Gov. Jerry Brown Proposes Moving CHSRA To New Agency

Jan 5th, 2012 | Posted by

As part of his proposed 2012-13 budget Governor Jerry Brown is proposing a broad reorganization of state government, consolidating numerous departments into “agencies” – creating savings by reducing employee head counts through the consolidation process. The California High Speed Rail Authority would be affected by this, merged into a new Transportation Agency. The Sacramento Bee has details:

As part of a measure to consolidate state agencies and departments, Brown proposed creating a Transportation Agency, including the Rail Authority, the Highway Patrol and the departments of Transportation and Motor Vehicles, among others.

Tom Umberg, chairman of the Rail Authority board, said in a prepared statement this afternoon, “We embrace the reorganization proposal as it provides additional support and the necessary resources to support this project.”

The new Transportation Agency would also include the California Transportation Commission, which plays a key role in deciding which projects get state funding. From what I can tell, the new agency would not necessarily compromise the current powers of the Authority. It would create a new reporting relationship, but Governor Brown has already put his stamp on the Authority board with his new appointments. It’s entirely possible that the CHSRA could benefit from staff assistance in other parts of the proposed Transportation Agency, but that’s entirely speculative and depends on what an org chart would look like.

As a concept, this seems perfectly fine and workable. It’s hard to say more without knowing the details, and those will surely be fleshed out in the weeks and months to come.

The legislature has had its own ideas for how to move the CHSRA around in recent years, but this is part of a much more sweeping reorganization of state government and not driven by the high speed rail project alone. At this point it’s much too early to tell what the legislature thinks of this plan, and reports are that most legislators are not in any hurry to work on this budget.

They typical state budget process, for those of you who either don’t know or got sidetracked by the years of late budgets under Arnold Schwarzenegger, is that the governor proposes his budget in January. It gets discussed, debated, studied and analyzed. There is then a “May Revise” that comes out in early May, based on newer estimates of state tax revenues, that is much closer to the final document that the legislature is to then approve by June 15. The legislature could always delay approving the budget as they did in 2007, 2009, 2009 and 2010, but in 2011 they learned they would lose their paychecks (under Prop 25, passed in 2010) and so they passed an on-time budget. I would assume they will do so again in 2012.

In short…we’ll see what happens to this Transportation Agency proposal. There’s a long way to go between now and June 15.

While discussing his budget today, Gov. Brown also commented on the recent Peer Review Report that suggested the state delay the project. From the Sac Bee article linked above:

Brown told reporters today that some of the objections raised by the group “were not that well founded.”

“I’m of the view that this is a time for big ideas, not shrinking back and looking for a hole to climb into,” he said. “I think we’ve got to move forward.”

That’s a good assessment of where things stand. On that note, take a look at Peter Calthorpe’s excellent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle explaining the reasons why California needs high speed rail to meet the economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century.

  1. Jerry
    Jan 5th, 2012 at 21:03
    #1

    Gov. Brown says, “we’ve got to move forward.”
    Peter Calthorpe says CAHSR would, “generate market-wise development opportunities.”
    By moving forward into the future with HSR and TOD Calthorpe states you develop less land and thereby save prime farmland in the CV. He adds that market-wise development reduces average vehicle use by 40%, meaning less air pollution, and less associate respiratory diseases. It means less fuel usage and reduces auto maintenance and auto insurance costs.
    All of these positive factors are not considered by HSR opponents.

    StevieB Reply:

    Governor Brown showed his continued strong support for California High-Speed Rail this week with the statement, “California is a big state. America can have a high-speed rail system like every other country — every other major country — and I think we’ve got to move forward.”

  2. peninsula
    Jan 5th, 2012 at 21:35
    #2

    what a great idea -lets bury this dirty pathetic bag of BS under untold layers of bureaucracy and smoke screen, so that no one can really be sure what kind of ungodly nonsense they’re cooking up, until the bulldozers show up. Uh, yeahhhnope.

    Peter Calthorpe is no doubt as thick as thieves with the Big “market-wise” Developers who stand to profit vastly from having prime mid-town real estate for hundreds of miles up and down california, literally ripped from cities and neighbors and businesses, and handed over to the BMWDs for ‘TOD’ remodeling. Like taking candy from a baby? I have no doubt that his people think quite highly of the whole concept. And I’d be willing to bet that they are the biggest loudest protesters against (for example) a faster more direct, and less disruptive, straight line, minimal stop I5 alignment, with a few branches into the major city areas.

    joe Reply:

    what a great idea -lets bury this dirty pathetic bag of BS under untold layers of bureaucracy and smoke screen, so that no one can really be sure what kind of ungodly nonsense they’re cooking up, until the bulldozers show up. Uh, yeahhhnope.

    haters gonna hate.

    Those who demanded oversight, here it is. Sadly the consequent of oversight is institutionalizing the CAHSRA.

    VBobier Reply:

    Especially when the CHSRA was out in the open & unprotected, I like the idea Myself, as It would save money in the budget too.

    joe Reply:

    jimsf might have a comment on this but IMHO…

    Adding CAHSRA to an existing bureaucracy is very different than reformulating a new agency. This plan helps HSR keep its footing in a new organization with new dynamics. Oversight will change and so will the priorities with the new organization.

    Haters are gonna hate: Opponents might realize that demanding oversight is also institutionalizing the HSR organization – even CARRD wants HSR done right so what better way to do it right than to institutionalize the organization.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Indeed, this appears to be a full-scale cleanup of the California governmental structure, with a shakeup of every existing bureaucracy — a bit like Eisenhower’s Reorganization Acts.

