Right-Wing Push Poll Attacks HSR Project

Sep 29th, 2011 | Posted by

I’m kind of surprised that right-wing anti-high speed rail forces didn’t try this stunt sooner. Today a Republican pollster based in Orange County put out a push poll attacking the project. The poll claims to have surveyed 750 California voters who were likely to vote in the June 2012 primary. That’s a pretty small universe, as such primaries are notoriously low in turnout. Further, those low turnout elections usually skew toward the right in terms of who shows up.

But it is the wording of the HSR question that is quite obviously loaded:

Voters passed Proposition 1A in November 2008, authorizing the State to issue new debt in the form of bonds, up to nine billion dollars to help finance high-speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco. When the State takes on bond debt, it can cost up to double the borrowed amount in interest and principal to pay it back. The Proposition required that the bond funds must be matched by funds from the Federal Government or private sources before they can be issued. So far, the Federal government has committed three billion dollars, so the State can issue an equal amount of bonds for high-speed rail. The original construction cost estimates have doubled from 33 billion dollars to 66 billion dollars. With only six billion dollars committed, the project faces at least a 60 billion dollar shortfall. If an election were held today to stop the proposed high speed rail project in California, would you vote yes, in favor of stopping California’s high speed rail project or no, against stopping California’s high speed rail project? [RECORD] [IF YES OR NO>>>] And would you say that you would definitely or probably vote (yes/no)?] [IF UNSURE>>>] And would you say that you would lean one way or the other?

In other words, “California is borrowing a lot of money and there’s a $60 billion shortfall – so you wanna do it?” How else would you expect a conservative pool of respondents to react? The poll suggests 62% would vote to stop the HSR project.

Of course, the truth is that there is no such risk. If the rest of the money isn’t found, the whole thing doesn’t get built. Further, given the historic lows in interest rates right now, government can borrow at very cheap rates, making it extremely unlikely that the state will have to repay “double” the amount that was originally borrowed.

It is true that the federal government hasn’t yet come through with its complete share of funding for the project. But then the federal government’s unwillingness to spend money is affecting a whole lot more than just high speed rail. Austerity is threatening the fragile economic recovery, as we risk sliding into a double-dip recession.

Since Probolsky Research isn’t a well-known or vetted polling firm, discounting this obvious push poll is an easy thing to do. A Harris Poll from February 2011 found 70% supported state and federal funding for high speed rail. And in November 2010 Californians elected the pro-HSR Jerry Brown as governor over the anti-HSR Meg Whitman by a 13 point margin. There’s no way those numbers have flipped so dramatically since then, yet another reason to discount this push poll.

But it is clear that anti-HSR forces are interested in stepping up their attack on the project, using this push poll to do it. That bears close watching.

  1. Tony d.
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 20:52

    What a joke of a poll! Oh well, at least it got Morris all damp.

  2. James in PA
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 21:02

    The words in the polling question seem to be carefully crafted to cast the issue as a negative and more negative choice. It does not strike me as fair and balanced or as an attempt to fairly inform the voter when asking for their choice.

    Steve Also In PA Reply:

    That’s exactly what a push poll is designed to do.

    James Reply:

    Palo Alto Online mentions the poll. I posted a comment to hopefully open some eyes.


    StevieB Reply:

    Palo Alto Online fully endorses the poll saying, “The poll results should come as no surprise to residents of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, where feelings about high-speed rail have been turning increasingly sour over the past three years.” People with extreme position are likely to believe that others think the same. Staff reporter Gennady Sheyner shows the newspaper bias against high speed rail in the way the poll is reported.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    You have an ally in Palo Alto:

    Posted by Josh Lindgren, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood

    Americans have their understanding of civilization upside down. Education of children begins at home, -schools can never do what parents can do and should do. On the other hand government does public transport the best, -and a high speed train needs a lot of time to build.

    Yet, most people want government to take care of teaching their kids, while they waste their time stuck in traffic jams :)

    Civilizations rise and fall, and America is definitely not rising.

  3. James Leno
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 21:43

    From an anti-HSR facebook page I frequent… This is what they are saying about SUPPORTERS of HSR!

    “They can’t win with the current lineup of numbers, so they have to change the game. Expect a lot of misinformation […] in the coming weeks.”

    Pot, meet kettle.

  4. D. P. Lubic
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 21:46

    Talk about leading questions! I’m a strong supporter of rail in general, but I would really, really work hard to avoid such a leading question from my perspective because (a) I still would want honest results, and (b) if I didn’t push for honest results, I am certain someone would call me on being dishonest and ruin my reputation.

    What does this tell us about our opposition? What I’m seeing is a combination of conspiracy and paranoia. We have cynical interests with money and power that don’t like rail, and will use their money and power to fight this. It has supporters who, as one person I work with has put it, have “seen too many of the wrong changes,” and is afraid of the future, not because of real physical things we are seeing, but because of perceived takings of rights by “hippie freaks,” “environazis,” “reverse racists,” “feminazis,” “tree-huggers,” “abortionists,” “socialists,” “Communists,” and just plain “liberals.” Considering all the “ists” in that list, I wonder if it should include “nudists,” too.

    This money-power group and its supporters equate cars with freedom, elevating a mere transportation tool (with serious limitations) to the status of a human right, indeed almost to a form of idolatry.

    It is both fascinating and sad to see my country degenerate to such a state. About the only good thing I see is that this largely seems to be generational, and should pass.

    But do we have enough time?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Off topic or related? I’m not entirely sure about this, but here we have three commentaries about people not driving well–if you can call what they do behind the wheel “driving:”




    The current edition of Car and Driver has an editorial on this as well by editor John Phillips. His editorial takes on what he sees as too many old people whose brains and reflexes aren’t working properly–oh, he’s a bit nasty in spots!

    More signs that the car culture is getting old?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Egads!! I should have included nudists!!


    And there is a trolley in there somewhere too!!

    No wonder the rest of the country thinks California is sometimes weird!!

