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Could you expand the intro to better explain the players to Europeans? Whose project is the TBT, what are the opposed interests? (I already had a hard time figuring these out while reading you guys at CaHSR.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 10:42:28 AM EST
I'm not a Californian, so often who are the players is confusing to me.

Its a bunch of quasi-independent authorities, and each is, of course, trying to play a game of pass the hot potato as far as the cost of the train-box goes. That's why the TBT is trying to leap on the stimulus funds to get money for the train-box ... and also probably why the train-box was under-engineered in the first place.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 11:15:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I am asking about more basic things. I have no time or bandwidth right now to watch the video, so I am not even clear about things like:

  • which is the authority with money and which is the one without?

  • is TBT a private, public; wholly independent, or somehow Caltrain- or San Francisco municipal council-linked organisation?

  • what exactly are the oppsed demands? IIRC one side wants a bi-level train box for more platforms; from the above, it appears that's TBT, but based on CHSRA's demand for 9-10 platforms, it would seem it's them.

Also, a bit of North American terminology: by "platform", you mean something for boarding a train along a single track, right? E.g. half of an "island platform" that is flanked by two tracks?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 11:53:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All the players are public authorities under different boards, as described in the update "The Players" in the diary.

North American terminology ... this always trips me up too, since I started riding trains in Oz, which used Commonwealth expressions ... a platform is a physical structure, an island platform will have two platform tracks. Wherever possible I try to say "island" and "platform track" and avoid "platform", but I probably do not entirely succeed.

TBT has money to start building the main building, but not to build the train box. They are trying to get the train box funded out of HSR stimulus funds.

As noted in the update, "The Players", CHSRA has no money at all right now. They are partially bond funded for $9b thanks to Prop 1A, and some of those bonds could be used for overheads and planning, but the bonds could not be sold because of the California budget crisis. The first post crisis state bond sale is scheduled for this week.

Whether CHSRA is seen as having no money, or access to $9b plus, they want to be on the hook for as little money as possible for the access tunnel and TBT train-box itself. Tunneling is expensive, and they have tunneling of their own to do south of San Jose and north of Los Angeles.

As in the update, the TBT is a transit/redevelopment authority, so they are public, operating under an independent board, with most of their funding so far coming from the state, some from the participating cities, very little from the transit-hating Bush administration, and hoping for much more from the Feds.

Claiming that they are a HSR project makes more Federal money possible ... CHSRA does not want that money tallied against their total, since under current economic conditions, they may need more Federal funding than they were hoping for, if they cannot get as much private funding as they were hoping for.


The opposing demands:

CHSRA wants 400m straight platforms, and 9 to 10 of them, and access capacity for 12tph. At least they say they do. What they really want? Unclear.

TBT seems to want a train-box that they can claim satisfies their long-standing local statutory requirement to serve as the terminus for both Caltrain and HSR, ideally without spending a dime of their own money. From the clip, building their original train box design as part of the original structure cuts the projected cost from $490m to $390m. If they can get $390m from the Feds to do that, they'll be very happy.

If the access tunnel can wait for eight years to start building, they are obviously just not going to worry about it, assuming that it can be sorted out closer to the time. By contrast, the California HSR authority is going to want to make sure that their share of the tunneling cost is as low as possible.

The TBT does not seem to see the train-box as something that will substantially increase the property value of the properties they are developing, so from that perspective there would be no incentive to do more than the bare minimum. For Peak Oil, De Nile seems to be more than a river in Egypt.

For the CA HSR authority A train box with an effective capacity of, say, 5 1/3 tph would mean a dramatically different mode of operation, and likely mean when they do their ridership survey a lower projected ridership, which would then undermine the size of the bids they can hope to receive to operate the services. So if I was guessing, they would be hoping to get the main northern terminus that does the most good for their ridership projections, without allocating more than the bare minimum in their budget to it.

A narrower but deeper 2-deck train box, with two side platforms and one island in each level and the mezzanine in between, could offer 6 HSR terminating platforms and 2 Caltrain platforms connected to tail tracks ... which could then be rolled out in two stages, with the mezzanine and lower deck done first, and Caltrain temporarily using two of the platforms intended for HSR, and then the upper deck and tail tracks built, and the lower deck side platforms rebuilt to HSR platform height.

6 platforms is plenty for 40 minute maximum allowable platform dwells (what the CHSRA asked for) and the 8tph access capacity.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 02:09:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To explain in a bit more detail.

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority is not all that independent. Its board includes the head of San Francisco MTA (an appointee of Mayor Gavin Newsom), a representative of Mayor Gavin Newsom, an elected AC Transit (Oakland-Berkeley-East Bay) board member, a member of the Caltrain board, and Chris Daly, one of the left-wing members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

What this means in practice is that the TJPA board is basically run by elected officials from SF. San Francisco voters have on several occasions approved the Transbay Terminal project and the downtown extension and have created some pools money to do this.

The California High Speed Rail Authority Board is more independent, for whatever value it has (more on this later). Its members are appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and confirmed by the state legislature, but the governor has taken a less overt role in leading the board than Newsom has with the TJPA.

These quasi-independent board have a weakness in that they're not clearly personal domains of a powerful figure (whether that's the mayor of San Francisco or the governor of California). So it's not quite as simple as Gavin or Arnold or anyone else coming in and saying "get this done".

In practice the TBT is San Francisco's project and Gavin Newsom has in fact asserted a very strong role in ensuring it gets built. Newsom has not had a big place in the HSR project. If he somehow gets elected governor next year (he is a candidate but I do not expect him to win) then he would be in a commanding position to resolve this dispute by potentially appointing new CHSRA members.

There's also a proposal to create a "Department of Railroads" within state government, to house all rail programs and regulation within that instead of under the Department of Transportation. That would include moving the CHSRA into a Department of Rail. I'm not sure that's the best idea, but it is out there.

There is no opposition to the TBT project. The CHSRA is making this weird "omg we need a second level to the trainbox" argument without really explaining why, at a late date, and the SF political leadership is trying to figure out wtf this is about.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 10:44:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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