Even Uzbekistan Is Building High Speed Rail

Jul 28th, 2011 | Posted by

The population of Uzbekistan is 27 million. Its GDP is $85 billion, or about $3,000 per person. The population of the United States is 310 million. Its GDP is over $14 trillion (world’s largest), or about $47,000 per person.

Which country just opened a 150mph high speed rail line connecting two of its main cities? And which country is about to default on its debt because its legislature is controlled by a group of wild-eyed radicals who hate high speed rail as much as they hate economic stability?

As you have probably guessed, it’s Uzbekistan that is about to open a new high speed rail line:

A high-speed rail link under construction between Tashkent and Samarkand is set to cut the maximum journey time to two hours. A Spanish-built Talgo-250 electric train is due to make its maiden journey on the line on the eve of the 20th anniversary of Uzbekistan’s independence on 1st September.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, the House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans, refused to vote tonight on a proposal to increase the debt ceiling. Normally a routine vote without any controversy at all, the Republicans instead demanded massive, crippling budget cuts as the price of voting for the increase. Democrats caved and agreed to the cuts and still Republicans would not agree to increase the limit and avoid default.

The contrast could not be more stark or more depressing. Leadership and innovation is passing away from the United States and toward the rest of the globe, where even poor countries like Uzbekistan have figured out the benefits of high speed rail and are investing to make it happen. The US, on the other hand, is currently dominated politically by a group of old, white, prosperous people who have a bizarre ideological opposition to common-sense measures to address economic problems.

The debt ceiling and HSR are linked, and not just because House Republicans have already won big cuts for federal HSR funding in previous budget negotiations. They are both examples of how a coalition of NIMBYs, teabaggers, and those with privileges, money and power have coalesced during this recession to stop any and all efforts to end the recession, help people suffering from inequality, and spend money to create jobs and provide lasting prosperity. Those opposed to a debt ceiling increase and to HSR agree that new government spending is somehow bad and that it would be far more preferable for the masses to suffer rather than make those who are well off sacrifice anything at all for the common good. While most Peninsula NIMBYs vote Democratic, when it comes to the issues of economic recovery, they stand in lock-step allegiance with Eric Cantor, Scott Walker, and the Koch Brothers against doing anything to help grow the economy if it doesn’t meet with their approval.

Interestingly, it’s not as if Uzbekistan didn’t have any NIMBYs either:

However, the construction of the new high-speed line has not been without controversy, mainly linked to the shielding of the railway line “to protect those living adjacent to the railway.”

A commission set up in the middle of June to assess the level of completion of the new railway line was shocked to see that, instead of modern, safe barricades, the line was protected only by coils of barbed wire, an anonymous source at the Tashkent rail department told Uznews.net.

The wire was removed immediately and new barriers erected, requiring the services of every railway engineering company between Tashkent and Samarkand. Engineers from a Tashkent heating company also had to be drafted in to complete welding work on new grilles.

OK, so that is a pretty ridiculous situation and those living next to the railway had a right to be upset – you don’t secure a high speed track with barbed wire. On the other hand, Uzbekistan moved quickly to put in proper and safe barriers once the problems were discovered. In Palo Alto, however, NIMBYs have actually fought against safety improvements even when confronted with the ongoing death toll of children from the community. Once again, Uzbekistan proves to be more effective and sensible than the United States.

True, my comparison is a bit hyperbolic. The state of California is proceeding ahead with its own HSR project, and has so far resisted calls from NIMBYs and other right-wingers to stop the project. The US Senate and the White House still support HSR, and the House will as well once voters toss out the Republican majority – and after the sorry events of this week, it seems more likely than ever that Nancy Pelosi will return to the Speaker’s office in January 2013. If and when that happens, and if Democrats retain control of the Senate and the White House, the future of high speed rail in the United States will actually be quite bright.

But first we have to get to 2013. In 2011, the House Republicans are risking an unprecedented debt default and crashing the national economy – and they’re the same group of people who have been trying to fight against high speed rail. Most Californians and Americans want to lead on things like high speed rail, not watch as the rest of the globe moves on while the United States self-destructs because a small but powerful group of people refused to spend any new money and refused to embrace 21st century reality.

  1. joe
    Jul 28th, 2011 at 22:08
    #1

    Tamerlane!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Craigellachie!

  2. political_incorrectness
    Jul 28th, 2011 at 22:20
    #2

    Even Algeria is building HSR, online newspaper commenters yell boondoggle while the rest of the world leaves us on the siding. As long as the CHSRA shows they can provide a bang for the buck, then public interest might come, but as long as taxpayers feel the government is ripping his hard earned money and using it for other stuff than perscribed, the taxpayers of course aren’t going to trust any large scale project.

  3. Paulus Magnus
    Jul 28th, 2011 at 22:36
    #3

    If there was an Olympic event in overreach, categorizing complaints about the barbed wire security as being NIMBY truly gives you the gold medal.

    One should also note that Uzbekistan is essentially a dictatorship. I wouldn’t be surprised if spending the same amount of money on restoring their deteriorating road and rail network to a state of good repair was far more beneficial to them as well.

    joe Reply:

    One should also note that Uzbekistan is essentially a dictatorship.

    Which means anything they do is dictatorial and therefore bad, unless they also invest in roads and regular rail which would make *that* investment is dictatorial. But of course they didn’t but maybe they do and you’d like to think that wouldn’t you.
    Which reminds me to rewatch this clip from The Princess Bride. http://youtu.be/eQNHBUqfLnM

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    No, it means that the legislative process is quite a bit easier and cost-benefit analysis is liable to be skipped over.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “No, it means that the legislative process is quite a bit easier and cost-benefit analysis is liable to be skipped over.”–Paulus Magnus

    One of our presidents–if I remember correctly, it was George W. Bush–once commented that when he went to China, one of the leaders there asked him if it was true that the president had to ask Congress for his operating budget each year. Seems the Chinese fellow found it hard to believe that the single most powerful man in America had to go begging for money from a legislature. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Great scene! I never saw that movie–looks like one I’ll have to check out.

    joe Reply:

    Inconceivable!

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The point was to show that neighbors had complaints in Uzbekistan too, except in this case the complaints were legitimate and action was taken. Whereas in California, NIMBY complaints are not legitimate and they actually block action on making a rail corridor safer.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Given the far off location, it is doubtful you have any familiarity with the community concerns along that line.

    I’m also guessing you’ve never been to Uzbekistan either.

    joe Reply:

    Ready, fire, aim

    A commission set up in the middle of June to assess the level of completion of the new railway line was shocked to see that, instead of modern, safe barricades, the line was protected only by coils of barbed wire, an anonymous source at the Tashkent rail department told Uznews.net.

    A Uzbek authorized commission was shocked to see coils of barbwire instead of modern safe barriers.

    Given the far off location, it is doubtful you have any familiarity with the community concerns along that line.

    Yes, why would Robert drawn such outlandish conclusions?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Legitimate safety complaints are, by definition, not NIMBY.

  4. D. P. Lubic
    Jul 28th, 2011 at 23:22
    #4

    I think Robert is right on this; the fight in Washington, the Tea Party fight, is is really a struggle about power. How else do you explain that the now-criticized national health care we have was modeled after a state program in New England that had been partially developed and heavily supported by a Republican governor? How else do you explain that the debt ceiling had been raised as a routine matter until recently? How else do you explain that the current administration, with all its faults, has largely attempted to meet the “conservative” opposition in about 75% of what it has stated it wants, but has been rebuffed at each turn? How else do you explain that the “conservative” opposition is willing to cut a bunch of little stuff (Amtrak, National Park funding, etc.)–but won’t touch the defense budget, won’t touch subsidies for the oil industry, and alternately, wouldn’t even begin to consider going back to a tax code from the 1960s, when the maximum marginal tax rate was 90% and the national economy still grew far greater than it has in the last 30 years?

    I think we have several things working against us. First, and most simple, the “tea party” crowd has got things backwards–the government is not taking over business and banks, banks and business have taken over our government (look at corporate bonuses for proof). Secondly, I don’t think very many people (including the big corporatists) really understand our ailments; certainly I see very few “smart people” (i.e., economists, columnists) making statements that describe our ills in the way I see them.

    I think this is because we may be measuring the wrong things, and we are getting false indications. Basically, we are measuring money, but not what the money is doing.

    Case in point: The movie industry, a.k.a. Hollywood, which some would not consider the most essential industry in America, is worth some $9 billion per year in California; the (cough, cough) “adult movie industry” in nearby Burbank is worth #13 billion per year! That $9 billion and $13 billion get counted into the GDP the same as making cars, designing computers, building airplanes, constructing buildings, and growing food. Also counted in the GDP are things like those Wall Street bonuses, and the activity that generates them (basically, people who move money around).

    You look at things like this, and you have to ask how much of our economy is actually worth anything, you have to ask, “How much of it is real?” More and more, I am convinced the economy of money and the real economy are essentially divorced. One used to represent the other, but it no longer does so with real accuracy.

    This is on top of the overbuilding of certain parts of our economy and infrastructure. During the peak of the building boom, we were building something like 2 million houses per year. Normal demand had been only about 700,000 per year. That means we built as many houses in two years as we would normally sell in six. Who’s left to buy? Same with cars; we have more cars than licensed drivers, at one point by almost a factor of 117 cars for 100 drivers, a ratio approaching 5 to 4. How many can we really use? In contrast, we are still trying to kill what we have of passenger trains, in spite of the problems we have in an overdependence on the road system and cheap motor fuel. How many “conservatives” (or people in general) actually understand that reality?

    This viewpoint is not new; check out what Bobby Kennedy had to say about the national economy in March of 1968, about three months before his death at the hands of an assassin:

    “Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product … if we should judge America by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

    “Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”

    Robert F. Kennedy Address, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, March 18, 1968

    What would be the reaction to a politician saying this today?

  5. Reality Check
    Jul 29th, 2011 at 01:05
    #5

    Report casts doubt on forecasts for California high speed rail
    In a review of California’s high speed rail project, a panel of experts determines that ridership and revenue projections need to be more conservative.

    Fresh questions about the ridership and revenue projections that underpin the state’s $43-billion bullet train project have been raised in a new internal report by the agency charged with building the system.

    Peter Reply:

    First link failed.

