February 3, 2012

"If they began this project where they want it to go — between San Francisco and Los Angeles..."

"... they would run into so much opposition from the environmentalists, and from local politicians influenced by the environmentalists, that the delays could take the high-speed rail advocates beyond the time limit for using the federal subsidy money. But the green fanatics have not yet taken over politically out in the San Joaquin Valley."

Writes Thomas Sowell about the high-speed rail line between Fresno and Bakersfield, California.
In other words, they are going to start wasting money out in the valley, so that they will be able to waste more money later on, along the coast. This may not make any sense economically, but it can make sense politically for Jerry Brown and Barack Obama.

69 comments:

Don't Tread 2012 said...

"But the beauty of politics is that it is all other people's money, including among those other people generations yet unborn."

This.

Beauty, no - Greek tragedy, yes.

And plenty of 'customers' willing to sign up for Act One.

We get the government we deserve.

PatCA said...

We are also not broke enough out here in CA to stop giving taxpayer money to special interest groups in order to buy their votes.

Yesterday, Michelle O breezed out here to dedicate a new market in a barrio, built by a very successful chain, that we lent millions to out of our $265 M fund for such projects.

alan markus said...

Another feather in Walker's cap! He saved WI from fiscal ruination by cancelling the High Speed Rail project.

Fen said...

"The only reason for even thinking about building a high-speed rail line between Fresno and Bakersfield is just to get the project underway with federal money, making it politically more difficult to stop the larger project for a similar rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles"

This is why America is going broke.

The corruption is systemic.

Maybe you can trade your Carbon Credits in for Rail Vouchers.

Patrick said...

Why do they build light rail?

Payoff. Nothing more.

Amartel said...

Boondocksdoggle. There is no reason for this absurdly expensive project, none that would serve the citizens of California, anyway. And yet, Frankentrain lives, fueled by the state bureaucracy, for the state bureaucracy, of the state bureaucracy. And your tax dollars, of course.

DADvocate said...

God. The stupidity of these light rail projects boggles the mind almost as much as the stupidty and arrogance of the politicians who insist they're a good investment. Cincinnati's mayor insists a street car that goes from downtown to nowhere will make Cincinnait competitive and build up jobs and busuniss, etc, even though it's projected to run at a loss forever. We live in a time overrun with complete dumb asses.

traditionalguy said...

The Moon Base at least has militarily important.

And what a great billboard the moon would make during full moons. And remember, we can't even read Chinese.

edutcher said...

If he tried to do it today under these conditions, GodZero couldn't build the Inter-Continental Railroad.

PS It's not that we can't do great things anymore, it's that too many politicians are busy catering to too many special interests to do anything good for the people.

BigFire said...

Not that I want to give them more idiotic ideas (I live in California), but the only thing that's even more green is if they can make this train solar powered. Just imagine, solar powered high speed rail, going from nowhere to nowhere.

Henry said...

So figure this one out. High-speed rail creates environmental impact, eminent domain grabs, and costs that far exceeds oil and gas pipelines. Yet liberals hate pipelines and love high speed rail.

What do they think diesel electric trains run on?

Ann Althouse said...

High-speed rail and light rail aren't the same thing. (Are they?)

The Drill SGT said...

Sowell is right. The correct place to build is from SFO airport south through Menlo Park, Stanford, and Palo Alto.

All those democratic green google millionaires would be living next to the tracks.

why?

- because when the full set of tracks to LA ISN'T built, you'd still have a useful commuter rail line feeding SF
- it's hard politically, if you can't build tracks there, and you can't. You never can build the whole line, so save 100 billion and don't build a mile.

Chuck66 said...

Actually Wisconsin's Hiawatha extension made sense.....relative to the California high speed rail line.

Wisconsin's was on existing railroad right of ways, while California's is new construction.

The Drill SGT said...

Ann Althouse said...
High-speed rail and light rail aren't the same thing. (Are they?)


not evn close, the rail bed for HSR is way above normal specs for passenger and cargo rail and those road beds are over engineered for light rail.

