No, Mr. President, You Can’t Have California’s High-Speed Rail Money Back

Trump tweets, then Governor Newsom responds, making it clear that high-speed rail is not going away

Newsom Twitter

The president resorted to his favorite communication tool when he caught wind of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s equivocal support for the state’s high-speed rail project. On Twitter, he wrote:

California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars. They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a “green” disaster!

In response, Newsom tweeted back:

Fake news. We’re building high-speed rail, connecting the Central Valley and beyond. This is CA’s money, allocated by Congress for this project. We’re not giving it back. The train is leaving the station — better get on board! (Also, desperately searching for some wall $$??)

To everyone interpreting Newsom’s State of the State remarks as meaning that he is pulling the plug on high-speed rail (even though he said he was not): chillax. It’s moving forward. In fact, Newsom said very little that wasn’t already known about the program.

Lisa Schweitzer at USC captured the gist of Newsom’s stance, writing, “Gavin Newsom announced yesterday that he was going to keep supporting HSR as governor, but that he committed to finishing the Bakersfield-Merced segment and is, for now, letting go of the likely secondary phases of getting the service into LA and San Francisco.” Note that Newsom said he will finish environmental studies on the LA-to-SF phase, not let go of it entirely.

Newsom’s phrasing about there now being “no clear path forward” for the completion of the project was unfortunate, to say the least. On the face of it, it’s accurate, as anyone paying attention to the program’s progress already knows. The final alignment details are still being worked out and fought over. Environmental studies are ongoing. Like any giant, multi-phase, statewide, multi-jurisdictional mega-project, plenty of funding still needs to line up.

But that one phrase allowed the media and others to jump to the conclusion that high-speed rail must be dead, dead, dead. The take was surprisingly universal–except for Streetsblog and Senator Scott Wiener, as far as we can tell.

The frenzy happened in part because the media was listening to and reporting on itself, and racing to conclusions, which freaked out everyone with an opinion about high-speed rail.

So Trump was not alone in thinking that California was “forced to cancel” the project. At least his tweet gave Newsom the opportunity to clarify what he actually meant.

Another waste of energy in this media frenzy is that the governor’s point on the importance of the Central Valley portion was completely lost. (Well, also, the rest of his speech, about housing and health care and other pressing issues, was largely ignored by the media). Newsom reminded listeners that the Central Valley is an important, vital part of California. This fell on deaf ears.

Fresno is the fifth biggest city in California, the 34th largest city in the United States. And it is growing. The cities in the Central Valley are not podunk rural towns in the middle of nowhere.

Schweitzer points out that Newsom’s announcement was really about priorities.

This project is less of a governing priority than things like housing where he has come out swinging. He’s kicking the can down the road a bit on HSR, and I think not really in a bad way.

Newsom is differentiating himself from his predecessor, Jerry Brown, who strongly supported the high-speed rail program.

At any rate, as Streetsblog reported, Newsom made it clear that he is not abandoning the high-speed rail program. Rome, the Shinkansen, and the TGV weren’t built in a day. By any definition, CAHSR is a long-term project that will outlast media cycles and elected officials’ terms in office. One governor’s ratcheting down the project’s priority won’t kill a project that already has more than a hundred miles under construction.

No one can predict the future, but there are some ways this whole miscommunication could improve the final outcome for high-speed rail. Tightening up project oversight–which Newsom said he would do–and finishing the Central Valley segment could produce the success that serves as proof of concept. This in turn could generate more support for finishing the network. In the end, Newsom could go down in history as playing a key role in establishing high-speed rail throughout the United States.

No, Mr. Trump, you can’t have that money back, because California is building high-speed rail.

  • Beau Charles

    Should have spent the money on widening I-5 to six lanes from Sacramento to the Grapevine. It would have been much more useful for the way people prefer to travel in this state.

  • Claude

    I want to update my answer, since I’ve found new information I hadn’t seen before.
    Now it’s not the president asking for the money back, it’s the FRA. They don’t have the authority to claim it unless the CHSRA fails to build the track by 2022 and defaults. On the other hand, they’re withholding the final billion until after the rail is laid, and Newsom doesn’t seem smart enough to use existing assets to accelerate the construction, so I’m now leaning toward default.
    Construction will be completed from Bakersfield to Merced, and the project will continue at least from LA to San Francisco, but thanks to Newsoms poor policies, it will take an incredibly long time and the next governor might put the project on indefinite hiatus, which is about the same as killing it.
    Newsom has this policy 90or lack thereof) because it’s not his legacy project. Schwartzeneger and Brown both already have their names on it.
    Unfortunately, that means his legacy will be to have strangled the best chance at showing what HSR is capable of in America and lifting the country’s transportation network out of the 1950s and at least into the second half of the 20th century.

  • John Nachtigall

    We agree on one thing for sure. They are very open about the project. I have been following it closely since 2011 and every month I read the operations report online attached to the meeting notices and watch the meetings since they have been posted on Youtube. I agree they are open with the information. Unfortunately the information shows the utter incompetence.

    Waiting for the next federal administration is what got them to this mistake in the 1st place. When they started the Dems had both houses and the Presidency and they got their initial 3.5 billion. Then the midterms hit and ever since then it has been kicking the can down the road in the homes that in 2 years “something” would happen. Except it has not worked. In 2010 they lost both houses, in 2012 they didnt win them back, 2014 same, 2016 was going to be the big shot, have Hilary and get it back…nope. 2018 win the House and lose ground in the Senate. This is a losing game.

    We are going to have to agree to disagree. Because what I see is no money, no talent, and no will. It is just a matter of time before they are put out to pasture. Even the CA legislature wont support it now and Newsom is happy to see it die. Who is going to push it forward? It is done, stick a fork in it.

  • Claude

    What has changed is that Newsom is delaying the next stage of construction until the new Congress weighs in on their investment in infrastructure. I think that’s a foolish idea since inflation drives the cost of construction up. With the growing population and already excessive congestion in the I-5 and Hwy-99 corridors, we need more transportation infrastructure and the longer we wait to build it the more expensive it gets.
    There’s a bill to add two lanes each direction to the I-5 and Hwy-99. Apparently the State Senate can find plenty of money floating around Sacramento if we need to build infrastructure. Use that money to finish crossing the Tehachapis.

    Another change is that they have fired the company that managed the project and are taking the job in house. The project manager wasn’t managing the project at all well and was making decisions that made sense for what the managers needed rather than what was best for the project.
    They have one more federal deadline, to complete the initial section. There was a lot of waste and expense caused by rushing too fast to meet the prior spending deadline which was very bad for the project, and I suspect similar problems will recur with the current deadline. Hopefully they’ve had time to plan things a bit better, but artificial deadlines are a problem whenever they appear.
    Another thing that’s different, at least compared to other projects, is that you just watched the board meeting on YouTube. I don’t know of another major project that posts their meetings on the internet for everyone to see. Highway projects should do that.
    “We finished only a few years behind schedule and 50% over budget, but we managed to reduce congestion for two weeks before the traffic was back where it was before!”
    If you like the Las Vegas HSR but hate the waste and inefficiency of the CAHSR, you’re in for a shock. Their project will also be built by human beings who will make mistakes, be attacked by libertarian extremists and fight lawsuits by armchair experts declaring every thing they do will be some clear violation of whatever law starts the project moving.

  • John Nachtigall

    I saw the part where the chair and the head of the finance committee stepped down because the Governor threw them off. Did you see that part?

    The courts specifically said it was too early (5 years ago) to judge the system non-compliant with the law. They gave the authority the benefit of the doubt, and I think that was fair. They had a chance to prove they could do it, they failed.

    I am curious, what do you think has changed? If this was “always the plan” then is it your contention that Newsom’s speech changed nothing? Because that is not the consensus. He clearly repudiated the 2018 business plan and fired the board chair that was responsible for it. That does not feel like “the plan” to me.

  • Claude

    We’re building high-speed rail, connecting the Central Valley and beyond.”

    Building an initial section as a test to learn how to build and operate the rest of the system isn’t a new scheme. It was part of the initial planning from the very start. It was why so many on the libertarian right were in a frenzy about the “train to nowhere” from Madera to Fresno, built in the Valley where Amtrak already ran on freight tracks.
    As brilliant a sea lawyer as you may be, I’m afraid the courts have all disagreed with your restrictive interpretation of the law.
    Currently Newsom doesn’t see how to finance the rest of the route (hint: use part of the budget surplus to finance bonds) without dipping into the new spending programs he wants to build his own legacy on, but he’s committed to completing the section from Merced to Bakersfield. He’s been in politics long enough to know it will cost money and he’s watched the program long enough to know that obstructionists will fight to delay the project and drive up costs. But he’s already declared that the first part will be finished and put in operation.
    He’s continuing the survey and environmental work on the Bakersfield to Burbank section and hoping to get new federal money from Congress to continue construction. What he isn’t doing is closing the program (all fever dreams aside) or disbanding the HSR board.
    The work is ongoing. The board is still meeting. In fact, here’s the last meeting. Let me know if you see where they say they’re killing the project and going home, because I didn’t see it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCT5uaoZYLM&t=0s

  • John Nachtigall

    “Let’s be real. The current project as planned would cost too much and, respectfully, take too long. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were.”

    Out of that you get he is gong to cough up more money? Who is having the fever dream?

    This “test track” scheme is just a way to try and get around the clear written law. Why can’t you acknowledge that prop1a is too restrictive and they can’t meet the provisions. You can’t just make up new ways to,get around it

    And comparing to the big dig or bay bridge is ridiculous. Those were complete failures of project management. Being “better” than them is no accomplishment. They have not failed,on any technical stuff yet because they have not gotten that far. They failed on land acquisition and building normal rail ROW. That is stuff projects have been doing for centuries.

    I would love a HSR line to Las Vegas, it would be great. I am agnostic to the mode of travel, whatever is easier. I am not ok with ignoring the law. I am not ok with mismanagement of public funds. The ends (HSR) does not justify the means (ignoring the law and mismanging the funds). Not that my opinion matters. They just don’t have the money, as Newsom said.

  • Claude

    We need to build track along that corridor to have track along that corridor. We need track we control with our equipment and rolling stock to learn how to operate our equipment and rolling stock. A track in Pueblo isn’t the same thing. We might as well use the track we’re building, that’s why we started there. Knowing that the track built in Pueblo is good isn’t as valuable as knowing that the infrastructure we’re building in California will work.

    No major infrastructure project ever stays on budget. They’ve done a better job than the Big Dig in Boston or the Bay Bridge, despite the fact that no one has built HSR in America and we’re learning how to apply it to our conditions. Subcontracting oversight to an outside company was a mistake, but they’re taking control of it.
    As for the fed’s getting the money back, Newsom has already given the definitive answer; “We’re not giving it back.” On the other hand, he never said that he wouldn’t cough up more money to finish the first construction segment. That’s a libertarian fever dream, not associated with reality.
    Be at peace. The first segment will be finished, but you won’t die. If you want to worry about something, worry about what happens when Americans get a chance to try it for themselves.
    There’s a reason why countries with HSR are expanding their systems.

  • John Nachtigall

    There is a high speed test track in Pueblo Colorado that has been running for decades. I know, I have worked there. They don’t need to build one for themselves. Regardless no one is arguing against testing, what I am arguing for is spending the bond money on direct contradiction to the letter and intent of prop 1a. Supporters wrote that law…they set the standard…they sold it to the public, then they ignore it when they can’t meet it. I am not cherry picking anything from the law. It is only 3 pages long.

    I hate to tell you this but they don’t have enough money for even the reduced segment. Because they can’t stay on budget. So in a year they are going to be short again. It is like predicting the sun will rise in the east, technically I can’t prove it beforehand but based on past pervormance it is inevitable.

    Newsom is not giving them more money…what do you think the speech was for. The feds are coming for their money now. It is over. And it should be, they mismaged it completely. Every audit since 2009 has called them incompetent. Be honest with yourself, they have done a piss poor job.

  • Claude

    I’m sorry, I don’t seem to have been clear. When I referred to diesel traction I wasn’t saying that diesel service would fulfill the requirements of Prop 1a. I meant that even if the project isn’t completed to Prop 1a standards the track will still be suitable for basic 200 kph HSR service as per international standards. The track will still be usable, with or without electrification. And no, I’m not suggesting steam locomotives either, despite mentioning that some later steam engines could reach that speed. Personally,I fully expect the segment to be electrified.

    The main reason for beginning construction in the Central Valley was the use of the first section as a test track to learn the technology and train the operators. Commercial operations would be a side benefit to help defray costs while the rest of the initial operating segment was being built. That was talked about from the start. It’s nothing new or surprising. The law doesn’t require it, but it doesn’t forbid it either, and you can’t build new technology without testing it as you go.
    The opponents love to quote snippets of the bill out of context and announce them as absolutes, but so far the courts have shot them down every time.
    As for moving forward; the construction hasn’t been halted. The workers are still out there everyday grading and building. There’s enough money to complete the track from Bakersfield to Merced. That’s still going forward. Environmental reviews are still ongoing, preparing for the Bakersfield to Burbank section.
    Frankly, the current budget surplus is sufficient to cover construction bonds on the LA to SF route even without any outside money coming in. Newsom’s longing to squander it on extravagant social spending programs is misguided since we need improved transportation infrastructure to handle the growing population and the costs aren’t going down if we delay.

  • John Nachtigall

    There is no emotion at all. It is simply the law that was passed. I posted the specific section of prop 1a that state 200 mph, no subsidy, money for build, etc. There is no where in that law that says they can build a “test track”. 124mph is not in that law. It also specifically says electric. Even the authority has stated they are examining the section to see if it complies. There is no doubt about the requirements.

    My concern is that supporters like the section of the law that says “sell 9 billion in bonds” and seem to ignore the rest. Why not follow what was passed. It is very prescriptive. If it can’t be followed it should not be built. If it can be followed then I am happy to go along with the majority that passed it. I support Democracy even when I get an answer I don’t like.

    I am interested in how you think “we’re moving forward” Who is the “we” in that statement and how is Newsom’s statement a step forward. Heck, how do you intend to build it given how the management team has performed and the lack of money? It has collapsed, that is just a fact.

  • Claude

    The initial construction is for a test track with commercial function. It may or may not be electrified at the start, but has to be to test the high speed electric multiple units.
    If it achieves 124 mph that meets the basic international definition of high speed rail. Annoyingly enough, that can be done right away with diesel propulsion. Heck, there were steam locomotives that could make that.
    There is no requirement for the initial test section, from Bakersfield to Merced, to be profitable, although it would be nice if it were. Analysis indicates that the full initial section to San Jose would be needed to fully recover operating costs.
    I understand your position. Emotionally, you don’t want this project to succeed, so you’re looking for any excuse to declare the future to have already collapsed. Sadly, we’re still moving forward.

  • Claude

    “Interesting” and “practical” are two different things.
    The idea of running pods in a vacuum tube has been interesting since it was proposed in the 1930s, but the practicality of thermal expansion, sliding seal joints, rescuing stranded pods in a vacuum before everyone suffocates and containing tube ruptures that send a wall of air at the speed of sound down the pipe to shred the pods all need to be dealt with before the word “practical” enter the picture.

  • artnouveau

    Make that $17.5 billion, not $12.2 billion.

  • artnouveau

    The problem as I see it is the wording isn’t precise.

    For example: “The high-speed train system to be constructed pursuant to this chapter shall be designed to achieve the following characteristics:

    As such, it could be open to interpretation. 2704.09 Designed to achieve is not the same as must.achieve.

    Same thing with the word “identify” as in “(2) The plan shall include, identify or certify to all of the following:

    In (G) under that: “Construction of the corridor or usable section thereof can be completed as proposed in the plan.

    The term “can be” is not the same as “will be” or “must be.”

    Same thing with (H). “Would be” doesn’t quite convey the same message as “must be” or “will be,” again, as I see it. And, therein lies a problem in my view.

    Besides that, I honestly do not know how much the $12.2 billion that is apparently in the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s hands will buy. Is this just for labor, right-of-way work, grade separation work, land- and property acquisition, trenching, bridge and viaduct construction, environmental-review work, rolling stock acquisition, stringing catenary wires, signal system installation, station-building, etc., etc., etc. on the 171 miles between Bakersfield and Merced.

    Ultimately, one might argue that what is being built is an interim step on the way to achieving the final design.

    I appreciate you providing the Prop. 1A information.

  • Frank N. Blunt

    Among many issues exposing the delusion with California’s supposed economy when relying upon Federal bailouts, subsidies, grants, programs, & activities especially military, is exploiting National Forests for the carbon offset & sequestering scam.

  • John Nachtigall

    It was certainly envisioned to be built in sections. The law called them Corridors or Usable Segments. However the law specifically required that each section be High Speed Rail and uable. Put simply the interstate highway system did not have to contend with prop1a restrictions.

    https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2008/general/pdf-guide/suppl-complete-guide.pdf#prop1a

    It says in part

    (2) The plan shall include, identify, or certify to all of the following:
    (A) The corridor, or usable segment thereof, in which the authority is proposing to invest bond proceeds.
    (G) Construction of the corridor or usable segment thereof can be completed as proposed in the plan.
    (H) The corridor or usable segment thereof would be suitable and ready for high-speed train operation.
    (I) One or more passenger service providers can begin using the tracks or stations for passenger train service.
    (J) The planned passenger service by the authority in the corridor or usable segment thereof will not require a local, state, or federal operating subsidy

    This is why in the business plan they Identify SF to Bakersfield as the 1st segment, because they were unable to prove all the things they need to prove with the smaller segment.

    also

    2704.09. The high-speed train system to be constructed pursuant to this chapter shall be designed to achieve the following characteristics:
    (a) Electric trains that are capable of sustained maximum revenue operating speeds of no less than 200 miles per hour

    Despite HannahInManoa’s accessions, 125MPH does not do it. Not that it matters because AMTRACK San Joaquin is a hodgepodge of different cars and engines that can’t really go 125mph even if you tried.

    And finally, while they have not admitted it, they are not going to electrify the section. It is very expensive to run that much copper and install all those transformers and such. Then they would just sit, waiting to be stolen by scrappers. You cant fence off the entirety of the Central Valley Line and patrol it and unless you are going to energize it (costs money) then you are just going to install it for it to be stolen.

    It is dead…they don’t have the money and now with Jerry Brown gone they dont have the will. All this noise is just so they don’t have to repay the feds.

    The law was missing a constant source of funds, it was too restrictive, and the execution of the project was flawed beyond comprehension. They were fatal wounds.

  • artnouveau

    Wasn’t there a clause somewhere in either the business plan or in Prop. 1A that said if the entire line could not be built and if only, say, the line in the Valley was completed between say, Wasco and Madera, it could be operated as long as it had independent utility?

    In a Sacramento Bee article “No, Gov. Gavin Newsom didn’t kill high-speed rail. But, is there a Plan B?” there is mention near the article’s end of the California high-speed rail line being built incrementally. From what I gather, this doesn’t mean that the system will never be completed. Interstate highways, to my knowledge, are never fully built out in one fell swoop, so why anyone would expect high-speed rail to be treated any differently is beyond me.

    Amtrak “San Joaquin” trains operating Bakersfield to Merced and beyond (Merced would serve as an intermodal hub), if they were to use the Bakersfield-to-Merced portion, as a tenant Amtrak could be charged a user fee. This way, as I see it, the line under this operating arrangement would not need a subsidy. Depending on the amount paid, such could go into helping extend track beyond Chowchilla to the west.

    Your thoughts?

  • John French
  • HannahInManoa

    The international consensus is that any passenger rail operation over 200 kph, 124 mph, is “High Speed Rail.”

    As a matter of fact, a variety of non-NEC Amtrak passenger cars, are designed for a maximum speed of 125 mph. The “California Cars” currently providing San Joaqin service are designed for 125 mph. The newer “Surfliner” cars are not designed for 125 mph, but they regularly operate at 90 mph while the San Joaquin does not currently exceed 79 mph.

    https://discuss.amtraktrains.com/index.php?/topic/42973-max-speed-of-amtrak-equipment/

    Since the Brightline coaches are cleared for 125 mph, the Caltrans cars will meet the same spec as the existing California cars, 125 mph. The Chargers have the same design speed, and the horsepower needed to get a train moving at 125 mph.

    Nothing new under the sun.

  • John Nachtigall

    You posted that spec for the bilevel car as “proof”. I agree they are planning on buying Brightline (now Virgin) cars. They don’t have any at the moment. If failed plans were money, then Amtrack would run at a profit. Or as my dad said, if pigs had wings they would not bump their butts on the ground. Who knows if they will actually acquire any new cars or engines.

    So we all agree, the current AMTRAK service can not support HSR and when it will be able to is only speculation. Which is the opposite of your statement “the equipment for the San Joaquin is designed for 125mph. You are misinformed”.

    Which brings us back to the original point, this is not HSR. It is just a highly overpriced rail line with no use,

  • HannahInManoa

    Although the “Next Generation” bilevel car project was abandoned, CalTrans has switched to single-level cars from Siemens. Cars for the 125 mph Brightline service are now in production at Siemens, so the new Caltrans cars will likely also be capable of 125 mph. The Siemens SC-44 Charger locomotives are already designed for 125 mph.

  • John Nachtigall

    Wrong again. They failed testing and were canceled

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Next_Generation_Bi-Level_Passenger_Rail_Car

    Feel free to apologize anytime, we all make mistakes.

  • HannahInManoa

    The official name is “National Railroad Passenger Corporation” (NRPC), FWIW. I have seen blankets in sleeping cars labeled “NRPC,” not “Amtrak.”

  • HannahInManoa

    The equipment of the San Joaquin is designed for 125 mph. You are misinformed.

    “The cars shall be designed and tested for revenue operation at all speeds up to 125 mph (201 km/hr), on all classes of track from FRA Class 1 to Class 7.” (pg. 35)

    http://www.highspeed-rail.org/Documents/PRIIA_Bi-Level_Spec_305-001_Approved_rev%20C.1.pdf

  • John Nachtigall

    The 2018 business plan specifically states the IOS is San Fransico to Bakersfield. See the summary at the beginning and the revenue estimates starting on page 91. They call is the “Silicon Valley to Central Valley Line”. There was never any plan to run HSR or anything close on just the Central Valley. They simply don’t have the money, expertise, or ability to run actual HSR on the new line and even if they did it can’t support itself. How many people want to go from Bakersfield to Merced by train every day?

    Second, San Joaquin AMTRAK has no ability to run at 125 mph. That is just fantasy. There is simply no AMTRAK train that would use this line with any regularity.

    Finally, prop 1a set specific requirements for the 9 billion raised including no subsidy and specific use by high speed rail not just rail. This new “plan” is clearly not compliant

  • artnouveau

    Thank you for pointing this out. It’s now obvious I confused the word “borrowed” with “used.”

  • HannahInManoa

    The fact that we have the CHSRA dedicated line is being connected to not one, but two other rail transportation systems–Amtrak (to Oakland and Sacramento) and ACE (to San Jose)–are additional reasons why CHSRA cannot be cancelled without interfering with other agencies. In particular, the ACE extension to Modesto and Merced–plus track relocation around Tracy–is predicated on CHSRA being completed from Bakersfield.

    If you hate CHSRA, you hate that Northern and Central California have trains.

  • HannahInManoa

    Actually, the 2018 CHSRA Business Plan makes clear that the new dedicated line will be completed in every way, including stations.

    In Great Britain, Class 800 and 802 high speed trains are going into service now that can take power from overhead wires and onboard diesel engines. Great Britain has operated HSR service with diesel locomotives since the Class 43 went into service over 30 years ago.

    Prop 1A sets no deadline for completing the LA-SF HSR line, so an intermediate use, like running the Amtrak San Joaquin–which is designed for a max speed of 125 mph–and even the ACE commuter trains on it are not prohibited.

  • China has a large amount of people and many of them are in the east, but not “most.” Less than half of China’s population lives in the east.

  • Show me some images of the high-speed rail system in the USA. Oh yeah, that’s right. This reference isn’t pertinent to the statements above. What Japan did with their railway system hadn’t been done in the US, therefore wasn’t copied. This reference doesn’t disprove anything I said, as Japan never stole high-speed rail tech from the US for their own system, which was my point (see the word “borrowed” in quotations from my original post).

    Your response has nothing to do with the original point.

  • artnouveau

    A read of Mark Reutter’s “How America Led, and Lost, the High-Speed Rail Race,” would serve well here.

    In it, Reutter wrote: “To operate the Shinkansen, or ‘New Trunk Line.’ between Tokyo and Osaka, [then Japan’s Minister of Transport Shinhi] Sogo actively imported technology from America, including the two-axle trucks of the Budd Manufacturing Co. and dynamic braking pioneered by General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division. To top it off, the [sic] Japan ordered the most the advanced computer used outside of military applications (built yet by another American company, Bendix) to operate the line’s signal and dispatching systems.”

  • artnouveau

    “Chillax,” good one! I’m all in favor of made-up words or phrases as long as a person can figure out their meaning. I had absolutely no trouble with this one! Kudos!

  • Sharon Meg

    Sharon’s husband here. Electrified by coal burning power plants. Need I say more?

  • Ed Von Nordeck

    Correct spelling is AMTRAK

  • thielges

    “Elon Musk’s ‘hyperloop’ is a much more interesting concept.”

    Low risk, predictable, and proven solutions should be considered over “interesting” for projects funded in the billions.

  • Apples and Oranges

    “Fresno
    is the fifth biggest city in California, the 34th largest city in the United
    States” is misleading, using city in the place of municipality. High-speed rail doesn’t serve individual municipalities, it serves entire metropolitan regions – just like airports do.
    While Fresno actually outranks Sacramento (5th vs. 6th / 34th vs. 35th) within city limits – metropolitan population figures tell an entirely different story: Metro Fresno ranks 55th in the nation, while Metro Sacramento takes 25th place – a huge difference.

  • John Nachtigall

    First, stop calling it High Speed Rail. They are building a regular rail line from Bakersfield-Merced and they are not going to electrify it or run any train on it close to “high speed” Prop1a specifically prohibits subsidies and there is no way to run any rail service, much less high speed rail from Bakersfield-Merced without subsidy. At best there will be infrequent Amtrack service.

    Second, given the aforementioned prop1a how do they intend to argue they are meeting the provisions of that law with regard to spending the 9 billion if they are not running high speed rail? Answer: they don’t, the project is a failure and will have to be officially “canceled” so as to justify why they dont meet the law. Remember that any segment constructed, per that law, had to have independent utility and no subsidy.

    This spin by pro-HSR supporters is pathetic. They were given the chance to show HSR could be built in the USA and they could not even manager to appropriate the land much less build it in an efficient manner.

  • Sharon Meg

    Sharon’s husband here. Did the author really say this? “Newsom could go down in history as playing a key role in establishing high-speed rail throughout the United States.”.

    HSR is a technology that is 55 years old, by the time a system could be built out to make domestic air travel obsolete it will 100 years old.
    Elon Musk’s ‘hyperloop’ is a much more interesting concept.

  • John French

    I am aware that many of the factors which allowed China to build its system so quickly are ones we wouldn’t want to replicate here… I did note that in my comment. The fact remains that the CRH system, and the speed with which it was built, are impressive.

  • John French

    You’re right. I misestimated the area CRH covers, but it does cover pretty much the entire eastern area of China, where most of the population is…

  • agvs

    The reason they built it so fast is because Chinese citizens have no political power: the government just does what it wants, wherever it wants. That works out great when it’s a project that helps the public good, like building HSR or deploying solar panels on a massive scale. It doesn’t work out so great when the priorities are less altruistic: remember that 20 years ago China was all about building dirty coal plants and heavy industrial manufacturing with little regard to health, safety, or pollution.

  • Considering how China is almost the exact same area as the US, I don’t understand what that point means, especially since they still have many, many areas with a lot of people and zero high-speed trains there.

    The other thing I would point out here is that places like Japan were pioneers in what they did, and didn’t “borrow” technology and overspend like crazy to get it to where it is today. These can’t be compared.

    As much as I personally love the high-speed train option and would like to see it all over the US, Americans in general just don’t seem to care very much about anything more than they care about their overpriced cars, so it’s a difficult track to lay down.

  • John French

    “Rome, the Shinkansen, and the TGV weren’t built in a day”, but China somehow managed to build a world-class high-speed-rail network covering an area larger than the United States in just over a decade…

    (Not suggesting that California can, or should, emulate the methods used there. I just find it remarkable how quickly the Chinese system sprung up, and how good it is.)

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG