Friday, April 30, 2010

Chinese High Speed Rail Fails

Before clocking out for the weekend, I have to take one more swipe at high speed rail. If ever there was a project that is contrary to conservative principles, it is this one. The State of California cannot afford this project, private funding is not coming through, and the powers that be-shockingly many of them claiming to be conservative Republicans themselves-will sell us as indentured servants to the Chinese to pay for this thing. But wait-even the Chinese are now admitting that THEIR high speed rail systems do not work as well as they hoped! The article below has been translated from a Chinese paper, and some clarity is lost in that translation, but government waste is a universal language that reaches across all cultural barriers.
Experts debate merits of high-speed rail
14:39, April 30, 2010
Experts argued on a TV talk show Tuesday about whether the construction of China's high-speed railway is the path to a low-carbon economy or simply a waste of energy and resources.

Zhao Jian, professor of Beijing Jiaotong University, said high-speed railways and high-standard networks are not good news for China's economy.

Zhang Lu, a senior rail analyst, responded that the construction of high-speed railways promotes an eco-friendly economy because it consumes electricity instead of coal or gasoline and has almost zero emissions. In addition, the construction of high-speed railways helps to adjust economic structure and promote development.

But Zhao Jian said generating electricity needs power. According to experts' research, when the speed of the high-speed railway in Britain increased to 350 kilometer per hour form 200 kilometer, the energy consumption increased to nearly the amount a plane consumes.

According to Japan's experiences, the high-speed railway has more advantages than airplanes for distances less than 500 kilometers, but is inferior to aircrafts for distances over 1,000 kilometers. And the higher standards of the high-speed railway cause it to not be compatible with the old rail lines.

For example, at least 128 pairs of trains from Wuhan to Guangzhou will be put into operation, but only 28, with only 50 percent of passenger load factor, run along the line.

The Beijing-Tianjin high-speed rail, in a densely-populated area of China, has only more than 100 kilometers and sees 700 million yuan in losses per a year.

Zhao believes China should stop the large-scale construction of high-speed rail and build large-scale road networks.

If the Wuhan-Guangzhou rail is an ordinary one, any transportation bottleneck along this line can be broken. Migrant workers in Guangzhou and the Pearl River Delta will never ride motorcycle to go back home.

China plans to build 18,000 kilometers of high-speed rail by the year of 2020.
By People's Daily Online

The Audit Debate Continues

This post is stolen quite shamelessly from activist Martin Engel. Thanks Marty.

There are numerous articles today about the State Audit of the high-speed rail's books. They all bring different issues to light. Here are two of them, including one from Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee, the Dean of California's political reporters.

Based on these articles, the actual Auditor report, all the prior Legislative Analyst's Office reports, the statements by Senators Simitian and Lowenthal, and the several reviews of the misconceived ridership numbers, a solid, unambiguous case is gradually coming together. The California High-Speed Rail Authority is leaving a trail of mis-management and incompetence. They persist in committing sins of omission and comission. It's time to say, sin no more!

Let me say that another way. The organization that has successfully convinced the California voters of the efficacy of this HSR project, has now become its own worst enemy. If this project is terminated or fails mid-stream, so to speak, it will be their own fault. If California loses the $2.34 billion ARRA stimulus fund award by 2012 (a credible possibility), it will the rail authority's own fault. If the Legislature and Governor fail to remove this Board, relieving them of their duties, and place this project within a competent Transportation organization in this state where it belongs, it will be THEIR fault.

What was to have become a legacy and vanity project for the Governor and the politicians closely affiliated with this project, will become a political mill-stone around their necks. It will certainly be a legacy, but just he opposite of what they have in mind.

It's time to bombard the Legislature and the Governor's office with letters. When is enough, enough?

When do we, mercifully, render a coup de grace and put this severely damaged creature to rest? When will our state government send out the clowns and bring in the professional grown-ups to run this project?

And, as DeSaulnier's new legislation suggests, anything this big ought to be subject to Legislative/Senate control, including the appointments to manage this project.

The first step is for the Legislature, both houses, to acknowledge that we cannot go on like this and major, fundamental changes are in order.

Final point: California is positioning itself as the high-speed rail leader in the US. So far, not so good. Unless things are turned around, and quickly, we will be the leader all right, but not they way we hoped for.

Good job, Ben Silverfarb.

Printed from THE DAILY JOURNAL, dtd. 04/30/2010

Auditor lists high-speed rail's pitfalls

April 30, 2010, 03:40 AM

By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

The California High-Speed Rail Authority risks delays or an incomplete system because of inadequate planning, weak oversight and lax contract management, according to a state auditor's report released yesterday.