It's about compaction , vibration dampning and stress.

Born in CA to a 40 year heavy rail (WP) man

Long live the WP Zephyr up the Feather River Gorge. DBQ knows of what I speak. Not that pathetic Amtrak thing

Chuck66 said...

AA....light rail is more like a modern street car system. Runs on close headways, but more often than not on its own right of way.

12 or so years ago, there was talk of building a lightrail from downtown Milw, to the state fair, Miller Park, Zoo, and to some point west of there (probably a large parking ramp).

This right winger actually supports these types of projects if the city is large enough to support ridership and he hits enough big orgins and destinations for ridership.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Good God, people! Isn't anyone thinking about the Zayante band-winged grasshopper, ( Trimerotropis infantilis)? The Kern primrose sphinx moth, ( Euproserpinus euterpe)? The Alameda whipsnake, ( Masticophis lateralis euryxanthus)? When will the atrocities end?

Chuck66 said...

One of things that makes these projects so expensive is the affirmative action portion. They set aside millions and millions of extra dollars to hirer contractors from protected classes. They also hirer bureaucrats to monitor the affirmative action goals.

In St Paul (for the central corridor light rail project), and enterprising African American lady (hey, a 2fer) came up with a good idea. She leased a small warehouse, and "sold" products to the project under the affirmative action quotas. Actually what it was is that regular contractors really did the selling, but they would unload the stuff at her warehouse, then a few minutes later reload the materials back onto their trucks. Those 20 minutes in her warehouse were enough to transfer ownership to her. Even though it was just a paper transaction.

She marked the products waaaayyyyy up, saying she is a minority contractor so the project had to pay her the inflated numbers. This is how you reach your affirmative action goals.

Old Dad said...

I feel sorry for Californians. I really do. Your state is beautiful, but you've gone out of your minds. Don't build this idiotic monstrosity. If it will make you feel any better, build an altar to Gaea in Sacramento, and every new moon have Jerry Brown burn $1,000,000 in sacrifice. It will be soooo much cheaper.

Patrick said...

"High-speed rail and light rail aren't the same thing. (Are they?)"

They are the same thing if you look at why they are built. They are not built for the efficient transportation of passengers, they are built to pay off two primarily Democratic constituencies: First, social engineers, who want to replace living patterns that have developed over time )particularly in the post war era) with their vision for how things ought to be. Second, builders who rely primarily government contracts for their income.

Light rail usually moves people within a metropolitan area. High speed rail usually moves people between larger cities, although more slowly and more expensively than auto or air travel.

Hagar said...

The lines between "light rail" and "high speed rail" are getting blurred. Both types are aimed at people transport, since the proponents for either are not much for promoting anything that requires freight to be moved, and the "high speed" aimed at in this country really is not all that high speed.

So, "light rail" is getting to mean something more or less like street cars, or trolleys, and "high speed rail" just means something like Greyhound busses coupled together and run on tracks between cities.

virgil xenophon said...

Not to mention the fact that the topography of the land along the coastal route is such that there isn't enough money in the world to build a RR at the grade necessary for the speeds projected. Thus the actual speeds reality will require will make the system TOTALLY uncompetitive in both time and cost to the already existing cheap commuter airfares, thus decreasing ridership even further below break even and insuring that the proposed "hi-speed" rail between LA & SF will remain a financial black-hole forever.

Revenant said...

Your state is beautiful, but you've gone out of your minds. Don't build this idiotic monstrosity.

The majority of Californians think the project should be cancelled. We're trying to get a vote to kill the project on the ballot for this November.

It is hard to describe just how gerrymandered California politics are. Politicians answer to their party, not to the voters -- and the Democratic Party is owned by groups that want this project to go forward.

Hagar said...

I should add: ... at twice the cost of Greyhound busses.

Old Dad said...

Revenant,

Make a deal with the Dems. Take half of the first projected spend on the choo choo. Of that, take a quarter and give it to Greenpeace, a quarter to SEIU, a quarter to Planned Parenthood, and a quarter to the DNC.

This plan has it all, saving the whales, graft, and killing babies. It can't miss, and you're money ahead.

MadisonMan said...

If there is plenty to argue against the proposed HSR in California, why start a sentence with an unproveable hypothetical?

Paul Zrimsek said...

"Light rail" is what you call trolleys when you want to make them sound non-obsolete.

John Stodder said...

I feel sorry for Californians. I really do. Your state is beautiful, but you've gone out of your minds

Yeah, it's true. It's a post-deconstructionist form of government, where we have a governor who looks at verifiable cost estimates and basically can get away with saying, "I don't believe it."

Wall Street, which has to issue the bonds, won't sell them for this, right? No way we could ever pay them back.

The other really stupid thing about this issue right now, politically is: Brown is ALSO trying to sell a tax increase in November. I keep thinking, what else could he do to make sure that his cherished tax hike doesn't pass? Because even the more class-warfare minded citizens will probably vote the tax hikes down, because they'll think, "he's not going to use this money for schools, but for this black hole of a high-speed rail project!"

Nobody seems to care though. Seriously. It's like our government is a painting by Braque, an angular abstract based on reality, but not real.

Eugene said...

A first-person perspective on the population densities that make mass transit economical in Japan: http://www.peterpayne.net/2012/02/crowded-trains-in-tokyo.html

Making mass transit economical also requires making the alternatives prohibitively expensive (in time, money, or both): http://www.peterpayne.net/2011/06/my-drivers-license-renewal.html

Carnifex said...

You people in California are getting what you deserve. You've voted for Dummycrats, and Rinolicans for so long you've become a socialist state. Grow a pair, go down to you state capital, and tell Gov. Moonbeam to stop or he's going to be the guest of honor at a neck tie party. What I expect to happen is that you'll roll over like a dog and say "Please Sir, may I have another?"

At least the liberal progressives protest when stuff happens that they don't like.

Peter said...

Well, it's scheduled for completion in ... 2034. Only 22 years and it will be ready?

Did it take this long to build the first transcontinental railroad?

Perhaps we should just face it: we really can't build anything anymore.

Larry J said...

Years ago, I came across an interesting fact. It seems that something like 80% of the environmental "superfund" (designed to clean up the most dangerous toxic waste sites) actually went to the lawyers. What with the never ending series of enviromental impact statements, lawsuits and other folderoil, high speed rail would be little different. You see, we live in a nation of, by and for the lawyers. To hell with everyone else, it's all about funneling massive amounts of money to lawyers and the so-called "greens."

Carol said...

So they want to build it up the west valley? That's the quickest way by car, zipping up I5. It's pretty desolate...but seems like the best route for rail too.

I don't get it.

~N. said...

Believe me, Californians think this is a joke. No one wants this stupid thing. People laugh about it all the time -- like some tool is going to pay MORE to take a "high speed train" when they can hop on a cheap flight for less and get where they're going faster.

If they wanted to spend money to fix the current, crappy public transportation system in SF, that would be one thing. Instead, it's more money down the drain for more transportation that no one will use.

Not to mention, we're already wasting bajillions on the new Transbay bus terminal project, funded by Federal $$, although at least the upside of that one is it got rid of all the homeless people using the old bus terminal as permanent housing.

And, while we're talking urban transportation, how about SF licensing more cabs. Figures THIS city has the WORST public transportation system, NO cabs to speak of, and insanely expensive street parking. They do EVERYTHING they can to discourage driving in this city (including paying for miles and miles of bike lanes), and then make it impossible to do anything BUT drive.

There are days when I just loathe this city. Yeah, the setting is pretty, but the mentality is a joke. Dumbest, most classist, racist, narrow people you will meet anywhere. /rant

John Stodder said...

So they want to build it up the west valley? That's the quickest way by car, zipping up I5.

Great point. Unless you're driving it on a holiday weekend or in bad weather, you can go 85 mph on the I-5 for 200 miles. Maybe a train would be a little faster, but when it drops you off, you don't have a car.

You don't want to be stuck in Bakersfield without a car.

