How Much Is Your Future Worth?

Oct 31st, 2011 | Posted by

(View the 2012 Business Plan here – more analysis to come later this evening)

California, like the rest of the country, stands at a crossroads. Either we can continue forward as before, down a path that has produced record unemployment and massive inequality – or we can do the hard and sometimes costly work of investing in and building a better future.

Let’s not kid ourselves about the crisis we face. Unemployment is sky high and showing no signs of coming down:

One big reason for the crisis is the soaring cost of our dependence on oil. California spent 60 years building a transportation system where people had to burn fossil fuels to drive or fly to their destinations, literally ripping out the efficient and electrically-powered rail systems that had fueled growth and prosperity in the state for 100 years before that. Because oil is not a renewable resource, the price will eventually rise as supplies peak and global demand soars. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened in the last 5 years:

Looking at those stats, it’s really difficult to imagine why anyone would prefer the status quo, why anyone would argue against strong measures to produce economic recovery. Unfortunately, too many people became convinced that the last 30 years of boom and bust – where recessions appear to have come and gone like a fierce winter storm – are the norm. After three years of Depression, it ought to be clear that recovery isn’t just magically going to happen. We have to make significant changes to the way we do things in this state and this country. The status quo is unacceptable.

One reason we’re in this mess is that since about 1980, California and the United States generally refused to invest in infrastructure and transportation. When we did, we usually poured good money after bad on expanding freeways, with a pittance going to rail. Even that meager investment is showing results, with Amtrak California setting new ridership records.

But we don’t usually do more of it because we are afraid of spending money. When a proposal comes along, the default American attitude has been to look only at the bill and ignore the benefits of what is being purchased, or even the long-term savings and benefits that the investment brings. It is a self-destructive logic that ensures no progress is ever made, a recipe for permanent depression. It is an attitude that abandons the future in order to bizarrely cling to a failed present.

California is ready for passenger rail. California is ready to invest in the future. And California is ready to build the bullet train.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what we know about the new business plan from the California High Speed Rail Authority. The projected cost is a lot higher than before. But the benefits are stronger too.

The headline is that the system can be built in sections that can operate independently – and at a profit. Under all ridership scenarios, the system turns a profit. And most importantly, by providing a sustainable way for Californians to get around the state, it begins to liberate the economy from dependence on oil, spurring significant job creation, economic growth, and new tax revenues.

The obsolete thinking would have us look only at the price tag. The sensible and accurate thinking would have us look at the entire investment, costs and benefits. And it would place at the center of the discussion the question of whether we’re willing to risk doing nothing.

Juliet Williams of the Associated Press has a good overview of the business plan, at least based on what we know so far:

The new business plan for California’s high-speed rail system shows the nation’s most ambitious state rail project could cost nearly $100 billion in inflation-adjusted funding over a 20-year construction period, according to a draft copy of the plan shared late Monday with The Associated Press.

But the plan also says the system would be profitable even at the lowest ridership estimates and wouldn’t require public operating subsidies.

The report estimates the actual cost at $98.5 billion if the route between San Francisco and Anaheim is completed in 2033. The plan assumes private investment will account for roughly 20 percent of the total cost, with much of the rest coming from additional borrowing.

Let’s take a closer look at the ridership and profitability questions, since those are the most important:

The new business plan says the system will be built in sections than can operate independently and make money, even if no more track were ever built, [California High Speed Rail Authority Board Member Dan] Richard said. Planners hope each new section will generate momentum — and private investment — to complete subsequent sections.

The business plan also says the high-speed rail system will use existing rail lines to carry passengers on the final legs into San Francisco and the Los Angeles basin. Doing so instead of building new high-speed lines not only saves money but makes the project more politically palatable by reducing neighborhood objections….

Even under the most conservative ridership projections, the report said the rail system would have a net operating profit.

It pegs ridership at anywhere from 7.4 million to 10.8 million riders by 2025 for an initial southbound phase. Even at low ridership projections, the project would have a net operating profit of $352 million a year, the report said.

In other words, rather than trying to come up with the entire project cost all at once, the business plan would leverage available public and private funding to build a segment at a time. Each segment would generate ridership, profit, and momentum to continue funding the construction of additional segments. That’s the model that has been used, with some variations, in France and Spain to build their extensive rail networks.

HSR critics and opponents will immediately claim those ridership and profitability questions aren’t credible. But those arguments are completely baseless, fly in the face of the available evidence, and should simply not be taken seriously. Remember that the independent peer review found the HSR ridership numbers to be sound. And keep in mind that around the globe HSR turns a profit – in Japan and France, Spain, Russia, Taiwan, even the Amtrak Acela. And California compares favorably to those globally successful routes.

More importantly, the business plan includes a hedge. If for some reason the other segments aren’t funded, that’s fine – the segments that do get built can be independently operated, and can be done so at a profit.

Williams’ article didn’t mention the benefits of HSR, but we know them to be considerable. HSR is a boon to mid-line cities like Gilroy, Fresno and Bakersfield. It brings those cities into the globally competitive coastal economy, allowing residents there to get jobs on the coasts and allowing coastal businesses to set up shop inland where land values are cheaper.

A 2010 US Conference of Mayors report found Los Angeles alone could reap a green dividend of $10 billion a year from high speed rail – both in the jobs it creates and the spending on oil it would allow to remain in the community, redirected toward more beneficial projects. Statewide that could reach $25 or $30 billion a year.

It also will be a jobs machine:

The first 130-mile segment would create about 100,000 jobs in the hard-hit Central Valley, according to the report.

Some people will sneer at that number and others will call it overstated. Even if the total number of jobs created is just a tenth of that projected total, however, that’s 10,000 jobs in a region with unemployment hovering around 15%. Only a cruel elitist would dismiss the huge and desperately needed impact of those numbers.

Of course, some people will focus only on the possible $98 billion cost of connecting San Francisco to Anaheim. That’s not cheap. But it IS cheaper than the alternatives, a point that HSR critics and opponents will never, ever acknowledge, and a point that even the media rarely admits. Which is why Juliet Williams deserves a ton of credit for making that point in her article:

The report notes that while the $98.5 billion tab seems high, California’s growing population would otherwise require about $170 billion in new infrastructure, such as freeways and airport runways.

And that $170 billion cost is just for construction. We know that freeways do not generate a profit. They are massively subsidized, and the cost to use them is soaring – just scroll back up to the top of this post and look again at the gas price chart. That chart is predictive – in 2009 Deutsche Bank came out with this projection of where gas prices are headed:

The effect would be catastrophic for the state’s already weakened economy. The effect of peak oil – the declining rate of new oil discovery combined with ever-increasing global demand – will push prices upward until there is significant demand destruction. There are two ways demand destruction can happen – either we build alternatives to driving and enable people to use mass transit to continue getting around, or people just stop driving with no alternative in place, and economic activity falls dramatically as a result.

This process worsens with economic recovery. During the worst recession in 60 years, gas prices never fell below $3/gal in California for any significant period of time. As the economy recovers and gas demand rises, so too will the price. $5 gas is something we WILL see within the first half of this decade.

The solution is obvious: we have to build alternatives to driving. Californians understand this very well, which is why they not only approved $10 billion in high speed rail funding, but also why 2/3 of voters in Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Sonoma and Marin counties voted to tax themselves to expand their passenger rail systems.

(Some might point to electric vehicles – but even if those were widely adopted, the cost of owning a car is still high, and rising population means freeways will still be jammed. Further, it’s still impractical and undesirable to spend 6 hours in a car driving from SF to LA, disconnected from one’s digital devices and from the global economy.)

Oh, and what does Governor Jerry Brown think of all this?

Late Monday, Brown issued a statement saying the first section in the Central Valley will create jobs “at a time when we really need them.” He also noted that a high-speed rail line will accommodate the state’s population growth “without the huge expense and intractable problems of massive highway and airport expansion.”

Of course, had California listened to Jerry Brown in 1982 we might already have HSR from LA to San Diego, and could have been well along the way of building a statewide network. Hell, that statewide network could have been completed by now. Instead California doubled down on freeways and oil, helping to create the present economic crisis.

The question California has to ask itself as it looks at this project isn’t whether $98 billion is too much money. The question is “can we afford not to do this?”

If we are going to give up on our future and just accept a long-term Depression, then yeah, let’s run away screaming at a bigger cost estimate. But if we are going to embrace our future and build something better, a state where we can live affordably and travel sustainably, then let’s figure out how to make it happen. The business plan, whose details we will see for ourselves tomorrow, shows us how to get there.

I’m still as excited as ever by the California high speed rail project. And I’m still confident in its success. I hope you are too

  1. peninsula
    Oct 31st, 2011 at 21:33
    #1

    In other words, here comes a business plan all about how this project does not satisfy the legal requirements mandated by the voters, under Prop 1A. Big song and dance about why they deserve the money anyway – screw the law, screw the voters.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    How exactly would it violate Prop 1A? Independent utility, no operating subsidies. I’m missing your point.

    joe Reply:

    Project segments must be built according a narrow interpretation of Prop 1A, one that essentially makes it impossible to build the HSR project.

    There is NO independent utility clause in Prop 1A. Period. Voters required a fully funded plan for a complete usable segment of High Speed Rail before Prop 1A bonds are appropriated. The “hedge” is illegal.
    >/blockquote>

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Peninsula, take another look at what Robert is saying. Take a look at the gas prices, the oil prices, take a look at your state’s history and your country’s history, including our recent oil wars, and tell me we can afford to NOT build this (and supporting local transit, too) to get away from cars, or at least using them so much.

    Morris had his turn, and now it is yours: What would be your alternative?

    joe Reply:

    The alternative:

    Is I-5 Expansion An Environmental Disaster?
    LYNN (Caller, Carlsbad): Hello?

    CAVANAUGH: Hi, Lynn. Good morning.

    LYNN: Hi. Hi. Well, this is a button pusher for me, I can tell you. I live in Carlsbad in a community that is just at the side of I-5. And it’s, you know, a button pusher for not only me but everybody else in my community and I – just some of the questions. I heard a caller earlier say why hasn’t Caltrans planned more carefully and all I want to say is Caltrans is doing what Caltrans does, it builds roads. So to ask them to be thinking about some of the other serious questions that don’t involve road building that we’re concerned about is asking too much of them. I think the main question that the people in my community seem to be asking is,:

    one, why when we’re being told that the state of California is broke are we planning to build the largest freeway in the world right here outside my front door?

    Secondly is the whole question of dependence on oil, which you’ve aired generously today, and that is, you know, when it becomes very, very clear that, yes, we’re running out of oil worldwide but, secondly, even if we weren’t, mining and excavating for it has cost lives, has cost money, has cost the environment.

    Why do we continue down the oil road? Why aren’t we looking at clean – spending our money on clean energy alternatives?

    flowmotion Reply:

    Cool, you found a NIMBY.

  2. Donk
    Oct 31st, 2011 at 21:39
    #2

    All I can see now are the headlines in every newspaper “California high speed rail costs double”. The “reporters” won’t even bother reading the rest of the details.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    “Doubled” would be an understatement. Costs have tripled now.

    swing hanger Reply:

    I am interested in how these costs inflate so much? Not just Richard’s inevitable answer, but a real brass tacks, itemized break down of where and why costs go up. Include benchmarking with other HSR systems, and then look at where things can be value engineered. How about an independent, open panel of experts (preferably outside of North America) akin to the Challenger disaster panel, who can comb over these estimates and propose alternatives, but still achieving the goals of 1A?

    peninsula Reply:

    how appropriate.

    StevieB Reply:

    The plan stretches out the construction by 13 years to 32 years and includes an estimated 3% inflation, where previous estimates were 2%, in the cost. The longer it takes to build the more it will cost.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    By a very primitive estimate (midpoint of construction), it works out to a factor of 1.4. Still leaves a factor of 2 unexplained.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    That does not include the huge opportunity cost in waiting 32 years for a functioning system.

    flowmotion Reply:

    > I am interested in how these costs inflate so much?

    According to the business plan:

    “Eighty to eighty-five percent of this increase is for additional
    viaducts, tunnels, embankment, and retaining walls/trenches directly attributable to changes in scope
    and alignment based on stakeholder input, environmental necessity, and improved knowledge of site
    conditions; the remaining 15 to 20 percent is attributable to increases in composite unit prices (pg. 3-5)”

    On the next page it says:
    “Approximately 37 to 43 percent of the Phase 1 system may
    be built on elevated structure or in tunnels,
    depending on alignment alternatives.”

    They apologize by saying:
    “The initial program planning predated much of California’s
    real estate boom in the mid-2000s. Large expanses of vacant
    or under-utilized property, over which the system would
    have operated at-grade, have since become bustling
    communities, suburbs, and roadways”

    Essentially, the 2009 plan assumed a “cheap” at-grade route from 1997 which mysteriously now has a bunch of unforeseeable roads and buildings. (In reality, they never were going to build into CV cities at-grade.)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    On the other hand, the housing bust is such that acquiring these properties will be easy. (For example, anyone who’s underwater is likely to take an offer that zeros out their debt.)

    flowmotion Reply:

    I’d speculate the main sprawl-related costs aren’t so much property values, but preserving local street access with long viaducts.

  3. Clem
    Oct 31st, 2011 at 22:03
    #3

    The AP article is not quite correct: when 1A passed in 2008 the cost was 35 billion. The increase to 43 billion shortly thereafter included the adjustment to year-of-expenditure dollars. The 65 billion number that floated about for a while was an extrapolation from more recent costing data.

    This… is something else.

    “California costs” should be questioned vigorously. So far, despite claims of value engineering, there is still a propensity to design everything on massive seismically reinforced stilts, for no clearly apparent reason.

    VBobier Reply:

    No apparent reason?? This is California man, aka: the Land of Earthquakes & Fault Lines like the San Andreas Fault which runs parallel to the Central Valley out nearer the coast… Build HSR & jobs will come as well as prosperity, do nothing and costs will go up as Interstates will have to be expanded just to try and keep up with population growth and $5.00 a gallon, we’ll be lucky if gas doesn’t get to $10.00 a gallon, exaggeration on the higher price of gas? We’ll see…

    Nothing worth doing was ever inexpensive, If It was We’d have built the system already and be expanding HSR to other nearby states, like Nevada and Arizona.

    Donk Reply:

    There will never be HSR to Arizona. Intrastate HSR in the West is just not viable due to the high cost and long distances, except in cases where they are privately financed (Vegas-LA) or if major cities are near the state borders (Portland-Seattle). All this talk about HSR in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, etc is pure nonsense.

    Derek Reply:

    Due to the flat topography and lack of urbanization, it would be very cheap to build HSR from Riverside to Phoenix along the I-10 corridor. Maybe even cheaper than LA to Bakersfield alone.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s less than 400 miles from Los Angeles to Phoenix. Along the way you serve all communities along I-10. For instance there’s 300,000 people in the Coachella Valley with another 100,000 or so snowbirds in the winter. Only another 100 miles to Tucson.
    America2050 scored city pairs. You may not agree with a particular score but overall they picked reasonable city pairs. Los Angeles-Phoenix was 15th on the list. San Diego-Phoenix was 22nd.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Oh no, there will be. Once it becomes evident that Arizona will blow away in the dust without it…. they will be all for it. How do you think the Central Arizona Project came to be?

    Donk Reply:

    I am not sure if by “Central Arizona Project” you are referring to the water project or the proposed HSR line between Phoenix and Tucson. A Phoenix-Tucson high speed or rapid rail project may one day happen. However, the problem with going from Phoenix to LA is that there is virtually nothing between Palm Springs and Phoenix. HSR is most viable when you can incorporate intermediate stops, bringing in additional revenue for relatively little extra cost.

    I predict that there will be grand plans to build this route from Tucson to LA, but only the LA-Palm Sprints and Tucson-Phoenix legs will ever get built.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    I’m referring to the water project.

    Actually, my guess is that any CA-AZ rail line will actually go from San Diego to Yuma to Phoenix and end in Tucson. The way I have modeled it in the past is that there will be very good ridership on such a line if you can take into Las Vegas. By the same token, SF and Sacramento will also have lines that end in Las Vegas as well.

    Plus, Yuma is a sizeable town on the way to Phoenix and it follows the existing UP right of way.

    Eric Fredericks Reply:

    People are already planning for it. From an economic standpoint for reasons adirondacker explained above, LA to Phoenix makes a lot of sense. I know CHSRA has been contacted about this connection in the past. But I think they have their hands a little full right now.

    Joey Reply:

    The cost of earthquake resistance doesn’t even come close to justifying costs 4-6 times higher than what other countries build HSR for.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Japan builds tunnel-heavier lines for less than this. (I’ll look again when I’m not sleep-deprived, but if I remember correctly the Shin-Aomori extension cost $50 million/km.)

    swing hanger Reply:

    Yes, that looks right. My calculations come out to $55 million/km at a rate of 100 yen to the dollar. The extension is 82km long. This includes the Hakkoda Tunnel, which at 26.5km, is the third longest land tunnel in the world. There are several other shorter tunnels also.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Do you have a recent source for that? Mine is from 2004 if I remember correctly, so it wouldn’t account for cost overruns.

    swing hanger Reply:

    It’s a document from the Japan Railway Construction, Transport, and Technology. I don’t know how recent it is. The figure is 4525 oku (hundred million) yen (the fifth figure from the bottom)
    http://www.jrtt.go.jp/01Organization/org/pdf/jk7-2-3.pdf

    swing hanger Reply:

    *Technology Agency.
    http://www.jrtt.go.jp/11English/pdf/pamphlet.pdf#search='japan railway construction transport’

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Hmmm. What about the 290 oku yen right underneath?

    swing hanger Reply:

    I believe that’s maintenance.

    Steve S. Reply:

    Market Urbanism’s Stephen Smith would have it that our cost inflation comes primarily from certain union work rules…there is a certain truth in this: the major parties, according to Drunk Engineer, to the Tier II standards board were Amtrak and the unions. I can’t help but think that our archaic rail rules are due in no small part to guaranteeing an excessive amount of manpower to operate our trains (that is, utilizing operating practices that are a century old or more) viz. the more up-to-date operating patterns used elsewhere.

    …Still doesn’t account for “crashworthiness”, though. My best guess is that that’s just the FRA’s favored sacred cow…but its negative effects are there for all to see, while its positive effects are tepid, at best.

