The LA Times is running a "dust up" in its opinion pages - a weeklong discussion of high speed rail between Adrian Moore of the oil company funded Reason Foundation and Dan Tempelis, project manager for the CHSRA on the Palmdale-LA section of the route. It's something of an unfair fight, as Moore is trained to push misleading framing into the media, and Tempelis is a project engineer trained to build things. Tempelis isn't bad at this, but neither is he equipped to undermine the truthiness Moore spews.
Here's an example of Moore's misleading claims:
There are several reasons why high-speed rail does not stack up as the best infrastructure investment we can make today. Let's start with ridership. When high-speed rail systems were built in Europe and Asia, they served corridors that were already very dense and where a large share of travel was already by train -- and there was still no reduction in overall air travel in those corridors. Most riders of high-speed rail were already train riders. The California High-Speed Rail Authority's estimates for the state show that riders will not come from existing trains (there are very few of those) or much from the airlines. Rather, their plan rests on getting people to ride the train rather than drive. Given the more modest gas prices here, the lower density and car culture, to predict that the California high-speed train will get far more riders than systems in Europe and Japan is ridiculously optimistic.
This is a classic example of what Stephen Colbert called truthiniess - this "feels" true even though Moore hasn't provided any evidence. In fact Moore is passing along a huge pile of outright lies.
For example: "and there was still no reduction in overall air travel in those corridors." Um, WTF?
- Madrid-Barcelona AVE takes 30% of market from airlines in six months
- Eurostar Grabs Even More Passengers From Airlines
- Romance of Rail Jeopardizes Domestic Air Routes (Taiwan)
We could go on, but there's more Moore misinformation to correct, like "Most riders of high-speed rail were already train riders." Wrong again. As NARP's Matt Melzer pointed out in July Spain's experience proves that many HSR riders are in fact new train passengers. The images below compare the before and after the inaugural AVE line opened between Madrid and Sevilla in 1992:
Melzer's post also destroys another of Moore's claims, that California lacks the density for HSR, showing that in fact CA and Spain are very comparable on this basis:
Moore's left with lame defenses of California's "car culture" - never mind the fact that Amtrak California intercity routes are setting monthly ridership records. From here Moore moves on to equally truthy claims:
This despite that fact that every other high-speed rail line in the world, all with many advantages over a California system, are subsidized.
Wow. Just...wow. This is a bald-faced lie. In France the situation is reverse - HSR subsidizes all other trains. France alone disproves Moore's lie.
there is no doubt that the high-speed train will need to be subsidized; the Reason Foundation's middling estimate is that it will require about $3 billion per year.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office reported that in the worst-case scenario only $1 billion would be required. This isn't the end of Moore's careless numerology:
Taxpayers should expect the final bill for this train system to be closer to $80 billion.
Moore has NO evidence for this claim. He uses a discredited study to claim there are 45% cost overruns on rail - Angelenos can look to the Metro Gold Line extension to see an on-time, on-budget rail project. Further, if Moore is going to give a specific figure, he needs to explain precisely where the cost overruns will come from and why they will amount to $80 billion. Since he can't, he's merely pulling the numbers out of his ass, an effort to mimic Dr. Evil.
Much of the rest of Moore's argument comes from a discredited Reason Foundation study. It would be nice if more members of the media would challenge this study instead of allow Moore to cite it as if it were gospel.
Dan Tempelis does a good job explaining the economic stimulus benefits of high speed rail and the fiscal safeguards in Prop 1A. But it's an unfair fight, since he's up against someone who will lie to readers to make his points. Yes on 1A advocates need to do a better job pushing back against the bullshit coming out of the Reason Foundation - they are lying to the public and will kill HSR if their lies are not countered.
Sadly that is the story of the 2008 election - lies, lies, lies everywhere. We're dealing with the same problems in the presidential campaign and the fight against Proposition 8. This blog has been consistently willing to debate HSR deniers on the issues. But instead all we get are lies.
If Prop 1A is going to pass, we need to fight back hard against these lies. The official campaign would do well to take a more aggressive tone here.