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Letter: Bullet train will never pay for itself

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Posted: Saturday, February 1, 2014 12:00 am

From what I read, a multi-county committee is pushing ahead to create a bullet train. The predicted cost even before construction starts is $68 billion, similar to the projected cost of the new San Francisco Bay Bridge that went way over the original cost.

It’s hard to believe the train would start in Fresno. What would be the advantage of starting in Fresno? Starting in Fresno and arriving in Sacramento, using high-speed rail, would take just a little over an hour. The distance between these two cities is 171 miles. To drive would take 2 1/2 hours, at an average speed of 65 mph using 6.1 mpg. From these figures, it is well understood that people living in Fresno do not commute to Sacramento.

Also there would be two other units using the same track at times. First and foremost, freight trains with 100 cars or more would have to be on a siding long before the bullet train was within 10 or more miles, and then there is Amtrak to contend with. Amtrak stops in Stockton, Lodi and other points north.

To give a thought that high speed rail will speed through Lodi at 200 mph is most difficult to believe or understand since it is all open track. Overhead wires will be needed to power the high speed rail system. BART has the ideal system, using a third rail for power. It is not open track and runs either overhead or underground.

The biggest question is, who would use it on a daily basis? Perhaps people on weekends who want to observe what it is like going 200 mph. It would be used only for long runs, not from town to town, which would defeat the purpose. This is a project that will never pay for itself, and must be financed and subsidized in order to keep the trains running — along with maintenance and of course making sure the track ahead is clear.

Ed Walters


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  • Christina Welch posted at 4:10 pm on Sat, Feb 8, 2014.

    Christina Welch Posts: 459


  • Ed Walters posted at 8:47 pm on Fri, Feb 7, 2014.

    the old dog Posts: 631

    This might be to late for people to read, however I`ll give it a shot. Paglia you state that there will be 24 stations, OK, just about time the train gets up to 200 MPH it will have to start putting on the breaks. You wife flys 2-4 times a month to LA, Now with HSR you will have your choise as to how far you want to drive, to the airport or the HSR station. HSR was suggested from LA to Vegas, it was turned down due to the high cost, lack of riders and never turning a profit.

  • Eric Barrow posted at 10:02 am on Fri, Feb 7, 2014.

    Eric Barrow Posts: 1601

    Brian I agree with Walter but either way working together where we can and compromising where we can't is something we desperately need in our government and can only be accomplished by the people doing it first. So I salute your willingness to step across ideological lines.

  • Christina Welch posted at 11:04 am on Thu, Feb 6, 2014.

    Christina Welch Posts: 459

    As I recall, the HSR was approved by California voters a number of years ago. It wasn't a government power grab or boondoggle...it's something the people of California want. That's why we have the initiative process in our state--to give the people a voice. Even if you don't agree with the HSR, you have to appreciate that it is an example of democracy in action.

  • Kevin Paglia posted at 6:29 pm on Wed, Feb 5, 2014.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 2106

    From the HSR site, "the system will run from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin in under three hours at speeds capable of over 200 miles per hour. The system will eventually extend to Sacramento and San Diego, totaling 800 miles with up to 24 stations." With 24 stations, there will be several options to choose which is closest to your destination.

    I do have to say, I would have preferred if this was a mag rail system. More energy efficient and better performance

  • Kevin Paglia posted at 6:24 pm on Wed, Feb 5, 2014.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 2106

    Ed, in regards to your displeasure in the HSR not stopping in enough towns heading to and from LA: Every flown? Planes do the same thing. My wife lies to LA 2-4 times a month. The flight is usually packed there and back. A HSR would offer an alternative for the packed flights.

    One thing that I would like to see would be an evolution of the system where the train is more like a land ferry where we can park our personal cars/motorcycles on the train and then save some time getting the 400 miles and have our own car to drive.

    A HSR from LA to Vegas would be good too.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 1:49 pm on Wed, Feb 5, 2014.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Judging from the feedback, seems Ed has been pretty much shot down in his opinion with one conservative opposing his letter and no others in sight to defend him.

    Can't wait for the next gem. Wonder what the topic will be?

  • Eric Barrow posted at 12:46 pm on Wed, Feb 5, 2014.

