Kings County Admits Defeat in HSR Lawsuit

May 27th, 2016 | Posted by

There are two big stories this week affecting the California high speed rail project. Today, we’ll look at the good news. Tomorrow, the bad news.

Kings County officials have opted not to appeal a judge’s ruling against Central Valley landowners in their ongoing lawsuit against California’s high-speed rail project, clearing another legal hurdle to the bullet train.

The county’s attorney, Colleen Carlson, said Thursday that county supervisors voted 4-0 this week against appealing a Sacramento County Superior Court judge’s March ruling that found the $64 billion system does not violate promises made to the voters who approved it, allowing planning and financing to proceed.

It’s good that the supervisors finally accepted the fact that they had no case and would never win on appeal. How much taxpayer money was wasted on a lawsuit everyone knew stood no chance of success?

Kings County is trying to put a positive spin on a complete and total defeat:

“We feel like it accomplishes what we intended it to,” Carlson said. “They have to comply with everything laid out not only in that decision, but in the initiative. … Essentially, that’s what it said.”

Well of course the California High Speed Rail Authority has to comply with Proposition 1A – nobody suggested otherwise.

Unfortunately, this and other lawsuits, none of which had a chance at success, have caused numerous delays to the high speed rail project and driven up its costs. That was an important part of the strategy behind filing these lawsuits. Even if they didn’t win in court – even if they knew all along they had no hope of winning in court – those who filed the lawsuits hoped to throw enough obstacles in the project’s path to derail it.

They haven’t succeeded yet. But that may all depend on what happens in Sacramento with AB 32. More on that tomorrow.

  1. les
    May 27th, 2016 at 09:30
    #1

    A lot on the minds of the folk in Sacramento including AB 32.
    http://www.progressiverailroading.com/rail_industry_trends/news/Gas-tax-revenue-shortfall-prompts-California-panel-to-cut-delay-transportation-projects–48400

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Yowza. Yeah, I’m writing about AB 32 tomorrow, but hadn’t seen the gas tax shortfall stats. Cap-and-trade can be dealt with by legislation, but the gas tax issues are more fundamental.

    Jerry Reply:

    Article refers to the lowering of taxes collected at the gas pump. On July 1, from 12 cents a gallon to 9.8 cents a gallon.
    But article also points out “mission creep”.
    Taxes meant to pay for roads expanded to include sidewalks also. Certainly a part of roads, but cars don’t ride on sidewalks. Then bicycle lanes were added to the gas tax revenue program. As well as transit and rail.
    So, the only thing remaining is for the US Congress and the states to raise the gas pump taxes.

    Jerry Reply:

    A question for all the economists out there.
    Would it be better for Congress to raise the gas pump taxes than it would be for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates? ? ?

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    It would be better tor raise gas taxes because currently too much gas is burned. And in that regard it does not matter where the oil ultimately comes from. Less domestic oil being consumed means either more potential export of domestic oil or more domestic reserves down the road. And less oil import is always good for reasons that should be obvious…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I drive a high mileage car. New York’s electricity is moderately low carbon. My biggest carbon source is space heating and third biggest domestic hot water. Motor fuel taxes – one of the cars is a diesel – don’t tax the carbon in my electricity or heat. Or the propane I burn to cook dinner. Or the plastic I send to the landfill. Or the coal burnt in West Virginia so people in Washington D.C. can have an air conditioned subway. Or…

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    There should be a carbon tax. That would make those things easier.

    In absence of that, there should be a tax on electricity (or a higher one than there currently is) and a feed in tariff for renewables like Germany has (which succeeded in creating the biggest solar industry in the world [before it went bust due to stupid politics] and one of the biggest wind energy industries in the world [which is still going strong]). And of course there should be taxes on all the other things you described, with aid to the poor to keep their homes well heated and government assistance to insulate houses and modernize heating and windows (you’d be surprised how big an effect those things can have)

    Eric Reply:

    sidewalks have always been part of roadway projects. bike lanes are just paint for the most part.

    Jerry Reply:

    Except the million dollar bike bridges over Rt 101.
    Which I’m all for. But they have to be paid for. Usually from taxes. And even the paint for the divider lines on the highways. When the cost of paint goes up. So should the taxes that pay for it all.
    But the above referenced article states that the gasoline taxes at the pump are going DOWN.

    Jerry Reply:

    Now then, each and every person on this blog who cries out, how will HSR be paid for, should be asking the same questions about the reduction in those gasoline taxes. How will the roads be paid for.
    Yes, even those painted striped lines.

    Edward Reply:

    What is the Fuel Tax Swap?

    “The Fuel Tax Swap provides for a combination of lowering the sales and use tax rate applicable to sales of motor vehicle fuel, excluding aviation gasoline, and simultaneously raising the state excise motor vehicle fuel tax, effective July 1, 2010.

    Additionally, the Fuel Tax Swap raises the sales tax rate applicable to sales of diesel fuel and simultaneously lowers the state excise tax on diesel fuel, effective July 1, 2011.

    The BOE is required to adjust the excise tax rates for both motor vehicle fuel and diesel fuel annually so that the total amount of tax revenue generated is equal to what would have been generated had the sales and use tax and excise tax rates remained unchanged.”

    And the Board of Equalization has done exactly that. This is an adjustment because the price of fuel has changed.

  2. Jerry
    May 27th, 2016 at 09:31
    #2

    Also good news that the unemployment rate in the Fresno area was reduced with all the HSR construction in CP1.

    Reality Check Reply:

    So what was Fresno area unemployment rate reduction related to HSR, and what’s your source?

    les Reply:

    Rate is lowest its been over last 25 years.
    http://www.pacific.edu/Documents/school-business/BFC/Forecasts/CA-Metro-Forecast-May2016.pdf

    Reality Check Reply:

    So what was Fresno area unemployment rate reduction attributable to HSR?

    les Reply:

    One has to think this will bode well for Democratic candidates (those that supported HSR anyway) come election time.

    Joe Reply:

    There are three anti-HSR congresspersons in competitive races. The Chair of Subcommittee responsible for HSR, Jeff Denham, is one of them.

    He wants to shut the project down and send the money back east.

    There once was a time that his position would have helped rail projects, in particular ones that service his district.

    les Reply:

    I just hope the demo candidates latch on and run with it. This is a huge opportunity!

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Democrats running on successful progressive programs?

    When did that last happen?

    FDR?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Lyndon Johnson gave it a shot. The Republicans have been trying to dismantle his programs since.
    Richard Nixon had a few. The Republicans have been trying to dismantle his since.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Lyndon Johnson is up there with the best domestic policy Presidents. Unfortunately he is also down there with the worst foreign policy Presidents… And the latter will forever mar the former.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Democrats stopped running on progressive programs when Billclinton signe “Workfare” into law and showed that you get fewer poor people with less government involvement

    Joe Reply:

    Affordable Care Act.
    Consumer Protection Agency.
    Gay/Lesbian Marriage
    TransBayh rooms

    Democrats are not all Bill Clinton.
    Ask Elizabeth Warren

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    The right way to run on Obamacare is saying: It’s a great first step. Let’s get the majority for the next step.

    Same for the Consumer Protection Agency

    Same for a country where you can get married on Sunday and be fired on Monday. Though that is actually an issue Joe Biden addressed.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    You just describes Bernie sanders. I would say that he has pulled ~25% (at most) of the country. A historically high number (in the last 50 years) for social policy issue running. But nowhere near the majority in the country.

    Of course if he wants to run as an independent and “prove” a majority of the country supports his policies he is free to do that. Just hand the fucking election to that idiot Trump while he is at it

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    With your argument Barack Obama should not be President because he got “25 % of the country” – in the primary…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Obama got 21 percent of the people to vote for him in 2008. In nice round numbers. Lots of people aren’t eligible to vote. Lots of people aren’t registered.

    Right now, in nice round numbers 10 million people have voted for Sanders, 13 million for Clinton. Under 12 million for Trump. California and New Jersey haven’t voted yet. And a bunch of itty bitty states.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Isn’t the low turnout embarrassing?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Obamacare was the best thing to happen to the GOP. It passed and since then the GOP took the legislature and has been increasing the majority since. The rise of the tea party is in no small part because of that.

    We are not talking about the “goodness” of the policies, we are talking about using them to run for office. For example, Elizabeth Warren barely beat a republican in the most liberal state in the nation (except for perhaps Hawaii). Social policies just don’t get you that many votes and fires up the opposition in the US these days. Trump being the prime example. A crazy narcissist idiot is the nominee because the base is pissed about social policy.

