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By Paul Losch

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About this blog: I was a "corporate brat" growing up and lived in different parts of the country, ending in Houston, Texas for high school. After attending college at UC Davis, and getting an MBA at Harvard, I embarked on a marketing career, mai...  (More)

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High Speed Rail Disconnects

Uploaded: Jul 29, 2010
Off goes a "marketing team" from the HSR Authority to Washington, DC to "spin" a survey that shows potential patrons of a North/South artery of HSR favor it. While the formula of the survey itself can be called into question, only 34% of those surveyed favored HSR. The vast plurality (42%) liked the concept in principal (as do I!) but needed some assurance it will "pencil out." That leaves about 1/4 who oppose it.

I worked as a marketing guy in some fairly well known corporations earlier in my career. If I had numbers like this, I would not even have asked for a meeting. It would have killed my career to ask for money with such findings. Actually, I would have asked for a meeting, with a request to kill the project or product concept.

CHRSA is in denial. This ain't gonna happen, and they flail around like some drowning swimmer. And I am not just talking about the SF Peninsula portion of the project. The entire concept makes no policy sense and is under the leadership that will be a failure in its implementation were it to come to pass.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by bill, a resident of ,
on Jul 30, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Good for you, Paul. Everything you said is true.

The "plan", if one can call it that without laughing, is so badly written that it should have been dropped before it hit the ballot. Too bad that people did not read nor understand this before they voted for it.

Certainly any realistic estimate of ridership and cost let alone effects on local communities do not "pencil out".

One item I've not seen referred to is the size and necessity of parking garages to hold all the cars people will use to come to the far apart stations. Or does everyone think that people will walk or use bicycles to get to them? Think of the structures BART has built to address this need.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jobs, a resident of ,
on Jul 31, 2010 at 1:45 am

"This ain't gonna happen," I wish I was as confident as you seem to be. Obama wants HSR to provide jobs in California so he is prepared to give it a chunk of stimulus money. Candidates running for Governor and Senator want it because it will create jobs.

The fact that it will ultimately cost far more than $43 Million. That ridership will be almost non-existent because we want our cars with us when we visit southern California; also it will be far cheaper to drive a family of four to Disneyland than take HSR.

It will end up being the world's biggest white elephant. So what, this is all about jobs and lowering California's jobless rate.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Perspective, a resident of ,
on Jul 31, 2010 at 6:43 am

Wouldn't mind if it created REAL jobs, but unfortunately it is just the old WPA, (Works Progress Administration jobs of FDR)...only much, much, much more debt to do it and nothing self-sustaining to show for it. It will take tax dollars, like the Amtrack, for all future generations to sustain for a few riders.

The Water Temple at Crystal Springs was built under the same idea, but 1) Was a heck of a lot cheaper, and 2) didn't then yoke future folks into paying for it for all eternity.






 +  Like this comment
Posted by Alex Haselden, a resident of ,
on Aug 3, 2010 at 11:34 am

"The fact that it will ultimately cost far more than $43 Million. That ridership will be almost non-existent because we want our cars with us when we visit southern California; also it will be far cheaper to drive a family of four to Disneyland than take HSR."

Whose FACT? Your argument is a classic example of begging the question.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Alex Haselden, a resident of ,
on Aug 3, 2010 at 11:45 am

Dear "Perspective",

This isn't a decorative building we're talking about. It's a high speed rail line.

I'm not sure what your point is other than HSR probably requiring a subsidy to operate.

Please name a form of transportation that is not subsidized.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Alex Haselden, a resident of ,
on Aug 3, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Hey Paul,

You didn't say what marketing experience you have or how it applies to transport. These guys aren't doing marketing research for a corporation. They're trying to get funding for a rail line that will improve California's horrible transport.

Like many anonymous trolls in this conference you've speculated that HSR will fail without providing any reasons why. You also offer no solution to California's transport problems.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Robert, a resident of ,
on Aug 3, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Hey Alex,

What division of CHSRA do you work for?

Seriously, what compelling evidence can YOU point to that this HSR project will not cost tens of billions more than its current projected pricetag? That it will not operate at a huge deficit? That it will attract the extraordinary levels of ridership that CHSRA paid-for "studies" predict? That the ticket cost for a ride between SF and LA will be less than flying SWA between those cities?

None? I didn't think so. Thanks, Alex for adding more fog to the debate.

What we KNOW so far is that CHSRA itself has more than doubled the cost of the project from its initial estimate (from $17 to 43 billion and it is highly likely that that's not the last increase in cost we'll see; I predict that $100 billion is a more realistic cost estimate), has almost doubled the cost of a ticket between SF and LA, has commissioned ridership studies found seriously flawed by world-class experts in transport economics and systems, and has commissioned deceptive push surveys aimed at showing that most Californians are still enchanted with HSR regardless of cost.

You sound like someone who absolutely loves HSR and whose support of it is utterly independent of any empirical facts regarding HSR's financial cost, economic viabiity, social impact, opportunity costs, and other more urgent social priorities.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Aug 3, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.

Hey Alex,

Like Meg Whitman, I worked in consumer products marketing after I got my MBA from Harvard. Unlike Meg, I worked in the transportation industry as a marketing guy for a number of years. Actually, Meg was at Bain and Company when my employer, DHL, was its client.

Thanks for asking. I stand by my assertions.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by wary traveler, a resident of ,
on Aug 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Alex wrote, "I'm not sure what your point is other than HSR probably requiring a subsidy to operate. Please name a form of transportation that is not subsidized."

That is exactly the point. California's HSR project - the one that we voted on and approved - forbids it to be subsidized by us taxpayers. _That_ is what we voted for.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Alex Haselden, a resident of ,
on Aug 5, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Robert,

I do not work for CHSRA.

I have no evidence that the project will stay on budget and cost $43 million, nor I did say in my post that I believe it will do so. I merely took that contributor to task for submitting his speculation as a fact, a logical fallacy.

I think the onus is on you to prove that HSR will cost more $43 billion, as you are the one making the claim. Until you do so the official estimate will be more credible than yours. Guys like you with your "realistic" estimates pulled out of thin air are the ones fogging the debate.

You mentioned empirical facts at the end of your post about things that haven't yet occurred and thus cannot be known. I suspect your "empirical facts" are actually specious arguments and speculations.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Alex Haselden, a resident of ,
on Aug 5, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Traveler,

Please take the time to learn about subsidies.

Tax revenue will be used to build HSR, a subsidy. This is basic stuff.



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