As a case in point: in dismissing the Altamont route into the Bay Area, they cited environmental concerns, cost of construction, and NIMBY opposition in the Livermore/tri-valley area. Instead they prefer to run trains through central valley wetlands, and have stirred up a hornets nest with their proposal to build an expensive viaduct through Palo Alto.
The board's response to the recently proposal by peninsula representatives to begin quasi-HSR service with incremental improvements to the CalTrain infrastructure seems to show a willful misunderstanding (from an SF Gate article)
The authority board told engineers and planners Thursday not to study a phased-implementation plan, which would electrify the Caltrain tracks and use them as a quicker, lower-cost way to bring high-speed rail up the Peninsula to the Caltrain station at Fourth and King streets in San Francisco.
No one has suggested that the trains stop at 4th and King. This seems to be an intentional misreading of the Eshoo/Simitian/Gordon proposal to begin HSR with using the existing CalTrain infrastructure--nobody has suggested that it shouldn't be extended, just that service can begin without ripping out existing tracks and building a new railway on top of them.
High speed rail is an important project that needs to be put in better hands. Perhaps people with actual experience in running passenger railways with perpetually inadequate budgets, and dealing with sometimes indifferent or hostile public opinion would be the most qualified; I suggest we draw veterans of CalTrain, Amtrak California, ACE, and Metrolink.