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Town Square

Simitianís High Speed Rail Hearing

Original post made by Paul Losch on Mar 14, 2012

I like Joe, and I must him give him credit for vetting the High Speed Rail concept almost to a fault. Hearing after hearing, town meeting after town meeting.

Enough is enough.

I went to the hearing Tuesday, March 13, at the MV performing arts center. The place was SRO, absolutely packed. Clearly there is a great deal of passion about this matter, no matter what point of view one has.

I heard nothing last night that changed my mind that this is a bad idea. Lots of "polishing" you know what.

For starters, it appears that the very civil new management for CHSRA, including Dan Richard, have a very different point of view about how this thing should/could be built out than does the very civil Mr. Kempton, from the High Speed Rail Peer Review.

One wants to start in the Central Valley with track to nowhere, lacking HSR capability. The other advocates first making improvements at the "bookends" of LA and the Bay Area. Talk about a huge disconnect.

There remain huge questions about funding, which were for the most part artfully dodged, with allusions to days gone by about how the UC system was developed, the interstate highway system came about, inter alia. The fact is at best 15% of the cost of the $98 billion proposal has been identified.

To make matters worse, it appears that some of the available federal funds only will be available only if they are applied to an HSR spur in the Central Valley. Those funds, if I correctly understood last night's testimony, cannot be used for improvements at the "bookends" of NORCAL and SOCAL. Is CHSRA advocating a central valley place to start just so they can get the federal funds? It sure looked that way to me in last night's hearings.

My closing observation about this entire matter is that too many people in responsible positions continue struggling to somehow squeeze life out of this ill-conceived project. (e.g., the mantra "blended system" has been bandied about for months now, and it was not made clear at this hearing how it will "really" work.)

This is a project that has gotten more second chances that most of us get in a lifetime. Try and try, it continues to not pass muster. Voters were mis-led in the 2008 ballot initiative, clearly a "bait and switch." Get it back on the ballot, and it will go down in flames. (I suppose that is a bad analogy, since it alludes to aircraft. How about get it back on the ballot, and it will be off the rails!)

CHSRA releases a revised business plan in the coming weeks, ostensibly an improvement over prior plans by prior "regimes." A revised business plan does not mean that is a business plan that justifies funding.

Rather than taking it to the State Capitol for review, I suggest they try out their pitch on Sand Hill Road, with the venture capital community. They may as a courtesy get a first pitch meeting. There never will be a second meeting, let alone private funding participation in this beast.

Comments

Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:00 am

Paul Losch's comments seem reasonable and rational. Simitian should get off the fence and do something to terminate this project. It is clear that the project has been poorly thought out, and after all of this time, no credible business plan has been developed.

If it can be terminated by the Legislature, Simitian should get that ball rolling. If it takes another vote on a state-wide ballot question, then Simitian should get that ball rolling.

Enough is enough. When is Simitian going to get that message and do something meaningful?


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:51 am

". If it takes another vote on a state-wide ballot question, then Simitian should get that ball rolling."

Have you, or Paul, signed the petition yet? It is a bit of a cop out to rely on Simitian to take action, unless you are willing to make a minimal commitment. I have obtained 8 signatures, and have sent them in. It is called democracy in action.

Here is the petition:


Web Link


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.

Hi Craig,

Thanks for the link to the petition.

The strategic political question is does this need to be stopped by a vote of the people, or can those we have elected to office have figured it out and can end it in Sacramento, without going to the expense of a ballot initiative.

I will sign the petition, with the fervent hope that it never gets on the ballot because our elected officials, after numerous hearings and discussions, end this CAHSR concept.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 15, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Hi Paul,

Good to hear that you will sign the petition. I don't see how it can hurt, since it is a very grass-roots deal that may go viral (I hope). The Internet is a possible game-changer, as long as enough people decide to get on board.

I completely agree with you that HSR is a disaster, from beginning to end.

I do not think that elected officials, at this point, will go against HSR, because they are beholden to the unions and private interests who are invested in making money off this turkey. Thus my suggestion to sign, and circulate the petition. I think there is enough public skepticism out there to put this one to sleep, for good. The important thing is to get it back on the ballot.

Regards,

Craig


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The praise for the many meetings that Simitian has arranged _after_ the initiative should be balanced and muted by his apparent failures before the initiative was placed on the ballot. Simitian was a key gatekeeper who should have ensured that proper due diligence had been performed.

There is a video on YouTube (Web Link) of a HSR expert and _advocate_ testifying _against_ CA HSR to the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee (Simitian's bio has him as a member of this committee, but he doesn't appear present at this hearing). Note the date of this hearing: 25 October 2008: less than 2 weeks before election day, and with mail-in ballots already being returned.

If you prefer to read rather than watch this 12 minute video, see the article "High-Speed Train Wreck: California's multi-billion-dollar bullet-train boondoggle was predictable—and predicted" by Cynthia Ward (Web Link)


Posted by Robert, a resident of Stanford
on May 8, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Joe Simitian seems to me to actually be a strong supporter of HSR, not an opponent and not neutral, although with his town hall meetings he tries to give the impression of being neutral. He is one of the proponents if not one of the inventors of the vague phrase "blended system." To me, that is simply a "camel's nose under the tent" approach to approving the current HSR project. The "blended system" idea will still have HSR on the Peninsula along the CalTrain ROW and it will still mean California going into massive additional debt. It's time for Joe to take a clear position: either acknowledge publicly that you're a supporter of HSR or come out strongly against it and take appropriate action in the State Senate.