Transportation Policy

SF Chron: Put a Bullet In This Train!


Nobody aboard!

"[T]he most striking thing when you start to look into the bullet train is how little planning or thought has gone into the thing," a great man once said. "There has been almost no effort to gauge consumer demand, no comparisons to existing rail projects around the world, no serious suggestions about where the line will run, and no consideration given to the towns or property owners that might be affected in the unlikely event the train ever starts running."

At the San Francisco Chronicle's "Open Forum," retired Stanford professor Alain Enthoven and banker William Grindley count the ways that the California High Speed Rail project (funded in part by $2.25 billion of your money, non-Californians) deals in plain fiction.

Bullet train buffs will recognize many of the tall tales supporters of the well-flacked, Nazi-freehigh-paying train project love to spin. But what always stands out like a pregnant lady caught in the doors of a moving train is the rail authority's failure to do any kind of comparison study that would suggest how many people might ride the thunderous fabtraption:

The ridership estimates are preposterous: By 2009, the 70 million passengers advertised on the 2008 ballot measure had shrunk to 39.3 million riders by 2035, the train's 15th operating year. The Boston-New York-Washington corridor is, by far, America's most favorable site for high-speed rail. In 2008, eight years after inception, the combined ridership on all segments of the high-speed Acela train route was 3.4 million, about 6 percent of the population of the states it serves. If the California rail project were to achieve in 15 years what Acela attracted in eight, it might draw 6 percent of all California's residents—about 3 million riders.

The kind of comparison Enthoven and Grindley do here is part of the basic diligence a 14-year-old organization would have done somewhere in the course of spending its first $250 million. It's easy to run comps in Europe and Asia, where high-speed rail has been commonplace for decades. Yet the California High-Speed Rail Authority has never bothered to find out. This is as good a time as any to bring up an old journalismism: When people are having trouble getting you information, there's something wrong with the information.

NEXT: A Caudillo's Own Story

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  1. But high speed rail is about hope.

    Why are you so mean and critical of people who just want to hope for the future?

    1. 19th century tech is so progressive.

  2. High speed rail: the Future of Yesterday – Tomorrow!

  3. In the Northeast Corridor, major cities are about 90 miles apart, and NY-to-DC or NY-to-Boston are around 250 miles, meaning they could be covered in about the same time as Paris-Lyon or Paris-London. SF to LA is around 400 miles, plus both regions lack a large, high-density downtown (relative to the size of their metropolitan areas) that would generate a high passenger volume for a high speed rail terminal.

  4. There is no logical reason for libertarians to be any more against trains than they are roads. Yet you guys consistently defend the latter, despite their massive subsidies. Why?

    It surely ain’t because of any profitability metric. To my knowledge, there is no profitable road system on earth; only profitable truck roads that only make money because they are attached to highly unprofitable feeder roads. On the other hand, there are a number of profitable train systems in both Japan and Germany.

    1. I can think of several reasons:

      1) If you must subsidize a form of transportation, better to subsidize the one that people will actually use. And how much are these subsidies once you consider gas taxes, vehicle license fees, revenue from traffic tickets and parking meters, etc.?

      2) A transport system that allows more individual choice of routes and times is better than one that doesn’t.

      3) Roads happen bottom-up, and so are more likely to reflect real needs, while modern passenger rail systems more often reflect what bureaucrats and advocates think people should want.

      1. you must subsidize a form of transportation, better to subsidize the one that people will actually use

        You have it backwards, silly goose. People use whatever the government subsidizes. Plenty of people around the world use mass transit when it is subsidized at levels similar to roads in their area.

        And how much are these subsidies once you consider gas taxes, vehicle license fees, revenue from traffic tickets and parking meters, etc

        Roads bring in about half of their revenues in this manner, and half from general taxes. Federal highways in isolation are closer to 2:1. Local roads are closer to the reverse.

        A transport system that allows more individual choice of routes and times is better than one that doesn’t.

        When your drunk, high, handicapped, old, or young, roads offer you NO choice of route. Indeed, they tend to actually OBSTRUCT potential routes. Having lived in both Europe and Japan, I can honestly say that there were only a couple times where I had any trouble getting where I needed to go because of lack of routes or useful scheduling. Given that I saved hundreds of dollars per month vs owning a car, I easily could afford the montly cab ride and the semi-annual car rental.

        3) Roads happen bottom-up




        Are you serious? They are decided on by the same bureaucrats!

        1. “Having lived in both Europe and Japan, I can honestly say that there were only a couple times where I had any trouble getting where I needed to go because of lack of routes or useful scheduling.”

          I lived in Japan five years, and yes, if you lived in a big city, relatively close to the center, then public transportation was good. I knew plenty of people who lived further out, and had to use their cars to get to work, to get around, or even to get to the train station. They had to pay a lot more more for gas and more in taxes and fees to keep their cars, and frequently had to pay more to use the roads. The public transport system in Japan was much better than ours (thanks in large part to higher population density), but it was hardly ideal.

        2. There were roads before there were governments. That’s what I meant by “bottom-up.”

        3. How about this: let’s not subsidize roads OR trains! Let them pay for themselves like, you know, every other service that’s worth a damn. But wait, then dickwads like Chad couldn’t force their preference for being packed into a bullet train like sardines onto everyone else! Teh horrorz!

        4. “When your drunk, high, handicapped, old, or young, roads offer you NO choice of route.”

          Yes, so lack of freedom for everyone is better than lack of freedom for a few.

          Chad, maybe you can answer a question — what is about trains that fascinates fascists so? Is the fact that there’s a huge challenge of micromanagement in scheduling them and making them run properly? Is that they’re convenient when it comes time to eliminate your political enemies? Is it simple self-centered lack of respect for the needs and choices of other people?

    2. There is no logical reason for libertarians to be any more against trains than they are roads.

      For one thing, driving = freedom, and we likes us some freedom.

      For another, roads get one penny per mile of government money. Rail gets sixty cents.

      And anyway, fuck you.

      1. Uh, that should be per passenger mile.

        Still, fuck you.

        1. That’s the real eye-opener here. Nobody fucking rides these things.

        2. Either way, everyone, even those who don’t drive, benefit from the roads. Everyone who isn’t 100% fully self sustained without having to interact with anything from the outside world, ever.

          1. Uh, those benefits can in fact be easily internalized. Here’s how: Suppose all revenues to build and maintain roads come from a gas tax (it has a similar effect to tolls except it isn’t as cumbersome). Any goods shipped using the road will have the extra expense priced in, and the people who benefit from those goods will, shockingly, pay in proportion to those benefits. I’m not sure if you’re the real Chad, but that argument was certainly fucktarded enough for him.

            1. Transportation costs are why we have an enormously efficient, high volume rail system in this country despite the insane distances this some internal routes involve.

              It’s just that it moves almost nothing but freight. Because freight doesn’t care as much about when it arrives, just that it gets there on schedule.

    3. There is no logical reason for leftists to be more against roads than they are trains. Yet you constantly shill the latter, despite their obvious failings and waste. Why?

      Don’t bother answering since you’re just a sockpuppet, but here’s a hint: control.

      1. Because we are out of balance. Roads are part of the solution. So are other modes of transit. We need to shift towards everything other than roads.

        1. Sorry, what is the problem again? Are there major daily backups from LA to San Fran?

          1. No.

            Well, they exist in SF and LA, but a ginormous rail line is much better batin’ material.

        2. Thank you for your support.

        3. Because we are out of balance… We need to shift towards everything other than roads.

          Thank you, Obi Wan Chadoni. That makes it all so clear.

    4. The North Eastern United States (the best potential location for High Speed Rail) has less than half of the population density of Japan (Area in km^2, density /km^2):

      Japan Pop 127,380,000 Area 377,923 Density 337.1

      Northeast US
      Massachusetts P 6,593,587 A 27,336 D 241.2
      Connecticut P 3,518,288 A 14,357 D 245.1
      New York P 19,541,453 A 141,299 D 138.3
      New Jersey P 8,707,739 A 22,558 D 386.0
      Maryland P 5,699,478 A 32,133 D 177.4
      Delaware P 885,122 A 6,447 D 137.3
      District of Columbia P 599,657 A 68 D 3387.9
      Virginia P 7,882,590 A 110,785 D 71.2
      Rhode Island P 1,053,209 A 4,002 D 263.2
      Overall P 54,481,123 A 359,094 D 151.7

      (Source: Wikipedia)

      This does not allow for the fact that Japanese urban areas do not sprawl the way US cities do, which means that, to use any high speed rail system, the US user is going to have a long commute just to get to the rail station. Nor does it allow for the fact that Japan has a higher proportion of mountainous terrain not suitable for urbanization.

      Further, an airline is vastly more flexible. You do not have to built a distinct line connecting LAX to OAK, SFO, Sacramento, San Jose, Monterey, Long Beach, etc. For those cities that are in a direct line, remember that making a stop at each point is going to decrease your average speed by a large percentage. (And don’t even think of the politics of saying that a train won’t stop at a major city along it’s route.)

      An accident or obstruction ANYWHERE along a rail route can bring the whole thing to a standstill. Planes can fly around a problem.

      1. This does not allow for the fact that Japanese urban areas do not sprawl the way US cities do, which means that, to use any high speed rail system, the US user is going to have a long commute just to get to the rail station

        Chicken, meet egg.

        Japan doesn’t sprawl so much BECAUSE of their public transit system. Everything worth worrying about is near a train line.

        An accident or obstruction ANYWHERE along a rail route can bring the whole thing to a standstill. Planes can fly around a problem

        Now this is a ridiculous one. What is the on-time rate of the Japanese train system? 99.8% or so? I’ve experienced exactly one train out of 1000+ that was late by more than a minute.

        What is the on-time percentage of airlines? Lol lol lol lol. Like 60% IF you give them a generous 15 minute cushion?

        1. Japan doesn’t sprawl so much BECAUSE of their public transit system. Everything worth worrying about is near a train line.

          So you want everyone to have to live in a 10 square meter appartment? Just so you can have a nice concentrated urban complex?

    5. There is one logical reason EVERYONE in California should oppose this train: WE’RE FUCKING BROKE.

      1. That’s why you gotta spend more.

    6. Libertarians aren’t against trains or roads.

      We oppose government displacement of competitive markets in the transportation industry.

  5. I did a little research here. Southwest Airlines runs about 67 flights from Bay Area to LA. LA is LAX and Burbank, Bay Area is SF, Oakland, and San Jose. I dind’t include OC, I don’t know if the train will go that far.

    If you figure 67 flight each way, and about 200 people per plane, that about 27000 people going north and south each day. Per year a little less than 10 million. And that’s 1 airline (probably the most popular). So, if they can make a serious dent into the air travel, I would think 3-5 million is a good target.

    but I have a feeling that by the time they reach that number, their contruction and operating costs will make it more worthwhile to just buy all those people a ticket for Southwest.

    1. I think you underestimate the fraction they will capture. In anything less than 300 miles, the train will be faster. Out to about 450, times will be close enough that many would prefer the train due to the extra comfort and flexibility. The price is typically a wash in both Europe and Japan, so there is no reason to expect a major difference here (unless jet fuel prices go crazy).

      Additionally, as the train networks get stronger, more and more development will occur at or near the stations. This, in turn, will increase the likelyhood that the trains will be taking you from a place you already were and to a place you really want to be. Airports tend to be a half an hour or more from anywhere but strip malls, car rentals, and warehouses. Unless your destination IS an airport (to connect to a long-haul flight), the train is likely to put you closer to where you want to be. I always take the Shink from Tokyo to Osaka for this very reason.