    Bathroom law being an example. It is a non problem (as there really such an epidemic it needed a national policy) but the GOP loves it because it fires up the base. I swear the Dems fall into the same trap over and over

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    You do remember that Bill Clinton lost the 1994 midterms despite his healthcare proposal failing (the so-called “Republican revolution”). The current Republican “majority” is almost entirely due to gerrymandering enabled by the fact that 2010 was a census year… Of course all of this could be solved by a representative system, but that would reek of democracy and we cannot allow that…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Hillarycare got chewed on by right wing think tanks for a few years. It got spat out as Romneycare, the best thing since sliced bread and one of the shining achievements of Republicans. It got a few minor tweaks for the Affordable Care Act. Which then became anathema that was going to turn us all into socialists. Like Medicare did.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    The healthcare plan I think should be introduced was first proposed (that I know of) by a fictional person on a TV show…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMMfFIx1ZfI

    If public medicine is good enough for Congress it’s good enough for the American people.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Medicare sucks. It’s got high co-pays and doesn’t cover a lot of things. Which is why senior citizens go out and buy supplemental insurance.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    [citation needed]

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Medicare sucks so bad Medicare has information on how to get Medigap insurance or convert to Medicare Advantage.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Poor people stop being poor when there is a Democrat in the White House and the economy booms. They are able to find jobs.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    And the last time the US had a budget surplus was under another democrat – Bill Clinton…

  3. Jerry
    May 27th, 2016 at 10:11
    #3

    My source? Donald Trump. :-)

    Jerry Reply:

    Can’t copy, cut, and paste well with cell phone. But check the CAHSRA website.
    A new report from the University of the Pacific’s Center for Business and Policy Research predicts California’s economy will continue to grow and high-speed rail is playing a key factor. Among the highlights in the report: Fresno saw its unemployment rate drop to single-digits last year for only the fourth time in the past 25 years. The report says HSR construction will help keep that expansion going in 2016 and 2017. 

    Reedman Reply:

    While traveling in China, economist Milton Friedman came across a public works construction project. He noted to the Chinese officials traveling with him that the workers were using shovels and wheelbarrows instead of tractors and bulldozers. His hosts said that this approach provided additional jobs in the construction industry. Friedman responded: “Why not use spoons?”.

    les Reply:

    A side benefit of 1000s employed due to the usefulness of a HSR line is a bad thing?

    Jon Reply:

    What does that have to do with HSR? Unless I’m very much mistaken, they’re not using shovels and wheelbarrows for construction.

    Roland Reply:

    Back in 1904, 120,000 Chinese laborers completed the 800-mile Peking-Hankow railway line (the most profitable railway line ever) with pickaxes, shovels and wheelbarrows in 7 years for $25M.

    Fast-forward a century or so and the CRRA have spend the last 8 years blowing $2B building precisely nothing.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Ah but we have half a warehouse of environmental studies, records from lawsuits, minutes from public hearings, records from lawsuits, new environmental studies, records from lawsuits….

    les Reply:

    It’s called a Dictatorship. Fast-forward a century and it’s called communism (The Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway 819 mi long high-speed railway built in 3 years with 20 miles of tunnels)

    Aarond Reply:

    In fairness, it would be the same here if the private railroads had a reason to build all new lines again. Public projects are subject to much more scrutiny and review than private ones.

    Of course, with the tax revenue issues, if the state wants to bother doing HSR using private money they have to give private companies reasons to build it. A lot of these reasons (such as, vehicle and gas taxes) are things independent of CHSRA. But this is probably an issue for tomorrow.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Big private projects also go over budget.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    To be fair, 25 millon in 1904 is about 660 million today.

    And CAHSR is not allowed to do this

    http://gbtimes.com/life/railway-worker-massacre-united-china

    I think the authority is doing a terrible jobs, but it’s not exactly a fair comparison.

    Faber Castell Reply:

    Using a standard inflation-over-time calculator is woefully inaccurate when trying to compare something like enormous infrastructure projects. For a realistic comparison, even in China, the Wuhan–Guangzhou high speed line (~600 miles) completed in 2009 cost about 18 billion USD. Disregard the obvious technological differences both in its construction and its design, accounting for workers making a decent prevailing wag and the century of between them, I think the two projects are comparable.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    True.

    That’s also one of the reasons why it is hard to judge whether the Romans were actually good at building stuff. Not in terms of having stuff built that stood the test of time, but in the boring on time and on budget categories. I once read one Sestertitus is about four Euros in today’s money, but a legionnaire got about two and a half sestertii a day as a wage, which does not really compute with that above assumption…

    Jerry Reply:

    Or chopsticks?

    Faber Castell Reply:

    Ah, good ole Milt.

  4. JB in PA
    May 27th, 2016 at 12:48
    #4

    Off topic,

    Another way to share space with automobiles and rail.

    Maybe a rail system along and over existing freeways?
    Grade separation would require some adjustments.

    http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2016/05/27/china-land-airbus-will-let-drive-directly-under-bus/?intcmp=hpff

    Eric Reply:

    notice that only cars are shown driving under it and not buses or trucks. Also the legs it rides on are vertical objects with a non collision friendly shape. The rails it uses would be drainage problems on roads more than 2 lanes wide. All overhead sign panels and sign bridges would need replacing, and line of sight to them would be a recurring issue when this overhead vehicle blocks the view. Find a way around these issues and it might be interesting.

    Aarond Reply:

    Better idea: hanging monorail (such as the Chiba Urban Monorail or the Wuppertal Suspension Railway). It’s footprint can be reduced to a single car lane (or, two shoulders).

    But even then subways are better since they take up no space above ground.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    It’s an incredibly stupid idea. It serves no conceivable purpose.

    What does this bus do that light rail and/or subways aren’t already doing much better?

    Aarond Reply:

    That’s a great idea but the state has already chosen their path. No median alignments.

    Also I wonder why China is even bothering with something as stupid as an “airbus” when they are plenty capable of building rail wherever they want.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    It’s not “China” it’s “some guy in China”…

    And putting anything in the median that is not subject to similar constraints as car lanes is fucking stupid. Cars have different abilities to climb grades and turn curves than other modes of transportation.

    Highway adjacent is much smarter than in the median.

  5. Roland
    May 27th, 2016 at 13:04
    #5

    OT: Ben Tripousis announced last night that the lead agency for the Peninsula environmental clearance is the FRA, not the CRRA.

    Other interesting developments: the FRA have started attending all CRRA & Caltrain meetings and ETF_001-03 is likely to be a draft for ever (the ETF is not working on it) which may throw a spanner in the CRRA EMU procurement specifications, including compatibility with Caltrain, ACE, CC, Metrolink, Amtrak and everything else that currently operates on the West Coast of the United States & Canada.

    Alan Reply:

    When are you going to grow up, act like an adult and knock off the “CRRA” nonsense? All you’re doing is making yourself look like a fool.

    Jon Reply:

    The more divorced from reality people get, the more they tend to invent their own language to describe their own particular universe. Synonymouse is the textbook example, of course.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Geez, I never thought I’d make it into a textbook, let alone a newspaper.

    synonymouse Reply:

    On second thought try that one vice versa.

    Joe Reply:

    Not sure what Roloids is implying.
    Doesn’t seem to be any change from the previous, 2008 and 2009, HSR FRA involvement.

    http://www.hsr.ca.gov/docs/programs/statewide_rail/proj_sections/SanFran_SanJose/SF_SJ_NOP_Filed.pdf

  6. William
    May 27th, 2016 at 13:22
    #6

    Can a “weight” tax that assess yearly, in additional to existing gas tax, be more fair for all cars? Hybrid and pure electric are heavier than pure IC cars so they would pay higher weight tax, but less or no gas tax.

    Eric Reply:

    In addition to increasing the gas tax for the rise in inflation from 1993, I think they need to find a way to tax the electricity used at EV charging stations. They need to find some equivalency between amp-hours and gallons of gasoline.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    33.4 kW hours per gallon. It needs to be more sophisticated than that.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline_gallon_equivalent

    Internal combustion engines are grossly inefficient. Most of the fuel burned goes out the tailpipe and radiator as waste. Electric cars are much more efficient.

    Jerry Reply:

    Such questions are most certainly appropriate. And should be asked of all candidates seeking election.

    Edward Reply:

    The damage done to a semi-flexible pavement (asphalt) goes up as the 4.2 power of the axle weight. When you do the numbers you find that variation from car to car is negligible when compared to heavy trucks, which cause over 1,000 times – sometimes over 10,000 times – the damage caused by a car. Trucks are necessary, but they do require a large indirect subsidy to function.

    Aarond Reply:

    Weight + per axle I think is the best solution. Also, the state really should streamline the process for getting a motorcycle license, or just putting it under regular D/Ls (such as, by including motorcycle handling on written exams).

    Either way, this is still an inherently unreliable source of income because the whole point of transit is to reduce VMTs and auto dependency. So then there’s the issue of road privatization and property tax increases.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    Eliminate the middle-man: Make all highways tolled. Include congestion pricing and a weight factor. Put a carbon tax on all fossil fuels, so electric cars running on renewables are cheaper whereas electric cars running on coal are more expensive. Boom. Problem fucking solved.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Good news, all the policies and taxes you propose can be passe at the national level so you just need a majority of both houses and the presidency. Good luck on electing candidates that support your plan.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Seeing as how the Republican Party has doused itself with gasoline and has a book of matches in it’s hand it might be easier than you think.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whig_Party_(United_States)

    Though Whigs were more a northern Party. Dixiecrats perhaps. Since it’s fairly lousy with people who would have been DIxiecrats, that might be a better fit.

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    We all know that a majority of the people backing any idea is not enough for it to get through Congress. There is gerrymandering, the change of the rules for the filibuster, money in politics and other ways in which the system is broken.

    In a parliamentary system you could get a green party in there and nag so long until you get into a coalition government and then you can get (parts of) your agenda through. Of course in the US there are only two parties and if you are opposed to abortion you are also automatically pro death penalty (which makes no fucking sense) and if you want to vote against something both parties agree on, you can’t.

    The US has invaded one party states with the justified explanation that they are not democracies. Why do Americans tolerate the US being a two party state? Shouldn’t the country of freedom be the country of more choices than two?

  7. Neil Shea
    May 27th, 2016 at 14:04
    #7

    O/T: maybe Apple will rescue us from Santa Clara BART
    http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/blog/real-estate/2016/05/santa-clara-bart-apple-real-estate-aapl.html?ana=RSS%26
    Santa Clara should appreciate the apple jobs now, and VTA should delay any extension to Santa Clara until after the expensive San Jose digging is completed

    Joe Reply:

    Cupertino’s Mayor is major pissed at Apple and how little they support the City.

    Aarond Reply:

    makes me laugh, all the tech companies really are run by santa clara homeowners

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Cupertino has one of the highest incomes per capita in the nation and low crime and high property values. I think Apple has worked out just fine for them

    Roland Reply:

    San Jose has started a study that would require twice as much digging as previously envisaged:
    http://vtaorgcontent.s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/Site_Content/svrtpwc_050216_agenda_packet.pdf (page 9).

  8. Brian_FL
    May 27th, 2016 at 14:12
    #8

    So much similarity there in CA to what’s happening with AAF and the counties along its route here in FL. The same scheme of filing lawsuits and requesting additional time for comments. All trying to delay the construction. By the way, AAF has a job posting on silk road website for Brightline train engineers. And the Orlando airport station is progressing nicely – I drove past it last week.

    Jerry Reply:

    And the downtown Miami station is coming along quite well also.

    Ted K. Reply:

    AAF construction updates :

    http://www.allaboardflorida.com/construction/updates

    Jerry Reply:

    With construction work taking place at three stations.
    Does CAHSR have work going on at any station?

    Car(e)-Free LA Reply:

    No. I think the plan is to delay station building until the iOS is mostly complete. CAHSR is building through where Fresno station will be, but I don’t think any station renderings have even been created yet.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The concrete pad in Mareda is done. Mark that one off the list

  9. morris brown
    May 28th, 2016 at 06:54
    #9

    Public Radio AirTalk has an audio interview with Dan Walters and also Ross Brown of the LAO, focused on the Cap and Trade failed auction. It is about 12 minutes in length:

    KPCC:AirTalk: What underwhelming results in state cap-and-trade auction could mean for high-speed rail, other state programs

  10. J. Wong
    May 28th, 2016 at 07:39
    #10

    O.T. 6 European Countries, 9 Days, 0 Planes .

    You could do the same here at least on the coasts, if not quite as quickly or easily. That said, with HSR in California and between Eugene and Vancouver even more doable.

    les Reply:

    For some reason Fresno isn’t inspiring images of Copenhagen for me.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    If you go visit, check this place out http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2014/11/23/fresno-bakery-keeps-100-year-old-japanese-recipes-alive/

    Bahnfreund Reply:

    This text interestingly mentions both the slow death of European sleepers and the ways in which sleepers could still experience a second spring because there is a very conceivable market for them… Let’s hope someone gets into that market soon… It might just be ÖBB…

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