    (Incidentally, Eisenhower was the last time a proper structural cleanup was done to the federal government, and we’re overdue. Homeland Security just added an unnecessary layer, it didn’t clean anything up).

    Haters are gonna hate, indeed. It’s rather funny to see the haters’ reaction.

  3. J. Wong
    Jan 5th, 2012 at 21:36
    #3

    Do you think that some of the critics of CAHSRA will applaud this decision, or more likely, find something else about which to criticize HSR? What does that tell you about their true motivations with regard to HSR?

    J. Wong Reply:

    I’m glad I voted for Jerry Brown.

    VBobier Reply:

    Me too.

    MigL12 Reply:

    I’m happy with most of what he’s done so far. I was starting to feel disappointed because I thought he wasn’t going to see this HSR project through. It takes some huge political cojones to stand strong against oil, auto (&the like) interests and the idiots that believe their lies.

    VBobier Reply:

    They’ll criticize no matter what, poor deluded fools.

  4. Emma
    Jan 5th, 2012 at 22:30
    #4

    We need an agency that puts all railways under one roof. End of story. Putting apples and bananas together just to fire a few people here and there won’t solve much. In fact, I could totally see this new Transportation Authority delaying CHSR because the workforce is overwhelmed with keeping an eye on highways, public transit AND high speed rail.

    Emma Reply:

    But if this Authoirty has more spine than the CHSRA, then please go ahead.

    Donk Reply:

    I love how you switched from somebody who was once full of optimism to somebody who bitches about everything. Sort of entertaining to see the transformation.

    StevieB Reply:

    Happiness is a choice, and not a condition.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Happiness is a delusion.

    So there.

    VBobier Reply:

    You ought to know then.

    synonymouse Reply:

    No worries, Emma, I got the “tiresome” label laid on me.

    Donk Reply:

    The difference is that I said Emma was entertaining.

    Emma Reply:

    I still like concept, just not the people in charge of executing this. They have no spine and as a liberal nothing bothers me more than when a government project that was originally cost-efficient and rational, goes south because it gave in to every bystander that is whining.

    There is this quote I forgot by whom but it said something in the way “If you try to please all sides, you’ll ruin it.” That’s exactly what’s happening here. The CHSRA website is a metaphor for the project. From organized and clean to a weird attempt that doesn’t please anybody.

    The lesson here is: An agency that acts independently from the government ends up being less representative. We in California can be glad to have a fairly consistent liberal government so I totally support a Department that would unite all railway operators into one. The only other state that could possibly pull this off without wasting billions in form of private contracts is Vermont.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Google “Vermont” and “Colorado Railcar DMU”.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Two trains a day toddle through Vermont, it’s probably all handled by an administrative assistant in the road department.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Rail? It’s barely handled at all in Vermont, actually. They’ve spent about twenty years arguing about how to fund the reconstruction of the “West Side” rail line, which if it existed, would be the most successful route in the sates.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Uh, “state”, not “sates”.

    Jon Reply:

    I am totally in favor of putting all the railways under one roof as this would help force technical interoperability throughout the state and reduce inter-agency turf wars. One government agency should manage all the publicly owned track and ROW, with the operating agencies (Amtrak, Caltrain, Metrolink, whoever operates HSR) being responsible for the rolling stock and day-to-day operations. This government agency would also be tasked with seeking out new ROW to purchase for future passenger service.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Having one department in far off Sacramento would work out so well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beeching_Axe

    Jon Reply:

    I’m from the UK so I know all about the Beeching cuts. Not sure what relevance it has here though. The US lost more passenger lines during the same postwar period of automobile dominance but has had a harder time recovering, as the remaining lines are either privately owned or owned by small local agencies (e.g. PCJPB.) Network Rail has repurchased, rebuilt and reopened some of the ROW lost due to Beeching; what agency has the finances to do that in California?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Beeching Axe is what happens when you put technocrats in charge.
    Put it under a central authority and the much beloved ACE, which carries hundreds of people on a busy day, get cut. Wanna build a 50 million dollar HSR station in Stockton. Nope, there won’t be enough riders to make it worthwhile. The all powerful omniscient technocrats at the Rail Authority switch to Altamont the all powerful Rail Authorithy says that San Jose, third largest city in the state, biggest city in the Bay Area, Navel of the Universe, doesn’t get HSR because there’s two ways to get to an HSR station, BART to Fremont or Caltrain to Redwood City…..

    synonymouse Reply:

    Quite the contrary, putative technocrats aka transit “experts” decreed Stilt-A-Rail.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There’s a difference between technocrats and people who claim to be technocrats, as Krugman and DeLong have commented in the realm of economics.

    A real technocrat would have recognized how to make the railway system more efficient (the low-usage, closely spaced “milk run” stations in Britain really *did* need to be shut, with their utility having vanished around the time motorcars came in, and already having been diminished in utility when *bicycles* arrived) without making it less functional (the Great Central Main Line, for example, should never have been closed).

    A real technocrat actually understands the technical character of the technology, and the political character of the people.

    We are beset by fake technocrats who have dogmas in their head.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The problem sometimes comes from the real technocrats, not the fake ones. Thomas MacDonald was a real technocrat, who cut his teeth in Iowa, where he cracked down on colluding and dishonest contractors and built a road network on a shoestring budget. Once he moved on to a federal road czar position, his agenda became increasing his own power to build roads without Congressional oversight, and working with the auto and tire industry to produce pro-road astroturf (“How Good Roads Help the Religious Life of My Community”). Likewise, Robert Moses was a technocrat in a slightly different sense; his contribution was not lowering the cost of road construction, but rather leveraging tolls to get more urban roads built. We’re talking about two people, one of whom is still famous for getting things done, and the other of whom should be, who are deeply responsible to the destruction of the cities, precisely because in their narrow field of work they were competent.

