Sac Bee Suggests Quick Path Forward for HSR

Nov 29th, 2013 | Posted by

The Sacramento Bee editorial board remains supportive of the high speed rail project. As with this blog, they believe that the project should not be delayed and that it ought to continue to move forward. Earlier this week they suggested a quick path to get the bonds authorized and spent:

Why did the CHSRA seek authority for the full $8.6 billion approved by voters in 2008, instead of amounts needed for the first phase of work? It is understandable that the CSHRA would want to authorize bonds once instead of having opponents challenge every authorization.

Why not simply authorize the $4.7 billion amount in Senate Bill 1029, which was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July 2012? That would provide the $2.6 billion to complete the initial segment in the Central Valley – plus funds to connect existing rail with high-speed rail and work on the bookends in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Judge Kenny made it clear in an earlier ruling on high-speed rail that Proposition 1A left the question of whether to make an appropriation based on the funding plan “to the Legislature’s collective judgment” and did not give the courts authority to “interfere with that exercise of judgment.” The $4.7 billion path is clear. The aim should be bond issuances in the spring and fall of 2014.

The Sac Bee also points out that spring 2014 is still a realistic scenario given that it actually won’t require all that much work by the California High Speed Rail Authority to address Judge Kenny’s ruling:

The judge ruled in one case that the CSHRA has to “rescind its approval” of the 2011 funding plan. [CHSRA CEO Jeff] Morales expects to have a new draft in the next few weeks that will identify the funding sources for the high-speed rail backbone in the Central Valley, connecting with BNSF tracks at each end – not just the first 29 miles.

The CSHRA also will need to have environmental approvals in hand for that Central Valley backbone, not just the first 29 miles. The CSHRA expects approvals by spring.

So it looks as if the Authority will be in a position to quickly address both rulings and keep the project on track in 2014. That’s good news. I still believe that California would do well to begin planning a new way to fund the entire project that does not rely on further federal funding, and perhaps that’s what Morales has in mind. But it does appear that the hopes of the anti-HSR forces that this ruling will be some sort of death blow to the project are going to be dashed. That’s something for which we can give thanks.

The Bee editorial also closes with a couple points worth considering:

We all need to remember that no mega-projects are funded all at once. Morales points out that the last big highway project in California – the 210 in the Los Angeles area – was planned in the 1940s, commissioned in the 1950s and built in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The last segment opened in 2007.

In California, we make infrastructure projects difficult with laws and initiatives that opponents can use to deliver “golden spikes” into any project they oppose.

The judge’s ruling will slow the project, making it more expensive, but it is not a golden spike.

It’s definitely true that it takes decades to build major infrastructure in California. But it shouldn’t. With an economic, environmental, and energy crisis all threatening our future, we have no room for delay. We need to find better ways to get important sustainable infrastructure projects built fast, without compromising labor or environmental standards.

The Bee’s close to their editorial, then, is almost certainly a call for revising the California Environmental Quality Act. I’m not sure there’s any appetite for that in Sacramento right now given the bruising battle that took place earlier this year over reforms. But at some point we will need to develop a better way to protect the environment without those protections being used to undermine sustainable projects.

One might also note that the 210 freeway was planned and its first stages were built before the passage of CEQA. The completion of the 210 freeway was delayed after the early 1970s not because of CEQA but because Governor Jerry Brown began cutting funding for freeway projects, and it was completed only after San Bernardino County voters approved Measure I in 1989. I’m supportive of the right kind of CEQA reform, but I do think that ultimately better funding for sustainable infrastructure (and no, freeways don’t count as that) is the key to getting these things done quickly.

  1. morris brown
    Nov 29th, 2013 at 13:39

    The answer to this ridiculous Editorial, (an Editorial whose positions no other paper as taken) is well responded to by Chris Reed:

    He has now posted a really excellent rebuttal of the Sac Bee Editorial (I might add, I have not seen another other editorial dismiss Kenny’s rulings in this manner — only the CHSRA continues to say all is well — don’t worry)

    Link to Chris Reed’s article:

    NEW: Grim LAT: Bullet train $25B short. Dim Sac Bee: What $25B? All soon to be well!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Every other lawsuit was going to be the end of the project why should anyone pay attention to your forecasts?

    Tony D. Reply:

    I think financial realities on the ground will end the project as we know it; not lawsuits. That said, those of us that still support HSR don’t want to see it end; we just want to see it implemented differently.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and other people see their favorite implementation as a better one. The one selected isn’t to your liking, Oh well.

    nslander Reply:

    Then again, many of whom profess support for HSR “implemented differently”, in actuality categorically oppose it.

    jimsf Reply:

    Some of us want to see it built,
    what we voted for

    jimsf Reply:


    jimsf Reply:

    and we voted for pacheco and palmdale

    Alan Reply:

    Reed is a former hack for U-T San Diego, which has been virulently HSR for ages, and anti- anything that doesn’t support teabag policy. Hardly an unbiased opinion–and opinion is all it is.

    Reed asks if the SacBee’s editorial page reads the Bee’s front page. Whether or not they do that, it’s obvious that unlike a lot of other alleged reporters (Phil Matier comes to mind), the Bee’s editorial board actually read Kenny’s rulings.

    The bond validation decision was strictly a ruling on a technical issue–the bond committee didn’t do enough to document that the $8 billion of bonds needed to be issued now. If the Authority does as the SacBee suggests–and it appears that they’re doing so with the funding plan–there should be no problem with bond validation. Kenny’s ruling made clear that the arguments made against the HSR plans as they stand now did not, and could not, play any part in that ruling.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The bond validation decision was strictly a ruling on a technical issue

    We don’t know that for sure. The Sac Bee approach assumes that all it will take is matching the request of the bond committee to what was appropriated. But it could require a higher standard, which would then eliminate the funding for the bookends, most likely.

    joe Reply:

    Read the ruling. He was looking for the committee to give reasons. He did not ask that the arguments meet a standard.

    Alan Reply:

    That’s correct. The judge was not saying the commission’s decision was wrong, he was saying that it was not supported by substantial evidence *in the record*. When the commission acts again, it needs to do a better job of compiling the record to support the decision.

    My point was simply that the validation decision did not in any way rule on the merits of the HSR plan. The judge stated that actions challenging the *use of the bond proceeds* were not precluded–they’re simply another action for another time.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    the identification of funds must be based on a reasonable present expectation of receipt on a projected date, and not merely a hope or possibility that such funds may become available.

    That’s the part that hurts them long term.

    Alan Reply:

    John, your reading comprehension problem is kicking in again. We were discussing the bond validation action in this thread, not the Tos ruling. In any event, writing funding plans for shorter usable segments, where the funding is in hand, should address the judge’s concerns.

    joe Reply:

    Useable segment is a segment with two stations.

    A reasonable guess is the Authority will define and build a useable segment between a) Fresno to b) Kings Co/Hanford/Visalia station. That is about 40 miles distant on HW 99.

    Then they need to identify the funds for this 40 mile useable segment. There’s about $6 billion available. Set aside a billion per station and that comes to $100M per mile.

