Is High-Speed Rail a Fantasy? Adrian Moore and Wendell Cox on CA's Biggest Boondoggle.

On Friday, a Superior Court Judge ruled that the agency overseeing California's high-speed rail project has failed to comply with both financial and environmental conditions that were part of the ballot measure initially approving the project. The judge called the notion of adequate funding for the project only "theoretically possible." Via the SF Gate:

Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny said the California High-Speed Rail Authority "abused its discretion by approving a funding plan that did not comply with the requirements of the law" and has failed to identify "sources of funds that were more than merely theoretically possible."

Yet he declined to immediately halt funding for the project and said he will hold another hearing to determine what happens next. A date has not yet been set.

"High-speed rail is a little bit too much of a religious kind of project," says Reason Foundation's VP of Research Adrian Moore. "There's people who are devotees of it because they love the idea of it, the conception."

Moore sat down with author, consultant, and transportation expert Wendell Cox, who runs the urban policy group Demographia. They discussed California's doomed plan to build a $69-billion high-speed rail along the coast and compared it to similar failures around the world, pointing out the even the much-vaunted Japan and France rail lines don't really make money. This interview was recorded before the court ruling referenced above. 

Approximately 27 minutes.

Shot by Tracy Oppenheimer, Alex Manning, and Paul Detrick. Edited by Zach Weissmueller and Patrick Bowers.

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  • Almanian!||

  • CampingInYourPark||

    What do we want? ChooChoos!
    When do we want them? Now!

  • Almanian!||

    Hey, hey!
    Ho, ho!
    Rail travel's
    the way to GO!

  • fish||

    Can she kick in a few bucks for the project?

  • April06||

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  • Sevo||

    ..."$69-billion high-speed rail"....

    Not even close. And that doesn't include the 'associated infrastructure':
    "Transbay project in $300 million hole"
    "San Francisco's Transbay Transit Center, the so-called Grand Central station of the West that's now just a deep hole in the ground, will cost $300 million more than anticipated, [...] And that financial hole could grow deeper,"...
    (squirrels don't like link; it's SF Gate 7/25/13)

  • Finrod||

    It's California, they'll be lucky if it doesn't end up costing $3 billion more than anticipated.

  • CE||

    $300 million? When you're spending $69 billion, $300 million is a rounding error.

  • Sevo||

    "$300 million? When you're spending $69 billion, $300 million is a rounding error."

    The $300M was on the terminal, not the rest that isn't going to get to the terminal.

  • ||

    That's not a fantasy. A SugarFree story is a fantasy.

  • Almanian!||

    A SugarFree story is a snuff film waiting to be made.

    *shudder*

  • Brandybuck||

    California's next boondoggle: Elan Musk's hyperloop. Seriously, the state can't even build a stupid 19th century technology rail line without going billions over budget before the first spike was even hammered, so why is everyone all excited by a project that is certain to cost over a trillion dollars?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Choo-Choos are romantic and socialists are nothing if not romanticists.

  • CE||

    Because it's one-tenth the cost and you get there 6 times faster and it won't stop in Bakersfield?

  • ||

    Fraud is a feature, not a bug in any governmental work.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "Shot by Tracy Oppenheimer"

    So she's *behind* the camera, not in front of it?

    Tracy, have you ever considered me as *Mr.* Oppenheimer? I'll manage your diamond mines with meticulous care.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    California: Working hard to prove that Detroit didn't just happen because they were black.

  • Arthur45||

    Apparently Musk lifted his "hyperloop" idea (stupid name) from a published account of a very similar system designed by an MIT professor named Frankel. I see endless safety problems and constraints on where it could be located. nd a recent cost estimate claims that Musk, onceagain, as per usual, guilty of gross exaggeration (remember his claim of 300 miles cruising down the highway on a single charge of his Tesla Model S?), or its original cost estimate?

  • Sevo||

    "Apparently Musk lifted his "hyperloop" idea (stupid name) from a published account of a very similar system designed by an MIT professor named Frankel."

    And he tosses it off as 'open source', as if it were anything other than a PR stunt.
    When it 1) can't be built, 2) pencils in at 5X his fantasy, he gets to smile and say 'those people screwed up my wonderful idea'.
    Musk, if it's worth shit, stand behind it or STFU.

  • CE||

    "Endless safety problems" compared to what? Trains haven't been looking so safe lately.

  • ReadyKilowatt||

    High speed rail is sold as way to reduce highway traffic. Most people are in favor of it as a transportation solution "for everyone else."

    Every town that has rails will demand a stop or block the project. Can't get up to speed if the thing has to stop every 40 miles or so.

    And most importantly, how the hell are they going to power the thing? In France they have an excess of cheap electricity generated by nuclear power. California is already a net energy importer state, and now that San Onofre is closed there's a bigger shortfall. What happens when there's not enough power to go around?

  • bassjoe||

    Hyperloop!