    MigL12 Reply:

    I disagree; it’s working well for metro. It’ll also see all modes of transportation as one with the main priority being moving people efficiently instead of different agencies having to compete against eachother for funding and project approval. GREAT IDEA :)

  5. morris brown
    Jan 5th, 2012 at 22:43
    #5

    San Jose Mercury News Editorial:

    Mercury News editorial: Peer review should bury high-speed rail

    http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_19675945?source=rss

    Here is the really near perfect rebuttal to Robert’s claim that the Authority demolished the Peer Group report.

    The best part may be the last part:


    Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature have a choice: spend $3 billion plus interest on this high-speed cadaver, or use that money to support schools and other critical public services that millions of Californians depend on today and into the future. It’s an easy choice.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “spend $3 billion plus interest on this high-speed cadaver, or use that money to support schools and other critical public services”

    It is, unfortunately, a false equivalence. Stopping HSR does not give the state $3 billion plus interest to spend on other things. Whether HSR is stopped or proceeds no extra $3 billion is going to be allocated to schools or anything else. Sorry.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yes, it does relate to schools. Brown is pontificating all over the place that if his tax increase is not passed all sorts of dire things will happen to education. In his mind any budget reduction or any other increased cost(hsr)will immediately affect schools.

    Brown totally ignores the issue of how a multitude of essentially welfare programs, like childcare, dream act, yada, yada, which we cannot afford, have been added in recent years. The role of the state in education should be restored to what it was 50 years ago, when California was reputed to have a first rate system. Even George P. Schulz, pillar of the establishment, recommended cutting the state educational bureaucracy by at least 30%. I would go much farther. Use old textbooks, in the public domain. Screw new age cartoon crap. The kids are either smart enough to get the text version or not. Fleshing it out, explicating it, is what the teacher is there for. Ever read the mission statement in an education class textbook? They can go on for page after page and say nothing. They must be getting paid by the word.

    Of course Brown never mentions declaring a state of fiscal emergency and voiding the labor contracts. Start out by cutting the prison guards annual leave from 8 weeks to 5 weeks effective immediately. Brown’s useless; vote no on any and all tax increases until some semblance of spending diet can be initiated and made good on.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The role of the state in education should be restored to what it was 50 years ago, when California was reputed to have a first rate system. Even George P. Schulz, pillar of the establishment, recommended cutting the state educational bureaucracy by at least 30%.

    Explain to me how that works in light of Prop 13, Prop 98, No Child Left Behind, and Title I?

    synonymouse Reply:

    a counter-revolution? But gotta luv Prop. 13 – most old people would be driven out of their houses if not for it. You must be delusional if you think a split tax role is possible. The corps are way too powerful – they run this place.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s other alternatives to Prop 13 that keep old people in their houses.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    The only people who think Prop 13 is a problem are people too young to remember their parents and grandparents getting screwed by the State before Prop 13 was passed.

    To understand the problem with California, one only has to look as far as Jerry Brown’s beloved shithole known as Oakland.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Hmm, so its OK with you that commercial properties are never reassessed in perpetuity because of a little loophole in Prop 13? While eventually a 2 bedroom house will pay more in taxes than the TransAmerica Pyramid because residential properties get reassessed every time they are sold.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Once you buy something, why should it be reassessed? Its yours. Why should the government get to screw you over in perpetuity?

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Like I said, prop 13 isn’t the problem anyway.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why someone come around and pave the street in front of it once you’ve bought it? Or collect the garbage? Or send a fire truck over if it catches on fire?…..

    Nathanael Reply:

    Drunken Unreality, you really don’t understand anything, do you?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m old enough to remember that it was passed by people who wanted something for nothing. The streets of the 49 other states in the US aren’t littered with homeless senior citizens.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Kinda like what you want right now with HSR then?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Nope.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Real states have homestead property exemptions and pension income exclusions.

    California has Prop 13, a.k.a. the Hand Power to Wealthy Corporations Amendment. Anyone who supports it is too stupid to vote. Yes, that means you, Drunken Unreality.

    Derek Reply:

    But gotta luv Prop. 13 – most old people would be driven out of their houses if not for it.

    If their property is really worth so much that they can’t afford the taxes, why can’t they take their millions and move to a cheaper location?

    Sorry, I just don’t have much sympathy for “poor” rich people.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    I bought a house in 2000 for $250k. The market in my area literally exploded due to the housing bubble and its value tripled in 4 years. Are you suggesting that I expected it to be worth a million in four short years and therefore should have been perpared to pay the taxes on it?

    You’re out of your f-ing mind and ignorant.

    Derek Reply:

    Why can’t you take your half million dollars of pure profit and move into a $250k house again?

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Well keep in mind, Proposition 13 is part of the reason real estate bubbles persist in California. Ten years ago, it created a situation where even if you didn’t pay a higher property tax rate from the increase in appraised value, you got to use that equity to refinance or spend to buy other properties, especially in Nevada and Arizona.

    Secondly, Prop 13 also prohibits counties and school districts from lowering the tax levy in the event that prices appreciate rapidly.

