Is High Speed Rail a Culture War?

Jun 27th, 2011 | Posted by

Over the weekend, Darnell Grisby had a very good op-ed in the Merced Sun-Star about the “debate” over high speed rail. In it, he challenged the notion that “the way we travel is a cultural issue”:

Dueling ridership forecasts in a political arena heated by cultural antagonism makes it difficult to assess costs and benefits. As a result, some say it’s better to delay the project, or for Californians to drop high-speed rail altogether. Those with a need to generate readership, or wish to get noticed for a statewide run for office, purposefully craft the environment that creates that frustration.

Framing specious arguments against high-speed rail as a cultural issue drives a level of distrust that allows shoddy research and uninformed opinion to color perceptions. Californians should fight against being used to score political points when the state’s economic future is on the line.

Grisby, a Deputy Policy Director for Reconnecting America, is certainly right about this. He marshals a lot of statistics to show that high speed rail will help people who commute, who travel for recreation or business, boost downtowns, and reduce congestion at airports and on freeways. Everyone benefits from this.

And he correctly identifies the people who are trying to convince Californians and Americans that those benefits are illusory – the right-wing Cato and Reason think tanks. As we know, Reason is funded by oil companies who have every reason to want to undermine high speed rail. Grisby is right that we should not cast HSR as being part of a “culture war” and show that it is instead a common-sense solution to a wide range of problems, that many people will embrace, especially because people around the world have already done so.

That all being said, I wish I could agree that we can pull HSR out of a “culture war” framework. Not because HSR supporters are invested in it – we’re really not. This blog’s most consistent approach to HSR advocacy is that high speed rail simply makes sense and is supported by a mountain of evidence. Yet we spend a lot of time here debunking criticism – sometimes aggressively – and this blog might well be seen as a key battleground in an HSR culture war.

That’s because of how culture wars work. They are not waged by both sides of an issue. Culture wars are waged by one side alone – the side that resents and resists change. The other side, which supports and is promoting the change in question, doesn’t view it as a war at all. The thing they are advocating for, whether it’s marriage equality or high speed rail, is simply seen as a logical outcome of compelling evidence and common sense.

Those who resist the change know they cannot win on the grounds of evidence and reason. They can’t win a fair fight. So they wage an unfair fight. They make up arguments, distort evidence, and try to change the conversation away from facts and towards more elemental and visceral things, where they might have an advantage.

In 2008, the Palo Alto City Council unanimously endorsed Prop 1A to bring high speed rail to the Peninsula. There was broad interest in an HSR station for the city. The project was evaluated on the merits and passed with flying colors and with 60% of the community voting for it.

That wasn’t the end of the story, because HSR critics learned the same thing that marriage equality opponents learned: you can’t win on the facts, but you might just win if you make it about values and culture. Soon after Prop 1A’s passage, HSR critics changed their tune and began focusing on the ways in which trains would somehow “destroy” the communities of the Peninsula. The entire claim was absurd, and not just because passenger trains had been operating there for over 150 years, and not just because other Bay Area cities had found no problems at all with aerial rail structures.

It was absurd because it was specifically intended to pull the discussion away from evidence and toward deeply held values. HSR critics realized that if they could convince their neighbors that the prized aesthetic values of the Peninsula would be destroyed by the train – even though HSR will be quieter, won’t spew diesel into the air, won’t kill children, and won’t produce traffic jams the way the current at-grade tracks will – then they could circumvent the factual arguments in support of HSR.

People wage culture wars precisely because they already lost the factual discussion. And if they make the discussion more of a shouting match, a fight, or even a war, they score even more points, because they make reasonable dialogue impossible. If you have a farm in the path of the proposed HSR route in Kings County, you could try and argue moving the tracks somewhere else on the basis of facts and merit, but the reason your farm is in the path in the first place is because factual considerations suggested it was the best location for the tracks.

So if you really really don’t want to sell your farm to the state of California, you could instead go around the county riling up people by claiming the California High Speed Rail Authority is waging a war on farmers, wants to destroy agriculture, and generally hates Kings County. You would have no evidence of this whatsoever – in fact, the Authority was happy to just bypass Kings County entirely until officials from Kings and Tulare Counties and the cities of Hanford and Visalia began lobbying hard to get a station. But you can tap into deep-seeded resentments and turn what should be a reasoned, factual discussion into a culture war.

Through scorched-earth tactics such as shouting down opposition and claiming that a simple passenger rail project is either the Death Star or a Berlin Wall, HSR critics are not so much trying to win the argument as they are trying to tire people out of the issue. As defenders of the status quo, they win if they convince everyone else that all the rancor and ugliness just isn’t worth the trouble and maybe we should just postpone HSR indefinitely for the good of the community.

That’s how culture wars are designed to work. And that’s why HSR is very much the subject of a culture war.

Grisby’s argument is essentially that HSR advocates should not get drawn into the culture war and should stick to the facts. That’s a wise policy, and this blog has followed it for the 3+ years we’ve been around.

But there is also a place for pushing back, showing how the critics are wrong, and pointing out the motivations behind their actions. This blog will continue to do that too. Because it is true, in the end, that HSR advocates are pushing for change. We push for it not because we are partisans in a culture war, but because we see a society and a civilization in evolution and believe we should push that forward in sensible, reasonable ways. And most anti-HSR people are indeed motivated by their hostility to that change. If we could persuade them on the basis of facts, then they would already have come over to our side.

We know they won’t be persuaded. Nor do we really expect they will be. Our job as HSR advocates is to withstand their assault and ensure they don’t succeed in destroying our projects. In the end, they will fade, because logic, evidence, and the population at large are on our side, and will only be increasingly supportive as the years go by.

That’s the thing about culture wars – the people waging the war eventually tire out and fade away, because they are fighting an uphill battle. And as long as the people who embrace change are persistent and don’t lose heart, they will eventually prevail.

  1. D. P. Lubic
    Jun 27th, 2011 at 21:26
    #1

    Robert, I hope you’re right, because I’ve been following (and participating in) this game for a long time–over 20 years here in the east, and I’m afraid I have little to show for it.

    Basically, I tried a big project or two with no resources and no support. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you can do what you do, but this turned out to be a waste of time for me.

    About all I might be able to do is provide comments, information, some insights (such as the age factor), that can be used by others such as yourself. . .hope that has been of help out there. . .but it’s very frustrating to have no voice of persuasion, no voice of authority, even when you are right and can back it up.

