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Politicians promoted the California high-speed rail project as a rapid route between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. But as we noted, the “bullet train” broke ground near Fresno. Now Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee finds a gap between other bullet-train claims and reality.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority claims that by 2040, “the system will reduce vehicles miles of travel in the state by almost 10 million miles of travel every day.” The rail authority further claims that “Over a 58-year period (from the start of operations in 2022 through 2080), the system will reduce auto travel on the state’s highways and roads by over 400 billion miles of travel.” As Walters notes, Californians travel about 330 billion miles in cars every year, nearly a billion miles each day. Therefore, “the bullet train’s projected reduction in driving would be scarcely 1 percent.” And the claimed reduction of 400 billion vehicle-miles over 58 years works out to “just over one year of driving.” This assumes a “very high train ridership” that can hardly be assumed, and it would come “at a very high cost.”
The bullet train is supposed to cost of $68 billion but with more federal financing in doubt, high-speed rail bosses may seek loans. Walters projects a debt of $100 billion with interest, a lot of money for “an unnoticeable tiny dent in automotive travel.” And how will the debt be repaid? Probably through the use of cap-and-trade funds, which were supposed to be for emission goals. California’s Legislative Analyst pointed that out, but legislators ignored him and gave 25 percent of cap-and-trade funds to the bullet train. The grounds for this money grab was that the train would reduce carbon emissions through reduction in automobile travel. But it doesn’t do much of that, and doesn’t go where politicians said it would. So what is this all about?
California’s four-term governor Jerry Brown, Walters says, “sees the bullet train as a legacy.” That’s why he “pushed hard for the cap-and-trade funds.” As we noted, the bullet train also provides a soft landing spot for washed-up politicians like High Speed Rail Authority board member Lynn Schenk, a former congresswoman who served as chief of staff for California governor Gray Davis. And of course the project gives politicians a new place to spend money. That’s why the ruling class is “all aboard” the bullet train.