Open spaces and the train

May 29th, 2012 | Posted by

This is a guest post from RL Miller, a climate activist based in Ventura County. You can follow her on Twitter as well @RL_Miller. -Robert

Yesterday was the 120th birthday of the Sierra Club, founded on May 28, 1892 by John Muir with a goal to “do something for wilderness and make the mountains glad.” The Club originally focused on protecting and enjoying the Sierra Nevada range of California, but has grown throughout the years to become the best known environmental group on the planet.

Muir dreamed of wilderness untrammeled by human footprint. Today, the Wilderness Act protects not only Muir’s beloved Yosemite but spectacular, lonely, wild lands throughout America. But, just as the Sierra Club has evolved beyond a focus on the Sierra Nevada range, environmentalists’ visions have evolved.

We are in the Anthropocene Age – the Age of Man, an era marked by humans’ influence on the planet. We can’t protect the entire planet from the human race. Instead, we interact with it, for good (sustainably) or worse (skyrocketing carbon emissions). Visionary environmentalists focus on how we interact with the physical world. Do we tread lightly? Do we trample over what was precious? Or do we blaze smart new trails?

One of the smartest new trails in California isn’t a footpath, but a train: electric high speed rail that can take Californians from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than half the time is takes to drive. Governor Jerry Brown sees it as his legacy, just as his father built the California higher education system. Voters approved it as Proposition 1a, but second thoughts are being fostered by NIMBY/Blue Dog Democrats such as Alan Lowenthal and tea partiers (with, one suspects, ventriloquism support from fossil fuel interests). The bullet train’s environmental benefits are legion, from cars removed from the road to development of smarter local transit options.

Yes, the train will be expensive. Yes, building it will increase carbon emissions for its first 30 years, whines the Wall Street Journal. Yet high speed rail is becoming a litmus test for environmentalists contemplating the Anthropocene.

A couple of examples highlight the difference between easy environmentalism – preservation of pretty places – and environmentalism in the Anthropocene. Darrell Issa (CA-52) has introduced H.R. 41, to protect the Beauty Mountain area, but he’d never be confused with an environmentalist. And near me, a local RINO-turned-independent candidate for Congress, Linda Parks (I-CA-26), developed an environmental reputation because she worked on open space preservation. Yet she considers high speed rail to be a “costly boondoggle.”

Open spaces matter a lot. The human spirit needs the idea of a place to roam far from roads and civilization. However, the human spirit also needs civilization. Preserving open spaces while ignoring environmental impacts of the built world is not the hallmark of a true environmentalist. The Sierra Club supported Proposition 1A. Clear-eyed environmentalists in the age of the Anthropocene will eagerly set forth on the trail of California’s high speed rail vision.

  1. Peter
    May 29th, 2012 at 10:39

    For those of us without access to WSJ, what is the increased carbon emissions claim based on? I seem to recall Clem figuring out that a scholarly article to that effect had the math wrong due to incorrect inputs. Are they using this same article?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    They are likely to be using the LAO report, which does not see fit to let the public in on their source. The LAO report makes the claim that a study says this, without specifying which study they are referring to.

    Quite odd behavior for an analyst supposedly working for the public on the public’s dime.

    VBobier Reply:

    It’s too bad that the LAO can’t be compelled to fess up on the studies their touting…

    joe Reply:

    Amen on the LAO needing to account for their facts.

    The construction should produce emissions – it takes energy to build and the baseline is doing nothing.

    The clowns at ITS say this

    Then they computed HSR’s Return on Investment, or ROI, in terms of energy consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases and sulfur dioxide and compared it to existing modes, which do not require new infrastructure. Depending on occupancy levels in all modes, there are scenarios where HSR will or will not perform environmentally better than the other modes: with 75 percent occupancy, HSR’s energy ROI is recouped in eight years, its GHG emissions in six years. But at 25 percent occupancy its ROI is infinite. At mid-level occupancy HSR ROI is achieved at 28 years for energy and 71 years for GHG emissions.

    and refer to this.

    The assumption of doing no new infrastructure in CA is patently wrong. I don’t know if they compute the energy and emissions of the 238 B in deferred maintenance needed on existing infrastucture over the next 10 years. I doubt it.

    joe Reply:

    So I quickly read the article and the treatment/analysis is occupancy. I’d have to dig into references to see the details on infrastructure.

    A key advantage to electrical power is the ability to use different and possibly cleaner sources. It would be interesting and probably more realistic if they added scenarios with less carbon intensive power generation for HSR under the extreme lowest and highest occupancy.

    I’d like to see the sensitivity of the estimate to the power source given the article mentions how emissions from construction of automobiles can exceed power emissions. Maybe it’s there – I need to dg a bit.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    AFAIR, the Berkley study uses average GHG emissions of power on the California grid ~ they do not take the commitment to use all-renewable power into account.

  2. synonymouse
    May 29th, 2012 at 10:41

    “Preserving open spaces while ignoring environmental impacts of the built world is not the hallmark of a true environmentalist.” This sounds like the “smart growth” mantra to me. In reality there is no such thing as smart growth – only more or less growth. And the historical record of transport planning in the past, let’s say from 1945 to the present, reveals not “smart”, but appallingly stupid. From the almost total loss of legacy electric rail to BART broad gauge, the definition of boondoggle in the form of BART to SFO to Muni’s Central Suxway we see an egregious pattern of incompetence, arrogance and irresponsibility on the part of highly-compensated “professional” planners and engineers. Daresay any poster on this blog could have a better job than the cretins who purposefully sabotaged BART with broad gauge.

    The major environmental issue surrounding hsr is the charge that is blighting. Ugly, massive urban concrete structures that act as magnets for lowlifes and garbage dumping, etc. and the wall of noise at 220mph. are real concerns.

    The most important and the most stealthy of all the critics of the CHSRA’s environmental impacts is the Tejon Ranch Co., which has taken the position that a modern rail line is in and of itself a blight and reduces property values. The cheerleaders have not lifted a finger to rebut the Tejon Ranch Co.’s condemnation of hsr and/or to respond to the very real issue of hsr as an urban downgrade not an enhancement.

    For instance what obtains if and when maximum decibel health standards are finally set for rail systems, and hsr flunks. BART already flunks big time.

    VBobier Reply:

    So You think the Doppler effect doesn’t exist Syno?

    The Doppler effect (or Doppler shift), named after Austrian, Christian Doppler, who proposed it in 1842 in Prague, is the change in frequency of a wave (or other periodic event) for an observer moving relative to its source. It is commonly heard when a vehicle sounding a siren or horn approaches, passes, and recedes from an observer. The received frequency is higher (compared to the emitted frequency) during the approach, it is identical at the instant of passing by, and it is lower during the recession.

    The relative changes in frequency can be explained as follows. When the source of the waves is moving toward the observer, each successive wave crest is emitted from a position closer to the observer than the previous wave. Therefore each wave takes slightly less time to reach the observer than the previous wave. Therefore the time between the arrival of successive wave crests at the observer is reduced, causing an increase in the frequency. While they are travelling, the distance between successive wave fronts is reduced; so the waves “bunch together”. Conversely, if the source of waves is moving away from the observer, each wave is emitted from a position farther from the observer than the previous wave, so the arrival time between successive waves is increased, reducing the frequency. The distance between successive wave fronts is increased, so the waves “spread out”.

  3. D. P. Lubic
    May 29th, 2012 at 10:59

    Off topic, but good for a smile or two–“facilities” on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad in Colorado:

  4. Derek
    May 29th, 2012 at 11:38

    The bullet train’s environmental benefits are legion, from cars removed from the road…

    Where in the article you linked to does it make the claim that the bullet train will remove even a single car from the road?

    Ms. Miller, when you find yourself making up stuff out of thin air to support your argument, it’s time to reconsider your position.

    No, the bullet train WILL NOT remove a single car from the road.

    Not even one.

    Why? Because “if somebody gets out of their car and gets on the [train], it’s bringing up a little bit more room on the roads, and there’s somebody out there waiting to use it.”

    So please stop repeating the same tired old lies. You harm your own reputation and the causes you support.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Why? Because “if somebody gets out of their car and gets on the [train], it’s bringing up a little bit more room on the roads, and there’s somebody out there waiting to use it.”

    You are (1) assuming the same amount of road construction in either case and (2) assuming that the passenger miles on HSR are dominated by the transit through congested urban areas.

    Derek Reply:

    You are (1) assuming the same amount of road construction in either case…

    If there’s any road construction at all, then cars will be added to the roads, not removed.

    If there’s no road construction, then at best there will be no net change in the number of cars on the road. That means cars will not be removed from the road.

    Only if roads are decomissioned and returned to nature will the number of cars on the road be reduced. HSR can help facilitate this, but I see no evidence that this will ever happen.

    …and (2) assuming that the passenger miles on HSR are dominated by the transit through congested urban areas.

    No, I am not assuming that.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes you are assuming that, since you are talking about something that applies to road use in congested urban areas.

    Derek Reply:

    You must be saying that HSR will remove cars from uncongested, interurban roads. Unfortunately, this is not the case, because the equilibrium state of an unpriced road is congestion.