The report by California State Auditor Elaine Howle is critical of the rail authority's reliance on federal funds to the tune of nearly $19 billion despite having no commitments beyond the $2.25 billion the state received in January in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

The rail authority's plan for spending includes nearly $12 billion in federal and state funds through 2013, more than 2.5 times what is now available, according to the auditor's report.

The report was released just as legislation authored by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, to increase oversight of how public money is spent on high-speed rail passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 26-8.

Senate Bill 965 will help expedite the creation of thousands of California jobs, according to DeSaulnier.

The auditor's report echoes concerns local leaders on the Peninsula have made for months - that the rail authority's business plan and ridership estimates are inaccurate and that there is not enough money to build the "right" system from San Jose to San Francisco.

The rail authority is planning a route with electrified bullet trains traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco at a cost of more than $40 billion. It received a significant boost when voters approved Proposition 1A, a $9.95 billion bond in November 2008.

But Burlingame Mayor Cathy Baylock contends residents in her city approved the bond without the knowledge that the Caltrain corridor would be used to accommodate high-speed rail.

Burlingame, along with Belmont, Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto formed the Peninsula Cities Consortium in 2009 to put pressure on the rail authority to build the right system.

Three of those cities, Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto, sued the rail authority last year to try to force the system over the Altamont Pass as opposed to the Pacheco Pass.

The approach to sue, however, riled leaders in other cities who said litigation is only meant to delay the project and jeopardize hundreds of thousands of statewide jobs.
High-speed rail trains will not run through Daly City, for instance, but the city still has a stake in the project, said Councilman David Canepa.

Any attempt to stall the project, Canepa said, risks thousands of jobs on the Peninsula. Daly City's unemployment rate, after all, is about 12 percent, well above the rest of the county.

"Our unemployment rate is unacceptable," Canepa said. "This project will bring in white-collar and blue-collar jobs. Too many other cities have been dominating the conversation regarding high-speed rail. Let's get people to work."

The rail authority held public meetings in 2008 regarding its environmental impact report that concluded the Pacheco Pass, and therefore the Caltrain corridor, would be the preferred route for high-speed trains. But those meetings were held in San Jose and San Francisco, Baylock said, leaving the Peninsula's 17 other cities that straddle the train tracks without a voice in the review process.

Burlingame has made it clear it wants the tracks to be buried underground. The alternatives analysis document recently released by the rail authority highlights the track's vertical options as it zips through each city on the Peninsula.

In Burlingame, the tracks will either be in a cut-and-cover trench or on an aerial cement structure, according to the alternatives analysis report.

Neither option suits Burlingame, however, Baylock said.

"A 100-foot right-of-way would be needed for this project in Burlingame," Baylock said. "It will put our historic resources at risk and possibly split our city in two."
The rail authority estimates construction of a cut-and-cover trench in Burlingame alone to cost up to $1.2 billion.

"They better have the money before they break ground," Baylock said. "We're worried they will get it half built and then run out of money."

The announcement of $2.25 billion in federal stimulus money has also put pressure on competing segments of the project to get construction started as soon as possible so that more federal grants may be sought.

"All these things are closing in on us. There is a push to break ground to meet an artificial deadline for federal funds," Baylock said.

Baylock is also not happy with the rail authority's contention that if a city wants the tracks buried then the city needs to pay for it.

"We do not have $900 million sitting around," Baylock said.

An idea to float local bonds to pay for the added expense of tunneling tracks, for instance, has gained steam in recent weeks.

Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt has suggested a regional bond measure should be considered to build the "right" system. Burt is also critical of Caltrain's contention that it will fail financially if high-speed rail trains do not one day come up the Peninsula.

Caltrain needs to electrify and grade separate all of its crossings to maintain future service, an impossibility without rail authority money.

Burt wants Caltrain to have a plan "B."

The state auditor, in yesterday's report, wants high-speed rail to also have a plan "B."

"The program risks significant delays without more well developed plans for obtaining or replacing federal funds," according to the state auditor's report.

Creating a viable funding plan may be a challenge as matched funding for the least expensive corridor eligible for Recovery Act funds - Los Angeles to Anaheim - amounts to $4.5 billion, while projected costs total $5.5 billion, according to the auditor's report. Barring additional non-Proposition 1A funding, the rail authority may have to settle for a plan covering less than a complete corridor. The rail authority must decide relatively quickly which corridors will receive federal funds, according to the auditor's report.

DeSaulnier's legislation is meant to address some of the state auditor's concerns.

"SB 965 provides the oversight needed to assure that the concerns of the state auditor are resolved," according to DeSaulnier. "Additionally, because of some of the mismanagement issues identified in the report, I am asking the Senate leaders to consider whether those appointed to the Authority in the future should be subject to Senate confirmation. This would include a public hearing where these kinds of problems can be anticipated, discussed and avoided."

