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Fast Train to Failure: California’s Mismanaged High-Speed Rail Project (city-journal.org)
99 points by masonic 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 194 comments

While this article finds an issue with the way the Tejon Pass route was eliminated in favor of the Tehachapi Pass route, Tejon Pass route would skip a station in Lancaster/Palmdale, which would be a mistake. As the article acknowledges, these are rapidly growing exurbs that are refuge from the exorbitant land prices in the LA Basin. There is existing commuter rail service between there and Downtown LA, but a HSR is a significant level-of-service upgrade, and offers connections to Bakersfield and beyond. The fact that a rail line offers connections between many points with the same service, while air service must fly at least as many services as there are destinations, is lost on these commentators.

That being said, there are many facepalm-worthy decisions made by CAHSR or by others early on in the process, like an extremely sweeping curve on a long, expensive viaduct just outside of Fresno station [1], or the barely-realistic journey times written into legislation that drive up cost. Another is the choice of the torturous Pacheco Pass over the easier Altamont, or even going around the mountains following the Strait the old rail does. Besides, there's no point to pining after LA-SF rail traffic when airports are perfectly fine between those two. But what about LA-Bakersfield? Modesto-Sacramento? SF-Fresno? That's where a train helps. And to do that, all you need is a train that does comfy, European speeds like 100 mph, instead of a painstakingly-built one that does twice as fast.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16172313

Endeavoring to solve all of our transportation problems in a single rail line seems like the underlying issue. If HSR had been built successfully and fairly directly, on or under budget, it would have been much easier to muster political support for future expansions.

What the heck is the train line doing near Fresno?

Why is it not following I-5 and making zero stops in between the South Bay and LA?

It's supposed to link the whole state, not just LA to the Bay

We can do both.

Put all the stations on sidings so that stopped trains do not block the main track. Trains operate point-to-point just like aircraft, with everybody getting on and off at the same time.

This means that there is little downside to adding more stops. The trip time for other stops is unaffected. There is no energy or time wasted on intermediate stops.

Only if the route is unchanged. Looking at a map it’s not going to be a straight line which increases travel time for every detour.


Yeah, but we're talking about a train that gets people from SF to LA in a couple hours or so. That's already pretty awesomely fast.

  gets people from SF to LA in a couple hours or so
Only if it had zero stops, which would defeat the purpose in the first place. Every stop means deceleration, stop to offload people and freight, then onload people and freight, then reacceleration to speed.

I'm saying there should be zero stops.

Privately-run transportation is smarter about stops. The airlines don't make all those stops when going from SF to LA. They do a non-stop flight.

There is no reason a train has to stop, and non-stop trains are still capable of serving all those cities. You buy a ticket, board the train, and it goes non-stop to the destination city. All this requires is that a stopped train doesn't block the other trains from passing through. Put the station off to the side, maybe even a couple miles from the main track.

With zero stops, it'd be about 2 hours or so in the 200-220 MPH target speed the HSR Authority's mandating. I can't find any published numbers for a proposed timetable/schedule for the SF/LA line, but I'd be really surprised if the stops added much more than another hour.

How were you imagining that many trains running on the tracks simultaneously? Stopping on a siding and waiting for a train to pass going the other direction takes time, never mind if there were trains running in both directions for every possible combination of stops.

You seem to be assuming there would only be one main line, and that this is a proposed reduction. I don't see it that way at all. Assume the line is two tracks. Add two more at each station, for a total of four, but just at the stations.

It's like with cars: we pull over to the side instead of just turning off the engine in the middle of the road.

At a station that uses island platforms, from west to east you have: southbound through traffic, southbound stopping trains, the platform, northbound stopping trains, northbound through trains.

At a station that uses separate platforms, from west to east you have: southbound platform, southbound stopping trains, southbound through trains, northbound through trains, northbound stopping trains, northbound platform.

Of course, in reality the line may have sections with different numbers of tracks. It could be 1, 2, 3, or 4. There could even be gauntlet tracks.

In the UK, many of our main passenger rail lines run 4-track in commuter areas - you can run a slow local stopping service and high speed intercity services simultaneously without problems.

In Japan on the shinkansen lines, the local bullet train is passed by the express while they are boarding at the local stops and those are the only areas where they expand to 4 sets of rail. At least in most of the routes I've travelled, there are 2 lines.

Fresno to Silicon Valley is very bad road route (single lanes, towns, redlights) with no major highway and very poor Greyhound/Amtrak connection. It will be great to have an HSR instead of the 3 hr drive.

Politics. Other responses on this thread are bending over backwards to explain it rationally, but honestly, the route was chosen to help keep state legislators from the rural parts of California from scuttling the deal.

If Fresno, Bakersfield, etc. weren't included as stops, then those rural legislators would be entirely rational in scuttling said deal, given that it'd be a massive expenditure with exactly zero benefit to their constituents.

That's clearly nonsense -- it has some benefit, in the sense that it grows the economy which pays the taxes which funds things like dams and bridges and fire departments -- but let's put a pin in that.

Frankly, I wish we'd stop using my tax dollars for road subsidies in Flyover, Oklabraska and military assault vehicles for local police, but we live in a society, and we don't always get what we individually want. I'm not naïve and realize that politics have always been selfish, but the subsidy arrow in America points solidly toward the middle, and has done so for decades. They're already getting more than their fair share in Bakersfield, so maybe they can shut up for a little while and take a hit for the common good.

> That's clearly nonsense -- it has some benefit, in the sense that it grows the economy

The estimates that justified it relied on displaced freeway traffic in the valley, without that and just traffic between the two initial termini (or maybe adding Sab Diego, but if you are avoiding the Valley you presumably drop the planned Sacramento terminus as well) there wouldn't be an economic case for the project at all.

"it has some benefit, in the sense that it grows the economy which pays the taxes which funds things like dams and bridges and fire departments"

The inland cities won't get to see that benefit, since the train that's supposed to be providing that economic growth would only be doing so for two coastal areas.

Unless you're claiming here that the prosperity of San Francisco and Los Angeles means that Fresno and Bakersfield magically become richer, in which case that'd just be trickle-down economics (but maybe that'd be fitting for the state where Reagan was Governor).

"Frankly, I wish we'd stop using my tax dollars for road subsidies in Flyover, Oklabraska"

Okay, you're free to vote that way. I don't wish that, and I'll tend to vote accordingly. Or, more precisely: I'll be inclined to vote for politicians who in turn vote/act/etc. accordingly.

(I do agree with you about the proliferation of military assault vehicles in civilian police departments, for what it's worth; that's a waste of money that'd be better spent elsewhere, like on transportation infrastructure).