      1. I doubt it’s a good business model to assume that you will pull 100% from the competition. If Southwest is full, they fly 28000 people a day up and down the coast, that would work out about 10 million a year (that’s figuing 200 people per flight everyday of the year, I think that’s generous, maybe 150 is closer to real). I don’t see how they possibly get the 39 million much less 70.

        Of course, Southwest won’t go down without a fight. Losing traffic to a highly subsidized competitor will get them runnig to their friends asking for help.

        I’m not saying I wouldn’t ever use it, it would depend on where it starts and stops. I drive from San Jose area to LA 5-10 times a year, I can be in Hollywood in 4.5 hours from my house, so I like to drive, no rental, no time restrictions, etc. I know I’m not everyone.

        1. Far from assuming “100%”, they actually assumed something closer to .03% of inter-regional trips. Yes, that’s POINT ZERO THREE percent.

……005_Source Document 5 Ridership and Revenue.pdf

          By your own calculations, ~10 million people fly from LA to the Bay each year. Many more drive. Trains will steal some from each AND serve a large number of people who are making shorter trips.

          CA’s population, as well as the rest of the nation’s, is growing too. LA traffic is only going to go from horrid to worse than horrid. In the meantime, the train system is slowly being built out, and will eventually connect everywhere you need to be in LA. Gas will be expensive, too. Driving will be less and less tempting.

          1. you don’t live in L.A. do you?

          2. Chad really cares about trains. It’s because he’s special. Didn’t Raymond watch trains in Rain Man?

            Hey Chad, uh oh, Wapner’s on in 5 minutes and you need to go to K-Mart to get your clothes.

          3. The link doesn’t work so I don’t know what they are thinking.

            I figured about 10 million a year fly Southwest, not a day. I know I’m not counting other airlines and not including flights to OC and there ARE several thousand that drive each day. But maybe the total traffic is 20 million, you are not going to get all of that traffic, you are not going to Southwest out of business. The article said they estimated 39 million. That just seems to me to be 3-4x the current traffic.

            Your arguments about people making shorter trips is hard to reconcile with a bullet train. I’m assuming that it will only stop in SF, San Jose, LA, and if they do the whole thing, OC, and San Diego. If you need go from LA to Fresno, it’s not part of it. I may be wrong, I don’t know what they are planning, but that’s the idea I got from it when they had the proposition a few years ago.

            LA’s traffic won’t be affected by a bullit train that I can see.

            I should say that in my limited travels, I used the el in Chicago and the subway in New York. As an suburban Californian, I thought they were pretty cool, to be able go anywhere in the area cheap and pretty quick. I don’t see a bullit train in Ca. as working as well as that.

            1. Greer, you don’t know how bullet trains work, or indeed, ANY good train line. It’s not your fault: you live in the US and haven’t experienced one.

              The proposed line in CA has 17 stops, and two short spurs that up the total to 24 (if I counted correctly in my morning haze). This is pretty similar to the run from Tokyo to Osaka that I mentioned yesterday, which has about twenty stops. The Tokyo line, like most major lines in Japan, has multiple types of trains running at different speeds. The long-haul trains are the newest and fastest, and only stop at six stations out of the twenty, including the first and last stations. The oldest and slowest trains (which are still fast by any standard) stop at every station, and a medium-speed set that stops at about twelve stations also exists. The key is that the fast trains pass slower ones inside the train stations. They never meet while both are moving.

              If you need to make a long trip, you get on the fast train and switch at major station near your destination to a slower train. If you are making a medium-length trip, you take a “slower” train. If you are making a short trip, you probably aren’t using HSR.

              For reference, the difference between the fast and slow trains on that route is around 2:45 vs 4:00.

            2. “If you need go from LA to Fresno, it’s not part of it.”
              not go to Fresno!??!?!?…raisin capital of the world??? how will the urchins walk up to the train windows, hawking raisins?

      2. Burbank is 15 minutes from downtown L.A.

      3. Lets do some math here.

        First of all, a 100B cost is probably well under what the actual cost of this system would be if it were ever completed, but lets use it anyway.

