The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

Our Mission: Monkeywrench the Anti-Transit Forces

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Wednesday, September 03, 2003


Home of More Transit Links Than You can Possibly Check(tm), Unless you have no life other than websurfing

"Truth passes through three phases: 1) It is ridiculed. 2) It is violently opposed. 3) It is accepted as self-evident." Albert Schopenhouer. In the United States, rail is currently passing through Phase Two.

From the Cabalmaster:

We here at the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal have received a bit of feedback to our coverage of the June 2003 light-rail vote in Irvine, CA.

1.) What is a “Grand Jury,” and

2.) Why did the one in Orange County investigate the CenterLine light rail project?

In brief, each of California’s 58 counties is required by law (the “California Penal Code”) to establish a panel, including either 19 or 23 people (depending on population), charged with investigating alleged civil and criminal violations. Each Grand Jury sits for a term of one year. The Grand Jury has the power to investigate the administration and affairs of any local government, special district or other public agency within the county. Public agencies are required by law to respond to findings and recommendations.

All matters before a Grand Jury are confidential.

Investigations may begin at the discretion of Grand Jury members and, in some counties, in response to concerns or complaints from citizens.

The following are excerpts from the Orange County Superior Court website, see here

“The California Penal Code is silent on the matter of providing public input to the Grand Jury. Thus, the Grand Jury is under no legal mandate to make any kind of response to correspondence received. However, the Orange County Grand Jury has chosen to receive such letters to give it the ability to identify areas of government that may merit investigation within Orange County. All correspondence is maintained as confidential and not subject to review by any agency.”

“All letters will be acknowledged. However, action by the Grand Jury may be limited by time, insufficient evidence to warrant a study, or matters not under the Grand Jury’s purview. All letters will also receive a close out letter. This letter may refer the individual to other agencies that may help resolve the issue. Due to the confidentiality of all matters before the Grand Jury, the response will not disclose the details of the investigation or its results.”

“The Grand Jury does not act as an ombudsman for county citizens. However, the Grand Jury will review all concerns and may produce a study on the issue, if the concern is deemed appropriate. Otherwise, no further action will be taken.”

“The Grand Jury cannot resolve any issues involving policy. Policy is set by elected officials. Resolution of policy issues may be addressed by contacting the respective public agency.

“The single method the Grand Jury communicates with the public is by issuance of the “Final Report” (see California Penal Code §933). These reports may be found in local libraries and on the Grand Jury web site.” [This is incorrect, annual Grand Jury “Final Report” documents for Orange County are not available online. Grand Juries typically release a number of reports each year; and those by the Orange County Grand Jury are available here ]


Now that you know what a Grand Jury is . . . and certain particulars related to how it operates . . . you may be anticipating our answer to the second question:

Why did the [Grand Jury] in Orange County investigate the CenterLine light rail project?

We hate to let you down, but we don’t know, and the “whole truth” may never be known. Remember: all proceedings before a California Grand Jury are confidential, and all related correspondence is confidential, not subject to review by any agency.

“Holy potential for mischief, Batman!”

An FOC has this to say about the 1998-1999 Grand Jury’s light rail report:

The decision to build light rail, wise or unwise, was a public policy matter. But somebody convinced the Grand Jury that [Orange County Transportation Authority] violated the PENAL CODE.

“Only in California”? Well, what would YOU do if you wanted to kill CenterLine and were looking for a low-budget, low-effort, low-risk strategy?

. . . it’s obvious that anti-rail factions orchestrated a complaint, then fed a barrage of propaganda to Grand Jurors, who, wittingly or unwittingly, played along . . .

. . . and if you check this out, what you DON’T find will be more interesting than what you DO . . .

Your Favorite Transit Pundits took up the challenge above == and things unfolded as by script.

Although the 1999 report received much publicity, and was circulated far and wide by the usual cast of rail opponents, not one word about what triggered the investigation was printed. No surprise: the Grand Jury report was silent on this matter. It’s unlikely that this or other details would come to light given that Grand Jury proceedings are confidential.

As we’ve already noted, the “Final Report” for 1999 is not available online; this may, or may not, contain additional information about the light rail report.

We’d like to know the names of the 1998-1999 Orange County Grand Jurors. We assume this information is in the public record, but it is not available online. We suspect this would lay to rest a rather wild “conspiracy” rumor: that light-rail opponents got on the panel and instigate the investigation. We avoid unfounded rumors and mention this one only to discredit it. It doesn’t take much to qualify as a Grand Juror (see here The time commitment (3-4 days per week, possibility of evening and weekend meetings) and meager compensation ($50 per day, maximum $250 per week, plus mileage) suggests that the lineup of people waiting to serve as Grand Jurors is not very long. Grand jurors, as the saying goes, give up a year of their lives. We Opinionated Ones believe that few if any anti-rail agitators would be willing to do this, given the additional fact that Grand Juries are kept busy by matters other than rail-bashing.

Although you can find the 1999 report on Wendell’s website (here,, you might want to download the “official” version from the Orange County Courts website, here; 17 pages, PDF format. We’ve excepted, from Page 2 (“official”), the paragraph outlining how the investigation was conducted:


“The Grand Jury gathered data from many sources including: the federal government, cities and agencies that have developed light rail, OCTA, academia, and technical sources listed in the Bibliography. The Grand Jury analyzed transit performance data and past forecasts to derive the actual performance of the light rail segment of transit systems as compared to past projections of that performance. Past projections compared to actual performances establish what Orange County could expect from a similar light rail system. The Grand Jury conducted interviews with the OCTA, transportation and economics experts in academia, and Los Angeles “Blue Line” operators and planners.”

Our next excerpt was inspired by . . . Wendell Cox!

No, we’re not kidding!!

The Weasel King notes that the report is “presented without alteration” on his website.

Seeing this, Your Favorite Transit Pundits decided to make a couple of . . . well, alterations. We excerpted the “Bibliography” – deleting ONLY those items prepared by or for the Orange County Transportation Authority. We then separated, but did not delete, items prepared by public agencies or governments other than OCTA:

(Transit Profiles: Agencies in Urbanized Areas Exceeding 200,000 Population, 1996 National Transit Report Year, Federal Transit Administration, 1996 National Transit Database. Highway Statistics 1996, Office of Highway Information Management, Office of Policy Development, Federal Highway Administration.)

(Draft Technical Appendix for the 1998 RTP, Part II, Nov 1997, Southern California Association of Governments.)

(The Urban Rail Project, Scoping Report, August 18, 1998, presented by Katz & Associates/Spencer La Blac & Associates, La Jolla, CA 92037.)

(Urban Rail Study, Public Outreach Results Milestone January 3, 1999, prepared by Katz & Associates/Spencer La Mar & Associates.)

Wait’ll you see what was left . . .

Cars and Demographics, Lave, C., Fall 1992, Access No. 1, 4-11, University of California Transportation Center, Berkeley, California 94720.

Improving Transportation in the San Fernando Valley, Gordon, P., & Moore, J.E. II, & Poole, R.W. Jr., & Rubin, T.A., January 1999, Policy Study #249, Reason Public Policy Institute, Los Angeles, CA 90034.

Light Rail in Milwaukee, Cox, W., March 1998, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Report, Volume 1 Number 3, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Inc., Thiensville, WI 53092.

New Rail Investments-a Review, Richmond, J.E.D. June 29, 1998, A. Albert Taubman Center for State and Local Government, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.

The Proposed Central Florida Light Rail Transit System Described and Evaluated, 1998, Florida Public Policy Institute, P.O. Box 13295, Tallahassee, FL 32317-3295.

Bad Marriage: Consultants, Public Funds, Lave, C., June 30, 1998, The Los Angeles Times, Op, Ed Section.

Where’s the Debate in the Planning of Light Rail? Mootchnik, D., December 1998, The Los Angeles Times, Op-Ed Section.


. . . it’s obvious that anti-rail factions orchestrated a complaint, then fed a barrage of propaganda to Grand Jurors, who, wittingly or unwittingly, played along . . .

(We never dreamed it would be quite so obvious.)

We’ll continue this story in our next post.

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