Reviewing the Peer Review Report on Ridership

Jul 31st, 2011 | Posted by

There are two discussions that happen regarding ridership on the California high speed rail project. One is absurd and one is necessary. The absurd discussion is the one that dominates conversation and media coverage. It revolves around the question “will anyone ride the trains?” And the necessary discussion is the one that is generally ignored, revolving around the question “what are the exact details of who will ride the trains when and at what cost, and what impact does this have on financing and operations?”

The “will anyone ride?” discussion is absurd because there is no evidence – none whatsoever – to indicate the California HSR trains will go empty. Instead, the evidence indicates, quite clearly, that the trains will have high ridership. A quick review of that evidence is in order:

Poll shows 79% of American travelers would use HSR if it was an option

• California intercity passenger trains – the closest example the state has to the HSR system – have high ridership and are quite popular

• Californians have shown they will find other ways to get around if freeways are not a viable option

• The Acela, the USA’s only HSR-like system, is profitable and has high ridership

• HSR systems around the world exhibit high ridership, including brand-new systems like those in Russia, Spain, and Taiwan.

• HSR systems are generally considered viable if they serve a market between 300 and 500 miles apart. Madrid and Barcelona are 386 miles apart via the AVE, and SF and LA would be about 420 miles apart.

• California’s demography compares favorably to other HSR routes both in terms of raw population (SF and LA are both much larger than Madrid and Barcelona, at least in terms of metro area population) and in terms of population density.

• Gas prices are going to keep rising for the foreseeable future

• A great shift away from driving is under way, with digital devices, traffic congestion, and high costs of car ownership and gas driving people to choose alternatives

• A warming planet will eventually force a shift away from burning fossil fuels and toward more efficient forms of travel.

Considering the above, arguing that Californians won’t ride the bullet trains is equivalent to claiming the earth is flat or that global warming is a lie – it’s a claim that flies in the face of the available evidence.

The usual argument against trains, that Californians somehow have a cultural affinity for driving, also ignores the above evidence as well as the fact that the “cultural affinity” is actually the result of deliberate policy choices in the second half of the 20th century to limit alternatives to driving.

Even still, transit proposals remain popular. Richard Mlynarik can rage against BART all he wants, but Bay Area voters still love it. Over 2/3rds of LA County voters agreed to tax themselves to expand their rail system.

The reason that absurd discussion matters is because ALL discussion of HSR ridership happens in the context of the question of “will anyone ride the trains at all?” That is particularly true of the media’s coverage of the Independent Peer Review of the California High-Speed Rail Ridership and Revenue Forecasting Process.

That review did not at all question whether the trains would have high ridership. Instead it asks technical questions about the precise nature of the projections used, which are relevant because the financing model used is dependent on precise projections. Even in a scenario of “high ridership” with packed trains by 2030 – which we should expect based on the evidence I listed above – that ridership might not be enough to cover the financing if the price points aren’t correct, or if there’s more money borrowed than even high ridership can cover. (Which, after all, was the Taiwan problem).

So what does the Peer Review actually say? Their findings can be summed up as follows: The Cambridge Systematics study was pretty good, since nobody else has ever really done an HSR study in the USA, but even so there are some specific things they ought to improve to get the most reliable numbers possible. The report does NOT claim the HSR ridership numbers done by CS are invalid, does NOT claim the system will fail to attract riders, and does NOT suggest the project is a boondoggle. Instead it is a highly technical document making highly technical suggestions within the framework of assuming the HSR project is still generally a good idea.

Their findings fall into several overall categories:

More documentation needed. The panel wanted to see evidence of the reasoning behind some key assumptions, including levels of service on the system, at airports, fuel prices, and such.

Update models to match current practices in transportation planning. Because some of the HSR ridership projections are based in studies conducted in 2000, it doesn’t always reflect the most current thinking.

Make the models more conservative. There’s a long discussion in Section 4 about variable and constraints used in the 2005 study that warrant modification.

