High Speed Rail Is Essential to Improving Environmental Quality in the Central Valley

Jun 11th, 2012 | Posted by

The latest tack in Ralph Vartabedian’s ongoing quest to destroy public support for the high speed rail project from the pages of the Los Angeles Times is to claim that it would somehow hurt, not help, environmental quality. This claim is utterly ridiculous, but there it is:

The California bullet train is promoted as an important environmental investment for the future, but over the next decade the heavy construction project would potentially harm air quality, aquatic life and endangered species across the Central Valley.

Eleven endangered species, including the San Joaquin kit fox, would be affected, according to federal biologists. Massive emissions from diesel-powered heavy equipment could foul the already filthy air. Dozens of rivers, canals and wetlands fed from the rugged peaks of the Sierra Nevada would be crossed, creating other knotty issues.

Here, as with the economic and fiscal aspects of building high speed rail, the cost of doing nothing is not zero. Vartabedian implies that the project would doom the Valley to more air pollution, kill endangered species, and wreck water supplies.

But there’s no evidence at all presented in Vartabedian’s article to justify these assertions. No facts, no statistics to show that the construction of the HSR project would actually produce these outcomes.

That’s not the only important information missing from the article. Vartabedian mentions many of the environmental maladies facing the Valley, but doesn’t explain that automobile pollution is one of their primary causes. Motor vehicles are responsible for 57% of the air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley. Not building HSR does nothing to fix that problem. Building HSR would help address that crisis not only by providing a clean transportation option but also by encouraging center city density instead of more sprawl.

Also missing is a discussion of the impact of climate change on the Valley. Much of the Delta is at risk of being reclaimed by the Bay. A declining Sierra snowpack would damage water quality. Combined with higher temperatures and the impact to habitat that would result, endangered species would suffer greatly from unchecked climate change. For those reasons it’s no surprise that the California Air Resources Board – an agency whose commitment to cleaning up the Valley is not in doubt – included HSR as part of its global warming strategy.

You’ll find none of that in Vartabedian’s article. Instead it’s insinuated, though not shown, that HSR would make a litany of environmental problems worse when in fact it helps solve them.

The LA Times has other reporters who have provided informative coverage of the HSR project, coverage that isn’t always favorable. Dan Weikel is one such reporter. Other reporters around the state, such as Tim Sheehan at the Fresno Bee and Michael Cabanatuan at the San Francisco Chronicle, have done good work providing informed and evidence-based coverage of the project. Yet the state’s largest paper still leaves a die-hard project opponent on the beat of this all-important project.

It’s long past time for HSR supporters to rise up and demand that the LA Times apply basic journalistic standards to their HSR coverage. Readers deserve informed and unbiased reporting. I don’t care if the article is favorable or unfavorable to the project as long as it is rooted in the facts and evidence. It’s clear that Vartabedian will never do that. Does the Times care?

  1. nick
    Jun 11th, 2012 at 21:36
    #1

    here is the uk equivalent of darth sorry ralph vartabedian and the la times – andrew gilligan (yeah gilligan !) and the daily telegraph ! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/9321412/Benefits-of-HS2-were-exaggerated-secret-report-reveals.html

    think they attended the same school of journalism in which the key lesson was to never let the facts get in the way of a good story ! the next lesson was make your mind up first and then make the facts fit!

    my telegraph tag is reasondedfactualdebate and padav is also a keen hs2 supporter.

    those against hsr in the uk have also made this connection with the pollution during construction. i had only heard this before re windfarms but if it has merit then it must be applied to all modes of transport.
    Funny that it is being used by those near the proposed route to try to stop projects that can potentially significantly reduce transport emissions along the corridors it runs along. you’d think they would welcome cleaner air even if it means a bit more noise and visual pollution.

    hsr requires considerably less land and produces less emissions per passenger then do other modes of transport. it is safer then car travel and quieter then either cars or planes . apart from not travelling at all ,the only alternative to hsr is more of the same fossil fuel intensive and high co2 and pollution emitting cars and planes. renewable electricity from wind and solar farms where possible will help reduce the costs of using oil as well as powering hsr.

    all i argue for is logic and consistency which is sadly lacking with vartabedian and gilligan

