News

Price tag swells for California high-speed rail project

New $98.5 billion cost projection adds fuel to criticisms of controversial project

The cost of California's proposed high-speed-rail system, originally pegged at about $36 billion, has nearly tripled since the project was presented to voters in 2008, according to a business plan that the agency charged with building the new system released Tuesday.

The estimated price tag for the rail line, which would stretch from San Francisco to Los Angeles, now stands at $98.5 billion and could end up as high as $118 billion under the most expensive scenario, the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has concluded in a highly anticipated report.

The numbers in the new business plan exceed not only the rail authority's earlier estimates, but also projections from rail watchdogs and the state Legislative Analyst's Office, which expected the price tag to exceed $60 billion. The detailed 230-page document supplants the rail authority's 2009 business plan, which was panned by state legislators and nonpartisan analysts as incomplete and optimistic.

While the rail authority's new plan continues to make a case for high-speed rail as an economically viable alternative to building new highways and airports, its ridership and revenue projections are more conservative than those in previous analyses. The report also provides more details about the rail authority's plans to expand the line from its initial Central Valley segment, which would stretch between north of Fresno and north of Bakersfield, to the more populated cities in the state's northern and southern regions.

But the biggest difference between the current plan and its predecessor is the cost projection. The rail authority argues that the significant cost jump was caused by major changes in California's landscape since officials first began the project more than a decade ago. The state added almost 5 million people between 2000 and 2010, the plan states, and large expanses of previously vacant land have become "bustling communities, suburbs and roadways."

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The 2009 plan, for example, estimates the cost for building tunnels for the rail line at less than $6 billion. In the new plan, the estimate for tunnels is greater than $15 billion. For aerial viaducts, the cost estimate has climbed from less than $5 billion to more than $13 billion.

"The new development landscape has necessitated adding many miles of elevated structures, tunnels and other infrastructure," the report states. "The new designs permit access to major downtown population centers with less community impact and disruptions."

In addition, the timeline for completion of the project was extended by 13 years – to 2033 – which added $27.5 billion in inflation costs and $16 billion in contingencies, the report states.

To justify the rail project's price tag, however, the authority states that other transportation infrastructure – including 2,300 miles of new highway lanes and various airport improvements that would be needed over the next 20 years – would cost more than $170 billion.

"Providing equivalent new capacity through investment in highways and aviation would cost California almost twice as much as the Phase 1 (San Francisco to Los Angeles) high-speed rail system," the report states.

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The new plan does little, however, to resolve the lingering uncertainties over how to pay for the new rail line -- a colossal project for which state voters approved a $9.95 billion bond in 2008 but which has attracted skepticism and heated opposition in the three years since Proposition 1A passed. In Palo Alto, the City Council has taken an official stance of "no confidence" in the project after initially endorsing the 2008 bond measure.

The rail authority's business plan relies heavily on public financing, particularly for the "initial operating segment," which would build off of the Central Valley segment either north to San Jose or south to the San Fernando Valley. The rail authority is banking on federal and state funding to pay for this segment in its entirety. Once the trains are running – a point at which the system would be profitable, the authority asserts -- it hopes to draw about $11 billion in private investment for the system's expansion.

After the "initial operating segment" is constructed, effectively establishing the nation's first high-speed-rail system, the rail authority would focus on the "Bay to Basin" phase, which aims to connect the state's two megaregions by linking San Jose and San Fernando Valley. Once that's done, high-speed rail would be stretched further to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles -- a link that provided the main justification for Proposition 1A. The authority also hopes to later extend the line to Sacramento and San Diego.

The business plan calls the phased approach, with public investment upfront and private investment later in the process, "the prudent course to build a foundation that allows for greater efficiency in the use or private investment once the initial segments of the system are in place."

"As additional funding becomes available, operating sections will be added, to create the full statewide system," the report states, emphasizing that each segment of rail line, from the "initial operating segment" onward, would be financially self-sustaining. "This incremental approach is how most large transportation projects are built, both in the U.S. and around the world. It will accelerate benefits for California and will attract private investment far earlier than if the system were built as a whole."

For the "initial operating segment," which is projected to cost about $25 billion, the rail authority expects to draw about 80 percent of the funding from the federal government and the balance from the state. The federal subsidies under the plan's projections include both grants and tax credits. So far, the authority has received about $3.4 billion in federal grants.

The document acknowledges that federal funding will remain uncertain for years to come, but stresses that the incremental nature of construction would allow the project to proceed even if the plan's federal-funding projections fall short. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have been particularly vehement in opposing the rail project, which many have characterized as a "boondoggle."

"There is substantial discussion in Congress related to reducing deficits and the federal government's role and scope," the business plan states. "It is clear that continued uncertainties will exist and that prudent planning assumes that funding will be limited in the short term.

"Any congressional initiatives on infrastructure funding and short-term job creation may improve this situation, but the Plan does not rely on such measure."

The plan also notes the authority would also need about $4 billion in local or "other" contributions to complete the "Bay to Basin" phase.

The new plan also incorporates some of the components of a proposal that U.S. Rep Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and state Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, made earlier this year. The three Peninsula lawmakers proposed a "blended system" in which high-speed rail shares tracks with Caltrain on the Peninsula – rather than building a separate track system for the ultra-fast trains. They also voiced opposition to an earlier proposal by the rail authority to send the new trains over the Peninsula on aerial viaducts.

The business plan calls for integration between high-speed rail and Caltrain. Initially, after the "Bay to Basin" system is completed, ending in San Jose, passengers would hop onto Caltrain to take them to their destinations. After the later "Phase 1" to San Francisco is completed with improvements to the Caltrain tracks, passengers would have a "one-seat ride" and not have to change trains in San Jose. The plan stresses that it "proposes to develop the high-speed rail system in a way that more clearly and effectively integrates it with regional and local rail systems to create a statewide rail network."

