Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Could High-Speed Rail Ease California’s Housing Crisis? See Japan (citylab.com)
62 points by pseudolus 25 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 91 comments

They'll do a study on this by studying Japan, but a better place to study is France. Or even Europe altogether; the high-speed part here is a red herring, what matters is seating-room, few-transfer commutes of tolerable duration to outlying towns where road-bound price pressure doesn't currently extend. Many countries in Europe accomplish this with trains of "conventional" speeds.

On the other hand, it's hard to argue that places like Tracy, Stockton, Modesto, and Sacramento aren't already in the gravitational pull of the Bay, or Lancaster and Palmdale aren't already in the commuter belt for LA. Desirability in these places is likely to rise with the option to trade a long car commute to a shorter P+R train commute.

The toss-ups are Bakersfield and especially Fresno. These are metros far removed from others, can't significantly interface daily commuters with others, so their housing and job markets stand on their own. But for the same reasons, among California metros they're also the least subject to existing affordability crises. If their access to the Bay and LA improves, this will change -- and already-sprawling, already-transit-poor Fresno and Bakersfield can hardly distribute this rise in demand evenly in their grid.

EDIT: 'Organic' affordable housing has always been greenfield, because it's cheap to turn peripheral land to inexpensive dwellings. But HSR will serve built-out city centers, where expensive redevelopment is required if one wants to satisfy demand. And if the demand is there, the asking price will reflect that.

> They'll do a study on this by studying Japan

And miss the point that the way real estate works in Japan is fundamentally different from the US.

In Japan, land ownership doesn't really help build wealth, so people are happy to densify.

Note that I'm not disagreeing with you, nor trying to be confrontational, but I'm curious why land ownership in Japan does not build wealth?

One point is that most people do not want to live in an old house that someone lived in (or worse, died in) before. There is a strong tendency towards building new houses on old land.

I can only speak for Tokyo, but it basically means that if you buy land for $400k and build a house for $200k, the value of the second will slowly approach zero, while the price of the land does what it does.

In Tokyo this appreciates a bit, so your wealth remains more or less the same.

If you go outside of Tokyo though, where the ratio becomes more like $50k land, $100k house, it’s easy to see that it’s not something you do as an investment. Land won’t increase in value there either as everyone is leaving for Tokyo.

Not sure about land values specifically, but residential real estate in Japan generally doesn't appreciate much, if at all, outside the center of the most major cities. There are multiple factors I imagine, like shrinking population and the general aversion to buying used homes. Until fairly recently, homes weren't generally designed to last that long anyway. A lot of homes of the deceased are just abandoned due to the costs of demolition.

It's possible this could change somewhat going forward as newer homes have much better construction. This would still depend on the country figuring out how to grow the population though.

I'm all for high speed rail, but the only thing that's going to "Ease California’s Housing Crisis" is the legalization of housing. Everything else is an expensive bandaid.

A better transit investment would not be high speed rail, but expanding city-wide rail/metro combined with zoning that allows denser housing to be built around stations.

You can't build a lot in the bay area without affecting people who have a large personal stake in the housing market. That is the core of the issue in any major city with high housing prices. One of the few ways you can work around that is by building high speed transit. Since building in those newly connected locations will be in a different market or political region.

Another way is to take away power from the people who own housing and give it to people who are struggling to live or move there. With state or federal power.

I don't think it unreasonable that you are the one who has to make the case how that would work in this discussion. Because I see very little evidence, in the US or even in the rest of the world, that it would be realistic to expect that to happen. If anything high prices is often a result of going the other way (by e.g. favorable tax rules).

Why would anyone build family housing or buy it there then?

Renting sure. But purchasing house means a lot more than "this is my square". Amenities, schools, the community are all directly tied to what your house is worth and it is an investment.

If I'm putting down a million dollars on a house and you decide my local gov. elected representatives are going to be superseded on local governance I'm not going to be very happy.

Lol. Your vaunted local representatives are superseded on everything from their airspace (FAA) to their property tax rate (California Prop 13). This isn’t some unprecedented infringement of local control.

Lol there is a precedent for the regulations in place that you are after to be handled locally. Lets just take all the things and federalize it until I get my way.

Perhaps you could clarify about what "take power away from those who own housing means". Does it mean, own a house, lose the right to vote?

