Investment, Not Spending

Jan 31st, 2010 | Posted by

For a nation so utterly dependent on financial capitalism that any hiccup in the banking industry sends the country into a near-depression, it’s rather surprising that so many people do not understand the value of public investment in infrastructure, and confuse it with “spending.”

Actually, it isn’t so surprising. Our financial markets are built around the short-term view. Quarterly profits no matter the cost, instead of long-term gains and stability. So perhaps it makes some sense that when a proposal comes along to make a long-term investment in infrastructure that can meet our transportation needs and help boost the economy for perhaps the rest of the century, the first response of many is to dismiss it because somehow it isn’t going to put money in their pocket this year.

I started thinking about that after watching the following story that aired on CBS Evening News tonight, including a soundbite from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger where he explained that HSR was “investment, not spending”:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

This issue of “investment” was illustrated by the story of Marty Devault, featured in the piece. He commutes from Davis to San Francisco via the Capitol Corridor every day, and says it’s a much better and more relaxing commute than sitting in the parking lot that is Interstate 80 in the East Bay. CBS News used that story to show that passenger trains are already popular in California, and that HSR would likely boost that popularity by providing much faster and more reliable service between the state’s main urban areas.

Of course, the Davis-SF route won’t be part of the HSR project, but many other heavily traveled routes will. Traveling by rail, something many Californians already do, means we don’t have to spend as much money on widening freeways or expanding airports – money that isn’t as much of an investment, since soaring oil prices will mean we get less return on that investment.

High speed rail, on the other hand, is an investment for the next 90 years of this century (at least). By providing rapid intercity transportation powered by renewable energy, it begins to free California from dependence on oil. That dependence is directly responsible for the economic crisis we currently face, a crisis that apparently Peninsula HSR critics believe isn’t actually happening. When the price of gas rose above $3 a gallon in 2006, the housing bubble began to burst as families living in the far-flung McMansion suburbs, dependent on long commutes, were unable to afford the cost of transportation. When the price of gas neared, and in some places reached, $5 a gallon in the summer of 2008, it helped finish off the economic boom and shoved the country into the worst recession in over 60 years.

And that is all before we consider the costs of global warming, which is already beginning to cause economic problems across the state as our climate becomes drier, fires become more common and intense, as drought plagues the Central Valley, and soon, as rising sea levels begin to threaten the San Francisco Bay Area.

One might think we’d want to do something about all this. But a coalition of Peninsula NIMBYs and others across California who are convinced all government spending is bad are saying that the status quo is just fine, there’s no need to invest in anything, we can just carry on as we are.

Had we taken that attitude in the Great Depression, Shasta Dam would never have been built and California’s Central Valley might never have come to lead the national agriculture industry. The State Water Project might never have been built and Southern California’s growth would have stalled out sometime around 1980. The freeways and bay bridges might never have been built, further strangling growth. I’ve not yet heard the libertarian HSR denier or NIMBY who thinks that the Golden Gate Bridge was a bad idea, or that the State Water Project was wasteful. And in fact, few of these people bat an eye at freeway widening projects. I can’t recall Pat Burt or Morris Brown criticizing the new Terminal B project at Mineta San Jose Airport.

But passenger trains face a particularly difficult burden. Whereas aqueducts, bridges, freeways and airports are seen as totally legitimate public expenditures that nobody bats an eye at, high speed rail suddenly is seen as some “omg boondoggle waste of money that will never break even” thing that we should just kill before it kills us.

This, despite the fact that every HSR system around the world generates operating surpluses (including Amtrak’s Acela) and are highly popular with riders. This, despite the fact that HSR offers an affordable way to travel whose costs are generally fixed – as long as you have renewable electricity, you can forget about the price of oil completely. This, despite the fact that most Californians will save money on transportation costs, creating a green dividend that enables people to redirect that spending toward something else – paying down debt, buying houses with a more sustainable debt-to-income ratio, fueling the local economy through consumer spending, etc. This, despite the fact that even if HSR job growth were to fall short of the hundreds of thousands predicted by the CHSRA, the jobs created would still be a massive form of economic stimulus to a state desperately in need of ANY new job.

Why is that? The more I think about it, the more it seems to be about the belief that passenger trains just don’t work in the US or in California. We’ve had to deal with 40 to 50 years of claims that passenger rail is uneconomical, a money loser, something that nobody rides, and unsuited to our urban geography.

These claims are either false or distorted. But they’ve been repeated often enough to the point that enough people believe them to attack passenger rail as somehow wasteful. They don’t even have to make a logical argument backed up by evidence. All they have to do, as Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt and the PCC so dishonestly did at the Palo Alto hearing two weeks ago, is invoke Amtrak and suddenly we’re supposed to believe HSR will be hobbled by the same problems – or that any claim HSR will outperform Amtrak is just so absurd as to be rejected on its face.

As we keep constantly having to point out, the facts prove us right. California’s urban densities and geography are similar to those of Spain, where HSR has been a runaway success. Madrid and Barcelona are about as far apart as SF and LA. There’s every reason to believe HSR’s global success will be repeated here.

Unless your preconceived notions trump that sort of evidence. Those global HSR systems run into another related problem, which is ingrained beliefs about American exceptionalism – that we’re somehow totally different from the rest of the world and things that apply overseas don’t apply to us (which is simply wrong) – which are amplified by Californian exceptionalism, the notion that we’re all wedded to our cars and cannot envision any other way of life.

Which is just absurd. It assumes that the unique conditions of the late 20th century are somehow permanent. As a trip along the Caltrain corridor reminds us, however, California cities were railroad cities before they were car cities. It was only in the 1950s and 1960s that cars dominated. Even then it wasn’t a permanent shift and instead was dramatically overstated, as BART was planned and built during these years (and ironically enough, even the BART to SFO project’s problems didn’t stop some HSR critics at the Palo Alto hearing from calling for having BART ring the bay instead of HSR). By the 1970s and 1980s Caltrans was operating what are now the Amtrak California routes and LA was working on its long-discussed mass transit network. In 1990 California voters doubled the gas tax to fund mass transit and freeways by passing Prop 111 and floated a $2 billion bond specifically for passenger rail via Prop 116 at the June 1990 election. This, despite the fact that the average Bay Area price of a gallon of gas in June 1990 was $1.19.

In fact, what we see looking back over the last 40 or 50 years is a conventional wisdom that California has a car culture and auto-oriented landscape that is unsuitable for trains, the voters of this state see it very differently. Time and again they have indicated that they see passenger rail as an investment worth funding. Just as they did in November 2008 by passing Prop 1A.

The last holdouts against this are an odd coalition of prosperous folks convinced that a quieter, safer, easier-to-cross Caltrain corridor would somehow hurt their property values and libertarians who are happy to throw billions away on subsidizing freeways but think that spending a dime to build trains that cover their operating costs is somehow wasteful.