    Jack Reply:

    Looks like Jeff was right, they wanted the documents so they could make them look bad… I wouldn’t have realsed them either.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Uh no. I had absolutely no idea what would be in the documents.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    And by the way, not releasing is kinda against the law. One of reasons why open government laws exist is that an agency could otherwise cherry pick what becomes public .

    Joey Reply:

    Remind me not to ever let you get involved in any government planning projects…

    Walter Reply:

    While we wait for a better link, we’re waiting with bated breath to see who’s on the panel.

    Initial reports peg the unbiased five-member team as Morris Brown, Elizabeth Alexis, Robert Poole, synonymouse and Rex Tillerson.

    joe Reply:

    Opposing them are James T. Kirk, Spock, Abraham Lincoln and Surak.

    IMHO Yarnek will not decide against HSR.

    Conclusions
    The current model system represents an ambitious step towards defining the best practice in North America, replacing ad hoc and closed proprietary models used in many previous HSR feasibility studies. In many ways the model is generally well founded and implemented. However, in order to have full confidence in it the issues identified in Section 4 must be addressed quickly. Moreover, the incomplete, unclear, or out-of-date elements of the documentation dis- cussed in Section 3 must be completed as part of the short-term actions. Once these issues are addressed the Panel will be in a position to make a more definitive determination about the model and forecasts derived from it.

    The findings presented and conclusions do not uncut the model. In fact they indicate this approach has been a vast improvement over past HSR studies. This undercuts complaints about the lack of rigor in modeling the readership estimates.

    Peer-review is a benefit. It offers cover from nonsensical and endless questions and nitpicks. One can harp on the comments and recommendations, however their summary supports the approach and in a context, indicates they are exceeding standard practice.

    Jon Reply:

    Quite so.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Page one of the report lists them.

    • Frank Koppelman, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering, Northwestern Univer-
    )
    • Kay W. Axhausen, Dr.Ing., Professor, Institute for Transport Planning and Systems, ETH
    Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich)
    • Billy Charlton, San Francisco County Transportation Authority
    • Eric Miller, PhD, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering and Director, Cities Centre,
    University of Toronto
    • Kenneth A. Small, PhD., Professor Emeritus, Department of Economics, University of
    California-Irvine

    Clem Reply:

    Kay W. Axhausen, Dr.Ing., Professor, Institute for Transport Planning and Systems, ETH
    Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich)

    What a joke! The Swiss don’t know squat about running trains!

    Jon Reply:

    Correct link: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-high-speed-ridership-20110729,0,7694204.story

    Now this article really illustrates my problem with what CARRD are doing. It starts off as follows:

    Fresh questions about the ridership and revenue projections that underpin the state’s $43-billion bullet train project have been raised in a new internal report by the agency charged with building the system.

    Among the key conclusions of a California High Speed Rail Authority panel of experts is that forecasts of up to 117 million annual riders by 2030 — which have helped support predictions that the system would generate billions in profits — need to be recalibrated to be more conservative and better reflect important factors that could affect ridership.

    And later on we get a quote from Elizabeth:

    Critics of the project said the peer review report is another indication that the authority’s forecasts are unreliable.

    “Not only is it bad; there is so much missing information that the review panel can’t fully give their opinion on the original study,” said Elizabeth Goldstein Alexis of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design. “You should not rely on these numbers.”

    Anyone reading this article is going to come away with the impression that the document obtained by CARRD suggests that ridership has been systematically underestimated by the ridership survey- the “nobody rides trains” argument. The document does not suggest this, and I’ll ask you to quote the relevant passage(s) if you disagree with that statement.

    What the document does suggests is that the sensitivity of the model results to frequency may have impacted the route selection. This is briefly mentioned in the LA Times article, but not discussed in any detail. So you’ll forgive me if I come to the conclusion that CARRD is out to destroy the whole project by creating the perception that the ridership numbers are overestimated and the system will never be used, rather than being a few concerned citizens providing constructive criticism over the way the ridership figures were used to select the route.

    Likewise, when SFist called you on your demand that the authority use Altamont via Dumbarton and avoid Palo Alto, you contacted SFist to claim that you had suggested an Altamont route without branching that ran Fremont – San Jose – San Francisco on one line, and therefore were not just trying to find a route that avoids Palo Alto. Yet you know full well that such a route would not be time efficient or practical to construct, and your call to use Altamont was indeed a call to build a bridge across Dumbarton and avoid Palo Alto.

    The way you present yourself as different things to different people is thoroughly disingenuous. And then you wonder why people get so heated over these issues. At least the true NIMBYs are honest about their opposition to the project.

    Jon Reply:

    GAH. Edit feature please!!!!

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    I fixed it for you. :) I just happened to be online. Off to other things now.

    Jon Reply:

    Thanks Brian, much appreciated.

    morris brown Reply:

    As quoted in the report:

    Among the key conclusions of a California High Speed Rail Authority panel of experts is that forecasts of up to 117 million annual riders by 2030 — which have helped support predictions that the system would generate billions in profits — need to be recalibrated to be more conservative and better reflect important factors that could affect ridership.

