Once Again, It’s All About How You Ask the Question

Jun 4th, 2012 | Posted by

“Voters have turned against bullet train” read the headline for Ralph Vartabedian’s article gloating over the recent USC/LA Times poll showing that a majority of voters would refuse to authorize the Prop 1A bonds in a new vote. That article should be no surprise given Vartabedian’s long record of biased reporting on the project.

But as with any poll, what matters is how the question is asked. With this USC/LA Times poll, the questions asked of high speed rail were ones that may well have led respondents to draw negative conclusions about the project. Californians For High Speed Rail undertook a closer analysis of the poll and found several questions whose wording likely influenced respondents to look unfavorably on the project, questions that are not accurate reflections of the HSR project or its details:

1a. Excerpt from Poll Question 41: The total cost of the project has increased by 35 billion dollars.

1b. CA4HSR Analysis: This is a misleading statement. It takes the original constant dollar cost of approximately $33 billion and compares it with a year-of-expenditure cost of $68.4 billion from the new business plan. The original estimate’s year-of expenditure cost was approximately $42 billion. Therefore the actual apple-to-apple costs have increased by around $26 billion. Granted, that this is an increase but not nearly as much as $35 billion.

2a. Excerpt from Poll Question 41 – Some people say that voters should not be asked to go back to the ballot to vote again….. Other people say that we should put the decision to borrow 9 billion dollars for a high-speed rail project back on the ballot…and there are doubts that the high-speed train can actually turn a profit.

2b. CA4HSR Analysis: Relying on unnamed “some people” for the pro-HSR side and “other people” for the anti-HSR viewpoint, and asking the subject to endorse one of the two viewpoints is not a professional or reliable approach to a poll. Who exactly are these people and do they know what they are talking about? This methodology forces people to endorse either one potentially biased viewpoint or another.

For example let’s take the statement “…there are doubts that the high-speed train can actually turn a profit.” The question needs to be ask, who is doing the doubting? And why are they given such prominence when the experience all over the world has proven that HSR systems are consistently profitable operationally. Nonetheless, the poll goes ahead and asks a question that casts doubt on the profitability in conflict with global experience.

CA4HSR speculates that the assertion doubting profitability is likely emanating from a study called “The CHSRA Knows Their Proposed High-Speed Train Will Forever Need a Subsidy” by Enthoven et. al, the same Peninsula-based group who have claimed HSR will cost over $200 billion. The study challenges the operating costs of the project, hence the potential profitability. The data used for the Enthoven study has been identified as inaccurate by the International Union of Railways, thoroughly debunking the results (though not the fault of the authors, but incorrect nonetheless).

3a. Poll Question 44 – In terms of rail transportation, would you rather the state spend money on a statewide high speed train or improvements to rail transportation in your own area?

3b. CA4HSR Analysis: This question is clearly designed to give the impression that HSR is in competition with local rail systems. This is egregiously misleading because local rail systems will actually benefit tremendously from California HSR program because upward of $2.5 billion of Prop 1A funds will be used to upgrade commuter rail service in HSR corridors and other connecting rail transit systems. HSR funding has only bolstered local and regional rail systems and is certainly not in competition with them.

4a. Poll Question 46 – How often do you think you would use this high-speed rail line between Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area — more than once a week, once a week, once or twice a month, several times a year, hardly ever, or never?

4b. CA4HSR Analysis: While this is a valid question, the results will likely change once people understand the system better and how to incorporate it into their lives. Additionally, HSR would benefit those using highways and airports as congestion would be relieved, easing travel for everyone on all modes.

The CA4HSR analysis is compelling. The questions that were asked were full of undefended assertions and biased choices. These particular questions are clearly not useful in providing a true picture of public opinion regarding the HSR project because of their loaded nature. While it is usually good polling practice to test negative messages, the USC/LA Times poll didn’t balance that out by also testing positive messages about the HSR project, from its economic stimulus impact to its ability to help address global warming to its benefits over other forms of intrastate travel.

That means the poll’s ability to actually explain how Californians view the HSR project is at best limited. The poll should not be taken as an accurate assessment of how the public views the HSR project. If anything it should be taken as an assessment of how the public would react to unanswered criticisms of the project. I would love to see a truly neutral and informed poll of the HSR project, where respondents are read a better set of questions and not ones that seem designed to produce answers unfavorable to the project.

  1. Robert
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 00:12

    Unfortunately this got picked up on in the UK Press where the writer posted the LA Times article verbatim – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9310511/Buyers-remorse-for-Californias-bullet-train-to-nowhere.html

    If you look at the comments a bunch of super right wing republican types latched on to it soon after…

    swing hanger Reply:

    Ah, the Torygraph. Though it must be said, the conservatives in the U.K. are much, much more reasonable than their American cousins:

    ‘More than a century ago the Victorians built railways that continue to serve us to this day and just over 50 years ago the post-war generation chose to invest in motorways, bringing higher road capacity and faster journeys to millions. Both transformed the economic and social fabric of this country: HS2 is our generation’s investment in Britain and our children.’

    Wow, investing in your country and thinking about your children! What a concept!


    swing hanger Reply:

    Look at this:

    Heck, I would be happy if the Democrats had this policy manifesto.

    swing hanger Reply:

    One more thing: coming from the other end of the British ideological spectrum, I wish there was an advocate for HSR like this fellow, he singlehandedly humbled the right wing of the U.S. Congress on Iraq:

    Spokker Reply:

    Remember that opposing California High Speed Rail is not the same as opposing high speed rail.

    swing hanger Reply:

    I am well aware of that, and I have reservations about the CA project. However, there has to be pushback against the constant hammering of “boondoggle” and “train to nowhere” memes. BTW Spokker, what HSR schemes do you support?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The CHSRA and PB allowed influence peddlers to create a frankenhsr. The “boondoggle”, the “train to nowhere” — it’s alive; it’s alive! Get the torches.

    Tom McNamara Reply:


    High speed rail technology has evolved over time. As best as I can tell, there was a real bias towards importing the Taiwan-High-Speed-Rail project whole cloth (including the generous use of viaducts) among policymakers five years ago. PB worked on that project, and it included adaptations to a warmer climate that would be necessary to run in the US. It also didn’t hurt that the project also featured a foreign government lending money to help jump start it.

    With Ahhhnuld gone, now PB et al. want to run kicking and screaming from that model. But there in lies the rub…when you develop your own stuff in house…it costs more but you benefit more long term. Thus, the costs have gone up and up because no one is mentioning the fact that the utility and return from the project is also growing for the State too.

    synonymouse Reply:

    re FrankenHSR:

    The Tehachapi Roundabout only makes economic sense if you are replacing the Loop. Cut the speeds and make it dual purpose, freight and passenger. If passenger only the utilization will ve very poor, especially in relation to the high cost of construction, maintenance and operation. Tejon is the route for passenger only. Even then you might be able to route some UPS express trains via Tejon.

    Matthew B Reply:

    The marginal benefit for moving freight a little bit faster through that pass, not so high. The marginal benefit of moving people through the pass a lot faster, much higher. Sneakers, t-shirts, and potatoes don’t get bored or consider taking a flight if their train is too slow. Also, are these going to be electric freight trains, or are you proposing to re-engineer everything to include ventilation for diesel freight trains?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Electrification is most likely most economical. The class ones will just have to deal with that, which they have done historically. Cantenary is coming to California in due course anyway.

    Spokker Reply:

    To me it really isn’t about supporting or opposing specific projects. Not really. I have zero influence. I’d rather just observe and make comments ranging from occasionally slightly insightful to often mostly inane.

    The majority of people are unaware or only slightly aware of politics, and I don’t think it makes much difference in their day-to-day lives. They live blissfully unaware of most of it. My girlfriend and I were going over our sample ballot for tomorrow and she said, “Can you imagine if Orly Taitz is elected? She’s crazy!” I remarked that it probably wouldn’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things. You go to work, you come home, watch some TV, and that’s 90% of the year. It’s occasionally broken up by holidays. There’s no room for travel because the only time you can travel is when the destination is going to be crowded and miserable. So that’s out.

    I mean, I can’t really pinpoint how a Dianne Feinstein or Barbara Boxer or my local Congresswoman has really affected my life. There may be examples but I can’t think of a single one where my life would have been substantially different had those positions been filled by Republicans, or vice versa for other positions.

    So getting back to high speed rail. The controversy is fun but I cannot think of how it would substantially change my life it it were to be built. I don’t go to San Francisco or the Central Valley often. I’ve been to San Francisco once and I think I got my fill. I really hated it while I was there.

    Actually, the only difference I think it could make that it may contribute to the overwhelming indebtedness of the state and accelerate its eventually collapse, an event I might unfortunately be alive for. I’m going to wish I were not so intimidated by firearms.