  2. Walter
    Jun 11th, 2012 at 21:53
    #2

    Does Vartabedian claim to be unbiased? I can’t really see him staking out an neutral position any more credibly than, say, CARRD. On the other hand, it’s hard to see an acknowledgement of bias on his part, as that would kind of imply shoddy work on behalf of his bosses, given that he seems to be the paper’s primary mouthpiece on HSR.

    joe Reply:

    Job security – He’s the only Dude given you the straight talk on the new HSR system. Ralph is ONIT!

    http://www.scpr.org/blogs/economy/2012/03/20/5174/new-round-layoffs-hits-l-times/

    The first quarter of 2012 is almost over, and you know what that means: more layoffs at the Los Angeles Times. According to LAObserved, “as many as 20 people may be out” — but the business section is hiring a reporter to cover the food-and-agriculture beat.

    Layoffs have become a fact of life at the LAT, whose parent, Tribune Co., is still in bankruptcy. What appears to be going on now is that the paper is chopping back on its features and special sections, concentrating instead on news, business, sports, and entertainment — the core coverage areas.

    Papers may be printed with color photography and graphics now, but the physical product is looking more like it did twenty or thirty years ago. The focus is on news, and for the LATimes, increasingly that news is local, not national.

  3. synonymouse
    Jun 11th, 2012 at 22:02
    #3

    By enabling population growth in Palmdale and along the 99 corridor Tehachapi STilt-A-Rail is detrimental to “environmental quality”.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Palmdale and the 99 corridor are very different from each other. Palmdale has no independent existence, except as an LA exurb. Bakersfield and Fresno are independent cities. What this means is that serving Palmdale would induce more sprawl (and the ridership model expects, I believe, 6,000 Palmdale-LA trips per day in each direction under full buildout); serving Bako and Fresno would induce small amounts of extra development in those cities, probably sterile condos near the train station.

  4. StevieB
    Jun 11th, 2012 at 22:30
    #4

    Transit greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile are still signiicantly lower than those from driving, even taking into account emissions from construction, manufacture, and maintenance.

    This from a FTA report. Vartebedian needs to provide evidence to support his contrary position.

    joe Reply:

    Here’s some insight into who/what is running the show at the Tribune/LA Times.

    http://bankruptcynews.dowjones.com/article?an=%20DJFDBR0020120608e868l3vr9%20&r=wsjblog&ReturnUrl=http%3a%2f%2fbankruptcynews.dowjones.com%3a80%2farticle%3fan%3d%2520DJFDBR0020120608e868l3vr9%2520%26r%3dwsjblog
    As Tribune Co. closes in on confirmation of its Chapter 11 plan, attention has turned to the big-ticket litigation over the failed leveraged buyout that drove the media company to bankruptcy more than three years ago.

    A bankruptcy investigation turned up evidence the LBO was tainted with fraud, setting the stage for creditor lawsuits. Estimates in court papers claim the litigation could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Tribune creditors.

    As the largest shareholder to cash out in the deal, raking in more than $1 billion, Chicago’s McCormick Foundation “is obviously defendant number 1″ in lawsuits seeking to claw back LBO winnings….
    ….
    After more than three years of fighting over everything from big bonuses for top executives to the legitimacy of the LBO, Tribune’s final hours in bankruptcy court boiled down to a parsing out of language that would make sure nobody but the company and its lenders will be able to take shelter behind the Chapter 11 plan.

  5. D. P. Lubic
    Jun 11th, 2012 at 22:54
    #5

    When Vartabedian first started writing on this, I thought his main problems came from a lack of exposure. He had been a journalist of some standing in other fields, but he was short on background on this one. I thought that would change with time as he learned things. Sadly, his criticism or bias only seems to have gotten worse. Don’t ask me why this should be so; I would think someone of honesty would balance the story out better, even if he were not totally convinced of the project. I know I would do that, for the simple reason that I would fear losing my job as a writer if I didn’t make sure the story was right. Indeed, that is part of what I have to do in my reports that I write as an auditor.

    Anyway, we do have interesting comments by readers who get this. A sample below:

    lets move forward

    “Got it.

    “The construction of the Bullet train will have negative environmental effects during construction.

    “OK.

    “Lets just build another freeway to move California’s growing population. We all know that would have no negative environmental effects during its construction and operation, and, as the name implies, it would be free!

