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Legislative analyst: 'Deny high-speed rail funding'

Original post made on Apr 18, 2012

California legislators should deny Gov. Jerry Brown's requests for all but minimal funding for the California High-Speed Rail Authority in the current budget process, the Legislative Analyst's Office recommended Tuesday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 18, 2012, 9:52 AM

Comments (29)

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Posted by Time-To-Do-The-Right-Thing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2012 at 10:12 am


Memo To: CA State Legislators:

we've done our homework (which you didn't seem to want to do). We've made our point about how irresponsible, and possibly even unachievable, this pie-in-the-sky boondoggle is. We've done just about everything that we need to do to put an end to this thing.

So .. when are you going to act on all of this compelling information?

When, we ask?

Legislators--need we say one more time: it's your move!

Signed: Rational California Residents and Voters


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 18, 2012 at 10:24 am

@Evan,

What do you have to say about that development, Evan?

Is the Legislative Analyst and her/his office just part of that small group of selfish and obstructive Palo Altans that oppose progress that you love to fulminate against?


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 18, 2012 at 10:30 am

If the State Legislature, especially the Democrats -- disclosure: I'm a registered Democrat -- can't bring themselves to refuse to give HSR the money they want then they will show that they are spineless and in the pockets of special interests, especially the labor unions, construction companies, and consultants who stand to make big bucks from this boondoggle. I don't put it past Jerry Brown, who is deeply indebted to the unions from his campaign, to twist the arms of many Democrats to help him discharge that indebtedness.

At least we know from an impartial source that the HSR plan is riddled with problems and does not deserve to be funded with our money which is dearly needed for things that are really important to this State, like public education.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 18, 2012 at 10:35 am

Let's see what Joe SIMITIAN and Rich GORDON do in light of the Legislative Analyst's report. I'm sure they'll find some way to dismiss it and vote to waste billions of our dollars on this boondoggle even with the numerous and deep flaws delineated in the report.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2012 at 10:40 am

I am someone who supports rail travel and public transport as a whole but my wholehearted support of this is beginning to wane because of logistics and cost. I definitely think improving a rail link is a worthwhile idea but not the present one and definitely not at the present costs.

However, I do think it is about time this State started investing in public transport and considering it basic infrastructure. I can't talk about SoCal, but for the Bay Area and outlying communities we must improve all forms of non personal vehicle transport and consider it urgent. We need to get one Bay Area authority with one admin, one ticketing/pricing, one advertising/marketing, one overall funding plan and improvements such as Caltrain electrication supplemented by a Bay Area transportation tax on gas.

Just saying that the HSR plan should go is a backward step. Looking at future plans for our own and probably other high density areas is the forward thinking idea and then looking at ways to coordinate them together.

The proposed venture from Palo Alto airport shows that there are some innovaters and earthshakers out there. Let's hope there are more and that the State gives them our full support.


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Posted by Andrew
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 18, 2012 at 11:10 am

Puh-Lease. What we voted on and approved was spending half this much. If you gave your child a credit card to go and buy a car for 10,000 and they came back without asking you w/ a 20,000 bill on the car, you'd be freaking pissed off, right? HSR, should have to go back to the well and get approved by voters with a more rational budget forecast. 20% is a slight miscalculation. 100% off means you couldn't find your butt w/ 2 hands, a map and a flashlight.

How is wasting money and resources environmental again?

HS rail profitablity is determined by population density - look at Japan or Europe. We just don't have it in the central valley.


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Posted by Julius
a resident of Monroe Park
on Apr 18, 2012 at 11:45 am

I would prefer a "low-speed rail" along the beautiful California coast. That should pay for itself via tourism alone. A high-speed rail connotes business travel up and down the state at a time when teleconferencing is about to take off in a big way.


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Posted by Train, Cars, Bikes, Other
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2012 at 11:47 am

We DO need to support the environment..and our clean air.
Not sure whether we need the new modes for train or not.
But certainly we keep getting more people living here, so determine what is the best way to get around.
Hard to know.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 18, 2012 at 12:06 pm

CREDIBILITY has become the big problem for the High-Speed Rail Authority; HSR has none.

This report says, "The nonpartisan analyst's office, which provides fiscal and policy advice to the Legislature, said the rail authority has failed to provide sufficient detail and justification for its plan to build a high-speed train system.