    But, seriously, America, even its densest regions are too spread out for high-speed rail to be feasible. On top of that, property rights in America are extremely difficult to obtain in this country by the State (a good thing). As a result, air travel has become preferred to rail in this country.

    Air travel in this country has the same characteristic of rail in Europe: heavy subsidization. We're nowhere near the levels of rail subsidization in Europe while we've allowed the airline industry to use the administrative system, the courts (think bankruptcy), direct government aid, etc., to save themselves multiple times from failure.

  • laurenrhoades||

    like Albert responded I am amazed that a single mom able to profit $8568 in 1 month on the internet. have you read this web page... www.max38.com & my classmate's sister-in-law makes $73 every hour on the laptop. She has been out of work for 7 months but last month her check was $17103 just working on the laptop for a few hours.

  • Xenohippus||

    laurenrhoades, that's a fair enough point and I'm as amazed as you and Albert are. But at the same time doesn't Rail (high or low speed) seem to work OK in Japan and Europe? Yes, there's accidents, but then there's accidents on highways too. 40,000 people die every year in car accidents but should we not ride in cars?

  • ||

    Maybe you missed the line that said Rail lost money in Japan and Europe.

  • Xenohippus||

    Whereas the highways make how much money? My sister-in-law's cat made more money from working at home with a laptop then the highways make.

  • Xenohippus||

    *than the highways make.

  • Sevo||

    Xenohippus| 8.20.13 @ 4:38PM |#
    "Whereas the highways make how much money? My sister-in-law's cat made more money from working at home with a laptop then the highways make."

    That cat is very talented to make what highways make.
    Even the GG Bridge was paid off early on tolls; when it's been tried they make a tone of money.

  • Xenohippus||

    The GG bridge was a big government boondoggle that was constructed by union thugs with the funding extracted at gunpoint from Makers.

  • Xenohippus||

    More info on the violent, racist union thugs that built the GG boondoggle (hard to know how they built it knowing how lazy and incompetent union workers are):

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americ.....e-workers/

    "Hiring was handled entirely through the ironworkers' union, local 377."

  • Sevo||

    So sarc. OK.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Subsidized rail loses money and subsidized highways lose money, therefore neither fucking thing should be subsidized. Let these things be privatized or go out of business.

  • Xenohippus||

    At least you're consistent in your opposition to any venture that doesn't make a profit. I've never seen a single Reason article that criticized a highway construction project. I've seen criticism of train projects, streecar projects and bike projects, but not a single one criticizing a car-oriented project like a highway or overpass, regardless of how much money it costs.

  • Travini||

    Excuse me for making the connections but... The contract to build the rail went to a construction company name Tutor Perini corp. Tutor Perini is controlled by Ronald Tutor and Richard Blum. Richard Blum is married to Dianne Feinstein. To summarize, it appears that a government contract for 100 billion went to a senators spouse.

    The sad part is, I am shocked every time.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tutor_Perini

  • Dick Johnson||

    The so called argument here is a "poisoning the well" version of an ad hominem logical fallacy.

    The author argues, with no discernible support, that advocates of multi-mode transit solutions are "religious"...therefore California high speed rail is wrong.

    That the 11th largest economy on earth is not capable of building a few fast trains is simply ludicrous. The idea certainly has no connection with religious belief.

    The same cannot be said about the flaky free market ideology that flows like a river of tar sands oil from the Reason Foundation. THAT borders on insane religious belief.

    Why the devil are libertarians so damned scared of riding on trains with the rest of us anyway? You'd think George Will got rendered by a girl by the way he bitches and moans...

    Really.

  • Sevo||

    "Why the devil are libertarians so damned scared of riding on trains with the rest of us anyway?"

    Because you're a lying satist and you stink. That's why.

  • Xenohippus||

    Sevo is a fake libertarian that supports the GG boondoggle that employed union thugs to build it. Just getting that out there.

  • JAmm||

  • Michele Lavigne||

    Yes, I think that many people find it very interesting to travel in a high-speed training, but at the same time they forget about the risk involve into that.

  • richarddozier@gmail.com||

    Why are there bare light bulbs on your set? From a video production perspective, this is usually not done, and for some excellent reasons.

    I recognize that they're not cranked-up all that far but I recommend dimming them further still if you insist on continuing with this questionable visual motif which is obviously supposed to convey the idea of "brilliant thoughts being emitted here". Better, however, that you should lose them.

    And do something about the 1/2 blue velvet, 1/2 knotty pine backdrop. An actual backdrop, for example. The table is cheap looking (and has a couple of obvious "dings") but I understand that you can't have everything. The branded mugs are pretty cliche, at this point but forgivable given that you have nothing else that distinguishes your set from a typical basement rec room.

    Also, your piece opens with the host making an overarching statement about high speed rail rather than the guest. I can appreciate that the guest may not have made any powerful statements within the interview that could have readily been excerpted to encapsulate the introductory theme of the piece but it was a bit jarring.

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