    “Thanks LA Times for another one of your fair and balanced reports on High Speed Rail.”

    drewsky51

    “In the time it’s taken since the mid-80s to get to this point (which is basically nowhere), the Germans have perfected their 200 mph I.C.E. trains, the French have perfected their 200 mph T.G.V., the Brits and French have completed not only the Chunnel but have the 200mph Eurostar running on a routine basis. I know first-hand; I’ve used all of these systems within the last 1 1/2 years. When you see this in reality, you realize that the USA is incapable of building these systems for three main reasons: 1) We waste our money on military, spending more than all other NATO allies combined 2) Our politics are dysfunctional to begin with 3) We don’t have any technologocal building blocks; our rail systems are all obsolete whereas Europe has systematically developed their trains by going from 80 to 100 to 120 to 150 mph and so on. We’re still stuck at 80, with deplorable tracks/ roadbeds. Quite a pathetic state of being, for a nation that boasts of ‘exceptionalism’.”

    ramblnbill

    “The future is too expensive. We should not go there. The old time gasoline and jet engines were good enough for Grandpa, and they are good enough for you. New stuff is evil.”

    From a second post by the same author:

    “The trains carry too many passengers. They are Marxist, socialist, communist Saul Alinski inspired instruments of the devil.”

    He has a third, too:

    “If God wanted us to go to San Francisco by rail, we would have been born with steel wheels?”

    That last one recalls an advertisement in Great Britain for the narrow gauge Ffestionog Railway (steam-powered heritage road in Wales), by the late Dan Wilson, who penned the line, “If God meant us to see Snowdonia He would have given us flanged wheels and a chimney.”

    Wilson’s obituary in 2006:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2006/mar/23/obituaries.readersobituaries

    We’ll close out the LA Times comments with this one:

    Edgar Guessed

    “The train will go so fast that it will bplit the atoms of water vapor in the air, releasing elemental hydrogen and oxygen. This will cause a massive explosion and destroy the western USA, fueled as well by cattle flatulence.”

    swing hanger Reply:

    Good last one there. Conjures up images of I-5 sights and smells.
    =Harris Ranch

  6. morris brown
    Jun 12th, 2012 at 06:26
    #6

    More Unwelcome News for California’s High Speed Rail Project

    http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2012/06/more-unwelcome-news-for-californias-high-speed-rail-project/

    This will give Robert the chance to say Ken Orski is biased and knows nothing.

    J. Wong Reply:

    News? We’ve already seen all the cited issues so it can’t be news. At this point all the negative press is probably likely to make Brown even more determined to move forward with HSR because it will be a significant legacy made even more so by all the opposition. And yes, I know you’re just going to respond that it’ll be a boondoggle that he’ll be known for, but I think that is much less likely.

    Build it and they will ride notwithstanding what they tell pollsters before it’s built.

    joe Reply:

    How unfair to call a former Nixion administration official who endorses the House’s highly partisan and radical Highway Bill Biased. Just because he slams the President’s politics does’t mean his a political hack.

    In Defense of the House Highway Bill
    By Ken Orski
    Publisher, Innovation Briefs
    http://transportation.nationaljournal.com/2012/02/now-were-getting-political.php#2160205

    The merits of HSR are not the issue
    By Ken Orski
    Publisher, Innovation Briefs
    http://transportation.nationaljournal.com/2012/01/highspeed-rail-in-a-coma.php#2151303
    The Administration’s inept handling of the program was the focus of a December 6 hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I thought our exchange about high-speed rail could benefit from taking a fresh look at the Committee’s conclusions.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Supporting the House Highway Bill makes it clear enough that Orski has an ax to grind and works for the asphalt fetishists.

  7. Clem
    Jun 12th, 2012 at 06:51
    #7

    I have to say, no matter how much crap Robert gets for being a Kool-Aid drinking HSR booster, he’s basically right about Vartabedian. That “journalist” is on a muckraking cruisade against HSR. I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt several times, but this article confirms it.

    morris brown Reply:

    You are entitled to your opinion Clem, but Vartabedian is an award winning journalist, and I doubt he cares what you or anyone on this blog thinks about his reporting.

    http://articles.latimes.com/keyword/ralph-vartabedian

    He recognizes the project for what it is — a scam and a boondoggle. It is really like what Madoff pulled off with his Ponzi scheme.

