Against California High Speed Rail

Against California High Speed Rail by Mark R. Powell

California’s High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group…

…Knowledgeable, accomplished, well-educated and definitely NOT “peers” of the Rail Authority
The Peer Review Group is composed of successful engineers, scientists, and economists with expertise in transportation and large infrastructure projects.  The group notably contains no lawyers or persons who have ever held elective office.  Their backgrounds are in stark contrast with their supposed “peers” on the California High-Speed Rail Authority (the Authority) who’s membership includes four lawyers (three who have served in elective office) and two union organizers in addition Continue reading

California High-Speed Rail’s Fraudulent Funding Plan

Rail Authority Relies on Non-Existent Federal Programs and All $9 Billion of Proposition 1A Bonds to Build the Initial Operating Section.

The voter approved High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act, Proposition 1A, stipulates that a funding plan must be in place for a usable high-speed rail corridor before any Rail Bonds can be released for construction of that corridor [Note 1]. 

The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Draft 2012 Business Plan purports to show funding plans for usable Continue reading

Californians Turn 2 to 1 Against High Speed Rail

Only Californians Aligned with the “Occupy Movement” Remain Strongly Supportive.
A Field Poll [Note 1] conducted by telephone between November 15-27, 2011 involving 1000 randomly selected registered California voters posed the following question:

“Suppose that 9 billion dollars in state bonds for the California High Speed Rail project were put before voters again in a statewide election ballot. If the election were being held today, would you vote Yes to approve or No to reject this bond package?”

In a stunning rebuke of the California High-Speed Rail Project and Continue reading

High-Speed Rail Ridership Forecasts are Preposterous!

The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s newest Business Plan forecasts that when Phase 1 is completed in 2033, 8.7 million high-speed train (HST) trips will be made annually between San Francisco and Los Angeles/Anaheim [Note 1] [Note 2].   These 8.7 million HST riders must essentially come from two sources; airline passengers or automobile passengers.  Listed below are three reasons why airline and automobile passengers will not switch to the HST in anywhere near the numbers claimed by the Rail Authority.

Reason #1    Travel Times by HST are Closer to Driving than to Flying.
Traveling by high-speed train between the Bay Area and the LA Basin will take  2 ½  hours longer than flying.  While the Authority speaks of traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes on an Express Train, Express Trains will be the exception and not the rule.  According to the Peak and Non-Peak Train Schedules [Note 3] included in the 2012 Draft Business Plan only 22% of trains will be Express Trains  and the average time for all trains traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles Continue reading

New Plan Says Phase 1 of California High Speed Rail Could Cost $117.6 Billion…..Plus Finance Charges of another $94 Billion

Rail Authority suggests simply charging it all to the American Debt card
California’s High-Speed Rail Authority (the Authority) rolled out their 2011 Business Plan first to the press and then later put the entire plan on-line.  The Authority’s practice of dribbling out selective information to the press resulted in banner headlines across the state that read, “High-Speed Rail Could Cost $98.5 Billion”.  A thorough reading of the Authority’s plan reveals that $98.5  Billion is merely the low end of a range of cost estimates that go up to $117.6 Billion  depending on the route and the construction features. [Note 1]  And these costs totally ignore the interest over the next 22 years on the borrowed Continue reading

A Peek at the Pathetic Situation of California High-Speed Rail

Much like a failing student who delays bringing home a report card, California’s High-Speed Rail Authority  (the Authority) is stalling in the delivery of their Business and Funding Plans.  However, the state legislature passed  AB-115 in June requiring minimal Business and Funding Plan details be reported to them by October 14, 2011 as a requirement for the Authority accessing the second half of money budgeted for it this fiscal year.  This just released information gives considerable insight into the wretched state of the soon to be released High-Speed Continue reading

High Speed Rail Business Plan Release Will Miss Critical Deadline

In a press release where the headline, “High-Speed Rail to Release Business Plan Nov. 1” ,is at odds with the wording of its first paragraph, California’s High Speed Rail Authority announced a delay in meeting a critical deadline for their project. 

Board Chairman Tom Umberg today directed California High-Speed Rail Authority staff to postpone its planned release of the business plan until at least Nov. 1 to give Gov. Jerry Brown’s new appointees a chance to fully immerse themselves in the plan and offer their own feedback.”      [emphasis added]  [Note 1]

More importantly, the delay is at odds with comments made by the Authority’s CEO, Roelof van Ark, in the Authority’s Finance Committee meeting of March 2, 2011. [Note 2]  In that meeting the following exchange took place between Board Member Kopp and CEO van Ark:

Member Kopp:
 “Let me ask another question.  What is the present date for formulation and publication of our revised Business or our Financial Plan.  Is it October?”

CEO van Ark:
“October the 14th .”

Member Kopp:
And that’s, refresh my memory, pursuant to our expectation of a reasonable time?”

CEO van Ark:
“There are two reasons to meet that date.  There are two different reports that we have to actually submit.  The one is a Draft Business Plan.  The Draft Business Plan then has to be in the public view for 60 days before it is finalized by the Board.  Then it has to be submitted to the Legislature by the first of January 2012.  The second is the Funding Plan…the Funding Plan to meet the requirements of the Prop 1A funding and the release of Prop 1A funds.  That too needs to be supplied to the Department of Finance 90 days before the budget is actually submitted.  The interpretation thereof is 90 days before the budget is submitted by the governor.  And that’s why with all concerned it was agreed that the 14th of October is the latest date for us to submit these two reports.” [emphasis added]
 
Member Kopp:
“That January 2012 date is statutory, correct?”

CEO van Ark:
“That is correct.” 

Member Kopp:
“OK.”

CEO van Ark:
“And obviously the Funding Plan date is as necessary because it is also statutory.  It’s just that that date is not as well defined.  But we need to put in a Funding Plan to be able to get the state funds…the prop. 1A funds released in the next budget cycle.” 

Member Kopp:
“Alright.”

Absent from the Authority’s press release is any mention of the Funding Plan for their project. 

Perhaps both plans are delayed because the Authority is finding it difficult to write a good Business Plan for a fatally flawed business and equally difficult to write a Funding Plan for a project that has no government body or private corporation  stepping forward to fund it.  The Authority at their next Board Meeting, still scheduled for November 3, should expect tough questions from their constituents who mostly wish this project would just go away. [Note 3]

Statements made in this article are supported by footnotes shown below.  Original source documents can be obtained by clicking on the highlighted notes imbedded in the article.

Note 1  High Speed Rail Authority Press Release dated October 4, 2011 entitled “High-Speed Rail to Release Business Plan Nov. 1
http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/10042011-bp.aspx

Note 2 Audio tape of March 2, 2011 Rail Authority Finance Committee meeting, 19 minutes 42 seconds into meeting
http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/assets/0/152/231/3b7baab3-1877-4463-8c3b-5b0c8d43229b.mp3

Note 3  Probolsky Research LLC, California Voters on State Spending and High-Speed Rail, Sept. 28, 2011
http://www.probolskyresearch.com/california-voters-on-state-spending-and-high-speed-rail/

High Speed Rail Proponents Defend the Indefensible

It’s not just kids who say the darnedest things.
Facing the prospect of all future federal funds for high-speed rail being cut off, Undersecretary of Transportation Roy W. Kienitz was quoted in the Los Angeles Times declaring:

“I can’t think of any mega-project like this that had all of the funding in place before it began.” [Note 1]

Not to be out-done in the silly remarks category, Roelof van Ark, California’s High-Speed Rail CEO, was quoted in the same LA Times article exclaiming:

 …and if money runs out and the system is only partially built, it would leave in place a cornerstone that “my children or my grandchildren can continue to build to San Francisco or in a southerly direction into L.A.” [Note 2]

Readers can decide which statement is dumb and which one is dumber, but first the facts.

Every major infrastructure project across this nation from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Golden Gate, from the first spike of the Transcontinental Railroad to the last mile of the Continue reading

20 Years of California’s High Speed Rail Authority…

…False Promises, Self-Denial, and Public Deception

Early Promises
Almost 20 years have lapsed since California Senate Continuing Resolution 6 (SCR 6)  [Note 1] gave birth to the Intercity High-Speed Rail Commission in 1993.  The Commission’s mission:

“ (Be it) Resolved that construction commence on a Los Angeles to San Francisco Bay Area High-Speed Ground Transportation Corridor by the year 2000, and that by the year 2020, high-speed ground transportation service be operating between Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay area, the Los Angeles area, the San Bernardino/Riverside area, Orange County, and San Diego.”

And how was this to be paid for?  SCR 6 contained the answer.

“(Be it)Resolved that the financing plan include, but not be limited to, all of the following:
   (1) Construction, operation, and maintenance by a private entity utilizing private funds.
   (2) Use of state general obligation bonds.
   (3) Use of revenue bonds backed by incremental increases in gasoline tax to pay principal 
        and  interest, with a schedule for sale of bonds and a schedule for each incremental
        gasoline tax increase.
   (4) Use of airport funds to the extent that the new network would eliminate the need for
        airport expansion.
   (5) Identification of potential alternative public funding
         sources.

Yes, the Rhodes Scholars in our Sacramento Legislature would have used new gasoline taxes  and existing airport tax receipts to pay for a railroad that was to run on electricity.

To commence construction by the year 2000 and to have the statewide system complete by the year 2020 was certainly a tall order.  Fortunately, not much in the way of plans was produced by the Intercity High-Speed Rail Commission.   Unfortunately, the same legislator, Judge Quentin Kopp,  who penned SCR 6 in 1993 also authored Senate Bill 1420 in 1996; The High Speed Rail Act [Note 2].  This new law terminated the Intercity High-Speed Rail Commission on January 1, 1997 in favor of a new body, the High-Speed Rail Authority (the Authority), which Judge Kopp Continue reading

Rail Authority Admits Central Valley Costs Exceed Twice Previous Estimate

A Comparison of Draft EIRs to the Authority’s 2009 Report Reveals the Truth

Mark Twain once said, “There are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics.” Truly, Mr. Twain was correct in recognizing that the use of statistics beats lies and even damn lies when it comes to hiding the truth.  The California High-Speed Rail Authority surely recognizes this reality and has fully embraced the statistical use of $2008 Dollars, $2010 Dollars, $YOE Dollars, and the shuffling of  electrical costs in and out of their other construction costs to hide the truth.  Their efforts seem to be paying off as the mainstream media talks of “Costs perhaps exceeding Continue reading