Silver Bullet Train! California's Low-Flying Rail Boondoggle Gets Off to High-Paying Start

Like wildfires and earthquakes, the California High-Speed Rail project is one of those chronic threats to life and property in the Golden State that seem to menace the common good even when they're not happening. Which, in the case of the bullet train, is always.

In case you came in late, the bullet train, which would connect San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego on a roughly Y-shaped corridor, has never had either a budget or any realistic source of funding. The project's most ardent supporters have never been able to make any argument more compelling than the knave's "We dare not do nothing." A classic of pro-CHSR literature is the 2007 L.A. Times editorial "Believe in the Bullet Train," which saw the light after an ed board meeting at which it was conceded that there was no way to pay for the train, nobody would ride on it, and it probably would not get built -- which meant that the only option was to go ahead and start paying for it:

California could conceivably be stuck with a partly built train to nowhere for years or decades. And there are serious questions about whether a high-speed train is such a high priority at a time when the state is already groaning under a perilous debt load and still has many infrastructure needs unfunded.

Yet critics who reject the train as a boondoggle base their arguments on the past, not the future. It's true that long-distance rail systems in this country attract anemic ridership and usually require bottomless taxpayer subsidies. But the unattractive economics of train travel won't necessarily remain that way forever.

Since that time, voters in the bankrupt state approved a $9 billion bond initiative that would not pay for a fourth part of even the lowest-end estimate of the project's cost. Early this year the Obama Administration tossed $2.25 billion out of a passing limousine, and most recently an audit gave a rave review for the CHSR's "inadequate planning, weak oversight, and lax contract management" that make it highly likely the project will experience "delays or an incomplete system." I'm not sure what "delays" would be in a project that was approved in 1996 but has yet to drive its first spike -- or whatever they drive to build railroads these days. (Control group: The Transcontinental Railroad took seven years from approval to completion.)

So with a pre-history already this grim and costly, they must be really be minding the pennies now, right?

As the horses used to say when rail was still a relevant technology, NE-E-E-EIGH!

New CHSR Authority CEO Roelof van Ark will be starting out with a hefty $375,000 salary, making him the third-highest-paid non-university official in California. The Contra-Costa Times reports Van Ark's pay is more than half again the salary of the governor, and notes that the only higher-paying gigs are the State Fund Chief and the president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (another cush gig created by the approval of a bond giveaway).

The paper quotes assorted officials calling the deal a bargain because Van Ark could be making even more in the private sector. (Strangely, that includes the reputedly parsimonious CHSRA board member Quentin Copp, presumably because there's something about a train that's magic.) And besides, other people who play with trains nobody rides get paid too much too, so it's only fair:

The authority added that the head of San Francisco Muni makes $328,000 while the Los Angeles transportation chief earns $310,000. BART's general manager makes $299,000, Santa Clara VTA's CEO makes $290,000 and Orange County's transportation head has a salary of $267,000.

Welkom, Roelof! Stop by anytime, but you'd better drive.

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  • ||


    Yet critics who reject the train as a boondoggle base their arguments on the past, not the future. It's true that long-distance rail systems in this country attract anemic ridership and usually require bottomless taxpayer subsidies. But the unattractive economics of train travel won't necessarily remain that way forever.

    Yep.

    And the horse that ran dead last in it's last 20 starts might win the triple crown.

    But that's not the way I would bet $40 billion*.

    *The last "estimate" that I recall. Realistically, assuming it gets built, and based on the BART experience, I would bet closer to $200 billion.

  • kevin||

    God damn it....

  • kevin||

    It's true that long-distance rail systems in this country attract anemic ridership and usually require bottomless taxpayer subsidies. But the unattractive economics of train travel won't necessarily remain that way forever.

    We should spend billions we don't have, because people might suddenly start wanting something they currently hate!

  • ¢||

    It would be wrong to wonder what repressed impulses would lead a government to put its trains under the command of a guy named Glorious Wolf Of The Ark.

  • Jeffersonian||

    The authority added that the head of San Francisco Muni makes $328,000 while the Los Angeles transportation chief earns $310,000. BART's general manager makes $299,000, Santa Clara VTA's CEO makes $290,000 and Orange County's transportation head has a salary of $267,000.

    And here you market fundies say CHSR won't create good jobs at high pay. Little did Rand know that Dagny Taggart could have spared herself all that trouble building rail lines, instead sitting in her plush office commissioning artists to create endless pictures of sleek trains that she'd get around to....some day.

  • nobody||

    And Howard Roark could have been that artist!

  • ed||

    Roark lived in a parallel universe. He never met Dagny. Good thing, too, because she could have kicked the shit out of Dominique.

  • carpet cleaning||

    No way that would have happened. Dominique is way better. Come on now, ed...

  • Kolohe||

    Control group: The Transcontinental Railroad took seven years from approval to completion

    And the first three years of that were in the middle of a war over tariffs or something.

  • ||

    A point that Chris Reed of the San Diego U-T keeps trying to pound home is that the LAO found their business plan to be illegal. The proposition specifically says that there can be no public funds to subsidize operations. Officials are doing all kinds of verbal and financial gymnastics to try to get around it, but there has yet to be a viable plan put forth that avoids operating subsidies.

  • ||

    "As the horses used to say when rail was still a relevant technology"

    Rail is not only relevant, it is a necessity - for freight. It is of limited value for passenger transit given other alternatives. British Rail survived as a privatized venture, but does not use electrified high speed rail, instead relying on less-expensive but slower diesel-electric traction.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Horses were never even a highly relevant form of transportation, for most people. Generally only farmers, the wealthy, and certain businesses had the means (money or space) to own horses. Most people who lived in towns walked, even between distant towns (fifteen miles was distant) before rail transportation was available. You also had limited availability of stage coach or omnibus services, boats in some places.

  • ||

    Horses were used to pull wagons and plows, mostly, though mules were preferred.

    Prior to the invention of the tractor, horses were the only feasible means of pulling a plow through the tough sod of the American prairie. Oxen were also used, but they were slower.

  • ||

    Yay!! Who doesn't love a Quentin Copp mention. I still have a t-shirt from one of his first campaigns for SF city council. It has his smiling mug below the caption "Quentin Copp, The Kosher Cowboy".

  • ||

    It is of limited value for passenger transit given other alternatives.

    Yes, for now. But in the future the other alternatives may be less attractive or more expensive.

    You kind of have to invest in rail infrastructure before you actually need it.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Then go invest in it, Danny. If it's such a great idea, why do people have to be forced to "invest" in it?

  • ||

    People are forced to invest in roads for automobiles. So is that not a great idea?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Subsidized roads are another wonderful progressive contribution. Cyclists were demanding improved roads before the automobile became popular.

  • Jeffersonian||

    How are they forced to invest in roads, Dan?

  • ||

    I'm going along with the general view here that taxes are something people are "forced" to pay. Taxes pay for roads, you know.

  • ||

    Yes, but that's a state and (mostly) local problem. On the federal level, roads are entirely paid for user fees and then some.

  • ||

    To the degree that federal monies actually subsidize roads, that's the fault of the stimulus, which did so, and the "emergency" DOT supplemental in 2007.

    I opposed those as well. I'm being consistent. I suppose progressives are being consistent in insisting upon subsidizing both roads and trains and transit.

  • ||

    Being forced to pay for roads via property taxes or other taxes not connected to driving, even if you don't drive a car, is a bad idea.

    Being taxed on gasoline, or via car licensing fees, with those taxes solely being used to pay for road construction and maintenance, is more reasonable. Not as good as private roads, but at least somewhat fair.

    Being forced to pay for railroads you will never use is a bad idea.

    Having to pay for a ticket on a private railroad if you use it, and with private investors losing their cash if the rail is unprofitable, is fine.