    We might have enough.

    jimsf Reply:

    so what they could do is build segments one at a time station to next station.

    joe Reply:

    Yes, Useable segments have two stations. I don’t think stations have to be end points so they can build beyond if desired. Assume, worse case, is that the segment needs to identify funds to potentially support service, that is build infrastructure to electrify the useable segment between the stations.

    If Fresno to Kings Co now, then the next useable segment is probably to Bakersfield.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    so what they could do is build segments one at a time station to next station

    That was the original plan, until Jerry Hill and Simitian stunk up the joint demanding money from Prop 1a for electrifying CalTrain. That’s the issue here. As it stands, with the federal money in hand the Authority can comply with Prop 1a in the CV…it’s in the bookends where there is problems.

    Let me also say, I have no doubt, given how many times Brown has “redirected” the local share of Prop 1a money that he is pleased with this ruling. His sympathies are closer to Kopp because of the impact subventing Prop 1a would have on realignment. This is no accident. This is bait and switch designed to get skeptical members of the Legislature to go along, have the courts invalidate the deal (because then hey, you can’t blame the Governor’s Office) and cut a new deal after you got what you wanted in the first place.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Gee, I went back up to the top and the thread was specifically about the lack of money for the plan, but thats ok Alan, I answered in the other thread so I am happy to let this go

  2. Emmanuel
    Nov 29th, 2013 at 14:44

    Of course they could resolve Judge Kenny’s ruling by the end of the year. But, then again, we are talking about the authority which is only capable of writing one paragraph a day and only focus at one task at a time, like in Kindergarten.

    I still cannot believe that the local light rail upgrades in my town (San Diego) finished well before construction on HSR started. I used to be worried that the upgrades might not have been ready in time for HSR but now I’m more than confident.

    joe Reply:


    HSR to San Diego is phase 2 construction, decade or more away, which means you must also be in Kindergarden.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Yes, the second largest city in the state, (8th in the nation) already well connected with public transit and therefore a likely high generator of HSR passengers, Phase 2! Genius at work. Los Angeles, 2nd largest city in the nation, might get service about 10 miles north of downtown in 2022, only 14 years after 1A. The state level dem pols still pay lip service to please Brown but very few here would care if it all crapped out. The chances of it delivering any benefits during anyone’s political career are about nil.
    The feds offer a couple of billion for a 100 billion project and the project is sold out. With friends like these. It reminds me of the Labour governments of the 60s and 70s. Screw the railway, let’s build Concord.

    joe Reply:

    Prop1a tells us that the Authority should be prioritizing easy to build segments first. We know they need to build between stations, and need full funding so which ones?

    Also this Republican strong hold opposes HSR so this segment would lack local support and votes.

    But really we know that whatever is done, you’d find fault because that’s all you do. You’d demand they build between Bakersfield and L.A..

    Ted Judah Reply:

    LA doesn’t really think it needs HSR as much as SF does. It has 20 million souls as a political base and is the closest American city to Asia economically.

    The problem is, city and regional elders don’t realize once all this investment from Asian capital craps out, having a three hour ride to Palo Alto’s venture capital firms is going to start looking better and better. In fact, plenty of people already know this like Elon Musk, but they can’t get PA to invest in traditional, large-scale manufacturing (LA’s forte in the early postwar years) yet.

    Still, the infusion of Asian cash to Southern California will come to an end sooner than later and until then, the Authority can lay the groundwork to make it easier, not harder to incorporate LA.

    Clem Reply:

    I never understood this stop-in-Sylmar thing. It would be like running a marathon and quitting within 100 m of the finish… the expense to get electric trains into LAUS is a drop in the bucket compared to a mountain crossing with 40 route miles in tunnels.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    South of Sylmar the track I believe is still owned by the Class I’d, not Metrolink. Thus there could be a need for full grade separation (read New track) from Sylmar to LAUS.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Owned by LACMTA

    Joey Reply:

    Yes but UP has an agreement mandating at least one non-HSR, non-electrified track from Palmdale to LA.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    if they build the gazillion mile tunnels UP can still use the old tracks.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Geographic error Adi

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I doubt it, if the passenger trains are in a tunnel the freight trains can use the old tracks up on the surface.

    Joey Reply:

    Whole lot of tunnels between Sylmar and LA.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    An MoU
    Anyway, can always diesel haul the train to LAUS

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I should also point out that Sylmar is the proposed northern terminus of Metro’s Red Line. If the IOS really does end at Sylmar, then it allows the Red Line extension to leapfrog other Metro projects.

    Joey Reply:

    Any northward extension is little more than a line drawn on a map at this point. Metro has a huge backlog of (justifiably) higher priority projects.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Well that makes two lines drawn on the map. The Red Line dots are of course from the 80s Prop A, and nicely link up in planners minds with other dots from 1A. It’s a great thing to be talking and dreaming about these dotted lines. Trouble is the solid lines, representing what exists on the ground today, may as well in most cases be dotted, given the level of service of Metrolink. I suppose everyone has ADD. We can’t finish one job before we jumpt to the next nebulous scheme. Why? Because we can get grants for CapEx but no one wants to pay for OpEx. Of course since Robert C tells us that HSR is profitable (even from Merced to Fresno), I should stop fretting and worry about how to spend all the free cash flow that’s coming our way. Oh frabjous day, calloo callay.

    joe Reply:

    I suppose everyone has ADD. We can’t finish one job before we jumpy to the next nebulous scheme.

    Because we’re a large state of 35 million people who apparently don’t want to do only your pet projects first.

    I should stop fretting and worry about how to spend all the free cash flow that’s coming our way. Oh frabjous day, calloo cal lay

    It’s not your money – it’s money for the HSR project so you should stop trying to pretend CA can spend it on stuff you want.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    So I used to struggle in my younger years with why Metrolink and regular LACMTA service had such poor interface. Now I get it and it’s very simple.

    Metrolink is a way to connect downtown LA to faster-growing suburban areas of Southern California. Metro rail is a way to connection downtown LA to inner city neighborhoods. If you connect those neighborhoods to the suburbs as Paul would suggest, what do you need downtown for?

    Ever since the Gold Rush, California land is always worth more in speculation than it is practice. It’s the same thing with these new transit plans. The cities and county are willing to spend the value of what they think the improvements are worth, not really what they are worth. Just ask Henry Huntington.

    The salient question now is what Eric Garcetti does as mayor. If he can create New York or San Francisco caliber gentrification in downtown LA, things will change. If he can’t, not that blame would rest solely with him, then expect more of the same.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Metrolink is a way to connect downtown LA to faster-growing suburban areas of Southern California.

    That’s the way it works all over the world. I’m sure there are exceptions here and there. The suburban trains go to the suburbs….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, the point is that Metrolink is focused on connecting the suburbs to downtown LA only, rather than to secondary nodes like Burbank, Pasadena, the Westside, Santa Ana, Anaheim, LAX, Long Beach, and Torrance.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The rub is that “secondary node” in California politics is translated as “rival municipal corporation to major entity”.

