Cathleen Galgiani Has Some Questions for the LAO

May 31st, 2011 | Posted by

Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani wrote a letter to the Legislative Analyst’s Office last week, and in it she has some tough questions and harsh criticisms for the Office. The LAO, which lost a lot of its credibility with its uninformed attack on the project earlier this month, hasn’t responded yet. But they’ll have to, since Galgiani’s questions are in the form of a public records request:

This letter shall serve as my formal request for a “Public Records Act Request” regarding the May 10, 2011 Legislative Analyst Office report titled “High-Speed Rail is at a Critical Juncture.” As such, I request the following information:

1) The Joint Legislative Audit Committee has the authority to request audits of state agencies. Which legislative entity requested the report conducted by your office?

In other words, the LAO doesn’t just wake up one morning and decide to write a report about the California High Speed Rail Authority – someone has to request it. So who did it? Was it Senator Alan Lowenthal? If so, then what would that imply about his motives for the request?

2) Which local transportation agencies were consulted during the course of your study?

I have no knowledge of the background behind Galgiani’s request, but I would not be surprised if one of the agencies consulted was Caltrain. Galgiani has charged in the past that Caltrain is trying to take the HSR money.

3) Caltrans recently submitted applications for federal high speed rail funds. Competing for these funds these applications were in direct competition with requests submitted by the High-speed Rail Authority. Which division or divisions within Caltrans were consulted during the course of this study?

There could be a few reasons for this question: Galgiani might have reason to believe that Caltrans is angling to take over the project (as the LAO suggested) or that Caltrans colluded with the LAO to write this report.

The LAO should provide prompt and complete answers to each of these questions. After all, their job is to provide information and analysis to the legislature, including Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani.

And the LAO clearly fell down in doing so. After making the above request, Galgiani’s letter goes on to slam the LAO for essentially failing to do its duty:

Guidelines for applying for ARRA funds were issued June 17, 2009 – nearly two years ago. Yet at no time during this process did officials from your office, or members of the Legislature, raise concern about the application process or selection criteria. Your office remained silent until a decision to award billions of dollars was reached, and winners and losers were picked, leaving many regions disappointed, including my own.

In other words, the LAO was nowhere to be found when the events they later criticized were unfolding. Only later – months after the ARRA funding had been awarded – did the LAO pipe up with their flawed report. That’s a pretty big failure of the LAO, and raises the question why they suddenly decided to speak up now.

Galgiani then goes on to show that the LAO failed to do its due diligence in its argument that the stimulus funds should not go to the Central Valley, pointing out the shortcomings of the proposed work on LA-Anaheim and the San Francisco-San Jose segments – and pointing out that the Authority was set up to be insulated from political pressure. One of the ways that insulation works is by giving the Authority, and NOT the Legislature, the power to pick corridors to build. In other words, some legislators – Lowenthal? Senator Joe Simitian? – are trying to compromise the independence of the legislature and the integrity of the process, and may have used the LAO as their errand boy in the process.

Galgiani also points out that the FRA has consulted with global HSR experts in their decision about where to award funding. The LAO, on the other hand, appears to not even realize HSR exists around the world.

Her letter closes with a strong series of criticisms of the serious flaws of the LAO report:

At minimum, a responsible report issues from your office should have provided the following background:

• What are the statutory guidelines for the high speed train grant program under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA)?

• What were the guidelines for states and regions to apply for federal funds as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act?

• What was entailed during the pre-application process in June 2009?

• What criteria were established to evaluate applications for funding?

• What could have been constructed in each segment with available ARRA and Proposition 1A matching funds?

For the LAO’s office to issue a report of this magnitude with a complete disregard for the process used by the FRA and the [US] DOT was misleading at best, and arrogant at worst.

Damn right. The LAO report echoed the bullshit “train to nowhere” framing of the Central Valley segment, but neglected to explain that the Valley segment was the best fit by far given the guidelines for ARRA funding. Worse, the LAO’s report appears to be a politically-motivated intervention in the project, compromising the Authority’s independence and doing major damage to the reputation of the LAO.

It will be interesting to see what the LAO does here. Anything short of admitting their error, retracting their report, and doing it all over again with actual consultations of HSR experts, offering analysis of global HSR and California’s comparison to those systems, assessing the benefits of HSR and the cost of doing nothing, and providing an informed analysis of the state’s project that takes into account evidence and not fantasy, would be a failure.

  1. Gianny
    May 31st, 2011 at 08:14


    joe Reply:

    More than ouch – a head is going to roll – and should.

    The LAO played politics – clumsy and feckless. They broke their trust with the Legislature. Now the lawmakers – who are held accountable by voters – will hold the LAO accountable.

    “While some of the recommendations issued in your report deserve consideration, the timing of your report and the recommendations therein raise grave concerns,” Galgiani wrote to Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor in a May 20 letter (

    Citing California’s Public Records Act, Galgiani wants documents detailing who asked for the report in the first place, which transportation agencies were consulted, and what was the involvement of Caltrans, which the report suggested take over the whole project (and has applied for high-speed rail funds of its own).

    Read more:

  2. morris brown
    May 31st, 2011 at 08:24

    Let me add here some words about numbers the Authority, and Galgiani as well as Diridon keep spewing about job creation.

    In a recent SF Chronicle article, Diridon wrote:

    A project that potentially creates more than 21,000 U.S. jobs for every $1 billion invested

    As usual the numbers he uses are deceiving and not correct.

    First, the metric to be used is not jobs, but job-years; a job created lasting for 1 year. This kind of deception has been used by the White House in promoting the effectiveness of the ARRA funds, and has been widely criticized.

    Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) methods for computing jobs per dollar of construction
    are that for every $1Million spent, three full time equivalent (FTE) construction job years
    are created.

    Using these numbers, the number of job-years created would be 3000 per billion invested, not 21,000. For the Central Valley project using a cost of $6 billion for what they now propose, there would created 18,000 job years.

    The time line for the Central Valley project, and other segments, as given by Tony Daniels, was 6 years. Thus these 18,000 job-years would average out to 3000 jobs per year; that is 3000 workers would have a job for 6 years, as an average, and indeed would get employment, over the construction period of the project.

    Thinking about adding 3000 workers to the payrolls for 6 years is not trivial, but it certainly is not the 21,000 that Diridon, and others , like Galgiani (she used the same numbers in testimony at the Assembly budget hearing on May 25th), would have one believe.

    Finally, the BLS numbers are high relative to results obtained from what ARRA funding has actually achieved in PUblic Transporatation projects.


    Here we see that each billion spent resulted in 19297 job-months which equals 1608 job-years per billion. That is just over 50% of the numbers used above.

    Walter Reply:

    Did Diridon say HSR would generate 21,000 CONSTRUCTION jobs per $1B?

    joe Reply:

    And with 20% unemployment in the central valley your point is….completely irrelevant. Doing nothing is your position – NOTHING. Give the Billions back.

    How many jobs do NIMBY’s create – 0. They destroy jobs.

    Face it – most people don’t have the luxury of worrying about infill development and aesthetics.

    Spokker Reply:

    That a large infrastructure project will create jobs is not in and of itself reason to spend large amounts of public money on a large infrastructure project. Many types of infrastructure spending create jobs, including freeways.

    When it comes to creating jobs the question isn’t, “Build HSR or not?” It’s “build infrastructure or not?”

    Jack Reply:

    It’s lets get as many people back to work as possible.

    Spokker Reply:

    It’s a good thing that infrastructure spending can put people to work in an economic downturn, but keep in mind these are temporary jobs and we have needed these jobs for a while now. This isn’t like the New Deal where government spending can put people to work relatively quickly. Notice how slowly the weatherization stimulus ramped up.

    joe Reply:

    Why is the economic benefit temporary? The economic growth associated with building a bridge in 1930’s is still realized today. I call it the Golden Gate Bridge. Rail is another long term job creation infrastructure.

    Thank goodness the UK study of HSR benefits **debunked the myth** job creation and GDP growth was LIMITED to the construction of the infrastructure.

    The Central Valley will have persistent, increased GDP associated with the HSR project.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But the alternative to getting started on an Express HSR corridor to connect Northern and Southern California is surely to spend either as much money to get less transport capacity or more money to get the same transport capacity in airport and roadwork spending, both of which will required operating subsidy over its life rather than covering its operating cost over its life, as the Express HS will.

    And the state’s opportunity to build the Express HSR corridor connecting Northern and Southern California is greater if the segment is built than if the money is handed back to the Federal government to be spent in some other state.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Government could put people to work quite quickly doing more basic tasks, while developing infrastructure projects for medium-term stimulus a few years out, to sustain recovery. For example, the City of Seattle has identified $800 million in sidewalk construction they’d like to do. It’s all approved and ready to go, just need money to buy concrete and pay people to pour it.

    There’s stuff like that waiting all over the country. We could put people back to work in a matter of weeks if this country wanted to. But our federal government doesn’t care.

    Spokker Reply:

    The federal government may care or not care, but progressive ideas such as environmental regulations and unions hinder the ability of government spending to create jobs as soon as possible and when they are most needed. I’m not saying environmental regulations and union rules are bad things, but you have to take the bad with the good.

    There’s also stuff like this going on.

    “because of a Depression-era law known as the Davis-Bacon Act, recipients of the weatherization funds had to pay the laborers a locally “prevailing wage.” Problem was, very few states and counties actually knew what this prevailing wage was. In June 2009, the Secretary of Energy released a memo urging the fund recipients to begin the weatherization work anyway, while the Department of Labor was working out the wage determinants. If it turned out that the workers were underpaid, the state would pay them retroactively. Most states, however, “concerned with avoiding perceived administrative problems and burdens associated with retroactive adjustments to wages,” chose not to begin the projects until the wage rates were formally established.”

    A very popular Depression-era law designed to keep blacks from getting work on government projects simply BACKFIRES in the modern era when it comes to creating fiscal stimulus. The concept of the unintended consequences of government action is strong in this example.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, clear evidence that we would have been better off if the programs had already been in place and could simply be accelerated.

    joe Reply:

    “The federal government may care or not care, but progressive ideas such as environmental regulations and unions hinder the ability of government spending ”

    Nutty as usual.

    trentbridge Reply:

    What about the multiplier effect? 3000 direct jobs per annum would be 3000 people spending in the communities close to the construction sites, paying income and sales tax, paying rent or for hotel/motel rooms, consuming food, etc. etc. The same construction would require construction materials to be made and transported to these construction sites – more indirect jobs – more spending in the economy.
    It is a naive and simplistic argument to estimate that this amount of spending only results in 3000 jobs. Each billion dollars spent circulates around the economy for a long long time. It’s not like bailing out banks!

  3. joe
    May 31st, 2011 at 09:21

    Interesting is the legitimate complaint the LAO failed it’s job to HELP California. She notes that given the LAO’s criticism now, they’ve implicated themselves for not raising these concerns during the proposal phase when they could have guided the process an met ARRA requirements

    Your office remained silent until a decision to award billions of dollars was reached, and winners and losers were picked, leaving many regions disappointed, including my own.

    I’ve seen this behavior before – individuals wait until the hard work is done by one party of their organization and then, when the funding is available, play local politics to grab money.

    Jack Reply:

    While “we” knew we would be getting a significant portion of the funding our “informed” representatives were in the dark. All of a sudden 4B$ materialized and now everyone wants to raid the project.

    Won’t happen. Thank god these two are termed out soon

    Spokker Reply:

    If there is $4 billion sitting around somewhere, and there is a more cost effective way to spend that money in order to achieve a greater public good, I say go for a diversion.

    $4 billion would do more good if spent on LOSSAN Corridor improvements. We talk about the “second busiest Amtrak corridor in the US” and yet few are actually serious about upgrading it.

    Or spend it on Caltrain. Or Metrolink. Or a subway. Or light rail.

    And some feel a freeway, or a dam, or a power plant is a more worthy way to spend public money. God bless ’em.

    VBobier Reply:

    The $4 Billion is for HSR only & nothing else, There will be No diversion by the DOT, FRA & the CHRSA won’t allow It & there is nothing You can do about It, period.

    If You want money for Caltrain, Or Metrolink, Or a subway, Or light rail, or some freeway, or a dam, or a power plant, go get Your own money for those projects. HSR money is not going to be moved and the Authority is not going to do Your bidding in this regard and prop 1a gives the CHSRA the authority, Not You, not the Legislature or any other state agency, Don’t like It? I don’t give a damn, A majority of the CA voting population is for this and Yer a minority and Your anti-HSR opinions hold no value here, So begone.

    Spokker Reply:

    This is what happens when being pro-HSR becomes anti-transit.

    joe Reply:

    “This is what happens when being pro-HSR becomes anti-transit.”

    Oh please — is it anti-transit? We have a trillion dollar budget which means every spending item that isn’t divert-able by bureaucratic edict to some transit need also ANTI-transit.

    Hey I have a transit need. It’s important but not so important that we stakeholders actually did something proactive when we had an opportunity. Still, I want to raid your money becuase you did the the hard work and made a successful proposal. Oh yeah and you signed up to do the work under penalty of criminal persecution if the money is misspend. But hey you’re anti-transit if I can’t get your money and your project isn’t good or valued.

    HSR is a Federal ARRA Effort with specific rules for the funding. We competed for the project – got the money and it’s for the proposed work. Imagine that – a plan with promise for commitment to do the work and that becomes anti-transit once the 2nd guessers decided they have better ways to spend money.

    You have to do the work promised.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yep, You tell’em Joe.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    All mass transit projects need to get funded. HSR isn’t special. We just got lucky in that Obama really likes it. California voters have backed all kinds of mass transit, from HSR to subways and light rail and buses.

    I will say this: if HSR funding or projects get defeated, then that money doesn’t magically get redirected to some other rail project. It goes away. Because Congressional Republicans see no difference between a bus, a streetcar, a light rail system, a subway, a commuter train, an intercity train, and a bullet train. They hate them all.

    HSR needs to be connected all of those modes in order to be a success. Most HSR backers agree with that, so I’m not sure where this strawman is coming from.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    [Hmm, don’t the all the Reason Foundation zombies love long-distance buses tho…?]

    And totally right about the need for good connections. I try to use the Shinkansen whenever I travel within Japan, and I take local rail to get to the Shinkansen station — and it’s _super easy_.

    It takes 20 min to get to Shin-Yokohama station from my house (despite having one transfer), and then it’s literally 30 seconds from leaving the local train car to being on the Shinkansen platform in the proper place to board. As the Shinkansen is always on time, and the local trains are quite frequent, one doesn’t even need all that much of a safety margin.

    I often show up a bit early so I can buy an eki-ben tho… :]

    That kind of convenience is the norm in many places in Japan, and really makes using the Shinkansen a no-brainer … it’s just sooooo easy….

    Spokker Reply:

    “We just got lucky in that Obama really likes it.”

    It was one of the first things given up in negotiations with the House. As quickly as high speed rail became a focal point of his administration, they threw out the idea as a sacrificial lamb.

    “if HSR funding or projects get defeated, then that money doesn’t magically get redirected to some other rail project.”

    No, it takes people to make that happen.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Have you ever the phrase “divide and conquer” Spokker?

    It makes no sense to have different transit agencies fighting like junkyard dogs over scraps. This is the lunacy of what members of the Legislature and Congress are doing. It is arguable what the best value for the money is. The fact is that, amazingly, people tend to vote for things that benefit them directly. HSR is politically palatable precisely because it appears to benefit everyone in the state.

    Mass transit, which is no less important, ends up being enmeshed in local politics because as urban and minority districts seek it out, white and suburban districts shun it, thus reducing its viability and tax base. But the real problem according to the 2010 Census is that minority and urban populations are basically coming to a standstill. We are approaching a time when we will be a geographic and demographic minority-majority country. That’s the barrier, not what the Feds do with a billion here, a billion there.

    Spokker Reply:

    “It makes no sense to have different transit agencies fighting like junkyard dogs over scraps.”

    But it does make sense for those agencies to speak their mind on aspects of the project they feel are wrongheaded. The worst that can happen is that they will be overruled. A good example of this is the joint letter by Art Leahy and Will Kempton. They made several good points and they were not overruled.

    If the project is truly great, then it will hold up to scrutiny. In many ways it does hold up, but in many ways it does not. Individuals and organizations should not keep quiet and watch bad aspects of the project go forward in an attempt to create a facade of unification among supporters. Clem is as pro-HSR as you can get, but even he has been called a NIMBY and an anti-rail nut job for his criticisms. When it gets to that point, my first thought is zealotry.

    “white and suburban districts shun it,”

    Careful with the stereotypes there, as even stereotypes can be dynamic. The whites in the boondocks in the San Gabriel Valley demanded a marginally useful light rail line and they got it.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Remember: The MTA Board is different than BART or other transit agencies posters here might be familiar with in that each County Supervisor in LA is guaranteed a vote on the Board. Since each District has a distinct geographical constituency. As you might notice, the 30/10 plan contains projects in all Supervisor Districts regardless of ridership considerations.

    Mike Antonovich who is the Supervisor for the east San Gabriel Valley, likely supported the extension to draw funds away from other projects in urban areas, not because he’s a big supporter. It’s the same with HSR. Lowenthal, Simitan, and the rest aren’t necessarily really looking out for CalTrain, they just are using it to achieve their ends.

    Still, there’s no zealotry here. Just typical blog ecology. As Robert gets busier and more absorbed in his new job and stories get less juicy, more people show who are willing to be provocative and less intellectual.

    wu ming Reply:

    looks like spokker got bored, and is trying to show up synonymouse.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Spokker is spot-on. He tells it like it is without following any dogma.

    Spokker Reply:

    A small segment of the HSR supporters are turning into zealots and have shed any pretense of critical thinking and objective analysis. You are either with them or against them.

    Luckily they are not in a position of power, so you won’t be losing a job for not falling in line. But this is how many corporations are operated, by the way.

    Jack Reply:

    I object to being labeled a zealot. We support the project, and even Robert has called out the HSR board when they were wrong, but zealotry implies we are blind and that’s not the case. What we are doing it counteracting a very dangerous, flawed, and politically motivated analysis of the project that really had a good chance of sinking the project.

    Being labeled a zealot for that is a little much, even for you Spokker.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    A small segment of the HSR supporters are turning into zealots and have shed any pretense of critical thinking and objective analysis. You are either with them or against them.

    “A small segment of supporters of {long_lead_period_public_policy_X} are turning into zeolots and have shed any pretense of critical thinking and objective analysis.”

    Wow, talk about a “the sky is blue” observation. A segment of any “long lead period public policy X” supporters and opponents will have their minds made up on the issue and are not going to bother with ongoing critical thinking and objective analysis. After all, these are people we are talking about.

    If its only a small segment of HSR supporters, and given that its inevitable that some segment of supporters and opponents of a project like this are going to fall into that camp, why constantly soap-box on it?

    Spokker Reply:

    I have soap-boxed on it only recently. It has not been constant.

    “Being labeled a zealot for that is a little much, even for you Spokker.”

    I had some concerns and when I aired them I was compared to synonamouse. People turn on each other very quickly.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    OK, you have been constantly soap-boxing on it recently.

    I think the syntho-mouse comparison is going way overboard, though. There is only one syntho-mouse, and I’m sure its programmer is happy to have gotten so close to passing the Turing test.

    Alex M. Reply:

    Nothing would necessitate the need for LOSSAN upgrades better than HSR.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    I think part of LOSSAN could be upgraded through HSR if the shared tracks are utilized. From Irvine onward, I am not sure. SANDAG is already going to speed up and double track LOSSAN from Oceanside to DT San Diego. Irvine-Oceanside, that will take a bit of time. Capcity upgrades and the eventual ability for electrification could help (although not counting on it by any means with NIMBYs).

    thatbruce Reply:

    SANDAG is upgrading its tracks along LOSSAN, including to its shared (with SCAG/Metrolink) yard north of Oceanside (though I suspect that some of that drive is because the bridge south of the yard has reached end of life).

    SCAG/Metrolink doesn’t appear to have any plans for LOSSAN upgrades south of Laguna Niguel. The frequency of services it does run over its tracks to San Onofre, and then over SANDAG’s tracks to the shared yard and Oceanside, is low enough that the existing sections of duplicated track are sufficient for its medium-term needs (10yrs).

    That leaves Caltrans/Pacific Surfliner as the entity most likely to want to perform any upgrades between Laguna Niguel and the aforementioned yard north of Oceanside. With more than half of that length within the property of one owner, any upgrades on that section are likely to be within Camp Pendleton, rather than attempting to go through the EIS process for the shore-line section through San Clemente.

    This is a long way of saying “Don’t expect to see any agency pressing for duplication of the shore-line track through San Clemente any time soon”.

    Very little of this (Irvine to Oceanside and further south to UC San Diego) is within scope for HSR-related funding, as its not within any of the stated HSR corridors.

    Spokker Reply:

    Then I would hope the pro-HSR supporters shut up about the Pacific Surfliner being the second busiest route in the Amtrak system as an example of HSR’s potential in California. They sure don’t treat it like it is.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    This reads like a demand that all HSR supporters act in lock step, reciting from a single set of talking points where you have approved the logical consistency of the whole set.

    Indeed, its not independently clear what “treating the Pacific Surfliner like its ridership is a stong indicator of the potential of HSR in California” would consist of. I’m sure that you have an idea what you’d like to see on the talking points sheet, but its not clear from this what it is, let alone the strength of its case.

    Spokker Reply:

    The HSR supporters are already acting in lockstep. You don’t need me for that.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    That is your opinion, to be sure, but you still do not make it clear what “respecting LOSSAN” as an indicator of the potential of Express HSR in the state would consist of. There’s no opportunity to make an independent judgment of the demand unless the substance of the demand is spelled out.

    Spokker Reply:

    Opponents claim that people in California will not ride high speed trains.

    Supporters claim that people in California already ride trains. The Pacific Surfliner is the second busiest route in the Amtrak system.

    There is very little effort to upgrade LOSSAN so that it can actually live up to its potential.

    Peter Reply:

    Hell, there’s not even a wikipedia article on LOSSAN. Probably because it doesn’t have sexy semi-HSR-Acela trains…

    Spokker Reply:

    Well, the Pacific Surfliner has an extensive article and all of the stations have their own pages.

    But at lthe very least, if everything goes wrong after construction starts, the San Joaquins will get a gold-plated HSR track so that the state can run FRA-compliant pieces of shit on them.

    There’s always that.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Grade separating and electrifying Anaheim to Burbank isn’t a minor upgrade.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Supporters claim that people in California already ride trains. The Pacific Surfliner is the second busiest route in the Amtrak system.

    Interesting point of fact: If you strip out Acela and just look at Regional, more people ride Amtrak California, per capita, than do the NEC. And of course our premium market, diverting air travel, is far larger than the NEC’s (with a full build out and 2030 populations, if travel holds steady, we could expect about 11 million passengers diverted from air just within the state of CA, no Vegas connection, and assuming only Amtrak NEC levels of air market capture).

    BruceMcF Reply:

    A connection to a quicker rail route to northern California than the Central Coast alignment and a greater frequency than once a day, oft-delayed ~ that’s an upgrade to the network economies of the LOSSAN corridor, so there’s that.

    It won’t be of any use as leverage in gaining support for upgrades to the LOSSAN corrido until ground has been broken on the Express HSR corridor. However, since upgrades to existing corridors do not have the same lead-time, its quite possible for the upgrade process for LOSSAN to start later and finish earlier.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    But at lthe very least, if everything goes wrong after construction starts, the San Joaquins will get a gold-plated HSR track so that the state can run FRA-compliant pieces of shit on them.

    The San Joaquins is a viable service now, and it has a population to serve that is less than Southern California. The Surfliner too includes San Luis Obispo to San Diego, but the lion share of the LOSSAN upgrades are going to occur in L.A. County. Even if HSR fails miserably, we still get a way to link the Bay Area to the Central Valley. That’s not insignificant. And unlike the Surfliner, there’s an impact on the speed we can use to move FREIGHT.

    Increasing our rail capacity in the CV has no downside, whereas having transit agencies gobble up the HSR funds is only going to make people cynical that a future HSR attempt will have the same outcome.

    Risenmessiah Reply:


    What Spokker means is that had LA to Anaheim been selected, it would have provided money to do triple-tracking between Los Angeles and Fullerton. This has been on the radars of local transit agencies for years because of the ability of Metrolink to use the Corridor. Then you have the accidents associated with signaling in Chatsworth and grade crossings that put people at risk that also would have gotten improvements.

    Laugh all you want at BART and its Brutalist architecture, and it’s noise…but at least it avoids the problems Metrolink has, largely because the later was built “on the cheap”.

    Moreover to the point though, nobody in Northern California gives a rat’s ass about LOSSAN. 99% of people in Southern California do not know what LOSSAN is. If the feds had let us redirect the money, it’s not as if transportation agencies would have just fallen over each other to let each other have the money. They would have fought for it, and cast just as many aspersions.

    Los Angeles always plays the card of “we are bigger in terms of population, so we deserve our way” and the Bay Area says, “but we produce more revenue” and the CV laments, “what about the fact that we produce all the state’s exports?”. And on and on it goes.

    Spokker is acting like he had some O.G. job lined up in 2006 after the last major transportation bond passed in California only to see it evaporate when Governor Ahnold swept the money as part of a budget deal….

    Spokker Reply:

    This is why starting in a more populated area is not such a bad idea. I don’t think starting in the Central Valley is such a bad idea. They are just different ways to do things.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But the LAO, though they didn’t notice it, pointed out the two principle differences.

    First, California got a more than proportionate share of the HSR money because, in proposing a segment that could support 220mph trains, California proposed a segment of national interest.

    The LOSSAN might be in line to receive $10m’s or $100m’s, but not the billions that an Express HSR system to connect northern and southern california has won.

    Of course, the LAO report ignored the reason why they argued California could expect favorable treatment when they proposed that interest of the US DoT in Express HSR would induce them to support actions that would reduce the likelihood of an Express HSR system being completed.

    And if the risk of not gaining full funding for the full Stage 1 is taken seriously, then one has to discount the benefit of a segment based on its risk of being stranded from a first minimum operable segment. The Valley segment is the only alignment that does not have to be discounted, since its on the path of either plausible shortest minimum operable segments. The segments at both extremes, by contrast, both have to be discounted substantially for risk of being stranded in “phase 1” of a multiphase approach to Stage 1.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Regarding the first paragraph:

    What Spokker means is that had LA to Anaheim been selected, it would have provided money to do triple-tracking between Los Angeles and Fullerton. …

    … the primary objective is to connect the primary urban centers of northern and southern california into a single network. If there are local spin-off benefits, that’s nice, but it should only affect phasing of the system when there are two alternative phasings that are both equally useful as far as the primary objective.

    We should also fund intra-regional rail and local rail and other dedicated transport corridors, but each of those should focus first and foremost on getting their main objective done properly. Fighting for the Surfliner corridor to be improved should be part of a fight to expand funding at that level across the board, not a catfight to try to “raid” the funding base of some other transport project.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    I agree. Divisa et victa.

  4. tony d.
    May 31st, 2011 at 09:34

    So why isn’t any of this being blown up on the local papers like the LAO report was?
    Gotta love our bias, scandal loving local media!

    Jack Reply:

    Criticizing the nations largest infrastructure project sells more papers than the LAO got it wrong. The damage is done, who cares if it was the truth.

    Now we have to follow up, making the sure the decision makers know the truth.

    Spokker Reply:

    “Got it wrong.” What does this even mean? There are pros and cons to the many ways of implementing high speed rail in California and the country. This is further exemplified by the many ways high speed rail systems have been implemented in other nations.

    “Got it wrong.” “The truth.” You say nothing.

    Jack Reply:

    The LAO got “it” wrong. “it” being their flawed and inaccurate analysis of the project. Now we as pro-HSR individuals have to advocate “the truth” to the decision makers because if they make a wrong decision based on flawed analysis and we do nothing, then we only have ourselves to blame.

    joe Reply:

    The LAO screwed up beyond reasonable error.

    Seeing that they did is an IQ test – if you can’t see how then you don’t pass.

    Their problem are just beginning. They will be investigated. It’s possible they intentionally misrepresented the report and violated their charter.

    VBobier Reply:

    Very possibly that their flawed report was intentionally flawed and worthless dribble too, A 15 year old could have written a better report.

    joe Reply:

    Content aside, they even screwed up on the timing. Why didn’t they speak earlier?

    The LAO criticize a project *after* the proposal was submitted and *after* it was awarded funding.

    Anyone working in a organization understands the dynamics in play here. The LAO should have acted when they first saw a problem, to HSR and to the Legislature.

    A good explanation for the delay is they intentionally sandbagged the CAHSRA. That’s a political maneuver. That’s part of their self-inflicted political problem.

    If they were smart, they’d have some cover; documentation that the LAO did approach the CAHSRA during the formative period in 2009. That documentation would reduce the appearance of sandbagging HSR at the expense of the State’s greater interests.

    Spokker Reply:

    So who said, “Speak now or forever hold your peace?”

    The point of no return appears to be when shovels are in the ground, and even shovel-in-the-ground status is no guarantee of continuation.

    The LAO may not be heard in large numbers. It may be shunned. But I am glad they spoke.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Maybe so, Spokker, maybe so, maybe all you have said is true. But I have to worry a bit; what if this sinks the project? Considering the oil situation and the other problems that have been discussed here, can we wait for another chance like this? Can we take the chance that this might be the last chance?

    Hell, we’ve waited for almost 40 years since the first oil embargo. This project alone has been under study for 15 years. How long do you wish this country to wait?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Fairly detailed article from Kern County on the Tejon return from the grave. Ominously it only mentions negative studies from, mais oui, PB.

    Spokker Reply:

    D.P. Lubic, the project is breaking ground in 2012 is it not? The feds have not budged from that plan, have they?

    I see no problem with getting some jabs in. Considering the way some people talk around here, HSR is a done deal and nothing can stop it.

    So no worries.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There are many pro’s and con’s to different approaches of implementing HSR, but the LAO report:

    (1) Purported to be an overall risk analysis but only considered the risk of attempting to complete the system and failing, while bushing aside the risk of not attempting to complete the system and ignoring oil price shock risks entirely

    (2) In addressing the risk of attempting to complete the system and failing, ignored the most common strategy for mitigating this risk, of completing a minimum operable segment and running a preliminary service on the MOS

    (3) It addressed the risk of losing the Federal funding that had been allocated by posing arguments as to why the state could expect to get away with it ~ no effort was made to pose arguments on the risk of failure to complete along the same lines. And those arguments substantially ignored the specifics of the federal funding process, so they were highly speculative.

