30 Lost Years

Oct 29th, 2010 | Posted by

With the possibility that Jerry Brown might be elected to his third term as governor on Tuesday, it seemed worth taking a trip back to 1982. Brown was finishing his second term as governor and running for a seat in the US Senate against San Diego mayor Pete Wilson. Wilson won, but Brown left an important legacy – California’s first high speed rail project.

In 1982, the PBS show NOVA did an episode titled “Tracking the Supertrains.” It’s very dated, but also quite interesting – includes an interview with the Las Vegas mayor about maglev from SoCal to Vegas. The segment below is focused on the LA-SD HSR project that would replace the San Diegans (rebranded in 2000 as the Pacific Surfliner), the plan that Governor Brown embraced:

Segment 6 was quite critical of the “California shinkansen” plan, and may have played a role in the later demise of the plan (more about that below) but it’s still worth watching for the history lesson.

One might be tempted to snicker at how little of this ever came to pass. But my reaction is one of sadness. Even as late as 1982 there was a lot of interest and research in maglev and high speed trains in the US, as memories of the 1970s energy crisis remained strong. But Reagan got elected, oil prices crashed, and transportation budgets were slashed. The US shackled itself to the automobile, and by the 2000s, when the energy crisis returned for good, we had thirty years of catching up to do.

On the LA-SD route, the expected congestion has materialized and a trip between the two city centers by car typically takes much longer than the 2 hours it would take on an open freeway. We spent billions of dollars to widen I-5 in Orange County (subsidized by sales tax dollars) in the 1990s and might spend at least $4 billion to widen I-5 in San Diego County. But had Brown’s plan been sustained – the legislature began criticizing it in 1983 after anti-HSR cities like Tustin (where I was born and raised) pledged to bitterly fight it and the American High Speed Rail Corporation folded soon thereafter – then we would have been much further along in our efforts to develop sustainable intercity passenger rail transportation.

It is fitting that California, which approved the high speed rail plan in November 2008, is about to bring back to the governor’s office the one political leader we’ve ever had who was willing to be honest about – and do something about – our state’s energy and transportation crisis. We already wasted 30 years dithering on the high speed rail project, although since the 1990s that time has been used to craft a solid and sensible plan to finally build it. Now that we’re close to breaking ground on the first segment, we need to resist and reject the voices that would have us waste another 30 years, and instead move ahead with the California high speed rail project with all deliberate speed.

  1. Spokker
    Oct 29th, 2010 at 16:29

    Off-topic, but any predictions on how the propositions might go?

    Prop 19: Voted yes, but I predict it will fail miserably despite all the hype. I think people are afraid of what *might* happen. We are just not used to that much freedom.

    Prop 22: Voted yes, predict will pass.

    Prop 23: Voted no, predict will not pass.

    Prop 24: Voted yes, predict will not pass.

    Prop 25: Voted yes, predict will definitely pass in a landslide.

    Prop 26: Voted no, will pass.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Prop 19 will probably not pass but it will be close. Prop 22 will probably narrowly fail. Prop 25 will pass but it’ll be closer than expected. Agree with the rest of it. Oh, and I think Prop 21 will pass, giving stable long-term funding to our state parks.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    I don’t think 19 will be close at all. Too many people afraid of possible drivers under the influence or being exposed to smoke.

    Many many people hate cigaratte smoke. And, many many people associate puffed created smoke as the same thing.

    I think most propositions will be won or lost by wide margins… few close calls. By close, I mean narrower than 55-45.

    jimsf Reply:

    up north we seem to think 19 will sail right through.

    Derek Reply:

    Not a fan of the supermajority requirement (which is just a band-aid for the problem described by Duverger’s law), but the benefit of Prop 25 is that it makes it relatively easier to raise fees than taxes. As a result, I think we’ll see more freeway tolling, which is good because it would give people greater exposure to the true cost of driving and show that mass transit (such as HSR) really is economical.

    James Fujita Reply:

    I hope that Prop. 22 passes, but I REALLY hope Prop. 25 does. Because 22 treats one of the symptoms of our ridiculous budget logjam paralysis — transit budget raids — but Prop. 25 really goes after the cause.
    Supermajority budgets have been the absolute death of good budgeting. It’s ironic that if Prop. 26 passes, it will undo much of the good that Prop. 25 would bring about.

    The entire initiative system needs to be thrown out.

  2. jimsf
    Oct 29th, 2010 at 16:38

    Love the PSA plane in the video. They used to a have a midnight flyer trip from sfo to lax for 35 dollars. they didnt take reservations for it. You had to show up at the airport and sit and wait, general admission, first come first served.

    voted the same as spokker.

    So just think, after 30 years, we are finally getting round to hsr. 10 more to go. 40 years to get something done in america. sounds about average.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    PSA was the model for Southwest Airlines, so it’s fitting that it made an appearance in the NOVA episode. It’s telling just how many of the issues regarding HSR that were debated in 1982 are still being debated today.

    It’s pretty absurd that it takes 30-40 years to get things done here. We don’t have that kind of time to waste.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Sounds a lot like the generational problem to me; we are still “waiting for the dinosaurs to die.” Or at least retire. . .and be replaced with fresh minds. . .

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Exactly….. and the sooner the better.. this teabag nonsense is just left over from the Reagan era the last barks from the old dogs on the porch

    Missiondweller Reply:

    And Brown isn’t an “old dog on the porch”??? LOL!

    wu ming Reply:

    different porch.

    John Burrows Reply:

    But we don’t want Jerry Brown to retire until 2019.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    A very differnt kind of bark!!

  3. who_is
    Oct 29th, 2010 at 17:37

    A non mag lev train in this day and age? Why bother. You will never even get close to the 2:50 min approximation from SF to LA………..
    That 30 years you consider wasted may have been a blessing if you RE-think the project.
    220 mph…..(keep dreaming) Plus it will take 15-20 years just to build it the way Americans like to bicker more than actually improve things….

    Brian Stanke Reply:


    You are aware that the Chinese run high speed trains in service at 220 mph now, aren’t you? Why then do you say, “220 mph…..(keep dreaming)” as if we couldn’t do the same thing in 10 years using imported train technology? Is in the general “can’t do” philosophy of your next statement, “Plus it will take 15-20 years just to build it the way Americans like to bicker more than actually improve things….”? I believe Americans can achieve far more than you give us credit for.

  4. Ted Crocker
    Oct 29th, 2010 at 18:55

    The tip off for the Tustin City Manager that something was afoot back in 1982 was that Jerry Brown, on his way out of the Governor’s office, tried to slip in last minute legislation which exempted CEQA specifically for HSR. This inspite of his having championed CEQA for projects such as these. Arnie has been trying to do the very same thing. I sure hope Jerry Brown isn’t planning on picking up where he left off, because I have a problem with exempting CEQA for HSR.

    Peter Reply:

    I too have a problem with exempting it. It’s too important of a project to mess up on, and exempting it from CEQA means the Authority has less of an incentive to do due diligence in designing the project.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Too bad he doesn’t exempt it and we don’t have to worry about 16,000 comments from everything from Palo Alto poodles that can’t poop because of high-speed trains.. to ruined lives.. that’s what’s wrong with CEQA . The whole process should be more like binding arbitration A third-party non-connected reviews all sides and chooses the best option for all.

    Joey Reply:

    The CEQA is inefficient and frequently abused, but at this point it’s one of the few things even remotely keeping the Authority’s bad decision making ability in check.

    jimsf Reply:

    Palo Alto poodles that can’t poop because of high-speed trains.
    =funny first image of the day to wake up to….

    I think CEQA is one of those california feel good things that holds up progress and the economy. On the other hand, in most cases, I’m for slowing things down in cali. I like that we are becoming a very clean state… (everyone please visit the houston gulf coast area for a comparison) I don’t like the autonomous power of coming from places like the air resources board and other self appointed saviors though. There is a certain arrogance there that comes from people who exist in bubble and who do not seem to consider the effects their actions have on others.
    How bout this, just exempt public infrastructure projects. Since we the taxpayers are paying for them, we are shooting ourselves in the foot with delays and driving up the costs to ourselves. They could come up with a simpler basic formula for public infrastructure in order to expedite it and bring things in on time budget.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    The pendulum long ago swung from no regulation and bulldozing everything in sight to today’s dysfunctional multi-year hearings and petty lawsuits that drive up cost exponentially.. something needs changed . Just look at the high-speed rail project $200 million or more spent making sure we don’t run over a frog or making sure ruby breasted NIMBY can sing freely.

    Missiondweller Reply:

    “I like that we are becoming a very clean state”

    That’s probably because you still have a job. When people do not have to bear the cost of excessive environmentalism its seen as a plus. For the millions of unemployed who bear a disproportionate cost economically, its a disaster.

    Exempting infrastructure though would be a positive step forward.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I’ve written before of the need for CEQA reform. I hope Jerry Brown will be open to those kind of changes. I do not expect him to pursue a CEQA exemption for the HSR project, but I would not be opposed to it if it were proposed or done.

    As to Tustin, it’s long been governed by a cabal of “good ol’ boys” who espouse right-wing politics; only now is this starting to change. Their stance in 1982-83 was driven by ideology, not by any sense of good government.

    morris brown Reply:

    Ok Robert:

    Your statement:

    I do not expect him to pursue a CEQA exemption for the HSR project, but I would not be opposed to it if it were proposed or done.” is now on record.

    When you try to run for political office, it should hereafter be noted, that Robert Cruickshank favors exemptions from CEQA for projects which he favors.

    This will get you into bed with every big time developer one can dream about and will bring you plenty of cash for campaign funding.

    But, how many of your present allies, Sierra Club, etc. are you going to lose. All environmental groups take notice. Yoriko, please take notice.

    So let’s be clear, Robert Cruickshank favor exempting projects from CEQA, so long as he favors those projects.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    As you favor it only when you oppose it!

    jimsf Reply:

    An exemption for infrastructure makes sense.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    First, you’re lying here Morris, and you’re stepping close to the line of getting banned from this blog by doing so. I did NOT say I think HSR should be exempted. I did say that if it were to be done, I would not reflexively oppose it.

    Click the link, you’ll see me lay out my case for reforming CEQA and moving to a wholly different model of land use planning where environmental protections do not become tools for NIMBYs to stop sustainable infrastructure projects. CEQA is a flawed process for both environmental protection (if it’s used to stop things like solar panels and electric trains, then you’ve got a problem) and for community involvement in a planning process, because it favors the “decide-announce-defend” model.

    Further, there have been precedents for exempting environmentally friendly and sustainable projects from CEQA. SB 375 enables CEQA exemptions for certain kinds of transit-oriented development.

    My overall point is this: CEQA is a flawed method of planning and badly needs reform. The environment is not helped or protected by allowing NIMBYs to block electric trains that would reduce dependence on polluting automobiles. In the absence of reform, you WILL see more moves to simply exempt projects from CEQA. That’s not the best way of dealing with this, but I am not reflexively opposed to doing so. Depends on the case, depends on the context, etc.

    Misrepresent my position (or anyone else’s) again and you’re out of here.

    morris brown Reply:


    Its your blog — you can bane me or anyone else for that matter as you wish.

    I simply copied directly your comment that you would not be opposed to exempting the HSR project from CEQA.

    You favor the HSR project, you would not oppose this project from being exempted from CEQA. Why should anyone conclude that you wouldn’t also favor any other project you think is wonderful, from being exempted from CEQA?

    I’m not nuts about CEQA either, but for other reasons. In general the courts throw out most CEQA suits. Big developers and aggressive cities use all kinds of techniques to get projects passed through CEQA. One widely used technique is to filter the CEQA consultants such that the consultant chosen will construct a very favorable study, rather than an objective study. It happens all the time.

    The opposition’s only recourse is through the courts, which is often precluded by the costs in litigating. At least CEQA law provide for repayment of costs, when in the minority of cases, you actually win a suit.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    You’re a lying piece of troll shit Brown.,…..

    rafael Reply:

    Hey now, please keep your disagreements civil. Ad hominem insults are not appropriate on this blog.

    Thx, your friendly neighborhood blog adminstrator.

    Andy Reply:

    I’d be careful here Robert – it’s a slippery slope. Suppressing opposing ideas is a bastion of the intellectually and morally bankrupt. You are certainly within your rights to do it as the blog represents your private property in a sense – but it would indicate you’ve run out of arguments.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Stopping being sush a sissy pants Palo Alto passny

    peninsula Reply:

    have another beer

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Nimmby pussy…well in PA some WHINNE.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Yeson, we don’t need nasty name calling here. Leave that to our critics–our own better behavior should make us look better, particularly to the fence-sitters. Besides, I emphasize again that we don’t need it; really good arguments are on our side, as are what amount to prophesies from 1982 (the mentioned traffic congestion). The opposition just keeps coming up with the same old garbage that some of us can almost refute in our sleep. Their proposed solutions give a new definition to “faith-based initiatives” (hydrogen cars will be developed–and I remember how that was another idea from the 1970s that still hasn’t panned out, as much to infrastucture and handling problems as anything else). And time is on our side (demographic shift), although it is also an enemy (peak oil and other things).

    I don’t drink beer–but I’ll take a nice hot mocha, the chilly season approaches here in West Virginia. . .

    Spokker Reply:

    If you ban him, he will become more powerful than you can imagine…

    jimsf Reply:

    itll be like getting a gremlin wet.

    Dan S. Reply:

    In this day and age everyone in the political sphere misrepresents. It’s the cool thing to do. Morris, you’re no different here! Robert said he wouldn’t oppose an exemption. You then not only said he favored it, but you implied that he would only favor exemptions for projects that he likes personally. Those are very different things, as you well know.

    But feel free to try to spin it to your purposes. FWIW, I hope you don’t get banned even if you continue your spinning. It’s not your responsibility to be a totally upright and honest participant in the public sphere, it’s the responsibility of us, the public, to hold you to a higher standard, and above all to apply critical thought to all claims made in our supposed interest.

    BTW, let’s hold everyone, not just folks on the “other side,” to some degree of accountability and civility here, eh? I didn’t hear too much outrage the last time someone called for the death of folks on the Caltrain payroll.

  5. Pierre Mathurin
    Oct 29th, 2010 at 20:07

    We in Florida have been in the same position for the past thirty years too. Part 6 of the NOVA show shows that late US Senator from Florida Paula Hawkins as part of the U.S. delegation to the U.S. – Japan rail conference. Interesting to note that she was a Republican and the first female senator elected in Florida.

  6. D. P. Lubic
    Oct 29th, 2010 at 20:15

    Took a look at the one segment linked up above, and two things stand out. One is that the trains looked crowded even then, and this was with that Amfleet equipment I was never impressed with (I thought its air-bag suspension was too soft, at least on the curves of the former Baltimore & Ohio; Amfleets are the only rail equipment I’ve ridden that ever gave me anything like motion sickness). The other is how young the executives at American High Speed Rail Corporation were, and to note how young (and how old) the rail revival group of today is.

    Whatever became of those executives? Where are they today? What might their current opinions be on the situation as it is today?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    If the mindset of today was around in 1970 when Amtrak was formed there would be no Amtrak.
    America of the 1970s was still a very forward thinking nation . Yes Amtrak was first of course formed as a relief for the private railroads with the thinking that if it failed at least they tried.. after the 1973 oil crisis a large investment was committed to Amtrak in the form of all those brand-new passenger cars well over 800+ all new diesel locomotives… something that equates today giving Amtrak 10 or $12 billion. 1980 and Reagan changed everything about America the wrong way and we’re still dealing with it.

    Missiondweller Reply:

    Soon after Reagan came to office the price of oil plummeted, completely changing the economics and feasibility of passenger rail.


    We’ve now come full circle. This time though, its unlikely oil will fall back to $20 barrel.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That graph is frightening–worse than anything one can come up with for Halloween, because it’s real. . .

    Alan Figgatt Reply:

    The scarier charts are the oil production and consumption charts for the oil exporter countries and the current oil importer countries. Except for a handful of countries, many of the exporters have or are peaking in daily production while China and India are increasing their consumption. Regardless of whether the world hits a oil crunch in a few years, the new base price floor for oil appears to be $65 to $75 a barrel with a price runup to $90 to $100 a barrel possible in the next few months.

    Dan S. Reply:

    Hmm, when I follow that link I get a tiny image that says no hot-linking!

    Anyway, I’ll just take this moment to opine again that I say a daily prayer for the good of my country and planet that the price of oil goes up quickly and permanently. The US is pathologically unable to tax carbon, something that is so obviously in its best interests, that I just hope those damn revered “market forces” can save us from our own stupidity.

  7. Andy
    Oct 30th, 2010 at 00:57

    Thought you’d appreciate the attached Newsweek assessment of HSR. I especially like the reference to 4th grade math. Math can be inconvenient because it requires structured thinking rather than wishful thinking.


    High-Speed Pork

    Why fast trains are a waste of money.

    by Robert J. Samuelson
    October 29, 2010

    Somehow, it has become fashionable to think that high-speed trains connecting major cities will help “save the planet.” They won’t. They’re a perfect example of wasteful spending masquerading as a respectable social cause. They would further burden already-overburdened governments and drain dollars from worthier programs—schools, defense, research.

    Let’s suppose that the Obama administration gets its wish to build high-speed rail systems in 13 urban corridors. The administration has already committed $10.5 billion, and that’s just a token down payment. California wants about $19 billion for an 800-mile track from Anaheim to San Francisco. Constructing all 13 corridors could easily approach $200 billion. Most (or all) of that would have to come from government. What would we get for this huge investment?

    Not much. Here’s what we wouldn’t get: any meaningful reduction in traffic congestion, greenhouse-gas emissions, air travel, or oil consumption and imports. Nada, zip. If you can do fourth-grade math, you can understand why.

    High-speed intercity trains (not commuter lines) travel at up to 250 miles per hour and are most competitive with planes and cars over distances of less than 500 miles. In a report on high-speed rail, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service examined the 12 corridors of 500 miles or less with the most daily air traffic in 2007. Los Angeles to San Francisco led the list with 13,838 passengers; altogether, daily air passengers in these 12 corridors totaled 52,934. If all of them switched to trains, the number of airline passengers, about 2 million a day, would drop only 2.5 percent. Any fuel savings would be less than that; even trains need fuel.

    Indeed, intercity trains—at whatever speed—target such a small part of total travel that the effects on reduced oil use, traffic congestion, and greenhouse gases must be microscopic.

    Every day, about 140 million Americans go to work, with 85 percent driving an average of 25 minutes (three quarters drive alone, 10 percent carpool). Even with 250,000 high-speed rail passengers, there would be no visible effect on routine commuting, let alone personal driving. In the Northeast Corridor, with about 45 million people, Amtrak’s daily ridership is 28,500. If its trains shut down tomorrow, no one except the affected passengers would notice.

    We are prisoners of economic geography. Suburbanization after World War II made most rail travel impractical. From 1950 to 2000, the share of the metropolitan population living in central cities fell from 56 percent to 32 percent, report UCLA economists Leah Platt Boustan and Allison Shertzer. Jobs moved too. Trip origins and destinations are too dispersed to support most rail service. Only in places (Europe, Asia) with greater population densities is high-speed rail potentially attractive.

    Obama calls high-speed rail essential “infrastructure” when it’s actually old-fashioned “pork barrel.” The interesting question is why it retains its intellectual respectability. The answer, it seems, is willful ignorance. People prefer fashionable make-believe to distasteful realities. They imagine public benefits that don’t exist and ignore costs that do.

    Consider California. Its budget is a shambles; it furloughed state workers to save money. Still, it clings to its high-speed rail project. No one knows the cost. In 2009, the California High-Speed Rail Authority estimated $42.6 billion, up from $33.6 billion in 2008—a huge one-year increase. The CHSRA wants the federal government to pay about half the cost.

    Even if it does and the state issues $9.95 billion in approved bonds, a financing gap of almost $15 billion would remain. Somehow that is to be extracted from cities, towns, and investors. The CHSRA says the completed system will generate operating profits, $3 billion by 2030. If private investors concurred, they’d be clamoring to commit funds; they aren’t.

    All this would further mortgage California’s future with more debt and, conceivably, subsidies to keep the trains running. And for what? In 2030, high-speed rail trains would provide only about 4 percent of California’s inter-regional trips, the CHSRA projects.

    The absurdity is apparent. High-speed rail would subsidize a tiny group of travelers and do little else. If states want these projects, they should pay all costs because there are no meaningful national gains. The administration’s championing and subsidies—with money that worsens long-term budget deficits—represent short-sighted, thoughtless government at its worst.

    Robert Samuelson is also the author of The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath: The Past and Future of American Affluence and Untruth: Why the Conventional Wisdom Is (Almost Always) Wrong.

    Brian Stanke Reply:

    Wow Andy,

    Thanks to you and Robert Samuelson we will be saved from the massive financial stupidity of High Speed Rail that the Chinese are committing over $80 billion dollars a year to. With REAL AMERICAN heros like you and Sammy we won’t make the same 4th grade math mistakes as the Chinese, Koreans, Taiwanese, Japanese, Germans, French, Belgians, British, Danish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, Russians, Moroccans, Algerians, Argentinians, and Brazilians.

    So many stupid people in all those countries, it is no wonder we are NUMBER ONE in every single measure of everything in the whole world. /snark

    Seriously Andy, please re-read what Robert Samuelson wrote and go check some of the facts. The statement, “In 2009, the California High-Speed Rail Authority estimated $42.6 billion, up from $33.6 billion in 2008—a huge one-year increase.” is a big fat lie. The change was from 2007 dollars to year of expenditure dollars (2012-2020). Inflation is an economics concept from high school and middle school economics. “If private investors concurred, they’d be clamoring to commit funds; they aren’t.” Another big fat lie. Dozens of parties has submitted letters of interest. They are willing to invest $10 billion or more based on the projected profits but they will only commit AFTER the Federal government commits, because everyone know you can’t make money on a 3/4 built HSR line only on one complete SF-LA-Anaheim, which is why Prop 1A mandates that the whole SF-LA line is built first. Then the classic line, “The absurdity is apparent. High-speed rail would subsidize a tiny group of travelers and do little else” as is the freeway and airport fairies would build us the equivalent capacity in highways, runways, and terminals. Well no, the taxpayer, not fairies would be on the hook for the $100 billion plus cost of that infrastructure. As Robert keeps saying, the price of not building is not zero, it is far more. Go read the 2005 program EIR yourself and see.