Over the long-term, try to remove Stated Preference bias via several methodological changes. Specifically, they suggested doing a study in the LA-SD and SF-Sacramento corridors, where intercity rail is already heavily used, to help deal with this problem.

And their conclusion:

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. How- ever, 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.

Another thing worth noting, this from page 6 (section 4.2):

The Panel found no evidence that these results are biased in aggregate or that any differences are in a particular direction as a consequence, but believes it is a relatively simple improvement that will make the model more reliable.

Overall the panel’s suggestions appear reasonable, especially from the perspective of getting the most accurate projections possible based on the evidence we have before us. I don’t see anything in their recommendations that is unreasonable.

And more importantly, I don’t see anything in here to suggest using the review to make an attack on the HSR project itself. Of course, I fully expect people like Senator Alan Lowenthal, oil industry ally Gary Patton, and other HSR opponents to do exactly that – to claim that “omg the Peer Review found that the ridership numbers are flawed, and therefore the project is DOOMED!”

I fully expect the media to also make the same error. Instead of treating this like the technical debate between experts that this actually is, I would predict we see more articles like the LA Times published, which titled its article on the review as Report casts doubt on forecasts for California high speed rail. The most accurate title would be “Report disagrees with several assumptions made and recommends changes in forecast for California high speed rail,” but that’s boring and god forbid readers be treated to anything boring, even if it’s also accurate.

This is a high-level overview of the report; feel free to dig into the details in the comments.

  1. Joey
    Jul 31st, 2011 at 20:18

    Richard Mlynarik can rage against BART all he wants, but Bay Area voters still love it

    *sigh* do they know any better? Even ignoring the problems that BART had from the start, there are serious issues with the way it does business. Remote suburban extensions may be popular among people who currently pay BART taxes but are currently not served, but that doesn’t mean that they should be prioritized. Not when the core system is nearly at-capacity and the fleet is on its last legs. The average BART rider doesn’t see these as pressing problems, but again, they don’t know any better. They aren’t considering the fact that mechanical failures could become commonplace in a few years, or that system backups will get worse and more frequent as time goes on. Or, for that matter, the fact that remote extensions will bring more riders into the system and thereby put more pressure on already strained infrastructure. I’m sure most people see the SFO extension as useful (hell, I ride it often enough), but the average citizen doesn’t know that it grossly underperforms relative to ridership projections and how much was paid for it. Most don’t question the operational mess that the SFO wye creates because they don’t know that any better alternatives were available.

    So when I say that what is popular is not necessarily a good idea, I want you to see what I mean.

    jimsf Reply:

    but in america where everything is done by politics, those things dont matter. people want something, they get it, they are happy and they move on. they aren’t interested in those details. the only issue they have with bart is that its not 24 hours though they do understand the problems that would bring.. mainly people living in the subway. Bay areans don’t want to see that.

    Ken Reply:

    You think politics don’t play a hand in places like Japan too?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Politics plays a part in almost everything, everywhere.

    But places like Japan and Europe at least start with a capable and experienced passenger-railroad culture/infrastructure/establishment; politics may push it around, sometimes in very silly ways, but there’s at least a strong corrective factor pushing towards sanity. The U.S. doesn’t really have the same solid base on which to build, so political meddling may have a much more corrosive effect…

    [In Japan, most railroad infrastructure/operations/financing are also private, which limits the meddling.]

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Except for the Joetsu Shinkansen…

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Sure, the Joetsu Shinkansen is one of the most cited examples of political meddling in Japanese rail (in fact I mentioned it in my post initially, but then edited it out!).

