December 29, 2012
Frankly, I'm fed up with politicians telling me, “Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” when they really mean you better not get in the way of them serving some special interest at the public expense. I'm dismayed at seeing young people with Skullcandy in their ears, fiddling with an iPad mini while groping to answer their smart phone. Are they zombies programmed by unknown forces somewhere out in cyberspace? I've had it up to here with “progress.” Who needs a $100-billion bullet train?
July 13, 2012
A new UCLA economic analysis of Japan'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.
April 24, 2012
The state rail authority has grossly underestimated future operating costs of California's proposed bullet train, meaning taxpayers potentially will have to provide billions of dollars annually once the system is running, according to an analysis released Monday by a group of outside financial experts. The California High Speed Rail Authority's claim that its future system would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in surpluses is based on unrealistic assumptions about what it will cost to operate the network, according to the study group, which included former World Bank official William Grindley and Stanford University management professor Alain C. Enthoven.
April 23, 2012
The car salesman offers you a sleek new luxury model for $33,000. Go for it, you think. Time for an upgrade. Sold. Oops, the sales guy says later. Those numbers won't pencil. We'll need $98,000. You're stunned and outraged. Tell you what, the dealer counters. We'll let ya have it for $68,000 and take off some options. Take the car and shove it, you tell him. Can't afford it. Don't need it. You're entitled to do that - back out of a car deal before taking delivery.
April 19, 2012
The plan to build a bullet train has so many funding uncertainties and so many other details that remain unclear that the state should delay any decision this year to commit billions of dollars to the project, the nonpartisan research branch of the Legislature recommended Tuesday. The tough advice came on the day before two key legislative committees are to examine the plan and an accompanying request by Gov. Jerry Brown for funding to start a $6-billion construction segment in the Central Valley.
April 12, 2012
Responding to an outpouring of criticism from Orange County business, civic and political leaders, California's bullet train agency reversed itself Thursday and voted to pursue a direct service link to Anaheim in the project's initial phase. The commitment came as the California High Speed Rail Authority board, meeting in San Francisco, adopted a crucial $68-billion business plan for the controversial project. When a revised, less expensive version of the plan was released last month, it called for initial southbound service to stop at Los Angeles' downtown Union Station, foregoing long-promised, continuous service to the Orange County area near Disneyland and Angels Stadium. As an alternative, state officials had said Anaheim-bound travelers could change to Metrolink or Amtrak trains, which would provide improved service on current routes.
April 5, 2012
The bullet train boondoggle is looking more like a bullet bull's-eye. But one big question lingers: Where are the bucks? And even if the state can find the bucks, should it spend them on building a high-speed rail line, a cool choo-choo? Especially when higher education in California is such a train wreck? Education - kindergarten through college - should be our No. 1 priority, for both moral and economic reasons. Producing an educated, skilled workforce for the increasingly competitive global economy is even more important than creating temporary track-laying jobs.
April 2, 2012
The agency overseeing California's high-speed rail project reportedly plans to reduce the projected cost of the bullet train by $30 billion by connecting it with existing rail lines on the outskirts of Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Critics say the revised plan would not create the system that voters were promised when they approved $9 billion in public funding four years ago to get the project started. That plan was to allow passengers to ride without any transfers between the two metropolitan centers - at a total cost of $43 billion.
March 26, 2012
A series of concessions over the last year to quiet opposition to the California bullet train has created a potentially lethal problem: the revised blueprint for the system may violate requirements locked into state law when voters approved funding for the project in 2008. The Legislature packed the law with an unusual number of conditions intended to reassure voters, protect the project from later political compromises and ensure that it would not end up a bankrupted white elephant.
March 8, 2012
The bullet trains that would someday streak through California at 220 mph are, in the vision of their most ardent supporters, more than just a transportation system. They are also a means to alter the state's social, residential and economic fabric. But those broader ambitions are triggering an increasingly strident ideological backlash to the massive project. The fast trains connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco would create new communities of high-density apartments and small homes around stations, reducing the suburbanization of California, rail advocates say. That new lifestyle would mean fewer cars and less gasoline consumption, lowering California's contribution to global warming.