Category Archives: Opinion

The Failure of “Me First” Transportation Planning

New BART director Nick Josefowitz has written an excellent article outlining the failures of “me first” transportation planning, using as examples ineffective freeway expansions in Orange County and the extension of the BART Fremont Line to Warm Springs, currently under construction.


The “Money Quote:”

…BART’s historical pattern of investment is a good example. In the past couple decades, the region has built extension after expensive extension on the edge of the system. This December, the latest of these expensive extensions will open in south Fremont near the Santa Clara county line. This new extension cost $890 million to build, and will cost over $12 million annually to operate.

This extension — and many of BART’s other end-of-line extensions — are the Bay Area version of Orange County’s failed freeway widening program. The new station in south Fremont will funnel more and more riders into an already overloaded BART system, without fundamentally increasing the capacity of the core system to accommodate them. Not only will this increase the crowding for those living in Fremont, but for all BART riders throughout the Bay Area…

Connecting California: Improve San Joaquins

Here is an interesting article I came across while websurfing that reinforces TRAC’s points about improving the San Joaquins:

1.2 Million Passengers. One Single Track: California May Not Need That $68 Billion Bullet Train. But It Sure As Heck Needs More Rail Capacity.

The “money quote” is:

Fun, yes, but also frustrating. Why are we still relying on single tracks owned by freight lines to move passengers on trains through the Central Valley? I’ve dumped on high-speed rail for years—for outlandish ridership projections, for its failure to attract private investment, for not starting with a connection between L.A. and San Diego—and even the idea’s backers are worried it will cost too much. But high-speed rail does provide solutions to the gaps Ben and I encountered firsthand. It would provide a proper route for rail passengers through the Tehachapis. It would provide a dedicated track for passenger rail in the Central Valley. And it would connect the state in ways that we have otherwise failed to do.

CHSRA Responds Directly to TRAC; Our Response

TRAC’s opinion piece on September 28th ( in the Sacramento Bee apparently annoyed the denizens of the California High Speed Rail Authority, leading to a response by CEO Jeff Morales (, plus a followup, much more detailed letter directly to TRAC on October 22 (

The text of our response to Morales’ Bee op-ed and followup letter is presented below.

Mr. Morales:
You PR people chose to reiterate their talking points rather than respond to our arguments, in composing your October 21 letter responding to our SacBee OpEd. Key examples:
You write “We remain confident that an operating segment can be delivered with existing funds and future Cap and Trade proceeds, at which point a private entity would pay for the rights to operate the system (and receive the revenue it generates), thus allowing for completion of the full statewide system.” Note the lack of an answer for how CHSRA will fill the $26 billion shortfall in the budget for its Initial Operating Segment, which it admits needs to be complete before any private investment is possible. We all know Cap and Trade won’t go that far.
Your people either don’t understand or refuse to accept the judicial rulings. As we wrote, both the trial court and the Court of Appeal found deficiencies in CHSRA’s compliance with Proposition 1A. The Court of Appeal, however, ruled there was no remedy for the failure to comply, at this time. The Supreme Court chose to not review that decision. In no way did it “reaffirm compliance.”
Your comments about “what the Congress and President appropriated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” betray either an intentional misstatement of the terms of the legislation, or ignorance of them. Several Midwestern states are upgrading Amtrak service to 110 mph under that program, on “tracks owned by private freight operators.”
You write “Currently, there is no passenger rail link between Bakersfield and the Los Angeles Basin…” If CHSRA makes good on its intention to proceed with Palmdale-Burbank, there won’t be one for a very long time. While it wasn’t mentioned in the OpEd due to space considerations, TRAC has long considered the missing rail link as its top state priority.
You write “We have consulted extensively with experienced foreign governments and high-speed rail operators to improve and refine our plans.” This is a far cry from the open bidding process we recommend, where the successful bidder puts capital at risk, rather than mere advice.
Finally, you offer a very skewed reading of Proposition 1A. CHSRA is reverent about complying with legislative intent (except that of having an operating system by 2020), even though these are not mandatory provisions. Yet it brazenly flouts the mandatory requirements–the part of the bill it didn’t write–and then begs the Supreme Court for a Get out of Jail Free card when caught.
If you wonder how CHSRA managed to alienate rail advocates that would otherwise be its natural supporters, look no further than these points.

Blogger Robert Cruickshank Ignorant of TRAC’s Role In CA Rail Development

Photo – San Diego Trolley, which would not exist without the efforts of close TRAC collaborator State Senator Jim Mills, nor would the modern light rail transit renaissance starting in 1981.

Here is text of TRAC’s comments tonight on the California High Speed Rail Blog in response to criticism of our September 29th Sacramento Bee opinion article:

Robert said:
The TRAC plan is created by people who are way too caught up in small details and have lost sight of the bigger picture. Their ideas won’t go anywhere, of course. But it’s worth pointing out them why they’ve never been influential in Sacramento.

Robert, brush up on your California rail history. Rich Tolmach and TRAC, along with PCL were the sparkplugs behind the development and successful passage of Proposition 116 in 1990. Without the $2 billion in Prop 116 bond funds, the Capitol Corridor would simply not exist today at all, we’d still probably be stuck with only one or two San Joaquins, the Surfliners would probably be where they were 30-40 years ago (5-6 round trips per day, maybe), and a large number of transit projects would not have been built.

