2012 Election Preview

Nov 5th, 2012 | Posted by

Tomorrow is Election Day across America, and although it’s not on the ballot, the outcome of any number of races will impact the future of high speed rail and mass transit in California.

Obama with Miller Center Report

Here are some of the races that matter most:

President of the United States – Barack Obama has been an indispensable supporter of the high speed rail project as president. Without his $8 billion in HSR stimulus, half of which has gone to California, it’s unlikely that construction would be taking place on the first segment of the project next year. The polling suggests Obama is likely to win re-election. And in a second term, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is being called the front-runner to replace Ray LaHood as Transportation Secretary. That’s more good news for California HSR and for mass transit of all kinds in the state. A Romney win would be devastating for transit and rail, but that seems increasingly unlikely.

Congress – The US House of Representatives is unlikely to flip back to Democratic control this year, which is unfortunate. House Republicans have defunded HSR at the federal level, whereas House Democrats strongly support future HSR spending. The US Senate is likely to remain in Democratic hands. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a strong backer of California HSR, is up for re-election but is a lock to win a fourth full term.

In California, several House races have HSR implications. In CA-10, the vehemently anti-HSR Jeff Denham faces a neck-and-neck race with Democrat Jose Hernandez. Denham is facing his first re-election fight and if he loses, it will mean one fewer anti-HSR voice from the Central Valley will be in Congress. In CA-26, Democrat Julia Brownley has faced attacks from oil companies for her vote in support of the HSR project in Sacramento this past summer. Tony Strickland, a far right Republican, would immediately become a loud anti-HSR voice in the Congress if he wins that seat. And Alan Lowenthal is running for Congress in CA-47. The less said about him, the better.

State Legislature – Democrats have a chance to win a 2/3 majority in the State Senate, especially if they pick up SD-19 where Hannah-Beth Jackson is running in the seat being vacated by Tony Strickland. The aforementioned Alan Lowenthal is leaving the State Senate due to term limits, as is Joe Simitian, which is excellent news for the HSR project. Democrats have an outside shot at winning 2/3 in the Assembly, but it’s considered less likely. It’s also of less importance for HSR given that Speaker John A. Pérez is a strong backer of the project and has delivered the Assembly for the project without any trouble.

Proposition 30 – Passage of this measure would help fix the state budget and provide badly needed revenue for schools and other priorities. As this blog explained over the weekend, anti-HSR forces are trying to link Prop 30 and HSR together, hoping that they can take each other down. It’s a false linkage, of course. But for the good of the state, Prop 30 needs to pass. If it fails, another round of “omg time to defund high speed rail!!!” could emerge, and I think I speak for all rail advocates when I say we’d rather not go through that again.

Local Measures:

Measure J – Los Angeles County voters will be deciding whether to extend the Measure R sales tax by 30 years, to 2069, in order to accelerate several rail projects, including the Westside Subway Extension and the extremely interesting yet still nebulous Sepulveda Pass Corridor transit project. LA’s rail expansion has been among the most aggressive in North America, and a yes vote would sustain that momentum. But it requires a 2/3 vote, and that’s a difficult amount to reach no matter the issue. Measure R barely passed in 2008 with 67.22% of the vote (a landslide victory if judged by the usual majority vote standard). I’m skeptical that Measure J will reach the magic 2/3 mark, but it would be great if it did.

Los Angeles Streetcar – Property owners in downtown LA will be deciding whether to tax themselves to build a downtown streetcar loop connecting the Civic Center, the Jewelry District, LA Live, and the Fashion District. Downtown LA had streetcars in the past and could use them again.

  1. Paul Druce
    Nov 5th, 2012 at 08:57

    Is there any actual benefit to the LA Streetcar project rather than going “Yippee, streetcars!”?

    Alon Levy Reply:


    blankslate Reply:

    From a transportation/mobility/access perspective, none. From a land use/economic development perspective, maybe. That’s why the measure is set up so that if the property owners near the proposed line think it is worth it, they can tax themselves to pay for it. IMO, an appropriate way to pay for a transportation project whose primary purported benefit is in increasing the attractiveness of an area, rather than actually providing transportation.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Bingo. It’s a particularly poorly designed streetcar project from a transportation point of view, though that could change if local property owners decide they want it to be more useful. From an economic development perspective, it might work, it might not.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yes, relaying streetcar track would be a symbolic mea culpa for the atrocious planning errors of the recent past. I am old enough to have seen the LARy in action. Plus side for the restored lines would be standard gauge instead of the 3’6″.

    Now if we could just get BART to publicly piss on its Bechtelian proprietary past and repent.

    Jonathan Reply:

    “symbolic mea culpa”? How is _that_ different from “Yippee, street cars!”?

    as for your last line, yeah, let’s go piss on a third rail. After you, sir. ;)

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yippee, streetcars! **** Jesse Haugh.(and Billy Ray Stokes)

    Love to see PB piss on BART’s 3rd rail – smarter move than the DeTour.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    LA’s symbolic mea culpa is the Blue Line.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I believe you are 100% correct that the Long Beach line loss was the stinker that would not stop smelling for decades.

    A while back I posted a link to a YouTube video of the PE line to Long Beach in its last days. I could not believe how functional and busy it was. Of course that was exactly the reason the highway lobby hated electric railways so much – they wanted 100% market share.

    blankslate Reply:

    It’s a little bit more than symbolic; considering that it has 92,000 boardings per day, it is the busiest non-heavy-rail transit line in LA. By boardings/mile it is busier than SF’s MUNI metro system.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Don’t disturb Synon’s foamer retro-visions with facts ;)

    blankslate Reply:

    Well my reply was directed to Alon Levy, who is not so much of a retro foamer, and for the record I believe our statements are complementary rather than contradictory.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Oh! My mistake, I misread you as following on to Synonymouse. I do apologize.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The restoration of the line to Long Beach was a major victory for the cause of electric traction.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Funding or no funding, it is a project with a lot of planning and engineering left to be done. And, undetermined costs. Like, where is the maintenance facility to be located? Is that included in the project estimate? In downtown Los Angeles….

    Jon Reply:

    No. One-way loops are always terrible from a transportation perspective.

    Andy M Reply:

    For short trips yes, as part of a bigger system. no. In fact a one-way loop into which longer lines can feed is a good idea as it keeps junctions simple (you don’t need more than a track wye per feeding line) and with all trains using the central loop serving the same stops (the same platforms even), changing from one line to another is relatively low sweat.

    That’s why Chicago has fared very well with a loop, for example.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Right, but:

    1. The Chicago Loop is bidirectional. Most lines using it only run in one direction, but not all lines run in the same direction. The junctions in Chicago are flat, and it works only because traffic is low enough it’s not a problem.

    2. The LA Streetcar in question is not part of a bigger system and doesn’t have anything feeding into it.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Regarding your comment on traffic levels on the Loop. The flat junctions at Chicago’s Loop were originally supplemented by several terminal stations (which predated the Loop) providing extra capacity. In the 30s and later, the State and Dearborn Subways were built, with flying junctions from the four highest-volume lines, which replaced the capacity of the terminal stations and added more. The Loop is great, and provides some massive flexibility, but it could never carry the full traffic of the Chicago system today.

  2. blankslate
    Nov 5th, 2012 at 09:06

    Also, Alameda County: Measure B1, sales tax for transportation.

    The California Planning and Development Report has a full list of planning-related ballot measures. Although most are unrelated or only tangentially related to HSR, it might be of interest to people here.

  3. DATA1717
    Nov 5th, 2012 at 09:33

    I guess we will find out tomorrow, but I am not as optimistic about a Obama victory. The polling makes it seem like a dead heat and their using numbers that assume a high democrat turnout. I don’t think that will be the case like 2008.
    However, as bad as a loss as that would be California could still build the HSR regardless of what happens in DC.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The polling makes it seem like a dead heat

    No, it doesn’t.

    VBobier Reply:

    The LA times is reporting that early voters are coming out in droves and their largely for President Obama…

    So far it’s:

    72% Obama
    28% Romney

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    I’m not nervous at all. I predict Obama will get close to 300 Electoral Votes. Could be up to 340.

    trentbridge Reply:

    In Nate Silver we trust:


    If nine out of ten polls in a single state like Ohio show Obama at say 48% and Romney at 46% – and the tenth shows a tie say 47% -47% (thank you Rasmussen!!) – although each individual poll is within the margin of error, the aggregate of those polls is not within rhe same margin of error. This is a strong indicator that Obama is PROBABLY ahead. Nate has Ohio at 87% chance of Obama winning. Hew Hampshire at 80%. Iowa at 81%.

    DATA1717 Reply:

    I’m just saying I won’t be surprised if Romney wins. Also as that LA times article says they don’t really know who people are voting for. They just know party affiliation and a large amount of them are undecided. Ohio doesn’t even list the early votes by party affiliation.
    This is all really a mute point because we will know for sure tomorrow night.

    VBobier Reply:

    We’ll see about whether Romney or Obama gets elected… Very soon, although Ohio might lag, as there might be illegal voting challenges of black voters possible by some poll watchers who are employed by the Republican Party, as 59 districts are being targeted by the Republican Party in Ohio that are predominantly black, there’s a court challenge to stop that attempted theft of the election, as that’s election fraud, blacks are citizens, just as much as anyone else is.

    Nathanael Reply:

    As far as I can tell from studying it way too much, Romney can only win if he steals the election.

    On the other hand, a huge number of downticket races are really closely contested.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Romney’s Path To The Election
    (1) steal Florida through vote suppression


    (2) steal Ohio through a man-in-the-middle attack on crummy electronic “voting” machines


    At least he can’t steal NJ using email voting, which seemed like a possibility until this was clarified:

    They seem to have tried everything you can think of in Pennsylvania, though thankfully most of it has gotten struck down. I have no idea what other thievery the Republican Party has up its sleeve. They probably won’t bother even trying in California, though I’d watch San Diego County which has a bad record.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Thieves stealing from thieves.

    Why Prop. 30 sux:


    But you won’t have to worry about dissident positions like this messing up the kumbaya as Doug Bosco has just bought out this newspaper. He’s the Moonbeam Machine guy who wants to mine river gravel in Sonoma-Mendocino , ergo SMART has to stay FRA-AAR freight. He’s a real eco-green dude just like Barry Zoeller, the mountain lions friend.

    VBobier Reply:

    Oh and it seems that Ohio has 5 parties on the ballot running people for POTUS…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There are 8 parties running candidates for President here in New York. I hope that the Working Familes Party is able to collect enough votes for Obama, also their candidate, that the are able to retain their automatic ballot access.
    7 for Senate. 6 for the House, 3 for State Senate and 5 for Assembly.
    There is no one I would want to vote for running for State Senate so I won’t be voting for anyone for State Senate.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Is your State Senate election even competitive? My ex is registered in a part of Westchester where Richard “congestion pricing is unfair to my rich constituents” Brodsky runs unopposed.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They couldn’t scare up anyone to run against “all sorts of insane Tea Party stuff come out of my mouth” Betty Little. She’s the only one running. On the Republican line, Conservative line and the Independence line.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Are any of the State Senate campaigns competitive in NY after the gerrymandering? Oh, right, 3 or 4 of them are. We have to wait at least another 2 years for population shifts before we can oust the cancer of the gerrymanderers.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I did write-ins on the uncontested Republican slots, just as a protest vote.

    Peter Reply:

    I like it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Meh. My county uses paper ballots tallied by a machine that verifies that the ballot is readable while you are there. I went to the training when we changed from the mechanical machines. I vague remember that it puts write ins in a separate box but I may be remembering incorrectly. Meh, it means someone has to count the votes cast for Mickey Mouse which is almost the same as not voting at all.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I know all it means is that the election workers have to count the write-ins. I like to make’em do it anyway; it is required to show up in the final result.

    I don’t do fake names, so I just voted for myself.

    VBobier Reply:

    Hopefully enough votes are sucked away from the Romneylans… er Republicans…

    That and Lyin Ryan loses His seat in Congress, that’s cause He wants to cut Seniors the Blind and Disabled Peoples SSI income by at least 26% and cap SSI to 2007 levels, plus make the states do all the work at the states expense like before 1972, which would mean I’d have to choose between food, bills and such(clothes, repairs would all have to go) or rent. Ryan thinks people who get SSI get too much and He’s a cheap liar as He does not know what’s like to try and live on SSI like one should, Heck I can’t even replace My car as My income is too low and I’m not allowed to save much more than $1145(2012) or $1133(2013) cause of limits from 1989 that have never changed any, there have been efforts to fix that liquid asset limit at $10,000.00, instead of $2,000.00, but those bills died in a Repugnican dominated committee. buying a burial plot is not even possible as one is not allowed to have more than $1500 in burial costs and when was the last time one saw a burial plot and headstone for that little? So Ya might say My wish is personal…

    There are 2 Republicans running for the same seat for the 8th District in CA to the US House of Representatives in Congress, I didn’t vote for them, seems I missed them, oh well…

    VBobier Reply:

    That’s 2 more than here in CA.

  4. James Doell
    Nov 5th, 2012 at 11:32

    I am a property owner along the streetcar route in downtown LA. Can’t wait to vote on this. So far all of the neighbors I have spoken to are voting yes!! Hopefully this will pass.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    what do you know about where the cars will be maintained and stored at night? I have not seen anything and am really curious?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Are they planning low-floor articulateds or historical?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Seems the backers are looking at modern rolling stock:



    It is possible an earlier vision was with heritage or heritage style equipment, but it looks like that may have been dropped:


    synonymouse Reply:

    In the late forties “torpedo backs” were quite popular amongst auto designers, but soon disappeared, I think partly due to the terrible rear view from the driver’s seat. These proposed LA cars would seem to feature a “torpedo front”.

    But they are not as ugly as the SMART doodlebugs.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    It’s great news for the Historic Core. Sorry it no longer climbs up to Bunker Hill but Regional Connector will serve that. Would love to live on Spring St and use the streetcar on Broadway.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    How far away is the Funicular from here? I think the plan looks good, but maybe the loop should extend a few more blocks south, just an idea…


    Roger Christensen Reply:

    It will stop at Angel’s Flight 4th and Hill which is also a subway stop. The streetcar travels south on Broadway and north on Hill.

  5. datacruncher
    Nov 5th, 2012 at 14:06

    The Hanford City Council on Tuesday night will consider approving tax incentives and impact fee reductions geared to attract Costco to a new development of 500,000 sq ft of retail plus up to 200 apartments located east of Hanford.

    The development is at the northwest corner of Highways 198 and 43, roughly 1/4 to 1/3 mile west of the proposed Hanford East HSR station site.

    This retail project is roughly 1 mile east of most existing housing development (a small development of about 75-100 homes appears adjacent to the site but the main edge of current housing is a mile east). Much of the land between this site and the rest of the city is currently farmland so it could be characterized as leapfrog development although adjacent to a freeway interchange.

    The proposed shopping center is also 2 miles east of downtown Hanford and 3 miles east of the Hanford Mall area, the current major commercial centers in the city.

    Combined with the recent completion of 198 to freeway status, Hanford may now start seeing a development pattern shift to farmland on its east side toward larger Visalia from its own decisions after expressing concerns that a Hanford East station would generate urban growth in that same area.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    It all makes sense now. No wonder they fought the design plan so hard…HSR was set to cost them a Costco and all that tax revenue. Now that their commercial district is set to migrate east, how long before the town embraces HSR as a way to revitalize it’s historic downtown?

    Peter Reply:

    Agree, but why the hell did they never make this part of their argument against the plan? If they were planning to redevelop that area, that would have made a much better argument than “OMG, de cows r drying up!”

  6. morris brown
    Nov 5th, 2012 at 18:13

    Definitely off topic:

    Luckiest man alive or don’t mess with a train:



    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    He’s not alone in the “luckiest man alive” category:




    Finally, a reminder that we as rail enthusiasts need to keep our wits about us.



    Reality Check Reply:

    How about this insane clip under the train?

  7. Reality Check
    Nov 6th, 2012 at 00:17

    State panel vote may clear path for high-speed rail land deals

    A vote today at the state Capitol could clear the way for buying land needed for high-speed rail right of way through the central San Joaquin Valley.

    The state Public Works Board, which includes the directors of the state’s Finance, General Services and Transportation departments, will meet at 10 a.m. to consider streamlining the purchase of about 1,100 parcels along the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s proposed train route between Madera and Bakersfield. The 130-mile stretch would become the backbone of a statewide system connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles.

    joe Reply:

    Opponents argue in court papers that without an injunction to block the agency from buying property, the rail line “would cut a 75-mile swath of destruction” through the San Joaquin Valley

    swing hanger Reply:

    That’s a mighty wide gauge they’re gonna build in the valley, lol.

    Peter Reply:

    It’s easy to lose track of grammar or even reality when you’re slinging hyperbole.

    joe Reply:

    From “Enterprise” The attack on Earth is exactly how PB will built the HSR ROW.

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah that must be the Synonymouse gauge…

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    Looks like the construction can begin sooner! Where do they get all those toys?


  8. morris brown
    Nov 6th, 2012 at 07:38


    Here is some food for thought from the DOT Inspector General..




    joe Reply:

    My take: The findings tell the FRA to write down what they require rather than work with projects on a case by case basis.

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