California Republicans Show Their True Colors on Rail

Feb 6th, 2014 | Posted by

In a move that was as predictable as the sun rising in the east, California Assembly Republicans have proposed to ask voters to redirect the high speed rail funds to freeway lanes:

Under the plan announced by a group of Republicans, voters would be able to decide whether to channel $8.5 billion in bond money, endorsed by voters via a 2008 ballot initiative, towards local transportation infrastucture projects….

In addition to redirecting the high-speed rail money, the Republican package of four bills would dedicate up to $2.5 billion of a newfound state surplus to paying off transportation loans; ensure billions in fuel tax money flows annually into local infrastructure projects, per the terms of Proposition 42; and compel the state to repay $2.5 billion in gasoline tax revenue diverted elsewhere during lean budget years.

Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, whose district includes Visalia – a city that strongly support HSR because of the benefits they know it will bring – emphasized that roads were what they had in mind when they referred to local projects:

“Californians are fed up with the broken promises of high-speed rail and they should have the final say on its future,” said Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, of Tulare. “Our proposal would ask the people to decide whether high-speed rail dollars should be used to build or repair roads, highways, bridges and ports and create 108,000 jobs from Red Bluff to San Diego – or whether we should continue to throw money at the ‘Little Engine That Could.’”

Republicans are hanging their hat on this 2011 Transportation Needs Assessment conducted for the California Transportation Commission, which lists several unmet needs around the state. But the report includes high speed rail as a key need, points out that it meets the metrics laid out in state policies like SB 375 – including CO2 reduction and economic activity generation.

That report also shows, on page 27 of the pdf, that vehicle miles traveled has been in decline in California for nearly 10 years, and has been stagnant since the early part of this century. VMT is similar to ridership for a rail system. And if VMT is going down, then it raises serious questions as to whether new freeway infrastructure is needed – not to mention the cost in oil consumption or CO2 emissions.

Republicans don’t care about any of those things, of course. They’re all for high oil prices, since oil companies are a key part of their financial base. As a result of that, Republicans don’t care about climate change, because doing something about it would offend their donors. And they don’t believe freeway lanes need to be subjected to the kind of hard or close analysis they have insisted HSR be held to.

California does need to do more to maintain its existing roads. But it also needs to do more to expand transit systems, including HSR, as the 2011 report indicated. The Republican solution is to defund rail and plow the money into roads. That’s moronic. The better answer is to raise taxes to fund road repairs as well as transit, from local buses to high speed rail and everything in between.

Because Republicans are a fringe political party in California, this proposal will not go anywhere. And that’s good, it’s a retrograde concept that would make most of California’s problems much worse. But Democrats do need to address the state’s transit and maintenance needs. Hopefully this will remind them of the need to get cracking on that solution.

  1. joe
    Feb 6th, 2014 at 21:52
    #1

    The CA GOP wants to spend Brown’s surplus and borrow billions to create jobs building infrastructure. That’s real progress on the debate. No more austerity.

  2. Resident
    Feb 7th, 2014 at 00:27
    #2

    You really do have to wonder why these moron republicans don’t stop and think about the logical play out of this stunt. They recognize that people will vote to stop HSR, but they force them to connect that to handing over billions to another set of crooks. The obvious result is a big NO, which only serves to have people like Robert calling it a mandate to keep stealing money for HSR. Its no wonder that the republicans are going nowhere fast in California. They could probably turn things around if they got some grownups to do some strategizing for them.

  3. 202_cyclist
    Feb 7th, 2014 at 04:47
    #3

    Well, this is progress. At least the CA Republicans aren’t asking voters to use the high speed rail money to invade another Middle East country.

    202_cyclist Reply:

    Also, vehicle miles traveled has declined every year for the past 7-8 years and the Highway Trust Fund is completely broke and requires billions of dollars of subsidies every year. Where is the business plan!?!?!?!? Boondoggle!!!!!!!!

    Resident Reply:

    Where’s the law that requires a business plan?

    Joe Reply:

    Exactly!

    Resident Reply:

    Maybe you should put an initiative on the ballot requiring road projects to have a business plan, a funding plan and operate free of subsidy – that will solve your perception of unfair treatment of HSR vs roads. The reason these things are required of California HSR is because the proponents wrote these things in to a law that they then served up to voters. Wonder why they felt compelled to do such a stupid thing.

    morris brown Reply:

    @resident:

    http://www.hsr.ca.gov/About/Business_Plans/index.html

    The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) is required by Public Utilities Code 185033 to prepare, publish, adopt and submit a business plan to the California Legislature every two years. The Authority’s business plan is an overarching policy document used to inform the Legislature, the public, and stakeholders of the project’s implementation, and assist the Legislature in making policy decisions regarding the project.

