High Speed Rail


Texas HSR Could Face Same Challenges as California HSR

By Robert Cruickshank

In recent days there’s been a spate of posts and articles touting the Texas high speed rail project as a better approach than the California project. Some of this is undoubtedly the California-Texas rivalry at work, but it’s also fueled by the routine misunderstanding in the media about the nature of California HSR’s problems. Those problems exist solely because opponents of California HSR found powerful allies in the Congressional Republicans, and have been able to block future funding and create a cascading set of problems that stem from that denial.

Majority of Californians Support High Speed Rail Project

By Robert Cruickshank

Great news from the Public Policy Institute of California, which has a new poll out on various political issues in California. The poll shows that a clear majority of Californians continue to support high speed rail:

Jerry Brown Defends Use of Cap-and-Trade Funds for HSR

By Robert Cruickshank

The Sacramento Bee ran into Jerry Brown as he filed papers for his fourth campaign for governor, and asked him about funds for the high speed rail project:

Right now my main focus is the litigation in the 3rd Court of Appeals, I’m hopeful we will get that resolved quickly. And yes, in addition to the bond issues, the sources of funding have been one of the greatest questions of the critics, and I think cap-and-trade is very appropriate, because high speed rail reduces greenhouse gases [Brown emphasized that point], there’s no question about that, it’s much cheaper than building more freeways, or attempting to build more runways. So from an environmental and fiscal point of view, or even from a convenience point of view, given the fact that we have a number of people who are aging, and I hope to be one of those people over the next 20 years, it’ll be a lot better to be sitting on a high speed passenger rail than sitting behind a wheel trying to weave your way down I-5 or 99.

State Building Trades Urges Legislature to Fund HSR

By Robert Cruickshank

The Tea Party (and their newest friend, Gavin Newsom) may be continuing their war against high speed rail. But California’s labor unions, a key Democratic constituency, remain deeply supportive of the project. Robbie Hunter of the State Building and Construction Trades Council explains why:

Why HSR Is a Good Use of Cap-and-Trade Funds

By Robert Cruickshank

News that Governor Jerry Brown is planning to spend $250 million this year on high speed rail from cap-and-trade funds, presumably the floor for an annual amount of funding from that source, should be welcomed by California environmentalists and everyone concerned about climate change. But there are some strange criticisms being made:

Fight Over Google Buses Shows Need For Statewide Rail Funding Plan

By Robert Cruickshank

A battle that has been simmering for years finally exploded into the open Monday in San Francisco, where protestors blocked one of Google’s private buses that carries workers from their homes in the Mission to Google HQ in Mountain View. Protestors charged that Google was contributing to a two-tier transportation system in the Bay Area, where tech workers get free express bus service whereas everyone else has to make do with transit systems like Muni, BART and Caltrain that are increasingly struggling to meet soaring demand.

HSR Opponents' Audit Request Denied

Author Robert CruickshankBy Robert Cruickshank

Earlier this month two Republican Assemblymembers requested an audit of the California High Speed Rail Authority’s land acquisition process in the Central Valley. As expected, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee denied their request last Thursday:

Assemblymen Jim Patterson, of Fresno, and Frank Bigelow, of O’Neals, said they feared Central Valley landowners were being treated unfairly as the California High-Speed Rail Authority moves to acquire land for the project.

How the Republican Anti-HSR Trap Works

Robert CruickshankBy Robert Cruickshank

The Merced Sun-Star lays out the current state of high speed rail politics in Congress, which is the same as it’s been since January 2011 – Republicans hate HSR and are doing everything in their power to kill it. What’s new are not the specific ways they are trying to kill it, but the rhetoric they are using. Central Valley Republicans, stung by unusually strong criticism of their anti-HSR actions by Valley institutions and newspapers, are trying to shift the blame onto the HSR project.

California HSR Clears Last Regulatory Hurdle, Groundbreaking Set for This Summer

By Robert Cruickshank

Congressional Republicans and others opposed to the California high speed rail project had been hoping the Surface Transportation Board would give them a big win and block construction of the HSR project this summer. But that won’t be happening. Instead the STB has ruled in favor of the California HSR project, granting the section from Merced to Fresno an exemption from STB approval rules.

Building Transportation Infrastructure in a Broken Political System

By Robert Cruickshank

Over at his blog, Alon Levy has an interesting post calling for more democracy in the planning and authorization of transportation infrastructure. Levy points to Switzerland as an example of a political system where transportation projects are routinely put to a referendum and the results are generally positive. He contrasts that with the California high speed rail project, which he argues was the product of a flawed political process:

I've begun to believe that California's original sin with its HSR project is that it refused to do the same. Prop 1A was a referendum for what was billed as one third of the cost, $10 billion. In reality it was $9 billion and $1 billion in extra funds for connecting local transit; in year of expenditure dollars the estimated budget then was $43 billion, so barely a fifth of the project's cost was voted on. The HSR Authority planned on getting the rest of the money from federal funding and private-sector funding. Prop 1A even required a 1:1 match from an external source, so confident the Authority was that it would get extra money.