    LA has two separate problems that you don’t find in Chicago or New York: 1) job centers migrating away from downtown to other parts of the City of LA that aren’t as well positioned for transit/built for density and 2) job centers migrating to completely separate cities that want nothing more than to steal LA’s tax base and bleed it dry…I mean…um….compete on the merits.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    But Metro is a county-wide agency, no? Okay, so no Santa Ana or Anaheim, but all the rest are in the same county. Why is the county capable of pulling in the same direction in demanding that other people pay for the dogleg but not in designing a modern commuter rail system?

    synonymouse Reply:

    You see similar migration in Cleveland to suburbs and in Columbus, even though that city annexed large chunks of Franklin County. They just go a little farther away. It is the American way.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Alon

    Perhaps there are other big players in the DogLeg crusade besides LA County, Sta. Clarita, Palmdale and the Tejon Ranch co.

    The CHSRA should have supported Van Ark and let Palmdale’s legal action procede. May occur yet.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Suburbs to Downtown is where the existing or abandoned ROW is.

    Stamford isn’t downtown, Schamburg isn’t downtown and Rosslyn isn’t downtown. Midtown Manhattan used to be a sea of three and four story tenements, residential neighborhoods.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There’s abandoned ROW from downtown to LAX. So of course they’re giving away half of it to Crenshaw light rail to the Expo Line (connection to Wilshire to be added later, to open concurrently with SAS Phase 3).

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Harbor line has 53 grade crossings

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So they decided that light rail between the suburbs was more important that service to the airport from downtown. Why is that a problem?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    So to answer Alon:

    The composition of Metro’s Board gives the Mayor of LA real power over the County supervisors and other incorporated cities. Whether its Tejon or Palmdale makes no difference to the other 87 cities and four supervisiorial districts. No matter what, the CAHSR alignment is going to run from Santa Clarita to LAUS and outside of Burbank, there aren’t even other cities that so much as front the ROW other than LA proper.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    You forget Glendale and San Fernando
    In future, crack open the atlas

    Ted Judah Reply:

    No atlas needed.

    I recognize the current ROW does pass through all two miles of San Fernando and eight or ten blocks of Glendale. But you are making my point. The independent cities of LA County have few if any means to exert leverage on the City, but the City has plenty of ways to make life difficult for the other 87 municipalities.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Adirondacker: since that downtown-airport route acts as an east-west line in South Central and Inglewood.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I don’t think it is San Diego pimping the DogLeg.

    Emmanuel Reply:

    I wish I were in kindergarten. That would at least guarantee that HSR will be built in my lifetime…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I was past kindergarten when the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965 promised 2 hour travel times between New York and Washington DC. We’re still waiting.

  3. John Nachtigall
    Nov 29th, 2013 at 21:00

    If they can find 30 billion in a month then they have really been making it harder on themselves then they should have. The judges ruling was clear, the business plan has to include realistic funding for the whole IOS. Not just hopes and dreams. And let’s not forget the EIRs.

    If they want to build this, really build it not keep d*%king around then they need to get a real funding plan and a real route plan that can meet the law as written. Until then it is just going to be delay after delay because the law is not hoping away.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The current route plan is the only one that can meet the law as written, because Prop 1A mandates that specific cities be served – including Fresno, Bakersfield, and Palmdale. Almost all of the various alternative route plans floated by people over the years violate Prop 1A and require that law to be rewritten.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Prop 1A does not mandate service to Palmdale; the language it uses in mentioning Palmdale is also used elsewhere in a way that, if “___ to ___ to ___” is interpreted consistently, yields a route that was never considered as an alternative.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well HSR is going to Palmdale, whether you like it or not. Accept it and move on to something else, it’s over.

    Clem Reply:

    HSR will be built via Palmdale as surely as money grows on trees; count on it!

    Joey Reply:

    Palmdale doesn’t have to be directly on the way from Bakersfield to LA, just like Stockton doesn’t have to be directly on the way from Merced to Oakland.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The route to Palmdale is damn expensive, which is why LA County wants to fob it off to CAHSR and the Statewide taxpayers. But it is a Metrolink affair.

  4. Jos Callinet
    Nov 29th, 2013 at 21:42

    The deep cynic in me tells me that the only thing that we can be reasonably confident will survive over the medium to long term will be our very own fascinating blog.

    We will very likely continue to pursue and debate every conceivable option that COULD possibly end up in the final design of the California HSR system. Nothing wrong with our doing that – there are some excellent minds at work here. Unfortunately, it’s very unlikely that anyone who could possibly exert any influence over the outcome of California’s effort to build high speed rail is paying attention to our comments, suggestions and debates.

    We are a classic example of the rector’s preaching to the choir.

    Meanwhile, the HSR project itself remains paralyzed and stymied in its tracks. Powerfully intransigent forces are working to defeat it, and time is running out on the public’s patience with this thing.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Well where else will the Altamont versus Pacheco controversy rage? When you are feeling masochistic go read current threads on Erie Lackawanna boards about how if the hurricanes of 1955 had not happened things would have been much different. and the counter arguments that it just sped things up a bit. And the counter counter arguments. and the counter counter counter arguments. I have a feeling that in 2284 people will still be saying one or the other was the right choice.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Jos C, of course we’re all just talking to each other, won’t change anything.
    “Myself when young did eagerly frequent,
    Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
    about it and about,
    And evermore went out by that same door as in I went.”
    In the real world I try to explain to elected officials the difference between Amtrak and Amtrak California, and other important nuances which most don’t know and are surprised to hear. The average elected official spends a good 30 seconds a day wondering and worrying about passenger rail! Don’t tell Joe though, according to him I accomplish nothing.

  5. trentbridge
    Nov 30th, 2013 at 07:02

    “Show me the money!”

    When Rod Tilwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) asked Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) to say this – he didn’t expect to see a briefcase full of cash – he expected to sign a new and lucrative NFL player contract.

    Contrary to the “death-knell” posters, Judge Kenny didn’t ask to see a passbook savings account with $31 billion in it, he asked to see a realistic funding source.

    As always, a public works project depends on the political will to complete it. Clearly Congress lacks the political will to improve public transportation so it’s upto Sacrament to demonstrate the necessary “political will” to build HSR.

    morris brown Reply:

    This is clearly the direction that Robert proposes; California should just build it on its own. I would say based on current history, the chances that the legislature is going to pour billions of State General revenues into HSR to keep the Authority and it project going, is near zero.

    Just remember SB-1029 passed with a one vote majority. Public opinion has gone down steadily since then. Quite clearly any re-vote on a new bond offering fails at this time.

    Prop 1A passed with a number of strong incentives to make it attractive to the voters.

    1. No new taxes
    2. Vote for Prop 1A and this is the last funding you will ever be asked to contribute.
    3. The project will cost only $33 billion
    4. The project will be completed by 2020
    5. Ridership will be around 117,000,000 per year
    6. 2 hours 40 minutes SF to LA

    And others…

    At some point even Gov. Brown is going to throw in the towel and move on. Just how much political capital for himself is he willing to spend? Certainly a large number of Demo Assembly persons and State Senators are not going to be willing to continue to support this project.

    joe Reply:

    “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
    stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
    It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.
    Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

  6. morris brown
    Nov 30th, 2013 at 07:12

    Here is an east coast perspective on this project.

    Growing pains of nation’s first high-speed rail line, in Calif.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Two things from the article.

    A couple of interesting quotes about California’s project and the Northeast Corridor’s future.

