Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"California Hits the Brakes on High-Speed Rail Fiasco"

From the "Damn, this guy knows what he's talking about" (not me, the analyst) file: Five years ago we read an analysis that predicted almost exactly how this would play out. Links below.

And as I said in a 2014 piece on a proposed Houston-Dallas run:
...Don't get me wrong, I'm all for high-speed rail, it's just that in the U.S., in every single instance the promoters have been lying scum.
Every single time.
At one time the cost estimates had ballooned to $100 billion before huge chunks of the approved project were jettisoned, leaving just a $35 billion cost overrun.

From Bloomberg:
California's high-speed rail project increasingly looks like an expensive social science experiment to test just how long interest groups can keep money flowing to a doomed endeavor before elected officials finally decide to cancel it. What combination of sweet-sounding scenarios, streamlined mockups, ever-changing and mind-numbing technical detail, and audacious spin will keep the dream alive?

Sold to the public in 2008 as a visionary plan to whisk riders along at 220 miles an hour, making the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a little over two and a half hours, the project promised to attract most of the necessary billions from private investors, to operate without ongoing subsidies and to charge fares low enough to make it competitive with cheap flights. With those assurances, 53.7 percent of voters said yes to a $9.95 billion bond referendum to get the project started. But the assurances were at best wishful thinking, at worst an elaborate con.

The total construction cost estimate has now more than doubled to $68 billion from the original $33 billion, despite trims in the routes planned. The first, easiest-to-build, segment of the system -- the “train to nowhere” through a relatively empty stretch of the Central Valley -- is running at least four years behind schedule and still hasn’t acquired all the needed land. Predicted ticket prices to travel from LA to the Bay have shot from $50 to more than $80. State funding is running short. Last month’s cap-and-trade auction for greenhouse gases, expected to provide $150 million for the train, yielded a mere $2.5 million. And no investors are lining up to fill the $43 billion construction-budget gap.

Now, courtesy of Los Angeles Times reporter Ralph Vartabedian, comes yet another damning revelation: When the Spanish construction company Ferrovial submitted its winning bid for a 22-mile segment, the proposal included a clear and inconvenient warning: “More than likely, the California high speed rail will require large government subsidies for years to come.” Ferrovial reviewed 111 similar systems around the world and found only three that cover their operating costs.
This research should surprise no one who pays attention. Even advocates acknowledge that almost all high-speed rail systems need ongoing subsidies.

But the California High-Speed Rail Authority steadfastly maintains that its trains will be the exception: “HIGH-SPEED RAIL IN CALIFORNIA WILL NOT REQUIRE OPERATING SUBSIDIES,” a 2013 fact sheet declared, in all caps. The authority has to keep up the charade or admit to breaking the promises that persuaded voters to back the project in the first place....MORE
Here's 2011's "California High Speed Rail: The Man Who Predicted The Cost and the Delay".

If interested see also:
Don't Argue Choo-choos With Reason: PolitiFact Gets High-Speed Rail Facts in Florida Wrong

and previously on the California Dreaming channel:
Mother Jones: "California High Speed Rail Now Even More Ridiculous Than Before"
California High-speed Rail Costs Triple to $100 Billion (and it will be arriving late) 
California High Speed Rail: The Man Who Predicted The Cost and the Delay 
Jerry Brown Rejects $100 Billion Cost Estimate, Says Cap-and-trade Fees Will Fund High-speed Rail

*From the San Jose Mercury News 20Dec2010: