‘Let’s Be Real’: California Governor Ditches High-Speed Rail Project, Cites Hefty Price Tag

From The Daily Caller

5:19 PM 02/12/2019 | Energy

Chris White | Energy Reporter

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom abandoned a high-speed rail project Tuesday that sought to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco.

He suggested the high cost of the project made the idea a pipe dream.

Newsom dialed back anticipation for the project during California’s State of the State address. The Democrat suggested building a high-speed rail line between Bakersfield and Merced — a distance of 160 miles — rather than a project designed to connect the state’s two largest cities.

“Let’s level about the high-speed rail,” Newsom said. “Let’s be real, the current project as planned would cost too much and, respectfully, take too long. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were.”

Former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan would have cost nearly $77 billion and taken more than a decade to complete, according to recent estimates.

“Critics are going to say that’s a train to nowhere, but I think that’s wrong and that’s offensive,” said Newsom, who was elected after Brown was term-limited in November 2018.

FILE PHOTO: California Governor Jerry Brown delivers his final state of the state address in Sacramento, California, U.S., January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves/File Photo

“Abandoning the high-speed rail entirely means we will have wasted billions and billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises … and lawsuits to show for it,” Newsom said, adding that he does not want to send the $3.5 billion in federal money allocated for the project back to the Trump administration.

The rail project has faced a lot of controversy throughout the years. Backers of a campaign to eliminate California’s most recent gas tax, for instance, pushed an initiative in 2018 directing Brown to halt the high-speed rail project and use any unspent funds on road improvements. (RELATED: California’s Gas Tax Opponents Push A Unique Way To Pay For Road Fixes)

The new ballot initiative would have required any funds not needed for repaying rail bonds instead go to other transportation work. Supporters said the measure staves off criticism that eliminating the state’s recent pricey gas tax makes it more difficult to make infrastructure improvements.

Newsom’s decision to ditch the project comes at an awkward time for Democrats. A document posted online fleshing out elements of the so-called Green New Deal suggests Democrats are looking to “[b]uild out highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.”

Some conservatives in the state are upset that the project will continue to exist in some form.

“Make no mistake about it: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement today is not about killing the wasteful High-Speed Rail Project, it is about keeping it very much alive,” Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California, said in a press statement Tuesday. “Newsom wants to spend tens of billions on a rail line between Merced and Bakersfield — a complete waste.”

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185 thoughts on “‘Let’s Be Real’: California Governor Ditches High-Speed Rail Project, Cites Hefty Price Tag

    • I believe that the only reason Governor Newsom doesn’t want to return the $3.5B to President Trump is his fear the money will be used for the southern wall…as it should. In all fairness though, a train from Merced to Bakersfield won’t be a “Train to Nowhere”…it will be a “Train from Nowhere to Nowhere” and will spend Billions to move how many people daily? I would hate to have to buy one of those tickets. Any further experience on that pipe rail will just be good money after bad

        • There ARE ridership estimates. They are based on assumed (and very optimistic) ticket prices. And the ticket prices – which are related to the subsidies – change with each new delay/postponement/cost overrun/ new earthquake zone discovered etc, etc. In addition, the most probable average speed attained is also a big mystery and it is safe to assume that if it is going to take almost as long to make ones total journey by train as it will to take the existing roads then the train will NOT be used – see Amtrack’s experiences.

      • In reality if they built a train from LA to San Fran they wouldn’t include stops in Merced or Bakersfield. This is the only way the two locations can be included as stops on the future line.

      • As anyone who has tried to drive from LA to SF, or the other way, has found, the 2-lanes-each-way highway that is I-5 is inadequate, sometimes breaking down into bumper to bumper crawls for dozens of miles. If Newsome wanted to improve his state, he would start a project to have at least 4 lanes both directions on I-5. It would be good for business. It would help draw north and south of California, which are like two separate cultures, together. Of course that would mean giving up on hating the greatest freer of the American people….the automobile. Maybe he could promise electrical charging stations for the Teslas, etc., every 10 miles or so to make everyone ridiculous in CA happy.

        • Seriously? 2 lanes each way? We have 4 lanes between Brisbane and the Gold Coast with a much less population.

          • To be honest much of the I5 route is not able to be expanded, already cut into mountain sides, a lot can be. A better plan would be to teach the idiots in Cali how to drive. They are worse than in DC.

  1. Democrat schemes always seem to lead to great costs accompanied by very few benefits. The ‘Green New Deal’ is another good example of this. Well at least the residents of Merced and Bakersfield will be able to visit each other very rapidly. It looks like a job half-done, half-baked and totally useless.

  2. Newsom said, adding that he does not want to send the $3.5 billion in federal money allocated for the project back to the Trump administration.

    That’s fine. Instead they can spend it on California’s portion of the wall.

    ~¿~

    • Besides, I’ve read where a mile of high-speed rail line costs FOUR times what a mile of border wall costs! Investing in keeping the US secure is as important as moving people, especially when there is already infrastructure to move people!

    • No, no, they’re still going to waste all the money. They just aren’t going to actually build anything. It’s more efficient rent-seeking. The efficiency of capturing revenue streams and diverting them to lawyers fees and consultants is approaching 100%.

      • They are building something – mountains of paperwork, which includes status reports and secret payoffs.

        • There are always cronies but California has cronyism down to a perfected science. Just create a project that will never be feasible. Convince some progressive buds in D.C. it’s a great idea. Decide how much money you’ll need to fight it in court when you don’t want to give back the money you stole and, viola! You just made another 10,000 card carrying commies rich and paid armies of ne’er do wells to generate more votes for you to continue winning elections. You have to be blind or partisan as hell not to see this complete lack of ethics.

    • Ironic that within two weeks we have the Soylent Green New Deal promising the end of air travel and the rebirth of rail followed by the death of rail.

      California was the only State that accepted Obama’s (Taxpayers) money for high speed rail (slow rail actually). Wisconsin and Florida both turned it down. Looked good on the outside, lots of cash, but when you got past the initial excitement and started looking at ticket prices, maintenance etc. it was a cash disaster for the States. Living in Wisconsin there was a great deal of debate about this Low Speed Rail between Milwaukee and Madison. Ticket prices would have been ridiculously high and ridership estimates were very low. In other words just another government bridge to nowhere.