    As a risk analysis, it was badly done. Whether we assume incompetence or political rigging, it was quite bizarre to see CAARD leap to its support.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    it was quite bizarre to see CAARD leap to its support.

    Hmm. I expected it. It’s consistent with their behavior.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, but an example of where their behavior blatantly contradicts their declared aims and purposes.

    Going on and on criticizing the quality of analysis at the CHSRA and then instantly defending that waste of public funds on that piece of trash risk analysis just because they liked the conclusion.

    After all, there is much that was new and true in the LAO criticisms of the CHSRA ~ problem is what was true was not new, and what was new was not true. If the LAO had just written a fair executive summary of the peer review report, they wouldn’t have embarrassed themselves with such shoddy and grossly biased analysis.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s many examples of where their behavior contradicts their stated aims.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    … instantly defending that waste of public funds on that piece of trash risk analysis just because they liked the conclusion.

    [citation needed]

    You know, putting words in other people’s mouths is a filthy habit.

    Welcome to the Bruce McF Fact Free Zone.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Note that I didn’t put any words in their mouths. Reading is Fundamental.

    Elizabeth Reply:


    What are you talking about? We have not said much about the LAO report, not because we like it or don’t like but mostly because we are trying to digest it.

    I will say that the blog’s reaction is a little freaky though. What is this presumption when someone comes forward with criticism is that it must be an evil plot?

    I have been to a lot of hearings over the last two years. The LAO has struck me as cautious and thoughtful. We are taking the report very seriously, especially given the local experience with BART to SFO where getting the project done the wrong way was probably worse than not doing the project at all, from a transit and emissions standpoint.

    I will just leave you with a little food for thought. Here is an excerpt from the 2008 Business Plan – the one that was written to support the bond measure:

    Due to the project’s size and the duration of the expected construction period, full funding is
    not expected to be available when the project commences. Completion risk could arise if full
    funding does not materialize even after state, federal and local monies have been spent to begin
    construction, resulting in an incomplete system. Private funds may not materialize for several
    reasons, including lower than expected ridership, delays in the development of the project or a
    downturn in the financial markets.

    To mitigate this risk, the Authority has developed a phasing plan that promotes maximum utility
    throughout the construction period. Smaller segments in and around the Los Angeles basin
    and the San Francisco Bay Area will provide immediate benefit to improved local commuter rail
    service and not require an operating subsidy beyond what is currently provided to local entities,
    even if full system funding were to fail to materialize.

    Thereafter, segments linking the Central Valley with a major metropolitan area will provide
    an immediate benefit to communities underserved by current air or rail services.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    What is this presumption when someone comes forward with criticism is that it must be an evil plot?

    I’m sorry, but have you not paid any attention at all to American political rhetoric in the last century or two?

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Smaller segments in and around the Los Angeles basin and the San Francisco Bay Area will provide immediate benefit to improved local commuter rail service and not require an operating subsidy beyond what is currently provided to local entities even if full system funding were to fail to materialize.…kidding….me? Please pass whatever you are smoking over here…it must be really good.

    That statement cannot be true. Here’s why:

    If you electrify CalTrain you create new capital costs and maintenance costs for the service. You don’t create new revenue or ridership to match said changes because most of CalTrain’s costs are paid by donations that fluctuate from local transit agencies like VTA and SamTrans. So yes, you build a right of way that complies with AB 3034 on paper but it puts us back exactly where we are five years ago AND…now the private entity (or other operator) has to negotiate with CalTrain to use the corridor.

    But, of course, it locks out BART from using the ROW and the chance that Liz and her neighbors have to pay BART’s property tax and sales tax levies when they come in to feast on CalTrain’s rotting carcass.

    In L.A. it’s same thing. Sure you can upgrade LOSSAN and shift more Metrolink traffic along the BNSF route to the 91. But that doesn’t build the type of transit you need in Orange County or Riverside to increase ridership that much. It’s not as if these capital upgrades would pay for themselves.

    But if the LOSSAN upgrade happens, then Lowenthal might be able to broker a deal where one of the Metrolink right of ways is abandoned and Alameda Corridor comes in and uses to expedite port volumes and maybe abridge CEQA and get that stadium built in Diamond Bar too…

    I mean this stuff is as plain as day. A business only expands if they can generate the revenue from the expansion (usually). Here we are proposing local transit agencies expand with one-time money that in fact will not generate revenue from said expansion.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I am not saying this idea of building out the ends first is a good idea or a bad idea. I am simply pointing out that this was CHSRA’s idea, so it is a little unreasonable for the CHSRA to be yelling at the LAO for proposing a version of it.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Here is the original business plan with the excerpt: see page 29 of the PDF

    joe Reply:

    Very disingenuous of you to conflate the ARRA proposal and proposal to move that funding with references to CAHSRA’s general planning outside of the scope of that successful proposal.

    The LAO report is a political self-immolation. They are on the defensive to explain their report and how it was constructed – who was involved and consulted on this funding raid.

    Our NoCal NIMBYs blew it. They drew their Peninsula Reps into a public attack on HSR; ending HSR at San Jose. That proclamation drew a resounding push-back but did draw attention to Caltrain ROW improvements.

    Caltrain ROW improvement will happen but not lead by an obedient Caltrans. The CAHSRA will be consulted and they’ll build a system with capacity for a 2035 level of service.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Smaller segments in and around the Los Angeles basin and the San Francisco Bay Area will provide immediate benefit to improved local commuter rail service and not require an operating subsidy beyond what is currently provided to local entities even if full system funding were to fail to materialize.

    Now, you realize that the 2008 business plan was released BEFORE OBAMA was PRESIDENT????? Do you really think that if the Board had a clue that the Administration would issue so many grants for this thing that they would have used the “book-end” approach? Or what if they knew before the bond measure was put to vote? What they wanted to do was hedge their bets and use Speaker Pelosi’s influence to have funding piggyback on investments in new transportation infrastructure. Obama comes in with the mandate and proclaims HSR is the future and immediately tosses money around the country.

    You don’t think that in the meantime, over the past three years with a new Director and new Board members that any of this information might have affected their decisions, do you?

    I mean let’s get real here. If you had a choice to either a) pay $5,000 more in taxes per year and the state would have total control over the project or b) pay no more taxes but have to deal with the Feds…what would you choose?

    Peter Reply:

    It is EXTREMELY unreasonable for the LAO to propose something that is impossible under ARRA’s requirements, especially in light of Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida’s track record at doing pretty much exactly what the LAO wanted … or kill the project. That was pretty dumb of the LAO.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Not at all. That’s what politicians are for and do, namely make and change laws. You just have to rough up some power brokers and influence peddlers along the way to a workable plan.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    If you electrify CalTrain you create new capital costs and maintenance costs for the service.

    If people of the quality of Caltrain and CHSRA’s consultants (they’re the same cast of idiots) undertake electrification then indeed you do end up with higher costs and still crappy service, all operated under 19th century freight regulations and feather bedded in opulent Amtrak make-work style.

    If anybody else in the world electrified Caltrain, and if anybody else in the world maintained Caltrain (using, say, “machinery” rather than “sledge hammers”) then train operating costs would drop drastically (three conductors and one choo choo driver per train? what century is this again?), ridership revenue would increase significantly (faster, far more frequent, more predictable reliable service), equipment utilization would increase markedly (trains carrying humans, not sitting parked at terminal stations), and maintenance costs would fall.

    If America’s Finest Transportation Professionals are involved, all you get is the same crap level of service performed in the same crap manner but with the extra overhead of wires overhead.

    Slap some lipstick on that pig. A billion dollar’s worth.

    Garbage in, garbage out.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Three? I think it’s down to two at this point: one to make the station announcements and control the doors, and one to check tickets.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    So if the door opening was automatic and the station announcements were pre-recorded, it would be down to one. That’d be nearly 1/3 off train staffing costs (assuming the driver makes more than the conductors).

    Peter Reply:

    Even better: Make it a true POP system and ditch the conductors altogether.

    Just don’t make the trains wait while the ticket inspectors check all the tickets.

    J. Wong Reply:

    It is POP, it’s just that the conductor is operating as the fare inspector.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Under normal POP, not every train has an inspector.

    Peter Reply:

    Exactly, hence why I said “true POP”. Ditch the conductors. Put a button in the cars so you can communicate with the driver or with someone in dispatching or whatever if an onboard emergency arises.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Listen to yourself Richard.

    You have to buy new trains. You have to build the electrification manifold. You have to train people how to use it. You gain zero service area. If I am reading their annual report right, Cal Train makes $42 million revenue and it needs 100 million to operate. So you are telling me someone can cut the cost of the service in half?

    Secondly, a service that only goes between SF, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties has a cap on revenue. There’s not enough housing stock in SF and San Mateo counties to generate the revenue stream you need to keep Cal Train afloat. Plus wealthy retirees and Atherton oligarchs can’t use Cal Train because they already live a very short drive from their enterprises. I mean let’s face it…. it can’t even compete with Google’s Bus because the majority of those people would have to take MUNI forever just to get the Cal Train station in SoMa…..

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The cap on revenue is, however, substantially above the current revenue ~ low frequency cuts patronage, the wide station timetable gaps cuts patronage, and the slow train transit cuts patronage. A 4tph local electric and 2tph electric express would pick up substantial revenue relative to current services. If they are 50% overstaffed (J. Wong above) or 100% overstaffed (R.M. above), in large part because of old, labor intensive rolling stock, then staffing costs could be dramatically cut, and of course modern electrics are cheaper to operate than diesels and easier and cheaper to maintain per seat mile.

    I don’t know if it can run an operating surplus, given the massive hidden car subsidies its competing against, but a 75% or better operating ratio does not seem seem unreasonable, and as gas prices go up over the decade ahead, an operating surplus might indeed be in reach.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Bruce, that’s right. And don’t forget fare and timetable integration.

    Amtrak-style Caltrain with wires overhead and shade tree maintenance and third world overstaffing is just and trains designed around freight regulations is Amtrak, but with more overhead.

