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Palo Alto may sue state high-speed rail authority
Original post made
on Mar 3, 2009
Palo Alto community outrage and City Council skepticism will not stop the state agency in charge of the high-speed rail project from running the line on the Caltrain corridor through the Peninsula, rail officials said Monday night. City officials said they might sue.
Protestors march against high-speed rail]
City staff: Tunnel trains or change route]
Editorial: Palo Alto surface rail becoming unthinkable]
Not so fast]
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 2:55 AM
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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 6:43 pm
Responses to my Taiwan comparisons are in line below:
1. "First of all, the density of >5000/sq.mile is not enough to support HSR. You need, and I suspect Taiwan has, much higher density in big cities than California cities. Few people there have the luxury of living in single-family houses."
San Francisco has a population of 800,000 and density of 17,000/sq mi.
San Jose has a population of ~1 million and density of 5,200/sq mi
Los Angeles County has a population of 9.9 million and density of 2,500/sq mi.
The City of Los Angeles has a population of 3.8 million and density of 8,200/sq mi.
Kaohsiung has a population of 1.5 million and a density of 25,600/sq mi.
Taipei has a population of 2.6 million and a density of 25,000/sq mi.
While it is correct that Kaohsiung and Taipei (the terminal cities) are a bit more dense than San Francisco and considerably denser than LA's sprawl, there is no reason to conclude that the 9.9 million people in LA County are somehow too spread out to ride a train from LA's Union Station to San Francisco. After all, 62 million passengers per year manage to get to LAX.
2. "Secondly, if you read my earlier comments, you will see that even with 43 million tickets sold per year, the revenue can barely cover the interest of the $40B capital cost. Estimated ridership numbers that are much higher than 46M/year are unrealistic."
Why do you assume Cambridge Systematics ridership study is off by a factor of two? Furthermore, you assume that long term pricing of air travel and HSR tickets are already known. Estimates have been made for both, but why are yours likely to be more accurate than Cambridge Systematics, which published their assumptions, scenarios, and estimates.
3. "Thirdly, if my Chinese does not fail me, the Taiwan HSR has been losing money since it started operating. In total it has lost 53.9 Billion Taiwanese dollars, or the equivalent of about $1.7B U.S. dollars in a couple of years."
According to Wikipedia: "The operational break-even level (income less operating costs, excluding financial costs) of NT$1 billion was reached in the fourth month of operation, April 2007. In the first nine months, revenue was NT$9.19 billion, and THSRC expected to become profitable by 2009.. The cash-flow break-even level (excluding depreciation and debt service) was reached in April 2008, when an income of NT$1.9 billion in ticket and NT$0.2 billion in other sales stood against operating costs around NT$0.85-0.9 billion and interest payments around NT$1.3 billion per month."
Furthermore, almost no major infrastructure project is profitable at the start of operations, they are designed to generate long term returns to offset the huge upfront costs, typically over decades. If you are correct that the cumulative loss is only $1.7B in THSRC's first two years of service, it is doing quite well, which the 100% annual ridership growth would indicate. Keep in mind that Amtrak (which is federally owned and has been losing massive amounts of money for years) has one profitable line: Acela, the almost-High Speed Rail from Boston to New York to DC (although breaking specific lines' financial performance out of Amtrak's highly political and opaque accounts is tricky).
My goal is not imply that Taiwan is California, it is obviously very different. I used Taiwan as a single example of a successful, new HSR network in its first few years of operation with relatively fewer people living in the vicinity of stations than California would have. There have been successful HSR projects all over the world: Belgium, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, Taiwan, and the UK. There is no question that they are expensive, but if the benefits did not outweigh the costs, why is Japan still building new HSR lines 45 years after their first shinkansen entered service?