HSR Facts Check Out

Nov 25th, 2015 | Posted by

Politifact has started a California version, and this week they’ve been taking a look at some claims about the California high speed rail project made by both supporters and critics. Turns out that HSR backers are “mostly true” and opponents are “mostly false.”

Let’s first take a look at a claim about cost savings made at an October 29 press conference by California High Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales, responding to the ridiculous Ralph Vartabedian article claiming that cost overruns were a sure thing:

The actual (construction) contracts that we’ve awarded to date have come in several hundred million dollars below estimates.

Politifact California did a very detailed examination of that claim and found it was…Mostly True:

After digging out the original documents, the winning bids are a combined $480 million below the authority’s cost estimates. That works out to “several hundred” million.

Still, the lower bids do nothing to wipe away the overall project’s financial uncertainty, several experts said. Its funding gap remains in the tens of billions of dollars.

The implication behind Morales’ statement about the bids is that the authority is either controlling its costs or could potentially save money. Officials probably wouldn’t talk about the bids otherwise. Even the authority’s chairman said there’s no way to safeguard against all possible higher expenses.

The phrase “to date” in the CEO’s carefully worded comment may be the most critical going forward. Every independent expert we spoke with suggested future cost overruns are likely for the project.

Even so, our fact checks evaluate the here and now, and not predictions.

We rate the claim Mostly True.

Well said. Morales didn’t say there would never be a cost overrun in the future. But what he did say is even more important: that if you look at the actual evidence, rather than speculation, that evidence shows that the CHSRA’s cost control measures have succeeded in saving taxpayers nearly half a billion dollars.

There’s no way to prove what will happen in the future and certainly no way to rate it on a fact check meter. But going on that evidence, it is reasonable to predict that the HSR project will continue to come it at or under budget. One could also find evidence from other projects around the world of rising costs and use that to predict HSR will see it too. We all know that the cost estimates have risen for HSR by 100%. So far, however, the costs are coming in below the current estimates. That’s a good sign for HSR and needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

Politifact California also took a look at another HSR claim, this one from project opponents:

“We now know these firms are unwilling to put up any private money,” for California’s high-speed rail project. -Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, in the November 3, 2015 edition of the LA Times

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this claim was rated Mostly False:

Assemblyman Jim Patterson said this month: “We now know these firms are unwilling to put up any private money.” He was referring to the more than 30 companies that submitted financial advice to the rail authority, without offering any funding.

Many of those companies identified financial concerns, including the need to reduce the size of the project’s contracts and guarantee revenue. But Patterson does not mention that the rail authority’s request was for advice, not money. And we simply don’t “know” how willing those companies will be once a formal funding request is made.

Some of the firms that responded, along with rail authority leaders and the head of the project’s independent oversight panel, all said it’s too early to conclude the private sector has given up on the project. Patterson’s statement implies they already have.

We rate the claim Mostly False.

That’s the obvious conclusion and anything else would have not been realistic. Patterson is wishing and hoping that the private sector won’t ever be interested in funding HSR. Some companies never will. Some are waiting for the right conditions, like a revenue guarantee. And some are just waiting for the project to get further along.

But for Patterson or any other HSR opponent to say that the private sector won’t back this is just wrong, and I’m glad Politifact California called him out on it.

I’m also glad that Politifact California exists and is doing this with statements about HSR. I’ve been doing this for nearly 8 years now and it’s nice to finally have some company!

  1. Brian_FL
    Nov 25th, 2015 at 15:21
    #1

    Some background on Politifact: it was started here in Florida where I live (St Petersburg Times newspaper) some years ago and has proved very useful against the Republicans here. Especially our Governor, Rick Scott. They have a good reputation for being fair and covering a lot of issues. They have also looked into claims about FL HSR as well and proven Rick Scott wrong on his reasons for killing that project.

    Hopefully the CA edition of Politifact proves to be as respected as the original one here.

    Jerry Reply:

    Who was it that said a lie is half way around the world before the truth has a chance to put it’s pants on?

    Travis D Reply:

    Definitely either Ben Franklin, Shakespear, Einstein or my cousin Joey.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    I thought Mark Twain… And it wasn’t pants, it was shoes… Coulda been Oscar Wilde as well, though…

    Eric Reply:

    http://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/07/13/truth/

  2. morris brown
    Nov 25th, 2015 at 16:07
    #2

    Robert wrote:

    But for Patterson or any other HSR opponent to say that the private sector won’t back this is just wrong, and I’m glad Politifact California called him out on it.

    As I read these two articles, I wonder how much the PR machine of the Authority had spent to get this coverage.

    Even Director Rossi didn’t come to that conclusion, saying that none of the expressions of interest had revealed anything new.

    Reading from Wikipedia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PolitiFact.com

    we see:

    PolitiFact has been both praised and criticized by independent observers, conservatives and liberals alike. Conservative bias and liberal bias have been alleged, and criticisms have been made of attempts to fact-check statements that cannot be truly “fact-checked”.

    On the other hand view the BIO Ralph Vartabedian .

    and read:

    Ralph Vartabedian, a national correspondent at the Los Angeles Times, joined the newspaper in 1981. In his many reporting assignments, he has written on Toyota vehicle defects, presidential candidates, the New Orleans levee failures, the defense industry, the Columbia space shuttle accident investigation, nuclear weapons, tax collection abuses, and the California bullet train, among much else. He won the 2015 Gerald Ford Presidential Foundation award for defense writing, as well as Loeb awards in 1987 and 2010. He was also a Pulitzer finalist in 2010, among many other career recognitions. In 1989, the Delta Mu Delta honorary society at California Polytechnic University school of business gave Vartabedian a special award for integrity.

    Face facts: The Authority has really lost all sense of being credible.

