Momentum Builds for Using Cap and Trade Funds for Rail

Mar 31st, 2013 | Posted by

Last week the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) approved a motion asking the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to spend the revenues generated by the AB 32 cap-and-trade for sustainable transportation. As reported by Streetsblog LA:

Governor Jerry Brown’s administration states that transportation must be one of the main areas in which cap and trade funds are invested. Brown and many environmentalists believe that these funds could be key for regions, and the state, to meet the goals set out by its landmark greenhouse gas laws SB 375 and AB 32. However, given Caltrans continued belief that expanding highways is a great way to reduce vehicle emissions, it is important that strict guidelines be in place for how cap and trade transportation dollars are spent.

The Metro motion doesn’t go as far as the call made by advocates earlier this month for cap and trade funding standards for transportation. The motion follows guidelines put together by the Transportation Coalition for Livable Communities (TCLC). These guidelines include: revenue from “fuel auctions” should go towards transportation, county government bodies should have control over project selection, funds should fund cost effective and innovative projects, and all cap and trade funds should go towards projects that advance the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

TCLC is calling for a stricter definition of “sustainable transportation” – that projects have to reduce VMT. Metro would like for road maintenance to be included as an eligible use of cap-and-trade funds but TCLC is arguing – correctly, in my view – that such projects should only be funded if as part of road maintenance work the street is turned into a complete street, with infrastructure for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.

There is broad consensus that transportation should be a major beneficiary of cap-and-trade funds. But if it were up to me, mass transit projects would be what gets funded. Whether it’s high speed rail, commuter rail, subways and light rail, streetcars, or buses, those kinds of transportation solutions are the ones that will make a meaningful dent in carbon emissions. California needs to also do a better job investing in road maintenance – cities don’t have the resources to do it themselves – but not with the AB 32 cap-and-trade funds.

Still, it’s a clear sign that momentum is building for devoting cap-and-trade funds to mass transit, particularly rail. There’s a lot more advocacy work to be done on this issue but Metro’s resolution is at least a step in the right direction.

  1. D. P. Lubic
    Mar 31st, 2013 at 15:22
  2. Jeff Carter
    Mar 31st, 2013 at 15:32

    What does it take to remove the politics out of HSR and just build the f**king thing?

    Seven years (2019) to electrify 50 miles of Caltrain?

    Seventeen years (2029) to complete HSR?

    How long would this take in a real world situation without all the bullshiit here in the US? Common sense just doesn’t apply here.

    We have unscrupulous NIMBYS, who will stop at nothing to kill HSR, on one side, and ego-centric politicians on the other side, who perpetuate dubious engineers/consultants to over engineer and over build the system on a grand scale.

    ‘I am the father of High Speed Rail—I am suing because I say the blended plan just won’t work.’

    We MUST have a signature/legacy station, the Grand Central Station of the west, in the center of the inferiority complex universe (San Jose). ALL trains must stop/pass through San Jose!!! We must have BART!!! We must have light rail to everywhere!!! We must have the 49ers!!! We didn’t get the Giants so we must have the Athletics!!! We can not live in the shadow of San Francisco!!! Rah, rah, rah, San Jose. Rah, rah, rah, Santa Clara County!!!

    HSR doesn’t need to be grandiose 100 foot wide aerial structures, towering 100 feet in the air. It doesn’t need to take away thousands of homes on the peninsula. It doesn’t need to cut down tens of thousands of trees. It doesn’t need to destroy thousands of acres of pristine farmland. One of my personal favorites is the claim that HSR will scare dairy cows into not giving any more milk. If anyone believes that, then I have a bridge to sell!!!

    The reality is that here on the peninsula, a significant portion of the Caltrain ROW is plenty wide for two additional tracks.

    I would love for the anti-rail crowd to tell us how many homes and businesses were destroyed in San Carlos/Belmont by the grade separation? Likewise I would love to hear how many homes and businesses are being destroyed by the San Bruno grade separation?

    HSR just needs to be a useful, functional run of the mill system, as the many that have been built throughout the world, outside of the USA.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “HSR just needs to be a useful, functional run of the mill system, as the many that have been built throughout the world, outside of the USA.”

    Yes, yes!! Right on, man! (And I’m one who does like big, grand stations to boot!)

    Tony D. Reply:

    Please leave San Jose bashing off of this board (and $&@#% you and whatever city/town you reside in as well!)…thank you.

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Bashing San Jose… Really?

    No, I’m bashing the San Jose centric politicians and politics of San Jose. I guess by your ideology, its ok for San Jose to bash everywhere else?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, really. It is considered bashing to note that SJ does not need all this infrastructure. The local barons say the infrastructure is needed, Duke Edmund the Second of House Brown signed off on this, what else do you need? Criticizing your liege lords is treason, you know.

    blankslate Reply:

    Bashing San Jose and bashing San Jose’s civic leadership are two different things.

    Jeff Carter Reply:


    San Jose is just fine without a *legacy* station, without BART, or major league baseball…

    San Jose is a desirable place to live and will continue to be so without the civic leadership’s delusions of grandeur.

    BrianR Reply:

    Suppose the people of San Jose (yes, the people themselves – not the politicians) actually want BART and want major league baseball as well. Have you thought about that? If the A’s decided they were going to leave Oakland regardless (maybe move to Sacramento or leave the state) should San Jose still be condemned for showing an interest in the team? Not everyone in San Jose enjoys spending 3 hours round trip riding Caltrain to Giants games and back.

    The same goes for the 49’ers. Would it be better that they moved to LA over Santa Clara? It’s like oh BOO HOO HOO San Francisco!!! SF should be thanking Santa Clara for being big enough suckers to take take that team off their hands! Yes, San Francisco; YOU ARE VERY WELCOME!!! Hopefully in 10 years we can find a legal loophole to send them back to you so our schools and city services no longer need to go bankrupt.

    None the less I can assure you most people in Santa Clara really did want the niners to move here. I wasn’t one of them; football is not my thing, but who am I to judge? Some people have strange interests.

    I don’t think the issue of a “legacy station” is a big concern in San Jose. San Jose already has a legacy station. Along with Palo Alto I would consider it one of the most beautiful stations in the bay area. The best thing for Diridon would be for HSR to be as least invasive as possible on the character of the historic station. Other than modifying the platforms (and approach ramps) for level boarding and “stringing the catenary” I don’t see a need for any further changes. When CHSR is built shiny new stations will be a dime a dozen between SF and LA. San Jose should prioritize preserving whatever remnants of it’s history still exist.

    In all seriousness San Jose could never become the “Grand Central of the West” but maybe it could at least aspire to be the “Newark Penn Station of the West”. Not that it would rival Newark’s traffic but would serve a similar function for the region. The name is kind of fitting actually; considering that the south bay is often derided as the “New New Jersey”.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, but the current politicians are building a multilevel station with tall viaducts for HSR.

    BrianR Reply:

    when they see the price tag and realize they are going to have to pay for it themselves I expect they will embrace a much more modest approach. Considering that the ROW between Sunnyvale and Diridon is almost 100% grade separated already aerial structures make little sense other than to separate the ROW from UP freights between Santa Clara and Diridon. In lieu of aerial structures is there any chance building hefty concrete barrier walls between the UP and Caltrain/HSR lines would make sense?

