Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Will GE Get Into the HSR Business?

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

Via Trains4America comes this article about GE's interest in reviving its passenger rail division:

Simonelli hopes the new Evolution model could mark the beginning of something else — the return of GE Transportation to the passenger train business.

GE, which built more than 300 Genesis model passenger locomotives during the 1990s, wants to be a player in that industry, Simonelli said.

“GE has the know-how and the manufacturing base to develop the next generation of high-speed passenger locomotives,” he said. “We are ready to partner with the federal government and Amtrak to make high-speed rail a reality.”

Although Monday marked the official unveiling of the new locomotive, 25 of them already have been delivered to Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which is helping GE Transportation continue long-term testing.


This is a smart move from GE's perspective, as the collapse of the US auto industry has politicians in both parties looking for a new manufacturing base. Anything GE can put together on HSR in particular would get a LOT of favorable attention from the Congress.

That being said, the last thing we'd want is a political decision about HSR power and rolling stock. The trainsets we use have to be of a high quality, and there are a lot of excellent off-the-shelf technologies out there. If we can get Siemens or Alstom to commit to building a final assembly plant in CA, then it would go a long way in leveraging GE to make similar commitments.

87 comments:

James said...

GE has had a successful relationship with SNECMA since 1973 on he CFM56 jet engine. Maybe a similar collaboration could be made with a foreign HSR manufacturer to share in the development and production of a train to be used on US HSR routes. Otherwise if a US company were to enter the HSR market they would have a lot of catching up to do. By collaborating then GE can bring its technology base to the product and maybe even make the HSR collaboration better.

jim said...

http://books.google.com/books?id=9kAdeXyPF_oC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0#PPA1,M1

pics of new ge locos

slo_town said...

So are we saying GE will get into the business of diesel power capable of 110-125 mph? Just curious, what is the top speed for the current GE Genesis locomotives?

Anonymous said...

Genesis locomotives are capable of 110 or 125 mph, and I think they're actually a better design than the F-59 and such, being as they're actually designed for (moderately) high speed passenger service, rather than being modification of freight locomotives.

Andre Peretti said...

Linking the future of railways to the "collapse" of the auto industry is unrealistic and counterproductive. Opposing cars to trains is grist to the Cato institute's mill.
One of their favourite arguments is that after 30 years of TGV car ownership in France is about the same as in the US, which proves the TGV is a total failure. Same for the Shinkansen. Their conclusion: if the best two systems have failed in their home countries how can HSR be a success in America?
I don't think you can say that with HSR you won't need a car anymore. Car will always be necessary. They will probably be smaller and more efficient but their number will not decrease.
I think it would be wiser to say: thanks to HSR you will love your car again because you will use it only when it makes sense.

bossyman15 said...

@Andre Peretti

nobody said HSR will replace cars.

of course you will still need car when you need it.

Andrew said...

I was thinking that GM should go into trainset manufacturing if they want to survive.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Funny, when I first saw GE... I imagined Google Earth.

And now I give thoughts to GE working with existing HSR train manufactures to develop a new model. But, maybe they already are?

What electric engine do the HSR train manufacturer's, like Alstom, use today for propulsion? Anyone know?

It might behoove potential trainset manufacurers to reach out to GE, if not already, to explore joint opportunities.

swinghanger said...

@Andrew
Actually, GM did try once to manufacture trainsets. Alas, it wasn't successful:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerotrain_(GM)

Alon Levy said...

Andrew: actually, French car ownership is about 33% lower than American car ownership. It's still high, but that has a lot to do with the fact that public transportation outside Paris and its inner suburbs is total shit.

The pattern you see in all developed countries, tiger economies excepted, is that a few large cities have very good transit and low car ownership; their suburbs and some smaller cities have so-so transit, high car ownership, and middle-of-the-road modal share; and everyone else has barely any transit, and is auto-dependent. In the US, the first category includes New York, in France it's Paris, in Japan it's Tokyo and Osaka, and so on. The countries that maintain low car ownership are either those that aren't rich enough, or those that consist of just one large city.

swinghanger said...

@Brandon in SD
Alstom uses integral electric locomotives on each end of their TGV trainsets, power is taken from overhead catenary and converted to be used in the AC motors powering the axles. Their latest trainset, the AGV, uses a "distributed" or EMU arrangement where there are no locomotives but rather motors are distributed along the whole train, as in a subway trainset.

The article doesn't mention whether GE will focus on building just high speed diesels or foray into electric locomotives. I think they are fully capable of building the above types of locomotives, but if their intention is to built high speed trainsets a la AGV, Velaro, or Shinkansen, they will most likely partner with an experienced railway coach builder. Hitachi would be a candidate, as GE already has a partnership with them building nuclear power plants.

Andrew said...

@swinghanger:

Holy 1950's, Batman! Well, you don't always get it right the first time...

It would just make sense, politically. GM wants to be saved from bankruptcy, and the president wants to save the economy and build far-reaching high-speed rail networks. So he should say to GM: "Build us some trains."

As long as the trains don't suck, it would be a good idea.

arcady said...

Alon: I don't think that's really true. Look at Switzerland: most cities have pretty decent transit, and the railway network is uniformly pretty good throughout the country. And most importantly, you can get anywhere in the country by public transit, whether rail or local bus or Postbus, in a way that's just not the case in the US. I suspect much the same is true in Japan and elsewhere, although there is definitely a pattern of having excellent rapid transit in the capital or major city, and fairly poor infrastructure elsewhere.

Brandon in San Diego said...

My thoughts are aligned with Andrew precisely. Except, whomever is selected in the process, which is possibly years away, should already have demonstrated experience with high-spreed train sets.

