Friday, August 21, 2009

The New York Times' Second Punch on HSR

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

Yesterday we looked at Edward Glaeser's silly attack on HSR in the New York Times' Economix Blog. Today we have another attack on HSR in the New York Times - this time from Eric Morris at the Freakonomics Blog. Ryan Avent summed it up well via Twitter:

Eric Morris closes HSR series by referring readers to Randal O'Toole. You know, in case you thought he and Glaeser were aiming for an honest critique.

Sure enough:

Certainly neither Glaeser nor I pretend to have the last word on this topic. We are looking to start some debate, not finish it. So if you want to learn more on the pros of true HSR, check out the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s site, or this report for the views of an articulate critic, the Cato Institute’s Randall O’Toole.

Either Morris is joking or is even more in the tank against HSR than we ever thought. Randall O'Toole as a credible source on passenger trains?!?! This is the same guy who thinks riding a train is more harmful than driving an SUV and whose difficulties with facts and evidence has been well documented.

But it's not just the company Morris keeps that damns his blog post. Morris has a rather interesting justification for his work on HSR planning:

I have extensive experience planning, designing, constructing, financing, and operating HSR networks; these have spanned the nation and have been terrifically elegant, with state-of-the-art locomotive technology and thousands of miles of flat, straight track to keep speeds high.

However, those HSR systems were built from electricity, not steel. And while the HSR currently being proposed will cost tens of billions, the cost of my HSR network was comparatively modest: perhaps $30 in fixed costs for the purchase of the computer game Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon, plus negligible variable costs for the power to run my computer and depreciation on my mouse button. The sum total of the utility I experienced from this kind of HSR paid for those costs many times over.

That's like saying I can run a street gang because I played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. How ridiculous do economics bloggers for the NYT not named Paul Krugman have to get before we stop taking them seriously?

The primary problem that afflicts Morris's attack on HSR is the exact same problem that afflicted Edward Glaeser's articles as well: they persistently refuse to examine HSR costs in context:

Costs in the real world are quite different. HSR is an exciting idea, and if we could make it appear by magic wand it’d be a terrific addition to our transportation network. But everything has a price, and the way things currently stand, the projected costs look like they outweigh the benefits. If the thought of some ominous budget numbers lurking on a piece of paper in far-off Washington doesn’t move you, consider the opportunity costs of this spending, in terms of health care, education, the economy, defense, or a (more effective) method of slowing global warming. Or if you want to keep the money in the realm of transportation, it could go to address what I consider to be the more serious problem we are facing: moving people around within our cities, not between them.

There are innumerable flaws with this analysis, which is actually the heart of Morris's post. Morris claims to speak of opportunity cost, but where is the estimate of how much it will take to expand roads and airports in California to handle the passenger loads that HSR will handle? Estimates for that range from $80 billion to $160 billion. But nobody aside from Morris Brown thinks California HSR will approach even the lower range of that estimate.

Morris appears to think that air travel will continue to remain cheap, plentiful and affordable. A kind of perpetual 2007. Last year we talked quite a bit about the airline crisis - how rising oil prices have jeopardized the easy air travel that we have come to expect here in the US. Airports in smaller cities have begun bribing airlines to maintain service, and cities like Fresno and Bakersfield have struggled to maintain the airline service they still have.

For Morris to basically ignore the problems of the airlines he has to ignore the all-important question of whether oil prices will remain at the same price they're at now. There is ample reason to believe they will not. Even during a severe recession gas costs at least $3/gal across most of California, the threshold that once crossed in 2006 helped burst the housing bubble. Once growth resumes, whenever that might be, oil prices are widely expected to rise again, especially considering the steady increase in global demand.

HSR is not the same as ongoing expenditures for health care or education. Like the Golden Gate Bridge or the Shasta Dam, it is a piece of infrastructure that enables economic activity to continue and grow well into the future. It enables health care and education spending to continue, rather than become strangled by gridlock.

And yes, Eric Morris, HSR will help intracity transportation just as it will provide intercity transportation. In California HSR will be used by commuters within regions just as it will be used by commuters between regions. The HSR route will serve as a transit spine for the state, with its key nodes (SF Transbay, SJ Diridon, LA Union Station) becoming the centerpieces of local rail. HSR is a rising tide that lifts all transportation boats.

