Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What we "HSR Deniers" think

Here is a quotation from Cruickshank today:

While the NIMBYs and HSR deniers may have thought that 2010 was their year, they are ending it on the verge of total defeat. Once construction begins, even on a segment, HSR becomes real, and it becomes unstoppable. Read him today for your daily dose of anger.

Actually, Robert is wrong; it's not 2010 that was a good year for us, au contraire. Look at all the money the FRA threw at the CHSRA this year.

"Total defeat?" I don't think so. It's 2011 that may -- I say may -- become a good year. It depends on what the Republicans do to stop HSR funding in the US.

He's right about the momentum obtained once construction starts. Unstoppable is too strong a word. But, they will have 'facts on the ground' and those are harder to resist. Again, it's up to the Republicans. We'll get no help from the Democrats -- any of them -- because for them, it's all about the money and political leverage.

That's what it's about for the CHSRA; get and spend that money, it really doesn't matter where or for what purpose, just so they can get shovels in the ground.

Of course, the CHSRA Board would love to have it spent in those districts which the Board members come from; that's politics. So, Diridon may be very disappointed that it didn't start on the Caltrain corridor. But, his real objective is to connect to Diridon Station for which he has grandiose visions. Kopp needs it to go to San Francisco. These are their power bases, just as Anaheim/LA is Pringle's power base.

But, having over $5 billion to blow on the Central Valley is a good Christmas present for them. (And, it's gravy for Parsons Brinkerhoff.) Yet, they were bad little boys (and girls), as has been documented repeatedly, and they don't deserve a present in their stocking. What they deserve are court-ordered injunctions.

The very approach being taken in the Central Valley violates the laws as postulated in AB3034. The intended rail segment does not meet the law's requirements. Nor does the intention to leave it incomplete, without high-speed rail usability. Just explaining that it's a construction start is not a good enough excuse. It's a violation. So is not having enough funding to complete a segment, also required by law.

Repeat after me: It's not about the train; it's about the money.


The New York Times

December 21, 2010

Calif. OKs New Funding to Extend High-Speed Rail Project's First Leg Southward


California officials yesterday voted to match $616 million in federal funds for high-speed rail that became available recently when Ohio and Wisconsin backed out of the race to build what would be the first U.S. bullet-train project.

The vote brings the total money available for construction of a first leg in California to $5.5 billion, as part of a larger project that would one day link San Francisco and Los Angeles. This means the initial segment of track will now extend southward from Fresno to Bakersfield, connecting the two largest cities in the farm-rich Central Valley.

The agency with jurisdiction over the Golden State's nascent project -- the California High-Speed Rail Authority -- decided to match the new federal infusion with state dollars with authority granted it under a bond passed by California voters in 2008.

"Ohio's loss is our gain," said Tom Umberg, vice chairman of the authority's board of directors. "When other states shrunk from the challenge of high-speed rail, California's firm commitment to this project paid off."

California and Florida were big winners recently when the Obama administration redistributed more than $1 billion in high-speed rail grants abandoned by incoming governors in Wisconsin and Ohio (E&ENews PM, Dec. 9). The money went to 14 states in all, with California netting the most.

Officials at the authority approved engineering plans for the first 65-mile stretch in the heart of the Central Valley earlier this month. The segment, part of which would be built on an elevated track through the heart of Fresno, was at the time described by some as connecting "nowhere to nowhere," leading to criticism of how the state intends to spend its initial allotment on the massive public works project (Greenwire, Dec. 3).

But the ability to connect to Bakersfield should give the authority more political cover. The nine-member board had been under pressure to come up with a decision before the end of the month, when federal money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 would have been out of reach.

Adding to the pressure was a $715 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration's High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. The grant, engineered in part by Rep. Jim Costa (D) of Fresno, specifically directed the authority to start its project in the Central Valley -- or lose the cash. Umberg said project engineers looked at extending the first leg northward, to Merced, but opted to instead go with the more heavily populated Bakersfield.

"With several alternatives for tracks still being studied in the environmental impacts, a commitment at this stage to build further north would carry a risk that the tracks could not tie in with existing passenger rail service -- a requirement for this round of federal funding," a memo from the authority explained.

Sullivan is based in San Francisco.

Copyright 2010 E&E Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

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And, on another note, here is a reality -- yes, even in Communist China -- that is being ignored. If they ever build it, who will come?

Certainly not those not in the higher income brackets or with corporate expensive accounts. We've been saying for years that high-speed rail, around the world, is the premium, first-class version of passenger rail. It's certainly not for everybody. Tickets are, by the standards of the nation in which they operate, very expensive.

High-Speed Rail is luxury travel, like flying first-class. Shouldn't that drive our concept of potential ridership for the California High-Speed train? Should the taxpayers be building a rail system intended for Hollywood movie stars and corporate executives?

High-speed Trains Unpopular Among Students

2010-12-21 20:08:42

The high price of high-speed train tickets are forcing students on tight budgets to purchase bus tickets for their trips home during winter vacation, "The Shanghai Evening Post" reports.

A student ticket for the high-speed train from Shanghai to Nanjing, for instance, costs at least 110 yuan (US$16), while the price of a bus ticket is about 75 yuan (US$11), said a college student surnamed Huang from eastern China's Yangtze River Delta.

[Average Chinese annual income is equivalent of US $3,000.]

China's high-speed trains greatly reduce travel time, although they cost more than tickets for regular trains. The high-speed train from Shanghai to Nanjing costs 40 yuan (US$6) more than a ticket on the regular train, but shortens the travel time from more than two hours to about one hour.

Students usually return home during their winter vacation by express or ordinary trains, but most of these have been replaced by high-speed trains, as China expands its regional high-speed rail network.

Many students who attend universities in the region have plenty of time but limited funds for traveling, so they must take buses instead of high-speed trains.

More than 50 percent of the trains that originate in Shanghai are now high-speed ones, leaving students few alternative methods of travel, Huang said.

The Yangtze River Delta composed of Shanghai city, Jiangsu and Zhejiang province is one of the most developed regions in China. A high-speed train from Shanghai to Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, started operating in October, while one from Shanghai and Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, began operating in July.