    Spokker Reply:

    Ironically, I love to vote. I’ll probably go down to the booth at 7AM, and then go online for the results at 8PM. This must be explained by a fundamental defect in my personality.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The state of California won’t collapse. The state debt is irrelevant, because the state is big enough to print money if it wants to. The only real threat to California stability is the coming water wars.

    Other states are much more likely to collapse. I personally feel that there are 90% odds that the federal government will collapse within my lifetime; it’s just too dysfunctional to last. At least there’s a fair number of socialist gun-lovers in this area; those are the people you want to hook up with during a social collapse.

    Spokker Reply:

    I researched and filled out my sample ballot the night I got it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    On the general topic of “trolling” here is a link to an article purporting to ferret out propaganda in twitter and the like:


    They talk of “hyperadvocacy” but I find it overblown. Social media do not play much of a role in power politics, IMHO. Or pr.

    Puppeteering goes way beyond that. The most important means of propaganda is tv news and their technique of brainwashing is ordering of stories. The stories that go counter to your agenda, whatever that might be, you simply suppress.

    The opinion of the masses is way overrated when it comes to ruling. A Mubarak or an Assad can have support of 10% of the populace and still rule with an iron hand for decades. They are finally ousted at death’s door. And then you witness what I call a change of Faroukhs.

    You don’t have to show any particular smarts to be in power. Look at Putin – please tell me anyone exactly what he has to gain from supporting Assad? Maybe he fears the US is going to take over the Arab world, but exactly the opposite is more likely.

    The real role of the social media, this blog for instance, is that it allows utter nobodies like your truly to vent about their pet peeves and pet ideas. Thus I can obsess about Tejon, even tho Mr. John Q. Public could care less. It allows for discussion of more complex ideas and observations than your typical Letters to the Editor column would have ever countenanced.

    Peter Reply:

    That is indeed a very interesting article. I wonder how its principles and conclusions could be applied to weed out propagandists on blogs. I’m not even necessarily thinking of this blog, but I seem to recall a very prolific troll on TTP, known as “Mixner”, but who used many different screennames.

    Spokker Reply:

    No arguments there, syn.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Mubarak and Assad always had support of FAR more than 10% of the population.

    My estimate, from studying history, is this:
    (1) If you have the support of a loyal military elite who compose at least 10% of the population (and there isn’t a competing military elite), you can probably rule indefinitely.
    (2) If you don’t, but you keep 75% of the people fed and housed and busy and feeling like their lives are OK, you can probably rule indefinitely.

    If you lack both of these, you’re going to be thrown out sooner or later. In particular, unemployment, homelessness, or hunger rates over 25% will destroy any government without a fiercely loyal military elite — and even those who think they have a loyal military elite may find that the elite isn’t so loyal after the unemployment, homelessness, and hunger rates go that high.

    The revolutions in Egypt and Syria were triggered by food shortages which affected even family members of the military. Enough said.

    Of course, you’re quite right about the methods used by TV News for brainwashing.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Though it’s always too broad a brush to paint…much of the dysfunction goes back to the anti-Communist whitewash in the 1950s within education. Instead of simply refuting the market results of the Soviet Union, any connections between economic incentives and history was promptly buried.

    Anyone who works in business management, politics, or the law knows better because they see what actually drives decisions. A stronger, more effective journalistic presence would help but people have to be able understand what they are told too.

    Nathanael Reply:

    True. The capture and destruction of the media by a small number of corporations really hurts, though. Countrries which still have functional mainstream media are doing a lot better.

    Nathanael Reply:

    FYI, most people in Weimar Germany thought that the election of Hitler wouldn’t make much difference to their lives either. Really. This isn’t hard to look up.

    We have some people as deranged as Hitler running on the Republican platform. It’s a serious danger.

    nick Reply:

    isnt it ?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    On the other hand, the Conservatives actually believe in austerity and are wrecking the British economy, whereas the GOP engages in tax-cut stimulus when it’s in power, and only claims to support austerity when the Democrats are in charge.

    nick Reply:

    The telegraph has been running an anti hs2 (uk hsr) campaign for some time – particularly from a certain andrew gilligan who repeatedly writes anti hs2 stories full of factual error and myth. i have responded on numerous occasions ! to be fair the “telegraph view” does support hsr.

    many telegraph readers live in the chilterns which is a scenic hilly country area north of oxford and london and therefore dont want their tranquill disupted. this is understandable but many have suddenly become railway transport economists and experts and are happy to suggest upgrading exisitng routes which is code for building new lines somewhere else. If the facts dont support their viewpoint they adjust the facts accordingly.

    as in california those against hsr dont seem to realise that the alternatives to hsr are not available at no cost. not building hsr will leave an infrastucture deficit that will have to be filled somehow and that somehow without hsr is more roads and airports/planes runways with all the resulting pollution. With with current taxation in the usa, the highways dont even pay for themselves so more roads would mean a higher deficit without a higher base highway tax rate. So roads that dont cover operating costs are good but faster cleaner trains that do cover their expenses are bad ! go figure

    The existing uk hsr line (hs1) from london to kent and paris is now carrying over 18 million domestic and international passengers per year and is finally be used for freight which is slowly expanding. direct passenger trians to further european destinations by both eurostar and deustche bahn will begin operation within several years and of course linking via high speed line to manchester and birmingham will further increase passengers. The wider economic benfiots of hs1 have been estimated at 20 billion pounds.

  2. Dan Schnur, GOP Hack
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 00:28

    Don’t you just love it when a GOP strategist like Dan Schnur uses vague strawman arguments for the pro side, coupled with the Republicans’ poll-tested messages on the con side, and churns out what is effectively a push-poll? Sure, he contracts with both AV and GQR, so the actual pool of respondents would be legitimate, but the questions are obviously leading.

    In addition to the criticisms CA4HSR raised, the poll subtly suggests that HSR is drawing money away from “bigger priorities” for California, even though HSR isn’t reducing any funds available for “bigger priorities” in the state budget, actually provides funding for local rail transportation improvements, and that the state would lose billions of dollars in federal matching funds if the project is canceled. state budget, actually provides funding for local rail transportation improvements, and that the state would lose billions of dollars in federal matching funds if the project is canceled. Without giving poll respondents this information, it shows that if a high-speed rail bond measure were placed on the November ballot, 43% would definitely vote no, and another 15% would lean in that direction.

  3. Spokker
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 01:22

    Top two primary tomorrow! Going to be exciting!

    *falls asleep in the voting booth*

  4. morris brown
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 03:31

    This pathetic effort to paint the LA Times / USC poll as biased and really a “push poll” falls flat on its own face.

    Just look around and see the huge media press coverage and they are certinaly not saying the poll is not truly reflective of the sentiment of the voters on the HSR boondoggle. ( indeed both Republican and Democratic press coverage are all in accord that the poll is air and reflct true voter opinion.)

    So, Robert, just keep on with your constant theme, when such obvious objections and problems with the HSR orject keep arising, you attack the authors, or in this case the LA Times and USC. Anyone and any orgainization in your view that doesn’t support the project, just isn’t playing fair and their integrity are to be questioned.

    Wdobner Reply:

    This pathetic effort to paint the LA Times / USC poll as biased and really a “push poll” falls flat on its own face.

    It’s not a pathetic effort if the poll is a push poll, and because the poll misrepresents the cost of the HSR system it is a push poll.

    Just look around and see the huge media press coverage and they are certinaly not saying the poll is not truly reflective of the sentiment of the voters on the HSR boondoggle.

    Sure, look at the huge media coverage which is merely the last part of the vicious cycle that begins with the bile put out by Wendell Cox, Randall O’Toole and Reason, which is then sourced by opinion pieces by anti-HSR editorials in WaPo, LA Times, and so on, and then reported on generally as the ‘death of the project’ even though nothing at all has changed. Must be nice to have an enormous media empire at your finger tips, but then I suppose we can’t all be the Koch Brothers.

    So, Robert, just keep on with your constant theme, when such obvious objections and problems with the HSR orject keep arising, you attack the authors, or in this case the LA Times and USC.

    So you’re in favor of misrepresenting the facts of the matter if it results in a narrow poll lead for your obstructionist stance?

    Nathanael Reply:

    It’s a dishonest push poll. Read the questions.

    My mom’s a statistician. I learned from a young age that question design is EVERYTHING.

    Nathanael Reply:

    If I was funded by propagandists to do it, I could put out a push poll which said “California High Speed Rail will save millions of people millions of hours in traffic, save millions of dollars, save many acres of precious farmland from being paved over, help protect the environment, and make California the greatest state in the Union again. Some people oppose this because their backyards are in the way. Do you support or oppose the High Speed Rail plan?”

    It would be about as legitimate as this poll, which is to say, not at all.

  5. morris brown
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 03:41

    LA times on the proposed CEQA exemption for HSR.


    Steinberg is going to push this directly to the State Senate floor, bypassing committees and bypassing public input. He is really going to have his hands full on this one. Many of his caucus were elected on strong CEQA support. It is a big enough issue such that their re-election might very well be threatened.

    And Robert, if rumors of your political ambitions of a few moons ago are valid, your own political future, by supporting this gutting of CEQA puts that very much in jeopardy.

    lex luther Reply:

    robert doesnt care about CEQA he isnt even a californian. he is an aide to the mayor of seattle and lives in washington state.

    Peter Reply:

    Impressive. You’re missing the fact that he grew up in Orange County and taught political science in Monterey before moving to Washington. And that he intends on moving back to CA, IIRC.

    lex luther Reply:

    welll aside from being a public relations advisor to the seattle mayor, Robert is also a huffington post columnist and has a blog on calitics. He also has one on dailykos where he advocates for the occupy movement and says the progresive movement needs to mature by learn from occupiers.

    he was also part of the courage campaign where although he lives in washington state, he claims to live in monterey. in his blog there, he equates republicans to violent terrorists. not shocking considering his writings are reposted on several occupy walls street blogs, the same people who commit violence against our law enforcement, break windows and vandalize , though he doesnt see anything terrorist about that.

    its clear. robert is not a HSR enthusiast, he is simply pushing the progressive agenda and that includes high speed rail. he is nowhere near as educated on HSR or trains in general when compared to the many people on this blog who know so much about trains, some people here should probably be appointed to the CHSRA. its about power, influence and agenda. its about politics. just like the wisconsin recall, if progressives lose today in wisconsin, then its clear that their influence in that region is waning. if they lose HSR is CA, then once again, its a huge loss for their movement. so he and others in the progressive and occupy movements will continue to with their theme of everythings good, the enemy isnt winning

    he reminds me of the Iraqi information officer in 2003. Even as U.S. troops were only miles away, he would state over and over that “there are no Americans in Iraq”.

    Peter Reply:

    Google helps you find out information when your lack of knowledge has been pointed out, doesn’t it?

    lex luther Reply:

    lack of knowledge? you mean how you failed the bar exam?

    Peter Reply:

    Not sure what you’re trying to say, but, graciously giving you the benefit of the doubt, no, I was referring to the fact that you appear to have looked up more information on Robert after it was pointed out that you didn’t know much about him.

    Peter Reply:

    And if it was meant as an insult, then you should first know that I was in good company with the other 58% of the test takers who did not pass. And second, fuck you. I’m a law school graduate currently studying for a Master of Environmental Law. What qualifications do you bring to this forum, other than snide libertarian remarks about stuff you don’t understand?

    Eric M Reply:

    He is just a troll trying to spread doubt to the readers of this forum about CAHSR. If he didn’t think Robert or others were credible, he would move along and not bother to comment here. Instead, the opposition fears the the audience that reads this blog and will do anything to discredit the articles written.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “Instead, the opposition fears the the audience that reads this blog and will do anything to discredit the articles written.”–Eric M.

    One thing that has been looking funny to me is how much vitriol comes down on rail supporters. This vitriol clearly comes from fear: “You’re going to take our cars away!” and the like. Now, I do think there are some things to be concerned about, and I am fearful of some things, but fear of my fellow citizens wanting to force abortions or to encourage actual sex as a part of sex education (to pick a couple of outlandish examples) aren’t among them (and I’m in the anti-abortion, pro-life, pro-modesty, pro-chastity camp).

    What stands out is how much of this fear comes from people who should be pretty secure (rich people, retired people), or, in the case of HSR and the national health care scheme, from certain large corporations. The oil business is particularly nutty, with its effective “demands” of protection (i.e., military presence in the Saudi peninsula, tax breaks, and so on), while at the same time, apparently actively working to discredit or suppress alternative energy or transportation. This is strange to me because the demand for oil products (and related profits) will remain huge, even with the alternatives thrown in, simply by virtue of overall growth and the use of oil and other products for things like plastics. In short, there is plenty of room for all–cars, planes, HSR, etc.–but the pro-car people (and the oil crowd is only part of that) can’t stand the idea that someone might want to use something else. It’s as if McDonalds and Burger King were out to kill off everybody who offered something different in the restaurant line.

    I guess it’s just old-fashioned greed, and if you’re old fashioned like me, you recall how that is one of the “seven deadly sins.” It looks like we may be seeing how this plays out in real time these days.


    My wife has an alternative or perhaps corollary idea. She says these fears, which sometimes seem to border on paranoia, may be due to a general mental breakdown or mental deterioration of the population, a form of low-level mental illness. She blames all the additives and things we’ve been putting in food and water over the years for this. And of course, the business of lead in the environment and a possible link to criminality or violence has been discussed here in the past–and a possible theory that our lower (compared with the 1970s) crime rate may be partially linked to the abandonment of lead additives to gasoline.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Overall, it does seem strange that we may be getting people trying to sabotage this weblog. It reminds me of how the elephant is portrayed as being fearful of the mouse.

    rick rong Reply:

    To Eric: You say “the opposition fears the the audience that reads this blog and will do anything to discredit the articles written.” That’s a rather sweeping statement. “Opposition” to what, exactly. Does it apply to anyone who fails to embrace very aspect of what has been proposed?

    lex luther Reply:

    because a wide audience pays attention to the cahsr blog right? suffering from delusions of grandeur? get real . about 30 people post here. its just us talking

    lex luther Reply:

    @rickrong. in erics world, dissent is not allowed, and neither is free thought.

    salute the train or you are a troll

    FiendNCheeses Reply:

    I read this blog everyday, Lex, and this is only my second time posting here.

    A lot more people read this than you think.

    Nathanael Reply:

    D.P., you’ll probably be pleased to know that comprehensive sex ed — even occasionally including telling kids that sex is fun! actually makes people have sex with fewer partners and start having sex later. Proven by Guttmacher Institute studies!

    “My wife has an alternative or perhaps corollary idea. She says these fears, which sometimes seem to border on paranoia, may be due to a general mental breakdown or mental deterioration of the population, a form of low-level mental illness. She blames all the additives and things we’ve been putting in food and water over the years for this. And of course, the business of lead in the environment and a possible link to criminality or violence has been discussed here in the past–and a possible theory that our lower (compared with the 1970s) crime rate may be partially linked to the abandonment of lead additives to gasoline.”

    Actually, D.P, there’s some horribly scary circumstantial correlation to support that.

    Observe which generations you’ve said were car-obsessed and paranoidly anti-train. Correlate it with who grew up with leaded gasoline fumes.

    It’s pretty much a perfect correlation. People who are old enough predate the widespread use of leaded-gasoline cars; people who are young enough grew up during or after the phase-out.

    And we know that tetraethyl lead inhalation leads to violent paranoia, from the initial horror stories in the factories which made it.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Nathanael, you got me curious to looking up stuff on tetraethyl lead, and you weren’t kidding; that’s some nasty stuff:


    From the “History” section of the above:

    “The toxicity of concentrated TEL was recognized early on, as lead had been recognized since the 19th century as a dangerous substance which could cause lead poisoning.[22] In 1924, a public controversy arose over the “loony gas,” after several workers died and others went insane in a refinery in New Jersey and a DuPont facility in Ohio.[22] However, for two years prior to this controversy, several public health experts including Alice Hamilton engaged Midgley and Kettering with letters warning of the dangers to public health of the proposed plan.[22] After the death of the workers, dozens of newspapers reported on the issue.[22][23] In 1925, the sales of TEL were suspended for one year to conduct a hazard assessment.[4][17]”

    Found some other stuff that’s even worse:




    One of the things that stands out is the corporate misinformation campaign after the health hazards started to come out; the corporate actions sound distressingly familiar to the what the tobacco industry would be doing years later.

    More and more, I am becoming convinced the use of the corporate structure for business is a serious flaw. It has advantages of easily-raised capital and limited liability, but it also tends to result in huge enterprises that are undemocratic in that voting is by shares, i.e., by how big a pile of money you have. Those who have money have a lot of power, and power, as we know, has a terribly corrupting influence. Besides, just because someone has ten shares to your one, does that make him a person who’s ten times better than you, or ten times smarter than you?

    I think one of the things we should consider is the conversion of incorporated enterprises to a cooperative model. A cooperative has the easily-transferred ownership in shares of the corporation, and the limited liability provisions, but voting is based on each person having just one vote–like a general election, like citizens. It means you vote as a person, not as a pile of money. It wouldn’t be an absolute guarantee that a cooperative wouldn’t become big and abusive, but it might improve the odds that it would not follow that path by diluting the power of the really rich guys in it; think of how many rich guys of late come across as arrogant bullies.

    It’s not like cooperatives are alien life forms. We see them operating grain elevators in the midwest, a fruit-packing firm in the midwest and east (and I’ve done a payroll audit on that one); they’ve operated light and power companies, at least one railroad that I know of in New England back in steam days, and they operate banks–which we know as credit unions.

    I don’t recall reading a whole lot of crazy shenanigans that involve cooperatives as one can find for corporations, but I may have missed something, so don’t take that as a guarantee, either.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    One more link on the effects of cumulative, low-level lead accumulation–and a most interesting one at that:


    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Shop-Rite Supermarkets, Ocean Spray, and Florida’s Natural are co-ops.

    Tony d. Reply:

    I like this!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I have obtained this photo of Lex.

    John Burrows Reply:

    And all this time I thought that trolls lived under bridges.

    James in PA Reply:

    They do.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Robert is like many people I know, (including myself) who were born and raised in California but had to move away to find work. It accelerated in the past decade or so, but it’s been happening ever since the end of the Cold War.

    Once the defense plants closed (and with them, manufacturing plants for automobiles), the only new capital coming into the state is from immigrants who start their own businesses and tend to create jobs which are not compatible with the native work force. It’s a touchy subject, because the immigration debate has always had explicit racial overtones in California…but it’s also the truth.

    The State could have retained more of its workforce if it turned out more computer science engineers, agriculturalists, and movie producers…but with the education system always running on fumes after Prop 13… it’s been impossible to put more money into careers that have growing job bases.

    Secondly, is there a sort of litmus test that you need to call yourself Californian? Most everyone in my parents’ generation had moved there sometime in their life while my some of my ancestors were already living in the State almost a century ago. Certainly, if the test involves some understanding of the State itself, you would most certainly fail.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @lex luther:

    he was also part of the courage campaign where although he lives in washington state, he claims to live in monterey.

    just after Peter pointed out that Robert formerly lived and taught in Monterey. Look at the dates of his postings where he ‘claims’ to live in Monterey. You may well find out that any posts he made claiming to live in Monterey were made before he took up a posting that took him out of Monterey, and posts on the subject since them might just say ‘when I previously lived in Monterey’.

    Bianca Reply:

    So lex luther writes under a pseudonym to allege that Robert Cruickshank is somehow not who he claims to be. I find that amusing. And not persuasive.

  6. Elizabeth
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 07:12


    You should at least link to the full text. Obviously neither the for or against case are the full story – are they close enough that the results hold? My understanding is that this was done with democratic and republican pollsters together to get something that was valid.

    Q.41 Now for something a little different. As you may know, in 2008, California voters approved a
    ballot proposition to borrow 9 billion dollars to build a high-speed rail line connecting Southern
    California and the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2008, the high-speed rail plan has been revised
    in several ways.

    Instead of laying all new track, the planners will now upgrade some existing
    commuter track, allowing the project to finish several years earlier. The total cost of the project has increased by 35 billion dollars. Voters have already approved 9 billion dollars in borrowing for
    the project and the remaining money could come from federal and private funding. Construction of
    the high-speed rail line could begin by the end of this year.

    Now I’m going to read you two statements about the project and please tell me which one comes
    closer to your own view.

    Some people say that voters should not be asked to go back to the ballot to vote again on whether the state should borrow 9 billion dollars for a high-speed rail project. A new vote could halt any planned construction, and even though the plan has changed, the intent is the same, voters have already committed funding and the project will finish earlier than projected.

    Other people say that we should put the decision to borrow 9 billion dollars for a high-speed rail
    project back on the ballot for voters to reconsider. The plan for the project has changed, the total
    costs have increased and there are doubts that the high-speed train can actually turn a profit.

    Which statement comes closer to your own view?

    Now let me read you two statements about the high-speed rail project linking Southern
    California and the San Francisco Bay Area and please tell me which statement comes closer to
    your own view.

    Some people say this is an important project for California. It will help reduce traffic on highways
    and at airports, while improving the state’s transportation system. It would boost the state’s
    economy by increasing commerce and creating thousands of construction jobs in a tough

    Other people say that California has bigger priorities right now than borrowing money for a
    high-speed train. This project will cost taxpayers billions of dollars, while only benefitting a handful
    of business people and tourists. We don’t need more government inefficiency and spending.
    Which statement comes closer to your own view?

    joe Reply:

    The questions ention debt and borrowing but all the positive impacts of stimulus spending are omitted.

    It’s dishonest since the ARRA funding for HSR is intentionally stimulus spending to help the economy. The impact of losing the money is part of the debate.

    A critical part of the funding justification is to reduce unemployment, stimulate the economy, put people to work and generate tax revenue.

    Dr. Paul Krugman estimated that 100 B in stimulus in this recession produces 50 B in tax revenue.

    Oh well. it’s not as if anyone here has a background in economics.

    morris brown Reply:

    @ joe

    who wrote:

    “Oh well. it’s not as if anyone here has a background in economics.”

    Your previous postings certainly indicate you have no such background — you don’t even understand deficits.

    joe Reply:

    I do understand the difference between a budget and an economy. CA is an economy.

    Any fair and honest discussion about the spending on HSR must include the benefits like the multiplier effect of spending which increases tax revenue and takes unemployed off gov’t assistance.

    All I see is concern over the spending and willfully ignoring the financial savings and benefits of spending in a horrible recession.

    Our state can borrow a low rates – Fed can issue 10 year treasure binds at rates below inflation! Investors are paying the US to hold their money. Obviously this is a time to invest in infrastructure.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Joe clearly understands macroeconomics, morris — and you clearly don’t. I suggest a remedial reading of Krugman’s _The Return of Depression Economics_.

    VBobier Reply:

    Dr Krugman says “We are not a household. We are an economy,” said Krugman. “Your spending is my income, and my spending is your income.”

    Governor Brown says we need a State Bank and here’s a petition for it too.

    You can find more links on My facebook page.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Awesome. I think a State Bank of California would be a game-changer for the entire country, and could possibly get us out of this Depression all by itself.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Although not a true “push poll”, those questions are indeed biased.

    The reason is that the questions assume that if you include positive and negative attributes for both options that respondents will logically balance them out.

    The harsh reality is that voters will always, no matter what the issue, as individuals think that letting them decide is the most efficient way to solve problems. This is almost universally never true.

    The poll also makes use of the “empty chair” argument, which assumes that somehow, if you don’t spend this money on the bonds, that it will just magically disappear and not be re-appropriated.

    What would be a fair question to ask is:

    “Voters approved nine billion in GO Bonds for a high speed rail project in 2008. Recently, a change in the business plan for the project has caused both the implementation and the cost of the project to change. If the state had to spend $55 million dollars to redirect those funds to something else, would you want to see the election take place?

    And if it did take place, what would you want the money to be used for instead:

    Higher education
    Lower health care costs
    State parks and conservation
    Infrastructure other than high speed rail
    Tax cuts

    Although almost no interest group would want to fund this poll…(you really think someone did pay for this one as well?) it would be highly illustrative for lawmakers and actually shape public opinion somewhat.

    The current version, meanwhile, comes across in Sacramento like this:

    Change bad.
    Voter fear bad.
    Voter kills anything that is a little bad, even if also good.
    Only give voters good, nothing bad.

    rick rong Reply:

    The question of bias in how polls are conducted and questions framed is similar to the question as to how the analyses, titles, and summaries of ballot measures are worded.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Here is a link to our entire statement/analysis, which also contains a link to the poll itself.

  7. lex luther
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 09:14

    to my fellow californians, no matter what side your on, dont forget to vote today.

    VBobier Reply:

    Did that weeks ago, by mail.

  8. Reality Check
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 13:03

    Voting early when you don’t have to does not allow you to adjust/react to late-breaking news about the candidates. For example, in just the last few days news broke that one of the candidates for supervisor in my county lied numerous times about having degrees from both Stanford and Harvard. I was really disappointed because I was considering voting for him … but unless I’m really out of town, I always wait to fill out and drop my absentee ballot off at a local polling place on election day.

  9. John Burrows
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 13:39

    Who you ask the question to also makes a difference since high speed rail won’t even reach the starting gate in California until at least 2029.

    Asking a person older than 64 how many train trips they are going to make to Southern California 17 years or more in the future???????? I am 73 and if asked I would have said “several times a year”, But in reality the chances of my making any trips to Southern California some time after 2029 are slim at best.

    Beyond the other end of the table are the “under 18’s”—Today’s toddlers will be college students in 2029. There is a growing movement away from the car, and if it continues, our kids will be much more likely than their elders to take the train by the time they are old enough to vote.

  10. synonymouse
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 14:20

    A couple of off-the-wall observations about, shall we say, phenomena or situations which I think the cheerleaders have missed and just come more to the for in future days.

    1. BART is really riding high right now, triumphal and jubiliant. Ridership is up; new cars on order; ready to occupy San Jose; BART enjoys wide popularity. I suggest that one of the subtler and snider aspects of the Brown-Richard “blend” strategy is a warning to erstwhile Caltrain supporters that if hsr implodes Ring the Bay is a done deal. Ergo no money from the CHSRA to upgrade Caltrain, the latter will be thrown to the BART wolves. As was always the plan.

