Jerry Brown Vetoes Unnecessary HSR-Related Bill

Sep 29th, 2016 | Posted by

Governor Jerry Brown vetoed AB 2847 yesterday, arguing that the high speed rail oversight bill is unnecessary:

I believe this bill is unnecessary, particularly in view of the passage of AB 1813, which adds two legislative members to the Authority. As with other projects of this magnitude, state law requires strict standards of accountability and transparency. I have every expectation that the Authority will meet these high standards.

Unsurprisingly, HSR critics were not pleased:

“This is not just a veto of a bill. It is a veto of Governor Brown’s responsibility to the people and to the Legislature,” said Patterson in a statement. “Governor Brown is failing on a fundamental level on a project of huge significance, by giving a pass to an authority that thumbs its nose at the people of California with every change order and request for millions in extra cash.”

This quote, from Republican Assemblymember Jim Patterson of Fresno, is just ridiculous and over the top. The HSR project has plenty of oversight and is doing a good job given the difficult restrictions on its operations imposed by the Legislature and Congress, both of which have starved the project of funds and then blamed the Authority for resulting challenges.

It’s too bad Jerry Brown is now covered by the Prop 140 term limits and can’t run for a fifth term in 2018.

Caltrain and HSR Win Yet Again in Court

Sep 27th, 2016 | Posted by

Another day, another victory for Caltrain and high speed rail and another defeat for Peninsula NIMBYs:

In a lawsuit that could have veered Caltrain’s electrification plans off track, a judge announced Monday he is ruling in favor of the local transit agency proceeding with its $2 billion Modernization Program.

The town of Atherton filed the potentially derailing suit in February 2015, alleging Caltrain’s environmental impact report was inadequate and that its plans to share the Peninsula tracks with high-speed rail should have been vetted as part of the review.

The Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, or TRANSDEF, and Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail joined the lawsuit that was eventually moved to Contra Costa County Superior Court.

On Monday, Superior Court Judge Barry Goode sided with Caltrain arguing electrifying the local tracks does not inherently pave the way for the state’s controversial bullet train.

“Petitioners are simply wrong when they say ‘[n]either project can be implemented without the other.’ … The Electrification Project can be implemented successfully even if the HSR project never takes another step forward. It is a project of independent utility that Caltrain has been seeking to implement for nearly twenty-five years,” Goode wrote in his order.

“Petitioners are simply wrong” is always a good phrase to see, especially when it comes to anti-HSR folks who are harassing the CHSRA and the courts with numerous frivolous and meritless lawsuits. If I were in the Attorney General’s office I’d consider seeking an injunction against TRANSDEF and CC-HSR for being vexatious litigants. They sue over everything and almost always lose. They’re merely using the courts to reverse the decisions of voters and legislators, which is not appropriate.

My guess is the state’s attorneys are not interested in such a move, being folks who take the high road. But it’s warranted.

New CHSRA San Gabriel Tunnel Animations

Sep 20th, 2016 | Posted by

The California High Speed Rail Authority has published new animations of the three possible routes from Palmdale to Burbank. All three involve significant tunneling under the San Gabriel Mountains. The main difference is in whether the tunnel goes under Pacoima, or goes further to the east through Sunland-Tujunga (with an aerial structure in the middle).

From west to east, we start with the SR 14 alignment:

The E1 alignment:

And the E2 alignment:

The Authority continues to examine these options for getting the bullet trains from the Antelope Valley to LA.

Nearly Half of Expo Line Riders Came From Cars

Sep 14th, 2016 | Posted by

Expo Line at La Cienega

Metro released survey findings of riders on the new Expo Line phase serving Santa Monica – and found that nearly half ditched their cars for the train:

More than two-thirds of riders on the recently opened Expo Line Phase II to Santa Monica are new to the train line and more than 40 percent of them switched to transit from driving alone, according to a survey released this week by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority….

Metro surveyed about 1,000 riders at the Expo Line’s seven new stations and found 70 percent of them were new to the Expo Line. Of the new riders, nearly half used to drive alone while 23 percent had switched from bus service.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, unless it’s news to you that people despise traffic on the 10 with an undying passion. But this is also similar to what happened in Spain when the AVE high speed rail line first opened. Many of its passengers switched from driving as well.

Opponents of rail projects underestimate how much people hate sitting in traffic. When they’re given a better option – one that is fast and convenient – they’ll take it. The Expo Line is now so popular that there aren’t enough trainsets to meet demand.

As someone who has driven on Interstate 5 between SF and LA more times than I can count, including sitting in traffic in the middle of the Central Valley that was so bad that it took nearly 9 hours to complete the trip, I can say with certainty that there will be huge demand for a train that can make that trip in half the usual travel time.

If you build it, they will ride.