    Of course, it happened before JNR privatization, when railroading was much more explicitly political, and in any case, I think it still fits the pattern I mentioned — it was pushed by politics, but at least executed by professionals. The worst scenario is when politics interferes at every level…

    jimsf Reply:

    and they dont like the old seats with all the germs. The trains used to be clean but the population make up has changed and the new people don’t have any respect for themselves and public property. So now we have to go to an all plastic interior that can be hosed down

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Same thing all over the “civilised” world. French suburban trains used to have good seats but now everything has to be vandal-proof. Seats are now made of hard knife-resistant plastic.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Not in Japan tho… seats on trains and buses are pretty universally upholstered and covered in a sort of velour material.

    VBobier Reply:

    Japan is probably one of the parts of the world where vandals are nearly unheard of, It’s just not in the culture there I think.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    Japan doesn’t have this problem because it staunchly refuses mass immigration from poor countries , whose societies lack the complex set of behavior rules needed to live in harmony in a complex society.

    Anatole France said : ” a country with bad laws and good morses is a very livable country indeed”

    synonymouse Reply:

    I suspect you intended “mores”. I concur.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    Mores sorry (where did I takes morses from?)

    Peter Reply:

    Berlin still has somewhat soft seats on most, if not all, its trains and buses.

    Alex M. Reply:

    Thank you for saying that in a respectful, mature, coherent manner. Richard would most certainly have not done that.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Of course the other factor is that even those who do see the problems, may prefer a flawed system to none at all, and given any lack of momentum towards meaningful reform, … what else can they do…? The tools held by the average voter are … pretty blunt.

    [Is there actually any chance of meaningful reform/replacement? I have no idea…]

    brandon from San Diego Reply:

    You’re obviously some one in the know. ;)

    Mike Reply:

    Granted, the public doesn’t understand BART’s many problems and shortcomings, not its enormous cost. But look at it a different way: among Bay Area transit agencies, BART offers the fastest, most reliable, most comfortable service in (some of) the most congested commute corridors in the Bay Area. And people like that! People like convenient transit service! This is good and an affirmation that transit can succeed in the Bay Area.

    The problem, though, is that the public seems to attach its love of “fast” “reliable” “convenient” and “comfortable” *only* to “BART” the agency and “BART” the technology. Perhaps once Caltrain is electrified, runs a more robust schedule, and goes to the Transbay Terminal, then the public will be able to see that good transit service doesn’t have to mean BART.

    Joe C. Reply:

    The problem, though, is that the public seems to attach its love of “fast” “reliable” “convenient” and “comfortable” *only* to “BART” the agency and “BART” the technology.

    Indeed. I would love to have to a fast, reliable rail system. I’d love to have rail around the Bay. Hell, rail out the ass. But I know that BART, the organization and the technology, will never deliver this, at least not without bankrupting us.

    Perhaps once Caltrain is electrified

    CalTrain’s electrification project is badly designed (substations in rail RoW), costs significantly more than comparable electrification projects, and of course is unfunded (i.e. bad priorities), meanwhile worse-than-nothing, actively bad capital projects like San Bruno grade separation are undertaken.

    runs a more robust schedule

    The proposed “robust” schedule is pure, unadulterated fiction. Their own documents show costs increasing post-electrification, meanwhile they’re cutting service now. Nothing is being done about the operating cost structure.

    goes to the Transbay Terminal

    Their own plans show they’ll terminate a majority of trains at 4th and Townsend (Mission Bay), well short of the SF’s CBD. TTC and DTX tunnel are some of the biggest fails in rail transport I’ve ever seen. Nobody does this when they have a largely clean sheet of paper to start with. Decades from now, planners will talk about it as a textbook example of what not to do.

    then the public will be able to see that good transit service doesn’t have to mean BART.

    I thought that too. That was naive of me. Clem’s blog shows an organization that continually makes the wrong choices, acting not only against the interests’ of its riders and taxpayers, but against its own interests.

    Joe C. Reply:

    Richard Mlynarik can rage against BART all he wants, but Bay Area voters still love it.

    And AT&T Mobility is the best wireless carrier, American Idol winners are the best singers, Microsoft develops the best software, and McDonalds has the greatest food humanity has ever known. Popularity isn’t the only the metric that matters.