  • Jeffersonian||

    I'm all for toll roads where the transaction costs are incidental to the toll, but it's simply not practical to do so for local streets. Unless you're a hermit with a self-sustaining garden and animal husbandry/processing facility, you're using the local streets in some manner. Property/sales taxes to support them isn't going to create a huge cross-subsidy, and highways are already paid for by licensing and taxes related directly to vehicle usage.

    That doesn't apply to a mode of transport like a train, where specific use is clear and access highly controlled. There's zero reason for government to be involved in its construction.

  • ||

    Jeffersonian, are you putting practicality above ideology? Watch out, you're going to be dubbed a Troll!

  • ||

    I'd be mollifid if gas taxes were solely used for roads (even if they had to be raised) and limited access highways (e.g. the interstate system) was privatized.

  • ||

    In general it's not a great idea, it's a bad one.

    However, at the federal level, it's more than paid out of user fees though, so the real complaint is at the state and local levels.

    Well, with the Democratic "emergency" legislation in 2008 and the stimulus package, we saw some federal subsidy of roads as well.

    Merely because politicians, mostly Democrats, insist on subsidizing roads, something I oppose, is no reason that I have to support subsidizing something else to "level the playing field."

  • ||

    Gee, "now" is before "never". Thanks for the insight, assbag.

  • ||

    Yes, for now. But in the future the other alternatives may be less attractive or more expensive.

    And in the future we might all have rainbow-farting unicorns, and you might say something perceptive.

  • ||

    But in the future the other alternatives may be less attractive or more expensive.

    That's possible, but you could say that about any sort of transportation. The money available--even to the government--to invest is limited. So you need to have some reasonable basis to predict that such a need will, in fact, arise. Given that California is broke, I'd say that such speculation is something they really can't afford right now.

    I thought you progressives didn't like speculation?

  • Stripping For Brureaucrats||

    "Given that California is broke, I'd say that such speculation is something they really can't afford right now."

    All they need to build is a single track leaving the state and folks will be lining up weeks in advance to buy a ticket.

  • l0phty||

    Sorry. They're still heading for The Golden State.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.co.....-says.html

  • ||

    Sorry Dan, but that's incorrect. That's like saying you need to invest in war material before you need it. America entered WW2 woefully unprepared, but we built the tanks and planes and Liberty ships as we needed them.
    You're basically suggesting we have to build everything before we need it; apartment buildings, highways, supermarkets...if we find we need rail, we'll build it then. We're an infinitely resourceful people.

  • ||

    I'm pretty sure America did in fact have a military before WWII.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    That is not what was said, victorious reading comprehension champion.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    You kind of have to invest in rail infrastructure before you actually need it.


    We already have rail infrastructure.

  • ||

    The authority added that the head of San Francisco Muni makes $328,000 while the Los Angeles transportation chief earns $310,000. BART's general manager makes $299,000, Santa Clara VTA's CEO makes $290,000 and Orange County's transportation head has a salary of $267,000.

    And the cumulative return on investment?

    Incalculable!

  • ||

    Incalculable!

    Literally.

  • ||

    And the first three years of that were in the middle of a war over tariffs or something.

    Very nice.

  • ||

    Cost is never very far from pollution. Supporters of rail want to lay out a lot of pollution up front for a system that may never be efficient to operate, may never get completed, and probably shouldn't exist at all in a zone 4 earthquake region. None of that matters though. It's hard for normal people to realize just how wet progressives' pussies get from thinking about public transportation. It's got everything. It's collective. It's equal and fair. Rich next to poor, black and white, young and old. OMG, I'm about to....OH, yes, yes, YES!!!!! Oh, fuck yeah.....that feels so good.

  • ||

    thanks for the lol :)

  • ||

    California could conceivably be stuck with a partly built train to nowhere for years or decades. And there are serious questions about whether a high-speed train is such a high priority at a time when the state is already groaning under a perilous debt load and still has many infrastructure needs unfunded.

