Once Again, the Hyperloop Isn’t a Substitute for High Speed Rail

Jan 22nd, 2014 | Posted by

Elon Musk’s gadgetbahn concept of a hyperloop that can travel at speeds up to 900 mph from San Francisco to Los Angeles gets trotted out by those who want to troll high speed rail into oblivion. The hyperloop has serious flaws to it that suggest it is an impractical idea. Yet one entrepreneur, Nick Garzilli, still thinks we should scrap HSR even though it’s been a proven success everywhere it’s been tried and replace it with the hyperloop. He’s filed a ballot initiative to do exactly that.

There’s no reason to believe this proposal would ever make to the ballot, unless Garzilli is willing to spend a couple million dollars to put it there. And even if it got on the ballot it’s unlikely to pass, since voters can see a truly flawed and ridiculous idea for what it is. Still, it’s worth pointing out that replacing HSR with the hyperloop is deeply unwise.

That’s just what Kerry Cavanaugh did at the LA Times:

Look, California’s bullet train project has its problems. The cost has doubled since voters approved spending nearly $10 billion on the project in 2008, and it’s likely to take at least a decade longer to build. If it gets built. The High-Speed Rail Authority has yet to spell out how it intends to fund the first phase of the line from Merced to the San Fernando Valley.

But stopping one ambitious project for a new, more ambitious project doesn’t make sense, particularly when the new idea is half-baked. As neat as Hyperloop and ET3’s idea may be, they are just concepts. We don’t know the cost, safety or time needed to build these projects. They may not even be possible.

I think Cavanaugh has the framing totally wrong in that first paragraph – she implies that Republicans are reacting to the Authority’s errors and that it’s up to the Authority to fix the problem, when in fact it is Republicans who created those funding problems and who should be held to account for them.

However, she is absolutely right in the second paragraph to call the hyperloop “half-baked.” Its costs will be much higher than Musk has estimated. It will face the same resistance from NIMBYs that HSR has faced. And it’s extremely unlikely that the hyperloop will be able to be 100% privately funded, so public funding will be required in some form, which means it will face the same resistance from Republicans that HSR has faced.

HSR is a good and workable idea that is ready to go here and now. Let’s make that happen, rather than chase a mirage.

  1. Paul Druce
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 11:40

    How exactly did the Republicans create a funding problem? Did they somehow steal away money from the Authority? Or did they simply refuse to give money away and the Authority mistakenly relied on a revenue source that it was never guaranteed to receive? If the latter, the fault lays with the Authority, not with the Republicans.

    joe Reply:

    Every single HSR project in the US has been defunded. Every single project.
    The Republican Party’s position is to oppose Obama’s signature issues which include HSR and health care. They negotiated for that cut in the current 2014 budget. So don’t blame them.

    The **real** reason there is no HSR money for anyone is the CAHSR Authority put out a business plan that hurt everyone feelings and was too demanding, too optimistic, used Comic Sans Font, and the Authority is a lazy entitlement taker.

    Wham!! No more HSR until they dissolve the Authority.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Defunding and refusing to find are two entirely different concepts.

    joe Reply:

    I’m not a theologian so this nuance is lost on me.

    It is good to know those who want to defund HSR are not blocking HSR funding.

    Ben Schiendelman Reply:

    When Obama proposes a budget and Congressional Republicans remove line items, that is indeed defunding.

    Troyeth Reply:

    To defund requires an item to be funded, not simply a proposal for funding.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    No, because only Congress can appropriate funds. Defunding requires the removal of funds already appropriated.

    Joe Reply:

    Only congress can rescend the project funding.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Correct, except where they have delegated that authority to others in some fashion. However, rescinding and refusing to provide are two very different things.

    Zorro Reply:

    Agreed, House Republicans just don’t want to appropriate(spend) any money for HSR or Amtrak, though cause of support in states where Amtrak goes, Republicans have never been able to defund Amtrak. Rep Paul Ryan’s family is in the concrete business, from what I’ve read the Interstates put a golden foot in His mouth, He’s never worked an honest day in His life, nor has He ever been disabled.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    When Prop 1A went to ballot, Obama hadn’t yet been elected. When the 50/50 match was written, I’m not even sure he was the frontrunner in the primary. “We relied on magic asterisk funding that didn’t materialize” isn’t the same as “we relied on what seemed to be a solid funding source but was subsequently removed.”

    Paul Druce Reply:

    He was still a state senator, the 50/50 match dates back to the original bill in 2002 (as does the 2020 requirement). So yeah, it was promulgated during a time where it was very likely that Amtrak was going to be dismantled.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The Bush Administration fantasy about Amtrak is probably unrelated to the matching requirement in Prop 1a.

    Lots of programs and ballot measures employ the tactic as a way to assuage voters that an interest group is single mindedly pushing it to get some sort of payola from the government.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    I’m quite certain that it was unrelated, just noting the sheer absurdity of turning around and claiming that the Republicans are somehow responsible for a funding problem.

    joe Reply:

    Shorter Paul: Donuts don’t make me fat, it’s my slow metabolism.

    Pointing to a looming deficit in general road and transit funding, LaHood said his former Republican colleagues in Congress could use a transportation vision check, too.

    “For the first time since people have been looking at infrastructure, America is behind,” LaHood said. “We are behind other countries because other countries are making the investments that we used to make. We got a two-year [highway] bill because they could only find $109 billion. We need to do better and we need to make sure that America does not fall further behind when it comes to infrastructure.”

    LaHood, who was a Republican congressman from Illinois for 14 years, said he hoped GOP lawmakers would eventually come around.

    “As members of Congress understand that the people are way, way ahead of them on this — they are way ahead of most members, certainly on the Republican side, when it comes to high-speed rail, or walking and biking paths, or livable, sustainable communities, green energy — the people are so far ahead of the politicians on this — eventually it will catch up with them,” he said.


    This republican congressman and former DOT Cabinet member isn’t wrong. We have an problem funding infrasturcture in general, they oppose all HSR funding in 2014 and still Paul’s figured a way to find the root cause. It’s the Authority’s fault.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Shorter Paul: Donuts don’t make me fat, it’s my slow metabolism.

    No, it’s an imbalance in the number of calories in vs the number of calories out.

    joe Reply:

    Dig in Homer.

    Zorro Reply:

    Yeah, ok Mr Simpson.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    But if it is no big deal, Paul, why defend the GOP here? (Other than your voter registration card…) the GOP position on all these litmus test issues like HSR, immigration etc seems to be evolving. I think there is strong consensus to fund high speed trains on the NEC but not in California because of politics.

    This splitting hairs argument is fun and all, but it misses the basic point that if the GOP really opposed HSR funding period, they wouldn’t waste all this time flogging it in public.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    I have always registered as no party affiliation and I quite despise the GOP. However, I also detest unfairly blaming them (same with the Democrats, who I am also not fond of).

    joe Reply:

    Maybe you need to come to grips with these feelings and tendencies, admit what you are and come out of the political closet.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    With a blog called Reason Rail, I can’t help but think you are a libertarian even if you don’t register with the GOP.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    The choice of the name was because I was initially intending on focusing on Reason and debunking their anti-HSR articles.

    Maybe you need to come to grips with these feelings and tendencies, admit what you are and come out of the political closet.

    That would be Catholic.

    joe Reply:

    Oh no, we stay in closets. You mean cathartic.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Do you have anything actually useful to add to this conversation?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Good to know, Paul. Your Orange County perspective is appreciated. I’d love it if you could report on some OCTA Board meetings once and awhile.

  2. agb5
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 12:25

    The initiative preamble claims that ET3 has many access points, so they think they have solved the age old problem of how to make a Y junction in a vacuum pipe that can be negotiated at high speed.

    ET3 is automated, and uses a ‘interchange’ philosophy (like a freeway), and NOT a ‘switch’ philosophy like a train (that limits capacity)

    I don’t get it, what is the difference and how will that work exactly?

    Nathanael Reply:

    That’s marketing-speak — it means nothing.

    As for the Y-junction problem, it’s easy enough to solve — put the vehicles on rails and install switches. Only way to do it.

    You end up with the choice of a railway, or a railway in a vacuum tube.

    It turns out vacuum propulsion is actually *inefficient* compared to traction with wheels.

  3. Mike
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 12:57

    Wow, this Nick Garzilli is a certified nut job!

    “As a city council member I will speak up and do my best to bring attention to the out of control power structures that are enslaving and poisoning humanity. For example, I will be a loud voice against the geo-engineering aerosol spraying program that is taking place in our skies, as best seen in the documentary What In The World Are They Spraying.

    “Sam Borelli is a really nice guy, although I think he needs to learn more about the ‘micro units’ as outlined in the U.N. Agenda 21 zoning and land use guidelines that city planners have unwittingly followed”

    “A global banking cartel has gained control of our government through the Federal Reserve.”

    Zorro Reply:

    Sounds like the guy’s a Nut Job alright, Jets with their hot engines fly through cold air and after they leave the area, any moisture there freezes into ice crystals making contrails, before jets started flying at about 30,000′ this didn’t happen, no one is spraying anything…

    Contrails (/ˈkɒntreɪlz/; short for “condensation trails”) or vapor trails are long thin artificial (man-made) clouds that sometimes form behind aircraft. Their formation is most often triggered by the water vapor in the exhaust of aircraft engines, but can also be triggered by the changes in air pressure in wingtip vortices or in the air over the entire wing surface.[1] Like all clouds, contrails are made of water, in the form of a suspension of billions of liquid droplets or ice crystals.

    Depending on the temperature and humidity at the altitude the contrail forms, they may be visible for only a few seconds or minutes, or may persist for hours and spread to be several miles wide. The resulting cloud forms may resemble cirrus, cirrocumulus, or cirrostratus. Persistent spreading contrails are thought to have a significant effect on global climate.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Nothing to do with jets actually

    Zorro Reply:

    Picky, picky, they’re contrails that can and are made by any engine at altitude under the right conditions, only nutjobs who need to be in an insane asylum think that government is spraying chemicals. It’s just water vapor and/or ice crystals from an engine exhaust, jet, prop or turbo-prop doesn’t matter.