    The latest from Richard about basically exempting the project from CEQA was a complete 180 reversal from what Richard told Simitian and the committee when asked about possible CEQA exemptions. Richard stated they weren’t looking for CEQA relief except possibly on the program level EIRs. My how that has changed in just a few weeks.

    Nobody should believe anything the Authority says, just like nobody should have believed anything Madoff said.

    J. Wong Reply:

    They’re just asking that CEQA injunctions not be allowed to halt the project. The project would still be on hook for mitigating any issues found under CEQA. So it is not exempted from CEQA only from NIMBY’s trying to use insignificant issues to halt the project under the cover of CEQA.

    We know what’s really going on , @Morris, and your repetition of these falsehoods isn’t convincing anyone here.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Shhhhh! Morris is setting himself up for another colossal fumble trying to equate legal with equitable relief. If his understanding of Prop 98 is any guide, this is going to be fun to watch.

    Peter Reply:

    Heeee, I love that he got an award for his “muckraking” exposure of Toyota’s “buried” sudden acceleration problems, when it turned out there actually were none caused by the vehicle.

    Peter Reply:

    Partial retraction: An internal Toyota report that came to light in the last couple of weeks indicates that Toyota knew of at least one instance of sudden acceleration in a prototype vehicle. (That’s what I get for not watching the news anymore as I can’t stand U.S. news channels).

    Still doesn’t change the fact that a joint NASA/NHTSA investigation cleared Toyota.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So he won awards. Thomas Friedman also won awards, for exposing the Sabra and Shatila massacre. He’s still wrong on most things he writes about the Middle East nowadays, including the most important issue of the last 10 years, Iraq.

    Peter Reply:

    +1

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Clem,

    I wouldn’t call Vartabedian a “muckracker”:

    He formerly had the defense industry beat years ago in L.A. (government waste, what’s that?) so his bias is more professional than anything else.

    It’s the editorial staff that’s really behind this.

    How do I know?

    Because the LA Times recently enacted a ten-free articles a month cap for its website. And unlike the NY Times that cap includes articles linked by someone else (like I don’t know…a certain blogger perhaps). So, the Times’ new “revenue strategy” is to publish a lot of fluff like this because they know that the poor reader has no idea what developments really matter. They see “HSR” or other hot-button issues and click, click, click. I don’t think I’ve seen Vartabedian publish any unique material: it’s all synthesizing other stories or rehashing old stuff.

    Robert though, doesn’t want to attack the editors directly because he knows that only gives them cover to turn against the project. So the only option left is “shoot the messenger”. The problem with that, as a recent NY Times Op-Ed mentioned, is that it lends legitimacy to your opponents even if there’s no objective reason to. The more you attack Lowenthal, Simitian, Vartabedian, etc…the stronger they become….

    morris brown Reply:

    @ Tom McNamara

    You wrote:

    “It’s the editorial staff that’s really behind this.”

    That has to be nonsense. I hope you do realize that the editorial position of the LA Times has been and still is the HSR project should go forward. The editorial position of the TImes is completely at odds with much of what Vartabedian and Weinkel have been reporting.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    You are making my point.

    The editorial staff is doing what’s good for business, not ideological clarity. They are trying to sell papers, not run a seminary.

    The Times is very highly invested in what Anschutz wants to do downtown; Anschutz (Mr. UP himself) needs infrastructure upgrades that require political support from the local powers at be. Local leaders seek to bring home the bacon from the capital(s) and that requires taking the party line.

    Vartebedian could uncover Parson Brinckerhoff’s role in the JFK assassination and the LA Times is going to support the project moving forward. The paper wants controversy, because that brings readership and thus revenue.

    If the Times actually had reporters left who had good contacts in Sacramento/transportation (sorry layoffs!) they could actually rely on that and not sensationalism.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If the LA Times investigated the role of the Tejon Ranch, Palmdale, Villa, Antonovich, etc. that would mean the editorial position had changed. Neither any indication of that nor a likelihood of this at this juncture so Vartebedian will continue to ineffectually snipe because the public has turned against hsr but not the establishment.

    Now there is an outside chance that circumstances could alter the picture such that the power elite opts to pack up, to bail on hsr. For instance Romney, who is about as poor as candidate as John McCain, could go for broke and nominate a VP candidate who would outshine him, say Chris Christie. The electorate is restless and might go for it. Nobody has considered the fat vote.

