Friday, November 4, 2011

The Biggest Boondoggle – High Speed Rail

If you have been following my blogs (and thank you), you know that I am adamantly against the California High Speed Rail (HSR). Since my first HSR post HERE, I have tried to point out its irrelevancy in this day of independent transportation (the car and bus) and high speed transportation (the plane). The current state of heavy rail (Amtrak) is a joke outside of the dense urban areas of San Diego/Los Angeles and the Bay Area corridors from San Jose and Sacramento. There is a lot land between the two regions and to think that our transportation problems will be solved by building an incredibly expensive new system is a politician’s pipe dream. They even have the airport singing their song since the state and the environmental rabble won’t let them expand as they all need to do.

In reality the HSR system is a parallel to the airline system that has developed since World War II in California. The proposed HSR will do nothing for all the hundreds of thousands of residents up and down the state that will have to accommodate the new tracks and trains. It will have to bypass most of the cities in the Central Valley since they will only slow the train down and where they do pass through town they will inevitably cut them in two. But these HSR boosters will not be deterred!

Yesterday new numbers were announced that send shivers down the backs of the already heavily taxed citizens of the state. The LA Times has a great summary article HERE that highlights the growing resentment to HSR and its effect on hundreds of landowners down the state. It has grown from the initial $33-billion, to $48-billion, to now $98-billion, and it hasn’t even started construction. I guessed at least $100-billion last November and I now believe that it will cost twice that amount, that’s at least $6,000 dollars for every Californian. Insanity has found a home.

Don’t get me wrong, I love trains and the trip from London to Paris on their HSR is the highlight of a European junket. But look at the state of the economies of these countries that built these trains. They are even lumping France into the problem states of Spain, Italy, Portugal, and of course Greece. In 1932 Ballyhoo magazine printed a cartoon by Ralph Fuller that had the caption “Tch, tch! What a way to run a railroad!” HERE Since then the phrase has been twisted and revised to effectively say “They don’t know what they’re doing!” This applies, quite appropriately, to the California High Speed Rail Authority as well.

We do need regional trains. We need to expand the current rail infrastructure such as BART in the Bay Area, and Southern California’s anemic Metrolink (41,000 riders per day in a region of over 22 million). BART carries 341,000 per day in a population that is less than third of SOCAL. BART takes people where they want to go. It even goes (finally) to the San Francisco Airport and an extension to Oakland’s airport is coming.

It is estimated that BART costs about a $100-million per mile, but that’s because we nibble at it, five to ten miles at a time. With a greater expansion to the system in one long phase, costs would go down.

Imagine what extensions to Tracy in the east and Gilroy to the south would accomplish. How many thousands of cars would be moved off the highway? How much growth would be supported along these connections? Just look at the last thirty years along BART’s various lines and the impact that the stations had on these towns. It is impressive.

It’s my belief that Californians want a rail system that supports the region they live in. Not a system that they might, once or twice a year, use to go north or south. We do not need a tourist train. We need train systems that support economic growth, facilitate growth outside of the dense and congested urban cores, and add to the vitality of the surrounding communities. Period.

Stay tuned . . . .

BTW: For last Christmas I posted a simple story about a visit by Sally to Santa and his helpers, I offer it again since Christmas is only 50 shopping days away. Enjoy!  CLICK HERE  

No comments:

Post a Comment