Ray LaHood: “We Are Not Gonna Be Dissuaded” on California High Speed Rail

Sep 15th, 2011 | Posted by

Yesterday US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood met with Governor Jerry Brown in Oakland where they had a “long discussion” about the high speed rail project. San Francisco Chronicle reporter Michael Cabanatuan caught up with LaHood after the event, filing this story and, even better, shooting this video interview:


There’s a lot of support for high speed rail in California. We have made the largest investment in high speed rail money, more than $3 billion, which has been matched by other money from the state. There is a very, very strong support for high speed rail among the citizens of California. People are tired of being in congestion in California. People are looking for other modes of transportation. People in California are looking for high speed rail to come.

When high speed rail comes to California, it can be the model for the country, it really can be. It will be truly high speed, it’ll connect the state with rail service that doesn’t currently exist, it’ll be connected to transit systems, so people can get on their transit systems in their hometown and get on a high speed rail line.

I just had a very long meeting with the governor about high speed rail, and I answered a lot of his questions, and I believe that we are on a good track here in California for high speed rail.

We are not gonna be dissuaded by a little bit of background noise of criticism, because there’s a loud, loud amount of support for high speed rail in California.

Secretary LaHood’s support for the project, echoing that of his boss President Barack Obama, is crucial for the project’s survival. He has turned out to be one of the best appointees of the Obama Administration and his commitment to high speed rail is needed not just from a public perspective, but also in working with Governor Brown to ensure the project moves forward.

Obviously the meeting between LaHood and Brown is the real news here. It’s not clear what went down in that meeting, but LaHood would not have been as upbeat and confident as he was in the video had it not gone well. Governor Brown almost certainly grilled LaHood, but that’s just how he is – Brown knows the issues well and wants to ensure any obstacles are going to be resolved to his satisfaction.

With Brown and LaHood presumably on the same page, the future for high speed rail in California remains bright.

  1. Nathanael
    Sep 15th, 2011 at 21:31

    By definition, a recession or depression with *high unemployment* means *there is a lot of cheap labor*. It is exactly the time to do large, labor-intensive projects.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Do you really think that labor costs for federally-funded projects like this are lower because of the recession? Everyone in American transit projects are always paid pretty well, per-worker productivity is very low, and that doesn’t change during a recession.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I don’t have any idea whether it was because of labor costs or of other factors, but there was a trend during Stimulus II spending on a range of infrastructure projects for bids to come in under the project budget, and that was certainly due to the recession.

    And remember, much of the total labor costs in the CAHSR project are not at the job site but upstream of the CAHSR … you cannot look at the direct employment at the project site and ignore the indirect employment to produce the materials consumed and the equipment used by the project.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Costs ≠ overruns. If you project a ridiculously high price and get a slightly less-but-still-completely-ridiculously-high price, that doesn’t mean you’re doing well. And if you’re that concerned about spending money wisely on the project, then there are much bigger places to look for savings than the very slight recession discount.

    joe Reply:


    30% savings.

    Re-pavement projects in CA are coming in 30% below projected costs. About 11 Billion in Fed dollars total. The savings means more roads are being resurfaced. Better value and more jobs when they are needed.

    And of course the road and HSR funding creates jobs and demand and tax revenue.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Oh, well that’ll come in real handy when we repave all those roads for the great California HSR project…

    Travis D Reply:

    Ignoring the fact that the HSR project will involve an enormous amount of road construction you seem to have missed the larger point.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    What was the larger point? At first it was that labor is cheap during a recession, but that’s not true with the government. Then it was that materials for paving roads are cheap during a recession, but a much smaller portion of HSR’s costs will come from raw materials like asphalt than with roads. The bulk of the HSR costs will come from labor and consultants/engineers, none of which get cheaper for government purchasers during a recession.

    So, what’s the larger point?

    Nathanael Reply:

    You’re just making shit up — lying to suit your ideological predispositions. I suggest you cut it out. Labor is cheaper during a recession, and your bald denial of the fact doesn’t change the fact.

    Most large projects are done with multiple layers of contractors, and those contractors do in fact end up paying less for labor during a recession, and that passes through into lower bids. Consultants, engineers, and labor are in fact cheaper for government purchasers during a recession.

    People have shown you the *facts*, that the *actual bids* made by those consultants (with their engineer and labor employees) are lower, but you’re just denying reality.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    PBQD and allied consultants have already fleeced the state of over $630 million.

    Those people don’t have to deal with competition and aren’t about to do cheaper work just because we’re gutting universities and the park system and welfare. (That’s not to say they won’t somehow manage to do even shoddier work than they’ve inflicted on us already. How low can you go?!)

    Sure, a few gravel trucking companies might have to engage in some low bidding, but those little guy suckers aren’t driving the costs of this fiasco.

    joe Reply:

    … and PBQD had Kennedy assassinated.

    synonymouse Reply:

    There is a long list of possible and fanciful Kennedy assassins but PBQ&D, that’s a good one.

    Benjamin Siegel was quoted as saying: “We only kill our own”. For PB it would come out something like: “We only kill taxpayers.”

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Is this a variation of Goodwin’s law?


    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Buying the material and equipment needs purchasing agents. All of them like to have paychecks. It takes payroll clerks to make that happen. The payroll clerks and the purchasing agents like to work in offices with supplies, heat/air conditioning etc. So there’s an office manager. All of them have managers……

    yoyo Reply:

    exactly, government should engage in infrastructure investment precisely during a downturn as to not compete with private sector for scarce resource and labor. When the BART-to-Warm Springs project was accepting bids for the subway construction back in 2009, the bid came in 45% below the estimate, result in gin over $100million in savings.

    to say that the downturn have no effect suggest fundamental lack of understanding in economics.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Stephen, what you’re missing is that in a recession, private-sector work dries up, so contractors bid on public works. The reason US construction costs are so high, or at least one reason, is that the byzantine bidding process turns off every contractor that’s competent enough to get private-sector work. In a recession suddenly those competent contractors don’t have private-sector work.

    VBobier Reply:

    And right now Repugs in Congress want Private Industry to pick the slack, and Repugs are not listening to Private Industry at all, as Private Industry sees no new demand for their products, so why hire new people says Private Industry?? So to generate new consistent demand for private industries products, public money needs to be spent on public works projects like HSR to generate Private Jobs both during and after construction is finished, Yet Repugs don’t want to listen, It’s like they’ve become Marie Antoinette who I think said let them eat cake as in She didn’t care one bit about them, She later lost Her head to the Guillotine(slice!) cause of this attitude…

    I say keep the people in Congress who’ve tried to do work to help the people of the USA and kick out the jerks in Nov 2012, who said NO and Hell NO! Over and over again…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Trust me, it could be worse, detachment-wise. Israel’s Prime Minister’s wife, Sarah Netanyahu, is so unpopular that the media routinely finds embarrassing, Marie Antoinette-like details in her personal life and publicizes them, in lieu of talking about how much of a kleptocrat the PM is. In the 1990s, amidst a student hunger strike protesting a tuition hike, PM Netanyahu went down to the students and said, “Come, eat, Sarah made you pizzas.”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Oh, and I forgot: the wife of Defense Minister Ehud Barak is even worse. Barak lives (or lived until recently) in a luxury tower project in North Tel Aviv, Akirov Towers, which has become synonymous with flagrant wealth and opulence. An undercover journalist went in the apartment posing as a buyer, and met Mrs. Barak, who said that they’re being pressured to sell the apartment and move to a less famous place, and then complained that “Israel still has a socialist ethos” and doesn’t like its leaders to be filthy rich. (By the way, Barak isn’t rich the way Bill Gates or David Koch or Michael Bloomberg is rich; he’s rich because of a crony network coming from his days as the IDF’s Chief of Staff. You don’t need to be a socialist to wonder about the military-industry collusion.)

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Israel is a small country, which makes it easier for the public to know about its leaders’ turpitudes.
    Lately, a bill was submitted to the French parliament. It aimed to abolish an old law stating that MPs (members of parliament) could only be judged by their peers, thus allowing them to escape ordinary jurisdiction. Every time an PM is suspected of corruption, his defense is that he hadn’t realised he was breaking the law. He is then admonished for negligence and promises to be more careful in future. That’s all. And nothing will change since the bill was repelled.
    The justice code’s first sentence is: “Nul n’est censé igorer la loi”. No one is supposed to ignore the law. No one, except those who make it.

  2. Donk
    Sep 15th, 2011 at 22:07

    You know, you could have substituted the word “Florida” for “California” in LaHood’s excerpt and gone back in time a year. The administration now has the same goal for CA that it did for FL – to make it a demonstration project. And they threw endless wads of money at the FL project, so it would be great if the same thing happens here.

    joe Reply:

    Obama’s not a shoe-in to win CA-he’s under 50%. He needs the Governor and a vision for the CA economy.

    HSR is part of that vision – and he gets to hammer away in FL, WI and OH on how awful their do-nothing leaders have been by not going forward with modernizing rail infrastructure.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Pretty much all voters in Florida, Wisconsin, and Ohio are highly invested in car-oriented lives, and it’s hard for me to imagine much more than a very small bloc of rail voters giving a shit. If anything, I think there are probably more voters who enjoy the hippie-punching aspects of the anti-rail folks than there are pro-rail voters.

    Travis D Reply:

    And everyone in California surfs every weekend when we’re not sexing it up with movie stars.

    I guess I’d better get back to refining my Sunday itinerary of wave time and Olivia Wilde time.

    trentbridge Reply:

    This is not a commuter line. This is inter-city transportation. You can indulge in your car-oriented life-style and still ride long-distance trains. If we were so wedded to our cars why are there so many flights between SoCal and the Bay Area? It is a typical right-wing argument that public transportation projects are a conspiracy designed to seduce you away from owning a car. Most Europeans use public transportation when it’s convenient and use a car when it’s more convenient.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Florida is a strange state full of politically disconnected people — despite which, the cancellation of the HSR line was very unpopular in Tampa, which would have reaped most of the benefits.

    Ohio…. didn’t have a rail plan which looked good to start with, and I don’t think people were paying much attention to it.

    In Wisconsin, the cancellation of the passenger rail line was basically a deliberate attack on Madison. It was also a case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face, as it cost more to cancel than it would have to run the system for 20 years.

    The cancellation was recognized as a mean-spirited spiteful attack on Madison and Dane County. The backlash was pretty strong and pretty immediate; only a fraction of Wisconsinites actually hate their state capital.

    joe Reply:

    it’s hard for me to imagine much more than a very small bloc of rail voters giving a shit.

    Smith’s imagination.
    Can’t comprehend 16,000 jobs per 1 billion spent.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    I really doubt the Tea Party folks are going to garner a significant number of votes from CA.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Ronald Reagan could not be elected today in California. I find it humorous when Republicans constantly refer to him as a model for their prospective candidates.

    The recognition is finally taking hold that so many voters depend on government payouts for their survival that patronage machines cannot be upended no matter the superficial level of discontent. Pelosi has achieved a zombie constituency.

    But economic rundown is the collateral damage. I wonder what our indigenous version of Hugo Chavez is going to look like. And how the military will react to a society on the skids.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s not much defense contracting going on in San Francisco. Much less than there used to be in the state, why should Nancy Pelosi care about how much defense contractors suck up every day?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Usually you proceed from an Hugo Chavez to a junta.

    VBobier Reply:

    And that goes double for Richard M. Nixon.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Nixon to Gerald Ford? The GOP owed Ford the nomination for having pardoned Nixon but they should have reneged and nominated Reagan, who would have beaten Carter.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Delusional, delusional. I really wish we could give you a course in economics or a course in political history. You seem bright, just very very ill-informed.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I really doubt the Tea Party folks are going to garner a significant number of votes from CA.

    And I’d dearly love to live in a world in which I could believe that.

    Who holds Teddy Kennedy’s(!!!!!!!!!!!) senate seat in Massachusetts(!!!!!!!!!!!!) again?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    A Cosmopolitan centerfold?

    joe Reply:

    Massachusetts elected GOP Presidential Candidate “Mittens” Governor.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Mittens Massachusetts elected as Governor would be denounced as a radical socialist by the Mittens running for Presidnent. Since that would be unseemly he won’t.

    joe Reply:

    Mass isn’t radically liberal. That’s a stereotype.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Which is why they elected a moderate Republican as governor, Mitt Romney.
    Would you describe today’s Mitt Romney as a moderate? What’s his position on Obamacare? How does Obamacare compare to the signature legislation of the Romney Administration in Mass. – Romneycare.

  3. Donk
    Sep 15th, 2011 at 22:09

    Does anyone aside from naysayers Morris, Elizabeth, or Nadia know what the deal is with this delay in the business plan? It seems like it is a big deal that it is being delayed. Is it?

    VBobier Reply:

    Don’t forget the ever present Syno, which I wish We could…

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Right. Because the only people you should ever trust are the ones who say what you want to hear.

    VBobier Reply:

    Disinformation is still Disinformation.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Syn doesn’t provide information at *all*. Morris provides a lot of stuff which is links to outright false reporting, and indeed reporting easily shown to be so. Elizabeth and Nadia are at least worth listening to.

