Tuesday, July 31, 2018

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Governor Newsom, kill this project

Image result for california high-speed rail cartoons
Lisa Benson

The NY Times story yesterday on the high-speed rail project hits the well-known high and low notes about the project, but it's much too short to do the subject justice.

The LA Times---not surprisingly, since it's a California paper---has long had the best coverage of the dumb project, with Ralph Vartabedian writing the stories.

I enjoy scanning the comments to his stories. A sampler from his latest about an unconvincing HSR Authority computer simulation that shows the system will, as promised, be able to travel between LA and SF in 2 hours and 40 minutes:

I calculate that I could drive from San Diego to Los Angeles in one hour. Of course, that assumes that there are no other cars on the road and no cops to stop me....

I have lived in Los Angeles most of my life. In all those years, I have never once heard anyone complain that they can't get to San Francisco fast enough. There are literally dozens of flights every single day between our regional airports and the Bay area; they are fast and inexpensive. In addition, if we need greater capacity, they can always add more planes. I am a big fan of Governor Brown, but this "high-speed-some-of-the-time" train, born of Europe-envy, shredding its way across our state is a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money, period....

By the the time HSR is finished in the late 2030s (it will never meet the 2033 completion estimate of today) an entirely different technology will dominate the landscape--electric autonomous cars, which will be able to drive non-stop highway speeds of 100-150 mph utilizing inter-vehicle communication and smart infrastructure. The California voters of 2008 voted on technology that will be obsolete by the time it's completed. Nobody is going to spend $200 on a train ticket when they can get a private car at half the price to go the distance in the same time or faster....

This article, implies that the train is taking a direct route to S.F. It will actually go through cities like Bakersfield, Merced, Fresno and other highly desirable tourist destinations (tongue in cheek). Every stop will add time to the trip. Loading and unloading passengers takes time. At the end of the day, the only happy people will be the terrorists, as they see the train as the best target one could dream for. The trains and the route will have to be patrolled and monitored, 24/7 at a very high cost....

Sure, people are going to get out of their autonomous cars (which we will have by the time this thing runs)? Not a chance. I can sleep the entire way in my car, and I don't have go to a train station hauling around luggage. Since I am in my car, it's not getting broken into by some Prop 47 loser at the train station. I don't have to worry about getting knifed to death by a Prop. 57 homeless person (five deaths in one week at BART). I don't have to sit next to some smelly slob. I can have the temperature of my car exactly the way I want it, and listen to music or talk radio without headphones. And when I get there, I have my car. I don't have to go to some other train or bus, or stand in line at a rental car counter....

Why is this "Browndoggle" still around? It is a waste of taxpayers money. They should use the money collected to repair roads, highways and bridges. If I want to get to San Francisco or anyplace north of here, I'll take a plane. I'll get there faster and with less hassle, since the plane won't be stopping every few miles to pick up passengers. BTW, if this thing was built, there would still be security screening like they have at airports!!!

Well, not only will it take longer, but the cost of each trip has to be supplemented by taxpayer funds. Why is it that government led projects never come in on budget or time? Stop wasting any more money on this boondoggle or train to nowhere and invest in something that will actually work....

Rob's comment: 
According to the authorizing legislation voters passed in 2008, Prop. 1A promised voters that there will be no taxpayer subsidy to operate the system if/when it's ever built. From the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail:

CHSRA could choose to meet the strictures of AB3034 and not require a subsidy. It’s a simple formula: charge passengers the fares that will fully cover realistic O&M[operation and maintenance] costs. That choice would violate the promise to 2008’s Prop1A voters to transport them one way between LA to San Francisco for “about $50,” and it would probably put the HSR train out of competition with airline fares. But it would avoid eternal subsidies. 

What might an unsubsidized, one-way inter-metropolis fare be? Based on analyses in Section 2 and international HSR operators’ experience, a one-way LA-SF fare would be around $200, about 50¢ per passenger mile (PPM); more than double CHSRA’s present estimated PPM fare of 22¢ PPM. If CHSRA’s O&M expenses reflected Acela Express’s NY-Washington experience, the one-way fare would be nearly $340, at 90¢ per passenger mile, nearly that of Japan’s Shinkansen PPM charge.

More on the tunnel issue: To complete the LA to SF project, 15 miles of tunnel under the Pacheco Pass, and 30 miles of tunnel under the Tehacapi and San Gabriel Mountains have to be built! It's not going to happen and it shouldn't.

The unions love the dumb project, since it provides a lot of jobs, which is all they care about.

Best site for in-depth analyses of the project: The Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail.

Gavin Newsom will be our next governor. He's flip-flopped on this issue, but we can only hope he'll be a statesman and kill this financially ruinous project like he was on the homeless issue in San Francisco in 2002/2003.

Or maybe the coming recession, described in a recent SF Weekly, will force the state to kill the project---or provide Governor Newsom with a good reason to do it.

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