Patterico's Pontifications


Confirmed: California High-Speed Rail Will Be Delayed and Overbudget

Filed under: General — JVW @ 5:06 pm

[guest post by JVW]

UPDATE: I added a rail map from the HSRA. Should have thought to have done that earlier.

In a move that surprised absolutely no one, an audit of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the group tasked with building the voter-approved taxpayer-funded “bullet train” from San Diego to San Francisco via Los Angeles, Bakersfield, and Fresno has determined that the project will cost significantly more than initially believed and will be delayed at least thirteen years from the original target completion date promised to voters when the project was approved.

We Californians in our infinitesimal wisdom approved the high-speed train project in 2008 through Proposition 1A, a ballot initiative approved in the same rancid election that brought the nation Barack Obama, Al Franken, Alan Grayson, and Jared Polis. Prop 1A called for California to sell bonds to raise about $10 billion to initiate the project, with the rest of the $45 billion total estimated cost covered by other state funding sources, local funds in each city through which the rail would pass, private investment, and, of course, Uncle Sucker in Washington. Proponents of the plan included all of the chamber of commerce types, the union bosses, and urbanists who fetishize public transport. Governor Schwarzenegger (who was working feverishly to get back in the good graces of his lefty Hollywood friends) endorsed the plan, as did pretty much all of the state’s legislative Democrats. Lavish promises were made: Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and forty minutes, Downtown San Diego to Downtown Los Angeles in 80 minutes, fares less-expensive than corresponding flight tickets, ridership that would be at least 65 million rides per year and perhaps as much as 95 million rides, and — best of all! — the project once complete would be self-sustaining, i.e. the annual passenger revenue would equal the operational costs. This was such an obvious load of horse manure that only Californians could have fallen for it, and indeed we did. The bill to place Proposition 1A on the ballot passed the Assembly by a 58-15 margin and sailed through the Senate on a 27-10 vote with a handful of Republicans in each legislative body joining in support of the project. In the November election, Prop 1A was approved by a much more narrow 52.6% to 47.4% margin, suggesting that California voters are a hell of a lot smarter than their leaders, if not quite smart enough to derail the bullet train.

And now, ten years in, the shillelagh of buyer’s remorse has smashed into the kneecap of our dreams. The bi-annual status report mandated by the legislation (the one useful thing Republicans demanded in return for their support) now acknowledges that the Anaheim to San Francisco portion of the route, originally scheduled to open in 2020 (yeah, two years from now) will now be delayed until 2029. In a cruel irony, that is one year after Los Angeles is scheduled to host the 2028 Summer Olympics, meaning the High Speed Rail Authority now plans to miss its golden opportunity to reach a huge international Disneyland-Dystopia potential ridership (Europeans and Asians who love bullet train travel!) in a tourism-heavy summer. Instead, we’re hoping to have San Jose to Bakersfield ready to go in 2024 and then if everything goes strictly to plan maybe the San Francisco to San Jose segment ready by 2029.

Map from California High-Speed Rail Authority

Map from California High-Speed Rail Authority

Naturally, the cost of building the Anaheim-San Fran Line has now ballooned to $77.3 billion, and that of course does not include the costs for extensions to San Diego and Sacramento. Moreover, the HSRA admits that figure is an estimate and that the project could cost anywhere from a low-end of $63.2 billion (best-case scenario which includes steady progress and no unforeseen setbacks) to a high-end of $98.1 billion (worst-case scenario which reflects the way these things are likely to go). In the financing section of the HSRA Report (pretty interesting reading/scanning if you can plow through about 100 pages) is an explicit warning about the project’s funding:

To date, the Authority has secured significant funds from both state and federal sources. These funds are being used to deliver the Central Valley Segment and complete environmental planning and other early work for the entire Phase 1 [Anaheim-San Fran] System, consistent with our federal grant agreements. However, as we describe in this section, the challenges of funding a transportation system of this magnitude are significant and actions still need to be taken to secure a long-term funding and nancing strategy that can help us deliver the full Silicon Valley to Central Valley Line.

The Authority is currently operating on a pay-as-you-go funding approach which means that contracts are let as funding is received. However, the continuation of this approach indefinitely will not support our delivery schedule. This is because the large contracts needed for the Silicon Valley to Central Valley Line — such as track and systems, rolling stock and tunnel construction — are greater than the funds that the Authority anticipates having at the time those contracts need to be executed to meet the 2029 completion schedule. To proceed with these contracts the Authority needs to be able to rely on a steady stream of future funds that provide certainty to long term contracting partners.

And there you have it, taxpayers: the HSRA has money to build the Bakersfield to Madera section (estimated now at $10.6 billion, up from the original $6 billion) but pretty much nothing else, not even the money to complete the Madera to Merced add-on which requires building a 13-mile tunnel at Pacheco Pass in the Diablo Mountain Range. As mentioned earlier, the state sold $10 billion in bonds to kick-start the project after Prop 1A passed. During the first term of the Obama Administration, California was given federal funding of about $6.25 billion, but nothing further has come from Uncle Sucker and it doesn’t appear that the Trump Administration or a GOP-led Congressional chamber will reopen those spigots. Other funding has come from Governor Jerry Brown pushing to have one-quarter of the cap-and-trade funds allocated to the project. Of course, Gov. Moonbeam and his allies estimated this to amount to about $600 million per year expecting emissions trading credits to bring in $2.4 billion annually, but expectations have naturally fallen short of the mark leaving a hole in the state funding. Some local governments have chipped in in a parochial way, with cities such as Anaheim and San Mateo spending money to build new transit centers and help clear the way for new high-speed rail track by removing no-longer used track, but those efforts even lumped together have been fairly paltry. And private enterprise has simply not as yet answered the call (the HSRA report delicately suggests that private companies are waiting for the completion days to come closer). I’m sure that rail stations will make a nice bit of coin renting space to McDonalds and Apple, but given that the funding mix was supposed to be 33% from local & state government, 33% from the federal government, and 33% from private enterprise, I’m having a hard time seeing those rents and whatever Google and Apple kick in so their employees can move out of their shared barracks in Los Gatos and move out to the Central Valley (now only an hour away by bullet train!) make up for the massive shortfall that this HSRA report acknowledges.

As with so many other cases in which the central planners throw their lot in with the smart set and then use the political fixers to implement their dreams, the reality of high-speed rail in California is almost certain to fall woefully short of the extravagant promises made on its behalf. Even the zealous boosters at the California High Speed Rail Blog have fallen silent, last blogging over ten months ago. The idea in and of itself isn’t a horrible one, but in an era where big government fails at the most basic of tasks it is delusional to expect it to competently manage a project as massive and intricate as this one.

One and one-third centuries ago, Henry Morrison Flagler began the process of consolidating and building a trans-Florida railroad that would eventually run from Jacksonville to Key West. He completed the project in just about a quarter-century, including time lost when hurricanes destroyed key bridges forcing rebuilds, and he more or less exhausted his fortune in the process. Though the railroad no longer exists and the bridges from Key Largo to Key West were largely destroyed by 200 mile-per-hour winds from a Labor Day weekend hurricane in 1935, the bridge spans that Flagler built were repurposed in building Highway 1 along the abandoned train route, immortalizing Flagler’s heroic work. (Excellent book about Flagler and the railroad here.) With Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (estimated net worth of $71 billion), Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google (each checking it at just under $50 billion, Elon Musk ($20 billion), and others leading the way, why not a privately-built high-speed rail for the Golden State?

Cross-posted over at the Jury Talks Back.


GOOD: Trump Is Afraid of the NRA

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:30 am

I’m happy to hear it. He should be.

The White House announced a series of recommendations Sunday night meant to stop school shootings, including a full audit and review of the FBI tip line after warnings about a student who killed 17 people at a Florida high school last month were not acted upon.

The administration did not call for immediately increasing the minimum age for buying long guns to 21, as President Trump had previously advocated. However, it did announce that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would chair a federal commission on school safety to study the proposal.

The recommendations were announced nearly a month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

You know why Trump is just “studying” the issue, rather than announcing it? (Well, you know if you read the headline.)

He’s afraid of the NRA. Remember when he said that to Senator Pat Toomey on this very issue?

