The Truth About Brown’s HSR Environmental Review Proposal

Jun 5th, 2012 | Posted by

Ralph Vartabedian of the LA Times appears to be on a mission to single-handedly destroy the high speed rail project. His latest biased article claims “Brown seeks to reduce environmental protections for bullet train”. But that’s not what he’s actually proposing. Let’s take a look at the article:

With legal challenges to the California bullet train mounting, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday began circulating proposed legislation designed to significantly diminish the possibility that opponents could stop the project with an environmental lawsuit.

That is an accurate statement. But this part is much less so:

The proposal puts environmental groups in a tough spot. Brown is asking them to agree to water down one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in history, but for a project they support because of its potential to help reduce vehicle emissions and global warming.

That may characterize some environmentalist reactions, but it doesn’t properly characterize what Brown proposes. He’s not actually watering down the California Environmental Quality Act. He’s not proposing that the project get any reduced CEQA review, have to meet fewer CEQA standards, or be exempt from CEQA requirements. Instead he’s proposing this:

It would “prohibit a court” from issuing an injunction or other stop work orders unless those filing the lawsuit show their damages substantially outweigh the harm to the state and those employed by the $6-billion initial phase of the project.

Again, that doesn’t prevent the courts from ensuring that the environmental review of the project meets CEQA standards. Those standards still have to be met. And an injunction or stop work order could still happen, as long as certain sensible standards are met – that proceeding would harm California and the jobs that the environmentally friendly project would create.

This isn’t an attack on CEQA. But it is a reflection of the fact that the current system of environmental review in California, where lawsuits can be easily filed to block environmentally friendly projects, is broken. Rail projects tend to draw these abusive lawsuits more than most other projects. Curbed LA took a look at four rail lines that are getting bogged down by CEQA lawsuits:

The latest legal news comes in regard to the Expo Line, which is now open to La Cienega, opening to Culver City this summer, and under construction to Santa Monica. A group of homeowners in Cheviot Hills sued to put the light rail underground (which would be cost-prohibitive)–they lost their initial case, lost their appeal, and are now attempting to have the state supreme court hear their argument that Metro violated the California Environmental Quality Act by mucking up their environmental studies, Streetsblog reports. The group argues that Metro considered traffic impacts for 2030, but should have looked at present-day traffic. The supreme court could choose not to take the case, leaving the homeowners (known as Neighbors for Smart Rail) without really any other options, or they could take it. If NFSR wins, Metro would have to do another environmental impact report (a lengthy process) and likely put a stop to work. There are dozens of workers already digging up sewer lines, clearing the Expo right of way, and starting to construct stations, but NFSR is digging in with hopes of stopping all that (for whatever reason). A judge previously ruled that NFSR would have to pay Metro’s legal fees, but Metro mysteriously tells us they currently aren’t owed any fees. Whether that means NFSR already paid up, or doesn’t have to pay yet, Metro isn’t saying.

CEQA wasn’t meant to give fuel to NIMBYs, but that’s precisely what’s happening now. It’s not a good or effective or sensible planning process. The status quo doesn’t produce better projects. It doesn’t help the environment. These lawsuits are undermining public faith and confidence in the environmental review process in California, and the recent trend of legislative action on specific projects is a reflection of the failure of the status quo.

Environmentalists defend the current system at their peril. We need good environmental review and we need to get green projects built fast if we’re to have any hope of addressing global warming and reducing pollution. Jerry Brown’s proposal leaves CEQA intact for the HSR project while reducing the possibility that frivolous lawsuits would slow this environmentally friendly project down. If environmental groups are uncomfortable with it, they need to begin turning their attention to revising the environmental review process in California so that we can have a workable planning process rather than a system that enables NIMBYism and causes project costs to rise, discrediting many good and important projects.

  1. D. P. Lubic
    Jun 5th, 2012 at 23:56

    I took a look at the Neighbors for Smart Rail site, and one of the things that stood out was a little slide show featuring grade crossing accidents on the Blue Line. What was most interesting was that of the three photos, two showed involvement of police cars–translation, the cops, who should be the best at obeying traffic laws and in driving skill, can’t stay out of the way of a trolley car:

    Home page for above:

    Nathanael Reply:

    Cops in NYC drove their cars over a bike-only pathway on a bridge for no good reason. Actually, they’ve done it on multiple occasions and multiple bridges, but here’s one of the many examples:

    We have a problem with bad cops in a lot of the US.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    As one of the denizens of Watts put it: “They are just another gang”

  2. morris brown
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 05:03

    The proposed CEQA exemption language can be viewed at:

    Robert here writes complete nonsense. Spending 750 words while trying to convince anyone that what is being proposed here is anything other than an attack on the whole issue of environmental protections that as been such a hallmark of California law.

    Robert, yes the courts can still issue judgments, but take away the penalties, and you have nothing. Robert, this is absolutely an attack on CEQA, nothing more, nothing less.

    Peter Reply:

    “take away the penalties”

    Actually, I think that this is actually has two critical components. First, it declares that the segmentation approach postponing the decision of where to place the wye that is used by the Authority is legitimate.

    And second, it adds the word “significant” to the “balancing of the harms” element of granting an injunction. This ensures that CEQA cannot be used as a delay tactic, protecting the project and the State from the loss of billions in federal funding. As a result, the parties have more to gain from a negotiated settlement than they do from drawing a hard line.

    Note that full mitigation of all impacts is still required, and can be required after-the-fact; even if an injunction was not issued to stop a particular element of construction, mitigation is still required.

    slackfarmer Reply:

    Yeah, this isn’t the gutting of CEQA some are claiming. Rather it should be seen as an act to prevent NIMBYs from using CEQA as a weapon to screw California out of 3+ billion in federal funds.

    Nathanael Reply:

    This doesn’t remove any of the actual penalties. It removes the ability to issue preliminary injunctions based on trivia. Normally it shouldn’t be possible to get preliminary injunctions based on trivia, but as we’ve seen in Farmingdale, it is sometimes possible to do so under the current interpretation of CEQA.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Excuse me. “At Farmdale” on the Expo Line, not “in Farmingdale”. Brain fades often lately…

  3. morris brown
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 05:12

    The CEQA exemption is going to be rushed through the legislature by Steinberg, whose plan is to bypass committees, thus bypassing public comment; apparently the idea is to get it diretly to the State Senate floor. It is throughly disgusting in terms of what it proposes and in terms of how to get it passed.

    Again read what Gary Patton has written on this:

    All of this from the Democratic party and its leadership.

    Alan Reply:

    Patton’s desperate. If the Governor puts a stop to frivolous CEQA lawsuits, Patton might just have to go out and build a real law practice.

  4. joe
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 06:37

    Ralph Vartabedian of the LA Times appears to be on a mission to single-handedly destroy the high speed rail project.