    And the link says ‘Contrails’, not ‘Jet Contrails’.

  4. Keith Saggers
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 13:07
  5. synonymouse
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 14:47

    You are missing the underlying disagreement. All these folks with vaporware on the mind do understand that AmBART will never cut it. Richards’ DogLeg is too slow, too retro, too circuitous to succeed.

    “Republicans are reacting to the Authority’s errors and that it’s up to the Authority to fix the problem”

    Yes, that is correct. Ditch Palmdale, ditch Pacheco, ditch Mojave, ditch Sin City. Back to staight shot SF-LA genuine bleeding edge hsr. No 40 miles of wasted tunnel to Mojave.

    StevieB Reply:

    Republicans oppose high speed rail in any form because it would make Obama and Democrats look good.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The GOP thought the Democrats were out of line with their personal disdain for Bush. And then we elected Obama and the Republicans realized what brown can do for you.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The Republican Party leaders oppose public transportation, period. I’m not sure why. It’s become a shibboleth, a mark of Republican Party membership. It verges on the insane at this point.

    Observer Reply:

    What is your idea of a straight shot SF-LA route that could meet the 2hr40min timeframe?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The default route from the central Bay Area to LA: Altamont, I-5 corridor, Tejon. Tejon is the most important. Initially I thought Pacheco and 99 were the cool way to go but came to accept the more prosaic Altamont and I-5 are the most responsible for a starter hsr.

    Observer Reply:

    I am a Tejon, 99, Pacheco person myself. But, okay – say we use the I-5/Altamont corridor – with a swing through downtown Bakersfield; Stockton could easily be served when the line to Sacramento is built. The trick would be on how to serve the CV, namely Modesto, Merced, Fresno, and Visalia to Bakersfield. A way would have to be thought out on how to provide 150-190mph service to those fine and deserving cities. Keep in mind that the existing single track service for both freight and passenger that the CV has now will be increasingly unsustainable, and dedicated track for only passenger service will be needed if those valley cities are to ever have truly viable rail service, to end their economic isolation and such.

    Given the way things are going, us HSR proponents may have to swallow our pride and accept something like this. Also, the suit concerning the 2hr40min timeframe may be more telling than the Kings County suit.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Once hsr is up and running and successful coming to a consensus amongst the stakeholders along the 99 corridor will be “hella” easier.

    Needed: shock and awe, sturm und drang, knock your socks off speeds along the Racetrack. It can at least break even so long as you have private management strong enough to ride herd on the unions and the payroll.

    Clem Reply:

    Altamont – 99 – Tejon can meet 2:40 easily (as in timetable timing, not best-case run time when Venus is in retrograde)

    Anandakos Reply:


    I too was disappointed by the decision to go through Palmdale and Mojave. It’s fifty miles longer and reaches a higher elevation, requiring more propulsion energy. However, it seems that the engineers came to the conclusion that the “wiggle zone” idea at the fault line was a little too “experimental” a concept on which to depend.

    Given the slow entry to San Francisco and downtown LA this system really won’t put the air shuttles out of business. For one thing, the LA Basin has four airports, all of which have service to three airports in the Bay Area. For the majority of people one of the twelve end-to-end options will be better than the train.

    BUT, what the HS train will do is cause the San Fernando valley to thrive. It will be possible for folks there — who do not have frequent air shuttle service among the cities of the valley or usually to more than one airport in the end cities — to travel much more rapidly than they can on 99 among the cities there.

    Is that worth $40 billion? Well, I’ve heard that adding another pair of lanes to 99 would cost $20 billion and it would just cause more sprawl. With the HS train there’s some chance to revitalize the downtowns of five cities. That’s got to be worth $20 billion itself.

    jonathan Reply:

    The problem is, if you route HSR through the downtown of 5 extra cities, that’s 5 city-diameters where it’s no longer HSR. Plus more, if you have to bend your route to get in and out of the cities.

    (yes, there are exceptions, but they’re very rare.)

    Observer Reply:

    There will be pass through tracks, through trains would not slow down that much.

    Clem Reply:

    Trains are already planned to slow to 115 through Bakersfield. The others are sure to be reduced as well for noise mitigation.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    This isn’t BART: you don’t need to four track the entire system just to ensure an express can overtake a local.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The issue is that outside of SF which has shown some commitment to transit instead of roads, the rest of California is doing roads AND transit. Again and again, there is not only a lack of coordination in transportation projects.

    To add insult to injury, the only “coordination” that goes on is to make sure that one set of stilts will go over the other set of stilts.

    The road projects are often done in a way that makes the transit project more expensive / more impactful later on (or vice versa).

    Thus, promised “savings” from not expanding roads are not worth the paper they are printed on.

    Manteca (2013)
    10 miles 4-> 6 lanes

    Bakersfield (2013)
    6-> 8 lanes http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/local/x208285061/Lane-expansion-for-north-southbound-Highway-99-breaks-ground

    Tulare County


    http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/local&id=8985146 (actually 8 lane bridge next to where HSR will build a two track bridge in a completely separate project)

    When the governor calls for moratorium on highway expansion to fund, high speed rail – then we can start counting some of these savings.

    I can’t tell you what the right road/ freight/ train configuration is for the CV. I can tell you that CHSRA justifying its existence with traffic models showing dramatic benefits while Caltrans is building highways based on a different model that shows in 2035 “terrible traffic” is mildly pathetic – particularly as they are in the same state agency.


    Nathanael Reply:

    There’s a certain psychology which says “Yes, we’d like trains, but we don’t trust them yet, so let’s have some more roads”. The only way to overcome this is to *build some trains*. Wait 10 years and then the “roads and transit” areas start voting “transit instead of roads”.

    Judge Moonbox Reply:

    “Republicans are reacting to the Authority’s errors”

    Is that why they filibustered the Stimulus Bill in 2009? Is that why Govs. Christie, Kasich, Scott, and Walker cancelled high speed rail projects in their respective states? I had thought that they put the Oil Industry’s profits ahead of the country’s well-being–or at least had a Milo Minderbender attitude about “What’s good for the Koch brothers is good for America.”

  6. C$
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 15:35

    HERE IS JUST ONE SCIETIFIC PRE-REVIEWED PAPER PERTAINING TO ET3 (Journal of Modern Transportation): http://www.et3.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/JMT-Mar2011-pg42-50.pdf
    There are over 100+ papers pertaining to ETT (Evacuated Tube Transport), all you have to is search.
    China has been building ETT systems since 2002! Now the Netherlands is following suit. ET3 is proven tech and ET3 IS NOT HYPERLOOP! Elon had a meeting with ET3 2 weeks before his Aug 12th announent!
    ET3 uses High Temprature Superconducting Maglev (HTSM). Tubes are lined with NdFe2 while the capsules compose of YBCO (a HTSM). The YBCO is cooled to 77K and levitate on the NdFe2 track via Meisner effect. Off the shelf vacuum pumps (eg. Pfeiffer Vacuum) create an evacuated environment 10 to the minus 4 torr. Linear electric motors accelerate the a capsules at no greater than 9.82m/sec2 (1G). The capsules coast through the system with no expenditure of additional energy. Linear electric motors decelerate the capsules and 90% of the kinetic energy can be recovered and transferred back into the system. ET3 is literally “Space Travel on Earth”. You are traveling right now at 67,00mph as Earth orbits the Sun.
    Is there any physicist on this forum I can talk too?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    China has been building ETT systems since 2002! Now the Netherlands is following suit.

    Reputable source or gtfo.

    Anandakos Reply:

    “A SCIETIFIC PRE-REVIEWED PAPER”. Wow, it’s scietific! Is that like terrrrrrrific? And it’s pre-reviewed! That’s important; we wouldn’t want to over-promise and under-deliver now, would we?

    But the thing I’m MOST impressed by is that you’re willing to get into a capsule cooled to 77 degrees Kelvin! That’s very brave. I have to say “Be.My.Guest! And good luck. You’re going to need it.”

    “The capsules coast through the system with no expenditure of additional energy”. Wahoo! It’s a Perpetual Motion Machine to boot!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Hi. Mathematician here. A couple points:

    1. Nobody is building ETT for passenger transportation.

    2. Passengers do not like 1 g acceleration in any direction, for “barf bags obligatory” values of “do not like.” Planes accelerate at about 0.3-0.4 g when they take off, and passengers get motion sick.

    3. Maglev is mature technology. The problem isn’t feasibility, but cost, a subject that Musk either doesn’t know about or doesn’t care about.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Dear C$: Is there a spell checker you can use!!!!?

    C$ Reply:

    The Chinese have built ETT systems in X’ian China. Free feel to contact Dr. Yaoping Zhang.If you search well enough on google, you will find his email. ETT requires 1/20 in material cost compared to HSR. The Journal of Modern Transportation sums it up well: http://www.et3.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/JMT-Mar2011-pg42-50.pdf
    Feel free to take a look at et3.nl as well
    There 100’s of scientific papers pertaining to ETT, most cost money but some are free. There is plenty of ETT reading material to keep you busy.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, they have not. Googling ETT with Xi’an gives papers about ETT, rather than any description of an existing ETT system in Xi’an. Wikipedia’s article about transportation in Xi’an doesn’t mention ETT.

    And your paper sounds like a hack piece (no, sleeker structures do not cost less, and there’s no discussion of what influences construction costs), in an open access journal that seems obscure.

    Joe Reply:

    From the abstract

    ET3 offers the potential…
    An ET3 network may….
    ET3 standards should….

    Paper is at

    You can buy a liscense for $100.00

    It entitled you to a TubeBlazer newsletter subscription ($100) value.