      The rail system is just as bad in California, billions of dollars with zero potential for taking cars off the road. Lots of money for unions, politicians and big corporations. It would be amazing if California ended up having to write a check to Trump.

  3. What gets me is that in order to make any HSR project “affordable”, you would have to gut almost all of the environmental and historical preservation regulations and laws on state and federal levels. Look at Texas, you have a privately funded HSR proposed between Houston and Dallas and it is AOC and her ilk that are fighting it. The same goes for Brightline (now part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Empire) … The section from West Palm Beach to Orlando is being challenged by Uber rich lefties!!

    • Well, duh. What part of privately funded did you miss? Only socialist government is allowed to tear up the landscape and destroy historical landmarks. Privately funded means capitalists greedily extracting profits from the exploited masses. As the gov’nor says, “get real!”

      • I’ve crunched the numbers hundreds of times and a HSR between Dallas and Houston WILL NEVER BE PROFITABLE, even if gas goes to $10/Gallon. The Only way to make it profitable is impose new Tolls on I-45 of between $50 – $100, and that would surely send a lynch mob with torches/pitchforks to Austin.

        Except on Holidays, busy weekends the average speeds on I-45 are nearly 75 mph (and are only getting faster). HSR may be faster Downtown/Downtown, but isn’t Suburb/Suburb. Point to point saves 2 hours over a car, but getting to/from HSR (Plus layover time) will easily burn those 2 hours saved making it a wash and then there’s the issue with being stuck with a Bus/UBER/light rail to cover a huge metroplex on each end. Maybe for a poor person with no car/lots of time on their hands, it will work… but then they can’t afford the HSR ticket prices. Fail.

        Any private companies working on HSR are expecting massive government intervention, because the numbers just don’t add up.

        • HSR is most cogent for replacement of domestic airline routes, when you have to factor in getting to and from airports. It also makes sense to have one downtown and one suburb station at each terminus city. You will get taxi sharing for HSR passengers just like you get for JFK airport.

          4-500km distance is most cogent for daily trips, up to 2000km for overnight journeys.

          Also makes sense if an airport is at capacity and slots can be freed up through replacement of domestic air slots with HSR.

          If you have litigation obsessions so that ridiculous extortion occurs to stymie attempts to secure the land route, then HSR is not for the USA.

          France runs profitable HSR lines, but ueber capitalism does not rule there.

          • They didn’t listen to TGV’s route recommendation of using I-5 easements for the most direct route and least amount of eminent domain law suites.

            As one who gets to LAX in one hour from Sacramento, the Train is a nonstarter, it was going to take 30+ more years to tie into Sacramento. The Capitol Corridor and bus connection take 3 hours from Sacramento to SF, which I can drive in 90 minutes.

            Make direct commuter cities connections as fast as possible and without sharing Freight rails.

          • In the mind of the socialist, there’s communism, socialism, and uber capitalism.

            Anyone who thinks the US is a “capitalist” country either doesn’t know anything about capitalism, or doesn’t know anything about the US.

          • The historic French TGV lines, the ones with the better economics, break even.

            The newer ones (at 10 € per mm) never will. Nothing at 10 € per mm does.

            Also, union inspired rules are out of control. Jobs are ultra specialized in trains.

        • I have to agree. I would never invest in a rail line between my two home cities. However, there is a sizeable number of flights between Love Field and Hobby daily. That’s what the railroad will be competing against, not the car traffic. It’s for corporate travelers, not people going to the suburbs

          • There’s a sizable number of flights between any two moderate large cities that people want to travel to and from. From Sarasota Fl to Atlanta Ga there are I think 6 flights a day. That doesn’t even count the flights from Tampa Fl. A Tampa or Sarasota to Atlanta route would be about as good a route as you could fine for HSR it take one hour to fly and six hours to drive. The nonsense at the airport brings down the attractiveness of flying. And yet no rail route from Tampa to Atlanta has been proposed. Sarasota doesn’t even have a train station.
            The most likely reason no one is seriously talking about HSR for that route is because they know that trains can’t compete against the airlines.

        • When Wisconsin was looking at the project for Madison to Milwaukee it turned out it was far cheaper and more convenient for bus travel. Busses at least could get people close to the capitol, the train “plan” had people stuck in the outskirts and then bussed to the Capitol. The Democrats screamed about losing the “free” money but Scott Walker managed to kill it. The State would have been on the hook for millions of upkeep, maintenance and car replacements.

    • MattS

      Precisely.

      Moreover, whilst a railway line of any description means ripping up hundreds of miles of valuable land, imposing compulsory purchase orders, physically dividing communities and increasing the likelihood of accidents (I understand 2018 was the first year there were no major commercial plane crashes across the planet) and inducing intrusive noise, airports have two respectably small footprints; an airport at either end of their journey with no disruption in between.

      Quite how anyone can imagine that trains are an environmentally friendly solution to anything is quite beyond me. They are products of the early 19th Century and worked well when a man with a flag was required to walk in front of motor vehicles for safety reasons and aeroplanes that could fly at 300 knots whilst carrying hundreds of passengers weren’t even dreamed of.

      One way flight between London and Glasgow, £66. I can guarantee an HS2 (the grossly expensive, proposed high speed rail line between London and the north of England…..it doesn’t even venture as far as Scotland!) train journey will be an awful lot more.

    • city centre to City centre, no check in, no TSA. 200 mph plus… what’s not to like?

      The whole of Europe has 220 mph city to city trains… USA is way behind the curve here.

      • Griff, you apparently have never been to Merced or Bakersfield. These are not places you want to get to fast. They are sparsely populated farming communities. There is no real tourism there because there’s nothing much to do or see there. And don’t think there won’t be TSA or check in. The unions will demand it. Also, it won’t be 200 mph. In order to make it affordable, some sections will be shared with existing conventional rail. This is the biggest boondoggle in California history in my lifetime. Gavin Newsom knew this all along and said nothing.