        100B / 30 years = 3.3B per year that would need to be collected in excess of operating expenses to recover the capital cost in a reasonable amount of time.

        Now lets pretend that they can get 10 million in annual ridership. 10m * $100 a ticket = 1B

        10m riders * 400 miles between SF and LA = 4B Passenger miles.

        3.3B – 1B = 2.3B + unknown operating expense that needs to be subsidized. To make it easy I’ll just stick to the 2.3B.

        2.3B in subsidy / 4B Passenger miles = $0.60 per passenger mile subsidized.

        $0.60 * 400 = $240 the taxpayers have to pick up for a cozy little train ride from SF to LA.

        Something here tells me that Highways and Airplanes are vastly cheaper.

        1. More math:

          A car that gets 30MPG would take about 14Gallon of gas to drive the same distance. Even if gas cost $10 per gallon, the cost for the drive would still be much cheaper.

          Ya I’m not factoring in the cost of the car, insurance, and maintenance but one expects that you’ll have the car regardless of the existence of a train.

          1. Yet another lib who just wants to count half his costs while doing a comparison.

            1. The cost per mile to own and drive a car is subject to wide variance due to personal habits.

              But, I’ll account for my costs to drive since I know them.
              My car actually does get 30MPG.

              I’ve had it for 8 years now and put 125,000 miles on it(at least 17% of the miles I drive on are “trips longer than 40 miles,” and 10% of my total mileage is directly attributable to “vacation”), and paid $14,000. So my cost per mile to buy the car is $0.11. This cost is subject to wide swings depending on personal behavior. Buying used will usually reduce the cost per mile here. Buying a new Cadillac every 3 years will of course increase the cost per mile.

              I spend about $0.04 per mile on insurance. Personal habits, and specific traits(male, unmarried, age 17 for example) of course can greatly affect this as well.

              Maintenance: I’ve spent between oil changes, tires, and one major engine breakdown, $1,200 on maintenance over the past 8 years(I fixed the major breakdown for $400 by doing it myself…it really isn’t that hard to tear apart a modern engine…engines from the 80s though *shudder*). Roughly about a penny per mile. Folks who don’t do their own maintenance will probably pay $0.03-0.05 per mile for maintenance.

              So, at $10 per gallon it will cost ME $0.33 per mile for the gas and $0.16 per mile to own the car.

              Even if you were to double my cost of ownership(making it $0.65 per mile), it will still cost about 25% less than the train ride(at $0.85 per mile)

              Thank you for playing.

              1. Oh, I forgot one.
                Paying $100 per year to ‘register’ my vehicle with the State of Illinois. That cost is well under $0.01 per mile.

                I do wonder what I’m buying though. The real kicker is that I pay $10 more than the average driver because I have personalized plates. Which raises an even bigger question: Why after the initial registration do I have to still pay $10 more. I understand the extra charge for the initial registration since a randomly assigned plate is obviously cheaper(though not $10 cheaper) than a personalized plate. The 7 other times I registered the car though there is no extra cost incurred by the state.

              2. You missed something, Dave: the road system causes you to need to drive further.

                My parents drive twenty miles to shop at Walmart. When I was in Japan, I stopped on the way home from the station. Sure, my parents’ miles might be cheaper on a per mile basis, but they have several times the miles.

                Btw, the 50 mile trip from Kyoto to Osaka costs Y390. That’s more like $0.10 per mile.

                1. No, my choice to live in an unincorporated area causes me to drive a little further to get to stores…most of my mileage is driving to work and would not substantially increased were I to move from my cozy semi-rural area to the closest town. My quality of life would be decreased if I had to live cheek by jowl with my neighbors.

                  If I were to live “in town” (a modest sized suburb of 20k people) I’d be paying an extra $2000 a year just in property taxes for the privilege of sidewalks. I’d also have had to pay a premium to purchase a comparably sized house(my house is half the size of a McMansion, but it is bigger than the usual offering in a town) and would have to give up my decent sized back yard. I’d also have a lot more road noise, more traffic to deal with, and pesky rules.

                  As far as living in a city(Chicago in my case), not a ****ing chance in the world. I would refuse to take a job there even if taking the train to the city from where I live would only take 10 minutes.

        2. That seems to be about it, Dave.

          How about this, Chad: We’ll set the subsidy at precisely the current subsidy per passenger-mile of roads: $0.01. So a trip from SF to LA will get propped up to the tune of $4.00, the rest paid for out of fares, parking, advertising, licensing, etc.


          1. Ahh, let’s start the game of counting ALL the subsidies….

            1. Oh, so we’re going to start dragging in all the specious “externalities” again?

              Somehow I don’t think we’ll still get to sixty times the $0.01 figger, Chaddy.

        3. The latest high speed line in France was 188 miles and cost $39 million per mile in 2007. So a 400 mile line in Ca. would cost north of $150 billion.

          This is a situation where we can thank our environmentalist friends – they will tie up this project for so long that Chad’s great grandchildren will finally shut down the multi-trillion dollar “studies” for high speed trains in favor of expanding emigration to Mars and Luna.

          1. creech,
            Building anything in California is at least twice as expensive and building it somewhere else. So your estimate’s way too low.

    2. 200 people per plane is high for SWA. They fly various models of 737s, which means 120-136 seats.

      The 737 is a sturdy reliable airframe, and great for commuter routes, but it is not really big.

      1. Those figures cant be right. It’s six wide and up to 36 rows, so Greer has the upper limit right…

        …I think I was dredged up the magic number for the MD super 80. I like riding a super 80. Fool things are over powered and make for great noise abatement takeoffs.

  6. journalismism

    Nice try, young man, but it’s “isms” all the way down.

  7. Train leaving on Track Five for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga!

  8. Train leaving on Track Five for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga!

    1. Wrong demographic here. These are all urban hipsters in their early 30s, wouldn’t know Jack Benny from Frank Zappa.

      1. Jack Benny sang “Titties and Beer.”

        Or do I have that backwards?

  9. “…the California High Speed Rail project (funded in part by $2.25 billion of your money, non-Californians)”

    Once you’ve been raped by two presidents and Congress to the tune $700 billion on TARP? I’m guessin’ the shock value wears off after a while.

    Sorry, what? We’re getting raped again? Oh, it must be Friday.

  10. These are all urban hipsters in their early 30s, wouldn’t know Jack Benny from Frank Zappa.

    My Captain Beefheart vs. the Grunt People joke is crying in the shower now! WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER?!

  11. If you want a picture of the future, imagine the cost of building a two-mile, three-car pulley-based system between Oakland Airport and BART that would reduce the on foot time between the two by six minutes. $500 million. ETA: completely unknown.

    Yeah, this 700-mile project will cost $45 billion and be completed on time.

    I think people need to get past the whole libertarian-only argument: this is California. The government doesn’t do shit right there (and formerly “here”). Ever. Public transportation projects are abysmal failures, and until the state can get its costs under control, this will continue to be a bad idea regardless of the wisdom of long-distance rail. This will turn out much more like the Big Dig than the Tokaido Shinkansen.

    1. Though not a Californian, I have watched enough projects in that state bloat in cost over the years. (BARF, excuse me, BART was just one).

      I predict that, should the HSR ever get built, the cost will be > $200 billion.*

      And it won’t run on time.

      *(And, I also predict that, should it eventually get killed off, that will not happen until a minimum of $40 billion has already been spent.)

      1. And BART’s a fucking miracle compared to the mobile race war that is AC Transit. And at least it’s usually within 10 minutes of scheduled departure time, unlike Caltrain or Amtrak.

        Granted, BART requires a $300 million subsidy per year, even though I paid $3000 per year to ride the damn thing. And they generally only recover 50% of operating costs from fares, which means I had a subsidy of 20 cents per passenger-mile working with me after the cost of building the line in the first place, most likely financed with more debt.

