High-Speed Rail: Going Nowhere, Very Fast

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The most famous high-speed rail system is that in Japan, one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

The “bullet train” between Tokyo and Osaka has 130 million riders a year. Tokyo alone has more than three times the population of San Francisco and Los Angeles put together.

In California, an element of farce has been added to the impending economic tragedy, if the envisioned high-speed rail system actually materializes.

The first leg of the system is planned to run between Fresno and Bakersfield. If those names don’t ring a bell with you, there is a reason. They are modest-sized communities out in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley, well removed from San Francisco or Los Angeles.

You can bet the rent money that high-speed rail traffic between Fresno and Bakersfield will never come within shouting distance of covering the operating costs. Some people have analogized putting such a rail line between these two towns to the infamous “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska.

Why are they doing it? Because they can.

If they began this project where they want it to go — between San Francisco and Los Angeles — they would run into so much opposition from the environmentalists, and from local politicians influenced by the environmentalists, that the delays could take the high-speed rail advocates beyond the time limit for using the federal subsidy money. But the green fanatics have not yet taken over politically out in the San Joaquin Valley.

The only reason for even thinking about building a high-speed rail line between Fresno and Bakersfield is just to get the project underway with federal money, making it politically more difficult to stop the larger project for a similar rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In other words, they are going to start wasting money out in the valley, so that they will be able to waste more money later on, along the coast. This may not make any sense economically, but it can make sense politically for Jerry Brown and Barack Obama.

An old song ended, “You’ve been running around in circles, getting nowhere — getting nowhere very fast.” On high-speed rail.

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  • theleastthreat

    The train in Spain throws money down the drain… Fa la la la

  • Steve Chavez

    BILL RICHARDSON, the former gov of New Mexico, built the Railrunner train from south of Albuquerque to Santa Fe sixty miles away and the cost was $600 MILLION which was $200 over budget AND THIS WAS ON EXISTING TRACK except for a ten mile stretch. There were tracks already in Santa Fe and when it was time to repair or maintain the track for start-up, THE CITY OF SANTA FE REFUSED THE TRAIN. BILL DIDN'T GET PERMISSION FIRST SO NOW THE CITY WAS FORCED INTO APPROVING IT SINCE MILLIONS HAD ALREADY BEEN SPENT.

    Now the train, whose executives ARE DEMOCRAT CRONIES, WHO THEN HIRED DEMOCRATS TO RUN IT, is $40 million a year IN THE HOLE! RIDERSHIP IS LOW and afternoon trains are almost empty. I rode it and it was 2 1/2 hours late and when we went to return, the train was canceled leaving us to wait four hours for the next train. The train was advertised as for state employees from Albuquerque to get to their jobs in Santa Fe BUT THEY DON'T USE IS SINCE IT IS ALWAYS LATE OR THEY WOULD HAVE TO LEAVE HOME AT 5:00AM FOR THE 6:15 DEPARTURE. Some have to drive to the train station since buses don't start till 6:00am. IT TAKES FIFTY MINUTES TO DRIVE TO SANTA FE so what worker would add SIX HOURS TO THEIR DAY GETTING THERE AND BACK?

    BUT the Railrunner is adding new stops at a cost of millions and adding to the travel time since the train has to slow down, stop, and then crawl up to speed again. WHAT TO DO? END IT AND TAKE THE LOSS OR KEEP IT GOING AND LOSE MORE?

    • http://www.okcteaparty.org DMW

      "But, but, but Virginia. New Mexico has a commuter train!" Steve, as a former resident of Rio Rancho and Albuquerque (graduate of Highland HS and NMSU) I feel for you all. In 2003, I deliberately moved from NM to Oklahoma (where all 77 counties voted against Obama in 2008). But we have a similar rail problem with the federally subsidized AMTRAK (so-called) 'Heartland Flyer' which is basically a "turista" promoting endeavor (i.e. for only $26 travel to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas and spend the weekend and your OKLAHOMA money in Texas!!!!). Originally from California, I also feel for Oakland and that State which used to be at the cutting edge. Now, it's becoming more and more a husk of a State — devastatingly corny but just a husk of its former self thanks to the Demo-Covets.

    • sedoanman

      Where is Benito when you need him?

    • Jim Loomis

      Let me guess: You don't ride it, right?

  • sedoanman

    This is not a new idea. The Southern Pacific Railroad operated a high-speed rail during the 1940s and into the '50s. It was called the Daylight Express. There were two trains leaving in the morning, one from San Francisco and the other from Los Angeles. They would cross somewhere near Paso Robles, about half-way. There was another line between Oakland and Portland. I don't know if there was more than one departure per day, which is also key to a successful train. As it is, there are many flights each hour between SF and LA, so you can travel just about any time you wish. How many departures will there be per day for this proposed high speed train? If it is only one, it is doomed, for the next consideration:

    Another problem with mass transit vs automobile is time. By the time you drive to the airport, check in, go through security, wait for your flight, actually travel to your destination, disembark, get your luggage, get local transportation, and drive to your final destination, you've pretty well shot 8 hours, the time to drive the whole distance between SF and LA. And that doesn't even count delays.

  • Ghostwriter

    Why do I have a feeling this isn't going to work?

  • sedoanman

    To you and me, "work" means it will at least not lose money. If there was an economic need, private investment would have moved in [or not left, as in the case of the Daylight Express]. To obama, "work" undoubtedly means something entirely different, like it takes the focus off his failed stimulus packages. "Work" also has the secondary benefit of placating his greenies.

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