    But if the California project dies, “critics will quickly point to that” to challenge any high-speed trains for the Northeast, said Drew Galloway, Amtrak’s chief of Northeast Corridor planning and performance.

    “There is a lot riding on California’s success.”

    “If California were to collapse, it makes it much harder for the Northeast,” said Dan Schned, a senior planner for the Regional Plan Association in New York City, which has long pushed for high-speed trains on the Northeast Corridor.

    “It would make it open to the criticism that nobody wants this.”

    Then, Fresno’s Cosmopolitan Grill is brought up by the media again. However, it was missing recent info I saw.
    The current location is across the street from an adult bookstore and near the freight tracks. However, the Cosmopolitan Grill is in discussions with the city of Fresno to relocate to a new building on what is currently a surface parking lot adjacent to the downtown Convention Center/Arena.
    Possibly a better location depending upon the net change of revenues and costs.

  7. jimsf
    Nov 30th, 2013 at 11:08

    The project is going to proceed as planned.

    Clem Reply:

    You should repeat this prayer regularly, as that might actually help make it happen.

    jimsf Reply:

    The politics behind the scenes will make sure it proceeds, Hopefully without private investment and as a public system in the end.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    They tried that approach. Ignore the law and abuse the power of their provisions. The judge said no.

    Maybe it requires a new approach. Actually follow the law or change the law. It’s radical, but it may work

    synonymouse Reply:

    “In an interview, Morales defended the shift and said nonstop trains would still make the 475-mile journey from L.A. to San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes, as required by the ballot measure.”

    Does it become prayer when one is asking for the impossible and the delusional?

  8. Jeff Carter
    Nov 30th, 2013 at 14:01

    It seems that here in the USA / California, we can’t build a project like HSR in a timely, cost effective, or efficient manner. Nor can we keep bullshit politics out of it: ‘oooohhhh HSR has to go through/stop in my district/community.’ I want a “legacy” station in my city’ ‘all HSR *must* go through my city.’ Where does this BS end?

    We are faced with a project that is over-planned, over-built, and costs more than it should.

    Do we really need a 2+ mile tunnel through Millbrae?
    Do we really need miles of viaducts through San Jose?
    Do we really need a legacy station in San Jose?
    Do we have the proper routing for HSR?

    I am looking for the answer to a simple question: How much should HSR cost and how long will it take to build if it were built by someone that knows how to build such things (France, Germany, Japan)?

    It shouldn’t take 20+ years to build HSR in California…

    It shouldn’t take 5-6 years to electrify 50 miles of (operating) double track (Caltrain). How long would it take in the real world and not the USA way of highly paid consultants, engineers, contractors?

    All we get here is lots of money spent and not much to show for it!!!

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The only thing that is failing here is the Willed Brown method of project management Digging the hole then asking for the money. If they had properly funded in the first place instead of a wish and a prayer they would not be in this mess

    Clem Reply:

    For better and for worse, we do not have a strongly centralized government with bureaucrats who actually know what they’re doing (unlike France and Japan, and to a far lesser extent Germany).

    What we do have is a skeleton agency staffed by revolving-door consultancy apparatchiks that outsources everything to private sector consultants, whose interests lie entirely in satisfying their shareholders. In a structure such as this, the public interest in fast, affordable and clean transportation becomes merely an afterthought, an accidental byproduct of a massive transfer of public wealth to private pockets. In the context of these incentives, over-planning, over-building and cost blowouts are hardly a surprise: they are their own reward.

    The only way to do HSR in California (within the framework of the unique political system we have) is to bring to bear the forces we believe in, the forces of capitalism. We must put some private skin in the game, to the tune of tens of billions. Absent a strong centralized planning bureaucracy, this is the only way available to us to counter-balance the natural incentives to over-plan, over-build and waste OPM (other people’s money).

    The only way to put tens of billions of private funding into play is to let private interests re-plan the entire thing, top to bottom, to provide maximum bang for the buck. It all begins and ends with a Tejon crossing, the keystone to the whole edifice.

    The only other available option is to build more freeways and runways.

    joe Reply:

    Private interests are not my interests. Why would anyone think that that combining government power with private interests will do us any good? Banana republics are very efficient and profitable for private interests.

    Anyone can use the keystone pipeline as an example of efficient construction driven my private interests. They will task the police to arrest people and build to their schedule for their purposes.

    You say the office is a skeleton, why not beef it up and add public, state owned skill?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I’m real curious what country Clem knows about where the private sector built HSR. The French and Japanese did it with serious public investment, even if the companies were private. Spain, Germany, Taiwan, Italy…Sweden…Korea…China…none was able to do it using private money in more than token amounts.

    Why would a private firm issue commercial paper at 6% interest over 30 years when the local mosquito abatement district can issue general obligation bonds at 2% interest over 50 years?

    Clem is living in the pre-Trans-Texas Corridor world where sovereign (I mean, uh, private) investors were going to save America’s infrastructure. Thinking so modern, you think it was still 2005….

    jimsf Reply:

    the project should have a caltrans project. managed by the department of …transportation…and funded by increasing the caltrans budget. and built using the same formula and style that we builod and expand freeways over time in california. it would be something familiar to californians instead of alien. segments built as money is available. upgrades and extensions built over time. and all part of the annual state budget.

    and owned in full by the taxpayers who paid for it. Then one can debate whether the trains should be operated by private companies, (they pay rent and keep the rest) a public system, or both.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Caltrans builds roads. :)

    jimsf Reply:

    yes but its the department of transportation. not the department or roads. it should be their jurisdiction. and building a railroad overpass and grading a highway row isnt any different than building a railroad overpass and geading a rail row. it involves dirt concrete and earth moving equipment.

    had we folded hsr into the general transportation plan and budget californians wouldnt have batted an eye. ” oh theres caltrans building something..ho hum”

    joe Reply:

    Landowners in the path of the pipeline have complained about threats by TransCanada to confiscate private land and lawsuits to allow the “pipeline on their property even though the controversial project has yet to receive federal approval.”[85] As of October 17, 2011, TransCanada had “34 eminent domain actions against landowners in Texas” and “22 in South Dakota.” Some of those landowners gave testimony for a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in May 2011.[85]

    Now that’s efficient! A foreign company can start confiscating Kings co. farm land even before HSR approval. problems/ Just send in the private police force with a sheriff deputy and rig the EIR.

    See that’s how it rolls, it’s not about adding value for people, picking the best ROW for anything but their own private interests. And you bet they’ll demand no compete clauses from Amtrak to maximuz profit.

    Due to an exemption the state of Kansas gave TransCanada, the local authorities would lose $50 million public revenue from property taxes for a decade.[31]

    In the United States, Democrats are concerned that Keystone XL would not provide petroleum products for domestic use, but simply facilitate getting Alberta oil sands products to American coastal ports on the Gulf of Mexico for export to China and other countries.[41]

    Oh yes, expect CA will provide tax breaks to assure profit. And of course the entire pipeline is about exporting oil to the global market.

    So we have a great example of how private interests roll.

    Brian_Fl Reply:

    Probably a better, rail transport related example of private investment would be what’s happening here in Florida with All Aboard Florida. Here you have a private entity investing 1.5 billion dollars of private monies to create a public transportation service. It is not true HSR, but honestly Florida does not need 220mph capable electric trains at this time.

    I have often wondered how CHSRA was going to come up with 30 billion to complete the IOS. So far, I have seen nothing anymore serious than what the X-Train was putting out there. Meaning, a lot of talk but nothing to be taken seriously. Come on, how did the CHSRA really expect to finance construction? I understand that Prop 1A tied their hands, but seriously, why not think outside the box? The whole point of this exercise is to build a transport system, right? But all I can see so far is a system to make certain companies rich and produce nothing. Maybe private interests can in fact do it better (or do it at all!).

    CA HSR needs to get serious about funding. I wish I could agree with Robert C. And believe that the taxpayers will somehow finance the shortfall. But somehow I really do not see that happening. Private investment must be included. Unfortunately for a lot of people on here, that will also mean a serious reconsideration of the present design. But CA has dug it’s own hole due to the restraints placed on HSR by Prop 1A.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Both Clem and Joe have convinced me. Therefore we must do nothing, and start immediately.

    joe Reply:

    By happenstance that’s exactly what you’ve been doing … nothing. You’re years ahead.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Joe, I fell asleep reading your post. Don’t take yourself too seriously, it ages you, and it’s boring for the rest of us.

    Paul H. Reply:

    No seriously Paul, the organization you represent has done absolutely nothing but talk in echo chambers of sparsely filled screening rooms to people that are mostly retired from the industry. I’ve been to RailPAC meetings, it has absolutely zero sway over current rail policy and you act as if your opinions and priorities matter to anybody but yourself. They don’t and never have.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    RailPAC meetings are the least of what we do, most of my time is spent at offices of elected officials and at Board meetings etc. How effective is it? Never been able to quantify but we did get the San Diegans to Santa Barbara and we are getting improvements in connections etc. Are we changing the world? Probably not, just increasing awareness and educating. It’s a slow grind since term limits since you have to keep restarting with each district. As I am sure you are aware 80% of the Assembly and almost 100% of the CA Senate have rail or at least a Thruway bus in their districts. You would (or maybe not) be surprised how many don’t know that there is a state rail program, they thinks it’s all Amtrak.
    You HSR cultists get too upset when reality stares you in the face. I have said before, we’re not here to award ourselves a 1:1 Lionel set, we’re here to try and make people’s lives better by improving transportation. That may or may not include HSR, but when people write that we should build HSR “no matter how much it costs”, or that “HSR is profitable” it’s pretty clear to me that there is a lack of critical thought going on. No wonder the project is in such a mess. De Saulnier may well be right.

    Paul H. Reply:

    For an organization that prides itself on promoting rail, you’ve done a pretty terrible job making a case for high-speed rail. Maybe you don’t believe there is a case to be made, but that sure says a lot about RailPAC doesn’t it? Technology the Japanese and French adopted 40 years ago still can’t be implemented here. Why? We’ll give you reason x, y, and z but these ‘cultist’ are soooo delusional wanting all these grade separations and dedicated tracks! Electrification? Not for us thanks! Just give me an extra northbound train on the San Diegan!

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Paul H, we’re a small group, we’ve supported HSR since at least 1981, but we have put most of our energy into preserving and developing what we have. There are groups that specifically promote HSR but candidly I couldn’t swallow the bullshit they put out trying to justify their cause. There is plenty of airport capacity for example for intra California flights, for example.
    I spent much of the early part of this year at the Capitol explaining about PRIIA and why the state corridors would be asking for more money. Not very productive on the face of it but the alternative would have been service cuts.
    If we don’t hold onto the state corridors and try and improve Metrolink and try to get an integrated public transit system any HSR would consist of huge parking lots at mega stations no better than airports.
    Also in the back of my mind I have to say is the doubt about HSR and its relevance. It would have been a good idea in 1980 when I first came here. Is it still the best way to invest for the future, especially when the full system is 20 years away? Sometimes I wonder.

    jimsf Reply:

    Ppaul. hsr as planned will enhance and in some places replace, our current state rail system with much faster travel times between regions and city pairs. it will be expensive. but it will be much more useful to a lot more people. the current speeds/travel times are too slow/long for most people making statewide day trips impossible. hsr will put 30million californians within minutes to a couple of hours of each other. in that sense, it could revolutionize how californians move about the state. Peoplewho currently roll theireyes at the travel times will be newly open torail travel. Therewill be much much newly induced travel. People will travel more just because its possibleand easy. regrdlessof what some say here. this system is not about getting from sf to la. If itwas, i wouldnt have voted for it and neither would the rest of the counties. Its all about connecting, tying together, the regions a and intermeditae city pairs.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I don’t disagree Jim, as planned. When will it be delivered, if at all? And will it have the same utility on 2033? Will it justify the cost, and more important the opportunity cost?

    Joe Reply:

    What opportunity cost?
    Build the system or return the money. Thee is no opportunity cost.

    For a guy focused on LA, HSR for California is a distraction from building more stuff in LA for LA and SoCal.

    Also, thus project is during a large recession which means it employs people and helps the economy. Far better than sending the money back and getting “serious” about rail.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    whose interests lie entirely in satisfying their shareholders

    Well that’s what happens when you commit yourself to following the Gospel According to Saint Ronnie.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Eloquently put, Clem.

    Plus, once built you will need private management, imperfect certainly, but when you witness how far BART management has deteriorated, and that this decline is a direct result of the hyper-politicized way it is structured, it is the only way for CAHR to not only breaking even but surviving.

    One thing you can say in BART’s behalf is that the core route is pretty strong and pretty well-planned. Once they had given up on taking any rr property, in the mode of the Key System, IER and just generally SP ROW’s, cutting a new route into Oakland and Berkeley in particular was about all that was left. And linked to SF it is the main revenue producer.

    The CAHSR equivalent of Oakland-Berkeley to SF via the Tube is Tejon, I-5, Altamont.

    synonymouse Reply:

    downtown Oakland and Berkeley. If, on the other hand, I had been elevated to transit dictator, I would have expropriated the SP ROW’s in the East and South Bays and connected them by a tube or tunnel. But the SP was not to be trifled with.

    synonymouse Reply:

    meant to say tube or bridge.

    Travis D Reply:

    >Do we really need a 2+ mile tunnel through Millbrae?

    Probably not.

    >Do we really need miles of viaducts through San Jose?

    Probably. The area is a mess of legacy tracks that can’t be disturbed as well as neighborhoods that don’t want trains.

    >Do we really need a legacy station in San Jose?

    Actually, yes, most likely. Because of anticipated future transit investment San Jose will likely be the transfer point people in the east bay use to get on the HSR train. My own estimate is that more people will board high speed trains bound for LA in San Jose than in any other station.

    >Do we have the proper routing for HSR?

    For the most part, yes.

    Personally I can think of minor tweaks and if they want to go Tejon I wouldn’t really care so long as it doesn’t delay things. I just don’t want wholesale abandonment of all the planning done up to date. Better to proceed with plans with perceived flaws than to start all over in pursuit of perfection.

    I’d prefer a plan that lots of people hate under construction than a plan that everyone will supposedly love still on drawing boards.

    Joey Reply:

    And why exactly is it that the legacy tracks can’t be disturbed? In the context of CalTrain and HSR, ACE and Amtrak run a trivial number of trains to San Jose. All of the ROW is owned by CalTrain. The station currently has nine platform tracks. How many do a few ACE and Amtrak runs really need?

  9. synonymouse
    Nov 30th, 2013 at 15:42

    The Willie Brown method is worse than that; it is liberalism failed – kumbaya turned croney. Securing sinecures for the cadres and considerations for the insiders. Good ol’ boy “leftists” same as conservatives.

    Sad, as worship the rich as inherently superior conservatism sucks just as much.

  10. Donk
    Nov 30th, 2013 at 17:02

    This thing is just not going to happen. At best it will take like 30 years to get anything meaningful built. My vote now goes to Paul Dyson for CEO of the CHSRA. The only way we can get anything done in CA is by thinking small.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I’m in. We’ll start with a bake sale. Sponsor a tie anyone?

    Clem Reply:

    Wood or concrete?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Reardon Metal.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I think recycled plastic is the politically correct material..

    Travis D Reply:

    If that is the state of things then I’m moving out of the country. I don’t want to be part of a nation that thinks it can only do small things.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    You do multiple small things in parallel and suddenly you’ve done a big thing without kicking up too much dust. Nil desperandum.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Relax, the US does tons of big things: the invasion of Iraq, global spying, Guantanamo (no expense spared in torturing suspected Al-Qaida prisoners), industrial espionage on behalf of American corporations, deportations of people who want to live under US domestic policy rather than US foreign policy, trillion-dollar fighter jets that are worse than the jets they’ll be replacing.

  11. Emmanuel
    Nov 30th, 2013 at 18:03

    Can someone explain to me why they haven’t tried this yet:
    Why don’t we simply integrate the HSR project into the budget for Transportation? That should solve the problem. There would never be such a debate on a highway expansion. I think we all agree on that.

    I think Californians would support a proposition that would increase the speed of construction by providing relief from some of the unrealistic requirements in Prop 1A. Heck, I thought we had a 2/3 Democratic majority. One would think that would be straightforward.

  12. Reedman
    Nov 30th, 2013 at 20:17

    Without “big government” spending, Sacramento would be another (bankrupt) Stockton. Of course the Sac Bee would come out in favor of CAHSR. The know where their bread is buttered, and it isn’t with prudent use of taxpayer money.

    JOE Reply:

    in 2012 California paid $292,563,574,000 in federal taxes.

    California receives ~0.78 per federal tax dollar paid.

    Mississippi receives 2.02 per federal tax dollar paid.

    We’d have 64,363,986,280 per year more – I think that’s pretty close to building a new HSR system every year.

    Without Big Government spending California would keep more tax dollars in State and we’d have a bigger budget while Mississippi, Alabama (etc) would have to cut their budgets and live within their means.

    Thanks Reedman – you really did help.

    Brian_Fl Reply:

    I am assuming that Reedman is talking about both state and federal spending when he says “big government”. As far as red state vs blue state that you are referring to, my guess is that most of the spending is for social programs, not stuff like transportation and other infrastructure. I would also think that MS and AL already run pretty lean governments as it is. They do not have the benefit of a lot of wealthy people to tax.

    You imply that if the federal taxes stayed in CA then a HSR system could easily be funded. Well that would be true only if CA became an independent country and was able to keep those billions of taxes. I, however, do not think that will happen. Remember, when we are talking about taxes we are talking about wealth redistribution. The imbalance in tax revenue leaving CA is a clear sign of what would be called socialism. Giving to the disadvantaged in other states. Isn’t that a good thing?

    I guess it comes down to differences in governing philosophies – one side says tax as much as possible and let government take care of it. The other says let private enterprise do it. Why must HSR be strictly a government funded enterprise?

    One final thought. Is California also really living within its means? How much unfunded obligations exist with state and local governments in California? Before making accusations against other states lets make sure we are not living in glass houses.

    joe Reply:

    IRS income collected. So no Medicare, no social security security. Those are not IRS income tax.

    Any discussion of differences should include international other wise we are playing games. We out spend all other nations combined on defense spending.

    Are we living within our means? Yes.

    Is Mississippi? No. Just because they have a small government doesn’t erase that they need twice what they pay in Federal help.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    In our system of government, all states are equal in representation – that’s why each state has 2 senators and the representation in the house is based on population. however, not all states are blessed with equal resources. I am not sure the point of your argument over states like MS and AL receiving more than they contribute. The basic structure of the USA is not going to change short of another revolution.

    As far as CA living within its means as you say, here is an article stating that unfunded pension and health benefits alone are over 300 billion for local and state governments in California. How will this be paid for? How high will taxes have to go?

    Now I get the point that MS and AL are worse off than CA. My thing is that governments really should look at what they have promised to their workers and what they need to spend to maintain their current infrastructure before committing many dozens of billions more for New projects such as HSR.

    Why not include the private sector in funding HSR? Why was Prop 1A written in such a way to basically preclude the ability to attract private money? Without a major change to the law, I do not see how CA HSR can continue in its present form. Being from Florida, I am not aware of all of the details of local CA politics. I do know that in general people do not want to have their taxes raised to pay for government projects that are not well thought out.

    Some have asked the question why is HSR such a good deal if no private investors have stepped forward. My question is the opposite, if HSR is such a good deal for the state of CA then why hasn’t the state government committed more money to the project beyond the bond monies authorized by Prop 1A? I would think that CA politicians (especially the democrat party majority that controls the state legislature) would be strongly for such a project for all of its benefits to the public.

    Travis D Reply:

    Nowhere in the world does the private sector just throw down $50 billion on any investment. There are just too many possible unforeseen factors that could blow it all up.

    joe Reply:

    In the FL case, they are getting a guaranteed Gov’t loan with a 35 year payback. The service is on existing track with a plan to extend track from the Coast inward to Orlando.

    Brian_Fl Reply:

    That is the point I am making. Why doesn’t the state of California step up and fund this project if it is indeed so good for the public in general? You are correct, no private entity will fund 50 billion dollars for any project. All Aboard Florida has figured out a way to make it work for them. The two projects are not comparable in terms of costs. By the way, AAF applied for a 632 million dollar RRIF loan with a possible second loan application forthcoming.

    That being said, my question again is why hasn’t CA not even begun to consider alternative funding sources for CA HSR?

    joe Reply:

    Do you ask why CA doesn’t step up and funded HSR because you don’t know that Prop1a is a State Bond for HSR or because you want the State to address the Nov 25th Ruling within a TV news cycle?

    “All Aboard Florida has figured out a way to make it work for them”
    You refer to a guaranteed Federal Loan at below market rates. Sure I think we too can go after additional Federal funds.

    Brian_FL Reply:

    I have been following the CA HSR effort for the past 7 or so years. My question about why the state has not to this point even seemed the least bit interested in funding HSR is not related to the state bond issue per Prop 1A. I get it that the voters of CA approved so many billions of dollars of borrowed money to fund HSR. My question to you and others in California is this: if HSR is such a great thing why doesn’t the legislature provide a steady source of funding in light of the absence of federal funding for HSR? What is preventing the state from financing HSR above what Prop1A provides? CA is a very liberal democrat state. It is really odd that Gov Brown cannot muster support for one of his most important projects.

    The California legislature needed to address this issue far before the present legal battle. I do not expect the democrat majority there to react to a news cycle as you suggest I am implying. All I am saying is that it is rather naive for Gov Brown and other HSR supporters to sit back after the results of the vote in 2008 affirming Prop 1A. Did not the election of 2010 mean anything to HSR supporters in CA? If it did, then that is when you should have begun the fight to obtain state funding. To believe that the federal government would somehow come up with 20+ billion dollars for the IOS segment is very strange thinking. It shows in the financial plans presented by the CHSRA. I do not have much respect for their professionalism. It shows and it is very damning. Look at their arrogance regarding The STB approval process. They professed ignorance of the law! Even the head of CHSRA said as much earlier this year.

    As far as my comment about All Aboard Florida it has more to do with the fact that they are leveraging development income with their railway infrastructure. It is not about their RRIF loan application. They will build it with or without the loan. AAF will be built and hopefully it will be a successful example of how to create an intercity railway in the US.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Unless there is some kind of magic involved I don’t think everyone can get $2 for every $1 spent. Mississippi gets more because they are dirt poor and need more. It’s just that simple

    joe Reply:

    Magic of the earmark.

    If asked,are we living within our means, Yes.

    Are they? No.

    And the civil war ended long ago so it’s just a by product of not investing in their people, education, infrastructure, and common good.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Mississippi is dead last in per capita income. Even with their $2 per $1 paid federal help. They get so much because Medicare and welfare is mostly federal money and they have a much higher proportion.

    Be real, everyone can’t get a $1 for a $1.

    You are 100% right! they don’t do a good job of running the state no doubt. But they get the money because they are perpetually poor, not because of powerful Mississippi senators and reps.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Then why does North Dakota get so much more ($1.47 in 2010, not sure about 2012)? It’s not dirt poor – on the contrary.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Could be some of these states host facilities that California would not want – say, a nuclear waste dump.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Because all those Real Americans ™ deserve lots of roads, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps. flood control and when the base closure and realignment commissions close things they find all sorts of reasons to send things off to places Real Americans ™ live. ( The Defense Department is one of the biggest employers in North Dakota. ) And since the only farm left in New York City is a museum, things like farm subsidies don’t go to places like New York City.
    … Cell phones don’t work out here. Last time I saw numbers Mississippi gets 100 million a year to assure rural cell phone service. New York gets 50,000. We figure it’s going to take another dead elderly couple or two dying of exposure along I-87 before I-87 gets done and the itty bitty villages out in the woods won’t ever see it. My itty bitty village is big enough to get it’s own micropolitan area. We can’t get cell phone service. well you can, you just have to know where someone has setup an open microcell.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Per capita worse off than CA for sure. With ND and states like it (Wyoming) it is a small population problem mostly. So many roads and other geography dependent services per person it skews the data.

    They have a large portion of military vs the population so that brings it up also.

    I am surprised Alon, I would have thought you would be hung no for wealth distribution from rich to poor

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    That should have read gung-ho for wealth distribution.

    Joe Reply:

    We are for redistribution.

    Just reminding the CA-is-broke critics whose their Daddy. It’s CA that carries over 60b of other state burden.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m all for wealth redistribution from rich to poor; I’m sure I once said something negative about New York-to-Mississippi income redistribution, but it would’ve been years ago.

    But I’m against wealth distribution from middle-income Rhode Island ($0.80) to middle-income North Dakota ($1.47). If Dakotans think they’re so special, it’s not my concern; they’re not getting that money because of need, but because of a lifestyle choice to live far away from civilization, and realistically because their region is overrepresented in the Senate. Rhode Island is also overrepresented, but the other states with similar urban industrial interests are big and underrepresented.

    And it’s especially bad since certain boosters like to talk of North Dakota as the next economic success story. One pundit – I think Kotkin but I’m not sure – even berated Obama for not visiting the state and trumpeting its low unemployment. Reading these articles, you’d think North Dakota isn’t getting several thousand dollars per year per person in federal spending net of federal taxes.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s easy to have low unemployment if you are in the middle of an oil boom. And it’s easy to have low unemployment when the economy is based around food production. Food has a relatively inelastic demand. And it helps that North Dakota has big Defense Department installations. Drop North Dakota’s Defense Dept. spending into California and it would barely create a ripple. I’m sure all those fine upstanding Real Americans ™ who make a living off of the Minot Air Force Base don’t consider their income as government subsidized. ( Minot Air Force Base and Grand Forks Air Force base are 1% of the population of the state Drop 80,000 sailors onto Governor’s Island and it would have an effect on New York City’s economy )

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I’m pretty sure San Diego would not feel too good of they dropped all military spending.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Back when the per-county tax and spending data were synchronized (the Tax Foundation has old per-county tax data, and I can only find per-state data on the IRS website), I checked and San Diego County was a net tax recipient, but not by a large margin. I believe it got maybe $1.15 in spending per dollar in taxes in 2004-5. The big tax donor in California is the Bay Area: I don’t remember how much it got in terms of ratios, but in 2004-5 the 11-county Bay Area paid $40 billion more in federal taxes than it got back in federal spending. The 5-county LA metro area also paid $40 billion more in taxes than it got in spending (of which the entire balance comes from the coastal counties – the Inland Empire has a balance of taxes and spending), but that’s spread across a larger population. Greater New York, including all counties except the one in Pennsylvania, paid $93 billion more, of which $10 billion came from the city and the rest from the suburbs, with rich counties like Suffolk and Fairfield contributing as much as the entire city. Sacramento and Albany, as state capitals without much else in them, were tax recipients, especially Albany, but I don’t remember by how much except that in Albany’s case it was by a lot ($2-3 per tax dollar in some counties). Buffalo was a small tax recipient, by about a billion dollars a year. Rochester and Syracuse were almost neutral, contributing a few hundred million each. Upstate New York away from the four major metro areas was a huge net recipient.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Brooklyn Navy Yard employed 70,000 people at it’s peak. Those jobs have gone to red states.

    New York State has reports. Last time I looked and I’m not going to go try to find the link, 40 percent of the people in the state live in New York City. New York State collects 60 percent of it’s taxes in New York City. 20 percent of the population lives in the suburbs of New York City where the state collects 20 percent of it’s taxes. (I’m not sure if someone who works in Manhattan and lives in the suburbs gets allocated to New York City or the suburbs ) The 40 percent of the population that doesn’t live in Metro New York City remits the other 20 percent. Upstate sucks great big drafts of money from downstate.

    Another interesting tidbit is that approximately 5 billion dollars of the state budget comes from people who work in New York, but live in another state. I would assume most of them in New Jersey and Connecticut and working in New York City, and their tax dollars get allocated to their work location.

    …Upstate sucks money out of downstate. It works that way in other states too.

    joe Reply:

    The total Mil benefit to San Diego area is claimed to be ~32B which includes defense contractor spending R&D and spinoff spending.

    It’s significant to the area but adirondacker reminds us the massive base closures over the past few decades were disproportionally in “blue” states. We’re less dependent on that kind of income.

    In may area, CSU Monterey Bay was founded mid 90s with repurposed structures at the closed Ft Ord. Moffett Air Base in MTView was a Navy Base also closed mid 90s. MTView had bars and stores servicing Military personnel. It’s all Googleland now. All across CA and industrial north bases and jobs were clobbered and work consolidated in “red states”.

    As we look to sequestration, the Mil impact is disproportionally going to hit conservative areas. San Diego is a conservative area and it’s likely to see cuts. Such is life.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The tax payments are allocated to the areas where people live, not the ones where they work. At least in New York, state tax forms ask you to state your county of residence, not your county of employment, so Long Island residents who work in New York count as Long Island taxpayers. Since suburbanites who work in the city are usually richer than other suburbanites, a disproportionate share of the income tax payment generated by people who live in Suffolk, Fairfield, Nassau, and Westchester Counties is actually on income earned in New York.

    And yes, the Navy Yard used to employ tens of thousands, but my understanding is that even in WW2, New York was getting disproportionately few military jobs, and this led to disaffection with LaGuardia for not bringing home the bacon. As of a few years ago, New York is one of the states with the lowest per capita military spending levels, if not the single lowest.

    San Diego is of course full of military spending, but the big bucks today are in Virginia, because of Norfolk and the NoVa suburbs. Virginia is a large tax recipient despite being rich, since its three major metro areas are suburbs of the national capital, a major naval port, and a state capital that subsists off of taxing the other two metro areas. San Diego has an economy independent of military spending, so it’s not a major tax recipient. It’s also not conservative anymore by national standards, only by state standards: in both 2008 and 2012, Obama won San Diego County by slightly higher margins than he won the national vote – the GOP had alienated minorities too much.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    You want to talk about a state getting screwed. Delaware is getting screwed. $12k per per net contribution


    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Delaware gets back at everyone else by charging 4 dollars to use the 11 miles of the Delaware Turnpike between the New Jersey Turnpike and the Maryland Turnpike.

    Ted Judah Reply:


    Part of the discrepancy here deals with the fact that Medicaid is now the single largest public expense for both state and federal governments. However, reimbursement rates vary from state to state and many of the “blue” or urban states receive a much lower federal match 50% than Mississippi 75%.

    John N and others might not that under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, the feds are paying 100% of the cost, but this is only for the newly-covered population. The ACA requires each estate to keep paying for its current Medicaid population at the same rate as before.

    Joe Reply:

    The tax data are IRS collections, income tax.

    Mississippi cuts off Medicare at 3,000 income which means they get far less back per person.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Do you have a citation? Because the data sets I’m channeling, from the IRS for taxes and the Census Bureau for spending, include all federal taxes and all federal spending.

    JOE Reply:


    The figure includes all individual and corporate income taxes, estate taxes, gift taxes, and excise taxes. This table does not include federal tax revenue data from U.S. Armed Forces personnel stationed overseas

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ah, yeah. This includes payroll taxes. Go to the source of Wikipedia’s table, on the IRS website, and check Table 1 on PDF-p. 11.

    joe Reply:

    I suggest you edit the wikipage and correct any mistakes or mislabeling if these data ar included

    Employment taxes:
    Old-Age, Survivors, Disability,
    and Hospital Insurance (OASDHI), total [5]
    Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA)
    Self-Employment Insurance Contributions Act (SECA) Unemployment insurance
    Railroad retirement

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why is including them a mistake? Retirees, who moved to a low income state when they retired, are being funded by people back in the high income state they worked in. Heatlhcare workers in Florida don’t pay much income or sales taxes in New York or Illinois. Or spend a lot of money in Maryland or New Jersey. Or the people who have work because the retirees are spending their Social Security check in Florida instead of Massachusetts.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Oh, no, including those taxes isn’t a mistake. The mistake was that Wikipedia’s article did not list the payroll tax among the taxes its table includes, even though the source states that it does include payroll taxes. I’ve edited the article to correct the mistake.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    They are only paying for 100% of the cost for a few years. Then it goes to 90% which is why half the states are not signing up. They don’t want the bill.

    JOE Reply:

    “Only” 100% for 3 years “only” 90% afterwards. If it were Only money that motivated this choice.
    Setting aside that health care is basic human right, Medical care is economic activity.

    medical service jobs pay well (90% of their salary cost is subsidized) and the product is healthy, employable citizens who don’t use emergency room services as last resort.

    It’s not a money decision, it’s about a governing theology that denies people services.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    John, the state’s turning down the expansion of Medicaid all have Republican governers. They are trying to burnish their bona fides with the political base. The decision is 110% political and has to do with 2016.

    JOE Reply:

    Soon, Ronald Hudson walked in.
    “Okay,” Lively began. “What Hudsons are you kin to?”

    “R.T., Uncle Lenny . . .” said Hudson, a skinny 35-year-old who worked as an assistant director at the senior center and had just been released from the hospital after a blood-sugar spike.

    He’d never had insurance before and said his hospital bills were up to $23,000 at this point.

    “Good night,” Lively said, tapping in his information.

    Kids: five. Salary: about $14,000 before taxes.

    “You’re going to qualify for a medical card,” she told Hudson.

    “Well, thank God,” Hudson said, laughing. “I believe I’m going to be a Democrat.”

    Ted Judah Reply:


    You are way off the mark here. Much of Sacramento’s prime real estate is occupied by government buildings that pay zero property tax and generate zero sales tax.

    Your statement was more true before the end of the Cold War when the Air Force was a much larger employer and economic driver.

  13. morris brown
    Dec 1st, 2013 at 12:41

    Today (Sunday Dec 1), State Senator Mark DeSaulnier was interviewed by Phil Matier.

    CA Sen. Mark DeSaulnier Talks About The Fate Of High-Speed Rail


    In his view the chances of HSR now proceeding are very small and at the end when asked “on a scale of 1 to 10” what are the chances HSR will proceed, he answers “1”.

    4 minutes.

    joe Reply:

    Breaking!! Opponent of HSR continues to oppose! Details at 11.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    in other news Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still valiantly holding on in his fight to remain dead.

    joe Reply:

    SACRAMENTO — California has yet to break ground on its controversial high-speed train system, and legal challenges remain in the path of construction.

    But that’s not stopping the California High-Speed Rail Authority, in conjunction with Amtrak, from shopping around for the best deal on multimillion-dollar trains to roll on their proposed high-speed lines — in California between San Francisco and Los Angeles through the San Joaquin Valley, and Amtrak’s Acela service between Boston and Washington, D.C.

    Together, the two agencies are preparing to ask for bids in coming weeks from manufacturers to build between 50 and 60 train sets capable of carrying passengers at speeds up to 220 mph.

    From a 34-acre plant in southeast Sacramento, Siemens Industry is one of a handful of multinational companies with an eye on the prize — a contract for “rolling stock” potentially worth $2 billion or more.

    I hope CA/Siemens competes for this contract.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    By the time California gets around to needing anything whatever Amtrak took delivery on in 2017 and 2018 will be hopelessly obsolete. Or a reef.

  14. D. P. Lubic
    Dec 1st, 2013 at 15:47

    From the All Aboard Ohio site, what looks like a vintage cartoon that is most appropriate to illustrate the double standard railroads live under:

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