    And Brown’s tax levies might go down in flames, bringing about the celebrated “agonizing reappraisal”.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The House GOP’s insistence on Keystone neutralizes much of the chance that your “power elite” abandons high speed rail.

    The Republicans scorched-earth tactics worked well when they didn’t need to get anything accomplished, now that massive defense cuts, tax hikes, and non-transit infrastructure needs are looming– it’s run out of steam.

    The type of spending the GOP wants utterly dwarfs the CAHSR project. By extension, even a copious list of “smart investments” will pale compared the bill for extending the Bush-era tax cuts, preserving defense spending levels, and environmental mitigation from Keystone.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But shit disturbing is an old standard operating procedure with newspapers. Dan Walters is a pretty decent example. It is politically harmless but good for circulation. The power of the patronage machine remains inviolate so no damage from a little muckraking or shit disturbing. It just adds a little more circus to panem et circenses.

    A good example would be SF media exposes of sex trafficking meanwhile the City’s massage parlor rackets prosper as never before.

    Here is an interesting one claiming lobbyists political contributions don’t do much much to help a corp’s stock valuation. They are missing the real purpose of campaign contributions(aka bribes)which is to influence decision making and steer policy.

    Hence it is amusing to witness how many millions Sheldon Adelson blew on the Grinch’s campaign seemingly to no benefit. But now we see he managed to influence Moonbeam on twisting Prop 1A and hsr routing to accommodate Sin City. It is the mere demonstration of money and the willingness to spend it that cows and seduces all pols, no matter the party of record. They know money will always accrue to the gatekeepers in short order.

  8. synonymouse
    Jun 12th, 2012 at 09:53
    #8

    forgotten link:

    http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/bre85b071-us-usa-campaign-money/

    Another example would be Quentin Kopp tilting at the Suxway windmill. Mere and more harmless puffery.

    Put Rose Pak in charge of the Roundabout.

  9. Reality Check
    Jun 12th, 2012 at 13:32
    #9

    Only Construction-Ready HSR Service in US Renamed “XpressWest”
    DesertXpress Enterprises changes rail service name from “DesertXpress” to “XpressWest” to more accurately reflect the service.

  10. Trentbridge
    Jun 12th, 2012 at 16:09
    #10

    June 8th CAHSR Board Agenda: Item 3. California Transportation Commission Presentation:
    Presentation of a draft program of capital improvement projects to intercity and commuter rail lines and urban rail systems that provide interconnectivity to the high-speed rail train system and its facilities, or that are part of the construction of the high-speed train system, pursuant to Streets and Highways Code section 2704.095. The High Speed Rail Board will review and comment on the draft program of projects.
    Presenter: Chairman Richard
    CA Transportation Commission

    Does anyone have any knowledge of which “Capital improvement projects” were proposed in this presentation? Instead of lambasting the LA Times – always good fun – why don’t we focus on the suggested projects that might enhance the IOS segment?

  11. Reality Check
    Jun 12th, 2012 at 16:20
    #11

    High-Speed Rail: Santa Clarita Valley Residents Just Say ‘No’

    However, the city will resort to drafting two official letters, one to the California High-speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) explaining the changes they would like to the plans, another (at the suggestion of Council Member Bob Kellar) to Governor Jerry Brown stating the city’s objection to high-speed rail and requesting the matter be put to a public referendum.

    [...]

    “We’ve always taken a position on big issues of having multiple tracks — that’s a good analogy with the trains — we always make sure we have multiple strategies, on any given issue that affects our community,” [...] The mayor recalled past and continuing city battles [...] but cautioned that a simple “no” would cut them out of any future mitigation.

    “My concern is if we’re just a flat out no in opposition, we’re no longer a voice at the table. [...]

    [...]

    Michael Hogan, Chairman of the High-speed Rail Task Force:

    “Some say because of the noise and the vibration this project will be more devastating than the Cemex project.”

    “My next door neighbor was prevented from selling his home already because of this high speed train. He was in escrow and it fell out because they found out there may be a train coming by.”

    “I’m also a board member of the Sulphur Spring Elementary School District and the most critical concern with the high-speed rail, as it is planned, is that it’s so close to this elementary school and the one next door it will put a thousand students in danger.”

