California High Speed Rail
In a state careening towards 50 million population, completing California High Speed Rail System is essential to future mobility. Its space efficient-high capacity, high speed and high-frequency mode of travel will enable Airports, Highways, Amtrak, Commuter Rail, Metro Rail, Intercity Buses and Bus Rapid Transit to optimize in a balanced transportation network. That balance is needed in the 21st century’s epic war against traffic congestion, smog and greenhouse gases — Thomas Dorsey, Soul Of America
California Population Growth Straining Transportation Infrastructure
Our federal government never invested much in intercity passenger rail. That was a non-issue for California through 1980, when its Airport and Highway infrastructure matched population well. Travelers could arrive at SFO or LAX airport, purchase a ticket, breeze through security, board, fly to SFO or LAX, de-board and walk to rental car centers in 2.5 hours. Ditto for other intra-state air travel connections. Or, travelers could drive 400 miles between Downtown Los Angeles and Downtown San Francisco in 6 hours with a 15-minute rest-break.
Despite economic, population and urbanization growth since 1981, our national leaders started investing lower percentages of the federal budget on Rapid Transit infrastructure. Nor did they increase Amtrak’s meager budget for infrastructure improvement. Their funding choices reenforced America’s dependency as a “Auto-Jet Culture“, rather than becoming an “Auto-Rapid Transit-Passenger Train-Jet Culture” like Eastern Asia and Western Europe.
By 1990, population growth, as measured in millions by Statista and forecast by Public Policy Institute of California, started exceeding the capacity of the state’s transportation infrastructure. Though many rounds of airport and highway expansion have completed and remain underway, pre-pandemic traffic congestion got worse.
The state began subsidizing Amtrak California operations, but funding for passenger rail infrastructure has been woefully small compared to highway and airport infrastructure.
By 2020, California air & highway traffic congestion was felt most in 5-county Los Angeles Metro Area that swelled to 19 million population and 9-county San Francisco Bay Area that approached 8 million. World-class attractions continued making Los Angeles and San Francisco two of America’s most visited cities. That attractiveness contributes to LAX and SFO being the 2nd and 7th busiest airports in America, respectively.
Pre-pandemic flights between Los Angeles-San Francisco was the 2nd busiest route in America, transporting over 8 million passengers annually. Airlines to/from San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles Metro Area were shifting more resources to longer-distance flights for higher profits.
More large companies are requiring workers to get vaccinated and return to work. As of 20 September 2021, the state health agency reports 69% of Californians are fully vaccinated. The FDA is likely to approve age 5-11 COVID vaccinations by October-end 2021. Those factors will likely drive 80% of Californians to full-vaccination status by early December 2021.
All factors considered, Los Angeles Metro Area and San Francisco Bay Area freeway & airport traffic can anticipate return to pre-pandemic congestion levels by Christmas 2021.
California Freeway Widening Has Become Fool’s Gold
Residents and visitors took 361 million annual intra-state trips via all modes of travel in 2010. California intra-state travel is forecast to increase to 545 million trips annually by 2040. Since most trips are by automobile, some people assume freeway widening is the answer. Let’s examine that assumption.
California freeways average 1.223 Driver Occupancy Per Vehicle, which means they are mostly Single-Occupancy Vehicles. Freeways have maximum lane efficiency at 2 lanes each direction — 4 Standard lanes. Widening to 6 Standard lanes in metro areas increases freeway capacity enough to counter-balance some loss of lane efficiency. Then highway engineers increased rider capacity by adding 2 High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to 6 Standard lanes. That approach counter-balanced the reduction of lane efficiency. As a result, 2 HOV + 6 Standard lanes can be thought of as “Maximum Capacity-Lane Efficiency” for freeways.
Due to economic and population growth, freeway widening in Los Angeles Metro Area and San Francisco Bay Area reached Maximum Capacity-Lane Efficiency by 1985-90. Ditto for San Diego by 2000 and Sacramento by 2010. Beyond those dates, each freeway widening to 2 HOV + 8, 10, 12 and 14 Standard lanes significantly reduces Capacity-Efficiency Per Lane. The mathematics of Queuing Theory explains why Greater Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area taxpayers get diminishing return on investment for each freeway widening.
Translating that Queuing Theory application to shorthand, for each added freeway lane beyond 2 HOV + 6 Standard lanes, drivers spend more time adjusting speeds and lane-changing lateral motion that reduces forward motion per hour. The more lanes added, the more speed adjusting, lateral motion, congestion and accidents increase. Furthermore, when added lanes temporarily decongest a freeway, they induce more Single-Occupancy Vehicles. In 2-3 years, highway congestion reproduces.
Hence, 2 HOV + 8 Standard lanes has worse capacity-lane efficiency than 2 HOV + 6 Standard lanes. Similarly, 2 HOV + 10 Standard lanes has worse capacity-lane efficiency than 2 HOV + 8 Standard lanes, and so forth. It’s like loosening your belt to treat obesity.
The average voter, not considering urban population growth, declining Capacity-Lane efficiency and induced Single-Occupant Driving, thinks “Add more lanes.” Politicians anxious to score easy points with uninformed voters cater to their wish. They mislabel each freeway widening project beyond 2 HOV + 6 lanes as “Congestion Relief.” Voters fall for more lane widening, then repeat the congestion cycle in 2-3 years.
That statement is backed up by INRIX research firm, cited in US News & World Report. In 2018, INRIX proclaimed Los Angeles and San Francisco 2 of the 5 most highway-congested cities in the world. That is true despite Los Angeles Metro Area and San Francisco Bay Area having most of the widest freeways in 2010 America and more widenings to come by 2023.
One proxy to gauge the drop in Capacity-Lane Efficiency is to examine Average Freeway Speed during Rush Hour. A University of Southern California transportation study measured the drop in Capacity-Lane Efficiency on speed since the 1980s. Pre-pandemic, Los Angeles Metro Area freeways dropped to 21-25 mph Average Speed during Rush Hour. Average speeds in San Francisco Bay Area freeways were equally bad.
Sunny days, fertile soil and canal water make California Central Valley one of the world’s great agricultural regions. Economic bounty from freight rail and freight trucking transporting agriculture, and three major universities helped Central Valley towns sprout into metro areas ranging from 100,000 to 1 million population. The U.S. Census Bureau forecasts Central Valley metro areas (Stockton, Manteca, Modesto, Turlock, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Hanford-Visalia-Porterville, Bakersfield, Palmdale) to add 10 million people between 2010-2040. Without California HSR, SR-99 freeway would likely experience Rush Hour congestion by 2030. Ditto for I-5 and SR 152 freeways by 2035-40.
Since flights are a vanishing option, more drivers to/from the Central Valley contribute to freeway congestion. Intra-state driving is a significant contributor to traffic congestion that costs California residents $28 billion/year in lost time and wasted fuel.
California Transportation Greenhouse Gases Contribute to Climate Change
California acquired the nickname “Golden State” due to sunny days tanning brush on its majestic mountains. Since 2000, California has seen rising temperatures produce more frequent drought conditions. They in turn, create an abundance of dry brush fuel for wildfires.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that Transportation Sector remains the largest contributor to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in America. Oil is the basis for gasoline and diesel fuel. In Transportation, oil-powered freight trucks, regional flights, cargo ships, cars & small trucks produce the most GHG emissions.
This EIA chart illustrates state-by-state Carbon Dioxide numbers. As the two most populous states, Texas and California emit the most Carbon Dioxide from Transportation Sector. Note however, that California has significantly larger population than Texas, but does a better job limiting GHG emissions.
The Union of Concerned Scientists sounds the alarm bell that America must cut GHG emissions by 56% from 2005 to 2030 or we’ll be responsible for more frequent droughts, wildfires, floods, hurricanes and rising sea levels from Climate Change.
The good news is Transportation Sector is where California, Texas and all states can make huge GHG reductions by 2030, 2040 and 2050, while improving economic productivity during travel.
Transportation Smog & Particulates Lowered, But Not Enough
Smog has bedeviled Los Angeles since automobiles rose to prominence in 1943, then spread to other California cities as they grew. And yet, diesel fuel burn from trucks, trains, ships and agricultural equipment are the main causes of Smog today. Particulate emissions from burning diesel fuel contains elemental black carbon, which is many times more toxic than organic black carbon from wood smoke. Particulates are the main cause of Asthma.
Like GHG emissions, the South Coast Air Quality Management District confirms that most Smog & Particulate in Urbanized LA is transportation-related. In 2014, 5.2 million people, nearly 14% of Californians, have asthma. So this is a major health issue for the state.
Changes to reduce Smog & Particulate emissions helped to a degree. Excluding wildfire days, the air in Los Angeles Metro Area is no longer brown.
Despite the decrease in Capacity-Lane Efficiency, some parts of California keep widening freeways that induce more Single-Occupancy Vehicles. Most cars & trucks will continue burning oil for at least 2 decades. Hence, California cities still dominate the American Lung Association list of metro areas suffering the nation’s worst Smog (ozone) & Particulate pollution. High smog & particulate levels trigger higher levels of asthma and other lung diseases within a mile of freeways, airports and seaports. California’s black and brown communities are closest to freeways, airports and seaports.
Central Valley has additional conditions tormenting air quality. Agricultural equipment, diesel freight trucks, diesel freight trains moving agricultural products feed a nation, but produce airborne emissions. Clouds from the Pacific Ocean climb over the westside mountain range. When those clouds combine with airborne emissions and warm temperature, inversion layers trap smog over the Central Valley between westside and eastside mountain ranges. As California’s average heat level rises, inversion layers hover longer.
California Needs Electric, High Speed, High Capacity Transportation
In 2008, voters addressed California’s passenger rail opportunity in the war against traffic congestion, Smog, Particulate and GHG emissions. State voters authorized a $9.95 billion bond measure to kickstart an electric high speed rail system. In 2009-10, the Obama Administration granted $3.5 billion as well. The system will draw electricity from hydroelectric, nuclear, wind and solar energy. It is being constructed by California High Speed Rail Authority in two phases:
Phase 1: 520-mile (San Francisco-SFO-San Jose-Gilroy-Madera-Fresno-Hanford-Bakersfield-Palmdale-Burbank-LA-Anaheim + Merced spur)
Phase 2: 280-mile (Merced-Modesto-Stockton-Sacramento & Los Angeles-Ontario-San Bernardino-Riverside-Escondido-San Diego)
At start-up, California HSR Authority rookie mistakes underestimating lawsuit delays, property acquisition schedules and mis-communicating project costs. Those errors escalated costs and invited public criticism and doubt. Nevertheless, enough environmental reviews, engineering design and property acquisition completed for the mega-project to break ground in 2015.
Though lengthy Central Valley viaduct is the most costly component of California HSR Phase 1, long mountain tunnels are the most challenging because they have so many unknowns. Underground rivers, surprise geological conditions, uncharted mines, and buried historic artifacts can undermine cost estimation and scheduling.
Over 2017-19, new management was brought in. California HSR Authority transparency increased. The state hired more of the world’s best geologists and civil engineers. To reduce unknowns or as they say, “de-risk” this mega-project, geologists took deep core samples of alignment alternatives in those mountains. Civil engineers studied older rail tunnels in the same mountain ranges planned for California HSR tunnels. Swiss tunnel engineers who worked on the longest rail tunnels under the Alps were also consulted.
Experienced HSR consultants were also hired to implement the respected industry practice of risk modeling for hundreds of construction scenarios via Monte Carlo Simulation. The 2020 California HSR Business Plan includes their findings, consultations and Monte Carlo Simulation to reduce construction unknowns and prepare for all likely outcomes.
HSR consultants also revealed that early Phase 1 construction should have two northern spurs: One previously planned spur at Carlucci Road pointing towards Gilroy; a second spur towards Merced, rather than wait for Phase 2. Together they form what’s called the “Merced Wye”. That spur up to Merced was glossed over by many critics who claimed that Phase 1 had another unnecessary cost increase. I’ll explain why that claim was false. In fact, it was smart for California HSR Authority to extend the spur to Merced in Phase 1.
There are 119 miles of California HSR construction underway in the Central Valley and enough state funding to extend that to 171 miles between Merced Wye and Bakersfield. The Merced Spur enables Amtrak San Joaquin Oakland & Sacramento connections to California HSR Merced Station 2-3 years sooner than California HSR San Jose to Bakersfield service. Note these California HSR Phase 1 and Amtrak target completion dates:
• Open Merced-Fresno-Bakersfield California HSR rides & transfers to Amtrak San Joaquin Oakland & Sacramento by 2028-29
• Open San Jose-Merced & San Jose-Bakersfield California HSR rides & transfers to Amtrak Capitol Corridor by 2031
• Open San Francisco-Merced & San Francisco-Bakersfield California HSR rides by 2033
Amtrak San Joaquin trains will continue at 80 mph from Oakland and Sacramento to Merced. Once Merced-Fresno-Bakersfield segment opens, Amtrak San Joaquin riders can seamlessly transfer at Merced Station to enjoy California HSR at 220 mph. Since more patrons will be attracted to shorter trip time, the state will pay less money subsidizing Amtrak San Joaquin Oakland & Sacramento trains. Fewer Single-Occupancy Vehicles will congest SR-99 Freeway.
Bigger progress is brewing. Bakersfield-Palmdale segment received Environmental Clearance in August 2021 and Burbank-Los Angeles segment is on course for Environmental Clearance by November or December 2021. That will constitute 291 miles of California HSR route Under Construction or “Ready To Build.”
A private HSR project under brand name “Brightline West”, has Environmental Clearance from Las Vegas to Victorville in Southern California. It has funding to start construction in 1H 2022. Phase 1 of that electric HSR project has 40 miles in Nevada and 130 miles in Southern California. Brightline West HSR Phase 2 would like to extend 53 miles from Victorville to Palmdale to enable cross-platform transfers to Metrolink commuter rail trains.
Once Palmdale-Burbank California HSR segment is built, Brightline West HSR Phase 3 would like its trains switching to California HSR tracks in Palmdale, where planning is underway for a new Palmdale Multimodal HSR Station to anchor community redevelopment. From Palmdale Multimodal HSR Station, Brightline West trains would then continue 1-seat rides from Las Vegas to Burbank Airport and Los Angeles Union Station.
California High Speed Rail Cost & Capacity Advantages
Population & urbanization growth rates in California eliminates the “No Build” Transportation Alternative. The state must add high-speed, high-capacity transportation for urban and intercity passengers to keep the economy humming. Let’s examine how the Highway-Air Alternative compares to California HSR for intercity passenger transportation.
Increasing airport capacity for regional flights was the easiest alternative to dismiss. Seven of the nine largest California airports have no adjacent open land. The eighth (OAK Airport) would have to bay-fill for another runway. But most citizens don’t want further shrinkage of San Francisco Bay for environtal reasons. Nor do they want jet noise and smog emissions increased over their communities. Only Sacramento Airport has open land to expand.
Building another Central Valley freeway between San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles Metro Area is equally bad. It would require wide highway tunnels and massive earthmoving through San Gabriel and Pacheco Pass mountain ranges. In a report commissioned by the California High Speed Rail Authority, having access to State of California highway and aviation data, the cost of adding equivalent capacity from freeway lanes and airports is estimated to be double that of California HSR.
Even highway-centric California Department of Transportation says the highway cost and capacity numbers are accurate based on historical evidence.
