Bay Area Council Slams PCC

Jul 30th, 2010 | Posted by

Wow.

That’s the first and perhaps best response to this letter to the Peninsula Cities Coalition from Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman regarding what he calls the PCC’s “obstructionist policies towards California high speed rail and the grave danger that they pose for our state.” Read the whole thing:

BACtoPCCreHSR

This is an extremely powerful statement from a very important and influential person, with key ties in the Bay Area. Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council, once served on Mayor Dianne Feinstein’s staff and as chief of staff to SF Mayor Frank Jordan, from 1992 to 1995. The BAC, as they’re often known, represents a who’s who of Bay Area corporations, including Chevron, Wells Fargo, Google, Safeway, and others.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jim and others at the BAC in the past, although it was on other projects (namely, their efforts to call a Constitutional Convention for California), and respect their work greatly. However, I had no idea this letter was in the works until it was emailed to me just minutes ago.

The Bay Area Council played a major role in helping bring mass transit to the Bay Area. They were the ones who proposed the concept that became BART and provided the political backing to get it supported both in the Bay Area itself and in Sacramento. They weren’t responsible for the specific design details of BART, so if you’re not happy with where it goes or how the system works, don’t blame the BAC. But without them, there would have been no mass rapid transit system in the Bay Area of any kind.

They’ve played an important role in recent years in supporting the high speed rail project, in the state legislature and on the ballot. As the voice of Bay Area business, they quite well understand the importance of HSR to the region’s future. While some claim the HSR project will cost too much, the Bay Area Council and its members clearly understand that, in fact, the cost of doing nothing isn’t zero – that HSR is necessary for these companies and the region as a whole to remain competitive and prosperous in the 21st century.

So in that sense, it is very welcome for the Bay Area Council to call on the PCC to reconsider its approach to the HSR project. They echo statements made to the PCC last week by Californians For High Speed Rail Vice-Chair Daniel Krause and Executive Director Brian Stanke, who both expressed a desire to work with the PCC but also to have them dial back their rhetoric on the project.

CA4HSR, and now apparently the BAC, know that the people of the Peninsula, including these five cities, strongly support HSR and want it built. We agree with the PCC that it also needs to be built right. And we seek to find the common ground that enables us to work out any issues and ensure that the will of the voters is respected and the HSR project built – a project necessary to a high quality of life on the Peninsula.

Let’s hope this letter leads to positive outcomes on the Peninsula, and a new approach to ensuring HSR is built, Caltrain saved and improved, and the Bay Area’s future strengthened.

  1. Peter
    Jul 30th, 2010 at 15:33
    #1

    Wow. I hope this was also emailed to every journalist on the HSR beat in the Bay Area.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Me too. Kinda wish they hadn’t released it on a Friday afternoon, but still. Hopefully this helps pull the PCC back from the brink and convinces them it’s time to take a more constructive approach to getting HSR built.

  2. Caelestor
    Jul 30th, 2010 at 16:10
    #2

    Cue BAC bashing in 3, 2…

    Peter Reply:

    Morris hasn’t woken up from his afternoon nap yet.

    Spokker Reply:

    That’s a personal attack, Peter! That’s a big no-no! The poor people of Menlo Park have never attacked anyone. They never say a bad word about anybody. Please do not attack these poor disenfranchised people.

    jimsf Reply:

    The bigoted anti- napists need to know that their first amendment rights end where the napper’s begin.
    Let the protests begin two… four… six… hey…… we can nap away the day!

    Clem Reply:

    That’s a bit out of line. I think it ought to be possible to disagree without disrespect.

    Peter Reply:

    Hey, it’s nothing like what Richard spews out every day.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What Richard says is amusing. I’m sorry, but the line, “what your average non-English-as-a-first-language (ie potentially competent) railway engineer with basic skills (ie certainly not American) would toss off in his or her sleep” is funny.

    jimsf Reply:

    Richard reminds me of the recent Mel Gibson a little.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Both you and Spokker are implying that naps are a bad thing. Naps are wonderful. Anyway isn’t Stone Pine Lane in Palo Alto?

    Spokker Reply:

    How can you nap with those trains going by every 15 minutes?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    No beautiful(gag) MenloPark

    jimsf Reply:

    4 out of 5 cats agree.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That would have to include Morris the Cat. . .

    Sorry, sorry, I couldn’t resist, I have three cats.

    I told my wife not to feed the first one. She didn’t listen too good. He told two buddies about the free eats. Now I have three cats, all males, making a bachelor pad out of my place (all they do is eat, sleep, and hang out), and at once in a while one or another of the three thinks the other two should go away.

    One of them got a neighbor’s cat pregnant, and she had five kittens. Now my wife wants one of those. Worse, she wants a girl cat, says we need to balance out the boy cats. . .am I in trouble. . .sheesh!

    Anybody out there want a cat?

    Peter Reply:

    Spay and neuter them. Do you have any idea how many offspring one single male cat can make in a VERY short period of time?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    We have some idea, and that’s on the table. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That would also have to include train-riding Chessie the Cat, from the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway; like most cats, she loves luxury, rides Pullman, Berth Lower 9 on the C&O:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chessie_(railroad_mascot)

    http://www.chessieshop.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=53

    Peter Reply:

    I love naps, and I’m not even 30 yet.

  3. political_incorrectness
    Jul 30th, 2010 at 16:52
    #3

    This is a strong sign that major businesses are behind the project. I am glad the BAC has stood up to the PCC for what they are. Time to stop stallin and get this project moving.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    It’s well past time that others have a voice outside of naysayers and Nimbys.. the mayors of San Francisco and San Jose all need to post their opinion to… this is far bigger than four little towns that grew up along that railway.. I don’t advocate bulldozing every part of the town the lines going thru.. but this nonstop fear mongering and obstructionists attitude needs to be called on the carpet.

  4. Walter
    Jul 30th, 2010 at 20:54
    #4

    The only way we are going to get this built is if “we” are as loud than “they” are. For this, Mr. Wunderman should be applauded. We can’t have the PCC and their small squadron of anti-HSR activists shout down the considerably quieter majority who want good HSR built. We must be every bit as loud, passionate and impossible to silence as they are, if a bit more rational.

  5. Drunk Engineer
    Jul 30th, 2010 at 21:17
    #5

    In other news, the Vatican announces the Pope is Catholic.

    The entire history of BAC is promoting mega-projects requiring lots of concrete. Most recently: Oakland Airport connector, Caldecott 4th bore, Central Stubway, and (of course) BART-San Jose. The BAC is just promoting the interests of its membership. If actual transportation and environmental benefit results, that is just coincidence.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes Safeway is hoping to sell more rebar, google more aggregate from their gravel pits in Mountain View and Wells Fargo a killing on the concrete plants they own. And using less petroleum in in Chevron’s best interest….

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Comment of the month right there.

    Spokker Reply:

    M-m-m-m-mega slam.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Yes Safeway is hoping to sell more rebar, google more aggregate from their gravel pits in Mountain View and Wells Fargo a killing on the concrete plants they own. And using less petroleum in in Chevron’s best interest

    The sprawl-industrial complex isn’t just the sand-gravel lobby. It is big-box retail, finance, oil companies, etc. That an oil giant like Chevron would support the HSR project is very telling.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Chevron may say it supports HSR, but its primary political contributions are to anti-rail thinktanks.

    Caelestor Reply:

    To be fair, I wouldn’t support something that could potentially take away my business. Simple Economics 101.

    mike Reply:

    _Does_ Chevron support high speed rail? I don’t think I’ve ever seen any reference to Chevron having any sort of public position either pro or con.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    then rip everthing up and use a canoe to cross the Bay…

    jimsf Reply:

    These are all projects that bay area residents have been waiting for for decades.

    Joey Reply:

    Really? Many of them, like the OAC and Caldecott 4th bore are very controversial.

    jimsf Reply:

    No they are not controversial. They, like high speed rail, are opposed by a handful of nearby residents who don’t want to be “disturbed. In the case of caldecott, its the froo froos who live in the mucky muck hills near the tunnel, and in the case of the OAC, its not even the neighbors, but their budinsky “political leaders” who object. While on theother hand, most of the anti central subway commentary tends to be laced with racism. All of that so called “controversy” is extremely limited and local. Meanwhile the 10 hundred zillion people who have to drive through the caldecott everyday, have known for 40+ years that the final bore is needed.

    Caelestor Reply:

    The OAC is frankly a waste of money. I just can’t understand why it won’t die.

    The Central Subway is a good idea, but it should be extended to North Beach or down Geary, and there are severe capacity limitations with the current plans.

    Also, you don’t need another tunnel, just take BART and save the environment.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The OAC is indeed a waste of money. Even hardcore rail advocates in the Bay Area agree it’s pointless and that the money should go elsewhere.

    On the other hand, I agree that the Central Subway is a good idea, and it should be seen as a starting point to go up to North Beach or, finally, west along Geary (a corridor that desperately needs some kind of mass transit).

    The Caldecott 4th bore is happening because it’s a political winner for politicians with representatives living in Contra Costa County. I know people like Richard Mlynarik are convinced that there’s some huge concrete/engineering conspiracy to build as many rail projects as possible (oh how I wish it were true) when in fact there is much more political backing being expensive road projects that we really do not need.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Central Subway was botched due to political machination. Sad.

    Geary Street has to cope with the merchants(bonafide nimbys) and BART imperial scheming.

    Coco has social and crime problems which scare residents into the security of their private automobiles

    Joey Reply:

    I always thought of Contra Costa’s auto-dependence as more of an effect of being the epitome of postwar sprawl. Crime is very low in a lot of areas but people still drive because it’s the only way you can get around.

    jimsf Reply:

    First the central subway is designed to be extended north and west. But there is limited funds so it will go as far as it can go for now. The boring machines will exit along the same route that the eventual extension will take place. The original muni metro used to dead end at embarcadero too, and was restrained for years but eventually the money to finish -first the turn back tunnels ( or tail track if you will) and finally the mission bay extension. Thats the way it goes. You’ll see.

    and second and more importantly, I wish you people would realize just how out of touch and elitist it is to makes comments like ” they should just to bart and save the environment”

    There are millions of people in the bay area who have jobs, home lives, and financial situations, that would make it either a hardship or impossibility to use public transit. Like it or not these people need to drive. There time and money is limited, their home and work schedules demanding, and they should not be criticized for having to do whatever they have to do to feed their families. I can work for a public transit agency and still clearly this situation despite being pro transit for multiple reasons, then surely all of you can. This isn’t japan and it isn’t europe and it never will be, not now, not in 100 years.

    It reminds of these idealistic 1960s books I used to read, about “transportation” and “housing” in the world of the future” (1980 and beyond) they were chalked full of idealism and optimism and completely overlooked hard realities.

    Remember all that new “leisure time” that we were suppose to have when “robots took over manufacturing” you know what we call that leisure time now. Unemployment.
    pardon my rant but but not everyone in california is a 29 year old ucla grad. You’re gonna learn the hard way kids.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Like it or not these people need to drive.

    They need to drive because they don’t have any other options. It been the experience worldwide that widening highways just induces demand making the widen highway just as congested as the unwidened highway eventually. Giving them other options may have been better in the long term.

    Tunnel is going to cost 400 million. Agencies, other than BART, would have been able to a lot to offer them alternatives with that kind of money.

    StevieB Reply:

    The car culture is a recent development in the history of transportation. Until the end of world war two the USA was more like Europe and Japan. The government encouraged sprawl by funding roads and zoning for suburban housing.

    Development follows transportation corridors. Government has shown some signs of change in thinking about the suburban sprawl it created. DOT and HUD have promoted a strategic plan to work together toward livable communities. Many things will change in the next 100 years as energy usage changes.

    jimsf Reply:

    Nevertheless, most people are concerned with what they have to do today, to make sure next fridays paycheck gets to the bank. Talk of shoulda woulda coulda doesn’t change the fact that unless you are one of the people who has a job that fits the 9-5 (6-2, and maybe 2-10) description and that doesn’t require you to be anywhere than in one location for the duration of that workday, transit is not an option. Further, if you have family, kids, etc, and have to transport lots of people and stuff all over hell and back, then again, you need that suv, ( in my day it was the stationwagon, same concept, same need) Thats just the way it is no matter how good the transit is. and its one thing for a single person to haul 2 bags of groceries home on muni, while the number of grocery bags for a family of 4 for a week is another story.
    I have a costco membership and costco 8 blocks from here that I can’t even use because I can’t carry home more than one case of cling peaches in heavy syrup in my arms, without a car and using cabs to do grocery shopping eats up any discount. AND, when cars sit idle, they produce more pollution and all those thousands of cars sitting in traffic waiting to go through that tunnel are doing more damage to the neighborhood than they would if they passed through at speed.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    People who move around for their work do most of that moving around outside of rush hour. They are a very small percentage of the workforce. People survived quite nicely before there were station wagons or SUVs. Many many many people right here in the US manage to raise families without an SUV. Fewer but still many people manage to raise families without a car at all. The people without cars who have to feed a family of 4 rub two brain cells together, spend 30 bucks on a granny cart and go to the supermarket twice a week You should look into one, makes a trip to Costco nuch easier.

