Arnold Schwarzenegger Promotes HSR – Will His Successors Do The Same?

Feb 17th, 2010 | Posted by

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a good governor on TV, although he has shown himself to be one of the worst governors of all time when it actually comes to policymaking. This is especially true of high speed rail. On TV he has often spoken glowingly of HSR and did so again on Meet The Press last month:

Look, this country need to rebuild itself. We are still living off the Eisenhower era and off the Roosevelt era when they built the thousands of bridges and the thousands of government buildings and the roads, the highway system and all of those things. What’s the new thing that we’re building? We haven’t built anything in decades. We need a high speed rail. We need new infrastructure. We need to think about it because we have countries like China and Europe that are very fast gaining on us and surpassing us. So we got to get our act together and really make this country kind of live in the 21st century, not be with the infrastructure in the 20th century.

And yet Arnold’s real legacy for HSR is much less golden. He continued to delay the vote for the $10 billion in HSR bonds well beyond the original 2004 date. That may have worked out to HSR’s benefit, since 2008 saw a gas price spike that proved the need for high speed trains and saw the election of a very pro-HSR president, but that wasn’t anything Arnold intended to happen. Instead he spent the intervening years attacking the CHSRA’s funding and putting the project in significant jeopardy.

Even today, with Prop 1A approved and the first federal funds having been awarded, it’s clear that Arnold Schwarzenegger has damaged HSR in some very important ways. The CHSRA’s lack of funding earlier on meant it never could do the kind of massive public outreach that could have ensured that some of the current problems over design and implementation were dealt with earlier on. While the claims of the NIMBYs that the CHSRA did no public outreach whatsoever on the project prior to 2009 are simply wrong, more ought to have been done, but without money the CHSRA couldn’t do it. Instead of fighting the governor and the legislature to keep the lights on in 2007, staff could have instead been out talking to residents, local governments, and potential HSR riders about the project.

Still, the CHSRA is working to overcome that handicap, and since 2008 Arnold has been more help than hindrance to the project. The question we now face here in 2010 is whether his successors will do the same.

Jerry Brown is likely to be the only Democrat running for governor in 2010, and as you all probably know, has been governor before (elected in 1974, reelected in 1978). Like all governors elected prior to 1990, he is exempt from term limits, so he can run for a third term. He has a history with high speed rail – during his governorship he was a strong supporter of HSR, despite opposition from some powerful state legislators. In 2003 Richard Trainor published an article on Brown’s HSR efforts, a fascinating if incomplete read. Brown, with the help of one Mehdi Morshed, rushed a bill through the legislature in late summer 1982 to create an HSR system with Japanese contractors, exempt from CEQA and Coastal Commission review.

1982 was Brown’s last year as governor. That year he ran for US Senate and lost to Pete Wilson. By 1983 anti-HSR forces, led by the Southern California Association of Governments, began attacking the HSR project. They tried to debunk the ridership studies using a “white paper” produced by the city of Tustin (my hometown – sorry!) and authored by Trainor. Soon thereafter, without support from Brown’s successor, Governor George Deukmejian, and with only weak support in the legislature, the HSR project collapsed.

Nearly 30 years later, California’s HSR project has not only been revived, but is stronger than ever. It has $10 billion in voter-approved bonds, over $2 billion in initial federal funding, and is very nearly finished with the full set of environmental reviews (when the CHSRA was created in 1996, the project was not exempted from CEQA). Initial construction is just two and a half years away.

Jerry Brown would be very well poised to come in and provide leadership and institutional support that the HSR project desperately needs. It’s likely that he would not only support it but would work to see it properly and effectively implemented. CHSRA might get new board members (Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed the majority of its present membership) or it could be folded into an executive branch department that Brown would oversee.

Brown isn’t an officially declared candidate yet, though he is definitely going to run for governor, so he hasn’t yet taken a position on the project. As Attorney General, his office has been supportive of the project, and backed the CHSRA’s controversial position on the Transbay Terminal project studies last September.

Brown is still espousing a vision of “elegant density” for California’s future, as he did 30 years ago, a vision that was never really implemented after the Reaganite turn politics took in the 1980s, but a vision that holds urban density and mass transit at its core. There is every reason to believe Brown will continue to support HSR today.