    The 2014 business plan is supposed to be published today (2/7/2014)

    Resident Reply:

    Hi Morris,

    Sorry my sarcasm in that question didn’t come through – I was actually asking 202_cyclist where’s the law that requires roads/highways to have a business plan – point being, there isn’t one. They always resort to whining about the different standard that CAHSR is held to compared to roads/highways. But as you kindly point to the evidence – there IS a law on the books that defines these business plan requirements, and all the other requirements, that have created this frankly unattainable bar for HSR.

    If they don’t like it I guess they have two options – one would be to go get a law passed requiring same high bar for spending on roads, and/or secondly they could go ask their best friends who pushed Prop1A so hard why they were stupid enough to set that unattainable bar and vote for it.

    Bottom line – this lame ongoing excuse for why HSR should have to meet such high standards: “Highway Trust Fund is completely broke and requires billions of dollars of subsidies every year. Where is the business plan!?!?!?!? Boondoggle!!!!!!!!” Is a total crock of crap.

    And thanks for the link, and I didn’t realize the new BP was being published today.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The public likes freeways because most anybody can use them anytime – no $200k/yr Amalgamated-BLE-UTU chauffeur required. Build one and it fills up.

    Get used to it – the politicians have. The smartest approach is for rail people to try to secure the most funding and spend it very, very wisely. No f*****g Mojave detours.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Sorry I did not mean to snub the TWU by omitting them.

  4. Ted Judah
    Feb 7th, 2014 at 07:36
    #4

    There was a ballot measure circulating last month to hike the VLF to pay for more road construction. But even after Will Kempton joined the payroll, the measure was taken off the ballot. Now, the CA GOP is just looking for ways to recoup that money because cities are starting to starve on Brown’s bread and water diet for them.

    This is a two front attack though and isn’t going away: Sacramento Republicans urge diverting Prop 1A money to other transportation modes; Congressional GOP members urge shifting CA’s USHSR program funds to Acela and the Northeast Corridor….

  5. Eric
    Feb 7th, 2014 at 09:21
    #5

    we could spend 2.5 billion on road maintenance alone and not add a single lane-mile.

    What is needed is an increase in the motor fuel tax. add 1 cent a month per gallon for 24 months, with a 2 cent increase the first month. That’s a 25 cent increase over 2 years. If there is an increase in Federal Fuel taxes in the first 5 years, the new tax is lowered by the same amount. Any increase in the federal fuel tax from 5 years to 10 years will be met with a lowering of the new tax by half of the federal increase. Beyond 10 years the fuel tax will remain unchanged if the federal tax is increased.

  6. jimsf
    Feb 7th, 2014 at 09:51
    #6

    With a 140 mile round trip commute I would vote against any increase in gas taxes. However I would suggest that any new freeway lanes built in california be mandated to be toll/express lanes. I think enough people would pay to use those lanes ( for the most part, new lanes are going to be built in the most congested areas…) that would make any new lanes pay for themselves. That offers congestion relief while offsetting the cost.

    I still propose making the i-5 brom border to border a tolled premier express transportation corridor as well. toll it heavily, but make it state of the art express passenger vehicle and trucking.

    To help repay the hsr bonds, once service begins, add a ten dollar facilities fee to each ticket sold to go directly to bond repayment.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    I strongly endorse a significant hike in the gas tax for no reason other than the fact that people are driving 140 miles round trip.

    jimsf Reply:

    That isn’t going to keep people from driving. Its just going to take money out of another part of the economy as they cut back on other things. And as long as wages and housing costs are unbalanced, people are going to buy homes where they can afford them. And as long there aren’t any good paying jobs in areas that have affordable housing, then people will drive to where good jobs are.

    And as long as there isn’t good transit serving communities of all sizes all over california, then people will have no choice but to drive.

    Adam Tauno Williams Reply:

    This thinking makes every problem a completely intractable chicken-n-egg problem. Any real-world system must be built incrementally, and usage will grow in pulses. It is also not the purpose of the system to ‘keep people from driving’ – the purpose is options, to make driving non-mandatory. Transit utilization growth deomstartes that some people will use that option.

    In my little ‘toy’ city lots of people say “nobody uses the RAPID” because they don’t use it – possibly because it does not surve them well. But it hosted 13 MILLION trips in 2013. That is a lot of nobody. and every investment is followed by a surge of utilization – which reduces the ‘nobody’ count. Is the RAPID a pain sometimes – yes, does weekend and evening service suck – yes. But less than it did three years ago – and more people use it. This shouldn’t be shocking to anyone. This year a BRT line starts and there is a streetcar taskforce. Come back in 2015… I’ll bet there are more than 15 million trips.

    jimsf Reply:

    Id be happy to commute to work by bus from pollock pines to davis. and there is some transit in the area, but transit, where it does exist, it designed to serve 9-5 types. for those of us who work odd shifts, nights, weekends, and unpredictable hours ( I never know when when I will actually be off work) the transit doesn’t work. Hourly 24 hour service throughout california, corner to corner, would allow for a DRAMATIC shift in how californians travel. But that would cost. Big cost, but big results because it would really allow californians to be much more free of their cars.

