Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mr. Umberg's wooden nose gets longer and longer when discussing high-speed rail

It's a minor newspaper in the national newspaper arena; the Bakersfield Californian.  But, it is published in the heart of the Central Valley and its editors anticipate the disastrous high-speed rail corridor slicing their town -- Bakersfield -- in half directly on the path through the local high-school.

Thomas Umberg, the author of this article, is the Chairman of the Board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.  I assume this is a "guest opinion" and does not represent the paper's official editorial position.

Why would I post and discuss Umberg's article on this blog?

Because it is a remarkably consistent article.  Each and every sentence in it is incorrect. Mr. Umberg's view of the world and high-speed rail in California comes from some upside-down planet very distant from ours.

Best I comment on each of these flagrantly wrong sentences as they appear in the article.

Saturday, Nov 26 2011 11:03 PM
High-speed funding plan definitely works

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove recommends that, rather than building high-speed rail, we simply fix our roads and freeways, but this suggestion is neither easy nor economical. [Fixing our roads and freeways is not a choice; it's a crisis-sized necessity. HSR isn't; it's a luxury.  Does Umberg not want us to fix existing infrastructure in California? That's lunacy!] 

The future growing population demands that we find a way to move people around our state -- in a sustainable, innovative way. If we expand airports and build wider freeways it would cost California almost twice as much as Phase 1 of the high-speed rail system. [ That "twice-as-much" fallacy appears often in the rhetoric of the rail industry and the politicians who support them.  It was "twice-as-much'; that is, $70 billion, when the train cost projection was $45 billion.  Now that the train costs are projected to be around $100 billion, the "twice-as-much" number has simultaneously become $171 billion.  It's obviously a  phony number, based on hot air.] 

Building more freeways and airports commits us to a future dictated by foreign oil.  [ The US is already using less "foreign oil." Is Umberg asking that HSR, twenty years from now, take credit for this consumption drop? The reduction in both foreign and domestic oil is the result of less driving and the increase in fuel efficient vehicles. HSR will make no difference to our oil consumption since our heavy traffic is not between SF or LA, but within those population centers.]

Unlike spending on roads, investing in true high-speed rail systems will bring a profit and will therefore not require ongoing government subsidies. [Ridiculous.  There will be no profits and why Umberg even calls what they promise, "profits", is a puzzle.  They erroneously project surplus revenues.  They are wrong.  The train will require massive operating subsidies, like most other HSR trains around the world.]

That is true of the high-speed rail experience around the world. [Liar, liar, pants on fire.] Every existing high-speed train system in operation around the world generates a profit from its operations. [It's just the opposite. Too many global HSR experts have made it clear that this is absolutely not the case.] 

Two lines -- the Tokyo-to-Osaka and Paris-to-Lyon lines -- have even made enough profit to pay back the cost of their initial infrastructure investment. [No, that's also not true.  They have become self-sustaining operationally, but certainly have not reimbursed the government for the capital development costs.]

California's initial construction segment, which begins the backbone of the track in the Central Valley, is already fully funded. [More lies.  What they will begin to build is not a segment, it's a section; Initial Construction Section.  Big difference. They do not have enough funding for a segment; therefore what they do intend to build is illegal as defined by Proposition 1A.]

The Business Plan assumes no additional federal funding before 2014. And the Authority was very conservative in estimating just how much of this project the federal government will have the will to fund. [Actually, those two statements are correct. They won't ask for more money that the federal government doesn't have in its transportation budget; how can they? It has already been determined that there will be no HSR funding until, the earliest, 2014. The authority does indeed continue to be "very conservative'" about future costs; that is, they continue to understate them.  That's what Umberg means by "conservative." Those costs will be well above $200 billion. And we strongly suspect that the federal government will be nowhere to be found when asked for sums like this.]

We know from other nations around the world that this funding plan works -- and works well. [Oh, please, Mr. Umberg.  Which funding plan are you even talking about? And this endless comparison with foreign rail service is comparing apples and oranges -- and you know it!]

And we know just how valuable these high-speed rail projects are to their economies and their ways of life.[Have you noticed what's been going on in many countries with HSR already in operation?  It doesn't look good, and I don't just mean China. These HSR systems are immensely valuable to the people who have made fortunes by being in the HSR development business. It's benefits to the economy?  Not so much.  See Spain for another example of where their HSR train runs in a country with over 20% unemployment and an economy on the verge of bankruptcy. Boy has that train been valuable for their way of life!!!]

California High-Speed Rail Authority

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