          • Current driving time Merced to Bakersfield … 164 miles … 2hrs 30min.
            Current rail travel Merced to Bakersfield … 3hrs 9min.
            Rail must travel slowly through population zones
            Odds of High Speed Rail actually reaching 200mph slim for about 50% of the travel distance and nil for the other half. It might reach 200 for 10 minutes between Merced and Fresno and for 15 minutes between Fresno and Bakersfield

        • Well actually I think I have been through Bakersfield… but on a coach and not sober at the time.

          OK, then why not Washington to New York? New York to Boston? New York to Philedelphia? (excuse the E coast bias: I’ve only been to California and Washington/New Jersey)

          • Those all exist…. and when I’m on the east coast, train or plane is a toss up depending on the schedule.

            Don’t go to Boston though, so not sure about that.

      • And, griff, how far apart are the cities in Europe? And how far apart are they west of the Mississippi in the US. Population density matters.

        • Japan has about 4x the population density as CA and the HS rail makes better sense. The bullet train travels about 3 to 4x the highway speed limit without the traffic delay issues. Not sure how the economics work out. In Japan, the annual auto inspection cost was ~2k US a few years ago from what I can recall so their cost structures are much different than US.

          • Don’t you think that a little detail such as “how do the economics work out?” is importain to know before we put money down the HSR rathole?

          • Japanese rail has an operating profit (no idea on capitalization), but they also have a great bus system, including overnight buses, so you can address all price and schedule points.

            Meeting in the morning in Osaka, and in the evening in Tokyo? Take a bullet train.

            Visiting for holiday? Take an overnight bus and save on both the transit fares and skip a hotel.

            Going to Aoyama in the winter for the snow? Take a slow train so the kids can see the countryside.

          • TomT – Yes the economics are very important. At 4x the population density in a developed country like Japan, HS rail between population centers would be more economical than in rural CA.

          • “HS rail between population centers would be more economical than in rural CA.” Much less across the vast reaches of the rest of the country. I notice the commenters supporting HSR don’t want to touch on the fact that Amtrak has a YUGE problem keeping regular trains on the tracks, and Amtrak is what HSR would be. Add to that how many times each week some idiot parks on a RR crossing and gets hit. Do that at 100-120 and the loss of life and property damage would go up exponentially.

            Hell, just contemplate the nightmare of building HSR lines in the Northeast Corridor, DC to Boston. Unless they shutdown existing system, rip it out, and replace with HSR lines they will have to run all new right of ways. Through heavily populated areas covered by privately owned property. Yea, that will work out fine. 😉

        • That is a good point one that I make whenever this comes up but it seems to be lost on the people I talk to.

        • London/Edinburgh 410 miles.

          Paris/Marseilles 482 miles

          London/Paris 214 miles (but I guess rail route longer and it goes also to Brussels…)

      • ‘The whole of Europe has 220 mph city to city trains… USA is way behind the curve here.’

        No, Grift – we left trains behind a century ago – in favor of freedom of movement.

        • Joel, honestly… giving up trains (which you haven’t BTW*) = Freedom of Movement? Next time I’m on a train (in Europe) I’ll ask my fellow passengers how they feel now they’ve given up their freedom of movement. Perhaps if they had more guns they’d feel more free. I doubt it.

          * USA 2017 10.6 Billion Passenger Kilometers

          • Really? So in Europe I can load 1000 pounds of tools and 2000 pounds of materials on a train and drive it directly to my job site? Or I can load 6 head of livestock and 2000 pounds of feed and supplies on a train and drive it to any remote location I need to deliver then to? Really? Those are some seriously magical trains they got.

          • Interesting how to a European, going where the government wants you to go, and when the government wants you to go, is freedom.

            BTW, I just love the ignorant rant against guns. Typical socialist.

      • griff: You can’t find a single thing not to like about it? We yanks are not so lacking in the capacity to see what we don’t like. Won’t take the time to give you an example, if the greens promoted high speed canals you’d say, “what’s not to like?”

          • Joel Snider: Agreed, but he gave me a chance to promote hi speed canals. In the old days, canal boats towed by mules went, say, 4mph. If we could get that up to 20mph (an incredible 400% increase!) and prohibit “little people” from getting cars… ok I’ll stop.

      • Merced has 87k in population. The route is so unimportant that the Bakersfield-Fresno-Merced drive doesn’t involve an interstate (you can go out-of-your way if you want to use one, though). There are no flights between them…just a 164 mile drive.

        The notion of passenger train service being important between Merced and Bakersfield is not “way behind the curve”…it is from the days of the old west.

        The only reason to have this section is to connect SF/NoCal and LA/SD/SoCal. And that clearly is a pipe dream. The only reason this section went first is because it was supposed to be the cheapest and easiest…and it has been a nightmare.

    • Mainly because the 1 or 2 hr flight becomes an epic journey of 5 or 6 hours once you battle with queues, TSA, and getting to/from the airport if you are talking about major cities. That is only if everything goes right. I once took 9hrs to get from La Guardia to Dulles, which is nominally less than an hour flight.

      Train travel in Europe is an enjoyable option , taking you to the city centre vs all the overheads of air travel, even if it is far friendlier than the TSA infested US.

  4. Welcome to Australia’s take on the same thing. We’ve been talking (and only talking) high speed rail for some 2 generations with nothing to show for it. Although the first line between stops might have been more useful, such as between 2 capital cities, it never materialised either.

    In all the time proponents and opponents have been hammering it out, cheaper air travel got in the way and likely everyone else got sick of hearing and expecting nothing to ever happen except in Europe or Japan. The only thing that likely did happen, was for proponents to continue living off funds by keeping the idea alive, but that’s all. But if it ever would happen, I’d expect constant cost overruns in construction all the way to running costs and beyond, including most sections of the line to be severely speed limited because saaaaafety.

  5. “…..‘Let’s Be Real’…..” ????

    What kind of environmentalist IS this? Doesn’t he know that the laws of Physics, Chemistry and Economics can be suspended if you wish hard enough? He sounds like a shrill for Big Oil to me.

    Have him called out on Twitter….

  6. No need for it when you when you have the ‘Tesla tube’ an idea ever bit as good as Springfield’s monorail

  7. High speed rail is a great idea.
    Then you work out the specifics and see it’s not so great.
    Then, for all the usual reasons, Democrats go ahead with the good-sounding idea anyway.

    I’m amazed that a Democrat found the courage to admit the folly.

    • With each passing day, Democrats are extending Trump’s “Best Week Ever”.

      Too. Much. Winning.

      Gavin may use this for “triangulation” during an eventual Presidential/VP run, but dude, bad timing when the ENTIRE Democrat party JUST all jumped on the GND and basically told the airlines “your planet destroying planes will be obsolete… OBSOLETE!!!!!”.

      Couldn’t this have waited until AFTER the Democrat Implosion/Freefall stabilized? Slap down/Knife in-twisted Tweet from Trump in 3…2…1….

      • Trump’s “best week ever”?

        You mean the week that he got exactly NOTHING for his wall, not penny one? The wall he’s been promising his sycophantic supporters for four years now, and that the Mexicans would pay for it? And so now this week Trump was forced to eat that sh*t sandwich and declare it tastes’ great?

        If that is Trump’s best week ever, you must not be tired of losing yet.

        The Trump Derangement Syndrome, a Fake Disease used by Trumpkins to fend off reality and realists, actually applies to the Trumpkins.

        • Trump’s followers understand how politics in Washington DC works. Despite the Democrat obstruction, Trump is building the wall, and will continue building it until it is finished.

          I suppose Trump might refuse to sign the legislation, saying it wasn’t enough, and then offer to sign a continuing resolution that would continue government operations through the rest of the fiscal year which ends in September, and declare a national emergency at the southern border and build his wall that way.

          The Democrats have included in this bill spending on things they want, but if Trump forces a continuing resolution, then the Democrats don’t get to spend any new money. They don’t get what they want, and Trump still continues building the wall. Works for me. If the Democrats want to push it that far.

          Trump’s initial mistake was in letting Paul Ryan talk him into signing the Omnibus bill. Ryan promised Trump he would fund the border wall if Trump signed the Omnibus Bill. Trump signed, and Ryan never gave Trump the funding for the wall. Trump’s mistake was believing a supposedly rock-solid Republican. Trump is learning the game a little better now in his second year as a politician.

          Rasmusen Poll: Trump 52 percent approval rating. Yeah, I would say this has been a good week for Trump. His base is still stronly with hm (which is what got him elected) and on top of that, his popularity among Blacks and Hispanics has doubled since the election. So Trump can probably pull in a whole lot more votes now than he pulled in during the 2016 election (63,000,000). My guess is it is up to about 73 million now. 🙂

          • Btw, Mexico will pay for the wall.

            The U.S. currently runs a trade deficit with Mexico of about $100 billion per year. Trump has negotiated a new trade deal with Mexico, which, after Congress signs off on it, will keep a large percentage of that $100 billion in the United States instead of Mexico (don’t know the exact details of the deal), so when those tens of billions of dollars per year stay in the United States, they increase the tax revenue going to the government and this increased revenue, that would not be there without the efforts of Donald Trump, will pay for the wall. Trump said from the very beginning that doing this trade deal would be one way to pay for the wall.

            Of course, Trump could also say he is going to get China to pay for the wall, too, because currently the U.S. Treasury is taking in billions of dollars a month in tariffs imposed on China. Trump has already paid for the wall many times over with the China tariffs, and the money from China will continue to flow in when Trump completes the trade deal with them.

            Like Trump said, “Before, China didn’t give us one thin dime. Now, they are paying us tens fo billions of dollars.”

        • TDS is real. find a mirror. Only someone delusional would think this was a good week for Democrats.

          EL Chapo doesn’t get to keep his $Billions and last Time I checked, he was Mexican.

          Add that to the $1.3B from Congress in a bipartisan compromise (which ALWAYS helps a President with independents).

          I’m not “Trumpkin”. I’m just a guy looking at things objectively. Trump went from ZERO for his wall to $1.3B and who knows how much else he’ll weasle out for it, plus he has someone to blame for not getting the wall finished that Rust Belt DEMOCRATS have been asking for years.

          People with TDS can’t drive a wedge between Trump and his “Trumpkins” and he’s actively appealing to moderates and swing Democrats, while the Democrats go straight up Communist Revolution. Objectively, his Best. Week. Ever.

        • As usual, Duane only sees and knows what his handlers want him to see or know.
          Then again, it’s not like he has the mental capacity to handle a real job.

  8. My initial thought was this blows a giant hole in the green new deal, what’s left of it anyway. One of its main goals for reducing/eliminating fossil fuels was to eliminate air travel (except for the private jets of the elite) and replace it with HSR. Now California has proven that the government can’t build the HSR needed.

      • I keep pointing out that Amtrak can not keep regular trains on the rails and now people want them to run 120mph trains. That is always followed by silence, then the sound of people stomping away in a huff. Add to that the fact America has been ripping up railroad tracks like eating potato chips for the last 40 decades. They say one thing and do the exact opposite, as usual.

        • The main problem is that most US railway lines are actually in use. By freight trains. It is not a good idea to run freight and passengers on the same line, since the passenger trains can’t run any faster than the freight trains. Alternatively you can run short, light, fast freight trains between passenger trains, or at night only, like in e. g. Sweden and then you will lose most of the freight-carrying capacity.

          So either freight or passengers must go some other way, by air or car or on dedicated parallell tracks, which will in most cases be insanely uneconomic.

          • I had a friend who was a train dispatcher with the BN railroad and he used to run freight trains and passenger trains on the same set of tracks.

            He said he used to have nightmares about running those trains together, even though it had never actually happened to him. That would be a stressful job.

  9. TRump should withhold $3.5 billion if CA fails to return the money. Notice how he phrased it – “Sending it to the Trump administration ” He would be sending it to the Federal govt.

    • i like Senator Cruz’ suggestion that Trump use El Chapo’s confiscated $14 billion drug fortune to build the wall.

      I’m not sure how readily available this $14 billion is, but it would certainly be poetic justice to use this money to build the southern border wall. Most of it is probably money originating from the U.S. anyway.

      • … readily available….

        spend it now, before another obama (this thing just tried to make me capitalize “obama”!) is elected and tries to send it back, as cash, to the Mexican government.