  2. Spokker
    Jun 27th, 2011 at 21:40
    #2

    There are really two high speed rail wars. First, it is the war between those who support high speed rail and those that don’t. Second, there is the war between those who support the California project and those that don’t.

    Remember this.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    This.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    “This” is wrong. If the California HSR project falls apart, it would put HSR on ice nationwide until the ’20s. If you support HSR, you need to support the California HSR project. Doesn’t mean that support has to be uncritical, far from it, but the fate of HSR in the USA is tied to the fate of the California project.

    Is that fair? Probably not. Is that even good? Maybe not. But it is what it is. You don’t always get to pick your battles.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Robert, I don’t know if you got the same results I did, but I think Alon’s “This” link didn’t work. What I do think he was wanting to link to, though, is a post on his own blog about the culture of “olde tyme” railroading (i.e., the FRA compliance and regulatory business he has spoken of so much in the past) vs. European/Japanese standards for construction and operation. To him, that is a culture war, and maybe he is right.

    Of course, he also says he thinks Mica and his ilk are a temporary nuisance and will be gone in a few years–but I just hope we have a passenger service to reform by that time!

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Actually Mica will probably be around (in either the House or Senate) for a long time. (Okay, he’s 68, so it might not be THAT long).

    He’s a very useful person for the airlines, railroads, and the like to have around to do their bidding. And if that coincides with the Democrats’ agenda, then he will support it. If not, he won’t.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I wasn’t trying to link to anything – just supporting what Spokker said. (The post on the subject on my blog has not been written yet.)

    For the record, I never said Mica and his ilk are a temporary nuisance. I said this about Scott and his ilk, while contrasting them with Mica, who’s not being actively harmful toward rail revival.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Sorry, Alon, that’s part of what happens when you are tired and just glimpse things–but I did see some things on your site that could be played in on this as a “cultural conflict”. . .

    http://pedestrianobservations.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/yes-amtrak-is-indeed-mismanaged/

    http://pedestrianobservations.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/bad-fra-regulations-a-compendium/

    http://pedestrianobservations.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/bad-us-rail-practices-and-what-it-means-for-fra-regulations/

    Of course, I must recommend Alon’s Pedestrian Observations site as something to check on. . .

    Alon Levy Reply:

    More on this later, but although it really is a conflict among transit advocates, it’s not really a cultural conflict, certainly nothing like the Culture Wars, which have subsumed the mode war between cars and cities/transit.

    But thanks for the links, anyway.

    Caelestor Reply:

    I agree, how many anti-HSR advocates do you actually see on this blog? The comments are mostly debates on the technical specs of the CAHSR project.

    Lately, I’ve noticed an increase of questionable HSR cheerleadering in the articles on this blog. Perhaps that’s a side effect of trying to defend against increasing anti-HSR sentiments in this country, but don’t refuse to acknowledge major problems that could be easily fixed with the current project. The outreach of this blog might be more effective there were fewer but extremely high-quality posts.

    Peter Reply:

    “Perhaps that’s a side effect of trying to defend against increasing anti-HSR sentiments in this country, but don’t refuse to acknowledge major problems that could be easily fixed with the current project.”

    Or there have simply been a number of slow news days.

    VBobier Reply:

    Morris and Synonymouse, their anti-HSR for sure, beyond them, I’m not sure. HSRs PE’s #1 and #2?

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    More like Robert’s getting tired and realizing that 2008 was not the second coming of Jesus Christ.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    High speed rail has been on ice since 1965.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There is nobody sane who supports high speed rail in general and opposes the California project.

    There are those, like Clem, who want the California project to be done better. But there is nobody sane who supports high speed rail in general and opposes the California project.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The CHSRA’s (= PBQD’s) rail project will set back the cause of high speed rail in the US in particular and effective public transportation in California in general by several decades. (Just look at what PBQD’s last rail project in the northern SF Peninsula did: now multiply by 20.)

    Sometimes (Transbay Terminal, Los Banos HSR) doing nothing is immensely less damaging that burning tens of billions of the public’s money making things worse, in ways that are guaranteed to have to be done over later.

    CHSRA’s capital budget would be much better spent on schools, parks of pretty much any other non-prison function of the state you can name.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Transbay Terminal is never going to be done over. There’s going to be too many iconic skyscrapers clustered around it by the time they get around to figuring out, again, that it is inadequate. I’m sure it’s going to be great for real estate values in Oakland in 2090.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Really ass hole?? Guess what I’m back from vacation… NOW LOOK armchair ass holes … donate to California ‘s for high-speed rail and stop your hanging out here with your stupid know it all attitude

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Thats to Richard(superBitch) know it aLL

    Spokker Reply:

    YesonHSR, have you been following the debt ceiling debate and what effect this may have on your SSI payments?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Social Security checks don’t go out. Neither do the Medicare payments. Worked out really well for the Republicans back in the 90s when they tried shutting down the government.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The GOP argument will simply be that unless there are spending cuts there soon won’t be any money to cut the checks anyway.

    The stimulus doesn’t work well anymore for at least 2 reasons: you have to print money to finance it(raising taxes in a recession is counterproductive)and megaprojects don’t produce that many jobs and they aren’t going to unskilled labor, which is suffering the most.

    Austerity is the default alternative – if it doesn’t work you can always go with Hugo Chavez’approach, which I guess is what Pelosi wants.

  3. Joe
    Jun 27th, 2011 at 21:57
    #3

    Palo alto, like Gilroy, is choking on the 6,000+ parking spot mandate derived from the ridership study.

    We need to engage the HSR project constructively and not be bullied by opposition or fear of constructive criticism and review.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Constructive engagement is fine, but the most vocal critics in Palo Alto are not motivated by a too-large parking garage.

    joe Reply:

    The Palo Alto council is scheduled to consider in September whether it wants the city to host a station for the controversial rail line, which would stretch between San Francisco and San Jose. On July 29, the council’s High-Speed Rail Committee heard a presentation on the potential station from John Litzinger, whose firm, HNTB, is responsible for the engineering work on the Peninsula segment of the proposed rail line.

    Litzinger said the authority would build all the stations in the San Francisco-to-San Jose corridor. But it would be up to local communities and private investors to develop parking structures for the new stations, he said.

    City Manager Steve Emslie said at last week’s council meeting that a parking structure with 3,000 spots would be larger than the parking lot in the Millbrae train station and “more than all the parking garages we have in downtown right now.”

    Emslie told the Weekly that the new station’s potential size, proximity to a historic site (the present station), and parking requirement will likely be the top issue the council will consider when the council dives into the issue in September.

    Cost is another. At $50,000 per space, a new parking structure would cost about $150 million. Councilman Larry Klein observed at the council meeting: “We don’t have $150 million lying around.”

    Though rail officials are still finalizing station designs and identifying potential locations, Litzinger said Stanford Shopping Center could be a viable location for some station parking. If the parking were dispersed among satellite locations, Palo Alto would need about six buildings, each 50 feet high, to contain it.

    Litzinger also said that while the rail authority plans to build the basic station, local communities and investors would have an opportunity to upgrade these stations and add features to make them more attractive and potentially profitable.

    http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=17885

    And

    Published Tuesdasy, July 20, 2010, by the Gilroy Dispatch

    Council rails against bullet-train plan

    By Jonathan Partridge

    Gilroy City Council members probed California High-Speed Rail officials during a
    special study session Monday for details about project costs and environmental
    impacts related to the bullet train.

    The council’s initial enthusiasm for the project appeared to shift to cynicism,
    particularly when regional project manager Gary Kennerley said the city could
    forge a partnership with a developer to pay for the costs of a 6,600-car parking
    structure for the project.

    “A partnership assumes that there’s two people who want to be partners on
    something,” said Mayor Al Pinheiro who compared a possible downtown rail line to
    the former Berlin Wall because of the way in which it would divide the town.
    “You’ve got to be having a return on a partnership.”

    Several council members also asked where the money would come from for the
    parking garage, and they complained about the appearance of a model of the
    garage that was superimposed on an aerial photograph of downtown Gilroy….
    She also questioned the rail authority’s ridership number estimates, which have
    been challenged by a study by the Institute of Transportation Studies at the
    University of California, Berkeley among others. The HSRA has used its ridership
    numbers to determine that more than 6,000 parking spaces would be needed in
    Gilroy.

    Several council members also asked where the money would come from for the
    parking garage, and they complained about the appearance of a model of the
    garage that was superimposed on an aerial photograph of downtown Gilroy.

    Many were unhappy when Kennerley said the HSRA would not be footing the bill.

    “In essence, what the authority is saying is they’re setting the baby in our
    lap, and we’re the ones to find a way to fund it,” Pinheiro said.

    Ridership is important – how riders travel to the station is going to be impacted by design and the HSR consultant’s model.

    Peter Reply:

    The Authority REALLY needs to rethink its parking “requirements” and make them location-specific. If gas prices continue to climb, no one is going to be driving to the station. Do they REALLY think they’re going to have a need for more parking spaces in GILROY than San Jose International has (5526)? WTF?

    Peter Reply:

    And San Jose is with 22000 boardings daily (in 2009), from SJC’s website.

    Peter Reply:

    Although for 2010 they claim 27000 daily boardings.

    joe Reply:

    The ridership and parking have to be loosely coupled – a station design trade with greater emphasis on alternative transportation can reduce parking requirements. Since HSR pays for basic station design – that default design should emphasize mass transit and not a parking centric station. When ridership models assume riders will use cars so HSR can locate the station and make simplifying assumptions about ridership , they make a simpler model that might constraint the design.

    This parking trade is done on the peninsula: Caltrain passes are given to Stanford employees to reduce congestion and add capacity to the University.

    HSR has suggested parking be built gradually – as it is needed for Palo Alto. IF the station design doesn’t foster mass transit this gradual build up is not going to help.

    HSR authority correctly designated Gilroy as a connection point to Monterey and Central coast.

    Historically Gilroy has been a gateway and stopping point.

    Nearly a century after it catered to the Hollywood elite, Gilroy’s Milias Restaurant reopens to the public Tuesday.

    In the first part of the century, names like Clark Gable and Bing Crosby would make the restaurant a regular stop on trips between Hollywood and Monterey. The Milias Hotel, now apartments, was a popular stay for the elite, and there’s still a classic barbershop near its original location out front.
    http://gilroy.patch.com/articles/historic-milias-restaurant-reopens-with-modern-flair

    Matthew B. Reply:

    I strongly believe that parking structures should be optional. I’m a huge fan of the project, but not the parking requirements. I don’t think that’s a reason to kill the project, but I understand if cities are upset about it. One question, though: how will the CAHSR authority enforce any parking requirements? It seems that a city that did not want a parking structure can’t really be forced to build it.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Who does the “studies” that “provde” the “demand” for the largest and most expensive structures again?
    “Optional” simply doesn’t meet the “requirements”. Thank you for playing.

    VBobier Reply:

    Gilroy and places like It could as strictly a temporary measure invest in some buses to offset the lack of parking structures. Have the station as close as possible to a shopping center so that eventually funds for a parking structure could be acquired & the structure(s) built. This is My idea.

    joe Reply:

    I’m not sure how – aside from not granting a station – the CA HSRA would mandate a parking structure be built with city funds. CAHSRA in 2010 did back off the Palo Alto 3,000 car req and suggest incremental capacity be added at places like the Stanford Shopping Center.

    If the HSR station fosters walking and mass transit, there probably will not be a need for projected onsite parking in 2025.

    IMHO incremental parking is the solution: build some full cost recovery, incremental parking capacity.

    1) Put HSR in downtown trenched (as favored by city residents and council and suggested by CAHSRA) and keep using the train station as a transportation hub. It’s used by MST (Monterey), Greyhound and Santa Clara VTA.
    2) Build partial parking capacity of say 1,000 spaces and shuttle with a bus per Vbobier.
    3) De-couple station parking capacity from ridership estimates.

    The ridership studies asserted cars brings riders to HSR. They didn’t prove car ridership. The contractor probably will use their simple ridership model to push CA into building large parking structures. If not CAHSR would “lose” ridership and not recover operating expenses. Oh Noze!!! The CAHSR funding model could force overbuilding – CA HSR has money now so build to meet the anticipated 2030 parking needs in 2015.

    Parking is something we have to debate now, not blindly accept the ridership model or feed into the NIMBY’s “nobody rides trains”. Will the Altamont crew doesn’t try to use this as a way to re-visit the alignment? Probably.

    Peter Reply:

    “Have the station as close as possible to a shopping center”

    So I gather you’re in favor of the Gilroy East alignment and station option?

    joe Reply:

    FYI: There are 2 larger and 2 smaller shopping centers on the western side of 101 along 10th street along with the commercial businesses on Monterey road.

  4. political_incorrectness
    Jun 27th, 2011 at 23:01
    #4

    I will agree that some arguments are ridiculous. From who I talk to of my generation, more people want what I call the Vancouver experience. Active city, no need to have a car to commute, rely on transit for most transportation. How do we catalize this kind of life style? I don’t know. I do believe that HSR is the answer for intercity transportation in the future, no ifs ands or buts about it, but it has to be done within practical means. The Caltrain CBOSS and lack of coordination with Caltrain is not a good way to promote HSR, it makes it look more of a boondoggle. The project is finally coming under a better scope with listening to the communities and completing the value engineering, but now what about the politicians?

    This system needs to get built, but please, leave out the political crap, the whole we love our cars to commute, cause I certainly don’t. We use cars to commute because that is the best option we are provided. I would rather take a train to get from Seattle, WA to Vancouver, BC ; but it takes 4 hours, car trip would probably be the same or less time, plus less worries on delays. Now if it was a high-speed train 3 hours or less, on-time performance is high, then I am more inclined to choose the train.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Caltrain is certainly not doing things right, and a vocal minority on the Peninsula is making matters worse.

    I think this is one reason the CHSRA is not only starting in the Central Valley, but appears to be expediting the *southbound* work towards LA. The San Fernando Valley seems to have no NIMBYs at all, while the northern *and* southern approaches to LA Union seem to be approaching some sort of reasonable compromise. That just leaves the mountain crossings….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That, and it makes more sense from a ridership perspective to start from LA and build north than to start from the Bay Area and build south. The mountain crossing approaches a Swiss base tunnel in complexity (maximum tunnel length is much lower, but it’s seismic and there are multiple tunnels), but with offers California’s had so far it can reach LA and construct an operable LA-Fresno segment.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well the truth is that talking about going from the CV to LA isn’t doing anything beyond making speculation, It would be nice if the CHSRA read the blog, but since their time, money and staff limited, the posts here are mostly just idle speculation and some trying and failing to gather more Nimby allies here.

    Do I think tunnels are bad? Only when it comes to a fault line or lines, heck some could be discovered afterwards, this has happened before, the nuclear power plant @ San Onofre comes to mind I read, of course there it can be remedied most likely. In a tunnel? I don’t know as I’m not an expert on tunnels or tunnel building. Building at the surface where faults are at, I favor. But then I’d rather just leave the details to the experts in the railroad field that have an engineering degree and experience in designing and building tunnels.

    wu ming Reply:

    the CV-to-socal link is the single most important improvement of the broader HSR project. it makes sense to get that done first.

    synonymouse Reply:

    All you need is the Bako-LA link via Tejon – you can use the existing UP-Amtrak-San Joaquins for the time being. Spend the 99 money instead on I-5 to Tracy-Livermore and on to Sac. More bang for the buck.

    This is, of course, what TRAC-Tolmach has been saying for some time.

    paul dyson Reply:

    And RailPAC agrees. Build the missing link, it may be all you get for a long time.

    Peter Reply:

    If only it wasn’t the technically most difficult and most expensive and most time consuming leg to build. Not to mention the leg furthest behind in terms of environmental clearance and design…

    synonymouse Reply:

    And entirely due to the corrosive and dilatory effect of gerrymandering and influence peddling – The East Coast has nothing on Palmdale.

    An unconscionable and totally gratuitous setback as pointed out by Tolmach – Tejon should have been accorded priority from the get-go.

    Time to play catch-up on Tejon and take another long look at I-5

    Clem Reply:

    And Altamont!

    tony d. Reply:

    Uh, NO! Not necessary. (quit smokin while postin Clem!)

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yep

    Spokker Reply:

    tony d., Altamont is the superior solution.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    clemn the ninby sucker

    Joey Reply:

    YesonHSR, I don’t think I can remember the last time you added something productive to these discussions.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Oh please, I can think of at least three literal bridges to nowhere in New Jersey alone. They go well with the Interstates to nowhere. At least they reused some of the canals to nowhere. There’s still a lot of railroad to nowhere laying around.

    wu ming Reply:

    i just drove up and down I-5 this past week, and it’s got nothing but feedlots, orchards and grape vines. putting a line down that empty quarter, bypassing all the people, would get us less bang for our buck. same logic with palmdale, connecting as many different population centers on a line makes the whole line ridership go up, and avoiding those people conversely will hurt ridership (there’s barely anyone on the grapevine, except for all the cars driving through it).

    and yes, i know i’m talking to a turning machine, but it really was striking when driving the exact route of the HSR, just how idiotic syn’s talking points are, and how eminently reasonable the chosen route into LA is.

    wu ming Reply:

    d’oh, turing, not turning n/t

    synonymouse Reply:

    Think of I-5 as one big long virtual tunnel that happens to be stinky when you pass the livestock operations. It is a very cheap express route – basically a freeway on rails. We are very fortunate that it is already there and actually parallels reasonably closely 99. A real bargain.

    And now for something much more radical let the CHSRA claim eminent domain over BART, a greater and higher use, and force physical sharing of key BART ROW’s. Same general principle as with Caltrain with the difference that BART has more valuable property for hsr. I want to hear MTC screech and howl.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Why wouldn’t all the agricultural interests along I-5 scream as much about eminent domain if HSR followed I-5?

    synonymouse Reply:

    An I-5 median ROW for hsr would not impinge upon ag at all.

    Think of I-5 as the free greenfield option. Go for it now before the highway interests figure out a way to declare it as untouchable as UP property.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Your assuming, with very little evidence, that the median is acceptable as a ROW. I suspect that it isn’t. I know of at least one section where the median is too steep for a ROW. (The southbound lanes are a hundred feet above the northbound lanes.)

    Peter Reply:

    You’re assuming, despite copious evidence to the contrary, that evidence factors into synonymouse’s claims at all.

    thatbruce Reply:

    ‘It is a very cheap express route’

    Connecting the population centers of the Central Valley, as is mandated, is not what I-5 does.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Using I-5 actaully plays into the hands of the highway interests, in the long-term letting them spend additional state money and taking more ag land for new highway construction in the CV.

    CalTrans is already widening 99 to 6 lanes from Sac to Bakersfield. That project is costing the state billions (ultimately it could cost $5 billion to $25 billion depending upon which interstate standards are followed or waived).

    Then highway builders are planning a 3rd SJV north/south freeway along the base of the eastside foothills designated Highway 65. The 4 lane Lincoln Bypass project near Sacramento is just 1 step in a more massive freeway project in the SJV. The full Freeway 65 project would start in the citrus growing region north of Exeter running 200 miles to the Sacramento area taking a lot of ag land.

    syno’s I-5 plan would give the highway builders an excuse to spend billions and billions more in state money on SJV freeways. Serving the SJV with HSR saves the state more in the long run in terms of both state money and ag land.

    Jon Reply:

    Oh FFS, I-5 is idiotic. Let’s illustrate this with an analogy from the East Bay:

    Oakland is LA
    Richmond is SF
    Berkeley is Bakersfield
    El Cerrito is Fresno
    The UP corridor going direct from Oakland to Richmond is I-5
    The BART line from Oakland to Richmond, via Berkeley and El Cerrito, is Hwy 99

    Now imagine BART had been built along the UP corridor instead of it’s actual, more expensive alignment. Which would be the most useful line for people living in the East Bay?

    Sometimes the cheapest, easiest option is not the best.

  5. Risenmessiah
    Jun 28th, 2011 at 00:15
    #5

    Robert,

    At the risk of sounding like a troll…this strategy ain’t going to work. Highlighting the ability of an advocacy group…I mean uh…policy association…to run op-eds in small newspapers that try to using framing to defeat obstruction…even General George McCllellan would be proud.

    First, with no disrespect to Mr. Grigsby and his fine alma mater, Merced isn’t the place that you change minds with an op-ed. The guy would be better off writing this in the UC Merced paper … or the Sacramento Bee, Chronicle, LA Times, etc. Hell, even getting paid media in the Guardian or LA Weekly would go a long way. And while you might think, “the Merced Star was the best they could do”…realize that NPR and other outlets are quite happy to have people on who are knowledgeable. (Hey, there’s even Keith Olbermann’s show on “current” you know….)

    Moreover though, even if this graced the front page of Fox and Hounds, the argument falls really flat. Borrowing a line from Berkeley’s George Lakoff, Grigsby basically admits there’s no way to “frame” high speed rail in a positive light for conservatives, so the position supporters must take is to assert that something as universal as transportation is so wholly transcendent as to be above “framing” in the first place.

    That’s because, as a person of color, Grigsby doesn’t want to say that “culture war” = “black people versus white people”. That’s understandable, but it also forces you to say, “how we really fight back is by not giving up, because our enemies cannot endure”.

    But actually what would make more sense is to pit the various anti-HSR forces against each other by encouraging them to defect through incentives. Make it known that you will cut a deal, and that the first one to break gets the best deal. That’s the message to send in Merced.

    “Tired of being a bump in Fresno’s road, Merced? Support CAHSR”.

  6. Kenb
    Jun 28th, 2011 at 00:51
    #6

    The problem is not a culture war. Its that hsr is buried under a long list of public concerns; deficits, saving entitlements, getting out of expensive oversees wars, etc. Infrastructure needs get some discussion, but not enough. But even with existing infrastructure there is a long list of urgent problems that need to be addressed; crumbling roads, unsafe bridges, the power grid, more unsafe levies (Sacramento), etc.

    My biggest concern is not with the hard core antis, but with the resolve of many of the pros. How many people like the concept of hsr, but are too easily willing to put it on the back burner indefinately? Do people know how important it is to act now? There will always be a long list of other issues, and many of these issues, justifiably, will be seen as more urgent.

    Its an uphill battle when you are trying to push for a new thing altogether, but you can walk and chew gum at the same time.

  7. Robert Lamanuzzi
    Jun 28th, 2011 at 08:12
    #7

    The Fresno Bee ran the article on the front page.

    Robert Lamanuzzi Reply:

    I meant the oc article. Sorry

  8. Andre Peretti
    Jun 28th, 2011 at 08:19
    #8

    It’s funny how in an HSR-mature country like France the opinion divide is the exact reverse of what you have in the US. Here, the TGV’s detractors are mostly left-wing and hardcore ecologists. Its staunchest supporters are found in the business community who think there is not enough HSR and want more lines.
    Last week I listened to an interview of a CEO whose head office is in Paris. He explained that, thanks to the TGV, he could now visit the Marseille branch once or twice a week. He said the three hours spent on the train were highly productive. Even more than at his office because he and his team could really concentrate on their work, with no phones ringing and no secretary walking in. This, he said, would be unthinkable if we had to fly. Another advantage: as many in the staff no longer use their cars the company is saving a lot of money on rented parking space.
    As for the detractors, their arguments could be used as pro arguments by most people.
    – The far left think TGV profits are indecent. A public service should serve the people, not make money.
    – The ecologists say the TGV saves no energy because it attracts far more ridership than it substracts from highways and airlines. By encouraging long-distance commuting it creates what they call “captive” ridership. They consider a Parisian who buys a house 150 km from Paris as enslaved to the TGV for life.
    In fact, they hate the TGV because it consumes cheap nuclear electricity. The more high-speed lines are built, the more difficult it will be for France to phase out nuclear plants.
    Yves Cochet, one of the ayatollahs of the French Eurogreens wants university research on nuclear physics totally de-funded and production of electric cars discouraged. Oil companies must be very happy. They have powerful lobbyists working for free.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    HSR construction costs are much less expensive in France. If French taxpayers were paying what is being proposed in California, HSR would be unpopular there too.

    wu ming Reply:

    please cite evidence that HSR is unpopular in CA.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Here’s the thing: it’s not. Quoth Hajo Zierke:

    Common perception in Europe is, that political majorities for rail transit projects are almost impossible to win in the USA. Reason for this prejudice is lack of information: At the cost figure of many passenger rail projects in the USA, it would be impossible to win majorities in Europe. Nonetheless, these have passed a parliament or even a ballot!

    Matthew B. Reply:

    If we would actually start building, we would develop the expertise to build more cheaply here.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Driving bulldozers and forming concrete is expertise that needs to be learned? In CALIFORNIA?

    You people are hilarious.

    A high speed rail line is a FREEWAY with some superficial stuff stuck on top.

