Legislative Analyst Opposes All State Spending As Being “Highly Speculative”

Apr 17th, 2012 | Posted by

That headline is merely the logical extension of today’s report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office recommending that the Legislature follow the lead of right-wing states like Wisconsin and Florida and throw away $3.5 billion in federal stimulus money by refusing to fund high speed rail construction this year. The reason the LAO gives, that “funding for the project remains highly speculative” given federal uncertainties, suggests a stunning level of ignorance of what is actually going on in Congress right now. If the LAO’s logic were applied to all state funding decisions, their recommendation would be that the Legislature should stop funding all state programs due to federal uncertainty.

We find that HSRA has not provided sufficient detail and justification to the Legislature regarding its plan to build a high–speed train system. Specifically, funding for the project remains highly speculative and important details have not been sorted out. We recommend the Legislature not approve the Governor’s various budget proposals to provide additional funding for the project. However, we recommend that some minimal funding be provided to continue planning efforts that are currently underway. Alternatively, we recognize that the Legislature may choose to go forward with the project at this time. If so, we recommend the Legislature take a series of steps to increase the chance of the project being successfully completed.

Of course, the LAO does not explain that the people of California already told the Legislature they want this train built. They do not examine the impact of sky-high gas prices on economic activity. They do not examine the impact of HSR construction on the state’s economy, job creation, or tax revenues. They do not examine the long-term economic benefits of HSR through the green dividend.

Instead the LAO claims that because Republicans in Congress oppose HSR and have therefore made federal HSR funding “highly speculative” and therefore uncertain, the entire project is a bad idea and should not be funded. If that principle were applied to other transportation projects, most of which move forward before all federal funding is identified or secured, nothing would ever get built in California again.

More importantly, if that principle were applied across state government, nothing at all would be funded again. Congressional Republicans are pledging massive cuts to almost all federally funded programs, from health care to schools to transportation and much more. Most programs funded in the state budget include significant levels of federal funding, without which the state would almost certainly be unable to continue providing that particular program. The LAO, which has been opposed to the HSR project for many years now, wants legislators to believe that it’s just HSR that faces uncertain prospects in Washington DC. But anyone who’s been paying any attention to national politics knows the problem is much, much broader.

The LAO has never been a supporter of the high speed rail project. Legislators would do well to ignore its flawed conclusions and press onward with a project that is essential to prosperity in the 21st century.

  1. morris brown
    Apr 17th, 2012 at 22:45
    #1

    @Robert:

    Your headline and the position of the LAO is preposerous; I’ll not dwell on it further.

    However, your continual theme that once the Republicans are pushed out (very unlikely), Denocratic controlled Federal Senate and House will pour funds into California to fund HSR here is wrong.

    You just ignore the facts.

    Ken Orski has just releae this:


    To Our Readers:

    It may be of interest to you that the Democrat-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee, which usually marches in lock step with the White House, has disallowed all of the Administration’s FY 2013 request for high speed rail ($4 billion). Of the total $1.75 billion federal rail budget , the Senate Committee has allocated $1.45 billion for Amtrak and $100 million for the High Performance Passenger Rail grant program to assist with the improvement of existing intercity services and mult-state planning initiatives. The House appropriators , of course, have never intended to vote any money for HSR in FY 2013, but the Senate action puts an end to any hopes that a House-Senate conference might provide even a token amount for high-speed rail in the FY 2113 federal budget.

    KEN ORSKI

    Here is true lay of the land. At the Federal level, both Republicans and Democrats agree not to not fund HSR, especailly not out here is California.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    If that’s so, then it is true that this has become a nation of wimpy cowards, afraid of building a new future that would correct some serious mistakes of the past.

    It’s nothing to be proud of.

    joe Reply:

    Well he’s an X-GOP Administration Office – above the GS pay grade so a political class appointee who does consulting work.

    He served as Associate Administrator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration under President Nixon and President Ford and, after leaving government, founded a transportation consultancy counseling corporate clients and agencies in federal, state and local government.

    Yawn.

    Alan Reply:

    And of course, note that Mr. Orski did not have the courtesy to post a link, so that readers could independently verify his claim. He doesn’t indicate if this is a final committee action, or a preliminary vote. At any rate, with more than 5 months before FY 2013 begins, anyone who expects a vote now to be the last word doesn’t know how DC works. Or more accurately, doesn’t work.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The Senate knows perfectly well that if they include $4b of HSR funding, the House will just take it out again. Its a transparently silly thesis that the Senate bill represents the ceiling of what would be available if the Republican caucus in the House did not consist, as Barney Frank put it in a recent interview, half of Michelle Bachmann and half of people afraid of having to run against Michelle Bachmann in a primary.

    It doesn’t even require a Republican loss of majority to change the balance of power in the House ~ it just takes enough House Republicans losing in the general election because they were successfully painted as being too extreme. If they get nervous about their ability to play the game of pander to radical reactionaries for a three quarters of their term and then spend the last quarter of their term trying to get low information independent voters to vote for them … they’ll look for things that they can use to display that they are “conservative but not extremely conservative”. Infrastructure investments favored by a wide range of business interests has in the past been one of those kinds of policy areas.

    And of course, the new semi-HSR systems will start to be up and running by 2014, which will start pushing an “I want what they got” dynamic.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    But one can hope for a loss of the Republican majority. They are busy working their reverse Dale Carnegie magic and have another 6 months to get even more people offended. Gotta get 61 Senators or a change in the filibuster rules – members present instead of members sworn would be a nice touch – so that things don’t get filibustered.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If there isn’t 50+1 for an abandonment of the filibuster, I’d like to see immediate cloture on the conclusion of any quorum call during a filibuster in which 66% of the quorum voted for cloture.

    That would force the filibustering minority to stand their ground and stay in the chamber, while the majority could just post a handful of night watchmen. Any time the minority tried to sneak away and shut down debate with a series of quorum calls, they’d risk the majority showing up and achieving cloture.

    flowmotion Reply:

    The Senate knows perfectly well that if they include $4b of HSR funding, the House will just take it out again.

    Which indicates that the Senate Democrats don’t think HSR is an important enough issue to fight for & turn into an electoral issue.

    There seems to be a whole lot of wishful thinking on this blog once it comes to partisan politics. All evidence indicates that HSR is very low on Obama’s and the national democrats’ priority list. And with 80-year-old Feinstein cruising to re-election & ditz Boxer still hanging on somehow, it doesn’t seem very likely the funding will ever show up in the amounts expected.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    They likely disallowed it because they know it is a waste of time with the House the way it is. However, they should still fight for it nonetheless, even if it is a symbolic gesture.

    joe Reply:

    Well, this is a patently false statement about the US Senate and White House.

    It may be of interest to you that the Democrat-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee, which usually marches in lock step with the White House,

    Total nonsense. Ask Joe Lieberman or Max Baucus or…

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Of course its nonsense. This is not an effort to gain traction with high information voters, its an effort to give a plausible story for those who want it to be true, and who aren’t in the habit of poke at it to see if it hangs together.

    joe Reply:

    I am curious to see what happens to the upper LAO management after the 2012 election b/c what I assume are the LAO’s political allies will be termed out.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Possibly nothing. If they’re being yes-men, they’ll be yes-men to those newly most senior.

  2. Jerry
    Apr 18th, 2012 at 00:59
    #2

    The LAO recommendations are provided by just one person – Brian Weatherford. With contributions by one person – Tiffany Roberts. The report was reviewed by another person.

    “To increase the chance that the project is successfully completed,” Brian Weatherford suggests on page 10 that the Legislature provide, “funding at this time for only those contracts that will be awarded in 2012-13.” That would be the $1.5 billion dollar contract to be awarded in December 2012, for the segment running from north of Fresno through Fresno.

    At a minimum, that would start the project in the Central Valley.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    A repub from A “corporate”grad school “..thats who’s opinion it is…

    joe Reply:

    The LAO has never been a supporter of the high speed rail project. Legislators would do well to ignore its flawed conclusions and press onward with a project that is essential to prosperity in the 21st century.

    How many times does The LAO get to interject themselves into the political debate? The LAO gave an assessment and seem to continue to re-release and re-assess the situation around critical political decision points.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Looks like there’s someone with an ax to grind who’s not being supervised properly at the LAO’s office. Brian Weatherford? Or the person who “reviewed” the report?

    joe Reply:

    Crap like this gets approval at the top.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its not analysis that you’d want to put on your resume as an example of your skill, that’s for sure.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    In regards to Weatherford, one of the more interesting developments I have noticed recently has to do with their defense industry pedigree:

    Mr. Weatherford is a graduate of the Rand Corporation’s PhD program, and then Mr. Vartabedian of the LA Times also covered the defense beat for years before becoming their HSR reporter.

    The disconnect here is fundamental: The federal government appropriates continuously grant aid to a host of state functions, not just in California but nationwide. Moreover, plenty of these are not solvent (Medicaid being the prime example).

    Read in between the lines and it suggests that the LAO thinks/knows/believes that there will be a major enough shift in federal transportation policy, but not such a seismic shift in entitlements. That’s a radical statement, but it may be correct since gas taxes effectively rely on a certain threshold of consumption.

    States for years have been trying to find a way to put transponders in cars to charge varying amount of registration fees, tolls, and the like. That was seen as a necessity because of the cost of carrying all of Wal-Marts trucks on the Interstate highway system far outpraces the cost recovery.

    Still, that augurs SERIOUS changes in intercity transportation beyond which this blog has really discussed.

  3. JJJ
    Apr 18th, 2012 at 02:28
    #3

    Fluff article in the Fresno bee today about moving the entire 99 a few hundred feet west.

    http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/04/18/2804208/caltrans-to-move-piece-of-highway.html

    No mention of why the UP “can’t” be used, but instead land owned by motels, mobile homes and assisted living facilities.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Somebody there named “Jass” had this to say in the following comments section:

    “What the article fails to go into is the real reason why the highway “has” to be moved. It’s because the lovely folks over at Union Pacific refuse to deal with the state when it comes to HSR. Of course, it would actually be cheaper in the long run for the government to buy the entire UP company, do what they have to do, and then sell it (at a profit for the taxpayer) but we can never have that because certain segments of politicians would be jumping over themselves to declare a socialist end of worlds.

    “So we have to screw over the taxpayer because the alternative “might” be considered socialism by some.

    “UP owns plenty of land theyre not using, in which HSR can go. But UP wont even allow the HSR authority to build tracks OVER their vacant land. So instead, we have to deal with this ludicrous proposal to move the highway onto land owned by other people.

    “And the biggest irony in the whole situation is the way in which UP got the land in the first place. Heres a hint: they didn’t exactly pay for it.”

    Hmm, “Jass” and “JJJ” both begin with “J;” JJJ, is that you? :-)

    Nathanael Reply:

    It’s true; it would probably be worthwhile for California to just make a $60 bn. tender offer for UP. After taking what California needs, the rest could be sold off to recover the purchase price.

    But yeah, certain politicians would scream “socialism” (even though a tender offer is, well, capitalism).

    lex luther Reply:

    it is socialism. its sets a dangerous precedent. whats next? how about we buy the private hospitals? then Apple and Oracle and should purchased too. The state should buy the Sacramento Kings and the A’s too. lets buy any private business that we can make a profit from, and then replace the american and california flags with a maple leaf and the flag of the european union.

    jimsf Reply:

    If the state bought those things then why would we replace the california flag with the maple leaf? If the state of california owned those things then we would fly the california flag over them.
    You need to take a valium you wack job.

    lex luther Reply:

    the point being is that you guys will go to any length, cut funding to schools and cut funding to law enforcment, just to see the HSR train built

    If the LAO had come out in favor of the train, you wouldnt sit there and bash the LAO, you would tout that the LAO is in favor of the train, but the LAO is telling the truth, the funding is highly speculative without knowing who will be in power after november

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But there’s no need to cut funding to schools and cut funding to law enforcement, “just to see the HSR built”, there is at least one dedicated transport funding stream that would be ample for the amount of bonds needed for the initial construction segment.

    And the initial construction segment can be used right away to improve the San Joaquin service, so its not like the infrastructure would be sitting idle waiting for the next tranche of Federal funding.

    Meanwhile, turning the current Federal funding down, and that only increases the risk that if there is another tranche of Federal funding, California will not, in fact, be at the head of the line, but instead will have to content itself with dribs and drabs while those states that proceeded to use their Stimulus funds get their next set of project applications funded.

    lex luther Reply:

    I have NO PROBLEM with the train being built, i have a HUGE problem with the idea that the same governor who is spearheading this 68 to 100 billion dollar project is also telling the public that the state is broke and he is also asking for a new tax on anyone making $250,000 or more per year, which is going to hurt small business, not major corporations. small businesses get hit, they have to lay people off to make it.

    If we trully are broke, then the LAO is right, lets wait, but if were not broke, then fine build the train but dont cut public schools, dont cut public safety, dont cut reduced lunches for kids, dont cut parks, dont cut fire protection and so on…

    joe Reply:

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=trolling
    Trolling is trying to get a rise out of someone. Forcing them to respond to you, either through wise-crackery, posting incorrect information, asking blatantly stupid questions, or other foolishness. However, trolling statements are never true or are ever meant to be construed as such. Nearly all trolled statements are meant to be funny to some people, so it does have some social/entertainment value.

    Derek Reply:

    he is also asking for a new tax on anyone making $250,000 or more per year, which is going to hurt small business

    How many small business owners make that much?

    If we trully are broke, then the LAO is right, lets wait

    Is that why you didn’t attend college? Because you couldn’t afford it?

    If we wait, it’s only going to get more expensive to build.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Derek, the question is not how many small business owners will have to lay people off because they own a business generating over $250,000 in profits.

    Suppose you have a small business making $300,000 in profit, and you want to avoid paying tax on the $50,000 over the $250,000 mark. You can lay people off, cut back production, and cut your profits to $250,000, to avoid paying a higher tax rate on that extra $50,000. But how much sense do that make? That is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    Now, re-investing in your business to cut your current profits ~ that might happen, but then if you do that you will increase employment not decrease it.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Any business owner making over $250,000 in NET PROFITS (remember, businesses are taxed on NET profits, unlike employees who are taxed on GROSS income) — is in the richest 1% of the population.

    joe Reply:

    Troll is back.

    The entire state budget is speculative.

    What does Texas do? OMG they tax oil extracted from the state and use it to fund schools.

    CA does not tax oil extraction and CA is the 3rd largest oil producer in the USA.

    Next problem?

    lex luther Reply:

    you mean the man who brings the truth and throw its in your face is back

    joe Reply:

    “Trolling is trying to get a rise out of someone. Forcing them to respond to you, either through wise-crackery, posting incorrect information, asking blatantly stupid questions, or other foolishness. “

    lex luther Reply:

    lol i dont force anyone to respond, you can ignore me, posting incorrect information is false because what i say is true, your are just blind, and foolishness, well you take the cake

    Spokker Reply:

    He reached through his monitor and forced you to post.

    That being said, I would love to see K-12 education cut in California. The problem isn’t funding but policies and administration. Low standards, teaching to the test, teachers that can’t be fired, good teachers that are miserable. We are the state that sent Jaime Escalante back to Bolivia.

    William Reply:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43085246/ns/business-oil_and_energy/t/bubbling-crude-americas-top-oil-producing-states/#.T48H2tVXZI0

    California produce more crude-oil than North Dakota, and can produce more if California allow for more oil exploration and open up the coast for oil extraction. Sadly we Californian just voted down taxing oil producers in recent years.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Also consumes a bit more than North Dakota, as well.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    the point being is that you guys will go to any length, cut funding to schools and cut funding to law enforcment, just to see the HSR train built.

    Literally impossible.

    Education funding is preordained by Prop 13 and Prop 98. Secondly, the issue with prison overcrowding has more to do with the fact that many of your “lifers” are getting too old to serve in normal prison conditions and need more medical attention to ensure “truth in sentencing”.

    What you seem not to realize is that Brown actually WANTS to increase funding more education by forcing local entities to pick up more of the slack. The only education that isn’t protected by Prop 13 and 98, is the Universities and those have gotten HAMMERED in the last decade when Prop 1a wasn’t even on the ballot yet.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Lex, the RIGHT-WING policy, as well documented over decades, is to sell off anything which makes a profit for the government, while forcing the government to bail out any private company which makes a loss while doing something useful. That’s known as “lemon socialism” — look it up.

    I think the government should be allowed a fair chance to compete in the open market just like everyone else. Mine is a 19th century capitalist attitude. The “how dare the government ever do anything profitable” attitude is actually a RENT-SEEKER’S attitude, to use an economics term — not capitalist at all, and Adam “Wealth of Nations” Smith warned against people with that attitude.

    DavidM Reply:

    CalPERS could buy it, they buy equity all the time.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Heck, might not even have to buy a controlling interest ~ buying a sufficient stake for enough clout in the General Meeting to take a seat on the Board of Directors would see a substantial softening of UP’s stance. Indeed, it would be possible to do a proxy drive to increase California’s clout at the general meeting.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Why are people so enamored with the idea of attempting to destroy a private company simply because it doesn’t submit to their model railroading dreams?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I doubt that’s it ~ there is an intrinsic advantage on internet forums for overly simplistic solutions for complex problems. Tackling the complex problem and nutting it out, that’s not only harder, but it also takes time to find out about the ins and outs, while the simplistic solution people are always able to get going at a sprint.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How difficult would it be to implement the 3C plans if everything in Ohio was Conrail with the Federal Government as the sole stockholder compared to dealing with CSX and NS? Or easier?
    It doesn’t have to be a buyout, it can be an offer they can’t refuse. Market value for the big four is around 125 billion. Put 100 billion on the table for the real estate and let them become operating companies. Sorta like how trucking companies and airlines work. Make a deal on the property taxes like we do with electric utilities. Or since they insist they need a 30 foot buffer a discussion about how the unused ROW, that they have been telling the assessors is nearly worthless industrial land because it’s a skinny strip next to the noisy smelly railroad isn’t so worthless. Or all of the above.
    Or when they want low cost government loans to build things tell them they are studly private enterprises that Dagny Taggart would be proud of and tell them to issue bonds on the open market….

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But the 3C is a 110mph system, with shared use on lightly used branch lines, much of it not actually owned by Class I’s. As far as their complaining about the upgrade of their branch line track to much higher class track and getting a new regular revenue line from 3C access fees … I don’t recall hearing of any complaints. The busier freight track were to be dedicated through passenger track, at a wider centerline offset than the corridor owners originally requested … didn’t hear any complaints about having track they can use as express bypass track at night, either.

    The substantial alignment problem with the 3C was getting into Cincinnati. The Union Station side is a snarl as that’s just north of a major freight rail crossing of the Ohio River, various local transport projects along the Riverfront have spoiled the ideal central Cincinnati location, and upscale NIMBY’s object to best Riverfront-East location.

    Both CSX and NS are pretty bad about through Amtraks on mainline freight track, but look at the Wikpedia sketch of the CSX system … look at that Pittsburgh to northeast Ohio alignment ~ the Alliance alignment ~ that then hooks into the long straight corridor through the countryside of Northern Ohio away from the lakefront through to Chicago (I think that may be via South Bend) … under the preferred 3C alignment, that is almost completely off the system.

    I have not seen any indication that either CSX or NS would be happy to have over 125mph, but they seem to be fine with 110mph upgrades, mostly on branch lines, and all representing upgrades in late night freight capacity.

    The inside play could well be the tax angle ~ allow local communities to take the speculative value of idle corridor capacity into account when assessing the taxable value of the corridor, and local communities starved of local tax base as a hangover from the ill-advised tax revolt would likely jump on that.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    All three paragraphs after the unclosed link go to the same png sketch of the CSX system.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yet in New York CSX was insisting on 30 feet of separation and speeds no higher than 90.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Who was responsible for the project in New York? The fact that they were working with the ORDC, which also has oversight for Ohio’s freight rail choke point study/project, might have something to do with how the ORDC weren’t reporting finding any serious obstacles in their discussions with the freight operators.

    It wasn’t the ORDC from the beginning, but AFAICT it was under the ORDC before the 3C got extended to the Ohio Hub plan.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Which of semi-annual reports that don’t get acted upon? There’s a really nice dusty one about HSR between Albany and Montreal that I’m fond of. It’s probably still on the NYSDOT’s web site.
    The 11 miles of experimental track west of Rochester was NYSDOT if I remember correctly.

    Maybe CSX’s hackles got raised because there’s actually passengers in New York state.
    1,998,766 boardings and alightings that were not at Penn Station in Manhattan.
    http://www.amtrak.com/pdf/factsheets/NEWYORK11.pdf

    Ohio on the other hand
    http://www.amtrak.com/pdf/factsheets/OHIO11.pdf

    During the season as many trains run on the Saratoga and North Creek as in Ohio.
    Have to wait to see if Amtrak runs extras for the races. Saratoga may creep up to 6 or 7 trains a day in each direction.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    That was kind of the point of the 3C, once it got the signaling and level crossings for 110mph, it would be going somewhere people often want to go, at times of day that people often want to get there. A shocking change from the “Amtrak Ohio” system of sneaking in and out of the state while most people are asleep, I realize.

    But no corridor in the entire system was planned to be more than 8tpd. There isn’t the big population anchor that I hear tell that New York has in some corner of its state.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes, the people in Toledo gaze longingly at Detroit when they think about going to Chicago.
    http://www.amtrak.com/pdf/factsheets/MICHIGAN11.pdf

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It sounds like something from slash fiction. The best sentence I can put it in is, Dudley gazed longingly at Harry, feeling envious of his overcoming adversity and at the same time resentment at his preferring Draco as a partner.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I was more thinking of the people either driving to Detroit or taking the Megabus. There’s a lot more trips between Toledo and Detroit than between Toledo and Chicago.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The people of Detroit spent the money to have a train to Chicago. The people of Toledo didn’t so the people in Detroit can take the train and the people in Toledo can’t unless they drive to Ann Arbor.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Oh, when you wrote “the people of Toledo gaze longingly at Detroit when they think of going to Chicago”, I thought you were ridiculing the idea that people in Toledo would like to have a train that went up toward Detroit.

    As far as Toledo wishing they had something like the service to Chicago that Detroit has, yes, of course they do. Since they also want a connection to the Detroit area as well, one of their preferred ways of getting service to Chicago something like what Detroit has is to bridge the gap to Detroit and run it along that corridor.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    If you are talking about any company but the UP, it’s a different story.

    The Southern Pacific essentially ruled California for decades. The State buying it and spinning it off isn’t that crazy an idea.

    However, it’s important to note that Phil “End Times” Anschutz owns the UP now, and he wants to use the rights off way to run fiber-optic cable down so that he can create a “walled garden” of media, information, and potentially power that would make even a 19th century robber baron drool.

    It’s why they built Staples, L.A. Live, and want the new stadium downtown. Anschutz’s plans make Apple look like Nintendo.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Buying it out would’ve worked a lot better in 1990 than today. Essentially the state would’ve cashed in on twenty years of growth and profits in the sector.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Ah, so you’re saying UP is now controlled by a man who is a power-seeker (who will fight any effort to reduce the size of his “empire”) rather than a capitalist (capitalists would frequently accept an offer of more-than-market-price).

    Jonathan Reply:

    @Paulus: please try again when you can reach the reading-comprenshion of a 12-year-old. No-one is proposing destruction of UP. What’s being commented on is the true fact that it’d be cheaper for the State of California to buy all of UP, by tender bid; give the state the portions of land it wants; and sell the rest of UP again on the open market.

    Do _try_ to read for comprehension. Oh, and give up on the miss-by-a-mile ad-hominem attacks about “model railroading dreams’. Or perhaps you’re really Paul Vartabedian in disguise ??

    Rick Rong Reply:

    The value of “the rest of UP” could be considerably less if the parts the state wants are taken out. UP’s value is based on infrastructure that allows it to carry goods between sets of points. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, if you assume that some of those parts won’t be available to an operating freight railroad.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Which parts wouldn’t be available?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The parts in the current right of way not presently being used by track?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’ve tried to look at tax maps in the Central Valley. Silly me expecting the railroad land to be on the tax rolls as railroad. Silly me expecting there to be online tax maps. I gave up after trying to figure out Fresno. Looks like the ROW is 200 feet wide. Unless UP is expecting enough freight to need 8 tracks there’s plenty of room.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Yep. There’s plenty of room to take the needed ROW without disrupting freight operations.

    Nathanael Reply:

    To be specific, only around railyards is anything close to the full width of the ROW being used by UP. So there would need to be some careful construction there to stay out of the way of freight. But apart from the railyards there is plenty of room.

    However, UP is currently in the land speculation business, it appears.

    Nathanael Reply:

    As noted, UP is sitting on vast quantities of unused ROW. The value of UP would not change significantly if HSR tracks were placed in the EMPTY SPACE next to the freight tracks.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Might trigger a new valuation under Prop13 which I’m sure they want to avoid.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …. in other words in normal states the railroad is delighted to sell off ROW because it’s no longer a property tax liability to the railroad. In California on the other hand their property tax bill is preserved in Prop 13 amber as of 1978.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Destroy”? You mean like CSX and NS “Destroyed” the government-owned corporation Conrail?

    Turnabout is fair play, you know. And buying the stockholders out for more than the going price isn’t “destroying” anything.

    The use of crazy phrases like “destroy” for a capitalist tender offer does show that right-wingers like to use absurd, hyperbolic rhetoric in defense of rent-seeking.

    JJJ Reply:

    Only crazy people comment on newspaper articles online.

    So yes.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Well, this entire subthread has been trolled off the rails…

    Looking at Google Maps, that section of Hwy 99 is a very under-designed freeway, with interchange ramps only on the east side. I’m sure Caltrans & Fresno business interests would love some funding to upgrade it to Interstate highway specs. So I’m sure this is less about UP and more about backdooring road improvements into the HSR budget.

    flowmotion Reply:

    doh – I meant on the west side.

  4. joe
    Apr 18th, 2012 at 04:12
    #4

    Menlo Park council unanimously approves multi-million dollar deal for Facebook expansion.
    http://www.mercurynews.com/peninsula/ci_20422466/menlo-park-council-unanimously-approves-multi-million-dollar

    In almost anti-climactic fashion, the Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a deal that allows Facebook to eventually bring in thousands of additional employees to its new campus in exchange for pumping millions of dollars into city coffers.

    Ultimately, Facebook aims to have as many as 9,400 employees in Menlo Park after it builds out a “West Campus” on 22 acres across the Bayfront Expressway at the former Tyco Electronics site.

