Fox 11 in LA Continues Its Attack on High Speed Rail
Back in August a local TV station in Los Angeles, Fox 11, launched a misleading hatchet job on the high speed rail project. They’re at it again, this time with an editorial blasting the HSR project. And it’s as misleading as ever.
At a minimum cost of $68 billion dollars, California’s high-speed rail is the most expensive public works project in the state’s history. And what the voters approved is a far cry from what they appear to be getting. Proposition 1A, which voters passed in 2008, says the train was supposed to go from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and forty minutes. But under the current plan, public documents indicate it could be up to four hours.
No, as I explained last time, the plan is still two hours and forty minutes. What might happen is that as the system opens in phases, it could take 4 hours, but once the entire system is open, it’ll be 2:40.
Fox 11 has had a lot of problems comprehending how phasing works. Just because a project is going to be built a piece at a time doesn’t mean that you can judge the system by how it operates after the first phase is complete. That’s like saying the Expo Line fails to deliver on the promise to connect to Santa Monica because Phase I terminates in Culver City and ignoring the fact that Phase II goes all the way to the beach.
So will people really abandon their cars and planes to take a train that’ll shave precious little time off their trip?
In every single attack on high speed rail I’ve ever seen in the media, this argument is at its core. A lot of people in the media simply do not believe that Californians will choose a train over a car, even though ridership on existing intercity trains, which don’t offer much time savings over driving, is very high. We know for a fact that yes, Californians will ride trains when the option is presented to them. Anyone doubting this today is simply showing their unwillingness to accept reality.
Here’s another key point: the rails were supposed to be electrified, which means high speed. But let’s take, for example, the first segment, an unlikely trek from Madera to Fresno. The rail authority says it’ll be electrified by 2022. And that’s only if they get more money and right now, they don’t have more money. Additionally, the law promised the passengers would not have to transfer trains when riding from Los Angeles to San Francisco. But under the current proposal, passengers could have to transfer trains several times.
Again, this is Fox 11 showing they do not understand, or do not want to understand, how phasing works.
And Governor Brown, show us some real evidence that you can get private funding as opposed to continuing to push for more taxes on overburdened Californians to fund your rail project. Governor Brown how about some real answers to these questions. Otherwise, it’s time to put the project on hold. For the good of the California.
Now we see what this is really all about. Fox 11, which is now acting as an ideologically right-wing news outlet (which it never did in the past), is attacking Governor Jerry Brown and his tax proposals by making an issue of HSR. This paragraph is deeply misleading since Brown is not at all pushing for new taxes to fund rail. Proposition 30 would primarily benefit schools. It won’t go to HSR at all. You can tell they are coming from a right-wing ideological position by saying California taxpayers are “overburdened” when in fact taxes on Californians rank about 12th among the 50 states.
As to evidence for private funding, there’s plenty of that, if Fox 11 bothered to look. Since June 2008 private investors have been showing interest in the California high speed rail project. The LA to Las Vegas HSR project, XpressWest, already has $1.5 billion in private investment lined up. Market observers have pointed out the numerous ways in which HSR is a good investment, one the market will likely pounce on when ready.
But the project isn’t yet ready for private investment. As has been stated all along, that won’t happen until there is an initial operating segment carrying passengers from the Central Valley to a coastal metropolis. That segment is almost certainly going to be from Merced to Los Angeles. That takes us back to the phasing issue – to get to that initial operating segment, you have to start laying tracks somewhere. And that’s what the Merced to Bakersfield segment is planned to do.
If funding is Fox 11’s concern, are they going to ask Mitt Romney or John Boehner or Tony Strickland or any number of other Republicans whether they plan to block funds and undermine job creation in California? Ah, but that would conflict with what appears to be Fox 11’s ideological agenda. So I doubt it’ll ever get asked.
I’m not sure this attack on HSR is actually intended to derail the project – it’s too late for that; the best time would have been before the July State Senate vote. But this may be part of an effort to stop Prop 30, or to give a boost to right-wing candidates in Southern California legislative and Congressional races who are trying to use HSR against Democrats. Ultimately, it’s yet another example of the media misleading the public about this important project for California’s future.