"The commitment to a blended system has been initiated through extensive cooperative planning among state, regional, and local partners," the plan states.

Dan Richard, one of two people who were recently appointed to the rail authority's board of directors by Gov. Jerry Brown, said at a Tuesday hearing on the business plan that the new plan "embraces" the blended approach championed by the Peninsula lawmakers.

"The fact of the matter is that we have the opportunity to use existing right of way and existing corridor and existing infrastructure on the San Francisco Peninsula and, as we move to Southland, by Caltrain and Metrolink," Richard told a state Assembly committee. "We know that we need to now work in partnership with those systems to develop long-term plans for blended service."

Simitian, who has been one of the Senate's leading skeptics when it comes to the rail authority's projections, praised the plan's adoption of the "blended" approach on the Peninsula. He called it "very different from their earlier proposal."

"They've put aside the notion of a viaduct and the notion of going beyond the existing right-of-way," Simitian told the Weekly. "They're talking about a 'one-seat ride' where you stay on the same track in the same train in the same seat as you move up and down the Peninsula."

Eshoo said in a statement the blended-system proposal that she, Simitian and Gordon offered earlier this year "will save taxpayers billions of dollars while being responsive to the many concerns of my constituents" and said she was "pleased to see that the CHSRA draft business plan included many of the blended system provisions."

But while local legislators praised the rail authority's new emphasis on a "blended" system, they continued to voice concerns about the system's ridership projections and cost estimates.

Ridership numbers remain a thorny issue. While the 2009 plan anticipated 41 million annual riders by 2035 and $3 billion in annual revenues, the 2012 plan gives a range of 28.9 million to 42.9 million riders. The plan assumes that the average fare price to ride the new train between San Francisco and Los Angeles would be about $81.

Simitian praised the new plan for being more frank in its cost estimate than previous projections.

"The good news is that we finally have a realistic number on the table," Simitian said. "The bad news is it's a very scary number."

Others shared his concerns. Elizabeth Alexis, co-founder of the Palo Alto-based rail-watchdog group, Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CARRD), said that while the report is better than earlier versions, it still fails to address her group's criticisms about the rail authority's ridership numbers. Her group has persistently characterized the authority's numbers as unrealistic. Other rail experts, including professors from the Institute for Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley, had also found flaws in the methodology the rail authority had used to get its ridership numbers.

"It's a lot more information; it's much better written. But they haven't changed anything really other than making the cost of the system more realistic," Alexis said of the new business plan. "They're still using the same ridership model since 2007."

Alexis, whose group had long maintained that the price tag for the new system would rise significantly, said the new business plan confirms that the rail system would cost "a lot more money than we have in the bank."

"It's enough money that if we want the high-speed-rail system, the California taxpayers will be asked to contribute more than they already have," Alexis told the Weekly.

The rail authority on Tuesday characterized the plan as the foundation for a project that will create 1 million jobs and reduce carbon emissions by 3 million tons annually. Thomas Umberg, chairman of the rail authority's board of directors, said in a statement Tuesday that the board has "carefully constructed a business plan that is mindful of the economic and budgetary constraints facing both the state and the nation."

"It will deliver to California and Californians a cost-effective, efficient, and sensible alternative to more highways and increased airport congestion," Umberg said.

But the business plan, particularly its revised cost estimate, is also expected to add fuel to the criticism from Sacramento lawmakers who have long argued that the project is too expensive and should be scrapped. At Tuesday's briefing on the business plan, state Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, a leading critic of the project, said the state is already "drowning in debt" and predicted that the system would require government subsidies.

"I think there's going to be a sticker shock for the people of California," Harkey, R-Dana Point, said. "The more they know, the less they'll like it. It shouldn't be that way with something this important."

Gordon offered a more measured response, but also said he is concerned about the latest cost estimate for the project. In a statement, Gordon called high-speed rail "a powerful vision and dream" and said he hopes the state will find the means to implement this vision. But he said he was "concerned about the present price tag and the expectation that much of this will be paid for utilizing public funds."

"California remains in a fiscal crisis," Gordon said. "We do not have enough revenue to meet our expenses as is.

"Until we address our structural fiscal problems, I do not see how California can afford additional debt from high-speed rail."

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Price tag swells for California high-speed rail project

New $98.5 billion cost projection adds fuel to criticisms of controversial project

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 1, 2011, 5:43 pm

The cost of California's proposed high-speed-rail system, originally pegged at about $36 billion, has nearly tripled since the project was presented to voters in 2008, according to a business plan that the agency charged with building the new system released Tuesday.

The estimated price tag for the rail line, which would stretch from San Francisco to Los Angeles, now stands at $98.5 billion and could end up as high as $118 billion under the most expensive scenario, the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has concluded in a highly anticipated report.

The numbers in the new business plan exceed not only the rail authority's earlier estimates, but also projections from rail watchdogs and the state Legislative Analyst's Office, which expected the price tag to exceed $60 billion. The detailed 230-page document supplants the rail authority's 2009 business plan, which was panned by state legislators and nonpartisan analysts as incomplete and optimistic.

While the rail authority's new plan continues to make a case for high-speed rail as an economically viable alternative to building new highways and airports, its ridership and revenue projections are more conservative than those in previous analyses. The report also provides more details about the rail authority's plans to expand the line from its initial Central Valley segment, which would stretch between north of Fresno and north of Bakersfield, to the more populated cities in the state's northern and southern regions.

But the biggest difference between the current plan and its predecessor is the cost projection. The rail authority argues that the significant cost jump was caused by major changes in California's landscape since officials first began the project more than a decade ago. The state added almost 5 million people between 2000 and 2010, the plan states, and large expanses of previously vacant land have become "bustling communities, suburbs and roadways."

