California Will Build High-Speed Rail Boondoggle

After years in which such systems increasingly have seemed unlikely to ever be built, California has voted to construct a high-speed rail passenger system between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Typically there is one glaring problem with the government plan – the proposed line will not travel straight between the two cities (348 air miles) but will follow a roundabout route (432 miles) that serves various population centers.

Will this save energy by going those extra miles?

Uhhh, I don't think so… But forget about that Inconvenient Truth.

It should be expected that this system would be built in California, a state that is run lock, stock and barrel by far-left Democrats (they occupy every statewide office), that already is deeply in debt, that is cutting services all over to accommodate that debt, and that now is going to spend even more debt money, both state and federal, for a passenger train system that will end up being a massive boondoggle.

Several Republican governors including Rick Scott of Florida, John Kasich in Ohio and Scott Walker in Wisconsin wisely turned down the federal money for such rail projects because they said rightfully that the lines, after being built with federal and state money, eventually would become very costly for the states since the states would have to pay to maintain and operate them.

And remember that building, operating, managing and maintaining this California system will fall to grossly overpaid public-employee labor unions, which will cause ticket prices to spike. This in itself will drive potential riders away from the system and will lead to the need for even more government subsidy. It will become a vicious cycle.

(China recently ordered construction halted on one of its high-speed rail lines ‘due to violations of environmental rules’, reported The Wall Street Journal, which also cited ’corruption and debt concerns’.)

Associated Press reported about the California system:

The move marked major political victories for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and the Obama administration. Both have promoted bullet trains as job generators and clean transportation alternatives.

‘Job generators’? Hardly. This is nothing but another wasteful government jobs program. Without the government, it would never exist. There is no natural need for this system. If there were, private companies would finance and build it.

This system is not intended to move people, save energy or relieve highway congestion. This is a very expensive public-works offering to the Democrat party, its politicians and bureaucrats and its labor union contributors. Period.

AP reports:

The bill authorizes the state to begin selling $4.5 billion in voter-approved bonds that includes $2.6 billion to build an initial 130-mile stretch of the high-speed rail line in the agriculturally rich Central Valley. That allows the state to draw another $3.2 billion in federal funding. …Senate Republicans blasted the decision, citing the state's ongoing budget problems. They said project would push California over a fiscal cliff. No GOP senators voted for the bill Friday. The final cost of the completed project from Los Angeles to San Francisco is projected to be $68 billion.

Yeah, right… $68 billion. It will be $500 billion by the time the bureaucrats, politicians and unions get done stealing the project blind, like the Big Dig project in Boston that was supposed to cost $2 billion and ended up costing $15 billion. Or the new wheelchair ramp, 10 feet long, for the president’s chair at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors which cost – get this – $700,000 (that’s seven hundred thousand dollars).

Now just imagine spending a total of perhaps $3 billion maximum for three new small airports dedicated only to intercity service within California – one in Los Angeles, one in San Francisco and one in the middle of the Central Valley where the trains will run.

For $3 billion, a private airline system could then profitably transport all the people that these trains would carry at a tiny fraction of the cost, with no government money required, a fraction of the energy needed to build the rail system and, in comparison, a fraction of the environmental disruption. But that obvious solution would not offer hundreds of billions of dollars in corruption to the Democrats, so it will never happen.

AP also said:

Dan Richard, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which is managing the project, said California would have lost billions of dollars in federal aid if the Senate fails to pass the bill before adjourning Friday for a monthlong recess.

See how much Democrats worry about losing federal government money – which is paid for by federal debt – for yet another useless project that will drive California more deeply into debt? They are just staying one step ahead of economic armageddon.

Yet if you seek today to start a business that actually creates its own wealth and profits in California, the Democrats will stop you. Because they literally oppose capitalism. That is largely what this rail project is about – further entrenching socialism, government spending and taxes.

And rest assured that California will splash pictures of its fancy new trains all over the world, never noting that they are losing boatloads of taxpayer money and wasting energy every time they move a single inch. Even Japan privatized its famous Bullet Trains after 23 years of operation because they were so costly.

By the way, where are all the environmentalists to oppose this project? After all they opposed the Keystone XL pipeline when that is planned to be buried underground. This train system will be a major blot on the land. In fact many towns, businesses, landowners, suburbs and farmers opposed the rail project. They were ignored, however, as is the case with all projects that benefit the Democrat party.

AP reported:

In recent days, Democratic leaders included more state funding to improve existing rail systems in an effort to entice support for the bullet train.

The bill authorizes the state to sell nearly half of a $10 billion high-speed rail bond that voters approved four years ago under Proposition 1A. In addition to financing the first segment of high-speed rail, it allocates a total of $1.9 billion in bonds for regional rail improvements in Northern and Southern California.

This is classic Democrat politics: If a public project costs too much money and may not pass even in a lib state like California, the Dems propose to spend even more public money elsewhere to get it passed.

Yes, indeed that is Democrat Math, where all of the billions just add up to more fun!

Because when states and cities spend tons of money on these very expensive rail-based passenger transit projects – anything with rails is much more expensive than any other type of passenger mass transit like buses or planes – they actually have the effect of drawing money out of other parts of the transit system.

This has been proven in city after city where super-expensive light-rail systems, commuter trains and trolleys divert money from the rest of the public transit system, harming the overall system and then requiring even more taxpayer money to keep the other parts going.

Meanwhile the airlines move people efficiently and speedily all over California and America with no government subsidy. Yet liberals are constantly criticizing the airlines for whatever reason they can find.

Also note that hundreds of times every year the passengers on Amtrak trains that are stalled by bad weather or other problems are loaded onto …. buses… to get to their destinations.

And what about the enviro claim that this new high-speed rail system will “save energy”?

Nonsense. It will waste vast amounts of energy.

First, it will require massive amounts of energy to construct the system – to manufacture, transport, mix and pour all the concrete for the system’s separate trackway, bridges, highway overpasses and viaducts, and for all of its concrete ties (modern railroad crossties are made of concrete not wood); to manufacture, transport and install all the millions of tons of steel reinforcement bar to make the concrete structure sound; to manufacture, transport and install all the steel for the rails; to build all the stations; to run all the bulldozers, earth movers and other heavy equipment; to manufacture all the trains; to transport all the workers for years on end to the job sites.

Added all up, it is a LOT of energy…

Second, these trains do not run on air; they too consume energy. And high-speed trains use much more energy than slower trains over the same distance. And if they run below a certain passenger capacity then they are not saving any energy at all – they are wasting energy. Think about a train that carries only the engineer; it is wasting all the energy to power it because it is not carrying any passengers. Thus a passenger train has to carry a certain minimum number of passengers to “save” any energy at all over the alternatives (cars, buses, planes).

So this high-speed rail project would have to save large amounts of energy for many years with very high passenger loads before its energy “savings” even equal the amount of energy required to build and operate it. And it never will get to that point, rest assured.

Amtrak routinely runs below the passenger load – sometimes far below – that it needs to “save” any energy over alternatives. And the California system will be much worse because it is going to be built from the ground up and will consume huge amounts of energy in its construction.

This California system will be a gold-plated boondoggle and represents classic socialism – the recycling of money through the government into projects that ultimately have no value except to Democrats, unions and their friends. This system will end up being a fiscal albatross around California’s neck and will actually cause more and more debt.

And few people will ride it since its ticket costs will go through the roof because it will be built, operated, managed and maintained by the overpaid unions. And remember that a high-speed system like the TGV in France requires high levels of maintenance – for instance, the track alignment has be monitored and checked every single day, giving costly jobs to unionized track maintainers.

Meanwhile the planned route between Los Angeles and San Francisco is not direct. Thus private-sector planes and buses will continue to offer cheaper and/or faster service directly between the cities without costing the taxpayer a dime.

Fact: More people ride intercity buses in the Northeast Corridor (Boston – New York – Washington) than ride Amtrak. Reports the American Bus Association at

"Buses are here today and readily available as the simple solution that saves money," said ABA President & CEO Peter Pantuso. "Motorcoach ridership has soared to 762 million passenger trips annually. Private intercity buses account for more passenger trips than the domestic airlines in most years, and we move more people in two weeks than Amtrak does all year."

Amtrak sells about 27 million tickets per year, each ticket subsidized almost $60 by the taxpayer. Bus tickets cost the taxpayer zero. Ditto plane tickets.

But never, ever is this large movement of people by bus, without subsidy, ever discussed in the media because the media focus only on Amtrak because Amtrak is run by the government and the unions, both friends of the media liberals.

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