True Detective Finale Open Thread

Aug 9th, 2015 | Posted by

Tonight’s season finale of True Detective gave starring roles to the gorgeous Santa Ana train station, the lovely yet controversial ARTIC, and a recreation of the recent first spike ceremony, complete with CHSRA branding.

Ultimately the HSR project was little more than the MacGuffin of the season, featuring conspiracies ripped from the most vehemently anti-HSR voices in this blog’s comment section. (Though in fairness to the comment section, what gets discussed there is much more coherent than what we saw in True Detective Season 2.)

True Detective series creator Nic Pizzolato wanted this season to be his version of the classic LA noir genre, and felt that HSR made a good substitute for water (as in the classic 1974 film Chinatown) or freeways (as in the classic 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?). It didn’t really work, and HSR didn’t come off looking like a bad concept. If anything, the show treated mass transit as a commonplace part of modern California, as central to the state as the desert or the sequoias or the ocean. I suppose that’s progress.

I’m back from a vacation and will resume topical posts this week.

Hanford Sticks Its Head In The Sand

Aug 5th, 2015 | Posted by

Well this is disappointing news:

By a 3 to 2 vote, the Hanford City Council turned down a chance to secure a matching grant to begin the planning for a regional high speed rail station.

Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle had urged the council to consider the planning grant but opposition to the project remains strong in this Kings County community.

The city was to receive $600,000, provided there was a $200,000 match, half of which would be provided by Tulare County. The planning study was to include a possible light rail route to be studied to connect to Tulare County.

Tulare County will lose the light rail study. Ted Smalley, executive director for Tulare County Association of Governments, says his board will take up the issue on Sept. 21, but without a partner in Kings County, Tulare County will likely not proceed themselves.

This is ridiculous, petty, and incredibly short-sighted on the part of Hanford. HSR is going to be built through Kings County – surely Hanford officials are aware of this fact. While many in Kings County don’t want it, since HSR is happening, why not try to make the best of it and use it as an opportunity to brings jobs and economic growth to the community?

Visalia and Tulare County understand full well the benefits that an HSR station can bring to the region’s economy. At a time when drought is causing stress to the agricultural industry, a harbinger of what is to come with rising global temperatures, surely you would think that Hanford leaders would want to secure their future.

Instead, they prefer to bury their heads in the sand and live in a pretend world where gas is always cheap, where the rain always falls, and where the county unemployment rate isn’t still above 10% even in the sixth year of post-recession economic growth.

This doesn’t mean that a Hanford/Visalia station is dead. I encourage Visalia and Tulare County to continue their own planning work. And Hanford and Kings County need to accept reality and start pulling their own weight in the planning process. Their residents and the region’s future deserve no less.

Texas HSR Gets a New Leader and New Money

Jul 30th, 2015 | Posted by

Some good news for the Texas Central high speed rail project this week:

The board of directors of Texas Central Partners appointed Tim Keith of Dallas as the new CEO and announced the closing of a round of development funding that brings $75 million dollars in new capital, all from Texas-based investors, into the company. The offering was oversubscribed and the funds will be used to support ongoing development activities.

The new funding comes just two months after the proposed Dallas-to-Houston bullet train system was almost derailed by opposition in the state legislature.

So they won an important legislative fight, have a new chief executive, and got some more capital. All great news. Sure, California HSR has over $4 billion in capital in the door from state and local government, but that’s cool Texas, you need money too.

Their estimate is that they need $12 billion to build the project. But they’ll also need administrative help from the state to get environmental clearances done, and maybe land acquisition, which gives opponents some leverage to try and stop it from happening.


Palmdale Welcomes HSR and its Economic Benefits

Jul 28th, 2015 | Posted by

Today NPR’s Marketplace examined the effect of high speed rail on Palmdale and the likely boost to the local economy that it will bring – particularly by shortening commutes.

Flowers and subdivision

A commuter train takes about two hours to get to Los Angeles. The bullet train could cut that time to 20 minutes.

Sammy Hults lives in Palmdale and travels for work. “It would allow me to look for work in more different major cities,” he says. “And having this rail, it’d be really easy to get there because travel time is really short.”Shorter travel times could also have a big impact on real estate. Palmdale has traditionally been an outpost for people who can’t afford to buy property in Los Angeles.

“It’s really affordable still, and that’s one of the reasons that a lot of people move into the area,” says Marco Henriquez, who owns Amigo Real Estate. “You can have a house and pay a lot less. Most of the times, half what you pay in the L.A. area.”

No doubt that real estate agents are salivating over the prospect of it being faster to get to downtown LA from Palmdale than from Santa Monica. The median sales price for a home in Palmdale is $230,000 according to Trulia which is shockingly cheap. The average for Los Angeles County is $475,000 and far higher than that along the coasts. Of course, HSR will also bring jobs to the Antelope Valley, as reverse commutes become possible.

HSR will also give a boost to existing businesses. When you cut the distance and time of a commute, residents have more money and more opportunity to support local businesses:

Other business could also benefit from shortened commute times.

Roxana Martinez owns Lucky Roxy’s Café. She often doesn’t see her regulars during the work-week because so much of their free time is eaten by the commute.

“By the time they get home, it’s practically like 7:30, 8 o’clock,” she says. “The kids are going to sleep, so they’re not really going to go out and dine. So I think that, just having that station here, and reducing the commute, I see it as a benefit to us. I see more customers coming in.”

Roxy’s customers rave about the café’s country gravy. And while it’s too much to call high-speed rail her ‘gravy train,’ it will help her sell more gravy.

To those benefits we can also add savings on gas. Palmdale residents are paying around $4 a gallon for gas, which adds up fast on a daily commute to and from the LA basin. Saving money on gas means more money to spend on local gravy.

As this article shows, HSR better for businesses and for quality of life. And the more people who use HSR to commute to Los Angeles, the less people will be driving on the 14 freeway, helping improve the Antelope Valley’s air quality as well.

Glad to see NPR highlighting these benefits.