The 2009 plan, for example, estimates the cost for building tunnels for the rail line at less than $6 billion. In the new plan, the estimate for tunnels is greater than $15 billion. For aerial viaducts, the cost estimate has climbed from less than $5 billion to more than $13 billion.

"The new development landscape has necessitated adding many miles of elevated structures, tunnels and other infrastructure," the report states. "The new designs permit access to major downtown population centers with less community impact and disruptions."

In addition, the timeline for completion of the project was extended by 13 years – to 2033 – which added $27.5 billion in inflation costs and $16 billion in contingencies, the report states.

To justify the rail project's price tag, however, the authority states that other transportation infrastructure – including 2,300 miles of new highway lanes and various airport improvements that would be needed over the next 20 years – would cost more than $170 billion.

"Providing equivalent new capacity through investment in highways and aviation would cost California almost twice as much as the Phase 1 (San Francisco to Los Angeles) high-speed rail system," the report states.

The new plan does little, however, to resolve the lingering uncertainties over how to pay for the new rail line -- a colossal project for which state voters approved a $9.95 billion bond in 2008 but which has attracted skepticism and heated opposition in the three years since Proposition 1A passed. In Palo Alto, the City Council has taken an official stance of "no confidence" in the project after initially endorsing the 2008 bond measure.

The rail authority's business plan relies heavily on public financing, particularly for the "initial operating segment," which would build off of the Central Valley segment either north to San Jose or south to the San Fernando Valley. The rail authority is banking on federal and state funding to pay for this segment in its entirety. Once the trains are running – a point at which the system would be profitable, the authority asserts -- it hopes to draw about $11 billion in private investment for the system's expansion.

After the "initial operating segment" is constructed, effectively establishing the nation's first high-speed-rail system, the rail authority would focus on the "Bay to Basin" phase, which aims to connect the state's two megaregions by linking San Jose and San Fernando Valley. Once that's done, high-speed rail would be stretched further to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles -- a link that provided the main justification for Proposition 1A. The authority also hopes to later extend the line to Sacramento and San Diego.

The business plan calls the phased approach, with public investment upfront and private investment later in the process, "the prudent course to build a foundation that allows for greater efficiency in the use or private investment once the initial segments of the system are in place."

"As additional funding becomes available, operating sections will be added, to create the full statewide system," the report states, emphasizing that each segment of rail line, from the "initial operating segment" onward, would be financially self-sustaining. "This incremental approach is how most large transportation projects are built, both in the U.S. and around the world. It will accelerate benefits for California and will attract private investment far earlier than if the system were built as a whole."

For the "initial operating segment," which is projected to cost about $25 billion, the rail authority expects to draw about 80 percent of the funding from the federal government and the balance from the state. The federal subsidies under the plan's projections include both grants and tax credits. So far, the authority has received about $3.4 billion in federal grants.

The document acknowledges that federal funding will remain uncertain for years to come, but stresses that the incremental nature of construction would allow the project to proceed even if the plan's federal-funding projections fall short. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have been particularly vehement in opposing the rail project, which many have characterized as a "boondoggle."

"There is substantial discussion in Congress related to reducing deficits and the federal government's role and scope," the business plan states. "It is clear that continued uncertainties will exist and that prudent planning assumes that funding will be limited in the short term.

"Any congressional initiatives on infrastructure funding and short-term job creation may improve this situation, but the Plan does not rely on such measure."

The plan also notes the authority would also need about $4 billion in local or "other" contributions to complete the "Bay to Basin" phase.

The new plan also incorporates some of the components of a proposal that U.S. Rep Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and state Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, made earlier this year. The three Peninsula lawmakers proposed a "blended system" in which high-speed rail shares tracks with Caltrain on the Peninsula – rather than building a separate track system for the ultra-fast trains. They also voiced opposition to an earlier proposal by the rail authority to send the new trains over the Peninsula on aerial viaducts.

The business plan calls for integration between high-speed rail and Caltrain. Initially, after the "Bay to Basin" system is completed, ending in San Jose, passengers would hop onto Caltrain to take them to their destinations. After the later "Phase 1" to San Francisco is completed with improvements to the Caltrain tracks, passengers would have a "one-seat ride" and not have to change trains in San Jose. The plan stresses that it "proposes to develop the high-speed rail system in a way that more clearly and effectively integrates it with regional and local rail systems to create a statewide rail network."

"The commitment to a blended system has been initiated through extensive cooperative planning among state, regional, and local partners," the plan states.

Dan Richard, one of two people who were recently appointed to the rail authority's board of directors by Gov. Jerry Brown, said at a Tuesday hearing on the business plan that the new plan "embraces" the blended approach championed by the Peninsula lawmakers.

"The fact of the matter is that we have the opportunity to use existing right of way and existing corridor and existing infrastructure on the San Francisco Peninsula and, as we move to Southland, by Caltrain and Metrolink," Richard told a state Assembly committee. "We know that we need to now work in partnership with those systems to develop long-term plans for blended service."

Simitian, who has been one of the Senate's leading skeptics when it comes to the rail authority's projections, praised the plan's adoption of the "blended" approach on the Peninsula. He called it "very different from their earlier proposal."

"They've put aside the notion of a viaduct and the notion of going beyond the existing right-of-way," Simitian told the Weekly. "They're talking about a 'one-seat ride' where you stay on the same track in the same train in the same seat as you move up and down the Peninsula."

Eshoo said in a statement the blended-system proposal that she, Simitian and Gordon offered earlier this year "will save taxpayers billions of dollars while being responsive to the many concerns of my constituents" and said she was "pleased to see that the CHSRA draft business plan included many of the blended system provisions."

But while local legislators praised the rail authority's new emphasis on a "blended" system, they continued to voice concerns about the system's ridership projections and cost estimates.