    But you can’t punish people for not conforming to one persons idea of how people should live ( stacked on top of each other in crime infested ghettos)

    And homeownership remains the last, best way for working class people to gain enough retirement security in a system the otherwise throws you to the wolves when you get old.

    blankslate Reply:

    Do you live in Pollock Pines and commute to Davis? That kind of blows up your entire argument about housing costs/wages being the sole reason for you 70 mile commute (2 posts up). I can think of plenty of places with affordable housing that are less than 70 miles from Davis: Woodland, Dixon, Vacaville, several neighborhoods in Sacramento, Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, etc…

    Nathanael Reply:

    Grand Rapids is undergoing a culture change away from the “car culture”. It probably helped that is was never a car manufacturing city (in contrast to most of Michigan).

    I visited Lansing and Grand Rapids, Michigan. this winter. While I liked the people I met in Lansing, I disliked Lansing. Grand Rapids… well, it was actually fun. Somehow the culture is different: more in favor of walking, stuff like that.

    Joey Reply:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m estimating your commuting costs to be about $1500/month (including maintenance). If you put more of that money into housing and less into commuting, how much closer could you live? How many hours per day would it free up?

    blankslate Reply:

    You could rent a two bedroom condo with a small yard right in Davis for that amount of money.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Within walking distance of the Davis Amtrak station where jimsf would be working for that matter.

    jimsf Reply:

    why would I rent? The point is to buy.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Depends, doesn’t it? In Ithaca, NY, for a while the downtown housing market has had a supply shortage. Due to a lack of new construction, prices shot through the roof, and the premium for living downtown could be very high — if you can even find a listing. (The most recent government has started backing the construction of high-rises and mid-rises and so the market should loosen up a bit.) So people who move in move to distant areas or live in rental rooms for high prices.

    In Michigan — and to be fair, in some parts of upstate NY — there seems to be more of a “culture of driving”, where people just think nothing of going long distances, even if there *is* housing closer to downtown. I think this culture is beginning to fade away because gas prices are *still high*. But it’s fading away faster in NY than in Michigan.

    In Michigan, the centrality of car manufacturers to the economy probably encouraged people to spend more on driving and less on housing than is sensible or normal.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s socially acceptable to walk in Upstate New York. Partly because lots of Upstate New York was settled when the high speed transportation was a canal boat pulled by a mule… when I was on business trips in downtown Rochester we would walk to lunch. It didn’t occur to anyone to drive. I thought it was really odd that they paid attention to the walk/don’t walk signs. They thought it was odd that I didn’t want mustard on my burgers or mayonnaise on my hoagie. And that I called it a hoagie.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Why do you call it a hoagie? I thought that word was just Philly, not Newark.

    jimsf Reply:

    the cost is nowhere near that. its 16 dollars a day x 4 days a week. and an hour each way. half of which is a lovely drive. you couldn’t pay me to live in sac. giant ghetto. and because they did not complete their freeway system in the 70s, (i think that is when brown halted it or maybe that was a local decision) but because its incompete, the whole city turns to gridlock at rush hour because the surface streets are over loaded. Its an absolute nightmare. An hour south is stockton, gross. and hour west are the bay areas overpirced deteriorating out burbs, and hour north is real nice but an hour east is nicer with better long term investment outlook. Not to mention zero crime, fresh air, safe, just a few people, and plenty of peace and quiet. I already did the urban, small footprint, thing for longer than many of you have been alive. AT 50, and only owned a car for two years. And since SF has been overrun, and ruined, the pristine hill of childhood seemed like a nice place to land. Homes in Davis start well above 300k. I looked there first. I got a 3/2 on a half acre for 135k with only one neighbor. Can’t beat it with a stick.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    16 dollars a day in gas. Unless someone is giving you a car, maintenance and insurance it’s costing more than 16 bucks a day.

