Wednesday, April 27, 2011

One of Rita Wespi's emails with comments about High-Speed Rail

My colleague from Palo Alto, Rita Wespi, mom and entrepeneur, has been a diligent student and documentor of legislative events in the state government in Sacramento.  She is a founding member of a group named Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, CARRD.  

Our communications are not dissimilar from those of other grass-roots rebellions that oppose autocratic government behavior, although we far less violent.  Her several colleagues are also similarly activists in seeking to rectify the flagrant legal violations and disinformation issuing from the California High-Speed Rail Authority public relations machine.

if I have in any way misrepresented this organization, or Rita's intentions, I take the blame and hope that she will forgive me.

Here is one of her emails which I reproduce in it's entirely, complete with the article citations to which she refers:

Two significant articles about high-speed rail came out today which may have implications on California’s planned system.

The first article discusses the metric the Obama administration used for job creation numbers. It turns out that the metric inflates ‘true’ job creation numbers by 300 percent, at least in North Carolina. I believe this would be true for California as well, but it’d be worth verifying. The promise of job creation has played a rather significant role in obtaining public and legislative support for justifying the project.

Backers of a $545-million, federally funded high-speed rail project in North Carolina got a valuable public-relations assist from the Obama administration in the form of a misleading counting technique that inflates potential job numbers by more than 300 percent.

Gov. Bev Perdue, N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Gene Conti, and other supporters of the project claim that the rail endeavor would create 4,800 jobs, when, in reality, the real projection is closer to 1,200 jobs.

What has not been specified in all the press releases and official announcements is that the 4,800-job figure is measured in “job-years,” a metric invented by the Obama administration’s transition team to sell the American public on the incoming president’s controversial $787 billion stimulus plan.

The second article covers China’s recent decision to lower the speeds of their HSR system due to ‘severe’ safety concerns as well as costs. It seems China is experiencing much of the growing pains that we’ve encountered here, although it’s many billions dollars after the fact for them. Perhaps there are some early lessons to be learned.

Last week, the new leadership at the Railways Ministry announced that to enhance safety, the top speed of all trains was being decreased from about 218 mph to 186. Without elaborating, the ministry called the safety situation ‘severe’ and said it was launching safety checks along the entire network of tracks.

The ministry also announced it would reduce ticket prices to boost lagging ridership and would slow construction of high-speed lines to avoid outpacing public demand.

With the latest revelations, the shining new emblem of China’s modernization looks more like an example of many of the country’s interlinking problems: top-level corruption, concerns about construction quality and a lack of public input into the planning of large-scale projects.

Questions have also arisen about whether costs and public needs are too often overlooked as the leadership pursues grandiose projects, which some critics say are for vanity or to engender national pride but which are also seen as an effort to pump up growth through massive public works spending.

The Finance Ministry said last week that the Railways Ministry continued to lose money in the first quarter of this year. The ministry’s debt stands at $276 billion, almost all borrowed from Chinese banks.

Rita Wespi
CARRD - Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design
Phone: 650-269-1781