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High Speed Rail Critics Assail Ridership Projections

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The number of riders on the high speed rail line that will eventually connect Los Angeles and San Francisco are either too high, or too low, a new UC Berkeley study finds.

The High Speed Rail Authority is set to hear from researchers next week who question the accuracy of estimates being used to gauge environmental impact and guide other decisions related to the project.

The director of Cal’s Institute of Transportation Studies, Samer Madanat, said a review requested by the state Senate uncovered “technical flaws” in the models developed by the contractor, Cambridge Systematics.

“They made a number of decisions, a small number of decisions, that led to a model that I would describe now as unreliable,” Madanat said.

That means healthy profits or severe losses for a rail line whose bullet trains will travel 220 miles per hour depend on reliable access to the stations, said Charles Marsala of the Atherton City Council.

“How are these facilities going to transform themselves into mini-airports? If they don’t then ridership doesn’t meet the expectations.”

The state has been awarded 2.25 billion dollars in stimulus finds for high speed trains, but Marsala said not enough study has been done.

“Studies should have been done that would indicate the total infrastructure needed to support these ridership numbers and the costs. And we’ve known that the cost of the ticket is already off by more than 50 percent,” he said.

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