Business Leaders Make the Economic Case for High Speed Rail

Jun 19th, 2012 | Posted by

In today’s San Francisco Chronicle, business leaders from San Francisco and Los Angeles make the economic case for the legislature to release the voter-approved bond money to begin building high speed rail:

California’s $1.9 trillion economy ranks among the 10 largest in the world. However, the state’s infrastructure is straining to keep up with increased demands. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of transportation. According to recent studies, inefficiencies in our roadways cause Californians to waste nearly $19 billion annually in time and fuel.

A population’s mobility is a key to promoting thriving businesses and job creation. California’s transportation system was once the envy of the world, and we reaped the economic rewards of that system for decades. Today, that same system is hopelessly gridlocked. By 2035, California’s population will hit 50 million, straining our current system even further. Development of high-speed rail is desperately needed to meet these demands.

The complete op-ed, by Jim Wunderman of the Bay Area Council and Gary Toebben of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, is worth reading. They list support from business groups across the state for the project, and make a strong argument as to why the project is critical to the state’s economic future. As the state remains mired in recession and stuck with high unemployment, creating jobs and creating conditions for more job growth in coming years has to be a top priority. And the authors lay out why high speed rail is a part of that strategy.

Now is also a good time to point out that many of the HSR’s critics and opponents are already in a position of relative economic privilege. They’re the ones who already have it good and who simply don’t care about the economic fortunes of the rest of the state. They are worried that change will erode their current position, and believe that maintaining the status quo for as long as possible is the only sensible economic strategy for them.

That’s an absurd position to take. And it’s telling that people like Wunderman and Toebben, who represent some of the state’s largest businesses, don’t share that perspective. They’ve got every reason to also want to just cruise by maintaining the status quo. Yet they realize that the status quo doesn’t actually work for most people and certainly will not work for them or their member companies. They understand that the current failed transportation system in California is a huge drag on the economy and that fixing those problems can produce a more prosperous state.

California’s future prosperity includes electrified passenger trains, with high speed rail as the backbone of the system. It’s time for the state legislature to stop fighting the future and start helping us build it.

  1. Alan Kandel
    Jun 20th, 2012 at 07:47

    After reading the op-ed, I am in full agreement with what was presented except for one item. Where Wunderman and Toebben express that California’s transportation system today “is hopelessly gridlocked,” I would have to disagree. What this means to me, is that even with high-speed rail there is no hope in terms of mobility improving.

    Meanwhile, two paragraphs later, the two state: “High-speed rail will connect California’s urban centers, providing increased access and mobility to residents in all communities throughout the state. The system will optimize the use of existing regional transit systems, immediately providing early investment dollars to improve regional rail systems in Northern and Southern California. This phased approach will ensure Californians realize the benefits of high-speed rail sooner and more cost-effectively.”

    That’s key.

    And one more point of Wunderman’s and Toebben’s editorial the public, city planners, civic leaders, real estate developers, business professionals, entrepreneurs, to name but a few, should never lose sight of is this:

    “Station cities are eager to reap the economic development benefits that will follow the transit-oriented development planned at each station, which will include retail centers, restaurants, and improved multimodal centers promoting more walkable communities. Workers as well as consumers will have easier access to markets up and down the state, making them stronger by tying our many economic centers together.”

    The Railyards and Transbay Transportation Center projects in Sacramento and San Francisco, respectively, are already off to the (high-speed rail) races in this regard. Valley and other cities would be wise to follow suit and begin developing such TOD projects too. Robert is absolutely correct: “The cost of doing nothing is not zero.”

  2. John Nachtigall
    Jun 20th, 2012 at 08:32

    So for equal airtime how about the legal and economic case against CAHSR. On note, since the supportive piece makes assumptions (jobs, ridership, etc.) so will I but I realize that some of these assumptions are not “provable” until the system is built (just like the supportive arguments)

    1. Given the current design of the system conformance to the travel times in the law is improbable. While I grant it will be impossible to 100% prove until the system is built, it is quite telling that the agency tasked with building the project claims there are no reports or studies to support the travel times only the “assurances” of anonymous experienced engineers. If you can’t conform to the law it should not be built

    2. The law also clearly states that phase 1 includes service to Anaheim which is not included in the official plan at the moment. Again the CAHSR Authority excluded it (saying it was not worth the money) then stated they would “consider” it and study if there was a cheaper way. Even if it is the last part of phase 1 to be built, to conform with the law it must be built so the 68 billion estimate for phase 1 should include those costs (making the project more expensive)

    3. The law clearly states there will be no operating subsidies from the state. It is early (relatively) in development and again it will be impossible to prove until the system is built, but many HSR systems in the world have gone bankrupt or require subsidies (Taiwan as 1 example) because the ridership estimates were too high. Given that America has a car culture (not a train culture) and that passenger trains have not been self-supporting in this country (as a whole, not single lines) for more than 100 years it seems unlikely that this project will break that trend. This would lead to the need for subsidies which would lead to breaking the law. There is also a real possibility that no private enterprise will undertake running the system without a guarantee of ridership (which is the same as a subsidy)

    4. The law states the terminal in SF will be the Transbay terminal. To make that location in the city will be expensive, disruptive, and of questionable value. However, that is what the law says. As a result I think there will be a push (after the project is started) to not use that terminal which would be a violation of the law again.

    5. Cost: While not a legal objection, since the cost to CA will be out of the general find (and given the finances of the state) this is just not a project we can afford. HSR (when built) will have value to the state, but that value will not outweigh the costs to build the system.

    6. No idea where the rest of the money will come from. The law states that there must be matching funds and given the bonds are only authorized for 9 billion and the total cost will be 70+ billion there are no federal or private funds for the vast majority of that money now. Given the makeup of the federal government and the above reservations about the private money it is likely that this will be a stranded investment (i.e. a total waste) because we will spend part of the money and not even get a HSR system.

    7. The time to build is so long that technology could pass it by. If you think about transportation 20 years ago there were no discount airlines (or they were very small). In 20 years telecommuting and small “taxi” airplanes could be cheap and effective enough to accomplish what HSR proposes to do at a fraction of the cost and without government subsidy.

    8. The “green” argument is only effective if you exclude the impact of building the system. Several sources (including the LAO) have stated that the payback period is 2-3 decades before it goes net positive on environmental impact. That also assumes that ridership hits targets. If no one rides it never hits a net positive. Considering if everything goes to plan it only removes 4% of the cars trips the green impact at best seems quite muted. We could get a much bigger bang for the buck replacing coal plants with nuclear or even natural gas. Not a wise use of resources.

    Overall, it will not meet the law and is an unwise use of resources. There is also a real risk it will not be fully built and be a stranded project. If it is fully built it will have some positive impact, but that will not outweigh the costs.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ..fine sit in gridlocked traffic on your way to the airport…

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I fly at 6am so traffic is not bad at all. In the meantime how do you plan on traveling from LA to SF until 2028? Walk? Ride a bike? I think you will be in that same traffic with me. If you see me wave and I will say hi.

    joe Reply:

    I fly at 6am too but sadly land in the congested LAX area just in time for the rush. How do you avoid that?

    BTW advocates plan to push the state to accelerate the project and finish sooner than 2028. It’s just a rail line – not that hard to work in parallel.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Now that is a fantasy. The biggest capital construction project ever and you think it will come in early. You can not be suggesting that with a straight face.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    World’ tallest building to be built in only 90 day

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I plan on dating a supermodel (Kate Upton or equivalent). Plans are nice…lets see if they execute

    Paul Druce Reply:

    They company has a good record already, including a 30 story building in 15 days.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Remind me again about PB’s record of delivering PB-designed US megaprojects, will you?

    Peter Reply:

    The only thing preventing a faster construction time is funding. If you have more funding available early you can start building in more locations.

    AND, it would be cheaper overall.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Most excellent economic and logistical analysis! OK, then. Give me a zillion trillion dollars and I’ll have it done by tomorrow. A jillion squllion in incentive payments and I’ll double my work-rate and have it knocked off the close of business today

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    As my Father would say. If pigs had wings they would not bump their butts on the ground. They can’t come up with more than 15% of the money right now…how are they going to come up with the whole nut.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Which is why they didn’t start to build the Interstate, pick any one, until they had all the funding for every last mile in place. Or start building railroads, pick one. Or the canals. Or Roman Aqueducts, though financing was bit different 2,000 years ago.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “Pay taxes to the Republic, or else we’ll crucify everyone who looks funny at us and enslave the rest.”

    jonathan Reply:

    Unless of course you get yourself made Emperor.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I fly at 6am

    Make sure you mention that to people at the Folsom Street Fair.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Fair closes down at 6 PM, plenty of time to check out of the hotel and get to the airport. American Airlines has discounts if you tell them you are going to the Fair and 6:30 AM departure, close enough?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s like 24 hours of pure masochism.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    It’s like reading blog comments.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @John Nachtigall:

    7. The time to build is so long that technology could pass it by. If you think about transportation 20 years ago there were no discount airlines (or they were very small). In 20 years telecommuting and small “taxi” airplanes could be cheap and effective enough to accomplish what HSR proposes to do at a fraction of the cost and without government subsidy.

    Oh, excellent choice for comparison. Yes, lets look at the infrastructure supporting the airline industry 20 years ago, or even 40 years ago, and compare it to today. Both then and now, we’ve got rubber wheels slamming down onto hard smooth surfaces, frequently the same hard smooth surfaces that were laid down 20, 30, 40 years ago. The main difference has been that the original infrastructure has been lengthened over time to support the longer runway requirements of newer aircraft, in some cases requiring an entirely new placement to support the longer length.

    And that’s what we’re wanting to have built. The basic rail infrastructure required to support a minimum level of speed which our current 150yr-old rail infrastructure cannot, along with the opportunity as technology changes, to support a future higher level of speed along the majority of the alignment.

    joe Reply:

    It is quite possible that HSR will be made obsolete. Imagine this: Small jets will land at the Palo Alto municipal airport. I can’t see why CARRD members would object to a jet airport – it’s responsible and safe. Plus no unsightly construction.


    Derek Reply:

    Small jets can’t achieve the equivalent of 300-500 passenger miles per gallon as HSR can. Not even close. Even the big, newer jets only reach 100.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    They can’t today….Maybe in 20 years. Who knows what we will be able to do in 20 years.

    And Telecomuting is possible now. Totally green almost no enviromental impact compared to actual commute

    thatbruce Reply:

    @John Nachtigall:

    It sounds like your answer to any spending is to wait 20 years. Pass the buck down to our children’s generation. Rail projects? Too expensive now, wait for technology to improve.

    Why don’t we go back 20, no, make it 30 years, to 1982, and watch the attempts to introduce HSR to California. There were a number of similarly short-sighted people at the time who had exactly the same stance that you are expressing. Too expensive now, wait 10, 20 years. 10 years later, Caltrans briefly had the job of investigating HSR corridors, and balked, resulting in the establishment of the CHSRA, and setting the stage for its capture by its prime consultant. All the time, the costs for the system kept rising, driven by inflation and expanding scope.

    Its now been more than 20 years. The technology has improved, and based on the US’s record, there isn’t going to be any innovation from the US in the field of mass transit in the following 20 years. How many times are you wanting to kick the bucket down the road for a succeeding generation to build this? Each time its done, the initial price tag for establishing the system gets bigger.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    It is true…I am making the argument that HSR is not worth the effort. When you combine the cost and the car culture in the USA you have to overcome and the geography of the country itself (big spaces) I would say the investment in transportation technology is better spent somewhere else.

    In the last 20 years HSR has not progressed in America…but transportation has. I just want to spend the dollars on something that is not going to be a boondoggle

    StevieB Reply:

    The car culture in California is moribund. The latest HSR survey shows the only group where more would prefer to drive than take HSR are those over 65 while in the youngest voting group the train is the preferred method of travel.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    John, out of curiosity, how old are you? I don’t ask that to be insulting or to entrap you, but there is a generational pattern involved in the car culture/train culture debate you may not be aware of.

    Interestingly, it happens the pro-car crowd is largely an in-between generation, that the generations before it and the ones coming up after it are at least not anti-rail, while the youngest group seems to be strongly pro-rail. Age break points currently seem to be at about 60 or 62, and up around 90; in other words, the people who are not anti-rail are either under 60 or over 90, while the anti-rail, pro-car crowd is between 60 and 90.

    Just curious to see if you fit the pattern.

    VBobier Reply:

    One exception to the 60-90 rule is My sister in law, She’s 62 and is an HSR supporter, She’s also a Republican…

    VBobier Reply:

    Oh and I forgot to say She has ridden on HSR in France too.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Well, V that shows a couple of things:

    One is that experience counts. It’s been brought up here before, but for many people, particularly the most skeptical, there has been no really positive experience with rail–in fact, for many, no experience at all.

    I have to say I’ve never had the chance to ride at really high speeds, but I have had the positive experience of not fighting traffic on the way to Washington. This is on a railroad that partially predates the Civil War. What would a new line be like?

    Finally, we must always remember we are dealing with individuals. Not everybody will fit the pattern–just most will.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    40. Born in Dec 1971. Right smack in the middle of Gen X.

    I would ride the train in a second. I think it will be much better than airplanes. My problem is they don’t follow the law and in the end I can’t justify spending 68 billion on a project with such a bad return on investment

    VBobier Reply:

    Born July 6th, 1960 in Los Angeles, CA… I’ll be 52 soon, not that I really look it.

    I would ride one too, so far the only passenger trains I’ve ever been on circles Disneyland in Anaheim, I know it’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Incept date: January 8, 2016

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That’s an interesting answer, John, and a legitimate concern.

    Overall, I would say you still fit the pattern. Those who have read this weblog in the past know I’ve had an interesting history in regard to this generational question. Briefly, the older group remembers how things used to be (and at least partially wishes it was back), the younger crowd takes cars for granted (and besides, they’re not fun anymore, too much traffic, too much hassle to get a license, and in recent years, cost too much for gas), while the middle crowd–which would have come of age between about 1950 and the first oil crunch of 1973, are from a time when it really was cool to “see the USA in your Chevrolet.” To them, talking of trains is talking of taking their cars away, of bringing back the horse and buggy, it’s “liberalism,” “socialism,” “Communism,” and what the heck, I’ll have a bit of fun and say it’s feminism and nudism, too.

    Do you think such talk is weird? So do I. What’s funny, the columnist cited above–rides trains.

    That’s life, I suppose.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    About your legitimate concern–yes, we should worry about spending too much. We should also worry about getting the route right (and if you go into the history of this place you’ll see a huge slew of disputes about the two major routes, one being Tehachapi, the other Tejon–am I getting the spellling right?); the latter is an even bigger concern than the money, it determines whether you really have a successful operation.

    I have an opposite concern (and I’m certain it must be on your mind as well)–the cost of the status quo. You likely have read here about the cost of airport expansion, and road expansion, and so on–but my concerns go beyond that, to the oil wars and the tensions from the Middle East because it so dominates the oil market, even though relatively little oil for this country comes from there. That cost has been huge, and it’s still running, and it’s not just in money. Truth is, transportation is the big oil sucker for us, it’s our Achilles heel. We need to get off of it. Electric rail in all forms would be a part of that, ranging from local streetcar to HSR–at least, that’s how I see it.

    Nathanael Reply:

    John: we KNOW the limits of airplane technology. There are no “future planes” which will be more efficient. Until we get battery planes, anyway, and even those won’t be very efficient compared to trains.

    Derek Reply:

    “They can’t today….Maybe in 20 years. Who knows what we will be able to do in 20 years.”

    So let’s say that due to improvements in technology, in 20 years the fuel efficiency of flying might double to 200 passenger-mpg. For the same reason, the fuel efficiency of HSR would also double, to 600-1000 passenger-mpg.

    As you can see, that only widens the gap.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The flaw in the “who knows what will happen in 15 years?” argument is that it swings both ways. In terms of what we don’t know, it could equally well be dramatically more useful than under a range of current expectations. The “maybe it will be dramatically different” argument at the very least cancels out on the high and low side …

    Indeed, the fact that we do not know what the future brings is an additional argument for the project, because completing the project increases our range of available alternatives, and a greater range of available alternatives allows for more efficient accommodation to unexpected changes.

    It seems that you ignore the issue of flexibility of alternative available because of a confirmation bias: because you disagree with starting in the presently under-served Central Valley, when you imagine things turning out different than the the range of projections based on current expectation, you only imagine the downsides for the project, and so you paint the unknowns of the future with dire possibilities for the project.

    But “we don’t know” works equally well for our presently petroleum dependent and energy intensive intercity transport system, and there are as many or more ways to paint the unknowns of the future in ways in which the system ridership and strategic importance blows away all current projections.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Telecommuting isn’t going to replace intercity travel, which is a very different market from commuting.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    715 seat-miles per gallon gasoline equivalent with the 700 series Shinkansen actually (at .029 kWh/seat-km). Compared to an average of 60 SM/GGE flying LAX-SFO or 250 SM/GGE with a Prius.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    And the HSR will be biased toward capturing the “Prius” trips with mostly empty seats.

    BrianR Reply:


    I am guessing you might of seen this article a few months back in Palo Alto Online:

    if not, here’s a few words from it:

    (Ralph Britton, the airport association’s president, said a business like Surf Air could be a boon to the airport. “Any extra use for anyone who wants to use the Palo Alto airport for commercial use — as a way for people to get around — as opposed to those who do it for fun is a valuable thing,” he said.

    Eyerly called Palo Alto “the sweet spot” — a middle point between San Jose and San Francisco that’s populated with the likes of attorneys, engineers and venture capitalists, all of whom he thinks would use his service.)

    That last statement made me want to vomit.