    Joey Reply:

    CalTrain obtained a waiver to operate non-FRA-compliant trains next to UP without any barrier. HSR trains won’t be going any faster and will probably have similar crashworthiness.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s never going to be Newark. PATH is at capacity during rush hours. The Port Authority is busy spending lots and lots of money to extend platforms on the Newark-World Trade Center line so they can run ten car trains. The Newark City Subway runs every “3 to 5 minutes” during rush hour. I haven’t checked in a long time, there were 15 trains an hour in the peak direction between Amtrak and NJTransit. The Market Street side of the station has most of the local buses with two or three arriving or departing each cycle of the stoplight at peak. The Raymond Blvd. side has less but it’s very busy. all of which, when they get around to building new tunnels into Manhattan, will go up….. Market Street and Raymond Blvd have a dedicated bus lane in the peak direction…. Pity that San Jose won’t have cross platform transfers between the commuter and long distance trains and the subway like trains, like Newark does…

    BrianR Reply:

    well of course not literally like Newark. It was just a metaphorical comparison. With San Jose, San Francisco and the SF Bay Area we are talking about a place on a drastically smaller scale than the New York / New Jersey greater metropolitan region. Metaphors are just metaphors. Hyperbolic expressions of visions and ambitions. In the dusty gold rush days when San Francisco was referred to as the “Paris of the West” I doubt San Francisco was seriously taken to task to justify that expression.

    As a side note; the last time I visited downtown Newark I got to say it did remind me a bit of downtown San Jose. It was practically just as dead. Not to say it was an unattractive place, it was just different from NYC. In some respects that was nice. A more quiet and peaceful change of pace. I enjoyed seeing Newark Penn Station. It’s a beautiful station with an impressive amount of activity. Kind of funny though the way the office buildings around it feed people into the station from elevated skywalks, like a 1970’s appendage to an Art Deco station design.

    John Burrows Reply:

    If the A’s ever do relocate to San Jose it will be with the approval of the the voters of San Jose and that is by no means a sure thing.

    From what I have been able to see, my neighbors seem oblivious to high speed rail and to the fact that some of them may end up literally living in the shadow of Diridon Station (the amount of shadow likely depending upon the grandeur of the station design). But a while back. when it looked like we might be voting on bringing the A’s to San Jose, opposition around here was rapidly increasing.

    In regard to Nimbyism—It’s hard to tell how much of a Nimby you will be until the back yard (or front yard) is your own. For me an elevated Diridon Station is acceptable although I may have something to say if “more grand” or “iconic” means taller. But regarding the A’s trying to move to San Jose—The prospect of A’s fans hanging out on my front steps would quickly turn me into a full blown Nimby, even though a San Jose stadium would give a ridership boost to both Caltrain and high speed rail,

    Jeff Carter Reply:

    Of course I understand that the people in San Jose want BART and major league sports. But as you point out it comes with negative aspects. Yes San Jose is better than LA or out of state. Yes San Francisco and Oakland have drug their feet failing to appease unprincipled team ownerships. We went through this a couple times with the Giants—the Giants are leaving…at least twice… But then an ownership group was put together that was willing to work with the city and build a privately financed ballpark, without threatening to leave town. Had Eddie DeBartolo still been running the 49ers, instead of the York’s, maybe we wouldn’t be talking about this. The perfect location for a new football stadium would be the old Bayshore rail yards, in Brisbane/SF, about a mile from Candlestick and close to major transit, Caltrain, MUNI… The Santa Clara location doesn’t have major transit access. Traffic is going to be nightmarish; anyone who has been to the 4th of July fireworks at Great America knows this. Sure people in San Jose don’t want to spend 3 hours to get to and from a Giants game, but in this respect, what about the fans that come from the north bay? Fans coming from Santa Rosa, Novato, Sacramento, Stockton, must now spend an extra couple hours to get to games in San Jose/Santa Clara. San Francisco/Oakland is the center of the Bay Area, so it’s logical that teams play there.

    As for BART, unfortunately people see BART as the panacea to all our transportation woes. People in San Mateo County wanted BART too. All people have to compare is fast and frequent BART and slow/once per hour Caltrain. People see BART as fast, running every few minutes and they see Caltrain as slow and infrequent, no matter how many Baby Bullets they run. People don’t like to wait, with BART they can arrive at the station and a train will be there in a few minutes. With Caltrain, people have to build their lives around the schedule. Outside of peak commute hours and in some cases, during peak hours, Caltrain runs just once per hour, which is of little use to many potential customers. This problem has little to do with the technology of Caltrain as a system. The problem is, for the most part, political, since the politics of transit here in the Bay Area is to squander scarce transit monies (both capital and operating) on useless BART extensions and other dubious high cost/political projects, i. e. central subway, San Mateo County ferry service (San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority—WETA, good grief!!!).

    The focus of BART should be on running/maintaining the core system instead of expanding the BART Empire. With each extension comes additional wear and tear on the system, higher operating costs, more crowded trains, etc. the return on investment is quite poor.

    The BART cheerleaders/promoters swore up and down that BART extensions, first to Colma and then to SFO, will make money and turn a profit for SamTrans and will carry over 90,000 riders/day. Anyone that questioned those assertions (including myself), was told that we don’t know what we are talking about. The real world proved the naysayers 100% correct and the BART promoters were wrong. The BART/SFO extension (now including Colma) not only didn’t generate the ridership or profits, it nearly bankrupted SamTrans. Now VTA is on the same course, cheerleading a BART extension to San Jose that is sure to be a disaster for VTA, much like BART/SFO was to SamTrans.

    Think if the $1.5 billion they blew on BART to SFO would have been spent on electrifying Caltrain? Think if the operating funds that SamTrans/SMCTA has to pay to BART were to go to SamTrans and Caltrain instead?

    Perhaps your 3 hour roundtrip to a Giants game would be much shorter?

    Think if the $6 billion *plus* that will be spent on BART to San Jose were to be used to improve the existing Bay Area transit system/infrastructure?

    I agree with you 100% that HSR should not be invasive to the character of the historic and beautiful San Jose Diridon Station. But the CHSRA/PB, the politicians, including the stations namesake don’t see it that way. The plan is for miles of tall viaducts approaching/leaving San Jose Station.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Jeff: the nonsense going on in the Bay Area means that the rails are getting built in the Central Valley, and probably then in the LA area. After that’s built, we’ll see whether there’s so much madness in the Bay Area.

    BrianR Reply:

    oh bitch, bitch, bitch!!!

    “San Jose always bad, San Francisco always good”, ect. ect.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You’ve figured it out.

    Jonathan Reply:

    four legs good, two legs better!

  3. Paul Druce
    Mar 31st, 2013 at 15:53

    I’d rather see the money spent on infrastructure improvements to Surfliner, Metrolink, and Coaster (including Miramar tunnel and electrification).

    Derek Reply:

    A tunnel under Miramar with electrification and a combined Coaster/HSR/trolley station at UTC would be awesome.

    Donk Reply:

    Agreed. Rail on LOSSAN south of Sorrento Valley is just not viable until they build the Miramar tunnel. I don’t know why this doesn’t get more attention. I took the Coaster to the airport a few days ago – it is a nice leisurely ride, but is not a serious competitor to the 5. This is a huge bottleneck in San Diego. But all you ever hear about is the Peninsula.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    You can thank the only slightly paranoid San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

    If they were as serious about LOSSAN as Sacramento is about the Capitol Corridor, things would get done. Talk to Paul Dyson if you are so inclined.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    RaailPAC has been a voice in the wilderness regarding Miramar hill and LAUS run through for 20 years. I apologize to all readers for our ineffective advocacy! Lot’s of lip service out there but when it comes to putting down dollars to get it done the freeways are widened first and if you’re lucky regional rail gets a few dregs.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    LOSSAN, LOSSAN, uber alles!