(1) What makes you think that the areas adjacent to the central valley rail stations will allow housing of a reasonable density

(2) "You can't build a lot in the bay area without affecting people who have a large personal stake in the housing market" ->Tons of people with a large personal stake in the bay area are being displaced by rising rents. Do they suddenly not count because they do not own a home?

1. It isn't a given, but far more likely since they don't have the same disincentive. Attracting companies and tax revenue is generally something cities like to do. Alienating a large part of their population isn't. Especially not the wealthier parts.

2. I don't know about suddenly, but that would otherwise probably be an accurate assessment of the situation. At least relative to those who do.

Is there any western city, or a political party, who have intentionally lowered property values in the last decade and been awarded for it by voters? Has anyone even tried?

My pessimistic view is no policy prescription will fix SF (perhaps the most housing-crises-ed part of California) because the (1) govt is incompetent (or maybe even actively malevolent), (2) we seem to have lost the ability to build infrastructure effectively (e.g: new bay bridge span: possibly unsafe, over budget, behind schedule; new bus terminal: possibly unsafe, extremely expensive; new bus lane down van ness: extremely expensive, behind schedule; gg bridge access tunnel: extremely expensive...&c)

I sadly agree with this. I think SF is broken beyond repair.

I identify as a liberal democrat, it makes me sad that a city that has been under the control of my preferred political ideology for decades is so completely dysfunctional.

It makes me wonder if there just aren't enough people who share my values but actually have skill in governance.

> It makes me wonder if there just aren't enough people who share my values but actually have skill in governance.

The people who come in with skill in governance and are in a highly-visible local government like SF rapidly move up and out of local government.

For that matter, term limits mean they move out even if they don't move up.

> I identify as a liberal democrat, it makes me sad that a city that has been under the control of my preferred political ideology for decades is so completely dysfunctional.

SF hasn't been under liberal democratic control for decades (at least by any single coherent definition of “liberal democrat”, which has two opposed uses—it can refer either to the center-right neoliberal or center-left progressive faction of the party, and the two have been back and forth in SF.)

> I identify as a liberal democrat, it makes me sad that a city that has been under the control of my preferred political ideology for decades is so completely dysfunctional.

Some people say that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing in the same way, while expecting different results.

I'm not sure either party can govern effectively when they are in a political bubble. It seems that both ideas have good sides and the best governments are the (rare) ones where multiple parties have power and compromise occurs.

However in America I only get to vote for one of two sides and I still think mine is the lesser of two evils.

It'd be really nice if America could crack the two party system that's so heavily entrenched but... that'll only happen with the cooperation of those parties which have no motivation to do so - other than silly things like "democratic ideals" and "making a fair and open society"

If I can identify some other city that has been under liberal democrat control for decades and isn't dysfunctional, then it's not irrational for me maintain my ideology while asking for better from this one.

Same values here, same disappointment as well.

The $2.2B shiny new Transbay Terminal shuts down after less than 2 months? The Chinatown subway boondoggle? The Eastern Span going from $250M to $6.5B and still having seriously troubling defects? Where are the adults in charge?

One of the most annoying things about us Americans is that we are really bad at working Federalism to our advantage and tend to align our national politics with our State politics with our local politics. At the end of the day, I no more care about policy in Alabama than I do France or Thailand and would be happier if the national government actually did butt out of State and Local affairs wherever it doesn’t actually in any meaningful capacity affect the national interest. We could really do with a smaller definition and scope of what encompasses the national interest as well.

Then you have Reds and Blues, I’m not going to dignify them by referring to them by what they consider themselves to be because their “leadership” are both a bunch of filthy liars. When the Blues control the national government, the Reds are all about them States’ Rights. When the Reds control the national government, it is up to the Blues to resist! That is to say, there isn’t a coherent political ideology to be found here.

So zoom back in to San Francisco for a bit, and the controlling ideology isn’t one singular ideology, it’s a Board of Supervisors that is largely working for the benefit of property owners and corporate interests. The progressives have done more to shore up property values and the moderates have done more to attract and retain businesses. Neither of them gives a damn about large scale infrastructure. Neither of them gives a damn if we who are from SF actually get to make a life here.

The controlling interests are in no way completely dysfunctional, they are accomplishing their objectives by making it more difficult to actually increase residential density or expand infrastructure to accommodate the influx of residents.

Sacramento has a similar only slightly more diverse set of players, and most California cities, particularly around the Bay, are playing the same game of shoring up property values while trying to attract businesses. Actual residents get left out in the cold, or convinces to vote one way or the other because this or that faction is slightly more agreeable than this one over here, and are willing to throw a few bones their way on some generally fairly unimportant issues.