    This is a pretty timid start but I am sure CARRD would be fine with any expanded use of Palo Alto airport for commercial use. The people affected by it would not be “their people / their kind” but those “other people” who happen to live in East Palo Alto.

    joe Reply:

    Eyerly called Palo Alto “the sweet spot” — a middle point between San Jose and San Francisco that’s populated with the likes of attorneys, engineers and venture capitalists, all of whom he thinks would use his service.) Looks like propeller and not jet aircraft. Jets are much louder and while I don;t know if they every can land at PA – I think not. IMHO that’s the line residents would draw – lous jet aircraft services at PA airport. Even if it serviced the right kind of people.

    A colleague has a plane at the PA airport (category: engineer) and I’ve flown to LA and back with him for work related stuff. I even get dropped off at the local south county airport/San Martin CA.

    There isn’t much available in service when you land – taxi I suppose but the use of these airports to offload traffic from SJ and SF would necessitate a far bigger footprint. Maybe it’s not quantity but quality – fewer people with fat wallets and limos.

    The Google founders fly (G6 I think – Gulfstream G650) out of Mofeitt to their Sac based 767 jet.
    Ellison battles with San Jose airport are paper worthy

    Paul Druce Reply: Looks like propeller and not jet aircraft. Jets are much louder and while I don;t know if they every can land at PA – I think not. IMHO that’s the line residents would draw – lous jet aircraft services at PA airport. Even if it serviced the right kind of people.

    Turboprops are louder than turbines or turbofans and pistons even louder actually.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Wait, aren’t all 8 of the Google jets at Moffett’s hangar 211?

    Gawker’s Party plane parking pass: $1.3M story at least seems to confirm one of their bigger (“party”) planes is kept at Moffett.

    Larry and Sergey yanked party plane from space mission

    Google execs’ fighter jet is no toy, NASA says

    Council member wowed by ride in Google’s fighter jet

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Your economic arguments are pretty weak, John. If we had that sort of standard for road projects, I’d have to go outside and feed my horse in a minute.

    There are economic reasons for the state not to do HSR. However, the reason they don’t get much air time is that no one really wants to make them public:

    1) With the increase in capacity to the Panama Canal, port traffic could easily decline across the State unless we start exporting more crops to Asia. To maximize the strength of our exports we are going to need to build an even more extensive network of irrigation than we already have. (This is going to cost a lot of money, and even though the “user pays” everyone in the state will have to shoulder the cost.)

    2) Once the Roberts Court rules that labor unions are not constitutionally protected, it will likely become common practice to have individuals work at home on a contract. Thus, there won’t be as much demand for business travel because everyone will be a “contractor”.

    3) After the majority of the Baby Boomers die off, the number of Californians benefiting from Prop 13 will decline substantially. The state’s biggest property owners and modern day gentry (those inheriting property) will effectively be able to carve the state up into fiefdoms which have limited abilities at best to coordinate with one another, and thus decrease statewide travel.

    Now, HSR isn’t a panacea or elixir that stops these trends from happening…but it does offer a coutnerweight to rebalance the state from becoming a feudalistic backwater sandwiched between uninhabitable desert and a a nearly trackless sea…..

    Paul Druce Reply:

    1) With the increase in capacity to the Panama Canal, port traffic could easily decline across the State unless we start exporting more crops to Asia. To maximize the strength of our exports we are going to need to build an even more extensive network of irrigation than we already have. (This is going to cost a lot of money, and even though the “user pays” everyone in the state will have to shoulder the cost.)

    You’re actually not going to see much of, if any, reduction in port traffic thanks to the Panama Canal widening. Asia to East Coast by sea is 21.1 days, by intermodal sea and rail via West Coast is 18.3 days. So what will go via Panama is what is currently in excess of current West Coast port and intermodal rail capacities and other items like bulk coal for which there is no CA export capability at present nor likely to be in the future. Additionally, maximizing the strength of our imports consists of encouraging manufacture, not agriculture, and at most, would require building additional nuclear plants for cheap electricity.

    2) Once the Roberts Court rules that labor unions are not constitutionally protected, it will likely become common practice to have individuals work at home on a contract. Thus, there won’t be as much demand for business travel because everyone will be a “contractor”.

    Roberts Court cannot and will not be striking down every single Federal and state labor law as you obviously so feverishly imagine.

    3) After the majority of the Baby Boomers die off, the number of Californians benefiting from Prop 13 will decline substantially. The state’s biggest property owners and modern day gentry (those inheriting property) will effectively be able to carve the state up into fiefdoms which have limited abilities at best to coordinate with one another, and thus decrease statewide travel.

    Voting rights are not connected with property ownership and haven’t been for quite some time, nor is the state of California likely to return to it.

    Tom McNamara Reply:


    My answers are below:

    1) You seem not to realize that even though it might take longer, the benefit to bypassing the West Coast is that you don’t have to pay the labor costs associated with the ports. Moreover, the US must become a net exporter in the 21st century to survive economically.

    2) The Supreme Court is not going to eliminate all worker protections. But it can undermine constitutional protection for them as guaranteed by the First Amendment. And once that is done, they can make it very difficult for large scale unions to operate.

    3) Do you know anything at all about California history? Large landowners, whether you are talking about the rancheros, the railroads, or the Irvine Company, have ALWAYS controlled the Legislature and policy in this State. Our cities and public infrastructure are so poorly integrated for precisely this reason and without HSR and a move towards comprehensive planning, we are going to wind up back in the pages of Sinclair’s “Octopus”.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    1) You seem not to realize that even though it might take longer, the benefit to bypassing the West Coast is that you don’t have to pay the labor costs associated with the ports.

    As opposed to the labor costs associated with East Coast ports? Not to mention fuel and labor costs in longer voyages and canal transit fees. The real threat is freight railroad capacity or lack thereof.

    Here’s a source Honestly, Mexican ports are a much greater threat to LA/LB than the Panama Canal is.

    Moreover, the US must become a net exporter in the 21st century to survive economically

    Which means more manufacturing, not agricultural cash crops.

    2) The Supreme Court is not going to eliminate all worker protections. But it can undermine constitutional protection for them as guaranteed by the First Amendment. And once that is done, they can make it very difficult for large scale unions to operate.

    I really don’t think we’re going to see a return to the days of air bombing and gassing workers and constitutional protections aren’t terribly relevant if legal protections remain intact regardless. I’ve never been a part of any union, but had any of my employers tried making me a contractor Department of Industrial Relations would have laughed their heads off. And then penalized the crap out of them. It really isn’t a concern.

    3) Do you know anything at all about California history?

    Missions, gold rush, Bear Flag, Caesar Chavez.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    3) After the majority of the Baby Boomers die off, the number of Californians benefiting from Prop 13 will decline substantially.

    Corporations never die.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Making the creation of fiefdoms and suppression of the general populace to serfdom even more likely.

    And serfs don’t travel.

    jonathan Reply:

    Ha. Got shares in the British East India company, then? or Soyndra?

    .. That said. take the previous contributor’s point. Yet it’s not at all clear that the corporate property-owners who stand to benefit in perpetuity from Prop 13 are even incorporated in California; never mind where their shareholders reside.

    It is a true fact that economists the (industrialized) world over, have commented that the Baby-Boomers have been exceedingly good at getting legislation passed, which benefits the age-bracket they are currentlyy in. Regardless of whether that’s Pat-Brown-era UC tuition; or President Reagan’s tax cuts.

    Or, — and since I personally heard such statements — insistence by both major US parties that whatever happens with Social Security reform or Medicare reform, the Baby-Boomers will continue to receive today’s benefits, come hell or high water.

    Trans-generational tax?

    Nathanael Reply:

    The Baby Boomers are in for some vicious treatment when their children and grandchildren get enough political clout to give them payback. Which will happen inevitably, as the number of Baby Boomers isn’t increasing. Sigh….

    Elchu Reply:

    It’s nice (and unusual) to have a well reasoned argument like this, so thanks for making your points. Unfortunately your arguments are all either to do with legal technicalities or your own opinion, neither of which seem to me to be good enough reasons not to built the system.

    #5 is arguable. It’s true that the value is will be less obvious until after it’s built, but I would counter that the value will far outweigh any costs, both in financial terms, and also in societal terms (making CA a more liveable / accessible state).

    #7 is true, but doesn’t work for me as an argument for a number of reasons. For one thing, when monorails rule the earth, there will always be a contingent who want to wait till teleportation is invented. Secondly, even when monorails exist, there will still be demand for previous forms of transportation (or are you going to tell me that bicycles have gone out of fashion?) Speculating about future air transport is just science fiction. Telecoms advances will (and does) supplement commuting and thereby reduce commuting numbers, but people will still want to travel. There are plenty of other counter-arguments, but I’ll leave it by pointing out that HSR is needed *now* to meet current demands. Generally, you seem to be missing the point that HSR is intended for long-distance large-volume travel, which is entirely the opposite of your small “taxi” airplanes and telecommuters.

    #8 is also true. But in my opinion ridership will far exceed their current targets. Do you seriously believe that nobody will ride it? What about air trips? And anyway, since when did we have to pick and choose between one environmental benefit vs. another?

    jonathan Reply:


    I’m assuming that by “monorail”, you don’t mean the Wuppertal Schwebebahn wlil conquer the world.
    Nor some form of Disney-park/Seattle bus-on-big-fat-concrete-monorail-instead-of-street.