Ridership numbers remain a thorny issue. While the 2009 plan anticipated 41 million annual riders by 2035 and $3 billion in annual revenues, the 2012 plan gives a range of 28.9 million to 42.9 million riders. The plan assumes that the average fare price to ride the new train between San Francisco and Los Angeles would be about $81.

Simitian praised the new plan for being more frank in its cost estimate than previous projections.

"The good news is that we finally have a realistic number on the table," Simitian said. "The bad news is it's a very scary number."

Others shared his concerns. Elizabeth Alexis, co-founder of the Palo Alto-based rail-watchdog group, Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CARRD), said that while the report is better than earlier versions, it still fails to address her group's criticisms about the rail authority's ridership numbers. Her group has persistently characterized the authority's numbers as unrealistic. Other rail experts, including professors from the Institute for Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley, had also found flaws in the methodology the rail authority had used to get its ridership numbers.

"It's a lot more information; it's much better written. But they haven't changed anything really other than making the cost of the system more realistic," Alexis said of the new business plan. "They're still using the same ridership model since 2007."

Alexis, whose group had long maintained that the price tag for the new system would rise significantly, said the new business plan confirms that the rail system would cost "a lot more money than we have in the bank."

"It's enough money that if we want the high-speed-rail system, the California taxpayers will be asked to contribute more than they already have," Alexis told the Weekly.

The rail authority on Tuesday characterized the plan as the foundation for a project that will create 1 million jobs and reduce carbon emissions by 3 million tons annually. Thomas Umberg, chairman of the rail authority's board of directors, said in a statement Tuesday that the board has "carefully constructed a business plan that is mindful of the economic and budgetary constraints facing both the state and the nation."

"It will deliver to California and Californians a cost-effective, efficient, and sensible alternative to more highways and increased airport congestion," Umberg said.

But the business plan, particularly its revised cost estimate, is also expected to add fuel to the criticism from Sacramento lawmakers who have long argued that the project is too expensive and should be scrapped. At Tuesday's briefing on the business plan, state Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, a leading critic of the project, said the state is already "drowning in debt" and predicted that the system would require government subsidies.

"I think there's going to be a sticker shock for the people of California," Harkey, R-Dana Point, said. "The more they know, the less they'll like it. It shouldn't be that way with something this important."

Gordon offered a more measured response, but also said he is concerned about the latest cost estimate for the project. In a statement, Gordon called high-speed rail "a powerful vision and dream" and said he hopes the state will find the means to implement this vision. But he said he was "concerned about the present price tag and the expectation that much of this will be paid for utilizing public funds."

"California remains in a fiscal crisis," Gordon said. "We do not have enough revenue to meet our expenses as is.

"Until we address our structural fiscal problems, I do not see how California can afford additional debt from high-speed rail."

Comments

Paul Losch
Registered user
a resident of Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2011 at 7:13 pm
Paul Losch, a resident of Palo Alto
Registered user
on Nov 1, 2011 at 7:13 pm
Like this comment

There have baen no hopeful news or positive findings around this boondoggle since it was first and foolishly support in an 2008 initiatives.

Study after study, analysis after analysis, no good news, just more and more red flags.

I am starting to believe that the "R" in HSR stands for Rasputin, an evil thing that will not die.

Hos much longer must this beast be allowed to provide more analysis that demonstrates that it is a bad idea?

This really is a good example of politicians in high places either having a personal stake in the project (Quopp and Diridon, inter alia) or just afraid to say "NO!" Anna, Joe, and other local elected officials need to put their feet down once and for all and end this protracted discourse that is a train to nowhere.


Sharon
Midtown
on Nov 1, 2011 at 7:32 pm
Sharon, Midtown
on Nov 1, 2011 at 7:32 pm
Like this comment

Paul


Thank you for sharing


--the HSR boondoggle is dead

--all PA politicians who supported this fraud should be fired ASAP

They are incompetent and should be investigated for conflict of interest



John
Meadow Park
on Nov 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm
John, Meadow Park
on Nov 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm
Like this comment

I called it last year in my comments == over $100 billion! and counting!

This is nothing more than vested interests lining their pockets at taxpayer expense.

This boondogggle will never be built. A train to nowhere.

We don't vote out the politicians who waste our tax money, they just keep getting reelected.

Maybe the occupy movement has a point?


Mary
Meadow Park
on Nov 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm
Mary, Meadow Park
on Nov 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm
Like this comment

The laughable part is, the HSR plan is for NO TRAIN, only 'tracks to nowhere' in the central valley until about $25 billion is down the tubes.

Things have changed massively since Kopp and Diridon hoodwinked state voters with Prop 1A. Most now realize the feds can't afford it, the state's deficit is ballooning even as funds are chopped for education and health care, no equity investors in their right mind will fund this HSR turkey.

A statewide vote today would see HSR go down in flames 2-1. This fact is not lost on elected officials at both the state and federal level. You will now see them, one by one, turning their backs on HSR during the next critical 12 months.

Deadlines will pass unfulfilled. HSR will die after chewing through about $1 billion.

The good news: HSR will not be permitted to blow $100 billion or create an albatross that could drain next generations of California taxpayers of billions forever.


mom X
College Terrace
on Nov 1, 2011 at 10:18 pm
mom X, College Terrace
on Nov 1, 2011 at 10:18 pm
Like this comment

High speed rail is great. I'll pay through the nose for it. Down with the car and gas companies who bought and destroyed tracks going to Santa Cruz. These companies are posing as citizens on these sites. Join the 21st century already. Look at Japan and Europe. Their trains are fantastic. Their people are thin. NIMBYS, didn't you consider the train factor when you bought your house near the tracks?


Common Sense
Midtown
on Nov 1, 2011 at 11:01 pm
Common Sense, Midtown
on Nov 1, 2011 at 11:01 pm
Like this comment

At what point do our state & congressional legislators say enough is enough? Is there no price that they will say the train costs too much?

When a project goes from $33 billion to $98.5 billion in span of 3 years; when the project cost $33 billion it was going to be profitable; now the cost is tripled, and it's still going to turn a profit?

This makes the loans to the now bankrupt Solyndra look like peanuts.

Clearly our legislators (Simitian, Gorodn, Eshoo, Boxer, Feinstein) favor the special interest groups above the interests of the citizens they are suppose to represent.


Larry Cohn
Midtown
on Nov 2, 2011 at 12:00 am
Larry Cohn, Midtown
on Nov 2, 2011 at 12:00 am
Like this comment

This suggests that the original estimates were grossly lowballed. When you factor in the inevitable cost overruns you're looking at $200 billion minimum, or one fifth of a trillion dollars.


maguro_01
Mountain View
on Nov 2, 2011 at 3:50 am
maguro_01, Mountain View
on Nov 2, 2011 at 3:50 am
Like this comment

Well, the Nimby's on the peninsula have got their wish - any high speed trains up the peninsula is a dead idea. I thought myself that the terminus should be San Jose since trains in the future through and north of SF were not possible. But the Nimby's can now live with grade crossings, bigger traffic jams, Diesel engines, and train horns essentially forever. It's not clear if the money can ever be found for even electrification of the peninsula Caltrains. Recently Caltrain has asserted its domain over its right-of-way up and down the peninsula with high fencing, gates, and so on. A viaduct would be much less of a wall through communities.

So the next campaign will probably be to get rid of Caltrain altogether. But that will be a fun spectacle to watch as some homeowners would gain spectacularly but others would really lose - eg the housing around the San Antonio station and elsewhere. All the transit oriented development and town centers would be a disaster and auto-oriented malls become the real "town centers". There is no reason at all to insulate Nimby's on the Peninsula from the consequences of their own actions. Peninsula cities are playing a zero sum game with one another.

I understand from really long term residents that BART was originally intended to ring the Bay. But for the usual reasons it did not and now never will. Today's costs make such a project essentially impossible and will only get worse.

It's clear that private money will not be available any time soon for transportation related projects since there is so much risk in them - a decade through planning and 10-20 years through inevitable litigation. So only public money can be used and there isn't any. There won't be any foreign money because this kind of thing is perceived as country risk in addition to the country risk added by Banana-Republic Washington gridlock.


The Nimby's almost all care only about their house price as it's their only savings. In general, people don't buy a fire extinguisher unless their house is on fire.


CrunchyCookie
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Nov 2, 2011 at 5:20 am
CrunchyCookie, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Nov 2, 2011 at 5:20 am
Like this comment

HURRAH, now let's come to our collective common senses by cutting our losses and GTFO. Having spent four years on theoretical talk and half a billion dollars on a few miles of track is nothing compared to the $108,000,000,000 and 20 years of misdirected labor destined to be wasted if we actually go through with this plan, which was a pretty dumb idea to begin with.

Masses of people simply do not travel between SF and LA on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis -- NorCal and SoCal are their own microcosms -- and for those who do, the existing options of car, plane, or bus/slow-speed rail (Amtrak) suffice. In fact, the car (instinctively seen as the most evil method) usually makes the most financial sense when carpooling's factored in: 400 miles x $0.30/mile = $120. Dividing by 2 gets $60/person, and by 4 a mere $30. HSR can't even beat the former figure.

Public transit is great, but as long as the state's broke as a joke and our colleges are falling apart, let's focus our dwindling transportation resources on something that actually makes sense and benefits the many, i.e. electrifying Caltrain or putting BART on every block.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 8:14 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 8:14 am
Like this comment

Transportation in this country is sick. We are a third world country. Actually, third world countries are doing better, they know how to invest in transportation.

Think about it next time your plane from SFO to LA is delayed 4 hours due to fog! Think about it next time you are sitting in traffic on 101. Think about it next time you are waiting on Charleston for a train to pass. Think about it next time you are standing at Cal Ave station waiting for the next train that is late and you have no information as to why - oops, you don't do that because you want to use your car so you don't have to walk anywhere!


CMSJR
Professorville
on Nov 2, 2011 at 8:22 am
CMSJR, Professorville
on Nov 2, 2011 at 8:22 am
Like this comment

Mom X...when you get off the train in LA, you will still need a car to get around.So, what have you gained? Public transportation does not and never will pay for itself


Brian Guth-Pasta
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 2, 2011 at 8:26 am
Brian Guth-Pasta, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 2, 2011 at 8:26 am
Like this comment

People need to get over the cost and also stop suing this plan to death. It needs to get built. Period. Americans need to raise taxes. PERIOD. We need to build infrastructure and more into education otherwise we are going to irrevocably fall behind in the world even more and not be able to catch up.


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 2, 2011 at 8:36 am
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 2, 2011 at 8:36 am
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HSR needs to be phased in.
1. Eliminate all grade crossings.
2. Electrify.
3. Improve track to 112 MPH.
4. Re-study any additional improvement.
By this phasing, overcommitment is avoided. Each step will be separately justified.
We are going to improve trains, so why not do so with a plan?


No
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 2, 2011 at 9:10 am
No, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 2, 2011 at 9:10 am
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to those who compare us to Europe or even 3rd world countries with rail..

Um...

compare 1) population density 2) price of taxed gasoline ( Europe) 3) number of cars in population.(3rd world).

This is an absurdity for the USA where our population is not dense, we love the freedom of our cars and can afford them ( so far) and we actually have them.

I heard a guy say that we always think it is a good idea to get OTHERS of the freeways so WE can drive with less traffic. The problem is, we are all thinking the same thing.

Decreasing cars by 1% with a 200 billion dollar price tag or more by the time it done...c'mon. Be real.


LMAO at report
Greenmeadow
on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:23 am
LMAO at report, Greenmeadow
on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:23 am
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Hmmm...shouldn't a rigorous report like this one have been required BEFORE we voted on the bond? What were our legislators doing ? Aren;t they the appointed watchdogs for absurdly lowballed projects like this?


JA3+
Crescent Park
on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:32 am
JA3+, Crescent Park
on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:32 am
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Far, far too high a cost; it's time to kill this project; enough already!


voter
Professorville
on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:40 am
voter, Professorville
on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:40 am
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I just rode the Eurostar Italia AV from Florence to Rome. Much of the area is open space, or tunnels, but when it rushed through towns the area looked like war zones, blighted, graffitied and trashed. I made a point of looking at the impact given the HSR situation here at home. I didn't vote for it, funny how giving any thought to this in the beginning made this all so very clear. Our politicians were all too busy wanting to be PC or green - but sadly were just plain stupid.


Just don't get it...
Southgate
on Nov 2, 2011 at 11:23 am
Just don't get it..., Southgate
on Nov 2, 2011 at 11:23 am
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Just keep in mind that to take the HSR from SF to LA people in this area would have to drive or somehow get to SF or SJ to take the train and in PA it is closer, cheaper and easier to get to the airports.

Also, people who bought near the tracks yesterday or years ago knew Caltrain was there but never bargained for HSR running every 2 minutes bringing hoped for millions to the area.


common sense
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 11:47 am
common sense, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 11:47 am
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Isn't there a basis for a lawsuit here? This proposition was sold to California voters with bogus ridership and cost estimates, invented to sell HSR to the voters. If the politicians can't/won't pull the plug on this then we should sue to annul this proposition.

I'm also curious about the 170 billion number being flung around now to help sell this turkey. Surely, that is not the number for road/airport improvements between here and LA over the next 20 years, but for the entire state in that time. Therefore the HSR money does not replace that expense.

Enough already. And to those of you whining about NIMBYs - I'm betting the train isn't going through your backyard.


chris
University South
on Nov 2, 2011 at 11:56 am
chris, University South
on Nov 2, 2011 at 11:56 am
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common sense,

Whom do you plan to sue? yourself? think about it!

Welcome to the Third World. As the infrastructure crumbles and inequality soars, I'm sure you will enjoy the results. You can be a NIMBY to your heart's content.


common sense
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 12:04 pm
common sense, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 12:04 pm
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I'll spell it out for you, chris. We would sue to stop the project, not for money.

Here's another new concept for you - opportunity cost. No HSR doesn't mean letting infrastructure crumble. It means investing that money in local transportation, schools and where it is really needed. Those things address inequity. A HSR system that most people don't need/can't afford does not.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 1:08 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 1:08 pm
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To the comment about me not being a NIMBY because it isn't it my backyard, of course it isn't in my backyard, I wasn't interested in buying where I reckoned a train would be improved sometime. I could see this on the cards way back when.


common sense
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm
common sense, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm
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But you feel free to judge others who didn't have your foresight, or more likely, your money, for living near the tracks. I'm sure if someone decided they needed your backyard for the greater good, you would be happy to give it up - not.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 1:42 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 1:42 pm
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For someone who claims to have commonsense, I don't see signs of any.

When deciding to purchase a home, I chose a cheaper home in a neighborhood which didn't have the potential for increases in traffic, near a school or park, or the likelihood to be involved in road widening or train problems. That was common sense for me. Yes I could have had a bigger home on a busy street, but I chose against that.

As for giving up my backyard for the common good, that is unlikely although I do have two utility poles on my property. My point is that I looked at all the possible scenarios and decided that in fact the most likely thing is that I might lose my utility poles rather than lose my backyard. Unfortunately, I got it wrong and the utility wires were never put underground. My bad call on that one.

Improvements on Caltrain and more trains have always been on the cards since the beginning of Silicon Valley's growth. Taking my backyard for a reason I can't foresee is a vague possibility, but not as likely as improvements to the train right of way.


common sense
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm
common sense, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm
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Resident-
You can't judge my common sense, because you don't know where I live. You're just assuming I live next to the tracks, which I don't.

I'm just disgusted by people calling others NIMBYs. These are the lower income people in our town who are trying to protect their homes and neighborhoods, just as you would try to protect yours if someone was about to destroy it. I guess all those farmers in the Central Valley, and high school students trying to protect their school in Bakersfield are NIMBYs too?

ps. Big homes near the tracks? Don't make me laugh.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 4:48 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2011 at 4:48 pm
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I am not making any assumptions about anyone and I didn't use the word NIMBY about anyone except myself not being one.

Big, expensive homes near the tracks? I believe the Southgate neighborhood has some larger, expensive homes, but I don't have cause to visit there.


Robert
Mountain View
on Nov 2, 2011 at 6:04 pm
Robert, Mountain View
on Nov 2, 2011 at 6:04 pm
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I think the smart thing to do is wait 20 years until our airports hit capacity and we REALLY need this, then we get to pay $300 billion.


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 2, 2011 at 6:17 pm
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 2, 2011 at 6:17 pm
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The railroads are not going to just sit there. There will be incremental improvements as required. HSR was a grand dream. HSR incrementally accomplished makes sense. All at once, negatory.


curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Nov 2, 2011 at 6:42 pm
curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Nov 2, 2011 at 6:42 pm
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2011: "This proposition was sold to California voters with bogus ridership and cost estimates, invented to sell HSR to the voters."

2013: "This proposition was sold to California voters with bogus benefits and cost estimates, invented to sell Measure E to the voters."


Nayeli
Midtown
on Nov 2, 2011 at 7:16 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
on Nov 2, 2011 at 7:16 pm
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@ Robert:

In 20 years, a cost of $300 Billion might be less than the current $118 Billion estimate (that we ALL know will be exceeded) when adjusted for inflation.


Nayeli
Midtown
on Nov 2, 2011 at 7:21 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
on Nov 2, 2011 at 7:21 pm
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I just don't see a "pressing" need -- at a time when our state is in terrible debt -- to spend $118 Billion in order to transport 20,000 people from Sacramento to Los Angeles just a little faster than traveling by car.

And, of course, the THREE AIRPORTS in this area are able to handle an increase in traffic...and airline travel will continue to be faster/safer/cheaper anyway.


John
Meadow Park
on Nov 2, 2011 at 7:49 pm
John, Meadow Park
on Nov 2, 2011 at 7:49 pm
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This boondoggle his and always will be a feeding trough for displaced bureaucrats and other political cronies. It has been alie from the start.

How can anyone project the ridership in 30 years!

How about 100 million people a year!

And you people saying nimby's and lawsuits stopped this boondoggle, get real. It was a con from the start.


Jim H.
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 2, 2011 at 9:41 pm
Jim H., Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 2, 2011 at 9:41 pm
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Not sure why everyone jumps on the NIMBY bandwagon on this one anymore. It's not about backyards, it's about rising costs and decreasing ridership.

This is not what anyone voted for (or against). The facts have materially changed. How can anyone say that this is what the people voted for? Put these new facts on the ballot and see what kind of support it gets, even from those living 20 miles away from the tracks.

Stop pulling the NIMBY card when it's obvious that the plan was not well thought out when it was put to the voters. It's been a disaster since the beginning. How can anyone have faith in a government that offers to buy us a diamond and then gives us a load of manure. As they say, "Don't piss in my ear and tell me it's raining."


Robert
Mountain View
on Nov 2, 2011 at 9:55 pm
Robert, Mountain View
on Nov 2, 2011 at 9:55 pm
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Directed to most of the "Boondoggle" "anti-hsr" posters:

Most of you are middle aged, close to retirement, and part of the "I have mine, screw the next generation crowd". Yes, it is going to be an expensive project, and is part of the expensive process of rebuilding California for my generation, after it was destroyed by the boomer/prop 13 crowd. Fortunately we understand the need and are more than willing to pay for it, so you can kindly sit this one out.


Sammy
Charleston Gardens
on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:06 pm
Sammy, Charleston Gardens
on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:06 pm
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The CA HSR project has been first, and foremost, a politically engineered transfer of wealth.  A transfer of wealth from the taxpayers of California, and the rest of the country, to the big labor groups, facilitated by Democratic Party who expects big labor to support them at the polls.  The pointless disastrous train few will ride is the necessary prop to make the process seem like a benefit to the tax payers of this state.  That the Democratic politicians of this state continue to sing the praises of the CA HSR project, even when confronted with the disastrous fiscal reality presented before them, is a testament to what is wrong and broken with the political process in this country.  

It is time to defund, strip away any legal authority from the massively incompetent CA HSR Authority, and terminate the project.  It is also time to replace clearly self-serving politicians (Obama, Feinstein, Boxer, Eshoo, Brown, and other numerous politicians in Sacramento) at the polls.  The politics supporting and driving the CA HSR project makes the Tea Party seem like a rather reasonable bunch.  Consider the nearly $1B already squandered on this project a bitter pill, compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars of crushing debt and interest the CA HSR Authority proposes to burden the citizens of this state with for decades to come.  The several billion dollars that will need to be returned to the US Treasury for not starting construction of the rail line in the Central Valley, a blatant effort by the Obama Administration using tax dollars to re-elect Jim Costa (Kings County and parts of Fresno and Kern Counties) in a tough 2010 race, is an excellent example of the cost of political greed caught in the glaring spot light of truth.

And what does Obama think of the Californian's that are concerned and/or opposed to the high speed rail project in California? Not much. Ray LaHood, Obama's transportation mouthpiece, was quoted during a press conference in Sacramento that Californian's are clamoring for speedy trains - despite the growing grumbles of discontent from various pockets of the state, including the Peninsula. "We are not going to be dissuaded by a little background noise of criticism because there is a loud, loud amount of support for high-speed rail in California." So, in a nut shell, that's Obama telling everyone in CA opposed to the train to F - off, and thanks for your tax dollars.


musical
Palo Verde
on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:28 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Nov 2, 2011 at 10:28 pm
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Trying to get some perspective on this big number. At a wage of $100,000 per year, $100B pays for one million years. Or 50,000 people working for 20 years.

Much of the amount will be spent on materials and components, but that money is also just the wages of people (not necessarily Californians) who mine, process, fabricate and transport such items.

Wonder what was spent from both ends getting to Promontory Point? (In man-hours, because the current value of those land giveaways would really distort things.) No direct comparison implied, just musing on historical precedents. Were the Native Americans ever called NIMBYs?


FS
Green Acres
on Nov 2, 2011 at 11:13 pm
FS, Green Acres
on Nov 2, 2011 at 11:13 pm
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Who will travel to LA? The rider estimates are based on what?
This is not Europe or Asia. No resemblance as far as mass transportation
pre-conditions.


Send-HSR-Back-To-The-Voters
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 3, 2011 at 6:01 am
Send-HSR-Back-To-The-Voters, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 3, 2011 at 6:01 am
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> Who will travel to LA?
> The rider estimates are based on what?

Great questions. We know how many people travel to LA using cars, and airplanes, today. So, will the ridership of the HSR be "new" traffic, or will it be "captured" from the car/air traffic? There has always seemed to be an undercurrent of "we need to get people out of their cars and airplanes" at work here.

European tourists might be inclined to take the train, transferring the capital costs of their tickets to the California taxpayers. But not having an HSR does not seem to have kept European, or Asian, tourists from visiting California.

And then there is the ever-evolving world of the Internet, which is now offering business better-than-ever high-speed communications--including video conferencing software that can reduce the need for a lot of business travel. The cost to the general economy to support increased broadband coverage is a lot less than the drag on the economy to pay for the hidden taxes that the current business model for HSR requires.

