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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Calfornia high-speed ridership estimates are not reliable, state university says


The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s (CHSRA) ridership forecasts are not reliable because they are based on an inconsistent model, according to the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

CHSRA used the model to predict ridership under a variety of scenarios, including different configurations of routing, pricing, frequency of service and travel time.

A study conducted by the university identified “problems” with the model, including inadequate sampling of long-distance travelers, statistical methods that "exaggerated" the importance of frequent service and "false assumptions" about which station travelers would choose to use.

“We found that the model that the rail authority relied upon to create average ridership projections was flawed at key decision-making junctures. This means that the forecast of ridership is unlikely to be very close to the ridership that would actually materialize if the system were built,” said Samar Madanat, the project’s principal investigator, director of ITS Berkeley and UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering. “As such, it is not possible to predict whether the proposed high-speed rail system will experience healthy profits or severe revenue shortfalls.”

However, the agency’s ridership estimates are a “sound tool for high-speed rail planning and environmental analysis,” said CHSRA Chief Executive Officer Roelof van Ark in a written response to the institute.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/6/2010