Environmental Justice Does Not Mean What They Think It Means

Aug 30th, 2012 | Posted by

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. High speed rail is environmentally unjust?

Across the great divide

That last claim, equally as absurd as the other three given to us by George Orwell, is the latest attempt by high speed rail critics to undermine the project by claiming that it violates the principles of environmental justice:

But the choice to run through disadvantaged rural areas and impact farms, homes and business in towns such as Corcoran violates environmental justice protections in the National Environmental Policy Act, critics said Tuesday. A route along Interstate 5, going through undeveloped land, would avoid such impacts, they argued….

Late notification of impacted parties is an issue, said Michael LaSalle, a retired attorney who has property within the proposed alignment west of Hanford.

Many property owners didn’t attend earlier meetings because they didn’t know they were affected, he said.

“We do believe the project has violated the environmental justice provisions of NEPA,” LaSalle said.

Just because these farmers failed to pay attention in 2005 doesn’t mean that the principles of environmental justice have been denied. Environmental justice is not the same thing as NIMBYism, which is what the Kings County HSR opponents are claiming. Nor is it about protecting the ability of privileged white people from having to own up to their responsibilities to help provide a cleaner environment.

In fact, the true principles of environmental justice make it clear that high speed rail, on the alignment the California High Speed Rail Authority is proposing, meets the standard of an environmentally just routing, and that the Interstate 5 alignment would be unjust. Here’s how the Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice:

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

Here’s how HSR is just. Right now, the Central Valley has severe public health problems stemming from pollution. Asthma rates in Fresno are three times the national average, with Fresno being second most polluted city in the country. Asthma and other pollution-related impacts hit people of color and the poor much harder than people with more money and whiter skin. Studies indicate that automobiles and agriculture are among the leading causes of the pollution that triggers asthma. On that basis alone it’s ironic for farmers to claim that they are the ones who need environmental justice.

But the automobile pollution may be the bigger factor. Motor vehicles are responsible for 57% of the air pollution in the Central Valley. With heavy automobile traffic on Highway 99 and on Interstate 5 contributing to the problem, anything that reduces automobile trips in the Valley would shoot right to the top of the list of environmentally just actions.

High speed rail on the current corridor would help achieve more pollution reduction than following the I-5 corridor. If I-5 is used, there would be no HSR stops in Merced or Fresno or Bakersfield. 2 million people at least would be bypassed, denied the choice to take clean electric trains that don’t spew pollutants into the air the way automobiles do. But by placing stops in those cities, carbon emissions and other pollutants would be reduced much more than if the trains bypassed the Valley cities. And by serving those cities, people of color and the poor would potentially face less asthma risk. That is environmental justice in a nutshell.

And that is why a bunch of white farmers can’t claim that environmental justice principles mean the tracks should be moved out of their backyards. Their claims show they have no real understanding of what environmental justice actually is and instead show their stunning level of privilege that they would co-opt a term and a concept intended to empower those who are suffering to instead pursue transportation policies that favor those with privilege and further harm those who lack it.

For anti-HSR forces to claim their cause is one of environmental justice is deeply offensive and shows just how low they will stoop to try and kill a project that is essential to helping clean up pollution and improve the lives of Californians who are suffering the most from the failed transportation policies of the 20th century.

  1. Derek
    Aug 30th, 2012 at 23:59

    Unfortunately, VMT through the Central Valley will remain unchanged after HSR is built, and so will air pollution. Any reduction in air pollution will have to come in other ways, for example from cars that are more fuel efficient.

    StevieB Reply:

    You are assuming that the roads in the central valley are totally saturated and that any car trips removed by HSR are replaced by cars that are now not making trips because there is no space on the roads. The argument that HSR passenger trips will be replaced by other cars negating any savings in vehicle travel does not depict the reality of the central valley. VMT may increase due to the increase in California population but the increase will be less than the increase without HSR.

    Derek Reply:

    If the I-5 through the Central Valley isn’t totally saturated, eventually it will become so, with or without HSR. All HSR can hope to do is postpone that outcome.

    Matthew B Reply:

    HSR can also delay or prevent road widening if it reduces demand. That would have a long term effect.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    actually it assumes (correctly) that the vast vast majority of trips are less than 20 miles and local. HSR just does not remove cars from the roads, if you want to do that with rail it would be local rail like lightrail or streetcars

    VBobier Reply:

    HSR is not just the Express of 4 stops from LA to SF, there is also local HSR which doesn’t have to be as fast, so 20 miles and local should be no problem, of course if wants HSR to go along the 5 then why build HSR at all? It seems like there are some who think oh there won’t be any growth and so HSR is not needed, before Hoover Dam was built, people said there was no need for Hoover Dam, yet it was built and population was growing before Hoover was built and in WWII production of war suppliers benefited from Hoover, the same applies for the Golden Gate too…

    Bow HSR will benefit the CV as well as the Peninsula, it’ll take pressure off of the Peninsula, the CV will get a form of transport that will augment highways in the CV, not replace them…

    VBobier Reply:

    Should read “Now HSR will benefit the CV as well as the Peninsula, it’ll take pressure off of the Peninsula, the CV will get a form of transport that will augment highways in the CV, not replace them…

  2. Miles Bader
    Aug 31st, 2012 at 00:17

    Alternative title: “Nimbys Desperate, Grasp Wildly”

  3. Alon Levy
    Aug 31st, 2012 at 00:41

    Robert, out of curiosity, do you know the percentage of Central Valley VMT coming from intercity travel?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    What do you define as intercity travel? Passenger only or truck?

    thatbruce Reply:


    Travel that could be done via HSR.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I spent a bit of insomniac time trying to dig this out earlier.

    http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/sb375/meetings/052510/midsmallsizempointeregltravel.pdf suggests:

    As part of this exercise Caltrans has indicated a statewide model capable of adequately accounting for VMT associated with interregional travel will not be complete/available until 2012. The current statewide model has not been updated to reflect the most recently adopted RTPs for each of the state’s 18 MPO regions. In addition most MPO travel demand models do not include a planning area adequate to capture travel beyond the MPO boundaries. Absent a statewide model capable of consistent measurement of vehicle miles travelled attributable to interregional travel across the state, there is no consistent approach to quantify interregional VMT.

    “Interregional” (no hyphen, single word) is useful search term, though it has two different Caltrans-speak: meanings: either “inter-MPO” or “over 50 miles”. None of which lead much of anywhere concisely summary that I could find in an hour or two of wasted effort.

    As Elizabeth knows, the Cambridge Systematic(ally-torture-the-analysis-to-meet-the-paymasters-prescribed-outcome) travel demand survey has some pretty good data. And it’s pretty much terrible for intra-Central Valley travel, just as it is for San José … unless you really torture it to make PB happy.

    Of course that’s rather obvious just from looking at aerial photos: huge sprawl and no centralisation at all mean that station access times (even without PB’s up-and-down-and-up-and-down time-waste detours and fare gate choke-points) are going to dominate train wait and train travel times. Simply put, unless you live next to the Fresno station and are going to meet a friend who works near the bustling Bakersfield station site, you are going to drive, because that’s how the Central Valley (and San José) is laid out.

    Maybe in 20 to 50 years time there will be reason and funding to construct branches of the high traffic SF-LA corridor to serve those present-day non-markets.

    And no, I don’t think it’s a good thing they’re not justifiable markets. It’s a tragedy, in fact, But it’s reality. And pretending otherwise is just ensuring that California gets the worst possible failure of a boondoggle that serves nobody at all … expect the construction and engineering contractor sleazebags.

    joe Reply:

    “Maybe in 20 to 50 years time”

    Kind of a throw back to the opposition arguments against the TVA. Folks thought electrifying the Tennessee River Valley was a waste – low density, poor, and those folks are not the right kinda of peope to be spending money on.