"Specifically, funding for the project remains highly speculative and important details have not been sorted out."

The Mercury News is reporting that "the state's top analyst is urging lawmakers to pull the emergency brake on California's $68 billion bullet train, saying the recently revised plan carries way too much risk of failure.

"The Legislative Analyst's Office report released late Tuesday (April 17) may give the Legislature political cover if it decides to ax the polarizing rail line as it begins debating whether to approve high-speed rail (April 18).

"'Specifically, funding for the project remains highly speculative and important details have not been sorted out,' the report concludes, noting there is a $55 billion shortfall."

Why would anyone believe a word HSR says? On virtually every substantive issue, HSR has been wrong, wrong, wrong. Let us count the ways:

NONE of the promises made to win 2008 Proposition 1A vote are being kept…
- No more than $40 billion to connect San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco
- No more than $9.95 billion from state of California
- No money authorized until investors committed
- Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2˝ hours for about $50
- Ridership forecast unrealistically high

BOGUS HSR plans, independent auditors say…
- Legislative Analyst Office April 17, 2012
- Peer Review Group January 3, 2012
- Legislative Analyst Office November 29, 2011
- State Inspector General October 27, 2010
- California State Auditor April 2010 Report 2009-106
- Joseph Vranich October 2008

Any village idiot can connect the dots on HSR, yet Brown, Eshoo, Simitian et al seem unable to do so. Quite the opposite. Until they connect the obvious dots and vote against HSR, my future votes will be for someone else.

'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.'


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 18, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Good public transit requires density to work. We in the Bay Area (and California) are too spread out. Even San Francisco isn't dense enough to have a good public transit system (MUNI is hardly a shining example of good transit), and it's the more dense than anywhere else in this region.

I'm not arguing that we in Palo Alto should become more dense, but let's understand the trade-offs here. Having a spread-out, green, tree-lined region is incompatible with an efficient, cost-effective mass transit system.


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Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm

If you build it they will come.


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Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I am with Robert, a resident of Stanford


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 18, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.

There has to be something going on that the public/taxpayers are not hearing. Something(s) smell.

There have been numerous reports and analysis from objective and well regarded groups here in CA telling the policy makers that this thing is a turkey, and should be cancelled.

They do not appear to hear it. Instead, they are trying to figure our how to turn into something that people do not get, will not get, and should not get because it is not something that they should get.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 18, 2012 at 2:35 pm

HSR has never made any sense to me. It does not pencil on any important level (business plan, ridership, environmental, local effects, state debt, etc.). The state financial analyst appears to have looked at the underlying assumptions, then determined that they are bogus.

Just kill it, accept our current fiscal losses, then move forward. Terrible ideas should not be continued, just because they exist. Let this be an object lesson for all of us. Inappropriate technology should not be funded by the public sector.


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Posted by Stan Hutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 18, 2012 at 4:18 pm

I just sent an email to Rich Gordon:
"Hi Assemblyman Gordon,
I'm anxious to hear your comments and intentions on the article in the Palo Alto Online News at your Town Hall meeting tomorrow. I'm sure other attendees will also want to know if you are going to support education or the HSR. According to all reports, we cannot do both. Web Link

Legislative analyst: 'Deny high-speed rail funding'
Nonpartisan legislative adviser says rail authority has failed to justify latest plan
California legislators should deny Gov. Jerry Brown's requests for all but minimal funding for the California High-Speed Rail Authority in the current budget process, the Legislative Analyst's Office recommended Tuesday, April 17.
I fully agree with the Legislative analyst. The HSR should be put to rest. We as a state should not waste any more sorely-needed funds on this project. The cost is not worth it given the State's current financial crisis, and even the hypothetical benefits do not justify the expense.
Regards,
Stan Hutchings"
Perhaps others could send a similar email, with their opinions. It would be good to show up at the Town Hall meeting (25 Churchill St., Palo Alto [PAUSD offices SDC room] at 6:30 pm Thursday 19 April).
Let Joe Simitian know, too.
Regards,


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Posted by Bart
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 18, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Considering the number of credible reports that have urged Sacramento to trash high speed rail, that the project continues to thrive under the watchful eye of Jerry Brown and his loyal Democrats is a testament to the powerful politics, rather then any practical need, that continue to steer this project.

Passenger transport long ago was dropped as a reason why the train simply had to be built. The millions of jobs that it would create has been shown to be a lie. The alleged environmental benefits of the miracle train completely ignore the massive pollution necessary to manufacture the millions of tons of concrete the project will require. Recall the billion dollars the train was going to earn as per the ballot initiative because it was going to be an economic engine? That has turned in decades of crushing debt to the tune of billions every year for decades to come so the train to nowhere, that few will ride, will roll down the tracks on a medium speed somewhat expensive trip to Disneyland.

Our Governor and Sacramento are willing to burden California with massive debt for decades to come, all so they can claim $3B in a one time federal grant. They have nothing to loose, after all, it's not their money they are gambling with, it's ours. No additional funding is coming from the feds, and no surprise investors have come forward. We, the tax payers are the suckers left twitching on this hook so Brown can repay the labor unions that backed him in the last election.

I have not voted Republican in decades, but I will the next election. It is abundantly clear that Simitian, Gordon, Hill and Brown are only interested in our money. It's time to permanently stop the HSR project, and clean house in Sacramento.


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Posted by Train lover
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 18, 2012 at 9:27 pm

@ Julius of the Monroe Park neighborhood.

"I would prefer a "low-speed rail" along the beautiful California coast. That should pay for itself via tourism alone."

This train already exists and is so bad that you don't even know it exists... Its name is the Coast Starlight and it travels from Seattle to Los Angeles It will take you from San Jose to Los Angeles via Santa Barbara in 9 to 10 hours depending on the train... Did I say it runs... once a day?

To be viable a train line needs to take you there faster than a car would, and run often enough to be practical (not just once a day). It clearly is not the case of the Coast Starlight that no one even knows about.


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Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Not only should our state legislators deny the funding, one of them needs to put an HSR referendum on the ballot (this is 2012, an election year) and kill this project once and for all (I'm looking at YOU, Diane Harkey). Polls show that if HSR were put before voters again the HSR project would sink like a rock. California has the lowest credit rating of all 50 states. We don't have the money to squander on this project and its attendant bureaucracy. Maybe Meg Whitman would have had the guts to kill this project and we should have elected her.

Regarding Brown's indebtedness to unions, I have to wonder if the project were built, would it use union laborers (more expensive) or the cheapest labor around (read about how Chinese coolies built the U.S. railroads in the 19th century)?

$70 billion plus "cost overruns" plus bond interest is too much money to squander on platitudes such as "build it and they will come".


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Posted by Cora
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2012 at 10:15 pm

I just paid my CA taxes for many of the state and county services that I do not use. With a high speed train, at least I can benefit from the service that I would use very often. Driving or taking a plane to Southern California is just not very practical. With a high speed train, you can live many miles away from Bay Area, and commute to work here. Similar commutes to large cities are very common in Europe. If my taxes is being used to pay a dept, I'd rather pay for something that has lasting value for generations to come.


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 18, 2012 at 11:55 pm

"With a high speed train, you can live many miles away from Bay Area, and commute to work here."

Nice. HSR contributes to urban sprawl.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 19, 2012 at 9:17 am

@Cora:

"Driving or taking a plane to Southern California is just not very practical." And a HSR train would be "very practical"? First of all, let's set aside the price tag for a Bay Area/LA round trip. It waas originally supposed to be about $50 each way. Think it will be anywhere close to that if this fiasco is built? No way! Three times as much is more likely. Is that practical enough for you? And if you did take HSR to LA what would you do to get around the city upon arrival? Bus, taxi, bike, get picked up by friends or business associates and be engulfed in crawling auto traffic? One major problem with HSR is that neither SF nor LA is Paris, London, or New York: there is no London "Tube," Paris "Metro," or NY Subway at either end. What we need much more than HSR is major improvement in public transportation systems at both ends. THAT would go some way to making HSR more practical. As of now, forget it. It is imperative to think about the value of HSR not in isolation but in the context of the entire transportation system. I don't think you're doing that. You just think of commuting to work from someplace far away and taking HSR to SF or LA to get to work. Guess what? It might take you a considerable time to get from the HSR terminus in either city to your workplace, such that what you're imagining would be quite impractical. And "Toady" who commented on your post is right on: HSR would lead to massive urban sprawl in the central Valley, and, even worse, to a decline in farm land as acreage now and long used for growing produce is sold to developers who want to build more ugly housing developments. No problem, though, we can always make up for that loss by importing more and more of our food from Mexico! Yikes!