In the case of this train, the point of the State of California funding it is for the State of California as a whole to benefit. If San Francisco and Los Angeles want to build a train that only connects those two cities and leave the rest of the state high and dry, then they can spend their own money on it. If you expect us inland Californians to pitch in, then the least y'all can do is give us some stops in the bigger of our cities.

"They're already getting more than their fair share in Bakersfield"

It's called redistribution of wealth. Just like how some individuals are disadvantaged relative to others, some cities are disadvantaged relative to others. Just like how we help subsidize the welfare of less-fortunate Americans by asking for a greater contribution from more-fortunate Americans, we help subsidize the welfare of less-fortunate cities by asking for a greater contribution from more-fortunate cities.

The subsidy arrow in America points solidly toward the middle because that's where it's needed most right now. Trying to move the arrow back toward the coasts will only amplify that need.

"The subsidy arrow in America points solidly toward the middle because that's where it's needed most right now."

No, that's revisionism. We've been fire-hosing money at rural areas for decades, if not longer. This isn't a recent thing, and it's mostly because our system of government has one branch that over-represents the voices of rural citizens.

"San Francisco and Los Angeles want to build a train that only connects those two cities and leave the rest of the state high and dry, then they can spend their own money on it."

If you expect people to pave roads and provide drinking water and put out forest fires out in Bakersfield, maybe you can spend your own money on it. We'll gladly take our money away from that, and spend it on things we need...like mass transit. Keep up with this absolutist, ultimatum line of thinking, and you're going to lose.

> If you expect people to pave roads and provide drinking water and put out forest fires out in Bakersfield

A central justification of building HSR is to not pave roads in the Valley; that is, it displaces freeway construction, expansion, and maintenance that would otherwise be required.

This got a little ranty, so tl;dr: if you want the rural areas to carry their own weight instead of being dependent on subsidies from urban areas, the best way of going about that is to invest in their infrastructure now so that they have the means to grow and prosper and contribute more to state tax revenues. In this case, the HSR wouldn't have been worthwhile to pursue if it didn't connect the Central Valley; it would have been a whole lot of spending for very little long-term economic gain in the short term (and outright economic loss in the long-term), as explained further below.


"We've been fire-hosing money at rural areas for decades, if not longer."

Yes, because for decades - if not longer - they haven't had the tax base to support large infrastructure projects, by the very definition of them being rural areas.

"our system of government has one branch that over-represents the voices of rural citizens"

Clarification: it balances them against the overwhelmingly loud collective voice of urban citizens to protect against there being a tyranny of the majority. By enforcing strictly proportional representation, the rural citizens will get steamrolled time and time again. The United States went with a bicameral legislature - and the states followed with their own bicameral legislatures - because its founders recognized that giving minority voices sufficient representation to adequately defend themselves against majority interests is the key to long-term prosperity.

"If you expect people to pave roads and provide drinking water and put out forest fires out in Bakersfield, maybe you can spend your own money on it."

They do pay for those things through taxes. They can't pay as much as giant metropolitan areas, and thus do need financial assistance from said giant metropolitan areas, but it ain't like their residents are magically exempt from state income/property/sales/gas/alcohol/tobacco/etc. taxes, or state DMV fees, or the wide variety of other means by which the State of California collects its revenue.

"Keep up with this absolutist, ultimatum line of thinking, and you're going to lose."

Right back at you: keep up with this absolutist "you dirty farmers don't deserve to ride our fancy new train because we're richer than you" mentality, and you're going to lose. Your position is really the most selfish one possible: burn billions upon billions of dollars on a project that only benefits two already-overwhelmingly-prosperous metropolitan areas in the short term, thus doing nothing to account for the long-term growth of those two areas and their resulting need for their workforce to live further and further away from the city center to be able to afford rent.

Because really, in the long term, connecting SF and LA and Fresno and Bakersfield and (eventually) Sacramento and Stockton and Modesto and San Diego is a surefire recipe for eventual statewide prosperity. San Francisco in particular will have a lot of trouble continuing to grow economically (what with its rising housing costs pushing workers further and further away from the city center) unless there's a fast connection to cheaper places to live; with a high-speed connection to the Central Valley, you now have a more affordable home for a constantly-growing workforce. I'm less familiar with Los Angeles' dynamics in this regard, but I wouldn't be surprised if they saw similar gains. Meanwhile, those rural areas grow and mature and become less reliant on subsidies to operate. Win-win for everyone.

Sure, maybe that costs more upfront, and maybe it'll take a whole 3 hours to get from SF to LA instead of 2.5 (or whatever the actual numbers are, but IIRC even with the stops it's still less than 3 hours between SF and LA), but any sane and rational person would see that those costs are worth it if it means paving the way for California as a whole to continue to grow for another century the same way it has for a century already. Opposing the idea of the Central Valley actually having stops on the CHSR is the definition of irrationality: it'd still cost billions upon billions of dollars, and it ain't like a whole lot of people are clamoring to commute between SF and LA every day (both have thriving economies, and both have high costs of living, so there's no SF/Sac dynamic where people are willing to commute for 2+ hours if it means cheaper rent), so... what would be the point?

The only thing you'd accomplish by making the HSR SF/LA-only would be to extend a nice big metaphorical middle finger toward the Central Valley. If that's your goal, then you do you, but don't be surprised when the Central Valley votes against you while extending it's own middle finger in return.

There is a sizable population of Silicon Valley workers who live in Fresno and commmute daily. I grew up there and they started moving there in the late 90s. This is just based of my observation, friends parents, newspaper articles in the Fresno bee so I don’t have statistics. Also not sure the actual financial impact of tourism but Fresno is the gateway to the major tourist attraction - Yosemite Valley and Kings canyon. I’m sure a lot of foreigners would ride from LA or the bay to then take the bus tours from Fresno.

Fresno is the third largest city in the state and the agricultural capital of the state. Going through Fresno will link the three largest industries: technology, entertainment, and agriculture.

Fresno's merely the seventh largest urban area, and nowhere close to being the third largest city in the state: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_California_urban_areas

It is the biggest population center between San Jose and Southern California, though.

"and the agricultural capital of the state"

We Sacramentans would object to that. We wouldn't adopt some silly slogan about being the world's "Farm-to-Fork Capital" otherwise.

Granted, Sacramento's already the actual capital, so I'm fine with letting them have this one.

I know Fresno is relatively large but the entire purpose of this route was/is/I guess isn't to get people from SF to LA as a rival to air travel.

No, the purpose cited and the comparison made in cost justifications was to North/South freeway traffic it would displace, not competition with air travel.

> Fresno is the third largest city in the state

Fifth, behind LA, San Diego, San José, and San Francisco.

> What the heck is the train line doing near Fresno?

A major purpose of the train is to reduce future expected freeway traffic that is largely driven by demand between the San Joaquin Valley and the two (well, four in the longest view) termini.

Avoiding the populated parts of the San Joaquin Valley would have missed much of the point of the project.

Fresno is a very important area in Central California. It was politically necessary to include them.

Also, economically. You can't really displace a bunch of Valley freeway construction if your train bypasses all the populated parts of the Valley that generate the traffic driving freeway demand.

Because California is more than just two coastal cities.

> these are rapidly growing exurbs that are refuge from the exorbitant land prices in the LA Basin.

What kind of country are we building where we send people to live in exurbs in a literal barren desert -- I'm not exaggerating, I was in Palmdale a few weeks ago, and it could have inspired Solzhenitsyn -- with a fast train into the city, lest the petit bourgeois of L.A. be forced to live in -ugh- townhomes? There are great reasons for infill stations, but "encouraging the growth of exurbs" are not among them. Especially not when the exurbs are to function as the servants' quarters so that we can facilitate the continued excesses of Angelenos.

If you want to help the people of California, build the train line to Ventura and then north to Bakersfield. Those places are habitable. And I believe the commoners deserve to go to the beach once in a while.

Of the different environments I've lived in across the globe, deserts are my favorite, and it isn't a difficult decision.

It does take a little time to learn how to see their beauty, but rest assured, it's there, and many people like it.

Most of the LA basin was open desert, not that much different than the land around Palmdale, until developed, water piped in, and new vegetation grown.

People like living in Palmdale. Believe it or not, many people find deserts beautiful. Having grown up in So Cal, I certainly do.'

  we send people to live in exurbs in a literal barren desert
SF was just a windswept array of sand dunes and salt marsh. It produces no resources. All food, water, and materials have to be imported. One of the grandest natural features of the state (Hetch Hetchy valley) was ruined to give SF a water tank.

What route should the train take from Ventura to Bakersfield? And how will it affect the travel times required by law?

The CHSR indeed does have a Phase 1 stop in Bakersfield (among other inland cities).

He wants to go to Ventura. Bakersfield has or had oil, but no beach!

Might be cheaper to melt the ice caps and give Bakersfield a beach.

You nailed it. If the HSR was viewed as a SF and LA to Central Valley connection, it would have been much easier to implement. Also, they could have taken a typical MVP style product launch and only completed a small section such as between Gilroy and SF to have a proof of concept. There is a good product lession here of taking on too much scope and then dealing with inevitable scope creep

Saw "There Will Be Blood" the other day. Thought I recognized Tehachapi and looked it up. Turns out that movie was based in California and not in Texas as I assumed. Excellent movie btw.

I'd love to know the rationale in choosing Pacheco over Altamont.

Pacheco is southern enough that the line can continue up through San Jose and up through Silicon Valley to SF. Altamont is far enough north that it would bypass SJ/SV, plus would require a bridge.

Also the land further south is a lot cheaper.

It would be a circuitous route to take the Altamont pass, then go south to San Jose, and up the Peninsula to SF. The plan is to use the Caltrain tracks to travel between San Jose and SF.

I used to support the HSR project on the grounds that connecting the state (both LA / Bay Area and the Central Valley towns) would yield long term economic benefits due the increased flow of people within the state. Decreasing the effective distance between people by making travel faster and cheaper has a lot of value in the information economy. Nothing beats face to face communication.

I now no longer support the project due to the large price tag. I don’t believe the convenience of HSR over air travel is worth the cost of this infrastructure investment. We could get way more value out of investing in building our local public transportation and expanding the highway network.

Maybe if we went back to the drawing board a reasonable HSR plan would be possible (this article certainly provides good areas of improvement). Until then, we need to stop forging ahead.

All big infrastructure projects are very expensive, always miss their deadlines and go way over budget; it is the nature of the beast. I'm not saying it is ok or that it could not be managed better: it could and it should.

The thing is that the cost of such projects is an investments and a legacy for future generations to enjoy. Imagine if we had to build the BART or the highway system in this they and age. How much would it cost? How many buildings in highly concentrated areas will need to be taken down to make way? Do you even believe that BART was on budget or on time?

Would it be any cheaper to build a high speed rail system in 10 years? In 20 years? Should we throw the towel and decide that future generations will only have the option to fly to LA or should they have to build it themselves at an even bigger price tag?

I know the HSR project is going to be over budget and the ROI won't be there for my generation. But in the same way that I can commute to SF on Bart, I want future generations to have the option to travel to LA in HSR.

Look, we're looking at a price tag of around $10,000 for every household in California. Assuming the costs don't go up further, as they likely would. That's a lot of money for a connection between SF and LA, especially when airlines are simply not that bad.

Especially given the poor state of public transit in SF and LA, we can do much more useful stuff with the money. For example, we could build a proper transit network in SF: http://www.newmunimetro.com/m-market/

There's no need for high-speed, long-distance, expensive commuter rail in today's era of high-quality, reliable, free, socially acceptable, and highly available videoconferencing solutions. Business travel is in decline for a reason!

> There's no need for high-speed, long-distance, expensive commuter rail in today's era of high-quality, reliable, free, socially acceptable, and highly available videoconferencing solutions.

That baseless assertion is so profoundly wrong at so many levels. It's like claiming that there is no need for cars just because skype is cheap.

I’m sure my family and long-distance relationship partner will be glad to hear about this new development!

(Typed from a train leaving Tokyo at 320 km/h, with beer and sandwich sold on board)

Working in the tech industry, one can easily experience the massive advantage that in-person interaction has over remote. It's not even close.

Is it decline? I can’t find a reliable source showing such a trend.

For $100B you could buy ~33,000 $3M-dollar electric commuter planes with 10 person capacity and 600mi range - not quite anything like that on the market yet mind you - but it seems close at hand. You could cover nearly the whole state, not just LA <--> SF, and have 330,000 person capacity. By what measure would this train be better?

Certainly not economic, noise, land-use, speed, convenience, coverage, or flexibility. Probably in terms of operational costs - but not by a huge margin. And the economics change if you scale the capacity down to match the train system and invest the rest to partially cover the operating costs.

And it took me 5 minutes to think of a (possibly) better plan than theirs.

Your plan has never been done before. It might completely fail for risks you and everyone else has never considered.

For all of rail's faults, we are certain it is possible. It's been done many times before. Maybe it can be done cheaper or more efficiently but there is no question that if we build it it will actually work.

Ok I'm sure it's a horrible plan. But I'm also sure if you think a little out of the box you could mop the floor with this rail project. Being too risk averse is also a risk, it's a risk of settling when you could have had better.

I don't think you can even get a (new) 10 seat plane for less than $10,000,000. And I doubt that a plane built using technology that doesn't exist yet will be 70% cheaper than ones you can get today. Even if you can find 33,000 planes for that cost there will be significant infrastructure costs (if you want to multiply the # of planes in the air in California by 10, you'll need more ATC, more runways, more hangars, more parking garages, and probably more airports).

Upfront costs are just a small fraction of the price of flying planes around. That 3 (or 10) million per plane quickly gets subsumed by maintenance, staffing, and other recurring costs.

I don't know how loud these hypothetical electric planes are, but if they're like traditional ones I doubt that they'd beat a train in terms of noise (even though HSR can be 10-20 decibels louder than slower trains). I would question that there would actually be an advantage in speed or convenience, at least between highly populated areas.

Very impressive. But in just three minutes, I thought of an even better plan: put a $10M wormhole between LA and SF and have near instant travel. Wormholes don’t quite exist yet, but they seem close at hand.

I thought of an even better plan: put a $7.5B Hyperloop between LA and SF and have near instant travel. Hyperloops don't quite exist yet, but they seem close at hand.


There was a plane featured on HN this week with those exact specs.

...and last year, and the one before that, and the one before that. And each of them has, for some unfathomable reason, failed to materialize. But that's just a small matter of sky-piloting (in the original sense, i.e. "pie in the sky").

For sale for $3M?

Yes, but I have my doubts

“aims to have one flying early next year.”, and HN is skeptical about it (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18602771)

> For $100B you could buy ~33,000 $3M-dollar electric commuter planes

If you intend to make a honest comparison then you need to factor in at least the cost of building and operating at least two airports.

> For $100B you could buy ~33,000 $3M-dollar electric commuter planes with 10 person capacity and 600mi range

So, how much does all the new airport and hanger capacity and support infrastructure cost, and what are the maintenance, operations, and replacement costs like over time?

> And it took me 5 minutes to think of a (possibly) better plan than theirs.

Not even close.

There is also the environmental impact to consider. Air travel has a much larger emission profile compared to train travel, and train travel has a much larger capacity. Plus, rail station are often in the center of the city rather than on the outskirts like airports are. e.g. traveling by train from Boston to NYC vs flying is almost a wash time wise due to travel to/from the airport + buffer time for security.

> There is also the environmental impact to consider. Air travel has a much larger emission profile compared to train travel

I'm not sure that's true.

Heavy locomotives require a lot of fuel, and aircraft turbine engines are fairly efficient these days (airplanes roughly get 1% more efficient per year, compounded annually.)

Railroads also divide the landscape, which has a highly negative impact on wild-life roaming and migration patterns.

It definitely is true, these are electrified lines and rolling resistance is low. For equivalent distances elsewhere emissions are 80-90% lower with rail over air transport. With the potential for solar in SoCal there is no reason this could not be even better.

Dividing the landscape is a separate issue. It can be mitigated against (tunnels, habitat bridges, route planning), but alone it's not an excuse to stick with emission heavy modes of transport.

Getting to the city center, though, is often problematic. You either follow the existing railroad lines, which often have tight curves, or you build your own, which involves ripping out a long path through the already-existing city.

if Japan can manage it America can

The more relevant comparison would be California specifically instead of all of America.

Still, given that if California were an independent country it'd be right behind Japan in terms of GDP, if Japan can manage high-speed rail, we should be able to.

The issue is a large chunk of tax revenue goes to the federal govt, not the state of calfornia.

That and their mismanagement of property tax and pubic pensions.

Or you tunnel. Expensive, but effective.

Exponentially expensive. Do I hear "seismically active terrain"?

Yep, same here. It's been such a boondoggle. I wish I could take back my support.

It looks like sometimes you do need a Robert Moses to have a vision and force it through. Here there were too many compromises and too many cooks in the kitchen demanding things and putting their c2 in.

I think all of your arguments could have been made against BART 30 years ago as well. I'd be willing to bet that future generations will be glad we made the investment in HSR despite inefficiencies in it's construction.

HSR is not only supposed to support LA and SF. Air travel is great for those cities but it doesn't do much for anything in between.

The HSR will be overpriced, but it may benefit the state for a long time. The BART train used to not go to SFO because the counties below SF did not want to pay for it. And then they did. Was it too expensive? I don't know. My grandchildren will probably be able to take BART from SF to the airport. What they would those counties spent on that would benefit my grandchildren?

What’s interesting to me is that the federal tax cuts passed last year cost around $150B a year. I know you may not support this either, but that would pay for the construction of 1 and a 1/2 HSR’s a year, even with the cost overrun.

Reminds me of PG’s essay about how it’s easy to loss lots of money on bad investments, even for people who are normally frugal on luxuries.

Tax rates were cut; tax revenue was not. The federal government is expecting $26 billion more in tax revenue than in 2017.

That may have been the estimate, but so far receipts are not keeping pace with 2017. Depending on your reference tax year revenues are 3% - 8% lower than 2017 thus far [1].

[1] http://www.crfb.org/blogs/tax-bill-did-not-cause-revenue-ris...

That’s a bit semantics as it’s looking at just one year, and in any case doesn’t look at the delta from the old law.

Edit: IIRC the law had some incentives to onshore money at special tax rates, which may cause a one-time bump in revenues.

So, this article has some valid criticisms, but why is this the case? Why does it seem like modern America can't manage any public works projects without them taking twice as long and costing twice as much as projected? Is it regulation? Lack of work ethic? Graft? It seems like a major problem.

I don't know about the "taking twice as long" problem, but I can tell you why they cost twice as much: A long history of (a) rewarding underbidding and (b) bailing out under-bidders.

If I'm buying a widget costing $1 billion, and everyone in the widget industry knows I'm going to accept the lowest bid which will be about $0.5 billion, then I'll end up paying that bidder $1.5 billion... well, I'm going to end up accepting someone who responded rationally to the incentives I'm offering them.

If I had to guess it’s probably a result of vested interest opposing construction, and a reluctance to use eminent domain to buy up land. In the Bay Area there are powerful NIMBY groups that oppose train construction for the usual obvious reasons.

Maybe a better question is why are our estimates so unrealistically low? Bid processes choose the vendor who claims they can do it the cheapest, not the one who actually can.

Because you have actors/lawyers planning a vast complex project with input from voters who have no clue how to build anything at this scale. if it wasn't political, then it would be feasible. But thats not the world we live in.

We're all spread out really really far compared to the rest of the world.

This is one rail line that would connect San Francisco and Los Angeles, the two most populous regions in the most populous state in the US. The fact that the entire country is sparsely populated does not affect the feasibility or utility of this project in particular.

A thing that becomes obvious when looking at the actual work being done is a lot of the central valley work is grade separation. The work is grade separating both the future high speed rail lines and existing freight rail lines. The whole project is filled with things like that. Work that already needs to be done irrespective of the HSR part. With that consideration the SF to LA feature is really about a 1/3 the total price tag.

I remember one time someone made the too spread out argument. I went and tried to do an estimate for a HSR line from Chicago to Denver. Via Kansans City and St louis. About 1000 miles.

Probably cost between 25-50 billion. Maybe less since for most of it the only things in the way are corn fields and cows.

Which seems like a lot of money, but then compare with the $2T spent on the 'war on terror' since 2001.



  the two most populous regions
Silicon Valley (even San Jose proper) is more populous than SF.

And San Diego is more populous than either.

The Hoover dam was built on time and budget, along with numerous other public works projects of the early 20 century.

It’s as if nothing can get done now.

Over 100 workers died building it.

China built 17,000 miles of high-speed rail in 15 years.


There’s another 8000 on the way by 2025.

China also federally funds them. But God forbid if the US Federal govt spends some infrastructure money on the coastal elites. That will be blasphemy

It's easy to do when you can just forcibly move people and don't have to listen to what the locals think before you start laying track

That’s a great excuse for getting right of ways.

However, that doesn’t explain how they can build 17,000 miles of track and we can’t build 800.

Um, the US government can do that too? I'm not aware of any government that doesn't hold eminent domain powers.

China's method of eminent domain is a bit more... forceful than you might be thinking.

Source: lived in China

Ah, does China go through the courts for every segment, taking months or years (including determining fair value for compensation)?

Dodger Stadium was built by razing a poor but cultural neighborhood and it is now considered to have been unethically done. But it was fast...

> Ah, does China go through the courts for every segment, taking months or years (including determining fair value for compensation)?

Which sounds like a very inefficient court system to me.

I'm not sure I want speedy government takeover of land.

But I want faster trials. If it fails, it should fail fast. If it succeeds, it should succeed fast.

I suppose I cannot argue with that. Many different slow things probably have this same root cause.

The UK government has to go through lengthy rounds of consulting with local citizens, groups, other interested parties in order to build anything like this. Building a new runway at Heathrow took so long because of years and years of consultations and negotiations.

China doesn't have to do that.

There was also a world wide depression.

I kinda think that paying the minimum possible attracts low quality workers, which is ok, but sub optimal.

Making the pay competitive, like it was then, might reduce the total cost.

While perhaps true, this doesn't actually address the question asked, which is why we are unable to create accurate projections and meet projected budgets. This is wholly unaffected by the density of the areas being connected, because presumable such density would simply be taken into account via whatever mathematical / economical modeling is being down.

That should be reflected in the projections, which it apparently isn't.

California has as many people as all of Canada. There's _tons_ of people in this state to null your point. Maybe in the midwest your argument might hold true, however.

As someone who voted for this project, I'm really bummed with how it's actually turning out. The actual costs are so much more than what people voted for, yet no one's being held responsible.

At the same time, I don't really have a solution to this problem. We need to invest in large scale transportation initiatives for the future — projects just as forward-looking as BART once was. Yet not even NYC can pull it together anymore to extend their subway lines on budget and on time.

Worse, every time this happens, initiatives like this become harder and harder for voters to consider.

The 1976 BART cost $10B in today's dollars to construct. If you were alive in 1976 would you have said it was a boondoggle and the project should have been killed?

IMO people consistently underestimate how much public infrastructure is worth. The US highway system was sold at a cost of $27B [1] but cost over $100B and has cost nearly $500B today [2].

Does that mean the US Highway system wasn't worth it? Of course it was, the public just doesn't understand how much it had to cost. The Iraq war cost trillions for zero benefit for future generations, even if 50% of the cost of HSR is waste it's still a better deal by far.


[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System

> The 1976 BART cost $10B in today's dollars to construct. If you were alive in 1976 would you have said it was a boondoggle and the project should have been killed?

And what would BART cost today to build? $50 billion? Would it be worthwhile at that price? The problem is that costs for public infrastructure are ballooning much faster than inflation. That puts more pressure on public infrastructure projects to produce benefits that justify the investment. I fully expect many public infrastructure expenditures today won't ever justify themselves, for example DC's silver line.

  you have said it was a boondoggle
It was in the sense that it was obsolete, proprietary technology, excessively priced, and badly equipped. It's implementation favored only western Alameda county and SF at the expense of everybody else. That's why San Mateo County and Santa Clara County bailed. Contra Costa would have, too, if they had any idea what poor service they would get in proportion to their contributions from the beginning.

Didn’t Santa Clara voters just approve a $6B initiative to support Bart service? Why do you think they wouldn’t want to be part of the system if they just voted to be part of it?


At $50B, yes. BART will exist in some form for at least a century. It is so hard to understand how valuable it is to make something that so many people use every day for that long but it is really valuable.

How valuable? $50 billion is enough to create a fund that pays out $2 billion annually in perpetuity, or about $15 for every BART ride. That’s not counting ongoing operations and maintenance. Does BART generate $15 in positive value per ride above and beyond ticket cost, relative to driving? I’m skeptical.

$3 I’ll believe. Which is why the constant factors kill us relative to Europe. It costs us 3-7x to build the same infrastructure as Europe. That pushes the required value per ride that needs to be generated to unrealistic levels.

You haven't taken into account how much the bay area would have needed to spend on bridges and freeways if BART hadn't been built.

https://www.bart.gov/sites/default/files/docs/BARTfactsheet_... says (as of 2017) 70k people go through the transbay tube in each direction during peak commute hours.

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/esc/tollbridge/SFOBB/Sfobbfacts.htm... isn't dated but says that 270k vehicles cross the Bay Bridge every day.

These numbers aren't directly comparable because they're not measuring the same thing, but taking things as pessimistically as possible, let's say those 270k vehicle crossings all happen during the same time period as the BART numbers. If all those commuters crossed the Bay Bridge by themselves in a vehicle (because the overwhelming majority of car commutes are one person per car), that would be (270k + 70k) / 270k or a 26% increase in vehicles, when it's already ludicrously packed every single day. The bridge would need to have been widened by now (or another bridge built entirely, with feeder freeway interchanges on both sides).