    Derek Reply:

    And depreciation, and registration, and loan payments, and the opportunity cost of capital.

    jimsf Reply:

    not accurate. car is paid for. gets 30 mpg consistently. average 32,000 miles per year or 1066 gallons of gas at $3.4 per gallon. ( right now I get it for 3.25) 3626/365= $9.93 per day. add registration 100, and 400 in maintenance = 4126/365= 11.30 per day. That includes commuting, and leisure driving.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Only $400 in maintenance isn’t going to cover it with that rate of driving.

    jimsf Reply:

    yes it does.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    No, seriously, you’re going to be spending a hell of a lot more on maintenance than what you’re currently budgeting. I’ve dealt with cars for significantly longer than you have, $400 really isn’t going to cover things, especially with the miles that you put on it. For example, if your transmission dies at 150,000 miles, that’s easily at least $3,000 in repairs, which exceeds your notional maintenance budget by 50%, assuming no other maintenance expenses in the meanwhile (rather unlikely). Going off AAA’s methodology, you ought to be budgeting about $1,600 per year for maintenance.

    jonathan Reply:

    @Paul:

    Drive a manual transmission. Then your transmission can last 300,000 miles.
    And iif it does die, and you buy a popular car, you can get a used transmission installed for much less than $3,000. Depending on how well you drive ,you might need a new clutch or two in that time.

    if himsf does *all* his oil changes, plug changes, brake flushing, etc; changes his own disc pads; and values his own time at zero, and makes very informed (or very lucky) purchases, then he *might* get away with $400/yr. But not if he’s paying someone to do them.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    A nice used car every four years is costing you ten cents a mile. ( $12,000 of car for 120,000 miles. You buy it for 15k and sell it for 3k. ) so in your 140 mile commute you are using up 14 dollars worth of car. How much is insurance every year divided by 32,000? Lets keep it simple and say that your insurance is 320 a year. that’s a penny a mile and a 140 mile commute is costing you a buck forty. If it’s 640 a year that’s 2 cents a mile and your commute is costing $2.80 in insurance.

    Your maintenance estimate is too low. 32,000 a year is at least four oil changes at 20 bucks a pop. That’s 80 bucks right there. 32k a year means you are buying new tires every two years. At least 200 a year for tires, probably more. The exhaust system needs to be replaced after you’ve owned the car for three years at $600 that’s 150 a year, since you sell every four years. If it only costs 300 that’s 75 a year. You haven’t changed the coolant, replaced the windshield wipers or looked at the brakes. I suspect that in 120,000 miles of driving there’s gonna be a brake job in there someplace. 120,000 miles there’s gonna be a tune up. You might get lucky and not need any suspension work. On the other hand after 120,000 miles you probably will.

    Nice easy to figure number if you buy used cars, not new cars, is 25 cents a mile. 140 miles is $35. Using your car is costing you 150 bucks a week.

    jimsf Reply:

    I paid 5000 cash. And I know what I spend on the car.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    It’s not just what you have spent, it’s also what you will need to spend. Budgets are forward looking.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    you didn’t get a 2 year old car with 30,000 miles on it for $5,000. Get 100,000 miles out of it and thats five cents a mile. 140 miles is seven bucks.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    you didn’t get a 2 year old car with 30,000 miles on it for $5,000. Get 100,000 miles out of it and thats five cents a mile. 140 miles is seven bucks.

    I’m mildly curious as to how he found a car for only $5K period. Given used car prices down here, that sounds like beater car off craigslist.

    jimsf Reply:

    look I know what I spend on the car. Perhaps I got very lucky with this one. ( The mechanics who have seen the car say so) But I got it for 5k, from a dealer, with 113k on it. and I know how much I have put into it and I know what I spend on gas insurance and registration. I aint made of money and if it were too expensive I wouldn’t be doin what Im doin right hello? What allows me to live a little further away is the fact that I work 4 ten hour shifts, not 5 8 hour shifts. That made the diff. And the car only has to last two more years. After that the husband will be working and money will be no object. so get off my back.

    No new taxes.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    A really quick surf through Sacramento Craigslist…. $5000 gets you a car with 100,000 miles on it…He gets real lucky and gets another 100,000 out of it without major repairs. At 200,000 miles it needs suspension work, a new exhaust system and tires. He sells it to the scrapper because the scrapper will give him more money for it than any one else. It costs him five cents a mile to use it….
    He gets unlucky and it needs an engine overhaul at 150k because the previous owner never changed the oil and it costs him ten cents a mile.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Just a note: in the US, cars are effectively uninsured. The minimum is far lower than the imputed damages to people in case of a car accident. In Canada, where the insurance requirement has a much higher minimum, insurance costs several times as much.

    jimsf Reply:

    I carry maximum not minimum you’d be crazy not too.

    Derek Reply:

    [A significant hike in the gas tax] isn’t going to keep people from driving. Its just going to take money out of another part of the economy as they cut back on other things.

    That is correct. The money will stay and circulate in the local economy instead of going to gasoline-producing states and countries.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Indeed Derek. And the price increase should damp down demand which will lead the underlying (pre-tax) price to ease a little.

    jimsf Reply:

    no, the opposite is true. people will continue to drive at the higher prices, spending more on gas, leaving fewer monthly dollars leftover to spend in the local economies, ( shopping, movies, dining, etc will be cut back)

    Derek Reply:

    Are you saying the demand for gasoline is perfectly inelastic?

    jimsf Reply:

    no it is elastic. but most people have to drive whether they want to or not. Its the other discretionary spending that gets cut first.