    High-speed-rail critics eye fresh legal challenges
    Palo Alto, Menlo Park officials consider appealing rail authority’s latest environmental analysis
    http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/story_print.php?story_id=24981

    “That’s a really big issue,” Flashman told the Weekly. “On the one hand, you have the business plan saying we’re doing the blended system. On the other hand, you have the newest EIR still talking about the four-track system. There is a real disconnect.”…
    “For the City Council to fully support the blended system, the High-Speed Rail Authority must provide certainty that the four track system is no longer under consideration, that the ridership study will be redone, and that the project will not be exempt from the current CEQA process,” Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith said.

    On one hand MP unanimously approves Facebook expansion for almost 10,000 employees and the massive Environmental impacts of thousands more car trips to MP, on the other MP hand wants to appeal the EIR lawsuit because the HSR EIR does not preclude a 4 track option.

    It’s all about money – HSR in MP can go forward “in exchange for pumping millions of dollars into city coffers.”

    So let’s cut the check and build HSR.

  5. John Nachtigall
    Apr 18th, 2012 at 08:19
    #5

    You have to realize you have crossed over into tunnel vision on this project. Your “conspiracy theory” speculation continues to expand as the opposition grows. Listen your arguments.

    – The tea-party is against all capital expenditure in America because they want it to wither and die so they can have lower taxes

    – The Republican party is a lap dog to the tea party and will follow along

    – The citizen advisory board (packed with supporters) is wrong about their analysis and should be ignored

    – Simitian (a Democrat and a past supporter) has been corrupted and now wants to help the Republicans defeat the Democrats in the presidential election

    – Kropp (a Democrat who did more than anyone to pass the original plan) has also been corrupted and is now unrealistic and does not understand what the law (which he helped write) actually says

    – The LAO (which is non-partisan and just a bunch of accountants) is “out to get” the HSR and is wrong.

    Take a breath…step back….and try to see the other side for a moment. What you will find is that reasonable people (not ones with an axe to grind) can look at the available facts and draw the conclusion we should not move forward.

    1. Funding is speculative at best given the economic realities of the national and state deficits. Use of the cap and trade funds is not guaranteed as described earlier in this very blog. Given the small percentage of trips this train is planned to replace (less than 4% at the moment) it can be reasonably argued that you can getter a better bang for your buck using those funds on other projects.

    2. It will be difficult at best to comply with the law given the blended approach and the requirement for no subsidies.

    3. Not building HSR is not a ding on the national pride. Yes Japan and others have high speed rail and we don’t. A lot of people can live with that and it does not translate into America being “backwards and declining” in a lot of people’s minds. There are a lot of things that Japan and Europe have that I am happy America does not the least of which is a larger national debt (as a percentage of GDP) and a Euro crisis due to public debt.

    You may look at this argument and decide to still support HSR, that is not unreasonable, but you have to stop implying that everyone who opposes the project is part of a vast conspiracy to pollute the planet, kill the economy, and sell out America. Reasonable people can look at the same set of facts in this case and disagree.

    jimsf Reply:

    The problem is fear, lack of vision, and ignorance. The fact is , its not going to get any cheaper to deal with our future infrastructure needs no matter how we choose to deal with them. We can build more freeway lanes, build more runways, build whatever we need to accommodate future needs. IF we are smart we will build in advance so its done at the lower price and is ready when we need it. If we are stupid we will wait until the next booming economy, when roads are once again clogged and airports overloaded, and contractors in high demand at high prices and then say, oh we should build “x” to fix this problems –and at which time the public will say ” hey why didn’t those stupid politicians plan for this”

    well they did and you all nixed it.

    IF californians can’t get their shit together to something as simple as a railroad. Then I pland to just drive everywhere, burn as much petroleum as possible, smog up the air, then retire elsewhere. Ungrateful people are a waste of time.

    lex luther Reply:

    @john….try to remember you are talking to a bunch of train enthusiasts who probably have model trains in their basements and practically climax at the thought of HSR running in California and without a doubt union workers who would benefit financially from HSR. Its not about national pride or being up to par with europe or asia, its about money. Its not about green jobs or the environment as they are willing to sacrifice the environment and sidestep CEQA and sell pollution credits when it comes to constructing the train. its not even about Dem or Repub, as they attack Dems who have questions about funding for the train. bottom line, they dont care about anything except what they want.

    jimsf Reply:

    Most of the people here are NOT “train enthusiasts” any more than you are a “car enthusiast” or a plane “enthusiasts. High speed rail simply makes a great deal of sense for California. If you weren’t so stuck on stupid you’d see that.

    BrianR Reply:

    maybe pedestrians and people that walk could be derided as biased “walking enthusiasts” too.

    jimsf Reply:

    You sound like you like being a bitch for the oil companies as you likely oppose anything that would get you an out from being their bitch. You like it that way. Never mind how much they gouge you, never mind how many of your neighbors kids will die in wars for you, no matter how many people suffer worse health consequences from poor valley air quality. As long as you can oppose progress so that you can be “right” you feel satisfied.

    Please enlighten us and propose your plan here, for accomodating californias future growth, and the the cost breakdown of such a plan. Be sure to include in your notes, how you will lay a foundation to bring all the regions into the economic fold and provide for good transport options for all regions. Solutions should include, reduced travel times, reduced pollution, and increased connectivity:

    WE eagerly await your plan:

    lex luther Reply:

    Wow. now its about wars and neighbors kids dying for oil, or people suffering from poor air quality. how many more reasons will you come up with to try to guilt trip anyone who opposes spending billions on trains while…

    16,000 students are being sent notices that enrollment in CSU is suspended http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/20/local/la-me-cal-state-20120320

    over 30,000 felons are being let back onto our streets because of realignment
    http://www.ccpoa.org/news/tags/tag/realignment

    state parks have been closed because of lack of funds
    http://www.sierrajournal.com/2011/05/13/70-california-state-parks-to-close-under-governor-browns-budget/

    education has been cut and so has public health
    http://www.scpr.org/news/2012/01/05/30670/gov-jerry-browns-budget-be-released-early-after-it/

    and the list goes on and on….but facts dont matter to you or the people who are like you…its just build trains out of monopoly money, create debt piled upon debt that you old timers dont have to worry about because you wont be here to see the effect.

    jimsf Reply:

    You didn’t answer the question.

    jimsf Reply:

    you don’t want to pay for transportation? Well tranportation is useful to me. I think parents should pay for their own kids educations. Why should I pay for that? Why should I pay to keep drug addicts in jail. If people want to use drugs I don’t care. Its a free country. State parks could re open if they charged enough for admission to cover their costs. Why should people who dont use parks pay for them? And your concern with public health leads me to assume you are for single payer universal health care – so Ill vote for universal health care if you vote for hsr. an even trade.

    But you aren’t – you want me to pay for all that other crap for other people, but not expect other pay to pay for anything that is of use to me. forget it. you either make a deal , or no deal at all. thats the way it works.

    lex luther Reply:

    then why should i pay for a train if i know myself or my family will NEVER use it. why should people in alaska and florida and all 50 states have to pay for transportation for you?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    On the first, same reason we all should invest in economically beneficial public infrastructure, because we want our children and our grand children to inherit a stronger economy than we inherited, rather than the run down mess we are presently leaving them.

    On the second, same reason ~ I far rather my federal government funds more efficient transport infrastructure in California, than less efficient transportation infrastructure in California. Though given that California is a net tax donor state, how much California is using “my” tax dollars is a debatable point.

    jimsf Reply:

    exactly

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Ask Chris Christie.

    He’s the one that blew up the ARC tunnel under the Hudson that is primarily used by commuters from New Jersey into New York because it was “too expensive”. Then Amtrak came back and said they would do some semblance of the project to advance their needs for Acela. So unless you pay taxes in New Jersey, you just got rolled by Gov. Christie.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I can see the campaign ads on the trains now. “You can thank Governor Christie for this overcrowded train” Rush hour trains are standing room only as far out as Summit and Metropark. Or the ad along the New Jersey Turnpike, the one you can spend lots of time reading as you sit in traffic for the tunnel. “Thanks to Governor Christie traffic on this road is much worse than it would have been with the new train tunnels” 45 minute delays at rush hour are normal.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The great thing about the billboard is how many people would get to see it and stare at it while idling.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    How about Amtrak billboards instead that advertise “Acela” and other high speed services? That would be even better.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They do. They also advertise on the liners in the TSA bins. If I remember correctly “Take your shoes off, but only if you want to”

    BrianR Reply:

    @lex luther,

    how do you know your family, your children or your children’s children will NEVER use HSR? Are you going to threaten them if they do? Maybe disown them or write them out of your inheritance? They must be thrilled if you dictate every damn thing in their life like that. I suppose you may tell them what cities they can and cannot live in. Must feel special being the “person in charge”!

    And also, in case you didn’t realize; California contributes a far larger share to federal revenues than we ever get back in services relative to our population. I believe Alaskans receive the largest share of subsidies per individual of any state in the nation. California is the 8th largest economy in the world after all and it’s about time we get our share of federal investment. We pay taxes too you know.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Les, you won’t like what I’m about to say, but those guilt trips are based on fact. We drive too much, and our oil dependency, or as a “conservative,” Republican president called it, our “oil addiction,” is driven by that. Until recently, the transportation sector was something like 65% of oil demand; it’s still about 50%, maybe a bit more. As another Republican candidate has put it, you can’t put a windmill on a car, and it’s an even bigger problem for an airplane.

    Now, you undoubtedly are gung-ho on electric cars. That’s fine as far as it goes, but there are other problems that doesn’t address. Those other problems includes traffic congestion (unless you’re anticipating that the high price for gasoline eventually solves that problem), traffic safety (drunks and idiots can wreck electric cars as well as gas jobs), and problems with the capacities of even decent drivers (I personally face this one, with failing night vision and leg cramps on trips longer than an hour or so).

    Electric cars also bring a new problem, or amplify an existing one, that of increasing car efficiency. Most states tax motor fuel at a fixed amount per gallon, not a fixed percentage; sell fewer gallons, road revenue falls. An electric car, or a hybrid in electric mode, burns no gasoline at all; financially, it’s a freeloader as far as the highway department’s revenues are concerned, and worsens the situation for the remaining oil-burners, which currently will shoulder more of the burden.

    As it is, your gas taxes, on average, now pay less than half the cost of the road system, based on cash flow. Correcting that would add at least another 50 cents per gallon to the $4.00 or so you are paying now, and that doesn’t address deferred maintenance, the cost of emergency response teams, or compromises to designs due to budget limits. I estimate those alone would add another 50 cents per gallon, and I haven’t begun on the externalities, such as air pollution and a share of the oil fights we have to deal with.

    By contrast, rail service–both local stuff, like commuter and transit operations, including trolley cars, and regional and long-distance operations, including HSR, offer the possibility of knocking a dent in the oil problem, and in the other problems as well.

    Trains are comfortable to ride, much safer than cars, and allow you to do other things with the trip besides drive. Rail operations mostly cover a higher proportion of their costs than the highway system does (dinosaur Amtrak has something like a 70% or better cost recovery ratio based on passengers alone, not including some other deals like rent and advertising in stations).

    And we train nuts–and I have to admit to being one, and a steam fan at that–are not the only ones who see these things. Just ask Robert, Paulus, Bruce, Alon, and especially Donk (whom I unfortunately annoy at times with steam tales), all of whom come not as amateur historians and steam nuts like me, but as people who come from environmental and economic backgrounds. They see the practical reasons for this, as do I, even if I have the crazy background that I do!

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Fine…You want a plan that works, here it is.

    Bigger planes, more roads, bigger airports and most importantly use technology like telecomuting to reduce the need for trips altogether. How many trips are already not being taken because of videoconference. In 20-30 years imagine what the technology could be and how many trips may not be necessary.

    You want to reduce greenhouse gases, give power companies block grants to get rid of coal plants and replace with hydro, nuclear, and natural gas

    Want to reduce congestion….tax gas and make it artificially expensive (also reduces greenhouse emissions and encourages telecommuting).

    Trains are an old technolgy and a romantic idea, they are not state of the art. If we already had the infastructure (like in Japan and Europe) then I would see the case for HSR being much stronger, but that is not the case. In the US the infastructure is already in cars and individual convinience. Sorry, that is just a fact

    jimsf Reply:

    so are you saying that americans are not a strong enough people to make changes? And I’m especially concerned about ;ex’ concern for the kids, since the increase in childhood asthma in the valley is alarming and you are advocating more roads and bigger planes… but you two can discuss that I guess.

    As for new hydro and nuclear power. I’m all for it. But where is that going? so far no where. and those things don’t help speed up travel times.

    lex luther Reply:

    im for hydro and nuclear plants, but the environmental lobby will scream about it… if you want to encourage more telecommuting, then we should offer tax incentives to businesses that use it…bigger planes inbetween LA and SF, not needed. there would be alot of empty seats

    as far as speeding up travel times, HSR is not for freight or commuting, so less travel time is more of a personal convenience issue. have patience instead, its cheaper

    jimsf Reply:

    No. We are a far wealthy enough state to afford a good rail transport system. And this system as designed makes a great deal of sense logistically. The bottom line, is that it puts more then two two of the states people, within very convenient access to each other , and theireconomic opportunities, it ties the key regions together, it will be a huge plus for tourism, one of our most important industries and largest employers, its clean and fast, and it does what neither air or car can do, its faster than driving and serves more city pairs than flying. As someone who has to spend all day everyday figuring out how to get tourists, commuters, leisure travelers, students, business people, and families, from point a in california to point b in california, I can tell you that this system will be a revolutionary change to travel in california and californias deserve it. They understood that when they voted for it, in spite of the nasty politics that have enused ( the same politics that ensue everytime we do anything in california). good transportation is what greases the wheels of the economy.
    telecommuting can only serve a tiny segment of the workforce. Nor is that even the point. californians are a highly mobile people and they want to go MORE places and they want to do it more quickly. they don’t want to sit in longer traffic jams, they dont’ want to travel an hour or more to the nearest airport and spend hours schlepping through the flying process.

