Tuesday, October 7, 2008

SF Chronicle Endorses Prop 1A

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

This one isn't really a surprise, since they've been supporters of high speed rail for many years now, but today the San Francisco Chronicle endorsed a Yes vote on Prop 1A:

The passage of Prop. 1A would generate an estimated 160,000 construction-related jobs at a time when the state could use an economic stimulus. But its even greater long-term value to the state will be the economic and environmental benefits of connecting urban centers with growing inland cities that don't have major airports - and providing an alternative to the cattle-call flights between the Bay Area and Southern California.

They're absolutely right - and even understating the case. The long-term value isn't just in providing alternatives to cattle-call flights, nice though that will be. The long-term value comes in providing an alternative to oil, period. Our state's dependence on oil is causing financial and economic havoc. Those who make baseless criticisms of Prop 1A's financing are ignoring the far more risky and damaging impacts of "staying the course" and doing nothing in the face of a climate and energy crisis that is strangling our economy.

The editors had a good response to those fiscal critics:

Opponents have seized on the understandable anxiety about a venture of this magnitude and have questioned everything from its cost projections to ridership estimates to its environmental benefits. In a meeting with our editorial board this week, they suggested the money would be better spent on relieving gridlock on regional roadways.

However, the fiscal safeguards on Prop. 1A were toughened substantially with the Legislature's recent passage of AB3034. It limited the amount of money that could be spent on administration or other items unrelated to construction. Also, construction could not begin on any segment of the project until it was certified that the funding for it had been secured. State funding would account for about half of the project; the balance would come from the federal government and private sources.

HSR deniers want Californians to believe that if this passes that we're going to be DOOMED, doomed I tell ya, especially in our state budget. But the Chronicle points out this is nonsense. If the feds and private enterprise come through as they have consistently indicated they will then we build it and everyone's happy. If they don't come through, we don't build it, no money spent, no harm done.

They close well:

Prop. 1A presents an ambitious vision that is well tailored to the state's transportation and environmental needs. We recommend its passage.

We strongly agree.

Of course, to give the "other side" a chance to get their message across, the Chronicle published an op-ed by longtime HSR denier Richard Tolmach. That deserves its own takedown which will be provided tomorrow morning Wednesday evening (sorry guys, busy day).


Rafael said...

@ anon -

more of your copy-pasting, the link would have sufficed. Your post added nothing of substance to what was already published elsewhere, it's just blogspamming.

Anonymous said...

About time!!! now everyone go and post on there before the derail deniers drop there lies

Anonymous said...

Schwarzenegger Concerned About Worsening Budget


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will call legislative leaders back to the Capitol on Wednesday to address California's mounting financial problems.

On the agenda is a possible special session of the Legislature to discuss how to close gaps that are appearing in the state budget, which was signed into law just two weeks ago.

"We have to even make additional cuts as times go on because I think there will be even less revenue," the governor warned Tuesday while addressing the American Magazine Conference in San Francisco.

Revenue for the first quarter of the state's fiscal year is down $1.1 billion from the projections in the governor's May revision to the budget, state Controller John Chiang reported Tuesday

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said the billions in cuts already made this summer could leave lawmakers no other choice but to raise taxes. Schwarzenegger vetoed another $510 million.

Senate Minority Leader Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, objected to the possibility of higher taxes—an indication that the same partisan divide that led to a record-length budget impasse this summer would persist.

"Why would we want to do even further damage to an economy that's already suffering?" Cogdill said.

The more immediate concern is the state's ability to pay its day-to-day expenses. The ongoing national credit crisis means the state may have trouble selling $7 billion in short-term bonds next week.

Isn't this just wonderful. And Prop 1A is asking the voters to approve another 10 billion in debt.

Brandon in California said...

Good closing:

"Prop. 1A presents an ambitious vision that is well tailored to the state's transportation and environmental needs. We recommend its passage."

Tony D. said...

"The ongoing national credit crisis means the state may have trouble selling $7 billion in short-term bonds NEXT WEEK." Emphasis on "NEXT WEEK." It doesn't state "forever" or "til Kingdom come." Again, it would be highly irresponsible to vote against a project with long-term economic benefits based solely on the bad economic news of the last month. The rough times won't last forever, and you know this anon 8:41. Anyhow, go ahead and vote no on Prop. 1A, we don't need you anyway!

Anonymous said...

It's funny you call people who oppose HSR as deniers. Well what are you, an HSR dreamer? You're dreaming with overly optimistic best-case scenario projections. Let me give you a quick figure. 117 million riders my ass by 2030. Acela doesn't even command 3 million riders a year in the BUSIEST transportation corridor in the United States. 55 million people within the Northwest Corridor versus SF + LA + SD? Even with comfortable padding by including the entire metropolis, that's only 20 million people.

The entire feasibility of this project that you claim is based on the fact that the federal government and private investors step in because they usually do. Great, so you say we should drop $10 billion because people will follow? They probably will no doubt, but will they close the gap that makes it necessary to complete the project? I bet you not.

Look at previous projects:

The sprinter line designed to run east west through the OC: http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2008/03/09/news/top_stories/1_01_993_8_08.txt

Projects like this go way up in cost and get delayed like mad. Now I'm not saying we can't finish building the HSR, but if we assume things go like planned, yes investors and government will step in to provide some funding. But really, when people are crying about spending $100 billion in Iraq, you think EARMARK spending which McCain and Obama will fight like $10 billion for CA's HSR will come easily? Ok, and assume it all goes through. If you use history to say that people will step in to help, I will use history to say that projects run OVER projected costs and delays are inevitable.

So what's likely to happen with projects like these? We dump $10 billion. More money comes in. We realize that we're $5 billion short or whatever it is. New bond is enacted because clearly we can't cut this project out when we're out of money. CA voters must approve because we dumped $10 billion and private investors are not going to want their money to go down the drain, so we spend another couple billion.

Finally, this whole crap about no new taxes. Yeah it's because we put this into bond debt and while there's no line in the budget for CA HSR because this is a bond, bond debt is just as bad. You can put lipstick on debt but it's still debt dummy. 650 million taken away each year can go into fixing our regional transportation problems, or education. Next time you hear a protest at UC Berkeley, I want you to STFU and understand that fiscal irresponsibility like the HSR leads to cuts in things we NEED like education.

Anonymous said...

tony.d: Your comments represent irresponsible spending and total naivety with regards to our fiscal situation.

The entire country is in huge debt and CA is not alone, although CA does have a bond problem as it is. You're telling me that because we will recover sometime in the future, it's fine to dump $10 billion. 99.9% of all spending projects are great in terms of benefit. By your reasoning, we should keep spending if it offers benefits to CA, and I can guarantee you almost everything does. Yes, let's also throw in state run health care with that and a lot of stuff thats great but we can't afford.

Let me offer you an analogy. You're in debt today. You can't afford your CC bills, but because you won't be in debt forever or so you hope, you justify going to buy a new car by taking out a loan. Great. This is why so much of America rides up CC and credit debt.

We don't need idiots like you spending too much and then complaining when education gets cut or when the state has to scale back on truly critical needs.

Anonymous said...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008
"California's High-Speed Rail Plan Is Flawed" -- Reason
In a column for the Los Angeles Business Journal, Reason's Adam Summers writes:

Californians are being asked to consider a $10 billion bond measure to build a high-speed rail system, but the proposal is critically flawed and should give voters serious pause, especially in the current economic climate.
Proposition 1A would authorize $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds to start building an 800-mile high-speed rail system linking Southern California with the Bay Area and Sacramento, including the backbone Los Angeles-San Francisco segment. There are crucial questions about the financing of the project, however. For starters, where will the rest of the money come from?

The $10 billion bond would cover less than one-quarter of the projected $45 billion project cost. Proponents hope that they will be able to coax one-third of the cost ($15 billion) from the federal government, which has budget problems of its own and is currently struggling with a planned $700 billion bank bailout and a possible $25 billion bailout of the auto industry. The remainder (about $20 billion) is supposed to come from the private sector, and there is similarly no guarantee that this money will ever materialize. Furthermore, a business plan that the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) was required by law to submit by September 1 still has not been completed, and, conveniently enough, apparently won't be available until after the election.

Full Column
Due Diligence Report on California's High-Speed Rail Proposal: http://mcwong1948.blogspot.com/2008/10/californias-high-speed-rail-plan-is.html

Robert Cruickshank said...

Anon, I'm getting more active in deleting cut-and-paste jobs. The Tolmach op-ed is linked in this post. It will be given prominent discussion later tonight. If you want to link to it again and explain your thoughts about it that's fine but enough with the cut-and-paste.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, delete those spammers! It's obvious who it is. Along with a lot of the anonymous postings. Why don't they open their derail web site for discussions?, because they are affraid of legitimate rebuttals backed up with facts which will show how far off the naysayers are!

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with linking articles. People should just provide their own analysis otherwise STFU.

To Eric: The opponents of HSR have legitimate points also. Just because you sit on one side of the fence doesn't mean you are the only one who's right. Both sides stretch claims, and face it, you're so disillusioned with your desire for HSR that you drool at those numbers proponents give you that you nail that to the wall as claiming FACTS and TRUTH. Great. More of what America needs. Idiots who are easily sold on issues.