In the unlikely event that land could be acquired for another north-south freeway, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay, Sacramento and San Diego metro areas have already converted freeway medians to lanes. Their Capacity-Lane Efficiency is dropping, Average Speed for Rush Hour is slowing, and “Rush Hour” have lengthened to 4 hours twice a weekday. Inducing more Single-Occupancy Vehicles with another north-south freeway would only make highway congestion and average speeds worse and Rush Hour longer.
Some media have suggested that electric-powered Autonomous Vehicles (AV) will solve traffic congestion. That is simply false. Here are some credible sources to explain why:
California HSR is a high-capacity mobility bonanza. It will start at 3 trains per hour and expand to 12 trains per hour when needed, using the same rail, power, signaling and communications infrastructure. It can grow from 9 to 12 passenger cabins. It can grow from single-deck to double-deck cabins. Hence, California HSR is better prepared for population growth than other alternatives.
California High Speed Rail Environmental, Health & Safety Advantages
Even California HSR’s first 16 years operating from 2029-45 will significantly reduce Greenhouse Gases and Smog. That difference will be felt most in the Central Valley and freeway corridors near California HSR route that have high asthma rates. California HSR Authority has already captured or avoided more than 180,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions through planting more than 6,000 trees and other forest projects.
The French currently run TGV up to 199 mph. By the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, TGV is planned to reach 224 mph. TGV speed gets the accolades, but its people-moving numbers and safety deserve equal praise. Since 1981, the TGV has transported 2 billion riders, yet never had a fatal accident in commercial operation. No other high-capacity transportation mode can make the same claim. As a result, the French experience less social and economic cost due to people killed or injured by auto accidents.
The French do it with complete over/underpasses & street closures, 2 high-speed-only tracks, a proven application for train spacing, next-generation brakes, and drivers expertly trained on realistic simulators. California HSR is being built to the same safety standards as the TGV system.
Riding any modern HSR system is an order of magnitude safer than driving lengthy distances. Once you’ve driven through fog or slippery conditions on California I-5, US 101 and SR-152 freeways many times like this author, that HSR safety advantage has personal value.
California High Speed Rail Door-to-Door Travel Time Advantage
Going from Los Angeles Bookend to San Francisco Bookend via HSR in 2 hours 40 minutes has more benefits. Workers on mobile devices enjoy productive trip time using large seat-back tables, power sockets and more dependable WiFi than airplanes and intercity buses. Travel is more relaxing because riders can walk to the cafe car and restrooms whenever they please.
There will be time savings between many different city pairs in California. For example, riders will transfer from California HSR San Jose Station to Amtrak Capital Corridor trains headed to Oakland and Berkeley. Amtrak Capital Corridor service is also be enhanced this decade and next. California HSR riders will transfer from Anaheim’s intermodal transportation center to Amtrak Pacific Surfliner headed to Oceanside, Solano Beach and San Diego. Riders will also transfer at California HSR Merced, Fresno, Hanford and Bakersfield stations to low-emission shuttle buses that visit California’s national and state parks.
By 2025, Millennials and Generation Z adults will control over 50% of U.S. income — a percentage that will only grow. Born after 1981, American Millennials and Generation Z prefer High Speed Rail, better Amtrak, better Commuter Rail and more Metro Rail for cost savings, time savings, convenience and lower air pollutants.
Symbiotic Relationship of High Speed Rail, Amtrak, Commuter Rail & Metro Rail
To meet California HSR’s 2 hour 40 minute San Francisco-Los Angeles travel time mandate, trains will run 220 mph through the Central Valley, but that’s not enough. The Northern Bookend (San Francisco-SFO Airport-San Jose) and the Southern Bookend (Burbank Airport-LA Union Station-Norwalk-Fullerton-Anaheim) must also run 100-110 mph.
The bookends need at least 2 main tracks and a 3rd siding track in select areas for commuter trains to pull aside. High-activity segments combining HSR, Amtrak, commuter rail and freight rail require 4 tracks. Both Bookends have upgrade programs underway.
Caltrain Modernization of the Northern Bookend is further along than Metrolink Modernization of the Southern Bookend. Caltrain already runs in 2-4 track route and its train electrification completes in 2023. But the Northern Bookend also has 37 railroad crossings used by Amtrak, Caltrain commuter rail and freight rail. Even if 4 or 5 become street closures, 33-32 places need railroad over/underpasses whose average cost is $100 million each. Therefore, Northern Bookend requires about $3.3 billion to finish building them.
In the Northern Bookend, Caltrain commuter rail converts from diesel trains to electric trains that do not emit air pollutants in 2023. Since electric trains accelerate & brake faster for higher average speed and cost less to maintain, Caltrain will increase train frequency to give commuters a better alternative than driving US-101 and I-280 freeways.
San Francisco’s Salesforce Transit Center is open for Intercity Buses and Bus Rapid Transit. Its underground level is pre-built for Caltrain and California HSR trains. Metro Heavy Rail (called “BART”) and Metro Light Rail (called “Muni Metro”) have stations one block away.
Caltrain currently stops 1.3 miles short of Salesforce Transit Center. By 2028-29, the Downtown Tunnel Extension into Salesforce Transit Center is slated to open. That will enable more transfers between Caltrain, Intercity Buses, Bus Rapid Transit, BART and Muni Metro. By 2033, when California HSR arrives in Salesforce Transit Center, those transfers will boost again.
SFO Airport Intermodal Transportation Center hosts patrons from SFO Airport, Caltrain, BART, shuttles and standard buses. Though details are sketchy at the moment, its station area will be upgraded to intermodal transportation center with more travel amenities to accommodate California HSR riders.
Amtrak Capitol Corridor is currently limited to 80 mph and takes 3 hours 3 minutes to travel 131 miles in San Jose-Oakland-Sacramento corridor. Despite only 15 daily roundtrips, it is the nation’s fourth busiest Amtrak line at 1.8 million annual riders. Capitol Corridor also has speed and frequency upgrades planned. By 2040, Amtrak Capital Corridor plans to run electric trains up to 125-150 mph with 36-40 daily roundtrips.
That speed and frequency will attract more Amtrak transfers in San Jose, which is upgrading Diridon Station to an intermodal transportation center. This preliminary design of San Jose Diridon Intermodal Transportation Center illustrates how California HSR, Amtrak Capitol Corridor, Caltrain, ACE commuter rail, BART, Santa Clara Metro light rail, Intercity Buses, and Bus Rapid Transit will handle 75,000 daily riders by 2040.
The 44-mile Southern Bookend needs funding for over/underpasses and street closures at 20 railroad crossings. Due to the high number of passenger and freight trains, it needs 4 tracks and train electrification of 2 tracks. California HSR Authority must also build 3 new intermodal transportation centers in the Southern Bookend.
Palmdale is moving a new intermodal transportation center project closer to environmental clearance. Burbank Airport plans a replacement terminal north of the current one by 2026-27, plus an underground intermodal transportation center near the replacement terminal to host California HSR and Brightline West HSR and possibly, Metro Rail in the future.
Once Palmdale-Burbank Airport HSR segment is funded, Burbank Airport will build that intermodal transportation center to open by 2033-35.
Los Angeles Union Station is already one of the busiest train stations in America. It features 3 Amtrak lines, 6 Metrolink commuter rail lines, 2 Metro heavy rail lines, 1 Metro light rail line, Intercity Buses, Bus Rapid Transit, and a growing office-resident population in Downtown Los Angeles. Its biggest shortcoming however, is that trains must pull in & back out of the station. Los Angeles Union Station will complete a magnificent makeover and run-thru tracks before the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. Track upgrades in Burbank Airport-LA Union Station-Anaheim segments will also increase top speed from 80 mph to 90 mph by 2028.
The Southern Bookend has related improvements that benefit Amtrak, Metrolink & Coaster commuter rail and freight rail. South of Mission Viejo, trains currently navigate a number of 1-track sections. There are too many level railroad crossings in 128-mile Los Angeles-Norwalk-Fullerton-Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine-Mission Viejo-Oceanside-Solano Beach-San Diego corridor. Those infrastructure constraints limit Amtrak Pacific Surfliner average speed to 44 mph, 2 hour 56 minute Los Angeles-San Diego trip time and 13 daily roundtrips, though a 14th is planned.
Despite those shortcomings, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner is the nation’s third busiest Amtrak line at 2.9 million annual riders. Good ridership despite severe infrastructure limitations is a credible indicator that ridership can triple with sufficient upgrades. Los Angeles Metrolink and San Diego Coaster commuter rail systems will benefit from the same upgrades.
The 44-mile Burbank Airport-LA Union Station-Norwalk-Fullerton-Anaheim corridor segment is on pace to have 4-tracks, electrification and enough over/underpasses & street closures for 110 mph speeds by 2033, as part of the California HSR project. Metrolink will simultaneously gain the option to introduce an electric Metrolink overlay service from Burbank Airport to Anaheim, like 51-mile Caltrain commute rail system in the Northern Bookend.
By 2035, 40-45 of 64 California HSR railroad crossings should be eliminated for most route shared with Caltrain, Metrolink and Amtrak California. About 95% of Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine-Mission Viego-Oceanside-San Diego corridor segment will have 2-4 tracks and 95% of needed railroad overpasses & street closures will complete to support 40 mph along the beach, 90-110 mph elsewhere.
With 28-30 daily roundtrips and 2 hour 30 minute Los Angeles-San Diego trip time, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner and Metrolink will exchange more transfers at Burbank Airport, LA Union Station, Norwalk-Santa Fe Springs, Fullerton and Anaheim intermodal transportation centers. By 2040, Los Angeles Union Station will handle well over 200,000 daily riders of electric trains, electric buses and low-emission buses.
By 2040, 100% of Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine-Mission Viejo-Oceanside-San Diego corridor segment will have 2-4 tracks, over/underpasses, street closures and route electrification will extend from Anaheim to San Diego. A time-saving San Juan Capistrano rail tunnel in southern Orange County will likely be built. With those improvements, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner could reach 36 daily roundtrips in the corridor with top speeds of 40 mph along Capistrano Beach, 80 mph through Solano Beach, 110 mph in urban area and 125 mph through Camp Pendleton for 2 hour 15 minute trip time.
If by 2045, two more rail tunnels bypass Capistrano Beach and Solano Beach, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner’s LA Union Station-San Diego trip time will drop to 2 hours and 64 mph average speed. Average speed on I-5 Freeway running parallel between Los Angeles-San Diego, will be well under 50 mph.
All stations shared by California HSR, Brightline West HSR, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, Amtrak Capitol Corridor, Amtrak San Joaquins, Caltrain and Metrolink will have platforms level with train floors for faster boarding/unboarding. Greater LA Commuter Rail & Metro Rail network will share five or six stations with California HSR. San Francisco Bay Area Commuter Rail & Metro Rail network will share four California HSR Stations.
Once Federal Funding Steps Up, Big Private Funding Follows
As property values around the Transbay Transit Center escalated to build surrounding office-hotel-retail-residential skyscrapers, San Francisco captured that value to help pay for the $1.9 billion intermodal transportation center. In San Francisco, Salesforce is paying $110 million for 25-year naming rights over Transbay Transit Center. Downtown Tunnel Extension into Salesforce Transit Center will seal the deal, enabling Caltrain and California HSR to enter the heart of DT San Francisco.
Anticipate hotel-office-retail construction in & around LA Union Station to help pay for that intermodal transportation center’s $2.4 billion spectacular upgrade.
SFO Airport, San Jose, Merced, Fresno, Bakersfield, Palmdale and Burbank Airport also plan privately funded office-retail-hotel-residential development in & around their intermodal transportation centers.