    I will say this, I am amazed at the number of people I see still driving huge vehicles. The number of trucks and suvs, and not the new small ones, but the tahoes and suburbans, and navigators, etc, well norcal roads are chock full of them. I really don’t know how they afford the gas…. and always with only one person in them. ( and that person most of the time is female on a phone who can’t drive)

    Derek Reply:

    So, increasing the gasoline tax will reduce some discretionary driving.

    Where does the increased gasoline tax revenue go if not the local economy?

    jimsf Reply:

    if you raise the tax and reduce the driving its a wash. but if there were increased revenues they would evaporate into the sacramento political abyss.

    no more statwide tax increases. only local or regional taxes per those populations agreed upon wishes.

    Derek Reply:

    How about raising that gas tax and lowering the sales tax to prevent any money from disappearing down that political abyss?

    jimsf Reply:

    keep the gas tax, sales tax, and property tax as is. Charge a steep entry impact fee per person moving into the state to cover the increased services, use local taxes and developer fees for infrastructure and schools. and stop spending money on everything else.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    that’s gonna make the birth rate plummet.

  7. Paul Druce
    Feb 7th, 2014 at 10:01
    #7

    That report also shows, on page 27 of the pdf, that vehicle miles traveled has been in decline in California for nearly 10 years, and has been stagnant since the early part of this century. VMT is similar to ridership for a rail system. And if VMT is going down, then it raises serious questions as to whether new freeway infrastructure is needed – not to mention the cost in oil consumption or CO2 emissions.

    Wouldn’t that imply that California HSR will not, in fact, reduce or eliminate highway construction, since there is no increase in VMT to divert to rail instead of highway?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If the population increases there will be more vehicles.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    California’s population has been increasing already however yet there remains this drop.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The drop is due to the general and progressive impoverishment of the population. It is now a virtual economic ghetto for the masses. The idiocy of the GOP in their adulation of the rich is matched by the stupidity of the kumbayas who fail to grasp the downside of exploding taxation. They fail to even understand that without Prop 13 many people of humble means would be forced out of California. That was totally unintentional as the business interests could not figure out a way to keep their benefits from accruing to the average homeowner.

    And the Demos fail to grasp how local bureaucrats keep bloating their budgets to match whatever money they can get their hands on. They’ll exploit any and every opportunity to add more staff and raise their compensation. Rizzo of Bell was just being out front. If the rains do return that will mess up the various water departments plan to jack rates and accord all their functionaries a nice raise.

    That’s why I vote no on everything nowadays. I would vote no on the GOP’s freeway proposal, but it would still pass. You are forgetting Demos too like the freeway lobby. Barbara Boxer always manages to fund more highway funds to keep the Ghilotti Bros. busy.

    synonymouse Reply:

    find more highway funds

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They fail to even understand that without Prop 13 many people of humble means would be forced out of California.

    Yet people in the other 49 states don’t have that problem. They’ve figured out ways to achieve that end without giving tax breaks to corporations. Corporations never die. Union Pacific’s taxes, in 2276 will be based on their assessment in the 20th Century. Meanwhile everybody who owns a house will have their assessment based on the purchase price in the 23rd century.

    Derek Reply:

    Because of Prop 13 and because I purchased my condo recently, I pay almost five times as much in property taxes as my neighbor who has been there since 1978. Therefore, Prop 13 forces people of humble means out of California.

    synonymouse Reply:

    As time goes by you will catch up unless there is a 2007 type real estate collapse. I am still under the water on the RoPo house bought in that year. Prop 13 is not perfection but it is so much better than the alternative: out of control assessors and spendthrift functionaries and unions. Your “five times as much in property taxes” would be doubled. I am not shitting you: in other states the property tax absolute rate is much higher. The only way the locals can survive is that the valuations are a fraction of California’s. That change is what spawned Prop 13. Be careful you have it and protect – it was not intended to happen for the lumpen.

    Meanwhile, “progressives”, beware of nouveau riches and petits bourgeois:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140206082330.htm

    Don’t sell your property – buy carefully for the future and never buy a rental you could not live in yourself. You might have to.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Uh, try be thankful you have it and careful to protect it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    also nouveaux riches. duh

    Derek Reply:

    I can appreciate not wanting to force established residents to cash out their millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars in windfall profits and move to quarters more appropriate for their income, but there can be only one purpose for setting the annual assessment increase limit below the normal rate of inflation: to give Prop 13 a greater chance of passing by giving voters the opportunity to vote themselves generous gifts from their children and grandchildren.

    synonymouse Reply:

    “quarters more appropriate for their income”

    That’s a remark right out of the mouth of Ronnie Reagan, Arthur Laffer, or Jack Kemp.

    You’re a haughty Republican and did not even know it.

    Derek Reply:

    Those who benefit the most from Prop 13 tend to be the wealthiest.

    Now what am I?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The businesses benefit the most but they are untouchable. Do you really thing any rescinding or reforming of Prop 13 would not see them on top again, and probably more so?

    Look at the handle the wretched Tejon Ranch has on Jerry Brown. Now contemplate the raw political leverage the likes of PG&E, the UP or BNSF, Chevron, Apple-Google, the Resnicks et al, etc., etc. have on the Burton machine.

    The average clod got lucky with Prop 13. Be happy and adjust to it. And hope equity inflation starts up again. And avoid condos if at all possible.

    synonymouse Reply:

    think

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and preserving their property tax assessments in amber makes them slaves to the house they bought 40 years ago when they are young and healthy and could do things like mow the lawn. If they move their property taxes skyrocket.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I love the house I bought 35 years ago and so do my kids.

    Avoid tracts; avoid condos

    Nathanael Reply:

    Nobody except big businesses got lucky with Prop 13. It was also unconstitutional, because the 2/3 rule is a revision to the state Constitution, not an amendment. (Under California’s arcane distinctions.)

    I suppose nobody with standing has taken that case to the California Supreme Court — probably only the state legislature has standing.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Nobody except big businesses got lucky with Prop 13. It was also unconstitutional, because the 2/3 rule is a revision to the state Constitution, not an amendment. (Under California’s arcane distinctions.)

    I suppose nobody with standing has taken that case to the California Supreme Court — probably only the state legislature has standing.

    Amador Valley Joint Union High School District v. State Board of Equalization ruled in 1978 that Proposition 13 didn’t amount to a revision.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If my property tax rate is 5% and my assessment is 100,000 my property tax bill is $5,000
    If my property tax rate is 2% and my assessment is 250,000 my property tax bill is $5,000.

    His five times as much property tax would be lower because the people who bought in 1978 and 1988 and 1998 and 2008 would be paying the same property tax. If you are worried about widows and children being forced out of their houses by high property taxes there are better ways of ameliorating that than giving property tax breaks to Union Pacific and Walmart and Bank of America and 7-11 and …

    synonymouse Reply:

    Everything would be re-assessed – at about 150% of the real value – who’s going to be able to challenge or stop the patronage machine assessor? Remember the bosses control the courts. Multiple the tax rate up to what a high maintenance but declining revenue state would get away with. Say Ohio with a typical value at less than $100,000.

    You’d be looking at phenomenal tax bills and many if not most would simply have to sell and leave the State. Of course, the machine would not care – they’d rather have cash overseas buyers in anyway and the working slobs on welfare and in hovels, indebted to the machine and where they can be easily managed. panem et circenses

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    it works out fine in the other 49 states. What’s so special about California other than Howard Jarvis hoodwinked you into believing giving Union Pacific tax breaks was a good idea?

    synonymouse Reply:

    In LA they were selling good assessments.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You have cite for that? I wanna know how I can sell my assessment to someone else without attracting the attention of the tax collector.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I believe the Assessors name is/was Noguera, and I believe currently under indictment. My presumption is that somebody above him was replaced and wanted his guy in the job or he he had slighted some powerful civilian.

    Wave of the future: sell visas, green cards, assessments, handicapped placards – hey, bring in the zillionaires.

    To quote Henry Hill: “It was[is]a great time to be a wiseguy.”

    Elizabeth Reply:

    For those of you not from California, you may not understand’s syn’s cryptic message.

    Prop 13 was one part people who don’t like government, one part reaction to a well-meaning but disastrous attempt to reform school financing and one part a well-founded reaction to a system of unaccountable special districts.

    It has been a truly terrible thing for California. Instead of fixing the issues with school financing and the special districts, it made these issues far, far worse.

    These districts, even if they are no longer doing anything, still get exactly the same share of property tax revenues that they received in 1978 and operate in the virtual shadows. Talk about unaccountable!

    This 2000 report http://www.lhc.ca.gov/lhc/155/report155.pdf describes the situation, which is still basically unchanged.

    Because of the nature of who votes and who benefits from prop 13 (long time residents benefit the most, long time residents vote and the benefits essentially never go away – your grandkids can inherit your low tax rate), it is incredibly unlikely that it is going anywhere.

    Over a long, long time, it may be possible but if these special districts remain as is, you will be right back where you started.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Your tax system in California is a complete disaster. You need to repeal Prop 13 immediately.

    Actually, the California Supreme Court should simply declare that Prop 13 was an illegal “revision” of the Constitition rather than a legal “amendment” and declare it void retroactively.