    Donk Reply:

    The point is that I’ve heard that the sky is falling in recent posts from Morris, Elizabeth, and Nadia because CAHSRA is not going to make the October 14 deadline. But I haven’t heard any constructive responses to their comments yet. Anyone?

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    [Puts on large, government-issued tin foil hat]

    Given that the Governor has until October 9th to sign any and all legislation on his desk…there is the possibility that he doesn’t want people to second guess him until after he’s done. Also, the Legislature won’t be in session on the 14th so what sort of recourse they could take is unknown.

    Now why the hold-up?

    No idea.

    Peter Reply:

    I haven’t heard anything from anyone other than the usual suspects on the issue yet. I’m not denying it could happen, but I prefer to wait for something more official.

  4. morris brown
    Sep 15th, 2011 at 23:20

    It is interesting that Robert chose to make LaHood’s comments his theme today.

    I sent out a link to this video today as an example of just how far out of touch LaHood is with the reality of the situation.

    We are not gonna be dissuaded by a little bit of background noise of criticism, because there’s a loud, loud amount of support for high speed rail in California.

    It is quite obvious. this statement shows a complete lack of understanding of the fierce opposition to the project. Furthermore support for the project that was only 52.5 to 47.5 in 2008 has gone way way down; the more people know about the project the more the support lessens.

    Joel Epstein is one such example and there are many many thousands more, who were duped into voting for the project in 2008, that now oppose its construction.

    At the July 14 Board meeting, vanArk stated the business plan would be discussed in the September Board meeting. That meeting has now been cancelled. He further stated that they were on track to deliver the draft version by the promised date of Oct 14th. Here 60 days later, it seems that plan may have changed.

    Funding for the Authority for the 2sd half of this fiscal year is contingent upon the plan being delivered by Oct 14th; that is hard coded into the budget.

    However, it now seems that the governor is completely controlling all aspect of the project.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I for one am glad the president, the secretary, and your governor are pushing this.

    I’ve been waiting for a passenger rail revival for almost 40 years, ever since the first oil embargo in 1973.

    It is attitudes like yours that have delayed this so long. In so doing, your attitudes have driven what another blogger elsewhere has called an “addiction to driving,” which in turn has driven our “addiction to oil,” which in turn has at least partially driven us to oil wars, along with a slew of other related costs, inconveniences, and losses.

    Problems along these lines were visible almost 40 years ago, and should have become apparent to even the village idiot at the time of the first Gulf war over 2 years ago. That they do not seem to be apparent to you today. . .well, my mother taught me that if I had nothing good to say, I shouldn’t say anything, and so I’ll cut off there. . .some others are comfortable with profanity, but I’m afraid I’m not among them, I guess I’m too old fashioned or something. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Correction, the first Gulf war was over 20 years ago. . .

    J. Wong Reply:

    No, I think LaHood and Gov. Brown have a very real understanding of “the fierce opposition”. But just because the opposition is “fierce” doesn’t validate it as being right, and that’s what both the Brown and Obama administrations recognize.

    And yes, Morris, HSR is the right answer and now is the right time to do it.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Here’s a real dumb question Morris?\

    Which of the GOP Presidential candidates is running against HSR? Who is talking about ObamaRail?

    No one.

    Now I’m not saying any of them support it, but the opposition really isn’t that great. If it were, other politicians would have followed Rick Scott’s lead in Florida. Instead, they watched his poll numbers plummet.

    Meanwhile, you continue to assert the broad resistance to the project…yet…you still file lawsuits.

    Nathanael Reply:

    It’s clear that Ray LaHood is in touch with reality. Unlike the small, loud opposition to high speed rail.

    Rick Scott, Scott Walker, and Chris Christie all hurt themselves badly by killing funded passenger rail projects. (Though to be fair they all hurt themselves worse by other actions they took.) Politicos around the country have noticed. And can read actual polls.

  5. Drunk Engineer
    Sep 15th, 2011 at 23:26

    How ironic they met in the East Bay, which would not be getting HSR service.

    VBobier Reply:

    They can meet anywhere they like, it’s a FREE Country still and a Democracy where the Majority won and where the losers are acting like a bunch of whining brats throwing a tantrum.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Bay Area routing has never been put up to a vote.

    Travis D Reply:

    Can you imagine the mess roads and rails would be if we did put up all routing for a vote?

    Forget having airports or waste disposal facilities like………ever too. And, heck, let’s start voting on the correct solutions for mathematical equations as well.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If routing had been put up to a vote we would be much better off. No blinking BART Indian broad gauge. Engineers without adequate adult supervision are stupider than the masses.

    Peter Reply:

    What possible effect would putting the route up for vote have to do with the gauge selected?

    Are you arguing that literally every decision for planning a major project such as this should be put up to a vote?

    synonymouse Reply:

    pretty much at this point, given the level of incompetence(see Muni Central Subway).

    VBobier Reply:

    Don’t like the routing? Too bad, so sad.

    VBobier Reply:

    Not everything requires a vote, example You or I posting here.

    Travis D Reply:

    What’s really going to blow your mind is that nearly 100% of all treaties surrounding the oceans have been signed…………………………ON LAND!

    The hypocrisy!

    synonymouse Reply:

    The East Bay has definitely been getting de-emphasized. Even BART tried to move to SF, tho so far rebuffed. The East Bay has a large population but its unity is constrained by a demographic rift between the innercity and the rich enclaves on the other side of the Hills. In the end I don’t think the East BAy realized what a significant loss was the decision against Altamont.

    Peter Reply:

    “Even BART tried to move to SF, tho so far rebuffed.”

    Wasn’t the MTC trying to move?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Didn’t even notice – MTC is synonymous with BART in my mind.

    Peter Reply:

    It would probably help your arguments if you could keep your facts and claims straight.

    synonymouse Reply:

    MTC and BART are interchangeable.

    Peter Reply:

    See, my point exactly.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    The East Bay isn’t being de-emphasized, it’s that Oakland doesn’t have a seat at the table like SF does within the MTC. Part of the problem in the Bay Area is that cities now compete against each other for everything, even when it is nonsensical.

    San Francisco could be the financial hub of the Bay Area and attract the white collar jobs; Oakland could be the logistics hub and do the same for blue collar jobs….oh wait …. that’s how it used to be.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The East Bay isn’t being de-emphasized …

    Correct. It never had any emphasis and retains none.

    The urban East Bay is continuing to be reamed raw with a barbed wire dildo. Which has been standard MTC (personal fiefdom of chief-executive-for-life Quentin’s Boy Steve “$5 billion Bay Bridge cost overrun” Heminger) policy for as long as the agency has existed.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    The urban East Bay is continuing to be reamed raw with a barbed wire dildo.

