Does the Legislative Analyst Have Any Credibility Left?

Nov 29th, 2011 | Posted by

The concept of a Legislative Analyst Office is a good one. The state legislature ought to have a neutral, independent, non-partisan research bureau that is devoted to giving legislators facts and insight as they make important decisions.

But that concept falls apart if the LAO provides bad analysis, and especially if it abandons its neutrality and instead tries to make policy. Nobody elected Mac Taylor to govern the State of California, but as Legislative Analyst he has increasingly pushed the LAO to intervene in policy debates that he and the office simply have no place sticking their nose.

Worse, they tend to do it without the benefit of accurate information. That’s especially been their problem when looking at the high speed rail project. Rather than respecting the will of the voters of California, the LAO has waged a consistent effort to attack the project since early 2009, when they first argued for gutting the project. And their attacks are based on flawed evidence. With each baseless attack, they have jeopardized the reputation of the LAO and undermined their ability to give neutral, informed analysis to the elected lawmakers of California.

Earlier this year the LAO wanted to give HSR the Scott Walker treatment, arguing that California should sacrifice jobs and $4 billion in federal stimulus and kill the HSR project. As this blog explained back in May, their analysis was deeply flawed, written largely by an unqualified analyst who had no experience in the topic area.

That unprecedented report generated a strong backlash from legislators, mayors, government watchdogs, and newspapers around the state. The federal government slapped down several of the LAO’s uninformed claims, and Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani asked a series of questions of the LAO regarding the assembly of that flawed report. I don’t know if the LAO ever did answer these questions, but clearly the May 2011 report did major damage to the LAO’s credibility.

Sadly, the LAO has chosen to double down on their flawed and unprecedented attack on a project approved by the voters of California. You can read their most recent report here. Its tone and word choice are clearly those of project opponents who grudgingly have to admit the project made great strides forward with the 2012 Business Plan, but who keep trying to find reasons to oppose the project. And once again all they do is make themselves look foolish in the process, further undermining the credibility of what once was, and should still be, one of the state government’s most useful agencies.

They include the completely misleading claim that just because massively unpopular House Republicans voted to kill HSR funding for a year, that we can therefore predict the feds will never again fund HSR:

Availability of Funding to Complete a Usable Segment Highly Uncertain. The possible future sources of funding necessary to complete Phase 1 that are identified in the draft business plan are highly speculative. In addition, Congress has approved no funding for high-speed rail projects for the next year. As a result, it is highly uncertain if funding to complete the high-speed rail system will ever materialize.

That last line is just not true. At all. It ignores the fact that President Barack Obama still strongly supports high speed rail funding. So too does Nancy Pelosi, who would return as Speaker if, as polls show, Democrats retake the House. Then again, the LAO is notoriously ignorant of federal issues, as their slapdown by the federal government earlier this year made clear.

The report is also an attempt to fight back against the 2012 Business Plan’s most successful claims:

Alternative Cost Estimate Overstated. The draft business plan compares the estimated $99 billion to $118 billion cost of constructing high-speed rail with an estimated $170 billion cost of adding equivalent capacity to airports and highways. This comparison is very problematic because $170 billion is not what the state would otherwise spend to address the growth in inter-city transportation demand. The HSRA estimates that the high-speed train system would have the capacity to carry 116 million passengers per year but their highest forecasted ridership is significantly less than that amount—44 million rides per year (roughly 40 percent less than capacity).

Huh? They simply claim it won’t cost $170 billion to build alternatives, but don’t provide a shred of evidence to back up that claim. They talk about CHSRA ridership forecasts, but that has nothing to do with the $170 billion alternative cost.

We know, for example, that it will cost $25 billion to widen Highway 99 in the Central Valley – and that’s a 2006 estimate. It’s entirely possible that estimate will have risen by the same amount as the HSR estimate has risen. Extrapolate that cost out through the rest of the state, especially the densely built Bay Area and Southern California, and $170 billion to expand both freeways and airports suddenly seems plausible.

And of course, nowhere in the report – nowhere at all – does the LAO discuss the rising cost of oil.

They also argue from a perspective of false choice and artificial scarcity:

High-Speed Rail’s Priority Over Other Transportation Investments Unproven. As the state’s population increases, demand for both interregional travel and urban travel will grow. It will be necessary to continue to maintain existing infrastructure, fund urban transit options, and use tools to increase the capacity of existing roadways to accommodate these increased travel demands. In light of this, the Legislature should consider where to invest limited state resources.

This is misleading at best. It’s not an either/or decision. California needs to invest in both intercity travel AND urban travel. In fact, they complement each other. And since California remains a rich state, there’s plenty of money available to do both. The LAO ought to be advising the legislature as to what its funding options are and what the possible impact might be, rather than saying “sorry, you are poor and have to pick between priorities.”

In fact, LAO staff went even further down the path of false choice and artificial scarcity in their testimony today:

“You may also have to look at making other cuts to social services programs or education,” and not funding other transportation projects, report co-author Farra Bracht told the Assembly Committee on Transportation.

Let’s be clear: this is bullshit. To the LAO, all HSR brings is debt. They have never once acknowledged the financial benefits to the state of tens of thousands of new jobs. A 2010 US Conference of Mayors report suggested HSR would bring a $10 billion annual green dividend to Los Angeles alone. Statewide, the boost would be even greater.

Not only does the LAO ignore the dividends entirely, they claim negatives might wipe out the benefits – but they don’t come up with anything close to $10 billion in annual green dividends:

Economic Impact Analysis Is Imbalanced. Our preliminary review of the economic analysis in the draft business plan is that it may be incomplete and imbalanced, and therefore portrays the project more favorably than may be warranted. For example, the plan does not estimate economic loses from negative impacts to business from right-of-way acquisition and rail construction activities or from increases in urban traffic congestion around train stations.

Those impacts will be minimal at best. They might hit the tens of millions. They won’t come anywhere close to the tens of billions. Once again it’s clear the LAO is biased against this project.

And of course, the legislature also has many other options open to it to raise revenue to fund social services and education. The notion that HSR would force those things to be cut is a lie, especially since the state is not on the hook for the $98 billion cost.

The LAO is acting as a nakedly political body here, abandoning its role as a neutral and informed analyst to instead try and kill a project it dislikes. By not accurately or honestly assessing the project and its environment, the LAO has not only produced a report that can safely be ignored, they have further damaged their already shaky credibility as an institution. It may be time for major staffing changes at the LAO in order to bring much-needed reforms to that important agency.

  1. Drunk Engineer
    Nov 29th, 2011 at 22:05

    They simply claim it won’t cost $170 billion to build alternatives, but don’t provide a shred of evidence to back up that claim.

    The LAO is correct. The $170 billion figure was complete bullshit.

    The basis for the $170 was not projected ridership, but rather theoretical maximum capacity of a HSR line — 12 double-length trains per hour throughout the day and night. No HSR in the world runs at those levels.

    Clem Reply:

    Right. The fair comparison is how much road and airport infrastructure would be required to handle the projected ridership of the HSR system if HSR weren’t built. The maximum theoretical capacity of the HSR system, used as a basis for the $170 billion figure, is quite irrelevant. Using the projected ridership of the HSR system, the cost of the alternatives is closer to $68 billion.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Well that’s an even dumber argument because it assumes you would actually have to build 4 runways and 115 gates. Never mind that building an airport has a funding source and its not the taxpayer.

    An ammusing article none the less. Questioning the credibility of the LAO, but not CAHSR. Now we know Robert is off the deep end.

    Peter Reply:

    Ummm, do you even have any clue who pays for building airports? It sure isn’t the airlines…

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Roughly 55% of all airport revenue comes directly from airlines; this is down from about 70% in the late 1980’s. This is largely in response to deregulation which put airports in the position of landlords with relatively transient renters that could come and go with 30 days’ notice. Since that time there has been a shift from airline revenues to non-airline revenues like parking and concessions. Since airports don’t have taxing authority and face severe penalties for revenue diversion (into and out of an airports coffers – see Detroit/Wayne), they rely on airline rents, FAA authorized passenger facility charges, landing fees and concessions to generate revenue. Some money for sponsored projects comes from the AATF which gets its money from taxes on aviation system users (i.e. 10% tax on tickets, fuel taxes and waybills). This is typically used for airfield projects or projects mandated by the FAA, such as upgrading airfield lighting systems or airport navigation equipment.

    Maybe HSR can learn a thing or two from the way airports are built. Maybe next time you’ll pick an argument with someone significantly less informed on the subject matter of airport finance. Airports have a 100% cost recovery model, HSR does not.

    StevieB Reply:

    Is it your assertion that all airports are profitable?

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Well, they can’t charge local taxpayers money to make up any loss, they can’t divert revenue or share revenue with a city because it’s illegal and the government doesn’t write them a check for the difference.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Private commerical airports make money too:

    thatbruce Reply:

    Airports have a 100% cost recovery model, HSR does not.

    All of your descriptive text points to Airports having a cost recovery model for day to day operations, and not towards the cost of their initial construction. Some airports even make a profit on this, requiring fewer government funds to pay for upgrades, government-mandated or not.

    What is missing from your text about Airports, but applied to your comments about HSR, is cost recovery for the initial infrastructure. Once you apply the same brush to anything you compare HSR to, then perhaps there can be a reasonable discussion.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Sorry Bruce, you statement is completely false. Airports recover the cost of operations and Capital.

    Peter Reply:


    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Pick and airport and download their annual report then read it.

    In other words, do a little research.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Strange that you’ve ignored the multiple postings of links on this blog about HSR operations around the world which recover both operations and initial capital.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Strange you ignore the fact that the majority of HSR systems in the world do not recover both operations and initial capital.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Most do not yet recover initial capital. As time goes on, more will acquire that distinction. That is correct. Now answer this Sobering. How long will these HSR systems last? I will bet good money that they last at least 50 years barring a catastrophic event and far longer than competing road or airport infrastructure will. It is just the nature of rail technology. Now, when liquid fuels are only available via Fischer Tropsch synthesis from coal etc. at a 50 – 60% conversion efficiency or from difficult Ultra Deepwater or the Artic, which pathway do you think makes more sense? Electricity directly or fuel synthesis?

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Steel in Steel lasting 50 years? You must be joking.

    Now answer me this. With Capital (debt service on bonds and money from private investors) at about $5 billion a year and O&M at another $1 Billion with revenues maxing at $3.1 billion (if you believe the ridership and revenue forecast) how will the annual shortfall of $2.9 Billion be paid for/

    That is my only question. A $2.9 billion a year shortfall isn’t chump change. If they think they can get private investors who will want a return on their investment to put money into a project that has an annual all in cost shortfall of $2.9 billion a year they are out of their minds. That investment simply will not materialize.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, he is joking. The bulk of the capital cost – tunnels, viaducts, earthworks – lasts way longer. The depreciation cycle used in accounting is on the order of 50 years but the sobering reality is that they’re useful for a hundred, give or take. (The London Underground uses 150-year-old infrastructure; the only part that required something like full replacement is a tunnel originally built for pedestrians in the 1840s.) The system elements like signaling and electrification last much less than 50 years, but they’re a small portion of the cost.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    As Alon succintly points out, the big ticket items for rail are the earthworks including rock removal, viaducts etc. Steel rail is trivial in comparison and is much more cheaply maintained than asphalt for a highway of similar capacity. Think about the volume of required material. Steel Rail, Concrete ties (sleepers for the international audience), ballast, subgrade and compare with just the surface layer of asphalt or concrete needed for a halfway decent highway. It should immediately be clear which is long term more of an issue.

    Look Sobering. We are talking about an investment at a time when it is crystal clear that we have to make a choice in terms of the direction we want to go. If we choose air and highway, we know today and in fact we have known since the 1970’s that fuel for such a project is going to be an issue and we also know that maintenance will eventually become prohibitive in comparison to a rail alternative. I hope we choose wisely.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I can confirm that railroads and their structures last a very long time, even in steel. The railroad that is down the street from my house is just getting some rail replaced that dates to 1917. Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor (Harrisburg to Philadelphia) only two years ago had rail in the track dating to 1943. A siding off that line had rail in it dating to 1898, rolled in Scranton, Pa. How do I know this? I saw said track, and rails have all sorts of data stamped into their sides, and dates, manufacturer, bloom numbers, heat treatment numbers, etc. are all there for the world to see.

    In addition to that, there are tunnels in service on a commuter rail route I use that date to the 1880s, steel railroad bridges that carry the heaviest of trains (and passenger trains, too) that date from the 1930s and 1920s, another steel bridge on a heavily used freight route that will turn 100 next year, and another steel bridge on a secondary route that is about 120. There are other structures, including some on Amtrak, that are even older, even predating the Civil War. At least one large stone bridge on a heavy freight route, and a number of smaller structures on a joint freight and passenger route, date to 1835 or earlier, yet carry the heaviest of modern freights and passenger trains, too, the latter running at a legally mandated 79 mph.

    The speed limit is not due to the structures, but to a signal system that lacks either cab signal; in cations or automatic stopping capability.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Reading through a brief history of airport funding in the US, there are several major phases of airport construction.

    Pre 1918, Airports were built with private money. Post 1918 and Government Airmail contracts, the post office (ie, the government) began investing in air ‘stations’. The Great Depression saw a massive government investment in the construction of airports, followed by an even larger investment in the same when WWII broke out.

    Post WWII, a number of these war-improved airports were handed over to local operators both cities and private, at well below cost. There is also the start of the ongoing capital grants act, where federal government funds were made available for airport construction, most of which were paid back by local bond measures. Some are of course never paid back because the airport wasn’t able to turn a profit.

    The point that I’m making here, which I’m sure you’ll ignore, is that a lot of the initial funding to construct today’s modern airports, specifically the land and runways, was paid for by the US Government and handed over to local operators well below cost. The revenue that modern major US airports get today does not go towards paying off the historical real cost to acquire the land and build the initial runways. That cost, which was borne by the US taxpayer at the time, has been written off the books of the individual airports.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    I already explained what that cost was below. The point you’re missing is that CAHSR wants $98 billion for 500 miles of rail. The cost of initial construction of airports – in todays dollars – was just over $1 billion for 500 airports. Trying to compare the two is so disingenuous its not even funny. The revnues at modern major US airports are and have been more than enough to pay off the original investement plus the billions spent since. Even Denver, which cost initially $5 billion and has since cost another $1.8 billion for additional runways only carries about $4 billion in debt. So please, lets not even begin to pretend that what is being proposed for rail here is somehow equivalent to airports.

    Peter Reply:

    Other than the last couple of items you mention, nothing you talked about there has anything to do with funding the BUILDING of airports, or even expansion of airports.

    You’re talking about operational expenses, I’m talking capital expenditures.

    Just as an example, the Airport Improvement Program offers federal grants covering up to 80% of eligible costs. It provides billions in funding to both air carrier and general aviation airports every year. On the taxpayer’s tab.

    Maybe next time you’ll consider that some people here actually are informed about airport financing (maybe they’ve been involved in aviation for some time).

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    You realize of course that AIP funds come from the AATF right?

    You realize of course that AATF funds come from airport system users right? The AATF is off budget.

    You don’t know anything about airport finance. Nothing at all.

    Peter Reply:

    So your argument then is that a construction funded by tax revenue is not paid for by the taxpayer?

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Airport construction is funded by bonds which are repaid by the users of the airport. What part of this aren’t you getting?

    Peter Reply:

    I was just about to say that it’s interesting that you never mentioned the bond funds. Just an example from a 1998 GAO report, but state, local, and airport bonds paid for more than half of airport capital expenditures. It does not say how repayment of the state or local bonds is funded. I assume the airport bonds are repaid by airport revenues.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    It is all 100% from the operation. There are no other funding sources for airports to pay down such debt, even if a city owns an airport the airport finances have to be kept seperate per Federal Law. Its why the airlines and airprots go ape nuts everytime politicians tries to raid the AATF. Better lawyers than the people that build higways I suppose.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    I have no problem with HSR being built, the problem is the math isn’t there for this anymore. The plan basically calls for the majority of the capital cost to be the burden of the taxpayer and that’s not right. Everyone uses roads, but only some people will use airports and HSR. If only some people will use it, then those who use it should have to pay for it.

    If I were working on an airport project and I had an initial cost projected of say $4 billion and it ballooned to $12 billion the airlines would do two things: Laugh at me, then refuse to use my boondogle because the cost would be too much. There is no such check on HSR right now and that is just scary from a purely financial point of view.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If “everyone uses roads” is true, everyone, planet wide, except for undiscovered tribes in very remote jungles, uses the New York City subway.

    datacruncher Reply:

    California has several airport districts with taxing authority. Monterey and Santa Maria come to mind as airport districts that receive property taxes directly.

    Relevant California laws about the powers of airport districts are in the PUC code DIVISION 9. AVIATION PART 2. AIRPORT DISTRICTS.
    That includes
    “22554. A district may also:
    (c) Cause to be levied and collected, taxes for the purpose of maintaining and carrying on the operations of the district and paying its obligations.”

    Likewise I’ve seen local transportation sales taxes in California counties fund construction projects at airports, not just funded by airport users. Fresno County’s Measure C sales tax passed in 2006 included funds for airport taxiway/runway projects and building construction.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Airports spent $34.8 billion in capital improvements last year and that’s the best you can do?

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Also of note, in some markets airlines actually pay for their own terminals….

    Casey Marquis Reply:

    How many major airlines haven’t gone bankrupt? Airlines aren’t profitable. Your claim that airlines pay for airports is outrageous. Maybe their BORROWING pays for some improvements, but when they’ve all gone under, some two or three times, it’s disengenious to say that somehow airports pay for themselves.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Also read the Air Commerce Act which specifically forbid the spending of federal funds for airports in 1926 to encourage private investment. It was not until the WWII that any federal funds were spent, mostly to support the war because commercial passenger traffic didn’t amount to a hill of beans.

    Up to the point when the AATF was created to make airports fully self funding, the governemnt had spent exactly $1.0635 billion on 500 airports in the US (about $15.3 billion today).

    So please, spare me the lecture about airports being trillions of dollars in taxpayer money. Its a complete and utter lie.

    Peter Reply:

    Did I say anything about “trillions of dollars in taxpayer money”? Please don’t put words in my mouth. It’s unbecoming.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Stop trying to compare apples (airport finance) to oranges (HSR Finance). Its getting old.

    Peter Reply:

    Where was I comparing them? Read the names on posts carefully. Again, don’t put words in my mout.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Had you confused with someone above. Was using my netbook. Sorry.

    thatbruce Reply:

    It was not until the WWII that any federal funds were spent

    A very quick search came up with:

    The CWA( Civil Works Administration), established under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), was one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s earlier New Deal “recovery programs.” From late 1933 through March 1934, some four million Americans were put to work constructing airports, laying sewer pipe and building and repairing roads, schools and parks.

