Three environmental organizations and two cities filed a legal action on May 6, 2010, seeking to reopen the Court’s decision on their 2008 challenge to the Environmental Impact Report issued by the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA). The CHSRA recently disclosed details of its ridership analysis that it had not previously made public. The ridership projections that the Authority used as the foundation for its Business Plan and its selection of the Pacheco Pass route did not come from the ridership and revenue model that had been peer-reviewed and fully documented.
Instead, the final model was significantly different from the published one. A memo from the model developer, Cambridge Systematics, announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, under contract to the CHSRA to manage the development of the model, had “elected not update the Task 5a report nor to include the final coefficients and constants in the final report.”
The three groups, the California Rail Foundation, the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, and the Planning and Conservation League, working with the Town of Atherton and the City of Menlo Park, contend that the failure to disclose the actual numbers used in the ridership model deprived the public of the right to comment on the reasonableness of the model and its resulting projections. They are asking the Court to order CHSRA to respond to comments about the flawed ridership modeling.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental studies are now underway whose justification depends on the validity of the ridership projections. Yet these projections show bizarre patterns of significantly higher ridership to Merced, Gilroy and Anaheim than to downtown Los Angeles. The groups hired a transportation modeling expert, who reviewed the documentation and concluded that the final coefficients and constants were different from the published numbers in the model documentation and were invalid. In his report, Norman Marshall wrote that “These numbers make absolutely no sense and cannot be justified by the model development process.”
In the Final Decision on our petition, the judge essentially said that because plaintiffs have an alternative remedy (challenging the revised FEIR), that he could not grant a writ of error Coram Nobis.