    Its a good idea and its a good plan.
    t

    lex luther Reply:

    wealthy state? not according to the governor

    california is a car culture state, and you wont get mass amounts of people out of their cars. its a matter of convenience. cars take you from door to door while trains take you from station to station

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    which is why the airports in California are nearly deserted. why would anyone fly when they could just drive

    jimsf Reply:

    especially since flying is so frightfully convenient. The great thing about flying is that most people live at least 45 minutes in traffic from the nearest airport – so you get the convenience of driving plus the convenience of flying! ITs great!. Plus you get to pay for parking and gas, baggage fees, pay for that overpriced delish airport food, plus the herding process, the comfy roomy coach seat, free plastic cup of sprite. Then your friend at the other end gets to also enjoy the convenience of driving, while schlepping out to LAX on the 405 to get you ( they always thank you for that because who doesn’t love a afternoon jaunt up the 405!)

    yes its all about the fact that californians love the convenience of our current transport network indeed!

    joe Reply:

    You forgot the free rubber glove with possible body cavity search or porn-o scanner – sometimes both!

    Nathanael Reply:

    The state’s wealthy, but thanks to the 2/3 provisions in Prop 13 (among other things) the government’s share of the wealth to use for public works has been continuously declining, while the share hoarded by a small rich elite of corporate bosses has been rising.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The problem with nuclear is general incompetence of management, which leads to stuff like Fukushima. Better to use more foolproof methods of energy generation, even if they’re somewhat more expensive. California is a *great* state for solar power. Hydro is good too where you’ve got the right sort of rivers.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Oh, and coastal wave power actually works now, having been debugged in Scotland, so California might want to build some of that….

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    American’s can change if they desire it….right now there is not enough desire. You have to generate that through pain (taxes and high prices) or carrots (incentives to telecomute, etc.). I will use myself as an example. I live alone, just myself and no one else. I commute 10 minutes (3 miles) to work every morning. I have a “cute-ute” SUV that gets 20-24 MPG. You could increase Gas prices 3X and i would still take my own car to work because the convinience of coming and going as I please outweights the cost of both lower gas and having to accomodate any car pool schedule. I have no “desire” to change even though my company offers many incentives to car pool. My individual convinience outweights all that.

    So if you want Ameican’s to change you have to overcome that problem. It is not evil, it is just inertia and social engineering. American’s expect to be able to go anywhere at any time without waiting. We are not going to give that up easily

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Of course. And I can tell you I’d still not own a car even at $1/gallon gas, because where I live walking is sufficiently convenient there’s no point in getting a car. However, there are a lot of people on the margin for whom these taxes would matter.

    On top of this, once people on the margin switch, it causes urban commuting patterns to change. It means there’s more political incentive for zoning boards to reduce or repeal parking minimums and for employers not to provide free parking, and this raises the cost of driving more and reduces its convenience if you have to park far away. It means more people are ready to take transit so that employers would build new office space to be transit-oriented rather than auto-oriented. Likewise, supermarkets change to be more useful to people who do not have cars – they go to more central locations, and perhaps offer free delivery for large purchases rather than free parking.

    All of this is completely tentative, of course. Transit cities have cars, and people who use them. In a lot of them, cars are actually very convenient if you can afford them, because the taxes on driving keep the roads clear. They all have suburban employment centers and most people who work in the suburbs drive, though by a much smaller margin than in the US.

    nick Reply:

    why cant you walk or go by bike if its only 3 miles ?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Three miles is a fairly substantial walk, especially in extremes of weather, and biking isn’t safe everywhere or for everyone (after three or four broken bones on bikes, I haven’t touched one in 12 years).

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Ouch. Its a shame that safe transport cycling classes aren’t more widely available.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Ouch. Its a shame that safe transport cycling classes aren’t more widely available.

    No, I just had the bicycle from Calvin and Hobbes, actively trying to kill me. That and I’m really good at breaking bones; my last one (not by bike) should’ve been impossible.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Many roads are a danger to bike on.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Indeed, and even more are a danger to walk on.

    jimsf Reply:

    In sf, I didnt not own a car. Im in the valley now. I actually live closer to work now… a 15 minute walk – than I did in sf, ( a 30 minute walk or 10 minutes by metro/walk) But I would never walk to work here.

    If the current population of california remained static. and the demographics never changed, then we could all muddle along and get used to what we have. Of course that won’t be the case. The population will increase and the demographics are changing. No longer will 20th century white car centric baby boomers be the majority. Instead younger people, and a more international demographic will be the majority and they will be more open living differently. The system is basically being built for them, not us, and they will also be the ones who pay for it. (which is fair since they will be the ones who benefit from it) Its our responsibility to to plan for that future, just like my grandparents and great grandparents, californians, supported things like the highway system the central valley project, ( shata dam oroville dam etc) the california aqueduct, the bay and golden gate bridges ( built in a depression) all of the things we take for granted. all of the things that allowed california to become a world economic player. We have been able to ride that wave, while refusing to invest in it any further and refusing to to leave such a legacy for the next generation. It comes out of the selfishness of the 60s and 70s in part, and its greased by a media message that says “hey why should you pay for that you got yours, let them get their own” which lets us off the hook.
    I know people don’t want to change. No one likes it. but you can’t pretend its not necessary and for christs sake, of all the things we need to do, building a high speed train is a pretty simple pill to swallow. I mean its just a freaking train people. Not the coming of the anti christ.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “I actually live closer to work now… a 15 minute walk – than I did in sf, ( a 30 minute walk or 10 minutes by metro/walk) But I would never walk to work here.”

    Sidewalks matter.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Those gas taxes would do a lot to induce a mode shift, actually. The market for train travel at $4 gas is already larger than it was at $1 gas, and it’ll only get bigger if pollution and carbon taxes drive up gas to $8.

    It’s not really true of Europe, but Japan and the larger cities in the rest of East Asia got their transit ridership precisely because early on they taxed driving (usually not gas, but rather parking, cars, or road usage), giving cities more time to build good rapid transit.

    Neither trains nor cars are state of the art, and there’s nothing wrong with that. People tend to think that everything should work like computer tech, especially in countries where public goods of all kinds are so awful that people hang all their hopes on Google fixing everything. In reality, JR East doesn’t build devices or write operating systems, and Microsoft and Apple don’t run transportation. Once you remain in the realm of transportation, you see that pretty much everything is just tweaks to ideas developed a hundred years ago.

    joe Reply:

    Gas tax is regressive.

    An equally effective way to induce use of public transit/mode shift is to lower the cost of public transit.

    And not do full cost recovery on rail.

    And we don’t do cost recovery with automobile infrastructure anyway.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    How regressive the gas tax is depends on how it is spent.

    Derek Reply:

    The gas tax isn’t regressive, because poor people don’t buy gas.

    But poor people still pay sales taxes, which is all too often used to supplement gas tax revenues to build freeways. So if you’re concerned about the poor, you should be in favor of raising the gas tax!

    Spokker Reply:

    Do cost recovery with both highways and transit with highways above 100% and transit below 100%, but not below 50%.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The burden of pollution is even more regressive.

    joe Reply:

    False choice.

    I can lower pollution with progressive policies.

    Subsidized public transit with lower fares to attract riders has the same economic effect as congestion pricing. It’s progressive, not regressive.

    SF would be better off by cutting MUNI fares and drawing away drivers. $1 and free rides with student ID during the weekdays between 6 am and 8PM.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, you can’t. You’re not going to reduce driving or pollution unless you make it harder to drive and pollute. Making alternatives more convenient is just part of it, and subsidizing the fare is the last thing you’d want to do. Muni is already way cheaper than driving; you want it to be more useful than driving, and this means more coverage, more frequency, subways that make sense, etc. And it also means market-rate parking, tolls, pollution taxes, etc. There are a lot of people who will still drive, and you want to make sure they drive small cars 10,000 km a year rather than US-sized cars 20,000 km a year.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Hudson River tolls don’t seem to be making much of a dent in congestion. Congestion pricing has to be really really painful to reduce congestion. First step would be to tax gas enough to pay for roads and maintenance, down to county roads at the very least.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    First step would be to remove the exemption from sales tax, so that the gas tax is not a diversion from the general fund but an actual additional user fee.

    Second step would be to raise the gas tax high enough to fund the external costs that the drivers impose on others.

    Then comes adding the user fee on top to pay for the roads maintenance.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    you see that pretty much everything is just tweaks

    Windows 8. XP service pack 27 with touch screen interface welded on….

    Nathanael Reply:

    John, several of those are impossible.

    “More roads” has failed; we’ve reached the point where it doesn’t help. Add a lane, spend $100 billion dollars doing so, see it fill up in a week, Demolishing housing, industries, commerce, and agricultural land for ever-wider, ever-wider, ever-wider roads has severely hurt the places where it’s been done. We can’t even afford to maintain the roads we already have, and the price of maintenance is only going up (asphalt == oil).

    “Bigger aircraft” is impossible. We’re hitting the limit; bigger simply means less fuel-efficient after a while. Meanwhile, aircraft fuel prices go up (aircraft fuel == oil) and the airlines have cut service quality about as much as they can manage. We could keep them going a while longer with large government subsidies, of course, but the fundamental trend of oil scarcity means they’re in trouble.

    “Bigger airports” — where? Airports are already ending up so far out of town that you practically need a train to get to the airport (see Denver). This is just another form of “more roads”.

    Telecommuting will have an impact and an important one, but unfortunately a lot of work still needs to be done in person (manufacturing industries? service industries?). Yes, we could build “company housing” next to the factories and restaurants, and that might be wise.

    But first, a lot of people won’t want to live in the “company housing”, and second, people employed at different places will still want to visit each other (and visit restaurants, and clubs, and museums, and parks, and events.) Yes, some social activity will be replaced by online activity — but an awful lot won’t be. People will still want to actually touch their family members and will still want to go out to actual live events (records didn’t kill the concert industry, did they?)

    Can the demand for actual physical transportation of people be reduced to the level where it can all be handled with electric cars, on smaller roads than today? Perhaps, but I seriously doubt it. Perhaps if there’s a major reduction in population.

    Donk Reply:

    lex, you’ve got it all wrong. True train enthusiasts with trainsets in their garages like the steam trains of yore, and somehow have an aversion to HSR. There are a few of those people here, but most are more interested in urban planning and the environment.

    jimsf Reply:

    and some of us don’t have trains in our basement ( homes in california rarely have basements) nor do we care about urban planning and the environment…. no… some of us just want a freakin faster more comfortable way to get to as many places around the state as we can so we can do what we wanna do with quickly with a minimum of hassle.

    Jonathan Reply:

    I knew a Californian who had a steam-train in his back yard…. e19th-century narrow-gauge, ex-quarry. he used an internal-combustion-engine shunter rather than certify the boiler. He wasn’t particuarly in favor of HSR.

    This assertion, that those in favor of HSR are train-freak foamers, or have model trains in their basement/garage/whatever, is a transparently dishonest stereotype. It’s the same emotional appeal as those who attempt to put down HSR by calling it a “choo-choo”. High-speed rail hasn’t gone “choo-choo” since the days of the DRG BR 05 and LNER’s Mallard. Hint: both from before the Second World War.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Where did the “Kopp has been corrupted” come from?

    As you say, Kopp was instruments in getting the original plan through, and has from the start pushed for the costly and inefficient approach of dedicated HSR corridor through urban areas.

    I don’t see why anyone who has advocated the HSR project and argued that Kopp’s approach was not the most efficient way to implement it should now have to switch to agreeing with Kopp, simply because the Business Plan has been revised to take that criticism into account.

    That would be just shifting arguments in mid-stream in order to continue having something to complain about.

    As far as the tea party ~ there is the matter of whether you judge them by what they say or what they do. What they do, since they have taken power in a large number of states, is slash public capital investment and pass measures to control women’s lady bits.

    As far as the House GOP caucus, they have been a lap dog of the tea party ~ just look at how they got their fingers burned in the debt ceiling debacle. They seem to be divided between those who are tea party types themselves, and those who are afraid of having to face a tea party type in a primary. And that fear is well-founded: given the massive gerrymandering in our political system, a majority of either caucus are in greater danger of losing their seat to being primaried than to losing their seat to the opposition party.

    Pretending that this post is arguing as if Simitian “has been corrupted” is absurd. Simitian has been acting this way for years, and Cruickshank has been criticizing him for this behavior for years.

    The LAO has had flimsy arguments in their prior HSR analyses, and given that precedent, their arguments this time around would attract serious scrutiny from a serious good government watchdog group. A serious good government watchdog groups would be quite a good thing in this situation, where pro-HSR advocates focus on anti-HSR shenanigans and anti-HSR advocates like CARRD focus on pro-HSR shenanigans.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Kopp got his plan approved in a law….not the blended approach. I know you are arguing to “showhorn it in” but that was the vision of the law that was passed. Now when he mentions it is not within the law that was passed (a law he helped write) you and other on this board are more than happy to call him “unrealistic” or whatever.