We spend more time debating the merits of plastic straws or selling fur than we do figuring out how to run safe needle exchanges to keep needles out of the streets, staff and clean some public restrooms with showers to keep piss and shit out of the streets and build some damn apartments to keep people out of the streets. Ironically the Board of Supervisors has done a bang up job of keeping scooters out of the sidewalks in the most ham fisted manner they could muster.

We can have high quality nuanced debates all we want about whatever bourgeois bullshit comes down the sewer, but we can’t get behind the simple idea of building the infrastructure we actually need so kids who grow up here, their schoolteachers, and our neighbors can find an affordable place to live here in this damnable city. Maybe our ideologies aren’t the issue here, maybe it’s just that We the People actually suck.

My pessimistic view is that nothing will fix SF or California in the near future because California's housing mess has been a slow moving continual disaster since the late 60s-early 70s.

The problem predates prop 13, which was enacted in response to the housing problem back in the late 70s.

In the Japanese model, you observe where people are going, and make that more efficient.

In the Californian model, you decide in committee where people ought to go (which is everywhere represented by committee members) and design something too big and expensive to succeed.

The high speed train in California has always been based on connecting the Bay Area and the Los Angeles.

They are both the largest population centers in California by any metric. This is not "decide in committee where people ought to go".

The particular station locations is much more complicated but still based on population centers but a whole host of NIMBY action pushed a lot of those into less favorable locations.

What is the goal though? Why do we need to connect SoCal and NorCal with high-speed rail? It would make much more sense to me to connect towns in the central valley to the bay area considering many people already do this "super commute" already and I have to imagine it is miserable. Imagine being able to get from Stockton to Oakland in an hour or less by train. Seems like you could build high speed lines in every town in the central valley to the Bay, from Sacremento down to Madera or something and it would be a way better value than building a line from North to South.

Exactly. At the very least it should be between Sacramento and San Francisco. A few people I know do 2 hour commutes living in and around Tracy/Sacramento area because it's the only way they can afford to own a house. But then there's no real jobs there and they have to come to SF for that. There's no solution in sight for the "larger" bay area.

(Don't get me wrong. I love Shinkansen. That made my Japan trip so much more pleasant than anywhere else I have been. Not a single plane trip within the country. No need to pre-plan. Just buy a ticket and hop on. In California though, I know very few - they do exist - who regularly commute between LA -> SF. Regularly ~ a few times a month for a few days at a time)

But do people regularly go between SF and CA? Are those people not well served by the cheap and frequent flights?

It seems like the train should aim to replace a route served (poorly) by daily vehicular traffic.

What about all the detours to Fresno and Madera and shudder Modesto of all places?

The second case can be extremely profitable to insiders who get to see their land or business profit from vast amounts of public spending.

Basically, the answer is "Yes" as long as the routes and operations are reassessed to make them much more usable for commuting. The current routing is distinctly sub-ideal for Central Valley => Bay Area along with San Diego/Irvine => LA

If you want commuters to use HSR, you have to make it easy for people to use. This means the line from SF to Sac/Roseville being placed directly along the 80 corridor with frequent stops for locals as well as dedicated express trains. This requires sidings at all tops in both directions to enable passing, something not currently envisioned for 90% of the stops (iirc).

The biggest problem with CAHSR imho is that they started grading the RoW and laying track in the central valley before they had started on crossing the Tehachapi mountains. The highest long-term value to HSR is going to be the LA-SF route. The one piece with the longest build and highest cost is the route over the mountains (the existing route owned by the UP and with BNSF having trackage rights is 2/3 single track and completely at capacity, with speeds of less than 30MPH average).

There is no way that HSR will be long term viable without that route in place. Until they build that and rationalize the routes, it will be nothing but a faster and vastly more costly replacement for the San Joaquin corridor passenger trains.

I want it to be a success. I'm very pessimistic about that in the current state of affairs.

> This means the line from SF to Sac/Roseville being placed directly along the 80 corridor with frequent stops for locals as well as dedicated express trains. This requires sidings at all tops in both directions to enable passing, something not currently envisioned for 90% of the stops (iirc).

This would require an additional crossing of the California Coast Ranges (crossing the Diablo Range somewhere between Oakland and Fairfield), and a new tunnel across the bay between SF and Oakland. Both would be $$$$$ megaprojects.