Spokker said...

117 million is the theoretical capacity of the system. CHSRA projections are more like 65 million. By 2030 they are projecting 96 million. Are they too high? Maybe. But it's not 117 million.

I still think 50 million boardings by 2030 is pretty good.

Spokker said...

"Both sides stretch claims, and face it, you're so disillusioned with your desire for HSR that you drool at those numbers proponents give you that you nail that to the wall as claiming FACTS and TRUTH."

True, both sides have reasons to distort facts and truth. To be perfectly honest, none of us can predict the future and in the end you just sort of have to pick a side on this issue based on your gut feeling.

Of course, the kid in me is fascinated by trains, especially those of the "bullet" variety. But the adult in me wants better transportation options in California at all levels. I dislike our car culture and believe electric trains are the long-term answer to oil dependency and other economic and environmental concerns.

I do not believe this will reduce traffic (countries with robust mass transit networks have awful traffic), but I believe more transportation options will help get this state moving again.

If the CHSRA can deliver a train that whisks passengers between LA and SF in under three hours, I will consider this project a success. If they can't even meet three hours, then I will be here with you calling it a boondoggle.

But right now, no, I don't have a crystal ball.

Anonymous said...


I agree with what you said above ^^^ so I wont write a duplicate response to qwerasdf. This project will bring alternatives to a badly needed transportation system and at a time where the state could use a stimulation by providing thousands of jobs (instead of sending worthless rebate checks)

It's not the point of easily being sold on issues, its being able to see through the political BS. Spending a lot of time in Europe helps too.

As for qwerasdf for calling us idiots, think before you speak because apparently you are not bright enough to come up with a name that just uses the fist few letters in each row of the key board.

Anonymous said...

Fiscal news grows worse for California

The Sac Bee and other papers are reporting on new budget problems for California already starting to appear. Their article includes:

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata estimated Tuesday the state will face a $3 billion to $5 billion deficit this fiscal year without corrective action, a significant gap that increases the possibility lawmakers will have to consider new spending cuts or tax increases in a special midyear budget session.

State Controller John Chiang, meanwhile, announced California has taken in $1.1 billion less through the first quarter than state officials projected earlier this year.

Now you can say what you want, but Prop 1A is a bond measure and it is going to add to the deficit already just 2 weeks into the fiscal year appearing.

So even proponents of Prop 1A, really must make a choice -- you can't have everything -- shall we cut education or other vital services or shall we vote no on Prop 1A.

Brandon in California said...

Well, no Prop 1A will not add to this years budget deficit when it passes on November 4th.

When 1A is passed, the debt does not become a debt until specific funds are actually barrowed from a bank; which by and large will be in a couple-few years in the future and dependant on the timing of construction.

1A has almost zero impact to the state budget for this fiscal year. What is measurable is an immediate $40 million asset with an equal amount in long-term debt payable in future budget years. The $40 million woudl go toward CHSRA plannign and engineering work and possibly purchasing critical ROW.

Anonymous said...

Why does it sound like none of these so called fiscal conservatives know a thing about how public infrastructure and state debt work? It's just fearmongering!

Also, I just love how HSR opponents continue to mislead and lie by befuddling numbers and twisting statements. Robert can get enthusiastic, but he's generally honest (and since he lives in Monterey, he honestly has very little stake!)

Anonymous said...

Okay good job, no effect this fiscal year doesn't mean it's fine. We've had fiscal problems in CA since 2001. What's your point? That next year it'll all rosy up and so we're good to spend again? If by some miracle that happens, restore spending to education first.

Anonymous said...

The HSR opponents really want to have it both ways. They always assert that the reason we can't build HSR is because it will cost too much. But if that's true, then the economic meltdown represents an opportunity to build the system at a low, low price. The price of steel and other materials is tumbling as construction demand collapses. And all the Central Valley ROW that needs to be acquired can now be purchased at bargain-basement prices. Heck, half the properties that CA HSR might want to buy are probably already in foreclosure. No need to worry about eminent domain proceedings - the banks will just be happy that someone is willing to take these properties off their hands, even at a low price!

Rob Dawg said...

The price of steel and other materials is tumbling as construction demand collapses. And all the Central Valley ROW that needs to be acquired can now be purchased at bargain-basement prices.

Priced concrete ties since the "business plan" last looked? Quadruple. Hey maybe they are only triple now. Good news?

As to purchasing Central Valley r-o-w; just how much is budgeted now?

Anonymous said...

qwerasdf...you could give a damm about education funds..you rightwingnut!!! so move to utah!!

Anonymous said...


The original business plan set aside 10% of the total costs ($2.5 billion) for ROW purchase. So at current figures they're budgeting ~$4 billion for ROW. A 700 mile double-track system should require ~4,000 acres of land, so the current budget is good up to an average price of $1 million/acre. The vast majority of the ROW will be rural farmland, which goes for less than $10,000/acre. So the budget could easily accommodate paying several million per acre in the urban areas. But even in Fresno, the largest Central Valley city, it's not hard to buy land with a house on it near the railroad tracks for under $1 million/acre.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Two links to articles anon posted, which I deleted (I'm serious, no more cutting and pasting. Provide a link and your own comments and analysis):

Reason Foundation nonsense in SD U-T

More Reason Foundation nonsense

Really, who here thinks that libertarians have much credibility left after deregulation and free markets produced a major financial crisis?!

Anonymous said...

@ robert, could you please explain the libertarians involvement of the CRA in 1995 that deregulated the market. That is what I see caused the chain of events since it allowed for people who would normally not be able to obtain credit to obtain it from what I understand.

Now when searching on Google for California High Speed Rail, instead of the SF Chronicle edorsement of Prop1A the first news result was to the open forum section negative to HSR on ridership figures of 117 million which I know is not ridership but the capacity of the system.

Brandon in California said...

^^^ Robert, not me.

And recently I am encouraged that the estimated cost will actually be lower than previous estimates! Both land prices and raw material costs are declining... and we're hearing in the presidential debates that wages are flat.

Everything seems to be going good for HSR!

Anonymous said...

Prop 1A limits the Authority from spending more than 10% of the 9 billion on anything other than construction, unless they get matching funds.

So ROW acquisition costs is going to be limited to well under 900 millions, until they can get some outside money.

Then can only spend 2.5% or 225 million on studies -- so good old PB is going to have to make due with this amount of funds in their pockets to dole out, until construction occurs.

What seems to be happening for sure is next summer the Authority is going to be absorbed into a new or existing state agency.

Next few years are going to be tough sledding. I can see the project being put on hold for years because they don't want to issue more bonds and thus adding to budget deficits.

If this is ever built your looking a 2025 or later.

Anonymous said...

@ brandon in san diego especially

No: This is an especially bad deal for San Diego

Good Reading

Since brandon has been repeatedly wanting the project, if he really lives in san diego, you just wonder why.

njh said...

anonymous: I suspect because Brandon realises that once people experience high speed rail in person, they will want it too. You just have to look at the spread of high speed rail, it spreads from Japan and France, almost exactly as an epidemiology study. That is presumably also why antiHSR are so panicky, they realise that if HSR got an (ahem) railhead in CA it would put their antiHSR rhetoric in much the same light as we see greed-is-good.

High speed rail is the only transport technology that is taking mode share from the existing equilibrium. And that scares you.

Anonymous said...

Good GOD, we're anti HSR not because we don't like HSR. No one's anti HSR. We're against HSR right now because it's not fiscally smart for CA. It's just not right and it's not our priority. Do you not get it?

You lefties are playing terrible, and sure I may be from the right but I too denounce Bush rhetoric like if you aren't for the war in Iraq you're unpatriotic. You and I both know that kinda talk is bad, and just because I'm against this bill doesn't mean I hate HSR in general or I'm against transportation improvements.

You're all stating that HSR is such a great thing and IT IS, but there's no record to show that it's the wonderful thing you suggest it to be. It has spread through Japan and France, and France sees shy of 12 million riders. Tell me how 117 million is possible. Ok that's the capacity, but show me how 60 million is possible. ACELA has fewer than 3 million riders a year.

The fact is the US is a car-dependent nation. CA is even more car-dependent. HSR will take a few cars off the road, but we ARE a driving nation. We LOVE driving (but we hate gas prices), and we love the freedom of going anywhere we like. CA is not built like the Northeast Corridor where cities are connected so well like in Europe. We NEED to drive. HSR isn't going to change this, and that's why I'm saying HSR is NOT needed in CA.

Trust me, if we were New York City and this was an HSR bill to help connect the Northeast with a TRUE HSR (better than Acela), then I can guarantee you it would make a LOT more sense to me.

But in a state like CA known for its previous years of budget struggles? HELL NO

Spokker said...

"HSR will take a few cars off the road, but we ARE a driving nation."

We are also a flying nation. HSR will be built in California mainly to divert short-haul flights to more efficient electric trains.

However, I think the HSR system will be a viable commuting option between SJ-SF, LA-Irvine, and Riverside/Ontario-LA if the monthly passes are priced appropriately.