California Proposes Revised, Improved Cap-and-Trade Model

May 3rd, 2017 | Posted by

Over at Vox, David Roberts reviews the State Senate’s new cap-and-trade plan – and he loves it:

The changes that SB 775 proposes for the state’s carbon trading program are dramatic — and, to my eyes, amazingly thoughtful. I know some environmental groups have reservations (on which more later), but in my opinion, if it passes in anything close to its current form, it will represent the most important advance in carbon-pricing policy in the US in a decade. Maybe ever. Yeah, really.

This should help produce a lot more revenue from the cap-and-trade system, help it survive future legal challenges, and more successfully slash CO2 emissions. All of that helps get high speed rail built.

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The Hyperloop Has Fans in the White House

Apr 4th, 2017 | Posted by

This was a sad yet unsurprising thing to see come out of this morning’s CEO summit at the Trump White House:

There’s really nothing more fitting than a former Goldman Sachs exec who now has a prominent role in the Trump Administration touting the Hyperloop – which we might now want to call the “Trump Train.”

Infrastructure was a major focus of the meeting, but don’t go getting your hopes up anytime soon that this would mean more money for transportation in California:

Cohn said if cities “sell off” or privatize infrastructure assets, the administration could provide financial support.

“We’re not on the cutting edge of this,” Cohn said. “We’ve got to get a little more comfortable with public-private partnerships.”

This is a recipe for looting on a colossal scale. They’re planning to gut regulations to make this possible, which may signal an assault on the National Environmental Policy Act that some readers here may welcome:

President Donald Trump vowed on Tuesday to cut red tape to speed up approval of infrastructure projects and said his overhaul could top $1 trillion on roads, tunnels and bridges, one of his 2016 election campaign promises….

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said at the forum that the administration plans to release a legislative package in May. Investors have become more skeptical that the plan would win approval this year in Congress, which is controlled by Republicans who are traditionally wary of big spending.

Trump said building a highway can require dozens of approvals and take 10 to 20 years, a process he vowed to speed up. Trump said he would not fund projects that cannot be started within 90 days.

I’m not sure there are a whole lot of projects you can just start within 90 days. Oh wait, I know of one: Caltrain electrification!

More seriously, this is going to be a roads and freeways bonanza, with little money for rail. This administration is committed to going down with the ship that is fossil fuels. It is determined to destroy this country by abandoning all efforts to stop climate change and build a more sustainable transportation system. California is going to have to fund that system itself, because the federal government is lost and not coming back anytime soon.

State of HSR – and the Blog

Apr 3rd, 2017 | Posted by

When this blog hit its ninth anniversary last month, I didn’t intend to take a hiatus. But it’s been nearly a month since the last post and it’s time to get back in the saddle.

First, a general update on where things stand with high speed rail:

There are other updates too but those are the big ones for now. None of this is particularly new; you could read through the archives and see posts on these same topics from each of the last six or seven years. Trump’s victory is a setback, but his own recent defeats may make it harder for him to successfully stop the California HSR project.

The blog will see new posting resume, after a very busy March has passed. I continue to get occasional notes about people having problems using the site, and this has been since February or so. Sometimes I have trouble loading it. Others have trouble making comments. (Some of that is me slacking on moderation.)

If you see specific problems or bugs, please note them in the comments here. I am not a web design expert, and this site design is now seven years old. But I’ll do what I can to keep this alive for as long as people are willing to read and comment.

XpressWest Estimates 11 Million HSR Riders A Year

Mar 5th, 2017 | Posted by

Last week XpressWest estimated 11 million people would ride high speed rail every year by 2035:

The figures were based on a $115 roundtrip ticket that would connect passengers on the publicly funded California High Speed rail system to a private line operated by XpressWest, the company franchised nearly two years ago to build a rail segment from Las Vegas to Palmdale….

About 3 million passengers are projected to take roundtrip rides when the first segment between Las Vegas and Palmdale, California, is completed by XpressWest in 2021, generating about $300 million in annual revenue, according to the study.

Those a great estimates. But without governmental funding, XpressWest will need to find another major investor, especially after China dropped out. A completion date of 2021 for tracks from Palmdale to Victorville and Las Vegas is doable, but it requires construction to begin sometime this year – which seems like a longshot.

It’s also unclear whether an anti-rail presidential administration would throw up even more roadblocks to this project. Republicans have attacked this plan in the past, deriding it as a “casino train.”

PS: Several of you have reported problems logging into the site, posting comments, or comments being posted under different usernames. I’m looking into this issue. The site’s WordPress install is fully up to date, as are all plug-ins. So bear with me as I try to diagnose and fix the problem.