Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
California will not complete $77B high-speed rail project: governor (reuters.com)
209 points by pseudolus 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 384 comments



> Newsom said the state will complete a 110-mile (177 km) high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield.

Wow. Merced to Bakersfield. I mean, why not light the money on fire instead?

The point of something like this is to essentially warp the topology regarding what constitutes "nearby" between smaller cities and large metro areas. If you can do that, you've massively changed how both labor costs, real estate prices, and even tourism/recreation work.

OK, "light the money on fire" is probably overstating the case -- there's probably some multiplying effect in making the central valley more connected, and maybe it's also the easiest segment to actually get built. But the magnitude of positive effects is also probably an order down.


Merced, Madera, Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties have a combined population of ~2.9 million. For the $77 billion price tag, you could buy a Toyota Prius for every single resident of the entire area served by HSR (including children), and still have ~$8 billion left over.


> Merced, Madera, Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties have a combined population of ~2.9 million. For the $77 billion price tag, you could buy a Toyota Prius for every single resident of the entire area served by HSR (including children), and still have ~$8 billion left over.

The $77 billion price tag was the most recent year-of-expenditure estimate (which kept going up,in no small part because the year of expenditures kept getting later) for the whole originally planned system (well, the SF to LA part, not including the Sacramento and San Diego connections that were to be done afterwards.)

The small segment Newsome refers to isn't anywhere close to $77B.


Good catch, I misread. I would be interested to see the projected cost of the de-scoped project.

Operating & maintenance costs would also be critical to determining whether this actually makes any sense.


This is the wrong comparison. They are paring down to the Merced-Bakersfield line to avoid spending the full $77B.


8 billion is probably not enough to pay for all the added parking needed, cover higher accidents rates, more roads, etc.


How much would it cost to increase highway capacity to support all the traffic?


Another way of thinking about it is, if we assume roughly 1M households with an average land price of $100K and the HSR increases that to 1.2M households with an average land price of $150K, then you've created $80B worth of value from scratch and justified the cost. That doesn't happen via buying everyone a Prius.


> For the $77 billion price tag, you could buy a Toyota Prius for every single resident of the entire area served by HSR (including children), and still have ~$8 billion left over.

How much do the roadways cost?

I mean, the Prius isn't an all-terrain vehicle. You need nice roads to run, and freeways to go somewhere fast. Without them you can't go anywhere in your Prius.

So how much do the roads you need to exist to drive around in those Prius cost?


"there's probably some multiplying effect in making the central valley more connected"

There is no law of the universe that says a multiplier must be greater than 1.0. It is entirely possible, and indeed, easy to build a piece of infrastructure that will never pay back.


Well, it's at least better than a multiplier of "0", which would be the result of "lighting money on fire".


Even after such infrastructure is built, a > 0 multiplier assumes the economic impact of the project would be greater than the lifetime costs of upkeep and maintenance of the infrastructure (and current and future taxes to support such infrastructure + interest on debt payments used in its initial construction). And excludes the opportunity cost of allocating that future capital to other projects. Ex. NY still throws money into the canal project, even though the canal has long since been economically unviable (but politically it is still viable and so it remains...).


Lighting $10 on fire is a lot better than spending $100 and getting $50 back. You take a bigger net loss with the latter move.


> Lighting $10 on fire is a lot better than spending $100 and getting $50 back.

That's not how the math works with infrastructure projects.

With infrastructure projects there is the upfront cost and immediate returns, but there are also all other externalities and savings from shift in consumer demand and, for example, urban renewal and requalification.

For instance, how much would you save if you cut on the number of cars entering a urban center? This means less pollution, less traffic, less commutting times, etc etc etc

Does that have no value?


There's no guarantee the multiplier has to be positive, either. And that's before you consider opportunity cost.


> There is no law of the universe that says a multiplier must be greater than 1.0. It is entirely possible, and indeed, easy to build a piece of infrastructure that will never pay back.

Just because there’s no law of the universe that prevents you from throwing money down the drain, doesn’t mean you ought to do so.


That's a non-sequitor to my post.


Why not complete it to San Jose at least. People headed to SF could catch a train into the city.

But the real advantage would be home buyers. Instead of saving up for a 800 sq foot house without a garage that cost $1.2 million they could ride the train a half hour where the same house would cost what $400K in Fresno?


They would have to build new track across the California Coast Ranges[1]. Mountain crossings are expensive and difficult, and mountain crossings that need to maintain the curve and grade requirements of HSR are even more so. The crazy cost overruns for mountain crossings (this one and the Tehachapi Pass) are what killed the project.

This new de-scoped HSR project is basically "the part of HSR phase 1 that doesn't require us to cross any mountains". In California that's obviously very limiting.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Coast_Ranges


That $400k house will immediately go up in price. You see this in Chinese cities.

New train station? Congrats. Now you're finding a new place because your landlord is selling.


Alternatively now someone in Fresno who makes $25/hour doing something blue collar has access to a market where that same job may pay $40/hour. There is a huge amount of pent up demand for blue collar jobs in the Bay area that is being stifled due to the lack of appropriate living arrangements for people making non-six-figure incomes (especially for families).


Right now critics will label it the ghost train to nowhere. At least if it connected to San Jose it would prove somewhat useful.

Perhaps its better to never buy the rolling stock or hire staff? Otherwise there will be stories in the press about trains running where the staff outnumbers the passengers?


> New train station? Congrats. Now you're finding a new place because your landlord is selling.

And that's ok because you can get onto that same train and look for affordable appartments anywhere in the train's catchment area, which now is far larger than when you first started looking for a rental.


  ride the train a half hour
For Fresno to SJ, that would mean averaging 300mph. There was no planned segment that would have made anything near that speed.


Someone PLEASE explain to me WHY the governing bodies on this project decided to start with Merced -> Bakersfield.

I'm seriously dumfounded. I have lost a ton of faith, what little I already had, with this government.

Does ANYONE have a reasonable explanation?


Because that is the part of the track that doesn't have significant geographic/tunneling requirements, nor does it require seizure via eminent domain of significant amounts of urban property to cut new tracks through LA/SF, nor does it require building hundreds of overpasses/tunnels through cities to eliminate level crossings. You can't run a train at 210 mph through a city at the level of the road. There's too much risk of collision. Instead you have to tunnel under or bridge over every single road. All of those things take time to design, negotiate, fight legal challenges, etc. The idea was to start building in the empty central valley now, while they work through non-building work in the urban and mountainous areas.


I think your comment serves as great proof why building large public works projects in the US is now impossible.

Rationally speaking, you're 100% right. Those are all true impediments. From a realpolitik perspective, it makes total sense to start building where it's not controversial so that parallel non-engineering work can be undertaken. There are rational reasons why labor is so expensive, why planning committees take so much time, and why things take as much time as they do.

But this isn't how large public works can get done quickly. Any sufficiently large project is less technocratic and more political. Allowing large projects to be governed entirely technocratically has shown that timelines stretch so far out as to render the project impossibly expensive to finance and too limited in scope by project's end. There needs to be a single authority (with checks on it...) that can get things done, governed by a politician who can ensure that the authority's efforts are directed to popular projects. An agency with a planning body that makes community-approved blueprints ready before funding comes in, and with the authority to exercise eminent domain on approved plans and start work quickly and immediately.


I suspect the EPA paperwork, which can't be bypassed at the State level, will kill your single authority proposal dead in its tracks, so to speak.


This project is already grade-separated in the sense that there are no level crossings: even though they're in the "empty" central valley, there's still hundreds of grade-separated crossings that need to be built, not just through the cities, but also rural roads as well.

So while it's cheaper out in the Valley than in LA or SF, it's still significantly more expensive than a non-grade-separated, say, ~75-100 mph-rated track would entail, the sorts of which are common in Europe and do a decent job moving people around cities spaced at such distances.


I honestly think they may have felt that if they built part of it, it would be easier to convince everyone to finish it.

There might be some validity to this thinking:

(1) If you build part of it and show that it works, it makes it more of a concrete reality. Instead of asking people in urban areas to give up precious right-of-way to build something hypothetical, you're asking them to give it up to build something they can see.

(2) You're also asking the urban areas to wait less time between when they give up the right-of-way and when the system is built. By pushing the rural areas to the earlier part of the schedule, you can move the urban areas to the later part of it.

(3) If it's built in one part of the state, it creates peer pressure for other parts of the state to build it. It looks bad to be the one part of the state that is blocking it.

(4) While the sunk cost fallacy isn't rational, "we've spent this much and we're half done already" will still convince some people.

I'm not saying that overall this was a good strategy, but I can see some advantages. In any case, it seems like the main issue was massive cost overruns.


> (3) If it's built in one part of the state, it creates peer pressure for other parts of the state to build it. It looks bad to be the one part of the state that is blocking it.

Hah, do you live in the Bay Area? With the amount of NIMBYism, I don't think peer pressure would help with getting it built to connect the SF/SJ connections. It's why we do not have BART going for a full loop around the bay. Santa Clara county voted it down.


  Santa Clara county voted it down.
San Mateo and Marin counties already weren't participating anyway, so that circumnavigation dream was DOA.


Oh yeah, I used to live there and am well acquainted with the NIMBY craziness. I was approaching it more from the other side, which is that you need every weapon you can possibly get that will help twist their arms.


It's probably the cheapest and easiest section to build, so they could at least get the easiest part up and running the quickest... find flaws, make changes where it's cheap before starting on the very expensive sections.

It's also probably the section of the track where the train can go the fastest, which would give them impressive numbers that might help keep the project rolling.


> Someone PLEASE explain to me WHY the governing bodies on this project decided to start with Merced -> Bakersfield.