I'm not ignoring it. I'm computing the per-trip capital cost for BART assuming today's inflated construction costs, and asking if the reduced congestion/need for road infrastructure would still justify that investment given today's costs.

I don't think you realize how completely bonkers the cost of mass-transit development has gotten. New York is up to $1.5-3.5 billion per mile of subway. The new Bay Bridge, massively over-budget at $6.4 billion, represents just a few miles of subway (BART has almost 30 miles).

  70k people go through the transbay tube... 270k vehicles cross the Bay Bridge every day
In other words, taking your figures painfully literally, if those vehicles carpooled just one additional passenger each on average, you'd have 4 times the added throughput that BART provides.

But this will never happen as long as we give HOV lane access to cars other than those carrying 2+ licensed drivers... for political reasons.

Let's take your own reasoning and let's apply it and see where the numbers fall.

The Bart cost was $1.586 billion (according to Wikipedia) or around ~$10 billion of today's dollars.

Let say that back then we had put that money ($1.586 billion) into an annuity in perpetuity and given the money each years to the riders so they will find alternative means of transport.

So if instead of building bart back in the 70's we had put the money into a perpetual annuity, we would be receiving the sum of $63.5 millions a year from the annuity (your own numbers seem to indicate a 4% yield). That is less than 50 cents per ride (according to Wikipedia Bart gives 129 million rides a year).

I don't think the cost is insignificant compared with the level of economic activity that the 400.0000 daily riders generate for SF and the Bay Area in general.

And now imagine 20 years from now how much $63.5 millions a year will buy you compared with the benefits of mass transportation.

For things like endowments, the general assumption is that you can get a 4% yield that keeps pace with inflation, without touching principal. So you'd be up to $300 million per year today. That's about $2.50 per BART ride of $750 per year per BART rider, which is a believable number.

The problem that you're ignoring, however, is that the relative cost of building infrastructure today is far higher than it was in the 1970s. If you built BART today, it wouldn't cost $10 billion in today's dollars. NYC's recent projects are running $1.5-3.5 billion per mile of subway track. BART has 28 such miles. That's $42-100 billion, not including the other 70 miles in the system.

So what if BART had cost $8 billion ($50 billion in today's dollars) instead of $1.586 ($10 billion)? Instead of having to great $2.50 of value per ride to justify the investment, you're up to at least $12.50. Or $3,750 per daily BART rider. Is each BART trip generating that much value compared to doing the same trip in a car?

  That is less than 50 cents per ride 
... if you ignore all the years' operational costs, personnel costs (including benefits and pensions), debt service, etc.... which is the lion's share of the costs.

Your math is wrong. You can (at least historically) get a 4% annuity that rises with inflation in perpetuity.

Where can I get a save investment that pays a 4% annuity that rises with inflation?

I'm genuinely curious. My father is retired and has some savings and that would seem like the ideal investment for him.

  That’s not counting ongoing operations and maintenance.
Or debt service.

> IMO people consistently underestimate how much public infrastructure is worth.

I think you mean “politicians consistently lie about how much public infrastructure projects will cost.”

Transport hubs encourage development. In the UK look at all the satellite industries around Heathrow and Gatwick. Look at the offices being built close to Paddington and Kings Cross stations in London, or Reading.

The sensible thing would be for the city to buy up land round the stations, then build offices and lease them. The income would offset the costs.

  Transport hubs encourage development.
In the Bay Area, compare the degree of development along the BART tracks with development well away from BART (e.g. San Mateo county, Silicon Valley, etc.)

Check out the BART tracks from Oakland to Fremont especially.

  The US highway system was sold at a cost of $27B [1] but cost over $100B and has cost nearly $500B today [2]
This is disingenuous.

First of all, the original bill estimate was just for the first 41,000 miles.

Secondly, the $27B is in 1956 dollars, while the "$500B" is in 2006 dollars. BIG difference. $27B in 1956 dollars is roughly $248 billion now, and, again, the scope of the interstate system expanded broadly.

(I'd bet that the modern figure includes both the Interstate system and the U.S. highway system, which lacks meaningful usage distinction now from the designated "Interstate" routes.)

> As someone who voted for this project, I'm really bummed with how it's actually turning out. The actual costs are so much more than what people voted for, yet no one's being held responsible.

Anyone who didn't expect a California-run HSR project to not be wildly over budget is a fool.

Yeah, exactly. Voted for the High-speed rail line knowing full well the budget was an absolute joke. It doesn't matter. While i would like to have a more efficient state, it's abundantly clear we need a high speed rail system between our economic centers. Otherwise, there won't be any money left to pay for anything.

> A comparatively small amount of state aid to LA Metro would do far more for California’s environment and economy

Like finishing the Green Line to @#$&ing LAX, maybe. It's ludicrous how bad the public transportation options are to what is arguably the most important airport on the west coast.

Meanwhile, on my monthly sorties through the Central Valley, the Authority continues with its gigantic monuments to bloodymindedness, building tracks no one will ride and ramps no train will crest. We could do so much better with that money.

Or any improvements on the 405 for us poor souls who live in the Valley+ and work in Santa Monica :(

We just spent a lot on that. [1]

Are you not seeing results?

What additonal work would you like to see?

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/20/us/los-angeles-drivers-on...

Instead of adding lanes, they should have added some useable public transportation like a light rail. There is 2million~ people living in the SFV and all it has is a stupid bus line that goes to the red line. Light rail that connects the SFV to West LA and LAX would be a huge improvement. It doesn't help that Los Angeles city government is incompetent and the rich in Bel Air and Bev hills like to throw wrenches in everything.

I would like to see more than two lanes on the 405-101 interchange lanes, and dedicated carpool lanes for this interchange plus 405-10.

A Sepulveda Pass-LAX subway is supposedly coming eventually!

Wouldn't it be better for it to start at the orange line busway stop around the Sepulveda station, or is that it's start point?

Is there a page about this 405 highway train plan somewhere?

Metro has some pages about it: [0][1]

It's still very much in planning stages though, thus the "eventually" in my comment. Might be the same "eventually" as the Purple line making it to UCLA, or it might be the same "eventually" as high-speed rail between LA and SF. I'm hoping for the former...

0: https://thesource.metro.net/2018/06/07/rail-concepts-release...

1: https://www.metro.net/projects/sepulvedacorridor/

A negative article on HSR from a conservative think tank? I'm shocked! :P

The price tag in real dollars has increase since Prop 1A was passed in 2008, but the author is misrepresenting how much costs have increased compared to the initial estimate of $40 billion in 2008.

