Friday, November 25, 2011

Keep your job; tell 'em what they want to hear about high-speed rail!

You know the Solyndra story.  It's not over yet. In its eagerness to look "Green" and to provide jobs, the Administration provided a $528 million loan to the company.  Had the Energy Department done their due-diligence, they would have recognized that this is a terrible investment for several reasons, among them that the company couldn't compete with the Chinese, even though it did have a superior photo-voltaic process.

While there are huge differences between this story and the Admininstration's obession with high-speed rail, the two stories share the fact that the government didn't do a lot of due-diligence; that is, homework.  What looked like a good idea to them was pushed into becoming a reality without having investigated all the issues surrounding this program.  

For the Administration, it was all political 'show-business.'  Remember the President standing in the company production facility making speeches about how helpful this all was going to be?  The company went bankrupt -- was on its way to becoming bankrupt -- before the loan was made. Who knew?  We should have!

As it happens, Solyndra is something of an exception, and so far, most of the other related federal investments in alternative energy appear to be sound.  We'll see.  

However, and here's the whole point of this discussion, we already know -- because many of us (unlike the federal government) have done the due diligence, the cost-benefit analysis that the government should have done -- that HSR is a loser proposition and that a handful of people are going to make a big bunch of money off this venture, even as it will fail.

It's like the government has a missing learning lobe in its collective brain.  For instance, we could learn from what's going on in Canada regarding their quest for high-speed rail.  The government is continuing to pursue various kinds of analytical studies. See the article, below. 

Please understand that the Canadians could, finally, made the same dumb decisions we are making and continue to move forward with this impending disaster of a project.  Or, it could make sense in Canada, but not in California.

Does pouring out billions of dollars make sense to build something that will be a permanent drain on the nation's budget?  Does it make sense if not enough people will ever ride it due to its high operating costs and therefore ticket prices?

Therefore, I have to ask, where are the independent studies and analyses about the cost/benefits of HSR in California?  

The only source of information about HSR in this state came from the HSR politician-promoters and their consultant contractors. All we ever got was marketing BS.  The several critique reports emanating from the LAO,  the Auditor, and the Inspector General, were duly noted in the papers but pretty much ignored by the Legislature as well as the former and current Governors.

Why did the Legislature not commission such independent cost/benefit studies as the Canadians are prior to supporting this HSR process?

Why is neither the Governor or the Legislature commissioning an independent study about high-speed rail in California, seeking cost/benefit analyses, risk assessment studies, state inter-city transit needs studies, and comparative cost analyses now?  Yes, right now, well before construction is intended to start in the Central Valley?

Why must all information about HSR in California continue to emanate only from the CHSRA and its associates and contractors, the same people they are in bed with and who will benefit from the many generous contracts?  

Where is there genuine, authentic oversight conducted by independent professionals, not transportation advocates and croneys? Certainly not from the rail authority's subservient peer review committee, although even they previously identified serious defects in the HSR development process.

Where are the professional and credible information sources that are willing to tell the Governor and the Legislature what they don't want to hear, but should?

Oh, never mind.

November 25, 2011
Transportation Infrastructure

Hefty price tag will derail high speed rail plan in southern Ontario, Quebec
Benefits but costs run into the billions

A high-speed rail service (HSR) between Quebec City and Windsor, Ont. would not generate a positive net economic benefit, though a project between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto could generate a positive net economic benefit said a recent study.

The joint study included an assessment of high speed train technologies; potential routings; traffic forecasts; financial and economic (cost-benefit) analyses. The study also evaluated socioeconomic, environmental and transportation system impacts of developing high speed rail.

The feasibility study for HSR in the Quebec City to Windsor Corridor was conducted on behalf of Transport Canada, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario and the Ministry of Transportation of Quebec by EcoTrain, a group of international consulting firms led by Dessau and comprising Deutsche Bahn International, KPMG, MMM Group, and Wilbur Smith Associates.

The study evaluated two technologies based on speeds of 200 kilometres per hour (km/h) using diesel traction and 300 km/h using electric traction. It further identified potential routes to accommodate each of the 200 and 300 km/h technologies, including stations in Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Que., Montreal, with Ontario stops in Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, London and Windsor.

Though this route is technically feasible, from the point of view of the overall Canadian economy, the HSR between Quebec City and Windsor wouldn’t generate a financial return on investment.

The study said the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto segment would generate 56 to 57 per cent of the total corridor ridership and the Quebec-Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto segment would generate 78 to 80 per cent of the total corridor ridership.

The financial analysis looked at a total government financing case and a partially private sector funded case.

The total development costs in 2009 dollars for the full Quebec City Windsor Corridor are estimated to be between $18.9 billion for the 200 km/h technology and $21.3 billion for the 300 km/h technology. Developing the section between Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto could cost between $9.1 billion for 200 km/h and $11 billion for 300 km/h.

“The HSR project is considered to be high risk due to its very large size, its complexity, and lack of HSR precedents in Canada", said the report.

Following the conclusion of a feasibility study of an HSR project and the selection of its preferred option, the next phase would be to conduct an individual environmental assessment (EA).

Should it be determined that an EA should proceed, Transport Canada would be the responsible authority for the purposes of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. As well, it is expected that the Ontario and Quebec EA processes would need to be followed. The EA would likely be completed to satisfy the requirements of all applicable EA processes and would be undertaken as an individual environmental assessment.

If a decision were made in 2011 to go ahead with the conceptual design, the full Quebec City – Windsor Corridor HSR could enter into commercial service in 2025.

Depending on circumstances, HSR projects could be divided into several logical sections that could be procured separately through a phased approach. The successful delivery of one section or segment can sometimes play an important role in motivating industry market players and funders to get involved with the other sections, the report concluded.


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