    Andy Reply:

    I read the EIR – it has all sorts of fairy dust – for instance assumptions that don’t hold water about the impact of HSR on local commute traffic. If you actually do the math you discover that they are assuming all HSR riders ride during rush hour. Congestion is a peak demand issue – intercity travel by car is not. Even then the math on the value of an expected 0.5% reduction in rush hour traffic is wildly overstated.

    The Chinese have a very different issue – total lack of infrastructure for a rapidly growing industrial economy and a massive transition from subsistence farming and agriculture. In addition to rail of all kinds they are building roads, airports, hydroelectric dams and, yes, coal and nuclear power plants. That’s what happens when you have 10% per annum growth. They are also seeing massive migration from rural to urban environments and whole new cities cropping up overnight – look at the history of the growth of Shenzhen as an illustration – it went from a fishing village in 1980 to a metro area of around 10 million people today to support an explosion of factories.

    jimsf Reply:

    Nevertheless, what are you going to do once the system is completed and running. Will you use it if the tickets are affordable and the location is convenient, or will you refuse to ride for political reasons?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Andy apparently missed the first posting of this by Morris; for his convenience, here is his original post, and the commentary that followed it:


    High-Speed Pork
    Why fast trains are a waste of money
    Title says it all really.
    Here is the materials for your your next 2000 word spin Robert.
    Big problem for you is Newsweek with several million readers, vs. your blog here.

    jimsf Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 5:16 am
    THat article is just a fluff piece. It doesn’t even say anything. Just a bunch of statements strung together that have no basis in reality. They didn’t even make an effort with that one. But, if it makes you feel better, since youre losing the elections in cali, and the federal money is flowing in, then so be it.

    Missiondweller Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 9:24 am
    Would you expect anything better from Newsweek?
    There’s a reason their readership is in the tank.

    Peter Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 6:41 am
    What’s your purpose in posting this type of bunk, anyway, morris?

    BruceMcF Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 10:14 am
    Why post an article that is an op-ed column by Robert Samuelson and link to it as if it was a news article? Because if he links to it as, “Robert Samuelson says …”, too many people will realize, right away, “oh, that’s just Deficit Errorist Robert Samuelson putting the same old bad table whine in an HSR bottle”.

    mike Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 11:19 am
    Samuelson is arguing that redirecting less than 1% of our total transportation spending towards a different mode will only affect a couple percent of all travelers. Shocking! He also fails to understand the difference between a capital cost and an operating cost (in his analysis of private investors). In other words, it’s pretty much standard Samuelson: tell a story based on no underlying analysis. I suspect he writes that way because he simply isn’t capable of doing the analysis, but it could also be laziness or dishonesty.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 11:36 am
    Actually, Newsweek’s circulation is in collapse and the magazine is widely reputed to be near death. They are desperately seeking partners for content creation and online reach, and are finding little.

    synonymouse Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 12:03 pm
    All of the print media are in a death spiral, with the possible exception of Vanity Fair, The major dailies have become political party organs, with the WSJ the mouthpiece of the Republicans and the NY Times that of the Democratic party. That’s how they will survive.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 5:54 pm
    “We are prisoners of economic geography. Suburbanization after World War II made most rail travel impractical. From 1950 to 2000, the share of the metropolitan population living in central cities fell from 56 percent to 32 percent, report UCLA economists Leah Platt Boustan and Allison Shertzer. Jobs moved too. Trip origins and destinations are too dispersed to support most rail service.”

    Translation: We screwed things up so bad don’t even think of trying to change our vision of a Happy Motoring Utopia. . .



    And now, for something on the lighter side:


    Problem is, if you give up, you change nothing. . .and that’s what we’ve done since the first oil crunch in 1973, and that’s precisely why we are in the fix we are in now. And the fix we are in now is precisely why I’ve been arguing for years that we need a lifestyle change, say to 1940 or so; what I see of it, in older cars, old radio shows and the like, and of course my old trains, doesn’t suggest that time period was the nadir of civilization or American culture. Make no mistake, we don’t need things like the racial segregation and other civil injustices that were accepted then, or even all the smoking, but there were a lot of good points, too, including what appears to be a better sense of public behavior. . .you wouldn’t normally see people dressing in clothes that would have been considered more appropriate for either a circus or a burlesque show back then.

    Oh, I did a little check on Samuelson; he was born in 1945, he’s 65–fits the current pattern of the anti-rail crowd.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 6:03 pm
    Oh, and did you notice, his demographic data cuts off at 2000; that’s 10 years ago! Like Wendell Cox, he ignores the records being set by Amtrak and local transit in that last decade, along with the changes in other modes, such as bicycles.

    Let’s have a bit of fun. What do you think goes through the minds of the Coxes, O’Tooles, and Samuelsons, when they read of the Amtrak records, of the generational change, of the younger crowd arguing for rail service? I know of at least one writer who considered it “un-American,” some have called rail “socialist transportation,” and I’ve personally been called a Communist, but I’m curious to hear your commentary, too.
    What must it be like for these people?

    jimsf Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 6:43 pm
    I’m curious to hear your commentary, too.What must it be like for these people
    They are either idiots who, if they knew what the railroads did for american history and the westward movement, or their bitter old liars who collect money in return for periodically spewing the same tired rhetoric.
    Either way they totally suck.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 7:11 pm
    I have to agree with the bitter, angry, and scared part. It shows in the language used, it shows inthe general writing style, it shows in the arguments used. What a shame; I was taught to respect older people because they had been around more, and had seen things I didn’t see. Looks like those people are the ones now over 90.
    I’ve got similar attitude problems with some of my relatives, and my wife does with her family, too. It’s curious, we both seem to generally get along better with people either very, very much older than us, or with people under 20. Neither of us fits well with many in our own generation. Both of us are in the mid-50s range.

    I’ve had at least two other people tell me I was born in the wrong time. Who knows, maybe it’s true!

    jimsf Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 7:32 pm
    (wow I never finished my sentence up there) Whats really happening, that I didn’t want to believe but now seems so blatant, is that aging, white middle class america see the country changing in too many ways at once. They are scared to death of brown people. Thats just a fact. Too the younger people its normal. Middle America, god love them, have had a lot to deal with from they’re perspective in the last 30 years. As the 70s closed, Reagan came in on a promise of returning america to its 1950s hey day. Thats why he got elected, they thought this was there chance to bring it all back. Of course it didn’t happen, and the country kept moving forward, and faster, with tech, and crime, and the gays, and the boat people, etc etc, and out of a culminating fear and desperation, the culture wars exploded and we have been fighting those wars ever since. The tea party today, looks exactly like, a rehashed moral majority that we marched against in the 80s. This crap never ends. These people who are parading around screaming about the gubbmint telling folks what to do are the same people who never do anything BUT, try to shove their “values” down everyones throats adn tell them how they may and may not live. Its the same people.

    some of you werent around in the “family values” days. yes family values = throwing your kid out onthe street, family values means taking food away from poor moms, family values, in the reagan era of excess meant, “look at me and all my expensive crap as I dangle it under your nose” with disgusting programs like “lifestyles of the rich and famous” fuck the rich and famous. Pardon my rant but these people made me sick then and they make me sick now and make no mistake they are the same people telling the same lies to the american people. The republicans shamelessly trick and use the conservatives because its the only way they can ever win, and the conservatives fall for it every time and with every passing decade, the future of american politics becomes increasingly bleak. I remember exactly two, thats two moments of true political hope in my adult lifetime, the day Clinton got elected (after 12 years of reagan bush) and the day Obama got elected. And here we are again. SSDD.

    My dad always used to say that humans have not really progressed from the cave at all.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 8:03 pm
    Your assessment sounds very much like mine. And perhaps ironically, there is a lot from the past I would like to bring back (but I hope it shows that I want only the good stuff!)

    I am particularly interested in your comment that the true conservatives have been used, abused and betrayed by so-called conservative politicians. Now, I consider myself to be properly old-fashioned. I am a Catholic, and in the pro-life crowd. But I have no use at all for the Repugnant Ones, even on the abortion issue.

    The Repugnant Ones made a big show of a right-to-life constitutional amendment during the Clinton administration. This was sent to Clinton for signature, which would have been followed by ratification by the states. I do wish Clinton had not vetoed it (I think we deserved the chance to vote on it), but I also think this was theater by the Republicans to “show support” for the religious conservatives.

    Some show! From January 20th of 2001 to January 20th of 2007, the Repugnant Ones controlled both houses of Congress, and the Presidency, too. Where was the effort to try again for a right-to-life amendment, with a “born again,” “Christian,” “good old boy” all-American President? Yeah, right. . .

    Now, not everybody here is going to agree with me on my pro-life outlook, which is partially morality driven, and partially doubt driven in what I consider a scientific sense (do we really know a fertilized egg is not an independent life?) But you tell me, what am I supposed to think of a political organization that made all that noise about what many would consider a very important moral issue–and then, when they had real power to do something with it, neglected it? What am I supposed to think of that same organization when it pops off with “Drill, baby, drill!” and the reserve figures I see for this country, if we lived on our own oil exclusively, indicate we would exhaust that oil in only 17 years at current consumption rates? What am I supposed to think of that same bunch when they want to keep building roads and lock us into cars, despite the security problems with the fuel supply that 17-year figure and the current import figure and the oil war business all seem to shout out?

    Sorry, Republicans, you lost me years ago.

    jimsf Reply:
    October 29th, 2010 at 8:21 pm
    It would be one thing if everyone everywhere was mad and we really through everyone out and started fresh…. but that isn’t whats going to happen, this is all just the same show, another rerun. Once you’ve seen it a few times you know.
    I wish with all my heart that there was a way to free california from us politics completely. We need to be our own nation period. Americans don’t want us and washington knows they need our economy. Time to drop the dead weight and make our own deals with japan and china, the pacific rim, mexico.. etc. Then we’d be cookin with gas with all burners.

    Andy Reply:

    Lots of ad hominem arguments appear above, but to my recollection “your 65 years old” is not a principle of economics. The math is pretty compelling that HSR is a spit in the ocean when it comes to trying to impact local traffic congestion (think about what percent of your driving is local, local highway and inter-city just for starters).

    The economics are pretty compelling too. HSR’s projected fares (in 2009 dollars) are double air travel – without covering the cost of construction, so the fully allocated costs are more like quintuple that of air travel (if you don’t know what fully allocated is you should take a course in managerial accounting before offering opinions on HSR competitiveness).

    The HSR comparisons to car travel are even more wrong. Even with $4 per gallon gasoline, two people in a car that gets 25 mpg on the highway can go SF-LA for about $35 each, not the more than $100 assumed in the HSR business plan. This assumes that electric, hybrid and fuel cell cars never get anywhere in the US over the next 20 years – even though quite the opposite appears to be true. Take a current technology hybrid and the cost drops to below $20 each way per person, future technologies take the costs even lower. Even if you add in allowance for maintenance costs you are still well below $30 per person and you get to have a car to get you to your final destination rather than sitting at the train station or renting a car of having to take a cab everywhere.

    The arguments for economic benefits from HSR are overwhelmingly based on sloppy thinking and double counting. Growth of shopping or other businesses near HSR stops – according to studies of similar public works projects that generate foot traffic – come almost entirely at the expense of economic activity somewhere else. The economic benefits of construction itself are no different than writing a corporate welfare check, if the thing you are building doesn’t create economic value in excess of the amortized cost of BOTH construction and operations you may as well pay companies to dig holes in the ground and then fill them back in – sure you kept people busy, but it’s just welfare where the corporation hiring the workers takes a big cut. Also, don’t forget that many of the companies getting paid are Chinese, Korean, Japanese, French – wherever the HSR technology ends up being bought from. In the end we are taxing ourselves to generate jobs in some other country and get not much of real economic value. HSR proponents get a subsidized train ride, but for the economy it’s a negative on net.

    Clem Reply:

    the fully allocated costs are more like quintuple that of air travel

    Is that so? Next time I buy an airline ticket I’ll make sure to look out for the runway and taxiway amortization fee, the air traffic control surcharge, the federal inspection levy, and the fossil fuel pollution offset tax. And don’t even get me started on the return on investment of roads!

    Dan S. Reply:

    FAA’s annual budget: 15 billion dollars. Amount that comes from user fees: 50 million dollars.



    Wow. Am I really reading that right?

    Non-user fees for roads in the US in 2007 totalled 70 billion dollars.



    Yet those car and plane transportation systems leave a lot to be desired, especially on mid-range inter-city trips, say, for example, like SF to LA. Compared to 15 billion a year and 70 billion a year, where does 2 billion a year for 20 years to build CAHSR seem like such an outrageous waste of money? Looks like a prudent investment from here.

    HSTSheldon Reply:


    I know you won’t get this but what do you assume is the price for jet fuel 20 years from now? Will it be readily available? What happens if I need to travel alone. I already know that the cost to drive alone from LA to SF and vice versa is at least $150 when depreciation, maintenance and fuel are concerned. That does not even begin to cover the military subsidy in gas prices, the local property tax subsidy for the connecting roads to the highways.

    Do you assume the future will be the same as the past? Do you believe in hedging your bets or would you rather place all your eggs in one basket. The last time I checked, it looked like California was about to OK several concentrating solar plants and other renewable energy infrastructure that can potentially feed electricity to an electrified HSR system. Is that not a good thing in the context of fuel availability uncertainty? A HSR train will use from 1/9 to 1/3 the Joules at source (dependent on source of course with thermal sources closer to the 1/3 and direct renewable sources like wind closer to 1/9th) of that used by the best aircraft available today.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    When do you propose the fuel cell cars will be affordably available? How easily will the H2 fuel for them be obtained and at what price? How much will the electric cars cost? Last I checked, there was a steep premium for them. On hybrids, it is already well known there is a big price premium (unless subsidized, that premium must remain because two separate propulsion technologies in a single chassis will cost more than a single set) and the benefits on the open highway are minimal.

    On your argument for shifting development and denefits, if that is the case, so be it. You are encouraging developments that are structurally more energy efficient which is a good thing.

    jimsf Reply:


    so what about all the people who want high speed rail, you know, the ones who voted for it, and all the californians who want to take the train, the people who simply want more than one or two options.

    You are being disingenuous when you fail to acknowledge the facts, air travel simply can not do from a transportation perspective, what high speed trains can do.

    You want to take bits and pieces of information and try to use them as a blanket argument ignoring the fact that when take as a whole, as a complete system, high speed rail offers the most bang for the transportation infrastructure buck.

    It takes up less space than highways, and unlike airports, has nearly limitless expandability. Its more environmentally friendly and more efficient than cars and planes. It offers more flexibility to the traveler than any plane ever can.

    Adding high speed rail to california means simply expanding california’s transportation mix. It give californians options. YOu may not want it but others do.
    It means a more balanced approach. Its another spoke in the transportation wheel. There are different modes for different distances and for different jobs. HSR adds to that choice. Now californians will be able to choose the mode that fills their needs best for any particular trip. They may use their car to go to the grocery store, they may use a plane if they get a good deal on a ticket from oak to san are traveling alone, not checking bags and have destination near the airport at the other end. The may use high speed rail if, their destination is closer to an hsr station than it is to an airport. HSR will make it much easier to travel between norcal and socal in a single day saving a lot of overnight hassle in many cases.

    Not only that, hsr will mean COMPETITION. COMPETITION for the airlines which will FORCE the airlines to keep their fares low. If you like to fly, HSR will keep your airfares LOW.
    More choice for californians
    More competition to make modes compete and respond to customer needs.
    More service, to underserved areas of the state.

    These things are just facts of life. ITs easy to hand pick an argument against one aspect, then hand pick an alternate argument against a different aspect, of any issue. But we don’t live in a transportation vacuum. When you take the overall picture, high speed rail, is a benefit to californians because it will give them more choice. THAT is what they were voting for when they went into the booth. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    If competition keeps the fares low HSR will never make an operating profit.
    In any event, unless something extraordinary happens in the next few days, the House will go Republican. Republican house, no HSR fed funds, therefore no CA HSR. It’s that simple. As I predicted we have just spent huge sums on yet more studies for a scheme that will go on an unlit back burner.
    Engineers all around the world go to work every day to figure out how to make autos and planes more efficient. And they don’t have to wait nearly 10 years for “track” to run on. We need a reality check. We should spend such funds as we have for passenger rail on regional networks that can provide useful mobility and alternatives to the car.

    jimsf Reply:

    Engineers all around the world go to work every day to figure out how to make autos and planes more efficient. And they don’t have to wait nearly 10 years for “track” to run on

    Thats a ridiculous statement.

    First it remains to be seen what tuesday’s results will be. Second, so if they take the house, so what? If you think you are going to get some kind sudden stop and reverse in washington you are going to be sadly disappointed. ( remember under clinton, with reps in charge, the country became more liberal, more forward looking and more prosperous than under reagan. and he got a second term. – the reps taking the hosue means one thing, now it’ll be on them) And, the people behind high speed rail across america are not a bunch of hippies from berkeley, but global corporations, who have a vested interest in selling their products here) Add to that, the fact the communities across america and looking forward to and excited about the prospects of high speed rail service arriving. They have been waiting for years for it. Yu are going to be very surprised when you see these projects continue to move forward after the election because they are good policy. Your guys may say one thing, but they are gonna do another. Just watch.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    “So if they take the house, so what?” The House decides where the money goes, and the reps are being elected on the basis of fiscal conservatism, and in some cases specifically of being anti HSR. So if the House doesn’t fund, no HSR. It’s not what I want or support, it’s the political reality as I see it. As for my comment on fuel efficiency, ridiculous? Are not cars becoming more fuel efficient every year? And aircraft, and trucks. The competition never stands still.

    Caelestor Reply:

    Cars may become more efficient, but there’s still the matter of congestion. If HSR and public transportation are properly implemented, then people will be able to get around on the state. The reduction of cars on the road will also make commutes for drivers like you more convenient as well!

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Basic physics, remember that from high school states that planes will never match the efficiency of ground based modes. Get that? Now, let’s move on. Do you see any aircraft technology that can triple fuel efficiency? That’s what it will take to beat current HSR technology. If so, please show me.

    Let me illustrate why they can’t for a little lesson. In air travel, you have to lift the weight of all the passengers, their bags and the fuel required (not insubstantial) 6 miles into the sky and to boot, move that weight at 500 miles per hour. Now, considering that the source of your propulsion is a heat engine limited to the Carnot thermodynamic limits of at most 45% in a simple cycle configuration that all jet engines operate on, you are already worse off than wind energy for example. Considering that natural gas power plants can use a combined cycle configuration and approach 60% you are already behind by about 30% when operating on a fossil fueled power plant. Aircraft simply will never match rail for efficiency, case closed and they will never use electricity for propulsion!!

    The argument for cars and trucks may have more merit as we have just started delving into hybridization but even hybridization will still not match rail. To make any real impact, you have to go to lighweighting (carbon fibers etc.) Any advances in lightweighting will also be applicable to rail thus maintaining the efficiency gap. Pesky physics!! Rail rolling friction and the impressive aerodynamic profile of even a boxy train (very long and thin meaning low aerodynamic loss) You must be aware that the main issue with aerodynamic drag is frontal cross section.

    Rafael Reply:

    Slight quibble here: the coefficient of drag for any vehicle represents the bow wave, lateral shear/turbulence and the wake. The fact that drag force is defined as proportional to the largest cross-sectional area that is exposed to the ambient medium doesn’t change the fundamental physics, it just means that the lateral shear/turbulence component becomes large for very long vehicles.

    If you test only at the first car of an aerodynamically optimized HSR train, you can get drag coefficients in the 0.2 to 0.25 range. That number only goes up a little if you add just the trailer car, since the additional lateral drag is partially offset by reduced wake drag. Put a bunch of carriages in-between and the total coefficient of drag goes up sharply. Example: total coefficient of drag for the ICE3 (200m = ~660ft trainset) is roughly 1.2 if the ambient wind speed is zero.

    Nevertheless, the focus on nose shape is justified because optimization there yields the greatest improvement in the coefficient of drag per engineering buck. In addition, optimization can increase stability in high lateral wind conditions – including whenever a train traveling in the other direction is passed – and also reduce tunnel boom intensity. Plus, nose shape provides product identification and differentiation.

    Dan S. Reply:

    Actually, the fuel efficiency of the motor vehicle fleet in the US is becoming LESS fuel efficient every year. It is truly pathetic. If you look at trends since 1975, we plateaued around 1987, and we’ve been slowly coming down since.


    I am surprised you want to take on the energy efficiency argument *against* HSR. This seems like just about the weakest approach you could take to me, frankly.

    jimsf Reply:

    By the way paul, It takes less staff to operate a high speed rail line than it does to operate an airline. So the operating costs for a train will be much less leaving the airlines with the greater profit burden in a fare war.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It takes a lot more people and cost to operate and maintain the railroad infrastructure compared to a couple of airports. Have you ever worked on a railroad? You think it’s just one person at the front of the train? The airlines actually have a sweet deal since their control systems are provided by the government, as is most of the airport infrastructure. Another reality check needed.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What happens when the small government types wake up and realize that all sorts of subsidies are flowing into airports? I can smell the bidding now on take off and landing slots at SFO and LAX now…..

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Will the anti HSR republicans who profess to be anti spending actually cut these subsidies and charge realistic fees for air traffic control? I doubt it. We live in a hypocrisy, not a democracy.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Paul, rail requires people to maintain trains, tracks and infrastructure but it is no where near the multitude required to safely operate an airline. A lot of that is automated in any case. Track geometry vehicles, etc. minimize the staffing used. You don’t need rail attendants, you need only one driver who is responsible for 800 – 1000 persons. You may need fewer CTC operators, the equivalent of ATC. Staffing levels for the rolling stock maintenance should be less, you don’t need the TSA show and you don’t need as many front line personnel to check in passengers. You don’t need baggage rampers, fuelers, tow truck operators, deicing operators in northern climes, etc. etc. Even vehicle maintenance requirements should be more modest. Electric motors are simpler than turbine engines and easier to maintain. Being a ground based mode, maintenance standards can be a tad bit more relaxed though special attention will of course need to be paid to wheels and wheelsets and all that entials.