    PS How’s that whole rapture thing working out for you anyway, “Risenmessiah”?

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Wait a minute though. The book-end approach Elizabeth noted above would occur before any of the rest of the system was built. In other words, if you just added electrification to Cal Train, you would have upfront costs, but no real way to recover those costs UNLESS you make the HSR operator pay for the right to use the ROW or HSR passengers paying full freight have to use Cal Train to complete their journey.

    Only 2 million people live in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Western Santa Clara County. At least fifty person of everyone in the Bay Area can’t use Cal Train to commute. So how high can this revenue ceiling really be?

    P.S. Richard: I have used the same handle on the Internet since I was in high school over a decade ago. I do it so that I can remain distinct and yet anonymous. I do not want to use my real name because I do not want to diminish my career prospects. Originally I wanted the Yahoo! account for “messiah” but it was taken, so I put in risen messiah and it worked. My motivation at the time was that the Internet back then was full of incredibly narcissistic, unrealistic, and over-the-top names, so why fight it? The messiah after all, is not a savior, but merely “anointed”.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The messiah is the savior if you ask any Christian about Jesus. If you ask a Jew, then it depends on how Orthodox the Jew is; the more Orthodox Jews use phrases like “savior of the nation” to describe the Messiah.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I’m talking about

    I find it incredible that a group of people who mostly believe in reality based policy instantly assume that the LAO MUST be biased. There can’t possibly be anything real in their concerns.

    This is not a group with any particular agenda. This is a group who gets to sit down with policymakers and ask questions on a regular basis.

    Clearly, they are getting quite concerned about what they are hearing or not hearing.

    Don’t you think you should ask more questions before instantly shooting the messenger?

    A problem with the claim that the people who had an immediate negative reaction were jumping the gun is that on closer inspection, it turns out that substantial parts of the report are seriously flawed.

    CHSRA’s 2008 rationale is consistent with the applications they submitted, but in its independent review of the applications, the US DoT found the case to be strongest for the Central Valley segment, of all those that CHSRA applied for. So California was saved from the higher risks of the “build both ends toward the middle” approach.

    And, indeed, CHSRA’s 2008 rationale is predicated on gaining funding for those segments, when the funding that they were awarded was the Valley alignment. In 2011, you just can’t treat already authorized and appropriated funds awarded to the Valley alignment and not yet authorized nor appropriated funds for stating at both ends and building toward the middle after rejecting the funds already applied for and awarded as equal starting points in terms of overall project risk.

    joe Reply:

    Clearly this is fact: Follow the LAO’s guidance and the Feds will reclaim the billions awarded to CA HSR. Added bonus: You’ll also dismantle the organization responsible for winning that multi-billion dollar award.

    This isn’t a rorschach test. The LAO was feckless.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    That was clearly one of the weakest parts of the report. In essence, “The Federal government will agree to ‘flexibility’ because it so badly wants an Express HSR system that it will happily allow us to redirect funds away from the segment where the trains can actually reach Express HSR speeds”.

    Set aside the fact that someone wrote the argument that boils down to that ~ someone was supposed to give that analysis a critical reading and decide whether to issue it. They either failed to give their full attention to that job, or their critical reading skills are not up to the task.

  5. Mike
    May 31st, 2011 at 11:40

    “In other words, the LAO doesn’t just wake up one morning and decide to write a report about the California High Speed Rail Authority – someone has to request it. ”

    Not correct; the LAO does self-initiated reports all the time. In fact, every one of its reports is self-initiated, except for those that are in the form of a letter to a member of the Legislature, saying “Dear Senator Douchebag, you asked us to answer the following question blah blah blah.” So you can bet the farm that Mac Taylor’s response is going to be “no one asked us to write this report; we wrote it because we have concerns about the project and we believe that there are important issues that the Legislature needs to consider.” it’s probably true that various people were whispering in Thronson’s ear, but Galgiani didn’t ask about that, so Mac Taylor won’t tell.

    That said, the LAO report is indeed a piece of crap and the LAO deserves to be beaten down for such careless and incompetent work. But there’s no big conspiracy here, just a lot of incompetence.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why would an incompetent get the urge to write a report? If he or she did it would likely be a long “he said, she said” kind of thing that doesn’t reach conclusions.

    Mike Reply:

    “Why would an incompetent get the urge to write a report?” Well, it’s a big budget issue for the state, and there’s controversy about it in the Legislature. It’s quite understandable that the LAO might think, “hmmm, our bosses need some good advice on this issue!” Why the LAO wanted to write a report is not a mystery to me. The mystery is why the LAO wrote a report that made bold recommendations that were so poorly thought-out, poorly researched, and carelessly assembled. I don’t by “conspiracy” as the explanation; I’m going with hubris, incompetence, and an inherent organizational slant towards fiscal conservatism.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    It is a bit odd, though, that they release their unprompted report pretty much simultaneously with a spate of newspaper editorials using pretty much the same poor reasoning.

    That suggest that maybe they were, er, “prompted” or “encouraged”, by somebody kindly willing to suggest some sources of information, which _seemed_ authoritative….

    joe Reply:

    Their timing is wrong – too late. This late report gives the strong appearance of a political sandbagging. They apparently issued this report for purposes other than service for the greater public good.

    The LAO waited on advising on this big budget issue until after a CA proposal was submitted and after it was awarded funding. The LAO could give advice when the proposal is under formulation and is amenable if that advice is sound and relevant.

    Spokker Reply:

    If the recommendations were anything but, “Build it right now guys! No problems at all :)” you would say that it was poorly thought-out and researched.

    “inherent organizational slant towards fiscal conservatism.”

    How about some fiscal “moderism” at the very least?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Except compare to the reaction to the peer review report, which was far from “build it right now! no problems at all!”, yet had a far more favorable reception.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Actually, if you think about it, one explanation for why an incompetent would take it into their head to do that based on an poorly thought though reaction to some garbled newspaper report or op-ed would be … that they are incompetent.

    The report is clearly biased, but one potential source of bias is an author sufficiently incompetent that he got conned.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It takes a smidgen of competency to make the decision to write a report, good bad indifferent. A true incompetent would be blissfully unaware of the project…..

    YesonHSR Reply:

    They might have not formally asked but I would dare say they had some “informal” words about it to the LAO..and this is the second paper from the LAO

  6. political_incorrectness
    May 31st, 2011 at 13:44

    Looks like the LAO woke up this morning in the ring with Galgiani, and boy did she throw some nasty punches. The Republican who faced Galgiani in the last two elections lost each time, and he tried to take a slam at HSR. Can we start some rally for HSR somewhere? I’d come down to join it.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Come to the Authority board meeting Thursday morningand speak in favor of the project. I have heard that there may be some Hanford-based opponents showing up on Thursday.

    Peter Reply:

    I’m guessing that “Aaron” who posts here will be showing up then?

  7. dave
    May 31st, 2011 at 14:06

    Sorry Posting it again so everyone takes a look at it. I’d say it’s fairly important and that our lives depend upon knowing this information.

    Sadly, even though I support funding this project ASAP. I always have this on the back of my mind saying NO!


    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    Part 3:

    Part 4:

    Part 5:

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Posting again here, too, for the same reason—

    Some choice we have (at least as you see it)–go broke paying for the future we need, or go broke paying the price of oil addiction.

    I think I’ll take my chances with owing ourselves, even in spite of the problems some like Richard, Synonymouse, and Spokker have highlighted. The alternative looks worse, including spending money to fight oil wars.

    You might say, or more properly I would say, we are in a war that dwarfs WW II, and there is no real way to defeat this enemy, known as Peak Oil. Like WW II, this is a war about survival, but the enemy is not one we can really conquer in the normal sense. That is something that is missing in all these debates, all the arguments from the NIMBYs and Reason and Cato and the LAO.

    At the same time, to learn to go beyond this requires something of a war mindset. That includes not worrying too much about money at this stage. We only finished paying off the last of the WW II bond issues a few years ago; can you imagine the result if we worried about money back in the 1940s? Would the reduction in debt have been worth the possible other result? I think I would know your answer, and I think it would be in agreement with mine.

    The problem is, we should have gotten cracking on this back in 1973. We have wasted almost 40 years. Yes, 40 years! I just hope we have enough time. Otherwise, Canada or New Zealand start to look too good.

    This isn’t meant as a joke, nor a comeback–you sound like a rail supporter, and you sound serious, which is more than I can say for some of the critics. But I have to ask, what alternative might you propose that would balance your money worries and the construction of an oil-free transportation system?

  8. Risenmessiah
    May 31st, 2011 at 17:23


    Is there any way to get someone to cover this on Friday?

    Looks like private money may be on its way.

    VBobier Reply:

    Or at least Spanish HSR reinforcements.

    Jack Reply:

    Sold Out… Daniel are you going?

    wu ming Reply:

    or at least duck-faced HSR engines.

    Alex M. Reply:

    I really want to go to that… But by the time I found out about it (through an email from the CHSRA) it was already full. On the waitlist now… hope something opens up.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Someone from CA4HSR will be there, I believe. Definitely looking for someone to write about it.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Forget the Board meeting. This would be the site to protest for (and against) the project.

    wu ming Reply:

    could be an interesting flash mob.

  9. D. P. Lubic
    May 31st, 2011 at 18:15

    Say, if anyone is able to attend either of those meetings, might it be a good idea to somehow run off some copies of those population density maps and other graphics that were up just the other day, including the ones by Burrito Justice? It wouldn’t surprise me that both the opponents and the supporters will find them interesting, if not shocking.

    In my opinion, what has come before, combined with those maps (particularly Burrito’s–thanks, B. Justice!), practically nails the case.

    You would have to be a real bone-head to say rail really couldn’t work in America after seeing those, and an even bigger bone-head to say the routings were poorly conceived. Of course, the NIMBY and anti-rail crowd have not demonstrated a willingness to listen to reason in the past. . .

  10. D. P. Lubic
    May 31st, 2011 at 19:36

    In other news, and from Japan at that, steam trains are to be working in certain services in Gunma Prefecture, partially to promote tourism, and also to reduce the electrical load due to the damage at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant following the earthquake and tsunami:

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Hmm, very cool and all, but it seems amazing they have enough steam locomotives around (and enough associated infrastructure) to use them in daily service!

    swing hanger Reply:

    All the JR companies except JR Tokai and JR Shikoku have steam excursion programs, both for PR and to promote tourism via the railway. Been that way for years, and thankfully the infrastructure, and more importantly, the knowhow have been maintained.