    2. The single most important issue in California hsr remains the mountain crossing. I agree with Clem that Altamont could rise again no matter what happens with the rest of the hsr routing. But the big bucks and the big travel time differences are to be found at Tejon vs. Tehachapi. I believe there is a sleeper issue here, which you will discover if you read the last PB engineering report on the Quantm mountain crossing alternatives. The revelation contained herein and which I had not grasped heretofore is that the greatest nimby opposition to hsr in the State resides not at PAMPA nor OC but at Santa Clarita. They are in denial that they are sitting right on top of one of the biggest transport corridors in the State. They want to be a resort not a hub. Think again, Santa Clarita. Not only is I-5 and the developer horde not going to go away; in time it will be overwhelming. Accommodating the relatively small footprint of hsr will be the least of their worries.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    BART rides high in popularity today. Wonder what a poll during the early days of construction when Market St. was an open trench and local press screamed daily outrage would have revealed about the public’s feelings.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I was there for all that. Not so bad – BART wanted to replace the streetcars with buses, but Muni prevailed and they did shoeflys.

    Mission Street got hit worse – the trolley coaches had to move over to South Van Ness.

    They could have similarly cut and covered 3rd & Kearny to save money which could have been used to dig out the Broadway tunnel to get to Van Ness.

    Peter Reply:

    Shouldn’t that be “Occupy San Jose”, not “occupy San Jose”?

    lex luther Reply:

    [moderated – off topic. also, lex luther has been banned.]

    synonymouse Reply:

    BART is definitely on a roll. What with the “budget surplus”!? On paper, surely, but this is an evermore powerful entity in the Bay Area. Should the CHSRA derail, BART will be in there first and foremost hoovering up whatever dollars aren’t nailed down. And looking north from SJ to SFO lustfully.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Santa Clarita is a member of OLDA. Look up those jokers, Maglev pictures et al.

    synonymouse Reply:

    In the NorthBay far from SoCal I am ignorant of these juicy details. It could also be that PB, under pressure from the other anti-Tejon regulars, exaggerated Santa Clarita opposition to make it appear hopeless.

    I do recommend reading that report. PAMPA looks downright welcoming to rail by comparison to the Tejon stakeholders. The angst of the engineers is palpable – clearly they wanted to sink their teeth into studying that select route. I daresay that project might snag some engineering awards but instead we’re stuck on a cravenly crapout.

    Jerry claims he is tight – he needs to see past his handlers and grasp that $2bil savings is for real.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    What report are you referring to?

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Elizabeth

    It was linked a few weeks ago. It compares the various alignments that the Quantm software identified in and around Tejon. I was surprized at the “plethora” of lines drawn on the map. What really stood out, and mentioned by the PB engineers, was that most all of the possibilities went thru the same general area at Bear Trap Canyon. No doubt the Tejon Ranch Co. must be keenly aware of this and that they need to erect some imposing physical barrier at the key spot. I doubt that a golf course is imposing enough.

    Did you ever see the picture of the high-rise low-income housing project that the City of LA erected right in front of the mouth of the abandoned PE Hollywood Hills Tunnel? That’s the kind of physical obstruction I am referring to.

    Perhaps Clem can chime in on this report, which he had analyzed and taken apart so expertly.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Can it be re-linked by whoever linked it?

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is called:


    I downloaded on April 13.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    That would be “Conceptual I-5 Document Preparation and Corridor Study January 2012”

    (A simply delightful, delightful URL from the simply delightful and always-being-“relaunched”-and-breaking-every-damned-link CHSRA web CMS)

    Cool URIs don’t change, quoth Tim BL

    Clem Reply:

    Preach it, brother!

  11. trentbridge
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 15:48

    Polls are what silly people waste their time on between elections. Leadership isn’t following polls – it’s seeing the vision of the future that the uninformed majority are missing and acting on basic political beliefs. Gov. Brown is showing great leadership supporting a project like this. Relying on the general public to decide issues like this is inherently stupid. That’s why we have elected officials. They are paid to make difficult decisions. The Academy Awards are based on votes by people in the motion picture business – the MTV awards are voted on by the public. Which do you think has higher value? This poll was not conducted by an independent group to find the truth – it was paid for by political interests opposed to the project. “nuff said.

    joe Reply:

    Polls can be helpful tools but not when the results are read in the LATimes as a tea leaf on how to govern. Polls have voter models and questions.

    Those polled also indicated they were misinformed, fearing HSR has a negative impact on retaining public employees in 2012/2013. It doesn’t. The stimulus helps raise tax revenue.

  12. lex luther
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 16:07

    HAHAHA? Relying on the general public to decide issues like this is inherently stupid? you mean like when the “general public” voted for and made a decision in 2008 to support and fund HSR? that inherently stupid general public? or do you mean that now that support for HSR is dropping, the general public is NOW inherently stupid and should no longer have a say because they dont salute the train?

    and using MTV awards to make a point? really? wow

    trentbridge Reply:

    Dude – I said poll – not ballot issue. I have nothing against democracy when the entire electorate gets to debate an issue. There are ballot arguments sent to every voting household weeks in advance of the election. Prop 28, 29 ring a bell? Hence the term – uninformed. It’s not like the polling company sends you written arguments for or against a position weeks in advance. It’s obvious that polling companies exist to support someone’s existing position not to generate fair unbiased results – they aren’t being paid by a neutral body – like the Women’s League of Voters. There’s a difference.

    And using the MTV awards? I tried to give you a comparison that you might comprehend.

  13. joe
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 19:11

    DOT official: Obama support of high-speed rail ‘remains as strong as ever

    Federal Railroad Administration chief Joseph Szabo said Monday that President Obama is unwavering in his support for high-speed rail projects.
    Since then, a proposed high-speed railway in California that was awarded the most money by the Obama administration has come under fire for escalating costs, and opponents have argued that railways should only be built in the populous northeastern U.S.
    But Szabo said Monday that citizens from other parts of the country also want to have access to high-speed railways.

  14. joe
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 19:56

    NIMBY PAMPA now has a problem with buses.

    CARRD might want to help the out VTA along El Camino.


    Who’s more important — the thousands of car drivers who use El Camino Real daily, or the bus riders who may want faster service from Palo Alto to San Jose?

    The answer so far seems to be bus riders, at least for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

    The agency is pushing hard to get a rapid transit bus system installed along 17 miles of El Camino Real from San Jose’s HP Pavilion to Palo Alto’s downtown train station, at a projected cost of $240 million. The VTA wants $75 million from the feds and will tap Measure A funds for the rest.

    Palo Alto now accounts for about 3,000 riders a day, or 13 percent of the route’s 23,000 riders. The average ride is about eight miles, and if the rapid bus system occurs, the entire route would take 45 minutes.

    Cities along the way are being asked to back the project and decide which lane arrangement they prefer.

    My biggest concern is that El Camino Real is already crowded, particularly at rush hour. So to collapse this major highway into four lanes to accommodate buses, removing one-third of its capacity, seems counter-intuitive.

    In Menlo Park there are only four lanes on El Camino Real, and they are nearly always jammed.

    In Palo Alto, there are two choices. Neither is good.

    The VTA likes its buses. Most of us like our cars. Who’s more important?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    The age pattern seems to hold. Diana Knight, who wrote that piece, has been in journalism since at least the 1960s, when she was a managing editor of the Lerner newspaper chain in the Chicago area; she would have had to be well established–to have a reputation–in journalism in 1978, when she was awarded a Knight fellowship at Stanford, and she has been in California since 1982, which was 30 years ago:




    Translation of all this: She’s part of the big-driving generation, and has no love for alternatives.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Correction, Diana Diamond, that’s what happens when you are going back and forth between pages and writing things.

    Wonder if I need to get a brain transplant. . .

    BrianR Reply:

    It used to be that Palo Alto prided itself on being a so-called “pedestrian and bicycle friendly community” concerned with promoting alternatives to driving. Now it seems like all it cares about is being “car friendly”. Can’t believe I used to think of Palo Alto as a progressive community. I don’t know what’s happened to the place. Seems to be run by a bunch of A-holes nowadays. Every day I seem to get new confirmation Palo Alto is the new “Orange County of the North”.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    What about America itself? I tell you, I look at the political campaigns and more, and more and more I am convinced this nation has lost its collective nerve, its vision, and its ability to think clearly. Among other things, it’s afraid of a true turnback to something better. Somehow, we know we are going in the wrong direction on a lot of things, but we are afraid to turn to some of the things we foolishly threw away.

    I’ve been feeling this way at different times ever since I saw people chanting “USA No. 1!” at sporting events. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be proud of, say, the Olympic athletes we’ve had over the years, but somehow, that talk, which spread beyond the Olympics, just didn’t sound right. The same goes for the people who say, “We’re still the best country in the world.” Maybe, but are we as good as we once were? Are we as good as we aspire to be? Most importantly, do we still aspire?

    I’ve actually had conversations with some family members along these lines, and the reactions were–interesting. The one that stands out was one of my mother-in-law, who said, “How can you ask such a question? How can anyone answer such a question?”

    Nathanael Reply:

    Well, for those of us who don’t have stupid emotional reactions, it’s pretty obvious. The US is far from the best country in the world now (the lack of single-payer health care makes this most obvious); it’s getting worse; and a small elite is actively trying to make it worse.

    Until we recognize that we have problems, we can barely start to fix them.

    joe Reply:

    Maybe this article is not representative.

    The PAMPA area is confused – infill and condos are popping up and I see no interest in anything but charging developers traffic mitigation fees. We use that bus, the 522. People commute long hours to work in the area. WTF?

    I’d like to see CARRD step in and support VTA and BRT on El Camino but frankly I am sceptical it’s anything but a NIMBY org with a happy face. We’ll see.

    Richard White, HSR critic and historian was quoted as saying the bus is for the poor.

    joe Reply:

    Here it is. Why should PA residents have to give up a lane on El Camino so the poor can get to work faster? Huh?!


    KQED: You say there’s no good public transportation in California, even in a city like San Francisco. Explain.

    White: The secret to a good public transportation system is you don’t have a schedule, like in NY and Chicago. You just show up and you know that within 10 or 15 minutes something will come along. When you need a schedule and you miss it and you have to wait 45 minutes or so that’s not a real transportation system. In the Peninsula, bus service is for poor people, because they’re the only ones who are desperate enough to wait an hour for the buses to come along. It would be a joke to try to use public transportation on the Peninsula. We should be creating a structure where these things work.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Do you see Pelosi, Feinstein or Boxer riding the bus?

    Spokker Reply:

    They don’t let firearms on the bus, syn.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They surely have concealed-purse-packing-permits. As Junior Soprano said, “come heavy”.

    BrianR Reply:

    At least the beauty of BRT is that it can be implemented incrementally without every community having to be in support of it all at once. In Palo Alto and other gaps along the line the BRT vehicles will just run in mixed traffic like regular buses (“blended solution”). I think however that VTA is trying to get federal supporting funds and one of the conditions to get BRT funding is at least 50% of the route needs to have dedicated busways.

    I wouldn’t count on CARRD supporting BRT. If anything I would imagine their “done right” approach would advocate for deep bore busway tunnels beneath El Camino throughout it’s length in Palo Alto. And if not that they would say “build nothing at all”.

    Peter Reply:

    Sunnyvale City Council already voted 4-3 against dedicated lanes on El Camino for BRT. Amusingly and unrealistically, the councilmembers who voted against wanted VTA to build BRT on De Anza, not El Camino. In other words, they couldn’t get what they wanted, so they screwed over the others…

    joe Reply:


    MTView too. 4-2 against. They had some decent arguments about improved travel times being small for the effort BUT fail to acknowledge the traffic, in a recession, is bad and growth projections along El Camino are frightening.

    These cities all allow condo and infill development in amounts too small to qualify for CEQA review but collectively are huge. The public transit solutions require EIRs and they are subject to approval city by city. In short. Nothing is going to happen and traffic is going to hell.

    We ride the VTA 22/522 to supplement Caltrain service (not that frequent). Ridership is lower income class and few odd balls like us. I doubt many residents see themselves using the bus and could careless. LA had a similar problem with BRT being opposed by affluent cities along the route despite the system carrying a large fraction of rider-ship.

    Peter Reply:

    At least the 522 in San Jose only needs the support of one city for dedicated lanes…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    LA’s had problems with all sorts of transit. In the 1980s, Waxman passed a federal law banning subway construction under Wilshire due to NIMBY opposition and FUD valid concerns about methane pockets (the ban was lifted a few years ago, with Waxman’s support). In the 90s, Yaroslavsky got anti-density laws passed and also banned rail construction in the Valley, leading to the sub par Orange Line. And now there’s Beverly Hills fighting against the best route for the Wilshire subway on the grounds that the vibrations would damage Beverly Hills High’s oil rig-ridden beauty pristine campus.

    Nathanael Reply:

    LA had astounding amounts of bullshit. I’m glad that somehow the city and county governments have pushed past the bullshit and kept building useful rail lines, enlarging the “Rapid” system, etc.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The BRT proposal is interesting. The main question I have is what problem are you trying to solve and why is this where you put your money.

    The El Camino is a corridor where there should be good bus service, but it is not Geary.
    It is parallel and shares several stations with Caltrain (Palo Alto, Santa Clara, San Jose. Typically you do BRT where you would want to have a Caltrain but can’t.

    El Camino bus service already has incredible high levels of servie (9 buses per hour – 5 local, 4 BRT-lite) and provides fast trip times as the BRT-lite buses have pre-emption ability at most intersections (which analysis shows is frequently used)
    while stations like Caltrain stations like Cal Ave and San Antonio have hourly peak service.

    East-West bus service has terrible service levels as well and then there is the whole issue previously discussed that you have to pay to transfer from a BRT-lite to local el camino bus or from el camino bus to east-west one.

    I’m looking at some commute data. The problems I am seeing are not ones BRT service solves – it is a problem where all the major employers (Cisco, Intel, Apple, Google etc etc) are nowhere close to major transit lines, exacerbated by the fact that San Jose residents live everywhere.

    Peter Reply:

    El Camino Real in Santa Clara County does in fact more east-west than north-south…

    The transfer policy is not as terrible as you make it out to be. If someone is transferring once in one direction, it’s fair to say they’ll be transferring again on the return leg, and don’t have to the equivalent of four fares, assuming they were smart enough to buy a day pass (or just tagged on using Clipper), as the unlimited day pass is the cost of three fares.

    The 522 plus the 22 is VTA’s number one corridor. I’m curious whether you think this is just coincidence, given that you claim BRT would not help the commute issues. Apparently it meets the commute needs of many commuters, just maybe not those working for Cisco, Intel, Apple, Google etc etc. If a lot of people ride it now already, with BRT-lite, wouldn’t it make sense that even more people would ride it as all-out BRT?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    It is number one mainly because it is longer than anything else see page 40 of http://www.vta.org/brochures_publications/pdf/atsp.pdf for more apples to apples

    Peter Reply:

    I’m not seeing where route length has anything to do with 22 and 522 ridership. The diagrams you refer to are boardings per revenue hour. 22 outperforms everything else, and 522 is close to the top.

    BrianR Reply:

    So the 522/22 share exactly 3 stations with Caltrain; 1 at the northern extremity (Palo Alto) and 2 pretty much at the southern end of the route (Santa Clara and San Jose). I never get it when people claim the 522/22 is redundant to Caltrain. I don’t think ‘3’ qualifies as “several”. Yes, the 522/22 route is roughly parallel to Caltrain but south of Palo Alto they become 2 distinct transit corridors and the distance between them widens significantly.

    When you get off Caltrain at any other stops between Palo Alto and Santa Clara you got a bit of a hike if trying to make a transit connection to a bus along El Camino. I agree the VTA needs to improve the service frequency of it’s east/west routes crossing El Camino. Particularly for routes connecting with the Mountain View and Sunnyvale Caltrain stations.

    Maybe the VTA could run a shuttle between El Camino BRT and those Caltrain stations or take the regular 22 route and modify it with “station loop detours” to the Mountain View and Sunnyvale Caltrain stations. If traveling longer distances you would get on the 522 BRT which would of course stick to El Camino and avoid the “station detours”. Just a thought as to how an adjusted route 22 could help feed passengers to both Caltrain and the 522 (true BRT or not) and maximize the utility of all the services.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I am definitely not saying bus service is redundant, but for certain trips along the corridor the right answer is improving caltrain.

    One of the big pitches made in Palo Alto is that Palo Alto to the HP Pavilion could be done in 45 minutes. Caltrain TODAY does that trip in 20 minutes and Mtn View to San Jose is 12 minutes. Caltrain is also generally closer to SV jobs than El Camino.

    It is a matter of thinking about a network. At this point, you have stations like lawrence with 1 train an hour, even during peak, while El Camino bus service is 9 per hour.

    joe Reply:

    Elizabeth –
    There are jobs along El Camino – not high paying jobs ones you’d like your (or mine) kid to work but it is an employment corridor and retail.
    Buses that run every 15 minutes that sit in traffic don’t move very fast.

    Caltrain vs 522.
    We use the 22/522 for our commute into Stanford when we car pool because the headway makes it faster than a caltrain connection. You end up waiting. It’s about as fast a a car. If the BRT is in place it would reduce or at least keep the commute reasonable.

