HSRA: Get stuck in traffic?
November 11, 2011 Leave a comment
The Sacramento Bee has offered us a strange, new angle on California’s budget-busting high-speed rail project. Having interviewed the HSRA’s chair this week, they inform us that the Authority’s latest business plan hinges on a friendly Washington budget environment in the years ahead. Basically, HSRA is betting its chips on President Obama’s re-election. With forecasters putting his odds somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-50, isn’t this plan a little reckless?
As it is, Jerry Brown’s gimmicky budget for the current fiscal year is well on track to trigger further cuts. And we all know the long line of agencies begging for fiscal mercy: education, prisons, parks, sundry social services, and so on. Given these dire straits, where will the money come from?
The global track record for high speed rail is abysmal. These extremely capital- and labor-intensive projects don’t recoup their start-up costs, and there is no reason to believe the latest projected ridership numbers, given the stubbornness of the American Love Affair and the high level of competition airlines will bring to bear. Train passengers might not need to stand in security lines, but the door-to-door times will be comparable, and at the end of it all they will still need to get picked up or rent a car anyway.
The funny thing about the article though is the last bit about getting stuck in traffic. It’s not clear whether the Bee is trying to be cute, or imply something more sinister about the Rail Authority. Even then, local traffic patterns only have partial bearing on the need for a high speed train. When was the last time you were caught in traffic outside of Harris Ranch?