    Public investment is NOT about justifiable markets. We are not markets and the giovernment is not a corporation. The goal is isn’t to service the serviceable and ignore citizens that don’t currently have a market to exploit.

    You admit 20 to 50 years later these cities may change but the purpose of HSR is to transform CA, not wait for magical events. Why should appease HSR conservative sensibilities and préjudicés of peole living in zip codes where the cost per sq ft is greater than $900 (noe valley at 900 and Palo Alto at about 1,100).

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    If you want lots of personal choo choos, Gilroy really, really, really isn’t the place to be.

    Move to Tokyo.

    joe Reply:

    You got me with that one Richard.

    As they say in fencing, douché.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Tokyo got nuked by Fukushima. So, no.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Tokyo didn’t get nuked by Fukushima, it’s perfectly safe to travel to and live in. Yes, there was some panic for the first few months after the earthquake, but it had calmed down considerably even by the time I went there in May of 2011.

    Joey Reply:

    If you don’t prioritize investments then you get underutilized infrastructure and regions which badly need investment get watered down solutions or nothing.

    joe Reply:

    The Central Valley is a priority. So was the Tennessee river Valley.

    Governments are not profit centers and are obligated to provide for the Central Valley development.

    Joey Reply:

    HSR will provide little benefit to the Central Valley (other than a small number of construction jobs) until it connects to SF and/or LA. By itself the Central Valley segment has the least independent utility of any segment in the project.

    joe Reply:

    You’ remaking a great case to build in the CV – it’s a public project – not a taco bell franchise.

    And you seem to want to pretend there isn’t any investment anywhere else. In my area, Caltrin’s being electrified.

    Joey Reply:

    Oh really? The last time I checked CalTrain electrification had been delayed repeatedly for years with no definite end date as all the money went to BART fringe extensions (i.e. bad prioritization). The last time I checked the DTX, which would have nearly doubled the number of jobs accessible via CalTrain, had been delayed repeatedly for years with no definite end date because all the money went to BART fringe extensions (i.e. bad prioritization). The last time I checked MUNI was devoting all of it’s resources toward a short, expensive subway project and leaving Van Ness, where you can beat buses on foot, and Geary, which is overcrowded and has had subway proposals for the greater part of a century, with watered down BRT with no definite funding or timeline.

    joe Reply:


    The vote for HSR appropriated the funds to electrify Caltrain.

    I can’t address your disagreements with the other projects – noted they are not in the Central Valley. You continue to help make the case that the CV segment is a good place to start HSR.

    Again, the purpose of government is to provide for the general welfare of it’s citizens which is why we have intestates in Wyoming despite the low population and obvious greater utility of optimally building highways as if they were franchises like taco bells.

    Joey Reply:

    Yes it’s happening … After more than a decade of delay on what should have been a simple, relatively cheap priority project. And I still fail to see how a segment of nearly unused HSR track will benefit the central valley.

    joe Reply:

    The segment of CV track is usable even if the HST project vaporized – the ARR Act which is the co-funding source required all projects have stand alone utility.

    Joey Reply:

    Yes – six Amtrak runs per day, maybe able to reach half of the line’s final top speed. I’m sure it will provide a huge kickstart for the Central Valley’s economy. Seriously, I know it’s eventually going to be part of a network, but any other section would have provided a lot more interim improvement. In truth, one of the mountain crossings would have probably provided more benefit to the Central Valley. But the Authority chose to advance the Central Valley EIRs and encourage the money to be programmed to the Central Valley. So I guess we’re stuck with it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Joe

    Colorado and New Mexico can’t even come up with the money to maintain the Raton Pass line fofr Amtrak. Not much of a future for orphan trackage. Especially in meth-Central.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Joey: you may argue with the decision to put the money into the Central Valley, but it wasn’t the CHSRA’s choice, IT was very explicitly the choice of Ray LaHood and the FRA; they made that clear.

    Admittedly, the Bakersfield-LA section EIRs were not as advanced as the Central Valley EIRs, which probably impacted on Ray LaHood’s decision. *But they both started at the same time*. The Bakersfield-LA EIRs just turned out to be more difficult. You can’t really blame that on the CHSRA either.

    Joey Reply:

    I will admit I have no proof, but I have a hard time believing that the Feds’ decision to put the money in the Central Valley had no influence from the state or the CHSRA.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah Businesses or Corporations merged with Government was tried from 1922 to 1943 in Italy, it’s leader Ile Duche was later Hanged, He was Benito Mussolini, He was head of the Fascists, as that is what Corporations merged with Government is, Fascism, the USA defeated Italy along with our friends in WWII before settling the score with Adolf and NAZI Germany…

    VBobier Reply:

    Dang no edit, “the USA along with our friends defeated Italy in WWII before settling the score with Adolf and NAZI Germany…”

    Nathanael Reply:

    “As part of this exercise Caltrans has indicated a statewide model capable of adequately accounting for VMT associated with interregional travel will not be complete/available until 2012.”

    So, the summary: NOBODY KNOWS what percentage of travel in the Central Valley is intercity (of the sort which could be displaced by HSR).

    Given that situation, I think a good rule of thumb would be to look at traffic on I-5, which is out of the way for any local traffic whatsoever. All traffic on I-5 should be assumed to be intercity, and you should assume that *some* of the traffic on other routes (but not that much) is intercity.

    How much traffic is there on I-5? Expect most of it to be displaced by HSR.

    Nathanael Reply:

    You proceed to make your usual wild accusations without data in the rest of your comment, of course.

    Eric M Reply:

    Hey Elizabeth,

    I am still wondering how you came up with almost 50 more miles of track from the alternative analysis?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    With great difficulty.

    We use the alternatives analysis to get the segment breakdown and then use information from the detailed budget numbers we have gotten through public records requests (the last one was 1050 pages!) to piece together segment lengths – there is distance of double track signaling and electrification for each. We then use google maps for sanity check

    My 480 number actually included up to Merced. Without the jog up, I have 455 miles +/- SFT to LAUS. The +/- reflects both decisions unmade in a couple of places and a true confusion over the wye alternatives to CV.

    I went to look at online route calculator to see which segments were off. When I did this, the segments on the route calculator individually added up to 448 miles, not 432. I did the check twice but it was late at night – if someone else wants to check pls do so.

    Some of the individual discrepancies seem to just reflect fact that segment boundaries have changed over time. The hybrid solution is longer, the route along the 14 into LA is longer than original canyon route, they have cut tighter corners through Tehachapi, there are some small bypass wiggles throughout the route – a mile here and there adds up.

    From a travel time perspective, don’t forget the limits of the blended system in Bay Area – 50 miles going fairly slowly – imposed 110 mph, schedule impositions and curves.

    I think we will request a speed /distance profile from TBT to LA Union station. This would resolve questions about how fast they are planning to go through various urbanized areas as well as the distance, which we should not need to be hashing out on a blog.

    joe Reply:

    From a travel time perspective, don’t forget the limits of the blended system in Bay Area – 50 miles going fairly slowly – imposed 110 mph, schedule impositions and curves.

    I think we will request a speed /distance profile from TBT to LA Union station. This would resolve questions about how fast they are planning to go through various urbanized areas as well as the distance, which we should not need to be hashing out on a blog.

    I am hoping speed limitations due to outdated, legacy laws can be waived. The physical limitations with the blended ROW be seen as temporary and the project moves forward.

    What better way to accelerate the 4 track alignment than to assure 2:40 is possible and that any slower compromise with blended HSR is not legal? The opposition to the full build is ground by the desire to preserve $1,100 per sq ft home values in the Palo Alto area of the ROW. That’s not going to stop the project and force the state to give back several billion dollars.

    Ask the Lucas Valley Ranch Home Owners Association.