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Nicht so punktlich mit diesen bahn..

    Nathanael Reply:

    I think the problem is that there’s always a higher priority than the Miramar tunnel — and the Miramar tunnel seems expensive.

    First, it’s not so useful until all the other sections are double-tracked (which is being done, very slowly).

    Second, San Diego proper is far more interested in San Diego Trolley expansion (there are at least two more routes which really, really need to be built).

    Third, NCTD was more interested in Sprinter.

    Finish off the USCD/La Jolla and Balboa Park extensions to the Trolley, and the City of San Diego might start being interested in intercity rail. Then you might get some action. Cities are generally more interested in rail service than counties.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    It’s a 10-15 minute reduction in travel time. It’s useful no matter what the double track status is.

    Joey Reply:

    Might be difficult with diesel trains.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Irregardless of the motive technology, a tunnel in that area to bypass the slow speed section through the canyon would make a huge improvement in the travel times. Using diesels just means a few extra fans at the entrances as the distance involved simply isn’t that long to be overly concerned about ventilation issues.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Only if the tunnel is on a grade. Level tunnels without stations are fine.

    Eric Reply:

    There SHOULD be a station at Miramar Road, but its use can wait until after electrification.

    blankslate Reply:

    Add the Capitol Corridor, ACE and San Joaquin to the list and I’d agree.

  4. D. P. Lubic
    Mar 31st, 2013 at 16:10
  5. joe
    Mar 31st, 2013 at 16:31

    Another argument for cap and trade funding alternative transportation like rail/subways is the disproportionate congestion relief rail offers. This also means an obvious decrease in automobile travel time and automobile pollution for those continuing to drive.

    Wang et al 2012 and M.L. Anderson 2013 18757

    Independently, the two studies show removing a few drivers can greatly reduce congestion and travel times (and by inference pollution). Anderson uses data from the LA Metro strike (described by Paul Krugman below). The Wang et al is a Bay Area and Boston study using cell phone data (described by Mercury News). Both indicate that removing a few cars from key roads can vastly improve congestion. Anderson shows this reduction is done selectively by drivers choosing to not drive on congested routes. It’s a natural, economic choice.

    The Wang 2012 Bay Area / Boston study uses cell phones tower data to trace traffic source and destination. It shows that a few automobiles can contribute a disproportionate amount of traffic congestion (removing them will have large positive impact).

    The Anderson 2013 LA study concludes this selective reduction this happens as an economic choose. Drivers with congested commutes disproportionally choose to ride alternative transportation along those congestion routes. Again, the Bay Area Boston study reenforces the conclusion that a removing a few cars along congested routes can have large positive impact on congestion relief.

    Anderson’s paper
    Here’s an interesting new working paper: Subways, Strikes, and Slowdowns. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an ungated version. But here’s the summary: the author argues that mass transit has a significant impact in reducing traffic congestion, even when it carries only a small fraction of commuters. Why? Because commuters who take mass transit are, very disproportionately, people who would otherwise be driving on the most congested routes. So even the small number of people taken off the roads has a surprisingly large effect in reducing travel delays.

    Wang et al 2012

    Understanding Road Usage Patterns in Urban Areas
    Wang et al 2012
    Moreover, our ability to pinpoint the few driver sources contributing to the major traffic flow allows us to create a strategy that achieves a significant reduction of the travel time across the entire road system, compared to a benchmark approach.

    A groundbreaking study by UC Berkeley and MIT [ Wang 2012] researchers has pinpointed a small group of drivers making Bay Area freeways miserable for the rest of us, though the reason may surprise you.

    If a driver from southeast San Jose can avoid rush hour, he would not only commute faster but also contribute toward speeding up commutes for his neighbors driving north on 101 and Interstate 280 and people from different neighborhoods going to the same destinations. The same thinking would hold true for people in the East Bay who drive west to work, often across the Bay and San Mateo bridges or through the Caldecott Tunnel, and North Bay commuters who head south across the San Rafael and Golden Gate bridges.

    Derek Reply:

    Tolls thin traffic in Bay Bridge carpool lanes
    By Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, 2011-11-07

    Toll changes on the Bay Bridge have cleared out carpool lanes and improved traffic speed when the bridge is most congested, a study by UC Berkeley transportation researchers has concluded.

    And it’s vastly less expensive for taxpayers than building and operating transit.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    More than half of those who abandoned the carpool lanes – 54 percent – did so because of the toll, the study found. Other reasons included gasoline prices, unemployment and switching to BART.

    More like 54 percent didn’t want to admit gasoline prices or unemployment were the reason. Surveys like these are ripe for the “Bradley Effect”. Congestion pricing is based on a faulty assumption: that people can reorganize their lives purely around economic decisions.

    Derek Reply:

    You’re saying demand for driving solo on the freeway during rush hour is perfectly inelastic, but perfect price elasticity of demand only exists in theory.

    joe Reply:

    BART Derek, BART.

    Try an example where there isn’t a public transit option exactly parallel to the bridge/toll. BART is a fast subway with extensive network dedicated tunnel.

    TomA Reply:

    Nope joe – OBVIOUSLY all of those people simply stopped going to work altogether.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Don’t bother Derek with facts. He’s impervious.

    @Ted Judah:

    Congestion pricing is based on a faulty assumption: that people can reorganize their lives purely around economic decisions.

    No. People do organize their lives around economic decisions. The reality is: Frst, there are other things, other priorities, in life than commuting. Second, many can’t _afford_ alternatives. Those who ride Caltrain aren’t .. hurting. Especially during rush-hour.

    Derek is full of crap. His assumption is that there is an _infinite_ pool of would-be congestion-time drivers;’ and therefore *no*, literally *no* alternative to driving will affect congestion.

    Anyone who lives in the Bay Areal can appreciate that 101 was a nightmare during the original dot-com boom. After the bubble burst, traffic on 101 improved noticeably. (That *fact*, well-known, refutes Derek’s argument, all by itself). Traffic congestion on 101 has also improved in the areas where “expansion lanes” have been built. (that’s my personal observation, well-backed-up by others’ anecdotes).

    The one place on the Peninsula where traffic on 101 is *really* bad (south of 84), is where the “expansion lane” is currently under construction. Anytime that fruitcake Derek talks about *closing* lanes to reduce congestion, envisage 101 between Embarcadero (Palo Alto) and Mountain View, as it is today.

    *That* is what Derek is agitating for. Just price the car-pool lane to where only people driving new Porsche can afford to drive in it; *they* don’t experience congestion, so in Derek’s world, everything is *just fine*.

    Don’t even _think_ about how the roads are utterly non-congested at 3am. In Derek’ world, we’d be paying people to drive at 3am. (Negative tolls!)

    But, Derek and his one study is right; Paul Krugman and everyone else are wrong. Where have we heard that story before, hmm?

    joe Reply:

    Just price the car-pool lane to where only people driving new Porsche can afford to drive in it; *they* don’t experience congestion, so in Derek’s world, everything is *just fine*.

