Monday, March 28, 2011

SF Democrats and progs unite behind high-speed rail boondoggle

It's as if local Democrats and progressives are determined to confirm the tax-and-spend label pinned on them by Republicans with their mindless, knee-jerk approach to the costly, financially preposterous high-speed rail project in California. It's pretty pathetic that only Debra Saunders and District 5 Diary are local skeptics of this boondoggle. (The project has a figleaf of bipartisanship, since SF Republican Quentin Kopp was on the CHSR board and is still a booster.)

Our local Democratic Party leadership is leading the lemming-like rush to the cliff on the issue: Senators Feinstein and Boxer, Representative Pelosi, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, State Senator Mark Leno, Lieutenant-Governor Newsom.

With the exception of Saunders---who aptly dubs high-speed rail as the Democrats' version of Alaska's Bridge to Nowhere---the local media has been just as bad as our local politicians:

BeyondChron runs a cutesy press release from US Pirg supporting high-speed rail.

The leftist Fog City also runs a press release---with the photo above---from Mayor Newsom's office touting high-speed rail and also lists a pro-HSR blog on its blogroll.

The ultra-left Bay Guardian supports high-speed rail and scolded Meg Whitman for her sensible opposition to the project during her losing campaign for governor.

Bay Citizen has an uncritical story on HSR and the transit corridors theory that relies on Gabriel Metcalf as a source.

Putting CHSR in context, a recent LA Times story delivers the bad news about California's bond debt:

While the state faces a $25.4-billion deficit, $7.65 billion is tied up in debt service for the upcoming fiscal year, according to the state treasurer...Borrowed money has proved politically irresistible in Sacramento, a safe middle ground for politicians in the constant war between Democrats and Republicans over taxes and service cuts. Campaigns for bonds often herald them for providing projects and services without new taxes. Voters have approved borrowing in the last 10 years for such causes as stem-cell research ($3 billion), high-speed rail ($10 billion), and parks, water and the environment ($14 billion). They even took on $15 billion in debt to paper over a deficit that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said would never reemerge---something economists have scolded the state for doing. Because of its rock-bottom credit rating, California pays a premium for its loans. Taxpayers must fork over roughly $2 for every $1 borrowed---about 20% more than top-rated states...

The $10 billion in high-speed rail bonds state voters okayed in 2008 are not marketable so far, but they provide a good example of why bonds in general are increasingly a bad deal for California. From the 2008 voters guide on what it will cost the state if/when the bonds are sold:

State costs of about $19.4 billion, assuming 30 years to pay off both principal ($9.95 billion) and interest ($9.5 billion) costs of the bonds. Payments of about $647 million per year. When constructed, additional unknown costs, probably in excess of $1 billion a year, to operate and maintain a high-speed train system...

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At 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Photo Courtesy Mayor's Office - used without permission"

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I bet they won't complain about it.

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

On the other hand, Newsom was/is a public servant, and the press release and the picture were created at public expense by other public servants. Not to mention that the press release is part of a sales pitch for a particularly stupid, costly project---high-speed rail in California.

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stealing is stealing. But of course you do no wrong.

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Dr. Randolph Scott said...

Oh jesus. Now you're using the word Boondoggle. What's next, Choo choo?

I definitely agree that the train costs too much - that's caused by the bureaucracy and lawsuits, however, and has nothing to do with rail service per se.

High speed rail is the most important investment since the interstate highway system and absolutely MUST be built. The SF-LA corridor is among the most important in any such system and is guaranteed to be competitive with both driving and flying.

My mind just spins that people actually think it wouldn't be. Do you think gas prices are going down? Do you think congestion is going down?

HSR is an investment that PAYS OFF in spades down the line. Opposing it is truly beyond stupidity.

As for the budget, the problem is the democrats don't have the balls to stand up to the unions - cutting pensions, healthcare costs, and other massive inefficiencies in state government. That is the real boondoggle.

At 12:01 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Obviously you're not familiar with any of the substantive criticism of the project. You should start by reading this study and then report back here with an informed comment on the subject.

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Dr. Randolph Scott said...

Yes I've read that and it's mostly spurious. High speed rail is not supposed to "pay for itself" any more than a freeway is. However, if we tried to make freeways pay for themselves (as well as airports and so on) HSR would still come up on top when it comes to mid-range travel - ie 60-300 miles or so.

It's true that layers of bureaucratic hell are going to make the cost of this thing continue to rise, but it'll still be preferable to being unable to move in 50 years - or paying for it then. This is a 100 year investment!!!

At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"it'll still be preferable to being unable to move in 50 years - or paying for it then. This is a 100 year investment!!!"

Rob does not care one whit about anything that happens after his death.

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anderson is also a Peak Oil denier. HSR is an absolute necessity in Peak Oil world, as is regional rail to connect to HSR, as is local rail to connect to regional rail.

The Interstate Freeway system was developed on the false premise that there would be a never-ending supply of cheap US oil, which peaked in 1973 and left the US dependent on foreign oil imports.

Yes, HSR costs are not inexpensive, but when US air travel becomes so expensive that the average Joe cannot fly anymore, everyone will be wishing we had HSR.

Rob, get your head out of the sand and wake up. Seriously.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, I deny that we're going to run out of oil any time soon, and the transition to fuel efficiency and alternative energy sources is underway. The notion that the US and California should throw billions of scarce transportation dollars into a luxury train system for the rich is the kind of stupidity I've come to expect from "progressives."

The Interstate system, by the way, was sold by the Eisenhower administration as a national security necessity. As it turned out, it's been a huge boon for the national economy, with its military uses minimal.

This is a typically lazy comment intellectually. You're not even trying to come to grips with the numbers---or how the CHSR authority inflated ridership projections to sell this stupidity to the state's voters.


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