    The other unusual element of the Tier II rewriting was the favored position of unions. Whatever happened to inviting the companies that make the equipment to the board? Bombardier, Siemens, Kawasaki, and so on, would all prefer lighter equipment too, so that they can export their models here. So would GE and EMD, so they wouldn’t have to make different models for domestic use and export.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    You’re confusing HSR with Amtrak+ and capital with operations (although I’ve seen various state-level work rules used as excuses for high roadway construction costs, they weren’t always related to unions).

    The more usual reading of the California situation around here is that it’s more a principal-agent problem (with California being the principal and contractors like PBQD being the agents) than anything else.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If you are going to spend $100bil, take 32 years, insist that all guideways are on aerials or in tunnel and no freight service you might as well go for broke with maglev. At least it will be pure Disneyland-Jetsons for the futurist fanatics and truly high speed, fast enough to compete with air.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    I think union rules are probably the primary contributor to high costs for NYC subway projects, but I’m not sure that’s the case here – I think here it’s probably due to contractors bilking taxpayers, because they can, because nobody is competent or committed enough to stop them. And even for NYC subway projects I wouldn’t be surprised if contractor bilking was just as big of a cost driver as union rules…that’s just my shot in the dark guess.

    VBobier Reply:

    could cost nearly $100 billion in inflation-adjusted funding over a 20-year construction period

    The report notes that while the $98.5 billion tab seems high, California’s growing population would otherwise require about $170 billion in new infrastructure, such as freeways and airport runways.

    Which is cheaper now? $98 Billion or $170 Billion? Anyone who says $170 billion needs their eyes checked and needs to go back to school, as their lousy at math.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Yeah, and anyone who falls for this line without reading where those $170B are being proposed should have their gullibility meter recalibrated.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well the cost of doing nothing is not ever nothing, If HSR is not built the voters after a while will want something done and If It’s widening Freeways then the expansion will be costly, land is not cheap anymore and there will be nimbys.

  4. peninsula
    Oct 31st, 2011 at 22:03
    #4

    Apparently the independent review found the ridership numbers to be sound (was that the 100Million or the 35Million?) – yet ridership now is down to 7-10 Million by 2025. Interesting Lie – er, uh, ‘spin’.

    “more importantly the business plan includes a hedge” – independent utility of connecting the ends to Amtrak. ILLEGAL UNDER PROP 1A. There is NO independent utility clause in Prop 1A. Period. Voters required a fully funded plan for a complete usable segment of High Speed Rail before Prop 1A bonds are appropriated. The “hedge” is illegal.

    By the way in the 2010 US Conference of Mayors report – what was the ridership assumption? And how exactly does Los Angeles reap a dividend from a Fresno to Bakersfield segment?

    (And by the way since we just this week saw the Authority’s elaborate animated video of SJ Stilt world/ Diridon Grand Central – prediction… initial operating segment will be selected as SJ to Bakersfield.

    One thing you get right – “The Question California has to ask itself …is whether $98Billion is too much”
    Correct. Voters DO NEED TO ASK THEMSELVES. Lets put the truth back in front of the 99%. There needs to be a revote by the voters of the state. This IS NOT the project voters were sold in 2008.

    Clem Reply:

    We’ll have to wait for the details, but 7-10 million sounded like the ridership for an initial operating segment in 2025, while the 98 billion was for the full Phase 1 system through 2033. That would presumably have far higher ridership.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Isn’t one of the reasons to build Fresno to Bakersfield now, so that they can test trains and train crews for Phase 1’s completion in 2020?

    Eric Fredericks Reply:

    Yes. In addition, the heavy maintenance facility and central operating terminal are to be located in the Central Valley.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That is also my understanding of the stat.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I’m reading through the documents. They also had Merced to Palmdale (stations also in Fresno and Bakersfield) at10.8 million, which I believe is almost exactly the Northeast corridor ridership.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Northeast Corridor ridership is really low by any normal intercity standards, which isn’t surprising if you ride the trains regularly and start timing how often they’re on-schedule (a little less than half the time since I started counting in May).

    joe Reply:

    Peninsula sez: “Lets put the truth back in front of the 99%.”

    What is the unemployment rate in CA and how many billions in construction do we have to return ?

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Peninsula

    Interestingly the television media are still running the videos from the Prop 1A campaign showing the hsr trains operating in trench or at grade. The non-negotiable intent to build the massive aerial civil engineering associated with a monorail or maglev but with standard ocs steel wheel tech was hidden from the voters. That the so called environmental groups have not called PB out on this on this sham and scam is disgusting.

    I leafed thru the current issue of Trains magazine today – it features an article on the Santa Fe’s double tracking of Abo Canyon with some nice photos – new bridges but nary a stilt. The whole issue was on intermodal with emphasis on double stacking. I never realized how profitable this was for the rr’s. IMHO the hsr should be sized to accommodate the double stack. Build for the future and dual purpose.

    Clem Reply:

    Not gonna work. HSR OCS is as low as it can go for pantograph aerodynamic reasons, and it’s already been decided: 5.3 meters

    synonymouse Reply:

    unfortunate

    But then if you are burning the furniture for speed should you not be doing the racetrack rather than hitting every podunk in the Valley?

    Was pleasant tho to see in the same issue of Trains that volunteers in the Albuquerque are are rebuilding the Santa Fe #2926 to operating condition. Built in 1944, same as me.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You were built? Awww.

    (Sorry for the lack of substance; I have no idea what the Santa Fe #2926 was.)

    swing hanger Reply:

    2900 class 4-8-4 steam locomotives- WW2 era brutes made of heavy steel. Hopefully they will have better luck than the aborted 2912 project up I-25 in Pueblo, CO. Insurance costs are terrible on these things.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Brutes, indeed, but not only powerful, but amazingly fast and long-legged. Could run all the way from Kansas City to Los Angeles with stops only to refuel, rewater, and change crews, then be turned and serviced in three hours to head back to Kansas City again. In between, if on a passenger train, they very often hit 100 mph or better. This was actually required on the Santa Fe’s legendary Fast Mail, a train that I believe was even faster than the vaunted Super Chief. Most people wouldn’t have wanted to buy a ticket on it, though; although it could and did take passengers, your accommodations were limited to an ancient coach at the rear, with no food service or sleeping facilities. This “rider car” essentially functioned as a caboose on what was really a freight train made of mail and express cars; the problem the Santa Fe had was that a real caboose just couldn’t be used at the speeds the Fast Mail ran.

    For size comparison, note the man stepping down from the cab. Driving wheels are 80″ in diameter, or 6 feet, 8 inches, which is taller than most people.

    http://www.northeast.railfan.net/images/tr_sf2914.jpg

    http://www.nmslrhs.org/video%20etc/ATSF%202926/index.htm

    http://www.steamlocomotive.com/northern/?page=atsf

    swing hanger Reply:

    I recall my grandparents mentioning the “Blue Goose” Hudson tearing through the high prairie/range grassland of Southern Colorado in their youth- perhaps slightly predating the 2900s, but on the same service perhaps.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    No 2900s are in service today, but a close relative, a predecessor, No. 3751, is operational:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iU7IweDvGP0&feature=related

    Here’s one for Spokker–steam and dome cars along the Pacific:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqexze8Fwqw&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4gv3y42qh0&feature=related

    VBobier Reply:

    Yes, the good Doctor Frank’n’Mouse built His Monster… ;)

    Gag Halfrunt Reply:

    Freight trains aren’t allowed on French high speed lines because they exceed the maximum axle weight. Even the Acela Express would be too heavy. Assuming that no other high speed network has significantly higher axle weight limits, building a high speed line with clearances for double-stack container trains would be pointless.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    German high-speed lines allow some freight trains, if they can fit in the slots left by much faster passenger trains. The Swiss base tunnels are also mixed-traffic. Though, the freight is single-stack since there’s no clearance for double-stack elsewhere in the network, and the axle load limit is 22.5 tons, same as the Acela.

    Andy M. Reply:

    Ditto for the Channel tunnel rail link in the UK, on which freight is now being ramped up.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Well, the Channel Tunnel isn’t HSR – the fastest trains it hosts are limited to 160 km/h to preserve capacity.

    Gag Halfrunt Reply:

    Andy M. means High Speed 1, previously named the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which is the high speed line from London to the Tunnel.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Freight trains in France share tracks with passenger trains, including TGVs, on legacy lines.
    They are not time separated for speeds up to 100mph. A few legacy lines have trains running at 125mph, and an accident which happened 2 years ago shows it’s a good thing that freight and passenger are time separated on these lines:
    A German train transporting heavy machinery to Spain lost an excavator which was hit by an SNCF train arriving on the other track. The driver was injured (a broken arm). If it had been a passenger train running at 125mph, there would certainly have been more than a broken arm.
    SNCF unions exploited the accident. Ill-secured cargo, they said, was one of the things you could expect from private companies whose employees were poorly trained and badly paid.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Clem: “and it’s already been decided: 5.3 meters”
    On page 17 I read:

    “However, shared operation of high speed trains with other trains having a higher gauge will require a higher contact wire height in shared use corridors and consequently larger and heavier OCS steady arm arrangements, while still acceptable for 125 mph.”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    For about the gazillionth time, freight doesn’t have to go fast.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Right. Microwave ovens from China don’t complain when forced into a siding for 2 hours. Passengers do.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Even when they don’t sit on the siding for hours, their 25 MPH average speed doesn’t make them, the shipper or the consignee, consider having them rent a car and driving instead either…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “We’re not moving and we’re packed here like sardines!”
    “No, no, the sardines are on the train that’s we’re waiting to pass.”

