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May 30th, 2012
12:46 PM ET

California high-speed rail to nowhere?

After billions of federal stimulus dollars pledged to build a new rail line, the project is plagued with problems.

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Filed under: Keeping Them Honest • Stimulus
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Blaine

    Time to get the blinkers off guys. HSR is proven technology. The US is living in the past, in fact the 1930's with your "passenger train" systems. Travel abroad, try true HSR and you will realize it's the future and has been in UK, Japan, China etc since 1980!

    June 5, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  2. Doug

    When I saw this measure pass on the CA ballot I was shocked. Having ridden high and low speed trains in various countries around the world, there's one common thread, the population density and transportation infrastructure at each stop along the way makes traveling by train sensible. In CA, as in most of the US, that just isn't the case. Why would I park my own car for a fee, pay for the train ride, and then pay again to rent someone else's car when I arrive at my destination. I can already do that with air travel, its a lot faster than 220 mph, and the airport is already there without spending more money. I've never seen a more wasteful use of taxpayer money. In this case the idiot taxpayers voted for this fiasco, I have no idea what they were thinking. Apparently some of them have finally come to their senses, but its a little too late for that. I tend to lean left politically, but this is a case where the tea party frame of mind makes a hell of a lot more sense. Thankfully, all those tens, (or maybe hundreds) of people who need to get from Burbank to Fresno each day will eventually be able to take advantage of this technological marvel in a decade or two.

    June 3, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  3. burnsilver

    For those of you complaining that they didn't have the other side of the story, they had the chair of the Rail Authority himself in the piece and he couldn't make a good case. What does that tell you?

    The claimed $170 billion in infrastructure savings if they build HSR is based on a study (done by Parsons Brinkerhoff, a group that funded Prop 1A to get on the ballot) that uses the theoretical capacity of the dream HSR system with a train containing 700 people, leaving in BOTH north and south directions, every five minutes (1400 passengers every five minutes), 19 hours per day, 365 days a year. That's never going to happen, and the savings on infrastructure won't even begin for 20 – 30 years.

    The average price round-trip for a family of four, according to the rail authority's own figures, is $648 – plus car rental at your destination to actually get where you're going plus paying to park your car at the HSR lot while you're away. Very few will be able to afford it. The dream of taking the train to a Dodger game or Giants game is just that, a dream. The dream of the commuter riding from smaller cities into major cities each day for a price tag of $500/week will not happen except for the exceptionally wealthy.

    We voted on an 800 mile system connecting San Diego to Sacramento to San Francisco with all major cities in between. Now it's less than 500 miles for triple the price with far less cities connected and a "blended system" which means the trains will have to travel slower than projected. Add in the TSA screening that most likely will be part of the equation and you get a trip that won't be much faster than driving (by the time you factor in bus and cab rides to destinations that are not likely to be the train station itself) and will be far slower than flying.

    We voted for a system the was to be completed by 2020. Now it's 2028 or later.

    HSR will almost certainly need a permanent taxpayer subsidy which is prohibited by Prop 1A.

    This whole thing we voted on is a joke and a fraud. If you're intellectually honest, you have to admit that it doesn't meet the requirements of Prop 1A. As bad as you want it to happen, if you choose to ignore the law that the citizens voted on, then you are someone who is in favor of ignoring the letter of the law to meet your own ends because you think you know better.

    This silly boondoggle needs to be stop before the liberals further lead our state to financial ruin. Some things are just too expensive when you're bankrupt. This train is one of them.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  4. adam

    train to nowhere? Burbank is in Los Angeles ( a city of over 4 million people in a population shed much larger) in the Southern part of the state. Fresno is a City of more than 500k. Fresno is no San Francisco, but it is the 5th largest city in the state and is central North. The distance between the cities is comparable to the distance between Boston and New York. Seems like we displayed some bias and ignorance in this report.

    May 30, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • burnsilver

      Adam, they only have the money, $6 billion, to build a small piece from Merced to Bakersfield. They will need another $20-30 billion, minimum, to complete the piece to Burbank. The funding doesn't exist here in California, and I bet the rest of the US doesn't want to pay for our mess.

      That's why it has the very likely chance of being a train to nowhere.

      May 30, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  5. namrecob

    This is nothing more than Obama putting 3.5B more of your Federal tax dollars on a rocket and shooting it off into a 'black hole' in space. There is only one high speed rail system in the world that doesn't require tax payer subsidy and it serves Tokyo Japan. California doesn't possess the high population density, required for a high speed rail system that will cover its own cost to run. Since Federal money has been allocated, this project will be pushed through since California won't return the allocated funding. California taxpayers will be on the hook for 100 Billion over the next decade. Obama-nomics!

    May 30, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  6. Eric Fahr

    It might be nice but we can't afford it. California is already broke and the debt service alone will cost $700 million annually if the bonds are issued according to plan. The California High Speed Rail Authority over promised and can't deliver. The price has already more than doubled to provide less than what was voted for.

    The only way it will be self sufficient once it's built will be if we're able to run the system at well below the costs in Europe or Japan, not very likely in my opinion. This whole idea should be scrapped. The High Speed Rail Authority should be fired today and sent home. The board has been in existence since 1996 and we don't even have a high speed rail in this state. How do I get that job?

    May 30, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  7. Madeline G.

    I'm disappointed with this story! You didn't even discuss what would happen if this WASN'T built, namely hundreds of billions of dollars in investments to expand already congested highways and airports. You also didn't talk about the positive benefits once it IS built. What biased coverage. Where were the supporters you could have interviewed? Oh, you didn't interview any supporters. I also enjoyed the images of slow moving FREIGHT trains when the correspondent was discussing the slower speeds in the new business plan. Really? Really?!? Even under the new business plan, the trains will be traveling faster than they do now, not to mention all of the needed local investments in existing rail infrastructure upgrades that will be made if CA moves forward with this.

    Americans deal with congested highways and a broken, expensive, annoying airline travel system on a daily basis. The gas tax will no longer support thousands of miles of highway construction. Something needs to be done. The United States is at a cross-roads were we can either choose to pursue a new, modern transportation system that will make us competitive in the global market, or we can stick with the current system, which serves no one.

    May 30, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  8. Jon Mackie

    Well what good is it to give any state money without anyone from the Federal Government keeping an eye on it? Some oversight is necessary and should be mandatory if a state takes "stimulus" money.

    May 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  9. Myviewis

    What a shame all those jobs are lost, this is a result of inexperienced people managing this type of a project, especially when the president himself has no experience in infrastructure, managing this complicated projects and not having experience knowing how much money a project like this will really require to complete it.

    May 30, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  10. Brian

    Here's the thing, many countries world wide have high speed trains so we know it's possible and not a "speed rail to nowhere". Why the hell can't we pull this off in America? What is it 118 billion? Did other countries pay that much? How did they do it? We need it, there's no doubt in my mind about that so lets get it done.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:57 pm |