    It’s not that superficial stuff that costs the bug bucks.
    It’s not the dudes operating the backhoes that cost.
    It’s not the dreaded environmental impact reports.
    It’s the “expertise” of the “transporation” “professionals” who “design” this crap to maximize their own profits that is reaming us raw.

    CHSRA = Big Dig + a couple irrelevant choo choos on the side. No more and no less.
    (Exact same people in control. Exact same outcome guaranteed.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    Exaggerations as usual, Richard.

    I don’t think you’ve looked into the history of the Big Dig. The hallmarks of the Big Dig — massive political interference, throwing extra promises in order to buy off any opposition to the preconceived plan (including opposition from the EPA), no attention to cost-effectiveness whatsoever, guaranteed contracts to particular incompetent bidders — current projects with these characteristics would be the Seattle Deep Bore Tunnel, and the Columbia River Crossing. CHSRA is much, much better run than the Big Dig.

    Perhaps being on the west coast you never actually looked into how rotten the Big Dig was. The CHSRA is squeaky-clean by comparison.

    synonymouse Reply:

    California squeaky clean? It is no accident that LA is the sacred, tribal homeland of “noir”.

    And as for NorCal you don’t get any more corrupt(and monumentally stupid)than BART. There has to be a special concentric circle of Hell reserved for the Bechtelians who dished up BART Indian broad gauge.

    And as for slimy, smarmy, snarky and snivelling spin doctoring and puppeteering look at how Richard Tolmach has been treated for broaching a patently rational, affordable and effective alternative to the PB priced-up dumb-down.

    Vote no early and often. You’ll be glad you did when you see how these ****ers invariably screw up the best laid plans of mice and men.

    wu ming Reply:

    LA’s noir connection is mostly because of hollywood. noir novels are set all over the place.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Perhaps being on the west coast you never actually looked into how rotten the Big Dig was

    Wrongo, Try again.

    I lived in the area (Cambridge, Watertown) for over a decade and opposed that catastrophe. Attended the public hearings. Said my bit. Whoop de doo. (Boy that Greenbush line and North Station South Station connection sure worked out to be awesome “environmental” mitigations.)

    It’s the same people making the same claims and the same result is inevitable. You really do need to be a little insane to believe otherwise — it’s pure irrational counter-factual faith-based belief, unanchored from history and from reality.

    Eric M Reply:

    So basically, you are opposed to and large scale infrastructure project?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    So when did you stop beating your wife?

    Eric M Reply:

    That’s intelligent

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Well you know that all real progress comes from snarky bile-filled rants…

    joe Reply:

    Because Richard remembers when for CA and the US in general, projects were lean merit based and democratically selected and sensibly managed.

    Every single World of the Ancient World and one was some sort of boondoggle – The Colossus of Rhodes -a waste of money and bronze. It fell in a Earthquake – ” Built by Greece’s Besssssttttt Architects” Hanging Gardens of Babylon – WTF it’s a city in the Fertile Crescent! Why build a hanging Garden and it’s the wrong F’n alignment. And which god or goddess wanted that temple ?!

    Oh and don’t get us started on the Make work projects like the Golden Gate Bridge – jeeeessszusuuss you people are stupid.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’d rather the US built projects that served its current population rather than projects that would make nice ruins a few centuries in the future.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Precisely how do bile-filled rants serve that end? Separate from the distinction between those that see transport as an end in itself and those who see it as a means to serving other ends, the bile-filled hyperbolic rant approach seems unlikely to be effective in helping to build population to serve the US population.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The problem is that US business culture is, on the whole, corrupt and broken.

    I’m talking mostly big business culture. And even there, there are exceptions. But the “move in as CEO, offshore, juice profits for two years, collect my bonus, take the golden parachute and leave before the company crashes and burns” tactic is pretty much standard in US big business, with predictably awful results.

    You don’t have that in French business, so French businesses support HSR. US big businessmen say “That doesn’t increase my quarterly bonus next quarter.” (The small businessmen are much more likely to support HSR.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    You’ve got some strange Greens in France; the fact is that solar power can, at some expense, replace not only all of the fossil-fuel-burning electric plants, but also the nuclear plants. The expense is currently large but going down.

    That would be the focus of Greens here — building solar, lots of it, and using that as the basis for removing the old, obsolete power plants. What the heck is up with your French Greens?

    Peter Reply:

    Uhhh.

    There’s no difference between the “greens” here and the ones in France. For example, the same liberals who are all in favor of alternative energy and other , will turn into rabid NIMBYs if they have to see the wind turbines or transmission lines, for example. Look up Cape Wind or the recent battle over the new San Diego transmission lines (to get energy generated by solar plants in Colorado).

    In short, the environmental movement is divided between those who actually want to have a better future while maintaining a lot of the lifestyle we have, and those who want us to go back to the stone age.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Hey you forgot the (majority of?) activists whose main goal is to hit on that hot girl/guy they saw at the demo… down with the man! uh … yeah!

    I personally am sort of in between — I don’t want to go back to the stone age (and yeah, some of the green manifestos I’ve seen have been completely ludicrous), but I think there’s a lot about modern lifestyles that could reasonably be changed without causing undue hardship or unhappiness. Soooo much of life is simply inertia…

    [One of the effects of Fukushima on eastern Japan is that essentially Tokyo has to cut its peak electricity usage by like 25% to avoid blackouts. Nobody’s going to really change the way they live, but everybody’s making some attempt. The effect is clearly perceivable in many little ways — reduced lighting, and even pools of darkness in commercial centers, less air-conditioning (it’s now summer :(), less advertising (e.g., video systems in stores are shut off), fare gates turned off in stations during non-peak periods, etc. Personally I don’t use my air-conditioner, turn off my computer and lights when not using them, that kind of thing. Apparently this is all actually having an effect, which feels kind of nice… empowering, in a way….]

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I attempt to live a little “retro” myself. Keeping lights off unless you are in a room is one thing, shutting my computer down is another. My house is modern by my standards, having only been built in 1925 (which is modern compared with my parents’ house, which had been built in 1899, and another we had lived in built in the 1840s. My wife is unusual in that she likes to wash dishes (!)–she jokes that she likes to play with the suds.

    The house also lacks central air conditioning. That’s because it has hot water heat with radiators, and I’m convinced that’s the best heating system around (quiet, no drafts, less dust). The only problem I have with it is that the boiler is oil-fired, and that’s been pricey the last couple of years. Coal would be cheaper, and it’s available, but my wife doesn’t like the idea for some reason. . .

    Most of the time our electric fans do a reasonable job of keeping us cool, and the effect can be improved with a wet cloth on your head or around your neck. We do have an air conditioner in our bedroom, and basically we use it to chill the room before we go to bed, after which we shut it off (it’s too noisy to sleep with when it’s running anyway). The house has plenty of insulation in it, courtesy of the last owner–but I wish he had either left the original windows in the house, or had picked better ones than the el cheapo vinyl jobs he put in.

    I also took out all the carpeting he put in, and had the hardwood floors all restored–they look better, and on top of that, you should have seen the dirt under those carpets! Ripping up carpeting that has been down a while is quite an education into what vacuum cleaners don’t do! I’ll never have carpeting in a house again if I have a choice in the matter. That grungy, funky, gritty, grimy stuff–ugh!

    Now, if only we would get passenger trains running on the freight-only road that is down the street from me. . .and if my supervisors ever get the sense to relocate my office back in town, where it belongs. . .or better, if I could afford to retire, and spend more time in the yard, and maybe get a garden going. . .those plants can be amazing, all you do is put seeds in the ground, keep them watered, and it is amazing what they do mostly by themselves. . .

    Wad Reply:

    Peter, this is where environmentalism can be divided into its own left and right wings.

    A “left” environmentalist would be an establishment-friendly group that seeks to enhance human self-interest in concert with the environment. They aren’t anti-capitalist, some are actually pro-capitalist like Al Gore, and in the broad political spectrum may be liberal or centrist.

    A “right” environmentalist is politically more radical than a “left” environmentalist, and is generally very anti-capitalist. “Right” environmentalists are conservative in the sense that nature it itself a social order that ought not be tampered with and that the human environment ought to subordinate itself to nature. “Right” environmentalists generally adhere to rigidity and strict differences and inequalities among roles. This is odd because economically, this would be considered at the far left. At the ideological level, it is very much conservative. (You also see these divisions in other political-left orders, such as feminism and even Marxism.)

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    The French greens want all electricity to be produced either by solar panels or wind turbines. The trouble is France has no deserts for solar panels and nobody wants to live near wind farms because of their ugliness and noise. People living on the wrong side (due to dominant winds) of wind farms are desperate because they would like to move but find no buyers for their houses. Surprisingly, houses have gained value in towns on whose land a nuclear plant is located.

    joe Reply:

    Yesss, I’ll bet that homenext to the nuclear power plant is very popular – Japan is the exception. French can run a safe power plant forever. Anf the the waste it produces, people like homes near disposal sites because of the free heat it generates.

    I hear solar panels on homes and offices will make your dick fall off. That’s why you have to put them in deserts.

    wu ming Reply:

    so tell me more about the vast german deserts.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah I’d love to know too. Sounds like a late April Fools joke.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Renewable energy (solar, wind, bio-gas) is only 17% of the German consumption.
    It is largely dependent on Russian gas and that obliges it to be very benevolent towards Putin. It will be even worse when its few nuclear plants are shut down.
    About the solar panel joke:
    The maximum output of a solar panel is 10 watts/square foot. You need at least 500 million of them to replace one single 1-Gw nuclear plant. Can you put them on rooftops? Please check before talking of April fools joke.
    Germany is also dependent on French nuclear plants, and so are Italy and Spain. Since these countries claim to be anti-nuclear they should refrain from importing “dirty” electricity from France. Otherwise, their attitude is pure hypocrisy.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Can you put them on rooftops?

    Yes. Depending on the size of the roof, quite a number per roof. Of course, its Germany, so some argue that the biggest bang in terms of solar power would be to invest in solar power generation in the Maghreb or Sahel and export it to the EU via UHVD cable.

    Given that France does not have the energy storage capability in place to be able to store its nuclear power for its own use, its better for its neighbors to buy surplus power generated by nuclear power than to burn coal or natural gas to produce electricity, and since nuclear dominates coal and gas on the merit order, that’s the displacement that takes place.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    “UHVDC cable”, damn the lack of an “editable for the next five minutes” function.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    underwater high voltage direct current cable?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, of course, just like the major power export interconnects connecting the Scandinavian Peninsula to Mitteleuropa and the UK, and as proposed to connect the UK and Ireland, for Ireland to establish wind harvesting capacity with 50% to be exported to the UK.

    But the abbreviation normally means Ultra High Voltage Direct Current cable, since some put the boundary at “high voltage” substantially lower than the voltages required for efficient power transport over 1,000km.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    You want to spend hundreds of billions of dollars building a project that would be absolutely vital to European infrastructure and energy security right smackdab in the middle of an area synonymous with political instability and warfare? That doesn’t exactly strike me as the world’s best idea (although as an excuse to carve up Africa again and impose some decent government again, it’s fairly decent. Not very subtle though).

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    EDF (Electricité de France) has a project with Morocco for a large photovoltaic plant in the Sahara whose production will partly be exported to Europe. It is also meant to power the Moroccan TGV. Unfortunately, the Sahara is currently very insecure and the project has been postponed. The plant will cover a huge surface and can’t be guarded at tolerable costs.
    EDF’s US branch enXco also has a less gigantic project for a photovaltaic plant in Kern county, CA. It will occupy 1,100 acres and deliver 130 MW. Production is planned to start end of 2012. It could largely power a dozen HSTs.

  9. Ben
    Jun 28th, 2011 at 11:30
    #9

    This is certainly an interesting article about Rep. Mica.

    A Congressman’s Pet Project; a Railroad’s Boon

    By ERIC LIPTON
    Published: June 27, 2011

    “ORLANDO, Fla. — Here in sun-parched Central Florida, workers are ready to break ground this summer for a 61-mile commuter rail project that the federal government ranks as one of the least cost-effective mass transit efforts in the nation…”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/28/us/politics/28mica.html

    Nathanael Reply:

    Federal cost-effectiveness rating is generally bullshit anyway, unfortunately. SunRail will probably do tolerably well *for commuter rail* if it gets built. (Commuter rail in general is a bad first thing to build, but that’s another matter; the federal cost-effectiveness rating, being bullshit, claims that it’s more cost-effective than urban rail.)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The line is going to cost deep six figures per weekday rider. Unlike some inner-urban LRT lines, commuter lines in the US do not consistently exceed projections, and many (*cough* Austin *cough*) have VTA-grade shortfalls.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The so-called cost-effectiveness index is transportation user benefits in terms of travel time savings per dollar, with travel time saving as measured by a standard modeling tool.

