Round 2 in HSR Litigation
10/04/10 Filed in: High-Speed Rail
A coalition of three cities, three environmental organizations, two citizens’ groups and a taxpayer today filed suit challenging the Environmental Impact Report for the high-speed rail connection between the Central Valley and the Bay Area. The report was issued by the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which is responsible for planning a statewide high-speed rail system. Five of the parties had challenged the previous version of the report, resulting in the court throwing it out and ordering it rewritten.
The cities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton joined the California Rail Foundation, the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund and the Planning and Conservation League. Palo Alto had not been a party in the previous challenge, although it filed a supportive brief. Also joining are two citizens’ groups centered in the San Francisco Peninsula: The Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail and Mid-Peninsula Residents for Civic Sanity. The Rail Authority’s chosen alignment would run through the Peninsula along the Caltrain/Union Pacific rail corridor. Click here to see all the documents.
In addition to questioning the report’s analysis of impacts, a major goal of the suit is to force the Authority to fix its flawed ridership model, which has been questioned repeatedly and was the subject of a scathing report by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Transportation Studies. A transportation modeling expert working for the coalition, Norman Marshall of Smart Mobility, Inc., wrote that: “The California high-speed rail ridership and revenue forecasts used in the selection of a preferred alternative were based on modeling that was misrepresented and that was invalid.”
Instead of using the ridership and revenue model that had been peer-reviewed and fully documented, the environmental report secretly substituted an unpublished variant model as the basis for its alignment choice. Ridership modeling is key to demonstrating the financial feasibility of the HSR project and determining how many trains per hour will be needed. The number of trains, in turn, greatly affects the project’s potential impacts.
In addition, the coalition seeks to force the Authority to respond to the voluminous comments submitted on the report, many of which were brushed aside or deferred for future study. The coalition also seeks to have the Court prohibit the release of more locally-focused Environmental Reports until the broader-scale report has been accepted as valid.
The documents filed with the Court today are available here.
Non-City Coalition Members
CALIFORNIA RAIL FOUNDATION, based in Sacramento, works to educate the public on rail and bus technology and promote cost-effective expansion of the state’s public transportation services. It was one of the first groups in California to support and campaign for high-speed rail and remains strongly involved some 23 years later. www.calrailfoundation.org
Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, TRANSDEF, is headquartered in the Bay Area and advocates for effective regional planning, smart growth, improved transit service, and cleaner air. It is concerned about high-speed rail itself and how it will interact with the rest of California’s public transit system. www.transdef.org
PLANNING AND CONSERVATION LEAGUE, headquartered in Sacramento, works within the political and legal systems to enact and implement policies that protect and restore the California environment. It has a long-standing interest in California high-speed rail extending back more than 20 years. www.pcl.org
COMMUNITY COALITION ON HIGH-SPEED RAIL is a nonprofit group formed during the previous lawsuit by Peninsula residents who were worried about how high-speed rail would impact their communities. It aims to educate the community about the pluses and minuses of the high-speed rail plans. www.cc-hsr.org
MIDPENINSULA RESIDENTS FOR CIVIC SANITY is a grassroots group made up primarily of residents of Burlingame and San Mateo. It was formed very recently to protest the High-Speed Rail Authority’s plans for the two cities.