CARRD Charges Two CHSRA Board Members Have a Conflict of Interest

Sep 28th, 2010 | Posted by

Californians Advocating Responsible Railroad Design – aka CARRD, a group of HSR critics based in Palo Alto – today charged that two members of the California High Speed Rail Authority board, specifically Curt Pringle and Richard Katz, hold “incompatible offices” and that the Attorney General’s office should investigate.

Their basis for the claim is a letter from the Legislative Counsel dated April 23, 2010 that concluded that because Pringle as Mayor of Anaheim and Katz as a member of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board have a conflict between those positions and their membership on the CHSRA board, that the offices are incompatible under state law:

Accordingly, it is our opinion that an individual who is the Mayor of the City of Anaheim or a voting member of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority may not simultaneously serve as a member of the High Speed Rail Authority under the common law doctrine of incompatibility of public offices that is now codified in Section 1099 of the Government Code.

It should be kept in mind this is just an advisory opinion, and that it doesn’t carry any legal force. Hence CARRD’s call for the Attorney General to investigate:

CARRD Co-founder Elizabeth Alexis said, “This situation is jeopardizing the public’s confidence in the integrity of the process and must be resolved as soon as possible. We urge the Attorney General to take immediate action to remedy this situation.” CARRD is in complete agreement with a statement made at a recent CHSRA meeting by board member David Crane. Mr. Crane stated, “What all of us should want on something that is the largest public works project… is a process that everybody can have complete confidence that everyone is doing things for the right reason.”

The LA Times picked up on this story, and shed some light on the background to this issue, which was raised by anti-HSR State Senator Alan Lowenthal several months ago:

In June, Lowenthal addressed a proposed deal — backed by Pringle — to use $200 million in high-speed rail money to complete a huge, canopied transportation center next to Angels Stadium in Anaheim at the southern terminus of the bullet train’s first phase. Lowenthal said it looked like parochial interests were taking precedent over statewide interests.

CARRD also offered a timeline of the issue as it pertained to the CHSRA, including the recent board meetings where Quentin Kopp proposed a motion regarding incompatible offices. There has been speculation that Kopp and Pringle have been at odds over the HSR project, particularly since Pringle ousted replaced Kopp as board president last year, which might explain some of this. (Note: Quentin Kopp explained that Pringle did not “oust” him, but that his term as president merely expired, and Pringle was elected to replace him.)

Pringle has previously indicated, in an interview with the anti-HSR writer Tracy Wood at the Voice of OC, that he is “swearing off” elected office when he steps down as Mayor of Anaheim in December. Pringle’s term as an OCTA director expires at the same time. Still, CARRD believes this issue was important enough to call a press conference about it, in order to give a public push to get this issue investigated.

It’s not exactly clear what CARRD seeks from this. Do they want Pringle and Katz off the board? If so, why? Perhaps they want to clear the field for the next governor to appoint more new members. CARRD has been a strong advocate for more local involvement in the project, yet they are going after two local officials who have done quite a lot to provide exactly that kind of local engagement, particularly when OCTA, Metro, and the Gateway Cities in Los Angeles County called for further study of track sharing. So that begs explanation.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting Pringle and Katz stay on the board if the Attorney General says they need to go – but neither am I saying they ought to resign immediately. (And it may be the case that a legislative exemption would clarify this and enable them to continue to serve, as do many other local officials who serve on regional transit authorities). I’m not quite sure why this issue needs to be discussed and decided right now, and would love to hear from CARRD and others who share their concerns as to why this is worth pursuing and what kind of outcomes they want to see on the CHSRA board as a result of any investigation by the Attorney General’s office.

UPDATE: CARRD obtained a letter dated July 30, 2010 from the Attorney General CHSRA CEO Roelof van Ark suggesting that “your potentially affected members review the relevant law for themselves…and take appropriate steps to clear up any lingering issues.”

UPDATE 2: There’s been some discussion in the comments about CARRD’s motives, so let me add my thoughts. I had a good conversation with Elizabeth Alexis earlier today, who indicated that CARRD is primarily motivated by a desire to both enforce the law, and more broadly to see the CHSRA reformed to become more effective.

As CARRD’s Sara Armstrong said, they’re not a neutral organization, and they have and will continue to be much more critical of the project than I think is warranted. And the commenters are right to place this move in that context. At the same time, it’s clear that this is an issue the CHSRA board has already been dealing with, and while CARRD may be trying to force the issue, it was going to be forced by someone, one way or the other, before much longer (and note that Quentin Kopp was trying to do that already).

There seems to be a convergence of events – this particular issue, the gubernatorial election, and the ongoing legislative criticism of the CHSRA – that indicates to me we are likely to see in 2011 some kind of reform of how the CHSRA operates. I’m open to what the details of that reform are, so long as it does not compromise the ability of this project to get built on-time and in the manner that the voters approved in November 2008.

  1. lyqwyd
    Sep 28th, 2010 at 16:52

    yeah, I’m also interested to know why this is of any importance, just seems like typical procedural stuff. Elizabeth, care to shed some light on this?

  2. jim
    Sep 28th, 2010 at 17:11

    I’m not sure what the issue is. Katz is deemed to have resigned from his LA positions, not the CHSRA. If Pringle is reappointed to the chair of the CHSRA at the end of this year, he will be deemed to have resigned from the Orange County Transportation Board.

  3. Elizabeth
    Sep 28th, 2010 at 17:57

    It is a serious law. Some jurists have called it “fundamental to the democratic process” of representative government.

    What do we want?
    We want a resolution of the current situation.

    We want the AG to take lead, not wait for a “properly formatted” request from a member of the public.

    We want the governance and project structure fixed so that people like Richard katz don’t have to get a seat on the Authority board to make sure the project engineers are paying some issue to the concerns of LA and other cities.

    Along with the original documents, we have posted a lengthy FAQ/ Timeline for a print friendly version

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    Yep, it’s been about three months since the last scandal troll the “Neutral” CARRD has thrown out. More delaying tactics??

    “If you can’t win, delay?”


    joe Reply:

    What’s the specific problem?

    “It’s not exactly clear what CARRD seeks from this. Do they want Pringle and Katz off the board? If so, why?”

    Answer .. “This is a serious law” … “We want a resolution of the current situation”

    Uh?! That’s not an answer.

    “We want the governance and project structure fixed …”

    CARRD wants to discredit the HSR project.

    The governance and project structure is NOT impacted by an individual’s potential conflict of interest. The claim is two people’s personal situations put them in conflict and are not suited for the board.

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    The hypocrisy is that if CHSRA would have paid for their precious tunnel, they wouldn’t have said anything. Why else sit on this for nearly two months.

    The goal is clear, get two high profile board members kicked off or forced to resign. Hope like hell Meg Whitman wins in November. Lobby for board members who will kill the project.

    All because of a tunnel, on land that already has big loud noisy trains traveling on it every day….

    joe Reply:

    I hear ya man.

    There will be no tunnel. HSR isn’t going to build one for free. Palo Alto’s hardcore stance makes it too hard & too late to ask the citizens to raise the money necessary to bury the project once all appeals and roadblocks are cleared.