    DavidM Reply:

    True, when I drove Hwy 50 in Nevada it was bumper-to-bumper from Ely to Carson City. And it isn’t even at equilibrium yet!

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Unfortunately, this is not the case, because the equilibrium state of an unpriced road is congestion.

    Except for the corner case. Since demand for different types of trips is not uniformly distributed across space and time, a road that is congested during its peak transport demand is not uniformly congested throughout the day. On most roads, peak transport demand occurs during the travel to and from work.

    Under the sprawl development system, we have been subsidizing residential property development at green field sites accessible through newly constructed roadways through a variety of means, including capital gains rollover tax concessions, regulations forbidding utility hook-ups to charge different hook-up costs to developments that cost more or less to add to existing networks, and of course the numerous subsidies to road construction and automobile operation.

    Note that the residential property development is not an equilibrium system at all, since it depends on a continuous inflow of resources for road construction, continuous inflow of cross-subsidies and hidden subsidies to the property development, continuous opening up of new sprawl development opportunities and access to an ongoing supply of mortgage credit to allow the property development to generate capital gains to be rolled over in new development.

    The equilibrium is when that system is taken for granted, and you look at the short term decision being made how to get to work, in which if there is greater transport demand than uncongested capacity, individuals, who must get to work, will tolerate congestion until it imposes a higher cost than feasible available alternatives.

    Of course, because of various additional factors typically ignored in economic equilibrium modelling, many are likely to tolerate congestion in excess of the cost of feasible available alternatives, due to the impact of habits of behavior leading to rationalizing folkviews regarding that behavior which entrenches behavior more than a pure utility maximizing model can account for.

    However, unlike commutes, intercity car travel is not engaged in daily, many intercity car travel trips have relatively flexible arrival and departure times, and if the arrival or departure is in a congested area, those with flexibility will attempt to avoid the peak congested time. And of course, a 3hr trip on an HST that arrives during peak demand will have departed before peak demand, and one that departs during peak demand will arrive after peak demand. Since the binding constraint is transport during peak demand, trips that arrive, depart, or both outside of peak demand periods, which are replacing car trips, are reducing non-binding congestion, and so will not be automatically replace by some other car trip … as is the case for the commute-oriented local transport that is dominated by passenger miles during peak transport demand, which is the legitimate subject of the argument that you are cribbing, when it is properly applied.

    Derek Reply:

    Since demand for different types of trips is not uniformly distributed across space and time, a road that is congested during its peak transport demand is not uniformly congested throughout the day.

    That only applies to unpriced roads. Time-of-day pricing flattens peak demand, uniformly distributing it throughout the day and eliminating congestion.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    The tolling though, isn’t fair to people who can least afford it but who have to travel at peak times. The better solution is to push for more flextime for employees. Employees like having that choice to work a schedule that better suites their needs. There is just no need for everyone to be at work at the same time.

    Matthew Reply:

    Time is money.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not tolling isn’t fair to people who can’t afford to drive.

    VBobier Reply:

    I can afford to drive where I need to go, which is to Barstow and Victorville, sometimes elsewhere as it is currently, but tolling? No way Jose… Making an interstate into a tollroad would never work, why? There are too many other roads nearby, as such people would drive on the secondary roads instead, if they exist that is, making the tollroad for the most part a rich mans highway…

    Derek Reply:

    Making an interstate into a tollroad would never work, why? There are too many other roads nearby, as such people would drive on the secondary roads instead…

    With time-of-day pricing, a road will be filled nearly to capacity at all hours. If the road is filled nearly to capacity, then how can you blame the toll for people driving on secondary roads?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    How fair or unfair it is depends upon the system ~ as has been noted in other
    contexts, an income-regressive flat rate income tax with proceeds that are spent in an income-progressive way can be a net progressive effect. If the congestion fee goes to supporting the operations of alternative means of transport, the net effect can easily be progressive overall.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If the presence of HSR reduces the political pressure to build more roads, then what you’re saying will be automatically not true.

    Derek Reply:

    No, only if HSR results in roads being decommissioned and returned to nature. This is possible but unlikely.

    slackfarmer Reply:

    Perhaps true if you compare HSR vs current, but if you compare HSR vs other alternatives — most notably, building more roads, then HSR will result in fewer cars.

    Derek Reply:

    Yes, fewer cars than the alternative, but the original claim was that HSR would remove cars from the road.

    tbert Reply:

    “that depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is”

    arguing semantics instead of substance is essentially conceding the original point

    joe Reply:

    Silly comment – borderline trolling.