  11. D. P. Lubic
    May 31st, 2011 at 20:32

    “All the JR companies except JR Tokai and JR Shikoku have steam excursion programs, both for PR and to promote tourism via the railway.”–Swing Hanger

    Wouldn’t it be interesting for Amtrak to run such an operation, perhaps billed as a “heritage service?” I wonder how it would work out financially. I also wonder what the reactions would be lineside, and also in Congress!

    Japanese steam power in action; with the green hills, black engines, and echoing chime whistles, it looks and sounds so much like here:

    Fascinating, the impression of an American touch in Japan even holds up at fairly close range–and at about 4:10, check out what look like a narrow-gauge version of Pullman 6-wheel trucks under the last car!

    I didn’t have the time to check for more, but I’ve heard or read that the Japanese have or had interurbans, also looking very much like their North American counterparts. Can anyone confirm this?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Hmm, what do you mean by “interurban” exactly? Wikipedia make it sound like basically “a streetcar that also runs on dedicated tracks between different cities”…

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Well, that could be one way to look at it, and some interurbans used what amounted to street railway equipment, usually on very lightly constructed lines that seemed to dodge every obstacle; such a line would look and feel very much like Fontaine Fox’s “Toonerville Trolley.”

    The classic image of the North American interurban was somewhat higher than this. It would run down the main street of town, likely on the tracks of the local streetcar company, but it could have an alignment between towns approaching that of a steam railroad (though usually somewhat steeper in profile, due to the use of self-propelled cars vs. locomotive hauled trains), with top speeds to match, although averages were still low by modern standards due to all the stops they made. The equipment was what was best remembered; a self-propelled version of a steam road passenger car, except that it was likely shorter and equipped with radial couplers and very free swinging trucks to negotiate streetcar trackage, some of which had curves as tight as 35-foot radius!

    A classic example, preserved today (although no longer at this location); with that high floor and those steps, this might not be too good under modern conditions without high platforms.

    Some later cars, after about 1930, were built with lightweight bodies and smaller, low-profile motors and trucks. One interurban, the Cincinnati & Lake Erie, staged a race with an airplane as a publicity stunt–and won. This says more about the state of aviation in 1930 than anything else, and even then I’m not certain the airplane used was the most modern thing around, but it still required the new “Red Devil” car to maintain a speed of 97 mph for miles and miles to win the trophy. This still stands as the official speed record for interurban equipment in service, although there are credible reports of Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee “Electroliners” hitting over 110 mph on tests.

    A later version of the Red Devil, built for the Indiana Railroad, with an aluminum body and 4 motors of 100 hp each to push it around:

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Don’t know how it wound up there, but a “Red Devil,” in the colors of later owner Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, is preserved at the Western Railway Museum in Rio Vista, Ca.:

    A North Shore Electroliner at the terminal in Chicago, where light maintenance was performed right in the station!

    The Electroliners were 4-unit articulated trains, and both survive today. One of them is at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Ill.:

    After the North Shore was abandoned in the early 1960s, the Electroliners were sold to the Philadelphia & Western in Pennsylvania. When these trains were retired, one wound up at Union, and the other at the Shade Gap Electric in Orbisonia, Pa. The unit(s) in Pennsylvania still retain the colors of the “Liberty Liner” service:

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Wouldn’t it be interesting for Amtrak to run such an operation, perhaps billed as a “heritage service?

    The railroads in Japan make money. If they want to use some of the profit to do things that lose money it’s between them and their stockholders.

    Alex M. Reply:

    You must be fun at parties.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Many of the Japanese private railways started out as interurbans (especially in the Kansai area), with both public street running and on their private ROW. With post-war motorization, most converted to exclusive private ROW operation and thus became heavy rail operations, but still linking metropolitan areas, often in direct competition with the government railways. Many got their operating model from Henry Huntington’s Pacific Electric, and today are thriving enterprises that operate not just transport, but retail, housing, and even sports franchises. You may find this article informative:

    Joey Reply:

    The only thing that differentiates Amtrak from heritage service is equipment that’s too new to be considered vintage but too old to be considered usefully efficient.

    quashlo Reply:

    The red livery of Keikyū, one of the more famous private railways in Japan, is rumored to have its roots in the Pacific Electric paint scheme.

    As swing hanger said, most of the major examples in the large urban areas have been upgraded over the years to more metro- or subway-style service, but if you go to smaller cities, you can find more “pure” examples of interurbans:

    Here’s some of my personal favorites (strictly for the railfans):

    A local private railway in one of the smaller cities (Takamatsu). These particular units are for heritage service, and range from 50 to 85 years old.

    Meitetsu interurbans running in Gifu:

    Keihan interurbans in Kyōto:
    Parts of this line have been replaced by subway, so you can now get some strange sights of subway trains running at-grade on city streets:

    Fukutetsu interurbans in Fukui:

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Thank you, Quashlo, those are some interesting clips, and they have many classic elements:

    The line at Takamatsu has equipment that would be more rapid transit in nature; what is in the clip reminds me more of older stuff in the Chicago area more than anything else, with its high-level loading and longitudinal seating. Still, those controls look amazingly familiar, along with the “institution green” interior colors, and the sounds are familiar, too, along with the view from one car to the next, as the cars bounce in sequence over track irregularities. Only thing missing is a chugging sound from the air compressor; these cars have one that whines, perhaps a centrifugal unit instead of a reciprocating on.

    The Meitetsu cars at Gifu are the closest in your clips to what I had in mind, including a horn that sounds like the ones we used, and that chugging air compressor. It’s also fun to watch the cars sway and bounce on track that isn’t quite perfect, although it’s good enough for this job.

    The Keihan cars in Kyoto are interesting in a couple of ways. One, this line (and the subway train on the street in the next clip) appear to be standard gauge, not the legacy narrow gauge of much of Japan. The other is that at 1:40, it appears these cars run on Baldwin curved equalizer trucks, a type that wasn’t as common as either Brill or Master Car Builder types, but has a particularly graceful appearance with that curved equalizer bar. It was fun watching motorists get out of the way of this thing on the street running as well.

    The subway in the street is certainly unusual; equally interesting is to look at the angles between cars as this train negotiates those curves!

    The Fukutetsu interurbans in Fudui have a general appearance of something later than the classic interurban, but are still classics in their own way, including some tasteful paint schemes. The use of articulated cars is reminiscent of both the Key System in Oakland, Ca., and the articulated Brills used by the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis in Maryland in later years. Perhaps the California example is closer; the shot of the car coming down the wide boulevard at 2:10 reminds me of similar photos taken on the Pacific Electric.

    One other detail: Los Angeles Railway (LARy), which was also a Huntington property, used the same narrow gauge as the Japanese legacy system, which also appears to be that of Fukutetsu.

    Thank you for sharing.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Some American equipment for comparison:

    Key System articulated unit:

    Some cars from the Los Angeles Railway:

    Chicago Transit Authority cars from the 1920s, the Takamatsu cars remind me of these and other Chicago cars, although I should mention the Chicago system is almost entirely operated from a third rail:

    Joey Reply:

    I always liked something about those Key System Bridge Units, even though they were mechanically obsolete from the day they were introduced (and frickin’ heavy too).

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    A couple more from Chicago:

    Does this look familiar in terms of photo and car angles, in this case with newer equipment?

    One of the amazing things about the Chicago system are the junctions laid out over the streets.

    Hope you enjoy these.

    quashlo Reply:

    Yes, thanks. That satisfied my fix for the day. :)
    For a railfan, there’s so much to like about Chicago.

    But I also enjoy the Key System bridge units. :) (I am an SF native)

    Spokker Reply:

    Quick question, does anybody know if the National Parks lose money? I mean, does it operate in the red?

    Donk Reply:

    I heard they sent Smokey to get his MBA so that he can get a business plan together.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    This was the first thing I could find that addresses this, and I certainly didn’t get to read all of it (only looked at a couple of pages), and it’s old, too (1997); but it looks like the NPS loses a good deal of money (see page 60), or at least did in 1997, with a horrible recovery ratio (main operations had a cost recover ratio on the order of 10%).

    About the best thing from this report is that you have a report name (Accountability Report) that might make a search for a more recent edition easier. Hope this helps.

    Spokker Reply:

    Thank you.

    For the long distance routes, a heavy emphasis is placed on the beauty of America. The train is routed through locations that cars simply can’t go, and hikers would have a hard time getting to (especially the disabled!). I believe the argument can be made that Amtrak doesn’t just provide a public good in the context of transportation, but a public good in the context of showcasing the beauty of the American landscape, similar to how we justify the National Parks, which “lose” a ton of money. The National Park system is one of the greatest investments this country has made.

    And Amtrak is a National Park on wheels.

    Andy M. Reply:

    Germany actually occasionally operates steam locomotives on regular passenger trains (regionals), adverising this in advance. As these are regular trains in regular timetable slots, no premium fare is charged, but thanks to the additional traffic generated, they more than pay for the extra costs. Google Plandampf for more background.

  12. swing hanger
    May 31st, 2011 at 21:10

    for D.P. Lubic:
    The Nose Railway in 1967, this is now a subsidiary of Hankyu Railways:

  13. D. P. Lubic
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 04:34

    More crazy off-topic stuff, but it’s fun anyway, whether you like the current president or not:

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Also crazily off-topic, but so fantastic it has to be seen.

    I wonder where this is? I also note that the DMUs in the shot look pretty modern.

    swing hanger Reply:

    That’s in Thailand. The DMUs are Japanese make.

  14. morris brown
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 05:07

    Those who want to read a good synopsis of events dealing with the project for about the last month should red:

    Not very positive is it?

    On other fronts:

    It is now quite evident that there has been a change in the timetable for the project. The NOD/NOD expected to be done in September, was mentioned by vanArk as now being set for Feb 2012.

    vanArk now says the project is $45 – 50 billions and costs are trending “upwards”.

    There us supposedly a deadline of Sept. 2012 when construction must be started, or the ARRA funds will disappear.. It would seem almost impossible to meet that timetable now.

