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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political


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Date: 08/10/18 09:43
Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: mdo

the aspects of decisions    the Practical or the Political,  

which comes first?  For background first read this current article in the L A Times:  
"I have always thought Jeff Denham to be the dimmest bulb in the political chandelier but he is right-on in the assessment of the fiasco—". From a private note to me last night.

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-high-speed-rail-hearing-20180810-story.html

One of the best parts of this series of Chronicle is turning out to be the number of experienced, knowledge people who understand the railroad business, have experience with HSR and are contributing to this discussion.  THANK YOU  all.

Seems to me that one of the first things that young civil engineers and business school graduates have to experience and learn
is to distinguish between practical scientific/technical solutions and socially acceptable and political solutions to problems they are asked to solve in the real world.  This is not an academic exercise.  This is about real life in our society.  This is a very hard lesson
for idealists and perfectionists.  Some never are completely at ease with this fact of life.  However, the way that projects move forward and actually get done is that they get funded somehow, in the public sector usually with tax funds.  This is ALWAYS political!.

Now let's focus on the politics around the history of the CHSR initiative.   Early support for this project was largely at two locations in the San Joaquin Valley in Fresno and Bakersfield.  Once you get this, some of the routing decisions are easy to understand.
The SP found this out the hard way when we tried to get the California CTC to at least consider HSR on the Coast Route.  If you are only trying to connect  the LA Area with the S F Bay Area Then the Coast Route is shorter, faster and cheaper by at least a factor of ten using the same design standards!  
How do I know this?  Because the SP actually laid this out and costed it, using SP right of way.  Under Anschutz the SP would have sold the entire Coast Line to any public agency that wanted to purchase it in the 1992,1993 time frame.  And not only that, for such a discount from its true value, that I am embarrassed to share the asking price.   And we failed!   It does not serve Bakersfield and Fresno

Now let us look at Aliamont Pass vs Pacheco Pass

first Altamont Pass is potentially a faster route to S F.   However it does not serve San Jose without a big out of route detour.
politics again. Silicon Valley is a big political supporter. And which CHSR director comes from San Jose remind me.

you should begin to get the picture.  Enough said for now

and, by the way who helped  the SP design the suggested Coast route, which consultants you ask?
Which consultants?  CONSULTANTS,  consultants, we don't need no stinking consultants!
afterall. They are asking our engineering design people.



 



Edited 9 time(s). Last edit at 08/10/18 19:39 by mdo.



Date: 08/10/18 10:14
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: cctgm

Mike when the CSLRA and the valley Shortlines had rail freight issues Jeff Denham was always helpful and has supported the 45G Shortline tax credit. He seemed to understand the issues with last mile freight service and how important it was to the Central Valley. He took time to visit some of the operations. My feeling about CHSR is that for a lot less they could have had conventional trains with more service for a lot less money.  



Date: 08/10/18 11:56
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: mdo

Would someone please be so kind as to provie me -- and us -- with a link to at least one independent travel-demand study that gives good,solid evidence that shows there is any demand at all for CA HSR?  

And would someone please be so kind as to give me -- and us -- good, solid reasons why CA HSR deseves to get 90% of the state's funds that could otherwise go to rail-transit projects that will lessen highway congestion?  


That is easy.
look at the air travel statics for the last 1,5,10,15, 25 years between the two regions.   That is the reason for the required trip time between end points. It is thought to comparable to a trip by air.

now look at highway travel times. potential rail time much less

Potential reduction in both highway congestion but more important a major reduction in auto emissions 



Date: 08/10/18 11:57
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: CarolVoss

The former director from San Jose is Rod Diridon Sr.  You can check him out on

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_Diridon_Sr.

C

Carol Voss
Salinas, CA



Date: 08/10/18 12:39
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: Margaret_SP_fan

cctgm --
Of course, conventional rail is far less expensive than HSR.  But building a new conventional rail system would not further fatten the bank accounts of the already powerful people wo are pushing CA HSR so hard -- and that is the problem.