    Your argument on government provided labor just shows the level of subsidy that airlines are gifted. That does not mean the persons are not required however. You are also forgetting that the system will serve far more destinations and trip pairs than a couple as is the case with airports.

    jimsf Reply:

    It takes a lot more people and cost to operate and maintain the railroad infrastructure compared to a couple of airports. Have you ever worked on a railroad I might know something about it yes. I might know who does what and how many people it takes to do it.

    .. a couple of airports huh. yep, just a couple of old buildings and baggage cart and a gal to serve up drinks and a guy to land the plane. Yep, airlines are a simple, operation in which labor plays a very small role.
    give me a break.

    Alan Figgatt Reply:

    “It takes a lot more people and cost to operate and maintain the railroad infrastructure compared to a couple of airports.”
    According to one reference I found, there are 59,000 people working at LAX airport. That is not a small number.

    jimsf Reply:

    And Andy, the BS from the right really isn’t cute anymore. No one believes it. No one is fooled by it. The arguments you make are full of holes. And the reasons you use to denigrate the usefulness of hsr, really aren’t about whether nor not hsr is useful. YOU don’t care whether its useful or not. YOU are not concerned about anything but your own political ideology. IT wouldn’t matter what the facts were, it wouldn’t matter how watertight the business plan was. It wouldn’t matter if god himself came down from the heavens and gave hsr a big thumbs up. YOU would rail against it because of your personal politics and axes to grind. Thats what’s really going on here. I can see and so can most people. We see it everyday all over and its so TIRED and its so OVER. You my dear, are living in the wrong place for that. I suggest you leave the state. Really. Seriously, because your kind of politics and ideology doesn’t fly in california, it never has, and increasingly, now, more then ever as we move forward, never will. its gonna be long unhappy life living amongst progress.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:


    You sound relatively new here, so I don’t think you know about the generational gap that has been observed by myself in regard to rail transit in general for the last 20 years, and has also been observed by others here in regard to HSR for some time as well. It has has also been measured by professional marketing staff.

    Simply put, the pattern I first noticed, and which was once confirmed to me by an Amtrak representative, is that there is an age demographic in regard to support for rail in general. Those who support rail today tend to be either under 60 years of age, or very old, as in over 90. Most of those who dislike rail, making arguments along Samuelson’s lines, are between 60 and 90. I began observing this 20 years ago when I was promoting a light rail line as an alternative to highway expansion; at that time, the age breaks were at 40 and 70. Everyone has gotten older since then; the low-end age breaks moved up to 50, 55, and are now at about 60; I assume the high breaks moved up as well, although I can not say I got to observe them directly.

    I believe the reason for this is that we tend to go through life with a lot of the attitudes, the outlook on things, that we had when we were 20 to 25. A psychologist will tell you this is the age range in which your views of yourself and the world around you tend to crystalize, and that includes your view of the future.

    For the older people, they remember how the world was before interstates and WW II, and see many things they wish were back; this includes trains. The young crowd is environmentally aware, and perhaps takes cars for granted (and perhaps does not properly appreciate them); I’m of the opinion that driving has become so common that licenses no longer have the thrill they used to carry (“What’s the big deal about driving, my grandma drives. . .”), and on top of that, driving is such a chore anymore with the traffic being what it is now. There is also a school of thought that argues that portable internet devices of various types have become the alternate status symbol and alternate connecting device to displace the car; I personally think the promoters of this idea have overemphasized it, but it is still a factor.

    The group in the middle came of age between about 1950 and the first oil crunch of 1973, and for them the future was supposed to look like “The Jetsons” or even “Star Trek.” That view of the future didn’t include trains, and is illustrated, in somewhat caricatured form, by the video clips in my posting above. (You ought to check them out if you haven’t done so; they are a great nostalgia trip.) For a variety of reasons, that future really didn’t quite work out–and some of us don’t want it.

    The bit about the younger crowd not being enamoured with cars as earlier generations had been has been measured by professionals at the request of the auto makers and the auto industry; the results have those two business categories worried.



    Some people looking at this have blamed the current recession for it, but that doesn’t hold water, for the simple reason that this has been going on for a long time, well before the current recession, indeed, well before the current decade. So, when I speak of someone commenting about how he thinks rail is a bad idea, and he includes comments that essentially translate to saying it won’t work because it won’t work, then it is very likely (but never guarenteed, of course) that he is currently between 60 and 90 years old. And guess what–that’s what Samuelson did, and Samuelson fits the pattern. He even cited evidence that was 10 years old, ignoring all manner of more recent data to bear out what I would say.

    As to economics, I won’t go into great detail here, but I will tell you it is a fact that your gas taxes at best pay for maybe 51% of the road system for this country on a cash-flow basis. Alon Levy has commented that the actual figure is worse, because the source I’ve been using–Highway Statistics, a USDOT publication that’s also available online–doesn’t include a lot of other local roads and streets that are paid for out of property and sales taxes. For the record, the current cash-flow “subsidy” to drive your car is almost 51 cents per gallon, and that doesn’t include Alon’s other roads, deferred maintenance, and poor construction and design shortcomings imposed because highway departments lack the cash to do the job properly, at least in the way the job is done. Taking a somewhat controversial approach to include external costs such as air pollution, unrecovered accident costs, and an oil war or two, and you can easily calculate a real cost of a gallon of gasoline in the $7 to $8 range; others, using a variety of scenarios, have estimated the cost to be considerably higher.

    You have commented that you anticipate that cars can become more efficient. That may be so, and there are theoretical improvements that can come from the gas engine, but they require materials in the engine that can handle much higher temperatures than can be tolerated by metal. This means a ceramic engine–and ceramics, the last I checked, don’t do very well in a high mechanical stress environment, particularly in tension, nor in an environment in which the part is going from tension to compression and back again at high rates of speed (and that includes a lot of engine parts, among them pistons, connecting rods, and crankshafts).

    Even if you solve these problems, or even introduce a new technology such as a really viable electric car, you then still have a worsening highway finance problem. Gas taxes, which are the principle source of what direct highway revenue comes from today, drop with fuel consumption in this scenario, and in fact, the increasing efficiency of cars has been causing problems along these lines for some time; I’ve got financial statements from highway departments that outline this. You need a new highway revenue model, too.

    Finally, such a “supercar” still has to have its insurance paid for, it still is relatively uncomfortable for longer trips, it still doesn’t drive itself, and you still have to find a parking space. In short, there are limits to cars–and some of us, in growing numbers, see these limits, and are ready for a change.

    For me, at least, it’s not about eliminating cars–it’s about deemphasizing them. The way we use them now can be best described as too much of a good thing, which, among other things, has tied us up in a part of the world that doesn’t like us, but we deal with those tyrants, dictators, and kings because they can ruin the world by cutting off the oil supply. I’m tired of paying tribute to those tyrants, dictators, and kings, and to oil companies, too, been tired of this for ages–and I suspect you are as well.

    Will HSR do this by itself? No, but it is part of what we need to do, along with those alternate fuel cars, more trolley lines, and more passenger rail in general. I would argue that rather than asking if we can afford it, we should ask if we can afford not to build it.

    Let me put it this way–how much is driving worth to you, in terms of having to garrison the Middle East, with the resultant American casualty lists? How long would you be willing to pay that price to have a driving society like we have now?

    Clem Reply:

    If SF – LA really only has 13,838 daily passengers, then the airlines that fly 200 daily round trips between these areas are about to go bankrupt from flying empty planes, considering that the bulk of the traffic travels by road.

    Brian Stanke Reply:


    Are you using numbers and logic again? Stop that! It’s Un-American! ;)

    Robert Samuelson does need facts or logic because he is shooting for truthiness. It’s an old tactic in fighting transit and HSR. Wendell Cox did the same thing in 2008: http://www.cahsrblog.com/2008/09/truth-vs-truthiness-on-prop-1a/
    As long as it fools some of the people all of time they keep at it, hoping to fool most of the people enough times to get their way.

    Andy Reply:

    The numbers are correct – LA-SF monthly air travel each way averaged 220,000 passengers each way per month according to the FAA. I know it’s 4th grade math, but that works out to the quoted figure in terms of round trips. If you assume 100 seats per plane I think it works out to a 70% load factor which is typical for air travel. Samuelson was talking about air travel with respect to that specific figure.

    Now the question is who is trying to fool whom. Hopefully correct math isn’t becoming un-American. ;-)

    Peter Reply:

    I’m guessing you’re only using numbers between LAX and SFO. I counted over 120 flights between the three Bay Area airports and LAX, SNA, and ONT on Southwest ALONE. The mere numbers between LAX and SFO alone don’t tell anything close to the full story.

    Clem Reply:

    If the numbers were one way, and for Bay Area – LA basin air travel only, then indeed they are correct. But it would be better to do 4th grade math including the amount of road traffic that travels between those areas, since HSR doesn’t just compete with airplanes.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If you include all airports, and not just LAX and SFO, then the combined total of the LA-SF and LA-SJ air markets is 8.5 million a year (link). The numbers are on the MSA level, and I’m almost certain exclude anything out of Ontario.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Forget the above link – there’s better (though worse-presented) data straight from the government. Look for Table 1A; the numbers given for each city pair are daily passengers per direction. Adding up all flights between LAX/ONT/SNA/BUR and SFO/OAK/SJC gives a total of 13.7 million passengers per year.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I forgot to mention LGB, but I did include it in the numbers.

    Peninsula Rail 2010 Reply:

    I think you are double-counting, Alon. Your first figure of 8.5 million a year is more accurate. I can find O-D figures which are similar to this Office of Aviation Analysis data, but the O-D air traffic between SFO/OAK/SJC LAX/BUR/LGB/ONT/SNA comes to 17,760 per day during the 1st Quarter of 2010.

    Of course, the 1st Quarter will have lower air traffic than warmer month, but it’s not a tremendous amount more.
    LAX SFO:
    1Q 2010: 4431 average daily air passengers (O-D total)
    2Q 2010: 4938 average daily air passengers

    Peninsula Rail 2010 Reply:

    BTW, HSR won’t be directly competitive with air travel on the SFO-Orange County and SFO-San Diego routes. Competitiveness with auto traffic is a different story, but the distances are just beyond the range of HSR’s competitiveness with air travel, especially with CHSRA’s circuitous route.

    Peter Reply:

    I can understand it not being time-competitive with SFO-San Diego, but Orange County should still be competitive, especially city center to city center. SFO in particular is WAY far away from downtown SF.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s not double-counted: they say explicitly that the numbers given are one-way, and when you compare the numbers to the Brookings numbers for markets where one city name covers everything, like NY-Boston, you see a ratio of 730, not 365.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The Ridership people went through this in excrutiating detail. They came up with 23,000 one way flights, from 450 flights.