    jimsf Reply:

    Uh hello, I have a granny cart that has about 1000 miles on it. I can’t live without it. It still doesn’t hold costco sized items. It will hold 4 standard grocery bags. Today it was two bags and a palm tree. I have been living this way for years, decades, but most people will BALK at the idea. Granted, the majority of those balkers tend to be middle class white folks, but balk they do. And if sitting in traffic day in and day out waiting to get through that tunnel, or anywhere else, doesn’t convince them to rub two brain cells together to find a better way, then nothing else will either. They won’t even freakin take public transit to the 4th of july fireworks as I sat and watch them as they’d rather sit in gridlock downtown while they miss the show entirely, than get out of their cars.

    Caelestor Reply:

    The car has its merits. For example, it’s essentially a mini-truck that allows us to go shopping for groceries and other merchandise without hauling around 100 pounds of stuff. You can go on long trips out to the countryside where there’s no feasible way to send trains or buses there. That being said, though, there is an imbalance in the US regarding modes of transportation.

    I strongly advocate a reduction in car trips during commute hour. Solo drivers take up a lot of space when you can pack them into a bus or train. The only thing someone typically brings to work is a backpack or handbag, so there simply is no need for the car. There’s also the option of biking and walking, getting some exercise in the process.

    jimsf Reply:

    but people don’t generally like being “packed” into buses and trains. American’s like their space and perceived “independence”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Jim, they will allow to break the case once you pay for it. So unless you are buying 5 gallon buckets of peaches, they’ll fit in your cart.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Wider car tunnels have been proven not to reduce congestion. There’s enough suppressed demand to fill ’em right up again.

    And why aren’t commuters taking public transport in Contra Costa County? Um, hello, does it even have bus lanes, let alone rail lines? The public transport is *CAUGHT IN TRAFFIC*. It’s imperative to give public transport lanes of its own if you want it to be an alternative to congested traffic.

    Joey Reply:

    Having spent a lot of time on the east side of the Berkeley hills, I can say that reverse-commute tunnel traffic isn’t fun, but there are better ways to solve the problem.

    jimsf Reply:

    and its not just commuting, but the bay is a very active place, people go all over at all times for social reasons and bart much as I love it doesn’t get the job done entirely. In the 80s I spent many a night stranded in the city after the bars closed, bart closed, wandering the streets sweaty and cold, often missing shoe or coat (don’t ask). Its no fun. So people drive to events and parties. You can keep a change of clothes in the trunk and sleep in the back seat if need be. ( don’t act like you’ve never done it)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s very active places all over the world where people get all of their activities done without using a car.

    jimsf Reply:

    but his isn’t all over the world is it? This is California. We have a lifestyle. and while we are open to progress, we are not going to give up certain things. ( I have, but very few will be willing to do it this way and in fact, I get the sense that most younger people around here, despise public transit as something that is for poor people, rather than embrace it)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s frighteningly like all over the world. Just because it has palm trees and earthquakes doesn’t make it all that special.

    jimsf Reply:

    yes it does.

    Joey Reply:

    Given a decently designed, coordinated, and operated transit network, very little has to be sacrificed when people leave their cars at home

    Matthew Reply:

    I think these comments are a textbook example of the fundamental attribution error. People don’t use transit as much in California because there’s not enough of it. To the extent that it is a viable alternative, people will use it, just like everywhere else in the world. No need for American or Californian exceptionalism.

    jimsf Reply:

    drunk, are you even living in or from the bay area? or just another interloping outsider.

    Peter Reply:

    From his own blog, he appears to a bona-fide transit advocate, who just so happens to dislike HSR.

    Caelestor Reply:

    Not exactly. If you read his about section, he reports on the paradoxes of a corrupt, inept leadership in the most scientifically advanced nation in the world.

    Caelestor Reply:

    He lives in Berkeley I believe.

    jimsf Reply:

    Someone from Berkeley who’s concerned about the paradoxes of corruption in leadership. Crazy dirty hippies. ( just kidding but come on now, for real….)