    Read more:

    Lots more information about New Deal-era construction at

    Federal Funds were used to construct a number of US airports during the Great Depression, and more Federal Funds were used to construct a larger number of US airports in the lead up to and during WWII. The current operators of most of these airports have not had to pay the cost of the airport’s initial construction.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Federal Funds were used to construct a number of US airports during the Great Depression, and more Federal Funds were used to construct a larger number of US airports in the lead up to and during WWII. The current operators of most of these airports have not had to pay the cost of the airport’s initial construction.
    I already told you what the amount of initial investment was and pales in comparison to HSR. HSR has $9 billion in start up funds for one line, airports got just over $1 billion in initial start up (in 2011 dollars) for over 500 airports.

    When is enough enough for you? When the State is broke?

    Apples to Oranges. Move on.

    Eric M Reply:


    thatbruce Reply:


  2. morris brown
    Nov 29th, 2011 at 22:33

    Well the LA Times certainly thinks the LAO has credibility,0,977227.story

    Alan Reply:

    Umm…the Times did not express any such opinion in that article. It basically reported the LAO’s claims.

    The only opinion in the article was this:
    “The analyst’s conclusions may lend credence to a state lawsuit filed earlier this month by Kings County and two Central Valley residents. They are seeking a court order to halt the Central Valley segment on the grounds that Proposition 1A and related state legislation call for the construction of track that high-speed trains can use.”

    Obviously, the reporter never read that lawsuit, which would embarrass a first-year student at any reputable law school.

    morris brown Reply:


    You are certainly entitled to your views, however miss-guided and without substance they reveal.

    Why in the world would the reporter mention the lawsuit, if he hadn’t read it — really!!

    Mike Brady, the attorney, is certified before the California Supreme Court, has been in practice for over 30 years and to class his lawsuit as embarrassing “a first year student” reveals your ignorance and inability to judge the lawsuit’s merits.

    Peter Reply:

    This is the same Michael Brady who hasn’t gotten an HSR lawsuit to the merits phase yet?

    He may be an excellent lawyer, but he hasn’t had much success challenging Caltrain or the CHSRA in the past. There was the Russell Peterson lawsuit, dismissed with prejudice and without leave to amend, and your lawsuit was dismissed on ripeness grounds, wasn’t it, Morris?

    Maybe the third time is the charm?

  3. Nadia
    Nov 29th, 2011 at 23:00

    The $170 billion number comes from a report that was done by Parsons Brinckerhoff.

    City of Burlingame wrote an entire letter about how that section should be stricken from the Business plan altogether. I can’t find the link on their website, but here’s a partial quote:

    “In the current plan, the Authority’s private sector adviser, PB, asks “How much extra airport and road capacity would be needed to accommodate the MAXIMUM throughput of a California HSR system?” (Note that this capacity would be well above even the most optimistic ridership forecast.) To be clear and fair, PB spells out its assumptions:

    12 tph in each direction
    1,000 seats per train
    19 hrs of operation every day
    70% load factors for trains

    These assumptions would mean a train leaving SF and LA every five minutes, loaded with 700 passengers, 19 hrs a day, 365 days a year. This “maximum throughput capacity” analysis yields 116 million passengers a year that PB then needs to “accommodate” with larger airports and more highway lanes. This astounding number is completely divorced from any reality over the next 50 yrs, even by CAHSRA forecasts. Undeterred, PB concludes that to “provide equivalent new capacity through investment in highways and aviation would cost California almost twice as much ($177 billion) as the Phase 1 high-speed rail system” and would require approximately:

    2300 miles of new highways
    115 new airport gates
    4 new airport runways

    The Authority is so enamored of this comparison that it cites the conclusions (but not the premise) in the 2012 Executive Summary on Page 1.

    It is a poor way to serve busy policy makers, to create a false sense of “choice.” Using this approach, one might propose to lawmakers that we spend billions on power plants, just in case every Californian turned on his/her lights, A/C, TV and computer simultaneously and ran them for 19 hours a day. Beyond the disingenuousness of PB’s analysis, PB also fails to point out that highway lanes and airport expansion can occur organically, over time, as demand warrants (or not). The CHSRA system, on the other hand, has to be built virtually all at once with very little difference in capital expense between a minimum and maximum ridership scenario. As any business person knows, it is far preferable to build enterprises whose capital investments can be staged over time as demand requires them, rather than having to make a very large bet up front, especially in an untried service or product offering.”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Can’t find a link yet you were able to come up with paragraphs worth of quote. Hmmm.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Could be that Burlingame officials cc’ed her on the letter and she pulled it from her inbox rather than the city’s site.

    Nadia Reply:

    I have posted the letter on the CARRD website:

    Tony d. Reply:

    Wow. This was a (gulp!) Good post by Nadia. (Thought I’d never say that)

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Why? Nadia knows her stuff. I disagree with her regularly but she is good people and makes good contributions.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s at least one piece of FUD in Burlingame’s letter. Trains will be running from LA to Sacramento, there’s never going to be 12 trains between LA and SF if they are running a train every 5 minutes. There will be between Fresno and Bakersfield but some of them will never go to San Francisco. There’s more but I’m not in the mood to think about it hard.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Because I’ve never agreed with her anti-HSR position. But this post actually made sense.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    In California, and elsewhere in the US, we are contemplating new transportation infrastructure projects whose completion date is 20 years in the future. The problem we face is, with an existing transportation infrastructure completely dependent on liquid hydrocarbon fuels for its operation, do we want to build future capacity with the same vulnerability? $177 Billion is not the point (and over that period of time, it’s not all that much money). Electric trains will be much less dependent on the availability of cheap oil.

    It seems reasonable to assume that a fraction of existing and future automobile and air travelers will be well-served by the high speed rail service, and those high speed rail travelers will free-up capacity on the existing infrastructure for other travelers who will prefer highway and air travel.

    In assessing risks and benefits a ways into the future, it seems risky to assume that we will convert our existing transportation system to run cheaply and efficiently in a world of scarce and expensive oil. It seems like folly to build even more highways and airports than we already have, especially in California. The more prudent choice – admittedly one with risks as well – is to build the electric-powered high speed rail system.

    Alan Reply:

    Burlingame offers few facts or research in the letter to dispute the PB estimates–cherry-picked quotes from one study nothwithstanding. Their attitude seems to be, “We don’t like HSR, we don’t like PB, therefore they are wrong and we’re right.”

    And of course, the city fails to state its vested interest in ensuring that SFO continues to grow. Take away passengers from the airport, and you take away customers from the hotels and other businesses surrounding it. Do that, and you cut into the city’s tax revenues.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Figuring out the costs of alternatives is key, and I’m glad people are finally, at long last, acknowledging that the cost of doing nothing is not zero.

    I’ll take a closer look at that report later. But notice what I cited in the post – the 2006 estimate of expanding Highway 99 to be $25 billion. HSR’s costs have gone up and I have no doubt that the cost of freeways has too. LA County is spending $1 billion to widen I-5 in La Mirada – they’ll spend more than that before it’s done. San Diego is considering $4 billion to widen I-5 above the 805 merge. They’ll probably spend more than that too. LAX is looking at a multi-billion expansion. And so on.

    And of course, HSR pays for itself. Freeways don’t.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    All of the freeway expansion is to relieve local traffic during rush hour Robert, it will do little to get you to the bay area any faster. LAX is already building its expansion so that point is rather moot. If HSR captured all of the air passengers alogn its route, it would only delay airport expansion needs by about 5 years.

    HSR does not pay for itself. For it to do so with a $98 billion price tag it would have to generate $3.4 billion in revenue plus interest just to cover the capital cost. Please show me where it says it will generate this much revenue to cover capital, much less an addition $1 billion in O&M costs.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Sobering Reality apparently is unaware of the poor cost recovery of roads, at about 50% overall the last time I checked, and that was cash-flow only, not including deferred maintenance, poor construction and design due to budget constraints, and of course not including external costs, such as air pollution and the necessity of a military presence in the Middle East, driven by a worldwide strategic value of the oil in the area, even though we import relatively little from there.

    Oil is very important here because we drive too damn much. You could get rid of all the non-transportation oil demands such as plastics and paint, and we would still have to import oil, and being that oil is in an international market and traded via international companies, we wind up paying world prices, even for our own oil that never leaves the country.

    HSR isn’t going to cure all of that, and indeed by itself would have a relatively minor effect (I think Paulus Magnus has suggested something on the order of a 2% greenhouse gas reduction, with a comparable oil consumption reduction), but HSR combined with other transit services, including revived trolley cars/light rail lines, will be essential to giving us a chance to live decently in a world where the oil supply will be pricier and more constrained than it is now. It’s that, or condemning our soldiers to still more oil wars and eventually seeing the country turn into something like Haiti.

    At least, that’s how I see it. Tell us, SR, what might be your alternative to the oil question–and with it, an alternative to gas taxes to finance the current (and expanded) road system we’ll need as well without a big shift to rail?

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    So that’s justification for making the same mistakes? Create another form of transportation that doesn’t recover its costs? BTW. Roads did fine until the 1980’s when the highway trust fund was raided.

    Most of the energy for HSR is going to come from fossil fuels. I don’t see a nuke plant being built for it do you?

    Your argument is like saying: I’ve shot myself in my right foot, but now that it’s not healed I’ll go shoot myself in the left foot to see if that shakes out better.

    Spokker Reply:

    Even if you put back the funds that were raided, the highway trust fund still doesn’t look that great.

    SubsidyScope, who analyzes both rail and highway subsidies, is a good source on this.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Are nuke plants the only non-fossil means of generating electricity? I thought geothermal, solar PV, concentrating solar thermal, wind, wave, tidal, biomass, ocean thermal, hydroelectric etc. were also non-fossil. I see plenty of these being built and plans for an impressive number in the works in California and around the Southwest. That is why electric rail is so appealing, such a diversity of fuel supply options, much more so than fossil supply and why it must inevitably win when fossil, especially liquid fossil fuel supply starts getting difficult. Physics will ensure that this occurs, just a matter of how long the holdouts hang on.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    You know and understand less than I thought you did.