    So Jon, you have your opinion on what it says; others including me have ours. Just what does “recalibrated” mean. Golly, I guess it could mean the 117 million number that was so widely spread when Kopp and Diridon were promoting Prop 1A. is actually low, or much more likely, it means 117 million is way too high, like the numbers they are talking about now, in in the range of 43 million are more realistic, or maybe it mean a number like 15 million is really where it is all at.

    Your attack on Elizabeth is completely unwarranted and out of line — actually she doesn’t need me and anyone else to defend her, since her work is so outstanding.

    joe Reply:

    I suspect at some point a Peer Review Panel member might take a swat CARRD’s hyperbole.

    Jon Reply:

    Please quote from the Independent Peer Review report (the primary source), not from the LA Times report. As I stated, my opinion is that LA Times has misinterpreted the Independent Peer Review report.

    Clem Reply:

    From the conclusion of the report:

    However, in order to have full confidence in it the issues identified in Section 4 must be addressed quickly. Moreover, the incomplete, unclear, or out-of-date elements of the documentation discussed in Section 3 must be completed as part of the short-term actions. Once these issues are addressed the Panel will be in a position to make a more definitive determination about the model and forecasts derived from it.

    In other words, until these issues are addressed, any forecasts should be considered unreliable.

    Jon Reply:

    Sure, the report says that the accuracy could be improved by doing x, y and z. But that’s hardly the damning indictment it’s made out to be by CARRD or the LA Times.

    “Reliable” is something of a relative term when you’re looking at forecasts. There will inevitably be a certain amount of uncertainty around the P50 number. The questions to ask are, how big is that uncertainty? What does the distribution look like? Is there any systematic bias in the determination of the P50? What is the sensitivity of the above factors to the inputs?

    Stuff like that. It bothers me a little when a peer review group asks these questions and the response is “OMG all the numbers are wrong!!!”

    joe Reply:

    “Reliable” as is air safety or reliable as in a judge is going toss the ridership estimates and issue a do over.

    You guys are pretending a model will give definitive results – that there is some envelop of safety and assurance the model must obtain. This isn’t what the ridership estimate model is suppose to achieve.

    In fact the model is expected to evolve and therefore results will change.

    See climate modeling and the deniers’ arguments.

    Just exactly how many riders will there be and what are their names – Hmmm?

    Clem Reply:

    The point is that the model is flawed and needs to be fixed. No amount of shooting the messenger can detract from this. The CHSRA claims that it will be fixed by October, and it will be interesting to see the peer review group’s “definitive determination about the model and forecasts derived from it.” As of the first quarter of 2011 review period embodied in this report, they have declined to pass judgment, because the model and forecasts aren’t yet ready for their close-up.

    joe Reply:

    The point is that the model is flawed and needs to be fixed.

    There is no stated point Clem. What you just wrote applies to every climate and forecast model used today. Yet they are used to forecast and make management decisions.

    The peer review summary found no violation of assumptions between the model and its use, and complemented the modeling effort. As expected, they reviewed and made comments and recommendations. None of which indicated the model is the wrong model for the purpose.

    Jon Reply:

    The point is that the model is flawed and needs to be fixed.

    “Could be improved” is not the same as “Flawed”. The sentence just before your selective quotation states “In many ways the model is generally well founded and implemented”, yet you choose to focus only on the negative comments. I guess Elizabeth was right about people reading their pre-existing beliefs into things.

    joe Reply:

    Flawed for what purpose.

    A peer review has to be specific that their definitive review findings can only be made after ALL data and assumptions are obtained and reviewed. That strict reviewer requirement doe s not invalidate the model or demonstrate the model is flawed.

    The benefit of peer review is that it will lay to rest many of the laymen attacks – “we don’t oppose HSR, we just have more questions”.

    Peer review trumps the layperson in their kitchen or den who cries wolf.

    Clem Reply:

    “Could be improved” is not the same as “Flawed”

    They didn’t say “could be improved”, they said “must be addressed quickly”… as in “the issues identified in Section 4 must be addressed quickly”. Section 4, if you read the document, identifies a number of weaknesses that (according to the peer review, not me) “must be addressed quickly. “Must”. Not “Could” or “Can”. “MUST”.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Shorter Clem and Elizabeth:

    It burns! Ow, it burns!”

    The main problem identified by the peer review group is that it’s not a valid model. In statistics, validity refers to the ability to use different data to produce a finding of consistent integrity.

    As a result, instead of being able to say, “the model’s wrong”, they are saying, “there is no model here”.

    I don’t find this all that shocking since other infrastructure can get built from the mere sigh of political titans. The real issue is even if the Authority magically produces a report that addresses every concern in this peer report, it’s not like CARRD calls off the dogs or that another peer group won’t find holes in it.

    The Board’s decision now is to figure out what they want the ridership model to revolve around and recognize that nothing’s perfect. Perhaps a good starting point for the next one would be to assume oil is $300 a barrel and that commercial air traffic and nearly all automobile traffic ceases. In that scenario there must be a ceiling and then work their way down…..

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    The second blockquote shouldn’t exist above.

    joe Reply:

    And of those issues in 4, which one did they find invalidated the model ?

    Clem Reply:

    The Panel has significant concerns about the model formulation, primarily with respect to
    specification that should have been addressed during previous work. Pending improvements to
    the model, we recommend that any use of the model include some steps to make the demand
    forecasts more conservative, especially in forecasts for financial (investment and risk) analysis.