    I do think HSR will be built. It will run via SJ to SF. It will not stop in Palo Alto.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    So the CARRD reasoning allows for no elected officials on the CAHSR Board because anyone else would not have parochial interests?

    lyqwyd Reply:

    Sounds like grasping at straws to me. I don’t really see it as all that serious, especially since it seems that waivers are given for this type of thing regularly. If you have evidence that there’s been some sort of abuse, that would be more interesting.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Elizabeth: The provided timeline does not provide a detailed explanation for why Pringle would forfeit his seat on the CAHSRA board as of 11th January 2010. The event starting on that date is labelled as ‘Orange County Transit Authority Board’, which previously started in January 2005 and apparently forfeited as of 2nd March 2007. Was there an actual lapse of Pringle’s membership of the OCTA board ?

    Nadia Reply:

    @thatbruce Yes, he was reappointed

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Basically Pringle illegally continued to serve on the board during the whole time period. His term did expire and he was reappointed and did the whole oath thing, which then puts his HSR seat in jeopardy. Then we get into the fact that given he was illegally serving as Mayor, he shouldn’t have been appointed to the board…

    It is a real mess when the law is ignored.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Basically Pringle illegally continued to serve on the board during the whole time period.

    On the OCTA board? Ok, is CARRD calling for an investigation of Pringle’s actions taken as an OCTA board member?

    His term did expire and he was reappointed and did the whole oath thing, which then puts his HSR seat in jeopardy..

    I’d be a little nervous about resting your case for Pringle’s CAHSRA seat being in jeopardy on a claim that a reappointment without a significant lapse is the same as the initial ‘accede‘, in terms of the cited clause in 1099. His OCTA bio page lists his start date on the OCTA board as 2005.

    Then we get into the fact that given he was illegally serving as Mayor, he shouldn’t have been appointed to the board…

    I think you meant to say “he shouldn’t have been appointed to the CAHSRA board, as that made him ineligible to serve as Mayor of Anaheim”, rather than implying that he was illegally serving as Mayor before he was appointed to the CAHSRA board.

    Likewise, are you (CARRD) calling for an investigation of Pringle’s actions as the Mayor of Anaheim?

    It is a real mess when the law is ignored.

    How long has the law been ignored, or rather, at which point in time did the CAHSRA board recognise the possibility of incompatible offices being held by some of its board members, and what was the delay before some initial action was taken towards resolving the situation, say by seeking legal opinions?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    He was illegally on the board of OCTA from the day he took office on the CHSRA board. UNTIL he was re-appointed, at which point he was okay on OCTA (kind of **) and not okay on the CHSRA. Every time you take an oath it means you finished one term and start another. There is a case involving a city council person that goes through this in excruciating detail

    I mean that since he had ceded his mayorship of anaheim, he shouldn’t have been reappointed to OCTA, since that board by law is made up of the mayors and vice-mayors of various cities.

    We got confirmation from the Attorney General’s office today that Curt Pringle et al are required to take the state ethics training course which includes a section on incompatible offices. Here it is:

    I don’t know when the people involved knew for the first time that this was illegal. They could have known from the day they got appointed (both people are political veterans) or they could have found out when the LA Times reporter called them in June. We have no idea at this point so we are giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and using the date of the AG’s letter as the start date for the days counter we have put on our website (look on right)

    thatbruce Reply:

    He was illegally on the board of OCTA from the day he took office on the CHSRA board.

    That’s another time that you’ve asserted that he was illegally on the OCTA board. Again, is CARRD calling for an investigation of Pringle’s actions taken as an OCTA board member?

    Every time you take an oath it means you finished one term and start another.

    Again, that’s one of those ‘it depends’ situations that lawyers love to bill for.

    I don’t know when the people involved knew for the first time that this was illegal…so we are giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and using the date of the AG’s letter

    Fair enough.

  4. Peter
    Sep 28th, 2010 at 18:50

    I’m still of the opinion that CARRD is playing two different games here. On the one side they claim to be a neutral party seeking “betterment” of the project. On the other side they look for any legitimate excuse to attack the project. Their materials on how the public can participate in the EIR process, for example, are subtly skewed towards helping critics of the project.

    I have yet to hear them publicize something they think the Authority did “right”. Instead, they wait for any and all legitimate opportunities to pounce on the Authority. They’re simply a more subtle and smarter version of the crybaby NIMBYs on the Peninsula.

    You can’t be neutral in this debate while at the same time try to tear down the Authority. That makes you partisan.

    HSRComingSoon Reply:

    I am in agreement with you. If anything, their positioning as a neutral party does not, if I may, pass the “smell test.” CARRD while they are very good are picking apart complex issues, particularly ridership studies, they not neutral. Any argument to the contrary would essentially be a house of cards that folds under the slightest of pressure. I will give them the utmost credit for what they are doing, but when you start becoming your own media outlet, much as Robert has, neutrality is gone, plain and simple.

    CARRD’s official position is this: “We value transparency, accountability and oversight and believe local communities should be partners in designing transportation projects. We work to ensure that the public’s interests are upheld and that all facets of the California High Speed Rail project follow both the spirit and letter of the law.

    We do this by encouraging civic engagement, providing indepth and relevant information, and advocating for changes in how projects are planned. ”

    What ought to be included about CARRD (for full transparency, honesty and integrity) is: CARRD is based in Palo Alto, a city that does not approve of the way the Authority has been working with Peninsula cities and is continuing legal action against the Authority. CARRD’s mission is to supply enough information to PAMPA and other cities who are seeking legal relief and is bent on making sure the route decision is changed to the Altamont instead of Pacheco routing. CARRD, like PAMPA is opposed to the idea of HSR being built in the city if it is not tunneled.

    Peter Reply:

    If CARRD was neutral, they would be pushing for a legislative resolution for this, not litigation.

    Alan Reply:

    CAARD also encouraged commenters to ignore the instructions in the Draft Revised Program EIR,
    and comment on anything and everything, despite the fact that the CHSRA was not obligated to
    address any comments relating to anything not ordered for recirculation in the Atherton judgment.
    All they’re doing is wasting the Authority’s (that is, the taxpayers) time and money in an effort
    to delay the project.

    Seems to me that CEQA needs a few tweeks:

    *Amend the “CEQA Guidelines” to provide that when a portion (or portions) of an EIR/EIS is
    recirculated, the lead agency may discard without response any comments that do not address
    the matters being recirculated. CHSRA spent a lot of time and money replying to the comments
    of idiots who whined about ridership numbers, I-280 and 101 alignments, and other things
    that were not required to be recirculated.

    *Provide that if a court finds that a petitioner in a CEQA challenge filed that challenge
    in an effort to frustrate or block the project, without attempting in good faith to address
    legitimate CEQA issues, the petitioner should be ordered to pay the agency’s expenses,
    including increased costs of the project that are attributable to the delay.

    *Require that local government agencies restrict their comments to portions of the project
    located within their city limits or jurisdiction. Palo Alto had the gonads to challenge the
    portions of the Revised EIS that related to Monterey Highway, even though the city of
    San Jose supports the Authority’s proposal. Perhaps, just to be fair, the city of San Jose
    should be given veto power over the Stanford Hospital expansion.

    There might be others, but that’s a start.

    PAMPA’s complaint, as always, is that Pringle, Katz, Diridon, Kopp, et. al., refuse to bow down
    and worship the mighty PAMPA cavedwellers, who as we all know are far superior to we lowly peons in the rest of the known world. Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton are basing their new challenges based upon the Authority supposedly ignoring comments on matters that were not required by the court to be addressed, and the Authority declining to extend the comment period beyond that required by law.

    PAMPA whiners seem to have the opinion that their little towns are some kind of Utopian paradise, off-limits from any requirements of 21st Century society. Bull. I can think of a dozen other suburban communities in the Bay Area alone that are far superior to PAMPA. I can’t wait for PAMPA people to be taught a lesson in humility.

    Alan Reply:

    Here’s another: *Commenters should be required to certify that they have actually read
    the section of the draft EIR/S on which they are commenting, and to certify that their
    comments are their own, and not based upon a form letter or boilerplate provided by
    any other person.

    It was crystal clear reading through the comments on the Draft Revised FPEIR/S that many of
    the commenters, particularly from Burlingame, were only doing a “fill in the blank” sort of
    thing, provided by someone (in this case the city of Burlingame) who slanted the
    boilerplate in favor of the joys of tunnelling… If these people had actually *read* the draft,
    they would know that the 280 and 101 route alternatives had been eliminated for good
    and substantial reasons.

    Peter Reply:

    I don’t think that’s really a problem because boiler-plate comments are easy to respond to with either “Comment noted” or “See comment 123”.

    Alan Reply:

    It’s a problem because the Authority still has to waste money printing at least 2 pages
    for each of those non-comments, for the several hundred hard copies of the Final EIR/S
    that they sent out. Those non-comments bloated the size of volume 2’s PDF to over 90
    megabytes, and they still require the Authority to expend resources to compile the
    non-comments into the EIR/S.

    The biggest problem, though, is that it shows that those commenters are unwilling to
    listen to reason. They want their tunnel, and sound reasoning of engineering or
    finances go in one ear and out the other.

    Sara Armstrong Reply:

    CARRD is most definitely not a “neutral party” nor do we claim to be. We come from a community perspective and have a definite advocacy position. Specifically, we are all about open, collaborative *process*. We believe that good process will get us (Californians) the best project, which we define as: “one that meets the transportation goals of the State and at the same time enhances the communities through which it comes”.

    On the other hand, we do try to steer away from advocating for particular implementation outcomes, so in that sense we are “neutral” about certain aspects of the project. And we like to stick to facts and data, so we avoid conjecture and hyperbole.

    This issue is about the public trust. There is a clear law. It appears that law has been violated. And no one is above the law, no matter how talented or wonderful or helpful or experienced they are. For us, the ends do not justify the means. Wanting High Speed Rail for California does not trump the need for open government.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “It is a contradiction in terms: you can be open or you can have government” ~Sir Arnold on Yes Minister.

    rafael Reply:

    AFAIK, CHSRA board members receive no compensation other than travel expenses for their work. The positions are honorary, which means these individuals need some other form of income to pay the rent/mortgage. Excluding those who happen to hold public office at the local or regional level because of a supposed conflict of interest would significantly constrain the pool of qualified candidates. Would you rather have representatives of PBQD, Bechtel and others serving directly on the board?

    If you want competence while avoiding any hint of conflicts of interest, you need to pay board members a salary so they can afford to resign from their previous jobs.

    Btw, if board members cannot or will not try to direct HSR funds towards certain local projects, the representatives of that city at the state level will be happy to do just that. Remember when Rep. Leland Yee (SF) got away with inserting language into AB3034(2008) that established funding primacy for “San Francisco Transbay Terminal to Los Angeles and Anaheim”? Voila, the entire state is now legally required to “help” fund the construction of a poorly designed, nose-bleed expensive tunnel between 4th & King and downtown SF before it can even think about laying any track to San Diego or Sacramento. Yes, voters did approve that when they approved prop 1A(2008). It was either that or no HSR at all.

    Politics is the art of the possible. No amount of “process” is going to eliminate the influence of powerful local and/or regional interests from decision-making. At best, that influence will become more transparent. Won’t change the outcome, though.

    Victor Reply:

    Agreed, And until board members are paid, CARRD should shut up, As their showing themselves to be uninformed Luddites.

    Alan Reply:

    If every community which could possibly be affected by the project could have its own
    representative on the board, it wouldn’t be a board at all. It would be a third house of
    the Legislature.

    I see no evidence that supports the contention that the board members are only looking
    out for their own cities.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I’d settle for a single member who wasn’t exclusively looking out for the interests of the lead consultant.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    PBQD gains nothing from naming an intergalactic spaceport after Diridon.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Pan-galactic. And imagine San Jose’s surprise when they find out it’s all going to be torn down for the bypass to Betelguese, fiddly bits in Norway and all.

    Alan Reply:

    The Vogon constructor fleet shows up any day now…

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    What it’s called doesn’t matter, except in that that can grease the important parts, namely what it costs and who gets paid.

    Alan Reply:

    What it’s called is humor…

    Peter Reply:

    Wow, thank you for finally admitting to not be neutral. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard of CARRD stating it was not neutral. I have heard the opposite, in fact. “We don’t have a position”, “we’re just interested in improving the dialogue”, and “we just want everyone to know the facts”. THAT was what CARRD used to claim.

  5. Nadia
    Sep 28th, 2010 at 20:04

    CARRD’s website has been updated further, including the statements we made today during our Press Conference:

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    I have read your document the, crux of your complaint is on page four.

    “Unfortunately, despite a commitment from the CHSRA to implement CSS, it has not been successful. In order to succeed, serious structural changes in the 4‐tiered layer of consultants currently planning the project must occur.”

    Translation: You won’t pay for what we want so now we are going to try to get you thrown off the project and get someone appointed who will give us what we want.

    Wow, you may disguise what you do in press conferences and professional .pdf but your no different than Morris Brown et. al.

    The cloak of righteousness you wear makes me sick.

  6. peninsula
    Sep 28th, 2010 at 20:24

    All decisions made by CHSRA under a conflicted board need to be cancelled and re opened under a corrected board. That’s what the next lawsuit needs to be about.

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    Won’t change much Pringle was just elected chair recently. I don’t even know if he was on the board when Pacheco was decided.

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    Yep he was. Still won’t change things. Looks like it’s more of a guideline than a rule really.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, it is a statute. I’ve said in another thread, and Robert agrees above, that this is an issue best resolved by legislative action, rather than a protracted court battle. If the Legislature wants the project to continue at all, it needs to simply pass a bill that exempts Board members. Pure and simple.

    joe Reply:

    Still, it’s not a statute that accusing a board member of being conflicted invalidates the project.

    “All decisions made by the CHSRA…need to be cancelled and reopened.”

    How do the alleged conflicts invalidate the EIR?

    peninsula Reply:

    Board has been convened illegally for 2 years. Lets let the courts decide, shall we?

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    This is exactly what CAARD is after.

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    Although the work has been already done. Say they throw them off the board, and appoint two more people. CAARD has no say in who get’s appointed.

    It’s not going to change the results of the works already performed, even if I accept your premise. The work performed by CHSRA which is much larger than the two people in questoins does not mean start from scratch.

    It’s all just delay…

    peninsula Reply:

    You mean an illegal body makes state altering multi-billion dollar decisions, and that board is declared illegal, but their decisions for the past two years stand? BS. Like when you have a judge presiding over your traffic hearing and he throws you in jail for 5 years – but then find out the judge was not a real judge – but you’re still on the hook for his 5 years sentence?? I think not. The work performed to date was JUDGED, approved, ratified, certified, by an illegal board. The work may (or may not) be valid (and– really who knows? It was judged by a conflicted board) – but the decisions of the illegal board are most certainly invalid.

    Dan S. Reply:

    From the letter from the AG that CAARD posted, it appears to me that the board could never be deemed to be “illegal” at all from this situation. It’s just the state of a board member holding a second incompatible office that is illegal. The eventual outcome of a successfully prosecuted investigation into this matter is also unclear to me, but the law states that accepting an incompatible second office results in the forfeiture of the first. So I think the most that could happen is that CAARD will force these guys to give up one of their posts voluntarily before the AG forces them to forfeit their original office to ensure compliance.

    There might be other conflict-of-interest laws that apply here, but I don’t think this one affects any of the board’s previous work.

    Of course I’m not actually a lawyer, except from this armchair.

    Dan S. Reply:

    Additionally, it isn’t really clear that these guys are in violation of the statute to me. The letter from the AG says that there are many tests to determine when the incompatibility exists, and it depends on many variables including the responsibilities of the two offices. So again it doesn’t seem as clear-cut to me as CAARD is positioning it. We’ll see.

    joe Reply:

    What is illegal about the HSR Board? Nothing.

    What is the personal conflict of interest that invalidates the EIR? The EIR was litigated. A judge ruled, and found three correctable issues.

    How about running from SJ to SF as planned. Who was conflicted in that decision and what is their conflict of interest that impacted that decision?

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    “Illegal board?” I think we’re getting into ground that’s very similar to that inhabited by right wing paranoid lunatics. Some part of the government standing between you and you’re right to
    tell those worse off to eff off? Bring in the paranoia and charges of illlegality!

    Matthew Reply:

    And has anyone actually seen Pringle’s birth certificate? Everyone knows he’s a secret Muslim hell-bent on creating a death train.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Re: Pringle’s birth certificate. . .

    Help me, help me, I can’t help myself. . .,18127/

    Too late!

    Alan Reply:

    Even if, somehow, Katz and Pringle were found to be on the board illegally, it wouldn’t change much. If their votes were deleted from the Board vote to recertify the EIR, there would still be seven members whose votes would count. The court could allow the votes of those seven to stand, and the EIR would still be certified. Or, appoint two new members to fill the Katz and Pringle seats, revote, and be done with it. I don’t recall reading anything in CEQA that would require an entire EIR to be recirculated on this basis.

    It’s becoming more and more clear–if it ever wasn’t–that CARRD is trying to delay the project to the point where the ARRA funds are lost.

    What’s interesting about the delay tactics is this: Reading the relevent section of the ARRA, I see nothing that requires that *construction* of a project begin by 12/31/2012. The ARRA funds are available until that date, but I see no requirement that the disbursement must wait until ground is broken. One could also argue that construction has begun, with site preparation for the new Transbay Terminal. Yes, I realize that the Transbay JPA is a different agency than CHSRA, but the projects are intertwined and there are MOU’s in effect between the agencies. Just goes to show that it’s not all black and white–there are gray areas to examine…

    thatbruce Reply:

    Or, since the phrasing is that the first office needs to be forfeited upon taking up the second, Katz and Pringle’s seats and actions on the CAHSRA board stand, and their actions on the OCTA, Metro, Metrolink boards and as Mayor of Anaheim within the applicable time periods need to be checked for conflicts of interest. That’s what I read from CAARD’s timeline as presented ;)

    peninsula Reply:

    Or, since they did not forfeit their offices, they kept them, and they kept taking action under both offices for the entire time, they’ve tainted the actions of both offices, with conflict of interest.

    Alan Reply:

    Try reading the law, Peninsula. If Pringle and Katz were appointed to the CHSRA after
    they accepted the other posts, *the other posts are forfeited*. So it’s the other agencies
    that have a problem, not CHSRA. But thanks for playing, Don Pardo will tell you about your
    lovely parting gift…

    Alan Reply:

    And as much as I hate to interrupt Peninsula’s rant with a few facts, let’s look at the actual text of
    the actual statute, shall we?

    >1099. (a) A public officer, including, but not limited to, an
    >appointed or elected member of a governmental board, commission,
    >committee, or other body, shall not simultaneously hold two public
    >offices that are incompatible. Offices are incompatible when any of
    >the following circumstances are present, unless simultaneous holding
    >of the particular offices is compelled or expressly authorized by
    >(1) Either of the offices may audit, overrule, remove members of,
    >dismiss employees of, or exercise supervisory powers over the other
    >office or body.

    Doesn’t seem to be a problem there…the CHSRA board cannot audit, etc., OCTD or LAMTA,
    and the boards of OCTD and LAMTA cannot audit, etc., the CHSRA. A CHSRA board member,
    *acting in that capacity*, cannot exercise supervisory authority over one of the other

    >(2) Based on the powers and jurisdiction of the offices, there is
    >a possibility of a significant clash of duties or loyalties between
    >the offices.

    Not likely, since CHSRA is building and will operate a statewide transportation system
    which will not be in competition with OCTA or LAMTA, which operate local transit systems in
    one metropolitan area.

    >(3) Public policy considerations make it improper for one person
    >to hold both offices.

    Public policy considerations are a matter for the *Legislature* to decide, not their Legislative
    Analyst, nor the courts.

    Maybe that’s why the AG’s office hasn’t felt any big hurry to intervene…because the chances of
    incompatibility are slight, and the risk to any of the involved agencies minimal.

    But again, let’s not bother CAARD with facts…

  7. Spokker
    Sep 28th, 2010 at 20:54

    Would it also be a conflict of interest if Buena Park mayor Art Brown is on the OCTA Board of Directors and Chair of the LOSSAN Committee?

    How many boards can you be on?

    Nadia Reply:

    There is no incompatibility issue of an OCTA board member also being a Mayor of Anaheim or a Metro board member serving on the governing board of Metrolink. There are clear exemptions for these situations in the law – as there likely are for people like Art Brown. The problem is that High Speed Rail board position does not mix with any local office.

    Spokker Reply:

    What are you afraid of?

    Art Brown is the mayor of Buena Park. Buena Park got a Metrolink Station recently. A Placentia station, long planned, has not materialized. Do you think that if the mayor of Placentia was on the OCTA Board, a Metrolink station would magically appear?

    What is the common sense fear here?

    joe Reply:

    “Common sense fear” You should trademark that one.

    Look, if HSR was bad, the mayor of Buena Park would have use his super-conflict-of-interst-magic-powers to put the station in Placentia.

    How any of this nonsensical, contradictory stuff invalidates HSR from San Jose to SF is beyond my imagination – and I followed LOST from Season 1.

    thatbruce Reply:

    There is no incompatibility issue of an OCTA board member also being a Mayor of Anaheim.

    A Regional Transportation Authority and an elected City position.

    (There is no incompatibility issue of) a Metro board member serving on the governing board of Metrolink.

    A Regional Transportation Authority and a Regional Transportation Authority.

    The problem is that High Speed Rail board position does not mix with any local office.

    How is the CAHSRA, another Transportation Authority, different from the other Regional Transportation Authorities mentioned as not having any conflicts, apart from having a remit covering half of the state between defined endpoints ?