    Fine until they can’t hire people to work at the Peet’s Coffee because they can’t get to work. Olds school transit was about getting workers to the factories. Now it’s a privilege to work.

    Society could subsidize the alternatives – so the economy can function. That’s what PAMPA extracts from developers – free transit passes for employees. Facebook even provides the buses – just like Google. Stanford offers free transit pass. It works assuming reliable transit is available. Of course PAMPA also obstructs transit.

    Derek Reply:

    Fine until they can’t hire people to work at the Peet’s Coffee because they can’t get to work.

    Or they can pay their workers more. What’s so bad about that?

    joe Reply:

    Oh god.. are you serious?

    Then the Peet’s employees can pay the tolls and the tolls have to be raised until they price out the Peet’s employee so congestion can be reduced.

    What really happens is the area invests in public transit to reduce congestion and employers offer a free/subsidized pass.

    What so bad about that? It actually solves a problem by increasing capacity – reducing automobiles.
    That’s exactly what Palo Alto requires of Stanford.

    Derek Reply:

    Or they would be able to afford to live closer to work and not pay any tolls. Or they would be more willing to carpool and share the tolls.

    Trust me, wonderful things happen when you set the price at the market clearing rate, despite what the socialists will have you believe.

    joe Reply:

    My 8 year old just figured out the Easter Bunny. Oops sorry did I just cast doubt on the Market Fairy?

    There are no magic homes for Peet’s employees or the local police and firefighters or flying carpet to take people to work when priced out of a market.

    You want to ration. I want to add capacity with public transit and that reduces congestion.

    Cap capacity and you ration that limited resource with a fee/tax/toll.

    Jon Reply:

    Or they can pay their workers more. What’s so bad about that?

    So charmingly naive. What’s more likely, that Peets will raise wages above the legal minimum so their employees can afford to use the carpool lane, or that they won’t, and workers will simply take on longer commutes to keep their jobs?

    Jonathan Reply:

    I can’t tell whether or not Derek thinks the latter outcome is a “good thing”.

    Derek Reply:

    What’s more likely, that Peets will raise wages above the legal minimum so their employees can afford to use the carpool lane, or that they won’t, and workers will simply take on longer commutes to keep their jobs?

    You should discuss that with Joe, who thinks “they can’t hire people to work at the Peet’s Coffee because they can’t get to work.” Let me know what you two decide.

    joe Reply:

    I’m in agreement with Jonathan – you offer no solution.

    Increasing pay (however unlikely) to cover the road tolls defeats the purpose of rationing with a toll. Fees would need to raised until cars were removed, people removed due to the price based rationing.

    I propose more transit investments to reduce congestion. It induces drivers to leave their cars – exactly what is being done there now by employers co-paying for transit passes.

    Derek Reply:

    Increasing pay (however unlikely) to cover the road tolls defeats the purpose of rationing with a toll. Fees would need to raised until cars were removed…

    That’s like saying in an eBay auction, the price goes up until all the bidders drop out.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yeah. The market is a form of rationing like socialist central planning. You may think it’s a better form of rationing (and in many cases it is), but it doesn’t mean this rationing doesn’t exist.

    Jon Reply:

    Try responding to what I wrote, not what joe wrote. I don’t agree with him on that point; Peets will find employees regardless of how clogged Hwy 101 gets, it’s just that their commutes will suck more and more. You may or may not care about that, but don’t think for a minute that employers will boost wages to offset the cost of congestion pricing.

    Derek Reply:

    Don’t worry. Everyone who sits in traffic prefers it to the alternative (whatever it is), because if they preferred the alternative, they would be doing that instead.

    thatbruce Reply:


    That only applies to people who have an alternative. A lot of people don’t have a viable alternative, a fundamental point you don’t seem to get.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    All commuting is by choice.
    Pretty much all trips are by choice unless you’re on your way to a hospital.

    It’s capitalism, baby! Everybody “has an alternative”.

    They just prefer to allocate their costs one way (home price, rental) over another, or, in most cases, prefer to have somebody else underwrite some of their costs. eg Empty commuter trains from Gilroy to Palo Alto, while pleading that they “need” to own exurban property; or Flight Level Zero airline service through people’s back yards, while pleading that they “need” to make important face-to-face meetings at the other end of the state.

    Derek’s spot on in his argument, even if just a tiny bit one-tracked in his solution. (He’s nothing compared to the one-tracked foamer dim-wits, for whom CHSR will rescue Stockton, save Facebook, prevent catastrophic climate change, provide affordable housing, end sprawl, make long-distance commuting cheap, create a huge manufacturing base, end unemployment, and ensure social and racial equity.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    for whom CHSR will rescue Stockton, save Facebook, prevent catastrophic climate change, provide affordable housing, end sprawl, make long-distance commuting cheap, create a huge manufacturing base, end unemployment, and ensure social and racial equity.)

    Altamont is supposed to do that. End hungry and disease and bring world peace too.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:


    .autocorrect. If he had intended use to type on virtual keyboards He would have given us a stylus instead of an index finger.

    joe Reply:

    All commuting is by choice.
    Pretty much all trips are by choice unless you’re on your way to a hospital.

    That trip isn’t “commuting”.

    I would have hoped you’d moved by now – maybe to Europe, become Swiss, or act according to your professed principles and just leave us alone and be content anywhere better.

    Yet you chose to live in the Bay Area and now claim to have bought property in the backwater MUNI/BART/CALTRAIN serviced city of SF. Just complain about taxes and spending like another one of those selfish tea-naggers sitting in a medicare scooter with a protest sign.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They have zoning in Europe, too. There are hysteric NIMBYs everywhere. You should see how Swiss people react when someone suggests that the demand for more construction in the big cities should be met with taller buildings. You’d think someone’s proposing to build a mosque with a minaret in their backyard or something. Housing in Zurich is unaffordable for the same reason housing in the Bay Area is unaffordable. The cities that have affordable urban housing are the ones with high unemployment, e.g. Portland, Berlin.

    Also, wasn’t “love it or leave it” the argument used against people who thought the US shouldn’t bomb Iraq back in 2003?

    Derek Reply:

    His assumption is that there is an _infinite_ pool of would-be congestion-time drivers…

    Perhaps the hamburger analogy may help you understand.

    After the bubble burst, traffic on 101 improved noticeably. (That *fact*, well-known, refutes Derek’s argument, all by itself).

    I don’t think inducing economic recessions is a wise strategy.

    Traffic congestion on 101 has also improved in the areas where “expansion lanes” have been built.

    Yes, I’ve already said that expanding a freeway improves traffic congestion in the short term. But you can’t just keep expanding the freeway every time it starts to get congestion.

    Anytime that fruitcake Derek talks about *closing* lanes to reduce congestion…

    Which is never.

    Just price the car-pool lane to where only people driving new Porsche can afford to drive in it

    Or people late to work. Or people rushing their kid to the hospital and want a way to bypass all that traffic that doesn’t exist with unpriced traffic lanes.

    Another nice thing about congestion pricing is that it’s an optional tax. If you don’t want to pay it, you don’t have to. Why not let wealthy people take on a greater tax burden if they choose to?

    In Derek’ world, we’d be paying people to drive at 3am. (Negative tolls!)

    That’s an interesting strategy. It would certainly increase economic activity, and that alone might give taxpayers an acceptable return on their investment in freeways. It warrants further investigation.

