The HSR Decision | Invest & Innovate | Steve Levy | Almanac Online |

Local Blogs

Invest & Innovate

By Steve Levy

E-mail Steve Levy

About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

View all posts from Steve Levy

The HSR Decision

Uploaded: Feb 13, 2019
I was a consultant on the first HSR study in 1998. And I voted against thew bond.

BUT times have changed and i think the Governor's decision got a couple of things right and made a huge mistake. This blog is about the mistake I think was made.

The system has several pieces as originally envisioned.

--Within the San Joaquin Valley
--From the Valley to San Jose
--From San Jose to San Francisco
--From Bakersfield into Southern California
--From the Valley up to Sacramento.

I agree with dropping the SJ to SF routes thought we still must deal with grade separation for CalTrain.

I can leave the Valley to SoCal and Sacramento to later. I think Valley to Valley ridership will be low but I suggest a new ridership study peer reviewed.

The mistake is dropping the Fresno/Maders to San Jose route.

It is the Valley/SJ connection that most helps people seeking low cost housing and non car commuting options to Bay Area jobs.

And that same connection is the best shot for improving the economy in places like Fresno.

The Valley to SJ route is one piece of addressing the Bay Area worker shortage driven in part by high housing prices and soon by surging retirements.

Much as I want more housing at all income levels to be built in the region, I respect the right of people to seek loss expensive single family housing adjacent to the region, especially if they can at the same time avoid the car commute.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by build it, and more, a resident of Green Acres,
on Feb 13, 2019 at 12:53 pm

>> It is the Valley/SJ connection that most helps people seeking low cost housing and non car commuting options to Bay Area jobs.


Talk to any working class family - they will all tell you about a friend or family member who can't afford to live here, and instead commute from ridiculous distances. Nurses, bartenders, service jobs - I've heard stories from everyone within that social-economic rung of the ladder (*not* hyperbole.)

Terrible, unsustainable quality of life. Terrible for our businesses and economy, as well. Terrible for our society - it has trickle effects for all levels of our society.

Posted by SRB, a resident of St. Francis Acres,
on Feb 13, 2019 at 2:45 pm

>> It is the Valley/SJ connection that most helps people seeking low cost housing and non car commuting options to Bay Area jobs.

Except that HSR ticket prices might be out of reach of most of these folks for daily use.
Except that there is no identified operator yet.
Except that there no identified funds to build anything beyond Merced <--> Bakerfield and even it's a stretch.

Posted by Pat Burt, a resident of Community Center,
on Feb 14, 2019 at 11:04 am

What has not yet been discussed openly by the governor or rail authorities is the emerging likelihood that the new rail line (not necessarily high speed) in the CV is now planned to extend to Merced rather than Madera. This should enable connection to the already funded, modernized ACE corridor service over Altamont and through the Tri-valley area. That's the route that has the highest ridership demand for CV commuters and where many of us advocated HSR should have gone.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Feb 14, 2019 at 12:24 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I think Pat's idea is interesting.
I know that San Jose downtown is looking at 200,000-3000,000 added jobs in the next 15 years.

My main argument is that a Valley/Bay Area connection is a good idea for both regions.

I think detailed and peer reviewed ridership and financing plans are needed before going forward.

I disagree with the Governor's apparent decision to remove the two-region connection from consideration now.

Ticket prices may be an issue for some riders (most of whom are not poor) but that calls for companies being wiling to help defray costs as many do now.

If the Valley/Bay Area connection is a good idea as believe, other details will have be worked out.

Posted by new guy, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Feb 15, 2019 at 4:17 pm

So, basically you want to spend a hundred billion dollars so that a few hundred people can commute to SJ for good paying jobs and afford a single family house in the central valley. Please, please learn some economics before proposing to spend other people's money. Please think just a little bit deeper into effects of your proposals. The HSR ticket price lie was sold when funding for the project was first approved tickets were projected to be closer to the $50 range. So call it $100 round trip and extend the lie. You really think people will spend $500 a week to commute to a service job in SJ? $25,000 a year just for that portion of their commute (this a $12.50/hr just for the rail commute). The reality is that ticket prices will be much higher. The only real winners are the current owners of the land the new single family homes will be built on as their land value to increase.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Feb 16, 2019 at 11:03 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ new guy

Let's clean up some of your math.

The total system cost is now estimated at $77 billion so a line from Madera to San Jose can hardly cost $Billions.

I think a ridership study is needed but my guess in many tens of thousands daily riders to the hundreds of thousands of jobs in downtown San Jose by 2030 or so.

And, yes, I do want to help people find cheaper housing outside the region if that is their prefeence and then help them access jobs here car free. It seems like a win win for them and our local economy.

The ticket prices you quoted were for the full North-Soth toute not a small route from Madera to San Jose.

But I do agree that ticket prices could be a problem and hope that comapnies can help defray costs as they do now for many workers.

Posted by Ma Bel, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Feb 16, 2019 at 8:06 pm

We need massive amounts of transportation infrastructure. Our businesses and economy depend on it to remain competitive.

Our businesses also need more affordable housing, to keep ample amounts of reasonable labor available.

Build the damn trains.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Feb 17, 2019 at 9:57 pm

The Valley/SJ connection does not need to be HSR. An RSR with frequent trains could carry the same or greater passenger load and be running much sooner than an HSR, if people would ditch their HSR fantasies and work to create the RSR system that is eminently feasible right now.

The first step is easy: Repeal the nineteenth century robber baron legislation forbidding eminent domaining of railroad ROWs.

Buy the ROWs.

Give passenger service priority over freight on the newly public trackage. That enables the vital reliable scheduling now sorely lacking on UP/BNSF rails (e.g., ACE).

Buy locomotives and rolling stock and you're running a railroad.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Feb 20, 2019 at 11:16 am

Annette is a registered user.

Why do these discussions always leave out this piece: relocating JOBS?

I get that many people will still need to commute here and goodness knows this area wants that to work lest we find ourselves with an even more serious under-employment situation for community-serving employees, but the demand on housing and transportation and other pieces of Silicon Valley infrastructure would be lessened if jobs-generating companies would spread the wealth to areas that want and can support the growth.

What is the supportable argument against doing that?

Posted by frying pan, a resident of Greater Miranda,
on Feb 22, 2019 at 8:28 pm

> ...spread the wealth to areas that want and can support the growth.
> What is the supportable argument against doing that?

If "supporting the growth" means qualified labor pool, then you might have issues with companies relocating to Manteca.

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Almanac Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Backhaus in Burlingame finally opens for the holiday rush
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 2,806 views

Burning just one "old style" light bulb can cost $150 or more per year
By Sherry Listgarten | 11 comments | 2,567 views

Fun Things to Do Around the Bay This Holiday – Peninsula Edition
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,400 views

My Holiday Wish List for Menlo Park
By Dana Hendrickson | 1 comment | 2,232 views

Banning the public from PA City Hall
By Diana Diamond | 25 comments | 1,910 views


Support local families in need

Your contribution to the Holiday Fund will go directly to nonprofits supporting local families and children in need. Last year, Almanac readers and foundations contributed over $300,000.