The Jury Talks Back


Californians Vote for Rail Projects

Filed under: California Politics — aunursa @ 8:48 pm

The California High Speed Rail Authority has been working for over a decade planning a 800-mile train system to link the northern and southern population centers.  Toward that end the state legislature placed Proposition 1A on the November ballot.  The $9.95 billion bond measure would help fund the initial San Francisco-Los Angeles phase.  Originally proposed for the 2004 ballot, the measure was twiced postponed to avoid competition with competing bond measures. On November 4th Californians voted by a 52-48 margin to invest in the ambitious project.  High-speed trains are expected to achieve speeds of up to 220 mph in rural areas, whisking passengers from downtown Los Angeles to downtown San Francisco in 2 hours, 40 minutes.  Construction is expected to begin as early as 2011, with planned extensions to San Diego and Sacramento after the initial line begins operation.

Along with high-speed rail, two other transit measures were on local ballots.  Unlike the statewide initiative, the local tax increases required 2/3 majorities to pass.  Los Angeles County Measure R would use a 1/2 cent sales tax increase to fund a variety of transportation projects, including extensions of LA’s light rail system west to Santa Monica and east to Claremont.  On election night, Measure R was passing by a slim margin.  With absentee ballots still being counted, the lead has grown to 67.65%, and the measure is expected to pass.

Santa Clara County Measure B would add a 1/8 cent sales tax increase to fund a 16-mile extension of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system to San Jose.  Proponents say the extension would provide nearly 100,000 daily trips.  County voters had already voted twice on similar measures, approving a 1/2 cent sales tax increase for BART in 2000, and rejecting a similar increase in 2006 to fund various county transportation projects.  The vote was expected to be close, and on election night, Measure B appeared to be failing with a tantalizingly close 66.27% of the vote.  Backers began talk of scaling back the project to just a 9 mile extenstion that would connect with the Santa Clara light rail system.

Then a remarkable thing happened.  As the count of the 164,000 absentee ballots proceeded, support for the BART measure on these ballots was running at 73%, bringing the measure closer to passage.  Last Monday the overall count stood at exactly 66.67%, and subsequent ballots have given the measure an insurmountable lead.

In spite of the difficult economic times, Californians have decided that investments in state and regional transportation networks are just too valuable to postpone.


  1. whisking passengers from downtown Los Angeles to downtown San Francisco in 2 hours, 40 minutes

    Or, even better, whisking passengers from downtown San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles in 2 hours, 40 minutes.

    Comment by Official Internet Data Office — 11/24/2008 @ 8:40 am

  2. Shucks, if we Californians had just waited a couple of months we could have had the new Obama Administration pay for this sort of thing.

    Comment by JVW — 11/24/2008 @ 9:45 am

  3. “In spite of the difficult economic times, Californians have decided that investments in state and regional transportation networks are just too valuable to postpone.

    Think they all know that what they really voted on was making a small – very small – down payment on a system that could carry the “projected” ridership only if they made the 325-mile LA-SF track a continuous loop, put a 650-mile-long train on it, never stopped, and filled every seat?

    Comment by bobby b — 11/24/2008 @ 10:39 pm

  4. The NIMBY’s and BANANA’s will tie this thing up in the courts for 20-years –
    and then the Enviro’s will have their say!

    Comment by Another Drew — 11/25/2008 @ 9:32 am

  5. Don’t you know it. The NIMBY’s in particular will have a field day pointing out the mess the construction of the LA subway caused in the mid-Wilshire district and construction will be heavily opposed in any and all urban areas….

    … likely by many of the same people who voted for this trillion dollar train set in the first place. Odd, that.

    Comment by Sean P — 11/25/2008 @ 10:46 am

  6. We’ve got something similar to that here.

    CalTrain, a local commuter rail, runs through the town of Atherton, a wealthy, exclusive enclave sandwiched between the less wealth and exclusive Menlo Park and the comparatively poor and run-down Redwood City. Atherton once sued CalTrain for failing to perform an EIR when it discontinued week day stops at the Atherton station (where *maybe* 5-6 people got on the train *each day*).

    Atherton is all annoyed at the environmental impact of the HSR running along the CalTrain corridor (a decision which makes a great deal of sense from a cost perspective) and is suing to try to stop it.

    Comment by aphrael — 11/25/2008 @ 12:24 pm

  7. Bobby, I voted against Proposition 1A. I am in favor of building an HSR system connecting LA and the Bay Area; but this plan was severely underfunded and will just result in coming back for more money in 4-6 years.

    Comment by aphrael — 11/25/2008 @ 4:46 pm

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