    Nevertheless, actions taken thus far by the legislature have ignored the LAO and Peer review group and funding has been approved.

    The budget hearings can been conveniently viewed at: Senate (Simitian sub- committee) Assseblu (Gordon sub-committee)

    Some key excerpts of opposition from the Assembly meeting:

    morris brown Reply:

    Could I ask why this is being with held?

    Peter Reply:


    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Any comment with 4 or more links gets held for moderation as an anti-spam measure, and I am not always able to quickly get to the approval queue.

  15. peninsula
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 07:26

    Spokker Reply:

    I had no problem with serving Palmdale, but it would appear that fiscal reality and engineering reality is already causing some changes at the CHSRA. These changes can either be embraced by the organization or they will be imposed on them by reality.

    If Palmdale really wants that stop, then they would do well to treat this threat as real.

    Nine minutes saved doesn’t sound like much but if other parts of the route are making it difficult to achieve the required runtime these nine minutes might keep the CHSRA within the law.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The headline on the article is, of course, jumping the gun, assuming what the Tejon Pass alignment study will find ~ it could well find that the Tehachapi Pass alignment is cheaper and lower project risk still, despite the narrowing of the difference as the challenges from Palmdale to Sylmar become clearer.

    On internet time, people want the results of the study the day after its commissioned, but the result of rushing the turn-around is something as bad as the LAO report, or even worse.

    All of this does speak to the wisdom of the US DoT insisting on the Central Valley alignment, which could provide a major portion of a Minimum Operable Segment going either north to SF or south to LA.

    Spokker Reply:

    The I-5 route is no picnic, though.

    “A 2003 study commissioned by the city of Palmdale warned that building high-speed rail south of Bakersfield along I-5 could be particularly risky because the route runs parallel to dangerous faults, as opposed to generally perpendicular crossings on the Palmdale alternatives.”

    Palmdale should continue pushing this idea if they want the stop.

    synonymouse Reply:

    This is the same as the Kern Co. report that I linked last nite.

    What is disturbing is the concentration on the viscerally negative studies generated by PB, which is known to be highly politicized and compromised. Effectively they were under orders to come up with a report that would reject Tejon to pander to Palmdale interests. Notice the much less aggressive and cheaper Quantm alignment is conspicuously missing.

    I suggest the 9 minutes time savings is way conservative. And especially if you relocate the San Joaquin Valley trackage to the I-5 corridor.

    And notice seems to be noticing the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, which is more or less John Boehner. There are going to be more deep budget cuts and I suspect that many will be directed at LaHood. Greece is treading water; the so-called end to the recession was a booster lie; and if Bernanke tries QE3 there will be calls, and rightly so, to oust him.

    The CHSRA needs to come up with a barebones alternative along the lines suggested by TRAC.

    Donk Reply:

    What’s the deal with Bill Lockyer refusing to sell HSR bonds until a business plan is in place? Is this true? What if he steps in the way in 2012 when construction is to start? Does the State Treasurer have any power to hold the state hostage by refusing to release the HSR bonds?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The Treasurer is the chair of the High Speed Passenger Train Finance committee, the finance committee required under State General Obligation Bond law. I don’t have the faintest idea what the specific powers of the finance committee chair would be under that law and its legal precedents.

    There’s lots of procedural language throughout 2704 in AB3034.

  16. Andre Peretti
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 10:24

    Arguments about the nowhere-to-nowhere train remind me of criticism directed at the SNCF in the seventies. It was accused of wasting billions in the middle of nowhere on a “toy train” for its engineers to play with.
    Paris-Lyon HSR started operating from nowhere south of Paris to nowhere north of Lyon. Yet, it allowed the public to judge by themselves what HSR was really about. It was unlike anything they had experienced before and they were enthusiastic. The TGV had won the public opinion battle.
    If Paris-Lyon had been planned the way the LAO wants CHSR to be planned, it would probably have been mired in suburban political struggles. Things would have dragged on and on, with HSR being eventually perceived as a problem and not as a solution.
    The sooner the public can ride the trains, the better. They will surely like it and, from that moment, the NYMBYs will be fighting an uphill battle.

    Joey Reply:

    Again, it didn’t work 100% out of the box, but TGVs could still travel directly between Paris and Lyon without the LGV being 100% complete on already electrified, double tracked lines. There is zero chance of running high-speed trains between SF and Fresno (or Merced) or Bakersfield and LA until those segments are completed.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Though there was an HSR route that was completed with a diesel loco haul in advance of finishing the electrification of that route.

    The fact is there are existing rail alignments between LA-Union Station and the end of either possible Valley/LA Basin connector and between San Francisco and the end of either possible Valley / Bay Area connector, and while they cannot support anything like high frequency, 2:40 speed service, the chance of running high speed trains on them though to LA-US or to SF is substantially better than zero.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That was Sables d’Olonne, and was only in place after the initial all-electric network connecting the major cities had been completed.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Sables d’Olonne is now electrified but there have been other seasonal TGV services where trains were towed by diesel locomotives on the last one or two hundred miles. Logically, people transfer to a DMU for the last leg, but vacationers find that inconvenient. They often have children and lots of luggage. They want a one-seat ride.

    Joey Reply:

    Not if the FRA and UP have anything to say about it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Palmdale-LA is owned by Metrolink; there are still technical and regulatory problems there, but the agency turf is relatively tame.

  17. morris brown
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 13:35

    The State Senate today passed SB-517 (Lowenthal). This will remove the present Authority Board and replace them with a new board, made up of professionals.

    The vote was 26 – 12 — Support from both DEmos and Republicans.

    I posted video of the hearing on YouTube (about 12 minutes) It is a good discussion.


    Peter Reply:

    “This will remove the present Authority Board and replace them with a new board, made up of professionals.”

    If passed into law by the assembly and actually signed by the governor, that is…

    joe Reply:

    SB-517 (Lowenthal) smacks of a vindictive act by a so-far loser searching for a way to intimidate the board.

    This action is going to reflect back into the LAO inquiry.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    It’s completely a coincidence of course, that tomorrow is the HSR Board meeting. I mean, not a chance in the world it’s related.

    Peter Reply:

    Can they even discuss it, though? Is it on their agenda?

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    I didn’t say discuss it. I said any chance the Senate called the vote to impress upon the Board its wishes?

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Nope. No coincidence. the timing is purely a product of the legislative calendar. This is the week that bills must pass through their house of origin.

    The same is true of the LAO report. They give these reports when there are significant budget decisions to be made. I know, I know, it’s more fun to imagine that there’s some big conspiracy theory going on. Even Galgiani is cashing in on the fun.

    Joe Reply:

    LAO report should have been done 2 years ago if it were an earnest effort.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Put away the crockery. Although it may be that the vote is pure coincidence, it likely was scheduled after the LAO report, which in turn was scheduled after all the special committee hearings that included CEO van Ark.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Educate yourself. Senate. Assembly. LAO. Senate Calendar.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    You got it backwards.

    Although I was blithely unaware that bills have to cross by next week, the bill history demonstrates what happened:

    Lowenthal amended the bill in late April after it has passed out of the Transportation and Housing Committee. He puts in language that would make the CEO of CHSRA subject to Senate confirmation. And then the Appropriations Committee suspends action on the bill one day before the LAO report comes out. Then one week later, suddenly the bill is amended back to just changing the Board and letting the BTH Secretary be on the Board. Magically, it’s put back on the calendar for Approps, voted out and given final read in the Senate.

    Is it a done deal, no….but Steinberg is obviously using this as a chip for something else. What I have no idea.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Nice try, but wrong. The Senate was given confirmation in the original bill. It was amended the day BEFORE it went to the Transportation committee to give the Assembly 2 appointments to the board (two apiece for each house rather than 4 for the Senate).

    The May 17 amendment – this is the one which occurred after the Transportation committee hearing but before Appropriations – was to add Steinberg as the principal coauthor. This bill has the blessing of Steinberg and CA Democrats. I still don’t get why Robert’s so against it, and why people are willing to follow his spin without a bit of independent, critical thinking.

    As far as the timing of the suspense file – you do realize that the governor was about to release his revised budget and many bills were put on suspense that week.

    None of this is nearly as exciting as a conspiracy theory, but people are funny that way. They like to believe what’s fun or convenient or supports their pet theories, not necessarily what’s factual, boring or disappointing.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    We’ll see what happens in the Assembly and in the governor’s office. A shame that Steinberg backed Lowenthal on this bill, but the fight is only just getting started.

    joe Reply:

    “the governor’s office”

    This bill undermines the Governor’s power. For that reason alone I see him opposing it.

    This law also creates new government – moving the HSRA under and existing agency so I could see him using that angle to oppose the law.

    Why grow government at a time when we need to maintain present services with a decreasing budget and push back “how in the world can we attract private funding if we move this organization deeper into government control” ?

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    I have a different opinion on this.

    Let’s say the Spanish come and provide us with a construction loan. In exchange there are two amounts. One requires we buy their trainsets and some other technology from them, second requires they get an operating concession on the system, but they are not mutually exclusive.

    Now, what the Senate is thinking that the Spanish want to build out from the CV not from the bookends. But they want the confidence that Pacheco is really the way to go, and so is Tehachapi. So they put on the Board technically minded folk to make that decision. Construction goes forward and what happens, happens. Then the moment of truth comes. The federal money runs out, the first half of the Spanish construction loan is exhausted, and the bond money is gone.

    Then the Legislature, Congressmen, mafia dons, etc. etc. can all go into the smoke filled room and go… let’s make a deal. I bet in the end, the exact same thing happens every time. But the idea is to make San Francisco and Los Angeles “owe” the other jurisdiction involved “a big one” for future consideration…..

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Robert, you do realize that Steinberg and every other Democrat voted for the bill? They view this bill as the only way the project has a chance of surviving. I’m surprised you don’t get that. You seem more supportive of this current collection of board members than of the project itself.

    The ‘no’ votes came from those who’ve been voting against the project since AB 3034. Weird that you’re aligning yourself with them on this one.

    Joe Reply:

    Governance model should not be changed if the issue is the current board.

    The GOP should oppose growing government, it isn’t just about voting yes or no on HSR.

