Bay Area transit ridership down despite subsidies, enticements

In today’s Chronicle, Matier & Ross write about how regional transit ridership in the Bay Area has down for decades despite the many billions of dollars MTC has put into construction projects. This begs the question “Why?” For us, the answer is simple: MTC’s unique combination of indifference, incompetence and unwillingess to do the hard work of policy development has created a politicized unaccountable system that works great for contractors, but does little for Bay Area residents and commuters. See related several posts on this site: Bay Area Basics; a case study we did on MTC called Politics Trumps Outcomes; and a comment letter on how to set up a new transportation pot of money so that it is not wasted, as MTC’s resources have been. Read More...

TRANSDEF Comments on HSR Passage

TRANSDEF’s David Schonbrunn was interviewed on the KPFA Evening News about the Legislature’s authorization of bond issuance for the 130-mile Central Valley High-Speed Rail project.

LA Times Uncovers Secret HSR Story

TRANSDEF was the source for an explosive story that ran in the LA Times today on the rejection of an offer two years ago by the French National Railways, SNCF, to build the system between LA and San Francisco. The California High-Speed Rail Authority turned them down flat, but kept the offer secret.

Had the HSRA been operating in the public interest, it would now be under contract with an international HSR operator selected through an open bidding process, and be proceeding towards a fully funded LA-SF buildout (which, incidentally, would probably not have been challenged by the current litigants). Instead, if the project proceeds as planned, Californians will end up with a $6 billion track that can’t be used for HSR, and have no prospects of ever receiving a statewide system.

LA Times Story: High-speed rail officials rebuffed proposal from French railway

In response to today's article, TRANSDEF sent a letter to the Editor.

Hospital Required to Mitigate GHGs

TRANSDEF, along with fellow litigants the Sierra Club and the California Nurses Association, prevailed in a challenge to Sonoma County’s approval of a new Sutter Hospital on the fringe of Santa Rosa. They challenged the Environmental Impact Report as being inadequate in mitigating greenhouse gases, because of the site being totally auto-dependent. After several hearings and appearances before a judge, the County agreed to require Sutter Hospital to provide a shuttle to the hospital from the nearest SMART rail station. Sutter will also provide free bus and train passes to its employees, in addition to other incentives for vanpooling and carpooling.

These may possibly be the first mitigations in California imposed specifically for GHG impacts. Check out the
Press Democrat story.

LA Times Covers HSR

The Los Angeles Times has given excellent coverage to questions about the legality of the HSRA’s Central Valley project. TRANSDEF’s David Schonbrunn was interviewed in this article about the Governor’s attempt to get other environmental groups to go easy on this project.

Other HSR articles in the LA Times:

A detailed look into whether the blended system would comply with Proposition 1A.

Peter Calthorpe’s Vision California vs. right-wing defenders of the status quo.


A lively interview on KPFA’s Morning Mix where TRANSDEF’s David Schonbrunn details what’s wrong with the HSR project, and how to fix it. The program runs 12:00.

TRANSDEF Debates US HSR Association Head

The Voice of Russia Radio hosted an informal debate between Andy Kunz, President of the US High-Speed Rail Association and David Schonbrunn, President of TRANSDEF. The debate runs 6:00.

Here is the introductory paragraph on the Voice of Russia website:

In California, a project President Obama promised would transform US transportation may never be completed. The state’s futuristic high-speed rail network faces eroding political and public support, increasing cost estimates and criticism from some groups who call the project a “train to nowhere.” But supporters says a national high-speed rail network would not only support tens of thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs, but it would save travelers from being stuck in traffic for hours. Andy Kunz, president of the US High Speed Rail Association, and David Schonbrunn, president of Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, discuss the present status and the future of this train.

Save Getting Great Press

Here are a series of articles instigated by the great work of Save They are campaigning to inform the public about the folly of Muni’s Central Subway. Amazingly, this $1.5 billion boondoggle will lead to reduced bus service and even longer travel times. Check out these articles:

Lots of activity on High-Speed Rail

A tremendous amount is going on at the California High-Speed Rail Authority. With the ascension of Curt Pringle to the Chair, Quentin Kopp and Rod Diridon have been marginalized (finally!). The Authority hired its new CEO, the first person with actual competence in High-Speed Rail in the agency.

The comment period closed April 26 on the Revised Draft EIR intended to replace the EIR thrown out by the Court as the result of our
litigation. We filed extensive comments in conjunction with our allies the Planning and Conservation League and the California Rail Foundation. Our comments were oriented towards placing extensive evidence into the official record of the feasibility of an Altamont route. On the previous EIR, the Authority had asserted that the Altamont route was infeasible.

We provided a
report by the French High-Speed Rail route designers Setec Ferroviaire that establishes an innovative Altamont route as not only feasible but superior to the Pacheco route. We held a press conference on May 4 to introduce the report. The Mayors of Burlingame and Palo Alto and the former Mayor of Atherton spoke at the press conference, asking the California High-Speed Rail Authority to study the route as a possible means of reducing impacts on their communities.
KGO Channel 7
San Jose Mercury News
San Mateo Daily Journal

Finally, we held a press conference on May 6 to announce the filing of a
petition, asking the Court to reopen the judgment in our EIR case so as to order the High-Speed Rail Authority to respond to our comments (included in our comments on the Revised Draft EIR) challenging the validity of the Ridership and Revenue model. After extensive investigation by Elizabeth Alexis and CARRD, the High-Speed Rail Authority released data indicating that its ridership projections were produced not by its peer-reviewed and documented Revenue and Ridership model, but by a model that had been changed significantly and kept hidden from the public.
KGO Channel 7
San Jose Mercury News
Palo Alto Weekly

Central Subway--Vigorous Radio Debate

TRANSDEF’s President David Schonbrunn debated the Central Subway Project Manager on KALW Radio’s City Vision’s program. Check out the podcast.

David argued that the subway is so deep that the time it will take to access it will eliminate the travel time savings over the current bus. Also, the route is so badly designed that a transfer to BART and Muni lines will require over a 1000 ft. walk. Residents of Bayview/Hunters Point, who now have a convenient transfer to all the Market Street trains, will lose that connection when the Third Street Line goes direct to Chinatown.

TRANSDEF on the radio

TRANSDEF's President David Schonbrunn appeared on Stanford University Radio's Raising Sand Radio program. The one-hour show provides a good overview for Bay Area and California transportation issues, from an activist's point of view.