We must challenge CHSRA’s high-speed train funding & operating costs

Last summer, when promoting “Proposition  1A, the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century” as a $40 billion, 800 mile high speed train system from Southern California to the Bay area the California High-Speed Rail Authority, CHSRA, made some assumptions that already are out of sync with the governor’s application for federal funding.

In their promotional materials the CHSRA stated that the financial strategy “relies on three sources–state and local funding, federal financing, and “P3″–public -private partnerships.”
Under Federal Funding we were told  that  “Federal funding is projected to provide 25-33 percent of the construction costs–from $10 to $12 billion.
hat flyer also states that “by law, state funds will not be made available until matching funds from additional non-state sources are obtained.”

CHSRA projected “public-private partnerships will comprise $4.5 to $7 billion of initial investment opportunities, including project debt financing, vendor financing, system operations and private ownership.”

Time out! How much Federal funding did the governor just apply for?
At the recent conference in LA it was reported that “governor
Schwarzenegger said California deserved to get more than half of the $8 billion in federal stimulus money set aside for high-speed rail development because it is further along in planning than other states and is ready to break ground in 2011, a year before the federal deadline for getting the money.” Note: His application for $4.7 billion is less than half of the needed Federal funding as projected by CHSRA which is quoted above.
Also, (governor) Schwarzenegger said “those stimulus dollars will go further in California than in any other state because California has pledged to match — dollar for dollar — all money received” from the federal government….

Note: Another illustration of spin. By law, we must come up with “matching funds” as stated above.

I get dizzy every time I read another comment on their biased flyers. Case in point.

“California’s high-speed train system will generate $1 billion in annual revenue surplus and require no taxpayer operating subsidies.”  Notice the failure to spell out a timeframe for this windfall. I’m not from MO but pleeeze. No subsidy?  And while the concept of public-private surely has merit, are you saying that investors are not looking for a reasonable ROI on their investment?
In my Oct 5th report I quoted Martin Engel, transportation commissioner from the city of Menlo Park, who said that “the ticket price that is most frequently quoted is $55 one way from SF to LA (in 2030).”
Let me bring us to my east coast roots or it routes where you can currently ride the Amtrak high speed Acela train.

“WASHINGTON – Beginning March 3, Amtrak will offer a new low fare on its premier Acela Express trains, saving passengers up to 25 percent on previous lowest fares. Now available for purchase, Acela Business class tickets will be priced as low as $99 between Washington, DC (WAS) and New York (NYP), and $79 between New York and Boston (BOS).The new low fares are available for purchase now for travel between March 3 and June 26. A 14-day advance purchase policy applies, and availability is limited. The tickets are one-way and nonrefundable, but can be exchanged. Tickets purchased at the low fare are not eligible for an upgrade to First class accommodations. Until now, the lowest fare available on Acela between WAS and NYP was $133, and $93 between BOS and NYP.”As Amtrak becomes an increasingly popular way to travel, these new low fares on Acela will make our flagship service more affordable for business and leisure travelers,” said Emmett Fremaux, vice president of marketing and product management.’

Let’s now do the math. The distance between SF and LA is roughly 350 miles with a projected 2030 fare of $55 while the distance between DC and NYC is only 225 miles yet the 2009 cost of that ticket is $133. NYC is 220 miles south of Boston yet the 2009 Acela fare for that run  is $93.  Whose pulling the wool over your eyes?

Here is another report on the Acela high speed trains. ”
Cost: The lowest fare found on Acela Express was $88 each way from New York to Boston. Between Washington D.C. and New York, we found $146 each way on Acela.”

“Travel Time: For Acela Express service, plan on about three hours between Washington D.C. and New York, about seven hours between Washington D.C. and Boston and about three and a half hours between New York and Boston.”
When you read reports of speeds exceeding 200 mph you might inquire if those are express trains that do not stop along the proposed route. i.e. One train will travel from Sacramento to Irvine making the following possible stops. Stockton, downtown Modesto, downtown Merced, Fresno, Visalia, Bakersfield, Palmdale airport, Sylmar, Burbank, LA, Norwalk, Anaheim and Irvine.

Amazing. Voters in California are upset that the state legislature and our governor cannot balance a budget yet vote for Bond Measures that must be paid off with our tax dollars for decades to come that might have been utilized to save programs.
It’s like having a credit card that says buy now and pay later. Go figure.

Let me close by reporting that the majority of voters in both Riverside and San Diego counties opposed Prop 1 A last year yet may see state funding shortfalls based on this massive project that will surely be way over budget if it ever get’s rolling.

About Larry Gilbert