    Prop 13 is socialism, but as Simon Johnson said after the bailout “we are all socialists now”.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If your house quadrupled in value so would all the other houses in your tax district. You property taxe rate would go down but your tax bill would stay the same. Under Prop 13 the poor schumck who buys the exact same house next door for 4 times as much, who get exactly the same services you do, pays 4 times as much. Privatize the profits and socialize the costs.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If I buy a stock and its value quadruples, I have to pay taxes on the dividends, and if I sell, I have to pay capital gains tax. You don’t even have to pay capital gains taxes on selling a house, and you want to also be exempt from paying property taxes on it? Do you live in a banana republic?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If you aim is to keep property taxes low on the primary residence of senior citizens there’s much more efficient and equitable ways to do it besides freezing property tax assessments. ….primary resident. Scuttlebutt I hear is that 70% of the residential property in these parts is not primary residence. Thre’s no reason why the state, county or local governments should be subsidizing the property taxes on vacation homes….
    The other side of the coin is that people are locked into their houses. If they downsize at or near retirement that’s a sale that triggers a reassessment….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Let me get this straight – when Millennials can’t find jobs it’s a sign that the generation is decadent, but when senior citizens who have a windfall on their housing complain that they have to sell it’s a statewide emergency? Screw them. They can move; we can’t move to places that have jobs without both a) taking massive pay cuts and b) learning new languages.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    And let’s not forget: high housing prices on the coasts are a recent phenomenon, dating to the universal adoption of restrictive zoning codes, usually with the explicit purpose of keeping property values high. Want your property tax rate to go down? If you’re in your 60s and have lived in the same place 30 years, you have enough power in the community to schlep to the zoning meeting and advocate for abolishing zoning restrictions.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Housing prices have been high on the coasts since the Europeans landed.
    The concept of Old Law tenements are a back formation of New Law tenements that were produced after the enactment of the …. New Law….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    This… isn’t really true. Until the 1960s, housing prices on the East Coast and in California were not persistently higher than in Real America.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes. Bakersfield is filled with Old Law tenements because housing was so expensive that they had to build 7 story walkups….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Land prices were cheaper, for sure, but prices per housing unit were not consistently so. I’m not sure about Bakersfield specifically (Bakersfield is very poor and this could skew things), but it’s true if you compare the coasts to the interior.

    http://agecon2.tamu.edu/people/faculty/newburn-david/agec422/readings/Fischel_economic%20history%20of%20zoning_UrbanStudies2004.pdf

    (Look for the part about the effects of zoning since the 1960s)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Most housing gets built on land. If you are building housing in places where land is expensive things like 7 story walkups get built. The price of the land is reflected in the price of the housing. People settle for things like studio apartments because two bedrooms are too expensive…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Those 7-story walkups don’t have to cost so much more per unit (or per bedroom, or whatever) than houses in Texas. The construction costs are the same, but the sale price in Manhattan is twice as high. There’s a lot of demand for Manhattan nowadays, and regulations that make it hard to supply it, or things that are just like it. And that’s a recent development – Village apartments were affordable to the working class when Jane Jacobs wrote her book.

    Nathanael Reply:

    In states which don’t have stupid demented laws like Prop 13, property taxes are not proportional to *your* property’s value. If all the prices in your area go up, the city will *LOWER THE RATE* to maintain the same levy.

    That’s how it actually works. Only if your price goes up and your neighbors’ (in the same jurisdiction) prices go down does your tax rate go up with your price. If that happens and you can’t afford the taxes, yes, for God’s sake, consider moving across town and taking your windfall profits.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    We dont need to pay for your “welfare-“…/sober….now pay your “real” fair share

    thatbruce Reply:

    ‘No Child Left Behind’ is not an overall benefit to education. Just encourages teachers to teach to the exam, instead of what needs to be learned.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I didn’t say it was a benefit. I said it’s a consideration when fixing your state education bureaucracy :-)

    joe Reply:

    Fiscal advice from a newspaper. Experts on all things fiscal including how to reporgram Prop 1a and ARRA money for schools.

    Mercurynews’ has a track record of circulation cuts, missed opportunities and damn you craigslist for stealing our cash cow.

    They now going to sue people for reading their content.
    http://knightcenter.utexas.edu/blog/us-news-organizations-launch-newsright-company-track-unlicensed-use-content-blogs-aggregator-si

    Yes, they are the public’s watchdog..

    Nathanael Reply:

    Of course, the hack at the Mercury News, who does nothing but write dishonest hit jobs, has written another one. Why are you quoting it, Morris? To prove that you are also a dishonest hack? Mission accomplished!

  6. Tom McNamara
    Jan 6th, 2012 at 05:20
    #6

    So much for Paul Dyson’s warning that Amtrak California was going away…the recommendation includes MORE funding for them.

    More telling, no one has seemed to notice this:

    The annual spending plan proposed by the Democratic governor this afternoon includes continued funding for the Rail Authority’s operations, but it doesn’t yet include bond proceeds to start construction in the Central Valley.

    “The Authority’s funding plan is under review by the Department of Finance,” according to a budget summary. “After the review, the Administration will propose a plan for the initial train segment.”

    Now that’s pretty unequivocal. 30 years later, Jerry and his high-speed train is back….

    synonymouse Reply:

    And so are Bechtel dba’s, ready to pocket ‘mo money, lots and lots of your money.

    paul dyson Reply:

    @Tom: I did not write that Amtrak CA is going away, I wrote that Division of Rail is being gutted. Altogether different. Actually Amtrak CA got a reprieve from DC in the middle of this as the PRIAA funding change was at least deferred. Anyway, there’s a long way to go before this budget process is over, and no doubt passenger rail will be under attack at state level as well as in DC.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I see the proposal to eliminate position years from the Division of Rail in the budget document, but it’s unclear how many filled positions that is. It also appears that the total division funding isn’t really going down. Care to elaborate now that it is public?

    paul dyson Reply:

    I don’t have all the facts yet but it may well be that the warning I was given was incorrect as to numbers. We shall see. It’s peripheral to this discussion.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    I’m not trying to trap you rhetorically. I used to work in a state budget office and I recognize that it’s not always clear what the Recommendation is. But still, your confidence makes me think that whoever told you had fairly reliable information. And honestly, information like that would hardly be peripheral to the people who post here…

    Nathanael Reply:

    Well, if you didn’t write that Amtrak CA was losing its funding… you sure left that misleading impression.

