High Speed Rail

California High-Speed Rail: Worth Every Penny and Then Some

By Alan Kandel

On Jan. 6, 2015, in downtown Fresno in front of a mostly celebratory and welcoming crowd and in the presence of an armada of journalists and dignitaries, the virtues of California’s 800-mile high-speed rail system were extolled. The first 520 miles of which will link San Francisco and Los Angeles by way of the San Joaquin Valley. California Governor Brown gave the keynote address. A symbolic groundbreaking followed – in this case consisting of the on-hand dignitaries putting their signatures to rails and fasteners (tie-plates, mainly) and made possible with special markers that enabled such ink to adhere once dry.

2015: Breaking Ground on High Speed Rail, Finally

By Robert Cruickshank

The tone for California high speed rail in 2015 is going to be set very quickly. This is the year that HSR goes from a concept to reality as construction, not just clearance, gets under way near Fresno. And that signals a broader shift in HSR’s fortunes. With most of the major political and legal battles behind it, the story of HSR in California will now shift toward the details of funding and building the project – and many of those details remain to be resolved.

Here’s what I said would dominate HSR news in 2014 a year ago.

Suddenly, Southwest Isn't Such a Great Travel Option Anymore

By Robert Cruickshank

California High Speed Rail Blog

Since at least 2008, one of the most common criticisms of California high speed rail has been the claim that HSR is simply unnecessary because of Southwest Airlines. Southwest offers frequent flights at dirt cheap fares, so why would anyone spend more money to take a slower train?

This argument has always been rooted in ignorance. In order to believe this, one has to ignore the fact that door to door HSR is actually competitive with flights between the Bay Area and Southern California (since the planned HSR stations are more centrally located than are the airports). One also has to pretend that present conditions will last forever, ignoring the fact that gas prices will be rising in the future, making cheap air travel a thing of the past.

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.