    All airports are counted, but people are excluded who are just flying sf-la as part of a connecting flight. A lot of southwest is this, even other airlines. For me personally, 90% of the flights I take to LA are to go elsewhere.

    Peninsula Rail 2010 Reply:

    Look again, Alon. These are one-way trip counts, but the city-pair numbers include BOTH directions of one-way trips.

    23,000 px per day was about right before the recession, but the numbers have gone down.

    Yes, these are O-D flights that begin and end within the city pair,but HSR isn’t competing with the Miami-SFO passenger market that goes through LAX.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I added up just one direction. I just realized I directed you to the wrong table, 1A, instead of the correct one, 1. On table 1, which still refuses to treat QLA and QSF as single markets, only one direction is included. Note that both tables are from 2010, not pre-recession.

    You’re right that this includes more than O&D, though.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    And the number of people driving is very similar. Currently – very close to 50/50 mode split.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Air passengers.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    HSR is going to get the majority of its traffic by diverting ground transportation trips, not air trips. This is how it’s worked with every overland HSR link in the world, and that’s how the ridership models predict it’ll work in California.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Actually you are correct but it will also divert the majority of air trips between these metro areas especially as air becomes increasingly a miserable experience. All the HSR systems have had that effect on air so far. No reason to see why California will be any different. By the way, have you heard about TSA’s new screening procedures and machines?

    wu ming Reply:

    and spain and taiwan do not exist. you might want to check out how many flights go between taipei and kaohsiung per day, before and after they built their HSR.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You and HSTSheldon both seem to read my comment as saying HSR doesn’t divert a lot of air trips. This is false, as clearly most air trips are diverted. But those diverted air trips are a small minority of HSR traffic. Taipei-Kaohsiung was an air market of around 6 million annual passengers; THSR gets 30 million.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    We are on the same page here Alon. I agree most of the trips will be induced or diverted from driving. It’s just that your post kind of implied or left unstated that the majority of air trips were diverted as well which I though needed to be mentioned.

    Missiondweller Reply:

    “…..In the Northeast Corridor, with about 45 million people, Amtrak’s daily ridership is 28,500. If its trains shut down tomorrow, no one except the affected passengers would notice.”

    Really? Nobody would notice if 28, 500 more cars were on the road for long distance driving in the Northeast corrider?

    Is that “truthiness” as Stephen Colbert once called it???

    Missiondweller Reply:

    The article also fails to address one of the most important aspects of HSR: It changes the pattern of future development from suburban sprawl to a more sensible and intuitive compact development.

    Andy Reply:

    The main impact of HSR will be to generate more suburban sprawl in the Central Valley as people who can’t afford Silicon Valley or LA real estate decide to move outward where you can own more home and yard for the money by a factor of four or five. Even so, the effect will be modest.

    It’s local transit that makes compact urban development possible – just think about it.

    Joey Reply:

    Fresno and Bakersfield are already large enough that driving from the existing edge of development (or beyond) to the HSR station and then commuting is probably going to be undesirable. That’s assuming that tickets are priced such that commuting via HSR every day is even economical (intercity travel is of course still viable at somewhat higher prices).

    Andy Reply:

    I think there are smaller cities on the line, but if you are correct that HSR will be too expensive for commuting (quite possibly true given the poor comparative economics versus driving) then the claim that HSR changes future development to more compact development is even less true.

    Given that HSR mostly targets intercity travel the idea that it affects development in terms of where people live versus where they work makes zero logical sense. If it doesn’t play a role in their daily work commute why would they move near an HSR station? People don’t pick where they live based on how convenient it is to go on vacation.

    jimsf Reply:

    You are thinking that people will commute from fresno to la, but what you are missing is that fast connections between all regions really means a better deal for businesses in being able to locate in greater variety of places and while maintaining access to not only a statewide workforce depending on their needs but also a statewide network of business/suppliers/industries. It ill create more options, more opportunities, and more flexibility for the states existing businesses, and more importantly, it will make california more attractive when wooing potential business.

    jimsf Reply:

    ..its teh same reason we don’t just put uc and state universities in la and sf, but we spread them all over the state to bring balance, inspiration, technology, and progress to all corners.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Because HSR will eventually tend to become a local transit anchor over time!! Simple as that really.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    I’d tell them, see what happens if they shut down the entire Northeast Corridor and watch what happens to the Northeast as it becomes completely crippled.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Amtrak’s daily ridership is about that low, but that’s ignoring all the people on the commuter railroads, the numbers of whom dwarf Amtrak’s ridership levels. NJTransit’s ridership on the Northeast Corridor Line alone is double Amtrak’s NEC daily ridership.

  8. peninsula
    Oct 30th, 2010 at 10:15


    In other words – Van Ark quickly takes a page out of Diridon/Kopp handbook – liar.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Roelof Van Ark said freight trains “can’t operate through deep tunnels or covered trenches for more than a very short stretch because they need ventilation”.
    Greg Greenway (Freight companies)”cited a recently opened underground train line in Switzerland as evidence it is possible.”
    Greenway didn’t mention that freight trains in Switzerland are electric and emit no fumes.
    Now, which of the two is the liar?

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    If freight is willing to adopt lower weight equipment and electric locomotives so they can go up and down 2% grades, then fine, let them operate. Otherwise, the taxpayer is on the hook for 1-2 freight trains per day on the Peninsula.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    The taxpayer will be on the hook for mostly empty HSR trains to and from a provincial city of less than a million people. How green is it to put more trucks on the highway because you can’t compromise and build a sensible, cost effective passenger rail system?

    jimsf Reply:

    This taxpayer is already on the hook for a shitload of stuff you probably support so this taxpayer will be extremely pleased to be on the hook for something he supports, just once.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    That’s a powerful and convincing argument!

    jimsf Reply:

    Its least its genuine and truthful unlike some of the arguments here.

    jimsf Reply:

    You’re just another one who wants to sabotage progress for political gain. You don’t care about the spending, you don’t care about californias future. You’re just interested if political victory for its own sake. Ill say to you the same thing I said to andy, you way doesn’t fly in california. Its not your kind of place and it never will be. You will be politcally miserable here for as long as you live here. This state will continue to become more progressive regardless of what happens in the rest of the country. Republicans and conservatives will never be a majority here. You will always lose. You may win a battle or skirmish here and there, but everyday when you leave your house and you go out into bag bad california and look around, what you see is what you get, and you’re gonna keep getting more of it. My suggestion to you and all the people like you, who’s goal it is to undermine and sabotage our great state’s future, pack up your shit and get out. YOU will not succeed. Not this november or ever. YOu can not stop progress. You can’t, and you won’t.
    So. what are ya gonna do? Ride it when it opens, or sit in traffic and scowl at it when passes you by.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    That’s an odd statement, considering your complete ignorance of my political philosophy. I’d characterize myself as being well to the left of the Democrats. That’s why I abhor the sums of money going to P-B and their ilk. I never thought that constructive criticism of a particular project relating to passenger rail suddenly turned a soixante-huitard into a republican! May I recommend George Orwell’s essay on Nationalism? And a more careful reading of my comments! I’m commenting about what I think is likely to happen after the election, not what I want to happen.

    jimsf Reply:

    Nevertheless, a political philosophy that isn’t going to fly here.

    jimsf Reply:

    That’s why I abhor the sums of money going to P-B and their ilk
    would you abhor the sums of money going to some one else instead? Who should build the railroad, chinese laborers? Illegal immigrants? Your local mom and pop railroad builder? Walmart?

    Sums of money going to a company that does a lot of business in california that hires californians to build stuff is not abhorrent.

    caelestor Reply:

    If it lowers cost and prevents companies from overspending on unnecessary structures, I’m all for it

    jimsf Reply:

    uh and how many local high speed railroad builders do you know of?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    An updated version of Notes on Nationalism would include the sort of urban nationalism that leads people to berate “a provincial city of less than a million people.”

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Diesel can operate in tunnels if you spend enough money on ventilation. Or you can use electric locomotives. Both have a cost. Van Ark and friends do not want to spend the money, but are pretending it’s a technical issue.

    Peter Reply:

    Major ventilation systems will hardly be the “out of sight and out of mind” solution that Peninsula cities think they will be.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There are zero electric freight locomotives in the US. If UP is faced with the choice between running electric trains just on the Peninsula line and abandonment, it’s not going to run the electric trains.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    CAHSRA will pay for the electric locomotives if UP is forced to use them.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What you’re missing is that UP doesn’t especially want to run freight on the Peninsula. It’s an unimportant branch line. If CHSRA dangles electrification, it’ll argue it can’t afford the extra operating, maintenance, and crew training expenses, and abandon. The extra trucks on the road will be a rounding error on 101’s traffic, far outweighed by the reduction in traffic coming from extra passenger train ridership, and all will be well.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Nearly all the freight locomotives in North America are electric. They just happen to get their electricity from an on board generator or in the newer ones alternator. I’m sure Bombardier could cobble something together from the family of locomotives that the ALP locomotives are in. Both or three of them needed for a the thundering train loads originating on the Peninsula should be able to keep the shortline in business.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Quite so. It’s not an efficient way to run a railroad, it will be an expensive piece of kit but if it’s a mitigation the public wants then they can pay for it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    since it’s a low volume order, figure 40 million for the locomotives. Throw in a few extra million if you want them to use electricity all the way into the yard or a few million if you want them to be dual mode diesel electrics/ straight electric.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Don’t forget crew training and maintenance costs.

    Loren Petrich Reply:

    Those locomotives’ onboard generators make their electrification be essentially electric transmissions.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    You would need ridiculous ventilation systems in order for tunnels to be aired out. It would require fan tunnels RIGHT ABOVE THE TRACK. So instead of a blighted ariel, you have the constant noise of ventilation fans for the diessel exhaust. HSR funds should not be given into spending exorborent amounts of money to accomadate a handful of freight trains per day. That is what I call a boondoggle. If freight wants in, then get some freakin electric locomotives at the minimum.

    thatbruce Reply:

    you have the constant noise of ventilation fans for the diessel exhaust.

    Only when needed; they wouldn’t be running all the time.

    Loren Petrich Reply:

    The Gotthard Base Tunnel has a ruling grade of 0.7% — it is being built to provide a low-ruling-grade route. However, the Bay Area isn’t the Swiss Alps, and the problem with freight trains is getting into the tunnel and out of it to serve customers along it. It’s also a needless expense.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Also, the Gotthard Base Tunnel is meant to be a key transcontinental freight axis, with 300 freight trains per day. That’s two full orders of magnitude more than the freight traffic on the Peninsula.

    For the record, if building the infrastructure for freight costs at most two orders of magnitude less than the GBT, which means $100 million, then I’m all for it.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    “Cities had said that high-speed rail CEO Roelof van Ark told them in a closed meeting last week that freight trains — which will run on the joint high-speed rail and Caltrain corridor — can’t operate through deep tunnels or covered trenches for more than a very short stretch because they need ventilation.

    But high-speed rail officials were surprised to hear from the local freight train industry this week that it was simply a matter of spending enough time and money to install proper ventilation.”