    I suggest you apologize for confusing several of us; no doubt it was unintentional.

    I am dead certain that you are wrong about this: “no doubt passenger rail will be under attack at state level as well as in DC”. Please count the votes in the California legislature.

    Yes, it is possible that the 1/3 minority will attack passenger rail verbally, but they don’t care about it strongly enough to actually make a serious attack on it, and will probably focus on something else (like tax cuts for their rich buddies). Jerry Brown definitely is supporting passenger rail.

  7. Reality Check
    Jan 6th, 2012 at 14:47
    #7

    Committee Releases List Of Properties Affected By High Speed Rail
    Save Bakersfield Committee Releases Partial List of Properties Affected In Downtown Area

    The Save Bakersfield Committee says after being ignored by the High Speed Rail Authority, they’ve come up with their own partial list of addresses in the downtown area that would be affected by the rail, specifically the rail station.

    “We think it’s important that they’ll be informed because this is a really big project with a huge amount of destruction,” said Michael Kennedy of the Save Bakersfield Committee.

    The SBC has developed a partial list focusing on downtown Bakersfield where the rail station would be — stretching from P Street to Union Avenue and Truxtun to California avenues — wiping out everything in its path; including businessses like Kay Automotive.

    Nathanael Reply:

    More bullshit. No, of course it doesn’t “wipe out everything in its path”.

  8. Reality Check
    Jan 6th, 2012 at 14:58
    #8

    AB 1444 would expedite urban rail transit projects

    Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) introduced the new bill this week as the Legislature began its new year, saying it would “create thousands of desperately-needed jobs, and give commuters and residents environmentally sound transit options as alternatives to sitting in stopped traffic.”

    AB 1444 would help public transit projects throughout California, but it was introduced at the request of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and could assist a possible future rail connection between the San Fernando Valley and L.A.’s Westside, and the Green Line extension to LAX, according to Michael Turner, government relations director for the transit agency.

    Feuer’s proposal is similar to legislation approved last year requiring any legal challenge on environmental concerns over Farmers Field, a 72,000-seat stadium project planned for downtown L.A., to be resolved within 175 days. The governor also signed AB 900, which provides the same streamlining to challenges to large renewable-energy projects.

  9. Reality Check
    Jan 6th, 2012 at 15:01
    #9

    Bay Area to Central Valley HST Partially Revised Draft Program EIR (Jan 2012)

    The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) is circulating the Bay Area to Central Valley HST Partially Revised Draft Program EIR in order to address the November 2011 court rulings in the Town of Atherton litigation challenging the 2010 Bay Area to Central Valley High-Speed Train Revised Final Program EIR. The Partially Revised Draft Program EIR contains only the additional information and analyses needed to address the court judgment.

  10. D. P. Lubic
    Jan 6th, 2012 at 18:42
    #10

    Off topic, but perhaps of interest here. . .

    On the website, Railway Preservation News, there has been a discussion about a special industry group, the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) working with large amusement parks to come up with inspection and safety standards for trains in amusement parks, some of which are genuine steam railroads quite similar to a full sized line, and indeed, in at least three cases (Walt Disney World in Florida, Dollywood in Tennessee, and the Tweetsie in North Carolina) really do use full-sized (narrow gauge) locomotives in a park setting. Most of these roads have no standard of safety for inspection, operation and training, and there have been some incidents. The part that’s interesting here is that these operations are largely exempt from the FRA. Here is a quote from a section of law regarding the FRA and some exemptions from its jurisdiction:

    Code of Federal Regulations
    Title 49 – TransportationVolume: 4Date: 2010-10-01Original Date: 2010-10-01Title: Section 230.2 – Applicability.Context:
    Title 49 – Transportation. Subtitle B – Other Regulations Relating to Transportation (Continued). CHAPTER II – FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION. PART 230 – STEAM LOCOMOTIVE INSPECTION AND MAINTENANCE STANDARDS. Subpart A – General.
    § 230.2
    Applicability.
    (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, this part applies to all railroads that operate steam locomotives.
    (b) This part does not apply to:
    (1) A railroad with track gage of less than 24 inches;
    (2) A railroad that operates exclusively freight trains and does so only on track inside an installation that is not part of the general system of transportation;
    (3) Rapid transit operations in an urban area that are not connected to the general system of transportation; or
    (4) A railroad that operates passenger trains and does so only on track inside an installation that is insular, i.e., its operations are limited to a separate enclave in such a way that there is no reasonable expectation that the safety of the public—except a business guest, a licensee of the railroad or an affiliated entity, or a trespasser—would be affected by the operation. An operation will not be considered insular if one or more of the following exists on its line:
    (i) A public highway-rail crossing that is in use;
    (ii) An at-grade rail crossing that is in use;
    (iii) A bridge over a public road or waters used for commercial navigation; or
    (iv) A common corridor with another railroad, i.e., its operations are conducted within 30 feet of those of any other railroad.
    (c) See appendix A of part 209 for a current statement of the FRA’s policy on its exercise of jurisdiction.

    A second quote, provided by the same poster:

    Code of Federal Regulations
    Title 49 – TransportationVolume: 4Date: 2010-10-01Original Date: 2010-10-01Title: Appendix A to Part 209 – Statement of Agency Policy Concerning Enforcement of the Federal Railroad Safety LawsContext:
    Title 49 – Transportation. Subtitle B – Other Regulations Relating to Transportation (Continued). CHAPTER II – FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION. PART 209 – RAILROAD SAFETY ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURES.
    Pt. 209, App. A
    Appendix A to Part 209—Statement of Agency Policy Concerning Enforcement of the Federal Railroad Safety Laws
    (snip)
    Insularity is an issue only with regard to tourist operations over trackage outside of the general system used exclusively for such operations. FRA considers a tourist operation to be insular if its operations are limited to a separate enclave in such a way that there is no reasonable expectation that the safety of any member of the public’except a business guest, a licensee of the tourist operation or an affiliated entity, or a trespasser’would be affected by the operation. A tourist operation will not be considered insular if one or more of the following exists on its line:
    •A public highway-rail crossing that is in use;
    •An at-grade rail crossing that is in use;
    •A bridge over a public road or waters used for commercial navigation; or
    •A common corridor with a railroad, i.e., its operations are within 30 feet of those of any railroad.
    When tourist operations are conducted on the general system, FRA exercises jurisdiction over them, and all of FRA’s pertinent regulations apply to those operations unless a waiver is granted or a rule specifically excepts such operations (e.g., the passenger equipment safety standards contain an exception for these operations, 49 CFR 238.3(c)(3), even if conducted on the general system). When a tourist operation is conducted only on track used exclusively for that purpose it is not part of the general system. The fact that a tourist operation has a switch that connects it to the general system does not make the tourist operation part of the general system if the tourist trains do not enter the general system and the general system railroad does not use the tourist operation’s trackage for any purpose other than delivering or picking up shipments to or from the tourist operation itself.
    If a tourist operation off the general system is insular, FRA does not exercise jurisdiction over it, and none of FRA’s rules apply. If, however, such an operation is not insular, FRA exercises jurisdiction over the operation, and some of FRA’s rules (i.e., those that specifically apply beyond the general system to such operations) will apply. For example, FRA’s rules on accident reporting, steam locomotives, and grade crossing signals apply to these non-insular tourist operations (see 49 CFR 225.3, 230.2 amd 234.3), as do all of FRA’s procedural rules (49 CFR parts 209, 211, and 216) and the Federal railroad safety statutes themselves.

    Should you be interested, the whole exchange starts here:

    http://www.rypn.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=32620

    The above quotes are on Page 3 of this thread, as posted by Jim Boylan.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    Because $100 a day at Disneyland isn’t enough already right?

    Can things get any more insane around here?

    “Most of these roads have no standard of safety for inspection, operation and training, and there have been some incidents.”

    Name one. Just one.

    FRA has no jurisdiction. It’s an amusment park right. Moving on.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    http://www.kdvr.com/news/kdvr-tiny-town-train-txt,0,5776510.story

    http://rideaccidents.com/2011.html#mar19

    There was also another incident involving park train in in Kentucky that was a runaway, derailing on a curve and rolling over, but I could not find it.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Better link (not generic) on the fatality in South Carolina:

    http://www.goupstate.com/article/20110319/ARTICLES/110319692/1112?Title=Cleveland-Park-train-derails-child-killed-nearly-30-injured

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    And discussion at Railway Preservation News on this subject:

    http://www.rypn.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=31060&hilit=park+train+accident

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    SR, I normally don’t criticize people too much, but as you can see, you were wrong here.

    My advice, really, is to show a little respect to others and a little humility once in a while. You would be surprised just how far a little of it goes to winning respect for you.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    It was a miniature railroad. Are you freaking kidding me?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Tell that to the parents of the boy who died in South Carolina.

    I also suggest you take a look at the RyPN discussion itself, which I believe you haven’t done.

    That site is normally about full-sized heritage railways, but the technology and physics are much the same. Put it another way–these trains may be small, but they are big enough to kill you. In the case of those that are operated with steam, that boiling water, if it escapes uncontrollably, will expand to 1,600 times its original volume, and will do it so fast it will momentarily displace the atmosphere. It does that just as nicely in a small boiler explosion as it does in a big one.

    In short, even these miniature trains need to be treated with respect. That means they should get similar care and maintenance and, most importantly of all, a proper attitude to safety in operation.

    Now, some people here have problems with the FRA, and I’m not going to say their comments are pointless. At the same time, I don’t think anybody here wants no safety regulation at all; it can be argued that regulation “keeps us honest.”

    Interestingly, if you took a look at the actual discussion on RyPN, it was about having a best practices policy and self-regulation to avoid problems with a body like the FRA. There might be a useful lesson for HSR there, too.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Indeed, if you don’t want outside regulation, you gotta self-regulate.

    No large corporation has *ever* managed to remember this lesson. Many have known it when they started out, but eventually after enough changes of management, the short-term thinkers — psychopaths in some cases — get into power, and it all goes by the wayside…

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Oh, you may be interested in why I brought this up here. It is because it reveals certain standards of exemption from FRA jurisdiction, some of which apply to transit operations. In case you hadn’t noticed, some others around here think the FRA is a source of some problems, and those people might be interested in this example of rail operations that are exempt.

    Sobering Reality Reply:

    I think you brought it up here because you like Apples and Oranges. These were amusement park rides.