His likely November opponent is Meg Whitman, a Republican and a former eBay CEO. She appears to be a more openly right-wing version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and seems to believe that advocating for higher unemployment is a winning campaign strategy. So far she has made no public statements on high speed rail, so guessing her position is going to be rather difficult. She wants to slash state spending, but then so did Arnold Schwarzenegger and he ultimately backed HSR. Whitman does not appear to be an anti-rail ideologue, but she does live in Atherton, and might well share some of the NIMBY attitudes of that city’s leadership. It’s possible she would continue Arnold’s support of the project, but it’s equally possible she wouldn’t. Definitely worth watching closely.

We have a clearer picture of where the other Republican candidate, Steve Poizner, stands: he opposes it:

Based on his remarks about our deficit and debt service I asked him for his opinion on the CHSRA High Speed bullet train especially in light of the fact that we have neglected our transportation infrastructure. Steve said he is a frequent flyer on Southwest Airlines and that all factors considered “he opposes the project.”

Thank god he isn’t likely to even make it out of the Republican primary – the last thing we need in government is someone who thinks that because Southwest has regular flights right now between SoCal and the Bay Area, we don’t need HSR. As we’ve repeatedly explained here, Southwest’s fares will rise along with everyone else’s in the coming years, and besides, door-to-door HSR is comparable in travel time to flying. In other heavily traveled air corridors, such as the Northeast Corridor or Madrid-Barcelona, HSR has been able to take as much as half the market share and generate profits in the process.

Poizner not only doesn’t understand that fact, he also is convinced that California has too much debt and that the answer is to delay the sale of authorized bonds, including Prop 1A. In short, he seems to be an HSR denier’s dream. Unfortunately for them, he isn’t likely to get anywhere near the governor’s office.

So the 2010 gubernatorial election will come down to Jerry Brown, a known and long-time HSR supporter, and Meg Whitman, whose views on the topic are totally unknown. I don’t know whether HSR will play a role in the campaign or not, but I believe it is to Brown’s benefit if it does. I’ll keep you all updated on how the gubernatorial race impacts HSR – and vice versa – between now and November.

  1. Matthew F.
    Feb 17th, 2010 at 19:25

    Clearly, it’s time to start campaigning for Poisoner, since he would have NO chance in November…

  2. Avery
    Feb 17th, 2010 at 19:46

    “door-to-door HSR is comparable in travel time to HSR”

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Heh, thanks for catching that one!

  3. Brandon from San Diego
    Feb 17th, 2010 at 20:27

    I cannot imagine a republican in the State’s govenor’s chair… unless it were another actor/fake-tor.

    In the primaries…. I’ll vote for whichever democrat has the best platform on transportation. In the main event… a democrat. I don’t see ANY viable republican candidates.

    But, what about Dianne Feinstein? Has she withdrawn her name for consideration while I was on vacation?

  4. Jack
    Feb 17th, 2010 at 21:10

    It’s going to be tuff for Brown. I don’t think we are going to see the depressed republican turn out like we did in the 2008 elections. The Dem’s failure to get health care done is going to be a rallying cry to repeat the republican revolution in the 90’s.

    As bad as Arnie has been, I don’t place all the blame on him. He tried some interesting ideas and got his ass handed to him at the ballot box. Now he plays it sure and smooth.

    Matthew F. Reply:

    Which doesn’t make any sense: “We want health care reform, but the Democrats didn’t pass it. Therefore we should elect those who actively opposed it!”

    nobody ever said voters were a smart lot, though…

    wu ming Reply:

    the mechanism’s a bit less direct, going more like dems or independents thinking “i voted for dems in 2008 so they’d pass health care reform, and they didn’t deliver, so screw this i’ve got better things to do than vote/volunteer/donate.” less of an issue of directly voting for the GOP than of not voting and so skewing the voting electorate towards the GOP by their absence.

    that being said, brown’s pretty good at playing the antiestablishment populist when he feels like it, so he might actually benefit from this climate in the way that other dems might not. emphasis on might, tho.