That both groups tend to include the beneficiaries of the 20th century model of land use, and who are making it through this severe recession just fine (note that the self-identified unemployed at the Palo Alto hearing, with one exception, were supportive of HSR), should not be surprising.

Californians understand that HSR is an investment in their future. They want it. They welcome the funds. And while I’m quite happy to frame HSR money as “spending,” since I think government spending is a good thing that we ought to have more of, it is indeed more properly framed as an investment that will be more than repaid over the coming years and decades.

Our present culture may emphasize short-term gains and protecting the status quo at all costs. But that’s really only a surface veneer over a deeper reality of a population that wants change, and is willing to make the long-term investment to make it happen.

  1. Matthew F.
    Jan 31st, 2010 at 19:46

    “That dependence is directly responsible for the economic crisis we currently face, a crisis that apparently Peninsula HSR critics believe isn’t actually happening. ”

    That’s because they’re rich enough that they don’t feel any economic pinch.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Both unfair comments. Although I disagree with the peninsula folks, they are only defending what they feel is a threat to the quality of their lives… something they feel very strongly about.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It’s not at all unfair – the question is how accurate it is, whether it describes all HSR critics or just some. The fact is that their “defense of quality of life” has the direct effect, if successful, of making the economic situation of many of their neighbors and fellow community members much worse.

    It is likely the case that they perceive the late 20th century model of land use and transportation to have worked out pretty well for them, so they see no need to change. The status quo works for them. It isn’t working for a whole lot of other people. Their “defense of quality of life” is something of a luxury they can literally afford.

    Again, that doesn’t mean they’re ALL just protecting their wallets (though some are). What it does mean is that the economic questions are inseparable from the aesthetic questions.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    It’s also a misguided “defense of quality of life”. Grade separations on the peninsula will eliminate horn soundings (which is the number one noise complaint IIRC) reduce deaths from suicide and accident, and improve mobility for peninsula residents, both those who ride the train, and those who drive.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If they are at a level of income where they did not understand from the oil price shock of 2007/08 that their property values are at risk due to overdependence on oil-fired transport … then that sounds like they are at high enough incomes they did not feel the same economic pinch that other people did.

    The bitter irony in this is defending against what they feel is a threat to the quality of their lives, even though it offers them such a substantial protection against what is the real threat to the quality of their lives.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Some certainly are. Others may be feeling a “pinch” but are convinced that the pinch will bite harder if HSR is built. In any case they completely disregard and discount the needs of their neighbors and fellow community members who aren’t doing as well, who need the jobs and the affordable travel options HSR will offer.

  2. Brandon from San Diego
    Jan 31st, 2010 at 20:17

    I am intereted in furhter discussion on the Transbay Terminal and tunnel… is the design sufficient to meet criteria set out by AB3034? Specifically, does it enable processing a train every 5 minutes?

    Then, a poll… whether the $400million is an investment, or pork?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It’s a worthy discussion, although I don’t think we’ll get any clear answers on it – each side has their claims.

    I usually reject the term “pork.” Plenty of members of Congress lobby for spending in their district that is an investment in the future. Even the much-derided “bridge to nowhere” connecting Ketchikan to Gravina Island in Alaska would have been an investment – had businesses set up shop on Gravina Island thanks to the bridge, the Ketchikan economy would have grown, Alaska would have seen more tax revenue, and maybe at some point the federal government would have made enough money in tax revenue to pay off the $300 million cost.

    The issue for me with that bridge was that there were many higher priorities in this country for infrastructure funding than a bridge in Ketchikan. But the term “pork” implies it has no value at all, which just wasn’t true.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    If not the term “Pork”, then “Poor Investment”.

    You’re right, “pork” may not be the best term, especially if the project proponents actually believe their project achieves performance standards.

    wu ming Reply:

    the most honest definition of “pork” is “spending in someone else’s community but not mine (esp. if that community happens to be poor).”

    James Reply:

    O.T.: I agree that the Bridge to Nowhere was a reasonable request and became a punching bag. There are half a million bridges in the 48 states. Alaska asked for one bridge to efficiently and safely provide access across a shipping channel from the town to the airport where medivac flights might land. It just happens that the terrain is so rugged that the local roads do not go far. One bridge. Is that too much to ask of the richest country in the world? I like the version where the bridge also connected the island in the channel.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Actually, the term pork comes from pork barrel, where the idea is that you’ve collected all the good bits and put it in a barrel, and left all the nasty bits behind. Hence pork barrel politics, when a group of politicians agree to each support dumping the good bits that the other one wants into the barrel.

    Thing is … there’s nothing wrong with the pork in the pork barrel, especially if you trim the fat before serving. It is, after all, the Other White Meat. In the analogy, its “good stuff” … and why should we be intrinsically opposed to politicians if they can provide “good stuff” to their constituents?

    Pork barrel politics has well known dangers, and one is that the government will be engaged in too much consumption spending and not enough investment spending.

    But using the term “pork barrel” to impugn government investment that is simply categorically rejected on ideological grounds rather than evaluated to see whether or not there is a genuine return on investment … that’s a fairly pernicious habit, and a common trick of the Reaganauts.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Pork barrel politics has well known dangers

    For example, it spends money on low-ROI projects to satisfy parochial interests in Congress, for example low-speed rail from Chicago to Kansas City. Most such projects will never pay back the initial investment even when one includes social benefits and positive externalities, and would never be undertaken except to satisfy the ego of a politician or a capitalist with too much money.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    All of the Emerging HSR lines that run an operating surplus will easily pay back the initial investment, once one includes positive externalities – and so the straightforward approach is to invest in what is identified as the strongest corridor in the system, and then use the results on that corridor to fine tune the ridership modeling for other systems with similar characteristics in the same region.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Is there any credible analysis proving this claim? I’m asking because SNCF’s studies give a positive social ROI for the Midwest and Florida systems but only after including both consumer surplus and positive externalities.

    And don’t forget, diesel trains have negative externalities with pollution and emissions.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Diesel trains with high load factors only have net negative externalities with pollution and emissions if they have substantial induced demand … and load factors much better than Amtrak daily rail and commuter rail is to be expected with these services … but then substantial induced demand means that the direct benefit to passengers is higher, the positive transport-related externalities are higher, and the net capital subsidy lower.

    And of course, there is no lock in to diesel – a corridor that generates an operating surplus can help finance its own electrification, which is a normal step in the process of upgrading from Emerging HSR to Regional HSR.

    As far as credible analysis, if I cite any analysis, you will state its not credible, since it does not confirm your “zOMG these are not REAL High Speed Trains” bias.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, if you cite any analysis by an American company without a track record outside the US then I will state it’s not credible. Show me something done by SNCF’s consultant arm and I’ll believe you.

    And Amtrak’s practice is not to electrify. There are corridors that generate operating surpluses, such as the Virginia extensions of the NEC and Chicago-St. Louis, but neither Amtrak nor the relevant states have any electrification plans.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    No, if you cite any analysis by an American company without a track record outside the US then I will state it’s not credible. Show me something done by SNCF’s consultant arm and I’ll believe you.