    Congressman Markey and his hellfire about amusment park rides woud have loved you.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    On a slightly lighter note–and be sure to check out the other two photos that are in this mini-album:

    http://photos.nola.com/photogallery/2011/10/car_hit_by_train_in_city_park_2.html

    Over at RyPN, a poster commented about park trains, in a discussion as to whether they were “real” trains, that if the people he supervised didn’t think and like like they were around a real railroad, he didn’t keep them around. In light of what is linked here, I think he had good reason for this opinion.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Interestingly, the Disneyland Monorail has a bridge over a public road (what exemption applies to it?), and the Disneyland steam train is within 30 feet of the Monorail….

    These exemptions are a crazy-quilt.

    thatbruce Reply:

    That’s a road owned and maintained by Disney within the confines of their Anaheim property, that is used by the public to cross the Disney property and access Disney car parks (or drive straight through).

  11. StevieB
    Jan 7th, 2012 at 02:16
    #11

    Very interesting little comparison to the Los Angeles Subway in the L.A. Times Opinion piece Keep California’s bullet train on track

    The project’s current political ills remind us of the firestorm that erupted over L.A.’s subway, when sinkholes appeared on Hollywood Boulevard, construction mismanagement led to cost overruns, and voters became so disillusioned with subways that they approved a measure in 1998 forbidding the expenditure of county sales tax money to pay for them ever again. A decade later, they realized how shortsighted they had been; failure to complete a subway to the sea contributed to worsening gridlock on the Westside, and the subway had such clear benefits for riders that its construction troubles were largely forgotten. The result: County voters approved a new measure in 2008 to raise the sales tax to pay for, among other things, more subway construction.

    The essence of their opinion is despite recent negative reviews by experts, in the long term the rail project still makes sense.

    The point is, you can take the long view or the short view toward the bullet train. The expert panels are taking a short view; we prefer the long. In the end, if Californians have the patience and the political will to stick with it, they’ll have a project with extraordinary environmental, economic and transportation benefits. If they don’t, they’ll have worsening congestion, rising pollution and soaring transit expenses as gasoline prices continue their inevitable rise. We like the first vision of the future better.

    Thirty years after California High Speed Rail is running it will be the envy of other states snarled in automobile traffic.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    County voters didn’t “realize the error of their ways”:

    The demographics of previously Jewish neighborhoods changed and older, white residents moved out replaced by ethnic minorities and younger Angelinos more supportive of mass transit not involving buses.

    CHSRA is more like BART in this sense, it can actually be a proactive approach instead of the Red LIne which was largely reactive.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    Measure R passed in almost every corner of LA County and even had healthy majorities in remote Palmdale where there was political opposition. Much of the reason is that every area got pet projects.
    West LA got Expo and Wilshire rail, San Gabriel Valley got Foothill Gold line extension, Antelope Valley got freeway widening. I hope Mike Feur’s Measure R+ proposal will be equally well thought out.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “The demographics of previously Jewish neighborhoods changed and older, white residents moved out replaced by ethnic minorities and younger Angelinos more supportive of mass transit not involving buses.”–Tom McNamara

    As I’ve noted before, I think a generational shift is perhaps the biggest single component of things like this. If this turns out to be true, what does it portend, not just for California, but for the whole country?

    In short, what might this land realistically look like in 30 years or so?

    Nathanael Reply:

    You have to watch the intra-US population movements.

    Unluckily for West Virginia, its population is getting older, as any young person who *can* get out *does* get out. Expect it to have absolutely no improvements in passenger rail.

    Meanwhile, the places the young people are moving to will get passenger rail quite quickly. I don’t know the demographic movements lately, but you might be entertained to look them up. :-)

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    D.P. —

    The entire socioeconomic fabric of our nation (and any nation) is wholly a function of three things: ecology, demographics, and technology. Robert talks a lot about the latter, and hints at the high energy future, but leaves out the crucial distinction.

    There are literally Two Americas. One is composed of anyone born before 1965, when social policies were different, but very few immigrants entered the country. The post 1965 generation due to changes in civil rights and immigration is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Most aren’t white, and many are either second or first generation Americans from non-European nations. Unlike the Boomers, they go back to their home country now and again, and speak the language.

    What you see in California and other parts of the country is apartheid-lite: if you can’t rule by majority, rule by minority by starving the beast and divide and conquer politics. And after that, if you can’t beat ’em join ’em by redefining what it means to be white.

  12. Sobering Reality
    Jan 7th, 2012 at 03:32
    #12

    Thirty years after CAHSR is running, it will still have massive debt and it might have finally reached its first year ridership projections.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Debt–maybe. Ridership–bet it’ll surpass projections in a few years, if not right away.

    See recent histories of light rail lines and their ridership.

    morris brown Reply:

    @ D. P. Lubic

    More on target would be the projections and costs on BART to the SF airport — another project promoted by Kopp and company.

    Nathanael Reply:

    On the contrary, more on target would be the AVE Madrid-Barcelona ridership projections.

    No comment about costs, but ridership on CAHSR is going to be enormous very quickly. Why? The route *goes where the people are*.

    How many people live at the SF Airport? Yeah. (Admittedly, people work there. It’s been demonstrated that in most cities, airport metro connections are used primarily by people who work at the airport.)

    ComradeFrana Reply:

    “…it might have finally reached its first year ridership projections.”

    Why do you think that ridership won’t meet the projections?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’d hazard a guess the underlying assumption is “Real Americans(tm) don’t ride trains”
    For a lot of reasons. Real Americans(tm) don’t travel much. They don’t travel to places trains go because those kind of places are filled with those kind of people And anyway, those kind of places are so crowded that no one goes there anymore ( being crowded the traffic and parking are a PITA )

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Comments from The Overhead Wire on this project:

    http://theoverheadwire.blogspot.com/2012/01/high-speed-rail-for-this-generation.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+overheadwire+%28The+Overhead+Wire%29

    morris brown Reply:

    @D. P. Lubic

    Cathy Baylock’s comment was in the context, that with this much funding going to HSR, there won’t be funding for other projects, that that somehow there would be $10 billion more.

    The full Burlingame Council discussion can be viewed on YouTube (26 minutes) It is an excellent discussion by a council that is very knowledgeable.

    Link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LeephVKu18

    Hopefully discussion like this will lead to the PCC recommending to cities that this HSR project be abandoned and many City councils will pass resolutions recommending the project be killed.

    jim Reply:

    On another thread someone compared the HSR cost to the Defense budget (obviously to HSR’s advantage). It’s the same argument. And it’s wrong. In this country we don’t do guns versus butter. Each expenditure is considered on its own. This road expansion versus no road expansion. This weapons system versus no weapons system. This HSR proposal versus no HSR. There is no crowding out. If the other projects are worthy (on a this project versus no project basis) they’ll be funded, eventually, whether or not this project is funded. This is America: we aren’t subject to limits.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I wish we actually did that kind of comparison (“is this better than nothing”) on the military budget, where I can make a very strong case that a great deal of the money is spent to make the US *less* safe, and a great deal more is spent to get absolutely no benefit.

    joe Reply:

    Jim

    In this economy there is no crowding out since Gov borrowing and spending does not impact inflation. That’s a rare case.

    We plan to invest 1 trillion on the f-35 fighter, our f-22 doesn’t work and has never been used in combat and continues to fail in routine flights.

    Not much of an uproar over that project but OMG, the HSR estimate is changing.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Thnak you tea sober….

  13. D. P. Lubic
    Jan 7th, 2012 at 12:36
    #13

    Off topic, but no one has mentioned this here and it may be of interest–The Infrastructurist announced yesterday that it was suspending operations. Just in case someone who was interested in the site hadn’t looked at it recently. . .

  14. Howard
    Jan 7th, 2012 at 13:03
    #14

    Is Desert Xpress going to start construction this year? I read that their plan is to start construction in 2012.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The original plan was to finish construction in 2012.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The original plan for the Second Avenue Subway was to finish construction in the 40s. The plan when they actually started digging tunnels was the mid 80s for the full length…. The tunnels for East Side Access have been sitting there for almost 40 years….

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    They are trying to get money still, otherwise ready to go.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Yep. As usual, “we’ll start construction when we have the money”.

    Dunno when they’ll have the money. It’s a weird venture and it’s not clear who will back it. The state of California doesn’t really want to send people to Las Vegas. The State of Nevada or the Las Vegas casino operators are the ones who care, but none of them have properly committed.

  15. jimsf
    Jan 7th, 2012 at 17:54
    #15

    adirondacker12800 Reply:January 7th, 2012 at 9:34 am
    I’d hazard a guess the underlying assumption is “Real Americans(tm) don’t ride trains”
    For a lot of reasons. Real Americans(tm) don’t travel much. They don’t travel to places trains go because those kind of places are filled with those kind of people And anyway, those kind of places are so crowded that no one goes there anymore ( being crowded the traffic and parking are a PITA )

    lol so true! I mean no one wants to go to those places. that’s why they are so crowded to begin with. Its all those people who aren’t going there!

    Myself Im definately not a realamerican(tm) because now that Im actually living…er… residing/existing/choking/barely breathing out here in California’s version of realamerica(tm) I can tell you I spend every waking moment planning trips to unamerica.

  16. jimsf
    Jan 7th, 2012 at 17:59
    #16

    Sobering Reality Reply:
    January 6th, 2012 at 7:17 pm
    The only people who think Prop 13 is a problem are people too young to remember their parents and grandparents getting screwed by the State before Prop 13 was passed.
    To understand the problem with California, one only has to look as far as Jerry Brown’s beloved shithole known as Oakland.

    What does Oakland have to do with california’s “problem” ?

    Id’ choose to live in Oakland over the CV or IE any day. (before you say it, I’m here for in the cv for a specific purpose on a temp basis)

    But please do elaborate on how we find the root of the state’s problem before our very eyes in oakland.

  17. jimsf
    Jan 7th, 2012 at 18:11
    #17

    Im very tired of anti california hacks, hanging around in california, complaining about how horrible it all is and what a mess the state is in.
    The state had, has, and always will have a bright future based soley on weather and geography. Its a beautiful and diverse place and that will keep in perpetually in global play.

    Im old enough to have lived through 3 recessions that I can remember. this ones no different. Everytime we have one, the people who are most bitter about their lives in general, come out of the woodword to declare the end of the golden state and how its ruined its the fault of (insert whipping boy of the month). Neighboring states are chocked full of ex calis, who, when you speak to them still express bitterness towards their former home as if california being next door is still somehow ruining their lives. they are just bitter hateful unhappy people.

    Heres the bottom line, this recession will end just like all the other recessions ended. Another boom time will come, just like all the other boomtimes that have come for the last 200 years. the state and local coffers will again overflow, just like they always overflow during the inevitable booms. And everyone will completely forget how “bad things were a few years ago, and start complaning about not having nicer toys prettier freeway landscaping, more lanes, better transit, fresh palm tree landscaping and on and on.

    Quit acting like this recession is the end of the world. the sky didn’t fall before, it hasnt fallen, and its never going to fall.

    we can afford whatever we decide we want to afford and whatever we decide we are willing to pay for. And californias like keeping up with the rest of the civilized world. And will continue to do so.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Thank You …Jim

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    I remember Rush Limbaugh found California so politically hopeless that he proposed to saw it off and let it drift in the Pacific.

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