The Price Tag on California’s Train to Nowhere Jumps Another 17%

What is the cost to fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco? I decided to check Southwest Airlines for a date one month out (April 11th); the cost is $50 each way or $100 for the round trip. I think you’d agree that’s not particularly expensive.

On the other hand, the cost for California’s “Train to Nowhere”–the planned high-speed rail line that will run from Los Angeles to San Francisco–is now estimated at $77 Billion. That’s up another $11 Billion from the $66 Billion I had heard last year. And the project is now estimated to start in 2029, with full service only in 2033. This is all buried in the Draft 2018 Business Plan of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

There are also estimated revenue numbers and cash flow numbers that are, frankly, hysterical…unless you’re a California taxpayer. The project will magically have positive cash flow from operations the moment it begins running in 2029. Yet less than 3% of all high-speed rails systems make money. And this high-speed rail line will initially run from the booming metropolis of Shafter to the slightly more booming metropolis of Madera.

The breakeven analysis in the report states,

There is a 78 percent probability that the Silicon Valley to Central Valley Line farebox revenue covers its operations and maintenance costs in 2029; by the opening year of Phase 1, the breakeven probability rises to 96 percent, and is >99 percent by 2040. The breakeven analysis only considers farebox revenue; the probability of breaking even increases further when considering bus and ancillary revenue.

The reality is that there is almost no chance of that happening…if the project is ever completed. Frankly, the best bet for California is to end this boondoggle. Unfortunately, the unions love it (lots of union labor working on it); the project is giving new meaning to the self-perpetuating organization. As I wrote the last time I looked at this,

Meanwhile, Quentin Kopp, the man who introduced the rail line, now calls the line foolish. In an interview with he said,

It is foolish, and it is almost a crime to sell bonds and encumber the taxpayers of California at a time when this is no longer high-speed rail. And the litigation, which is pending, will result, I am confident, in the termination of the High-Speed Rail Authority’s deceiving plan…

[The selling of bonds is] deceit. That’s not a milestone, it’s desperation, because High-Speed Rail Authority is out of money.

The only good news is I get to use one of my favorite images again:



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