Friday, June 10, 2011

San Diego? The High-Speed Rail Fantasy of getting from Los Angeles to San Diego

San Diego?  Why are they talking about San Diego which is part of Phase II?  The CHSRA is ostensibly working on Phase I which is from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

They have said many times that when they become "profitable" from the operation of their train, they will take some of that surplus revenue and invest it in extending the HSR corridor up to Sacramento and down to San Diego.  Until then, those two metropolitan centers will just have to wait. So these last two segments are decades or more away.  They don't even know how they are going to get from Bakersfield to Los Angeles in the first Phase.  What the hell is going on here?

And, we are now seeing ever more documentation confirming that there will be no surplus revenues; to the contrary.  There will be debts up to our eyeballs with this project; debts for construction and debts for operation if it ever gets that far.

So, why is the HSRA mucking around with routes from Anaheim to San Diego?  Or more correctly, from Union Station in Los Angeles to San Diego, since Anaheim is merely a spur off-shoot off the main line.  You might ask how Anaheim got themselves into this SF to LA route?  The one word answer is "politics."

This whole program is nothing more than marketing.  There is no substance to these promotional exercises.  The fact is that they should have started this project by linking Los Angeles to San Diego, which is the second busiest transit corridor in the US after the NorthEast Corridor.  But, that's not how California politics works. That's how Curt Pringle's Anaheim got their foot in the door right away, while San Diego will be cooling its heels for a very long time.

We are at a point right now where nothing that the rail authority says or does can be believed to be truthful.  The CHSRA is a public relations organization (which, by the way, is doing a really lousy job), and has retained a major public relations company to manage it's image in the US and in California. Ogilvy is that company and they also are doing a lousy job.

You might think that the CHSRA is in the "open house" and "meeting" business; the business of persuasion (or propaganda as it used to be called). They certainly aren't in the transportation business.
And whatever business they are in, it should stop now. 
California's high-speed train is coming to town, maybe
By CLAIRE TRAGESER, The Daily Transcript
Friday, June 10, 2011

Representatives from the California High-Speed Rail Authority will be in town Monday through Thursday to give residents an opportunity to weigh in on two potential train lines from Los Angeles to San Diego, even though construction on that portion of the track is a long way off and could be postponed indefinitely.

The Los Angeles-San Diego track is included in the second phase of the high-speed rail project, to be built after the San Francisco-Central Valley-Los Angeles lines. Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated funding for the second phase in the current version of next year’s budget, so unless that changes, work on an environmental impact report for the San Diego track would not begin until at least 2014, said Jeffrey Barker, the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s deputy director.

However, those delays are not stopping rail authority representatives and other contractors, engineers and planners involved in the project from making their case to residents this week. They will host a series of open houses in spots along the proposed track lines to present maps of the plan and walk residents through the rail’s construction process, environmental impact and issues like noise and appearance, Barker said.

“With a project this big and important, we wanted be as transparent and open to public comment as possible,” Barker said.

On Monday, an open house will run from 4 to 7 p.m. at the California Center for the Arts on 340 N. Escondido Blvd. in Escondido.

An open house on Tuesday will run from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Miramar Ranch Library on 10301 Scripps Lake Drive in Scripps Ranch.

On Wednesday, an open house will run from 5 to 8 p.m. at the MOC II Auditorium on 9192 Topaz Way in Kearny Mesa.
And on Thursday, an open house will run from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Ballard Parent Center on 2375 Congress St. in Old Town.

Both of the San Diego track alternatives would follow Interstate 15 south, stopping in Escondido. At Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the options split, with one route following Interstate 5, stopping in University City and ending at Lindbergh Field. The other option would follow Interstate 15 to state Route 163 to Interstate 8 and end at Lindbergh Field.

Voter-approved Proposition 1A, which provides funding for the project, stipulates trains must cover the Los Angeles to San Diego distance in 80 minutes. However, estimates for current run times range between 65 and 127 minutes, according to the High-Speed Rail Authority’s March report on the Los Angeles-San Diego track section.

The local meetings come at a critical time for the high-speed rail project. Last month, California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report on several issues it said could threaten the rail’s success, including lack of funding and an inadequate governance structure.

Estimated cost for the project is now $46.2 billion. To cover that bill, the rail authority plans to use the $9 billion in bonds from Proposition 1A and $8 billion in federal stimulus funding, and hopes to obtain another $17 billion to $19 billion in federal funding and $10 billion to $12 billion from public-private partnerships, according to its December 2009 report to the state legislature.

But the Legislative Analyst’s Office called these assumptions faulty, saying the rail authority does not detail how it will attract private partners and should not rely on federal funding.

"Given the federal government's current financial situation and the current focus in Washington on reducing federal spending, it is uncertain if any further funding for the high-speed rail program will become available," its report said.

However, the rail authority told the state legislature the high-speed rail would be profitable by 2020. Its 2009 report says the rail will start incurring costs when trains begin running in 2017, and will be in the red until 2019, accumulating a total deficit of $390 million.

But in 2020, the report predicts the rail will see a $370 million surplus and says it will be making $2.6 billion by 2026. Between 2020 and 2035, the report says the rail will almost make up for its cost by generating $42.12 billion in surpluses.

These revenue and cost estimates hinge on conjectures about the number of people who will ride the train, which are made using data on existing travel patterns and surveys and depend in large part on the price of airfares, according to the report.

To form its ridership predictions, the report uses a guess that high-speed rail tickets would cost 83 percent of airplane tickets. For example, if a high-speed train fare from San Francisco to Los Angeles costs $105, the report estimated covering the same distance would cost $125 in airfare and $118 to drive.

At this airfare level, the rail authority predicts it would see 41 million passengers in 2035. If airfare costs more -- twice as much as a high-speed train ticket -- the rail authority forecasts 58 million passengers in 2035.

Barker said the rail authority also predicts that beginning in 2035, 2 million people a year from the San Diego region would travel to Los Angeles on their own and take the high-speed rail to San Francisco, if airfares are at the 83 percent level.

No estimates are available yet for the number of people who would ride the Los Angeles-San Diego rails if or when they are completed.

No comments: