Archive for July, 2011

Can Anyone Spare $45 Million?

SMART DMU planners still trying to develop a convincing budget plan:

On Wednesday the Metropolitan Transportation Commission decided to delay a vote on the money after Farhad Mansourian, the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency’s acting chief, concluded last week the rail project would cost another $45 million.

You know what would help save $45 million? Not paying a nearly 100% cost mark-up for proprietary DMUs. And not wasting huge amounts of diesel fuel on the FRA weight-penalty.

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MTC Moves

It is hard not to see a lot of symbolism in the MTC”s decision to move out of Oakland. Until 2006, the MTC was next door to the BART headquarters. Their new location will be next door to the SF Transbay Terminal.

Goodbye BART, hello high-speed rail.


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Why Judges Shouldn’t Design Computer Software

While it is true that California’s court system handles a huge caseload, it boggles the mind that a Statewide Computerized Case Management System should cost $2 billion!

Projected in 2004, the AOC’s earliest available cost estimate for the system was $260 million, an amount that grew substantially to $1.9 billion based on the AOC’s January 2010 estimate. Over the same period, complete deployment to the superior courts has been postponed by seven years, from fiscal year 2008–09 to fiscal year 2015–16. However, the $1.9 billion estimate fails to include costs that the superior courts have already incurred to implement the interim versions—which they reported to us as costing nearly $44 million—as well as the unknown but likely significant costs that superior courts will incur to implement CCMS.

And just how useless is this $2 billion software boondoggle?

Interestingly, in response to our survey of the 51 superior courts that do not use an interim system, 18 superior courts said that their
existing case management systems are currently meeting all of their needs. In replying to another question, 32 of the 51 superior
courts reported that their existing systems will serve them for the foreseeable future. Of particular concern is that just 12 of these
51 superior courts that do not use an interim system submitted responses that were generally positive about CCMS or that did not
discuss potential challenges associated with CCMS deployment. Many of the remaining 39 superior courts expressed uncertainty about the statewide case management project. For instance, the Superior Court of Kern County (Kern) reported that it perceives no benefit to the AOC’s plan to replace Kern’s current systems with CCMS and that it would refuse implementation as currently proposed.

This ‘CCMS’ is nothing more than what web programmers call a Content Management System, or ‘CMS’. CMS is a mature Web 2.0 technology. In this day and age of off-the-shelf CMS and Cloud Computing, it is inconceivable  that Deloitte Consulting might receive $2 billion for this technology.

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Triple-A Assholes

The California AAA explains to Will Campbell why it could not support a 3-foot passing law for bicycles:

When our amendments were not included, we took an oppose-unless-amended position on the bill and still attempted to work with the author and bill supporters to improve the bill. Amendments we sought included identifying the road geometric and traffic conditions where motorists could pass at less than three feet if passing at three feet would risk a crash with oncoming traffic or would otherwise be illegal.

In other words, the AAA wanted a loophole allowing motorists to make unsafe passing maneuvers.


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At least the USA isn’t the only country with idiotic procurement rules:

In the mass-transit business, purchasers want to buy the best equipment at the best price. But they face intense political pressure from the governments that finance these megaprojects to steer contracts to local companies, and workers. Bombardier – like its German, French, Spanish and Japanese rivals in the rail business – knows how to play the national card. That’s why Bombardier engineered a series of European and U.S. acquisitions in the 1980s and 1990s. And that’s why it assembles rail cars in the tiny border town of Plattsburgh, N.Y.

Within Canada, Bombardier splits rail work between its main plant in La Pocatière, Que., and a second plant nearly 2,000 kilometres away in Thunder Bay, to help secure contracts in Canada’s largest province. Alstom is building its own plant in Sorel, Que., to do the Montreal Métro work. It is the taxpayers who are paying for this needless production redundancy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if those surplus workers could be put to work instead building new track?

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Amtrak Kills Streetcar Connector

Clueless Amtrak bureaucrats kill a DC Streetcar connector, in order to preserve ROW for an insane $100+ billion HSR vaporware project:

Back in April, the District Department of Transportation’s point man on streetcars, Scott Kubly, assured the denizens of H Street NE that they were still working with Amtrak to run the western end of the streetcar underneath the railroad tracks, creating a direct connection to Union Station and transit links to the rest of the city.

Not long after, however, Amtrak started saying “no,” citing a desire to preserve space for high-speed rail infrastructure in its long-range master plan—if it ever gets funded. Now, it looks like DDOT’s preferred option is dead, and with it the District’s hope of hitching the streetcar directly to Metro.

Plan “B” now is to dump streetcar passengers way out in a parking lot.


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Grade Inflation

LOS (Level of Service) is one of the most misunderstood metrics of traffic analysis.

The term is familiar to anyone who has read an EIR. LOS assigns a “grade” for intersection performance. The grades run from “A” to “F”, with “A” being most free-flowing, and “F” having the most delay.

The first misunderstanding  is that LOS measures vehicles, not people. So a delay to a bus with 40 passengers counts the same as an SOV. Most environmentalists are aware of this issue, and some localities try to compensate for this.

The second misunderstanding is that LOS only measures delay during the “peak-of-the-peak” (usually just the busiest 15 minutes of the day). Many people will see a bad grade and not understand that it only applies to a small portion of the day.

But the really big misunderstanding is that LOS “A” is not the best grade. LOS “A” means the road is overbuilt. In other words, taxpayers wasted money on the roadway. The best grade is actually around “C”. Intersections with LOS “C” still perform pretty darn well during peak hours, and very well the rest of the day.


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Interesting development in Livermore:

In a surprising about-face, Livermore’s leaders Monday yielded to a group that wants the future BART-to-Livermore extension to stay on the freeway. Mayor Marshall Kamena, Vice Mayor John Marchand and Councilwoman Marj Leider voted 3-2 for an initiative aimed at keeping stations along Interstate 580. Councilmen Jeff Williams and Doug Horner were the dissenters. Kamena made the motion to adopt the initiative, essentially forcing the council to renounce its earlier endorsement of BART’s plan to build stations downtown and at Vasco Road.

A downtown location is better than a freeway median, but not if it means digging a $3 billion subway through ex-urban greenfield. Still, it is disheartening that residents opposed the downtown alignment for all the wrong reasons:

A coalition called Keep BART on 580 formed earlier this year, with members walking door to door to gather signatures for the initiative. The group argued an underground route downtown was a bad idea, citing undesirable high-density housing, the planned destruction of 11 homes and possible increased crime though City Council had pledged to build a police substation at the station.

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Billions of dollars are being spent to extend BART to Milpitas. And that’s after billions were spent running VTA light-rail to Milpitas. So what is Milpitas planning to do with this transit infrastructure? Perhaps build some transit-oriented development, or nice walkable neighborhood?

Milpitas City Council, convening as the city’s redevelopment agency, voted 3-0 on consent June 21 to execute a $100,000 contract agreement with San Jose-based David J. Powers & Associates Inc. for a plan line study for the Montague Expressway widening, which will add a fourth lane in both directions of the expressway.

Incidentally, the VTA will be covering some of the costs of this monstrosity.

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Happy Malaise Day

July 15, 1979 – On this day in history, President Jimmy Carter gave his “malaise” speech:

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. . . .

I’m asking you for your good and for your nation’s security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel… I have seen the strength of America in the inexhaustible resources of our people. In the days to come, let us renew that strength in the struggle for an energy-secure nation.

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