  5. Derek
    Sep 29th, 2011 at 23:12

    “The original construction cost estimates have doubled from 33 billion dollars to 66 billion dollars.”

    In what year’s dollars? Because $33 billion in 2010 dollars is the same as $66 billion in 2030 dollars.

  6. StevieB
    Sep 30th, 2011 at 00:27

    Dan Walters on his Sacramento Bee blog has reported the poll as legitimate news. The vast majority of Californians have scant knowledge of the high speed rail project. I expect those polled to have heard little about it and when presented in the question with overwhelming negative information I am surprised that the numbers saying yes to stopping the project are not higher.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Dan Walters is an idiot. No surprise here.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Took a look at the blog and the responses. Responses running maybe 50-50 (eyeball estimate); naysayers have usual arguments, and may well be regular Walters readers; encouraging to note the pros see and note the flawed questioning, as noted above.

    Sorry to say, but it seems the American public is not well served by what we call the news.

    joe Reply:

    Trolling for hits – success. That’s the reason the poll was published – to troll the majority that support HSR.

    Next, mangled baby ducks http://snltranscripts.jt.org/75/75qjam.phtml

  7. morris brown
    Sep 30th, 2011 at 06:59

    California Voters Disapprove of How Sacramento Spend Their Tax Dollars, Voters Sour on High-Speed Rai

    Here is the press release as printed in the SF Chronicle of the Probolsky poll.


    “Voter intensity concerning the topic is high, with 81.4% of those who would vote to stop the project saying they would “definitely” vote to halt high-speed rail in California.

    Opposition to the project doesn’t appear born of ignorance of California’s high-speed rail endeavor. The more voters know about high-speed rail, the more they are likely to vote to stop the project.

    High-speed rail ridership: 63.3% of voters say they are unlikely to ever travel on the high-speed train between Los Angeles and San Francisco.


    joe Reply:

    When is CA going to stop electing politicians that campaign and support HSR?

    Don’t our elected officials know it’s unpopular even if they get elected running on a pro-HSR platform.

    I got my poll right here. See?

    Derek Reply:

    “The more voters know about high-speed rail, the more they are likely to vote to stop the project.”

    Correction: the more voters claim they know about high-speed rail. Illusory superiority shows that people are unqualified to estimate their own abilities.

    morris brown Reply:

    Derek writes:

    “Illusory superiority shows that people are unqualified to estimate their own abilities.”

    I guess myself and other readers here are to take that statement as being To Hell with Democracy

    Peter Reply:

    Ah, no, that should be “To Hell With Direct Democracy.”

    StevieB Reply:

    What methodology did the poll use to determine knowledge about high speed rail? Did they conduct a test about high speed rail and score those polled on their knowledge or did they ask them if they thought they were knowledgeable? The vast majority of Californians know very little about high speed rail and asking them how much they know without actually testing their knowledge will lead to inaccurate conclusions.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Indeed, it is a well-known discovery of sociology that there is a group of people who believe themselves to be very well informed who are actually the most ignorant, when you check them on facts. Some interesting polls were done to tease this out.

    If you want to actually figure out what informed people think, you have to use neutral, objective questions to find out whether people are informed.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Another poll showed that, in recent years, the people most likely to believe they were more informed than average but to actually be less informed than average… were Fox News viewers. :-P

    joe Reply:

    Polls are not elections – they are not democratic.

    Publishing a poll that runs contrary to historical public opinion trends and 2010 election results obviously generates controversy and subsequently more links and page hits and advertising dollars.

    Eric M Reply:

    That’s funny, because the democracy you are in, you LOST and Prop 1A passed. Practice what you preach.

  8. Arthur Dent
    Sep 30th, 2011 at 07:13

    Everybody hates the other guy’s survey. You’ll recall the Authority’s messaging survey from last year. They recited their own blatant spin along with a series of “this is why other people like the project, how about you” questions before asking if people support the project. They only saw a boost in support from 34% to 45%, and theirs was clearly designed as a push poll.

    So I’m thinking 45% can be persuaded to like the project and 67% can be persuaded to dislike it. There’s a message in there.

    Unfortunately the Authority’s pollster neglected to report the “idiot test” in the survey results. 35% of respondents thought the project would have a positive effect on the state’s budget. The pollster omitted the table which would have shown whether these are the knuckleheads who make up the “overwhelming support”.

    And now a word from our sponsor.


    Peter Reply:

    At least THAT poll was honest in that it was a messaging poll – it wanted to figure out what information would induce positive public sentiment.

    This poll isn’t even that honest.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Meh. There isn’t a poll conducted where both sides are happy. But let’s talk about honesty. Show me where the HSRA admitted that this was a messaging poll.

    The bottom line is that one poll persuaded 67% of Californians that this project is a low priority (without even trying that hard), while the other poll could only push their support numbers to 45%.

    And that was after pulling out all the stops. It’ll create jobs throughout CA. It’ll reduce global warming. It’ll fix the economy. It’ll be faster and cheaper. etc. etc. Read pages 9-12 of their survey. If they can only convince 45% after reading all those promises short of fixing world peace, they’ve got problems.

    I’d be worried if I were them.

    Eric M Reply:

    The bottom line is Prop 1A passed.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Touche. And now we’ve got 67% of them suffering buyers remorse. Do we ignore them and push on, or should Sacramento reflect on what that means?

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    And now we’ve got 67% of them suffering buyers remorse.

    That’s not true. This poll was taken of “likely voters” for the 2012 primary. To make the statement you said above the poll would have to be taken of 2008 general election voters.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Splitting hairs.

    joe Reply:

    As opposed to playing games with a poll.

    A poll is not an election.
    HSR opposition is mimicking the Tea Party and Climate Denier movements. Too bad both a wildly unpopular.

    HSR opposition offers nothing but blissful denial and the free-market solution of failure , unemployment, rising gasoline demand and economic loss.

    Thank god PAMPA property values are completely decoupled form the rest of the States’ economy.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They are decoupled from the rest of the world – where replacing diesel trains with faster, quieter, cleaner electric trains increases property values. In PAMPA it’s the fifth horse of the Apocalypse that’s going to turn Palo Alto into a slum.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Well, the PAMPA types won’t say it but:

    CalTrain is essentially a closed loop that takes affluent white people on spacious trains to and from work.

    HSR or BART or ______ simply reflect the Bay Area’s total social and economic footprint. So now yes, it will be possible for some black youth or Hispanic ne’er do well to end up in Atherton. However, the moral of the story is that as sprawl and petroleum based transit get more expensive, access to urban areas is going to make real estate more valuable than not.

    Of course if you want to sell your house in the next ten years (*cough,cough*) you will enjoy none of the benefits and all of the sacrifices. And because of the nation’s skewed demographics, that actually encompasses enough of the local electorate to pose problems….

    joe Reply:

    I disagree about Caltrain as white affluent.

    Some firms rely on Caltrain like Genetech which supports Caltrain for attracting talent to live in the high cost bay area but Caltrain supports PAMPA with workers for all the less glamorous.

    The folks who work in PAMPA include service jobs and they use Caltrain and the express buses including those that run across the Dumbarton bridge. Caltrain’s not an affluent white system. It’s young and old of varying demographics.

    PAMPA would see congestion^2 if public transportation services were cut and they would lose employers who can’t afford to pay smart people even more for the high cost housing.

    The latest economic news indicates PAMPA is also losing good jobs and seeing a decrease in income. The same forces that gutted the manufacturing sector are undermining PAMPA IT jobs.

    Meg’s taking over HP – downsize, outsource and sell-off. Yahoo is floundering.

    The anti-HSR thinking is based on the old model of some company filling in the gap left bey the last loser. Data show PAMPA is losing ground. Income is going down and they are going to need infrastructure to offset the high property values they think are god’s given right.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Although our characterizations are different, I think we are really saying the same thing. PAMPA is being dragged into the future kicking and screaming instead of focusing on the positives.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    … PAMPA is being dragged into the future…


    So all your consumer electronic crap was designed in Lille, Kassel, Chiayi or Omiya then?

    joe Reply:

    About 2.8 million jobs, both in manufacturing and high-tech fields, have been lost as a result of the growing U.S. trade deficit with China since Beijing’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001, said an EPI study, which was denounced immediately by the US-China Joint Business Council.

    More than 454,000 jobs were lost in California alone, the largest number in any state, according to the study released by the Economic Policy Institute. In the computer and electronic parts industries, 909,000 jobs were lost nationwide.


    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Not splitting hairs.

    Likely voters are by and large more volatile than registered voters. And even then, lots of registered voters don’t get involved in primaries. Plus, because of redistricting, many voters don’t even realize that they may or may not have more of an inclination to vote at this time.

    Not to sound like synonymous here, but polling is just like every other type of business to business service. They give you the answer they want to hear. If it’s correct, then it’s even better.

    joe Reply:

    Caps Lock – swaying readers since Ray Tomlinson sent the first e-mail message.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    I did a cut-and-paste. But hey, maybe you’re onto something. Maybe ALL CAPS was by design so the HSRA’s telesurveyers would sound more convincing.

    joe Reply:


    morris brown Reply:

    As one listens to the 28 minute Rod Diridon interview on KCBS in 2008 that Arthur Dent noted above:


    you can pick out so many outright fabrications and failed predictions.

    Ridership of 117,000,000 to 120,000,000
    Cost of $30 billion
    Ticket price of $50
    CA Voters not have to put up any more funding — Private and Federal funding for rest of the cost
    82% of voters wanted High Speed Rail
    57-70% of voters would vote to approve Prop 1A

    and on and on…

    Nathanael Reply:

    First of all? None of those are “outright fabrications”. Not one.

    Second? Many of those are predictions for events which have yet to happen. (Ridership, ticket price, cost).

    Go away, Morris. You’re so intellectually dishonest it’s just depressing to know people like you even exist. Robert, can you ban this troll? He’s not like Elizabeth, or Nadia, or Richard M., or even synonymouse, all of whom are more intellectually honest than Morris, even when they’re wrong, or crazy in the case of syn.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    120 million riders per year is fairly fanciful.

    Eric M Reply:

    Well if BART can get 110 million riders a year with a bay area population around 7 million, then 120 million riders throughout the state might not be wishful thinking.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    BART is a subway. Commuter and intercity rail lines have far less ridership. Coaster, ACE, Metrolink, and Caltrain, all together, are about a hundred thousand per day, or ~36 million per year (actually, a good deal less than that, since I’m putting weekday figures for weekends, but I’m lazy). Much of that ridership, however, is not going to be going on HSR tracks.

    Derek Reply:

    The problem with those rail lines is that they aren’t much faster than driving, so of course ridership will be low.

    Pecos Bill Reply:

    Of course rail lines, in the US, aren’t faster than driving; that’s why they’re trying to build a faster one. 3 hours to LA from SF on a train is about the same amount of time, or less than an hour longer, it takes to fly between those same destinations once you’ve spent an hour-plus sitting around at the airport.

    joe Reply:

    First, BART is not a subway and second not counting BART serves the propose of supporting your predetermined conclusion.

    synonymouse Reply:

    BART tech is essentially NYC subway highly proprietarized. Add beer can monocoque construction.

    I remember the London region has a lot of third rail – maybe that is somewhat analagous to BART.

    Joey Reply:

    BART is a commuter metro, in that it tries to fulfill the roles of a subway and regional rail, but ultimately does a mediocre job of both.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    To be fair to Mr Syno Mouse (who is not always the most reality-based poster, but then who is?): it’s pretty hard to remember any time that Rod Diridon (self-styled “Father of VTA Light Rail”!) has ever said anything remotely related to either reality or truth where transportation planning is concerned.

    Pretty much any time he opens his mouth he’s either lying or so delusionally disconnected from facts that there’s no way tell to tell the difference.

    California will become a manufacturing center for exporting high speed trains to China: expressed belief of Diridon.
    High Speed Rail died the day (in the early 1990s!) they decided not to route the line down the coast (through San Jose, before it became San José, Capital of Silicon Valley) all the way to Los Angeles: real life statement of Diridon.
    BART will make San José the “Paris of the West”: actual statement of Diridon.
    It goes on and on.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    They say a country needs dreamers. But maybe not day-dreamers.
    San José: was the original accent restored to make immigrants feel at home?

    James Reply:

    I do not know what you are talking about. The accent never left, and ‘we’ are the immigrants. San Jose is Spanish, always was, always will be. Just like Compaq is now HP, Alto California is now California, USA.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    California under American control looks like Spain under Christian control after being ruled by the Moors…

    Remnants exists, mostly as tourist attractions. But today’s Spaniards see themselves as European and not Middle Eastern, Arab, or African. Today’s Californians see themselves as American, not Latino, or Pacific Rimmers….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    More than a third of Californians do see themselves as Latino.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    A little story for you Alon, and then I’m going to send you a friend request so that you can rant at me in the privacy of your own home…

    My master’s program required a practicum as a final instead of a thesis. Two classmates and I were selected to head south of the border and work with a state in Mexico on transportation and logistics issues. Only one of us was fluent in Spanish, and the guy although Cuban was whiter than I was. As we connected through Mexico City to our final destination, I told him that when people who didn’t speak English would ask us where we from, we should say “Los Angeles, the second largest city in Latin America”.

    He laughed, but didn’t end up doing it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No rant here. It’s funny.

    Even the part about the only Hispanic guy being whiter than you is something I can relate to – it was exactly the same for me in grad school, only the Hispanic guy in question was Spanish. (And he complained once that when he told Americans he was Spanish, he had to specify “from Spain” because people would assume he means Hispanic and is actually from one of the more common Hispanic countries of origin in New York.)

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    To make San Jose feel special.

    Peter Reply:

    They did it in 1979, well before they became the “Capital of Silicon Valley”. Richard’s claims to the contrary are nothing more than San Jose-hating.

    The official name is still San Jose, without the accent.

    joe Reply:

    Considering the events between 2008 and today, housing bubble, market meltdown, 800 billion giveaway to the wall street, GOP nihilism, Tea Party and etc, you want to complain about comments made by Diridon and HSR forecasts?

    In 2010, statewide in CA, HSR opponents got creamed, proponents elected. Meg lost dude. She’s going “fix” HP.

  9. RisenMessiah
    Sep 30th, 2011 at 12:04

    Note the following:

    Sample size was only 750, which does not allow for a margin of error under 3% with a 95% confidence level. I’d be much more interested in one that is at least 1100.

    Polled only likely voters.

    But perhaps most tellingly: if you consider the margin of error 3.7% the results to each question except number two are the same…most respondents disapprove of how their tax dollars are being spent in Sacramento and would repeal the bond measure and make them unlikely to travel on it.

    Not exactly surprising there.

  10. morris brown
    Sep 30th, 2011 at 12:22

    Quite a number of media articles are starting to appear. Here is one from Palo Alto.

    Poll: Opinions sour on high-speed rail



    The poll results should come as no surprise to residents of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, where feelings about high-speed rail have been turning increasingly sour over the past three years. The Palo Alto City Council, which initially endorsed Proposition 1A (the successful 2008 ballot measure that earmarked $9.95 billion in state funds for high-speed rail and rail-related transportation improvements), has grown highly critical of the project and adopted an official position of “no confidence” in the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the agency charged with building the new rail line. Residents and city officials have been particularly angry about the rail authority’s design plans (some of which involved elevated tracks), its business plan and its ridership projections.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    If we lose HSR–and a lot of local transit, too–it will be because of timidity, cowardice, lack of vision, car and road business influence, and fear-mongering, largely from and by geezers who don’t or won’t understand that we have hit the wall with cars, and don’t or won’t understand that we will continue to get hit with the oil hammer if we don’t get out of cars.

    Which brings to mind–how old did the poll respondents average out to?

    Peter Reply:

    Well said.

    You could have skipped your last sentence, though.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Ha. More like…what percentage of the respondents were not white? I’m betting single digits…

  11. Peter
    Sep 30th, 2011 at 15:11

    On the lighter side of things: Jerry Brown on bipartisanship.

  12. D. P. Lubic
    Sep 30th, 2011 at 15:27

    NARP news, including a little item about a millionth passenger on the Amtrak California’s San Joaquin service:


  13. Andrew
    Oct 1st, 2011 at 07:15

    O/T: Robert suggested 9/28 that we could get Palmdale in +12 min. Is this for express? Ie, a stop in Palmdale would cost 5 min or so by itself, incl. time lost in decel & accel. Even without stopping, it seems to me the added mileage would tack on more like 15 min. Does anyone have a reliable number for this?

    synonymouse Reply:

    I don’t believe we will have a concrete idea of the time differential until both Tejon and Tehachapi schemes are fully engineered. My intuition is that the operating scenario at Tejon can be “juiced” to do better than 12 minutes.

    It would seem that if one proceeded straight north along I-5 overall speeds could be considerably increased. I believe the northward climb is steeper and then you would have to accelerate from a dead stop at Santa Clarita. Perhaps it would advantageous to locate that station as far to the south and away from the summit as possible.

    bixnix Reply:

    on I-5, the southward climb from the town of Grapevine to the pass near Frazier Park is much steeper; if I remember right, the signs indicate a 5% grade; I guesstimate the worst of the climb to be for 6 miles at 5%.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Say it with me now: Stilts. If Grapevine becomes the alignment, PB is going to suggest viaducts to reduce the grades needed to summit at the Garlock fault or a thirty mile tunnel….

    Spokker Reply:

    Yeah, put viaducts in the mountains.

