Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pay close attention to the pea beneath the High-Speed Rail shell. Now you see it; now you don't.

One of my favorite BS arguments from the high-speed rail supporters is that if we don't build this train, regardless of how much it costs, not to build it will cost us a lot more.  

The inference appears to be that although this will be the most expensive infrastructure project in the whole history of the United States, including the Interstate Highway System, it will be worth every single cent it costs.  The reason is that we would have to invest even more money into highways and runways if we don't build this train.

The rail authority's single-minded approach to their ever rising costs is to create this stunning, illogical argument.  They can even quote precise numbers of those obligatory alternative costs, such as $90 to $100 billion for 2,500 miles of additional highway lanes, 100 additional airport gates, and four (not three or five) additional runways.

Has anyone asked them how they calculated this?  Isn't part of this hypothetical construction based on ridership number projections?  We already know that the rail authority has been fudging those numbers since way before the Prop. 1A bond issue was on the ballot.  

Initially they stated that there would be 117 million annual train riders.  Today, they state emphatically that the current number, 39 million riders, is the absolutely correct one.  OK, let's go along with that for the moment. 

So, there there will be a projected 78 million annual riders fewer than they initially proposed. Wouldn't you think that they would also have to adjust the dimensions of the obligatory alternatives downward as well?

To reiterate: If we don't build a high-speed rail system for 117 million annual riders will oblige us to build 2,500 miles of highway lanes and four runways at a cost of $100 billion.  However, do we have to do this if we have 78 million fewer annual rail riders who will not be getting to ride on HSR?  Do so many fewer people still need so many miles of highway, airport gates and number of runways? 

Maybe we wouldn't have to build all 2,500 miles of additional highway lanes, or those four runways.  And, maybe, just maybe, the alternative costs, now projected to be around $100 billion, might be far less.  That is to say, far less than building the train which is rising to that $100 billion mark and beyond.

All of which is to say, that -- using the rail authority's various projections -- we really shouldn't be building the more expensive train now that we know -- because they have told us -- we could be building the far less expensive highways and runways. 

Remember, the choice was based on cost, with the presumption that building the train and acknowledging it's high costs, would still be cheaper than the more expensive highways and byways.
Doesn't that also work the other way, when the alternative construction costs are lower than the train's?

While this point is, shall we say, amusing, what is even more interesting is that these illogical manipulations and made-up facts about obligatory alternatives are characteristic of all their arguments about everything.  

By that I mean, there is no substance to any of their other claims, such as their now-fashionable job creation claims; they are all fake-statistical and pseudo-scientific research sounding statements that create an impression of factuality where, in fact, none exists. 

High speed rail will be pricey, but alternatives will cost more, authority says

By: Will Reisman | Examiner Staff Writer | 08/25/11 1:50 Pm

The cost of high-speed rail will be pricey, but California will have to shell out even more money if the project isn’t built, according to the agency overseeing the project.

Initially, the project to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles was estimated to cost $43 billion. However, the cost projections of the first segment of the plan, to be built in the Central Valley, were recently adjusted to $10 billion to $13.9 billion — far more than the originally projected total of $7.1 billion. Earlier this month, Roelof van Ark, executive director of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said the $43 billion total price tag is likely to come up as well.

Even with the rising costs, the project would still be cheaper than the alternatives, according to a new funding plan presented Thursday by the authority.

To meet the demands of California’s growing population, the state would have to invest in $90 billion to $100 billion in infrastructure projects. Those include 2,500 miles of new highway lanes, 100 additional gates at airports and four airport runways. The authority said the high-speed rail network could address the same capacity needs for considerably less.

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