    Eric Reply:

    how does the 400 pound capsule dissipate heat while traveling from A to B? what is the passenger capacity of the 400 pound capsule? What is the cycle rate on the airlocks where passengers embark and disembark? (this is likely your bottleneck, not the tube itself) how likely are travelers going to want to be strapped into a 5 point harness for a couple hours to travel from A to B? better yet, under 1 G deceleration, how likely are they going to want to be pressed against the 5 point harness for long periods slowing down? How many G’s are experienced in an emergency stop condition, so that a capsule can be (as described in the paper) stopped in a section where the emergency gate valves can close to pressurize the tube again? how long is this section, and how long does it take to pressurize? Once stopped, how to you get the passengers out? I mean, you can’t even stand up in this tube. What are the technical issues building a gate valve across a 5′ diameter pipe that contains a vacuum?

  7. Alon Levy
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 16:58

    If you’ll excuse the on-topic comment, I doubt that “voters can see a truly flawed and ridiculous idea for what it is.” Cavanaugh is completely right that the costs of Hyperloop are unknown, but even he doesn’t seem to get that Musk made up numbers to anchor people’s expectations too low, so that “even if costs are five times higher it’s cheaper than HSR” (as pro-Hyperloop people said in comments on my blog). More in general, people have almost no sense of absolute construction costs. They have a relative sense of cost overrun, but no absolute sense of high versus low cost. In South Korea, a major newspaper excoriated Seoul’s subway construction as too extravagant and compared it negatively with the DC Metro’s drab brutalism , when in fact fully underground construction in Seoul is much cheaper than above-ground construction in DC. In Spain, people’s perceptions of HSR and subway projects is that they’re boondoggles, to the point that people don’t believe me when I say they’re among the cheapest in the world.

    Since it’s a specialized issue, the average voter’s opinions are less relevant than a) which people the average voter is inclined to trust the judgment of, and b) what those people’s opinions are. So, ad a), we know that Americans are sycophantic admirers of entrepreneurs who proved the common wisdom wrong. The techie class is really awful about it, and thinks everything else in the world, even when the technology is a century old, can be done like a tech startup. But even in general, the stereotypical American comic is the cheeky outsider in a stupid world, and this predates techie culture by decades if not centuries. There’s immense trust in people perceived as successful. Conversely, there’s mistrust of people perceived as too negative, with comments like “if you’re so smart then how come you ain’t rich?”, or “nattering nabobs of negativism.” Real Americans do, they don’t think.

    Ad b), the infrastructure wonks have for the most part been negative toward Hyperloop, but the tech reporters are to my knowledge positive. The mainstream media reports that I saw when I was writing my post about it were for the most part positive, although they were writing before the infrastructure wonks said their pieces (which in turn is because a lot of the infrastructure wonks are channeling me on this issue and by definition I hadn’t written my post yet). I do not know what will happen if it turns into a public debate again. The glaring flaws in the plan are more publicly known now, but Musk has more money to spend on marketing than those of us who favor good transit do; it’s not particularly hard to figure out what my knowledge base is or what the knowledge base of other people who pointed technical problems is and come up with a lie that none of us would know the refutation of.

    joe Reply:

    A public survey was done recently regarding CAHSR and Hyper Loop. The CA/US voter’s surveyed think the Hyper Loop is nonsense.

    File Hyperloop under the same heading as Amazon to soon deliver packages by robotic drone.

    Alon Levy Reply:


    Alon Levy Reply:

    Sigh… in the above comment, the sentence about Cavanaugh should of course read, “but even she…”


  8. NoahFence
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 17:32

    WOW! Did you even read the initiative? Apparently not as Elon Musk’s Hyperloop is not even mentioned once! You most likely mistook hyper-loop as defined in Section 4, c. 6 as Musk’s “gadgetbahn”. Here it is again so you can brush up on the facts!


    Nor did you bother to check the gender of Kerry Cavanaugh who is a woman! http://goo.gl/x2534T

    High Speed Rail was a good idea 50 years ago back when the rest of the world was building it. Unfortunately, America missed that train for reasons we won’t get into. HSR was a 20th century idea that I would agree was not utilized to it’s greatest potential. However, we have now crossed over into the 21’st century and we must embrace the fact that technology is increasing exponentially! Even if HSR had the best track record ever for safety and reliability, we must let go of the old and usher in the new.

    While Musk’s Hyperloop is somewhat of a step in the right direction, It is still 1st gen R&D and is plagued with many design flaws. They do have a good team of intelligent engineers and designers on staff at HTT so I have no doubt that technical issues will eventually be resolved.

    But… While the media is busy slinging uneducated opinions around. Evacuated Tube Transport Technologies (ET3) has been, for the past 30 years, designing the most efficient and elegant transportation design imaginable! If you want to see what the future of transportation is going to look like, read these 9-pages from the Journal of Modern Transportation.

    If YouTube videos are more your speed, check out this TEDx Talk on ET3 for a quick 10 minute introduction.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I did not bother to check and assumed Kerry was a dude. Fuck. I apologized to her on twitter and repeat that apology here. Damn it! I usually do take a quick look to confirm such things.

  9. Ben
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 19:38

    When is Phase II of the Prop 1A lawsuit alleging that the travel time won’t be less than 2 hr 40 min, etc. going to be heard?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Is Prop 1A relevant anymore? If the CHSRA front-loads funds from C&T and the Feds, then they don’t need to abide by Prop 1A requirements.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    really? So the law that gives the CAHSR Board the authority to build, control, and run the system is irrelevant?

    Just to humor you, what do you suppose the part built with bonds in going to be connected to? do you propose only the sections built using prop1a funds need to comply. I think you may be sorely disappointed considering some of those sections are the bookends that will inhibit the time requirements more than any other sections. So really the part built using the bond funds is the slowest part.

    And if prop1a is no longer applicable for the whole system, why did they define whole system requirements like no subsidy and time requirements?

    prop1a most certainly applies for the lifetime of the project until a new law is passed to take its place. Until them they must comply. Otherwise the provisions of laws would mean nothing once the money they raise runs out. That is not the way the law works. They took the 9 billion in bonds, they need to comply witht he provisions.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Why did they define whole system requirements like no subsidy and time requirements?

    Grifters gotta grift.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    i bow to your superior logic

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Feds require a local match (or at least, the future promise of a local match, thanks to the dispensation they got), and even if Jerry Brown gets his cap-and-trade wish, that’s only a few hundred million for one year. They still need Prop 1A, or at least need to pretend for the feds that they’ll get Prop 1A bond money. If the judge kills Prop 1A bond money by ruling that they won’t meet 2 hours and 40 minutes, then Obama has to go back to Congress and get them to give up on the match rule entirely, which will be damn near impossible (I can’t even imagine him trying).

    Ben Reply:

    What happens if the judge rules they can’t meet that travel time? Would the Authority go back and change its business plan to the original one, with a vote by the legislature again?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Ultimately, it won’t matter how the judge rules.

    If he were to invalidate Prop 1A (for whatever reason), then the Governor can just find other money by shifting funds around (the “loose change behind the couch cushions” ploy). That is what has happened with every other boondoggle that had political pull.

    synonymouse Reply:

    But I doubt California could for long afford the maintenance and operating subsidies. Plus 40 miles of tunnel to Mojave is more than “loose change behind the couch cushions”.

    Jerry and followers would likely try to dump the whole thing, tracks and all, on national Amtrack, ala NEC.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s one little fly in your ointment, the NEC makes money.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Don Phillips disputes that.

    Straight shot California hsr could break even too, but you need to eschew rural commute ops. Amalgamated would not like Amtrak and BLE-UTU butting in but then TehaVegaSkyRail would not enjoy the carefully crafted monopoly BART enjoys and Amalgamated is exploiting.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Bakersfield and Fresno aren’t rural

    synonymouse Reply:

    They are not San Francisco, nor LA, nor for that matter Sac. Not even San Jose, struggling to make its streetcar system relevant.

    Minimal commute transit market in the auto-centric San Joaquin Valley. And totally subsidized to have any riders. You are blowing billions in the wrong places, where something much more mundane and economical is indicated.

    Paul H. Reply:

    Synonymouse, Fresno has more people than the entire state of Wyoming. Please stop with this nonsense that Fresno and Bakersfield don’t need HSR. It’s the fastest growing region in California. We wouldn’t even be talking about high-speed rail if Fresno County didn’t vote in favor of prop 1a in 2008.

    Zorro Reply:

    I don’t think there is a lawsuit about the time requirement, if there is, how about a link?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Go to https://services.saccourt.ca.gov/publicdms/Search.aspx

    Case is 34- 2011-00113919

    Thanks for asking btw – noticed that order for hsra to rescind funding plan now posted (within 60 days Jan 3). Presumably this will be at next board meeting

    The current food fight is about whether there is any point to having a trial about the travel time etc.

    We went to the November hearing. It seemed pretty clear the judge limited what the remedy case was about because he thought the issues made more sense in part 2 of the case so unless the agency comes up with something really compelling (have not read briefs yet), seems likely there will be another trial so that you can talk about whether the agency can spend fed $$.

  10. jimsf
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 22:17

    on January 22, 2014 in Asia and Indonesia

    Giant Consolidated of Malaysia is to build and operate a 220km “high-speed” railway in landlocked Laos. The project, linking the country’s western border with Thailand and Vietnam, is to be funded by Rich Banco Berhad of Malaysia, which is owned by Rich Ban-Corp Holding based in Hong Kong. Construction of the line, which will link Savannakhet city to Vietnam’s port city Danang, was due to begin during January and be completed within four years. It is expected to lower the cost of exports and consumer goods and help drive the country’s socioeconomic development.

  11. jimsf
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 22:19

    on May 7, 2010 in Sudan

    Southern Sudan has announced plans to build a high-speed railway from Juba to Tororo in Uganda. Business Daily quotes presidential adviser (and director-general of the project) Kostelo Garang saying that phase one – from Tororo to Gulu – will cost an estimated $US3 billion. The second phase – to Juba – will cost an estimated $US4 billion. The proposed line would greatly facilitate the movement of goods and people between Juba and the wider East African region including Mombasa.

    TomA Reply:

    Oh come on – Southern Sudan? (actually South Sudan). This place doesn’t even have roads – the GDP is only $10 billion a year. It would be like the US spending $5 TRILLION on an HSR project.

