Skip to comments.Yes, Let's Get Real on California High Speed Rail!
Posted on 02/14/2019 11:35:52 AM PST by Publius
Despite what you might have heard, Gov. Gavin Newsom reaffirmed California's commitment to high-speed rail in his State of the State speech on Tuesday.
Newsom said California must "be real" about high-speed rail in the state, and that there "simply isn't a path" to completing the full vision of the project, which would connect San Francisco and Los Angeles by bullet trains in less than 3 hours. At the same time, he affirmed the state's commitment to completing the 119-mile first phase, which will connect Bakersfield to Merced.
Most media reports portrayed Newsom's announcement as a scaling back of the project. One actually said that Newsom had "ditched" it. The truth is both more complicated and much more hopeful.
Here's the reality: The Central Valley segment is and always has been the foundation for the whole vision of high-speed rail in California. Getting 200+ mph trains up and running from Bakersfield to Mercedas soon as possibleis crucial.
So the state's reaffirmed commitment to building that segment is big, and it's something we should celebrate. It means that a solid foundation for the whole system is guaranteed. That makes it morenot lesslikely that entire San Francisco to Los Angeles line will be built.
First, the Bakersfield to Merced line will demonstrate the viability of true high-speed rail for the first time in the U.S. context. The hardest part of translating a dream into concrete reality is often taking the first step. The Central Valley segment promises to be that step. Any uncertainty about its future has been erased.
Narrowing the project's near-term scope will help the California High Speed Rail Authority focus single-mindedly on finishing the first step. We should also welcome Newsom's call for greater transparency and stricter oversight of the project going forward. More accountability will benefit not only the Central Valley line but future high-speed rail projects in California and across the U.S.
Second, having a segment up and running will create the long-term political will for extending the system's reach to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The catch 22 of this project has always been that getting the full system built depends on political will. Yet building political will depends on making the system usable before it's fully built out.
Newsom's intervention shifts the focus to building near-term political will by making one segment usable for Californians as soon as possible. But he didn't kill or "ditch" the longer term, big-picture vision of the project.
In fact, he did just the opposite.
Newsom said that the necessary environmental reviews for building the full line will continue, just as planned, and that California will continue to seek private and federal funds to make it happen. With high-speed rail receiving new attention in Congress, and climate change moving rapidly to the center of political debates, it's not far-fetched to believe the project might receive federal funding in the near term. It is, after all, the only true high-speed rail project currently underway in the U.S.
In the meantime, the first segment of high-speed rail can build popular support and political will by integrating transportation systems across much of Northern California, even without a high-speed line running all the way to San Francisco.
Ongoing upgrades to Amtrak lines running from Merced to Sacramento and Oakland provide a great opportunity to create a unified network that includes local transit systems and passenger rail lines, with the Central Valley segment as the backbone.
The Amtrak upgrades should include a dramatic expansion of daily round-trip runs to Sacramento and Oaklandto at least 16. The upgrades should also include new trainsets that can run at high speeds on high-speed tracks and run smoothly, too, at conventional speeds on freight track.
In other words, California has a great opportunity to borrow from the European model, which seamlessly blends elements of high speed and conventional rail. The right train will need to switch quickly from electric to diesel operation, and its suspension will need to be flexible enough for freight tracks but stable enough for high speeds.
The big-picture point is that this we should indeed be real about what's just happened in California. The governor hasn't ditched or derailed its high-speed rail project. He may have just given it a big boost. As always, the final outcome will depend on the amountand the effectivenessof pressure applied by advocates for high-speed rail.
But the opportunities are as wide open and promising as ever. It's on us now to seize them.
This is the kind of spin I would expect from state-controlled media organs like Pravda, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
"We have always been at war with Eastasia "
I sense the smell of desperation in the air.
Because you just can’t get to Merced fast enough...
Willie Green, is that you?
Don’t be silly.
Had the idiots in California and in Texas simply allowed the original private consortiums to build high speed rail with private funds then both projects would now be up and running and (GASP!) they’d probably also be profitable.
Instead both states have proven the Reagan Axiom that if it moves tax it, if it stops moving subsidize it.
Round-trip airfare between SBO and LAX is $200.
There are about 3.66 million passengers annually between SBO and LAX per wikipedia. Assuming they're all round-trip passengers, that comes to $732 million in annual revenue generated by this route.
Assuming no inflation, and assuming all that air traffic would opt to take the high-speed rail line at the same price point (a truly heroic assumption), it would take about 100 years to break even on this boondoggle. This excludes the costs/unemployment etc. associated with zero airline traffic.
Article doesn’t appear to address profitability.
Profitability was never an issue. The primary purpose of the line was to provide a public service, which meant that it didn’t need to be profitable due to the fact that it would always be supported by a state subsidy.
in other words, wormy little Newsom is looking for a reason, any reason, to keep the fed grant instead of returning it to the Treasury. So a 1/2B link becomes $3.6 B overnight. The consultants and experts and assorted other ‘special interests’ must be delighted the cash cow can still be milked.
Except Newsom forgot - that debt can be deducted from any disaster relief requested.
A short tune comes to mind: “Look for the Union label”
SBO or SFO?
Is this train intended to be express only between SBO|SFO and LAX?
No, there would have been intermediate stops.
I suspect the $3.5 billion federal grant issue will eventually be adjudicated when Trump demands a refund.
Thank you, Tom!!!
Then a comparison with just the endpoint travel misses most of the market. I would expect most of the end to end travel will be by air and the vast majority of the riders would be going only a portion of the run.
Bakersfield to Merced? Guess you need high speed rail to move all the legal farm workers around. Stupid.
“then both projects would now be up and running and (GASP!) theyd probably also be profitable.”
Florida allows citizens to submit ballot issues to include in the constitution. As a result we have in the constitution that the state must build high speed rail from Miami to Orlando. It has been about ten years and not one word has been said. The problem is, you need a car to get around either city. It does no good to arrive anywhere in either city and not be able to get around. Once you pay the ticket price and rent a car, any savings of getting there at 200 miles per hour is overcome by the cost of just moving around once you get there. This is because neither city has much of a people mover system to handle the traffic. Nor is going anywhere by bus in an American city a nice experience. Getting on and off and probably even on the bus you’d have to deal with the homeless, panhandlers and druggies. Then, there would be the odd “knockout” game player.
No one would ride from those two undesirable California locations, and, if they did, how would they get around once they arrived?
You could have a real rail rally!!!
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