To that, I think it would behoove GE to seek partnership with experienced HSR train manaufacturers, like Altom or Siemen's, to develop a product... and leverage the US connection.

I should think that this idea is NOT earth shattering and folks in respective organizations have already explored this, or are currently in the process of doing so.

TomW said...

GE has no knolwedge of building proper high-speed trains (as in 200mph EMUs). I can't see any of Alstom, Siemens, Bombardier or Hitachit agreeing to a "pertnership" with GE... those companies would be perfectly happy to set a factory in the USA to build trains, but they won't share their knowledge with another company.
GE is also years behind when it comes to fast locomotives. The GE Genesis can do 110mph? Big deal - there are 30 year old diesels that can do 125mph (and EMD can sellyou a 125mph diesel right now).

Andre Peretti said...

I agree with Alon that transit in the Paris suburbs is a total mess. It originates from a political decision made during the cold war. While the English created "Greater London" the French chose smaller Paris. The aim was to keep the working class suburbs out of the city limits in order to prevent a communist from ever being elected mayor of the capital.
With 12 million inhabitants, greater Paris is the largest agglomeration in western Europe (London has 7.4 million). Transit-wise, it is totally unmanageable, with every project needing the approval of a dozen assemblies whose interests are often conflicting. The result is that nothing is done. If you want to go from one suburb to another, you are totally car dependent.
President Sarkozy now wants to recreate greater Paris but he will face a lot of resistance from local politicians who will hold on to their little kingdoms. So, for the near future nothing is going to change: a near-perfect transit system in the heart of the town, and a total mess all around.

stop this train said...

London 7.4 million, Paris 12 million, both high density cities. Eurostar passengers 9.3 million.

Current ridership about 1/3 of what was predicted for the Eurostar over 20 years ago.

55 million to 117 million passengers for the the California high speed rail? Who do they think they are kidding. Boondoggle of all boondoggles ever imagined.

Andrew said...

@stop this train:

Bite me.

@swinghanger, TomW:

Might I mention that Hitachi is a junior partner in the Shinkansen, Kawasaki is the main manufacturer.

That's all.

Observer said...

It will be interesting to see, with yesterday's Cali special election, how soon Gov S will announce cancellation of the CHSR project.

Does he have any choice as they are now going to be forced to cut multi-billions in spending? Can they keep pretending that HSR is a priority over any and every state program? How are they going to justify spending on HSR precisely as they cut drastically from schools, prisons, fire, police, freeway repairs, and more.

It looks like California voters are all done with the concept of borrowing from the future to support the spending of today. They want spending to come in to line with state revenues.

(Bonds require borrowing which results in interest payments - which come out of operating expense budgets. So yes, HSR, while its a capital project funded by bonds, creates ongoing operating expense -which California can't afford.

And if Cali won't spend on it, will the feds? Will private investors?

The voters approved the possibility of HSR bonds, they DIDN'T approve moving HSR to the front of the line OVER other types of spending - they just approved potential for spending HSR if the program were proven to make sense.

Now HSR spending is exactly the type of thing the governor should be looking to cut - to prove his point. Its politically painless because its not a service he has to take away from people today. It doesn't save alot this year (a couple million?), but its the message that people are expecting to hear - we're done spending $$ we don't have.

Anonymous said...

Observer,
Observe this! (middle finger fully extended). Seriously though, has it ever occurred to you that HSR can act as a tremendous economic stimulus for our state: jobs and economic development. Much, much more of a stimulus than many of the social programs that should be cut.

Andre Peretti said...

To have the best of both worlds an Alstom-Kawasaki joint venture would be ideal. It wouldn't be a first: ALSKAW (Alstom-Kawasaki) is the name of the consortium building the new cars for the New York subway.

Alon Levy said...

Andre: a little nitpick - Paris is not larger than London. The agglomeration is bigger only because in France they use laxer standards to define urban areas than in Britain: the French standard is that the buildings have to be spaced no more than 200 meters apart, whereas the British standard is 50 meters. This translates to 25 buildings per km^2 in France, compared with 400 in Britain. When you use a uniform standard, rather than a standard that's 16 times stricter in London than in Paris, London is bigger.

Alon Levy said...

Arcady: Switzerland is an exception to my rule, you're right. All of Switzerland is what I'd call second category - all of its cities have good transit, though none has a transit system that enables people not to own cars they way they don't in London, New York, and Tokyo. Germany is somewhat similar, though it still has much better transit in its major cities and much worse transit outside them.

Japan has decent transit outside Tokyo and Osaka by US standards, but not by European ones. Nagoya's heavy rail system has a ridership of about 1 billion, compared with 800 million in Berlin, whose metro area has half the population of Nagoya's. Even that figure is likely an overestimate, as Japan double counts transfers from one company's lines to the others; the daily rail ridership in Tokyo is about twice what you'd expect by looking at rail modal shares.

Alon Levy said...

Stop This Train: Eurostar connects two cities with an exceptionally small travel market relative to their size and distance. The domestic TGV carried 89 million people in 2008, connecting Paris to six cities - Lyon, Marseille, Lille, Tours, Le Mans, and Strasbourg - whose metro areas together have about two thirds the population of the Bay Area. This is a more appropriate basis of comparison, as unlike London and Paris, LA and SF have had multiple busy overland links for a couple of centuries, rather than a single 15-year-old tunnel.

mike said...

@Observer Uh, the governor cannot "cancel" Prop 1A (2008) and/or redirect funds to other projects any more than he can "cancel" Prop 13 and raise the assessment rates on real estate all across California. For better or worse, direct democracy overrides the governor's authority.