  5. Donk
    Feb 17th, 2010 at 23:27

    Re: “We need to think about it because we have countries like China and Europe that are very fast gaining on us and surpassing us. ”

    I am tired of this argument coming from politicians. I have heard it from Obama, LaHood, and now Arnie. Who gives a crap what other countries are doing with HSR? Sure its important, but is this really the argument they should be making?

    The point isn’t to compete with China or Korea or Spain, but to improve mobility, air quality, land use, oil dependence, etc. Competition with other countries is near the bottom of this list. If you want competition watch Apollo Antone Ohno go up against the Koreans.

  6. wu ming
    Feb 18th, 2010 at 01:35

    there is a limited amount of oil out there on the global open market, and when the global recession improves and demand starts rising, we’ll get back into a global bidding war on what oil remains in a peak or near-peak climate.

    given that future scenario, the difference between a country cratering and a country thriving will be its ability to either a) outbid the others for oil, or else b) insulate its economy from oil with things like electric HSR. if our economy needs oil to f(x) and china’s (or korea’s or europe’s) needs less (or as it currently stands, our economy uses oil mainly for personal consumption while the east asian economies use it to produce value-added goods which cover the cost of the oil), our economy is going to have to deal with oil-driven inflation, which will make our consumers poorer and our goods more expensive.

    in a global market, structural weaknesses like that can make the difference between a healthy economy and a downward spiral. HSR is a significant part of the necessary american strategy going forward, given how freaking much of our trade deficit is oil, and how much of that oil goes to transportation instead of manufacturing.

    Donk Reply:

    This point you are making is a much more meaningful one than the statements our politicians have been tossing around regarding competition. The way they say it, it sounds like we need to the coolest toys because others have the coolest toys, and this may be contributing to the perceived “boondoggle” factor. The politicians need to do a better job selling tihs project.

    wu ming Reply:

    the pols are mostly people who have their jobs by virtue of ability to fundraise and speak in platitudes, but they’re also somewhat limited by their general inability to admit in public that a) there could even be a possibility of peak oil, or b) that america could ever be less than an unrivaled global hyperpower. it’s just not ‘serious’ to admit to either.

    some times i wonder if the smarter of them aren’t using the very real need to address carbon emissions as cover to make changes in anticipation of peak oil without admitting as such. i certainly hope so.

  7. jimsf
    Feb 18th, 2010 at 08:55

    I just woke up t this shocking news: Amtrak Shows A Profitable Quarter

    Posted: Feb 16, 2010 2:49 PM
    Amtrak Shows A Profitable Quarter
    There’s good news from Amtrak: the Lynchburg-to-Washington route is already turning a profit.
    Profits from November ridership mean savings for Virginia. ***The state had planned for a $242,000 subsidy to keep the train running, but now it doesn’t have to fork that money out.**** (wow!)

    Nearly 10,000 riders boarded that train in November, bringing in more than $530,000.
    Reported by Tracy Clemons”

    Let that be a warning to the rail deniers.

    wu ming Reply:

    if they’re smart, they’d plough that money into expanding a good thing. unlikely, though.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The reports about this have been out for months, Jim.

    Washington-Newport News used to turn a small operating profit, turned unprofitable last year, and is now back to breaking even.

    jimsf Reply:

    oh. Well it just showed up this morning in my daily amtrak email news alerts that I get at home. I mean the article is from the 16th.

  8. jimsf
    Feb 18th, 2010 at 09:12

    and this in from san diego.. New wave of ‘NIMBY’ sweeping state

    Victor Reply:

    Eminent Domain comes to mind in the case of any obstructing Nimbys, Pay them afterwards of course, No negotiations.

  9. jimsf
    Feb 18th, 2010 at 09:15

    Frankly, I’m a little impressed. I didn’t think Californians had it in them anymore. In the 70s, californians easily mobilized to help the environment, stop the peripheral canal, save this that and the other tree/animal whatever…and it came with a certain sense of pride… but I have a feeling this new nimbyism isn’t like that… I think the new nimbyism is more like…. well, sort of a reactionary bitchiness for the sake of reacting. It just doesn’t quite seem the same.

    Scott Reply:

    I think the neoNIMBYs are cut from the same block as those who buy a house next to an airport and then complain about noisy airplanes flying over their house.

    wu ming Reply:

    from the polling, it looks like we might manage to kill a peripheral canal again this year.