Unfortunately, Morris is so in thrall to Randall O'Toole's anti-rail jihad that he won't stop to consider these aspects. Instead he uses the same arbitrarily limited and therefore insufficient scope to mislead readers about the true costs of projects. The Golden Gate Bridge might not have penciled out in the first 5 years from its opening in 1937, but hardly anyone today would argue the Bay Area is better off without it. 30 years from now, when Californians travel around their state on high speed trains, they too will wonder why anyone thought building it was anything but a sensible and farsighted idea.

31 comments:

Rob Dawg said...

How much will it cost. how will we pay for it, when will it start service and where will it go?

There are undeniable merits to HSR just like there are unanswered questions. it isn't fair to tout the merits if you cannot answer the questions. I'll settle for any one of those four questions as a start.

Robert, face it. You wouldn't personally buy the most fabulous object in the world if you couldn't get those questions answered. Everyone in this nation will be on the hook for decades at least to fund CAHSR. Dismissing their vested interests in the manner you do serves no purpose.

Sam said...

Rob - how are those answers not being answered by CHSRA?

They have published cost estimates (can't do better than an estimate until it's built).

They have a published business plan for financing which considers several different scenarios. Some of the funding is already in place from prop 1A.

They have a published timetable of when service will start and a published map of where service will go.

All other states/regions that are now coming up with plans for HSR are answering all of your questions as they gain funding to do so. To suggest that your four questions are being ignored is at best willful ignorance. Perhaps you don't like the answers being given, but that's NOT the same thing as not answering the questions.

Rafael said...

Here's a couple of additional data points:

History of oil prices, 1970-2009, nominal and inflation-adjusted to 2008 dollars

Clearly visible is the impact of the supply side-shocks of 1973 (Arab-Israeli conflict) and 1979 (Iranian revolution) and, the brief peak in 1990 (Iraqi invasion of Kuwait). Also clearly visible is how oil prices remained fairly stable throughout the '90s before skyrocketing throughout the Bush 43 administration.

Things came to a head in the fall of 2008, but after a precipitous decline, prices have already rebounded to late 2007 levels.

US crude oil consumption as percentage of GDP, 1970-2009

The graph shows that the onset of US recessions over the past 37 years correlates more or less with total oil expenditures exceeding 4% of GDP. The 2001 recession was caused by the dotcom bubble, though it may have been triggered by sharply rising oil prices in the preceding year.


The author goes on to warn that policies designed to structurally destroy demand for oil cannot be too severe, as the US economy is apparently unable to accommodate a total oil expenditure increase in excess of 0.8% of GDP in a single year. The natural dynamics of the oil markets threaten to dwarf that, especially given that investment in new upstream capacity has lagged well behind demand growth.

(Source: Oil: What Price Can America Afford? by Steven Koppits, Managing Director of NY-based energy business analysis firm Douglas-Westwood)

While there's no risk that oil will literally run out anytime soon, prices may have to rise further still - permanently - to raise supply capacity to exceed demand by enough to avoid another extreme run-up in prices. On current trends, spare capacity could get really tight again in the 2013 timeframe.

It seems the era of cheap oil is already well and truly over. Having tried and failed to bring Iraq's oil fields under its direct control, the US must now adopt policies and technologies designed to destroy structural demand for oil to end the current recession. It has done so before, in the early 1980s.

Consumers are beginning to do their part by dumping their old SUVs in favor of new, lighter compact cars with smaller, more efficient engines. Plug-in hybrid and purely electric cars will also feature be part of the solution, but total cost of ownership and range limitations mean they will struggle to grow market share.

More electric commuter trains and electric bicycles will both help families cut down on the number of cars they have to own and operate. In particular, fewer seniors and fewer high school/college students will be able to afford their own sets of wheels.

HSR will make its contribution by providing an alternative to long car drives and short-hop flights, both of which consume copious amount of oil-based fuel.

Whether the additional electricity should be generated using coal, gas or renewables is a separate question related primarily to the climate debate.

jim said...

This idea that pops up that refers to ,pmey being better spent on B instead of A, ( within cities rather than intercity for instance) is typical right wing bullshit. These rightist institutes aren't now and never have been concerned with transit within cities. This tactic is used on every issue they never cared about, the minute someone proposes a solution, out comes the "oh no let's not do that, wouldn't it be better to do -insert item not currently under discussion that they never cared about anyway-- " remarks. as if we don't know what they are doing. Immoral right wing neo con hypocrites should be tied to a sawhorse, bound gagged and given what they like and the institutions that house them should be burned to the ground.

and note to the new york times on behalf of californians everywhere. go fuck yourselves you envious little punks.

pardon my french but I am sick to death of hearing this shit from these people. Its insulting that they think we we're that stupid.

just my view said...

When well respected writers like Glaeser and Morris conclude that HSR is really not worth the cost, just remember they were not looking at the California project.

The California project represents the worst kind of HSR project. It has been planned by politicians whose goal is not providing an efficient passenger service, but rather a project that seeks to satisfy the political interests of a limited number of stakeholders and along the way make a ton of money for various parties.

As reported before the State Senate T&H committee last years, Joseph Vranich, a recognized HSR expert, stated this project was the worst planned he had ever seen and he worried that it was going to give HSR systems everywhere a tainted reputation.

Recently I have read where they are saying, California is leading the way and showing the nation how HSR should be done. Well, what has been done thus far is a disaster.

I note with quite some interest that Obama's popularity has fallen drastically in the last couple of months; the honeymoon is over guys and gals. Just wait until the stimulus funds are allotted and the rest of the country senses that California has essentially been awarded a "golden earmark". It be the last one, let me assure you.

Rafael said...

@ just my view -

Glaeser and Morris may be respected in some quarters, but certainly not universally. Their recent articles on HSR are intellectually dishonest because they don't discuss the cost and risks associated with maintaining the oil-centric status quo in medium distance transportation.

As for Vranich, he's a libertarian with a major chip on his shoulder. It's obvious he's peeved he wasn't asked to lead or at least participate in planning the California system, so he's advocating that whatever money is available be spent on the NEC instead.

While I have no problem with a substantial upgrade in that corridor, there is no good reason why the US should not build multiple HSR systems in various parts of the country at the same time. There is in fact plenty of money to do so, it's just that it's being spent on - arguably less productive - military efforts and programs.

Anonymous said...

Just My View = idiocy at its finest. Nothing more to say about that garbage.
The only reason Obama's poll numbers are falling is because some Americans aren't patient enough to allow his policy's to work and the far-right continues to bombard the public with lies and untruth.

jim said...

@justmyview The California project represents the worst kind of HSR project. It has been planned by politicians whose goal is not providing an efficient passenger service, but rather a project that seeks to satisfy the political interests of a limited number of stakeholders and along the way make a ton of money for various parties

Actually its a very good design. those political interests, those are the millions of californians who live in 10 of the states largest cities (ten out of the top 15) or 11 of the 15 largest counties. representing a population of 24 million people 2 thirds of the states population.

as for making money. that's part of the point. remember, creating jobs, jobs for engineers, jobs for planners, for designers, jobs for manufacturers, construction jobs, white collar jobs, blue collar jobs, green collar jobs, all that money gets pumped right back into the state's economy.

What exactly is the problem with making money and bringing a quality transportation option and service within reach of two thirds of the states population?

jim said...

by the way. show me a transportation project in america that doesn't involve politics. politics are us, remember.

see the way it works is, this is called a ...d e m o c r a c y.... see, and people (that's us) sometimes get together and say "hey we should have a new transport option to serve the states growing population, in order to keep the people mobile. cuz we hate to sit still."

so then, the folks get together with the people who represent them and draw up a plan with maps and pictures and ideas and such, and they present that plan to, and proposition their neighbors on the ballot. "hey, you guys want this cool train thingy to come to your town so you can get to all these other cities and towns real easy and fast?"

then the neighbors, (fellow californians) vote and say "yeh, we like this plan let's do it!" and everyone says "hooray!"!

and then the folks who build big things like this get together and start working on the boring un glamourous nuts and bolts details of making it real.

its really quite simple. there's no hocus pocus, there's no vast conspiracy. it just california doing what it does. leading the nation.

now granted, in recent times, lots of sissies and crybabies and "Negative Nadines", "Say no Sams have moved in and they cry and hold their breath and stomp their feet and stuff. But don't pay any attention to them, once they can't hold their breath any longer they will run away to Portland and become addicted to heroine.

and so "justmyview" that's the story.

Anonymous said...

This Sunday, CBS television, is going to do a spot on "high Speed Rail Travel"

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/1998/07/09/sunday/main13562.shtml

It sounds like a real hype job for the CHSRA.

from:

http://apolloalliance.org/what%27s-new/chairman-angelides-talks-transportation-on-cbs-sunday-morning/

Phil Angelides talk about the need for smart growth and investments in high speed rail on CBS Sunday Morning. He talks about the long legislative history of trying to bring high-speed rail to California (and the U.S.), why the Apollo Alliance supports high-speed rail, and the costs and benefits of high-speed rail, both for the state and the country.

Angelides for those who don't know, was supposed to be a land owner near the now excluded Los Banos station. Whether he still owns lands there or elsewhere along the project line I don't know, but he has been a major supporter of the project. About 3 years ago he was advocating that the State's pension plans invest large amounts of their portfolios into this kind of infrastructure.

It certainly promises to be a promotional ad for the Authority. Only by watching will we know if any objections to the project will be heard.

jim said...

btw i was looking at some numbers and can we please put the high desert as "nowheresville " concept to rest. come to find out nearly half a million people live out there. 300k in palmdale lancaster and another 110k in nearby victorville, plus all the towns in between. I was thinking they were going there to plan for future growth, which Im sure they are, but it turns out theres already a huge population there. a lot bigger than the 280k in livermore, pleasanton, dublin and tracy combined.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

the issue isn't that there are already hundreds of thousands of people living in the Antelope Valley. It's that the high desert doesn't have enough water to support substantial population growth beyond that.

On past form, LA county will not be willing to constrain growth. There is every reason to believe it will use its considerable clout to coerce the the state to permit additional water to be pumped uphill to an elevation of 3000' or else, to divert it from rivers high up in the Sierras. It's not as if the southern Central Valley had any water to spare.

Population growth ought to be encouraged where the water already flows naturally, i.e. roughly the area between Merced and Sacramento. It should be discouraged in the High Desert.

Unfortunately, LAX can't expand so both Palmdale and Ontario will have to be developed into effective relief airports. In addition, the geology along shorter route via the Grapevine represents far greater tunneling risk.

jim said...

rafael, that desert is gonna grow. just as the coachella valley is growing. just as las vegas is growing. They will get the water. and another way to look at it is that it makes more sense to build homes on othwise useless land, instead of sacrificing more and more of our prime ag land to housing. ag is still our biggest asset. if we had way back machine, we would have put all the populations up out of the valley in the 500-1000 ft elevation and left the valley floor to be farmed and flooded naturally.

jim said...

rafael - its also a chance to allow development but with new and very stringent conservation measures as an example of how all new growth can be built. allow development there with the latest in tech, water and power conservation methods. That "california city" for example, if done right, could be the model for the city of the future, renewables, recyclables, conservation, etc.

AndyDuncan said...

Population growth ought to be encouraged where the water already flows naturally, i.e. roughly the area between Merced and Sacramento. It should be discouraged in the High Desert.

I agree with that from the energy required to pump water around, the cost of the infrastructure, and the evaporative losses of the aqueducts.

However, the idea that we should be paving over incredibly fertile farmland by encouraging growth in the central valley rather than encouraging people to live in an area that isn't good for much else (open spaces are of course beneficial), never struck me as a very solid argument.

I've lived in both High Cal and Low Cal, and I've seen way too many areas of High Cal converted from agriculture to McMansions *cough* Natomas *cough*.

We need to conserve water, for sure, but I'm not convinced that moving people to where the water is is a necessarily good solution.

Alon Levy said...

The 2001 recession was caused by the dotcom bubble, though it may have been triggered by sharply rising oil prices in the preceding year.

No, it was just caused by the dotcom bubble - the bubble collapsed as the stock market's price to earnings ratio hit the same high it hit in 1929. And the 1991 recession was caused by the S&L crisis, and the 1979-1983 recession was caused by the Fed raising interest rates to fight inflation. Only the 1973 recession was legitimately caused by an oil crisis.

jim said...

in san francisco after the bubble burst we turned all the excess dot commies into soylent green and ate them. with a little olive oil... just like hummus.

jim said...

according to the most recent 2009 palmdale water district docs, which outline the plans that I think a lot of socal is starting implement-including using the "tidy bowl man's" water, and other methods, the antelope valley pop will exceed 1 million by 2025.
but at least they have a plan.

boy am I glad I have my delicious hetch hetchy, have you tried it?

matt said...

It always amazes me when "journalists" use thinktanks like the cato Institute to get a point across. They assume that the readers are too dumb to realize that the thinktank is just a mouthpiece for the corporations which fund it. In this case, the petroleum companies. Of course if the article said to check out the American Petroleum Institute's Response to HSR everyone would see right through it.

Cato and it's cooperate sponsors should not be trusted.

YesonHSR said...

This BS from Cato types notable or not is going to go on durning the entire project till the day the first train runs..and then some.
The best thing is to keep firing back at them in the media they post in and show who and what they work for

BruceMcF said...

just my view said...
"When well respected writers like Glaeser and Morris conclude that HSR is really not worth the cost, just remember they were not looking at the California project."

And remember that Glaeser was not looking at Houston/Dallas either, nor was he looking at the current DoT HSR policy. He was looking at an alternate universe Houston/Dallas with stagnant population levels, ongoing low oil prices, a very low mode shift for an hour and a half Express HSR route, and under a policy regime which is structured as Express HSR or nothing.

Glaeser may be respected for his serious work in modeling immigration / urban development relationships, but the NYT column is spending that reputation capital, not building it.

And Morris raised up O'Toole as the example of the "articulate critic" of HSR. That confirms all the suspicious his series raised about (1) how seriously he takes his Freakonomics column and (2) where his biases lie when freed of the rigors of getting a peer reviewed publication.

Of course, that is the point of the two series. Sure there will be those who actually read what is written, and some of those will have the knowledge to spot the gaping holes in the arguments ... but most readers will take away the "well respected say HSR costs too much" conclusion, without the knowledge or analytical skill to realize that they have been duped.

Rob Dawg said...

Rob Dawg said...
How much will it cost. how will we pay for it, when will it start service and where will it go?

Sam said...
Rob - how are those answers not being answered by CHSRA?
...
Perhaps you don't like the answers being given, but that's NOT the same thing as not answering the questions.


Where's the SF terminus again? Oh that's right still up in the air. Is the fight over the alignment over? Thought not. Which segment gets built first? Now here, clearly Fresno to Bakersfield is the technical and political choice if there is an intention to build a full system yet somehow it all keeps coming back to SF.

How much will it cost? I've seen old estimates without a single RFQ. And those estimates are commonly acknowledged to be lowball. I'm not complaining, that's normal as are price increases. Still there's no one willing to put a cap on this project at any price. That is unusual.

And start of service? I'll take any promise of any year so long as the person making the promise agrees to slink away forever the minute the schedule slips.

And who pays for it. You've identified $9b of a project that will definitely cost more than $40b. That's not identifying enough funding to proceed. Ask the local muicipalities about their expected contributions and tell me they are in a position to do their share as described in the business plan.

It isn't about me not liking the answers it is about getting answers. Notice none of these questions are fuzzy things like farebox revenue or operating budgets but hard cold immutable necessary answers. Notice also that no one has even tried.

$60b, additional bonds, higher taxes, 2021. If not, why not?

BruceMcF said...

jim said...
"by the way. show me a transportation project in america that doesn't involve politics."

America! Show me a big transportation project anywhere that doesn't involve politics. People point to failed transportation projects and say, "it was politics", as if removing the politics was either possible or desirable. Yet there was just as much politics in the Erie Canal, the Ohio and Erie Canal, the trancontinental railroads, the establishment of the US highway system, the establishment of the Interstate Highway system, the establishment of the air traffic control and aerospace support system.

Hell, there was politics involved in putting that street in that runs in front of your house so you can access whatever the politics made available to you to get to work in the morning.

"There was politics involved" is the complaint of the naive or those looking to take advantage of the gullible. The serious and sincere argument is over whether the resulting project is a sound one.