    The general public is often apathetic and ignorant, particularly when it comes to complex and/or technical issues (e.g. Transportation) that can’t condensed into pithy sound bites.

    The reason BART has mind share, despite it being a criminal organization, is because relative to rest of Bay Area’s transit agencies, it offers half-decent frequency (15 minute headways) and reliability. Look at the (often deserved) vitriol MUNI gets compared to BART, people often go out of their way to take BART over MUNI in SF, because MUNI isn’t very reliable.

    Transportation in the Bay Area is a black hole, where money gets sucked in and delivers little value to the public. The bar is set so low, BART looks like a white knight compared to the rest of these idiots, even though BART is possibly the worst among them.

    But these comparisons the public often makes between our different transit agencies misses the big picture. The point isn’t to compare our crappy transit agencies to each other, it’s to compare them to transit systems in the rest of the world.

    Why doesn’t BART provide service like Paris’ RER, or the Germanic world’s S-Bahns? Why doesn’t the public hold political leaders accountable after spending so much money? Hell, why don’t they even bother to ask these questions? These some of the most well educated, well traveled, and worldly people around. Yet outside a small group of technical transit activists, no one talks about these issues, or even recognize that exist.

  2. Caelestor
    Jul 31st, 2011 at 21:45

    ITA that the media relies way too much on sensationalism, and I believe that there is definitely a favorable attitude for investing in HSR and mass transit in California and much of urban America. Prop 1A did pass, and the governor isn’t going to cancel this project anytime soon, provided that things don’t get out of hand.

    However, I still maintain that the biggest impediment to HSR right now, aside from funding provided by the government, is not criticism of HSR in general. Rather, it’s the people debating over the fine details that the public doesn’t really care about but can make or break the entire HSR experience. Everyone has different standards over “done right.” If you don’t come to a conclusion quickly regarding alignments and other stuff, momentum stalls and you’ll never get anything done. On the other hand, if not “done right” CAHSR could possibly have major operational problems and might worsen the case for HSR elsewhere in the future. It’s very problematic.

    See this nice post by Alon Levy which perfectly reflects my opinions.

    joe Reply:

    The urge to self-censor because the media is broken reforces the problem. We need to debate and hold HSR accountable and then move on to the next phase when a decision is made.

    At this point we have a project with funding and a use-it-or-lose-it deadline for billions of dollars.

  3. D. P. Lubic
    Jul 31st, 2011 at 23:29

    A bit off topic, but one thing that seems to be a decent break is that there are very few real calls to speak against HSR as being inherently unsafe in the wake of the incident in China/ At least I couldn’t find any, other than the usual wise-guy comments along the lines of “made in China, ha, ha” that would appear following reports on the accident itself.

    One thing I did find that looked at least a little interesting was this two-part article on HSR from Germany’s “der Spiegel:”,1518,475641,00.html,1518,475641-2,00.html

    This pair of articles seems to play to environmental concerns about energy usage and some other things. The fun part is that somebody uses commercial miniature trains as wind-tunnel models!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    General HSR article index from “der Spiegel:”

  4. Max Wyss
    Aug 1st, 2011 at 00:29

    First, this article (the German original appears as one single page) is about 4 years old.

    Second, it is quite a bit of the usual Siemens/Bombardier propaganda (and the argument that the speed record train was specifically made up for very high speeds looks a lot like covering up the facts that they did not do very high speed research, and “explaining” why it was in France, and not in Germany where the speed records were set.

    A big part of the article is, however, covering a legitimate issue which could be neglected at lower speeds: the aerodynamics of a high speed train. However, there has been a lot of progress in this field since the article has been written, and besides the developments in Japan, Bombardier did a lot of work as well (recently presented in the Railway Gazette International). It has been a long-known issue with tunnels requiring special attention and solutions. But this can be considered as known issues, with known solutions.

