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High Speed Rail Costs Soar

Original post made by POGO on Aug 9, 2011

Web Link

It was just reported that the initial segment of California's high speed rail between the Merced and Bakersfield "metros" has jumped from $7.1 billion to $14 billion in just two years.

If this short, straight, desolate segment has doubled in cost in just two years, then what are the chances that the far longer, far more complex, urban segments that require EIR and complex permitting have a prayer's chance of coming in anything close to budget?

Our state is dead broke. When are we going to shut this boondoggle down?

Comments (14)

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 9, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Heard Rod Diridon (Mr choo choo) on the radio today. "of course it costs more, the intial costs were based on ""immature"" engineering." "We're now trying to interest private firms in HSR to make up the difference." Ya, that'll happen. The difference between the promoters of HSR and possible private investors is the private investors are working with their money and therefor have an actual interest in seeing a return on their investment. Since this boondoggle will produce no return on investment they won't find any private investors.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 9, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Let's throw some more money at this project -- that always fixes things. Oh wait, it doesn't.

HSR needs to cut its losses now before the state goes more in debt.

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 10, 2011 at 5:45 am

You could give everyone 50% rebates on all air travel between San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego for the next 50 years and come out ahead of building and maintaining a high speed rail even accounting for rail revenues.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 10, 2011 at 8:33 am

Excellent Hank!
But make sure you add in Fresno and Bakersfield.

BTW the HSR site has the following topic tabs
Project Overview
News & Facts

I suggest Project Overview be changed to "Projected Overruns."

If you need a fairy tale to read your kids at bedtime try this link Web Link.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 10, 2011 at 8:42 am

And now, finally, our legislature has noticed this travesty.

Web Link

And when you lose the support of Alan Lowenthal (D, Long Beach) and Joe Simitian (D, Palo Alto), you've probably reached a tipping point.

The original article referenced a doubling of costs for a small, straight, desolate segment of the rail. The entire project had an original estimated cost of $43 billion. The new estimate for the entire project is now at least $60 billion... and counting.

Editor's note: Here is a related story: Web Link

Posted by WestCoastSkeptic, a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Aug 10, 2011 at 9:08 am

We should revisit the idea of selling off 2 or 3 UC campuses and use the proceeds to cover the increased costs of this invaluable investment in our future. Cal covers some 800 acres of very expensive land that is easily worth $3-4 billion to a developer. If we also sell off UCLA in Westwood and perhaps UCSD in La Jolla, we can extend the tracks to Palmdale. Then we can run 6 trains per hour between Borden and Palmdale.

Posted by obviously, a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Bob of Menlo Park--You nailed it, but what did you expect? That's what liberals do, and that's who voted for this [word deleted]. Their perspective has buried this state, and the country is following close behind.

PS. I expect this to be removed by The Almanac censors, so hurry up and copy it!

Posted by Robert Cronin, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 10, 2011 at 4:04 pm

This is so sad. The U.S. has become the country that used to know how. I just returned from France, and high speed rail is definitely the way to travel. What do the French (the Spaniards, too) know that we don't? If high speed rail is such a bad idea, why do the French continue to expand their network?

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Mr. Cronin:

HSR works in europe due to much higher population densities. Of course, it is also government subsidized. Government subsidies were not to be required for california's HSR. It was to be "self supporting." It is now clear it won't be. Tickets were supposed to be $50 SF to LA. They won't without major government subsidies. Last time I checked the state was about broke. Personally, I'm not interested in paying more taxes or losing services so the state can subsidize this boondoggle. It's very telling that private investors have no interest in this project. That should be a big red flag. If investors think it's a likely loser, I'm betting they're right.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 10, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Mr. Cronin -

What makes high speed rail so holy? Personally, I think it's much more convenient and cheaper to fly from one of SEVERAL Bay Area airports to one of SEVERAL Southern California airports for about $100 in an hour. And, there's a flight leaving about every 15 minutes.

Not everyone goes from downtown to downtown. Tell me how I'm supposed to get from, say, Berkeley to Glendale by train? I'd just assume fly from Oakland to Burbank in one hour.

Finally, private industry is doing a great job at providing this service - conveniently, cheaply and efficiently. Why does government need to speed $100 billion to offer an alternative?

Posted by Sir Topham Hatt, a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Aug 11, 2011 at 11:57 am

Below is an interesting letter I found in the Parisian paper "L'Almanac" (translation courtesy of my high school French lessons)

I just returned from a trip to California, and airplanes are definitely the way to travel. A trip from San Francisco to L.A. was under 60 Euros, took less than 60 minutes and there were flights every hour. What do the Americans know that we don't? If aviation is such a bad idea, why do the Americans, Chinese and Indians continue to expand their network?

Posted by Robert Cronin, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 11, 2011 at 3:16 pm

It is true that the population density of France is 28% greater than California's, but if you consider that California's HSR is not intended to serve the sparsely populated part of the state north of Sacramento, the population density is more comparable to that of France. Consider also Spain, whose population density is slightly less than California's, and whose economy is smaller than California's. It has a successful HSR line connecting Madrid and Barcelona. I have read that it now carries more passengers than the airlines. Here is a quote from The Economist magazine: "TGV (France's HSR) accounts for only one-third of SNCF (France's Amtrak) revenues, but its fat margins lifted the railway to a profit of 695 million Euros in 2006, after fees paid to RFF, the track owner, are taken into account." In a later issue, The Economist reported that SNCF made a profit of 1 billion Euros in 2007.
The trains are more comfortable than planes, and you don't have to arrive two hours before departure and undergo a humiliating and invasive security inspection before boarding.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 11, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Mr. Cronin said "the trains are more comfortable than planes, and you don't have to arrive two hours before departure and undergo a humiliating and invasive security inspection before boarding."

First, you don't have to arrive two hours before an airline departure unless you enjoy people watching at the airport. One hour appears to be perfectly fine - and I'm at the airport every week.

Second, what makes you think that people riding trains won't be subject to "humiliating and invasive security inspection before boarding." They don't YET and I truly hope there is never an event to changes that... but it is no certainty.

Third, I find the trade off of a shorter trip a reasonable trade for a slightly less comfortable seat.

Fourth, as I've noted before, remarkably few people want to go from downtown San Francisco to downtown LA. There is REAL convenience in being able to depart from multiple Northern California airports and fly to multiple Southern California airports.

Finally, we have no money. Why do we need to spend $100 billion just to provide a service that is already provided so well, so cheaply, so efficiently, so safely by private, competitive companies?

Posted by R.Gordon, a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2011 at 5:18 pm

This disorganized County, if it knew what it wanted, sort of like the Washington brou ha ha, doesn't care about putting people back to work even though most people in this and the adjoining counties are looked upon as second class citizens not deserving anything which might be of any help to them.
I look forward to the day that the rich are pluging in their Tesla speedsters for a short and low speed electric ride on our roads and bridges. It took less time to erect the Empire State Bldg. than it has to repair the Bay Bridge. Chrysler building went up faster than the tunnel on the coast......
Even China wouldn't come to the area's aid given the constant bickering and strained budgeting which can only be explained to no avail by our traveling recuser. The system will take years to repair.
Did you all know that 67% or more who fill the seats of Congress and the Senate are lawyers?

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