Posts Tagged ‘Diridon’

Seen This Bad Movie Before

The Pixar film “Cars” has this great scene, where we learn the sad history of small-town Radiator Springs. You probably remember it: the new interstate highway gets built, and all the shop owners expect it to bring lots of new customers. Instead the interstate causes all the traffic — and customers — to bypasses the town altogether. The town’s economy is decimated.

Radiator Springs may be a fictional place, but the story is all too real. And it gets repeated over and over again: Transportation agencies build new highway bypasses  to “solve” traffic congestion on Main St.. The local business community at first welcomes the new highway, only to realize when it is too late that the bypass sucks the lifeblood out of downtown.

The latest case is Lincoln, California (population 42,000). Two days ago, a new bypass was opened around the city. The $325 million, 12-mile bypass will take some 40,000 cars around the city. It is Placer County’s most expensive transportation project ever. Eventually, the bypass will be widened to 4-lanes and made into a full-fledged freeway.

So how is the local business community responding to the new bypass, and lost business?

While interstates, elevated freeways and bypasses have been blamed for the economic decline of many a small-town Main Street, merchants and officials in the financially struggling city of Lincoln say they are excited to have their downtown back.

“It’s the best thing that has happened to Lincoln in years,” said Terrence Dorsey, who runs an investment business in the back of his wife’s clothing boutique on G Street, which takes the existing Highway 65 through town.

Well ok, but what about the experts at the world-renowned Mineta Transporation Institute? Surely they recognize the problem:

Transportation experts say a new bypass isn’t always the death knell for main streets. Reducing traffic creates an opportunity for a more people-friendly downtown, said Rod Diridon Sr., executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute.

A 2006 study commissioned by the state Transportation Department agreed with Diridon’s assessment, finding that a bypass can lead to increased downtown business activity and other benefits.

Serious question: Has Rod Diridon ever been right about anything?

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Father of VTA Podrail

He will do for podcars what he’s done for light-rail and high-speed rail:

Rod Diridon, Sr., chair emeritus of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, will give a presentation at the Podcar City Berlin 2012 conference September 19-20. Mr. Diridon will address inter-connectivity between high-speed rail (HSR) and automated guideway transit (AGT), popularly known as “podcars.”

“Core redistribution around HSR stations – as well as airports – must include AGT which connects to the metropolitan mass transit systems and to nearby businesses, universities, lodging, and other trip generators,” said Mr. Diridon. “Electrically powered AGT should be considered for every major rail station around the world to promote the use of mass transit as a system.”

Rod Diridon is an accidental expert on podcar systems. With its near empty cars, his VTA light-rail is nearly the functional equivalent of a podcar system.

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The Rod Diridon Quote of the Day

Rail “expert” Rod Diridon on the need for a new transbay rail crossing:

Rod Diridon, executive director for the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State, has long argued for a second BART tunnel under the bay, one that would have allowed BART to keep operating yesterday. And Diridon says the cost–estimates range from 2 billion to as much as 10 billion dollars–would be worth it considering how fast the Bay Area is growing. “Those amounts of funds are chicken feed,” Diridon says, “when you compare it to what happens to the economy of the Bay Area when those access routes are interdicted for any period of time.”

For the record: Diridon strenuously opposed the Altamont alignment for high-speed rail — which would have provided a new Bay crossing. Oh, at a cost much less than $10 billion too.

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What is the difference between a Think-Tank and a PR Firm? Most people would probably answer “Not Much.”

And what if that Think-Tank is government funded?

The Mineta Transportation Institute describes their ogranization as follows:

“It was established by Congress in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and was reauthorized under TEA-21 and again under SAFETEA-LU. The Institute is funded by Congress through the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Research and Innovative Technology Administration, by the California Legislature through the Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and by other public and private grants and donations, including grants from the US Department of Homeland Security.”

It’s Board includes Steve Heminger (Exec. Director of the MTC), Thomas E. Barron (President Parsons Transportation Group) and many other representatives of the transportation consulting complex. Like any other Think-Tank, its publications serve to promote the sponsors. But unlike a corporate Think-Tank, this one is government funded — and it promotes mega-projects that benefit the big construction firms.

Case in point, a report that hit the PR wires just today regarding the California High-Speed Rail project. The report is called Research finding: California high-speed rail can bring positive urban transformations; however, the title of the report is meaningless: there was no actual research. Instead, it is an opportunity for civic boosterism on the part of City Councilmembers and staff regarding the project.

The “study” covers several major stations for the project, but let’s focus on its coverage of San Jose. I selected San Jose not just because the “Institute” is headquartered there, and not just because Diridon Station is named for the Institute’s Exec. Director, but because the Diridon station exemplifies the fact that the HSR will actually bring no transformation whatsoever.

Here is the sales pitch from San Jose’s Transportation Policy Manager, Ben Tripousis (page 138):

As Tripousis reasoned, “With a fully builtout Diridon station, we will have more transit nodes than Transbay in San Francisco with HSR, BART, light rail, Amtrak, and Caltrain. We like to think that it sets us up to be in a position to have people take transit to transit.” Dennis Korbiak expects that the HSR will spur development around the Diridon station, adding a significant area that is currently underdeveloped to the downtown core. Station area design consultant, Frank Fuller, envisions the Diridon station as a dense urban center with mixed-use, office, and entertainment uses applications, “which is likely to appeal to a demographic of younger technology-based individuals employed in the area, and possibly encouraging many of them to live  near the station.

And what about the pedestrian and bike environment? The Diridon area, like the rest of San Jose, is awful for bikes and peds. And the huge parking planned around the station won’t make it any better. But you wouldn’t know that from the Mineta Institute report:

This would really be a vibrant place, with a lot of attention given to place-making, and major attractions for urban dwellers and visitors…. There will be virtually no car traffic through that area; it will be entirely pedestrian and bike, with a few exceptions – maybe taxis and zip cars.

Whoever put that paragraph in the report ought to be, um, institutionalized.

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Former Board member Rod Diridon describing the communication dysfunction at the California High-Speed Rail Authority:

California, according to former rail board member Rod Diridon and a number of those affected by the planned train, got off to a poor start with its outreach programs. Statewide public relations were under the supervision of main engineering contractor Parson Brinckerhoff. Regional outreach contracts were awarded by the engineering firms in charge of the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley and Los Angeles-Orange County.

Diridon said four years ago “I identified the fact we were having a real problem with some of the engineering groups saying one thing and the board saying another thing.”

That Diridon, of all people, would make this statement is ironic. He was notorious for speaking over staff at meetings, and giving the public erroneous information. This situation had become so awful that staff asked Diridon to refrain from attending public meetings. Eventually, the Governor had him replaced.

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Some $10 billion in Federal, State, and regional funding will be spent building new BART and high-speed rail lines into San Jose Diridon Station. Given that unprecedented level of transit investment, we can expect San Jose to make major zoning changes, right?

Well last Tuesday, council was presented the Staff recommendation. And as you read this, keep in mind they hired consultants, and did over one year of public outreach meetings to come up with this 1-line recommendation:

Parking goals only, no proposed changes to current code

So despite a 10-figure expenditure on new rail lines, San Jose will keep its existing auto-centric development patterns. And what might that look like? The Alternatives Analysis Report projects 15,000 new parking spaces in full build-out scenarios. That is in addition to some 5,000 parking spaces for the station itself. And if a new ballpark is built, there could be even more parking.

Ironically, the San Jose decision comes at the same time the CA High-Speed Rail Authority adopted its Station Area Development Planning Guidelines. That policy calls for “reduced parking requirements for retail, office, and residential uses due to their transit access and walkability.”

But the planners did make some pretty pictures! Too bad they bear no resemblance to reality.

No cars, no parking evident in this artist rendition

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