Monday, September 28, 2009

Learning from the pro-rail bloggers

Here are some powerful thoughts from blogger “Jim” with which I agree, picked out from the most recent comment section from Cruickshank's blog.

"Jim" points out something for which I have a paradoxical statement that summarizes this position:

"You can't teach anyone anything they don't already know and understand."


jim said...

Ultimately none of the arguments on either side are worth much because in today's America you are not going to get any American to change their position by using arguments to support your position.

Americans are no longer interested in solutions to problems. They are only interested in their own ideology on either side of any issue.

Is a kind of mental regression that has become the norm. Rather than aspiring to become more enlightened in the name of facts, truth, science, knowledge, we now look at those things with suspicion.

You are no more going to convince a denier to become a supporter or a supporter to become a denier, than you are to get a liberal democrat to become a conservative republican.

There may be some hidden to the public circles, where actual adults discuss actual solutions to real problems in an intelligent, informed reality based environment, but generally you aren't going to find that among the general public, the blogs, or the media.

We are each now, a party of one, instead of becoming one world, we have become a world of ones.

I'll be the first to be guilty of it... but it’s the truth, and it's part of a very frightening trend, that gives me zero hope for the future.

September 25, 2009 12:18 PM


And this is from Clem's blog, which is usually more substantive and less a political polemic than Cruickshank's.

Clem is writing about Context Sensitive Solutions and their current emerging role in the "outreach" aspects of the public relations agenda of Caltrain/HSR.

As I have repeatedly stated, the rail people are playing an elaborate game with us called "OUTREACH." It's like Monopoly, only with real money; our real money. They pretend to listen to us, and we pretend that we are having an impact on their decision-making. Another name for this game is Charade. Scoping comments is the way the game is introduced. And it is played until the winner makes the decisive decisions. Clem points out that these are made far earlier, indeed before the game even begins, than we think.

One of the problems with this game is that the winning side has one agenda and improvises ways to follow their clearly defined path. Often they will cheat, but, in this game, that is standard practice. We, on the other hand, have many agendas, including personal ones. We lack what my researcher wife calls a "shared mental model."

And, to use more of her jargon, we are failing in our mission due to what is called a "plan-continuation error." Our pursuit of CSS is too little, too late. That means, although the CHSRA is, figuratively speaking creating a massive thunderstorm, and although we are consciously watching it happen, we nonetheless continue to fly into it in the belief that we can survive it.

Did I not mention previously that Parsons-Brinckerhoff has published a book on CSS? How much more do you need to know about this way of making us feel good without anything actually happening that will benefit us?

CSS, in order to be authentic, must be in effect at the beginning of a project, when it is in its conceptual development. Now, it is far too late. The basic decisions have already been made. For the rail guys, it's all detail work from here on in.

The time when CSS might have been effective is the time when we should have asked, where is the State Master Plan for Transportation? Where are the strategic studies, (not the crap that CHSRA keeps putting out as PR) that take the air carriers and highways into account, rather than seeking to eliminate them?

What should the relationship be among trucking, rail freight and passenger transit? What is the multi-modal plan for transit in the population centers and what are the most cost-effective ways of connecting the population centers? What will it take to bring the East Bay and the Peninsula into a comprehensive transit network? Where are these questions that should have been asked long before the suggestion of a high-speed train even comes into the conversation?

Meanwhile, we, on the Peninsula, keep putt-putting along, quarreling, quibbling and trying to impress our neighbors with our insider knowledge. Many of our local politicians play their safe and careful game, not offending anyone. And, that’s where we’ll be, same time, same station, a year from now.

It really puzzles me why the fundamentalist rail fanatics like Cruickshank persist in getting all riled up over our NIMBY-ism. It’s not effective and that’s what matters.



"The CHSRA/Caltrain bulletin uses the words Context Sensitive Design Principles, stopping short of using the Solutions keyword. Semantics? Perhaps, but if the CSS process were being applied to the peninsula HSR project, many community design workshops would already have taken place.

It's getting a little late for that, with the CHSRA preparing to reveal the results of months of design work performed entirely out of the public eye by Parsons Brinckerhoff and HNTB--and then only because NEPA and CEQA laws require all the design alternatives to be fully and publicly documented. While the Authority has collected a large amount of community input through its environmental scoping process, all the exchange has so far gone only one way: into the black box. "Thank you for your comment card."

Key design decisions tend to made early, based on top-level requirements specifications and drawings. A list of these appeared in the CHSRA's July 2009 Program Summary Report, starting on page 54. These documents are very important because they establish the framework under which all design work is proceeding. When that work is made public, questioning a design will be ineffective unless we know what the requirements are that produced it.

CSS principles call for design collaboration and concensus building, early and often. Under CSS, the public would have open access to all the requirement specifications and directive drawings that drive the design. At numerous public meetings, however, the CHSRA and its engineering consultants have deferred, side-stepped or dismissed any specific design questions with a cursory "we don't know that yet." They may be concerned about showing bias, compromising the environmental review process, or inflaming community passions, but such coyness is definitely not among the qualities of Context Sensitive Design."