    Beta Magellan Reply:


    Spokker Reply:

    Looks great.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Hopefully when the study results are presented somebody will be there to ask about the extent of viaducts envisioned. I expect there will be cuts and fills and viaducts just as one would expect on a freeway thru the mountains. Basically what is required and no more.

    Peter Reply:

    I know you’re suggesting they add more viaducts than are absolutely necessary, and I think you’re nuts.

    Yes, Merced-Bakersfield originally had a lot of viaducts. Since then, they’ve been able to reduce the viaduct-miles significantly, presumably as a result of negotiations with UP (and other stakeholders, but they were likely less important). The progress reports that gave us the update on the Grapevine study stated that discussions with UP were ongoing, as was to be expected.

    And, by the way, the “extent of viaducts envisioned” will of course be included in the study, as it has been for all the studies so far.

    synonymouse Reply:

    PB’s time at BART is characterized by signature Brutalism and stilt-0-mania. One would expect nothing less at the CHSRA. BART at Daly City is like a PB temple in honor of the gods of hollow-core concrete.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Brutalism was a short lived phenomenon which designers studiously avoid. The Daly City station opened in 1973, 38 years ago. The people who designed it are long retired or dead.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Not true. Try visiting any of the post-1973 stations sometime.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    or not

    Joey Reply:

    adirondacker: See what it looks like from the platform. Also note that based on renderings I’ve seen of the new Warm Springs station, it includes elements of brutalism.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Here’s an artist’s rendering of the Warm Springs station:

    What I see is not brutalism, but an overbuilt station concourse and roof. Just build simple platofrm roofs and a compact overhead station headhouse. JR Central’s Minami Okaka Station:

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Adirondacker’s image is from SSF station. Here is what it looks like from the outside.

    Here is another view.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The other view looks like a parking structure. All parking structures are ugly and brutalist, where the land is so expensive that the cost of making the parking look like an inhabited part of the building is not so high by comparison.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Insert “except in Monaco” after “brutalist” in my above comment to make it make sense.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Not viaducts through the mountains… viaducts to help minimize the grade as the trains approach the tunnels. Hence the end of the track in Wheeler Ridge is going to look very “stilty” for synonymouse’s taste.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Conceivably, but we will shortly have a much better picture of what PB intends. I suspect there will be fill as well. And of course there will be crossings of I-5 and 99. If it were my decision to make I would automatically include a very leisurely wye north of Tejon to enable the I-5 option.

    Peter Reply:

    Viaducts are also used to bridge gaps between tunnels in order to minimize grade.

    VBobier Reply:

    Viaducts are also known as Trestles, Like this one Here, the Moodna Viaduct in NY state and that doesn’t look all that bad…

    Peter Reply:

    As simplistically gorgeous that is, I doubt we’d be allowed to use wood…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s made out of steel.
    How about one made out of reinforced concrete?

    VBobier Reply:

    Here(High speed TGV train on Ventabren Bridge , Mediterranee line , Provence , France)‘s a picture of a Viaduct with a TGV riding on It, still doesn’t look all that bad, no worse than a freeway interchange really, a bit fancy for My tastes, but it’s an example, If a viaduct is needed, It’s better than fill, as fill is just that tamped dirt… And Here‘s another view of the same viaduct while being built and there are automobiles for scale too…

    Peter Reply:

    Oh, yes, you’re right, it’s an iron bridge. I read the part about “timber replacement” and thought “wooden bridge”, but the wood is only on the deck, I guess.

    Peter Reply:

    Nah, this is way better looking.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah I like concrete viaducts, steel by itself while good looking, is vulnerable to rust and so needs constant painting, wood is termite bait.

    @ Peter, that’s a cable stay bridge, It’s like what is being built to replace part of the bay bridge, in some areas I can see that, but not for most areas, mostly I’d rather something simpler and lower to the ground, like that TGV viaduct almost.

    @ adirondacker12800, nice pic and view, the viaduct while an older design, still doesn’t look bad.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Why do the older bridges look better?

    Tunkhannock and Starrucca in Pennsylvania:


    They weren’t afraid to build big in the old days if they had to:


    Lethbridge Viaduct in Canada, largest bridge up there:


    Joey Reply:

    VBobier: The new Bay Bridge is a (largely untested) self-anchored suspension design, not cable-stayed.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Off topic as anything, but this looks like a neat movie to see:


    Joey Reply:

    The Authority estimated back when the decision was made that routing via Palmdale would cost an express train 12 minutes. I’ve seen 10 minutes thrown around lately too, but I think it depends somewhat on the specifics of the routing.

  14. D. P. Lubic
    Oct 1st, 2011 at 11:34

    Speaking of polls and elections–two pieces from “Light Rail Now” (which has been going through some technical updates lately):

    Californians ride trains (and light rail and subway, too):


    How to win elections in St. Louis (home of Wendell Cox):


    The most entertaining paragraphs from the St. Louis piece:

    “The opponents were not who you might think they would be. Neither Randall O’Toole nor Wendell Cox was heard from during the entire campaign. That’s not to say they were not active behind the scenes. However, neither one published an editorial nor made an appearance in spite of the fact that Cox lives in the area.

    “The three major opponents were local people: Thomas Sullivan, Richard Dockett, and John Burns. Sullivan has been an ongoing anti-Metro gadfly for a number of years. He claimed to represent the “Public Transit Accountability Project.” Funny thing was … he seemed to be the only person in the Public Transit Accountability Project. Some people speculated that Sullivan may have been Wendell Cox’s front man.

    “Richard Dockett claimed to represent the “Concerned Taxpayers’ of St. Louis”. Just like Sullivan, Dockett seemed to be the only member of the organization he claimed to represent.

    “Some people think that Dockett was some kind of front man for the Cross County Collaborative. This was the group that originally was in charge of construction of the Shrewsbury extension. However, after the collaborative beat the rap in the lawsuit filed by Metro’s Larry Salci, Richard Dockett stuck around.

    “He seemed to be the ultimate Step ‘n’ Fetchit to Sullivan. Frequently, both men would show up to testify at the same meeting. Dockett would always follow Sullivan to the lectern and only say, “I agree with Mr. Sullivan.”

    “One time Sullivan failed to show up for a meeting, and Dockett was completely lost. He had no one to agree with.

    “The third opponent was a young man named John Burns. Burns was a 27-year-old newcomer to St. Louis politics, and was a front man for the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party Movement wanted to have a trophy, and so they made up their mind that, in the name of lower taxes, they were going to stop the transit tax initiative, Proposition A.

    “Burns had been involved in some rather questionable activities prior to his efforts to defeat Prop A. Some people felt he had a rather shady reputation. This may have hurt him in the long run.

    “He established his own anti-transit organization called Citizens for Better Transit (CBT). It should have been called “Citizens for Bogus Transit”, because they really could have cared less about it.”

  15. Spokker
    Oct 1st, 2011 at 11:47

    No matter who does the poll, it’s common sense to believe that the anti-government and anti-spending mentality going around today has eroded support for large infrastructure projects. The news that $4 billion might be saved by going over the Grapevine should be front page news and win back some taxpayers and voters.

    joe Reply:

    It’s common sense to be altered to propaganda in it’s various forms.

    Frank Luntz advises:
    Don’t say “oil drilling.” Say “energy exploration.”
    Don’t say “inheritance tax.” Say “death tax.”
    Don’t say “global warming.” Say “climate change.”
    Don’t say “healthcare reform.” Say “government takeover.”
    And don’t say “greedy, soulless multinational corporations who don’t give a damn about you.” Say “job creators.”
    But here’s the really sad thing about Luntz’s propaganda. Like most propaganda, it’s just not true.
    – Alan Grayson

    Spokker Reply:

    Proponents of oil drilling in America say, “Drill, baby, drill.” Climate change is simply a more accurate term than global warming according to the National Academy of Sciences.

    But your quoted nonsense has nothing to do with what I said. There is a growing anti-government and anti-spending sentiment in the country. The liberal poll conducted now would probably also be different from the liberal poll conducted in 2008.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Polls have to be carefully crafted including when the particular question is asked.

    For instance “Are you in favor of national service?”


    Spokker Reply:

    A liberal poll on high speed rail will find that, say, 60% of respondents support high speed rail in 2008. The conservative poll will find that 40% support high speed rail in 2008.

    The same polls are then conducted in 2011. The liberal poll finds that 55% support high speed rail and the conservative poll finds 35%. This is what I’m talking about.

    joe Reply:

    And the election put into office statewide, politicians who favor/support/advocate HSR.

    Game, set, match.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If people voted based on their attitudes to HSR, Governor Alex Sink would be taking periodic photo-ops next to the ongoing construction of Florida HSR.

    joe Reply:

    I can’t speak for how people vote – I can understand that the election results resoundingly favored HSR – Prop 1A and the follow on general election where HSR advocates won vs HSR opponents.

    So I would not pretend to devine the intentions of voters beyond understanding that those elected ryan on HSR and therefore: Game Set and Match to HSR.

    But maybe we should point about some conservative push poll for a few more days – you know – give the guys their money’s worth.

    joe Reply:

    There is a growing anti-establishment movement in the US. It is not anti-government.

    People are frustrated at what little is being done which is why the economic stimulus of HSR will win out over nonsense polls.

  16. peninsula
    Oct 1st, 2011 at 17:39

    The Poll asks the exact question that it wishes to find the answer for: IF ANOTHER VOTE WERE HELD TODAY to halt high speed rail, would you vote yes or no. The preamble to that question is a short position summary of the argument that would be put forth behind that measure to halt high speed rail – the position that the measure’s proponents would put forth. Whoever commissioned this poll obviously wants to know what the support would be for such a measure. Its asking exactly the right question, phrased in an honest way – if you were given this information would you vote yes or no.

    And by the way, the information in that preamble is all perfectly correct and true.

    By the way, if your argument here is that poll participants are being duped by the wording of the poll – is this all it takes to convince otherwise supporters to turn against HSR? Speaks volumes for the depth of support…

    Peter Reply:

    I wonder what the poll’s results would be if, in addition to the negatives, the extensive benefits to building the project were also listed in the preamble?

    Joey Reply:

    It includes the argument FOR stopping HSR. Any statistician (or high school statistics student for that matter) will tell you that this will bias the results. Think realistically – when something is put on the ballot, people will hear both sides (for and against) before voting for it. A more reasonable thing to do would be to include an argument for both sides, or simply to not include any arguments at all.

    morris brown Reply:


    None of your statements matter to Robert or to many who frequent this blog. Fortunately the print media and much more widely read sources, have not taken his position.

    Hardly mentioned if at all were other questions on the poll.

    Really telling a whole lot was this result:

    While the overwhelming majority chose education, public safety and health/social services (in that order), high-speed rail finished dead last with only 11.2 percent of respondents listing it as a priority.

    Also noted was that 2/3 of those polled stated they would not be using HSR.

    So right now the Authority is spending about $700,000 per day while education, health services and so many other much needed services have been cut or eliminated.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    The poll did not get input from me and I know exactly how I would vote if there were a real measure put before me.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    FUD. The money being spent on HSR can not be spent on anything else. Ask Governors Walker and Scott how that works out. California doesn’t want the money states in the Northeast and Midwest have plenty of projects that can use it.

    Eric M Reply:

    Your a moron with your arguments. The poll was so small, how can it say the majority of Californians were against it? Unless they sampled thousands of diversified people, this poll has no bearing on what the MAJORITY of the California voters already voted yes for.

    The simple fact is YOU and the people who voted NO lost!!! As you said, this is democracy

    Risenmessiah Reply:


    The poll allowed the respondent to pick three of six priorities for the state to concentrate on: education, health care, and public safety, aaaaand water/infrastructure, high speed rail, and other.

    Now given that 90% of the budget in Sacramento already goes to education, health care, public safety…can you guess why the pollster allowed them to pick three?

    James in PA Reply:

    It seems to me when people are asked to choose they quickly review their understanding of the issue and part of the process is to, in essence, feel positive or negative. ‘Yes’ feels positive, taking action. ‘No’ feels negative, preventing action. In this poll the voter is asked if they want to stop the project. So the question was purposely constructed as Yes to stop, or No to allow to continue. Both questions are perceived as negative. It could have simply been constructed as Yes to allow to continue or No to stop. Which would have placed the emphasis where it belongs since the voters already approved the project. In the preamble to the actual question the voter is reminded that the project involves:

    … issue new debt … up to nine billion dollars… takes on bond debt…cost up to double the borrowed amount in interest and principal to pay it back… bond funds must be matched by funds from the Federal Government or private sources before they can be issued… committed three billion dollars… original construction cost estimates have doubled from 33 billion dollars to 66 billion dollars…only six billion dollars committed… faces at least a 60 billion dollar shortfall

    All typical attributes of many state projects, and all meant to scare someone who is not familiar with large scale projects or the details of the CHSR project. A high speed rail line should cost what it takes to put the right materials in the right place in 2015 or 2016 or… dollars, not 2002 or 1998 dollars. If that is 66 billion dollars that that is it. Cost of doing business after a double dip recession and stock market crash and bubble economy and rising oil prices and paying for wars and…

    VBobier Reply:

    The poll is garbage and should be hauled off as the short sighted myopic crap that it is, right to the dump.

  17. Brandon from San Diego
    Oct 2nd, 2011 at 08:44

    Message Boards… I have though for quite sometime that a message board format would be better for California High Speed Rail discussions. The areas of emphasis or interest are so spread-out both politically or geographically or whatever, and that they each continue with life for months and months…. that a blog is not the best medium to discuss. Am I alone?

    Andrew Reply:

    No, you’re not alone. This blog is mostly comments now, often unrelated to the blog topic.

    Risenmessiah Reply:


    The blog is big enough now that creating tag clouds would help people research earlier comments on posts.

    But, as far as making a forum…that seems to be a casualty of the ever consolidation world of the Internet. Robert said he created the blog as a way to fill “gaps” and in that sense he has succeeded. He’s been busy lately and hasn’t had much time to innovate…yet I’d argue this blog is one of the most exciting to read each day.

    First you have a recurring cast of armchair pundits who all have plenty of opinions and are not carbon copies of themselves. Most of us are anonymous which doesn’t help reveal the diversity I suspect exists among us.

    Second, Robert has no problem with thread-drift.

    Third, what I really think needs to happen is that there needs to be a better way to identify new posts and threads that have lots of interest. But otherwise, I’m not sure what you would propose….

    an old-school forum independent of the blog post?

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    “…an old-school forum independent of the blog post?”

    Pretty much, yes. With respect to format, something modeled after these boards:

    For a CHSRA Board, I can imagine sub forums like:
    – News/Politics/Legislation
    – Business Plan/Ridership
    – by CHSRA segment (LA-San Diego; LA-SF, Sacramento)
    – Other CA/American Urban Transport projects (like DesertExpress, BART to Livermore, or other local transport projects)

    …just off the top of my head. The transport threads at the skyscrapper boards are too general. Transit Coalition has good format, but it is an advocacy board and posters are pre-screened before allowed to post.

    I feel a Board would be better to keep discussion going and hopefully maturing. For myself, I’d like to discuss some specific topics, but if the blog is lead by the most recent posted article… everything else becomes history. Does anyone follow blog posts that are more than 3-5 days old and something more recent has been posted? Further, the predominat theme on the blog is HSR politics here. Other HSR subjects have merit too.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Robert’s very open to other contributors writing pieces beyond politics. He only asks that it is supportive of the project.

    James in PA Reply:

    It seems to me that any of us can start a discussion forum any time and there are no-cost options. A news group would allow any number of threads all of which would be searchable for years to come. I suppose someone or a group of volunteers need to look after the group while it is active. The moderator duties can be set up to be minimal or very small. It would be good to eliminate the spam that can attract to newsgroups. It is very clean when moderated but that takes more hands-on approach. At least someone has to approve new postings and take out troublesome users. I am not sure how to keep the spam under control. It can ruin the party. If it is too much the group may die. If moderators all move away the group can degenerate to chaos and fade away. Hopefully it would function long enough to be of value. We can give it a try.

    James in PA Reply:

    What about newsgroups such as Google Goups

    Roberts blog could have a link to the groups. The great part is that newsgroups has a easy access structure that tracks threads and users can start new threads any time. It looks like it is free. And you may not have to use the old-school group names and can make a more descriptive name. I would suggest a naming convention that can be both specialized as necessary for discussions that focus on LA or central valley or bay area, and also able to change the region in the future to NEC or Florida, or Chicago or Texas. Robert would continue the blog postings and the comments but the side discussions could migrate to the group. It would be best if link between the blog and group could still be productive to stimulate discussions. Comments on the blog could refer to the group discussion if necessary. If Google Groups are open and free there is nothing stopping creation of a group. It will only succeed if the commenters create a critical mass. Or a mass of critics. Either one.

  18. morris brown
    Oct 2nd, 2011 at 12:58

    As I read this thread I would find it amusing if it wasn’t so sad that Robert in his attack on the poll, and so many others supporting his position just refuse to take an open view.

    All I read from them, is that poll is completely without substance or any validity. One writer, who obviously knows nothing about legitimate sampling complains that only 750 samples were taken and that makes this poll without meaning.

    One can disagree with the results and state their reasons why, but this poll asked more than one question, and the answers to all the related questions were negative towards the project.