    YesonHSR Reply:

    ..they have always been against big anything..including rail thats were some of these ‘green” haters of HSR are from

  6. njudah
    Jul 30th, 2010 at 22:32
    #6

    Jim Wundermann is a no nonsense guy and the BAC is a no BS kind of group. if they’re getting this serious about it and putting things in these terms, the wealthy little NIMBYs who want to trash California with their petty bullshit are going to find that life is not going to be a cakewalk like it is in the echo chamber.

    Once upon a time California and America accomplished things, made things that worked, and built the infrastructure to be a superpower. Today we are a state, and a nation of little bitches who process shit to death for our own petty short term gains. EPIC FAIL.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    THANK YOU…Njudah…true true true every word!!

  7. D. P. Lubic
    Jul 31st, 2010 at 07:48
    #7

    A wonderful call to the opposition, and wonderfully eloquent, too. I hope it has some effect.

  8. rafael
    Jul 31st, 2010 at 14:16
    #8

    In other news, a new survey in Taiwan suggests HSR may be good for your love life (via HuffPo Trains.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Gives us a new marketing angle, and it makes sense, too.

    How? First, as the article noted, workers can cover more ground to their jobs and get back home faster to spend more time with their families. Second, if you are traveling with your sweetheart, you can give attention to him or her without being distracted by driving (in essence, a variation on the productive time available while on a train). As a corollary to the second point, your sweetheart is also in a better mood for not having to fight traffic and get upset (or having to deal with said upset sweetheart).

    Now, how do we put this in a snazzy, romantic, perhaps funny, TV ad?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Something like this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPt-4Nwght0

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Classic Flick! A personal favorite, too.

    Couple of comments, though, one of which may be of use in the society we have today.

    One, in the dining car scene, in which Eva Marie Saint says to Carey Grant, “I never talk business on an empty stomach,” if you look closely, the scene is dubbed. The censors had a little trouble, and Hitchcock was a little risque, with the original line, which was “I never make love on an empty stomach.” Whew!

    The other is that all this takes place on overnight trains. Didn’t some readers here comment that talk of coast-to-coast HSR sleeper service was a little premature?

    Thanks, we do need reminding once in a while of what we once were–and could be again.

    Matthew Reply:

    Yes, the old train entering the tunnel image. Classic.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Oh, and this movie is a favorite of my friend who brought up the idea of coast-to-coast HSR service in the first place.

    Now, how do I get in touch with Mr. Peabody? I’d like to borrow his Way Back machine, and see if I can’t somehow intercept Carey Grant and get Eva Marie Saint for myself! Have to somehow get her away from James Mason and Martin Landau, though. . .don’t tell my wife any of this. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Another fun thing that only foaming train nuts like my friend and myself would note; that tunnel scene, mentioned by Matthew above and set somewhere between Mt. Rushmore and New York City (roads would be Great Northern and New York Central, or railroading’s NYC) was actually shot in California, as was the cliff scene with the the Mercedes earlier in the film. The train in the tunnel scene looks to be Southern Pacific’s Lark, although it does seem to have an NYC baggage car running in interchange service right behind the locomotives (which reminds us of the advantages of interoperability) . . .

    wu ming Reply:

    they had a great ad over chinese new year that i wish i’d taken a picture of, playing off of that. a lot of people move to taipei and kaohsiung to find work, so the small towns and countryside are pretty disproportionately old and retired folks.

    it had two pictures, before HSR and after HSR, both of the area outside a front door, where taiwanese people leave their shoes (having adopted the japanese habit). the “before” picture had two old pairs of shoes, the “after” picture had a whole extended family’s worth of shoes, including several little kid-sized shoes. it was quite touching.

  9. Observer
    Jul 31st, 2010 at 23:27
    #9

    http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com/2009/10/so-who-exactly-is-this-jim-wunderman.html

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    If you look in that picture that accompanies the article, you can see me standing behind Senator Mark De Saulnier (who is to Jim Wunderman’s right in that photo).

  10. D. P. Lubic
    Aug 1st, 2010 at 05:04
    #10

    The “North by Northwest” clip tickled my brain cells a little bit, and brought up this. Thought you might find it interesting.

    http://www.progressivefix.com/how-america-led-and-lost-the-high-speed-rail-race

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