Will California Be Left Behind As Globe Embraces HSR?

Jun 25th, 2012 | Posted by

As the state legislature debates releasing the voter-approved high speed rail bond funds, it’s worth reminding Californians that the rest of the planet is already moving full speed ahead with building bullet trains. The San Jose Mercury News took a look at the global expansion of HSR over the weekend:

The International Union of Railways and California High-Speed Rail Authority point to existing, under-construction and planned high-speed rail lines in India, Iran, Turkey, South Korea, Belgium, the Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina and other nations.

Some are designed for a specific purpose, such as the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Others are built to cut down the time of long bus and train trips, like in Uzbekistan. Most are far less expensive than California’s project, including Morocco’s $4 billion plan to link Casablanca, Rabat and Tangier.

“It is bizarre and strange that countries that are close to Third World in some cases are building high-speed rail now and we’re still having this big huge debate over” it, said Daniel Krause, executive director of Californians for High-Speed Rail. “If we don’t (build it), we’re going to be at a major competitive disadvantage.”

Krause is absolutely right, and he’s not alone in that view. Analysts from Japan to North America have understood how high speed rail is key to competitiveness in the 21st century, tying together megaregions of urbanized economies with affordable, sustainable, fast transportation that doesn’t ruin the environment as it moves people. No wonder so many countries around the world are embracing HSR.

So why would anyone in California oppose it? In part, out of ignorance:

But a train ride is generally more attractive to Japanese than it is to Californians. In Japan, a 20-mile car ride can take two hours through gridlock and cost $20 in freeway tolls, while a drive of that distance down Interstate 5 in California can take 15 minutes and is toll-free. And while California packs in 240 people per every square mile, Japan squeezes 875 people per square mile, with more people near stations.

Project opponent William Grindley, a retired World Bank official, said that California is planning “bass-ackwards” by building high-speed rail before packing in dense development and enough connecting transit systems near stations.

“If you get off at Los Angeles, what do you do? You rent a car,” he said.

All these claims are wrong.

Let’s start with the last one. If you get off the bullet train at LA Union Station in 2030, around the time the system is fully built out, you can actually board a train to get to most places you’ll want to go. Already LA’s rail system is better than most people realize and it gets heavy usage. But it’s the expansion plans that are the most significant for this discussion. Here’s what Metro currently envisions:

Click for larger version

Grindley is locked in a 1950s-era mentality where LA is seen as a place where without a car, you cannot get anywhere. That’s no longer true, and though there’s still a long way to go, he’s simply wrong to say that one has to rent a car if you take the train to LA, especially by the time HSR is done.

His other point, that HSR requires density, isn’t true either. That’s the case with something like light rail or a streetcar, whereas a bullet train merely needs a station to be located in a convenient and easily accessible place. However, California’s population density does compare favorably to that of countries where HSR is thriving.

It would be nice to see these facts acknowledged in the press, or to see reporters push back on people like Grindley and ask HSR opponents why they are determined to stop a form of transportation that has been so successful around the world.

  1. PZ
    Jun 25th, 2012 at 23:08

    Also, greater Paris and greater LA have about the same density-


  2. Peter Becker
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 00:03

    Long time supporter but never contributor here so I would appreciate a real response to this….

    Looking at all the global plans and business models has anyone ever considered the idea of using all of the approved bond and federal dollars to build nothing other than the solid infrastructure (tracks, catenary, service yards and limited station facilities) and let private companies compete on a per use basis. Something like building a toll road for operators of commercial vehicles.

    Private companies that are eager to invest could purchase the vehicles that meet certain performance characteristics, premium station facilities (similar to first class clubs at airports) and even express and overtaking tracks at strategic locations of their choice.

    Imagine a Virgin club and TGV club at LAUPT.

    You would have several levels of service to San Jose and San Francisco.

    Selected stop service to some stations in between perhaps and standard comfort level similar to a Southwest airlines flight.

    Express , non-stop (similar to a private jet) service to San Jose and San Francisco.

    OR, whatever a savvy startup with a good business model and some funding can get onto the track with like they can do now with the interstate highways and skyways (think MGM Air or MEGABUS)

    This is what the systems in Europe are evolving to AND would seem to satisfy the “let the private sector” decide crowd….

    Hope this sparks some good conversation!

    Nathanael Reply:

    Because of something called “dispatching” and something else called “signalling” and a third thing, related to those two, called “scheduling”, this is basically impossible.

    If you tried it you’d get traffic jams on the tracks, and one of the major advantages of rail is that it DOESN’T have such traffic jams.

    You could do something similar to the former, totally regulated private airlines of the 1950s. This is approximately what’s actually happening in Europe.

    But why?

    thatbruce Reply:


    ‘Traffic Jams’ ?

    Europe has an ‘open access’ mandate, with each track network having a single entity handling the dispatching/signaling/scheduling of trains across its track, and multiple companies bidding for the limited number of slots available, similar to how multiple airlines get arrival/departure slots at airports. In most places, you can watch a single section of track and see a number of differently-colored trains whizz past, each competing to gain passengers over the same route, and each adhering to the safe-working practices of the track.

    The different train operating companies have either adjusted their timings to suit the available infrastructure, or have contributed funds towards infrastructure in their preferred locations in order to get a more preferred service level. No ‘traffic jams’.

    ( Anecdote of dubious plausibility: There used to be a through train service that operated from north of London to Dover, passing awkwardly around London across the throat of most of the major terminals instead of avoiding London altogether. Minor delays in other services crossing its path meant that it was frequently held at signals waiting for ‘its’ track to clear and arrived really late at its destination, which meant that the track operator was automatically fined and the operator compensated for ‘delays outside its control’. It wasn’t until the track authority conducted a ridership survey of the train and regularly found very few passengers riding it that they realized that the whole point of the train was to make money through fines. )

  3. Neil Shea
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 00:06

    Yes, in California we are blessed with two large centers of world-class creative/professional workforces. Just as cities continue to grow in importance as economies value density and convenience in collaboration, efficiently linking our two major centers – reducing the friction in and bringing together the world centers of technology and entertainment – can create the kinds of unfair advantages for California that other regions could only dream about.

    On the other hand, California faces major challenges. Without some offsetting new advantages our high costs of living and of doing business may well be our undoing. Every major region around the world would gladly welcome any of our businesses to divert more of their expansion there.