    Robert writes, it is impossible that voter sentiment could have changed so much. Well just remember, when Prop 1A was passed in Nov 2008, you weren’t talking about building a segment in the Central valley with further funding to extend further presently nowhere to be found. Indeed, in Nov 2008, the LA Times was looking for investment in So. California and the SF Chronicle was looking for investment in San Francisco.

    You had Rod Diridon and Kopp running up and down the state telling everyone how wonderful the project would be. Take 25 minutes and listen to Diridon in one of his pitches on KCBS in 2008.


    They were effective. Look at the Palo council voting unanimously to endorse Prop 1A before the November ballot. This all changed a few months later.

    You had the State legislature illegally writing the title to the ballot measure; an action that was found to be illegal by the Courts. You had the “Alliance for Jobs”, construction union funding, in the last couple of weeks spending big on a radio campaign in Southern California.

    Now 3 years later, the public is much better informed. The promises made by Diridon and Kopp seem very hollow now.

    With so many much more needed and important issues that need funds, the legislature should stop the project, which is gong to result in a orphaned segment of track, not useful for High Speed Rail (no electrical power!!!). I don’t expect that to happen — but it should.

    Eric M Reply:

    Uh huh? You still lost when Prop 1A passed, period.

    joe Reply:

    And lost when HSR opponent Meg lost election to HSR Advocate Brown,

    And lost again when HSR won 3+ Billion in stimulus funding,

    And lost when the ridership model passed the independent peer review.

    And lost again when PAMPA Reps immediately walked back their “stop HSR in San Jose” press stunt in Menlo Park. Yes, they had to reverse themselves.

    Now Oil billionaires are buying “grassroots” opposition to HSR, HSR jobs and job creation in California.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “With so many much more needed and important issues that need funds, the legislature should stop the project, which is gong to result in a orphaned segment of track, not useful for High Speed Rail (no electrical power!!!). I don’t expect that to happen — but it should.”–Morris Brown

    Morris, you have been critical of this project from the start. At the same time, I do not recall you expressing or mentioning any alternative to it. I do not recall you mentioning what your ideas are on the peak oil question, I do not recall your ideas on how to get us off the oil import problem and everything that is related to it such as oil wars, I do not recall you mentioning what your ideas are on highway and air traffic congestion and capacity problems, I do not recall your ideas on improving travel safety, and I do not recall seeing anything by you on alternative solutions to these problems that would justify cancelling this project and, by implication, by providing any alternative to public transportation in general.

    Do you have any ideas on addressing these questions? If you do, I would like to hear them, as would a lot of other people here.

    I don’t claim we rail supporters are perfect, I won’t claim that HSR is a cure-all for the things I’ve mentioned, I certainly can’t claim the consultants are necessarily performing as well as they should based on comments by Clem, Alon, and others, but I do see that we are trying to make things a little better, and HSR is part of what we think we need. If you don’t think this is a good project, fine–but tell us what your approaches to these questions would be. You owe it not just to us, but as much as anybody, perhaps more than anybody, you owe it to yourself.

  19. morris brown
    Oct 2nd, 2011 at 16:03

    China suspends railways projects

    China has suspended construction on 80 per cent of its new high-speed railway projects in the wake of a deadly bullet train crash in July.


    Peter Reply:

    Spammer, we KNOW. That’s ancient news.

    morris brown Reply:

    This article just appeared in the last couple of hours. I think I follow events pretty well. There certainly has been notes that the Chinese were cutting back, but cutting back 80% — that I had not read before.

    Peter Reply:

    Let me clarify: China had already suspended most of its HSR projects. The fact that it’s now 80% is the only thing that is new, but it’s also underwhelmingly surprising.

    joe Reply:

    We ground entire fleets of commercial airplanes if there is a suspected problem with the model after an accident – like SW grounding and inspecting every 737 for cracks.

    Tell me when China starts to rip up track.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Tell me when Washington Metro starts ripping up track.

    joe Reply:

    Ah The Metro – it’s a favorite for the conservative think tanks which populate DC and love their subsidized transportation.

    Would you even think to suggest that the DC rail system will be closed rather than be extended to, say, Dulles?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Don’t change the subject. Yes, a bunch of conservatives who feel like they should hate transit but ride Metro and the NEC and like them sound like complete hypocrites when the subject is the transit they ride. Megan McArdle deserves special scorn for this. But the fact that McArdle is clueless does not make Metro safe.

    Also, the Dulles extension is just transit-oriented sprawl, much like the outward BART extensions; the natural end of the line is Tysons, which is a suitable end-of-line anchor and wants to do extensive sprawl repair. And much like BART, this extension is supremely expensive: it costs like a fully-underground subway, about $150 million/km, although it’s predominantly above ground.

    thatbruce Reply:

    I find mass transit systems that stop short of the region’s airport to be woefully lacking.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I find people who prioritise heavily subsidised public transportation to airports — and most particularly those who advocate for massively subsidised fixed guideway airport lines — to be (like myself) upper class, overpaid, under-analytical, blinkered, and full of unexamined prejudices, and, finally, not even sufficiently analytical to understand their own economic self-interest.

    A few round trips a year (or whatever) to an airport for a few thousands of self-important frequent flier types and perhaps two round trips a year for the vacationing middle classes is about as piss-poor an investment of public money as can be imagined. Even those same over-priviledged people would be better off if bus service improved enough that they took it to work once every three months (let alone daily).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    New York City Transit was doing fine when it served zero airports out of three. It’s still doing fine at one airport out of three; the cost of the JFK AirTrain was thankfully absorbed by Port Authority, which has excess money coming from its toll revenues. And it’s uncontroversial that the biggest priority in New York is Second Avenue Subway rather than a LaGuardia extension; way more people live on the East Side of Manhattan than fly out of LGA.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The accident could well just be an excuse. China greatly accelerated HSR construction in 2008-9 as part of its economic stimulus plan. Now that China’s economy is overheating and suffering from inflation, it’s time to cut back. It’s possible that there were plans to cut back anyway, but the move is now used to make it look like a safety measure.

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