Bill Silverfarb can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

Here is a point that I have made before. One major trigger in the Recession from which we are now ostensibly emerging was the sub-prime mortagage/housing bubble. This HSR project is also a form of sub-prime mortgage. The bond issue funds, anticipated private investments and other capital revenue borrowing to build the train are not yet in hand and may well never materialize. The State bonds are to be released only on a matching basis. Essentially, it's all going to be borrowed money. The federal funds are also borrowed, but are expected as a 'gift' for the State.

There will be interest payments due and, at the end, a return of principal to the lenders. None of that funding is in hand and it looks very iffy. Nonetheless, the rail authority is going ahead, making vast committments that they can't cover, even with loans. That is one definition of a sub-prime mortgage.

Like Wall Street, they are gambling with our money.

One scenario maye that they will start digging holes, run out of cash, and have to foreclose/default on the initial investments and what they have started. The rail authority, in its arrogance, believes itself to be "too big to fail" and will get bailed out by the federal government.

CHSRA, don't count on it.

Dan Walters, a senior journalist for the Sacramento Bee, has written this article about the State Audit for the Modesto Bee.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

HSR meeting in Fullerton tonight

The Friends for a Livable Fullerton sent this out, and it is worth watching, as their leg of the Anaheim to Los Angeles segment ties into Anaheim's. I willbe attending, hope they get a good crowd. If you cannot make it in person, you can watch at the link shown below.
***High-Speed Rail in Fullerton - Community Meeting

Thursday, April 29, 2010, 5 to 8 p.m., presentation at 6 p.m.

Fullerton Senior Center, 340 W. Commonwealth Ave., across from the Fullerton Public Library

Free parking at Senior Center and City Hall / Served directly by OCTA bus route 26 (Commonwealth).

OCTA routes 24 (Chapman), 43 (South Harbor), and 143 (North Harbor, Brea Blvd.) are a short walk away.

Can’t attend in person? Watch the presentation live online and participate in the discussion at April 29, 2010 at 6 p.m.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) will host a public open house in the City of Fullerton to provide the community with a project update, information about the proposed alternative alignments, design options, and station locations being considered, as well as details pertaining to the environmental process.

Residents will be able to see which areas might be needed for right-of way acquisition.

Fullerton is being considered for a station, in competition with Norwalk for the only other station between Anaheim and Los Angeles.

CHSRA is planning high-speed train service for travel between major metropolitan areas of California. The high-speed train is proposed to connect Anaheim to San Francisco in less than three hours. The Los Angeles to Anaheim high-speed train section proposes to travel adjacent to the existing Los Angeles to San Diego Rail Corridor from LA Union Station to the future Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC), although OCTA and Metro are now proposing a shared-track agreement.

For more information, call the CHSRA at (877) 724-5422 or visit
*** Friends for a Livable Fullerton Contact Info:
Phone: (714) 607-0380
Postal: 149 W. Whiting Ave., Fullerton , CA 92832

Monday, April 26, 2010

High Speed Rail: A Warning and a Prediction

By Cynthia Ward

While we celebrate the survival, at least in an amended form, of Diane Harkey’s AB2121, as reported by Matt Cunningham we need to keep in mind that the folks in Sacramento are constantly introducing bills to siphon more and more money into the High Speed Rail program, even while it is still under study! Not a single segment of the project has completed its Environmental Review, and yet, AB289 (Galgiani) attempts to go ahead and immediately grab over $2 Billion dollars in the ARRA funds we were awarded, to begin use on a single segment!

“This bill would appropriate $2.25 billion to the authority from federal ARRA funds awarded to the state for high-speed rail purposes and would identify the corridors eligible for those funds.”

Their reasoning?

“This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute.”

What is so urgent about a project that has not yet completed its Environmental Review?

Believe it or not, the folks in the Obama Administration are not completely out of the loop. The Feds know California is behind the 8-ball on the studies. They get it. They do not get much else, but they get this. If those bean counters in Washington have figured out that the Golden State’s custom tailoring has left the Emperor strutting along the El Camino Real bare-butt-naked, then by golly we better just spend their money before Washington takes it all back! Our tax dollars at work, folks.

Here is my prediction-and I am no rail expert by any stretch-but I am smart enough to surround myself with others who are experts. Based on what I have heard, read, and can guess at, I predict that:

A) Someone (likely Galgiani, who loves to write these inane bills for HSR hoping to bring jobs to her District) will introduce a bill, or amend a bill already in place, that allows the CHSRA to skirt around the requirements of AB3034, and allow construction of any segment with “independent utility” to use ARRA funds, as well as allow the sale of those Prop1A bonds, to build one segment without the rest of the system being cleared as currently required by law. Keep an eye out for this.

