As we've discussed earlier, wealthy Peninsula communities like Palo Alto and Menlo Park have been seething for years about the plan to bring the LA-SF high-speed rail line through their pristine environs. They've filed some lawsuits that would require the CA Rail Authority to rewrite their environmental impact studies, and brought a 1,000-year-old tree into the argument. The latest lawsuit contends that the authority "gamed" their computer models that predicted ridership demand for the train in order to prove that it was necessary to route the train south from S.F. to San Jose, over the Pacheco Pass to the Central Valley, rather than east and over the Altamont Pass, following the route of 580. You see, some people in Palo Alto would rather see them build another damn bridge over the Bay than have the train come anywhere near them.
As California Watch reports, in their latest lawsuit they're asking Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny to order the rail authority to redo its environmental studies. Part of what's underpinning their argument is criticism from a Palo Alto citizens group cleverly called Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design. Group co-founder Elizabeth Alexis analyzed the models in the rail authority's studies and claims they were rigged to prove that more people down in Gilroy, etc., would ride the trains. She claims that this affects all the financial assumptions of the plan, and that the authority should be forced to rewrite the studies.
The rail authority says they chose the route because the Altamont route would face insurmountable political and environmental opposition, and would require building another bridge across San Francisco Bay, which we can probably all agree will never happen.
Who wants to bet Alexis and other Peninsula denizens will find major flaws in the new studies too, unless they say what they want them to say?
UPDATE: Elizabeth Alexis writes to us here at SFist HQ.
My name is Elizabeth Alexis and you referenced my work in your article that was posted today on sfist.com about high speed rail. You state that I have a "clear agenda of keeping the train out of her backyard."
I would state for the record I have no such agenda. It seems difficult for people to believe but we would just like to see a much better policy process, in terms of transparency and the use of facts, in place.
Indeed, we submitted comments to the California High Speed Rail Authority as part of the environmental review process suggesting a route through Palo Alto as the obvious route they should study. (see page 2 "Study an Altamont Alignment that would serve San Francisco and San Jose on one route" available on our website http://www.calhsr.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/CARRD-Ridership-comments-for-Program-Level-EIR.pdf )
I would be very interested to here on what basis you made the statement in the posting. We have found that people's presumption that any criticism must be self-motivated is part of the problem. It allows project promoters to dismiss anything negative as "NIMBYISM". This eliminates checks and balances and all those things that lead to well though out projects.