    Perhaps you mean maglev?

    (I confess I googled “Wuppertal Monorail”, somehow I always seem to write “Schweberbahn”.)

    PS: Hallo, Max!

    BruceMcF Reply:

    8. The “green” argument is only effective if you exclude the impact of building the system. Several sources (including the LAO) have stated that the payback period is 2-3 decades before it goes net positive on environmental impact.

    Except the LAO cites an unreferenced source, so it is, on the one hand, not reporting from its own expertise and, on the other hand, not providing its source of information to allow it to be subjected to public scrutiny. The Berkeley study, for instance, was flawed in two ways ~ first, in repeating without double checking a grossly flawed energy cost per vehicle kilometer, and second in taking the GHG impact of electricity as the current grid average despite policy to source electricity from renewable sources.

    So setting aside the LAO, who refuses to reveal its source, and the Berkeley study, which other studies did you have in mind?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Bruce, highways are built by elves using pixie dust and organic fair trade asphalt from grown in the lush rain forests of Saudi Arabia. And rebar from the steel bushes of Vermont and Quebec. ( usually just upland from the sugar bushes, gives the maple sugar producers something to do in the summer – go out and harvest this year’s crop of rebar, the epoxy coated stuff comes from the south facing terriors)

    Nathanael Reply:

    I like your sense of humor, adirondacker.

    jonathan Reply:

    Lies! Calumny! Roads are built with the fruit of the tarmac tree, (re-)discovered by McAdam in the 1800’s (the ought-hundreds).

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    There was a Washington Post article that was referenced in this blog on April 19 (which supported the project but stated at least 2 decades best case before it started to pay back environmental benefits.

    Also WSJ article but to be fair I think it was referencing the LAO report.

    This is a massive project. They are going to burns huge amount of carbon to build it. And electricity does not get generated for the most part in this country without carbon. Since the plan is to only take 4% of the traffic and part of the air traffic it is not much of a stretch to think it will take a while to dig out of the construction hole.

    And since it is only going to take 4% of the traffic I dont think it will pent a single highway being built. It is in addition to highways, not instead of them

    joe Reply:

    WSJ / Post are not serious sources.

    The U C Berkeley study found HSR would be green when heavily used but the study carried over a serious error in the energy costs.
    ….CHSRA’s consultant botched the conversion from kilowatt-hours to British Thermal Units, feeding Berkeley a figure of 170 kWh/VKT instead of 46 kWh/VKT.

    Using the correct number, the study’s conclusions would be significantly altered, as shown in the modified figure below, where the contribution from Vehicle Active Operation has been proportionally scaled down to the correct DE-Consult number.

    The study’s comparison of HSR with other modes (especially cars and aircraft) would show California’s HSR pulling ahead with a significant life-cycle advantage in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and with a far lower sensitivity to ridership factors. In view of the enormous errors induced by a single incorrect parameter, it is incumbent on Chester and Horvath to acknowledge this major flaw and to publish a correction in Environmental Research Letters.

    The 4% figure is … well?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The 4% figure is from the buisness plan. They use it to claim the ridership
    Projections are reasonable. They claim they only need to get 4% of the car traffic to hit the projections. So it is a double edged sword, if you claim too much the ridership numbers are unrealistic. If you claim too little the financials don’t work out. I remembered the 4% number because it struck me as so little impact on the status quo

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Except the upside on the ridership is much greater than the downside, since the financials work out even for scenarios that have conditions unrealistically favorable for driving in ten and fifteen years time.

    Is that 4% of ridership or 4% of vehicle miles? Obviously a lot of the “inter-regional ridership” is commuting across regional boundaries that are in the lower range of inter-regional trips in terms of vehicles miles per trip. It will be far easier to replace those trips with electric cars, pluggable hybrid electric buses, trolleybuses and conventional electric rail than to replace the longer car trips with those alternatives.

    jonathan Reply:

    Oh, to see the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal condemned to the dustbin, in the same six-word paragraph. Rupert Murdoch must be miffed.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I dont think it will pent a single highway being built.

    A highway lane can carry 2,000 passenger cars an hour. Or 48,000 a day if it was filled to capacity 24 hours a day. 36,500,000 HSR passengers a year means it would carry 100,000 passengers a day. You need to build a lane from Los Angeles to Fresno to carry the traffic and then add congestion to the Fresno-San Francisco leg and the Fresno-Sacramento leg or build a lane.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But that is the Washington Post, so what was it’s source? Eight newspapers, all reporting on one study with multiple flaws, is not nine independent sources, its one flawed report successfully pushed into newspapers by opponents of the project.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Is that 4% of the traffic or 4% of the ridership? You are not being clear, since here you say 4% of traffic and elsewhere you say 4% of ridership, and they are not equivalent.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I went back and checked the source.

    From the report on the HSR page on cost benefit analysis

    Table 2 is Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

    They predict a reduction for the blended system of 3.6 billion VMT on a bast of 299 billion VMT or a 1.2% reduction in VMT

    Pretty small impact for 68 billion invested.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Where does the conclusion follow from the premise? The direct mode shift benefit to drivers that take the HSR sums to around $25b, in discounted $2011 ~ and in discounted $2011 terms, the project cost is, of course, not $68b, which is YOE budgeting that miscounts later spending as if it was at a premium rather than at a discount.

    The conclusion might follow if the direct mode shift benefits to drivers switching to HSR was the sole benefit of the project, but of course it is far from the sole benefit. It does not even include the benefit to drivers still driving of that mode shift, which in the Benefit/Cost ratio analysis is reckoned to be a further $11b+. So the mode shift benefit alone covers more than half of the cost of the project, in discounted $2011, before even considering air travel to HSR mode shift benefits.

    jonathan Reply:

    Batman: Yes, Robin. But HSR ridership projections seem to get most of their projected ridership from air travel. As has demonstrably occurred, everywhere comparable in the world, where high-speed rail has been built.

    Never mind the benefit to drivers who continue to drive LA/SF…

    jonathan Reply:

    7. […] If you think about transportation 20 years ago there were no discount airlines (or they were very small)

    Please telll Margaret (now Baron) Thatcher and Sir Freddie Laker. They really need to know. So does Christopher Ryan, founder of RyanAir.

    John, the kindest interpretation is that you are an ignoramus. That’s not an insult; it s an accurate statement of the facts. A harsher interpretation is that you just make stuff up.

  3. joe
    Jun 20th, 2012 at 09:29

    1. The Prop 1a does not require operating travel times – it sets a capability for service – run a train once 2:40 SF to LA and it’s compliant. Once as a demonstration.

    2. What’s the illegality? I don’t see where the Porp1A requires a system wide plan for all construction – (correct any misunderstanding please) – it seems to focus on segments – what’s illegal about starting and building a segment without producing a construction plan for Anaheim? The Prop does not require a running project cost total either. The plan can be amended at any time – the project totals are not required in Prop1a.

    3. Irrelevant. It’s not illegal because you have doubts. This is an argument vetted by the voters and you lost.

    4. Irrelevant – it’ not illegal if you don’t like it. It was vetted by the voters and approved. The law states transbay and the project and stakeholders want to built it – no issue here at all. None. Just you think building is disruptive – and question the value … so what?

    5. Yawn –

    6. Double yawn. Where’s the money for the road construction and repair in 2013? prove you can pay you mortgage in 2013 – prove you have a guaranteed salary next year. You are spending without knowing where your money is coming form – stop spending now. Hunker down.

    7. “technology could pass it by” Face Palm.

    8. It’s greener. Game, set, match.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    1. You have to be able to do it (once) for each of the segments. I don’t think they will be able to do it even once for SF to SJ in 30 min. The others are questionable.

    2. As I stated I realize it can be at the end of phase 1…the problem is it is not even in the plan. You have to at least pretend you are going to do it and they are not even doing that. Also if you say the cost of phase 1 is 68 billion that is not true because Anaheim is in phase 1 and it is not included in the 68 billion.

    3. No one will know until the system is built (as I stated) and but it is not irrelevant. If it can not operate without a subsidy then what?

    4. As long as they don’t try to cut it out of the plan then you are correct it is legal. I am predicting they will try and cut it out (just like supporters are predicting that it will come in on budget). No one knows for sure until it is built.

    5. I am pretty sure “Yawn” is not a valid debate tactic. I am sure that “cost benefit analysis” is however, so since you are so tired I will just assume you agree the cost is not worth the benefit.

    6. You should be getting at least 8 hours of sleep…it is sad you can’t stay awake more than 3-4 minutes it took you to write the reply. But this argument might be the strongest of them all. It would be 1 thing to say there is a dedicated source (tax, toll, etc.) and you don’t know for sure how much that will be. That is reasonable. That is not this situation. In this situation there is no dedicated source. The assumed source has zeroed out funding for the last 2 years in the area (congress). If the GOP retains control of the congress or even better gets control of the White House there will be no funding source for at least 4 years…how is that a double yawn. And the difference between me and this project is that i am not expecting tax dollars to support me. When I was last laid off I did not apply for unemployment because I had severance and savings to live off of until I found a new job (planning is a good thing).