    TomA Reply:

    Oh – the whole thing will cost $7 billion – so thats more like a $10 TRILLION system in the US.

  12. jimsf
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 22:20

    on February 19, 2013 in Asia and Indonesia

    At a gala function, Malaysia’s Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd (ERL) celebrated its first decade of operation. Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched the service in 2002. According to Dato ERL chairman Sri Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh, “Malaysia was the first South-east Asian nation to operate a high-speed rail service dedicated to the link between a capital city and its airport.” ERL carried 4.2 million passengers in 2011, increasing to 5.3 million in 2012. ERL has played a significant role in the implementing of a future Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail link.

    Michael Reply:

    I was in Kuala Lumpur last year. They have a nice train to the airport, but it’s high speed like BART is high speed. It’s a non-stop service that covers 57km in 28 min, or an average speed of about 70mph.


    Problem is that high speed is tossed around a lot for trains that don’t really fit the description of what we’re trying to build in California. I’d put the low-end of “high speed” at 250kmh, or around 150mph.

    Joey Reply:

    I think the definition used by most of the world (not the US) is 200 km/h on legacy track or 250 km/h on new track.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The definition used in a lot of countries is, vaguely enough, “a lot faster than cars”. I think some countries also use the definition “faster than our current trains”.

  13. jimsf
    Jan 22nd, 2014 at 22:24

    on September 30, 2007 in Asia and Indonesia

    Construction of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway, on the drawing board for a decade, is expected to begin soon.

    on June 7, 2007 in Europe

    Yet another high-speed line is to be built in France. Bids were due at the end of May for the construction of a 300km route between Tours and Bordeaux, to be completed by 2016

    on January 7, 2008 in Asia and Indonesia

    Six bidders have filed expressions of interest with the Maharashtra government for appointment as consultants for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region high-speed rail project.

    Seems everyone can do it except americans.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Laos: A press release and a dream

    Sudan: A press release and a really far out dream…they cant even keep the country out of civil war. and the proposed 7 billion is more than 11% of annual GDP.

    Kauala Lumpur: 35 whole miles of HSR. what an achievement.

    China: A real comprehensive system that is a real engineering achievement. Cant take anything away from it, they choose rail instead of roads and made it work.

    France: Similar to China, a real system they continue to expand.

    Mumbai: Back to a press release and a dream.

    So good news jim. The US is equal to 50% of your examples in that they have released press releases and not broken ground. Feel better? We are not behind, just middle of the pack.

    swing hanger Reply:

    J.N. you beat me to it. Sudan, HSR (!) is the last thing they should be thinking about.

    joe Reply:

    Behind France, China and Lauala Lumpur. Yep, we’re a world power.

    Are you sure that in Laos there’s a tea party and a John Nachtigall clone trying to kill that HSR dream? I’m not so sure.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Kuala Lumpur is a very auto-oriented city (i.e. transit mode share is marginally higher than in the San Francisco MSA), and this isn’t HSR, but a regional express line.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Ok joe, you win, the United States is NOT a world power. So that means we are no longer responsible for policing the world. Call the UN and tell them it’s their game now. Pull back the military, use the money for HSR, partying the streets

    Of corse there may be some negative consequences. The next hurricane or typhoon someone else will have to send an aircraft carrier and immediate support. Maybe the French..assuming their carrier is not in dry dock for the umpteenth time because it does not work. They are a world power since the have HSR.

    And China has shown a huge interest in Africa and it’s mineral wealth, so they can negotiate the next “South Sudan” and deal with the 2-3 genocidal maniac governments that exist at any 1 time. Maybe they can reverse the spread of that pesky democracy. Much easier to build quickly if you have 1 party control.

    Kuala Lampur has “got next” on peacekeeping duty. No possible issues there

    Yeah Jim, it was nice while it lasted. I guesss the US is just relegated to the long slow decline to irrelevance. If only we had not wasted time becoming the most powerful military, economic, and scientific nation in history and built HSR. So sad

    jimsf Reply:

    The examples were not that serious, but the point was that the us is behind in 21st century infrastructure. Behind the other industrial first world nations, our peers. The majority of the problems in this country are the result of right wing kooks.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    why are the road and air networks not considered 21st century infrastructure. The air traffic control systems in the US are antiquated, but good enough to provide air travel to the whole country. I think that counts as 21st century infrastructure.

    The road system is modern and pervasive. It runs everywhere. I think that counts as 21st century infrastructure.

    The cellular, high speed internet, and wifi are available to almost everyone and continue to expand. That is really 21st century infrastructure (more than any transport system).

    Simply put, we are not behind, we just choose not to compete in some small nitche places like HSR.

    Paul H. Reply:

    One problem John, all of that 21st century road and air infrastructure relies almost entirely on a finite resource that will be seeing its supply declining in the 21st century. If you can’t see the oil to electricity transportation transition (that’s already been occurring in other countries for some time now) then there really isn’t anything anybody can tell you to change your mind. High-speed rail is an easy one, the fact that it’s taken this long to get to even this point just shows how truly sad it is for a country as rich and as intelligent as ours to be so far behind in a very large societal issue that is transportation.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    1. Malthus was wrong. Food is cheaper now than 50 years ago and the population is 7 billion and rising. Oops Forgot to account for technology.


    2. What if I told you we are just going to skip that stage of “evolution” and we are going straight to electric self-driving cars and telecommute. Would you feel better? Again, technology, it does a body good.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Malthus was in the same challenging position we occupy today – he could not anticipate game changers.

    But all in all it comes to a wash, I think. Technical innovations that result in more food production but then you have nuclear fission and fusion.

    Pretty soon all of the countries in the middle east will have their own nukes. Just a matter of time.

    joe Reply:

    Yes, soylent green is delicious.

    For the informed, there are concerns. 10 calories of hydrocarbons produce 1 calorie of food.

    “The miracle of the Green Revolution was made possible by cheap fossil fuels to supply crops with artificial fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation. Estimates of the net energy balance of agriculture in the United States show that ten calories of hydrocarbon energy are required to produce one calorie of food.”

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Let me summarize that for you joe.


    Alon Levy Reply:

    Malthus was a lot righter than people think he was. He said that living standards would fall to subsistence because of population growth, and said the alternative to misery was reducing birth rates by a variety of mechanisms. What he missed is the demographic transition: urbanization and rise in women’s education caused birth rates to drop without government intervention (on the contrary, the governments of the industrialized world criminalized birth control).

    The Southern US and possibly also the Midwest are actually underpopulated relative to the climate: the states of the Deep South have much lower population density than comparable areas in Europe and East Asia. This is because the colonial era’s population growth rate wasn’t sustained into the 19th century as industrialization brought down birth rates. This is why the US is such a massive food exporter even though its food consumption is heavy on meat, which has several times as much agricultural footprint as grain. Globally, the same slowdown in birth rates is seen almost everywhere, and the global fertility rate is now down to 2.5. And this, incidentally, comes on the heels of large rises in global literacy, which couldn’t happen under colonialism.

    The other thing Malthus missed, writing only at the beginning of industrialization, is that people would consume things other than food. Early Modern urban laborers spent the majority of their income on food, so people thought of prices as predominantly food prices. Food prices have kept going up, but industrialization allowed goods whose inputs are mainly labor and capital to be mass-produced.

    What we have today that wasn’t available in the early 19th century is manufactured goods: cheap clothes, mechanized transportation, sewer systems, mass-produced buildings including skyscrapers, indoor plumbing, electronics, central heating and air conditioning, modern medicine. Medieval peasants had a few items of clothing for an entire lifetime. Today, in African villages where most people are illiterate, people buy clothes from the local person who has the “go to the city and buy clothes at the local clothing stores and then resell in the village” job; in more central parts of the world this was true even in 1850, with textiles mass-produced in Lancashire and exported globally. This leads to substitution of goods: in the first world GDP per capita rose from about $1,000 in the richer parts in the Early Modern era to $5,000 in 1900 and $40,000 today, but people didn’t eat 5 times better in 1900 and don’t eat 40 times better today, but instead shifted consumption to manufactured goods that didn’t exist when Malthus was alive.

    In contrast with the rosy picture for manufactured goods, there was no improvement in food until the 20th century. The early Industrial Revolution didn’t raise living standards for urban workers (although it moved people from rural to urban areas), and in the 19th century wages deflated for food prices were lower than in 1500 in most European cities, with notable exceptions for the first cities to industrialize, like London. Living standards rose starting in the late 19th century, although food quality in urban Britain was still lower in 1900 than in the 1860s and is arguably lower today than in the 1860s.

    The improvement in food production in the 20th century consisted of a lot of innovations that could only be done once. India could sextuple yields in the Green Revolution; it can’t do so again. (This, by the way, is similar to a link that I think you shared with me about Soviet economic growth – its fast postwar growth came from one-time industrialization and not from sustained growth in total factor productivity). They happened at a good time, just as the third world began its demographic transition, when population growth was the highest. But now food yields are flat, and in India and Africa climate change is expected to reduce agricultural fertility. It’s not as big a deal with 21st-century population growth rates as with 20th-century ones, but it does show that Malthus had more idea what he was talking about than people imagine.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    You just argued that large swaths of the world are getting richer (thanks to waneing US influence). Then you turn around and defend Malthus who’s very premise was that could not happen wit increased growth.

    You say he was right…except he missed the advancement of technology and urbanization and mass production and industrialization. Other than that he was spot on????

    And learn from history. People thought the green revolution could never happen once…so no as on they can’t be proven wrong again and it increases again. Humans are clever

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If your argument is “people thought,” then fair’s fair, public health officials in the 1960s believed that infectious disease would soon be eradicated.

    As for what I’m arguing, read more carefully. What I’m saying is that growth is concentrated not in food, which Malthus had a decent handle on, but in goods and services that didn’t exist when Malthus was alive. People are bad at recognizing the gap between new and old technology. Postwar science fiction is similar, but from a more optimistic perspective: it completely failed to anticipate that there would be new technologies like the Internet and mobile phones, but assumed there would be continued growth and improvement in existing technologies including flight, energy, and consumer goods. In the 1960s people thought that supersonic flight was soon going to take over the world, and I read a popular science book from about 1990 predicting hypersonic flights by 2020.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Also, as for why the world is getting richer, I mainly credit declining European colonialism. The US never managed to cause as much damage as the UK did; postwar human rights standards were high enough for that. The 1945-90 period was better for the third world than the 1850-1945 period. But yes, declining US and Soviet influence – or more precisely declining US willingness to spend 10% of its GDP on the military and the non-existence of the USSR – have contributed to making the 1990- period much better on such matters as human rights in Africa.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Fine Alon. We agree Malthus was wrong. We agree it was because he missed the effect of technology and failed to anticipate the rise of “non-food” consumerism. We will agree to disagree on wether that advance in technology can continue on the same pace, especially on agriculture.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You seem very wedded to those three words, “Malthus was wrong.” Why is that?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Malthus was right. Realize that and you’ll start understanding the world as it is.

    We actually are facing persistent food shortages coming up Our food supply was artificially “juiced” by the use of fossil fertilizers, which are running out. Malthus could not have anticipated digging up gigantic guano deposits, let alone the later insanity used to extract unsustainable levels of food production. Even with all of that we have horribly nutrient-depleted soil, worldwide. And don’t get me started on the oceans.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Alon is also correct that Malthus did not anticipate that people actually WOULD reduce their birth rates. Failure to predict artificial birth control is something which can fairly be laid as an error at Malthus’s feet, because that *is* a permanent change.

    The one-time “juicing” of crop yields through fossil fuels isn’t a permanent change, because they’re fossil fuels. We have had very few meaningful sustainable agricultural improvements for several hundred years.

    Jon Reply:

    Call the UN and tell them it’s their game now. Pull back the military

    Would you please? We’d be so grateful.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    you would be grateful. Would the people of Africa?

    If North Korea comes across the 38th parallel are you prepared to watch millions die as they fight?

    If China takes Taiwan (or Japan for that matter) are you prepared to see them subjagated?

    Dont think it can happen? Learn from the mistakes of the previous “Greatest Generation” Remember “Peace for our time”


    you may not like it, but some people only speak in terms of threats and violence. So to keep those people at bay, you have to speak their language. its a sad statement on the darker aspects of humanity, but it is true. I will give you a modern case in point.

    1. Lybian rebeals received outside help from the US and NATO allies and overthrew a dictatorship relativly quickly with small to moderate loss of life.

    2. Syrian rebals have not received outside help and it has devolved to a stalemate war with 10s of thousands of deaths and no end in sight.

    Which would you prefer, because it is either 1 or 2. Without US involvement is 2. Is that really the world you want?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The current world is 2. Let ms also remind you that the US had to be dragged into 1 by France and the UK, which wanted the war for political reasons, namely that Sarkozy and Camerson were facing declining popularity. Kings – and the US is globally a king, in the 18th century French sense – don’t really care about protecting the people. They have pet projects that they’re proud of, but their primary role is to tax the peasants into starvation to build themselves prettier palaces. The US will kill hundreds of thousands in Iraq for ostensible liberation just because Saddam pissed off the Bush family, but will do nothing in Syria because it doesn’t care.

    Jon Reply:

    Precisely. US involvement in foreign conflicts is based entirely on whether it is beneficial to the US, not on any noble desire to promote liberty and freedom and democracy. It’s only possible to claim otherwise by selective example.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    first, we were dragged in because Obama (love him or hate him) has gone out of his way to NOT intervene. He is the anti-Bush and likes it that way. Even when you show intervention is better than the alternative (Lybia vs. Syria) he continues to insist that the US will not police the world. So in that way he is very consistant and loyal to his values.

    He is also wrong and in the long run it is unsustainable because history has show time and time again that if you give expansionists and dictators and inch, they will take as much as they can. Better to nip them viloently in the bud.

    But the bigger falacy is that the US helps due to its “interests” This is just not true.

    We have no interest in Haiti, Africa in general, and countries like Mymar. We promote liberty and freedom because it is the core of who we are, not just to advance American interests.

    And Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of people to advance his dictatorship, so given the choice at least the US effort got them free. otherwise he would still be gassing Kurks and others and oppresing his people.

    you guys act like there is a 3rd choice where everyone plays nice and gets along. there are only bad choices here where people die. At least they can die for a good cause.

    Jon Reply:

    We have no interest in Haiti, Africa in general, and countries like Mymar.

    If you believe that, you’ll believe anything. A couple of examples from 30 seconds of Googling:

    “The U.S. tried to undermine Haiti’s oil deal with Venezuela in order to protect the vested interests of U.S. oil corporations.

    Under the Obama administration, the U.S. embassy worked with major textile companies to cap the minimum wage in Haiti at 31 cents per hour.

    Election monitors from the U.S. and the international community knowingly supported elections that did not remotely follow accepted democratic standards of procedure.”


    “Earlier this year the U.S. began lifting sanctions on the resource rich nation and companies like Chevron and GE have already applied for licenses to operate in Myanmar. Here’s a quick run down of why the U.S. is interested in the future of the nation: Oil and Gas, Jade, Teak, Political interest.”


    Alon Levy Reply:

    The US is silent on the ongoing massacres of the Rohingya in Burma. (Nor did the US do much when the junta was in power, except express moral condemnation.)

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    did the Swiss even express moral condemnation. Or where they too busy taking the money from the people doing the massacres?


    It must be real tiring counting all that money and washing off the blood.

    Jon Reply:

    We’re talking about the US, and your claim that the US has no interest in Haiti and Myanmar other than a noble desire to help those in need. The fact that the Swiss have also done terrible things is completely irrelevant to the point at hand.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    haiti and Myanmar could fall off the face of the earth tomorrow and it would have no effect on the US. Hence we have no vested interest in them. We help them because it is the right thing to do, but if Haiti decided to cut off relations with the US tomorrow (and Myanmar has had no relations with the US for decades) it would not effect hte US in any way

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If this is helping Haiti, I don’t want to know what you think hurting Haiti would be.

    Eric Reply:

    The “US” is not some monolithic entity. Most of Bush’s administration was interventionalist (more than Bush himself), while Obama is a de facto isolationist. There are both selfish and selfless arguments for each of those positions. Every such argument has been used, often sincerely, by different individuals.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The Bush administration was interventionist in countries the administration disliked, i.e. Iraq. Even then, there were complaints from certain corners of the human rights community that the US was doing nothing about Darfur. Obama is also interventionist based on US military objectives regarding Al Qaida. The only really high-profile difference is Iran, which McCain or Romney would probably have bombed by now. Maybe possibly Syria, but even there I’m not as sure; Syria has made the news a lot, but it’s not as big a strategic concern as Iran. Consider for example that Israel, which reliably parrots the same line as the hardliners in the US, keeps lobbying for war on Iran, but does nothing of the sort regarding Syria.

    And in the 80% of the world that isn’t Islamic, there’s practically no difference at all. The Second Congo War straddled the Clinton and Bush administrations. Neither even thought about sending troops. And African civil wars are less organized and worse-equipped than Middle Eastern ones, and the few times first-world countries did intervene (e.g. the UK in Sierra Leone), the rebellion disintegrated almost instantly.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There are differences between different African countries. I’m not surprised that UK intervention in Sierra Leone — where the current population are largely descendants of people settled there by the UK after being rescued from slave ships — was effective. US intervention in Somalia — in which the US has no historic connection, let alone a positive one — was, predictably, ineffective.

    ComradeFrana Reply:

    “1. Lybian rebeals received outside help from the US and NATO allies and overthrew a dictatorship relativly quickly with small to moderate loss of life.

    2. Syrian rebals have not received outside help and it has devolved to a stalemate war with 10s of thousands of deaths and no end in sight.

    Which would you prefer, because it is either 1 or 2. Without US involvement is 2. Is that really the world you want?”

    I’m sure aiding and arming jihadists (a significant portion of the Syrian and Libyan rebels) will sure keep “people, who only speak in terms of threats and violence” at bay.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Jihadists aren’t necessarily rebels, now that ISIS is more on Assad’s side than on the rebels’.

    Joe Reply:

    Tell me more about the people of Africa and how you want to help them.

    Here’s how I do: Http//www.One.org

    Send a selfie to congress, it’s nonpartisan.

    Joe Reply:

    We are not the world police. No one asked for us to police the world and yes the UN has a roll. Go ask Korea.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    we agree joe…no one asked us to do it. Its just a job a responsible world power has to take.

    And there has not been a successful peace action (or war) without US involvement since WWII, especially Korea

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The job of a responsible world power, like that of a responsible king, is to set up a parliament and then abdicate.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The US keeps trying to give it to the UN. They just have shown over and over that they don’t want the job. I mean both the extreme right and extremes left agree (for differnt reasons) the US should not be in the “world police” business, The problem is there is no viable alternative that does not involve the senseless slaughter of millions

    Alon Levy Reply:

    “Senseless slaughter of millions” like the Vietnam War, or like the Second Congo War?

    And no, the US isn’t trying to give international organizations any power. On the contrary. Consider the following:

    – US trade agreements are full of special rules protecting US corporations – medical patents being the prime example (as if the US respected other countries’ patents in the 19th century). Of the three major first-world economic blocs, only Japan writes clean trade agreements with poor countries.

    – The US has opposed giving more power to international courts in war crimes cases. Probably because it is the number one international war criminal as measured by body counts.

    – The US has avoided multilateral intelligence sharing of the kind done within the EU, preferring bilateral treaties in which it attempts to get as much and give as little as possible. That, and not actual concern about privacy, is why the non-English-speaking European countries haven’t joined the Five Eyes.

    – The US gives much less development aid per capita than the average first-world country, and much of its development aid is a tool of power rather than of aid – it goes to favored allies and not to the poorest countries.