    My point is simple….it is not a vast and complex plot. People on both sides of the political spectrum have fair questions

    BruceMcF Reply:

    My point is also simple: its easier to argue against a fictional version of this post which says that “its a vast and complex plot” than against the post at hand, and so that it what you are doing.

    Kopps repeated claims about what got passed into law is not the same as what did: when subject to dispute, then what actually got passed into law is determined by judicial review.

    I’ve seen several prior and confidently asserted claims about what “the law says” regarding one or another aspect of this project get shot down in court already, so I’m not accepting an assertion from a pro partisan or an anti partisan just because it is asserted with confidence.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    My post is not just about Kopps. Perhaps we are off track a little. My point was that supports like to argue that everyone against the plan (including Kopps) are part of some tea party conspiricy.

    Be honest, don’t you think that a reasonable person could look at the state of the plan and draw a conclusion we should not build. Not that you draw that conclusion, but that it is not un-reasonable to draw that conclusion.

    I am just trying to say that it undercuts the arguments for the HSR when everyone who is against it is called unreasonable. That was my original point.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    My point was that supports like to argue that everyone against the plan (including Kopps) are part of some tea party conspiracy.

    Yes, that’s clever: if person A points out that some opponents are tea party types, and person B claims that all opponents are tea party types, by the principle of assuming it makes it so, person A really meant that all opponents are tea party types.

    Tea party types really do oppose HSR. They do so in part because its a natural position for the kind of people susceptible to becoming tea party types. They also do so because the content sources for the echo chambers like Reason and Heritage and Cato came up with talking points, and political partisans promoted it for partisan political reasons.

    And if you go into some online circles, the vast majority of opposition you will encounter will be those same echo chamber talking points. So its not surprising if some supporters fall into the reverse implication fallacy ~ just because A implies B, does not mean that B implies A. Just because tea party supporters noisily oppose HSR, often on the base of flat out lies and distortions, does not imply that all HSR opponents are tea party supporters.

    As to the conclusion of a reasonable person ~ it depend on whether they are equally willing to look critically at arguments for and against the plan, wouldn’t it?

    The fact that the LAO tacitly assumed that there is no risk in continued exclusive reliance on the status quo system in reaching its prior negative finding, and continues that tacit assumption, certainly does not prove that there is a conspiracy to arrive at a foregone conclusion. It could just be that the people they have doing these analyses are just blind to the status quo risks, and the person reviewing it is equally blind.

    But I don’t really much care whether the LAO is being incompetent or whether their conclusions have been rigged ~ or whether its been rigged by assigning it to an analyst with a known blind spot. Its an equally slipshod risk analysis either way.

    And I think that a dispassionate third party observer would discount the recent LAO analysis, given that it does quite clearly completely ignore status quo risk.

    CARRD, of course, didn’t seem care last year when the LAO put out a one-sided risk analysis with no serious assessment of status quo risk. They were happy to sign onto that absurd neo-Ricardian equivalence argument that there would be no positive employment impact from the program. They seem to like to pose as critical watchdogs of the HSR program ~ but are happy to accept flimsy arguments so long as they are anti-the-currently-proposed HSR.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I would distinguish between “principled tea party” types, who have already rejected the Republican Party entirely — and the “astroturf tea party” types who constitute the majority of “tea party” types now and pretty much take marching orders from the Reason/Heritage/Cato/ALEC propaganda manfacturers.

    The “principled” types are probably in echo chambers too, but they noticed at some point that the propaganda they were being subjected to was *inconsistent*, with Republican leaders arguing whichever side of an issue helped give more money to rich people this week.

    The other types, the vast majority, simply haven’t noticed the inconsistencies.

  6. lex luther
    Apr 18th, 2012 at 09:11
    #6

    Asking for HSR to follow the law, the CEQA, and for a new ridership study to be redone isnt asking for much.

    Jonathan Reply:

    A new ridership study? again? Ah, I see Lex “Martin” Luther is familiar with “secret of success in econometrics” (per the great Lobachevsky). Study the data, study the data, .. again and again, _until you get the answer you want_.

  7. Pecos
    Apr 18th, 2012 at 09:20
    #7

    ” There are a lot of things that Japan and Europe have that I am happy America does not the least of which is a larger national debt (as a percentage of GDP) and a Euro crisis due to public debt.”
    True, however, the EU is made up of different countries run by their own governments with completely different ways of doing business. The US is made up of states which are not completely autonomous compared to how Europe is set up. There is more than one country in Europe that is doing very well economically and will continue to do so if the Euro breaks up.
    All we want is an efficient, cheaper, and more comfortable way to travel shorter distances and the current system of 45 minute flights taking 2+ hours because of time spent in an airport is just kind of ridiculous. This is not going to save the environment. Cars running on cleaner energy sources would help a lot more. If I wanted to visit someone in Fresno from SF, I’d rather take a 2 hour train ride than drive for 4 and spend $100+ on gas to do it.
    Besides, you can’t drink and drive. You can bring beer, wine, or scotch on a train plus you don’t have to wear a seatbelt. Come on now. You can even bring a large container of water.

    lex luther Reply:

    lmao!! youre whole argument went right out the window when you said you “cant drink and drive” as a plus for having a highspeed rail…wow go have a scotch

    and by the way, cars running on electricity provided by major polluters like PG&E doesnt help the environment.

    jimsf Reply:

    I am voting against school funding and against school lunches. Feed your own damn kids.

    lex luther Reply:

    lol the true nature of the pro HSR folks is finally revealed

    jimsf Reply:

    explain to me why I should pay to feed your kids.

    lex luther Reply:

    because i pay social security and medicare so people like yourself can collect later

    lex luther Reply:

    besides my kids dont get free lunches. but there are many kids who do need them. but i suppose you have no problem letting children starve so you can ride the train

    jimsf Reply:

    When was the last time a child in california died of starvation? Now who’s being hysterical? lol. Parents should pay for their kids or or keep their legs closed if they can’t afford them. You sound like a socialist to me.

    Or perhaps its just that you believe in supporting things politically, that you think are in your interest, but clearly do not believe in supporting that are not.

    Well guess what, so do most people. Now if you want to make a deal we can do that. But what goes around comes around sweetcheeks.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Thanks for making this point very clearly:

    “Or perhaps its just that you believe in supporting things politically, that you think are in your interest, but clearly do not believe in supporting that are not.”

    Indeed, we all support things we think are good and oppose things we think aren’t good…

    “Well guess what, so do most people. Now if you want to make a deal we can do that. But what goes around comes around sweetcheeks.”

    Indeed, there are things which I will never benefit from or which I even think are actively bad (the US subsidies for the arms industry, the disastrously pointless failed invasions of foreign countries, US funding for the Likud government of Israel, all come to mind) but I’m willing to make a deal to go along with those things if other people want them — if the other people will agree to help support the things I will benefit from (single-payer healthcare, good passenger trains, sidewalks…). That’s politics. In fact, my grudging support for Obama in 2008 came from making that calculation: he promised some things I liked and some things I detested, but I figured it was an OK tradeoff. (He reneged on several of the good ones and NONE of the bad ones, so I’m not so sure now… but still better than McCain’s promises.)

    BruceMcF Reply:

    A country that spends 4%+ of GDP on direct purchases of “Defense” related goods and services doesn’t actually have to decide between paying for transport infrastructure and funding school lunch programs.

    It may face a decision between investing in useful infrastructure now and not being able to afford the luxury of spending that much on “Defense” in ten or twenty years, but compared to bombs, school lunch programs are pretty damn cheap.

    Donk Reply:

    My wife teaches elementary school in a low income neighborhood. All of the kids get free breakfast and lunches. However, many of the parents drive Lexuses and have iphones, but still expect free lunches. None of them are starving, its more that their parents are irresponsible and would rather feed them Cheetos than give them a healthy meal.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    In days of yore it was American made goods, Cadillacs and color TVs.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Strange how everyone has a relative who knows of these abuses of the system – never the actual poster. Strange also that these irresponsible parents all choose to buy just one Foreign model of car – from what seventy-five different makes? No BMWs, No Jaguars, No Acuras? No Cadillacs?
    “None of them are starving” – well isn’t that a good thing?
    So what exactly has the abuse of alleged benefits got to do with the high speed rail? Are we planning state-mandated school trips?

    joe Reply:

    Come on Dong.

    First a cell phone isn’t a sign of wealth – it’s necessity of you work and have a kid in school.
    As for Lexus driving welfare queens – it used to be a stereotype with a Cadillac. My how Detroit has fallen.

    I’d lump that story with the ones that tell me school teachers are over paid and lazy and the reason our kids are not learning.

    Jonathan Reply:

    @TrentBridge: “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
    Ronald Reagan’s mythological Welfare Queen allegedly drove a Cadillac. You can Google it,
    [[I don't know how to embed links in this POS-for-people-who-cant-grok-WFFS or lexically-scoped HTML.]]

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Jonathan, I just copy and past links, let people search them that way. Just make sure the link is “clean” (not enclosed in parenthesis, like this phrase); I also make sure there is a blank line above and below the link. Also, the spam filter here normally lets you post no more than three links per post; sometimes a few more have gotten in, but don’t ask me how that happens.

    Anyway, is this the sort of thing you were looking for and had a little trouble getting up?

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/04/06/1081209/-Reagan-s-Legacy-and-Other-Myths

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/23/politics/weflare-queen/index.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_queen

    Donk Reply:

    joe, I just gave two examples, out of many others. And yes, if you can’t afford to feed your kid, then you shouldn’t have a data plan on an iPhone. Period. Use that extra $30/month to buy food and get a basic phone instead. We are basically paying for that person’s data plan. I know several people who do not have data plans because they are too expensive. They choose to feed themselves first and do not expect handouts from others.

    The free school breakfast/lunch is highly abused and should be audited.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How do you know they have a data plan or that it’s even their phone. Many employers supply their employees with sophisticated cell phones. Some supply them with nice cars so they can impress the customers when they drive up.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Donk, if this $30 a month is in place of a $50/month home wi-fi plan…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The duopolies usually, but not always, offer something like $10 lower speed broadband for households that are eligible for free school lunch.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Cell phones are *literally* a requirement for many low-end jobs; they won’t even take your application if you don’t have a cell phone number.

    Frightening but true, as several of my friends have told me.

    And you have no way of knowing whether these people you’re looking at have a data plan. But some basic data plans are very cheap.

    Donk Reply:

    Come on people, stop making up excuses. If you get an iPhone on AT&T or Verizon, you HAVE to have a data plan. The cheapest data plans on AT&T and Verizon, last time I checked, were $25 and $30/month. My point here is simple – if you can’t feed your kids, don’t drive a goddamn luxury car or have a fancy cell phone.

    jimsf Reply:

    Excuse me but I won’t get social security, Ill get railroad retirement – which by the way is NOT funded by taxpayers but funded entirely by the railroads themselves and the employees. Im also very well insured.

    You accuse others of being socialist then you want me to pay for other peoples kids lunches and education. please. and you still haven’t explained how, if we dont have money for hsr, then where do you expect to get money for our transport needs of the future. Just kick the ball down the road and leave the mess for the next generation to figure out no doubt.

    lex luther Reply:

    ahhh railroad retirement. you think your years on the job means that the country owes you, gives you that sense of entitlement that you would have taxpayers for generations pay for a train just so you can get HSR built?? your a wack job

    jimsf Reply:

    the taxpayers don’t fund railroad retirement. Railroad workers and companies fund it and invest that money wisely, so that workers, generally after a 30 year or more working lifetime on the job, can have the pension they in fact paid for.

    And you are either ignoring the point or actually to stupid to catch it, the point being that we all pay for other peoples stuff and that the way that gets done is called politics. Its the method by which I say Ill vote for your thing and you vote for mine and we’ll move forward. That breaks down once one side says I only want mine but screw yours. Which was what I was pointing out. I guess it went over your head.

    In other words, don’t bring your tired loudmouthed ass to this blog and accuse people of being this that and the other, when you in fact are no different.

    lex luther Reply:

    no kidding. we all pay for things others use, however how the money is being used deserves scrutiny and if its not as advertised, its hsould be voted on. the current HSR plan is way over what california voters said yes to, so if your so confident that the majority wants it, lets revote with the “actual” amount” that its going to cost and see what happens

    jimsf Reply:

    If you want a revote then go try to get one if you think you have enough support to do so. I think you will be disappointed.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Indeed, democracy is good. Feel free to try to get a revote on the ballot. We would see who has mkore supporters then.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I mean, hell, Seattle’s currently doing a really really really badly thought out road project (the “Deep Bore Tunnel”), which is basically Boston’s Big Dig all over again. There was a lot of opposition, and the mayor finally put it on the ballot for an up-or-down vote, and the locals voted to keep it.

    The opposition, being honest, said “OK. We tried.”

    William Reply:

    @lex luther

    All your argument to not fund HSR is that you don’t see you and your family would use use it. The same argument can be used by other people to not fund the basic infrastructure such as road, airport, freeway, (if in LA) California Aquaduct, etc… near your house and workplace that other tax-paying people have very little chance of using it.

    Short of being anti-immigrant and advocate “no-growth” to solve transportation issue, we simply cannot build more freeways and airports to solve transportation issues. HSR is the best solution to solve inter-region transportation needs.

    lex luther Reply:

    how do you figure that? its $69 to fly southwest airlines one way from L.A. to S.F.

    at last report, the train is $105 ONE WAY, and takes more time than a plane

    William Reply:

    All figures from the CAHSRA report are YOE dollars, not 2012 dollars.

    HSR ticket is “purposely” set to be 70% of airline ticket. Please try again in 5~6 years to see if your price still hold.

    If CAHSR has a fix price system, you can buy tickets for the same price minutes before you board the train as you would one week before.

    If CAHSR has an airline syle yield-management system, the price would be more expensive than airlines if the trains are full, otherwise it would be cheaper, and cheaper still for advanced purchase ticket.

    DavidM Reply:

    Try getting a $69 ticket for tomorrow. More like $180.

    jimsf Reply:

    According to expedia, if I want to fly from fresno to anahiem right now its 847 dollars ONE WAY.with a three hour trip time, not counting TSA ( one hour) and travel time to the airport (one hour 10 minutes) total travel time, nearly 5.5 hours at a cost of 847 one way.

    jimsf Reply:

    With a 7 day advance purchase I can fly to anaheim for 215 ONE WAY, witha 6 hour travel time ( plus and hour for tsa and a 70 minute drive to the airport – total 8+ hours for 215 one way.)

    or for 220 one way, I can do it witha three hour flight plus 2:10 for tsa and driving – total 5.5 hours.

    or I can drive from merced to anaheim in about 5.5 hours if I don’t hit traffic on the 99 or the 5 lol.

    Now, with 7 day advance purchase I can fly for$183 one way to lax from fresno, but it still takes 1:10 to the airport,plus :60 for tsa +plus 1:05 flight time, for a total of 3 hours 15 minutes = fresno to lax for $183 ( plus baggage fees of course)

    or a 5 hour drive.
    problem there is I have never had a need to go to lax. I need to go downtown, or hollywood, or orange county, but never to the greaer el segundo lawndale area. at least not so far in 47 years.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Now, with 7 day advance purchase I can fly for$183 one way to lax from fresno, but it still takes 1:10 to the airport,plus :60 for tsa +plus 1:05 flight time, for a total of 3 hours 15 minutes = fresno to lax for $183 ( plus baggage fees of course)

    I have never had TSA take an hour. 15-30 minutes max and that is during the rush hour.

    problem there is I have never had a need to go to lax. I need to go downtown, or hollywood, or orange county, but never to the greaer el segundo lawndale area. at least not so far in 47 years.

    FLyAway shuttle is $7 to LAUS or $25 to Irvine train station (round trip price I believe).

    jimsf Reply:

    more cost and more time. Its not better than the would be hsr trip from merced to any number of stations that would put me close to any number of socal destinations than lax, at a lower price, and faster, with more convenience.

    jimsf Reply:

    I have never had TSA take an hour. 15-30 minutes max and that is during the rush hour

    no not an hour in line at TSA but the airline requirement is 2 hours prior for international flights and one hour in advance for domestic flights. and thats not for tsa, thats when the airline wants you there to account for problems that arise. They also close the door 10 mintutes prior to departure. You also have to get to the gate. So at minimum any responsible person allows an hour from parking to gate including tsa and baggage check in. still slower, less convenient , and less comfortable, than a hgihspeed rail trip.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I have shown up at JFK 35 minutes before an international flight, multiple times. At no time did they fail to board me except when I was checking in baggage. Some of those times I hadn’t even printed my boarding pass, though I had already checked in online.

    That said, I never plan on getting to the airport 35 minutes before. I plan on an hour, and then get unlucky with trains. Likewise, when I take Amtrak, I plan to get to the station 5-10 minutes before, and get there 1-2 minutes before (and was once denied boarding because I showed up too late to print my ticket at the station).

    blankslate Reply:

    I typically plan on getting to Amtrak 2 minutes prior to departure. I had a Capitol Corridor commute out of Davis for 2 years when I lived a 5-minute bike ride from the train station, and typically was still wrapping up my morning routine at home up to 7 minutes before scheduled departure time… That’s a pretty HUGE advantage over plane travel.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    I feel like a terribly paranoid person now for always planning on getting to the station 10-15 minutes prior.

    Nathanael Reply:

    I have been unable to board an airplane due to arriving at the airport less than one hour before flight time. (Delayed in reaching the airport, I planned to arrive earlier.) Somehow every possible delay happened inside the airport. Only happened once, years ago, but it does happen.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Actually, most of that goes to people on social security and medicare now, the generation that built and maintained the public resources that are currently being taken advantage of but not maintained to pass to the next generation in the same state of good repair.

    Jonathan Reply:

    @BruceMcF:

    The Baby-Boomers, world-wide, have been very good at getting legislation enacted which benefits their cohort. Caiifornia may be an extreme example, with Prop 13. Did you have something else in mind? it isn’t clear from your rather general observation.

    (PS, apologies for calling you a “doofus”. I’m not a native US-english speaker; I may have unwittingly picked a wrong term. My intended point was that even the speeds in question there, _DO NOT_ count as High-Speed Rail. They’re the legacy-rail speeds at which HSR equipment could run, on legacy tracks.)
    And therefore, not a valid metric of the fraction of trips that true HSR could attract.b

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Some baby boomers weren’t old enough to vote when Prop 13 was enacted.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Terms vary from one country to the other ~ in the US, the common mainline speed limit is 79mph, following the regulation half a century ago that running at 80mph or more required PTC. The expectation was that this would force the adoption of PTC on the mainline systems, but,
    it didn’t, since the reaction to the massive subsidy of the trucking industry known as the Interstate Highway System was to focus on rail’s cost per ton advantage and concede time to market niches to trucking.

    Given that common mainline speed, the first HSR act in the 90′s defined HSR as 90mph+, recently tightened to the current two tier plus “getting there” definition of 110mph~125mph for Regional HSR and 125mph+ for Express HSR ~ though of course one wouldn’t go to the extra expanse of Express HSR in pursuit of a 130mph speed limit, so that is in effect more like 150mph+. And 90mph~110mph corridor, which would simply be Express Intercity corridors in countries without the historical accident of the 79mph speed limit, are “emerging HSR”, probably because “catching up to the rest of the industrialized world” would by more controversial.

    As far as what “counts” as HSR, its a semantic argument over what meanings to attach to which labels, so there’s no objectively correct answer independent of the conventions in place for the context of the discussion.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    80-ish is a common speed where countries require the use of cab signals and usually ATS.
    I vaguely remember Alon mentioning it’s 130 KPH in Japan, which is 81 miles an hour.
    When you are clipping along at 80 you can’t see the signals in time to stop. Or if you are clipping along at 80 by the time you see the stop signal it’s too late to stop.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I wasn’t commenting on whether the requirement for some form of PTC at and above 80mph had merit, but on the consequence.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The expectation was that this would force the adoption of PTC…

    The ICC had good reason to require it. I’m sure the railroads were at the hearings whining endlessly that it was a unfunded mandate imposed by the uncaring Federal government. They chose not to install it and in some cases rip it out.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naperville_train_disaster

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I believe Japan has a very small number of legacy lines at 160 km/h. 130 is a limit set by the stopping distance, which is very tight (600 m, vs. 1 km in Germany pre-LZB).

    jimsf Reply:

    and my voting against education spending has nothing to do with hsr. I have always voted against it because we spend too much already. If people have kids, they should pay to support those kids and not burden me with their socialist nonsense.

    lex luther Reply:

    lol then come out against using tax payer funds for HSR…otherwise youre into socialist nonesense right?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I don’t see why when they get into office, its suddenly fine for all these small government types to spend taxpayer funds imprisoning people under arbitrary sentencing guidelines … and push for the privatization of the prisons to give even more guaranteed welfare for the rich …

    … but building intercity transport for less than the status quo alternatives and which can operate at a surplus, unlike the status quo alternatives that are commitments of spending taxpayers funds indefinitely, that is “socialism”.

    lex luther Reply:

    your comparing public safety to public transportation issues. its apples and oranges

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I’m not talking about the rhetoric, I’m talking about the policy actions, so I’m not talking about public safety, I’m talking about policies to suck up tax payer money to funnel it to companies that profit from the prison system.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Why is it apples and oranges? I do not get any direct benefit from public safety for the rich. If the local police department enacts a policy in which it will not fund investigations for theft of larger amounts of money than $100,000, I lose nothing out of it. If it decides to be more aggressive and say it won’t fund investigations for any crimes committed against people making $100,000 a year or more, again it doesn’t directly affect me.

    Of course, there are social benefits to the rule of law. But there are also social benefits to universal public education (from age 0 to the 20s, not just from age 5 to 18), universal public health care, public housing, a social safety net (and not just food stamps that you can’t buy can openers with)…

    Jonathan Reply:

    @lex “Martin” luther:

    Clue-by-four time: The point at han was not_ public safety. The point at hand was about unfunded mandates for harsh, “three-strikes” sentencing (which has not, as far as I can discover, materially affected actual public safety!) combined with a lobbying push for more privatization of prisons. Private prisons? Why stop there, why not contract our your policing, your judicial system. Ooh, here’s a goodie Defense_, yeah, let’s contract that one out.

    jimsf Reply:

    I am for using taxpayer funds for infrastructure. Not for your social programs.

    lex luther Reply:

    a HSR train can be argued as infrastructure, however if you say that transportation = infrastructure, than lets bring out hovercrafts, concorde style commuter planes from SF to LA, a new autobahn style freeway down the middle of the valley with no speed limit, no speed limit carpool lanes, Zip lines and gondolas running over the neighborhoods of SF, SD and LA to get people to destinations faster than bus or bike, and lets spend it all and dont bother with national defense, education, environment, ….just infrastructure….

    jimsf Reply:

    or you can just stop being ridiculous.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Rather than costing less for the same capacity as highways and airport infrastructure, like HSR, that would cost more.

    And faces even more serious petroleum supply risks than the status quo does.

    So, no, lets not bring out hovercrafts, concorde style commuter planes SF to LA, or a new autobahn style freeway, zip lines and gondolas, etc.

    Indeed, since you are the one arguing that California has the luxury of spending on higher prices transport capacity, going even further overboard would be more in line with the anti-HSR position.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Rather than costing less for the same capacity as highways and airport infrastructure, like HSR, that would cost more.

    Come on Bruce, you should know that line from the Authority is a load of shit. It’s comparing maximum theoretical loads (70% train capacity, double length trains every 5 minutes, 365) rather than anything approaching the real world.

    And faces even more serious petroleum supply risks than the status quo does.

    Not a problem with air, commuter rail and transit is more effective at dealing with automobile related petrol supply problems than is HSR.

    So, no, lets not bring out hovercrafts, concorde style commuter planes SF to LA, or a new autobahn style freeway, zip lines and gondolas, etc.

    What about Rotodynes? Can we have Rotodynes?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, I understand the assumption that argument that capacity has no value unless you can guarantee that it will be put to use under some range of current conditions, I just think its a load of nonsense. Having capacity that can be put to use at low marginal cost is an economic advantage.

    I agree that in the possible economic scenarios in which that capacity is not needed as urgently, less of that capacity is likely to be put to use than in possible economic scenarios in which that capacity is needed urgently. That’s the insurance value of not having all of your intercity transport capacity rely on the same strategic resources.

    As far as weighing whether local transport is “more important than” intercity transport in terms of having an effective sustainable transport system ~ its like arguing that a football team should not hire a placekicker because a good quarterback is more important. A sustainable integrated transport system is not going to be made up of a set of one size fits all technologies, it will be made up of technologies that fill their place in the system well.

    And on Rotodynes, no, not Rotodynes. Too damn loud. Find some other kind of autogyro.

    Jonathan Reply:

    @lex luthor: A lesson or trollsL Don’t make i_nstantly-obvious_bogus comparisons.

    Don’t compare HSR _trains_ to Concordes, when the issue is HSR _rail corridors_. The appropriate comparison would be HSR-traciks to roads. No-one expects public roads to make a profit. No-one _really_ expects airports to make a profit (publically-owned airports don’t pay property taxes, and many of the older ones had HUGE public subsides. [[ooh, where's Sobering Reality when it's time to rub his face in WPA paying for the early SFO??]]).

    Nathanael Reply:

    Paulus, I have no idea why you imagine that airplanes are immune to petroleum supply issues.

    As for commuter rail and urban rail, they are complementary to HSR, not alternatives.

    And the CHSRA’s capacity analyses are correct; assuming 70% loads is fair (it’s hard to actually arrange higher loads than that due to uneven loading, but 70% is quite possible), while the rest of the numers do in fact assess maximum *capacity*

    Whether that capacity is needed or useful is a different question. For LA-Central Valley-SF, the capacity needed is large enough that a rail line is cheaper than the road capacity which would be needed without the rail line. For (for example) Portland, OR – Idaho City, the capacity needed is NOT large enough.

    Rail lines do need to go in the right places: relatively high-volume corridors.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Paulus, I have no idea why you imagine that airplanes are immune to petroleum supply issues.

    Because fuel costs are a sufficiently small fraction of overall ticket prices that it would require oil prices to reach economy collapsing levels before it sufficiently impacted prices.

    And the CHSRA’s capacity analyses are correct; assuming 70% loads is fair (it’s hard to actually arrange higher loads than that due to uneven loading, but 70% is quite possible), while the rest of the numers do in fact assess maximum *capacity*

    Maximum capacity is not what would need to be built in the absence of high speed rail, as the Authority falsely claims.

    lex luther Reply:

    when you stop pushing the train only agenda, i will

    BruceMcF Reply:

    So you are making your position dependent upon the opinion of one commentator on a HSR advocacy site?

    A reflexive anti-party line is as unthinking as a reflexive pro-party line.

    jimsf Reply:

    I’m actually not pushing a train only agenda. This just happens to be a high speed train blog, so obviously thats what will be discussed. In fact I support a much grander expenditure on infrastructure that would involved including dedicated trucking lanes on the high speed rail right of way, to remove all trucks from highway 99 A truck expressway that feed into cities via the hsr row. instead of the public highways. and funded by taxpayers and the trucking industry.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Don’t feed the troll…

    This is an HSR blog. I’d _love_ to talk about actual fair-market pricing for road usage:
    1. put a hub-odometer on all diesel-powered heavy goods vehicles;
    2. Read the hub-odometer at state crossings (unfortunately required in multi-state nations)
    3. charge them an _ACTUAL_ fourth-power-of-axle-load mileage charge.

    there are (single-state) countries which did that, 25 years ago.
    Wouldn’t fly here, due to political lobbying pressure. I even wonder what the Supreme Court would say, if a state enacted such legislation. Oooh, wouldn’t that get the knickers of the Far-Right so-called “State’s Rights” lobby into a twist!

    Nathanael Reply:

    Jimsf, I support education spending (but ONLY on public schools, never on parent-chosen private schools) because I don’t think it’s the kids’ fault that they have irresponsible parents, and I want someone to teach them that there is an alternative to being like their parents.

    So, y’know, I’m coming to the opposite conclusion — but from the same starting point as you, hostility to the parents. I thought you might be amused by that.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If the Europeans had issued the same debt at the Eurozone level, and distributed them in block grants to the individual EU countries, there would be no Euro debt crisis today.

    The biggest problem in the Eurozone has been the Germans free riding on the Euro, getting lower exchange rates than they would have had if they had an independent currency, and leveraging those lower exchange rates into exports outside of the Eurozone, combined with German banks offering credit to deficit housing-bubble nations in the Eurozone which boosted their demand for German intra-Eurozone exports.

    Its a structural imbalance which the neoliberal conventional wisdom is blind too, and so is likely to continue to wound Eurozone economies, while the Eurozone stumbles along putting bandages on the wounds.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    You must be kidding…The Germans are the problem??? The “problem” is that the German’s don’t want to send money to the other countires that spend beond their means, lie about it, and then beg. That is not a “problem” that is a rational choice. Germany can/should not be punished for being a productive economy. They are not “free riding” the euro, they are using it to their advantage by having an export based economy…nothing wrong with that. The other countires in Europe had the choice to do that and declined…now they pay the price or change. Example…Ireland changed (and is out of the soup and on the mend). Greece, Spain, and Italy are having a hard time making the tough choices (and are threfor still in trouble)

    By comparison, North Dakota has a surplus right now (really they do look it up). Under your logic they would send block grants to California because it is California that is buying the oil that gave them the surplus. That is just absurd.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    North Dakota was a huge tax recipient for decades; California was and almost certainly still is a big tax donor.

    Ireland ran surpluses until the recession. It and Spain were hailed as models of New European fiscal responsibility by the same people who now castigate them for being too profligate.

    joe Reply:

    Maybe John can lookup the ratio of federal expenditures and taxes collected for his ideal ND and compare it to CA. As a former MT resident I know we got 1.70 back on every tax dollar I sent to DC.

    Current German economic policy demands that other nations need to get their economic house in order and run trade surpluses.

    How that works is beyond me.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    ND gets abou $1.70 and CA about $0.78. What is the point? The point is ND lives within its means. Some of that income is fed (just like every state) but whatever it is they live within their means. CA should learn that lesson.

    I know you are not going to argue ND has more fed government clout than CA.

    My point holds…they don’t owe CA any block grant and Germany does not owe Greece any either (even though they are doing it they don’t owe it to them)

    joe Reply:

    ND gets abou $1.70 and CA about $0.78. What is the point?

    ND does not live within it’s means, ND lives within our means.

    I know you are not going to argue ND has more fed government clout than CA.

    Who doesn’t KNOW that ND has more clout than CA – Small states have equal representation in the US Senate. That disfavors large populations states and is one the most undemocratic aspects of our government.

    ND and SD have twice the representation and clout as CA. Add Wyoming and MT and it’s 4 times.

    As for Germany, their private, for profit – investors take risks and reap rewards- banks are equally responsible for the loans they issue and for finding a solution.

    Fundamental rule of lending is the borrower and lender are inseparable – the concept that German Private Banks are not responsible for the loans or at risk if their borrows tank violates the primary rule of finance. The reasonable solution is to adjust the loans and investors take a haircut – simple as a Donald Trump bankruptcy. He’s had three.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I agree, it was a mistake in terms of the balance between large and small states to allow California into the Union as a single state, even more than Texas, … but as with Texas, California’s entry into the US was a peculiar thing.

    joe Reply:

    If we remove the electoral vote and go with a national vote then the small states lose some clout and big states that swing one way or the other still get attention for splitting popular votes.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Except really on the electoral vote system its the swing states that get attention (I live in Ohio, and believe me, general election attention does not translate into “clout”), and the bigger the swing state, the more attention it gets.

    If either Texas or California were swing states, they would get the most attention of all.

    joe Reply:

    BruceMcF – Ohio is in play. CA is not in play so CA gets squat attention. Once Ohio shifts and is out of play in an election, your problems will be ignored.

    Same for the Red States that could use the attention from a Dem.

    Eliminate winner take all and the incentive is to get votes and that means big states matter most.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Ohio has been in play for the last three Presidential elections, only thing we ever got out of it was $400m to start restoration of the 3C rail service, which our ratbag of a Take Everything Away party governor handed back.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They wouldn’t bother with the shenanigans in Cuyahoga County if it wasn’t a swing state.
    The shenanigans elsewhere too. It’s one of the reasons Republicans are overwrought about voter fraud. Empathy..

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not really anyone’s fault except Kasich’s, though.

    Alas, Obama didn’t think long-term enough to go to the mattresses about it in Florida. No biggie; so far he’s still ahead of Romney there (at least, in the Democratic-house-effect PPP polls… sigh).

    Nathanael Reply:

    “The shenanigans elsewhere too. It’s one of the reasons Republicans are overwrought about voter fraud. Empathy..”

    The word you’re looking for is “psychological projection”. In recent years, it has been very consistent. Whenever lots of Republican politicians accuse others of something — it’s because they’re doing it themselves.

    One of the only documented cases of voter fraud is Ann Coulter.

    Derek Reply:

    Small states have equal representation in the US Senate. That disfavors large populations states and is one the most undemocratic aspects of our government.

    California could take the same approach as Virginia did in 1863 in order to gain more representation in the Senate.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Though hopefully without the two resulting states experiencing such a loss of their original adult male population.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m sure wasn’t all that good for adult female population as well. Or the not yet adult population . Much tidier to take the approach Maine took. If we could just get Missouri to petition to become a state again….

    Nathanael Reply:

    That wasn’t exactly done intentionally in Virginia. I think those qualify as truly exceptional circumstances.

    The West Virginians organized a competing “Virginia legislature” (with no representatives from the eastern part of Virginia) for purposes of authorizing their own secession. This would never have been accepted by the federal government if not for the Civil War.

    Jonathan Reply:

    @John N: when you say “California [...] live within its means”, do you mean repeal Prop 13, or live within the trans-generational-transfer-tax implications of Prop 13?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Precisely ~ they had bubble economies, but its not like that was primarily a per-country issue. Indeed, German banks have particular exposure to a Spanish collapse, which kind of undermines the German posturing about how economically morally pure they are ~ their banks participated in the process of creating and peddling suspect mortgage securities as much as anyone.

    Nathanael Reply:

    That’s the key thing to remember — all of this stuff about “bailing out countries” is really about bailing out German banks. And a few French banks, and several American and English banks.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Ireland guarenteed all bank losses (not just the first $100,000) and that got them in trouble but it is a tribute to the solid foundations of the country that they are bakc on track.

    Spain and Greece on the other hand were hailed as models, until everyone realized they were lying. Greece lied about the national debt…flat out lied. Spain was smarter and hid a lot of debt on the regional budgets. More of a lie of ommision.

    Bottom line is you can’t spend beyond your means forever and expect it never to catch up to you.

    Rick Rong Reply:

    To J Nachtigall, what you say to some extent is an over simplification and distortion, at least concerning how the Greek debt was handled. Goldman Sachs proposed it, and European regulators knew about it but said nothing. It was, according to the following report, technically legal, although it obviously was not to the benefit of the average citizen. Goldman Sachs, of course, made money, and the politicians suffered less than they deserved.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17108367

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Goldman proposed it after the Greek government needed to hide it. And it was legal because the greek government made the rules on how to count the debt.

    Bottom line is they lied…explicitly lied so they could continue the corruption and graft that is all too common in Greece. The “average” citizen does not deserve your pity, the payment rate on taxes is less than 50% and corruption is an accepted part of the economy. There is no one in Greece that is innocent. The problem is that they are pulling everyone down with them.

    joe Reply:

    One used to expect financial companies like Goldman made obscene amounts of money to do homework and verify deals were sound and that certification was their justification for taking a cut of the transaction.

    Greece duped Goldman by changing the rules. Who would have thought that a borrow that can change the rules was NOT an iron clad deal?

    They lied to Goldman – lied to an old grandma sitting at home with a pension trying to make an investment. Hilarious.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If it was just the Greeks, the German storyline would be a bit more pausible. But its not just the Greeks, its also countries who were being praised for running budget surpluses before the financial crisis hit.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Actually, Goldman was going around peddling this type of thing to anyone who they could possibly get to fall for it. Greece fell for it.

    Previously, the bankers peddled “sale-leaseback” transactions to mass transit agencies in the US.

    Scam artists. The bottom line is that we have a lot of very large banking companies which are 100% scam artists.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ireland has 15% unemployment, and isn’t getting any better. Its economic growth is stalled, with a real GDP per capita well below its pre-recession peak.

    The crisis country in Europe that recovered the fastest is Iceland, and that was by doing everything the Very Serious People said it shouldn’t do. No bailouts, no austerity, no welfare state cuts. Its unemployment is 7% and slowly coming down.

    Jonathan Reply:

    What? What? Rejecting Hooverism works? I’m shocked, _shocked_ I say.

    lex luther Reply:

    its more of that “spread the wealth”

    jimsf Reply:

    you mean like your state parks, school lunches and public education?

    lex luther Reply:

    no i mean like your publiclly funded transportation projects to nowhereville, the ultimate fleecing of the taxpayer

    jimsf Reply:

    you can’t possibly be that ignorant.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    He’s working hard on it.

    Jonathan Reply:

    “do not feed the troll”.

    By the way, are you ever going to acknowledge your GROSS factual error about European passenger coach lengths and loading-gauges??

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Just what are European passenger coach lengths and loading gauges? I suggest by country alphabetically. though you probably could go from narrowest stubbiest to longest widest.

    lex luther Reply:

    ignorant perhaps in the eyes of a super biased rail employee.

    jimsf Reply:

    Im not a biased rail employee. Its likely that hsr would impact my job in a negative manner. What I am is 47 year taxpaying california citizen who voted for, won, and expects the state to build, high speed rail. Not because it helps my job, (could elminate my job) but because its beneficial. and just because im a railroad employee does not mean Im a rail enthusiast. I see trains all day everyday. I have lived next to rail road tracks for most of my life. Trains are not exciting to me in any way. They are just big loud things that block traffic but that happen to be good at movie large volumes of people and good very very efficiently.

    lex luther Reply:

    YOU can expect the state to build high speed rail but dont expect those that are now opposed to it to just shut up and go quietly. I voted for it, but it is not as advertised and you know it.

    i am a democrat among a growing number of democrats, independents and republicans who are finally taking notice to the government waste and this HSR is exactly that. not because of what it can do, but because of what it wont. IT WONT get fully funded, WHICH means that construction will never be completed AND THAT IS THE WASTE. you cant face reality. YOU can talk about “the voters in 2008 voted for HSR”, but that only guarantees $10 billion in California bonds, not federal dollars which would be needed to complete the HSR lines. At the time Democrats were in power but the REALITY is they no longer are. Republicans own congress and we may infact have a GOP president in 7 months and that would be an end to federal dollars. cap-and-trade revenues can only be used for GHG reduction by 2020, and the HSR wouldnt even start any service until 2022, so thats a no-brainer for the courts who go by the rule of law, those revenues cannot be used for HSR. New tax proposal by Jerry Brown will go down in flames and unions will not allow pension cuts to help balance the budget. so where is the complete funding going to come from? the state of california? not without a new vote. and face it, the state does not have the money

    also, PAY CLOSE attention to the sec. of states website in regards to ballot measures. 2 initiatives currently being verified for the ballot (meaning the signatures are being vetted) and those 2 measures if passed would cost over 100 million more within 3 years. 62 others are currently in circulation and almost none of them save money, except for Part time legislature, the tax on oil, medical MJ and anti-HSR initiatives….most of them will fail but some will make it on the ballot and if passed it will create further burden on the state budget. were spending money we dont have and because of that we couldnt do HSR alone without Federal help and that is my major argument against HSR .

    synonymouse Reply:

    Np, you are not allowed to change your mind and/or your vote. Much masterful spinning went into
    securing the passage of Prop 1A and the cheerleaders are not going to let the likes of you mess it up. They know what’s good for you and they are going to save you from yourself.

    Curious that faithful are prepared to seize property from the UP or even expropriate the entire rr but the Chandlers get a pass. Not a word is said about developers blockading the single best route for the mountain crossing.

    It is all about rewarding political allies with government largesse..

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    market cap for UP was 53 billion dollars as of yesterday.
    Offering them 60 billion for it isn’t seizing it, it making them a very good offer.
    That’s the way capitalism works.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Lex, the HSR is as advertised. Sorry you have been misled by the “anti-HSR” propaganda campagin. That’s one thing Robert is here for.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Syn, I’d be happy to support buying the Chandlers’ land if it actually looked like a good route, but even after reconsideration, it still looks really risk-filled.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    They are not “free riding” the euro, they are using it to their advantage by having an export based economy

    Its pure hypocrisy to adopt policies to profit from enabling a bubble economy when the bubble is inflating, and then pretend that your hands are clean and you had nothing to do with it when the bubble bursts.

    And as Alon notes, Ireland is a surplus economy ~ if they had not taken steps that they were under no obligation to do, to bail out Irish banks to protect the bondholders, including German bondholders, they would have had no substantial debt crisis in the first place.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So when the economy is good why did Spain, Italy, et al. still have deficits. I know why….they can’t bedget within their means and thought they would be able to borrow money forever. Guess what…you can’t. At some point oyu have to balence the budget. That is not Germany’s fault, they did not put a gun to their heads and force them to borrow….they did that all to themselves.

    joe Reply:

    At some point oyu have to balence the budget.

    No, nations actually should not balance their budget – nations should run a deficit within a reasonable fraction of their GDP.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Spanish national government didn’t have deficits.

    The Italian one did, but it didn’t have good times – it had the first world’s lowest economic growth rate before the recession, going back to the 90s. Even Japan had faster growth. Italy’s GDP per capita today is at late 1990s levels.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    At some point oyu have to balence the budget.

    If you are a sub-sovereign state, you should balance the budget on an ongoing basis, and counter-cyclical fiscal policy should involve salting away funds during regular times into a rainy day fund.

    The monopoly issuer of a sovereign currency arguably should keep the average deficit over the business cycle at or below the average rate of growth, but it would be silly to try to run a deficit in the face of an excessive demand for savings on the part of the private sector in the aftermath of a massive financial crisis ~ when the choice is between generating sufficient deficit to sate the private sectors desire to save, or frustrate that desire be repressing economic growth, the pro-growth path seems better than the anti-growth path.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    But the same people who are rending their garments over the borrowing are, during better times when there is money to be salted away, insist that if there is a surplus, taxes should be reduced so there isn’t a surplus. They are also the same people who insist that any and all problems are solved by reducing taxes so it’s not a shock that they would see a problem and want to reduce taxes.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The supposedly small government types only run on the issue of deficits, they have never actually cut deficits or cut the size of government. They play games with big numbers and make millions spent over the course of 10 years sound like its a big deal, and hundreds of billions spent per year as corporate welfare is allowed to hide behind the flag, or fear of crime, or similar.

    Governor Kasich cut taxes on oil and natural gas companies and then discovered that we had a deficit and needed to cut spending on education and abandon yet another plan to comply with a long standing Ohio Supreme Court ruling that the prevailing system of funding primary and secondary education is in violation of the State Constitution.

    And of course handed $400m for the trackwork for the 3C back which was part of the pile that went to California and Flordia, until Florida handed theirs back.

    joe Reply:

    Why does a Nation need to run a surplus? What does the nation do with the surplus? Who gets the money?

    A modest on going deficit at a small % of GDP where citizens own the debt is really a better model for economic growth. Borrow and invest more in recessions to keep the economy moving and payback debt in booms to cool the economy and hold down inflation.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Not why ~ when. A nation needs to run a surplus when there is an imbalance the opposite direction, so that the purchasing power created to finance business investments, residential investment and debt financed consumption are not soaked up by savings at a full employment level and the imbalance would push the economy into elevated demand-pull inflation without purchasing power being withdrawn by government.

    Nobody “gets” the money: a deficit is creation of new purchasing power, a surplus is destruction of purchasing power. And the need for a surplus is a lot less common than the need for a deficit. But conditions where we ought to have a surplus can certainly occur.

    Jonathan Reply:

    @joe, @BruceMcF: look up “Mercantilism”. Note to “lex luthor”, and to any NeoClassical or Neo-Conservative types lurking here: Mercantilism predates, and significantly refuted by, both Adam Smith and Ricardo. Meanwhile, one might plausibly make a case that China (and 1950s-1970s Japan) have been very succesful at following a form of Neo-Mercantilism.

    what does this bass-ackwards country teach people in high school??

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Jonathon, mercantilism refers to trade surpluses and deficits, not fiscal surpluses and deficits ~ at the time, Spain was bringing silver from the New World and the two “mountains of silver”, one in Mexico and one in Peru, and the British, Dutch, Portuguese, etc., needed that silver to buy their way into the lucrative East Asian carrying trade, since at the time Europe did not make much of anything that the wealthier nations of East Asia were interested in, and so bullion was required to buy a piece of the action. That is also, of course, why Europe tended toward a gold standard, since the silver was needed for finance of the expansion of trade with the developed nations of the day.

    Nathanael Reply:

    As BruceMcF says, a nation needs to run a surplus when there’s a bubble, in order to stop the bubble, basically. Politically it turns out to be very hard to get anyone to do that, though.

    Republicans in particular are famous for running giant deficits in boom times (Reagan, Bush II). The last Republican President to actually run a surplus was Eisenhower, and he did it exactly when it was appropriate, during a boom — but modern Republican politicians really seem to hate Eisenhower.
    (The last Democratic President to run a surplus was Clinton.)

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Even worse, you have to drain the spending power from the circuits that are pouring fuel on the fire, which could entail taxing windfall gains at higher rates than longer term gains. And that’s hard to do when a large number of people fantasize that they are going to be one of the people who get out in time.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, I know, Spain had a deficit of (-1.7%) of GDP in 2007. +4.7% higher and they would have been in trouble with the 3% deficit cap that Germany insisted that all EU states should adhere to until Germany’s deficit went to over (+3%) of GDP.

    Jonathan Reply:

    @john N:

    So when the economy is good why did Spain, Italy, et al. still have deficits.

    Note the moving of goalposts to avoid Ireland. Mendacious.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    Tsk tsk…

    German banks happily fed the enormous housing bubble in Spain (there’s a deep relationship between Spain and Germany, a story of sun on one side and good industry on the other side)…
    And now of course the Germans castigate the “profligate” Spanish state which never had neither big deficits nor big external debt.

    It’s a story of “I’m the strongest guy out here ; so heads I win, tails you lose”…

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    Everyone gets all upset when Germany smartens up and conquers financially rather than with Panzers.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its more getting upset that the people who sold the liquor on credit claiming the moral high ground to lecture people for having a drinking party.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    I couldn’t -and didn’t- say it better.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The thing is that the people who hosted the drinking party weren’t drinking, they were serving the booze to the people who extended them the credit to buy the booze.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Economic imperialism is trickier to get right than military imperialism. People are upset because Germany isn’t doing it right. If Germany printed euros and handed them to Spain… they’d come right back to German companies. But noooo…..

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Thankfully, the German Empire’s gypsy-deporting collaborator in France is about to be thrown out.

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    The last time they got rid of the German collaborator, Germany just took over the rest of them directly.

    Although now I’m stuck in a historical nostalgia moment: How about the following solution to all the problems: Germany, Austria, and Hungary get tossed back in under the mantle of the Hapsburgs, Spain gets bailed out in exchange for dynastic union (precedent: Hapsburgs did control Spain for awhile), and the European Union gets converted into the Holy Roman Empire, complete with the traditional election of monarch. Alternatively, restore the Bourbons to the French throne and have them bail out Spain thanks to dynastic ties (and we can have the Bourbons in France and Spain counteract the German voting bloc).

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Hey, I thought a Bourbon was a whisky!

    (I’m stealing a line from Clark Gable’s John McMasters in “Boomtown”–Warner Bros., 1940, with Gable, Spencer Tracy and Claudette Colbert. It’s McMasters response to a prosecutor who is accusing McMasters of attempting to rig the oil market and live like a Bourbon. Good movie, too, or at least I think so!)

    ericmarseille Reply:

    one thing I’ll never quite understand is the stubborn passion in the anglo-saxon world to call “bourbons” the last French dynasty, when they were simply the bourbon branch of the capet dynasty…And note : only through the males, as the franquish salic law required (although Louis XIV was most probably the son of the Cardinal Mazarin but that’s another subject).
    Could that blind passion find its explanation in the fact that the capetian dynasty goes back to 987, thus having more respectability than England itself established 1066?

    Paulus Magnus Reply:

    I think the rationale is due to the Senior Capet line dying out in the 14th century, though it would have continued had the French not introduced a sudden revision to their laws preventing inheritance through the female line to prevent King Edward III of England from inheriting the French throne. As far as I know, the cadet branches style themselves otherwise (hence why the Spanish are Bourbons rather than Capets).

    ericmarseille Reply:

    I’m ashamed to say that, but many people, including me, who would rejoice at the sight of the midget exiting at last, still pray for gypsy-deporting (which by the way isn’t deporting, for the schengen agreement doesn’t include yet Romania and Bulgaria, it is simply returning illegal immigrant to their country), for the socialist party still hasn’t put the holes in front of its eyes when it comes to immigration and culture shock, to the delight of the real dangerous thing, the Front National.

    Even our most extreme leftist and provocateur comedian declared that he didn’t know what was worse between “deporting” Romanian Gypsies or having to live beside them (and he added to the “shocked, shocked” audience “don’t worry, just let it go now, we’ll feel better on the night”.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    which by the way isn’t deporting, for the schengen agreement doesn’t include yet Romania and Bulgaria, it is simply returning illegal immigrant to their country

    I don’t know what French terms are used for it, but in English, returning undocumented immigrants to their country is called “deporting” them.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    Ooops my bad.
    In french “déporter” means “forcefully uprooting someone from his homeplace to an alien place”.
    Putting back someone in his own country, forcefully or not, is “rapatrier”.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Repatriate does mean send someone back to their own country in English, but deport doesn’t signify where they are being sent.

    Jonathan Reply:

    @Paulus Magnus; the word you’re looking for is: Panzerkampfwagen….

  8. lex luther
    Apr 18th, 2012 at 17:30
    #8

    fresh from reuters.

    California Lawmakers in rush to approve HSR bonds
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/18/economy-california-high-speed-rail-idUSL2E8FIL2Z20120418

    Rick Rong Reply:

    No doubt you meant to write, “in NO rush to approve HSR bonds.” But thank you for posting the link.

  9. SL
    Apr 18th, 2012 at 18:26
    #9

    A good article on Caltrain electrification and High Speed Rail’s influence on land values and rents.

    http://www.theregistrysf.com/RTRE_caltrain_electrification_higher_property_values_1.html

  10. Spokker
    Apr 18th, 2012 at 18:26
    #10

    I think that more and more people are becoming more and more untrusting of government and government spending. Well, more than usual anyway. I’m looking at this GSA scandal and I am livid. And it wouldn’t take much to convince me that this is how the typical local/state/federal agency is operated.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Governments aren’t monolithic — and “the fish rots from the head”. People who were paying attention were mentioning repeatedly that the Bush II administration was corrupting as many agencies as he could, inserting criminality and cronyism into what were supposed to be civil service jobs. Obama hasn’t cleaned any of it up, either. Luckily there were some agencies Bush never managed to really hollow out (oddly enough, includes the FRA and FTA — too small to bother with?)

    However, that has no impact on local government or state agenices. Some have always been untrustworthy, some have always been trustworthy, and some have had clear points when they were cleaned up or “dirtied up”. You have to actually pay attention to each individual agency to figure out its behavior.

    There are also different levels and types of corruption. The City of Chicago *works* on cronyism and bribery… but it *works*, the alderman *do* deliver what their constituents want, so there’s been little serious incentive to change it. Chicago was *founded* on bribery when the “city fathers” bribed the railroads to come around the corner from Gary, so it’s been working for them for a long time. The last big “reform” movement was basically about cutting the black people in on the previously all-white system, and it succeeded, so the city’s basically working again, on the same system.

    In contrast, Walker in Wisconsin has been intent on screwing the vast majority of the population of the state in order to benefit a very small group of cronies, and that isn’t popular.

    I guess what I’m saying is, generically generalizing from the GSA to “government” is just wrong. Government agencies have corporate culture, just like corporate divisions do. Kellogg Brown Root is rotten, Berkshire Hathaway is transparent… you can generalize about “most large corporations” but you have to actually have a large sample size in order to do so. And the same is true when generalizing about “typical agencies”.

  11. lex luther
    Apr 18th, 2012 at 22:22
    #11

    Oakland Tribune: Legislature should not authorize bonds for HSR

    http://www.insidebayarea.com/opinion/ci_20427294/oakland-tribune-editorial-legislature-must-not-authorize-selling

    Nathanael Reply:

    Cui bono. Who owns “Bay Area News Group”?

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