Friday, October 12, 2018

Need to Impeach

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Newsom's flab-gab on high-speed rail

Kevin Drum quotes an LA Times story this morning:

If Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is elected governor as expected, he’ll keep building the state’s two contentious public works projects: the bullet train and twin water tunnels. But he’ll scale back both...Newsom will concentrate on completing a high-speed rail line from the San Joaquin Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area. The southern half of the ambitious project, from the valley into Los Angeles, will be delayed until the initial line proves to be financially feasible and can attract more money from taxpayers or private investors (Gavin Newsom says he would scale back the bullet train and twin tunnels if elected).

No "if" about it. Newsom will be our next governor, which makes his views on the dumb high-speed rail project worrisome. He apparently doesn't understand that there's no way this train, or any segment of it, can ever be "financially feasible."

The authorizing legislation passed by California's voters in 2008 forbids any government subsidy to run the system if/when it's ever built. Section 2704.08 (c)(2) (J) and Section 2704.08 (d) (2) (D) of AB 3034: "(J) The planned passenger service by the authority in the corridor or usable segment thereof will not require a local, state, or federal operating subsidy" and "(D) the planned passenger train service to be provided by the authority, or pursuant to its authority, will not require operating subsidy."

What about "private investors"? Why would anyone invest in a public transportation system that doesn't make money? No investor would without some kind of profit guarantee from the state, which would only be another expense added to the project's cost.

From a 2013 study:

From a financial standpoint, only two HSR lines in the world are profitable: Paris-Lyon in France and Tokyo-Osaka in Japan. A third line, Hakata-Osaka in Japan, breaks even. The majority of high-speed rail lines require large government subsidies from both general taxpayers and drivers. Even with generous subsidies, traveling by high-speed rail is still more expensive than flying for 12 of the 23 most popular high-speed rail routes in the world—regardless of whether the traveler purchases a ticket in advance or only a week before travel.

More from Newsom in the LA Times:

On the $77-billion bullet train, which is way behind schedule with a ticket price more than double original projections: The plan a few years ago was “unrealistic and we weren’t being honest and transparent about the project,” Newsom told me. But he thinks that has changed.

He’s optimistic that the line from the San Joaquin Valley to Silicon Valley can be built. That would allow tech workers to live affordably in Merced or Modesto and commute to well-paying jobs near San Jose. “It’s not a train to nowhere,” Newsom said. “It’s insulting to suggest the Central Valley is nowhere. This is an economic development project, connecting the fastest growing and most dynamic economic regions in the country. That project is achievable and realistic...The second phase [boring through the Tehachapi Mountains to Los Angeles] is an open-ended question.”

It's not at all clear that the state has enough money to get the project from the Central Valley to Silicon Valley. What about getting to San Francisco? Don't ask.

What about the 13.5 mile tunnel under the Pacheco Pass (below) to get the train to northern California?

Not to mention the 45-50 miles of tunnels under the San Gabriel and Tehachapi Mountains to get the train to LA! 

Ten years ago, California voters authorized $9.95 billion bonds to start the project. If/when they are sold, the annual payment from the state's general fund to service those bonds will be $647 million!

This is crazy and it's not going to happen. Newsom is either bullshitting or doesn't know what he's talking about.

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