    Steve S. Reply:

    Double stacks = heavy freight rail.
    HSR = ultralight passenger rail.

    Short of a miracle you’re not going to be able to get the two to mix. End of story.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Maybe what I am getting at is a selection of options:

    CHSRA current iteration of Stilt-A-Rail – mass quantities of hollow core, scorched earth eminent domain and iconic-galactic meandering on steroids

    Tejon, I-5, Altamont, Dumbarton bargain speedo to take full advantage of specs optimized for 200mph speed primarily

    125mph dual-mode compatible with existing Amtrak-AAR-FRA and double stack. Some electrification.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You can’t go 200 mph while dragging an 8 megawatt power plant and the fuel for it.
    And for the gazillionth and first time, freight doesn’t have to go fast.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The dual-mode locos are even heavier than the usual diesels. The ALP-45DP weighs 131 (metric) tons, whereas the Genesis weighs 122.

  5. Kevin Eastman
    Oct 31st, 2011 at 22:07
    #5

    The fact of the matter is that in 2008 voters were told that costs for a statewide system would be $33 billion, an estimate considered wildly low even then. Today costs have tripled with absolutely zero in additional federal or private funding on the horizon, yet this blog would have the state shoulder these costs without any consideration of the damage that would be done to education, healthcare and other core services. Even worse, if one extrapolates the per mile cost of the first leg, which CAHSRA has repeatedly said will be the cheapest, the $98 billion figure remains far too low even in 2011 dollars.

    CA would have little difficulty funding roads if a significant portion of gasoline tax revenues weren’t siphoned off to subsidize existing mass transit systems.

    Were the CAHSRA an even moderately honest entity it would recognize that it cannot deliver as promised and throw in the towel.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    This is nonsense.

    First, the issue isn’t the costs, it’s who pays them. California voters were promised in 2008 a bond that would be $9.95 billion. If the cost is $98 billion but state voters aren’t asked to pay more, then the Prop 1A promise is kept.

    Second, how the hell does this do any damage at all to education, health care, and other core services? This is not a zero sum game. Even without spending a dime on HSR those other priorities are already totally fucked in California thanks to 30 years of anti-tax politics. HSR actually helps by creating jobs and economic opportunities that will fill state coffers with more money, making it easier to fund those things. The more money we have to spend on oil and sprawl, the less money we have on core services. That’s why we’re in this mess.

    Third, you appear to want gas tax revenues to just go to roads – that’s my point about throwing good money after bad. Dependence on oil and freeways is what got us into this mess. Are you enjoying 12% unemployment?

    Kevin Eastman Reply:

    Per usual, this blog’s author avoids the facts. Where then will this funding appear from? Per usual on this blog, you’ve avoided the issue entirely. Californians will be stuck with the tab, be it piecemeal or all at once. There is no new federal or private funding coming, possible exception being some portion of that $100 million the feds are consider. Doesn’t even count on this level. Fact.

    It IS a zero sum game. Do you want poor children to have reading glasses and dental care or a train that only the rich can ride? At the very least, we’re talking $600 million/year General Fund for 30 years to repay the Prop 1A bond. That’s enough to roll back cuts to the UC, enough to cover a good portion of this year’s MediCal cuts, and so on. As I’m sure you noticed, voters spoke pretty loudly against increased taxation on several fronts last year.

    Regarding your oil and sprawl comment, that’s just another diversion. Electric and hybrid cars are rapidly minimizing such issues, and I’d wager that CA will enact a means to generate road revenue from those sources in the near future.

    Spending $100+ billion because we wasted $650 million on studies that didn’t pan out would be incredibly irresponsible. Perhaps we should be looking to Seattle for leadership, where voters are supporting traditional, functional infrastructure rather than reliance on heavily subsidized mass transit.

    Paul H. Reply:

    If you think electric and hybrid cars will fix our problems with oil dependency and sprawl, you are very much fooling yourself. We’ll need this project. My biggest issue with what has come out in the business plan is the Authority’s foolish assumption that LA to SF will take 21 years to build. That assumption alone raises the costs of the project by 20% given they used a 3% inflation rate. If they were to complete LA to SF by 2025, we’re looking at a $75-$80 billion project, not $100 billion. It was a terrible mistake by the Authority to assume such a long construction period. Money for HSR will come, we won’t have a choice once oil becomes too costly to maintain our economy.

    joe Reply:

    I’m also skeptical, hybrid/electric cars require limited resources.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/08/31/us-mining-toyota-idUSTRE57U02B20090831
    As hybrid cars gobble rare metals, shortage looms

    The Prius hybrid automobile is popular for its fuel efficiency, but its electric motor and battery guzzle rare earth metals, a little-known class of elements found in a wide range of gadgets and consumer goods.

    Cost increases due to inflation are paper increases.

    Peter Reply:

    The issue isn’t “rare earth metals” (they aren’t rare, actually, it’s a misnomer). A much bigger issue is what to do with the batteries when they’re no longer used (lots of heavy metals).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They get recycled like other batteries.

    Peter Reply:

    I’m referring to the pollution caused by the recycling (or refurbishment) of said batteries.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The days of sending the gaseous waste up the chimney, the liquid waste into the river and the dumping the solid waste out beyond the parking lot are long gone.

    Peter Reply:

    Uhhh, have you been following any of the environmental news from China?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Let me get it straight: HSR is a problem because of dental care, but the Big Dig of the West is “traditional, functional infrastructure”? Go breathe some tailpipe exhaust and leave me and my lungs alone.

    StevieB Reply:

    Are you talking about Seattle’s East Link Light Rail?

    At a cost of $2.5 billion, Seattle’s planned East Link light rail extension project is one of the nation’s largest and most expensive transit expansion programs.

    This project sounds like useful mass transit that will be subsidized for the public good.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    He’s trying to rub it in Robert’s face that the ballot measure forbidding building a freeway tunnel in Seattle failed. (The main reason it failed: the advocates were indecisive about whether to say outright that they wanted mass transit as an alternative or not. Thus the campaign looked wishy-washy, like No on 8.)

  6. Donk
    Oct 31st, 2011 at 22:20
    #6

    This article in the LA Times indicates that they will provide several cost estimates, from economy to Cadillac. Hopefully the $98.5B number is for the Cadillac, and is the stilt-a-rail version of the route that we saw in the recent San Jose video. Hopefully these people have the sense to provide a value-engineered alternative, perhaps using the Grapevine and maybe even Clem’s Livermore BART connection. This could still satisfy Prop 1A if the long-term plan is still to build to SF TBT.

    Clem Reply:

    The Livermore option is being carried forward behind the scenes (see recent presentation) including an alignment surprisingly reminiscent of the SETEC route.

    I am particularly curious to see if the Livermore option (among other Altamont “overlay” pieces) has been costed out in enough detail to draw any firmer conclusions. The Livermore BART connection may be all the more effective to get the HSR ball rolling, with costs exploding as they are.

  7. Donk
    Oct 31st, 2011 at 22:42
    #7

    I heard from a leak of the funding plan, due later in the week, how CAHSRA proposes to raise the remaining $85B to build out the whole system: Their finest financial consultants determined that $85B can rapidly be raised by starting a ponzi scheme. Their conclusion was that if one man (Madoff) was able to raise $65B, that the politically-connected CAHSRA would surely be able to raise $85B.

    CAHSRA is so confident about this fund-raising strategy, that they have decided to go ahead with the fully elevated/tunneled high-speed rail system, including tunnels through the entire Peninsula and 60 foot viaducts over farmland in the Central Valley, enough to clear the nut trees. The plan also includes quadruple-decker stations in San Jose, Anaheim, Fresno, and Bakersfield, complete with signature viaducts entering and exiting each station.

  8. JJJ
    Oct 31st, 2011 at 23:59
    #8

    $100bn?

    2033?

    This is not good.

    I’m going to take a wild guess as to what every newspaper in the state will be running front page tomorrow and/or Wednesday.

    JJJ Reply:

    And did someone do an opinion poll recently?

    I’d bet that the “approval” rate for HSr in the state will drop faster than Rick Perrys numbers did.

    Not good.

  9. JJJ
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 00:08
    #9

    The good news folks, is that this will only cost the California taxpayer $11 a year!

    100bn.
    California population of 60 million (2035)
    150 year lifespan of project

    $11 a year! That’s less than a dollar a month. Call now!

  10. adirondacker12800
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 00:12
    #10

    But we don’t usually do more of it because we are afraid of spending money.

    The same people who are afraid of spending money and tell you we can’t afford {insert almost anything here} are usually the same ones who didn’t bat an eye while we spent a trillion dollars in the Middle East. And didn’t have any problem with putting it all on the tab.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    $100 billion? Isn’t that like six months of costs for the War in Iraq?

  11. Spokker
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 00:22
    #11

    $98 billion? I guess Reason was right.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, it wasn’t. It didn’t say $98 billion. It made up a number by taking a slide rule and extrapolating cost escalations coming from inflation adjustments. What it did is the exact equivalent of hysterics over the $33-to-42 billion change between 2008 and 2009.

  12. Alon Levy
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 00:27
    #12

    Way to bury the lede, Robert. So one the one hand we have a potential $1-4 billion cost underrun on LA-Bakersfield, and on the other hand the new business plan has bombshell general numbers (well, modulo an expected inflation rate that’s much higher than what’s likely), and in neither case do you report on these.

    At least they hiked the cost of doing nothing. Remember when it was just $100 billion?

    JJJ Reply:

    I think Robert was testing to see if people read his long posts. Clearly the answer is yes. Good job everyone.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Just because we go off-topic within ten comments with astonishing regularity doesn’t mean we don’t read the posts first.

  13. Peter
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 05:46
    #13

    How close would we be to 98 billion if we took CARRD’s 67 billion number and stretched it out over 20 years of construction?

    Paul H. Reply:

    $65 billion in 2010 dollars. CARRD’s number is about right. This $98 billion number is a killer because of this 2033 assumption. I just can’t believe they decided to go for a 20 year construction period, that’s very long for less than 500 miles of track. They should have gone for SF to LA completion in 2025, would have reduced the costs of the project by probably $20 billion. There’s no point in assuming the construction will take twice as long as previously thought, we don’t know what forces and events will take place over the next 20 years, but I personally believe the demand to get this project done quicker than 20 years will be there. Oil prices in the next decade are going to skyrocket, and rail projects will be accelerated if our politicians have their act together (and that’s a BIG ‘if’).

  14. Brandon from San Diego
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 06:18
    #14

    Hooray, a blog post with graphic!

  15. Brandon from San Diego
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 06:37
    #15

    And, where is the Business Plan?

    Paul H. Reply:

    These things usually happen around 10am PST.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Live feed: http://www.kcra.com/video/29650679/detail.html

  16. Tony d.
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 06:57
    #16

    So if HSR now costs $100 billion, then what’s the cost now of doing nothing? Building more roads and expanding airports to handle California’s future population? Can you say $200+ billion! I know, I know, these pathetic, spineless critics never take into consideration the cost of doing nothing.

    Derek Reply:

    Someone said $170 billion.

  17. John Thacker
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 07:15
    #17

    This post repeatedly conflates “profitable” with “operating profitable,” ignoring capital costs.

    It’s also not true that high speed rail is “profitable” in any foreign country, as Amtrak discussed, not once you take capital costs into account– which include public subsidies for maintenance.

    Roads take money to build and maintain as well, certainly, but roads can (and should, and were at the federal level before 2008) be paid out of user fees. Gas taxes should go up.

    I think it’s pretty rich to claim that *critics* are obviously biased when the CA HSR commission’s initial numbers have been shown to be so far off. The HSR commission has as much or more reason for bias as anybody. It’s common throughout the world for megaprojects to get rosy projections that are revised later once the projects are approved.

    Derek Reply:

    “If we used the criteria that a business need pay off all capital costs before being considered ‘profitable’ then we would have few profitable businesses.” http://www.railpac.org/2011/05/09/where-are-all-those-bankrupt-high-speed-rail-countries/

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    That Amtrak document conflates all European passenger rail spending while ignoring any American spending outside of Amtrak branded operations on the NEC. It’s a fairly worthless document.

    Tony d. Reply:

    So than how “profitable” will the $170 billion spent on expanded roads and airport’s be? That’s what I thought smart guy!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Amtrak’s OIG lied. In case you took any political action based on believing this lie, you should consider yourself a victim of the bureaucrats who want to make Amtrak look better by comparing it with commuter trains, and direct your anger at them. Those of us who want American rail operations to look more like profitable European intercity trains are not your enemy.

  18. Paulus Magnus
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 07:36
    #18

    1. Again, I must remind you that CAHSR’s effect on oil consumption is going to be so negligible as to be completely irrelevant.
    2. A hundred billion dollars just for phase one and not till 2033? To hell with that then.

  19. Osman
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 09:40
    #19

    Does anyone have a link to the business plan? I want to read the whole thing.

    Donk Reply:

    I didn’t see the business plan posted yet. However, there are two job openings for Northern California and Southern California Regional Directors, if anyone here is interested. Here are the qualifications:

    advises and assists the Chief Executive Officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority
    (Authority) in the implementation of the high-speed train project. The ideal candidate is a seasoned transportation professional with a strong background in project management, engineering, and who is technologically savvy. Candidates with a proven track record of strong management, leadership, communication, and political acumen will be favorably considered. The Regional Director will possess a strong team orientation and will be a relationship-builder to engage the appropriate stakeholders as the high-speed rail project moves from planning to construction. A Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field is required.

    jim Reply:

    It’s up. In the library under “Business Plans”. Duh.

  20. Osman
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 10:24
    #20

    At first glance, it looks like they nuked themselves politically. That $92 billion number is the only thing making the headlines this morning. You can only imagine all the ignorant comments and reactions that are following. My favorite so far is someone that asked, “has ANYONE even bothered to ask how much a ticket is going to cost?” Hilarious, but in a very sad, sad way.

    I am very interested in what the plan says though, especially for the different levels of construction and routing options, cheap to expensive.

    Useless Reply:

    Agreed, the dream’s over with an estimate like $92 billion.

    The key to success of a mega project like is the speed of execution; each day the project delayed is tens of millions of dollars in additional cost. The CAHSR system had to be finished by 2020 or it became financially unfeasible with all the interest payments.

    At the cost of $92 billion, it would have been cheaper to construct the whole system underground and not deal with NIMBYsm.

    Osman Reply:

    I am glad they have stated that the alternative to HSR is $171 billion. Everyone supportive of CAHSR needs to throw this RIGHT BACK at the naysayers. Additionally, after reading the plan it seems $92 billion is the most expensive option, while there are also options for $6 billion, $33.2 billion, $54.3 billion, and $78.2 billion.

    Leave it to the media to hype the damn thing by only stating the $92 billion amount, and leave it to ignorant and stupid Americans to eat it up without reading the actual plan. I wasn’t expecting anything else though.

    Also, I agree 2033 is too long, but again this is for full build-out. Even the TGV took a decade or two to really get going. The incremental approach will at least create a chain reaction of construction and demand, we can hope.

    Osman Reply:

    Sorry, meant $98 billion

    Tony d. Reply:

    Outstanding post Osman, I agree.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No. The cheaper options are options that build less than the full Anaheim-SF segment. For example, $6 billion is just Fresno-Bakersfield. It’s not as if someone’s waving an option for LA-SF for $6 billion; even Spain doesn’t build things that cheaply.

  21. Mark
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 10:43
    #21

    Unfortunately, none of this debate is going to matter as the global financial markets are are starting to finally punish those nations with too much debt on the books. Italian 10 yr treasury notes hit 6.32% today. This might not mean much to most but if yields get much closer to 7%, then all hell is going to break loose. At this point, the market is starting to price in a likely default on the bonds of the 3rd most indebted nation in the world with $2.5 trillion in U.S. worth of outstanding debt. You could shrug your shoulders but if Italy goes, then we need to start worrying about Japan with a debt to GDP ration of roughly 210% and then we are next in the U.S. Portugal, Ireland, Belgium and Spain if they have not already will soon lose access to the debt markets. If we are lucky, the capital markets will give the U.S. 2-3 years to figure out a sustainable way to raise additional revenue and cut spending. Regardless, there will be no additional money from the FEDS for HSR regardless of who is in office after 2012. The levels of outstanding debt globally are bigger than we can honestly comprehend and there is no silver bullet available this time because we are already are choking on too much sovereign debt. I just wish it wasn’t so….

    J. Wong Reply:

    Oh, really? Did you know that Italy actually has a surplus on their books? The problem is that their banks are carrying too much Greek debt. If the Euro implodes, we’re going to see another recession, which means U.S. bond prices will dive making it even cheaper to borrow money for HSR.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    J. Wong nails it. Flight to relative safety, motherlovers!

    The reason there won’t be any money from the federal government is because people believe you can shrink your way to growth. If we’re in trouble it’s because of our own congress, not our debt levels.

    (Advisory: argument only works when you’re in a liquidity trap)

    Mark Reply:

    Yes, well aware of their current surplus. However, with their GDP growth stagnating at best and most likely beginning to decline, their debt to GDP numbers will continue to worsen especially as you factor in much higher borrowing costs. If only things were as easy as Italian banks owning to much Greek debt.

    Beta–if our current debt levels aren’t a problem, what happens when our current average borrowing cost for all treasury debt of approx 2.6% reverts to the historical average of roughly 5.5% for all treasury borrowing? Each 100 basis point increase in borrowing costs at our current debt levels equates to roughly $115 billion/yr in added interest expense. Is that sustainable especially considering our ongoing annual 1.2 trillion dollar annual deficits? We aren’t even talking about the current net present value of approx $65 trillion of our unfunded future liabilties resulting from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security….

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Mark, most of the concern about PIGS is rooted in concern that they’ll not be able to grow enough to meet their future obligations, something made worse by decision-making at the ECB.