  10. Missiondweller
    Feb 18th, 2010 at 09:31

    As I’ve stated before, I think its a mistake to make HSR into a partisan issue.

    The Gov, has unequivocally supported CAHSR. This is a good thing. Bashing one potential future Gov. over another does not move us forward.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    But there are many many people in the world who see almost everything as a partisan issue. Doesn’t matter what the issue is, if the other side is for they are agin’ it dang nabbit donchya know…

    Victor Reply:

    Yep, Some don’t care, They just want to oppose anything the other side proposes or is for, no matter what.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Where in this post did I make this a partisan issue?

    Steve Poizner has come out against HSR. So we’re free to bash him. It’s unclear where Meg Whitman will stand, though there is equal reason to be concerned as there is to be hopeful. And we can expect Jerry Brown to be supportive.

    If you want challenge those assessments of the candidates, feel free to to do so.

    wu ming Reply:

    one would think that in an election year when opposing candidates took different positions on HSR, that it would be quite reasonable on a HSR blog to discuss those positions. that such things tend to line up along partisan lines (unlike, fascinatingly enough, the damn water bond on the 2010 ballot) is just part of the political realities of CA in the zeroes.

    wu ming Reply:

    damn, that damn should have had the n wittily struck through. html fail.

  11. jimsf
    Feb 18th, 2010 at 11:01

    I’ll be happy to vote republican as soon as they announce they are support equality for gays, and are pro labor. I’m sure that will happen in just a few minutes. I’ll wait right here……… just let me know……

  12. political_incorrectness
    Feb 18th, 2010 at 11:46

    Jim, Republicans are more supportive of right to work laws than the union shop due to the belief of the private sector should monitor itself.

    With the eminent domain issue, I wonder if paying a bit more for people’s property would avoid a lawsuit in the end? That is what I would do is offer more than what it is worth. Have any of the meetings pointed out a tunnel would require more eminent domain or if the project wasn’t built, Caltrain would still need 4 tracks in the future?

    jimsf Reply:

    politcal incorrectness. I worked like a whore on a Friday night at non union jobs from the age of 15 to 35, and lived in poverty on minimum wage and never once had health insurance. It wasn’t even offered. From 35-45 I worked union jobs, made a living wage, got excellent health benefits, went from poverty and no hope, to the middle class. I have a pension, seniority, sick days, vacation, and all the benefits that the average american USED to have as part of a normal career. You will never convince me that unions are not a good idea because I know the difference.

    I sleep well at night knowing I will have a job, health care and good pension. I feel sorry for the poor slobs who get kicked to the curb every time a corporation decides it wants more profit and makes that profit on the backs of its employees by throwing them into the poor house on a whim while sending their jobs overseas or replacing them with illegal labor.

    I think its disgusting. Luckily domestic transportation can’t be outsourced.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    jim, I’m not saying unions are not a good idea, I’m just saying that the republicans are not going to see it that way

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Jim, the average American never had all those perks you’re describing. Those perks used to be more common, yes, but at its peak the US workforce was less than 30% unionized. Today the developed countries that are less than 30% unionized are mostly those that have had Thatcherist governments. The percentage of the US population with health insurance used to be marginally higher than it is today; working time has remained essentially constant since the postwar era. Job security used to be better in specific jobs, but the class equivalent of a unionized autoworker in the 1960s today isn’t a unionized autoworker, but a college educated professional.

    In contrast, the European welfare states have way, way higher unionization rates than the US ever did, and much lower economic inequality than the US did even at its most equal. They’ve had declines in working time over the last few decades, with ever more generous vacation day packages. Their unions have operated on the principle that they represent the entire working class and not just their members, so they’ve mostly refrained from demanding wage hikes at times when the companies couldn’t afford it.

    jimsf Reply:

    the belief of the private sector should monitor itself this made me chuckle… and choke a little…

    Peter Reply:

    Brings back fond memories of the golden years of capitalism, doesn’t it?

    Like Enron, or the 2008 financial meltdown…

    Bianca Reply:

    Have any of the meetings pointed out a tunnel would require more eminent domain or if the project wasn’t built, Caltrain would still need 4 tracks in the future?