B) I predict the Anaheim to Los Angeles segment will be the first to begin construction. Indeed I have repeatedly heard HSR experts refer to Anaheim to Los Angeles as having “independent utility”, and therefore they can build it even if no other segment ever gets done!

C) Now this part is not a prediction of my own, but a repeating of HSR’s own studies. The HSR systems of other continents run through greenfield development in straight lines, not the gerrymandered route of the California system as planned. We are shoving the square peg of HSR into the round hole of a rail line run 100 years ago to serve the needs of an entirely different transportation system. If the HSR system is built alongside the current Amtrak-Metrolink line, the engineering limitations of 100 year old curves in the track, starts and stops for promised stations, and noise and vibration limitations of use in an urban setting, limit the speeds at which the train can travel, pretty much negating the idea of running a “bullet train”. In fact, the CHSRA’s own documents show a time savings of HSR from Anaheim to Los Angeles of only TWENTY MINUTES over the current Amtrak schedule!

Yes, we could very well spend billions of dollars that came from our pockets before becoming “stimulus funds”, combined with billions more that must be paid back, with interest, as State Bond sales, and potentially lose private homes and businesses in 2 counties, in order to save twenty minutes off someone’s commute! All that with no promise of this system connecting northward to San Francisco, if we spend all of the money here at home! Don’t think so? This is brought to you by the same government that values the lives of delta smelt over food crops.

I may well be mistaken, in fact hope and pray I am wrong. But I figure I can put this out there as an estimate of what may happen, and hope that others will help me watch for these signs, much like we watch for signs and wonders indicative of the Second Coming (hopefully before Obamacare takes effect). We can all check back with each other in a year or so, and hopefully have a good laugh at my expense. Because if I am right, none of us will be laughing.

TAGS: Diane Harkey, Cathleen Galgiani, high speed rail

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Local Politician Takes a Stand

This is an opinion piece from Fullerton Councilmember Shawn Nelson. Shawn is running for 4th District County Supervisor, which would give him a seat on the OCTA Board, and therefore a voice in high speed rail. Please vote for him on June 8 for the Primary. He is a good guy. If you would like to help with the campaign, contact me and i will plug you in.

Friday, April 9, 2010

good news for once

Here is the latest update. I am up here on the peninsula for HSR meetings, and have some good news.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spinmachine Backfires on HSR leaders

Here is another of my long rambling diatribes, but I missed much over the last few days, and we need to catch up, so bear with me. I promised myself I would not blog over the holiday weekend, but boy did my email inbox fill with links from others who wanted to be sure I was in the loop on the latest High Speed Rail fracas. Oddly enough the firestorm appears to have been set off by those who are in charge of the operation!

First we had a letter written last week from OCTA and MTA to the CHSRA Board, telling them in the nicest way possible to go pound sand. The local transportation community is taking a stand against an arrogant organization, who has literally been designing the system without agreements from those transportation organizations that control the right of way. This is why the “public outreach” meetings lack real information regarding how much property needs to be taken, leaving the public twisting in the wind over whether they will have a home or a business in a year or two! After seeing CHSRA ride roughshod over local citizens, local governments, and in some cases the projects of OCTA and MTA themselves, the two groups got together and sent off a letter telling CHSRA that they need to look at shared track options again, in an effort to get them to stop designing an invasive system that destroys neighborhoods. Or, as my neighbor Kevin so eloquently put it, “we're going to design this as if we were building it in a context-free bubble on the moon.”

The irony of this is not lost on us, as Curt Pringle has a seat at the table at the OCTA Board, and he has publicly supported OCTA’s Kris Murray for Anaheim City Council. That request from OCTA-MTA will be considered by the CHSRA Board on Wednesday in San Jose, and I am flying up to watch that bundle of bottle rockets go off, and will report in from a peninsula Starbucks.

Meanwhile, Curt Pringle launched his own press opportunity, working hard to sell the project.

His spin was picked up, and disputed, by online press throughout California. Both the new media outlet Voice of OC and Sign on San Diego grabbed it and ran as well as the local blogs in Fullerton and even the Orange Juice people, who received some scathing comments about Curt’s involvement. Ironically, the OC Register continues to ignore the issue.

But the 800 pound gorilla was the LA Times piece that ran yesterday, which included quotes from the transportation leaders who are pushing back on high speed rail.,0,226389.story

The MTA and OCTA have become very vocal about their position on this project, with the Times reporting, "We are big-time unhappy with the conduct of the high-speed authority," Leahy told the officials who oversee the Los Angeles-to-San Diego train corridor.

