By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Transportation
California's high-speed rail system will now cost twice as much to build, take 13 years longer than planned and offer fares for almost double the original estimate. Is America's HSR dream dead?
Plans for California's high-speed rail took another one on the chin yesterday as state planners announced that the project would cost more than twice its last estimate -- now a jaw-dropping $98.5 billion -- and would be completed 13 years behind schedule.
The original cost was estimated in 2008 to be $33 billion and scheduled for completion in 2020.
The line -- which would run from San Francisco to Anaheim at up to 250 miles per hour -- would allow travelers to zip across the sate in just three hours and for only $55 per way.
But the project has seen nothing but speed bumps along the way: Central Valley residents were up in arms over the proposal and the financial plan for the project was revealed to have taken liberties in estimated ridership and revenue.
But the Associated Press reports that Dan Richard, newly appointed to the California High Speed Rail Authority, is working with Bank of America vice chairman Michael Rossi to make the project viable once more.
The new plan? Build the system in independent segments that connect to existing light rail and train service, reducing top speed to 220 m.p.h. and raising fares to $95 for a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
The West Coast vision for transportation of the future sounds a lot like the East Coast's present Amtrak arrangement. Is another Acela worth the trouble?
To date, $10 billion has been awarded by Congress for high-speed rail around the country, including projects in Florida and Illinois. But the legislative body is expected to curtail that to almost nothing in 2012.
[via The Daily]
Nov 1, 2011
No matter how many people ride them they cannot break even on revenue to operating costs. It takes huge tax payer subsidies to keep them running. Europe made rail successful after WW II because they did 2 things. 1. They implimented state of the art express trains, running up to 100 mph, that were affordable to operate. The trains not only paid for themselves, but made a small profit. 2. They did not make the massive investment in transcontinental highways the US did, so trains remained the best way to get between most cities. HSR messed with that successful formula by providing trains that are 3 times as fast as the old express trains, but cost almost 10 times as much per mile to operate.
I am living in France where they have an extensive and highly utilised public transportation system that includes high speed rail, standard rail, buses, as well as metropolitan light rail and subways. But the reason that people use the rail system is because it is cheaper than driving (for one passenger), as gas costs $8.50 per gallon, and ALL of the highways are toll roads. Taking the TGV train from Lyon to Paris costs about 66 Euros, but driving runs about 50 Euros for gas and 30 Euros for tolls. Cities in Europe are have a high population density, about ten times more dense than most US cities outside of Manhattan. This makes it practical to provide public transportation for the entire population. But in California (where I grew up), and most of the US, I think it is a lost cause.
So many large projects (bridges etc) get built in Europe by private investors that receive the revenue from the projects for a fixed term. Why must we rely solely on public funds?
Apparently it's worse than this. Some fine print adds maybe 17 billion AND they dropped the lines to San Diego and Sacramento in this update. So how much to finish those 'spurs'? We're getting into Big-Dig territory and they haven't even broken ground yet. I'm expecting 200 bill+. Given the insane estimates offered for ridership, fares and the idea that 'making money' means exceeding operating costs, and does not include servicing the bond debt or investors, I'm not sure who the hell would give their money to these fools. Unless the plan *is* to pay for it with the general revenue or other taxes levied to subsidize it. Oh, dear, they wouldn't do something like that, would they? The business plan and financials are smoke. Follow the money.
When you go to an airport and pay that $10 to $15 airport fees you directly are paying for the airport. The money the FAA gives to the airport ALSO comes from the money you pay when you fly - avgas taxes, airline taxes, etc - all get rolled back to the airports where the money MUST be spent. It cannot be siphoned off (yet!) to pay for rail. Roads, originally, were paid for by gasoline taxes - and most still are but usually. The percentage is down now since the Feds / States have shows to take the money AWAY from road maintenance and spend on OTHER stuff over the past 50 years - which is why people don't vote for gas taxes increase since there is NO way to stop them from spending that money on non-road projects once collected. That is why they always write "transportation" increase and not "road" in those gas tax bills - they really want to spend it on bike lanes, light rail, High Speed rail, trams etc - anything but roads! Also thing about this - how many people on a DAILY basis will want to travel from SFO to LAX? 50,000 a day? 100,000 a day? - oh, maybe 2,000 a day instead of flying down there in 1 ?? hours they can take a train and get there in 4 hours - uh no, most people would STILL fly since that is 2.5 FASTER than the train. The Train will have the SAME security requirements as airports one day so that screening time will always be there (the Homeland Security and Transportation department have talked about that coming over two years ago.) You would need 10,000 people a day in each direction - 20,000 full paying customers - just to pay for the maintenance of the lines / equipment. You would NEVER get back the actual costs. Roads: $1 million a mile. 40 years LATER (if built right the first time) you have to rebuild (every 5 years paint lines). Rail. every 6 months you BETTER check the WHOLE LINE to ensure nothing has happened to the alignment of the tracks or else it crashes.
Disney had the right idea back in the 50's with the monorail system. It was a model for a mass transit system but never really got traction with the public outside of the theme parks. It still is a viable model but few people take it seriously even today. Update it with maglev and you really have a HSR system that could perform the job at a reasonable cost. Maybe it is time for the private sector to take on this project and get it out of the hands of the politicians. Even at $10M per mile, the cost to construct a 200 mile segment would be $2B and far cheaper than the current estimates. With today's technology is it too much to ask to construct something for less than $10M per mile? This country built the transcontinental railroad system and the interstate highway system, major undertakings both. We are the only country in the world to have occupied the moon, which we did in the 70's. Why can't we figure out how to make a HSR system work? Is the US out of ideas and talent?
Would HSR be better than the interstate system plus short haul airliners? Sure. Is it more affordable than buying more airliners & expanding the airport & freeway systems? The HSR people say it is & it's probably true, too. But those are things with financing schemes, however imperfect, in place. As a nation, we're no longer capable of coming together out of anything but fear. The rest of the time, we whine about the other party & make transparent excuses about how we're still better off than all the other countries that don't just talk about, but do, great things.
This is nothing new...in fact, we have a similar issue here in Northern Virginia on the western leg of the DC area subway...This 8 mile stretch of *ABOVE GROUND* metro system with 5 stations ending at Dulles Airport is climbing to over 5 billion dollars....It's already almost a year behind schedule and 2 billion dollars above estimates....People are saying that by the time this thing is built, it will have cost double the initial estimate and fulfill the needs of fewer than 30 % of the original users,. and with maintenance and decreased ridership, it is estimated that this fiasco will *NEVER* break even...Kinda wonder what's the point...
We you and me cant agree on any thing . I watch the world go by . With high speed rail and wonder about us . Weare so busy puching buttons on our phones (text) or just BSing.Or standing standing around with a cell phone Screwed to our head. getting information wedont need. Or just talking just to hear our self talk. SO SAD.
The only people the get something out of all this are those that were appointed by the Governor: the highly paid, seat warmers that pretend to run the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Check them out: (here are senior most people) THEY ARE ALL POLITICIANS, wake up CA! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_High-Speed_Rail_Authority Curt Pringle, Chairperson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curt_Pringle) Thomas J. Umberg, Vice Chairperson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Umberg) Lynn Schenk, Vice Chairperson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_Schenk) The governor really owed some folks - maybe it goes higher than that office too. Excuse me - but what do any of these people know about running a high speed rail service? Ok gang - I'm waiting for the jokes to roll in!
Ever hear of the Big Dig in Boston? Costs went from $2 billion to over $15 billion and rising. Original estimates are always optimistic. it's the only way they can sell these projects.
As a standalone point to point run of about 190-200 miles HSR between San Francisco and Anaheim is workable. With as many as 12 stops being planned between those cities the California HSR project becomes an expensive taxpayer funded joke. With an average 16 or 17 miles between stops the only efficiency of HSR, long distance high-speed operation, is negated. Just as the train is building up to its top speed it will be slowing down for the next stop. As seen with the Acela in the Northeast Corridor, such use of HSR is a boon dongle. Far less expensive trains can do the same job. On its best run of the average day Acela is about 20 minutes faster on the Boston to NY City route than the diesel electric Northeast Regional train. The Northeast Regional cost 1/3 the purchase price of Acela, has a lower daily operating cost than Acela, does not require special rails to operate on and does not require the costly overhead electric wire infrastructure that Acela requires. Everyone in the HSR community likes to point at the Northeast Corridor and Acela as a success story. The facts are the primary reason the Northeast Corridor is the only profitable region for Amtrak is a strong customer base carried by the affordable to operate Northeast Regional train. Taken as a standalone product Acela is bleeding money.
...because it was totally dependent upon OPM. (Other People's Money) The numbers were always fishy, rationale was questionable, and independent estimates placed the actual seat-mile cost as several times greater than flying first class. The state is bankrupt, and the only hope for this project was federal dollars. Unfortunately for California, it looks like days of easy manna from Washington have passed.
Having lived in Albuquerque NM, I am certain that HSR, along with wind and solar power will only survive with massive subsidies. Lack of density is the problem in each case.
Population is projected to increase by 40% by 2050. If that happens, does that change the case. I've driven in Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle, Atlanta, and LA. I can't imagine a 40% increase in the number of cars. My son-in-law, a planner for MN-DOT, says not to worry because by then cars will drive themselves more effectively than mere mortals.
California is broke. What do the tree hugging bark eaters think about this thing? Imagine the little desert bunnies when they get hit a 250mph train. Frankly, unless some state politician or candidate that owes a favor and gets an earmark - this thing will never see the light of day.
I'll probably get lynched the the readers here, but high-speed rail SHOULD die, because the costs are so astronomical and the population densities in the US are not high enough to support it outside the NE corridor. Unless you all want to tax gasoline so its cost is >$100/gal, then there won't be either money nor ridership. My betting is on electric cars fro urban transit, along with light rail and electric buses in the cities. Those developments would move more people more efficiently, & at far less cost than inter-city high-speed rail.
If it were cost effective, you could get a private consortium to build it - if it's NOT cost effective you can bet some government wonk will try to spend your money doing it
I have flown from SFO to LAX many times and it has never taken one hour. First off, they want you to show up an hour befor your flight. Then you have bag check and pickup. Sure, you might be in the air for about an hour but that is about a third of the total time unless you show up later than they recommend and can fit everything in a carry-on.
Everyone up for massive taxpayer subsidy says their scheme is better. Duh. That HSR is efficient is a complete myth. Advocates like to take the efficiencies of traditional rail (which is extremely efficient) and extrapolate them to HSR. Nothing could be farther from the truth. HSR is far more expensive to build, and an order of magnitude more expensive to operate and maintain. It's not even carbon efficient when compare to automobiles; it takes a remarkable amount of power to accelerate a train to over 100mph. The fact that when in the hard light of day, an unsubsidized LA-SF HSR ticket would easily cost $500 or more should tell you all you need to know about this fraud. BTW: I've traveled by HSR in Europe. I love it. It's great. But each time I do, it's with the knowledge that it's completely subsidized by the hapless middle-class European taxpayer who has a much lower standard of living than I do. Thanks guys!
Is all that's necessary to determine where it's coming from is to read the bio's. You hit it on the head..
Having to travel between LA and SF for business, the idea of getting on a comfortable euro-style train in LA and off a few hours later in SF for a nominal price sounded great. Airport-free weekend dates to SF would have been fun too. But the problem with politically financed projects like this is that ultimately political considerations drive the decisions over economic or practical ones. In order to get buy-in in the House of Representatives, everyone needs a station in their district, whether it makes sense to the potential travelers or not. So instead of a theoretically direct 2-3 hour trip for $50 or so, they'll get a highly subsidized 4-5 hour trip with a real cost of $400 or more; The cost of a first class seat on nearly any airline for twice the travel time. And then President (who is actually in charge of the TSA) jokes that at least you won't have to get an anal exam each time you take his wonderful trains, but who believes that won't be in the future as well as the 2-3x cost overruns that will make taking a private jets look even cheaper by comparison?
It did happen in the form of light rail...all of the foibles you've mentioned have managed to fool the sheeples ... and guess what? Nearly 3X the original estimate and they're building away..with OPM.. It's seems to be the same everywhere, just on different scales...
So it seems you do not want to consider the trillions of dollars put into road building over the past century to be "subsidy", but railways are? How about all the major airports in the US which were and are government owned?
I hope so. Steal money from me and build a train that no one will use. The proposed route is from San Bernardino to Sacramento. I am a salesman. I drive 200 miles a day on average. I am on at least two planes a month. I have never been to San bernardino or Sacramento. How about a train to the airport? Or a train between San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco using existing right always. Not our brain dead politicians. Let's tax the rich more ( how many have left the state in the past decade) to steal more land from farmers (doesn't matter, they shut off their water effectively destroying the largest farmer community and jobs in the nation) to build a train no one will ride. I'm continually disgusted.
The latest study says that California's power grid could only handle ~10% of CA cars plugged in every night Plug ins are only viable long term if they come with some kind of co-generation capability rather than having to plug them into the existing fragile power grid
Californians, (not most of them actually, but those in control), want to be seen as progressive - at any cost. For some reason, a high speed train is seen as progress for the progressives. This just really confuses me. Hey Andrew - is this thing supposed to be electric, the D word - Diesel, or hamster powered?