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “I’m also a board member of the Sulphur Spring Elementary School District and the most critical concern with the high-speed rail, as it is planned, is that it’s so close to this elementary school and the one next door it will put a thousand students in danger.”–Michael Hogan, Chairman of the High-speed Rail Task Force

    Students in danger? From what? This railroad will be grade separated and fenced. If you’re going to get killed on it, you’ll have to make a serious effort to get it to kill you.

    “We have grave concerns as a school district regarding the number of students that will be 320 feet away from a high-speed rail track. We have been assured of the safety of this, but should something go wrong, I doubt that those people who have assured us of the safety will be anywhere to be found.”–Dr. Robert Nolet, Superintendent of Schools, Sulphur Springs School District

    Only 320 feet away? That’s further than the length of a football field. Union Pacific doesn’t require that much separation.

    And this is from “adults” in education.

    How long have we been dumbing down people?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Hrrrumph:

    http://scvnews.com/?p=24537

    http://scvnews.com/?p=30580

    http://scvnews.com/?p=30053

    http://scvnews.com/?p=30290

    No comments, no outrage, no criticism of people who drive too fast, nothing much for those who may have been drunk. . .what more can I say?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    http://scvnews.com/?p=31588

    http://scvnews.com/?p=30031

    “Move along, move along, it’s routine, nothing to see here. . .”

    Peter Reply:

    And this is from “adults” in education.

    How long have we been dumbing down people?

    Children, wait, not even children, the concept of children, is a common pawn for fair use against anything you disagree with.

    *Wail* “But what about the children?!?!”

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Pfffft! And I think of the house I lived in (and my mother, too, when she was small) that was maybe 50 or so feet from a railroad yard, with the main tracks maybe only another 100 or so feet away. This was a steam railroad in my mother’s time, too; those cinders from coal-burning power made things interesting on laundry days, when you hung your clothes outside to dry, long before dryers were available! Then there was the school with the tracks that ran right behind the playground fence, and a ball field between my house and the school that also bordered the railroad, and me walking those tracks to school as well. Yes, I know I was supposed to use streets and sidewalks and alleys instead (and I certainly wouldn’t do that today), but I was hoping I’d get to see a train on the way!

    James in PA Reply:

    Nevada State RR museum is small but the restoration work they do is top-notch. At the same time they are a volunteer/shoestring operation their projects have been well funded (gambling fees/tourism promotion?) as both the NV State Museum and the V&T RR have a handful of projects in the million dollar range. The McKeen car restoration is absolutely gorgeous. They took the remains of the hull and a few fittings and the original plans and made it likely better than new. The shell is as smooth a paint job as most cars in the showroom. I was looking at rivets and bolts equally spaced with a larger one where the pitch ended on the frame etc. and I said “did you have the original drawings?” because you cannot get that level of detail unless you have the plans of do an amazing job of reverse-engineering. Low tech, but the subtle thing is it looks like the OEM did it. The had to recreate the running gear from scratch from plans. They went to set the body down and the wheels bottomed out. The checked with an original source and verified that the patented plans were offset on purpose. You had to have the OEM information to offset the frame to clear the wheels. They then added the necessary spacers. The mahogany is inlaid, the fittings and vents are fresh brass. The seats are either restored or redone. First rate work. They have excellent craftsmen but they make it look authentic.

    Most of the V&T RR track was newly laid by contractors in the past 10 years or less. Fresh spaced ties, smoothed ballast. They plan to bring it a little closer to Carson City. The tunnels are concrete and steel reinforced. A gully was spanned with a massive fill. They have coaxed the 1914 engine into looking and moving like I imagine it was 80+ years ago.
    The three passenger cars were sold-out last Saturday. I hope they can make it work.

    James in PA Reply:

    Pfffft!

    You even sound like a steam engine.

  12. Reality Check
    Jun 12th, 2012 at 16:32
    #12

    Study: $1.5b Economic Benefit From Electrifying Caltrain On The Peninsula

    The study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute found that having Caltrain run on electric power rather than diesel fuel would not only be a boon for the environment, but the electrification construction project would also be an economic bonanza for the area.

    The study estimates $1.5 billion in economic benefits, including creating 9,500 jobs.

    “It is critical now to make Caltrain a 21st century transportation system,” said Peninsula Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, a staunch proponent of the electrification project.