    Eric Barrow Posts: 1601

    45 Minute drive to Sacramento to cut 3 hours off a trip to LA that's a 6 hour round trip savings, I can live with that. Also I think it's great there coming thru town at 200 mph beats the heck out of sitting at the crossing waiting for the freight trains creeping through town.

  • Brian Dockter posted at 11:48 am on Wed, Feb 5, 2014.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2862


    HSR speeds through all those towns in other countries with minimal incidents. How about that. [beam]

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 7:18 am on Wed, Feb 5, 2014.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Glad to hear that, Mr. Dockter.

    The United States is centuries behind Europe, not to mention Asia, in train travel. The last great achievement in train travel was the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1800's.

    Americans are addicted to their autos. I admit that, since living in California for the past 38 years I, also, have become addicted to auto transportation.

    Living on the East coast, most people wouldn't dream of driving their cars everywhere. Public transportation is the way to go and you adjust your schedule to be sure you have plenty of time to get where you are going.

    Ed's complaint that people are tied to the schedule of public transportation is a sure sign that Americans, as a people, have become lazy and selfish when it comes to travel.

    I wonder what dilemma Ed faces when he needs to travel by air? Maybe he can afford a private jet that accommodates his schedule? Sure thing Southwest, et al, isn't about to change theirs.

  • Ed Walters posted at 8:14 pm on Tue, Feb 4, 2014.

    the old dog Posts: 631

    Everyone that is for HSR, here is a thought that I doubt you can talk your way out of. Anyone living in the Stockton, Lodi area wishing to use HSR will have to drive to Sac. to board the train since it won`t stop in Lodi, Stockton or anyplace in the valley on its way to LA. Still hard to believe it will speed thru Lodi along with Stockton at 200 MPH with all the crossings to deal with. Bad enough with regular freight and AmTrak [wink]

  • Brian Dockter posted at 7:05 pm on Tue, Feb 4, 2014.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2862


    Not even close. The more I know about things the more Conservative i become.
    On the issue of HSR, it's seems to be the rational thing to do. Eventually, more Conservatives will come on board. It's progress, not progressive.

  • Ed Walters posted at 1:58 pm on Tue, Feb 4, 2014.

    the old dog Posts: 631

    Now I know how Custer felt at the Little Big Horn. High Speed Rail is fine, providing it goes where you want to go. Not much choice as it only stops at designated stops. Nothing has been said as to how many trains there will be, that photo shop on TV is just like a reality show.

    Dockter makes the statement that in 50 years California will not be a pretty picture, why wait 50 years, it is happening now. Evidently HSR will start in Sac, and finish in LA or points south. Going north, make sure you have a full tank of gas. Going east same rule applys, or to the coast. In order to get to LA in an hour, no stopping in Bakerfield or anyplace for that matter. As I stated before, your choice of stops is limited, maybe one once the train leaves the station. And above all, it ain`t gona be cheap, and you better hope the Feds kick in billions of dollars. Ca, can`t afford it.

  • Eric Barrow posted at 10:52 am on Tue, Feb 4, 2014.

    Eric Barrow Posts: 1601

    TRAX is much Larger than an inter city transport and it hooks up with the front runner another popular rail system that connects all of the Wasatch Front.

  • Walter Chang posted at 9:07 am on Tue, Feb 4, 2014.

    Walt Posts: 1184

    Brian, you're sounding like a "progressive" in this discussion.

    Good for you!

    I'm being sincere. This is not a dig.

    Clearly a rational man with many more years ahead of him, rather then behind.

    Ed not so much.


  • Brian Dockter posted at 7:21 am on Tue, Feb 4, 2014.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2862

    Ed stated:

    You will have to fit your time into when the train will leave the station.


    Not unlike other forms of mass transportation, Ed.[lol]

  • Brian Dockter posted at 9:35 pm on Mon, Feb 3, 2014.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2862


    I have this vision what Calif. will be like in 50 years WITHOUT high speed rail. Not a pretty picture at all.

  • Brian Dockter posted at 9:32 pm on Mon, Feb 3, 2014.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2862

    I'm not one one of those Conservatives, Ms. Bobbin. This is the link I posted earlier.


  • Ed Walters posted at 7:31 pm on Mon, Feb 3, 2014.

    the old dog Posts: 631

    Barrow, evidently you are talking about inter city transportation, I agree as I was born and raised in San Francisco, there the cities transportation is called MUNI and has been there forever and works very well, if you live and work in SF there is really no reason to own a car. I refer to High Speed Rail as a means of getting from point A to point B in a hurry, which is fine as long as you are going where it operates, only one route and that would be in the valley. If your going from point A to point B, welcome aboard. If not the price of regular unleaded is at last look, $3.33 a gallon, so fill `er up and drive to the High Speed Rail station. I don`t mind driving, it might take longer however I can park at my house and the price of HSR might be comperable to driving cost wise. I don`t want it, but seems I`ll be hamstrung in paying for it. Will it still be used when the novelty wears off? Time will tell.

  • Ed Walters posted at 4:17 pm on Mon, Feb 3, 2014.

    the old dog Posts: 631

    Speaking of boondoggles, yes you are. Speaking of infrastructure can you blame anyone for not thinking that it should be in the best shape possable when built. Those thousands of bolts made in a foreign country were not up to American standards, never the less they were installed. Now that the horse has left the barn, all the problems about the bridge are starting to surface, is it safe? You make the `89 earthquake sound like it was man made. While loosing one life to that 7+ quake is one too many, 63 lost their lives in that shaker, who gets the blame for that one. No warning that it would hit. I read where the cost of HSR started at $83 billion dollars, and will operate in the red and subsidized, if it indeed starts, the cost will be $168 billion dollars when finished. Just like the Bay Bridge, it costs 3 times as much, $6.3 billion. You love conservatives, glad I`m not a conservative. Some will be paid with stimulas money, Barry calls it Stimulas, I call it raiding the American tax payer, and kissing China`s rear. Read Joe Baxter`s post, said it better than me and with less words.

  • robert maurer posted at 3:50 pm on Mon, Feb 3, 2014.

    mason day Posts: 483

    for a lot of info,check the Fresno Bee Nov.30,2013 article titled government rules require CAlifornia's high speed trains to be built in the U.S. Siemens industries in Sacramento will bid on this contract, since this is one of the main reasons they they located here 30 years ago. I don't know about anyone else, but I would rather ride a bullet train than drive California's congested highways anytime. would it not be better to see California get the bid instead of somebody else?

  • Ed Walters posted at 2:16 pm on Mon, Feb 3, 2014.

    the old dog Posts: 631

    Dockter, as you suggested, I did climb aboard, when finished, if it is ever started, according to this site, it will take over 5 years to complete a slight portion of the train to nowhere, at an exploded cost of $168 billion dollars. Anderson stated that there isn`t enough money even though tax payers voted for it. My how the times have changed, brother, can you spear a dime, sure the Chinese will, already have. Ask Barry, he knows while smiling out of both sides of his pie hole. Stimulas money is near broke, if not alread broken. Colorado received over 1 million dollars in taxes from the dopers, lets give it a big try in all the schools of higher education in this state, consider the train to somewhere after that and ready to roll.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 1:51 pm on Mon, Feb 3, 2014.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Curious, Ed, where you got your information about the high speed rail project. I haven't been able to locate a single source that talks about a "Fresno to Sacramento" segment, and most of the other segments will be run on rail dedicated to the HSR project.

    Please dish on your source.

    And are you suggesting that the Bay Bridge project shouldn't have been undertaken? Tell that to the family who lost their loved ones in the '89 earthquake.

    That's what I love about conservatives. They want infrastructure, they want infrastructure that's in good shape, they want infrastructure that gets them where they want to go, but when it comes to paying for it - it's all considered a huge boondoggle to them.

  • Eric Barrow posted at 1:51 pm on Mon, Feb 3, 2014.

    Eric Barrow Posts: 1601

    I lived in SLC when Utah put in the TRAX light rail system the same complaints were heard then; no will ride, it cost to much, waste of money. In fact the TRAX has become in integral part of life in SLC with standing room only on all rush hour periods and pretty busy the rest of the time. Since it's inception the TRAX has expanded to 3 to 4 times it's original size. What began with protest and a failed attempt to raise taxes to support it went through it's first expansion with over 60% of the voters raising their own taxes in support of the expansion. The Bart system is another transportation system that is well used in California and when high speed rail goes in I imagine it to will be successful. Will it be free? no but as far as Tax subsidies Amtrak has received 30 Billion since 1971 while all other forms of transportation Highway, airports, Maritime and mass transit receiving almost 2 Trillion in the same time period that's 1.5% of Federal tax subsidies for rail transportation. That's hardly heavily subsidized.

  • Ed Walters posted at 11:56 am on Mon, Feb 3, 2014.

    the old dog Posts: 631

    Dockter, you state that there are " things" that will offset the cost of high speed rail, care to mention some, the ticket to ride won`t do it, but high speed TAXES will. Just how many trains will make that run on a daily basis. Maybe two, one leaving Fresno at 7:00 AM and returning at 4:30 PM. Now we are really making big money. Time and fuel along with 18.7 billion dollars lost? Perhaps high speed rail could bring down the cost, providing everyone stated at Fresno and ended their trip in Sac. Not really. High speed means limited stops, and always remember, Amtrak, freight trains and high speed rail will, at one point all use the same track. On second thought, I think I`ll drive. Happy Motoring

  • Ed Walters posted at 1:15 pm on Sat, Feb 1, 2014.

    the old dog Posts: 631

    Dockter: You suspect that thousands of people comunte from Fresno to Sac. , well not on a daily basis, sometimes though. You write what you want, never coming to the conclution that this mess must be paid for. Never mentioned was the cost of a round trip ticket and how many times a day the train will run. You will have to fit your time into when the train will leave the station. What is the one and only way it will be paid for, TAXES, not riding on the train. Just like the Bay Bridge, the cost went up and so will the fee to ride the train to nowhere. Fresno is one of the poorest cities in the state, not really a big business capital. At 5 + hours a day behind the wheel, driving to and from Sac. to Fresno, I see burn out and forced to ride the most expensive train. You suspect my letter is flawed, I suspect Lee Harvey Oswald did not kill JFK, or this country in 10 years won`t belong to China, come to think of it, the US already does, better learn to speak Chinese. Read and learn. Drive on.

  • Joe Baxter posted at 11:36 am on Sat, Feb 1, 2014.

    Joe Baxter Posts: 1913

    The California light rail project will end up like AMTRAK, heavily subsidized by taxpayers for the convenience of the few passengers this money pit will attract.

  • Brian Dockter posted at 9:05 am on Sat, Feb 1, 2014.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2862


    Plain and simple. There are things that will offset it's cost.

  • Brian Dockter posted at 8:36 am on Sat, Feb 1, 2014.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2862

    2011 Urban Mobility Report


  • Brian Dockter posted at 8:31 am on Sat, Feb 1, 2014.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2862

    18.7 billion dollars is attributed to lost time and wasted fuel for commuters travelling Calif. freeways every year. Now, if we could slowly eliminate this by building high speed rail, the cost of the project would not make it seem so prohibitive.

  • Brian Dockter posted at 8:10 am on Sat, Feb 1, 2014.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2862


    I suggest you get on board.


  • Brian Dockter posted at 7:47 am on Sat, Feb 1, 2014.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2862

    To drive would take 2 1/2 hours, at an average speed of 65 mph using 6.1 mpg. From these figures, it is well understood that people living in Fresno do not commute to Sacramento.

    Ed stated:

    t’s hard to believe the train would start in Fresno. What would be the advantage of starting in Fresno? Starting in Fresno and arriving in Sacramento, using high-speed rail, would take just a little over an hour. The distance between these two cities is 171 miles. To drive would take 2 1/2 hours, at an average speed of 65 mph using 6.1 mpg. From these figures, it is well understood that people living in Fresno do not commute to Sacramento.

    -You're joking, right Ed? You're saying the heartland of of one of the largests economies in the world has no need for a high spped rail? LOL

    I would suspect there ar thousands of people who communte to Sacramento from Fresno. Maybe not on a daily basis. Many of them take a plane. Many of them drive.
    Your logic they wouldn't take high speed rail is flawed.


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