TRUMP: It doesn’t make sense that I have to wait ’til I’m 21 to get a handgun, but I can get this weapon at 18. I don’t know. So I was just curious as to what you did in your bill. You don’t address it.

TOOMEY: We didn’t address it, Mr. President.

TRUMP: You know why? Because you’re afraid of the NRA, right?

A lot of people are talking about it. As Trump says at the end of that clip: “A lot of people are afraid of that issue. Raising the age for that weapon to 21.”

And one of the people who is afraid is President Donald J. Trump.

Good. The right to bear arms is a constitutional right. He should be afraid to take it away.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Teaching Opportunity: Coffee Shop Refuses To Serve Police Officers For The Physical And Emotional Safety of Employees And Customers

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:43 am

[guest post by Dana]

Last month, a recently opened coffee shop founded by three Latinos in Oakland refused to serve a uniformed police officer who had gone in to introduce himself and have a cup of coffee. He was told that Hasta Muerte does not serve police officers. Sgt. Robert Trevino, who works in the predominantly Latino neighborhood where the coffee shop is located, is also the chapter president of the county’s national Latino Peace Officers Association. Sgt. Bryan Hubbard, vice president of the Police Officers’ Association and who runs the department’s training academies, described Sgt. Trevino as an officer who puts a high priority on community policing and forming relationships with local merchants. Consistent with Sgt. Hubbard’s description, Sgt. Trevino said he would like to meet with Hasta Muerte employees and try to “build a better relationship”. However, it quickly became clear that they were not interested. This in spite of the coffee shop’s Kickstarter campaign claim of “opening a warm + inviting familia style coffe shop”.

Here is a statement released by Hasta Muerte after the incident – a statement accompanied by an exhortation to talk with your neighbors, not the police and a crossed-out police badge next to it:

Last Friday February 16th a police (OPD) entered our shop and was told by one of our worker-owners that “we have a policy of asking police to leave for the physical and emotional safety of our customers and ourselves.” Since then, cop supporters are trying to publicly shame us online with low reviews because this particular police visitor was Latino. He broadcasted to his network that he was “refused service” at a local business and now the rumblings are spreading.

We know in our experience working on campaigns against police brutality that we are not alone saying that police presence compromises our feeling of physical & emotional safety. There are those that do not share that sentiment – be it because they have a friend or relative who is a police, because they are white or have adopted the privileges whiteness affords, because they are home- or business- owning, or whatever the particular case may be. If they want to make claims about police being part of the community, or claims that race trumps the badge & gun when it comes to police, they must accept that the burden of proof for such a claim is on them. OPDs recent attempts to enlist officers of color and its short term touting of fewer officer involved shootings does not reverse or mend its history of corruption, mismanagement, and scandal, nor a legacy of blatant repression.

The facts are that poc, women, and queer police are complicit in upholding the same law and order that routinely criminalizes and terrorizes black and brown and poor folks, especially youth, trans, and houseless folks.

For these reasons and so many more, we need the support of the actual community to keep this place safe, not police. Especially in an area faced by drug sales and abuse, homelessness, and toxic masculinity as we see here on this block. We want to put this out to our communities now, in case we end up facing backlash because as we know OPD, unlike the community, has tons of resources, many of which are poured into maintaining smooth public relations to uphold power. It will be no surprise if some of those resources are steered toward discrediting us for not inviting them in as part of the community.

Last week, Oakland police officials said incident will be used as an opportunity to educate new recruits, and that in spite of the coffee shop’s position, officers would remain professional if called to serve and protect at Hasta Muerte:

“I think their position is very clear that they don’t want the police in there, and I can respect that,” said Sgt. Bryan Hubbard, vice president of the Police Officers’ Association who also runs the department’s training academies. “If they do call the police for any need, we’re going to respond professionally and give them the same level of service as anyone else regardless of their position.”

While the Oakland Police Dept. has certainly been exposed and duly criticized for corruption within its ranks, the city’s good cops face a staggering level of hatred directed toward them when moral disorder manifests itself. With this is mind, it’s too bad that the proprietors of Hasta Muerte would rather say no to a coffee summit than take a small, first step in becoming a truly inclusive community.

[Ed. – equating drug dealing and abuse with “toxic masculinity” is just embarrassing. Stop it.]

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


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