California's High-Speed Rail LIES
Florida and Ohio have walked away from HIGH SPEED
TRAIN projects. Why are Californians so gullible?
The Los Angeles Times editorialised
that “California's high-speed rail project is a train wreck”.
A few days ago, the California High Speed Rail Peer
Review Group, an expert body mandated by state law, expressed
serious doubts about the proposed Los
Angeles-San Francisco rail system. It concluded that it "cannot at this time recommend
that the legislature approve the appropriation of bond proceeds" because the
project "represents an immense financial risk"
to the state.
But hell hath no fury like a state agency scorned. The
California High-Speed Rail Authority issued a
quarrelsome response claiming that the rail system is, well, a bargain! The
agency repeated its claim that without high-speed rail, Californians would
pay more because the state would have to build equivalent
transportation capacity through road and
airport expansions costing about $171 billion, or between $53 billion and
$73 billion more than the $98 billion to $118 billion estimated cost of a
The constant refrain that it's "more expensive not to build the rail
line" is specious. But it deserves further explanation because of the light
it sheds on tricks used to justify other ill-conceived projects to an
Estimating the cost to build additional highway and airport capacity in the
absence of the rail line requires estimating how many people would be
attracted to the train from cars and planes. But
that's not how they did the math, judging by the methodology the
Proponents based their estimate on train capacity (including empty seats)
of 1,000. Their rail plan calls for trains with only 500 seats, but this
fictional doubling of capacity nicely
boosts the amount of highway construction they can claim would be needed if
the train line isn't built. The authority also
assumed that more than twice as many trains would run as they now plan to
run when the line is complete. They even include the cost of some
highway expansions that would not be needed for
hundreds of years at normal growth rates. All of this is absurd.
Empty seats do not increase the demand for roads (or airports, for that
AB 2847 (LA Times) requiring:-
| detailed cost, scope and schedule information about each segment of
the project and|
|to disclose how those segments would be paid for.|
High Speed Rail On Track to Incur Billions in Cost Overruns for a total
of $98 BILLION
|June, 2016 The total construction cost estimate has now tripled to
|$68 $98 billion from the original $33 billion.
It would need many more riders
than the French
and Japanese systems
to not "require large government subsidies"
forever - see article - ".
|By selling Cap and Trade
permits, the state generates revenue that can be spent on other initiatives
that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, but the Bullet
Train is the biggest recipient, getting 25% of
the cap-and-trade funds.
Yet inflating the amount of new highways that would have to be built is the
name of this game. By imagining huge new demand for train travel and other false
premises, for instance, rail planners concluded that it would be necessary to
add three lanes to each adjacent highway segment to handle the same demand,
whether in the busy Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas or the far
lower-demand segments in the San Joaquin Valley. They also
doubled the supposed cost of road construction
by assuming that the state would need to build three lane expansions on both
Interstate 5 and the parallel state Route 99 between places like Bakersfield and
The capacity that proponents used to justify
additional highway expenditures is more than three times
the total current travel on some freeway segments. Not even the rail
authority forecasts high-speed rail ridership
that will remotely approach the exaggerated capacities used to estimate
alternative highway expansion costs. It's as if rail planners value empty seats
on future trains as contributing to reducing highway congestion.
International studies show that car users typically
avoid high-speed rail because of its high cost and the time and expense added by
having to rent a car or hire taxis to reach their final destinations.
World-wide, the largest share of high-speed rail riders are people who used to
ride slower trains. There are not enough California train riders now to create a
solid base of future fast-train riders. And there is
nothing to support the notion that current motorists will switch to rail
in substantial numbers.
The claimed cost of airport expansion is bloated,
too. Bullet train proponents assume a very small average plane size into the
future, as if airlines wouldn't use larger planes—such as the latest generation
single-aisle Boeing 737s or Airbus 321s—to meet demand. Even without high-speed
rail, in other words, no new runways or gates would
have to be built beyond what will be needed anyway, and the assumed
billions of dollars required to expand airports
is just another unsubstantiated claim by
These absurdities aren't surprising. A study we prepared for the Reason Foundation in 2008—"The
California High-Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report"—showed
that high-speed rail proponents had
overstated costs for alternative highway and airport capacities by a factor of
more than 60.
There is more that is wrong with the California high-speed rail project. The
Alice-in-Wonderland plan is based on greatly
exaggerated ridership projections, hallucinatory promises of billions
in private investment pouring into the system, and
the expectation that the now-canceled federal high-speed
rail program will magically provide many billions more.
Highly questionable claims are not new to major infrastructure projects. A team
of European researchers, led by Oxford professor Bent
Flyvbjerg, reviewed large transportation projects over the last 80 years
and found a systematic pattern of error, which they politely referred to in one
instance as "strategic misrepresentation," and then by its real name: "lying."
Not everyone in America has been so easy to deceive as Californians. A
Tampa-Orlando high-speed rail program also was
based on misleading cost and ridership projections,
prompting Florida Gov. Rick Scott to cancel it and
protect taxpayers. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and
Ohio Gov. John Kasich walked away from high-speed
rail projects that would have depleted billions from
federal and state treasuries.
Trying to keep the California high-speed rail project alive by claiming that it
would be more costly to not build it, -- sets a
new low for planning projections in a field that has been rife with
Mr. Cox is principal of Demographia (St. Louis.
Mo.), a public policy firm. Mr. Vranich is an
Irvine, Calif.-based business consultant.