A Word About This Site

Important Note: This site is designed to be a one stop shopping place for information relevant to the HSR project, the potential impacts to our communities and how to participate in the process. Since this is an all volunteer effort, a lack of funding relegates us to using the freeby sites. With no perfect fit available, this site is being treated like a hybrid blog/website. Like a blog, it is not stagnant, but like a website, information is categorized. Therefore one should not treat it as a blog by always looking for only the latest entry, yet periodically refer back to older posts for updated information. To make it easier, HSR-PREP has a newsletter designed to be used in conjunction with this site. If you wish to be notified of new information appearing on the site, it is recommended that you sign up for the HSR-PREP Newsletter. Another way is to create an RSS link on your homepage.

Spread the word. Be informed. Get involved.

Spread the word. Be informed. Get involved. If you have any issues at all with the high speed rail project as it exists, if you say and do nothing, it means you agree 100%. We are all busy in our lives. This cannot be used as an excuse later. If you have issues, you must participate in the process or forever hold your peace. Call, email or write your legislators. It takes 15 minutes using their websites. Participate in the public input opportunities with the High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA). But don't wait.
Spread the word. Be informed. Get involved.


July 26, 2011. HSRA breaking the law (yet again) by not responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. CAARD has repeatedly - ten times, in fact, between March 22, 2011 and July 26, 2011 - requested documents backing the ridership study without a document being produced by the HSRA. Authority’s Deputy Director, Jeff Barker said, “There are no documents; we are busy; any documents are draft and you just want to make us look bad on your website. Now why would he say that if he knew what they had was good data? CARRD knows there are documents because the HSRA CEO van Ark ordered a peer review committee on the ridership with a deadline already past. ”See CARRD's documentation here and a related article here.

New Blog Devoted to Ridership Issue. On November 23, 2010, this blog (possibly from an Alhambra blogger) was started to address the ridership issues seemingly ignored by the HSRA. The first entry compares an earlier ridership study which was conducted in 1999 and published in January 2000 by Charles River Associates (CRA). It was touted as “the most advanced state-of-the-art, comprehensive intercity HSR ridership and revenue forecasts and analysis ever carried out in California, and possibly anywhere” with the subsequent Cambridge Systematics (CS) study. The CRA study was adjusted for both time and population based on a 2030 operation date to match the CS study. "Ridership is nearly double (193%) that of the first study in spite of the fact that fares must have been disproportionally increased to account for the nearly tripling (258%) of revenue." So why the big difference? That's what inquiring minds want to know and legislators should require be known as part of their due dilegence. One thing that was changed as a result of the second study was the route choice from the Altamont Pass to the Pacheco Pass. See the Altamont versus Pacheco entry for more details on this discussion.

Elizabeth Alexis of CARRD Speaks at November 4 2010 Senate Transportation & Housing Budget Committee. Asking for a little common sense. To Senator Lowenthal, if it were her, she'd be looking for an investigation. See the video here.

Why Do Projected Ridership Numbers Matter? It is these numbers that designers use to determine the capacity and frequency of trains required to build a system, and ultimately to build a system that operates at maximum efficiency. It is these numbers that help determine what is the best route (think Altamont versus Pacheco) to maximize ridership. We don't want to underbuild or there will not be enough room for expansion as the population increases. However, if ridership numbers are over enthusiastic, the train will run with a lot of vacancies for many, many years. This would not only be a money losing scenario, but also an environmental catastrophe as according to another UC Berkeley study, it could take up to 70 years to recoup the green house gas emissions produced when building such a structure if it only runs at 50% occupancy.

UC Berkeley Peer Review July 1, 2010. Commissioned by the California Senate Transportation and Housing Commission and paid for by the HSRA, among other things, the report Confirms what watchdog Elizabeth Alexis of the grass roots group CARRD – Citizens Advocating Responsible Rail Design had already pointed out to the HSRA and the California Senate Transportation and Housing Commission - the HSRA’s ridership study is not based on a representative sample of the general population. Read the press release or the full report.

Kathy Hamilton, writing for the Examiner, gives any easy to understand run down of ten issues pointed out in this study in this article.

The Reason Foundation's September 2008 Report: "The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report" estimated the true cost will be somewhere between $65B and $81B. It also projected fewer riders by 2030 than officially estimated: 23-31 million riders a year instead of the 65-96 million initially forecasted by the Rail Authority in their business plan. It will be interesting to see how their predictions fare over time. The HSRA has since downgraded its ridership estimates to about 40M with the increase in fare price from $55 to $104.75. (I note that as of July 2010, the HSRA website still proclaims 88-117M passengers annually by 2030.)

How much of a cultural issue is it for Americans to get out of their cars and into rail [again]? In other words, if we are modeling our HSR system after successful segments (note: worldwide, no full system is successful, only segments) elsewhere in the world (i.e. choosing routes with population densities similar to Paris to Lyon or Osaka to Tokyo), are we also modeling our ridership to match? Put another way; just because the population density exists, there is the additional hurdle of overcoming differing habits, and therefore for HSR to be successful in the US, one might argue that we need an even greater population density in order to succeed. I think the chart below shows that we will have a big hurdle ahead in convincing Americans it is time to get out of their cars. According to this NatGeo survey, citizens of poorer contries are more likely to ride trains. However, Americans surveyed reported that the biggest obstacle to their use of public transportation was lack of availability. Here are the results for one of the surveys: How likely are you to use public transit?