The Important Detail the LA Times Left Out of Their HSR Story
The state rail authority has grossly underestimated future operating costs of California’s proposed bullet train, meaning taxpayers potentially will have to provide billions of dollars annually once the system is running, according to an analysis released Monday by a group of outside financial experts.
The California High Speed Rail Authority’s claim that its future system would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in surpluses is based on unrealistic assumptions about what it will cost to operate the network, according to the study group, which included former World Bank official William Grindley and Stanford University management professor Alain C. Enthoven.
Hmm, those names sound familiar, don’t they? They should. Grindley and Enthoven have been running their own cottage industry of anti-HSR reports for a few years now. Their reports are easily debunked, aren’t based in strong evidence, and tend to ignore other facts that challenge their conclusions.
More importantly, Enthoven is not an unbiased analyst. He owns property next to the Peninsula rail corridor in the wealthy enclave of Atherton, where high speed trains would travel on their way to and from San Francisco. In April 2010 Enthoven submitted a comment on the Revised Final Program EIR that made clear what his motivations were regarding the HSR project:
The proposed HSR route along the Caltrain right of way down the San Francisco Peninsula would cause serious damage to the quality of life in our neighborhood and the values of our properties. We live about one block northeast of the Caltrain right of way at [redacted] in Atherton.
…An elevated railway would be hideous and intolerably noisy. We like to eat outdoors in the summer, but with such noise we would not be able to hear each other talking. And it would wake people at night. It would transform our pleasant semi-rural environment into an ugly urban environment.
We have consulted with a local real estate broker who has 34 years of experience and knows our neighborhood well. In her judgement, even the hint of HSR becoming reality is causing a 10-15% drop in real estate values. When or if the train actually materializes, prices will drop 25-30%. That will reduce assessed values and local tax revenues. We are counting on our property value sometime in the next 10 years to pay for a retirement home and to help with the college education of our grandchildren.
Significantly, Enthoven’s own personal and financial interest in the high speed rail project, and his reasons for publishing a study critical of the project, aren’t mentioned at all in Vartabedian’s article. Here’s what is said:
The group, which also includes Silicon Valley executives William Warren and Alan Bushell, has written a series of financial assessments of the bullet train plan that sharply question its economics. The four experts are affiliated with the Community Coalition on High Speed Rail, located in the Bay Area.
Vartabedian doesn’t even mention that, in its own words, “CC-HSR is doing everything it can to derail the current high-speed train project”.
Surely LA Times readers ought to know that the study’s authors own property near the proposed HSR tracks and are affiliated with an organization that has declared its intention to “derail” the project.
But do their claims have any merit? Drunk Engineer takes a look and finds they don’t exactly have all their facts right this time either.