    • Isn’t he a guy who obeyed selected laws only when he was a mayor of San Francisco? That’s the was to a governorship .. also to a senatorship for Kamala Harris.

  10. Having lived in California I have to agree that many billions will be wasted any way. Just not as many billions. Jerry Brown left office with a measure of popularity and this useless train project was his baby. By ending it and explaining his decision the way that he has Newsom creates a little political space for himself. Not a bad move politically.

    Trump is winning. His approval rating is about 52% just below his best number since taking office. And that’s coming off a government shutdown that had my 87 year old mother nervous about her VA retirement check.

    • I just saw a new Gallup poll taken after the government shutdown that shows Trump’s favorability rating increased from 38 percent to 45 percent.

      So most of these polls are showing pretty much the same thing which is that Trump approval ratings are climbing, no matter where the starting point is in a particular poll.

  11. This HSR is going to be an economic catastrophe. Asian/European experience shows that you need at least 10 million population at each end of an HSR to generate sufficient traffic.

    The Tokyo-Niigata line in Japan has for example has always been run at a loss, despite having the traffic to World’s largest winter sport area in Nagano to help out.

    And if you wonder why it was built: prime minister Tanaka was from Niigata.

  12. To paraphrase Kenny Rodgers:
    “On a warm summer eve, on a bullet train bound for nowhere………………”

  13. A pity they don’t knock HS2 in the UK on the head.
    Initial costing £33 bn, now £66 bn, and likely to end up £100 bn.
    And that is just the initial phase, with no benefit to the North of England which was the original reason for building it.
    The £100 bn would be better spent improving the Northern railways.

    • StephenP

      From what I can gather there is gathering momentum in parliament against HSR now.

      I also understand that a grossly expensive high speed line will save 20 minutes or so between it’s two extremes.

      As you say, far better ways to spend the money.

  14. In the meantime Texas Central is moving ahead with a high-speed rail project from Houston to Dallas… without the State of Texas spending a dime.

    https://www.texascentral.com/facts/

    If it delivers as promised, it will be a 90 minute ride each way. I currently commute between Dallas and Houston. The Houston station is an hour from my office if I take the bus, 20-30 minutes by Uber. The Dallas station will be a similar distance from my house. They say that the ticket prices “on the high end, tickets will be competitive with the cost of flying, and on the low end, they will be competitive with the cost of driving.”

    Flying on Southwest can be really cheap, particularly if you rack up bonus points on a Southwest Airlines Visa card. I rarely pay for tickets. When I buy them far enough in advance, it’s about $200 round-trip. Uber from the office to Hobby airport is usually ~$20. As long as I don’t drop $50 in an airport bar, the total cost is anywhere from $60 to $260. I have to get to the airport at least an hour before the flight, the flight, if on time, is about 1 hour.

    Assuming I stop 2-3 times (I drink about a gallon of Diet Coke on the drive) and allowing for traffic, it’s about a 4.5 hour drive from my office to the house on Thursday or Friday afternoon and a similar time from my house back to my Houston apartment on Sunday afternoon. My Jeep burns about 28 gallons of gasoline each round trip. At $2.00/gal, that’s $56… not counting wear & tear… and I’ve put 50,000 miles on my Jeep since March 2016.

    Round-trip Comparison

    Driving: 9 hours, $56 + wear & tear
    Flying: 6 hours (if flight is on time, a big if), $60-$260
    Rail: 4-5 hours, ????

    If a round-trip ticket is less than $100, I’d probably take the train, rather than flying. If it’s less than $60, I’d take the train all the time. If they offered a commuter pass and run early enough in the morning and late enough in the evening, I might even ditch the Houston apartment and ride it every day.

    • It does seem tailor-made to benefit you, Dave. However, people like you are a rarity. A train needs substantially more passengers than the routine commuter crowd to break even on its excessive overhead and construction costs. They won’t just need to replace all of Southwest. They will need a substantial number of additional passengers. While I do have a lot of family in Dallas, I wouldn’t fly or train up there. I need a car to get to the suburbs on both ends and not rely on family to ferry me. I’d just rather drive.

      If the costs pan out to give a single dime of dividends to their investors, I’ll eat my hat.

      • I will be shocked if it’s ever actually built… Although they are talking about starting construction this year.

        Even if they build it, I doubt I’ll still be doing this commute when it’s up and running. However, if it was running now, I’d probably be a frequent railer… 😉

        Southwest Airlines Houston-Dallas flights from 6-8 AM and 4-6 PM are usually packed Monday-Friday. The volume of business travel between Houston and Dallas is YUGE. Is it big enough to support rail and “the company plane”? I don’t know… But they do appear committed to building it and they aren’t dependent on tax dollars (yet).

  15. What is the benefit of going from Merced to Bakersfield a little faster on a train? In the Nashville area we instituted a commuter rail line (not HSR) from Lebanon into downtown. The cars are vintage 1940’s so a little historical interest which I like. Supporters of this money pit rolled out our neighbor Charlie Daniels the musician to help sell it. The train is virtually empty as it runs limited hours with a handful of stops. It loses more money every year than was ever projected. It’s a play thing and nothing more.

    Nobody would miss it if it was gone. That’s passenger rail in the USA except for the Northeast corridor I am told.

    • I went to Bakerfield once. I see no benefit in going there at any speed.

      It was a long time ago though, maybe its blossomed, I am always ready to be educated 🙂

  16. troe…
    The Devil took the train to Georgia? …. I had a somewhat odd experience hearing Charlie Daniels’s song in the early eighties! My brother was a fan of Charlie Daniels and he and I were going to our summer cottage on the island of Öland Passing over the 4 miles bridge built 1972 our R Luxembourg medium wave signal was blocked out by an arabic transmitter (1440 kHz) but having reached Öland OLD LUXY was back…and they played “The Devil went down to Georgia”…(!)

    • The Fed should pass a symbolic law prohibiting californians from moving out of california. The locust have already ruined one state, and unfortunately, when they move, they bring their loony toons ideas with them, and seek to ruin another.

