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.
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.
Operating & maintenance costs would also be critical to determining whether this actually makes any sense.
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 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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
New train station? Congrats. Now you're finding a new place because your landlord is selling.
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?
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.)
In the article they mention the number of parcels needed grew by 500, did owners subdivide in order to increase returns?
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.
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.
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)
Mountain View to SFO in 5 minutes
If it has to go somewhere, everyone wants the high speed rail to go through someone else's house, preferably a long ways away.
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)
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.
> “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.”
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.
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.
You can't just build a train in the middle of nowhere. You need some level of connection to population centers.
A lot of stuff is already built on this route, many viaducts and bridges etc.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
Newsom explains in a quote given in the article: not spending the money means "giving it back to Donald Trump."
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.
Now try to build something through developed areas, maybe not at grade, and dealing with traffic rerouting, other infrastructure interruptions, and NIMBYism.
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...
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.
Do you have a source for this assertion?
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.
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.
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  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.
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.
>...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.
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. 
> 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.
 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."
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 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.
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.
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.
One estimate of the cost to build the trans-continental railroad, including the Central Pacific ($47M) and Union Pacific ($77.5M)  is $3.5B in today's dollars, so this railroad costs 22X what two cross-country lines once cost.
-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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Regardless of its merits, Spain spent 40 billion euros and got a functioning nationwide high speed train network. 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.
I know of a 150 page front end app that was charged at least $40M.
accomplishing anything serious with this attitude is not possible.
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 !!
I don’t know, I have friends with one-way commutes longer than that from SF to the peninsula.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Holy crap, that means 75% of the personell are just sitting around not doing anything. Must be a very powerful union.
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.
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)
The lesson for everyone to learn here is this: direct democracy and grand vision public transit do not mix.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If some hicks in Cali lose train service, I'm comfortable with that.
In China the CCP can and will steamroll over objections from both.
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.
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.
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.
From the resolution :
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 , with many different opinions about implementation.
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.
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.
Because as that old saying goes, "No one ever got fired for buying IBM."
What would be an idea in the economical/environmental equilibrium?
Converting cars to LNG might be a good answer, but I don't know enough to know.
Hmm, interesting. I don’t mean to argue the facts, but just a quick google for the GND resolution  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?
So the infrastructure investment actually gets utilized?
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.
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 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.
Shifting journeys to higher capacity platforms is the only solution to moving people around.
It is way better than what we have now, but still we could do better.
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.
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.
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.
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. 
I'm surprised the DNC allowed that to stay up as long as they did!
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 :)
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 basically political flamebait
Why would the DNC produce a document that's flame bait? Or is discussing the contents of the document flame bait?
(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.)
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.
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.
>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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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
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.
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.
How do you propose to enforce this on recipients of trust funds?
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.)
I suspect you know that so that's it from me in this thread.
Do you think parents shouldn't be able to provide for their children in general?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?