    I suspect that if we still used this measure, incremental cost per incremental passenger, as we did until 2001, we’d get a lot less suburban commuter rail.

    If we used incremental cost per incremental passenger mile, we’d get more suburban commuter rail than with incremental ridership, but likely still with better results than the “travel time inside the model universe” approach.

    Wad Reply:

    It’s the Orlando area we’re talking about, so don’t set the hurdles too high. Florida has awful transit service in its big cities. Lynx, Orlando’s bus system, has 30-minute weekday and 60-minute weekend service for most of its coverage area. This is a bus system serving a metropolitan area of more than 2 million people.

    The bus system will do nothing for commuter rail ridership, so SunRail had better hope that there are enough drivers that want to take the train.

    Tri-Rail, connecting Miami to Palm Beach, cannot even do that. Then again, it has a crap route to begin with. It ends outside of Miami’s airport and doesn’t even go into the CBDs of Miami, nor any of the oceanfront towns in Broward County, despite a railroad running through them all.

    thatbruce Reply:

    That article has a claim that PB is contributing to Mica’s re-election campaigns. Who in California is receiving contributions from PB in a similar manner?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    To California candidates (Assembly, city council etc):

    Most recent cycle (2010)
    http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1012342&view=contributions&session=2009

    2008 cycle:
    http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1012342&view=contributions&session=2007

    On the Federal level
    2011 – http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/com_supopp/2011_C00287003
    2009-2010 – http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/com_supopp/2009_C00287003

    There are more donations, but they are hard to track

    All the gory detail
    http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?C00287003

    Also interesting is national data on who the large engineering firms gave money to:
    http://maplight.org/us-congress/interest/B4000

    thatbruce Reply:

    Thankyou.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Looking through the 2009-2010 federal contributions:

    #1 Barbara Boxer $9000

    #2 Jerrold Nadler $7000 (Second Ave Subway -http://secondavenuesagas.com/2009/05/08/second-ave-subway-to-get-79m-in-stimulus-dollars/

    #3 John Mica $6500 ‘nuf said

    #4 Jim Oberstar $6000 had Mica’s job, wanted $50 billion for HSR

    #5 Earl Blumenaur $6000 all of Portland’s transit projects

    #6 Patty Murray $5000 http://www.forconstructionpros.com/online/Asphalt-News/US-Senator-Patty-Murray-and-Parsons-Brinckerhoff-Senior-Executive-Gene-McCormick-Receive-ARTBAs-Highest-Honor/41FCP12928

    #7 John Garamendi $4500 E-BART http://www.mtc.ca.gov/news/current_topics/10-10/ebart.htm

    California reps who got something:
    Jim Costa
    Mark DeSaulnier (is now in Assembly)
    Jackie Spier
    Mike Honda
    Zoe Lofgren
    Adam Schiff
    Karen Bass

    My fault if I missed someone…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Round up the usual suspects.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    AND you also ..

    Ben Reply:

    Elizabeth, what is your point? The issue here isn’t that Parsons Brinkerhoff gave a few thousand dollars to staunch supporters of passenger rail. I am glad to see companies that have a stake in building modern, efficient infrastructure get involved in the political process but let’s be honest, this will have minimal impact compared to the tens of millions of dollars oil companies have spent the past few election cycles.

    Nor is the issue really that this project benefits CSX. There is no shame on spending on passenger rail if it also ends up benefiting freight rail companies. More trucks will be taken off the road, leading to less pollution, congestion, and oil consumption.

    The issue here is that Chairman Mica is going around the country and holding hearings with Rep. Shuster (R-PA), breathlessly claiming the need to privatize Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, what he calls a “Soviet-style” money-losing system and then he seeks hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks for a project of questionable value. Then again, hypocrisy is nothing new to the RepuB(P)lican party.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    My point was to answer the question asked?

    We are the transparency good government people, trying to understand how the price of all public construction that the major engineering firms have taken over have become so inflated. This is true of community college construction, as well as as some road projects and definitely transit projects, where the engineering firms have basically change order + contracts, as well as a role they have created a role for themselves called “program manager”).

    Invariably there is a trail of money that follows. Some directly, some through senior execs and their spouses, some through industry groups. They call it “investment”. We looked through everything last year and there was a pattern where the more expensive the project, the more money. There is a lot of money that looks tied to LA gold line, San Bernadino County anything and LA community college building.

    You can’t say definitively that the money is the cause of the problem but it is going to be a challenge for us to maintain and improve our infrastructure when the costs are so much higher than elsewhere in the world and we continually make mysterious investment choices.

    Even in the local districts where they had some rules about awarding contracts to people who gave $x, you would see donations of $x-1. Literally.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Part of the problem is that the engineering firms are angling for the lucrative dual position of engineering design and building coordination. This results in government infrastructure projects being captured by a given firm, and they will use whatever influence they have or can create to ensure that their firm stays in that profitable role. Hence the ‘contributions’ to political figures.

    Some of the cost overruns could be avoided by mandating the separation of the engineering design and building coordination roles, with a successful bidder for one being unable to tender for the other. Another would be to bring the engineering design role in-house. Both of these restrictions can be easily circumvented unfortunately.

  10. morris brown
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 07:36
    #10

    Check out contributions by PB and others to the Mineta Transportation Institute. Diridon get his paycheck from this group.

    Peter Reply:

    Who else would you expect to finance such an organization? Oil companies?

  11. Emma
    Jun 29th, 2011 at 12:59
    #11

    High speed rail is not a culture war. The overwhelming majority has approved Prop 1A despite the economic recession. I think even more would have supported the plan in good times.

    If we counted the NIMBYs in all countries you would come to the conclusion that they represent less than 1% of society. On top of that, most of them are also not the brightest to say it in kind words. They problem is that they are the loudest and big media will amplify them because they are controlled by right-wing moguls that are opposed to state-owned enterprises that run more efficiently than private enterprise.

    When was the last time you have seen something positive about HSR on TV, this year? I can tell you the last time I watched something on HSR, some NIMBY was giving his non-sense to the plan. I can’t quote him 1:1 but he said something like: “I don’t want a billion dollar government project.”
    Nobody was mentioning that highway expansions, construction of airports or no government action would cost us more in the long-run than HSR.

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