    So, in other words, the freight companies said the exact same thing that van Ark said, it’s just being spun differently and without any mention of just how much more money it would cost.

  9. synonymouse
    Oct 30th, 2010 at 11:20

    Kopp-Diridon and BART-Willie Brown were responsible for 20 lost years of the Caltrain TBT tunnel.

    Political corruption is as much a danger to the viability of hsr as the Reason Foundation. Palmdale influence peddlers have done more to boondogggle than all the nimbys in PAMPA.

    Witness SMART, where the connected, the insiders, the fixers and wheeler-dealers are at war with each other:


  10. jimsf
    Oct 30th, 2010 at 17:31

    Obama just mentioned high speed rail in his speech in chicago. Along with a very funny description of the republicans recent behavior.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Is a link available to that? It sounds interesting.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Belay that, found one:


    Not everybody likes him, sometimes even for good reasons. There are some things I have been disappointed with in him, but I think he spoke the truth there. I still think he was the better of the choices we had available.

  11. peninsula
    Oct 30th, 2010 at 20:45

    And yet another (new) ethics violation for CHSRA board.


    YesonHSR Reply:

    bulldose the lame

  12. John Burrows
    Oct 30th, 2010 at 21:46

    A couple of notes on the next 30 years:

    California will need to pay off the $9.95 billion Prop 1-A bonds. Over the next 30 years, this will cost around $20 billion by the time interest is figured in— around $17 per year for every person in California. A substantial amount considering that right now we are not rolling in money.

    Now for a really big number—– Over this same period of time, California will run up a trade deficit with China of $2.4 trillion. This number is based on multiplying our current $80 billion yearly deficit by 30. this works out to about $2,000 per year for every person in the state.

    For the $2,000 per person per year that we send to China, we get a lot of stuff ( everything from Bay Bridge sections to strawberry jam), but this huge outflow of dollars has done us serious harm.

    For the $17 per year per person that we pay on the Prop 1-A bonds, we don’t get Bay Bridge sections or strawberry jam, but we do get an 800 mile high speed rail system that links 25 cities, (not just San Francisco and Los Angeles). High speed rail in California will be a success. If ticket prices can be kept low enough, businesses could draw from a larger pool of potential employees,
    and would have more options on where to set up operations. Established businesses would be more likely to stay in California and business from outside our state would want in.

    High speed rail can be a major factor in improving our economy. With a stronger economy we can better afford that $2,000 per year per person that we are paying China. With a more competitive economy we can reduce that $2,000 per year per person.

    And what is China doing with that $80 billion we are sending every year. Among other things they are building a high speed rail system of unprecedented size.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Wonderful imagery–wish I was good enough to come up with it.

    John Burrows Reply:

    I think it was jimsf who mentioned the strawberry jam on an earlier posting.

    jimsf Reply:

    yep, saw it at walgreens and was afraid. All I could think of was lead and melamine, which could ruin an otherwise perfect piece of sourdough toast.

  13. peninsula
    Oct 30th, 2010 at 22:24

    That’s fine. Cruickshank’s about 30, I figure another 5 years or so his wife will start whining about her clock, and they’ll pop out a few puppies – then another 5 years, about the time high speed rail comes along, he’ll be a) figure out a home actually IS an investment, b) start simultaneiously crying about the sorry state of public education in the state and the high cost of property taxes c) be astounded at the cost of a private education (which I can assure you is the REALLY big number), and d) find out it’ll cost him and his little den about $1000 round trip on HSR to get to Disneyland, plus the drive to the station, plus the cost of parking, plus the cost of car rental on the other side… plus the hassle of cramming your lovely little of pants pooping, ear achy, throw up all over everything, pack ungodly numbers of bags-carseats-traveling gear-bundlees of joys – and he’ll be thinking twice about the whole fucking ‘greater good’ concept.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    move sissy

    Titus Andronicus Reply:

    Disneyland is overrated. Take your kids to Great America before the Santa Clara 49ers pave it over on the city’s dime.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, a multi-hour drive with little kids. So much better than a train ride. ???

    wu ming Reply:

    or better yet, a delayed plane flight w/ little kids. o joy.

    wu ming Reply:

    man, that’s a hell of a projection complex you’ve got going on there.

    Brian Stanke Reply:


    I already have a little one and:
    a) have figured out a home actually IS a home and NOT a good investment right now, when I can buy one cheaper next year, and the year after that, and…
    b) Am VERY happy that my daughter loves her kindergarten teacher at a 900+ API public school. Did I mention I live in Oakland? Around 15-20 good and great/good public elementary schools, plus some good charters. My financial calcs. for when/if to buy already include taxes/insurance/maintenance/permits; didn’t do your homework before you bought and bitter now?
    c) Don’t know the cost of a private education, but I was smart when applying and got a great elementary public school so I don’t care, and
    d) Expect that while a rental car would be cheaper than HSR for the family (I’m not dumb enough to put all those miles on my car), I laugh at the idea I would prefer to strap my child down for 6-8 hours instead of HAVING FUN with her on the three hour ride to Anaheim/Disney via train. (Hint a snack car, scenery, being able to intereact on the train means no need for packing food, toys, the entire auto 6-hour survival kit.)

    As for that whole “– and he’ll be thinking twice about the whole fucking ‘greater good’ concept.”
    Don’t you wish the common good was better so you could skip that whole private school thing? Or are you too cheap; don’t want to pay another cent to services to share with “those people” and instead prefer to pay three/four times as much for “privatized” services like schools/activities/transportation/security?

    jimsf Reply:

    Don’t you wish the common good was better so you could skip that whole private school thing? Or are you too cheap; don’t want to pay another cent to services to share with “those people” and instead prefer to pay three/four times as much for “privatized” services like schools/activities/transportation/security

    This is exactly whats happening…. in the 50s and 60s and 70s, america was still very very white and things were funded, but now, what you see is that people no longer want to paytaxes to support stuff that will be used by “those other people”
    Thats what really going on. Those with the means would indeed rather take there kids and get away from people whom they deem less than, and instead of paying taxes for transit and education that will benefit those people, they want to cut their taxes and spend the money on the private stuff.
    I was in public school from 1968 to 1982, and the last 3 years about, everything went downhill. There were no books, no paper, no pencils, no field trips, and all the after school stuff was being gutted. 1980 thereabouts is just when immigration started becoming an issue. That was the beginning. In the bay area it began the white flight from the inner bay suburbs ( richmond, san leandro, hayward, fremont, to the new suburbs, concord, danville, fairfield, etc.

    I remember. Now looking back, it all makes sense. and here we are with the tea party- angry as shit that we have a black president and I dont care what anyone tells you,, that is what they are mad about. They are freaked out by it. SAd Sad Sad.
    But i digress as usual. you get my point though.

    dave Reply:

    I concur!

    The sooner we realize that we are all the same and that we can get along the sooner we can move on to more important things. Today people don’t like other people that look different than them. You walk down the street and people assume your not human if your skin is darker, not even a damn “hello”, “good morning”, etc. It’s a damn shame our existence is a bunch of eneducated douchebags who don’t understand we are all ONE. If anyone has noticed the higher the education the less prejudice one is, the lower the education the more you think that being white will cover up your ignorance and stupidity.

    jimsf Reply:

    you might think that education was part of it but not always. I see lots of lower income people of all stripes getting along. ITs an economic thing. I wonder though if all these years living in the bay area has skewed my sense of reality. I mean in San Francisco if you try to limit yourself that way, you aren’t going to have any friends or dates at all. ACtually here you can’t even figure out whos who anymore, its all mixed together. I don’t the kids in sf even see race any more because they are all mixed together.
    All I know is that I have about 800 kinds of international cuisine from which to choose everyday so thats good for me.

    jimsf Reply:

    The good news is this, if you drive them down to disney your stuck in the car for 6 hours and no matter what your driving, its uncomfortable at the length of time.
    If you’re flying, its even more uncomfortable, and the airport experience is exhausting.
    But on the train its 2-2.5 hours from up north, and, you can send the kids to go run around or to the kids car where there is stuff for them to do. Plus they love trains. Meanwhile you can go to the bar.

    There’s a disney shuttle at ana station that takes you right to the park. No fuss no muss. Step off the train and off you go.

    I don’t know how anyone, anyone, can stop and really think about what a miserable waste of time driving the 5 is, and how even more miserable the whole “get to the airport, schlepp from the garage, then schlepp through the terminal ( at this point youve walked a mile) then god forbid you’re checking bags, which if you are taking the kids to disney, you will be, then from there its off to the security-go-round. Then another half mile to the gate where, you sit and sit and sit and sit and wait and wait and wait and wait, unitl the make the – delayed flight announcement… EVentually the plane does arrive and you start the cattle call.This part is worse than TSA. This is the part where everybody rushes to get on the plane, only to wind up standing in the aisle while being pelted by carryons.
    You all know the drill and it sucks everytime. But then, hurray, there is your seat! Until you sit down and realize that the seats are obviously manufactured by a tribe of pigmy children who don’t have clear idea of actual human size.

    Any amount of money is worth spending to build high speed rail just so no one ever has to do that again.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    In France, Disney cooperated with the SNCF to get its own station. Since 2007 it also has HSR platforms for TGV and Eurostar trains. You can buy all-inclusive Eurodisney tickets from SNCF or Eurostar so you don’t even have to queue at the park’s entrance.
    Disney Eurostars by-pass Paris and take about 2h30 from London-St Pancras to Disneyland. According to English friends of mine who take their children there every year, the train ride is actually part of the fun.
    I asked them if they would do it if they had to fly or drive. The answer was: never.
    Another example of “induced” ridership.

    Spokker Reply:

    I heard that getting a job, paying taxes and having children will turn you into a conservative real quick-like.

    Spokker Reply:

    However, I go to college partly on the government’s dime and jerk off a lot. I’m going to be liberal for a few more years.

    synonymouse Reply:

    What’s really happened is that the Democratic Party of today is very different from that of FDR thru JFK. FDR had the good sense to try major economic reforms while at the same time maintaining a thoroughly middle-right stance on social issues. He did not try to rile Main Street with social engineering schemes.

    Remember Prohibition was a radical ninny-nanny piece of social engineering, so repealing it was actually conservative.

    jimsf Reply:

    Syn, please detail this alleged social engineering. I’m not sure what you mean.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Subsidizing highways and single family houses. Low gas taxes so that driving to the suburbs looked like a better deal than staying in the city or trolley ‘burb? Radio, television and air conditioning making it a bit easier to live in far flung suburbs in the Sunbelt? ….

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    You can stick your head in the sand and pretend that it will always be 1985, but the world IS changing around you. As Brian Stanke pointed out, the notion that once someone starts having children, they suddenly become acolytes of 20th century suburbanism, is no longer operative. Sure, some people still do that. But many others do not, including people in my own family and circle of friends in cities across the country.

    The model you cling so desperately tightly to is falling apart. And that of course explains the desperation. Homeownership is no longer the cornerstone of the American Dream. A suburban lifestyle is no longer what people aspire to. Many of us embrace the change and try to shape it to have the maximum benefits possible to as many people as possible. Perhaps a foolish errand, but a noble one.