"I really can't understand their approach," he said. "In many cases they've ridden roughshod over the host of cities in Orange County and in Los Angeles. They have ignored input and there are assumptions that are just astonishing."

Among other things, Leahy questioned designing the system to run trains every five minutes. "That's extraordinary," he said. And widening the corridor to add dedicated bullet train tracks could require taking out hundreds of homes in Anaheim alone, he noted. "I mean, just crazy stuff," he said, according to a recording of the session obtained by The Times.

If the planning process does not become more rational, Leahy warned, "I don't think there is going to be a project."

I feel for Curt, he has committed a lot of years to this beast, introducing the idea the first time back when he was Speaker, so to watch the thing come unraveling before his eyes has to be frustrating. Many are convinced that his passion for this project has destroyed his objectivity, because nobody with a sense of fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers of California could possibly believe what the spinmeisters are telling us about this project. The LAO has vilified the HSRA’s Business Plan after the HSRA turned it in over a month later than required by law, and incomplete. Among the charges by LAO:

The report lacked specifics required by law under AB3034, and fails to include details required by law, including inadequate and incomplete discussion of risk. The report includes an uninformative timeline, lacking definitive and measurable milestones against which progress can be determined. That is handy for the contractors, but not very constructive for those of us who expect some level of accountability for how our money is being spent. The LAO says the report lacks risk management strategy, and includes projections for ridership, costs, etc, based upon unknown factors. (Are they guessing at how many people will ride it and how much it will cost? Magic 8 Ball?) The report bounces all over the place on scheduling, with an inconsistent timeline that claims procurement of equipment prior to regulatory approval.

But the really big argument against this project comes through review of the financial claims. While Prop 1A explicitly forbids operating subsidies, the CHSRA seems to want to skirt that issue by calling it a “ridership guarantee”. AB3034 promoted this as a profitable project that would fill the coffers of the State saying, “those revenues shall be deposited in the General Fund.” AB3034 also assumed that the taxpayers would never bear the full burden of the construction, claiming, “revenues generated by operations above and beyond operation and maintenance costs shall be used to complete construction of the high speed train system.” So we were sold the pig in a poke of high speed rail never being subsidized, paying for its own costs, and generating revenue, only to find that we will pay the full weight of construction, either through “local contributions” or Federal Stimulus dollars (picking our pockets one way or another) and we will subsidize the cost of running this boondoggle with “ridership guarantees” to the private parties who will run it. Private parties from out of the country by the way, those jobs generated will not be our home town heroes.

And the California State Senate Republican Caucus lit into the program, calling it the “Big Dig West” which seems appropriate since the largest contractor so far is Parsons Brinkerhoff, the same folks who are over-budget and answering some nasty charges for the Boston Big Dig.

And yet, when “we the people” question the value of our money spinning into the porcelain vortex, we are labeled NIMBYs and lives and livelihoods are threatened.

When asked to comment on Diane Harkey’s AB2121, which would cut off finding for this boondoggle, Rod Diridon Jr. said, "It's interesting that one person has tried to put herself above the people of the state of California."

Actually, Mr. Diridon, I think YOU and your HSRA Board have put yourselves above the people of California by continuing to promote, and publicly misrepresent, a project that no longer complies with the Prop 1A that the people of California voted for.

Diane Harkey’s AB2121 will be heard by the Transportation Committee on April 19th, and I have heard a tremendous outpouring of support for the bill, from unexpected sources! Clearly there must be enough support for the bill to make the HSR people nervous or they would never have gone to the trouble of defending their project in the press. While AB2121 may have initially looked like jousting with windmills, it appears to have at least a fair chance of making it to the next level. For those who understand that the emperor is naked and we are overpaying the tailor, Harkey’s office would love to hear from you. Contact Sharon Gonsalves (916) 319-2073sharon.gonsalves for more information on the bill and how you can support it.

In the meantime, the spin of Pringle and Diridon and Barker is failing and failing big. And I have the full inbox to show for it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

AB 2121 and Modesto

In a post over at the Examiner, we had someone making false claims about what HSR will and will not do for the State. Since the Examiner limts their comments to 1000 characters (unlikely for one of my rants) I will post a reply here.
Mr. Patterson,

I am afraid I must take issue with your views on high speed rail, and I would like to explain why Harkey’s AB2121 makes far more sense than continuing to pour scarce resources down the bottomless pit of high speed rail.

Prop 1A was passed by voters, based upon the false premises embedded in AB3034. Among those were that the Bond debt would be California’s only financial investment, no operating subsidy would be allowed, and that the project would get cars off the road, improve the environment, and apparently do anything short of curing baldness. Those promises have now been shown to be unattainable by the High Speed Rail Authority and its contractors.

