Will Politicians Suffer for Opposing High Speed Rail?

Oct 29th, 2012 | Posted by

In California media outlets often like to ask whether Governor Jerry Brown or state legislators will suffer for supporting high speed rail. Their assumption is that the risky move when it comes to HSR is to back it, and that opposing it comes at little political cost.

But that may not be an accurate reflection of reality. In Florida, right-wing governor Rick Scott killed the state’s high speed rail project in early 2011 shortly after taking office. Today a new poll shows that swing voters in Florida disagreed with that decision, potentially putting Scott’s re-election chances at risk:

A majority of I-4 corridor voters did not like Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to cancel plans for a high-speed rail line that would have linked Tampa and Orlando, according to a new Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/Central Florida 13 poll.

Fifty-one percent said Scott should not have rejected $2.4 billion in federal money to construct the rail line, compared to 39 percent who supported Scott’s decision and 10 percent who were unsure….

Meanwhile, Scott himself remains relatively unpopular, with 48 percent of I-4 voters disapproving of his job performance, compared to 42 percent who approve of his work.

The Interstate 4 corridor, from Tampa Bay through Orlando to Daytona Beach, is one of America’s most important political regions. It grew rapidly during the ’00s boom and was key to Bush’s 2004 victory. In 2008, the region flipped to Obama and handed him Florida’s electoral votes. In 2012 it’s up in the air. If you want to govern Florida, or win its crucial electoral votes and become president, you would do well to earn the votes of the I-4 corridor.

And its voters wanted high speed rail.

They clearly understood its benefits. They knew that traffic on I-4 was a disaster and that no amount of widening would solve it. They knew that high speed rail would have provided a good alternative, even if it was at first just a short route. And even after hearing all the arguments against it, they still wanted it, and may well hold it against Rick Scott in 2014 when he asks for their votes a second time.

Republicans and wealthy NIMBYs want politicians to believe that voters don’t want bullet trains, that they’d rather stick with a failing status quo. But as we saw at the ballot box in November 2008, that’s not true. And as we saw in the state Capitol in July 2012, elected leaders know it’s not true.

Public support for high speed rail is much stronger and more widespread than the critics would have you believe. And even as we struggle through the great backlash to sustainability and mass transit, as the defenders of the failed methods of the 20th century make one last effort to preserve their discredited ways, we need to remember that the public hasn’t turned on us. Keep the faith, fellow rail advocates. We are going to break through the roadblocks the opposition has placed in front of us, and we won’t rest until we’ve built an electric rail network, from local streetcars to interregional bullet trains and everything between, across this whole country.

  1. John Nachtigall
    Oct 30th, 2012 at 00:04

    All that to site a politician that is not even up for election?

    How about the hurt voters are putting on Jerry Brown and Prop 30 for his support of HSR? That is a real example of how voters link HSR to other issues

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I haven’t seen any evidence yet that Prop 30 is suffering because of HSR. Molly and Charles Munger are the real culprits there.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    NYT sees the connection


    it pisses people off that Brown say he can get the money for HSR but hold education hostage.

  2. Tom McNamara
    Oct 30th, 2012 at 01:36


    I think using this poll as evidence for the popularity of high speed rail is a mistake. People should realize however, how significant the result is:

    -Rick Scott is not a popular politician in most parts of Florida. That he’s unpopular in Central Florida should not be correlated to one specific act.

    -There are plenty of Republican governors elected in 2010 who have seen their respective states’ economies rebound due to investments made by the Obama Administration through the “stimulus”. Florida, because it’s lack of manufacturing jobs, isn’t one of those success stories.

    -Scott returning the money might have actually saved the California High Speed Rail project by increasing the amount of funding available to it from federal grants that had been approved before the House went back to GOP control in 2011…

    -The Florida High Speed Rail Project was a real bastardization of what honestly needs to get built. An express monorail from Busch Gardens to Orlando Airport doesn’t exactly spur the type of rail/urban revival you et al. want.

    Yet despite all this, you see that over half the people living in Central Florida still resent Scott for not taking the money and building whatever the President proposed. That’s not Ohio autoworkers embracing federal support for GM, or corn growers defending ethanol subsides. That’s Floridians confirming there are no atheists in foxholes.

