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Archive for the ‘transit’ Category

Hong Kong high-speed rail begins service

Hong Kong now has high-speed rail service to the mainland:

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor gave the ringing endorsement at the HK$84.4 billion (US$11.3 billion) Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link opening ceremony, which was also officiated by Guangdong governor Ma Xingrui, before leading hundreds of guests to board the train.

Ma described the commencement of the express rail link as a “milestone” in the establishment of the Greater Bay Area – Beijing’s initiative to link Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities to form an innovation hub rivaling Silicon Valley.

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Looks like Saudi Arabia will beat out Morocco for Africa’s the first high-speed rail service in the Arab world:

Saudi Arabia will soon start offering high-speed train services between Makkah and Madinah. According to the local reports, the first rail service will be on September 24, 2018. The 450km line will link the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah and the King Abdullah Economic City of Rabigh.

The Haramain high-speed train line, which has been repeatedly delayed and resulting with cost increases, having originally been due to open in 2012.

There will be eight services daily in each direction until the end of the year, according to the news on Saudi Gazette. Trains on the line will travel at speeds of 300kph, is expected to cut down the amount of time taken to travel between Mecca and Madinah to two hours. It will also shorten the travel time between Jeddah and Mecca to half an hour.

The design and construction of the project will allow it to withstand tough climatic and heavy traffic conditions. Since temperatures in the region range from 0–50°C, the track will be designed to handle the temperature changes.

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Ultra-liberal Berkeley cancelled its Telegraph/Shattuck BRT project. Silicon Valley cancelled its El Camino Real BRT project. Meanwhile in the deep-red state of Utah:

Utah Valley Express, or UVX for short, is a bus rapid transit (BRT) line similar to TRAX that features articulated buses that will reduce travel times by using exclusive bus lanes and traffic signal priority. Additionally, the line will feature station amenities such as real-time electronic displays showing vehicle locations, level boarding platforms and high-end shelters. The line will connect FrontRunner with major Utah Valley destinations such as universities, employment centers, shopping malls, entertainment and downtown Provo and Orem.

Half the route miles are on dedicated ROW, with 6-15 minute headways. The transit system has ambitious plans to eventually construct 200 miles of BRT. Rides will be free for the first 3 years of service.

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Contrary to what you may have heard from the VTA, development around the new Berryessa BART station will be extremely car-centric:

More density and imagination should be employed for the development than what has been shown to this point, said Bob Staedler, principal executive with Silicon Valley Synergy, a land use and planning consultancy.

“The Berryessa development is disappointing, not a real transit-oriented development with that largest field of parking and townhomes,” Staedler said.

The Berryessa retail will have a parking ratio of 4.5 spaces/1,000 sq-ft! To put in perspective, the typical suburban grocery store has a ratio of 3. BART’s TOD guidelines recommends no more than 2.5 (and ideally 1.6).

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Normally I avoid these kinds of apples-oranges comparisons, but it is hard not to benchmark California against Morocco for HSR projects. Both California and Morocco started their respective projects in 2008. While California is stuck doing property acquisitions and environmental studies, it is full-steam ahead in Morocco:

Morocco will debut its first high-speed train by the end of this year. Testing has started on the French-made double-decker train cars that will reach speeds of 320km/h. The trains will carry passengers from the northern city of Tangier to Casablanca and cut travel time by half. Funded by governments in Morocco, France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, the project costs $2 billion.

According to ONCF, tests occurred on several kilometers of the new line with gradual increases in speed, and it was determined that the line is suitable for traffic at 320 kilometers per hour. In May, the test train reached a speed of 357 km/h linking the cities of Tangier and Kenitra, so it is expected to connect the two cities in only 90 minutes.

The Morocco project is 220 miles, similar distance as an initial operating segment in California. Morocco is also upgrading a conventional line to 140 mph.

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The parking lot surrounding North Berkeley BART is the poster child for bad station-area planning. For decades city officials have made vague promises to put infill housing there, but nothing actually happens. The wealthy homeowners who live in the neighborhood vehemently oppose infill housing.

Sponsored by Assembly members David Chiu and Tim Grayson, AB-2923 would correct the problem by transferring planning authority to the BART Board. The bill requires the BART Board to put new transit-oriented-development on all its properties (including in Berkeley). Of course, the Berkeley City Council is siding with wealthy homeowners and opposing the measure:

The Council majority routinely opposes new apartments in the city’s many single family neighborhoods filled with homes selling for over $1 million. The area around North Berkeley BART is one such neighborhood.

Home prices in the area have skyrocketed over the past decade, and some longtime owners who have profited mightily from restricting supply do not want apartments built on the BART station. One way to accomplish this is to keep all decision making authority over the site under the Berkeley City Council rather than the region-wide BART Board.

This insistence on “local control” over a regional asset—BART stations—is why Berkeley will soon oppose AB 2923. Exclusionary zoning that produces class segregation is a way of life in Berkeley, and the Council majority aims to keep it that way.

At a March 15 community meeting to discuss building housing on the North Berkeley BART parking lot, most speakers favored housing. But as noted with Mayor Arreguin’s “support,” opponents routinely say they support the idea of housing while working against getting units built. Putting Berkeley on record against AB 2923 is part of this effort.

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Yesterday’s posting on the Dublin-BART parking garage left out some rather bizarre details on how the funding came about.

The project originally came before the BART board. Twice in fact — Feb and August 2017. Even pro-parking suburban directors were dubious of the project. It was underfunded (BART would have to kick in $10 million matching funds), and would have done little to alleviate the parking shortage. The icing on the cake was that staff came up with ways to add the same number of parking spaces within the existing garage. So the garage was dead…but not for long.

After the BART Board rejected the project, the Alameda County General Services Agency (GSA) went ahead and filed a grant application for the garage. The GSA is not a transportation agency; they manage the health, educational, child care, and other facilities for the county. To qualify for the grant, the GSA needed an actual transportation agency to sign on. So the GSA laundered the application through the Livermore Wheels bus agency (LAVTA). The $20 million grant was approved, even though the garage would be of no use to bus riders.

It is a bit of a mystery as to how the GSA was authorized to submit the grant application. In combing over 18 months of agendas and minutes, I found no record that the project ever came before the Board of Supervisors. The project sits on county land, and will be built and maintained by the county. And there is also the small matter of the additional $10 million the county has to provide for matching funds.

Anyway, it just goes to show that stupid zombie projects can’t be killed. They always find a way to come back from the dead.

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