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Archive for November, 2011

The Cost of Doing Nothing

It is the oldest line in the book. When white elephant projects fail rational economic analysis, promoters always claim that “the cost of doing nothing isn’t zero”.

A $98.1 billion outlay for high-speed rail must be measured against the alternative. Creating equivalent capacity with 2,300 miles of highways, 115 new airport gates and four new runways would cost $170 billion.

It is amazing how often this rationale is used, but not everyone falls for it:

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California Legislation Year in Review

As the California completes the 2011 Legislative year, let’s survey the results:

SB 910 – the “3 foot passing law” – was passed with broad support in the Legislature, then vetoed by the Governor. Admittedly, this bill was somewhat a token gesture as police officers were unlikely to go around with yard sticks. But still this has become a worrisome trend for bicycle advocates, who are very successful in getting legislation passed only to see bills vetoed by the Governor — especially Democratic Governors. Some advocates may have misplaced trust in Brown. In 8 years as Mayor of Oakland, Brown was at best indifferent to bike/ped issues, and at worst quite inept.

AB 353 – takes away an effective police enforcement measure to arrest unlicensed drivers and to impound their cars. Signed into law by the Governor, this is a real slap in the face to the cycling community. For many years, cyclists have been trying to increase penalties for drivers who injure or kill while driving with a suspended license, or no license at all. Instead, this new law is a major step backwards, and will put non-motorized users at even greater risk.

High-Speed Rail Business Plan – After hounding the Rail Authority for lying strategic misrepresentation over cost and ridership numbers, the CHSRA released a new business plan, in which they all but confess that critics were right all along. And yet, the reaction from Legislators was strangely muted, with Lowenthal declaring “it’s a major step forward.” This is like the proverbial neighborhood dog that chases cars, then finally catches one and is unsure what to do next.

Redevelopment Agencies – One bright spot was the State finally cracking down on Redevelopment Agencies. Even if this was done for the wrong reasons, it will help eliminate the flow of taxdollars to dubious auto-centric projects. That is, if it survives a court challenge.

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