    As for “special districts”, the whole of NY seems to be run on special districts. They have their problems but they’re the basis of the entire government — lighting districts, sewer districts, fire protection districts, police protection districts, water distribution districts, school districts, etc etc. Each one has a separately levied tax. Surprisingly little is directly under city or county control. Although the districts are often officially controlled by county, town, village, or city boards, so (except on Long Island) they usually don’t have separate elections.

    If special districts are a problem, you’re obviously doing special districts wrong in California…

    Anyway, the school financing is a nationwide disaster — schools need to be financed straight out of the state income tax on a roughly per-capita basis. In California the local-funding-of-schools was declared unconstitutional due to being biased back in the 1970s, and the same is true of NY. But nobody’s been able to get that through the legislature, though IIRC Tommy Thompson tried in Wisconsin. NY has a crazy-complicated school “equalization formula” (which has been declared unconstitutional several times and *still* not fixed), and California seems to have something similar but even more confusing.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I don’t know if it’s possible in any other state to live in two municipalities at once. New Yorkers don’t find it disconcerting at all.

    Derek Reply:

    If the population increases there will be more vehicles.

    Only if the number of places to store those vehicles also increases!

    Nathanael Reply:

    No, Paul. VMT has nothing to do with highway construction rates.

    Highway construction rates are driven by local government officials who think they need to build SOMETHING. Once you build them a railroad, they realize that SOMETHING does not have to be a highway and stop building highways to nowhere. That’s my theory, anyway.

  8. Elizabeth
    Feb 7th, 2014 at 11:07
    #8

    2014 business plan will be released today (http://hsr.ca.gov/docs/brdmeetings/2014/brdmtg_Item5_Presentation_of_Draft_2014_Business_Plan.pdf)

    I predict it will be posted at 4:59 pm.

    Likely changes:

    Initial operating segment: Madera to Palmdale
    More detail on how Amtrak could use first 100 miles of track

    synonymouse Reply:

    They are going to make money ferrying commuters from Tehachapi to Mojave?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They are going to make money ferrying commuters from Lebec to Grapevine?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    They are going to make money?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Somebody is going to make money.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I think Lebec is in tunnel.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Sta Clarita to Bako – some small market.

    Now Sta. Clarita to Sac, that’s another story.

  9. Bill
    Feb 7th, 2014 at 12:24
    #9

    If the Republican party in CA were a “fringe” party, wouldn’t construction have started five years ago?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The Republican party in CA is a fringe party. In 2012 presidential election it was D+21. All state elected officials, both Senators and 38/53 members of in the House. It has super-majorities (most days) in the state legislature.

    Construction didn’t start five years ago because the planning work was just getting started.

    Implying that democrats support any form of spending, regardless of merits or competing priorities, is actually quite insulting.

  10. Nadia
    Feb 7th, 2014 at 16:00
    #10

    The new DRAFT business plan is up: http://www.hsr.ca.gov/docs/brdmeetings/2014/brdmtg_Item5_FINAL_Draft_2014_Business_Plan.pdf

    synonymouse Reply:

    Notable:

    “While the Authority will rely heavily on the private sector to bring innovation and investment into the project, the state will maintain its lead organizational role, retaining ownership and governance functions.”

    translation: militant unions politically connected – bloated payroll

    “to tunnel through the Tehachapis to create the first dedicated passenger rail connection between Northern and Southern California”

    translation: price is no object – 40 miles of tunnel to Mojave

    “If agreements cannot be reached with the railroad companies, then design work in progress or already completed may be affected, leading to cost increases or schedule delays that could become significant if the delay in reaching agreements persists”

    translation: since more space was devoted this worry than the Kopp et al litigation I wonder if there be an impasse with UP and BNSF.

    overall impression: politicized fluff, typified with a sappy reference to millennials, reminiscent of educratese.

    prognostication: Queretaro

    synonymouse Reply:

    And hold the repetitive reference to “Monte Carlo” – creates a very questionable but appropriate in this case image of gaming and risk. Use an abbreviation like MC.

    jonathan Reply:

    that;s *Monte Carlo simulations*, you….. statistical illiterate.

    Clem Reply:

    It is possible to mis-use the Monte Carlo method. These probabilistic simulations are a fine example of a GIGO calculation: Garbage In yields Garbage Out no matter how robust the method and how complex and computationally intensive the model.

    joe Reply:

    It’s possible but is it the case here?
    They have independent review of their work which is one check. What’s the source of doubt?

    Are they generating simulations using improbable combinations?

    They can conduct parametric analysis to understand the model and can run simulations over representative probability distributions.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    They do not have an independent review. They have a second set of consultants on the payroll who are being paid $400 / hr to make the best of a terrible model.

    joe Reply:

    Independent – what do you think it means?
    A company that hires independent consults to review practices or work products pays them.