    What special inside knowledge does SNCF have about US transport demands? SNCF did an analysis of what corridors were promising for Express HSR, because that is what they are interested in – they have no special commercial interest in competing for 110~125mph passenger rail systems in the US, so no incentive to invest effort into examining that segment of the transport market.

    And Amtrak’s practice is not to electrify.

    What does Amtrak’s practice have to do with it? Amtrak owns the NEC corridor, and a couple scattered pieces of corridor elsewhere, but the primary model they are pushing outside the NEC is acting as operator for state-subsidized corridors.

    How many of the states that you are talking about have 110mph networks up and running yet? “Proving” that they will not be interested in electrifying as part of the upgrade of corridors once they are up and running, on the basis of the plans they have for getting the corridors up and running in the first place, is quite obviously a bullshit argument – the political fight to get the new corridor established is harder.

    Of course, California is pursuing a conventional rail corridor electrification plan, but I presume that you rule them out as a relevant state – well, not sure why, exactly. Because its not convenient for your desired conclusion, perhaps?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    New York has 110 mph rail with no intentions of electrification. The other states that have applied for grants mention nothing of electrification as well.

    California is electrifying a commuter corridor sharing tracks with HSR. It’s not electrifying the Surfliner or the CC.

    And there’s no such thing as special national transport demands. The US isn’t special, except in the FUD-sowing arguments of local consultants. SNCF’s analysis holds for multiple countries from different regions of the world; why should it fail for America?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    SNCF’s analysis, clearly, is analysis OF market opportunities for Express HSR rail. Projecting from Express HSR cost and benefit to cost and benefit analysis for transport infrastructure that can cost 10% to 20% as much per route mile is self-evidently illegitimate.

    jimsf Reply:

    Here’s an article from the chron that implies the 400 million will be going to tbt. in spite of what kopp says.

    jimsf Reply:

    by the way, I think here, and in other places, Ive noticed people tossing price tags around and talking about the money as if its for the tower and other not quite right stuff…

    so to be clear, the 400million would be for the train station box portion
    and the cost of the whole terminal is NOT 4 billion. its 1.2 billion ( I think the stations cost has been compared here to an expensive european station at 4b, just to set the facts straight)

    most of the price goes to the tunneling to extend hsr and caltrain, not to the building itself.

    (and the tower does not get public money. The developer put up money for the land and the permission to build. And they put up considerably more money than any one else. (As for the so often maligned (here) park, the park was is what sealed the deal. San Franciscans wouldn’t have gone for such a huge development without all the extraneous perks and concessions. We got a park and a ton of cash.)

    lyqwyd Reply:

    I believe the cost of the terminal is 1.2 billion, but without the train box. Including the train box it’s 1.6 billion.

    The European station you mention was brought up by me. I believe the price was roughly equivalent to the projected TBT price, but the station handles over 300,000 people and about 1,800 trains per day, while I think TBT is projected to handle about 50,000 people & 20 or so trains.

    You are correct about the tower, it’s completely separate, and will be developed by private interests.

    Dan Reply:

    I’m curious regarding your comment:
    “most of the price goes to the tunneling to extend hsr and caltrain, not to the building itself”
    Which portion of the tunneling is covered in the $400M? Is this the caltrain extention, or just the portion immeditately adjacent to the train box? I’ve always thought $400M was quite a bit for an excavated box…

    jimsf Reply:

    That I do not know. good question. My guess is that by train box they mean the two levels, and everything within the project footprint. Im sure someone around here knows or I can email tjpa and ask.

    jimsf Reply:

    meanwhile tjpa updated their website with this nice vid.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    No portion of the tunneling is covered by the $400m, its just the portion of the station throat that is in the foundations of the TBT itself. Of course, once that part of the station through is literally locked into place by closely spaced large columns to support the building above, that does lock into place the general footprint of the tunnel. The options for fixing up the access/egress flaws start to narrow down to things like bringing an exit track from the Caltrain platforms underneath the main layout to eliminate the bottleneck with a grade separation rather than by providing the switching to allow parallel movements.

  3. Spokker
    Jan 31st, 2010 at 20:34

    Why the hell does that guy live in Davis and commute to SF? Unless he is salaried and is able to count the 3 hours spent on the train as work, then I don’t get how he stays sane.

    If he leaves work at 4PM then great.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Could be any number of reasons. Perhaps he used to work in Sacramento but for whatever reason got a job in SF instead and didn’t want to move his family. Maybe he really likes Davis (it is a great town).

    The longest train commute I ever had was 40 minutes from Montgomery BART to North Berkeley BART, in 2000-01. I didn’t mind it at all. I read dozens of books that year on the train.

    With a USB modem or a MiFi one could get more work done on the train to and from work, or blog, or see what’s new on Facebook. With on-board WiFi that becomes even more doable.

    Once built, HSR is going to enable people to live in Fresno and work in downtown SF – or even LA. The hope is that HSR will be combined with state and local planning incentives, along with peak oil and peak credit, to ensure that those folks live in denser infill developments near the city center stations. Downtown Fresno has tons of space for that kind of redevelopment. Just wait – by the 2020s Fresno will be the new hip town in California.

    wu ming Reply:

    um, as much as i love to stand up for the valley and all, there’s no freaking way fresno will ever be “hip.” even sac’s a long shot, although people do try more than they’re given credit for. if they can make fresno a nicer place to live, that alone will be fantastic, but hip is a bridge too far.

    jimsf Reply:

    What is “hip” anyway? one of my best freinds (we are all blondie groupies) has a business in fresno in the tower district and she is very hip!

    Sac has midtown, which was long time coming but has come along very nicely. Granted its not WeHo or Chelsea but who wants to live there (unless by hip you mean obnoxious and you think obnoxious is desirable) For grown ups, fresn0, sac, and even scottsdale and lake las vegas could be considered hip as they offer I good, affordable quality of life. I don’t live in the valley, but the reason I dont is the weather and the hay fever, not the lack of hipness. Lets see, maybe fresno will surprise us. (by the way I received a stack of “hanford visitor guides” this week and wow, now that is a hip little town. They have a china town, a japanese cultural thingy, a fabulous historic fox theater, a gorgeous new casino ( I went there for a blondie show and its a really awesome place – that casino – all of kings county was there) So I have to root for them.

    jimsf Reply:

    ( ok the truth is, I confess, the real reason I support high speed rail is that 1) Ill be able to get to fresno quickly so she can cut my hair, 2) it will make it so easy for all of us to get to around the state to all the shows whenever blondie is touring)
    you think Im kidding. but Im not. lol

    Peter Reply:

    I thought it was so that you would have cheap, efficient transportation for when you moved to Palmdale?