The absolute cost has increased because the estimated completion date has been pushed back by a decade or more and the construction estimates are in year of expenditure dollar, not current dollars or 2008 dollars.

I wrote a comment about it here.


Granted, I hate to see funds being poorly managed and contractors committing fraud with no accountability, which appears to have happened, but I also hate hit pieces where someone compares 2008 dollars to year of expenditure dollars like they're the same thing.

The simple facts seem to be that we have lost our capabilities to deliver these types of projects. I voted against it at the time assuming it could never be build with cost assumptions they put forth. Good concept with lots of potential benefits. Unfortunately we have zero chance of being able to to do it at a reasonable cost.


In comparison, the Chuo Shinkansen connecting Tokyo and Nagoya (286km in distance), which runs at a maximum speed of 505 km/h (314 mph), costs about 45 billion US dollars.

Thanks for the context.

So the Chuo Shinkansen = ~ $253,218,691/mi.(9 stations)

Est. CA HSR (Stage 1) = $190,384,615/mi (15 stations)

The Chuo Shinkansen is also a maglev line built mostly underground; it's not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Why does it seem that the U.S. has become incapable of building large projects in a reasonable amount of time and budget? It seems every major bit of construction is always years late, and billions over budget. Whether it's the Bay Bridge (half of it), or a new Space Shuttle replacement, or just fixing our bridges and other infrastructure, I've never read of a large public project actually coming in on time and on budget.

In China, they're building infrastructure so fast it's crazy. Regardless of the different social and political systems, we just seem to have lost all ability to function as a society to create big things that we need. Imagine if we wanted to build something like the Hoover Damn today?

I have to assume it has something to do with half the population trying to actively disrupt anything positive the government wants to do, and if they can't completely kill the project, they try to profit off it as much as possible, essentially "proving" that government is inefficient, if not outright incompetent.

We’ve empowered local bodies with veto power. This raises costs because of the holdout problem translated to regional politics. Add to the mix trade unions (not wild speculation, see NY MTA paying $1k/hr for non-existent jobs), large project fanboys, and exceptionalism (“this line will have a signaling mechanism that’s first in the world”) and you have sheer economic suicide. And that’s not even counting that there’s no project management expertise on this scale still present in America.

In the decades between now and completion, you’ll see the price rise continuously. Each time, you will be subject to the subject cost fallacy and people will say things like “but isn’t 150 billion worth it?”, “isn’t 200 billion worth it?”

People were told the 46 billion was not going to happen and all the way up to today’s 97 billion they’ve pulled these tactics. Many of the fans will think it’s worth it at 1 trillion for no reason. They won’t admit it now, but as the price rises you’ll see that no price rise will faze them.

  the U.S. has become incapable of building large projects in a reasonable amount of time and budget?
Private projects come in on time and on budget, or nearly so, all the time. It's the public sector projects that are layered in graft.

The last major public project that came in near the original budget that I can recall is the San Jose Area (now SAP).

Private projects come in on time and on budget all the time? Do you have any evidence to support this? I’ve seen plenty of private projects gonoff the rails. The difference is that private projects can keep their budget information, well, private.

Which private enterprise has the power to run a hundred billion project that isn’t funded by the government. Not one.

Think of all the high-rise apartments (which so many on HN claim to want) and large commercial complexes that are constructed purely by private enterprise.

AT&T Park, Levi's Stadium (over $1 billion), and the new Warriors arena (over $1 billion) were privately funded.

Uber, Google Search Engine, Facebook, etc.

None of them have done anything on this scale, have they? They’re valuable because they don’t make investments like this. Their work is on a long lever so they have great margins over massive volume.

Google has spent over $200 million on land alone... in the valley alone... just in the past month.

I heard that it seriously depleted HQ's petty cash fund. (But seriously, these were, in fact, all-cash deals.)

Yeah, but they don't do that every month. And $200 million is 1/500 of 100 billion. This is like the difference between going to a nice restaurant and buying a McLaren P1. Or spending all your money as an L7 at Google vs. going to space yourself.

I’m pretty sure Uber has terrible margins :)

Haha, or potential for great margins, right. It's not one big project that costs $100 bil, right. There's very little incrementality to HSR, etc.

Self driving cars are expected roll out in the same time frame as this rail project. I think they change the ridership equation. The drive from LAX to SFO is about 6 hours, 3 hours longer than by HSR. But if I can work or sleep in the back I'd prefer to take the car. The car gives me more flexibility at the destination and more privacy, comfort and cargo space.

When self driving cars become sufficiently trustworthy a better solution might be a hybrid: high speed self driving car lanes.

If you are talking about taking a car solo, that's pretty expensive. It's hard to imagine a marginal cost under $0.23/mile for driving [1], so you are looking at a round-trip solo cost of $132 minimum - that's higher than flying (if you can plan it).

Either way, I'm not sure how much autonomy changes things. You can get luxury buses overnight for $115 overnight (https://www.latimes.com/travel/deals/la-tr-money-20170903-st...) already which probably beats the comfort of a car anyway - how much will not paying a driver cut costs?

[1] http://www.forthgo.com/blog/2007/05/24/marginal-cost-of-driv...

I would expect it to be like renting a more expensive car but you can sleep in it for the ride over. Cost needs to beat luxury bus or flight + cost of ubering around in the city

A bus is great: until you arrive at your destination and have a meeting in Palo Alto.

Brad Templeton made this argument several years ago:


I tend to disagree. You can move a lot more people more efficiently by train. The train can’t take the direct route because land is now too expensive, versus 40 years ago when the idea was first raised.

It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t built in the 1970’s because we’d now be talking about replacing it with a 350 mph maglev in 30 years.

Cars may become self driving, but that won't change the fundamental efficiency problem in that you can only fit so many people in a private car.

What you're describing can already be done by calling a Lyft, albeit at slightly higher costs than a self driving car.

As Uber is a major investor in self-driving tech, self driving short term rentals are all but inevitable, and likely to become the normal way cars are used. You can rent the whole car or pay less by car pooling, managed by an app. Probably it still will never be as energy efficient as a train on rails, but it's a lot better than one car one rider. And unlike the train, it can easily drop one rider off anywhere along the way.

Or combine the two: turn trains into land ferries where the route allows, and drive road cars onto train cars on one end and off on the other.

Uber is nowhere near a "leader" in the space. If by leader you mean stealing tech from Google, then yes.

A network of self-driving cars is a train, or could be considered one if engineered properly.