You say that this is the “perfect time to invest”, but the perfect time to invest is not when you are facing bankruptcy and foreclosure-the perfect time to invest is when one has disposable income to spare. You would be foolish as an individual to put the mortgage money into an investment, trusting it to pay off the bill, and the State of California is equally foolish to use money they should budget for schools and basic services, to pay for a luxury train service that our own LAO reports does not deliver on its promises.

Your claim that deficit spending to finance infrastructure programs during down economic times is also based on false beliefs. On May 9, 1939, Henry Morgenthal Jr., Secretary of the Treasury under FDR and Roosevelt’s best friend, admitted to the House Ways and Means Committee that, “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong…somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises…I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started…and an enormous debt to boot!”

Is that the deficit spending you would condemn us to? Because even the purveyors of Depression Era alphabet soup projects had to admit it does not work. In addition, you refer to the “hundreds of jobs” produced by HSR. The HSRA’s own estimates peg the cost of this thing at $43 billion dollars (that is billion with a B) so that is a LOT of money per job. And since we know that a cost estimate for government projects is about as accurate as an Iranian vote count, some in the private sector have estimated this to cost us $80 to $100 billion before it is done! And just to add to the cost, the guys in charge of this project, the ones who have ALREADY collected hundreds of millions of our dollars without laying a single rail, just studying this boondoggle, well they would be Parsons Brinkerhoff, the same people responsible for the “Big Dig” in Boston. Go ahead, google that and see how bad that project is in the hole, and ask yourself if that is the “jobs project” you want to see in California. How many jobs will be generated for Californians? Well if we are lucky there will be some short term jobs digging ditches and pouring concrete, jobs we will then pay for in perpetuity through Bond repayment and operating subsidy for a line that does not pay for itself. The rest of the money will be shipped overseas, to the companies who will operate this, because American companies are not in the High Speed Rail business. They are in Europe and Asia, even Parsons Brinkerhoff is a British company.

You think this project will get cars off the freeway, but transit experts will tell you that most freeway trips are local and immediate regional trips, not the long distance traveler that HSR is courting. We had a meeting here in Anaheim last week, and the consultants stated that 40% of plane trips are LA/OC to SF, and it is those plane riders they are aiming at. HSR will cut about 20 minutes from the trip from Anaheim to Los Angeles, compared to Amtrak, at twice the ticket price; those trains are likely to run empty here, and as likely to meet those same obstacles up north as well. They will do little or nothing to get cars off the roads; we will be better served by upgrading the existing Amtrak system. In fact, there was an ARRA application in the works to do just that before our Guh-ve-nator put it in a desk drawer to promote the HSR application instead. Those projects truly were shovel ready, and had safety controls in them that would have prevented accidents like the Chatsworth tragedy.

As far as HSR being “shovel ready”, I can tell you that my segment of Anaheim to Los Angeles is promoted as the farthest along in the pipeline. News flash-they are designing and creating environmental studies on our line WITHOUT agreements or contracts with the transportation authorities that actually control the rail lines here. In fact, those authorities just popped off a note to Curt Pringle that the HSRA needs to go back to the drawing board and reconsider the shared use program originally designed but abandoned. That will be considered by the HSRA Board next week. In short, they are back at ground zero, so how “shovel ready” do you think this project is? No way are they going to break ground in 2012!

In light of the fact that the High Speed Rail Authority has utterly failed to comply with their own law under AB3034, I think Diane Harkey is correct in pointing out that the emperor is indeed as naked as a jaybird, and we cannot afford to continue to fund this boondoggle. Even transportation proponents who get hot and heavy over high speed rail have called this a mistake. This is not the “opportunity for the Golden State to once again be Golden”, it is instead the opportunity to ship our (borrowed at high interest rates) gold to foreign companies while we go broke even faster than before. I support Diane Harkey’s AB 2121 and I would encourage you to do your homework, I will bet you support AB2121 too when you get all of the facts.

Cynthia Ward, Anaheim CA

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Anaheim HSR and CNN

Here is a CNN post on HSR.

Also, a reminder that tonight the Anaheim Historical Society hosts a HSR meeting at Loara Elementary School Auditorium, Broadway at Loara Street, at 7pm. The event is FREE and open to the public.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Confessions of a Liberal on High Speed Rail

This was sent by William Grindley, and I post it here with permission from the author.


I am a liberal. I venture to say the Bay Area is a liberal bastion, and that the proposed SF-to-LA high-speed rail system finds a great deal of support here. It seems to work so well in Europe and parts of Asia. But wait, the program is more complicated than a noble idea that America should adopt. And it may come as a shock to many of us liberals to find we are helping achieve very conservative political goals.

Conservatives have been extremely successful in ‘starving the beast’ that is, keeping government starved of funds; which forces budget cuts for education, health and social assistance and programs favored by liberals. And Californians, like most Americans, consistently have little appetite for more taxes to support the starving beast. Less tax revenues and the beast starves.

Unfortunately Bay Area liberals, and all Californians, are going to have to pay for a high-speed rail network – or at least the half that financiers and bondholders for $20B of the $42.6B total will demand. That half eerily echoes the debt the State now finds itself burdened with – a state presently unable to keep teachers paid, university tuitions affordable, potholes filled, parks open, etc. etc. etc.

The problem with high-speed rail is that money isn’t free. The enabling legislation behind 2008’s Proposition 1A, requires the State to sell the $9B in authorized bonds, and pay off the $10B-$12B required from the private sector at competitive market rates. Last December State Treasurer Lockyer reported that California must now pay a real interest rate (5.93%) to attract bondholders. That’s higher than Mexico, Brasil, the Philippines or Indonesia pay, and only a quarter of a percent less than Greece. California has achieved Third World status with the world’s financial community.

Bondholders demand that rate of return – or better. If financed at the present real rate over 30 years, the $9B from Prop 1A equals over $50B, which equals fewer teachers, more potholes and more closed parks, fewer hours at DMV, etc. etc. etc. Is the picture getting clearer ?

And private investors won’t put equity into the project without an even higher return. The High-Speed Rail Authority’s projects they will need an after-tax return of 16% to risk their money. The Authority also recognizes the project is so risky, that “Without some form of revenue guarantee from the public sector, it is unlikely that private investment will occur ” A revenue guarantee is a subsidy by another name. If the project can attract the $10-12B, and pay those shareholders at the needed 20% pre-tax rate, private financiers’ contribution would cost Californians $2B-2.4B every year. That’s $70 a year for every man, woman and child in the state. Forever.

The project will also require $4B-$5B of local grants – aka money from your town is free to the high-speed rail system. San Francisco faces a budget deficit more than $500 million. San Jose, Oakland and nearly every other city in the Bay Area and state are cutting jobs and deferring capital expenditures. It’s difficult to see where local governments are going to come up with the $135 per man, woman and child in the state.

Now comes the dilemma. If you are liberal and still proud of California’s now-faded glory as a leader in an excellent education systems, and good local and state services, you should question your support for high-speed rail. If you were attracted in 2008 by the images of the gold-and-blue TGV, you made the state’s finances even more precarious. So when you see cutbacks in education, state and local government workers on furlough, more potholes on your local streets or US101, or closed parks, remember that the State’s finances are finite, and the money has to come from somewhere. We can’t have it all. In short, we liberals have helped ‘starve the beast’. Conservatives should be thanking us.

William Grindley is a resident of Atherton (151 Laurel Street, Atherton, CA 94027 (650) 324 1069) a graduate in Urban Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the Planning Commission of the Town Of Atherton.

Status Report on California's Bond Debt: Assembly Budget Hearing; December14, 2009. Bill Lockyer, State Treasurer: page 4 – True interest cost of California’s General Obligation Bonds in December 2009 was 5.93%. At this point, California pays a premium credit spread to US Treasuries of 310 basis points – a higher spread than Mexico, Brasil, the Philippines or Indonesia.

California High-Speed Rail Authority: Report to the Legislature; December 2009; pg. 108.

ibid. pg. 104

Ibid; pg. 108

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Where it goes and who it drains

For those concerned with which properties are listed in the Alterntives Analysis, I had covered that on the sister blog of Anaheim Life. Here is the link

Also, I have recently posted a piece to Red County

concerning the business end of this deal, Statewide. Diane Harkey has sponsored AB 2121, which accurately points out that the High Speed emperor is naked, and pulls funding from this boondoggle before it does even more damage. Please contact Harkey to support AB 2121 at

This comes not a moment too soon, as the HSRA is going to the Budget Committee on the 24th and asking for funding to add THIRTY MORE STAFF MEMBERS to their team! We cannot pay teachers or prison guards, but we are going to hire 30 more pencil pushers for a rail system that does not work as promised in Prop 1A. You can reach the Chair of the Budget Transportation Subcommittee, Assemblyman Blumenthal, at

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Parsons Brinkerhoff Gets Our Money

This is interesting information. I have not vetted this info, so check it out for yourself, but Parsons Brinkerhoff is the company that gets the majority of the massive multi-million doller consulting budget that we the people of California have been putting out. Take a look at the caluber of professionals we are paying, instead of those little luxuries like school teachers or incarcerating prisoners. Check the website.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Who Are We Employing?