    That is the first paragraph of section 4. Use model at own risk until the issues listed in section 4 are addressed. Section 4.5 explains in polite terms that the model may have been rigged.

    The destination and mode choice models at both the intra-regional and inter-regional levels have a surprisingly large number of constants. While difficult to independently assess, it would appear that these constants exerted a significant influence on the forecasts, which the Panel feels is an undesirable property of the model.

    While the peer review doesn’t say this, I will say that there’s a good chance that the model was arbitrarily tweaked until it gave the answer they wanted.

    Spokker Reply:

    This model sounds crappy.

    “Observed heterogeneity in the mode choice models was apparently not investigated with respect
    to trip-makers’ preferences for specific modes or differential sensitivity to different level of service measures. These and other interaction terms that might normally be expected in such models
    are missing in this one. Interactions between socioeconomic variables (income, etc.) and
    time/cost variables should be included in the model. The effect of such variables is to account for
    heterogeneity in traveler response (i.e., for variation across the population of travelers in how
    various service characteristics are evaluated).”

    lol no interaction terms.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    This model sounds crappy. …

    The model sounds like it did exactly what it was supposed to do: deliver the answer (and the resulting bargeloads full of cash) the client desired.

    If you deliver the wrong answer, one that is $15 billion cheaper, you know for sure that you needn’t bother applying for work again in this town next time, or any other time in the next several decades.

    Alternative-specific constants“, baby. They’re what make the rockin’ world go round.

    Eric M Reply:

    Isn’t it by law (CEQA and the EIR) that the best possible ridership forecast be presented?

    morris brown Reply:

    Clem wrote above:

    While the peer review doesn’t say this, I will say that there’s a good chance that the model was arbitrarily tweaked until it gave the answer they wanted.

    Let me say, “there’s a 100% chance the model was changed to make it work the way they wanted.

    My understanding is Cambridge “owns” the model. When I asked why can’t numbers be inserted and runs made to verify, the problem is only Cambridge has the model, and they aren’t offering it to anyone else.

    In fact Elizabeth requested that runs be made and apparently was turned down.

    For the kind of money involved here, it seems to be the model, the source code should have been demanded for outside verification.

    Really the only way to get a real verification would be to have a separate group also do modeling.

    Peter Reply:

    “For the kind of money involved here, it seems to be the model, the source code should have been demanded for outside verification.”

    Ummm, no, not if that was what the contract specified.

    Why would a private company give out its intellectual property just because some self-interested, oh, I’m sorry, “concerned”, people didn’t like the product?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    This as nothing to do with private IP. Plenty of agencies develop traffic models all the time that the public retains the rights to.

    Sadly, public records law is quite antiquated for the digital age. All an agency needs to do is declare data is software and they can withhold even the most embarrassing info.

    Peter Reply:

    “This as nothing to do with private IP.”

    Bullshit.

    If the Authority contracted this out, as they did, because they have no staff of their own to speak of, then, if the contract states so, the model belongs to the contractor.

    joe Reply:

    Drunk is wrong again.

    The model can contain proprietary components. It can contain IP.

    CAHSRA didn’t hire a contractor to build a model for general public release and use.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Why would a private company give out its intellectual property …

    In a couple decades of experience with the software industry, I’ve found that in 98% of the cases “embarrassment” or “FUD” pretty much covers it.

    I’ve seen the “crown jewel” code of a number of large organizations. It’s only by pretending that there’s a s Big Sekrit that they get away with peddling fragile, broken, flatulent, hopeless crap, in lame bug-ridden release after release. Intellectual Property!

    Moving back to the disinterested, objective, and highly ethical Legitimate Businessmen involved in public transportation contracting hereabouts: you only have to look at the UNBROKEN RECORD OF FAILURE of ridership “prediction” — laughable, not even in the ballpark “estimates”, not even remotely related to the bag the sucker public is left holding in the end — to see that there can’t be much of anything to their Sekrit Proprietary code beyond an Excel spreadsheet with a couple ‘alternative-specific constants” cells which can be dialled up to 11 to make the right result come out.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The model can contain proprietary components. It can contain IP.

    Let me get this straight: the State of California should gamble 10’s of billions of dollars based on a model which is a Corporate Secret?

    That is way beyond Drinking the Kool-Aid.

    Joe Reply:

    You demand frugality and private money, then full stomp about access and ownership of all artifacts.

    Peter Reply:

    It’s the NIMBY/FUD two-step.

    Joe Reply:

    Really the only way to get a real verification would be to have a separate group also do modeling.

    Verify you met requirements.
    Validate you built the right model, that the requirements were correct.

    Building independent models would be ensemble modeling. It would be wasteful and excessive and a reason to kill the gold-plated project. We have been down this road.

    Since we lack an oracle, what do we compare these ridership forecasts against? The estimates are pretty difficult. People aren’t physics objects.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    SNCF which came up with similar numbers?