    Alan Reply:

    It isn’t at all. And having read the statute in question, it appears that there is a rather
    large gray area when it comes to defining “incompatibility”. Here, we have a situation
    where CHSRA board seats are considered to be “incompatible” with other public offices
    mainly because CAARD claims it to be so. Not good enough. As to the Legislative Analyst’s
    opinion–as others have pointed out, it’s an opinion, and a non-binding one at that. Another
    lawyer might take a very different view. I hate to break it to CAARD, but lawyers do disagree
    from time to time. However, I do agree that this is a matter which should be put to rest,
    which the Legislature could do quite easily.

    Nathanael Reply:

    In the UK you can be a member of Parliament, a member of your local county council, a member of your local district council, a member of various other local boards, and have a government job, *and* have a private job. All at the same time. I really don’t see the problem.

  8. John Burrows
    Sep 28th, 2010 at 21:39

    Try Googling “Calif High Speed Rail News”
    Go down about 4 listings to “News for Calif High Speed Rail News”
    Observe the 3 stories listed:

    #3– Burlingame votes against joining high-speed lawsuit for now.
    #2–Redwood City won’t join high speed rail suit.
    AND #1–“Watchdog says High Speed Rail Authority jeopardizes the public”

    How convenient that the CAARD story turns up at this moment– The news has been bad from Burlingame and from Redwood city — Maybe we can create a diversion with this story.

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    Exactly! The winds were shifting our way again. The next lawsuit will be laughed out of court. Jerry Brown (pro-HSR) is ahead in the polls. Things weren’t looking good for them. So they trot this out, much like they did last quarter with the sham fraud claim on ridership projections. (Proven false thank the stars, where’s your retraction CAARD???)

    peninsula Reply:

    Proven false? Or perhaps you mean blatantly ignored? By???? An illegal board. hmmm.

    As for Burlingame – did you even read the article? They aren’t joining this one specifically because they are saving their money for the next lawsuit – one that will be more specific to their particular issues. Smart. Keep the lawsuit train rolling…

    Redwood City – (by the way, they didn’t vote on this…) Sure they say they are still of a mind to collaborate to get the HSR ‘done right’ (ie: underground). Sound familiar? Translation – they’re simply at a different point on the contiuum of moving down the inevitable road to lawsuit.

    joe Reply:

    “Sure they say they are still of a mind to collaborate to get the HSR ‘done right’ (ie: underground). Sound familiar? Translation – they’re simply at a different point on the contiuum of moving down the inevitable road to lawsuit.”

    Yes we now know the unreasonable demand we all pay to bury HSR tracks in rich people’s neighborhoods for free is just a different point in the the continuum of stopping HSR.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Yes the 2 most expensive housing market in the US..they can pay for difference for a tunnel over 30 years easy..

    joe Reply:

    Entitlement. it runs deep in the priciest zipcodes.

    peninsula Reply:

    That’s funny, cause some people would say that poor people waiving a ‘greater good’ flag so they can rip off people that work for a living ‘entitlement’.

    Nathanael Reply:

    People that work for a living? Palo Alto’s loaded with people who made their money off gambling in the stock market, as well as people who work for the living. Some people might want to think about that.

    Victor Reply:

    Oh good luck on that. Go Jerry! I voted for Jerry Brown in ’78 and ’82, I know exactly what went on back then. He’s no ones fool and yes He did sell the mansion and rode around in a Plymouth instead of a fancy limo, He was in favor of HSR back then and I’d say He’s the man that the CHSRA needs now. Oh and yep He’s cheap on perks, He’d rather not have them, Back then He was derided as Governor Moonbeam as He thought the state should have a satellite in orbit for emergencies, Like for when areas of the state have been devastated by a earthquake, We have one now and We all have Jerry to thank for the idea.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    He is light years better then a billionare snob from atherton that will be able to do nothing..Arrine had at least in the early months his Hollwyood hero image to help.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Thank You..Media loves drama news and any “dirt” that can be thrown at HSR is just more negative images that naysayers want..thou is this issue not over as Pringle is not running for mayor as well as Katz leaving the LAtransit board?

  9. Drunk Engineer
    Sep 28th, 2010 at 22:17

    Look no further than the Caltrain Joint Powers Board for an excellent example of what happens when the membership has conflicts of interest. All the members represent other transit agencies, and have repeatedly sabotaged Caltrain to promote an agenda not in the interests of Caltrain ridership.

    In particular, a pattern of just giving away valuable Caltrain ROW — to BART, to cities, to the VTA, and now to the CHSRA in the “shared” ROW agreement (biggest give-away of all). And let’s not even go into all the ways Caltrain capital funds have been “loaned” and diverted to other projects.

    So, yes, Elizabeth is correct. This is a big deal.

    Clem Reply:

    It’s the gift that keeps on giving: BART encroachment is now leading to the proposal of a 2.5 mile tunnel. San Mateo encroachment is now leading to “holding the western property line” come hell or high water. VTA encroachment is now leading to the proposal of a double-track underground VTA spur. If I was a civil engineering contractor I’d make sure this pattern continues unabated.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Metrolink seems to work a lot better, doesn’t it?

    Sure, you can dispute whether the Pasadena Gold Line was the wisest use of that piece of ROW, but I don’t see any of the same sort of narrow turf wars and bizarrely counterproductive choices you’re seeing in Northern California. And this despite a *lot* of different agencies and organizations in the greater LA area.

    joe Reply:

    How is sharing the ROW with HSR a giveaway since Caltrain will benefit from the HSR funded ROW improvements?

    Clearly CARRD wants to kill all train service – which would devastate their local economy.

    Bring on the cars! I say it’s time to turn on those 101 metering lights and route more traffic on local streets.

  10. Clem
    Sep 28th, 2010 at 23:05

    The best characterization of the CHSRA Board that I have ever come across is this. Engineers are nowhere to be found. What is essentially a part-time political body rubber-stamps anything that is handed to them by the engineers behind the black curtain (Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas). What few tiny shreds of technical information we do have (technical memos, system requirements, etc.) were obtained–nay, pried from their clenched fists–through the diligent efforts of CARRD.

    Some dunces confuse support for HSR with support for the structure, composition and conduct of the Board. You can be pro-HSR and still be dismayed by how this organization operates. It will take more than one citizen watchdog group to keep them on the straight and narrow, if that’s even possible. And if you don’t like that, look at it this way: anything that doesn’t kill this project will make it stronger and better.

    Critical thought is in especially short supply.

    Dan S. Reply:

    I agree about the CHSRA Board being sadly lacking in HSR experience, but I’m not sure its purpose was ever supposed to be very technical in nature. The CHSRA website describes it as a “policy board”, which to me indicates it’s basically a political steering committee anyway.

    “The Authority has a nine-member policy board (five appointed by the governor, two appointed by the Senate Rules Committee, and two by the speaker of the Assembly) and a core staff. The majority of the environmental, planning and engineering work is performed by private firms under contract with the Authority.”

    However, there sure can be conflicts of interest in such a body. I don’t have a big problem with a citizens’ group using the prescribed civic process to shine some sunlight in that direction, even if their motivations are quite antagonistic to my personal goals for the project.

    joe Reply:

    yet the CEO of the HSR project is well qualified.

    from the merc.
    “Roelof van Ark, who became the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s CEO in June, certainly has the transportation background, engineering skill and business sense to lead the multibillion-dollar infrastructure project.

    But he falls flat when it comes to firing up a crowd.”

    “To his credit, van Ark concedes that his strengths are in engineering and business. “I’m not a politician,” he said.”

    Caelestor Reply:

    Not to be snarky, but I wouldn’t trust the Mercury News if I were you.

    StevieB Reply:

    You don’t trust that Roelof van Ark “falls flat when it comes to firing up a crowd”. What proof do you have? Can you provide citations?

    Dan S. Reply:

    Anyway, speaking of not having an engineer anywhere to be found, what about the CEO? Doesn’t he count for something?

    joe Reply:

    The HSR CEO is criticized for being too much engineer, not enough politician.
    The Board lacks engineers.

    Following the HSR criticism would give ya serious Whiplash

    joe Reply:

    Refusing to bury the tracks in Palo Alto isn’t an engineering mistake.

    The CHSRA Board does not rubber stamps documents and CHSRA does not use horrible engineering contractors.

    And we haven’t found any examples of horrible engineering … what the three issues in the litigated EIR and a typo in the ridership study.

    Oh, conflict of interest!

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Palo Altans not getting over their massive privilege and sense of entitlement is the *real* mistake.

    Alan Reply:

    Amen to that…

    orulz Reply:

    Please let us not idealize China too much. Yes, they get massive projects done quickly. But then again, so did Robert Moses. Now look at Moses through the eyes of history.

    In China, there is no NEPA. The decisions their board makes are likely final and not subject to appeal, and in most cases are probably based entirely on engineering concerns, not impacts. They probably do an assessment of the impacts, take them into consideration however they feel like, and render their decisions.

    As much as the CHSRA lacks transparency, I imagine that its counterpart in China is probably worse. Government in China is not known for its transparency. Government panels convene secretly, take no public input, have no accountability to the public, and pass down their decisions from on high.

    Is there corruption in China’s HSR board? Maybe, maybe not. But nobody would know. Corruption is still a real problem in China, as much as the communist party tries to stamp it out by issuing death sentences to those convicted.

    There is no such thing as a reverse condemnation lawsuit in China. Any property taken by the government is taken, and there is little recourse if the compensation is unjust.

    The state controls the media in China. It is impossible for opposition to a project to form or to gain a voice other than the voice that the state-controlled media wants it to have.

    Given the choice between the Chinese system that gets things done but is oppressive, and the American system which can sometimes move excruciatingly slowly I’ll take ours any day.

    joe Reply:

    And spain, france germany England japan, all oppressive hell holes that have and continue to build HSR.

    orulz Reply:

    But they run into the exact same sort of community issues that California has. The letter Clem linked to was comparing the CHSRA to its equivalent in China. Of course the Chinese board is going to be more efficient. They have the backing of the communist party and thus what they say GOES.

  11. Peninsula Rail 2010
    Sep 28th, 2010 at 23:23

    In the crucial early design stages of BART, BART’s board and staff also severely lacked engineering expertise, reducing it to rubber-stamping whatever designs PBQD and Bechtel came up with. This is exactly how PBQD wanted it, allowing them to gold-plate the design with no public oversight checking their rent-seeking. History is repeating itself quite clearly, and it’s no accident either.

    It’s not just the CHSRA board that lacks engineering expertise. CHSRA’s staff is skeletal and also lacks engineering expertise and thus any effective oversight ability.

    Matthew Reply:

    Are you upset because the project is “gold plated” or because you’re not getting a tunnel?

  12. dfb
    Sep 29th, 2010 at 02:05

    From the little I’ve researched it, the conflicts may pose serious problems for the high speed rail authority. It may invalidate actions in which the conflicts existed and negate quorums that required either or both to be present (for corporate boards, failure of a quorum invalidates board action during that meeting). There could also be charges of improper or ex parte lobbying since they retained incompatible offices simultaneously. If correct, it opens the door to challenges of actions now considered decided (assuming Katz and Pringle cast deciding votes or were required for a quorum) and will likely cause delays in items they do vote on. If anything, the project and its decisions will be tied up in courts, scaring off private investors, irking the public, and making another mockery of our state government.

    dfb Reply:

    I meant to also add that what actions will be negated will apparently be based on the facts of the situation, which means a trip to court will be required. And we all know how long courts take to make decisions.

    joe Reply:

    When you wish upon a star….

    Dan S. Reply:

    Please provide your research materials. I have yet to see anything that suggests anything like that.

    Matthew Reply:

    Obviously not a lawyer, otherwise dfb would have used the phrase “alleged conflicts.” I think we can safely ignore this legal opinion.

  13. Spokker
    Sep 29th, 2010 at 04:18

    Off-topic, but I think Amtrak’s HSR plans make CAHSR look a lot better by comparison, haha.

  14. TomW
    Sep 29th, 2010 at 06:31

    If two of the members have a conflict of interest through holding other jobs, they should be told to resign either the other job or the board position. What’s so complicated about that?

    Elizabeth Reply:


    Peter Reply:

    Or the Legislature could correct its oversight and retroactively exempt them from this statute.

    CARRD’s current approach: Mole hill –> Mountain

    StevieB Reply:

    Government moves slowly. It will be interesting to see if anything is done before Pringle’s elected office terms expire at the end of the year.

  15. Clem
    Sep 29th, 2010 at 09:44

    OT: machinations are afoot to carve out a $200M IOU from future Prop 1A money to fund Metrolink’s positive train control system. This PTC system, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with HSR, and does not fall within the $950M allocated to commuter and urban rail agencies under Prop 1A.

    Let the carve-up begin!

    “I want to thank the governor and the Legislature for the enactment of SB 1371, and the subsequent actions by the CTC, which together puts Metrolink one step closer to implementing PTC. Metrolink’s goal is to operate the safest passenger rail system in the U.S. and implement PTC years before the federal mandate,” said Richard Katz, Metrolink Board of Directors Vice Chair and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board Member. “There will be no compromise when it comes to safety at Metrolink.”

    Speaking of conflict of interest, who is this Katz guy, anyway?

    Peter Reply:

    Hmmm, have they figured out what technology they want to use? This would be highly relevant to HSR if a shared-track alternative is chosen. Otherwise, no relevance whatsoever.

    dave Reply:

    This guy Katz wants to spend HSR Prop. 1A money to upgrade a FREIGHT Rail Corridor just because Metrolink uses it? That’s just plain STUPID! Let the Freight Company wether BNSF or UP to fund it, it’s mandatory anyway by 2015 why not save that money for actual HSR direct related expenses in that area? Someone has to say something to this guy, this is just idiotic!

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Caltrain’s CBOSS has nothing to do with HSR either — nor, for that matter, does it have anything to do with anything but making Caltrain’s World Class in-house PTC consultant dude into a big fish in a really really really really small pond.

    But that doesn’t prevent America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals at the Peninsula Rail Program going all-out to funnel as much public money as possible into as few non-competitive pockets as possible.

    The entire $10 billion “High Speed Rail” bond issue is well on its way into disappearing without a trace into the black holes of Caltrain, BART, Metrolink, Transbay, Muni, Amtrak and any other fifth-rate scammer with a tenth-rate rail program who pulls off a “connecting transit” political cram down. This is no problem for the CHSRA consultants, of course: they have fingers in every pie and won’t lose out no matter which direction the money flows; in fact, the less HSR accomplished the better, because that just means a higher total spend over the decades.

    mike Reply:

    Very interesting link. Looks like the second link got garbled – here is a corrected version.

    But are you sure that the PTC part does not fall under the $950 million? The description of SB 1371 specifically says that it “authorizes ‘letters of no prejudice’ (LNOP) for the $950 million in high-speed passenger train bond funds, intended for capital improvements to intercity and commuter rail lines, and urban rail systems.”

    $200 million is greater than SCRRA’s share of Prop 1A funds ($124 million), but it’s less than MTA + SCRRA’s Prop 1A funds ($239 million combined).

    Clem Reply:

    No I am not sure, and thanks for fixing that link. I compared $200M to the official allocations of the $950M and it didn’t fit. It is possible that SCRRA + MTA may share the allocation, but it would be surprising if they blew the whole wad on PTC. It is also possible that the $200M PTC project budget would not be entirely funded by Prop 1A. A close examination of Metrolink board meeting minutes and staff reports might provide the answer.

    Sorry to see that Metrolink and Caltrain are separately re-inventing the wheel.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Sorry to see that Metrolink and Caltrain are separately re-inventing the wheel.

    Sorry, but you can hardly be surprised. Maximizing expense while engineering the worst possible outcome is that only thing the consultant scammers know how to do.

    Re wheel reinvention: it’s even worse than than that, because UP and the other freight railroads will call all the shots on anything on which any of their equipment runs. So invent all the wheels you like (and spend as much public money in the process), but then burn the wheels when you’re done! A perfect scenario for the mafiosi!

    You can bet you last dollar that UP will demand that all of its locomotives system-wide, as well as any locomotive that it might use anywhere on its system, be fitted with Metrolink’s and with Caltrain’s Own Special Needs Special Snowflake PTC Systems, as well as whatever crazy shit that other commuter railroad nutcases come up with in Utah, Oregon, Washington, etc, etc etc.

    The scope for cost explosion is almost infinite.

    To reiterate, the only possible way that any of this could remotely possibly work (assuming one wants it to actually work) is:
    1. ETCS/ERTMS off the shelf for Caltrain+HSR. Any freight (an “no freight” is the correct answer) on the Caltrain corridor accommodated via time separation and physical separation (derails, lock crossovers, etc). No Amtrak, no other crap.

    1a. Physical separation of Caltrain+HSR from UPRR+Amtrak+ACE+junk between San Jose and Santa Clara. (Easy. Just lay a single track, which is guaranteed to be far cheaper than any multi-PTC guaranteed catasrophe.)

    2. ETCS/ERTMS off the shelf for HSR into the LA Basin and through Anaheim or whatever crazy stub is built. No shared track. Any Metrolink equipment that shares the HSR track and stations is a captive non-FRA fleet, which is a perfect solution for Orange-Anaheim-LAUS-Burbank-Sylmar-Palmdale anyway.

    2a. Any (almost certainly unnecessary) use of track through Anaheim “narrows” is done by physically locking the track (derails, etc) and dedicating it exclusively to FRA or non-FRA: no “shared” use, just as with Caltrain.

    3. Whatever UP/BNSF want for all the “commuter railroading” junk leftover in the Western US, including the other Metrolink lines, ACE, Amtrak. The freight operators are guaranteed to be calling the shots anyway: the more that the tiny stupid technically incompetent little “commuter railroads” and Amtrak do the more money will disappear with nothing to show for it.

    rafael Reply:

    re 1a. Isn’t the section between Santa Clara and SJ Diridon already triple-tracked anyhow? The section between SJ Diridon and the Monterey Hwy isn’t, the biggest obstacle to that might be the single VTA light rail track just south of Diridon station.

    re 2. BNSF traffic volume between Fullerton and San Diego is very limited, just 1-2 trains per day on those typically at night. Between the Hobart Yard in Commerce and LAUS, there are already fully grade separated dual passenger-only tracks. If the section between Hobart Yard and Fullerton can be upgraded such that there are 2-3 freight tracks and 2 passenger-only tracks, Amtrak PS and Metrolink’s OC line could share those IFF timetables can be integrated and platform height plus car width issues resolved.

    Note that Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and the Metrolink 91 line are currently slated to keep using the BNSF tracks between Fullerton and Hobart Yard.

    I’m not suggesting that sharing two tracks between three operators running a total of five services would be at all trivial. I’m just surprised you dismiss it out of hand on PTC grounds. Switching between multiple, potentially incompatible signaling systems is an operational hassle but perhaps more realistic than constructing tens of miles of elevated tracks, tunnel sections and/or widening the right of way. IMHO, the entire PCJPB-owned corridor and any passenger-only tracks between LAUS and Anaheim should both use ETCS/ERTMS. It might well make sense to keep using that all the way down to San Diego. Legacy operators using those corridors should be offered a limited lump sum so they can equip a certain number of locomotives with compatible cab equipment and fund staff training, in addition to whatever AAR-spec PTC solution they choose to implement outside of these corridors on their own dime.

    Peter Reply:

    Either that, or, if Metrolink and Caltrain insist on a science project, then why don’t they do a joint science project, and pool their resources to increase the likelihood that they will actually succeed at their ridiculous science project.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    timetables can be integrated

    They have no choice in the matter. If they don’t integrate their timetables the trains will tend to crash into each other.

    and platform height plus car width issues resolved.

    Trains with different widths and platform heights can share the same tracks. They do it all over the world all the time. Stations are the icky bit when they don’t.

    Joey Reply:

    Trains with different widths and platform heights can share the same tracks. They do it all over the world all the time. Stations are the icky bit when they don’t.

    Stations are precisely the problem. What’s your point?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Silly me I was confused by the word “track” There’s a relatively cheap and effective solution to the stupidity of selecting different loading gauges or platform heights or both – more platforms.

    I use trains that go to stations that have been using the same platform height and loading gauge for almost a century. Big noisy diesel trains followed by quiet electric trains all on the same tracks and using the same platforms. In, I know this may be shocking, the United States. Run by different operators. Over tracks owned by different railroads. … the last frog war was in the 1860s or so. They figured it all out way back when, between railroads that were competing with each other viciously.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Your comments about multiple platforms tickled a brain cell or two, and drew up the memory of the Pittsburgh trolley system, as it was going through a drawn-out modernization program.

    At the time the program started, the system was running PCC trolleys exclusively, on a traditional trolley allignment with street running, some stops at island platforms in the street, and also on interurban-like mileage with light rail, I would say about 75 lbs/yard.

    The modernization included new articulated cars, conversion from direct suspension trolley wire and poles to catenary and pantographs, considerable underground trackage, notably in the downtown area, general rebuilding of track and other facilities, and new stations, both above ground and in the new downtown subway.

    The station platforms and the cars themselves had to deal with multiple heights. The PCC cars continued to run for years (being converted to pantograph operation), and remained configured for low, curb-height platforms. The new articulated cars had to handle low platforms (island platforms in the street trackage), and also had provision for floor-level platforms in other areas on private right-of-way and in the tunnels under Pittsburgh; this was done with multiple sets of doors, with one door having steps and being configured for low platforms. The stations themselves either remained strictly low platform in the case of the street islands, or had both high and low platforms in designated areas to handle either the new articulated cars or the still-running PCCs.

