Thursday, July 10, 2008

Arnold Embraces Prop 1

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

So reports NBC11:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has placed his support behind a costly high-speed rail system in California.

Schwarzenegger told NBC11 he wants California to lead the way in transporting commuters across the state at near-record speeds while reducing global warming at the same time....

On the very spot where the Transcontinental Railroad was established nearly 140 years ago, Schwarzenegger told Luery that a less-than-three-hour trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles represents the type of progress that can take place in the Golden State.

"I think we need high speed rail," Schwarzenegger said. "If you think right now our trains in America are running the same speed as 100 years ago. That's not progress. I think we can do much better than that."

Arnold has been playing footsie with high speed rail for a while now. He tried to gut the funding for the Authority last year, only to then publish an op-ed in the Fresno Bee expressing support for the project. His support appeared to be dependent on HSR providing public-private partnerships, which AB 3034 would help produce.

His approval rating has been dropping, but he still remains the dominant political figure in the state, and his support for Prop 1 is certainly more welcome than opposition. Whether Arnold will campaign for Prop 1 around the state remains to be seen, and it would certainly do much to both prove the depth of his commitment to the project and to build a stronger consensus for Prop 1 across party lines.

Of course, Arnold's longtime Republican rival and dedicated train hater Tom McClintock was quick to attack high speed rail:

"It just doesn't pencil out," said state Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks. "It's $40 billion just in construction. That's more than $1,000 for every man, woman and child in this state -- all for a train that will go from L.A. to San Francisco in about two hours longer than it takes to fly there."

McClintock called the system a boondoggle and said that the money would be better spent improving California's highways.

$1,000, perhaps, but that is spread out over 30 years - which is $33 a year, or 64¢ per week. I might be able to dig that out of my couch cushions. In the life of the HSR project most Californians will recognize well beyond $1000 in savings at the pump and at the ticket counter.

It's also no surprise McClintock raises the old "airplanes are faster" claim. In fact, if you include travel time to the airport, and the wait in the terminal (including security) a flight from LA to SF will take roughly the same amount of time as the high speed train - just over two and a half hours. What's more, HSR offers a far more convenient form of travel - business travelers can conduct cell phone conversations, perhaps use WiFi or even videoconferencing, instead of being crammed into a plane where cell phones and WiFi are verboten.

McClintock also shows his total ignorance of the airline crisis which will make air travel within this state more expensive and less frequent. For most Californians, HSR and feeder rail lines will become the primary method they use to get around the state.

Instead McClintock wants to shackle Californians to soaring oil prices. I mean really, $40 billion in highway expansion? Not only will that not buy you very many new freeway lanes, but it would be doubling down on California's reliance on oil. The McClintock solution to high gas prices simply doesn't exist - he thinks we should just pay it and continue driving as if everything's normal.

Thankfully not all Republicans agree - Curt Pringle, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and others recognize the value of HSR. With their support voters will too.


Brandon in California said...

In addition to your article, McClintock is implying that the State will bare the full burden of that $40 billion.

That is misleading. Only 1/3rd is anticipated to come from State coffers... with the remainder coming from the Feds and private sector.

Additionally, today's state population is approximately 38 million. We're anticipating as many as 60 million by 2050... and I am sure many more over the useful life of the system... which should be about 100 years. At least 50 years.

So, McClintock has skewed the numbers to provide a misleading argument.

By my math, the State financial commitment of approximately $14 billion (rounded up from $40b/3), and split by an average of 50 million persons (middling number between 38m & 50m).... the per capita contribution is closer to $280. This is far from $1,000!

And, per Roberts’s assessment of spreading the cost out over 30 years... the figure drops to $9.33.

I'd argue over 50 years, at least, and the figure would be closer to $5.60 per year... Or get this... about 10 cents per week.

The Federal contribution should not be assumed to be part of the math. The feds will collect from us the same amount of taxes whether we pursue HSR or not.

Brandon in California said...

I wish I could edit my post...

Paragrapgh 4 should have show the range of pop from 38 to 60).. the middling number is 50m.

Anonymous said...

Talk about funny math. Morshed now says 42-45 billion, not 40 billion.

Its no longer 30 years but 40 years that we will be paying on those bonds. Apparently the state can't afford to amortize over 30 years any longer.

Then of course it won't cost 45 billions as Morshed now says, but it will cost 60 - 80 billions, which is the estimate from an insider at PB.

And good old Kopp spewing out more garbage along with the "never been a fatal accident anywhere in he world due to HSR", now saying "every HSR system in the world makes money". The man simply has no credibility.

And of course construction will start in 2010.

Let me add while I'm on a roll here, "we will just build a stout wall to solve the safety issue with UPRR freight", from the mouth of Morshed.

You supporters of this project should be incensed out of your minds by the inept leadership of this project. As the project goes down in flames this fall, don't blame us "deniers", blame them.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Thanks for that excellent catch, brandon. A dime a week for high speed trains? Certainly doable.

As to anon's unverifiable claims...any change in the funding or amortization or really in any other aspect of the plan is, to his mind, an argument against it. How many projects, even those considered to be on-budget successes, will always remain exactly the same in every last detail from start to finish?

Anyone can claim to have an "insider at PB" tell them something but without proof or a link those claims shouldn't be taken seriously. I have always said the final bill will be higher than $40 billion, owing to factors outside the Authority's control - primarily inflation. That is most likely what Morshed referred to with his newer estimate. As to the cost of borrowing, with the collapse of the monolines everyone's cost of borrowing has risen.

We've discussed HSR's stellar safety record before - it's one of the world's safest forms of transportation.

Anonymous said...

You keep saying HSR is safe and I agree. What I take great issue with is Kopp's and others denying fatalities have occurred and accidents do happen.

Imagine a derailment in a metro area, where the corridor is only 100 feet; not pretty.
New derailment from Germany.

German railway inspects high-speed trains, cancels dozens of services"

Anonymous said...

No one ever said they don't derail.

In that article you posted, it even says that nobody was injured.

There's only been one accident in HSR history where there have been fatalities. It was on a German Ice train. But thats the only time.

Anonymous said...

His math is way off. Agree with Brandon Farley. There is no discounting for the present value, which is HUGE on a bond of this duration.

Secondly, when these types of things get passed down through greater taxation in the long term, people don't understand that this is a GOOD thing. CA hasn't been getting its fair share from the Federal government over the past couple of decades. Local taxes are...ding ding ding DEDUCTIBLE from your federal income tax! Woohoo - pass the damn proposition and give me my bullet train.