    The suggestion adding HSRA to Cali government is the only way to save it runs counter to the successes under he current governance model. The CHSRA is seen as too effective and independent by powerful legislatures.

    VBobier Reply:

    And therefore the GOP should keep their mits off of the CHSRA, But then the authority has never had proper staffing or funding to do It’s job, It’s been starved to try and make It die, Now that It has money to begin construction in 2012, Some want to alter the bargain, The state of CA has a contract to build HSR under Prop 1a of 2008, I wonder can the idiots in the legislature be sued for attempting to alter this?

    Peter Reply:

    I’m curious, what “contract” are you referring to? Prop 1a simply laid out the requirements for bonds to be sold to pay for part of construction…

    And no, I’m pretty certain they can’t be sued.

    datacruncher Reply:

    SB-517 was amended in April to include TWO representatives from organized labor on the Board (one appointed by the Senate, one appointed by the Assembly). Originally SB-517 was introduced with only ONE to be representing organized labor along with another member from business or ag interests. The requirement for a member from business or ag was dropped.

    That is supposed to increase the professionalism without adding bias?

  18. Reality Check
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 14:33

    High-Speed Rail Can Cover Its Operating Costs
    While paying for its hefty infrastructure costs may be ambitious, many high-speed rail systems cover their operating costs and even turn a small operating profit.

    What no high-speed railroad can do in its first year is earn back its entire capital costs, i.e., the full price of building the line in the first place. The trunk lines of the Shinkansen and TGV have earned back their original investment costs simply because they’re the oldest high-speed lines on the planet.

    This is what people mean, or should mean, when they say talk about the outrageous expense of high-speed rail. It’s certainly what Iñaki Barrón de Angoiti, director of high-speed rail at the International Union of Railways in Paris, means in a much-quoted line from The New York Times. “High-speed rail is good for society and it’s good for the environment, but it’s not a profitable business,” he said, and the Times added: “He reckons that only two routes in the world — between Tokyo and Osaka, and between Paris and Lyon, France — have broken even.”

    Reality Check Reply:

    Here’s the link to the above-referenced article.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What’s actually going on is that Tokyo-Osaka and Paris-Lyon were funded out of separate loans that were eventually repaid. Other high-speed lines are profitable as well, even including depreciation and interest, but their operating profits were plugged into future lines rather than into repaying the debt. That’s all.

    For a rather trivial test, ask yourself how come DB-Fernverkehr is profitable, and how come that in order to look poor SNCF says that only 80% of TGVs are profitable.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    “small operating profit”: it depends what you call small. If you look at SNCF 2010 results:
    Operating margin: €2.16 billion (7.1% of turnover).
    This is after paying the state €1.07 billion in taxes and €3.7 billion in tolls.

    The UIC (International Union of Railways) is concerned by safety and standards, not companies’ finances. The only valid sources are the detailed financial results published by companies every year. Unless you prefer comparing apples and oranges.
    By the way, Paris-Lyon was financed on 10-years’ bonds which were paid off ahead of time. Contrary to what the UIC director said, the loan didn’t get to be very old.

  19. BruceMcF
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 14:48

    Anyway, what makes Cathleen Galgiani think she understands the intent of AB3034?

    ASSEMBLY BILL No. 3034
    Introduced by Assembly Members Galgiani and Ma

    OK, other than that?

    Nadia Reply:

    C’mon there were a LOT of authors on AB3034 and as any bill, it had several iterations… Claiming that anyone can understand the intent of that many authors in SAC is silly – Galgiani and Ma INTRODUCED the bill.

    Any interpretation of AB3034 will be done by an entity like Leg Counsel

    Here are the co-authors:
    Introduced by Assembly Members Galgiani and Ma

    (Principal coauthor: Assembly Member Davis coauthors: Assembly

    Members Davis and Parra)

    (Coauthors: Assembly Members Aghazarian, Karnette, and Solorio

    Adams, Aghazarian, Arambula, Beall, Berryhill, Caballero,

    Charles Calderon, Carter, Coto, De Leon, Dymally, Houston,

    Huffman, Karnette, Leno, Lieu, Maze, Price, Ruskin, Saldana,

    Solorio, Torrico, and Wolk)

    (Coauthors: Senators Alquist, Cedillo, Florez, Kuehl, Scott, Steinberg,
    and Torlakson Torlakson, and Wiggins)

    joe Reply:

    “Claiming that anyone can understand the intent of that many authors in SAC is silly”

    Silly as is so silly to say otherwise.

    The Law’s authors are by definition, experts in the Law’s intent. If not then there is no capacity to infer intent – which to HSR-opponents is apparently a silly underpinning of our laws and culture.

    morris brown Reply:

    Quite frankly Joe, you don’t know what you are talking about. Almost all the co-authors piled on at the very end. Good political points if you think you will be associated with a popular bill.

    If you don’t believe me, look at the whole history of AB-3034 and see when they signed on.

    Galgiani was literally being led by the hand by Senator Lowenthal, who had to urge her to accept this or that change etc.

    Joe Reply:

    Hilarious. You are an Oracle. Our lawmakers are puppets.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Nadia, you know as well as I do that it’s very easy to get added to a bill as a co-author, and it is typically encouraged by the original authors as a way of building support for the project. You are also surely aware that AB 3034 was originally authored by Fiona Ma and Cathleen Galgiani. It’s their bill. Everyone else was along for the ride. They are therefore the most qualified to explain its intent. You can disagree with what they say, but their words carry more weight than anyone else’s on this matter.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Legally, what matters is how the courts interpret the decision.

    joe Reply:

    And courts can refer to the intent of the law when making a ruling, i.e. Cathleen’s intent is the intent the court would consider.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Look, if it actually made it to a court of law, you think they’d just call her up and ask, “what’d you mean?” — and be satisfied to stop there? They would look through the records. They’d view the correspondence of all the authors. They’d go through the amendments and see which authors contributed to which amendments. It’s not that hard to go through these bills and see who added what. AB 3034 is a special case because there are so many authors. But this is all the more reason to conclude that it’s not the brainchild of just two women.

    Robert may claim that all other authors were along for the ride, but this demonstrates (again) that he’s not thorough with his homework before he sits down to write. Some authors were added to show support, but others contributed by adding the extensive oversights. Read through the revisions yourself if you don’t want to take my word for it. These are the legislators whose intents will matter.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    At least, Ma has personal experience of HSR. She had a 357mph ride on the record-breaking TGV.

  20. Nadia
    Jun 1st, 2011 at 17:14

    For those interested in actually hearing Eric Thronson of the LAO discussing his recommendations this week see the 28th minute in this video:

    He says “Just to be clear our report isn’t suggesting or recommending that they don’t start in the Central Valley. What our report is recommending is to step back and look at it in the state’s best interest and not necessarily in the project’s best interest.” (I’m paraphrasing)….

    he goes on for a bit – it is worth listening to…..

    He goes on to suggest that the Legislature develop criteria for what would be beneficial for the state to help resolve the issue with the Authority

    Peter Reply:

    For those of us who don’t have 28+ minutes to watch this video, can you give us a verbatim version of what he said on starting in the CV? Because paraphrasing that statement doesn’t really help very much, as it’s pretty much the pivotal issue at stake…

    Nadia Reply:

    It’s not 28 minutes – it starts at the 28th minute – it may be 8 min max – another 10 if you want to hear Van ark.

    And sorry, following the issues related to HSR takes a lot of homework – you can do your own

    Peter Reply:

    No problem, I just thought it was a much longer video. I may watch it tomorrow.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Pretty cheeky asking someone to prepare a verbatim transcript covering what you believed was a 28-minute video (a very time-consuming exercise) … because, well, you don’t have 28 minutes!

    Peter Reply:

    I asked her what a specific person’s specific statement was that she put in quotes and then said she paraphrased it. I wasn’t asking her to prepare a verbatim transcript of the entire thing.

    Nadia Reply:

    I started doing a quote but he rambled a bit so I opted to add “paraphrased” to it in case someone was really picky (and many understandably are)…

    Plus, after all this time, I still haven’t figured out how to do anything in bold, italics, or the super fancy cut out boxes… so that was my lazy fix

    Glad to hear you weren’t expecting a 28 minute transcript. I must admit I was a bit taken back by that one!

    joe Reply:

    You’ll have to type a lot of umms and ahhs. The Man’s as confused as the report.

    It’s pretty concise discussion if one jumps to the section at 28 Minutes.

    What is most notable in his (LAO) comments is what Nadia paraphrased: A nonsensical position that HSR is doing what is best for HSR Project but MIGHT not be what is best for California. Might not because the obvious fact is the Charter for CAHSRA is to execute a HSR Project, not do other things because the HSRA thinks other ways to spend the money might be better.

    This is basic project management – you execute the plan.

    He wants the State Legislature to set new criteria for HSR and have HSR replan to those yet to be determined criteria. He offers no analysis as to the benefit of doing this re-planning except to clarify his confusion. There is no deficiency in HSR. None.

    he offers an idea that they have HSR money so let’s think about different ways to spend it.

    He wants the State to play hardball with the Feds. because he claims CA has true HSR. His suggestion is that moving the backbone to an alternative commuter rail system between LA Anaheim
    gives CA a way out of HSR which means he’s saying we need to build something that isn’t HSR but might be late on.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    He’s so full of shit. “We’re not saying they not start in the Central Valley. We are merely making a series of suggestions for which that is the only logical conclusion. And we repeated the ‘train to nowhere’ smear to fuel that conclusion. But we never said don’t start in the Valley!!”

    It is clear as day what the LAO intended here. Thronson should have the balls to say it openly, because there is no doubt that was one of the purposes of the report.

    joe Reply:

    It’s worse that being full of shit because he’s too scared to offer any definitive finding except to obediently suggest the Legislature decide what would be in the State’s best interest.

    He’s concerned that HSR authority *might* not be thinking about the greater good for California- whatever that might be. he isn’t sure there’s a problem so the legislature should decide.

    Nor does he explain why the HSRA project, which is chartered to execute HSR, has to consider the greater good rather than execute within their existing authority. Again, no finding that there’s a problem – he wants the legislature to get involved again.

    His punchline is that the LAO thinks CA should get “serious” with the FEDs by being wishy-washy about our HSR plans.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Your not supposed to you 4 letters words Robert…remember

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