    – Expressions of nationalism are far more acceptable in the US than in other developed countries (with some partial exceptions like Japan). The kind of nationalism Joe here espouses is limited to the extreme right in Europe.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    One more: the US is much more opposed to international climate agreements than the other two major first-world economic blocs, since it emits much more CO2 per capita and per unit of GDP. American leftists in the mold of Naomi Klein are actually hoping to use a climate agreement to deindustrialize growing third-world countries like Bangladesh; right-wingers make excuses and deny that there’s climate change, or blame it on sunspots, or say that it’s good for the world, or say it’s too expensive to do anything, or whatever else they can think of.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The US led the world in trade agreements. See NAFTA et al. Enforcing patents happen in every dvelopedc country, that is not unique to the US

    The US has not supported the international criminal court specifically because we are not going to give up sovereignty to a foreign body. I love how people call the US a war criminal, but then when we don’t intervene (say in Burma) they criticize that also. But it matters little, the court is a joke, see the Yugoslavia war crimes, the Africa war crimes, etc. They can’t even convict the few they do catch with unlimited evidence. Just more evidence the UN can’t do diddly.

    The US started NATO which shares intelligence across the whole alliance. And then you contradict yourself and say the Other countries would not share with us anyway because we don’t respect privacy. So we don’t share intelligence and other won’t share with us because we are evil. Pick a. Side.

    You know you are wrong on this one. The Us gives more aid per capita and more aid per GNP than any country. We find privately, not publicly like other countries. It’s all money so who cares if it comes from the government or the private sector. Bottom line, the US is the most generous nation on earth.

    I’m not sure your point on the last item. So the US is patriotic and proud of their country. Sounds good to me. We have a lot to be proud about.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    John, read Jagdish Bhagwati’s Termites in the Trading System. He explains how trade agreements written by the US (including NAFTA) and EU actually degrade the world trade system by creating slightly bigger closed blocs; he advocates global rounds of tariff reductions mediated by the WTO instead. When the US and EU do write trade agreements outside their comfort blocs, they write things like the TPP, which have little trade content and are more about enforcing special corporate privileges. He also notes that the emphasis on patents is specific to the US. The EU and Japan do not care as much; the EU instead tried to control its trade partners’ labor regulations, and Japan writes clean trade agreements.

    As for foreign aid, read any UN Development Report. The US ranks near the bottom in per capita aid. Pro-American magazines like to trumpet American private charity, which is very much not the same as targeted development aid, and is often purely feel-good. The wealthy in the US have more income than the wealthy of other developed countries, and so can splurge more on projects of limited use that make them feel powerful and magnanimous. It isn’t about generosity. People who give because they think that the poor deserve more money as of right are neutral as to whether they give individually or a government directs them to give. It’s only people who care about being seen as totally generous people who prefer the former to the latter.

    Finally, yes, the US is a nation of war criminals. I don’t know anyone who bases this assessment on the actual humanitarian interventions, like Libya, even the general anti-interventionists. No. We base this assessment on Iraq and Vietnam, and more recently on the admittedly lower-intensity air strikes in Yemen and Pakistan. Burma, Syria, the DRC, Darfur, and others just show US hypocrisy on this matter. They show the US acting as a monarch who will gladly dispatch armies to deal with threats to his power and kill many peasants on the way, but when peasants beg him to remove a violent lord who the monarch likes or is neutral about, he does nothing. The requests for intervention aren’t recognition of US legitimacy; they’re recognition of its power.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Read the link Alon. The US gives 3.5 times more per capita then the next closest country. So you can’t say it is wealthier, even adjusted for that it is a ton more. Who gives a shit WHY they give, they give and they give a lot. It does not fit into your hatred of America (a feeling you have expressed before, I believe the most recent post was “loathe”) but that does not make it any less true. The UN report only includes government giving which is specifically done to make the US look bad. Cut it any way you want, the Us is by far the most generous in the world.

    As for trade blocks and war criminals. We will agree to disagree. But if carpet bombing Japan and stating fire storms in Germany in WWII was not a war crime then nothing the US has done since then is even close. And if you believe that it was, then every country in the world is guilty of war crimes and the definition has no meaning.

    I know you admire the Swiss Alon. It must be nice to hide behind the veil of neutrality while others have to do the dirty work of actually trying to make an imperfect system work

    joe Reply:

    We give to the food bank because the GOP demanded cuts to the food stamp program.

    I suppose my Swedish counterparts are going to hell for not giving as much to fight hunger unless God understands that a national policy to not tolerate hunger is superior to a insufficient support and voluntary system.

    My free-to-go-hungry-every-one-for-themselves-best-nation-ever. Love it or leave it.

    joe Reply:

    The US is #1 tops in gifting money to store counter collection cups for life saving medical procedures.
    You know the Cups with the picture of the plucky kid who needs medical care or will die.
    s who work two jobs with 5 kids and cancer. We even hold car washes when they die so the family can afford to bury them.

    We rock.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Plenty of poverty outside Sweden. The US is giving to try and alleviate it. What are the Swedes doing. Because per person it is not impressive compared to the US.

    Not to mention it was a US citizen that created drought resistant crops that are responsible for saving 1 billon people from starvation.

    We did our part

    joe Reply:

    You must be real proud of yourself.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    John, your link discusses domestic charity. Domestic charity is irrelevant. By the standards of the median person, all Americans are fabulously rich, except for homeless people in places like Detroit, who are merely middle- to upper-middle-class. The US gives among the least in international aid, while Sweden gives among the most. See this list. The US gives $100 per capita and Sweden $500. Out of 24 developed countries, the US ranks 19th in official development aid as a percentage of GDP. Americans are very generous to other Americans, same way any hereditary aristocracy takes care of its own while the peasants starve.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    My link discusses all giving, Foreign and Domestic. But if you insist


    The US gives most of its aid privately, not just public aid. Stop quoting only government figures. Since private aid in other countries is almost non-existent it penalizes the US. The US gives the most aid (foreign and domestic, together or separate). Here is a link with more numbers. Private foreign aid outstrips official foreign aid


    And We are not even counting things like debt relief, investment, and the benefit of technology. Just gross aid.

    The proletariat and bourgeoisie speech went out with Lenin, Alon. The communists lost, sorry if I ruined your day.

    And Joe…I am proud to be an American. That is not a bad thing.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Wrong revolution. Peasants and aristocrats isn’t Lenin, it’s the French Revolution and the 1848 revolutions. Also kind of sort of the revolution the US traces itself to. The global bourgeoisie doesn’t live in the US. The global bourgeoisie lives in the cities of the low- and lower-middle-income world. If you want to see bourgeois people, go to Mumbai, and Bangkok, and Dhaka, and Sao Paulo, and Jakarta, and Johannesburg. Very, very different values from people whose main source of income is their citizenship and the high wages they get with it. The world’s becoming more middle-class as huge chunks of the third world no longer have to deal with colonialism and CIA coups and Cold War political fallout and can actually govern themselves. People who are emancipated from serfdom can do great things, and the US is doing everything in its power to put them back in serfdom; thankfully it doesn’t have that much power anymore. 2014 isn’t 1961.


    a) Your second link says, on PDF-p. 4, “Within this, giving to the international sector represents $19.1 billion.” That’s actually less than government aid in the US. Enough to raise the US from 19th place to 14th. Not as horrible, but still not great. The UN is begging first-world countries to raise ODA to 0.7% of GDP; the US isn’t even close.

    b) There’s a reason the OECD’s ODA only counts specific kinds of aid. It’s meant to exclude things that look like aid but aren’t, like if the US gives money to Egypt to buy American weapons. A lot of private giving is like that – tech companies give free samples of their own technology, which can be considered loss leaders, since if those countries get richer the people will be used to the technology and buy it. Ditto religious charities earmarked to their own members; if these count, then the top givers in the world are the Gulf states with their networks of Islamist welfare organizations.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Yeah Alon, the US really wants to see tons of poor people all over the world. You got us, this whole liberty and justice for all thing is a front. We really enjoy the huddled masses beating down the door and having to feed more than 1/2 the world. You saw through the ruse. You win.

    Table 2 page 5. Aid to developing countries 39 billion vs 30 billon government. Article even says private aid has eclipsed public aid

    And there are only a few countries that hit .7%. Even your precious Swiss miss that mark. Yet author example of the useless UN

    The reason the UN only counts government aid is because other than the US it is a good approximation of total aid and they never pass up a chance to try and make the US look bad. A dollar is a dollar private or public.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, the US wants to see people impoverished. Not directly, of course. But Mao and Lenin didn’t directly intend to cause mass starvation, and the British Empire didn’t intend to cause either the Irish Potato Famine or any of the Indian famines during colonialism. But Mao and Lenin did want to enact programs of collectivization that made famine almost inevitable, and the British Empire did want to turn Ireland and India into passive markets for British goods and this again made famine inevitable. As far as mass death goes, the US is a lot more Lenin, Mao, and the British Empire than Stalin and Hitler, who fully intended to exterminate the Ukrainians and the Jews.

    As for charity, look e.g. at table 5. As endnote 7 explains, the lower figure of $19 billion represents “giving to organizations working in international aid, development, or relief; those that
    promote international understanding; and organizations working on international peace and security issues. It also includes research institutes devoted to foreign policy and analysis, as well as organizations working in the domain of international human rights.”

    The higher figures includes things that aren’t actually aid. The highest figures the Hudson Institute promotes, in the hundreds of billions per year, include remittances by immigrants in the US and private investment for profit in its aid figures. But the Hudson Institute is anti-immigration, as can be seen in its articles on the subject here. There’s a reason I trust the OECD more than I trust right-wing thinktanks.

    You’re shifting goalposts by talking about Switzerland. Until I gave that link, you were talking about Sweden instead. Sweden exceeds the 0.7% target. Switzerland indeed does not – the first world is in general ignoring the requests of the international development community, which, lacking the firepower of national governments, can’t actually effect redistribution of income. Although, you never know, maybe if you include private giving then Switzerland does meet the 0.7% request?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I was not sifting the goalposts. Joe loves the Swedes, you admire the Swiss. Since I was arguing with you I talked about the Swiss. And you know full well that outside of the US, private giving, especially for foreign aid is unheard of and nonexistent.

    We are not going to agree on this Alon. A dollar is a dollar. The whole 39 billion helps them and is given as aid. Who cares if it is sent home by immigrants, it all counts. But that is not the point. Your original statement was the US gives “much less aid than the average first world country per capita”. Go ahead and scroll up to check yourself, I’ll wait….

    That is just not true. By your own calculations we are at 14. Which is middle of the pack. I think that understates the true US giving, but no matter,obviously not much less than average

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I admire Swiss rail construction. I do not admire the Swiss.

    And my original statement stands. Unless you have a source saying that private giving in all other OECD countries is zero, you’re comparing apples with oranges. Apples to apples, the US ranks 19th. Don’t like it? Find an alternate measure that applies to all countries equally. The Hudson Institute hacks have done nothing of the sort, instead trying to claim that remittances sent by people who they hate count as American generosity.

    Nathanael Reply:

    John, private giving for foreign aid is common and large in quantity in MANY MANY countries. Where do you get off claiming that it only happens in the US? That’s a seriously bigoted claim.

  14. jimsf
    Jan 23rd, 2014 at 08:51

    McClatchy Foreign Staff

    Imagine traveling between San Antonio, Texas, and the northern industrial hub of Monterrey in less than two hours on a high-speed rail link.

    Passengers would pre-clear customs and immigration at the respective terminals, making a border stop unnecessary.

    That’s the dream of Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, who last week brought Mexican officials and Texas Department of Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin to the office of U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to discuss the proposal.

    There is high traffic – both ground and air – between Monterrey and South Texas. Monterrey, after all, is Mexico’s wealthiest and most “Americanized” city. Many regiomontanos, as Monterrey residents call themselves, are for more likely to visit Texas than travel to Mexico City.

    Currently, it takes about five hours driving between San Antonio and Monterrey, that is, if there are no tie-ups at the border.

    According to this article about the meeting with Foxx, the project would be binational, but the Mexicans seem to be moving faster. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced a railway initiative on taking office on Dec. 1, 2012, and railway reforms before Congress may open up the sector to private investment.

    Cuellar’s plan got backing this week from Henry Cisneros, a four-time former mayor of San Antonio and former Cabinet member under President Bill Clinton.

    On a visit to Monterrey, a local newspaper quoted Cisneros as saying, “Anything we can do to strengthen the bonds of transportation, transportation systems at the border … is for the welfare of the region.”

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    yet another press release and a dream. If I write a press release for my Star Trek Transporter idea for instantaneous travel between NY and LA can I make the paper?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If you can pretend you’re a genius entrepreneur, then yes.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Ellison likes boats and Jobs is dead….

    Maybe Zuckerburg is looking for press….

    synonymouse Reply:

    And you cannot apparently talk Buffett into helping out the CSRM, which was the recipient of the two Santa Fe locomotives that were carefully taken care of for decades at Belen and are now rusting away in Sac.

    The Santa Fe moved them out of engine house every week to keep the bearings from going flat. Jerry(and Warren) cannot even find a roof to put over them.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Buffett is famously tight-fisted personally, and he also doesn’t believe in giving away the money of his corporation’s other stockholders for his personal preferences.

    He used to let stockholders choose what to allocate Berkshire Hathaway’s charitable contributions to. I think some Republican administration ruling made him stop doing that, so now Berkshire just doesn’t make those charitable contributions any more.

  15. synonymouse
    Jan 23rd, 2014 at 10:08

    The problem with stilts:


    The Cheerleaders and foamers need to deal with the fact that even Brutalist architects will with enough time turn on their offspring in the name of modernization and beautification.

    Maybe yuppies and gentrifiers in Albany, Daly City etc. will decide that blighting, screaming, screeching BART aerials have to go.

    Stupid Honolulu has opted to go Oakland with hollow core elevateds and steel rails. A tourist attraction that is so cheap they cannot find land for at grade? So they go ghetto.

    As for me I say LA is so far gone the Soto St. Bridge is harmless kitsch. Relay the PE line on it.

    And dispatch overhead wire phobic architects down to Guantanamo for some enhanced attitude adjustment.

    Eric Reply:

    So what do you recommend for high capacity urban transit? Elevated is too ugly and subway is too expensive. What’s left?

    synonymouse Reply:

    In the case of Honolulu grab some property for at grade – it is called eminent domain. Keep aerials to a minimum. But in their defense they did ace out Amalgamated.

    The Soto St. bridge seems pretty innocuous to me and minimal.

    Now BART is a celebration of everything hollow core. And let’s see if the new Bombardier cars are the noisiest of all. Apparently BART refuses to dump the Bechtelian aluminum hollow core wheels that have been nailed as the perps.

    synonymouse Reply:

    aluminum core – hold the hollow.

    PRE Reply:

    “Stupid Honolulu has opted to go Oakland with hollow core elevateds and steel rails. A tourist attraction that is so cheap they cannot find land for at grade? So they go ghetto.”

    Hey, you’re a jerk. Why don’t you go rant someplace else cuz all you and John Nachtigall do is kvetch. Why not find an anti-hsr blog and rant there?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    To paraphrase. You have to go preach where the sinners are. ;-)

    It would not be any fun to write where everyone agrees

    Nathanael Reply:

    Honolulu made a smart choice. Please look at where sea level is on the Hawaiian Islands and tell me which infrastructure is going to last longer…. elevated or ground-level.

  16. morris brown
    Jan 23rd, 2014 at 14:27

    An interesting article discussing a recent poll of California voters and their priorities.



    Relative to HSR note this:

    There is one other disconnect – and it’s an eye-opener as California has a reputation for wandering beyond the nation’s more centrist political mainstream. That disconnect: when asked to list their top priorities, Californians downplayed progressives’ most cherished ideas and ideals while giving voice to issues that don’t necessarily speak to expansive government or social engineering.

    Nearly three-fourths of the survey’s respondents (71%) rated strengthening the economy as California’s top priority. Finishing second and third: improving the job situation (70%) and balancing the state budget (64%). Improving education, despite the use of that topic in the 2012 election to justify higher taxes and, given the current state budget surplus, to justify new spending in 2012, placed a more distance fourth in the survey (50%), slightly ahead of reducing special interests’ influence (46%) and reforming the state’s tax system (45%).

    Indeed, growing the economy and holding a line on spending have been twin hallmarks of Brown’s at-time stodgy persona in this, his second turn as California’s governor. Ironically, it’s the progressive ideals his fellow Sacramento Democrats embrace that didn’t track very well. At the bottom of the Golden State Poll’s list of priorities: dealing with global warming (23%), strengthening gun laws (22%) and continuing California’s high-speed rail project (10%). Thus we have one final disconnect: despite this survey’s confirmation that the high-speed rail is fast becoming a toxic issue for California politicians, Brown continues to champion it, thereby risking his political legacy.

    On 10% of voters in California consider HSR a priority.

    I can only imagine how Robert would try to spin this as a positive of HSR; he will find a way, I guess.

    Resident Reply:

    Sure he will.. but I’ll do that for him with at least as much thought as he would…

    So there you have it.

    Joe Reply:

    Opponents of CA HSR should Stop losing elections.

    Gov Meg was gonna stop this boondoggle. What happened?

    Joe Reply:

    Maybe we should hold a state wide poll where people can debate and then decide on what direction and priorities are important.

    I propose we call these events “Elections”
    Looking back, When we hold these polls, HSR supporters win. Glad to know they support unpopular positions.

    Maybe you can text jerry brown to correct his misguided support for HSR before Meg Whitman declares her candidacy.

    StevieB Reply:

    Ten percent of one thousand participating in an online poll listed high-speed rail as a high priority. Seventy one percent listed strengthening the California economy as a priority yet high-speed rail is designed to strengthen the economy. This shows a lack of understanding of the goals and utility of high-speed rail which will require a greater effort of informing the general population. The only information most people have about high-speed rail is that opponents have brought suits which is repeated continually by the media.

    joe Reply:

    My top priority isn’t HSR. It wasn’t the top priority in the Gov’s speech.

    Polls shouldn’t show HSR as a top priority. Neither is stopping HSR a top priority.
    Supporting HSR doesn’t interfere with high priority items. It’s part of a statewide transportation system and important.

    Politicians who support HSR talk about it and win elections. Opponents rip on HSR and lose statewide elections.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Reforming, not stopping hsr, should be a top priority.

    Remember it was the machine bosses that started the CHSRA downfall by firing the smartest guy in the room for doing his job and doing right by his real bosses, the people of California.

    John Burrows Reply:

    California High Speed Rail is one “sacred cow” that Governor Brown is not going to shoot. And I would guess he is not unduly worried about his political legacy.

    synonymouse Reply:

    A sacred cow regularly milked by PB and Tutor, otherwise meandering around aimlessly leaving piles of dung.

    Eric Reply:

    That poll is comparing apples to oranges. Of course things that are “bigger picture” than HSR will score better. Duh. I can’t imagine something that would poll better than “strengthening the economy.” Despite the fact that california doesn’t have much control over the problems that are really plaguing the economy – loss of middle class wage jobs. Manufacturing used to be an American strength, but now labor costs are pushing it all overseas, and because of free trade rules that are national policy – neither of which california can change.

    Nathanael Reply:

    California could always secede. ;-)

    Nathanael Reply:

    Polls are hard to write well, and hard to read.

    Lots of people think they want the state to have a “balanced budget”. Nobody actually wants the state to have a balanced budget — whenever it actually happens, it causes a recession, so politicians get thrown out of office.

    There are other examples.

    Nathanael Reply:

    (For those wondering, it’s actually possible to have a balanced budget without triggering a recession, but only under two circumstances:

    (1) The budget is balanced entirely by taxing the rich
    (2) The budget is balanced because there’s some sort of bubble or mania going on in the financial markets, or some other similar windfall (striking gold, etc.)