Tim said...

"This may not make any sense economically, but it can make sense politically for Jerry Brown and Barack Obama."

Indeed. It's the audacity of hope.

Hope that, despite a known, fraudulent "business case," the thing will not be plagued by cost overruns and underfunded by poor ridership.

Hope that, despite no known market for high speed rail, somehow people yet born will magically prefer high speed rail to more convenient and/or cheaper auto and air travel.

Hope that, despite growing voter discontent with a fraudulent, over-priced, unnecessary project, somehow voters will forgive them their mistakes and somehow grow to appreciate their visionary leadership.

Of these, the last hope is most likely to come true, since no one knows how dumb their voters are than Democrats. Every election they win proves a Democrat can never underestimate the intelligence of his/her voters. They reward the inexperienced, the failed, and the corrupt.

Revenant said...

You people in California are getting what you deserve. You've voted for Dummycrats, and Rinolicans for so long you've become a socialist state.

Thanks for sharing your uninformed opinion.

Meanwhile, back in reality, the ballot usually features a big-spending social liberal versus a big-spending social conservative. Hard to vote for a small-government candidate when there isn't one on the ballot. The California Republican Party's mindset is much the same as the national party's: "who cares about his economic credentials so long as he's anti-gay and anti-abortion".

Amartel said...

Big Words, Carnifex. Come on down and learn what it's really like to be a conservative in the trenches of the idiocracy. Then we shall see how tough you really are. Until then, it's just yap yap yap. Oh, and look no farther than the occupier protests to see the effectiveness of liberal progressive tantrums which are not helpful to big government interest.

Maguro said...

virgil xenophon said...
Not to mention the fact that the topography of the land along the coastal route is such that there isn't enough money in the world to build a RR at the grade necessary for the speeds projected. Thus the actual speeds reality will require will make the system TOTALLY uncompetitive in both time and cost to the already existing cheap commuter airfares, thus decreasing ridership even further below break even and insuring that the proposed "hi-speed" rail between LA & SF will remain a financial black-hole forever.


Yeah, the terrain looks really unfavorable for HSR. Makes you wonder if anyone even looked at a relief map of California before green-lighting this project.

John Stodder said...

The California Republican Party's mindset is much the same as the national party's: "who cares about his economic credentials so long as he's anti-gay and anti-abortion".

Oh, but exactly! One of the reasons I probably have never even considered becoming a Republican is that being a Republican in California is kind of like being a Republican in Mississippi. It's all anti-gay, all the time, with just an occasional nod to the boring question of where the jobs are going to come from.

I know to you on the outside, California is RINO-land, but don't be fooled. Arnold could never have gotten the GOP nomination except as an incumbent, and he never could have become the incumbent except via the recall, which sidelined the parties. Dick Riordan, a slightly sounder economic conservative, derided as a RINO by the usual suspects, also snuck into LA City Hall only because his election happened the year after the Rodney King riots.

At this point the state could go bankrupt and I suspect the California GOP would find a way to cede the election to the Dems who caused it, by putting abortion and gay marriage at the top of their agenda. Dumb hicks.

Carol_Herman said...

California runs out of money in March!

And, February, this year, has 29 days.

Now, how come Meg Whitman still doesn't teach "compromising" GOP'ers, that it's very costly to back a person who CANNOT WIN!

All the lessons that go unlearned.

Simply amazing.

Carol_Herman said...

What California does have is 64 electoral college votes. And, these votes are in Obama's column.

Me thinks Obama also gets Florida, ahead.

So go ahead. Knock yourselves all out trying to find those "perfect" politicians.

High speed rail is a non starter ... because people prefer driving. Choo choo trains ... that were high speed ... would work if you put one end inside Mexico.

Eric said...

Perhaps we should just face it: we really can't build anything anymore.

That's the depressing conclusion I've come to lately. The system is so gummed up with regulation, litigation, and palm-greasing there's not much point in even starting projects like this.

DavidPSummers said...

