The LA Times’ Deceitful, Shameless Anti-HSR Bias

Jun 18th, 2014 | Posted by

Roger Rudick has a great post up at Streetsblog LA slamming the Los Angeles Times for their pervasive anti-HSR bias. He goes over the disreputable record of Ralph Vartabedian, who has been offering a textbook example of biased reporting in his anti-HSR articles over the years.

But Rudick also takes to task that silly op-ed from a Chapman University English professor who argued that HSR should be saved by cutting out stops. The way Rudick delivers the smackdown is classic:

On the morning of March 24, I was in the café car on the Eurostar high-speed train, on my way from Paris to London. I glanced out the window as we zoomed at nearly 200 mph past a stopped train, a concrete platform and some parked cars.

I asked the barista if that was Haute-Picardie station. She looked at the clock, gave a Gallic shrug, and said “probablement.” I told her how I’d read in the Los Angeles Times that California’s High Speed Rail project needs a re-design, citing Haute-Picardie as evidence that intermediate stations slow the whole system.

She chortled and said “did we slow down?”

Rudick notes that the LA Times refused to print a letter to the editor he wrote, but had no problem publishing all kinds of absurd commentary on HSR. When they publish articles ostensibly in support of HSR, they come from concern trolls like Stuart Flashman or the aforementioned prof, Tom Zoellner, both of whom oppose the current HSR project. Flashman, as Rudick points out, has actually sued to stop the project.

Yet as Rudick points out, the criticisms the LA Times publishes usually don’t hold any water. They’re easily debunked as Rudick himself did merely by riding the Eurostar and asking a barista. That’s true whether it’s coming from Vartabedian in the newsroom or from the op-ed pages where the only favorable comments about HSR come from people who oppose the current plan even though their facts are usually flawed.

Rudick is quite familiar with the LA Times, having freelanced there before. But he’s not likely to do so again after slamming them – a criticism he feels compelled to make based on the outrageous nature of their strong bias:

For years now, nearly every bit of HSR coverage by the Times has been like the articles cited above. I once admired the newspaper and even freelanced for them. It’s not in the self-interest of any journalist to accuse editors and potential employers. But at some point every transportation reporter has to step up and point out the obvious: the Los Angeles Times coverage of HSR is deceitful and shamelessly biased.

Sadly this is true of many, though not all, reporters in California. The few reporters who play it straight, like the AP’s Juliet Williams or the Fresno Bee’s Tim Sheehan, are usually outnumbered by coastal reporters who are coming at the project from a skeptical, often conservative position that of course HSR is a bad idea and isn’t it crazy of the state government to even consider it?

One place for the media to start is to point out that, as Rudick notes, a majority of Californians still support HSR. That rather important stat never seems to make it into most articles on the project, which frame it as a wasteful boondoggle that Californians are turning against. Such a frame is completely false and doesn’t reflect the truth, but you still see it. And the LA Times is the guiltiest party of them all.

One critical article in Streetsblog LA isn’t going to force the LA Times to change. But it will help expose their dishonest approach to HSR to more people. And that’s an important step to take.

  1. jonathan
    Jun 18th, 2014 at 22:28

    Rober,t did you even read the Wikipedia article on Gare TGV Haute-Picardie before writing this knee-jerk reflex piece?

    Do read that article. You will see that the Haute-Picardie stationi is in the middle of (ahem) green fields, it is miles from anywhere. It was originally criticized for being too far from anywhere.
    What does this mean? It means, as the barista observed, that the *trains do not slow down*.

    Contrast this with Bakersfield, where trains have to slow down to half-speed, even if they don’t stop. Or compare to Gilroy, where trains will have to slow down when going through a built-up area (even if Gilroy gets Joe’s beloved trench).

    Not all stations are equal. Greenfield stations which can be bypassed at high-speed good Downtown stations with speed restrictions due to densely built-up areas: slowdowns. UNGOOD. Stations with tignt, speed-restricting S-bends:more slowdowns. DOUBLE-UNGOOD.
    Numbers matter, Rober.t. You and Roger Rudick should learn something about the relevant numbers. Which in this case are population density; train noise levels, and *non-stop speed through a station*. Otherwise you’re comparing apples and bananas. (Not oranges oranges are at least round)

    And as for the dishonesty of the LA Times and Roger Rudick: pot, kettle, black. Or, to turn it the other way around: Robert, does this mean that you are now *IN FAVOR* of out-of-town, greenfield stations like Haute-Picardie? Now *that* would be a post worth reading.

    joe Reply:

    Apparently you didn’t read the Op-Ed.

    Let me help you.

    Too many stops. There are a raft of complaints about the planned California route, but the Central Valley, now the nation’s busiest short-haul air corridor, is the right place for high-speed rail technology. However, most passengers will want the fastest end-to-end trip possible. France’s TGV embarrassed itself with the Haute-Picard station, built to encourage development in a rural area. The “beetroot” station remains in the middle of the sticks. The builders of Spain’s AVE blemished their network with a stop at a de-populated town called Yebes.

    Will eliminating the Hanford stop save time?

    jonathan Reply:

    Apparently, Joe, *you* didn’t read *my* post. Let me help you..

    Will eliminating a downtown Bakersfield stop save (AND money?) Yes.
    Will eliminating a downtown Gilroy stop save time (AND probably money?) Yes.

    Zorro Reply:

    Will either of those be eliminated? NO they will not.

    JCC Reply:

    Apparently jonathan, you can’t write or read. That was a heck of a complete sentence that you wrote above.

    jonathan Reply:

    .. and, since you seem to need it, let me help you even more.

    Am I defending the LA Times and Ralph Vartabedian? *No*.
    Am I defending Chapman’s pp-ed? *No*.

    Try to look at what I *said*. Are all stations equal? *No*.
    Is it fair to compare Haut-Picardie to CHSRA’s Bakersfield station, or Gilroy? *No*.
    Did Roger Rudick (and Robert Cruickshank) do that anyway? *Yes*

    Is that juist as duplicitous and “disreputable” as Ralph Vartabedian’s reporting on CA HSR? *YES*.

    Joe Reply:

    “Rober,t did you even read the Wikipedia article on Gare TGV Haute-Picardie before writing this knee-jerk reflex piece?”

    You didn’t read the op-ed. It was wrong.

    The LA Times printed crap.

    Gilroy’s station services the central coast. I am sure even you would not to suggest bypassing monterey is worth the time saved.

    The Gilroy Station location is TBD oh mighty troll.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Didn’t you get the memo jonathan? Connecting Gilroy and having a downtown Bakersfield station is essential to the economic well being of California. In fact, the state has two economic epicenters-one in downtown Gilroy, the other in Bakersfield. Without access to each, our state would quickly become a Somalia like hellhole.

    jonathan Reply:

    Amanda: Nah. It’s not that bad. As I see it, the issue is whether CHSRA’s priority is to build an actual HSR line which is capable of operating at break-even; or if it’s turned into a “redevelop my downtown with someone else’s money” pork-barrel. No question which side Joe is on.

    And of course, now that Bakersfield has already done redevelopment of their downtown, they don’t *want* a downtown station.

    Zorro Reply:

    Money/Revenue comes from Passengers, eliminating stops makes for less revenue, they will be built, as will HSR, don’t like that? Tough, go and join Perry in Texas.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Perry would be coming to California actually

    And while we could get into the whole issue of average speed vs passenger numbers and revenue thing (a Surfliner stopping at every commuter station would have abysmal passenger numbers and revenue; not he other hand the Surfliner expresses have all been failures), allow me to point out that what jonathan was criticizing was not whether Bakersfield ought to have a station, but whether it ought to be in the downtown rather than a greenfield location.

    jonathan Reply:

    Zorro, did you even *read* what I wrote? I’m not objecting to stations per se. I’m objecting to statoins which cause slowdows, a delay of some minutes *each*, for a non-stop train.

    More to the point, I’m objecting to people who disingenuously compare such stations to a station like Haut-Picardie, which does *not* require such a slowdown for non-stopping trains.

    Joe Reply:

    Who wrote stations in downtown areas like Bakersfield don’t slow trains?
    No one. You made it up.

    LATimes Op Ed wrote eliminating a greenfield station would speed up HSR. Wrong.
    And it slammed building greenfield stations. Dumb.

    Clem Reply:

    The alignment known as “Bakersfield hybrid” includes a 115 mph reverse curve. This will cause every non-stop train to lose two minutes, compared to cruising through at 220 mph.

    jonathan Reply:

    So explain, Joe, how is it valid to compare Haute-Picardie to such stations, in such a way as to deliberately imply that CA HSR stations also won’t slow down trains??

    Can you get my point now???

    jonathan Reply:

    Joe, you need even *MORE* help in understanding what I wrote. Incroyable!

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If its invalid to compare Haute-Picardie to such stations, then you are confirming the argument of Rudick and Cruickshank that Zoellner is being misleading.

    Because its Zoellner who compares Haute-Picardie to such stations.

    joe Reply:


    The post is about LA Times and their bogus coverage.

    There’s a red herring about Bakersfield. Criticizing Robert over Bakersfield is bogus since Robert never implied anything at Bakersfield – or Gilroy.

    A greenfield Hanford station isn’t de facto slowing HSR down. That’s the LATimes Op-Ed’s assertion and the pony of the LAStreets Blog and Robert.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But its not the station that causes the delay, its the alignment through Bakersfield.

    jonathan Reply:

    The planned alignment through Bakersfrield was Schosen specifically for the downtown station. *Duh*. Of course, going downtown and through S-bends to *get* to a downtown station causes slowdowns. Which came first, Bruce? The downtown station, or the alignment to it?

    So, explain how it’s reasonable to compare the planned Bakersfield station with Hate-Picardie, and to imply that CA HSR stations will, similarly, not slow down non-stopping trains.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    It’s also about PB setting themselves up for 30 years worth of transit development schemes in reaches of the State outside of BART’s Imperial grasp. Think long term here…

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But it was Zoellner that brought Haute-Picardie up, and Zoellner that gives the misleading impression that the French service would be faster without that station on the corridor.

    How can it possible be unreasonable to point out the Zoellner is peddling nonsense when he tries to suggest that the French HSR would be appreciably faster it if had not been built with that station?

    Joe Reply:

    HSR access to/from Monterey County via Gilroy’s Station.

    The stations location is TBD. The City did extensive outreach and recommended downtown. Further studies are planned to verify the recommendation. It may move to a greenfield when more work is done.

    This is controversial because ….

    BruceMcF Reply:

    And Joe is correct that the reason that reason its unfair to compare Gilroy to Haute-Picardie is that Gilroy plays a more important transportation role, as the transfer connector to the Salinas / Central Coast corridor.

    The ideal is to have Gilroy-HSR and Gilroy-Caltrain as a cross platform-connection, second best is to have them close enough together to be connected be a people-mover.

    Joe Reply:

    The ideal is to route all local Gilroy trains onto the UP row which runs through downtown and also carries Caltrain. HSR would create a bypass for express trains.
    Trains leaving the Gilroy station connect back to the mainline. I assume since local trains are slowing, the cost of connecting high-speed rail into the local track would be minimal to having to mitigate 220 mph trains in a deep trench.

    There is a slightly raised HSR alignment option studied by Gilroy that runs through downtown Gilroy that also fully grade separates the UP freight track. Since local trains can operate slowly, there would be less cost in noise mitigation and the grade separation would include UP and HSR local track.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Joe – whether it’s the HSR mainline or your bypass suggestion, did Gilroy really intend to grade separate their entire downtown track? Depress all the cross streets under an at-grade track?

    jonathan Reply:

    .. Joe, since you seem to need it, let me help you even more.

    Am I defending the LA Times and Ralph Vartabedian? *No*.
    Am I defending Chapman’s pp-ed? *No*.

    Try to look at what I *said*. Are all stations equal? *No*.
    Is it fair to compare Haut-Picardie to CHSRA’s Bakersfield station, or Gilroy? *No*.
    Did Roger Rudick (and Robert Cruickshank) do that anyway? *Yes*

    Is that juist as duplicitous and “disreputable” as Ralph Vartabedian’s reporting on CA HSR? YES

    Joe, feel free to disagree; but be aware that if you *do* defend Roger Rudick’s comparison of CA HSR stops to Haute-Picardie, then you *APPROVE* of running HSR trainsets at full speed through Gilroy, with no trench. Just like Haute-Picardie. It *is* that simple.

    Joe Reply:

    The LATimes published an op ed criticizing greenfield stations because they are not in city centers and slow down trains.

    It was a stupid op ed and indicative if the crap coverage from that news paper.

    You created a phony argument accusing Robert of not knowing the station was in a greenfield blah blah blah. Flue down trains blah blah. Gilroy blah blah. trench blah blah.

    jonathan Reply:

    Nonsenes, Joe. My argument has nothing to do with he LA times op-end. My argument is about Roger Rudig’s, and Robert’s disingenuous comparison of Haute-Picardie, to planned CA HSR stations. (My argument also has nothing to do with what Robert knows about Haute-Picardie).

    if that is the best you can do tonrefute my argument, thank you for conceding the point.

    It is a fact that comparing Haute-Picarde to CHSRA’s planned Cetnral Valley stations , such as bakersfield or Gilory, is just as misleading and “disreputable” as several of Ralph Varatbedian’s own articles. I see you don’t actually disagree wiht that.

    Joe Reply:

    Help me out here.

    This was your comment lede:

    Rober,t did you even read the Wikipedia article on Gare TGV Haute-Picardie before writing this knee-jerk reflex piece?

    Yes, Robert clearly read the op ed article. He wrote a blog puts on the LATimes crap coverage and how their Op Ed was blatantly wrong.

    You clearly did NOT read the op ed or understand the entire propose of the Robert’s example with zkA Street Blog which us why you want off on a tangential slam of his inferior understanding of greenfield blah blah. Trolling Gilroy blah blah.

    jonathan Reply:

    Joe, you need reading lessons. LI didn’t ask whehter Robert read the op-ed. I asked if he rhad ead about Gare Haute-Picardie. et’s take this *very* slowly.

    There are four commenters here.
    A. Ralph Vartabedian, and (by implication0 the editorial staff of the _LA Times_. Vartabedian has earned a reputation (here and elsewhere) for disingenuous and “disreputable” reporting on HSR.
    B. Tom Zoellner,, an associate professor of English, who wrote an op-ed.
    C. Roger Rudick, who wrote a piece condemning and ridiculing Zoeller’s op-ed, on the grounds that Haute-Picardie doesn’t slow down TGVs, and implies that CHSRA”s planned stations will not slow down CA HSR.
    D. Robert Cruickshank, who applauds and amplifies Rudick’s piece.

    Joe, I am not defending B. I am saying *NOTHING* about B. I’m not even saying anything directly about A. What I *am* talking about is C, and D. Comparing Gare Haute-Picardie to CHSRA”s planned Central Valley stations is *EQUALLY* as bad and misleading as — for example, — Ralph Vartabedian’s biased reporting on CA HSR.

    What C (or A) say is *IRRELEVANT* to my point, because that’s not what I’m talking about.
    And — as I see earlier – -you actually *AGREE* with my point, though you’re apparently unable to realize that.

    Clem Reply:

    It is quite simply an *outrage*.

    joe Reply:

    Rober,t did you even read the Wikipedia article on Gare TGV Haute-Picardie before writing this knee-jerk reflex piece?

    Do read that article. You will see that the Haute-Picardie stationi is in the middle of (ahem) green fields, it is miles from anywhere. It was originally criticized for being too far from anywhere.
    What does this mean? It means, as the barista observed, that the *trains do not slow down*.

    Pretty clear where the knee jerked. Go easier on people. Give Robert a little benefit of the doubt before launching a missile.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Slow down jonathan, you’re hitting two typos per line. Let’s face it, we’re not really talking HSR anymore, we building inter-regional rail with higher speed capability between stations. I’d sooner stick to about 250kph max or even less. I don’t like those blurry visions out of the window.
    If I can convince them to start Burbank-Palmdale and then upgrade Burbank to Laguna Niguel I’ll be quite content. You guys over the hills can duke out Altamont, Pacheco, and all the other combinations, and while you’re arguing just send me the money.

    Clem Reply:

    Burbank – Palmdale direct via Angeles Forest tunnel?

    Alan Reply:

    Healthy attitude that you have…”Gimme mine, and the hell with the rest of you…”


    Paul Dyson Reply:

    No, No Alan. Let’s all have what we need, but if you can’t make up your mind and I can then we’ll put folks to work and get some useful transportation until you’ve sorted out your differences and come up with a plan. And I have stated many times before, don’t take this stuff too seriously, it’s just a blog.
    And Clem, I’m not a civil, I’ll be happy to read what you recommend. But I do understand the politics and I’m not going to drive myself crazy advocating something that ain’t going to happen. I was around in 1968, I’ve done enough of that.

    joe Reply:

    I think we have made up our minds. It hasn’t settled in yet with some but the plan is in place.

    It’s good for HSR to keep options open in case a locality tries to hold up the project to extract more concessions.

    That’s how academic funding works at the Fed level. Communities that fight over funding will lose money to those communities that can compromise and produce a prioritized plan of action.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They came up with a plan. It’s through downtown Bakersfield and then onto Palmdale.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yup. That’s the plan.

    They ought to make an adjustment to that plan, but since the adjustment doesn’t require any change to the Initial Construction Segment, that’s no reason to hold up construction of the ICS.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    In a letter dated 6-14 from Morales to Senator Pavley Morales states they plan to “accelerate” construction from Burbank to Palmdale and possibly operate it as a stand alone. This to show more AQ improvement in a highly impacted area. Coincides neatly with the Galgiani staement. Fits my agenda too.

    jonathan Reply:

    isn’t the ICS from (just north of) Fresno to Bakersfield? Do you know the exact southern end of the ICS? Is it the station planned for downtown?

    jonathan Reply:


    yes, i agree the downtown Bakersfield plan should be changed. That’s why i keep asking Clem to break out the savings from bypassing Bakersfield from his (so-called) Tejon plan. (Ideally, breaking out oth the time and money savings.)

    Joey Reply:

    In a letter dated 6-14 from Morales to Senator Pavley Morales states they plan to “accelerate” construction from Burbank to Palmdale and possibly operate it as a stand alone.

    If only there were a cheaper way connect the Central Valley segment to Burbank…

    joe Reply:

    San José Approves Diridon Plan, With Creek Restoration and Reduced Traffic

    The Diridon Station Area Plan proposes a complete network of linear parks featuring the Los Gatos Creek and Guadalupe River

    “This is our chance to right a wrong from half a century ago, when the creek was buried beneath the roadway to create a fast right-hand turn lane,” said Ames at Tuesday’s meeting. ”Off-street trails will also result in fewer cars, less parking required, and reduced traffic congestion.”

    SAP Center (left), downtown San Jose (center), and the Diridon Transit Center (right) as envisioned by the Diridon Station Area Plan. Image: California High-Speed Rail Authority

    Joey Reply:

    Well, at least they didn’t cave to the SAP Center’s demands for even more parking, though the plan still includes a massive amount of off-street parking already.

    Also I find it amusing that people are still using that image the CHSRA rendered years ago. Not quite what the station is going to look like according to the most recent plans…

    BruceMcF Reply:

    @ Jonathan ~ the EIR/EIS is through Bakersfield Station, but the Federally funded construction segment is through to a point northeast of Bakersfield where the HSR corridor can junction with the existing Amtrak corridor, with the backup”independent utility” configuration (that serves as guarantee to the Feds that the ICS won’t be a white elephant investment) using the existing Amtrak Bakersfield station and alignment for the terminus of the upgraded San Joaquin.

    The ICS is the Green part of this map from Yonah Freemark’s Transport Politic.

    The through-Bakersfield section and Bakersfield station is part of the “early priority” plan of work from Bakersfield through to Palmdale. Those wanting to work politically to get it fixed might contact Palmdale supporters of the current Business Plan, since the Express Bypass alternative reduces the total project cost of the Bakersfield to Palmdale segment in its IOS configuration.

    Alan Reply:

    I’m not one of the people screaming “Altamont” or “Tejon”. I’m satisfied with the decisions that have been made and anxious to see actual work begin. As long as the ICS gets started, I have no problem with work on the bookends starting at the same time.

    ken Reply:

    “My argument is about Roger Rudig’s, and Robert’s disingenuous comparison of Haute-Picardie, to planned CA HSR stations.”

    Neither Rudig nor Robert made any such comparison. The comparison was made in the original op ed. You’re waisting a lot of energy arguing against a straw man.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But the solution to Bakersfield is to bypass Bakersfield, and if you only send trains stopping at Bakersfield through the original Bakersfield section, there’s no point in a greenfield station.

    It seems the more cost-efficient phasing is to plan the bypass, make the through Bakersfield section a grade separated 125mph section between the planned junctions with the bypass, and then put the bypass in place at the same time as the connection to SF Transbay becomes available. Then the Express doesn’t have to slow down for Bakersfield, and the through Bakersfield does not have to be overbuilt to allow for the eventual Express passing through.

    It would come out in headlines as a cost increase, because nominal cost accounting makes it look more expensive to spend later, but in reality it seems like it would be a lower present value, due to deferring the higher speed bypass until it is of appreciable benefit.

    Jos Callinet Reply:


    jonathan Reply:

    But the solution to Bakersfield is to bypass Bakersfield,

    Correct, that’s a solution. But the downtown station is CHSRA”s plan-of-record. And therefore it is disingenuous and “disreputable’ to compare the planned Bakersfield station to Gare Haute-Picardie.

    Bruce, I’m not defending Zoeller’s op-ed. I’m not defending Ralph Vartabedian. I am pointing out the unarguable fact that comparing Gare Haute-Picardie to CHSRA’s planned Central Valley stations is misleading and”disreputable”.

    Why is that so hard to understand? Is it that you treat HSR discussion as aversarial, a zero-sum game?? That’s a serious question, btw. I simply *do not understand* why you, or Joe, equate a valid criticism of Rudick (and Cruickshank’s) comments, as somehow defending Zoeller (let alone Vartabedian). ( defy you to show *anything* i’ve written which defends or agrees with Vartabedian or Zoeller. Anything.


    BruceMcF Reply:

    Why is it so hard to understand that when Zoellner used the labeling of Haute-Picard as a “beetfield” station as evidence to “prove” that the alignment has “too many stops”, it is entirely appropriate to point out that his “evidence”, Haute-Picard, does not in fact slow down the Express HSR.

    It is not Rudick or Cruickshank who INTRODUCES the comparison to Haute-Picard, it is Zoellner.

    When you say, “comparing Gare Haute-Picardie to CHSRA’s planned Central Valley stations is misleading and ‘disreputable’.”, why is that a criticism of Rudick or Cruickshank? It seems that if Haute-Picard has no relevance to the CHSRA alignment, that should stand as criticism of Zoellner and confirms Rudick’s debunking of his use of Haute-Picard as evidence that the CHSRA alignment of record has “too many stops”.

    Whether or not Zoellner’s POSITION is roughly in line or out of line with your preferences, surely you can concede that Zoellner’s ARGUMENT does more to mislead than to inform.

    Joe Reply:

    Possibly there is comparison with CAHSR at the Kings Co station which is “beetfield” and should have zero impact on speed.

    Comparisons to other stations are fabricated controversies.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Zoellner’s line of argument is that Haut-Picard was criticized as a beetfield station, which is a piece of evidence that that French HSR corridor had too many stations which slows it down, and therefore that CHSRA has too many stations which will slow it down. That argument is as helpful in fixing the problem of the Bakersfield planned alignment as tossing a bicycle to a diver to help them get around.

    joe Reply:

    It’s sad the LATimes published it.

    FWIW, the only other beetfield option, actually pepper field, is Gilroy.

    It’s not finalized for downtown at all and could move to the pepperfields (near the Hospital and outlet malls) if the detailed studies show the sound cannot be adequately mitigated.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    A beetfield station at Bakersfield is only my second preference, ahead of the current alignment, but behind an Italian style bypass around Bakersfield for the Express, allowing the initial through-Bakersfield alignment to stop being so over-engineered as a Rapid Rail corridor.

    A beetfield option for Gilroy seems like the more sensible approach.

    Part of Gilroy’s warranted concern may be the extra fiscal burden of providing transit to the HSR station. However, since Gilroy-Caltrain is the station closest to where the proposed Salinas / Monterey rail Capital Corridor extension branches off, it shouldn’t be Gilroy’s financial responsibility to see to a shuttle (or people mover) between a beetfield Gilroy-HSR and Gilroy-Caltrain.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    building through downtown now doesn’t preclude the possibility of building an express bypass in the future.

    jonathan Reply:


    We have four commentors here. A, B, C, and D. I point out a logical ifallacy in the comments made by C and D. For the love of God, please explain how that in any way supports A or B.

    It doesn’t *mater* who introduced Gare TGV Haute-Picardie. Comparing it to CHSRA’s plan-of-record stations in the Central Vally is “disreputable”and “disingenous”,. IMHO equally so as A’s well-known biased reporting. Personally, Zoellner’s reference to “beetfield” stations is a total non-sequitur.

    Zoellner has nothing to justify his “too many stops” claim, besides “i-5 alignment! Racetrack! I-5! Racetrack!”.

    joe Reply:

    It doesn’t *mater* who introduced Gare TGV Haute-Picardie.

    Of course it matters. It was the LATimes Op-Ed. Robert quoted the Op-Ed and criticized it using the LA Street Blog.

    Comparing it to CHSRA’s plan-of-record stations in the Central Vally is “disreputable”and “disingenuous”,.

    Who made that disingenuous comparison? You made it señor.

    Contrast this with Bakersfield, where trains have to slow down to half-speed, even if they don’t stop. Or compare to Gilroy, where trains will have to slow down when going through a built-up area (even if Gilroy gets Joe’s beloved trench).

    You spun it up and then argued it was wrong.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Of COURSE it matters who introduced it, since what Commenters C is arguing is a point ABOUT what Commenter B said. If you drop what Commenter B said, you misrepresent Commenter C’s argument.

    Commenter C is SAYING that Commenter’s B REPRESENTATION of the effect of Haute Picardie as a piece of evidence regarding the CHSRA is misleading. You repeatedly agree with Commenter C that Commenter’s B use of Haute-Picardia is misleading, and at the same time repeatedly criticize Commenter for pointing out that Commenter B is give a misleading picture of Haute-Picardia ~ you are contradicting yourself.

    Pointing out that Commenter B giving a misleading picture of Haute-Picardie does not imply that the Bakersfield alignment is well designed for effective operation of through express trains. It simply says don’t trust Commenter B as a source of information for how HSR works.

    Those who would prefer a Bakersfield station on the edge of town with a connecting local service to downtown ought to be even MORE upset by Zoellner’s piece, since Zoellner is presuming that “beetfield stations” are a system flaw.

    jonathan Reply:

    It doesnt matter one bit who introduced Gare TGV Haute-Picardie.

    Let’s reduce this to something so simple even Joe can’t misunderstand:
    ” Hate-Picarde does not slow down TGVs. Therefore, CHSRA’s plan is *JUST FINE*”.

    The commentator is wrong. Any fool can see that. My point is that Rudick, and Robert, are being *exaclty* as honest and reputable as .. oh, let”s say Ralph Vartabedian.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, that nicely summarizes the flaw with your argument, since “” Hate-Picarde does not slow down TGVs. Therefore, CHSRA’s plan is *JUST FINE*”.” is a misrepresentation of the argument you are criticizing.

    The argument you are criticizing is, in effect, “Zoellner uses complaints about Haute-Picardie being a beetfield station to support a claim that CHSRA has ‘too many stations’, and that’s misleading horseshit, unfit for the LA Times to print.”

  2. morris brown
    Jun 18th, 2014 at 22:51

    My word Robert; what a bunch of crap you dare to write here.

    For starters, the LA Times Editorial page has continued to advocate in favor of the HSR project.

    The StreetBlog trash piece is ridiculous; it doesn’t deserve any further comments.

    Now other media also weigh in and try to set the record straight; Ralph Vartabedian isn’t the only highly qualified as well as regarded reporter who sees this project for what is really is —- a disaster.

    One should note this OP-ED from the Wall Street Journal

    California Choo-Choo Madness

    And, of course, you can degrade George Skelton who writes:

    Gov. Brown, lawmakers trade goodies to reach on-time budget


    The governor — a virtual cinch to be wielding power for another four years — got pretty much what he wanted, starting with some funding for his unpopular bullet train . But he had to give a bit in order to jump-start the train and move it off the side track.

    Legislative leaders agreed to appropriate $250 million in legally suspect cap-and-trade greenhouse emission fees — pollution licenses — to fund land acquisition, roadbed prepping and other steps necessary before track-laying can begin between Madera and Bakersfield.

    The $250 million will enable the state to tap into federal money, which must be matched. Roughly $3 billion from Washington is available, but no more is in sight for the $68-billion Los Angeles-to-San Francisco project.

    Bakersfield Rep. Kevin McCarthy — now No. 3 in the House Republican leadership and expected soon to be No. 2 — has made it his personal mission to block any further federal funding. “The high-speed rail boondoggle has proven to be an unfeasible project,” he asserted last week.

    California voters in 2008 authorized selling $9 billion in state bonds for the bullet train. Of that, $8.6 billion remain. But a judge has held up their sale until the rail agency can specify where the other billions will come from to complete the first segment of the line to the San Fernando Valley.

    The budget deal included not only $250 million for the train in the next fiscal year, but 25% of cap-and-trade fees in future years. Nobody seems to know how many hundreds of millions of dollars that will raise annually. Additionally, another stash of cap-and-trade money totaling $400 million was allocated to the train.

    Brown had requested 33% of the pollution fees for his train. Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) offered only 15% initially. But the senator compromised at 25% when the governor loosened up and gave him some goodies.

    “The high-speed rail boondoggle has proven to be an unfeasible project.” – Rep. Kevin
    The governor was desperate and, Steinberg acknowledges, “We used high-speed rail for leverage.”

    Brown agreed to allocating 35% of cap-and-trade revenue for a mix of “green” projects: local transit, intercity rail and affordable housing, a favorite of new Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). The remaining 40% of the pollution fees will be spent on natural resources and clean energy.

    John Burrows Reply:

    Allysia Finley who wrote the Wall Street Journal OP-ED that you quote, seems to have some issues with California.

    A couple of quotes from an article she wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Nov 8, 2010, titled “California: The Lindsay Lohan of States”

    “Your government’s run by a brothel of environmentalists, lawyers, public-sector unions and legislative bums”.

    And she concludes with “So here’s our final warning: When you inevitably crash and burn, don’t count on us to bail you out”.

    Alan Reply:

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black…

    Zorro Reply:

    If HSR is so unpopular, then why haven’t Repubs/baggers won more seats in the state legislature? It’s cause only your generation doesn’t like HSR Morris, and your generation is dying from old age/senility and is not a majority.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    “It is thought that this funding could provide between $3bn and $5bn per annum for the project, enabling CHSRA to raise funds by borrowing against the future revenue stream” How?

  3. nslander
    Jun 18th, 2014 at 22:56

    Flail harder, Morris.

  4. Donk
    Jun 18th, 2014 at 23:07

    It’s pretty simple. Nobody will click on an article unless the headline says that the sky is falling. So the LA Times needs to employ knuckleheads like Ralph so they can stay in business.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Ralph is a muckraker from the Aerospace Age. He knows how to write stories about suspiciously expensive government projects…. In a way, it’s almost fun to see how negative a spin he can put on developments because you know (unlike Matier and Ross) he espouses the worst-case-scenario.

    Tim Sheehan deserves credit for being HSR’s most thorough reporter. Nevertheless, it’s like I said not that long ago. People in Southern California do not understand state government. Willie Brown could move to Santa Monica, wear a seersucker suit everyday, and never get spotted. Hell, Barbara Boxer has lived in Southern California for what, a decade, and she is still Marin County’s Senator.

    Bigger problem for Robert is that the Times has no real competition and no one even remotely close to challenging it. It used to a fantastic paper with content depth to match the New York Times. Now you can learn more reading blogs…oh wait….

  5. Donk
    Jun 19th, 2014 at 09:01

    The new LA Register isn’t much better. They have an editorial that basically says the Purple Line is a waste of money. I agree that transit does not reduce traffic, but they are totally missing the point – it provides an alternative. Anyone who thinks the Purple Line is a bad idea is braindead.

    The best is this part at the end: “Investing our hopes and tax dollars into high-cost, low-return mass transit projects might be tempting on the surface, but it seems as though we ought to be looking elsewhere for traffic relief.”

    Elsewhere? Where? How can you write an editorial and not propose a solution?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Donk, they are about to propose reviving the Beverly Hills Freeway project along Santa Monica Blvd, that should be both popular and effective.

    Zorro Reply:

    That “Beverly Hills Freeway project” would be Here.

    Zorro Reply:

    Or Here(Why Isn’t There a Freeway to Beverly Hills?), which shows a map of the unbuilt route.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    No Paul, the solution is obviously more toll roads and congestion pricing. Nothing puts lead into An L.A. ballon faster than a tax on how much you drive.

    Derek Reply:

    Which meaning of “ballon” are you using?

  6. Reality Check
    Jun 19th, 2014 at 09:54

    The Big Texas Plan to Copy Japan’s High-Speed Rail Success
    Texas Central Railway intends to build a Houston-Dallas line with private money.

    “The project has been progressing below the radar, very quietly, very deliberately, over the last four years plus,” says Lawless. It’s now undergoing an environmental impact study that will take between two and three years, but Texas Central, whose backers include Japan’s JR Central railway, has already conducted its own extensive research. The company, originally called U.S.-Japan High-Speed Rail, looked at 97 possible routes nationwide before concluding that Texas was the ideal place for a high-speed line — and that healthy profits could be made in long-distance passenger rail, a travel mode that for the past 40 years has existed only with the help of massive government subsidies.

    “Texas is special,” says Lawless. He lists among its advantages a flat, rural landscape, staggering growth potential, and a “business-friendly approach.” He adds that “as city pairs, Dallas and Houston are pretty unique in the United States.” The cities are 240 miles apart, a distance Lawless describes as a “sweet spot” for high-speed rail, where it beats both air and highway travel.


    Eric Reply:

    Why do these environmental impact statements take so long to write?
    Shouldn’t a competent group be able to write one in a couple months?
    We aren’t exactly talking about set theory here.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    A lot of the time in completing an environmental impact statement is in addition to the time required to write the first public draft. You have to complete the draft, put it out for public comment, have a series of meetings explaining the draft to interested parties, record the comments made, take the comments on board to write the proposed final version, then put that out for public comment and have a series of meetings about it, before you can lodge it with the authority that has the power to decide whether to accept or reject it.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “Putting it out for public comment” is a trivial amount of time. Under two months.

    “have a series of meetings explaining the draft to interested parties”? The “public” part is s sham and again involves little enough time. The real action goes on with the really “interested parties”, meaning those who are at either end of the massive public to private wealth transfer for which the “protracted” “environmental” study provides a fig leaf.

    “Take the comments on board”. It’s all email and a little court stenographer action.

    “write the proposed final version”. Take the original document, make changes to increase contractor profits, and add a “responses to comments” section that reads “Comment received and acknowledged”. Nothing to it.

    “lodge it with the authority that has the power to decide whether to accept or reject it.” Were you born yesterday? The documents never appear before a “public” authority unless the fix is in. “Lodging” in this sense means “presenting for a rubber stamp”, which is a matter of a week (for any public meeting law adherence) followed by a tiresome meeting with lots of Concerned Citizens Having Their Voices Heard, followed by a unanimous vote and then a big big party over at the transit-industrial complex’s sekrit HQ lair.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    There’s an industry that gets paid for cut and paste.

    There are no penalties for going over budget or over schedule at any stage.

    There is no downside to the private contractors or to the “public” agency employees.

    There is no particular hurry from anywhere within the system to actually deliver anything or to deliver any services — it is 100% about scoring earmarked pork, and in general the more time it takes the more political ducks can be lined up, the more palms greased and the project-justifying (and profitable to undertake) “studies” can be invented.

    You’re looking at the process and the outcome from the wrong perspective. It’s not about the public, it’s not about the environment, it’s not about delivery, it’s not about analysis, it’s not about alternatives: it’s all about spending as much as possible and keeping everybody (except the public) fat and happy.

    joe Reply:

    I could have sworn someone insisted CEQA was the only thing standing between us and the strip-mall monster.

    EIR’s are what give workers access to subsidized/free transit passes for Caltrain/VTA/MUNI. They restrict growth in/near PAMPA and help maintain SF’s quaint neighborhoods. Even the Google and Facebook have to comply with EIRs and offer Teh Bus to workers.

  7. Derek
    Jun 19th, 2014 at 10:35

    An electric tram that runs on non-electrified tracks:

    The onboard [supercapacitors] will be automatically charged from a ground-level power supply at stops. This will normally take between 10 sec and 30 sec. The trams are able to run for up to 4 km between charges.

    Eric Reply:

    there’s a big feature in the current issue of “trains” magazine on street cars, I read a bit about this capability in there, also. pretty impressive what tech can do these days

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Though taking it from overhead catenary would work as well. More energy efficient for the contact-less versions of ground level power supply, and more robust than the “only on when rail vehicle overhead” type of third rail power.

    Eric Reply:

    It’s opening this year? Every year I find another reason why I need to visit China.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I hope to be in China before the end of the year, but this makes a reason to take the HSR to Guangzhou.

    Using super-capacitors does address one of the energy efficiencies of battery-trams versus off-the-wire, in that their efficiency in dynamic braking is much higher than batteries.

  8. Eric
    Jun 19th, 2014 at 14:44

    Do people stand on the platform at Haute-Picarde when trains zoom by at 200mph?

    Eric Reply:

    (Assuming there are ever people who stand on the platform…)

    David M Reply:

    Even if it were a problem, I imagine that they could time the local trains so that there is no express train passing through at the same time anyone would be on the platform.

    Eric M Reply:

    Passing tracks in middle

    Eric Reply:

    Hmm. That’s quite fast, but I wouldn’t say 200mph. It’s also quieter than I expected. Maybe because it’s not 200mph.

    Eric M Reply:

    I wouldn’t judge sound from a video because all microphones (speakers too) are different.

    jonathan Reply:

    Actually, 300 km/hr (~ 186 mi/hr)…. but there are four tracks S-F-F-S, so the nonstop trains presumably never run adjacent to the platform.

    Makes me curious what the F-S-S-F advocates, who also favor bypassing Bakersfield, think of it ;).

    Clem Reply:

    The whole concept of FSSF vs. SFFS applies to a four-track corridor, which the LGV Nord is not. You are looking at platform sidings, not running tracks.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    FSSF would use an island platform rather than side platforms on local-only stations, so the F would still not be next to the platform.

    Clem Reply:

    Yes, although some distance away from the run-through tracks. It’s actually kind of fun to watch trains go by.

    Haute-Picardie is hardly the only French HSR station built well outside town centers. Try Valence, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Vendôme, Champagne-Ardenne, etc.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    My impression is that cities below a size where SNCF wants a city center station would have to pay the difference in incremental costs … and while maybe one or two have been interested in doing so, most are not.

    Clem Reply:

    It’s not just cost, it’s noise. The “otherworldly swoosh” as HSR noise was once described to the poor suckers in Gilroy is not reproduced in YouTube videos and sounds more like a thunderous roar in person. It’s not something you’d want to live next to.

    Michael Reply:

    A German example…

    BruceMcF Reply:

    That makes it sound like its having the trains stop that’s the problem ~ the ones of the trains going through don’t seem like they are as loud as the coal trains or container trains rumbling through trains in the middle of the night with their horns blaring. Of course, it that’s taken with a mobile phone, it could just be the limits of the mike.

    Clem Reply:

    The low-frequency sound fidelity is almost as good as this one!

    joe Reply:

    FWIW, Gilroy’s study did not include EIR assessment, no decision was based on noise or vibration. The Study was part public outreach to inform the public about land use and development and gave the city a prioritized set of station options and rational for the prioritization from the public.

    Now HSR resources will study the impact of the recommended location which includes vibration and noise with planned speeds and timetables. We ain’t done yet.

    Fail is a few smart dudes march into town to show us rubes “Teh Answer.”

    Clem Reply:

    I guess the “otherworldly swoosh” had it’s intended effect. Who wouldn’t want all the modernity and cachet that an “otherworldly swoosh” brings to downtown?

    Clem Reply:

    ‘its’ not ‘it’s’. Damn iPhone can’t understand grammar yet.

    Eric Reply:

    I stopped being a grammar pedant when I realized most people were now typing on phones not keyboards. Hopefully they extend me the same consideration.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Instead of mocking people’s grammar, I complain about touchscreen keyboards. As a result of my need for a non-touchscreen keyboard, my phone is an antique BlackBerry.


    BruceMcF Reply:

    I wasn’t ever much of a grammar pedant ~ at least, not since the WWW has had pictures ~ but I used to be fairly scrupulous about preview before post (in comment forums supporting it) to try to avoid the common typing habit mistakes (its when it’s it’s. their when it’s they’re, etc.) … but I’ve noticed after spending more time in forums with edit after post, I’ve been more slack about that in the past year, especially at Agent Orange.

    joe Reply:

    The consultants for the envisioning study were not technical. No stand up comic with a mike making sound effects either.

    If the HSR plan continues to run 220mph trains, when they model the noise an vibration, the alignment may move at the city’s request. HSR may suggest a greenfield station as their preferred location. The rational for downtown station included the city cost savings for not having to build city infrastructure out of town and a sincere desire to avoid urban sprawl.

  9. Lewellan
    Jun 20th, 2014 at 12:17

    Wells says:

    June 20, 2014 at 11:51 am

    (could be like E-Vent?)
    Ya gotta be there OR
    B-SKWAYRE square?
    Mercury cover story must-read.
    “I ran from Iran”
    Willamette Week “Park Life”
    also read and keep, both.
    Bertha is over.
    Bertha is NOT to be fixed, restarted.
    Drill-fill Sea-fence ‘arrangement’
    as seawall replacement also rejected, hello?
    (this message brought to you by
    Seattle Naked Painted Bike Ride)
    (Yes, proof they are idiots)

  10. Tom Zoellner
    Jun 23rd, 2014 at 23:07

    Robert, I think the high-handed tone of your post (not to mention the inaccuracies) does not serve this project well. Any statement that is less than full-fledged propaganda for your approved doctrine. Did you even bother to read my book to know what I really think of HSR? Of course you didn’t. So much easier to dismiss anything that’s even a hair out of orthodoxy as “silliness.” Too bad — the public could really use a forum to discuss this exciting project without feeling like their knuckles are always in danger of being rapped by the schoolmaster.

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