    First, understand that transportation is about 99% oil dependent. While other fossil fuels such as coal have problems galore, that their supply is becoming scarce, is globally marketed with global prices, and that part of the global price supports people who don’t like us for various reasons (all of which makes oil a security risk) are not among them.

    Electricity can come from other sources, too, and that includes hydro and wind power. You likely don’t know it–not everybody does–but the light rail system in Calgary has its power contract with a wind farm outside that breezy city. Hydro power is the bulk of what powers San Francisco’s rail systems, including trolleys, BART, and the cable cars, and hydro also supplies about 55% of the electricity used by Amtrak’s electrified Northeast Corridor.

    Railroads are the only really easy form of transport to convert to electric operation, both for conventional rail and HSR. The technology is mature or “old,” which means it shouldn’t have unpleasant surprises.

    Cars? At this stage, you still have range and charging time problems. Air? There are a few experimental electric aircraft in test service, but that technology is way off, if it ever will be practical at all, and even then you are back to using propellers and the speed limitations those have.

    Electric cars also have a problem in that they do not currently contribute to road revenue. They don’t burn gasoline or diesel fuel, and as such pay no fuel taxes.

    The highway system as a whole has never paid for itself–only the Federal trust fund has, and its decline wasn’t caused by the piddly transit money that came out of it starting in 1985, but by an increase in highway spending (and a later drop in gas tax revenue) that started in 2000. Some would argue that the transit support portion should have come out at that time, or even that it should never have been used, but it did not cause the Federal trust fund to go broke. In other words, that part of the trust fund stayed on budget–the road portion did not.

    That the road system has never paid for itself has long been a sore spot for the railroad industry.

    Finally, I drive enough on my job to say it’s a pain. Long trips are especially bad for leg cramps, and my night vision isn’t what it used to be, either. There are also too many idiots on the road, and where I live, there are also deer. You ever hit a deer? You wouldn’t believe something that small would cause the damage it does. I would hate to think of what would happen if you hit something like a bear or a cow.

    If you are worried about money, or if you want private enterprise to build this railroad–and some people say that’s the way it should be–then I’ll take your bet on one condition: get the government out of the road business, sell off the road system and privatize the police and ambulance function.

    Those results might be interesting!

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Okay got it. You don’t want to drive anymore so you want my money to pay for it.

    Wow. That’s some arrogrance.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Like I said, I’ll take you on, with only one condition. . .you ready?

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    No, he is saying “level the playing field”.

    Drivers do not pay for the societal costs of deaths, dismemberment especially of the young and most productive citizens, the traffic enforcement, the crash cleanups, the military costs of deployment to the Middle East, the health costs of crtiteria pollution from highway traffic etc. Roads

    The societal costs of rail are the lowest of any motorized mode possibly excepting waterborne transportation and may justify the expenditure of a premium amount in comparison.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Does the 50 % cost recovery cover local roads maintained by municipalities and usually funded from property taxes?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    According to Alon Levy, it doesn’t, although those roads contribute to fuel tax revenue in that the fuel burned in cars traversing such roads (and city streets) has fuel tax on it that goes to the roads covered by fuel taxes.

    Here is the source of information we’ve been using; first, a general index page for the 2010 report, which isn’t completed yet.

    For some reason, both this report and the one for 2009 are still missing a key chart, Table HF-10, “Funding for highways and disposition of highway-user revenues.” The most recent version of this table that’s available is for 2008:

    Have fun.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The official numbers say that total local property tax funding for roads is $8.3 billion. So it’s probably just local kicking in for national and state roads, since actual property taxes in the US are a hair higher than that.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The DPW budget is usually one of the bigger ones in municipal budgets. Some states collect gas tax and fund local roads with it. Some don’t. The road budget doesn’t cover police costs. The number I usually see is that half of the police budget in suburbia is for traffic enforcement. You should be able to root around in toll road budgets and see what the policing costs are. In NY and NJ the toll roads reimburse the State Police for patrol costs.

  4. Emma
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 00:28

    The LAO is a joke. But hey, with all the deals and delays and inefficiencies, who knows. Maybe CHSRA will manage to raise the price tag to another $60 billion. I mean, they just did the very same thing. Why shouldn’t it happen again?

    At a $100 billion price tag for HSR, I don’t even see why we should build HSR. You know what we should have done in the first place? Let a completely different, but experienced company plan and construct our high speed rail system. Companies will present their proposals, we will pick the most reasonable and merge the most efficient, cost-saving ideas into one. Then, the winning company gets the money to execute our high speed rail project. I tell you, it would take less than 20 years if they started from scratch right now and that would still beat the projected 22 years of construction of the CHSRA business “mess.”

    This project won’t get built at $100 billion. Period. The voters would immediately kill it with fire. These are not the United Arab Emirates where we just say “Hey, let’s spend $100 billion to build a nice high speed rail.” This project is so screwed…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Emma, I get your anger, and I feel exactly the same and would sign my name to everything you’ve written. But just one nitpick: $100 billion is in YOE dollars, assuming higher-than-normal inflation; in 2010 dollars, the projected cost used to be $33 billion and is now $65 billion.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Emma, I hear you. Have firms with experience (at least 10 years of safe operation of HSR) bid to build the line in the range of the initial $33 billion to the maximum $65 billion. Nothing fancy in the design- 1. no iconic stations (no Transbay, Diridon rightsized) 2. standardize the station designs- small, medium, large 3. no tunnels in suburbs 4. if a city doesn’t want it going through, bypass them. 5. Tejon vs. Tehachapi- choose the cheaper option

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    That woudn’t (I quote) “generate 600,000 construction-related jobs over the life of the project”.
    CHSR seems to be, first of all, a jobs program. If the aim is to create as many jobs as possible then you can’t complain about the cost.
    Just for comparison, Tours-Bordeaux which is considered very costly by European standards:
    Total construction cost: €6.2bn, equally shared by state (fixed cost) and bid winner Vinci.
    Length: 212 miles. 19 long viaducts, 400 bridges and overpasses.
    Estimated total duration: 73 months.
    Employment: creation of 1,200 jobs/year, added for 6 years to 3,100 already existing.

    morris brown Reply:

    @ Andre Peretti:

    Could you please provide a link to the statistics you quote on the French project?

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    It’s fairly long and in French…
    This article contains the official figures jointly released by Vinci and RFF.
    The ones I gave in my post are slightly different, so here are the official ones that you’ll find in the article:
    Total cost, including land acquisitions: €7.8bn
    Construction costs: €6.2bn, of which €3.8bn paid by Vinci consortium, the rest being paid by RFF and the regions.
    Total jobs: 4,500, of which 1,500 specially created.

    morris brown Reply:

    @ Andre Peretti

    Much thanks,

    My French last used about 40 years ago and then only for Chemistry,but Google translate seems to do a good job.

    What I was really interested in was the number of jobs and they are saying 4500 people will be involved in construction.

    This seems to be about a $8 billion (US dollars) project.

    The Authority is using 100,000 jobs (really job years) to be created for the CV $6 billion project. Those numbers make no sense and certainly don’t agree with any past history on the use of ARRA funds for rail projects.

    Using the French numbers, it would seem like there should be created 3600 new jobs for the 5 year term of the project which equals 18,000 job-years , not the 100,000 job-years the Authority is claiming.

    To be fair there will be in-direct jobs created and that may add another 10,000 job-years to the numbers.

    Nevertheless, the CV and the construction unions are going to be hugely disappointed in the number of job promised which will never come close to such a prediction.

    Again thanks Andre:


    Alon Levy Reply:

    It could be more than 18,000. One of the reasons US construction costs are high is that work practices (both union rules and otherwise) mandate overstaffing.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Though, to be fair, it won’t hit anything close to 100,000 – that would imply that there’s a factor of 5 saving there, and there isn’t. There’s a factor of 2 saving in the Central Valley and that’s to be maximally uncharitable to the HSRA.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Could it be that those 100000 job years include indirect jobs as well (such as the new fast food joint serving the construction workers, or a doctors practice etc.), whereas the French talk only about the jobs directly involved with the construction (essentially created by the partners of the consortium).

    For the political interest, including the indirectly created jobs is reasonalbe, because planning (which includes tax revenues) has to be done overall. Also, the indirectly created jobs are most likely be filled with local people (which then helps reducing the unemployment rate).

    This a leverage factor of 2.5 appears reasonable to me. And when multiplied with the efficiency factor of 2 would then explain the difference.

    morris brown Reply:

    @Alon Levy

    The ARRA law mandated reporting on job creation. Trying to get useful numbers on job
    creation you find all kinds of numbers. On the most high side of job creating you find including both direct and in-direct jobs for rail construction costing $90,000 per job.
    On the CV section estimated to cost $6 billion you come up with 67,000 jobs – years.
    That was the most optimistic I could find.

    On the low side there has been congressional input that it costs $300,000 per direct
    job created and 1.9 job-years for each $million spent in additional created in-direct jobs.
    On this section costing $ 6 billion that would work out to 20,000 (direct) + 11,400
    (indirect) = 31,400 job-years for the project. Over the five year period of the project this works out to 6280 persons being added to the work force on an average.

    ON cost comparison remember this ICS and the cost of $6 billion does not include
    electrical power, PTC, rolling stock etc. Those items are not insignificant, adding as
    much as 25 percent more to the project.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    @Morris Brown
    Construction costs include everything concerning the line itself but not the rolling stock. Trains are the property of companies paying tolls to use the line.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    Is the Tours-Bordeaux line much different in cost compared to the central valley segment? I’m not sure what’s included in the initial central valley construction budget, but I think $6 Billion is being allocated, and I think the Chowchilla – Bakersfield segment is around 150 miles. 6.2 Billion Euros ( $8.5 Billion more or less) for 212 miles seems very similar in per-mile costs.

