What’s the deal with California’s proposed High Speed Rail System? Four years ago voters gave their approval to $9.95 billion in bonds to help fund the first high speed railway in the United States. At that time the cost was projected to be $40 billion. By the end of last year however the estimated cost had more than doubled to over $100 billion. In April of this year a plan was approved that will cut nearly $30 billion in costs and bring the total to somewhere around $70 billion, nearly double the 2008 projected cost. This is a very conservative estimate and those rallying against the HSR believe costs could still soar well above the $100 million mark, perhaps by double.
If this is true, where the hell is the rest of the money going to come from? California is broke! Our coffers are empty! We simply can’t afford a project of this proportion. $3.4 billion has already been cut from the transportation services. So where is the money coming from? HSRA funding is reliant on Federally promised funds, Private investors, bonds and the rest, well, that will come from us, the taxpayers. That’s right, the final cost to Californians will be about $600 – $1000 per person or $2000 – $3000 per household. But check this out, although all of us who pay sales tax will help subsidize the HSR, those using the train will have a higher than average income, so it is a subsidy from the poor or those who can least afford it to the rich! How about that? For every $1 spent each passenger, $4 would be spent in public subsidy! This money could support about 20,000 teachers or police indefinitely. One has to wonder why the hell the governor is still pushing so hard to get the rail project rolling.
Certainly having a high speed railway link between San Francisco and San Diego would be an incredible alternative to driving or flying, it’s an environmentalist dream. Fewer cars and flights will lower air pollution and the number of jobs both temporary and permanent that would be created would be incredible, but at what cost? The reality is few Californians would benefit from the rail system, so why build a train system that no one will use? Okay that’s not entirely true there is a segment of Californians who will use the train but not in the and numbers the California HSR Authority is claiming. According to the CHSRA official forecast, 65 – 96 million passengers will board the train annually. However several independent groups who have reviewed the Authorities facts and figures conclude that annual ridership will be at less than half that number more like 23 – 31 million. If these numbers are correct, the yearly revenue estimated by the CHSRA plunges dramatically to about half of expectations. Sounds like a loser to me, a runaway train!
Okay, so we have a bullet train that generates speed but no revenue. Seems the only way to generate more revenue is to raise fares and/or put in more stops to pick up more passengers. Well that certainly defeats the whole idea of a non-stop bullet train doesn’t it? It takes time to generate the 220 MPH speed, more stops will slow the damn thing down especially since some of the tracks being used are not high speed rail tracks but regular freight train tracks. So is adding more stops which equates to adding more time already, even an option? I don’t think so. Makes me wonder why we even want to build the damn thing!
Obviously there are many pros and cons to building the High Speed Rail in California, but is this truly the right time? I don’t think so. I don’t believe it will have the impact that proponents believe. I don’t see freeways becoming less crowded or nearly empty planes on inter California flights. It ain’t going to happen. Flying is still faster and in some instances cheaper than the proposed fares for the bullet train. For families, driving is a cheaper alternative. I tell you, the CHSR is not the pot of gold many believe it to be, but it will cost us a pot of gold to build the damn thing!
What it boils down to is politics. It’s always about politics. The amount of lobbying for CHSR is incredible! you’ve got Engineering Consultants, Construction Companies, Rail Car Manufacturers, and Local Developers all pushing to get this train moving. Several of the companies involved are foreign owned and controlled, and include many of those that were involved with the building of the HSR in France and Japan. By the way, did you know that The high speed rail projects in both these countries are all taxpayer/government subsidized. Neither has generated a profit! Both are big time money-losers! That’s not to say that a HSR can’t be profitable, but it’s highly unlikely. Sad to say, but “stupid is as stupid does”, government has a long track record of making stupid decisions that in most cases fail to profit the many, but never fail to pad the pockets of the few… All Aboard…