Negotiation over a few small words

In April 2012, the California High Speed Rail Authority announced a miracle. It could cut $30 billion off the cost of the project by downsizing project infrastructure in the Bay Area. It could share 50 miles of track with a commuter railroad that made frequent stops, without incurring any time penalty for doing so.

While it is common for high speed rail systems to take advantage of existing rail lines for the last couple of miles into the centers of large cities, it is actually quite unusual to do so for 50 miles. In fact, the Authority’s own time tables reflected a 20 minute slowdown.

When confronted with this disparity, Board Chair Dan Richard insisted trains would operate at 2 hrs and 40 minutes.

CARRD was one of several groups who asked the Authority for some documentation of this claim.

It turns out there wasn’t any. Nonetheless, the Authority’s consultants got to work on a memo to show how this could be done.

Public records requests show the existence of a memo as of May 2012. The Authority refused to release it.

Eventually, it released a memo dated February 12, 2013 that has been widely circulated. A couple of months later, we did get versions from January 2013 and an earlier February one, along with an email from Frank Vacca, the Chief Program Manager requesting a couple of changes, including one that changes a critical sentence from stating that “Simulations may not reflect actual operating conditions.” –> “They are in accordance with the requirements of AB3034, relating to system design capability.”

These memos show how the consultants, whose contract was up for renewal in May, made critical changes to the memo.

The January version clearly indicates that the travel time calculations will not be operating ones. By February, these distinctions are getting the lost.  By the final memo, there is nothing at all to suggest this.

It is interesting to note that PB may have been unwilling to state that the travel times calculation meet the legal requirements – that was left for Frank Vacca to do in a cover memo.

Read the key documents here.

Final Phase 1 Blended Travel Time Memo

Full January 13, 2013 Travel Time Memo

Full February 5, 2013 Travel Time Memo

Full February 7, 2013 Travel Time Memo