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California Rail Fail
In California, the Trains Never Run on Time
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  • Fat_Man

    “If we had started with all the money in the world, this program would have probably proceeded differently.”

    Yeah, Right. If they had started with all the money in the world, they would spend it all, an still not have a viable system. Socialism fails. Always. Everywhere. Every Time.

  • Proud Skeptic

    The first transcontinental railroad took seven years to build…some of it during the Civil War. Most of the work was done by manual labor. It included crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

    • Jim__L

      The alternative at that time was walking.

      Trains are better than walking. They’re not better than cars.

  • Kevin

    Ironically a fast Central Velley to San Jose commuter rail system might be useful if it allowed people to flee the insane housing costs of Silicon Valley. Of course that would mean a completely different system.

    • Jim__L

      Useful yes. But would it be affordable even then? Check out plans to extend BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to Tracy, for example, and look at ACE (Altamont Commuter Express) for profitability.

      A much, much more sensible option is to geographically diversify corporations. People will move where the jobs are. Folks I know in Aerospace (which is dying in Silicon Valley) are moving to Denver, which is booming.

      • Andrew Allison

        It’s not even clear that it would be useful. As ACE demonstrates, suburban living and mass transit are incompatible. As an aside, 30-odd years ago I spent some time on the Santa Clara County Transportation Commission — which was as clueless then as it appears to be now (Diridon’s wet dream costs the taxpayer $10 for every passenger ride). BART, in contrast, does a pretty good job, with passenger revenue generating 83% of its costs. The density problem also dooms the HSR project — if it has enough stops to attract passengers, it won’t be high speed. It would have a somewhat better chance of viability if it simply connected BART to the LA Metro system.

  • Jim__L

    $64B is enough for a Mars colony. Possibly two.

    • Pait

      Not it is not.

      • Jim__L

        Pait, do you have any idea what you’re talking about?

        • Pait

          The cost of a Mars colony? No I don’t. No one has any idea. Least of all anyone who thinks it could be done for $64 billion.

          • Jim__L

            Hi Pait, I’ve been following the price estimates in that field for quite some time now. Please improve your position from (self-confessed) absolute ignorance before expressing it.

          • Pait

            Wikipedia has the cost of the International Space Station at $150 billion. 2 Mars colonies for less than half of that? It’s off by so many orders of magnitude that it scarcely beats complete ignorance.

          • Jim__L

            The ISS, with several redesigns and onerous international cooperation requirements, is no model of efficiency.

          • Pait

            Still, it was a lot cheaper than 1-country Skylab. And given the uncertainties, how could one build a Mars colony without redesigns?

          • Jim__L

            You mean the Skylab that cost $2.2 billion dollars? I suspect $2.2B is a bit low, for a Mars colony. By an order of magnitude, probably more.

          • Pait

            Per hour of use, current dollars, Skylab was pricier than ISS. Which is to be expected, a lot was learned in the meantime.

            A Mars mission, if at all possible with current technology, would be a different order of magnitude.

  • Pait

    I have a question. Fast trains work just fine in Japan, and also in Europe. I understand there are many reasons why they would not make sense in large parts of the US.

    I do not understand why they would not work great in California, and even more so in the Northeast.

    • MartyH

      It does not make any economic sense. The non-recurring cost is about $2K per CA resident-money that will never be recovered (Amtrak’s best line barely makes an operating profit.) It’s going to cost more than driving and take longer than flying, so it does not have an obvious customer base. By the time it is running, people will have self driving cars, offsetting the tedium of the long haul.

      What CA needs is not HSR, but desalinization plants.

      • Pait

        Well that’s precisely what I don’t understand well. Trains in general, and fast trains in particular, make a lot of sense in many countries – why wouldn’t they work well in California? How is the economy or the geography or whatever so different?

        Just restating that it doesn’t make sense doesn’t explain anything.

        • Dale Fayda

          Because it’s a insanely expensive solution in search of a problem. This is a vanity project for Jerry “Gov. Dementia” Brown, as well as a huge pay off to Democrat party’s interest groups – unions, lawyers and environmentalist activists. Commuter traffic between SF and LA s not that heavy; it’s commercial traffic that causes most of the back-ups on I-5. If you time it right, you can get to most of the Bay area from most of LA Country in 6 – 6.5 hours, door to door, for a fraction of what it would cost to ride this dumb train one way. And if you split the gas costs between 2 -3 people, it’s not even a contest. Plus, you already have a car for local driving and you don’t have to drag yourself on public transportation in CA summer heat with your luggage and kids in tow. I can’t speak for the Bay area with much authority, but LA is VERY spread out and its public transportation system is very spotty, especially in the off hours. In essence, you’ll be dumped off somewhere on the outer edge of LA, like in San Fernando Valley and left to your own devices. These are just the most obvious logistical obstacles for this boondoggle.

          And as MartyH already pointed out, this project was a financial disaster before the ground was even broken. Every single selling point in its favor (trip times, budget projections, ridership figures, construction timeline, ticket pricing, etc.) had turned out to be a complete falsehood. Every. Single. One. Its construction cost estimates doubled before a single rail was even laid, which means that the “wizards of smart” running this job really had no clue what the final bill will be and knowing the recent track record of large public works in CA, it’s bound to be astronomical, most likely well over $100 billion.

          Basically, it’s a criminally expensive legacy project for Gerry Brown and a bottomless feed trough for Democrat party-connected interest groups. As this article clearly states, even if it made all the sense in the world, there is NO money for it and none will be forthcoming any time soon, likely never. California hasn’t built a new water reservoir in over (40) years and the state faces tens (hundreds?) of billions in unfunded public pension liabilities, so to foist this idiocy on the CA tax payers is criminally irresponsible. Personally, I seriously doubt that it will ever get built in the first place, for the simple reason that there is no money for it even now and the next economic downturn/market crash will doom it for good. And not a minute too soon.

        • MartyH

          I gave a few reasons-ROI, cost, time, etc.

          If you want a deeper reason, consider it the network effect. HSR does well in heavily populated areas that are relatively close to each other. CA has 2-4 population centers. LA, SF Bay, San Diego, Sacramento. SF to LA is about 400 miles. It may make sense to run faster trains from Sac to SF (I was considering taking a job in SF and looked at Amtrak; the train does not go to SF). Maybe SD to LA. But connecting them is a train too far-too many miles of track with too few riders in between. NY needs a subway; the Bay Area needs BART and CalTrain. The distances to cover the stateare large; the costs to establish and maintain the routes are high; the people are spread out. Spending $64 billion on buses and drivers makes more sense.

          • Pait

            I have heard the argument that California is not dense enough to support a train system, but I am not really convinced. Size, population, density: California is quite comparable to Spain or France – the shape is different, on the other hand the population centers are concentrated on the coast, along a line. And there may be more empty space in California, lowering right of way costs.

            The argument that cities are just not ready to connect to trains and therefore high speed trains would be underused makes sense… until you consider the amount of air traffic between, say, LA and SF.

    • Jim__L

      Because our train systems are optimized for freight, not passengers.

      Did you even read the original post?

      • Pait

        Most, if not all, high-speed European, Japanese, and Chinese high-speed trains run on dedicated rails. The systems can be evaluated independently.

        Even if I had not read the post, the question would still be relevant, as it doesn’t answer it. I know one can throw lots of objections, and of course there is valid criticism of the way California is pushing the idea. Nevertheless, why can it work elsewhere, and not in California? Or between Massachusetts and Virginia for that matter?

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