The Failure of “Me First” Transportation Planning

New BART director Nick Josefowitz has written an excellent article outlining the failures of “me first” transportation planning, using as examples ineffective freeway expansions in Orange County and the extension of the BART Fremont Line to Warm Springs, currently under construction.


The “Money Quote:”

…BART’s historical pattern of investment is a good example. In the past couple decades, the region has built extension after expensive extension on the edge of the system. This December, the latest of these expensive extensions will open in south Fremont near the Santa Clara county line. This new extension cost $890 million to build, and will cost over $12 million annually to operate.

This extension — and many of BART’s other end-of-line extensions — are the Bay Area version of Orange County’s failed freeway widening program. The new station in south Fremont will funnel more and more riders into an already overloaded BART system, without fundamentally increasing the capacity of the core system to accommodate them. Not only will this increase the crowding for those living in Fremont, but for all BART riders throughout the Bay Area…

Connecting California: Improve San Joaquins

Here is an interesting article I came across while websurfing that reinforces TRAC’s points about improving the San Joaquins:

1.2 Million Passengers. One Single Track: California May Not Need That $68 Billion Bullet Train. But It Sure As Heck Needs More Rail Capacity.

The “money quote” is:

Fun, yes, but also frustrating. Why are we still relying on single tracks owned by freight lines to move passengers on trains through the Central Valley? I’ve dumped on high-speed rail for years—for outlandish ridership projections, for its failure to attract private investment, for not starting with a connection between L.A. and San Diego—and even the idea’s backers are worried it will cost too much. But high-speed rail does provide solutions to the gaps Ben and I encountered firsthand. It would provide a proper route for rail passengers through the Tehachapis. It would provide a dedicated track for passenger rail in the Central Valley. And it would connect the state in ways that we have otherwise failed to do.

Significant Rail News, October 31, 2014

Marin Voice: SMART Needs San Rafael-Larkspur Trolleys

From the Dark Side, We Knew It Dept: Portland Eliminates Free Parking For Disabled Placards, Frees Hundreds of Spaces

We Knew That Dept: The Bias In Transportation System Design

Chandler, Arizona Looks At Light Rail, BRT

London, England Reveals Preferred Route For CrossRail Two

Major Downtown Sacramento Developer Thinks Streetcars Are Worth Paying Special Assessments

Opinion: Sprawl and Bad Transit Increase Unemployment

Clayton County, GA Votes On Extending MARTA Rail And Bus Service

Construction Begins For All Aboard Florida’s Downtown Fort Lauderdale Station

BART’s Oakland Airport Connector Testing, Should Open Before Thanksgiving

CAHSRA Tries To Short Circuit Judicial Process Via Surface Transportation Board Ploy

Plans For High[er, 110 mph] Speed Rail Between Chicago and Detroit

Amtrak Creates “Blue Ribbon Panel” To Solve Chicago Rail Gridlock

Better Late Than Never Drowned Railcars Dept: New Jersey Transit Agencies Prepare For Future Hurricanes Like Sandy

Get A Warrant? Dept: Chicago Mayor Defends Random Bag Searches At CTA Rail Stations

Sacramento Streetcar Funding Push Underway

CA Bullet Train Barely Discussed In Governors Race

Remaining Free Parking At Certain BART Stations Days Numbered

BART Seeks Public Comments On BART Station Improvements In San Francisco

Silicon Valley Business Group Wants To Improve Caltrain

Sun Also Rises In East Dept: All Aboard Florida Company Spending Money On Political Lobbying

Well, Media Thinks So Dept: Bullet Train Path Looking Smoother

Rail And Transit Advocates Knew This Years Ago Dept: Don’t Get Your Hopes Up About Self-Driving Cars

Tax To Fund ACE Trains To Modesto Discussed By Politicians

Chicago, IL: Flyover Aims At Cutting Metra And Amtrak Train Congestion

Amtrak May Sell Real Estate and/or Development Rights In Northeast Corridor To Raise Capital Funding

What French Cities Can Teach The U.S. About Transit Design

New Jersey: Will Wise Guys’ Kin Get Benefit Of Their Property?

No One Goes There Anymore Because Its Too Crowded Dept: Five New York Subway Records Set in September

FRA Releases First “Southwest Multi-State Rail Planning Study”

But Are You Sure They Are Willing To Pay For It Dept: Poll Says Americans Favor Public Transit Over Roads

Texas: Proposed Routes For Dallas-Houston High Speed Rail Revealed

Silicon Valley Sprawls East, How Tech Jobs, Housing,  Transit Are Shaping A “Megaregion”

China Firm Lowballs Price On Constructing MBTA Replacement Railcars

Lack Of Park And Ride Slots Reduces Los Angeles Transit Ridership, Media Says

Minnesota: How The Twin Cities Got Transit Right [North Star Excepted?]

Revamping of Sacramento Valley Station – still no fix for long distance to platforms, though

Important Transit Measures In 2014 Elections

From The Dark Side Dept: Can a $5.4 Billion Tunnel Fixed The “Notorious” I-710 Gap In South Pasadena?

Business Leaders Claim Labor Pushed Proposed Railcar Factory From L.A. County

Chicago, IL: Metra’s 30-Year Plan Could Reshape Regional Rail

BART Makes Progress With South Fremont/San Jose Extension

From The Dark Side Dept: Media Parrots Highway Lobby Alarm About “How Terrible” Congestion Is

From The Dumb Side Dept: Golden Gate Bridge District Wants To Dunn Walkers, Bicyclists For Using Big Red Bridge

Portland, OR: Five Reasons To Support The Milwaukie LRT Extension

New York Subway Prepares For Ebola With Random Subway Drills

Columnist: No Winners In Railcar Builder Kinkisaryo’s Departure From Palmdale

San Jose BART Extension Work Continues, Above And Below Ground

SMART Could Get More Railcars After 2016 Startup

Freight Would Pay For It? Dept: New $250+ Billion+ High Speed Rail Plan Revealed From Moscow To Beijing

Anti-Rail Gadfly Randal O’Toole Surfaces in Virginia Beach, VA Calling LRT “Lie Rail” (sic)

Report Says Younger Generation Prefers Transit [And Bicycles] To Cars

CHSRA Wins Round In California Supreme Court; Opponents Continue Battle In Other Venues

Foothill Gold Line Releases New Promotional Video

Twin Cities, MN: Metro Transit’s Green Line Doubles Ridership Over Previous Bus Service

Zurich, Switzerland: World Class Transit Metropolis

Group Says High Speed Rail Shortchanging West Fresno Residents

Creepy Crawlies Halloween Dept: Deadly Snakes, Leopards And Landmines Can’t Stop Sri Lanka Railroad

Another Reason Not To Drive Dept: Woman Who Doesn’t Own Car Gets 18 Tickets From Fastrak Highway Bureaucrats

Podcast: Return Of Streetcars In The United States

Nothing To Worry About Peak Period Only Commuter Bus Dept: Private Bus Tries To Compete Against Toronto Streetcars; Horsecars Too

Opinions On California’s High Speed Rail Plans

Thought Experiments Dept: Evolution of Twin Cities’ Green Line: A “Retrospective”

Before The Oil Runs Out Dept: Middle East Plans $200 Billion Worth of Rail And Transit Investments

I’ll See It When I Believe It Dept, Road Bureaucracy Edition: DMV Offices People Like (?!)

Caltrain Trench In Palo Alto Would Cost Over $1 Billion

Pittsburg Secures Grant For Its eBART Station

Chicago, IL: Aldermen Seek O’Hare Airport Express Trains To Union Station, McCormick Place

Dallas DART Looks At Rail Extensions Options To North

Rod Diridon Receives “Hall Of Fame” Award From American Public Transit Association

Are There Differences Between Motorist And Pedestrian Brains?

Minneapolis, MN Will Pursue Streetcars and BRT For Poor, Minority Neighborhoods

Tour Of The Roof Of New Anaheim Surfliner Train Terminal

Amtrak Northeast Corridor Hudson River Tunnels Into New York Need Extensive Repairs

New Hudson Tunnels May Require Amtrak To Buy $400 Million Hotel Next To Penn Station

Boorish Punks Inconvenience Other Riders On New York Subways

Downtown L.A. Light Rail Subway Begins Construction

Supporters Say Alameda County Measure BB “Last Chance” For Livermore BART Extension

From The Doh! Homer! Dark Side Dept: Talking Cars Are Distracting To Drivers

New York Will Face Transit Crisis When Hudson Tubes Undergo Repairs

Hey, I Thought This Was In Tony Soprano Land Dept: Transit Board To Rehire Felon After Prison Term Up

Doh! Homer! Dept: Dan Walters – Bay Bridge Failures Cast Doubt On High Speed Rail

Concerned About Safety, California PUC To Inspect Railroad Bridges For First Time

Poll Shows High Interest In Riding SMART By Marin And Sonoma Residents

CHSRA Takes First Steps Towards Buying Rolling Stock

Zombie Trains In Time For Halloween Dept: Push For Ballard-West Seattle Monorail Line Rises From Its Grave

Hard To Tell When BART Parking Lots Are Full

Marin County: Generic SMART Station Design On The Right Track For Civic Center

Fort Worth, TX: TEX Rail Receives FTA “Record of Decision”

Tucson Streetcar Ridership Continues To Exceed Projections

“My Bridge For A Bucket of Bolts” (With Apologies To Shakespeare’s Richard III) Dept: Bay Bridge Bolts Sitting In Water

A 110 mph Upgrade Example for San Joaquins

See links below to an article and website about proposed upgrades to existing Chicago-Detroit Amtrak corridor service on existing tracks, to 110 mph standards and other improvements, all for less than $3 billion.

As shown by the Chicago-Detroit corridor example, with the addition of a Bakersfield-Los Angeles route via Tejon Pass–34 miles shorter than via Tehachapi–conventional upgraded San Joaquins could travel from Sacramento or the Bay Area to Los Angeles Union Station in ~4 hours, 45 minutes versus ~3 hours for 220 mph non-stop express high speed rail, or 3 hours, 30 minutes+/- for a high speed “all stops local.”

But CAHSRA wants Calfornia taxpayers to spend another $50 to $100 billion on top of the $10-$12 billion+/-  a combined San Joaquin upgrade/Tejon route would cost to save a maximum of 60-90 minutes per trip. While 3.0-3.5 hour travel times are needed to effectively compete with air travel between Sacramento/Bay Area and Southern California, they are not needed to compete with most intercity trips, which are made by automobile.

CHSRA Responds Directly to TRAC; Our Response

TRAC’s opinion piece on September 28th ( in the Sacramento Bee apparently annoyed the denizens of the California High Speed Rail Authority, leading to a response by CEO Jeff Morales (, plus a followup, much more detailed letter directly to TRAC on October 22 (

The text of our response to Morales’ Bee op-ed and followup letter is presented below.

Mr. Morales:
You PR people chose to reiterate their talking points rather than respond to our arguments, in composing your October 21 letter responding to our SacBee OpEd. Key examples:
You write “We remain confident that an operating segment can be delivered with existing funds and future Cap and Trade proceeds, at which point a private entity would pay for the rights to operate the system (and receive the revenue it generates), thus allowing for completion of the full statewide system.” Note the lack of an answer for how CHSRA will fill the $26 billion shortfall in the budget for its Initial Operating Segment, which it admits needs to be complete before any private investment is possible. We all know Cap and Trade won’t go that far.
Your people either don’t understand or refuse to accept the judicial rulings. As we wrote, both the trial court and the Court of Appeal found deficiencies in CHSRA’s compliance with Proposition 1A. The Court of Appeal, however, ruled there was no remedy for the failure to comply, at this time. The Supreme Court chose to not review that decision. In no way did it “reaffirm compliance.”
Your comments about “what the Congress and President appropriated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” betray either an intentional misstatement of the terms of the legislation, or ignorance of them. Several Midwestern states are upgrading Amtrak service to 110 mph under that program, on “tracks owned by private freight operators.”
You write “Currently, there is no passenger rail link between Bakersfield and the Los Angeles Basin…” If CHSRA makes good on its intention to proceed with Palmdale-Burbank, there won’t be one for a very long time. While it wasn’t mentioned in the OpEd due to space considerations, TRAC has long considered the missing rail link as its top state priority.
You write “We have consulted extensively with experienced foreign governments and high-speed rail operators to improve and refine our plans.” This is a far cry from the open bidding process we recommend, where the successful bidder puts capital at risk, rather than mere advice.
Finally, you offer a very skewed reading of Proposition 1A. CHSRA is reverent about complying with legislative intent (except that of having an operating system by 2020), even though these are not mandatory provisions. Yet it brazenly flouts the mandatory requirements–the part of the bill it didn’t write–and then begs the Supreme Court for a Get out of Jail Free card when caught.
If you wonder how CHSRA managed to alienate rail advocates that would otherwise be its natural supporters, look no further than these points.

Bringing More Train Travel To California