Private High Speed Train Operators, Transportation Oriented Developers (TOD) and their Big Investors demand lower risk to believe that revenue streams will deliver a good Return On Investment. Today, enough of them believe SalesForce Transit Center along with Texas, Las Vegas-Southern California and Florida HSR projects have risk worthy of $27 billion investment.
They know California HSR ridership potential is higher than all of them combined. TOD around SalesForce Transit Center and ticket revenue streams from Oakland-Bakersfield and Sacramento-Bakersfield rail corridors will be a nice start. But they need to see more construction underway to sufficiently “de-risk” California HSR for big investment. California HSR needs $36 billion more federal funding to build:
• San Francisco-San Jose ($1.6 billion + $3.3 billion for over/underpasses, 43 miles)
• San Jose-Carlucci Road ($13.6 billion, 88 miles)
• Bakersfield-Palmdale ($15.7 billion, 79 miles)
• Burbank Airport-LA Union Station ($1.4 billion, 13 miles)
• LA Union Station-Anaheim ($2.9 billion, 31 miles)
This construction sequence will de-risk California HSR mega-project. With the Bakersfield Palmdale-Burbank Airport segment publicly funded, anticipate Brightline West HSR raising another $5 billion in private funds to close the 53-mile Victorville-Palmdale HSR gap.
Brightline West HSR would then enlarge its revenue stream for Las Vegas-Victorville-Palmdale. Once that happens, California HSR can anticipate raising $17 billion from a private High Speed Train Operator, Transportation Oriented Developers and other Big Investors to close the last California HSR Phase 1 segment:
• Palmdale-Burbank Airport ($16.8 billion, 13 miles)
If our local, state & federal politicians align commitment, 2050 California will benefit from this eye-popping network of electric HSR, Amtrak, Commuter Rail, Metro Rail & Bus Rapid Transit options coupled with low-emission Amtrak Long-Distance trains and Intercity Buses. Millions of daily riders will enjoy great mobility without increasing highway congestion.
The Politics of Federal Transportation Infrastructure Funding
An Amtrak rider since 1971, President Biden has the well-earned nick-name “Amtrak Joe” for riding trains back & forth between Washington and his home town in Wilmington, Delaware. Biden wants to go big on Amtrak-HSR, Transit and Highway modernization projects to create millions of jobs fast. Biden currently proposes $87 billion for Amtrak-HSR and $85 billion for Transit within his job-rich Infrastructure Proposal. Congressional Democrats would like him to go higher, way higher. Congressional Republicans would like him to go lower.
Biden knows that he and Democrats must deliver a million Transportation infrastructure jobs promised during the 2020 Election. The Northeast and California-Las Vegas have the most Under Construction, Ready-to-Build and Near-Ready HSR, Amtrak and Rapid Transit projects to create over 250,000 jobs in 2022-23.
Vice-President Harris is a former U.S. Senator from California and HSR advocate. Harris reminds Biden that California HSR needs at least $20 billion Federal HSR funds and $3 billion Federal Transit funds in route shared by HSR, Amtrak, Caltrain and Metrolink. The California governor is doing his part with a to help complete those over/underpasses and related commuter rail projects.
We won’t know Federal Amtrak-HSR and Federal Transit funding amounts until U.S. Infrastructure Bills are passed by Congress and President Biden in October 2021. Until that is known, we can’t accurately forecast State and Local matching funds for route shared by California HSR Phase 1, Amtrak California, Brightline West HSR Phase 2, Caltrain, Metrolink and Coaster commuter rail.
If California HSR, Amtrak California, Caltrain, Metrolink & Coaster upgrade projects get $40 billion in federal funds, state & local sources will increase their matching funds to complete upgrades by 2035-36.
If California HSR, Amtrak California, Caltrain, Metrolink & Coaster upgrade projects get $23 billion in federal funds, those projects will need future federal funding to complete by 2041-42.