High-speed rail folly should end now | Tim Talk | Tim Hunt | DanvilleSanRamon.com |

Local Blogs

Tim Talk

By Tim Hunt

E-mail Tim Hunt

About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

View all posts from Tim Hunt

High-speed rail folly should end now

Uploaded: Jan 29, 2019
Two knowledgable long-time critics of California’s high-speed rail authority came to Sacramento this month with a detailed report that demonstrates the fallacy in the authority’s business plan.
William Grindley and William Warren wrote a 2014 report, “If you build it, they will not come,” that questioned many of the authority’s assumptions in its business plan to build the rail from Los Angeles to San Francisco that voters approved in 2008. Public support for the rail system, which has bridges under construction in the Fresno area, has since plummeted. Assuming wiser heads prevail and the rail project is halted, columnist Dan Walters has suggested that 150 years from now people will see those concrete monuments as this generation’s Stonehenge.
The authors put together the report without any help from the rail authority, which denied their public records requests so they could thoroughly understand the assumptions in the business plan. Undaunted, they undertook their own research to evaluate trips from key markets and compare the total travel time and cost by air, by car and by the rail.
Their findings demonstrate the huge waste of money the rail is and the cash sink it will be on an ongoing basis if it is built. Their work covered 140 routes between 2029-2032 when the first phase is scheduled to open and 180 routes between 2033-2040. The authority’s plan claims 14.4 million riders in the earlier period and 36.2 in the second window.
Their conclusion: less than one-in-five of the forecasted riders are likely to choose the rail over driving their own car or taking an airplane. They found rail costs are always more than driving and on distances of more than 400 miles, always more costly than air travel. They point out that 74 percent of California’s population live in three markets (the Los Angeles area, the San Diego area and the Bay Area) and argue that the authority is stretching it mightily to claim any riders from those markets.
Their report also points out that San Joaquin Valley legislators traveling from Sacramento to their district offices, they will be on an authority bus each way for at least 2 hours and four minutes in the second period; four hours in the first period. That means 50 percent more time travelling by bus/rail than by an automobile.
For Bay Area legislators, it’s twice the travel time by car. For LA area, air travel is cheaper and less than half the time.
Costs have soared and delays continue. The initial San Jose-San Joaquin Valley link have seen costs rise 43 percent to $29.5 billion and the opening of the first link was postponed four more years between 2016-2018. Remember, the whole system was to be $33 billion when voters approved. It’s now more than $77 billion and I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Death Valley if you believe that number.
With Jerry Brown now retired to his Colusa County ranch, it’s a great opportunity for Gov. Gavin Newsom to order a fresh look. Democrats dominate both houses of the Legislature, but they have hefty spending on new and expanded programs in mind. It’s a perfect time to trash the plan and invite the voters to reaffirm to deny the project based upon the current costs and timeline.
What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

 +   3 people like this
Posted by James Michael, a resident of Val Vista,
on Jan 29, 2019 at 10:34 am

James Michael is a registered user.

That would be nice, but its not going to happen with one party rule in this state. That wasted money could be used to help fix California's crumbling infrastructure and maybe address government debt which is estimated to be between 1.3 to 2.3 TRILLION...the pension liability is estimated to be over 1 TRILLION alone. So much for that surplus, huh? There is a good article by Thomas Del Beccaro on Forbes.com...scary read. Someone recently described California as the house with a new roof and fresh paint, but the foundation was crumbling (sort of like the houses in Val Vista) and that is an apt description. Ya, getting rid of the choo-choo train would be a benefit to all citizens, but don't count on it.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by DKHSK, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Jan 29, 2019 at 10:35 am

DKHSK is a registered user.

The rail authority, a quasi-governmental agency, denied their request for records and not a single Democrat reading your blog will comment on this blatant lack of transparency.

Gov. Newsom will be too busy playing around with his new best friends wife to make any changes to rail welfare.

Count on it.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Steve Yang, a resident of another community,
on Jan 29, 2019 at 6:53 pm

Although focile fuel got a reprieve through fracking, it's environmental burden can't be ignored. Besides, by 2030-2040 we'll be at the tail end of focile supply; with population growth, urbanization, ride-sharing options; Californian will benefit from high speed rail.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by James Hardaway, a resident of Avila,
on Jan 29, 2019 at 11:29 pm

you are only thinking short term. the bay area is not getting any cheaper. Look at Europe and Japan.It will allow those who 1) can't afford to live in the bay area and 2)those who cant but dont want to pay $600-700K for a 40 year old fixerupper crappy house tahts less than 2000 sq ft. still access their jobs. People already commute 2-3 hours each way daily from geographically closer locations.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by DKHSK, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Jan 30, 2019 at 11:37 am

DKHSK is a registered user.

The problem with comparing California (or the Western United States) with Japan and Europe is that, geographically, they are very dissimilar. Major cities in the Western United States ARE NOT CLOSE to one another.

I can fly to points North and South for $139 round-trip; be in Seattle in 2 hours or in San Diego in 1hr 20 min.

Why on earth would I want to take rail anywhere in the Western US?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Jan 30, 2019 at 7:41 pm

@Steve Yang:

A 2016 conservative estimate set the total world resources of oil shale equivalent to yield 6.05 Trillion barrels (962 billion cubic meters) of shale oil, with the largest resource deposits in the United States accounting for more than 80% of the world total resource.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Nick M, a resident of another community,
on Jan 31, 2019 at 10:44 am

While the US leads the world in many things, forward thinking and planning are not one of them. Couple this with incredibly short term thinking, strong lobbyist culture, not-in-my-back-yard mindsets and excessive bureaucracy, and there will be no long-term transportation landmark projects completed in the next 10 or 20 years.
The CA HSR concept goes back the 1980s and if built then, at a 10th of the cost now, could have enabled the central valley to benefit from the Silicone Valley boom, and the pressure on the Bay Area housing to be eased. Perhaps the central valley would not be one of the poorest areas of the US if this had happened.
I have driven many times to LA using I-5 and 101. I-5 is a horrible road compounded by terrible standards of driving. With today's low gas prices, driving might be cheaper than flying or the train, but to LA and back in a day is not practical nor healthy. Flying is quicker, but with airport parking or taxi costs etc. it is not cheap, plus the congestion around LAX or even SFO or SJC, these days, mean much travel time is wasted.
Personally CA HSR would be a very attractive option, travel in more comfort than a plane, quicker, safer and far more productive time than driving. Just build it now so its not too late for our kids to use, can still bring some prosperity to the CV and the build costs are lower than punting it down the road to deal with in the future.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Eurotravel, a resident of another community,
on Jan 31, 2019 at 10:54 pm

Anyone who has used high speed rail in Europe knows how easy it is. Or even the Acela train in Boston/nyc/dc can appreciately the rush hour trains with no traffic. California need this. Traffic gets worse every decade.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by fobosogi, a resident of Apperson Ridge,
on Feb 1, 2019 at 4:14 am

Burger King (BK) is an American global chain of hamburger fast food restaurants. Headquartered in the unincorporated area of Miami-Dade County, Florida, the company was founded in 1953 as Insta-Burger King, a Jacksonville, Florida"based restaurant chain.
Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by DKHSK, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Feb 1, 2019 at 4:06 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

Eurotravel,

Completely ignoring geography is no way to go through rail decisions...


 +  Like this comment
Posted by sjd, a resident of Livermore,
on Feb 3, 2019 at 1:52 pm

"I can fly to points North and South for $139 round-trip; be in Seattle in 2 hours or in San Diego in 1hr 20 min."

And air travel is incredibly subsidized and has little to no chance of decarbonizing in the timeframes we need it to.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by sjd, a resident of Livermore,
on Feb 3, 2019 at 1:56 pm

It is simultaneously true that management of CAHSR has been horrible, CA needs high speed rail, and there are other issues about how land in CA works that are not the Authority's fault (how contracting works in the US, how unions work in the US, how FRA regulates crash safety of trains in the US, how we build tunnels in the US).