    Magically many problems go away if we stop building roads – we stop congestion and pollution. The magic of taxes and power of narrow models. The invisible hand solves all.

    lex luther Reply:

    silly comment? in your opinion.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Precisely: “silly comment” is a critical statement. Everyone understands that its an opinion, and the point at issue is not whether its “objective fact”, but whether its a well-founded opinion.

    lex luther Reply:

    from the people promoting HSR as a job creator, now you sound like youre in favor of killing the jobs of those who build our roads

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    They wouldn’t be out of work because we can put them to work finally bringing our existing roads to a state of good repair and keeping them that way. intead of putting them to work building more roads that we can’t maintain.

    then you another bunch of folks who be put to work building and maintaining the rail system

    So then, with a new and well run rail system, integrated with a state of the art well maintained highway system, you have a happily mobile society which is good for business, you have a state thats convenient for international tourism, which is good for business, and you have residents who have nice options. Which is want californians want. Nice options and lots of them.

    VBobier Reply:

    Some though poo poo international tourism, as their strangers and they fear strangers bringing in new foreign ideas or that international tourists don’t travel by rail anywhere, which is a lie of course,
    or that it’ll attract more undesirable people and crime, in the US and elsewhere international tourism goes by rail where possible, especially if advertised, Amtrak California has been touting 175 destinations in California, wherever tourists are, money is being spent in local shops, restaurants, lodging, as one has to eat and sleep somewhere and requires money, real estate, shopping, etc… Marineland of the Pacific years ago in Rolling Hills(I think it was Rolling Hills CA, they’ve been gone a long time) could have benefited from some sort of transportation corridor, but that never happened, they had a highway, but it didn’t deliver all that many people and soon Marineland went out of business cause of a lack of tourists and locals to fill its coffers, instead the people and tourists went elsewhere, but then there was a No growth policy in Rolling Hills back then as other communities around them were growing and subdividing tracts, building houses and such, I watched that as I was growing up…

    HSR in short will make it easier to go about California to spend their money and that will create jobs, but that’s supply and demand, make it easier instead of tedious and slow and people will come and spend money…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m also in favor of killing the jobs of various lobbyists. So what?

    lex luther Reply:

    and saving the lobbyists that push your agenda

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Please be more interesting.

  5. Paul Dyson
    May 29th, 2012 at 11:54

    Another cheer-leading article that adds nothing to the debate. We are at sports team supporter level, the blues are great, down with the reds. Compulsory reading: George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism”.

    Spokker Reply:

    And the teams are basically making the same plays, but have different mascots and cheerleaders.

    joe Reply:

    Three elements in one short post.
    1) dismissive – “cheer leading adds nothing”.
    2) trivialize politics – “blues are great, down with the reds”
    3) reference to Orwell.

    But then look at this:
    1) “cheer leading adds nothing”. Actually you lead a rail cheerleading org. Rah-rah.
    2) “blues are great, down with the reds” but you engaged in political debate.
    3) I porefer LaHood:

    Let’s see Ray LaHood’s response to Dyson:

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard someone say they didn’t want $2.25 billion after working on high-speed rail for 10 years…Your argument is ridiculous. The reason that we gave that money to California is because you’ve done a good job. If you think it’s being mismanaged, come forward and tell us about it. We don’t find that to be the case.

    What I got out the post was:
    HSR-GOP oppostion in CA claims to be environmental because they will preserve open space – honor land ownership.
    The Opposition fails to acknowledge externalities and support growth that minimizes externalities.
    (HSR externalities are lower than roads and air transportation. )

    Externality: the basic idea is that an externality exists when a person makes a choice that affects other people that are not accounted for in the market price. For instance, a firm emitting pollution will typically not take into account the costs that its pollution imposes on others. As a result, pollution in excess of the ‘socially efficient’ level may occur.

    Spokker Reply:

    Don’t forget Damien Newton’s take on the Dyson-LaHood exchange.

    “This is a somewhat amazing claim, as there has been plenty of criticism of the High Speed Rail Authority in California covered in such small local papers as the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times. While LaHood dismissed Dyson with a joke about sending those complaints along with his proof that engineers can distract each other along to Boxer; he managed to get a laugh and show a disconnect with the local debate all at the same time.”

    LaHood is a politician and handled the exchange as you might expect him to. Dyson is an actual advocate for rail transport, not a cheerleader, and provides actual content-heavy analysis of rail issues in California. You prefer LaHood because you agree with him. In actuality, LaHood said nothing of substance.

    Congress should earmark all spending to keep taxpayer money out of the hands of arrogant people like Ray LaHood.

    joe Reply:

    La Hood’s dig is better than an Orwell reference.

    You write: “Paul Dyson is an actual advocate” – not a politician – not a cheer leader. What is an advocate?
    It is a self appointed individual. I have a club, a society, a SIG, a lobby and I have set of parameters I prioritize and want you to value them too. That’s Paul. That’s any advocate.

