Saturday, April 14, 2012

Some reasons why high-speed rail in California is a mistake

Full Disclosure:  The Washington Times is not The Washington Post. The Post is very liberal; the Times is very conservative.

By now, you all know full well that high-speed rail falls amazingly precisely along Party lines.  The Left, which loves public mass transit, also loves high-speed rail, erroneously believing it to be the same thing. . . which it's not.

The Right, for a variety of reasons, opposes high-speed rail.  Therefore, Q.E.D., the Washington Times opposes high-speed rail. What's interesting is that California's high-speed rail chaos has become national news.  

We've said this many times.  The biggest enemy of California's high-speed rail project used to be the California High-Speed Rail Authority, consisting of a Board of Three Stooges type politicians. Now, that list of honorees includes the state's governor. And all share the blame for a project that was wrong to begin with and became more screwed up each and every day, until today, when it makes California the laughing stock of a Nation caught up in the worst political squabbles in a very long time.

Now that we've got that out of the way, some of the facts in the article are in error -- for example, train tickets prices are unknown at this time -- so saying they will be $326 is highly speculative. And, as the editorial recommends abolishing TSA, that's not a solution to anything, even if the TSA is a serious mistake.

The bottom line of this editorial is absolutely the correct one.  This project, with all its current byzantine permutations, should go back to the voters. . . .but this time with the truth.

EDITORIAL: On the tracks to bankruptcy
Golden State’s $68 billion train boondoggle showcases government folly

Friday, April 13, 2012

California's fanciful bullet train project embodies everything that is wrong with government today. The state's High-Speed Rail Authority on Tuesday released details of a revised business plan that claims laying down tracks from Los Angeles to San Francisco will now cost a mere $68 billion instead of $98 billion - as if that were a bargain.

President Obama's infatuation with the effort to create another government-subsidized rail entitlement means the rest of the country is on the hook for at least half of this still considerable sum. Retirees in Florida and schoolteachers in Mississippi, who will never ride California's train, will be forced to pay for it anyway.

Politicians asked Golden State voters in 2008 whether they wanted this shiny new train set. Fifty-three percent said "sure," without devoting much thought to the cost of their choice. To put $68 billion in perspective, five major airlines offer flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco for $200 or less - an amount that includes $39.60 in various taxes. Volume discounts aside, for the cost of the rail infrastructure, California could purchase 340 million round-trip tickets - enough to provide nine round-trip flights for each of the state's documented residents.

Based on market capitalization, the state could even buy a few airlines - American, Delta, Jet Blue, Southwest and United - and have $40 billion left over. Taking to the skies quite simply is more efficient. It only takes an hour and 20 minutes to journey by air between Los Angeles to San Francisco. At best, a nonstop "high-speed" train would take an estimated two hours and 38 minutes, charging a pricey $326 fare. Based on the experience of Amtrak in the Northeast corridor, the trains will make so many stops that actual trip time would be closer to four hours.

Airlines already offer, on average, 61 flight options per day along this route, maximizing convenience. Granted, train passengers are not currently groped or photographed in the nude by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents prior to boarding, but the solution to that problem is to abolish the TSA, not to create a $68 billion alternative.

According to the High-Speed Rail Authority's rather fanciful analysis, the expenditure makes financial sense because rail creates $76.1 billion in benefits, including $948,280,227 in carbon dioxide "savings," $12.6 billion in time savings for drivers and a billion saved from "productivity increases" as travelers opt for a train instead of an airplane. All this assumes 19 million riders will get onboard each year. That's hard to swallow, considering Amtrak's most successful line, the Northeast corridor, boasts a mere 5.1 million customers.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform opened an investigation on April 9 into this wasteful undertaking, which has already received $4 billion in funding from federal taxpayers. If it is true, as alleged, that some rail authority board members have been using the project to line their own pockets, California's legislature ought to give voters a second chance at shutting down this boondoggle.
The Washington Times
© Copyright 2012 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

No comments: