California’s stillborn bullet train is now expected to be slower than promised when voters were asked to approve $9 billion in borrowing—in addition to being twice as expensive and half as useful. The LA Times reports:
Regularly scheduled service on California’s bullet train system will not meet anticipated trip times of two hours and 40 minutes between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and are likely to take nearly a half-hour longer, a state Senate committee was told Thursday.But Louis Thompson, chairman of the High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group, a state-sanctioned panel of outside experts, testified that “real world engineering issues” will cause schedules for regular service to exceed the target of two hours and 40 minutes. The state might be able to demonstrate a train that could make the trip that fast, but not on scheduled service, he told lawmakers. If public demand for the service supports additional investments, travel times could be improved after the currently planned system is built, he said.
Yes, if the public can be squeezed for still more cash after the train is already built, it “could” be made to travel as fast as voters were originally told it would.Democratic Governor Jerry Brown is much closer to the political center than many of his blue colleagues in Sacramento, but in a strange twist, he’s alienating many of them by relentlessly chasing this boondoggle of a public works project. One Democratic state senator has warned that Brown will not have the votes to pass a bill allocating hundreds of millions in cap-and-trade revenue to the project. Lieutenant Governor and Democratic big-shot Gavin Newsom seemed to pull support for the bullet train last month. Even liberal blogger Kevin Drum at Mother Jones is gagging at the cost and futility of this folly. Brown’s latest pitch for the increasingly unpopular project was that “There’s a lot of old people who shouldn’t be driving.” Not a sign that popular enthusiasm for a great new public service is at an all time high.While Democrats face some internal wrangling over the project, it’s the state’s total absence of an organized political opposition that helps keep ideas like the high speed train alive. As a BuzzFeed article points out, Brown is not suffering in the polls whatsoever from his beloved project—a boondoggle that a majority of Californians now oppose. Similarly, the Golden State’s status as nation-wide leader in job losses isn’t expected to affect the Democrats’ legislative supermajority. In the last three months, three Democratic state senators have been convicted on federal corruption charges including voter fraud, perjury, bribes in exchange for legislation, and weapons and drug trafficking to pay off campaign debts. That’s a list that would make Boss Tweed blush, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting the Democrats’ dominance in Sacramento.In a healthy two-party system, this bullet train idea would likely be dead in the water. In one-party California, however, it keeps chugging along.