Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Peer Review Committee of the California High-Speed Rail Authority is its rubber stamp

Why does the CHSRA peer review committee take this position of supporting the discredited ridership study when solid, academic, empirical and mathematical evidence point just the opposite way?  That is, the Cambridge Systematics, Inc. findings of ridership (39 million annual passengers) are severely flawed and grossly overestimated.

The answer to that question is that the peer review committee reports directly to CEO Roelof Van Ark and will not tell him anything he doesn't want to hear. Furthermore, the peer review committee likes its job.  Why threaten it by rejecting ridership numbers for being too high?  If they demanded more accurate forecasts, with resulting lower numbers, there would be even less justification for the development of this HSR project than there is now.  Therefore. . . . they would be putting themselves out of a job.

The originial CSI study was supported by the MTC which is a Bay Area-wide organization devoted to processing funds and supporting any rail project, anywhere, anytime.  There were a lot of shenanigans between the MTC and the Cambridge group about releasing data, providing the model on which the judgements were based, etc.  That has never been fully cleared up.

The history of these ridership numbers is sordid and beset by gross distortions and outright lies. 

The peer review committee was intended to be an independent oversight committee.  Its purpose was to review what the rail authority produced as planning and implementation, and provide critical and corrective analysis. It is just the opposite.  It has been co-opted totally by the rail authority and its staff.  To put it bluntly, they are in bed together. 

What possible value does this peer review committee have now?

Answer: the peer review committee has no value to the California taxpayers, voters and citizens whatsoever. They will rubber stamp any basic decisions made by the CHSRA and staff.

Rail Authority says new study affirms ridership potential

September 6, 2011 9:03pm
•  Review was made following public pressure
•  ‘Report clearly indicates that the ridership model is a useful and dynamic tool’

A peer review panel says that the model and data used for ridership and revenue forecasts for high-speed rail in California provides a solid foundation for project planning, the California High-Speed Rail Authority says.

“We are satisfied with the documentation presented in Cambridge Systematics, and conclude that it demonstrates that the model produces results that are reasonable and within expected ranges for the current environmental planning and Business Plan applications of the model,” says the report, provided to the California High-Speed Rail Authority last week and revealed this week.

The Rail Authority convened the peer review panel earlier this year to examine the ridership and revenue forecasting process used by Cambridge Systematics to produce the estimates used in planning and environmental work. This was in direct response to calls from observers for a more in-depth review of the approach Cambridge Systematics used to arrive at its ridership forecasts.

“The peer review report clearly indicates that the ridership model is a useful and dynamic tool,” says Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark. “We will continue to refine the model and add the latest data to forecast demand for the state’s high-speed rail system.”

The ridership model has been used for planning the state’s high-speed rail system. One of its first major uses was estimating the ridership for the full system so that planners could determine the largest possible impacts that would require mitigation.

A practical range of updated ridership forecasts reflecting new data will be included in the Rail Authority’s upcoming October business plan, it says.

The report concluded that the model is appropriate for its intended uses, will provide a sound basis for future forecasting needs and will continue to be improved to support more detailed analyses, says the Rail Authority.

The group reviewed documentation and data that contributed to the development of the ridership model. In addition, the panel reviewed new survey data related to long distance travel behavior, and methods to address the uncertainties of population and employment growth.

The statewide ridership and revenue model, and the data it uses, was initially developed under contract to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in 2004 through 2007, in cooperation with the Rail Authority. The data and model were subsequently used by Cambridge Systematics to produce the ridership forecasts for the train system’s Bay Area to Central Valley program environmental review process.


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