    HP Pavillion- ever try the Giant’s Caltrain – connection? You don’t fit everyone on a single caltrain. 522 is anothe option. Like the 280 and 101.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Here is an example of what I am talking about.

    There is a large office complex in Sunnyvale east of 101 near Mathilda called Moffet Park (http://www.mpbta.org/?news_events.html) Park. From the north there is 12 minute light rail from Mtn View (http://www.vta.org/schedules/SC_902SO_WK.html) .

    From the south, there is a 6-10 minute bus from Sunnyvale (http://www.vta.org/schedules/SC_54NO_WK.html)

    Sunnyvale is 10 minutes via baby bullet from Diridon Station.

    In congested traffic, the drive is 25 minutes Diridon to the business park and frustrating. You have all the pieces to be transit competitive. But then there is the schedule http://goo.gl/maps/AGxK Even if you lived at Diridon schedule, you might end up driving.

    (btw doing this exercise made me realize Sunnyvale probably has a point about need for BRT-ish treatment on Mathilda)

    The bus stop for it is lockheed martin. You have Yahoo hq, juniper networks, Netapp, Lockheed all located there and they all actively promote alternative commutes and there is serious logjam getting off freeway.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    large office park = yahoo, juniper networks, netapp, lockheed, soon to be community college

    Matthew Reply:

    A station loop to MV would be pretty far out of the way for the 22. Anyway, the 35 goes station to station, it’s slow and infrequent.

    BrianR Reply:

    yes, it would be quite a detour but as a percentage of the overall route length of the 22 it’s not that far. For a single all-stops bus service route the 22 is already ridiculously long. I think it would be better structured if the route was designed to connect to a series of transit nodes along the way. Maybe split the 22 line into a series of loops (Palo Alto to Mountain View / Mountain View to Sunnyvale / Sunnyvale to San Jose). It could be called the 22A, 22B, 22C respectively. Make it so you have to get off the bus at the end of the run and transfer to the next 22 loop sequence, 522 BRT or Caltrain depending on which will get you quickest to where you need to go.

    Currently the only people that seem to appreciate that long ride are homeless people and I don’t feel that the VTA should be in the business of operating a mobile homeless shelter. I would gladly pay more taxes to fund homeless shelters instead but many of those people are not quite “mentally fit” and will not accept help even if offered. Otherwise I really hope that for VTA’s future fleet purchases they seriously consider all plastic seating. It’s really important that those buses can be hosed down on the inside and sanitized as much as possible. I use the 522/22 regularly to get to and from Caltrain and I got to say the “cleanliness factor” leaves a lot to be desired. I can understand it as being a turnoff for people that would otherwise consider riding the bus.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The problem with what you call a blended solution for buses is that it slows down buses too much for the concept of BRT to be more than window dressing. The difference in running time between dedicated tracks on the Peninsula and the blended plan is a small number of minutes; most of the difference between the expected Phase 0.5 time and the original 30-minute estimate comes from curves, station throats, and intermediate station stops, rather than from restricting trains to 110 mph rather than 125. In contrast, with buses, a few miles of shared lane can kill any and all speed gains, because the slowdown is much more severe, and the potential for congestion requires more schedule padding.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The question is if you have $200 million in capital and $50 million in operations $/ year to invest – where do you put it?

    Do you put it into improving Caltrain? Do you work on the east west conditions?

    At least on our end of the corridor, there really are not serious problems with travel times. The data I’ve seen suggest that a large percentage of the “unreliability” is because buses are AHEAD of schedule.

    The 522 bus regularly beats cars. The buses are so fast (because they control the lights) that the new game is to get behind a bus. This has actually changed the speeds for everyone on El Camino. Alma used to be twice as fast – El Camino can now be as fast if not faster.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Here is VTA’s comprehensive plan

    Look at page 12 and 13. Page 12 shows where jobs are. You can see caltrain tracks. El Camino is to left / west/ whatever of Caltrain. Which system is better set to serve the bulk of SV jobs?

    Look at page 13. VTA, when looking at transit, does NOT include Caltrain in its routes.

    Peter Reply:

    A different view as to why the city councils are voting against BRT.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Do note: this is an astroturf PR blog from VTA.

    Not that I have any objections to faster and more reliable bus service along El Camino or elsewhere else.

    Peter Reply:

    Correct that it’s a PR blog. Not quite sure if it is rightly considered “astroturf”, given that it is clear who it is run by.

    Peter Reply:

    If you’re referring to 522’s “unreliability” issues, 522 operates on a headway-based schedule, not a timed schedule, IIRC. There are no timed stops. The purpose of 522 is to get passengers to their destinations as quickly as possible.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    There is a published schedule. http://www.vta.org/schedules/SC_522EA_WK.html

    The PLAN is to run headway based. Given the infrequency of cross routes (hourly), this doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think making selective changes along the way to be able to provide very reliable service would make sense – the planning so far doesn’t seem to have been done with this thinking.

    Peter Reply:


    “No Standing Still – Rapid 522 runs on a 15-minute schedule most of the day. Unlike other VTA Buses, Rapid 522 travels as fast as traffic and signals allow. Buses will not sit idle at bus stops when ahead of published schedules.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Correct – but yet it still has a published schedule without any word of warning. You can see why some people might not have a good customer experience.

    Peter Reply:

    Agree that they should post that information on the schedule itself. That has nothing to do with being “unreliable”, though.

    Peter Reply:

    If your 522 bus arrives a few minutes early for your transfer from a “cross route”, then what’s the big deal. And if you miss your 522 bus because it arrived a couple of minutes early, you only have to wait a few minutes until the next one arrives.

    Peter Reply:

    The first part should have been “transfer to” not “from”.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    If people don’t know when the bus is coming and they want to make a cross connection, ‘
    they have to show up for the maximum possible wait and travel time prior to cross connection.

    i.e if route is 15-20 minutes and headways are from 5-17 minutes, someone needs to show up 37 minutes before cross connection.

    If route is ALWAYS 20 minutes and is on schedule, they just need to be there 20 minutes.

    I will often ask people waiting for the bus near me about their commute – and they tell me the above story of how the random schedule extends their commute and how they end up doing a lot of sitting around

    Peter Reply:

    No bus operating in mixed traffic is “always” going to take the same time and arrive on schedule. I grew up in Berlin, and even with a highly efficient bus network, you still frequently miss connections. You deal with it.

    joe Reply:


    Elizabeth is describing the problems with infrequent service on VTA routes off the main 22/522 El Camino and to Caltrain (in our case). It’s less a problem on El Camino since it is so frequent but connections to an infrequent route can be a problem. BRT helps reduce that problem.

    An accurate schedule is possible but not practical. VTA can pad the schedule more and a make a bus sit a a stop to always be on time but be slower.

    Sometimes that happens – sometimes a VTA 168 express leaves Caltrain San Jose for South COunty (Gilroy) conenctions before the Caltrain (ends at San Jose0 arrives and screws over the connections – the VTA says it is the drivers decision to wait or proceed. Since buses are infrequent – that’s a shitty thing to do to customers but it’s done.

    We use the 22 and 522. Traffic makes it hard to figure out sometimes which bus to try – the 22 in the hand or the 522 express in the bush. Connections to other lines are not worth it – we often have to walk.

    One solution is headway – have the bus run and not wait if its early. That’s the proposal for the 522 and it means sometimes you get a local bus.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    If people don’t know when the bus is coming and they want to make a cross connection, they have to show up for the maximum possible wait and travel time prior to cross connection.

    For someone who normally does her homework, your comments on the BRT are bizarre and inconsistent. You complain that the 522 schedule is unpredictable, and yet have issues with the dedicated bus lane solution — the one thing that ensures 100% schedule reliability.

    I would also add BRT substantially lowers operating costs, since fewer buses and drivers have to be kept in reserve for the inevitable traffic delays. That frees up resources for other routes, like the east-west connectors.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Drunk engineer,
    I absolutely agree. If you were doing a Zurich and timetabling and coordinating things and there were several intersections where traffic frequently got stuck and this was causing problems, then you would look at the possibility of dedicated lanes as a solution to a problem.

    In this situation, even after doing dedicated lanes, the buses are still just supposed to be on “headway” basis.

    What is the problem? Are the buses too slow? If they are slow, why are they slow? Too long boarding, bad traffic…

    What is the most economical way to speed up people’s perceived travel times (wait time counts twice that of travel time)?

    For that matter, what is the actual goal of the VTA system?

    At this point, BRT is just a hammer in search of a nail.

    joe Reply:

    The VTA goal is exactly the same goal as Caltrans which is adding additional car pool lanes to 101 in the same area.

    VTA wants to reduce travel time for buses and increase capacity on El Camino.

    Persistent housing development approved by Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale has increased the density along the corridor.

