News


Rod Diridon not renamed to rail authority board

After a decade on the board, he is replaced in a last-minute round of appointments by outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Longtime transportation advocate Rod Diridon Sr. will not be reappointed to the California High Speed Rail Authority board, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced in a last-minute round of appointments Thursday.

Diridon, who was first named to the nine-member board in 2001, has pushed hard for the high-speed-rail project, currently estimated to cost about $43 billion, to link San Francisco to Los Angeles.

In Diridon's place, Schwarzenegger appointed Matt Toledo, publisher of the Los Angeles Business Journal, along with four others, the governor's press office announced. The governor gets to name five members of the board, while the state Senate and Assembly each get to name two.

Schwarzenegger reappointed Curt Pringle, the current chairman of the authority board, and members Lynn Schenk, and David Crane, a special adviser to Schwarzenegger.

A vacancy due to the resignation of former board member Richard Katz was filled by the appointment of Thomas Richards, a Fresno real estate developer and a major donor to Schwazenegger's "California Dream Team" in 2009.

Diridon anticipated not being reappointed, according to news reports. He told the San Jose Mercury Friday that the change has been "signaled for quite some time." He said Schwarzenegger wanted people with "very strong business backgrounds" on the rail board as it moves into the construction phases of the project, the Mercury reported.

Diridon is executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University, and was dubbed the "father of transit" in Silicon Valley and region for his nearly 40 years of advocacy, including 20 years on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. He was given major credit for the creation of the county's light-rail system.

His departure from the board comes to mixed reviews from South Bay, with some officials expressing concern about the loss of a voice from the area on the authority board while others opposing surface or elevated high-speed rail through their Peninsula communities felt Diridon was dismissive of their concerns.

His full biography is on the authority's website:

Rod Diridon, Sr., the son of an immigrant Italian railroad brakeman, is the "father" of modern transit service in California's Silicon Valley (Santa Clara County). His political career began in 1972 as the youngest person ever elected to the Saratoga City Council. He recently retired because of term limits, after completing 20 years and six terms as chairperson of both the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and Transit Board.

He is the only person to have chaired the San Francisco Bay Area's (nine counties and 104 cities) three regional governments: the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Rod has chaired over 100 international, national, state and local community service programs and projects, most related to transit and the environment. He served, in 1993, as the chairperson of the American Public Transit Association in Washington, D.C., and more recently as the North American Vice President of the International Transit Association in Brussels.

He has been an advisor to the Federal Transit Administration and in 1995 chaired the National Research Council's Transit Oversight and Project Selection Committee. Rod currently chairs the NRC's Transportation Research Board's study panel on "Combating Global Warming Through Sustainable Transportation Policy." He is frequently asked to provide testimony to Congressional Committees.

Promoting international understanding and commerce, then-Supervisor Diridon founded and has been the principal liaison for the Santa Clara County Sister County Commissions with the Province of Florence, Italy, and the Region of Moscow in Russia. He has given speeches promoting mass transportation and environmental protection in over 45 U.S. cities and a dozen foreign countries.

Rod is on the corporate boards of directors of the San Jose National Bank and the Empire Broadcasting Company. From 1969 to 1976, he founded and served as president of the Decision Research Institute, where he developed a "shared survey" research procedure subsequently adopted by the UNICEF of the United Nations.

In 1976, Rod chaired the campaign for the first successful 1/2-cent sales tax for transit in California, and subsequently chaired five successful transit master plan elections and tax measures. He was the Northern California co-chair for both the 1988 Dukakis and the 1992 Clinton campaigns and several others.

He is president and founder of the California Trolley and Railroad Corporation, chairs the area's League of Conservation Voters Board, and is active in numerous community programs promoting environmental protection, historic preservation and youth programs. He is especially proud of son Rod, Jr. (a Santa Clara City Council member), and daughter Mary Margaret (a County youth counselor/medical social worker). Rod is currently the executive director of the Norman Y. Mineta International Institute for Surface Transportation Policy Studies created by Congress in 1991.

Rod earned both B.S. in accounting and M.S. in business administration from San Jose State University, and was a Naval Officer with two Vietnam combat tours. He was chosen one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of America in 1972, listed in Who's Who in America since 1974, and among the ten most influential Silicon Valley leaders since 1980.

He was recently named one of the "Millennium 100" who contributed most to the success of Silicon Valley. Upon his retirement from elected office in 1994, the historic Amtrak/Caltrain Station in San Jose was renamed the San Jose Diridon Station in his honor. He has received numerous other awards and citations.

Appointed by the Governor of the State of California.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by The Terminator
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 1, 2011 at 10:12 am

Arnold is trying to kick all the Bay Area people off the HSR board. He thinks they are all girly men who are stalling his big project. He is stacking the board with southern California people will ignore the whiners and NIMBYs and develop his HSR legacy quickly.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 1, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Southern Californians get things done. Northern Californians are non-functional above the atomic level.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Palo Alto
on Jan 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.

Rod Diridon lost his way.

The notion of local light rail transit, such as we have it in SV, it largely due to his efforts some years ago. We need more of it in these parts, it lacks critical mass and consequently is a financial sinkhole. We have "Light Rail Light."

Had Rod kept his energy and competence on local transit, we may have seen more here, and his impact could have had affected similar programs in other urban areas that are entirely dependent on the automobile. Denver, Houston, Dallas are some examples.

He became "Rod Quixote" chasing a foolish windmill project, along with his companion, Sancho Quentin.

The Governator can appoint whoever he wants to this boondoggle. No rational appointee will agree to it actually happening. But this is California, where apparently being a public figure requires a lack of rationality.

I thought Jerry Brown was an awful governor back in the 1970's. I actually think he may have some common sense about this matter and other things. Maybe he as aged like a good wine over the years. We shall see


Like this comment
Posted by That's My Tax Money
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 2, 2011 at 9:06 am

VTA light rail only covers 14% of its cost. Giant joke. And I love railoads. Good to see him go.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2011 at 10:16 am

Government subsidized "Mass Transportation", at least in California, is nothing more than a power-grab by those involved, and a wealth-redistribution scheme that benefits labor unions more than any other segment of the population.

Diridrn won't be missed.


Like this comment
Posted by Northern Californian
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jan 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Wasn't Southern California the place that got rid of public transportation and commuter rails for highways and cars? So now you're going to tell me they know how to do public transportation. Ha Ha.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 3, 2011 at 12:46 pm

SoCal (LA) got rid of its old streetcar system about the same era the the Bay Area drastically cut back its once extensive ferry services (because they expected the bridges to carry the traffic.) So there is no reason to think the Bay Area has it together and they don't-SoCal used to be a can-do place 20 years ago, but like our area they have lost it.

They just don't discuss it ad-infinitum before finally electing to make bad choices- like we do up here.


Like this comment
Posted by Inside Observer
a resident of University South
on Jan 3, 2011 at 1:47 pm

"VTA light rail only covers 14% of its cost. Giant joke."

Roads, highways, and "freeways" cover 0% of their costs. Gianter jokes.

"Wasn't Southern California the place that got rid of public transportation and commuter rails for highways and cars? So now you're going to tell me they know how to do public transportation. Ha Ha."

Don't laugh; it was private industry wot done it. GM bought up the rail lines and closed them down so people would use cars and buses made by (guess who) GM. Turned a good profit, they did. That was back in the days when private industry got things done on its own, without government life support.


Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 3, 2011 at 3:44 pm

None of our public transportation systems breaks even. Every one is subsidized to a greater or less extent - BART, VTA, CalTrain, CalTrans, etc.

I have no doubt that the HSR will meed subsidies as well. The only question is how much - probably anywhere from 35 to 85% if other rail lines are any example. At least airlines, which are privately owned, rise and fall without taxpayer's money.

Died in the wool Republicans claim they want to reduce taxes and government spending, but when they see a chance to leave a "legacy", all else goes out the window.


Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 3, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Oops, Dyed, not died.


Like this comment
Posted by Frank Flynn
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 3, 2011 at 8:41 pm

"None of our public transportation systems breaks even. Every one is subsidized to a greater or less extent - BART, VTA, CalTrain, CalTrans, etc."

True but don't forget the streets, roads and freeways - which would be in the category of subsided to a greater extent.

But the article was about Mr. Diridon; my thoughts of him are mixed. He has a careers worth of work in public transportation but at several points in this process he came across as arrogant and uncaring. Perhaps the media, but some of the things he's said seemed particularly un-astute politically for example talking about using eminent domain before he had a clear idea of how much land and which specific properties would be affected allowed opponents a huge burst of organizing energy. There were a few time I heard him on the radio he did not come across well.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike Schadlich
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 3, 2011 at 11:13 pm

This is good news for Palo Altans. Diridon has been obsessed with the Pacheco Pass route for HSR, and is THE reason why it was chosen over Altamont. Environmentalists, the majority of Peninsula residents, and the majority of Altamont-route cities favor the Altamont route.

Several studies have shown the Altamont route to have higher ridership, serve more cities, and provide a faster route. Diridon pushed and led the HSRA to pick Pacheco Pass, due to his obsession that San Jose be the 1st bay area station, and fulfilling his lifelong dream of a rail network centered on SJ. It even went as far as resulting in a faulty EIR that was tossed out as inaccurate.

Diridon's single-mindedness has result in wasted time and perhaps millions of wasted dollars. Let's hope Arnold saw the light and appointed members who will be objective, consider the needs and desires of all Californians, and not just one man's (Diridon's) agenda for HSR in California.


Like this comment
Posted by About Development
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2011 at 9:46 am

Folks, HSR is not about providing HSR between SF and LA, it's about an opportunity to develop the entire line through the central valley and over the Pacheco Pass.

In fact, about 18 months ago I read that Schwatzenagger had appointed a committee of developers to see how development could be expanded all the way along the HSR line to LA, but nobody seemed to notice. Now I read that one of the leading southern California developers has been appointed to the HSR Board.

Read - lets open up and build all over California to make as much money for the developers as we can!! Meanwhile farmland and open space will be swallowed up and we'll be as densely populated at south-eastern England.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 4, 2011 at 11:24 am

To NC: Yes, SoCal, mainly LA, got rid of its famous (red car) trolley lines. But peel back the onion and you'll find corporate greed behind the move, not the people. GM and Firestone bought the rail transit company...do the math...GM made and sold city buses...Firestone provided the tires.

Stinks from the head down...


Like this comment
Posted by Inside Observer
a resident of University South
on Jan 4, 2011 at 4:00 pm

"At least airlines, which are privately owned, rise and fall without taxpayer's money."

Um, you left out some huge government subsidies, like the federal Air Traffic Control system that keeps those airplanes from bumping into each other in the sky and becoming falling flaming balls of fire, the Federal Aviation Administration which makes sure the airlines maintain their airplanes ultrasafely (nullifying the free-market forces that encourage a "tolerable" risk of losses), and the taxpayer money to build the airports and the roads that service them.

" Diridon pushed and led the HSRA to pick Pacheco Pass, due to his obsession that San Jose be the 1st bay area station,..."

That is, the San Jose Diridon Station would be the 1st bay area station. It's already named and waiting.


Like this comment
Posted by Less-Government
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2011 at 10:22 am

> you left out some huge government subsidies, like the federal
> Air Traffic Control system

You might want to check the surcharges on your next airplane ticket. There are fees for the FAA, and many airports are also adding "landing/takeoff" fees. Whether these funds are booked as "revenue", or "subsidy" probably doesn't matter--it is money that is directly paid by the users of the transportation service.

Once the government gets involved, financial transparency becomes an instant casualty.


Like this comment
Posted by Inside Observer
a resident of University South
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:43 am

"You might want to check the surcharges on your next airplane ticket."

Those nominal little fees don't begin to cover the cost of establishing and providing the services. Look it up. It's your tax dollars (more accurately, your grandchildren's tax dollars, since the current deadbeat anti-tax generation prefers not to pay its own way).

"Once the government gets involved, financial transparency becomes an instant casualty."

As the new Republican Congressional majority has just demonstrated.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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