        And we need to get past these comparisons to densely populated mountainous areas with little arable or livable land having success with public transportation. Often they don’t even require state subsidies because they’re already economical. Japan Rail in Japan turns a solid ~$2 billion profit on ~$30 billion in revenue, because it’s affordable, runs on time, bargains hard on costs, gets loads of money from advertisements and rental income, and its success keeps still-state-owned companies competitive. I require no subsidy to ride. California does none of this shit, and you have to be a totally brain-dead rail sycophant to believe it’s a good idea when US systems are already lucky to have an operating profit margin of -50%.

        1. Granted, BART requires a $300 million subsidy per year, even though I paid $3000 per year to ride the damn thing

          Which is WAY cheaper than a car. Unless you are driving the absolute shittiest pieces of dung in the world, you are lucky to come in at less than $5000/year once you include all our costs.

          And they generally only recover 50% of operating costs from fares


          You are making my point when you criticize HSR in ways that apply equally well to roads. Why the blindess?

          1. And they generally only recover 50% of operating costs from fares


            Because politicians take a HUGE chunk of the fuel surcharges and give spend the money on non-road related projects.

            Right now I’ve got a road project in my neck of the woods where almost HALF the cost is because they are “creating and restoring wetlands”

            Get rid of shit like that and intercity/interstate roads come very close to paying for themselves.

            1. Wrong, Dave. They may “take a chunk”, but then they give two right back from the general fund. Go look at the DoT budget. I suspect you never had.

              In any case, that’s only the federal interstate system, not all roads. And even within the federal interstate system, you run into a false comparison, because most of the interstates we have were constructed with general funds. The gas tax is covering mostly O&M costs, along with slow expansion. Yet you demand that trains cover their original capital costs with fares. Why the double standard?

          2. Owning a car provides additional benefits that owning a commuter transit pass (which BART doesn’t offer, FYI) doesn’t. And I’m going to own a car anyway. Again, if you want to encourage “greener” behavior, you have to take on some liberal sacred cows in SF, like rent control, zoning laws, environmental preservation, and so forth so that people who currently commute to work can live nearer their workplace without having to shell out $1400 per month for a moldy studio. But no, what we need is a transcoastal bullet train that we don’t have the money for and that we can’t possibly complete on time and that won’t run on time and that will require a massive, ongoing subsidy for every year of its operation.

            And don’t give me that bullshit about roads. The subsidy per passenger mile of roads is one hell of a lot less than it is for rail, and you know it. Money paid by motorists is diverted from roads, and the idea that we have to subsidize them through the general fund is mind-numbingly disingenuous.

            In any case, if you’re saying HSR is just as bad as roads, BS though it may be, why do you support it?

            1. With a good transit system (not BART), plenty of people would go carless, or with a reduced number of cars: surely, not one for everyone age 16+, which is sucking up 25-30% of household budgets nowadays.

              Your “per passenger mile” numbers are meaningless, in two ways. First, as any transit net grows, it’s ppm costs drop a lot. You’ve been in Japan a lot. What is the per mile cost for a mid-range ticket (10-50 miles)? Less than ten cents….and while making a profit, none the less. Second, roads cause you to need to go further than you otherwise need to. It wouldn’t matter if my ppm costs were twice as much in Japan, as my number of miles travelled was less than half. Rather than the 10 mile, 30 stoplight drive to Walmart that I have, the supermarket was one block away; cost per mile: zero.

              Again, you believe the right-wing myth that money is diverted from roads to public transit. Go look at the DoT budget and see for yourself. We spend far more on interstates than fuel and related excise taxes bring in. A fraction of the F&E taxes are diverted, and then the interstates receive an even larger chunk of change from the general fund.

              And once we start hammering away at ALL road subsidies (noise, pollution, safety, etc), things change dramatically.

              1. You are forgetting something though Chad.

                Here in America, we don’t like to be scrunched up against our neighbors so tight. A ten mile drive from a 2000 square foot house to Wal Mart is much more preferable for the vast majority of us than a 500 square foot apartment on the 27th floor.