To everyone --
Please "follow the money," and you will easily see just exactly who is already benefiting hugely from CA HSR.  It certainly is not We The People, and it never will be.  The real beneficiaries are the well-connected consultants and contractors and, as always, California's political maachine.

mdo --
Yes, I am all too aware that no project, no matter how worthy it is -- can ever get planned and built without political support.  The huge problem is that when too many of the politicians care only about themselves and not at all about We The People, very little that is worthwhile will ever get done, and most projects will either be worthless or horribly mis-managed and thus waste a lot of money and be done with lousy quality control, and very few worthwhile and needed projects will ever get done.  Such as fixing our country's aging infrastructure -- highways, gas and water and sewer lines.  Yet politicians keep pushing for giant money-wasting projects such as CAHSR, the Boston Big Dig, and the Seattle Tunnel.  And evrey dollar spent on these worthless projects is a dollar stolen from hungry and hurting people, and every hour spent on those worthless projectgs is an hour that was not spent on heling people who really need help.

Yes, I know I sound like and am an idealist.  The "machine" that is our society is badly broken and desperately needs fixing.  CA HSR is a huge monkey wrench thrown into this machine, which is supposed to "promote the general welfare."  

And I am all too aware that the SF Bay Area has the 19th biggest economy in the entire world, and that that fact give this area enormous political clout.  Which its leaders have been and are absuing badly.  "Power corrupts..."

Public financing of all elections, and mandatory disclosure of excectly who is funding every issue and every election campaign would do a lot to help fix our badly broken society.  

Would that all politicians and business leaders could grow up and learn to really enjoy sharing with others, and learn to enjoy making long-term plans for the good of We The People, and learn to be patient and to enjoy waiting for those long-term good plans to take effect.  And would that all politicians would grow up and become true public servants and statesmen and stateswomen -- who richly deserve our respect.

"Here endeth the sermon."

"We now retun you to your regularly-scheduled programmng."



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/10/18 13:26 by Margaret_SP_fan.



Date: 08/10/18 13:05
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: Margaret_SP_fan

mdo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Would someone please be so kind as to provie me --
> and us -- with a link to at
> least one independent travel-demand study that
> gives good,solid evidence that shows there is any
> demand at all for CA HSR?  
>
> And would someone please be so kind as to give me
> -- and us -- good, solid reasons why CA HSR
> deseves to get 90% of the state's funds that could
> otherwise go to rail-transit projects that will
> lessen highway congestion?  
>
> That is easy.
> look at the air travel statics for the last
> 1,5,10,15, 25 years between the two regions.  
> That is the reason for the required trip time
> between end points. It is thought to comparable to
> a trip by air.
>
> now look at highway travel times. potential rail
> time much less
>
> Potential reduction in both highway congestion but
> more important a major reduction in auto
> emissions 

mdo -- 
Thank you, sir.  But I asked for real travel-demand studies done by people who were not either employed by the CHSRA or whose studies were not paid for by the CHSRA.    And with all due respect to you, sir, but you are not an experienced independent trnsportation planning engineer.  (Neither am I.)  I merely want evidence supporting your claim from experienced unbiased transportation planning engineers.  That is all.

You claim that CA HSR would give a "potemntial reduction in ... highway congestion..."  That is a claim, and not a link to or a quote from an independent travel-demand study.

So -- my request for someone to provide me -- and us -- with at least one independent travel-denand study that shows good, solid evidence that CA HSR will reduce highway congestion has not yet been answered.

And my request that someone please give me -- and us -- good, solid reasons why CA HSR deserves to get 90% of all state funds for all rail transit projects in this state has not yet been answered.

I still await replies from people who can show me -- and us -- such evidence.



Date: 08/10/18 13:50
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: 69440

SP Margaret's concerns are valid and her thought process so accurate regarding California HSR planning and spending.  She is thinking as a taxpayer should and asking very insightful questions which have yet to be answered.  Right on Aunt Bee!



Date: 08/10/18 15:07
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: mdo

Margaret,

i will ill be glad to do your research on goggle for you and at my regular consulting rates, too.
where do I send my bill?
by the way I believe that Caitrans has a lot of this data.  Have you tried Wikapedia.
CARB will also be a good resource 

respectfully,

mdo



Date: 08/11/18 09:45
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: Zephyr

Lots of excellent conversation here in the esteemed MDO Chronicles around California High Speed Rail project!

Here's what the State of California has to say about its project:  http://www.hsr.ca.gov

Some interesting statements contained in the various sections of the report.  Take the time to read through it.  And, remember, the ballot box speaks and does sway the political direction of the state.  All of us here in California have that opportunity come this November, so if you didn't like or continue to dislike the way your local legislator supported or did not support the project, then speak in November.  The legislature gas tax (rendered on all of us without representation) made it to the ballot, so can other opportunities!

Oh, and by the way Margaret, I'm a low cost, low budget consultant, so now you have a choice!

PKB

 



Date: 08/11/18 10:32
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: TAW

mdo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------


> Seems to me that one of the first things that
> young civil engineers and business school
> graduates have to experience and learn
> is to distinguish between practical
> scientific/technical solutions and socially
> acceptable and political solutions to problems
> they are asked to solve in the real world.

That has been one of my rant topics for a long time.

In my experience, engineering, even within the company, determines what operation gets rather than providing the function operation needs. That is not limited to outside engineering consultants. I have listened through engineers' descriptions of what operation needs for which I should have been wearing boots. That applies to the railroad's engineering people as well as the outside consultants. Sure, public agencies have no railroad expertise. Where would any of those folks go to learn it? There are a few isolated courses in universities around the country, but not many and not really comprehensive. There are two railroad engineering programs in the country. One is railroad civil engineering that basically teaches how to build but not especially what to build. The other is a graduate program that comes after an undergraduate program that does not include railroads. I have worked jobs in conjunction with young engineering consultants who didn't know what a railroad signal system is, how it works, or why it is needed. One one project, a senior consulting engineer told me that I would be working with a particular new engineering graduate and I would need to conduct railroading classes in the process of working with him. I have encountered engineers who didn't know that in CTC, trains could follow other trains between control points...and they were developing a control system. Others didn't know the difference between hand throw and power switches. The list goes on.

Why? Rail transportation is just not important enough in the US to preserve the knowledge of how it works. I published the first book on railroad operation published in the US in 50 years (Railway Operation and Control by Joern Pachl). None of the publishers would touch it, which is why I decided to start publishing books. Some years ago, the head of the University of Illinois railroad engineering program observed that Joern Pachl and I doubled the size of his library (making a total of 8 contemporary books). One of those already in his library wais Railroad Engineering by Hay. The final edition is something like 40 years old. This follows the same pattern as the 28 week Instant Experts managing the day to day business of the railroad and the management trainees who come from a college degree that doesn't even have railroad in a spelling test to being in charge of one after a few weeks. RDB, MDO, et al. got their credentials after/in conjunction with their experience credentials. In my experience since about 1980, that was as rare as a major unobtanium strike.

Don't get me wrong. I have worked with realy stellar and even amazing railroad engineers and outside engineering consultants who were railroad engineers. The knowledge retired with them.

Also, don't get me wrong. I'm not an engineer and don't pretend to be one. However, as part of a way way more than 28 week train dispatcher apprenticeship, I was required to learn the fundamentals of track, signals, structures, yard operation, switching, air brakes, locomotives, etc. Train dispatchers were required to be able to work with the engineering department on projects to facilitate operation and were expected to know enough about the working of yards to integrate the main line and yard operation. None of that is, at least in mexperience, required or even available any more.

The knowledge shortcoming needs to be fixed, because there will be increasing numbers of laughable rail projects, including, in my experience, those developed by railroad engineering departments. The background just isn't there, especially since the industry has gone to substantially depending upon engineering consultants who used to be experience rail engineers. The next generation will come from...?

TAW



Date: 08/11/18 11:09
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: mdo

And let us say a few kind words for just common old horse sense!   Lord save us from educated idiots.
Not to mention ninety day wonders.

Sure, I went through the SP's management training program, and I am glad that I did.  These chronicles have been an exploration of what I experienced after that.  What you don't know is how I got to that training program, what did I bring to it in the way of knowledge and experience.  Well an MBA from UC Berkeley,  a BA in political Science and Public Administration from San Francisco State.
But  also,  a year as a billing clerk,  a part time job for a truck leasing co as a clerk,  a summer on a utility co pipe constantly crew,
six months as a draftsman for Cal Trans,  five years as a surveyor for PG&E in their land department.
It took me nine years between high school and that MBA.  I put my self through college. I was 27 when I finished the training program.

 



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 08/11/18 11:35 by mdo.



Date: 08/11/18 11:25
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: TAW

mdo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And let us say a few kind words for just common
> old horse sense!   Lord save us from educated
> idiots.
> Not to mention ninety day wonders.
>  

90? That much?

TAW



Date: 08/11/18 11:37
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: xrds72

I sure enjoy reading MDO, TAW, Carol, Margaret and the others who have a real grasp on such things.

In my early times working at UP in the engineering department (I was on the survey crew in KC when Bill Wimmer was DE there) I would often visit the dispatch office and sit with Tom Spath and try to learn something about the railroad. It has helped my over my career to listen to Ops, Mechanical, etc in order to figure out the best answer to an engineering question. 

I can certainly identify with MDO's comments about practical vs politics. I had a couple rocky episodes during my time at Caltrain, but got through it and hopefully gave some worthwhile direction.

Keep up the good discussion!



Date: 08/11/18 11:39
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: mdo

Gee Tomas,
that is only 13 weeks.



Date: 08/11/18 12:31
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: Margaret_SP_fan

xrds72 --
I am deeply honored to be put in the exalted company of mdo and TAW.  Wow....Thank you very much, sir!  Wow..... I have learned a lot from reading what rails and good managers on here have written, and from what I have read elsewhere -- yes, on AltamontPress.com, too, from real rails.  It has been quite an education!

mdo --
Thank you for giving us your background before you became a manager at SP.  I had no idea you had done all that!  Caltrans and the PG&E, among others?  That is wonderful, as you did have "boots on the ground" experience, which is absolutely essential for everyone, whether or not they even work for any company, if they are to be able to truly understand and make sense of things.

And "horse sense" comes from experience, or reading about others' experiences, as I have done for many, many years.  But one must have the brain wiring and chemistry in order to be able to have any "horse sense" at all.



Date: 08/11/18 13:25
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: TAW

mdo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Gee Tomas,
> that is only 13 weeks.

That's my opinion of, in my experience, how effective the 28 is. The closest I ever came to getting canned was with a 28 week wonder student who knew a little more than everything and pointed out that I didn't know all that much. I quit taking students. At least vs that kind of management, I could cover myself in writing, recorded, or walk away and say - all yours, see ya.

I used to work for guys like you and RDB. I worked for Chiefs that demanded perfection, that's all. I worked for Supts and Asst Supts that understood everything I described at the morning briefing ar on the middle of the night phone calls and made intelligent suggestions/asked intelligent questions. That was all a very long time ago. I have encountered a few good managers and train dispatchers in my consulting work, but certainly not enough of them.

TAW



Date: 08/11/18 14:16
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: CarolVoss

Whever I see pictures of the concrete ugly pillars etc over on the ROW in the middle of nowhere in the Fresno area I think of Stonehenge and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon—- future tourist attractions 50 years from now.😀
C   

Carol Voss
Salinas, CA



Date: 08/11/18 14:44
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: BNSF6400

Zephyr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> All of us here in California have
> that opportunity come this November, so if you
> didn't like or continue to dislike the way your
> local legislator supported or did not support the
> project, then speak in November.  The legislature
> gas tax (rendered on all of us without
> representation) made it to the ballot, so can
> other opportunities!

Rendered on all of us without representation?  The legislature is our representation!  Please note that I didn't say great representation, but they are our elected officials, so the do "represent" us.  If you don't like the gas tax (I don't anybody that does, including me) then we must override what the legislature and governor did thru the Proposition system, which is occuring this November.  Good old American democracy in action.



Date: 08/11/18 15:02
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: Zephyr

Exactly BNSF6400!  Did your representative ask you about the gas/diesel tax?  I would guess not, neither did mine.  You're correct, democracy in action with the proposition on the ballot in November.  Same could be said for HSR for those who are so against it.  They should start a movement to put it on the ballot again.  Somehow, maybe through misrepresentation, we voted on it and it (a huge "IT") has become one of the most negative things talked about in California, almost as much as the Delta Water Tunnels!  



Date: 08/11/18 18:00
Re: Mad Dog Chronicle #313.2. Practical decisions vs Political
Author: mdo

Ladies and gentlemen, we are discussing CHSR on this thread.   Whether the gas tax is too low or should have been authorized long ago, the idea that gas or weight distance taxes should be indexed and raised automatically.  If they are a fair use based tax or are regressive.  Whether the governors over the past forty or fifty years were irresponsible in not raising gas taxes to keep infrastructure in good repair and should there be an Ampenny, are all subjects for a different thread.  Let's keep this one focused on high speed rail, please.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/11/18 18:03 by mdo.



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