CHSRA High Speed Rail Update

Following is my sixth report since Oct 3rd on the proposed High Speed Rail System, CHSRA. It’s beyond comprehension when proponents of high speed rail sell us a bill of goods and many voters accept their data without a challenge. While it is true that the majority of Orange, San Diego and Riverside County voters opposed Prop 1A, the initial $9.95 billion expenditure for a high speed rail project last November, we were outnumbered by northern CA voters resulting in the start of a massive debt.

We now learn that the projected construction cost is increasing from $33.6 to $42.6 billion dollars, or an increase of nine billion dollars. Oh, they used 2008 dollars rather than time of construction costs, which we should have been told before casting our votes. I say that because ridership costs are increasing even before we lay the first mile of track. So their business plan will now reflect higher commuter ticket costs resulting in 14 million fewer riders due to a simple cost/benefit analysis by potential riders.
In selling Californians to support Prop 1A voters were deceived in being told that the cost of a high-speed train ticket from San Francisco to LA was to be $55 yet their latest projected cost is pegged at $105.

In one of my prior CHSRA posts I mentioned the existing Caltrain system that currently serves the Bay Area peninsula taking commuters and visitors from San Jose north through San Jose and Palo Alto to San Francisco. Will part of the proposed CHSRA ridership take away from Caltrain? Was that impact factored in? I do not recall seeing any discussion of that impact.

Is there a plan B in the event we are unable to get between $17 to $19 billion in federal funds to aide construction of this project?
As I re-read my prior posts I see that “federal funding is projected to provide 25-33 percentage of construction costs $10-$12 billion.”
And what about costs of design, equipment, and use of eminent domain?
As we are discussing a “3P,” also known as a “private-public-partnership,” do Juice readers truly believe that investors will not be seeking a reasonable ROI before kicking in billions of dollars to a subsidized rail system?

Let me also share text from a prior post where I quote from Section 2704.09 of the Prop 1A ballot Measure. “By law, state funds will not be made available until matching funds from additional non-state sources are obtained.”
That being a vital commencement criteria I guess they expect to get money from Vallejo, San Diego and LA whose reserves are each busting at the seams.

The following paragraphs are from the San Mateo County Times. I am adding the story link at the end of this post where you can read the entire report.

State high-speed train rides to be costlier, ridership lower than promised to voters

By Mike Rosenberg
San Mateo County Times

Those hoping to ride the state’s high-speed train next decade will have to dig much deeper into their wallets than officials originally thought, a harsh reality that will chase away millions of passengers, according to an updated business plan released Monday.
The average ticket on the bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles is now estimated to cost about $105, or 83 percent of comparable airfare. Last year, the state said prices would be set at 50 percent of comparable airfare and predicted a ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles would cost $55.

 As a result of the higher fares, state officials now think the service will attract 41 million annual riders by 2035, down from last year’s prediction of 55 million passengers by 2030.
 Finally, the cost of the project — recently pegged at $33.6 billion in 2008 dollars — is now estimated at $42.6 billion in time-of-construction dollars.
 The gloomy forecasts are included in the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s updated business plan, which the state Legislature required the authority to submit by today?.The authority last produced a business plan in 2008. State officials had used what turned out to be optimistic ridership and ticket price forecasts in presenting a $9.9 billion bond measure called Proposition 1A, which voters approved in November 2008.

Authority Deputy Director Jeff Barker said while the numbers have changed, the “spirit of what the people voted for” with Proposition 1A remains the same.”What they voted for was to put $9 billion toward construction of a high-speed rail system,” Barker said. “That’s still what we have today. We’re not asking the voters for additional money.”With higher fares and fewer passengers, the rail authority will actually churn a higher profit, according to the 142-page business plan.
 Officials expect annual revenues to hit $2.87 billion by 2035 and insist that under the newest model their system will be profitable.”The point of this business plan is to prove that it’s a viable project,” Barker said. “This is a scenario in which increasing the ticket (price) and having fewer riders, you reduce your operations and maintenance costs such that your profits are higher.”Barker cautioned that the figures are still subject to change in coming years.”Any type of ticket price or ridership numbers, they’re all estimates until the day the thing opens,” he said.
The new business plan expects 120,700 riders per day in 2035, with 31,800 boarding in the Bay Area along the Caltrain line where the high-speed train will operate from San Francisco to San Jose. The authority predicts 2,500 daily boardings at the Millbrae station, 7,600 at the San Jose stop and 24,100 at the San Francisco Transbay Terminal, the line’s northern terminus. The plan also assumes 3,900 daily riders at Redwood City, although the authority may not include a stop there, or may move the station to either Palo Alto or Mountain View.

Gilbert note: As I read another Juice post regarding the potential sale of the OC Fair Grounds let me steal from that headline and call this “derail the train.” It’s not to late to put the Genie back in the bottle. The fact that voters approved almost $10 billion for the first phase of this train does not mean that we are compelled to move foreward. Our insurance policy is the matching fund mandate.

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