Thursday, December 1, 2011

California High-Speed Rail: Let's Review

So, where are we now?

1. What the CHSRA intends to do in the Central Valley with its initial construction violates the edicts of Prop. 1A and is illegal. 

2. There will be no further  federal or any other source of funding to add to the currently available $6+ billion for Central Valley construction.

3. The rail authority will not build an operational high-speed rail in the Central Valley. Without further funding, this "initial construction section" will be the only construction completed; approximately one hundred miles of tracks usable only by Amtrak, perhaps.

4. The voters were misled (i.e., lied to) by the Proposition 1A bond issue ballot measure in 2008. The current plans call for a very different project, with three times the initially promised cost, and a construction period of 22 years, 14 years more than in the initial plan.

5. The costs of this project take funding away from far more urgent needs in the state. As a number of analysts have pointed out, the CHSRA is spending three quarters of a million dollars daily. The primary purpose of those expenditures is no longer (if it ever was) to build a completed high-speed train, but to perpetuate the rail authority's own continued existence.

6. The avowed primary benefits of this project are not enhancements of public mass commuter transit -- this is, after all, a luxury inter-city rail system, but for jobs for the unemployed and for bolstering of the state economy.  Hence the obsessive clutching to the project by the Governor; "It's not about the train; it's about the money, $3.3 billion worth from the FRA.

7. Job forecasts are based on obsolete mathematical abstractions and formulas.  Half a million jobs (or whatever the currently claimed number is) means half a million "man/years."  And, that covers 22 years of construction.  The job numbers are marketing-intended hyperbole.  This is not the 19th century Transcontinental Railroad built by tens of thousands of Chinese near-slaves (coolies).  Construction will be technology-intensive, not labor-intensive. The trade Unions are being sadly misled.

8. A good portion of these funds will not remain in California, but go to contractors whose headquarters are out of state and overseas.  So much for that California "economic shot in the arm."

9. What is often overlooked is that this will be a train for the very affluent, just as HSR is around the rest of the world.  These are, and will continue to be, the most expensive train tickets available.  Whatever we are told that the current guestimate  forecast for HSR train ticket costs are, are meaningless numbers, especially for 2033, the train's start date.  Example: anything you can think of that costs $100. today (including train tickets); what did it cost twenty years ago?

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