Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Department of Corrections: Blogging Division

Yesterday, I posted a blog about a peer review committee with an excellent article by Anthony Pignataro.  I confused the legislatively required Peer Review Committee responsible for CHSRA oversight (and headed by Will Kempton), with an internal one created by the HSR Authority CEO, Roelof Van Ark. This one is actually a limited single-issue "Ridership" peer review committee;  more like an in-house consulting contract group. The purpose is to examine the highly flawed ridership numbers and possibly massage them into acceptability.

Big mistake about that confusion and I do apologize.  The posting is: 

We have discussed the importance of ridership numbers previously.  These are the forecasts for how many people will take the train when it is completed and operating.  The higher the numbers, the more financially viable it will be.  The Rail Authority has fudged those numbers from the beginning and they continue to do so today.  To remind you, before the '08 elections, they forecast 117 million annual riders.  After the elections those numbers started to shrink.  Today, they are around 40 million.  Still far too high to be plausible.

It is quite conceivable that if the numbers are realistically much lower, the basic reason for building this $100 billion project vaporizes.

According to Nadia Naik, one of the CARRD founders, mentioned in Pignataro's article, the make-up of this Van Ark-created consulting "peer review committee" contains several members who were involved in the analysis of the original flawed ridership study and mathematical model.  All five of them have been required to maintain total confidentiality about their work.

The issue for the CHSRA is that they have, from the outset, sought to control all information about their activities and plans, and have imposed confidentialilty requirements on all their contractors.  Content control.

This is no different than the cigarette manufacturers who have also maintained a wall of silence around their R&D facilities.  Both kinds of organizations do lots of things to keep secrets about, apparently.  And for similar reasons. The difference of course is that the rail authority is spending taxpayers dollars and then turning around to lie to the taxpayers about what they are doing.  Well, maybe there is not that much difference after all.