Of course, self-driving cars don't run on fixed rails, which costs them a lot of popularity around here. People don't seem to understand that fixed rail is only good for transporting lots and lots of people, very efficiently and safely, from one place where they don't want to be to another place where they don't want to be.

Well, that depends on how you build your railways. The way I see it done in the US this is indeed the case, as the stations (especially in California) seem to be in bizarre places and there is rarely a way to get to say an airport by train.

But you can also build railways that make sense. See Japan for an excellent example, as well as most of Europe. These get you from where you are to where you want to be quickly and efficiently.

I fully support public transit, including trains, but the geography of the US is not conducive to dense trains due to the urban sprawl.

Ideally the sprawl is minimized for maximum efficiency (in both enhanced inter-personal cooperation, living cost) but it's hard to sell that when gas is cheap, and land is plenty.

There's another issue unique to the US, is that there is a diverse spectrum of races, income levels, and cultural groups that make it hard for these different groups to live together in a dense area peacefully (as compared to a homogenous place like Japan). Much of the inane urban planning in The US is actually a result of people just trying to prevent black people or poor people from moving into their neighborhoods.

Well, where I live train stations are generally located very centrally and conveniently in the cities I go to regularly. I'd far rather get a train into the local cities than drive - which would take longer and cost more.

What part of California do you live in?

I don't - but your statement above seemed to be applying to fixed rail in general and not just in California.

Edit: As someone who generally likes trains I've tried to use them in California and found it pretty much impossible - but that's a problem with California not "fixed rail".

It's also expected that a manned mission to Mars will launch in 2024, that doesn't mean it will actually happen. Personally, I'm quite skeptical about self driving cars hype and think people should at least consider possibility it's much further out then hype articles are trying to make us believe.

For the people reading these postings, I noticed there's some misunderstandings about California HSR ...

1) It's not for transportation. It's a jobs and pension program for appointees. State leaders are willing to spend $100 billion (or more) of taxpayer money for $1 billion of pork.

2) The state cannot even manage Caltrain well, which is only 50 miles long (SF to Gilroy.) There's no way they can manage a route 400 miles long.

3) Domestic airlines do a good job of intra-state travel already.

4) There was never an affordable model for building HSR. It never made any sense financially for California.

5) Residents of Palo Alto and Atherton will sue the state into oblivion if they don't bury the HSR. And the state won't because tunnelling is $2 billion per mile.

I think most people on HN don’t realize one thing, though: most Americans are very much in favour of this sort of pork barrel funding. They may say otherwise but when it comes down to it the operative reasoning is “everyone else will get the pork barrel but me so I need to get in on it”. Revealed Preferences are pro-pork.

> It's a jobs and pension program for appointees > There was never an affordable model for building HSR

If someone isn't aware of how these free money contracts were awarded, they really don't understand the depth of the fantasy ...which Jerry Brown is almost single-handedly responsible for.

> The state cannot even manage Caltrain well

Yup. There are trains that go from San Diego up to San Fran, with transfers, mostly along the coast. It's so expensive to ride with EXISTING rail that it's running on subsidy.

Some of the comments on these multi-billion dollar scams are ridiculously positive for no apparent reason.

The key sentence seems to be:

"Fortunately, only a small fraction of CAHSR’s projected cost—$1.4 billion out of nearly $100 billion total—has been spent so far."

This suggests that it might be possible to make major changes, or even start over from scratch, if there's a significantly better way to do it.

Should have given the project to the French company that put forward the proposal or hire a Japanese firm from the start. Leave it up to a bloated agency with a misaligned agenda to royally screw things up at the cost of the taxpayer. If you think this is bad, you don’t want to know where your federal tax dollars go to. Reading this makes me sick.

But then they wouldn't be able to hand out favors and buy political clout with big construction firms and unions, which is sadly probably the main goal for the current project..

Yeah, law of comparative advantage.

This kind of ballooning makes me think there should be a rule for propositions (and maybe most funding in general) that when allocating funding for XYZ, there must be clear criteria upon which the funding is removed.

Like if the proposition had said "It'll probably cost $33B and take under three hours, and will be canceled if the estimated costs exceed $50B or the estimated duration exceeds 3 and a half hours."

The same thing happened in my country. Infrastructure like this always ends up about 5 times more expensive than originally thought. It doesn't really matter because there is always more money. Everyone just forgets about it and moves on.

The US however is rapidly approaching a 1 trillion deficit. And if it wants to challenge China in manufacturing they need to rebuild the entire railroad system.

And if it wants to challenge China in manufacturing they need to rebuild the entire railroad system.

Can you explain this point? The USA has a great cargo rail system that is efficient and integrated with other transportation systems.

American railroads are slow, old, neglected, unsafe and need to be shared with passenger trains.

Forty years of planned and extensive investment in infrastructure is how China lifted itself out of its misery. There was a time when the US did the same but something happened along the way.

> American railroads are slow, old, neglected, unsafe and need to be shared with passenger trains.

Other than need to be shared with passenger trains, where are you getting the rest? It is certainly not true of cargo trains. How fast do you need cargo to go?

Why is this so hard? Other countries manage to construct high-speed rail and subway lines for a fraction what the US spends.

Maybe it was a bad idea to have everyone with a brain cram into med-school, law-school or b-school. There are other things that need doing.

Who contributed to this article?

> Connor Harris is a policy analyst at the Manhattan Institute.


Reading through their other literature, seems pretty partisan and not very objective.

Can we get a less biased source? I'm not doubting the problems of HSR or the project, it would just be nice to get someone with less of an axe to grind.

The state senator who actually authored the legislation establishing the California High-Speed Rail Authority was Quentin Kopp. After seeing how this has turned out he is now opposed to it (and I think joined a lawsuit against it). In an op ed he had this to say:

>...Consequently, there won’t be enough riders paying fares to cover operational costs. The 2008 ballot measure prohibits taxpayer subsidy of this now-planned track to nowhere. As the “father” of true high-speed rail, I regret its “horizon” isn’t now bright, unless the governor and Richard restore 2008 promises to taxpayers.


We should maybe build a vac tube instead.


If you want to rebut something on the article, it would be helpful. Objectively, the route is not optimal, it is going to be slower than promised. Because the route is longer, and speeds lower, trips are going to take longer. The cost is far exceeding estimates. These are all true and real criticisms.

HSR isn't "public transportation." Your maid isn't riding HSR to work. It's way more expensive than car travel for kids with families. HSR is taking state resources from people who need it to provide welfare for yuppies and business people.

Is an ad-hominem really the only thing you have to contribute? No thoughts on whether the $100 billion (and climbing) cost is really worth it?

If only Elon Musk had managed it amirite?

Oh wait...

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