Observer said...

Mike, I didn't say cancel prop 1A. I said cancel the High Speed Rail Project.

Prop 1A is just authorization for bond funds - not a requirement to do the project.

Andrew and Annonymous - Good Answers! You are excellent students of Kopp/Diridon school of 'uhhh, I got nuthin'

Alon Levy said...

Andrew: trains cost so much less than cars that they won't be enough to stave off massive layoffs at GM. A full-length high-speed train costs about $50 million. Even if traffic is so high that 80 full-length trains are needed, the total volume of the order will be $4 billion, which is the amount of money GM loses every two months.

Alon Levy said...

Observer: the reason they're dismissive is that the argument peddled by Stop This Train had been refuted, over and over. The same irritable behavior is common on science blogs that have commenters who believe in creationism, climate change denial, or scientific racism.

Bianca said...

Observer, with the results of the special election, should the Governor cancel all highway projects? Those cost money too. And if we don't build HSR, how are we going to cope with a growing population? Our roads are clogged, and our airports are at capacity. Doing nothing is not an option. HSR isn't cheap, but it's not as if the alternative is spending $0. People who call HSR a "boondoggle" tend to overlook the fact that all transportation systems in this country (highways, air travel as well as passenger rail) are taxpayer subsidized.

When oil gets back up to $150/barrel (and it surely will), Californians will be looking to transportation alternatives, and HSR will be an important part of that. And HSR will be enormously stimulative to the state's economy, creating a lot of jobs that can't be outsourced.

Observer said...

Discussion of the NEW information that all of California's budget 'fix' measures were defeated last night, which will kick the state into massive spending cut frenzy - which should be a slam dunk for cancelling HSR..
That's been refuted? Really?

C'mon, they're just pissy cuz CA government is about to go on a starvation diet - and the citizens and politicians across the board will NEVER allow them to spend $ on high speed rail while they slash services, steal from cities budgets, cut weeks out of the school year, lay off fire fighters, cancel road and levy repairs, and so much more.

Anon- by the way, job creation? Lots of things create jobs - like schools, like fire departments, road construction - those are all going to be led to the slaughter now - why should temporary HSR jobs (for foreign train engineers, and foreign train manufactuers no less) be so sacred for Californians?

Anonymous said...

Observer says

"Does he have any choice as they are now going to be forced to cut multi-billions in spending?


If only this were a possibility. Right now Sacramento is gog gog over getting Federal funds --- its free money the state must grab.

So the CHSRA will get its funding, although a report I just read says, they cut out the international travel budget (junkets???) from their request and will only now approve 1/2 the funds, until next Jan., at which time the Authority must come up with a "real" business plan with "real" ridership numbers.

At least there is some oversight taking place.

Alon Levy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alon Levy said...

That's been refuted? Really?

Not that, but the idea that CAHSR will get low ridership because Wendell Cox says it will.

The budget cuts mean less state money for HSR in the next 3 years, but in that timeframe Prop 1A bonds will be more than enough to cover costs. Given a competent manager overseeing funds the HSRA shouldn't have a problem getting the money it needs.

Matt said...

Observer, the amount of money spend on train sets will be so little compared to the overall cost of the project it is not worth arguing who makes them. The engineering will be done by domestic civil engineers, perhaps with a few foreign advisors. And all the building of the line will be domestic construction workers. There will be thousands of permanent jobs created once the line begins to operate.

Readers of this blog are not dumb enough to believe your lies.

jim said...

This is a very good article about how the airlines are facing what the railroads faced decdes ago - and how both should have behaved in order to succeed.
from usa today: http://www.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/grossman/2009-05-19-airlines-future_N.htm


It says that rather than thinking in terms of "we are a transportation company" they should have looked at what their real purpose is - "bringing people together for meetings etc and should be focused more on partnerships that included more than one mode of transport, and offer everything needed to meet the customers needs rather than just the ticket.- I didnt say that very well but read the article... it makes good sense and the new rail should heed the advice even if the airlines won't

mike said...

@Observer It's the legislature that authorizes the bonds (regardless of whether the governor tells them he does or doesn't want the project), not the governor. Regardless, it won't happen, particularly because doing so would torpedo the state's ability to get billions of dollars from the high speed portion of the stimulus act. Your suggestion holds for any of the billions of dollars of bond measures approved over the last decade. Those measures that, unlike Prop 1A (2008), do not attract matching stimulus funds would be first to go.

Alon Levy said...

Jim: it's an interesting article, but it misses what the railroads did and what some airlines have done. In the 1950s, some railroads retooled their operations toward heavy freight, where they still enjoy an advantage over road and air, and subsequently stayed in business. Nowadays, some airlines are already doing what the article suggests they should: Delta and American support high-speed rail in Texas to bring people to the major airports, Continental is codesharing with Amtrak, and Virgin is offering to operate its own HSR.

jim said...

@alon -- yes there si some effort in that direction I think the article suggests taking it even further. Amtrak does have the mtropolitan lounges ( ive never seen one so I don't know how good they are) but I think that and new rail for instance in california - should offer one stop business lounges/rental car/ trip planning/concierge/ code sharing/ packagaes/ hotel shuttles/ - every kind of partnership possbile - and just offer it but make it a seamless experience. Of course, that requires paying a full service staff, which most companies - now seem to think is a waste of money. At amtrak we are slowing being replaced by kiosks. Companies seem to think that you all prefer a glorified ATM and Voicemail system - to real people. I don't think you do 0 but management is under the impression that you are happy about not being able to find a real person to assist you. Our staff is cut to bare bones to the point we can't offer you help with your bags, answer the phone, or do much else. they want to force you to use those machines - and in fact have told us that if we dont get you to use the machines - that they will continue to cut jobs until you are forced ( due to increasingly long lines) to use them. hows that for customer service? sorry I just went on a rant but I thought you should know.

