In today’s Orange County Register, Adrian Moore looks at California’s Proposition 1A, the high-speed rail proposal:
The idea is for Proposition 1A funds to be joined by other state money, federal funds and private investment to bring together the total needed. Then, fares paid by riders will be enough to pay for operation of the system, maintenance, and pay back the private investors with interest. This is remarkable because the CHSRA projects astonishingly low fares. They plan for San FranciscoÃ¢â?¬â??Los Angeles unrestricted business class fares to be $70 in 2030 (in 2006 dollars). For comparison, business class fares from New York to Washington, D.C., on the high-speed Amtrak ACELA train are $172, while on the Tokyo-Osaka bullet train they are $135. France’s TGV train running from Paris-Marseille costs $140. The Rail Authority claims it will be able to keep fares so low for a couple of reasons. First, extraordinary efficiency. The Rail Authority predicts its operating costs will be 40 percent -to-70 percent less than high-speed rail lines in other countries (has California government ever kept costs down?). Then it predicts amazing ridership that far exceeds anything in France, Spain, Germany, and Japan Ã¢â?¬â?? even though those countries have shorter distances, higher density, and more people who already travel by train. CHSRA predicts between 65.5 million and 96.5 million intercity high-speed rail riders by 2030. But their ridership estimates depend on getting riders out of their cars. To do this, the trip has to be fast and short. So the Rail Authority claims it will hit average speeds that are not being achieved by any other high-speed rail system in the world. A trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles would allegedly take 2 hours and 40 minutes, averaging 197 mph. France’s TGV-Est train averages 174 mph, the TGV ParisÃ¢â?¬â??Avignon averages 159 mph, Japan’s bullet train averages 159 mph, and Taiwan’s high-speed rail averages 152 mph. And those are the fastest ones out there. And they can use light, fast trains, because they run on their own tracks. California will have to use heavier, slower trains because the plan is run on the same tracks as freight trains, and federal safety rules require heavier passenger trains in the event of a collision.