Ten public records requests asking for ridership documentation from the California High Speed Rail Authority occurred between the dates of March 22 and July 14th by Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CARRD) and they still have no information.
Alexis commented that the review of the ridership model is happening behind closed doors and CARRD had to resort to the public records request to find out what is going. She noted these public records requests are being ignored; and that what should take 2 weeks (by law) has not been fulfilled in 3 months. “It’s inadequate and unlawful,” Alexis stated this in the 90 second time, which she was allowed to speak at the July 14th High Speed Rail Meeting held in Bakersfield. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVbcAjW9C9U
The High Speed Rail has been conducting a review of the highly criticized ridership model for purposes of model “refinement.” The work which started approximately mid-January 2011 has been done in complete seclusion. The CEO made the reviewers sign a confidentiality agreement promising that they report only to him.
The ridership peer review group was contractually bound to provide a report within 15 days of its first meeting in January. “The 5 members of the panel were paid up to a total of $187,800 for their work related to this initial meeting,” reported CARRD. But the Authority’s Deputy Director, Jeff Barker insisted there was nothing from March 22 to the last phone communication on July 14th when Barker said, “There are no documents; we are busy; any documents are draft and you just want to make us look bad on your website.” See all the documentation at http://www.calhsr.com/resources/ridership-forecast/
CARRD has reason to believe that the report was sent to the Authority prior to April 21st.
As a reminder the Public Records Act, proposition 59 was approved by an 83% voter approval in order to promote transparency and the law is simple. The public agency is supposed to produce the records within 10 days or request an extension of up to 2 weeks if they have to obtain off site records or their personnel who do this work are not available. The law does exclude some privacy issues but it’s a very narrow range.
As a bit of history, June 30, 2010, the University of California at Berkeley, Institute of Transportation (ITS) analyzed the Cambridge Systematic numbers and found they were not fit for public policy use and had error bands so wide that it wasn’t possible to determine if the system would make a profit or a loss. The Rail Authority debated the findings, said it was a disagreement among professionals, between real world and academia. http://www.its.berkeley.edu/publications/UCB/2010/RR/UCB-ITS-RR-2010-1.pdf
Even after a Senate hearing, the Rail Authority was not required to redo the ridership numbers under an independent source instead they were permitted to do their own review of their own questionable numbers; though there are qualified individuals on the team, let’s face it, it’s like the fox guarding the hen house since it’s under the CEO’s guidance. Even the Independent Peer Review, who usually advises primarily on financial issues (different than the ridership peer review group) warned earlier this month that any ridership numbers coming from an internal investigation “will not produce an output that has been thoroughly and transparently vetted by various outside agencies involving the project.
Why does anyone care about this? The ridership study or model as it’s called, is the foundation for the entire high-speed rail project. It determines the scope, the routes and the revenue – – and whether the state will make or lose money on High-speed rail.
As one newspaper guy once told me, public records requests are easy, the hard part is fighting for what they don’t want to give you.
CARRD is seeking legislative help to obtain the documents.
See some past articles which will help simplify this perplexing subject.