    You suggest reviewers are bribed, the payment is to certify a fake or inferior product.

    jonathan Reply:

    Is this the same model that CARRD thinks is terrible, or the model that the independent peer reviewed okayed?

    which begs the question: does “terrible” equate to “gives better results than you and Nadia would like”?

    Elizabeth Reply:

    http://hsr.ca.gov/docs/about/ridership/ridership_PR_Report9_Final.pdf

    version 1.3 was re-labeled as 2.0 – poof, everything is fixed

    joe Reply:

    What was wrong in version 1.3 ?

    The funny thing is some Congress-critter will get the GAO to investigate version numbering and the GAO will have even more positive things to say about the ridership model.

    joe Reply:

    The Peer Review Group is appointed by high level state officials. They have a legal ly defined role.

    The Group was established with provision for up to 8 eight members. As of March 1, 2013, the group will have five members, including: Walter Bell (appointed by the State Treasurer), John Chalker (appointed by the State Director of Finance), Diane Eidam (appointed by the State Controller), Will Kempton (appointed by the Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing, resigning as of March 1, 2013), Lou Thompson (appointed by the Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing), Stacey Mortensen (appointed by the Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing), and Frieder Seible (appointed by the State Treasurer, resigning as of March 1, 2013).

    One definition of independent is the group is appointed people not beholden to the CAHSRA.
    Another considers they are not reporting to the CAHSRA,
    and that they are not chartered by and can be dissolved by the CAHSRA. The Law mandates the Peer Review Panel.
    And being paid, assures they are focused and attentive.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I am not talking about the peer review group. The members have various expertise but none of them are economists – I’m speaking of the ridership review committee

    Joe Reply:

    Then these are the members:

    Frank S. Koppelman, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering, Northwestern University (chair)
    • Kay W. Axhausen, Dr.Ing., Professor, Institute for Transport Planning and Systems, ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich)
    • Eric Miller, PhD, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Toronto
    • David Ory, PhD, Principal Planner/Analyst, Metropolitan Transportation Commission
    • Kenneth A. Small, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Economics, University of California-Irvine

    Are you suggesting tenured professors are bring influenced by compensation for their time to rig the ridership model?
    The NSF draws for the same pool of talent for their reports and advisory boards. A Swiss professor no less.

    I just don’t get it.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Koppelman 2 year contract signed this summer : $305k

    joe Reply:

    To be clear you wrote:

    They do not have an independent review. They have a second set of consultants on the payroll who are being paid $400 / hr to make the best of a terrible model.

    You’ve insinuated the Panel is bought off.
    Professionals will not work in detail on an project without compensation. There is no corporate equivalent of a free consultant either.

    Their is no evidence the model is terrible. The GAO’s review concluded the model is the most advanced in the US. Also they recommended the model be refined and the Authority is proceeded with that recommendation.

    Finally

    “Before he was hired, Koppelman said he disclosed his associations with Cambridge and Proussaloglou to Roelof van Ark, the rail authority’s chief executive at the time.”

    Well, he disclosed. Being friends isn’t a disqualification with the NSF.

    Being a collaborator or on a proposal for new work or part of their dissertation committee.
    I’d not have allowed it on the basis of their prior academic relationship but that’s all you have and it’s not much. The Chair is due to be replaced March 1.

    jonathan Reply:

    Any simulation is only as good as the model. Just look at Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.
    My point applies equally well there.

    Jon Reply:

    No shocking revelations here. The most interesting part is that projected ridership is 25% higher than the 2012 business plan, but farebox revenues are 5-10% lower, because of an increase in shorter trips. I can hear synonymouse yelling “subsidized commute service!”

    Caesar J Reply:

    Yeah he will shortly. His translations were incomplete as he should have stated at the start that “synonymouse” is actually an oxymoron. It is really synonymous with “tea party”, “Fox News” and “right wing of the right wing”.

  11. Jos Callinet
    Feb 8th, 2014 at 11:57
    #11

    Come the end of 2014, will we bloggers still be arguing endlessly over every conceivable aspect of HSR, pro or con, and over politics in general related to California, and STILL not one solitary shovelful of dirt will have been turned to actually build it?

    The more time that passes with no construction underway, the more likely it becomes that HSR in California will not be built, at least not in the majority of our lifetimes.

    How much longer can or will the communities along its proposed route tolerate the ongoing state of uncertainty over what will become of the land set aside for HSR while its fate remains undecided?

    An increasing number of people must be fast losing patience with this whole affair.

    As I see it, 2014 is CAHSR’s “do or die” year: either it gets the “OK” to break ground for real this year, or it’s increasingly likely that it won’t get to do so at all. The on-going delays are endangering the future of the CAHSR project like so much accumulating snow which could at any time swiftly bury it under an avalanche.

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