    7. I am not sure how to respond to “Face Palm” but this happens all the time (technology advances).

    8. It is only net greener in 2050+ and only if ridership is high…that is a long way away. As i said it would be more cost effective to do other things with the money if you care about green so much

    J. Wong Reply:

    Actually, there probably is a little wiggle room because Prop 1A doesn’t specify what the criteria are for being “finished”. That is, yes we have service between LA and SF and yes it takes longer than 2′ 40″, but we’re not finished yet and we’re now planning what we need to do to meet the 2’40” time so we’re still legal.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    That is reflected in the Business Plan timeline ~ the IOS and the Bay to Basin are both completed before they are operational, but the Phase1 blended is operational before it is completed.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The others are not questionable. SF to SJ is problematic and will probably require an expensive reconfiguration of the Transbay Terminal (damn you, Transbay Terminal designers), but at this rate, it’s going to be built after Anaheim.

    jonathan Reply:

    John, please tell us the discount rate in your cost-benefit analysis.

    Since you have become rather hostile, i will note that anyone who cites a cost/benefit analysis but cannot find the discount rate, has at the very leastnot done their homework in examining someone else’s cost/benefit analysis.

    This is a very salient point, given that the price of oil has hovered between $80/barrel and $110/barrel in the midst of a historic Depression (also known as “The Great Recession”).

  4. Reedman
    Jun 20th, 2012 at 10:12

    San Francisco also announced today it’s proposed solution to auto gridlock on Market Street — ban cars on Market Street.

    The Chronicle (and San Francisco in general) isn’t a recommended source for well-considered thought.

    P.S. The Central Subway (a $1 billion alternative to a 10 minute walk), has begun construction in SF.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    People thought recycling was a crazy idea, now san francisco lead the nation with 80 percent of waste being recycled instead of going to landfills.

    Also, that’s not a 10 minute walk by any stretch. Ive made the walk many times over a lifetime. Its 20 minute walk at best if youre young and healthy and not in a hurry and don’t mind choking on exhaust fumes in the stockton tunnel. If you’re disabled or elderly, and their is a very large concentration of elderly people there, its no easy task.

    Further, this isn’t a stand alone segment of subway.Its and extension of an existing line.

    The southern and central waterfront /thrid street corridor is where the majority the future growth will happen per the cities eastern neighborhood plan. Another 100,000 people in this corridor. It connect the mission bay and uc campus, the king street ball park neighborhood, the convention center, union square, china town and eventually north beach and the northern waterfront.

    SO quite acting like its just some useless piece of track. YOu are either just lying to make a point or you don’t have any idea what you are talking about.

    Neville Snark Reply:


    synonymouse Reply:

    It is a very expensive piece of track with very limited utility. Instead of upgrading the #30 it recreates the #15, except missing the financial district entirely. The loadings will be a fraction of those of the #38.

    The money would have been better spent on the N.

    How many tourists ride Muni Metro instead of the F?

    Nathanael Reply:

    It’s not a well-designed route, though. Why this instead of a Geary Subway?

    jonathan Reply:

    You need to find some non-Americans — say, Australians or New Zealanders — to time the walk ;)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    New Yorkers might do. I was strolling slowly, with a Manhattanite, from the restaurant back to San Franciscan host’s house. We were walking too fast for the Californians. Walking is a form of transportation to New Yawkers, not a recreational activity.

    Nathanael Reply:

    They aren’t really planning to ban cars from Market Street, now that I read about it — they’re planning to ban cars driving UP AND DOWN Market street. All the streets crossing Market Street will remain open for cars.

    This actually makes sense. Market Street has two separate subways and a surface trolley line as well as a bunch of buses, plus massive walking traffic, and lots of bikes… and then there’s the delivery trucks. Cars are a wasteful use of space running up and down it.

  5. Tony D.
    Jun 20th, 2012 at 10:16

    How is it that big business can be for HSR but the California GOP aren’t? Seems rather odd.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    As I see it, the businessmen are about money. The GOP is really the GO(B)P, or “oil money,” or really, really, REALLY BIG business that would dwarf the ones in this example. They also claim to be “socially conservative,” which includes standing against things that are “socialism.”

    They have actually demonstrated that they lie about the latter. I’m in the “socially conservative” group, and that bunch, once it had power, didn’t do anything about the abortion question (which I regard as a life issue, and I also realize not everyone here will agree with me), they make this big talk about “national security,” but fail to even looking at the strategic oil dependence that is a key component of our current security problems (and electric rail is a part of dealing with that), and finally, the bunch is wanting to deny health benefits to all of us and apparently doesn’t believe in equal pay or equal opportunity for women. Why is a “social conservative” upset about this bit on the women? Simple–those ladies are somebody’s sister, daughter, wife, mother, or grandmother. You wouldn’t want somebody to beat up, deny equal pay, or deny benefits to your sister, your daughter, your wife, your mother, or your grandmother–but these guys do, while claiming it’s about “money.”

    Ha! Check the deficits under the Republicans in recent years, see where they have come from!

    Actually, like the so-called Dummycrats, the Repugnant Ones are about money, about other people’s money–about making sure the other people with plenty of money get more money–from the rest of us. . .

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    There could also be something else. . .

    I know a couple who run an antique shop near where I live, and they also run a gun shop (mostly antiques there, too). I got to talking with them, and told them about a radio show on a public station out of Washington, DC, that runs old radio shows on Sunday nights. They took to listening, and enjoy the show immensely, as do I. We agree it’s good material, as most of it is from the 1940s and 1950s, making it quite family friendly. This even includes the “adult” shows, among them the early versions of “Dragnet” and “Gunsmoke” (the latter stars William Conrad as Matt Dillon, who often sounds irritable and cranky–and more menacing because of that).

    I did ask them, “How do you explain that the conservative Republicans say they want to get rid of public radio, yet this public radio station is the only one you can pick up around here that runs that old stuff?” The gentleman’s reply was, “There are some things you just can’t explain.”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    didn’t do anything about the abortion question

    If they did something about it they wouldn’t be able to whip up the base with it anymore. Yes I think they are that cynical. And if they did something about it their wives and daughters would have to travel to Canada when they wanted one. Or describe symptoms to their doctors that indicate a D&C.

    they make this big talk about “national security,”

    Who took down Osama? Who is getting us out of Iraq and Afghanistan? It’s mostly about directing money to their crony contractors. Eisenhower warned us about that.

    How do you explain that the conservative Republicans say they want to get rid of public radio

    Because reality has a liberal bias. And public radio is mostly commercial free. No opportunities for getting the vigorish from advertisers.
    The radio in the truck at work only gets a few stations. The only one that comes in reliably is the one that carries Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. They rant outright lies. This week’s memorable one is that 112% of the electorate voted, in the recent recall election, in Madison Wisconsin.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “It’s mostly about directing money to their crony contractors. Eisenhower warned us about that.”–Adirondacker 12800

    Hrrumph, and Ike was a Republican, who probably wouldn’t be electable today.

    Which brings something else to mind–Eisenhower could be considered a real hero, certainly a man who lead a great military force to victory (although there were and are some who would rate him as only about average). He certainly had to be a diplomat to deal with the Allied generals under his command (de Gaul, Montgomery), along with some wild-winging Americans of his own (Patton). Yet we here very little about “a modern Eisenhower” or, for that matter, a “modern Lincoln,” a “modern Teddy Roosevelt,” or even a “modern Coolidge” (and he was big on business). Instead, we hear talk of wanting another Ronald Reagan–perhaps a nice enough fellow, but too old, and, at least in my opinion, not the smartest person the party could have picked, perhaps, while still in office, suffering from the Alzheimer’s disease that would eventually kill him.

    In my opinion, the whole time since Jimmy Carter’s time, and particularly the time of Ronald Reagan, was wasted, at least as far as getting our oil problem under control, along with all the other rubbish that comes out of that, including a bunch of military actions in the Persian Gulf that just maybe would have been avoidable if we had dealt with this properly.

    Why would we want that again?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If your whole policy boils down to “cut taxes on rich people” and “piss off hippies” St Ronnie is just the man.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    That article is a must-read!

    From the comments that follow:

    “Reagan, like all people/politicians, have had their ‘moments’. Trying to blame them for something so broad and deep, however, is giving them too much credit/blame. The truth is that until ‘average people’ get off their arses nothing will happen.

    “The politician/biz crowd will never do anything that endangers their position/power until they have to. To think they will is simply naive. Unless constituents/consumers create the demand they will never invest/promote anything they don’t have to.

    “The fault does not lie with them. They are simply being what they are. It lies with people who allow them to continue as they are because they are satisfied with what they have. In other words ‘we have seen the enemy and he is us’.

    “There is an old adage. “People get the government they deserve.” I think it is being proven these days.”– Dan1369

    “Sorry to burst your bubble, but Saint Ronnie was truly to blame for gutting R&D budgets for renewable energy as well as eliminating tax breaks for renewable energy, since I was working in the solar field at the time, and saw it first hand.

    “It was the well-entrenched and subsidized fossil fuel industry that directed our energy policy and still does. It has also been the fossil fuel industry that has slowed nuclear technology as well, causing a full half of our electricity generating facilities to be fueled by dirty coal instead.

    “I can not help to think how far along we could be today if our politicians had not been bought by the fossil fuel industry, and we had followed through with Carter’s dream. “The motivation was energy independence,” a motive that remains recognizable in political rhetoric today because, as Carter himself put it, the sun cannot be embargoed.

    “Unfortunately, that same technology developed here in the U.S. and once manufactured in Warrentown, Va., by InterTechnology/Solar Corp., along with much other renewable energy technology and jobs, has been offshored over the past 30 years, due to lack of insight by politicians starting with saint ronnie, stuck in the past with the dirty fossil fuel industry.

    “Each day the sun delivers enough energy to support all life on our planet, and this free, abundant and clean source of power has the grace to rival every energy source we know.”–lakota2012

    I’ll add one more thing–while the Repugnant Ones “piss off hippies,” they’ve also done a first-class job of doing the same for me–and I am just the sort of person–conservative, working, Catholic, etc.–that they should want!

    Nathanael Reply:

    Regarding abortion, there are a lot of circumstances under which it is absolutely crucial to perform abortions, because pregnancies often go horribly wrong and can kill women without an emergency D&C.

    Eclampsia comes to mind.

    Of course, most conservatives agree about allowing abortions to save women’s lives. The male Catholic hierarchy doesn’t; this shows that they care more about hurting women than about life.

    The Republican Party leaders also don’t agree: their practice has been to create subtle restrictions which encourage the death of poor women who urgently need abortions to save their lives (what? the county hospital was sold to the Catholic Church and refuses to perform emergency abortions?)… while making sure that upper-class rich women can still get abortions. That tells you where *their* priorities lie: hurt the poor, help the rich.


    Paul Druce Reply:

    Of course, most conservatives agree about allowing abortions to save women’s lives. The male Catholic hierarchy doesn’t; this shows that they care more about hurting women than about life.

    Nope. We care about all life, including that of the unborn child. It is never permissible to do evil, that includes the deliberate murder of an unborn child. It may sometimes happen that you do something which has a known probability of killing someone, but do not intend that death (the infamous trolley problem in moral philosophy for example; certain chemotherapy treatments as a more practical example), but to deliberately will their death is the sin of murder.

    tl;dr version: Catholicism condemns consequentialism as heresy and rank foolishness; appeals to it are necessarily pointless.

    Nathanael Reply:

    You are wrong. The Catholic church approves of “just war” doctrine, which means that they do believe that it’s OK to do evil by killing innocent people.

    The Catholic Church is a hypocritical organization with good brainwashing techniques.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Oh, famous recent example: the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated a NINE YEAR OLD for having an abortion. She had (of course) been raped by her father, and if she hadn’t had an abortion, it was obvious the pregnancy would have killed her, since her body wasn’t capable of carrying the pregnancy to term.

    The Church did not excommunicate the father, of course, because raping children is fine in the eyes of the Catholic hierarchy. And I am not really exaggerating; you know the scandals as well as I do.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The bishops’ official position was that the victimized girl should have died, along with the embryo, rather than save one life.

    This is fundamentally immoral.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Oh — actually, it gets worse! The hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic hierarchy knows no bounds.

    The current hierarchy position on abortion is an 19th century innovation and contrary to 1600 years of Catholic teaching and practice. Go ahead, research it yourself if you don’t believe me!

    Mac Reply:

    Just to clarify, Nathaniel: Eclampsia is only diagnosed in the end of the last trimester and would never be an indication for abortion, although it is a serious condition that must be carefully managed. If you are talking about pre-eclampsia…that occurs earlier and may or may not progress to eclampsia…but is treatable and also would not be an indication for abortion. You might want to use another example.

    Nathanael Reply:

    It is an indication for termination of pregnancy. I make my correction, in that this would be “potentially fatal delivery”, rather than a D&C.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Potentially fatal to the fetus, that is.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Pre-eclampsia’s a great example, actually. From Wikipedia:

    “The only known treatments for eclampsia or advancing pre-eclampsia are abortion or delivery, either by labor induction or Caesarean section.”

    There you go. The delivery of a non-viable fetus is an abortion.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There’s even more nasty possibilities than eclampsia and pre-eclampsia, of course.

    It turns out that embryo-mother immune incompatibility is pretty common. If you’re religious, you might say that this is a sign that only one is meant to live — however, the embryo generally can’t survive without the mother, so that means that the mother is the one meant to live.

    Nathanael Reply:

    What really happened in Madison is that there was massive same-day registration, amounting to 12% of the previously registered voters. :-) Which shows how much people in Madison cared.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Some big business. Big oil is against it. And the tea party parade is mostly a wholly owned subsidiary of some well heeled oil billionaires, as the GOP who aren’t in the tea party parade have been trying to pretend they are to avoid getting primaried by one.

  6. synonymouse
    Jun 20th, 2012 at 10:42

    Because the GOP is in actuality at least two parties the cosmopolitan libertine commercial centrist tycoons(Bloomberg, Romney)and small town, rural, Catholic working class(Santorum, Palin). Extends even to the Democrats where the West Virginia contingent is boycotting the convention.

    Prop 1A is not worth the paper it is written on. The courts will routinely validate anything Jerry-PB-Palmdale concocts. This project is entirely political – it is welfare.

    BART provides the paradigm. Statutory subsidization at every level – engineering, construction, operation, maintenance. Add an artificial monopoly by suppressing competition from paralleling bus lines and cancelling auto-oriented spending. Bloated payroll with union dues going back to the Machine.

    The CHSRA will attempt to legislate out competing bus, airline and auto traffic. Welcome to Hugo-World.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    For this project to be “Super BART”, it would need a dedicated source of funding. BART has the property tax levy that enabled it to finance construction as well as a hearty serving of federal dollars.

    That’s because, as you well know, BART created grade separated new ROW that did not compete with existing freight lines. If HSR really is going to share tracks with other entities then it’s a whole new ballgame as far as your metaphor.

    synonymouse Reply:

    baby steps

    The problem with the totally separated approach – forcedly, BART broad gauge or maglev like – is that it gravitates to the private management-private entrpreneur model. Which values profitability and thus the LA-SF simple and direct route. Tejon, I-5, Altamont, Dumbarton, SFO, etc. Anathema to Villa, Antonovich, the Chandlers, who are calling the shots.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Apparently I should include the Resnicks in there too.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Black helicopters, Nancy Pelosi mind rays and the Trilateral Commission too.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Douchetown uber alles.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Santorum & Palin are actually *charismatic evangelical Protestant*. The Catholic wing of the GOP is Scalia / Roberts.

  7. D. P. Lubic
    Jun 20th, 2012 at 11:08
  8. trentbridge
    Jun 20th, 2012 at 14:37

    I’m not a lawyer – but I’m surprised that having a legal requirement that the HSR should be built to do LA-SFO in 2 hours and 40 minutes is seen as being relevant. Obviously it is fine as a design guideline but do people seriously believe that the judicial system is going to stop a $50 billion dollar project once it gets its initial operating system running because the engineers come back and say it looks like the first LA-SFO trains will take 2 hours 55 minutes? Or three hours thirty-five minutes! At any time – cost $200, we, the people, could try to put a proposition on the ballot saying that the people of California want the HSR to do SF – LA in no less than three and a half hours and no more than four and a half hours (with intermediate stops) because of “safety issues” of a blended approach. (plus less energy required etc. etc.)

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Why are you supprised that a law is considered relevant.

    So if I can ignore the part of the law that lists travel times can i also ignore the part of the law that athorizes the bond sales? You can’t just pick and choose

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Prop 1A is sacrosanct.

    Except when it’s not.

    I hope things are clear to you now.

    You’re welcome.

    jonathan Reply:

    Richard, do _try_ to be an adult, and to phrase coherent paragraphs. Your tirades are bordering on being content-free. I think you’re trying to say something like this:

    Prop 1A is the law of the land, and therefore sacrosanct.
    Except where the Tcontractors (or sole primary contractor) from the ransport-Industrial Complex would stand to lose; or where Established Very Large Political Contributors might stand to lose. In which cases Prop 1A goes out the window.

    Is that close to what you mean? or something else?

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    The 2:40 requirement is incredibly relevant. If travel time reaches 3 hours, ridership drops off a cliff. Without ridership we’re looking at an unprofitable project which would require subsidies.

    The 3 hour mark is a critical cutoff point in rail transportation. Someone was thinking when they wrote AB 3034, although they could have been clearer on spelling out the significance of meeting the 2:40 travel time. As demonstrated on this blog, most people think it’s some arbitrary number.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No it doesn’t drop off a cliff. Someone somewhere in Amtrak has the numbers. They price Keystones lower than Regionals so that people in Philadelphia who want to get to New York will pick the Keystone freeing up seats for the NY-DC and NY-Baltimore passengers.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    and Amtrak makes how much money…oh right…it does not.

    In the end it makes no difference why it is 2:40, it is the law and you have to follow it or not build the system.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Again you miss the point. If CAHSR was designing a system to provide high-speed rail from LA to SFO in three hours thirty – it would not be in compliance with the existing law. However, if the residents of the Peninsula insist on restricting the ROW from SFO to San Jose so the trains have to run on existing tracks at a reduced speed – for obvious safety reasons – how is that a design flaw that negates the project? The bond issuance required a system designed to a certain standard – if NIMBYism demands that the design is altered to accomodate local issues then this doesn’t invalidate the approved design. Concorde was designed to fly at Mach 2 but the United States did not give permission for commercial flights across the US at supersonic speeds. Concorde failed because of the restrictions placed on it’s commercial operations not because it couldn’t do what it’s engineers designed it to do.

    jonathan Reply:

    However, if the residents of the Peninsula insist on restricting the ROW from SFO to San Jose so the trains have to run on existing tracks at a reduced speed – for obvious safety reasons
    There _are_no_ obvious safety reasons…

    “obvious safety reasons”??

    E_k = 1/2 mv^2. (LaTeX notation).
    Now, are you better off being hit by a train travelleing at 80 km/rwith 3 locomotives, and 20 (special-North-American-freight-car-full-of-gravel-delivered-sometime-this-month low-value freight)4-axle freight cars full of gravel weighting about 120 tonnes apiece? I see those buggers at Redwood City about 2 nights a week as I drive home.

    Modern HSR trainsets have axle-loads in the vicinty of 17 tons. Let’s round it up and say 18 tonnnes pe per vehicle. You now have everything you need to compute the answer. Answer:
    You have to get the HSR trainset up to about 21cars before the kinetic energy comes close.

    QED, the speed limits on the Peninsula clearly have very little to do with objective safety reasons.
    Of course, there are entirely adequate and sensible reasons to limiting speeds to around 200 km/hr in a built-up urban/suburban area; but, QED, objective safety is not paramount.
    Sss, precious, yesss, let’s change the argument from kinetic energy to momentum, ss, precious, yes let’s. That would be not shooting, but dynamiting fish in a barrel.

    Clearly, trentbridge simply makes things up out of thin air. Or he/she uncritically repeats what other people have made up out of thin air (or worse, deliberately misled).

    I wonder, of the people savvy enough and interested enough to read and contribute here:
    just how many could pass high-school physics? One might thing that a prerequisite for _understanding_ the different impacts of ~100 km/hr US-obscenely-heavy-rail, and ~200 km/hr rest-of-world high speed rail. But no, that’d be elitist.

    jonathan Reply:

    Concorde failed because of the restrictions placed on it’s commercial operations not because it couldn’t do what it’s engineers designed it to do.

    Actually, Concorde succeeded in commercial operations for going on 30 years, with a limited (London, Paris)/New York faster-than-first-class service; and service to oil-rich Arabian Gulf states.
    Concorde fuel costs were high; but maintenance costs were low because the planes spent so little time in the air. (I wonder whether the Olympus engine being designed for military use in the TSR-2 had something to do with that; no clue though, I left all my _Flght_ issues in New Zealand.)
    British Airways reported its Concorde service as consistently making a profit.
    Concorde was retired from commercial service after an Air France craft on on take-off form Charles de Gaulle airport; hit a peice of metal which had fallen off a Contental Airlines DC-10 which had taken off shorlty before. The peice of metal punctured a fuel tank; which then caught fire. Investigation proved that the piece of metal from the Continental DC-10 had neither been manufactured to specifications, nor correctly fift4ed at Houston. (hmm, remember Challenger, anyone?)

    Admittedly, the Air France Concorde was about 1 tonne over specified take-off weight, but that was ruled not a significant factor in the incident. Passenger demand for both Air France and BA Concorde dried up after the crash, and never recovered.

    Looks like a second instance of simply making stuff up to suit your argument.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “Concorde failed because of the restrictions placed on it’s commercial operations not because it couldn’t do what it’s engineers designed it to do.”

    My understanding about the Concorde (and you can be free to correct me if I’m wrong) wasn’t that it couldn’t do what it was designed to do; it was in many ways a brilliant piece of engineering, and I recall some of the pilots who flew it loved it, saying it handled like a fighter. It’s main problems came from the economics of not having the market it was proposed to have (i.e., transcontinental service due to noise concerns), combined with a sudden increase in fuel costs in the 1970s (first OPEC embargo) that rendered it an uneconomical beast, even with a very high premium fare. The combination of those two lead to no new orders after the initial orders from Air France and British Airways, and this, plus the age of the aircraft, a lack of modernization over their 30-year careers, reduced air boardings after the September 11 incidents, and other factors, lead to their retirement after the infamous crash at Gonesse, France.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @John Nachtigall:

    The faster Regionals, along with the High-Speed Acela, make money for Amtrak. The Keystones do not make money for Amtrak, and are subsidized by the Pennsylvania DOT. You’re welcome.

    Regarding the travel time estimates, I don’t think anyone is concerned that the Central Valley segment will fail to meet or exceed the speed standards required. Not even PB can screw up laying down straight track, especially if the CHSRA is smart enough to write the speed requirements into the construction contracts.

    It’s the endpoints where there is cause for concern that the modified plans will no longer meet the travel time estimates. The short history of these reads like a Shakespearean farce, with new requirements continually being added by project critics until the eventual comprise is no longer capable of meeting the travel time requirements, at which point the critics claim that the project is flawed and should never be built.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    The law is not being broken. When the system is finished it has to meet the 2:40, which it will. But there is nothing that says you can’t utilized the system, or parts of the system, in the meantime. IN fact, you are required to use the system or parts of the system in the meantime. The blended approach which would allow for 125 speeds at the bookends…. well, guess what, there was never a plan to run faster than 125 at the bookends to begin with. 125 at the ends in urban areas, and 220 down the central spine is how they came up with 2:40. There is no problem here.

    Granted until there is full build out of new moutian crossings, the speeds will be slower but that does no violate the law. Once the full high speed moutian sections are complete the time will be 2:40.

    But nothing says you can use portions in the meantime. or have slower speeds in the meantime.

    California Taxpayer Reply:

    In addition to that. The system even once “completed” won’t ever be “complete” because generations to come will add to and upgrade the system. Thats the beauty of it, once in place, it is upgradable and expandable many generations into the future. YOu have the row established, the system can branch off, extend north, south east, etc, capacity can be added, There is no limit to how future generations can make use of this infrastructure. They will decide what they want to do and how they want to pay for those things. We are merely laying a foundation for those future generations.

    Its no surprise of course that the current generation of boomers in power.. the most spoiled, selfish, self centered generation in the history of mankind, is against this because its not being built for them so why should they do it.

    The boomers have coasted for a lifetime on the hard work of the ww2 generation, using up resources and living on the nations credit card for the last 50 years while refusing to pay for anything up front and they are worried about that gravy train running out and they want to circle the wagons.

    Well too bad.

    jonathan Reply:

    I still claim that 220 (obsolete units)/hr is too conservative. The CSHRA should be planning for _signalling_ the Central Valley segments for 400 km/hr at minimum. Not to build schedules on that speed, bu to give them operating leeway for catch-up time at that speed in the Central Valley, to improve on-time service ratio.

    That’s just me though, and I’m in a minority (possibly a minority of one, here).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The 3 hour mark… is not critical at all. 2:40 vs. 3:15 makes some difference in ridership, and you could even argue there’s an inflection point there, but it’s not an entire world of difference.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Why not make it 2:59, all the sweet romance of two, with the realism of three.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I didn’t write Prop 1A.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its not an inflection point, its rather a zone where the elasticity of demand with respect to travel time is higher, since between 2:30 and 3:30 you lose a lot of the single day trip market.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s exactly what an inflection point is: it’s a point where the derivative (i.e. the elasticity) is either maximized or minimized.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There is a range within which we know a large number of same-day trips tend to drop out. There is no particular reason to assume and no particular basis for inferring that there is some particular “minute” of additional transit time within that range at which either the relative (elasticity) or absolute response rate is maximized.

    A non-parametric estimate of elasticities within subranges of that range could well have several ranges with the highest elasticities and not statistically significantly different from each other. Fitting a low order continuous parametric function to that same data may imply an inflection point due to the functional form, but without compelling scientific evidence that that is the “correct” functional form, that can as easily be just an artifact of measurement.

    jonathan Reply:

    Alon: see definition of: point. Technically, to get a point of inflection, both first and second derivatives must be continuous (and, um, perhaps continuously differentiable? It’s been a _long_ time).

    BruceMcF’s point is that there isn’t a pointthere’s an imprecise, fuzzy zone. And, depending on the details of how one models that zone, there may or may not be one (or more) points of inflection.

    Economists only understand “curves”; a discontinuity buggers their assumptions of “rational decision-maker” and of utility functions.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean —neither more nor less.”

  9. California Taxpayer
    Jun 20th, 2012 at 17:37

    Kevin Johnson endorses high-speed rail but who is this kook richard tomlach? Sounds like an idiot.

    Peter Reply:

    Tolmach is synonymouse’s idol, the main proponent for an Altamont – I5 – Tejon alignment. Here’s his website. Enjoy!

    synonymouse Reply:

    I kiss the ground he walks upon.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But Larry E. can become my idol for a day if he buys the Tejon Ranch instead:

    Peter Reply:

    ’nuff said.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Tolmach is an idiot who somehow got control of a formerly prestigious “rail advocacy” group, and ruined it.

  10. Reality Check
    Jun 20th, 2012 at 17:55

    Gov. Jerry Brown scraps idea to soften environmental scrutiny on high-speed rail

    The Brown administration on Wednesday abandoned its plan to ease environmental scrutiny of the $69 billion bullet train, backing off quickly after strong opposition from environmentalists threatened the project altogether.


    The proposal would have required opponents suing under the California Environmental Quality Act to prove the project would cause major harm to the environment, like wiping out an endangered species, for a judge to issue an injunction halting construction. Typically, minor impacts can be
    enough to warrant such legal delays.

    “All along we thought it was a stupid idea,” said Kathryn Phillips, Sierra Club California director. “Trying to reduce environmental review for one of the largest public works projects in the state’s history really makes no sense.”

    But by getting the environmental groups back on their side, the rail project remains vulnerable in court. Groups from Central Valley farmers to Peninsula cities are suing to halt construction, which would force California to give back federal grants that must be spent soon. That could essentially kill the project altogether.


    Tony D. Reply:

    So if the Sierra Club thought it was such a “stupid idea,” then how do they respond to the stupid, frivolous lawsuits (cough PENINSULA NIMBY’S cough!) that may stall, or kill, this once in a lifetime project?! Can’t wait to hear their answer to that one…

    joe Reply:

    Current review process gridlock – a net positive if your model of the future is static and the goal is to preserve and minimum change. That’s the Sierra Club.

    Sadly we have an cheap oil, C heavy infrastructure and need rapid fixes to the status quo. The sierra club is thinking in the box. Its strategy will preserve roads and the current system.

    101 near PAMPA is being widened quite efficiently right now. Highway work is a-okay. HSR is a threat to the environment. NASA’s Hansen urges dramatic changes now to avoid a radically more hostile future – We’re doomed.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Suspension of CEQA: a net positive if your picture of the future is being ass raped by politically juiced developers … .forever.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Retention of CEQA:

    a net positive if your picture of the future is being ass raped by politically juiced developers….forever.

    Nathanael Reply:


    joe Reply:

    No one asked to suspend CEQA – the world’s master at constructing phony straw men and knocking them down.

    Can’t start HSR – Bees. What is the impact to bee in the irrigated almond grower’s monoculture crop and trucked in pollenizers? HSR might hurt those bee so we need an injunction to stop all construction.

    That’s what the PB-retarded technical rail advocate thinks is a better outcome.

    We’re screwed – NASA’s Hansen has tried to get the message out … the climate system is going to shift and we will have a mass extinction.

    Today they are ripping up along 101 in PAMPA and adding a new lane – simple as eating pie. That the status quo. No problem-o.

    Electrifying Caltrain – well NO way. Hey Richard has some emails showing Caltrain is stupid — they dug a pedestrian tunnel 1+ feet too deep and that every engineering debacle adds 5 seconds walking for every unnecessary foot in depth.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The bees! They’re defending themselves somehow!

    Reality Check Reply:

    The 101 widening in Palo Alto was originally supposed to be for what Caltrans calls “auxiliary lanes” (they only run between exits and so don’t require overpasses to be rebuilt/widened). But only recently local papers carried stories that amounted to “Surprise everyone! Caltrans and VTA quietly figured out a couple years ago that they could squeeze in an additional HOV lane for little additional cost at the same time.” So already-wide and completely clogged Hwy 101 is getting 4 (FOUR!) additional lanes. Where are the NIMBYs on this? Not even a peep, let alone a few threatened lawsuits or calls for city-sponsored subcommittees, etc.!? No web sites dedicated to stopping this backroom deal to quietly double the widening project? No boondoggle marches or rallies? No call for investigations? Where’s the LAO report!? Where are the PAMPA- and Burlingame-based HSR foes on this?

    Clem Reply:

    The business plan was a slam dunk, no doubt.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Indeed. “We plan to make no money at all, we have no tax source for maintenance, and we’re going to use money needed for maintenance in order to do this project, which will make pollution worse.”

    Definitely a slam-dunk business plan.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Were the lawsuits ever about bees?

    Peter Reply:

    Depressingly, yes, the most recent one filed on the Merced-Fresno EIR does in fact deal with bees and pollination.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Is there a link?

    Peter Reply:

    It’s not listed per se, but the Petition for Writ of Mandate does discuss the following:

    The details relating to the train vehicles, including but not limited to their, shape,
    length, weight, engine type, method, and speed in specific locations, were not
    defined, so that impacts on noise, wind creation, airbome’particle distribution, and
    many other potential effects, could not be known, evaluated, studied, or weighed.

    Go to, type in 80001166 as the case number (make sure 2012 is selected), hit search, find the Petition for Writ of Mandate, and go to page 8.

    thatbruce Reply:


    Reducing that form of argument to absurdity, the shape, length, weight, and engine type of all vehicles traveling along newly-constructed roads during the road’s lifetime isn’t known before the road is constructed, and only the method and projected speed are variables that can be controlled by the builders of the road. Stop all road construction, we don’t know how unknown types of vehicles will affect the survival of nearby bees!

    Nathanael Reply:

    The people filing these should be fined for frivolous lawsuits.

  11. Brian
    Jun 20th, 2012 at 20:24

    Off topic, but from Florida news about Florida East Coast ‘all aboard Florida’ project. I sent an email to them tonight asking about the status of the Orlando to Miami project and what their thoughts were on extending to Tampa later. Within 5 minutes at 10pm (!!) I received a response:

    Thanks for your interest in the project.  As we begin to staff up, you will start getting emails and other information will be added to the website.  In the meantime, we have been busy finishing up the due diligence phase.  As for Tampa, planning for that leg would start only after Miami to Orlando becomes operational.


    He says ‘as we staff up’ so I take that to mean that the project is a go at this point. Also Florida representative John mica announced this week his desire that the corp of engineers fast track any environmental permitting. It appears that FEC has the right connections to make this project work. Website at

    Brian Reply:

    More but brief news of talks between FEC and Orlando airport Officials. Link from Tampa tribune

    Brian Reply:

    Here is more information. It appears all aboard Florida has chosen the Orlando airport as their terminal. This is the email I received from them:

    Yesterday the Greater Orlando Airport Authority Board authorized the executive director of Orlando International Airport to work with us to develop an agreement that would bring the All Aboard Florida commercial passenger rail service to the airport’s Intermodal Facility. 
    You can read more about the Authority’s decision here.
    As a supporter of All Aboard Florida, we wanted to share this news with you. We are excited about taking this first step towards selecting a terminal location in Central Florida and look forward to working with the airport’s leaders to create intermodal transportation options that will be of great benefit to Central Florida’s residents, businesses and visitors alike.
    Thank you for your support,
    All Aboard Florida Team

  12. DanielSong39
    Jun 21st, 2012 at 12:14

    Build the heavily traveled commuter lines FIRST, and I think you’ll see more positive responses. That means Gilroy to San Francisco, Modesto to Sacramento, and Palmdale to San Diego.

    The other thing I have a hard time understanding is why the existing high speed rail meanders east instead of going from Irvine to Oceanside to San Diego. You’ll get more riders from the coastal route because you’ll have more commuters using those lines.

    A third question, related to ExpressWest, is why the plan is for a Palmdale extension instead of a straight shot to Union Station. Let’s not forget that Amtrak already goes from Victorville to Union Station so this route should be possible.

  13. DanielSong39
    Jun 21st, 2012 at 19:20

    A second point: It’s pure fantasy to believe that a “blended” line will produce a travel time that is even in the same area code as 2:40. I predict that if one is built, it will take over 4 hours from Union Station to Transbay Station, and promised upgrades will not be made for decades.

  14. Dan Lombard
    Jun 21st, 2012 at 19:33

    Want a break from all the over the top arguments for and against HSR? Read the book Midnight Departure available on Amazon. It is an action thriller with the building of the California HSR set as the background. A book of deception, corruption, deceit, murder and mayhem, great summer reading!

    Alan Reply:

    Looks more like an anti-HSR hit piece thinly veiled as a work of fiction. But thanks for the comment spam.

  15. D. P. Lubic
    Jun 24th, 2012 at 18:01

    Off topic, but what sounds like an early view on Modern Monetary Theory–from the time of Herbert Hoover! Will Rogers and his “Bacon, Beans and Limousines” talk, October 18, 1931:

    “There’s as much money in this country as there ever was. Only fewer people have it, but it’s there.”


    Personal observation: I’m a nostalgia hound, I like old things like this, but I wonder what sort of audience this fellow would find today. My guess would be none–talks too slow, stammers a bit, wanders around on his subject matter, doesn’t have a machine-gun delivery of punch lines, and no profanity. . .and he admits to being a liberal. . .

Comments are closed.