Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

A Bullet Train to the Head

California, high speed, rail, boondoggle, waste, illustration

Romanticism. The yearning for greatness; the need for speed. Efficiency! It’s all there in California’s high-speed rail project — hopes and dreams and a sense of the grandeur of progress.

And yet the bullet train project, approved by voters in 2008, is a fiasco.

One can blame the voters, I suppose. At least the 53.7 percent who said yes to a referendum authorizing a 9.95 billion bond. Just to get the project started.

But we shouldn’t, really. All the people pushing the bullet train notion (from Los Angeles to the Bay) said that most of the investment would come from private investors. Further, it would require no ongoing subsidies.

Those assurances, however, “were at best wishful thinking, at worst an elaborate con,” writes Virginia Postrel for Bloomberg.

How bad is it? Total construction cost went from a $33 billion to $68 billion — despite route trimming. The first segment, which is understood to be the easiest to build (shooting through an empty stretch), is four years behind schedule, and still lacks necessary land.

The list of failures goes on and on, and includes a dearth of investors. And then there’s the estimate of the company who got the first bid on the project. It says that the line will almost certainly not be self-sustaining.

“The question now,” Postrel concludes, “is when they’ll have the guts to pull the plug.”

Corruption, hope without realism, business as usual — all these are revealed in the project. And wasn’t the second season of True Detective about this? Let’s hope this real-world fiasco ends with less bloodshed.

Californians have already lost enough in treasure!

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

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California, high speed, rail, boondoggle, waste, illustration


By: CS Admin


  1. JFB says:

    This scam, and it is a scam, occurs repeatedly in the funding of “public works”, either by an under estimation of capital cost, over anticipation of the revenue from user fees, under provision for operation and maintenance, or many other errors which come back to bite the taxpayers who appear to never learn.
    If a bullet train is a viable economic alternative for transportation between LA and the Bay area it will be of interest to private enterprise and market provided.
    All such projects, at their most basic, are market manipulations which seek to provide services, paid for at least in part by the majority of taxpayers who will never use them. They further commonly and additionally do even greater harm than their cost by distorting the developement of economically viable transportation alternatives by putting into the competitive mix non-market, subsidized and disruptive force. The reality of a free and voluntary exchange system is that you are limited to the services you are willing and able, due to your productivity, to pay for. All else is a pipe dream.
    The best solution would be to abandon the present debacle, sell the project to the extent it has value in the open market, to a private entity which, if the project is viable. might continue it. If no one is found you have your answer. In the private sector we call this bankruptcy, which reallocates and recycles the remaining value of economic mistakes.
    The WORST solution, both for the market and the taxpayers who will be saddled with the additional costs, is to continue forward.

  2. Pat says:

    California’s voters have the government they asked for and the government they deserve. They voted for it. Let them live with it.
    And let them PAY FOR IT.

    • John F. Brennan says:

      You wil shortly be asked to assist in bailing out California (after you pay for the malfeasance in Puerto Rico). 

  3. click here says:

    Richard Jaeckel appears as a former colleague of Lancaster’s and Roscoe Lee Browne as a college professor early-on pleading for the release of an imprisoned militant.
    Speaking of music, this is the pic featuring Jerry’s celebrated rendition of Leroy Anderson’s The Typewriter
    (used in Lewis montage clips for decades, and
    repeated on his short-lived 1967 NBC series). What Simon thought of the
    end result of COME BLOW YOUR HORN is likely a double-edged

  4. Karen H says:

    As a California voter, I did NOT vote to fund this. This vote was in 2008 & this is the essence of the law, a bond law, that won by less than 5%

    “The law allocates $9.95 billion to the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Of that sum, $9 billion will be used to construct the core segments of the rail line from San Francisco to the Los Angeles area and the rest will be spent on improvements to local railroad systems that will connect locations away from the high-speed rail mainline to the high-speed system. The project also requires federal matching funds, since the $9.95 billion bond covers only part of the estimated cost of the initial core segment.[2] The money will be raised through general obligation bonds that are paid off over a period of 30 years”

    Since many people don’t read, they may have voted for it because it would improve local railroad systems. The infrastructure does need an upgrade.

    This has been a pet project of the supposedly fiscally conservative, liberal Jerry Brown. I have never seen a need for it. There are numerous flights from every CA airport daily that gets you there in a 1 – 2 hrs depending on departure airport.

    Only advantage of a bullet train is the lack of TSA lines & awful seats.

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