Page 3
March-April 2002
How soon will HSR begin service?
The California High Speed Rail Au-
thority (HSRA) plans call for service to
begin 10 to 15 years from now, assuming
no major setbacks. Most likely the pro-
posed 700-mile HSR system will open in
stages. The HSRA may decide to build the
San Jose-Los Angeles segment first, and
then use the operating profit from carry-
ing passengers on that segment to help
finance the construction of the remaining
legs of the system.
How frequently will HSR run?
The HSRA's business plan, based
on ridership projections, describes five
grades of service that would be offered by
2020. Simultaneous operation of all grades
of service includes hourly to half-hourly
service frequency for each grade during
the daytime. There is little doubt that the
system has high ridership potential. North-
ern-Southern California (counting flights
between all Bay Area and greater LA area
airports) is by far the world's busiest air
travel corridor. HSR has been running and
profitable overseas mostly in corridors
with lower travel volumes than California's
north-south corridor.
Will security precautions for HSR travel
be necessary as with air travel?
Because rail is much less suscep-
tible to acts of terrorism, HSR travel re-
quires less extensive security measures.
Therefore, HSR travelers do not face the
slow airport-style check-in procedures
prior to boarding. Trains cannot be hi-
jacked the way airliners can. When terror-
ists detonated a bomb on a French TGV
train, the line resumed service within hours.
--Russell Reagan
Q and A
High Speed Rail
Caltrain Projects a Regional Priority
, page 5]
On December 19, the Metropolitan
Transportation Commission (MTC) ap-
proved the 2001 Regional Transportation
Plan (RTP), along with a companion Regional
Transit Expansion Policy (RTEP). The RTP,
which is updated every three years, de-
scribes how $82 billion will be spent over
the next 25 years. The RTEP, a successor to
a similar policy adopted in 1988, specifies
the development of new transit projects.
Caltrain upgrades such as electrifi-
cation and the downtown extension to a re-
built Transbay Terminal fared well over many
highway and transit projects considered by
MTC. Both Caltrain projects are listed in the
priority category (Track 1 in the RTP and
Tier 1 in the RTEP). Projects in the priority
category are earmarked for state and federal
funding that the Bay Area expects to receive
over the next 25 years.
A major Caltrain project left out of the
priority category is the extension of service
across the Dumbarton rail bridge to Union
City. Despite local sales tax funds
appropiated to this project by San Mateo,
Santa Clara, and Alameda counties, the three
counties have not yet agreed on how to cover
operating costs, and therefore failed to meet
MTC's requirements for inclusion of the
project in Track 1/Tier 1. However, the RTP
and RTEP stipulate that the Dumbarton rail
project would attain funding priority once
the three counties reached an agreement on
operating costs.
The priority status for Caltrain up-
grades was not assured initially. When MTC
released the draft version of RTP and RTEP
last August, the Caltrain downtown exten-
sion and the reconstruction of the Transbay
Terminal were listed as separate projects and
were not included in Track 1/Tier 1 of RTP
and RTEP. Project advocates argued that
since the Caltrain extension could not be
completed without the new terminal, the two
should be treated as one project. In addi-
tion, advocates found the draft RTEP did not
meet MTC's own criteria, which gives prior-
ity to the projects remaining from the 1988
regional agreement for rail projects, Resolu-
tion 1876. The Caltrain downtown extension
and the BART extension to Warm Springs
Passengers on the Amtrak Capitol
Corridor may now transfer free to County
Connection buses at the Martinez Station.
This transfer arrangement augments the ex-
isting free transfer privileges from the Capi-
tol Corridor to AC Transit and Sacramento
Regional Transit available since last May.
Free coupons good for two local bus rides
on AC Transit are available from Capitol train
conductors. Also Capitol passengers may
purchase BART tickets onboard at a 20%
Capitol Corridor Expands
Free Bus Transfer Program
At the High Speed Rail Authority meet-
ing in Bakersfield last November, some key
decisions were made to narrow the scope of
the environmental and engineering studies.
The HSRA board voted to adopt the HSRA
staff recommendation of standard steel-
wheel, steel-rail technology, allowing HSR
to share tracks with conventional trains, as
well as the use of the Caltrain's planned ex-
press tracks on the Peninsula.
HSRA plans call for trains to operate
no faster than 120 mph along the Caltrain
corridor once all grade crossings have been
eliminated. Until that occurs, trains would
be restricted to even slower speeds. HSR
would reach its top speed of 220 mph in rural
areas and in the Central Valley.
The decision by HSRA effectively
ended any further debate about standard rail
versus magnetic levitation (maglev) technol-
ogy. Standard rail HSR technology is well
established and has served travelers in Eu-
rope and Japan for decades. Since the 1980s,
this technology has progressed from top
speeds of 170 mph to 220 mph in revenue
service. While maglev is capable of speeds
over 300 mph, it has yet to prove itself for
practical, widespread usage.
The HSRA's decision to use Caltrain
alignment on the Peninsula also eliminated
the option of using the median of US 101.
Studies by HSRA concluded that the latter
alternative would be much more costly than
sharing tracks with Caltrain. Consultants
found that the lack of space in the freeway
median would necessitate an aerial structure
along the length of the freeway, high enough
to clear existing overpasses.
Though the HSRA board voted unani-
mously with little debate on this item, BayRail
Alliance considered the decision a victory.
BayRail has strongly advocated that the pro-
posed HSR system be compatible with
Caltrain. Caltrain and HSR sharing tracks will
require that Caltrain be electrified. Further-
more, says BayRail board member Russell
Reagan, "It makes political support for up-
grading Caltrain, and possibly connecting
conventional rail lines, all the more certain."
HSRA Selects Caltrain Route
What you can do to support HSR?
1. Join CAHSR e-mail subscriber list:
2. Attend meetings related to HSR, see
back page for details.