    jimsf Reply:

    oh yeah. i forgot. well, let’s see if they fix it up first.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    What jim said. When I was in Fresno about a year ago I saw the potential. Mark my words. HSR will transform Fresno in ways we cannot fathom.

    wu ming Reply:

    i wait with bated breath.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    If he’s taking the train, then it’s not really a big deal. I had a 2 hour train commute for a little while (Berkeley to Santa Clara). It was nice taking the train, I got to read, sleep, have a conversation, or watch the scenery. And on fridays there was happy hour on board! The problem was the last train home left at 5pm, meaning I had to leave the office at 4:30… I worried that I’d be looked at as leaving early (I got in at 7:30 am, but nobody was there to see), plus if I missed that last train I was totally screwed.

    jimsf Reply:

    Most of our cc ridership is people like him. They all moved from the bay up to sac a while back because you could get a nice house with a big yard in a lovely tract, ( take a look at natomas which exploded in the last 10 years) and they could sell their house in the bay area and pay cash for a home up there. and they commute, to sf, and even san jose ( hello ace train – the silicon valley folks all sold their homes and moved to tracy and stockton so they could have the country life with big yards, and 2 car garages for half the price) no matter what policies we try to put in place, ultimately most californians love this

    wu ming Reply:

    first, it isn’t 3 hours, it’s more like 2 1/2, IIRC. second, there are a lot of people who have spouses with jobs in two different communities, esp. the professional class types that largely populate davis. third, more than a few people drive to the bay area from davis, both to commute (insane, but they do it) as well as for concerts, shopping for specialized items, etc., it doesn’t “feel” as far as driving up to, say, redding or chico, because davis thinks of itself as a far-flung part of the bay area. fourth, davis is a smallish town with good schools, relatively low crime, lots of nice parks, and (for all its shortcomings and eccentricities) a pretty interesting and active local community that is pleasant to live in. not as unique as its boosters claim, but i can understand someone wanting to live here. finally, the fact of the matter is that the train is extremely pleasant, and the time spent on it is easily productive, so you’re getting work done, not losing time.

    it’s a pretty nice train, there’s a reason so many people ride it. obviously it’s easier to sac, although the transit once you’re off the CC is not as nice as SF’s.

    Spokker Reply:

    It’s not the train ride I’m harping about. That’s the nice part.

    The bad part is someone who lives in Davis, wakes up at 6:30AM, leaves at 7AM, arrives in SF at 8:30AM, starts work shortly after, leaves work at 6PM, arrives home at 7:30PM.

    I could not do that no matter how gay for trains I am. Your family life would be decimated.

    wu ming Reply:

    for millions of commuters in california, that schedule isn’t much different, except that you get to drive for 2 hours in your own car both ways. it’s insane, but far from unusual.

    jimsf Reply:

    Its kinda the norm really. At least it was when people had jobs. One only need look at the 10 or the 405 , or well any freeway anywhere in the state. I used to drive from el cerrito to sac every day. it was dreadful.

    The californian way is to live in Such and Such Valley, and work over the next one or two sets of hills in whatchamacallit Valley. We’ve always done it that way.

    The simplest way to get rid of rush hour is to mandate flex time so that everyone isn’t trying to go to work at the same time. The next thing you do in put more jobs in the bedroom communities so people dont have to leave every morning.

    Evan Reply:

    If you’ve never been there, Davis is a pretty awesome place. And a whole lot cheaper than living in SF. And this comes from a San Francisco resident :)

    jimsf Reply:

    ( except during the 3 months of hay fever season followed by 5 months of venutian heat, and 3 months of freezing tule fog) October is really nice though. I like October.

    wu ming Reply:

    hey, i like the tule fog. and the heat’s only really bad from june to august, and even then you get the cool delta breeze most nights bringing the temp down to the 50s and 60s. noting nicer than hanging in the hammock in your backyard (or porch if you’re lucky enough to live in an old house), watching the flocks of crows fly back from the fields to roost in the city, and feeling that cool breeze blow gently as you swing, cool beer in your hand. it’s the cities at the ends of the valley like fresno and redding that stay hot like ovens all summer, poor bastards. also, ripe peaches and tomatoes.

    what sucks is the north wind in the fall, dry and dusty and full of smoke, howling over the roof. the rest of the year’s OK.

  4. Dave
    Jan 31st, 2010 at 20:48

    Here’s how I see it.

    Putting money on new highways is like buying an expensive car, once you buy it, it loses money from that day forward. That’s your spending if you will.

    Investing in infrastructure, particularly in Transportation (this case HSR), (wich by the way comes in as the second highest expense in everybody’s household after the the cost of a your home) is like taking out a loan and buying a paper route or buying a package delivery route, etc. Even though you took out a loan for $15-$25K, you made a good investment and will make your money back and have a renewable source of income VS. a loan of $20-$30K for a brand new car that will only lose money from now on and gives you no benefit but only makes you look good.

    After that expensive bill to create new roads/freeways is paid, you have to look forward to maintaining them in the future as well as that expensive new car you just bought. They are money losers. On the other hand the route you bought with the same amount of money needs little maintenance and makes money back.

    This is a good investment on the simple fact that roads require a larger surface area that continuously gets worn out and needs maintenance, repair, patchups all at a high cost. Two pairs of rails will carry the same or more people with a very small surface area (Rail heads) being worn, lower maintenance costs, faster speeds, without the traffic accident’s, less stressfull, etc, etc.

    Evan Reply:

    Great point. I’ve argued this point with some Peninsula NIMBYs, and they’ve tried to tell me that 101 pays for itself with user fees. Apparently, they think a gas tax is a user fee on a highway. Economics fail.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s a common claim, and it’s totally untrue. Neither the CA nor the US gas tax has been increased since 1993. The highway trust fund is broke and so we are subsidizing the operations of freeways quite directly.

  5. HSRComingSoon
    Jan 31st, 2010 at 20:54

    This topic speaks directly about the U.S. political (and financial) cycles. It’s all short-term. Rarely do state governments or even the federal government seemingly think ahead more than two electoral cycles, which makes the need for pressing for a long-term investment strategy all the more salient. If you look at CA, there was a great push for term limits, but what has that brought us? The legislature lacks institutional memory, while those who are occupying seats are thinking more about their re-election than what can be done for the state in the long-term. The same goes for Congress, sans the term limits, of course.

    To be honest, one of the last long-term projects was the interstate freeway system. It revolutionized the U.S. because it was a long-term investment in mobility. The same holds true for high-speed rail. Investing not only in this project, but also for maintaining infrastructure constitutes a prudent long-term investment and vote of confidence in the U.S.

    jimsf Reply:

    Its not just politicians who dont look at the long term, but companies don’t do it anymore either. They are only interested in next quarter profits for shareholder and its the cause of the ruin of america.

