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Concerns Cloud Cal HSR

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Doubts about state's proposed high-speed trains pick up steam

 

Much of the L.A. Times story is concerned with a revised business plan for the project, but also this:

 

"Conflicts are brewing in Southern California as planners step up efforts to squeeze trenches, viaducts and extra tracks into a crowded rail corridor cutting across the region. Problems remain over how the bullet train will pass through Los Angeles' Union Station transportation complex. Existing buildings, freeways, rail lines and overpasses around the station make it an extremely tight fit."

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If the issue is that they need space for high speed tracks plus Metrolink tracks and platforms, why aren't they looking at rebuilding the tracks through that area on two levels?

 

And why didn't the reporters writing the article share quotes on what the folks who are concerned about the potential for operating subsidies think about the money the federal government keeps transferring from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund?

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If the issue is that they need space for high speed tracks plus Metrolink tracks and platforms, why aren't they looking at rebuilding the tracks through that area on two levels?

 

And why didn't the reporters writing the article share quotes on what the folks who are concerned about the potential for operating subsidies think about the money the federal government keeps transferring from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund?

The issue bothering those quoted in the article is the bait-and-switch effort actively being pursued by Hi Speed enthusiasts, not a subsidy perse. The proponents should have been honest from the get-go and conceded that there might have to be operating subsidies, or at least promises of government backstopping for investors, ala Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

There isn't a single rail system in the world, be it the French TGV, the Shinkansen, the Spanish or German systems, etc. that doesn't operate without a direct or indirect subsidy from the government.

I personally don't find that a problem, since it's been pointed out that our airline and highway systems also receive subsidies.

What I do find troubling is that rail proponents, whether in Florida, California, Illinois or the Northeast Corridor, refuse to admit that their plans would also end up requiring subsidies. They probably believe that public support would whither if they were transparent, because the public has no experience with a vibrant, popular and subsidized high-speed rail system, as it does with air and roads. Just think Amtrak.l

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I dunno what rail advocates in the northeast you are listening to, but the group I'm active in (the Lackawanna Coalition) and even the politician's tame advocates at NARP don't espouse such nonsense that they don't think it or any other rail will require a subsidy.

 

Secondly, the advocates seem to be thinking that the train will not require an OPERATING subsidy. That's entirely possible. I can think of quite a few trains that don't require such a subsidy- I heard the Lynchburger is heading in that direction, and many NEC trains also do not. (The NEC as a total sum does require one, but IIRC its not a large one)

 

We're not talking capital. A capital subsidy is inevitable. Anyone who thinks that a rail line can be built and operated from scratch and make an all-over profit is a little nuts. There are a select few that can (mostly tourist trains) but its essentially unrealistic.

 

But in both business and government, capital and operating are two totally different things. You have to keep that in mind.

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Finally read the thing.

 

Talk about mastery of the fractured quotation! I don't know which was worse, the article itself or the comments about it.

 

I notice one of the commentators referenced the "Reason" foundation report on the system. Have read it. What a piece of unreason. Some of things in there are simply poor arithmatic. I think the commentator that disparaged the run time by talking about "with a stop every 25 miles the train will never achieve high speeds" must have gotten his information from that report. We heard the same song and dance in Taiwan. The political promise was the one-stop train could do the 210 miles in 90 minutes and the all-stops in 2 hours flat. The reality is that they chose not to run a one-stop train, but the two stop train makes it end to end in 95 minutes, and with enough slack beyond minimum run time to do it reliably. The all stops makes the 2 hours flat easy. By the way, that is with 5 intermediate stops, so a stop every 42 miles.

 

One of the classics in the newspaper article was this, "A recent federal Government Accountability Office study found that rail cost and patronage projections around the world, including on some high-speed lines, tended to be overly optimistic, . . ."

 

Got to love it, "including SOME high speed lines," but does not get into which ones or why. I could go on and on, but I am supposed to be working.

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One of the classics in the newspaper article was this, "A recent federal Government Accountability Office study found that rail cost and patronage projections around the world, including on some high-speed lines, tended to be overly optimistic, . . ."

 

Got to love it, "including SOME high speed lines," but does not get into which ones or why. I could go on and on, but I am supposed to be working.

 

Then again, the Northeast Regional to Lynchburg projections weren't terribly accurate either, in that they seem to have dramatically overestimated how much Virginia would have to pay for that train. Are there any other recent new intercity trains in the US to get data from?

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