  17. Reality Check
    Jan 23rd, 2014 at 23:56

    Loan for bullet train part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal
    California would lend $29 million to the High-Speed Rail Authority. Financing proposals for the project have raised concerns from lawmakers, including a key bullet train supporter.

    Under a little-noticed item in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget, the state would lend California’s bullet train agency $29 million to keep the project moving ahead amid increased uncertainty about the
    availability of future funding for the massive project.

    The proposed loan follows a similar $26-million advance last year from general government revenues that prompted some lawmakers to voice concern about the possibility that such lending would take money away from other high-priority projects.

    At a state Senate hearing last year, rail officials gave lawmakers assurances the state would prevail against legal challenges to the project and be able to repay the loan from $9 billion in voter-approved bonds designated specifically for the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco rail line.

    But access to that money was recently blocked by a Sacramento judge who found the state High-Speed Rail Authority failed to comply with legal restrictions on the bonds. In addition to the new $29-million loan, which would come from state transportation project accounts, the governor is asking for approval to direct $250 million from levies on greenhouse gases generated by businesses to the rail project.

    A key project supporter, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), has raised questions about the governor’s bullet train financing proposal and hasn’t indicated whether he will back the latest proposed loan. The state rail agency declined to comment on the loan and how it would be used.


    Elizabeth Alexis, a co-founder of a Bay Area group that has criticized the current project plan, said the governor’s proposed loan is risky because the state’s ability to repay it is uncertain. “They are doubling down on their bet,” Alexis said.

    joe Reply:

    29 Million dollars – “the governor’s proposed loan is risky because the state’s ability to repay it is uncertain.”


    The same Gov’s budget is paying back billions Gov Schwarzenegger borrowed to balance the budget.

    Brown is proposing that the state take a significant portion of the $6.6 billion in unexpected tax revenue and use it to retire debt. He earmarked $3 billion for the state’s debt to schools.

    “Paying off the remainder of budgetary borrowing should be the top priority of any new revenue received in the coming years,” Brown said in his budget.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The issue is that the loan is from the transit operating cost fund to the high speed rail bond fund. If the bond fund can’t issue any bonds, someone is left holding the bag. Is it the transit fund? Is it the general fund?

    The point is that legislators have looked at the money being spent on this as “free money”. It ain’t free money.

    There is also the minor detail that it is not clear if the hsr bond fund is allowed to borrow money. The Authority can – but having the bond fund borrow it, not the Authority itself has various California budget implications.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Just to be clear – if the money is loaned out of the operating cost fund, it can’t be spent on local transit.

    StevieB Reply:

    Risk implies exposure to the chance of loss. What is the risk in this $29 million loan?

    synonymouse Reply:

    I hope the entire $29million comes out of the BART subsidy and some Amalgamated spoiled brats lose their gravy overtime.

    Joe Reply:


    The state legislature is painfully aware there is no free money. That’s a dishonest characterization since they debate and agonize over spending cuts to balance the budget.

    Brown paid back billions Arnold borrowed in this budget proposal, he balanced the budget and has a surplus.

  18. Keith Saggers
    Jan 24th, 2014 at 07:26
  19. joe
    Jan 24th, 2014 at 07:44

    I was fascinated by this comment.

    Under a little-noticed item in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget, the state would lend California’s bullet train agency $29 million to keep the project moving ahead amid increased uncertainty about the availability of future funding for the massive project.

    Elizabeth Alexis, a co-founder of a Bay Area group that has criticized the current project plan, said the governor’s proposed loan is risky because the state’s ability to repay it is uncertain. “They are doubling down on their bet,” Alexis said.

    Risky because the state’s ability to pay it back is uncertain.

    1. there is a state budget surplus in the billions
    2. the gov’s budget pays back billions borrow by his republican predecessor
    3. the budget creates a rainy day fund
    4. if we really don’t fund and build HSR then that’s a thousand Bazillion dollars left for the state to pay back this massive 29 million loan.

    These ridiculous, fear mongering comments disappoint me. It’s why I can’t take what is said at face value. If the Authority is wrong for exaggerating then two wrongs do not make a right.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I responded above – not risky from the sense of California’s bond rating. Risky from the sense of taking money from local transit operating funds.

    Joe Reply:

    The risk of not being paid back is 0.0000

    We just pay back a couple million dollars this budget

  20. Keith Saggers
    Jan 24th, 2014 at 09:34

    California State Budget

    Rail Modernization — The Budget proposes $300 million in new funding
    for rail modernization; including $50 million for Caltrans and $250 million
    for the High‑Speed Rail Authority. This continues the work begun in 2012,
    when Chapter 152, Statutes of 2012 (SB 1029), provided $7.8 billion in state and
    federal funds to start construction of high‑speed rail and to modernize existing
    rail systems across the state. The $50 million in the Caltrans budget will fund
    competitive grants for existing rail operators to integrate rail systems and to
    provide connectivity to high‑speed rail. The program will be managed by the
    Transportation Agency, and the work of southern and northern California rail
    partner groups will be considered in making project selections

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The $250 is proposed to be spent on planning and construction- the consultants and contractors. The $29 million is for admin costs – money to keep the lights on and pay staff. Federal money does not cover this.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    An updated Business Plan is expected in spring 2014

  21. Elizabeth
    Jan 24th, 2014 at 13:59

    CHSRA issues RFP to buy 15 trainsets THIS YEAR



    Elizabeth Reply:

    To view actual RFP docs

    The username to access the RFP files is: ftp_HsrRfp001
    The password to access the RFP files is: amtrakrfp1

    Elizabeth Reply:

    “Please note that if a common platform does not pass Stage 1, the procurement may
    proceed as an Amtrak-based procurement. In this case, an Amendment to the Solicitation
    may be issued advising Offerors that the Authority is no longer a part of the Solicitation
    and that the need for a common platform no longer applies.”

    okay makes sense now

    synonymouse Reply:

    So this means PB-CHSRA participation in a joint procurement would be summarily and quietly voided?

    Elizabeth Reply:


    synonymouse Reply:

    Not to belabor, but if all bidders only submitted tenders for the Amtrak 160mph fleet, PB-CHSRA would be outta there? No pressure, not prejudice, no recriminations?

    T’would appear to this rank amateur observer some scuttlebutt has come back from the prospective suppliers and damage control is being activated.

    Eric Reply:

    wouldn’t mind Siemens getting that contract…that would mean a lot of jobs in sacramento!

    synonymouse Reply:

    What if only one bids on the California “specials” – say Bombardier – and it is higher than Siemens?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What happens when the vendors reply “get back to us when you have decided on a platform height and a loading gauge”

    Nathanael Reply:

    It’ll be the Northeast Corridor platform height and loading gauge.

    Joe Reply:

    It would mean jobs.

    Certainly the auto industry is an example where the Japaneae were forced to manufacture here and established facilities to assemble cars.

    Now the highest US content vehicles are Toyota Camry.

    The NUMMI factory producing hugy reliable Corollas and GM cars is now making Tesla’s with that same labor force and machinery.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Baltimore Sun:Amtrak in market for dozens of high-speed trains

    The company issued a request Friday for proposals to supply it with 28 high-speed train sets, each with the capacity to carry between 400 and 450 passengers and the ability to match or exceed Acela speeds — to about 160 mph — on Amtrak’s existing Northeast Corridor infrastructure.

    “With packed trains and increasing demand, the need to expand the capacity of Amtrak’s high-speed service cannot be overstated,” said Joseph Boardman, Amtrak’s president and CEO, in a statement. “It is absolutely critical that we get more high-speed trains as soon as possible to provide more service and meet the growing mobility and economic needs of the Northeast region.”

    Amtrak issued its request for proposals along with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which wants 15 train sets with the capacity to carry at least 450 passengers and the ability to travel at least 200 mph, to operate between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Amtrak and the California authority combining their requests will “generate economies of scale and make it more attractive for high-speed rail manufacturers to build factories here in the USA, bringing new high-quality jobs and creating ripple effects throughout our domestic supply chain,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo in a statement.

    Amtrak, in its announcement, said the goal of its purchase is “to identify whether established high-speed rail equipment manufacturers have service-proven designs that can meet both the short-term needs of Amtrak and the long-term operational needs of the Authority and Amtrak with little or no modification.”

    The company also hopes the “joint procurement” will result in “lower unit acquisition and life cycle costs for both Amtrak and the Authority, while helping expand the U.S. role in high-speed rail equipment manufacturing.”

    Only existing high-speed rail equipment manufacturers with equipment in operation for at least two years are eligible to submit a bid, Amtrak said. Bids are due May 17.

    A winning bidder will be selected this year, Amtrak said.

  22. Keith Saggers
    Jan 24th, 2014 at 14:26
  23. Reality Check
    Jan 24th, 2014 at 18:26

    Brown petitions California Supreme Court to overturn HSR rulings

    The petition seeks an expedited review and asks the court to overturn two decisions that prevented the state from selling $8.6 billion in voter-approved bonds. The lower-court rulings also require the high-speed rail authority to write a new financing plan.

    The governor, the rail authority and the state treasurer argue that the rulings prevent California from quickly starting construction on the $68 billion project and could hurt the state’s ability to finance other voter-approved projects in the future.

    “The trial court’s approach to these issues cripples government’s ability to function,” the 49-page filing says. “The rulings thwart the intent of the voters and the Legislature to finance the construction of high-speed rail, and do so in a manner that has implications for other important infrastructure projects.”


    Stuart Flashman, one of the attorneys for the Central Valley landowners who sued the rail authority, called the state’s request to the high court “mind-boggling.”

    “They’re basically saying the courts have no right to do anything to stop this project,” Flashman said. “When you think about it, it’s incredibly disrespectful to the judiciary, very in-your-face, just — ‘Shut up and let us go do what we want.'”

  24. JB in PA
    Jan 27th, 2014 at 12:54

    Hyper loop predecessor?


  25. JB in PA
    Jan 27th, 2014 at 12:58

    “The test track, completed ten months later, was used to develop and evaluate -> sophisticated <- new design concepts for BART's transit car and automatic train control system."


Comments are closed.