    We’re used to being winners here but we cannot take that for granted into the future. Planting seed corn for the next generation is what strong, healthy, forward-looking people and cultures do. Smart civilizations make investments in their continued success even as the world evolves around them.

    Transportation has always been one of the fundamental points of friction in human interaction. Throughout history each advance in transportation (e.g. the wheel, horses, ships, railroads, autos, airplanes, etc.) has provided an economic benefit to those who mastered them.

    We know better than to accept 2nd class communications infrastructure (slow internet, over-saturated mobile networks that drop calls). Yet some of us think that it’s no big deal that we have a fragile transportation system including delayed flights, overcrowded roads, unstabile petroleum supplies, and more land allocated to cars then people in some popular locales.

    California has been a beacon of greatness that’s changed the world in countless ways. Jus as Ben Franklin wondered about that picture in the Continental Congress, whether the sun was rising or setting, it is now up to us to decide how California moves forward.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Our communications infrastructure is 2nd class actually…

    Nathanael Reply:

    Sure is. 3rd class, even.

    In Europe or even most of the 3rd world you don’t get charged to receive calls on cellphones. In most such civilized countries there are mandatory rules on wholesale pricing and access to broadband. Here we have aggressive money-extracting monopolies who don’t invest in capital improvements.

    Most of our infrastructure problems are due to the corruption of our government by private monopolists, unfortunately. The results are predictable.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You really don’t want to know how extractive the cellphone companies are in Israel. People are almost as pissed at that as at the price of housing. The corporate raider who’s in charge of one of the carriers, Ilan Ben Dov, is popularly called Ben Khov. (Khov = debt, after the financing method he uses to take over companies.)

    joe Reply:

    Andy Ball and David Cush: California can’t afford not to build high-speed rail
    (Andy Ball is CEO of Webcor Builders and David Cust is CEO of Virgin America. Both companies are members of Silicon Valley Leadership Group. They wrote this for this newspaper.)

    Starting the high-speed rail project will also generate jobs and material sales, which in turn result in more income and sales tax revenues flowing to the state during construction to improve the near-term budget situation. Delaying or canceling high-speed rail would make the budget situation worse, not better, even without taking into account the cost of alternative transportation like highway and airport expansion — or the cost of inaction such as increased traffic, lost productivity and the environmental impacts of the current system.

  4. Peter Becker
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 00:26

    By the way the last time I rented a car at LAUPT it was like a private tour that will never happen again.

    I reserved mustang convertible and got imited GT-H that they held until our Surfliner arrived from San Diego: 45 minutes late. Im guessing nobody on here can guess what I’m talking about here but have you ever been in the lower level?



  5. Paul Druce
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 03:04

    Would someone explain the Santa Ana one to me? I’ve never quite gotten the point of LAUS to Santa Ana via light rail (speaking of which, they got some more funding money for it between Santa Ana and Garden Grove). Strikes me as a case of “Well, we have the ROW, so let’s find something to do with it.”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    assuming they put the new stops where the old stops were, you don’t have to think about building dense walkable TOD-y goodness around the station, it already is dense and walkable because the suburb that grew up around the trolley stop was built so people could walk to the trolley.

    Darrell Clarke Reply:

    Nice map, but it includes more than Metro’s current project plans. For example, the Wilshire subway will end at Westwood, there’s no branch to West Hollywood and Hollywood, and Crenshaw will end at the Expo Line.

    Spokker Reply:

    There’s also a Costco in the way but they never seem to mention it.

  6. swing hanger
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 05:08

    You have to rent a car if you fly to LA too.

    joe Reply:


    I doubt many in LA are aware of this.

    Wilshire is L.A.’s densest business and residential corridor, and it’s among the city’s biggest traffic nightmares at rush hour, which is why devoting a lane in each direction to bus use only is a good idea. More people already travel by bus than by car along the route during peak hours, and a fast bus lane would lure even more out of their cars, reducing pollution and radically reducing commuting times for bus riders.

    Lots of people use the mass transit system in LA that lots of other people are basically unaware of. It’s interesting.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Yes, I was reliant on the bus system all through my college years- you really got to see (and smell!) the transit riding masses up close, quite different from the middle-class car owning types most of my college roommates were. Back then there was no metro rail (RTD days) and a trip on Wilshire Blvd to Union Station via Downtown included a nice drive through Skid Row.

    swing hanger Reply:

    A cheap way to get to downtown LA from say, Westwood was to pay 50 cents to get on a S.M. Blue Bus, get a transfer, and then get off at the next block and catch the RTD.

    joe Reply:

    Hard to believe it was 18 years ago

    Why don’t they make a Movie about buses if they are so popular in LA, huh?

  7. D. P. Lubic
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 05:30

    “Project opponent William Grindley, a retired World Bank official. . .”

    The generational break shows again. . .

  8. Liege
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 06:09

    Off topic, but since we are discussing the globe…

    I just got back from visitng relatives in Belgium and was lucky enough to pass through the brand new train station in Liege, Belgium. Built by the architect Calatrava and opened two years ago. On this continent filled with impressive train barns, this one is the new king. 200 meter clear span, multiple high speed lines, part of a bigger project to transform the city, etc. Just incredible. Pictures barely do it justice but it would be worth your time to google it. This video gives you some perspective, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ot2mGZe_pqU

    Keeping my fingers crossed that California will do the right thing.

  9. Tony D.
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 07:52

    Nice thread Robert. Perhaps you could also put up a chart of Bay Area transit in 2030. As for LA, all that would be nice.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    There’s no need for a chart or a dumb railfan lines-on-a-map diagram.

    2030 in the Bay will be almost identical to today:

    Muni: 46% of all regional transit trips.
    BART: 22%
    AC Transit: 12%
    VTA: 8%
    SamTrans: 3%
    Everything else: noise

    If you want a “chart of Bay Area transit” in 2030 (or 2012, or 1990), here’s the Muni map.

    Tony d. Reply:

    You don’t have to be an a$$ hole everyday of your life you know…

    Jon Reply:

    The Bay Area transit map will look the same in 2030 only if we listen to people like you, who want to abandon all planned extensions because they are not perfect.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The map will look exactly the same in 2030 with extensions, because the ridership on them will be a rounding error.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Richard is correct. In the NorthBay, for instance, the commute to SF has been declining for decades. Transit buses rattle around mostly empty. Sad.