    Others seem determined to cling to their failed models, and are willing to take down the economy just to prove a point out of spite.

    jimsf Reply:

    not to mention the changing demographic as the state fills up with people who are from different cultures. California is already more global and less american than any other state. The new people have not been indoctrinated into the old american way of thinking. They are definitely used to public transportation as a given. They aren’t going to have the aversion to things like high speed rail the old tyme americans do.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    It’s not even demographic change. It’s just that we are dealing with a cohort of people, roughly ages 40 to 70, who came of age during a time when driving everywhere was seen as the pinnacle of the American Dream. They cannot imagine any other way; in fact they’ve been trained to believe that any alternative is an affront to them personally and to the American Way Of Life.

    Some will be, and have already been, shocked by reality into acceptance of alternatives. But enough refuse to budge that we’re going to have a hell of a time putting things right. This is the age group that is going to vote the Republicans back into power in the House on Tuesday, in order to try one last time to prolong the 20th century. That effort will fail spectacularly, and our job is to ensure they don’t take all of us down with them in the process.

    jimsf Reply:

    Thats why I keep telling them to move out. They’re such buzzkills.

    jimsf Reply:

    They should go move to idaho with their cohorts.

    synonymouse Reply:

    They will, following the companies, especially after Props. 23 qnd 25 pass, and the triumphant Brown jacks up the income tax to pay for increased welfare. I think California already 36% of all welfare cases in the US. Brown and the unions should be able to do better than that.

    jimsf Reply:

    You know syn, we’ve been hearing that mantra for decades and yet cali continues to thrive. While we have high unemployment right now, that is because we are still recovery caused by a global recession – the result, not of over regualtion and taxes, but the result of runaway, unbridled consumer debt, shady banking, and corporate excess. So as the globe recovers so shall california recover and those who leave, be they resident or business, in a fit of bitterness, good riddance to them. They will be the ones who will miss out on the future. California is blessed with things that you can’t kill off. It kickstarts itself automatically. for everyone company that leaves to get a “better deal” somewhere else, another company with vision will move and take advantage of the forward thinking environment. Thats why we stay in forefront. Thats why we are able to play globally while other states can only play nationally.

    So buh bye, to the ones who can’t hack it. They are just getting in the way anyway. No room here for underminers when so many other people want to be here.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The aversion you are referring to has mostly disappeared with the passing of the Reagan-McCarthyite generation which had been indoctrinated to consider all railroads as obsolete. Besides you are forgetting the lessons of history, chiefly that the railroads were losing money on passenger service as early as the twenties due to the rise of the automobile. They tried to recoup with high-end trains such as the Daylight and the Super Chief, which were successful for a decade or so but eventually became a burden again to the bottom line. Thus began the gradual deterioration which led in time to Amtrak.

    The public will ride passenger trains provided the latter achieve and maintain a certain standard of speed and comfort. Unfortunately you are missing the valid point of the hsr’s conservative critics, which is that the CHSRA project as presently conceived is borderline at best. The current scheme is fatally suboptimal and needs to be redone. It is too circuitous to be adequately competitive.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It has to be faster than it’s competitors not the fastest possible between LA and SF.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Even with the fastest possible it will still be hard-pressed to be faster than its competitors.

    The fastest, most direct route between SF and LA is an absolute necessity. Otherwise you are cheaping out on a certain dud.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Even with a 3 hour travel time, that beats the aircraft right now. Add the increased TSA security hassles and you may add another hour or so to the perceived cost of air. The current route will suffice just fine. Remember, odds are you will be either closer/easier to get to an HSR station on average than an airport and your destination is also likely to be closer or easier to get to from an HSR station.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    HST, synon only believes in one route, I-5 via Tejon Pass, you can try to convinvce him but it won’t work.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I-5 only if a median ROW can be done without any material modification to the overpasses. If so this could be such a comparative bargain it would be dumb to pass up for a starter line. You get an extremely fast schedule for a cheap price and access to Sac would be easier.

    Together with Tejon the time savings would give the hsr the edge-up it really needs. 99 can be served in due course, Sacramento is a more important destination for the starter.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Many if not most travellers will still be using autos at both ends of the trip so you are way skewing your evaluation in favor of the hsr, which, being vaporware, is hard to compare to. Airports are totally set up for autos.

    As far as security delays go again an unknown. AFAIK no passenger rail in the US, thankfully, has been hit by jihadists thus far. So predicting security delays on the hsr is guesswork. Overall for profit privately owned and operated airlines will be more paranoid about security, as they can be sued up the ying-yang. We will have to wait and see how lax on security a government run hsr can get away with.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    no passenger rail in the US, thankfully, has been hit by jihadists thus far.

    No but they’ve been terrorized. On and off since the Civil War.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s faster than driving unless you have a road that allows cars to travel at 150+ MPH. Unless you live at the airport and want to go to a hotel at the other airport it’s faster.

    synonymouse Reply:

    At either end, and points in between, most ticketholders will still be driving. Point to the airlines.

    Peter Reply:

    Right, because LAUS has such poor connecting transit, and it will be worse by the time HSR gets there.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Overall my point is that the promised success of the PB-Palmdale scheme represents the extreme best case scenario. Only if every aspect works out as perfectly and as optimistically as Bechtel insists will it have a chance of being successful.

    I am not even sure the conservative version of the outcome of the hsr project represents the true worst case scenario. Foamers should consider the possibility of a great letdown.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    how do they get to the airport? Magic Carpet flying taxi service?

    synonymouse Reply:

    In their cars, as they do now.

    It is a grievous error not to make a herculean effort to use the most direct route out of LA north.

    Methinks the CHSRA needs to go to the bullpen and pull out PB.

    jimsf Reply:

    oh my god do you have a learning disability or something?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    No, it’s not quite disappeared yet. Robert’s ages are right for about 20 years ago; I estimate the age range to currently be between 60 and 90, or roughly, given some overlap, 55-60 and 85-95. And there are plenty of people in that age group, especially in the lower end of it, who will give this thing fits.

    I would say there is also a second, smaller generation group, currently in its 40s or so, who came of age in Reagan’s time, and took to heart the mantra of “government bad, business good.” I’ve worked in government service for 30 years as of tomorrow, and I can tell you, government employees and business owners are humans like the rest of us, with all the strengths, graces, gifts, faults, and weaknesses that implies. Business owners are not the gods this group makes them out to be.

    One thing the pro-business crowd likes to comment about is how the government can use a gun on you to force you into submission, but business doesn’t. It is a measure of their ignorance and arrogance that they forget or never learned about Homestead (Pittsburgh), the Overpass (Detroit), Blair Mountain (West Virginia), Matewan (also West Virginia), and the first big one, the national rail strike of 1877 that started in Martinsburg, W.Va., just 12 miles from my house. People on both sides were hurt and killed in all of these.

    And while we are at it, let’s also remember that it wasn’t just companies against unions, but company against company, the first examples that come to mind being the Royal Gorge war and the battle of Raton Pass, both between the Denver & Rio Grande and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The entire right-wing half of America has forgotten about the Gilded Age. The battle for Northern Pacific, Southern Pacific’s corruption, gunboat diplomacy, whatever – all of those have been excised from history.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They haven’t forgotten about it, they just have learned not to talk about their longing for it’s rerturn when sane people are in earshot.

    jimsf Reply:

    exactly. and unfortunately history is not something that any school kid since 1980 has learned anything about. History is old. Ipads are new.
    Todays generation appears to live an existence completely devoid of any historical context. and apparently that doesn’t even matter any more.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …you do realize that Anthony and Cleopatra when they weren’t busy fornicating or plotting the overthrow or the Roman Empire would lounge about and complain about how the kids today have no historical context…..

    StevieB Reply:

    The notion of everyone owing a home is a notion of the New Deal which set up Fanny Mae and the FHA. Home prices increased with an increase of buyers. President George W Bush pushed for housing lower income americans. Economist Niall Ferguson notes:

    “We want everybody in America to own their own home,” President George W. Bush had said in October 2002. Having challenged lenders to create 5.5 million new minority homeowners by the end of the decade, Bush signed the American Dream Downpayment Act in 2003, a measure designed to subsidize first-time house purchases in low-income groups. Between 2000 and 2006, the share of undocumented subprime contracts rose from 17 to 44 percent. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also came under pressure from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to support the subprime market.

    Real estate prices overvalued by increasing numbers of buyers unable to pay caused a price collapse. In 1930 less than half of americans owned their own homes.

    By 2005, 69 percent of all U.S. householders were homeowners; 10 years earlier it had been 64 percent. About half of that increase could be attributed to the subprime-lending boom.

    Between July 2006 and June 2008, the Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 big American cities declined on average by 19 percent. In some of these cities—Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Miami—the total decline was as much as a third.

    Many americans are realizing that home values are not guaranteed to increase and are an imperfect retirement investment.

  14. morris brown
    Oct 30th, 2010 at 23:29

    Los Angeles times…


    High-speed rail leaders receive consulting fees from firms with financial interests in project
    Rail board chairman and Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle has been an advisor to a major construction supplier. Fellow board member Richard Katz also works as a consultant and for several years has advised Walt Disney Co., a major backer of the project.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    From a historical perspective, Disney’s backing is quite appropriate. The monorail ride at Disneyland was truly intended as a working demonstrator for a proposed transit system in Los Angeles. And Walt Disney himself was a great railroad enthusiast; he had a small, steam-powered railroad in his back yard before there was a Disneyland.

    It has been suggested that for Disney himself, the real reason for Disneyland was to have a place to run bigger steam trains than could be accomodated in his back yard!




    I’m not a monorail backer, but this historical perspective can be enlightening.

    Spokker Reply:

    Even Disney has lost faith in the monorail. No expansion at Disney World since the 1980s, the resort opting instead for buses to transport guests to the other two parks, MGM and Animal Kingdom and other hotels. Disneyland’s monorail system is useless, that resort opting instead for open-air, exhaust-spewing trams.

    Walt Disney may have been a railfan, but he didn’t ignore the writing on the wall. Disneyland’s location was partly selected because of good freeway access. Today the park is anchored next to a freeway that is something like 12 to 14 lanes wide, I reckon. Unfortunately Disneyland hasn’t quite kept up with storage for all of those cars. Even if you want to pay $14 for parking, expect to park a few blocks away on the busiest days and be bussed to the park.

    Spokker Reply:

    A lack of transit compounds the problem and means there are fewer choices for getting to the park. All this doesn’t seem to stop people though. Disneyland is seeing some of its strongest attendance ever even in the middle of a recession. Truth to be told, however, that they practically give annual passes away these days.

    jimsf Reply:

    High-speed rail leaders receive consulting fees from firms with financial interests in project
    Rail board chairman and Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle has been an advisor to a major construction supplier. Fellow board member Richard Katz also works as a consultant and for several years has advised Walt Disney Co., a major backer of the project

    …and? I don’t see the problem. Please expound on what this has to do with anything other than tring to throw “everything but the kitchen sink” at the project in order to kill it.

    Have they been convicted of some kind of wrongdoing?

  15. D. P. Lubic
    Oct 30th, 2010 at 23:43
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