    About the models: the article states “Model trains the size of those produced…” Using models in wind tunnels is common practice. And, way more interesting, the original article ( talks of “Märklin-sized” models. In Germany, this is understood, and people know what size the models are about; outside of Germany, this may not be the case, and apparently, it was not for the translator of the article (who, BTW, did not really convey the tone of the article).

    A note about “Der Spiegel”. This weekly magazine is known to rarely say “this is good”; they are trying to find the hair in the soup of anything and everything… sometimes justified, sometimes not so justified… and it is always possible to find someone with a grudge…

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Thanks for the background; while I just skimmed over it, I did pick most of the points you have. And while I did not think immediately of Marklin, I was thinking HO scale, and that’s still a bit of a surprise to me. I am still amazed that one can get accurate wind tunnel results from a model that small; air, like water. gravity, and fire, does not “scale down” (which is why movie miniatures are both as large as practical and are shot in frame high speed–the footage is slowed back down in the final production–to keep them from looking too much like models).

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Actually, the decade-long experience with wind tunnels allowed to develop usable scaling models, so that the results are usable. On the other hand, there is not much choice to go down to about HO scale if you want to squeeze a model of a 200 m long train sideways into a 8 m diameter wind tunnel… (which is already quite a big wind tunnel…).

  5. Nadia
    Aug 1st, 2011 at 10:21

    CARRD has posted the relevant correspondence from the Ridership Peer Review Panel to the Authority.

    You can view it at:

  6. Risenmessiah
    Aug 1st, 2011 at 11:34

    I said it once, and I will say it again.

    There is no evidence that model validation defined in this manner was carried out. Rather, elements of the model were estimated using travel survey data collected in 2005. The resulting model was calibrated to observed data from the year 2000. Moreover, the targets used in calibration appear to reflect essentially the same information as that used in estimation.

    This model can’t be used again. It needs to be rebuilt. However:

    1) There is no guarantee that any model, ever, is going to be approved by peer review. There is always a group of people out there that will disagree with you for whatever reason. Therefore, while this feedback is very useful, simply amending the model to address its concerns doesn’t help.

    2) CARRD is never going to be happy with any ridership model. It’s either going to be too low to support the service, or too high and unrealistic. If Elizabeth wants to pony up and provide an estimate on ridership, I would love to hear it.

    3) The Authority still has the ability to pick a model that will help them determine what to do next. More than likely, none of the central tenants of this blog will be violated. There’s still going to be a need to quad-track the Peninsula, the route is still going to go through Pacheco and Tehachapi.

    4) There is no reason to worry about the model staining the credibility of the Authority. It’s really MTC and SCAG’s baby. Obviously, the statewide implications of a ridership survey weigh on SCAG and MTC, but it’s also not as crucial as it once was with Governor Schwarzengger pushing on one end and federal spending expanding on the other.

    5) There are a set number of intercity travellers in California per year. At some point, all of them can be by air, by rail, or by car. The model shouldn’t be “agnostic” (and the peer review says as much) in regard to air travel. It’s not like flights are going to get cheaper….

    joe Reply:

    Peer review can “approve” a model. They often have a list of things that would be nice, a road map for improvements but they’ll have to find things that invalidate the model or it’s assumptions.

    CARRD will never be happy – they’ll take a climate change deniers approach to the problem – more studies and too many unconsidered alternatives – perfect is the enemy of good is CARRDs motto.

    Travel is not set. If I had HSR to LA I’d visit my in-laws more often. Honest.

    VALIDATION is pretty much a crap shoot for HSR. If things were radically different than how do you validate that system?

    If HSR stations were used as bus terminals and intercity terminals to cites not on the HSR line, what would be the ridership as opposed to park-and-ride HSR assumptions.
    I say it would be higher. I say that would be very difficult to validate.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    There were 3 million air passenger trips over past twelve months between Southern California and the Bay Area:

    Running a train with 300 people in it once a day would serve a little over 100,000 people per year.
    Running a train with 500 people in it once an hour around the clock would serve a little under 4.4 million people per year.