The HSR corridor has over 70% budget leeway before it has the same capital cost of the equivalent transport capacity by the status quo regional transport options, and since a new option made available will be chosen by those who most benefit, while providing a congestion relief valve for the status quo options chosen by those who most benefit from those, even at the same capital cost, it is worthwhile building for the increase in the range of choices available for regional travel.

It doesn't take a big reputation and a column in the NYT to understand that ... anybody who learns enough economics to get a doctorate in economics will understand that without having to beat them over the head with it, and many who simply encountered a bit of economics as undergraduates and happened to accidentally learn some of it would understand that as well.

However, marginal reasoning is not a natural style of reasoning for people in the general public, so Glaeser and Morris can get lazy and pretend that there is no such benefit from an increased range of choices when writing for the New York Times.

watcher said...

Cars are not taken off the roads, everyone still needs their cars post HSR. Because people still need to get around locally, and that's not what HSR is going to do for them. And HSR doesn't take any trucking off the roads, its quite probably forces more freight moved via trucks as it takes over ROWs that might today be used for freight.

So the costs of roads, freeways, auto infrastructure STILL EXISTS IN WHOLE after HSR is built. HSR removes zero cost but adds a whole new infrastructure burden.

This may be why you never see economists talk about what is 'saved' by putting HSR in place. There's nothing to talk about.

Rubber Toe said...

I e-mailed this to Robert too, but in case he doesn't post it, there is a CBS morning news special segment on HSR, California specifically. Here is the info from the website. It is definitely don't miss TV...

COVER STORY: High-Speed Rail Travel
European and Asian countries have long had high speed rail service, with Japan starting its Bullet Trains in 1964 and France launching its TGV in 1981. Now, it may finally be our turn.

While we do already have the Acela train in the Northeast Corridor, which are capable of doing 150 mph, its tracks force it to run at average speeds of 80 mph. By contrast, in California they plan to go 220 mph.

Correspondent John Blackstone takes a look at the California High Speed Rail Authority proposal to make an 800 mile long high speed rail from San Francisco and Sacramento down to Los Angeles and San Diego. It will be expensive, an estimated $40 billion, but Californians have voted to approve a $9.9 billion bond issue, and the Obama administration is voicing its support for 10 high-speed rail corridors across the country. We'll take a ride into the future and see what the trains might be like.

jim said...

@watcher even if hsr didn't decrease the total number of cars owned, it will decrease the amount of time and miles those cars are driven.

Which involves more car use - friving to the airport or hsr station, flying or riding to your destination and renting a car there, or driving the entire way?

also, it make it easier for those who choose to be car-less, to get around the state.

you also ignore the economic benefits of investing in transportation infrastructure.
be it roads, rails, ports and airports.

rail investment is going to help, not hurt advances in freight operation.
look at the tgv poste, for instance, imagine the amount of in state overnight shipping that can be done by ups, fedex, usps, dhl etc that can be done by hsr, up and down the state verses those overnight trucks on the road.

There simply isn't any limit on the future flexibility of uses for hsr.

I don't understand why you people are so stuck on stupid all the time.
You act as though nothing can ever be done,
you act as though we will be in a permanent state of recession,
you act as though life as we know it is over.

with people like you in america its amazing that we cured polio, went to the moon, won world war ll, created silicon valley, and built the water projects. You're great grandfather was probably at kittyhawk telling the wright brothers it can't be done.

jim said...

and watcher--- if we don't build another option, we will still have to build more freeways and airports at at least the same or greater cost and wind up with more infrastructure to maintain. do you understand that or is over your head?

Sam said...

(part one)

Rob Dog,

Where's the SF terminus again? Oh that's right still up in the air.

The Transbay Terminal. Prop 1A mandated it. You can listen the gibberish being spouted from time to time or you can read the proposition which has been passed.

Is the fight over the alignment over? Thought not.

Lawsuits are part of the EIR/EIS process and the only way to challenge an alignment chosen. If you decide you're going to build a fence and your neighbor sues you, does that mean that you haven't decided? The same process of choosing alignments must be adhered to for roads, airports, etc. This is sue-happy California - if you'd like to change the process, that's great, but you can't blame CHSRA for having to jump through the hoops put in place by the process.