    Instead they blow money on idiotic SMART, which won’t even make it to Larkspur. And they replace the mobile bridge south of Petaluma with one scrounged from Texas instead of a high level solid bridge. All this to accommodate freight when there is not enough business to defray the maintenance. So the public subsidizes freight.

    Virtually any money spent in LA is better spent than on Humpty-DumptyRAil trailing after the UP along the phantom Antonovich Fault. Any reconstruction of the PE network is probably reasonably sound since the private operators laid it out sensibly with an eye to patronage a century ago.

    If you want a template of California’s future think on Carlos Slim’s Mexico. He must be one scary guy since you notice none of the cartel thugs dare to eff with him.

    Eric M Reply:

    SMART will not make it to Larkspur because if the city of San Rafaels’ Anderson Drive problem and the city does not have money to fix it. As for the bridge bought from Texas, that was a very smart move. Instead of buying a new bridge which would cost millions more, SMART gets a bridge in great shape at a great price for the same cost of refurbishing the old one, which will have to be replaced anyways down the road.

    Nathanael Reply:

    SMART will do just fine. And it will make it to Larkspur, they’re just figuring out how to round up the money for it.

    And it’s funded by the North Bay, what do you think they’re going to spend money on, something outside the North Bay? This is the problem with local funding.

    Eric M Reply:

    And not sure the last time you commuted to SF from the north bay, but the freeway in no less crowded than it was before. Just because the buses are not full does not translate into less commuters on the road.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Syn, how can you say that about SMART? It’s rail, rail is always successful, and if it’s not it will be in 2030 when Jupiter aligns with the Trans Bay Terminal or something like that. So it doesn’t matter how or where we build it or how much it costs, it will pay off because there is a whole new generation of soon to be public transit users. Pity the lines on the LA Metro map are mostly just that. It has been a long wait for what we have, even longer for most of those “plans”. But them I’m thinking eighties style. Must not consider value for money, lack of fed funds for both HSR and all the transit we need, constantly improving fuel economy of solo vehicles etc. Must think Micawber, must imagine income exceeding expenditure, it will have a happy ending, it will, it will….

    synonymouse Reply:

    SMART could have bought San Diego’s Siemens cars and saved a bundle, better spent on civil works, such as Anderson Drive. About the only good thing you can say for the SMART plan is that they are not going to pave the ROW, as GGT always advocated.

    The crux of the problem is diehard NWP railfans who insist the SP was wrong and freight is not dead. There is a little business but not enough to pay for MOW and it means everything has to be FRA heavyweight and no ramps such as would be required for a real bridge over the Petaluma River.

    We need an interurban not doodlebugs.

    Eric M Reply:

    No, Siemens bid was $20 million more. Again, ignoring the facts.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    LTK’s rent-seeking gaming of the bidding process has absolutely nothing to do with the “winning” design, of course.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I’m talking about the 30 year old Siemens U2 cars which went to Argentina. By all accounts they were in excellent shape, good enough for the relatively poor NorthBay as starters.

    Eric M Reply:

    They still took the lowest bid which was millions lees than the others

    synonymouse Reply:

    for expensive buses on rails.

    Eric M Reply:


    Do you just talk for the sake of talking? First you complain about and old bridge, but then advocate 30 year old rail cars.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Plenty of life left in the Siemens cars. In SMART’s case civil works are much more important. ANd the ability to climb gradients makes viaducts feasible, such as over 2nd, 3rd and 4th Sts. in San Rafael. Yes, some “stilts” are appropriate and necessary for SMART. And 55mph is a good enough speed for so many stops and so many dangerous grade crossings.

    Eric M Reply:

    Wow, just wow

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Look up how much Ottawa is paying for new O-Train vehicles.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Syn, the U2s aren’t ADA-compliant. Basically they had to be sold abroad, *period*, they can’t be purchased by any agency in the US.

    Think before you talk.

    Nathanael Reply:

    So, syn, you think that the Pacific Electric routes are fine because they were laid out by private operators in the 19th century… but the Tehachapi route isn’t OK, which was also laid out by private operators in the 19th century?

    Think about this for a minute.

  10. Reedman
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 08:55

    Using Morocco as an example:

    The proposed route is 215 miles, to be built at a cost of $4 billion.
    (multiply by 2)
    If California government said: we will build 430 miles of HSR for $8 billion, the number of people objecting could be counted on your fingers and toes.


    Using China as an example:

    China will spend $400 billion to build 10,000 miles of HSR.
    (divide by 10)
    If California government said: we will spend $40 billion on 1000 miles of HSR, there would be private investors offering to get involved.

    The problem isn’t HSR. The problem is Sacramento, and a “cost is no concern” mindset.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Somehow I think some costs are lower in China and Morocco, including labor, engineering, construction, insurance, safety margins, health insurance, pensions, etc.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Ah yes. “Asians don’t value life the way we do” — actual words said by an immensely highly paid “professional” US-based rail “planner”, referring to Hong Kong, while “explaining” away the appalling Transbay Terminal rail configuration and capacity.

    joe Reply:

    “Ah yes. “Asians don’t value life the way we do” —

    We revel in your strawman anecdotes and evasive awesomeness.

    Neil wrote:” I think some costs are lower in China and Morocco, including labor, engineering, construction, insurance, safety margins, health insurance, pensions, etc.”
    He’s right.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    He is wrong. CRH has better safety record per passenger-km than the EU mainline rail system. And the construction costs per km are higher, owing to the large percentage of the system that’s on viaduct. The Jinghu line cost ¥168 million per km; in exchange rate dollars it’s $26 million/km, but in PPP dollars it’s about $42 million/km, higher than Continental European lines except ones with substantial tunneling (Jinghu’s tunnels are 16 km out of 1,300 of route length).

    joe Reply:



    Since the accident, 54 bullet trains have been recalled and new high-speed rail projects halted. Safety checks have been instituted and the speed limit reduced across the whole network to 186 miles per hour.

    But a train an NPR reporter traveled on between Beijing and Nanjing recently consistently broke that speed limit, traveling as fast as 194 miles per hour. The Railway Ministry refused to comment or accept NPR’s interview requests.

    Many residents at the Double Phoenix housing complex believe proper safety procedures weren’t followed, when the high-speed-rail track was built above their heads. It’s still not clear which buildings will be demolished and when, since some residents are refusing to accept the compensation offered.

    Seems a bit off doesn’t it?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    First, Germany’s had worse problems with recalls. Also bigger accidents on a smaller network. Compare Eschede with Wenzhou – and although CRH is younger than the ICE, it has way more riders and appears to have longer trips per rider. People just aren’t biased to think Germany does shoddy work, so they don’t treat DB’s recurrent safety skimping as something special.

    Second, with those recalls, both countries still outperform the US by a fair margin (China outperforms Germany if I’m doing the calculations correctly, which is a big if). The problem is that the US simply doesn’t recognize that those huge locos are a safety hazard; in many countries they’d be illegal on mainline tracks because of their weight.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “The problem is that the US simply doesn’t recognize that those huge locos are a safety hazard; in many countries they’d be illegal on mainline tracks because of their weight.”

    Exactly. FRA insanity.

    Spokker Reply:

    When Perry was painfully trying to remember that federal agency he wanted to dissolve, he should have said the FRA.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    FRA, DHS/TSA, FTA… there are probably more.

    Spokker Reply:

    Those are good examples too.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Is that safety record for traditional rail, or HSR, though? What one hears is that Chinese HSR was pushed very hard as a “glamor project” and that corruption during construction was rampant, resulting in many corners being cut… and HSR can be less tolerant of cut corners than olde-style rail…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    HSR. On paper, traditional rail is better and either beats or almost beats Japan, but there’s probably rampant underreporting. With HSR, most likely all deaths are reported in the media; certainly all major accidents have been reported and will be on Wikipedia’s list.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Hmm, but Chinese HSR has only been operating for about 5 years, and given the tendency for rail deaths to occur in splashy-but-rare incidents, is that really enough time to make much judgement based on statistics?

    Given how very rare accidents are on Japanese conventional rail, it is impressive if China can match it!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Probably not. Pretty sure the difference between CRH and the US, 10 billion passenger-km per accident fatality vs. 3.5, is still statistically significant. If not, chalk it to my not being a statistician. (Hell, even in algebraic geometry, i.e. what I actually do, I make embarrassing mistakes.)

    Nathanael Reply:

    Richard, Morocco is close enough to flat. That does make it a lot cheaper.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    China’s HSR construction costs are actually higher than the European average ex-UK. Its urban subway construction costs are about the same or a little lower.

    Eric M Reply:

    Morocco’s labor rate is next to nothing (China’s labor is a lot cheaper too), they don’t have environmental hurdles to jump (China doesn’t go to extremes either. They just take the land) when building something like in California and the land is a lot cheaper, slashing millions/billions off the price.

    VBobier Reply:

    Phony arguments that are Apples to Oranges on costs Reedman, nothing more, next…

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Switzerland (for God’s sake.)
    Norway (for God’s sake.)
    South Korea.
    Sweden (for God’s sake.)
    Hong Kong.
    New Zealand.
    Hong Kong.

    None of them have care for safety or health insurance, all of them have super super super cheap costs of living, none of them pay pensions, all of them have near-zero construction costs.

    America is so God damned special: we deserve to pay five times as much and get something half as good as anybody else. USA USA USA NUMBER ONE.

    You people are simply insane.

    VBobier Reply:

    Our cost of living is higher in the US Richard, We also don’t manufacture as much as We used to so products cost more as often their imported or not massed produced as jobs were moved overseas just to increase company profits. If You want wages to go down to pennies a day without peoples costs also going down, employees costs are a part of doing business and so are the availability of materials and their costs, China soaks up a lot of Steel and Concrete so that’s not inexpensive either, the cost to acquire land isn’t cheap as land is finite, etc… Real humans need to eat, pay their bills and put a roof over their heads and ya can’t do that in the USA on 3rd world wages with 1st world bills coming in or on what one gets from the SSA. So the comparison of wages, safety and health insurance between the USA and other countries is a Red Herring and/or an Apples to Oranges comparison as currency varies in its value all over the world and day by day.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Our cost of living is higher in the US Richard

    You people are simply insane.

    morris brown Reply:

    Richard writes

    “You people are simply insane.”

    How very true.

    VBobier Reply:

    And You(Morris) and Richard are a matched set of rigid half dead old fogies…

    Spokker Reply:

    Richard is actually 25, but the stress has aged him terribly!

    Nathanael Reply:

    Richard, our cost of living is actually higher. You don’t believe that? You *are* insane.

    As Bruce McF says, the reason our cost of living is higher is our completely screwed-up excuse for a health care system, which maximizes expense and gets terrible results. Compared to that the project management on the worst rail project in the US is exemplary.

    But you work with what you’ve got. Single-payer now would be good, though. Implement it and watch the cost of ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING drop, as if by magic.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    First, everything *I* have written uses PPP dollars.

    Second, cost of living adjustments (and yes, you can argue over whether the PPP adjustment is correct) are a second-order term. They can change relative costs by 10 or 20 percent, which doesn’t change factor-of-5 differences in construction costs.

    And third, not everything is health care. Be careful not to overemphasize one cost item, the way the inflation hawks do when talking about gold and oil. The US is inefficient with health care, but more efficient with matters like trying to open a bank account. The biggest inefficiency as far as construction costs go is not the cost of employing each worker, but the number of workers required to do a given task (24 for one particular example in New York vs. 9 in Madrid – and although Spain is an outlier, the reasons the Spaniards give do not include fewer workers, but rather more streamlined contracting practices).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    24 sandhogs under Second Avenue instead of 9 sandhogs aren’t what makes the Second Avenue Subway so expensive.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Our cost of living is higher in the US

    Our cost of health care is certainly higher, in support of Big Pharma and private health insurance profits, and of course doctors incomes at a bigger multiple to median income than any other high income nation.

    Our cost of incarceration is certainly higher on a per capita basis than any country that is not a totalitarian or authoritarian dictatorship, in support of the Prison Industry Complex.

    Our cost of “defense” is over twice the next highest rival on a per capita basis, and greater than all other potential “enemies” put together on an absolute basis.

    Looking at that, its more likely that the extra expense is yet more government guaranteed profits to yellow bellied surplus suckers than it is the fact that the ordinary people working in the infrastructure construction sector have to be given adequate incomes to cope with the US cost of living. Guaranteed profits to yellow bellied surplus suckers seems a lot more commonplace than seeing to it that ordinary workers in any sector can cope with the cost of standard of living when all the yellow bellied surplus sucking is included in.

    VBobier Reply:

    So who are these ybss people then?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    They work for corporations in the relevant fields, with the charge of finding ways to increase profitability, and one established successful strategy is getting the government to issue your revenues to you from, at the state level, taxes and borrowing and, at the federal level, creating the purchasing power, sorting out how and whether to finance that purchasing power creation afterwords.

    Nathanael Reply:

    One example is the lobbyists employed by oil companies to make sure oil companies continue to have large, unnecessary, and environmentally destructive tax breaks. That’s a nice simple example.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Looking at that, its more likely that the extra expense is yet more government guaranteed profits to yellow bellied surplus suckers ”

    Yep. They can’t possibly suck up as much as the military-industrial complex, private prison industry, private health “insurers”, medical/hospital conglomerates, pharma, Big Oil, Big Coal, or Big Finance (which has been sucking down several trillions from the government to cover their bad bets).

    California High Speed Rail is not the place to pick a fight about the substantial “corruption overhead” in the US. The overhead is far more massive and deadly in so many other places.

    blankslate Reply:

    Our cost of living is higher in the US Richard……want wages to go down to pennies a day…..3rd world wages

    Did you catch the part about Germany, France, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, etc?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    Our cost of living is higher in the US Richard

    Wait, what??? Maybe cheaper than some of the countries on Richard’s list, but hardly all of them!

    Indeed I’d say the U.S. is kinda on the cheaper end when compared to other first-world countries (Americans are notorious cheapskates, and that has an effect…). Greenwich Village excepted, of course … :]

    Nathanael Reply:

    Health care. Add it in and the US cost of living is way the hell over the norm. Why? Because we spend 10 times as much on health care as anyone else (roughly), to get worse results.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    10 times in binary, maybe.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Richard, we certainly appreciate that you have arrived and volunteered to fix cost overruns in U.S. public works projects. Good luck with that.

    Your solution probably won’t fix any cost overrun practices, but it does deny us the train. Many others of us want to have the train knowing that public works costing is a problem bigger than this one project.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I like choo choos! Trains are fun. Tunnels are exciting. I like it when the horn goes BLART BLART BLART! Go, choo choo, go!

    joe Reply:

    Priority Fail

    Nathanael Reply:

    Up to 711 billion now, eh?

    Yeah, Richard. Just shut the hell up; the train’s useful. The Afghan and Iraq wars aren’t. Which is more expensive? Which features bales of unmarked cash being thrown out of the back of trucks (literally)? Which are you spending your time opposing?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not to rain on your parade, but right now throwing bales of unmarked cash from trucks would do good, domestically.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Prices are driven not only by the Supply curve, what something should be worth, but also by Demand, what someone is willing to pay. The pentagon has probably never paid a fair price for anything they have sourced, typically more like 10x. We’re spending $1B on a football stadium for god’s sake.

    But I agree with those here who’ve said it’s worth $100B to not only give us the transportation alternative but to effect a change in mindsets that there are alternatives to devoting $600B PER YEAR to our obsession with defending oil supply lines. The fact that you can solve big transportation needs with electric power — which can be generated more greenly — instead of oil, that is worth a lot. And the fact that it’s possible to move around without a personal car — achieving that breakthrough is mighty valuable too.

    You could ask Why did we devote billions to genetic research that will benefit everyone, not just Californians. Think more broadly about the benefits of California doing this. As the train appears in many movies, Australia will get more trains too as a result.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well there’s certainly lots of demand, its just that the supply pipe has choked off by cheapskate tightwads…

    Mac Reply:

    You said it all with: “The problem isn’t HSR. The problem is Sacramento, and a “cost is no concern” mindset.”

    synonymouse Reply:

    Sometimes spending a lot of money is money well spent. The BART Transbay Tube is one sterling example, BART’s outstanding achievement.

    Same applies to base tunnels. Extraordinarily expensive but game-changers. Capital outlays of this magnitude are necessary to compete with automobiles and airplanes for the serious revenue, which in California’s case is on the direct SF-LA route.

    If they can’t or won’t do Tejon put the whole thing on the back burner rather than waste the treasury on pissy third rate.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes people are going to drive between LA and SF because the train takes 2:50 instead of 2:42.

    synonymouse Reply:

    More like 4 hours.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It would be really amazing if someone drove between SF and LA in 4 hours.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Three hours is borderline competitive with airlines. Push it to four, and they would need to redo all the ridership models.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and just what is the time penalty for going through Palmdale? it’s not an hour and twenty minutes.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    3 hours is not “borderline” competitive. It’s “70% of the market share” competitive.

    synonymouse Reply:

    3 hours would be quite decent but it is not going to go down that way. Tehachapi is a basket case. Doesn’t it tell all that if you were going for broke(no cap to expenditures)this is not where you would put your money. Only the incompetent spend more money to get less result.

    Jerry & crew don’t really grasp how much damage their political cowardice has wrought. It is possible to go to the mat with the Chandlers. In fact everyone would take Jerry more seriously if he did start counting the minutes and demanded the optimum route.

    We all know hsr can be deployed thru the Chandler holdings with minimal impact, especially since there will be much tunnel and the top speed will be such that noise will be much less than on other sections of the line.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    From personal experience 3h30 seems to be the limit between an enjoyable experience and a tedious one.
    3h instead of 2h42 would be absolutely fine and nearly without consequences on the ridership.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    somebody somewhere in Amtrak’s accounting department has the ticket counts for Acela passengers between NY and DC and the counts for Regional passengers between NY and DC. 2:40 versus 3:15……

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, This draft of a study from CENIT in Barcelona
    indicates (p. 8) for trips of 300km to 600km, over 80% at 2hrs, over 60% at 3hrs, and over 40% at 4hrs, sourced to the UIC.

    For the three categories of trips ~ business, holiday travel, and personal trips, the top three characteristics are for business, travel speed, frequency, and spatial comfort; for holiday travel fare level, “information and organization”, and punctuality; for personal trips fare level, spatial comfort, and accessibility.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Not necessarily here.

    1) Many of the airports will be just as accessible if not more than HSR for many residents. Oakland is a large portion of the traffic numbers, San Jose airport is closer than Diridon from Silicon Valley companies like Cisco, Ontario for inland empire, John Wayne for Irvine and coastal OC etc.

    2) The transit curve is simply shifted in the US. Maybe someday this will change but there are no guarantees.

    Finally, the air numbers are actually insignificant in the scheme of the forecast ridership which is relying on converting current drivers. Around the world, very few riders are those that would have driven. Sometimes the market share share for auto drops, but this is because at the right travel time HSR can grow the market for travel.

    The travel time between downtown SF and LA is absolutely critical. Yes, it affects the ability of the train to attract air travellers but there is a second effect. There is another demand curve that is rarely drawn, but is additive to ridership. This is induced travel demand. The further you get away from a travel time that leads to the one day business trip, there is a dramatic drop off in demand. 2hrs 40 minutes is probably slower than you want to be – there will be significant pickup as you get closer to 2 hrs 30 minutes (7-9:30 at 10 am meeting, leave at 5pm back at 7:00).

    The Authority was the one who insisted on the 2 hr 40 minute service time provision in the bond language. They had all sorts of reasons for doing some, some of which are not noble, but they did have the right idea.

    The current routing is slow – realistically 3:15 to start and because of the number of miles that it travels through cities (70 miles from SF – Gilroy, Fresno, Bakersfield, the corridor along the 14 from Palmdale through Santa Clarita), you have a lot of risk of having to travel at slower speeds. There is no regulatory sign off yet on the idea of going 220 at ground level through urbanized areas.

    In Europe, they keep the trains far from cities unless the train is actually stopping.

    The number of stops being designed in is also a problem – this creates a source of delay as well as tanking your operational efficiency as you end up with seats that are empty for half the journey.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Acela has similar mode share numbers as the Euros however, though that might be tainted by the short driving distances NYP-WAS.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Around the world, very few riders are those that would have driven.

    Around the world, few places with the geography of California have a high reliance on driving for intercity transport: HSR has to have a substantial pools of intercity transport drivers to recruit from in order for that mode split to represent a large share of their ridership.

    In one that does, Spain, quite a lot of riders on the Madrid-Barcelona line are recuited from drivers. Which country with driving representing a large share of intercity transport on a transport market similar to LA/SF are you thinking of where drivers are not a large share of HSR mode splits?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Many of the airports will be just as accessible if not more than HSR for many residents. Oakland is a large portion of the traffic numbers, San Jose airport is closer than Diridon from Silicon Valley companies like Cisco, Ontario for inland empire, John Wayne for Irvine and coastal OC etc.

    Oakland Airport is PITA for people who aren’t driving to the airport. Not much fun for people who drive there either. HSR will be an escalator ride from their AC Transit bus for many people in the East Bay…. there’s going to be a large bus terminal hovering over the HSR station in San Francisco. For people who are near a bus line that goes to Transbay, BART will be a short walk or if they don’t want the short walk on San Francisco streets, an even shorter walk at SFO.

    San Jose Airport is closer to Cisco than Dirdiron. A 5 minute cab ride versus a 10 minute cab ride isn’t going to make airport security at their origin airport any more attractive. Or the parking at their origin airport. Assuming their origin airport has service to San Jose.

    Ontario Airport, like SFO, is one of the planned HSR stations. So for people in the Inland Empier, once the station is built, it will take the same amount of time to get to the airport as it will to get to the HSR station.

    How many flights a day are there between John Wayne and Fresno? How does the service compare to the once an hour service HSR will be providing?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    re mode shares and driving: do air-rail mode shares have any correlation with driving? In other words, in countries with fewer cars, do the extra people who ride common carrier transportation distribute toward trains or planes more?

  11. Roger Christensen
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 09:56

    Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee this month has a receive and file item about the Sepulveda Corridor that includes a light rail with tunnel option that serves Sylmar Metrolink (HSR?), Van Nuys Metrolink, Orange Line, UCLA, Wilshire Purple Line, Expo LRT, LAX, Crenshaw/Green Line.
    Hubba Hubba. Some Measure R funding for this in the 2030s.

  12. jim
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 12:17

    The point about tolls is true. Both France and Japan levy heavy tolls on highway use. Even in the US, along the Northeast Corridor, tolls on I-95, if not at French or Japanese levels, are noticeable. But California doesn’t toll highways. Never has. That’s why they’re called freeways.

    HSR ridership is driven not just by its innate attractiveness, but by difficulties put in the way of using other modes. While DHS is doing its part to make air travel unattractive, Caltrans and FHWA are still trying to lure people into cars.

    synonymouse Reply:

    social engineering

    People like Larry E. don’t have to take this nanny crap. They have manses everywhere. And take their fortunes with them. Francois Hollande will soon find this out.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Yeah, right, Larry E. gets paid out of California because Oracle is headquartered here, so no matter where he lives, he pays CA income tax. And he won’t be moving Oracle out of California.

    When Computer Associates, based in Long Island, purchased Ask/Ingres and employees were unhappy with the changes they were implementing in the benefits, Charles Wang, the head of CA, was reputed to have said, “Let any employees who are unhappy take the layoff package. Where else would they go work anyway?”

    99% of the employees of Ask/Ingres took the package, and they all got other jobs in Silicon Valley. (And to put icing on the cake, CA was forced to contract out with critical engineers to enable knowledge transfer to CA engineers.) There’s a reason all the tech companies are here.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s not 1994 anymore.

    joe Reply:

    HW 101 lane expansion / double car pool and on/off lane – EASY as pie and underway.
    Construct auxiliary lanes between on-ramps and off-ramps
    Extend existing high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) Lanes
    That’s 4 more lanes to the 8 already in place.

    Caltrain electrification – on hold.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    This is actually shocking. What was billed as improving the safety of some very unsafe merges is clearly just a massive expansion of the highway system.

    It is yet another example of one of the not very funny but quite accurate critiques of the “cost of doing nothing analysis”. It assumed that if you decide to build the train, you will stop building highway models. The consultants who work on both trains and roads must have been laughing hilariously, as they knew that with the way California works that they would get to build both.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Glad you support alternatives to ever more highways Elizabeth

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    HSR will prevent future expansion AFTER HSR is implemented (or at least anticipated to come on line soon). So HSR/blended improvements will prevent doubled-decked Hwy 101, not the stuff that is already in the works or in the near future.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The point is that the roads are being expanded TODAY in anticipation of future congestion. There are a dozen examples like this all over the state.

    This is all besides the point that we have made repeatedly which is that because of major errors with access/ egress (among others), the ridership model dramatically overestimated the attraction of the train to people who drive. The train is about air passengers and induced travel (if your travel times allow day trips)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So there isn’t any congestion on 101 along the Peninsula, they are just being proactive?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The model does pass a smell test if you just compare metro area populations to existing HSR lines. (At least, the lower end of the original estimate – i.e. 65 million at full build – does.)

    And no, the model won’t help at all in the unlikely event the IOS opens only to the Valley.

    HSTSheldon Reply:

    Elizabeth, you know the answer to this but won’t admit it publicly. If you are given the option of a 2 hour rail trip or a 4 hour car trip from the Central Valley and you alone are travelling and the fare is roughly 1/2 higher than fuel for the guzzler for the trip, what do you think a significant portion of the market will do? I am betting a decent fraction will take advantage of the train considering the much higher quality of the time available while making the trip. Business people can even be productive, something ill advised while driving, even with company. If this train is built between SF and LA, it WILL be successful, even at a 3.5 hour transit time. The CV cities will surprise on the upside actually with their usage as they benefit immensely from the access.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Double decker freeways will be coming, like the Harbor Freeway in LA, if alternatives are not provided. Richard will appreciate the nice low bids he will get on these massive concrete pours, because, as he will tell you, only rail projects are expensive in California.

    Elizabeth looks forward to living near a double-decked 101, as well as to driving those pesky high tech employers out of the region and all their annoying young Millennial choo-choo fans so her nirvana remains undisturbed.

    It reminds me of the Slowsky family going out for a drive so that junior can relax and go to sleep.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You should read what Richard says about the Bay Bridge Eastern Span replacement sometime.

    The highway shills and the cost control people are pretty much disjoint sets. Reason occasionally talks about the Big Dig, but Bob Poole has no ideas for cost control other than PPPs (which do not do anything to that end) and instead spends his time writing about how to make it easier to build freeways because of Teh Capacity. As far as I can tell, in highway advocacy there aren’t really any technicals – the people who are technicals tend to be fairly pro-transit, and talk about maintaining current highways adequately instead of building more.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Though some of the “difficulties put in the way” are intrinsic features ~ boarding a plane is slower than boarding a train, the time penalty for stopping at an airport is far more than the time penalty of stopping at a station, going by car requires someone to be driving rather than watching movies, reading, napping, etc, neither car nor plane is compatible with having a cafe car, etc.

  13. blankslate
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 13:20

    That map is nice eye candy and I’m glad that LA “envisions” all those new lines but the reality is that only a few will actually be built by 2030. That said, I do not agree with the article’s statement that the only possibility in LA would be to rent a car or that it would be a good argument against HSR even if it were true.

    My favorite part of the article, which was not reprinted in this blog post, was the chart of track miles with ridership here: http://www.mercurynews.com/portlet/article/html/imageDisplay.jsp?contentItemRelationshipId=4482982 [how do I hyperlink in comments here?]

    You can see that California’s projected ridership per track mile pales in comparison to the other systems:
    California 38k (projected)
    Taiwan 150k
    Germany 93k
    France 97k
    Japan 175k

    Neither the article nor this blog drew the connection but it really jumped out at me when I saw the chart.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I don’t think that’s (ridership per route km) is a particularly really good metric, frankly. (It’s a good and very interesting one for urban bus and rail, however.)

    Annual riders per dollar of construction cost is a lot more apropos.

    As to how to make links: use HTML markup.

    <a href=”…”>…</a>

    Unfortunately the administrator of this blog hasn’t installed comment preview plugin, so the chances of making a HTML error are fairly good.

    joe Reply:

    Dollar per mission.

    66.7B / 0

    But I am interested in your cost savings and waste analysis. I particularly like your analysis of tunnel depth and time wasted by Caltrain at the California Stop – 5 sec per foot depth.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Totally irrelevant metric. Try rpm at least, or rptm as in train mile, or just about anything else. What does ridership per track mile tell you? It tells you that journeys will be longer, and less likely to be air competitive, but more likely auto competitive, all other things being equal, or it might just be telling you that you are not carrying enough people. It might also tell you that your projection is worthless.

    Leroy W. Demery, Jr. Reply:

    Hmmm . . . nothing personal, “blankslate,” but whoever prepared that “San Jose Mercury News” chart titled “The World’s Bullet Train Caboose” must have consulted Cox, Vranich – or Levy.

    “Miles of track:” incorrect label; that should be “km of route” (or mi, if you insist); another alternative is “system length.” Whatever the label: other than CA, each and every “length” statistic in this chart is incorrect – and some are “way off.”

    “Annual riders” Each and every entry is incorrect or inappropriate (i.e. is not related to the system length statistic) – and even the CA statistic is questionable.

    The derived statistic, “ridership per track mile,” is rather meaningless because it does not account for differences in trip length.

    Some Amerikanskiys “hate-hate-hate” passenger traffic density measures – e.g. pass-km per km of system length – but this fact does not change the meaning of the statistic: the number of people who, on average, travel over each unit of system length.

    –Japan: The “Mercury News” overstates shinkansen system length by roughly 22 percent – and presents an annual traffic statistic that cannot be matched to any specific year.

    2008, all shinkansen lines: 2,175.9 km; 310.3 million passengers. Average travel distance (ATD) 263.2 km. Annual traffic density: 37.5 million pass-km per km of system length. (Ridership fell to 2009, then began climbing back up.)

    Note that the statistics above are “inflated” by the Tokaido Shinkansen, which is an “outlier” among HSR lines if there ever was one: it carries more than three times the annual passenger traffic density of the ‘next” busiest HSR line.

    –France: The “Mercury News” presents an annual ridership statistic of 114 million – this is for 2008. However, it pertains to “all” passengers carried aboard “all” TGV trains – whether or not carried on dedicated HSR lines. TGVs can go anywhere on the national rail system – anywhere – as evidenced by photos showing TGV trainsets pulled by diesel locomotives. The TGV network has a system length of about 8,000 km; of this, about 1,700 km is LGV (= dedicated HSR). The “overall” ATD is about 440 km. The passenger traffic density for the LGV segments is “probably” in the range of 20 million – 30 million pass-km per km of system length.

    –Germany: The “Mercury News” presents an annual ridership statistic of 74 million; the 2008 figure was 74.7 million. Again, this figure pertains to “all” passengers carried aboard “all” ICE trains, on dedicated HSR lines or not. The ICE system length is about 6,550 km, of which 1,035 km is “Neubau” and “Ausbau” segments. The “overall” ATD is about 310 km. As in France, the passenger traffic density for HSR segments is “probably” in the range of 20 – 30 million pass-km per km of system length.

    –Taiwan: The system length is 335.5 km. Traffic:

    2008: 30.6 million passengers, ATD 214.7 km; passenger traffic density 19.6 million pass-km per km of system length.

    2011: 41.6 million passengers, ATD 195.7 km; passenger traffic density 24.3 million pass-km per km of system length.

    –California: The “Phase 1 Blended” system is planned to extend 840 km.

    Passenger traffic forecasts for 2040:

    “Low” 20.1 million. (Note that the “Mercury News” simply used the “low” forecast . . .)

    “Medium” 26.4 million (. . . without stating that the “medium” forecast was used as the planning case for “financial analysis and funding”).

    “High” 32.6 million.

    The implicit ATD associated with each forecast is about 500 km (compared to 600 km for Paris-Lyon-Marseille, a corridor which extends 774 km).


    “Low” 12 million pass-km per km of system length.

    “Medium” 16 million pass-km per km of system length.

    “High” 19 million pass-km per km of system length.

    Conclusion: Given the imprecision of the exercise above (e.g. determining traffic density for dedicated HSR segments in France and Germany) – and the inflation of “overall” Japanese statistics by the Tokaido Shinkansen – it is clear that CA HSR would carry passenger traffic density roughly equivalent to that carried by HSR segments in France, Germany and Taiwan. Oh, yes, also Spain (where HSR passenger traffic density statistics are in the single digits).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So they overstated Shinkansen trackage by 22%. Someone who thinks the reason Spain has one thirtieth the construction costs of the US is that it has 30% lower labor costs shouldn’t be throwing stones – glass houses and all. Say what you want about Rafael but at least he had the shame to leave after a couple zingers like the one about airplanes regenerating fuel in descent.

  14. morris brown
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 16:14

    Wendell Cox, co-author of the 2008 Reason Report on the HSR project here, which has proven to be so accurate in its assessments and predictions, was interviewed on KFI radio yesterday.

    You can listen to it at:


    Why in the world is this project still alive? Over $500 million spent and you have absolute garbage.

    Spokker Reply:

    Garbage in, garbage out.

    joe Reply:

    What’s the assessment and prediction of this expansion along 101 running parallel to Caltrain? Wondering if we can reuse the process and human skill for calculating bang per buck – know of any links to the 101 business plan?


    Spokker Reply:

    I have routinely spoken out against futile highway widening projects.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Yeah, well, you’re intellectually honest, unlike Cox, who routinely fakes his numbers. Given his behavior, I’d expect him to have been hired by the WSJ editorial page long ago, since they do that too, but I guess he’s happy being funded by the oil & auto lobby at Reason.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “This project will reduce traffic because traffic flows like water and you must accommodate it. Also, building more roads greatly reduces air pollution and carbon emissions*, provides jobs, and increases quality of life. Although our previous survey of five years ago suggested there were endangered species in the area, we have just found that none remain there anymore and therefore there is no significant impact.”

    *The study in question is real enough, but was funded by the highway construction industry and has higher than normal estimates of pollution damages.

    VBobier Reply:

    Shill for Big Oil, aka KOCH Industries, aka the KOCH brothers, aka the Ultimate MOOCHERS, Reason Report anything is not credible…

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Morris, Cox is so incompetent that I could do a better job of talking about roads instead of trains, and I’m as big a rail supporter as any you’ll see here.

    He is so incompetent that I consider him a con-man who steals his fees, and judging from his writing, he’s a bigger than almost anybody here, though Richard, with his awful “threats” and childish tantrums, easily beats out all others in that regard.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    !!@#$%!!! no edit function!! Cox is a misleading sour-puss who couldn’t keep a light rail line he hated from going into his own neighborhood.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Hee hee hee. Morris writes “Wendell Cox, co-author of the 2008 Reason Report on the HSR project here, which has proven to be so accurate in its assessments and predictions, “. This is meant to be comedy, right?

    Cox is a known fraud, and of course his bought-and-paid-for highway lobby report has been inaccurate in every respect.

  15. proudPANimby
    Jun 26th, 2012 at 21:44

    Mr. Lubic. I’m sure Wendell Cox’s resume and credentials are more impressive than yours.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t care what his resume is (and note it contains no research credentials. It’s fine. I don’t have any, either. I just make sure to say things that are correct).

    He lies, profusely, about construction costs (or just has no clue, I’m not sure), about energy consumption (he has lied to the press that the Prius is more CO2 emissions-efficient than NYC Transit), and really about everything beyond trivial data collection that he’s done in the last few decades.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Credentials and a resume can be important, but they are no guarantee. As an auditor, I personally know of two accountants at one firm–one of whom was the owner–who both turned out to be embezzlers; the owner got away, but his associate and the associate’s wife both wound up in jail.

    Another, a CPA no less, and one with a long-established practice, got into trouble by dabbling in something (real estate speculation and development) outside his area of expertise. He tried to make up his sizable losses with embezzlement, and when he ran out of money to embezzle, he took up robbing banks. He wound up in jail, too, and lost his family besides.

    Those are just two local cases I know about. Let’s also recall that J. P. Morgan-Chase recently lost $2 billion on risky loans that now-cut regulations would have prohibited–and the president of that firm has argued against reinstating those regulations, saying they were “unnecessary.”

    A final example, Alan Greenspan had to admit he was wrong about deregulation of the financial industry, that he had thought it would be self-policing. I’ve glad he was willing to admit he should have studied human behavior better (and coming from him, that had to be a hard thing to admit), but we’ve paid a high price for that lesson, and too many powerful people still fail to see the need for a change based on that lesson.

    I’m certain you can name other cases.

    Again, I’m not knocking accomplishments or education, but they do not guarantee you have a good, knowledgeable person.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Whether Wendell Cox’s cv impressed depends in part on whether or not you read what he’s written. Reading what he writes, and following up on the connect between his claims and the claims that his sources would support, makes his cv considerably less impressive. A lot like Randall O’Toole in that respect.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Cox has an unbelievably bad record of dishonesty; he and Randall O’Toole are basically brought out whenever a paid shill is needed to generate a faux-academic attack on rail service.

    Spokker Reply:

    Wasn’t O’Toole involved in saving forests and stuff like that? He’s also a cyclist.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    He’s a recreational cyclist. Also a heritage railway enthusiast, if I’m not mistaken. Neither has anything to do with caring for these modes as ordinary transportation; they have as much to do with ordinary use of those modes as drag racing does with driving. The highway builders of the mid-20th century built tons of hiking trails, accessible only by car of course.

Comments are closed.