    The San Joaquin ridership is around 1 million passengers a year. So even if all Amtrak and flight service ended today, to serve the population (today) we would survive with a 500 person train running on average once an hour from the Bay Area to Southern California.

    It doesn’t mean that demand won’t grow or won’t include people that current drive, or won’t be affected by the higher prices for carbon-based energy.

    On the CHSRA website, it presumes Phase 1 ridership at around 45 million per year, thus necessitating a system of a 700 person train running every 14 minutes every day.

    And even if the 42 billion construction cost and (for sake of argument) 10 billion operating and capital cost was divied up by California taxpayer, over twenty operational years it would cost a total of $6,000 per soul. $300 a year to have free transportation between SF and LA. That’s almost how much it costs in gasoline using an SUV today.

    How hard can such a valid model really be?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Are you sure you’re including all airports? The numbers I saw including all 5 LA-area airports (LAX, BUR, SNA, LGB, ONT) and all 3 Bay Area airports (SJC, OAK, SFO) total around 10 million a year.

    Clem Reply:

    Yup, ten million’s about right. You can even figure it on the back of an envelope, considering there are a bit less than 200 flights per day each way between the Bay Area and the LA Basin, most of which are Southwest 737s

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    He’s not. It’s about 8.3 million for LAX, LGB, BUR, SNA, ONT to/from OAK, SJC, SFO. Tossing San Diego and Sacramento into the mix nearly doubles it however, about fourteen million all told for intrastate air travel.

    Raw(ish) data, same site.

    Bakersfield (BFL): 19,000 to SFO, 14,000 to LAX

    Burbank (BUR): 402,000 to Oakland, 230,000 to Sacramento, 220,000 to San Jose, 69,000 to SFO

    Fresno (FAT): 111,000 to LAX, 44,000 to SFO

    Los Angeles (LAX): 1,499,000 to SFO

    Long Beach (LGB): 164,000 to Oakland, 160,000 to SFO, 70,000 to Sacramento

    Oakland (OAK): 400,000 to Burbank, 375,000 to LAX, 363,000 to San Diego, 253,000 to Ontario, 249,000 to Santa Ana

    Ontario (ONT): 260,000 to Oakland, 240,000 to Sacramento, 146,000 to San Jose

    Sacramento (SMF): 360,00 to San Diego, 303,000 to LAX, 245,000 to Ontario, 229,000 to Burbank, 228,000 to SNA

    San Francisco (SFO): 1,503,000 to LAX, 716,000 to San Diego

    San Diego (SAN): 732,000 to SFO, 405,000 to LAX (almost certainly just connecting travel), 383,000 to Oakland, 357,000 to Sacramento

    San Jose (SJC): 453,000 to LAX, 318,000 to San Diego, 247,000 to SNA, 223,000 to Burbank.

    Santa Ana (SNA): 356,000 to SFO, 252,000 to San Jose, 249,000 to Oakland, 231,000 to Sacramento

    Stockton (SCK): 11,000 to Long Beach

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Um, okay, well again…

    That’s kind of my point. The number of current travellers isn’t as important as starting with that number. That was all I was trying to say. Secondly, don’t ask why DOT isn’t including five million passengers…I have no clue.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    This is what would make us happy:

    Right now the Authority has given Cambridge Systematicsr (CSI) a no-bid $4million + contract to fix the model they screwed up. It has managed to do this without any of the usual oversight or accountability that comes with state contracts by making CSI a sub-contractor to Parsons Brinkerhoff. This is a critical piece of the project. It is being used to make important decisions and will help the state when it comes time to negotiate with private operators, even if the private operators have their own models.

    We want the Authority to do an RFP for a study and let the peer review panel review the proposals. That would make us happy.

    Peter Reply:

    Because making CARRD happy as what this is all about.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    … just responding to everyone who says we will never be happy

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You do understand that it takes more time to get between Madrid and Barcelona than it will between San Francisco and Los Angeles, even though SF-LA is a longer distance.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ack this is supposed to be below…

    Jack Reply:

    Here you go again, stating your own conclusions as fact. The original model isn’t bad, screwed up, or invalid. It can however be improved to be more correct. Hell the data sample is old. How about being a little truthful on your end. The only model that will satisfy is the one that kills the project.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Regarding #4. From the emails we have seen, while MTC was involved, this was a CHSRA- PB – CSI show. We approached the Authority in Nov 2009 with our concerns. They chose a path, which was to stick to the model at all costs. I just read the briefs the Attorney General’s office submitted in June this year as part of the ongoing legislation. They still pretend that everything is hunky-dory with the model, even though the peer review panel was quick to alert them as early as January that there were major problems.

    The Authority owns this. CSI owns it. PB owns it.

    Peter Reply:

    Legislation or litigation?

    Peter Reply:

    I’m going to assume you mean “litigation”.

    The fact that the peer review panel alerted the Authority to “that there were major problems” with the model is completely irrelevant to the CEQA litigation occurring right now. The main reason why this is the case is that the EIR had already been certified when the Authority was “alerted”. I’m unaware of anything in CEQA law requiring recirculation of an EIR after certification has been completed. The main issue in CEQA litigation is whether the responsible agency had substantial evidence to justify its decisions at the time of certification.

    Here, the Authority can argue, and will likely be successful in doing so, that the dispute between Cambridge, ITS, and all others opposing HSR is in fact a mere dispute between experts, that does not invalidate the Authority’s actions.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    So… we abolish the Authority, fire PB and CS and then give said taxpayer money to another government agency and mega engineering firm?

  7. synonymouse
    Aug 1st, 2011 at 14:14

    “HSR systems are generally considered viable if they serve a market between 300 and 500 miles apart. Madrid and Barcelona are 386 miles apart via the AVE, and SF and LA would be about 420 miles apart.”

    This applies if SF-LA is true hsr express. But we know that on the contrary the CHSRA scheme is all about Palmdale to LA and Fresno to someplace. If you want to make SF-LA anywhere approaching “profitable” you will need Tejon-I-5-Altamont. No detours to the likes of Palmdale, Mojave or Merced.

    Jack Reply:

    And skip 4 million potential customers to save 20 minutes of travel time….

    tony d. Reply:

    For once will you just cease with your nonsense!
    For the record, Pacheco is a more direct route to SJ/SF/greater Bay Area
    than your “pie in the sky” Altamont nonsense. Try checking out a map one day.

    Clem Reply:

    Pacheco is not more direct to SF. Check a map yourself: the mileage is basically a wash, and the Pacheco and Altamont routes form opposite sides of a parallelogram. The CHSRA’s own figures showed SF-LA a couple of minutes faster via Altamont / Dumbarton. It’s OK to promote Pacheco, but it’s not OK to make up your own geography.

    tony d. Reply:

    Maybe its just me, but a line that travels NW, W and then NW seems a lot more direct
    than one that travels NW, SW and then NW. Making up my own geography?
    Is that the best you can do Clam (no need to correct the auto-spell)?

    Caelestor Reply:

    Define direct. Distance-wise they’re about the same I’d say, but timewise, Altamont to SF is faster because the high-speed portion (the Central Valley Trunk line) is longer.

    Joey Reply:

    Both Google Earth and Google Maps have measuring tools. Perhaps you could use them rather than just eyeballing it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I checked it a while ago. If I remember correctly, Altamont/Dumbarton is 730 km. Pacheco is 695.

    Alex M. Reply:

    Merced is a detour?

    datacruncher Reply:

    “HSR systems are generally considered viable if they serve a market between 300 and 500 miles apart. Madrid and Barcelona are 386 miles apart via the AVE,….”
    Don’t forget those AVE stops between Madrid and Barcelona in places like Lledia and Zaragoza. Those cities have smaller populations than the places in California you propose to bypass on an I-5 alignment.

    synonymouse Reply:

    California is not Spain. Americans love their cars. Deal with it. In this country you need speeds that are competitive with LA-SF flights. Forget Fresno, #! in stolen cars.

    How come no hsr in Mexico, if it is so successful in Spain? Think about it:

    big population that uses public transit more than in the US

    cheap labor

    no NIMBY’s

    No environmentalists.

    Carlos Slim has in his personal fortune several times what it would require to deploy hsr in Mexico.

    Then why no hsr – simple – Mexicans aren’t stupid like gringo PB foamers.

    JBaloun Reply:

    Mexico HSR
    D.F. To Guadalajara

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    And the last time there was any news about it was five years ago. Safe to say that that’s dead.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Americans love their cars.

    Except for the Americans that don’t own cars.

    Forget Fresno, #! in stolen cars.

    It’s very very difficult to get a train to the chop-shop what does stolen cars have to do with HSR?

  8. Reality Check
    Aug 1st, 2011 at 16:06

    Support growing for ‘blended’ rail

    A plan to have Caltrain share its tracks with high-speed rail trains is gaining steam as the lawmaker who authored the bond measure to fund the statewide system is now on board with the idea, depending on a capacity study the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board is set to release later this month.

    While that plan may be gaining favor, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said the California High-Speed Rail Authority, however, needs to present a feasible business plan for the project come October or face calls of ditching it outright.Cost estimates have gone from $30 billion to $40 billion and now to more than $60 billion to fund the project, a figure taxpayers simply cannot afford, Hill said.

    “Escalating cost overruns are outrageous. Who is going to pay that when there is no guarantee for a private partnership? This project could double the state’s debt service,” Hill said. “If the third business plan in October doesn’t pencil out, it is time to pull the plug on the project.”

  9. Reality Check
    Aug 1st, 2011 at 16:31

    MTC to Take Leadership Role in High-Speed Rail Project
    MTC accepted a role of neutral arbitrator to push project forward.

    “Everyone’s working on their own plan,” Grubb said. “We’re asking the MTC to step into this situation and help come up with one plan. Then we will pursue funding,” he added, “The MTC will put out the final plan for what this project will be.”

    The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has agreed to take on a leadership role, according to Grubb, who also says that Caltrain supports the plan.

    Christine Dunn, Caltrain spokesperson, said Caltrain will continue to work with the California High-Speed Rail Authority and is currently trying to determine whether high-speed rail and Caltrain could exist on the same tracks.

    synonymouse Reply:

    MTC – the creature of BART – a “neutral arbitrator”? Ridiculous. Ring the Bay here we come.

    Gianny Reply:

    Why does NO-CAL want to take control? In that case give it to LA County MTA.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yeah, anything better than MTC, the guys who slavishly killed the TBT tunnel at BART’s orders.

    Turn this over to MTC and BART Ring the Bay is a done deal. They are BART operatives.

  10. Reality Check
    Aug 1st, 2011 at 16:34

    California lawmakers travel to China to study high-speed rail … and their timing couldn’t be better!

    morris brown Reply:

    I wonder if, Democrats Kevin De Leon of Los Angeles, Ron Calderon of Montebello and Lou Correa of Santa Ana have also found a way to get their per deim State Salaries while on this official business for the State. Were spouses also invited on this junket?

    Jack Reply:

    Don’t be bitter because you can’t go.

    Useless Reply:

    @ morris brown

    > Were spouses also invited on this junket?

    Of course, it’s a vacation after all.

    Useless Reply:

    Of course Chinese won’t show the crash site. In other word, this is an all-expense paid vacation, at least not out of California tax payer’s pocket.

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