    Bianca Reply:

    A slight correction there, jimsf. It’s Wall Street that is only interested in next quarter profits, and they put a lot of pressure on companies to think short-term rather than long-term. The Google founders made a big point of announcing that they were going to do things for the long-term, market reaction be damned, and it got quite a bit of notice because most companies are at the mercy of Wall Street analysts in a way that Google, especially right at its IPO, was not.

    jimsf Reply:

    well, they all need a good ass whoopin anyhow.

  6. synonymouse
    Jan 31st, 2010 at 21:38

    Before you can call this thing an investment you’ll need an investment grade evaluation.

    My humble taxpayer grade evaluation is certainly short of AAA.

    Joey Reply:

    But then again, you (as do all of us) lack the resources to actually study and determine whether or not this is a worthy investment.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    what do you grade AAA?

    Peter Reply:

    His car insurance.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Talk about the tail wagging the horse? This is a real investment, not a mere financial asset.

    This will, in other word, be actual physical productive assets, not a promise from a finance sector firm to hand over a stream of income promised to it by some other finance sector firm.

  7. wu ming
    Feb 1st, 2010 at 00:41

    i’d quibble with you that the davis-SF route isn’t part of the HSR project. once the trunk line is built, and esp. once the sac extension is built, the capitol corridor will become a feeder network that connects directly to two points on that HSR trunk line. while it won’t be one-seat, it will be a critical part of the network as a whole, as will the coastal line i can’t remember the name of down south from SLO to SD.

    the whole point of a HSR trunk is that it beings everything connected to it closer to everything else connected to it. that’s why it’s transformative and not just additive.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    as will the coastal line i can’t remember the name of down south from SLO to SD.

    Pacific Surfliner.

    wu ming Reply:

    right, thanks.

  8. jimsf
    Feb 1st, 2010 at 01:03

    speaking of investment – this is a great 3 part piece about satolas if you havent seen it. We have to have a copy of this here. I suggest palmdale. I know, Im against wasting money on extravagance, but I can’t help it, I just love this one.

  9. Ben
    Feb 1st, 2010 at 04:11

    The hack, Wendell Cox, has a ridiculous op-ed in the WSJ today: . I haven’t read it yet but I don’t see him complain about the billions in public funds highways and airports receive annually nor do I see anywhere a reference to the $1B bailout the San Jouquin Hills Toll Road –much touted by the Reason Foundatin– had to get from the Federal govt a few years back.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You know, I increasingly think the right approach to Cox and O’Toole is “Don’t feed the trolls.” They have no expertise of their own, and they say ridiculous things so repetitively they could be put on a bingo. Has any environmentalist bought the argument that rail emits too much and cars are greener? No. A couple of environmentalist boosters, led by Thomas Friedman, believe in electric cars as panacea, but they also believe in HSR and in high gas taxes. The rest think cars need to die or be radically downsized as a mode of transportation. On the relevant public debates on climate change, nobody is quoting Cox and O’Toole; the deniers quote Lomborg and Will.

    Ben Reply:

    Alon– as in George Will? Since when did he stop being an increasingly bitter hack and became a scientist. I am a staunch proponent of high speed rail but electric vehicles will also be a necessary technology to reduce pollution and consumption of foreign oil. A few years ago, I think 80% of people commuted alone. Even if high speed rail is widely successful, which I hope it is, plenty of people will still drive. Those who choose to drive should do so in electric or hybrid vehilces that get 100 mpg or better. I attended a session recently at the Transportation Research Board and these vehicles are expected to be approximately 1-2% of vehilce sales in 2012, rising to 30 percent by 2030. It is economics (continuing to subsidize oil) and not technology that is holding back more widespread adoption of electric vehilces.

    Getting back to the Cox advertisement, it is so full of half-truths and outright distortions as to be laughable.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, George Will. He’s not a scientist, but neither is Lomborg. Both live off of FUD, as is common for hacks (Will is a good nexus for lots of right-wing hackery – see e.g. his defense of Amity Shlaes on FDR and the Depression). The same is true for Cox.

    Electric vehicles cost $40,000 apiece, a figure that’s unlikely to come down due to the slow pace of technological improvements in battery technology. Even with economic growth bringing down their cost relative to income, it’ll be 2030 before they’re as affordable as today’s hybrids, which are only 3% of new vehicle sales.

    Oil subsidies are a huge part of the problem, but when cars cost $40,000, car ownership can’t be as high as in the modern US. Most likely, car ownership will have to go down dramatically, though not to Hong Kong levels, and car use will have to go down even further.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Auto usage is not going to drop off much in the US, even with much higher oil prices. Public transport will become much more expensive in lock step, as we are seeing currently. Japan is a good example of the persistence of autos.

    The automobile has the great advantage, apart from mobility, of being DIY. Transit worker compensation packages are totally over the top. But instead of jawboning the unions, the transit agencies raise fares and cut service. The hsr will face exactly the same problem and will a money loser.

    Joey Reply:

    Japan??? The country that has trains going almost everywhere? Believe me, you don’t see freeways in Japan like you do here.

    Jathnael Taylor Reply:

    you do I have been there enough and driven the highways enough to know they are out there.
    And Japan is just as car crazy as the US..but thinks like the Shaken , road tax and the 46(?) yen a Liter tax on gas will keep it in check.
    That and most every highway is a toll road.

    Joey Reply:

    And yes, mass transit is currently facing a lot of problems. Problems we should try to SOLVE, rather than just looking at them and saying, “oh well, I guess mass transit doesn’t work too well.”

    Bianca Reply:

    synonymouse, have you ever been to Japan?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, cars are DIY, if you are driving from one house where you put in the driveway to your second house where you put in the driveway. Otherwise, they are critically dependent on the massive zoning-enforced requirements to provide parking spaces – unlike public transport, which almost always parks in spaces owned by the transport authority.

    jimsf Reply:

    The only way electric vehicles will be popular is if the working class can afford them. That means they have to sell for the price of a ford focus or toyota corolla, around 15k and will be used as second car. People who can afford more than that are still going to want to buy power and style instead.

    Bobierto Reply:

    I just read that the electric car that Nissan is coming out with next year will sell in the $20k range (I think I have that right) but that you will have to lease the battery pack separately at $150/month. Yikes! If you are currently getting 25 mpg and paying $3/gallon, then you would have to drive more than 1,200 miles/month to break even on the cost of the battery pack, and that’s before the cost of the electricity you’re using to charge the battery. There is still some way to go on this technology, apparently. And I agree, hybrids are a niche car and electric cars, and plug-in hybrids, will not penetrate the mass market until they are cheap, with a long range, and charging stations in every parking lot. A tall order.

    jimsf Reply:

    plus, you can get pretty good mileage with the existing cheap small traditional cars anyway.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    BETTER PLACE (Palo Alto) has a partership with the Renault-Nissan group. Swapping batteries at Better place service stations will take no longer than filling up with gasoline. A GPS-based display will inform the driver on how far he is from a service station and how to get there.
    A network will be operational in Israel in 2011, then in Denmark and Hawaii. It will take longer to cover larger countries. Details here and

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Electric cars in Israel sound like a solution looking for a problem. Israel has crappy public transportation, but it also has very low car ownership. The issue isn’t gas prices, which Better Place wouldn’t alleviate in the first place as cars in Israel are usually small. It’s the upfront cost of getting a car. Israel’s still engaging in massive road socialism, but it’s also engaging in rail socialism.