    Clem Reply:

    Maybe we could build a reasonable HSR project, and use the remaining $50 billion to build a large forest of steel-reinforced concrete columns somewhere in the Mojave desert– the Parsons Brinckerhoff version of job creation by digging holes and filling them back in.

  5. Peter
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 04:27


    Does anyone know where to find any details on the “BART Metro Program”? It’s listed in the MTC Project Performance Assessment with a >60 benefit/cost ratio, but other than aside references, I can’t find any details on it on BART’s or MTC’s websites. The document says it includes a Civic Center turnaround and a Bay Fair connection.

  6. morris brown
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 05:40

    Obama’s approval rating in the latest Gallup poll at 43% — the lowest approval rating for a president at this stage in a presidency in modern times.

    Gallup’s newest poll shows President Obama has a 43 percent approval rating. No president since Harry Truman has won re-election with an approval rating below 50. Truman won the presidential race in 1948 with an approval rating of 48. George W. Bush won re-election in 2004, with an approval rating of 50.

    Robert’s statement about un-popular republicans and his insistence that they will be thrown out of power next November simply has no basis in fact.

    Samuel K. Skinner, is an ex Transportation Secretary under Bush with an outstanding pedigree in transportation issues. He gave input at the recent symposium at Northwestern University. The 7 minutes can be viewed here:

    His arguments against HSR at this time are very powerful and certainly should be heeded with regards the current California project.

    Amazing the difference in views between Skinner and LaHood, who at this stage is nothing more that a political puppet of Obama, and about to leave office, presumably to go on the money making circuit.

    LaHood’s main function now is doling out hoarded funds to various states, states which are “in play” for the election next year. These grants, have become the replacement for “earmarks”. In California this played out last year, when the FRA gave an additional $700 Million to the HSR project and stated it had to go into the Central Valley and was used to keep Jim Costa in office.

    Tony d. Reply:

    And the GOP congress has an even worse approval rating at 9%. People are finally waking up to the fact that it was the GOP and the previous administration that is responsible to our current economic woes. Add to that the idiots running for the GOP nomination and Obama Should be reelected in a landslide.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Congress consists of the House and the Senate sparky. Who has control of the Senate?

    Tony d. Reply:

    You know what I meant moron. People refer to “GOP congress” they’re referring to Republicans in the House. And the Senate? Can you say (again) f**ken filibuster?!

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Well, they both have an approval rating of 13%. One shock poll done by democratic pollsters does not make an approval rating. Harry’s do nothing Senate is just as culpable and viewed just as harshly.

    StevieB Reply:

    Pew Research Center poll reports 36% now say they have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, down from 42% in March. By comparison, opinions of the Democratic Party have shifted less – from 50% favorable last summer to 48% in March and 46% in October.

    Spokker Reply:

    It would be unwise to compare the approval rating of Congress and the approval rating of Congress and expect those figures to be meaningful when stacked against each other. You are comparing apples and oranges. The president gets a bump from his personality alone. All of them do. It’s much easier to hate a body of people than a single person.

    Spokker Reply:

    Damn it to Hell.

    It would be unwise to compare the approval rating of Congress and the approval rating of THE PRESIDENT. What am I, dyslexic?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    True. President Romney has the advantage of having a personality, something Boehner and Reid sorely lack.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Romney’s unpopular; the other Republicans running against him are even more so. He’s tied against the generic Republican in the polls, and leads every Republican by a sizable margin except the other Romney, who he leads by a statistically insignificant one.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Obama has a fight ahead of him but he is in FAR better shape than House Republicans, who will have to pull off a miracle to remain in the majority.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They’re not that far down in the generic ballot. The Dems are something like 1 point up in the RCP-ex-Rasmussen average. Obama is leading every Republican except Romney by at least 5 points.

    Jack Reply:

    It’s a joy that you represent the opposition. If we had someone reasonable of sound mind and ability we might actually have a real threat to HSR in CA.

    It’s my opinion that Obama will cakewalk through this election cycle. Romney is un-electable in the bible belt. The rest of the field flame out just as fast as their stars rise. We’re talking about Newt, really????

    I’m ashamed to be a conservative right now. I wish there was someone in power who reflected my views I could throw my support behind.

    VBobier Reply:

    the Dwarfs are Repugs…

    Peter Reply:


    VBobier Reply:

    Repug Presidential candidates, compared to the President, their Dwarfs…

    thatbruce Reply:

    Obama’s approval rating in the latest Gallup poll at 43% — the lowest approval rating for a president at this stage in a presidency in modern times.

    Really? Checking some links, I found that after a thousand days in office, Obama did indeed have the lowest approval rating since Carter. I had my doubts, as my impressions of Bush jr during his first term were heavily influenced by European news sources, which were never complementary towards him, and as we saw later, rightfully so.

    Bush jr at this point (nov 2003) was still riding the surges in popularity due to 9/11 and invasion of Iraq. It wasn’t until May of the following year that his popularity started staying below the average, and his second term that it plummeted. Looking at the graph of his early Presidency, if not for the attacks and war, Bush jr’s popularity likely would have stayed below Obama’s for the whole of his 1st term.

    Clinton is on a brief surge of popularity just before the 1995 government shutdown caused by deadlock between parties in Congress.

    Bush sr has just suffered a sudden drop in popularity, and by Feb 1992 will drop below Obama’s current level.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    President Sarkozy would be delighted if he had a rating as high as 43%!

  7. jim
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 06:09

    The LAO is not trying to kill a project it dislikes. It is trying to abolish an agency it distrusts. The LAO has decided that the CHSRA is an unreliable, untruthful agency. If it is permitted to continue it will continue to waste money. It’s continued existence will bring no benefit to the State. It will complete no project. One can argue against that perception, but it is not completely unfounded.

    The upcoming vote on appropriating bond funds is going to be a decisive vote. If the funds are appropriated (assuming that at least one EIR gets certified — and the certification sticks — prior to the ARRA deadline) then the ICS will get built and therefore the CHSRA will continue to exist for at least the next eight years. If the appropriation gets denied then the federal funds get pulled and there’s a good chance the CHSRA will get dissolved.

    So the LAO is going all in. The ex-bureaucrat in me applauds them.

    Peter Reply:

    “The ex-bureaucrat in me applauds them.”

    What grade” were you?

    jim Reply:

    Nowhere near 36. I stand in awe of Hermes Conrad’s ladder-climbing abilities.

    Alan Reply:

    “The LAO is not trying to kill a project it dislikes. It is trying to abolish an agency it distrusts.”

    That’s not the LAO’s job. Setting policy is the job of the elected Legislature. Providing the Legislature with accurate, truthful information is the job of the LAO, and in that job the LAO is failing miserably.

    The LAO is desperately trying to make people believe that they were right and everyone else was wrong. To do otherwise, to admit their previous error, would be shredding the last bit of credibility that the office still retains.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The LAO is the Legislature. They never liked the arrangement of the Authority as being outside the control of elected officials. The reason they are so bitter is that it is a remnant of Arnold’s “trust me” strategy. Everyone in Sacramento feels burned by the former Governor and perceived ineptitude by the Authority is just salt in the wound.

    That said, what REALLY needs to happen is merging the authority with the Department of Rail and disconnecting that from Caltrans into a UC like structure.

    thatbruce Reply:

    I’m curious, why choose the UC (Regents) system as a model?

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The Regents have the most successful model for a state entity that engages in different types of enterprises. It’s not that you need eighteen people per se or eleven districts etc…. etc….

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Yep, what Alan said. That’s not the LAO’s job. The LAO’s job is to sit back and dispassionately lay out all the options. No more, no less.

    VBobier Reply:

    And right now the LAO needs to be replaced, wholesale if Ya ask Me…

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The LAO cannot though, stop members of the Legislature from asking pointed questions designed to make people look bad. The bigger issue is that an agency like the LAO never has enough depth and experience to answer these questions in the way that you want. Liz Hill did a marvellous job with the resources she had, but in so doing made it look so easy….

  8. Lionel
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 07:24

    Applying Nadia’s reasoning to the Golden Gate Bridge, it would have never been built, because it would have been better to provide a ferry. As demand increases, just add more ferries. Applying it to the Interstate system, instead of building it all at once, they would have built it in stages. Wait a second — they did build it in stages. Oh, and that’s also how HSR will be built.

    Alan Reply:

    It’s interesting and enlightening to read issues of “California Highways and Public Works” magazine from the 1950’s and 1960’s (available at and learn just how the state’s freeway system was built in stages. Until the Westside Freeway (I-5) project in the early 1960’s, freeways were built in stages of sometimes only 3 or 4 miles. A big project was 6 or 7 miles. Yet, nobody went into convulsions over those small chunks. That’s simply the way it was done back then. The stages proposed by the CHSRA are enormous in comparison.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What you’re missing is that the Interstate disaster could connect to earlier roads, seamlessly. People could already drive from on US 99 (not yet downgraded to a state highway), and opening I-5 provided a cutoff in stages. Elsewhere, the Interstates were just grade-separations of existing roads. CAHSR isn’t really equivalent – even if the regulations allowed it to use legacy track, it would have problems getting from Bakersfield to Los Angeles.

    synonymouse Reply:

    There is a big difference here between roads and railroads. Even segments of freeways out in the boonies are going to be opened up as they are completed to the general driving public and they will receive significant use from the get-go. Even nowhere to nowhere roads most all the time in the US fill up with cars.