    Paul Krugman and everyone else are wrong.

    I don’t think he’s wrong. I just think the effects he describes are only short-term.

    Jonathan Reply:

    After the bubble burst, traffic on 101 improved noticeably. (That *fact*, well-known, refutes Derek’s argument, all by itself).

    I don’t think inducing economic recessions is a wise strategy.

    Derek, please pay attention and try to follow. The fact that congestion reduced, noticeably, after the dot-com bubble burst, refutes your point.

    Your argument is worthless it it is refuted by facts which aren’t explainable by the argument.
    That is the case. Ergo, your argument is worthless

    Do _try_ to understand, Derek.

    joe Reply:

    Paul Krugman and everyone else are wrong.

    I don’t think he’s wrong. I just think the effects he describes are only short-term.

    Yes and “In the long run we are all dead.”

    A healthy lifestyle does not prevent death. Another worthless, short-term benefit.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “Anderson’s paper

    Here’s an interesting new working paper: Subways, Strikes, and Slowdowns. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an ungated version. But here’s the summary: the author argues that mass transit has a significant impact in reducing traffic congestion, even when it carries only a small fraction of commuters. Why? Because commuters who take mass transit are, very disproportionately, people who would otherwise be driving on the most congested routes. So even the small number of people taken off the roads has a surprisingly large effect in reducing travel delays.”

    This ties in with a newspaper report I recall reading at the time of the opening of Camden Yards (baseball field) in Baltimore. The ball field–located in downtown Baltimore and one of the first “retro-styled” ball parks of that time–generated a number of concerns in regard to its expected traffic demand, being almost in the middle of the city, although it also was very close to the equally new light rail line.

    The first game was deliberately undersold partially out of these concerns (only 30,000 tickets for the 40,000 seat stadium). Even then there was concern about the rush hour traffic effects, as this first game would end at about 4:30 on a Monday afternoon, something one would consider the worst possible time to let out 30,000 people.

    As it was, traffic actually flowed better than it normally did. Part of this was the planning for it (i.e., extra cops to direct the traffic), no doubt part of it was people taking the day off to go to this first game, but a big part had to also be that 10,000 of the baseball fans that first day rode the commuter trains and light rail system instead of driving.

    I don’t think 10,000 people would be a huge number in a city the size of Baltimore, but it was enough to take the pressure off the road system and improve traffic flow.

    Ball field in lower foreground; former Baltimore & Ohio warehouse just behind it, along with the restored Camden Station (building with white trim and towers to the left and behind warehouse); light rail line goes past station to proceed up Howard Street. Railroad facility is a stub station at street level, with a lower level that goes into a tunnel under Howard Street. At the other end of this tunnel is Mount Clare Station, now an art museum and one of the few stations left in the United States to retain its train shed.

    Camden Station, now a museum; warehouse visible behind station, ball field partially visible at upper right. Parking in area of former train shed; actual current (too small) station out of sight at upper left. Light rail line out of sight to lower left.'s-entertainment-museum.jpg

    More recent overall photo:

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Cramped-looking photo of Camden Station; part of warehouse visible between the two towers, ball field partially visible to the right:

    The rail line that runs under Howard Street, and a correction–the station at the other end with the train shed is Mount Royal station, not Mount Clare:

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Needs passenger trains:

    Baltimore’s subway system; unfortunately, there are no direct connections between it and the light rail or commuter lines:

    We’ll close out with Baltimore’s Penn Station, unfortunately also the home of a questionable piece of public “art” in its courtyard:

  6. libertyrailroad
    Mar 31st, 2013 at 16:44
    Tax Wall Street Transactions to fund High Speed Rail. Over 5 Quadrillion dollars is traded on wallstreet every year. Only a small amount of that is need to fund High speed rail.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    And they use Christian children’s blood to bake matzos on Passover, too.

    libertyrailroad Reply:

    Christian children’s blood relate to a wall street sales tax for high speed rail funding in what way exactly?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The whole “finance people have quadrillions of dollars” thing is an idiotic conspiracy theory on a par with blood libels, and a lot of the people who believe that have just transposed their usual anti-Semitic myths into hatred of finance people (who they always associate with Jewish culture when pressed but don’t say it out loud).

    Look: world GDP is $70 trillion a year, give or take. $5 quadrillion or whatever is a bunch of numbers written on a piece of paper. If you think in terms of availability of resources to build HSR, GDP is your hard cap. Since California isn’t going to tax other countries to build its infrastructure, or or net other states (California is a net tax donor), the hard cap is actually a lot lower, more like $2 trillion a year. That needs to be allocated to uses like private-sector consumption, health care, education, construction, etc. So yeah, the resources are there if California decides HSR is worth more than other things it could do with the money, but you’re off by 3.5 orders of magnitude and the whole Wall-Street-has-quadrillions-of-dollars thing doesn’t pass the smell test.

    joe Reply:

    ” If you think in terms of availability of resources to build HSR, GDP is your hard cap. ”

    No, there is no hard cap on GDP. 70T is not a hard cap. No more the than US GDP is under a hard Cap.
    Make more infrastructure like HSR and GDP will rise.

    We don’t pore GDP and let it harden, we do not hammer it or bent it or mine it or burn it. It isn’t yellow and shiny, or green or black as coal.

    The Fed creates money – viola it’s there. The Fed decides to buy shitty financial products at face value – that’s not a conspiracy. No reason to accuse people of being anything.

    In fact it’s quite disturbing to read you equate any wall street criticism with being anti-national, religious or anything.

    HSR is peanuts considering the choices made to stimulate the economy – buy crappy financial products at face value to prop up the owners or print money to build infrastructure – both require the fed creating money.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    HSR isn’t going to raise world GDP by 3 orders of magnitude.

    The Fed manages demand. That’s all. Those stupid, stupid arguments about how it’s a shadowy private corporation miss the point of what a central bank is. It manipulates the money supply so that inflation and unemployment will fall into acceptable levels based on standard economic theories of NAIRU.

    And just because I think “they have quadrillions of dollars” is a moronic argument doesn’t mean I think every criticism is a conspiracy theory. I’m against that particular criticism. Have you seen how I react to people who oppose HSR on stupid grounds like “only 2 lines make money” or “it’ll blight the Peninsula”? Those too are stupid arguments, and as you’re well aware I don’t think every criticism of HSR is conspiratorial.

    libertyrailroad Reply:

    How exactly is this stuff a conspiracy? Why is everything that goes against the status quo a conspiracy? You can go to the bank of international settlements to find information. Also the derivatives bubble is alone 1.5 Quadrillion dollars. Also why are we expected to like the finance industry they crash the economy, they get rewarded for it, and make the most gain from the least work?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Whenever you see the word “liberty” you know you’re in for a conspiracy.

    libertyrailroad Reply:

    Yet nothing I have said is a conspiracy. Everything I have said is factual. Also Alon Levy made the thing about Jewish people. I don’t get what Jewish people have to do with this. There are plenty of Jews in other professions and plenty of non Jewish people in the finance industry.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There are also plenty of blacks who aren’t on welfare, while the majority of US welfare recipients aren’t black. The right-wing attacks on welfare queens are still racialized.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There isn’t actually 1.5 quadrillion dollars’ worth of resources anywhere. Those numbers are just a net present value of world economic production. You can’t actually use them; that value depends on future production.

    libertyrailroad Reply:

    You could definitely use the money just you only use a very small portion.