    Menlo Park will expand their downtown along El Camino – Stanford’s 5 B Hospital expansion.

    And eventually growth slows and the google and facebook shareholders will demand they shutdown their free bus shuttles from SF to work and issue a Transportation Pass for workers.

    Given the dynamics of the silicon valley that is well within the timeframe of a being a homeowner.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    And eventually growth slows and the google and facebook shareholders will demand …

    You are hilarious.

    Wrong about everything every single time.

    How do you do it? (“Practice, practice, practice.”)

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    second link should have been http://www.google.com/search?q=brin+page+%22share+classes%22

    joe Reply:

    We’re talking about different things – you’re trolling and bullying.

    Neither company can afford to provide free shuttles in perpetuity and they will move employees to public transit. I do think shareholders will push them to drop the services and they might even push the VTA and local cities to improve transit.

    Even Murdoch isn’t immune from shareholder pressures and the IT industry moves far faster than media.

    Elizabeth Reply:


    From your experience, where is the opportunity for speed up? fare collection? specific intersections?

    Also, do you know if there has been talk about combining 22/522 and the San Mateo el camino routes so you could have one seat Mtn View to Menlo Park or even south Palo Alto to Menlo Park?

    Peter Reply:

    Dedicated lanes.

    joe Reply:

    Good questions.

    I don’t know about 522 into Menlo Park but could ask a co-worker today what he knows – he lives in MP city and is a bike/transit advocate. They have a EIR on the downtown plan that might have some bus mitigations.

    522/22 slow at MTView at Grant road in AM and PM and also California St./Page Mill area and PA transit center can be congested (I think that needs a rework).

    Generally the 522 moves to the middle or left lane so it avoids slowing down with right turning and merging cars – 22 stops too frequently so it’s a right lane bus. Try to pass a 522 sometime – they move fast. A BRT would really help the local 22 if they are allowed in that lane.

    Fare collection… VTA is hard to follow.
    The VTA 35 goes from Mountain view Caltrain – uses Stanford and ends at the Stanford Shopping Center.
    We the 522 or 22 and walk or maybe connect to the 51 if it were there.

    Chicago buses ran on the grid so it was easy as a kid (grade school) to use the bus system. .
    MUNI SF they were less direct but I generally got to know the buses and routes.
    VTA is connect the dots.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    15 minutes is still much more than the maximum for show-up-and-go frequency. In Zurich, where everything is timetabled in even fractions of an hour (15 minutes, 10, 7.5, etc.), they studied when people show up at the bus stop, and found that even with 10-minute frequency, the distribution of when people arrive at the bus stop is not uniform.

    In New York they effectively have show-up-and-go 20-minute frequency on the subway, but that’s because the subway dominates so many other markets that people do not buy cars, and this allows NYCT to get away with some practices that areas with car ownership can’t maintain if they want adequate ridership.

    Peter Reply:

    Final point, your argument poses a false choice. If Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara do not permit dedicated lanes, then they get zilch from the federal government to assist with BRT. The funding would not go to either BRT or Caltrain, it would go to BRT or go somewhere else.

    All that you’re doing is confusing the issue. Again.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Once again, we come back to nuttiness in funding. Most of the money, however, would come from Measure A http://www.vta.org/2000_measure_a/index.html which also allows money to be spent on operations, caltrain electrification and increases in caltrain service.

    Peter Reply:

    Or more likely it would be siphoned off to extend BART to Santa Clara. Practically any use of the funding is preferable to that sinkhole.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    This is supposed to cheer me up?

    Peter Reply:

    Well, if the funding for Santa Clara-Alum Rock BRT is any guide, most of the funding would not be coming from Measure A, but from Prop 1B funding. Although admittedly all of the funding spent on planning so far has in fact come from Measure A.

    Peter Reply:

    VTA hopes to get Small Start funding for El Camino BRT.”

    Matthew Reply:

    Wow, talk about class warfare. She just hates people who ride the bus. Even though there are “tens of thousands” of them, probably more than the cars carry.

    jonathan Reply:

    Say what?? Dedicated bus lanes from Palo Alto Caltrain (which _IS_ where the bus station is) to San Jose HP Pavilion? During rush hour?

    Why not improve Caltrain service, and have an express shuttle from a suitable San Jose station (Cahill St or other) to the HP Pavilion? Is it because Caltrain is more expensive than VTA buses? (Is it?)

  15. Spokker
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 21:11

    Scott Walker, rail foe, stays in: http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/05/politics/wisconsin-recall-vote/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

    I don’t have any particular affinity to Scott Walker, but I think recall pushers were very arrogant. I think this is the correct outcome.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Mostly I’m pissed that they ran the same guy who lost to Walker instead of drafting Feingold.

    Spokker Reply:

    That’s where I think they were arrogant. What did they expect running the same guy?

    joe Reply:

    He was elected in their contested primary.

    Spokker Reply:

    Yeah, they elected to run the same guy. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result, insanity.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The public simply wants to keep the compensation packages under control, not to destroy the unions.

    And as to taxing the rich, they do have the right to complain that their money not be thrown away by incompetents who could never amass that kind of wealth. And believe it PB can really piss away some serious billions on gratuitous hollow core.

    AFAIK the CHSRA has yet to convince Mega-Meg that STilt-A-Rail is money well spent. At least she would have forced PB to make their case and maybe come up with a palette of alternative scenarios. Jerry just bought into DuoSuperSkyRailPB on blind guru faith, and then the Peripheral Canal Redux as well, just like Meg.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ..but is she faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!

    Peter Reply:

    Not sure what anyone cares about what “Meg” thinks. Except for the poor sunzabitches working for HP, of course.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    HP is Carly Fiorina; Meg is eBay.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Me(g)a culpa.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Mega-Meg is very close to Romney, whose long-shot looks a little better than before. If Romney should eke out a surprise victory expect Meg to become the GOP attack person on Moonbeam and his pet project.

    Barack is looking desperate pushing Bernanke to do another quantitative easing. And now there is a major tax policy rift with Bill Clinton. Extending federal tax cuts for the super-rich is totally in conflict with Jerry’s tax initiatives.

    An Obama lack duck term will be a very discontented one. The GOP is going to dig in on budget restraint and they have support from an electorate worried about budgets. There will be great public pressure to preserve social spending at the expense of any infrastructure stimulus.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The exit poll had voters preferring Obama to Romney 51-45.

    WI, PA, VA, CO, and NV based on polling should be categorized as lean Dem rather than as tossups. Add the safe states and that’s already 275 electoral votes for Obama, without Ohio. And Ohio also leans Dem, though perhaps by less.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The rioch have no right to complain that the money they stole might be thrown away. None at all.

    And hell, I could amass more wealth than your average CEO if I were a crook. But I’m not.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Feingold did not run in said primary. My recollection of conventional wisdom from earlier this year is that he would’ve won the primary in a cakewalk if he’d run.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    One thing that’s not well known outside of Wisconsin is that Feingold’s a weak campaigner—1998 should have been a cakewalk for him, but he nearly lost it—even in 2010 he struck a some people as being somewhat uninterested with fundraising or campaigning (my father is friends with one of Feingold’s big fundraisers). Although Feingold was far and away my favorite elected representative when I was a Wisconsin voter (I’m now an Illinois one), he wasn’t the shoe-in a lot of out-of-state people assumed he was.

    I was thinking of mentioning the fact that turnout actually older and whiter than in 2010 as another factor, though Feingold may have helped draw more people in. Still, it’s a recall—it’s not on the normal voting day, and in general Democratic-leaning demographics don’t turn out as strongly when there’s no President on the ballot.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Lack of good candidates, most people felt.

    Peter Reply:

    60% of the voters in exit polls stated that recalls should be for official misconduct only.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Well, then they should have recalled Walker.

    The main problem in Wisconsin is that fewer than 50% of Wisconsinites have even *heard* about the John Doe probe. Walker has three aides indicted, 13 granted immunity, and the net is closing around him. But half of Wisconsin doesn’t even know that Walker has engaged in multiple criminal acts while in office!

    Peter Reply:

    Well, maybe they should have held off on the recall until the fucker gets arrested. Pretty sure that would have made the 7 percentage point difference in a recall.

  16. D. P. Lubic
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 22:20

    Oil’s headed back up again; tell me we don’t need alternatives to driving, tell me we don’t need electric rail service, including HSR:


    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yep. And, credit where credit is due: two times in a row now, Amtrak’s on time.

    Nathanael Reply:

    This is the more important article.


    Honestly, I don’t know what to do about it. Nearly our entire political elite needs to go away (Al Gore is the exception), and the majority of the world population appears to be too poorly educated or too stupid to realize the problem.

    I guess the thing to do is for those of us who see what’s coming to relocate and build survivalist communities which have a chance of surviving the changes, and let all the oil-lovin’ idiots starve to death, but that’s not a nice solution.

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