Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More Details on AB 3034's Fate

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

This week's issue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian has an article on HSR by Steven T. Jones, who was at the CHSRA board meeting last week. Most of it focuses on an overview of where the project is at, which will be familiar to regular readers of this blog. It also has some good quotes from San Franciscans about their support for the project.

Jones also includes some new information on the fate of AB 3034, which failed to come to a floor vote on Monday:

Sen. Mike Machado (D-Stockton) was unhappy with the Pacheco choice and decided to oppose the project, meaning that proponents needed three Republican votes to win the two-thirds needed for passage and only Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) was willing to cross party lines, Capitol sources told the Guardian.

That is both interesting and unfortunate. Machado needs to understand that this isn't about Stockton alone. Just because Altamont wasn't chosen doesn't mean we should block the project. Machado endorsed Hillary Clinton in the primaries but is presumably supporting Barack Obama now - it's not much different for HSR. You can't withdraw support just because your choice didn't win out.

It is welcome news that Maldonado, my own State Senator, did finally back the bill. He had previously expressed doubts about it, supposedly concerned that it gave nothing to his district (a ridiculous concern) but he now saw the light. Unfortunately because Machado voted no that still left two Senate Republicans who could not be bothered to look to the benefits for their own constituents and voted against AB 3034.

Some Senate Republicans tried to go further:

Meanwhile, a project opponent, Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield), sought to kill Prop. 1 by doing what's known as a "gut and amend" to an unrelated bill, SB 298 by Senate Minority Leader Dave Codgill (R-Modesto), in an attempt to push the bond measure back to 2010.

If he can find the two-thirds vote in both houses — which most sources consider unlikely — it would be the fourth time the bond measure has been delayed. So barring any unusual political deals, the high speed bond measure is still up in November.

I'm shocked, shocked to hear this. Of course Ashburn wanted to postpone the vote - he wants to kill HSR dead. That's what was behind his absurd 11th hour objections to the lack of a business plan (which AB 3034 would have provided) and his push for a reorganization of passenger rail oversight into a Department of Rail (couldn't that have been proposed much, much, much earlier?). Ashburn simply doesn't support this project but doesn't have the guts to tell his Bakersfield constituents, who will see significant benefits and dramatic economic growth from HSR.

Still, we don't need AB 3034 and never really did. The Final EIR does not include a station at Los Banos and does not include Union Pacific ROW use (so Stuart Flashman's one-man crusade to kill HSR has even fewer legs to stand on). The original plan proposed in 2002 and contained in Prop 1 is fiscally sound and a solid map for building high speed rail.

California cannot meet the challenges of the coming decades without high speed rail. Those who raise objections based on this or that small issue are missing that much larger point. They implicitly believe that the status quo is just fine and we have no need to make major changes. Tomorrow Al Gore will give a major speech attacking just such thinking and calling for a "reset" of how we approach the climate crisis, junking what Martin Luther King Jr called "the tranquilizing drug of gradualism" for a call for a new "hero generation" of dramatic change.

HSR is one necessary part of that bolder, very necessary strategy for dealing with the problems that ail our state.

Note: Beginning tomorrow posting will be more sporadic on the blog, until August 4. I am headed to Austin for Netroots Nation, and from there am going to Seattle where I will be married on July 26. After a week on the Oregon Coast I'll be back in Monterey to renew the fight for Prop 1 and high speed rail.

Over the next few days I'll be putting up a few posts, but mostly you'll have open threads to discuss HSR as you will. I've also got some guest posts lined up, which should be a great way to broaden the discussion. Have at it!


Anonymous said...

I think you you miss the important points about what happens if AB-3034 doesn't pass.

1. Schwarzenegger drops support because public/private partnerships are not part of the game.

2. The environmentalists no longer having the assurances they have won, drop support for the project.

3. No accountability or peer review becomes a major issue for us deniers.

I'm more than happy to see AB-3034 die. With it dies HSR, at least for the time being.

Maybe then we get some competent leadership, that will design a viable useful project, rather than this basket of politically motivated garbage.

Brandon in California said...

Those parties are more educated about HSR now... versus during their initial learning.

I believe they'll each support HSR come November 4th.

Additionally, even if your suspicions have merit.... why would those stakeholders announce support for HSR before AB 3034 had already passed? It seems like a gamble if they were hanging their hat on it.

I think the concern is rather moot.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Arnold has already indicated his support. AB 3034 was designed to satisfy all his demands but he understands the obstinate role of the Senate Republicans, who he's never been on great terms with.

What assurances have environmentalists lost? The Final EIR does not include a Los Banos station. Moreover environmentalists all understand the need to move off of carbon-burning forms of transportation. They'd be insane to oppose it.

You deniers were attacking the business plan anyway. AB 3034 wasn't going to turn you into HSR supporters anyway.

"Basket of politically motivated garbage." Would that be why HSR projects are so damn successful around the world that most industrialized nations - even even some industrializing nations like Morocco, Vietnam and Iran - are clamoring for their own systems?!

