Thursday, December 29, 2011

The high-speed rail pendulum is swinging at the San Jose Mercury News

This is from the San Jose Mercury News.  They love high-speed rail.  They love it because Silicon Valley and the City of San Jose love it.  So, what is this editorial all about?

They want the project stopped.  The SJ Mercury News; wants the HSR project stopped.  I'm catching my breath.

Their columnist Mike Rosenberg exposed the rail authority's jobs inflation numbers. That was his research, his opinion, his article.  But, this is now the official Merc. position. That is one giant turn-around.

Let's summarize.  The Rail Authority has lied to the California voters, and to the entire Nation with the following:

1. The cost forecasts for building this train.
2. The anticipated costs to the California taxpayers.
3. The ridership numbers that would be taking this train.
3. The expected surplus revenues generated by the train's operation.
4. The number of jobs that construction would create.
5. The time the train will take to run from SF to LA.
6. The impact on alternative transit modalities infrastructure.
7. The impact on the urban, suburban, business and rural environment.
8. The impact on pollution.

There are lots more lies, but this is a good enough list to start with.

Thank you, San Jose Mercury News for finally acknowledging the realities underlying this California High-Speed Rail project.

And, about that last paragraph.  Get over it.  That's PR hype from the rail authority.  Those claims are without substance. It's the "If we don't build it, it will cost even more" baloney. 

Pollution?  What do you suppose the pollution of the construction process will be like? And, are you overlooking the pollution performance of other modalities and how they are improving rapidly through technological improvements to automobiles and aircraft? We could even include diesel locomotive improvements in fuel consumption and air pollution for freight trains. 

Finally, to not let the Merc. off the hook, that population increase citation as an excuse for building a high-end, luxury train for the affluent? It makes no sense whatsoever.

Mercury News editorial: Inflated job numbers another reason to halt high speed rail
Mercury News Editorial
Posted: 12/28/2011 08:00:00 PM PST

The promise of 1 million jobs springing from California's high-speed rail project has turned out to be a mirage. The real number, when stripped of rail supporters' obfuscating statistic-speak, shrinks to about 60,000 jobs a year at most for the 22 years it would take to build the railroad.

That's one more reason to stop the project now. Gov. Jerry Brown needs to wake up and tell the Legislature not to approve the sale of bonds for the first segment in the Central Valley now set to begin construction in 2012.

When Brown took office a year ago, he realized the cost estimates for high-speed rail were delusional. He made some get-real appointments to the rail authority and asked for a realistic cost, which he got: $99 billion, more than double the amount that appeared in the 2008 ballot measure approved by voters. This number pushed us over the edge to oppose a transportation plan we originally supported. Yet Brown persisted in backing high-speed rail -- no doubt influenced, at least in part, by its job-stimulus potential.

Now that the number of jobs has deflated, it's critical to stop the project. Pushing ahead with the first segment will likely throw $5.5 billion of good money into a train to nowhere.

One million jobs was a strong selling point for a state with 11.3 percent unemployment, far higher than the national average. When rail supporters were confronted with the ballooning cost, they seized the jobs figure produced by project planners and economists as one reason to forge ahead.

Under scrutiny by staff writer Mike Rosenberg, however, the actual job number shrank dramatically.

The 1-million figure came from the project's technical studies. It actually was the number of "job years," a statistical term that counts years of work rather than actual jobs. One person working for five years adds up to five job years in this parlance.

Economic development professionals say this job estimating technique is common for planning documents, and that's fine, as long as it's accurately conveyed to the public. In the case of high-speed rail -- and perhaps other projects we'll be examining in the new year -- public reports omitted the "years" after "job," which of course is misleading. For most of us, five jobs means five people getting a paycheck, not one person working for five years at the same job.

Early next year, the Legislature will be asked to authorize a bond sale to pay for the Central Valley segment. It has the authority to say no if it finds the project doesn't deliver the benefits and costs promised to voters. This should be obvious to them and to Brown.

Building high-speed rail in California remains a visionary idea to provide efficient, clean-technology transportation connecting the state's north, center and south. As population grows through this century, building roads to accommodate it will cost more and pollute more than rail. But today, California is sinking under a budget deficit that could starve our schools and basic social services for years to come. A hard new reality has set in: we can't keep digging ourselves into an ever-deeper hole of debt. High-speed rail must wait for a better day.

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