Latest Republican Effort to Defund HSR Fails

Mar 26th, 2014 | Posted by

Assembly Republicans keep trying to defund the California high speed rail project – and they keep failing:

The Assembly Transportation Committee turned down a bill by Assembly Member Jim Patterson to prohibit spending federal grant money on a high-speed train project until the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority has approved matching funds.

Patterson and his fellow Republicans on the committee were outvoted 8-4 on Monday afternoon. Several committee members were absent, but not enough to catch up to the “no” votes on Assembly Bill 1501. Patterson had urged the committee to allow the bill to move on to the Appropriations Committee, which oversees the state’s spending.

This is becoming an annual ritual for the Assembly – Republicans try to defund HSR and Democrats refuse. It’s a good sign that Assembly Democrats remain strongly supportive of the HSR project, and they have consistently been better on HSR than their Senate Democratic counterparts.

Speaking of Senate Democrats, Darrell Steinberg is sending some mixed messages on the project:

Will you and I be on the hook for the high cost of building California’s high speed rail project?

“No, the public’s not gonna be on the hook. We’re gonna take a fresh look at the high-speed rail,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said on the KFBK Morning News today when asked about the battle in the Assembly over paying for the project….

“The questions that are being asked are reasonable questions. Is there enough money to be able to assure that we can pay, for example, the next stage,” Steinberg said.

He says they will take a new look at the costs with an open mind.

I don’t think this necessarily means that Steinberg is interested in defunding or killing the project. A “fresh look” could just be the way they’re messaging the way they are dealing with the project so it doesn’t look like they’re blindly defensive. That said, I’d prefer to see some statements from Steinberg that also indicate the value of the project and support for the jobs and CO2 reductions it will bring.

  1. joe
    Mar 26th, 2014 at 09:46

    Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has national ambitions. He isn’t going to be successful continuing as the HSR concerned troll. Somehow Alan Lowenthal has learned to STFU and his committee assignments are NOT in Transportation.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Steinberg is the guy who wants to re-impose quotas.

  2. John Nachtigall
    Mar 26th, 2014 at 10:20

    A duel lapse in basic safety protocol

    1st, you dont have automatic systems for stopping the trains. In this day and age that is just ridiculous

    2nd, an operator who has worked for less than 60 DAYS fell asleep once already and partially missed a stop and you LET HER KEEP HER JOB. So she predictably fell asleep again. They didnt even move her to a daytime shift. Probably because she is the newbie and gets the early morning shift that no one wants.

    Its not a train thing, its a “you cant fix stupid” thing

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    more info

    her supervisor admonished her???? WTF??? she is running a train for the love of GOD. FIRE HER!!! Peoples lives are at stake. Its not a game

    synonymouse Reply:

    Just demonstrates the need for undocumented no-shows.

    wdobner Reply:

    It demonstrates a need to have a full roster of employees. Most transit agencies get by with fewer employees than they need to make a full day’s runs. The remainder will be given out on OT to employees off that day or staying over from another assignment. The frequent characterization of transit agencies as places to stash patronage employees in no-show jobs could not be more removed from the truth. The TAs are operating with fewer employees because they can fill those runs on overtime and avoid paying the benefits and full time salary of that other employee they’d have to hire if they were to carry a full roster to fill every run. Thus when people point out T/Os making $80k to $100k a year as a sign of “waste” we must consider that they’re doing the work of two to three employees who would otherwise have to be hired.

    Whether the extensive use of overtime to fill runs is a good thing or not, I don’t know. It’s certainly a nice bonus for the crews. But if crew fatigue is determined to be a factor in this crash then they’ll undoubtedly look at their crew rest policies. A simple fix would be to hire more T/Os and cut down on the available OT by filling more runs on regular time with an extra board.

    Eric Reply:

    “WTF??? she is running a train for the love of GOD. FIRE HER!!! Peoples lives are at stake. Its not a game”

    Convincing the union that firing is OK isn’t a game either…

    trentbridge Reply:

    As a sufferer of sleep apnea, you must understand that there are many people who suffer sleep apnea that have not been diagnosed. Falling asleep on the job could be symptomatic of this condition rather than some willful lack of concern. Furthermore, did you notice when this accident happened? 3 am at the end of a shift. It could be that she is not suited to being a train driver but why not let the proper procedure take place. Are you one of those Romney-types who “likes firing people?”

    Joe Reply:

    That’s a good point.

    The article quotes the CTA and it’s not good for them.

    He said the woman, who was cooperating with the investigation, often worked an erratic schedule, filling in for other Chicago Transit Authority employees.

    “Her hours would vary every day,” he said.

    Working 3AM and they have her working erratic an schedule so she cannot acclimate. New employee filling in when needed and she’s already had an incident. Admonishing her is okay but then rethink the scheduling.

    NTSB will find a root problem with how the CTA manages their junior staff schedules.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Agreed. Also bad. Just failure of safety management at every level

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I actually have sleep apnea. I have used a bi-pap for 5 years.

    If you have a medical condition that prevents you from doing your job properly you can’t do that job. Period.

    After the first incident there was no excuse. Either the supervisor sends her for a physical if you think it is medical or you fire her for incompetence. Neither happened

    Reedman Reply:

    SF MUNI had a train crash at West Portal in 2009 where the driver blacked out.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    just to prove it is not a train thing

    equally boneheaded, but at least they wont let a pilot do it twice and fire them after the 1st incident

    joe Reply:

    I’ll wait for the NTSB findings which tell us what factors contributed to the accident.

    It’s a pilot of an aircraft which is why it’s a different standard. Surprisingly have been multiple near landings of San Jose aircraft mistakenly going to Moffett Field. No firings. The proposed solution is NOT firing pilots – it is changing the runway light configurations.

    Better to look at the work environment and policies than institute a quick fix to fire people AFTER they make mistakes.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Southwest dismissed its pilot that did it. There are procedures in place, they were not followed. Some mistakes can only happen once

    Reality Check Reply:

    Nowhere near as serious … but this one was “allowed” to happen at least twice:
    Woman falls asleep, gets trapped on Caltrain
    Caltrain says it has happened before: “Last December, a man fell asleep only to wake up in that same maintenance yard, but the man managed to hop the fence.”

    wdobner Reply:

    But that’s on the crew too. Do they not check their trains for passengers upon placing them in the yard? That’s the *last* place anyone would want a passenger wandering around without a crew member around.

    joe Reply:

    The CTA procedure was followed.
    1. Assigning junior staff to erratic schedules that will cause fatigue.
    2. Admonish staff.
    3. Repeat 1

    wdobner Reply:

    The CTA has cab signals, ATC, and trip stops. The equipment was in place to stop the train. It will now become a matter of making sure the speed is low enough to allow those systems to bring the train to a stop before it can contact the bumping block and this happens again. About the only better thing would be a moving block CBTC system keeping track of the distance to brake before contacting the bumping block. But unfortunately that sort of expensive capital improvement is the exact thing highlighted by anti-transit conservatives as “waste”.

    As for the sleep thing, I would think anyone in the industry would realize that shift work is what they signed up for, and that they’re not really paid to drive trains. People will pay for the chance to drive a train. Operators (and pretty much anyone else in an Operations department) are paid to report for work fit for their assignment, regardless of whether its a 3am report or not. Managing your sleep schedule should be the first thing a new T/O (or C/R, E/R, T/D, Tw/O, or any other operations employee) learns upon getting the job. And if you don’t feel you are fit for duty, theres an extra board there to cover your assignment if you call in sick.

    Nathanael Reply:

    They do have automatic systems for stopping the trains — but apparently the way in which she fell asleep left her leaning on the dead-mans switch.

    I’m actually a strong advocate of fully automated trains, like they use on Docklands Light Rail. Driving a train is a boring, repetitive, mindless job — the worst sort and the sort of thing humans are very bad at. Let the human conductor watch the doors and look out for troublemakers and stuff like that… let the computer drive the train.

  3. synonymouse
    Mar 26th, 2014 at 10:32

    Bad day for the patronage machine:,0,1886696.story#axzz2x5ew3Vfq

    Now if we could just get a RICO up and running against Jerry and the Tejon Ranch and Palmdale real estate developers.

    morris brown Reply:

    More extensive article on this at:

    State Sen. Leland Yee indicted for public corruption in major FBI operation

    Yee has been a huge advocate of HSR. Back in 2008, it was he who demanded and got inserted into Prop 1A, that Phase I, SF to Anaheim, had to be built first.

    As articles are pointing out, the subtracts another Democrat from voting on upcoming matters. They are now 2 short of a 2/3 majority in the State Senate.

    joe Reply:

    Simple majority needed for passing a budget. Simple majority for cap and trade.

    When the bar for success is undermining a supermajority and filing lawsuits – you’re losing.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Cheerleaders are missing the point. AmBART is doomed to run up unending operating deficits which the State will have to subvent. The money will have to come from other programs. Steinberg has to recognize that . Question is whether DogLegRail is worth that much to the run of the mill Demos who are not into erecting a legacy for themselves.

    The best recourse is to place the whole thing back on the ballot with carte blanche for Palmdale-Tejon Ranch and see if the flacks call sell it to the lumpen. Best way for the pols to protect their behinds.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Wonder why Branson’s interested then?

    synonymouse Reply:

    His people have vetted the plans?

    joe Reply:

    Still worried about your monthly check being stolen by a “quota”, “patronage machine boss” and HSR.

    synonymouse Reply:

    say what?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The main theme between Sens. Wright, Calderon, and Yee is that they were all defying the Governor on something or another. Wright was against Brown’s education reform, Calderon the water bond, and Yee was holding up something else.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
    All mimsy were the borogroves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.
    Klaatu barada nikto
    Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam

    JB in PA Reply:

    But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
    In proving foresight may be vain:
    The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
    Gang aft agley,
    An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
    For promis’d joy!

    synonymouse Reply:

    Manus manum lavat.

    C. Petronius

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    mea navis aëricumbens anguillis abundat

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Latin is a language
    As dead as dead can be,
    It killed the ancient Romans
    And now it’s killing me.

    morris brown Reply:

    @ Paul Dyson

    Paul is on a panel at a hearing of the State Senate T&H committee taking place tomorrow (Thursday, 3/27/2014)

    Looking forward to hearing what you have to say. Thus far, there is no indication the hearing will be webcast, but I’m hopeful


    Ted Judah Reply:

    Paul is going to play into the Chairman’s hands about how it is doubtful that the stranded asset of the ICS will ever solve LA’s imminent transit needs.

    DeSaulnier is going to suggest that the money be redirected to common sense projects that will serve everyone’s needs like eBART and a tunnel under Mt. Soledad in San Diego, and an intermodal transportation center outside LAX not some rail track for use by BNSF in Fresno….

    joe Reply:

    Paul is going to play into the Chairman’s hands about how it is doubtful that the stranded asset of the ICS will ever solve LA’s imminent transit needs.

    Let me help. Not only is the ICS is not intended to help LA’s immediate transit needs, No one is suggesting the ICS would.

    DeSaulnier might suggest the money be redirected to “common sense” projects like eBART and I propose the Governor call that bluff and assign him to lead the legal tiger team to interpret prop1a.

    He’ll fail.

    Ted Judah Reply:


    I realize it’s hard to sound tounge-in-cheek on a blog. Richard Mlynarik and others don’t help matters.

    joe Reply:
    never mind

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I think you’re supposed to say that in Hungarian.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    My Hungarian ain’t what it used to be, I don’t remember the Hungarian word for eels. Et alioqui, quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Funny, she doesn’t look Druish!

  4. Robert Cruickshank
    Mar 26th, 2014 at 10:39

    PPIC has a new poll out that includes some very interesting numbers on high speed rail. (Hint: I’m happy with them.) More at 9PM when the embargo is lifted.

    Reedman Reply:

    FYI, the link to ‘CAHSR Posterous’ you have under ‘CA HSR Sites’ goes to something that no longer exists.

  5. Reality Check
    Mar 26th, 2014 at 13:10

    Late Fees: Muni Drivers’ Class-Action Suit May Cost the Agency Millions of Tardy Dollars

    Running a slow transit service quickly racks up costs. You have to deploy that many more vehicles to carry the same number of fare-paying passengers as a faster-moving service. And Muni is the slowest transit service in all North America.

    That slowness may end up costing Muni even more, according to a 2012 class-action suit wending its way through federal court with Muni-like speed, brought by some 233 drivers representing more than 2,000 of their brethren.

    The agency, allege aggrieved drivers Darryl Stitt, Tony Grandberry, and Hedy Griffin — lead plaintiffs for a cast of thousands — pays operators based upon “a predetermined amount of driving time.” Passengers and drivers alike are aware, however, that Muni’s schedules rarely match Muni’s reality. The operators claim they’re not being compensated for inevitable divergences from on-paper timetables.

    This inevitability is baked in, claim the plaintiffs: Muni “has a practice of designing its routes in a manner that makes it impossible for Operators to stay on schedule.”

    The drivers also claim they’re being shortchanged for the time they spend performing post-driving inspections; time spent traveling from one bus or train to another when switching runs; or time spent heading from the bus or train depot to wherever they parked their cars.

    Drivers hoping to put in for unscheduled overtime face a new set of challenges. “The unscheduled overtime card is so confusing that [a Muni management] representative could not explain parts of it,” claims the suit. When asked, during deposition, why that card contained six rows, the manager replied, “I — honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question.”

    Drivers, the suit continues, are not compensated for the time spent completing these puzzling overtime cards.


    Nathanael Reply:

    San Francisco really has no excuse for running the buses and streetcars slow.

    Muni is *owned and operated directly by the City of San Francisco*. Which *also owns and operates the streets*. The Board of Supervisors could establish bus lanes by fiat, and just implement it immediately. The city is rich: they don’t need to ask for state or federal money, so they can say to hell with NEPA. As a project for “restriping streets or highways to relieve traffic congestion” it may even fall under one of the categorical exemptions to CEQA as well.

    I don’t think they’ve really tried.

  6. Tony D.
    Mar 26th, 2014 at 18:26

    Hopefully the Steinberg fresh look will entail 100% focus on the bookends, regional commuter HSR. You know, an approach that will enjoy high ridership and smog reduction from the get go. The Central Valley link can come later…

    Joe Reply:

    That would be unfortunate. Bookend counties and cities are free to build commuter rail or chip in any time they wish. Caltrain / Bay Area for example.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They are chipping in. They have high incomes and pay high income taxes to the state and federal government.

    Joe Reply:

    And …?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    since they pay a lot of taxes the government they pay the taxes to should spend some of that money on them.

    joe Reply:

    and they’re receiving funding plus the cost of the CV is less per mile so it all works out.

    But I’ll concede that it is unfair the peninsula gets blended and not a full build – after all they pay more taxes per capita and deserve the full 4 track.

  7. morris brown
    Mar 26th, 2014 at 20:54

    PPIC has the new poll out on its website (nothing like breaking its own embargo)

    I’ll let Robert in his promised post, give you his position.

    This group has strongly advocated for the HSR project; appearing at many meetings and lobbying for its implementation.


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