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Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 19, 2012 at 1:59 pm

I propose staying within our "current" budget, and update the "bookends" with the current funds. As more funds are raised, start connecting the central valley, closing the gap between Bakersfield to Palmdale first. Mind the gap! :)


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Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Cora: Clearly you didn't think your statement through. Taxpayers who live in Eureka, Barstow and Bishop pay their CA taxes too and HSR will be of no use to them. They live too far away from the HSR line. For them it is not something they would "use very often" or to commute.


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Posted by Don
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 19, 2012 at 7:25 pm

To shorten Robert's important points:

To get to any HSR terminal requires transportation. From SF or LA if you live more than 5 or 10 miles from the terminal, you will take a car, taxi or equivalent to get there. This would add more than 1/2 to 1 hour to your trip at the beginning and another unknown number of hours at the end. This is what we do now with airplanes, ergo, no savings on time or dollars.

Riders from areas outside of the Bay Area or Greater Los Angeles will not get any benefit from the system.

Adding to the burden is the need to add large parking lots for riders who choose to drive to the (very few) terminals. This happened to BART. A comment like "build it and they will come" is simplistic at best, ignores reality, and begs the question: Who are "they"? A good example is the BART extension to the SF Airport - it got 1/2 the "they" forecast.


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Posted by Cora
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Good points Robert!
I completely agree that the public transportation in large hubs must improve to get the most beneficial use of HSR system. However, at least in Bay Area, the city/county governments are completely dysfunctional as far as planning and building public transportation infrastructure. But here comes a miracle, regardless of its cost, an HSR system is proposed and becomes near reality. I want to take it before it is knocked down because I believe it is an important part of a larger (perhaps future) public transportation system. If we don't do it now, 20 years from now, it would cost 20 times more (I am just guessing now). A least having HSR motivates the counties (and voters 10 years from now) to think more seriously about their local public transportation to feed the train.

I don't have crystal ball to claim that HSR is going to be 100% useful when it becomes ready. But all the evidence from Asian and European countries show that it a practical and important leg of the national transportation system of a modern society.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 19, 2012 at 11:42 pm

@Cora: thanks for your impressively non-defensive answer in good spirits. You have my respect.

I have but one thing to say about your reference to Asian and European countries re HSR: there are MASSIVE government subsidies by European governments to their HSR systems. (In truth, I don't know whether this is true in Japan and China, although I suspect it is.) The HSR under the English Channel between London and Paris has run in the black only one or two years since its inception. Even forgetting the cost of constructing the HSR in CA, it is highly likely that this system would run in the red on an annual basis. It would be a perpetual financial ALBATROSS on the necks of California citizens that would force them to pay increased taxes to service the debt incurred to build and operate it.

Instead of building a system for the business class that will write of the tickets as a deductible business expense and pass on the costs to the consumer, put our transport money where the most people would benefit: in improving the local transportation infrastructure in the San Diego, LA, SF, and Sacramento areas.


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Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2012 at 1:52 am

This "money is no object" attitude is interesting, to say the least.

<< If we don't do it now, 20 years from now, it would cost 20 times more >>

By your economics, if it loses $1 billion now, 20 years from now it will lose 20 times more. The cost of labor, energy, maintenance, etc. will only go up over time, compounding the losses.

You really have to think these things through.


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Posted by Cora
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2012 at 9:19 am

BTW, I just heard another HSR report. This is not a done deal yet. They are still stuck on issues like sensitive habitats, endangered species, marshland, farm issues, on and on. These are all in addition to urban complaints like noise, not in my neighborhood, economic hardship, pollution, property values, cost, etc. Imagine how difficult it would be to resurrect this project 10 or 20 years from now. I wonder if we can see any more significant public project that can get planned and completed in this State.


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Cora says:

"However, at least in Bay Area, the city/county governments are completely dysfunctional as far as planning and building public transportation infrastructure. "

That's not the core problem. Our region is incompatible with an efficient public transportation system.

Not. Enough. Density.

Period.


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