    Clem Reply:

    Walter Bell of the California HSR peer review group has stated that ultimately, the ridership numbers that come from the authority will become irrelevant– an “investment-grade” ridership study will be commissioned by the private investors, if any become interested. That ridership model will bear no relationship to the present model, as it will be undertaken by parties with billions of dollars of “skin in the game”. The current parties are dealing not with their own money, but OPM.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    That’s a pretty crazy thing for him to say. Developing reliable figures is critical for negotiating a PPP. Otherwise, the CHSRA risks losing out on profits that should belong to the Public.

    Perhaps this explains why the peer review has already concluded that the CHSRA has no in-house ability to negotiate a PPP.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    IIRC 117 million passengers a year is when you are running trains every 5 minutes 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Some one asked “What’s the capacity of the system” and he answered “117 million – if you run full trains 24 hours a day” which became a prediction in someone’s mind.

    In round numbers 400 passenger trains running full every five minutes in both directions 24 hours a day comes out to 84 million. 550 passengers trains, every seat full all the time, comes out to 116 million.

    Jon Reply:

    Correct- the authority are predicting 39 million by 2030, 74 million with full build out. The whole thing smells of FUD.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    If 117 million passengers was based on that, someone should have filled in the HSRA because they’ve been using that number in their projections. Do a site search of 117 million and see for yourself how frequently it was used in the HSRA’s own materials. Your comment “which became a prediction in someone’s mind” trivializes that the “someone” is the agency itself.

    Being a NYer, you don’t have the same skin in the game as hard working taxpayers of CA. We have a bigger incentive for accuracy of ridership and project costs.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I pay federal taxes which are going to pay for three quarters of it.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    We pay fed taxes, too. We also have to pay back the bond. AND, if the project falls apart and the HSRA doesn’t meet fed guidelines, we’ll be on the hook to pay back your three quarters (an arguable amount).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Just like you have paid back building the Interstates? Or Federal Highway in general? or all the Federal money tha poured into Califonia’s airports? How about the canals?

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    You need to get better informed about the current contracts (and CA law) to save yourself from making silly comments like that.

    Joey Reply:

    Don’t even try. CA puts a lot more money into the federal pot than it gets out.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m not trying, The Northeast and the Midwest have been reamed for projects going back to the Civil War. Why would California have to pay back grants? Why is HSR different than Federal highways or Federal dams or any other myriad things that the Federal government has given to California? Just like the Federal government gives things to other states.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I will note that I have gotten angry emails and phone calls this morning.

    50% of them are saying that I was way too soft ball and gave the Authority a pass.
    50% of them are saying I’m just out to get the Authority

    One big takeaway I have taken from my experience with this project is that people really read into things whatever their pre-existing beliefs are.

    On another note: we will try and post an FAQ about the ridership model and this report on Monday. If you have any specific questions, send them to info@calhsr.com and we will try and answer them. We reserve the right to skip questions like: “How long have you been working for the oil industry?” http://www.calhsr.com/about/

    Jon Reply:

    If you try to play both sides, both sides are going to get annoyed with you for not being sufficiently in line with them. That’s my takeaway from this.

    joe Reply:

    It’s like watching a DC pundit rationalizing their world view in real time.

    thatbruce Reply:

    For the uninformed, that looks somewhat like this.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Ho, ho, ho, ho! How did you find this?

    Walter Reply:

    Want to stop getting angry emails that say you’re just out to get the Authority? Admit their truth. I didn’t send any of these emails, but I’d guess those critics of yours will move on to other things if you stop with the disingenuous posturing.

    Your commentary on the project has been 95-100% negative. How are we to believe that any part of you wants high-speed rail on the Caltrain corridor? You’re not after transparency, you’re after new ways to attack the project. That much is, for lack of a better word, transparent.

    joe Reply:

    Anyone following climate science skeptics will recognize CARRD’s tactics. In fact. they are soo similar CARRD should pay a licensing fee.

    Peter Reply:

    YES! I was thinking the same thing earlier. This is reminding me a lot of the “Climategate” scandal-that-never-was.

    joe Reply:

    This mirrors the more general attack on Earth Science models and how their is uncertainty, models change, parameter/paper typos and general annoyance and hyperbole.

    Peer review helps. It improves the model and reduces the credibility of the “we have questions” NIMBYs.

    I fully except false equivalences to arise – CARRD and academic gadflies vs the broader professional/academic transportation community.

    These are appeals to the media cult belief: truth is in the middle, always the middle.

    Clem Reply:

    The crucial difference is that you don’t have an academic community backing up the models, but a self-interested government agency (driven by profit-seeking consultants) and a bunch of blowhard blog commenters who don’t know the first thing about statistics. Indeed, the academic community is the one questioning the models, quite the opposite from the climate debate. Do you side with the brains, or with the hot air?

    joe Reply:

    Climate Deniers accuse the community of being in bed with self-interested government, being profit driven and self-interested and conflicted. NCAR is conflicted. US Weather Service and etc.

    I side with the summary findings of the peer review which haven’t invalidated the model or its application in CA.

    I agree with their surprise that the model was not validated with other examples but it is very hard to do good validation of a new model of a new system.

    I’d run a systematic sensitivity analysis on the model and identify dominate, independent parameters.

    Right now the peer review has under cut CARRD’s attacks. They can magnify sections, set arbitrary standards and draw their own conclusions but these summary conclusions conflict with the revew findings.