    Opponents know: Stop HSR now or never.

    thatbruce Reply:

    With the subtext ‘Stop HSR Forever’.

  5. morris brown
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 08:25

    Here the title says it all…

    The Economist:

    High-speed rail in California
    The death knell for high-speed rail in America?

    StevieB Reply:

    So you support the conclusion of the article?

    Unless California’s leaders are truly committed to pushing high-speed rail forward—and spending political capital to do so—this plan is probably doomed. And when it comes to high-speed rail, as goes California, so goes the nation.

    California leaders are spending political capital. Opponents are clinging to any threads of encouragement.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Exhibit A

    synonymouse Reply:

    Don’t you think that such a conclusion is more than a bit overblown?

    Tehachapi Stilt-A-Rail is a terrible starter hsr scheme. It is a scabbed-together make-work welfare project whose immediate and primary raison d’etre is to provide LA with a free quasi-BART to Palmdale. Every attempt to rationalize the plan has been spurned by the CHSRA, which is its own worst enemy.

    Just ask the average voter where he or she would locate a high speed rail system connecting LA and SF. Buyers remorse is inevitable with such a disconnect from the obvious and intuitive.

    J. Wong Reply:

    I guess I should ask the average voter to design the new 2nd floor addition to my house rather than having an architect do it!

    synonymouse Reply:

    If it is an architect who in his real life is a machine politician you would be better off.

    Seriously the experts were never allowed to do their job properly due to vetoes exercised by political pimps. Your second floor is being designed by influence peddlers.

    VBobier Reply:

    Says You, a person on the outside looking in, just how would You know? I doubt You could do as well or even better for that matter.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There are always influence peddlers; there always have been, there always will be. Nobody CARES as long as the train actually gets built!

    Demand for rail service is only going up. Anyone who participates in killing passenger train service should expect to be vilified by their own children.

    jonathan Reply:

    Synonymouse is interested in an SF-LA “racetrack”, and nothing but a racetrack.

    in Synoinymouse’s view,_any_ route which detours from a good “racetrack” route, exists only because of corruption and incompetence (or both).

    The notion that people might consciously design an HSR line to serve _California_, instead of just the Bay Area and LA, is foreign to Synonymouse’ world.

    (we’ve had this conversation before. I sincerley don’t think I’m putting words in Synon’s mouth. But his opinion is definitely not subject to change.)

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Racetrack – aka I-5 median or the like – could prove to be a genuine bargain and avoid farmer opposition. Definitely should be considered for a starter hsr.

    Altamont also sports some significant benefits. There is a reason it is the primary entree to the central Bay Area.

    But the biggie is Tejon – much more direct than Tehachapi via the optimum route. Now that it is becoming clearer that Las Vegas moguls are implicated in pushing the Palmdale deviation what disgusting buffoonery. Sin City was a 20th century by-product of California blue laws. Now that California is broke and drifting towards anything goes whatever attractions Sin City has to offer will be built here with the money staying in state. Don’t give Adelson or Wynn a penny of our money, especially now that they are sending their fortunes to places like Macau. You’ve got to be nuts to spend any California funds on Deserted Xpress.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I wonder if Morris took a look at the following comments:

    From Arturo C.:

    “As a frequent visitor to the US, I still can’t understand how a rich and powerful country that managed to get men on the Moon cannot build a reliable and advanced HSR network like other considerably less rich and powerful countries managed to do since the 1960s.

    “To all those who decry the high costs of building and maintaining such a rail network in a vast country, the solution is right there: slap a $5-a-gallon tax on gasoline. You’ll see how the majority of people will switch almost overnight to public transportation, allowing the respective companies to run at a profit and even getting more funds for its expansion. Those who still want to drive can always carpool, or move near their workplaces. There will be much less DUI arrests and road accidents overall, and the environment will benefit too.

    “In almost ALL European countries gas costs around $8 a gallon, and nobody complains about that. HSR there is a reality, and also rail travel between the UK and the mainland. It only takes foresight, a pinch of goodwill and some common sense…”

    From Doubter:

    “I suggest a nice drive down I5 from SF to LA to make somebody desirous of HSR. Especially around a holiday, or if they have experienced HSR in other countries. And in 50 years, when fuel prices are much higher, and people’s city cars are low-range electrics, the train’s efficiency will be ever more valuable.”

    Abiezer Coppe:

    “This is the best option for solving transportation and the ensuing energy costs in the US. If the GOP has an option that doesn’t involve bankrupting citizens with skyrocketing gas prices, I’d support it.

    “TE likes to point out that Americans seem to be a pretty glum bunch lately, utterly dejected and brimming with self-pity as we are apparently not living up to a birthright of awesomeness accomplished with minimal effort. Japan has an excellant high speed rail system, and China’s works (relatively) well. If the US cannot find the will to solve its tranportation and energy issues when the model is clearly evident, we ought to feel dejected.”

    cynical reader:

    “Sorry to be a party pooper but face the facts:

    “1. The US is way larger than all of Western Europe put together (or Japan).

    “2. China’s population is four times that of the US. Meaning if car ownership levels even reached half of America’s population they would not be able to afford all that oil. Not to mention they would not be able to breathe due to smog and pollution.

    “3. If any of you have ever lived in America and driven the country like I have (from coast to coast) you’d realize this entire place is built for cars and cars only (maybe except New York city and Washington DC). There’s no train station even close to the Grand Canyon or many of the parks. Even smaller cities are impossible to get around since they are all spread out by roads. Just crossing my street is crossing four lanes of high speed traffic There’s the interstate system which accommodates trucks to take perishable stuff. And each city has its own numerous highways and main roads that lead out to suburbs and counties etc.

    “4. America has quite a few airports. NYC area has JFK, La Guardia and Newark. Southern Florida has Miami International, Ft Lauderdale. Not to mention numerous airfields and smaller airports.

    “5. Railways that are present and intersect with roads already take cargo such as concrete, steel, chemicals etc.

    “6. A ton of jobs are created by highways (gas stations, motels, restaurants along the Interstates)

    “I honestly had no idea where these bullet trains were going to run. Too much of the country is built and linked a particular way. The money would have best been spent by upgrading some of the shabbier airports (La Guardia is a dump), fixing the bridges and repairing the potholes on the highways. But this thing was just doomed and a bad idea. Not to sound arrogant but America can’t be compared to most places so get over it.”

    Wild Northlands:

    “Just as an example of how off-the-wall these comments by people like “cynical reader” are, the Grand Canyon actually has it’s own station run by the the Grand Canyon Railway, and it’s not too difficult to connect from Amtrak at Williams. How can you give credence to these “America was made for cars” comments when the people who make them know so little about their own country?”

    Ah, yes, the Grand Canyon Railway:,mod%3D11&q=grand%20canyon%20railway&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=9CrQT9TsC4P48wTQlZi_AQ&biw=1024&bih=677&sei=jyvQT7TLMJGB0QGb_qXxDQ

    The station at the Grand Canyon, built by the Santa Fe, and in service today:

  6. Zach D
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 08:40

    @Morris, I am sure the question has been asked, but I have to know…have you ever ridden a high speed train before? Do you truly grasp the difference between Amtrak and HSR? Or is your ideology so entrenched that you would rather sink with the ship then even admit that there is a future and real economic value to building an HSR system.

    If even half of you the HSR opponents actually rode a true high speed rail train, you would start to understand what this Country is missing out on.

    Welcome to the 21st Century my friend.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    I would truly love to know how “personal experience riding a high speed train” equates to “knowledge of future and real economic value to building an HSR system.”

    Zach D Reply:

    There is a direct corollary between riding on a true high speed train and understanding its potential and economic value. Most people’s World views come from what they know and what they have experienced. In this case, relatively few Americans actually know what HSR is like…but they do know Amtrak, so the two are often compared. But if you have ever ridden a high speed train, you understand that there is a vast difference between these two forms of passenger rail. Also, when you ride a high speed train, you understand why it gets the ridership projections that it does and why is it very reasonable to expect that HSR will be competitive with airlines in a span such as SF to LA.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    OK. I’ve ridden high speed trains in a dozen countries.

    That makes it easier to recognise PB’s scheme for California as a bullshit scam devised by sub-simian transportation engineers in pursuit of maximum private profits in the “design” and construction — but not operation — phases.

    Nathanael Reply:

    It’ll still be a perfectly good train, even if the costs are inflated.

    synonymouse Reply:

    NdeM cantenary to Queretaro was a perfectly good train.

    Hell the Narrow Gauge Circle in Colorado was a perfectly good train. All lost.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Regarding Mexico: It is true that if you elect right-wing privatization-mad lunatics, you can destroy anything.

    Nathanael Reply:

    FYI, Mexican industrialists and even financiers (such as Carlos Slim) want their passenger trains back. This is a split between the industrialists and the right-wing orthodoxy. We’ll see how long it takes the industrialists to win; it usually doesn’t take more than 10 years, because right-wingers are generally propped up by industrialist support.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Who are they going to support, the PRD?

    VBobier Reply:

    Costs of HSR Construction inflated? Excuse Me, but comparing costs overseas with costs here is an Apples to Oranges comparison & as a result is worthless, a Red Herring.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    No it isn’t. We aren’t building some sort of magical HSR. Simple PPP is perfectly appropriate for it.

    morris brown Reply:

    @Zach D

    Yes indeed I have ridden the Shinkansen. I have never claimed that it is not a great way to travel. But this project has been the worst planned and executed HSR project ever. It was designed by politicians rather than professionals and it deserves to go nowhere.

    It has been a sham from the beginning with all of the lies about ridership and costs.

    In fact anyone seeing what has taken place should realize it is going nowhere. Even if they manage to build the 130 miles in the Central Valley, that will be the end.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Luckily for us, it’s not going nowhere. It’s going from LA to Fresno at a minimum. So thbbpt.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Nathaniel: There are no plans in the early stage to “go from LA to Fresno” or anywhere. These morons want to stop somewhere in the San Fernando valley, perhaps here in Burbank, 12 miles from LAUS.
    The problem with the supporters on this blog (most of them anyway) is that they support HSR, not effective transportation. HSR is not an end in itself, It is not magically successful or profitable simply because it is HSR. I among many believe that the current project is a catastrophe for passenger rail, “classic” and high speed. The way the political tide is running we will for sure have a stranded asset in the central valley for many years or until it is scrapped.
    OCTA, Will Kempton et al are right. There is only one place to start and that is bridging the gap in the existing state passenger rail map and building out incrementally from there. The current CHSRA/PB game of “Call My Bluff” is a shameful waste of taxpayers money.

    morris brown Reply:

    @ Paul Dyson

    Thanks for your outstanding post. Unfortunately for California, people like Rod Diridon and Judge Kopp somehow managed to persuade the Legislature that HSR was the answer to a problem that doesn’t exist and rather than propose a really useful rail system we got AB-3034 / Prop 1A.

    Governor Brown is on a mission to make this project his legacy. It will become a legacy that he would rather forget

    The California HSR project has become a dirty subject in Washington DC and further Federal funding will not be forth coming. The Authority’s dreams of huge revenue from Cap-and-Trade, their back up plan, are simply off the wall. So indeed if built, the 130 miles of tracks will be stranded.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I realize you think nobody ever has to travel from SF to LA, or from LA to the Central Valley, but you’re crazy.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The San Fernando Valley idiocy is the most rectifiable of them. It costs, what, $100 million to electrify from Sylmar to LAUS? It’s peanuts; it’s less than the cost of all those extra diesel locos, yards, and shunting moves, independently of the enormous difference in ridership.

    The problem is that they don’t have money to get there, and because of the recent rejection of Tejon, they’re making it harder to get sufficient money. This is an old mistake, starting with the EIR work for the CV, Peninsula, and LA Basin rather than for LA-Bakersfield, but even now they’re programming money for Fresno-Merced instead of for completing the ICS to Bakersfield.

    Nathanael Reply:

    It’s going to go from LA to Fresno, minimum. I realize you believe that there will never be any more money, but that’s just depression speaking, Paul. LA City & County governments aren’t stupid and are good at throwing its weight around.

    Nathanael Reply:

    For utter clarity on this point, please note that Metro in LA is working out how to retrofit Union Station for northbound trains and is actively cooperating with CHSRA to clear the obstacles to Union Station – San Fernando Valley high speed tracks.

  7. Reality Check
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 09:33

    Supers OK ballot measure to [permanently] double Alameda Co. sales tax for transportation (Livermore BART)

    Among the allocations would be $400 million for a BART extension to Livermore. All public transit systems in the county would get money for operations, with AC Transit getting the largest share — nearly $1.5 billion.

    The Alameda County Transportation Commission crafted the plan for the tax over two years. Officials at the agency said the higher tax is essential to provide a reliable stream of money for transportation after years of reductions in state and federal assistance.

    The measure would double and indefinitely extend an Alameda County half-cent transportation sales tax, Measure B, that is scheduled to expire in 2022.

    The full sales tax rate in most Alameda County cities is 8.75 cents per dollar of taxable goods.
    Forty-eight percent of the money from the 1 cent tax would be for public transit, 30 percent for local streets and roads and 9 percent for freeway projects to unsnarl traffic.

    Some skeptics have said making the tax permanent gives the public little say over the big spending plan.

    In response, Alameda County Transportation Commission officials said county residents would get to vote before 2042 on a new list of tax-funded projects. After that, ballot measures on the projects would be held every 20 years.