    Not at all like Borden to Corcoran. For a rr project to have utility you need to start with the most utilized first and the least last. Or, in the case of Tejon, the essential missing link first.

    thatbruce Reply:

    the essential missing link first

    That would be an augmentation of the existing tracks that go through those nasty inconvenient hills right?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Look at it this way – when they built the Transcontinental railroad they did not start at Promontory and then proceed east and west. And in particular the Central Pacific first thing picked, drilled and blasted their way thru the High Sierra. Substitute Tejon for Donner and you have an excellent prioritized construction agenda for the CHSRA and one buttressed by an historical precedent.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They started I-70 in Kansas which is no where near Utah or Maryland.

    Eric Fredericks Reply:

    Except that this is the first type of technology and infrastructure of its kind in the US. You need test tracks. There is no better place to build that than the Central Valley. The CV is also the place where all the central systems will be located.

    Clem Reply:

    You need test tracks to test what?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Perhaps PB is going to experiment with gauges, voltages, wheel design?

    Uh-oh, sorry, nih, “somebody” did that before.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You need test tracks to test what?

    That your interns got the (completely gratuitous, rent-seeking, cost bloating) mm to furlong conversions right. More or less.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No testing needed. Kawasaki or Alstom will just leave the keys in it on the RORO ship that delivers it to Oakland and they will start running revenue service with crews that haven’t been trained as soon as it gets to Fresno.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s a different thing, then. Testing the trains is different from training the local people who’ll be operating them.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They need someplace to make sure it survived it’s journey, even if it’s journey is from the local Siemens plant. The FRA is …over cautious?.. when it come to testing new equipment. is filled with threads that are “I saw the new {insert local commuter agency here} train on the obscure branch today. And a month later “I saw the new {insert local commuter agency here} train on the main line today” It’s partly acceptance training and partly operations training. California doesn’t have obscure branch lines to test and train on….. And there’s no 225 MPH track in Pueblo.
    SNCF or DB or one of the JR or {insert your local commuter agency here} gets new whatever from whoever they can have experienced engineers get classroom training and then gingerly start to move it around. One of the first things they do is a clearance test even though they know it’s going to clear….. California doesn’t have a large pool of experienced engineers. Most of them have never seen a PTC system. None of them use electric trains. There’s a lot of “testing” to be done. They don’t have a large pool of experience shop personnel either… There’s a lot of “testing” to be done there too. I can see this taking at least a year before they let revenue service begin…. how long is the quality assurance testing going to take for the signals…. I can see this taking at least a year before they let revenue service begin….

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    There are two options for training local drivers.
    – Korean drivers were trained on TGVs in France and KTX had Korean drivers as soon as it started operating.
    – Taiwan HSR started with SNCF drivers, each driver having a Taiwanese trainee.
    I may also mention the Chinese option: give each driver a booklet badly translated from German. Once he can recite it by heart, consider him ready to drive a bullet train.

    Joey Reply:

    Equipment testing and training occurs on the actual completed line before it enters revenue service, not on some isolated segment of track years before the HSTs will actually be run.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    That’s true if you are using proven off-the-shelf trains.
    If CHSRA wants specifically designed rolling stock, then it will have to be tested during its final stage of development. Alstom does that type of testing on a special track built in the Czech republic.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, they destroyed the cities in stages. What’s your point about it?

    nslander Reply:

    Presumably, that full funding was not secured before completion. What percentage of many Americans do you think sufficiently understand that?

    VBobier Reply:

    And that full funding is not something that is needed before a project starts, You pay contractors out a little at a time, never all at once and up front, only a fool would do that.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, they did have funding for the Interstate program – it just didn’t suffice with the cost overruns, requiring construction to drag on for longer.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    The Americans were excusable as sociological consequences couldn’t be predicted at the time. No such excuse for the French. Parisian planners knew what freeways had done to American cities. Yet, that didn’t prevent them from encircling central Paris with a 38km 8-lane freeway (the “périph”) that has totally isolated the heart of Paris from its suburbs, creating two worlds more and more foreign to each other.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Excellent point.

    Nadia Reply:

    @Lionel – that is not my reasoning – I quoted from a letter by the City of Burlingame

  9. Paulus Magnus
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 07:35

    The real question is whether Robert has any credibility left.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The reality is finally dawning upon the California political establishment that the CHSRA plan is going to be a major capital expenditure(the $100bil figure seems to be accepted)initially followed by a perennial significant operating subsidy. So bitching about the fact that not everybody is cheerleading is futile.

    It does not really matter anyway as the machine does not care whether this thing works effectively and efficiently or not. Look at the trail of dysfunctionality from BART to SFO to Central Subway. When all is done the apparatchiks will pontificate, telling the alleged “deniers” – “See, it works.” Yeah, it turns a wheel sometimes.

    A private builder contracted by the State to create hsr would come up with a scheme quite different from that of the CHSRA. More on the order of the ideas put forward by Tolmach. If you haven’t noticed the current plan primarily benefits only three venues, LA-Palmdale, Fresno, and SJ. An entrepreneur would never permit a handful of the connected to so skew a plan towards welfare pork. Toxic to profitability.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    A private builder contracted by the State to create hsr would come up with a scheme quite different from that of the CHSRA.


    PB isn’t a private builder? Or do you mean the Southern Pacific? White Star Lines?

    Your straw man entrepreneur would also reduce utility if it meant greater profitability. California is a state (unlike many others) defined by its infrastructure. There’s going to be resistance about doing it “on the cheap” because no other institution (the UCs, the Aqueduct, the freeways) was. Just as much as the Central Valley opposition hammers costs about the project, I have seen none of them come out and do the same to the Peripheral Canal proposal.

    Trust me, the political class doesn’t want to midwife an abortion. They just realize now that Schwarzenegger’s claim of CAHSR having a “virgin birth” was a lie.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The contemporary political class in California does not midwife anything but abortions.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I’m not sure you got what I mean.

    The political class has seen a lot of great ideas or reforms become still born… but they have not undermined (or really been able to) new policies that are germinating. Arnold’s biggest problem is that he relied on the ballot thinking that he was Alexander slashing the Gordian Knot and really finding out he had just enough rope to hang himself.

    Prop 1A is just one facet of that trend.

    Peter Reply:

    It was too good of a hyperbole for the mouse to pass up.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    PB isn’t a private builder?

    No. What planet are you living on?
    The state is the wholly owned funding subsidiary of the consultant mafiosi.

    Public squalor, private opulence.
    Zero risk, guaranteed profit.

    Show us where the Brave Capitalists Entrepreneurs are putting on their green eyeshades and scrutinising the project for Maximum Return on Investment.

    Show us any single example of incentive driven performance.

    Show us any single example of private risk of even a single dollar of capital.

    USA! USA! USA! Land of capitalism!

    Tom McNamara Reply:


    A casino company, airline, public utility company, etc. etc. is never going to build a capital intensive project like HSR. Secondly even if they decided to in a fit of insanity, it’s way cheaper to borrow money at that scale using bonds as opposed to loans through traditional banking channels.

    As such, I don’t know what “private builder” would qualify under synonymouse’s comment. I guess you could hire a developer of affordable housing… but that’s about the only parallel I can think of to mass transit agencies.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Are you just pretending, or are you truly unaware of the whole idea of competition?

    Are you just pretending, or have you never heard of Public Private Partnerships in which private capital is invested and exposed to risk which provides incentive to minimize risk

    Are you just pretending, or are you unaware of risk? Such as the risk (well, “risk” is the wrong term here: “cast iron certainty” is more appropriate) of a project tripling its budget when there are no cost controls?

    Come to think of it, are you just pretending, or are you unaware of cost control?

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Oh Richard, I am familiar with the concept of PPPs but for various reasons would suggest that you think about what you are really saying.

    1) Infrastructure PPPs tend to involve a government giving the builder the ability to recover its capital costs by charging rent or by selecting an operator. But unlike toll roads, there’s no way to shift that cost away from the operator to individuals. The operator has just as much leverage as the owner of the infrastructure.

    Desert Xpress is a good example of this: the casinos are looking to build a rail line that has one purpose (get people to the Strip) and even investing their own cash, came up with a half-baked idea to end the line in Victorville because they couldn’t figure out how to break even.

    2) I have yet to hear of a private firm that has enough assets to build a $60 billion dollar project. PPPs are easy if you are talking about millions…but infinitely harder when you get to ten digits.

    3) I actually think the Authority can and should pursue PPPs as part of the business plan. However, (and I am eventually going to send Robert a post on it) they would be different than the standard “rent-to-own” model you are thinking of.

    Lastly, you dodged what I said: the goal of the Authority has to be utility, not profit…. You can always dream up a system that serves only rich people and avoids pesky externalities. But generally those are the systems and products that government gets involved in. Usually, the public sector gets into something because the private sector won’t….

    Joey Reply:

    I think you missed Richard’s point. This has less to do with the concept of private funding in general and more to do with the fact that (as Alon notes below) the people designing the project have no incentive to keep the cost down, and, in fact, may benefit from pushing costs up.

    synonymouse Reply:

    LA region to SF region via Tejon and I-5 is most assuredly not “a system that serves only rich people”. If the service is good and the fare schedule reasonable and proper plenty of humble folks will be riding the hsr trains.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Carlos Slim has $60bil in his personal fortune and of course he could bring hsr to Mexico for a fraction of the CHSRA’s bloat if he controlled every aspect of its construction, which of course he could as sole owner-operator. And also of course Mexico is a good market for hsr as it has reasonably high public transit use.

    But he won’t because hsr won’t generate the level of profit he feels his money deserves to earn.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The annoying answer is that JR Central is building a $90 billion maglev line out of its own pocket. Pro-tip: if you want to build a capital-intensive project, make sure you have a monopoly on Tokyo-Osaka HSR travel first.

    The serious answer is that in Europe they achieve cost control by funding HSR publicly, but having an open bidding among contractors for construction, with separation of design and building (and if there’s no separation, then design-build is done in a combined contract).

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Nothing, as far as I know, prevents the Authority from opening up the contract to competition for construction. If they don’t…that’s a separate question.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They already have made it impossible. The designs are being done by PB, which will also be allowed to bid on construction. Moreover, there’s no in-house oversight of PB’s work, which means PB can propose overbuilt designs without review.

    PB is not an evil company. It failed to get a contract in Tel Aviv but its offering price was only marginally higher than that of the winning bid; it is also the lead designer on Marmaray, whose construction costs are reasonable in light of the challenges. But any company will start doing bad things given a monopoly without supervision.

    Brian Reply:

    You are aware that PB only does the project management, most design work is done by the regional firms like AECOM, HNTB, etc.

    My understanding is that as project management lead PB is also barred from bidding on any of the design-build contracts per Authority policy.

    Clem Reply:

    Brian, PB writes and controls all the technical specifications. (the famed Design Manual). These things have direct consequences on the work done by regional consultants. In fact, the RCs have very little design freedom… It’s all paint-by-numbers from a palette provided by PB.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    If the design is wretched — technically miserable, economically nonsensical and undertaken by a monopoly that utterly controls its “supervisors” — then no amount of competitive bidding on construction can undo the damage, or even make a dent in the designed in over-costs (which moreover just so happen to design-in future “project management” and “oversight” over-costs, as it felicitously happens.)

    The orders of magnitude are all wrong. A m^3 of concrete or kg of steel can’t cost little enough to begin to make up for it.

    You don’t make something fundamentally bad good by building it 10% more cheaply. You don’t make something that is designed to be expensive to run work by building it 10% more cheaply. You build good projects by starting with good designs done by good people.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    And yet you keep reading…

    Jack Reply:

    I believe Robert has been more than clear about his stated views. I appreciate the service he provides and enjoy his commentary because his views align with my own most of the time. I would hate the only source of information on CHSR to be the LAtimes and CAARD.


    nslander Reply:

    Shudder and cuss. I don’t even recognize the LA Times anymore. The coverage of this project should remind all of us we still saddled with the traditional media that served us so well during the run-up to the Iraq War.

    VBobier Reply:

    the LA Times, good for packing material for moving and not much more here, But then they put the LA Herald Examiner out of business I think…

  10. Jack
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 11:54

    I’m curious

    The high cost outlined in the BP is reflective of the new phased approach. Should money materialize earlier wouldn’t that effect the cost significantly.

    Shouldn’t there be a couple of BP. Plan A 40 year build cost; Plan B 30 year, Plan C 20 year. Would seem to cover your bases more this way?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Plan A 40 year build cost; Plan B 30 year, Plan C 20 year. Would seem to cover your bases more this way?

    This is a jobs program. A 40-year plan means lifetime employment for consultants to do studies and “preliminary” engineering.

  11. Reality Check
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 12:15

    Tom Elias: New rail vote needed, but unlikely
    Because there are valid points on both sides, it should be up to the public to decide. Even if it is mostly Republicans who now back that idea.

    StevieB Reply:

    Tom Elias does disparage Republicans “sorry record in the Legislature”. Citing the constant obstruction by the party another vote would only have the same purpose.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I-5, maglev and a re-vote advocated in the same article? Heresy.

  12. Reality Check
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 12:49

    Top analyst warns state could waste $6 billion over high-speed rail

    The state’s top analyst on Tuesday not only questioned the legality of launching a high speed-train, but also warned legislators that starting construction on the rail line could be a $6 billion waste of tax funds at the expense of social services, education and other transportation projects.

    In the sharpest critique yet of the state’s newly revised plan to spend two decades and $99 billion building a bullet train line, the Legislative Analyst’s Office bashed planners for relying on “highly speculative” funding sources.

    As a result, the analyst concluded that it’s “highly uncertain” the full project will ever get built.

    VBobier Reply:

    Oh the mostly pulled out of the LAO’s ass warning with no basis in fact, whoopee doo.

    J. Wong Reply:

    The argument is $6b on HSR or $6b to other stuff you like, but the reality is that HSR could be canceled today, but no extra money would be going to social services, education, or other transportation projects. The argument that it is a trade-off is what is known as a “false equivalence”.

    VBobier Reply:

    Or in plain english, BS.

  13. Reality Check
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 12:52
  14. jim
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 14:21

    The possible future sources of funding necessary to complete Phase 1 that are identified in the draft business plan are highly speculative. … As a result, it is highly uncertain if funding to complete the high-speed rail system will ever materialize.

    That last line is just not true. At all.

    But it is. There is no money currently appropriated. There is no money currently authorized. The programs that the Business Plan looks to for loan funding currently do not cover projects like California HSR. Right now, there is no further funding identified or identifiable beyond the ICS. Any talk of such funding is speculative. There is no other word for it. It is possible that federal politics will drastically change and $90B+ rain down on California. But it is not certain that this will happen. Some people, in fact, think it unlikely. To describe it as “highly uncertain” is charitable on the LAO’s part. Even to complete an IOS will require on the order of $20B federal funding. Funding which doesn’t currently exist and may never exist.

    At some point, one needs to recognize reality. The Business Plan is unimplementable. Lowenthal recognizes this; that’s why he praises it. There’s an old adage: when your opponent is intent on committing suicide, don’t interfere. Lowenthal thinks the Business Plan a suicide note and refrains from criticizing it. To attack the LAO for pointing out that it’s unimplementable is shooting the messenger. Attack the agency that came up with it.

    The CHSRA is not inseparable from California HSR. If you insist on tying them together, it will drag California HSR down with it when it falls. Those who want to see California HSR built need to work to separate it from the Authority. I don’t think it necessarily matters whether the ICS gets built this go round or not. There will need to be straight, grade-separated track through the Central Valley whatever happens. $3B federal funds in the context of a $98B requirement is unimportant. What needs to happen is the CHSRA go away. If the Legislature voting not to appropriate the bonds makes that happen, then that will be a good result; if the Legislature votes to appropriate the bonds and then something else makes the CHSRA go away, that’s good, too. But the longer the Authority lingers, the harder it will be for something real to get built.

    Reality Check Reply:

    HSR works in the hands of world-class HSR pros. Why should the US, CA, its taxpayers and the prospects of CA HSR suffer in service of letting the inept HSRA continue to play at sticking us with a sub-optimal, over-priced, poorly-conceived and over-built/priced craptastic system/design years/decades late? Not only late, but when the end-product doesn’t function as well as it could, it’s a “gift” that keeps on giving until its shortcomings are “fixed” at great and additional expense later — if ever.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The CHSRA is not inseparable from California HSR. If you insist on tying them together, it will drag California HSR down with it when it falls. Those who want to see California HSR built need to work to separate it from the Authority.

    Um, why, yes Jim… but uhhh…. have you notice none of the Authority’s current foils ever proposes much of a replacement? Do we let Caltrans take over?

    I’ll go out on a limb (because you know, Richard needs to use his buzzsaw again) and suggest that it is conceivable that the Authority simply become the High Speed Rail Commission, with changes to the Board structure and elimination of Legislative nominees in exchange for standard oversight.

    You dice the state up into five regions, have the Governor appoint someone from each and then have a someone sit on the Board from Cal Trans, CTC, LOSSAN, and MTC. Then you pull the Department of Rail under the Commission thus giving the Authority more staff.

    Not perfect, but so far, I haven’t seen many other proposals…

    jim Reply:

    If the feds were actually willing to commit serious money (which is, after all, the assumption behind most scenarios), the best solution would be for them to take over. There was an “expression of interest” from SNCF which proposed the creation of a special purpose vehicle, partially funded by SNCF, partially publicly funded (read fed funded), with some state level grants (read the $9B from Prop 1A) which would contract for construction and then contract with SNCF for operation. That expression of interest could become the basis for negotiations between USDOT and SNCF, again, if the federal government were willing to commit serious money. California’s involvement would be required for whatever takings were needed.

    There’s no real reason for an agency of the California state government to run this thing. Except so that it extend to Anaheim, that it terminate at TBT, that it not serve SD or Sacramento before LA and SF (“Ay, but, by your leave, not before me; the
    lieutenant is to be saved before the ancient.”). Internal California politics, forcing suboptimization.

    If you don’t like SNCF, the feds could put out another, more specific, request for expressions of interest.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The problem with this is that many of these sweeping changes mean that 1A goes away.

    jim Reply:

    If California is prepared to commit $9B in GO bonds to HSR, then the particular format doesn’t much matter. If they’re not under AB3034, they’re under some other legislative appropriation. Don’t fetishize Prop 1A.

    joe Reply:

    For that matter the CA legislature has the power to tax and legislate the creation of an organization to run it – one under their oversight.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    There’s no real reason for an agency of the California state government to run this thing.

    Keep in mind that the Interstate Highway system is state owned and operated but federally funded. Airports, sea channels, bridges, and all other civilian transportation infrastructure in the US is not owned by the federal government except for Dulles and Reagan in D.C. The federal government, aside from the Postal Service, does not operate interstate transportation.

    Now I realize that in practice they do because of Amtrak but even then many of these routes are actually state controlled.

    This is not a third world country and a French imperialist corporation controlling American assets (be it SCNF for rail, Viviendi for water, Total for pipelines) would go over like a lead balloon.

    The Japanese have a lot to share with California in particular, but I would argue that not all of the five separate HSR networks in the US have to be compatible. We can use Talgos in the Midwest, Bombadier in the East, Shinkansen in the West, and AGVs in the South. But the states have a role to play and if you try to substitute for something else, HSR won’t work in the US…..

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Everything west of the Rockies will be compatible including anything that gets built in Canada.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ….east of the Rockies… there will be two isolated systems west of the Rockies, the one in California and the one in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Tom, you’re conflating two kinds of compatibility. One compatibility is having uniform rolling stock and operating patterns (i.e. dedicated vs. shared track, city-center vs. suburban stations); this is what you’re railing against with your Talgos and Bombardier comment. Such compatibility is not necessary. It’s perfectly fine to mix different trains even on the same tracks, as Spain is doing, mixing a TGV derivative, the Talgo 350, and the Velaro on its AVE network.

    The other kind of compatibility is about making sure trains can run through eventually, through common platform heights and loading gauge, signaling, and electrification standards. Since it’s easy to imagine (at least for me) that regional HSR networks will one day meet up to form a continuous New York-Chicago line, it’s important to make the Northeastern and Midwestern networks compatible in this sense, and the same holds for Southern networks.

    California can indeed adopt different standards – for example, if bilevel trains are desirable, then it’s fine for it to adopt 550 mm platforms, rather than the 1,220 mm platforms of the Northeast Corridor and most existing single-level HSR rolling stock. That said, system elements should be as standardized as possible, not for compatibility with the Northeast, but for ensuring the maximum number of vendors.

    If you don’t want French imperialist corporations controlling American assets, then make sure to follow global standards. That way, you’ll have ten vendors for each element – rolling stock, signaling, whatever – and you will not be vendor-locked, so you’ll be able to force vendors to compete.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    There will not be, short of the collapse of the airline industry, Chicago to NY or NY to Florida HSR service.

    But all I was getting at is that European “imperial corporations” (Total and Vivendi are great examples) deliberately construct infrastructure in developing nations as a way to generate profits for their existing networks. It’s a clever way to offset a trade imbalance if not completely ethical.

    That’s the issue. US participants can buy everything from SCNF, JR Central, Bombadier, Ferrari….etc…. and there’s no problem. What becomes an issue is if a European firm effectively creates a private transportation network in the United States with no possible competition. That’s I think what Jim is alluding to….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not New York-Chicago, but New York-Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh-Cleveland, and Cleveland-Chicago. Might as well run trains that go all the way, like Tokyo-Fukuoka (on which the airlines have 92% of the end-to-end air/rail market).

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Too much! Americans whittering on about imperial control of monopoly resources. And to think some people claim they have no sense of humour.

  15. thatbruce
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 15:19


    The pedant in me is continually wincing at ‘New comment is submiting, please wait a comment’. The offending line seems to be in plugins/wordpress-thread-comment/wp-thread-comment.js.php , wptcajaxsend() and movecfm(). I’m not sure if your installation lets you edit this particular file to add the extra ‘t’ and change the second ‘comment’ to ‘moment’.

  16. Nadia
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 15:26

    O/T: CARRD just posted a new article: How conservative are ridership forecasts?

    See it here:

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Someone should proof read them before they get posted. There’s mistake in the charts.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Like what?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    If you are talking about lower prices for 2 people at short distance, that is not typo – that is model oddity.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Minor quibble, automobiles with only the driver in them do not have any passengers. When the driver has 1 passenger there are two occupants etc.

    I thought you were doing the arithmetic. 200 miles at 15 MPG is 13 and a third gallons. 200 miles at 29 cents mile is 58 dollars. 58 dollars divided by 13 1/3 is 4.35. The per gallon cost is lower for the two occupant line. I can’t figure out how that is derived and the really interesting thing is that it’s not lower for the 50 MPG automobile. But that’s assuming that 200 miles at 50 MPG is 4 gallons and 200 miles at 29 cents a mile is 58 dollars and 58 divided by 4 is 11.60. The way my third grade teacher taught me to do it is comes out to 14.50. I can do that in my head. Which is handy when I look at the column for 60 MPG automobiles. Which according to the way my third grade teacher taught me how to do long division comes out to 17.40. I can figure out that 200 miles at 60 miles per gallon is 3 1/3 in my head and that 58 divided by 3 and 3 1/3 isn’t 14.50

    I’ve been looking at ledger entries in one way or an another since 1976. I can glance at an out of balance ledger and see the transposition error(s). I charge 50 bucks an hour to do that with a two hour minimum.

    Someone should learn how to copy and paste into a worksheet, it’s very very handy and very very easy.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The model has a coefficient in the auto choice representing group travel. We assumed about 75% of it (or about $30) is representing the benefit of shared costs. This number is also in 2005$ so it needs to be inflated. The formula then is for more than one person:

    (.29*Miles – $30*.29/.25)* number of people / (miles/MPG)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m not the one promulgating the prop… publishing the numbers as a public service. The numbers for a single occupant vehicle are incorrect. If you want me to verify your work I charge 50 dollars an hour with a two hour minimum.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Can I pay you $50 to zip it?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I prefer to tar with -z or -j thanks.

    Nadia Reply:

    if you have a correction, you can email us a

    Eric Fredericks Reply:

    Your website seems to be pretty focused on the negatives of the project. Why haven’t you guys focused on more positive aspects of the project too? If you’re advocating for more reasonable rail design, then I think you should also be providing some good alternatives. The voters approved the project, so there’s not much hope in trying to say that there’s huge flaws with the project and perhaps it should be stopped. Huge projects need people like you guys to keep them honest, but they also need to show how things can be handled in a more positive fashion. At the end of the day, that will give you a lot more credibility.

    “What did we find? Well, do you think $40 per gallon of gas is conservative?” <-this is an example of where you turn something into "gotcha" media. Why not just say "we think the Authority's estimates of $40 per gallon gas is extremely high and this is how we suggest they fix it." If your intention is to get media coverage for yourself, then I think it's effective. If you're out to really help make this a better project, then I would fix this and email someone at the Authority.

    I enjoyed our initial conversations, Nadia, and I think that's the path you guys should really keep focusing on. There is a need for someone to step up with creative solutions to the problems presented. Otherwise, people will just view you as another person trying to kill the project and therefore won't be as effective.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Here’s one dissenting opinion on the matter:

    [Link] “We owed a lot to Lester Eisner, the federal housing official in charged of the Northeast,” noted Jacobs. “We took him on a tour of the neighborhood and he was floored by what a nice neighborhood it was and the great range of incomes. He told us to never ever tell anyone in state or city government what you want for improvements because then you’re considered a ‘participating citizen.’ Then they can say they have citizen participation and do whatever they want. He told us not to be afraid of being considered ‘merely negative.’ ”

    Eric Fredericks Reply:

    That’s not what I’ve experienced working in government and with several advocacy non-profits. A business-like approach always seems to be more effective because otherwise you get lumped in as crazies or NIMBYs. And your service response from gov’t gets slower.

    Not that I question the effectiveness of any of Jane’s approaches.

    Donk Reply:

    Eric, they are just NIMBYs, but they are veiled as supporters with creative solutions so that people don’t just view them as trying to kill the project and so they will be more effective. So in other words they are smarter than the average NIMBY. They have NEVER said one positive thing about the project. They have only made some neutral statements to confuse matters and hide their true PAMPA NIMBY identities.

    joe Reply:

    Sadly the unbiased CARRD analysis is, at this time, one-sided – it does not challenge any assumption that would disfavor auto use beyond HSR.

    Also the mention of risoing CAFE standards, 50+MPG CAFE for 2025 isn’t translated into actual MPG performance. CAFE over estimate actual performance by 20%.
    wikipedia sez:

    The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laboratory measurements of MPG have consistently overestimated fuel economy of gasoline vehicles and underestimated diesel vehicles.[78] John DeCicco, the automotive expert for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), estimated that this results in about 20% higher actual consumption than measured CAFE goals.

    Consumerreports also notes the MPG on the sticker does not indicate actual MPG.

    flowmotion Reply:

    The US government actually tracks two different MPG figures. The DOT numbers on the sticker are reasonably accurate. However for CAFE purposes, the EPA uses an older formula that produces inflated figures. There are also MPG credits for things like ethanol support.

    The public loves the idea of 50MPG standards, however they don’t actually want to buy the vehicles which could honestly make it happen.

  17. peninsula
    Nov 30th, 2011 at 20:46

    So in other words you are saying you would like to see how these numbers were calculated because they don’t make sense.

    Which I believe is exactly their point as well, and their reason for publishing the table.

    Did you notice they said that the authority’s method uses .29 per mile PER PERSON with some adjustments for fuel efficiency and persons per vehicle. That is not, as your simple back of the envelope method would assume, just .29 per mile. So according to CHSRA – that .29 per mile grows higher as number of people per vehicle grows. In other words, your $58 per $200 mile trip grows and grows and grows with number of people per vehicle. This of course is RIDICULOUS!

    Maybe you should require CHSRA to explain themselves for this, rather than faulting CAARD for figuring out their SCAM.

    In fact, given that these are reports that have been published to the Legislature and used to make official certifications to the legislature for purpose of AB3034 bond appropriations – maybe we should be asking who should be prosecuted for the lies?

  18. StevieB
    Dec 1st, 2011 at 15:08

    Cathleen Galgiani, author of the CA HSR bond proposition, attacked the Legislative Analyst’s Office as “unqualified to provide a comprehensive analysis of this complex project, which the state has been working on for 15 years.”

    “Their report is fraught with inaccurate and misleading information, irrational opinions and faulty conclusions,” Galgiani said. “It raises the question of whose agenda they are promoting.”

Comments are closed.