"Cities are too far away in the US" Um, yeah, but we aren't currently dealing with HSR between here and Montana. We're talking LA to SF which is very similar to European HSR routes.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by sjd, a resident of Livermore,
on Feb 3, 2019 at 1:58 pm

Tim: "less than one-in-five of the forecasted riders are likely to choose the rail over driving their own car or taking an airplane"

This assumes costs remain the same and we keep taxes on pollution the same as they are today. That's bad news if we do.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by DKHSK, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Feb 3, 2019 at 9:20 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

Airline travel IS NOT subsidized.

AMTRAK is subsidized and it is a total failure. It makes no money and is the literal blueprint for the HSR.

And carbonized travel? I'll believe that our betters care about "climate change" when they start traveling by bus to their districts and stop using planes.

Hypocrites...every damned one of them.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by jim, a resident of Amador Estates,
on Feb 6, 2019 at 6:15 am

Completely ignoring geography is no way to go through rail decisions... Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by nomanisan, a resident of another community,
on Feb 12, 2019 at 9:45 pm

DKHSK,

1. Amtrak receives only $2 billion in federal funding (for the entire country) each year, and the Acela on the East Coast is more than successful, it pays much of the cost of operating the slower Northeast Corridor regional trains.

2. The fact that legislators use the only practical transit modes, which are carbon-based, to travel cross country, does not negate the reality of rapid climate change and the need for aggressive energy-conservation and cleaner-energy measures. The solution is not to put legislators on buses to Sacramento or D.C., but to have them telecommute.

All that being said, Newsom was right to admit that the S.F., L.A., and San Diego phases will never realistically be built.

The way to give Central Valley residents better jobs, and to reduce carbon pollution, is NOT to send Californians on a commute that, even after 2040, was going to be at least 2-3 hours in each direction: 20 minutes driving to an HSR station, 90 minutes on a train going rapidly north or south, another 60 minutes on slow conventional tracks through the Bay Area, and then 30-60 minutes commuting locally on BART, LA's Metro, Metrolink, or local buses.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by DKHSK, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Feb 13, 2019 at 12:22 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

"Amtrak receives ONLY $2 billion in federal funding (for the entire country) each year, and the Acela on the East Coast is more than successful..."

Emphasis mine.

So you admit in your very first sentence that AMTRAK, a federally chartered business, needs a subsidy to continue to exist.

So far, we agree.

"to travel cross country, does not negate the reality of rapid climate change and the need for aggressive energy-conservation and cleaner-energy measures."

Please show me the current and future climate model that is reverse compatible with past climate. I'll wait.

"The way to give Central Valley residents better jobs, and to reduce carbon pollution, is NOT to send Californians on a commute that..."

So what is the solution? The train will never be completed per Governor Sleeps-Around-With-Friends-Wives.





 +  Like this comment
Posted by armour games, a resident of Danville,
on Feb 17, 2019 at 5:52 pm

I'm definitely going to bookmark your blog, I just love your post, thanks for such a nice sharing..Hope to get some info on your blog in future Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by DKHSK, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Feb 19, 2019 at 8:45 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

Hey Tim,

The Federal Railroad Administration just cancelled $929m in federal grants to California High Speed Rail Commission due to material breach of contract.

What a MONUMENTAL BOONDOGGLE the whole thing has been.

Where do we go to get our money back, democrats?

Frauds...every. single. one. of. them.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Paterson Moving, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Mar 13, 2019 at 6:40 am

No doubt The information presented is quite useful. By using this I think all can prevent major breakdown.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Haggerty's decision creates rare open seat on county board
By Tim Hunt | 0 comments | 2,394 views

Premarital and Couples: "Our Deepest Fear" by Marianne Williamson
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,714 views

Rubens and O'Neill This Summer
By John A. Barry and Bill Carmel | 0 comments | 158 views