    Reedman Reply:

    FYI —
    California has a state sales tax rate of 7.25%. California limits the amount that localities can add to this rate to 2.5% (for a maximum allowed rate of 9.75%, which has been reached in a couple of LA County cities). Alameda County wants to increase the transportation tax to make sure it gets the sales tax money, and not the cities or other government entities in the county (Union City presently has a 9.25% sales tax, so this move by Alameda County would put those folks at the limit, for example).

  8. missiondweller
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 10:27

    “Environmentalists defend the current system at their peril. We need good environmental review and we need to get green projects built fast if we’re to have any hope of addressing global warming and reducing pollution.”

    I strongly agree with this statement and would just point out that the same CEQA laws that slow environmental projects also prevent businesses from expanding and growing jobs here in CA.

    Sonic, I believe, made the decision to not expand anymore in CA, even as they planned to add hundreds of new stores in Texas. Not for a lack of demand, but because CEQA laws made it too onerous to expand here in CA.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    CEQA absolutely has a purpose, but the law is being abused. Gary Patton is planning to abuse a law I am sure he helped formulate. Yes, he and others do this at their peril. With great projects (for the environment) getting screwed left in right in process hell, there is going to be more and more pressure to reform the law. If the enviros don’t come to the table on this and acknowledge some “good” reform is needed to allow environmentally positive projects to move forward in a reasonable fashion, then what they will get a bad reform that could help bad projects too.

    Alan Reply:

    If Patton wants to know who’s really responsible for the Governor’s CEQA proposal, he need only look in his bathroom mirror.

  9. thatbruce
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 10:30

    OT: Ray Bradbury died today. Apart from being a well-known scifi author, he was also occasionally active in public transit meetings in LA.

    Spokker Reply:

    He was also a big Disneyland fan, so coupled with his public transit interest, I was quite aware of him and his work and personality beyond his books. He thought Los Angeles’ initial opposition to monorails was a boneheaded move, and I agree. He also initially defended Disneyland in the press when some critics called it a kiddie park.

  10. John Nachtigall
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 12:58

    For once…I could not agree more with this blog. The CEQA is totally abused to halt progress. And I am glad to see that we can all come together to change a flawed law.

    So I will support this exception…as soon as it is applied to all projects. Because if it is abused for HSR, it is also abuse for other projects, like fracking, and offshore drilling, projects like shopping malls and condos. You see one man’s frivilous NIMBY lawsuit is another man’s “good fight against the corporate evils”.

    So if they are willing to change the law (not just for HSR) I think it is a great idea. Otherwise no, you have to treat everyone the same.

    Nathanael Reply:

    This exception wouldn’t help fracking or offshore drilling projects — both of those cause *real*, irremediable environmental damage of the sort which, under Brown’s proposal, *would* cause injunctions to be issued.

    Fracking causes earthquakes and poisons water supplies, while making global warming worse. Offshore drilling threatens numerous endangered species and the entire regional fishery, while making global warming worse.

    So I’m totally happy to apply this exception in general, because it wouldn’t help any of your environmentally destructive pet projects one bit.

    As for condos and shopping malls — if they threatened endangered species or were built without consideration for drainage (so that they made flooding worse) — or eliminated large quantities (not small quantities) of prime agricultural land when brownfield alternatives were readily available — why then they would also be rejected *even with Brown’s rule change*. If they just meant that some traffic light had somewhat more traffic, then they’d be allowed. That’s as it should be, right?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So then you agree the law should be changed?

  11. Reality Check
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 13:05

    Ministers to rethink HS2 track-share after Mayor warns of chaos on Overground

    Ministers have agreed to rethink plans for new high-speed trains to share tracks with commuter [Caltrain] services in north London [SF Peninsula] after Boris Johnson warned they would cause chaos on the Overground, it emerged today.

    Under the £33 billion HS2 project, trains were set to run from Birmingham [LA] to Europe [SF] by passing through a bottle-neck in Camden [PAMPA] used by Overground [Caltrain] services.

    The Mayor feared this would hit “reliability and performance” on the [Caltrain] commuter line and prevent future upgrades. He demanded changes by Transport Secretary Justine Greening.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The bottleneck in North London is a much more severe bottleneck than Caltrain; it’s not just used by commuter services every 15 minutes (more planned), it’s also one of the main freight connections for the *entire country*. And it’s two tracks.

    nick Reply:

    funnily hs2 in the uk is criticized by some who claim that it has too much capacity and that the enlarged london euston station (terminus for intercity trains from the north west ie birmingham and manchester) is overkill yet at the same time the mayor of london is saying that there will be so many passengers at euston that a new underground line will be required !

    similarly the current plan to have a single track connection from hs2 to hs1 using part of a very busy railway is rightly criticized for being inedequate as will not allow more than 3 international trains to run direct. cross country freight trains which use this north london line as mentioned by nathanael will be diverted via a more direct but non-electrified route but at the same time a new container terminal will eat up the released capacity. and since the london orbital became the responsibility of transport for london (london overground – clever that) it has become very popular even though trains have already been lengthened.

    to summarize, the hs1/hs2 connection needs to be a direct double track tunnelled connection as it will become a serious pincpoint that will severely compromise service reliability.

    finally to comment on the sales tax increase mentioned in alameda county, i find it amazing that they are only going to use 1% for public transit and far more then that on widening freeways. this doesnt work at unsnarling traffic it only creates more traffic more pollution and accidents. for a uk example, try using the widened m25 london orbital motorway, otherwise know as the worlds largest car park or chris rea’s Road to hell !!

    due to massively expensive fuel and also traffic jams i guess there has been less road traffic but more rail passengers in the uk for several years now particularly since the london birmingham manchester scotland line was upgraded to 125 mph running with new tilting trains recently lengthened to 11 coaches. in some stretches the m1 and m6 and the wcml railway are side by side and you can be driving along at what you think is a good clip (ie north of 70mph the current limit) if in light traffic (not often)and you get blown away by a 125 mph pendolino.

    Reality Check Reply:

    @nick wrote “they are only going to use 1% for public transit and far more then that on widening freeways”

    You got that wrong. Here’s what the article said about that:

    Forty-eight percent of the money from the 1 cent tax would be for public transit, 30 percent for local streets and roads and 9 percent for freeway projects to unsnarl traffic.

    nick Reply:

    how are they going to unsnarl highway traffic without building more lanes – some kind of control system ? my point was in this day and age, when we know that reducing congestion on roads just brings more traffic and when we have environmental and pollution problems from road traffic not to mention the costs of oil, that it is actually foolish to not be trying to provide better public transport. so spending only 1% of the tax on public transit is very short sighted. do we not learn anything from history and our experiences !

    Reality Check Reply:

    I guess you’re just not able to read this correctly. They’re spending 48% of the tax on transit.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “funnily hs2 in the uk is criticized by some who claim that it has too much capacity ”

    Silly people. The main justification for HS2 is that the West Coast Main Line is full, extremely full (and already running at 125 mph).