    Marin says zoning allows up to 240 units at Grady Ranch owned by George Lucas.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    fast electric trains increase property values so opposing fast electric trains would mean lower potential property values.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    not if they don’t near your house.

    when i say urbanized, I mean south San Jose downtown Gilroy, Fresno, Bakersfield, Burbank etc

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There are trains near those houses now. Noisy, smelly, diesel trains. Converting those to electric trains will increase the property values for houses right next to the tracks. Unless the houses right next to the tracks get torn down for denser development of even commercial. Which would increase the property values even more.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Noisy, smelly, diesel trains? Curious that does not seem to be a problem for the foamers when it comes to SMART doodlebugs.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    SMART trains won’t be running on the Peninsula so no one important cares.

    Eric M Reply:

    synonymouse said:

    “Noisy, smelly, diesel trains? Curious that does not seem to be a problem for the foamers when it comes to SMART doodlebugs.”

    Oh yeah, those Tier 4 emission cars will be belching smoke!!

    Nathanael Reply:

    SMART already has diesel freight trains running along the line, too.

    But yes, SMART should certainly be electrified. Practically everything should be electrified. The breakeven point on “burning fossil sludge” versus “using solar energy” is tilting towards solar all the time, and it’s best to get ahead of the curve.

    joe Reply:

    Gilroy currently is recommending a Downtown alignment and is asking the CAHSRA to respond to the City’s initial study.

    HSR may move out of town but the reaction to rail in Gilroy is very different compared to Palo Alto. The residents are looking to anchor the downtown with dual Caltrain and HSR station.

    A HSR station will help property values – maybe not $1,200 per sq ft homes but $100-400 sq ft homes.

    Fresno will be ~1 hour from a hypothetical Palo Alto station. Fresno is currently is a car ride using an unimproved 2 lane country road out of Gilroy. If we’re lucky HSR will bypass PA and draw business activity both N and S near the San Jose and Redwood city station.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s improved. I betcha they paved that back in the 20s.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    $1,200/ft^2 homes indicate very tight zoning laws. In general, if housing prices are far above construction costs, something is deeply wrong. (And the only place I know of where construction costs were that high was Fear Tower.) For regular expensive-city construction, try $300/ft^2.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    There are positive and negative effects of trains. Most of the positive accrue to people near a place where the train stops and those living near an airport which might have reduced flights. The negative of a new train line accrue to those along the line itself or those for whom it creates a barrier.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    where is it going to create a barrier on the Peninsula? Which was farmland before the train came along in 1863? Are you suggesting that people are going to miss trespassing across the tracks?

    jonathan Reply:

    Nope. Elizabeth’s “concern”-figleaf for “responsible rail design” is just wearing very, very very thin.
    The NIMBY underneath is showing through, and the NIMBY has no clothes.

    Nathanael Reply:

    In Lakewood, WA, the NIMBYs are *actually* complaining that bringing in efficient passenger trains will make it harder for them to trespass along the tracks.

    Really. That’s one of their complaints.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In Floral Park and a bunch of other cities on the LIRR Main Line, they’re against the third track partially on the grounds that additional trains would reduce their quality of life.

    joe Reply:

    Even the air-transportation consultant and UCLA economist admitted HSR has economic benefits – he contents it just moves economic activity to cities serviced by HSR. For a City with a station that’s a plus.

    Bakersfield and Fresno, with low cost of living, will be a short rail ride from the coastal knowledge and business centers. 1 hour to Palo Alto if that city gets a station, or 1 hr form RWC.

    Rail is going to help economic development in both cities, which will improve local property values. It will help RWC and San Jose.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    … admitted HSR has economic benefits

    Writing a check for $100 billion to some dude in Gilroy allowing him to build a totally bitchin’ model train layout and theme park and petting zoo would also have some economic benefit. Some.

    joe Reply:

    There already is a Gilroy Gardens. There is a train and petting zoo.
    It didn’t cost 100B.

    The UCLA criticism of HSR asserted it will only direct economic expansion. Even the critics worse case scenario, the system will help the CV economy.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Joe, the HSR-directs-development theory means that HSR will be good for Bakersfield, Fresno, and the other CV cities with a stop, at the expense of parts of the CV that aren’t served. This includes a string of small towns on 99, but also the Visalia-Hanford area, since even if it gets a station, it will be peripherally located and nearly all trains will skip it.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Alon, that’s just fine. I realize the city government of Hanford may be upset by the redirection of economic development, but it’s good for the state and it’s good for the country. Plus which Hanford had a chance at a centrally located station and turned it down.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No argument there, but just one minor point: Visalia is the more important city in the Hanford-Visalia region. Visalia itself has more than twice Hanford’s population; Tulare County has 3 times the population of Kings County and 3.5 times the number of jobs, and downtown Visalia has twice the job density of downtown Hanford.

    Visalia also wanted a station. Alas, the alignment that comes vaguely near it is UP/99.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What you’re hoping for isn’t possible without spending enormous amounts of money per minute saved, at the margin. The 2:40 limit is a serious hobble now. A 3:00 limit is not hard; why not then choose to improve on something like that based on whether the cost per minute saved is reasonable?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Maybe Lucas can team up with the Chandlers. California really needs a bigger land baron lobby.

    Joey Reply:

    As far as curves go, we had the opportunity to improve San Bruno but it’s being rebuilt with no improvement. Updated cant deficiency rules mean that it won’t be as bad as originally thought but it’s a permanent speed restriction.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Caltrain, BART, VTA, and Bay Area planners in general, seem to make seriously poor choices.

    LA has also agreed to reduce speeds in order to appease property owners (look at the changes in the plans for the south-side run-through tracks at Union Station, made slower so that they don’t fly through nearly as many downtown LA buildings), but it doesn’t seem to have the *consistent record* of ignoring technical considerations which we find in the Bay Area. LA fought to “not be stupid” when it came to Farmdale on the Expo line, for example, and is fighitng the deranged NIMBYs in Beverly Hills.

    Joey Reply:

    The sad thing is that improving San Bruno would have only required taking a handful of houses currently sandwiched between the tracks and an elevated freeway. It’s unlikely that there would have been much of a fight getting the owners to sell.

    jonathan Reply:

    Yes, but you’d have to have some insigh into rail operations as a pre-requisite to _care_l

  4. Carol McMahon
    Aug 31st, 2012 at 04:44

    It would be a godsend to have the HSR come down along the 5. Most of the bookend express travel would go through the valley without CV residents suffering its adverse effects of noise, vibration and visual blight by its citizenry. The southern valley would be happy with added grade separations and a faster Amtrak on their current routes. The reality is, that the HSR solution was sought to provide the bookends a better, faster and more environmentally friendly transportation option, given their crowded highway systems and airports. Their auto travel through the valley is environmentally unfriendly. The folks in the CV don’t have impacted airports….in fact, they would like to improve their service. The high speed rail moves primarily business travelers. It will do little to remedy the volumes of air pollution from the average car dependent California traveler. It will do nothing for the pollution that comes from the truck/freight traffic that travels through the valley on its freeways.