    Peter Reply:

    Israel is really interested in electric cars for the simple (and complex) reason that they do not want to be dependent on (mostly) Arab oil producers.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    The Israeli government is not currently encouraging car ownership but I’ve heard the fiscal policy will be much more favorable for electric cars.
    With the Better Place system, Renault-Nissan EVs will be sold at the same price as the corresponding gasoline models. You don’t buy the battery, you pay for the electricity you consume, just as you would for gasoline. So, depending on gas prices, these cars might end up costing less than conventional ones.
    The problem, really, is the network. Before buying one, people will want to be sure they won’t be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a dead battery.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Israel is building highways even when unnecessary. For example, Highway 2 from Tel Aviv to Haifa was not at capacity and neither was Ayalon cutting through Tel Aviv, but the government still built Highway 6 as a reliever.

    It’s not really concerned about oil, at all – you just don’t read such concerns in the Israeli media as you do in the US media. Israel does not view energy as a security issue the way the US does. It imports all of its oil, but even more so than the US it has the view that security issues are solved by bombing, not conservation; it’s also too small for the oil producers to notice if it consumes less oil.

    Electric car batteries still cost money. The replacement system is clever, but the cost of getting the battery replaced would have to cover not just electricity cost but also depreciation on the battery. Since there must be at least as many batteries as there are cars, it shouldn’t be much of a benefit.

  10. jimsf
    Feb 1st, 2010 at 12:20

    In order to maximize revenue and keep ticket prices low, the chsr trains should offer lots of amenities
    first class and business class, family compartments, dining, a full bar, a casino car with slot machines and craps tables, and a full line of hsr branded merchandise ( t shrits, coffee mugs etc) and anything else you can think of selling, sell it.

    jimsf Reply:

    and charters, trains should be available by charter, both whole cars on existing skeds, and whole trainsets on custom itineraries.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Like Amtrak does?

    jimsf Reply:

    yes exactly. we do that, at least out here with our fun train snow train, and our group desk, and our vacations desk. yes, like amtrak does.

  11. Observer
    Feb 1st, 2010 at 13:25

    Robert your ad hominem attack is all very moving – moving in the opposite direction of adding value to getting CAHSR done right.

    The REAL question is, where is the document showing the details and terms of the 2.2B ARRA Award.

    Jim posted a really fabulous link demonstrating the HUGE TBT drama unfolding – which is all about CHSRA (Kopp) claiming they have full authority to disperse these funds and TBT won’t get a penny until CHSRA deems to finish with alternative analysis – One and a Half Years from now, while SF officials are claiming that LaHood reserved 400M specifically for TBT. These are questions folks are interested in. And I’m sure your Labor buddies are ?@#* by CHSRA claiming they have the sole authority to hold up shovel ready jobs for 1.5 years, no?

    Also, interesting news this morning in Obama’s budget announcemnet- woo hoo – a whole $1B included for high speed rail in 2011. Fabulous! if California attracts 1/4 (like they just did for ARRA) they might end up with a whole 250Mil. Tad sort of the 3B needed per business plan.

    So, curious minds want to know – why would you choose this very moment to post another long winded diatribe on the mean old (tax generating) rich folks on the Peninsula – if not to deflect from the burning issues happening now?

    Don’t claim now that you don’t know, or aren’t privvy to the award details. You pretty much cleared up any confusion about your insider connections to CHSRA with your little ‘I’ve got news you’re all going to love, but I can’t share it for another 7 hours and 23 minutes” stunt.

    So c’mon Robert, quit holding out on the real story of the day. Where are the details on the award?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The REAL question is, where is the document showing the details and terms of the 2.2B ARRA Award.

    Who made that the real question?

    Oh, that’s right, someone named “Observer” started imagineering calamities as a result of the $1.85b award to start building and constructing four segments in Stage 1 of the California HSR line, and then started DEMANDING the details of the document to DISPROVE his/her imagineering.

    Stop hyperventilating Observer, the details will be released in due course.

    Eric M Reply:

    So Observer, does this make Kansas City an insider when it comes to CAHSR, being they had that out well before the announcement?

    Wake up Observer!

    Peter Reply:

    He doesn’t realize that press releases are released to media (and a blogger counts as media nowadays) before they are allowed to be released to the public. In other words, he’s an idiot.

    Rafael Reply:

    a) Robert publishes new information pertinent to the California HSR project as soon as he can get around to it, unless the info is embargoed until a particular date and time by the source. If you break an embargo by publishing early, you’ll never get info from that source again. Respecting it isn’t a stunt, it’s part of the deal.

    b) Procedurally, the application for all ARRA HSR funds was filed by the State of California. It in turn had previously received separate petitions from both TJPA and CHSRA.

    Afaik, the $400 million TJPA asked for to get cracking on the Transbay Terminal Center building incl. the structural elements of the train box do not require any state bond appropriation. USDOT’s grant conditions reportedly contain a line item specifically for the TTC, though I don’t know if it’s for the full amount requested. For these reasons, I expect the governor will be under massive pressure to make whatever amount is in the line item available to TJPA as soon as possible. In theory at least, this slice ought to be beyond CHSRA’s influence, no doubt much to Quentin Kopp’s chagrin.

    Of course, once dirt is actually turned on the TTC, the case for a Beale Street alternative becomes very weak since the excavation of the train box void will be the first order of business. That in turn will all but lock in the suboptimal design of the extremely expensive station throat and access tunnel, which remain unfunded.

    Basically, CHSRA would have to demonstrate – Real Soon Now ™ – either that the present design would not permit HSR operations at 5 min headways as required by AB3034(2008) or else, that substantial overall cost savings could be had by siting the underground train station between Beale and Main Streets, with pedestrian connections to the bus terminal. This would arguably amount to a redefinition of the TTC, something that AB3034(2008) does permit.

    Switching to a tunnel route with curves gentle enough to permit the use of conventional TBMs and reducing the number of tracks from three to two could potentially deliver significant savings. While a few design improvements (column placement, use of doubly curved switches) are still possible if the train box remains directly underneath the bus terminal, overall it will still be a case of the tail wagging the dog. Unfortunately, SF communities (esp. Rincon Hill), politicians and TJPA are united in opposition to moving the underground train portion to any other location, for three reasons:

    1 – The TTC project as conceived by TJPA already has a completed EIR. Switching the train portion to another location would invalidate at least the below-ground portion and jeopardize the business case for the above-ground portion.

