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The "Bullet" Train: What Does It Say About Our State Government?

Original post made by Erin Glanville, Menlo Park, on Dec 19, 2013

The following blog appears in The Almanac:

Even if you supported the "bullet train" five years ago, you should think about how our state government is – or is not-- respecting California voters as that project continues to degrade.

Back in 2008 (when Proposition 1A was passed under the biased ballot title "Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century"), the "ask" of California voters was to approve a $9.95 billion dollar general bond obligation that would theoretically fund a high-speed rail system (200+ MPH) connecting Sacramento/ San Joaquin Valley, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Southern California.

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Comments (6)

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Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 19, 2013 at 11:17 am

I, like many people thought that the HSR was a good deal - way back when. Now I am appalled by the financing tactics being used. People who have had their family properties for many years in the Fresno area are being forced to give it up for the Tax Assessment value due to eminent domain tactics. Property that has not changed hands has a relatively lower tax assessment value. That property will now be leased at the current market value to developers / others. The differential is the profit / funding for this project.
The biggest challenge that HSR has is drilling a tunnel through the Tehachapi Mountains. Amtrak currently has no rails that go over - people are bused to Bakersfield. HSR should be starting with the tunneling process first to create some feasibility to this whole scheme. They are ignoring any reference to the most expensive part of this whole project. Right now it is a land grab - coming to your area soon.

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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 19, 2013 at 11:27 am

This is the state of government today: promise a $10 billion rail system, with 240mph trains, $20 tickets, and door to door service from LA to SF in 2 hours.

Then deliver a train costs $100 billion, goes from Barstow to Fresno in 4 hours, and tickets cost $100. That $100 billion will line a lot of pockets and guarantee the people making the bad decisions will continue to be empowered to make more bad decisions.

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Posted by Jack
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2013 at 11:55 am

"The biggest challenge that HSR has is drilling a tunnel through the Tehachapi Mountains."

Resident 1, are you sure about that? I thought they were going through Tehachapi Pass, which has had a rail line for over a century. I voted against Prop 1A, because it did not make sense, on many levels. However, a tunnel was not one of them.

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Posted by Losers
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm

We all lose in this one: the taxpayers, the state of CA, the people whose land is confiscated for pennies on the dollar, even the future ridership.

It is impractical, far too expensive, even with the underpriced land confiscations, and probably too expensive to operate. Look what is happening to various HSRs in Europe--most are losing money, only a couple of them in Germany and Switzerland are breaking even. Some have been discontinued. France's TGV is so broke they cannot afford maintenance on the cars any longer, and are planning to shut the whole thing down.

HSR only works in greatly overpopulated areas, like Japan, or perhaps New York City. It is unaffordable and impractical without a very large guaranteed ridership--even then it may not be very profitable, at least not enough to keep it running.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm

I, too, also initially supported HSR in CA - it seemed to make sense. However, the politicians and special interests lied and what can we do at this point?
Interesting that President Obama has steadfastly persisted in supporting this project. All I can think is that he doesn't really know the details, he is 3,000 miles away, has been told it will lead to massive union contracts for the construction, and never mind that it doesn't make fiscal or practical sense.
Then I recall the City of Palo Alto for a time joined in hiring a costly lobbyist - to lobby in Sacramento! - on behalf of the interests of the SF peninsula with regards to HSR. That was dropped after a lot of taxpayer money was dropped and I do not believe any meaningful dialogue or action resulted from the "lobbying."
I wish we had more sensible politicians and that the public would care to make more voices heard - I do contact government officials/my representatives at all levels of government, but we need many, many more people to take a few minutes to do just that if you want the little guy/gal taxpayer to ever have a voice. It is disgusting how large special interests have ruled the HSR debacle in California, and the media has been fairly muted on this. I think CA taxpayers will have to have a massive tax rise, absolutely outrageous but with greedy politicians what else will there be to do?

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Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 19, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Jack - the rail line you are referring to is a freight line. The freight line has exclusive rights for that set of rails. That train goes really slow and has a whole line of cars. I read that in previous press release on this topic. People have to be bussed over to Bakersfield for the regular passenger rail lines. Also - I do not think the rails are the right type.

There is an east coast Mag-Lev group that is being courted by the Japanese who want to help finance their mag-lev train on the east coast. That is a very interesting train - you can look it up on Google. If that is successful then that will satisfy the requirement for the US to have a speed train.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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