    Realistically, the Tampa Bay Times ought to have asked respondents about the other passenger rail developments happenings in the state (and there are many) to get a complete picture.

    Scott is probably a goner in 2014, and high speed rail advocates don’t want to seize his impending doom as some sort of mandate, when it’s really the story of a wealthy guy thinking government can’t be much harder than business and learning the hard way that’s not true. He makes for a great villain for progressives, but he’s not really relevant either.

    The real battleground to watch? Wisconsin.

    Andy M Reply:

    Concerning passenger rail in Florida. I guess Florida is rather better served by passenger rail than one could expect for a state of its significance. The Atlantic seaboard gets three trains per day and per direction (if you include the Auto Train) whereas all other Amtrak LD routes get at most one train a day per direction. Okay, Florida has lost the Sunset Limited so it’s a bit difficult going West, but in the bigger picture that’s white noise. Furthermore Florida has a commuter rail system (Tri-Rail) and a second one (Sun-Rail) on its way. And then there’s the FEC project for privately run inter city rail. So not at all bad for a state that doesn’t exactly have extreme population density. Maybe Florida is naturally suited to passenge rail as it is long and thin, a bit like Italy or Japan. I would give Florida a couple more years and wait for the projects already in hand to bear first fruits and I’m pretty sure there will be demand for more passenger rail. HSR will happen there sooner rather than later. The recent unfortunate events were little more than a hiccup, and maybe in hindsight people will even thank Scott for killing a project that wasn’t truly thought through and didn’t adequately tie in with these other rail projects.

    In this respect CAHSR is totally different. It will tie in with other California passenge rail schemes and be realised jointly with improvements to these. It’s not trying to project a blank page where there isn’t one.

    Brian FL Reply:

    I will add to your comments – most people in the cities in FL do want passenger trains. Unfortunately FL is a divided state (north is rural and more conservative, south and central more urban and progressive). True, the first section proposed for HSR was Tampa – Orlando, but several private firms were very interested in the future expansion to Miami. That is what the FECR has seized upon with their All Aboard Florida plans. I agree, FL will eventually see a network of passenger trains. Along with each major metro area having their own commuter system (it might take 20 years). Compared to most other states, FL does have alot of people who do support rail and alternative transit options to make a difference. Just not a majority for voting in state leaders who share that vision. Luckily, FL is not as big as CA and will not require such a huge undertaking to connect two regions (LA and SF) that are further away from each other than any city pair is here in FL.

    Nathanael Reply:

    HSR was, of course, supported in Tampa, Orlando, and Miami. So the hostility to Rick Scott isn’t surprising at all. Rick Scott was “pandering to the panhandle” when he killed Florida HSR — I would be surprised if the panhandle right-wingers support HSR.

    Andy M. Reply:

    Well it wasn’t going their way.

    It’s always difficult to build support among those who don’t benefit from a project, right-wing or not.

  3. joe
    Oct 30th, 2012 at 07:21

    Gov Quinn in IL is benefiting from HSR funding.

    Recall Gov Quinn raised taxes in IL to sustain services and Gov Walker taunted him with signs encouraging businesses to locate in WI.

    Since, WI based Talgo is considering suing the State and shutting down while Rochelle IL gained a rail car manufacturing plant building Amtrak cars.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    You are Seriously going to invoke Illinois as an example


    The worst run state in the union


    He raised taxes and now has the worst deficit in the nation


    Too easy…at least give an example that is not totally devoid of merit

    joe Reply:

    1. HSR is helping Quinn Politically. You can’t find examples where politically it’s hurting him.
    The Amtrak upgrade between IL and MO is a Federal project with Fed HSR money. It’s helping the Gov. politically.

    2. Debt without GDP is meaningless. I have less debt than Donald Trump. I am not better off than he.


    With #1 being bad, IL is #15 when comparing the debt to the GDP.
    Alon’s former State, RI, is #1.
    CA is 31
    WI is 21.

    Since 2010, The FED data show WI has had the weakest growth compared to near by states.
    1% compared to 3% in IL.

    In March, Governor Walker touted the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank’s forecast as evidence that his policies were contributing to economic growth in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, Wisconsin has fallen behind other states in recent months, and economic experts are forecasting more of the same for most of 2012.

    Wisconsin’s economic growth in the months ahead is forecasted to be among the worst in the nation, according to new figures released this week by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank. Wisconsin ranks 42nd in predicted economic growth in the next six months.

    If we use December 2010 as our baseline for analysis, the newly released data indicate that only one other state (Alaska) has experienced slower growth than Wisconsin. See the Budget Project’s new two-page paper for several charts analyzing the “Philly Fed’s” data and comparing Wisconsin to the national average and the growth in neighboring states.

    joe Reply:


    [I]f you look at the jobs picture since Walker took office, Wisconsin has lost a net 14,200 jobs. In fact, Wisconsin has lagged behind the rest of the country in the recovery. While Wisconsin has lost jobs during Walker’s time in office, the country as a whole saw jobs increase by 1.8 percent.

    Needless to say, Wisconsin is not on track for Walker to keep his campaign promise to bring the state 250,000 new jobs by 2015.

    As the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund correctly pointed out in a recent ad, in 2011, “Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state. Dead last.” [FactCheck.org, 4/26/12]

    VBobier Reply:

    I have no debt and yet some don’t like Me spending money, I’m called a big spender by a few anonymous cretins, a bunch of know nothings, I have needs, wants and bills like anyone else, yet some decry My spending of what I get every month, saving money in a bank will only get Me so far as it would not help Me one bit, I’d rather spend what I get on bills and things and some on enough food, instead of just paying bills and buying lots of food that would just make Me heavier, My Dad liked how I ran a household as does My Sister in law, frugally, of course some would (and did) say that I have a high end PC, when reality in I do not, My PC I’d built over several months to My specs, the motherboard is a low end Asus P7P55D Pro that’s been obsolete for well over a year now as is the Intel i5 750 socket 1156 cpu and the video card(an “EVGA GTX590 Classified”, that’s the name EVGA gave it), the card used to be high end, but now is just an also ran GTX590 that can only keep up with a mid range card like the GTX670, the card does the job, but it is well worth it as the newer cards work ok currently for games, but not for a Boinc project like Seti@Home, as then I don’t need multiple old PCs that use more electricity to do the same amount of Seti@home tasks and that saves Me money on the electric bill every month, besides the circuits here are 115vac @ 15A and one PC keeps the house warm at night in the fall and the spring, though in the Winter I may need to add some gas heat as the GTX590 doesn’t put out enough heat to counter freezing winter temps(this area can get snow, rare in the desert, but in 2008 it did close the 15 for 1 or 2 days), for that I’ll need a 2nd and a 3rd in this PC and their about $400-$550 each used, although sometimes the price is lower…

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    1. Proving that Wisconsin is bad does not prove IL is good. They are not mutually exclusive.
    2. IL is moving the wrong way on the debt to GDP scale.
    3. They are so badly managed they have an 8 BILLION dollar backlog in unpaid bills
    4. They have the lowest credit rating of any state.
    5. They have the most underfunded pension plan
    6. They now have the largest deficit of any state

    But if it makes you feel better we will just say they are in the bottom 5 of worst states at the moment because it does not matter enough to quibble if they are worst or 5th worst. They are just easily provable bad.

    And after that great demonstration…his approval rating dropped to the lowest ever


    Give it up, you will never be able to prove IL is anything but bad, because there is no data on the good side.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I’d have to quibble with the statement Illinois is the worst run state in the nation. The Golden State under Brown and Villa is right up there.

    The Sperminator, for all his many culpae, was better and more transparent. I doubt he would have fired Van Ark for merely and tangentially offending the Chandlers and Villovitch.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Illinois and California are both quite well run. Actually, so is New York, even though we have the most corrupt legislature in the nation (proven by studies!) and can’t seem to get some really important stuff done.

    “Well run” is really about whether government manages to provide the services people depend on. Illinois does pretty well. California does OK (it used to do much better, before Prop 13 trashed it). NY does OK.

    You want to see genuinely badly run? You have to visit Mississippi and Alabama.

    joe Reply:

    IL is growing and providing a decent quality of life and educated work force which are draws for corporations. Winning the Rochelle plant to build Amtrak cars requires a commitment to public services.

    Walker’s WI is cutting spending, returning Fed dollars and focused on union busting, layoffs and salary cuts. A corporation seeking to relocate has a example – Talgo. WI is breaking their deal that drew the company in Milwaukee.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    How can you argue they are well run when they have an enormous deficit, the lowest credit rating, and the most underfunded pension plan in the country.

    To be “well run” it has to be a self sustaining system. IL is headed for the 1st modern (since the Great Depression) effective state bankruptcy. They can’t raise taxes anymore, the last raise did not work at all. The Dems have run it straight into the ground. The only thing left is to ask the feds for money and even Obama wont give them money. Look at how he turned CA down flat. They are hosed

    joe Reply:

    The deficit is #15 of 50 when compared to the State GDP. CA is #30.

    The IL tax increase avoided service and education cuts and attracted business. The State GDP is increasing – decreasing the debt burden. Since 2010 IL is out performing WI.

    IL, not WI is adding Rail manufacturing jobs. WI based Talgo’s folding operations after Walker decided to break their contract.

    100+MPH Service to St Louis and Detroit is only going to help the state reclaim its rail hub status. Obama’s HSR vision is very go for IL. WI wants none of it.

  4. Alan Kandel
    Oct 30th, 2012 at 09:43

    As part of the discussion, Robert made the very salient point about the need for a nationwide network of electrified railway systems, everything “from local streetcars to interregional bullet trains and everything between,” as was pointed out.

    In fact, it appears that an Anaheim streetcar system received the City Council’s stamp of approval regarding a 3.2-mile public transit corridor tying together the ARTIC transit center, the Disneyland Resort, the Convention Center, Platinum Triangle and GardenWalk mall, according to information in the Orange County Register article “Anaheim council backs streetcar plan.” The system will employ ten streetcars in all. (http://www.ocregister.com/articles/city-375504-million-project.html).

    Anaheim’s is in good company: there is one each going in, in the heart of Los Angeles and Tucson, to name just two.

    The notion of a multimodal network integrating HSR with lightrail, streetcar, Amtrak, regional commuter rail, group rapid transit, personal rapid transit, automated people mover systems, bus, you name it, is sound and, in my view, essential to HSR’s success. Hubs like San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center and Sacramento with the Railyards development project which are now well underway are ahead of the game. Other areas with stations, likewise, need to get on board.


    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Thanks for posting about this – I’ve been meaning to get to it but haven’t yet had time.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Interesting you should mention Sac, where TehaVegaSkyRail does not go. Mojave is much more important.

    Eric M Reply:

    It will in Phase 2

    synonymouse Reply:

    Before that thought comes up California will have already liguidated Phase 1 at auction.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Approval is great, but Anaheim has approved such things before without funding them. I’ll believe it when it gets funded. If it does, that’ll be a big deal.

    joe Reply:

    10% of funding is on hand.

    HSR’s new approach since Jeff Morales took over as CEO has been to spend more money and effort on improving local systems connecting to HSR.

    CAHARA is spending 11 M to add 2.5 miles of track in Stockton to connect ACE terminus to the new maintenance yard and allow Amtrak to use the downtown Stockton station.

    This Anaheim project surely qualifies for HSR assistance under the local rail improvements. Something to watch for.

    jonathan Reply:

    @Alan: in what way is the SF TTC “integrated”? It’s a bus station with a train station nunderneath;.
    No BART, no MUni. Is something that crippled _really_ ahead of the curve?

    Alan Kandel Reply:

    My understanding is that Caltrain and California HSR are to servie the TTC as well. The point I am trying to make is that “connectivity” between HSR and other rail-based and rubber-tired-based modes (buses and/or bus rapid transit) and possibly automated people mover, personal rapid transit and group rapid transit modes, in my view, is what will be required to get patrons to and from the HSR stations in the cities that will have them.

    Imagine riding a world class high-speed train to a major destination point, disembarking from such and then one’s only transportation options to move about that city visited is bus or taxi cab and/or perhaps to walk. If one brings luggage, then the walking option isn’t very practical.

    I believe San Francisco with its TTC and Sacramento with its Railyards redevelopment projects to name two are leading by example. It is essential that towns that are to have HSR stations must be bonafide card-carrying members of the HSR-intermodal interface or connectivity club. It is that simple.

    Alan Kandel Reply:

    My understanding is that Caltrain and California HSR are to serve the TTC as well. The point I am trying to make is that “connectivity” between HSR and other rail-based and rubber-tire-based modes (buses and/or bus rapid transit) and possibly automated people mover, personal rapid transit and group rapid transit modes, in my view, is what will be required to get patrons to and from the HSR stations in the cities that will have them.

    Imagine riding a world class high-speed train to a major destination point, disembarking from such and then one’s only transportation options to move about that city visited is bus or taxi cab and/or perhaps to walk. If one brings luggage, then the walking option isn’t very practical.

    I believe San Francisco with its TTC and Sacramento with its Railyards redevelopment projects to name two are leading by example. It is essential that towns that are to have HSR stations must be bonafide card-carrying members of the HSR-intermodal interface or connectivity club. It is really that simple.

    The idea here is to make the transportation network as seamless and as convenient to the traveler as possible.

  5. Reedman
    Oct 30th, 2012 at 09:50

    Florida is different than California.

    Florida has no state income tax. When Florida spends money, they feel pain. They don’t have a Silicon Valley paying the bills when government projects go over-budget.

    Nathanael Reply:

    If you were correct, it would show that HSR is really extremely popular — because Floridians still think that the HSR should have been built and that Rick Scott is a big idiot.

  6. trentbridge
    Oct 30th, 2012 at 12:23

    One more sign the opposition is not that powerful:

    Prevents Issuance of Future High-Speed Rail Bonds. Terminates High-Speed Rail Project. Initiative Statute.

    Summary Date: 05/016/12 | Failed: 10/26/12


    Preventing CAHSR bonds is not the kind of issue that the average voter is that concerned with – and so I’m not surprised that they failed to get enough voters to sign up.

    Eric M Reply:

    And being that Doug LaMalfa coauthored it, here is some old news about him. LaMalfa’s $4.7 million in farm subsidies

  7. morris brown
    Oct 30th, 2012 at 14:57

    High-speed rail agency pushes back deadline for construction bids in Valley

    Link: http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/10/30/3048464/high-speed-rail-agency-pushes.html

    So now the bids are pushed back until Jan 18, 2013.

    Still Morales says they will start construction by June 2013. Yet, in a filed court document the Authority said construction would not start until Fall of 2013. One must wonder if one end of the Authority (legal team) , knows what the other end is doing.

    The Authority has canceled the Board meeting for Thursday and re-scheduled for Nov 14, at time and place to be determined.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    We were going to be met with flowers and chocolates and be out of Iraq in 6 months. The Iraqis were going to pay us back out of the gushers of oil that would be producing. How’s that working out?

    joe Reply:

    This explanation should make even CARRD happy.

    “”The bidders have been asking for more information and more time to analyze the information,” Morales said. “If we take our time at the front end to get it right, it will ultimately be to the benefit of the project” through better bids and possibly lower prices.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The CHSRA just posted the fifth addenum to the RFP (see all docs at http://cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/construction.aspx )

    Included is a document from Fresno asking for some fairly significant design changes

    Peter Reply:

    Most of the things Fresno is asking for aren’t “fairly significant design changes”. They’re mainly asking for things like uniform fencing, certain types of lighting, certain bridge designs, monolithic (smooth, I guess) viaducts, etc.

    Eric M Reply:

    Anything to make a mountain out of a mole hill is CARRDS’ motto

    Elizabeth Reply:

    They are asking for completely different bridges and viaducts over the San Joaquin River and in south Fresno. They are asking in increase width of bridges by 10-20 feet. They are asking for crossings to be moved in downtown Fresno.

    These are significant changes, coming 5 months after the issuance of a design-bid RFP and two months before a design-bid RFP due date.

    There have been 4 major addendums since the original issuance of the RFP. The delay in the RFP is not politics. It is a result of going out with a less than baked project specification.

    On another note, the San Joaquin bridge report said something about the Caltrans 99 bridge over the river being rebuilt BEFORE the hsr bridge is built. Does anyone know anything about this?

    Peter Reply:

    And the Authority is going to tell Fresno that if they want wider overpasses they will have to pay for them.

    As for the bridge in south Fresno, didn’t the Authority select the bridge type because of the need to otherwise close the freeway for construction?

    datacruncher Reply:

    The cover date of that document is June. Where it was circulated between June and October seems like a question to ask.

    The increased bridge width requests appear to be to enhance pedestrian/bicycle movement across the ROW. Seems important to enhance ped/bike movement if we expect cities with HSR to reduce vehicle reliance and increase density.

    Previously, CAHSRA was accused of not being responsive enough to impacts and concerns in local communities. I hope we are not seeing movement toward saying they are now being too responsive.

    The California Transportation Commission funded the Caltrans San Joaquin River bridge project in April I believe. It is part of the Prop 1B funds (not HSR monies) to widen 99 to 6-lanes from Sacramento to Bakersfield. This phase widens 99 to 6-lanes from south of the river in Fresno north to Avenue 7 in Madera County, eliminating the last 4-lane section of 99 in Fresno County. Construction should start soon if it hasn’t already begun.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I just noticed the date thing too. Someone will hopefully ask about that.

    I think pedestrian and bike access is more than reasonable. The question is why did we pay to have plans done that didn’t include it and why are they being added at this date.

    The larger point was that the reasons for delay for the RFP not just politics.

    Jon Reply:

    The question is why did we pay to have plans done that didn’t include it and why are they being added at this date.

    The authority followed Caltrans highway design standards. Even the City of Fresno document accepts that was the ‘natural’ thing for them to do.

    Fresno is now requesting variations on those guidelines, which is their right, because they correctly think that the Caltrans design standards provide inadequate accommodation for pedestrians and bicyclists. So you should be blaming Caltrans for having crappy design standards, not the authority for following those standards.

    You could also argue that Fresno are partially to blame for being late in requesting their changes and so forcing a do-over, but personally I’m just glad that they’re making the request at all.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The actual standard for Caltrans is to do design work using context sensitive solutions http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/transprog/ocip/te/dp-22.pdf as a process.

    in order to get input at an appropriate time, along with complete streets http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/tpp/offices/bike/sites_files/DD-64-R1_Signed.pdf

    This is absurd

    joe Reply:

    “I think pedestrian and bike access is more than reasonable. The question is why did we pay to have plans done that didn’t include it and why are they being added at this date.”

    FYI, The City of Palo Alto did not have a plan for the Caltrain Corridor until May 2012. No plans for pedestrian access, bike trails or crossings.

    One can reasonably speculate that the EIR lawsuit and delays caused by the City’s objections could have been avoided IF the City of Palo Alto had actually provided a unified, consistent vision for the Caltrain ROW and surrounding areas. CAHSRA – look at PA’s vision and plans and work with us.

    My stupid city, Gilroy, has been planning for the ROW and HSR system. Our demographics are not the same – no Trader Joe’s for Gilroy. Not the right income level but we somehow manage.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Thx for info about bridge approval.

    I found some more fun facts – it will actually be built as 8 lane highway (2 to spare) with an 23 foot median. The extra lanes plus median could be enough for a rail ROW but 2 bridges and 2 sets of permitting are always better than one, right?

    Jon Reply:

    It appears that the process of revision of the RFP is driven by changes requested by the City of Fresno, most of which are reasonable changes designed to minimize the improve the visual impact of the structures and improve bike/ped facilities.

    While it’s unfortunate that deadline for proposals is being delayed it’s good that the City of Fresno are engaged with the planning process and making these requests, unlike certain other cities, and it’s good that the authority is responding to the requests.

    joe Reply:

    I’d blame Kings County

    Assistant Public Works Director Scott Mozier told the city council the city had a second chance to ask for these changes because the high speed rail authority changed the proposed rail alignment through Kings County and as a result had to reopen the whole stretch from Fresno to Bakersfield to comments and suggestions.

    nick uk Reply:

    so stop bringing lawsuits that would help end the delays

  8. Stephen Smith
    Oct 30th, 2012 at 15:17

    Fun fact: Husein Cumber, who was originally in charge of public affairs at Florida East Coast Industries and is now in charge of All Aboard Florida, was a big GOP fundraiser, especially for Jeb Bush, and during W’s term, an official at the DOT. Not sure what this means, but I thought it was interesting. (I’ve also been told, second hand but by a reasonably reliable source, that the decision to pursue passenger rail emanated from within Fortress Investments, not Jim Hertwig or any long time railroaders at the FEC.)

    Brian FL Reply:

    I remember seeing that link to the GOP as well with Mr Cumber. I haven’t heard about the Fortress Investments people initiating the project however. Remember that Fortress owns FECI, which owns the FECR. FECI also has alot of real estate property in FL. Fortress would look at AAF as a way to increase the value of their overall holdings in Florida, not just the FECR. In fact, AAF has not been bashful about stating this. Where there is money to be made, it doesn’t matter what political persuasion you are! In the end, what this means is that AAF is politically connected in Tallahassee (and maybe Washington) and thus further bolsters my thinking that AAF is for real and will be built. That being said, look for how the FDOT acts on any request that AAF makes (either land leases along public ROW or grade crossing upgrades, etc…) that is within the state’s area of responsibility.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Flagler Development (the real estate division of FECI) does indeed own a lot of real estate, though if you look at their website, you see that nearly all of it, with the exception of their downtown Miami parcel, is in outlying industrial areas that are unlikely to benefit from passenger service.

  9. Nick Smith
    Nov 8th, 2012 at 16:34


    I wholeheartedly agree that the media has, thus far, overplayed the public opposition to high-speed rail and ignored the ever-increasing number of citizens who have a desire to seriously invest in our nation’s rail system, be it high-speed or simply regional lines. That is not to say a significant minority do not oppose high-speed rail; as you note in your post, nearly 40% of I-40 corridor Floridians support Governor Scott’s opposition to HSR. But it is also clear that a plurality, if not majority of voters crave faster, more extensive, and more reliable rail transit. One need only look at the approval of California Proposition 1A in 2008, and the election of Jerry Brown as governor in 2010, to see that voters in the nation’s most populated state are willing to tax themselves to pay for high-speed rail and elect politicians that will carry out HSR plans. Americans are increasingly frustrated with the delays, hidden fees, and intrusive security measures that have come to embody air travel in the U.S., and high-speed rail is the perfect alternative for short and medium distance travelers wanting to avoid the airport at all costs. One survey found that 79% of global travelers would pick high-speed rail travel over air travel when given the choice.

    The question I pose is how do we form an effective political coalition to push high-speed rail forward? Many vested interests (e.g. oil companies) have poured millions of dollars into anti-HSR campaigns; high-speed rail supporters must find ways to bridge the gaps between the fractured high-speed-rail-sympathetic electorate. While HSR supporters have so far focused on arguments surrounding job creation and emissions-reductions, I believe it is equally important to attract more conservative-minded voters with the idea of ‘transit choice’. We must be clear that no one is suggesting that we are trying to force Americans out of their cars and into trains; on the contrary, we are simply providing an alternative to auto and air travel. Additionally, I believe it should also be emphasized that unlike highways, a well-planned HSR line is very likely to turn a profit and cover its operating costs. As you noted in a more recent post, HSR-opponents failed to qualify for the 2014 ballot. While this only strengthens the argument that the electorate supports high-speed rail, we must not rest on our laurels. If the 2012 presidential election campaign has taught us anything, it is that being right and having the facts on your side isn’t enough to win the debate.

Comments are closed.