A couple reasons; pragmatically, there were issues toward both termini, but an initial route in the Valley would be useful to connect to either terminus and start getting real benefit (the valley stretch alone is of very little, though non-zero, utility)

Politically, the program faced state-internal opposition from Republicans, and putting the initial construction and operation, with associated jobs and benefits in one of the more Republican areas of the route was a mechanism to mitigate that.


  the program faced state-internal opposition from Republicans
Republicans have had no power in the CA legislature for many years. Democrats had not only control of all committees but also constant supermajorities for much of Brown's term (except for the timeframe where three Democrats were ousted in the same term for criminal activity).

Except for single-vote majorities in 1969-70 and of just the Assembly for just part of 1995-6, the Republicans haven't had a majority in either house in the past sixty years.


> Republicans have had no power in the CA legislature for many years.

They had, and used as a lever on every other issue, a veto pretty much forever on the budget up until Prop 25 in 2010 dropped the 2/3 supermajority for passing the budget. (Despite the current situation, 2/3 supermajority for either party in either house, much less both houses, of the legislature is historically extremely uncommon.)

They also had and used a similar power with regard to tax realignment since there was (and remains) a similar requirement for tax increases, but that's been a weaker power both since Dems went around them to the voters on tax increases in 2012 and because the Dems have actually had 2/3 supermajorities in the legislature at some times recently, including right now.

But, both of those powers were in full bloom when the funding application to the federal government (which needed budgeted state funds) was made (by, it must be noted, a Republican administration in Sacramento, with whom legislative Republicans had more pull than their hard power in the legislature would suggest, though given the quirkiness of the Schwarzenegger adminstration, probably less than would be typical of a Republican governor.)


Who owned the land that was purchased or acquired for the project? Which campaigns do they donate to? Are the areas of concern toxic waste dumps, old gas stations, or contain old pipelines that would be expensive to remediate?


Yes, these are the questions to ask, related [0].

In the article they mention the number of parcels needed grew by 500, did owners subdivide in order to increase returns?

[0] https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article218398575.html


excellent, thanks. I was not cynical enough, I see


Because Moonbeam's buddies could buy 1000's of acres of worthless desert for pennies and then sell it back for a nice little profit[1].

[1] https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article218398575.html


For those without the time to read - there is literally nothing in this article suggesting or alleging any corrupt dealings on the part of former governor Jerry Brown or anyone else. It is about the difficulty and expensive of purchasing all the parcels needed for the right of way, but, again, literally nothing in the article that ties into the parent comments assertion


> Because Moonbeam's buddies could buy 1000's of acres of worthless desert for pennies and then sell it back for a nice little profit

IIRC, the valley-first alignment was part of the application for federal funds made when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor, so it's unlikely it was motivated by concern for friends of the (at the time) once-and-future Governor Brown.


For those who don't know (I didn't) - Governor Moonbeam is a nickname for Jerry Brown, former governor of California:

https://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/weekinreview/07mckinley.h...


How Jerry Brown Became ‘Governor Moonbeam’? [0]

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/weekinreview/07mckinley.h...


In a word, NIMBYs.

In many places in California, the people already living their have both the inclination and the means to tie up the construction project in court until 2145. They don't want the construction, or they don't want the influx of commuters, or whatever. To a first approximation, the places that will accept the project happening are the ones looking for a train that goes somewhere else.


That region is flat and has few physical obstacles to a rail line (like mountains, major inclines, major declines etc)

Getting a rail line between a major city (LA/San Jose/San Diego/SF etc) requires going through pretty serious mountain ranges. There is already rail line between them in their own geographical pockets (LA-San Diego, SF-San Jose-Oakland)


They could build a train in central Nevada too. That’s “easy” — doesn’t mean it actually useful. I’d be happy with a Maglev replacing Caltrain to get from Mountain View to SFO in 5 minutes. More people could use that than a train to Bakersfield.


  Mountain View to SFO in 5 minutes
That would be awesome for the 3 people looking to go specifically from Mountain View to SFO at a given time... but not so awesome for the 300 people wanting to get on or off somewhere in between.


The number of physical obstacles is less important than the number of legal obstacles.

If it has to go somewhere, everyone wants the high speed rail to go through someone else's house, preferably a long ways away.


For land rights issues it is easy enough to create stations that are sufficiently distanced from the city centers but close enough to tap into local Bus/Uber-ish/car rental options. Most Californian metropolis' have an area distanced enough but accessible where land is still relatively cheap, the exception being LA which has sprawled into Orange County and completely enveloped other regions.

However going through mountain in an environmentally conscious way gets radically expensive in very short order. Additionally this style of construction tends to have its own legally contentious issues. (Dam construction for water management being comparative)


I disbelieve in your "easy enough". Certainly it is a problem that the plans for high speed rail never solved.

You already pointed out that Los Angeles was a problem. For San Francisco the route chosen ran into problems 30 miles south of San Jose, where they were planning to use existing rails (at slower speeds). And once you're in San Jose, you still have a long ways to go to get into San Francisco.

See https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-bullet-train-... for verification.


Probably easiest to get right of way and eminent domain through, and environment studies and yadda yadda yadda.


That is the part that is already under construction. The money cannot be lit on fire because it has already been spent.


Not $3.5B of it. It sounds like the governor really would like to light it on fire rather than give it back:

> “Abandoning high-speed rail entirely means we will have wasted billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises and lawsuits to show for it,” he said. “And by the way, I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump.”


If you'll end up with a product that can't get sufficient fare return to cover all operating costs (let alone debt service), you're better off shutting it down in place, like Brazil's Transnordestina.


Untrue.

Transportation systems rarely deliver the bulk of their benefits to direct users. The indirect effects of increased activity, commerce, industry, trade, opportunities, etc., accrue to the entire region, and not just the users of the system.

This is why, historically, transit projects have tended to be heavily funded by indirect beneficiaries. In cities: merchants and employers, both of whom benefit by increased customer and worker populations.

The case of Denver, Colorado shows the impacts improved transport can have on an otherwise remote city. Prior to the construction a connecting line to the Transcontinental Railroad, the city had fewer than 5,000 residents. A decade later, that rose to over 35,000. Mind, at the time, this was the best, cheapest, and fastest transport option available, but improved mobility can have tremendous impacts on growth and activity patterns.

https://www.uncovercolorado.com/historic-colorado-railroad-d...

Similarly, automobile drivers pay only a relatively small fraction of the direct costs of highway transport, with much else provided through general funds, property taxes (for state/local construction), income, and fuel taxes (the latter at least an indirect contribution).

Imposing a 100% farebox recovery obligation is highly flawed policy.


I don't think New York City's MTA even covers its operating costs out of revenue.


nono, the money is already on fire, and they have to give it to somebody.


I live close to LA but if I have to drive to Bakersfield for the train I may just as well keep driving. This makes no sense and I bet in typical US fashion they will stop there and people will say that public transit doesn't work.

You can't just build a train in the middle of nowhere. You need some level of connection to population centers.


I think the idea is reading more into it that they complete this bit first and the expand to SF and LA when they can figure out funding for it.

A lot of stuff is already built on this route, many viaducts and bridges etc.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I read some time ago that there is no plausible path to send a rail into SF.


It runs up the existing Caltrain route to King St. and later to the new inconceivably badly conceived bus station they built downtown via a curvy slow tunnel under the streets.


Yeah. Caltrain electrification is desperately needed regardless of HSR and I hope it goes ahead even with this. The current timetable is not frequent enough (I believe they were targeting 6 trains an hour each way with the electrification) and is very slow.


A desperate attempt to save the real estate value of the existing "downtown" from the general move of "downtown" southward to SOMA and Mission Bay.


BART exists. This isn't different.

Put a couple tunnels under the bay, one just north of the bay bridge and the other at SFO. Connect them, staying safely east of the San Andreas fault. Try to route the tunnel to allow stopping at at least one of the other airports in the area.

No, it isn't cheap.


Maybe they should figure out the whole thing before spending billions.


Yea, once you get one segment build and demand starts coming in, it will be easier to push for completing it.


The simple truth is, heavy rail does not work. There is no where outside of Japan with its very high population density that it does work. Europe you say? On average a European resident will use urban and intercity trains only five hundred miles more than Americans will. It is romanticism, ribbon cutting, and not realism, that keeps this illusion that trains will solve transportation issues alive. In Europe driving and flying are growing far faster than trains except in limited parts of Britain and Switzerland

so with regards to American implementation, even the urban light rail systems are all follies outside of NYC simply because they are not where the people want to be but instead where planners want people to be. then to top it off they cannot be volume adjusted because you cannot just reroute a train. buses are by far more economical and flexible, they just aren't sexy for ribbon cutting whores that politicians are.

on a side note, one hole in California's budget is the same in every high tax state. The law change to the Federal Tax system to have the rich pay more of their share by not letting them deduct as much from the Federal Taxes. This did two things, for the rich to pay more of their money in taxes and keep high tax states from off loading their taxes indirectly to lower tax states.

California has a homeless problem that is incredible and needs to get its prison population numbers down. spending the money to help the poor is a far better solution than funding a rich man's train.


> then to top it off they cannot be volume adjusted because you cannot just reroute a train

That is not in any way how you plan trains. You don't build them for variable load. The baseline load becomes what the trains can supply, and the economy grows around that. I'd love to know where there is underutilized commuter rail in the US for cheap I can take advantage of by moving to for an unnaturally low cost of living - because that is what legitimately misplanned trains do. They self-correct by creating a cheap transit hub to pull people and business towards.

Progressive and developing economies the world over have reaped the benefits of high speed rail a thousand times over now. Saying "heavy rail doesn't work" is ignorant of how almost every first world nation and many others have a comprehensive commuter rail network outside the US and Canada.

> California has a homeless problem that is incredible and needs to get its prison population numbers down. spending the money to help the poor is a far better solution than funding a rich man's train.

State investment isn't a zero sum game, or one where you have a fixed absolute finite amount of money and can only allocate one central budget one way. There are absolutely limits to how much you can tax your economy, even selectively, without having negative consequences on your economy - and there are definitely plenty of arguments California is already past that threshold. But its way too simplistic to be in a discussion about state budgets and say "spend this money on X instead".