OK, this is just misleading.
You can't build the entire line at once an the have to start someplace. This is just the segment they started construction on first (and it make perfect sense to start someplace easy before hitting the hills and passes). It _is_ part of the route from SF to LA and they are planning on building a HSR line between SF and LA.

And yes, it will hit more opposition in LA and SF, but starting here lets them work on the legal issues in parallel with construction.

I happen to like HSR. CA has a well deserved reputation for budget stupidity, but it let be note that here are building something I could actually use instead of another pork barrel bloated public pension or some other give away. Some may disagree, but it would be better to address the real issue rather than some pointless nitpicking on where they decided to start.

Rusty said...

Is there anyplace in the world those things run-high speed rail- that aren't heavily subsidized by their taxpayers?
I don't think that even Japans pays for itself.

Amartel said...

Governor Brown wants to use carbon credits from global warming to pay for shortfall for the $100 billion train that nobody wants except his big government cronies.
http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/billion-338231-state-project.html

Fictional needs funded by taxes levied for fictional problems. Brought to you by your Kabuki government. They're not out of money so long as there's still something left in your bank account!

But, yeah, that Meg Whitman, what a total RINO, man.

Amartel said...

DavidPSummers can pay for the $100 billion Frankentrain that no one else will use.
There.
Problem solved.

rhhardin said...

High speed bike lanes.

Carol_Herman said...

California has "rails."

It has Amtrak. And, you can go by Greyhound. Tour buses will take even take you to Mexico; so you can go shopping.

High speed rail ... has pushed some people who lived in isolated communities (along the #15 corridor, our of their homes, and mobile parks.

And, yet?

I don't think high speed rail will get built. Not for the "jobs" they'd provide. Not for nothin.

RINO's is a misnomer. You either select candidates who can win. Or you keep picking the empty suits. WHO DON'T GET ELECTED.

The "trick" is putting up candidates who get elected.

"High speed rail" is up there with "term limits."

Dream on!

Oh. And, by the way. ENRON created the hostility towards Grey Davis. That's the crux of the recall.

Then? Tom Campbell, it was. I think. Who got the recall against Grey Davis going. And, Arnold Schwartzenegger just swooped in ... and picked up the prize. And, became governor.

And, just like "once in a blue moon," we got the "Moonbeam" twice.

Almost anyone would have done better than Meg Whitman! But she got the money to run.

ic said...

Why should Brown and Obama care? It's our money they are wasting to buy votes to stay in power and gouge us some more.

Btw, is Brown drawing two Californian pensions on top of his hefty salary?

Californians love to be leeched by their leeches.

John Stodder said...

is Brown drawing two Californian pensions on top of his hefty salary?

He claims he isn't, yet. He joked about it in a speech where he talked about his (bogus) pension reforms.

He'll also get a pension from the City of Oakland, where he was mayor.

Revenant said...

and it make perfect sense to start someplace easy before hitting the hills and passes

I had to giggle at that line.

It makes sense to start "someplace easy", does it? I guess this is the first time anyone's built a train line, and they need practice with tricky stuff like "hills".

gk1 said...

This issue really burns my ass. The statehouse is already shaping the battle field for Brown's tax hike by telling us all the police, fireman, teachers they will have to fire or lay off. Yet they have gobs of money for this nonsense. I live in a state run by idiots. If I didn't have family I'd move in a heartbeat.

bagoh20 said...

Liberals have a real knack for taking any idea, no matter how noble, and stretching it to the point of pure stupidity. Civil rights, environmentalism, safety nets, health codes, building codes, labor codes, transportation; virtually every thing they do is an exercise in excess, with disaster as the only limiting event. They never get enough of anything. It's a neurosis in political form.

This is why many on the right find it so discomforting to compromise with them on anything. We know it's just a foot in the door, no matter what they claim. They could make you refuse free beer, cause you know they will be forcing you to drink a keg and pay for it later, if you even have one sip now.

el polacko said...

who is in a big hurry to get from fresno to bakersfield ?!?

Carol_Herman said...

el polako ... My guess to your question is: Nobody.

Maybe, they'll tell the citizens of California that the route has rail lines down ... But no one will notice. No one will use it. And, it could all be done with smoke and mirrors?

There's an interesting story that goes back to around 1905. When NYC tunneled under ... and built its subway system. It was said "NO ONE WOULD GO UNDERGROUND."

Then, came a terrible snowstorm, and the only way you could get from "here to there" ... was to travel by subway.

Who knows what the future holds in store? There was a time Los Angeles had no freeways. And, the first one built to this day ... has no on ramps. But. The freeways proved successful, anyway.

Today? They'd build toll booths at the on ramps. But they didn't think of that, back then.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Carnifex said...

You people in California are getting what you deserve.


My congressman is Darrell Issa. Who's yours, asshole?

Carnifex said...

I got a better idea. If you don't like it, fix it your own damn self. Get involved. Occupy Sacramento like the commies do. But bitchin' at me ain't gonna do a damn thing except me laughing at you. I ain't your problem.

I've been called worse things by better people so don't waste your breath that way either.

Carnifex said...

My senator's Rand Paul... How long is Issa gonna sit on Fast and Furious and not do anything...ass...wipe

Again, I am not your problem, your government is your problem.

Henry said...

and it make perfect sense to start someplace easy before hitting the hills and passes

How about Kansas?

Revenant said...

But bitchin' at me ain't gonna do a damn thing except me laughing at you.

You do realize we can't hear you laughing at us, right? Your parents' basement must have good insulation. :)

Joe Schmoe said...

Regarding high-speed rail, I've been up and down the East Coast on the Amtrak Acela. It's supposed to be able to go 150 mph but due to a host of reasons like poor tracks and busy intersections, it doesn't go anywhere near that fast for most of the trip. I like it as a mode of travel, but it's not much faster than car and price-wise it's not much cheaper than airfare. The only plus is that most of the train stations in east coast cities are still in the hearts of downtowns.

I wonder if CA would suffer from the same issues, especially in the crowded coastal areas. If so, they really shouldn't be billing it as high-speed.

Joe Schmoe said...

I need to amend my own comment. The current ticket prices are slightly cheaper than airfare, but of course Amtrak gets subsidized by tons of taxpayer money. So the real cost of train travel is higher, maybe higher than airfare.

Amtrak is a big money loser, and surprise! stumbles under collectively-bargained union wages and benefits. If Amtrak wants to get involved in CA high-speed rail, then it's an even worse idea. Privatized rail freight service, however, has seen a dramatic, profitable increase in the past few years.

Jess said...

Off-topic for this thread, but since there's no cafe thread going now:

Is anyone else experiencing the impossibility of getting to comments above 200?
I can see that a post has over 200 comments but I don't get the links at the bottom to go to newer comments. I used to be able to see and use those links.
Using firefox 9, firefox 10, and internet explorer 9, behavior is the same for all 3.
Does google want us to migrate to chrome?

Jess said...

Using Chrome doesn't fix it either. Has google made a change to blogger that requires something else be enabled?

Amexpat said...

LA needs to build out its mass transit system before it makes sense to even plan to connect to the Bay Area by high speed rail. LAX is not yet connected to any rail (most large US airports now are).

BART in the Bay Area is getting better and better. It has always covered downtown SF and Oakland, it expanded to SFO and will soon be connected to Oakland airport. An extension to San Jose has been started but there are not funds to finish it. Better to spend the high speed rail funds for that than a train in the central valley.

Paco Wové said...

"every thing they do is an exercise in excess, with disaster as the only limiting event."

Well, it's important to go too far, you know.

Anthony said...

Henry, Kansas is positively mountainous compared to the Central Valley. Bakersfield is 112 feet higher than Fresno, and it's 112 miles away. And there are *no* hills in between.

Anthony said...

If high-speed rail is to have a chance of not being a boondoggle, people need to be able to take their cars on the train. Then the train is competing against the cost of a flight *plus* the cost of a rental car. For a one-day business trip, that's not much, but for a week long visit, that saves the traveler $150 or more.