    Yet critics who reject the train as a boondoggle base their arguments on the past, not the future. It's true that long-distance rail systems in this country attract anemic ridership and usually require bottomless taxpayer subsidies. But the unattractive economics of train travel won't necessarily remain that way forever.

    That reads like an Onion piece, a brilliant piece of self-parody.

  • ed||

    This is what happens when committees write editorials.

  • ||

    $375K a year to produce nothing. Damn, why can't I get a gig like that?

  • Ragin Cajun||

    You need to marry a senator from Illinois, or something.

  • ||

    At first glance that seems like a lot of money, but think how much the private sector would pay for doing nothing.

  • ||

    or whatever they drive to build railroads these days.

    Apparently, they drive Brink's trucks full of other people's money.

  • ||

    a little factoid ... The original Paris-Lyon TGV High Speed line line completed in 1981 paid off its 15-year construction bonds in 11 years and remains a moneymaker for the French National Railroad. It changed the travel mode choice for people. Today only 2 % of all travlers going the 231 miles between Paris and Lyon fly and only 18% drive. While most high-speed rail lines cannot boast the same financial performance as Paris-Lyon, subsidies per passenger-mile worldwide remain reasonable compared with subsidies to the air and highway systems. There is a lot of money going to subsized highway like the $ 8 billion direct appropriation of general revenue (income tax revenue)last year to shore up the highway trust fund and the $ billion each year from the general fund for the air traffic control system.. High Speed rail investment gives taxpayers a better return on transportation investment and lessens dependance on foreign oil. The next time you are stuck in a traffic jam on I 5 or stuck at the airport, think again about what form of transportation you tax dollars should be spent on..

  • Jeffersonian||

    Sounds like an investment some private entrepeneur would be salivating to put his money into, Rick. Can you think of a reason why no such private investor is interested in the California line?

  • ||

    Because the vast majority of public transportation systems in the US lose money hand over fist?

  • ||

    Public works cannot "lose" money.

  • ||

    Which is why you're in favor of subsidizing roads too.

    You and your progressive insist on subsidizing roads, then you use that as an excuse to subsidize trains. Brilliant logic there.

    I oppose all of it.

  • ||

    Because the only comparable cities in the US in terms of population density and public transit on arrival are in the Bos-Wash corridor?

  • ||

    bullshit, if this clown could get more in the 'private sector' he would do so.

  • ||

    Not that I want tax money spent on this project, but I note that, even if it appeared overnight for free, the HSR would still have a "last mile problem," especially in those suburban areas that are resisting having the track run through (or near) their neighborhoods.

    So here's a thought: If the government is bound and determined to spend the money anyway, and we can't stop it from doing so, then can we at least get it to spend early money intelligently, perhaps even PRODUCTIVELY? I am speaking of solving the "last mile problem" first, by building Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems in key urban/suburban regions to be served by the HSR. You can learn about the history, principles, and currently-proposed approaches to PRT here: http://kinetic.seattle.wa.us/prt.html. To see an example of a real-world implementation of the PRT idea, which is about to start taking actual passengers any moment, go here: http://www.ultraprt.com/.

    PRT systems could serve at least two purposes: 1) They could function as aggregators and dispersers for the HSR system, allowing people to travel to and from perhaps distant HSR terminals, using convenient stops nearer their homes; and, 2) They could serve as local transit systems and circulators, to alleviate road congestion and provide an attractive option for people who cannot or would rather not use private cars, taxis, or buses.

    Properly designed, a PRT system would put anyone in its service area within a city block of a stop, usually closer. Once on the system, passengers could go directly to any desired stop in no more than ten minutes or so, and then be within a city block of their actual destination. Enroute, they would travel in private, automated "cabs," in comfort and security. The cabs could hold up to four people and their luggage and/or a bicycle or two, so that small groups could travel together, but nobody would be forced to travel with a stranger.

    Rapid transport is made possible in three ways: 1) The stops are all offline, so nobody has to wait for the vehicle ahead of them to stop and pick up or drop off riders; 2) The system is not at surface-street level -- usually it is elevated -- so there is never any conflict with street traffic; and 3) The system is a network, allowing multiple points of alternative entrance or egress, and many alternative routes to one's destination. This allows the average speed of the system to be close to the maximum rated speed of a PRT vehicle. Even if that is only 35-40 mph, this is still comparable to the average system speed of something like Bay Area Rapid Transit (only 33 MPH, even though the trains can travel as fast as 80MPH).

    To judge from experience and data at Heathrow Airport, PRT systems can be realized for around $15M per mile of guideway, inclusive of passenger-stop infrastructure and rolling stock. That would imply a base system construction cost of around $150M per square mile of service area -- not counting the cost of acquiring right of way or special accommodations for challenging terrain or climates. Because the PRT vehicles are so small, however, right-of-way needs are surprisingly minimal. Minimum stops require little more room than larger covered bus-stops do now. In some designs, guideway can be supported on "stout" lampposts, which can replace existing lampposts, providing light for the street below while supporting PRT guideway above.

    A $150M cost per square mile for PRT seems to compare with "expensive" transit systems such as BART. But remember that that would pay not just for a track through the area and perhaps a large station, but complete coverage throughout the entire area, such that nobody would be more than a city block from a system entry/exit point. That is to say, instead of just passing through a neighborhood, PRT would thoroughly cover a neighborhood. In areas where sparser coverage were sufficient, the expense would be correspondingly less.

    Fifteen billion of the proposed $40B (or, as some fear, much more) would take care of 100 square miles of service are near HSR terminals. If, later, the HSR were reduced in scope or canceled altogether, the communities with PRT could still use their systems for local transportation, leaving open the possibility of connecting them via some other means, someday.

    Just something to think about.

  • ||

    Man, $40 billion proponet-estimated expense to try to make rail transit appealing?

    These urban planner types really need to figure out that they're not playing Sim City. They're dealing with real money and real people.

  • ||

    You responded to my post, so I have to ask, who is proposing $40B to make rail-transit "appealing?" The $40B I am talking about is the "first leg" of money that voters have already considered for CONSTRUCTION of HSR. I merely pointed out that a good way to pursue that construction, which would provide good value for money and benefit communities even if the larger HSR project later fizzled (as discussed in the article), would be to attack the "last mile" problem first, thus laying important groundwork for the HSR system to come -- if it ever does. But even without HSR to feed or drain, PRT systems would be useful and valuable in their own right. Alone among transit alternatives I have considered over the past decade or two, PRT has the potential to cover its operating costs and pay back its construction from farebox receipts and other normal, reasonable operating revenue.

    As a Libertarian, I would prefer that PRT be pursued completely in the private sector: I'd gladly stake my own money on that bet, whereas I wouldn't commit a penny to light rail, buses, or other "conventional" transit. But governments make it almost impossible for entrepreneurs to do anything new in transit, without running afoul of business regulations, zoning regulations and land-use restrictions, taxes, license and permit fees, etc. In the present moment, it seems as if governments either have to establish and run transit systems or they have to be partners in some respect (as in, "public-private" partnership). If that's to be the case, then I would prefer that whatever public money is spent, purchases the biggest bang for the buck. Frankly, I don't think HSR will provide anywhere near the bang that we need (although if the State finances implode, we may not have to worry about spending the money). But a collection of complementary PRT systems could give us good value even if HSR isn't eventually built. If HSR is built as planned, on the other hand, PRT could amplify that system's cost-effectiveness. For one thing, if you didn't have to worry about bringing HSR stations and track near already-inhabited areas, you could plan a more straightforward route that wouldn't involve as much expense (either to mitigate local concerns or in terms of right-of-way costs and/or eminent domain challenges).

  • PRT Strategies||

    Well put. For more on Personal Rapid Transit (videos, links, studies): http://www.prtstrategies.com.

  • Wayne||

    One thing I don't understand is why HSR isn't being implemented in the median of the interstate system. That is something to think about. As a builder of homes I loathe to see the sprawl of the city encroaching on the very scenery that attracts people to a good location. A good transit system makes high density population much more comfortable and affordable, sparing the paving of the countryside.

    I think the "last mile problem" should be renamed the "first mile problem". I believe real estate prices are the crux of the issue, because codes zones and restrictions treat real estate as private investments, not as a part of a city system. It is a lack of cohesive city design that prevents truly innovative community structures from being profitable. These super mart communities are overly centralized and completely gridlocked, especially as you approach the core.

    I propose that a working virtual city similar to Second Life should be completely designed around realistic concepts that can actually be built. For example I propose that the jobs wanted section is actually a series of fun surveys and games that simulate actual jobs... attracting employers to players with aptitude. I propose that players should suffer actual transit times throughout the simulation, to encourage interaction with localized signage.

    What I anticipate to be the best functional model will be a Linear City. This design follows the interstate system, with the city spreading perpendicularly in layers according to zoning as follows: interstate, industrial frontage, commercial frontage, public works and parks, and finally townhouse rows UP TO 1 MILE RADIUS. Beyond lies ranch estates, farms, and cabins accessible by car. To boost population density, Linear City's commercial structures are topped by mixed commercial office and residential condo units. The lower floor interior is basically the same concept as any mall environment.
    A perfect application is a doctor's office, chiropractor, yoga studio, topped by a retirement home.
    Or a university, with classrooms, topped by student living. The commercial base gives identity to the occupants, which serves as a common ground to forge a local community. (One may correctly assume that singles would be attracted to lofts directly over bars LOL)

    Each zone is separated by an appropriate transit line running in parallel. Trucks are limited to the industrial frontage with stoplights to mitigate their impact on paving and traffic. Commercial frontage has a light system with crosswalks, and features a bus system. Public works and parks features a jogging/bike trail beneath an elevated rail system, next to speed bump regulated parkway traffic with angled metered parking. Townhouse row is completely cobbled with permit only street parking.
    Because infrastructure such as paving, water, sewage, are limited to 1 mile perpendicular from the interstate, there is a substantial savings in infrastructure, with a complimentary effect of real estate prices in the country side being appropriately more expensive than inner city.
    If this sounds socialist to you, I have to completely disagree. Each Linear City could be funded from an intelligent corporation, who knows the value of the rent income of tens of thousands of inner city condos built on undervalued property in between larger cities. This is a lucrative capitalistic opportunity for the conglomerate that understands the attraction people have for highly ordered environments. HSR would ultimately multiply the effect, allowing a person to live outside of the major city, ideally in Linear City with unobstructed views AND ACCESS of the countryside, but still in an urban lifestyle.

  • Rhywun||

    I know it's fun to laff at trains but I would hardly characterize MUNI or even BART as "trains nobody rides".

  • ||

    BART trains may not be empty, but like nearly all transit systems in the country, the subsidies are huge compared to the fare revenue:


    “The plagued BART system is also an eye-opener when we combine the annualized costs of construction with operating losses in order to calculate the full cost of a ride on that railroad. BART's average cost per passenger trip is about $5.30, whereas its average fare is only $.50. The general taxpayer in the Bay Area counties that participate in BART makes up that sizable difference of $4.80 per ride, a deficit that will grow before it shrinks."

    Peter Gordon and Ross D. Eckert, Assistant Professors of Economics at USC

    (found at http://are.berkeley.edu/~sberto/BART.pdf)

  • Pierre Bonardi||

    The French situation is different.
    The SNCF (French railways) has an AAA rating, which ensures low interest loans. CHSRA is not rated at all.
    French HSR routes stay away from built-up areas, thus avoiding lawsuits and expensive land takings. This allows work to be completed on time and within budget. The TGV is profitable because expenses have been kept low.
    CHSR, on the contrary, is routed through populated areas, making construction expensive and subject to delays due to lawsuits. Its cost per mile will certainly be much higher.
    The two systems are, in fact, different in nature. The TGV was designed to make money, and cities with little predicted ridership were by-passed, no matter how hard their mayors lobbied. CHSR, on the contrary, is designed by politicians, with business being only a second thought.