Was this study funded by a pro-high speed train consortium by any chance? I've become so skeptical of studies lately.

Isn't the easing of japan's housing prices due to japan population stagnation/decline and nearly 30 years of economic stagnation?

Also, didn't japan's housing prices rise dramatically in the first 25 years of their high speed rail's existence before crashing in the early 1990s?

Japan's population growth since 1990 has been pretty much 0%. California's population has increase nearly 50% since 1990.

The article doesn't mention the common Japanese practice where employers pay the cost of their employee's rail passes. This subsidizes expensive, long-distance commutes, and at least some employees would likely choose a cheaper commute if they had to bear the cost directly.

Intercity trains will come with an intercity price tag, which is more than most people are willing to pay for without a subsidy. There's a reason very few people in Europe use ICE trains for their daily commute.

Not to mention most companies in Japan will only pay for rail passes that are not Shinkansen, with limited exceptions. There are express trains that are not Shinkansen that can be used, so I imagine most commuters use non-Shinkansen everyday when compensated by their employers.

I love trains and have taken Amtrak many times. I want to see rail well-funded.

That being said, high-speed rail is often seen as a ploy for other things.

The best example I can think of is during the Obama administration the attempt to build a High Speed rail link between Manhattan and Washington DC. Bringing Wall Street closer to DC is the last thing the world needs, and shows how out of touch the rail planners were at times.

As I remember they had some other great plans like in Florida that were sadly rejected, but I never got a clear explanation for some of those real dumb proposals that made everyone suspicious and tanked the project.

Northern California's "housing crisis" is probably a transient. Remember 2008, when there were vacancies everywhere? Or 2001, the first dot-com collapse. We're headed there again. By the time any major infrastructure projects get going, the housing crisis will be over.

Overall, California's population is leveling off. So is the US. The US hit "peak baby" several years ago and population growth is below replacement rate.

Northern California housing costs have been rising much faster than inflation for well over 30 years. Yes it corrected some in 2001 and 2008, but then continued to march upward, always regaining previous highs within 2-3 years, and then surpassing them.

Look at the charts here https://www.bayareamarketreports.com/trend/bay-area-real-est...

In a word, no.

There are some 30 million people living in the greater Tokyo metro area, depending on where you draw the line, of which 14 thousand have Shinkansen commuter passes:


That's 0.047%, a negligible drop in the bucket, and that's despite Tokyo having last-mile transit options infinitely better than California's.

Note for fairness: this does exclude the considerable numbers of salarymen who effectively maintain two homes, namely a tiny bachelor pad in Tokyo and a larger family household elsewhere, and "commute" by Shinkansen to return on the weekends. This is common enough that there's a Japanese term for it, 夫婦別居 fuufu bekkyo, literally "husband and wife living separately" but lacking the separation-before-divorce connotation that carries in the West.

However, California is notably lacking in affordable bachelor pads and stay-at-home moms financially able and psychologically willing to tolerate this.

With the US's uncanny ability to spend several times more than other countries on rail projects, I'm sure that building HSR will be a much costlier solution to the housing crisis than just reforming zoning.

I think the global warming angle is a much more compelling reason for HSR.

A lot of the discussion around transit-oriented development in norcal is around putting higher density around existing train stations, but BART and Caltrain are already at capacity during rush hour.

I feel like San Francisco and Mountain View would get far bigger bang for their buck if SFMTA and the Planning Commission could coordinate to build bus-centric high-density transit developments around the existing freeway off-ramps. Just add another pedestrian/bike/transit-friendly bus loop connected to the freeway (like the Salesforce Transit Center, although maybe not on stilts). Facebook, Google, Apple, etc already pay for operating the buses, and would add more if the buses achieve high enough utilization.

The under appreciated links are not SF/LA, though I'd prefer rail to flying due to overall logistics (same reason I prefer Eurostar to discount airlines).

The real winners will be Fresno and Bakersfield to SF or LA. Lower living costs, and tying those economies into the Bay Area. Having an office of your startup out there becomes just as reasonable as doing one in Fremont or Pleasanton.

The actual Fresno<->Bakersfield link itself (from one terminus to other) I think will be less likely -- the drive is boring but most likely you're not going from city center to city center and the local transport is limited. So I'd probably still drive down 99.

