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Tracking California’s High-Speed Rail

The high-speed rail debate in California. We’ll look at the cost and the payoff.

This image provided by the California High-Speed Rail Authority shows an artist's conception of a high-speed rail car in California. (AP/California High-Speed Rail Authority)

This image provided by the California High-Speed Rail Authority shows an artist's conception of a high-speed rail car in California. (AP/California High-Speed Rail Authority)

High-speed rail was at the center of Obama stimulus spending plans.  Visions of 21st century bullet trains whizzing here and there around the country.  One by one, states slated for the super trains have dropped out, afraid of getting left with white elephants.

But not California.

The Golden State is, so far, charging ahead.  Even as the price tag for its bullet train has soared from thirty four to $98 billion and completion dates have stretched out to 2033.  There’s a battle royal underway over the price tag and visions of the California future, the American future.

This hour, On Point:  high-speed rail and California.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Rod Diridon, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University

Lisa Schweitzer, associate professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development

Alain Enthoven, professor emeritus of political economy at Stanford University

Amy Standen, reporter for KQED

From Tom’s Reading List

NPR “The dream of high speed rail in California is running into tough realities. Cost estimates have more than doubled — to nearly $100 billion — since the project was approved by voters in 2008. The date of completion has been pushed back to 2030.”

The New York Times “Across the country, the era of ambitious public works projects seems to be over. Governments are shelving or rejecting plans for highways, railroads and big buildings under the weight of collapsing revenues and voters’ resistance.”

Chicago Tribune “The governor wants to start with a line not from Los Angeles to San Diego or San Francisco to Sacramento, but from Bakersfield to Chowchilla — which would be the equivalent of running a bullet train between Decatur and Galesburg. With that 140-mile segment in place, he imagines, private investors, state taxpayers or the federal government will be happy to provide the money to construct the rest of an 800-mile system.”

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  • JUST CORY PLEASE!

    America has become culturally incapable of building and effectively using rail of any kind.  Works well for Japan and Europe, but we can’t abide each other or being taxed to benefit the whole.  Fuhgettaboutit!

    • Terry Tree Tree

      There wouldn’t be a need for taxes for it, if the railroad moguls, that were FILTHY rich, hadn’t taken the maintenance money, and the monies for improvements, decades ago, then whined to the heavens, and their bought politicians, to get the country to pick up the tab.

  • twenty-niner

    I’m for it as long as there are solid guarantees that the engines, cars, and infrastructure are all built in China. That way we can concentrate on the hard stuff like underwriting put options against derailed high-speed future-train-ticket-contract-default swaps.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      OUTSTANDING!

    • Terry Tree Tree

      The GREEDY rich, which will control this project, if it ever happens, know that people in this country started from behind, and quickly caught up in the Space Race, but we have no one that can build a 150mph train, because they won’t get their GREEDY pockets fillled!

    • JustSayin

      …and since its the west coast, we should once again use Chinese emigrant workers… Like we did with the First Transcontinental Railroad.

    • JUST CORY PLEASE!

      Nice.  Well done.

  • Salzburg

    Parallel to this situation is Germany’s “Stuttgart 21″ which has been opposing the speed train between Stuttgart and Tübingen. The protestors had been very public and last weekend it went up for vote and the silent majority supported the project. There will be a train.

    It goes to show you that even though the quiet average Joe may not be heard in the news when it comes to voting he has a voice. Getting commuters off the road, less pollution and a better infrastructure for growth won.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    The GREEDY rich have already driven the price up several times the original projected price, but if it gets done, this will ALL be blamed on Labor Costs, especially if there is any union labor to blame it on!

    • JUST CORY PLEASE!

      I guess that may be the upside of union busting.  They can’t be blamed once they don’t exist.

  • Yar

    I have this vision of a high speed rail system that goes coast to coast on trains that never stop.  The train has a parallel track where an exit train pulls along side and people and packages transfer over.  All while going 150 miles per hour. You could get from DC to LA in about 18 hours.  Build it and the country will develop all along the line just as the first transcontinental railroad did when it was built.  It would have to be on new track and with no grade crossings.  I would have the federal Government build and maintain the rails, with private contractors taking care of  and owning the rolling stock.  

    • Terry Tree Tree

      We haven’t even built a sucessful medium-speed train, and you want 150mph transfers of passengers and freight?
          The government wouldn’t build it, because the GREEDY rich have No-Bid Contractors for that.  You wouldn’t want some $Billionaires to starve, would you?

    • JUST CORY PLEASE!

      Just one problem Yar.  You are showing vision.

    • Anonymous

      Keep on dreaming. 

  • Anonymous

    I love the idea of high speed rail but I question whether it will alleviate greenhouse gases or traffic. Most high speed trains carry passengers between two major cities like Boston and New York City, but most car traffic -I suspect- carry passengers from the surrounding regions into and out of *a* major city and not to and from two major cities.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Many factors NEED to be considered, before even deciding routes! 
       Seismic activity, and potential seismic activity.  Can’t build one over the oil wells, gas wells, coal mines, gold mines, and other land so weakened!
        The potential disaster of a train-wreck at 150mph, or higher, to passengers, freight, non-rail property, innocent by-standers, the transportation clogs, that it would cause in other forms of traffic, the availability of Fire, Rescue, Medical, and other services , and a HOST of other considerations!

  • Winston Smith

    This is a boondoggle if ever there was one.  California is bankrupt, the federal government is bankrupt, so where is the money going to come from?  The cost will be HUGE!!!!!  I would bet a year’s paycheck that the final cost will be MANY MANY times what the original cost estimate will be.  An earthquake (they have them in California, you know) will devastate all of the effort and money that have been put into it.  And if you think that “environmentalists” like the Hollywood elitists (e.g. Barbara Streisand, Sean Penn, The Kardashians, Al Gore, and numerous other lefties that want the little guy to reduce his carbon footprint so that they can continue to live out their energy-gorging lifestyles) and other “cool car-addicted” beautiful California people are going to ride it, you’ve got to be kidding.  The only positive that will come out of it is that the amount of money that will be wasted on it will be so huge, that we will forget all about the Solyndra fiasco because the magnitude of this financial disaster.

    • JUST CORY PLEASE!

      1.  If we are broke, how do we afford 12 Nimitz class aircraft carriers, the dozens of aircraft and thosands of sailors and airmen they carry?  How can we afford the Bush tax cuts if we are broke?  Are SS checks still going out to seniors?  How much money has been given to the presidential candidates so far?  How much money are corporations and banks sitting on hoping for Obama’s defeat in 2012?  Are we really broke?

      2.  What percentage of the population do ultra rich celebs like Streisand constitute?  Is a train a filure if Al Gore or Sean Penn doesn’t ride it?

      3.  How have other countries been able to build effective rail systems?  Is this ability not achievable by the Exceptional Americans?

      I don’t find your arguments particularly strong.

      • JustSayin

        Graft and corruption are expensive. There is money, it’s just that most of it doesn’t go into actual construction.

        For Example the Kuala Lumpur smart tunnel was constructed for $500 million! That same project in the US would cost 10 or 15 Billion.

        http://www.roadtraffic-technology.com/projects/smart/

        In the US, most of the cost is NOT in the engineering or actual construction.

      • Winston Smith

        The fact of the matter is that we are broke (actually $15 Trillion in debt) due to many of the reasons that you described.  We spend way too much on the military (let our European and Far Eastern “allies” spend more of their money defending themselves instead of us doing it at tremendous expense so that they can use their money more productively).   I’m all for reducing our military spending.  And the Bush tax cuts should certainly be repealed as they benefited the rich.  I certainly hope that they expire at the end of next year if not sooner.