    I think Paul tried/tries and works hard and do not mock his effort – it’s his work and he’s entitled to the spot light but his criticism of the above post is lame as some other dismissive criticism.

    Physics tells us HSR will use way more energy at 220 than 180 or 150. I get lectured about it because I obviously don’t know physics or I’d agree with the wisemen about the optimal speed and poo-poo HSR 220 MPH. I’m a fan-boy.

    But I know the physics and disagree.

    Politically the 150 MPH trains are not popular, not complelling and that’s equally as important as the physics and optimized rail system – a compelling story and plan that optimizes more than the set of parameters the advocates prioritize.

    So it’s not just the facts and golden parameters – it’s the politics and the compelling argument that HSR has over incremental work.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    “Physics tells us HSR will use way more energy” …

    You know, there are actual numbers available. 180mph or so systems use 20-30KWh/VKT, the 220mph is likely to use about 43KWh/VKT.

    If the faster train is easier to schedule for higher occupancy, then the difference in energy per passenger mile will be less, of course, because passenger load adds a negligible amount to the energy consumption of an intercity heavy rail passenger vehicle.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Not to mention even 220mph HSR would still use about a billion times less than jet airliners carrying the same number of passengers on the same route…

    [OK, JR central claims about 8 times the energy usage (per seat) for a 777 flying between Tokyo-Osaka vs. an N700. The ~180mph N700 uses about 30 KWh/VKT as far as I can figure; by your numbers, a 220mph HSR would use maybe 1.5 times the energy, so would be using 1/5 the energy of the aircraft…]

    It’s not about absolute minimal energy usage, it’s about optimizing a bunch of stuff, energy usage, time, convenience, etc.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    This whole “energy use skyrockets!” canard likely came from the consultant for the CAHSR that did their maths wrong and converted 43 KWh/VKT to effectively 170KWh/VKT.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Because as we all know, Paul is always constructive in his criticism…

    joe Reply:

    As LaHood said

    If you think it’s being mismanaged, come forward and tell us about it. We don’t find that to be the case.

    There is an open GAO and Congressional inquiry into CAHSR.
    Rep. Issa is the chair of the oversight committee.

    I assume critics have nothing but innuendo to offer. “very, very, every special friends” and “PBQA==CAHSR”

    I hope CARRD does complain about the timeliness of material and access to material – confusion and inability top reproduce models. They have earned that right to complain. The GAO is open for business.

  6. Reality Check
    May 29th, 2012 at 13:44

    Revolving door appointment?

    Ex-Caltrans chief Morales tapped to lead high-speed rail project

    Facing a crunch-time push to launch a $69 billion bullet train, the California high-speed rail board Tuesday hired a new CEO who has spent years consulting on the mega project and was previously head of Caltrans.

    Jeff Morales will lead the California High-Speed Rail Authority after serving as an executive with the project’s lead consultant, Parsons Brinkerhoff. He was in charge of coming up with the authority’s business plan, which included cost estimates, funding sources and rider projections.

    In the last decade, Morales was executive director of Caltrans, the enormous state agency that controls $13 billion and 20,000 employees each year. Recently, he served on President Barack Obama’s transition team for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Previously, he was vice president of Chicago’s public transit agency and was a transportation executive during the Clinton administration.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Revolving door appointment?

    If you’re not feeling nauseously dizzy you’re prime Space Cadet material.

    joe Reply:


    Morales ran Caltrans, was VP of the CTA and worked for the President’s DOT team and was Trans Exec under Clinton.

    So either I take the job and run it as a neophyte or we have a connected guy like Morales.

    Maybe Richard would jump in and flame out in a week. It would be fun to watch.

    rick rong Reply:

    Hmmm, Morales “was in charge of coming up with the authority’s business plan, which included cost estimates, funding sources and rider projections.”

    joe Reply:

    Yes, and … ?

    You want to finish that thought … please.

    rick rong Reply:

    Didn’t you know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

    joe Reply:

    And that makes Morales…qualified to take over the HSR project.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Putting the foxes directly (de jure, not “just” de facto) in charge of the chicken coop is a development that many people, even those who don’t run henhouses for a living, might raise an eyebrow at.

    I can tell from the way your fingers keep making keystrokes that you think you’re making some sort of point, but your argumentation lacks some rigour.

    joe Reply:

    You too… let’s stop acting like the kung fu teacher, drop all the quits and stop with the snark.

    What’s he going to do ….

    morris brown Reply:

    The appointment of Morales really again shows the arrogance of the Authority. Absolutely this is a “fox in the hen house” appointment. The LA Times has just printed this story:,0,6750237.story

    At least the Times notes Morales’ present employment by PB, somehting that most news outlets seem to miss. The comments at the end are riight on target.

