Getting Things Done….Or Not Done

There’s getting things done…..and then there’s talk of getting things done. This article examines the difference between the two.

Continue reading here…

Moving a Project

In the case of creating an integrated system of trains and buses sufficiently connected to make a material dent in gridlock, the things to get done include:

– Pursuant to a careful and objective alternative analysis, winnowing down the potential alternatives to a manageable number

– Determining a preferred alternative including route and station locations

– Obtaining necessary stakeholder input and consensus-building

– Activating a conceptual design team

– Developing a conceptual engineering design to the 30% design level and completing a professionally prepared conceptual cost estimate

– Securing the necessary funding

– Securing environmental clearance and other necessary approvals

– Working with the utility companies to relocate existing utilities as required

– Acquiring right-of-way as necessary

– Activating a final design team

– Completing the final design, construction, testing and startup of the project

Talking About Moving a Project

The Bay Area is great at this. Not to say that advance planning isn’t important and necessary, but when the pre-action talk phase is unnecessarily extended and the result is invariably projects that take too long to complete and cost too much.  Progress is often slowed down by such actions as:

– Endlessly repeating and rewriting desirable goals and objectives

– Endless discussions over unnecessarily large numbers of permutations and combinations

– Staffers, consultants and sometimes policy-makers who forget their important roles as objective analysts and allow themselves to become biased advocates

– Long, repetitive and detailed descriptions of “process”

– Detailed Instructions as to what other people should do

– Consultant reports that are two to ten times longer than they need to be because, with word processing and digital technology it’s easy to do, coupled with the perverted notion that “length adds gravitas”.

– Meddling with and second-guessing the conclusions of others

– Attempts by assorted politicians and outside groups to pervert the intrinsic purpose and value of a project in order to cater to outside interests

– A fear-driven tendency to “keep our options open” that often impedes decision-making.

Examples of not getting it done

In 2008 the people of California approved Proposition 1A, whose initial phase was to build a 380-mile high speed connection between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Thirteen years later the first 115 mile segment of the line, between Madera and Bakersfield, is in various stages of construction. The anticipated date of the opening of this greatly foreshortened system is unknown.

After the Bay Bridge’s East Span was damaged in 1989 by the Loma Prieta Earthquake it took 24 years to complete the 2.1 mile replacement roadway

In November of 1999 the people of San Francisco voted overwhelming to extend the 78-mile Caltrain line 1.3 additional miles into downtown San Francisco. Twenty two years have passed and there is as yet still no conceptual engineering design or bonafide conceptual cost estimates. 

Getting the 1.3 mile long, 2-car Central Subway up and running has so far taken two decades and we’re not there yet

Conclusion:  When it comes to transportation infrastructure the Bay Area continues to fall behind.  Additional attention should be given speeding things up while holding the line on costs. 

One thought on “Getting Things Done….Or Not Done

  1. California Proposition 1A, the High-Speed Rail Bond Measure, was on the ballot as a bond issue in California on November 4, 2008, not 2007.


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