    The injustice of this is that the routes chosen destroy prime farmland and bisects cities. Routes are being built at excessive heights, some at 80-90 feet through cities, affecting thousands of homeowners, many of whom are low income and have had no voice in any of this. Most weren’t notified that their properties were in jeopardy.
    You state that “just because farmers failed to pay attention in 2005…. Get real, Robert. These people were not invited to sit at the table and plan this. The community meetings that were infrequently held by the HSRA were just show and didn’t truly begin until after Prop 1A was passed.. No one really answered hard questions about options, impacts etc. People were told that all the facts would be available in the EIR. Those who did participate were told to wait for these facts and given the false impression that there would be discussion when all the facts were out. Minimal information was provided at the public meetings. The photos they showed didn’t even show that trains were electrified and would have cabling etc. HSRA staff wouldn’t even discuss adverse impacts like noise. In fact, when pushed to at least give an opinion on how severe the impacts would be….citizens were told. “I’m paid NOT to give an opinion”. “You will have to wait for the report..or we will find out and get back to you”. Next public meeting….again, no answer.
    When the alignments were finally shown to the public in the valley, and they voiced opposition for alternatives, they were denied or GIVEN “hybrid” alignments that varied only slightly. The HSRA said that they worked with communities. They lied.
    It doesn’t make sense to the average CV resident to have these alignments located where they are—destroying their farmland, tearing through their cities at elevated heights and located close to their homes (south of Fresno, in Kings and Kern Counties 12% of their residents are living within 1/2 mile of this alignment) That’s a lot of affected people! In Fresno County, fewer than 2% live within that distance. It is obvious that Fresno’s impacts are far fewer. It may have helped that Tom Richard from Fresno was on the Board…and owns property within a few hundred feet of the proposed station and is well connected to the community there. Why did Fresno get special attention assuring that the alignment actually DID adversely affect far fewer fewest people ? Ask yourselves.

    With all of the open land available in the valley, these are the BEST alignments?? The Central Valley (outside of Fresno, at least) doesn’t buy it.

    If this alignment never connects to the LA basin…and we all know that is a possibity….what are you going to tell these people? It was worth it…for whom? They aren’t idiots. If it never connects to LA, there WILL be benefits to the bookends. But for the valley, they will have suffered through all of the adverse environmental effects of the construction phase….with none of the benefits. They will get an Amtrak service on the elevated rails that bisect their cities and farmland and worse air quality to boot. Their voices continue to go unheard. THAT is environmental injustice.

    Carol McMahon Reply:

    The use of “never” in reference to the possibility that the alignment may not link the CV to the LA basin was probably a poor choice (although it still remains a possibility all things considered) The plan was for completion was 2020. Not happening.
    In 2035-40?, highly unlikely given that there is no funding and no private investment interest. By that time we will likely have cleaner cars, trucks, buses and Amtrak trains. Technology does not stand still. One has to really look at the adverse environmental impacts that construction will bring to the residents in the valley now and how many decades it will take for a working HST system to offset that.

    VBobier Reply:

    Just like I’ve said before the CV tracks are not going to be near the 5, as that’s a waste of money since there is nothing out there to make money from, as You’ve dialed up the wrong number, the number will be near the 99 and either the BNSF tracks or the UP tracks…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Excellent presentation of the case for I-5. Everything about the PB CHSRA scheme for the Valley reeks of BART mindset. It is regional mass transit cutting thru back yards the way BART did thru Oakland, etc. The difference is the vastly greater population density and public transit market in the East Bay than between diffuse and car-centric San Joaquin Valley cities.

    I-5 or Richard’s twixt and between 5 and 99 route is a fine starter hsr route and could be significantly cheaper with very little disruption. A high speed half grand junction north of Tejon and spur to Bako would tap the 99 corridor with dual-fuel locomotives in the interim.

    synonymouse Reply:

    junction should read union.

    jonathan Reply:

    You really don’t understand a thing about HSR. “Locomotives”? “Dual-fuel locomotives”? Using US locomotives means doubling the axle-load, relative to HSR, which means pouring more concrete.

    Oh, I forgot, you’re the kook who things HSR should be built so it can be sold to US _freight_ railroads after it goes broke.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Unfortunately the class ones would be not be much interested. Hard to build spurs and side tracks when you are on stilts.

    Then there is that little issue of hybrid joint operations with Amtrak – you know that FRA-AAR heavy rail outfit.

    Maybe that’s off now. Segregated tracks on the Peninsula and everywhere. You know the Machine prefers the TWU or Amalgamated over BLE-UTU. Be interesting to see how that plays out. Turf wars over the gravy.

    The real kooks are ward bosses paying hammers and pliers mechanics $300k/yr. and those who vote for them.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    You know the Machine prefers the TWU or Amalgamated over BLE-UTU.


    synonymouse Reply:

    The patronage machine is only interested in organized labor as a source of votes and primarily money. The TWU is the favored as it essentially runs Muni. The fatter the “envelope” going to the bosses the more that union will have the inside track. Amalgamated is BART, so they would be in the running. Local transit unions get their way because they baksheesh better.

    The problem for these unions oer time is that with a one-party system the really deep pockets, ie. corporate interests, have no alternative but to pony up to the Party machine if they want consideration or favors. Pretty soon the “liberals” won’t need labor for money any more. And the unions are not rich enough to set up and bankroll another party. Think how much any union people are getting paid in Mexico. Teachers have to “buy” their jobs. It is the crooked politicians and gangsters who are making the money. Bell, Vernon, Cudahy the new world order.

    Nathanael Reply:

    If your choice is between TWU on the one side and BLE/UTU/ETC/ETC (ten thousand 150-year-old craft unions) on the other side, PICK TWU.

    Please compare the LIRR’s unions (plural) to the NYC Subway’s union (singular) if you don’t believe me. Both are bad, but the LIRR situation is abominable.

    synonymouse Reply:

    In the West the BLE-UTU have to deal with some very strong class ones. But the TWU simply has the run of Muni and is milking the City. Pretty much ditto for Amalgamated at BART.

    It’s complicated. The carmens’ union that is now TWU 250A was a party to the great busstitution by insisting on two-man operation for years. On the other hand the electricians’s union was instrumental in saving the trolley buses and the overhead lines.

    One large question is who’s going to run Roundabout Rail? Think about it for a while and in the longer term it is likely Amtrak. Moonbeam should order PB to consult with Amtrak. But of course hw won’t, anymore than he would try to talk sense to the Chandlers or Vill-ovitch.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The TWU is insisting on 2PTO in New York, too – the head of the union just fired off a HuffPo article against OPTO. But the BLE/UTU/ABC/DEF/GHI are insisting on something like 6PTO on the commuter railroads, and both the LIRR and Metro-North unions opposed merging the two railroads. (Efficiency is an evil neo-liberal idea.)

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Another thing to keep in mind are the shops. All the legacy NE/Chicago mainline railroads have craft shops (except SEPTA, thanks to the 1983 strike), which means horrible productivity in the maintenance facilities since each craft union isn’t allowed to touch the others’ jobs. I’m pretty sure the rapid transit shops aren’t like this on the east coast, but I’m not 100% sure. On the west coast, I have no idea. But it seems like no west coast mainline RR unions have forced 2-6PTO, so at least on that count, BLE et al does better out west than it does on the east coast. As for the shops, though, like I said, I have no clue. But you need to know that to decide which unions is better.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I believe Caltrain practices 3PTO (train driver engineer, conductor, assistant conductor), and that’s on top of a POP system – those conductors do not collect everyone’s tickets as they do in the Northeast and Chicago.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    So, what are those conductors and assistant conductors doing then? closing doors? being there for the customers? or distracting the train driver…

    In some areas, it might be useful to have staff on the train, just to mark presence, however.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The conductor handles door opening. I’m not sure what the assistant conductor does. Richard and Clem know.

    jonathan Reply:

    Unfortunately the class ones would be not be much interested. Hard to build spurs and side tracks when you are on stilts.

    No, synon. no, no no No NO. Freight railroads are not intrested in a well-constructed HSR line, because their dumb overweight freight trains can’t run on it. The axle loads of the locomotives are too high, and will damage rail, roadbed, and bridges/viadcuts.

    And worse, the _grades_ of a well-constructed HSR line are _too steep_ for overweight FRA-compaitible piece-of-shit trains. The trains can’t go up them. This is examined in depth in several of Clem’s blog posts, and one of the reasons Richard M. decries and derides Caltrain management for _not_ stopping freight on the Penonsula when they could easily have done so.

    Why cant you understand those simple facts? In all seriousness and with no ill-will, you seem to have a real cognitive problem here.

    And that’s before we get anywhere near the issues of ~60 mi/hr (~100km/hr) freight trying to run on the same track which is scheduled for 320 km/hr HSR. That just plain doesn’t work. If you say it does, I challenge and demand you to ride a bicycle on the freeway: same speed ratio.

    Then there is that little issue of hybrid joint operations with Amtrak – you know that FRA-AAR heavy rail outfit.

    FRA-compliant trains will not run on well-designed HSR track. See above. Even if they did, the scheduling just wouldn’t work.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Initial Construction Segment is designed to allow Amtrak to use it in case HSR doesn’t pan out.

    jonathan Reply:

    I did say “well-constructed HSR line”. An HSR line over-engineered for FRA-compliaint trains is not well-constructed. Or should I say “well-designed and well-constructed”.

    Besides, none rest of what SYnonymouse calls “Stitl-A-Rail” is being proposed or designed as FRA-compatible.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ..well it would be sturdily constructed….

    jonathan Reply:

    Yes, and at super-premium cost, too.

    Joey Reply:

    Honestly, if you’re going with Tejon there’s not much justification to bother eith downtown Bakersfield. The area is so auto-oriented already that a downtown station isn’t going to provide a huge benefit given the additional cost. Serve downtown Fresno with a station loop as the geometry makes it easier.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I like it, but you want to connect to Amtrak-UP too.

    Joey Reply:

    You want as little to do with UP and Amtrak as possible. Keep those low acceleration, FRA-compliant, punctuality-tied-to-up’s whim trains as far away from the new system as possible.

    jonathan Reply:

    No _sane_ person wants to connect HSR to UP or to Amtrak. Transfers (to passenger rail) yes.
    But _connect_, as in Amtrak or UP running on HSR rails? No sane person wants to do that.

    synonymouse Reply:

    So who’s gonna run Tehachapi Stilt-A-SkyRail other than Amtrak? BART and Amalgamated? SNCF – yuk, yuk, yuk.

    You think Amtrak is going to be interested in it with no input on PB’s proprietary car design?

    Virgin America is still losing money – you think Richard Branson is going to want to take on the Palmdale Flyer?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The entire point of going west of Bakersfield and through Tejon is to avoid the Palmdale Flyer.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I could not agree more but if that were in the picture why fire Van Ark for bringing up the obvious. To take on the Tejon Ranch Co and Vill-ovitch you will have to build a fire under Jerry. The only way I can conceive Jerry’s being stressed is a loss of all tax levies.

    Slight chance that might re-open the door just a trifle. Remember there’s no fool like an old fool and this is an obstinate one, who wants to build shit. Unfortunately literally.

    jonathan Reply:

    “PB’s proprietary car design”? What? Synon, this too may be beyond your cognitive horizons. BUt in fact PB is not, repeat NOT designing HSR trainsets. There is no, repeat _no_ proposal for PB to be designing or building HSR trainsets.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I certainly hope you are right and I am going to hold you to this.

    After BART-Bechtel, I remain thoroughly paranoid. But I would like hear Richard’s and Clem’s take on this. I just can’t believe PB can control their hubris to pass on that much proprietary opportunity

    Joey Reply:

    It’s likely that the Authority’s requirements will require more modification to off-the-shelf equipment than your typical HSR order. Probably nothing explicitly unique though.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So far the requirements are vanilla European rules.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “the Authority’s requirements”? Jeez – that could be stretched easily to tantamount to reinventing the wheel ala Bechtel.

    PB should be put on notice, even by the cheerleaders, that that kind of Bechtel testtrack happy horseshit is not not going to fly this time, unless the foamers really want everything to cost 3 times as much. In perpetuity.

    jonathan Reply:

    “the foamers”? Huh? You mean yourself and D.P Lubic?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Communities asked for stupid, impossible things. HSR can’t make a billion tiny curves to detour around every single building; it has to be fairly straight. If you think the HSR is too high up… then the HSR has to demolish more buildings to be lower down.

    The CHSRA worked in good faith with communities.

    The communities, in many cases, failed to work in good faith with the CHSRA, refusing *all* the technically possible options. To hell with that.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Tom Richards was appointed to the CAHSRA board in December 2010, only months before the Fresno-Merced EIR was released.

    Fran Florez from Shafter near Bakersfield was the Valley’s (including Fresno’s) representative on the CAHSRA board from 2002-2010.

    The Bakersfield/Kern County area had a board member from their area on the board for many years representing their interests.

    Rather than thinking Fresno got special treatment, maybe the South Valley should ask its own local leaders what they were doing or not doing for the area.

    Travis Mason-Bushman Reply:

    Carol, there will never be “improved” air service at most Central Valley airports. Short-haul, small-market air travel is increasingly unprofitable and “regional jets” are being retired by the hundreds by major air carriers. The fuel burn vs. seat-mile revenue doesn’t add up.

    If anything, Central Valley airports are going to *lose* air service in the future. SkyWest is in the process of retiring its fleet of turboprop Brasilias… routes like FAT-SFO will likely see reductions in frequency and Modesto might lose United Express service entirely. Merced and Visalia already have nothing more than 19-seat Beechcraft and will never see anything more in the future.

  5. Roger Christensen
    Aug 31st, 2012 at 05:58

    According to the Bee, only 16 speakers showed up for the Fresno HSR EIR public hearing.
    I spoke in favor of the project at the Hanford meeting. Busy, though not as much in the past, and dominated by workshop generated lawyer strategy robo remarks now invoking environmental justice.
    These clowns are more involved in animal cruelty, corrupt local politics, and dumping on the poor than E.J.

    In Los Angeles, this approach was used against the Expo LRT. Metro has a grade separation policy based on intersection traffic counts that determined what is at grade and what isn’t. This created grade separation at freeway adjacent USC Coliseum area but not everywhere else. This created the faux environmental justice issue that because USC was rich and the other neighborhoods were poor and minority, this was discrimination. A resulting compromise created the totally unnecessary Farmdale station which slows down the line.

    CMB Reply:

    Have you noticed that the environmental impacts for Fresno citizens are FAR FEWER than those in the rest of the Southern Valley? Perhaps that is why there were fewer in attendance.
    That is significant to note.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I have a really difficult time believing that to be the case.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Fresno collaborated on design with the CHSRA from day one, resulting in a more satisfactory design. The Southern Valley requested impossible things and refused to work with the CHSRA. The CHSRA did its best, but you can’t do much with crazy people who won’t work with you.

    So this accounts for the worse plans south of Fresno. South of Fresno, there was little or no community involvement by sane, competent people.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Didn’t Visalia ask for a station?

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    I thought Visalia offered them land for a station. I don’t think “crazy people who won’t work with you”, applies to Visalia.

  6. Richard Mlynarik
    Aug 31st, 2012 at 06:01

    The California Alliance for Jobs loves you.

    Your unquestioning support of gutting environmental legislation is truly doing The Lord’s Work. The meek and oppressed construction lobby may indeed on day inherit the earth from our present-day oppressive enviro-Nazi overlords.

    Keep up the great job!

    PS When you get home, there’ll be an extra story on your house.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Wait, how did you get that from the article..?

    AFAICT, his point was just that “environmental injustice” is a pretty freaking bizarre accusation to make of HSR. Pointing that out doesn’t imply “unquestioning support” for “gutting environmental legislation” at all.

    CMB Reply:

    Tell that to the 81,000 plus residents in Kern County who live within 1/2 mile of the alignment. These people are supposed to bear the effects of HSR construction through their county which will be significant. Most people (and minorities ARE the majority here ;) were never noticed, or are just beginning to be given official notice. Accurate impact information was withheld until the EIR came out and no discussion is being allowed to re-route the alignment away from the majority of the people.
    Apparently it is just fine—- to tear smack through neighborhoods in order to provide a route capable of maintaining the 220 mph speeds they say they need, instead of allowing an alternative outside of these Central Valley towns where impacts would be less. The HSRA has not involved the citizens in their alignment planning. The “hybrid” line through Bakersfield was not designed with the blessing of the county or the city. It was the bone that was thrown to appease outcry from Bakersfield High School, and even then it only moved the alignment several hundred feet. I don’t call that much of an alternative. The public wants the alignment on the outskirts of town where it will have fewer environmental impacts both during construction and thereafter. Facts were withheld throughout the process with regard to the impacts. Politics and time constraints got in the way of planning an appropriate route that doesnt sacrifice quality of life for Valley residents.
    Gee..maybe there is a better alternative than 12 miles of elevated track through the city of Bakersfield? Ya think?

    synonymouse Reply:

    There is no better alternative for PB and the concrete industry. Stilts R Us – just a bigger BART.

    Nathanael Reply:

    More piles of bullshit.

    The effects of HSR construction will, indeed, be significant — significantly positive in Kern County, with its high unemployment rate. Yes, the CHSRA involved the citizens in their alignment planning. The citizens of Bakersfield requested impossibilities, which of course the CHSRA did not offer. The fact that the citizens of Bakersfield are ignoramuses is not a problem the CHSRA can solved.

    Joey Reply:

    The trouble with Bakersfield is that it’s difficult to bypass with Tehachapi. You can sort of bypass to the south, but it’s quite circuitous. A better solution is probably to limit speeds through Bakersfield to 250 km/h, which seems to be the limiting speed for HSR through urban areas in most areas of the world, though I don’t know about Ashford. The speed reduction also allows slightly sharper curves which means fewer impacts, and express trains would probably only loose a couple of minutes (easy to gain back with relatively cheap improvements elsewhere). And of course it would provide a much more benefit to residents if they would look at grade separating BNSF along with HSR.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I don’t know about Ashford


    Joey Reply:

    Well then I apologize for asking the same question twice, though I can now safely say that HSR doesn’t pass through cities at more than 270.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    *through European cities.

    Joey Reply:

    Are ther definite Asian counterexamples?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In the same thread Richard links to, there are YouTube links to the Shinkansen running thrugh some local stations at 290-300.

    Joey Reply:

    Well, to be fair, Japan usually has little choice. It’s either cities or mountains – not much in the way of open farmland.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They’ve done well for themselves with that restriction – the trains are extremely aerodynamic. A side advantage of this is that double-track tunnels can have the same diameter as single-track tunnels in Europe (and CAHSR is following European standards), which is important for cost control when extensions are 50%+ in tunnel.

    jonathan Reply:

    the trains are extremely aerodynamic. A side advantage of this is that double-track tunnels can have the same diameter as single-track tunnels in Europe

    Alon, sources, please? Is this an apples-to-apples, standard-gauge HSR (or non-HSR) comparison?
    I don’t disbelieve you, I’d lust like to know the source.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    First, for tunnel diameter documentation, Wikipedia’s list of longest tunnels also specifies diameters.

    Second, the tunnel diameter document for CAHSR mentions this. See PDF-pages 19 and 30 here.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I should add that the source doesn’t talk about aerodynamics but about pressure sealing. However, Japanese trains are also more aerodynamic, with longer noses.

    See here (about tunnel diameter again) and also the Wikipedia article about the 700T, which has additional references in Chinese and Japanese.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Aerodynamics info on the N700, on page 2. Reduced running resistance by 20% compared to the previous 700 series model.


    jonathan Reply:

    Alon, did you read that document? I was asking, specifically, for sources backing your assertion that Shinkansen using narrower tunnel-bores than CAHSR(or UIC) standards, is
    due to Shinkansen having better aerodynamics.

    I have read the document briefly (I have not gone over all the calculations). Rather than supporting your assertion, the document contradicts it. The document clearly states that (a) the widest trainset cross-section area — which drives one part of the calculation — is in fact double-decker Shinkansen rollling stock.That’s on p. 19, the page you cited. P. 19 also states that the calculations are “highly sensitive to train cross-sectoinal area”.

    The document also says that the much better _sealing_ of Shinkansen — in fact, Shinkansen are continuosly internallhy pressurized, via the air-conditioning system — is also a very significant factor in limiting pressure waves on passengers. Shinkansen have a Tau_(dyn) in excess of 25, versus
    the values for a TGV or ICE-1. Those factors also figure into tunnel cross-section.

    Finally, as th document clearly states, the impact of pressure varies with tunnel _length_ (as well as trainset length). For the trainset cross-sections examined, the _maximum_ required tunnel cross-sectoin is for tunnels of about 3.5km — varying also as a function of train speed. For tunnels beyond that length, the limiting factor switches from dynamic-pressure effects on people, to the turbulence and heat generated by the train moving through the tunnel. Tunnel diameter is then constrained by how narrow the tunnel can be, before active cooling is required to dissipate all the energy lost as drag: that energy eands up as heat in the tunnel air.

    In fact, the document you cite seems to imply that as Shinkansen got faster, they had to have better aerodynamic because of the existing narrow tunnel bores, not the other way around.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    It’s pretty well known that it’s the other way around: the tunnels were originally narrow, and they did lots of aerodynamic work to deal with the resulting issues, resulting in the elaborate noses etc. Of course, now that they’ve done the work and have some understanding of what’s going on, they can take advantage of that and save money by making future tunnels narrow as well….

    [One question I’d have is whether or not those specific adaptations to help tunnel operation have much benefit in non-tunnel operation.]

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Jonathan: yes, I did read the links.

    I didn’t mean that Japan built narrow tunnels because of better sealing and aerodynamics – just that Japan has more aerodynamic and better-sealed trains and as a result they can keep digging narrow tunnels like Hakkoda.

    Although tunnel length matters, when you’re building long tunnels you still need to deal with tunnel boom when the train enters the station. There’s still a higher minimum tunnel diameter than is practiced in Japan. The cooling issue is only said to be a limiting factor for the Channel Tunnel, which is exceedingly long.

    The document uses the cross-sectional area of bilevel Shinkansen, but not the sealing characteristics of those trains. It’s also not using the maximum speed of those trains, which is 240 km/h. The tunnels are built around 1990s-era European-pressurized trains, with the size of bilevel Shinkansen, and the speed of the latest cutting edge of both European and Japanese single-level trains.

    William Reply:

    In the meantime, newer and on-order Shinkansen trainsets running on new-built lines seem to have less of a “duck-bill” nose design. My guess on the design is either caused by lower top speed (~260 km/h) or larger tunnel diameter.

    joe Reply:


    CAHSRA never came to my Gilroy home to tell me about HSR alignment which will run less than a 1/2 mile from my home. Why would they?

    Kern County isn’t just a name – it’s a government.

    And it offers services

    Blame local government for keeping its citizens in the dark (which I doubt is the case) or misleading them into thinking the project would go away.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Gee..maybe there is a better alternative than 12 miles of elevated track through the city of Bakersfield? Ya think?”

    No. There isn’t. Well, there’s “demolish half of Bakersfield to build at-grade or underground through Bakersfield”, and there’s “bypass Bakersfield completely by destroying more prime farmland and ticking off more farmers, while ending up with a poorly located and unpopular Bakersfield station”. Both of those are worse, y’know?

    People should not pretend that there is a “better alternative” when *they don’t actually have one*.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    *Trivial amounts of farmland, as in 5 orders of magnitude less than the existing stock.

    If Bakersfield really doesn’t want the downtown station, it shouldn’t get one. An edge-of-city station is worse for access and much worse as a destination, but it’s also much cheaper to build, and cheap is in short supply in California.

  7. John Nachtigall
    Aug 31st, 2012 at 09:14

    This is a tough call for me. The concept of “enviromental justice” is a bogus invention to combine the worst aspect of the Democratic Party base (pandering to enviromental advocates and poo advocates).

    That said, I have to agree with Robert that this is the dumbest lawsuit I have heard of in a long time. They are not “ruining” farmland. They are making it a little more inconvinent for some small selection of land owners. They make it sound like HSR is running the train on puppies and injustice. There are more important reasons to stop this project, this is just frivilous.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    That should have been poor advocates (not poo advocates)

    joe Reply:

    Are you sure ? Because it made more sense when I read it with “poo advocates”.

    Advocates for the poor would be charities and religious people, followers of Jesus for example. Did you mean to reference them?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    to some extent, but I was thinking more about the ACORNs of the world. Organizations that purport to help the poor and disadvantaged but actually exists as the modern version of the “ward bosses” that are willing to do whatever it takes to get out that vote for the Dems

    joe Reply:

    ACRON’s of the world….
    “Ward Bosses”
    What it is with you guys? You go insane when “other people” get registered to vote.
    You squeak like a stuck pig when someone thinks your ideas need to be eliminated.

    Here’s your evil WARD Bosses:

    In December, the League of Women Voters of Florida, Rock the Vote and the Florida Public Interest Research Group Education Fund sued the state to overturn new rules for organizations that conduct voter-registration drives.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    yes, ACORN


    you know, the people who help prostitutes and pimps.

    and I have no problem with anyone voting, even if they disagree with me. But they are not all so benign


    joe Reply:

    There you go – you made the link from poor and ward bosses to prostitutes and pimps.

    Now one more step to tell me their ethnicity.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    In the sting they were white…does it matter?

    joe Reply:

    Fooling no one.

    The recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll registered what had to be a first ever for any candidate in any presidential election in modern times. The poll put GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s share of the black vote at zero percent.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Margins of error.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Your point is what? The republicans don’t pull minority votes
    Ike the Dems? True. So you are proving my point that these modern day ward bosses are doing an excellent job.


    joe Reply:

    “ward bosses” is just an excuse for keeping alive the xenophobic politics that go back to our roots – The No Nothing Party used it against the Irish.

    This shit never dies – it just keeps on coming back to get swatted down again and again.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    ward bosses were a real thing


    it is not so nearly overt these days. But organizations like ACORN still work to “get out the vote” for the Democrats. The great thing is now the tea party does the same thing for the Republicans, energize the vote and work at the grass roots level. Hence the reason the Dems hate them so much.

    You are the only one bringing race into it. I assert it is class warfare (rich vs poor) and race has nothing to do with it.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The so-called “sting” was an illegal criminal operation by a Republican operative, James O’Keefe, who has committed multiple crimes.

    The ACORN people were trying to be polite to a man who they thought was an obvious lunatic.

    Which he was.

    By the way, you’re wrong about the Tea Party. I totally approve of “get out the vote” organizations… but that’s not what the establishment-captured branches of the Tea Party do; several have campaigned to *suppress* the vote and prevent people from voting. Which is not acceptable.

    joe Reply:

    Mitt Romney’s share of the black vote at zero percent.

    The minorities are under the thumb of Ward Bosses – a fantastically insulting explanation for voter behavior.

    John Nachtigall Reply:


    No one on either side was charged..so you can’t say it was illegal. The ACORN people were caught red handed and as a result lost all support and are now gone…just like they deserved

    I posted a link about the Black Panthers suppressing the vote in the last election, put up or shut up, post a link about the tea party “suppressing” the vote. And I mean actively intimidating voters like the Black Pathers did.


    I case you have not noticed, you are the only one that keeps bringing up race. I keep emphasizing that I think it is class warfare, race is irrelevant. And here is the modern example of ward bosses and the corruption it breeds…If you can’t get past the pay wall google Statehouse to Big House to find it.


    thatbruce Reply:

    @John Nachtigall:

    No one on either side was charged..so you can’t say it was illegal.

    Yeah, about that

    The California Attorney General granted immunity to O’Keefe and Giles in exchange for their raw videos shot at three California ACORN offices.

    The immunity granted to the two conservative activists covers their admitted breaches of the California consent laws regarding recording. It doesn’t protect them from possible suits regarding their (also admitted) misrepresentation of their position and responses from ACORN staff.

    The ACORN people were caught red handed and as a result lost all support and are now gone…just like they deserved

    Yes, to catch ACORN red-handed, that pair of conservative activists had to heavily edit their illegally recorded tapes of the ACORN staffers who told the pair that they were crazy and that ACORN would have nothing to do with it. Here’s another tidbit that Fox News likely didn’t broadcast.

    Following the publication of the videos and withdrawal of funding, four different independent investigations by various state and city Attorneys General and the GAO released in 2009 and 2010 cleared ACORN, finding its employees had not engaged in criminal activities and that the organization had managed its federal funding appropriately, and calling the videos deceptively and selectively edited to present the workers in the worst possible light.

    VBobier Reply:


  8. synonymouse
    Aug 31st, 2012 at 11:33

    “High speed rail on the current corridor would help achieve more pollution reduction than following the I-5 corridor. If I-5 is used, there would be no HSR stops in Merced or Fresno or Bakersfield. 2 million people at least would be bypassed, denied the choice to take clean electric trains that don’t spew pollutants into the air the way automobiles do.”

    Utter, total crock. First off the CHSRA scheme is entirely developer – its goal is to encourage and enable population explosion, the primary generator of environmental degradation across the board.

    Bako and Fresno could easily be served by hsr via a spur from Tejon. Faster service to Bako from both north and south and definitely faster service from Fresno and Bako south to LA, the primary destination. And of course another spur farther to the north is always a possibility.

    Express service between Sac and LA via the i-5 racetrack would be air-competitive and could come close to breaking even, unlike the regional commute, hwy 99 AmBART, sure to require subsidy.

    If you want to reduce air pollution with electrification, the UP line thru the Valley along 99 would be a prime candidate. The current experiment with Tier 4 diesels reveals just how hard it is to make diesels cleaner and still powerful enough to do the job. The State needs to approach both class ones about deploying catenary.

    Fire PB and bring in SNCF, RENFE, JNR, anybody else.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I wish they could’ve brought JNR.

    VBobier Reply:

    I-5 only If You become a multi billionaire Syno, otherwise there is no way in hell that alignment will ever happen and You can take that to the Bank, don’t like that? I don’t care, as that is reality… Not Your stupid fantasy…

  9. datacruncher
    Aug 31st, 2012 at 13:02

    It appears the Visalia area wants the routing and station close to their area, not further away (news blog article from August 29, 2012):

    “Tulare County still hopes to convince the California High Speed Rail Authority to run the bullet train to the east of Hanford aligning with Hwy 198 near 7th Ave instead of to the west of Hanford around Ave 13 – a six mile difference.That would make any roundtrip from Hwy 99 some 12 miles further,not good for ticket sales from the most populated part of the region – east of 99. One calculation is that Kings County is likely to sue CHSRA whichever choice they make although the Authority has not fully committed to a station in Kings County.”

    Peter Reply:

    Yeah, the Kings/Tulare station, even if built, will never have high ridership, even closer to the “most populated part of the region”. Order of magnitude check, perchance?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Move it towards Visalia. If Visalia and Tulare government wants it, that means they will make the effort to beef up connecting service, which will mean better ridership.

  10. trentbridge
    Aug 31st, 2012 at 14:30

    I think Douglas Adams really summed up the whole “we told you we were going to build this” notification business:

    ““There’s no point in acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now. … What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams.”
    ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

    Really – if you have a farm in the Central Valley and the put a proposition on the ballot saing “we’d really like to build a HSR route from LA to SF, did it not occur to you to wonder where the damn thing was going? Lik thru’ the Central Valley?

    Alan Reply:

    This blog needs a “like” button…

    VBobier Reply:

    And an “Edit” function too…

    Nathanael Reply:

    In actual fact, the CHSRA notiifications were EXTREMELY thorough.

  11. trentbridge
    Aug 31st, 2012 at 14:34

    Also by Douglas Adams: (apropos to the whole blog!)

    ““I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
    1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
    2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
    3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
    ― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

    Nathanael Reply:

    Bingo. Fits D.P. Lubic’s model.

    People who thoughtfully study history don’t react like this, but then that’s practically nobody.

    (To be clear, I like self-driving cars, but I do not believe that *everyone else* will accept them.)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The first self-driving subways I know of, on the 42nd Street Shuttle, appeared 50 years ago. So why isn’t every subway system in the world 100% driverless by now?

  12. synonymouse
    Aug 31st, 2012 at 20:11

    Why the CHSRA will lose money – the $300,000.00 Muni mechanic:


    Pelosi & Moonbeam will insist on a militant house union and this is the spiking to be expected. Forget a private operator – the union will never allow it.

    How many conductors will the TWU demand?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Doesn’t work that way. SF political culture, home of the rich police chief, is NOT the same as Sacramento / LA political culture, which is going to drive the CHSRA (at least now that Diridion is out).

    synonymouse Reply:

    It does work that way’cause where the 3 Crones and the Drone as well as PG&E Richard hail from?

    And guess who are their favorite deep pockets unions?

    BART is the template for TehachapiBahn.

  13. Alon Levy
    Aug 31st, 2012 at 20:21

    My thinking is that the original environmental justice movement is specifically about toxic waste in low-income and minority areas. You can shoehorn air pollution concerns and such, but as a historical political term, it isn’t about takings, which is what Kings County NIMBYs are talking about.

    Takings are another matter, and you can talk about disparate impacts there, too. But there’s a specific reason why the trains are going through farmland. It’s not because the farmers are poor; it’s because farmland is inherently lower-value than urban land. It’s a matter of population density, not wealth. You could compensate farmers at Atherton rates (per property, not per unit of area) and it still would be much cheaper than urban grade separations and noise mitigation.

    joe Reply:

    I have a hard time seeing this as environmental justice. Taxpayers, rightfully so, support millions dollars worth of investments in CA to help farmers produce more & better crops.

    For example, the salaries and finding to study water use and water savings on almond crops.

    Or the USDA’s ARS which improves farming practices including better ways to keep farming viable, maintain the almond industry’s competitiveness, cut costs, fight pests, help meet air quality challenges and improve crop varieties.

    Searched for almond tree site:ars.usda.gov.
    Results 1 – 10 of about 2070 . Search took 0.48 seconds.

    Some of the work on behalf of the oppressed tree nut farmers.


    Location: Commodity Protection and Quality

    Project Number: 5302-43000-031-00
    Project Type: Appropriated

    Start Date: May 10, 2003
    End Date: May 09, 2008

    The primary goal of the project is to develop non-chemical quarantine and post-harvest control strategies for fresh and stored products that reduce losses caused by insects and other arthropods. Success of the project will result in reduced use of chemical pesticides, decreased environmental contamination, improved product quality, expanded export markets and elimination of trade barriers based on insect infestation.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “My thinking is that the original environmental justice movement is specifically about toxic waste in low-income and minority areas. You can shoehorn air pollution concerns and such, but as a historical political term, it isn’t about takings, which is what Kings County NIMBYs are talking about.”

    You are correct, historically. The environmental justice movement was originally about toxic waste dumps, incinerators, coal-burning power plants, and toxic heavy industry being placed in majority-black areas.

    (There was, indeed, even some understanding as to why these tended to be put in poor areas, though that was also complained about. The original damning stats showed that they tended to be put in middle-class black areas rather than poor white areas; the middle-class black areas didn’t stay middle class for long after that happened, obviously.)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, exactly. I can try to dig up the document by one of the more liberal churches (UCC, maybe?) doing some statistical analysis finding that toxic waste gets dumped in minority areas even after you control for income.

    That said, toxic waste is just one of the environmental justice issues. The equivalent for poor rural whites is mountaintop removal, and more recently fracking.

    I’m not sure why, but I see more mainstream environmentalist opposition to fracking than to unequal toxic waste dumping and Appalachian mountaintop removal. Is it your experience, too, actually living there, or is it an artifact of which blogs I read?

  14. voting4rail
    Aug 31st, 2012 at 22:00

    It really is sad to see that we live in a world were people dont care about their planet.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Most people are extremely narrow minded.

    I am narrow minded by instinct but thankfully I have both the instinct and training to learn things, which kind of forces one to be more broad minded.

  15. D. P. Lubic
    Sep 1st, 2012 at 08:04

    Off topic but of interest to frustrated station architects here–a drawing of the new Amtrak station for Norfolk, Va., courtesy of NARP:


    The design, to my eyes, is sort of retro, like some fast food franchises and even convenience stores in my area. I like it, but wonder if the dark red brick would be considered appropriate for California.

    Another story and another illustration; interestingly, an earlier design was criticized by a local architectural board as “too old fashioned.” I wonder what that would have been.


    Set of nine illustrations with this story:


    I wonder if this was the “old fashioned” design; it’s just slightly different:


    NARP also disputes the Republican position on rail in that party’s recently passed platform:


    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    What used to be there:


    The design some people didn’t like:


    Interesting–Republicans in Virginia are in favor of this new rail service:


    Big file on the station from a couple of years ago:


    And some criticism of the location:


    Nathanael Reply:

    Interesting. “19th century retro” has been popular for train stations in many areas, but apparently not Norfolk. Well, whatever. As long as it works.

    The location was pretty much a foregone conclusion, given that it’s at the intersection of the existing rail line with the Tide light rail.

    McDonnell will probably get drummed out of the Republican Party for his support for passenger rail. I’m actually kind of expecting the same to happen to Snyder in Michigan.

  16. Brandon from San Diego
    Sep 1st, 2012 at 09:38

    Has the term and application of “Environmental Justice” as part of project review and outreach been co-opted or twisted?

    10-15 years ago I looked closely at EJ to determine what it means and how it applies to projects I was working on. Today, I cannot match that experience with Roberts posts – there is some obvious confusion. Same with the responses; however, those are framed by the blog post.

    But, the assertions quoted in the blog post seem spot on with the idea of what EJ is. Whether they are correct or not is another matter.

    EJ is not about environmental impacts.

    EJ’s subject matter is about public outreach and asks, basically, “what and how did project review include input from minority and disadvantaged populations?”

    EJ asks public agencies to go beyond the minimum criteria for public outreach to augment efforts with things like focused meetings or public hearings in identified minority or disadvantaged communities. Asks to include material in multiple languages. Focused mailers. Extended comment periods. Ectetera.

    EJ also asks how the augmented outreach resulted in any change to the project.

    Two mid-point related points to this discussion….
    1. Identification of minority and disadvantaged communities is a mathematical exercise using US Census data. The area taken into consideration is the identified project area. Identified minority and disadvantaged areas are probably at the census tract level. identification of these is not arbitrary. Certainly, a team of planners evaluated data, identified zones, produced a report for public consumption and is probably provided on the CHSRA website.

    2. NEPA = National Environmental POLICY Act. The “P” is for POLICY and not for PROTECTION. NEPA does not protect anything. In short, NEPA is about awareness and disclosure about environmental impacts. It specifies what information should be presented for the public and decision makers so that the decisionmakers can make informed decisions. The California version, CEQA, is stronger than NEPA whereas it requires mitigation measures where adverse impacts are identified. But, CEQA is State and not Federal.

    Back to main topic…

    Farming communities may very well have been identied as being “disadvantaged” or “low-income” communities. Not to be stereotypical, but I don’t believe the profession has high income levels????

    That said, it is possible Farming communities could have legal standing by saying that no one informed them of the project, or, didnt have enough time, or what-not. Whether they are right or not, again, is another matter. But regardless, one response that can be easily made is to give more time for public comment, which has been awarded, right?

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