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Eric M Reply:

    Morris Brown is a NIMBY who lives on Stone Pine Ln. in Menlo Park, next to the Caltrain railroad tracks and tries to spread Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). He will do and say anything to stop the high speed rail project, just like other rich NIMBY’s in Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Atherton. Just another selfish liar.

    Don’t believe anything he says.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    It’s well past time to be done with anonymous trolls.

    joe Reply:

    That’s a quote from Thomas Paine.

    Eric M Reply:

    It’s well past time to be done with your condescending BS

    EJ Reply:

    ERIC M is a CHILDISH TROLL who contributes nothing useful to the discussion. You don’t want to be condescended to, act like an adult.

    Eric M Reply:

    Laughable

    EJ Reply:

    MEDIOCRE!

    Jerry Reply:

    My opponent and I each had a horse in a two horse race.
    A newspaper article on the race reported that:
    In the horse race, my horse came in second.
    But my opponent’s horse came in next to last.
    After a fact check and a thorough detailed examination of the newspaper article, the reported results were found to be, Mostly True.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

    Edward Reply:

    Note that the Bio of Vartabedian is from the Los Angeles Times. No doubt a neutral observer in this case.

    joe Reply:

    Ralph twice mislead readersby omitting the “report” was a just presentation and also a draft presentation which was incomplete.

    LATimes editors corrected the misrepresentation.

    Oct 24th

    A confidential 2013 report by the state’s main project management contractor, New York-based Parsons Brinckerhoff, estimated that the cost of building the first phase from Burbank to Merced had risen 31% to $40 billion. And it projected that the cost of the entire project would rise at least 5%.
    http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-bullet-train-cost-final-20151025-story.html

    The report shows that the cost of building the first segment from Burbank to Merced had grown from $27.3 billion to $35.7 billion, not including future inflation.
    http://www.latimes.com/local/politics/la-me-bullet-cost-response-20151104-story.html

    LATimes corrected Ralph’s article.

    True, the presentation was labeled a draft. And authority officials said they used “scores of analyses and assessments” to develop the updated cost estimates.
    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-1105-high-speed-rail-20151105-story.html

    Tos et al filings refer to a “presentation:” and not a report. Plaintiffs wouldn’t dare be caught lying to the judge.

    Morris can re-post the Tos filing link.

    EJ Reply:

    Really flogging this “it’s not a report, it’s a presentation” thing, aren’t you? That’s some pretty amazing internet lawyering, even for you.

    Joe Reply:

    WTF man.

    ERIC M is a CHILDISH TROLL who contributes nothing useful to the discussion. You don’t want to be condescended to, act like an adult.

    The Little Bitch is back.

    EJ Reply:

    And the bullshit artist never left!

    Joe Reply:

    I can bitch, I can bitch ’cause I’m better than you
    It’s the way that I move, the things that I do oh

    EJ Reply:

    People like you amaze me, Joe. You genuinely believe you have everyone fooled, don’t you?

    Joe Reply:

    How so EJ?

    john burrows Reply:

    So Ralph Vartabedian was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2010—
    Guess who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009
    The answer–Politifact for their reporting on the 2008 presidential campaign

    synonymouse Reply:

    Did they investigate the Tejon Ranch Co., PB, or Tutor?

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Bah, Pulitzer price… What do they know?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Vartabedian is a distinguished and experienced reporter who, unfortunately, has a strange vendetta against the high speed rail project.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Perhaps the dolce “vendetta” is a function of aging, wherein you become jaundiced and grumpy and just have no stomach nor tolerance for the functionaries’ bullshit and scams any more.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Sadly, no. I’ve made this point several times.

    Vartabedian was the Times’ lead aerospace reporter in the 1980s, when government spending on useless and wasteful defense projects was at its zenith. The issue is, much like with Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee, not that many people alive in California today have any recollection of that time period or understand what things were like back then. You might as well be talking about the Gold Rush.

    California is, for good or ill, slowly developing a more diverse press syndicate which allows journalists to explore more of the various perspectives on a story. But that also means more inherent bias by writers, which many Americans today don’t have the bandwidth for, sadly.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Government spending on useless and wasteful military projects has, if anything, increased since the 1980s. What would you call the Iraq war? Or the joint strike aircraft, which I think was finally cancelled?

    Vartabedian seems completely unable to understand that there’s a difference between the never-passed-an-audit *federal* Department of Defense and the always-passes-its-audits *California* HSR Authority.

    His editor should simply take him off the beat.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If you sincerely want him outtahere, simply induce him to write an article critical of the Tejon Ranch Co.

    Presto.

    Eric Reply:

    if you’re referring to the joint strike fighter, its alive and well.
    not a huge fan of it myself, its has some good things, but I really think that some important roles are being missed in the air arsenal today.

    Keenplanner Reply:

    I think that HSR has not really explored public-private partnerships. I would expect that they could find funding partners in corporations like Starbucks or Peet’s (visit the cafe car) and UPS or Fedex (same day delivery to LA) or even Virgin, who is operating rail in Britain.
    Watch for branded HSR cars in the near future.

  3. john burrows
    Nov 25th, 2015 at 17:04
    #3

    Private companies responding to the Requests For Expressions of Interest are concerned about how much of a contribution cap-and-trade funding will be able to make to high speed rail and they are also concerned about the long term stability of cap-and-trade revenue. For calendar year 2015 that revenue will be about $640 million, considerably more than the $500 million that the Authority asked the private sector to assume when they sent out the RFEIs. If this trend holds up as we go into 2016 I would hope that private companies will be reassured as to the depth and the viability of C&T funding.

  4. ragingduck
    Nov 25th, 2015 at 17:53
    #4

    Oh, please, Robert. We’re all quite aware that reality has a well-known liberal bias.

  5. keith saggers
    Nov 25th, 2015 at 18:04
    #5

    http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/urban/single-view/view/northern-line-extension-breaks-ground.html
    Also serving the new US Embassy

    Roland Reply:

    Did you notice the “The cost of ‘up to £1bn’ is being funded entirely by the private sector” bit?

    BTW, did anyone else notice how similar this is to Mission Bay, so how about asking Mission Bay to start designing (and paying for) a BART spur that will eventually connect to Alameda instead of screwing around with DTX?

  6. morris brown
    Nov 25th, 2015 at 19:49
    #6

    Op-Ed ‘Smart’ highways, not bullet trains, for California

    J. Wong Reply:

    I seem to recall a saying about a bird in hand (being worth more than two in a bush). Where exactly do these “smart” highways exist today? And no, the “smart” highways aren’t going to allow your non-“smart” autos to drive on them. So $2b on a pie-in-the-sky idea likely to cost much more in reality.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Those proposals are not about the proposed alternatives… They are about shutting down the proposed project…. Pie in the sky indeed. Just like Vaporware errr… Hyperloop is…

    john burrows Reply:

    “Smart” highways might someday take business away from Hyperloop but in the nearer term I can see “smart” cars working very well with high speed rail and with other forms of public transportation.

    “Smart”cars should be able to operate totally on their own and the less time that the car is parked the better. Your car could take you to the train for that high speed trip to wherever you are going, return home to take your spouse to work and the kids to school, run an errand or two during the day, pick up the kids from school, pick up your spouse from work and then at the end of the day, pick you up at the train station. Seems like it might not make much sense to use such a car on a long trip and then keep it out of service during the entire day.

    And if your car is busy, just call for one of the driver less cabs that will likely be roaming every city and town—Maybe something like an improved version of the “Johnny Cab” in the Schwarzenegger movie “Total Recall”— to take you quickly and cheaply to the train station, the airport, or wherever you are going.

    I don’t see driver less cars as being a threat to high speed rail, quite the opposite. But if I drove a cab I might be worried.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Is Jerryrail going to be driverless “smart”?

    agb5 Reply:

    Driverless trains and related technologies will arrive before smart highways

    synonymouse Reply:

    Not if Amalgamated, TWU, BLE, UTU have anything to say about it.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Driverless trains are already reality for speeds up to and including 100 km/h….

    synonymouse Reply:

    BART is going driverless?

    Jerry Reply:

    Mr. Mouse, you know that BART was originally set up to be automatic (driverless).
    Sort of a very fast people mover. Sort of like an automatic elevator. (you do remember elevator operators, don’t you?)
    I’ve been told that a 747 can fly itself. But many people are uncomfortable unless they can feel that there is someone “in charge”. Air cargo will move in the direction of delivery from airport freight terminals via drones. Small ones at first. Then larger ones.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Nuremberg subway has driverless and driver trains in mixed operations on the same lines…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It costs too much to fly freight. Unless you are willing to pay for air-freight it’s gonna come by truck.

    Edward Reply:

    Or train. Even cheaper.

    synonymouse Reply:

    like BART cars:

    http://www.bart.gov/about/history/cars

    Edward Reply:

    In fact BART *has* operated driverless. A few years ago a driver left the cab to warn somebody not to go down the stairs to the tracks. The train took off and made several stops before the driver could get to the station agent and phone ahead to another agent to stop the train.

    The passengers didn’t even notice the difference.

    The driver’s main job is to hold the doors open if there is a problem. The next time you are in a BART station watch the driver: He opens the cab window, and looks down the train. If he doesn’t push the door hold button the doors will close automatically and the train will start accelerating with no action on his part.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And hold a picket sign and pay dues which end up as political campaign contributions.

    Robert S. Allen Reply:

    Driverless BART? Not for me. I want a trained operator in touch with Central on trains I ride under the Bay or in the Berkeley Hills Tunnel.

    Nathanael Reply:

    All trains can be made driverless. It’s been proven in action in so many places, starting with Docklands Light Rail and Vancouver SkyTrain.

    People are uncomfortable with not having a driver when the train has grade crossings.

    This is the same reason driverless cars are never going to be legal, except maybe on expressways, or at very low speeds. Nobody wants to be killed at a crosswalk by a robot car.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You are much more likely to be run over by a DUI or a DWA(driving while arrogant).

    agb5 Reply:

    It is unlikely that the average driver could afford to own and operate a car capable of sustained speeds in excess of 110mph. Fuel and wear-and-tear costs increase exponentially with speed, particularly tires, and vehicles would require rigorous and expensive inspection and maintenance regimes.
    http://youtu.be/LSFX9vrwJf8
    Self driving cars will work best as taxis driving you slowly from your home to the rail station.

    wdobner Reply:

    That’s a feature, not a bug to the rich NIMBYs pushing this new agenda. It’s another way to deny mobility and access to those they have determined to be undesirable because of their socioeconomic status. They started out with the wholesale destruction of transit systems and their replacement by highways, but that just drove the most economically disadvantaged among us to sacrifice almost everything to maintain their mobility and what little participation they could in our increasingly regional economies.

    It clearly won’t do to for those poor people to have no disadvantage relative to the rich NIMBYs, or to be able to splurge for a onetime ride on the HSR, instead they have to set the bar high enough that it requires an excessive up front expenditure, as back in the halcyon days of the 1950s, when they could undemocratically deny access to poor people by building the overpasses too low for buses.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I was very much around in the fifties and you are painting a much bleaker picture of the economy than was the case. Jobs were plentiful; housing was plentiful and cheap; food was plentiful and cheap. As teenagers we got away with stuff they would throw you into Guantanamo for today.

    The unions were powerful and we could afford the Apollo missions. McCarthyism and conformity was stifling and paranoid but by the late fifties people like Lenny Bruce were shaking things up.

    Those who had been thru the Depression and the war wanted “progress” really badly and that meant automobiles and suburbs. So they went along with the wholesale trashing of the electric railways. They had learned to be really tight with the money, which was good in relation to today’s mindless profligate spending, but for a pittance so much could have and should have been saved. Like the PE, LARy, Key System, Muni lines. We could not even keep the trolley buses, because in the name of saving money management wanted the least physical plant. Contrast that to today, when consultants demand gross detours, spendy iconic designs, proprietary frivolities.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Food was more expensive in the 50s. With a lot less variety. The gee whiz supermarket I shopped in, the building is currently being used for a medium sized convenience store. What was the other supermarket is a small dollar store. Automobiles were more expensive and were shop queens. Nobody is building 50s tract development sized starter houses these days. Even double wides are bigger. Almost nobody had air conditioning, electronics were breathtakingly expensive by today’s standards, the telephone had a rotary dial, was available in black, black or black and cost a lot of money to rent from the telephone company… . I’ll take today.

    synonymouse Reply:

    How many homeless in the fifties?

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Well the fifties might have been fine… If you were a white straight male living in the burbs and owning a car… For everbody else, I take today over it any day of the week…

    EJ Reply:

    “Stupid, elderly racist pines for the 1950s. News at eleven.” You probably actually think there were no homeless people in the fifties.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Believe me there were not the homeless like today. There was more very low cost housing.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They’d get arrested, declared incompetent and sent off to some “hospital”.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    And get a prefrontal lobotomy

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Both are true.

    Until, Lanterman-Petris, California had a high rate of institutionalization, and lots of white flight that opened up cheap housing in urban areas for people on the margins.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Deinstituationalization as actually implemented (by Ronald Reagan) was a very bad thing. Lots of sick, mentally ill people were taken out of asylums and thrown on the street.

    Some of the asylums were really bad, but a lot of the asylums were actually decent, living up to their name as “asylums”. Better for someone with severe schizophrenia than being on the street.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Correct, RR was too cheap to provide facilities for the extremely unstable and troubled. The remaining facility is called jail.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Nope. Lanterman-Petris was actually designed to be “progressive” legislation when it was first passed. Reagan signed it, along with the Therapeutic Abortion Act, unaware (at least publicly) of what would happen.

    The State, however, slowly reduced funding for the health care of individuals over the years, while the number of people on the street kept rising due to veterans returning from Vietnam, increase in drug use, and the inability of many people to get into cheap housing.

    But it wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s when the Administrations of Deukmejian and Wilson actually cut funding for Medi-Cal that put more people on the street….

    Danny Reply:

    well, big box stores and McMansions aren’t exactly signs of progress

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    I hate big box stores… They are horrible even if you can walk to them…

    datacruncher Reply:

    syno, have fun doing a little reminiscing with these videos.

    San Francisco – 1955 A Tour Of The Golden Gate City
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxNYAlF688Q

    San Francisco: Story of a City – 1963 American Cities Educational Documentary
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYhjqk-OKEM

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    If only it were so clean now. And so much open space. The open space is what made it so nice. Urban but with lots of untouched hillsides. It was pleasnt and fun and charming. Now of course its just a city that looks like every other city and just as uninteresting. Nothing unique about it anymore.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I used to chat up the old-timers about the Quake and fire to get a handle on the past events. I would say how much I liked the City and they would always smile and say you should have seen it before the war.

    When you add up the delays brought on by so many autos I believe the travel times on public transit before the war and now are pretty similar.

    But the City was an accidental treasure and of course the first Victorian version was mostly obliterated. The wealthy business interests felt they built it; it belongs to them and then can wipe it out at will. Kingmakers like the Swigs were nostalgic for Manhattan and now they have it.

    bien dommage

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    for 452nd time, they don’t even have Queens.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Surely ye jest.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Moses epitomizes the Manhattanization SF City Hall is so pursuing.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Given that Moses designed for highways over public transit, I’d have to rate that statement as “mostly false”. Really, @synonymouse, Moses is that exact opposite of what is happening in SF today. Yes, it is getting more dense. Depending on how it is done, it isn’t a necessarily bad thing.

    synonymouse Reply:

    A bad thing when it goes up.

    Send it to Oakland and Berkeley.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Atlanta and Barcelona have roughly the same number of inhabitants… Barcelona has them clustered in a small area whereas Atlanta spreads them out… Now, discounting airports and transit: Who draws more tourists?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Both squashed in their attempts at secession.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Well Barcelona never tried to secede in order to protect slavery…

    Jerry Reply:

    If the smart cars are all electric or all hydrogen you still need an infrastructure for ‘refueling’.
    If they use gasoline you end up polluting the air which the LA Times article ignored.
    HSR still means less pollution. Much less.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Even if cars run on nuclear waste and produce rainbows they still take away a lot of space. Trains are extremely space-efficient. And at 0.3 liters per seat per 100km (normal cars get roughly 6 liters per 100km) of gasoline equivalent, the Velaro (Siemens built train running in Spain, Turkey, Russia and Germany) is fuel efficient as well

    Aarond Reply:

    >Driverless cars and related technologies will arrive well before high-speed rail.

    These people annoy me more than anything else. And it’s not people like Morris, it’s straight up suburban, upper middle class 20-30 somethings that all think Uber and Google is going to make the world into a utopia.

    Even Google’s engineers in a Wired interview don’t think fully driverless cars will be on the road twenty years from now, meanwhile CAHSR will be operative in five years and fully operative in six or seven.

    Danny Reply:

    HSR opened in *1964*: it *already exists*

    of course these types were all tingly about CGIs of the PRT pods that were coming “any day now, except the wicked oillionaires get in the way,” then got all tingly about CGIs of the Moller Skycars that were coming “any day now, except the wicked oillionaires get in the way,” then got all tingly about CGIs of human tubles that were coming “any day now, except the wicked oillionaires get in the way,” and will get all tingly about CGIs of some sort of VTOL DC-X that’s supposed to take a dozen people to work each day, then land in the parking lot for groceries and peewee soccer that were coming “any day now, except the wicked oillionaires get in the way”

    techno-utopianism works by seeming plausible (making it much less prone to self-debunking than, say, Harold Camping)

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    If I want to get on a high speed train I just hop over to the station… If I want to take a futuristic hyperloop pod down the smart highway I first have to ask a shady guy in the park for the hard stuff…

    I am not saying no to innovation. I am saying no to delaying the future for fear of missing out on the future past….

    Danny Reply:

    many do say that this “future past” or retrofuturism has a sort of reactionary edge to it–these CGIs getting used to argue that technology would be ahead if we “went back” to the 1950s or 60s when you couldn’t disagree with your doctor, back when the whitecoats didn’t think they might ever be wrong–that the people who aren’t 101% on board with the program even have blood on their hands by delaying capital-P Progress

    it plays especially well in the US where half the country thinks that the universe is only 10-6,000 years old

    synonymouse Reply:

    In truth your half the country is blithely unaware that the belief system to which they claim to adhere describes a universe that mathematically would have to be “10-6,000 years old”.

    Of course the out for the mystics and the magical thinkers is that everything has to be processed through ethereal and evanescent consciousness. Ergo it is all a dream in the mind of god.

    Danny Reply:

    what I meant was that technocratic language appeals to non-creationists appalled by the country being handed over to Big Oil and the slimy televangelists; so this sort of thinking spreads through clickbait

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Driverless cars, like cheap fusion, have been ten years away for decades. GM’s pavillion, at the 1939 World’s Fair, had us whisking along automated highways by 1960. Ya’d stick a punched card into the dashboard according to one of the promotional films from the 50s. I suppose you would have a library of punched cards in the trunk. Maglev has been just around the corner for almost as long.

    synonymouse Reply:

    So Big Science and Big Engineering are slowing to a crawl?

    Fermi sort of hinted at that in 1949.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Well you know the future is here already… Get on a train in downtown Los Angeles and step out in downton San Francisco two and a half hours later? We coulda been having that for decades now, had we just started building way back when…

    synonymouse Reply:

    PalmdaleRail is neither big science nor big engineering but big corruption.

    The tech is tinkering and perfecting electric traction, giving it the kind of deep pockets attention internal combustion has been enjoying for decades and continues to.

    Hypeloop is more big science and big engineering. Aviation without kerosene or the like would be the real deal. If aviation cannot advance macro size tech progress is indeed over.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s yet another PRT proposal. People have been making them forever.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    What’s so bad about sitting in a train? I know, I know… You might get to meet actual people. The horror!

    swing hanger Reply:

    I hear you. Americans are always saying how friendly they are, but it seems they want to share space as little as possible with their fellow citizens beyond their immediate family, acquaintances, and coworkers.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    And they say Germans are cold reserved and anti-social (truth be told, I HAVE spent entire six hour train rides silently staring at the person opposite me – but I have also gotten into a good many conversations on trains and buses)….

    Nathanael Reply:

    Nah. What’s going on is that certain fantasies (driverless cars! flying cars! interstellar travel!) keep being popular whether or not they’re feasible. (They’re not.)

    Meanwhile, Big Science moves on to a completely different field (such as our awesomely improved solar panels, or our better and better understanding of genetic engineering).

    Edward Reply:

    I agree with two out of three, but driverless cars will become feasible in the lifetime of some now living. The debate is how far in the future that the technical, political and legal difficulties will be solved.

    But is should be pointed out that the main advantage of self driving cars is for commuting. Platooning cars can greatly increase the capacity of a road at moderate speeds. Driverless cars also allow for inexpensive taxi service as there is no salaried driver. This means that many more people can give up car ownership and only rent when needed. Zipcar and such can do some of that, but they require parking spaces near their customers and the customer must be licensed. Self driving cars don’t require either as they can go where the customer is and do the driving.

    To give an example of the problems to be solved: If there is a platoon of twenty cars moving down the highway with a meter of separation and the lead car blows a tire. Whom do you sue when your car goes in the ditch?

    Joseph E Reply:

    “Platooning cars can greatly increase the capacity of a road at moderate speeds.”
    Nope. Because:
    “If there is a platoon of twenty cars moving down the highway with a meter of separation and the lead car blows a tire. Whom do you sue when your car goes in the ditch?”
    That’s why buses and automated trains aren’t platooned. If the brakes go out or a tire blows, the cars following need enough distance to brake or take evasive action. Also vehicles need to be able to merge on and off. 2000 vehicles per hour per lane is going to be the limit for driverless cars on motorways, same as with humans driving.
    Consider that Russia runs more frequent trains on the Moscow metro with human drivers than does any current automated system.

    Edward Reply:

    Trains are platooned by their nature. That’s what couplers/buffers are for.

    The proposal with smart cars is that they talk to each other. When the first car brakes they all do. The reaction time difference between cars is essentially zero. I make no claim that that will actually work. I’m just reporting on the proposed method of operation.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Reaction time is not the major component of stopping distance…

    Edward Reply:

    True, but not relevant. If the first car slows down the rest also slow down at rates that keep the spacing the same. As I said, this is the theory. Practice may be a bit different.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Those fantasies are big science and engineering, not tweaked solar panels.

    EJ Reply:

    Why are you complaining about solar panels?

    Eric Reply:

    had to laugh so hard at the “smart highway” op ed…wow what a bunch of BS

  7. agb5
    Nov 26th, 2015 at 03:55
    #7

    For an estimated $2 billion, we can add smart lanes to Interstate 5 in both directions between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    He must have got a quote from the same consultant Musk used to estimate his $6 billion hyperloop viaduct.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    $2Billion? And where’s the concrete gonna grow on? Rainbowtrees?

    JimInPollockPines Reply:

    smart lanes are unnecessary but more HOT lanes should be available statewide.

    Travis D Reply:

    That wouldn’t even pay for two more lanes through the Grapevine.

    Eric Reply:

    no kidding!

    randyw Reply:

    It bothers me that an academic would publish such obvious BS. Even dropping the gratuitous — “For those keeping track, that’s 32 times less costly.”

    I started to calculate a rough order of magnitude estimate of his “smart” lanes, and with inflation it was approaching or going to exceed the cost of HSR. One 4 mile urban HOV lane being built now, cost $200m, with no interchanges! And at that ridiculously optimistic rate his smart lane from SF wouldn’t even leave the bay area before spending 3 billion.

    It is so obviously ridiculous, at what point does this sort of publication effect his academic career? I don’t believe he could be that stupid, but still he has the confidence to use a mocking tone, and hid behind his academic credentials. Will he publish a retraction? Provide some evidence of his estimate? I suspect neither. Does a geography professor suffer if they declare the world flat?

    This is now what has become of our political discourse, of course –people confidently saying what they know are lies. (e.g. Global warming) It is still deeply cynical and unethical. It is even worse when propped up by the credibility of a PHd and a professorship.

  8. morris brown
    Nov 26th, 2015 at 06:56
    #8

    LA times: Bullet train faces new scrutiny after release of report predicting higher costs

    It just gets deeper and deeper for the Authority:

    Now we read:

    In responding to a Public Records Act request from Bay Area attorney Jason Holder for documents substantiating the $68-billion estimate, the agency wrote: “The capital cost source document for the 2014 Business Plan is the 2012 Business plan. For the 2014 Business Plan, dollar amounts from the 2012 Business Plan were adjusted for inflation.”

    The 2014 business plan projected a small decrease in costs, from $68.4 billion to $67.6 billion. The California Legislature, pleased that the costs had not risen from 2012 to 2014, voted four months later to approve additional funding for the project, allocating 25% of future carbon fees to the effort.

    The letter sent to Holder aligns with statements officials close to the project made to The Times. Those officials said that after Parsons Brinckerhoff projected the higher costs, the rail authority told the company to adjust its calculations so they conformed with the 2012 estimate.

    Holder, who represents opponents of the project, provided a copy of the letter to The Times.

    Eric M Reply:

    If you want to cherry pick, lets look at a statement for the overall project:

    The Parsons Brinckerhoff estimate………….The cost for the entire project, scheduled for completion in 2028, will rise 5%, the contractor said.

    Compared to the 2500% cost increase of the Bay Bridge estimates 26 years ago.

    Just keep scratching and clawing Morris Brown for more drama and FUD, because soon, that’s all you will have left.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    LA Times has laid off/bought out about 90 senior journalists. I don’t know if Ralph took the bait, maybe this was his last story. In any event, it’s a non-event. No new news at all, almost a rewrite of the previous story. Look for this to be repeated every six weeks or so as the Times no longer has the staff to write new copy!!!

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I have not seen his name on any of the buyout lists so far: http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2015/11/new_la_times_buyout_names.php

    Ted Judah Reply:

    If you notice, it’s largely editors and highly paid middle managers that are getting wiped out. John Myers, for example, just got hired to run the Sacramento bureau of the LAT and he’s no slouch.

    What’s really driving all this is the “success” of Politico and Huffington Post, and other online only news magazines. Many “locally oriented” news organizations are finding sticking to certain topics but have a national reach is more effective than being an omnibus carrying the story of the day.

    Still, the Times *was* an incredibly respected paper and it’s decline has mirrored Southern California’s similar descent. If Hearst or McClatchy were smart, they would seize the opportunity and build something really special that would be California-based news. Maybe though, that is asking too much.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “The estimate was based on the lowest possible costs, including a prospective low cost Oak Creek route over the Tehachapi Mountains that is no longer under consideration.”

    I was under the impression, perhaps misimpression, that the Oak Creek alignment was the selected with the maximum 2.8% ruling gradient. Clem, is this a new development or I am behind the bleeding edge?

    Michael Reply:

    At this point, find it yourself, make up your own facts, and then post gibblidygook about it.

    Clem Reply:

    I thought Oak Creek Pass was still in play. There were some other very creative alignments (nowhere near Tehachapi but still very much through Palmdale) considered a few years ago, the detailed description of which is surely in Vartabedian’s file. Definitely a captivating story. Alternative mountain crossings were nowhere near as dead as officially claimed, and still may not be.

    Jon Reply:

    This is the most recent alignment map from Oct 2015. Looks to me like Oak Creek Pass is the only alignment still under consideration.

    http://www.hsr.ca.gov/docs/programs/statewide_rail/proj_sections/Bakersfield_Palmdale/Bakersfield_to_Palmdale_Project_Section_Map_Fall_2015.pdf

    synonymouse Reply:

    The maps do not tell you much about who owns what but could be there is resistance from some deep pockets interests other than the Ranch. Windmill operators and others. The eminent domain should prove very interesting.

    And for a manifestly inferior alignment.

    http://mapcarta.com/23102246

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Windmill developers would be thrilled. There would be a long developed right of way – the service road along the tracks and someplace to put their cables – they could share. Electric companies and telecoms do it all the time all over the place. Other utilities too.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Reportedly the windmill farms do not want to sell.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Reported where?

    synonymouse Reply:

    PBCAHSR documents

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    This guy says they don’t.

    synonymouse Reply:
    November 29th, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    The maps do not tell you much about who owns what …

    Jon Reply:

    The Oak Creek Pass alignment would probably require removal of some existing wind turbines. This may not be a big deal as many of the turbines in Tehachipi are approaching end of life anyway, and the ones that are worth saving could be moved to new locations. So while the wind turbine operators may not be thrilled they could be placated with enough cash for relocation expenses and business interruption.

    Jon Reply:

    There are already wind turbines operating in the area in question. All the access roads and cable runs required have already been built.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    not for undeveloped sites.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Say, how about a huge, thoroughly iconic windmill atop Sutro Tower. Just a massive thing and rename it after one of the Party worthies.

    Sell the power to feed the homeless in the Tenderloin or, better yet, to pay for repeaters so viewers on the wrong side of the mountains can get OTA.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Unless you bought your house before there was television, you knew reception would be difficult.
    Wikipedia says KPIX began broadcasting on Dec. 22 1948.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “Alternative mountain crossings were nowhere near as dead as officially claimed, and still may not be.”

    Yup, even Tejon may be considered again given the financin realities. The difficulties will force the Authority to reconsider.

    Jerry Reply:

    “Predicting Higher Costs”
    And the longer MenloPark puts off separated rail crossings I predict, “higher costs.”
    And the longer Morris has to listen to the required by law blasting of the train horns at the present rail crossings. It’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it.

  9. Lewellan
    Nov 27th, 2015 at 15:05
    #9

    The obvious conclusion, nothing else would’ve been realistic. Patterson is wishing and hoping the private sector won’t fund HSR, some never will, some will wait for the right conditions, a guarantee, some wait for HSR further along. For Patterson and HSR opponents to say the private sector won’t back this is wrong. I’m glad Politifact California called him on it with statements about HSR. I’ve done this for 8 years and it’s nice to finally have some company!
    Look Richard, you keep at it. You’re alright.

  10. Jon
    Nov 27th, 2015 at 20:18
    #10

    OT: Cost estimate for DTX increases to $3.8 – $4.0 bn.

    http://www.sfcta.org/sites/default/files/content/Executive/Meetings/cac/2015/12%20Dec%202/TJPA_Update_Presentation%20MTC%20PAC%20110415.pdf

    I am simply failing to see why such a short section of tunnel is going to cost this much money.

    Roland Reply:

    Join the club and BTW, they did NOT give this presentation to MTC on 11/4 (it was deferred). The 12/9 P&A meeting is going to be interesting…

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Construction costs are soaring overall (another reason why all of this should have been started in 2009) but there are also significant design changes that have been proposed and accepted.

    Clem Reply:

    There is also a tendency that agencies have to make cost estimates higher for options they don’t like. We’ve seen this before with other agencies faced with other choices. In this particular case, there is a desire to undertake an entirely new approach to the DTX project, which starts with the necessary step of making the current plan appear impractical.

    Roland Reply:

    Just to be clear, the people “making the current plan appear impractical” are the TJPA fatally shooting themselves in the foot (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_holes).

    Jon Reply:

    The increased cost estimates are the result of the MTC’s reappraisal of the project costing methodology. If you wanted to be charitable, you might say that this is simply the result of MTC doing their due diligence to ensure that the cost estimates take into account current best practices and actual market conditions. If you didn’t want to be charitable, you might say it’s mightily suspicious that MTC are suddenly doing this due diligence just before SF Planning releases their draft Railyard Alternatives and I-280 Boulevard Feasibility Study, which will contain cost estimates for several different downtown extension alignments.

    Jon Reply:

    Additionally, we know that SF had completed a draft of the Technical Feasibility Assessment (i.e. Phase 1 of the Railyard Alternatives and I-280 Boulevard Feasibility Study) by May 2015, because it’s mentioned in the PB PMT Monthly Progress Report: “A City of San Francisco draft technical feasibility assessment of rail yard alternatives and an I‐280 boulevard feasibility study were also reviewed.”

    This Technical Feasibility Assessment was supposed to be completed by Fall 2015. A SPUR forum was scheduled to discuss the results on Nov 17th, but this was cancelled and will apparently be rescheduled for next year. In the meantime, we’ve had the DTX cost increase mentioned above, and a change in TJPA bylaws to allow the SF DPW to take control of the project.

    All mightily suspicious. Seems rather like the City and MTC are making sure that all their ducks are in a row before releasing a document that will cause some controversy by proposing a new alignment that may not be to the liking of Caltrain and the TJPA.

    Roland Reply:

    By “Additionally, we know that SF had completed a draft of the Technical Feasibility Assessment by May 2015”, do you mean this http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/I-280-near-Mission-Bay-would-be-razed-in-Caltrain-6254662.php or something else?

    Jon Reply:

    Yes, but it would be nice to see the actual document with cost estimates and alignment plans, rather than a map that was clearly put together by Chronicle staff based on a verbal description from whichever mole Matier & Ross had in the meeting.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    What’s especially interesting is that 3rd Street already has a MUNI rail line that inexplicably was built years ago leading to some of the city’s most depressed neighborhoods.

    A CalTrain or HSR station at the location indicated in the story makes no sense…but who knows…

    synonymouse Reply:

    The T 3rd St. line did not have the opposition that would be encountered on Geary. Muni management has become even more weak-kneed in recent years. Won’t even go for trolley coaches.

    Curiously I don’t believe it was that strong a line for the Market St. Ry. and IIRC some track had to be relaid to revive it during the war years. I doubt it would have been considered a streetcar line worthy of keeping had they more money for new track and PCC’s after the war. It did not even gert converted to trolley coach.

    Maybe not as fast as the #15 bus but definitely more comfortable. The 15 came inbound via 3rd & Kearny, where the Stubway should have been routed.

    Jerry Reply:

    And the Fourth and Townsend Station replaces the Fourth and King Station.
    And an 861′ tunnel connects to the Embarcadero Muni and Bart station. The cost of which is not figured into the cost of the project. Muni and BART however, will gladly pay for that.

    keith saggers Reply:

    The new Caltrain station is proposed at 3rd and 16th Sts., in the middle of UC Mission Bay campus, (hospitals, labs, housing and offices), with the proposed Warriors arena south and AT&T Park north.

    keith saggers Reply:

    and the new Anchor Steam Brewery at Pier 50

  11. Roland
    Nov 27th, 2015 at 23:11
    #11

    OT: Calmod oxymoron de jour: “confidential transparency” is so transparently confidential that they “accidentally” “forgot” to post the agenda until 4 days after the meeting: http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/Caltrain+Modernization+Program/Meetings/Nov.15+LPMG+Agenda+Packet_Cancel+Note.pdf (slide 9).

  12. Eric M
    Nov 28th, 2015 at 09:59
    #12

    What do you know, more NIMBY’s like Morris Brown in Southern CA who moved next to an active railroad, then complain when the railroad wants to add a second track on railroad property.

    A $104-million proposal to add a second track to a key railroad line through Northridge has been stalled since summer because of opposition from nearby residents who fear the new rails will pass dangerously close to homes.

    Ted K. Reply:

    Try this link :
    “Metro, responding to critics, puts $104-million Northridge track build on hold” (LATimes article, 28 Nov. 2015)

    Joe Reply:

    NIMBYs yes but they have a real complaint if the link info is correct.

    New Metro management now recognizes they didn’t do a proper assessment and out reach. Metro told the FRA there was no opposition to the expansion project.

    Danny Reply:

    that crash that happened because the area was single-tracked?

    Eric M Reply:

    Thanks for re-posting. Not sure how the link changed, as it worked earlier.

    Jerry Reply:

    Unbelievable. A very busy Northridge single track line. With a Ventura County Line MetroLonk single track station. Amtrak running thru. And homeowners with very large backyards along 1.4 miles of the 6 mile long segment delay the poorly planned, rushed, expansion. Only in America.

  13. Roland
    Nov 28th, 2015 at 21:45
    #13

    http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/11/28/congress-hold-hearings-high-speed-rail/

    J. Wong Reply:

    Totally partisan motivation.

    Zorro Reply:

    Breitbart = Faux News…

  14. Lewellan
    Nov 29th, 2015 at 10:08
    #14

    http://www.wired.com/2015/11/san-francisco-raised-bike-lanes/
    This article on San Francisco is worth a read, (while riding a Talgo, nyah nyah)

    J. Wong Reply:

    No one behooves you riding on a Talgo. I’ve done it myself. They’re a solution for higher speed rail where true HSR is not (immediately ) feasible (like the Cascades). But they aren’t a solution for CA HSR.

    Lewellan Reply:

    The article was not about Talgo; no need to remind me of your ‘opinion’ on that. It’s about the proposed San Francisco Market Street rebuild. Where I’m from, sidewalk rebuilding is among the best in the nation; also here, Talgo Cascades beats Acela in ride comfort. I’d like to see Talgo trainsets operate between LA-SLC-Denver. But no, you’re so smart, you gotta have it your way. Forget about the nation’s needs, Californian smart alecs want a limited ‘separate system’ to run super-duper fast, no matter the cost.

    J. Wong Reply:

    The nation doesn’t really need a marginally faster way to travel between LA and Denver via Salt Lake City. How are you going to get the freight lines to guarantee priority for a passenger train, Talgo or not? As it is, the Cascades Talgo gets delayed by freight as well.

    les Reply:

    Actually Cascades doesn’t nearly suffer as bad as it use to due to freight. Mud slides has been the bigger problem. Regardless, both issues have significantly been diminished thanks to a billion in stimulus and state funds used for bypasses and slide prevention.

    Danny Reply:

    a-am I watching a slap fight over the Desert Wind?

    Eric Reply:

    I believe the railroads are legally obligated to give priority to Amtrak passenger trains, as part of the deal to dump their own passenger service.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Nope.

    Eric Reply:

    Big carriers like BNSF, Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern are required under a 1973 law to make way for Amtrak trains. Yet the freights often treat Amtrak not like a visiting royal but a drunk party crasher. Dispatchers habitually make passenger trains wait for the “hotshot” trains carrying coal or liquid crude, even though the federal law says clearly: “Amtrak has preference over freight transportation in using a rail line, junction, or crossing.”

    http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Amtrak-has-priority-over-freight-but-5923268.php

    les Reply:

    This was up for legal challenge about a year ago. I’m not sure what became of it though.

    J. Wong Reply:

    And apparently Amtrak doesn’t even operate such a train today, which would imply that there is insufficient demand.

    Travis D Reply:

    Not necessarily. Trains are not run all over the place for numerous reasons.

  15. Reedman
    Nov 30th, 2015 at 09:38
    #15

    FYI. An extensive article.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-race-to-create-elon-musks-hyperloop-heats-up-1448899356

    Eric Reply:

    “The pod is pressurized to minimize the G forces…”? like a fighter pilot G-suit? ha ha ha
    yes, there goes a writer who understands his subject.

    Travis D Reply:

    Well, if you pressurize it enough everyone will lose consciousness and then they won’t really care.

  16. keith saggers
    Nov 30th, 2015 at 17:18
    #16
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