It’s just enough activity to get to keep the allocated federal money.


There's a wise saying--"never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."

California high speed rail is a great idea if they commit to it and deliver the full product. If that would be prohibitively expensive, take a step back, figure out why this country can't build things anymore, and address the blockers you can while swallowing the cost of the blockers you can't address. Either that, or give up. There's no damn point building a multi-billion-dollar monument to the decline of American civilization.


Lighting the small amount of money already spent on fire is far preferable to spending the hundred billion or so that would be needed to complete hsr.


Build the central piece. If that succeeds, later expand to SF-LA?


How can it possibly succeed though? It looks for all the world like a boondoggle.

It looks like someone tried to make an actually useful SF<->LA route and couldn't figure out how to make it work near the city. While it would no doubt be way more expensive and difficult, getting this into the big cities would at least give it a reason to exist.


Where is the money already collected via taxes going to?


> Wow. Merced to Bakersfield. I mean, why not light the money on fire instead?

Newsom explains in a quote given in the article: not spending the money means "giving it back to Donald Trump."


So use the money to build and LA-SF system. Merced to Bakersfield is insanity.


But it's not Donald Trump's money, it's the federal government's money, which means it's OUR money...


$77B is outrageous. We have to fix infrastructure costs in this country.

California would be better establishing an agency that progressively acquires, upgrades, and runs rail throughout the state as a single integrated system. We've been planning CAHSR for over a decade, and yet we still haven't electrified Caltrain, or Capitol Corridor. Incremental upgrades like that and improving curves and so on would've yielded huge benefits for the state by now. HSR would be the natural product of this this down the line when you would simply go the next step of adding a dedicated passenger high speed line connecting the Northern and Southern systems.


Look up how much it costs to build a mile of highway. On level ground, in undeveloped areas it's still amazingly expensive.

Now try to build something through developed areas, maybe not at grade, and dealing with traffic rerouting, other infrastructure interruptions, and NIMBYism.


Does California have something like the following? It could explain some of the cost.

In Washington state we have laws that require workers to be paid Prevailing Wage, the premise of which is that working in a county pays the corresponding wage for a position based on the largest city in that county. The reality is often that the wage set is significantly higher than the true market wage, which causes costs to ramp up quickly. http://www.lni.wa.gov/TradesLicensing/PrevWage/WageRates/def...


Of course California has a prevailing wage law.

https://www.dir.ca.gov/Public-Works/Prevailing-Wage.html


The major cost is land acquisition and infrastructure. Land is not cheap, and the US requires fair market compensation for such acquisition. And high speed rail and other infrastructure projects of this kind tend to need land in areas that are typically more expensive (urban areas, developed areas around existing transport networks, etc.)

Elevated railways still need land purchasing for the land you're building on top of. Tunnels are way too expensive to be an alternative to surface construction even with land acquisition considered. And you need to punch through two mountain ranges, to get from SF to the Central Valley and then back to LA.

IIRC JR and TGV both expressed interest in a privately funded CAHSR, but balked at the Central Valley alignment.


That won't "ramp up" costs unless the initial estimate for the costs included wrong numbers for labor. Ramp up from what? An uninformed guess?


For projects with federal funding, look at the Davis Bacon Act: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davis–Bacon_Act_of_1931


> The reality is often that the wage set is significantly higher than the true market wage, which causes costs to ramp up quickly.

Do you have a source for this assertion?


>maybe not at grade...

I know I'm not from Cali or anything, but it's actually quite a bit worse than that. In California I'm almost positive it would require some tunneling. And not the easy kind of tunneling that you might see in, say, western North Carolina, asheville area. No. I'm talking about the hard kind that has to keep globally significant fault lines and seismic activity in mind.


Well, there's a tendency when lambasting big infrastructure projects like this to compare one city's efforts to those done elsewhere, and if Japan can keep trains on tracks through an earthquake then you have to dig into the numbers for both and ask if they had the same problem. And if so, should hindsight from the earlier project have informed the plans for later one.

There's also a tendency in big projects to be intentionally obtuse, come up with a number that the customers (tax payers) won't riot over, and then rely on sunk cost and other fallacies to let the project expand to its real size later on.


Caltrain is being electrified as part of this. This is an incremental project that costs $77B.


I’m aware. It still hasn’t been electrified a decade later. But hey they have built a viaduct in the middle of the Central Valley!


The usual peninsula (Palo Alto, Atherton) NIMBYs have been actively trying to block caltrain electrification because it will ostensibly hurt trees, amongst other things: https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/07/caltrain-electrificat...


$77B was after they did severe "cost cutting". It used to be $100B. And, if the past is any indicator, it would have ballooned to $120B - $150B by the time it was done. At what point do you say it's not worth it?


Personally I think it’s still worth it at that price, even if the project would’ve been better done in the way I described. It’s better than the alternative. If we don’t spend $77b on rail we’ll still have to spend it expanding freeways and airports instead. and infrastructure costs are insane across all forms of infrastructure in the US.


How much would the train need to charge each passenger to earn enough money to pay both the interest (assuming normal cost-of-money) and the principle? Would this amount be less than the cost of an airplane ride?


The alternative is spending money on rail inside SF and LA. Connecting the cities is a solution to a non-problem.


I don't agree with the claims that $77B is an outrageous amount of money. I also don't agree that a project should be killed because it's cost has increased ~$20B over what was approved in 2008.

First, 10 years of inflation alone from 2008 to 2019 accounts for $10B of price increases. While the 10 year delay can be blamed on poor management, the fact that the cost increased due to inflation is not really a reason to cancel a project.

Second, $77B sounds like a really big number, it is not paid all at once. It is a bond paid over many years. To put it in context, California has 40 million residents, so that comes out to a $2000 loan on a per person basis. The annual payments on the bond would be around $1B/year, out of a total annual budget of $200B. You can explore the budget here [1] to see if you think the opportunity cost is owrth it, eg. would it be ok to reduce unemployment insurance from $11.4B/yr -> $10.4B/yr if it means we can build a HSR from San Jose to Los Angeles?

I think the Governor's choice is very short sighted, and the laughable assertion that a train from Bakersfield to Merced is a good idea is clearly a face saving measure. In 2040 are we still going to be flying from SFO/SJC to LAX? I wish our government was more willing to take on long term infrastructure projects.

[1] https://www.usgovernmentspending.com/year_spending_2019CAbs_...


>... I also don't agree that a project should be killed because it's cost has increased ~$20B over what was approved in 2008.

You aren't even close. The fiscal impact statement of what was voted on in 2008 was:

>...State costs of about $19.4 billion, assuming 30 years to pay off both principal ($9.95 billion) and interest ($9.5 billion) costs of the bonds. Payments of about $647 million per year. When constructed, additional unknown costs, probably in excess of $1 billion a year, to operate and maintain a high-speed train system. The costs would be at least partially, and potentially fully, offset by passenger fare revenues, depending on ridership.[6]

>...First, 10 years of inflation alone from 2008 to 2019 accounts for $10B of price increases.

How are you calculating that? The cumulative rate of inflation from 2008 is < 17%.

>...The annual payments on the bond would be around $1B/year, out of a total annual budget of $200B

How are you calculating the bond payment? (It sounds very low.) In the original ballot measure, where 10 billion was issued in bonds, the payments on the 30 year bonds was estimated to be about $647 million per year. Your total annual budget number is misleading - I've read that only about 22% of the CA budget is discretionary.

>...the laughable assertion that a train from Bakersfield to Merced is a good idea is clearly a face saving measure.

I agree. This is now a train to nowhere and makes people leery about any spending on infrastructure.


> You aren't even close. The fiscal impact statement of what was voted on in 2008 was: ... $10B

The $10B was not billed as the total cost of the project, just bond that voters approved. The rest of the project was to be funded with "TBD" sources. I believe the initial cost estimates were in the $40B range. [1]

> How are you calculating that? The cumulative rate of inflation from 2008 is < 17%.

I assumed 2% annual inflation over 10 years, inflating an initial cost estimate of $50B.

[1] https://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Yes-on-Prop-1A-A-21st...: "The project is expected to cost $40 billion and take eight years to complete, according to proponents."


>...The rest of the project was to be funded with "TBD" sources. I believe the initial cost estimates were in the $40B range.

Thanks for pointing that out, I didn't realize that. I wonder how many of the people who voted for the bonds knew that there was an estimated extra 30 billion in cost.

Even going from an estimated 40 billion to 77 billion is still a huge increase. The original article mentioned that the state estimated the cost might actually be $98.1 billion.


I don't have a good sense for how the typical voter contexualizes these things. The numbers are so big and abstract I don't see how you can tell $20B from $60B as a voter.

I think though, if people had known in 2008 that not even 100 miles would be completed by 2019, that might have swayed some minds. In my view, the big tragedy here is the painfully slow construction, not so much the cost.


> California has 40 million residents, so that comes out to a $2000 loan on a per person basis.

40% of Californians don't pay any state income tax so it's closer to $5000 per person. As for the project reducing unemployment- good luck with that being they are only going to finish a 110 mile section between Merced and Bakersfield.


$77 billion doesn’t sound like a big number because of the absolute amount of money involved. It sounds like a big number because similar projects in other places cost far, far less. That number represents an incredible amount of waste. I think they should focus on getting the project to cost a reasonable amount and then do it, rather than either accepting it as-is or abandoning it.


Crossrail[1] is currently projected to cost £15.4bn (~$19.8bn) for 73 miles of non-high-speed rail (~90mph).

For the 520 miles California was proposing, you'd be looking at £110bn (~$140bn) and that's ignoring the fact that London has no mountain ranges to contend with and that HSR requires much stricter paths.

In that context, $77bn looks like an absolute bargain.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossrail


I’m not sure an urban line with substantial underground sections and a bunch of new stations is entirely comparable.


To put it into perspective, the Hoover Dam cost $49M, which is $750M in today's dollars [1]. They claim these train tracks cost over 100X more.

One estimate of the cost to build the trans-continental railroad, including the Central Pacific ($47M) and Union Pacific ($77.5M) [2] is $3.5B in today's dollars, so this railroad costs 22X what two cross-country lines once cost.

1: https://www.marketplace.org/2010/05/28/sustainability/why-we...

2: http://cprr.org/Museum/FAQs.html#Cost


Hey, if you can:

-collapse the global economy so that incredibly skilled engineers and tradespeople are desperate to work for little more than what it takes to feed their families and live in on-site housing

-reduce safety regulations enough that it's acceptable to have people regularly dying during construction

-build the train out in the middle of the desert on government-owned land instead of running it through major cities

Then yeah, you could make these trains pretty cheap.


How can these projects/plans/programs get the costs down?


Beats me, but it’s clearly possible.


Why? Maybe it's just what this costs. Better than dreaming up a lower number that has no connection to reality. (Just as software projects are estimated based on wishes instead of hard data.)

As trite is to use Musk as an example, BoringCo at least tries to do something to bring costs down. (And they put some money toward that goal.) But a completely powerless and political project planning committee can only make more and more sheets of wasted paper, I'm afraid.

Someone mentioned how highways are also very expensive. I don't know why. ( https://medium.com/@TimSylvester/i-agree-it-sounds-astronomi... ) But without changing the fundamentals, without innovation the costs won't come down.

We can probably do a very minimal estimate by simply using average/median income, and estimating how much worker hours we need to plan it, review it, procure/tender it, get stuff there (from surveyor equipment and machines to people going there), do the earthworks, fill in the rocks and gravel that will serve as the foundation, then pour the concrete (or better yet use prefab/precast), then surface works, then put there all the signs, safety stuff (railings), environmental protection stuff (noise barrier), and maybe that's what it costs.

So, as long as we can't streamline, uniformize and scale up these processes, it'll be just very labor intensive and expensive.


"...because similar projects in other places cost far, far less."

If Alice is doing something and Bob says it's impossible, I don't need to know how to do it to point out that Bob is wrong and it's actually possible.

(And it's not just a matter of saving costs through environmental destruction and labor abuse. Infrastructure costs much less in other first-world countries too.)


But other places have other price tags.

Sure, there are problems - for example there is a frequently referenced study by one EU oversight institution from 2013. And it turns out that highways built between 2000 and 2012 sponsored by the EU were cheapest in Germany, where components were more expensive, than in Spain (where everything from labor to land and concrete were cheaper, including compliance to environmental regulations).

Of course that's corruption. But the US has probably a different problem. Cost inflation, because the market bears it. Supply and demand. States pay a lot, so suppliers ask a lot.


The Jinghu HSR rail line from Beijing to Shanghai spans 1318 km and cost 32 billion USD. It operates at an average speed of 180 MPH. The California HSR plan is considerably shorter, considerably slower, and would cost over twice as much.


That’s good and well, but remember that China has much lower labor costs, and fewer environmental protections (CEQA). I don’t think the low price of Chinese rail should deter HSR in California.


It would probably have a fraction of the casualties and environmental impacts in construction though. China has different standards to the modern world.


Well, the difference is that China has useful high speed rail and California does not.


That's why California has reason to waster few billions then abandon the whole project. Great California republic!


Also, we literally __voted__ for the project.


It's not just that $77 billion is outrageously expensive. It's that it's not what Californians voted for in 2008.

If you go back and read the original text and fiscal impact estimate of proposition 1a, it was supposed to cost around $10 billion dollars to build, and was expected to cost the state around $20 billion after accounting for interest and bond fees. There needs to be some sort of circuit breaker that trips when your original assumptions are so utterly out of touch with reality.

Just like the actual text of the brexit was essentially "Would it be cool if we, like, left the EU?" -- the public should not be voting on things that have not been fully fleshed out.


> If you go back and read the original text and fiscal impact estimate of proposition 1a, it was supposed to cost around $10 billion dollars to build, and was expected to cost the state around $20 billion after accounting for interest and bond fees.

No, it wasn't. The $9.95 billion was the state direct costs (before bond fees, interest, etc.) for HSR ($9B) and the associated other transit improvements ($0.95B), with the remainder of the system costs envisioned coming from federal and other sources. High (though hostile) estimates at the time of the total system cost, referenced in the opposing ballot argument, actually exceeded the most recent $77B estimate @ $90B.


  actually exceeded the most recent $77B estimate @ $90B
That's disingenuous. The original figures are for the entire finished project as originally scoped; the modern $77B is for the current, useless scaled-down fragment.


> The original figures are for the entire finished project as originally scoped; the modern $77B is for the current, useless scaled-down fragment.

No, the $77B is for the entire project, and is the reason cited for limiting substantive state-funded work (outside of completing environmental reviews and efforts to secure outside funding) to the 119 mile segment previously identified as the initial construction segment.


The "entire project" was the full 800+ mile network as promised in Proposition 1A. Quoting from the ballot pamphlet[0]:

"Proposition 1A is a $9.95 billion bond measure for an 800-mile High-Speed Train network that will relieve 70 million passenger trips a year that now clog California's highways and airports—WITHOUT RAISING TAXES (emphasis theirs)."

As aside from your misdefinition of the "entire project", we're not even getting the Phase 1 we were promised at that $77B price point:

"The current price tag is $77 billion, up from $33 billion when the project was approved. Funding has become a problem for the rail authority, which can’t afford to complete even a partial operational segment — slow or fast. In its 2018 business plan, the authority deleted construction of a 13-mile tunnel under the Pacheco Pass from its first phase because it did not have enough money. The decision will leave about 80 miles of track in the Bay Area disconnected from 119 miles of track in the Central Valley."

This is not the 520-mile, contiguous, 220MPH LA-Sacto-San Jose project that was promised for Phase 1. Not remotely close.

And I'm not even counting the promised Phase 2.

[0] http://vigarchive.sos.ca.gov/2008/general/argu-rebut/argu-re...

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20180816125913/http://www.marini...


It seems like the opposite.

The Brexit vote question was: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or Leave the European Union".

For better or for worse, UK is set to leave the EU, and nothing extra will happen. In other words the question exactly matched the reality -- largely because of rather than in spite of its brevity.

Californian referenda are infamous for containing long confusing texts and for including spending promises. It is precisely by pretending to spell out the details that they fail to match the reality.


both situations stink of corruption


that's what happens when publicly elected lawyers and actors draw up complex infrastructure projects. something completely idiotic and infeasible must have been done in during the planning process.


I love fast trains but we need them much more inside our metro areas than between distant parts of the state.

Commutes within the major metro areas in California (SF bay area, Los Angeles, Sacramento) are horrendous and just imagine how much good $77bn could do for those.

A well designed and fast transportation network within metro areas would do much more to improve the lives of Californians and the environment, as well as make our cities much more livable.


I would even argue that transit systems within a city are somewhat of a prerequisite to high speed rail adoption. It is the last mile problem. If you are planning a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, one of the major reasons to drive is so you have a car in LA. If you could reasonably get around LA without a car, taking a train from SF to LA becomes much more appealing.

That is one of the big advantages for high speed rail in Japan. The high speed rail service is closely integrated with the local rail network of the cities it stops in. You get off the high speed rail, walk two minutes, and you are on a subway to your final destination.


It surprises many people to learn this, but LA actually has metro rail, which you can catch from Union Station. It services almost double the number of stations that BART does. My experience with the express buses on the west side is also far superior to MUNI.


It's also a matter of integration (common ticketing, timetabling of connections, sharing stations): the Bay Area is atrocious for this. LA is slightly better, but still leaves a lot to be desired.


LA is a LOT better with this, and that's why they're actually building rail out. They've consolidated administration whereas the Bay Area is a fragmented rat's nest with BART being the best example of how toxic and provincial transit politics can be.


Honestly, one of the most underrated parts of LA. Granted, it's not well connected yet but if I could I would use the metro everyday.


I don't think the process is any different from flying. You get out of your transport and take a shuttle to the closest car rental agency. There are tons of car rental agencies in LA and if there was a high speed train they would open up outlets near the train.


OTOH, somebody commuting via train doesn't want to rent a car every day.


Additionally your shinkasen (fast train) ticket allows you to travel anywhere within metro area at destination (on JR lines).


This might now be an opportunity for a hyperloop alternative. Musks investment in cheap tunneling with the Boring Company could turn out to be one of his best bets yet.


Currently, a person living in Nagoya, Japan would have a one-way commute to central Tokyo of about 100 minutes. That’s almost too long to live in one city and work in the other. But after the Linear is completed, that commute time drops to 40 minutes each way—much more reasonable. Tokyo-Osaka drops to 67 minutes.

Daily commuting may still be cost-prohibitive, but the distance between business people who want to hold a meeting is basically negligible at that point.

Linking three major cities that are 250 miles apart as the crow flies, with about one hour of commute, and on time. If they can do it in Japan, why can’t we?


Because the US has a uniquely mismanaged procurement process, construction unions that insist on 4x the number of workers, and myopic regulations. The whole system has become warped to slow down and prevent construction, while at the same time maximize costs. It’s absurd.

Let’s take California HSR for example. Multiple environmental impact studies and appeals, and even afterwards, every city on the peninsula demanded a different system to install the tracks. One wants elevated tracks, another wants a trench, another insists the train be at grade, yet another wants it moved miles away, finally someone wants a commuter rail stop.

We can’t build anything in this country. It’s disgusting.

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/01/why-its-so-ex...

https://theweek.com/articles/449646/why-expensive-build-brid...


Don't forget that Japanese politicians are addicted to public works spending and have been for generations. Great infrastructure is nice, but is it worth having a public debt that is 260% of GDP? Japan's population is also shrinking so a lot of the infrastructure will be fallow in the future. Both the USA and Japan have political problems with infrastructure procurement, just in completely different ways.


The amount of relative debt is irrelevant here. What is important, is that the US consistently pays more, and gets less.

Regardless of its merits, Spain spent 40 billion euros and got a functioning nationwide high speed train network.[0] California was looking to spend twice that and get a single line, and probably would have ended up spending even more if it was completed.

[0] https://elpais.com/elpais/2015/03/26/inenglish/1427383199_99...


But the USA has $22T govt debt although "only" 105% Govt debt to GDP as of Jan 2019 (excluding unfunded liabilities like social security) and projects like this where infrastructure is not built. Neither situation is great but I think as a tax payer I would rather have the fast trains in Japan


Well, with negative interest rates, the more you are in debt the more you earn. Have interest rate go back up to 5% and things get very bad quickly.


I really don't know anything about Japan, but the way government contractors work in this country is they are milking the cow to the max that they can.

I know of a 150 page front end app that was charged at least $40M.

accomplishing anything serious with this attitude is not possible.


Well, that could be a very complex application... Maybe number of pages isn't the best metric.


You might think, but it is not that complex.

I could have wrote that app in less than a year.

The contractors just made it complex to justify the tag price.

A simple change of address logic was 5000 line of java code !!


It's still going to cost 9 trillion Yen (about 81 billion USD) though for the maglev.

https://www.japan-rail-pass.com.au/japan-by-rail/travel-tips...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C5%AB%C5%8D_Shinkansen


> Currently, a person living in Nagoya, Japan would have a one-way commute to central Tokyo of about 100 minutes. That’s almost too long to live in one city and work in the other.

I don’t know, I have friends with one-way commutes longer than that from SF to the peninsula.


The challenge with fast trains in cities is the acceleration. If you ride BART, for example, you are basically spending all your time either speeding up or slowing down, and yet BART stations are still spread about as far apart as they can be and realistically cover the city. Actually, they don't even do a very good job at that - much of the city is not within easy walking distance to a BART station.

We need the equivalent of offramps for trains. Some mechanism that would transport you for the last mile at 10-15 mph (scooters? pods?) while allowing trains to never come to a complete stop and wait for people to board.


The proven solution here is to have long-distance trains and short-distance trains running on separate tracks. No need to go crazy with anything way more complicated (and thus pricier and more prone to failure).

Like, in NYC, we have the subway, which has normal trains and express trains (on separate tracks), and then we've also got regional rail like MetroNorth, LIRR, and NJT, and then we've also got long distance rail like Amtrak to DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, and others.


New York also separates the different lines on to different platforms. BART and Muni shove 1-5 routes on each platform and chaos ensues.


In many countries around the world they build more than two parallel tracks - at least 3 or 4 - so you can have fast lanes as well as slower local lanes.

The problem with BART is that it's all a local train - stopping at every station on your way. If you are going from SF to Oakland - probably not a big deal - but if you live on the ends of the lines, quite annoying and very time consuming.

These systems really need to change their mindset to compete with cars. It should be fast and efficient - preferably much faster than cars - so there is a strong incentive for the public to use them.


Not just faster than cars; faster than cars under ideal circumstances for cars.


Is waiting 30 minutes for a train faster than just driving directly? Generally not. So trains aren’t necessarily faster.


BART is not a fast train. It tops out at 80 mph, which it a speed it can't reach between most stations. Where it can reach that speed it often didn't because the motors on the older trains suffered from dramatically increased wear at those speeds.


BART wasn't really intended to help you get around the city, though. Lots of places have transit systems that include both rapid and local rail transit.


I rather strongly disagree. Connecting the smaller metro areas to the bigger metro areas opens up a lot of opportunities for both ends. The smaller metro areas become more accessible and thus amenable to growth. The larger metro areas get to relieve the pressure on housing costs as people can move to more affordable areas (thus paving the way for them to in turn grow even further).

A statewide high-speed rail system is ultimately going to be a hard dependency on California continuing to grow and prosper for another century in the same way it has for the previous century. The approach to doing that needs a major rework, of course, but such a rail system is in the best interests of the state as a whole.


Interconnecting the smaller cities in the region is entirely pointless until you achieve usable mass transit within the major city cores themselves. Otherwise great - you can take HSR from your sleepy small town exurb, but have no usable way to get to your final destination on either end so it ends up mostly being a novelty and serving a tiny handful of commuters. This pattern is observed in almost the entire US except a tiny handful of east coast cities and perhaps Chicago.

Once you have a workable transit network on at least one side of the connection, branching out high speed rail to smaller "feeder" cities can induce demand and start creating denser development in those feeder cities to make the transit even more useful.

The Netherlands is a great example here in my opinion. Lots of smaller suburbs/towns within 40 minutes on the high speed trains, typically with a walkable community on the "feeder" city side and either a walkable destination or a tram ride on the Amsterdam Centraal side.

I cannot see a point to point HSR line being very useful if all it connects are essentially two train stations to nowhere.

Basically I don't see a point in building HSR or commuter rail if the citizens of the major city it's built into require car ownership to realistically get around. This means there isn't a network robust enough to support bringing feeder traffic into. Or put another way - it'd be pretty silly for an airline to create a route between two cities, but have no connecting flights on either end. Sure, it's useful for a very few - but not really economically viable at scale.


There's no reason why we have to wait for the intra-city transit to develop before developing the inter-city transit, though. Ideally they'd happen in parallel, with the inter-city rail fanning the flames of demand for robust intra-city mass transit.

And we should be clear here that "mass transit" within a city (especially one the size of Merced or Bakersfield) doesn't necessarily mean a full-blown metro network. Even a decently-sized bus system would be a step in the right direction (and in fact might be all that's practical or necessary for the smaller cities). On that note, both Merced and Bakersfield do already have bus networks, and the rail connection between the two would be a good way to spur further expansion.

The "two train stations to nowhere" are - from what I can gather - a temporary situation while we rejustify the rest of the network. Those stations are likely already in-progress and too late to cancel (probably because they were the easiest).


you would be surprised how easy it is for a major city government to spend 77B and not achieve anything substantial


The SF Central subway project cost about $920M per mile, at those rates this $77B could be used for 84 miles of underground subway lines in the densest parts of SF and LA. That could be very substantial. (And not saying that's even the best way to improve transit, but it is probably the most expensive way and even still the money would go pretty far).


Meanwhile, in Europe a subway will cost you somewhere between 200 and 500 million dollars per mile.

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/01/why-its-so-ex...


The US has 2 big problems: 1. “as a result of existing union agreements covering the eastern seaboard area of the United States, underground construction employs approximately four times the number of personnel as in similar jobs in Asia, Australia, or Europe.”

Holy crap, that means 75% of the personell are just sitting around not doing anything. Must be a very powerful union.

2. Regulation: But the problems are not just to do with labor. Working alongside active commuter or intercity rail lines brings a slew of new requirements and regulations.


It seems that construction companies have learned from the medical industry how to be f...ing expensive.


And the defense industry. The defense industry has the advantage of not only maximizing cost, but also maximizing states. For instance, I believe Alaska is the only state without an economic impact from the F-35, the most expensive fighter jet ever made.

https://www.f35.com/about/economic-impact-map


A relatively small construction/infrastructure project (920M) will not maintain the same cost efficiency when the project is 80 times larger.


Right. It will be cheaper per mile with a larger project.


SF Central subway cuts through one of the densest parts of SF (including crossing a BART line and an existing MUNI line), which substantially increases costs. Further away from the downtown core, costs per mile should be lower.


If anything it would be more efficient.


this is unfortunately true - however in this case it might be a municipal metro area body that comprises of one or more counties and multiple cities

the process of awarding projects to developers by government entities is very flawed and seems to guarantee substandard results and cost overruns.

edit: still having said this - it shouldn't be a reason to not try - we desperately need (and imo deserve) these improvements to our cities (as well as better municipal spending oversight as well as better planning)


Yes, we could build a proper subway / el in SF for 30 billion.


The only thing that could get a proper subway/el built in SF is $30B and a brutal, authoritarian government to do so. With today’s governance it would be 2049 before it’s complete and I’d be skeptical that all the lawsuits allowing construction would be settled before 2030.

The lesson for everyone to learn here is this: direct democracy and grand vision public transit do not mix.


Newsom said the state will complete a 110-mile (177 km) high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield

I suspected this would happen -- the project would get canceled and we'd end up with a small segment of rail that few will use. Merced -> Bakersfield is only a 2.5 hour drive and you almost certainly will need a car when you get there.

They should have started with a corridor that would see real usage, like SF (or even Oakland/emeryville) -> Sacramento (but afaik, the proposed route didn't even include a direct SF to Sacramento segment)

Then as (if?) that route demonstrated the technology and had good ridership, they could expand from there.


Or LA to San Diego. There's already a rail line.


I think the key word there is "a rail line." Much of the LA to San Diego route is currently single-tracked -- trains traveling in both directions share a single physical track and have to be scheduled so that only one train occupies the track at a time. If your train falls even a few minutes behind schedule (and this seems to happen a lot), it starts missing its slots and ends up spending time stopped on sidings waiting for trains going the opposite direction to clear the track. Now your 3-hour trip turns into a 5 or 6 hour trip.

But yeah, if you wanted to start building high-quality inter-city rail in California, LA/San Diego seems like an obvious place to start. They're the 2nd and 8th largest cities in the US and only 120 miles apart. You wouldn't even need "high-speed" rail to make it work. A train that reliably averaged, say, 80 mph could make the trip in 90 minutes, which is a lot faster than driving most of the time.

On the other hand, I guess "reliable rail that's not terribly slow" doesn't get people excited like "high-speed rail" does.


They aren't able to re-use existing rail lines, which is part of the issue. They have to construct all new track on a new easement.