Which segment gets built first? Now here, clearly Fresno to Bakersfield is the technical and political choice if there is an intention to build a full system yet somehow it all keeps coming back to SF.

This wasn't one of your initial questions and is something that is still be debated. When the Interstate Highway system was being designed and built, the areas with service first changed considerably based on what areas could be finished first. No difference here.

How much will it cost? I've seen old estimates without a single RFQ. And those estimates are commonly acknowledged to be lowball. I'm not complaining, that's normal as are price increases. Still there's no one willing to put a cap on this project at any price. That is unusual.

Unusual? You're telling me that all airports built had price caps? The Interstate Highway system had a price cap? Sounds to me like you were given an answer and don't believe it. That's fine, but again, that's not the same as not being given an answer.

And start of service? I'll take any promise of any year so long as the person making the promise agrees to slink away forever the minute the schedule slips.

Again, this is unique to HSR how? Any infrastructure project of this magnitude can run into unforeseen difficulties. CHSRA has a defined schedule of when service will start. If you don't like their answer, that's not the same as not getting an answer. The type of answer you're looking for seems bizarre anyway - if I called up my local Safeway and said "Hey, are you going to have 100 packages of hot dogs tomorrow for me? You don't know? Well, damn it! I want to know yes or no! I don't care which, but I want you fired if you're wrong!"

And who pays for it. You've identified $9b of a project that will definitely cost more than $40b. That's not identifying enough funding to proceed. Ask the local muicipalities about their expected contributions and tell me they are in a position to do their share as described in the business plan.

You know that's not how it works and are just being an ass about it. To get federal funding for something, you can't just go to the feds and say "Look, we need some dough to start on some stuff, please give us $10 billion." As it is, we're in a very good position to score the amount of federal funding (if not more) that CHSRA outlined in the business plan BECAUSE we have been going forward without all funding in place beforehand. Of course private investors are not going to front any money until all government money is in place. You seem to have an issue with the way that large infrastructure projects in the US are funded, not with this one in particular. Again, an answer has been given and you simply don't like it, and so claim that no one has answered your question.

Sam said...

(part two)

It isn't about me not liking the answers it is about getting answers. Notice none of these questions are fuzzy things like farebox revenue or operating budgets but hard cold immutable necessary answers. Notice also that no one has even tried.

I notice no such things. What I notice is the common (in California) attitude of detractors of anything that comes out at meeting regarding anything. It's the "You're not answering the questions the way that I would like them answered, so I'm going to scream louder about my questions not being answered." In my neck of the woods (Richmond District of San Francisco), this is referred to as the "David Heller tactic."

$60b, additional bonds, higher taxes, 2021. If not, why not?

Because that's not what the CHSRA has stated. You may be right about some things, but simply pulling numbers and dates out of the air because you don't like theirs doesn't make your numbers credible in any way. Their job is to provide numbers and dates - and they have. Their job is not to listen to people say, "I think it's going to cost $60 billion. Explain to me why I'm wrong." They already explained their reasoning for the numbers that they have posted, which is the same thing as explaining why they think your numbers are wrong.

BruceMcF said...

watcher said...
"Cars are not taken off the roads, everyone still needs their cars post HSR. Because people still need to get around locally, and that's not what HSR is going to do for them."

You are saying people are going to take the train and also drive at the same time?

You are confusing taking cars off the road with taking cars away from people. Its the driving that does the major CO2 and oil dependency thang, which is where the whole "taking cars off the roads" think comes from. And if you are sitting in a train on a trip, you definitely are NOT driving on that trip.

Anonymous said...

Glaeser and Morris just are not paying attention to basic facts.

We can't add substantially more planes and if we did it will not be free, but a radical new approach to airtravel.

Anyone who flies knows our civilian airspace is near capacity. Storms and airport slow downs wreck havoc on flying.

Adding substantially more planes will require billions of investment in new technology and a redesign to improve airspace capacity.

Opening more airports in LA will not solve the problem of congestion in the flying routes. Planes are not free flying. They travel along "highways" in the sky and these routes are congested and backup. Adding airports doesn't improve air congestion.

One way to relieve airspace congestion is HSR. Trains reduce the need for flights between nearby and close metro areas, like SF to LA.