Today’s SCL news and notes include a new report on California High Speed Rail estimates, downtown’s Commercial Building preservation efforts, and Stockton’s low-allergy advantage.
Stockton City Limits featured in the Central Valley Business Journal
I would like to thank the good people at the Central Valley Business Journal for giving me an opportunity to write a column for their April issue. In the column, I discuss evolving consumer preferences for more walkable communities in established neighborhoods, which is nothing new for regular SCL readers. You can read the article here.
Study: California High Speed Rail estimates are reasonable
Last week, I discussed the potential benefits that high speed rail service could bring to the Stockton area. Some readers took issue with these benefits, feeling that the state has mislead its residents about the project’s benefit. These arguments are valid, but new research shows that the estimates used by the state were not as far fetched as some may believe. The Government Accountability Office (GAO)* released a report last week bolstering the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) while silencing some of the project’s critics to some extent. Here’s what GAO found:
“The Authority’s ridership and revenue forecasts to date are reasonable and the methods used to develop them followed generally accepted travel-demand-modeling practices.”
This is welcome news for CHSRA’s much maligned estimates which have been attacked by critics as overly optimistic. Much to the contrary, GAO says that the authority followed appropriate travel-demand modeling practices and substantially met GAO’s best practices for cost estimating. Moreover, GAO finds that CHSRA comprehensively identified the project’s economic impact.
Interestingly, GAO finds the most fault with the Federal Railroad Administration, saying that sufficient cost estimating guidance is not provided. There are certainly reasons to oppose High Speed Rail (such as the decision to begin construction between Fresno and Bakersfield), however it appears that unrealistic estimates– at least the ones studied by the GAO– are not one of those reasons.
*full disclaimer: I am employed by the GAO. However, I am not a member of the team that conducted this research and I did not contribute to this report.
Derivi Construction and Architecture has been awarded the Cultural Heritage Board Award for Excellence for their work on the Commercial Building downtown, previously featured here and here. This award is given annually to both rehabilitated historic buildings and new civic projects exhibiting a commitment to community enhancement, according to the city’s cultural heritage board website.
This is a nice honor for DCA and others who have worked hard to preserve the Commercial Building. However, the list of past recipients is somewhat puzzling. While previous winners include many projects aimed at preserving or enhancing the city’s heritage– the Kress Legal Center, Dean DeCarli Square and the Hotel Stockton– some recipients are head scratchers, such as the John’s Incredible Pizza building, the Trinity Parkway Bridge railings (?) and a real estate office in Brookside. These projects aren’t necessarily the first that come to mind when you think of Stockton’s heritage, at least for me. Nonetheless, congratulations to DCA and the Commercial Building for their award and their progress to date.
Stockton: Allergy safe haven?
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America just released their “Spring Allergy Capital” list for 2013, and Stockton ranks very well. The rankings are determined by a simple compilation of pollen levels, allergy medication used per person, and the number of allergy specialists per person. The results show that if you have bad allergies, you should stay away from the south. By comparison, Stocktonians have it much easier when it comes to allergies as the city ranks 92nd overall, up from 82nd last year. These results seem to parallel a similar list put together by WebMD in 2010 which lists Stockton at 86th.
So it appears that we can lay claim to another reason why Stockton is not miserable: allergies are not that bad.