    Can you enlighten those of us who don’t frequent those types of places what that amounts to? I’m guessing that you mean the fact that MTC has shoveled money for BART Extensions while not improving service for AC Transit and raised tolls.

    However, I think your comment is also hinting something else which is that the very design of the Bay Area’s transportation system is unfair to the East Bay. This is a tad confusing because any commuter that takes the tube under the Bay passes through Oakland. They have just as much access to human capital as San Francisco….

    joe Reply:

    I think he’s referring to Livermore’s intent to force BART out of downtown and put the station at 580.

    IMHO the East Bay is populated by people who intentionally MOVED to a suburban, car centric lifestyle and commute to the Peninsula and SF.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    There are two parts of the East Bay (guess which portion gets the funding).

    West-of-the-hills has some of the highest transit and walk-scores that you will find anywhere in the US, let alone metropolitan Gilroy. The more sparely populated East-of-the-hills is indeed post-war suburbia.

    joe Reply:

    You are right, the east bay does include Oakland and old towns and areas built along 880 and BART.

    For comparison, Gilroy wants the HSR station in downtown at the current caltrain station, Livermore sez “no way jose” and demands their new BART station be moved out of town and next to the freeway.

    FWIW Gilroy neighborhood walk-ability score is close to my former noe valley residence. When you de-emphasize coffee shops and number of eat-out/dinning and properly weight public services, like a library or proximity to a farmers market, it’s as or more walkable in Gilroy.

  6. Peter Baldo
    Sep 16th, 2011 at 05:51

    50 years from now, California is going to have a whole network of high speed rail lines. One will buzz on a fast route between Bay Area and LA, one will connect the cities of the Central Valley, and other lines will link the two. California is now planning the first stage of this eventual transportation web. It’s important to remember that this is not the end, but the beginning.

    High Speed Rail will become a success in California. Outside of the Northeast Corridor, California is the most obvious place for the US to build a high speed rail system. Two dense endpoints. Big secondary cities on the route. Decent, and growing, regional public transit. California’s HSR system, built well, will be a big success.

    Liquid transportation fuel is running out, and is hard to synthesize. Electricity can be made lots of ways. The HSR system can even be its own electric grid, generating solar power in one part of the state, to run trains in another. We can’t forever burn liquid transportation fuel driving our cars 400 miles, or flying from Oakland to LA. The electric train is going to be part of California’s future, whether some people like it or not.

    I hope the debate in California will become, “How can we do High Speed Rail right?”, instead of, “How do we stop it?” Trying to stop HSR, ultimately, is like trying to stop elevators in tall buildings. But there is always room for making a system better and more useful, and California should build the best, most useful, system it can.

    Donk Reply:

    I am am also waiting for the day that the debate shifts to doing it right, rather than doing it at all. A good analogy is the Wilshire subway. For decades people fought the subway either because they thought nobody would ride it, because it would cost too much, or because it would bring poor people into their neighborhoods. Now there is a near universal understanding that LA needs to have the subway completed.

    The shift in thinking started to occur with Villaraigosa’s continued push for the “subway to the sea”. The criticism was completely silenced around the time when Measure R passed in 2008, and this was because more funds became available to the county for other projects, and an additional deal was made to speed up construction on the Foothill Gold Line extension, which was effectively competing with the subway for funding and priority. Once the deal was made, Supervisor Mike Antonovich and his supporters (who live way out in east LA County and didn’t think they’d benefit personally from the subway) stopped bashing the subway project, and negative articles about the subway in the papers completely disappeared. Now the only debate is how to build it, with the loudest criticism from the Beverly Hills School Board, who want it routed one way instead of another.

    But there is no doubt anymore among anyone I talk to in LA about whether it is needed or not. Many people who previously would have been against it are now either ambivalent or supportive of it. I think a big reason for this has been (1) the tireless campaign by Villaraigosa and other LA leaders like Zev Yaroslavsky and many city councilpeople to push for the subway, and (2) the rhetoric from the press.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    50 years from now, California is going to have a whole network of high speed rail lines …

    There’s no scenario other than railfan-armed-with-a-wall-map-and-magic-markers in which this scenario is possible, likely, or even desirable.

    There’s a very fine potential north-south HSR spine corridor in California. Much beyond that is economic and political nonsense.

    There are plenty of other potential high quality (ie non-FRA, non-Amtrak, non-PBQD) rail corridors in California, many of which might connect with or even interoperate with the HS spine. None or almost none of these justify 250+kmh speeds, let alone 350.

    Andrew Reply:

    Do you have a map of the kind of network you have in mind? It would be interesting to discuss it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Here’s one option for the Bay Area

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Here’s what I came up with a while ago:


    Most of the locations are approximate.

    joe Reply:

    BBC sez:

    There is no single globally agreed definition of what constitutes a high speed rail line, but the European Union defines them broadly as:

    Recently-built lines designed specifically for high speed travel, where speeds of at least 250 km/h [150 mph] are attained

    Upgraded but generally older lines where speeds of at least 200 km/h [124 mph] are possible.

    Building rail service across CA with trains hitting 125-150 MPH is desirable.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well some areas will still have people driving gasoline powered cars cause they have a need to do so, I can’t afford to buy any car currently, If the FBR(Federal Benefit Rate) were raised from $674 a month to $1348 and the savings rate(asset test) were increased from $2,000.00 to $10,000.00, then It would be possible and would benefit the economy in the long term, but of course there are those who’d rather cap the FBR @ 2006 levels and split It up into reducible Block Grants that would help no one that would only increase homelessness and despair…

    Of course that doesn’t even touch the idea of a burial plot which should never have been a countable asset, as being it’s not cheap, I can’t even bury My Mothers ashes, as the cheapest I could find near My location is for about $2900 and that’s just for Her, I’ll need one too, even the dead deserve to have a final resting place and so far that’s out of reach for those who get SSI(which is Supplemental Security Income and not Social Security Income), even though a Senator has introduced a bill to change that…

  7. D. P. Lubic
    Sep 16th, 2011 at 23:06

    Off topic, but good for a smile or indigestion depending on your attitude: Tea Parties claim we should not build light rail (and by implication, HSR) because it is an attractive target to terrorists:




    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Something amazing from the last link–a comment by a Tea Party who thinks transit is a legitimate function of even his idea of limited government:

    « FinanceBuzz wrote on Wednesday, Sep 14 at 09:47 AM »

    I want to say first, I am very conservative and I generally agree and support Tea Party positions. However, I think this stand is very short-sighted and, for the terrorist argument, quite a bit of a reach to justify their opposition.

    Do I think we should support the TSPLOST? I am not sure. But that is because I do strongly feel we need a regionwide comprehensive plan for transportation. In the last few months, I have travelled to Dallas and Minneapolis, cities of a similar scale to Atlanta. While Atlanta used to be on par with any city of its size, in the 10 years since I had last visited Dallas, Atlanta is being left behind in terms of transportation infrastructure. This is both in terms of highways and transit. My biggest concern with the TSPLOST is that Atlanta as a region is missing an opportunity to positively address our transportation, an area, I would note, that is a proper function of a limited government. However, the TSPLOST project list is not sufficiently regional in scope. Yes, there are some transit initiative with regionwide impact – light rail, GA400/I-285 interchange, etc. However, there are a large number of projects that are better characterized as local maintenance such as corridor improvements, intersection upgrades, etc. While these projects may well be warranted, they do not have a regionwide impact and are more appropriately handled by local jurisdictions.

    It is the scope and the project list that causes me to pause as to whether to support the TSPLOST. I think they need to scrap the list and start over with a more regional focus. Once we commit to these projects, we will run the risk of being further left behind other metropolitan areas in the coming decade.

    The Tea Party is a great organization and the majority of the time is dead-on with their position on the issues. But, I am concerned that their zeal in opposing taxation, a position I generally share, is blinding them to a reasonable tax for a reasonable function of a limited government. I would hope they step back and gain a little practical perspective and recognize that for Atlanta to remain competitive, we must begin to think of our transportation oversight regionally and not as a city and county level only. For a metro area as integrated as Atlanta, to balkanize our transportation oversight into separate fiefdoms does a grave disservice to our city and state.

    Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Georgia Tea Party opposes TSPLOST

    I have a weird brain. Someone will say something, or I’ll read something, and it will bring up a memory or thought of something else. In this case, this astounding–simply incredible!–comment by a Tea Party person somehow reminds me of a sign in an Elks lodge which had a picture of an elk at a stream, with the caption, “One of the most amazing sights in the world to see is an elk drinking water.”

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    I am surprised they just do not say we should all live in our homes from cradle to grave due to the potential for terrorism, super viruses, etc. And I wonder, why have their been no light rail attacks across the world yet?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    None that you’ve heard about. For instance the Chicago system was shut down at one point because of it.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    The Citadis trams Alstom is building for the Jerusalem light rail are designed to resist stones and Molotov cocktails.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What they need to resist is roving bands of ultra-Orthodox vigilantes who tell women who dress immodestly or refuse to go to the back of the bus to get off.

    Peter Reply:

    I doubt there’s an engineering solution for that.

  8. morris brown
    Sep 16th, 2011 at 23:09

    Obama signed off of the Highway appropriation extension through next March.


    There are no funds for HSR in this extension.

    Funds for HSR proposed by Obama in his “jobs” bill will be eliminated also if it becomes law, which doesn’t look likely in any case.

    joe Reply:

    My understanding is this extension keeps the FAA from shutting down – again. If it were to shutdown – again – the US would halt construction projects at all airports and forgo collection of airline taxes – again.

    In keeping with Congress’ dismal review, just 6 percent of registered voters think most members deserve re-election – the lowest percentage ever in CBS News Polls during the past 20 years, and a lower percentage than the 9 percent who thought so right before the 2010 midterms.

    It maybe that none of Obama’s proposed spending happens. We may also see a tight presidential and congressional Dem landslide in 2012.

  9. D. P. Lubic
    Sep 16th, 2011 at 23:40
  10. Ben
    Sep 17th, 2011 at 08:29

    Yesterday, I attended an debate between former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and the corporate/billionaire hack, Grover Norquest about funding infrastructure and deficit reduction. Grover Norquist, the Ayn Rand-disciple, speaks about high speed rail at minutes 23-24 in this debate:


    Grover Norquist: “The United States isn’t laid out the way Poland or Moscow is where everyone lives in big, tall, buildings and one subway system between those two points works…it is very depressing over there.”

    No jackass, this is completely false. The Northeast corridor and coastal California have population densities as high as Europe. The countries where transit and high speed rail are most successful (Japan, Germany, France, Spain) also have some of highest qualities of life. Transit ridership is very high in Tokyo, Madrid, and Paris but only an Ayn Rand-disciple like Grover Norquist would think these are depressing places to live.

    Ridership on Amtrak has also been increasing every month for nearly the past two years, with a 5% increase in ridership in August 2011 compared with a year earlier. This comes at a time when there’s been a sustained drop in driving. If you build transit that is convenient, people will use it.

    Norquist also claimed that nobody in the US uses public transit. Really? Except for the 900,000 daily metro trips in DC or the one million daily transit trips in Los Angeles. 20,000 people per hour use the Red Line in DC– the equivalent of building a 10 lane highway on Connecticut Avenue. But I forget, since these cars use oil, it’s not really a subsidy to build all the additional roads and parking structures needed to accommodate them if we didn’t have our transit systems.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Norquist is an even bigger idiot than I thought he was. How does he gain support? How does he gain followers?

    For his information, Poland isn’t a city, it’s a damn country, those who have been there will tell you it is like the midwest–largely flat, grass and trees and rivers, and bugs in the summer. Someone should remind him that Poland bitterly fought the Germans, and then fought a low-level rebellion against the Soviet Union that lasted for decades. Poland is largely Catholic, and celebrated 1,000 years of Christianity back around 1966–that’s about 100 years before the famous battle of Hastings in Great Britain, and 800 years before our own revolution in 1776. It is a nation of industrious people who managed to retain a good deal more freedom than the average Iron Curtain country because they fought for it, partially by destroying livestock and other things rather than turning them over to the Russians. Not to take anything away from Lech Walesa and Solidarity, but part of that revolution’s success was that even the most hard-line Communists in Poland at the time decided they were Poles more than Communists, and risked being replaced to negotiate with the revolutionists.

    Are you a railfan and want to feel like you are back in 1950’s America? A trip to a town called Wolsztyn is for you.


    “Although a trip to Wolsztyn is like a trip back to 1956 small town America (14,000 people….14 butcher shops and no 24 hour Quickie Marts), internet and cell phone is readily available.”–Tom Parkins

    “Wolsztyn and surroundings has an incredible resemblance to Lancaster County [Pa.].


    “Here’s a 5 minute video clip from my visit there last year.
    It’s a brief synopsis of a typical run.”–Jim Herron


    For the record, this is a commuter train on the line out of Wolsztyn, a counterpart to Metrolink and Caltrain; maybe my joking suggestions about steam for the Peninsula people aren’t so crazy after all.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Norquist is not an idiot. He’s very good at what he does, which is give strategy to Republicans. He doesn’t get paid based on whether he says correct things, or even on whether he says things that are useful to the Republicans’ electoral prospects; he gets paid based on whether he tells GOP leaders what they want to hear.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That sounds worse! He’s a blooming con man!