SF-Sacramento or other urban corridors require new rail lines through some of the most expensive real estate in the country. Additionally, there are significant geographic challenges to building new high-speed capable tracks such as the Tehachapi Pass and the Altamont Corridor.


Yes, but it's also a corridor that will have high demand. Building a cheap train where no one will use it seems worse than building an expensive train where many people will use it.


Having the bay area terminus in the east bay was always a better idea than getting to San Francisco. Connect to BART in San Leandro, or for extra credit, get to the port of Oakland before connecting to BART. Going up the peninsula seemed like a vanity effort.


SF to Sacramento would require a bridge across the bay. Instead the route connects SF to San Jose, which probably serves more people. Then cuts across to the Central Valley where right of way is simpler and the the terrain better for a north south line.

http://www.hsr.ca.gov/Newsroom/Multimedia/maps.html


SF to San Jose is already well served by Caltrain, they already have limited service trains that do the trip in about an hour (electrification will likely shave a few minutes off that time) -- due the need to run at reduced speed along the Peninsula, even HSR would take around 47 minutes for the same trip.

San Francisco -> Gilroy -> Merced -> Sacramento is not a substitute for a SF -> Sacramento route.

They don't need to bring the train across the Bay, it could stop in Oakland or Emeryville with a connection to BART.


I don't disagree. All those "last thirty mile" possibilities are why the Bakersfield to Merced route makes sense. It's the trunk line. Similar options involving metropolitan rail networks exist at LA. And we could have the same discussion about options at that end too.

Bakersfield to Merced is the part everyone agrees on (more or less) and is about in the ballpark of the available funds. Sacramento, SF Bay, LA, and San Diego are all big enough to solve the last thirty miles themselves politically and financially. The Central Valley is the area where it won't happen without state money and where the politics are more ideological than local. The Central Valley is also the part of California where major transportation infrastructure can be justified under "Uniform level of service" approaches (the area is 'underserved'). It's where high speed rail is a plausible alternative to a new Interstate and a new Interstate is likely. Since I5 bypasses all the Central Valley cities.


We could turn it into the worlds longest roller-coaster ride and sell it to Disney and recoup the tax payer money.


It is amazing that Japan was able to complete a project like this in the 60s, yet the US is so shortsighted we cannot dream of having even just one high speed rail system in the entire country. Absolutely embarrassing.


While I agree with your point in general, this route is not really comparable to the Shinkansen’s route in Japan.

Tōkyō Station to Shin-Ōsaka station (the original Shinkansen route) is about the same distance by car as San Jose to Los Angeles Union Station. 303 miles versus 340.

Along this route there is Nagoya in the middle, whose greater metro area is 10x the population of Fresno. There are also lots of other towns and vacation spots, like Mount Fuji and onsens.

While it would be fairer to look at the populations in Japan before the Shinkansen rather than after, the value proposition does not seem as strong. Also this is a state level project while the Shinkansen was built by JNR, essentially part of the government of Japan.


I do wonder how much the WWII firebombings cleared land allowing the government to more easily setup the necessary rights-of-way. The 60's was 15 years after the war, but still.

The Shinkansen route also looks less mountainous than the California HSR routing. They could run the Shinkansen along the coastal plains most of the way.


The Shinkansen was late and over budget as well. JNR was privatized in the '80s because Shinkansen debt made it become insolvent.


Are those population figures taken from the 60s when the trains were being built, or from now half a century later after the profound force multiplier of having high speed rail on that scale have enabled substantial density and growth along its length?

People talk about these train projects like you build them and take 20% of the cars off the congested highways and thats it. You don't build trains just to meet existing demand. You build trains to create demand, increase efficiency, and cause substantial economic growth and development as a result - in the long term.


I think Density may play a huge role here.

India has an amazing rail network, but literally not a seat goes empty.

Here in the US, I often book long distance peter pan / grey hound buses and them being empty is par for the course. This is in the NE corridor too. Doesn't get more dense than that.

The culture problem is another factor. People love cars a bit too much. I hope taxation on oil goes up in the US. But, that would be political suicide here.


Amtrak is more expensive than flying and takes many times longer, and is way more unreliable. The only people that use it outside of the eastern corridor are people afraid of flying and train enthusiasts.


For short distances, Amtrak is better than flying. A ticket from LA to San Diego costed me $35 compared to $80 flying one-way.


There are a few other city pairs outside of the Northeast Corridor. But not a lot. Even in the Northeast Corridor Amtrak (and the Acela in particular ) aren’t consistently cheaper than flying. In part, I expect this is because really price sensitive people will take Megabus or whatever anyway.


I suspect that the high price may be in part due to Amtrak renting the private railroad tracks for its use, though I definitely do not know the exact cause.


That’s probably one reason. Amtrak just also isn’t utilized heavily on most routes. Basically the Northeast Corridor profits subsidize Amtrak’s losses in the rest of the country.

My understanding is that Amtrak does own its tracks in the Northeast but they can price Acela high enough to just be competitive enough with planes for business travelers.


My experience has been that the ontime performance of airlines are significantly better than Amtrak. When the Pacific Surfliner trains run only every 1.5 hours, that’s a lot of potential waiting.


They should cut everything outside the NEC and dump that money into improving the NEC. It's one part of the country well-suited to trains.

If some hicks in Cali lose train service, I'm comfortable with that.


Amtrak already has fairly significant modernization and expansion plans for the Northeast Corridor which is (uniquely) a rather profitable region for them.


The lobby power of the automotive industry and real estate is underrated in the United States.

In China the CCP can and will steamroll over objections from both.


> Here in the US, I often book long distance peter pan / grey hound buses and them being empty is par for the course.

I believe that's in large part because the current offerings aren't good to begin with so people won't use it. Coming from europe, I've found the train network in California very sub-par. There is amtrak, but timetables and connections are so bad, I decided not to use it in the end. Caltrain was okay, I was pleasently surprised by the huge bicycle wagons, but the wagons still felt seriously outdated and slow.


And Europe, China, etc.


Back in 60s, we could do that as well. We just chose not to.

These days, though, it feels like all infrastructure work is bogged down everywhere in US. Things get built, but they take ages, and cost several times more than originally predicted.

I'm not a libertarian, but one does wonder if we're strangling our economy with over-regulation in that particular department.


Ironically, just last week the Green New Dealers said the entirety of the US should move to high speed rail.

One thing climate change debates have taught me is that people generally can't think past implementations and have incredible difficulty updating their implementation-specific mindsets.

Cars and planes have been 'bad' for climate change as they were inevitably burning fossil fuels, so the natural answer was public transit and high speed rail. Today, we have EVs and within about a decade short-haul electric planes (ie, exactly the routes high speed rail aims to serve). The answer to climate change (at least as far as transportation goes) should very clearly be "EVs", with these "electric vehicles" being cars, trucks, semis, and short-haul planes. Unfortunately, you won't see this reflected in GND thinking.


>The answer to climate change (at least as far as transportation goes) should very clearly be "EVs", with these "electric vehicles" being cars, trucks, semis, and short-haul planes. Unfortunately, you won't see this reflected in GND thinking.

From the resolution [0]:

overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in— (i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; (ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transportation; and (iii) high-speed rail;

So it seems like EVs are definitely part of the thinking. Perhaps you're referring to a line in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' website's FAQ, which has since been edited? She's definitely a prominent advocate and policy force of the Green New Deal but she is not "the Green New Dealers," who consist of many people [1], with many different opinions about implementation.

[0]https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolutio... [1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_New_Deal


I don't understand how Newsom's decision argues against nationwide high speed rail or is in any way ironic - the decision is not that it was tried and found wanting, but that it "would cost too much and take too long." The Green New Deal is specifically about applying massive funding and political will towards projects that are generally considered politically unrealistic today but are quite technically feasible, not about trying ideas that are inherently novel.


"Cost too much" for what? For what it would provide. That argues against at least this specific high speed rail.

And behind "politically unrealistic" - there is another problem waiting - "economically unrealistic". If it's a project that won't pay back the investment in it, calling it "green" doesn't make it a good idea.


All of which is true. Issue is, it's also true for EVs.

Infrastructure for EVs costs money too. As do electric airplanes. (Which I didn't know were going to be passenger planes in 10 years?) That's the thing, ANYTHING the Green New Deal spends money on, will cost money. You may say that's obvious, but my point is that I doubt whatever the GND ends up pushing will make actual economic sense. And imagine spending money on electric planes, and they don't become passenger worthy in ten years. Is that a bust? Do we just spend more GND money on electric planes and wait longer? What if we can not quite get there even in 20 or 30 years? What if the right choice was not electrically powered traditional planes, but big, slow, air ships? Do they make sense for "short haul" commutes given their lack of speed? Or what if air ships are a boondoggle as well, and that technology can't be perfected in ten years?

We have to either be willing to potentially waste federal money on Green New Deal projects that may never pan out, or, if we are disinclined to do so, we need to accept that the politician will be extremely risk averse with Green New Deal money.

And guess what that means? Yep, you guessed it, trains and lots of them.

Why?

Because as that old saying goes, "No one ever got fired for buying IBM."


> If it's a project that won't pay back the investment in it

What would be an idea in the economical/environmental equilibrium?


Good question. I don't know a good answer.

Converting cars to LNG might be a good answer, but I don't know enough to know.


LNG is just as nasty all things considered. ( https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=73&t=11 )


One thing climate change debates have taught me is that people generally can't think past implementations and have incredible difficulty updating their implementation-specific mindsets.

Hmm, interesting. I don’t mean to argue the facts, but just a quick google for the GND resolution [0] seems to contradict this claim. If anything the submitted resolution is overly idealistic, promoting an “everything-plus” strategy against climate change that won’t happen at all without a dramatic and underspecified political upheaval.

In fact high speed rail is listed as “(iii)” in a list where “(i)” is “zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing“.

Here’s my question: do you think it’s possible that what you’ve actually been taught is a cognitive bias, that might be leading you to ignore disconfirmatory evidence about how other people think in favor of simpler but less predictive models?

[0] https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolutio...


Cars suck though. Seriously. Roads take up a ton of space, traffic meets whatever capacity we provide it. They're pretty dangerous. I would much prefer to reimagine cities with fewer cars, and take care of long distance transportation with other (clean) means. Cars are getting greener, but they still have a ton of other negatives.


>traffic meets whatever capacity we provide it

So the infrastructure investment actually gets utilized?


What train systems, priced for volume and built in areas that aren't restricted from growing in response to the available transit, have failed to cause economic growth where they were built?

All the examples I've ever heard have basically come down to one of those two conditions - either, if the trains weren't well built to provide for existing demand, they were crippled from causing growth where they were built due to zoning and building restrictions preventing natural build up around them, or due to a lack of immediate success (and projects like these take time to cause economic and behavioral shifts) were priced out of competitiveness with less efficient modes of transit and thus doomed from a bizarre need to "profit" from infrastructure.


I'm highly supportive of rail transit. I'm just saying it's backwards to argue that expanding freeways just because to traffic will just fill up capacity. The same will happen if you expand successful rail transit as well. Capacity being filled up is a good sign in terms of efficient infrastructure investment - it means the infrastructure investment is being put to good use, and you should probably build more.

As to your question though, VTA seems to have failed to spur economic growth, despite being priced for volume and built in areas that aren't restricted from growing in response to available transit.


I think it would be far more effective to restrict entire freeways to be HOV rather than add a lane so a few more 4+ person vehicles can carry solo drivers to work. They simply aren't being used efficiently.

I take VTA everyday to work. The stations aren't in great spots. The one I take to work isn't surrounded by high density apartments. It's mostly industrial to one side, and a pretty long walk if don't live in the closest complex to it. As well, if it didn't drop off directly at my work it could easily double my commute time. The density just doesn't support it here.


In developed nations, you can't build your way out of traffic congestion. It's called Induced Demand[1].

Shifting journeys to higher capacity platforms is the only solution to moving people around.

[1] https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/09/citylab-unive...


I see your point, but still EVs are not that great for environments compare to trains, forget the energy for moving. Energy to build, the tire residues that goes to our public water and ...

It is way better than what we have now, but still we could do better.


>I see your point, but still EVs are not that great for environments compare to trains, forget the energy for moving. Energy to build, the tire residues that goes to our public water and ...

Unfortunately, many seem to think that just because something is emission free, they no longer have to worry about such things as grid capacity or electricity costs.


Please don't forget cobalt and lithium mining. Plus processing into batteries. They have pretty bad environmental impacts as well.


Cars, regardless of their energy source, are still a problem. Even if we solve the climate impact of cars, we still need to solve the traffic problem. If our large urban centers want to continue their growth then desirable alternative transportation options need to be implemented, otherwise 2 hour commutes through traffic will just become the norm.


While it's likely a non-starter legislatively, I believe the answer would be to pass a carbon cap & trade or tax system that simply prices greenhouse gases. That way we get what we want (less greenhouse gases) without proscribing a specific solution, whether it's high-speed rail, electric vehicles, or people keeping their gas vehicle and carpooling to work. If we get the incentives right, people will figure out how to minimize the increased cost in the way that is least painful for them.


EVs are central to every focused conversation I've seen on the topic.

As an example, one of the highest profile recent media discussions (Tucker Carlson interviewing AOC advisor Robert Hockett) featured the merits of having government coordinated rollout of charging stations (alongside the apparently high-effort enterprise of getting Carlson to believe that having one form of transportation supercede another might be accomplished by means other than bans and forcible seizures).

I don't know what the promise of short-haul electric planes looks like; maybe that's real, maybe it's like AI predictions in the 80s. It'll be interesting to see what its profile looks like in the space defined by energy requirements per passenger/freight mile, desired vs efficient maximum speeds, overhead & logistics of loading/unloading, and maintenance costs. Though I'd be willing to bet that it's premature at best to assume that electric planes or autos will categorically dominate in every consideration.


EVs are not the solution, they still require having a large part of our cities and suburbs covered in roads, which is ridiculous.


You are slamming the "Green New Deal Thinking" for not including EV semis and planes, vehicles no one yet builds or sells?

Semis are maybe more likely, but I don't want government energy policy to be planning on EV airplanes any more than, say, fusion reactors.


> Ironically, just last week the Green New Dealers said the entirety of the US should move to high speed rail.

It also said we should get rid of cars, planes, "farting cows", and provide for people "unwilling to work"... while also being anti-nuclear, and pro-government involvement in Tesla. [0]

I'm surprised the DNC allowed that to stay up as long as they did!

[0] https://apps.npr.org/documents/document.html?id=5729035-Gree...

edit: Um... you can think it was bad PR because it was, but those are true things that were in there. I didn't write it :)


Sad to see this being modded down HN. It's factually correct, includes a reference. If you find it embarrassing then your issue is with the document, not those discussing it's contents.


I did not downvote it (as you can see from replies I certainly don't find it embarrassing, and I am upset that AOC was forced to remove it), but

a) it's not factually correct - the document in question, while legitimate/authentic, is not the Green New Deal, it is entitled "Green New Deal FAQ"

b) it's clearly an internal document, not a public policy proposal: the very first line makes it clear this is internal strategy

c) it's from one prominent person in the Green New Deal movement and the other sponsors of the bill may well disagree with the proposals to ban airplanes and cows

d) I'm pretty sure the cow thing was a joke (of the form "of course we won't get rid of all emissions, obviously, cows are going to fart for as long as we have cows and nobody's getting rid of cows") - again, it's an internal reference sheet, the tone is obviously very different from a real, public proposal

e) it's basically political flamebait, very little there has to do with the intersection of the Green New Deal and the topic of the article (high-speed rail)

f) and as others pointed out, the actual Green New Deal is pro-electric-cars, so it's actively misleading for the tiny portion of relevance it has.


> it's clearly an internal document

> it's basically political flamebait

Why would the DNC produce a document that's flame bait? Or is discussing the contents of the document flame bait?


Sorry, my pronouns were unclear. In the first sentence, "it" refers to the document. In the second sentence, "it" referred to the comment to which you replied. Very little that's in the document is relevant to this conversation, and the comment itself was attempting to discredit a particular thesis (HSR is a good idea for the US) by discrediting other theses held or allegedly held by the same people (providing for people unwilling to work is good, bovicide is good, etc.).

(I don't think it's unusual for politicians to, in the course of their legitimate work, produce internal documents that when brought to a technical discussion forum can be used to produce political flamebait. It's certainly not unusual for technical people to do the same - a Google internal strategy memo on some recent W3C discussion, with no context, can easily turn into flamebait if posted to HN.)

Edit: to clarify my pronouns further, in my first sentence I meant "I did not downvote the comment (I don't find the document embarrassing)", and in (a) I meant that the comment is not factually correct in identifying the document with the Green New Deal. In (b), (c), and (d) I mean the document.

... Also, I think it's incorrect that the DNC produced it. AOC's staff produced it, did they not? And it starts off with a sentence about how they want to make sure other Democrats don't claim credit for it. (Remember, again, that we are talking about the document entitled "Green New Deal FAQ" that was briefly posted to AOC's website, not about the Green New Deal legislation.)


> it's incorrect that the DNC produced it. AOC's staff produced it, did they not?

You're right, AOC's staff produced the FAQ, I stand corrected. I still think - if AOC is considered the main backer of the GND - that the FAQ reflects very badly on her team's intentions.


Yes, the original document that was posted was too politically incorrect for the right-wing faction of the DNC to be comfortable with it. Providing for people even if they're unwilling to work is a defensible strategy, and is rather popular on HN under the name of "universal basic income" and among rich people under the name of "inheritance".


A basic income provides to everyone, not specifically people unable or unwilling to work.


I mean, yes, but it's most valuable/impactful as a policy to those who are not working (for any reason). For instance, I make enough money that I probably won't even notice an additional minimum-wage-sized amount of money (especially at my tax bracket), so as a policy it won't affect my behavior one bit—unless I become either unable or unwilling to work, where the difference between zero and the minimum wage will become quite obvious.

One of the key features of a UBI is that it's not a US-style welfare/disability/food-stamp program where there are tracked eligibility requirements and you can lose your eligibility. It's universal. It doesn't attempt to distinguish who is "really" unable to work.

So in practice one of the most-affected categories under a UBI policy would be people unwilling to work. AOC's (internal, accidentally-posted) doc said this in an indelicate and politically incorrect way but it's not aiming for any policy goals that UBI advocates aren't also targeting.


>right-wing faction of the DNC

Wha?

>Providing for people even if they're unwilling to work is a defensible strategy

.... Ok... Go on then. Please expand on how providing for people unwilling to work is defensible. I'm open minded, convince me.


How is UBI anything other than "providing for people unwilling to work"?


> I don't think that's what UBI is supposed to be.

What do you think UBI is supposed to be? I thought it was a universal basic income, i.e., an income that is applicable to all people as opposed to an income from a job.

> Please expand on how providing for people unwilling to work is defensible.

The US Declaration of Independence says all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says all people have the right to life, liberty and security of person. And so forth. None of these rights are excluded to those unwilling to work.

In order to live, you generally need to have a roof over your head and food on your plate and access to basic medical care. Providing those to all people who have the right to life seems pretty reasonable to me.


> I thought it was a universal basic income, i.e., an income that is applicable to all people as opposed to an income from a job.

That's implementation specific; several "UBI" schemes have focused on providing supplemental income, rather than paying whatever the person in particular actually needs (which will vary geographically, even neighborhood to neighborhood).

> The US Declaration of Independence says all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The full clause is "All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

The rights are inherent to being human, not provided for by the government. It was never intended to state that the government had an obligation to secure those rights, only that it ought not infringe upon them.