    I don’t deny that the US has to deal with its problems, but that it’s the wrong time to do so. You can’t grow the economy when you’re laying off people, forcing them to cut their consumption of goods and services. With respect to growth, it just puts us in the same vicious cycle as PIGS. Our main concern should be boosting growth, and since we had the Federal Reserve (instead of the ECB) we can run temporary deficits to get the economy back on track, then go about debt reduction. Improving the economy’s an immediate priority, dealing with debts and deficits a medium-term one.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Remember the discussions we were having ten years ago about what happens when the Federal Debt, not the Federal deficit but the Federal debt, disappears?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The details of the hsr project have to be revisited and LA-Palmdale, Fresno and SJ will have to be disabused of any veto powers or other extraordinary influence.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Says who, you!? LOL! just please shut the @#$%& up already, will yah!

    Peter Reply:

    Swearing is not helpful, Tony d.

  22. Derek
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 11:54
    #22

    $98.5 billion versus $171 billion. The choice is clear.

    Spokker Reply:

    Yeah, the cost of doing nothing estimate is probably solid as a rock.

    Derek Reply:

    They admit it’s probably understated due to additional rights of way that would now need to be purchased due to urbanization. That just makes the choice even more clear.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    To be fair, I doubt they included the cost of a rigorous demand-side management program, as politically improbable as one might be. That would be an interesting comparison.

    Tony d. Reply:

    You’re probably right Spokker (sarcasm). The true cost of doing nothing is probably more like $120-140 billion. I’ll take the $98 any day of the week.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    The $170B costs for building highway/airport expansions in lieu of HSR doesn’t even include all the costs from rising asthma rates, as well as injuries and deaths from additional automobile accidents that would have been eliminated by HSR. Doesn’t include all the extra cost of continuing to build sprawl, which cities and counties can maintain already. HSR doesn’t have these external costs. It actually begins to reduce these indirect costs.

    Further, the Authority, in an effort to foolishly placate the critics in Sacramento, have inserted insanely conservative estimates. In additional to the 2033 assumption, they are assuming gas prices will remain at $3.80 forever, which means less ridership.

    Donk Reply:

    They also assume that airline tickets will be the same in 2033 as they were in 2009.

    Donk Reply:

    If it was me, I would have run two models – one with the “foolishly, insanely conservative estimates” and another based on realistic projections.

    joe Reply:

    In the case of average external costs of transport, within the passenger transport sector, passenger cars reach 76 Euros. Railway costs amount to 22.9 Euros, which is 3.4 times lower than costs for the road sector. In the freight sector, the cost of trucks amount to 87.8 Euros per 1000 ton km, which is 4 times higher than the cost for railways.

    Passenger (1,000 passenger . km)
    Car 76 euros
    Bus 38 e
    Rail 23 e
    Aircraft 52 e


    Table data Source: INFRAS, IWW (2004), “External costs of Transport”
    Table 25 by way of Yong Sang Lee “A STUDY OF THE DEVELOPMENT AND ISSUES CONCERNING HIGH SPEED RAIL (HSR)”

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    3.80 for gasoline might be a conservative assumption, but what’s their assumption of fuel efficiency? I suspect that the same analysis ignores the rise in CAFE standards.

    Risenmessiah Reply:

    Uh CAFE standards are fleet requirements. That means that there are going to be plenty of cars out there that don’t met those standards….

    swing hanger Reply:

    “real americans” ™ are always blustering about how they won’t drive 1.6liter hatchbacks (cuz it makes them look poor), stationwagons (actually more efficient than SUVs in hauling stuff) are too 70’s, and that they want some iron between themselves and the guy in next lane (cuz it’s “safer” in a crash). Funny, kind of like the situation with FRA crash standards. Anyway, don’t expect them to give up their V8’s and 10 cupholder interiors with in-car entertainment consoles.
    =3 liter V6 “base engine”

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Plenty of cars that don’t, but the average efficiency will.

  23. Ken
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 11:56
    #23

    Mass scale projects like these, the Chinese have the Commie advantage. Shut up and get the shit done before materials and labor costs rise. If anyone opposes, send them to re-education camps.

    Maybe we should just let China take over our country. Things would move a lot more faster with them at the helm. A single party rubber stamp state with no vocal opposition (read “Republicans”), with no rules regarding environment, safety hazards, and slave labor wages would get this job with $10 billion and from blueprint to start up in five years under Chinese rule.

    Or we can continue to rely on “democracy” to get nothing done. Epic fail for both Democrats and Republicans. Faith on the USA is fastly diminishing within me and it sucks big time.

    Spokker Reply:

    If voters want nothing to get done then that’s what they’ll have. They voted more conservatives in during the last go around that hate rail spending. They voted in conservatives that are hypocrites when it comes to road spending and defense spending. But that’s what people voted for and I love that flawed but incredible process more than anything else. There is no better alternative to democracy no matter how much democracy sucks.

    And yeah, China’s high speed rail program is going swimmingly.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You should try not eating for a week. Or maybe doing brain surgery for two eggs, which you’ll then give to your wife and children to split because there’s no other food available.

  24. Nadia
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 12:22
    #24

    Rita Wespi of CARRD has been working hard on requesting that the CalChannel carry the 3:30pm briefing of the Business Plan. We think it is important that all Californians get to see it. Please email this link to anyone who might be interested.

    It isn’t posted on the Authority’s website.

    Here’s the link: http://www.calchannel.com/channel/live/1

  25. RisenMessiah
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 12:23
    #25

    In case anyone is wondering:

    The main thrust of the new “proposed” business plan is that it will rely more heavily on private capital than federal funding. Thus, there’s still going to be an Initial Construction Segment, and an IOS and Bay to Basin and Phase 1. The difference is that the Plan assumes that private money won’t come into the picture until after state funding builds the IOS and then attracts private dollars to do Bay to Basin and the rest of Phase 1.

  26. Donk
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 12:26
    #26

    In reading over the business plan, it looks like a pretty solid document. I like their phasing approach. A few notes:

    1. The IOS-South seems more viable, as we will not need to depend on a connecting bus.

    2. It is interesting that they are including Merced in both the IOS-North and IOS-South plans. This is probably both for political reasons and because Merced provides a better connection to ACE and the San Juaquin service to Sacramento and Oakland.

    3. They are assuming that airfares will stay at 2009 levels through 2033 ?!? This is a VERY conservative assumption

    4. I did not read the detail on the revenue projections, but I don’t really buy that the ICS from Fresno-Bakersfield will be profitable.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    [Light bulb goes off…]

    It is interesting that they are including Merced in both the IOS-North and IOS-South plans. This is probably both for political reasons and because Merced provides a better connection to ACE and the San Juaquin service to Sacramento and Oakland.

    Bam!

    CHSRA gets revenue service after finishing Merced to Fresno.

    ACE gets access to more riders…

    BART gets Stockton.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Or HSR gets to Stockton, routed into the Bay Area in such a way that it could also serve Super-ACE…hmm…which planned outlying BART extension can we connect to…

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    That’s not my thinking here and it’s a little tongue in cheek:

    If using rail rehabilitation money ACE can acquire a new right of way from Tracy that doesn’t go through Stockton to get to Merced (something through Manteca maybe?) THEN you have an easy way for there to be an IOS once you complete Merced to Bakersfield.

    That would serve HSR because it would demonstrate what ridership looks like at its ultimate base. Then, you could have ACE reposition itself to carry more traffic from Modesto and Merced (etc) and have Stockton be served instead by BART. Keeps “everyone” happy.

    Joey Reply:

    ACE is hopeless as a connecting service. The ROW West of Tracy is 100% UP-owned, meaning that your prospects for running much more than the 3 round trips per day (effectively not even service at all) are slim at best, and it’s pathetically slow to boot.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Aye yes…but the article I linked to implies that with rail rehabilitation loans, you could build a second track or a wholly new track to link up. Secondly, you wouldn’t have CHSRA passengers transfer to ACE… it’s that you would switch to their track between Merced and Diridon Intergalatic as an intermediate option.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It would be faster to take a bus. To Stockton or if you are going to Fresno, directly from San Jose to Fresno.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    Rehabs won’t do crap without superlevation and electrification (and the curves through Altamont might be so bad that even that mightn’t do much good); if it’s an active freight line with double-stacks you can forget about that.

    Risen, you’re so close to becoming one of us—just take the plunge, become a Blog Commenter with Little Political Agency Who Prefers Altamont!

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    I would, but unfortunately you are violating the first rule of Bay Area Transit Policy (supposedly).

    1. There is only God and its name is BART. Thou shall not have any others God but me.

    In all seriousness, I think at build-out, Altamont makes no sense. But I have argued the following in the past:

    http://www.cahsrblog.com/2011/07/amtrak-california-and-the-initial-operating-segment/

    http://www.cahsrblog.com/2011/10/the-evolution-of-the-initial-operating-segment-ii-northern-exposure/

    What I didn’t know when I wrote this is that … ACE apparently is eager to add Merced to it’s list of stations. That seemed really strange and far out to me because it would be not a feasible commute. But if you don’t run ACE through Stockton anymore, then I could see it. And because that would help BART out in two separate instances…I can see it.

    Donk Reply:

    Is this a joke? Is BART really supposed to go to Stockton via the Pittsburg route?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    First Stockton then the world.
    For comparison’s sake Stockton is about 90 miles from San Francisco, New York is about 90 miles from Philadelphia. No one in their right minds thinks sending the 7 train to Philadelphia is a good idea. Or alternately no one in their right minds thinks sending the Broad Street line to New York is a good idea. Every once in a while some foamer will propose sending the Orange Line to Baltimore from New Carrollton. No one seriously considers it. Baltimore is closer to Washington DC than San Francisco is to San Jose…..

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    There’s a couple problems with your analogy. Even though BART has frequent stops in the city center… it does not on the outskirts. No East Coast system behaves like that. BART reminds me more of Sydney’s City Rail than anything in the US.

    Two, the whole reason to connect to Stockton would be to have connections to HSR both there and in San Jose. I didn’t realize it at first, but it would appear that BART has some sway over ACE…..

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Nobody on the East Coast was stupid enough to build a system like BART.

    Closest is probably the Metro DC but they aren’t contemplating running it all the way to Wilmington or Richmond. The farthest it’s going to reach is Dulles Airport. Suggest running it to Baltimore and most people will back away slowly and speak in soft tones.

    Closest suburban system is SEPTA with it’s service to 30th Street, Suburban, Market East and Temple. NYC has the express lines overlaid on the local lines. Broad Street subway has local, semi-express and express service. Neither the 7 or the Broad Street Subway have tracks outside of the city limits. They could build anything their little hearts desire including running express from Javits Center to Fern Rock if they wanted to.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    I gather BART is running different kinds of trains on its new lines in the outskirts. Are they more suitable for long-distance commutes? Like to Stockton?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Nope. Everybody uses the same subway cars with carpeting and padded seats.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You mean eBART? Well… they’re standard-gauge and can run on mainline tracks (I’m not sure whether they’re FRA-compliant or time-separated), which is the main advantage. Rolling stock with similar capabilities as BART runs fairly long-distance service in Germany, Japan, and other countries with extensive regional rail, but it doesn’t use greenfield tracks except in city centers.

    Joey Reply:

    eBART is going non-compliant, and is on 100% dedicated track at least in the first phase (which is completely within a freeway median).

    Winston Reply:

    eBART is interesting and worth a digression. The original proposal would have involved running DMUs on a nearly unused but mostly grade separated UP line and would have featured a downtown Antioch station and would have run all the way to Byron (which is a farming town on the very outskirts of the SF Bay area’s urban sprawl). However, U.P. wouldn’t sell any part of its wide ROW to BART, and after trying to engineer their way around the problem (think viaducts etc.) BART switched to the freeway median routing which was cheaper since Caltrans was planning to widen the freeway anyway. At around the same time this was proposed, BART also considered an extensive DMU system starting at the Dublin/Pleasanton station and heading both north into the Tri Valley and east to Tracy instead of extending BART to Livermore but the local politicians wanted real BART instead.

    Joey Reply:

    Wasn’t there a time when we used BART to Stockton as a joke?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Be careful, they might rename San Jose’s main station Diridon Intergalactic for real.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    I don’t think it is. I’m going to research it more.

  27. Elizabeth
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 12:55
    #27

    ACTION ALERT:

    CARRD worked very hard to make sure that the 3:30 briefing that will be held at the Capitol would be broadcast live on Calchannel so that the public from the entire state could follow along.

    Apparently the CHSRA is objecting to having it broadcast live. There is no technical issue and the Calchannel people are ready to go. It is just CHSRA at this point. Call them and tell them to let it be broadcast live!

    Media @ CHSRA (916) 384-9026
    General (916) 324-1541

    Spokker Reply:

    How does it feel to be vindicated after all this time? You really nailed it.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Nailed what, the 63 billion number?

    Spokker Reply:

    Yeah, Elizabeth totally got it wrong. HSR in California will cost even more than her estimates! Dumb woman!

    No, she nailed the CHSRA and exposed them for what they really are.

    Tony d. Reply:

    Can we please cease with this strawman crap! The price tag is in 2033 dollars! Why don’t you just go ahead and put the cost at $200 billion in 2060 dollars! Unbelievable!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s $65 billion in 2010 dollars.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    I think Elizabeth did a fine job of trying to interpret the intermediate updates into a new business plan forecast.

    What I didn’t appreciate is her tendency to impugn civil servants who work for elected officials that were selected by the voting public. The Authority is so understaffed its not funny and Elizabeth I’m sad to say is going to ensure it stays that way for a while perhaps over a decade.

    She obviously doesn’t get that the need for statewide planning and solutions is the greatest and that she could have turned her fire on a local project and saved the taxpayer much more money in the end. There’s more graft and skullduggery in awarding your local ambulance contract than within CHSRA….

    Elizabeth Reply:

    If you have heard us impugning anyone other than PB, let me know.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVbcAjW9C9U

    You have every right to request that your public records request is fulfilled. However, you made Authority employees look like they were choosing noncompliance with the law, when in fact they might have had other reasons.

    Secondly, you would never get any grief on this blog if you were really only being critical of PB. The only way that you can tap into the sort of anti-rail activism is to use something more visceral than the business plan.

    Moreover, I hope you realize that you are going to suffer the most because this will only ensure that the Authority stays underfunded and has less ability to stop any supposed machinations by PB. You can look forward to decades of slow responses and delays because now that the program is going to take 20 years or more… what’s the rush?

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    By the way, I realize that the CHSRA Board is appointed, not elected. They still report to the Governor and the Legislature.

    Tony d. Reply:

    She didn’t nail crap and has not been vindicated! Again, for the umpteenth time, 2033 dollars spread out over 30 years. Alexis is merely trying to use “Shock and Awe” extrapolation to keep HSR out of her PAMPA. Its not going to work because most thinking Californians aren’t stupid and the days of the Teahadists in Washington are numbered.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    She got the final number right, but some of the segment numbers are wrong. Basically, CARRD predicted about a uniform cost overrun, whereas what we have here is a within-budget ICS, large overruns on the rest of the system, and enormous overruns on SF-SJ and La-Anaheim.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    That may be what someone else did. We did a segment by segment analysis.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Let me clarify: you did a segment by segment analysis, but your final prediction was a more or less uniform cost overrun. This is not exactly what is happening – the CV is still within budget, while the overruns elsewhere are much larger than you predicted.

    What’s happening is that they’re building the first stake in the ground on budget, but are planning to be profligate with the rest in order to scrounge maximum money from private investors, local governments, the state, and the feds. It’s a big fraud.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Not really. Look at page 3 http://www.calhsr.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/CARRD_Capital_Cost_Estimates-v1-2.pdf

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I did. I know it’s not exactly Bakersfield-Fresno that’s $6.2 billion – it’s almost-Bakersfield to halfway-from-Fresno-to-Merced – but it’s pretty close. It’s certainly not $11 billion.

    In contrast, SF-SJ + LA-Anaheim are now up to $25 billion in 2010 dollars, double your YOE estimate.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Couple of things –

    We included the HMF – this is $600mm before inflation.
    We included inflation.
    Bakersfield is very, very expensive.

    AGreed that we are way under on SF-SJ, LA – Anaheim. In general, our number was under. We were at $65 with inflation, the number is $65 without inflation. Thought we would be low on tehachapi number but did not see the SF-SJ, Anaheim #s coming.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The SF-SJ and Anaheim numbers look almost deliberate, as if they’re trying to force a change from Anaheim-SJ-SF to LA-Altamont-SF.

    The difference between Bako-Fresno with and without inflation is small – they’re planning to build right now.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The first stake is way over budget. It is difficult to do apples to apples but we have tried our best and I promise you it is way over the 2009 calculation.

  28. jim
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 13:00
    #28

    The IOS-South cost is to Sylmar. If Tejon really does save $4B, then IOS-South comes in at the same cost as IOS-North but attracts 25% more riders.

    Still, this is an awful steep funding hill to climb.

    Donk Reply:

    I don’t know if that is right. The ridership models for IOS-South assumed it would include ridership from the Antelope Valley. If it goes thru Grapevine, the ridership would presumably be lower, although I am not sure how significant that change would be.

  29. Paulus Magnus
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 13:39
    #29

    How is it that the number of freeway lanes and airport runways HSR will replace has decreased, but their cost has massively increased (the “do nothing” alternative)?

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    I would guess it is based on assumptions that have to do with construction and raw material costs.

    Beta Magellan Reply:

    The timeframe for the new report’s longer and the inflation rate is assumed to be higher (also, a number of the non-schedule or inflation-related drivers of CAHSR’s cost increases—i. e. over-reliance on outside contractors and habitually poor decision-making—would also increase any transportation investment).

    Again, none of this takes into account the perpetually unexamined aggressive demand-side management option…

    Derek Reply:

    Demand-side congestion management would permanently eliminate traffic congestion, at a MUCH lower cost to taxpayers than either HSR or expanding airports and freeways. This option should always be on the table.

    joe Reply:

    Demand-side congestion management OR subsidized public transportation, both reduce congestion. The former is regressive tax on driving while the later provides incentives to use congestion relieving public transportation, and also an incentive to build and maintain such a system – and it can be done with a progressive tax.

    Demand-side congestion pricing can clear the streets and has the added benefit of making it really fucken expensive to operate a business or live in a congested area.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    How do you think Asian transit cities got to be what they are? Do you think they just built free roads and free parking like American cities and just added public transit one line at a time? Because they didn’t; they all engaged in traffic restraint, and with the exception of Tokyo, they all started to do this long before they had the money for extensive rapid transit.

    When you build enormous highway infrastructure to make the automakers happy, and then try to build transit slowly and not do anything to reduce road demand, you get disasters like Kuala Lumpur (which with one third the GDP of the US has the transit use of an old American city), and Bangkok (home of the double-decked freeways and traffic control police who wear facemasks).

    It boils down to whether you treat cars as a nifty thing that the middle class should own, or as a poison and a danger to society.

    Derek Reply:

    “[Demand-side congestion management] is regressive tax on driving…”

    False. The poor love tolls! It’s a tax they don’t have to pay! “As a group low-income residents, on average, pay more out-of-pocket with sales taxes” for freeways than with tolls. http://www.springerlink.com/content/l168327363227298

    “…[T]he later [sic] provides incentives to use congestion relieving public transportation…”

    Wrong again! “Two University of Toronto professors have added to the body of evidence showing that highway and road expansion increases traffic by increasing demand. On the flip side, they show that transit expansion doesn’t help cure congestion either.” http://dc.streetsblog.org/2011/05/31/study-building-roads-to-cure-congestion-is-an-exercise-in-futility/

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    For the people who switch to mass transit it cures congestion. Well maybe not so much cures it but quarantines it from them. You can’t be stuck in road congestion if you aren’t on the road.

  30. Paulus Magnus
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 13:52
    #30

    I think we can all agree that this means that the preceding CAHSRA administrations were pretty fatally incompetent in their ability to study and plan the route.

    RisenMessiah Reply:

    Eh, it’s mainly an Arnold problem. He thought as with many things that if you had the right attitude you could make a project come together. I think Brown would have killed this sucker except he knows he needs the water bond to also pass and he realizes that if the voters approve something you have to recognize that intrinsic mandate….

    Donk Reply:

    Yes, they were either fatally incompetent or understaffed, or both.

    The current CAHSRA, starting around the time they brought in van Ark, is significantly more competent. But they are still incompetent when it comes to value engineering. I want to see more in the report about cost cutting, decreasing the number of viaducts, and transferring costs of station enhancements to the cities.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    They weren’t properly funded either, and did not have the proper level of support from the governor’s office. Jerry Brown is serious about HSR and this business plan shows the difference.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    By not actually doing any value engineering beyond the CV and just delivering a hundred billion dollar boondoggle 25 years after it was voted for? You don’t have to cheerlead everything you know.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    ROFLMAO. PB is still in charge, Jerry just re-arranged the deck chairs.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Proposing to spend nearly $100 million per kilometer isn’t serious, it’s Very Serious. It’s the same mentality of people who think universal health care has to add several hundred billion to the budget (and get angry when you propose comparative effectiveness studies), and who think balancing the budget requires cutting Social Security (and get angry when you talk about removing the payroll tax cap or raising the capital gains tax). On another level, it’s the mentality of the neocon, whose response to terrorism is torture, war, and police state, rather than the sort of careful detective work that gave away Bin Laden’s location.

    The question is how you view HSR. To me, it’s not a grand project, or the next step in a succession of great government projects (and any mention of the Interstates exasperates me). It’s one iconic piece in a program of improving public transit and reducing car and oil use, a program that should be done at minimum cost and maximum efficiency. I support higher education, but would not want to see state support for colleges siphoned away to superstar presidents, football, or aggrandizing buildings; and I support HSR, but do not want to see funds go to viaducts that wouldn’t be necessary but for agency turf battles.

  31. David
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 13:59
    #31

    Here is Daniel Krause’s appearance on KPCC today.

    http://podcasts.scpr.org/airtalk

  32. Donk
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 15:12
    #32

    The LA Times so far has put a positive slant on it, and actually mentions the cost of doing nothing:

    Higher costs for bullet train worth it, California officials say

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/11/california-bullet-train.html

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s because Dan Weikel wrote the article and not Ralph Vartabedian.

  33. Elizabeth
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 16:06
    #33

    The Calchannel is streaming live a briefing!

    http://www.calchannel.com/channel/live/1

  34. political_incorrectness
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 16:20
    #34

    This is very fustrating.

    What is the point in waiting. It is probably best to start an ICS and get it going now to take advantage of cheap costs is what I think. If another country wants to fork over some cheap money, that sounds good to me! I think the point is that we need to make a decision or we will pay exorberant amonts of money later on.

    I am surprised they have not hired Clem to do the Caltrain ROW. That is how value engineering should be done.

  35. trentbridge
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 17:53
    #35

    So with a minimum of twenty-plus years of construction ahead, the current professional employees of CAHSR can look forward to retiring with a decent pension and benefits before the project is completed. How wonderful. Does the Authority exist to build a high-speed rail link between LA and SF or to provide cushy jobs until someone pulls the plug! I was in favor of the project until today. Unless you can finish the project in ten to twelve years, why bother? Technology doesn’t stand still. What would pass as great design now will be considered obsolete by the time it is finished. Would the 787 Dreamliner introduce a new era in air travel if it was designed in 1986?

    StevieB Reply:

    The 787 is designed to land on the same runways used in 1986. High speed rolling stock will certainly improve over the next 20 years while running on the same track. Fortunately rolling stock will be the last purchase.

  36. Elizabeth
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 19:03
    #36

    For those in LA, David Siders, Umberg and myself on which way LA KCRW (NPR) in a minute or two.

    listen online at:
    http://www.kcrw.com/news/programs/ww

  37. Paulus Magnus
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 20:32
    #37

    I honestly cannot support the project with this level of expense, time, and continued lack of interest in cutting costs wherever possible (with the rather related PR idiocy).

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Oh well.

  38. orulz
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 20:37
    #38

    I’m about ready to say that if they can’t reign in this runaway consultant industrial complex with some serious cost controls, then it’s time to throw in the towel. The level of corruption that must be present in the system in order to perpetuate these kinds of egregious cost overages is absolutely staggering.

    Clem Reply:

    The fundamental conflict of interest is that the same firms that will get to build the project also are setting the scope of the project. It’s like writing yourself a blank check from the taxpayer!

    swing hanger Reply:

    Exactly. They know they can always suckle from the taxpayers teat. One advantage of a (for example) privately funded project are the planning/building and operating firm(s) are motivated to keep costs low, but build to a specification that will generate profits.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Whatever.

  39. D. P. Lubic
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 22:05
    #39

    Keeping an eye on potential competition–auto loans look to be the next slice’n dice financial game:

    http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/11/01/358558/subprime-auto-loans/

    I think this country is having some serious problems with systemic corruption at the top levels, and it’s not just due to things like PB here. Indeed, it seems worst in the financial sector.

    What was all that talk some years back about “inefficient, corrupt government employees?” Who said something about “government wasn’t the solution to the problem, government is the problem?” Didn’t the “big, bad government” once have a hand in keeping nonsense like this under control?

  40. Drunk Engineer
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 22:27
    #40

    It just gets better and better:

    SAN DIEGO—The $98 billion price tag of the first phase of California’s high-speed rail system would not be enough to link two key cities—San Diego and Sacramento—to the line. The initial phase of California’s proposed high-speed rail system would stretch from San Francisco to Anaheim, a plan that was put before voters in 2008, when they approved $9 billion in bond funding. Connections to Sacramento, which draws lobbyists, interest groups and others from throughout the state, and San Diego, California’s second most-populous city, are included in a second phase of the planned high-speed rail system. Just when those connections might be made is anyone’s guess. If approved by the Legislature, the first phase would not be completed until 2033, at the earliest.

    Of course, Sacramento could have easily been accommodated with an Altamont alignment. Speaking of which, there will be no overlay either (but we already knew that…).

  41. Clem
    Nov 1st, 2011 at 22:41
    #41

    Holy shit, it’s 1.9 billion for the Millbrae tunnel (in poor soil conditions, ya know)!!! I had it pegged at a half billion from the earlier estimates. All this to respect the current footprint (translation: don’t touch BART) and to protect future development.

    This is INSANE.

    Or it’s just the groundwork for justifying BART round-the-bay. Elsewhere in the cost increase memo, they allocate a $2 billion penalty to building in an active rail corridor…

    Either way, someone needs to wrest control away from PB.

    Clem Reply:

    To put this in perspective, a one-track tunnel ducking under the Millbrae station is going to cost more than the entire BART extension from Colma to SFO/Millbrae. Is their excuse going to be that they haven’t value-engineered it yet? I’m just speechless.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Different environment (mountains) but, the Hakkoda Tunnel used by JR East, at 26.5km length, coast $667 million to build. Costs alot to tunnel under sacred Nimby land, I guess.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Urban construction is a lot more expensive, though. Go to Sendai and the cost of subway rises to $200 million/km. In San Jose it’s about $500 million/km.

    Joey Reply:

    The planned track configuration in Santa Clara suggests no ring, but still, this is ridiculous.

    Peter Reply:

    Agreed.

    They need to cost out rebuilding Mllbrae without a tunnel. BART is not a sacred cow.

    Donk Reply:

    To me this seems like a prime opportunity to fix the Millbrae/SFO mess. Like replacing the Millbrae-SFO BART leg with a people mover that goes directly to all the terminals.

Comments are closed.