Let's hope that a re-vote makes it to the ballot before any significant amount of money is spent. This bad idea needs to be put down, and soon.


JA3+
Crescent Park
on Nov 3, 2011 at 6:17 am
JA3+, Crescent Park
on Nov 3, 2011 at 6:17 am
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In its present form, HSR here is dead in the water.

Follow the money.

No entities -- public or private -- will finance this project. At these costs, the State will be unable to carry this burden by itself.

Absent a significant amount of new debt, where's the money?


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 3, 2011 at 6:51 am
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 3, 2011 at 6:51 am
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How about a re-do vote on every public works scheme? Methinks the Big Dig would not have survived such a reappraisal.


Send-HSR-Back-To-The-Voters
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 3, 2011 at 7:23 am
Send-HSR-Back-To-The-Voters, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 3, 2011 at 7:23 am
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> How about a re-do vote on every public works scheme?

As the cost of publicly-funded "public works" projects increases, it makes sense to have at least two, and perhaps three, votes to insure that the projects are needed, feasible, and well-managed. No one in his right mind commits $100B (or more) on a single "vote". The HSR was oversold by zealots, and the truth has caught up with these people.

Time to shut them with the same political process that started them up.


Robert
Stanford
on Nov 3, 2011 at 10:11 am
Robert, Stanford
on Nov 3, 2011 at 10:11 am
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In a poll the voters in Simitian's district voted 2 to 1 in a poll AGAINST going forward with this boondoggle project if the final cost of the project is unknown and if the source of the money to pay for it (not to mention the annual operating budget) is unknown. Joe Simitian knows this result. Yet, because he's so enamoured of his "blended system" idea (which would still be above ground and wreak harm on communities along the right of way) and because Democratic governor Jerry Brown is so beholden to the construction unions that he's stubbornly STILL backing the HSR project -- so much for Jerry's self-ballowhooed new candor and making all but essential cuts in government spending to keep the deficit from getting even worse -- Joe Simitian refuses to disown this project and makes equivocal statements about his position on it. Joe is not as progressive and candid as he'd like us to believe and is not courageous enough to stand up and say "NO!" when Jerry Brown is still supporting it.


Perspective
Greenmeadow
on Nov 3, 2011 at 10:48 am
Perspective, Greenmeadow
on Nov 3, 2011 at 10:48 am
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Robert: No, we are not part of the "I have mine, screw the next generation" crowd. We are part of the "stop enslaving our children to the foolish dreams of leftists" crowd.

If you are one of the "younger" generation who isn't yet paying taxes, one day when you are an adult and paying taxes, you will thank us for not enslaving you yet further than you already are to the "dreams of your fathers".


Robert
Mountain View
on Nov 3, 2011 at 11:09 am
Robert, Mountain View
on Nov 3, 2011 at 11:09 am
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@Perspective

No you're wrong. I am already paying taxes on the FULL value of my house, just like your children will have to (do you?). And yet, I'm sure you still have some long winded explanation of how you don't want to leave a tax burden on your children. Sorry, but actions are louder than words.


Joseph E. Davis
Woodside
on Nov 3, 2011 at 12:37 pm
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside
on Nov 3, 2011 at 12:37 pm
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Spending $100 billion (or more likely, $200-$400 billion) to achieve next to nothing is a plan that only a lunatic or a corrupt politician could support. Unfortunately, in California we have an ample supply of both.


John
Meadow Park
on Nov 3, 2011 at 9:07 pm
John, Meadow Park
on Nov 3, 2011 at 9:07 pm
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Look behind the curtain: THERE IS NO TRAIN!

Never was never will be.

There is just a gravy train for whoever gets a paycheck from the 1st wasted billion.

It's a con people, and we are the marks.


Tim
University South
on Nov 4, 2011 at 11:00 pm
Tim, University South
on Nov 4, 2011 at 11:00 pm
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If the report teaches us anything at all, it's that HSR must be built SOONER rather than LATER before the costs get even higher.


David
another community
on Nov 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm
David, another community
on Nov 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm
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No San Jose on the list?

Anyway, wow 41 million riders per year.

The largest TGV in France seats 750.

These projections are claiming 150 absolutely full, giant trains per DAY to reach that number of yearly passengers.

Absolutely impossible.

I voted for the train the first time. I won't vote for it again until becomes realistic.

Do the math people. This is not going to be what the proponents say it will be.


Vern
another community
on Nov 24, 2011 at 9:45 am
Vern, another community
on Nov 24, 2011 at 9:45 am
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The Authority 'fessing up to triple the original costs is still little better than a convict's teatimony as a witness at a trial. "We really mean it now" is not a number you can trust. These same people using numbers of how much new roads and runways cost [are we to trust these numbers too?] instead of Rail doesn't legitimize their own phony costs or ridership numbers. Voters need the chance to vote on the truth and reflect on our state's dire fiscal effects on schools, law enforcement and the road work that still needs to be done anyway. Join ReVoteTheRailCa on Twitter and Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability on FaceBook and get the grassroots going on this issue.


California Dreamer
Stanford
on Nov 24, 2011 at 11:52 am
California Dreamer, Stanford
on Nov 24, 2011 at 11:52 am
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It's good to see that there are still a few BIMBYs (brainless in my backyard) in Paly that will support any form of boondoggle that is foisted upon them.

Pointless analogies with countries that have totally different transportation dynamics and still require massive amounts of public subsidy are the true refuge of fools.

False promises of non-existent environmental benefits as symptomatic of the same.


Public Private partnership
Menlo Park
on Jan 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm
Public Private partnership, Menlo Park
on Jan 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm
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Have the state issue on RFP or RFI for the project and open it up to other forms of transportation. Why does it have to be 19th century rail?

Isn't California the center of innovation?


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