        We are no longer able to execute big projects in a cost efficient manner.  Look at all of the waste, fraud, and abuse associated with Medicare, Solyndra, major defense equipment purchases/weapons systems, the space program, our inability to effectively regulate or prosecute Wall Street/Big Bank/Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae fraudsters, and the list goes on and on.  This will turn into another  unmanageable debacle.

        And as far as your Point 2, I find it very annoying and hypocritical when people like Al Gore tell us to do one thing while they do another.  They will be out there using their celebrity status to push this project, but will disappear if/when it is built and we actually need people to ride it.

        Even if this thing is ever built, it will turn into an Amtrak situation requiring perpetual massive subsidies because the number of people who actually ride it will be significantly less than the phony baloney ridership projections that were concocted in order to provide the upfront justification for it.

        • JUST CORY PLEASE!

          I agree that hypocrits are annoying, but you still can’t argue against a train because “Babs” won’t ride it.

          Are we broke?  I guess there is no clear answer.  We’re massively in debt, but we can borrow and many will still lend to us.  

        • JustSayin

          Agreed. I still don’t know why the Boston to DC ride is so expensive… and as you state that is the taxpayer subsidized price.

          I paid nearly $300 one way Boston to DC…. Hardly a commuter fare for the average earner.

        • TFRX

          Amtrak subsidies? When’s the last time AmRoad (the interstate highways) broke even?

    • Anonymous

      Enough of this right wing BS. The Federal government is not anywhere near bankrupt. Get real already buddy.
      This post is so full of it, really can’t you do better than dumping on Barbara Streisand and Sean Penn.

      This diatribe is nothing short of a stereotypical right wing knee-jerk response

  • AC

    really? once again, no engineers as guests. this depresses me…..

    • Roy Mac

      Agree!  3 academics and a reporter.  4 professional snipers, no real world representation.

  • JustSayin

    It will NEVER happen as projected.

    Like with military “projects”, all the money is drained up front by politicians, lawyers, consultants, advisers, and investors. Most the money is drained off with the threat of construction, then local and state taxpayers are put on the hook for more funding to “get the project going”.

    After those funds are once again drained away by the above, plus a small amount used to create an inconvenient eyesore, more funding is required by Congress. This is when the big money is drained away by the list above. 

    Once all the money has been drained away in round after round of public funding, the project will either be abandoned because it will be declared a waste of money, and fiscally irresponsible by all who profited most from the “project”.

    If there is a chance of continuing profits to be made by building the project as cheaply as possible due to “cost overruns” it will be outsourced in a no-bid contract, with local political consultants.  The result will be a dangerous incomplete half A$$ed edifice which politicians will cite as the corruption of the system that they pledge will only be fixed if they are reelected.  

    This is how America builds.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Well Said!

  • Anonymous

    HSR is about efficiency. In the market, efficiency is a huge factor in success. If we don’t increase our efficiency we have no chance internationally. If you multiply all the hours spent sitting in traffic snarls times all of the people sitting in those jams, how many lifetimes are wasted each and every day? Some people talk on their cell phones, some listen to the radio, some to books on tape, some read… this is madness. This is highly inefficient time-wise, economically and dangerous.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    California is ALREADY BROKE and the Majority of people drive their cars to work. Who needs to take the train when Jet Blue can fly you from San Francisco to Los Angeles for a $100.00 air fare or less with Southwestern Airline.

    A waste of money again for California. They should built more Prisons so they can accomodate the doctor of Michael Jackson.

    California will be more broke.

    • JUST CORY PLEASE!

      More prisons.  Great idea.  Maybe we should consider debtor’s prisons?

    • Anonymous

      Misguided response that seems more invested in false platitudes than dealing with real issues.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

        Misguided? Please!!!! I lived in California one thing that people there don’t want. is riding a train. what happen to subway system they built. Who rides them? flies.

        It is true that the Prisons in California are over crowded. That’s one major problem beside unemployment..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1816544 Dan Trindade

    Look folks, broke or not, America needs this. We’re a country whose entire transportation infrastructure runs on gasoline and oil just keeps getting hire as it begins to dwindle world wide. Without revamping the way we transport people and goods around this country America is headed for stagnation and eventual decline. Will it cost billions? Probably. Will it be laden with political muck and cost over runs? Definitely. 50 years from now, when the world is post-oil, will we look back on it and be thankful we built up our infrastructure before we collapsed? Absolutely.

    • TFRX

      And while the oil is still here, people who are stuck in their cars just love the idea of more cars on the road. I mean, they hate rail, so they must have a thing for traffic jams, right?

    • 2PartyDebtSlave

      “Broke or not”

      That’s the spirit! Who cares about the tragedy our default and dollar destruction will bring, especially to the already poor or barely hanging on.

      Keep the debt rolling, let the bankers package and sell it, let the politicians keep getting elected promising us the moon.

      We really deserve what we get. Including the despotic rule that will step in to pick up the pieces.

      • TFRX

        Nice, seamless adaptation of Republicant rhetoric. Way to be independent.

    • X X

      You make an excellent point.

      And who do you think was responsible for hijacking the Eisenhower administration to put in the interstate highway system in the name of “defense” against the Russians in the 1950s?

      The same companies that then helped lobby to decommission rail lines and massively promote car travel, when rail is far more efficient and environmentally friendly than interstate road vehicle transport.

      The same corporations that were responsible for dismantling, one by one, the electric trolley infrastructure already widespread across most cities of the united states and replacing them with less-efficient, more costly and more polluting bus lines.

      The same companies that killed and continue to kill the electric car – when every year since 1987 Wold Solar Challenge (among many similar cousin programs) has been racing solar cars across the entire continent of Australia without any plugging in or recharging. The greatest difficulty at present: keeping even the slowest car in the race from not breaking the speed limit.  Of course, there’s been quite a history of electric vehicle sabotage, ever since the first fleet of electric city transport vehicles was rolled out on the streets of Philadelphia in 1897!

      The same corporations that conspired with the Bush and Blair administrations – whose participants have not and will not see justice – to invade Iraq with the aim of privatizing its oil fields (after destroying much of the existing oil delivery infrastructure), despite over 1.2 million innocent casualties.

      The problem is not a technological one.  The world could easily derive all of its electricity needs from non-fossil fuel sources using tidal plants, other forms of hydroelectric power and wind. The world’s highest generating megawatt plants – by any measure – is the 3 Gorges Dam and the Sihwa Lake plant in S. Korea and the Rance Tidal Power Station in France (completed in 1966) generate as much energy as any coal plant.

      The problem is a world economic system driven NOT for the provision of goods and services but rather for the accumulation of profit – even if it means burning mountains of unbought oranges while starving harvesters look on in wonderment at a circle of men with gasoline and shotguns protecting the burning mountain from their mouths. May people at long last, after the centuries of statistical evidence have been presented over and over again, realize that the profit system is inefficient, wasteful and far less invested in technological advancement than public institutions, which have driven the major breakthroughs in industrial development for the past 100 years.  Perhaps, as in the final awakening from Eugenics and Slavery, Socialism or some form of non-profit market economy based on worker ownership will at last be given its due consideration in the improvement of the human condition.

  • JUST CORY PLEASE!

    “Broke” obviously needs to be defined.  When I’m in line at a burger joint and my pockets are empty, I’m not gettin a burger.  America is not broke in that sense.  We are the worlds largest economy, and can build a rail line if we wish.  I think defining “broke” would be valuable for many of our current political issues as well.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1816544 Dan Trindade

      Couldn’t agree more. If America were “broke” right now instead of just deeply in debt essential services would have broken down by now, the world economy would have collapsed, and there would be chaos in the streets. People who use “broke” in the manner you described do little more than fan the flames of ignorance and make it all the more difficult to tackle the challenges facing America. Our problems are real and pretty darn massive but they are not insurmountable. Whatever the solutions end up being we will pay for it. Someway, somehow.