    What kind of dupes does that make the Repugnant Ones?

    VBobier Reply:

    There isn’t a word to really describe them, but Repugnant, bitter, gullible, dupe and sucker are close.

    joe Reply:

    Norquits leads, he does not follow. He says things that drive what republicans must say to get into and stay in office. He’s one of the key men who set the agenda for DC-GOP politicians.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Many anti-HSR arguments rely on the average US citizen’s total ignorance about living standards in other parts of the world. I remember Jeb Bush explaining why the “Florida TGV” made no sense:
    “We have highways and airlines. We don’t need trains”, implying that those poor French people had no other choice than riding trains or walking. Or, maybe riding donkeys?
    Similarly, a Republican senator once said: “let’s stop drinking Champagne and we’ll put France on her knees”. Since top US imports from France were (and still are) aerospace and pharmaceutical products, a ban on Champagne was very unlikely to alter France’s disbelief in Iraq’s WMDs.
    I’m just wondering: are these top politicians really ignorant, or are they just deliberately exploiting other people’s ignorance? It’s disturbing in either case.
    Since the US is the leader of the Western world, your leaders are also, to some extent “my” leaders and, sometimes, I don’t feel too proud of them.
    In that respect, Obama is like a breath of fresh air. That’s how we Europeans feel about him, anyway.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “In that respect, Obama is like a breath of fresh air. That’s how we Europeans feel about him, anyway.”–Andre Peretti

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Merci, merci beaucoup!

    Oh, why can’t we get the word out on the political clowns we have from this perspective?

    swing hanger Reply:

    Actually, letting the average red-blooded Coors Light drinkin’ ‘merican know their president is popular in Europe would actually have a negative effect- in their eyes, Europe is associated with Socialism and effeteness.

    Peter Reply:

    Personally, I am convinced that politicians fall into one of two categories. They’re either highly intelligent and pragmatic, and know exactly what to say to get their way (get elected), or they’re fundamentally stupid, and fall into their role by expressing their personal opinions that happen to be populist.

    On the Republican side, an example of the former is John McCain, and an example of the latter is Sarah Palin. Ironic that they were running mates.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    +1, really…
    To Yanks it seems we’re still a nation of cooks, painters and wine-growers (just as if we had been at some point, by the way…) ; it is not even worth the pain to tell them that agriculture contibutes to between 2 and 3 % of our GDP so ingrained are these ideas in their brain.

    Now just have a look at that surrealist interview of Randall O’Toole, the inenarrable speaker for the Cato foundation, the superpositon of a discourse on HSR (joe Biden) and a video of some empty suburban chug-chug that I would have guessed coming from Venezuela or Serbia if you had asked me (Frenchmen also have the right to be ignorant)…Those guys really don’t lack air, or the American public is brainwashed, or both!


    ericmarseille Reply:

    Brains, sorry!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I finally got to look at the video, and two things stood out. One was the largely negative comments about this clip (seems like there is support for rail today among the viewers, who thought O’Toole and Stossell are phonies and idiots), and the other was the weird juxtaposition of some California HSR simulations with a variety of light rail shots, as if the two were the same. Whooee!

    That empty train on the Baltimore light rail line? Where on the Baltimore line? It’s not unusual for a train or bus to be nearly empty as it runs to the end of the line out in the suburbs, it picks up passengers on the way in and drops them off on the way out–big whoop, that’s been the pattern of suburban services ever since horse car days. I wonder what these clowns would think of the chickens and roosters I used to see greeting the MARC commuter train at a rural stop in Duffields, W.Va.; I guess they would say it was a station serving nowhere in hillbilly West Virginia, even though its parking lot usually fills up quite well most of the time due to people driving in from nearby Shepherdstown, Kearneysville, and Shenandoah Junction. Maryland must have hillbillies, too; the station at Barnesville is at the edge of a pasture, and there are other stations in tiny places on this route, too.

    What is the matter with these guys? You would think the only choices we have for living would be some tiny apartment in a place like Manhattan, or a suburb made of McMansions. What about a small town connected to cities by a train or even an interurban? What about a leafy trolley suburb, with nice houses on modest lots, and a store and churches and barber shops and a public school only a few blocks away? What about a trolley suburb that also has a commuter rail station in it? I grew up in such a place, although by that time the trolleys had been replaced by buses and the railroad was freight-only, but everything else was still there. My next-door neighbor ran that grocery store.

    I have a weird brain that recalls other things when it sees or hears or reads about something else. In this case, it’s recalling some people in California who couldn’t understand why freight trains were still working across grade crossings in a town called Carquinez (sp?). Seems the main line goes over a strait on a high bridge which replaced a ferry operation back around 1930, but freight trains still work the old ferry approaches and tie up traffic. The people in the article I saw couldn’t understand why trains were still on this trackage with that big bridge overhead. These trains didn’t even go anywhere, they just ran back and forth and tied up the traffic. Those clowns should have taken note of the fish-packing plant that was also there, and which was served by rail.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I wonder if it is as depressing as metro DC where people use Metro to get to and from work. Makes me wonder where Mr. Norquist lives and since the headquarters of the organization he works for is half a block from a Metro station, how he gets to work. Also makes me wonder how he gets to appointments in Philadelphia and New York.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    He probably rides in the business class car together with George Will.

    joe Reply:

    Or many of conservative WA DC think tanks which happen to be located near a DC METRO stop.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Wasn’t a regional where Mr. Will was spotted? If you were on a think tank expense account would you take a Regional?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    For reference:


    Alon Levy Reply:

    Probably not, but, presumably, Will is on an even bigger WaPo expense account.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Think tanks don’t open their books to anyone but the IRS. Reporters are actual employees of news outlets with things like expense accounts and dental plans, are columnists? Even if they are newspapers are having a rough time of it and are to the point of rationing paperclips… they are probably rationing airplane fares and first class seats on Acela too.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The NYTimes, which unlike the WaPo is not subsidized by a fraud-using for-profit college, is cutting back on business meals. Dinners are capped at $45 per person, lunches at $30.

  11. trentbridge
    Sep 17th, 2011 at 12:46

    “The United States isn’t laid out the way Poland or Moscow”

    Note the deliberate effort to link public transportation to places/countries associated with communism and socialism. No mention of Paris, London or Tokyo.

    “big tall buildings” is a clear reference to socialist public housing..and finally “very depressing”.

    This is masterful work – a subliminal message that building subways are the way left-wing Governments with public housing developments and abject dreariness move workers into your neighborhood.

    VBobier Reply:

    And Interstates are so American, Yeah right, Interstate highways are derived from the Autobahn the Nazis built, Concrete at least is a Roman invention. At least Trains last I looked are an American Invention.

    Peter Reply:

    “At least Trains last I looked are an American Invention.”

    Ummm, no.

    VBobier Reply:

    Ok, I can admit when I’m wrong.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    You are not wrong if the question is: who built the first modern network of fast, punctual, comfortable trains?
    Up to the early fifties, the U.S. was the reference. Believe it or not, French companies sent engineers and managers on mission to your country to learn how passenger rail ought to be run.
    When little boys chose their Christmas toy train, they generally picked a replica of an American train.
    Then, suddenly, America dropped out of the picture.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It wasn’t sudden, it was a slow agonizing death…. Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central avoided liquidation by merging in 1969 and finally went bankrupt in 1976. Confluence of a lot things that caused that to happen.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    To clarify, the first railroads that are recognizable as such today were British. Before 19th century England, rails were used just to help humans or animals haul wagons faster.

    joe Reply:

    It was an innovation to improve the efficiency of animal’s hauled Coal cars out of coal mines.

    There’s less friction when steel wheels roll on steel tracks.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    We certainly gave them our own style and class over time.

    What would Norquist and the others think of the first 45 seconds of this 1942 American PR film? What would they think of Americans in that era and before? Were they Commies, too?


    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    One of the things that has been bandied about is that America is a “car culture,” and that railroads are not part of our culture. What the clowns who say that ignore is how much of railroading is in our culture.

    Standard time is an adaptation of railroad time. The whole concept of the mail order catalogue (which is now net-based in a lot of cases) started with railroads; I believe J. C. Penney started out as a railroad clerk selling a batch of unclaimed watches by mail, which was carried by train then. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats shipped across country, including California oranges? Started on railroads in refrigerator cars. Standardized buildings, service, food (i.e., McDonald’s or Burger King)? Invented by Fred Harvey and the Santa Fe. Then there are expressions and sayings, like “blowing off steam” or “on the right track.” Where did those come from? What about a travel case called a Pullman? What about all those train songs over the years?

    Speaking of Pullman reminds me that sleeping cars seem to be an American invention and contribution to railroading around the world. Other American inventions that are now part of railroading include air brakes (George Westinghouse in the 19th century), telegraph and telephone dispatching (Erie Railroad in the 1840s), knuckle couplers (Janney patent), air conditioning (Carrier and the B&O, 1930s), cab signals and automatic train stop (PRR, going back to the 1920s), nose-suspended traction motors, multiple-unit control, various other electric railroad practices (Frank Sprague), the first heavy-duty railroad electrification (B&O, Howard Street Tunnel, Baltimore), first successful trolley operation (Richmond, Va., 1882, Sprague again), first successful long distance electrification with AC power (New Haven, ca. 1909), electric block signals and track circuit (19th century, don’t know the principals involved, though), eight-wheel cars with swiveling trucks and an open interior (B&O and Ross Winans, 1830s), first 100 mph operation (Empire State Express on the NYC in 1893, the locomotive in that feat is preserved), first regular running at over 100 mph (Milwaukee’s Hiawathas, 1935, with steam engines to boot), the first practical applications of diesel-electric power, and I believe welded rail (Delaware & Hudson, 1930s), disc brakes for high-speed equipment (Budd Company, 1940), and shot-welding for stainless steel car fabrication (Budd again, 1930s)–and no doubt there are others.

    VBobier Reply:

    There’s the origin of the phrase “the Real McCoy” that involves Elijah J. McCoy (May 2, 1844[2] – October 10, 1929) was a Canadian-American inventor and engineer, who was notable for his 57 U.S. patents, most to do with lubrication of steam engines. His family returned to the United States in 1847, where he lived for the rest of his life and became a US citizen. Elijah J. McCoy was born free in 1844 in Colchester, Ontario, Canada to George and Mildred (Goins) McCoy, who were African American. They were fugitive slaves who had escaped from Kentucky to Canada via helpers through the Underground Railroad.

  12. morris brown
    Sep 17th, 2011 at 17:50

    High Speed Rail Proponents Defend the Indefensible


    Not to be out-done in the silly remarks category, Roelof van Ark, California’s High-Speed Rail CEO, was quoted in the same LA Times article exclaiming:

    …and if money runs out and the system is only partially built, it would leave in place a cornerstone that “my children or my grandchildren can continue to build to San Francisco or in a southerly direction into L.A.”

    When I saw that statement sometime ago, I just thought “how out of touch can one person, in this care, the CEO of the whole project, be”

    joe Reply:

    We’re not quitting Morris, never. That’s commitment.

    Donk Reply:

    Why is that statement by van Ark out of touch? It is forward-looking. The lack of forward-looking thought and the constant desire for immediate economic gain is exactly what has caused societies to collapse for millenia.

    VBobier Reply:

    HSR is coming and there is nothing You can do to stop It, Nothing. Physically blocking construction would only get You or someone else arrested for trespassing, I know this as I used to work in Security, before My body retired Me.

    Peter Reply:

    “…and if money runs out and the system is only partially built, it would leave in place a cornerstone that “my children or my grandchildren can continue to build to San Francisco or in a southerly direction into L.A.”

    All that this shows is that van Ark can see further into the future than two or three years.

    Another example of forward-looking infrastructure that was built in preparation for expansion that didn’t occur for decades is Toronto’s Prince Edward Viaduct. The span, which was completed in 1918, included a second deck for a future subway. The mayor at the time lost the next election, partly because people decried his decision to include the subway deck, undoubtedly screaming it was a boondoggle (or whatever term was used at the time).

    In 1966, the Bloor-Danforth subway was completed, seamlessly using the second deck for the purpose it was designed for.

    Morris’ argument is that anything not immediately used for the purpose it was designed for is a complete waste of money, even if it is used long-term.

    I will admit that there are other examples where this kind of forward-looking did not work, such as an unused (an unconnected) subway station in Tel Aviv (?), or the second set of tracks at the Schlossstrasse subway station in Berlin, but overall, there are many more examples of successful use of such pre-built infrastructure than failures.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …63rd Street Tunnel between Manhattan and Queens. Around the same time they started digging tunnels for the Second Avenue Subway. The completed parts north of 96st Street are going to sit until Phase Who-Knows.

  13. synonymouse
    Sep 17th, 2011 at 19:56

    That is nonsense coming from Van Ark. Who is going to maintain the orphan track; who will want to buy it?

    Way beyond the original bait and switch, now we are saddled with a money pit that demands to be fed ad infinitum not just now in the present but by “my children or my grandchildren”.

    This whole infrastructure-hsr scam sham crusade is starting to take on a taint of sleaze and sicko. You guys apparently missed my link to the SF Chron article about Muni hiring a Central Subway artist-cum-creepo who started his career by “adopting” a dog from the pound and then shooting him on camera for thrills. When did a NIMBY ever do anything like that? SF used to be a great place but now it sux. PB’s or Rose Pak’s idea?

    VBobier Reply:


  14. Useless
    Sep 18th, 2011 at 18:17

    While I knew Chinese authorities were ruthless and corrupt, this is new low even by Chinese standard.


    “Wang, 32, says 10 days after the crash, authorities offered her 915,000 yuan ($143,000) to give up any claims against the Ministry of Railways. She says they hinted that if she didn’t agree, they would let Zheng’s body rot. She signed.”

    Holding the accident victim’s body as hostage to settle? Bye bye China, it was nice to know you people in detail before you people had a chance to come over here. Thank God the crash happened before the California bidding.

    Eric M Reply:

    This means diddly squat. If we get Chinese money and build the system to OUR standards, it doesn’t mean the same thing will happen. For all we know, the Chinese operations could have been cutting corners, something we can avoid. The only thing that we would need to take a hard look at is how their train-sets are built (if that would be part of any deal). Again, for operations, that is up to us, so get over the fear of Chinese, or what ever you have against them.

    Useless Reply:

    @ Eric M

    > If we get Chinese money and build the system to OUR standards

    And buy Chines rolling stocks and signaling system as required.

    > For all we know, the Chinese operations could have been cutting corners, something we can avoid.

    Chinese cut corners on railway construction on rolling stocks and the signaling system themselves.

    > Again, for operations, that is up to us

    There is a high probability that the winning bidder would also be operating the CAHSR system because foreign HSR operators have the experience of operating a modern HSR system not found anywhere in the US. This is why you have SNCF, JR East, and Korail on the bidder’s list; these are railway operators, not rolling stock vendors.

    Andrew Reply:

    Nothing against the Chinese; we just can’t buy stolen technology. I’d sooner be without hsr than have it support a criminal enterprise.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You really don’t want to know what shady deals Hyundai, Siemens, and Alstom have been involved in.

    Useless Reply:

    @ Alon Levy

    > You really don’t want to know what shady deals Hyundai, Siemens, and Alstom have been involved in.

    What matters is that Hyundai, Seimens, and Alstom bullet trains are legal in the US in terms of intellectual property; not so much with CSR’s product.

  15. Peter Baldo
    Sep 18th, 2011 at 21:13

    Has it been decided that this will be designed, built, and operated by foreign countries? I’m surprised that stimulus money is being spent on it.

    There’s no obvious reason why Japan or France would have any more of an idea how to build and operate the California system than we would. For the first 20-or-so years of its existence, it is going to be a weird, uniquely American hybrid system. It will not look like the depictions on the cahsr website. There will be a section, or sections, of high speed track, on which trains will hopefully operate at high speed. But it appears that for the beginning and ending portions of their trip, they will be dodging freights and commuter trains (and cement trucks at grade crossings) on the existing regional railroads.

    Operations and computer control will be different and difficult. Rolling stock will be different and problematic. Other things will probably be different as well. And this won’t just be California. Whether it’s in Texas, or the midwest, or the southeast, high speed rail is likely evolve as it is evolving on the Boston-Washington corridor. A world-class high speed system, as seen in Japan or France, won’t emerge for decades.

    California should design, build, and operate the system. If foreign companies want to bid on individual components, OK.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    As I’ve been able to show to days ago, the largest part of HSR building budget goes to works that can be done by local companies, or have to employ local people at least.

    Even in the case a foreign consortium would win the deal, only a small part of the added value would go to the foreign countries involved (expat engineers and supervisors + specialized workers, a few special machines and machine-tools, maybe the rolling stock, and even that can be negociated to some extent, and profits of course) ; all the rest would have to be done, produced and maintained in California, or the US at least.

    The difference for the american economy would start to show only AFTER the line is built, when profits start reaping in for the foreign consortium.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    The hope was for the US to develop some domestic know-how, and manufacturing capacity, in return for the $50 Billion, or whatever. Expat engineers, supervisors, specialized workers, machine tools, rolling stock. Maybe signaling and automation as well. What’s left, except pouring concrete?

    The US system is going to be fairly complicated, with the need to “blend” high speed operations with regional conventional railroads, and eventually to tie several high speed systems into one national system. Can we really expect foreign countries to do all of this for us? Should we want them to do all of this for us? At some point, won’t we have to know what it is we’re doing?

    ericmarseille Reply:

    First, what I’ve found with the cost-analysis of the HSR line LGV Méditerranée is that “pouring concrete” (or moving earth, or installing the ballast and tracks, etc…) are a HUGE chunk of the budget ; buying the land isn’t a small part either, all that will be returned directly in California residents and workers hands.

    Now take all the highly specialized work :
    First : I hope you agree it’s counterproductive to reinvent the wheel ; the money spent isn’t worth the result when you can let the ones who already spent a lot of money on honing HSR technology do the job ; it may even be dangerous (e.g. China)
    Second : even with all the willpower to give as much added value back to the consortium’s countries, some components of HSR (and the know-how, and the resulting expertise) will have to be done in California or the US. Example : the long welded rails ; impossible to do them in another country! typically the kind of added value that the US will gain in the process.
    (Fabrication of long welded rails video here : http://www.lgvrhinrhone.tv/video/lrs-%C2%AB-long-rail-soude-%C2%BB-139)
    Someone’s got to crawl before walking, after all.

    Useless Reply:

    @ Peter Baldo

    > There’s no obvious reason why Japan or France would have any more of an idea how to build and operate the California system than we would.

    The president of CAHSR Authority is a Frenchman, the former Alstom USA president. So why is a Frenchman leading the CAHSR effort? Because they couldn’t find an American with enough experience to do the task of this magnitude.

    No, Japanese doesn’t have any idea of how to build an extensively blended system, but French, German, Spanish, and Koreans do because their home network is set up like that.

    Peter Reply:

    Ummm, he’s not French, he’s South African, if I recall correctly.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    He’s a South African with a long HSR expertise in his former Alstom carreer.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The hope was for the US to develop some domestic know-how, and manufacturing capacity

    Correct. The plan is to spend stupid large sums of money on make-work consultants to custom-design HSR railcars because American conditions are oh so “special”.

    The US system is going to be fairly complicated, with the need to “blend” high speed operations with regional conventional railroads, and eventually to tie several high speed systems into one national system. Can we really expect foreign countries to do all of this for us?

    There is nothing complicated or novel about running HSR trains alongside conventional (or even freight) train operations. But don’t worry your pretty little head: US regulatory rules and Buy-America requirements outlaw any possible meddling by foreign experts.

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