    Many of the folks here on the Peninsula who are opposed to HSR are also opposed to grade separations, and almost certainly would object to Caltrain expanding to 4 tracks to allow more express service options. I myself think that grade separations are a Very Good Thing, both for enhancing mobility across the tracks as well as for making pedestrian access to the tracks much more difficult. Not to mention silencing those infernal horns.

    wu ming Reply:

    with this housing market, offering any money at all will likely find a fair number of willing buyers. they could probably plough a new ROW all the way down the valley from fresno to sac just on foreclosed or underwater stucco-clad ranch houses.

  13. morris brown
    Feb 18th, 2010 at 15:42

    High-Speed Rail: Track To Nowhere?

    Just amazing how many professionals when looking at this project, come to the same conclusions. Anyway, Robert will have his spin on all of this, but I hope most of the readers here will read this and get the true picture.


    Much of the interest in high-speed rail can be traced to Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia, an engaging 1975 novel that was distinguished by the way it touched on real science, but was ultimately make-believe. The financial plan advanced by the California High-Speed Rail Authority is no less fictional; it crumbles at the touch.


    High-speed rail is inevitable because the politics driving high-speed rail investment are simply too powerful to resist. Big projects like high-speed rail bring great photo ops for politicians and enormous largesse to the construction firms, cities and landowners that win the projects.

    For everybody else, high-speed rail appeals to jingoism. China has it, Europe has it, and ­ the logic goes ­ if America is to remain a superpower, America must have it.

    Walter Reply:

    To call “Tack to Nowhere” misleading would be insulting to the average reader. I’m pretty sure most of us know that San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Central Valley and Orange County are a lot more of “somewhere” than Gravina Island is.

    And I don’t see the faulty logic in decrying our outdated infrastructure, either.

    Joey Reply:

    The entire article can be summed up in one sentence: “People seem to like HSR, but it’s really bad. It costs $40 billion, which is expensive.”

    No facts, no studies, not even any of the usual attacks.

    Actually, I agree with what the last guy said, though he doesn’t seem to be against HSR:

    While it is great that the United States is finally investing in high-speed rail transit, this is only a small investment. There is a need to develop our entire transit system. This includes finding a way to increase transportation revenues for necessary capital transit improvements and to fund maintenance and operations, as well as incentives to improve transportation options that support quality of life and enhance economic vitality.

    Peter Reply:

    I really don’t see what the point of the article was.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    If they think “Ecotopia” was the only reason anyone cared about HSR, they are truly clueless about HSR.

    I saw nothing in that article to indicate any sustained intellectual engagement with the concept of HSR, nor any academic analysis of its costs and benefits.

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    A novel from 1975 is totally the reason why the Japanese built high speed trains in the 1950s because it was sent back in time by future-human UCLA graduates who’s main goal is to get cars off the street in order to subvert USC’s main source of funding: selling USC license plate holders to people who never attended USC.

    Who are we to second guess future humans?

    I bet more people ride the Shinkansen on a daily basis than have ever read Ecotopia. Hell, more people rode the damn Acela last year than have probably ever heard of Ecotopia.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They must have used the same time machine to send it back to the French in the 60s when they were developing what became the TGV. Or slipped it to every member of Congress who voted for the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965…

    …one of the reasons maglev is still being pursued is because everybody “knew” in the 50s and 60s that steel wheels on steel rails would never ever be able to go faster than 125MPH/200KPH and a different technology would have to be developed….

    Eric M Reply:

    Personnaly, i don’t see the point or Morris posting these articles in the threads all the time. If he wants to cherry pick his articles, go post them on his own website, otherwise they should be concidered SPAM and deleted.

    spokker Reply:

    He should continue to post whatever he wants, but that’s just my opinion, unless you have deemed my opinion to be spam as well because it doesn’t correlate with your world view.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I’m fine with it, as long as it’s not entire articles. A link and an excerpt is acceptable. I find it to be mostly harmless.

    Peter Reply:

    Not to mention entertaining.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Morris is the “bad news bear” trying to ruin your pro HSR day!..I dare say if this blog is still here in 2020 on opening day he will find some negative news to post!

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    This blog will still be here on opening day. I, however, will be on that inaugural train, getting good and drunk.

    wu ming Reply:

    nah, he makes for a convenient and hilariously inept foil. better to let random people googling HSR see his lame attempts at FUD getting comprehensively shot down here, IMO, a sort of weakened innoculation against the far more professional reason org mouthpiece types.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Honestly, of all the anti-HSR people here, Morris is one of the most thoughtful. He certainly knows what he’s talking about more than Synonymouse or Observer or anyone else who seriously moots I-5. Or for that matter the more mindless CHSRA-can-do-no-wrong HSR supporters.

    EJ Reply:

    Morris is wrong but he ain’t dumb. I’d rather have his posts here than have this comment section turn into a boring and unedifying echo chamber.

    That said this article is really weak – I wonder if these remarks were excerpted from something more complete. There’s not even much to argue with in it since it’s just random assertions and doesn’t really seem to make a point at all.

    “With only the memory of the TGV or Shinkansen ride we took as tourists for reference, we are free to imagine this new technology whisking us from our door to our destination as easily as it carried us to Lyon or Kyoto.” In a normal argument this would be followed by some sort of refutation or explanation as to why this belief is erroneous, but it’s just stated and left hanging – apparently it’s just patently obvious that us Americans are a different species from them Yurpeans and Japanese, so no reason to go into it.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Its not so much being dumb ie.. A PHD in trasportation.. its more this ideology that America equals cars and plane and we dont need anything else and its just a huge waste. Then going out and trying to kill any kind of rail plans to ensure we stay on their and only their idea of Americas mobilty needs

    synonymouse Reply:

    You woke me up.

    Todays SF Chron ran a story about how deep in doo-doo is Schwarzie’s water bond scam. The CHSRA will have a very difficult time securing the $60-100 billion to impose the Kopp-Diridon scheme

    The greart advantage of the I-5 alternative, and one that is not considered by even the critics of the CHSRA 99 alignment who favor skirting the towns or locating roughly along the Santa Fe westside line, is that the freeway route could be by far the cheapest to build. If you could lay in the hsr without major work to the overpasses, it could be so much cheaper as to make it the smartest starter.

    I also detect a gradual movement towards the Grapevine amongst railfain opinion. The UP’s current upgrading of the Donner route and downgrading of the Feather River underscores the fiscal superiority of direct and shorter.

    And of course the Bechtelian Berms have gotta go. Why build something that will be prone to subsidence? Even BART knows better.

    Peter Reply:

    Kopp-Diridon boogeymen … check.

    Bogus project cost assertions … check.

    I-5 alignment bogus rationales … check.

    Grapevine BS … check.

    Bechtel conspiracy … check.

    Made-up claims of subsidence on berms … check.

    All systems green, Synonymouse Random HSR Phrase Generator … engage!

    synonymouse Reply:

    Ok – point by point

    Kopp-Diridon – You have to hang the responsibility for the CHSRA plan on somebody -unless you want to claim it was produced by a computer(“Random Phase Generator”?)

    Bogus cost assertions – Double is about right – see Bay Bridge

    I-5 bogus Could be a whole lot cheaper because the Division of Highways has already done all the dirty work securing and building the ROW. And is already environmentally devastated – contain the blight.

    Grapevine bs – just al lot shorter and faster. How come the I-5 is not in the Tehachapis if that route is so much superior?

    Bechtel conspiracy – see BART to SFO for modus operandi

    subsidence on berms – all fill is prone to subsidence – building codes reflect this fact of life. Still waiting for your answer why BART prefers concrete to berms.

    dejv Reply:

    Bechtel conspiracy – see BART to SFO for modus operandi

    Still waiting for your answer why BART prefers concrete to berms.

    Didn’t you answer to yourself?

    Joey Reply:

    Grapevine bs – just al lot shorter and faster. How come the I-5 is not in the Tehachapis if that route is so much superior?

    Ever driven up the grapevine? It’s steep, and it’s very winding. Those types of conditions work fine for freeways. Not so much for HSR.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Same problems apply to the Tehachapis. The Grapevine can be successfully tunnelled and the resulting route will be be manifestly superior to the Tehachapi detour.