  • AC

    in 2050, the US poulation will grow by 100 million people. We’d better be ready….
    Currently, congestion at airports and on highways already costs ~$130 BILLION to the economy -EVERY YEAR!!
    please please please really include all the variables before you have give an opinion on this matter – it really has to happen, like it or not. unless you’re old & won’t have to live through it, then i guess if you don’t care please please please go be a curmudgeon elsewhere.

  • TFRX

    “Critics say it’s fiscal suicide”, per the opening.

    Let’s not forget where we are in the business cycle: Waiting for 1) demand to pick up, or 2) all those businesses to hire people with the money they’re using to repurchase their stock.

    Or this from the World Economic Forum: Infrastructure? “Suck on it, Namibia!” doesn’t really make me proud as an American.

    • 2PartyDebtSlave

      That natural, part of life, business cycle.

      http://mises.org/daily/672

      You all know the Business cycle is a racket. While a moderate version of phenomenon may be real in an honest economy, it is the leveraging of it by our unsound monetary policy that puts it on steroids, stealing wealth from all but the politicians and their banking and Wall St. funders.

      • TFRX

        Just go to the people who are on Amtrak and MetroNorth (i.e. part of the solution) and tell them, “Hey, you know I-95 from Old Saybrook and south? That’s the future of everything! Vote Libertarian!”

        • 2PartyDebtSlave

          We all like new stuff. Most of us have to pay for it.

  • PaulCJr

    Those short sighted Californians wish to keep the rest of Californians from getting better transportation options. High Speed rail is a missing piece of California’s transportation infrastructure. Rail isn’t some old school shouldn’t be built technology, if it was the rest of the first world and emerging markets wouldn’t be building high speed rail. It’s this backwards thinking in California that is crippling the state and the reason I will not return even though I was born in Los Angeles. I moved out of California to the East Coast for grad school, and will not return. My commute is better since I can take rail to work, and I have found the job market better here as well. Farewell California! Enjoy those traffic jams, I’ll relax on the train to work and walk around these awesome North East neighborhoods. 

  • TK

    The latest data on climate change and ocean acidification indicates we have to start ramping down emissions within the decade. High-speed rail could contribute to that, but it seems destined to fall prey to short-tem thinking and a lack of leadership on Obama’s part. If he spelled out to the American people the threat level we are under in regard to global warming, etc., high-speed rail and other progressive initiatives would see less opposition.

  • 2PartyDebtSlave

    Give yourself when you’ve gotten a nice job and paid off the credit card. 

    Not before.

    • 2PartyDebtSlave

      Give yourself a gift…..

    • TFRX

      More of that “gummint’s budget is like the one your family draws up around the kitchen table” crap.

      You have a great hold of right-wing detached points for a Libertarian.

      • 2PartyDebtSlave

        Explain to us why our debt doesn’t matter?

        Why printing our way out is not a problem?

        Why destruction of the dollar has no downside?

        Do you ever make a case for anything, or just toss around the same pie-in-the sky assertions that somewhere, deep in your pockets, you have the great master plan you are ready to impose on us for our own good?

  • Steve

    Some posters may want to read “The Option of Urbanism” by Leinberger.

    May shed some light on:
         -Government policy, financing and zoning laws influencing real
           estate development
    and foresees a different development model for the next 40 years.

    The predictions may be far more train-friendly than the current political
    climate allows.

  • Muriel

    Way to go California!  This country needs high speed rail.  We need high speed rail on the eastern corridor as well, between Boston and NY and Washington.  This is way overdue.  We need to do it now.  European countries, Japan have had these trains for 40+ years.  What are we waiting for here.  This is the transportation of the future: less pollution, more efficiency, people will travel more and in more comfortable ways.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    How much would we spend on upgrading highways to do the same thing?  How much would upgraded airports cost?  Does anything of value come for free?  What the the better alternatives?

    Neil

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Good Questions, Neil!
          Many more to consider!

  • Winston Smith

    After hearing the most recent developments from your first guest ($98 billion….Fresno to Bakersfield…etc.), it seems hard to believe that someone can actually defend this project with a straight face.  As far as people in California getting from San Francisco to LA or vice versa, why don’t they just smoke legalized medical marijuana and fly there?

    • AC

      we lose $130 bil a year in congestion, i posted it earlier. Do a simplified delphi method breakdown and you will see it’s likely more….what’s $98 bil in comparison?

      • JustSayin

        You have to prove that the total or at least $98 B would be saved by this rail system… Correct?  This single rail system will save CA how much per year? How many riders does it take to pay for $98 B (or more realistically twice that amount). plus maintenance and operating costs? 

        It’s not as simple as build it and save $130 B… Is it?

        • AC

          um. i can’t say anything further to you without seeming insulting…..sometimes i wish we could email people privately….

          • JustSayin

            Um … Just Wow!

          • AC

            no kidding!!
            i know (bulb) – do you understand how amortization works?

          • JustSayin

            Poor dodge followed by a weak non sequitur. It was your point, I just called you out on the absurdity of it. Please do not consider a career in civil engineering, because we have enough BS in the field already.

          • AC

            too late

          • JustSayin

            My one test for hiring engineers is: Honesty and the non ego driven ability to know they make mistakes. 
            Based on this small test I would not hire you. You better get that ego fixed before you get someone killed.

          • AC

            nice try, i wear my ring and i feel it’s weight….
            wait, no follow up on your linear revenue model? come on, if you’re going to pretend you could hire me…..

  • Les

    Costs are not going down and the US needs to build these rail lines or quickly fall further behind other countries transportation infrastructures.

    This topic ties in perfectly with the last; politicians are always working on re-election in the short term, they ignore the long term needs of the citizenry.

    In a country controlled by the oil and auto industries with their huge tax rebates/subsidies the large investment and long term financial commitment that rail requires will not be made available. The US will continue it’s downward slide and history will tell the tale of another great civilization of the past.

  • Sara in VT

    I love the idea of having high speed rail.  
    In thinking very long term it’s seems important to recognize that so much of CA’s populations centers are in dry aired environments.  do planners really think that these centers will continue to grow or even maintain their populations into the long term future?

  • Jemimah

    I like the idea of “futuristic” mass transportation, but there are so many bumps in the road, so to speak.  Are these rails earthquake-proof?  Will people be able to afford the ride?  I never take the Acela from Boston to NY because it’s so expensive!  What is CA going to do to make this successful and safe?

  • Stierman-in-Boise

    California to double it’s population in 20 years? Really, it seems the bigger issue is not rail but water. What will these extra 30 million people drink?

    • Steve

      They will most likely move when Federal policy no longer subsidizes CA – but you ask, what of food?

    • AC

      desalination plants will help with this…

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        Desalinization is not a viable solution.  Water has to be conserved, and we have to live with what we have.  If there is not enough water, then we cannot use as much.  Desalinization is super energy intensive, and super expensive.  It’s a non-starter.

        Neil

        • AC

          do you know how the hydrological cycle works? heavens.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Of course I do.  California and the southwest is facing a water crisis.  Global climate change will likely make this worse.  Reconditioning waste water might be feasible, and the way water management is currently handled there leave a *lot* to be desired.

            But desalinization ain’t in the cards.

            Neil

          • AC

            I think I’ll wait to see what happens when the growing population gets thirsty enough before I take any cards off the table. Besides, if I’m not mistaken, there is a newer method that use forced geothermal condensation for collection with minimal environmental impacts, but waters not my forte, so I’d have to do some research….

  • AC

    there are 32 states with projects rushing to invest in HSR

    • Steve

      Sadly, WI is not one of them

      • TFRX

        Teabaggers, aka the modern Republican party: It’s why we can’t have nice things.

    • AC

      oops – i meant 39 states and 32 projs already in beginning phases…

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Compared to other countries that have High Speed Rail, this will be Medium Speed Rail, at best!
        This type of service would be a good thing, if it is done right! 
         Railroads have a sixty-year history of doing it WRONG!
         Many airlines have air-routes far longer, that cost passengers FAR LESS than $300!

  • Stierman-in-Boise

    There should have been a Project Engineer or Manager on the guest panel. Just hearing from Politicians and hopeful Journalists does not give the complete picture..

  • 2PartyDebtSlave

    Why do we need to get from A to B so fast?  Keep the bubble economy humming? Keep our indentured servitude jobs?

    BS. If we can’t meet our productive needs relatively close to where we live, something is wrong.  

    This is LUXURY, that benefits very few, mainly the debt-writers.

    • AC

      ?? this statement is so simplistic, i’m not sure what to say to help ….

      • 2PartyDebtSlave

        go ahead…. answer it.  What makes it worth our impending default?  What are the gains, aside from being pretty cool, that are going to offset that?

        Oh yeah, spending money we don’t have, makes money over time!

        Like I said, buy yourself a nice reward, AFTER you pay off your credit card.

        • AC

          i’m confused by this – are you not aware that this has been studied and the amount of money LOST YEARLY is $130 billion? why would you throw money away?

          • 2PartyDebtSlave

            I’m not sure what you are talking about. I’m arguing against the project for fiscal reasons.

          • AC

            i’m arguing for the project for fiscal reasons!!! look at the numbers!! we’re losing big money daily – & it’s only going to get worse!!

    • Marichb3

      Back in the early 20th century, Americans got around quite quickly within cities and from the suburbs to the city with interurban train systems.  There was less traffic, less pollution, and less accidents.  People met their product needs back then perfectly without needing massive SUV’s, nasty traffic snarls, and big dig projects.  Read your history.  What changed was the automobile companies waged a massive propaganda campaign against interurban transportion in the 30′s and 40′s that successfully convinced American that personal automobiles were far superior to trains.  In addition, many automobile companies bought up interurban systems, but instead of upgrading them, they paved over the tracks with roads and replaced the electric trains with buses.  It’s not high speed that’s an issue in the U.S; it’s American attitude of individuality taken to the extreme that’s the problem. 

      Prevailing attitude: “Despite my right to drive in my car causing huge traffic back-ups in cities, I will continue to ride in my car because I don’t care about the common good”

      • 2PartyDebtSlave

        Debt and Default is not a common good. Its a common tragedy.

        I’m not defending cars, I’m arguing against our consumptive, eyes bigger than wallet culture of debt.

        • Marichb3

          Oh, I agree with your outrage.  See my post about the criteria the high speed rail system must satisfy for it to work.  But, if you understand the history, you know that public train systems worked very efficiently for Americans once before.  What does this mean for us?  It means that it’s a question of the public’s attitude just as much as it is a question of financial feasbility.  I want Americans to be convinced that public trains are the ideal mode of transportation for interurban and interstate travel, so that 10-20 years down the road when we can afford it, we’ll start building profitable high speed trains.

  • Winston Smith

    In answer to the question being discussed at 11:25, another reason why it will take so long is that the union workers “working” on the project will add all sorts of inefficient work rules so that we get up to the prescribed 10 guys watching one guy actually work.  Plus we need numerous flag men, supervisors, etc.  

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Glad you are independently wealthy, and don’t utilize any of the benefits that union workers have bought for others with their blood and their lives! 
         Job Safety Laws
         Child-Labor Laws
         40 hour work week
          Over-time pay
         Worker Pension Plans
          Job Safety
          Paid Holidays, or Holiday off
          Being paid in money, instead of company script
        
          Several other workers’ benefits from unions, whether they’re union, or NOT!

  • snathan

    Tom,
    Could you please push your guests further on why it will take so much longer to finish construction on this project, it just feels an extraordinary amount in this day and age.

    • TFRX

      My guess is that it’s being built in a very densly populated area. This isn’t like buiding a two-lane interstate in the middle of Nebraska.

  • Michiganjf

    Are you kidding?

       When gas jumped hugely around the time the recession first hit, ridership on rail went up what… a couple of hundred percent?

    No one could even give away suburbans, much less sell them!

    Gas will again be prohibitively expensive!!!

    High speed rail isn’t simply visionary… it will be an absolute necessity, and WE WON’T HAVE IT!!

    High speed rail is going to be far more expensive to build by the time we realize we can’t live without it!!!
    Higher fuel prices, higher resource costs, and all the while our fiscal situation may only worsen… if we don’t do it now, it will simply NEVER GET DONE!!!
    We should have had the foresight to build high speed rail in America back when we were flush with cash and fuel and resource costs were cheap, allowing the projects to be completed relatively cheaply… but NOooo, we needed tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% in our country, and more subsidies and/or tax-cuts for multi-national corporations!

    This project may be a near back-breaker for California in the short run, but the state will benefit massively from high speed rail in the long run… the corridors are well studied, have a high travel density, and will be a huge boon to a well-touristed state.

    Other, similar excellent corridors are Tampa-Orlando-Miami, Dallas-Austin-San Antonio-Houston-El Paso (a highly trafficked, perfect triangle with an arm extending to El Paso), and almost anywhere in the North east.

    Time to stop talking about it and just do it!

  • tired of hate

    People probably do not remember when GM single handedly stopped the production of rail transit in LA by buying up their electric rail, and replacing them with their own busses and trucks.  Think of how much cleaner it would be there now if they had not succeeded in this endeavor.  This also happened in NYC.  

    • tncanoeguy

      To what degree is lobbying by the airline and auto industries promoting resistance to high-speed rail?

      • tired of hate

        Tried to find some info online, but they are not mentioned.  

  • 2PartyDebtSlave

    Can we fund the Moon Shuttle please?  There will be good mining jobs there one day. We need it.

    Where do we really need to get so badly? For who?

  • Winston Smith

    This gets more absurd by the minute.  Now your panelist is claiming that this cow pie is going to make money.  What is he smoking?

    • AC

      i don’t understand you, have you even taken economics 101?? i’ve noticed people jump down your throat from time to time, but now i know why….sheesh

  • Drew

    My wife and daughter had an 8am flight from Buffalo to Newark the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
    I left Buffalo at 9am to drive thru Ontario to Detroit to visit my son that same day.
    Who made it to their destination 1st?
    Yes, I did – 4 hours.
    My wife and daughter had a 4 hour delay before even boarding their flight.
    An alternative to flying or driving would have been nice.

  • Gameliya

    This guy who just started talking is CRAZY !!!!!

  • Sirius_TheStarDog

    How does the estimated cost of the CA project compare to ‘similar’ railroad projects in the 1800s?  These would be 19th century projects that had a significant impact on local economies and quality of life.

  • Steve

    Dear Sir-    I do not know if you remember back in ’08 how congress and Obama were talking about making our infra-structure smarter and better; this is an idea I have presented many times – so here it goes!   It begins with combining several pools of funding to make it a success, that right there may be too hard for you to comprehend.  IDEA:   You put the HI-SPEED RAIL under the “National Interstate Highway System” along with the power grid (which would be retrofitted to use HI-TEMP SUPERCONDUCTING ELECTRICAL POWER CABLES), in addition you would place massive amounts of fiber-optics for communications, there would also be natural gas lines, and possibly liquid fuel lines (gasoline/diesel/jet fuel???) all underneath the highway system in water-tight access tunnels. The access points would be hopefully above the many flood points throughout the system.  The electrical power grid would be cooled by the many tons of liquid “Carbon Dioxide” sequestered within the new power grid which would also power the “MAGLEV” HI-SPEED RAIL LINES.ADVANTAGES: dramatic drop in air pollution/smog                        big drop in cost of travel within USA                        transfer “BILLIONS” of fuel dollars back into the USA economy                        put thousands of high paying technical jobs in place                        create hundreds of long term career positions in maintaining the system                        big drop in accident & death rate in highwaysP.S.  All nay sayers are most likely big supporters of BIG OIL or they are refuse to take their head out of the  sand….

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Pretty Good!!

  • Winston Smith

    As far as bringing in private “investment” money to help fund this, I guess the same people that are willing to buy Greek or Italian bonds or Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac packaged mortgages from Nevada would be willing to invest in this.

  • Gameliya

    I agree that education is very important by so is public transportation.

  • This is crazy

    Its over $100 each way from Boston to New York on the acela train & they are borderline bankrupt, how much more will this be to ride? At these prices it’s not something someone would consider riding on a regular basis.

    • TFRX

      How much does it cost you to drive from Boston to New York? And if you pay to park?

      Does the Federal Highway Admin break even every year?

      How many more cars do you want clogging the Northeast corridor (Bos-Wash)?

      • Craig

        Much cheaper to drive, especially with more than one.

        • TFRX

          How many cents per mile? What happens when parking is no longer subsidized?

          • AC

            parking is subsidized?…can you explain this, i’ve never heard this before….

          • TFRX

            In many places and for many people, it is. Read about “The High Cost of Free Parking” by Don Shoup, for one.

  • Ed

    The Chinese played a major role in developing our rail system. Now we are well behind them.

    • AC

      they’re helping on this project too – we don’t have many american engineers with good HSR experience…

    • 2PartyDebtSlave

      We did our big infrastructure thing decades ago. We used our natural resources to pay for it.  Now China is doing it.

      We don’t want to use, or don’t have, the same bounty of $ and resources in front of us that we once did.

      Those who want to protect the environment from resource extraction should understand that.

      There is no $ tree to buy things now just because we want them.

      Why can’t people accept the notion of not being able to afford something?

      American Greed. Not the kind you usually rail about. But broader sense of entitlement and not being bound by scarcity and limits.

      Our finance industry gave us a last gasp illusion, but now its over.

  • TFRX

    Current speaker (Enthoven?) talking about CA cutting education funding there, so they’re “sacrificing that” for the HSR.

    How much is CA spending on its prison population? Is it true that it’s cheaper to provide a full ride each month to (say) UC-Irvine than it is to lock up someone in a medium security CA prison?

    What would Enthoven say CA’s education system is being sacrificed for if Big Lockup is part of the conversation?

  • ArlingtonianVA

    I rode the high speed train from Beijing to Shanghai last month, and the Maglev in Shanghai, very impressive.

  • Greg in Winthrop

    Right now borrowing costs are close to zero. This is the time to invest in long term projects for the country to meet future needs. The Big Dig in Boston had a huge cost over run, but it hasn’t hurt the economy as far as I know and Boston is a much nicer city. Lots of money but well spent!

  • Bexhill Dun

    The human productivity that would come from saving folks 3 hours from their commute is going to be worth trillions.

    • Bexhill dun

      Lets not forget that its this infrastructure that helped us get to where we are today. But the infrastructure we have presently was made for productivity in the 50′s. 

  • Gregory Belenky

    We lag in passenger rail but lead the world in freight rail.  I have read that there is some possibility that large scale deployment of high speed passenger rail would degrade our freight rail system.  Please comment.

    • AC

      no. commerical interests would not want their profits slowed by waiting for track R.O.W.

      • BettyBlueEyes

        Two different track systems, AC. High-speed rail operates on ribbon rail with a cement ballast. Freight is operating on joined rail with rock ballast.

        • AC

          yes, but near urban areas, it can be leased. don’t know too too much about it…

    • Michiganjf

      Two different rail systems… High Speed rail can’t run on regular frieght tracks, so there will be no impact on freight.

      Regular rail can be upgraded to handle a sort of intermediate speed rail, but High Speed rail requires very special track.

      • Michiganjf

        … some of the existing rail corridors may be usurped for High Speed Rail projects, but frieght can still utilize High Speed rail track… not vice-versa.

        • BettyBlueEyes

          You speak the truth.

    • Agnostic

      From the Economist: “America’s system of rail freight is the world’s best. High-speed passenger trains could ruin it.” http://www.economist.com/node/16636101

  • Winston Smith

    As far as money already designated for this project not being able to be “clawed back”, there is no money!  It’s just IOUs since the federal government is $15 Trillion in debt.  So just tear up the IOUs and just have the federal debt be less ridiculous than it already is and will continue to be.

  • Wes, Cambridge, MA

    Highways don’t pay for themselves. Airports don’t pay for themselves. Why is it that Railways are expected to pay for themselves?

  • Earl Shepherd

    Americans ought to be afraid that they have fallen behind other developed nations, as well as, some developing nations in transportation, health, education, and a host of other areas.  We continue to live in a Hollywood-like-dream that we have the greatest of everything.  The leadership is so poor that they are incapable of telling their citizens the truth. 

  • CraiginJersey

    Who will ride this train? Those that can afford the fare, plus either cab fare or car rental to get to destination. This isn’t ‘mass transit’, it’s yuppie transit funded by taxpayers.

    • Bexhill dun

      Its for people who have jobs and are trying to get to work and not spending 3 hours behind the wheel. Northern California is separated from the south by the virtue of time. A fast train in between, would be like what the expressway between NJ- NY did for regional economy

      • 2PartyDebtSlave

        Lets just do Star Trek style beaming.  It will create jobs.

    • TFRX

      And getting cars off the roads and out of the way for the rest of them.

      How many more cars do you want driving thru your part of New Jersey?

      • CraiginJersey

        If the yuppies want these trains, they should pool their money and finance it privately.

        • AC

          good god

        • TFRX

          You’re hilarious. For someone who’s from away, and doesn’t root for any team in New Jersey, I’ve spent a decent amount of time there over the years.

          But, hey, you’re the resident. New Jersey needs more car traffic, sure.

          Way to fight that stereotype!

  • Terry Tree Tree

    I find it hard to believe that existing rail-beds and rails will be able to handle High-Speed-Rail, or even Medium-Speed Rail.
       Wouldn’t they have to be completely overhauled in a major way?
        Wouldn’t they be subject to Major wrecks?

  • 2PartyDebtSlave

    The deep voiced guest talking all this sober reality is killing our buzz man!

    We are Americans!

    We deserve everything……broke or not! (as someone put it earlier).

  • PaulCJr

    Public transit is a mute point at the end of the line even though it exist in both cities. People that say there needs to be public at the end of the lines or near station is wrong. Just look at airports. We all fly to destination in the country where there is no public transport. Just rent a car or get picked up from the train. If they held standard to airports we wouldn’t have any.  

    • PaulCJr

      Sorry for all the typos. :D

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    California should USE THAT money to create jobs?

    Yes building that train creates jobs but do you think there are thousands of skilled workers that can do the job. NO!!!!

    An ABC report that majority of New Bridges being built in California are built by “Chinese” skilled labor force from China. Because the lack of skilled American Welders and Constructions workers.

    YES CHINESE LABORERS ARE BEING HIRED BY CALIFORNIA TO BUILT BRIDGES.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      You don’t believe me? try visiting some of the bridges being built.

      • BettyBlueEyes

        Yup. There you have it. Corporate America. The people that least believe in communism — that say capitalism is the way to go — are sending American jobs to communist countries so they can benefit from (gulp) socialism and its government-provided employee benefits. It’s true. We are building stuff in China. But not because they’re better at it — which they aren’t. It’s because they’re cheaper labor.

        • AC

          that was a decision made that saved taxpayers $300million. it’s just hard to compete w/that these days….i don’t think they’ll count the cost of poor materials/service life until/if it shows up….