                1. Even if the market happens to be in the same building we live in.

  12. Brazil has had great success with a national bus system. They have bus only lanes. This keeps the buses out of traffic but makes it possible to convert the lanes to an extra car lane in the future should the demand for mass transit fall. They also have customers pay their fair as they enter the enclosed bus stop. This greatly speeds the boarding of passengers when the bus arrives. Building a train system instead of a Brazilian style bus system is just plain foolish.

    1. I used to ride the buses in Brazil all the time, locals and inter-city. They’re all private, all very well-run and they don’t require a special road bed, either.

  13. I think it took around ten years for the new freeway ramps to be built at SFO, so building a train to LA should be done in time for my 200th birthday or so. Maybe we could get China to build it. They finished the new Beijing terminal three and all the highways in and out in about three years.

    1. It’s a bus-age wonder!

  14. Are Highways Subsidized?


    Myth vs. Reality on Highway “User Taxes” and Subsidies

    From the second article, my favorite (italics in the original):

    “Another major fault of the motor vehicle “user taxes” concept is that, except for direct tolls (i.e., user fees) assessed on tollway, tunnel, and bridge users, these taxes are themselves subsidies.”

    That’s some kind of stupid, to equate Gas Taxes = Subsidies.

    1. That was my impression too.

      While I agree that gas taxes are a poor proxy for a direct use fee, the tax is placed directly on something which is being used for the express purpose of using roads (although it has changed, fuel taxes, gas and diesel, were only levied on fuel actually used in on the road vehicles). Driving is one of the few activities that lends itself to this kind of funding through a tax on one of the commodities used for driving.

      For years, gas taxes raised surpluses, which went into “trust funds” (some states had real ones, but most were as fictional as the federal one which is like the SS “trust fund”) while the state put the revenue in the general fund. For the while though the trust funds have been spent down and highway departments are running a “deficit” WRT to gas taxes collected. That and the fact that about twenty to thirty percent of the gas tax is skimmed off and given to public transportation projects.

      That said, unfortunately politicians have been reluctant to raise gas taxes and the fact is that they generally have not been raised over time the way other taxes have. And, of course, if any politician even does talk about raising the gas tax, he gets his head handed to him. Likewise, any pol who talks about raising tolls.

      In the end, whether you’re talking about roads or mass transit, the real problem is that there are way too many people who want way too much free shit.

  15. Japan has about 1/3 our population in an area smaller than CA, with big chunks of that set aside for agriculture (rice) for nothing better than religious reasons. They’re packed in for a reason.

    Luckily all Japanese take public transportation everywhere, which is why they have no auto industry to speak of.

    1. The Japanese ride shinkansen because they’re used to being treated like sardines. Seriously, thye have those hotel rooms that are smaller than the freezer in my garage.

      1. What?

        Your natural body language doesn’t have elbows and knees tucked in close at all times?

        //actually I adjust to that very quickly and am comfortable in Japan. And I use the trains a lot there, because they are fast, reliable, and not horribly expensive.

        But do pay for a reserved seat on a crowded route. Really.

  16. Follow the money. Who benefits from this if the manufacturer or contractor to operate doesn’t? Don’t tell me it’s for the common good. Just another greedy special interest that doesn’t want to compete in the free market.

  17. Is there a chance the track could bend?

  18. Story was posted by a rich NIMBY that lives near the tracks in that answers that STUPID REASON for this repost of that O so made up biased “story”

  19. California High Speed FAIL

    If we really want to spend money, it could be put to better use of improving regional transit systems that need a lot of help.

    But, California is broke and it’s no joke.

  20. Interstate 5 = already built.

    That’s all the comparison I need.

    1. I5 also boasts some of the dumbest drivers I’ve every had the misfortune to meet outside a major metropolitan area.

      Sand blowing across the road near Sacremento, visibility variable but often down to fifty feet, and the boneheads didn’t slow down.

      Saw on the TV that evening that there was a ~150 vehicle pile up about half and hour after I got through.

      Still less scary than the coast highway, though.

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