Anonymous said...

To the voters, AB3034 won't make a difference. But you never know when some republican will jump in at the last minute and try to stop it.

By the way, congratulations Robert!

無名 - wu ming said...

that sucks about machado. i understand his frustration with the route choice, but not building this, or delaying it further will just mean that much longer until his district gets decent HSR access.

looking forward to having wolk in his senate seat.

CAL said...

Robert..give up on the stupid neocons and the leftys ..the young will pass this vote..The rest are the past. 9 Billion? Some people have that much money here..A nation state cant pay for that?Then shame on us. The people will
use this system for 100-200 years.At least something for all rest of the Hell we are going to give them

Fernando said...

"...and from there am going to Seattle where I will be married on July 26."


Best wishes,

Fernando Puente

Cas said...

Congratulations, Robert!

Rafael said...

Congratulations, Robert! Hope she likes trains ...

Robert Cruickshank said...

Thanks everyone. And yes, rafael, she loves trains - she's taking the Coast Starlight from Salinas to Seattle today and tomorrow.

Rob Dawg said...

The Final EIR ...does not include Union Pacific ROW use (so Stuart Flashman's one-man crusade to kill HSR has even fewer legs to stand on).
Huh? Isn't Tehacapi Tunnels to Union Station almost entirely dependent on UPRR r-o-w?

Matthew Melzer said...

rob dawg-

The current Tehachapi route is extremely circuitous. HSR would involve boring new tunnels through the pass, avoiding the UP RoW. Once you get into the Mojave Desert, the landscape is relatively wide-open; south of Palmdale, Metrolink owns the RoW.

Tony D. said...

Congrats Robert on your upcoming marriage! Kind of piggy backing off of what CAL 1:46 stated: Prop.1/HSR will never, ever poll 100% in favor to 0% against. Nor will it pass 100-0. As we saw with PPIC and JMM, there will probably always be 30-40% against HSR; hence the opinions of naysayers such as anon 8:44 (7/16). But as Cal stated, forget about these naysayers and neocons! We need to start concentrating on the broader electorate and selling the proposition: alternative to driving/flying, economic stimulus, rising fuel prices, etc. I've already spoken to many a family member and co-worker who will support Prop. 1 because, in their words, "high-speed rail is just plain neat!" I imagine this sentiment will become more widespread in the Bay Area, Central Valley (south of Merced), and Los Angeles as the campaign begins in earnest. Again, congrats and GO PROP.1!!

Brandon in California said...

Tony D is correct.

I too have spoken with family and friends.. and will continue to lobby their support.

It's an easy sell to everyone except my aunt and uncle living up in Redding Ca... but they'll be down here in San Diego this weekend, after flying, and I'll easily be able to make the argument using their trip as an example.

Btw, absentee ballot season in October. What percentage of voters submitby absentee now-a-days? Isn't it in the 40-50 percentile?

Anonymous said...

Indeed absentee ballots are pushing the 50% mark in many counties.

That's why a business plan and for sure a peer review are really not available in time for the voters to really see what they will be getting for their money.

Maybe someone here has a clue on what is going on around Bakersfield.

Here is Senator Ashburn leading the charge against the project and Senator Dean Florez, a Democract, in the adjacent district to Bakersfield abstaining on the vote in the Appropriations committee.

You would think Bakersfield would love the project; it certainly doesn't seem like this is the case.

Jack Duluoz said...

Congrats to Robert!

Secondly, I'm with Brandon and Tony D. The nay-sayers will never be assuaged nor will they support the project no matter what concessions are make. I say to hell with them. Let's focus our efforts on those around us in our everyday lives who probably haven't heard of Prop 1. We have the perfect set of circumstances on our hands; high transportation costs, weak economy, looming environmental disaster, ect... HSR isn't perfect, but at least it is a start, and it's something. The last second attempts by state republicans to monkey-wrench HSR after years of silence, and with absolutely no attempt to address their concerns within the language of the bill, and zero effort to compromise highlights the simple truth...THEY HAVE NOTHING, no ideas just obstructionism.

Anonymous said...

HSR in the current form is a laughing joke. So is the business plan. It deserved to die because it was nothing more than a pork barrel project with decisions made, not based on merit but politics, and no accountability or oversight. HSR is so scared of oversight that they cring at the mention of the word. And yes, all state rail operations needs a complete re organization into one Dept to better coordinate their activities. Time to bust this political silo.

Brandon in California said...

That was a troll comment if I ever heard one!

This is a valuable project. Everything points to it having tremendous value.

Anonymous said...

So how again do you make the case to San Diegans and Sacramentans for this? It's clear they won't be included for many years after the first phase is built, if ever. As I understand it, their portion depends on the revenues raised from the first phase. Doesn't sound like a very good deal for those of us in these cities. I hope I'm wrong because I think HSR is desperately needed, but I'm not sure these voters will see any benefit in their lifetimes. Why not seal the deal by including them in the first phase? The Capital Corridor is already one of the three busiest lines in America if I'm not mistaken. There's no question that there's a thirst for rail that will translate to real revenues.

Matthew Melzer said...

anonymous @ 1:46 AM-

Sacramento, San Diego, and much of the rest of the state will benefit from an immediate $950 million infusion (which could be matched, to an extent, with federal dollars) to improve capacity, trip times, etc., on existing commuter and intercity lines such as the Capitol Corridor. The tangible benefits of that will actually be realized much faster than HSR, which will take at least a few years for the first phase to open.

SF to LA is the responsible first phase given ridership projections. Once it is open, nearby cities such as Sacramento and San Diego will be much closer to the rest of the state. For example, the fastest trip between those cities on Amtrak now is 12'25", and that includes a bus between Bakersfield and LA. Utilizing a Capitol train, HSR, and a Surfliner, that same trip will take about 6 hours, no bus required, and that's without expected running time reductions on Capitol and Surfliner trains that the $950 million would go towards.

Matthew Melzer said...

Sorry, I meant San Joaquin (transferring to HSR at Merced), not Capitol.

Anonymous said...

Its is truly amazing how little the advocates here understand about this project.

The $950 million is a buy off of the other transit agencies. There is only so much money to go around, and to keep these agencies from rising up against the bond measure taking almost all the new money available for rail etc., they include $950 million and label it to help these agencies feed into the system. Originally the SF cable cars were to get part. Great feeder no? The MTC is un-happy with only $950 million and writes a letter stating thus.

Certainly those in Sacramento and San Diego are being hosed. This project will never serve them. They will have to wait for the next project to come along and as pointed out the Sacramento and San Diego corridors really need congestion relief.

No this project is driven by self promoting interests especially in San Francisco and San Jose. Why in the world is there a need to even go from San Jose to San Francisco? There is already CalTrain serving this corridor adequately.

Rafael points out repeatedly the advantages of the Altamont pass option, but the Authority gives it no play; they even fudge the travel time so as to reinforce their position that Pacheco is best; nonsense.

Brandon in California said...

Anon 1:46am,
As a San Diegan, it's a calculated risk. It's one that is worth it b/c the risk is very low relative to the benefit.

I feel it would only be a matter of a short time before extensions become a reality after the first phase.

That's my opinion. I recognize others, likely yourself included, feel otherwise. You and pro-HSRer's, like myself, will likely not come to agreement except to disagree.

Let me ask of you.... how far are you going to take your questions? Are you going to ask the same thing over and over and over.... maybe only slightly changing the perspective?

Will any response short of Sacramento or San Diego being in the first phase going to satisfy you?

Or, are you just trying to throw mud against the wall and see what sticks? What is your function?

Matthew Melzer said...

anonymous @ 8:34 AM-

Do you have a shred of documentary evidence to support your claims that HSR will never reach Sacramento or SD, or that local transit will gobble up the whole $950m?

"Self-serving interests" in SF and SJ want fast, safe, environmentally friendly connections to the rest of the state. The Director of SFO International Airport has said the project is essential to meet growing demand for intra-state travel as demand for international service out of SFO also grows.

A 30-minute ride between SF and SJ is an incidental benefit, and I'm sure Caltrain commuters will be charged a premium to ride the fast trains. Plus, HSR means closing unsafe grade crossings and sealing the corridor along the Peninsula. It also ties into Caltrain's plans to electrify, allowing for faster and more efficient service, and zero emissions except where the power is generated.

It's a win-win-win for commuters, taxpayers, and residents in the area... except perhaps the Atherton NIMBYs who can't see the forest for the trees. There's the true self-serving interest.

Anonymous said...

Let's go back to the ridership numbers mentioned by Melzer; they are unsubstantiated, completely. At least the LOSSAN and Capitol Corridors have REAL rail ridership numbers to serve as the basis for a business plan. They just reversed engineered the numbers for LA-SFO to make them work; a alughing jke that everyone in transportation knows.

And yes, the $900 million is a buy off for support by San Diego and Sacto; but it's not enough. And LA-Anaheim doesn't realize how the northern boys plan to give them the shaft once the bond has passed.

PURE PORK. Spending money like this should be based on merit, not politics.

Spokker said...

I hope CA HSR buys off everyone who needs to be bought off to get LA-SF built. If they need to play hardball like the oil companies do, like the auto companies do, so be it.

If anything is going to kill this project it's a fundamental misunderstanding of high speed rail. People look at the train and think, "Why isn't it stopping in MY city?" Well, HSR doesn't work that way, buddy. It's this me, me, me mentality that never gets anything done.

I hope they buy off every jerkoff looking for a station in their district, build them one, and bypass them all with express trains all damn day.

Anonymous said...

SO anno What should we DO DEAR? a freeway? New 10 billion Airport for
San Diego? NOBODY want to ride on a train for more than 3hours!!The slow San diegans and Capitols are lame. you Southern Boys get most
of the high speed rail constuction!
SO want are you yappan about?