          • AC

            wait, now i’m unsure where i heard the $300mil. maybe that was the cost of the bridge….i don’t remember

    • Terry Tree Tree

      The GROSSLY over-paid executives don’t want to pay union wages, that would cut into the $Millions they can scam off Chinese and other illlegal labor!

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Newt would be happy to supply them with Child-Labor!

  • Carol in Boston

    One difference between U.S. and Europe is that you can travel to many destinations, many different countries in relatively short time.  There are many city-pairs that are easy to travel between by rail so that you can create a viable network.   That said, it is embarrassing how far behind the U.S. is in too many areas of transportation, like smart cars and alternative energy, etc.  Our generation spends too much time bickering about government and we are not carrying on the legacy of making this country better for the next generation, ie JFK man on the moon or FDR’s New Deal….

  • 2PartyDebtSlave

    Earthquake, schmearthquake! Stop killing our buzz!

    We whip out the credit card and fix it!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      YA!!! THEY FORGOT ABOUT THE EARTHQUAKE. 6 TO 7 magnitude earthquake can WIPE OUT the entire rail road system in California
      when it’s 8 and 9 IT CANNOT BE REBUILT

      • Sam Walworth

        So correct about the Earthquake!!!

        Heck, if we can dare to rebuild Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.. then whats rebuilding the Rail system if the inevitable happens?

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

          Even Japan is having a hard time rebuilding their country. The most advance nation in earthquake proof technologies.

          • PaulCJr

            When the Northridge earthquake hit, Metrolink the commuter rail road for Suburban LA was up and running in a only a few days. So this earthquake thing is a mute point. 

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

            Please 6.7 magnitude earthquake is NOTHING COMPARED TO THE 8 or 9 Magnitude that I EXPERIENCED IN MY LIFE.

          • BettyBlueEyes

            So?? What’s your point? Disasters can happen anywhere. But we still forge ahead with our lives. Do you not light your fireplace just because sometime someday someone might set their house on fire? Your logic is befuddling.
             

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

            Metrolink was not even FULLY finish yet when that Earthquake occured in 1994. 10-20 seconds is nothing compared to 1 minute of shaking.

  • Anonymous

    Now our fleet of space shuttles are grounded, and I am told it’ll take us 20 years to build the high speed rail which took others only couple of years?  Upgrade the Northeast Corridor first, cut Boston-DC down to 3 hours!

  • Dave J

    It would be nice to see some functional research regarding people’s needs, combined with a re-imaging of how we live.  What would it take to eliminate much of the need for personal automobiles?  What about suspending a monorail over the existing Interstate system?

  • http://www.facebook.com/foxmulder.ms Sait Ozturk

    Your guest is wrong about China. Yes, there is some cuts to the projects but they are temporary and percentage is really insignificant when one looked at the total amount of 700Billion$. Moreover, their main 4+4 truck lines which are the backbone of the system and consists of ~16,000 (~10,000miles)km of high speed rail is almost completed so there has to be some decrease in spending anyway. China example cannot be used to bash the high speed technology/investment. If anything, so far ridership numbers are extremely successful.

  • 2PartyDebtSlave

    Do P-wave sensors magically glue the earth together as a fault ruptures?

    At least they will tell us there was a big earthquake!

    • PaulCJr

      P waves are emitted before faults rupture. It’s the earthquake equivalent to the Canary in the coal mine. 

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      The P-wave sensors worked in Japan, on their high speed trains.  ‘Nuf said?

      Neil

  • Charlie

    The Acela between Boston and New York is not true high speed rail, it costs way too much, Penn Station is an horrific place, passengers can’t reserve seats, so in peak times there’s a shoving scramble for seats-  with all that, it’s still the only way to travel between the cities.

  • TFRX

    Wow! Scott Walker, Gov of WI, has come crawling back for the HSR funds he swore up and down he’d stop. Good thing he’s a GOP manlyman or else people might think he’s a wuss for doing that.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Or a Lackey to Big Oil, Banksters, Investment Fraudsters, and other criminals!

  • Steve

    WI asked for the Federal government for $ back but I believe for different purposes:
         -for use on bridges/roads
         -or for use on existing Hiawatha line to Chicago
    Politcally, both sides of the issue were heavily invested in mis-direction.

  • 2PartyDebtSlave
  • Rsprattster

    Will people ride? Well Amtrak, in its parlous state, has raised its ridership by 40% since 2000 posting a record ridership this year 2010-2011 exceeding 30million.

    Airlines have all gone broke, AA being the latest, if the airlines did not get $16bn per year infrastructure subsidy from the Government their air fares would having the populus howling.

    There has never been a road built that made a profit, the best roads are subidized by 50% others are really scary. They too got a $40bn additional subsidy as the Road Trust Fund is broke.

    Why does rail transport have to make a profit.

    Since the inception of railway building in the Victorian Era they have always stimulated economic growth. Almost every transit system built blows away its ridership away way before projected times. Ask any business organization if they want their new systems taken away.

    Reduced environmental impact is a bonus.

  • Br

    Love the show, Tom.  Dissappointed your screener whisked me off before I could
    ask my question, but things get busy, I understand.
     
    I wanted to address
    the issue of the public transportation at either end of High Speed Rail.  These
    systems aren’t in place because they are not yet needed.  If the HSR networks
    exist, the more localized transit systems will follow.  These will come to fill
    the need created by HSR and will be funded by public and private businesses. 
    Job creation anyone???

    • TFRX

      I believe we got through an entire hour without anyone mentioning “transit-oriented development”.

      (It’s the modern equivalent of the gas stations, restaurants, box stores, and restaurants that spring up next to interstate exits everywhere.)

  • Marichb3

    Tom, there are several criteria that it must satisfy:

    1. Proper financial management-MBTA’s commuter rail is currently is headed bankruptcy.  If you can’t even successfuly manage commuter rail, high speed rail won’t be possible. 

    2. Taxpayer friendly- with massive state  budget deficits, don’t sacrifice education, healthcare, public pensions, and public worker salaries because high speed rail must be built.

    3. Is it profitable?  Will people ride it?  What will it cost to build the infrastructure to allow for high speed rail?  What will the maintenance costs be on a yearly basis? 

    • AC

      um. i’ll be the jerk and point out the obvious – much of MBTA is over 100 years old. that’s a heck of a service life for any design!! they also have 2 to 3 hour window for maintenance, and guess what goes up exponentially every year past it’s service life? right! maintenance cost to keep capacity at least where it’s at, forget that population is growing.

      • Realist

        Commuter rail was what he was talking about, not the light rail system.  Its a mess.

        • AC

          well, it’s all massDOT now anyway….

  • TFRX

    “You don’t need to expand airports, you just need bigger planes,” from Enthoven(?) at :57 minutes.

    Tell that to the airlines. They use the smallest planes possible for the # of tix they sell. Compared to a couple decades ago, there is not a spare seat in sight. Unless the government is going to change ticket purchases to eliminate one flight and force everyone onto one bigger plane*, “rush hour” for many of our biggest airports in biggest markets are already oversubscribed.

    (*I can’t believe I have to explain that this is a hyperbolic example of totalitarian control over enterprise, for illustrative purposes only, but if I don’t, someone will call me a Communist.)

    This guy is a professor?

    • AC

      fuel and weight have a symbiotic relationship which influences cost and consumption…

      • TFRX

        Certainly, but the guest was positing that using smaller planes was a solution which didn’t bear any relationship to how crowded the takeoff and landing slots are, right now, at our major airports.

        That’s where I see the bottleneck, and I don’t see it getting any better because airlines’ interests are at cross purposes with the idea of maximum throughput.

        • AC

          o i misunderstood, i thought the guest wanted bigger planes….in any case, the guest sounds like a ninny if he thinks airports are any kind of solution.
          also, i live in awe & fear of the flying car – i wouldn’t want to walk outside underneath for the first few years, can you imagine the insane willy nilly ‘me first’ drivers of today as these pilots of tomorrow? yikes. & i am about to meet one of the CEO’s for terrafugia….

          • TFRX

            No prob.

            I could have been clearer: I don’t know Big Airport X’s schedule, for all I know there are opportunities to schedule more takeoffs and landings at 2am. But that won’t do anything for the glut of jets scheduled to take off at 6:30am, so when Airline X goes from a 300-seat jet to a 150-seat jet, owing to tickets sold, it reduces the carrying capacity of that airport. The guest’s advice (bigger jets!) is contrary to regular business practice, unless we want to talk incentivization.

  • Rsprattster

    Btw both LA and SF have expanding transit systems. SF has BART subway, commuter rail and street cars. LA has an extensive commuter rail system and expanding, integrated light rail sytem. The end points are there and expansion is happening now.

  • Anonymous

    RE: Alain Enthoven’s comment that we need bigger planes: Planes are not more efficient than trains. It takes 3-4 hours to get to an airport, checkin, go through security and board then an hour to collect luggage and get out of the airport. on top of that, how would you handle increased ground traffic on overstressed roads and create more parking?

    • Marichb3

      I couldn’t agree more.  Air travel is pure torture for Americans for a number of reasons.  We have to pay for everything now: food, 1 checked in bag, early boarding, etc. Yay for the pervasiveness of microtransactions!   Not to mention that after September 11, 2001, American tax payers bailed out the airline industry which cost us a total of $15 billion. Plus all of the taxpayer costs that come from TSA salaries, body scanners, and bomb detection machines.  Fourth of all, the airline industry is too beholden to the price of a barrel crude oil.  Operating costs of airlines sky rocket whenever the price of oil goes up.  I’m no economist, so I encourage you to go see the ATA quarterly cost reports for the U.S. airline industry yourself.  Anyways, the point is we need to move from airline travel back to electric trains to break our dependency on foreign oil imports and OPEC. 

    • Bexhill Dun

      I was dying to call in and tell him. It shows how removed from the real world some people are. its easier to drive to norther CA than it is to get to and back from LAX.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

        FOR REAL!!!! Been there Done That.

  • JustSayin

    Did anyone mention that HSR is not a volume business? It’s ability is speed with a few very expensive trains on high quality track.

    The answer to volume is many inexpensive trains running in a loop on inexpensive track. Why doesn’t CA think about the problem and then the solution, and not some prestigious high tech half A$$ed solution marketed to who???  You tell me.

  • Rsprattster

    Of course earthquakes will also devastate the IS Highway System and airports plus a whole lot of infrastructure like water, sewer, gas, electricity. We still built these.  Train crashes as much they are headline news have far less fatalities than airline of bus crashes in terms of passenger load. If the last hurricane’s effect on Vermont are to be referenced as a disaster, then the freight railroads were up and running long before the highway system and these are not Class 1 Railroads. Railroads are much, much more quickly reparable than other systems.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      So easy for you to say. Have you experience earthquake before just like what happened in Haiti and Japan? if not, please be quiet.

      • Bexhill Dun

        Your shortsight is remarkable. Japan the land of earthquakes is also the land of fast trains. Give it some thought.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

          Give it some thought? Yep so so easy to rebuilt a city after a major earthquake. Did you ever experience an earthquake in your life?
          if not, you also don’t know what you are talking about.

          if they built a train in California. You better use it to go to work or else it’s another waste of money.

          • Anonymous

            You really should stop pontificating. It hurts to read…

          • BettyBlueEyes

            Yes, I’ve been through several quakes, including the Loma Prieta quake, where the epicenter was two miles from my house. We lost roads and bridges, but we still rebuilt them. In fact, we lost more people on the bridges that collapsed than we did on the trains — which lost zero people. In the Japan quake, the bullet trains stopped before the shaking started because they are built with sensors that take over train controls and stop the trains. According to the news reports, Japan didn’t lose a single train in that quake.

      • Anonymous

        Yeah and Japan is a nation with a lot of trains. Go figure.
        You should quit while you’re ahead.

  • Pingback: Podcast of me on NPR’s On Point « Sustainable Cities and Transport

  • Bexhill Dun

    A Proffesor of economics at Stanford believing that planes, not trains, is the answer, is like a leader believing cake not bread is the answer. Truly Unbelievable!. I think we now know what the real problem is.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    If California wants a Train. Let them built it. But don’t expect me to pay for it.

    Let the Californian built their Chu Chu Train but don’t let the entire nation pay for their toy. I am still paying for the Big Dig. why should I pay for a train that I will never use in my life and it’s 6,000 miles away from me. Heck my car is faster than that Acela when I use my car to go to NY.

    • Anonymous

      Spoken like a true man who thinks of himself as an island.
      By the way the tax payers of California and every other state also paid into the big dig. It’s called public works.

    • TFRX

      That’s it. I’m no longer paying gas tax and income tax. Why should my tax dollars go towards roads I’ll never drive on?

    • AC

      i can’t take it anymore!!! it’s b-u-i-l-D. builD….i do apologize if you’re an ESL person, tho…
      also, you point is small, or you may be happier living in a country w/no infrastruture. you can always still get a mule to the market if you plan it with enough time to spare so your goods don’t spoil…..

      • Modavations

        He’s Philipino.Did you read my adventures in Thailand yesterday.I was thinking of you

      • William

        There is always another road to be repaired, bridge to be fixed, etc…the train system in the USA is the best in the world for moving goods and should remain so. This silly idea of HSR is more of a waste of money than a practical means of moving people.

        • AC

          you have do do a full transportation model matrix, the devil is always in the details. For example, UPS spent a good deal of money studying their routes and simply by enforcing a ‘right-turn-only’ rule, they’ve saved millions. Congestion is a huge cost to this country – anyone who has suffered through a traffic jam should relate and they’re only losing the money spent on gas while standing (well, i count my personal time as $1mil/minute wasted, but that’s relative). A growing population means this will get worse. & does anyone have the guts to say those gas prices will decrease? ha!

        • Alan in NH

          I would guess that you’ve never experienced HSR to make a statement like that.

        • Terry Tree Tree

          The best in the world for moving goods?  You think the Chinese, French, or others, ONLY move people on HSR?
             Trains can move people and freight, when planes are grounded!
             Should we have stopped with coal-fired steam-engines, and NOT have even bothered with air traffic?
              You obviously use SOME technology past diesel-electric, so why the technophobia?

      • Terry Tree Tree

        He’s ESL.  Phillipines, if memory serves me.   FAX68′s grammar , punctuation, and spelling can easily be forgiven.  Some others are lazy, or slept through class.

    • BettyBlueEyes

      Did you know that for every dollar California pays to the feds, it gets back 78 cents? In fact, they receive the least of any of the 50 states. I think they’re owed something by now. Don’t you?

  • Modavations

    At the train station in Bologna a sign lists DEPARTURES AND ARRIVALS.They will say,for instance,the train for Venice will leave at 10:03.It leaves at 10:03.When Amtrak can do that,I might give it a try

    • TFRX

      You’re never on the train in meatspace? You promise?

      One more reason to take the train!

  • Chuck in Savannah, Georgia

    Tom,

    You misinterpreted my on-air comment. I called to mention the successful way the Koreans have funded not only HSR, but also Metro rail service and standard passenger rail service (KorRail, the Korean version of Amtrak) throughout South Korea. I lived in Korea for four years during the period when the KTX high speed rail line was being built.

    The Korean equivalent of our Interstate system is run by a contracted company as a toll system. The massive profits from this system subsidize the public transit system throughout the country. This is not a “tax” on petroleum-based infrastructure as you characterized it; it is a user fee.

    If we used a similar model here in the U.S., states could use the profits from the Interstate system (as a Toll system) to fund not only public transportation projects such as HSR, but also public education and even to build trauma centers. Toll-based Interstate highways would pay for their own maintenance, so fewer of our tax dollars will be needed to maintain them, and once the HSR is completed, the profits from tolls could continue to subsidize ticket prices so people will actually be willing to try rail.

    Have you seen how much it costs to ride public rail in the U.S.? OMG, I had sticker shock when we took a 3-mile ride on BART and paid over $10 a person to ride, when in Korea we paid the equivalent of $3.50 to ride over 40 miles into Seoul. We rode the train into Seoul twice a week for four years, but how often could I afford to ride BART instead of driving?

    I live in Savannah, Georgia and it’s a little over 100 miles from the South Carolina State line to the Florida state line, so how much revenue would the state of Georgia take in by making I-95 a toll road if every semi-truck paid just $5 transit through Georgia? Since Georgia has already privatized the maintenance of I-95, adding a couple dozen toll booths (and creating jobs for toll booth operators) would be a simple beginning.

    How much would California take-in to fund HSR and other transportation projects if every semi-truck paid $5 to transit I-5 between Santa Clarita and I-580?

    Chuck in Savannah, Georgia

    • AC

      i heard rumors they’re testing inspection stickers to track miles/usage and people may begin to pay that way….it seems like a good idea, but i don’t know much about it….

      • Chuck in Savannah, Georgia

        EZ-pass is a bar-code sticker they use for toll systems in the North East. It very handy to just pay a monthly bill rather than carrying cash to pay for tolls.

        • AC

          i thought they were going to start putting that on ALL registered vehicles rather than stick with a gas-tax…?

          • Chuck in Savannah, Georgia

            That I haven’t heard of.

    • William

      The truckers just pass off the toll costs to the consumers. So why not just raise taxes on the consumers  to whatever level desired?.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Already there!

    • Ripped Off in California

      Chuck,

      Without going into all that much detail regarding your claims, I do note that you are using some semantic tricks.  For example, at the end of you 2nd paragraph you state, “This is not a “tax” on petroleum-based infrastructure as you characterized it; it is a user fee”. 

      No, a user fee is a fee charged a user  (hence the name)  to defray the costs associated with the device or service voluntarily being used.  In your case, you are wanting to require that money people are mandated to pay to do one thing be taken and spent on something you happen to like better, unrelated to the actual thing they’re using. 

      That’s what we call a “tax”.  

  • Alan in NH

    A decade ago, I had the chance to experience Japan’s railway system over the course of two weeks. The trains were on time, fast, comfortable, quiet…I was quite grateful I didn’t have to rent a car and deal with congested highways. I was able to read, sketch, converse without worrying about taking my full attention off the road. As far as I can see, as a system for moving people from fairly short to medium-long distances, there is nothing like a high-speed train.

    I wonder how the costs per person between car and train transport compare?

  • Reynoldsrap

    Zap/Zip? Cars at the end of the lines if no public transportation.

  • BettyBlueEyes

    People who think this is a huge waste are forgetting that as California’s population expands, we will need more highways. And more airports. All that exhaust will compromise our air quality even further. We’re going to pay one way or the other. Better to invest it in faster, cleaner, more efficient infrastructure.

  • BettyBlueEyes

    By the way, the quotes from that reading list sound as if the program host isn’t much of an objective interviewer. How about some balanced information here?

  • Chuck in Savannah, Georgia

    Why are HSR projects so narrow in scope? Why are we talking about Los Angeles to San Francisco, or a Florida HSR, or a Ohio HSR?

    Why not HSR between San Diego, CA and Jacksonville, FL with stops in Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, San Antonio, New Orleans and Mobile?

    Why not HSR between Houston, TX and MN with stops in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Kansas City and Des Moines?

    Why not HSR between Seattle, WA and Philadelphia, PA with stops in Boise, Salt Lake, Denver, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Columbus and Pittsburgh.

    We already have great rights-of-way in the form of Interstate ROWs. HSR requires very mild inclines and smooth track, completely separate from ordinary rails, and most interstate highways outside of major cities are divided with wide median and plenty of space for an elevated railway. The Koreans have perfected the use of tunnel boring machines to construct low-cost, level highway and rail tunnels allowing fast, safe construction of railways right under mountains.

    Food for thought.

  • AC

    ok – i’m seriously in for a long night if i don’t stop following this topic – i’ll just paste another appeal about congestion costs (i hope that’s not considered tacky, but i liked the way it worked out)…:
    you have do do a full transportation model matrix, the devil is always in the details. For example, UPS spent a good deal of money studying their routes and simply by enforcing a ‘right-turn-only’ rule, they’ve saved millions. Congestion is a huge cost to this country – anyone who has suffered through a traffic jam should relate and they’re only losing the money spent on gas while standing (well, i count my personal time as $1mil/minute wasted, but that’s relative). A growing population means this will get worse. & does anyone have the guts to say those gas prices will decrease? ha! show more show less

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeffrey.w.hotson Jeffrey Wayne Hotson

    the comments re Shanghai’s hi speed, didn’t mention that it’s the MAGLEV train, which was only at first meant to be a statement of China’s capabilities. I rode it and talked with a woman who works in the technology industry there about it. The problems came later when they actually wanted to make some money from it and the corruption involved surfaced in an ugly way.

    I riden alot of the high speed trains in Europe and they are a pleasurable and economic alternative to other modes. They are also occassionally sold out. I can point out that there used to be a higher speed ( 100 mph +) here and it was frequently sold out. When it is coupled with better lower speed  passenger train service, passenger train service overall is fabulous.

  • Charles Bryson

    I would love to see high speed rail in the midwest from St. Louis to Chicago, Milwaukee, Memphis and Kansas City. It would be great for both usiness and tourism.

  • RockLoffter

    It’s well past time we move into the 21st century on this… when you can go from Paris to Brussels at 175mph (200 miles in 80 minutes, downtown to downtown) for $80 and in great comfort and style, then there is no reason we can’t do the same between DC and New York, Jacksonville to Miami, L.A. to San Francisco, etc etc. and build from there.  TRAINS will help relieve congestion and reduce the constant need to rebuild our roads.

    I can see that the airlines and others would fight this but they simply can’t deliver good service in a timely fashion for the short to medium range trips:  Driving to the suburbs, parking in distant lots, shuttling to the terminal, dealing with baggage and security, then the cramped seats and dodgy service topped with a dose of bad weather, missing parts, security breaches, limited cell phone and wifi service, etc means FLYING LESS THAN 1,000 miles is a BIG WASTE OF TIME.

  • Brennan511

    stopping//escaping the hotel-california? you can $ee the urgency, shan’t you? you can also see th sweet-conspiracy or not-see-it. ATLAS SHRUGED i have not seen.
    All that is required is DOUBLE LINE rails & A FEW TUNNELS, no “high speed” electric bullet phantasy.   __STEAM ENGINE?__
    Rail To Nowhere??! oh f- ……………Now They Tell Me.
    more maps? It “should cost” only $2 million per mile plus gravel and bridges.
    Are they trying to make the Cowboys chase the Engines?
    navigate el_ dog_ then contemplate boon_?
    88 MPH is enough.

  • Brennan511

    L.A. to SEATTLE WA @  65mph, just-in-time.        motorized bicycles and steam-engines go way back; hi-speed solar? too fragile. …California < E.T. phone home [the Mad Man say's $hu$h]

  • Zero

    I always say that people should look to where the technology can go in the future, not where it is right now.  Imagine if we could transport food and product on high speed rail across the country.  Or imagine if Europe and China can do that but we can’t. 

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In this image from video posted on Facebook, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, former President George W. Bush participates in the ice bucket challenge with the help of his wife, Laura Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP)

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Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at Drake's Place Restaurant, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, in Florrissant, Mo. (AP)

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