Aside from the benefits to daily commuters there is demonstrated demanded for travel among the west coast that can be satisfied by this. How many people fly between SF and LA every day? There are large number of short flights between all of the west coast cities. A train would be cheaper. Current security practices would make the train faster for short travel as well. Increasing human bandwidth between our cities will be very valuable for the economy.

Given the need to get to an airport early for security/etc, time of flight, time to get bags/transport/etc upon landing -- unless it is a business trip that is a day or two long, driving between the Bay Area and LA area isn't really that much longer.

Still, SFO and LAX is the most traveled route in the US, with 30,000 flights in 2015 [0]. If HSR is viable anywhere in the US it’s this route.

[0] https://www.mercurynews.com/2016/07/05/americans-fly-lax-sfo...

I wonder how many passengers on that route are on connecting flights. HSR is likely to be an alternative for those who have LA or SF as destinations, but not for people traveling onward.

I don’t know why I did the math to answer your question, but I did. Please don’t upvote me, I don’t want encouragement for this behavior.

Apparently 1% of the total traffic in LAX in 2015 was for connecting flights to SFO [0]. Assuming this ratio didn’t change much in the following two year... considering LAX’s total traffic for 2017 was 84M [1] this means 840K people transferred from LAX to SFO. During 2017 3.5M people traveled from LAX to SFO.[2] This means about 24% of the traffic to SFO from LAX was for transferring flights. My numbers are clearly estimates because I couldn’t find a good record of every passenger itenary in the US which is what would be required for more the most accurate data. This also doesn’t cover passengers using SFO as a transfer station to LAX.

Interesting enough JFK to LAX has recently become the most traveled route in the US with 30K more passengers a year than LAX to SFO, which contradicts my previous statements. [2] It’s possible LAX to SFO has more total flights, if you assume shorter flights use smaller airplanes.

[0] https://www.anna.aero/2016/05/25/transfer-traffic-at-top-fou...

[1] https://www.lawa.org/-/media/lawa-web/statistics/market-shar...


Granted this was 20 years ago, but I used to fly a fair amount out of the Bay Area. I don't remember ever catching a connecting flight at LAX. Usually it was one of Denver, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Atlanta[1] or Las Vegas.

One of the arguments I did read that was convincing is that Bay Area and LA basin airports are near capacity. Diverting passengers from the LA to Bay Area route would free up capacity for long distance flights. Thus alleviate the need to expand those airports. In the discussions I've had it's come up that expanding airports in built up areas is massively expensive. They want to add a third runway to Heathrow at a cost of £14 billion. That's 25% of the projected cost of CHSR.

[1] When you die, no matter if you go to heaven or hell you'll transfer through Atlanta.

The reason I was wondering is because I found I was transferring through LAX more than leaving the airport. Atlanta, of course, is a stopover almost every time I go to the South.

I suspect it may depend strongly on where you are going.

However when I did fly I occasionally went to a client in LA. Would fly in the morning and fly out same day usually. Back then from home in SJ to client in LA was about 2-3 hours all things included. If I had to do it via high speed rail probably would rent a hotel in Palmdale and ride the rest of the way in the morning. Then straight back the next evening. Unless ticking made that $$$

Do yourself a favor if you havent already and go get TSA precheck. I havent shown up to an airport more than 30 minutes before boarding in years. Depending on the airport, I might not even show up until 10 minutes before boarding. Both SNA and TUS are both amazing for this.

I have Global Entry -- which gives precheck, but still get to the airport early. There have been times -- SeaTac is notable for this -- where the Precheck line is longer/slower than the regular line.

It's pretty funny that we still talk about HSR in California as a hypothetical, over 10 years after it was approved. Obama wasn't even in office yet. There's not a single piece of it you can ride, anywhere, despite the $9 billion it got approved for from day 1. The first transcontinental railroad only took 6 years to build, in the mid 1800's.

There are a number of problems that they didn't have in the 1800s, namely that there weren't so many holders of land along the route but there were also a lot fewer regulations, etc. Not to mention very cheap foreign laborers.

Yes, of course - very obvious findings. People in my home town in Italy (Reggio Emilia) can now commute with Milan every day (50 minutes). Something that was not possible before the high-speed train station in Reggio Emilia. I sincerely do not understand why people in California is not running to build this infrastructure as fast as they can!

Improving commuter networks invariably helps housing but it does further the trend of allowing (from a planning perspective) the hyper-concentration of industry. These centres inflate local property prices and top-end salaries, forcing lower-end people away from where they work. As new commuter towns get established, the lower classes and forced further and further away.

