The Day the Sierra Club Opposed Funding Long-Term Carbon Emission Reductions

Jan 11th, 2014 | Posted by

You would think that California’s leading environmental organizations, who claim to be committed to fighting the climate crisis and reducing carbon emissions, would enthusiastically support Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to use 19% of annual cap-and-trade revenues to fund a major infrastructure project that reduces millions of tons of CO2 while also reducing other forms of air pollution. You would also think these organizations would be sure to do so when the climate denying right has targeted that project for destruction.

You would be wrong.

Sierra Club California, in an amazing and shocking move, has come out against the funding of long-term reductions in CO2 emissions. They plan to advocate against Governor Brown’s plan to fund HSR with cap-and-trade revenues:

“We still have an opportunity to make a difference on how bad climate change will be. And the way you do that will be to take all of the available resources, you spend them now on things that get you reductions now,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. “If this had been a choice between the Golden Gate Bridge and you had the opportunity to stop typhoid at that very moment, I think the people of San Francisco would’ve stopped typhoid.”

Phillips is completely wrong here, displaying a line of thinking that will be fatal to the effort to address climate change if continued. The way we make a difference is to take all of the resources (subtract the word “available,” more on that in a moment) and spend them now on everything that can give you lasting, permanent reductions – especially those things that provide a permanently lower level of CO2 emissions.

Her analogy is absurd and displays the logic of austerity, a logic that makes it impossible to fight climate change. Austerity policies force people to choose between important priorities rather than funding everything by insisting you can only use the “available” resources rather than the total resources that exist in a society. Addressing climate change requires large sums of money to be spent, in the trillions, in order to avert a far more costly and deadly catastrophe. Anyone who plays into the logic of austerity, which says you can’t spend that money and have to pick and choose a few small things to do at the expense of other priorities, is espousing a logic that ensures we will not be able to do what is necessary to reduce CO2 emissions.

In the 1930s, if SF were facing a typhoid epidemic at the same time as construction were about to begin on the Golden Gate Bridge, the reaction would not have been to stop the bridge. Politicians would have said “well obviously we need to do both.”

But even that analogy is flawed. It suggests that Phillips does not see HSR as a tool in the fight against climate change. And that is very bad news. A more accurate analogy would be that SF is facing a typhoid epidemic and one of the leading public health advocates says “we only have so much available money, let’s spend it on addressing people’s symptoms now and not on finding a lasting cure.”

Despite Sierra Club California’s incredible argument, most others engaged in the fight to reduce CO2 emissions understands that we will lose unless we make major lifestyle changes that include the way we travel around the state of California. The California Air Resources Board, charged with implementing AB 32 and the cap-and-trade system, understands this quite well. In their investment plan for the cap-and-trade revenues, they make this very important statement when introducing the section that calls for spending part of those revenues on HSR:

Full implementation of existing State strategies will achieve the 2020 reduction target. However, extensive additional strategies are needed both to ensure ongoing maintenance of the 2020 limit – as population and related growth increase after 2020 – and to meet post-2020 goals.

Reaching the 2050 goal (80 percent below 1990 levels) will require far-reaching new approaches to how we plan our communities, how we move people and freight, how we power our State, how industries produce their products, how successful we are in treating waste as a source of energy, and how well we preserve California’s lands and natural resources that sequester carbon.

Sierra Club California is saying this is wrong, that you don’t have to do anything to ensure ongoing maintenance of the 2020 limit, and that we don’t need to worry about reaching the 2050 goal. They are displaying a stunning lack of foresight and a contempt of long-term planning that will undo all of the gains California is making when it comes to climate change.

To make matters worse, Phillips is playing into the hands of people who are determined to stop the fight against climate change. Republicans and Tea Party members in California and in Congress are looking for ways to stop the high speed rail project. You can bet they will pounce on her statements and use them to attack HSR across the country. “Even the Sierra Club doesn’t want this funded!” they’ll say.

Assemblymember Jeff Gorell, a Ventura Republican, is running against Congresswoman Julia Brownley this year. Brownley is a Democrat who voted for high speed rail in the summer of 2012. Republicans attacked her for that vote, but failed to keep her out of Congress. Gorell yesterday filed an initiative to overturn Prop 1A and stop the HSR project. It won’t go anywhere since it lacks funding to get onto the ballot. But it does suggest that Gorell plans to make an issue of HSR this year. Sierra Club California, by opposing Brown’s cap-and-trade funding plan, has just undermined Brownley and handed a big win to Gorell.

Another environmental group that should know better is the Greenlining Institute:

Likewise, the Greenlining Institute does not oppose the rail project but will push lawmakers to devote cap-and-trade money to transit operations, spokesman Bruce Mirken said. The organization sponsored successful legislation two years ago requiring that a quarter of the greenhouse gas revenue be targeted to low-income and minority communities most affected by pollution.

“High-speed rail would not have been on our priority list,” Mirken said.

Then Greenlining Institute has some seriously flawed priorities. One of the worst forms of greenlining in the state is the location of freeways near low-income communities and communities of color. This problem is especially bad in the Central Valley, where emissions from vehicles is one of the leading causes of asthma and air pollution. The Valley has some of the worst air pollution in the country. HSR will help reduce those emissions. How Greenlining Institute can say that’s not a priority is shocking.

I am all for transit operating funding. But that’s why Governor Brown is planning to use only 19% of the cap-and-trade funds for HSR. That leaves over $1 billion for other priorities, including transit funding. It is austerity logic to say we have to pick and choose between these priorities. Greenlining Institute should be leading the call for a hike in the statewide gas tax to fund transit operations. Instead they are calling for a de facto alliance with the Tea Party to kill HSR.

I don’t know if these groups even care about HSR. Their statements suggests they are happy to watch it die. Because that’s what may well happen if Brown’s proposal for using cap-and-trade funds for HSR is stopped. The state needs to show a Sacramento judge in the next few months that they have revenues sufficient to make a new financing plan work. There’s no time to come up with some other source of money in order to survive the lawsuit, and notably, neither Sierra Club California nor Greenlining Institute are proposing one.

These groups must keep in mind CARB’s point about the long term. We will never achieve the kind of reductions we need to avoid catastrophe just by small measures. I am a huge transit supporter and love electric cars. But those alone will not solve the climate crisis. We need to re-engineer how California operates. We need to eliminate all burning of fossil fuels as soon as possible, and should start with those alternatives that carry a lot of people. HSR is a godsend when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions, using renewable electric power to move people quickly between cities, getting them out of airplanes and cars. We should have built HSR thirty years ago. We’re building it now, and if climate change is as pressing as Phillips says it is, we have no time to lose in getting it funded and under construction.

The main reason I care about HSR, the reason I started this blog, was because I saw it as a crucial tool in the effort to reduce CO2 emissions. I am amazed and appalled that some California environmentalists are willing to oppose the funding of long-term CO2 emission reducers like HSR because they cannot understand the politics and cannot envision anything other than austerity.

Members of Sierra Club chapters in California need to rise up against this flawed, damaging, short-term thinking. Let the Sacramento office know how you feel. Tell them that it’s not acceptable to help the right destroy HSR and that funding long-term reduction of CO2 emissions must be a priority.

  1. datacruncher
    Jan 11th, 2014 at 10:57

    Article from today’s Mercury-News contrasting HSR viewpoints in Hanford and Visalia.
    Tale of two bullet-train cities: Hanford, Visalia spar over $68 billion project

    In Hanford, two farmers leading a court battle against the project have become local celebrities, and the anti-bullet-train lawn signs they distribute dot yards across town.

    In Visalia, city leaders envision the train zipping residents to college classes and big-league sporting events in the Bay Area and Los Angeles region. Locals, they predict, also will take the train to work and reduce the valley’s staggering jobless rates.

    Observer Reply:

    From day one, I have thought that going through Kings County near Hanford was a mistake. Going through a more established transportation corridor like HWY 99 and Visalia would have have worked better. There always is some resistance to big projects, but there would have been less resistance if they would have gone with the HWY 99 corridor and a Visalia station. I know there are issues with Union Pacific and all; but where there is a will there is a way. The HSR project is now paying the price for picking Hanford over Visalia. What could have been.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Selma, Kingsburg and Fowler all opposed HSR passing within their cities early in the planning process, they did not oppose the project only an in-their-cities routing. So a close to 99 ROW would have required a large swing around those three.

    Visalia even offered free land for a station near 99/198. So even avoiding the other three cities it is too bad a 99 area routing was not the final choice.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    In Visalia, city leaders envision the train zipping residents to college classes and big-league sporting events in the Bay Area and Los Angeles region. Locals, they predict, also will take the train to work and reduce the valley’s staggering jobless rates.

    So in other words, they’re hoping it’s going to be a sprawl machine, but don’t realize that the fares will be far too expensive to do any of these things??

  2. Andrew L-A
    Jan 11th, 2014 at 11:01

    When trying to accomplish a specific task (GHG emission reduction) it seems like the most effective way is to list the sources of pollution by quantity/cost to eliminate or reduce and then proceed down the list. Unlimited resources aren’t present, so you can’t complete the entire list all at once.

    Derek Reply:

    I agree 100%. When you’re selling your house, do you user your time and money and “spend them now on everything” that will increase the selling price? Do you install a pool and marble flooring and stainless steel appliances? Or do you prioritize according to things that will maximize your return per dollar or hour spent by beginning with simple, cheap repairs like patching nail holes, doing spot repainting and so on?

    Joe Reply:

    Great example.
    If we are intending to flip Earth like a home and move to another plant I’d do the quick, cosmetic things.

    When you are committed to your home, you invest in other things with longer term value.

    I am committed to planet Earth and CA.

    Derek Reply:

    If you amortize the costs over the useful lifespan of each investment, then you can compare those investments easily.

    For example, HSR might have a useful lifespan of 50 years. Add up all the costs and amortize them to get a yearly cost, then divide the total tons of CO2 saved by the number of years, and divide the second answer by the first to get tons of CO2 saved per dollar invested. Then you can easily compare this with other CO2 reduction measures.

    Howard Reply:

    Some parts of the high speed rail projects would likely be high on the list of efficent green house gas reduction projects like: Caltrain electrification, transbay terminal extention, and Metrolink improvements. Some aspects of the Initial Operating Segment would also be a good investment of carbon reduction funds like electrification, when the new California oil severence tax and matching prop 1B funds pay for the rest of the construction of the IOS.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m not sure that’s actually true. Caltrain electrification is so expensive that the cost per kg of CO2 saved is probably high. Transbay would significantly increase Caltrain’s mode share, but at such a high cost that again, the cost per kg of CO2 saved is high.

    To pull some numbers ex recto, let’s say Caltrain manages to triple ridership out of both projects. It now has 150,000 weekday riders, about on a par with each half of the main NEC commuter lines (New Haven-Grand Central and Trenton-New York), the busiest in the US. That’s 100,000 additional riders; let’s say, again ex recto, that half are induced traffic or diverted from tech shuttles and the rest are diverted from cars. So that’s 50,000 fewer car trips, perhaps 40 km each, 250 weekdays per year. US cars today average about 250 g-CO2/km (a bit more than 20 mpg), but they’re getting more efficient, with hybrids clocking in at 120; hybrids aren’t selling particularly well, but they are in the Bay Area. Let’s make the average 200 g-CO2/km (about 27 mpg), or 0.2 kg, which is a charitable assumption to trains. So it’s 50,000*40*0.2*250 = 100,000,000 kg-CO2/year = 100,000 t-CO2/year.

    Now, on the cost side, the total cost is $1 billion for electrification plus $3 billion for DTX, so $4 billion up-front for 100,000 annual tons of CO2 reduction. At 1.5% discount rate (roughly equal to long-term growth, the risk-free rate of return for carbon cost analyses), that’s $600/t, which is too high.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Alon –

    There are three issues with your analysis

    1) It is unclear what the net cost of electrification is. You can’t really count train costs which are currently part of budget as they are going to buy new trains no matter what and EMUs are actually cheaper than DMUs. This project hasn’t been actually been costed for a long, long time – estimates from a decade or more ago have just been escalated. Electrification equipment is more like computers than civil construction – technology has brought down costs.

    2) There are CO2 savings from switching from diesel fuel to electricity for existing ridership.

    3) the fuel cost / operating costs are also lower. These savings can likely be monetized in the form of fare bonds. Caltrain has basically no debt right now.

    I haven’t done the full math but if the true additional cost of electrification can be isolated, the math is a lot better.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    I’m afraid that you are verging into Magical Thinking territory.

    (1) Yes, indeed, it is unclear what the net cost of Caltrain electrification is. But it’s very clear it’s going to be at least twice what anybody else in the world would pay, and it’s clear that the results are going to be dismal: it’s going the same old US Olde Tyme Commuter Railroad (conductors! dinging bells! blasting horns! highball on the green! random nonsensical schedules! hour headways! platforms designed for freight!) with the “bonus” of higher maintenance costs and CBOSS.

    Your assertion that EMUs are cheaper than DMUs isn’t borne out anywhere: it’s only with high service levels (Caltrain explicitly intends to operate as a “commuter railroad”, FOREVER) and controlled operation-staffing (Caltrain is 3x overstaffed per train, and HAS NO PLANS TO EVER CHANGE THAT) and controlled total maintenance costs, and higher equipment utilization (Caltrain plans one-for-one replacement of lightly-used. poorly scheduled diesel hauled equipment with lightly-used, poorly-scheduled, high-spares-ratio, slow-turnback, slow-dwell-time electrics) that the energy savings and equipment savings of electrification make sense.

    Yes, in a remotely sane world — one that is completely unrelated to the Olde Tyme Commuter Railroad that is operating on the SF Peninsula, and will continue to operate as a freight system with some wires on top, indefinitely — it would make economic and environmental sense to spend half a billion dollars electrifying the system and a billion dollars to make it serve downtown SF, the overwhelmingly primary ridership target in the system.

    But at a billion and a half for “electrification” (unique special CBOSS, unique special catenary design, unique special American EMUs, incredibly inefficient operations, sky-high crewing costs and sky-high maintenance costs) and two or three billion for a simple one-mile, one-station extension, the numbers just don’t make sense.

    I really want that not to be the case, and I spent a couple decades of my life believing it wouldn’t be the case, but REALITY is that is it the case, and by pissing away money on out-of-control NEED MOAR MONEE GIVE US MONEE Caltrain money pits you’re not accomplishing anything positive.

    (2) There are indeed CO2 savings. They’re negligible, both regionally, statewide and globally. They might be borderline justifiable at half or less the “investment” cost and double the ridership gain, but Caltrain is NOT going to cut costs (on the contrary, the sky is very clearly the limit for the agency staff and consultants) and it is NOT going to improve operating efficiency post-electrification (on the contrary, EVERY SINGLE DOCUMENT the agency and its consultants have ever produced show business as usual, for decades and decades into the future.)

    (3) The energy costs are less than a rounding error. Even at a 2% discount rate, a BILLION (“billion” with a “b”, Robert!) dollars is twenty million (“million” with an “m”) annual dollars, and there is no way in hell Caltrain is going to save anything like that in energy costs.

    And, like it or not, think magically or not, and fracking gas glut or not, but energy is largely fungible now and in the medium term future: electricity is no magically divorced from fossil fuel costs.

    Sadly, what, like California HSR, could have been a “no brainer” investment, has, through insane cost escalation and insane Only In America wiping out of all potential benefits, ended up as something that only somebody without a brain could unquestioningly support. We’re doomed, and giving two or five billion dollars to SamTrans’ Finest isn’t going to do anything but the situation even worse.

    Joe Reply:

    (1) Yes, indeed, it is unclear what the net cost of Caltrain electrification is. But it’s very clear it’s going to be at least twice what anybody else in the world would pay, and it’s clear that the results are going to be dismal…….blah blah blahhhhhhhh.

    I really want that not to be the case, and I spent a couple decades of my life believing it wouldn’t be the case…..

    And, like it or not, think magically or not, and fracking gas glut or not, but energy is largely fungible now and in the medium term future: electricity is no magically divorced from fossil fuel costs.

    Sadly, what, like California HSR, could have been a “no brainer” investment, has, through insane cost escalation and insane Only In America.

    We’re doomed, and giving two or five billion dollars to SamTrans’ Finest isn’t going to do anything but the situation even worse.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Most of the cost is not electrification, but the DTX, which gets San Mateo commuters into Downtown SF rather than Mission Bay. Electrification is, according to the relevant Caltrain-HSR Compatibility post, $1.2 billion, of which $800 million is electrification and $400 million is EMUs. I split the difference, but if the rounding had gone a bit differently I’d have excluded the rolling stock. I have not very nice things to say about how agencies defer maintenance, rolling stock replacement, and systems replacement, and then find huge maintenance backlogs every time there’s capital money from elsewhere. (And it’s related to one of many, many posts on my own backlog now.)

    You’re right there’s also the savings from existing ridership, but conversely there’s the CO2 emissions of electric operations to worry about. If emissions go down by exactly a factor of three, then it cancels out perfectly – the additional emissions of induced traffic and of correcting for the assumption that electric Caltrain emissions are zero match with the reduced emissions of electric Caltrain vs. diesel.

    VBobier Reply:

    Some of the RR’s that made up Conrail as an example, like Penn Central was worse at deferred maintenance that anyone, but that’s why the Penn Central and New York Central were made into Conrail and Conrail did a good job on maintenance, there were 4 other RR’s that became Conrail, at least according to this site Here, also some ROW was abandoned from what I remember reading about.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Hey, at least they didn’t defer maintenance to look more profitable for a corporate merger, like the Milwaukee Railroad did. Worked really well for the Milwaukee, too…

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    What you are suggesting is catastrophically misapplied deductive logic. It assumes you can solve complex system problems with simple minded one variable solutions. HSR solves multiple problems at the same time. Giving credit for only one problem will make it look like a poor performer. But that is the fault of bad logic in the analysis not HSR. Let’s look at the list of jobs HSR does:

    1. Increase intercity travel capacity
    2. Reduce highway travel through mode shift
    3. Reduce intra-state flights through mode splits
    4. Reduce carbon emissions and air pollution through mode shift
    5. Free up airports gates and slots
    Then the big ones:
    6. Connect the San Joaquin Valley to coastal metros to decrease inequality in the state and improve economic performance
    7. Shift the SJV development market from sprawl does infill in HSR station cities
    8. Provide attraction and destination for transit network development in station cities

    If you over simplify your analysis to only one variable and ignore all the other benefits of HSR you are practicing bad decision making. Good policy making requires holistically evaluating multiple goals, impacts, and interrelationships, not one variable equations. That is why we have people making complex decisions instead of spreadsheets.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Hmmmm “catastrophical … logic”. Hmmm…

    Pick 1:

    A: Apply resources towards a stated explicitly quantified target using quantified resource investments.

    B: Repeat press releases from construction corporations; randomly ejaculate “spreadsheet”, “holistically”, “interrelationships”, “complex”, “equations” (BAD BAD BAD NUMBERS BAD NUMBERS NEED MORE FEELINGS AND MORE GUT INSTINCTS AND MORE UNICORNS), “deductive logic” (NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!); and above all trust, trust, trust; trust in Santa Claus, trust in PBQD, trust in Baby Jesus, trust in The Name of the Holy Choo Choo, trust that things will work out completely differently from every other time people wanting a hundred billion of your dollars have reassured you that there is no need to worry your pretty little delicate head about big bad numbers and that synergistic holistic multi-variable inter-relationships are sure to accrue (to somebody)..

    Derek Reply:

    Actually, Andrew L-A listed two variables, (1) “GHG emission reduction” a.k.a. “quantity”, and (2) “cost”.

    Of your list of eight jobs of HSR, which of them cannot be expressed in one of those two variables?

    For example, item 1 on your list, “increase intercity travel capacity,” increases economic transactions, which increases tax revenue and thereby reduces the net cost of HSR. Therefore, this item can be expressed in one of the two variables listed.

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    Do you have any idea how impossibly hard what you propose is?

    Let’s try #7, it has:
    – 1,000 local and regional elected and appointed decision makers
    – Ten of thousands of lobbyists, activists, and involved citizens trying to influence said decision makers
    – Thousands of public servants implementing policies and decisions
    – Tens of thousands of businesses, land owners, and developers making decisions based on the existence or not and quality of freeways, HSR, local transit systems, zoning, infrastructure, fees, and incentives.
    – Millions of residents making decisions based on the above factors plus the actions of all the businesses and developers

    How are you going to dynamically model the behavior of are those billions of human interactions and decisions 30 years out to say “x dollars to y strategy, results in z tons of carbon dioxide”
    Plus do the same modeling for water, air pollution, health impacts, job creation, and on and on, and calculate the proper trade offs between those.

    It is easy to say “calculate, sort, and start from the top” but it is far more complex than that.

    Derek Reply:

    You claim it’s “impossibly hard” to calculate the benefits, yet they’ve already done it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ad #7, the CO2 benefits are already calculated; the rest is irrelevant to cap-and-trade funds. Cap-and-trade is not a slush fund for job creation for projects that also have CO2 benefits; it’s a fund for CO2 only as written. Yes, creating anchors is helpful, although I don’t think the impact of HSR there is all that great (if HSR could turn sprawl into TOD, where’s the TOD around Avignon-TGV, Gifu-Hashima, and other peripheral HSR stations?). But if you’re saying “there are additional uncalculated CO2 benefits,” that’s a separate argument that you’re not making.

    flowmotion Reply:

    > 7. Shift the SJV development market from sprawl does infill in HSR station cities

    The net effects might be impossible to calculate, but gut instinct says that cheaper land in the central valley + absence of good transit systems = MOAR SPRAWL = more CO2

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    HSR will only do the jobs Brian S stated if the competition remains static or declines. Furthermore, it will only begin to do them when complete in 2 decades or more. What HSR also does is increase congestion around the stations it serves, especially when transit infrastructure is woefully inadequate, as it is and will be in Southern California for decades to come. It seems that the analysis here is simplified; that HSR is certain to work and to achieve all these goals, starting in about 2030 or later. I for one doubt it. As Oliver Cromwell put it: “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, consider that you might be mistaken.”

    StevieB Reply:

    Congestion around stations is proof that people find a benefit in the station and want to be there. A station free of any congestion is a dead space. Congestion is the price of useful and popular locations.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Carbon emissions, like congestion, are the indicator of prosperity too.
    Since we exported a large percentage of our carbon producers to China we should be knocking on their door for resolution to this issue, not taxing the last of our industry to drive it overseas as well.

    Joe Reply:

    What kind of activity do you envision around rail stations.

    Your congestion comment was perplexing and this retort makes no sense to me.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Carbon producing automobiles

    StevieB Reply:

    It is easy to wish for someone else to take care of our problems. My aged mother lives next to an elementary school and laments the congestion caused by schoolchildren crossing the street. If only she had a way to clear the streets of children when she drives by she would be happy.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What you’re saying is that because Americans emit a lot of GHG to fuel their consumption patterns, China and not the US should deindustrialize.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Americans emit GHG in China to fuel their consumption. If the industry had not been exported to China it would probably emit less GHG as it would have been subject to cleaner US regs.
    In any event, all the world wants the American standard of living and is burning fossil fuels to get there. Does anyone really think that CA HSR in 2030 or later will save the world?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There are no US regs for carbon emissions. There are a lot for air pollution, but catalytic converters and such do nothing to reduce carbon emissions.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    All those other priorities are good reasons to spend money from other pools on HSR. But cap-and-trade is targeted at reducing GHG, and any project needs to be evaluated solely on that one criterion. Otherwise, it’s just another general revenue slush fund, and in that case, it belongs in the general budget and should be distributed among all of the state’s goals: K-12, universities, health care, prisons, firefighting, cutting income taxes, etc.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    First Robert agreed with me now I agree with Alon. It is a red letter day

    Ted Judah Reply:

    That’s exactly the point of Brown’s proposal.

    The voters already consider HSR a priority worth General Fund dollars. But since they can use the cap and trade money to fund it, and they can’t do that for education or prison realignment, now you understand what happened.

    I really don’t get what the Sierra Club thinks the cap and trade cash can be used for in regard to electric cars. It just doesn’t make sense.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sorry, but no. The voters consider HSR to be worth $9 billion’s worth of dedicated bonds with a required 1:1 match. If the HSRA wanted to go to ballot on an unlimited budget, it could have; it probably would have lost.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    At the risk of being accused of serious arrogance by guys like jonathan:

    Do you understand that politically, you ask for support for spending that voters of that jursidiction will embrace? In other words, when politically and economically conservative voters are in the room, you talk public safety. When community activists are there, it’s education and public welfare. When it’s developers and the like, it’s about infrastructure and transportation.

    The voters were okay with the State taking on General Fund debt to pay for HSR. But the Governor wisely found a separate pot of money to use to augment the debt because there are other bills to pay.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    so lying is ok? as long as you get what you want and what you judge the community to need?

    Ends do not justify the means!

    Ted Judah Reply:

    If you understand the realpolitik of what the Sierra Club is doing, then it stands to reason you would understand the overall environment that they operate in.

    The State General Fund in California pays for lots of programs, many of which were never approved by voters. Nor is there any constitutional requirement that these programs exist. But yet, routinely the Legislature and Governor appropriate General Fund money for these programs. However, voters on occasion establish special funds to dedicate revenue for this purpose. But as to which programs are funded through special means and which through general means is a matter of state sovereignty which is protected by the US Constitution.

    At any time, a state Legislature can amend the law to let a special revenue fund pay for new things. Voter approval is not required. Secondly, it is illegal under the US Constitution because States are guaranteed a republican form of government that allows elected representatives to make decisions on behalf of the people. A completely voter-approved system does not fit the bill.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re not actually justifying this; you’re merely explaining. That CAHSR passed a $9 billion ballot does not entitle it to any share of the funds that are legally and politically said to be dedicated to GHG reduction. It can get a small portion of the cap-and-trade pie based on its GHG-reducing effects, but those are worth far less than 19% of the funds.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    You want me to justify spending 19% of the cap and trade funds on HSR? I think it is valid use of the money. And I am not sure what the Sierra Club would do with that 300 million. If they bothered to propose something, then at least you can have realistic discussion.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, I want you to justify spending 19% of the money on HSR.

    And as for what else to spend the money on, how about subsidies for rooftop panels?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I am not even in favor of special funds. I think that it is the responsibility of the legislature and the Governor to spend the money appropriately. I don’t think there should be legislative mandates on proportional spending (50+% on education for example) or special funds for collection (Cap and trade only to be spent on GHG reduction)

    That said, if you are going to have the fund they you have to follow the rules set up to govern the fund. Using cap and trade money on HSR does not even qualify as a fig leaf. Jerry knows he cant get a special tax or fee passed because the Dems (who control the state) dont believe in HSR enough to tax it. So he is trying to kick the can down the road a bit and hope that the 2014 elections kick out the Tea party (not going to happen) and the feds kick in more money (also not going to happen).

    so he looks at this special fund and it solves a lot of problems for him including getting the courts off his back because now he can point to a dedicated funding source. I get it, makes perfect sense.

    But, it is a lie.
    1. HSR is not going to reduce CO2 before 2020, in fact construction will increase CO2 before 2020 because all those machines run on evil oil.

    2. 250 M is not enough to build the IOS by 2020. Do the math. They have about 8 million committed at this point if they use the bond funds to match the fed and spend the whole wad of “connecting” funds allowed. They need 30 billion to finish the IOS. so that leaves them 22 billion short. 250M + andother 250M in match from the rest of the bond funds gives them .5 billion for the next 17 years or 8.5 billion total. Added to the 8 billion they have (16.5 billion) and they are 13.5 billion short. 250M a year after that (no match left) is 54 years. So in 71 years (54+17) they will have the 30 billion. But of course it wont cost 30 billion in 71 years, so they really still dont have enough.

    so be nice…double the money to 1 billion and it takes them 22 years to build it or 2036…probably more like 2045 once you account for the cost increase due to inflation.

    So why is Jerry pissing 250M a year he could use now to actually reduce GHG away? Why not just use the surplus. because the Dems have a whole list of things they want funded and HSR and its 43% support is not on the list. Because he is playing for time. Hoping that something changes (feds or dem support to raise a tax).

    its disingenuous and wrong to spend the dedicated funding on a project that is not realistically even going to reduce GHG in the next 50 years, much less the next 6.

    Nathanael Reply:


    Build HSR out of carbon-negative concrete. There, all your objections are addressed — carbon reductions right now, during the construction phase.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The 2009 stimulus by the Feds used the state weatherization program as it’s centerpiece. Look how that turned out. Familiar with TARP or HAMP? Or what about Cash for Clunkers? It makes more sense to spend the cap and trade money on new dams that can improve hydroelectric power supply over solar panels.

    What is the Sierra Club’s real proposal? Paying cattle growers not have more cows?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    What is carbon negative concrete? And are you excavating using unicorns instead of machines?

  3. synonymouse
    Jan 11th, 2014 at 11:47

    Finally the Sierra Club is making amends for caving to the Palmdale Tehachapi detour. They should be ashamed by having been taken in by a development scheme.

    For Brown and the patronage machine every revenue producing law is just another slush fund to divert public money to friends of the regime. Brown is just as corrupt as Christie, only sneakier. I guess Willie Brown should add to his advice to would-be machine bosses never use e-mails.

    Of course Prop 1a should go back on the ballot – maybe the Judge in Sac will require it since TehaVegaSkyRail is totally out of compliance with Prop 1a and will hemorrhage red ink.

    OT but Aereo is going to the Supreme Court. We’ll find which justices are in Hollywood’s pocket. Alito was smart to recuse as it should have gone thru the lower courts. The broadcasters should be relieved of their free sweet spot frequencies since they refuse to put in repeaters so everybody in their supposed service area can receive free signal. **** them and the greedy NFL and MLB. And CrapCast.

    therealist Reply:

    sierra club gets religion ! welcome to the real world……

  4. John Nachtigall
    Jan 11th, 2014 at 12:12

    Do you just throw the word “austerity” into every other post and hope it sticks. This has nothing to do with austerity. They implemented a “fee” (as defined by the court). That fee collects a defined amount of money. Many people think that money would be better spent on other priorities besides HSR. You disagree.

    Where is the austerity?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Where is the austerity?

    Economizing on logic, that’s where.
    There’s a critical shortage of global human reasoning ability, and it would be unwise to squander too much of it on blogs and blog comments.
    “Peak Logic” has passed, and only low-grade finitary paraconsitent models remain to be extracted, at increasing cost.

    John Nachtigall Reply:


    I did not realize “logic” was a defined quantity. But now that I think about it, it explains a lot of things.

  5. Richard Mlynarik
    Jan 11th, 2014 at 12:19

    Yeah! Damn straight!

    When are all these environmentalists going to understand that gutting CEQA (Robert’s other bizarre idée fixe), pissing away the only Pigovian revenue source going anywhere (CO2 cap and trade, stupid and flawed as “cap and trade” vs a straight out and massive tax is), and not writing blank checks to the concrete and construction mafias who have screwed them raw, every single time, for fifty years is really the way to be environmentally minded.

    Caring about outcomes, caring about costs, understanding resource limits, understanding orders of magnitude, caring about accuracy, not aiding the bulldozering through of the bulldozers, on the other hand? “Flawed, damaging, short-term thinking”. Yeah!

    joe Reply:


    The CEQA is already “reformed” for the concrete and construction mafias.

    Nathanael Reply:

    CEQA’s worthless and counterproductive, and the concrete mafia already ignores it as joe noted. I’m not sure how California managed to screw it up so bad, but it has results worse like NEPA (which is bad enough, in that I can find very few examples where it helped).

    Nathanael Reply:

    Much better to have real environmental laws like the Clean Air Act, rather than paperwork laws like CEQA and NEPA.

  6. nslander
    Jan 11th, 2014 at 12:30

    The Sierra Club CA just juts went full LA Bus Riders’ Union. Embarrassing.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I know, right? It’s completely nuts.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    It’s not nuts at all. You are taking “their” money. They want to spend it on their pet causes not yours. It’s very easy to understand.

    nslander Reply:

    It’s easy to understand if you’re dumb.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I disagree with almost everything you write, but here, you make a lot of sense.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    This is why you should read neo-liberal and conservative (note: these aren’t the same thing) critiques of government programs and not just leftist critiques of neo-liberalism. The reason so many government programs fail is that they are distributed based on which activists, and more realistically bureaucrats and power brokers, have the most political power. Good government ain’t it.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Oh I get that, but those criticisms come from the left as well and have for a very long time. Leftist criticisms of government stem from the lack of democracy inherent in many public sector actions. The right doesn’t want more democracy, they want less democracy AND less government. Big difference.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    But that’s not really what the critique is about. It’s not about lack of democracy in public sector actions. It’s that public control equals political control, and that’s not always good. If Google had to go in front of a regulatory board to be allowed to launch its search engine, the board would’ve probably been staffed by people with Yahoo and AltaVista backgrounds and not let it do so. We see this now with NIMBYism: when you give preexisting residents control over new construction, they will extort new residents. Government isn’t subject to the same competitive pressures that make incompetent companies fail; that’s why it doesn’t work when the government owns the means of production and decides production levels based on quotas. There are plenty of examples of public-sector success in health, education, infrastructure, and natural monopolies – all services that the market can’t provide well, so that government failures are not as bad as market failures. There are none that I know of of successful planned economies.

    What specifically distinguishes neo-liberalism is that it has a coherent set of prescriptions for decisions that can’t really be privatized but that can’t be subjected to political control, either. For example, monetary policy: you’d much rather not live in a country where the banks set interest rates in order to manipulate elections to ensure that the president is reelected (for example, engineering recessions in off-years and recoveries in election years). Science policy and competitive bids for public works are also examples.

    With this as background, the problem with what you’re proposing is that you’re opening a slush fund to problematic political control. It’s not part of the general budget, so it’s clearly a special fund. But on the other hand, you want to allocate money not based on narrow CO2 reduction goals that can be readily verified by any government watchdog organization, but on intangibles like economic development. It’s the same rotten local politics on the state level – different power brokers competing for buckets of money.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    It’s the same rotten local politics on the state level – different power brokers competing for buckets of money.

    Welcome to democracy. I doubt very seriously you would prefer some sort of totalitarian alternative.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, that’s political control. The argument for property rights, independent courts, independent central banks, and abolition of industrial policy is that they avoid this political power game.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    …and then the 2008 bailout happened…and Americans learned none of those four things prevent the wealthy from getting their way.

    What matters more apparently is strong tribal affinities, heavy taxation of high earners, demographic homogeneity, and fixed exchange rates for national currency.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If you think the 2008 bailouts were corrupt, you really don’t want to know what went on in pre-1997 South Korea. Or what went on in Japan in the decades TEPCO built nuclear plants without adequate supervision.

    Also, fixed exchange rates are terrible policy. See southern Europe today, and Argentina in the 1990s. Argentina has done better since 2000, i.e. a pre-crisis baseline, than it did under the dollar peg.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    those 2008 bailouts spread the pork around. i seem to recall auto unions jumping to the front of the bankruptcy line in violation of 100+ years of law because the banks did not object because the government suggested that they take the loss and keep the funds they needed to survive which were coming from the government.

    and the homeowner adjustment plan that ignored moral peril and reset the cost of housing for people who lied on their loan applications.

    There is plenty of blame to go around for the last financial crisis. Everyone got some of that pie

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Very few people lied on their loan applications. It’s the banker’s job to check your loan to income ratio and loan to value ratio. No one put a gun to the bankers heads and told them to write mortgages for more than the house was worth. Or write loans that didn’t have enough income to support them.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    And no one forced the applicants to lie. They were nicknamed liars loans for a reason. Interest only balloon payments, all kinds of stupid stuff. There was fault on both sides

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s extraordinarily easy to confirm income. There’s standardized forms for it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Weren’t liar loans ones in which applicants did not need to state their income?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    There were loans of both types. Ones where they did not ask and ones where the applicants lied, sometimes at the urging of the loan officer. It was a real cesspit all the way around.

    They were not forced to lie

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I still put the bigger onus on the banks. They are “professionals,” and should be held to a higher standard. I know I am in what I do as an auditor; I just wish my paycheck reflected that.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    the banks were held to a higher standard. They are the only ones getting fined for lying, not the individual people. Ask BoA if they are being held to a higher standard. I think they are more than 40 billion in combined fines at this point

    Nathanael Reply:

    John, investigate the banks harder. They were held to no standard at all.

    They lied to investors — they sold “mortgage-backed securities” without actually making them mortgage-backed. (They failed to bother to put the mortgages in the trusts which backed the “securities”.) So far they’ve gotten away with this outright securities fraud. That’s only one of *dozens* of bank frauds they’ve gotten away with.

    The profits the banks made from the frauds are much larger than the fines, so far. And the bank CEOs and executives who committed these frauds have suffered ZERO personal consequences.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Janet Yellen, Ben Bernanke, and Stan Fischer will be the best argument you have ever seen to end the current Federal Reserve system. I am just given Alon a hard time because he really thinks you can have a political system free of politics.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I agree completely they should go after individual bankers. But stupid and greedy is not illegal. The people they can conclusively prove broke laws are people like robot-signers, not the big wigs. He CEO of countrywide was a horrible man who made horrible decisions that screwed a whole bunch of people. But to prove fraud you have to prove he meant to do it rather than made a bad business decision. For better or worse in the US other than outright fraud (Madoff) it is generally a given that it is bad business not fraud.

    But I 100% agree with you! the banks made fraudulent decision and bent and broke the law all through the run up. I don’t think the profits outweighed the fines as much as you think, but they are not clawing back the bonuses the big wigs got during the run up so they reaped the big benefits.

    In short, I don’t disagree in a perfect world there would be more personally accountability, but it’s just a really high standard to differentiate from fraud of bad business decision and historically in the US people are given the benefit of the doubt, It’s not all bad, people so bankrupt and are not accused of fraud, just bad money a management, It’s not just big wigs getting the benefit

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Side note, they broke Massachusetts real estate law so bad that people who bought bankrupt homes may not own the homes. The courts and legislature are having to make new laws just to clear up the titles. So wrong

    Ted Judah Reply:


    The only reason Angelo Mozillo and Lloyd blank feint aren’t rotting in prison is that Congress and others were not sure it would solve anything. They looked back at Enron and figured it was more important to clean up the mess than point fingers. However that is really because the mortgage industry has corrupted Congress beyond any hope. A rational approach was receivership, which as you noticed never happened.

    Observer Reply:

    The Sierra Club is not as progressive as they make themselves out to be; this issue proves it. HSR would be a game changer for the environment in California as Brian Stanke points out in the above post – it would address multiple problems, and once built, ways to reduce CO2 emissions would really begin to be implemented more readily and just fall in place. The tea party and HSR opponents must be doing high fives because the Sierra Club’s position; the Sierra Club does not get it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If HSR were such a game changer, how come South Korea’s economy is still so carbon-intensive?

    VBobier Reply:

    This article(South Korea’s green strategy) written in 2011 says South Korea is going Green…

    And I agree with Observer on the Sierra Club, Progressive they ain’t…

    South Korea’s green strategy

    Benefits of low carbon thinking pursued

    By Francis Matthew, Editor at Large
    Published: 20:00 March 18, 2011
    Gulf News

    Yoo Yeon-chul

    Image Credit: Supplied
    It was President Lee Myung-bak’s total commitment to implementing green strategy at a national level that drew his work to the attention of the Zayed Prize committee, eventually winning him the ultimate accolade of winning the prize this week.

    Dubai: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak won the 2011 Zayed Prize for the Environment by making green thinking the basis of South Korean’s entire national strategy, refusing to make environmentalism a mere token effort, and insisting on the profound long-term economic benefit of low carbon thinking.

    In 2008, Lee told his countrymen that “I want to put ‘Low carbon, Green growth’ as the core of the Republic’s new vision”. It was Lee’s total commitment to implementing this idea at a national level that drew his work to the attention of the Zayed Prize committee, eventually winning him the ultimate accolade of winning the prize this week.

    The key to Lee’s success in turning his plan into reality was to set up the high-level Presidential Committee of Green Growth, headed by Yoo Yeon-chul, Director General of International Cooperation Affairs at South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who spoke to Gulf News in South Korea in November.

    “We see that any country’s investment in green growth in the next five years, will decide that country’s future for the next 100 years. We want to be world leaders in the new technologies that we will develop, and the whole world will need,” he said.

    Yoo made clear that the green growth policy is not just about promoting renewables, but also about improving the efficiency of use of energy. “The national strategy for green growth has three main objectives. First: Mitigation of climate change and energy independence, which means moving beyond fossil fuels, giving Korea energy independence and also reducing greenhouse emissions,” he told Gulf News.

    “Second is to create new engines for economic growth, including the development of green technology, which will need substantial investment in green sector, developing cutting edge convergence industries, and building a national carbon trading market and offering good tax incentives.

    “The third objective is to raise the overall quality of life for people and enhance South Korea’s contributions to the international community through strong advocacy for green growth. South Korea took advantage of its recent chairing of the G20 to push for international action on cutting carbon emissions,” he said.

    In order to fulfil the policy goals of the “Low Carbon, Green Growth” national strategy, the South Korean government has revived the five-year planning that it first used in the 1960s. These broke the three main objectives into 10 policy directions, which the government uses to set targets and measure the country’s progress.

    How Lee set measurable targets

    Mitigation of climate change and energy independence

    1) Effective mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.One of the most important tasks of the five year plan is to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.

    – Set up cost-effective strategies for buildings, transportation and industrial sectors.

    – Make it mandatory for relevant economic players to report their greenhouse gas emissions.

    – Forestation and sustainable forest management will be pursued to increase carbon absorption.

    2) Reduction in the use of fossil fuels and the enhancement of energy independence.

    – South Korea imports 97 per cent of its energy needs, and 84 per cent of the energy supply is from fossil-based resources. Both these numbers have to fall. South Korea will increase energy efficiency by managing energy demand in each sector, and reducing energy intensity.

    – New and renewable energy supply will increase from 2.7 per cent in 2009 to 6.08 percent in 2020.

    – To reduce CO2 emissions, South Korea will enlarge the use of nuclear energy from 26 per cent in 2009 to 32 per cent in 2020.

    3) Strengthening the capacity to adapt to climate change.

    Adverse impacts of climate change are apparent all over the world despite global efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions.

    South Korea will expand its climate change monitoring system, be it air, ship or satellite-based.

    – Increase environment friendly food production to 18 per cent by 2020.

    Creating new engines for economic growth

    4) Development of green technologies.

    – South Korea will work on developing technologies that will significantly contribute to cutting greenhouse gases, and thus gain a competitive edge in the global market.

    – South Korea will launch intensive efforts to develop green technologies, looking for an eight per cent market share in each sector globally.

    – South Korea will encourage the practical application and industrialisation of the new technologies.

    5) The greening of existing industries and promotion of green industries.

    Considering that 57 per cent of South Korean energy consumption is in the industrial sector, it is vital that South Korea finds a low carbon strategy for industry.

    – Resource recycling throughout the entire manufacturing process will have to rise from 15 per cent in 2009 to 17.6 per cent in 2020.

    – South Korea’s major industries will aim to increase their green exports from 10 per cent in 2009 to 22 per cent in 2020.

    – Green clusters will be formed to enhance cooperation between industry, academia and research institutes.

    6) Advancement of industrial structure.

    – South Korea’s economic performance has been based on its manufacturing prowess, but it now has to move to new industries which are less energy intensive.

    South Korea will energetically develop six new sectors: health care, education, finance and banking, contents industry, software and tourism.

    7) Engineering a structure basis for the green economy.

    South Korea will lay the basis for a more green economy by public assistance to green enterprises.

    – South Korea will introduce a carbon emissions trading system

    – Public assistance to the green industry sectors will rise from $2 billion (Dh7.34 billion) in 2009 to $6.4 billion in 2020.

    – The tax system will be overhauled to encourage producers of green goods, and discourage emissions.

    – Measures will be taken to improve energy efficiency in low income houses.

    Improvement in the quality of life and enhanced international standing

    8) Greening the land, water and building the green transportation infrastructure

    Reducing carbon emissions from industry is not enough, and South Korea will need to enforce green thinking in urban planning, building and in transport.

    – Green plans will be selected to build new carbon neutral cities and rehabilitate old cities

    – Energy rating systems will be expanded and design guidelines will encourage green buildings.

    – Green and mass transport will be increased. Passenger transport by rail will grow from 18 per cent in 2009 to 26 per cent in 2020.

    9) Bringing the green revolution into our daily lives.

    South Korea plans to actively foster civil society participation in green growth, and will campaign to achieve the social consensus required.

    – Launch a green lifestyle index for citizens to increase the proportion of green households.

    – Carbon footprint labelling and certifying for goods will be enacted.

    – Local voluntary low-carbon smart-village initiatives will be encouraged.

    10) Becoming a role model for the international community as a green growth leader.

    South Korea will strive to be a role model for the green growth, promoting green growth internationally, and providing assistance to developing countries to help them raise green growth.

    – South Korea will actively engage in international negotiations on climate change.

    – South Korea will increase green overseas development aid from 11 per cent in 2007 to 30 per cent in 2020.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Lee was full of plans that went nowhere. He also promised 7% annual growth, and didn’t deliver. South Koreans hated him so much by the end of his term that his party had to change its name just to get people to vote for it.

    See here for developed countries’ CO2/GDP ratios. South Korea is as bad as the US and Canada, and far worse than European countries, including ones with HSR (France) and ones without (Sweden).

  7. synonymouse
    Jan 11th, 2014 at 13:33

    The purpose of hsr as defined by PB and friends is to construct another LA in the high desert.

    The Sierra Club is finally getting it. On the other hand the Chamber of Commerce will never get it as their unlimited population growth guarantees the dystopia of the day after tomorrow.

    “Progressives”, dig it, the Democratic Party is now the party of business with a kumbaya facade. Bloomberg=Feinstein. The unions are going to get screwed as the machine is now bankrolled by business seeking consideration. Their spoiled brat tactics(Amalgamated) are not making them friends.

    Relatedly, Boeing would be stupid not to relocate as the West is not friendly to manufacturing. They are going to experience nothing but headaches and conflict if they stay. They should have encouraged the union to vote no. And still might happen.

    Observer Reply:

    Just a note regarding Boeing: per an NPR report: at the same time of Boeing’s labor issues, they voted for a 50% increase in their stock and a $10 billion stock buy back; their executives get paid in stock. In other words Boeing executives are getting richer; not so for the middle class.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Of course, just like Buffett and Feinstein.

    EJ Reply:

    It’s funny how right-wingers want California to fail so badly it actually upsets them when companies decide to stay here.

  8. synonymouse
    Jan 11th, 2014 at 13:45

    The Tea Party will be eventually run be out of the Republican Party, which will then go into the same decline you see in California. Who needs two Democratic Parties?

    The Tea Party will morph into our version of the FN.

    Basically it is going to be grosso modo urban wealthy libertine dilettante socialists vs. rural and small town nationalists and populists. The business interests will fend for themselves and shift resources and facilities as necessary.

    therealist Reply:

    The tea party owns the repubs( Koch Bros et tal)…let them suck wind !!

  9. datacruncher
    Jan 11th, 2014 at 13:50

    At least 25% of auction proceeds must be spent in disadvantaged communities. ARB’s own maps defines most of those disadvantaged area zip codes as being located in the Central Valley (along with some in Southern California like the Inland Empire and Palmdale, there were only a handful in the Bay Area).

    No matter how auction proceeds are spent to meet the 25% requirement someone will probably complain that it is being wasted on projects in “nowhere”.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Seriously! I cannot think of a place in the state more in need of CO2 and other vehicle emission reduction than the Central Valley. OK, maybe the Inland Empire. But if one truly cares about fighting climate change and addressing pollution in disadvantaged communities, one should be praising the HSR project as manna from heaven.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The only place in the state that’s in need of CO2 reduction is Stockton. Think about it. If you’re saying that you can’t think of places in the state more in need of air pollution reduction that correlate with CO2 reductions, that’s a separate goal.

    datacruncher Reply:

    ARB is using CalEnviroScreen which looks at more than even just air pollution. It looks at Hazardous Waste, Pesticide exposure, etc on the pollution side plus poverty, education levels, etc on the demographic side.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Stockton is, notably, in the Central Valley….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Stockton is also notably not served by Phase 1 of HSR and is probably the city that has the most to gain from a switch to Altamont.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Seriously! I cannot think of a place in the state more in need of CO2 and other vehicle emission reduction than the Central Valley. OK, maybe the Inland Empire.

    Well, that is frickin hilarious.

    The map of disadvantaged communities shows whole swathes of the East Bay. Those areas have much, much higher population, which is also highly transit-dependent. And has existing TOD development patterns. But instead of spending carbon credit money there (let alone build HSR through the East Bay) — you propose HSR out to ex-urban middle-of-nowhere places like Palmdale.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Much higher populations? No the East Bay zips are no more populated than the Central Valley zips. Again showing the attitude of “nowhere” too many people take.

    Among the 50 most disadvantaged zip codes in California per CalEnviroScreen only 94621 is from the Bay Area. It has only 29,870 residents per CalEnviroScreen.

    Expanding to the 100 most disadvantaged and now we add in 94801 in the Bay Area with 29,395 residents.

    Expand to the 200 most disadvantaged zips and we can add from the Bay Area:
    94063 (30,949 residents)
    94124 (33,996)
    94509 (62,439)
    94545 (29,707)
    94565 (84,641)
    94601 (50,294)
    94603 (31,403)
    94607 (24,978)
    94804 (38,559)
    95116 (51,496)

    93706 which has 41,087 residents is the most disadvantaged zip in California. 93706 covers the area southwest of downtown Fresno, basically bounded by the UPRR, Highways 41 and 180 and then west over 10 miles to highway 145. (Proposed Fresno HSR station is on the boundary of this zip)

    The second most disadvantaged zip in California is 93307 covering southeast Bakersfield. It has 82,658 residents.

    The 10 most disadvantaged zips in California from CalEnviroScreen:
    93706 (Fresno County) 41,087 residents
    93307 (Kern County) 82,658 residents
    95205 (San Joaquin County) 38,069 residents
    93702 (Fresno County) 48,607 residents
    90058 (LA County) 3,223 residents
    95203 (San Joaquin County) 15,696 residents
    95206 (San Joaquin County) 65,004 residents
    93725 (Fresno County) 24,979 residents
    92408 (San Bernardino County) 15,271 residents
    90220 (LA County) 49,328 residents

    The CalEnviroScreen scores for all California zips with their population is at:

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Those CV zip codes are extremely large and sprawly. A HSR station won’t change their carbon footprint (except to probably make it worse). On the other hand, the Bay Area zips have population densities that justify transit, and proximity to jobs — but for various political reasons have not gotten their fair share.

    (And for the record, I own property in Fresno — so not “nowhere” to me.)

    joe Reply:

    Bay Area has mass transit. The East Bay disadvantage have access to transit and proximity to jobs.

    It’s not a transportation problem – you are using people as an excuse to push your preferences. In fact you changed from arguing about disadvantaged to using the money to shuttle the east bay residents to work.

    datacruncher Reply:

    And the Central Valley cities have gotten their “fair share”? That’s the point, the analysis of disadvantaged zip codes is supposed to ensure more regions and people in those regions get included in the projects funded by Cap-and-Trade auctions.

    SB535 directed that 10% of auction proceeds would be spent directly in disadvantaged zips and 25% to projects that provide benefits to those communities. But it said nothing about certain projects or benefits of the investment being better than others. Simply that disadvantaged zip codes need to see some of the money set aside from the auctions.

    SB535 also described disadvantaged communities that should see investment from cap and trade proceeds as this way:

    may include, but are not limited to, either of the following:
    (a) Areas disproportionately affected by environmental pollution and other hazards that can lead to negative public health effects, exposure, or environmental degradation.
    (b) Areas with concentrations of people that are of low income, high unemployment, low levels of homeownership, high rent burden, sensitive populations, or low levels of educational attainment.

    In SB535 Cal/EPA was directed to identify the disadvantaged areas. That led to CalEnviroScreen as the state’s new Environmental Justice tool.

    I expect it will be adopted by many more programs and departments over the coming years to make funding decisions. Cal/EPA has already said it will use CalEnviroScreen in its grant programs to prioritize funding.

    CARB in its public hearings agreed to use CalEnviroScreen as the tool to drive the 10%/25% of auction proceeds investment to the most disadvantaged areas.

    Now AB1532 did say that auction proceeds should be used to “(1) Maximize economic, environmental, and public health benefits to the state.”

    But AB1532 also stated “(4) Direct investment toward the most disadvantaged communities and households in the state.” Note it says the “most disadvantaged”.

    Areas around the Bay like 94621 in Oakland may have higher density (and are already home to transit like BART and AC to reach jobs) but there are 1.6 million people in 35 other zip codes in the Central Valley and Southern California ranked even more disadvantaged than those in 94621.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What is the legal definition of “most” in “most disadvantaged”? 100? 200?

    StevieB Reply:

    Most adverb :to the greatest extent.

    datacruncher Reply:

    ARB adopted the concept of the 10% of California zip codes with the highest CalEnviroScreen scores. They are shown on the maps and the spreadsheet.

    But likely many will think it should only be the disadvantaged Bay Area and Southern California zip codes not the Central Valley areas.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The problem is that zip codes are not a good basis of comparison. My zip code in the Bay Area, for example, you can walk from one end to the other in about 10 minutes. But a zip code out in Palmdale, with same population, would cover more than 50 sq miles.

    StevieB Reply:

    The value for comparison would depend on what attributes you are comparing.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Drunk Engineer: you severely underestimate the degree to which poor people will move closer to public transportation if they have the option. Middle-class people (who are rarer and rarer due to this country’s “destroy the middle class” economic policies) move less often.

    EJ Reply:

    HSR isn’t “public transportation” in the sense you’re using it. It’s definitely not something that’s going to help poor people commute to their jobs. Some middle class people might be able to live cheaply in Fresno and commute to jobs in the Bay Area using HSR, but there’s no viable pricing scheme for HSR that makes this an option for poor people.

    Joe Reply:

    Well done.

    I look forward to drunk engineers’s “map of disadvantaged communities shows whole swathes of the East Bay”

  10. Reedman
    Jan 11th, 2014 at 20:04

    I thought that the provision in Prop 1A to ban a station in Los Banos was supposed to purchase Sierra Club support for HSR.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    No, that and the beyond-stupid “existing transportation corridors” nonsense were used to head off active opposition to the passage of the $10 billion Prop 1A tranche of pork.

    Turns out they’re really easy and incredibly cheap to manipulate. Surprise!

  11. John Burrows
    Jan 12th, 2014 at 00:35

    Tim Sheehan wrote an article last March in The Fresno Bee about a draft of a new statewide rail plan by the California Department of Transportation—“By 2020 as many as 11 daily Amtrak San Joaquin trains could be rolling on high-speed tracks at speeds of up to 125 mph. Up to 6 additional Amtrak trains would continue sharing the BNSF freight tracks each day, stopping at Hanford. Corcoran, Wasco, and Madera.

    If Jerry Brown’s cap-and-trade proposal becomes law, then by 2020 there would be an additional $1.5 billion in cap-and-trade funds matched with $1.5 billion from Prop 1-A. This extra $3 billion might be enough to complete the line from the Merced Station to the Bakersfield Station, a distance of 174 miles.

    If an additional 11 San Joaquins were making the round trip from Sacramento or Emeryville to Bakersfield and if their maximum speed on the 174 miles from Merced to Bakersfield were increased from 79 to 125 mph, then what kind of an increase might you get in ridership, and might it be enough of an increase to almost make the project worth doing by itself?

    John Burrows Reply:

    Oakland to Bakersfield

    John Burrows Reply:

    My math was off, you would have that extra $3 billion by 2019— And an additional 11 round trips per day ought to help reduce pollution in the San Joaquin Valley. CO2 emissions would also be reduced by 2020 even though the the San Joaquin’s would still be running on diesel.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Exactly. The issue is the freights fear new capacity they do not control. Thus BNSF has been supportive because this plan helps them out, while UP has been hostile. Speed isn’t the problem in the San Joaquin Valley though, it’s access to the Bay.

  12. Eric
    Jan 12th, 2014 at 06:31

    Far away, in a land unburdened by bureaucracy and mountain ranges…

    Observer Reply:

    Hope everybody watched the linked video of the N700-I trains – nice. I bet Texas will get their system up and running and we will still only be arguing about our imaginary HSR system.

    Notice they are using established HWY corridors as to where to build their HSR rail route (as they are doing in Denmark also). In hindsight, it would have been easier and much less controversial for California HSR if they would have gone with HWY 99/Visalia instead of Kings County/Hanford, and with Tejon instead of Tehachipi. Inexperience.

    joe Reply:


    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 24 citations to the West Fertilizer Company for serious safety violations found in an investigation following the deadly explosion there in April.

    Fifteen people were killed and more than 160 were injured in the April 17 blast.

    The explosion, which left a crater 90 feet wide and 10 feet deep, caused more than $100 million in property damages, according to a report by the Insurance Council of Texas. More than 200 homes were destroyed or damaged.

    The West Fertilizer Co. was found to have inadequate relief valves and no barrier protection around the ammonia piping. There was no respiratory protection program, OSHA found, nor were there appropriate fire extinguishers. Forklift operators were not property trained and the fertilizer plant did not have a hazard communication program or an emergency response plan.

    In addition to the obliterated plant, the damaged buildings included the public West Middle School, which sits next to the facility.[23] A neighboring 50-unit, two-story apartment building was destroyed.[5]

    The blast damaged the nearby West Rest Haven nursing home, and many residents were evacuated. Many of the nursing home residents received cuts from flying glass, but emergency personnel on scene judged that most of these injuries were not life-threatening.[24]

    According to the company’s insurer, United States Fire Insurance of Morristown, New Jersey, the facility only had one million dollars in liability insurance: According to official estimates, the amount is highly insufficient to cover the cost of damages. Furthermore, according to The Dallas Morning News, Texas law allows fertilizer storage facilities to operate without any liability insurance at all, even when they store hazardous materials.[26]

    KUT’s Terrence Henry Reports for StateImpact Texas.

    Yet another question after the explosion is whether or not industrial facilities should be right next door to schools and residences like the one in West.

    “In Texas, counties have almost no regulatory authority. And we kind of don’t like land use in Texas. So we’ve ended up where facilities are very close to people,“Kelly Haragan, Director of the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, said.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    Nice try Joe. But what exactly is your point? Observer was comparing the TX HSR proposed use of highway ROW versus what CA HSR is doing. I get that Texas has lax regulations. We are talking about HSR systems here. And here in FL, although not HSR, the FEC project All Aboard Florida is progressing quite nicely according to what I have been told. They will be up and running by early 2016 with a system that suits the needs (and political climate) here in Florida.

    CA HSR has some big issues of its own doing. Let’s hope that they can overcome the challenges. I hope TX does get their HSR system off the ground. The more we have in this country, the better we will be. Between CA, TX, and FL we will have three viable rail passenger systems in the next 5-10 years.

    Observer Reply:

    Thank you. That is exactly my point. I would not in my right mind like California to have the lax regulations of Texas – heaven forbid. The more HSR rail systems in the country the better.

    My fear about California’s HSR system is that depending on the upcoming court cases, it may be forced to change the way it is doing things. If the decisions go against CAHSR (I hope they do not), I say do not give up, change the routing to HWY99/Visalia and Tejon, come with a plan B, and try, try again.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    it happens in CA also

    “The blaze sent a fireball skyward and a plume of smoke into the air that lingered above Richmond and neighboring cities for days. At least 15,000 people went to hospitals with respiratory complaints in the hours and days after the fire.

    By January, Chevron said it had paid $10 million in claims connected to the blaze, with over 23,300 claims made, according to a letter from Chevron to a local health department.”

    organic growth in any jurisdiction leads to these kinds of issues

    Brian_FL Reply:

    Yes it does. Industrial accidents happen everywhere, no matter how many regulations are in place. As someone who does not live in California (or New York) I am tired of the smug, condescending attitude of some of those on here that do live there. Myself, I would not want to live in Texas. But there are a lot of people that do. And if they can somehow construct a HSR system in TX that suits them and their way of life, more power to them. There is no need to in this blog to try to imply that what happens in CA is better than what is going in TX or in FL. Every state is different. I would like to think that in the end, we as a union of 50 states will come up with our own ways of solving the transportation issues that we as a country face.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    …but industrial accident rates have been going down steadily since regulations began. The days of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire are behind any first-world country today.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    Regulations are a good thing. I won’t argue that point at all. My point was that no matter what the law says, there will still be companies that try to circumvent the regulations (due to greed). And to use the fertilizer plant explosion in West, TX as a baseline for comparing TX versus CA is a bit far fetched. We all know TX does not regulate hazards as well as other states.

    To bring in HSR into that discussion is suspect. Observer was making a valid point in comparing the two HSR projects. CA HSR has chosen to build along a more expensive route. The TX HSR proposal wants to use highway ROW to decrease costs. Both are valid choices. It will be interesting to see which one gets built first (meaning actual HSR trains, not Amtrak diesel at 125mph).

    In TX and FL there is private money involved. That means that decisions on the projects will be based on financial viability more so than the CA HSR project. That will also result in the projects being built a lot faster than the government run CA HSR project. Private investment will not and cannot wait years to see a return. CA HSR needed to start getting private money involved after the 2010 elections. It was obvious at that point that the federal grants were going to end. Unless the state government in CA puts up real money (not 250 million a year from carbon taxes), the HSR project will languish. There needs to be a multi-billion dollar commitment from CA. Otherwise, I am afraid that it will take too long to get built, if at all.

    Eric Reply:

    The West Fertilizer Company explosion in Texas killed 15 people.

    Meanwhile, in California, regulatory obstacles hold up public transportation and non-fossil energy projects that would save many more than 15 lives.

    There is an optimum point for regulation, and California has long since passed it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Same is true in Texas, though. There are setbacks and parking minimums in Houston even right on top of the light rail line.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “The days of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire are behind any first-world country today.”
    Mostly because there are fewer workers per factory.

    The actual causes of death in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire — unsafe factories with workers locked in — were recurring in the 1990s. Imperial Food Products fire:×529896

    There’s quite a few others like that.

    joe Reply:

    I missed how many schools and homes destroyed.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    none, just 15,000 people were sickened.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Read some of the toxic comments on the Texas piece, and I wonder how many of them are from paid hacks. A contact of mine who was involved in the HSR effort in Ohio is convinced at least half of the anti-rail effort there came from that source.

    I thought it interesting that the video, listing the disadvantages of air travel, included whining babies and bad food! Cue Jim SF!

    Among the comments was a link to this article or editorial. asking the question, “Who Will Build the Roads?” It’s a libertarian article suggesting we wouldn’t need the government for that. I think it’s ridiculous, at least under current structure. Among the suggestions, the auto companies would go into the road business, as would property owners.

    In reality, we once did something like that; farmers would work on local roads in the past to pay off their taxes in labor. More recently, property owners’ associations have maintained roads in developments; the record is spotty at best, with some of these street systems being bailed out by the state. In general, relying on plain people to build the road system will lead to a lousy road system.

    Just check out the clips made by Ford Motor Company showing road conditions that were also a demonstration of what a Model T could contend with!

    The link to the article, which may or may not work (I had some trouble with it, but did get in):

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    About one of those toxic commentors, one of them said the railroad had been “studied ad hominem.”

    My reaction was, “Huh?”

    I don’t know Latin at all, but shouldn’t he have said “ad nausium?”

    synonymouse Reply:

    Apparently there is an error here.

    The correct noun is nausea, in the feminine, singular, nominative. Not masculine or neuter.

    The preposition ad takes the accusative case, thus should read ad nauseam.

    Derek Reply:

    In general, relying on plain people to build the road system will lead to a lousy road system.

    Maybe the fiscally optimal asphalt road system is a lousy one. Is it a wise use of money to fix every last pothole? Should all residential streets be wide enough for 2-way traffic plus parking on both sides? Are there some intersections that don’t really need to be there and only add to costs and traffic congestion?

    Derek Reply:

    That’s an awesome video, sure to drum up interest. I wish whoever produced it would do one for California.

    Observer Reply:

    P.S. I am glad to see Florida proceeding with a rail plan. It will be interesting to see what equipment they choose. Sleek Talgos ala The Cascades would be nice.

  13. Keith Saggers
    Jan 12th, 2014 at 07:07

    Silicon Valley BART extension


    Phase 1 of the Silicon Valley extension will continue the Warm Springs Extension to the Berryessa neighborhood station in San Jose, linking the BART system to the Santa Clara VTA light rail. $900 million in funding by the Federal Transit Administration was awarded in March 2012, and the project officially started construction in April 2012, with this Phase 1 of the extension open to the public by late 2016.[8][9]

    Berryessa extension (Phase 1)[edit]

    The planned Phase 1 route will continue south from the Warm Springs/South Fremont station in Fremont. There are plans for one “optional” station at Calaveras Blvd/SR 237 in downtown Milpitas; this station is not currently planned to be built but remains an option as a future infill station. The next station in Milpitas will be at Montague Expressway, co-located with the existing VTA Montague light rail station. The end of the extended line will be in San Jose, where there will be an elevated station at Berryessa Road at the current site of the San Jose Flea Market. BART rail tracks would end at US 101 between the interchanges at Santa Clara and Julian streets.

    San Jose subway extension (Phase 2)[edit]

    The original plan was for the extension to continue into downtown San Jose via subway. However, in February 2009, projections of lower-than-expected sales-tax receipts from the funding measures forced the VTA to scale back the extension, ending it at the Berryessa station and delaying tunneling under downtown San Jose to a future phase of construction (making it essentially a “Phase 2” of the project). The originally-planned complete extension from Fremont to Santa Clara was projected to cost $6.1 billion, but the VTA estimates the extension to Berryessa (Phase 1 only) would cost just $2.1 billion.[10]

    The plans for the downtown subway start with a portal before crossing under US 101. The Alum Rock subway station would be on North 28th Street between Julian Street and Santa Clara Street. The Downtown San Jose station would be underneath Santa Clara Street spanning the block from 3rd Street to Market Street. (The Downtown San Jose station was combined in 2005 from earlier plans for separate subway stations at Civic Plaza/San Jose State University and Market Street.)[11] The Diridon/Arena station would be between SAP Center at San Jose and Diridon Station, which currently serves Amtrak, Caltrain, ACE and VTA Light Rail. The BART subway would then turn north, following the Caltrain route, and exit to the surface at another portal after crossing under I-880. The Santa Clara BART station would be co-located at the existing Santa Clara Caltrain station. Separate construction plans by San Jose International Airport would bring a people-mover train to the Santa Clara BART/Caltrain/ACE/Amtrak station.

    For the subway segment in San Jose, VTA plans to use a tunnel boring machine for most of the length in order to reduce disruptions to downtown during construction. Only the station locations would have cut and cover construction.[12] This is different from how BART subways and stations were built in San Francisco and Oakland, which used the cut and cover method. The construction of the cut and cover stations in downtown San Jose would still cause major albeit temporary disruption, including closing several blocks of Santa Clara Street and severing the VTA light rail line at that street. The extension to downtown San Jose may open in 2025.[

    joe Reply:
    Transformation of North San Jose into urban tech hub underway

    SAN JOSE — For decades a zone of low-slung research-and-development buildings, North San Jose is being transformed into an urban transit village and tech hub.

    City officials envision thousands of new housing units, millions of square feet of new office and research spaces and additional retail, restaurants and recreation spaces — all served by BART and light rail. Their hope is that North San Jose will become the bustling heart of Silicon Valley

    To encourage more projects and corporate expansions in North San Jose, city officials have slashed development fees, cut red tape for developers and are allowing higher density than was previously permitted.

    “Higher density is the future, and if the demand is there, then it makes sense to build more in North San Jose,” said Chad Leiker, a vice president with realty firm Kidder Mathews. “San Jose is betting on light rail and on BART to really make this work.”

    Clem Reply:

    I love some of these quotes, they are so emblematic of San Jose’s continuing struggle:

    City Councilman Kansen Chu, whose District 4 includes North San Jose, said the area is caught in “kind of a chicken-and-egg game.” He said the area needs more stores, shops and other retail businesses for it to be attractive to residents, and at the same time needs more residents to make the area attractive to retailers.

    “The idea is to create a there there,” said Nanci Klein, San Jose’s deputy economic development director.

    Interestingly, BART is entirely missing the Golden Triangle area of north San Jose, where so many of these jobs are. They are steering well clear of that, and heading to the flea market instead. Heckuvajob. North San Jose will be “served” by BART in a very generous sense of that word.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    “The Santa Clara BART station would be co-located at the existing Santa Clara Caltrain station”

    jonathan Reply:


    jonathan Reply:

    Err, “exactly” as in, you prove Clem’s point. Saying that North San Jose and its Golden Triangle will be “served” by BART, is …. a meaning of the word “served” of which I was previously unaware.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    the full quote “served by BART and light rail”

    jonathan Reply:

    Nonsense. The relevant full cuote is “all served by BART and light rail”. But, it’s not served by BART.
    Which part of

    ~A => ~(A and B)

    do you not understand?

    jonathan Reply:

    Or to put into words: suppose someone said here that “BART and Caltrain serve San Francisco and Oakland”. Caltrain patently doesn’t serve Oakland. So it is not true that BART and Caltrain serve San Francisco and Oakland.

    Substitute “Golden Triangle of North San Jose” for “Oakland”, and “North San Jose” for “San Francisco”. We could quibble about the Golden Triangle being subsumed by “North San Jose”, if it wasn’t for that pesky “all”.

    Joey Reply:

    Which is nowhere near the Golden Triangle.

    joe Reply:

    Here’s the relevant BART / VTA station.

    The new VTA Chief

    First is that new football stadium. How well the VTA can move fans to and from 49ers football games and other events at the Santa Clara stadium will be closely scrutinized. The $1.3 billion stadium is set to debut in August.

    “People come to events like this at different times, but they all leave at the same time,” Fernandez said. “We’re spending a lot of time to make sure light rail and our bus system and Caltrain and BART will work together.”

    Fernandez, 54, is no rookie. She brings more than 30 years of experience at transportation agencies in New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. She spent the past two years as chief operating officer of New York state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the largest transit agency in the country.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    The Great Mall of America, Great America Theme Park and the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
    Go Milpitas

    Joe Reply:

    Great america and Levi stadium are in Santa Clara.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    VTA is a lovely place for a politically juice under-achiever to retire.

    Nice California weather.

    Stupendous salary.

    No need to ever deliver any transit service to anybody, any time.

    No oversight.

    No responsibilities.

    Incredibly pension deal.

    The bigger the failure, the happier the politicals are.

    Seriously: absolutely no need to deliver anything, fail as spectacularly as is possible to meet any advertised goals, get paid shitloads, and get paid shitloads even after you quit.

    What’s not to like?

    Any mid- to late-career knows-which-side-the-bread-is-buttered-on US Transportation Planning Professional (The World’s Finest!) would be, and does, line up for a gig like this. It’s pretty much the jackpot.

    Michael Burns got out of Muni for exactly this reason. Ms Fernandez has got it made.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Plus the undeniable fact Muni is a nightmare and likely always will be. Imagine coping with TWU 250A on a daily basis. But I’ll bet he knows if 13 undocumented no-shows is just an urban legend or not.

    Joe Reply:

    Why all the hostility towards a Latina? You could have at least waited until she did something.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You’re a nasty, nasty piece of word, anonymous coward.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Someone’s running for re-election in LA:,0,2319055.story#axzz2qJpyqSKU

    A real Bonnie Parker, Public Enemy #1, into Jerry allegedly for some 16 grand. With her 14 kids.

    Now I figure 13 undocumented no-shows works out to a little over 3 grand at $30/hr.

    How about a RICO inquiry into Amalgamated for extortion? And bribery of public officials.

    I blinking hope they impeach Christie forthwith. And then look into how Tutor got that contract language changed. And a $500mil change order? Octomom – you are in the wrong racket.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    VTA’s “Light Rail Efficiency Project” is advancing a series of capital improvements and service changes that were recommended in the 2010 Light Rail Improvement Plan. These changes are necessary to support anticipated growth in the county, including increased density in city-identified priority development areas, as well as the opening of the San Francisco 49ers Levi’s Stadium, and the extension of BART service to Silicon Valley. Investment in these capital improvements and new service will enable VTA to meet increased ridership demand and improve the system for current riders. Current modeling projects demonstrate that these changes, when fully implemented, will result in travel time savings of as much as 20 – 30% between key origins and destinations

    Ted Judah Reply:

    That is pure 20th century thinking, Clem. Instead of trying to fill the space to break even, break even and then figure out how much space you need.

    joe Reply:

    Figure caption from article:

    Construction crews work on the Samsung office complex towers rising up in the changing neighborhood near the intersection of North First Street and East Tasman Drive in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. The city is hoping to turn the area into a kind of mini-city where people can work, live and play. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

    This is the designated transfer point between Alum Rock – Santa Teresa Alum Rock – Santa Teresa and Mountain View – Winchester Mountain View – Winchester lines. This station features a center platforms in the middle of 1st Street. Take any southbound train to Downtown San Jose.

    Berryessa Extension
    The Milpitas BART Station is one of two stations that are part of the
    10-mile Berryessa Extension, the first phase of the 16-mile BART
    Silicon Valley extension of the regional BART system. Located at the
    intersection of Montague Expressway and Capitol Avenue near the
    Great Mall in Milpitas, the station is the center of the city’s Transit Area
    Specific plan, and will be the BART system’s gateway to Silicon Valley,
    serving as a key local and regional connection to the high-tech, job-rich
    northwestern areas of Santa Clara County
    Trains arrive every 7.5 minutes (Milpitas Station will be served by two BART lines that operate every 15 minutes)

    Clem Reply:

    The swift trips on light rail will no doubt result in the same ridership boom as occurred when the connection to Caltrain was made in Mountain View. Heckuvajob, Rod.

    jonathan Reply:

    Swift and pleasurable. Like trips on the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation’s Happy Vertical People Transporter.

    (Sirius Cybernetics Corporation was of course ruined when Gardrilla Manceframe rediscovered and patented a device he had seen in a history book called a “staircase”.)

    Sounds almost like Diridon Intergalactic…

    joe Reply:

    You link to NASA VTA stop which is inconvenient and not used.
    There used to be a Caltrain stop at Rengstorff called Castro – Caltrain closed it and opened the San Antonio stop. I’d do the same and close that stop, possibly open a new one on the other side of the track.

    To speed up travel time to/from Mountain View there is this:

    and there are San Jose’s zoning and development plans to create multi-story workplaces along that VTA line.

    joe Reply:

    Why is VTA double tracking in Mountain View?
    The Completion of Phase I Double Track will enable VTA to reduce headways between Alum Rock and Mountain View on a limited basis, and will improve VTA’s ability to provide timed transfers with Caltrain. Following Phase II completion, VTA will be able to introduce a new express service between Mountain View and Alum Rock to connect with regional BART service at the new Milpitas BART/existing Montague LRT Station.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Transfers would be improved if light rail operators would simply not depart right when SB Caltrains pull in.

    Also, VTA can’t even get intra agency transfers right-I’ve wasted countless hours because the Mtv View line wasn’t synced properly with the 54 at Lockheed Martin, and don’t even get me started about the inability to provide transfers between the Santa Teresa and Winchester lines.

    joe Reply:

    Yes. The second track at MtV will allow the VTA train to wait at the station for transfers. It will also allow VTA to increase service frequency.

    At Caltrain Diridon , VTA Express 168 drivers are allowed to wait for Caltrain transfers if the train is delayed – some choose to not and leave even if a train pulls into the station.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    On the one hand, you get mad that VTA is slow and inefficient and then on the other hand you rip BART for being expensive and destructive. Transit agencies don’t control land use, especially in California.

    You have to realize that light rail in CA is really about a political compromise and not good engineering or transit planning. We would have been much better off if we had built BART in all of the major metro areas and then added in streetcars to aid density. But the land developers weren’t satisfied, so we got light rail instead.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    VTA has always been governed by people who can make land use decisions. It is not like BART or AC Transit that have completely independent elected boards.

    There’s nothing wrong with light rail as a mode of transport. It has a very flexible operating characteristics that makes it very favorable in North America. It can operated in grade separated high speed environment and at grade, which works well in North American suburbs. VTA screwed it up with the northern portion of the line and basically gave it up expanding it to become a BART construction agency.

    Also, it shouldn’t be one rail mode, one rail system, but rather a rail system that has multiple modes of rail. After 50 years, some of us still haven’t come to our senses that one size doesn’t fit all. Even BART the agency has come to its senses by building light rail in the outer Contra Costa suburb. If BART came to its senses 40 years ago, it would be rail everywhere (some urban metro, some light rail, some commuter rail) like it planned in the 50s.

    joe Reply:

    “VTA screwed it up with the northern portion of the line and basically gave it up expanding it to become a BART construction agency.”

    VTA screwed up the route but extending BART isn’t abandoning light rial service. The N San Jose Dev plan clearly expects BART to increase ridership for the VTA line and they’re allowing high density infill along the N to also improve ridership and utility.

    BART / VTA transfers,
    Express VTA light rail trains between BART and MtV/Caltrain
    Improved service frequency with added track.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    If VTA were more serious about the potential of its own system than it could extend light rail to meet BART whereever it ends and not have to let BART tell them how much it costs to operate. Eventually that marriage will end because of those disputes just like SamTrans’ earlier marriage with BART.

    If VTA were to extend light rail, the transfer to BART could be cross platform on the same level. The proposed transfer in Milpitas will at best be better than the transfer between light rail and ACE at Great America and no way capable of handling special event crowd.

    joe Reply:

    VTA is Santa Clara Co.
    and cannot build to BART stations outside Santa Clara Co.

    Jump to: navigation, search
    Bart compact logo.svg
    Montague demolition 0961.JPG
    Demolition to make way for station, 14 September 2012
    Station statistics
    Coordinates 37°24′36″N 121°53′24″WCoordinates: 37°24′36″N 121°53′24″W
    Line(s) Silicon Valley BART extension
    Other information
    Opened 2018 (expected)
    Owned by Bay Area Rapid Transit
    Formerly Montague
    [hide]Route map
    Map of extension showing position of the Milpitas BART station, noted as “Montague”.

    Milpitas, is a Bay Area Rapid Transit station under construction in the city of Milpitas, California and scheduled to open in 2018 as part of the Silicon Valley BART extension. It will be both the first BART station in Santa Clara County and the first station of the BART San José extension.[1][2] This station will be co-located at the site of the elevated Montague light rail station, a short walk to the Great Mall Main Transit Center, another light-rail stop and AC Transit and VTA bus hub.

    jonathan Reply:

    Andy Chow writes:

    If VTA were to extend light rail, the transfer to BART could be cross platform on the same level.

    *puzzled look*. How do you squeeze BART-fare-totalitarian fare-gates, onto a shared BART/VTA platform for a cross-platform transfer?

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    If the VTA wanted to, I’m sure they could find a way to extend light rail into southern Alameda County.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I know I will sound like some unwashed vagrant outside Sather Gate, but I disagree that one size fits all for urban rail didn’t work. Streetcars and commuter rail are total under performers in CA and nationally. No one wants anything but a one seat ride that lasts less than an hour.

    Andy, your solution is lethal. I have a suggestion. Fly to LAX and use Metro Rail and Metrolink to get to Disneyland. Then fly to SFO and use BART to get to UC Berkeley. Then tell me how one size fits all is not preferable.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No one wants anything but a one seat ride that lasts less than an hour.

    well except for the people who have two and three seat rides. I suppose they want one seat rides too but they tolerate two and three seat ones.

    Andy Chow Reply:

    If you don’t rule the bus out then the trip isn’t bad (express bus to Disneyland connects with the Green Line at Norwalk). In LA, the same day pass gets you on the bus and the train. In the Bay Area? good luck. We have this stupid modal silos that prevents us from thinking about choices that actually enhance transit use rather than enforcing that silos by being territorial.

    EJ Reply:

    That’s largely because most US transit systems, and the Bay Area is particularly bad, aren’t built to interchange with each other freely, and don’t have compatible fare collection systems.

    You go to a European city like Vienna, where one fare gets you on any public transit mode you need, with convenient, well signed interchanges, and people make transfers without giving it a thought.

    Joey Reply:

    They seem to be building quite a large new parking structure to go with that new tower.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    North San Jose is being transformed into an urban transit village and tech hub.

    Are we talking San Jose on planet Earth?

    Here are some of the “urban transit village” plans for North 1st St. Note that a Class 1 bike trail was severed to make room for that big box retail. There is now talk about paving over the only park in the area to make room for 49er stadium parking.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Corrected link

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Ugg. Try again.

    joe Reply:

    Clearly this is irrefutable evidence but of what I am not sure. Maybe you can develop this into some coherent idea.

    And FWIW, Levi 49er Stadium is not in Milpitas or San Jose. It is in the City of Santa Clara.

    This is the city of San Jose and you can find the North part of the City.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Theres not much difference between North San Jose and the part of Santa Clara where the 49ers stadium will be.

    joe Reply:

    Yeah. It’s hard isn’t it. That similarity may change going forward. San Jose’s plans for developing a transit centric, high density North San Jose pertain to San Jose’s parts and stop at Santa Clara.

    Parking structures and retail planned for Santa Clara (not approved just proposed by developers) don’t disprove San Jose is trying to increase density and decease car dependence. I think San Jose will have a say in Santa Clara’s plans and they can sue over traffic impacts.

    joe Reply:

    Ambitious, private development plans for Santa Clara’s segment in that area are described here.

    Michael Reply:

    Ambitious, private development plans for Candlestick, once it’s blown up, are described here. Includes every so sexy highrises.
    (Loads slow)

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Ambitious, private development plans for Santa Clara’s segment…

    The Montana proposal includes one 10-level garage, and another 6-level garage. The City Place project proposes as much as 15k new parking spaces.

    Ambitious…perhaps. But very, very, very car-centric.

    joe Reply:

    You threw out this snark “Are we talking San Jose on planet Earth?” and referenced paving parks for the 49er stadium in Santa Clara.

    Santa Clara’s projects are not San Jose – it’s a different city.

    These ambitious private plans for Santa Clara’s section were proposed – not approved.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Thank god the VTA is more concerned about the hassle concerning 6 home games a year than improving the craptacular experience of light rail year round.

    joe Reply:

    Servicing the 8 home games a year with VTA introduces public to VTA transit and forces VTA to address transfers and timeliness of service.

    Reedman Reply:

    Don’t forget that heavy rail/Amtrak has a station right next to the new stadium as well. It gets used every day by commuters to North San Jose/Silicon Valley.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    And its horribly located under Tasman.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Yes, as Joey and I have pointed out this has to one of the worst light rail to heavy rail connection anywhere.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Capital Corridor and ACE to VTA

    Michael Reply:

    What sort of ridership do the A’s or Raiders get from the Capitols? I know the Raiders did a promotion with the Capitols the season the Coliseum station opened. That’s probably a good guide to see what sort of ridership will take the Capitols to Niners games.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Oakland Coliseum had 26,272 boardings and alightings in fiscal year 2012.

    Michael Reply:

    Thanks, you’re faster than me on the research.
    72 a day at a station that is at the Coliseum, with connection to BART and the Oakland Airport, if one simply divides 26,272 by 365. Probably higher than 72 for A’s games and Raiders games, but even if you give a big boost to football ridership, multiple of 5 or even ten, you don’t get that many people.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s a report for each state, just change the state name, use capital letters. It goes back a few years too so there’s CALIFORINA11 and CALIFORNIA10 or NORTHDAKOTA12 etc.

  14. Peter Baldo
    Jan 12th, 2014 at 08:45

    Robert – Please give us the link to whatever Sierra Club document it is that you are referring to. From their website, I don’t see where the Sierra Club has come out against using cap-and-trade funds. I also don’t see – specifically – what traditionally state functions they think would be better uses for the money.
    In the Sierra Club, an elected Executive Committee, sets policy. The Director – a sort of secretary for the organization – would never try to take down a state’s Governor without their authorization. It’s possible they voted on the issue, but I’d think the website would say so if they did.

  15. trentbridge
    Jan 12th, 2014 at 09:31

    July 2012: SPUR recommendations for financing HSR

    “Cap-and-trade is an enforceable program put forward by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It is a central element of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). Under cap-and-trade, major sources of GHG emissions in California will be imposed with a GHG cap. The California Air Resources Board will distribute allowances, which are tradable permits of GHG emissions, to these capped sectors and will hold allowance auctions each year to allow market participants to acquire them. The first cap-and-trade auction will be held on August 15, 2012, and further auctions will be held through 2020.

    The funds generated from the auctioned allowances can be used to further the purpose of AB 32, including for development and construction of the high-speed rail system. Additionally, high-speed rail is included within the scoping plan for AB 32.”

    A year and a half ago – where were the objections to using AB 32 funds then?

  16. Elizabeth
    Jan 12th, 2014 at 21:05

    Oh my.

    George Skelton has a heart to heart with Dan Richard over funding,0,5070332,full.column#axzz2qDDFlJ3N

    For starters, he noted, it’s not just $250 million. Brown is asking the Legislature to make a long-term commitment to annually appropriate cap-and-trade dollars for the bullet train. And the cap-and-trade program is expected to expand greatly, generating much more annually than the $850 million it’s projected to spend on reducing greenhouse gases in the next budget year.

    The rail project could use a large slice of that money — figure $500 million a year — to lay track from Madera to Bakersfield, spending on a pay-as-you-go basis rather than borrowing, Richard said. That would save on interest.

    If both the cap-and-trade and bond money are available, he continued, that’s enough to extend the line to Palmdale.

    “The tipping point is Palmdale,” Richard said. “It’s the new center of the universe. There’s no more discussion about trains to nowhere. It opens up all kind of things.”

    joe Reply:

    Keep on reading.,0,6446379.column#ixzz2qFhBYusp

    At Palmdale, the line also could connect to a contemplated bullet train to Las Vegas, financed by casinos and federal grants obtained through the pull of powerful U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

    All that would boost ridership substantially and attract private financing — maybe even additional federal dollars — to complete the rail line to San Francisco, Richard asserted.

    He’s right and that’s what many of us have been writing about on the comments of this blog.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    XPressWest is never getting built and never should be built. Their financials were a complete joke.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Say it ain’t so Paul! I plan on retiring in Vegas in 10 years…

    Nathanael Reply:

    If Las Vegas survives, eventually it probably will be built; Vegas needs it way too much not to build it. California couldn’t care less of course.

    Joe Reply:

    What financials. They never sent me a copy, how did you get a copy and what do you think was so wrong?

    The Senator for NV says the current hold up is the “buy US” requirement for the loan.

    Generally the LAS to SolCal corridor is a no brainier for rail. What should be built?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    What financials. They never sent me a copy, how did you get a copy and what do you think was so wrong?

    [url=]Page F-D-52[/url] and your own responsibility to do the math or use a calculator to figure out the financial payments.

    Generally the LAS to SolCal corridor is a no brainier for rail. What should be built?

    A no brainer until one looks more in depth at the issues. As for what should be built? Los Angeles to San Diego via Orange County if we want the #1 most important and beneficial HSR project for California. For Las Vegas? Absolutely nothing.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Page F-D-52, corrected link

    Derek Reply:

    $4.9 billion repaid over 35 years is $140 million/year, not including loan financing. XpressWest expects $736.3 million/year in revenue by 2020 ($131.46 per round trip times 5.601 million riders). CAHSR is expected to cost $346 million/year on operating+maintenance costs in 2020.

    What am I missing?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    You are missing the fiction that is the ridership estimates

    They are estimating the ridership at 4x Acela which is a much denser corridor with a business not exclusively tourist ridership

    It was fiction from the start

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The quote I found in the article is “predicts it will carry more than four times the number of passengers that Amtrak’s Acela train carries between Washington, D.C. and New York City. ”

    People use Acela to get between Baltimore and Philadelphia. Or Phildadelphia and New York or New Haven and Boston. Many many people prefer to pay the lower fares on the Regionals. The Regionals carry more people than Acela. Then there’s the buses. And the local commuter agencies that siphon off some of the traffic, you can buy a ticket to Philadelphia at the NJtranist TVMs in New York or a ticket to New York in Philadelphia . And a ticket between DC and Baltimore at the MARC TVMS. How many people use Acela to travel between NY and DC?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Reason’s report is fraudulent. Wendell Cox’s attempt to estimate train and car trip times assumes that people driving to Victorville to take the train will face severe traffic jams but people driving all the way to Vegas will have clear traffic. The Acela comparison is stupid, since the Acela is slower and more expensive and coexists with the Regional and commuter rail, as noted by Adirondacker.

    Derek Reply:

    XpressWest will take more cars off the road between Victorville and Vegas than between L.A. and Victorville, if you believe transit can take cars off the road.

    jonathan Reply:

    Derek:that’s a non-sequitur

    Clem Reply:

    Palmdale, center of the universe. What a joke. NEXT!!! (CEO, that is)

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    They are grasping at anything. They can’t get the money and timing to work so they are reduced to trying to tell a good story

    synonymouse Reply:

    40 miles of tunnel to access Mojave? And they found the Maginot Line was ill-conceived.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Add a question mark after ill-conceived.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Clem, did you ever look at the time penalty of running HSR from Palmdale to LAUS to Anaheim to Victorville to Las Vegas over Palmdale to Victorville to Las Vegas? I am beginning to think that is how the alignment will look.

    Donk Reply:

    Wow I’m shocked to see George Skelton write a positive article on HSR. Lately he has been totally bamboozled by the HSR haters. This time he got bamboozled by Dan Richard.

  17. Elizabeth
    Jan 12th, 2014 at 22:34

    We have posted september and october progress reports from PB

  18. Elizabeth
    Jan 13th, 2014 at 17:08

    Tutor Perini and Dragados are teamed up on the Seattle Tunnel project. Not only did they assume a metal pipe in the contract had been removed (oops) but they have gotten very creative in trying to duck out of DBE commitments. The consortium’s staff responsible for DBE hiring (eg Chris Dixon) all appear to be Tutor Perini employees.

    WSDOT has now declared them to be in breach of contract. The tactics used to avoid meeting obligations and the CYA moves are impressive.

    The letter

    The original fed report

    The CP1 contract has 30% DBE commitment. Anyone want to wager what the actual ends up looking like?

  19. Linda Schinkel
    Jan 19th, 2014 at 09:45

    As evidenced by Kathryn Phillips and the Sierra Club California’s decision to oppose a vital funding source for HSR, and in the process aid the Tea Party effort to end High Speed Rail in California, the current Sierra Club in California is not your mother or father’s Sierra Club. In 2004 the Sierra Club endorsed a high density redevelopment project on the San Francisco Peninsula over objections that the Environmental Impact Report was under reporting traffic and water impacts.

    People who belong and donate to the Sierra Club need to take a close look at the Club’s recent political history–the projects it is choosing to endorse or oppose. With enough research, Club members will realize that Sierra Club California is not the guardian of natural resources that it once was.

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