Observer said...

Ahhh, yes lets hurry up and get the federal funds.

You mean like getting a gift of down payment on a house from Dad, when you cant afford to make the monthly payments?

Maybe some growups somewhere will be smart enough to figure out that the 'free' down payment that the feds are offering on CHSR does nothing but get CA into a committment we cant afford.

And... once you go ahead and take that generous down payment gift from Dad, then botch up the monthly payments, and get the house foreclosed - do you go back in three years and say Uhhh Excuse me Dad, can I have another $80K for a downpayment on another house - yes sorry I pissed away your last 80K, but this time I'll do better? Go ahead and try that - that'll work. You think you get to dip at the federal well unlimited number of times - no matter how f'd up your program is?

(Oh - and the thousands of permanent jobs created? - a) if the state of california can afford to pay anyone b) haven't you been paying attention - this replaces the auto and airline industry (ha). If you believe their garbage lies - the jobs are a net wash.)

Ob said...

Heard the state controller this afternoon on KGO, he made a perfect comment (paraphrasing); Debt is like the crack cocaine of managing the budget. The state needs to stop borrowing.

Mike, again, not talking about cancelling measure 1A (the authorization for the right to sell bonds to fund HSR), I'm talking about cancelling the whole program, which negates the entire need for funding.

Yes, I'm going to enjoy watching the legislature try to approve bond funding for the high speed rail program in the same breath that they lay off 10,000 teachers and firefighters.

mike said...

@Observer You are confusing theoretical arguments with political realities. Of course we know that you personally oppose HSR. And there likely exist some legislators that share your opinion. But very few of them are going to take an action that would deprive the state of eligibility for billions of dollar of stimulus funds. Not gonna happen.

At any rate, if you really believe the governor is going to cancel the project (ignoring the fact that the bond authorization is done by the legislature, not the governor), then you must believe that the Peninsula cities should drop any opposition to Caltrain corridor improvements ASAP. Not point in wasting taxpayer dollars on lawyers and citizens time on meetings if the only point is to oppose a project that won't happen anyway!

mike said...

@Observer Please explain how canceling the sale of bonds several years from now, which will then be repaid over a 30-40 year span after that, will prevent the layoffs of teachers and firefighters today?

I don't agree with the widespread use of debt financing during non-recessionary times (though infrastructure is a case in which it often makes sense). But I'm smart enough to understand why it's popular. The costs are not paid now, they are paid later. Thus canceling the issuance of bonds today does little to help the fiscal situation today (unless the bonding capacity can be redirected to other uses, which of course it cannot under state law).

It does reduce the total sum of interest and principal payments many years down the road. But today's governor and legislators don't care much about that...they'll all be gone from term limits by then anyway.

Andre Peretti said...

The HSR opponents have a habit of comparing figures that can't be compared. Using Eurostar's ridership to discredit CHRA's previsions is dishonest. Eurostar is an international line linking two cities with different languages and civilisations. How many Parisians have relatives to visit in London?
The Cato institute uses the official statistics showing that private car ownership is the same in France and the US, but they omit to precise that they don't include SUVs and pickups which are counted as trucks in both countries. And France has far fewer pickups and SUVs than the US.
To prove the Shinkansen is a failure they quote statistics showing that car ownership has grown far more than train ridership. They forget to say that when the Shinkansen was launched, the Japanese car industry was in its infancy and few people owned cars.
These people know how to put right figures to a wrong use, with some success if I judge from the number of bloggers who quote them.

Observer said...

MIke, Yes. You are correct. I Caltrain should drop any ideas for caltrain improvements until the state (or some private investors if some so stupid would step forward) can afford to pay for it. And that most certainly is not now. I do not think Peninsulan's should drop opposition, because if they do not oppose these so called "improvements" then no one will. Why would Peninsula's drop oppositino and put the fox in charge of the hen house?

As for borrowing now to be paid back later - yes great idea. And that's exactly the snake that's come back to bite California now.

They've been operatin without a balanced budget since 1997 (per State controller on KGO this afternoon, instead using gimicks, and loans that have allowed them to spend outside their means. Now we are where we are today.

And basically, the shit has hit the fan. He explained quite eloquently that the borrowing is no longer working because the rates are going to be too high, costing more and more millions in interest payments, which further erodes the ability of state to provide services.

Its a vicious cycle, and California has finally churned itself into butter.

Now, since you don't give a crap about anything but your precious HSR getting done - you OBVIOUSLY think California should keep on doing more of the same.

And I suppose you keep opening credit cards to pay your mortgage too?

Bianca said...

I do not think Peninsulan's should drop opposition, because if they do not oppose these so called "improvements" then no one will.

Just to clarify, Observer, are you opposed to grade separation and electrification in general, or are you just opposed to HSR?

Since we are talking budget, at some point we are going to have to take a clear-eyed look at Prop 13. We moved into our house in 2007. There's a house around the corner, similar sized house on a similar sized lot, hasn't changed hands since 1977. We pay over 14 times more property tax than our neighbors. 14X! Do we resent the hell out of it? You bet. But when I hear people say we can't afford to spend any money on anything, when I consider the condition of California schools, it seems to me that Prop 13 has a lot to do with it.

Observer said...

Mike - why do you keep repeating that the bonds are authorized by the legislature. So what? I'm talking about cancelling the program - NOT THE BONDs. If the program is cancelled - the legislature won't get any requests for bonds to authorize.