The same people, including Tolmach, who were involved with the Modern Transit Society (before creation of TRAC) successfully sold the concept of light rail in Sacramento, which opened in 1987. And without TRAC allies such as State Senator Jim Mills, the San Diego Trolley and the modern rebirth of light rail would never have occurred, or would have occurred much later than the 1980’s.

Significant Rail News, September 10, 2014

Burbank Seeks Answers On Bullet Train’s Impacts

US DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx Takes Crack At Transportation Predictions

Opinion: 2nd Transbay Tube Needed To Keep BART On Track

From The Dark Side Dept: US Highway Fix May Mean More Tolls

San Jose: Will BART Make Berryessa District Traffic Even Worse?

Amtrak Says Freight Delays Hurt Ridership

California Legislature Passes Two Infrastructure Finance Bills

Santa Rosa: Santa Rosa To Obtain $8.2 Million Grant For Jennings Avenue Railroad Crossing

From The Dark Side/So Much For 4th Caldecott Tunnel Dept: More Traffic As Bay Area Jobs Increase

French Cities Discover Revolutionary Transit Fix: “European Street Trams”

Claim: Overall New US Streetcar Projects Not Meeting Standards Of Good Service

Southern California: Metrolink Ridership Continues To Decline

From The Dark Side Dept: Illinois Gas Tax Crumbles As People “Go Green”

Rail To Redlands Project Draws Large Public Interest

From The Dark Side Dept: No, Americans Aren’t Driving More, Contrary To Some Reports

Amtrak: Southwest Chief Panel to Convene

Opinion: Transit Service, Not Infrastructure Triggers Ridership

HSR Chief Dan Richard Defends His Enterprise

Draft Designs For Downtown San Rafael SMART Station Called Ridiculous By Officials

How San Antonio Streetcar Supporters Screwed Up and Let Streetcar Project Fall Apart Politically

Estimated Cost Of Downtown LA Streetcar Cut By $55 Million

We’ll See It When We Believe It Dept: Washington DC-Baltimore Maglev Backers Claim $5 Billion In Investor Support

Would Salt On Their Tails Work? Dept: Caltrans Tries To Chase Birds Off Old Bay Bridge Span

Yeah, Sure It Will Work Dept: Gullible New Joisy Town Rolled By PRT Hucksters

BART Introduces Security App for Smartphones

Private Sector Intercity Rail In Indiana To Add Service Chicago-Indianapolis

Things Are Bigger There Even If They Really Aren’t Dept: Private Sector Texas HSR Moves Forward

Medellin, Columbia Metrocable Improves Mobility For Low Income Residents

Opinion: Streetcars Are Just A Tool

HSR Opponents File Appeal At California Supreme Court

How BART Knew About Napa Earthquake Before Anyone Else

BART Stations Cleaner Thanks to Special Cleaners, Crackdown On Loitering

Hey, You! Behave In The Transit Station Dept: MARTA To Test Computer Software That Scans For “Suspicious” Behavior

Hey, You Spend A Billion On LRT Fix The Traffic Lights Dept: MN Inventor Claims Fix To Help Trains Meet Green Lights

From The Dark Side Dept: California Gas Prices Could Jump 30 Cents Per Gallon In 2015

Hey Let’s Run Commuter Trains To Heart Of Downtowns Dept: Florida Tri-Rail Moving Ahead With Coastal Rail Expansion

Gee A Radical Concept Dept: Requiring Steering Wheels And Brake Pedals In Would-Be Robocars

Caltrain Ridership Continues To Surge

No. 10 On CA HSR Arguments: Modesty In Your Claims, Please

Will Eastern Europe Trains Be Better Than US Dept: Chinese Propose HSR Line In Romania

Will Seattle Catch Up To Portland in LRT Dept?

Opinion: Alameda County Should Reject Proposed Transportation Sales Tax Doubling

BART Gets Rid Of Free Lifetime Rides For Board Members

From The Dark Side Dept: GOP Senators Predict Highway Funding Will Change

San Rafael Residents Want To Move Forward With SMART Quiet Zones

Why Portland Is Building Multimodal Bridge That Excludes Cars

BART Produces More Readable Strategic Plan Document

Transit’s No Joke Dept: Late Night Comic Takes LA Subway To TV’s Emmy Awards

We’ll See It When We Believe It Dept: Company Claims Process Can Turn Natural Gas Into Gasoline For $1.00

10-Mile BART Extension To San Jose Moves Forward

Commuter Rail Sooner Would Be Nice Dept: Regional Oklahoma System Possible Soon?

Dallas LRT Extended to DFW Airport

Even European Trains Could Be Better: Passenger Manifestos

Despite Europe being literally decades ahead of the United States regarding rail passenger service, major improvements are still needed. For example, better cross-border connections.

Here are links to three recent passenger manifestos demanding better rail passenger service from European politicians:

European Passengers’ Federation Manifesto

Gaps In The European Long Distance Rail Network 2014 (presentation)

10 Theses For Better Rail Networks