Edit: This is not to state that I disagree with programs intended to help those who need it. Rather, I'm simply pointing out that a legal justification for doing so should (and can) be found elsewhere. The moral justification is prima facie for most.


> .... Ok... Go on then. But to start you off, I don't think that's what UBI is supposed to be. Please expand on how providing for people unwilling to work is defensible.

I don't understand what the alternative would be? A civilized society already provides basic sustenance, housing, and healthcare for everyone that cannot or will not work. It's not a glorious lifestyle but we don't let people die just for not participating in the workforce.


Ok... Go on then. Please expand on how providing for people unwilling to work is defensible. I'm open minded, convince me.

We do that now. It's called "prison." The question is, could we spend a similar amount of money in other ways and get a better society in the bargain?

It's analogous to how our private healthcare system costs us more money for worse results than other countries' "socialized" systems do. It's usually a bad idea to let politics and ideology take precedence over objective metrics.


(I agree with you mostly, but technically a) several prisoners are willing to work and just constrained, and may well have been imprisoned directly from an honest job, and b) prisoners in the US are often compelled to work as slaves. So prisoners are not a great example of people unwilling to work, though they are a great example of it being financially workable for the government to provide meals and housing for a set of people who are not in fact on the public labor market.)


In what.... No. Prisons are not filled with people who were unwilling to work. Nor are prisoners prohibited from working.

Why would you make that case that people in prison were put there because they were unwilling to work? Do you think prisons are filled with unfortunate souls who got caught stealing bread to feed their families? I suggest you try spending a weekend in lock up sometime, you'll get that idea fixed right away.


> Why would you make that case that people in prison were put there because they were unwilling to work? Do you think prisons are filled with unfortunate souls who got caught stealing bread to feed their families?

You're contradicting yourself. Valjean was quite willing to work, it just wasn't enough to feed himself and his family. (And in fact he worked quite hard, both in prison and in the rest of his life.) If you think that prisoners are willing to work, then they are unfortunate souls who got caught stealing bread.

On the other hand, if they are people who wish to work on the black market, or wish to work in ways that society deems impermissible (fraud, theft, etc.), or wish to engage in conduct on the job that society deems impermissible (perhaps conduct like theft that lets them avoid working), then they aren't unfortunate souls precisely because they aren't willing to work, at least as "work" is defined. If they are justly in prison, it is precisely because they brought it on themselves, and even so, society feeds and clothes and houses and heals them (though not very well, mind you), and this is generally believed to be a worthwhile thing for society to spend money on.

If this is worthwhile for people convicted of a crime, why is it not worthwhile for people not even convicted of a crime, who are merely unwilling to work?

(Unless your position is that society should be supportive of people who are willing to work in any possible definition of work, whether they choose to be a programmer, a hitman, or a drug lord, and instead of housing and feeding hitmen and drug lords in prison, it should let them earn their keep?)


>right-wing faction of the DNC

Parties have an internal spectrum and much of the Democratic party occupies the same space as what Europe calls "center right", like Merkel's Christian Democrats.

> providing for people unwilling to work is defensible

Whereas:

1) There is no perfect test between "unwilling" and "unable"

2) People who are unable to work and are not provided for experience a range of adverse outcomes

2a) this includes the negative extenralities of homelessness that everyone always complains about in SF

2b) this may include death

3) Coercion into work with the threat of starvation is corrosive to human dignity

=> we should stop trying to draw a harsh demarcation between the deserving and undeserving, and ensure everyone is provided for.


You moved the goal post to unable. The discussion is on unwilling - stick to it. Able bodied people that just don’t want to. You defend that.

And yes, if you are unwilling to work; you are unwilling to live. That’s your choice friend, not mine, it’s against your biological directive, but it’s not my business.


> And yes, if you are unwilling to work; you are unwilling to live.

How do you propose to enforce this on recipients of trust funds?


Are you making a false argument about trust funders? The argument is clearly about providing economic security to those unwilling to work. People with trust funds don't need economic security, they have it. You know this though.


I'm not sure what you mean by "false argument." I'm definitely making an argument you don't like, but those are different things.

How is it justifiable for trust fund kids to have economic security while being unwilling to work while also being unjustifiable for non-trust-fund-kids to have economic security while being unwilling to work? What is the difference?

You are claiming that it is a moral principle, perhaps even wired into our biology, that those unwilling to work are unwilling to live. Yet this is clearly not true in the case of those with trust funds. What is your defense of this fairly glaring exception? (One perfectly coherent answer is that this exception should be closed and inheritances to adult children should be disallowed; if you're an adult unwilling to work, having had parents who were willing to work does not save you. There are other defenses, too. I'm curious what yours is.)


The difference is someone worked and made enough money to set up a trust fund for their kid?

I suspect you know that so that's it from me in this thread.


Sure, but "If Person A wishes to survive, they must work" and "If Person A wishes to survive, either they or an ancestor must work" are very different things. If we feel like "he who does not work, does not eat" is a principle (and it's a very common one!), the ancestral exception doesn't make sense. I understand the ancestral exception exists, I'm just trying to push back on it being defensible. (Mostly because I think that it's equally defensible to have a blanket exception for "or lives in a society that can afford to feed and house them".)


> I understand the ancestral exception exists, I'm just trying to push back on it being defensible.

Do you think parents shouldn't be able to provide for their children in general?


I'm not the one claiming that people who don't work shouldn't have a wage, so I'm not sure why my views are relevant here. (I have complex views on this that start from a totally different set of assumptions. But you can round it to "No, I do" for now.)

I'm trying to ask why someone who believes that people who don't work shouldn't have a wage - i.e., not me - should believe in the ancestral exception.


Probably because they believe parents should provide for their children.


OK, but why do they believe it's a good thing for society for parents to provide for their children, even after their children reach adulthood, and even when those children will distort the markets of the places they live with affluence?

I think with most answers to that question, I can construct an argument that it's a good thing for society for government to provide for those unwilling to work. But if the answer is "It just is," I don't have a hope of an argument. I cannot convince someone of why things are good and bad if they have a random list of specific situations that are just axiomatically good and just axiomatically bad. I am hoping that 'SlowRobotAhead has some other answer, so I'm not sure what your goal is in repeating things I already know (and that you say you know I already know) at me.

If you, personally, are a person who believes that it's a good thing for society for parents to provide for their children, but not for government to provide for those unwilling to work, can you explain why you believe the former?


Because stealing is immoral but benefitting from your parent's earnings is not.


You're just restating the premise. That's not an argument. Why do you define whatever-it-is-you're-calling-stealing as stealing, and why is benefiting from your parents' earnings moral?


Because I do not consent to pay you in exchange for nothing.


Are we really having a discussion on whether taxation is theft using the most boring possible arguments for it? If you really believe that, live up to your principles, stop using the taxpayer-funded internet, and get off this site. We share no morality in common and I have no hope of convincing you of anything.

Meanwhile, 'SlowRobotAhead has claimed to be open-minded, and I was having a discussion with them before you jumped in saying this was the last comment from you in the thread - another lie, but that doesn't surprise me from someone with your moral code.


> There is no perfect test between "unwilling" and "unable"


> "Overhauling transportation systems" to reduce emissions — including expanding electric car manufacturing, building "charging stations everywhere," and expanding high-speed rail to "a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary";

This is from an article outlining the GND - https://www.npr.org/2019/02/07/691997301/rep-alexandria-ocas... - with the very first thing listed being expanding electric car manufacturing.


Ultimately, I'm not sure any large infrastructure projects are possible in the current US political climate. The US interstate system is a marvel that I suspect would be entirely blocked by NIMBYism if implemented today. Airport expansions, wind farms, new housing, etc. are all opposed by scaremongering social media campaigns.


I think you're mismatching problems and solutions.

EVs are a solution for climate change.

Modern railroads are a solution for commutes taking hours in Silicon Valley (and other places in CA). Electrifying all the single occupancy sedans in 101/680/880 won't do anything to the commute time.


This 77 billion boondoggle would have done very little to improve commute times either. It is a mismatch as well. It isn't local transit, and would be serving a few stations at most in the bay area. It doesn't provide any new routes or alternatives other than moving farther out from the city.


The main transport issue the US faces is sprawl. NO one vehicle, certainty not EVs, can solve that -- it is a system level issue. However i do believe that the last mile problem can be solved ... making the solution of the overall problem soluble by (public) transit (on steroids).

The last mile issue could be solved with AV's (autonomous vehicles). Eg Ubers Jump could be outfitted to be an AV and transport Americans to a (usably frequent!) transit point. AVs could be made to work much easier (ie a shorter timeline) in the low density scenarios sprawl has produced, and which now make Public Transport infeasible.


Wait, the trains are also electric, aren't they? Does US still use ICE trains?


There are vast stretches of the US rail system that are not electrified. But I imagine the bulk of this part of the network is disproportionately used by cargo.


Nearly all trains in the US burn diesel. Subways are an exception.


I think if we properly taxed carbon to account for all its externalities, all these alternative solutions would become much more viable.


Ironically? Here is what it actually says:

H) overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in—

(i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing;

(ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transit; and

(iii) high-speed rail;

Note the emphasis on technological feasibility and the use of “including” which typically means not limited to. Conservatives have been working overtime to twist this into an absolutist message.


Dont tell the bikers, the anti-car crowd who want to rip up all the roads and parking lots. One day soon cars will not be the great pollution evil they once were. If you believe the ai hype, soon bicycles will be killing far more people than cars. Then we shall confine them too to closed tracks. The last person to ride a bike on a public sidewalk is probably alive today.

I am snowed in today. I want an EV but havent seen one that can handle a mountain highway in winter, something with the range and predictability to survive a canadian winter. Has anyone ever put chains on a tesla?


> If you believe the ai hype, soon bicycles will be killing far more people than cars

Citation, please.


Bikes kill people because cars kill people.


Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: