Dee Finney's blog
start date  July 20, 2011
Today's date  July 7,   2012
updated July 13, 2012
page 250


The California High-Speed Rail project is a planned high-speed rail system in the state of California and headed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA). Initial funding for the project was approved by California voters on November 4, 2008, with the passage of Proposition 1A authorizing the issuance of US$9.95 billion in general obligation bonds for the project. The CHSRA is currently tasked with completing final planning, design, and environmental efforts. The system would serve major cities including Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Fresno, Bakersfield, Palmdale, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Riverside, Irvine, and San Diego.

The cost of the initial San Francisco-to-Anaheim segment was originally estimated by the CHSRA to be US$35.7 billion (in 2009 dollars) or US$42.6 billion,[4] but a revised business plan released in November 2011 by the CHSRA put the cost at US$65.4 billion (in 2010 dollars) or US$98.5 billion (in "inflated" dollars based on future inflation predictions). An implementation plan approved in August 2005 estimated that it would take eight to eleven years to "develop and begin operation of an initial segment of the California high-speed train."[5] It will also share tracks with Caltrain and Metrolink using a quadruple track configuration.

On December 2, 2010, the CHSRA board voted to begin construction on the first 54 mi (87 km) of the system 3 mi (4.8 km) south of Madera at Borden, and continue through downtown Fresno to Corcoran.[6] On December 20, 2010, with the infusion of an additional US$616 million in federal funds reallocated from states that canceled their high-speed rail plans, the initial segment of construction was extended to Bakersfield. Another $300 million was reallocated on May 9, 2011, extending the funded portion north to the future Chowchilla Wye, so that the train can be turned. Construction is expected to begin in September 2012.[7]

California High-Speed Rail
Locale California
Transit type High-speed rail
Daily ridership 91–95 million yearly (CHSRA projection)[1]
Operator(s) TBD
System length 800+ mi (1,300+ km) (proposed)[2]
Top speed 220 mph (350 km/h)[3]


UCLA study of Japan's bullet train raises questions about California project

A UCLA analysis of Japan's Shinkansen bullet train and its impact on the growth of cities along its route calls into question claims by state officials that California's high-speed rail project will create up to 400,000 jobs.

July 13, 2012

A new UCLA economic analysis ofJapan'sShinkansen bullet train and its impact on the growth of cities along its route calls into question claims by state officials that California's high-speed rail project will create up to 400,000 permanent jobs.

Construction of Japan's vaunted bullet train began in the mid-1960s, and it did not generate higher economic growth or additional jobs, according to the study.

Written by Jerry Nickelsburg, senior economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast, the study said there may be other justifications for bullet train service between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but the $68-billion project as an engine of economic growth "will have only a marginal impact at best."

Nickelsburg examined the growth rates of cities and regions served by Japan's system, compared to the nation's overall rate of growth, and found that the introduction of high-speed passenger service had no discernible effect.

The analysis looked at nearly a dozen urban and rural prefectures and found no evidence that the introduction of bullet train service improved tax revenues, which was used as a proxy for local gross domestic product. In one case, one region without high-speed rail service grew just as quickly as a similar region with it. The study examined economic activity over a 30-year period.

If the study's predictions are accurate, it would undermine one of the major justifications for the California project. Labor unions and business organizations have been among its biggest supporters, envisioning an infrastructure that would serve public transportation needs, provide high-paying jobs to unemployed workers and create opportunities for businesses that depend on moving people around the state.

On Thursday, the California High-Speed Rail Authority responded to the study by referring questions to UC Merced lecturer Dipu Gupta, who said he disagrees with the central conclusion that the project would not spur growth. Gupta, an architect and urban designer, said high-speed rail benefits an economy as a whole, so comparing growth rates of specific cities misses its ability to "lift all boats."

Nickelsburg agrees that transportation investments tend to lower costs, create markets and improve efficiency, but that is truer for freight improvements. Japan's bullet train lowered the transportation costs for commuters, giving rise to the legendary Japanese "salaryman," who commuted from a high-density apartment complex to a dreary city job aboard a crowded bullet train. California bullet train enthusiasts have a much different vision, foreseeing a day when the Central Valley becomes a more vibrant economic center that is better connected to the Bay Area and Southern California.

Nickelsburg also raises the possibility that the train will create rather than contain urban sprawl. By increasing the potential for workers to live far from their employment, it would not create new jobs but move them to the Central Valley. That kind of sprawl will require tight land use and zoning restrictions, Gupta said.

A spokesman for the rail authority did not directly comment on Nickelsburg's analysis but offered a list of other studies by transit agencies, railroad groups and the authority's own consultants that predict high-speed transportation projects would spur economic growth. Nickelsburg cited other studies that support his contention.

geraldr5 at 6:50 AM July 13, 2012

I am so thrilled I can hardly contain my joy! The very thought of spending billions to travel back and forth between Madera and Bakerfield causes me to just overflow. I'll bet I can even stop at all the hot spots along the way. This has to be the biggest Democrat/Union boondoggle in state history!!! With cities failing, educaton closing down, essential services being cut back and/or eliminated, I can only speculate how and when we lost our minds???

southoc at 6:47 AM July 13, 2012

Train to no where, who is getting bribed for this? But lets cut education to pay for it. Yep makes sense in Jerry Brown's rose colored world.

A UCLA analysis of Japan's Shinkansen bullet train and its impact on the growth of cities along its route calls into question claims by state officials that California's high-speed rail project will create up to 400,000 jobs

Wednesday, Sep. 12, 2012

State rail authority tackles ag questions


SACRAMENTO -- Will high-speed trains blow away honeybees? Will the state's proposed rail system throw a monkey wrench into ag irrigation systems up and down the Valley? Will the roaring trains stress cows so much they'll produce less milk?

Those were some of the questions the California High-Speed Rail Authority took a shot at answering at Tuesday's board meeting.

Westside farmer John Diener, chairman of the Agriculture Working Group, an advisory panel for the authority, presented a series of six reports. Some of the findings:


• Honeybees: Wind from passing trains is not expected to create significant effects. Because of the streamlined design of the trains, Diener said, the expected windspeed would be about 2 mph at the edge of the railroad right of way -- too weak, he said, to disrupt bees.

"Honeybees are normally placed in quiet spots away from high-traffic areas, not usually placed right next to highways or railroads," Diener said.

• Irrigation: This poses a significant engineering challenge, he said. In addition to crossing numerous canals and ditches operated by irrigation districts, the trains "will encounter an individual irrigation system on virtually every significant agricultural parcel in the Valley," the report says.

But solutions to individual problems will be available, and construction will be timed to avoid disrupting ditches when water is being provided to farmers. Also, farmers will be able to negotiate with right-of-way agents for any changes that are needed to irrigation systems.

• Cows: There are more unknowns here. The report says that while cows exposed to recorded jet-aircraft noise at 80 decibels or less did not produce less milk, more studies need to be done on cattle in conditions where operations are within 350 feet of trains.

Diener said, "We're dealing with an electric train instead of a diesel train that BNSF currently runs, so this will be much quieter than that."

The Rail Authority says it wants to communicate better with San Joaquin Valley farmers who worry about 220 mph trains racing across their land.

Tuesday's presentation aimed at answering those concerns was a start. But not everyone is convinced.

Frank Oliveira, a Hanford farmer and member of the Kings County rail opposition group Citizens for High-Speed Rail Accountability, said the promises ring hollow.

"Good faith is going to have to be a part of this," he said, "and we don't have a lot of good faith based on past experiences."

Oliveira and other Kings County residents have, for more than a year, accused the rail authority of ignoring their concerns about the project's potential disruption of farms, businesses and neighborhoods.

Jeff Morales, the authority's CEO, said the Agriculture Working Group was formed to answer questions and allay some fears.

Diener was appointed last year to lead the group, which includes farmers, university researchers and agricultural extension experts who studied questions about concerns raised by Valley ag interests.

One issue not directly addressed Tuesday was how the authority expects to acquire right of way for its tracks.

Outreach consultant Bart Bohn, a former Fresno County chief administrator, said the authority must give valley farmers a better idea about how that will work.

"In our public meetings, after the presentations, the property owners herd us to the maps because they want to see what's going to happen to their land," Bohn said.

So far, however, rail officials have only been able to discuss in generalities how the process will work and how a farmer's property could be affected.

The high-speed rail line proposed through the Valley will affect hundreds of farms in Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties, Bohn said.

Bohn said the authority has to compensate farmers not only for property used for the railroad right of way, but also to replace or relocate wells, buildings and other infrastructure that have to make way for the tracks.

But until the environmental process is completed, he added, it will be impossible to know exactly how each property may be affected.

Among possible solutions for farmers whose land the tracks cross: new crossings to accommodate frequent movement of farm equipment from one side of the tracks to the other "when justified," Bohn said; replacing wells or irrigation systems; or building pipelines or rerouting canals and ditches to keep water flowing.