Another regular Voice reader has offered to contribute on an important topic. Local guy David Harris is a friend of mine who has spent a substantial amount of time reviewing the High-cost Rail machinations over the last few years. Here he provides an important counterpoint to a local opinion piece:
In Monday’s edition of The Daily Journal, Columnist Sue Lempert writes about the selection of Jim Hartnett to replace Mike Scanlon as general manager of SamTrans, executive director of Caltrain and executive director of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority. Near column’s conclusion she she says:
“Then there is HSR where Hartnett’s experience and connections will come in handy. Despite the lawsuits which keep popping up, HSR is bound to happen (Hartnett called it a generational thing, meaning it make take a while for the entire system to get rolling). Before it will come Caltrain electrification, a much-needed environmental improvement which will also speed up the trains and allow for more stops. Most of the Peninsula cities are resigned with sharing Caltrain tracks with HSR, an improvement over the feared four-track system originally proposed. None of this will be easy and Hartnett has his work cut out for him.”
It depends on how you feel about HSR whether Hartnett’s experience and connections will come in handy - and hopefully it won’t be easy. He was on the High Speed Rail Authority’s board of directors when it was basically tone-deaf to the concerns of Peninsula residents when the four-track system was originally proposed. He was also on the board when the Authority’s PR--as-stakeholder-engagement strategy further alienated residents and elected officials up and down the Peninsula, leaving it with very little credibility. This is something Central Valley and southern California residents also have found out the hard way. And we better hope that most Peninsula cities, or at least their voters, are not “resigned” to Caltrain sharing the tracks with HSR. Train volume is projected to increase from 92 Caltrains per weekday in 2015 to a combined 220 Caltrain and HSR trains per day in 2030 – more than double, according to data shared by Burlingame city staff at the March 11 Broadway Grade Separation meeting at the Burlingame Rec Center.
Finally, it will not only be a “generational thing” to get the entire system rolling. It will also be a “generational thing” to come up with the estimated $55 billion needed to build the entire system, assuming of course the price tag remains at the current projected $68 billion. The next generation will be on the hook for even more money when costs inevitably increase.
If I have learned anything over the years in both business and politics it is that very few things are "inevitable" (Death and Taxes excepted, Ben Franklin). Thanks, David for calling this out.