House Republicans Remind America They Hate Passenger Rail

May 6th, 2014 | Posted by

House Republicans have proposed a new spending plan that cuts $200 million from federal transit spending – cuts that would undermine Los Angeles rail expansion plans as well as California high speed rail:

With House Republicans proposing spending cuts for new transit projects, Los Angeles officials will have their work cut out to secure $200 million in federal funds next year for a subway extension to Los Angeles’ Westside and a downtown tunnel to link light-rail lines.

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday proposed $1.7 billion nationwide for new transit projects, down from $1.9 billion provided this year. The Obama administration has proposed $2.5 billion.

The bill also provides no money for high-speed rail projects, a provision sought by congressional Republican critics of the California project.

Unfortunately the media gets this wrong. Republicans aren’t “critics” of the HSR project since there’s no iteration of that project that they would like. What their funding proposal shows instead is that they hate all passenger rail and want to defund as much of it as possible. Doesn’t matter to them where it goes, how many riders it carries, or how essential the service is, they just don’t like it and don’t want to fund it ever.

The sad truth is that as long as Republicans hold a majority in either part of Congress, the federal government won’t be able to support passenger rail in America, and may even be an obstacle:

But the bill does include a provision that state officials say could cause trouble for the project.

It would prevent federal funding unless the federal Surface Transportation Board has jurisdiction over the entire project and “the permit is or was issued by the board with respect to the project in its entirety.”

There’s been a lot of discussion lately of cities going it alone thanks to Republican obstruction at the state and federal level. California doesn’t have that problem in Sacramento. But this provision, whether it lives or dies, is a reminder that Congress can undermine local rail efforts anytime they want. We need to reclaim it from anti-rail ideologues.

  1. Donk
    May 6th, 2014 at 21:40

    They should be showering Metro with money for the Purple Line and the Downtown Connector. Is there anyone left, outside of Beverly Hills, who still thinks these projects shouldn’t be built? I bet even John Nitchagal likes these projects.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    John is too busy chopping wood today. He heard climate change would raise energy prices, so he did his civic duty and bought a wood-fired stove to solve his problems.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I’m a republican…we have staff for that

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Neel chops his own wood….

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Aww..I blush

    But you are right, local transit is a good general use of money. I don’t know about the purple line and downtown connector in specific but at least local transit has an appreciable effect on traffic and pollution. When it reaches critical mass like NYC you can even see it replacing cars.

    Donk Reply:

    I wish Republicans would understand this and had the ability to think long term. Many Republicans are logical people (except for the religious ones, who are totally irrational). But I guess, they argue that logically because transit doesn’t pay for itself and they think it just helps poor minorities and not them, they don’t support it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The rational Republicans, the ones who run for office anyway, began to wander off to spend more time with their families back in the 90s. There are very few of them left.

  2. Donk
    May 6th, 2014 at 21:46

    High speed rail in Africa. This is a worse idea than HSR in the Mountain West. Silly Chinese.

    Eric Reply:

    No, silly African dictators if they want to pay Chinese contractors to make Li’s “dream” come true.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Not any sillier than TehaVegaSkyRail. PB to Lagos!

    Ted Judah Reply:

    It could work in Egypt and South Africa…though I agree Nigeria is a stretch.

    Donk Reply:

    How about the Trans-Saharan Railway? All of those Tuaregs and al Qaeda rebels need a faster way to get to/from Timbuktu. What good is a camel caravan when you can barrel through sand storms at 200 MPH in open desert?

    Or the Trans-Congo Railway, aka the Henry Morton Stanley Express? This way the Chinese could pulverize a hole right through the forest and have access to all the resources they want.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The Chinese are trying to sell “their” technology to the big oil producers like Nigeria and Angola. But the sort of Gallic HSR model wouldn’t work linking the two countries, they are thousands of miles apart.

  3. Donk
    May 6th, 2014 at 22:02

    OT: LAX people mover plans are finally coming together:

    Eric Reply:

    At about 10 times what the cost should be.

    Donk Reply:

    Seriously. $2B+ for a people mover?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Keep in mind, until the Crenshaw Line is complete, the quickest fixed guideway route between downtown LA and LAX isn’t by taking the Gren Line to the Blue. It’s faster to use the Green to connect to the Silver BRT Line buses that drop one off in the heart of the city.

    This is a premature decision to say the least.

    Michael Reply:

    The quickest is the LAX FlyAway bus to Union Station. Hands down.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    But BUS. BUSSSSSSS! Hate bus. Bus bad. Choo choo good. People mover good. Bus baaaaaaad, bad bad bad bad.

    EJ Reply:

    But building a people mover Creates Jobs. Why do you hate American workers?

