Saturday, October 25, 2008

High Speed Rail

While I don't really want to make this into a politically centered blog, I do want to share with you one of the measures on the ballot here in California this coming election.

Obviously this will mostly affect you if you live in California and haven't decided how you will be voting on Measure 1A yet, but I still think you should pay attention.

Measure 1A is


  • Provides long-distance commuters with a safe, convenient, affordable, and reliable alternative to driving and high gas prices.
  • Reduces traffic congestion on the state’s highways and at the state’s airports.
  • Reduces California’s dependence on foreign oil.
  • Reduces air pollution and global warming greenhouse gases.
  • Establishes a clean, efficient 220 MPH transportation system.
  • Improves existing passenger rail lines serving the state’s major population centers.
  • Provides for California’s growing population.
  • Provides for a bond issue of $9.95 billion to establish high-speed train service linking Southern California counties, the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Provides that at least 90% of these bond funds shall be spent for specific construction projects, with private and public matching funds required, including, but not limited to, federal funds, funds from revenue bonds, and local funds.
  • Requires that use of all bond funds is subject to independent audits.
  • Appropriates money from the General Fund to pay bond principal and interest.

Summary of Legislative Analyst’s Estimate of Net State and Local Government Fiscal Impact:

  • State costs of about $19.4 billion, assuming 30 years to pay off both principal ($9.95 billion) and interest ($9.5 billion) costs of the bonds. Payments of about $647 million per year.
  • When constructed, additional unknown costs, probably in excess of $1 billion a year, to operate and maintain a high-speed train system. The costs would be at least partially, and potentially fully, offset by passenger fare revenues, depending on ridership.
As you may know, I love Europe, and one of the reasons is the train systems. While this would be a huge investment for the state, I think long term it would be very beneficial both environmentally and economically. Plus, while I am no economist, it seems that large infrastructure projects in times of economic downturns are often what is needed to rectify the problem. And what better way to do this than through a "green collar" job project.

Watch this video from KQED