  • ||

    Look at where the rail "stimulus" money is going - mostly to total BS projects - nothing more than model railroads for big boys. There is a place for rail transit, but the Feds don't have a clue, except to buy votes and line pockets. Remember, it was the ICC that bankrupted the private rail companies back in the 1970s. It was the Carter administration (!!!)that eliminated rail regulation via the Staggers Act.

  • ||

    Why not ask your oil daddys that feed your mouth about the 1 trillion dollar war "libs" thats right its freedom...for you pigs...

  • ||

    I love the "roads are subsidized too" crowd.

    So, let's examine, motorists pay a substantial federal and state tax* on every gallon of gasoline they buy. This money is supposed to be reserved for road building but as we all know like most taxes it goes into the general fund with the accounting trick of creating a "trust fund" for the "surplus" tax collected each year. Some states do, in fact, create real trust funds with marketable securities etc so that highway construction and maintenance can continue through lean years.

    Mind you, if you are the legislature of the State of Florida, you will simply raid that fund to the tune of several billion dollars to pay other expenses because of the spending binge you embarked upon during the good years while you leave many desirable and, in fact, necessary highway projects shelved for lack of funding.

    On top of that roughly fifteen percent of gas taxes go to subsidize mass transit while buses use fuel that is tax-exempt.

    So, if motorists pay a tax on something that only they use, what should we tax to get rail users to pay "their fair share" of what they use.

    I know, a tax on train tickets.

    *There is some question as to whether or not the gas tax is high enough to actually meet road costs, but to actually examine any shortfall one would have to examine the cross-subsidy car drivers are giving to the trucking industry. In spite of the stickers on the back of big rigs saying "this vehicle paid X thousand dollars in road taxes last year" it was still likely far short of the damage that that rig did to the highways it passed over. In the end one has to conclude that the gas tax is, in fact, a poor proxy for a real fee for road use.

  • ||

    Hopefully we can get away from this silly planning and let the marketplace run our lives. No need to prepare for the future, we have a large military, we can just take the oil reserves that we need to maintain the status quo. There is certainly no economic cost there. High speed trains are for europeans and other communist people.
    Stock car racing and living in the 1950s- now that's truly American!
    Enjoy the stupidity and save those tax dollars - someone needs a new motorhome- it's their God-given right to burn fossil fuels how they see fit.

  • ||

    First a response to Jeffersonian asking why no private investor has yet invested in the California HSR. They will as they will be buying the billions in state bonds already authorized... but the big investor will be the Chineese soverign fund as part of their bid to build it based on their expierence from spending $ 100 billion a year on HSR now and into the near future, not because there is such a huge demand for HSR that most chineese can not afford but to free up freight rail so they can ship more stuff to us... In response to Bartram's post all the federal gas tax is spend on transportation and all the federal aviation fuel tax is spent on airports.. but that targeted tax income is not enought to support either mode of transportation. In 2009 congress appropriated $8 Billion to shore up the highway trust funds and every year it appropriates $3 billion plus from general tax revenue to fund the air traffice control system when a large percentage of people who pay the taxes to make this possible never fly. All HSR lines will also benefit rail freight traffic which carry goods for everyone and also will lessen road congestion by trucks. All HSR needs a fair share of the federal transportation $$$ for infrastructure when such investment makes economic sense and reduces our dependance on foreign oil. The French, Germans, Japaness, Chineese and others have shown us the light. Some Americans are just to blind to see it.

  • Hoo||

    Building a high rail in California seems not easy, and so many voices.

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