    2 – Exercising eminent domain against condo buildings is usually more difficult politically than doing so against small businesses. It’s not a given that CHSRA could successfully complete its project-level EIR if it decides to prefer an alternative to the TTC as conceived by TJPA.

    3 – Politicians representing SF may quite like the idea of a needlessly expensive throat and tunnel, since that means more state and federal funds will have to be spent in their city, if only because one way or another, contractors will no doubt be making generous contributions to their re-election campaigns.

    Btw: the portion of the ARRA grant destined for other portions of the HSR project is subject to actual appropriation of prop 1A(2008) bonds by the state legislature under the rules spelled out in AB3034(2008), i.e. in the context of the annual state budget farce.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Basically, CHSRA would have to demonstrate – Real Soon Now ™ – either that the present design would not permit HSR operations at 5 min headways as required by AB3034(2008) or else, that substantial overall cost savings could be had by siting the underground train station between Beale and Main Streets, with pedestrian connections to the bus terminal. This would arguably amount to a redefinition of the TTC, something that AB3034(2008) does permit.

    As long as the HSR has priority over the Caltrain services, and any incoming or outgoing HSR can preempt any schedule Caltrain arrival/departure, the first cannot be demonstrated, because 5min headways for HSR alone would seem to be quite clearly feasible. The bottleneck problem can be squeezed to either HSR or to Caltrain or shared, and if squeezed to Caltrain, then it remains a dubious proposition to spend so much money for an intermodal interchange which cannot guarantee more than one Caltrain service every fifteen minutes … but not a violation of AB3034(2008).

    Rafael Reply:

    HSR won’t have priority over Caltrain services, in the sense that the MOU between CHSRA and PCJPB regarding the ROW down to SJ requires a minimum of 8 Caltrains per hour each way during rush hours. How many of those will have to reach the TTC is not yet nailed down, but Caltrain would obviously like that number to be closer to 8 than to 4.

    For obvious reasons, the platforms tracks of a terminus station must support traffic in both directions. So must the throat, and that’s where the problem lies: the distance between the western end of the platforms and the point at which the three throat tracks merge into the two main line tracks is over a full mile. With two tight curves in the tunnel, all trains – both HSR and Caltrain – will be lucky to average 20mph in this section of their respective routes.

    Assuming a 3 minute minimum headway at the critical junction between main line and throat plus a 3 minute traversal time for the throat, and you end up with 10 TPH total. Split that 50/50 between Caltrain and HSR, with 2 Caltrain and 4 HSR platform tracks and you end up with each service departing every 12 minutes. Dwell times work out to 15 minutes for Caltrain and a 27 minutes for HSR.

    Assume instead 2.5 minute minimum headway and a generous 5 minute throat traversal time and you get 12 TPH total to play with (4 Caltrain, 8 HSR). However, all trains have dwell time of just 17.5 minutes, which CHSRA considers too short. Optimize the throat/tunnel design to achieve a throat traversal time of 2.5 minutes and you end up with 6 TPH for each service. Dwell times are then 12.5 min for Caltrain and 22.5 min for HSR, still shorter than CHSRA would like.

    All of these scenarios exclude the complication of an underground station at 4th & Townsend. With scheduled intervals of 2.5 minutes, the logistics of the whole system become very brittle: one glitch and there are knock-on delays for many other trains.

    Aggregate throughput of up to 20-24 TPH would be feasible with a single track one-way access loop. With 4 platform tracks, CHSRA could then achieve dwell times of 27-27.5 minutes at 8 TPH. The snag is that there’s not enough room for any dead-straight full-length HSR platforms under the bus terminal in this scenario, unless the outbound tunnel tube is moved west to 3rd Street.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    HSR won’t have priority over Caltrain services, in the sense that the MOU between CHSRA and PCJPB regarding the ROW down to SJ requires a minimum of 8 Caltrains per hour each way during rush hours. How many of those will have to reach the TTC is not yet nailed down, …

    You contradict your thesis before the end of the paragraph. The evident bottleneck that might constrain 8tph in rush hour is precisely at 4th & Townsend, the DTX and the station throat to the TBT.

    All of these scenarios exclude the complication of an underground station at 4th & Townsend.

    That would be begging the question, wouldn’t it? A major part of the bottleneck of the current design is due to the fact that there is only one express track shared between access and egress at 4th and Townsend and that operations at 4th and Townsend are directly tied to operations at the TBT station throat – the Caltrain local HAS to get to the extreme right hand side outbound and an HSR that will be passing it while its at platform HAS to get onto the central express track outbound by the last switch so that implies whether there can be a local sitting on the inbound track blocking the use of the extreme right hand side inbound.

    Widen 4th and Townsend to give two express tracks and the DTX can narrow down to two track, one each way, and the HSR station throat operations are at the very least no longer connected to whether there is a local Caltrain at 4th & Townsend

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    As soon as I get details, I’ll share them. So far nobody has those details. Including the Authority.

  12. Peninsula Rail 2010
    Feb 1st, 2010 at 16:59

    The Transbay trainbox got its full $400 million request because it was genuinely shovel-ready, which is the core idea of economic stimulus. Construction jobs available 1.5 years from now are not nearly as important as jobs RIGHT NOW. The Beale Street alternative was evaluated and considered dead years ago. Even though it has been a complicated and less-than-ideal process, the Transbay Terminal and all the supportive private development deals have been worked out well in advance of the construction that is about to happen. Kopp’s revived late-hour Beale Street alternative was never realistic considering that the required land had already been spoken for and even recently built upon! It was Kopp’s attempt to kill the Transbay extension to preserve his BART-SFO-Millbrae fiasco. He hoped all HSR passengers would transfer to/from BART at Millbrae or make use of all that empty Millbrae parking.

    This is a major political swat-down of Quentin Kopp. The San Francisco pols have basically over-ridden him and his attempt to kill the Transbay Terminal. Even now, he’s trying to hold up construction on the project for another year and a half! That’s going to piss off all the unemployed construction workers that are packing public meetings. Kopp knows very little about transportation, but he’s clueless about which way the political winds are blowing. Political failure couldn’t happen to a more likable curmudgeon!

    Five minute headways for long-distance trains from San Francisco were always an absurd claim with no justification in travel demand, but the capacity and flexibility of the TBT can be improved with shared platforms. 6 tracks are fine. Not only would reducing the tunnel tracks from 3 to 2 save an great deal of $$$ in tunneling, only having two tunnel tracks would give the station-throat more space for less-sharp curves.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Five minute headways for long-distance trains from San Francisco were always an absurd claim with no justification in travel demand, but the capacity and flexibility of the TBT can be improved with shared platforms.

    How can sharing platforms fix a station throat design with a bottleneck that prevents parallel access and egress?

    Five minute headways for long-distance trains from San Francisco were always an absurd claim with no justification in travel demand

    This is the claim with no basis in travel demands. Intercity travel demands are not time-of-day insensitive – there are always times that are more valuable arrival and departure times, and refusing to deliver a terminal design that permits whatever scheduling the network itself permits reduces the market value of the schedule, with neither justification nor compensation.