    But investment from the state of California in Caltrain electrification is currently tied to funding for the controversial High-Speed Rail project, which is scheduled to be taken up by the state legislature later this week.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Wow! Looks like Caltrain neighbors might have a rea$on to get behind electrification after all:

    The long-term benefits are also considerable. The primary source of these benefits is from increases in residential property values. Estimates suggest that property values near Caltrain stations could be increased by as much as $1.0 billion, with accompanying increases in property taxes (over time) of up to $59 million over a 30 year timeframe. Accounting for the declines in pollution and noise, net benefits could be as high as $1.1 billion, including increases in property taxes.

    joe Reply:

    San Carlos’ Mayor will tell you the simple Caltrain ROW improvements increased property values along the improved ROW.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    “Accounting for the declines in pollution and noise,”

    This can’t be right… Diesel trains pollute LESS, are LESS noisy, and make much LESS vibration than electric trains. Just ask Morris, Martin Engle, CCHSR, Boondoggle, and a few Atherton-ites/PAMPA-ites, after all, they are the “experts,” they must have PhD degrees in these fields.

    Peter Reply:

    You’re mistaken. They just want ALL trains, including Caltrain, to go away.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Or at least just the trains that operate or are planned to operate in areas that threaten their way of life. Don’t see any evidence of them paying attention to existing or proposed trains well away from where they live, work or play do you?

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Yes I do see evidence that they are spreading their fear mongering lies and misinformation outside of PAMPA. CCHSR and Boondoggle have hit the central valley… HSR will scare the pants off of dairy cows so that they will no longer produce milk, HSR will destroy thousands upon thousands of acres of pristine farmland, and Almond trees will be so scared that they will no longer produce almonds… The central valley could become the next dust bowl…

  13. Reedman
    Jun 12th, 2012 at 16:58
    #13

    The Sierra Club considered HSR to be a sufficient threat to the well-being of the Central Valley that they strong-armed their Sacramento minions into removing any possibility of an HSR stop in Los Banos.

    Reality Check Reply:

    The Los Banos station ban gambit was part of a so-far failed strategy to push HSRA into re-adopting Altamont as the more logical / economical gateway to the Bay Area. Enviros had good reason to believe there were large property interests in the greater Los Banos / Santa Nella area who had been lobbying behind the scenes for Pacheco in order to make their speculative real estate holdings more accessible and therefore development-ready.

    morris brown Reply:

    @ Reedman and @ Reality Check

    This is not the real story. The station planned for Los Banos turned out to directly on land owned by a paid consultant to the Authority. And even more damming was that checking land sales and who owned property in the area, reaveled very powerful political interests had invested heavily, betting on Pacheco and the Los Banos station. The stench was huge. The line item in Prop 1A prohibiting any station in the area was added to put down the outrage.

    joe Reply:

    So I get confused – is the HSR property & life style destroying or an enhancement for real-estate owners? I guess in Kings CO. it’s a horrible threat to life but Los Banos a real-estate bonanza. What contradictions.

    Shimmer – a dessert topping and floor wax.

    Peter Reply:

    Morris, any reference to that?

    Reality Check Reply:

    Sure, the other (also cynical) way to view the Authority’s acquiescence to calls for a Los Banos station ban was, as Morris suggests, an attempt by Pacheco boosters to take the heat off the then-increasingly-difficult-to-defend embattled/corrupt inexplicable decision to dump Altamont in favor of Pacheco.

  14. Reality Check
    Jun 12th, 2012 at 17:34
    #14

    Environmental groups (Sierra Club, NRDC) oppose Brown’s rail lawsuit preemption plan

    Since June 5, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council have sent letters to the governor, stating that his attempt in the Legislature to water down the California Environmental Quality Act represents a major threat to environmental protection statewide.

    “This proposal sets a dangerous precedent, that, if applied here and to other large scale public works projects, will throw the state back to an era when bulldozers and engineers trumped clean air, clean water, wetlands and natural habitat and the public interest with abandon,” the Sierra Club letter stated.

    Brown’s proposed legislation would prohibit a court from issuing an injunction or other stop-work orders unless those filing the lawsuit can show their damages substantially outweigh the harm [sic] to the state and those employed by the $6-billion initial phase of the project.

    [...]

    Brown’s effort has put environmentalists in a difficult position. He has asked them to agree to weakening one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in history for a project they support because of its potential to reduce vehicle emissions and global warming.

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