    Clem Reply:

    There were no review findings yet. The last sentence of their conclusion reads:

    Once these issues are addressed the Panel will be in a position to make a more definitive determination about the model and forecasts derived from it.

    One could reasonably infer from this sentence that they have not yet made a definitive determination about the model and forecasts derived from it, and are refraining from doing so until such time as the model is fixed! For what other reason would they hold off and demur?

    Joe Reply:

    There are findings. They reviewed more than the estimates, they reviewed the approach.

  6. Alon Levy
    Jul 29th, 2011 at 08:11
    #6

    “Currently, the Registan fast train takes 3.5 hours to complete the 344km journey between Tashkent and Samarkand.” In other words, the average speed pre-HSR is about the same as that of the Acela between New York and Boston.

    joe Reply:

    By car travel time is 3:30 which means it’s another example of rail service that could have been more cost effectively replaced by bus.

    Driving directions to Samarkand, Uzbekistan

    Tashkent, Uzbekistan
    1. Head southeast on Little Ring Road toward Dilkhush Drive 3
    800 m

    2. Slight right onto the ramp to Usman Nasir Street
    270 m

    3. Turn right onto Usman Nasir Street
    300 m

    4. Slight right onto Gavhar ko’chasi
    2.8 km

    5. Slight right onto the ramp
    500 m

    6. Slight right toward Bunyodkor Shoh Ko’chasi
    600 m

    7. Continue straight onto Bunyodkor Shoh Ko’chasi
    2.5 km

    8. Continue onto M-39
    265 km

    9. At the traffic circle, take the 1st exit onto Tashkent Rd
    3.9 km

    10. Turn left toward Nazhmiddin Kubro Street
    1.7 km

    11. Turn left onto Nazhmiddin Kubro Street
    1.9 km

    12. Continue onto M-37
    650 m

    13. Continue onto Y. Akhunboboyev St
    1.6 km

    14. Turn right onto Mirzo Ulugbek St
    1.3 km

    Samarkand, Uzbekistan

    Peter Reply:

    http://www.uznews.net/news_single.php?lng=en&sub=&cid=2&nid=17534

    Apparently the bus takes 4.5 hours.

    The new Talgo trains are cutting the time to 2 hours.

    joe Reply:

    I’m skeptical. I have questions.
    What does UARRD, Uzbecks Advocating Responsible Rail Design, have to say about this overrun prone project?

    Peter Reply:

    Maybe Uzbekistan could build the project for us?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    They’re freaking about about “barbed-wire-gate” … “The use of barbed wire is a clear sign that the entire plan is fatally flawed.”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “The head of the group could not be reached for comment, and the police claim he is in protective custody.”

  7. datacruncher
    Jul 29th, 2011 at 09:52
    #7

    Jeff Barker is leaving CAHSRA as of next week.
    http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2011/07/jeffrey-barker-leaving-high-sp.html

    morris brown Reply:

    I think the report and analysis of why Barker is leaving is mostly correct. There is also the Ogilvy departure, which was also a Republican (mostly) PR firm. There seems to be a connection between the timing of Barker’s leaving and the several months delay in releasing the report on the ridership study that just came forth yesterday. I copy below the letter Barker sent…

    ————–
    From: “Jeffrey M. Barker”

    Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2011 02:23:52 -0400
    Subject: personal news

    High-speed rail team:

    In Silicon Valley startup terms, I guess you could say that I am something like Employee No. 8 at the High-Speed Rail Authority. When I came here there was just a small staff – most of whom are gone now – struggling to keep pace with the heightened interest and heigghtened pressure that came with the passage of $9 billion in bond funding for the state’s high-speed rail project and that, later, came along with the President’s full-throated support of the project.

    It’s a critically important transportation project for our state, and so therefore it is a grueling job to work for the Authority on its behalf. It’s like taking a sip of water out of twenty firehouses at once. Everyone at the Authority performs at full-tilt – multi-tasking iss not strong enough a word for it … perhaps googol-tasking is moree apt.

    I’m proud that over the past two years we have positioned the state to be able to win 40 percent of every federal dollar available for high-speed rail projects. That’s some $3.5 billion, which when matched with state dollars means there’s approximately $6 billion ready to be put into construction in the Central Valley.

    I’d always planned to stay at the Authority for a year or a bit more, and so after about two full years, I am leaving the employ of the state to pursue other endeavors – back to my writing and communications strategy roots that havve taken a backseat while I served the public in an executive management role at the Authority.

    High-speed rail advocacy will continue to be one of those endeavors, as I believe I can be a far more effective advocate for the project as a private citizen than as a bureaucrat.

    I will certainly keep you updated on the projects I pursue, and hope you will do the same. Keep in touch.

    –barker

  8. Jon
    Jul 29th, 2011 at 10:55
    #8

    Okay, here’s a test:

    This text should be blockquoted

    This text should not be blockquoted

    Jon Reply:

    Looks like a PICNIC

  9. James Hanson
    Jul 29th, 2011 at 11:43
    #9

    The environmental laws financially cripple almost everything in this country. In terms of time projects go on and on for 3 times the length of time that it should. The environmental law must be re written in favor of trains, or we stand to never see this project happen

  10. Reality Check
    Jul 29th, 2011 at 12:45
    #10

    Go-ahead for new Brittany TGV link

    A NEW high-speed rail link that will cut journey times from Brittany to Paris and the rest of France has been given the go-ahead.

    The project will connect Le Mans to Rennes and will speed up journeys by at least 35 minutes.

    Paris will be an hour and a half from Rennes and a three-hour journey from Quimper.

    Links to other cities will also be quicker: Rennes to Lyon will take 3hrs30 instead of 4hrs10, and Rennes to Strasbourg will be possible in 4hrs10 – a saving of more than an hour.

    Rail track operator Reseau Ferré de France has signed a €3.3bn contract with construction giant Eiffage to start building work next July.

    The scheduled completion date is autumn 2016, with services starting in spring 2017.

  11. synonymouse
    Jul 29th, 2011 at 12:49
    #11

    Don’t be so sure the Pelosi Machine will emerge from the budget wars triumphant:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2011/07/obama-job-approval-new-low.html

    Even the SF Chron, a Machine mouthpiece, is running columns agreeing that pension plans counting on vast proceeds from equities are badly mistaken, way underfunded and will require large increases in contributions from employees. And AFAIK it is only the New York Times and LA Times that ramina committed to neo-Keynesian pump-priming.

    The sad fact is that even if the Wundermans, the Bechtels, the Rose Paks of the world prevail and hopelessly dumbed-down but gold-plated abysmally dysfunctional projects are actually constructed, with Bay Bridge overruns, they will be underperforming embarrassments that require perennial subsidy, that a broke state can ill afford.

    To avoid this Van Ark should take the brash step of forcing a re-examination of Pacheco, just like Tehachapi. Time for a shake-up before you end up with a another Central Subway fiasco.

    morris brown Reply:

    sysnonymouse writes:

    To avoid this Van Ark should take the brash step of forcing a re-examination of Pacheco, just like Tehachapi. Time for a shake-up before you end up with a another Central Subway fiasco.

    The very minute the Authority makes any effort in abandoning Pacheco, is the very minute the project dies. Pacheco was chosen to keep San Jose in line. CalTrain will fight to the death to keep Pacheco so that they get their electrification.

    What do you think all of this fooling with the Ridership numbers is all about? You lose San Jose and CalTrain, the game is all over.

    Clem Reply:

    I believe you’re mistaken.

    (1) San Jose will still get served under any reasonable Altamont scenario, especially if the switch is made from Pacheco and SJ interests need to be appeased.

    (2) Caltrain, ignoring the great political clout that you ascribe to it, will be better off if trains enter the corridor at Redwood City. Caltrain will still be electrified one way or the other; do note that even under the current Pacheco routing, the CHSRA has made clear they won’t pay for a penny of Caltrain’s share of electrification. The peninsula EIR, until work stopped, specifically excluded Caltrain electrification from its scope. Anybody who tries to tell you Caltrain would get electrification as a freebie from HSR is ill-informed.

    morris brown Reply:

    Clem:

    It is not that San Jose will not be served. Its that San Jose won’t get every train passing though its envisioned $2 billion station. That is what this has always been about.

    Money for CalTrain electrification beyond Redwood City at least, would have to come from some other source than HSR.

    I never heard that CHSRA was not going to pay for CalTrain’s electrification. Please document that. Just excluding it from an EIR doesn’t mean that HSR funds wouldn’t pay for it. Are you also asserting that grade separations, which would be much more expensive needing to carry both CalTrain and UPRR as well as HSR, that CalTrain and UPRR are expected to pay their fair share.

    That’s not what I understand. Why do you think CalTRain is even involved, if they don’t get grade separations and electrification.

    The whole Simitian/Eshoo/Gordon proposal is a smoke screen to get HSR funds for CalTrain electrification. Galgiani knew this. Why do you think she went ballistic when she heard about their proposal.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The rationale behind the Caltrain-CHSRA is a multi-track utterly compatible throughout operation. I doubt this will be attained due to irreconcilable political differences. For me that kills the idea.

    Pacheco has every indication of being more expensive to construct than Altamont. That would not be a problem if Pacheco offered some stellar advantages over Altamont. Not.

    Tejon is quite different in that on the face of it it is manifestly superior to Tehachapi. And thus far it appears that the geology of Tejon is no worse than that of Tehachapi. Maybe somewhat more favorable. No brainer.

  12. Reality Check
    Jul 29th, 2011 at 12:50
    #12

    Al-Qaeda Claims U.S. Mass Transportation Infrastructure Must Drastically Improve Before Any Terrorist Attacks

    The al-Qaeda commander confirmed his organization initially hoped to cripple travel in the United States by destroying its nationwide high-speed rail system, but had been shocked to discover no such thing exists.

    He also revealed the terrorist organization had wasted six months planning to take down Amtrak’s regional operations before realizing that with its constant delays and malfunctions, the government-owned passenger train service “basically terrorizes itself.”

    “We spent countless hours on training, surveillance, and intelligence-gathering for absolutely nothing,” al-Zawahiri said. “We falsely assumed that disrupting key Amtrak lines would instill fear and cause chaos throughout the nation. Unfortunately, the overall impact and limited number of casualties wouldn’t even make it worth the effort.”

    StevieB Reply:

    The Onion uses hyperbole effectively in its comedy articles.

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