    The hiring of Morales appears to further strengthen the ties between the rail authority and its top contractor, Parsons Brinckerhoff. The contractor, which was a major contributor to the 2008 campaign to approve a $9-billion bond for the bullet train, has hundreds of employees assigned to the project, compared with fewer than 50 for the authority.

    Outside activists say that although Morales may be a good choice, they are increasingly concerned about the tight relationship the authority has created with Parsons Brinckerhoff and the larger revolving door between the authority and its contractors.

    “Those lines are becoming more blurred every day,” said Elizabeth Alexis, a co-founder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design.

    Political critics of the project see deeper problems.

    “The rail authority claims it conducted a nationwide search just to end up with an executive from its biggest contractor?” asked state Sen. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale). “How can we expect this insider to provide an independent review of the project, when he helped write the plan that’s already doubled the cost to taxpayers? It’s difficult to believe that Mr. Morales can be counted on to drive a hard bargain with the company that has been paying his salary.”

    Senate transportation committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) said, “I am troubled by the relationship. It is hard to separate the conflicts.”

    joe Reply:

    oops – that’s not the fully story about he man.

    He applied for the 2010 CEO job and was a runner up.
    He was brought on by CAHSRA as a consultant under their PB consultant contract – he wasn’t a PB stooge.
    He provides continuity.

    And what lunacy would ask a new CEO to provide an independent assessment? How is a CEO independent?

    Morales was one of two finalists for the CEO job in 2010 and was the choice of at least some board members at the time.

    After he was passed over in favor of an engineer with high-speed rail experience, the rail agency took Morales up on his offer to consult — and gave him an office at its headquarters.

    Morales has argued in staff meetings for more realistic and publicly appetizing goals, even unsuccessfully proposing a train that would run slightly slower than 220 mph to save money.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I mean you did not think PB-Bechtel dba’s did not own Jerry Brown, I mean the part of Moonbeam the Tejon Ranch Co. does not own?

    The solution is to just feed the corruption. There has to be a denouement out there somewhere, some time. Never is a long time but I guess that’s long you have to wait for the payback for stupidity.

    Of course the little people receive their punishment regularly and often.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    oops – that’s not the fully story about he man.

    For sure it isn’t.

    Morales, as head of Caltrans in the Gray Davis administration, was instrumental in putting PBQD’s BART extension to San Jose — a project that appeared in no regional or local plans, and which sprang full-blown from the PB’s Perfectly Legitimate Business Development department — as the big ticket piece in the so-called “Transportation Congestion Relief Program.”

    The $750 million “promise” earmarked by the generous State of California for the pockets of PB and allied consultants was pretty much the the thing that kept it on life support for a decade. Never mind that little things like the UCB system or the State Parks or pretty much everything else was defunded. In the end, it all worked out, and the consultants and contractors will pocket billions for the BART scam, and tens of billions extra for the BART-extenstion-determined HSR-via-Los Banos catastrophe.

    So Jeff Morales has been very very helpful to CHSRA’s controlling consultant over the course of the years, for whatever reason. It was the least they could do to provide him with a short period on the direct payroll. I can’t imagine any why why CHSRA Executive Director Morales should be any less useful to them in the future.

    Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.

    joe Reply:

    The Manchurian Candidate.

    Morales, as head of Caltrans in the Gray Davis administration, was instrumental in putting PBQD’s BART extension to San Jose.

    Never mind that little things like the UCB system or the State Parks or pretty much everything else was defunded.

    So Jeff Morales has been very very helpful to CHSRA’s controlling consultant over the course of the years, for whatever reason.

    As head of Caltrans Jeff Morales spent tens of Billions, not just 750M in a promise that a successor could have overturned.

    He also served as executive director of the Chicago Transit Authority, the Obama transition team and former Vice President Al Gore’s attempts to improve federal efficiency.

    Jeff Morales applied for the CEO position, and was a runner up. He’s nefarious. He asked to consult and was instantly hire as a state employee – uh can’t – So the CAHSRA used the contractor, PB, to bring him on the project. What other contract mechanism would CAHSRA use?

    The CAHSRA selected an engineer with little political experience as CEO. Jeff, being the political guy, stuck around until the CEO left and is now transitioning into the CEO roll by unanimous vote.

    I like the way you have Jeff defending state parks and taking O2 tanks from the elderly.

    See how silly this gets when you have to write it down.

    LA Times uses a mugshot quality photo.,0,6750237.story

    Use google image search on Jeff Morales pops up a very photogenic guy. Awesome.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Just to clarify, Jeff Morales has been a PB employee since 2004 when he left Caltrans.

    joe Reply:

    …and in 2008 joined the President’s transition team

    Jeffrey Morales. Morales was Assistant Secretary of Transportation in the Clinton Administration.

    He’s obviously in cahoots with the administration.

    joe Reply:

    Newspaper article – apparently his April 2000 hiring by Davis to run Caltrans was unusual – he was a transit guy from Chicago, not a highway contractor.,5822914

    Clearly Morales supported BART because of his interest in public transportation – he was VP of the Chicago CTA prior to Caltrans. And his appointment by Davis wasn’t to pave the state with more highways.

    joe Reply:

    Oh god

    The authority has been criticized for having a meager staff with many vacancies, and for struggling to manage its thousands of consultants, most of whom work for Parsons Brinckerhoff. Critics said Morales’ appointment raises questions about the authority’s ability to effectively manage the contractor and make independent decisions.

    “The project needs someone to step in and rethink the big picture,” said Elizabeth Alexis, of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, a Palo Alto group that has been critical of the authority.

    Read more:

    How lame.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Interestingly there is not one cheerleader rebutting the tidal wave of negative response in the comments to the SF Gate article.

    The Don really is slipping. First he appoints Richard, from the most hated company in the State, and now Morales, from probably the second most hated corporate entity in the State. I am exempting Comcast from the rogues gallery.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “what’s going on here, Mr. Geddes[sic]” is PB = California. And if you stand against the program you’ll end up Hollis Mulwray at pool’s bottom.

    Still Van Ark did manage to get in a bit of “I won’t build it” and he’s still breathing and emerging as a good guy. He’ll have to put up with being cast as bumbling, practically the village idiot, in newspaper articles, but we know better. If I were him, tho, I would stay away from dark alleys in Douchetown.

    Meantime for your edification and amusement here’s a good one in the long tradition of gadgetbahns rising from the grave:

    No mention of switches or how you cope with pantographs and no fixed guideway.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They’ll cope with it the same way trolleybuses do. Or not have switches since the vehicle will be able to switch to diesel to get through the places where switches would be.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If using 600vdc you would need some serious current storage to assist thru dead spots.

    These would be presumably loaded trucks. They’ll coast some.

    A few people can push a Marmon Herrington trolley bus on a flat surface. I demonstrated one time at 17th and Market one time. The tc got stuck on a dead spot – I told the driver I’d get out and push, along with some other passengers, so long as he would stop on the other side and let us back on. It worked. I had heard about it but never tried it before. I think it was Charlie Smallwood again who had tipped me off it could be done.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    It says its a diesel hybrid, so then the battery would be your “serious current storage” ~ if it has the current storage capacity needed when running as a hybrid diesel, it has plenty to go through an intersection.

    Its just a pluggable diesel hybrid truck with the plug consisting of an overhead trolley to overhead dual trolleywire. The short trolleypoles, which don’t look like they would give the one-lane leeway of a modern trolleybus, could well be because to change lanes it just goes off the wire.`

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The diesel engine would kick in and get it through whatever it had to negotiate. Just like it would switch to diesel at the end of the wire.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    So both the CEO and chairman of the board will have been working for the lead consultant? That does not strike me as being a terribly good thing.

    joe Reply:


    joe Reply:

    Again, Why?

    Spokker Reply:

    Richard Mylnarik for CEO of the California High Speed Rail Authority!

  7. Irvin Dawid
    May 29th, 2012 at 18:50

    Back to the train and Sierra Club.
    I heard that the Sierra Club had opposed the Golden Gate Bridge when proposed in 193x (or earlier?). I’m not sure of their reasoning – whether it was due to opposing increased auto usage, or changing the landscape of the Golden Gate. In any case, I think that was a mistake – though I still believe it was a mistake that the GGB was planned for autos only, unlike the Bay Bridge. However, in retrospect, I think most would view GGB opposition as a mistake.
    I’m glad to see that the Club was onboard this train from the onset.

  8. morris brown
    May 30th, 2012 at 05:30

    A great video report on our high speed rail boondoggle has been prepared by CNN television and can be viewed on the internet at:


    Aimed at the national audience as well as here in California, it pretty much tells the whole story. About 5 minutes

    joe Reply:

    Ha ha

    Under the deal, Facebook will be allowed to employ about 6,600 workers at its sprawling headquarters, up from the current limit of 3,600 employees that was placed on the campus’s previous occupant, Sun Microsystems. Facebook currently has about 2,200 employees at the site.

    Spokker Reply:

    Very good report from CNN.

  9. nick
    May 30th, 2012 at 14:06

    ther are some very unreasoned posts on this blog, so no change then !

    seriously, the idea that there is no point in building hsr as any car journeys that shift to rail will be replaced by more cars doesnt seem to be a reason to not build it. roads are congested and the gas tax doesnt cover the cost of maintaining the highways let alone expanding them. some form of toll or user fee to discourage unneccessary peak time usage is inevitable.

    The argument about people using secondary roads instead of highways also holds true for congested highways – some people go back to using the back roads as they did before interstates or motorways for example. in france autoroutes have been tolled for years yet you dont see millions of cars on the back roads because in general it will take much longer to get anywhere as you have go through every town and village and you will use more fuel in local traffic jams unless you really tank it along the autoroute. and of course you are only supposed to do 55mph /90 kph on n roads as opposed to
    do aprrox either 70 or 80 mph (110/130kph) on the autoroutes.

    in the uk railway usage is up and car usage down as the cost of fuel is even more insane then the cost of rail tickets. one reason for high prices on trains is that the lack of capacity forces fares up especially at peak and peak shoulder hours (ie the first trains when the peak ends !). the bizzare set up of the so-called privatised uk railway doesnt help ! also since the west coast line was upgraded to 125 mph the air traffic from manchester to london is almost non-existent except for interlining and there are not as many Birmingham to London flights as there were. The downside is that a new true high speed line could probably have been built at least as far as Birmingham for the cost of the upgrade so california beware ! A recent development has been that commuter trains will be allowed
    to travel at a max 110 mph up from 100 mph. I live near the east coast line where the max speeds are 125 mph inter city and 100 mph for commuter trains are the norm. There are four tracks through my station with the middle lines cleared for the max 125 mph.

    I have noticed that it is only since hsr in california and hs2 here in the uk have been discussed that I have heard about emissions from construction ! If you dont build hsr you will have to expand airports and highways so these will create emissions from construction also.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    More basically: If building rail does not reduce road congestion, then a likely conclusion is that there was a pent-up desire for travel – in whatever form – that has been frustrated. So building it has a beneficial effect either on the environment, or on the ease of travel.

  10. Reality Check
    May 30th, 2012 at 15:33

    Menlo Park HSR foe Kathy Hamilton writes:
    Letter: Time for senators [Simitian & Lowenthal] to be [HSR-stopping] heroes

    To quote Sen. Lowenthal, the senators know what the right thing to do on this project. No special deals or conditions attached to spending can make right a program that has been on the wrong track for years.

    Do they vote against the governor, the leadership of the state Democratic Party, even the president of the United States or do they endanger their future political careers and vote no? But there’s another consideration; it’s what the voters think.

    The public will remember a courageous act. In fact, if the senators vote no to funding this project, they would be considered heroes and frankly people vote for heroes. It might just help restore the public faith in the state Legislature.

    joe Reply:

    it’s NIMBY’s all the way down.

    Today Menlo Park approved the Facebook expansion and about 15,000 car trips per day.
    Atherton is not happy. They say MP did not consult with city officials on the EIR. I’m sure it will all work out. Facebook has the money to placate and pay off both cities.
    Oh, the irony of it all:
    In a strongly worded April 26 letter to Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith and City Manager Alex McIntyre, Atherton urged Menlo Park to reconsider mitigation measures identified in the EIR for the impacts that built-out Facebook campuses will have on the Marsh and Middlefield roads intersection, saying that the “traffic analysis performed for the … EIR is flawed and inadequate.”

    Because Menlo Park has legal oversight over the EIR, that city would be the party to dispute with, or take legal action against, if Atherton has a disagreement over the findings, he said.

    Facebook also says it will provide Menlo Park with over $14.5 million worth of benefits over the next 14 years.

    Nearby city leaders in Atherton are threatening litigation if expected traffic issues aren’t addressed.

  11. D. P. Lubic
    May 30th, 2012 at 17:00

    Another car wreck with a relatively high (but so far not fatal) body count:

    lex luther Reply:

    if your intent was to point out that car accidents happen and there would be less if we all rode trains, that may be true, but live in the real world.

    american people love their cars, regardless if you label them as being addicted to oil. and regardless of how many people die in car accidents. for whatever reason, we are mainly a society of very little forethought, and dont take danger into account when it comes to everyday normal activities

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Societies change, but it’s a slow process. The era when the car was the wondrous all-american future and could do no wrong is over. Not everybody gets that yet, but the shift is happening, and will continue to happen, despite them. They’ll learn eventually, or in the end, just die off…

    Spokker Reply:

    I love to drive when there is no traffic. There is nothing like an American road trip.

    Try to explore Joshua Tree on public transit.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Older American people more than younger American people, though. Younger American people love their smartphones, and driving is often a nuisance that slows down how fast you can text.

Comments are closed.