They've been trying variants on this for two hundred years in the UK. It's always ultimately self defeating. The only way you fix it is dispersing industry.

Americans hate hate hate public transit. If you are “successful”, you show it by having a car. Transit stations are almost always in the worst location, because a good location has such high land value it’s financially impossible to justify just a public transit station.

Also, Unlike japan where stations can also be commercial spaces resulting in both revenue and making the transit location super popular, in the us transit locations of course have to be public land and government can’t be seen profitable leasing out said land (unless it’s for a sports team :p)

A big component is the class issue. Since dialogue about class is verboten, it is never discussed.

We are building a trolley line in San Diego to alleviate car traffic along a main freeway artery (Downtown -> UTC). There were several lawsuits along the route from property owners. A complaint which surfaced again and again was: "building a trolley station near my house will cause a decline in the neighborhood because there are homeless people and druggies near the trolley stations."

Never mind that a multi-million dollar train line is being built right in your neighborhood. If you own property in San Diego, you will never take the train. Because the train is for homeless people and drug addicts.

The answer seems to be (as per the law of headlines) No.

You'd think CHSR proponents would've noticed that comparison with Japan makes little sense not even because of density, but because Japan already (and had when they started building the Shinkansen) an extensive local rail and other transit network -- you can actually get to the train and get to where you actually want to go from the train.

Exactly. It was the "extensive local rail and other transit network" that made public transport magical when I visited. I was based in Kyoto, but we could "pop into" Osaka. Blew my mind.

Yup. Only times I used taxi or ridesharing in Japan was when I flew in with elderly relatives, and taking Uber to the hotel made far more sense than trying to herd 6 people and their luggage through several train changes, and when we were stuck on Mt. Fuji because the kid decided to try hiking to the top, forgot to turn on his phone, and we missed the last bus back (pro-tip 1: calling a taxi to the half-way station on Mt. Fuji and going to the nearest train station is bloody expensive; pro-tip 2: even in a middle of summer, once the sun sets it's bloody cold up there).

Other than that, getting anywhere using transit worked great; but the Shinkansen is a very small piece of the puzzle.

A problem not compared here is that in most of the rest of the world public transit is actually predominately used by those with money, not those who "can't afford a car". In the US public transit is where someone is more likely to find homeless, drunk, unwashed, or otherwise uncouthly scented (smoking, perfumes, body-spray, etc) individuals and tight seating that forces undesired social interactions.

Public infrastructure of all sorts, quality, quantity, and affordability of housing, healthcare, and handling the social issues of the less fortunate are all different facets of larger issues in the US. Addressing them properly requires a comprehensive, national-scope of effort (but with local tweaks), approach that would eliminate or consolidate the right parts of red tape, incentivize desired results across large geographic regions. It would need to steamroller over entrenched local politicians, NIMBY housing owners who want a magic wand to freeze time at the highlight of their lives (cost to anyone else be ignored), and transcend both gerrymandered political areas and voters with too little time, education, and wisdom to start on the enlightened path.

However, it is also about culture. The American Dream, one of prosperity for all, is at odds with the other american dream, "making it big". A pipedream usually enabled mostly by having the right social connections thanks to rich parents and a private safety net that allows taking big risks until one pays off.

People with money use transit in NY or Chicago, too, because it works (more or less) and is sufficiently convenient. But in both places you can use transit to get reasonably close to where you're going. When I lived in SV, it was theoretically possible to get from my home in San Jose to office in Sunnyvale, but it involved either getting up at some ungodly hour to maybe, possibly find parking at Caltrain stop, or spending few hours on buses.

Building CHSR alone will price out people who live close enough to train stations, but without all the supporting infrastructure it is very unlikely to actually do anything for the housing crisis.

Light rail (including subways) already have. These solutions all suffer most of the same problems and it really doesn't matter which one succeeds, as long as they aren't part of a fantasy about revenue expectations. Over time, they pay for themselves...until the corruption sets in.

The HSR might make jobs more viable for people living outside the bay area, but it will make things worse for people living within the bay area.

The last proposed plan would have the HSR running over 100 MPH less than 100 feet from my bedroom window.

Another negative is that this will accelerate gentrification in the newly expanded commute zones.

Not comparable. The US can’t build infrastructure at a competitive cost, but it can build products. Hence Tesla etc will succeed here while HSR will fail.

Oh yeah just, Hyperloops from sea to shining sea.

It's great that people are considering the long-term for CA housing, for once, but won't the HSR still take nearly fifteen years to complete?

Merced is not the economic hub of the region. Why are all the rail lines running there?

UC Merced

I think that "nationalizing" the rail lines would be in the best interest of the country. Passenger rail will otherwise always take a back seat to freight.

Imagine taking, say, $50B that gets dumped into the quagmire that is Afghanistan and using that instead to modernize and expand the current rail system so that it can handle even more freight as well as performant passenger service.

Uh, no.

The US freight rail network is the most efficient in the world for ton/mile/dollars. It crushes long-haul trucks for bulk/unit loads, manifest, intermodal...the list goes on.

It is in no need of nationalizing, and if you did that you'd end up with a vastly slower network built for something entirely different than what you're talking about.

Build a totally new network on better alignments/grades with higher speeds for passengers only. Leave the freight railroads to their work.

My original point: "expand the current rail system so that it can handle even more freight as well as performant passenger service."

Right of ways are challenging. It's not about pushing freight off of existing lines, it's about investing in the rails we have now so that capacity and speed can be enhanced.

> My original point: "expand the current rail system so that it can handle even more freight as well as performant passenger service

My own point: the freight rail system is optimized for freight. Nationalizing it does no good. Build a totally separate passenger rail network with different loading gauges, requirements and signaling that is designed for passenger trains.

Good luck getting the land for that.

> Passenger rail will otherwise always take a back seat to freight.

moving all the freight to something less efficient would 1) have significant environmental impacts and 2) raise the cost of all consumer goods, disproportionally harming the poor.

No, freight gets to use the existing rails. We just invest in expanding capacity on the existing right of ways (with a minimum of eminent domain to widen when possible).

> I think that "nationalizing" the rail lines would be in the best interest of the country. Passenger rail will otherwise always take a back seat to freight.

Yes, it takes a back seat to freight and it should. Freight is very important to the US and a disruption of our freight system will have some seriously nasty effects. The current rail system serves this country quite well. It might go unnoticed by most people, but its important. Frankly, the under appreciation of how good the US logistic system (rail, truck, air, vessel, and barge) is a real shame.

You also could have cited this part:

> expand the current rail system so that it can handle even more freight as well as performant passenger service.

I never suggested sacrificing freight traffic in any way, actually the opposite.

That’s the problem. What’s good for freight is bad for passengers and good passenger lines are horrible for freight. Even the model is different (B2B versus B2C). The mixing is a big problem and any disruption in the current network would affect a lot of people. The private freight carriers are doing a fine job.

I'm just taking an armchair analysis here, as this is a subject that has interested me for a while.

Things like Positive Train Control (which is erratically and incompletely implemented), investing in parallel tracks to allow more interleaving of service and in more rigorous (but sensible and properly funded) safety measure are all relatively modest investments that could put a lot more cars on the rails.

> The private freight carriers are doing a fine job

Yes they are, for freight and they have zero incentive to share. If the costs for making it painless for them to share are mitigated, then everybody wins.

My original point is we're flushing money down the toilet in foreign lands and if it was redirected into an investment like this would be money better spent.

We're never going to have proper high speed rail, but at least we could have medium speed rail...

If the costs for making it painless for them to share are mitigated, then everybody wins.

No everyone loses when you add cost because you want to add some passengers to a system that is expressly hostile towards passenger train needs. Cost add affects everyone including the poor who won’t benefit.

Do it new and stop trying to take from someone doing a damn good job.

There is no added cost directly. The original proposition was based upon "free" money: shifting existing dollars from failing and fraudulent expenditures in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The other part of that "cost" is effectively investment in enhancing existing capacity.

I was arguing to make the system not need to be hostile to passenger needs by improvements of the existing infrastructure.

The other point that I failed to emphasize is that I'm working with the primary assumption that getting the necessary right of ways would prohibitively expensive and in some cases close to impossible.

But the rail lines are private in Japan...

The US is not Japan.

I'd go a step further: Nationalize the oil and transportation companies and re-tool them for High-Speed rail as reparations for the damage they willingly inflicted to this country.

They deserve it for encouraging the urban sprawl that created this mess in the first place.

This is how you quickly become a 3rd world country

Why not just nationalize everything? Lol.

That's the spirit!

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact