Town Square

Report: Strip power from California rail authority

Original post made on May 10, 2011

California's proposed high-speed-rail system is facing potentially crippling threats from looming federal deadlines and weak oversight by the agency charged with building the project, the state Legislative Analyst's Office concluded in a new report.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 10, 2011, 5:57 PM


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Posted by Duke
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 10, 2011 at 8:23 pm

All I want to know is if there are any municipal bonds involved in this story?

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Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of another community
on May 10, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Eric Thronson has put out a video on YouTube expaling the report

(4 minutes)


Web Link

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Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 11, 2011 at 9:18 am

A rule of thumb in successful project management is to invest heavily in upfront planning in the design phase of a project to define scope, line up funding, and prepare contingency. This has been glossed over by the authority to chase Federal dollars, which other states are wisely declining, given the economic climate and risk level at this time.

Every project, is governed by two metrics for success: On Time (Schedule Control), and On Budget (Cost Control). These are fundamental tenents in project management. You don't get to choose which one you abide by, both are required. It appears that the HSR authority is willing to sacrifice the latter, for the former, and in doing so, validates the conclusions of the Legislative Analysts' Office that the authority is unqualified to continue managing this project.

Mass transit is a one strategy we need to support for a green future. However, this attempt has been poorly planned, and is now being poorly executed, and requires a reboot.

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Posted by Alex M.
a resident of Willowgate
on May 11, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Actually Hardin, projects have three metrics, not two: cost (being on bugdet), schedule (finishing on time), and performance (meeting or exceeding the requirements in the project scope). In reality, you get to pick only two. Poor planning an execution (which I agree has been the standard here) will guarantee failure on all three counts.

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Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 11, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I find Mr. van Ark's comments rather telling:


Roelof van Ark, the CEO of the rail authority, issued a statement in response to the report saying the LAO's recommendations will be "thoroughly reviewed in the context of our mandate to operate under the provisions of Proposition 1A." He also said he believes the project has been "successful thus far because it has strived to operate more like a private business than a typical government bureaucracy."



Even though I may agree that government bureaucracy is a hindrance to efficiency and effectiveness, Mr. van Ark appears to be openly hostile to the idea of government oversite. And considering where the dollars are coming from to fund this project, I would suggest that Mr. van Ark not bite the hand that feeds him.

Considering the "success" he is referring to, he really needs to elaborate on this, since his performance has been dismal, as compared to projects conducted in the private sector, and considering the amount of critical 3rd party analysis regarding outcomes so far.

It goes without saying that if he had been hired by a private company instead of the state for this project, he'd be looking for a new job by now.

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Posted by vkmo
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 11, 2011 at 6:46 pm

High Speed Rail is a very worthwhile project, and its construction shouldn't be impeded.

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Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 12, 2011 at 9:08 am

"High Speed Rail is a very worthwhile project, and its construction shouldn't be impeded. "


And I'd like to eat bacon and eggs every morning for breakfast.

Focusing on an ideal (HSR) and ignoring the execution of it leads to failure, and unintended consequences. With the dollars in question for this project, and the State's finances in shambles, it is not enough to just "wish" for something to happen, without putting in careful thought how to achieve it successfully.

There's risk taking, and then there's stupidity.

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Posted by tommygee54
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 12, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Just think, if we do not get HSR built, then we deserve more clogged freeways, more cars on these freeways, and perhaps more airports in our state...etc. And the HSR saysayers will say, 'wow are freeways are still clogged---why?'
That is what I call progress...

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Posted by curious
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm

tommygee54, just think if against all odds they do manage to get something built we will get what we have now because no one will ride this. Why should anyone use this thing when it will cost far more than an airplane for one and than driving for a family.

Of this we can be sure: this will cost the CA taxpayers many more $billions. The most they will ever build will be the train spur to nowhere in the Central Valley. I am sure the people of Chowchilla and Visalia will like it.

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Posted by LAResident
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I travel to China a lot and the high-speed rail line there is fantastic.

However, as much I would love to see one here in CA, I just don't see it happening. Palo Alto and other cities are already fighting it for various reasons. There will be so much political infighting and NIMBY action that I think there is a good chance this will die on the vine.

Plus, if CalTrain is underwater, I find it hard to believe that this will be self-sustaining.

I would love to see it, but I'm not holding my breath.

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Posted by Seer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 13, 2011 at 12:24 am

For the millionth time: Caltrain has NOTHING to do with HSR. Nothing. Just because the two systems may share a right-of-way for a small portion of the HSR line, they neither compete nor offer redundant travel, nor can the financial success or failure of Caltrain be used to predict HSR's results. The simple reason is that HSR is built for long-distance trips, Caltrain for short ones. So Caltrain's financials have as much to do with HSR's as they might with air travel or ocean liners. The only possible relationship they can have is that caltrain would make a great feeder for passengers looking to take HSR on a longer trip. With only two stations along the peninsula in the proposed HSR design (to keep HSR speeds up to a reasonable level that guarantees a 2.5HR LA travel time from SF) there is no redundancy with Caltrain.

I agree that the California HSR authority should be relieved of duty if it cannot execute the Prop 1A mandate. Yes, the HSR is expensive and yes, finding the money will be hard, but the necessity and practicality of HSR is already well-demonstrated around the world and questioning it here is nearly as ridiculous as questioning whether planes can fly. With fuel costs predicted to reach $20/gallon or higher by the time the HSR is completed, today's foxhole financial analyses comparing trip prices to cars or planes make no sense at all. To compare these trip costs makes the repeatedly proven-false assumption that the future will be just like the past. We all know that isn't the case.