    Donk Reply:

    Give me a bus that has a dependable schedule and that is comfortable and I will ride it. Otherwise, forget it. If you need to transfer then good luck. I’ve ridden my share of buses in LA, which won awards for their bus innovations, and they still mostly suck and are useless if you are on a schedule. Unfortunately the only buses you can count on are the ones that come every 5 min (like on Wilshire Blvd) or the ones on fixed guideways that don’t get stuck in traffic.

    Real-time bus apps are finally available and could be a game changer, since you no longer have to stand outside like a goon in the hot sun and wait for 35 min before the bus decides to show up.

    Donk Reply:

    Rant aside, the FlyAway is descent. But it still gets stuck in traffic, so it is not totally dependable, especially on the way to the airport.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    RailPAC is campaigning for an increase in frequency of the Flyaway to 20 minute intervals during the day, 15 minute in peak hours. We have also asked for Amtrak to integrate the fares and make LAX an Amtrak station. Metrolink has already done this at our suggestion. Unfortunately the buses are still subject to delay between the north end of the carpool lane on the 110 and LAUS, but overall it’s a far superior service to anything that transit can offer.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    far superior service to anything that transit can offer.

    And best of all, it is “transit”.

    This being the US, not being fare-integrated or timetable-integrated doesn’t disqualify it.

    This being planet earth, not being a train doesn’t disqualify it either.

    Tools for the job.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Notice I said “fixed guideway”.

    I am well aware that the FlyAway Service does a superb job of getting passengers from the airport to Union Station. Amazingly, however, buses do not need a people mover to offer curbside service. My comment was intended to point out even if you were a good rail citizen, you would still avoid the current time penalty involved.

    Eventually, whenever the Expo Line is extended to Venice and LAX and the Crenshaw subway can wisk you to the Bonaventure in 30 minutes, the people mover will seem like a great investment. Right now, we are on the verge of Oakland Airport Connector territory.

    Donk Reply:

    The LAX people mover will have marginal benefit in the short term, especially since the feeder lines into it (Crenshaw and Green) are severely lacking. But once it’s built, it will provide further motivation to connect the Green Line to Norwalk, to extend the Green Line southeast thru to Torrance, and ideally north up Sepulveda/405 and up Lincoln. So if you think of the people mover in terms of the long term vision, it makes a heck of a lot of sense.

    Donk Reply:

    In the short term, the primary benefit of the people mover will be that it will get people the heck out of the horseshoe by taking a majority of the people off the shuttle buses and straight to the rental car facility and hotels. And it will serve employees well, who can now take the Green Line straight to work without a painfully slow bus connection.

    I doubt they will get many passengers until they build the system out more. What percent of LAX passengers really come from areas adjacent to Crenshaw Blvd and the 105 freeway? Like 0.01%?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Are we talking about the same thing?

    The Green Line Station at Aviation Boulevard is nowhere close to either the proposed consolidated rental car desk or the hotels. Admittedly, the linked story doesn’t explain the details but I am pretty sure right now this is boondooglery

    Donk Reply:

    In every plan I have seen going back 20 years, the people mover has intermediate stops at the car rental facility and the hotels. In some of the plans these two stops are at the same place, along Century Blvd. One of the fundamental goals of the people mover is to eradicate all of those rental car and hotel shuttles.

    Donk Reply:

    Great. The first step is for Amtrak to rename Union Station from “LAX” to “LAU” or something similar. That confuses the heck out of everyone.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I agree but have been told that they have LAA in the system from a previous Thruway bus service

    Reedman Reply:

    FYI, there is a proposal to rename DC’s Union Station for Truman.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Probably paving a runway as part of the project
    These things tend to become “Christmas trees”

  4. Derek
    May 6th, 2014 at 22:13

    Freeways should get the same scrutiny.

  5. Joe
    May 6th, 2014 at 22:13

    Yeah it’s a problem but these guys are not so smart. Jeff Denham gave us the GAO investigation which validated the project.

    Pulling HSR under the Federal STB’s jurisdiction would eliminate e need to comply with CEQA. Federal review would be required and it’s less onerous. The Senate must negotiate out the requirements that the entire project be permitted at once – the real problem- and we’d have a more direct path forward.

    Cutting rail and transportation funding is a loser with large majority of Americans (with at least some college education) that want to live in more walkable, urban neighborhood and want more transportation investments.

  6. 202_cyclist
    May 7th, 2014 at 03:56

    When the Republican party blathers on and on and on about jobs from Keystone, please feel free to ignore them. Investing on transit would create many good construction jobs and the Republicans have shown repeatedly they are hostile to this.

    Bill Reply:

    Yet they keep The House and there’s a good chance they’ll take the Senate this year. They might as well have the presidency after that. If more people under 70 years old voted this would be different.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Why get worked up about this? Consider the recent track record of Fed transport funding such as the BART OAC, SF’s Central Stubway or BART to the Flea Market. Or the inane DogLeg. The quality of the planning is deplorable.

    I am waiting to hear the Cheerleaders’ official commentary on the PB divestiture. Perhaps the bribes were becoming too expensive.

    As far as the future Pres goes, don’t fret. If Queen Elizabeth is still around in 2016 she should be invited to Hillary’s Coronation.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    sexist pig

    synonymouse Reply:

    neener neener neener

    Eric Reply:

    The house being republican has more to do with the insane gerrymandering that happened in so many states after the 2010 census. By population, most of the country voted for democratic congressman in 2012. There are several states where most of the votes were for democrats, and much more than half of the congressmen were republican.

    Joe Reply:

    Search” GOP 2012 Senate” and you’ll see the GOP supposedly took control in 2012.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    swept in by the coattails of Romney landslide…

    Donk Reply:

    Are construction jobs really “good”?

  7. synonymouse
    May 7th, 2014 at 11:22

    I got my sample ballot and Yee’s still on there. Definitely voting for him.

    therealist Reply:

    hope he wins !!

  8. StevieB
    May 7th, 2014 at 15:05

    The California High Speed Rail Authority approved the environmental report for the Fresno to Bakersfield section.

    The board that oversees California’s $68 billion high-speed rail project voted Wednesday to unanimously adopt a planned route for its second and most substantial section to date, a 114-mile stretch between Fresno and Bakersfield.

    Meeting in Fresno, the board voted 7-0 to approve a 20,000-page environmental planning document.

    Chairman Richard put the decision into perspective.

    Board Chairman Dan Richard said he feels “a huge sense of responsibility.”

    “We have to make a decision about whether or not there are larger superseding benefits and value that this decision would bring not only to this community, but to the state as a whole,” he said.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    good news

    Joe Reply:

    Fwiw, the “massive” document size includes appendices.

    Not really that big unless you’re like Peter Jackson stretching a child’s book to three feature length movies.

    StevieB Reply:

    The document includes a 4,800-page response to comments.

    joe Reply:

    The Final EIR/EIS for the Fresno to Bakersfield section includes the following:

    Volume I – Report
    Volume II – Technical Appendices
    Volume III – Alignment Plans
    Volume IV – Response to Comments on Draft EIR/EIS
    Volume V – Response to Comments on Revised Draft EIR/Supplemental Draft EIS
    Volume VI – Letters Inadvertently Omitted from Volumes IV & V and Errata
    Staff Response to Comments Raised Orally on May 6, 2014

    Eric Reply:

    “Meeting in Fresno, the board voted 7-0 to approve a 20,000-page environmental planning document.”

    I take it the board didn’t actually read the document they approved.

    Eric Reply:

    Although that’s pretty typical in the US. See: Congress.

  9. trentbridge
    May 7th, 2014 at 15:50

    Normally I don’t pay much attention to the Lieutenant Governor’s race at election time but I might skip punching the square next to Gavin Newsom’s name because he pulled his support for HSR. In soccer terms, putting a goal in your own net is not exactly showing team spirit.

  10. Ted Judah
    May 7th, 2014 at 17:34

    Note to Bill, the Highway Trust Fund is going to run out of cash this calendar year….before any Republican elected in 2014 arrives in DC. This could turn into a real cliffhanger because even ardent conservatives think the gubmint should pay for guns and roads.

    Moreover, once 2014 is over, the GOP does want stuff to run on to convince voters how great the Huckabee Administration will be. There will be plenty of deals cut in the final years of Obama’s term, and lots of lipstick applied to said pigs.

    joe Reply:

    The bill, SB 1077 by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, gives the California Transportation Agency, the Department of Motor Vehicles and other agencies authorization to track vehicle miles traveled by motorists in a yet-to-be-determined city starting in January 2016, according to the language in the bill.

    DeSaulnier’s bill would use a “miles-based fee” to replace the state gas tax, now at 52.9 cents per gallon. Presumably, if a VMT tax were implemented nationwide, it also would take the place of the federal excise tax on gasoline, which is 18.4 cents per gallon.

    A VMT of $0.05 per mile starting in 2025 would raise $110.3 billion a year for six Southern California counties: Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial, according to SCAG.

    It’s 5.00 per 100 miles or approximately the same cost as as gasoline tax as paid by a ~20 MPG automobile.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    With an enormous unwieldy bureaucracy to collect it.

    Donk Reply:

    I would only support this if they had a different rate for different vehicles. The 3.00001 ton vehicles that people (“businesses”) buy to get tax deductions should be charged 10x what a regular car gets.

    This is probably the biggest tax scam in America.

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