Their permission to authorize bonds can stay in tact - fine. But if the lights are turned out, whos going to request those bonds? For what?

See what I'm saying here is the grownups (if there are any in Sacramento), say HEY, LETS NOT SPEND ANY MONEY WE CANT AFFORD, so they turn off the lights at CHRSA HQ, and then no one needs to go ask for a loan to keep the lights on.

And they don't want to turn down the chance to get a billion from feds - to get themselves into hot water for 40 Billion? Again, any grownups here?

Anonymous said...

Isn't the legislation written such that matching funding is needed before the bonds can be sold? So if the fed are offering 1 billion, only 1 billion worth of bonds can be sold, and Kopp/Diridon get their SF-SJ line, a nice monumental San Jose Diridon Station and San Francisco Quentin Kopp Transbay Terminal, and then the program just quietly fizzles out as they lose interest. Realistically, I'm not sure it will even get that far. It's probably going to fizzle out after they spend millions on environmental studies and design work. There's also, for lack of a better way to put it, the issue of Kopp and Diridon's continued survival. Diridon is 70, and Kopp is 81. What happens when they're gone?

Spokker said...

"See what I'm saying here is the grownups (if there are any in Sacramento), say HEY, LETS NOT SPEND ANY MONEY WE CANT AFFORD, so they turn off the lights at CHRSA HQ, and then no one needs to go ask for a loan to keep the lights on."

Grownups who read Keynes would spend more in a recession to stimulate the economy. California's cuts to vital programs are only going to send us deeper into oblivion. Strategic cuts are okay, but cutting just to cut is probably going to hurt more than it helps.

While tax cuts also stimulate the economy, government spending has more bang for your buck. Carefully targeted tax hikes on those who can handle it (which is subjective, but I guess corporations and high income earners), might help more than it would hurt as long as government spending is higher.

And there's budget reform, repealing prop 13, and legalizing marijuana, blah blah blah.

mike said...

@Observer You have utterly confused normative statements (what one believes should happen) and positive statements (what one believes will happen). And not just my positive vs normative statements, but even your own positive vs normative statements...you can't keep track of which is which. Not only are your points completely orthogonal (unrelated) to what I was saying, but they even contradict your own previous claims. (E.g., on the one hand you think there is no chance that the legislature will authorize HSR money if teachers are getting cut, but at the same time you claim "Peninsulan's [sic] should [not] drop opposition, because if they do not oppose these so called 'improvements' then no one will.")

At this point I don't know how to help you out of the logical knots that you have tied yourself up in. I am sorry.

Alon Levy said...

Andre: I believe the numbers I'm using include all vehicles. The US has 765 vehicles per 1,000 people, France 491. I have no idea what numbers Cox and O'Toole use...

NONIMBYS said...

Observer...go back to your little
Palo Alto online..and cry

Andrew said...

@Andre Peretti:

From my own experience here in Japan: I live in the rural city of Tokushima, which does indeed have a high rate of car ownership. But even here, JR diesel commuter trains run hourly and bicycle usage is very high. Compare that with my hometown of Santa Barbara, California, which gets six Amtrak trains per day and they only people who use bikes are mostly kids and enthusiasts.

As far as the bus system goes, frequency is about the same but they buses here cover a wider surface area.

trainsintokyo said...

Plus Tokushima, like many other cities in Japan, has multiple companies offering local bus service as well as highway bus service to other major cities.

Dan S said...

My personal opinion is that Sacramento will be very happy to continue the HSR project even in light of their fiscal disaster because it will mean lots of new jobs, via bonds that are already authorized, and it has the ability to capture so many federal dollars. Basically, the financing for the project will come from the feds and from future debt-servicing payments, neither of which are short-term pressures on the budget. I think all politicians want to create jobs from free money if they can, especially in the current economic climate. Witness the Republicans across the country who can't even turn down the possibility of HSR money right now.

Maybe someone should track down Bobby Jindal and ask him if he would take HSR money now? Well, maybe he has the gumption (and Presidential aspirations) to decline!

I'm also a strong advocate for governmental deficit spending in times of recession. Keynsian economics might be old-school, but the new-school stuff isn't looking so smart right about now, is it?


While we're thinking about Sacramento's problems, I would suggest thinking about the super-majority currently required to pass a budget. I know Californians are extremely un-trusting of their politicians, but consider the effects of requiring more than a 50% vote -- an organized minority can consistently derail the creation of a budget that represents a majority of the wishes of California's voters. True, this forces the legislators to compromise with each other, but it also inhibits the majority to effectively represent their constituents, and the people who pay are the hard-working Californians whose jobs are furloughed, paychecks are delayed, and services are cut as this system works to its inevitable conclusion year after year.

If we just let them do their job, we could vote them out of office if we didn't like the results. Instead, we tie their hands and then complain that they do a terrible job. I think much of the blame lies in the California voters who enacted the current system.

Observer said...

I'm a big believer government spending in recession as well. And there are PLENTY of infrastructure needs in the state, that are fundamental basics, that should be at the front of the handout line. Decrepit schools, levies, resevoirs, power infrastructure comes to mind for starters.

Spokker said...

Transportation is just as important as any of those things.

To think, we have regressed into a developmental country state, and have to worry about how we are going to fund primary education. It's a ridiculous state of affairs.

jim said...

The financial problems in california are to be laid directly at the feet of californians. They insist on using the ballot box to make budget decisions. They insist on a high level of services and other perks. yet they refuse to vote to pay for any of the things they want. You can't have it both ways. Either we will live in a nice modern state, or we will live in a shithole like texas or any other low tax state. This is the 8th largest economy in the world. Managed properly, we should all have a standard of living like Sweden. YOu can not continue to let voters control the budget using the ballot box. Too many things are lock in - like that ridiculous education budget that gobbles up all the money like a black hole while schools turn out nothing but a generation of ipod zombies. Why the hell am I paying for that? Get rid of the proposition process. have you been to the mall lately and taken a good look at the folks, are these the people you trust with the worlds 8th largest economy? California residents HAVE to start paying the real cost of running this state. Levees, roads, transit, fire, parks, and everything else that we enjoy - even as things deteriorate into disrepair. The politicians in Sacramento in the meantime need to put their foot down once and for all when it comes to the feds. We are sick and tired if the lax border control. We are sick and tired of paying for third world illegal criminals clogging our prisons at great cost. We are sick and tired of not only not getting our money's worth from Washington while we continue to foot the bill for Washington's failures. Enough is enough. We are getting screwed so badly and without lube by the aforementioned parties that now we are going to have to cut our own jobs and pay for our own people resulting in fewer services and an even lower standard of living. We should be able to snap our fingers and finance a bullet train but instead we are pissing money down a thrid world rat hole while in Washington, our reps are too busy selling what's left of our state and country down the Amazon river thank you very much Its not gonna go on much longer as you see by yesterdays elections everyone is fed up. hang a closed sign on california, run the people outta here who don't belong and tell the ones who stay they'd better snap out of it and start holding the politicians accountable or get rid of them.

Alon Levy said...

We are sick and tired of paying for third world illegal criminals clogging our prisons at great cost.

Illegal immigrants commit crime at the same rate as everyone else. Possibly even lower - in Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been specifically targeting illegal immigrants for years, but at the end illegal immigrants still get arrested at the same rate as citizens. It turns out that people who'll do everything to get a sub-minimum wage job aren't the type that's going to rob banks.

jim said...

nevertheless california prisons are full of them at cost to us rather than the feds - and I understand the state is finally addressing this with the feds. Theyshould be removed and dropped on the doorstep of congress to pay for. We are going to have to start making drastic cuts in cali - and there's no way we are gonna take cuts for citizens while we keep paying for illegals.

Alon Levy said...

If you're arguing for repealing California's three strikes law, I'm with you all the way. You're just going to have to sell it to conservatives who think that opposing torturing jaywalkers makes you soft on crime.

jim said...

I am arguing for taking every person who is currently incarcerated in california jails and prisons who is not a legal united states citizen - our of jail and out of prison and turning them over the federal authorities. i am arguing for cutting all education, health and welfare services to anyone sho is not a US citizen and I am arguing for real border enforcement with the total cost billed to the US government. Why is my disabled mother taking a cut in funds to buy dog food for her guide dog while maria is popping out babies at my expense?

jim said...

Cost of illegals to California $10.5 billion
Analysis shows burden of native-born residents $1,183 per household
© 2009 WorldNetDaily.com
An analysis of recent census data indicates that the presence of illegal aliens in California is costing the state's taxpayers more than*** $10.5 billion per year for education, medical care and incarceration.
The report, written by the Federation of American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, states that even if the tax contributions of illegal aliens are subtracted, state government outlays still amount to nearly $9 billion a year.

The $10.5 billion figure translates into a burden to native-born residents of $1,183 per household.+++++++

Thats a grand a month that could be going to real Californians for the services we used to enjoy but can no longer afford. ten billion a year - would erase half our current budget problem. ten billion a year would complete the HSR in 4 years. considering the deep cuts we are about to have in california - how many peoples jobs could have been saved with the ten billion? how many cuts to seniors and the disabled could have been avoided with that 10 billion. people I know are going to lose jobs and services becuase we are spending money on people who don't have any rightful claim to our tax dollars. ten billion dollars is a lot of money.

jim said...

you can NOT justify it.

Alon Levy said...

World Net Daily? Are you fucking kidding me? That outfit makes Bill O'Reilly look liberal. They carry Ann Coulter, for fuck's sake.

jim said...

Even if its was only 5 billion - thats still 5 billion too much - and why on earth would you advocate for spending money on them when the money should be spent on the taxpayers who foot the bills? That money is for us not them. what do you gain by being in favor of spending my money on people who are here illegally when it could be spent on those of us who are actually entitled to it? i mean Im a liberal democrat but I sure don't want my tax dollars being wasted on people who dont deserve it. i ahve nothing to gain and unlike too many other liberals Im not worried about being nice to them so I can into heaven in spite of the fact that I'm otherwise amoral.

jim said...

There is no way you can justify to any california taxpayer. Cuts are coming. billions in cuts to californians while we pis away money on lawbreakers. i want to hear you justify that to seniors who are getting their medical cut. go ahead im listening.

Alon Levy said...

Illegal immigrants pay taxes, too.

jim said...

right. oh pease - they are a huge drain period- you tell my lbind mom who has worked for 50 years waiting tables that she has to give up food for her dog so that maria who made it over the border in time to give birth can have here baby paid for.

Anonymous said...

jim: you're not a liberal democrat. Well, you may be a Democrat, but you're a conservative through and through, and a particularly vile racist and xenophobic sort at that. Sadly it's not too uncommon for california "liberals" to be like that, but I wish you guys would just admit it to yourselves!

Anyhow, the problems of California's prisons probably have more to do with the power of the prison-guard and law-enforcement union lobbies than with any actual crimes. As a suggestion, why not legalize marijuana: you get a nice new stream of tax revenue, and suddenly much emptier jails. Of course, that revenue is currently going to the Mexican cartels instead, and they won't be too happy about losing that money. So remember, folks: if you oppose legalizing marijuana, you're on the side of the mexican drug cartels. And you don't want to be on their side, now do you?

Spokker said...

I find jim's posts to be entertaining but he does not speak for all of us.

Alon Levy said...

Anon: strictly speaking, you don't even need to legalize. Just drop the war on drugs. When your country ranks first in the world in number of prisoners per capita, without having a lower crime rate than comparable countries, something is clearly wrong.

jim said...

O most certainly am not a racist. You aren't gonna pull that on me sweetheart. I understand how tragic those folks lives can be, I love the latinos for sure. I in fact out of my many many friends only have two white freinds. whom I only hang out with two or three times a year. Eveyone else I hang with a minority. If I were racist I wouldn't be living in san francisco. Im asick and tired of you folks who think you are gonna make me cower by thriowing the racist word around. Its BS. Im not talking about PEOPEL BREAKING THE LAW - whatever country they came from - in cli that happens to be south of the border more than any other place. I am a liberal dem. I vote for all tax increases, I vote for all social programs, and I understand fully how libs have gone off the deep end. we CAN NOT AFFORD TO KEEP DOING THIS do you get that??? 21 billion in the hole? CUTS ARE COMING so SNAP OUT OF IT people. this isnt a joke. cuts are coming and Ill be damned if Im gonna go without so that lawbreakers can have theirs. So tell me boys and girls, have you all made your lists of where the 21 billion in cuts are going to be? I want to hear what you are gonna cut in order to keep providing services to illegals.

jim said...

you can post the list right here:
Ill get you started - lets see, we can cut salaries for working californians like firefighters. Why shoudl firefighters make a good living when there are illegals going without medical care? We can cut medical benefits to actual citizens of california and use the difference to fund medical for illegal aliens. we can cut funding to disabled vets, you know , and people who are issing arms and legs and so forth, after all we have to share with neighboring countries since we wouldn't want them to deal with their own problems. Oh I know, lets increase class sizes in the k-12 and cut teachers salaries so that we can hold up everyones educational progress while we try to teach lawbreaker's kids. I mean its ludicrous - i want to see you suggest these things to the average californian. They are fed up. Im just the messenger trying to get you to snap out of it. ok now go ahead with that list of whose livelihood you want to cut back so we can take care of the rest of the world: Ill wait here while you get a pencil and paper....

jim said...

"Im not talking about PEOPEL BREAKING THE LAW" typo - I AM talking about people breaking the law. ..... and let me add this... ok so I go to france right. find out its totally better there, I love the and stuff, then my passport or whatever expires and its time to come home. I don't want to come home. France is way better than my country back home. SO, I stay, illegally - of course I have to find work so I find and employer who helps me out and looks the toher way -- the employer then abuses me, takes full advantage, threatens to have me deported and stuff - plus I got a fake number, so they are not onloy taking those crazy french taxes out of my check, but my employer is taking a cut too, poor me - now im "forced to live in the shadows of french society. I'm totally pissed. I mean how dare they do this to me just because I snuck in and broke the laws of their country. Why should I have to suffer the unpleasant consequences of my actions? that is sooo not fair Ill show them though - Im gonna get my american flag out and go marching down the street - hootin' and hollerain' about how great my county is and Im gonna demand that those mean old frenchies, give me what I want or else Im not gonna break into their country any more.. MORAL of the story - if the illegals are paying taxes, tough titties. They should have thought about that before they did what they did.

Alon Levy said...

Rosa Parks violated the law, too. So what? It was a racist law. The same is true for immigration law - a skilled person takes about 15 years to naturalize; an unskilled person can't even immigrate legally, at all.

jim said...

Rosa Parks was a US citizen exercising her rights as a US citizen to change the laws of her country. And why are you so concerned about other countries and not your own? This kind of adherence to liberal dogma at all costs is what give liberals a bad name. You need to be support policies the benefit you not policies that create a host of problems. and again I ask, who's stuff are you gonna cut so that you can keep paying for stuff for illegal aliens? You can't get around answering that question because that question is what the bottom line comes down to. Every dollar yo spend on the cheaters is a dollar your taking away from people who deserve it, earned it, and paid d for it. how will you explain that to them?

jim said...

If it takes 15 years then it takes 15 years. I want to be a french citizen too, and I was born there, and I still can't do it. So what do I do? just say fuck it and break the law? No. We don't get everything we want. i want my paychecks a year in advance too and penthouse unit at One Rincon but I can't have that either. I'm stuck here so I make the best of it. I don't go breaking the law in order to get what I want. Immigration law is not racist law, immigration law is there to keep a reasonable amount of control over our borders, security, economy, and most importantly, our health. Countries have the right to make their own law. What do you suppose would happen to me if I got caught living south of the border without docs.?

Anonymous said...

jim, I'm not trying to make you cower, I'm just pointing out something that, at least to me, seems to be a fact. You've made statements in the past that had very definite racist subtexts, and in most cases, "illegals" is just code for "mexicans". And you just don't like people who are "not from around here".

As for immigration law not being racist law: we can argue about today's law, but historically, immigration law was very explicitly racist, for example the Asian Exclusion Act, targeted at keeping out the undesirable inferior races. Ultimately, though, it's not about liberal vs. conservative, it's about whether there are fundamental rights that trump any law, such as the right to exist, or the freedom of movement. The good old Classical Liberal tradition had the goal of abolishing of all privilege: being born on the right side of an imaginary line certainly carries a huge amount of privilege with it, and we need to take a good hard look at this.

And speaking of breaking the law, have you ever consumed any illegal drugs, jim? I'm going to guess that as a san francisco liberal, you probably did at some point, or some of your friends did. Why haven't you done the right thing and turned yourself (or your friends) in to the authorities?

jim said...

What I do as a US citizen is my business in the US. and you can argue your hoity toity kumbaya arguments all you want but you still aren't anser the question of who's stuff you are going to cut so that we can pay to give services and benefits to non us citizens? If puppies and kittens fell from the sky every spring and our currency was the golden poppy perhaps things would be different. I don't have any problem whatsoever with mexicans or any other latino person or culture. If it takes fifteen years to get in the right way then you either wait the fifiteen years or you work on reforming the system so we can let people in faster, but legally so we can do thier background checks health checks, and document them so that they won't get screwed over. All you are doing by letting folks in illegally is setting up a system of exploitation. If you really gave a damn about these people you would put a stop to illegal border crossings. In the meantime Id still like you to explain who's citizens mediCAL your gonna cut so you can keep paying for non citizens. What teachers are gonna be laid off and who's class sizes are gonna increase, so that we can keep footing the bill for people who are here illegally. Those are the real questions. I don't care who moves here as long they do it legally. 21 billion in cuts folks. How do you think californians are gonna feel when the shit hits the fan and they start looking at who is getting what social benefits.

jim said...

and the only reason I use the language I use is because I don't need to be politically correct. what I need to do is tell the truth. So long as the right and left in the country continue to stick firmly to their respective dogmas regardless of the reality that stares them in the face, we will be doing ourselves a disservice. I'm even for amnesty, but only on the condition that the border be seriously - as in a wall a mote and a laser beams and machine guns - sealed after that. The drugs, guns, criminals, exploited poor people, the folks that die in the back of locked trailer truck, the ones who die in the desert, who are exploited by coyotes, and then by businesses here at home, - that is all a result of lax border patrol. That IS what puts people into the shadows to begin with. I'll even be willing to have an open boder as long is workd both ways. If americans can buy up mexico's real esate and I can come and go at will without a passport then fine. but thats not whats happening now is it.

Bianca said...

We're wildly off-topic, here, but the whole subject of whether undocumented immigrants consume more in services than they contribute in taxes has been studied repeatedly.

Illegal Immigration: Numbers, Benefits, and Costs in California: "taxes paid by immigrants exceeded the cost of providing public services to them, but that the federal government got the surplus of taxes over expenditures, and local governments had deficits."

jet said...

Even Canada won't let an additional amtrak train cross the border unless the US coughs up the money to cover the burden. And again, as for the tax burden - who pays what - the fact that illegals are paying taxes is their own fault. They put themselves into that situation.

Anonymous said...

jim, from your dodging of the question, I take it that it really isn't law-abindingness that you care about. You care about people "not from around here" (whether not from the US or not from SF) somehow affecting your life. Aside from all that, though, I agree with your point that something needs to be done about the huge mess the state is in, and that this is going to require a much more serious and radical effort than those in power have managed to produce so far.

Also, jim, you have a lot of good things to say, and I honestly prefer your occasionally controversial opinions to other commeters' descriptions of their bodily functions.

jim said...

well, Us citizens can break their own laws, and may or may not suffer the consequences, but illegal aliens don't have that luxury. They can do it in their own country but not here. What I care about is my money and my job and my benefits. I don't want to pay for them and I don't want them putting downward pressure on american wages and I don't want legal citizens going without because illegals are slurping up part of the pie that isn't theirs. You have to have a sense of self preservation if you have any sense of self worth at all. The prison guards and firemen and cops deserve every public penny they get. The illegals are entitled to none of it. sI say get them in here legally and then unionize them. But we can't get them on board if they are cheating. The US has had influence over every nation on earth and yet be are dicked around by this third world next door neighbor. It begs the question... what's really going on? With the stroke of a pen, we could have mexico by the balls. Either they start writing checks, start handing over oil and real estate, or they can deal with our military. instead, we have the average american footing the bill, the average mexican living in poverty, and an immigration system that runs on abuse. I don't care how they fix it, Im saying I don't want to pay for it. They need to get their shit together and solve some of their own problems. It isn't my responsibility to do it.. There is indeed privilege with being born on the right side of an imaginary line. To bad so sad. Now if mexico for instance, want to make some deals fine. but I want to know what's in it for me. i used to vacation down there. I stopped giving them my dollars though now that things have gotten worse. Time for them to snap out of it, step up and take some responsibility for their own mess. Everyone else does. And for what its worth,aside from the little punks who keep tagging the bathroom wall ( im gonna drown them in the bay if I catch one them) I find that the latins are a lot more polite than those pushy little asian ladies who always shove their way onto muni. And the brazilians are just plain hot. They can stay.

jim said...

but thanks for the nice words. Im sure you agree that it helps to take a different look at things. I want the train, but I do see the nimby's side of things too. Of course , push come to shove, ill stick to what benefits me not them.

Anonymous said...

jim, what wonderfully refreshing honesty in that last sentence. If only the NIMBYs were so honest about their motivations! Anyhow, my final thought on the state budget is that we need to stop measuring things like education and public safety by the inputs, that is, by the amount of money spent on them. That way lies horrendous inefficiency as piles of textbooks are bought then discarded unopened years later, and as entrenched employees get all the benefits and job security while the young ones get neither.

jim said...

No doubt there is waste - at every level. All state agencies are going to have to look at ways to absorb cuts without laying people off. But 21 billion - now they're waying 24 billion - is going to be insurmountable. Californians have said they will not pay any more taxes. So the cuts, deep cuts are coming. and lets face it, people are going to put their own interests and those of their families ahead of any one elses.