    It also seems to be defying the mandate from the San Francisco voters over a decade ago to design it as the HSR terminal station.

    And Knopp deserves a full measure of blame as well for allowing the issue to get sidetracked into the question of the number of platforms when the real bottleneck is the operational inflexibility of the design. A single passenger incident at one of the 4th and Townsend local platforms could effectively shut down all Caltrain access until it is resolved if it happens during a period of peak HSR arrival or departure demand.

    Indeed, the reason a three track tunnel is required is to avoid having dedicated express in and out tracks and local platform sidings through the underground station at 4th and Townsend – the third track is entirely for switching inbound and outbound traffic through the single bi-directional express track at 4th and Townsend.

    Joey Reply:

    If the problems now facing the Paris-Lyon line are anything to go by, I think it’s generally a good idea to build a little extra capacity into the system. Granted, CAHSR will probably never reach that kind of passenger load but if you build the bare minimum you’re bound to have problems later.

    Four platform tracks would probably be enough for HSR. Six might be able to handle HSR+Caltrain. However, that’s assuming that the platforms are shared, and that the station throat is designed intelligently with parallel paths and without sharp turns. And that is just not happening with the current TBT design.

    jimsf Reply:

    Thank you! okaaaay!

  13. Dan S.
    Feb 1st, 2010 at 18:01

    Slightly O/T, I searched but didn’t see it mentioned here yet, there was a radio program on SF’s public radio station just last Friday about HSR, with Quentin Kopp, Alan Lowenthal, and Martin Engel as guests. There was even a caller with a name that sounded like “Till” to me who I kept wondering if it was Clem?

    Anyway, the radio program Forum is fabulous and I think quite (deservedly) popular. Give it a listen. Fairly fair treatment, mostly dominated by Kopp’s deisel-train like insistent plodding! Goes pretty quick though, just a half-hour treatment that boils down to a 24 minute mp3.

  14. HSR supporter
    Feb 1st, 2010 at 20:15


    “There is no need to subsidize intercity travel. Flyers pay for virtually all of the costs of running the airline system, including airports and air traffic control. Gasoline taxes and highway tolls built and maintain intercity roadways, and they also support mass transit with $10 billion in subsidies annually. Intercity buses require no taxpayer funds.”


  15. martin
    Feb 1st, 2010 at 21:40

    anyone see this yet?

    China To Fund Maglev High-Speed Train
    Train To Bring Thousands Of Jobs To Las Vegans

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I hadn’t. That’s really interesting.

    Joey Reply:

    Soooo … remind me how much this maglev is going to cost, and how much of it this Chinese bank is willing to loan…

    Joey Reply:

    Never mind, found that they are lending $7 billion. But is that the whole cost of the project?

    HSRforCali Reply:

    Where’d you find the info?

    HSRforCali Reply:

    Nevermind, found it.

    HSRComingSoon Reply:

    Interesting, hopefully this can bring other countries or companies like Alstom, Siemens, Bombardier, JR, etc. will finally speak up and pledge some to invest $$$ for our project. As for the Maglev, I wonder how it will travel from Victorville to Anaheim. Going over Cajon Pass ought to be a bit of a challenge. Also, the pre-requisite for China’s $7 billion loan requires support by the federal government. Should it bring the Feds to the table as well, what about CAHSR?

  16. Donk
    Feb 1st, 2010 at 23:08

    This would be a disaster. If they can raise that kind of money, the feds will certainly kick in some additional funds of a similar magnitude (eventually). These funds would compete with other more practical projects. I believe the cost estimate was $40B. This for a train that would only be used on Fridays and Sundays with no meaningful stops in between and maybe 1/3 the trackage of the CASHR project.

    What would probably end up happening is the completion of the Maglev line from Vegas to Primm. Then, when they start revenue service, it will be a complete failure, just like a half finished monorail is seen as a failure. Then high speed rail wll forever be seen as a boondoggle.

    Donk Reply:

    …At least in the CAHSR system if you build a segment of the system you have something that still has some use, since there are viable cities in between. With Vegas, it’s all or nothing (pun intended).

    synonymouse Reply:

    Palmdale-Tehachapis is a boondoggle. This is a Chinese provocation to get even for our support for Taiwan and Tibet. And the Supremes have made this type of foreign monetary intervention in internal affairs totally legal.

    jimsf Reply:

    oh well then, no wonder.

    Spokker Reply:


    Spokker Reply:

    Did Diana Ross give the dissenting argument? Bwahahaha!

    wu ming Reply:

    investment = “foreign monetary intervention”? huh?

    now i am convinced you’ve never been out of the country. the rest of the world is chock full of american (and european, and japanese) investment of this sort. this isn’t buying ad time to elect pro-chinese politicians or pass initiatives, this is a rather run of the mill investment in a (boondoggle IMO) private infrastructure project.

  17. jimsf
    Feb 2nd, 2010 at 00:24

    Nevada can’t just come barging in to california and build stuff. They have to have our permission and Im voting no. They can build there little magnet train to phoenix and suck all up all the old folk’s social security checks.

    HSRforCali Reply:

    Seriously, even though I hate using the term, this maglev project seems to be a “boondoggle” with its over-inflated ridership figures and under-estimated cost. The Chinese Bank would be smarter to invest $7 billion to help build the LA-Palmdale section for CAHSR and the Palmdale-Victorville section of the DesertXpress. Then DesertXpress trains can go to Anaheim (just like the maglev) and still go through Downtown LA and Burbank, more stops to pick up potential passengers.

    Jathnael Taylor Reply:

    I am just waiting to see who will back the loan when it folds.
    BUT..if it does work…then it would be hella cool.

  18. synonymouse
    Feb 2nd, 2010 at 19:03

    The Chinese are just doing this to show the power of their massive foreign reserves. The pundits have come up with a term to describe the new Chinese attitude: “trumphalism”

    Once they realize that Sin City has gone into decline they’ll withdraw their money quietly.

    HSRforCali Reply:

    I’m actually sort of ok with Sin City going into decline since money made in California seems to be spent in Nevada. If it’s in decline, maybe they’ll stop sucking our pockets dry.

  19. synonymouse
    Feb 3rd, 2010 at 13:54

    It is all about money. California politicians, aware of how much money is siphoned off to Nevada casinos, came up with the ruse of Indian gaming to get past instate holies and Nevada interests. Now you have one ethnic group, no matter how unethically treated in the past, with a statutory monopoly on a lucrative racket. You have to question the constitutionality, ah but who cares these days.

    But I can’t figure out why Richard M. likes the Tehachapis over the Grapevine?

    Matthew F. Reply:

    I can’t figure out why anyone thinks Grapevine is workable. Have you ever actually driven over it?

Comments are closed.