Saturday, September 01, 2012

GroupThink in District 5

 
To call the candidates for District 5 Supervisor lemmings is an insult to that much-maligned creature. Instead the candidates are more of an example of herd behavior ("each individual group member reduces the danger to itself by moving as close as possible to the center of the fleeing group").
 
This is by way of introduction to the Bicycle Coalition's questionnaire for District 5 candidates that successfully solicits/imposes a remarkable unanimity on important traffic issues facing the city. To these candidates---and of course the Bicycle Coalition---anti-carism and bicycles are the answer to all our traffic problems.
 
That unanimity is disturbed only by two answers by Hope Johnson, who answered "No" to the first question ("Do you ride a bicycle in San Francisco for any purpose?"), the only candidate to do so.
 
Johnson also had the temerity to answer "No" to question number 14 on CEQA "reform." Like any other developer or special interest group, Leah Shahum and the Bicycle Coalition were outraged when the Superior Court rejected the city's attempt to ignore the most important environmental law in California when it began implementing the ambitious Bicycle Plan without any environmental review. Along with developers and the Republican Party, the Bicycle Coalition has been eager ever since to "reform" CEQA to allow the city to screw up traffic on behalf of cyclists without traffic studies or mitigating the impact of their anti-car "improvements" on city streets.
 
Johnson's two negative reponses are like turds in the punchbowl, marring an otherwise perfectly obsequious score by the candidates, as they groveled before this special interest group. But Johnson uncritically supports both the Panhandle bike lanes and the Masonic Avenue project, though, apparently understanding that she's not going to get the SFBC's endorsement, she gets points for mentioning bad behavior by cyclists and proposing license plates for bicycles.
 
Just as important, she and all the other candidates answer "yes" to question number 2: "The City has established a goal that 20% of trips in San Francisco be made by bicycle by 2020. Do you endorse this goal?" Not a single candidate even qualified the answer with something like "I support the goal, but it's probably not possible by 2020."

That goal just shows how dumb City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition think the public is. Judging from the candidates' answers, they aren't wrong. There's no way that goal can possibly be achieved, since riding bikes in SF has only increased from 2.1% to 3.5% in more than ten years, an average increase of .14% per year. To get to 20% by 2020, cycling would have to increase more than 2% a year for the next eight years!
 
The questions are poorly written, with commas strewn around almost at random. Maybe next election the Bicycle Coalition can find an intern who can write. Some of the "questions," like the one on CEQA, are really mini-essays, as if the coalition thought it had to convince the candidates of the validity of its agenda. They needn't have bothered, since the candidates were clearly in major ass-kissing mode. 
 
Questions requiring more than a yes/no response have a "75 word limit" warning, though most of the questions themselves are longer than that. The CEQA question has 119 words, with question number 3 the longest at 193 words.
 
Olague is the biggest windbag, since four of her answers earned a "response truncated" notation when she went over the word limit.
 
Julian Davis, likely to be the winning candidate, sucks up to the coalition as much as the rest, even supporting Congestion Pricing. His answer to question 2, cut short when he went over the word limit, is particularly demagogic: "I will put an end to foot-dragging in City Hall that has negatively impacted [response truncated]." City Hall, including the last two mayors and the Board of Supervisors, has given the Bicycle Coalition everything it's asked for. And of course a single supervisor can't "put an end" to anything.
 
With his answers, Davis demonstrates that he will be a knee-jerk progressive in the Mirkarimi tradition---wrong on every important issue facing San Francisco. He's even backtracked on his opposition to allowing UC to rip off the old Extension property on lower Haight Street.
 
The proper way to deal with a Bicycle Coalition questionnaire.

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Survival of the unfittest

 


by Bent Flyvbjerg

As a case in point, consider the Channel tunnel, the longest underwater rail tunnel in Europe, connecting France and the UK. This project was sold as highly beneficial both financially and economically. At the initial public offering, Eurotunnel, the private owner of the tunnel, lured investors by telling them that 10 per cent "would be a reasonable allowance for the possible impact of unforeseen circumstances on construction costs." In fact, costs went 80 per cent over budget for construction and 140 per cent for financing, measured in real terms from the decision date. Revenues have been half of those forecasted. As a consequence the project has proved non-viable, with an internal rate of return on the investment that is negative, at –14.5 per cent. However convenient for the users of the service---who are heavily subsidized---the Channel tunnel detracts from the economy instead of adding to it. An economic and financial ex post evaluation of the project, which systematically compared actual with forecasted costs and benefits, concluded that "the British Economy would have been better off had the tunnel never been constructed."
 
Thanks to New Geography for the link.

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