Tuesday, March 30, 2010

AB 2121 and Modesto

In a post over at the Examiner, http://www.examiner.com/x-33454-Modesto-Railroad-Examiner~y2010m3d25-Effort-afoot-to-derail-California-high-spead-train-project 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. http://money.cnn.com/video/news/2010/03/19/n_speed_rail3.cnnmoney/

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 http://www.redcounty.com/thank-you-diane-harkey-updated/37841?taxonomy=29

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 http://arc.asm.ca.gov/member/73/?p=addresses

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 http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/MEMBERS/A40/

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. http://www.examiner.com/x-35485-SF-Transportation-Policy-Examiner

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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xyUg4J7Sf8

The Reason Foundation also producced several excellent articles on the subject, here : http://reason.org/news/show/high-speed-rail-plans-are-misc
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?http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_14467088?source=rss&nclick_check=1

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.