  17. You think AOC is paying attention to how this affects the validity of the “New Green Deal” or is this somehow a Republican manipulated scheme to undermine her plan before it even gets voted on. If the “greenest” state in the country cant get it done, how will we eliminate air travel in 10 years for the entire country?

    • ” If the “greenest” state in the country cant get it done, how will we eliminate air travel in 10 years for the entire country?”

      We are not going to eliminate air travel. Period. This is a leftwing pipedream.

      We should be glad the Democrats came out and publicly proposed this plan. Now, just about everyone can see how crazy their plan is. The Democrats are running away from the details of this plan just as fast as they can.

  18. Bakersfield (“Baker’s Patch”, “Bako”, “that S-hole over the hill”) to Merced. Just life support for all of the contractors committed by the Brown Doggle. Writing is on the wall, time to find some other work

  19. “Let’s level about the high-speed rail,” Newsom said. “Let’s be real, the current project as planned would cost too much and, respectfully, take too long.

    Breakthrough! California lefties are running scared, and Newsom has staked out a new direction by admitting what everyone in-state and out has recognized for five years. Be sure this ‘leveling’ of his won’t extend to reining in other leftist excess, but it is a signal that the real world does penetrate as far as the upper levels of the Blue Blight party.

  20. California already has a high speed travel network between 9 of the largest urban areas in the state that travels at over 400 mph safely and efficiently. It’s called Southwest Airlines and the other numerous air carriers the service from north to south, SAC, SFO OAK, SJC, BUR, LAX, ONT, SNA and SAN. That’s Sacramento to San Diego with 7 other destinations in between. It’s affordable, and saves me personally a lot of time going between the Bay Area and L.A.

    It works much like the train travel of our great grandparents, except its fast, normally on time and fairly convenient. Trains for traveling long distances are obsolete, but can be fun, like a cruise ship. Not many people use those either for trans-Atlantic or trans-continental travel anymore either.

    • And for some, there is also Long Beach Airport. However, the system gets strained when there is fog in the Bay. Need to move the outer runway at SFO further out into the bay to allow dual instrument approaches.

      SNA (aka John Wayne, or Orange county) to and from SJC beats driving and Amtrak hands down.

  21. Let me just say in advance that any suggestion that our plan to take $12 billion, stack it into an effigy of Mother Gaia, and sacrificially light it on fire is somehow a waste of money would be both obviously wrong and offensive. So, having conclusively settled that question, I will expect to hear no more about it. Does anyone have anything important or relevant to ask me?

  22. Let’s see now, we have atmospheric rivers ending permanent drought fear mongering, PGE bankruptcy, millennials leaving because of cost, and assorted other spending needs of the Party. Reality is picking up the pace in reversion to the mean.

  23. Think of the savings and the other spending needs of the Party if they were to shrink the plan to a cross-town high speed rail project in Merced. For the children!

  24. Gavin is simply redirecting the HSR deficit spending into illegal alien support services deficit spending. And into Universal crap health care for all deficit spending … oh … and gold plated State employee pension deficit spending.

    • In Europe, passenger rail service has priority over freight – the opposite is true here, because long-distance passenger rail by and large makes no sense here. And it’s precisely because “Europe is crowded” that they can make rail work. The proposed HS rail between Dallas and Houston is using passenger boarding numbers from the east coast’s Acela for justification of the 240 mile boondoggle. No way they will get that much ridership.

      • Most European rail journeys on HS rail are in the 200 to 400 mile range.

        It seems to me a lot of your E and W coast has large cities at those distances.

        and a lot of the EU HS lines are new… and yes, we still run freight too.

    • griff, you need to understand the difference between “want” and “need”. We sort-of have high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor, which is about the only place it could possibly work.

    • The Wright brothers showed us how to fly. But we did bring home the idea of an interstate system from Germany.

    • See what you are missing: Germany is teetering on recession, the A380 has been canceled, and the unemployment rate in Spain is at 14.4% down from 27% in 2013, Italy is probably in recession, and all of this is before Brexit. Have a good day.

  25. Suddenly he cares about money – never mind he’s backing a plan and an individual that will utterly bankrupt his state and the country twenty times over.

    These people can’t be honest about a damn thing.

  26. Holy Political Party Switch Batman!

    “Getsum” Newsom is acting like a Republican!!! HOW COULD IT BE ?

    Ha ha 😀

  27. “Abandoning the high-speed rail entirely means we will have wasted billions and billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises ”

    That’s called sunken cost. Never never never make decisions based on sunken costs.

    • So why waist another $3.5B after the billions already waisted (and yes I did meas Waist rather than Waste as that is where the Fat Cats will wear their $hare)

      • Why pocket another 3.5 billion? My guess would be that it’s already pocketed and they are afraid to ask for it back from their mates.

  28. Like all politicians, they speak in circles but if I got it right … they intend to have a series of high-speed rail projects that they will cancel and use the money for other project in California.

  29. The left always uses numbers when percentages are insignificant, and vice versa. The spend so far on the CAL bullet train is about $5.4 billion spent over several years. CA budget request by Newsome in Jan was $144 billion for next fiscal year. So that’s less than 4% of their annual budget. No big deal. By the way, his $144 billion 2019 – 2020 budget included about $664 million specifically for “high speed rail authority.”

  30. You know, a town with money’s a little like the mule with the spinning wheel.
    No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it.

  31. Well of course the bill was too high. Pretty much impossible to build anything in Californistan other than sports stadiums and ridiculously overpriced, walled-off mansions on beaches or unstable slopes for celebrities/CEOs/politicians.

  32. May we safely conclude that Governor Jerry Brown and Governor Gavin Newsom have a different circle of buddies?

  33. A lot of people on here think you build an HSR in isolation. There is no point in isolation. It has to be integrated into more holistic long-term planning.

    Look at HS2 in UK, despite lots of invective here and elsewhere, the principles are these:

    1. Use HSR as a catalyst for major regeneration programmes in areas around HSR stations. This includes around Old Oak Common in West London (suburb station), around Birmingham Curzon Street (Midlands terminus), a new development around Crewe in Staffordshire (intermediate station) etc etc.
    2. Ensure linkages to as many airports as possible: Manchester, Birmingham have their own stations, links to Heathrow (and possibly on to Gatwick and connecting to HS1 line to continental Europe) are mooted.
    3. Use slots freed up from normal network to increase service frequencies on the existing lines (in case of HS2, this would be lots from Northampton southwards into Euston).
    4. Free up extra freight capacity on traditional network through creation of new HSR lines.

    The other thing to think about is dynamic pricing to put bums on seats. If you want to put bums on seats, you price like low-cost airlines price things, you do not merely target the rich. The rich alone will never make railways pay.

    The problem in both Uk and US is litigious lawyers. Litigious lawyers are a parasitic disease, reducing societies to impotent depressed groupings as nothing can achieved without tortuous drawn-out unpleasantness. The French State has powers to buy up land at a fair price and get on with things. In UK you have lawyers stymieing legislation, stymieing land purchase, stymieing common sense and stymieing route choice. It took 10 years to get enabling legislation to build part I of HS2. Parts IIa and IIb are still in play. The private sectors love fleecing the state, it is their greatest joy.

    UK is the classic case of how capitalism prevents anything not benefitting the small minority of extremely rich. Ensuring HS2 has no link to the Channel Tunnel is classic, spiteful, puerile London-centric hatred. Everything spiteful about UK power circles is manifested in that coordinated imposition of London power on the rest of the country.

    France is the classic case of how a strong State gets things done.

    Takes your choice, both systems have drawbacks.

    • Not sure where you are, Rhys, but we have eminent domain here in the USA as well, and it generally is fair and let’s things like rail, highways, roads, and other public-good projects get done. Land is not the problem as much as the environmental lobby adding at least 20% to the cost of everything, sometimes more, often ruining any economic or public good justification.

    • Rhys: “France is the classic case of how a strong State gets things done.” All due respect, but US is the classic case of how a strong people prevent a strong State from happening. No strong State to be taken over by an elite class that “gets things done” that most people don’t want or need. At least, until recently, when we snoozed while progressives are at work building an ever more powerful state. Have you traveled in the US? Here, almost anyone can afford a car and gasoline to get wherever they want. No train can do that. That’s why a free people chose to abandon point-to-point trains and put our money into roads. Sounds to me like you folks still don’t quite get “freedom” at the individual level. As I write, some folks in France are having second thoughts about a strong State, non? And the strong State responds with firehoses etc, and you think that’s all good?

      • “France is the classic case of how a strong State gets things done.”

        Somebody had to say it “Yellow Vests”.

        Why is it that all leftists dream of a government that is powerful enough to completely override the wishes of everyone else?

    • How exactly does building a train station, for a train that nobody is using, going to “renovate” the area around the train station?

      More than likely the loss of business due to all the houses seized and torn down, combined with the increased difficulty of moving around thanks to all those empty trains temporarily shutting down surface streets, will cause the area around the station to further degrade.

      • This sounds a lot like the frequent claims of how a new sports stadium is going to revitalize the downtown district.
        Problem is, it never does. And neither will these new grand government schemes.

  34. The only reason anyone travels from Merced to Bakersfield is if they started somewhere else, and are on their way to someplace else. It’s an unpopular, out of the way route even for cars. Newsom is trying to get credit for his “spending reforms” without harming any of the fat cats living off your and my dime. And he doesn’t want to send back any of the money stolen from taxpayers nationwide and funneled into some union pockets, no doubt. Swamp thief. Period.

  35. It is sad.

    The Democrats do not have the guts to speak the truth. Everything must be politically ‘correct’.

    The Democrat cannot say they were wrong, wrong, wrong, ….

    Newson translated “Critics are going to say building a high-speed rail line between two small centers is a complete waste of public money.”

    No really!!!

    Newson quote” “but I think that is wrong and that’s offensive”

    ‘Offensive’. Come on man. Really is really tough.

    “Newsom dialed back anticipation (William: Dial back on an idiotic Democrat Project) for the project during California’s State of the State address. The Democrat suggested building a high-speed rail line between Bakersfield and Merced — a distance of 160 miles — rather than a project designed to connect the state’s two largest cities.

    “Let’s level about the high-speed rail,” Newsom said. “Let’s be real, the current project as planned would cost too much …

    …Former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan would have cost nearly $77 billion and taken more than a decade to complete, according to recent estimates.”

  36. I recall our last Dem Gov in OH promoted hsr and appeared to get it with Obama’s Stimulus in ’09 (let’s call it the Green Old Deal), which would pay for all track upgrade and bullet trains (so they said). In early ’10, promoters published a study saying, yes indeed those free federal dollars will do it, except the details made clear it was not hsr, it was some track upgrades to allow 20th century tech passenger cars to go 88mph tops. Nevertheless, Dems wanted it and our news folks said free federal money, what’s not to like? (h/t griff). Kasich (before he lost his mind) ran against it, won, and cancelled it. Our press didn’t care about election or mandate, they screamed about it and said this $ will just go to other states like CA and their modern hsr will leave OH in the dust. I haven’t seen any newspaper admitting error that saved OH billions. And I don’t see them asking Alexandria Obama Cortez anything, even the most obvious: What’s “new” about the Green New Deal?

  37. So what good will be a high-speed train between Bakersfield and Merced? Middle of the Central Valley with no connection to any community of real significants (sorry Bakersfield, not much to write home about). We are a state that is running into pension problems in the near future but we can afford to waste billions on a train to nowhere. No wonder so many people are leaving the state.

  38. I wonder what else he will be real about? given that Moonbeam was really unreal about so many things. Like, really!

  39. According to the San Jose Mercury News (ref: https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/02/12/californias-high-speed-rail-by-the-numbers/ ), California has already spent $4 BILLION on the so-called high-speed rail program fronted by former Governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, and that is with essentially zero miles of track laid.

    By the time all the contract change/termination costs and the remaining construction costs are in, this project will likely have fleeced California and other US taxpayers for over $7 BILLION for a low speed train that goes 160 miles between the city of Bakersville (pop: 380,000) and the city of Merced (pop: 81,000).

    That’s a net cost of about $44 MILLION per mile.

    The Mercury News also offers this comparison:
    — Projected one-way ticket price in 2008 for two and a half-hour high-speed rail trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles: $55
    —One-way ticket price for one and one half hour plane flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles in February 2019: $75

    The writing was “on the wall” from the start that this project would be a colossal failure. Unfortunately, Governor “Moonbeam” Brown just looked the other way in his hubris to leave a lasting legacy of his administration.

    So, yes, Moonbeam, the dumb a$$, left California with a lasting legacy . . . just not the kind that he intended.

  40. A slight correction. It is the train to bankruptcy, not the train to nowhere.
    Also I believe trains use diesel fuel, which are fossil fuels, so how are they more “green” than aircraft?

    • Carolyn,

      The original plan was that eventually the trains would be electric, like the current “bullet” trains in Japan and France. The future source of that electricity was conveniently not a matter of concern in planning the Brown Boondoggle. I do not know if the planned future construction is to include electrified overhead wires infrastructure for future electric-powered train use, or if this will be dropped to save money.

      The Japanese Shinkansen rail lines use a 25 kV AC power supply (20 kV AC on Mini-shinkansen lines), to overcome the limitations of the 1,500 V direct current used on the existing electrified narrow-gauge system. The current N700 series Shinkansen draws 17.1 MW at maximum acceleration. Power is supplied from overhead electrified wires.

      The French TGV rail lines us a variety of electric power systems (ranging for 6.5 to 12.2 MW at maximum acceleration, all at 25 kV AC). Power is supplied from overhead electrified wires.

      I guess the California bureaucrats operated on the Field of Dreams theory: If we build it, the green electricity will be there.

      One final note: it was only the hubris of former Governor Moonbeam (with complicity of the US DOT) and the desire to “create jobs” that led to the decision that California should build its own HSR system from the ground up, as opposed to the economically-sensible decision to just buy/implement the existing HSR technology of the Japanese or French systems.

  41. I don’t know what’s with you guys in the US today… with your current spirit you’d never have built the Union Pacific, interstates, gone to the moon

    • “I don’t know what’s with you guys in the US today… with your current spirit you’d never have built the Union Pacific, interstates, gone to the moon”

      It has nothing to do with spirit. It has everything to do with common sense.

      President Kennedy didn’t say “We will go to Mars and return safely” because, at the time, it was an unrealistic goal. Just like the Green New Deal is an unrealistic goal today.

    • I have a dream that one day we will clear cut all of America to provide all the wood pellets for the EU to virtue signal its true green potential.

      • Especially since the left has been pushing the ripout of rail lines for decades in America. Can you say “rails to trails”?

  42. High speed rail is profitable in China. As I read they have train interval between Beijing and Shanghai 3-5 minutes.
    Build price for high speed train per 1km is around 55 mil. $ in California, 22-39mil. $ in Europe, 9-12 mil. $ in China.
    Here is whole point. Building 1km of high speed railway must be cheaper than building of 1km of standard highway. Usage of less material because railway is narrower. Less compensations because land under railway bridges is still usable.

    • Your “analysis” leaves out way more than it includes.
      1) Declaring anything “profitable” in China is a exercise in obfuscation. Being a communist country, outsiders have no idea what anything costs.
      2) While the track is cheaper than a 4 lane road, it doesn’t carry anywhere near as many passengers.
      3) High speed trains, 3 to 5 minutes apart? Safety nightmare.
      4) $55million per mile is probably the most accurate. Europe is heavily subsidized and the Chinese numbers are for the most part just made up. $55million per mile is about what a 4 lane interstate costs.
      5) Land under highway bridges is still usable as well.

      • “While the track is cheaper than a 4 lane road, it doesn’t carry anywhere near as many passengers.”
        .
        So says someone who has never ridden the subway(s) in NYC.

        • I love how socialists are always moving the goal posts.
          The claim was about HSR. I point out that he’s wrong. He replies with a comparison to subways.
          Which BTW, also don’t carry as many passengers per hour as does a good 4 lane road.

          • Having driven through NYC on many occasions that one made me laugh, too. I would love to see a major city shutdown all street traffic and force all people and cargo to be moved by commuter rail. That would be hi-larious! From a distance.

      • MarkW,

        I lived 4 years in Bay Area, CA, I’m living in Europe, I spent few months in China on business trips, tried only Maglev train line (430km/h) of the world in Shanghai.
        So I can only say, they got it right and we (US and EU are wrong).
        2) around 1000 (just guess can be 2000) people each 4 minutes both ways is 30.000 per hour. This is capacity of 12 lane highway. Highway would be around 60m/180feet wide, train tracks are 9m/27feet wide.
        3) It works. 300km/h/188mph.
        4)$55 million per mile changes nothing. They are doing it around $10 million per mile. Low costs are done by modular construction and pylons through country and tunnel under cities.
        5) Land under 30m/90feet highway bridge does not see light of the day. It is practically unusable. Land under 9m/18feet railway bridge not so much.

        • Ah yes, the standard, if only we were a totalitarian government, then we could force the people to do the things that we believe are good for them, argument.

    • Does this make a difference? In China, the government just takes the land needed for transportation rights-of-way, with little (perhaps zero) compensation to the land owner. In the US, obtaining rights-of-way for transportation corridors crossing private lands requires significant payouts to the landowners (even under eminent domain statutes) or very expensive litigation in court to fight over the associated “just compensation” associated with governmental taking of private property.

      This was one of the facts that early-on showed the cost estimates for the Brown Boondoggle were absurdly low.

  43. The sad part about this is America of old would have completed the project on time and on budget. But now look at such projects which descend into chaos, lawsuits and with the public purse essentially looted.

    What is so difficult about delivering a few hundred miles of HSR track through largely desert, especially given modern construction methods and use of TBD’s etc. Sure there is earthquake risk, the Japanese seem to handle that quite well with their systems so it is not unsolvable by any stretch.

    The interstate highway system was publically funded, so I don’t see why some select rail routes can’t be built to HSR, supporting 210mph+ and also be publically funded. If any market can support it would be the SD-LAX-SFO corridor.

    When you look at what China has achieved with HSR (hundreds of miles/year), the USA should be ashamed and bloody embarrased by this outcome and inability to deliver track miles at a reasonable cost. I hope this isn’t looked back on in the future as a historical turning point.

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