    Don’t you consider it wise to prepare a fallback alternative and cost it out? Chances are that the hsr budget will have to be pared. The entire pro-CHSRA camp is basing their intransigeance on the California economy staging a dramatic recovery, a questionable assumption. California booms always degenerate into a bubble, which when it bursts put so many “ünderwater”. Do you really want that again? Overspend, waste money on boondoggles, and that’s what you’ll get.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Morris, the radical environmentalists don’t really support HSR. There may be some connection to Ecotopia, but if you look at the profile of HSR supporters, they’re rarely radical environmentalists. Many are Europhiles; they support both environmentalism and rail to the same extent the mainstream Europeans do, because they think the US should adopt European policy solutions. Many others are general-type boosters and support any technology; you can usually identify them by their indifference to local transit and their flirtation with maglev. But the radical environmentalists, for example Kunstler, tend to want to go back to the 1800s wholesale, with standard-speed intercity trains, small cities, and more people living in rural areas.

    spokker Reply:

    Just speaking for myself, I am far from an environmentalist. I want nuclear power, trains and don’t care about a rare bird that might fly into catenary wires.

  14. Leroy W. Demery, Jr
    Feb 19th, 2010 at 12:47

    Alon, I tend to agree. I have heard some doe-eyed, “pie-in-the-sky” notions from the “Europhile” faction. One of my favorites: “When people in the U.S. see firsthand what high-speed rail is like in Europe, they’ll come home and demand the same in this country.”

    Uh, huh, yeah, right.

    During the late ’70s, the “L.A. Times” published at least two very good articles about the share of U.S. adults who had valid passports. The articles explained that the State Department kept track of the number of passports each year, but not the number of adults who had them. The articles then explained, in reasonable detail, how estimates were prepared. Result: the more recent of the two stated that 13 percent of U.S. adults had valid passports. I’m hazy about this, but I seem to recall that the earlier article gave a single-digit figure, I have faint recollections of 8 percent.

    My point: the “see it firsthand” theory is wishful thinking, at very best.

    Related point: “Japan Allergy.” There are good statistics available on the number of U.S. citizens who visit various overseas destinations each year. Among these, Japan ranks near the bottom in “popularity” among U.S. travelers. There are also good statistics that establish that Japanese ranks consistently as the “least studied” among “major world languages” (no surprises here; Japanese is a “major world language” only by virtue of the number of native speakers, not because of geographic range, like Spanish).

    The “radical environmentalists” also want to curb travel, “regional” travel in particular. These people to not like to hear stories such as the one about a friend, who once commuted from his home in northwestern central Tokyo to his office – within walking distance of Shin-Yokohama Station. He had to pay the shinkansen supplement, but this he found worthwhile because of the travel-time saving (provided as much by the direct route as by “speed”). Something about “encouraging sprawl,” you see …

    spokker Reply:

    “Related point: “Japan Allergy.” There are good statistics available on the number of U.S. citizens who visit various overseas destinations each year. Among these, Japan ranks near the bottom in “popularity” among U.S. travelers.”

    Hell yeah. As someone who has visited Japan, I feel very superior upon hearing that few Americans do the same.

  15. Leroy W. Demery, Jr
    Feb 19th, 2010 at 14:52

    Ah, “spokker,” then you certainly have insight on, shall we call it, “Japan Allergy Syndrome.” And perhaps you have also encountered that “cognitive dissonance / denial impulse” that bubbles up when describing your experiences / impressions to others “back home.”

    I once experienced such “dissonance” myself. Years ago, I read – in English – that the tramway (streetcar) service in Hiroshima was resumed on August 9, 1945 – that is, three days after the atomic bomb attack.

    I could not begin to imagine how such a thing could be possible – to say the least. Yet the source was impeccable – the late Gordon J. Thompson, perhaps the most knowledgeable U.S. “expert” on Japanese transportation; his Japanese-born wife was very much a “co-expert.” As such, I could not discount the statement. In time, I came across a magazine article (in Japanese) that described the event and confirmed Gordon’s report.

    Matthew F. Reply:

    I suppose it’s reasonable that they would need streetcar service back so fasr – almost a third of the population never left the city after the bombing.

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