One of the selling points the State is using to push High Speed Rail is the creation of jobs. Apparently they failed to consider that those jobs would be in the countries who already have the technology to build the HSR components, which will be shipped to the US, and assembled by their people under their contracts.

US High-Speed Rail: China To Bid On Projects

03/13/10 07:39 AM

BEIJING - China plans to bid for contracts to build U.S. high-speed train lines and is stepping up exports of rail technology to Europe and Latin America, a government official said Saturday.

China has built 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers) of high-speed rail for its own train system and President Barack Obama issued a pledge in November with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, to cooperate in developing the technology.

"We are organizing relevant companies to participate in bidding for U.S. high-speed railways," Wang Zhiguo, a deputy railways minister, told a news conference.

Wang gave no details of where China's railway builders might seek contracts, but systems are planned in California, Florida and Illinois. He said state-owned Chinese companies already are building high-speed lines in Turkey and Venezuela.

Beijing plans to construct a 16,000-mile (25,000-kilometer) high-speed rail network by 2020 in a 2 trillion yuan ($300 billion) project it hopes will spur economic and technology development. A new line linking the central city of Wuhan with Guangzhou near Hong Kong on China's southern coast is billed as the world's fastest at 237 miles (380 kilometers) per hour.

China produces high-speed trains using French, German and Japanese technology. Its manufacturers have developed a homegrown version but have yet to produce a commercial model.

Chinese rail authorities have signed cooperation memos with California and Russia and state companies plan to bid on a line in Brazil linking Rio de Janeiro with Sao Paulo, Wang said. He said Saudi Arabia and Poland also have expressed interest.

The White House announced $8 billion in grants in January for rail projects including the high-speed systems in California, Florida and Illinois.

"China is willing to share its mature and advanced technology with other countries to promote development of the world's high-speed railways," Wang said.

So far, China's government has completed 2,295 miles (3,676 kilometers) of rail lines with top speeds of up to 220 mph (350 kph) and 1,795 miles (2,876 kilometers) with speeds up to 155 mph (250 kph), according to Wang.

Another 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometers) of lines are under construction, he said.

Once the network is completed, it will cut travel time from Beijing to Hong Kong from 24 hours to 10.

Some critics say high-speed train fares are too high for average Chinese and question whether the lines can recover their construction costs.

Wang said high-speed trains already have higher occupancy rates than regular trains, though he gave no details.



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

High Speed Threats

I am including links here referring to the latest tactic of the pro-HSR folk. They are now threatening the activists in northern California that have been very effective at exposing the boondoggle. One article is my response to the threats, and I hope those who are being harrassed will stand tall with the knowledge that if they are threatening you, they are afraid of you. Hang in there, it means you are doing something right. The other post is from a member of the press being hassled for her reporting on HSR.

Please pop over to the Examiner's site through this link and post a note of encouragement to the peninsula folk.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Reason and the Unreasonable High Speed Rail Project

Today's post is a YouTube video from Reason TV, regarding why Obama's (and by connection, California's) High Speed Rail system will never fly. Again, I am in favor of high speed rail as a concept, but as currently designed it cannot do what it was proposed to do when approved by voters in November 2008. Here is the video

The Reason Foundation also producced several excellent articles on the subject, here :
and here

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

High Speed Railroading

Welcome to the community blog for High Speed Rail, with a focus on the Anaheim to Los Angeles segment of the project. There are plenty of blogs out there on this subject, most of them very good, and I will provide links for those I have found helpful. However, much of that information is related to northern California, where they caught wind of this along ago. Here in OC, this has been a well kept secret, and we are just now catching on, despite the fact that Anaheim to Los Angeles is promoted as the FURTHEST ALONG in terms of environmental work, and we are slated to be first to break ground for construction! So to get us started, here is a post from the OC Register, they are finally beginning to report on this project!

High-speed railroading, is more like it

March 1st, 2010, 9:44 am · 20 Comments · posted by Mark Landsbaum

Voters were conned when they approved $9 billion in bonds to be sold to build a high-speed rail line from down here to San Francisco. The first con was that $9 billion is a drop in the bucket when it comes to the real cost, which no one has agreed to pay yet.

But voters also were conned when they bought the idea that some how it will be cheaper and faster to use this rail system than it will be to fly. It won’t be. The costs will be comparable, and it will take you longer to take the train.

Here’s another con buried in the consequences: The Mercury News reports that the train could “steal about 6 million passengers each year from the three Bay Area airports combined.” That shouldn’t hurt that industry too much, huh?

The train is expected to be rolling along by 2020. Another con. Don’t stand at the station in 2020 waiting for your train. Not only will it cost far more than its originally predicted $42 billion, it won’t arrive by 2020.