Richard focused on the financial assumptions of the business plan, he said, while Rossi delved into the ridership estimates. Hartnett worked on the "blended approach," which relies on incorporating Caltrain on the Peninsula and Metrolink in Southern California.
Under the phased construction plan, the San Joaquin Valley segment would next be extended either to San Jose or to the San Fernando Valley, and high-speed trains would start to run while the other end of the line is constructed. Until the commuter lines can be electrified, and rails improved to accommodate high-speed trains, passengers would have to transfer to diesel trains to get to downtown San Francisco or Los Angeles.
Trying to 'get it right'Financially, Ross said, the plan relies on high estimates for construction costs, low estimates for revenue and ridership, and assumes that construction will take longer than originally anticipated.
"The plan," Richard said, "is a major departure from the thinking of the past. It is not a promotional plan; it is a business plan."
Hartnett said the plan "has to be solid enough" to restore the confidence of critics.
"We don't get another chance at this," he said. "We've got to get this right."
Questions remainBut critics haven't been silenced.
"The business plan is the first step in the right direction," said state Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield. "While many in the valley would like to see additional transportation infrastructure, it's questionable if this project is viable when you weigh the cost and impact to local communities."
Others, however, are more skeptical.
Elizabeth Alexis, co-founder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design , a Peninsula group that has been critical of the authority, said that she's met with Rossi and Richard, but that the ridership model remains seriously flawed, and so does the authority's relationship with the public.