  7. Derek
    Mar 31st, 2013 at 17:37
  8. Ted Judah
    Mar 31st, 2013 at 17:40

    Cap and trade is a mirage. It’s a Schwarzenegger-esque approach, a “have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too” strategy which guarantees revenues that never materialize.

    Cap and trade is the stuff Wall Street hopes replaces mortgage-backed derivatives as the “hot, new thing” to help buoy the stock market and trading desks.

    Honestly, it makes more sense to institute emission caps and fine businesses that exceed the cap. And it also makes more sense to institute a severance tax and use revenue from fracking to pay for transit or even state parks.

    There’s already a way to limit emissions, it’s called the gas tax.

    VBobier Reply:

    It sounds like you think that Cap and trade won’t work. Is that what you’re saying? I’m for Cap and trade being used for HSR and to an extent rail transit that is HSR related and very against using Cap and trade for highways and freeways…

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I’m fairly certain Cap and Trade won’t work. A carbon tax is also a bit of a stretch because it would be so much harder to measure and calculate. CARB does have the capacity to figure out what emissions are “sustainable” though, for the state and assess penalties accordingly.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well I’m sure it will and so are others too.

    Cap-and-trade versus carbon tax

    Regulation by cap-and-trade emissions trading can be compared to emissions fees or environmental tax approaches under a number of possible criteria.[39]

    Responsiveness to inflation: In the case of inflation, cap-and-trade is at an advantage over emissions fees because it adjusts to the new prices automatically and no legislative or regulatory action is needed.

    Responsiveness to cost changes: It is difficult to tell which is better between cap-and-trade and emissions fees; therefore, it might be a better option to combine the two resulting in the creation of a safety valve price (a price set by the government at which polluters can purchase additional permits beyond the cap).

    Responsiveness to recessions: This point is closely related to responsiveness to cost changes, because recessions cause a drop in demand. Under cap-and-trade the emissions cost automatically decreases, so a cap-and-trade scheme adds another automatic stabilizer to the economy – in effect, a type of automatic fiscal stimulus. However, if the emissions price drops to a low level, efforts to reduce emissions will also be reduced. Assuming that a government is competently able to stimulate the economy regardless of the cap-and-trade scheme, an excessively low price represents a missed opportunity to cut emissions faster than planned, so adding a price floor (or equivalently, switching to a tax temporarily) might be better – especially when there is great urgency about cutting emissions, as with greenhouse gas emissions. A price floor would also provide a degree of certainty and stability for investment in emissions reductions: recent experiences from the UK have shown that nuclear power operators are reluctant to invest on “un-subsidised” terms unless there is a guaranteed price floor for carbon (which the EU emissions trading scheme does not presently provide).

    Responsiveness to uncertainty: As with cost changes, in a world of uncertainty, it is not clear whether emissions fees or cap-and-trade systems are more efficient—it basically depends on how fast the marginal social benefits of reducing pollution fall with the amount of cleanup (e.g., whether inelastic or elastic marginal social benefit schedule).

    Andrew Lambdin-Abraham Reply:

    Why is a carbon tax any more plausible than cap & trade?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Since most people don’t mine their own coal, refine their own oil or have a natural gas well in the backyard, carbon taxes are extraordinarily easy to levy and collect. Squint at the gas pump the next time you pass one, right there on the label it tells you how much the taxes are per gallon.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Unless you tax personal vehicles (including freight trucks), the approach you describe is not that successful. Plus, if you put too much of a burden on refineries, all you get is energy producers shifting their focus elsewhere, be it a refinery in Baja California or a coal plant in Page, Arizona.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Smuggling the gasoline over the border would not be cost effective. I suspect that they would tax it as it comes across the border. Whether that border is the one with Mexico or the one with Nevada. They do that now with other road fuels. Smuggling electrons across the border is even more difficult than gasoline or diesel and I suspect the electric companies can tell you exactly how many watts they are selling across the border.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Your sarcasm is only to going to confuse people. AB 32 (which only applies to California) opens the door to more of our energy production being done across the border. Since we would still suffer the attendant effects of the extra pollution, simply levying a tax on Chevron, or Sempra, or LADWP is pushing on a balloon.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So right now if a gas station in San Diego buys gasoline from a supplier in Tijuana the state and federal government don’t collect any taxes on it? The electrons flowing out of your outlet that come from another state don’t get taxed but the ones generated in your state do?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    How is there a benefit to environment if production of energy switches from states with more stringent regulation to states or countries with less regulation?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The unless you like the drive to Nevada to fill your gas tank or have a realllllly long extension cord so you can plug your air conditioner into an outlet in Arizona the gas pump and the electric meter will be in California where the carbon content could be taxed.

    joe Reply:

    The state has to have a fraction of energy production from renewable so I don’t really understand Ted’s complaint one bit. It’s contrary to even the critics that contend the renewal requirement will increase prices.

    Coal plants in NV will count as non-renewable electricity and recency CA stopped buying coal generated electricity from NV based on the higher carbon and pollution.

    On April 12, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new renewables portfolio standard (RPS) that set a goal of 33% power from renewables by 2020.

    This move has paved the way for developers to construct wind and solar project like never before. More megawatts of renewables are currently under construction in California than have been constructed in the past decade.

    Wikipedia re the AB 32

    Cost of electricity

    According to the San Francisco Chronicle, electricity rates are likely to rise by about 15% in the first few years of the implementation of AB 32, because the generation of electricity using renewable resources costs more than the generation of electricity from non-renewable resources.[3]

    Neville Snark Reply:

    “Smuggling electrons across the border is even more difficult”

    That why they use AC!

    nick Reply:

    here is a link to monitoring in denver which is a mobile unit. I also know someone in the telecomms industry who implemented a similar vehicle in london measuring co2.

    The London congestion zone uses anpr (number plate recognition so beloved of speed sorry safety camera proponents) from which can be determined the officially rated co2 ratings so may not be that accurate for actual omissions. under 100 gms/km are currently free to enter london but this will be reduced. Also cars producing under 100 gms/km currently have free road tax and a sliding scale then applies.

    There is also a complicated system of co2 ratings for company cars. also diesels have a 3% surcharge but maybe this will change for euro6 vehicles. basically company cars pay a rate which increases per higher co2 and that rate is applied against the vehicles list prices so you pay a certain percentage of this every year ! That is why in the latest survey showing increased railway usage and decreased car usage some of those using the train more now are those who have given up their company cars.

    I cant help but feel that it would be less complicated and cheaper to get rid of this plethora of co2 taxes and just add to the price per litre as the costs then become directly related to both mpg and miles driven. since the govt already takes well over half of the cost of fuel per litre, it would not be expedient in the current political climate. Our govt seems to prefer taking money from poor people and out of the health service but thats for another time and blog !!!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The person who invented cap and trade believes it will not work for carbon the way it did for sulfuric acid, and supports a carbon tax.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Who says so, and what are the reasons for believing that it won’t work? Citation, please.

    Political polarization (Republicans are still in denial about climate science, evolution!), and fraud (taking carbon credits, but not actually planting enough trees or what-have-you0 are two potential gotchas.
    I’m wondering what specific reasons this person has in mind.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I forget the name; I can look it up. This person is a liberal (it wasn’t conservatives who came up with cap-and-trade for sulfuric acid), certainly not a climate change denier, and just thinks that the carbon market is too complicated for cap-and-trade to work effectively. There are a fair number of environmentalists who think the same, like James Hansen, who can’t really be accused of denialism.

    joe Reply:

    “I forget the name; I can look it up. This person is a liberal ”
    Really? That’s probably credible since a liberal says it will not work and it’s a liberal issue.

    My guess is it’s very hard to monitor and create a carbon marketplace. For example, what’s the net CO2 uptake of the Canadian Boreal ecosystem? How much carbon does farming practice X sequester – long term. What is long term? If that forest burns, does that count as an emission?

    Far easier to tax the emission and forget about the credits.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I’m all for a higher gas tax AND a carbon tax, but I’m also for taking the revenues we do have and putting them toward good uses.

    VBobier Reply:

    Agreed Robert and Happy Easter y’all!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    UC still has tuition fees.

    VBobier Reply:

    The UC tuition isn’t AB32 compatible, that’ll have to come from somewhere else.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    …and this is why all government funding should be fungible.

    VBobier Reply:

    I’ve read that conservatives in this country object to funding that is fungible…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not just conservatives – everyone with a specific agenda. Liberals in New York are pissed that Andrew Cuomo won’t sign a transit lockbox bill deeding certain taxes to transit.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    40 percent of the state’s population lives in New York City. Where the state collects 60 percent of it’s taxes. 60 percent of the state’s population lives “downstate” where the state collects 80 percent of it’s taxes. Downstaters in general should be up in arms over the shenanigans upstaters engage in. I’m sure that the lockbox was cooked up in response to how Albany loves to raid MTA taxes and the meme that it would unduly constrain the state cooked up by an Upstater who likes to milk that particular cow.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Hey, don’t blame “upstaters”. Blame our shifty state-level politicians.

    Well, OK, blame the ignorant people who happily vote for them, too, but don’t blame the mostly-sane populations of Ithaca, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Auburn, etc… who are doing their best in a heavily gerrymandered system.

    The big issue upstate (well, after fracking) is that the state government keeps “downloading” state responsibilities onto the countries with unfunded mandates. Since the counties have only one source of income — property tax — this means the property taxes keep going up. The response of the Republicans and Cuomo? A goddamn property tax cap, which doesn’t do a damned thing to help with the problem.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Property taxes upstate are laughably low.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    is that the state government keeps “downloading” state responsibilities onto the countries with unfunded mandates.

    Another way of saying that people downstate should be paying for upstate benefits….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Still can’t tell if Governor Cuomo (R-NY) is trying to burnish a moderate image for a presidential run or is just being an asshole. No MTA appointment! No money for subway extensions, spend it all on doubling the Tappan Zee width! Convention centers in Queens! It’s moved beyond playing moderate for the election; nobody gives a crap how many local urban renewal projects he Gets Done (which, coming to think about it, may be why he neglects the whole Queens idea), he gains nothing from the MTA foot dragging, etc.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why should the state pay anything for the Tappan Zee? If the toll has to be 15 dollars to finance it I’m sure the free market will find solutions to the problem of 15 dollar tolls. The other Hudson River tolls are 13 dollars if you want to pay cash.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Because it’s infrastructure that has Cuomo’s name on it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    they are going to rename the Tappan Zee, Lake Cuomo?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Maybe. It’s no tackier than naming bridges after RFK and Ed Koch.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    yeah yeah yeah, like everyone calls it Avenue of he Americas. or called the Koch the Queensboro before it became the Koch. I wonder if the traffic reports still say that traffic is backed up “where the Elmhurst gas tanks used to be”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Tourists call it Avenue of the Americas. The kind who say that it hosts the orange line of the subway and pronounce Houston Street like the Texan city.

  9. D. P. Lubic
    Mar 31st, 2013 at 22:09

    I don’t get it; Anderson Cooper skewers rail service again, despite a variety of comments that took him and CNN to task for various improper commentary.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Just watched the whole thing, and an interesting bit at the end is that Cooper and CNN got “e-mail bombs” from rail supporters, and even wondered if it was a professional “hit” job. Interesting. . .indeed, fascinating. . .makes you wonder what’s going on in the culture. . .

    synonymouse Reply:

    I could not get the video to play. I’ll try a different copy of Windows.

    The comments do underscore that hsr opponents are now in the majority. And interestingly those in favor seem to have little knowledge of what is actually transpiring. I suggest if they knew more about PB’s antics they would not be happy-clappy any more.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I listened to this clip and find the basic charge is that “blends” are happening but not genuine hsr. Not that different from Kopp’s complaint.

    But Cooper et al do not even begin to delve into the grim realities of laying out a genuine hsr route. Namely the politics, corruption, payoffs, environmental damage, cutting thru urban and farm areas brutalist style with eminent domain and runamuck hollow core.

    Cooper needs to do the hatchet job on Jerry, Dan and Jeffrey & Co., since Dan Walters and/or Ralph Vartabedian do not have the nerve to really step on any feet or sacred cows or do genuine investigative journalism. Like into the Tejon Ranch Co. How about slamming Santa Clarita obstructionism the way PA gets slammed?

    VBobier Reply:

    Sounds like You think the Governor, Dan and whomever is corrupt? Or am I reading this wrong?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Morales … oh yeah

    More and more I am thinking Van Ark concocted Borden to Corcoran as a joke to get the CHSRA off its collective butt, but the clowns actually took it seriously. Orphan ARRA will be a national laughingstock.

    The party machine could have easily used its enormous DC clout to redirect the ARRA monies to Bako to Fresno or even to LA. I would have spent it on the two tunnels at Tejon. At least you would have something substantial and permanent to show for it. As it is they could end up with a bunch of derelict hollow-core they cannot auction off. Better make sure the BNSF can use it for freight.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The money has to be spent by 2017.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Queen you know whom can work wonders with those details. That’s what real political power comes down to – cutting deals when you need to.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Just like PTC has to be done by 2015, except it won’t.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “Just watched the whole thing, and an interesting bit at the end is that Cooper and CNN got “e-mail bombs” from rail supporters, and even wondered if it was a professional “hit” job.”

    Which it wasn’t. I would have gotten the notice if it was, I’m connected to enough passenger rail promotion groups!

    “Interesting. . .indeed, fascinating. . .makes you wonder what’s going on in the culture. . .”
    People want passenger trains. More and more people. And we want them now.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    “People want passenger trains. More and more people. And we want them now.”

    And young people are “agnostic” to driving and cars, to quote the Brookings Institute paper. Sounds like the generational shift to me.

    We wouldn’t have seen this even 5 years ago, at least not on this level.

  10. D. P. Lubic
    Mar 31st, 2013 at 22:29
  11. Neville Snark
    Apr 1st, 2013 at 08:43

    DP Lubic, and others too :)

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Krugman’s comments remind me of my own observations on a variety of things in the past election cycle.

    One was the unfortunate comment by a presidential candidate about 47% of the population not paying taxes, making them a bunch of welfare bums. That was an incorrect description; many are on Social Security or some sort of disability (and Social Security isn’t really that generous), some are workers whose pay is too low to pay taxes, at least with the families they may have (as an unemployment auditor, I see those), some are business owners whose profits are too low to pay taxes (I see those, too), and a certain percentage will be 1 percenters with really good accountants. Maybe 6% of the population as a whole is on “welfare.”

    It gets more interesting when you consider the corollary that “only” 53% of the population pays income tax, especially if you start asking what things might have been like when the economy was better, like in the 1950s. I can’t tell you how surprised I was to find that the ratio of taxpayers to the population in 1960 was only 49%! That was when most women stayed home and had babies, and the baby boomers were mostly babies, too (and a big chunk of them hadn’t been born yet).

    Then we have the squawks about the marginal tax rate going from 35% to 37% on income in excess of $450,000 per year. In 1960, the top rate was a whopping 94% on income in excess of $300,000 per year, which translates to about $1.5 to 2 million today.

    Banks charged somewhat more than they do now (6%) but also paid more to depositors (3%).

    In short, all this stuff we’ve been arguing about was “worse” when the economy was better, really better for a long time. This tells me our troubles are from other things, like oil dependence and the effects of oil price shocks, and, in my opinion anyway, from living in a market that an economist might regard as both technologically mature and economically saturated. Those nuts would be much harder to talk about, much less attempt to crack, than to just fiddle with tax rates or to blame on things like environmental laws.

    In fact, I’m coming to the conclusion that a lot of things we do argue about–gun control, same-sex marriage, abortion–are becoming distractions, perhaps deliberately so, to keep the wealthy in power. That’s what keeps the “conservative” rank and file in the Republican fold. How else do you explain a supposedly pro-life Facebook site that spends more of its space denigrating the President than promoting real family life? And I say this as a conservative, pro-life Catholic!

    Honestly, the site I’m speaking of (and blast it, now I can’t find it) was so extremely anti-Obama or anti-liberal I couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t financed by the Koch Brothers or somebody to make sure the conservative, pro-life types wouldn’t take notice that they were being robbed blind with job outsourcing and reduced pay. I’m just amazed so many fall for this sort of thing, especially if you do just the littlest bit of research to see how phony the Republicans have been on this.

    And the greatest irony is that the current president seems to be a true family man, which is more than I can say for the likes of Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh. How many times have those guys been divorced and remarried? How many times have they cheated on the women they were married to? Egads, with their sorry records in that department, what sane woman would want to be with them?

    This isn’t to say morality arguments are unimportant, but rather, we should argue that good behavior isn’t limited to proper sexual activity, and good judgement and good investments aren’t limited to the amount of dollar signs they put in the accounts of investors!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How many times have they cheated on the women they were married to?

    Ann Landers and Dear Abby always advise the other woman “Do you want to marry a man that cheats on his wife?” which is what the other woman is doing with the married man. IIRC the Newtsters second wife was cheating with Newt while he was still married to his first wife. And got in high dungeon when he suggested that he wanted to go have a bit of fun on the side…

  12. synonymouse
    Apr 1st, 2013 at 13:17

    Judge allows Stockton to go into bankruptcy:

    That’s one judge who turned on the machine. Unions won’t like this ruling one bit nor creditors.

    I guess an insolvent CHSRA could file for section something and leave the investors hanging Cyprus style even if there were guarantees of taypayer liability for repayment. The courts could conceivably overturn that and ok to liquidate. Taxpayer guaranteed loans from private sources were probably intended to be illegal under Prop 1 A, but we can see that document is just about useless and routinely ignored.

    If the courts don’t require the CHSRA to demonstrate in credible detail that their scheme(blended DoglegRail)can actually do SF to LA in 2:40, Kopp’s critique is definitely on target and Prop 1A has been effectively waived.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If the judges do not grasp that PB has every reason and motive to lie about meeting the 2:40 proviso and accordingly require an objective opinion from an independent engineering analyst they should simply throw out the lawsuit straightaway and not embarrass themselves by displaying blatant and implausible naivete.

    nick Reply:

    usually courts do tend to ask for evidence

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Federal Bankruptcy judge doesn’t have to follow the guidance in Prop 13. Some people are going to get a very nasty increase on their tax bills.

    Reedman Reply:

    Municipal bankruptcy (Chapter 9) is not like other bankruptcies, partly because it has been done so infrequently since first enacted in 1937 that there are few precedents to follow. Nobody knows for sure whether employment contracts (with both active employees and retirees) can be forcibly redone by the courts. In Chapter 9, there is no “liquidation” option, only “reorganization”. Nobody knows whether the courts can, for example, order a city to sell a city park to a private developer to pay the pension of the person who used to rake leaves at the park. Nobody knows whether the bankruptcy court has the authority, for example, to order a government entity to double it’s taxes/fees/tolls/fares to generate more income.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But it would appear that the judge was reluctant to go the other way and not allow for a mechanism to officially and legally recognize “failure”, of a budget, a plan, a scheme, a project. That would mean at the very least enforcing existing union contracts, service levels, etc. and imposing unilateral tax increases to pay for the preceding and more.

    Depending on how much a tax increase, businesses and residents might simply choose to walk away. Ergo more deficits.

  13. synonymouse
    Apr 1st, 2013 at 19:04

    Future of MoonBahn:

    Nathanael Reply:

    Uh, no. Greece is in a special situation, being looted by the Troika and Germany, and with an elite who really couldn’t care less about the common people.

    Now, there are PARTS of the US which are like that. Michigan has been coming close in many areas (except that Snyder actually likes passenger rail). Wisconsin — Walker’s been trying. Indiana, certainly.

    But it’ll never happen in California.

    joe Reply:

    We can float out dollar to our benefit and pay debt off cheaply. We can move to other states and weakened states like Florida get stimulus from US benefits covered by the federal tax base.

    Greeks cannot float their euro debt and they cannot move to wealthy Germany. They do not get benefits covered by EU income and must rely on their own depressed economy but cannot borrow.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Every single state and local government in the US is run by elites who couldn’t care less about the common people.

  14. synonymouse
    Apr 1st, 2013 at 20:26

    Sorry to be such a contrarian.

    California is a lot like Greece in some ways, just as are Italy and Spain. And so fall the dominos.

    California appears to be wealthy as it is full of very rich people from the rest of the country fleeing the horrible weather. By itself it would revert to a province of Mexico. Between the abysmal ethical example set by the uniparty patronage machine government and the movement north of the cartels we should start seeing some more serious societal decline than already out there pretty directly. The Bell Gang of 5 will seem like pikers.

    But notice the trouble the Greeks are having divesting the rail system. Out class ones are not going to want gratuitous viaducts that have to be maintained and add more safety issues and concerns than terra firma. Paul Dyson is correct is worrying about the wisdom of the Orphan ARRA.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Out should read our

    synonymouse Reply:

    And in worrying, not is. Sorry

    VBobier Reply:

    Syno You can’t turn people against HSR, that simply isn’t going to happen and stopping HSR isn’t going to be stopped short of violence and that won’t be tolerated at all…

    EJ Reply:

    You really think that California is being propped up by old money from the East Coast and the Midwest? Dude, if you want sunny weather and low taxes you move to Florida, New Mexico, Arizona… NOT California.

    Do you not know about the tremendous economic output from Silicon Valley, Hollywood, import/export, manufacturing (yes California has a huge manufacturing base, google it), our gigantic ag sector, porn, you name it? I mean we’ve got plenty of fiscal problems but we’re nothing like some Mediterranean basket case.

    TomA Reply:

    Wow – that would be a hell of an acquisition for Mexico, considering that California has a GDP that is 50% greater than Mexico itself.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Reconquista, gringos.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    And why do the PRI and PAN people want a territory that is going to vote PRD by large margins?

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