    Thanks for making the point that they’re building a new freight route but that it will be promptly filled up with shipping from a new container port.

  12. morris brown
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 15:10

    Sierra Club California issue strong letter against the CEQA exemption for the HSR project

    The letter can be viewed at:

    Ending sentence

    “In the interest of the environment, and in the interest of rebuilding public support for rail in this state, we urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to abandon the proposal to weaken environmental review for the high-speed rail system.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Funny how you a$$holes are all of a sudden so concerned about the environment. Pretty pathetic if you ask me.

    Peter Reply:

    Uhhh, the Sierra Club is not “all of a sudden so concerned about the environment”. It’s kind of the Sierra Club’s purpose.

    Reality Check Reply:

    I read @Tony’s comment as being about how anti-HSR NIMBYs (like Morris) are now suddenly quoting the pro-HSR (earlier, at least) Sierra Club because anti-HSR folks see them as being suddenly useful on the CEQA issue.

    joe Reply:

    Somewhat correct – Morris has objected to other projects like large scale housing proejcts on the bay side using the EIR.
    Menlo Park routinely uses EIR to obtain traffic mitigation money and then allows the development. Stanford’s Hospital paid MP 3.5 M for traffic mitigation is a recent and they had the hammer to hit Facebook if they so choose.

    CEQA is a tool – the environment is “my back yard”.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Correct RC.

    flowmotion Reply:

    On a local level, the Sierra Club also performs an NIMBY-function, e.g. they were instrumental in keeping BART out of Marin County. So it’s not a surprise that their interests are aligned with their wealthy suburban supporters.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Sierra Club does not hold that kind of power anywhere. At one time Marin was more hippy-dip than today but the Ghilottis have always wielded more influence than any “tree-huggers”.

    In the first place the GG Bridge did not want BART because it has always reserved that second deck for automobiles that pay lucrative tolls. BART over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is moronic, as there is hardly enough business for a bus route.

    There is a handful of BART fanboys who write letters to the IJ pining for broad gauge. But the truth is that most all of Marin does not want BART because it will ferry in drug dealers and gang bangers from Oakland and Richmond to hang out in San Rafael, etc and cause trouble. Marin has been trying to wall off the Canal and Marin City for years. It is a class and money thing.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Marin does not want BART because it will ferry in drug dealers and gang bangers from Oakland and Richmond

    Like it ferries them to Dublin or Fremont…

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Good thing drug dealers and gang bangers are not allowed to drive automobiles!

    flowmotion Reply:

    Try driving a car with “dubs” into Marin county and count the seconds before you are pulled over for some imaginary traffic offense.

    That’s why I always take public transit when transporting my stolen TV sets.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Marin County Jail regularly provides 3 hots and a cot for low lifes commuting to the scene of the crime from Alameda County.

    You need to watch some tv news. The Marin locals do and that’s why they would vote solid no on BART from the East Bay.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’ll make housing there more affordable.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    The sierra club is not a group of environmentalists. Environmentalists don’t have that much clout. Only well connected lawyers and politicians have that much clout. The sierra club is a just a gaggle of well heeled lawyers who represent well heeled middle and upper middle class white people who have theirs and don’t want those other folks to get any access to “their” pristine playgrounds.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Sierra Club is Bohemian Grove, just like Jerry, Dianne, Nancy, Barbara, Gavin.

    flowmotion Reply:

    They let women into the Grove now? (Besides the hookers that is.)

    Michael Reply:

    No hookers and no women visitors during encampment but women servers at mealtime. Hookers stay across the river.

    synonymouse Reply:

    A better description of politicians you could not find.

    BrianR Reply:

    the sierra club also sends me reams of junk mail every year asking for my donations. I would like to say I responsibly recycle all that paper but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it just piles up so quickly you have no time to sort and got to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Straight to landfill courtesy of the sierra club.

    flowmotion Reply:

    I stopped donating to the sierra club for exactly this reason; they sold my address to every borderline “save the cute animals” cause as well as a bunch of scammy-sounding outfits such as “green cell phones”.

    peninsula Reply:

    I would have been shocked by any other response from Sierra Club. The proposal by Brown to trash California environmental law protections just reeks of desperation, vanity, selfishness. He’s so interested in his dreamful high speed rail that he’s willing to trash decades of hard won and hard fought protections – (yes difficulty in getting major impactful projects done is precisely that protection). If he and his little lap dogs (like Cruikshank and Galgiani) were allowed to get this through – instead of HSR as his legacy, his legacy will be oil rigs on our beaches. With this move Brown proves himself nothing but a pathetic, desperate, narcissistic sell out to the unions/developers. I’m glad to see the big guns, and not just the neighborhoods are going to fight this.

    joe Reply:

    Horrible just horrible.

    Of course we’re doomed with the status quo so let’s keep pretending there’s no urgency and send the ARRA funding back.

    A screwed up economy and chronic unemployment – car based transportation system and more planes roads and airports will protect the environment for future generations.

    Halting HSR with injunctions over the impact to almond pollination by bees (that are trucked around the state) while we allow pesticides and GM plants which harm bees is nuts but that’s the steady state system we have.

    Alan Reply:


    Good lord. Bring a little common sense to a badly abused law, and people think the world is going to stop turning. CEQA is not being trashed. The bar is simply being raised high enough to make it difficult to file the BS, NIMBY nuisance sort of lawsuits. Nothing will prevent a court from enjoining construction if there is a real, serious and unmitigated problem in an EIR.


    nick Reply:

    If hsr were cancelled on environmental grounds we have to look at what this would mean for future emissions and land take from the other more polluting forms of transport. in other words, the alternatives are far worse for the environment. in terms of the different types of pollution ie visual, noise and air pollution, it is the latter that can potentially affect your physical health. the others may affect your lifestyle or your view or disturb your peace but they dont fill your lungs with crap !

    it is high time we realised that we cannot go on polluting and using natural resources at will nor should we put up with the daily slaughter on our roads. call me a socialist if you like it is a tag a will happily carry, but there is a massive economic cost to the world from pollution and obsession with personal transportation and related oil consumption.

    the cost of not building hsr is most definitely not zero it is more than the cost of hs2. lets read the writing on the wall for a change and not just dismiss it as graffiti

    nick Reply:

    sorry i am in the uk where even the right wing conservative government is investing heavily in rail so i tend to use the terms hsr and hs2 interchangeably ! i live in the uk but was born in california so i strogly support cahsr as well as uk hs2 (london to birmingham and eventulally leeds manchester and sheffield). interestingly hs2 is also a blended solution as through trains will run onto existing lines from day one. initial time savings will be about 35 minutes on all trains using the london birmingham hs2 pretty good on an approx 120 mile journey. when the second leg is built manchester will be just over an hour to london (approx 190 miles) and just over 3 hours to paris.

    many of the criticisms are similar and are mostly from those who will be affected by its construction and small loss of land or by those who wont benefit. critics use other reasons such as cost and environmental concerns or suggest alternatives but at the end of the day it comes down to people not wanting hsr near them.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    and the costs are similar. I think the last estimate for HS2 is £35bil, roughly $50bil (?).

  13. D. P. Lubic
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 17:41

    Off topic, but a bit of fun and nostalgia–Google’s “doodle” that pays tribute to the 79th anniversary of the first drive-in theater, complete with lighting bugs, a girl who wants to cuddle with her boyfriend in a car with fins, popcorn, and a monster movie:

  14. Henry Porter
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 18:46

    Every time I check in on you idiots, you’re still pissing up the same rope. Get over it, will you? The train is not going to happen.

    Peter Reply:

    Then don’t worry about it.

    Henry Porter Reply:

    What, me? Worry?

    I’m enjoying this.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The train is going to happen, just like BART broad gauge happened. You are underestimating the monentous power of corruption. The Pelosi Machine is like the Titanic’s iceberg; it brings a world of hurt.

    synonymouse Reply:


    nick Reply:

    one way of telling when someone is losing a debate or argument is that they start hurling abuse. and at the risk of stirring up a hornets nest synonymouse you mention corruption in every post ! could it not be that they want to build hsr because it is a good idea whose time has come – you cant always see everything as a bechtel and pelosi conspiracy !

    synonymouse Reply:

    Jerry is fully intending to ram thru a thoroughly inferior and extravagant version of hsr as his personal legacy. He is a cog in the State Democratic Party machine of which Nancy Pelosi is the de facto boss. No argument there.

    This machine is corrupt in that it takes invariably takes care of its “friends”, such as PB. You don’t need to ask who’s going to get the contract. It is corrupt in that it directs taxpayer monies to union operations and then these unions send a nice chunk of dues back to the machine hacks as campaign contributions. In Douchetown one of the Machine hacks, the Assessor, sells 50% reductions in assessments to in return for campaign contributions. A Burton family member gets appointed to a cushy state position responsible for preventing nepotism.

    It is corruption “whose time has come”. And always will.l

    Alan Reply:

    Oh, golly gee. We should all give up and go home. The Great Henry has decreed that nothing will ever change.

    Henry Porter Reply:

    Have you seen the polls? Have you been following Congress? Not many people left who will feel any remorse when this train inevitably runs off the tracks. The train is dead. You’re all pissing up a rope. Yes, you should give up and go home…TAKE A BUS!

  15. D. P. Lubic
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 21:38

    While looking through some other material, I came across these:

    I’ve said it before, and I repeat it again: we need, NEED an alternative to cars, we NEED an alternative to oil-based transport. Indeed, no matter what anybody says, we will eventually get it. The question will be, will we get it fast enough to avoid living like people in Afganistan on the way there?

    Henry Porter Reply:

    Do you have any concept of the investment it would take to replace cars with trains or how much energy it would take to do so?! As the sane world is finding out, trains don’t even make sense in the busiest of corridors. How would you make the rail, to locomotives, the cars? How would ou move the earth it would take to lay the track? Solar? Windmills? Pixie dust? Hope?

    No. You’d burn oil. And you’d never recover it.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    You don’t know much about powered equipment that doesn’t use oil, do you? And I’m not just talking about my beloved steam-powered locomotives, but electric power shovels and the like, used in coal-mining operations, and adaptable to construction work.

    Besides, I’m talking about a new way of living that also looks old, like in the 1940s. We didn’t use cars like we do now, and this country wasn’t what I would call a backwater of civilization then; as a culture, there were parts of it that are better than what we have now.

    And I’ve lived in that style, and partially do so now.

    A friend of mine is fond of saying “what isn’t sustainable won’t be sustained.” That’s how we’re living now. You may not like it, a lot of people, mostly older, think I’m nuts, but, well, we’ll just have to wait and see. . .

    Paul Druce Reply:

    As the sane world is finding out, trains don’t even make sense in the busiest of corridors

    The various Japanese railway companies would like to have a word with you on their supposed lack of sense.

    As for moving Earth, yes you would most likely use oil. That isn’t an issue. The idea is for a reduction in the biggest segment of oil use, transportation via personal vehicle; the other oil usages are quite sustainable on their own.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “The various Japanese railway companies would like to have a word with you on their supposed lack of sense”–Paul Druce

    As would SNCF–and maybe FEC.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Henry, you seem pretty sure of yourself. I’d like to know, what are your alternatives? How do you propose that we go on with the money problems you describe, a great many of which are brought on by our payments for motor fuel to people who don’t like us? How do you propose to pay for the expanded highway system we’d need if we continued with cars? How do you propose we finance the highway system if we use some sort of car that doesn’t run on current liquid fuels? If an alternative car power supply system doesn’t pan out, how do you propose we obtain those liquid fuels, ideally without having to fight the world for them and kill people for them, including our own fighting men and women?

    (From another query, my mother-in-law: “How can you ask such a question? How can anyone answer such a question?” Answer: With honesty.)

    Henry Porter Reply:

    In terms simple enough for you to understand but that you surely will disagree with, any alternative needs to be financed by its users, at least at the same rate as the current highway system.  To expect the masses that use highways to bear the increased public and private cost of highway transportation PLUS the cost of high speed rail that few would use, is a recipe for financial ruin.

    It’s lunacy for people like you (1% who might ride it on any kind of regular basis) to tell people like me (99% who would have no use for it), “Look, our transportation costs are rising–yours and mine.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do for you, you poor schmuck, but I could use a high speed train for my transportation needs and you have to help pay for it.”

    If the total public cost of highways were to be spread out, evenly, across, for example, every passenger mile of travel it served, it would be a relatively small cost.  According to some, it would be a 100% increase.  Let’s say it is.  While people would balk and it would not be easy for many, it would entail an average increase of about 50 cents per gallon.  That’s roughly equivalent to one fourth of the increase in the cost of gas since Obama has been President (none of which has gone to pay for highways).

    But, if the same principle were applied to high speed rail, ticket prices would rise by multiple dollars per p-m because the base of passenger-miles is so small.

    The only reason HSR supporters like yourself are able to claim HSR would be a cheaper alternative, is because subsidies make up such a huge portion of total costs.

    HSR is not a cheaper alternative.

    National transportation policy is so out of whack in this country, we have a policy that advocates building trains that would cost tens of dollars per passenger-mile served (without any hope that passengers would pay that) IN ORDER TO HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE to an existing system that costs single dollars per passenger-mile.

    The economically sensible alternative to the car-highway system is one that would use the highway system we already have in place, not one that requires a new infrastructure that costs multiple millions of dollars per mile and would be usable by 1% of travelers for 1% of their travel.

    joe Reply:

    Confidence is inversely proportion to the number and length of dismissive taunting comments.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Henry, your 50 cents per gallon is about right for cash flow accounting, but I strongly disagree with about everything else.

    The reason is that there is a lot besides just the current cost of the road system. That 50 cents per gallon doesn’t address the maintenance that has been deferred, it doesn’t address the shortcomings and compromises that have been made in road design due to budget problems.

    That bit about design compromise is real. I’m familiar with at least two examples in my area where more money could have been spent to improve safety and traffic flow, but it wasn’t available.

    In the first case, a town that got a new bridge is still going to be stuck with heavy truck traffic going through a 4-way full stop intersection in the town; that bridge cost millions, but at the same time, the state couldn’t afford both the bridge and a bypass for the town, so people with nice houses and small shops still have to live with traffic bothering them and their customers. This is a historic town dating back to the 1700s, and it’s one place where traffic relief with a bypass would be appropriate. That compromise means that, unless traffic collapses from unaffordable motor fuel (not entirely unlikely), that town will have to live with the traffic nuisance for another hundred years or so.

    The second case was the expansion of an interstate highway in my area from four lanes to six. Right-of-way restrictions meant the two new lanes were to be placed in part of the median strip. This reduced the median strip to less than minimal width as a barrier, and it required some sort of real barrier. The initial choice by the highway department was what they called “cable barriers,” steel cables on light metal posts attached to ground anchors at various points. These had supposedly been tested in Washington state and been proven effective; the problem was, the median width in Washington, while narrower than the original non-barrier width here, was still wider than the barrier width available in this installation with the additional lanes. The result was vehicles hitting the cable barriers at a higher speed here than in Washington, where the greater width of their installation allowed more reduction of speed and much less force of impact, which goes up exponentially with speed. The end result was that the cable barriers didn’t work here at all; more than one vehicle went through the barriers into opposing traffic before the highway department decided it had to spend another boatload of money building a massive concrete wall between the two sides of the interstate.

    I’ll have you know that a tractor-trailer went through one of those cable barriers only minutes before I came to the site, and it had rolled over as well; dust was still in the air as I went past it. I still remember how it blocked two of the three lanes on the other side of the road, and to this day I still don’t know how people on the other side didn’t hit that wreckage. I don’t know how nobody died in that incident, and you wouldn’t understand it either if you had seen it.

    Those are just the examples I personally know about. Who knows what else is out there, or how much it adds to.

    Anyway, if you’re going to tackle deferred maintenance and design compromises, I would estimate you’re talking about another 50 cents on top of the previous 50 cents, so you’re having to increase the gas tax by at least a dollar, maybe more. And I haven’t gotten to externalities yet, such as air pollution, unrecovered accident costs (insurance doesn’t pay everything), and other things like those oil wars that bother me.

    I’ll repeat again, that oil dependence for transportation is our nation’s Achilles heel. It has been an economic knife to the throat for 40 years, and I would think even you would be tired of looking at something like that and dealing with it for that long. It also drives a lot of our military adventures, and I don’t have to tell you how much that has cost over the years, in blood and treasure.

    The Chinese author, Sun Tzu, in his ancient but still valued book, “The Art of War,” says, “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” A variation of this is, “To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” My interpretation, in our modern context, is to ask, “Is it not better to get this country off oil, to get us out of that international market, to weaken those who hate us by not supporting the product from which they profit?”

    Might it be better to win this war of attrition, this competition for a limited and declining resource, by not needing it? Or do you wish to continue to spend our money and the lives of our fighting people, not to mention the lives of innocents who have the misfortune of living in those other countries that hate us, just so we can drive cars and live like it’s 1972?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Henry has another fallacy in his arguments, and that’s the bit about “cost per passenger mile.” It can be an important measure, but it is not the only one, and often is not the most important one.

    Rather, the important measure may be one of cost recovery, or profitability. This is what the bankers will look at if you want to finance a business.

    I remember an oil company called ARCO, which was an acronym for the Atlantic-Richfield Company. This firm used to be fairly prominent in the eastern US, but it was forced out of its home market by competitive forces. It’s now out of business as such, although there are still some stations branded as ARCO on the West Coast. It’s gasoline was produced in typical refineries and sold for typical (for America, low for world) prices. Its cost recovery ratio was below the cost of the business.

    For comparison, there is a product called Chanel No. 5. This classic perfume sells at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $105.00 for a quarter-ounce bottle. With a gallon being made up of 128 ounces, the price per gallon comes out to a whopping $53,760.00! Chanel doesn’t have problems selling anything that I know of. Its cost recovery ratio is probably insanely high.

    Of course, you don’t run your car on Chanel No. 5, and I don’t think too many women would use gasoline as a smell. And this is the point to make about railroads; the cost per mile may be higher, but the overall cost may be lower, and the cost recovery ratio may be much better, generally better than for the road system, and usually much higher compared with a bus system. The Washington, DC Metro system runs buses, a subway line (which is almost a duplicate of the BART system in many ways), and a paratransit system. The rail system carries twice the passengers of the bus system at half the overall cost, despite having to pay for a lot of infrastructure the bus system doesn’t have; working from memory, cost recovery ratios are something like 80% for the rail system, and only 40% for the bus lines. (The paratransit system is strictly a social service, with an abysmal cost recovery ratio of 6%.) Overall productivity per employee is higher, too; as my wife puts it, trains are longer, and carry more people.

    That “dinosaur” we call Amtrak has a cost recover ratio on the order of 72% from operations, and is over 80% if you include things like rentals from restaurants, news stands, and gift shops in stations. For comparison, the overall highway cost recovery ratio in the United States, based on cash flow, is around 50%.

    Speed plays an important part of this productivity as well, particularly in the longer travel ranges. It took three days of railroad wages to pay for a run of the Super Chief or a similar train to make the trip from Chicago to Los Angeles, but an airliner could use a much smaller crew and pay them for just one day. Again, though, wages are only one cost; another is fuel, and for the airlines, that is something like 50% of their operating costs; it’s actually more than wages. Make the cost of fuel too high, and air service becomes unaffordable. The deregulated environment of the air service field doesn’t help matters, in which almost any joker can get a lease on some airplanes and start a service, and in which everybody is now competing on price; the result is everybody is cutting everybody else’s throats, and no one is making money.

    “The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money. Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.”–Warren Buffett

    Henry Porter Reply:

    Sun Tzu? Arco? Chanel? Kitty Hawk?

    Dude! You need to get out more. You need a life.

    Do you do anything, aside from this train fantacy of yours? Do you swim, ski, ride a bike? Maybe you should take up drinking.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    The new Reason type troll …is this the same person changing names??

    swing hanger Reply:

    Hey, Henry, this isn’t soph year in high school- maybe you should contribute something here another than your condescension and snark.

    Henry Porter Reply:

    I tried. See above. Sorry it doesn’t meet your expectations. Are you the moderator? Or are you just a junior, used to picking on sophomores?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Hey, Swing Hanger, forget it. His answer reveals all we need to know about him.

    And it’s interesting he didn’t really have any responses, any real alternative. I guess it’s true; name calling is the last response you’ll hear when you’ve won your argument.

    Oh, Henry, boy, Swing Hanger isn’t a moderator, just a commentor here, a guest, like you or me.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Swing Hanger, I have a weird brain, in that someone’s comment or thought will make me think of something else. In this case, it’s Henry’s comment to you, accusing you of being like a high school junior picking on sophomores. It suddenly came to me. Henry isn’t a junior, he’s a senior–and you know what I mean when I say that, you’ve been reading this long enough to know.

    Do you think Henry has read back far enough into the comments to know what we’re talking about? And do you think my assessment is correct?

  16. Jack
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 21:42

    Build this train!

    It won’t be perfect, nothing ever is, but it’s better than what we have now.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    And it’s likely to be around and useful for another century at least, long after it becomes too expensive to fly or drive.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Another revenue opportunity for PB:

    And broad gauge already!

    Tundra Palmdale.

  17. D. P. Lubic
    Jun 6th, 2012 at 22:05

    Got to looking at Drunk Engineer’s site, and I came across this on it:

    What DE had to say about it:

    GM’s Aging Demographic

    October 13, 2011 by Drunk Engineer

    Actually, “Reality Sucks” is the perfect slogan for GM. It survives on government bailouts, and the 20-something market abandoned the brand.

    And GM knows this better than anyone, as evidenced by this advertisement targeting their few remaining customers. . .

    nick Reply:

    it is true that the shares that the govt owns would lose a great deal if they were sold today but i believe that gm actually makes a profit now. why would anybody want a famous american brand that still sells millions of cars to go under with the loss of huge sums that would dwarf any subsidy or loans gm was given. this is the new reality. you cant just close an industrial giant because of some outdated right wing dogma that oh let failing companies go to the wall at will. millions of peoples livelyhoods depend upon it. this is the problem with romney and the tea party. their very name shows that they are looking back 200 years rather then dealing with the realities of the 21st century world economy.

    whilst all these debates about public ownership or renewable energy or electric cars or indeed hs2 are ongoing other countries such as china are just getting on with it. whilst i could not ever agree with their political system the usa and the west are in danger of falling behind.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Benevolent dictatorships” are considered by theorists since Plato to be the best form of government. The first problem with dictatorships is that your dictator is rarely benevolent, or if benevolent, is rarely competent. The second problem is the problem of succession: generally your competent dictator is replaced by a thug. (There’s a reason DeGaulle convinced France to let him rule pretty much by himself during the Algerian crisis, but then arranged to be succeeded by an elected government.)

    Zhu Rongji and his protege Wen Jiabao have been basically allowed to run the economy of China single-handed since the mid-1990s. They have been competent, technocratic, yet also populist. In sharp contrast to their predecessors. Who knows if their successors will continue with the same attitude, but those two are doing quite well for China right now.

    The equivalent in the US would probably be something like appointing Paul Krugman to be national economic czar. Obviously this can’t happen. The advantage of our more fragmented system is, basically, that we don’t see Orly Taitz or some other lunatic appointed national economic czar.

    jonathan Reply:

    No, no no no no. Romney is on record as saying that he thought GM should go to the wall — go through a non-graceful bankruptcy.

    Romney didn’t say so in so many words, but it’s evident that one major reason for that viewpoint is that private-equity capitalists like him would stand to make _huge_ amounts of money from picking up the choice pieces at fire-sale prices, and then doing “turnarounds” on what they could.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Romney can say whatever he’d like, but the facts are that the GM Bailout was actually engineered by GOP Sen Bob Corker and Pres George W Bush. Obama just gets to take credit, for good or ill.

    And GM really should have gone through a private bankruptcy back in 2005 or so. (Perhaps they could have hired Romney and kept him out of politics. :) ) However, they decided to play the “too big to fail” card instead.

  18. StevieB
    Jun 7th, 2012 at 09:27

    Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood again affirmed his enthusiasm for California High Speed Rail after a Senate Commerce hearing yesterday as reported by Politico.

    LaHood later told reporters that the “stars are aligned correctly in California” for the high-speed rail system. But he still wants California to legislatively show a commitment in the coming days to the federal government’s $3.3 billion contribution. “The money that we have committed is more money than we’ve committed anywhere else in the country. We really like California’s high-speed rail plan. And we also like the leadership that the governor’s put in place,” LaHood said, noting Chairman Dan Richard and Executive Director Jeff Morales are excellent leaders for the job. “California is positioned to really be ahead of the game.”

    Bless my stars.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If you are going to throw out CEQA, you need to throw out ADA and civil rights complaints as well.

    All this hand-wringing about anti-rail NIMBY’s and not one word about the Chandlers and the Tejon Ranch Co.

    double standards and hypocrisy

    synonymouse Reply:

    Not to mention NLRB complaints.

    Henry Porter Reply:

    Stevie quotes an idiot. Ray LaHood’s only qualification for being SecDOT is that he’s from the same state as the President but from a different party. He’s a token, meant to create the illusion that Obama’s administration is not hopelessly liberal. LaHood’s transportation resume is the weakest of all previous Transportation secretaries except, possibly, Elizabeth Dole (who’s only qualification was “Washington savvy”. As a congressman, he was known for giving pork to his campaign contributors. LaHood’s enthusiasm for wasting billions on high speed rail gives him away as Obama’s lapdog.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …and five years on the House Committee for Transportation and Infrastructure….

  19. CaliforniaDefender
    Jun 8th, 2012 at 10:56

    The CHSRA’s EIRs have been deficient from the begining, and the laters project-level EIRs are far from adequate in so many ways. The HSR Project is vulnerable to CEQA lawsuits because the EIR consultants did a poor job. The HSR Project will indeed cause widespread impacts. But the Authority does not even come close to fully acknowledging and either avoiding or mitigating these impacts. Everyone who has been involved in the process knows this, including the Authority and the Governor. Now they want to eliminate the remedies that a court can issue when it inevitably finds the EIRs are inadequate. I supported the HSR project before I became more familiar with this seriously flawed process. I would still support it if the Authority would own up to the impacts and minimize them as required under the law (and if it came up with a realistic and honest business plan). As it stands, I hope that the hubris of the Authority and the destruction that will be caused by the project will bring about its downfall. This is not to say that I don’t think high-speed transit projects offer environmental, social and economic benefits, its just that this Project and the way it’s being planned and implemented is seriously flawed. HSR proponents would like to ignore this inconvenient truth, but it’s not going to go away without a fight.

    joe Reply:

    so summarize the deficiencies under litigation by Palo Alto.
    They are trivial and not with an injunction.

  20. joe
    Jun 10th, 2012 at 19:37

    OMG! building HSR causes emissions and other knotty issues.,0,7566489.story\

    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.

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