    Sound complicated? Well, it did complicate construction of both equipment and stations, but as to operation, the cars just stopped where it was appropriate. Keep in mind, we are talking about single-unit PCCs and single and double unit operation of the articulateds. Oh, a couple of other complications include some rather steep grades (it is a trolley line, of course), and a track gauge of 5 feet, 2 1/2 inches, or six inches wider than standard, inherited from way back into horse car days. This was for much the same reason as BART chosing an odd gauge, which was to avoid interchange with steam railroads–only in this case, it was due to city officials who didn’t want the trolley line running long trains of interchange freight cars down city streets!

    This track gauge was once quite common in Pennsylvania, being used on quite a number of systems in that state, including many of its interurbans, among them the famous West Penn Railway. It’s still in use today in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and is also in use in New Orleans, La. It was also used in my home city of Wheeling, W.Va., which was interesting not only for having this broad gauge on part of its street railway system, but for having another system in the same city, running on many of the same streets, that was standard gauge! Dual gauge track with three rails was used in those areas.

    Another city with a lot of dual-gauge trolley track was Los Angeles. The famous Pacific Electric (the Red Car line) was standard gauge, and had a lot of private right-of-way, with freight interchange operations. On the city streets, though, the PE also ran with the narrow-gauge (3 feet, 6 inches, or Cape Gauge) Los Angeles Railway, or LARY (the Yellow Car line). Again, three-rail dual gauge track was used.

    Joey Reply:

    I’d like to see you try and add more platforms to the Transbay Terminal, or Millbrae, for instance. Anyway, it makes transfers a pain, and severely limits flexibility. Solutions like this are possible but consume extra width and force more difficult maneuvers for pedestrians wishing to transfer from one train to another. The combinations of high and low platform heights on and around the NEC are a result of legacy systems which were not designed to be compatible, and force a lot of awkward solutions for railcars which can serve both platform heights. CalTrain, on the other hand, will be entirely replacing its fleet within the coming years with no one else except a couple of freight trains sharing its tracks. This presents the perfect opportunity to eliminate the significant cost and hassle associated with two different platform heights once and for all. There is little reason to do anything else.

    Joey Reply:

    D.P. Lubic: MUNI (in San Francisco) also operates a light-rail system with two different platform heights. Their solution is movable steps. When serving low platforms, the steps are down. When serving high platforms, the steps move up to the level of the floor, allowing level boarding.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The combinations of high and low platform heights on and around the NEC are a result of legacy systems which were not designed to be compatible, and force a lot of awkward solutions for railcars which can serve both platform heights.

    Putting level boarding all at once at hundreds of heavily used stations was not an option. Since California doesn’t face that problem it’s not going to need a solution.

    All of the level boarding platforms on the NEC are the same height. All of the level boarding platforms on the commuter systems that connect to the NEC are the same height. In other words any train can go to any platform. They managed to come up with this solution a century ago among railroads that were fierce competitors.

    Level boarding is available at the major stations and has been for decades. Everything except Acela has very usable trap doors over the stairs that let passengers use low platforms. Not particularly elegant but not very awkward either.

    orulz Reply:

    Doesn’t Prop 1a have a 50/50 match requirement? Therefore, if the PTC project is $200 million, at most $100 million can come from Prop 1A. Or does the 50/50 requirement only affect the HSR project itself, not the SB 1371 transit improvements?

    A 50/50 match would make sense for transit, since New Starts transit projects generally get 50% funding from the FTA. In fact, perhaps they are planning on applying for FTA funds to implement PTC.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Clem: “It is possible that SCRRA + MTA may share the allocation, but it would be surprising if they blew the whole wad on PTC”

    Wouldn’t surprise me one bit. It’s the single largest unfunded mandate facing SCRRA and MTA, and if they don’t get it together fast it could shut down Metrolink entirely. And then there’s the Chatsworth crash, the initial cause of the PTC mandate — a Metrolink problem!

    I’d blow the wad of it on PTC if I were them. I’m hoping Metrolink has the sense to adopt something which is already functioning. Since they have to have transcontinental freight interface, you know they’ll use something which is carrying US freight already. Whether they choose the Amtrak/NJT/Metro-North/SEPTA scheme or the Michigan Line scheme I don’t much care, but I hope they don’t try to reinvent the wheel again.

  16. D. P. Lubic
    Sep 29th, 2010 at 18:36

    Off topic, but interesting anyway, Politico cartoon linked up through the Infrastructurist:

    How often has it been commented upon, and not just by me, that the American way of life, as defined as an automotive utopia, has become the American security threat?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Some comments on the Infrastructurist tickled my brain cells, leading to the recollection below:

    “Your comments about schedules reminded me of my first place of residence in Martinsburg, W.Va., which had a (normally) short drive of under 10 minutes to cover about 3 miles to my place of work.

    “What stood out was that, in coming out of the side street that lead to my apartment, every morning I would see the same other three vehicles and their drivers–a fellow in a green Dodge, another guy with a white and silver (stainless steel) milk tanker, and a third guy in a white Chevy, and myself in a white Chevy as well. We all would meet at this intersection (the fellows in the Dodge and the milk tanker on a through route, going through non-stop), and then the two Chevys would pull out. Very often we would be in the same order every day.

    “What this tells me is that the talk of a car letting you set your schedule is about a lot of hooey. What really sets your schedule is a guy called a boss. I don’t know of any who would take to having you set your own schedule, much less just let you go fishing or something.”

    So often we get charges about “myths” of rail transit. Seems the “freedoms” of cars can be mythical, too.

    jimsf Reply:

    The “freedom” of having a car is a lot of hooey. When I had a car, I was a slave to it. Dependent on it for everything. A slave to car the payment, a slave to the insurance payment, a slave to the 2-3 times a week to the gas pump. A slave to dragging around a 3000 pound chunk of metal everytime I wanted to do anything or go anywhere. A slave to the “driving around looking for a parking space” routine. Even in the suburbs where you shop at malls with parking, you still have to do the “drive up and down the aisles” thing. Hundreds of dollars a month up in smoke whether I needed it everyday or not.

    Now I take that 400-600 dollar monthly expense and put it in my retirement instead and use some of it to take vacations. Meanwhile, when I need to go somewhere I a) use my muni pass, b)take bart, c) fly off on vacation c)take the train for free, or d) rent a car once in a blue moon when I need one. It leaves me free of monthly payments, free of liabilities, I never look for parking, and I have no idea whatsoever what the price of gas is nor do I care. THAT is freedom.

  17. D. P. Lubic
    Sep 29th, 2010 at 18:51

    Also off this particular topic, but of note for past discussions here, some commentary via a weblog from Nine Shift (scroll down a bit) on the generational change in driving; this is the weblog and site of William Draves, the fellow so quoted in the Advertising Age article about how computers and other electronic gizmos are largely driving the shift out of cars. I think he overestimates this effect, but that doesn’t mean those devices have no influence, and there is certainly no doubt about thechange in attitude toward cars among the young.

    General link to what I would call the “mother site.”

    Older weblog entries on the generational factor:

    I do believe many of us here would agree we are dealing with a lot of “rage on the right;” the question is, how do we effectively deal with it?

  18. Elizabeth
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 16:46

    We updated our site again to add a letter we sent to the AG asking him to enforce the law

    We also posted the transcript from the last board meeting where they discussed incompatible offices in the context of an amendment to board policies that Judge Kopp had proposed. Remember that this takes place AFTER each board member should have gotten a copy of the warning letter from the AG’s office. Link to the meeting video is on our site on the timeline

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