As promised the California High Speed Rail Authority has published the 2008 Business Plan. Remember, this would have been ready in time for the election had Republicans like Roy Ashburn not blocked passage of the state budget for three months.
The plan itself is primarily an update of construction costs and ridership estimates. The overall cost of SF-Anaheim is pegged at $33 billion, of which $12 billion to $16 billion will come from the federal government. It's worth noting not all of that is going to be in the form of cash, but much will be in the form of low interest bonds that the feds will float - Obama has for example proposed a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that could help provide construction cost support to high speed rail here.
The plan also anticipates that the ridership and operating surpluses are at their best when HSR fares are 50% of airfares on the LA-SF route. Some HSR deniers might scoff at the likelihood of that happening given possible cost increases - but consider that airfares will be rising over the next ten years, likely at a much faster rate than HSR fares will climb due to inflation. The airline crisis hasn't gone away.
The updated business plan also notes that if there are problems in getting funding to build the entire system, the urban segments can likely pay for themselves. Of course I have often railed against the possibility of turning HSR into a glorified commuter rail, and strongly believe that the first items that ought to be constructed are the tracks through the mountains - Pacheco Pass and the Tehachapis - which are the current choke points for intrastate passenger rail. In any event this is one of the issues we will need to monitor very closely over the coming months and years.
Of course, the HSR deniers are still out in force, getting their misleading quotes into the newspapers. Today's SF Chronicle article on the business plan is a good example, giving leading HSR denier Jon Coupal, of the Howard Jarvis Association, the chance to spew his truthiness:
Critics said they were disappointed by the plan released Friday, saying it lacked the necessary detail.
"We waited three months for this?" said Jon Coupal, spokesman for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which opposed Prop. 1A. "I will say it's very pretty and has nice photographs. But as a business plan to present to venture capitalists to convince them to invest, it falls far short."
This from the guy whose organization's business plan involves bankrupting our state? I find it amazing that anyone in the media sees him as a credible source when it comes to government spending and balancing out the numbers.
Let's also be clear - the HSR deniers will claim that everything "lacks the necessary detail" up to the day the first passengers board the trains. If Coupal wants to see informed discussion about the details instead of misinformation intended to kill the project he would do well to click on our comments, where the details are given very intense discussion.
The business plan update provides the necessary information for our state to move forward on the project voters endorsed on Tuesday. At this point HSR deniers are trying to undermine the project - if they want to be useful, then join us in the comments and show how we can improve it. We all want the best possible HSR system for our state. It's time for Californians to come together and make it happen.